Blu-ray Review: “Bullet Train”

 

 

Ride or die! Heh-heh!  “Bullet Train” is basically John Wick on a train with a crazy cast of characters and falls into the more cartoony way of movies. There’s plenty of violence to go around, an awesome amount of gore, and some extremely funny lines and characters. It reminds me of “John Wick 3” in particular with similar production notes such as the abundance of colors and the well-choreographed fighting scenes. The Blu Ray picture and sound is nothing short of astounding! Bright neon colors are present from the start as intense purples, greens, blues, yellows, reds, and even pinks strike-through to make each train car look excellent. Flashback sequences go from a warm, orange-tinted look to a remarkable and blue-ish streak. Wardrobe colors, the big city lights at night, and the LED lighting of the train car interiors all look bold and full of life. It was truly a joy to behold.

 

This Blu Ray has an excellent Dolby Digital track! The sound effects are boisterous, robust, and continuously loud. These noises are nuanced and well-balanced in each speaker which flows smoothly in transitional sounds. Gun blasts, the fast traveling train herself, fight choreography, and glass bottles being broken all sound wonderful Explosions pack a loud punch as well. The low end of bass is booming with a smooth yet intense rumble that never has a rocky feel. The score and song cues are pitch-perfect that keep the film centered in its fun and entertaining atmosphere. The dialogue is always clean, clear, and easy to follow with no problems. The height speaker brings those sound effects from overhead, whether it be bullets flying by, rain, debris and body parts falling from above, and more. I really enjoyed watching this film! The Blu Ray is very well produced. 

 

Director David Leitch co-directed the original John Wick (which clearly shows) film which led to him making “Atomic Blonde,”  :Hobbs and Shaw” and “Deadpool 2” (which I enjoyed more than the 1st film!). Leitch even was a heavy-handed producer on “Nobody” as well. If those movies were all mixed together and blended into a high-octane cocktail, the result would be “Bullet Train.”  An intricate world of assassins, a deadly mission, brutal fight choreography, and a comedic and cartoony take on the action all make up this film. And the great thing is, that all these elements have congealed together to make this a blast of a viewing experience. The performances are energetic with wry humor and witty dialog. You’ll almost have to view it twice to appreciate the wry humor. It may strike the novice viewer as strange on the first viewing. 

“Bullet Train” is set on a high-speed modern train where a group of assassins is all tasked with retrieving a briefcase that belongs to an infamous yakuza boss. Nobody realizes other assassins are on the train at first, but as soon as eye contact is made, the violence ensues in bar cars, passenger cars, and even on the outside of the train. With a cast list that stars Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Joey King, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael Shannon, Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum. “Bullet Train” could easily get lost in the star power. But this script allows some unique personalities to collide, all made accessible through the psychology and personality traits of Thomas the Tank Engine. Yes. that’s right! It’s easy to see where films like “Snatch,” “Kill Bill” and even animated shows heavily influenced the style of the movie with their “in-your-face” camera swoops and pans, along with graphics that display character names on the screen. A trademark of Michael Bay as well. Not only that, the breaking-the-fourth wall that is so popular in “Deadpool”  also peaks its head out from time to time. “Bullet Train” can feel a little tiresome in parts when the film often cuts back to tell a story from the past. It disrupts the film’s flow here and there, but when the action is once again centered on the train, the pace instantly picks back up. In its meta way, the characters make it all self-aware of these flashbacks and how boring they can be.

Finally, everyone here is performing at the top of their game and having the time of their lives cutting it all up on set. Pitt is believable as a violent assassin when he needs to be and quickly turns on the comedic charm every chance he gets. Johnson and Henry are the true stars of the film though with their budding relationship and volatile personalities. And of course, Joey King is always a joy to watch on screen as she changes her chameleon-like emotions with whoever she shares the screen with. Leitch has conjured up a super-fun time at the movies with an A-List cast. “Bullet Train” is enthusiastic, crazy, and a surprisingly amazing time. It’s violent, comedic, and an all-around great time. Let’s all hope there are sequels. Highly Recommended!

Blu-ray Review: “Sniper: Rogue Mission”

 

Probably figuring they could oh-so-subtly cash in on some Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation traffic by sticking “Rogue” and “Mission” in the damn title, the NINTH Sniper movie isn’t really a Sniper movie at all. Which, frankly may work to its advantage by deviating from mundane action movie structures and for the fact that it was probably just damn dumb luck it landed here, toying foolishly with absolute parody vibes. With a score that’s a flip between Desperado and an Ocean’s Movie and almost zero action, as well as a weird comedy edge and the cinematography you’d expect from an enthusiastic teen film student who’d suddenly discovered his iPhone cam zoom, Rogue Mission is insanely low budget trash; an absolutely monumental train wreck of a production that is almost impossible to turn away from for its 90 minute duration. I found myself wanting to switch off the Blu Ray playback but I wanted to see where the film was going and how it will get there.
 
