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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Politics > Government > Betrayal > Thriller > Civil War > Murder > China > Western > Genocide > WWII > G > Affairs Of State (*)/Brothers (2017/Well Go DVD)/The Last Hunt (1956/MGM)/The Naked And The Dead (1958/RKO/both Warner Archive Blu-rays)/The Yellow Birds (*both 2018/Lionsgate Blu-rays)

Affairs Of State (*)/Brothers (2017/Well Go DVD)/The Last Hunt (1956/MGM)/The Naked And The Dead (1958/RKO/both Warner Archive Blu-rays)/The Yellow Birds (*both 2018/Lionsgate Blu-rays)



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



PLEASE NOTE: The Last Hunt and The Naked And The Dead Blu-rays are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the links below.



War, battles and intrigue figure prominently in the following releases...



Michael Lawson (David Corenswet) is an ambitious young, good-looking Caucasian man who will do anything to be a part of in Senator Baine's (David James Elliott) political party in his run for Presidency ...including blackmail. He gets in but then he has to work with Rob Reynolds (Adrian Grenier), Baine's shady manager. He ends up having an secret affair with Baine's wife (Mimi Rogers) and then his daughter, but what Michael didn't expect was to fall in love with Baine's daughter (Grace Victoria Cox) and all hell breaks loose when secrets start coming out ...including his own.


In Eric Bross' Affairs Of State (2018), Lawson desires power and position while playing in Washington D.C. political politics. Along with the help of his roommate Callie (Thora Birch), he gets his hands on political damning videos of powerful men and then blackmails them. On the side he is also male gigolo willing to sleep with any powerful woman to win favors. He ends up working with a shady manager Rob Reynolds in helping to expose scandal of their enemies and bury their own, but he ends up falling in love with the one girl he shouldn't, Baine's daughter and his own affairs soon come to light. He tries to warn his friend Callie that assassins are coming for her but is too late, to Rob Reynolds Michael is either part of the solution ...or he is just another problem.


This was a TOTALLY fictional political story fill with affairs, bribes, backstabbing and murder, how powerful men are above the law and how they are able to get away with murder. (But it could be possibility) It is how in the name of politics, anything is justified as long as you don't get caught or there aren't any witnesses, but like all secrets they eventually get exposed.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer has a good, clear, consistent look that establishes the political world of the film and the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is its well recorded equal, so this plays back very nicely. Extras include deleted scenes, commentaries and trailers.



During China's Civil War in the 1930s, two brothers separated by fate are brought together, five years later on the battlefield of war... on the opposite side. Forced to fight a war and along with their brother-in-arms can the bond of two brother overcome the rules and hardships of war? Or will the war force the brothers to kill one another?


In Kiefer Liu's Brothers (2017), Tiejin and his older brother were two orphans who grew up together in the streets protecting one another until they were both drafted into a war they didn't want to join. Tiejin managed to escape, but his brother was taken away. Five years later they meet on opposite sides of the battlefield and while they are enemies and at each other's throats, neither one really want to kill each other. When it comes to the lives of their men, brother-in-arms who have bleed and died under their command they are forced to choose between their mission and each other. Tiejin was once the kind and polite brother while his older brother was the strong and rough type, over the 5 years Tiejin has learn to become hard and tough. And while his older brother was the enemy, he continues to protect Tiejin from certain death... however it seems like no matter what they do, no matter how much they care for each other... in the end they are forced to fight each other to the death.


This movie was more about the war between two brothers than the war they were fighting in. The film was heavy with CGI using black and white backgrounds and stop motion effects, making it look more like a comic or film noir (it was kinda like the movie 300 or Sin City visually).


The anamorphically enhanced DVD image looks as good as this one can in the format, while the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is not as impressive, with much dialogue and a limited soundfield. Extras include making of the movie, interviews and trailers.



The next two films are unusual, big productions made by there respective studios that landed up producing mixed-but-interesting results and are both worth looking into. Both issued in restored Blu-ray editions by Warner Archive, we'll cover them together to make that point.


Richard Brooks' The Last Hunt (1956) is a big CinemaScope, full color Western that is politically incorrect to say the least, an early big Brooks film for MGM and the underrated journeyman filmmaker still manages to get some interesting things going here despite how oddly the film has aged. Part of this is because the genre is dead and each film has to reinvent and re-approach every single aspect of the Western, but even at this time, Westerns like High Noon and Johnny Guitar were questioning the genre and its ill take on history.


Robert Taylor is a tough, angry cold hunter who gets together with Stewart Granger to thin a heard of buffalo that the U.S. Government is allowing more extreme killing of than usual. Joined by Russ Tamblyn as a part-Native American young man and Lloyd Nolan as an old pro in hunting, things quickly get uglier when Taylor kills a group of Native American 'Indians' when he also knows it will put him at odds with 'half-breed' Tamblyn. You can imagine how this just keeps getting darker and darker, bad 'Hollywood Indian' casting (I always liked Debra Paget, but as a real Native American?) gets in the way of the drama with dated effects, et al.


Add a sometimes uneven script and the 103 minutes is an uneven viewing, as it always was, but it never looked or sounded this good, so after a very long time, it was like seeing so much of it for the first time and one thing that holds up best is this idea that Tamblyn represents a better future, even in the middle of all the madness. I believe Brooks, even a few years before the youth generation, understood this much and it is one of the reasons to put up with the artifacts that fail, which is the case for so many Westerns of all eras anyhow.


