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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Road Movie > Crime > Age > Relationships > Violence > Indonesia > Literature > Racism > Japan > Comedy > Apple Seed (2019/VCI w/DVD*)/Before Now & Then (2022 aka Nana/Film Movement DVD)/The Color Purple 4K (1985/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)/Elegant Beast (1962 aka Grateful Brute/Radiance*)/Never Too Late

Apple Seed (2019/VCI w/DVD*)/Before Now & Then (2022 aka Nana/Film Movement DVD)/The Color Purple 4K (1985/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)/Elegant Beast (1962 aka Grateful Brute/Radiance*)/Never Too Late For Love (2022/Icarus DVD)/Stella Maris (1918/Mary Pickford/VCI w/DVD*all MVD Blu-ray)

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

Next are a group of dramas, old and new, including a restored classic...

Michael Worth's Apple Seed (2019) is a dramatic road movie with some humor with young bank robber McCoy (played by the director) needing the help of an old con artist (Rance Howard) to stay out of jail, et al, though he has a few things he wants to do. The results are mixed and we do get cameo turns by Adrienne Barbeau and Robby Benson that also show that the makers love 1970s movies, but this does nto get that far in working.

The leads have some chemistry, but not enough to buy their characters, so seeing the parts of the U.S. in decline as they ride becomes more prominent. I appreciated the attempt to do something new with a kind of film we do not see enough, but it just never gels in the end despite two hours to do so. Nice try at times, though.

Extras (per the press release) include a Feature Length Audio Commentary by Director and Co-Star, Michael Worth, an alternate longer cut, 30-minute-plus Making Of Documentary, short film about the Arizona World Premiere, Rance Howard memorial video (screened at his memorial at Warner Bros.) and Deleted and Extended Scenes.

Kamila Andini's Before Now & Then (2022 aka Nana) gives us the wife of a wealthy plantation owner (Happy Salma as Nana) in the late 1960s, who is in a potentially fine situation, but has the past haunting her from damage from a lover killed during the Indonesian Revolution to other losses and pain from the past that seem to be a long string. To make matters worse, her husband is having an affair, yet she lands up becoming friends with her (Laura Basuki as Ino) that spells the culmination and turning point for everything for her.

The film has its moments and is often convincing, but at 103 minutes, I don't know if it did not know what to do with its time or if it was limited by it and needed more time to articulate and give us more exposition, though that could also backfire and we'd have to be more stuck in her pain and situation that would pull down the flow of the film. Either way, it is worth a look for those interested, but I just wish it had worked at least a little better.

Extras include Original Theatrical Trailers and a short film from Andini entitled Following Diana, about how a husband wants the title wife to share their family with someone elses! Not bad.

Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple 4K (1985) remains a major film of a major book that continues to be published, very successfully, though it has also been the target of a new wave of idiotic book censorship in public schools across the country in one of many long-term steps by extremists to essentially destroy public education and libraries. Even in the cyber-age, this is obvious 100% unacceptable, so for the film to arrive in 4K is a never-too-soon situation.

We reviewed the film in its older Blu-ray edition very thoroughly at this link...


Though a few aspects of the film have not dated well, even more so since that last review, so much of it has appreciated in value and though Spielberg would likely have only produced it now, his work here is at times, some of his best and best at grappling with the human condition, pain, hate and isolation. The cast is more well-known than ever and that it got made in any form in the regressive Hollywood of the 1980s is more miraculous than ever in a few levels. Whoopi Goldberg's debut performance is even more of a gem than many may have first considered, the synergy between her and Spielberg ever-strong. It is also the kind of film Hollywood since and especially lately seems incapable of making.

Extras repeat the older Blu-ray edition, but this also happens to be arriving as an all-musical version of the book arrives in theaters, so we'll see how they compare soon.

Yuzo Kawashima's Elegant Beast (1962 aka Grateful Brute) is about the seemingly simple, modest Maeda Family, but hiding behind the subtlety is a group up to no good, involved in crime, lies and worse. When their son is accused of doin something bad, they go into 'shock' but to no avail, as this becomes the first part of a very slow process where everything unravels. You might not know what is going on upon first viewing, but it becomes more ironic and even darkly humorous upon rescreenings.

Kaneto Shindo adapted his own stage play into this screenplay and though there are many indoor scenes, it uses the scope frame well, though it still can feel sometimes claustrophobic (think The Parallax View) and it works well from where it is coming from. However, it was a little uneven for me at times, off a few times and predictable in the later scenes, yet it is well shot, cast, acted and directed. Still, it has some of the energy and feel of Japanese New Wave films of the time and is worth a good look for those interested and Radiance has produced another solid special edition.

Extras include a reversible sleeve, Limited Edition Booklet featuring new writing by Midori Suiren and contemporary archival writing, while the disc adds an interview with film critic Toshiaki Sato, an appreciation by filmmaker Toshiaki Toyoda, Visual Essay by critic Tom Mes on post-war architecture in Japanese cinema and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Gianni Di Gregorio's Never Too Late For Love (2022 aka Astolfo) is written up as a romantic comedy, yet despite some comedy, I thought this was a little more serious and dramatic than it seemed as the director plays Astolfo, a retired professor evicted from his Rome apartment after being their for eons. He goes back a run down place in Abruzzo that his family has owned for many decades. First, he finds squatters there, which leads to some fighting.

