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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Time Travel > Action > Adventure > British TV > Thriller > Writing > Crime > Post Modern > Stand Off At Sparrow Creek (2018/RLJ Blu-ray)/Wild Rovers (1971/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)

Doctor Who: Tom Baker Complete Season Seven (1980 - 1981/Season 18/BBC Blu-ray Set)/London Fields (2018/Fox DVD)/Mortal Engines 4K (2018/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Stand Off At Sparrow Creek (2018/RLJ Blu-ray)/Wild Rovers (1971/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)



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



PLEASE NOTE: The Wild Rovers Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.



The next set of releases take you to other worlds that are either technologically advanced, primitive, a mix of both or even something else...



We begin with the final season of what remains for many longtime fans the best run of any actor to ever play the legendary Time Lord in a broken time machine that looks like a phone booth. Doctor Who: Tom Baker Complete Season Seven (1980 - 1981/Season 18) has Baker in still great form, but the show was about to change and in the long term, not for the best. Je was starting to have issues personally, but more so with a new group taking over the show who wanted to 'bring it back to its original roots' meaning they were clueless why he worked so brilliantly in the role and the first bad omen is when we get a new version of the classic theme song that is watered down, weaker, lame and stripped of any suggestion of mystery and suspense in the first episode of the new season. The new group was already cutting Baker away rudely, not to mention the disrespect to the audience.


Most of the episodes have already been issued on DVD a while ago with a bunch of extras worthy of what has been done with various Star Trek series, but BBC Video is doing great justice to the older episodes that were first produced on a combination of analog PAL British progressive analog videotape and some 16mm film, upscaling them from 625p to 1080i and issue them in the better Blu-ray format. As always, each story is shown over multiple half-hour episodes and this set (like the first Baker season we hope to catch up to eventually) has one Blu-ray disc per story series.


Episodes this time out were still very ambitious and smart, though the new show-runners were slowly starting to sand of the cutting edge of the show. Those adventures include The Leisure Hive, Meglos, Full Circle, State of Decay, Warriors' Gate, The Keeper of Traken and Logopolis.


The shows are well done, including series legend Terrence Dicks penning State Of Decay, which purists and hardcore Baker fans in particular would consider the late peak of the show. Baker never gave up giving it his all and that says something about why he has endured as much as any actor in the role, including his great predecessors (including Peter Cushing, who made two feature films in the 1960s), so it is fair to say that the entire franchise had peaked at this time and that it made the comeback it has in recent decades is nothing short of miraculous.


Cheers to the supporting cast, new partners for the Doctor and the crew who pushed the production, costume and visual effects budgets as far as they could in the face of Star Wars and Space: 1999 upping the expectations for realism. Some have complained that the show's early seasons look fake and have dated badly, but the effects were impressive at the time and at least retain a certain character, though even I have to admit that some shots hold up better than others.


As for playback quality, the 1080i 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer can show the age of the PAL analog color videotape materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the show on DVD or other outlets. The upscaling enhances the color and better shots, but also makes the flaws look a bit worse. Analog videotape flaws we get include video noise, video banding, telecine flicker, tape scratching, PAL cross color, faded color and tape damage, though the crew doing the remasters have done their best to correct what they can.


Save one episode in a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix, all the shows are in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 lossless mixes that are not bad and these shows have never sounded this good, so it is another plus resulting from the hard work to preserve and ring out the show in the best presentation possible from what was 2-inch reel-to-reel videotape, though TV networks were slowly switching to professional videotapes when they felt the quality was finally there.


Now for the many extras. In addition to the 1981 K9 & Company Christmas pilot episode with Elizabeth Sladen bringing back Sarah Jane Smith. As the press release explains, this collection contains over SEVENTEEN hours of new exclusive bonus material including all-new, never-before-seen extras including:

''Making-of'' documentary starring Tom Baker, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, Matthew Waterhouse, Christopher H. Bidmead, and more

Special effects for ''Logopolis'' including footage filmed at Jodrell Bank

2019 commentaries moderated by Matthew Sweet featuring Tom Baker on ''The Leisure Hive'' and Lalla Ward and Rachel Davies on ''State Of Decay''

Interview with K9 & Company's Ian Sears (Brendan Richards)

5.1 surround sound mix for ''Warriors' Gate''

''The Writers' Room'' documentary featuring Christopher H. Bidmead, Andrew Smith, Stephen Gallagher, and John Flanagan

''Weekend With Waterhouse'' documentary featuring Toby Hadoke and Matthew Waterhouse

Rare behind-the-scenes footage from ''The Leisure Hive'', ''Full Circle'', and ''Logopolis''

Another dip into the Panopticon convention archives with Tom Baker

HD photo galleries plus scripts, production files and rare documentation (PDFs included)

and Editions of 'Behind the Sofa' of each episode including K9 and Company


So it was a sad conclusion to a priceless era of classic British TV and Science Fiction TV at that, as I wish Baker had left under better circumstances and given far more respect. However, fans and the makers got lucky because the actor who succeeded Baker would have an interesting run and become a big name later. We'll deal with that when the Blu-ray upgraded season of those shows arrive, but don't miss the great work here in the meantime.



Next we have Matthew Cullen's London Fields (2018), a stylized tale of two writers, one British (Jason Isaacs) and one form the U.S. (Billy Bob Thorton) switching residences to write their latest books. Though this sounds like a risky idea, it is 'novel' enough that they do it and the man form America is amazed how nice the place is and gets into a tale inspired by a young woman (Amber Heard) who tells him she can see the future. He thinks it will make a great book, whether he believes her or not, even when it involves murder.


