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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Comedy > Music > Friendship > Scotland > Racism > Aging > Melodrama > Period > Civil Rights > Crime > WW > Beats (2020/Music Box DVD)/Driveways (2019/FilmRise*)/Five Corners (1987/HandMade Films/Liberation Hall*)/Hiroshima (1993/Arrow/*all MVD Blu-rays)/Succession: The Complete Second Season (2019/HBO/Warn

Beats (2020/Music Box DVD)/Driveways (2019/FilmRise*)/Five Corners (1987/HandMade Films/Liberation Hall*)/Hiroshima (1993/Arrow/*all MVD Blu-rays)/Succession: The Complete Second Season (2019/HBO/Warner DVD)

Picture: C+/B/B-/B+/C Sound: C+/B/B-/B+/C+ Extras: C/C-/C/B/C Main Programs: B-/C+/C/B/B-

Here's a new mix of dramas, some of which work, some of which do not....

We start with an impressive independent British/Scottish production, Brian Welch's Beats (2020) telling us the story of an unlikely friendship built on loving electronica music, which is suddenly banned (unbelievably) parties with such music (or the like, like Rap/Hip Hop) in 1994, but that is not going to stop them from finding parties to go to and have fun at. Legal or illegal, they are off, as Spanner (Lorn Macdonald) is stuck with a dead-end life with his older brother and little opportunity, while Johnno (Cristian Ortega) has a decent middle-class family and the possibility of a better life.

In the meantime, Johnno's mother does not like Spanner much (of course) and sees him as a bad influence, but Johnno more focused on the music and what else can he get into that might be fun or help him meet gals who might like him. So many films claim to be slice-of-life films, but this is one of the very rare ones in the last few decades to deliver, despite some flaws, limits and a few things we have obviously seen before.

Steven Soderbergh liked it enough to push it as Executive Producer and I am glad, because this is well directed and the actors here deserve to be seen and seen in more work. Beats is an honest film and we don't see that enough these days either.

Extras include Scotland 1994: The Making Of Beats featurette, Photo & Poster Gallery and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

After an amazing body of work and a long career, the world lost actor Brian Dennehy and up to then, her was still working on plenty of film and TV shows. He plays a Korean War veteran in Andrew Ahn's Driveways (2019) as the neighbor who sees a lone neighbor pass away, only to see her sister (Hong Chau) go in and try to pick up the pieces. She brings her young son Cody (Lucas Jay) who is shy and possibly depressed.

Linda is a bit blue too, especially when she sees how much her sister was hoarding, but there is more for her to learn and as Del (Dennehy) befriends her son, she is rightly cautious at first, but they start to get to know each other better and slowly-but-surely connect.

This is well done for what it is and the actors are good, but the only problem is that we have seen some of this often before, though as bad as things are these days, there was something somewhat charming about any film with such a story. It never comes across as fake and is not always safe, but it is also ambitious and those interested should give it a look. Christine Ebersole leads the supporting cast.

Extras include a few stills behind the scenes and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Tony Bill started as a successful supporting actor in the 1960s on TV and in feature films, then was a successful producer by the 1970s, so in all this, why not try directing. His first theatrical feature film was My Bodyguard, one of the best teen movies ever made, but sadly, it was all downhill form there, going back and forth from TV to more features. By 1990, he had made one of the worst films I have ever seen still in my entire life, the would-be comedy Crazy People with Dudley Moore (before he got very ill) and Daryl Hannah, a film so bad, he should have been put in director's jail and never let him out, co-director or not. Just before hitting rock bottom, he made the shockingly bad period drama Five Corners (1987).

Set in the early 1960s, the film is already playing loose with history and any semblance of consistency when we hear The Beatles classic ''In My Life'' thanks to the film's co-producer, the late, great George Harrison. The problem, the song had not been written yet!

Jodie Foster (starting her comeback after taking a break for college, et al) plays Linda, who was once attacked by a local criminal, well know Heinz (the also always-great John Turturro) who is just getting out of prison for that. Then there is civil-rights aware Harry (Tim Robbins) who is happy to see her again, but is ready for trouble from all over and Todd Graff, who I really miss as an actor, knows them all and knows only bad things can happen unless he can get something going... maybe.

