A Highway (2019/RLJ
Blu-ray)/A Christmas Carol
(1951/VCI DVD Set)/Judy
(2019/Lionsgate Blu-ray w/DVD)/The
Peanut Butter Solution
(1985/Severin Blu-ray/2 Versions)/Santa
Fake (2019/Indion DVD)
B+/B-/B & C+/B & B-/B- Sound: B+/B-/B & C+/C+ &
B-/B- Extras: D/B/C/C+/D Films: C/B+/B/C+/C
here is a set of films about family and a few for families...
Hawke stars in the drama Adopt a Highway (2019), which is
produced by Hollywood heavyweight Jason Blum (head of Blumhouse
Studios that produce mainly horror films.) The film could easily
happen in real life as it's told in a very honest way and features
Hawke as an ex-con who is released from prison.
working a job at a fast food restaurant, he discovers a baby in a
dumpster. He takes the baby back to his hotel and attempts to care
for it, but soon realizes that he's bitten off a bit more than he can
chew. While I don't want to ruin too much about the film in the
review, I will say that it's a tear jerker for sure and further
proves Ethan Hawke's versatility as an actor.
film also stars Chris Sullivan, Christopher Heyerdahl, and Mo McRae.
A Highway is presented in 1080p high definite with a widescreen
aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and an audio mix in English DTS-HD MA (Master
Audio) 5.1 lossless sound to accompany. The film is very nicely
colored and shot and has many beautiful shots that up the production
value of the film. Overall, this presentation is fine for Blu-ray.
no doubt that Adopt a Highway is an effective drama and
accurately portrays a sheltered but good man despite his decades of
incarceration and sudden new lease on life, which is beautifully
portrayed by Ethan Hawke.
Desmond Hurst's A
(1951) is regarded as many film historians as the greatest on screen
adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic story. This double disc
collector's edition has multiple versions of the film and quite a few
film stars Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, Michael Hordern, Mervyn
Johns, Kathleen Harrison, George Cole, Hermione Baddeley, and Glyn
Sim is impeccable as Scrooge, the hardened businessman who is visited
by three spirits on Christmas Eve. Glimpses at the Present, Past,
and Future, of Scrooge's actions help open his eyes and ultimately
become a better person because of it.
Christmas Carol is presented in 1.37:1 full frame in black and
white (although there is a color version as an extra) with a lossy
5.1 Dolby Digital audio mix. Though compression issues are evident,
the film looks as good as it can on the format. There's also a 1080p
Blu-ray disc of the film available from VCI, however, I personally
haven't seen it but I'm sure it looks better [see below].
Commentary by Marcus Hearn and George Cole
of Christmas Past - George Cole remembers Alistair Sim
Gordon Remembers George Minter & Renown Pictures
Dickens - His Life and Times
& After Restoration Comparison
Narrative for the Blind
& Press Book Gallery
American and British Theatrical Trailers
''Scrooge'' (1935 Seymour Hicks Version)
is the third writer to review this classic and we have reviewed it
even more times, including on Blu-ray. Here are two links to other
coverage that leads to more and will give you more of an idea of how
much the film is respected and what versions are available...
Anniversary Blu-ray Version
DVD single version
(2019) is a feature film adaptation of a stage play about the final
months of the life of movie and music icon Judy Garland, how her
addictive behavior and zero support from anyone who might have been
able to help ended her life decades before it should have. Renee
Zellweger skips all the cliches and stereotypes, becoming Garland in
one of the bets performances of her underrated career. At this
point, she is touring, performing with two of her children, not
really having a home and debts she never expected in her peak days at
MGM, the number one studio in the world when she had her hits there.
get some flashbacks (many are sad, including some not so
complementary of Louis B. Meyer, who ran the studio from the
beginning) as well as other moments from her life in between then and
now. You do not have to be a Garland expert to enjoy the film, but a
little knowledge does help. There is a new love interest, fighting
with her now ex-husband Syd Luft and a job that would pay her well is
available, if she returns to England where they love her more than in
even the U.S., so she goes.
delivers one of the best performances of the year and we finally get
the story of what really happened (for the most part) that has not
always been told (the film does skip a few disappointments, including
losing the Best Actress Oscar for her amazing performance in the 1954
A Star Is Born remake (reviewed elsewhere on this site) that
ever Groucho Marx bashed the Academy voters over) and within the
first reel, you are pretty much convinced you are watching Judy
(maybe the plastic surgery she had a few years ago unrelated to this
helped that) so sad as this can be, we very much recommend this up
there with After The Wedding as one of the year's best dramas.
