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Category:    Home > Reviews > Gangster > Drama > Crime > Teens > Gambling > Torture > Revenge > Terrorism > Cards > Comedy > Magazine > Epic > H > Angels With Dirty Faces (1938/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Card Counter (2021/Universal Blu-ray)/French Dispatch (Blu-ray*)/Last Duel 4K (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray/*both 20th Century/Disney/2021)/Memor

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Card Counter (2021/Universal Blu-ray)/French Dispatch (Blu-ray*)/Last Duel 4K (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray/*both 20th Century/Disney/2021)/Memory House (2020/Film Movement)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Angels With Dirty Faces Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Michael Curtiz's Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) was made in what would turn out to be the end of Warner's original Gangster genre cycle of films at the time before WWI and Film Noir arrived, with James Cagney as a rising gangster and Pat O'Brien as the priest out to end his prolificness in no less than their sixth film together. The Dead End Kids show up as the street kids rooting for Cagney and a solid supporting cast has no less than Humphrey Bogart as a shady lawyer and Ann Sheridan as the gangster's main gal.

Holding up better than expected, we get a little more melodrama than you might get in a gangster film at the time and this also plays into a cycle of juvenile delinquency films as The Dead End Kids would eventually become stars on their own at the time. Love the title, it is worth revisiting and is the kind of film most fans of the actors and genre still talk about. Needless to say director Curtiz was on a roll too!

Extras include a Leonard Maltin introducing 'A Night At The Movies 1938' with a newsreel, live-action musical short Out Where The Starts Begin, classic cartoon short Porky & Daffy and Theatrical Trailers, plus a strong, outstanding feature length audio commentary track by film scholar Dana Polan, a radio drama version of the film from the time with Cagney & O'Brien and a Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurette on the film entitled Whaddya Hear? Whaddya Say?.

Paul Schrader's The Card Counter (2021) is one of the year's best films, with the amazing Oscar Issac as a veteran of post-9/11 soldier work at Abu Ghraib, whose abuses where eventually exposed in a series of still photos. He went to prison for it, while many others walked, but is not a free man and playing cards for profit in the increasingly big world of gambling. With shades of Christopher Walken in Michael Cimino's masterpiece The Deer Hunter (1978, now on 4K disc, unreviewed but highly recommended) and other themes of isolation he and Scorsese (his co-producer here) have explored as well as anyone in cinema history, this is a serious piece of work.

We also see inside the different games as he goes to various locales, but two people change his life course. One is a woman (Tiffany Hadish, more than handling her first dramatic role well) and a young man (Tye Sherdian) who wants to get revenge on a man our title character also has it in for (Willem Dafoe as the ex-soldier who encouraged so much torture) and the two meet at a sales pitch meeting hosted by Dafoe to sell some security system that might not even work.

The language and situations can be very graphic and some people simply might not be able to handle this film, but it is one of the few films about things happening in the world now and also deals with some subjects dramatic feature film sand TV have yet to really cover properly. This may be Schrader's strongest film since 2002's Auto Focus, though he has taken many risks since and insists on making films for intelligent, grown adults. I hope this one finds a larger audience, because it deserves it and there is some fine work here all around.

A Making Of featurette, A High Stakes World, is the only extra.

Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch (2021) is another in a series of the director's films with various aspect ratios and various designs that keeps you watching just to see where it might go and it always looks good like just about all his films. While books and newspapers have received endless praise and celebration in movies, magazines have too often been neglected and only a few films (like Stanley Donen's Funny Face (1957, reviewed elsewhere on this site) with its musical Technicolor ands large-frame VistaVision celebration of a fashion magazine, large-frame still photography, love and life is a rare exception.

Luckily, this film has some visuals worthy of that classic as we have the title magazine publishing their last issue (a story happening with many magazines now in the cyber-era, some at least ending their print versions while still staying alive on the Internet) and we learn of the stable of great writers they have and get told three stories as a result. One is of an artist in prison (Benicio del Toro), one in the counterculture 1968 (ala Jean-Luc Godard) with Timothee Chalamet and one that starts with a TV talk show host (Jeffrey Wright) whose talk lands him in being swept up in more action than expected. There are not Twilight Zone episodes and this is not necessarily an anthology film, even tied together by the dilemma of what the final issue can and should offer and fit inside led by its longtime editor, played by Bill Murray.

It is a good film, complex, interesting, smart and owes more than a bit to Kubrick, Godard and Woody Allen, yet retains much of Anderson's style, plus some of Roman Coppola, who helped make the film. Fortunately, there is enough here to give it a good look, but I was a little disappointed that it got off track and did not do more with the magazine angle. Still, it is one of the year's better films and the supporting cast is a plus, including Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Adrien Brody, Lea Seydoux, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban, Henry Winkler, Christoph Waltz, Matthew Amalric, Willem Dafoe, Liev Schreiber, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Lois Smith, Jason Schwartzman, Griffin Dunne, Elizabeth Moss, Fisher Stevens and Anjelica Huston as the narrator. No one is wasted here.

