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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Murder > British > War > WWII > Dutch > Melodrama > Dark Comedy > Action > Adventure > Detective > Pri > Ms. Fisher's Modern Murder Mysteries: Series 2 (2021/Blu-ray*)/Whitstable Pearl (2021/DVD/*all Acorn)

The Drowning (2021/DVD*)/The East (2021/MagNet/Magnolia Blu-ray)/Finding Alice (2020/DVD*)/The Guns Of Navarone 4K (1961/Sony 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Jack Irish: Season 3 (2021/Blu-ray*)/Ms. Fisher's Modern Murder Mysteries: Series 2 (2021/Blu-ray*)/Whitstable Pearl (2021/DVD/*all Acorn)

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

Please Note: Some collectible triple Limited Edition foldout DVD sets with a Halloween theme from Acorn, including Agatha Raisin and MidSomer Murders have been issued and fans should look into them before supplies run out.

These next thrillers take place overseas and come from several eras...

We start with The Drowning (2021) about a woman whose son goes missing and everyone thinks he has drowned, but no body has turned up, so she has suspicions and nine years later, sees a young boy who she believes might be her son still alive!

This is part of a cycle of such 'children in jeopardy' shows we have seen from overseas and their popularity is a bit much, but here's another one. Like those other shows, it has too many twists and turns to buy, but I will give it some credit that it is consistent in taking itself and its audience seriously. There is just nothing new here.

A 5-minutes Behind The Scenes clip is the only extra.

Jim Taihuttu's The East (2021) is the first of our two War genre films, about how a unit of soldiers go into post-WWII Indonesia to help, but they are doing as much damage as good thanks to a Captain dubbed ''The Turk'' (Marwan Kenzari) who is at least a but sadistic and a new Dutch recruit (Marijn Lakemeier) is not very happy about him or his actions and seems like one of the only people to have any conscious that makes him take action as a result.

This is one of those films that starts good, starts to build up, then seems to give up somewhere in the second half of its long 141 minutes running time. That's not good, despite a good cast and some interesting situations. That also means I believe I could have cut this by at least 20 minutes and made it more effective, but you can see for yourself if you can get the time. Wish it did more with its time.

There are no extras.

Finding Alice (2020) is a spiritual sister of sorts to the Finding Joy series we covered at this link:


Loosely so, but this time, we have a comical soap opera drama of sorts with Keeley Hawes as a wife who moves into the home her husband designed and built. Sounds great, but suddenly, he dies and if that was not bad enough, this leads to all kinds of things being revealed, many of which she did not know about. Running six episodes, we get fun turns by the undeniable Joanna Lumley and underrated Gemma Jones among others and that makes this decent all around.

Unfortunately, there are also passages that fall flat here and there, holding the show back, but it is professionally made and anyone interested should give it a good look.

There are sadly no extras.

J. Lee Thompson's The Guns Of Navarone 4K (1961) is an epic War genre classic hit film about how a small crack unit does what it can to take out the title Nazi weaponry in the kind of film that also built the Action genre and has a great cast that includes Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, Irene Pappas, James Darren, Gia Scala, Richard Harris, Allan Cuthbertson, Bryan Forbes, Walter Gotell and more in this still-impressive British/U.S. Co-production now celebrating 60 years as the kind of film that helped Columbia Pictures go from a small studio to a permanent major.

They need to take the guns out to free 2,000 British soldiers and allow major warships to be able to stay afloat instead of being taken out by the very powerful (for that time and still today) massive double weapons which have been killing the Allied cause for too long. Based on the Alistair MacLean novel, Thompson shows why he is one of the greatest and most enduring journeyman directors of all time and this film never wastes any of its 156 minutes being intense, smart, entertaining or showing how great its cast is. Carl Foreman did the screenplay adaptation and it is very well thought through. There is growing chemistry as the cast interacts in character and I had not seen it in way too long.

I was glad at what I forgot and impressed how much of it holds up. Though some visual effects, stock footage and the like might not have aged well, this was impressive enough in its time to get the Academy Award for best Visual Special Effects. It reminds us of a time when such things were in a narrative context and not just showy and stupid.

Now in this sold 4K restoration, Guns Of Navarone deserves to be revisited and rediscover all over again. In either case, treat yourself and see it, especially in 4K!

Special Features on the 4K disc include a Progression Reel, Original Road Show Intermission Cards and Original Theatrical Trailers, while the regular Blu-ray continues the many goodies and includes two feature-length audio commentary tracks (one by Director J. Lee Thompson, the other by Film Historian Stephen J. Rubin,) plus (per the press release):

    • The Resistance Dossier of Navarone: Interactive Feature

    • Forging The Guns of Navarone: Notes from the Set

    • An Ironic Epic of Heroism

    • Memories of Navarone

    • Epic Restoration

    • A Heroic Score

    • Great Guns

    • No Visitors

    • Honeymoon on Rhodes

    • Two Girls on the Town

    • Narration-Free Prologue

    • and a Message from Carl Foreman

Big screen movie star Guy Pierce has a hit TV show on his hands, which surprises me since he has had his share of good theatrical film performances, yet seems to have avoided becoming a big international movie star. He drives Jack Irish: Season 3 (2021) and our previous coverage of the show attests to that, yet this show (this season takes place three years after the last) is a mixed bag that has him back in the private investigation world, but with only so much grit and realism.

