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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Hate > Bullying > China > Melodrama > Family > Prison > Crime > Character Study > WWII > France > Music > Sprinter (2018/FilmRise/**all MVD Blu-ray)/The Stalking Moon (1968/National General/Warner Archive Blu-ray)

Better Days (2019/Well Go Blu-ray)/Flowers In The Attic (1987*/**)/Imprisoned (2018/Cinema Libre Blu-ray)/Manon (1949/*Arrow/**)/The Photograph (2019/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/Song Of Names (2019/Sony Blu-ray)/Sprinter (2018/FilmRise/**all MVD Blu-ray)/The Stalking Moon (1968/National General/Warner Archive Blu-ray)



Picture: B (DVD: C) Sound: B/B/B-/B/B & C+/B+/C+/B- Extras: D/B/B/B/C/C+/B/C- Films: B+/B/C/C+/B-/B/B+/C+



PLEASE NOTE: The Stalking Moon Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.



Here's a really interesting set of dramas to consider seeing...



We start with Kwok Cheung Tsang's Better Days (2019) with Chen Nian (Zhou Dongyu), the model student studying for her college exams, but behind perfect grades she is being pressured by life and bullied by the school bullies. Her only unlikely friend and companion is the small time street gangster Bei, who watches her and protects her from the shadows. But even before either of them can be legal adults, both of them get caught up in a murder investigation that will change their lives forever.


Nian is a plain girl and she studies hard knowing getting into a good college is her only hope of a good life and good future, but because of her top grades, she also becomes the scapegoat for the school bullies. She befriends a small time street gangster Bei and he becomes her friend and confidant. Bei tells her that she IS a good person, but reality is not fair and life is vicious, but he will protect her. One night, Nian is attacked, beaten, stripped naked, cut off her hair and recorded online by the school bully and her posse.


When Bei discovers what happened he threatens the bully to leave Nian alone or he will rape her. Afterward the bully repents and then begs Nian to forgive her, but in a freak accident Nian pushes her away and the bully falls down the stairs and dies. Bei gets rid of the body, but when the body is discovered Bei takes the fall and is sent to prison. However, the detective suspects Nian knowing more, he lies to her that Bei is facing the death penalty. To save Bei, Nian confesses. Both Nian and Bei spend the next 20 years in prison, their only solace is they will meet again when they are both free.


This was a depressing drama filled film about how much pressure Asian students have during college exams and dealing with bullies. The schools are there for the students, but they don't protect them, they care more about their reputation than the lives of their students. It becomes ironic when bullies are more protected by the laws, rules and police than the victims they prey and torture everyday. But in the end, the police must follow law ...but is it really justice?


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer is a very impressive digital HD shot that is very consistent and with few flaws, while the Mandarin DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is not bad, but it is apparently a mixdown from a Dolby Atmos theatrical release and some limits we encountered might come from that. Otherwise, the combination here is good.


Extras include trailers.



Flowers In The Attic (1987) gets a sharp new remaster on Blu-ray disc in this packed version from Arrow Video. An odd film to say the least, the drama/thriller centers around four children who end up fatherless and are hidden away in an attic away from the thing they fear most - their mother and grandmother - who are conspiring against them in an effort to obtain inheritance.


The film stars Louise Fletcher, Victoria Tennant, Kristy Swanson, Jeb Stuart Adams, Ben Ryan Ganger, and Lindsay Parker with direction by Jeffrey Bloom (Veronica Clare).


Flowers in the Attic is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85 X 1 and a nice sounding English LPCM 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit) audio mix. The dark score by Christopher Young (Hellraiser) is in the backbone of the film in my opinion and comes across nicely here. The film is beautifully shot and Arrow has done superb work here on the remaster to disc.


Special Features include:


New audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author and editor-in-chief of Diabolique Magazine


Home Sweet Home: Filming Flowers in the Attic, a new interview with cinematographer Frank Byers


Fear & Wonder: Designing Flowers in the Attic, a new interview with production designer John Muto


The Devil's Spawn: Playing Flowers in the Attic, a new interview with actor Jeb Stuart Adams


Shattered Innocence: Composing Flowers in the Attic, a new interview with composer Christopher Young


Production gallery of behind-the-scenes images, illustrations and storyboards


The original, studio-vetoed ending


The revised ending with commentary by replacement director Tony Kayden


Original theatrical trailer


and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Haunt Love.


An interesting and disturbing film, Flowers in the Attic is nicely restored here and worth checking out if you like dysfunctional family films. A recent remake can be found elsewhere on this site.



