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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > War > Genocide > Murder > WWII > China > Period Piece > British > Melodrama > Epic > Battles > Terrorism > Children Of Huang Shi (2008/Sony/Columbia)/Forever Amber (1947/Fox)/Genghis Khan (1965/Sony/Columbia/all Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-rays)/Operation Red Sea (2018/Well Go Blu-ray w/DVD)

Children Of Huang Shi (2008/Sony/Columbia)/Forever Amber (1947/Fox)/Genghis Khan (1965/Sony/Columbia/all Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-rays)/Operation Red Sea (2018/Well Go Blu-ray w/DVD)

Picture: B/B/B/B+ & C+ Sound: B/C+/B-/B+ & C+ Extras: B/C+/C+/C Films: A-/C+/C+/B+

PLEASE NOTE: The three Blu-rays of Children Of Huang Shi, Forever Amber and Genghis Khan are now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, is limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last from the links below.

These next films are set in history and mostly are meant to be historical epics....

We star with Roger Spottiswoode's underseen Children Of Huang Shi (2008) set in 1938. British Journalist George Hogg (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) secretly sneaks into China to record and report the Japanese invasion into China to the world. But he instead he finds his cover is blown and he finds himself wounded and rescued by a Chinese resistance fight Jack (Chow Yun Fat) and is sent to a remote boy's orphanage. He meets an American nurse Lee (Radha Mitchell) who takes care of him and he eventually becomes the boys teacher and they become family. But as the war gets worst and closer to the village, the army threatens to draft the boys who have already lost everything into the army, George must find a new safe haven for the boys.

All Hogg wanted to do was to enter China and report on the Japanese/Chinese Communist/National civil war full of blood and glory ...but instead he find himself in charge of an orphanage where he is an outsider and forced to become a 'teacher' for boys orphaned in the war. At first, he is reluctant and doesn't care about the boys, but in time they come to understand one another, that fighting a war is also about keeping those boys alive ...and not just killing an enemy. They eventually become a family and help give meaning and purpose to their lives again. When the army wants to conscript the boys into war, George decides take the boys out the war (and out of the country) by following the ancient Silk Road trails. Michelle Yeoh also stars.

Based on a true story, it not as much of a tale of war but the story of how a person can make a difference and not always by fighting. It is story about understand the tragedies of the war and how the simplest things can change the course of ones life.

Otto Preminger's Forever Amber (1947) is the director's costume melodrama with a big enough budget as Linda Darnell pulls off one of the best roles of her career as the title character, a young woman who finds getting together with different men can wart off things like poverty, class division and being looked down on. Things really take a big turn when she gets involved with King George II (George Sanders) shocking some in the know, but she is more interested in young Bruce Carlton (Cornel Wilde), but can she handle such an unsustainable triangle?

Fox really backed this with the production design, color and talent in front of and behind the camera, making it a good, if long 138 minutes. Its not a film that stayed with me,. Though any doubt of Darnell's talent and appeal vanishes after seeing her here if you were not already convinced. It is also a great intro to her for those who do not know her. Look for Jessica Tandy and Richard Haydn in the supporting cast and what does work in the screenplay by Philip Dunne and later legendary Ring Lardner, Jr. (M*A*S*H).

Henry Levin's Genghis Khan (1965) wants to be the next Lawrence Of Arabia or Ben-Hur, but starts by saying its fictional and to say it plays loosely with history is putting it nicely. It also plays more loosely with ethnicity as so many films did at the time, looking poorer and even like a cheap B-movie for it, but as compared to these Chinese epics we've been getting lately like the two in this set of releases, more aged and problematic yet.

Taking it as the entertainment from yesteryear it was also meant to be, I was not too impressed back in the day by it and though Omar Sharif is a a strong choice for the title role, it may still raise some questions. Eli Wallach is a bad guy again, then great actors like James Mason and Robert Morley trying to be 'Asian' gives the old Charlie Chan films new credibility. Steven Boyd, Telly Savalas (perfect for these kinds of films as well), Michael Horden, Woody Strode and the under-appreciated Francoise Dorleac.