The acting is otherwise great, fight scenes not bad, the cast has some odd chemistry and in lesser hands that Brooks, we would not likely be talking about it as much or as well. Even if you don't like the genre, there is enough good here worth a look.



Then we have the rugged and somewhat more distinctive Raoul Walsh making one of RKO's last big films adapting norman Mailer's The Naked And The Dead (1958), which it turns out was in the developing process for a while. This is the kind of filmmaker Howard Hughes would hire when he still ran RKO, but the studio was eventually sold to another company, then bought by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, becoming the Desilu Studios. As you'll see in the trailer, Warner Bros. was distributing the company's last films before it folded, though they would not actually own their films until buying Turner Entertainment many decades later.


Cliff Robertson and Raymond Massey are two military commanders at odds with each other, so much so that the very cold Aldo Ray, a third leader, is pulled into their severe differences despite being a sadist and possibly the worse of the three as they fight a key WWII battle in the Pacific. We also get women (like Barbara Nichols and Lili St. Cyr) and the solid supporting cast of character actors playing troops with backstories like James best, L.Q. Jones, Joey Bishop, Richard Jaeckel and Jerry Paris. Though parts of it are not as real as you might see today and we get a few cliches here ands there, the film is 131 minutes that still just about justifies itself and has some intense moments worthy of the last few decades of films in the genre. At least RKO did not go out with a whimper.


In both cases, the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer can show the age of the materials used, but Warner Archive has gone out of their way to restore and save these films and the hard work certainly pays off here. It also makes these versions far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and even the least enjoyable moments in either film more watchable as a result.


In the case of Hunt, it was shot with the old CinemaScope lens system, so you get its flaws and distortions throughout, but that is the style of the film and they make it work. At this point, MGM was using Eastman Color film from Kodak (versus Ansco Color they dropped then recently), yet it is interesting they credit the film stock as that instead of their own MetroColor lab without noting the film supplier change. I cannot imagine the film looking much better color-wise than it does here, so great work all around can be seen throughout.


Dead has a very interesting history because for starters, Howard Hughes refused to pay one penny for CinemaScope or any similar process, so this film was actually shot 1.33 X 1 in what was called RKO Scope, a precursor to Super 35. You did not need any squeeze lenses to do the scope image, but the quality was not as good, though it had less distortion than the more famous format. By this time, the frame was readjusted from 2.20 X 1 to the 2.35 X 1 CinemaScope was finally known for at the time. However, as a concession to Warner, the trailer calls it WarnerScope, so that was all interchangeable since it was a faked scope format.


The better news is that the film was originally issued in 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints, so it is a solid film as far as color is concerned and you can see in many places how good it must have looked in such copies. Now it is not Technicolor like you'd expect in a musical or fantasy film, but like later war films in the three-strip process (all the way up to and including Malick's Thin Red Line and the stunning restoration and reissue of Coppola's Apocalypse Now, reviewed elsewhere on this site) make the war ands the people all the more warm, realistic and situations more palpable. Thus, this is a one-of-a-kind production visually you should see just on that level.


Both films offer a single DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 lossless soundtrack mix, but Hunt is in stereo while Dead is monophonic. Dead shows its sonic age and sounds about as good as it can, but Hunt likely had 4-track magnetic sound with traveling dialogue and sound effects, but that soundmaster is (hopefully temporarily?) lost, so we get this instead. It sounds pretty good and give us an idea that the filmmakers were trying to record this as well as they could.


Extras in both cases include an Original Theatrical Trailer, but Hunt adds a Making Of featurette of sorts with Director Brooks and Producer Dory Schary (who ran the studio and was moving it away from musicals) from the TV show MGM Parade. In black and white, it is worth your time after seeing the film.



We conclude with the modern-era war film, The Yellow Birds (2018) is being hailed as this year's Hurt Locker and is comparable in some respects. Starring Alden Ehrenreich (who was just fine as Han Solo in this year's blockbuster; more on that later), the drama is heavy hitting and winner of several awards on the film festival circuit.


The film also stars Jennifer Aniston, Tye Sheridan, Toni Collette, and Jack Huston.


During the Iraq War, two young soldiers (Ehrenreich, Sheridan) are forever changed by the horrors they witness. When Ehrenreich returns home, he finds that he isn't the same man that he used to be much to the dismay of his poor mother (Collette) and the impending demands of war. The film outlines the tragedy of war and how it affects the brave men and women that put their lives on the line to protect their countries.


Presented in 1080p high definition with a 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless mix, the film looks and sounds as good as it can on Blu-ray disc with plenty of detail. The film flashes to horrific war scenes and back to more normally lit domestic scenes and does with with plenty of detail.


Also included is a digital copy.


Special Features: Reverberations of War: Making The Yellow Birds featurette


The Yellow Birds is a fine film, even if films of this kind have been done before... just be sure to have some tissues on hand, should you be so affected.



To order either of the Warner Archive Blu-rays, The Last Hunt and The Naked And The Dead, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


http://www.wbshop.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo (Warner Archive), Ricky Chiang (Affairs, Brothers) and James Lockhart

https://www.facebook.com/jamesharlandlockhartv/


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