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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Family > Sicily > Melodrama > Sexuality > Lust > Racism > Violence > Urban > Relationships > Murder > Po > Once Upon A River (2020/Film Movement DVD)/Symbiopsychotaxiplasm (1968/Criterion Blu-ray)

Alone With Her Dreams (2019/Corinth DVD)/Baby Doll (1956/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Do The Right Thing 4K (1989/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Last Shift (2020/Sony DVD)/Once Upon A River (2020/Film Movement DVD)/Symbiopsychotaxiplasm (1968/Criterion Blu-ray)

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

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

Here's a slate of dramas, including a few classics and another that dared to be different...an be ordered from the link below.

We start with Paolo Licata's Alone With Her Dreams (2019) set in the late 1960s in Sicily, dealing with how young Lucia deals with her parents going to France to find work while she stays with her grandmother. As she gets older (now played by Lucia Sardo) finds her grandmother difficult, hiding something she does not want her granddaughter to know.

Based on the Catena Fiorello novel, it is not a bad film, even if we have seen some of this before, but the locales, acting, editing, flow and pace make it a better film than it might have been otherwise. There is talent here and it never overdoes things like so many imports we have had to suffer through lately. Overall, those interested should consider seeing it.

There are no extras.

Elia Kazan's Baby Doll (1956) is the still creepy, Tennessee Williams' penned tale of a child-like 19-year-old (Carroll Baker) who is still child-like in her behavior, yet sexually mature enough to be active in the carnal way. Here, she is the object of the desires of two men (Karl Malden and Eli Wallach, both looking a little like stereotypical dirty old men, though they are not that old here) and it is the hot season in the south and in the same house!

The film is honest about lust, desire and forbidden things, which is why it got pulled from theatrical release at the time, but it still was a critical success and groundbreaking for its time and its honesty. The actors are bold and leave no stone unturned, but I bet there are plenty of people who might find its 114 minutes more than they can handle to this day. That says something.

Nice the film has been restored, saved and reissued in HD via this solid Blu-ray. Baker in particular never got the respect she deserved or enough of the success that would have gone with it, so it is of particular tribute to her that this endures.

Extras include an Original Theatrical Trailer and featurette: Baby Doll: See No Evil.

Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing 4K (1989) is now being released by Universal in the 4K format (as BlackKKKlansman was, also reviewed on this site) and it is a very welcome back catalog addition to the format. We just reviewed the Criterion Blu-ray set of the film at this link:


Like Pan's Labyrinth (which happens to be at that same link) recently, Both films were issued in both 4K and Criterion editions and both versions in each case have their strong points. Of course, both Criterion editions have more extras, but in the case of this 4K Spike Lee release, you still get plenty of extras, including (as the press release explains):

A Brand New Introduction by Director Spike Lee DO THE RIGHT THING: 20 Years Later - Retrospective documentary with the cast and crew, Deleted and Extended Scenes - Eleven scenes cut from the final version of the film, Behind the Scenes - Spike Lee's personal video footage from the set of the film, Making DO THE RIGHT THING - In-depth documentary on the making of the film, Editor Barry Brown - Interview with the editor of DO THE RIGHT THING, The Riot Sequence - Storyboard gallery of the climatic riot sequence, CANNES, 1989 - Follow the film's triumphant screening at the prestigious Cannes Film as DO THE RIGHT THING energizes and astonishes audiences with its bold message, Trailers/Original Theatrical Trailer and TV spots, 20th Anniversary edition feature commentary with Director Spike Lee and an older, but still great Feature Commentary with Director Spike Lee, Director of Photography Ernest Dickerson, Production Designer Wynn Thomas, and Actor Joie Lee.

Having spoken my mind on the film before and impressed with all the extras here and in the Criterion version, that leaves the technical; performance further below, but this is one of the best back catalog 4K discs now available and not just because of how well it plays back or its greatness as a classic, important film, but few 4K discs of any kind have so many extras. Nice!

