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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Mystery > Murder > Crime > Detective > British TV > Action > Adventure > Monster > Creature > China > Mo > George Gently: Season 8 (2017/Final Season/Acorn Blu-ray)/The Great Wall 4K (2016/Legendary/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Killing Gunther (2017/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Talon Falls (2017/MVD Visu

George Gently: Season 8 (2017/Final Season/Acorn Blu-ray)/The Great Wall 4K (2016/Legendary/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Killing Gunther (2017/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Talon Falls (2017/MVD Visual DVD)/Terminator 2: Judgment Day 4K (1991/Lionsgate 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+/B Picture: B/B/B/B-/B Sound: B/A-/B/B-/B+ Extras: C+/C+/C/C/C+ Main Programs: C+/C+/C/C+/T2 Extended Cuts: B+/Theatrical Film Cut: B

The following thriller/action/mystery releases, large and small, all have familiarities about them...

The hit BBC Detective drama, George Gently: Season 8 (2017), elegantly lands on Blu-ray disc courtesy of Acorn and RLJ, in what will be its final season (you can find most others elsewhere on this site). Starring Tony Award Nominee Martin Shaw (Death in Holy Orders, The Professionals CI-5), the procedural cop drama is cinematically sound and the money is definitely on the screen here. If you're a fan of murder mysteries or American shows of the like (such as C.S.I.), you'll be interested in see how different (and slower moving) the British approach is to the similar procedural cop show formula.

Gently (Shaw) is the Sherlock Holmes of his time and is heavy in investigating murders in the North East of England. Set in 1970, Gently's career is heading towards retirement yet his heart still in it. Working with a new protege, Gently ends up on an interesting murder case centered around a politician who could be the future Prime Minister.

Episodes include Gently Liberated and Gently and the New Age, each episode is feature length with a total runtime of 186 minutes on one Blu-ray disc. There are chapter selections within the episodes as well.

Presented in 1080p high definition with a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a nice sounding DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 track, the presentation here is top notch and leaves little to bark about. Superior to the original television broadcast undoubtedly, this is the ideal way to get the full experience.

Special Features include...

Interviews with the Cast and Crew

BTS Featurettes

While nicely produced, the show is a bit too long and slow moving to capture most American audiences but is interesting nonetheless especially if you're a fan of other BBC shows of the like such as Sherlock.

Yimou Zhang's The Great Wall (2016) is a fun if sometimes wildly overdone genre film that tells us that one of the real reasons China built its landmark Great Wall (the only man made structure visible from outer space) is because a secret group of small dinosaur-affiliated monsters that eat and kill people need to be kept out. Yup, a premise that expects us to suspend disbelief, but the film is consistent in its fantasy aspirations and it gives it the best try possible with a ton of money and real talent in front of and behind the screen.

Before I continue, I also want to note that this film is sadly the end of several eras at once that you should be aware of. After making so many great big budget films, Legendary Pictures proved to be the biggest big money/big movie production company since Carolco (Terminator 2, the Rambo films, Chaplin, Narrow Margin, the new Godzilla, etc.) ans this was the last big film founder Thomas Tull made before leaving the company he founded and built, now sold to a Chinese company. It is also the peak of a movement to have U.S./Chinese co-productions (partly a product of the Obama Era) and this film is an interesting hybrid of both. It is also towards the end of such big budget CGI action fests, now not being made quite as freely as before.

Matt Damon, in rare form here, plays a man looking for treasure with a ally (Pedro Pascal, handling the humor well) when they stumble near the title locale (China was a very closed society then and up until the 1970s!) where they are suspected of being spies, thieves, or otherwise and are captured. Then they see the killer creatures, another secret China is trying to hide until they can at least get rid of them, but they soon realize the odd duo can fight and can help them, while a lead soldier (the likable Jing Tian) and Damon's character start to find a liking to each other.

