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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > War > Terrorism > Mexican Revolution > News Media > Thriller > Afghanistan > WWII > China > Engineer, The (2023/Lionsgate Blu-ray w/DVD)/La Soldadera (1966/VCI/MVD Blu-ray)/Mad City (1997/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/3 Days In Malay (*)/Warhorse One (*both 2023/Well Go Blu-ray)/Stonewalling (2022

Engineer, The (2023/Lionsgate Blu-ray w/DVD)/La Soldadera (1966/VCI/MVD Blu-ray)/Mad City (1997/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/3 Days In Malay (*)/Warhorse One (*both 2023/Well Go Blu-ray)/Stonewalling (2022/KimStim DVD)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Mad City Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

The following dramas also have their serious and even political sides....

Danny A. Abekaser's The Engineer (2023) is a mixed action drama with Emile Hirsch as the title character, who once worked for the Israel intelligence agency, the Mossad. When that country gets hit with a series of terrorist bombings, he finds himself back in the think of things, especially when the daughter of a U.S. Senator is one of the fatalities.

Of course, with the horrid events happening in that country now conducted by a Hamas deciding to go to the point of no return, this seems already dated, tame, ineffective and banal. The makers could not have seen that coming, but for what is here before those real-life events, this is just not that good and Hirsch has not been very good in much of anything he has appeared in since
Speed Racer was Warner Bros. biggest financial bomb until The Flash earlier this year, give or take inflation. He looks bored, is unconvincing and I never bought him in it. The rest of the cast is just as off.

Too bad someone did not engineer a better screenplay. Only see it if you are very, very, very, very, very, very interested.

Extras include Digital Copy, while the disc adds a Behind The Scenes featurette with interviews and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Jose Bolaos' La Soldadera (1966) is an interesting and palpable drama about the Mexican revolution of the early 20th Century through the eyes of a young woman (Silvia Pinal) whose newlywed husband has to join the Revolution whether he wants to or not. She decides not to be left behind and joins him (!!!) as the bloody battles begin. Things only get worse and she get more involved than she ever imagined.

To say anything else would be offering spoilers, it is a decent film, even if it has more than a few points that are flat. Apparently, the negative has the original built-in subtitles from back in the day, so that means white lettering with no outlines or black background for them to not be lost in some part of the scenes. Fortunately, this is not very common here and they look good, but I have to say it has been a very, very, very long time that I have watched a film with this oldest style of subtitles. The font is not bad either.

The action is appropriately dirty and bloody, even in black and white and it looks and feels as period as intended, though the subtitles actually get in the way of the suspension of disbelief at times. The directing is on the strong side and the cast of (mostly to me) unknowns are also pretty good, though one might recognize Pedro Armendriz, Jr from the James Bond films. If you are interested, it is worth a look, but please note the film's original elements have not aged as well as hoped for.

Extras include a solid featurette on the film with scholar Dr. David Wilt very much worth seeing after viewing the film.

Costa-Gavras' Mad City (1997) is one of the later Hollywood films the internationally known and respected filmmaker (especially thanks to Z) made in his career and like some of the others (Music Box and Betrayed) fall a little bit short of their full political, artistic and cinematic potential. Here, Dustin Hoffman is a reporter who is willing to bend 'the truth' a bit for a good story. Then a bank hostage situation arrives.

John Travolta (during his comeback period) is the fired museum guard who decides to try to get it back and bring a rifle to do it! Far more of a shocking act in its time, this was made during the (now we know) late analog era of news and analog TV news, so his bad decision becomes a big news story that goes out of control and Hoffman's overly-eager reporter wants to use it to become an even bigger star reporter.

Of course, this plays like a knock-off of Sidney Lumet's classic Dog Day Afternoon, but does not play it for laughs like the Bill Murray film Quick Change. Note that all three of those films were made by Warner Bros.

While the performances are good, the directing not bad, the screenplay cannot get the film to take off like it needed to and make the big statement at the time the film was trying to make. It dod not succeed at the time and even if it did, it would have not been the next modern version of another Lumet classic, his film of Paddy Chayefsky's Network. One think that did age in interesting ways is showing analog TVs as something bad, but that needs some kind of separate essay that has nothing to do with this film, even if the film is not a great success.

Hoffman is in good form and when he wants to get his hands dirty, Travolta shows in real life, he can really act when given the opportunity and he goes all in at it. The supporting cast that also includes Alan Alda, Ted Levine, Mia Kirshner, Robert Prosky and Blythe Danner, so this does nto suffer an on-screen lack of talent and considering the director's reputation, you can see why the top names in the business were signing up for all these high profile productions. All serious film people should see this one at least once just to see what happens, but I will always be disappointed it did not deliver like I thought it might.

