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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Medical Industry > Fraud > Racism > Cable Telefilm > Family > Southern > Sexuality > Literature > Re > Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks (2017/HBO Blu-ray)/The Long Hot Summer (1958/Fox)/September (1987/Orion/MGM)/Suddenly Last Summer (1959/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-rays)/Warrior 4

Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks (2017/HBO Blu-ray)/The Long Hot Summer (1958/Fox)/September (1987/Orion/MGM)/Suddenly Last Summer (1959/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-rays)/Warrior 4K (2011/Lionsgate 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/The Wizard Of Lies (2017/HBO Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: B Sound: B/C+/C+/C+/B+ & B/B Extras: C/B-/C+/C+/B-/C- Main Programs: B/B-/B-/B-/C+/B

PLEASE NOTE: The Long Hot Summer, September and Suddenly Last Summer Blu-rays are now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, are limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last, from the links below.

It is awards season, so films old and new that are considered top calibre are arriving on disc, including these impressive dramas...

George C. Wolfe's The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks (2017) tells the almost unbelievable story on how the title woman turned out to have human cell so remarkable, that they cured all kinds of disease and launched a billion-dollar industry or two... except that they were taken from her without her permission, it was all legal then and now, and she almost did not get any credit for it. She certainly did not get any financial benefit and in part because she was African American in the early 20th Century, you can see where that horrid part of the story goes.

Rose Byrne is a reporter who is trying to find out the origin of the mysterious 'He-La' cells (an abbreviation of Miss Lacks' name done in the lab off the cuff) and enlists her daughter Deborah (Oprah Winfrey, proving yet again how good an actress she really is) to help finds the truth, including getting records only a family member could get. Well, the truth really is out there and it leads to a book that tells all.

Yet, the film (another top grade HBO cable telefilm) deals with deeper truths about truth, justice, being used and the dark side of some of our greatest successes. The film constantly asks ethical questions and they are as relevant now and more so than ever. The filmmakers never sell out the truth or the subject and it is a real triumph that all serious mature adults should see. I hope it becomes a surprise multiple-nominee for awards season because it is a rich experience like we do not see enough.

Martin Ritt's The Long Hot Summer (1958) is one of the great director's collaborations with Paul Newman, a drifter here who disrupts the dysfunctional Varner Family in the deep south with their toxic behavior resonating in the small, pretty town that has plenty of hidden distortions in it. Joanne Woodward and Anthony Franciosa are the adult children, Lee Remick the son's semi-racy wife and Angela Lansbury as the mistress of the head of the family, played by Orson Welles as flustered and pompous. Welles was in conflict with everyone on the set, yet that might have push his performance here to be even better than it would have already been.

Some of William Faulkner's book had to be censored because the Hollywood Production Code was in its last days, but Ritt and his writers get around things and though I think parts of the film do not work as well as others, it is worth the nearly two-hours to see it, even if you only see it once as there are some really good moments (as there are in ALL Ritt films) and this is the best version of the film now out there outside of the best film prints.

Woody Allen's September (1987) is another one of Allen's 'serious films' though it has its spots of ironic humor and definitely is another Ingmar bergman-inspired turn. Some have bashed it as being too impersonal, but for comic filmmaking icon Allen, that is actually a personal achievement when you think about it and though it is not a great or perfect film, it is better than it gets credit for and I have a feels Allen is doing more of what he is criticized for on purpose than those bashed points being accidental.

The home and its rooms are very dense and lived in. Seeing them, you could imagine the family here has lived there that long. The cast is really good here, but the choice that reveals that Allen really knows what he is doing is by casting comedy and stage icon Elaine Stritch (known for being very New York and very funny with great wit like Allen) as the mother. Almost like Scorsese's King Of Comedy, many things that might seem funny here are not supposed to be, though not to the extent of Scorsese's underrated gem.

