4K (2020/HBO/Warner 4K
Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray Set)/The
(2012*)/Song Without A
Name (2019/Film Movement
(2019/Icarus DVD)/Where I
Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: B/B/C+/C+/C+/C+ Sound:
B/B/C+/C/C+/C+ Extras: C+/B/D/C/C-/D Main Programs:
season is with us again, albeit fractured by the pandemic, but here
are some dramas to consider seeing...
start with one of the best TV mini-series in the last few years,
(2020) is a 5-part series drama about what is considered still to be
the world's worst nuclear disaster to date, taking place in 1986. A
test at the title nuclear power plant is scheduled and it is expected
to go well, but the head of the plant is being difficult and I tis
putting everyone else on edge. Conflict arises and the rather young
staff is being pushed around a bit.
the test continues, it reaches a critical point, but when an
emergency button is activated to make sure all is well and safe,
there is an explosion at the plant instead and it turns out to be an
absolute nightmare. Randomly, a scientist (Jared Harris) is called
in to 'help' as it were, but he slowly realizes something very wrong
has happened. He is eventually paired with an official of the state
(Stellan Skarsgard) as the usual lying and cover-ups by the USSR
itself keep denying the truth and making it all worse.
some aspects were fictionalized for time, et al, the teleplay is very
detailed and thorough about how bad this is, how it could have
happened anywhere and that so much of this event has been left
undiscussed because so many countries and a powerful energy industry
do not want anyone to think about the dangers of such energy. It is
also about how honest a society needs to be to survive, a question
that goes far beyond the events portrayed here.
Watson heads the rest of the remarkable cast telling us a story of
how one event ended the reign of a superpower and why we can never be
passive about anything nuclear. I was shocked at how well this was
paced, acted, edited, written and timed. Another gem from HBO, if
you have not seen it, go out of your way for it, especially if you
can see it in 4K.
include Digital Code Copy, while the discs add Inside
The Episodes for each
one, a Script-To-Screen featurette, Behind-The-Curtain
featurette, Meet The Key
Players piece, What
Is Chernobyl featurette
and Pivotal Moment - The
Scorsese's The Irishman (2019) took the great director years to make
and a few years ago, after a major studio surprisingly dropped out of
producing it, Netflix had the guts and money to pick it up and though
it has received mixed responses critically and has been enough of a
success to help Netflix build their brand, no doubt the digital
de-aging techno9logy did not set well with some viewers. However,
Scorsese has never been shy of trying something different or
experimental and that results in a unique film that has a new tone,
even if it is still in the mode of his previous endeavors in the
new take on the rise and fall of organized crime and how much they
were tied to legendary union boss James Hoffa (Al Pacino in an easy
to underrate performance) lands up hiring a one-time trucker (Robert
De Niro) as his main assistant named Frank, but Frank is already tied
into the crime business via his association with Philadelphia crime
boss Russell Buffalino (Joe Pesci back in action) so you can imagine
the question being asked? Who killed Hoffa and how did they do it.
course, it is not a mystery film, but it is a rare film about
mobsters who get to become somewhat older or sometimes, really old
and what does that lead to? Do the good in the crime business die
young and are they better off? Running about 3.5 hours, the film
allows Scorsese and company to revisit some points form their older
films (and other film and TV shows in the genre, even by default) and
though the digital trickery and a use of hit records that runs oddly
counter to what you usually get in a Scorsese film (the songs seem to
have a more oddly juxtaposed effect instead of the impact you
constantly get in the likes of Mean Streets, GoodFellas
or Casino) is the last gangster epic Scorsese intends to make
and it seems he is trying to find any ground he had not gone over yet
in all his other such films.
point may be that any film about Hoffa is like any film about or with
Richard Nixon or even John F. Kennedy, the real life person was such
a character and figure in real life, you are in an uphill battle in
portraying them. Of course, Jack Nicholson explicitly played the
title role in Danny DeVito's Hoffa, his best directing effort. Yet,
it too got very mixed reception despite the great work on the film
and by the actors. Nicholson might look a bit more like the real
Hoffa than Pacino, yet Pacino is infusing his energy in a Hoffa that
is a slightly different take (I think both are accurate) and it works
well in its own way. I also buy the film's explanation of what
happened to Hoffa (both gangsters and corporations wanted him out of
the way, thus all the elaborate rumors of how he was killed and
disposed of) and like Casino (with its side story of Mormon
power in Vegas), Scorsese hints at the corporate powers behind what
happens without going into thew.
Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Carnavale, Anna Paquin, Jack Huston, and
Steven Van Zandt are among the solid supporting cast (Scorsese's hit
HBO TV gangster series Boardwalk Empire informs this film a
bit too) and if you give this film a good chance and your undivided
attention for its length, you'll see how good it is.
include an illustrated booklet on the film including tech info and an
essay by critic Geoffrey O'Brien, while the discs (a second discs has
the extras the first does not) add a newly edited roundtable
conversation among Scorsese and actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and
Joe Pesci, originally recorded in 2019, New documentary about the
making of the film featuring Scorsese; the lead actors; producers
Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Jane Rosenthal, and Irwin Winkler; director
of photography Rodrigo Prieto; and others from the cast and crew, New
video essay written and narrated by film critic Farran Smith Nehme
about The Irishman's synthesis of Scorsese's singular formal
style, The Evolution of Digital De-aging, a 2019 program on
the visual effects created for the film, Archival interview excerpts
with Frank ''the Irishman'' Sheeran and International Brotherhood of
Teamsters trade union leader Jimmy Hoffa, Trailer and teaser.
