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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Crime > Spy > Gangster > Horror > Science Fiction > Camp > Kin: Season 1 (2021/AMC/RLJ Blu-ray Set)

Blacklight (2021/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/Drive-In Retro Classics (Rocketship X-M (1950) The Brain From Planet Arous (1957) Hideous Sun Demon (1959/Corinth DVD)/8 Diagram Pole Fighter (1981/MVD/Arrow Blu-ray)/Kin: Season 1 (2021/AMC/RLJ Blu-ray Set)

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

More genre B-movies coming up...

As I watched Mark Williams' Blacklight (2021) with Liam Neeson doing his same action schtick, I realized that he may be the actual 'last action hero' as great lead actors like Sean Connery are long gone, the Harrison Fords of the world have moved onto other genres for the most part and now that Bruce Willis has sadly had to opt out early from filmmaking for horrific health reasons, Neeson is the last star of this long cycle that began in the 1980s for better and too often for worse.

Worse since this once again uses a child for too much illicit appeal to pity as Neeson works for a government agency just outside of legality to uncover a secret group killing people for what seems at random, but might be even worse than the usual senseless violence. When he gets too close, his daughter and granddaughter are targeted and the combination of melodrama and mud are just too much to bear for its long, long 105 minutes. Aidan Quinn is also here among the very bored cast of mostly unknowns and its predictability and bad scripting collapse as this just becomes plain odd and weird, never going anywhere and ending abruptly never soon enough.

The result is an unfortunate package deal that feels like it only happened because of the COVID crisis. If you've seen some of Neeson's other action films, you've already seen most of this.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on the Blu-ray is a little softer throughout than a new such production should be with few memorable shots, while the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on the same disc is better, but nothing special here either despite a consistent soundfield.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on the DVD is much softer and hard to watch often, while the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is a little better than the picture, but still much weaker than it needs to be.

Extras include Digital Copy Code, while the discs add two brief featurettes: Blacklight: Behind the Scenes and Shooting Blacklight.

Next is a triple set entitled Drive-In Retro Classics with Rocketship X-M (1950) The Brain From Planet Arous (1957) Hideous Sun Demon (1959,) three classic drive-in B Monster Movies that come together in this enjoyable triple feature. These are all second tier fun monster movies that fans who read classic magazines of Famous Monsters of Film Land will fondly remember, though the first one is the best known.

Rocketship X-M is a fun space-age movie with special effects that are simple and work pretty well for the time. The film centers on a space mission to the moon that gets re-routed to Mars, where they find a planet full of radiation riddles creatures.

The film stars Osa Massen, Lloyd Bridges, Noah Berry, and John Emery to name a few.

The Brain from Planet Arous features a brain from another world that assumes the body of a scientist and shakes up all sorts of chaos in his reign for world domination. There is another brain, however, that challenges him. The film is a little silly and uses some wild contacts on its protagonist to show that he is possessed.

The film stars John Agar, Joyce Meadows, and Robert Fuller.

The Hideous Sun Demon is a pretty silly knock off of The Wolfman and doesn't take the time to show the inciting incident that turns man into monster, but just tells it in some dialogue. The stock music used in the soundtrack is the same as George A. Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead as well, which is fun to take note. The film is obviously shot on the cheap in the Los Angeles era and is pretty fun as a time capsule piece.

The film stars Robert Clarke, Patricia Manning, and Nan Peterson to name a few.

All three films are presented in standard definition 1.33 X 1 on DVD in full frame aspect ratios and black and white images. The transfers themselves don't look too bad and so it's curious why the release isn't on Blu-ray rather than DVD. There's nothing too special about the 2.0 Mono audio mixes and overall this is a fine enough transfer to watch the films.

No extras.

All three films are pretty fun to watch in retrospective and this set is definite one that Sci-Fi fans will want to grab if they already don't know these films. You just have to wonder, why not a Blu-ray?

The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter (1981) is considered Director Lau Kar-leung's (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin) masterpiece and was infamously filmed at the near end of the life of the Shaw Brothers production studio. When one of the lead actors (Alexander Fu Sheng) died midway through production, Kar-leung sprung to action and came up with a satisfying story alternative to save the film from certain doom. Now seeing a pristine release on Arrow Video, the film can be appreciated by a new generation in this collectible new edition on Blu-ray disc.

The film stars Chia-Hui Liu, Kara Wai, Sheng Fu, Lily Li, Ching-Ching Yeung, and Lung Wei Wang. The film centers on a group of Monguls who ambush the Yang Family and hunt down the last remaining descendants so that their villainous plot to overthrow a sacred dynasty will not come to fruition.

The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35 X 1 (in ShawScope!!!), and has Cantonese (with English sub option) and an English dubbed, lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) Mono mix, depending on your preference. The transfer looks gorgeous and a good way to compare it is to make the trailer also on the disc where you can see the difference in quality.

Special Features:

Brand new commentary by Jonathan Clements, author of A Brief History of China

Newly filmed appreciation by film critic and historian Tony Rayns

Interviews with stars Gordon Liu, Lily Li and Yeung Ching-ching, filmed by Frederic Ambroisine in 2004

A Tribute to Fu Sheng, a short film commemorating the late actor that played before early screenings of The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter, presented via a German-dubbed telecine (the best available copy) with English subtitles

Alternate opening credits, as The Invincible Pole Fighters

Theatrical trailer

Image gallery

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Aspinall

and First Pressing Only: Illustrated collectors' booklet featuring new writing on the film by Terrence J. Brady.

This film is pretty fun to watch and if you're into the other films in the Shaw Brothers library then you will want to grab this one up too.

Finally, a(nother) new gangster show, Kin: Season 1 (2021) takes place in Dublin, Ireland and once again, a child is killed, which lands up igniting a gangland/gangster war complete with drug dealer and everyone threatening to kill everyone and this goes on for eight hours. Its got Charlie Cox, Clare Dunne, Aidan Gillen and the inarguable Ciaran Hinds, who often saves this from its repetition, predictability and overly-dark look, but it just runs on and on and on and on too much for its own good.

It at least takes itself seriously, but the look of the show ruins the location shooting. There apparently will be one more season, so we'll see what they do with that, but if they keep on this course, I cannot imagine it lasting much longer.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 image is a little darker and softer than it should be or needs to be, but the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 sound on each episode is well recorded, mixed and presented with consistent soundfields throughout. Too bad that cannot improve the show.

There are no extras.

- Nicholas Sheffo (Blacklight, Kin) and James Lockhart



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