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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Biography > Biopic > Politics > History > Government > Documentary > Filmmaking > Terrorism > Scienc > Alexander Hamilton (1931/Warner Archive DVD)/The Champion (2016/Milestone DVD Set)/15:17 To Paris (2018/Warner Blu-ray/DVD)/Genius: Season One (2017/National Geographic/Fox DVD Set)

Alexander Hamilton (1931/Warner Archive DVD)/The Champion (2016/Milestone DVD Set)/15:17 To Paris (2018/Warner Blu-ray/DVD)/Genius: Season One (2017/National Geographic/Fox DVD Set)

Picture: C/C+/B & C+/C+ Sound: C/C+/B- & C+/C+ Extras: D/B/C/C Main Programs: C+/C+/C+/B

PLEASE NOTE: The Alexander Hamilton DVD is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Here's a set of new releases that deal with real life stories as dramatization, plus one about filming dramatizations...

John Addley's Alexander Hamilton (1931) is a very major attempt by Warner bros. at the time to make a prestige historical film about how the first Treasury Secretary of the United States created his legacy and helped establish the financial power of the country in the long term despite a secret scandal threatening to ruin his life and reputation. Based on a hit stage play with George Arliss, Arliss recreates his role (he was under contract at Warners) and at 70 minutes, it is not a bad film all these decades later.

We meet his friends, foes, are made aware of the fragile situation of the new young, ideal country starting up and for tis time, the money, production, costumes and sets are pretty decent, especially now that we have phony digital video that makes it too easy to duplicate such things in generic ways. Doris Kenyon, Montagu Love and June Collyer are among the fine supporting cast and it sure plays better than many of the phony period pieces (TV and theatrical) were suffering through of late. Glad Warner Archive has issued it on DVD.

There are unfortunately no extras.

When you hear about filmmaking outside of foreign films and independent productions, you mostly hear about Hollywood because its success was, has been and continues to be massive, even in the face of worldwide competition (Bollywood, China, etc.) and newcomers in the U.S. (semi-Hollywood still in the hands of internet companies flush with cash) but that is not the whole story. Since the latter 1800, New York and Chicago were (and still are) major filmmaking locales with many an untold story, but there is more, as Marc J. Perez's The Champion (2016) reveals and sets the record straight on.

Because New York City and surrounding areas become so expensive in the early days of silent cinema, a group of movie lovers and businessmen searched for a cheaper alternative that would still give them access to NYC. The result was settling for buying plenty of land cheap in Fort Lee, New Jersey and a forgotten film boom resulted. The subtitle of the documentary is 'A Story Of America's First Film Town'.

The great video label Milestone has produced a great DVD set built around the half-hour documentary, adding as many surviving films (a few even restored) as possible to show just what happened, how this led to major production in Hollywood and how the truth is disappearing as the town seems to want to forget for some odd reason (speculation would require a new documentary) and we even see one of the final studios before it itself disappears. Looks like Perez and company were just in time to capture the truth for posterity.

All serious film fans (and filmmakers) need to see this and it is amazing it became so forgotten, but being all the films became orphan films and silent film tend to be the most volatile of all to save, preserve and even know about, you see why this work is so priceless.

Extras include a little booklet with information on the studio and its films produced, including...







THE DANGER GAME** by HARRY POLLARD, 1918, 61 MINUTES, starring Madge Kennedy and Tom Moore


A GROCERY CLERK'S ROMANCE*** by MACK SENNETT, 1912, 8 MINUTES. Courtesy of Paul E. Gierucki.

*Music Composed and Performed by Ben Model.
**Music Composed and Performed by Donald Sosin.
***Music by Rodney Sauer and performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

Clint Eastwood's 15:17 To Paris (2018) is one of the oddest and even most experimental films the director has ever made. Though you can find precedent in some of his earlier dramas (Midnight In The Garden Of Good & Evil), this is the sappiest, most overly melodramatic work he will probably ever make, yet it is about a terrorist attack on a train where three young men and friends (Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone & Alek Skarlatos, playing themselves in adult life!) happen to be riding and somehow stop a mass murder. So what gives?

