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.

 

Blu-ray Review “Legend: 2-Disc Standard Special Edition”

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 5 out of 5 stars

“Legend” has always been one of my favorite films growing up. Tim Curry plays the role of Darkness is probably one of the best performance (and make-up jobs ever). This new Blu-ray from Arrow Video is packed with two different versions of the film: the U.S. Theatrical Cut originally released in North America in 1986, and the Director’s Cut first released on DVD in 2002. Both cuts are included with their original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with 5.1 surround sound tracks.

It is cool to know that Arrow Films exclusively restored the U.S. Theatrical Cut has been for this release. The original 35mm camera negative were scanned in 4K resolution and restored in 2K. The Director’s Cut is presented in the 2011 HD master approved by director Ridley Scott. It is hard for me to choose which cut is my favorite. Obviously, I grew up with the theatrical cut and only within last 20 years has the director’s cut surfaced.

Official Premise: In an idyllic, sun-dappled forest, the pure-hearted Jack (Tom Cruise) takes his true love Princess Lili (Mia Sara) to see a pair of unicorns frolicking at the forest’s edge. Little do they know, however, that the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry, in a remarkable make-up designed by The Thing’s Rob Bottin) has dispatched his minions to capture the unicorns and sever their horns so that he may plunge the world into everlasting night. After Lili and the unicorns are taken prisoner, Jack must team with a group of forest creatures and descend into Darkness’ subterranean lair to face off against the devilish creature before it is too late.

Arrow Video like always packs this release with amazing special features that make hardcore fans drool. This release also includes an illustrated book, a large fold-out double sided poster, six double sided postcard sized lobby card reproductions, and limited edition packaging with reversible sleeve. There is commentary tracks on both cuts and there is also isolated music tracks on the theatrical cut. There are a bunch of in depth featurettes with archive footage from the production. As well as storyboards, trailers and so much more. If you are a fan of this film or have never seen it and looking to explore this release is definitely the one to start with!

Blu-ray Review “My Stepmother Is an Alien”

Movie: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

“My Stepmother Is an Alien” is a lost comedy/sci-fi classic from 1988. It packs a stellar cast of Dan Aykroyd (“Ghostbusters”), Kim Basinger (“Batman”) and Jon Lovitz (“North”) Alyson Hannigan, (TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”). It is a fun silly movie that I haven’t seen in over 30 years and probably wouldn’t have ever seen again if it wasn’t for this release from Arrow Video.

Official Premise: When widowed astronomer Steve Mills (Aykroyd) inadvertently causes a gravitational disruption in deep space, a race of hyper-advanced alien lifeforms sends one of their own to investigate, disguised in the alluring human form of Celeste (Basinger). Tasked with seducing the lovelorn Steve in a bid to gain access to his scientific research, Celeste finds herself falling for the man she’s been sent to swindle. But they’ve not counted on Steve’s young daughter Jessie (Hannigan), who’s none too thrilled by the prospect of a new mother – especially not one from another planet.

For a 1988 film, “My Stepmother is an Alien” looks solid on Blu-ray. It’s 1080p transfer in 1.85:1 aspect ratio are on point and looks great. The film was restored in 2K by Sony Pictures Entertainment and was 4K scanned from the 35mm Original Picture Negative. IT also features a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch and first pressing will also include an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Amanda Reyes.

The special features are really the only letdown on this release. There is an Audio Commentary track by from film critic Bryan Reesman. There is a short audio interview with director Richard Benjamin. Lastly there is a trailer and image gallery included. Regardless of the lack of extras, this is still a great release and is a must own for fans of this cult classic!

Blu-ray Review “Kevin Can F**K Himself: Season 1”

Actors: Annie Murphy, Mary Hollis Inboden, Eric Petersen, Alex Bonifer, Brian Howe, Raymond Lee
Run time: 5 hours and 54 minutes
Release date: ‎November 16, 2021
Studio:‎ IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT

Season: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

If you are a fan of “Schitt’s Creek” and love Annie Murphy like I do, this new show “Kevin Can F**K Himself” is a winner. Definitely darker than “Schitt’s Creek”, Murphy gets to take a rather different role here and she nails every second she is on the screen. I love how the show work that when she is with her husband everything is lit up and laugh track plays but once she closes the door or walks out where she is alone everything gets a little more real and we get some great comedy/drama throughout the season. The show was already renewed for season 2 and will release on AMC+ and AMC in 2022, so can’t wait here!

Created by Valerie Armstrong (“Lodge 49”), Kevin Can F**K Himself is directed by Anna Dokoza (“Up All Night,” “Flight of the Conchords”) and Oz Rodriguez (Vampires vs. the Bronx, “A.P. Bio”). The series stars Emmy winner Annie Murphy (“Schitt’s Creek”), Mary Hollis Inbodin (“The Righteous Gemstones”), Eric Peterson (“Kirstie”), Alex Bonifer (“Superstore”), Brian Howe (“Vice Principals”), and Raymond Lee (“Here and Now”).  

