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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Holocaust > Genocide > Literature > WWII > Unions > Workers > Strike > Politics > Poverty > Black Expe > Adam Resurrected (2008/Umbrella Region Free PAL Import DVD)/At War (2019/Cinema Libre Blu-ray)/Bless Their Little Hearts (1984/Milestone DVD)/Days Of Wine And Roses (1962/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Jirga

Adam Resurrected (2008/Umbrella Region Free PAL Import DVD)/At War (2019/Cinema Libre Blu-ray)/Bless Their Little Hearts (1984/Milestone DVD)/Days Of Wine And Roses (1962/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Jirga (2018/Lightyear Blu-ray*)/Paradise (2018/Film Movement DVD)/Pretenders (2018/Cleopatra DVD/*both MVD)

Picture: C+/B/C+/B/B+/C+/C+ Sound: C+/C+/C/B-/C+/C+/C+ Extras: B/C-/B/B/C/C/C- Films: B-/B-/B-/B/C+/C+/C

Now for a new group of dramas, usually very challenging in what they present...

Paul Schrader's Adam Resurrected (2008) is based on the famous, sometimes controversial book by Yoram Barzilai about the amazing stage performer Adam Stein, who was one of the top entertainment acts in remarkable 1920s Berlin, only to be taken to a concentration camp because he was Jewish and the horrors he deal with there, then barely surviving, lives to see his captivity and the end of WWII with much pain, post-traumatic disorder and more.

All the earlier parts are told in flashback while he stays at a hospital that includes several Holocaust survivors, watched over by a wise doctor (the always great Derek Jacobi) who honestly tries to help him, but Adam's memories and pain are more multi-layered than even the bright doctor can understand. The easy to underestimate Jeff Goldblum is impressive playing Adam throughout the years and in all his various conditions of pain and sometimes, triumph and shows what a great actor he really is if you are only use to his many and growing commercial hit appearances.

Though this might be hard to handle for some people between the murders and humiliation of several persons throughout, it is as faithful to the book, one of those considered unfilmable' that it could be, though purists will likely still find flaws in it. I do not think it is a perfect film by any means and from the deleted scenes included, some choices might have been made for a different cut that would have been more profound and hader to criticize. Either way, the film is underseen, it got made as well as it could be, though the book will always be the book.

Cheers too to Willem Dafoe who plays a man who was once part of a 1920s Adam Stein show, who finds him just as Adam is brought to a concentration camp, but is now a leading Nazi solider who saves him from death, but uses him for other means.

Extras include another great feature length audio commentary track by Schrader, Deleted Scenes, an Image Gallery and Original Theatrical Trailer.

Stephane Brize's At War (2019) is not unlike Schrader's Blue Collar (1978) in which it deals with unions taking on big companies that employ them and how ugly that relationship can get, but instead of the auto industry in the U.S., deals with industry now in France. The company has asked the workers to work extra hard to keep a plant open, yet suddenly has no extra money to share with them when they hit record profits, so the strike is nearly about to begin.

Globalization has occurred since the Schrader film's stark look (and warning for all intent, even with some flaws) and was a warning of how bad things could and would go with unions (from capitulation by them to the leaders selling workers out to governments trying to minimize and cause them to collapse) yet they still exist and tend to be stronger in Europe and other advanced nations versus the U.S. staring in 1980.

This story has over a thousand workers in jeopardy of losing their jobs over a plant the company wants to close and/or move when they acted like it would survive if the profits jumped like they did. Timely as of this posting as General Motors just solved a strike with far more workers and Ford just followed. This film asks us to ask what it all means, if workers are being used and dumped and what is the future of workers with robots and other forms of production arriving. The script here is rightly interested in the toll workers needs not being immediately met means, but suggests more in its decent 115 minutes running time. It is worth a look and is the kind of film Hollywood or U.S. cinema rarely makes anymore, sadly.

An Original Theatrical Trailer is the only extra.

Billy Woodberry's Bless Their Little Hearts (1984) is a stark, sad tale of one African American family slowly falling apart in a poor neighborhood, one that has a father (Nate Hardman) that can find little work and has little while his wife (Kaycee Moore) has most of the employment to keep them and their children going. This eventually leads to a remarkable argument that tips the film's already amazing slice of life realism. Though it was made almost 35 years ago, it could have been made in the late 1960s to early 1970s, so realistic an independent film it is.

Charles Burnett shot and wrote the screenplay and Moore went on to star in the classic Daughters Of The Dust, all before the Black New Wave of the ealy 1990s kicked in and a few years before Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It (1986) arrived on the scene. Now recognized as an important film, it may be one of the last to mark the early independent era before the Reagan Era totally kicked in and a combination of home video and phony mall movies necessitated a new Black Cinema. Cheers to the supporting cast and the interesting choice of shooting locations.

Extras include a booklet inside the DVD case with tech info., illustrations and essays by filmmaker Allison Anders and Cornell University professor Samantha N. Sheppard, while the disc adds a Feature Length Audio Commentary by New York University professor Ed Guererro, a New 2K restoration of The Pocketbook (1980): Billy Woodberry's first film, Workshop with Billy Woodberry: video courtesy of Indiana University Black Film Center/Archive, Billy and Charles: Ross Lipman's interview, an interview with Ed Guererro and Bless Their Little Hearts behind-the-scenes photos courtesy of Billy Woodberry.

Blake Edwards' Days Of Wine And Roses (1962) is one of the films where Jack Lemmon left his clever cycle of comedies aside to tackle a serious subject, adults who love each other (and marry and have a child in this case) both having alcoholism problems. He plays the husband and the great Lee Remick plays the wife in this smart character study that is all too painfully real and predictable in the saddest way in how they're behavior will doom them, whether they are actually aware of it or not.