After stumbling onto some sex trafficking thing, former sniper turned terrible CIA agent soon becomes ex CIA agent, so he sits in the kitchen of some rando tech nerd (is there any other kind in movies) with his old enemy Lady Death, and a Homeland Security Agent who clearly isn’t required to do any actual work for a living, for, oh, around 71 minutes until it’s time to spend the remaining $46 of the budget on a ‘showdown’ that also won’t require him to use a sniper rifle (I’m being facetious here). It’s amazingly hard to rate Sniper: Rogue Mission. It’s like a 1/10 movie, but it’s more unintentionally entertaining than a hell of a lot of 5 and 6/10 movies out there. It’s so cheap, and noisy, and bad… that’s it’s actually good. It’s nowhere near a guilty pleasure, absolutely nothing about this film was intentionally good, but the madly misguided enthusiasm thrown at every single aspect of this production makes it wondrously hilarious to watch. It’s almost as if the nobody director behind it shot the film with absolutely no idea what he was handling. No idea of the franchise, the preceding films, the characters, the general plots these features follow, or anything. So much so that he convinced himself he was shooting a low budget heist flick, replete with some imaginative filmmaking techniques and the most ridiculous score of the year. Sniper: Rogue Mission’s ‘high’ points include a spectacularly bad alley fight, which has the score to something like Desperado playing out over it, and drops into John Woo slo-mo upon the explosion of… a thrown rubbish bag. It’s epic in its unintentional humour, with zooms all over the shop, like watching a rip-off of a Sergio Leone standoff at x10 speed. Not enough? Well how about fabled Lady Death – trained to be an assassin from childhood – and some goon having a pistol shootout from behind post boxes on opposing sides of a street. Somebody get this director a copy of Naked Gun! Wait, we’re not supposed to be laughing? See that’s the thing about Sniper: Rogue Mission, it halfway tries to take itself seriously, which only makes it more funny!
 
In the background, returning Sniper series actor Dennis Haysbert, former President Palmer of 24, and veteran from the underrated David Mamet-crafted The Unit TV series, tries his best to almost pull off the movie’s only good scene. A single dialogue-driven confrontation between old spies, across a bar table. It’s almost tense. The silence, the stares, Haysbert’s inimitable tones. Then they drop the needle and a random score kicks in so loud you’re immediately knocked backwards – before the scene is even over – and you’re abruptly reminded that this isn’t even going to get one good scene. But it we do get a whole clutch of terrible ones that are so bad that you’ll be on the floor laughing at them. If you can see it, for free, whilst heavily intoxicated, then that’s a surprisingly recommended way to spend your time.
 
In conclusion, the film is laughably terrible but at the same time, irresistibly ridiculous. Truly one of the worst films I’ve seen. If there’s one redeeming quality of Sniper Rogue Mission, it’s knowing what to expect on my 2nd viewing. Then I can adequately prepare by slamming down a six-pack first. 

4K/Blu-Ray Review: “Morbius”

 

 

Sharing the same Universe as the recent “Venom” films, “Morbius” (known to Marvel Comics fans as Morbius: The Living Vampire) didn’t exactly light the world on fire commercially when it was released in early 2022. Criticized for its screenplay, performances, visual effects, and everything in between, it managed to eke out a tiny profit, but was nowhere near as successful as properties produced entirely by Marvel Studios. The film is meant to possibly set up a possible Sinister Six films (as evidenced by the awkward mid-credit scenes), but also lead into the world of Blade, with the possible inclusion of Spider-Man at some point. Nevertheless, Sony seems to have gotten off to an unfortunate start, releasing a series of films (Venom and Venom: Let There Be Carnage included) that don’t exactly match the quality of their Disney-owned counterparts. Even so, it’s good to see a franchise expand into different factions, much like the original comics, which went into a myriad of directions with multiple characters from varying storylines and universes. But at this juncture, Morbius is the least-accepted among the Sony-produced Marvel films.

 

Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) is a brilliant doctor and scientist afflicted with a blood illness that leaves him weak and unable to walk without assistance. He grows up in a hospital environment under the care of Dr. Nicholas (Jared Harris) alongside his friend and surrogate brother Milo (Matt Smith), who is also afflicted with the same disorder. He spends his life searching for a cure, revolutionizing medicine with the invention of synthetic blood, but it’s not enough. He eventually begins conducting secret, illegal experiments with vampire bats, making himself a guinea pig for testing. His experiments are a success, but the results transform him into a living vampire, equipped with superhuman abilities and a thirst for blood. Martine (Adria Arjona), a fellow scientist and close friend, discovers what Michael is doing and attempts to help him, but not before someone else steps in and helps themselves to the cure, performing the same feats and killing people in their wake. Hot on the trail are a pair of FBI agents, Rodriguez (Al Madrigal) and Stroud (Tyrese Gibson), and Michael must now focus all of his energies on undoing the effects of the cure while stopping whomever is framing him for murder.

 

The question at hand: Is “Morbius” as bad as the internet would lead one to believe? Of course not. It’s not the worst thing ever, but it’s not a home run either. It’s mediocre to poor for most of its running time, though it has some interesting ideas. But was this a case of a studio tinkering with their product to the point of nearly killing it prior to its release? Maybe. Judging by the multiple rounds of reshoots before it hit theaters, something certainly seems to have been amiss. It’s also not clear how much Sony knew about the outcome of Spider-Man: No Way Home since Morbius was originally meant to take place in the same universe. As evidenced by the end result, it doesn’t. Spider-Man is only mentioned once and Adrian Toomes’ character apparently had more interaction with Michael Morbius in the film’s first trailer. So was Marvel Studios up front with their Sony partners about the direction that the Spider-Man series would take? You be the judge.

 

In any case, “Morbius”is a terrible film for many people, so much so that internet trolls have inadvertently given the film a new life as a possible cult item. But whether it will reach the same plateau as the recent Cats film—similarly released, re-released, and adjusted by the studio before being laughed off of movie screens—remains to be seen. I personally found sections of the film to be mildly entertaining and others not so much, but it’s definitely not up to par.

