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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > War > Australia > South Africa > Comedy > Food > China > Martial Arts > Action > Fighting > Delinquenc > Summer Of 85 (2020/Music Box Blu-ray)/12 Mighty Orphans (2020/Sony Blu-ray)

Breaker Morant (1980/Umbrella Region Free Import Blu-Ray)/Midnight Diner (2019/Well Go Blu-ray)/Notorious Nick (2021/Lionsgate DVD)/Quinqui Collection: Navajeros (1980) + El Pico (1983) + El Pico 2 (1984/Severin Blu-ray Set)/Summer Of 85 (2020/Music Box Blu-ray)/12 Mighty Orphans (2020/Sony Blu-ray)



Picture: B-/A-/C+/B-/B/B Sound: B-/B+/C+/B- C+ B-/B/B- Extras: B/D/C-/C+/B-/C- Films: B-/A/C/C+/C+/C+



PLEASE NOTE: The Breaker Morant Import Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, can play on all Blu-ray players and can be ordered from the link below.



Now for some interesting, even challenging dramas...



We start with an international hit film that is considered a key piece of serious Australian cinema. Bruce Beresford's Breaker Morant (1980) takes place during the Boer War in South Africa in 1901 as Australian forces are told to take no prisoner by the British Empire, led by the title character (the great Edward Woodward) and the result is a Vietnam-calibre disaster. Some could call it an anti-war film, but others might consider it a character study of war, the people and countries involved.


Though I admit the casting works and acting is strong, I never thought this film worked for its entire, tight 107 minutes. There are always moments to me that are a bit off, but otherwise, it is at least a minor classic of its kind and Woodward is more than capable of carrying the role without hesitation. Based on the Kenneth Ross play, maybe it is just that Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) is just too much of a journeyman director to really bring out the most here. However, I think a remake would be a mistake. Now you can judge for yourself.



In a small alley deep within the city there is a small diner open from 12 midnight to 7 in the morning. A lone chef (Simon Chen) cooks heartwarming meals to suit each of the customers who find and walks through his doors. Each meal personalized to the customer's personality and taste. Those who manage to find the diner, there is magic in the chef's cooking and they share their stories and what brought them to the city in the first place in Tony Ka-Fai Leung's Midnight Diner (2019).


In a small ally with a counter only restaurant a mysterious chef works his magic hands to make heavenly home cooked meal. He has no menu, but each day he makes something new and exciting for the regular customers he serves. For those who work late and find this shop, it is a place where they can rest and revive their weary body, soul and spirit. After a hard day's work their lives are made sweeter with a meal that reminds of them of their home. And just sometimes, sometime... that one meal is enough to remind them of what their story and dreams were.


This was a heartwarming (and mouthwatering) film about cooking and the various stories of customers who find a small but magical diner. By finding the diner their lives were changed in some way and through the meals they found hope, inspiration, bitterness and even a bit of love and it gave them the strength to continue on.



Aaron Leong's Notorious Nick (2021) has Cody Christian as the title character, a man who has part of his arm missing since birth, finds a new calling in mixed martial arts, which gives him the ability to fight back physically and otherwise. Roughly inspired by a true story, it is a somewhat formulaic story as told here (the biopic curse) and Kevin Pollack and Elisabeth Rohm turn up in the supporting cast.


The fighting is actually not bad here and will roughly remind some of Bad Day At Black Rock (reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) where a war vet (Spencer Tracy) has a bad arm, yet uses judo to fight and win against anyone physically attacking him. The story is not about a possible murder here, but it echoes that film enough to note it. Whether Christian could become an action star is another story, but considering some of the idiots who are now, he could only be an improvement.



Eloy de la Iglesia's Quinqui Collection: Navajeros (1980) + El Pico (1983) + El Pico 2 (1984) are three films that are part of a cycle of juvenile delinquent films that were actually happening in world cinema including Hector Babenco's Pixote (1980, now on Criterion with a restoration backed by Martin Scorsese) and the early films of actor Matt Dillon (My Bodyguard, Little Darlings, et al) with a new honesty that had come a long way from old melodramas, B-movies and the Rock Music movies o the 1950s.


Jose Luis Manzano plays the lead in all three films, specific to a post-Franco Spain (he is a different character in the first film, versus the latter two) that deals with crime, exploitation, violence, possible sexploitation and a place where (more shocking at the time) gay and bi-sexual sex is as common as heterosexual sex and sexuality. Sex is not always the focus of the films, though there is plenty of nudity you would not see in a U.S. production.


We have covered other de la Iglesia films, but they were not part of this cycle at all and though sex is very open in his other dramas and thrillers, these films turned out to be more person than expected and are key time capsules as well. They qualify as gay cinema, yet these is much more going on and parts are as honest and relevant as ever. I definitely recommend this trilogy if you can handle the raw content.



