Monday, November 30, 2020

Brandon Cronenberg's Possessor (2020) Uncut Blu Ray Review

 Possessor (2020) Well Go USA 12/8/2020

Directed By: Brandon Cronenberg

Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott,Rossif Sutherland, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean, Jennifer Jason Leigh 

Disclaimer: Well GO USA  has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

Summary: From the visionary writer/director Brandon Cronenberg, Possessor is an arresting sci-fi thriller about elite, corporate assassins Tasya Vos. Using brain-implant technology, Vos takes over other people's bodies to execute high profile targets. As she sinks deeper into her latest assignment Vos becomes trapped inside a mind that threatens to obliterate her.     

    If I had to think of maybe the most anticipated movie this year, it would be without a doubt Brandon Cronenberg's film Possessor. I must admit I was  kind of was leery about any kind of body-horror at this moment in time, as I feel like we are living in a kind of scary Cronenberg-like world of sickness and uncertainty.  Having said that I am glad I bucked up and dived deep into Brandon's utterly insane world of blood, flesh and machine. I will say right off the bat that Possessor is a film that your casual movie goer, or someone not use to a more challenging watch narrative wise might feel alienated. But, if you are firmly a fan of more gonzo, outings in the vein of Brandon's father David Cronenberg, well that you are in for a treat.   

      One thing I really love is high-concept science fiction and Possessor is a cerebral nightmare made of skin, blood and moving parts. It's style is seriously jaw-dropping in execution and much like an Argento film, the murder set-pieces are filmed like sex scenes, loaded with passion and grand gory-money shots. And while the film is brutal, its aim is more in totally adsorbing you into this world. Its nothing short of incredible how Brandon can take the concepts of parasitic human hosts taking over and assassinating high profile targets and, not only is it believable but it's endlessly fascinating. It's also mind blowing how he not only thought of a way to explore this premise in a grounded way but also work out how visually it would look when syncing in and out of one's host body. That is such a abstract concept but, for me it's something that is perfectly and cleverly realized. This seems like a good time to discuss the the film's surreal, acid-trip like feel. Fittingly this movie feels very much at home with early David Cronenberg with a mix of David Lynch and a dash of the cyber-punk flesh-machinery of Shinya Tsukamoto. Brandon clearly thrives in a purely visual medium and the world he conjures is cold, detached and is as methodically executed as the story. DP Karim Hussain shoots the film like a modern art piece that is equal parts grand and beautiful and upsetting. Andrea Riseborough (Mandy) gives what I think is maybe my favorite role of hers to date. Riseborough perfectly fits into this mad-cyber world like a black rubber glove and she gives a layered and most importantly subtle  performance. Jennifer Jason Leigh also shines in the supporting role.  Brandon will always be compared to his father who in my mind is ranks among the most important filmmakers of the latter 20th/21st century. But I think that Brandon has proved with Antiviral (2012) and now Possessor that he is using his fathers building blocks but crafting his own magical, moody and  grotesque works of art. Possessor is the gory afterbirth of high concept sci-fi insanity. A Must See.  

Picture: As I stated in my review Possessor is a visually stunning film. The 1080p presentation is equally stunning and, retains a lot of detail and wild color palette. Darkly lit scenes really highlight the upgrade to HD.  

Sound: Possessor, like it's visuals has a very strong sound design which enhances the films mood. It's why I am thankful we have a nice robust DTS 5.1 track. In my opinion this soundtrack offers a big punch and a nice amount of depth to presentation. Really well done. 