 

“Morbius” was captured digitally in a variety of formats by cinematographer Oliver Wood (Die Hard 2, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, The Bourne Identity)  The film was finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio (which means it’s a digital film). The Blu Ray release isn’t quite as robust as its 4K Ultra HD counterpart, but it’s still strong. Because the film was shot in such high quality, the same excellent depth is on display. The CGI mostly blends with the live action elements, although a few sequences certainly stood out, including the opening moments of Michael standing outside of a cave filled with bats. Blu Ray detail is lessened in comparison to its 4K counterpart, but it’s still a great high definition presentation of the film.

 

The main audio option is English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The Dolby Atmos track included on the 4K Ultra HD release is a knockout and more powerful than this standard DTS-HD option, but it’s still a muscular track in its own right. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise while the surrounding speakers are given plenty to work with, from quiet ambient moments to LFE-powered explosions and gun fire. Sound effects whiz by all around the sound stage while the score is offered an abundance of aural authority. In short, both soundtracks will give your system a great workout.

 

My conclusion, MORBIUS may be a good outing for die hard fans only, but for anyone else, it’s a sub-par film that truly has plenty of potential but fails to explore it. 

4K/Blu-Ray Review: “Ambulance”

 

 

 Michael Bay is a name you either love or hate. And many times, whether you love him or hate him depends on what movie of his you’re watching at the time. I personally love Bay. Back in the 90s and early 2000s he was the KING of “stupid”action movies. The Rock, Armageddon, Bad Boys, Bad Boys II: the list goes on and on and on. Heck, even the Transformers movies of his were mega blockbusters and good dumb fun until they got so repetitive that even this reviewer started to get weary of them. Well, after Transformers: The Last Knight in 2017 Michael Bay pretty much went radio silent as a director (outside of doing that Netflix exclusive 6 Underground back in 2020) and I thought he had pretty much run his course. Then I started hearing rumors this year of Bay coming back to what he does best, dumb comedy, and I was intrigued. At this point I was just a BIT worn out from his last several Transformers movies, but then I started hearing reports of how Ambulance was actually a fun movie, a huge hit, AND a return to form the master of explosions himself.

 

Now, I’m not exactly one to shy away from dumb action. I love Jake Gyllenhaal, I love explosions, and the trailer looked like a lot of fun, so when the disc came to review from my friend, I strapped in and just let the joyride begin. Our story starts out with a hardened EMT named Cam Thompson. She’s become jaded after having spent years saving people’s lives and letting them off at the hospital, but today she’s about to learn just why she does what she does. Segue over to our other main hero, Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), an ex-Marine who is up to his eyeballs in debt and no way to save his wife from dying of cancer without a big influx of cash. Luckily (or not so luckily maybe) for him, his adopted brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a prolific bank robber who Will has been staying away from for quite some time. Well, Danny boy has a job for Will and it’s enough to net them MILLIONS. It’s a simple bank robbery where they go in, get out, and get filthy stinking rich. Danny just needs a driver for his crew, and this is Will’s lucky day. Yeah, we already know that things don’t exactly go as planned. A teach of special SIS agents from the L.A.P.D. SWAT department have been keeping tabs of Danny’s crew for weeks, and upon exiting the building Danny’s men are mowed down in a hail of gunfire. However, Danny and Will make their escape by hopping on Cam Thompson’s Ambulance and using it to make a daring escape with $16 million worth of cash, lots of guns, and a wounded cop on board. The best way to describe Ambulance is that it’s part Bad Boys, part heist movie, and 3 parts Speed. 90% of the movie takes place withing the Ambulance as Will and Danny outrun cops, blow things sky high, and figure out a way to get the heck out of dodge and away with their money.

 

On the surface the movie is ridiculously dump and simple. It’s Speed with an Ambulance. Except there’s no Dennis Hopper maniacally keeping everyone on track, and Jake Gyllenhaal is absolutely hamming it up to level 11 as the loveable/hateable/psychotic/brilliant Danny Sharp. But Michael Bay is a skilled surgeon when it comes to doing pure action, and he’s right at home in his element here. Things blow up with such reckless abandon that I was laughing myself silly with this huge grin over my face the entire time. And Jake Gyllenhaal is such an insane villain/hero that you want him to die, but you want him to actually get away at the same time.

 

The charm is just delicious, with Michael Bay winking and nodding at his own films (they actually make jokes about The Rock and Bad Boys throughout the runtime) and while Danny is main attractant, Garret Dillahunnt almost matches Jake blow for blow with his over the top commando routine.

 

I’m gonna come out and say it. This is Michael Bay doing what Michael Bay does best. When they asked him “what kind of movie do you want Michael? Do you want to do Bad Boys? Do you want to do Speed? And how many explosions do you want”, his response had to have been “yes, all of it”. The movie is stupid, the movie is shallow, but it’s kept alive with sheer adrenaline and the charisma of everyone involved. I’m not wild about Yahya Abdul-Mateen the II, but he does well as Will, but it’s really Jake and Garret who just eat the scenery up like only Peter Stormaire can do in a Michael Bay film. Yeah, it’s not perfect, it gets a little hokey near the end, but Bay keeps the adrenaline pumping so hard and so fast that you don’t have time to slow down and analyze things to death. This is Bayhem with Baysplosions everywhere, and if you’ve seen his previous big name works, you know what the man is capable of. So buckle in and prepare for unlimited ammo, unlimited wise cracks, and a LOT of explosions.