Official Premise: Allison McRoberts is the prototypical Sitcom Wife married to Kevin, her self-centered husband. When she learns that the perfect future she envisioned is impossible, she teams up with her neighbor Patty as she attempts to escape her confines and take control of her life. A completely original new dark comedy, Kevin Can F**K Himself shows what happens when you leave the brightly lit sitcom set and see the reality behind the laugh track.

The Blu-ray looks amazing with the differences between the dark and light scenes. I also noticed differences in the score when the set changes, I didn’t notice that the first time I watched on TV, so the audio track definitely delivers. In terms of special features, there are a few behind-the-scenes featurettes. First up we have “A Look at the Series”, then we have “Meet the Characters”, which dives into our cast and lastly there is “Making of the Show”, which is worth checking out for sure. I would have loved to see a commentary track or two. Well, there’s always season two.

Blu-ray Review “Prisoners of the Ghostland”

Director: ‎Sion Sono
Run time: ‎1 hour and 42 minutes
Release date: November 16, 2021
Actors: Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Bill Moseley, Nick Cassavetes, Tak Sakaguchi
Studio: Image Entertainment

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

When I see Nicolas Cage coming up in a movie, I am first in line with my money out! “Prisoners of the Ghostland” was no different, especially with the film being branded with Cage’s quote “The wildest movie I’ve ever made”. My expectations were wicked high. Damn, what a let down. If you want to see Cage’s “wildest movie” that definitely has to be “Mandy” from 2018. Hands down, bat shit crazy! This film tries way to hard and fails on nearly every turn.

The film is directed by this (self-proclaimed) acclaimed Japanese director, Sion Sono (Why Don’t You Play in Hell), I have never seen any of his films and after this I want to keep it that way. Other than Nicolas Cage (Mandy) there isn’t any talent for him to work with. Sofia Boutella (The Mummy), Nick Cassavetes (Face/Off), Bill Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Franchise), Tak Sakaguchi (Tokyo Tribe) and Yuzuka Nakaya (The Forest of Love) also co-star. Kudos do need to go to Joseph Trapanese (Tron: Legacy, The Greatest Showman), who composed the original score.

Official Premise: Prisoners of the Ghostland” is set in the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town where a ruthless bank robber (Cage) is sprung from jail by wealthy warlord The Governor (Moseley), whose adopted granddaughter Bernice (Boutella) has gone missing. The Governor offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within three days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman—and his own path to redemption.

As a Nicolas Cage hardcore fan, I am obliged to see all of his films and if you are in the same boat as me, I know you are going to at least be curious about this film. But personally, I wouldn’t purchase this Blu-ray. I would though try and purchase the separately-available 4K/Blu-ray Steelbook. That’s just my opinion. In terms of a Blu-ray, this film does have a 1080p presentation (but it would look better in 4K) and a solid DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Sadly, there is only one quick featurette, The Making of Prisoners of the Ghostland, included on this release.

Blu-ray Review “Respect”

Director: Liesl Tommy
Release date:‎ November 9, 2021
Actors: ‎Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Tituss Burgess, Audra McDonald
MPAA rating: ‎PG-13
Running Time: 2h 25m

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Who doesn’t love the beautiful voice of the Queen of Music, Aretha Franklin?! The film stars Oscar® and Grammy® Award winner and vocal powerhouse Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) as legendary singer. I didn’t know this when watching but Hudson was actually hand selected by Aretha herself for the role. It was a role that Hudson was born to play. She hits every note with love and respect (See what I did there 😉 ) for the late singer.

Official Premise: Following the rise of Aretha Franklin’s career — from a child singing in her father’s church choir to her international superstardom — it’s the remarkable true story of the music icon’s journey to find her voice.

Besides the lovely Hudson, the all-star ensemble cast includes Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker (Black Panther, The Butler), Marlon Wayans (Sextuplets, Fifty Shades of Black), six-time Tony Award® winner Audra McDonald (Beauty and The Beast, “Private Practice”), Marc Maron (Joker, “Glow”), five-time Emmy Award® nominee Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), and Grammy® Award winner and Academy Award® nominee Mary J. Blige (Mudbound, Rock of Ages) along with Tony Award® nominees Saycon Sengbloh (“The Wonder Years”, “Delilah”) and Haley Kilgore (“Amazing Stories”). There is no shortage of talent in this film.