There was some awful nonsense about Damon being in the film being some kind of 'whitewashing' that was never totally explained, but tends to come from a deadly dumb, stupid combination of hate, racism, cinematic illiteracy, ignorance, race baiting and ultra-political extremism that someone at the studio should have called out such 'critics' on. In real life, China has had a huge number of very successful epic action films set decades ago there that accounts for recent blockbusters there in the last few years (Well Go USA has issued them consistently on Blu-ray in the U.S. and we have covered many on this site), so the idea was to have this co-production and get a major Hollywood action star with talent to lead it and the makers rightly waited for Damon.

No one complained when 'white' Hollywood stars were going to Europe to make Spaghetti Westerns or Gangster films, no Italians or British or Spanish people threw a political temper tantrum, so why this now? The fact that a film this well done and elaborate exists and ticks off such shallow, spiteful, joyless goofs in itself is some kind of artistic achievement, though the actual costumes and production design are awards-worthy and Damon lives up to the challenge of something that takes him out of his usual big films.

An all HD-production that is not bad, Universal has rightly issued this as one of their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray sets and it is one of their demo titles now and that says something considering they have some CGI animated hits (Despicable Me, Sing), plus Atomic Blonde, Logan Lucky, the Bourne films, E.T. and Girl On The Train, so that says something good. There is a much larger audience for this one I think sooner or later, especially as the 4K plays so well, it deserves to find that audience. Willem Dafoe and a huge cast of great talent you've likely never seen before but should also star, so there's more reasons to catch up with this one, even when it gets a little corny or cliched.

The 2160p HECV/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced 2.35 X 1 Ultra High Definition image uses multiple HD cameras that go up to 6.5K, then the final work was a 4K scan, so it looks really good for that, but there are some blur flaws (partly since this was also conceived and issued in 3D), so that holds it back a bit, as does too much CGI, though it still performs with more stability than the still-decent 1080p Blu-ray digital High Definition image with a little more blur, a little less color range and a little less detail and depth.

The film was released theatrically in multiple formats including the Dolby Atmos 11.1 (with Dolby TrueHD 7.1) lossless included on both discs here, plus Auro 11.1, DTS: X 11.1, IMAX 11.1 and Sonix DDP, so it is intended to deliver epic sound and it does enough to even rival the excellence of Terminator 2 (see below), but we've encountered plenty of forgettable and underwhelming 12-track films theatrically and on home video, so it uses those extra tracks to its advantage and is the biggest highlight here. That sound is on the 4K and regular Blu-ray.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds an excellent look Behind The Scenes on the Making Of the film and how much effort, time and truly hard work went into it all, while we also get a few Deleted & Extended Scenes. Wonder if this might become some kind of cult film in the future. We'll see.

Killing Gunther (2017) is a mockumentary/action comedy that stars Arnold Schwarzenegger (the first of two of his films here) himself and is shot in comedic found footage style. The story is simple: a group of young and deliriously eccentric assassins hold a documentary film crew hostage and force them to capture their quest to kill an un-killable hitman named Gunther (Schwarzenegger) on camera. The idea is that they will finally become rich and famous once they kill this noble competition. The only problem is that Gunther is always one step a head of his killers. He even has gone as far as making a movie of his own only from his perspective. The end result is a kill or be killed action bonanza that's aided by hit and miss slapstick humor.

The film also stars Cobie Smulders, Taran Killam, Kumail Nanjiani, Randall Park, and Bobby Moynihan. The film is also directed by Taran Killam. The film has a few funny moments but all in all feels pretty convoluted with a lot of improv-style humor. Most of which feels a bit forced and silly. The film is also heavily edited which kind of works against the whole 'found footage' angle... but it's a comedy so whatever.

Presented in 1080p high definition with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless track, the film looks and sounds up to par with the Blu-ray format now, though not up to Schwarzenegger's best films. Most of the film is handheld or documentary-style with a little bit of motion blur here and there during some of the heavier action sequences. The colors are clean, however, and the characters rich with detail. The score is a bit silly with some exciting bits but an overall jazzy and fun theme.

A digital UV copy of the film is also included.

Special Features...

Deleted Scenes


Killing Gunther is like a SNL skit that goes on for a feature length runtime. At first it's kind of amusing but after a while it starts to become more of a chore to watch than anything. Arnold looks like he's having some fun here but ultimately it feels 'direct to video.'