 

Video:

Using a variety of RED cameras and finished in a native 4K master, Ambulance ROCKS onto 2160p with a stellar encode that blows the already great 1080p Blu-ray straight out of the water. The disc is just about perfect, with razor sharp details, incredible background shots, and nonstop kinetic movement that never gets blurry or artifacts. Quite literally this is one of the best looking encodes that I’ve seen in a long time, with only minor elements of softness when in Papi’s lair, or some of the CGI looking a little bit wonky in 4K. I didn’t notice banding or other major elements at play with the encode. HDR is silky deep, as the color tones tend to be cool blue or slightly amber, and bright red blood just splashes everywhere. The green of the spray paint over the vehicle stands out sharply and with deep saturation, and as I said, except for some mild haziness inside Papi’s lair, this is just about PERFECT.

 

Sound:

Did I mention this was a Michael Bay movie? It goes without saying that this is a reference level Atmos mix that just tears the walls down with abject fury. The score pulsates with deep bass energy from the first few moments of the movie, and the sound stage is just awash with chaos, Bayhem and carnage from every angle. Bullets bounce off the car at the rear, ricochet to the front of the sound stage, all the while tires screech, the score throbs, and cars blow up upon impact at just about every facet of the run time. Yeah, this is pure Bay awesome sauce, and if you like them big, like them loud, and like the bass to just punish you brutally, then this is the mix for you.

 

Conclusion:

Ambulance is silly, but it’s silly fun. I love it! High octane energy with Jake Gyllenhaal absolutely LOVING every second of his hammy role. It’s dumb fun, and dumb fun in a way that I haven’t seen for YEARS in cinema. Action movies have become so stale recently, that I really feel like this and Top Gun:Maverick pretty much saved cinemas. The 4K UHD disc is also nothing short of superb, with good extras, a killer video encode and a Michael Bay approved audio mix that will tear the walls down. Recommended as good sloppy Michael Bay fun. The Blu-ray is no slouch either, which tends to shine brighter than 4K but obviously less defined. Sound is great on Blu-ray but you only get the Atmos track on the 4K disc.

 

4K/Steelbook Review: “Heavy Metal”

 

Cult classic animated movie Heavy Metal makes its 4K debut with a new retrospective bonus feature, along with the film on Blu-ray that’s a port of the original high-def disc, complete with the extras it had at the time. The sequel, Heavy Metal 2000, is also included on a Blu-ray with a few bonus features, and you’ll find codes for digital copies of both movies.
Revisiting Heavy Metal for the first time in many years for this review, I’ll admit I cringed a bit when watching its portrayals of women. The film is very much a product of its era, when fantasy and science-fiction movies and comic books were full of scantily-clad women who resort to sex to get what they want. Sure, there were exceptions to that rule, but the Heavy Metal magazine that was the basis for the animated film was squarely in a male-dominated camp.
Taking its cue from characters and stories created by such luminaries as Richard Corben, Angus McKie, Dan O’Bannon, and Bernie Wrightson, Heavy Metal is an anthology film whose stories are connected by the presence of an evil green floating orb known as Loc-Nar. The framing story involves a girl whose astronaut father brings Loc-Nar home, only to have it kill him and terrorize her. The conceit is that the orb is showing the girl its travels through other planets before doing what it wants to her, unless she can end its evil reign.
The animation in the film is admittedly rough, even on this new 4K disc released by Sony, and some of it seems to have been heavily influenced by the artist Moebius, whose work was also a staple of the Heavy Metal magazine. The animation team used rotoscoping for many shots, a low-budget technique that consists of filming live-action actors and then tracing the images by hand – the animator Ralph Bakshi (Lord of the Rings) used it for many of his films of that era too.
However, one of the big attractions of Heavy Metal at the time was its soundtrack, which features songs by Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Journey, Cheap Trick, Devo, and others who were in their heyday back then. That, combined with the fact that there weren’t a lot of adult-oriented animated films in the 70s and 80s, led to the film becoming a cult classic over the years, despite its lukewarm reception by critics of the time. Personally, I can enjoy the music and the animation while putting a big asterisk on the experience given its crude and juvenile approach to the subject matter. But like I said earlier, this is a product of it’s time.
Its status as a cult classic eventually led to a sequel, Heavy Metal 2000, that Sony also included with this release, albeit only on a Blu-ray platter. In addition, you’ll find a copy of Heavy Metal on Blu-ray with bonus features as well as codes for digital copies of both movies. Heavy Metal 2000 is more of the same in terms of the gratuitous sex and violence, although the animation is cleaner and there’s one storyline, rather than the anthology approach. Overall, though, it doesn’t live up to the expectations set by the original. But personally I found myself liking 2000 more probably because of the better animation.
The bulk of the bonus features in this SteelBook edition pertain to Heavy Metal, including a new nine-minute look-back with interviews from Ivan Reitman (who produced the movie and who died recently, unfortunately), filmmaker Kevin Smith, actor Norman Reedus, and others. It’s found only on the 4K platter, while the rest of the bonus features are on the Blu-ray, which I assume Sony did so they could simply reissue the original Blu-ray.
Conclusion
Heavy Metal may not be for everyone but for fans of animation and Rock, this is the best these films have been presented yet. The sound on both films are better than expected, with 2000 obviously being a bit better. These films also took me back to the great partial animated film PINK FLOYD THE WALL, perfectly blending imagery and rock music, which is directed by one of my favorite filmmakers Alan Parker. I am eagerly awaiting for that film to get the luxurious 4K edition release! 
Original ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ 2000 ⭐️⭐️⭐️

