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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Drama > Adventure > Suspense > Science Fiction > Martial Arts > Silent Night (2021/RLJ Blu-ray)

Flight Of The Phoenix (1965/20th/Criterion Blu-ray)/The Matrix Resurrections 4K (2021/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)/Monkey Kung-Fu (1979*)/Legendary Weapons Of China (1982*)/Raging Fire (2021/Well Go Blu-ray)/Shaolin Mantis (1978/*all MVD/88 Films Blu-rays)/Silent Night (2021/RLJ Blu-ray)

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

Here's plenty of action for you to consider.

First, we have an upgrade of Robert Aldrich's original The Flight Of The Phoenix (1965) now being issued by no less than The Criterion Collection. We reviewed the film many years ago in its DVD release at this link:


Now unintentionally amusing that they are all heading to Benghazi, the film has aged well, practical effects as impactful as ever and cast in great form throughout with Aldrich's skills more apparent than ever. Yes, it is a bit of a 'stuck-in-a' film, but it is made for a very big screen and the increased playback fidelity means the film delivers more impact.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image is from a new 2K scan of the original 35mm camera negative, but it can be soft in a few shots (especially as it is not a 4K scan) and color is sometimes more off or odd than any other version of the film I have seen. Other shots look good or better and some have impressive clarity I have never seen in the film before. The lossless PCM Mono sound is from the original magnetic soundmaster, sounding so good, I doubt it will ever sound better. I say that even after having the CD soundtrack sounding so good.

Extras include a paperboard version of the crashed plane you can assemble simply yourself, a high quality paper pullout with illustrations, tech info and an essay by filmmaker and critic Gina Telaroli, while the disc adds a new conversation between filmmaker Walter Hill and film scholar Alain Silver, a new interview with biographer Donald Dewey on actor James Stewart and his service as a bomber pilot and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

For more on the decent remake that itself is already 18 years old (!!!,) go to this link:


While it's not a perfect sequel, The Matrix Resurrections 4K (2021) continues to bring good ideas to the table of the franchise and a few bad ones along with it. If you haven't seen the original three Matrix movies (all reviewed in 4K elsewhere on this site,) then you simply won't get what's going on half the time. Being a huge fan of The Matrix (1999) myself, I enjoyed some of the subtle throwbacks seen here, and hope this franchise continues to have a pulse as I feel there is still a lot that can be done within this fictional world despite there being four movies and a superb animated spin-off, The Animatrix. But as much as I love the Matrix movies, Resurrections is a mixed bag, much like Reloaded and Revolutions were.

The original Matrix film is a perfect sci-fi movie and continues to be awe inspiring twenty years later, and so it would be hard for any sequel to come close to that one in all fairness. Despite a few gripes and groans, The Matrix Resurrections is a movie I've never thought would be made, and while it's not exactly what I initially wanted, I'm happy with it enough now that it's on 4K UHD disc in a stellar presentation. I think it does require a few viewings to really appreciate, as my opinion of it has kind of changed after a few viewings. At first, I really didn't like it and was angry at some of the things they did and didn't do. But after letting some things go, I find it to be not as bad as I initially thought, and have come to like it more. I think the main problem was that 2021 had a few really great films that rebooted older franchises such as Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Spider-Man: No Way Home, that I wanted the same level of care taken with the Matrix franchise when I saw this film in theaters, and it simply doesn't live up to those cinematic achievements in my opinion.

The Matrix Resurrections brings back Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss as Neo and Trinity with Jonathan Groff, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, and Jada Pinkett-Smith to name a few. The film is written and directed by half the Wachowski duo, Lana Wachowski, and brings back many (but not all) of the original crew behind the scenes. Christina Ricci has a blink and you miss it cameo, which is a shame because she should have had a bigger role in the film.

In Resurrections, there's a new glitch in the matrix that is replaying events from a pivotal story of the past that involves the famed story of Neo, the messiah who originally rebooted the first matrix. We meet back up with Neo's human self, Thomas Anderson, who is now an older and bearded successful video game designer who coincidentally made a famous trilogy of games based on Neo and Trinity and their infamous adventures seen in the first three films. Thomas gets pressured by his boss (who is really Agent Smith) to make another Matrix game, even though it's always something he said he would never make. During his stressful near mental breakdown, he comes to meet a new version of Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Bugs (Jessica Henwick) who, along with her crew of freedom fighters, helps him escape the matrix and enter the real world again. Once he realizes that Trinity is captive in the real world, he seeks to release her from her captivity, however, in the matrix she has a family and a new life. Can Neo convince Trinity of her true identity and help her escape once again?

The film has several entertaining sequences including some new kung-fu fights, an epic motorcycle chase sequence with 'swarm' mode, and a look at the new real world city of IO. Two glaring problems are not bringing back Lawrence Fishburne or the original Agent Smith, Hugo Weaving. While the Morpheus recasting isn't so bad because it makes sense to the story of the film as him being a younger 2.0 digital entity, not having Weaving as Smith really hurts the movie as Jonathan Groff doesn't come close to the uniqueness that Weaving brought to the role. Even if they would have used Weaving's voice, but had Jonathan Groff as the human form THAT would have been better. Sigh.

