(2019/Fox 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Downton
(2019 Movie/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/An
Elephant Sitting Still
Upon A Time In... Hollywood
(2019/R-rated/Sony/Columbia Blu-ray w/DVD)
Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: B/B & C/B+/B/B & C+
Sound: B+ & B/B & C+/C+/B/B & C+ Extras: B/C+/C/C/C+
here's awards season and here comes the heavy-hitters you should know
(2019) is one of the best films of the year and is up there with the
sequel as one of the best science fiction films of the last few
years, yet is also a solid space film up there with First
(both reviewed elsewhere on this site), so it did some business, but
deserves to be a much
bigger hit. Brad Pitt (who is on a roll this year acting-wise) is an
astronaut in the near future who has discovered that his father
(Tommy Lee Jones) who was presumed dead, may be alive near Neptune
after many years and the current space administration body wants to
find out how and why.
ask the son to join a trip to find out and he is visited by an older
astronaut (Donald Sutherland) who may know more about what is going
on than he is letting on. As all this starts to transpire, we also
hear the son's throughs in excellent voice over throughout, then we
keep encountering surprises throughout.
only guess is that this was yet another Fox film that got lost in the
shuffle when the studio was purchased by Disney, but it is one of the
only moderate hits in that transition and I want to see this pick up
and surprise everyone. It should also be remembered during awards
season, even if it is more likely to get tech nods than acting, but
the acting and actors here are great. They also include Ruth Negga,
an interesting turn by Liv Tyler (hopefully not to make us remember
too much), Kimberly Elise, Ravi Kapoor, LisaGay Hamilton, Loren Dean,
Natasha Lyonne and others I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of
for Gray, he is one of the most underrated directors working today,
whose back to back crime films The
Own The Night
remain extraordinary as they do underrated, then he moved into
different directions for Two
Lost City Of Z.
This is his larg3est production to date and he pulls it off in
style, substance and once this film gets started, it never lets up.
Yes, we have seen a little of of this before, but I was surprised by
the new things and ideas it offers, how it puts most space operas and
overblown big budget films to shame, all while still having the money
on the screen to match it. It is smart the way Duncan Jones' Moon
(now on 4K) was and is, so anyone who wants more than just the next
(or its imitators) and something for smart, mature adults, Ad
really delivers and is worth going way out of your way for.
include Digital Code, plus Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio
Commentary by James Gray
on both the Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD
**Available on Digital only
is the 2019 feature film continuation of the surprise hit TV series
(a hit overseas, NBC turned it down, only to see PBS score huge
ratings) and the question immediately was, what would be the
storyline to make a big screen version work. The makers chose having
the King and Queen of England of the time (the 1920s) visit and this
was remarkably, enough to make this modestly budgeted project a hit.
seen the series in parts, I have only been so impressed and will say
right now that this is for fans only, if that, but in comparison to
its 1970s spiritual cousin (the original Upstairs,
which all three U.S. networks turned down, only to see PBS with a big
hit) which had more of an edge (which the remake did not) and the
Merchant/Ivory classic The
Remains Of The Day
(reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) is far more realistic
and honest, including on an issue the entire Downton
franchise is happy to gloss over: U.K. class division!
no doubt this can have its moments, look good and has the undeniable
gift of a great cast headed by Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville,
Elizabeth McGovern and Imelda Stanton, but even they cannot distract
from the liberties taken with honesty and history. At the same time,
this does manage to avoid being snobby more than you might think, but
it is too often an at least slightly fantasy version of the past and
should not be taken more seriously, even if the clothes, production
design and locations ring authentic.
you can judge for yourself, but I doubt you need to see the show to
get this film.
include Digital Code, then (per the press release) we get Deleted
Scenes, Cast Conversations - Exclusive roundtable interviews with the
- A look at how the royal visit proved to be an ambitious event both
on and behind the camera.
to the Twenties
- Fans of DOWNTON ABBEY are charmed by the sheer grandeur of the
aristocracy in the early 20th
Century. Learn how DOWNTON ABBEY maintains a reputation of being
true to the time period.
to Downton Abbey
- A behind-the-scenes look at the grandeur of Highclere Castle and
how it serves as a cornerstone in the Downton Abbey franchise.
Brilliance of Julian Fellowes
- Writer Julian Fellowes has created a story and beloved characters
that resonate with people across the world. This piece celebrates
Julian's brilliant creativity and reveals his approach to bringing
Downton Abbey to the big screen.
Abbey Series Recap -
(Blu-ray only) Whether you're new or just need a refresher, this
series recap will catch you up on the story so far.