4K Review: “Uncharted”

 

I’ve only excelled at two video games in my entire life: Virtua Fighter by PlayStation and any of the Gran Turismo games for the PS2. Yep, that’s it. That’s not to say that I’m bad at others, I can button mash with the best of them, but I’ve just never really been much of a gamer. Then again I’m sure I’m in the minority. I have, however, heard of the Uncharted game series with its titular star – Nathan Drake. And I suppose it was only a matter of time before some more video games make the leap to the big screen. This is nothing new, of course, we’ve had several video games turned movies with varying degrees of success. However the timing on this one was about as perfect as it could be. Coming off “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Tom Holland once again headlines this film. And hot on the heels of his MCU efforts certainly couldn’t hurt. But, this isn’t the MCU.  Can Holland work his magic as Nathan Drake or should he stick to web slinging?
 
Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) is a bartender in New York City. He’s also a petty thief. He gets a surprise visit from Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), a “professional” treasure hunter who claims to have known Nathan’s brother. Victor claims that the two were close to finding a stash of gold, potentially worth billions of dollars, that was lost by Magellan (yes, that one) nearly 500 years earlier. Victor wants Nathan to help him finish what they started, though doing this will require stopping Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), a wealthy businessman looking for the same treasure. Of course, there has to be a woman in the mix and the duo meet up with Chloe Fraser (Sophia Ali), another person in search of the treasure who may or may not be trusted.
 

If movies like “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” ” The DaVinci Code” or “National Treasure” (a personal favorite of mine) are up your alley, then you’ll have a good time with “Uncharted.” I’ve always been curious what hidden treasures are out there just waiting for some key or other object to unlock the goods of the past. And this is where the film excels. If you can put aside most of the logic and have a good time with it, you will. But consider that this is based on a video game and you’ll have to get past the fact that neither Tom Holland nor Mark Wahlberg look a damn thing like their 64 bit counterparts. The only person who really seems to relish his role is Banderas and he doesn’t get enough screen time to make it worthwhile. You’ll know what you’re in for very quickly, so either go with it and have a good time or get ready to check your watch for the next 116 minutes. 

 

As anyone would expect, “Uncharted” certainly sparkles when it comes to how it’s presented on screen. The 2.39:1 AVC HD encode checks all the boxes with amazing contrast, sharp as a tack detail and a wonderful, yet earthy-toned, color palette. The 4K version, no doubt, looks a bit better with a wider color spectrum and the like. Still, it’s hard to fault the way this Blu-ray looks. I found really no evidence of anything I’d consider a flaw. And why should we? Sony consistently puts out some of the best-looking titles I’ve seen. (“Ghostbusters Afterlife” is another example) This is no exception.

 

It’s a bit of a shame when you have to pony up for the 4K disc to get a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Well, you do. But that’s not to say that the included DTS HD Master Audio mix found on this Blu-ray is by any means bad. It’s not. In fact, I was pretty impressed. Given the genre of the film we can expect an active mix with surrounds adding a warm layer of ambiance through most of the scenes. Some scenes (the airplane one in particular) do engage all of your speakers resulting in a very aggressive and dynamic aural experience. Vocals, of course, are top notch.

 

Technically there’s nothing “wrong” with “Uncharted. ”  It delivers some moderately-entertaining action sequences and for those that like the globe-hopping type of adventure, we’ve got plenty of that. It just seems like so many other films that the video game aspect of it gets lost. Truthfully, it’s probably more fun to simply play the game than watch the film. That said, Sony’s disc looks and sounds good and we’ve got a modest sampling of supplements. So if this is your thing, you could do a lot worse.

 

4K/UltraHD Review: “Super 8”

  • SUPER 8
  • Starring: Kyle Chandler and Elle Fanning
  • Directed by: J,J. Abrams
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 1 hr 52 mins
  • Paramount

JJ Abrams directs a love letter to Steven Spielberg about kids and a mysterious alien in 2011’s “Super 8.” . It’s “The Goonies” meets “Close Encounters” meets “E.T.” and very entertaining. It’s also an homage to the cinematic 80s tropes and is a heartwarming tale coping with loss and grief.

“Super 8” is celebrating its 10th anniversary and what better way to celebrate than to indulge in the brand new 4K UHD Blu Ray collection. Since the film is only 10 years old, it benefits from the high definition tremendously, as this is the best the film has ever looked on video. It has been encoded in TrueDolby HD sound, giving it a demo-worthy soundtrack that also incorporates some excellent LFE subwoofer activity that’ll drive your neighbors crazy! 

The story is about a small group of teen misfits encountering a misunderstood extra-terrestrial. There’s much to absorb here though. We have a father and son who must live on without mom. We have an alcoholic father raising a daughter. We have a scientist involved in a government cover up. However the camaraderie of the kids seems to make all of these problems a bit lighter. The fact the kids are all budding filmmakers adds even more comedic flavor to the story. Throw in some of the best special effects of the time (Industrial Light & Magic) and you truly have a unique viewing experience. This film reeks of nostalgia and intentionally has a Spielbergian feel to it as well and that’s okay. It is obviously intended as it is a love letter to Steven Spielberg (the kids are perhaps the biggest indication).