Francois Ozon's Summer Of 85 (2020) is a different kind of melodrama featuring Felix Lefebvre as Alexis, a young man who is just finding himself when overturning in a boat leads to him being rescued by David (Benjamin Voisin) who happens to like him and is gay (or possibly bi-sexual, the film does not get into that) so the two have a serious affair.


Jealousy eventually develops as Alex is unhappy that he may be with any other man or woman, but they have hit it off (Alex narrates) and we see their affair to its end. It is partly tragic, yet it is in a way that would be rightly criticized by the documentary The Celluloid Closet, but I will not get into that as to not ruin the film. The film is based on a book entitled Dance On My Grave, though the movie is not morbid.


The actors are convincing along with the rest of the cast and the locations and supporting actors are just fine too, but I had issues with the story overall. No doubt Ozon can direct and I need to see more of his films, one of the most successful directors in the world who has never had a big U.S. critical or commercial success. I liked the other films more that I have seen so far, but you would be unlikely to be made in the U.S. at all, let alone in this way. Those interested should see it.



Ty Roberts' 12 Mighty Orphans (2020) has Luke Wilson (always a somewhat underappreciated actor) as real life coach Rusty Russell, who brings his family in the middle of The Great Depression to help out at a Fort Worth orphanage and shape up a football team to take on the best. The film covers somewhat familiar ground, but to its credit, does not offer the usual ending. Helping the film is a solid supporting cast that includes Robert Duvall, Wayne Knight, Vinessa Shaw and Martin Sheen, whose character narrates.


The cast of young (semi-)unknowns playing the older orphans is very convincing and helps the film to overcome some of its limits and the film does not shy away from how bad things were at the time. Running 118 minutes, it could have even been better, but has enough good moments that those interested should give it a look.



Now for playback performance. The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Morant has some nice shots, but there is a slight softness that I have never seen with the film before despite this being about as good as I have seen it and it is because the colorist has decided to make the film slightly a sandy color throughout (not monochromatic, but towards that color) and may not be the disaster the 4K scan of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly recently was, yet it is still problematic. I don't think this is what Director of Photography Donald McAlpine quite had in mind. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo lossless mixes do what they can with the original monophonic sound and the result is as good as this film will likely ever sound. I liked the 5.1 a little more in this case.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Midnight looks great throughout and is one of the best-looking regular Blu-rays we've seen from Well Go to date, while the Mandarin DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is very clean, clear, well recorded mixed and goes well with the image.


The 1080p 1.66 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on all three Quinqui films can show the age of the materials used, but they have been scanned and remastered from their original negatives and the results are as good as can be expected form these low budget productions. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 lossless mixes on the films sound about as good as they can from the original monophonic soundmasters, but the first El Pico is a little harsher and a bit shrill in parts than it ought to be.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Summer was mostly shot on 16mm Kodak Vision 3 color negative stocks (200T and 500T) with some very impressive results, color wise, as well as in depth and detail. Looking much better than most HD shoots we have seen (and ofter suffered though lately) will surprise many. The French DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is also well recorded from the dialogue, to the music and sound effects. The combination is one of the best on this list.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Orphans is not bad and has some stylized work on it to make it look like the past, but is only so clear via the old format, while the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is a well-recorded, dialogue-based mix that has some limits, but is fine for what it is.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Notorious is an HD shoot with some motion blur and not the most colorful viewing experience. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 has some punch and kick (literally and figuratively) to it, but it is limited by the old codec that was always too compressed for its own good. The combination is passable.


Extras include Original Theatrical Trailers on all releases, save Navajeros, Summer and Orphans, Breaker adds a new feature length audio commentary track by Beresford, Producer Noel Carroll and Actors Jack Thompson and Bryan Brown, all-new feature-length documentary Breaker Morant: The Retrial, Slide Show, Photo Gallery, The Myth Exposed: Director's Postscript, The Breaker documentary and great archival audio interview with Edward Woodward.


Midnight adds other previews, Quinqui also adds actor Jose Sacristan on Eloy de la Iglesia, Blood In The Streets: The Quinqui Film Phenomenon with film scholars Mery Cuesta and Tom Whittaker and Queerness, Crime and the Basque Conflict in the Quinqui Films of Eloy de la Iglesia panel with film scholars Alejandro Melero and Paul Julian Smith, moderated by Evan Purchell of Ask Any Buddy.


Summer adds Q&A from Rendez Vous with French Cinema, Interviews with Ozon and the actors, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Dance and Fight Rehearsal featurette, Poster Gallery, A Summer Dress short film by Ozon and 35mm film, costume and light tests. In the case the the latter, they tested 35mm and 16mm film to decide what to shoot on and show the tests. They chose 16mm.


Orphans offers Deleted Scenes.



To order the Breaker Morant Umbrella import Blu-ray, go to this link for it and other hard to find titles at:


http://www.umbrellaent.com.au/



- Nicholas Sheffo and Ricky Chiang (Midnight)


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