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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Immigration > Prejudice > Xenophobia > Greece > Crime > Money > War > Vietnam > Dark Comedy > Cold War > Amerika Square (2016/Corinth DVD)/Even Money (2006/MVD Blu-ray)/Full Metal Jacket 4K (1987/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

Amerika Square (2016/Corinth DVD)/Even Money (2006/MVD Blu-ray)/Full Metal Jacket 4K (1987/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: A- Picture: C+/C+/B Sound: C/B/B+ & B Extras: D/C/B Films: C+/B+/A-

One classic and two ambitious dramas are up next...

Yannis Sakaridis' Amerika Square (2016) is one of the Greek films we occasionally get to see, but for all the films they make, too few seem to get imported to the U.S. market. Of course, it is another drama where we are supposed to think of the title locale as something we have never seen or heard of before and it is with some irony here as the people involved are in and this was the country's Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film that year.

This tale of xenophobia, immigration and economic issues is as relevant as it was upon release and stars Makis Papadimitriouas as Nakos, who lives in the title neighborhood and has no job, but is looking for something to get ahead. His old buddy Billy (Yannis Stankoglou) is not a fan of the refugees that have arrived en masse there and makes no secret about it, no matter their problems, but Billy decides to get involved and help two of them and with all the latent tensions around, trouble can only result.

I liked that the film took us somewhere we had not been before, but we have seen this kind of story often, though maybe not enough, lately. It is good, but somewhat predictable and the characters are not simply good or evil, which helps. However, it was not as memorable as I had hoped and was only worth a look at best when all was said and done. At least it was ambitious and took its audience seriously.

There are no extras, though something would have been nice.

What does a bookie, female author, magician, plumber, basketball player, mobster and detective all have in common? Each one has the desire to want more, but to achieve their goals what are they willing to do? What are they willing to risk? What are they willing to sacrifice? Either they want more money, owe money or need it, but only one can win ...and everyone else must lose.

Mark Rydell's Even Money (2006) has a bookie (Jay Mohr) fixes games for illegal gambling through two brothers, the older brother (Forrest Whitaker) a plumber who owes them a lot of money asks his young brother (Nick Cannon) a rising star of the NBA to throw the game. A woman (Kim Basinger) who is addicted to gambling, lies and cheats on her husband (Ray Liotta) and loses her family's life savings, a has been magician/con artist (Danny DeVito) who is trying to get back in the spotlight and into the woman's panties and moonlights as snitch for the mobster (Tim Roth) or detective (Kelsey Grammer) depending on who pays him more. While the mobster and detective play a dangerous cat and mouse game, not sure who is the hunter and who is the prey. With twist, turns, drama, surprises ...and only one person in the end wins.

This movie featured an all-star class cast of actors including Kim Basinger, Nick Cannon, Danny DeVito, Kelsey Grammer, Ray Liotta, Jay Mohr, Tim Roth and Forest Whitaker. (You know them from their bigger movies). The film seemed like several stories mixed together, each character interconnected with only one or two degrees of separation. The moral/plot of this movie seems to be a cautionary tale of greed, money and power because when you win, everyone else must lose. Extras include trailers.

Finally, Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket 4K (1987) has arrived and it is even better than the 4K releases of 2001 (with a few flaws) and The Shining (with a questionable shot towards the very end) discs (unreviewed, but mostly better than their previous Blu-ray editions) plus joins recent 4K releases of Cimino's Deer Hunter and Coppola's Apocalypse Now (both also unreviewed, but highly recommended) as the most comprehensive trilogy of Vietnam films from the original cycle of them into the late 1980s.

We first reviewed Jacket in the now-obsolete HD-DVD format at this link:


Issued on regular Blu-ray at the same time, some people felt it was flawed as I did and upgraded versions were later issued with some improvements, but this new 4K edition really delivers. Seeing the film now, it has aged even better than many might has expected at the time and is a brilliant work that finishes covering and what needed to be said at the time on the Vietnam debacle during that cycle. It is even prophetic, more so now.

It is also still one of the few films on the subject that does not take place 'in the jungle' like so many do, but the cities and hardly any film has dared to go there since. Many of the actors went on to more commercial and critical success and this is actually the first of a trilogy of stories on the Modine character in its original print form. Strangely, there were no sequels and for some odd reason, the owner of the books is not keeping them in print. Hope we learn more about this down the line.

Either way, Full Metal Jacket is one of the greatest films of the 1980s and audiences are still catching up with it. If you have seen it before and especially never seen it before, it is a must-see and in 4K, a true, pure, cinematic experience.

Extras include the repeat of a great feature length audio commentary track with Mathew Modine, R. Lee Ermey, Vincent D'Onofrio and screenwriter Jay Cocks, an Original Theatrical Trailer and the Making Of featurette Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil.

Now for playback performance of these releases. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 1.78 X 1,HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Jacket looks amazing, even more so when you consider the negative was actually fading only a short ten years ago and that was only a few decades after the film was made. I saw this on 35mm film when it first came out and can tell you this looks as vivid and impressive as the film ever looked. There are also plenty of demo shots throughout.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on the Blu-ray is not bad, but no match for the 4K disc by any means, but it is here as backup if you do not have access to a 4K player. It should be noted that all the older editions were in 1.33 X 1 and like most of Kubrick's (like The Shining) Warner output, there is an argument the films also look great that way. The films were shot soft matte knowing the films would be shown widescreen, but using the whole 35mm frame. This works well, but maybe Warner will do a limited edition 1.33 X 1 block style 4K set with all the films in that framing only. The 1.78 X 1 here is still extremely effective.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on the 4K disc sounds like the same upgraded soundmaster used on the Blu-rays and HD-DVD, presented on this Blu-ray in a PCM 5.1 mix. The PCM was not bad for its age, but the DTS-MA retransfer on the 4K disc sounds like it is a much more recent recording with improved clarity, resolution, depth and dynamic range that allows you to hear detail never heard on the film before, so be ready to be impressed.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is not bad on Amerika, but has some softness and a little motion blur. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound is much weaker than a recent film like this ought to be and makes it harder to enjoy, subtitles notwithstanding.

- Nicholas Sheffo and Ricky Chiang (Money)


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