Extras: Possessor's extras include: Deleted Scenes (Three scenes, no optional commentary) Three behind the scenes featurette's: A Heightened World (10mins) the cast and crew talk about the look and feel of the film.  Identity Crisis (14mins) Bringing Possessor to Life. The cast and crew talk about the core themes of the film and the seeds of the film.  The Joy of Practical (12mins) A really interesting look at the practical effects. As someone who loves practical effects I loved this featurette about the makeup and FX. Over thirty minutes of great behind the scenes which is a nice companion to the film. Three different trailers for the film round out the extras. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) Warner Archives Two Disc Special Edition Blu Ray Review

Curse of Frankenstein (1957) Warner Archives 12/15/2020

Directed By: Terrance Fisher 

Starring: Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Christopher Lee, Robert Urquhart 

Disclaimer: Warner Archives has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    If there was one classic horror film fans have been asking for over and over, it would be the original Hammer Horror outing The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). In this re-telling of Frankenstein Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) uses his lifelong obsession with science to create a perfect man. But, of course what he creates is a creature that lashes out on the towns people.  The film is considered groundbreaking for being not only the first color re-telling of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein but, it pushed the envelope in terms of blood. Now, its not to say this movie is ultra-gory but it certainly wasn't as tame as the other horror films released that year. My plot summary is kind of vague because I honestly find doing plot summaries tedious but also, because the films outline is pretty basic. However, thats not to suggest that the film is basic. And, I think in terms of quality TCOF holds up because of it's stellar screenplay by Jimmy Sangster, it's direction by Terrence Fisher and, of course the cast that brings it all together. Peter Cushing truly is among my favorites to portray Victor Frankenstein. No disrespect to Colin Clive who is dazzling in the role in Frankenstein (1931) but, for me Cushing injects more nuance and personality into the character. Whereas Clive's Frankenstein was a mad Doctor that spent too much time locked up in his windmill laboratory Cushing's Baron is charming and, thinks all of his work is for the greater good. And you have to talk about the Monster. Christopher Lee does a fantastic job with the role and, is also helped by some amazing makeup. In fact I think for my money it's second only to Karloff's in the original Universal cycle. Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart and Valerie Gaunt all shine in their supporting roles. On the technical side the film is beautifully shot by Jack Asher, who would go onto do a lot of classic Hammer films such as Dracula (1958), The Mummy (1959) etc. I wont go on about Asher because there is a feature on his talents that sums it up much better than I could. Curse also features a wonderful score by James Bernard who would also go onto do other great Hammer scores. And, as always Hammer's production designers create on a budget a world that feels real and lived in. This is an aspect of a lot of Hammer films (especially their period Gothic films) that just doesn't get mentioned enough. 

    It's funny how when I first saw this movie as a teen I didn't like it. After all, the monster doesn't show up into nearly an hour into the film. But, as an adult I of course realized this movies were never really about the monster but the person that creates them.  After that clicked for me I really was able to fully appreciate this movie. If you look at other movies that were released in 1957 you`d honestly be hard pressed to find one that has had this kind of shelf life. This is because so many talented people worked hard and brought to life a interesting and chilling re-telling of a classic in Gothic lit. If you are a lifelong fan this is the perfect time to re-visit this or, if your new it's not too late to see what all the fuss is about. I am a huge Hammer horror fan and in my opinion this is among their best efforts. 

Picture: Curse of Frankenstein boosts a brand new 4k! I am happy to report that the movie has never looked better. The image retains a lot of detail whereas previous home video offer an image that is flat slightly muted. The uptight in color and sharpness really shows off the great production design and Jack Asher's amazing photography. Its cool that you get a option to play the film in either the 1.85 version or the 1.66. The second disc also includes the newly remastered 1.37 Open Matte version. All three formats are viewable for the first time in North American home video. 

Sound: Curse of Frankenstein has a nice DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely along with Bernard's excellent score. 


Disc 1 Features a new commentary with historians Steve Haberman and historian and filmmaker Constantine Nasr. Without a doubt among the best commentaries of 2020. Historian Constantine Nasr is able to get his hand on previous drafts of the film which offers some great new insights. And, as my regular readers will know I am a big fan of Steve Haberman. Both historians and fans will shine and the commentary is engaging, informative and never feels dull or boring. Really stellar stuff. 

Curse of Frankenstein is FILLED to the brim with extras. Included on disc 2 is the following:

Disc 2: The 1.37 "Open Matte" Version of the film.  