We get some dysfunctional behavior early on (he criticizes her appearance when they meet on a boat to go to a cocktail party) and the toxic behavior very slowly continues to build until the bottom falls out. Edwards is usually so known for his comedies, especially the ones that followed later, but he was just as smart, sensitive and capable of dramas and honest adult work in real cinema space as anything he ever did and that is why I am glad this film is finally coming out on Blu-ray from Warner Archive. It is a work that needs to be rediscovered and is as relevant as ever. Jack Klugman and Charles Bickford also star.

Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by Edwards, a vintage Jack Lemmon interview designed to look like he was being interviewed by anyone (it is in split screen) and Original Theatrical Trailer.

An ex-soldier returns to Afghanistan to where he had several 'operations' to face the aftermath and his personal 'war crimes'. He seeks out his former target's families and faces their justice system - "the Jirga".

In Benjamin Gilmour's Jirga (2018), a US soldier voluntary returns to Afghanistan to face the family of the man he killed and to face the consequences of his actions. As he travels the beautiful and war torn country he meets it's people and it's culture. However, all this is dampened by the his previous actions when he was a soldier. He comes as an unarmed man to where Taliban will still shoot Americans on sight. According to the 'Jirga', the family of the men he killed has a right to decide if he lives or dies, but according to their religion all those who come seeking forgiveness and redemption should be forgiven. So which will it be?

The world would be more peaceful if soldiers had to meet the families of the people they killed. It is easy to be a soldier as long as you are on the winning side (and don't see the families you destroyed), but the real truth is so much simpler (and harder to accept), government soldiers are paid murderers, men who kill on ordered. It takes a honorable man (or foolish soldier, depending on your point of view) to face the friends and family of enemies you killed (especially if you don't have to) but then how else can peace begin? Extras include making of the movie and trailers.

Andrei Konchalovsky's Paradise (2018) is our other film here to deal with the Holocaust and Nazis during WWII, but this one is different in that we have a Russian Countess named Olga who becomes part of the French Resistance and lands up having two of the wrong kind of men get interested in her. One is Helmut, who fell in love with her before the war and is now an S.S. Officer when she arrives at a concentration camp, while Jules is a French-Nazi collaborator investigating who she is and what she is up to.

Like Adam Resurrected, the film jumps between eras before, during and after WWII and almost as effectively, even with some mystery to it as well. But Olga is used as a way to ask us about how problematic separating the good, bad and pure evil actions people do when put into harrowing situations and how simple morality cannot tell the whole story all the time. Not an apologist piece for genocide or the Holocaust in any way, shape or form, the film is just being thoughtful on what WWII and hate did to too many and though it may not always work, is worth a look for what is being shown and what they are trying to say.

The short film Red Snow is the only extra.

Finally we have James Franco's Pretenders (2018) from the actor who has sort have been blacklisted due to some things he should not have done with up and coming actresses, but still is making film and TV shows, including acting in them. I always thought he was a good actor when taking a role seriously and not being too coy or silly, save comedies like Pineapple Express where he has to be comical.

However, playing loose with gay roles that should have gone to openly gay actors and some other missteps we do not have time for here have caught up with him outside of off-screen lady complications that should have never happened. His idea here is to tell a honest story of young people in the later 1970s with decent leads Jane Levy, Jack Kilmer and Shaneik Moore. They are not bad here and get good support from the underrated Juno Temple, Dennis Quaid, Brian Cox and Franco himself.

The problem is we've seen everything here before in at least several better films and I never thought it got the period correctly despite the fact that he just finished an HBO TV series that was perfectly the late 1970s! What gives? The result is a work that runs on too long, never works and disappointed me. I was hoping for a surprise, but I got a very mixed, cliched work instead. Hope he does better next time.

An Image Gallery and Original Theatrical Trailer are the only extras.

Picture playback is as good as it can get in the formats each disc has been issued, including the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Adam, with its use of color film and remarkable recreation of black and white and other monochrome films of the earlier era, used to define the rise and fall of both a liberated Germany, rise and fall of Nazi Germany and the aftermath.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on At War is better and has some good color for what is an all-HD shoot, but detail is lacking in some shots, especially ones of video screens, but that is expected.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Roses can show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and has some fine detail and depth from what looks like a new video master.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the HD shot Jirga looks just a little better than the rest by default, but that is because the film is very short at 79 minutes and has plenty of room on its disc.

The 1.33 X 1 black & white image transfers on Hearts and Paradise also look good, though Hearts is much older, the monochrome plays nicely on both throughout and will make you want to see then in HD.

That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Pretenders looking good, somewhat stylized, but never convincing in any of its portrayals of the 1970s or early 1980s visually either despite a few touches that sort of could have worked... maybe.

As for sound, these are mostly dialogue-driven dramas with limited activity ion their audio, but the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on At War and Jirga could be a bit better, but this is how they were recorded, so it is rather surprising that the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Roses can more than compete with anything on this list and for an older theatrical monophonic release, just sounds more consistent and smoother.

Adam offers both older lossy DTS 5.1 and lesser, also lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and it sounds good, but seems very slightly compressed. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Hearts shows its age and budget limits by the lack of sonics and flatness of the location recording, so it is clear, but sometimes you can hear the sound not coming through consistently or in detail at times.

That leaves Paradise and Pretenders with lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 with mixed that sound fine, but not great, so I wonder if lossless versions might sound better. Maybe we'll find out one day.

To order The Days Of Wine And Roses Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo and Ricky Chiang (Jinga)


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