Instead, Allen us using the 'is it comedy?' question to create a kind of tension that is more his than Bergman's and the film (and his script) are delving into the moodiness of a family starting to no longer be a family after decades. It is slyly painful, but intentional and that he has Stritch joined by Mia Farrow (yes, she fits into this point), Denholm Elliott, Sam Waterston, Jack Warden and Diane Wiest, all these are top rate actors who can turn on a time in the serious/comedy dichotomy and that is why the film works as well as it does.

This is from Allen's Orion period (a catalog now owned by MGM) and is another memorable showing from that period. It is worth revisiting as a somewhat unique film in his long, successful career and that says something. See it or see it again, especially in this solid new limited edition Blu-ray version, ASAP.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Suddenly Last Summer (1959) is also a painful family tale, this time about the ugly assault of a young woman (Elizabeth Taylor in one of her greatest roles) and the death of her male cousin that his mother (Katharine Hepburn, great in a thankless role) want to silence her and the truth by having her lobotomized!

Needless to say this kind of thing still happens all the time, but was especially shocking nearly 60 years ago, but Tennessee Williams' play (like all his works) was strong material to begin with and you can see why all knew this could make a great movie. However, it was on-the-rise Columbia Pictures (going from a small studio to permanent major studio status in this period) that had the guts to take it on and the result was another groundbreaking hit that furthered the status of all involved, including Montgomery Cliff, showed what happens yet again when a group of talented people serious about honest filmmaking get together and dare to pull off something they think can work. They did.

Sony has licensed this classic drama to Twilight Time as one of their Limited Edition Blu-rays and though some of the treatment of mental illness in the film may seem old hat, most of the rest does not. Why? People don't change and when they get scarred or worry about their names or reputations, they'll do anything to control the truth, no matter how much they must lie.

Gavin O'Connor's Warrior (2011) is back, now on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with its previously-issued Blu-ray. As I wrote years ago about the film, it is...

''a film about extreme mixed martial arts fighting with Joel Edgerton as a teacher who is decides to get involved in the sport again after telling his wife he would walk away for good. Not on great terms with his father (the underrated Nick Nolte in another good performance [he got an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor after my original review posted]), he also has a brother (Tom Hardy of Star Trek: Nemesis, Bronson, [now Dunkirk] and Dark Knight Rises) who wants to also fight again and turns to their father to train.

Some of this is predictable and after so many bad Rocky rip-offs [this was before Creed, also reviewed on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray elsewhere on this site], few attempts to imitate Raging Bull and the recent release of the better-than-expected The Fighter, Warrior is fighting an uphill battle. The resulting film is an ambitious but mixed work that is at its best when the three leads are at it, but falls short when it tries to deal with (some false notes and inaccuracies do not help) and the scripts inability to do something new or even be more powerful. Still, O'Connor is a serious filmmaker and he is at least trying, which is more than I can say for most today and in such a bad year for filmmaking, it is no wonder it is being seriously and rightly discussed as an underdog for awards season. It also brings Nolte back to form and that alone makes it all worth it.''

Looking at it now, it still has the same flaws, but the characters now somehow seem more doomed than they did six years ago and it at least tries to be real unlike some bad sports films (especially a boxing film or so) since it was released. If you have not seen it, it is worth a look, flaws and all, but expect a mixed experience.

Finally we have Barry Levinson's The Wizard Of Lies (2017), telling us what really happened when businessman Bernie Madoff, who was a founder of NASDAQ apparently, established himself as a money whiz who could never stop turning profits and it all turned out to be one of the biggest frauds ever. He was finally exposed at the opportune time when the market had its suspicious 2008 crash. Though we get a few flashback sequences as Madoff (another fine turn by Robert De Niro), much of it is happening in the real time of the disaster, you have his wife (Michelle Pfieffer back in action) and his sons not quite knowing what he is up to, but enjoying the wealth so much, they assume the head of the household is on the up and up.

The film also asks how this was allowed to happen and rightly indicts a society (especially since the 1980s) that puts financial success ahead of people's lives and the truth. This is also (despite being an HBO cable TV film) part of an ever-welcome cycle of films going after corruption in money and asking what this has done to booth the society and the world. The supporting cast is great and Levinson is in good form, which I wish he was more often. This is a must-see telefilm for all.