Meerapfel's My German
Friend (2012) is a
post-WWII tale of a young Jewish woman (Celeste Cid) who falls for
the son (Max Riemelt) of a Nazi war criminal. Should the sins of the
father be blamed on the son? He is not aware of this connection
early on, but when he finds out, becomes a left-wing revolutionary!
script never allows this to become unintentionally funny or even
exploitive, but it also does not do enough with the situations
presented and take them into new directions or try something
different. A few Godard films came to life, as well as Resnais' The
War Is Over (aka La
Guerre Est Fin) or even
the likes of Zabriskie
Point or The
The film, is still a decent drama for what it is, but it is a little
too safe for its own good, so I was a little disappointed.
Otherwise, the actors are good and I bought the period production.
are no extras.
Leon's Song Without A Name
(2019) is a stark drama shot in black and white about a poor woman
who has her baby taken from her just after childbirth and her attempt
to find her baby with the unexpected help of a journalist who finds
out she is not the only Andean woman to encounter this horror story.
Set in Peru, it is taking place in the recent past, has some valuable
points to make and also explores the dark side of Peru.
thought this one had its moments in its 97 minutes, but some of this
we have seen before and sadly, despite all the dramas, documentaries
and news segments on such things, it goes on as women and children
are still mistreated and considered exploitable and disposable. The
script is not interested in dwelling on this to its credit and to
make other points. It seems more relevant than usual considering
what has been going on at the Southern U.S. border of late too.
Worth a look for those interested.
director's introduction and short film Sin
Cielo by Jianna
Maarten Saada are the extras.
Kremser & Levin Peter's Space
Dogs (2019) is an
experimental special interest title that wants to be part
documentary, but also draw out a portrait of how the former
USSR/Soviet Union managed to get the first living earth creatures in
space and they chose dogs. Adding older archive footage, some of
which I should warn you all can be very graphic and disturbing, shows
how the USSR launched their space program this way and they go into
all the results.,
other point in this 91-minutes exercise is that the dogs came from
the streets and the current dogs are connected to them literally and
at least figuratively. Point taken and the newer footage has its
moments, but the original footage is stark, stunning and makes for an
interesting counterpoint to the U.S. Space Program efforts.
Interesting to see after Chernobyl
and worth a look if you can handle the more graphic footage.
raw stretch of Behind The Scenes video is the only extra.
we have a sort of surprise in Fritz Urschitz's Where
I Belong (2014) with
Natalie Press giving a fine performance as the daughter of an
Austrian man who was in a British internment camp during WWII (we
have not heard much about those) during WWII and how he tries to get
his life going. After such an ordeal. He is a little overprotective
of his daughter, but she is growing older.
only 90 minutes, without overdoing any melodrama, the film is very
involving as she tries to have a life where she can make a living and
have a social life, but it is not always easy and she also lands up
with two different men interested in her. I bought most of this and
wish it had gone on longer. Urschitz definitely knows how to direct
and makes this one very involving, with a density that goes beyond
getting the period correct. One of the most realistic and honest
foreign films I have seen in a while, it has a few things to say and
is more successful than I expected. Definitely worth a look.
are sadly no extras.
for playback performance. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, Dolby Vision/HDR
(10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on the
Chernobyl episodes look really good, with its wide range of
darkness and consistent atmosphere, it is one of the best
digitally-shot mini-series to date and just makes it all the more
enthralling. The frame chosen is the 2 X 1 frame some TV productions
have been trying out. Composition is not bad and the 1080p digital
High Definition image on the regular Blu-rays are good, but pale in
one might expect a 12-track mix like Westworld
or Game Of Thrones,
the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on these shows are
still very impressive, well recorded, mixed and edited. The impact
is solid and one should not underestimate a good 5.1 mix.
Irishman was shot with a combination of 35mm Kodak Vision 3 color
negative and the new HD camera developed for the de-aging process
without having to mark the actual faces of the actors with anything,
resulting in a pure 4K production. The 4K is not here (yet) but the
1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer is impressive,
except you can tell when the special digital camera is in use. Color
suddenly becomes slightly weaker and not as warm, resulting in a
viewing experience that is like nothing you have seen before. Many
will not notice the difference, but it is well shot as always for any
Scorsese film and he tries a different approach from his previous
gangster genre films (more laid back) and plays against stereotypes
of the genre. Also, he's getting the last word after the end of The
Sopranos, a great gangster series that deconstructed the entire
genre over its run. Its easy to underestimate what he does here.
a first for Criterion and only the second theatrical film by Scorsese
in 12-track sound (following Silence, though Casino got
an excellent such upgrade for its amazing 4K disc release) the Dolby
Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for older systems) is very impressive
and though it is laid-back and dialogue-based often enough, it has
its moments. The combination is very watchable.
remaining four DVDs are here in anamorphically enhanced presentations
(usually 1.78 X 1, but some of the films are wider) and they all look
about as good as each other, though Dogs has some flaws from
its location shoot. Friend and Belong are in PCM 2.0
Stereo, Dogs in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and Name
in both lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
sound mixes. Song is the one that I thought was a bit weak
and was better in 2.0 Stereo, but they are all equal otherwise,
though this is not the best representations of any of their