Eastwood starts by showing their younger selves, the circumstances in which they grew up (including being in a Christian school, which the script goes WAY out of its way to emphasize) including their ups and downs as kids, their mothers trying to raise them alone (who are VERY Christian) and their growth as millennials (a generation Eastwood has not had kind words for in recent years).

With that, the film can be read two ways. One is that this is all incidental and happens to give them some kind of moral background to stop the killer (but they could/do have morality coming from other sources) or Two, a propaganda film (the way most critics took it, making it one of the worst-reviewed films of Eastwood's career) that says because 'God was on their side' and the like, they were ready and even protected just enough to 'defeat evil' because of U.S. 'moral exceptionalism' or the like.

Sadly, the latter rings too true, but ignoring that singular text, the film still has some good moments and handles the ugly final moments on the train as well as can be expected, which happens to be the most (only?) Eastwood-like directing moment in the film. No doubt the brave trio here show their chemistry here simply by being themselves and no doubt, this gets very bloody and ugly, so be warned.

Thus, I think the film is better than it is getting credit for, but only by so much. I still feel like we were being lectured and that means the film is condescending to those not part of the intended emphasis on the religion favored here. We get the point after a few times what their religious background is supposed to be. Anything else is overkill and atypical of Eastwood's cannon. Also note the terrorists religion is implied, but the counter-association is clear.

You should see this one just to see what your reaction will be.

The only extras include the Blu-ray-only Making Every Second Count with Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler taking us moment-by-moment through the real-life drama, just as they lived it and on both discs, Portrait of Courage with Eastwood and his creative team telling why they took the bold step of casting the three Americans to play themselves in the film and other approaches to the film.

Genius: Season One (2017) makes the most obvious pick of a mini-series biography of the man most associated with that title: Albert Einstein. Now there are so many ways this could have been a joke, disaster or train wreck with all the jokes, pop culture references and the like about one of the greatest thinkers and minds of all time. However, Geoffrey Rush is great, uncompromising and even remarkable in bringing the man to life in this 10-episode mini-series that has fortunately led to a new TV series.

We see his childhood, early start, problems with breaking mysteries of science, his relationships and later, taking on the Nazis and what became two variants of the nuclear bomb that changed the world for good. Emily Watson leads the supporting cast, all of whom are solid here and the quality of the production is as viable and believable as anything produced for TV today. I also thought the teleplays are also great and smart throughout.

So anything good you've heard about the series is true and if you have not heard enough about it, know its great TV and you should catch up to it as soon as possible.

Extras include clips meant to promote the series, including...

Meet the Characters

Einstein's Love Life

Einstein's Escape from Hitler

The Making of Genius

Behind the Scenes with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer

Behind the Scenes with the Cast

Costumes and Makeup

What Does 'Genius' Mean?

Two Einsteins

Now for the technical playback. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 HD-shot digital High Definition image transfer on Paris is easily the best-looking presentation here being as new as anything ans the only high definition release on the list, but is more basic than usual throughout. Part of that seems to be Eastwood's approach to showing how normal and simple things were in the three men's lives until the terrorist attack. The anamorphically enhanced DVD image version is softer and not as good as the Blu-ray in color, detail, depth and the like, but it is passable.

The 1.33 X 1 black & white image on Hamilton shows its age, but it is an early sound film and an event film for Warner early on, so it does need some work. Otherwise, it is not much better than the silent films on the Champion DVD set. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the Champion documentary features samples of those films, some of which are tinted and can look good, but they are lucky they survived at all. The documentary has newly shot footage and looks fine for the format.

That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Genius, a new HD shoot for TV, but looking pretty consistent throughout, making one wonder as it was a hit and a new season with a new 'genius' has debuted, any Blu-ray version coming up? I like the look and style on going through the show.

As for sound, Paris wins again with its Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 on older systems) sound mix, but it tends to be dialogue-based, so the mix only goes so far. Dialogue is easy to hear for the most part and the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 is adequate at best.

The DVDs include lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Hamilton that shows its age and needs some work, lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Champion that is just fine and lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Genius that has its moments and is not bad. Wish it were lossless.

To order the Alexander Hamilton Warner Archive DVD, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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