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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Toys > Family > Slapstick > Shorts > Sports > Australia > Soccer > Barbie 4K (2023/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)/Father's Little Dividend (1951*)/Laurel & Hardy: Year One (1927/Flicker Alley Blu-ray Set)/The Merger (2018/IndiePix Blu-ray)/Saratoga (1937/*both MGM/Warne

Barbie 4K (2023/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)/Father's Little Dividend (1951*)/Laurel & Hardy: Year One (1927/Flicker Alley Blu-ray Set)/The Merger (2018/IndiePix Blu-ray)/Saratoga (1937/*both MGM/Warner Archive Blu-rays)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Father's Little Dividend and Saratoga Blu-rays are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

From one of the biggest hit comedies of all time to some of the most important comedies ever made, here is a strong group of releases in the genre to know about....

Great Gerwig's Barbie 4K (2023) is the big surprise hit of the summer and year in the face of Superhero genre fatigue and massive implosion, but is it any good? Can it work? Well, it is not a great film, but has a solid director, a solid co-writer who is also a fine director, an excellent cast and a big budget that was spent well and effectively here.

Margot Robbie is the title character, living in her manufactured work of cups without drinks, yards without grass and other artifice that looks more like a Twilight Zone episode or town made near nuclear blasts to see how the buildings and mannequins would fare after an explosion or two. Ryan Gosling is Ken, but then most of the characters have either of their names, but we do get variants and some later dolls (many discontinued, as the end credits remind us) also show up, so the screenplay is also a checklist of every item in the highly successful history of the toy line to date. They even get the toy colors correct!

The twist is, can an of them make it into the 'real world' or living humans, et al? Like Wizard Of Oz, are they better off in fantasy land, per John Waters? At least everyone is all involved, there is some chemistry, humor that is not always obvious and they keep this up at just a high enough energy level to just make it to the end credits. In such a dead, empty year of films (and this was before any striking workers) one can see why this would go over so well. A sequel might even be possible, but they'll have to REALLY concentrate and go deeper into the history of the character and toys to get that one right. It will also have to be a better film.

Extras include Digital Code Copy, while the disc adds the featurettes: Welcome to Barbie Land, Becoming Barbie, Playing Dress-Up, Musical Make-Believe, All-Star Barbie Party and It's A Weird World.

Vincente Minnelli's Father's Little Dividend (1951) is the (then rare in Hollywood) sequel to a hit film, in this case, the original Father Of The Bride bringing back all the stars including Spencer Tracy and an on-the-rise Elizabeth Taylor. No fan of the original film or any of its highly overrated remakes and revivals in recent years (and I like Steve Martin and Diane Keaton) this was just as flat to me as a baby arrives. Yup. That's it. They got another button to button and they have 82 long minutes to do it over and over again. It might be some kind of curio, but only really for big fans of the first film. Others can skip it.

Extras include an Original Theatrical Trailer, low def copy of the live action Pete Smith Specialty short film Bargain Madness and two Technicolor MGM Tom & Jerry cartoons: Just Ducky and Jerry and the Goldfish. You can read about Warner Archive's Blu-ray release of the original Father Of The Bride on restored blu-ray at this link:


Laurel & Hardy: Year One (1927) is a remarkable collection of the remarkable first year of arguably the greatest comedy duo in cinema history forming an unbeatable team, doing so quickly and taking the box office world by storm, critics included. The films (including two that represent the build up to their launch) have mostly survived and include Lucky Dog (1921), 45 Minutes from Hollywood (1926), Duck Soup (1927), Slipping Wives (1927), Love 'em and Weep (1927), Why Girls Love Sailors (1927), With Love and Hisses (1927), Sugar Daddies (1927), Sailors, Beware! (1927), The Second 100 Years (1927), Call of the Cuckoo (1927), Do Detectives Think? (1927), Putting Pants on Phillip (1927), The Battle of the Century (1927), and Flying Elephants (1928).

Some of the material here has not been seen in decades, including parts of some of the films and Stan Laurel's sense of what would work for them was uncanny, backed by some very funny, talented people, including a great set of actors they kept using and Hal Roach, whose studio they would work at for years. Having Pathe, then MGM handling the distribution did not hurt.

We've seen sets of their film being issued in literally hundreds of different titles from many video companies, including more than a few no longer in business, but recent efforts to restore the actual films to their original luster and get them out on Blu-ray are a more recent development that is very welcome. All the comedy teams deserve this (Sony needs to do more with The Three Stooges, Paramount on the Martin/Lewis films, Universal on Abbott & Costello, not to mention lesser-known duos) kind of treatment and that Stan and Ollie are getting their due here and recently is great!

When you can see them more clearly, they are more present to see, you catch subtleties you cannot see in a low-def presentation, less effort to make out what is going on always means more impact and some of this is just absolutely hilarious in ways that will surprise many almost a century later. They do not always feel old or that old, the duo never saw a genre or situation they would not dare to take on, so if you did not find one film funny, you would likely be laughing for days from another and sometimes so much it would hurt. They were already professionals when they teamed up and it worked, it was obvious they were geniuses and giant thinkers in what comedy was.

This includes physical and slapstick comedy, but sometimes, it was not as physical, involved suspense and most important, anyone can take a pratfall, but comic timing is crucial and when you watch here, they both had the gift like few others ever born. Even if they did retakes, they were often not many and even the retakes showed they were on track to getting it on the nose. No pun intended.

