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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Espionage > Action > Cold War > Drama > Revenge > Graphic Novel > Abduction > Fantasy > Soap Opera > TV > Atomic Blonde (2017/Focus/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray + Blu-ray w/DVD sets)/Kidnap (2017/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/Reign: The Fourth & Final Season (2016 - 2017/Warner DVD Set)/Unlocked (20

Atomic Blonde (2017/Focus/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray + Blu-ray w/DVD sets)/Kidnap (2017/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/Reign: The Fourth & Final Season (2016 - 2017/Warner DVD Set)/Unlocked (2017/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/The Villainess (2017/Well Go Blu-ray)



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



These new releases all put women in the forefront of the action and the results are usually more impressive than expected, but then maybe we should know better...



Atomic Blonde


Based on a graphic comic book novel 'The Coldest City' taking place at the very end of The Cold War, David Leitch's Atomic Blonde (2017) has the great Charlize Theron as an MI-6 assassin heading into a still-divided Berlin (as the Berlin Wall is about to fall, but no one is sure of that as the events of the story take place) to stop a master list of double agents from getting into the wrong hands. That includes the KGB, mercenaries, the East Germans and other unscrupulous people, if only she can figure out who's who.


Leitch (John Wick) has proven he can direct action, of course, surprising us before, but this is a solid step forward form his Keanu Reeves hit and not only has a sizable budget, but a great supporting cast of its own including James McAvoy (who is better than he gets credit for), Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Ty Schweiger and John Goodman make for a combination that gels well with new talents and a film with some humor, but not too much.


Of course, Theron carries the film and by being that rare combination of incredible talent (as her Academy Award and hard work over the years bears out), yet is a true movie star the camera loves and has more fans out there than I think people realize, this is a perfect vehicle for her to show off her capacity in the genre (and her Mad Max: Fury Road work is no fluke by any means) has her going for it 100% and that is why this film deserves a much huger audience than it has found so far and is one of the best action films this year.


My only minor complains are that a few moments ring false, maybe the humor could have been pulled back a little bit more and the use of hit New Wave music of the time is usually excellent, but does not necessarily go all the way like Theron keeps doing. Otherwise, this is a must-see film for anyone serious about action!


Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the 1080p Blu-rays add four Making Of featurettes (Welcome To Berlin, Blondes Have More Fun, Spymaster, Anatomy Of A Fight Scene), a feature length audio commentary track by director Leitch and Editor Elisabet Ronaldsdottir, Story In Motion with Leitch commentary in two parts and Deleted/Extended Scenes.



Kidnap


Age-defying actress Halle Berry leads the new crime/thriller from Universal, Kidnap (2017), which pits her against a kidnapper who steals her son. It's funny that Berry is, in a sense, becoming the female Liam Neeson in that this film is pretty similar to the Taken franchise. The storyline of a parent vs a kidnapper is a concept that's been done to death and its evident here in that this film isn't necessarily bad but more or less, forgettable.


The film also stars Dana Gourrier, Christopher Berry, Lew Temple, and Malea Rose.


After a stressful day at her waitress job, Karla Dyson (Berry) takes her son to the park, where the poor little guy is kidnapped. Hot on the trail of the attackers, Berry must get into a high stakes high speed car chase to get her son back. When the law isn't as quick as she likes, then she decides to take matters into her own hands.


Special Features include...


Behind the Scenes Featurette


Previews for other Universal releases



Kidnap is tacky and forgettable, but technically fine.



Reign: The Fourth & Final Season


Things come to ahead, as Mary and Elizabeth continue struggle against each other for the throne of England. Both claiming the throne, they plot through marriages, suitors, assassinations, alliances and betrayals through the royal court and bring Scotland and England on the verge of war. Meanwhile, Catherine plays her own game using her sons and daughters to manipulate the French and Spanish court. Each of one of their fates become more entwined as they discover who they can or can't trust.