1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image is one of the best HD
shoots of the year with nice color, editing, smoothness and even
enough naturalness to convince us of the period, while the DTS-HD
MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix sounds fine from the dialogue, to
the music. It really kicks in when she is in concert. The
anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on the DVD is not awful, but
it is an older format and the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1
sound also is lacking versus what we get on the Blu-ray. Hope we see
this one on 4K at some point.
include ''From the Heart: The Making of Judy'', a Judy
Image Gallery and an Original Theatrical Trailer.
Peanut Butter Solution
(1985) is part of a cycle of children's films that happened in
Canada, but rarely made it to the U.S. market, but this is one of the
rare ones that did. A young man is scarred a bit more than expected
when entering an abandoned house that might be haunted, then suddenly
wakes up bald! After trying to figure out how this happened and how
to fix it, he gets the oddest advice (the title of this film) and
that suddenly works... too well.
silly and trying to be about the hardship you sometimes get growing
up, though it was part of a 1980s cycle (including many books) that
almost wallowed in such personal pain and assumed everyone had the
same exact experiences, which in the long run helped no one. There
are some comic moments here and the cast is not bad. Many would not
know this was a Canadian cast unless they paid attention to small
details and/or recognized some locations, but it is also an
interesting alternative to such Hollywood films of the time (too many
which were regressive by then) and compares in interesting ways with
(with a young Nicole Kidman, reviewed elsewhere on this site).
film eventually becomes very bizarre (read some child in jeopardy
issues), but I wondered if they just followed the book they
apparently adapted, and/or just did not know where to go. Not very
memorable to me, those curious can now see for themselves, though I
should add this is also a bit of a curio because it has two vocal
songs (including one in the end credits) sung by a young, then
unknown Celine Dion.
are two versions here (of equal narrative quality) in 1080p 1.85 X 1
digital High Definition image transfer can show the age of the
materials used, but the shorter Canadian cut is cleaner and is a
superior transfer to all previous releases of the film, yet in sound,
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on the U.S. cut sounds
more compressed than it should, while the Canadian audio (despite
some background noise) is much clearer and has wider sound range.
Odd situation, but that's what we get in playback of the two
include the extended U.S. Theatrical Release Version, a new
Feature-Length Audio Commentary with Producer Rock Demers and Actor
Mathew Mackay, Moderated by Filmmaker Ara Ball, Human Beings Are
the Same All Over - An Interview with Producer Rock Demers,
Conrad's Peanut Butter Solution - An Interview with Siluck
Saysanasy, Tales for All - Paul Corupe on Rock Demers and the
Canadian Kids Film, vintage Canadian Trailer and Original U.S.
for the holidays, Santa
(2019) is a low budget Christmas part-musical/ drama/comedy that has
a decent storyline, but lackluster everything else. Featuring a few
recognizable faces including Judd Nelson, John Rhys-Davies, and Jeff
Fahey, the film tries its best but is ultimately held back by some
average cinematography and sound and a miscast lead. While Damian
McGinty isn't the worst actor on the planet, I wouldn't necessarily
say that he has the screen presence to lead a film despite his
obvious talent for singing.
film also stars Heather Morris, Gary Farmer, and Soldedad St.
Irish immigrant named Pat (McGinty) is an orphan growing up in the
United States, and eventually becomes old enough to be on his own.
Desperate for a job, he ends up working at a nice Irish restaurant as
a bar back and ends up getting in good with the Owner (Rhys-Davies).
However, the owner has a sketchy side job and uses Pat as a way to
transport a large sum of money to a mysterious buyer, but is really
planning on scamming him. Once Pat is chased down by some mean
looking dudes (Nelson and Fahey), he jumps on a bus and ends up in
Sante Fe, New Mexico. There he goes into hiding and soon realizes
that he's transporting a lot of cash. Realizing that this Owner is
wise to his whereabouts, Pete dresses up as a mall Santa and hides in
plain sight... however things get even more complex from there.
Fake is presented with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and a
lossy 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo mix, the film looks and sounds average
for the aging DVD format. A few lines of dialogue have some noise
underneath the tracks and some of the music choices are a bit
being a low budget production, there's some heart that went into the
making of Santa Fake, and it's not a complete waste. I just
feel like with a stronger lead and more stylized cinematography could
have helped propel it to the next level.
Nicholas Sheffo (Judy,