And a series of Featurettes (with a Play-All option

The Resurrection Men: Hammer, Frankenstein and the Rebirth of the Horror Film (21mins)

Hideous Progeny: The Curse of Frankenstein and the English Gothic Tradition (22mins) w/film historian Sir Christopher Fraying discussing the films roots from Gothic novels. 

Torrents of Light: The Art of Jack Asher (15mins) David J. Miller Cinematographer of Veep and The Good Place talks about Asher's work and career. Very insightful and interesting. Not just Curse of Frankenstein but Asher's other films are touched on. 

Diabolus in Musica: James Bernard and the Sound of Hammer Horror (17mins) Christopher Drake Composer of The Dark Night Returns talks about Bernard's music work.  Again, much like the talk about Asher's work as DP this is an engaging and well researched deep dive in the work of James Bernard. 

Rounding out the features is the original Theatrical Trailer

Over an hour of brand new features are included in this release! You really cannot ask for more. 

The Video Attic Presents: The 2020 Gift Guide Part 1!

The Video Attic Presents: The 2020 Gift Guide! 

Disclaimer: Unless otherwise noted all items included in this gift guide we're received for free for purpose of review from their respective labels. All reviews contained within reflect my own honest opinion. 

2020 has been a rough year but, at least it has given us some truly stellar home video releases! Here is my list of my personal favorite releases of the year and what, in my opinion should be considered a must-own. Without further ado here's the list! 

Please note all Review links will pop up in a new window. Therefore if you do not see it you might have to adjust your pop-up blockers. 


Daughters of Darkness (1971) Label: Blue Underground UHD 3 Disc

Full Review HERE. Blue Underground has really knocked it out of the park with this new edition. Not only does the film look and sound stunning but it includes the soundtrack as well. 

The Golem (1920) Label: Kino Studio Classics 

Full Review HERE. Kino Studio Classics is no stranger to bringing silent classics to life in stunning presentations. Golem ranks up their with the best horror silent films and this is a great edition of the movie to own! 

Blumhouse of Horrors 10 Movie Collection (2013-2019) Label: Universal Studios

Full Review HERE. Though the studio divides horror fans one thing is clear, Blumhouse has been blazing a trail within the genre. Includes is 10 horror films that across the board look and sound great and various movies have extras.(See my review for details). 

The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection (1954-1963) Label: Universal Studios

Full Review HERE.  Universal has re-released four legendary Hitchcock film's on UHD. The set includes Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds and includes Blu Ray editions in addition to the UHD discs. This set also includes for the first time in North America the uncut version of Psycho (1960). Ported over is all the features on the previous editions of these four films including trailers,  featurette's and commentaries. It's amazing to see four of Hitchcock's best films in one set on UHD looking and sounding incredible. 

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) Label: Warner Archives

Full Review HERE. I'm always very excited when a studio dips into their vaults and brings back to life a classic film. This is exactly what the incredible Warner Archives did with their stunning re-release of the Pre-Code Horror film Mystery of the Wax Museum. Clearly a lot of time and resources went into this restoration which was done by the UCLA Film Department. For horror fan's this is a simply a must-own and, the more it sells the more likely we fans will get more great classic horror titles from this era in sleek new editions. 

Hammer Films: The Ultimate Collection Label: Mill Creek Entertainment

Full Reviews HERE and HERE. This huge 20 film collection unites the previous released Hammer titles released by Mill Creek along with titles that make their North American HD debut in this set. Not only this but the set contains new features including commentaries and featurette's. 

The Black Cat (1989) Label: Severin Films

Full Review HERE Black Cat is one those rare movies that floored me by just how bonkers it is. For that reason I think that it's a must own. Certainly not the most well known film on this list but I think its so worth while that I wanted to include it on this list. Check it out! 

Friday the 13th Boxset (1980-2009) Scream Factory

The only Blu Ray that I didn't officially review. But, honestly I would be insane not to include this in my Gift Guide for 2020. Easily probably one of the most anticipated horror releases of the year this boxset has all the bells and whistles you`d want from a Scream Factory release whilst also providing stellar looking presentations. For the first time we get the fully uncut Friday the 13th (1980) completely restored in 4k (other versions of the uncut edition has poorly quality inserts of uncut footage). 

