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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > War > Romance > Teens > Drugs > Crime > Cable TV > Politics > Civil Rights > History > Cold War > Casablanca 4K (1942/4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Euphoria: Complete Seasons 1 + 2 (2019 - 2022/HBO/DVD Set/both Warner)/Panther (1995/MVD Blu-ray)

Casablanca 4K (1942/4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Euphoria: Complete Seasons 1 + 2 (2019 - 2022/HBO/DVD Set/both Warner)/Panther (1995/MVD Blu-ray)

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

Now for three dramas covering serious subject matter, including a classic, a possible classic and another ambitious film...

Michael Curtiz's Casablanca 4K (1942) is another all-time classic getting an upgrade into Ultra HD and it is another good one, great one. We have covered the film twice before, including in this Blu-ray set that includes the same disc that is with the 4K disc in this set at this link:


That links to more on the film. Watching it now, it has sadly become as relevant as ever as new storm clouds of fascism are returning to Europe in a whole new way, but even in the U.S. in its own, bizarre way. The Brothers Warner were the only studio heads at the time to want to openly stand up in their own way to Hitler and his Axis partners when the rest fo Hollywood wanted to not have to deal with it until they had to if ever. Soon after, WWII started with the U.S. entry into the war explicitly and like the advent of movie sound, Warner Bros. was ahead of all the other studios and this film become one of the most timely in all of cinema history.

Then there is the film, enduring as ever, the chemistry with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as palpable as ever and seeing her here in 4K, it brings a new realization of how beautiful she was and just how much the camera really loved her, with or without the use of diffusion lenses. She remains one of the greatest movie actresses and movie stars of all time and she sometimes steals this movie in ways I had not considered before. That is why the new 4K version is something to be very happy about.

This set includes all the extras from previous editions, including the animated short Carrotblanca, from 1995, and not 1955.

Euphoria: Complete Seasons 1 + 2 (2019 - 2022) is another smart, new HBO hit TV show, this time with the terrific Zendaya as a young lady dealing with trying to find her place in the world, one that has now become more wild, savage, hopeless and ugly than any previous generation in a first-world country like the U.S. could have ever had been expected to have to live in. From its graphic opening of her birth happening around the controversial time of the events of 9/11, she and her generation have never known the earlier, relatively safer U.S. and the two season here show just how ugly that can get.

Besides the expected raw language, the violence, overboard-but-common drug use and raw sexuality and sex that would give this a hard R or near-NC-17 rating were we watching a feature film never lets up, but that's the point. The title is ironic in the characters trying to find happiness and only finding it in the most limited, sad, joyless and artificial ways, but so goes the culture and the phony attempts to supplant that with quick fixes (bad politics and religion) are always worse.

To the show's credit, it somehow does not manage to wallow in the depressing situations, in part because it breezes along as it does, but this is not for children and others who are mature enough to view it still might find it too repetitive and obvious, especially as we have seen so much of this before. Yet, that's also the point. The bad and unfortunate things have become worse and that course does not look likely to reverse itself anytime soon. We'll see where the show goes next.

Ten behind the scenes clips used to promote the show are the only extras.

Last but not least, Mario Van Peebles' Panther (1995) is one of the writer/directors more ambitious films, telling a story from inside the controversial Black Panthers political organization from a book by someone who knew them all very personally: his filmmaking father, the late Melvin Van Peebles. Mario was moving along well as an actor with appeal that was bucking 1980s mall movies trends by becoming a movie star (et al) after the rollback 1980s mall movies that wiped out all kinds of filmmaking progress created by artists like his groundbreaking dad and his works.

Courtney B. Vance is uncanny as Bobby Seale, one of the founders of the organization, fed up with the poverty, harassment and bullying his friends and neighbors in his African American neighborhood keep experiencing. But it is the 1960s and Civil Rights are on the upswing, especially after the still-unexplained Kennedy Assassination. With nowhere to turn, they turn to each other and decide to organize, including helping feed their community.

Unfortunately, the people who killed Kennedy are mostly still in the shadows, the Cold War is also still raging and when they start to talk of communism and sell books with philosophy by Chairman Mao, that puts them on the federal government's radar, including the FBI's racist found J. Edgar Hoover (a really good performance by Richard Dysart here) and the attacks on their organization soon begin.

At first, they are not aware and someone in the organization is spying on them, but the early efforts do not always go as plan or work, to the frustration of Hoover and company, so things slowly get ramped up and result in some ugly fights and deadly consequences.

That Peebles (father and son) got this film made at the time at all is remarkable, but the Black New Wave led by Spike Lee and John Singleton helped and though it was a mixed success in its time, it holds up better than you might expect and that includes against competition and the recent retelling from another angle with Judas & The Black Messiah (reviewed elsewhere on this site) in a key real life story that there is much more to say about.

I also like how the film effortlessly goes form raw, rough footage to smooth 35mm that always manages to match each other, not an easy thing to do. Mario Van Peebles would challenge genre ideas in some other films, but here, he makes his most honest picture to date and now that we have a huge hit superhero franchise that shares the name with the organization of the film, having this out on Blu-ray is more important than ever.

Also making this film holdup so well is a truly remarkable cast that also include Kadeem Hardison, Joe Don Baker, Angela Bassett (playing Dr. Betty Shabazz, as she would in Spike Lee's Malcom X, just released in 4K by Criterion,) Bokeem Woodbine, Marcus Chong, singer Bobby Brown in one o his only non-music works, Anthony Griffith, Nefertiti, Chris Rock, James Russo, Michael Wincott, Wesley Johnathan, M. Emmet Walsh and the ever-underrated Jenifer Lewis. Definitely see this if you have not either ever before or for a long time.

The only extras are trailers for other MVD/MGM Blu-ray releases, including this one.

Now for playback performance. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 1.33 X 1 black & white, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Casablanca 4K has some great shots that are better than I have ever seen the film before, but the lack of Dolby Vision and tendency for some shots to be a bit darker than I would have liked hold the transfer back a bit. Otherwise, it outdoes the already decent 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on the regular Blu-ray disc included here, rarely showing the age of the materials used. The two make for interesting comparisons, but the film has received special care for decades (Ted Turner was celebrated when he stuck new black and white prints in what was hoped to be a reversal of his silly colorization period) and it remains one of the all-time Hollywood and Warner gems.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Panther can show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film despite being from what looks like an older HD master. Being shot totally on film, it has a realism and density that is a plus for it and increases its watchability.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the Euphoria episodes are consistent and well-styled, but a little too soft on this older DVD format, so that disappoints a bit and makes the good visual work harder to enjoy. Otherwise, its still one fo the most distinct-looking TV shows on cable or otherwise.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on Casablanca is the same on both disc versions included, sounding as well as a monophonic film from the period can, with enough clarity and articulation to be able to enjoy it. This is as good as this film will likely ever sound.

The PCM 2.0 Stereo on Panther is from the Dolby SR (Spectral Recording, their more advanced analog noise reduction system) tracks with Pro Logic surrounds, but they can sound about a generation down. The film is often only listed as an SR film, but the end credits and from its original release, it was also a Dolby Digital film, so a 5.1 mix exists. Considering the extensive use of music and some additionally interesting sound editing and sound design, if they get around to doing a 4K edition, they should see if Peebles wants to do a sonic upgrade to DTS: X and/or Dolby Atmos. The sound is there. Otherwise, this sounds fine.

The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 plays better than the image on the Euphoria episodes, but is still held back by the compression of the older codec, though you can tell much work has been done to record, mix and edit each show. Maybe we'll get a lossless versions later.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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