This Flicker Alley Blu-ray set is one of the best classic film releases of the year, up their with Criterion and Arrow's best, though Flicker Alley is having as good a year. Laurel and Hardy have always been one of my favorite comedy teams and that they hold up so extraordinarily well all these decades later and will continue to do so is great news for all serious film and comedy fans. The next sets will have some high standards to match, but the material is there and these extras are terrific!

Extras include:

  • Audio Commentary Tracks for each film by historian and author Randy Skretvedt

  • Documentary: Restoring Laurel & Hardy by Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange

  • Laurel & Hardy On-Location: A Video Essay by historian John Bengtson on selected location exteriors

  • Hats Off! (1927): Slide Show presentation from this currently lost film

  • Multiple Image Galleries: Containing original publicity materials, press reviews, and rare production stills

  • Souvenir Booklet: Featuring a new essay by historian Richard W. Bann on the Blackhawk Films Story and the company's stewardship of the Laurel & Hardy film materials, a Collection Introduction by Serge Bromberg, and notes on each film by historian Randy Skretvedt

  • Additional musical scores: Soundtracks for the 1930s French re-releases of Slipping Wives, Why Girls Love Sailors, and Flying Elephants are presented here as alternate music tracks

  • and an audio commentary track for The Battle of the Century by historians Randy Skretvedt and Serge Bromberg.

For more restoration by Flicker Alley of the duos work, try this great Blu-ray set of the duos solo work before they became the legendary all-time comedy duo at this link:


Mark Grentell's The Merger (2018) is back in the U.S. from IndiePix, this time on Blu-ray. The Australian comedy was first issued by them in the states on DVD and we covered it at this link:


We also covered the import Blu-ray edition from its home country at this link:


The tale of an old soccer player (aka a footballer to the rest of the world) helping out a team in trouble is the plot of too many movies and only the change of setting, scenery, some culture and country is the only difference here. There are a few decent moments, but it is just too predictable overall and it is remarkable that this is one of the few independently-produced Aussie films that has made it in the states in any notable way over the last few decades. Now you can judge for yourself.

Extras include an Original Theatrical Trailer, Making Of The Merger featurette and Cinema Australia interview with the Director Grentell.

Jack Conway's Saratoga (1937) is one of those films I have not seen since I was a kid, but did not remember it much. Usually, that means no surprises, but I was shocked at how smart, consistent, witty and funny this romp set in the world of horses with Jean Harlow as the daughter of a hoser owner ready to marry a rich guy (Walter Pidgeon) when a familiar bookie (Clark Gable) also gets involved when the money in horse racing and betting heats up.

What could have been a formulaic bore turns out to be fun with some knowing ins and outs in the screenplay that really make it move and hold up, thanks in part to MGM knowing what they had here. There is also chemistry all around between the leads and the supporting cast that includes John Barrymore doing his old craggy complainer role, Una Merkel looking great as she more than holds her own, Frank Morgan as a beauty cream baron easily incensed by the situation and in a great scene that is a big surprise today (SPOILER ALERT!, skip it if you do not want to know....) Morgan is sitting with a woman who interrupts his complaining by complaining that his products to not work too well. It is Margaret Hamilton, his co-star in a big film MGM would have out two years later: The Wizard of Oz. Yes, its that kind of a film and I definitely recommend it to everyone!

Extras include an Original Theatrical Trailer and the live-action MGM short film The Romance Of Celluloid.

Now for playback performance. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 2.00 X 1, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Barbie 4K is easily the best-looking film here, with good detail, endless pink and very consistent color in the mode of the toy line since its launch. You can still tell it is a serious HD shoot, but it is much better than the dated CGI DVDs of the character over the years and the next step after their better TV commercials since they went full color, for all fans concerned. I cannot imagine it looking better than it does here. The Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown for older systems) lossless sound is a pretty good mix with some highlights, but nothing too memorable or demo-worthy either. The combination is just fine and as intended.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers on Father's Little Dividend and Saratoga can show the age of the materials used, but are far superior transfers to all previous releases of the film on home video. Still, they have their moments of softness and a few more than expected. Still, they look good and I think Saratoga just edges out Dividend in visual performance. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on both recreate the original theatrical monophonic sound the best they possibly can and is the best either film will ever sound.

The 1080p 1.21 X 1 and 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers on the Laurel & Hardy shorts are going to show their age being from various sources throughout from 35mm nitrate camera negatives to nitrate prints, safety prints, dupe copies and more in other various sizes, including 16mm film. In some cases, they are going to be rough or lack definition, but more often than expected, the detail, depth and detail is remarkable and even shocking in their fidelity. I have seen many of these before, but they never (and I mean NEVER) looked this good before and is easily the best any of them ever will look barring some miraculous discovery of new footage in some cases. What a pleasant surprise, just like the Laurel OR Hardy Blu-ray set. New music scores are here for all of them in PCM 2.0 Stereo and I particularly liked the 1930s French re-releases soundtracks on three of the films (noted above in the extras) that I wish were on every short in the set. This just adds to what is one of the best collections of the year!

Finally, the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on The Merger looks pretty much like the same transfer used for the previous disc releases we have covered with some softness throughout, but color is decent and unless a 4K edition surfaces if the quality is there, I don't see this looking any better than it does here. It certainly is better than the DVD version. The PCM 2.0 Stereo soundtrack is just fine, forgoing the 5.1 mixes on the other editions, but sounding surprisingly strong and decoding well in Pro Logic modes if you have a home theater system. The combination is about as good as this is going to get and the sound is even better than the image in this case.

To order either of the Warner Archive Blu-rays, Father's Little Dividend and/or Saratoga, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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