Scream all ya want... nobody believes it's real!

Based off a real scream park attraction in Kentucky, the idea here is that the characters in the haunted house are real victims or members of the twisted family. The film is inspired by horror flicks such as Rob Zombie's House of a Thousand Corpses, plus the Saw and Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchises appropriately.

Talon Falls (2017) is a horror indie that centers around a group of teens on a road trip who go to a haunted house, only to be kidnapped and tortured in the process. While tightly edited and having decent production design, the film is a bit too similar to the others mentioned to stand out but that doesn't mean it doesn't have some fun moments and characters along the way.

The film stars Brad Bell, Fred Biggs, Lonnie Bloomberg, and is written and directed by Joshua Shreve.

Talon Falls is presented on standard definition DVD with an anamorphically enhanced widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix, the film looks and sounds as good as it can on DVD.

Special Features include a Behind the Scenes featurette and the Theatrical Trailer.

While the formula here isn't exactly new, there's some fun moments in Talon Falls that make it worth a watch and will make horror fans intrigued to visit the actual attraction.

Last but certainly not least is James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day 4K (1991, which we shall now refer to as 'T2' for the rest of this review) back on Blu-ray yet again. We've reviewed the two major U.S. versions, the last of which was known as the Skynet Edition and to find out about the film, our thoughts on it and how those discs performed, plus the technical history of the film in how it was filmed, its digital sound history and home video life, start with this link and work your way backwards...


So in early Fall 2017, James Cameron remastered the film and had it issued for a brief time in a new 3D version that looked good and noticeably had better color range, while it was the first time many had heard the film in digital sound theatrically because the CDS Cinema Digital Sound system it debuted in its some of its best 1991 theatrical screenings was a system that did not work out (even with Kodak a co-creator and backer of the 16-bit sound system) and that left it to those with better home theater systems to appreciate how ahead of its time the sound design really was. It still impresses, but more on that in a moment.

Though Lionsgate has not announced a 3D Blu-ray version, they have (after a delay) a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray set that debuted overseas first with mixed reactions and it looks like we got the same version with no corrections. So what gives? We have to go back to a Cameron film from 1986, Aliens, to explain.

Both films are shot on Kodak 35mm negative film, but both offer limits in the stocks used. Aliens used two stocks the company was about to discontinue because getting it was cheap and it could reproduce good color, detail and depth, but it was also grainer than he liked and it was discovered later that both stocks had fading issues. The remaster got rid of the grain, which was criticized somewhat, but I did not think it was too bad. Earlier versions had some motion blur from their transfers, but my actual complaint was some scenes that were supposed to be dark were a bit brighter than they were or should be. More on that when we deal with the film in its inevitable 4K edition. That film was also shot 1.85 X 1.

Though he intended 70mm blow-up prints for his next films as he did on Aliens, Cameron switched to the Super 35mm format for scope presentations at 2.35 X 1, skipping the anamorphic lenses to get higher quality images that use the whole 35mm frame, plus he had to do Super 35 for the groundbreaking digital visual effects he would deliver on The Abyss and T2, or those squeeze lenses would have ruined their definition. Also by this time, Kodak had moved onto their EXR 35mm color film negative stocks, better than what he had for Aliens, but two of them inevitably turned out to have had stability issues and even color limits for the faster ASA/ISO light sensitive speed stocks, so restoration would be needed anyhow.

3D aside, the whole 35mm negative was rescanned at 4K and color graded all over again, but the one thing no one seems to have noticed is that the blue color sheen that was in part of the first Terminator and continued on Aliens and The Abyss is missing here somewhat, replaced by a better color range, yet is it at a price? We get three versions of the film, including two different extended versions, but only the shorter Theatrical Version is in 4K, in part because the longer footage (unlike Aliens) is simply not in the condition to get a 4K upgrade and you can see that in all versions of that footage in previous releases. Also, some grain has been removed here too, but unlike doing that to a new Super 35 for scope film (think Suicide Squad, using the newest Kodak Vision 3 color negative stocks), T2 is an older films using stocks from the same company, but three generations ago. This brings up one side issue to cover briefly.