Taking place over two days, this button-pressing mess cannot get the drama or melodrama correct and you keep waiting for it to get better because you love the cast. Unfortunately, it is a mess and just gets more and more shallow and even condescending as it goes on. Even the appearance of a young Eriq La Salle cannot make a difference and we do not get enough character development on any of these characters for this to work. All in all, it adds up to a gigantic 94-minutes-long missed opportunity and is one of the most disappointing indie films of the 1980s and probably of all time. Sad.

Extras include a very mixed feature length audio commentary track by two fans of the film, Actor Text Bios and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

A frightening and disturbing film to say the least, Director Hideo Sekigawa's Hiroshima (1953) is based on the written eye-witness accounts of its child survivors compiled by Dr. Arata Osada for the 1951 book Children Of The A-Bomb: Testament Of The Boys And Girls Of Hiroshima.

Told from the Japanese perspective, the film focuses on the bombing of Hiroshima and the horrific aftermath following the detonation of an atomic bomb on humans for the first time in history.

The film stars Eiji Okada, Yumeji Tsukioka, Yoshi Kato, Takashi Kanda, Isuzu Yamada, and Yasumi Hara.

However, deep the subject matter and content may be, the film is impressively made even by today's standards and being shot in black and white film certainly helps capture the feel and make it seem more timeless.

Special Features:

Archive interview with actress Yumeji Tsukioka

Hiroshima Nagasaki Download (2011), 73-minute documentary featuring interviews with survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings now residing in the United States, with an introduction by the director Shinpei Takeda

New video essay by Jasper Sharp

Newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow

and FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mick Broderick.

Finally, another hit HBO series continues as Succession: The Complete Second Season (2019) arrives on DVD. Telling the trials and tribulations of a wealthy family who made their fortune in newspaper publishing (itself seeming a bit belated with that industries decline, as well as the show seeming to have missed Murdoch Empire comparisons by a few years) is still a well-written, well cast show with money behind it. For more on the show, try our coverage of the first season at this link:


Despite some limits, Brian Cox is great as the patriarch of the family, which is having all kinds of issues between seasons here and the supporting cast is solid, but it is Kieran Culkin who is really delivering and shows once again he has talent that differs more than enough from his older brother (who got bored with the industry, understandably) and steals more than a few scenes without trying. The plots of hostile takeovers (pre-COVID) are realistic (will this look like the 'good old days' soon in some odd way?) and the show is not dumbed-down by any means. I would just say start with the first season, or this will not work as much.

Extras include 10 Inside The Episodes clips and An Invitation To The Set with the Series' Storytellers.

Now for playback performance. The anamorphically enhanced black and white 1.85 X 1 image and lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Beats looks as good as it can for the old DVD format and probably would benefit from a Blu-ray or even 4K release, but even here you can see how well shot and consistent it is. Director of Photography Ben Kracun keeps the look and feel consistent and helps the already solid narrative.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Driveways is a very consistent HD shoot and has some good composition, while the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix may be dialogue-based, but has some good ambiance and soundfield throughout. Not bad.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Five Corners can show the age of the transfer used, likely one from an older edition of the film on Blu-ray, leading to a flat look that is not just any intended grittiness on the part of the filmmakers. Like some other HandMade Films catalog releases, it needs a new scan. The PCM 2.0 Stereo sound is a bit dated, but is probably a generation or two down, so the combination is about as unimpressive as the film, save the actors.

Hiroshima is presented here in 1080p high definition black and white with a full frame aspect ratio of 1.37:1 (a film rare in both its framing and being monochrome these days) and a Japanese LPCM 2.0 Mono mix with English subtitles. It is easily the best-looking and best sounding release here.

Finally, the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Succession is as good as the previously reviewed DVD set and that's fine, while the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is also well-recorded, once again begging the question, where is a Blu-ray edition? Otherwise, watchable enough, but with limits.

- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Hiroshima)



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