“Super 8” is truly super great and highly recommended in the 4K format. .

EXTRAS

  •  Audio Commentary 
  •  The Dream Behind Super 8
  •  The Search for New Faces 
  •  Meet Joel Courtney 
  •  Rediscovering Steel Town 
  •  The Visitor Lives 
  •  The 8mm Revolution 
  •  Scoring Super 8 
  •  Do You Believe in Magic?
  •  Deconstructing the Train Crash 
  •  Deleted Scenes 

Blu-ray Review: “The Marksman”

  • THE MARKSMAN
  • Starring: Liam Neeson, and Teresa Ruiz
  • Directed by: Robert Lorenz
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 1 hr 48 mins
  • Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Jim (Liam Neeson) s a former Marine who lives a solitary life as a rancher along the Arizona-Mexico border. But his peaceful existence soon comes crashing down when he tries to protect a boy on the run from members of a vicious cartel. And that’s pretty much the story here. Though Neeson gives a solid performance, the story may be a bit too formulaic. 

Jim basically has had some rough times. He lost his wife to cancer, and his property is being foreclosed. All of this happens in the beginning of the film, so it’s hardly a spoiler. Jim spends his days sport hunting with his canine companion, Jackson. He’s excellent with a rifle, which earned him a medal in the Marine Corps. Jim reports anything suspicious to his step-daughter, a border patrol agent, whilst hunting on the grounds. A woman and her son are on the run from the Mexican drug cartel and Jim gets involved. What I do appreciate about this film is that it’s a road film. Like Rainman,” most of the film takes place on freeways, highways and small town bi-ways. And with the cartel in hot pursuit, you can rest assured that it’s going to be a helluva commute.

 Now Jim’s life has taken a turn. He’s on the run with a kid (Miguel) who is stunned into silence due to his mother being shot by the cartel. Jim makes a promise to the kid’s mother to take him to her sister in Chicago. Unbeknownst to Jim, the cartel can track his whereabouts every time he uses his debit card with a sophisticated computer system. And so what follows is a series of close calls with the cartel and the bonding of Jim and Miguel.

Much of the film is uninspired as we have seen it before and as I previously mentioned, a bit formulaic. Screenplay is weak but the more interesting scenes are when Jim and Miguel are bonding. As I also mentioned, I personally love  road films and “The Marksman” is a road film indeed. Here Neeson does put on a good performance with what little he’s been given. It’s just Liam fighting the baddies. They are now calling his films “Your yearly Neesoning”. Overall it’s worth a rental but it comes up short in comparison to “Honest Thief” and “The Commuter.”

SPECIAL FEATURES

Making of “The Marksman” featurette.

4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Review: “Elysium”

  • ELYSIUM
  • Starring: Matt Damon and Jodie Foster
  • Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
  • Rated: R
  • Running time: 1 hr 49 mins
  • Tri Star Pictures

Neil Blomkamp’s futuristic action popcorn ride is very impressive with visual effects. One thing’s for sure, subtlety has never been an inspiration in Blomkamp’s body of work. “Elysium” addresses a sociopolitical concern, very similar to Blomkamp’s earlier gem, “Districkt 9.:” the policing of a state where the socially unequal, i.e. the poor, suffer grave depravities. “Elysium” takes place in a futuristic Los Angeles where the state has separated it’s citizens, with the majority remaining in Los Angeles while the wealthy 1% live free of the world’s anxieties in a halo-like space habitat orbiting Earth called Elysium.


Matt Damon stars as Max, a parolee dying of radiation poisoning who is fighting to be smuggled to Elysium in order to take advantage of the advanced Healthcare system that exists there. He still works at the industrial plant where he got the radiation poisoning and is told that it will kill him in 5 days. The society is partially policed by robots, which Max consistently has unfavorable encounters with. Max realizes he has little time left to live but Elysium has machines that can cure him which motivates him to get to the orbiting station. Max teams up with a rebel group to steal information from a company that can free the citizens of Los Angeles and make everyone a citizen of Elysium. But in order for this to happen, Max has to be tagged with bionic parts to his arms and back while a computer chip needs to be implanted in his brain. This allows him to be more agile in fighting and the chip to his brain will give him access to the company, He also has to get through Defense Secretary Delacourt, played by Jodie Foster, who will stop at nothing to keep the citizens of Los Angeles out of Elysium. The results pits the rebels against the state in a battle that is full of great visuals and action.

 
I watched the film on a UHD 4K Blu Ray, and the picture and sound are astounding. A notable upgrade from the previous Blu Ray release where contrast and brightness are improved delivering a sharper image with vivid whites and deeper blacks. Sound is amazing with plenty of activity in the surround fields and lots of LFE activity for the subwoofer. The sub-woofer sound is smooth as the low level sounds will not overextend your speaker. The 2160p picture, which is double that of a Blu Ray picture produces breathtaking imagery, showcasing the visual effects with remarkable clarity. The Elysium station has to been seen to be believed! The orbiting station is a wonderful work of digital effects. And seeing it on 4K Blu Ray will astound you. It took me back to Star Trek Beyond (which I also have on 4K Blu Ray) where the docking station is a mixture of ship technology and citizenry. I had a great time with “Elysium.” It’s films like this that make me glad that I invested in a 4K Blu Ray player.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Exoskeletons, Explosions, and the Action Choreography of Elysium 
  • The Hero, The Psychopath, and the Characters of Elysium
  • The Art of the Elysium Miniatures 
  • Bugatti 2154 
  • Theatrical Trailer 1 
  • Theatrical Trailer 2 
  • International Trailer
  • Visions of 2154 Interactive Gallery 
  • Extended Scene: Kruger Wakes Up 
  • The Journey to Elysium: Part 1 – Envisioning Elysium ()
  • The Journey to Elysium: Part 2 – Capturing Elysium 
  • The Journey to Elysium: Part 3 – Enhancing Elysium 
  • Collaboration: Crafting the Performances in Elysium 
  • The Technology of 2154 
  • In Support of Story: The Visual Effects of Elysium 
  • Engineering Utopia: A Society in the Sky 

