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Category:    Home > Reviews > Superhero > Action > Adventure > Science Fiction > Comedy > Thriller > Epic > Martial Arts > Korea > China > Aquaman (2018/DC Comics/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Backtrace (2018/Lionsgate Blu-ray w/DVD)/Iceman: The Time Traveler (2018)/Rampant (2018/both Well Go Blu-ray w/DVD)/Showdown (1993/MVD Blu

Aquaman (2018/DC Comics/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Backtrace (2018/Lionsgate Blu-ray w/DVD)/Iceman: The Time Traveler (2018)/Rampant (2018/both Well Go Blu-ray w/DVD)/Showdown (1993/MVD Blu-ray w/DVD)

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

Action heroes are the common theme of the following releases...

James Wan's Aquaman (2018) seemed like a film that would never get made, despite the fact that the title character is one of the most popular and beloved of all the DC Comics superheroes. Since his debut decades ago, he has always had a great following, a hit late 1960s animated series, one of the major picks for the massive 1970s hit Superfriends! TV series and a serious hardcore following that includes the desire and value of his comic books and toy memorabilia being much more expensive than you would expect. Still, he got mocked in recent decades by those who missed developments in the comic books (darker storytelling, his blue camouflage suit era, his bearded version, appearances in other key comic series).

A few years ago, in a brilliant development, DC/Warner cast Jason Momoa in the role and immediately hit the bullseye! After his underrated Conan film (see elsewhere on this site) did not get the audience it deserved (some still saw Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role, conveniently forgetting how bad his second Conan film. Conan The Destroyer, was) the the producers and promoters did not do their job to combat this, so that was it and nothing happened with the character since then.

Mr. Wan is not my favorite director by any means, but he is slowly getting better as he does here, giving us a broad origins story that works well enough and the film works better than it should for being all over the place, but thank a script that has its moments and amazing supporting cast that includes Amber Heard (perfect as Mera), Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Temuera Morrison and more new actors I hope we see more of very soon.

Now we have it here as a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray/Blu-ray set and 4K is the best way to encounter this all-HD production. The fight scenes are pretty good, scenes with the actors often standouts and the energy and ambition make up for some of the flaws, issues and limits of a film that even reminded me of some of the action epics coming out of China, Korea and Japan of late. Oddest of all are the underwater scenes, some of which look authentic, others of which are almost too digital, yet are part of the consistent visual look and internal logic of the film. Too bad the dry-for-wet-as-HD just gets too cartoonish. Don't expect the realism of Cameron's The Abyss, better James Bond underwater sequences or an IMAX underwater documentary where viewing these scenes. Turns out even they were hard to pull off, heavy-duty harnesses and all.

Momoa and Heard have chemistry and in the end, the film has established the entire world of Atlantis the comic books have been famous for since day one. Some may find this has a bit too much humor, but some of the jokes and funny situations do work and though I could imagine a darker, less humorous film, this is a solid film for DC and great solidification of Momoa for hopefully a very long time to come in the role. Longtime fans even have much to celebrate and I definitely recommend this one, even with some flaws and down moments.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced 2.35 X 1 Ultra High Definition image looks pretty good and the color range makes up for some definition issues (not all the digital is 4K in origin) and expect some detail issues, especially as the digital work increases for the fantasy, underwater and other visual-effects rich moments kick in. Good thing the look is consistent.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on the Blu-ray is good, but lacks so much of the color and detail, plus some depth the 4K edition has, so it is fine if you cannot see the 4K but no substitute for such a stylized presentation.

Both films offer lossless Dolby Atmos 11.1 sound (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for older systems) and has its dialogue-based moments by necessity, but even they are well recorded and mixed, then when the 12-track kicks in, it is as state-of-the-art as anything in the genre. This is especially good with the 4K image, bringing the comic book to life in the chosen style.

Extras include better than usual featurettes Going Deep Into the World of Aquaman, Becoming Aquaman, James Wan: World Builder, Aqua Tech, Atlantis Warfare, The Dark Depths of Black Manta, Heroines of Atlantis, Villaneous Training, Kingdoms of the Seven Seas, Creating Undersea Creatures, A Match Made in Atlantis, Scene Study Breakdowns and an Exclusive Sneak Peek of Shazam!

Sylvester Stallone pays a producer a favor by appearing in Brian A. Miller's Backtrace (2018), a low budget action film that's painfully subpar. Also starring Matthew Modine and Meadow Williams, the film feels like its made for cable and has a cookie-cutter script that's more predictable than most procedural cop shows.

After suffering a brain injury from a bank heist gone wrong, MacDonald (Modine) develops amnesia and is put into a prison psychiatric ward. Following his seventh year shielded from society, he breaks out of prison and gets injected with an experimental serum that forces him remember what he can't. A drugged up MacDonald must now elude the local authorities including a detective (Stallone), a FBI agent (McDonald) and recover the stolen cash to clear his name...

