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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Crime > Fantasy > Dutch > Action > Racing > Mustang: The First 50 Years (2014/TM Video DVD Set)/The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fifth Season (2013 - 2014/Warner Blu-ray)

Borgman (2013/Cinedigm/Drafthouse Blu-ray)/Born To Race: Fast Track (2013/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)/Firestorm (2013/Well Go USA Blu-ray)/High School Confidential (1958/Turner/Paramount/Olive Blu-ray)/Mustang: The First 50 Years (2014/TM Video DVD Set)/The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fifth Season (2013 - 2014/Warner Blu-ray)

Picture: B-/B-/B-/B/C+/B- & C Sound: B/B/B/B-/C+/B & B- Extras: C+/C-/C+/D/B-/C Main Programs: C+/C-/C+/B-/B-/C

Here's a new set of fired-up action releases, including a fine new documentary on a sports car favorite...

Alex Van Warmerdam's Borgman (2013) wants to be a surreal, even adult fairytale film where an old man (Jan Bijovet as the title character) is hunted by men connected to a church, but he just escapes his underground hideout and gets some fellow friends hiding in similar places to wake up and quickly run. He finds refuge in a suburban house and becomes interested in the lady of the house he is let into, but h is soon finding ways to stay there more permanently than anyone should let him.

Form there, the script tries for open-ended mysteriousness and slight surrealism that never quite adds up and I do not think I am missing anything about Dutch culture (I've seen enough of their films to know otherwise, et al) so it is instead an exercise to try and be something it never totally succeeds in being despite a few interesting moments. The cast tries and the locales are nice, but Van Warmerdam lands up showing us things only he knows the meaning of and if it is not pretentious, it is not up to similar work from the likes of a Luis Bunuel so see it at your own risk.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable & iTunes capable devices and a 28-page booklet on the film, while the Blu-ray adds the Original Theatrical Trailer and Deleted Scenes.

Alex Ranarvelo's Born To Race: Fast Track (2013) is a wacky mess of clichés, bad acting, bad editing, bad directing, badly shot sports cars and 98 long minutes that looks more like an ad for Toyotas and Subarus as a bad Fast & Furious ripoff than an actual narrative exercise of any kind. That includes a bored-looking cast of unknowns, Corben Bernsen and Sharon Lawrence showing up in vein, very bad digital visual effects and a lack of energy that makes old Hot Wheels toy ads look like short art films. Skip this one!

The only extra is a Behind The Scenes featurette.

Alan Yuen's Firestorm (2013) is a Martial Arts heist thriller with limited thrills and any time things get good, clichés, silliness, bad digital visual effects (down to bad digital pigeons!) and other oddball things keep undermining anything that works here and this has some of the worst practical CGI that I have seen on any major production like this in a while. The bad guys keep finding clever ways to hijack armored trucks, but that tends to make for active breaks in a mixed script that is not as good as it thinks it is. This had the potential to be better, but inexperience and constant awkwardness undermine the whole 110 minutes so expect a choppy time.

Extras include a Making Of featurette and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Jack Arnold's High School Confidential (1958) starts by trying to show the dark, shocking side of high school drug use in its day, starting with the ever-subversive Jerry Lee Lewis playing piano and singing a song in his usual wild form. Russ Tamblyn is the new guy on campus talking about partying and new, forbidden drugs (!!!) while going at it with other tough guy students who had better look out because he has a knife! Mamie Van Doren plays his Aunt who is a little more sexually interested in him than she should be (and she only drinks alcohol ... so far) and future Addams Family star Jackie Coogan (already a well known character actor at the time) play a serious, mean drug kingpin!

You have to see this one to believe it and it just gets wackier and wackier, with a conclusion that might not fit, but it makes for a campy time capsule just the same and the supporting cast (including Jan Sterling, Michael Landon, Lyle Talbot and an uncredited William Smith) are a plus. Arnold was known for directing many B-movies, but he was very good at that and puts most big budget hacks today to shame. This sometimes howler of a film about the dangers of drugs, et al, is worth a look.

There are sadly no extras.

Mustang: The First 50 Years (2014) delivers 2.5 hours of history on one of the most successful models of any car ever made in automotive history. Starting with Ford Motors' stuffy image by the 1960s and in the face of the failed Edsel, a young Lee Iaccoca decides to create a sporty car like those being made in Europe that was much more affordable, easier to produce and would appeal to the new, rising youth market. After some false starts and prototypes that did not work out, the car was launched in an unprecedented campaign and was a huge hit that saved Ford in the long term.

New and archival interviews are mixed with vintage and new film and video footage to show us the history of the car, some solid Ford history, all the eras of the car to date, key special editions of the car, some controversies (the smaller early 1970s models sold, but many felt they were not true Mustangs and that debate continues today) and its influence on other manufacturers to make sports cars (GM with the Camaro, Trans Am, GTO and evolving Corvette that debuted before the Mustang, Chrysler with the Challenger, Charger & Barracuda, AMC with the Javelin) shows us the culture and spells out its remarkable half-century of history so far with no signs of stopping.

The part where 8-track tape players included as standard in each launching car stereo systems is oddly ignored, but the program is more thorough than one we did a decade ago that claimed to be a 40th Anniversary program, only to contain one on its 25th overusing an odd remake of The Troggs' classic hit Wild Thing. Fans will love this set, but those interested in a great history should also check this set out, even if they don't like the car. Maybe they'll find one (with or without the hand of Carroll Shelby expanding the model) they'll like.

There are not extras per se, but the program has such extensive subsections, some might count the second DVD as extras and we will to be fair to the makers.

The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fifth Season (2013 - 2014) is the first time we have looked at the Kevin Williamson-produced show since its debut season and most of us are surprised that the show is still on the air. Guess the actors and soap opera formula has slowly grown on the fans who did not abandon the show, plus Williamson very, very slowly added twists and turns (characters called Travelers) and that is enough for its young audience.

Consistent, but boring and quickly forgotten after viewing, this is for fans... big fans only. The actors seem to be having somewhat of a good time, but I cannot imagine the show lasting too much longer. We'll see.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, while the discs add four Making Of featurettes, Unaired Scenes and Second Bite: Gag Reel.

We have five Blu-rays here, but the 1080p 2.35 X 1 black and white digital High Definition image on School is surprisingly the best despite the age of the film and that is by far the oldest entry on the list. Why, because the print and the transfer is one of the best we've seen or heard from Olive Films to date with nice detail and depth shot in real 35mm anamorphic Panavision. Still, the other Blu-rays are decent including the same frame on Borgman, though in color, with only some detail issues, the same color aspect ratio on Race, if not as stable, the same frame on Firestorm in color has its moments albeit interrupted by some bad shots and the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on all episodes of the Vampire Blu-rays, though some of its limits are in styling and not just from its digital shoot. However, the anamorphically enhanced DVD versions are really soft and even hard to watch, so much so that the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the Mustang DVDs look better.

As for sound, the four newer Blu-rays with 5.1 mixes all sound good with consistent soundfields including lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 on Race and DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on Borgman, Firestorm (Cantonese and Mandarin) and the Blu-ray episodes of Vampire, so they are all sonically solid. Even the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD episodes of Vampire sound good for the format. The lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono on School also sounds really good for its age down to Jerry Lee Lewis' singing and piano playing, making you wish this was at least in stereo.

The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on the Mustang DVDs have more than their moments of vintage monophonic sound and a few moments of location audio that is off, but it is pretty consistent sound for the most part.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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