Feature Commentary with Director Michael Engler
an unnamed northern industrial city in China, four people's fate are
more tied closely together than they know, a boy, a girl, an old man
and a gangster. Wei Bu a high school boy, only wants to stand up
against the bully that terrorizes his school. Huang Ling, Wei Bu's
classmate who seems like the normal girl, but has a secret affair
with her teacher the vice principal. Wang Jin, a neighborhood old man
who's family members wants him to sell his home and move him into a
nursing home. Yu Cheng a local gangster and older brother to the
bully, while he never does anything illegal, his entire life is built
on taking advantage of other people's misery. All of them wishes see
the elephant at the zoo in Manzhouli, and they all envy how it can
sit there everyday and eat and do nothing, to have no worries and to
be indifferent to a cruel world in Hu
Elephant Sitting Still
is cruel, life is hard, specially for those at the bottom of society.
The only thing that makes it more bearable is if one can find
someone else who is more miserable than them, to be able to think
'Oh... I am lucky compared to that bastard.' In a grey polluted
city, it seems like nothing improves, no matter how hard they try,
the best they can hope is to just survive. Wang Jin stands up to the
school bully because he is tired of how he takes everything from
everyone, but after the bully falls down the stairs by himself by
accident and dies Wang Jin is blamed and now he is the 'bad guy' and
on the run.
Ling's mother is the neighborhood whore and Huang Ling is forced to
be more grown up than her mother and she hates her for it, but she
enjoys being with the vice principal her teacher because he treats
her 'well', but she is only in a 'relationship' with him because he
has a bigger and better apartment than hers, but all that comes
crashing down when her 'affair' is streamed in an online video
courtesy of bully's phone, only then she realizes she is a hypocrite
and no better than her mother. Wang Jin a grandfather is being
forced into a nursing home after his dog is killed and he is
abandoned by his own family. They want to move to a better apartment
and better life (at his expense) but have no room for him at the new
place and they expect him to 'sacrifice' himself for the rest of the
family. Yu Cheng, the neighborhood gangster, his best friend just
committed suicide after catching him with his wife (and Yu Cheng
blames everyone but himself).
of them are one or two degrees of separation from each other and they
feel like life is shit and they want to get out of the city, but like
the elephant they are trapped in a cages of their own. In the end Yu
Cheng gets shot, the rest of them end up on the same bus to see an
elephant in another city, hoping there is a better place than where
they are now.
was a very depressing movie and it seemed like a commentary on the
modern Chinese life, how all Chinese can relate to one of the
characters in some way. Chinese virtues like justice, hard work and
honesty are all worthless when society is corrupt and cruel. The
Chinese are taught to say nothing and bear everything, that somehow
self sacrifice is more 'honorable' and the higher path, but in truth
the Chinese people are being used and abused by the rest of society
and the world.
young boy who stood up for justice is now a murderer, a girl who
wants a better life is taught to prostitute herself, an old man after
a life time of hard work is abandoned and expected to die alone. A
reluctant gangster who knows better but then just accepts that's how
the world works. Extras include short film Man
in the Well,
a trailer and illustrated booklet with text.
(2019) is based on Donna Tartt's long read about a young man named
Theo who barely survives a terrorist bombing of a museum, where
several things happen, including the painting of the title
disappearing from there. What does he know about it? The film
version (which apparently threw out too much of the book for its own
good) spends the first 45 minutes on the 13-year-old before jumping
to the present where Theo (now played by the impressive Ansel Elgort)
is still haunted by the event.
on, he was taken in by another family headed by a good woman (Nicole
Kidman, top rate as usual) and he will eventually reunite with them
all, but he also has personal things to deal with emotionally,
psychologically, with other people and in the world of antiques for
which he now works and makes a living.
exactly action film material, but this has its moments, yet it takes
forever to start and allowing the first sequence to go on with the
13-year-old Theo for so long was a big mistake for the film.
Especially when dealing with such a long, beloved book (the Doctor
film has also been criticized for throwing out too much of the book,
but we'll see that one later), this needed a better editing approach
that was more challenging and faithful to such large content.