Laurence Fishburne stars in this low budget film Imprisoned (2018), which isn't based on a true story per-say, but sure feels like it could be. The film takes place in Puerto Rico, where Fishburne plays a prison warden who nails a prisoner that murdered his wife 25 years ago. Despite the prisoner's best intentions of moving away from his previous bad deeds and starting over anew with his new lover, he is instead framed for murder and locked away under Fishburne's charge.


The film also stars Edward James Olmos, Esai Morales, John Heard, Juan Pablo Raba, and Jon Huertas. The film is written and directed by Paul Kampf.


While the film isn't terrible and has some moments that are pretty entertaining, no actor in the film can stand toe to toe with Laurence Fishburne and it shows. Perhaps if they could have gotten another higher profile actor on the same level as Fishburne to go head to head with, the film could have a bit more bite. Still, Fishburne does what he can with the material here and does a fine job, despite some goofy old age makeup.


Imprisoned is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and audio mixes in DTS-MA 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo. The film is shot professionally and mostly hides its low end budget with plenty of production value on the screen. The audio mix isn't anything too fancy to write home about, with an overall average presentation.


Special Features include:


Three Deleted Scenes


Interview with Edward James Olmos


Social Impact Filmmaking with Equitas Entertainment Partners


and Trailers.



Henri-Georges Clouzot's Manon (1949) gets an Arrow Academy release that's been restored and remastered impressively. An Abbe Prevost's classic French novel 'Manon Lescaut', the film takes place in post WWII France and is an unusual romantic tale. A French Resistance Activist (Serge Reggiani) saves a woman named Manon from near death for her association with Nazis. When they move to start over in Paris, the ending is less than ideal for either of them. A bit depressing of a film it is still pretty interesting and worth checking out, especially here in this nice Arrow release.


The film also features Cecile Aubry, Andrex, Henri Vilbert, and Raymond Souplex.


Manon is presented in black and white 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with a full frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (originally 1.37:1) and a French audio mix in LPCM Mono (48kHz, 24-bit) with English subtitles.


Special Features:


Bibliotheque de poche: H.G. Clouzot, an archival documentary from 1970 in which Clouzot talks of his love of literature and the relationship between the page and the screen


Woman in the Dunes, a newly filmed video appreciation by film critic Geoff Andrew


Image gallery


and a reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options



Writer/director Stella Meghie's The Photograph (2019) takes comic writer/actress Issa Rae and easily places her into a role and impressive performance as a young woman dealing with pain from the past as she tries to find love and closure in her early adult life as Mae, who did not have the best mother and the discovery of an old photography (hurray for photochemical images!) opens up a pandora's box of emotions and need to find out more answers.


To add to this, she finds a new man (LaKeith Stanfield) that she is interested in, yet her mother assuming the worse of the previous men in her life and what they might be doing together (her mother's toxicity is sad, but not uncommon) even haunts all of this. The screenplay handles this all with the respect and leisurely slow pace serious adults would expect from any film on this subject taking the maturity and intelligence of its audience seriously, which I see very little of these days anywhere. Sure, we've seen some of this before, but done with the smart, subtle atmosphere we get, this is a welcome such melodrama that more people would appreciate than you might expect in an age of junk filmmaking. If you are interested, definitely catch this one.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Blu-ray is a smooth HD shoot that has a nice look and feel to it, has few flaws and flows well along with its editing, while the often-dialogue-based DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix is a mixdown from a 12-track soundmaster used in the best theatrical presentations that sounds fine, including when music kicks in. The included DVD has an anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image that is softer than I would have liked and a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixdown that is more squeezed and lite than even the DTS-MA mixdown, so that disc can be a trying viewing. Watch the Blu-ray instead.


Extras include Digital Copy, while the discs add three brief promo clips on the film, including Shooting The Photograph, Culture In Film and The Film Though Photographs.



Respected actors Tim Roth and Clive Owen star in The Song of Names (2019), which is based on a novel by Norman Lebrecht. Directed by Francois Girard, the nicely made drama is now available on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.


The film also stars Catherine McCormack, Eddie Izzard, and Saul Rubinek.


A young boy befriends another young boy with the extraordinary talent of being a violinist. The two boys become like brothers growing up until they are separated, and he seemingly disappeared. Forty some odd years later, the two friends reunite after an exhausting search and retain an undeniable chemistry and friendship as he helps unleash his friend's work to an audience.


The Song of Names is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and an English 5.1 DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless mix, both of which are of the norm for the format. The film is eloquently shot and has an incredible score by Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) that comes across very nicely here. This is a gorgeously shot film that could really use the 4K UHD in the near future.