4K ULTRA HD/Blu-ray Review: “Big Fish’

  • BIG FISH
  • Starring: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney and Billy Curdup
  • Directed by: Tim Burton
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 2 hrs 5 mins
  • Columbia Pictures

There is simply no film like a Tim Burton film! This visually arresting film also has a great story.

. Ewan McGregor is one of those actors that is interesting in anything he’s in. Here he plays a protagonist in a make-believe world. Or is it make-believe? As I watched this, I was reminded of the character of Forrest Gump, a man having adventures in everything he was involved in. 


The story involves Willll Bloom (Billy Crudup), who seems to harbor animosity against his father, Edward (Albert Finney). Will feels that he really doesn’t know his dad, who is noted for telling great stories which seem too far fetched for reality. As Edward tells one story after another, we flashback to his younger self (played by Ewan McGregor) who seems to have adventures that put him at an advantage to his peers.

Edward longs for Sandra, whom he instantly falls in love with despite her already being engaged. Edward soon finds himself joining the circus, simply because Sandra is also part of the same circus. As Edward tries to woo Sandra for her hand in marriage, he must meet conditions that he can only ask Amos Calloway (Danny DeVito) for, learning one thing about Sandra each month. This is to ensure that he knows all about her in his pursuit. This lasts for three years until it is revealed that Amos is secretly a werewolf (I’ll stop here so I will not ruin the film for the viewer).

This is just one example of how the story weaves and the viewer is treated to breathtaking locales and a very interesting plot.

Visually, as usual, Tim Burton is quite amazing. The man shows extreme creativity and his films hold up very well for repeat viewing. There is much to see in “Big Fish,” and you will do this film an injustice by renting it for one viewing. It has to be bought, taken home and enjoyed over and over.

“Big Fish” is a perfect blend of heartfelt sentimentality and visual splendor. In lesser hands, “Big Fish” would’ve gone off the rails as another goofy drama. In the hands of Burton, with John August’s script and with McGregor as the protagonist, it is the perfect blend of storytelling and fantasy. This film has some very colorful characters but that’s Burton’s recipe for a great film. 


The film is now on HDR 4K Blu Ray, with an impressive transfer by Sony. The film is nearly 20 years old but it holds up well with an HDR10 transfer that doesn’t disappoint. The audio is beautiful with a Dolby Atmos track that definitely increases atmosphere in a film that’s already captivating. “Big Fish” is a big winner that is surely presented with that Tim Burton signature that fans have come to expect and love. It’s a masterpiece!

4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Review: “Speed”

  • SPEED
  • Starring: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper
  • Directed by: Jan de Bont
  • Rated: R
  • Running time: 1 hr 56 mins
  • 20th Century Fox

“Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?”

That’s pretty much the story in this intense action film that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat! After seeing this, you’ll never look at buses the same (much less ride one). LAPD officer Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) was just doing his job when he and his partner (Jeff Daniels) rescued an elevator full of hostages from a mad bomber (Dennis Hopper). They were true heroes of the hour but when the bomber sets another trap on a commuter bus – if the speed of the bus in question drops below 50 MPH it will explode – it’s game on. The bomber demands millions of dollars in ransom. Now Jack must find a way to get on board the bus, rescue the hostages and stop the maniac bomber once and for all.

The story is a combination of thrills that, when added up,equals nerve-wrecking tension. The bus cannot stop whatsoever and there are times when you think “okay how in the world are they going to survive this?” Former cinematographer Jan de Bont’s (“Cujo,” “Ruthless People”) directorial debut comes through a true winner.

For action fans, there’s plenty of it here. Narrative moves at a suspenseful pace where the speedometer on the bus is a factor. I had the privilege of watching Speed on a 4K Blu Ray copy and for a 1994 film, it shines with a great picture and sound, even though the disc does not have a Dolby Atmos track. Still, this film is a great time.

EXTRAS

Disc One (4K)

  •  Audio Commentary by Jan de bont
  •  Audio Commentary – by screenwriter Graham Yost and producer Mark Gordon.

Disc Two (Blu-ray)

  •  Action Sequences 
  •  Inside Speed
  •  Extended Scenes 
  •  Music Video – “Speed” by Billy Idol.

4K/Blu-ray Review: “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV”

  • KINGSGLAIVE: FINAL FANTASY XV
  • Starring the voices of:  Aaron Paul, Lena Heady and Sean Bean
  • Directed by:  Takeshi Nozue
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 50 mins
  • SONY Pictures

I’m not much of a fan of films derived from video games, however I do appreciate “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV” for its stunning digital art.