The Untold Story Label Unearthed Cinema 

Full Review HERE. In terms of a crazy Category III film, Untold Story may not be the goriest or the most disturbing film of its ilk, it certainly swings hard for those titles. A truly insane and sometimes hard to watch outing that has some of the best extras of any release this year. The real gem is the documentary on Hong Kong Exploitations.  

Classic Films (Non-Horror)

Madchen in Uniform (1931) Label: Kino Studio Classics

Full Review HERE. This ground breaking LGBTQ film from 1931 is a moving tour-de-force and Kino Studio Classics provides a wonderful edition for film buffs. A must see. 

Roman Holiday (1955)  Label: Paramount Pictures

Full Review HERE. Included in the Paramount Presents line, Roman Holiday (1955) get's an amazing re-release that looks and sounds amazing (among the best transfers of a classic film this year) and includes a wealth of extras that cover the making of the film. 

Full Metal Jacket (1987) UHD Label: Warner Brothers

Full Review HERE. Each year Warner Brothers has re-released a film from their Kubrick library in UHD and this year we get Full Metal Jacket (1987). Like the other titles in their Kubrick collection this is a real stunning disc and has a nice array of extras as well. 

Sgt. York (1941) Label: Warner Archives 

Full Review HERE Another classic from the Warner vaults, Sgt. York from 1941 is another classic Howard Hawk's film to get the HD treatment! If you are a fan of Hawk's work or a newbie this is a must own. 

Mallrats (1995) Limited Edition Label Arrow Video 

Full Review HERE. Arrow is one of those labels that's exciting because they do a cross section of weird b-grade movies to mainstream offerings, and treats both with a lot of love and care. Kevin Smith fans rejoice this is the ultimate edition of the '95 cult film Mallrats

RoboCop (1987) Label Arrow Video

Another gem from Arrow. RoboCop is one of my all time favorite movies so it was beyond exciting when a proper special edition when news broke a deluxe edition would be released by Arrow. I reviewed the 2 disc LE but Arrow has a nice standard edition. For fans of this movie its in my opinion a must own. 

Beetlejuice (1988) UHD Label: Warner Bros Entertainment 

Full Review HERE. Warner Brothers has been doing an amazing job with their UHD releases of modern classics. Beetlejuice is a stunning looking film that celebrates the visuals of Tim Burton. Consider this a must own if you are a fan. 

TV Boxsets 

30 Rock: The Complete Series Blu Ray Label Mill Creek Entertainment 

The landmark show landed on Blu Ray in April of this year. Included is all Seven gut busting seasons looking pretty great on 1080p. Provided in this set is an awesome array of features including Behind the scenes featurette's, Deleted Scenes, Bloopers, Audio Commentaries, Table reads with the cast and more! As far as television goes this is a must own! 

12 Monkeys Complete Series Blu Ray Label Mill Creek Entertainment 

Another series coming from Mill Creek is the complete four season run of 12 Monkeys. First off, the show itself is defiantly one of the more interesting and entertaining sci-fi to come out in recent years and had interesting characters engrossing plots and a sleek visual style. The episodes look great on 1080p and sport a well balanced DTS 5.1 track. Extras include Deleted Scenes, Cast Auditions, Gag Reel and Podcast episodes. 

The Flintstones Complete Series Label Warner Brothers

Yabba Dabba Do! The groundbreaking series The Flintstones 'rocked' animation fans when it was announced that the entire series was landed on HD this Fall. All six seasons are included as well as two feature films on SD. Also included is the original pilot as well as some really charming featurette's. A must own, especially for animation buff's. 

