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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Dutch > Action > Crime > Gangster > Japan > Horror > Animals > Martial Arts > Comedy > Mystery > Cabl > AmnesiA (2001/Cult Epics*)/Branded To Kill 4K (1967/Criterion 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Calamity Of Snakes (1983/Unearthed*)/Gorgeous (1999/88 Films*)/His Dark Materials: The Complete Third Seaso

AmnesiA (2001/Cult Epics*)/Branded To Kill 4K (1967/Criterion 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Calamity Of Snakes (1983/Unearthed*)/Gorgeous (1999/88 Films*)/His Dark Materials: The Complete Third Season (2023/Warner Blu-ray Set)/L.A. Wars (1994/*all MVD Blu-rays)

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

And now for some restored action and horror, plus a new hit series...

Martin Koolhoven's AmnesiA (2001) gets a deluxe Blu-ray edition from Cult Epics. The psychological thriller follows a photographer that unlocks some bizarre family secrets which includes his twin brother. The film stars Fedja van Huet in a dual role, Carice van Houten, and Theo Maassen. The production is interestingly made with pretty strong performances, but is definitely geared at those who follow more adult drama fare.

AmnesiA is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.67:1 and three Dutch audio tracks in lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1, LPCM 2.0 Stereo, and lossy, weaker Dolby Digital 5.1. The film has been remastered from the original camera negative.

Special Features:

Introduction by Martin Koolhoven

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Martin Koolhoven, Fedja van Huet, moderated by Peter Verstraten

A Conversation with Martin Koolhoven & Carice van Houten (2022) 44 Mins

The Making of AmnesiA (2001) 38 mins

Behind-the-Scenes with Carice van Houten (2001)

Theatrical Trailer

DISC TWO: Bonus TV films by Martin Koolhoven

Suzy Q (1999) 85 mins

Dark Light (Duister Licht) (1997) 55 mins


New Slipcase Art by Peter Strain

and a Double-sided Sleeve with Original Bonus Film Posters.

Seijun Sukuki's Branded To Kill 4K (1967) has been recently restored and after these two excellent Blu-ray editions were issued in the last few years. They are from...

Arrow U.K.


and Criterion


The film has been restored in 4K and this new Criterion set has both a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and regular Blu-ray. Though you can see some details and slightly more frame in the new edition, the 2160p HEVC/H.265, 2.35 X 1, black and white (Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image has zero HDR of any kind and is disappointing, with the image being too pale, lite and lacking the rich Video Black the film needs and still has on the previous editions. Why? Once again, we have a case in recent 4K releases like the Lionsgate Man Who Fell To Earth or import Picnic At Hanging Rock (both of which are worse than this one) where those doing the transfers and color grading when off the rails and took liberties they should not have.

Now, the image is not as Noir or foreboding and the dark, dirty world of the film looks like it is too cleaned up. Maybe it was new black and white 35mm film with a lack of silver content or someone who had a fear it would look 'too dark' and panicked, not understanding the film, but that's what you get. At least with this set, you get both transfers.

The PCM 2.0 Mono is only so much better than the previous Blu-rays, so its improvements are slight but fine.

Extras repeat the previous Criterion release, including the excellent booklet.

Chi Chang's Calamity of Snakes (1982), hasn't aged well as it is obvious that many snakes WERE harmed during the making of this outrageous foreign exploitation slither-fest. In fact, this edition of the film on Blu-ray even includes a 'cruelty free' cut. However, Unearthed Films has even gone a step further and reportedly are donating some proceeds of this disc to an animal rights group! A classy move indeed!

Ambitious and well made despite its shortcomings, Calamity of Snakes centers on a apartment building that is new and under construction on top of a large population of killer snakes. As new residents start moving in, the snakes come out for a snack, leading to the ultimate battle between human and serpent which can be both comical and frightening. Anyone who has a phobia about snakes need not apply. The premise is no doubt a good one and could be remade easily for American audiences using the cinematic mentality akin to Cocaine Bear.

The film stars Yun-Peng Hsiang, Ping-Ou Wei, and Yuen Kao.

Calamity of Snakes 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 audio tracks in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English LPCM 2.0 Mono (with optional English subtitles) with the best sounding audio channel being the English one, as it has the best mastering of the bunch. The film looks okay here considering its budget and is a fine restoration from the original source material translated to Blu-ray disc.

Special Features include:

Feature Length Audio Commentary from Nathan Hamilton and Brad Slaton

Full Length Documentary: From Shaw to Snakes: The Venom And Violence of Early Chinese Language Horror Cinema

Reptilian Recollections: Lin Kuang-Yung In Conversation With Chui-Yi Chung

Alternate Cut

and the 'Cruelty Free Cut'.

While pretty clever in story and execution, Calamity of Snakes is just as wild and at times disturbing as it sounds.

International Superstar Jackie Chan stars in Gorgeous (1999), which now has a special edition Blu-ray release from 88 Films in grand fashion with both the international and Hong Kong versions of the film captured here in this limited edition. The film is a fun action adventure featuring Jackie Chan in arguably the biggest time in his career.

The film stars Jackie Chan, Shu Qi, Richie Jen, Ken Lo, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, and Stephen Chow with direction by Vincent Kok.