It's the final season of Reign (Season Four, 2016 - 2017), as Elizabeth foil an assassination attempt against her, she discovers Mary the Queen of Scots was framed by John Knox to have her and Elizabeth at each other's throats. Meanwhile, Mary tries to secure her claim to the throne through marriage and support from Scottish nobles, but even as Queens, they both have to deal with manipulative men and the clergy who also tries to use the Queens as their pawns to power, that their power only lasts until their marriage to a king and produce an heir. Both sides uses religion (Protestant and Catholicism) as an excuse to wage war for the throne, while the nobles in court make alliances and betrayals depending on whoever is on the current winning side.


This is a tale of 3 powerful queens, and while they don't wear swords and fight on the battlefield their fights involves politics, loveless marriages and political backstabbing. The series is a historical fiction make women seem like evil and manipulative (like Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth) who will do anything to ensure their power and rule (including killing a friend or marrying someone they don't love), but it is also created a world in which the church had great influence over royalty and secretly rejects women's rights (and to rule) and manipulates the royalty for their own purposes.



There are sadly no extras, but the final episodes are...


With Friends Like These - Elizabeth discovers John Knox was the mastermind who framed Mary and was behind her assassination attempt. Mary seeks marriage to Darnley to secure the throne.


A Grain of Deception - Mary discovers there is leak in her inner council and comes up with a plan to find the traitor. Elizabeth tries to entrap John Knox.


Leaps of Faith - Elizabeth proposes a marriage for Mary, that if she marries Gideon her first born would be the heir to England.


Playing With Fire - Darnley stages a fake rescue of a child from a fire to impress Mary.


Highland Games - Mary and Darnley becomes engaged, but Darnley must first prove his loyalty.


Love & Death - Elizabeth tries to bring Darnley back to England. There is an assassination attempt on Darnley's life.


Hanging Swords - Mary tries to bring peace between Darnley and James, but discovers her marriage to him will never be more than a political arrangement. Catherine and Narcisse discover what happened to Charles.


Uncharted Waters - As Mary and Darnley's wedding day approaches, tragedy pushes their relationship further apart from one another. Elizabeth commissions John Hawkins to explore the New World.


Pulling Strings - Mary and Darnley get wed and Mary is with child. Elizabeth discovers (to her anger) a number of bordertowns have switch over to Scotland.


A Better Man - Mary and Darnley have a marital spat with one of Darley's family rivals.


Dead of the Night - Mary foils Darnley's attempt for the throne and power, but promises not to try to seize the throne again from Elizabeth.


The Shakedown - As Mary and Darnley's relationship continue to worsen, Darnley plots with John Knox in attempt to get rid of her.


Coup De Grace - After failing to disgrace Mary, Darnley and Mary are forced to work together to escape. Mary vows to retake her castle by force.


A Bride. A Box. A Body - Mary takes back Edinburgh Castle. Narcisse takes his revenge on John Knox and Elizabeth.


Blood in the Water - Mary has a difficult birth and almost dies. She pleads to Elizabeth to protect and accept her child as an heir to England and Scotland. Elizabeth discovers who killed Gideon.


All it Cost Her? - Mary recovers her son and orders the assassination of Darnley, but then is arrested by John Knox for regicide. Years later, Elizabeth accepts James as 'her' heir to the throne, but decides on a different fate for Mary.



Unlocked


Since her original 'Girl With' trilogy, Noomi Rapace has shown she has the talent, personality and star appeal, but projects like the Alien prequels have not really given her the platform she's needed to show her best sides. Michael Apted's Unlocked (2017) is a very pleasant surprise of a thriller that offers her best work and role since that trilogy and fortunately for her, it is the Apted of the underrated Extreme Measures or even Thunderheart and not the extremely disappointing James Bond film The World Is Not Enough. Of course, Apted's Up films are his key series of cinematic immortality, but he is easy to underestimate in narrative works when he is at his strongest as he is here.


