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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Drama > Murder > Detective > Crime > Surgery > French TV > Thriller > Japan > Literature > Urban > Doc > Balthazar: Series 2 (2019/DVD Set*)/Black Test Car (1962)/Black Report (1963/MVD/Arrow Blu-ray)/Death On The Nile (2003/Suchet/Blu-ray*)/Double Cross: Season 1 (2020/DVD/*all Acorn)/Eli Roth's History

Balthazar: Series 2 (2019/DVD Set*)/Black Test Car (1962)/Black Report (1963/MVD/Arrow Blu-ray)/Death On The Nile (2003/Suchet/Blu-ray*)/Double Cross: Season 1 (2020/DVD/*all Acorn)/Eli Roth's History Of Horror: Season 1 (2018/Blu-ray Set**)/NOS4A2: Season 2 (2020/Blu-ray Set**)/The Tax Collector 4K (2020/4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray/** all RLJ)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B Picture: C/B/B-/C/B/B/B- Sound: C/B/B/C/B-/B/B- Extras: D/B/D/D/C/C/C- Main Programs: C+/B- & C+/C+/C/C/C/C-

Now for a wide variety of genre releases that span mediums and decades...

We start with a hit French TV series, Balthazar: Series 2 (2019) with Tomer Sisley as the title pathologist helping to solve crimes in his district. It is not necessarily an ongoing storyline, so you only lose a little when you start on later episodes, yet I still felt uninformed and as I always like to do, wish I had a chance to start with the debut season. It is also as graphic in blood and surgery issues as any U.S. show of its kind could be, more than broadcast TV and at least as much as cable/satellite.

Unfortunately, the 10 episodes are much of what we have seen before, though diehard fans of such TV will enjoy the different style, cast and change of venue. Otherwise, it is more of the same like the glut of police procedurals.

There are no extras.

Arrow Video presents two interesting films from Director Yasuzo Masumura. Black Test Car (1962) and The Black Report (1963), both of which are available together in this new Blu-ray release. Both of these films show the dark side of man kind and how people can turn against one another easily just to be the winner of the game.

Similar in some respects to last year's fantastic film Ford vs Ferrari (reviewed in its 4K release elsewhere on this site), Black Test Car pits two rival car companies against one another to create the perfect racing vehicle. The film is beautifully shot in black and white and feels like a more modern film than it is at moments. The film stars Jiro Tamiya, Junko Kano, Eiji Funakoshi, and Hideo Takamatsu.

The Black Report is a courtroom drama that is a different kind of 'competition' than Black Test Car but shares some of the ill willed spirit of that film. The film starts with an Old Man being murdered and then presents us with a list of suspects. This 'whodunnit' mystery will have you scratching your head until its surprising climax! The film stars Ken Utsui, Junko Kano, Hideo Takamatsu, Shigeru Koyama, and Eitaro Ozawa.

Special Features include:

Newly recorded critical appreciation by Jonathan Rosenbaum

Theatrical trailers for both films

Image galleries for both films

Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella

and FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet with new writing on the films by Mark Downing Roberts.

Though it is one of her most famous and successful books, there for some reason has always been issues that have stopped Agatha Christie's Death On The Nile from a live-action adaptation that really worked. Now, the 2003 David Suchet version is out on Blu-ray as a single and we reviewed it as part of a set on Blu-ray at this link:


It is the same disc and transfer and still is not even as good as the 1978 feature film, but the reason this is being issued now is that the 70mm remake by Kenneth Branagh is coming to theaters (pandemic notwithstanding) and we will see if three times is finally the charm.

There are no extras.

Double Cross: Season 1 (2020) is part of a new series of shows from the new Urban Movie Channel that is predominantly African American and wants to be gritty. We just started getting releases from the network and this one is a mixed bag, wanting to be hip with fast cars, action, violence, harsh language and wild situations. Though the best part is how some of the actors make some interesting choices in their performances (that is the part that feels like new ground here) and there is some energy here, the show is everything we have been seeing in such feature films for a while.

Ashley A. Williams and Jeff Logan are twins who find themselves faced with dealing with a child kidnapping ring and when they have no faith the police will help, they decide to get crazy and do something about it themselves. Though I am no fan of child in jeopardy storylines, this one seems ironic and timely, but the show still cannot offer much more than similar shows we've seen in the U.S. and in an unusual number of foreign TV shows of late. Still, those interested might find it a curio worth looking at.

There are no extras.

Eli Roth's History Of Horror: Season 1 (2018) is meant to be a counterpart to the same producers Science Fiction documentary series with James Cameron, but they picked the wrong horror figure and the show is, despite some fine interview clips with key actors and other creative talent, a mess!

Obvious, silly, phony, wacky, appealing to the lowest common denominator of a 'history' and lacking the kind of thought and research the Cameron show had, it is hardly good enough for a college class or anyone serious about horror films. Imagine how hard that is to do when you have the interview talent and clearances for all these classic movie and TV clips?

The first episode is about zombies and tries to sell them as monsters of this century, but that is so dumb it would take a long essay to dispute that, starting with how played out those films are and we are only a fifth through the century! The next two episodes are devoted to slasher films and just bunches them all up instead of separating various eras, then the rest of the subjects of each show does equal injustice and delivers the same sloppy laziness throughout.