Wright, Finn Wolfhard, Oakes Fegley, Aneurin Barnard, Sarah Paulson
and Luke Wilson in a particularly thankless turn are all well cast,
so it is really that the parts did not meld and add up as they needed
to here. However, it is a rare occasion where I am now curious about
the book, though not reading it or somehow having to read it before
seeing this film is a cop out. I can see why it has not picked up
for awards season, but it is at least ambitious and for adults, so it
deserves respect for at least trying. We don't see that enough these
include Digital Code, then both disc versions add The
while the Blu-ray only adds The
and Over 16 minutes of deleted scenes with commentary from Director
we have Quentin Tarantino's Once
Upon A Time In... Hollywood
(2019) in its still-controversial R-rated cut. Without giving
anything away, Leonardo DiCaprio is a famous TV actor Rick Dalton,
trying to keep his star status going and get another career-renewing
break with his stunt man (Brad Pitt) at his side and employ, but it
is not easy, even in vibrant, late 1960s Hollywood. We learn about
stuntmen becoming actors (very common at the time, both characters
are shades of Burt Reynolds, who was supposed to be in this film, but
passed away and was succeeded by the great Bruce Dern in the same
role) and in following both men, we see how great the town was then.
by its pop culture success, strong on all fronts (feature films, TV,
music, radio, memorabilia) and being a key center of the
counterculture, it is its own special kind of paradise. However,
unknown to Dalton, he is living next door to the home once owned by
the great Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, now owned by Roman
Polanski and the love of his life, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and
historians know what would soon happen there.
handles the first appearance of Charles Manson in very interesting
ways and not with the cliche of ominous music or serial killer genre
corniness, but of things being matter-of-fact and that is the point,
as no one knew what was to come. However, this is a fictional
portrayal of aa very real Hollywood that is extremely accurate on the
styles, culture, materials, successes and way the town was at the
time. Without ruining anything, Tarantino takes a key liberty with
the last half-hour of the film, but it is to make a very important
point that is ultimately a tribute to how great Sharon Tate was and
the star she likely was on her way to being.
have criticized the film for this, but it perfectly matches
Tarantino's idea of the power of pop culture and that culture as art
and beyond. This was never meant to be a documentary or docudrama
and for what he sets out to do, it works, though my complaint is that
it may take too much time up with the idea of Westerns on TV and
maybe the big screen, but he obviously loves them too and may see
what happened in real life as ending that genre on TV.
film also has some other good star turns, but we'll save those for
you to see. Otherwise, this is one of the year's best films and is
best taken as intended. I will not comment on anything else being
said here, leaving you to figure it out for yourself.
include Digital Code, then both disc versions include Over Twenty
Minutes of Additional Scenes, while the Blu-ray adds five exclusive
behind the scenes pieces including:
Tarantino's Love Letter to Hollywood
Richardson - For the Love of Film
Talk - The Cars of 1969
Hollywood - The Production Design of Once Upon a Time... in
The Fashion of 1969
for playback quality. Astra
are both shot entirely on film and look greatest as a result, with
both issued in 4K, but we only get to cover Astra
that way for now. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 2.35 X 1, HDR (10; Ultra HD
Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Astra
is the best performer here and has some amazing shots, color, depth,
detail and a solid look that makes it constantly engaging and has a
richness that works all the way. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High
Definition image on the regular Blu-ray is also not bad, but falls
short (especially when comparing the two) in all categories.
1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Elephant
is the only non-scope presentation, so it is going to appear good
looking throughout, though the HD shoot is simple and at least
1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Downton
does not really look that much different or better than the series,
all HD productions, but is fine for what it is, though we've seen
this kind of film look better. The
anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on the DVD is just too soft to
really deal with, but it is there for convenience.
1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Goldfinch
also is set in the past, plus the present, so it achieves its older
period look very well and I found this a little more visually
convincing. Shots stayed with me a bit more, but 4K might improve
this a bit.
1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Hollywood
is made of several film formats, but primarily 35mm and they meld
together exceptionally well. The frame is never wasted or made
pedestrian, boring or ordinary and the time period is captured
extraordinarily well to the point the recreated past is the best on
The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on the also-included DVD
is not bad, but a far cry from what is achieved cinematically and
visually. Again, it is also issued on 4K disc and those who have 4K
capacity should just get that version.
for sound, Astra is the clear sonic winner with its well designed and
mixed Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for older systems) lossless
mix that includes a fine music score, great sound effects and other
immersions that even the still-fine DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1
lossless mix on the Blu-ray version misses. Very well thought out
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Elephant
has a ton of dialogue and budget limits, so it is not as impressive
as similar mixes on Downton
(DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless) or Goldfinch
(DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless that is warmer than expected)
with so much dialogue as well, but is passable. The lossy Dolby
Digital 5.1 on the Downton
DVD is also passable, but thinner than anything else here.
leaves us with Hollywood
and its great soundmaster (a 12-track mix) featured on the Blu-ray in
a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix with all of its great
music, dialogue and constant pop culture soundbytes at the very end
of the end credits. Also very cleaver as all Tarantino films are
sonically, this is a mixdown, but it works just fine for the format.
The DVD included only has a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 which is (again)
passable, but lacks the warmth and edge of the DTS-MA, et al, of the
film as it is meant to be heard.
Nicholas Sheffo and Ricky Chiang (Elephant)