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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Mystery > Zombie > Drama > Science Fiction > Dystopia > Police State > Politics > Surrea > Marauders (2016/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Star Of Midnight (1935/RKO/Warner Archive DVD)/Warcraft 4K (2016/Legendary/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

Cell (2016/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Edge Of Winter (2016/Sony DVD)/Equals (2015/Scott Free/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/High-Rise (2015/Magnolia/MagNet Blu-ray)/Kamikaze '89 (1982/Film Movement Blu-ray)/Loophole (1954/Allied Artists/Warner Archive DVD)/Marauders (2016/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Star Of Midnight (1935/RKO/Warner Archive DVD)/Warcraft 4K (2016/Legendary/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: B/C/B/B/B/C/B/C+/B Sound: B/C+/B/B/B-/C/B/C/B+ Extras: C/D/B/C/B/D/C/D/C Films: C+/C/B/C/B-/C+/C/C+/C

PLEASE NOTE: The Loophole and Star Of Midnight DVDs are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Here's a wide variety of genre films, including a new gem, from various years, often taking place in other eras still, but you should be aware of all of them especially as some did not get the promotion they deserved.

Tod Williams' Cell (2016) is based on the Stephen King novel and offers a re-pairing of John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson from their 2007 cult film 1408, here in what I think is initially a better film. Opening at an airport, everything seems fine as the customers wait for their flights, but things get strange when each person who happens to be on a cell phone starts to act odd. Quickly, they are starting to kill each other, looking like a sudden madness has kicked in and all hell breaks loose. Cusack plays a father who is the first to realize the common denominator is persons on their cell phones.

This makes for some fine satire, some creepy moments, a film that initially knows its way around the horror genre and one of the few zombie films in recent years that actually justifies itself. However, it starts to wear thin in the second half, succumbing to cliches and losing its way by getting too far away from the original book. Still, I liked how well this worked while it lasted and if it had just had a stronger script and sense of concentration, this could have been a great film. Cheers to the supporting actors and the irony throughout.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds a Making Of featurette To Cell & Back and a feature length audio commentary track by Director Williams.

Rob Connolly's Edge Of Winter (2016) is one of those films trying to be a certain kind of film, only to back off trying not to be the same film. Joel Kinnaman is the father of two young boys he takes for a trip to a cabin. He and his wife have split and he wants to bond with them, but things start to get odd and he eventually loses it being too possessive. In versions we've seen before (the least of which is Kubrick's The Shining), he goes a bit nuts, but the script and director try to do this in a restrained way. It does not work.

Kinnaman makes this a curio being in films like Suicide Squad or the hideous Robocop remake, but now, it also has new Spider-Man Tom Holland as his older son, but even their good acting (along with a decent cast) cannot save this from its shortcomings. Thus, I was disappointed.

There are oddly no extras.

Drake Doremus' Equals (2015) is the big surprise here, a smart, intelligent, extremely well-written, realty well directed and thoroughly thought-through tale of a police state of the near future where everyone has been bred with genetic alterations so they will feel no love or emotions, but make great workers for the state and federate. Two co-workers (Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart in a great pair of casting) work in the same graphics and press department (think ministry of truth a la Orwell's 1984) when eh starts to have feelings he never had before. This is labeled a genetic defect and challenges his work and life. Then she gets interested.

Ridley Scott's Scott Free company co-produced this companion to dystopian classics like 1984, Lucas' THX-1138 and so many other, if rare films on the subject that work. We also get great turns by David Selby (who could pass for Keir Dullea's brother here), Guy Pierce and Jacki Weaver among a surprising strong cast. I love the look of the film, the script is one of the best of its kind in years and I would consider this a minor classic of science fiction that could more that hold its own against anything in the genre in the last few decades. Direct TV picked this remarkable work up, so it did not get the theatrical distribution it deserved, but now, here it is on an excellent Blu-ray and you should put it on your must-see list. Excellent!!!

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds three Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurettes in Switched On, The Collective and Utopia and a feature length audio commentary track by Director Doremus, Cinematographer John Guleserian and Editor Jonathan Alberts.

Ben Wheatley's High-Rise (2015) is also futuristic in its own way, with Tom Hiddleston getting to live in a new fancy apartment building that is rather exclusive, but also has strange secrets he will find out soon about. It has its own parties, supermarket and even self-contained world, but he soon discovers it is stuck in the mid-1970s! Why?