I'm still glad Warner Archive issued this on Blu-ray because the talents involved are important enough that this film should always be available and in print, even if it has its many problems and has dated in odd ways.

Extras include an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Longtime actor Louis Mandylor's 3 Days In Malay (2023) has the in front of the camera talent helming this tale of how the U.S. Marines during WWII battled the Japanese Imperialists in 'operation watchtower' or the Guadalcanal Campaign, which we have seen on the big screen before (1942's Guadalcanal Diary from Fox is one of the most famous). This version is ambitious, but is a very mixed bag that has too many missed opportunities to work. Mandylor also co-stars.

It is ambitiously made, though its budget limits are more apparent than I think the makers realize, leaving the film to last only 99 minutes and that might have been too long for what they do here. I never bought it was from its time, it does not feel like the period, including the acting and style, so the result is a weird disappointment that I actually had higher hopes for. You can see it for yourself, but if you must, do not have the highest expectations.

Extras include an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Johnny Strong & William Kaufmann's Warhorse One (2023) is yet another Gulf War drama that would seem to be too many years (or decades) too late, but it actually takes place in 2021 when the Biden Administration did its long-overdue U.S. pullout from Afghanistan, no matter how that went. The cast of unknowns, led by Johnny Strong, has him as the lone surviving Navy SEAL (after a copter crash) saving a little girl from the worst of the aftermath.

We don't get many illicit appeals to pity that these child-in-jeopardy tales tend to produce, nor do we get anything new in the way of character study or unique, new, different or fresh storytelling, but I give it a point for trying some new kinds of approaches to said storytelling in some of the action scenes. Unfortunately, it is very little and I cannot recommend this one either.

Extras include a Directors feature length audio commentary track, Original Theatrical Trailer and a Making Of featurette.

Huang Ji & Ryuji Otsuka's Stonewalling (2022) is a surprisingly long drama about a young woman (Yao Honggui) in a changing China who gets pregnant just as China starts to tighten up some freedoms as Hong Kong also gets most of its greatness rolled back. This does not waste its time though, has its share of character study of the surroundings and its characters, plus a pace that allows us to take it all in without tricks, slickness and shortcuts you'd get in most Hollywood films.

Unfortunately, we have seen some of this before, though that sometimes becomes ironic and sad as she is 20 years old, has ambitious plans for the future and her potential future is taken away from her by circumstances beyond her control. It is something different and sometimes special, but it cannot always keep it all going, but it is not for lack of trying. I'd say if you want to see it, be use to be awake and ready for a long sit, but you might appreciate it at least as much as I did, though I wish more would have happened and I did like the ending. That definitely worked.

Extras include an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Now for playback performance. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 High Definition image on The Engineer Blu-ray is a little soft from a slightly off at times HD shoot, though some of that shaky camera work and off editing are supposed to be its style, but we've seen all this too much, especially in the genre. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix at least has a consistent soundfield and is as good sonically as any of the entries here. The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on the DVD is much softer and hard to watch, while its lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 soundmix is slightly better, but underwhelming.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on La Soldadera can certainly show the age of the 35mm materials used with some slight softness, as the source shown here is from a 4K scan and maybe original materials did not age as well as expected in parts. Some good restoration work has still been done and damage showing is at a minimum. The PCM 2.0 Mono sound, the film issued with analog optical monophonic RCA-format sound, shows its age much more and demonstrates the budget limits of the production. Though it can be a little rough in spots, this is likely the best this film will ever look and sound.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 High Definition image on Mad City was shot in the Super 35 format with Kodak 35mm color negative film and looks decent for its age, if not stunning and defying age, but it is hard to tell if this is a new or recent HD scan or not. Color is consistent. The film was issued theatrically in all three digital sound formats of the time (including DTS, Dolby Digital and SDDS/Sony Dynamic Digital Sound) that were all lossy, so this Blu-ray offers a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that is not awful, but seems limited and a little strained, also suggesting the production may have used some older audio equipment. The combination is good, but not state of the art for its time.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Malay is, on the other hand, another HD shoot with some softness issues like Engineer, whether part of it is style or not. Again too, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless soundmix is more consistent, has a better soundfield and holds up better when viewing.

The 1080p 2 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Warhorse is an odd aspect ratio, but it looks decent throughout considering that and color is not bad. It is the best of the HD shoots by default, by not being as soft or shaky, though it has narrative moments to be a rough. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless sound has a consistent soundfield as well, so that is not problem and that makes it just barely the best performer on the list.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Stonewalling is has a colorful, interesting HD shoot, but the presentation is just a little softer throughout than I would have liked, but I have to consider the old format might be an issue. The lossy Mandarin/Hunanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo has some good surrounds to it and is clean and clear enough, subtitles not withstanding, but I bet a lossless version would yield more out of the soundmaster.

To order the Mad City Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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