Richard Jenkins gives a standout performance in the Sundance award winning film, The Last Shift (2020), now available on DVD from Sony. The charming indie film centers around Stanley (Jenkins) who decides to quit his 35 year end career working at Oscar's Chicken and Fish. When he has to train his young replacement Jevon (Shane Paul McGhie), the two instantly clash. Also featuring Ed O'Neill, Birgundi Baker, and Allison Tolman with direction by Andrew Cohn (Documentary film - Destination Park) and producer Alexander Payne.

No extras.

Haroula Rose's Once Upon A River (2020) stars Kendai Delacerna as a young Native American gal who is trying to find herself, a place in the world and deal with her young adult life. Based on the Bonnie Jo Campbell book, the movie is not bad, has some nice, quiet moment to communicate what it is about and the acting is all around fine. Locations are not bad either and it is telling us a tale that is somewhat familiar, yet has some new things to show.

The film is not bad when it ends, of course with limited resolution as expected, but I just wish it had found a little more to say and show, no matter what the book originally offered. Still, this is smoothly ambitious and I was glad I saw it.

A featurette on the music is the only extra.

Finally, we have an avant-garde film actually directed by aa man of color. Symbiopsychotaxiplasm (1968) by William Greaves, a director here who even plays himself, but you may recognize from his acting work. This avant-garde film about filmmaking is part of a cycle of such films and one that has not been seen as much as others. A group goes to the park to make a film on the fly, but cannot decide what to make or to do.

Instead of realizing this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity, they find conflict, some personality clashes, disagreements, debates on how to best make the most effective film and Greaves plays devil's advocate to some extent to flush this out all the more so. Not for everyone, it is an interesting film and I enjoyed its approach, but it may be jarring for those used to standard narratives. The unknown cast is not bad and Steve Buscemi backed a 2005 'Take 2 1/2' sequel also included here that is interesting, but only in context to the first film.

Extras include a high quality booklet with illustration, tech information and an essay by critic Amy Taubin and production notes by Greaves for Take One, while the disc adds Discovering William Greaves, a 2006 documentary on Greaves' career, featuring Greaves, his wife and coproducer Louise Archambault, actor Ruby Dee, filmmaker St. Clair Bourne, and film scholar Scott MacDonald, an interview from 2006 with actor Steve Buscemi and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Now for playback performance. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 1.85 X 1 HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Thing looks fine, naturalistic and impresses throughout, just edging out the impressive regular Blu-ray image on the well-color-graded Criterion edition, which still has a bit of color and some shade this version does not have. I like both very much, but this is closer to the 35mm presentation I saw in theaters and both are better than the older 1080p Blu-ray also included here. As well, the DTS: X 11.1 lossless upgrade for the sound on the 4K edition easily outdoes the older DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix on the older Blu-ray included and also the more impressive DTS-MA 5.1 on the Criterion edition.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 black and white digital High Definition image on Baby Doll is another winning new remaster from Warner Archive, crisp, clean, clear and vivid throughout, showing once again how fine monochrome film can look, especially in HD. Composition is impressive and often confining on purpose to go with how creepy the material gets. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix has been cleaned up without ruining the sound or adding any kind of compression or falseness to the presentation. Only so much can be done for older monophonic sound like this, but this is likely as good as the film will ever sound.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Symbiopsychotaxiplasm can show the age of the materials used, but this film looks really good, as sharp and as clear as it can possibly be considering the time and being on the fly as it is. Flaws were left in on purpose too and color is very consistent and the PCM 2.0 Mono sound is from the original optical mono materials and sounds as good as it ever will.

The Last Shift is presented on DVD with a anamorphically enhanced widescreen aspect ratio of 2.00:1 and a lossy English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Compressed but native to the aging format, the film is up to par and looks fine, though would obviously look better in HD.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on the remaining DVDs are digital shoots that look pretty good for the format and also sound just fine, though both can have quiet moments, they have different soundtracks. Dreams has a PCM 2.0 Stereo sound mix, while River offers lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.

To order the Baby Doll Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Last Shift)



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