Once the film gets past its first act and brings us up to date with the characters, it seizes to be so 'meta' and starts to move things along as expected. Neil Patrick Harris is a surprisingly fun addition to the cast and has a few really cool scenes, especially one with Neo and Trinity where he manipulates time. His cat, Deja Vu, is also a funny visual throwback to the first movie and has a few humorous moments as well.

The Matrix Resurrections is presented in pure 4K (2160p) on 4K UHD disc with an HEVC / H.265 codec, Dolby Vision/HDR10, a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1, and audio mixes in lossless English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) mixdown for older systems,) all of which really make the film look great here and besting all of the previous streaming versions of the film available. Also included is a Blu-ray disc that contains all of the extras and similar specs - although a 1080p transfer as opposed to a superior 2160p transfer, but the same soundmix.

You can tell right away that they didn't use the same Director of Photography as the previous films, which were photographed by Hollywood legend Bill Pope, and this also is a bit weird. Why they didn't bring back Pope is a mystery to me as well as Don Davis, who composed the soundtrack for the original trilogy as well. Not having these two key crew members changes the world of the film a bit and I think works against it. The transfer itself is up to standards and beautiful with high detail, however.

The new musical score by Tom Tykwer and Johnny Klimek isn't terrible, and reuses some of Don Davis' original themes where necessary. However, the female cover of Rage Against the Machine's 'Wake Up' on the end credits is pretty lame. The original trilogy also had the work of Juno Reactor, a famous industrial music artist, thats work is sadly missing here as well. The best song on the soundtrack is a love theme between Neo and Trinity that is pretty powerful and helps make up for the loss of Davis (who may have retired from film scoring?). It also has maybe the worst after-credit scene in movie history. Seriously, Lana Wachowski, that was the best you could come up with? The Cat Matrix? No. Just stop.

Special Features:

No One Can Be Told What The Matrix Is

Resurrecting The Matrix

Neo x Trinity: Return to the Matrix

Allies + Adversaries: The Matrix Remixed

Matrix for Life

The Matrix Reactions

Echo Opening

Deus Ex Machina

Welcome to IO

Bullet Time Redux

Morpheus vs Neo

Exiles Fight

Neo vs Smith

The San Fran Chase

and The San Fran Jump

The Matrix Resurrections is a film that we didn't think we would ever get, and now that we have it, the end result is a mixed bag. In all honestly, the film ends as soon as it starts to get really interesting! I hope to see more installments in the future and half-hope that someone other than the Wachowskis does something different with the franchise. Resurrections isn't a total failure, but can't escape the overall feeling that it could have been better. Did Lana Wachowski even want to make this film? It seems by the first act that she kind of didn't. Regardless, the film exists and it's nice to see Neo and Trinity have a happier ending than the lukewarm ending the than that of the third film of the original trilogy, Revolutions.

88 Films continues to release several Shaw Brothers features that are now on Blu-ray including Monkey Kung-Fu (1979), Legendary Weapons of China (1982), and Shaolin Mantis (1978). These films are considered classic kung fu films from the Shaw Brothers library and each offer a creative and fantastical element to their stories and so they are about more than fighting. Although, let's face it, these movies are more about the action taking place than the stories themselves. This is the first of many Shaw Brothers titles that have made it disc lately courtesy of 88 Films and Arrow Video with their massive box sets (Volume 01 reviewed elsewhere on this site.)

Monkey Kung-Fu stars Tony Ching Siu-Tung, Hau Chiu-Sing, Lam Fai-Wong, Fong Ping, Shum Lo, & Wong Mei-Mei and is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and lossless English: LPCM 2.0 Mono & Mandarin LPCM 2.0 Mono with optional English Subtitles. You can see the difference in the restoration by simply watching the HD trailer as the actual transfer of the film is much more crisp and colorful than previous versions that don't look as vivid.

Special Features:

Audio commentary by Kenneth Brorsson and Phil Gillon of the Podcast On Fire Network

Stunting Around: An Interview with Choreographer Tony Leung Siu-hung

and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Legendary Weapons of China (1982) centers on an order of magical kung-fu artists who face a former member with a loud mouth that threatens to unearth some of their secrets. They in turn send assassins after him in a truly fun and rollicking adventure. Probably the most fun to watch out of the three listed here.

The film stars Chia-Liang Liu, Chia Yung Liu, Kara Wai, Hou Hsiao, Sheng Fu, and Chia-Hui Liu.

Legendary Weapons of China is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, and restored in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and Cantonese and English lossless LPCM 2.0 Mono tracks with optional English Subtitles.