Jeremy Irons plays the head of the building, Sienna Miller a gal who might know some of the answers and what seems normal gets odd with increasing power outages that were not supposed to happen and the like. Based on a J. G. Ballard book, the stories point is that the last great years of Britain were before Margaret Thatcher and Neo-Conservatism (the U.K. TV version of Life On Mars (reviewed elsewhere on this site) deals with this too, but better) and this gets redundant and does not seem to know where it wants to go in the second half. The director in particular makes some serious miscalculations I cannot reveal without spoiling this, but the result is a very mixed bag that misses the mark despite its ambitions. Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy and Keeley Hawes also star.

Extras include a feature length audio commentary track with Hiddleston, Wheatley and Producer Jeremy Thomas, four Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurettes (Building The World Of High-Rise: '70s Style, Heady Special Effects, Breaking Down High-Rise & Its Tenants and High-Rise: Bringing Ballard To The Big Screen) and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Wolf Gremm's Kamikaze '89 (1982) is the last acting work of the late, great director Rainer werner Fassbinder, here in a rare lead role as a head police detective trying to defuse a terroristic bomb threat in 1989 West Germany. By this time, that country has used its economic power to surpass the U.S., the U.K., China and U.S.S.R./Soviet Union (now Russia) to become the most powerful nation in the world. With references to Godard's Alphaville, Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, Lucas' THX-1138 and Fassbinder's own World On A Wire (the TV mini-series inspiration for the Matrix Trilogy, reviewed on Criterion Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) trying to track down the potential killers in what has become a police state (with hardly a connection to Nazi Germany).

It also want to emulate a Fassbinder film (terrorist attacks are part of several of his films, like the Fourth Generation), but it uneven density shows it is not, yet it has irony, an interesting sense of humor, some really good moments and I love its New wave look when that part surfaces. The supporting cast is great and original Django Franco Nero shows up later in a key role, showing the intertextual love of world cinema Fassbinder has shown in his own past films. I also got a kick out of the technology of the time, but that would have still been accurate enough for 1989, though even the makers could not have imagined that the U.S.S.R. would collapse the year after the film's events and Germany would be finally unified. Fassbinder did not live to see that.

Extras include an illustrated booklet on the film including informative text an excellent essays by Nick Pinkerton and Samuel B. Prime, feature length audio commentary track by co-producer (and wife of the director) Regina Ziegler (expect some dead spaces though), a bunch of Radio Spots narrated by no less than John Cassavetes, documentary Rainer Werner Fassbinder: The Last Year and a DVD with a a documentary about director Gremm called Wolf At The Door.

Harold Schuster's Loophole (1954) is a later Film Noir with bank worker Barry Sullivan set up for a frame over stolen money from the bank he has loyally worked at for years. Charles McGraw is the insurance investigator who is certain he is 100% guilty, but Sullivan has been suckered. With McGraw on his tail (he keeps getting him fired form new jobs), he has to figure out what happened. The real criminals are having fun at his dire expense (a goof and his hot girlfriend (Mary Beth Hughes in a fun turn) more for the money than him) while his wife (Dorothy Malone) does what she can to help him.

This can be unintentionally funny like many a Noir, but it is enough of a good one at a tight 80 minutes that you should see it at least once. Not bad at all.

There are sadly no extras.

Steven C. Miller's Marauders (2016) actually starts out as a really good, smart heist film, but after 15 minutes, it drops off into silly talk-at-each-other dialogue that never ends and makes this an unintentionally funny mess, wasting a fine cast that includes Christopher Meloni as a cop, Bruce Willis, Dave Bautista and Adrien Grenier (minus most of his hair from Entourage!) and gives up early on any new ideas or working story. It does fill in the empty space with lots of violence, foul language that gets silly and pointless anger.

That's a shame, because they started out great, then it was sad to see this one so quickly implode and be so very, very ruined, but the actors do their best to keep it going. I was not convinced after the first reel.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds a feature length audio commentary track by Director Miller & Cinematographer Brandon Cox, Making Of featurette, Cast/Crew Interviews, Deleted/Extended Scenes and a Trailer Gallery.

Stephen Roberts' Star Of Midnight (1935) is a rare pairing of William Powell and Ginger Rogers as reporter Powell is wrongly accused of killing a reporter, so he has been framed, but girlfriend Rogers does not believe it and tries to help him in this comical mystery that is a grade-A classy production. The mystery is not bad (wait until you see some of the devices of the day) and every scene seems to take place in an expensive space, room, world and shows RKO was making a serious bid to make this a high class A-level film.