Look for part 2 next week!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Robert Altman's Popeye (1980) Paramount Blu Ray Review

Popeye (1980) Paramount Pictures 12/1/2020

Directed By: Robert Altman 

Starring: Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall, Paul L Smith, Ray Walston, Paul Dooley 

Disclaimer: Paramount Pictures has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    I seriously never thought we would get a brand-spanking new HD version of Robert Altman's Popeye (1980). The film has gained a loyal cult following  Why? Maybe it's because it remains an oddity in Altman's career? Or, maybe it's the endearing Robin Williams performance? Maybe it's how perfectly cast Shelley Duvall is as Olive Oil. Whatever the reason this wild colorful film has found a new audience. The movie starts out with the old introduction that would proceed every Popeye cartoon in the '30's-'40's with an animated Popeye making a nice fourth wall breaking joke about being in the wrong movie. It's worth mentioning they got the original voice actor Jack Mercer to voices Popeye in this brief scene. I already loved this being a big fan of the Fleischer cartoons. Thus starts our strange voyage. The plot sees  a sailor Popeye (Robin Williams) drift into the town of Sweethaven where he meets Olive Oil (Shelley Duvall) and of course, the big brute Bluto (Paul L. Smith) in his wild re-telling of the classic cartoon series. 

     So, part of the reason why I wanted to review this besides being a Altman fan and a huge fan of Robin Williams, was that I recall liking this a lot as a kid, but, remember very little about it. Altman swings big here doing his best to capture the cartoon magic of Popeye in the '30's and '40's. In this I think he is incredibly successful and, as a big fan of the original cartoons Williams portrayal of Popeye feels like he leaped right out of a old Max Fleischer animation and into his live-action world. Though, as a straight-forward narrative the film starts to enter some choppy seas as it feels more like a series of vignettes threaded together to form a plot. It also comes in at almost two hours and, even though I do enjoy this movie a lot I think it could have easily used a 20 minute or so trim. 

    Despite some short comings it was hard for me to not be dazzled at the films big bright colors, incredibly detailed set designs (not to mention being filmed in beautiful Malta) and of course that cast. When people talk about a perfectly cast film I think this movie deserves to be right up there with the best of them. Popeye marks Robin Williams first feature and, wow, he really nails this iconic character. From looking like him to the subtle mumbles facial expressions and movements, it's not hard to see Williams would be a comic genius (Yes, I realize he was already on Mork and Mindy prior). And, of course you have  Shelley Duvall as Olive Oil. Not only does Ms. Duvall look like the character but, like Williams really understands her mannerisms and brings her to life. Paul Dooley makes an amazing Wimpy and Paul L. Smith (which most horror fans will remember from the 1982 cult film Pieces) is stellar as Bluto.  Ray Walston and Donald Moffat (The Thing '82) round of a fantastic cast. It's also a movie that with its bright palate, big broad comedy and whimsy works for kids but Altman also works in content that adults will connect with as well. The film has its issues but as a cartoon fan it was a treat to watch such craftsmanship at work bringing this legendary character to vivid life. This movie is a musical which will turn some people off but I happened to think the tunes are solid. With a little research I found out that this film indeed did not bomb at the box office, having earned over 60 million on a 20 million budget and was critically praised. Hell, Roger Ebert even lavished the film with praise. So, how this movie got a bad reputation is beyond me, and it certainly did not hurt anybody's career. If you`ve slept on this film because of this rep I beg you to give it a try. It's not perfect but I was enthralled with this version. Set sail with this misunderstood Altman film which showcases the late great Robin Williams. 

Picture: Popeye turns 40 years old this year and I have to say I was very impressed by the look of the film. Grain level is very low and consistent throughout. The picture retains a lot of detail in costumes, textures and locales. This movie is a big bold cartoon come to life and boy, oh boy, does this look fantastic. The locations and sets really are done justice in this transfer. There are moments that look a bit on the blurry side but nothing that is remotely distracting, especially if you arent looking for it. Overall, a very nice presentation. 

Sound: Popeye's DTS 5.1 must have downed some spinach because, in my opinion it packs a big punch! Sound design and music are robust and adds to the overall experience. 

Extras:  For me, the real selling point of this disc is it's not a bare-bones release. This includes three  new featurettes Return to Sweethaven: A Look Back with Robin & The Altman's (13mins). This is a real gem featuring vintage interviews put together in this featurette. We hear from Robert Altman (filmed in 1999), Robin Williams (filmed in 2014) and Stephen Altman (prop master/Rob Altman's son) Hearing from Williams himself is amazing but also so bitter sweet. This is a really interesting peak into the making of the film as told by the cast/crew. 