Then, he get more flack from others and only one woman (the always interesting Stefania Sandrelli) is the mature exception, leading to the possibility of some kind of special relationship. She almost saves the film.

I guess the big problem with this for me was that it thought it was funnier (or way funnier) than I thought it was and that the events were far more serious than they did. It is not as if I never saw an Italian comedy before and definitely have a wide-ranging sense of humor, but it is ultimately a matter of approach and with its 91 minutes running time, that means a few missed opportunities that could have really made this film work well. Maybe you'll like it more, though I think we have at least seen some of this before anyhow, but it is different and you might like it more than this critic did.

Extras include Original Theatrical Trailers.

Last but not least is Marshall Neiland's Stella Maris (1918) with the great Mary Pickford in one of her most key roles, actually dual roles, as both the title rich girl with physical impairment and Unity Blake, a deformed orphan gal who has suffered much abuse and horrid treatment all her life. With innovative optical effects and other trick photography, the film was a groundbreaker for visual effects and kept Pickford at the top of the box office and movie star popularity. Now that the film has been saved and will not be lost, we can really appreciate what all involved (including Director of Photography Walter Stradling) really pulled off.

Of course, Pickford was a seasoned actress at this point and really delivers convincingly in both roles, harder to do in a silent film than you might think, but she knew the camera as well as she knew her audience and because she was such a huge star, people forget what a good actress she really was. This just adds to the evidence of how strong and the fact she was playing a very unattractive character contained the risk of box office suicide.

Paramount Pictures distributed the film at the time and studio founder/head Adolf Zukor was so horrified when he saw her looking that way that she lied to him to calm him down. The sets, cast and look of the film are impressive for their time and hold up better than you might expect, though some might find the tinting dates the film in ways non-tinted sections do not. They are done well enough here that I had no issues with them.

Now an amazing 105 years old, the film is at least a minor classic of its time, running a very rich 84 minutes, it is one of the earliest films to qualify as what we would think of as a full length feature film today. The recent Pickford classics restored by her Foundation and issued by VCI have been a real pleasure to see and I hope this series continues for a good while. More silent films deserve this kind of deluxe treatment and I hope they get it. I strongly recommend you give this one a try, especially if you have hardly or never seen any silent films. They are better than you'd think or the stereotypes of them would lead you to believe.

Extras include a Liner Notes Pictorial Booklet by The Mary Pickford Foundation, a Full Length Commentary Track by Marc Wanamaker, author and film historian [best heard after seeing the film,] Extensive Photo Gallery, The Mountaineer's Honor, an American Biograph short film released November 25th, 1909 and an original score by the Graves Brothers

Now for playback performance. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 1.85 X 1, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Color Purple is definitely an upgrade from the then-decent Blu-ray from years ago with more warmth, better color range and richer color without it being oversaturated, off or fake. Maybe it could look better in Dolby Vision, but this is as close to the great 35mm print I saw a long time ago of the film as I have seen since or in any version on home video or otherwise. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix from the older Blu-ray is repeated here, sounds just fine and actually has the strongest soundtrack on the list.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Apple Seed is a little soft and from an older HD shoot, but color is not bad. The sound is not here in any lossless format, but lesser, lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo are available for both the Blu-ray and DVD. The 5.1 sounds a bit better and is passable, but the codec holds enjoying this back a little.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Elegant can show the age of the materials used, including color that is slightly faded throughout and that is not how it was made. It is just the Eastman-like color (maybe Fuji or even Agfa?) film has not held up or had a dye-transfer print made in any such format. Daiei Studios did use some kind of anamorphic lenses, but they never tended to get specific about what kind on any of their scope productions (very annoying!!!) so who knows how this was shot, though we doubt it was Techniscope/Cromoscope. At least detail and some depth are still good here and the PCM 2.0 Mono sound is about as good as it ever will considering the time, budget and technology they used. It is also, remarkably, the second-best sounding film here.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white/tinted digital High Definition image transfer on Stella Maris can obviously show the age of the materials used, but the very hard work put into saving the film has paid off and was done in 4K. Some flaws could not be fixed and were permanently set, but a 1967 35mm dupe negative and incomplete 1925 35mm tinted print were used in combination to derive a completed print. Apparently, they shot at 19 frames per second (fps), above the 16fps to 18fps that silent films were made in, but Pickford was a huge box office moneymaker and they had the cash and resources to do so. The sound on the Blu-ray and DVD are lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with a music score, as this is a silent film. I just wish the Blu-ray had a lossless version. The DVD version is a little softer than I would have liked, but it fares well versus the rest of the DVDs we covered here.

The other three DVDs here are anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 (save 2.00 X 1 on Before) image quality on all three DVDs here are softer than I would have liked with wanting definition and color that is not always what it should be or likely is, so only expect so much. They also all offer lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo mixes, save Never Too Late only offering lossy French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. They are about even with each other, though the cases where you get both 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo, the 5.1 tends to be a little bit better.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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