A romance comedy / action film, Gorgeous follows a young woman (Shu Qi), who finds a romantic message in a bottle and goes to Hong Kong in search of the sender. However, it turns out to be a gay beautician who is not at all interested. Of course, she does find love anyway, but it doesn't come easy as his famed foe is dead set on ruining the relationship.

Gorgeous 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 both an English dub and better Cantonese, lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) set of lossless mixes. Though a 4K UHD version not yet available as of this writing, this Blu-ray edition features 2K Transfers from 'original film materials' of the Hong Kong & International versions of the film. For those wondering, the Hong Kong Cut has only Cantonese 5.1 whilst the International Version has both English/Cantonese audio channels.

Special Features:

Limited Edition includes an O-Ring Slipcase with Matte Finish, a 28 Page Booklet by Matthew Edwards, and a A3 Folded Travel Poster

Audio Commentary with Frank Djeng and FJ Desanto

Audio Commentary with Action Experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema

Audio Commentary with Jackie Chan

Shy Guy: Andy Cheng on Brad Allan

Interview with Director Vincent Kok

Archival The Making of 'Gorgeous'

2 Music Videos, Hong Kong Trailer, English Trailer

and a reversible cover with new artwork by Sean Longmore.

Based on the novels by Philip Pullman and specifically ''The Amber Spyglass'', His Dark Materials: The Complete Third Season (2023) continues the series' hit success, which is now out on Blu-ray disc from Warner Bros. and HBO. While a 4K UHD would have been a preferred method of release, this well rendered Blu-ray edition looks comparable to the series streaming on HBO Max and is an interesting fantasy / adventure series that has a big budget and a big cast to back it up.

His Dark Materials stars Dafne Keen (of Logan fame and soon the Star Wars series The Acolyte), James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Clarke Peters.

Eight one hour episodes comprise the season including The Enchanted Sleeper, The Break, The Intention Craft, Lyra and Her Death, No Way Out, The Abyss, The Clouded

Mountain and The Botanic Garden.

His Dark Materials is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.00:1 and lossless, English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) on all episodes. The series has high cinematic production value and looks nice on the aging Blu-ray format with a presentation similar to the alternate streaming presentation. The season spans two packed to the brim Blu-ray discs.

No Special Features, which is a little surprising.

His Dark Materials is a pretty fun and imaginative series that is faithful to its source material.

The VHS era produced hundreds, even thousands of one-shot and independent productions, sometimes more than one from so many sources, that the last few years saw a shocking boom in the value of such titles in the science fiction and horror genre saw the few playable tapes out there going for $100.00 and up. This caused a wave of some of these films being restored and reissued on Blu-ray and even DVD. Those shot on analog videotape where upscaled and cleaned up, but that was only a small number and those still not in print still fetch big bucks. Martin Morris and Tony Kandah's L.A. Wars (1994) is one of those films, save it is the action genre and any tape version was never that pricey.

Still, many of these semi-angry/comic (intentionally and unintentionally) reactionary 'revenge' action films were produced in big numbers to try to get any of the money a big screen market that included Schwarzenegger, Lundgren and Van Damme with a lead who had much less acting talent, could maybe fight (bad choreography notwithstanding) and was hitting the gym just enough to fit the bill.

Here, we get someone named Vince Murdocco, fighting Italian and Hispanic drug cartels, while falling for the daughter of one of them. From there, the formula becomes as predictable and obvious as it is unoriginal, and yet they all keep moving on, shooting on actual photochemical film, thinking all those things will not matter as the market is at the peak of pre-DVD saturation. Unfortunately, it not well directed, acting is 'limited' to say the least the the fights are overly thought out. This is still a better example of such indie productions and they should all be saved as much as they can so we can see how bad they were, but they are semi orphan films and the clock is ticking. At least we have this example for better and worse.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image 2K transfer can show the age of the 16mm color film used (likely Kodak, though maybe some Fuji or even Agfa?,) but the source here has scratches and other flaws throughout that can be distracting and definition is on the weak side despite what the film stocks of the time could produce when exposed properly. The film materials need some serious photochemical restoration, but at least this was not shot on old, low definition, analog videotape, so their film still exists.

The PCM 2.0 Stereo may be a little overly loud, boosted and slightly harsh, but that is better than the also-included PCM 2.0 Mono, which is just too weak and mousy to be heard. The Italian Dub version is amusing at best, but also as weak.

Extras (partly per the press release) include a Limited Run SLIPCOVER (First Pressing Only,) retro mini-poster and reversible cover, while the disc adds a NEW! Feature Length Audio Commentary with producer, co-writer and co-director Tony Kandah moderated by 'Cereal at Midnight' host Heath Holland, a NEW! Video Commentary with producer, co-writer and co-director Tony Kandah & Heath Holland, 'Starting a War' (17:26, HD) conversation with 'L.A. Wars' producer, co-writer and co-director Tony Kandah, 'Shoot First' (23:00, HD) interview with 'L.A. Wars' cinematographer Mark Morris, a Photo Gallery and an Original Theatrical Trailer (2:51, SD).

- Nicholas Sheffo (4K, Wars) and James Lockhart



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