Now the technical performance of these releases. Warrior is the newest of the theatrical releases, so you would expect it to have the best performance and offering the only 4K disc here, its grainy-yet-vivid 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced 2.35 X 1 Ultra High Definition image comes from a feature shot on 35mm film and that is one of the reasons why it looks so gritty good. Video noise faked as grit just does not deliver like this and the atmosphere plays an important part of telling the story. Here, you live it more than even in the 1080p regular Blu-ray version, which is also the first time we've seen that version. It's fine, but the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is an interesting surprise.

The rest of the Blu-ray playback here is the equal of the regular Warrior Blu-ray, starting with the two fine-looking 1.78 X 1 1080p HBO presentation of Immortal and Lies, both looking better than too many sloppy, bad, lame theatrical releases of the last few years. Though they're styles are different (more flashbacks in Immortal and different eras to discuss), they were very consistent and in both cases, I asked 'why were these not released in movie theaters?' because they are that good on a visual level as they are script-wise.

That leaves the great Twilight Time releases, starting with the very clean, yet palpable 1080p 1.85 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image on Suddenly, looking better than I have just about ever seen the film with Director of Photography Jack Hildyard's monochromatic work proving how great filming this way was, is and can be. In a transfer like this, as you watch, you can forget it is not in color because it is so visually compelling. We even get some demo shots.

Director of Photography Carlo Di Palma delivers for Woody Allen in the sometimes restrained (but not by photochemical manipulation) colors of September, here in a really clear, dense, 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer that shows how they make the home a sort of trap for the people, their memories, their pain and their unresolved issues ala Ingmar Bergman and then some. Those who might not have liked this film seeing it a while ago (especially on older video versions) might change their minds on this version.

Last but not least is the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Hot, which can show the age of the materials used in a few spots, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film. Shot on 35mm film with older CinemaScope lenses with color by DeLuxe, you get some mixed-color moments, but this is just fine for the most part and the use of color is more impressive than I have ever seen on this film.

Nice to have such impressive picture playback across the board.

As for sound, Warrior wins again with the 2160p version upgrading the already well-recorded and mixed soundtrack to a Dolby Atmos 11.1 that even bests the otherwise impressive DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix on the regular 1080p Blu-ray. In Atmos, the film could not sound any better unless a DTS: X mix could deliver something we are somehow not hearing here.

The two HBO cable telefilms and Hot offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes that sound as good as dialogue-driven dramas could, but Hot cannot avoid showing its age, though its 5.1 mix is better than the 2.0 Stereo version that some may still prefer. The isolated music score sounds as good and its a shame the older sound elements were sonically limited.

That leaves September and Suddenly with DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes that sound fine for what they are, quiet moments included, but a few spots on each are hard to hear due to the limits of the original theatrical mono sound.

Extras on Hot, September and Suddenly include nicely illustrated booklets on each respective film including informative text and yet another set of excellent, underrated essay by the great film scholar Julie Kirgo, Isolated Music Scores with select Sound Effects and Original Theatrical Trailers. Hot adds Fox Movietone Newsreels and an episode of Hollywood Backstory on the film. Immortal, Lies and Warrior all offer Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the Immortal and Lies Blu-rays add interview clips and Immortal and brief featurette. Warrior repeats its DVD extras on Blu-ray including the terrific feature length audio commentary by O'Connor, Co-Writer Anthony Tambakis, Editor John Gilroy, A.C.E. and Edgerton, Cheap Shots: Outtakes, Deleted Scene: The Diner with optional commentary, Scene Select commentary with Nolte and the Filmmakers and four featurettes: Redemption, Philosophy In Combat, Simply Believe (a tribute to TapOut founder Charles 'Mask' Lewis Jr., who passed away after offering huge support to get this film made to his great credit) and Brother Vs. Brother.

To order The Long Hot Summer, September and Suddenly Last Summer limited edition Blu-rays, buy them and other great releases while supplies last at these links:




- Nicholas Sheffo


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