There are sadly no extras on this edition.

Ridley Scott's The Last Duel 4K (2021) is one of the director's more off films of late, having him revisit the kind of material (Kingdom Of Heaven, Robin Hood) that just did not deliver like it had in the past (The Duelists, Gladiator) but he likes this world and obviously feels comfortable in it. However, in his particular case, going back to territory he has already done so well with before does not seem to work for him (sequels and prequels included) like new territory (Thelma & Louise, House Of Gucci) that shows how quick he picks up new places, situations, worlds and brings them to impressive, memorable life.

Based on a book and true story taking place in 14th Century France, Matt Damon and Adam Driver are the 'duelists' on horseback gong at each other in the opening, then the rest of the film (too safely?) is a flashback of the events that lead up to the title moment. Jodie Comer plays a woman accusing Driver's character of viciously assaulting her, thus Damon's character eventually defends her honor, et al, but also playing out here is bad religion, bad royalty (Ben Affleck shows up as the royalty) and frankly too much predictability for the long 2.5 hours of the film.

Money is on the screen, but that does not stop the film from dragging on too much. Damon is a little off here and somewhat miscast, Driver is repeating himself a little as well, though the same can be said for Scott, then the film suddenly has a few spots of humor that hurt its credibility and other points (more than a few of them) that are unintentionally funny and/or even campy.

Scott has blamed 'millennials' for not coming out to see the film (pandemic notwithstanding) in theaters (distracted by their cyber devices) and that might even have some degree of validity, but the film is simply not that good and one of the year's disappointments. I like all the actors and am glad to see any studio fund a film like this that is not a tired formula commercial project that seems more like a two-hour-plus ad for things like 'happy meals' and toys, but if you are going to make such a film, its go to work. This one sadly does not and I like all the actors too.

We'll see what happens with his Gladiator sequel, but after that, maybe its time for Scott to tackle other genres.

Digital Code and a Making Of featurette are the only extras.

Lastly, we have Joao Paulo Miranda Maria's Memory House (2020) from Brazil, where a German-owned dairy is going to start cutting back severely on expenses and labor, whether they need to or not. Employee Cristovam (Antonio Pitanga, a legendary actor from the Cinema Novo movement) will especially suffer, already with no friends, older, a man of color and in a lonely isolation that will only get worse.

Maria does an excellent job of communicating what is going on in wordless images so early, you get what is going on and its deep implications, but as the film gets to the middle, we do not know if we are witnessing Cristovam having a mental illness breakdown that is imagined, actually happening or both. I like the idea of a 'cinema of loneliness' with limited answers, but the film loses its way and the final payoff offers a mixed result. Still, a very ambitious first feature film is better than much (including projects with much larger budgets that think they are smarter than they actually are) of the poorer releases we've suffered through of late.

Worth a look for the curious.

Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by the Director and his 2016 short film The Girl Who Danced With The Devil (15 minutes) that made a splash at Cannes.

Now for playback performance. The 2160p HECV/H.265, 2.35 X 1, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Last Duel 4K is an all-HD shoot that is not bad, but maybe not as gritty or rich as I would have liked. However, Scott and Director of Photography Dariusz Wolski, A.S.C., more than have command of the scope frame and compositions are as convincing as anything here. The sound is in lossless Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown for older systems) on the 4K disc, while it is a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix on the regular Blu-ray. The DTS sounds good, but is not as open, rich, detailed or active as the Atmos, which is the preferred way to hear the film and is one of the year's better sound mixes. If you must see it, go 4K.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Dirty can sometimes show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and is yet another impressive restoration by Warner of another key catalog release. You will see detail, depth and solid Video Black you could have only previously seen on a fresh 35mm or 16mm print. This looks really good. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix is as good as it will ever sound, but it can only hide its age so much.

The 1080p 1.66 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Counter offers occasional split screen moments and frame changes, but looks good otherwise and has great compositions throughout, while the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is well recorded, mixed and presented, but it is dialogue-based too. You get a consistent soundfield thanks to music (the score and diegetic 'in the scene' sound) and some interesting sound effects. The combination is as compelling as the script, which is a good thing.

The 1080p digital High Definition image on Dispatch with its various aspect ratios (usually 1.33 X 1) look very good throughout and this is all shot on 35mm film, so the extensive production design, set design and other nicer touches even stand out better. Any artifice never looks too fake or artificial and even the use of color is smarter than one might first think, while the black and white is fine too. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is very active, very well recorded, mixed and better than you might expect. The result is a very watchable combination and will do until a 4K edition is issued.

Finally, the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on House would likely look better on a Blu-ray and has some impressive images, but this DVD is as good as this could look in the format and is passable, while the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 is also not bad and would also benefit from a lossless presentation. Sound is used very cleverly here.

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


- Nicholas Sheffo


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