Based on the Martin Amis novel that might have been a good read, this feature film version puts style over substance, is very awkward and even lame in its deconstructive, post-modern side (which you'll have to see for yourself as I do not want to spoil what little works here) and despite more great casting including Jim Sturgess, Theo James, Cara Delevingne and Jaimie Alexander, just does not know what to do with them or get the most out of having them all here. At least it is trying to be ambitious, but stops short too often.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image and lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 soundmix are nto9 bad for the format, but it seems we might have lost some of the cinematography and soundmaster in the older standard definition codecs. Blu-ray would have made this better to view. A trailer is the only extra.



Based on the bestselling book series by Phillip Reed and adapted to the screen by Peter Jackson and his creative team behind The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, comes Mortal Engines (2018). The highly imaginative 'steampunk' film has jaw dropping special effects that center around a world where full cities are mobile and prey on small towns. While it may take a degree of suspending your own disbelief a bit more than usual, Mortal Engines has a lot of interesting ideas and well written characters that make it an enjoyable fantasy journey, especially on 4K UHD. You'll have to see it for yourself to see what he does here visually and narratively to see if it works for you or not.

Mortal Engines stars Robert Sheehan, Hera Hilmarsdottir, Hugo Weaving, Jihae, Stephen Lang, and Colin Salmon to name a few. The film is directed by Christian Rivers, whose been one of Peter Jackson's top special effects producers at WETA (Jackson's visual effects company).


Mortal Engines looks awesome in its 2160p HECV/H.265, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image 4K version with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and audio mixes in Dolby Atmos 11.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) lossless (a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown for older systems) mix. As with many other films in Universal's 4K UHD library, the image is astounding with the Dolby Vision, HDR (high dynamic range) and impeccable details on this fictional world.


A 1080p Blu-ray edition is also included with similar widescreen and sound specs, though the image a bit more compressed than in the dazzling 4K presentation. A fantasy world just as this one is rich in detail and textures on the environments and characters are all is captured strongly here.


A digital copy is also included.


Special Features include...


Audio Commentary by Director Christian Rivers

Welcome to London - Featurette

End of the Ancients - Featurette

Character Series - Featurette

In the Air - Featurette

Film New Zealand - Featurette


While Mortal Engines didn't do as well domestically as had hoped, the film is definitely worth checking out if you like post apocalyptic films like Waterworld or the Mad Max series.



Henry Dunham's dark and moody feature debut, The Standoff at Sparrow Creek (2018), is an isolated piece that's more of a character performance piece than anything. The film is nicely shot, but doesn't have the charisma of Reservoir Dogs or something of the like. I feel like this film could have played off better with more recognizable leads, as some of the acting is just so-so, and the overall feel is a too on the nose.


After a brutal police shooting, a group of shady characters end up under the same room in this abandoned building where truths are unearthed, and the true culprit amongst them revealed.


The film stars James Badge Dale, Patrick Fischler, Brian Geraghty, Chris Mulkey, Happy Anderson, and Robert Aramayo.


The film is presented in 1080p on Blu-ray disc with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and a nice sounding track in English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix. While it's not as impressive as 4K Ultra HD, the film looks and sounds fine and doesn't have any glaring issues on Blu-ray that hinder the presentation.


Special Features include a Making Of featurette.



Finally, we have an outright Western and not just films that vaguely reference them. Blake Edwards' The Wild Rovers (1971) and it was meant to be an epic. Running over 2 hours, MGM was still its own major studio and still wanted to take epic risks. William Holden is an old cowboy tired of decades of dealing with cow herding, so he teams up with a much younger cowboy played by Ryan O'Neal and they decide to rob a bank instead. Then they land up on the run.


Though we never formally reviewed the film before, we did cover an excellent limited edition CD of the impressive Jerry Goldsmith music score a good while ago at this link...


http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/1072/Wild+Rovers+(Limited+CD


Now, Warner Archive has issued the film on Blu-ray and it looks fine in a restored transfer that is the best the film has looked in decades. Its up there with Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Cimino's Heaven's Gate as the last of the epic Westerns for a long time and it has aged pretty well, though it is hard to accept O'Neal as a nice guy with so many off-screen antics in recent decades, but Karl Malden is really good here and the rest of the cast is not to be underestimated including Rachel Roberts, Tom Skerritt, Joe Don Baker, Moses Gunn, Victor French and Lynn Carlin.


Though it could have been longer, the film still has a leisurely pace that helps it be realistic, naturalistic and play like it is in the time period presented. The recent cycle of would-be Westerns are never this convincing and most seem forced and phony. This is how you do it well and effectively, but Edwards had the talent to concentrate and get serious filmmaking done when he wanted to. It is one worth going out of your way for, even if you might not always be up for Westerns.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer can sometimes show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and any of the MetroColor lab work has apparently been a plus. Director of Photography Philip H. Lathrop, A.S.C., shot this in real anamorphic 35mm Panavision and was often Edwards' DP, bit he also lensed most of the Airport films, Earthquake, The Illustrated Man, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Lolly-Madonna XXX and Mame, so he knew what he was doing. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mix shows its age more so and I wonder where the 6-track magnetic soundmaster for 70mm blow-up prints is, especially because the music sounded so good on the CD.


The one extra is a vintage Making Of featurette on the film from the The Movie Makers series.



To order The Wild Rovers Blu-ray, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


http://www.wbshop.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Mortal, Creek)

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


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