I never could totally buy this show despite some good moments and we only get four episodes here (who do these people think they are, Benny Hill?) so it only has so much time to build up anything. At least they know their target audience, so cheers to that, but its not very memorable and makes me want to see Pierce in better roles.

There are no extras.

Ms. Fisher's Modern Murder Mysteries: Series 2 (2021) is a successful revival, sequel of sorts to the original Ms. Fisher series set in 1920s Australia that we reviewed here:


The new show is set Down Under in the swinging 1960s with Geraldine Hakewill as the title character and Joel Jackson actually playing a detective named James Steed! (No lawsuit from the owners of the British TV spy classic The Avengers with Patrick Macnee as John Steed (reviewed elsewhere on this site) have not taken legal action yet!) in a series that has a case of later 1960s style overkill, trying to play it for fun without being Austin Powers.

The show attempts to be humorous down to its unusual cases, but this is one retro-show too many and unless you really land up liking the cast, their version of this style and find humor in the teleplays, you will be disappointed at this take of this era. I also thought it had too many missed opportunities, so I was disappointed they settled for kitsch. The cast and locales are nice, though.

The only extra is a 15-minutes Behind The Scenes featurette.

And we conclude with Whitstable Pearl (2021) has the title character (Kerry Godliman) decide to start her lifelong dream of launching a detective agency (!!!) when her grown son moves out (!!!) of the house. Everyone in the small town starts to turn to her (more lively than the population of MidSomer Murders to the lucky of all) until a good friend of hers is found murdered and a DI (Howard Charles) from out of town arrives to investigate with her.

They initially clash, of course (this does not help the pace of the six episodes here) until they have to get serious and figure out what is going on. Unfortunately, though I liked a few touches the makers come up with, it is too uneven to build up like the likes of a Mare Of Easttown (reviewed elsewhere on this site) but is worth it for mystery fans who might be very interested and the supporting cast is not bad, plus you cannot go wrong with the location shoot. Mildly recommended.

A 36 minutes From Page To Screen featurette is the only extra.

Now for technical performance. Guns Of Navarone 4K is easily the best performer despite being 60 years old, presented on 4K disc in 2160p HECV/H.265, 2.35 X 1, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image as shot on 35mm film in the older CinemaScope format. This is well restored and looks about as good as it ever will, was originally issued at its best in three-strip, dye-transfer Technicolor prints, but this is a War genre film, so the color is only going to be so wide-ranging. Director of Photography Oswald Morris, B.S.C. (The Man With The Golden Gun, Oliver!, the original Sleuth, Equus, The Wiz, Kubrick's Lolita, Dark Crystal) absolutely has a solid early grasp of what to do with the scope frame and that really pays off here when many still saw scope framing as a gimmick.

The 4K edition looks as good as I have ever seen it over the years and has many impressive moments. The Blu-ray is passable, but no match for the 4K version.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image in The East is an HD shoot that has some good images, but it is soft overall and that affects its impact, though color is not bad, it cannot compete with either Navarone disc.

The 1080p 2.00 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Jack Irish episodes are also a set of HD shoots, but this has the second-best performance on the list and are as well edited as they are lensed.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Fisher episodes are also an HD shoot, but nicely stylized, yet they can be too soft and I think it is beyond any stylization the makers chose. Otherwise, color is nice.

All three anamorphically enhanced DVDs (2.00 X 1, save 1.78 X 1 on Drowning) are looking as good as they can in the older standard-def format with fairly good color (they get slightly darkened for the genre) and are HD shoots. Alice is in lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and the other two DVD releases in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mixes. They all sound fine for the format except Pearl, which is a little softer than expected, so be careful of volume switching and high playback levels.

Navarone 4K offers Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown for older systems,) DTS HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 and 4.0 sound mixes (all from the original 4-track magnetic soundmaster for 35mm scope prints, though the music soundtrack was recorded separately, which is why the music sounds best), but the Atmos has the most impact being the newest mix off of the original sound materials. Yes, the film shows its age in parts, but this is a remarkable upgrade and the second oldest to Hitchcock's Psycho 4K (1960, a DTS: X lossless mix) as oldest film to get this 12-track treatment and for it to work. The regular Blu-ray only has a DTS-HD 5.1 mix and it is older and no match for the Atmos.

The East has a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix, while Jack Irish and Fisher only offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mixes for each show, but they are a little weak and disappointing in a TV market where some shows are already in Dolby Atmos. The East sounds better, if not always great, but second best by default to Navarone on the entire list.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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