Super 35 is a variant of SuperScope 2.35 invented by billionaire Howard Hughes in the 1950s when he owned RKO Studios because he was so rich, cheap and technically inclined, he refused to pay Fox and Bausch & Lomb for CinemaScope (which had its own flaws anyhow), so he came up with his own format and it was eventually 2.35 X 1 like CinemaScope. When there were not enough anamorphic lenses (the kind that replaced CinemaScope) in Italy, Technicolor Italy invented the even more efficient Techniscope and all involve a tinier frame using only 2-perforation versus the 4-perfs of full 35mm. It also means more grain and was an issue with all these optically printed (we won't say cheating) scope formats until Kodak's Vision series arrived.

Add the issues of some of the film stocks on T2 and you can see the temptation to get rid of more grain than maybe one should. Plus, I like the grain and how it looks in the older versions, but the older bluish transfers up to the Skynet Blu-ray have a little too much motion blur and none of them captured the film at its best on a giant 70mm-sized screen like I saw it towards the end of its huge run. The result is the new version has issues with its improvements and for me, that means tradeoffs.

The 2160p HECV/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced 2.35 X 1 Ultra High Definition image has some shots where the color is not what I even saw in the 3D theatrical screening and the waxy look in some shots and of some scenes (is the nude arrival of the Arnold Terminator purposely waxy to somehow censor or hold back his nudity?) and we might get blue too much where we don't need it in 4K. The 1080p digital High Definition image does not have some of these flaws and hides others, but could some issues simply come from the 3D being turned into 2D wrong in some places?

So you get those flaws, but you get some better color, clarity and a little less blur, so that's what you face between the new and older versions. Why the issues, I don't know, but we have already seen some older similar films (like the awful new 4K scan of The Good, the Bad & The Ugly in regular ruining its color or older U.K. The Ipcress File with too much grain removal, both Techniscope films; this issue will continue on Blu-ray and 4K for these kinds of films until it is widely addressed) going too far about filtering or otherwise removing grain when it is part of the image meant by the Director of Photography, though Cameron notes the DP of this film Adam Greenberg, A.S.C., personally color timed this, so liberties must have been taken after that.

We'll get more answers later, but I can say the 4K has some moments of improvement over the regular Blu-ray, yet is not the home run it should have been and (sorry James Cameron) is not better than the 70mm blow-up version or excellent 35mm prints of the film in original release. Add my disappointment with the regular Blu-ray of the 1976 classic The Man Who Fell To Earth and legitimate complaints on the 4K version of Lincoln Lawyer, which I still liked, both from Lionsgate, and there's definitely some in house mastering issue going on there. We'll see what happens on that front next, though we've seen plenty of fine Lionsgate 4K releases like Conan The Barbarian (2011), Deepwater Horizon, Ex Machina, the 3:10 To Yuma remake and the first John Wick, so they've issued plenty of winners in the format.

As for sound, the case lists some kind of German DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix that simply does not exist, but instead of the DTS 6.1 ES or other lossless DTS mixes we've encountered on the previous T2 Blu-rays, we get a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that takes the original soundmaster and remasters it so we get a more naturalistic soundfield and suddenly, details I have never heard in the many versions (a few 12-inch analog LaserDiscs, the last few Blu-rays, all my theatrical screenings) of the film I've sat through over the years, even when I presented them as demo material. Though he skipped going for a 12-track presentation here, this all sounds really good and will surprise many.

Extras may not be as extensive as one would like and does not include the plethora of extras we've seen in many editions of the film over the years, but we do get Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds two Deleted Scenes with Audio Commentary, two vintage feature length audio commentary tracks, half-hour Making Of T2 featurette, nearly hour-long T2: Reprogramming The Terminator documentary with a bunch of interviews and several Trailers.

Despite the flaws and limits, the new T2 4K set is with it for the sound, new parts of the extras and what does work in the new visuals of the transfers. Hardcore fans will likely want to hold onto their older editions, but I liked enough of the changes and less motion blur, so I'll side with a passable recommendation of the set.

- Nicholas Sheffo (4Ks) & James Lockhart



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