Special Features:

Audio Commentary by Mike Leeder and Arne Venema

Eighteen Weapons: David West on Legendary Weapons of China

Reversible sleeve with brand-new artwork from R.P. "Kung Fu Bob" O'Brien & Original Hong Kong poster artwork

Slipcase with brand-new artwork from R.P. "Kung Fu Bob" O'Brien

Double-Sided A3 Foldout Poster

and Extensive Booklet Notes "A Strange Call to Arms - Revisiting the Odd Landscape of Chia-Liang Liu's Early 80s Martial Arts Flick, The Legendary Weapons of China (1982)" by Andrew Graves.

That leaves us Shaolin Mantis (1978) centers on a karate master that is pressured by the Ching Government to expose Ming Loyalists. A sort of Romeo and Juliet story, he ends up falling in love with the daughter of one of the loyalists and must choose his side.

The film stars David Chiang, Cecilia Wong, Chia Yung Liu, Lily Li, Wilson Tong, and Norman Chu.

Shaolin Mantis is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and lossless Cantonese and English LPCM 2.0 Mono tracks with optional English Subtitles.

Special Features:

Audio commentary with Asian cinema experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema

Audio commentary with Asian cinema experts Frank Djeng

Complicated Families: David West on Shaolin Mantis

Uncle Tien Chung: An Interview with John Cheung

Trailers: US Trailer (The Deadly Mantis) and Hong Kong Trailer

and new artwork from R.P. "Kung Fu Bob" O'Brien & Original Hong Kong poster artwork.

Police officer Bong (Donnie Yen) is a veteran cop with history of single handedly taking down criminals and succeeding when all others have failed. However, his toughest case is when a mysterious group of criminals beat them to a raid and left more than a dozen officers dead or wounded. This new group of criminals turns out to be Bong's former protege Ngo and a group of disgraced cops, whom he put away years ago for crime that they were wrongfully blamed for and now they want revenge those who put them away... including Bong.

In Benny Muk-Sing Chan's Raging Fire (2021,) Bong, one of the few good cops on the police force, he cares for the people, his men and he doesn't like how police high command and the commanders care more about winning points and giving the wealthy VIP treatment. Years ago, he worked with Ngo, a promising young cop, under high command's orders they were ordered to extract information from a suspect and rescue a wealthy tycoon at any cost and that failure would have resulted in their termination. While he did get the information and saved the tycoon's life, the suspected died in the incident.

Afterwards, high command denied they gave the orders and scapegoated the officers involved and used Bond as a witness against Ngo and his men. Now Bong is must somehow stop one of their own, but Ngo knows all the police's tactics, and he plans to reveal the truth and corruptness of high command and how they were sent to jail unjustly. High command continues to do what it only knows how to do, blame good cops to take the fall. Bong is now ordered to hunt Ngo down, but he knows all too well, that Ngo isn't wrong nor is his mission to reveal the truth and his revenge is justified, only thing is he can't do is let other good cops die ...even if it means they are protecting a corrupt high command.

This was an action-packed movie, it was sorta like a mix of The Count of Monte Cristo and A Few Good Men. If you were order by a superior to do something and then later blamed and scapegoated for doing it and your superior lied and left you to rot, what would you do? It plays to the story of a hard-boiled cop trying to do the right thing and the tragedy of those fallen, forgotten and forsaken by leaders who sit out of harm's way who never work or risk their own neck or lives.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image is pretty impressive for a non-4K release with solid color, detail and depth, while we get two lossless soundtracks in Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown for older systems) via Cantonese and Mandarin versions, plus a lame DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 dub worth skipping. Atmos is still a rare thing for Well Go, but a most welcome addition. Extras include making of the film and trailers.

Lastly, Camille Griffin's Silent Night (2021) is a true stinker of a Christmas film in just about every regard. Although it features some decent actors such as Annabelle Wallis, Keira Knightley, Lucy Punch, Matthew Goode, and Lily-Rose Depp. Unfortunately, they and the rest of the cast play despicable characters that are nearly impossible to relate to or care about. The film has some interesting subtext in places, and it tries to be more deep and meaningful than what it actually is, but it seems to take so long to get to its point that by the time it reaches it, the viewer no longer cares. (At least I didn't.) Kiera Knightley must have some sort of affinity for choosing terrible end of the world movies after this and that terrible 2012 outing, Seeking A Friend For The End of the World. She tries her best with the material, with her and Lily Rose Depp being the most convincing actors in this particular bunch, but this film is just about as forgettable as it gets.

Silent Night centers on a Christmas gathering of old friends. At first we are meant to believe it's just another normal Christmas, but about halfway through the film it's realized that it is all a facade and that the world outside the house is ending by way of a human killing manmade virus. Swearing children, unfaithful married couples, and bad parenting are just a few of the highlights of this painful to watch 'holiday' film.

The film is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1, and a lossless English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) that rounds out a nice HD transfer that's up to standards. The film is nicely photographed and doesn't have terrible direction, the problems with the film mainly lie in its story rather than its execution.

Special Features:

Deleted and Extended Scenes

Alternate Endings

and Trailers.

- Nicholas Sheffo (Phoenix), Ricky Chiang (Fire) and James Lockhart



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