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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Melodrama > Crime > Holiday > Biopic > Show Business > Addiction > Comedy > Children > Fantasy > Canad > Adopt 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)

Adopt 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)

Picture: 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

So here is a set of films about family and a few for families...

Ethan 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.

While 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.

The film also stars Chris Sullivan, Christopher Heyerdahl, and Mo McRae.

Adopt 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 extras.

There's 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.

Brian Desmond Hurst's A Christmas Carol (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 extras.

The film stars Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, Michael Hordern, Mervyn Johns, Kathleen Harrison, George Cole, Hermione Baddeley, and Glyn Dearman.

Alastair 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.

A 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].

Special Features include:

Audio Commentary by Marcus Hearn and George Cole

Spirit of Christmas Past - George Cole remembers Alistair Sim

Richard Gordon Remembers George Minter & Renown Pictures

Charles Dickens - His Life and Times

Bonus: Colorized Version

Before & After Restoration Comparison

Optional Narrative for the Blind

Photo & Press Book Gallery

Cast Bios

Original American and British Theatrical Trailers

and ''Scrooge'' (1935 Seymour Hicks Version)

This 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...

60th Anniversary Blu-ray Version


Older DVD single version


Rupert Goold's Judy (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.

We 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.

Zellweger 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.

The 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.

Extras include ''From the Heart: The Making of Judy'', a Judy Image Gallery and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Michael Rubbo's The 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.

Very 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 BMX Bandits (with a young Nicole Kidman, reviewed elsewhere on this site).

The 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.

There 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, the 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 versions.

Extras 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. Trailer.

And finally, in time for the holidays, Santa Fake (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.

The film also stars Heather Morris, Gary Farmer, and Soldedad St. Hilaire.

An 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.

Santa 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 questionable.

No extras.

For 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, Solution) and James Lockhart



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