I think they succeeded more than not (Gene Lockhart, Ralph Morgan and Paul Kelly lead the fine supporting cast) and the energy and humor never stop. This runs a very healthy-for-the-time 90 minutes and the leads have more chemistry than you'd expect. It may show its age (no problem for me) and have a few scenes that fall flat, but it is a remarkable film for its genre and all serious film fans should see this one at least once.

There are sadly no extras.

Duncan Jones' Warcraft 4K (2016) is based on the very successful, popular videogame, putting it into the odd subgenre of videogames based on films. Different from so many film just looking like bad videogames, Travis Fimmel (Vikings) is the lead hero integrated into the CGI fantasy world of the film where many human-like characters from another world and other creatures seamlessly are in the same world in one of the few good meldings of the two in a while and better than the problematic 48fps mix on the Hobbit films. Paula Patton is the female lead the the rest of the cast is led by the underrated Ben Foster. So why have you possibly not heard to this adventure where the peace of Azeroth is about to be disrupted?

Though this was actually a hit in most markets, it was a box office dud in the U.S. and part of the problem was not just that the film was a good bit of what we've seen before, but that the promotion made it look awful, overly digital and explained zero about the film. Counting on 'fanboys' or 'gamers' when the budget is this high is an extremely bad idea and relying on overseas to make up for it not doing well in 'The States' is as obnoxious as ever.

This is not my genre much, but Jones (Moon) does a pretty good job bringing this all together, but like Alex Proyas on Gods Of Egypt (see my 4K review elsewhere on this site), the film simply does not have enough exposition early on to really work or distinguish it from other tales in the now played-out genre. It is worth a look (and not just because it can look good in 4K) if you are curious or if this is your kind of film, but for everything that worked, I saw several missed opportunities that reminded me of John Carter. At least the money is really on the screen for a change.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds a 2013 Teaser, featurettes including one on Fandom, one from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, ILM: Behind The Magic, World Of Warcraft On Film, Behind The Scenes/Making Of extended piece, Deleted/Extended Scenes, Gag Reel and Warcraft: Bonds Of Brotherhood motion comic.

All the regular Blu-rays here perform very well, but the 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced 2.35 X 1 Ultra High Definition image on the Warcraft 4K disc is just that much better, if not spectacularly so. It just has that much more detail and depth than the other Blu-rays, including its own 1080p Blu-ray also included. However, the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Equals is actually the best shoot here, the best-looking of the films (and it has competition for a change), one of the best HD shoots I have seen to date and is impressive throughout.

Cell, High-Rise and Marauders are also all surprisingly solid, even sometimes impressive HD-shot features, but they presented in 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition framing. There may be a little flaw here and their, a little blur cropping up at times, but they are all professional shoots and too rare still in the digital age. Color is not badly manipulated either.

The 1080p 1.66 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Kamikaze can show the age of the materials used here and there, but looks as good as its digital counterparts throughout, looking fine from the best 35mm elements of it around. Color is interesting and pleasing throughout as have been many of the resent restoration of actual Fassbinder films of late.

As for the DVDs, the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Winter is consistent, but tends to be much softer throughout than expected, but that is not just due to style, so an older, flawed film like the 1.33 X 1 black & white performance on Loophole can compete. It has some soft shots and more print damage than I would have liked, but it is a good-looking film. However, the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on on Star is the best DVD here with some nice depth and detail you might not expect.

In the sonics and sound department, both 4K and regular 1080p Blu-ray editions of Warcraft feature a Dolby Atmos 11.1 lossless soundtrack that is easily the sonic champ here, even if it is not always immersing or the best demo of the format. That is not necessarily to say the sound format was an afterthought, but it could have been a bit more pronounced.

Cell, Equals, High-Rise and Marauders all offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes that have good solid soundfields, but Equals is the film with the least opportunity to show itself off, yet it has a superior use of sound design that enhances its visuals the best of any film on this list.

For being so old, the PCM 2.0 Mono on Kamikaze is also filled with surprising clever sound mix choices, mono at a time when so many films were starting to use old analog Dolby Stereo, but it is interesting how well it holds up.

As for the DVDs, the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Winter is obviously going to be the best of the three sonically being the only such mix and a never film by decades, but the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Loophole and Star are a little weaker than expected. Be careful of volume switching and high playback levels.

To order either of the Warner Archive DVDs, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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