Shot in full motion-capture CGI, the film is a visual work of art with some fun voice acting. However, if you’re not familiar with the game or story, you may find it a bit overwhelming. I was not at all familiar with “Final Fantasy” but it was still cool to look at and marvel at its artistry.

Watching on a 4K UHD disc certainly makes the presentation even more amazing and the sound quality is pretty amazing. The beauty of the film is that when you first glance at the characters, they look amazingly real! The full motion capture is astounding.

As for the plot, to break it down lightly, the story takes place on a planet called EOS, which is like a futuristic Earth. There is a Kingdom called Lucis, which houses a magical crystal that was given to the Lucians by gods. The power is used to protect the people and give power to the ruling king and his soldiers, who are known as the Kingsglaive.  With these powers, the Kingsglaive can ward off enemies.

Anything that is magical and promises powers will surely arouse jealousy and create wars and the crystal is no exception. Friends are stabbed in the back, characters are not whom they say they are and mega monsters, demons and spaceships riddle the landscape.  Everything climaxes into one big, epic final battle, which leads up to “Final Fantasy XV,” the video game.  

Once again, the visuals are quite stunning. In fact, this film has some of the best motion capture and CGI work I’ve seen on the big screen with room shaking LFE activity that’ll give the subwoofers a workout. The level of detail is staggering. Hair stubble and skin pores are clearly visible and come to breathtaking life!

Even for the novice, a viewing of “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV” will give you a glimpse of the technical achievements of current film technology. It is certainly the next step in motion capture animation.

Special Features

  • A Way With Words – Epic And Intimate Vocals
  • To Capture The Kingsglaive – The Process
  • Fit For A Kingsglaive – Building The World
  • Emotive Music – Scoring The Kingsglaive

Blu-ray Review: “Honest Thief”

  • HONEST THIEF
  • Starring: Liam Neeson and Kate Walsh
  • Directed by: Mark Williams
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 1 hr 39 mins
  • Universal Home Video

The film opens with Carter (Neeson) pulling off a final heist, in which he is very meticulous in his methods. In fact, he’s been nicknamed “the In & Out Bandit”. Carter then ventures into a storage facility to store personal items and “some of the funds”. He’s wise not to put the money all in one place. But here’s when our protagonist or antagonist, depending on where in the film you’re referring to him, makes his complete 180 degree turn. At the storage facility, Carter meets a woman and falls in love. So now he no longer wants to rob banks and wishes to give back the money and turn himself in. Hence he is now earned his title character, “Honest Thief”.

The film is directed by Mark Williams, who has worked on the television series “Ozark” (which I haven’t seen) and “The Accountant” with Ben Affleck (on both of those projects Williams also served as a producer). Set in Boston, the movie also stars Kate Walsh, Jeffrey Donovan, Jai Courtney, Anthony Ramos and Robert Patrick.

In this film Liam Neeson is not the good guy we’re used to seeing. This isn’t Taken nor The Commuter. He’s a bad guy that wants to do good. So Carter informs the FBI of his crimes and they don’t believe him. Who robs banks and now wishes to turn ithemselves in? Someone who has met the right woman. And as one character put it, “that’s got to be some woman.” Carter’s girlfriend is portrayed by Kate Walsh, who is caught up in the chase towards the 9 million dollars that Carter wants to turn in.

The film has some great action scenes including a house explosion that I loved! Carter is also a demolition expert, something he learned in the Armed Forces, which is how he blows the bank vault. Narrative in the film moves at a brisk pace. When Carter is on the run, he gets into some scuffles where I wanted to see the fighting skills Neeson is famous for in other films, but this isn’t “Taken.” He just knows how to blow up things. The baddies in the FBI are atypical. One has a heart change and the other is bent on getting that $9 million. Robert Patrick makes an appearance as an FBI supervisor (you will definitely remember him from Terminator 2 as the villainous T-1000).

I watched the film on Blu Ray where the sound and picture were crisp and clean. “Honest Thief,” to me, was a slight let down at first because my expectations were too high. I was looking for “Taken” or even “The Communter” but that’s okay. It just shows that Neeson is more than one dimensional. He has an amazing range and can play various roles.

There are no extras included in this set.

FILMOLOGY – “Frozen” (2010)

  • FROZEN (2010)
  • Starring: Emma Bell and Shawn Ashmore
  • Directed by: Adam Green
  • Anchor Bay Pictures



Certainly not to be confused with Disney’s animated musical, this is easily one of the most intense films I’ve ever seen and guaranteed to stay with you FOR-EVER!

A must see for all horror fans, a weekend ski party at a lodge goes terribly wrong. Look for Kane Hodder, better known as Jason Voorhees, in a cameo, My favorite horror movies are the ones that feel real and that possibly could happen, no matter how unlikely. This movie is raw, nerve-wracking and one of the most gut wrenching films I’ve ever seen!

FILMOLOGY – “Taxi Driver”

  • TAXI DRIVER
  • Starring: Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel and Jodie Foster
  • Directed by: Martin Scorsese
  • Columbia Pictures

 
You’ll find one helluva cab ride here!

Scorsese’s mesmerizing film is so low-key it might put you to sleep. Not because of boredom though – it’s combination of a soothing jazz score (the final one by the great Bernard Hermann, who died 24 hours after delivering the score to Scorsese) and DeNiro’s narration will definitely relax you.

Travis Bickle has a deep concern. He feels the need to be a hero in a society that’s gone wrong. In fact, he’s just an extraordinary person in normal circumstances.

“You talkin’ to me??”