Special Features include:


Behind the Song of Names: Director Fran├žois Girard and Producer Robert Lantos brought Norman Lebrecht's acclaimed novel to life with the outstanding performances of Tim Roth and Clive Owen.


Howard Shore: Composing & Scoring: After two years of research, composer Howard Shore conducts and records the score for the film in Montreal.


And Howard Shore & Ray Chen: Composer Howard Shore chose virtuoso Ray Chen for the incredible violin playing heard in the film.



In Storm Saulter's Sprinter (2018), Akeem Sharp is the next rising star to be Jamaica's track and field champion. But unfortunately, at home he has to deal with his violent alcoholic father, his brother who is a scam artist and not to mention his mother who an illegal immigrant in U.S.A. While Akeem's family maybe falling apart, question is will his family pull him down too?


After breaking record times in track and field, Akeem realizes he is on the fast track to fame and glory, but at home he faces a different kind of challenge, he has to deal with an abusive alcoholic father, and ever since his debut in the news his bookie brother has been making shady bets and deals to profit off of Akeem's fame and almost gets him arrested too. Meanwhile, Akeem's mother left them 10 years ago to work as an illegal immigrant in the United States in order to send money home and he is unsure about his reunion with his mother feeling that she abandoned them. In the end he learns that there is no short cuts in life, through faith, hard work, and training is how he will succeed ...and win.


This was a sports drama where the main character has to deal with not only his race, but also a lot of family drama with the temptation of fame, alcohol, partying, women. More often the rapid rise to fame and glory is only matched it's rapid fall from grace, a true champion does not focus on the medals, fame or glory, but only the next step in front of him.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer looks good for an independent production and holds its own here, but the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is dialogue-based and limited as a result. Otherwise, the combination is good enough.


Extras include Sprinter Premiere at the Grove, theatrical trailer and photo gallery.



We conclude with Robert Mulligan's The Stalking Moon (1968) that reunites the director with his To Kill A Mockingbird star Gregory Peck, producing this film as part of his role in the great and all-too-brief-lived National General Studios. In this sometimes comical Western drama, Peck is a Army vet from decades ago who lands up crossing paths with cattle rustlers, who themselves come across a group of Apaches. Among them is a child and a non-Native American woman (the great Eva Marie Saint) who wants to move on and seems in a hurry, apparently knowing a secret that no one else does. She is told they are safe with the military there, but she is still nervous.


After a bit of back and forth, she convinces veteran Peck to escort her away faster than waiting for the military to move on, which brings them to a safe house, but there is soon unexpected violence and murder. It turns out the father of the son is a Native American warrior out for his son and out to kill every white person in his way, et al. This leaves Peck having to confront him.


Despite some us-and-them issues and a few moments that did not age well or fall flat, this is a late entry in the Western genre that is as fresh as The Wild Bunch of any Leone Western of the time, leading to the last great period of the genre (concluding with Cimino's Heaven's Gate in 1980, for better and worse). The film's naturalism and realism certainly ring true as much now as it did then and the film is not always so talky, which is another plus for it.


Helping it too is its fine music, great cinematography and cast that includes Robert Forster in a nice supporting turn, Nolan Clay, Russell Thorson, Lonny Chapman, Lou Frizzell, Henry Beckman, Richard Bull, Frank Silvera, Joaquin Martinez, Boyd 'Red' Morgan, Nathaniel Narcisco and in uncredited turns, legendary character actors Richard Farnsworth and James Olson.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer holds up well in this new restoration, as lensed in real 35mm anamorphic Panavision by Director of Photography Charles Lang, Jr. (Charade, Inside Daisy Clover, Wait Until Dark, Sudden Fear, The Big Heat, The Magnificent Seven, Some Like It Hot, One-Eyed Jacks) and originally issued in 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints. Though you can see the age of the film in a few small spots, this looks good, if not always with the kind of color you would get from a Technicolor print. Impressive just the same and as good as anything on this list.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix is not bad and has a solid music score by Fred Karlin, who later did the groundbreaking score for the original feature film of Westworld (1973, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and brings new elements into the fold with the more traditional music and instrumentation he applies here. Its the most original aspect of the film.


The only extra is, sadly the Original Theatrical Trailer.



To order The Stalking Moon Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


http://www.wbshop.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo (Moon, Photograph), Ricky Chiang (Days, Sprinter) and James Lockhart

https://www.facebook.com/jamesharlandlockhartv/


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