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Category:    Home > Reviews > Crime > Mystery > Ploice Procedural > New Zealand > Cable TV > Science Fiction > Time Travel > Police St > Brokenwood Mysteries: Series 5 (2018/Acorn Blu-ray Set)/Man With The Magic Box (2017/Artsploitation DVD)/Marquise (1997/Film Movement Blu-ray)

Brokenwood Mysteries: Series 5 (2018/Acorn Blu-ray Set)/Man With The Magic Box (2017/Artsploitation DVD)/Marquise (1997/Film Movement Blu-ray)

Picture: B+/C+/A Sound: B/C+/B+ Extras: C-/C-/B Main Programs: B+/C+/B+

Now for a new group of genre releases from overseas...

We start with a series produced in the underrated, great country of New Zealand, Brokenwood Mysteries: Series 5 (2018). Join Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd along with DCI Kristen Sims and DCI Sam Breen as the solve various murders in their small but charming town of Brokenwood in New Zealand. Each time a sudden death or grisly murder, Detective Shepherd and his team suspect it is more than coincidences and accidents. Together, they solve cases that are strange, macabre and at times with barely any clues to go on.

Murder in Brokenwood seems like everyday news, someone is killed and it is up to Detectives Mike, Kristen and Sam to solve the case. For a small town, it seems like no one is shocked when it happens and the detectives often use the town gossipers to find suspects and secrets people are hiding. Detective Mike is the leader/brains of the team he manages to see clues and deduce the murderer from the suspects. Detective Kristen is the slightly jaded but the voice of reason of the team, often she deals with the social media and the public, at first she and Mike clashes on his methods but in time comes to respect him. Detective Sam is basically gopher of the team and at times seems more like a lackey than a detective, but he is the one who gets to chase the suspects and do the physical work.

This series is a lot like Midsomer Murders, but set in New Zealand instead of England. Basically the the same types of characters and setting. Along with the main characters there many townsfolk who come back in different episodes. Each season can be watched independently of another. Extras include a look behind the scenes.

Episodes this time out are...

Scared to Death - A murder happens during in a traveling fair, a man is found dead on the ghost train ...but is it really a ghost that killed him?

Bride Not to Be - A bride is found dead in the river after a bachelorette party, but is it really more than just a party gone wrong?

Totine - The Detectives must discover who is murdering the inheritors of fortune. Heirs are dying off one by one in suspicious 'accidents'.

The Dark Angel - A fallen from grace doctor is found electrocuted and murdered in an old abandoned hospital, but all their suspects are former mental patients who were tortured by him.

Bobo Kox's The Man With The Magic Box (2017) is an interesting Polish science fiction drama about a man (Piota Polak) who keeps forgetting things (shades of Resnais' Je'Taime, Je'Taime or 12 Monkeys) who keeps bouncing between several eras until he finds himself in an ugly future Warsaw, Poland long after The Cold War that has become a police state. An old analog radio jars a memory that helps him remember something that might help him in his dilemma, but he realizes he may also be being used by higher ups.

He also becomes interested in a beautiful woman (Olga Boladz) tracing some things of her own. Do they know each other from before? Did they get involved? Do either or both of them have some dark secret that could tear down the power structure?

The film gets slightly silly early with its pop culture references and that becomes a sign that the makers were not able to totally concentrate on pulling off what could have been a better film, despite a good look, convincing cast and other items that meld well with the script. Implicit (intended or not) is some anti-Semitism as we see no Judaism in the future and Poland is having an upsurge of it right now as you read this (separate essay) but this is smarter than most films in its genre of late, no matter the degree of success. Serious fans will want to give it a look.

A trailer is the only extra.

Finally we have Vera Belomnt's Marquise (1997), a French drama finally issued in high definition on Film Movement Blu-ray in the U.S. market. Marquise (Sophie Marceau) started out as an exotic street dancer, but when she catches the eye of Moliere's Theater she joins the theater under the stage name Mademoiselle Du Parc. As the theater travels her fame quickly grows and like wildfire she soon becomes the most popular show in all of France. Performing for French nobility and aristocracy, she becomes the favorite of the King Louis XIV himself, but Marquise popularity grows she becomes the mistress of famed playwright Racine, as her confidence grows she soon begins to realize her dream is to become the greatest actress ever.

Marquise was a beautiful, young street dancer with amazing raw talent. She was immediately recruited, proposed and married by Moliere into his theater troupe when he saw her dancing. As the theater travels and performs it soon becomes evident that Marquise/Mademoiselle Du Parc is the star of the show and everywhere she goes the crowds come only to see her. And while Marquise sleeps around with other men, she also remains in love/faithful with her husband (questionable), even when she become the mistress of the young playwright Racine. She continues to perform for the rich and wealthy of Versailles. But her sudden rise to fame is only rivaled by her sudden downfall, when she falls ill and her role is stolen by her understudy, and then like all divas she tragically commits suicide on stage in front of her beloved audience without them realizing she wasn't acting in her final act on stage.

This was a beautiful movie if it wasn't for being a tragedy as well. It was a rag to riches story, a young woman who became a rising star with literally just naked ambition (all she had to do was get naked, flash or have sex with her audience). It had beautiful costumes and amazing actors who gave insight to the French culture of the time period. King Louis the XIV, Versailles and the French nobility was just like Bohemianism (except they were rich) with loose morals and even looser pants. Extras include interview with the director, new essay by author and professor and trailers.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Brokenwood is an HD shoot that looks really good, especially as the makers have upgraded their HD equipment, making this more color rich and warm than most similar shows. The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Marquise was shot on 35mm film and the transfer rarely shows the age of the materials used, far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film (what little we've seen of it over the years) and will make fans happy. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Magic Box is also an HD shoot, but well styled to be post-modern Science Fiction with a good use of color and attempt to have a consistent look. It may not have created anything original visually, but at least they were ambitious in what they tried here.

As for sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mix on Brokenwood has Pro-Logic like surrounds and is a decent recent recording was well mixed and mastered enough, but also a bit quiet and refined, plus why no 5.1 mix? The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) French 5.1 lossless mix on Marquise is not bad for a digital 5.1 sound release of the time, though it is also dialogue-rich and some limits of the recording equipment shows. The lossy Polish Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Magic Box makes one wish for a lossless track and HD video as the makers do their best to make this interesting.

- Nicholas Sheffo (Box) and Ricky Chiang


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