The film is presented in 1080p on Blu-ray disc with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and a nice sounding track in English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 and lesser Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks in English, Spanish, and French depending on your personal taste. Also included is a standard definition DVD of the film with a similar widescreen spec and a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. A digital copy is also included.

Special Features include...

Making Backtrack

Cast/Crew Interviews

and Trailer Gallery

Ho Ying (Donnie Yen) was an elite place guard during the Ming Dynasty, but due to a twist of fate he was frozen in time in an avalanche. Awoken in the modern day, Ying fights to return to the past and correct the past ...to save his village and stop those who would abuse the secret of time travel in Wai man Yip's Iceman: The Time Traveler (2018).

Ho Ying was once one of four guards charged with guarding the secrets to time travel, however Ho Ying was the only one given the secret mantra to activate the ancient time machine. He was wrongfully accused and his entire village was massacred, and now in the future he meets May a girl who loves him and together they return to the past to correct the future. Together they fight against his former brother-in-arms who betrayed him. But regardless of whatever era he is in, he learns that those in power wants to control the power he has. Time after time, Ho Ying learns history is not so easily changed...

This was an action pack, martial arts/sci-fi movie it is about a man who time travels to protect the people he loves. But after repeating happiness and tragic loss, he learns time is not so easily controlled, instead the learns to accept what life teaches him and continues to travel through time, but there is more to see indeed. Extras include trailers, see more on playback quality below.

Prince Ganglim (Hyun Bin) returns to Korea from his exile only to discover that his country is overrun by zombies. His brother was murder by the King his father and the Minister of War and his aides has been secretly plotting to use the zombies to wipe out the kingdom and give it a 'fresh' new start and take over the government with them as the head in Sung-hoon Kim's Rampant (2018).

Prince Ganglim rather just enjoy his wine and women than worry about the kingdom, but he is forced to become an unwilling leader when he returns and discover his home is covered with zombies. His father the King is a weak and paranoid ruler in which the Minister of War has used to his advantage to secretly remove all those loyal to the King. Prince Ganglim finds his only help are the 'peasants' and those considered 'traitors' to the kingdom. Together the must not only stop the conspiracy, but also keep the zombie from turn Korea into a nation of the undead. The Prince and the people instead of running, decides to fight, he uses the capital to bait and trap all the zombie inside and destroy them before they can spread.

From the people who brought you Train to Busan, this is another zombie movie set in ancient Korea. It truly shows it only take one zombie to cause a zombie outbreak, anyone with the slightest injury eventually becomes one. At first main character seems like total loser and worst type of womanizer, but over time (and tragedy) he becomes a hero that people look up to. Extras include making of the movie, behind the scenes and trailers.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on both releases look as great as they can in the format (wonder if they'll be 4K candidates) with great color range and depth throughout, but Iceman has the edge because the money and effort are really in there. The sound is not any kind of 12-track sound, but we get (Iceman in Korean, Rampage in Cantonese) still very impressive DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes that are pretty sonically capable. The anamorphically enhanced DVDs with lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes are passable, but no match for their Blu-ray counterparts.

Finally, from the director of Best of the Best and Best of the Best 2 comes Showdown (1993), the renowned martial arts epic. Ken Scott (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze) picks a fight with the wrong guy on his first day at his new school, and all because he decided to talk to a girl (Christine Taylor). This wrong guy ends up being a champion of an illegal fighting operation and kicks Ken's butt all over the school yard. It doesn't take long for school janitor and ex-cop Billy Grant (Billy Blanks, The Last Boy Scout) to train Ken to defend himself (through several montage training sequences of course.) The two men go head to head in physical combat in this fun martial arts time capsule flick.

The film also stars Ken Mcleod, Linda Dona, Brion James and Patrick Kilpatrick.

Showdown is pretty much a low budget version of Karate Kid or Rocky, and with plenty of fight scenes to keep martial arts fans entertained. The film is captured in 1080p high definition with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and audio tracks in Dolby Digital 5.1 (384 kbps) and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (384 kbps) lossless sound, the restoration here is clean and pretty nice. While shot on a low budget not every shot is perfect, but this is clearly the best the film has ever looked. Also included is a standard definition anamorphically enhanced DVD.

Special Features include...

"The Making of "Showdown" (new feature length documentary with director Robert Radler, writer Stuart Gibbs and stars Billy Blanks, Kenn Scott, John Asher, Patrick Kilpatrick and Michael Genovese) (HD, 98 mins)

Robert Radler: Portrait of a Director featurette (HD, 12 mins)

Billy Blanks: Martial Arts Legend featurette (HD, 15 mins)

The Fights of "Showdown" featurette (HD, 47 mins)

"Showdown": Anatomy of a Scene featurette (HD, 7 mins)

Photo Gallery

Original Theatrical Trailer (SD)

Collectible Mini-Poster

Showdown is a very '90s action flick that's predictable yet has a good message behind it. Even if it's not perfect, this is a nice presentation for those remember it from the VHS era, and there's a wealth of new bonus features too.

- Nicholas Sheffo (Aquaman), Ricky Chiang (Well Go) and James Lockhart



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