Of course, some of the clips are great and some of the interviews are fine, but not all of them. Thus, you have to go though a ton of chafe to get to the whole wheat here, something the Cameron series never made you do. Some fans will not care, but this could have been much, much better and it is a giant disappointment.

Extras include extended interview clips with Stephen King, Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, Diablo Cody, Roger Corman, John Landis and Joe Dante, plus featurettes How ''Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein'' influenced Tarantino, How Video Games Resurrected [no pun intended?] Zombie Movies, Is Horror Sexist or Feminist?, Making a Monster and Scarred for Life.

NOS4A2: Season 2 (2020) is the latest 'vampires in the night' series (usually traced to the late Joel Schumacher's Lost Boys (1987) as a current cycle, though a few vampire films like this were made before) and it is a mixed bag, covers much of what we have seen before and again, may have too many child in jeopardy elements, but in this case, it is in the Stephen King style, yet not anywhere nearly as distinctive.

Though we join the madness in its sophomore season, I had seen bits and pieces of the show before, so I knew what I was getting into by taking it on. Though he is not in the show much, the case notes that Zachary Quinto is here, but he is not a co-star, though he is the best thing about the show when he is here and effectively so. It is remarkable he did not show up in a vampire story before.

Still, it is all over the place in a way even seeing the entire debut season would correct, so it is for fans only, yet that is who it is aimed for. Too bad it was not able to exceed that. Still, it is professionally produced and one of the better such shows of its kind in production now. Whether it will get better or hold up as it stands is another story, but just cannot recommend it.

Extras include a ComicCon@HomePanel and three brief Behind The Scenes pieces: A Look at Season 2, Catching Up with the Characters and The Origins of Charlie Manx.

Finally, David Ayer has had one of the more unusual Hollywood careers of late. He began to make his mark as a writer on poor commercial films like U-571 and S.W.A.T., critical acclaim for Training Day and Fury, but the first screenplay for what turned into The Fast and The Furious franchise put him over. He also directed Fury, the first Suicide Squad film and two films that try to go into other corners of the Training Day world. The first was the unmemorable Street Kings and now, we have another.

The Tax Collector 4K (2020) is not about the IRS gone wild, but a enforcer/gangster type collecting dirty money and we get two of them in David (Bobby Soto) and Creeper (Shia LeBeouf, who is not in the film as much as the artwork suggests) convincing enough in their roles (LeBeouf allegedly got tattooed for this role in a method actor move) and the set up has many possibilities, but instead, we get so many missed opportunities that I was disappointed. I expected something new, but save the predominantly Hispanic cast giving it their all, this did not work much at all.

Again, there is a glut of such films stuck in an older, played-out style and Street Kings did not work out that well, so why Ayer thought he could get something new out of this world after so much time is a mystery. It could either be something new because so much time passed or nothing more, the latter of which is what we sadly get. As compared to the recent Black and White, it looks dated upon arrival.

Extras include Digital Copy and Deleted Scenes, but that is all.

Now for playback performance. The 2160p, 1.85 X 1, HEVC/H.265, (NO HDR; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Tax is the best-looking performer on the list as expected, but not by the margin it might have been. Any HDR might have brought out more, but the highlights are here and there. Director of Photography Salvatore Totino, A.S.C., A.I.C., keeps the look of the film consistent, but it is not up to his best work, which includes several of Ron Howard's best looking films (The Missing, Cinderella Man, Frost/Nixon, The Da Vinci Code,) Bird Box and Spider-Man: Homecoming, as well as some visually memorable music videos for Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Radiohead. Perhaps they felt they needed to keep this looking like the previous two films on some level, but the look and the editing just don't add up or synthesize into something better than expected.

The 1080p Blu-ray version is a little lighter and has more motion blur, but color is about the same. Both discs offer the same DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes that have some punch at times, but the soundfield is uneven and sometimes just not as well recorded or mixed as they should be.

Both Black films are presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec and a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and paired with Japanese LPCM Mono tracks with optional English subtitles. The black and white restorations here are very nicely done here and I'm sure this is the best that these films have looked on disc.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Nile is not badly shot, but does have some motion blur and soft shots throughout, while the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mix has some Pro Logic-like surrounds but is not very active, though recorded well enough.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Roth is mixed with sloppy editing, but has some nice vintage film clips and the newer interviews are usually shot well, but some of the editing is very cliched and played out. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mix is interview based and audio from the films can run from mono to stereo with surrounds. Interviews are clear enough, but the soundtrack could have been better.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on NOS4A2 is actually one of the better presentations here, stable and despite some cliched editing, not too bad. Color is about as good as can be expected for how this is stylized and the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is as good as anything on this list, which means it is not bad and has a consistent soundfield.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Balthazar and the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Double Cross have some style, but are softer and have more motion blur than I would have liked. Cross is more flawed and it style tends to work against it. Both only offer lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mixes that underwhelm and is particularly an issue with the Rap/Hip Hop bass-loaded soundtrack on Cross, which the older sound format just cannot resolve properly or fully.

- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Black)



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