As you can image the soundtrack for this film would be very important. Well, this Blu-ray includes a solid Dolby Atmos 7.1 audio track, which perfectly features Jennifer Hudson’s uplifting vocal performances of 17 Aretha Franklin classic songs along with the original song “Here I Am (Singing My Way Home)”. The song sound amazing on this track and deliver the spirit of Franklin perfectly.

The special features include all-new exclusive bonus content including behind-the-scenes featurettes about Jennifer Hudson’s transformation into the Queen of Soul, director Liesl Tommy’s filmmaking process, the creation of the beautiful sets and custom wardrobes, Aretha’s experience at Muscle Shoals, and more taking audiences deeper into the empowering story and world-renowned chart-topping music that has become a global anthem for strength, independence and positivity. If you are a fan of the movie these extras are a solid addition to this release.

Win A Free Blu-ray Copy of “The Water Man”

Media Mikes is offering four of it’s readers the chance to win a Blu-ray copy of the film “The Water Man,” directed by and starring David Oyelowo as well as Rosario Dawson and Alfred Molina.

All you need to do is comment “Yes” below. Pretty simple! Four random entries will be chosen and they will receive a Blu-ray copy of the film. This contest ends at 12:00 a.m. (Midnight) on August 29th. Winners chosen will be notified by email. Good luck!

You can watch the trailer HERE.

4K UHD / Blu-Ray Review “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard”

Directed by: Patrick Hughes
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Frank Grillo, Richard E. Grant, Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman
Distributed by: Lionsgate
Running time: 100 minutes

Film – 3 out of 5 stars
Blu-Ray – 4 out of 5 stars

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is the sequel to the 2017 film The Hitman’s Bodyguard, which was surprisingly a ton of fun due to its fun action sequences and great chemistry with its cast. While the sequel doesn’t necessarily do anything radically different with the formula and it doesn’t quite hit the same heights of entertainment value as the original, it still remains an entertaining time due to the talent and comradery between everyone involved. 


That being said, one thing the film does consistently well is balancing the comedy with action, and with an action-packed movie like The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard it’s imperative that the picture and sound quality on the 4K Blu-Ray is up to standard. Sometimes the color grading with these things can feel a bit off or even the great surround sound of the theatrical experience doesn’t transfer over properly, but in the case of this film, I actually think this is one of the rare ones that surpasses the theatrical experience and adds greater colors/sounds to the mix.


As I previously stated, this film is action-packed so there’s plenty of moments where explosions go off and the characters are caught in the middle of gunfire. All of these moments pop very nicely and genuinely wowed me at points. But the aspect of the Blu-Ray that I was the most impressed by was the audio. The conversion here is so amazing and dynamic that it gave me a newfound appreciation for the sound design in this movie. From the gunfire to the way the music is stitched into the narrative, it’s wildly impressive and this Blu-Ray just elevates it greatly.


Even though the Blu-Ray surpassed my expectations in terms of presentation, I wouldn’t put this up with some of the finest films I’ve watched on the format like Blade Runner 2049 or 2001: A Space Odyssey – but… obviously it was never going to! The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is genuinely just a ton of fun to watch and played greatly on a rewatch for me, and the quality here genuinely did a lot to elevate the experience. It’s well worth adding to your collection! 

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 

Blu-ray Review: “The Father”

  • THE FATHER
  • Starring:  Anthony Hopkins and Oliva Colman
  • Directed by:  Florian Zeller
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 37mins
  • SONY Pictures Classics

I turned 60 last September and, as I get older, one of my biggest worries is that I’m going to slowly lose my faculties.  As someone that loves to write and communicate, I think that would destroy me.  I preface this review with that statement because that MIGHT be what’s going on in THE FATHER.

Anthony (Hopkins in an Academy Award winning performance) likes to relax in his flat, listening to music and taking occasional glances out the window.  He is looked after by his daughter, Anne (Colman) and things appear to be well.  Until one afternoon when Anne informs him that she will be hiring a caretaker because she is moving to Paris to be with the man she loves.  At least Anthony thinks this is what she told him.  Things get more puzzling when the next moment Anne’s former husband appears, but claims to be her current husband for the past eight years.  What the hell is going on here?

A true psychological thriller, “The Father” is a very non-linear descent into what could either be madness or gas-lighting.   Director Zeller leaves it up to the viewer to decide which it is.

The film is brilliantly acted, with, as noted earlier, Hopkins winning his second Best Actor Oscar for his performance.  Colman, herself an Oscar winner – and a nominee for her work here – matches him beat for beat.  Supporting work by Imogen Poots and Rufus Sewell, among others, carry the story along smoothly.

With theatres opening up to usher in another summer of fast cars and explosions, take a moment to stay home and watch “The Father.”   

Special Features:

  • Homecoming: Making “The Father”
  • Perception Check: Portrait of “The Father”
  • Deleted Scenes

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