Rapace is a spy named Alice, whose still not happy with a mission that did not stop a terrorist attack in France a few years ago, but terror attacks don't get put on hold via depression or PTSD bouts, so she may be on again in the U.K. as a CIA expert in getting answers from prisoners on where the next secret bombing may take place. In what seems like a routine reentry into the world of espionage to 'unlock' the truth about the latest planned attack, she is being suckered and used for something uglier and catches on quickly, so into action she goes.


Apted is so highly respected, he got no less than John Malkovich to play her CIA boss, Toni Collette (channelling Annie Lennox of Eurythmics as well as Theron does of Blonde's Debbie Harry) to play her British MI contact, Orlando Bloom and Michael Douglas to be in the cast, but that also speaks to the strength of the mostly solid, sound, well-thought out screenplay by Peter O'Brien that makes this one of the must-see action films of the year.


A few years ago, this would have received a big theatrical release, but Lionsgate has decided to issue this Blu-ray as part of their Premiere series of direct-to-home-video releases and this one is easily the best ever in that series. Not to say some good titles have not been issued under that banner before, but this is so good, you'll be shocked it was not in theaters first. Plus, most commercial action film that did hit theaters this year were not this good, had this good a script or this good a cast. Make sure you see Unlocked ASAP!


Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds the Original Theatrical Trailer, trailers for other releases and a nearly 15-minutes long Making Of featurette.



The Villainess


Finally we have Jung Byung-Gil's The Villainess (2017), another assassin as sleeper agent story like La Femme Nikita, but this one interrupts its usual revenge story with Kim Ok-Vin in the title role with big action pieces that have their moments. However, the opening action sequence is so strong, the result of the film simply cannot help going a bit downhill afterwards, making one wish they had $30 to $50 Million more just to make this one gigantic action set piece after another. Still, the opening is very impressive, sometimes remarkable and as good as anything in action cinema of late.


When the drama kicks in, it can be cliched and it does slow down the pace, so the next sequence is always welcome. The fighting talent here is numerous, huge and action choreography really strong, further shrinking the plot and narrative, but the good parts are so good for its slightly longer-than-expected 124 minutes that it is worth seeing the whole thing and is more than a companion to Atomic Blonde and Unlocked. Therefore, this too is worth going out of your way for.


Extras sadly only includes an Original Theatrical Trailer and a too-brief Making Of clip.



The 2160p HECV/H.265, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced 2.35 X 1 Ultra High Definition image on Atomic is the best playback performer here, even as good as the other Blu-rays are. Though the CGI effects are the weakest link, the HD shoot is smooth and impressive enough for the most part with even a few demo shots, levaing the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on the regular Blu-ray version hides some flaws and holds back some better quality and is not as good. The anamorphically enhanced DVD included on the Blu-ray edition is on the weak side visual and hard to watch, especially after seeing both the 4K and regular Blu-ray editions.


A really good DTS: X 11.1 mix is on the 4K and Blu-ray editions (playing as a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 7.1 mixdown track on older systems) and is as sonically adept as anything here, with some great surrounds, immersive action and a smart mastering all around, made better by the hit songs that in some cases sound like they are from master tapes. The DVD has to settle for very underwhelming, lossy Dolby Digital 5.1


Presented in 1080p high definition with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and a nice sounding English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 track on the Blu-ray disc, the picture and sound on Reign are impressive and up to the high standards of the format. Also included is a DVD in standard def with a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital track and a digital UV copy of the film as well.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Unlocked is also a smooth HD shoot with some good moments, but also more than a few shots that lack detail. However, this is very watchable otherwise and the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is surprisingly well recorded and active, with even dialogue scenes recorded well.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer can on Villainess is also an HD shot and has some great visuals, but some later actions scenes and shots can look pale and not hold up as well, yet that was not enough of a problem to penalize the otherwise fine visuals. The Korean DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is more convincing and accurate than the English dub and the sound mix here too is no slouch.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Reign is as good as it could possibly get in the format, though it would look better in any HD format as it was produced that way, as is the case for the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 sound on all episodes.



- Nicholas Sheffo, Ricky Chiang (Reign) and James Lockhart (Kidnap)

https://www.facebook.com/jamesharlandlockhartv


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