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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Police State > Religion > Authoritarianism > Politics > Cable TV > Character Study > Horse Racin > Handmaid's Tale: Season Four (2021/MGM/Warner DVD Set)/Jockey (*)/Parallel Mothers (*both 2021/Sony Blu-rays)/The Real Thing (2020/Film Movement DVD)/The Whistle At Eaton Falls (1951/Columbia/Flicker

Handmaid's Tale: Season Four (2021/MGM/Warner DVD Set)/Jockey (*)/Parallel Mothers (*both 2021/Sony Blu-rays)/The Real Thing (2020/Film Movement DVD)/The Whistle At Eaton Falls (1951/Columbia/Flicker Alley Blu-ray)

Picture: C+/B-/B/B/B Sound: C+/B/B/C+/C+ Extras: C/C/C-/D/B Main Programs: B-/B-/B-/A-/B

And now for a strong new set of dramas....

As timely as ever, The Handmaid's Tale: Season Four (2021) continues its great run as the amazing cast brings to life the latest twists and turns in a series that has exceeded most expectations and has to now be at least a minor classic. With abortion rights being challenged and changed, the show could not have better timing, then it gets to ask all new questions and make new suggestions as its already-set narrative goes on.

Cheers also to the writers and producers who are leaving no stone unturned, though I cannot reveal much at this point without spoiling the narratives and their solid arc. You can get some idea from our coverage of the previous seasons on this site, but unless you have already seen the older episodes, you should still start at the beginning to get the maximum impact of what they have pulled off here. A few small things may not be as effective or slightly predictable, but others more than make up for that.

And yes, as many have noticed, Warner has taken over distribution of the series from another company as MGM has re-signed a contract with them for the first time in many years. They are doing the same great job so far they did before, so that's a plus.

A cast discussion on each episode are the only extras.

Clifton Collins, Jr. is one of the best actors in the business, taking on all kinds of character roles and capable of comedy and solid commercial work, but as he has proven before (in Schumacher's Tigerland, Soderbergh's Traffic or Capote) can more than handle drama and Clint Bentley's Jockey (2021) proves he can do this as the lead and carry an entire film. We are not surprised.

In a film that does for racing horse riders what the Mickey Rourke triumph The Wrestler did for the world of theatrical, professional wrestling, we learn of the terrible things such riders suffer personally and physically in an underpaying profession that still has its glories, but that can be at the highest price. Working with as longtime horse owner who is a nice lady, one he is partly interested in, a young man shows up in the profession and claims he is his biological son!

He is not so sure, but sticks to his work on what might be one of the biggest races of his career, yet he is lying about his own condition and is in worse shape than he will tell anybody. Still, there he is and that is just the beginning of the story.

There are more than a few off and uneven moments whose time adds up time that could have been spent on even more character development and character study, but this is one fo the films that sadly got lost in the shuffle of COVID and streaming that has done no favors for no one, especially movie lovers. I would also argue that Collins could have been nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award and (violent incident notwithstanding) delivers far better than the eventual recipient of the statue.

Jockey also makes for an interesting companion to those dozens of crime dramas where horse racing is shown, but we rarely see much else. It is a special film that deserves a much large audience than it got and when more people catch up with it, it will be one of those sadly too common cases where new fans will ask the immortal question ''how did I miss this one!?!''

Deleted Scenes are the only extra.

Pedro Almodovar's Parallel Mothers (2021) has many of the usual concerns his films do on womanhood, identity, society and eccentric irony he has always offered as an autuer, but this time, he gets a little more political as Penelope Cruz plays a woman trying to find out more about how her mother was killed in a political massacre when a more militaristic government was in power. But there is more.

Though we are in the digital age, the motif of the opening credits with still photography is not just still digital images, but that of actual photochemical film. More than just amusing, it suggests the idea of hard copy images as evidence and having a political weight digital images that rarely gets saved in printed physical form never do. This becomes key as her character happens to get pregnant when another woman does, set against hr investigation of death, murder and the use of images themselves for commercial use or pleasure versus history and evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

We still get some of Almodovar's humor and distinction, but he also goes off into other areas necessary to tell the story here and that also brings out sides of the characters you usually would not see in a typical Almodovar film. All in all, it is definitely worth a look.

Theatrical trailers for this and other Sony Pictures Classics releases are the only extras.

Tsuji (Win Morisaki) is an average salesman/business man. After rescuing Ukiyo (Kaho Tsuchimura) from a train when her car stalled on the train tracks, it seemed like fate at first but then nothing went right afterwards. Ukiyo kept on crossing into Tsuji's path, with debt collectors, yakuzas, husbands and former lovers. Each time, Tsuji has to bail her out of trouble and he gets caught in an emotional roller coaster. In the end, both of them can't help but fall for one another in Koji Fukada's The Real Thing (2020,) a TV mini-series.

