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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Crime > Drugs > Urban > Police State > Science Fiction > Politics > Terrorism > Religion > Cable TV > Crackdown: Big City Blues (1990/Film Detective Blu-ray)/Handmaid's Tale: Season Two (2018/MGM Blu-ray)/River Runs Red 4K (2018/Cinedigm 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Single-Handed: Complete Collectio

Crackdown: Big City Blues (1990/Film Detective Blu-ray)/Handmaid's Tale: Season Two (2018/MGM Blu-ray)/River Runs Red 4K (2018/Cinedigm 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Single-Handed: Complete Collection (2007 - 2010/Acorn DVD Set)/'Til Death Do Us Part (2017/Gravitas Ventures Blu-ray)

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

Here's a group of releases where people have to face unusually dire situations....

We start with an orphan film from the Black New Wave, Paul DeSilva's Crackdown: Big City Blues (1990), an early film trying to deal with the beginnings of the crack cocaine crisis, though it is disturbing that some may see this as 'the good old days' versus deadlier drugs and a giant increase in violence make this fictional drama sad viewing. Not as effective as Spike Lee's Jungle Fever in dealing with the same subject matter, this still serves as a time capsule of how bad it was then and a sample of the resistance against the epidemic that actually existed or a time.

The writing and directing not bad, non-actors (save Rhonda Ross Kendrick, the daughter of Diana Ross and Berry Gordy!) doing the best they can and it is also a time capsule of New York City pre-Giuliani, pre-9/11 and pre-gentrification, all of which will make you think of questions the makers here could not have anticipated or imagined. Having watched Lee's She's Gotta Have It (1988) recently in its fine new Blu-ray edition, the film's share a few common denominators of the time and it is good that this little-known (maybe better remembered than some might think) film has been released at this time.

There is also the emptiness that the persons facing the crisis had been abandoned by their government via rollbacks of civil rights, benefits, help, a safety net and retro-racism, but that this was also not only pre-Obama, but pre-Clinton. Shot on 16mm full color film, we get more than a few moments of faux analog TV scenes (including news reports) filmed right off of an analog TV, but there was no digital video anything much yet, especially for consumers, let alone professionals.

Thus, some of this has aged in ways no one could have expected and despite its flaws and limits, budget and all, this is ambitious and worth a look. I just wish the director and director of photography had been involved in this release, because there is more to say than even in the extras we do get.

The 16mm film (35mm is claimed, but was that a blow-up print?) is here in a 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer can show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to any previous releases of the film despite light debris and markings on the film materials used throughout. Sometimes, the color looks really good as well. I take the TV footage as being as good as it should, would or could ever be. The PCM 2.0 Mono sound shows its age much more with some harmonic distortion, location audio issues, dubbing issues and limits of the analog recording equipment used at the time. Note many major motion pictures even of that time run into the same issues.

Extras include an interview featurette and feature length audio commentary track by producer Frazier Prince.

Next up is The Handmaid's Tale: Season Two (2018), the follow-up to the uncannily timely hit cable TV series based on the Margaret Atwood book once made into a feature film. Arriving at the same time an actual President supported by extreme Right Wing Evangelicals actually took power in the real-life United States, the series hit a nerve and fortunately, worked well. You can read more about that first season as we reviewed it on Blu-ray at this link:


This time around, we follow Offred down a darker path as the (mostly) secret society controlling the fallen United States under the Gilead name fear a female uprising, so the episode set more brutal in depicting the violence against women and all others who defy their narrow, hateful, extremist rule (not unlike the violence of extreme Islam we've seen in real life and used as propaganda by real-life pseudo Christians as portrayed here) and the show was criticized for going too far. In truth, no matter how graphic, it could never go far enough and some of the stories we are now hearing (as we've always heard under these circumstances) are more outrageous than what we see here.

To prove this, the show is not wallowing in the violence any more than in the debut season, but just showing what it has to and bravely not looking away and selling out its audience. The great cast continues to be impressive, even when playing the characters are so ugly and thankless. That is amazing work indeed.