So if you can get past those issues, what do you have? A gritty widescreen Technicolor film that is still well produced and has some decent action scenes, more involving since it is literally thousands of extras and no digital imitations thereof. This is not going to be as violent as such films today, but tries to be as realistic as Kubrick's Spartacus (1960) if not as effective. Thus, it is a mixed curio worth a look that has its fans, but uneven overall an d long enough at 125 minutes. Those interested should consider getting it while its still in print.

Finally, we have Lin Chaoxian (aka Dante Lam) directing the other big Chinese co-production, Operation Red Sea (2018) with Morocco paying a big role. Terrorist and pirates in the Middle East staged a violent coup taking over part of the country and the government. The Chinese Navy/Special Forces are sent in to help evacuate Chinese citizens, but when the terrorists takes hostages and the Navy also discovers they have recently received the plans and resources to make a dirty bomb. The Jiaolong Assault Team finds themselves not only on a dangerous rescue mission, but must also stop WMDs before they are delivered.

The Chinese Navy/Special Forces are highly trained soldiers trained to handle guarding international shipping and high profile rescues. While their mission is protecting Chinese nationals, they rescue a stubborn foreign journalist who discovered a conspiracy of a large amount of nuclear material is being sold on the black market, enough to make over 30 dirty bombs. Four soldiers after barely surviving a rescue op are forced to make a choice to go behind enemy line and into the heart of the terrorist stronghold to seize the nuclear weapons.

This movie was like the Chinese version of No Man Left Behind and/or Band of Brothers, it is a story of the modern Chinese soldiers who can do anything and are the greatest soldiers alive. It is filled with epic gun, tank and sniper battles along with dramatic sacrifices and death scenes. In the end it is about how a Chinese soldier never gives up and how one Chinese soldier is worth 1000 men.

Now for playback quality. All four films look as good as they possibly could on the regular Blu-ray format, with the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Huang looking nicely detailed and naturalistic from its 35mm shoot, plus the 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Amber and 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer demonstrating the solid color you would have likely seen in 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints of the films throughout for the most part.

Director of Photography Leon Shamroy, A.S.C., makes Amber look as rich as possible, while the legendary Geoffrey Unsworth, B.S.C., uses the very widescreen frame to its fullest extent despite not shooting on a frame larger than 35mm to make Khan look as large as possible.

That leaves the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Red Sea, an all-HD shoot (cameras range from 2160p Go Pro units to 3K average Arri and 6K RED) usually in color, with a little black & white (with limits) look as good as it can for this kind of production. The anamorphically enhanced DVD with its lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 is a comedown by comparison.

Thus, Red Sea has the best sound of the four films, as it should being the only one made recently, but we get a lossless DTS: X 11.1 track that may not always be distinctive, but is loud, clear and wide-ranging enough. The film was also issued in IMAX and with Dolby Digital 11.1 theatrically, so this is meant to be big all around.

The three Twilight Time releases offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless sound mixes, with Amber offering a 2.0 Mono presentation that shows its age is as good as can be expected for a theatrical monophonic film 71 years old and counting. Khan also has a 2.0 Mono presentation and was never a stereo or multi-channel stereo theatrical release, but the sound is still richer and better than Amber. That leaves Huang with impressive DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 and slightly lesser 2.0 Stereo lossless mixes that place it in a solid second place for sonic quality.

Extras on all three Twilight Time Blu-rays include nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and more, truly excellent, underrated essays by the great film scholar Julie Kirgo and Isolated Music Scores. Huang and Khan add Original Theatrical Trailers, Huang a Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurette and Amber a Biography profile of Darnell entitled Linda Darnell: Hollywood's fallen Angel. Extras on Red include Deleted Scenes and trailers.

To order the Children Of Huang Shi, Forever Amber and Genghis Khan limited edition Blu-rays, buy them while supplies last at these links:




- Nicholas Sheffo and Ricky Chiang (Huang, Red)


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