Ukiyo is beautiful girl, but she is totally incapable of taking care of herself, she keeps on either getting into trouble or debt. Ukiyo is the quiet beauty, she has an innocence air about her, she charms all males around her and they want to protect/save her (and she makes all the other girls jealous as hell). Tsuji is the nice guy, at first, he thought they would become friends, but then he soon rapidly learns Ukiyo is a taker and tries to keep his distance. Because he is constantly bumping into her and saving her, others keep on mistaking Tsuji is her boyfriend. After saving her from debt collectors, yakuza, helping her get a divorce with her abusive husband, her former lover turns out to be a president of a company and offers him a job of a lifetime ...if he gives up Ukiyo. In the final episode, Tsuji leaves, Ukiyo didn't learn of Tsuji's job offer and he that he turned it down because he rather be with her than have a dream job. He leaves his job to protect her, his company and their reputations. In the epilogue, Ukiyo spends the next four years searching for Tsuji, realizing Tsuji loved her even despite after all the troubles and betrayals.

This was a mini-series based off a manga series, it is drama, drama and drama. Everything hints on romance, but then turns out to be an emotion trap. But the audience keeps on cheering for the hero and heroine. It's like a fairytale, after all the troubles and challenges and difficulties two lovers overcome impossible odds and finally get to be together.

There are no extras.

Last but absolutely not least is another lost film that should have never been lost, saved. Robert Sidomak's The Whistle At Eaton Falls (1951) is an interesting drama set in a small New England town where everyone's schedule is able to be set by the timely alarm of the title run by one of the factories in town. That is until that factory folds, but they also have a plastics factory there, so the whistle moves over there and all should be fine. But will it?

A unionized work force led by a good pro-people man (the great Lloyd Bridges in a great early performance) who has a good relationship with the owner/founder of the company, but that man is having money issues and to compete, is buying new machines that require less labor and will make better product. This was a new dilemma at a time when union membership was peaking in the U.S. post-WWII and to be blunt, some companies wanted to cut down and kill unions.

Then a twist of fate lands up having the company push out its most anti-union manager and Bridges is hired to runt he factory! Save a few broadly handled items, this makes for a great filmmaking and drama, supported by more twists and a cast that also include Ernest Borgnine, Anne Francis and Murray Hamilton in early roles, plus Dorothy Gish, James Westerfield, Diana Douglas, Arthur O'Connell, Anne Seymour, Parker Fennelly and Carleton Carpenter rounding out a very strong cast that works very well and convincingly here.

This also turns out to be one of Sidomak's better films, but I wonder if it being positive about unions of any kind is why some people did not want the film to be remembered or to survive. That's awful, as it has so many things going for it. There are not enough films on the subject, though this offers much more. It is also not as ominous as Paul Schrader's Blue Collar (1978) which is more brutal, pessimistic and deals with the decline of unions and part of the why it happens. The two film make for a great double feature and key points more people ought to consider. Its great Flicker Alley has saved another great film and any serious film fan should go out of their way to catch this one. Its the kind of film that helped make Columbia Pictures a major studio.

Extras include another high quality, nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and an (per the press release) excerpt from Richard Koszarski's "Keep 'em in the East'' Kazan, Kubrick and the Post-War New York Film Renaissance, that covers Louis de Rochemont's career during the time The Whistle At Eaton Falls was produced (Columbia University Press), while the disc adds a Feature Length Audio Commentary Track by author and film historian Alan K. Rode, ''Louis de Rochemont Remembered'': a personal reminiscence from grandson Pierre de Rochemont, Insights into the Restoration: a demonstration of the digital restoration and reconstruction process, Isolated Soundtrack: the original 1951 orchestral score used for the film, sourced from rare archival recordings, Carleton Carpenter Sings: archival audio recordings of "Ev'ry Other Day" and ''It's a Million to One You're in Love,'' Image Gallery slideshow presentation featuring the original script, budget details, and promotional materials from the Louis de Rochemont Special Collections at Keene State College and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Now for playback performance. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Jockey has a good, consistent look, but the digital source can be limited in detail, some of that intentional. So don't expect bright playback, though daylight scenes play fine.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Parallel Mothers has Almodovar's usual sense of more color than usual, but not where it does not fit and is a solid disc throughout.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Whistle is a remarkable restoration with amazing detail and depth for a lost film. You can see how smartly it was shot throughout and it being saved this well is nearly miraculous.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on Jockey and Mothers sound fine and have consistent soundfields throughout, so they are just fine and have the best sound of the five releases here.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on Whistle can show its age and some (or all) of the original soundmaster materials may have been lost for good, but the amazing restoration team has restored and fixed the surviving sound as well as possible and it now sounds as good as it likely ever will too. Dialogue is always clear and the music is a plus.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Tale may not be as sharp, clear and color rich as the previous Blu-ray seasons, but it is shot in digital HD and has not lost its look or feel, while the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 sounds as good as it can for the older format, though I liked the richer lossless sound on the Blu-rays.

Finally, the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Real Thing looks very, very good, but it also has lossy, Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo has some Pro Logic-like surrounds, but still wished it was a 5.1 presentation.

- Nicholas Sheffo and Ricky Chiang (Real)


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