My actual issue this season is some awkward uses of hit music that make zero sense turn up in a future world where said music is banned (not addressed as it should be here), thrown in in different ways that hurt the show more than any graphic violence could. I'm sure the violence is a response to real life unexpected or this would have been a bit of a different season. Still, this is one of the few truly important TV series being made right now and I hope it continues as long as it can.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 AVC @ 19.7 MBPS digital High Definition image is a bit better and more stable, a little sharper and clearer than the debut season, with even less detail issues. An HD production, glad they picked up the visual strength they needed as these slight improvements are welcome. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes are as sold as the previous season, so no complaints there.

Extras this time include featurettes: Season Two: Off Book and Dressing Dystopia.

River Runs Red (2018) centers around the case of a young teen who was the victim of accidental murder by two police officers. While the film hits enough hot buttons to make it topical and features a few familiar faces, it doesn't feel as powerful or authentic as it should.

River Runs Red 4K stars Taye Diggs, John Cusack, George Lopez, Luke Hemsworth, and Gianni Capaldi. The film is written and directed by Wes Miller (Atone).

The son of a small town Judge (Diggs) is killed by two Cops (Hemsworth, Capaldi), when he's pulled over for a silly reason. Once the boy is murdered, the system ends up setting the officers free. That doesn't stop a detective (Cusack) from finding some incriminating evidence on the officers and, in turn, gets Diggs and George Lopez (whose also a mourning father) to set their own revenge plot outside the law.

There's definitely the feeling that this film wants to be Best Picture Oscar-winner Crash (2004), or something of the like, and attempts to be edgy. Ultimately, it feels rather flat and the performances are a mixed bag. In the end, River Runs Red is painfully average, and probably looked better on paper. Poor John Cusack looks incredibly bored and uninspired here, while Diggs does what he can with what he's given.

The film is presented in 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on the 4K UHD disc with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The audio mix is a standard DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix, which works fine here. The 4K UHD format isn't too much better than the also included 1080p Blu-ray disc. Some shots of the film are a little soft in focus and the cinematography on a whole isn't breathtaking. The color isn't too overly stylized and more natural as opposed to other bigger budgeted titles I've seen on the format that benefited better to the upscale.

No extras.

River Runs Red feels more television movie than the sophisticated and topical drama it so desperately wants to be.

The fast paced hit Irish series, Single-Handed (2007-2010), becomes available in this new Complete Collection set set from Acorn that celebrates all four seasons of the show, which follows Jack Driscoll who becomes a local constable upon his father's retirement and encounters various incidents. The show is a mostly police procedural in tone and style, but the Irish setting makes it a bit more interesting than normal to us Americans.

The show stars Owen McDonnell, Ruth McCabe, David Herlihy, Brian Gleeson, and Ian McElhinney to name a few.

S 01 - Home, Natural Justice

S 02 - The Stolen Child parts 1 and 2

S 03 - The Drowning Man parts 1 and 2, The Lost Boys parts 1 and 2

S 04 - Between Two Fires parts 1 and 2, A Cold Heaven parts 1 and 2

All episodes are presented in anamorphically enhanced, standard definition DVD with a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 track, both of which are of the standard for the format. The program is commercial and watermark free on disc, which makes binge watching more enjoyable.

Special Features: Text Interview with the Producer and Production Notes, but for more on the series, try our earlier coverage on the first two seasons:





Finally, we have another film with Taye Diggs, Christopher B. Stokes' 'Til Death Do Us Part (2017) about a woman (Annie Ilonzeh) who thinks she has found the man of her dreams (Stephen Bishop) until he turns out to be a hardcore abuser of women and makes her life a living hell. There is a ray of hope when she gets away and meets a seemingly good man (Diggs), but her husband is going to stalk her and not stop no matter what.

The film wants to be an anti-domestic violence project when all is said and done and it might help a few women, but as an actual drama, we've seen too much of this, the women are all portrayed as assumed vulnerable too much to where you can tell a man wrote the script. That complicates its message (partly saying just get a strong man and everything will be fine, which has too many issues to deal with in this text) and it sadly is also too cliched versus so many films made on this subject already. Several of those were simply better and more original.

I give the actors credit for trying to make this work, but the women involved should have been allowed to add to it and makers try to figure out new and/or different ways to approach the material. Wish it worked and was more memorable, but at least they tried.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer has motion blur and detail issues in small parts all over, so it can be trying to watch, while color range is more consistent. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is better and more consistent, though it has some location audio issues. The only extra is a Theatrical Trailer.

- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (River 4K, Single-Handed)



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