The Popeye Company Players (9mins) A inside into the film with the prop master Stephen Altman (recorded this year for this feature) with vintage interviews from Robin Williams and Robert Altman about the cast and crew. 

Popeye's Premiere (2min) This 2 minute photo montage featuring what I'm assuming is some rare personal photos play out. A really nice touch and a great addition to this disc! The highlight is Dennis Christopher wearing a t-shirt for his movie Fade to Black (1980). Also Hugh Hefner for some reason. 

The Sailor Man Medleys- This really cool feature allows you to jump to a musical number in the film. That's a nice thing to provide. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Michael Mann's Collateral (2004) Paramount Pictures UHD Review!

Collateral (2004) Paramount Pictures 12/8/2020

Directed By: Michael Mann

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg

Disclaimer: Paramount Pictures has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    Michael Mann has had an a interesting career. In the '80's he would come out of the gate swinging with films like The Keep (1983), Thief (1981) and Manhunter (1986). In the '90's he would hone his skills with Oscar winning films like The Last of the Mohicans (1992) and the acclaimed Heat (1995), which is considered among the best film of the decade. But the 00's seems to be not as kind as Miami Vice (2006) and Public Enemies (2009) and Blackhat (2015) didn't fare as well. Currently, Mann hasn't made a film in five years. 04's Collateral is considered his final film that earned the kind of critical praise of his heyday. Max (Jamie Foxx) is a typical cab driver when he picks up Vincent (Tom Cruise) a seemingly normal fare. However, Vincent is a high-level hit man and Max soon finds himself way over his head in this early '00's crime thriller. One thing that Mann is famous for is his unique sense of style which, is gritty and violent but also has a air of cool to it. Collateral strips away the neon Miami world of Michael Bay for a darker more realistic take on L.A, yet it still has something alluring about it. As cliched as it sounds Mann makes the city a character in how he shots it and uses locales to set the mood. When talking about perfectly cast movies I don't think this ever gets mentioned but I really cannot see anybody else in the two lead roles. Once you strip away the antics there really is no denying that Tom Cruise has that razzle-dazzle of a movie-star. Cruise plays Vincent with just the right amount of charm, menace and conviction that, dare I say brings with it a lot of sub-text to his character. On the flipside, Oscar winner Jamie Foxx also brings a wide range of acting talents and, like Cruise, brings so much more than what's on the page in terms of Max. Bringing this pair together is really something special and the two perfectly play off of one another. Shout out to an amazing supporting cast including Jada Pinkett Smith and a pre-MCU Mark Ruffalo with chivalrous slicked back hair.

     I honestly think the plot is not really the most ground breaking or being more brutally honest even that interesting yet it works despite this. This is because the action is really a MacGuffin for the real driving force, which is two polar opposite characters colliding one fateful night. And (though Vincent to a lesser degree) both men shape the other's worldview. It's really Max that has the best arc and I like how his role is written. For example, I like how Max is a character that could have easily ended up just drifting along with the plot (seeing how he literally drives Vincent around) yet the Mann gives him a lot of agency not just in the finale but throughout the film. He makes choices that inform his personality but also charts his growth as passive to take charge. Couple this with Mann effortlessly crafting cool action-set pieces (which never go full Michael Bay) and grounded world building and you have a pretty good film. Not without it's flaws but overall a solid watch and a refreshing spin on the crime-thriller genre.

Picture: Mann certainly as a style and Collateral's UHD release shows it off. The films opening scene is incredibly grainy yet, I'm happy to report this seemed to smooth. Overall the grain is really smooth and consistent throughout. Images are razor sharp and retails a great deal of detail and texture in clothes, hair, locales etc. This movie takes place mostly at night and I think this is really where you start to see the full strength of this upgrade. Things also thankfully never feel over-processed.

Sound: Collateral sports a DTS 5.1 track. I have to say that this was a really well handled sound experience. Sound effects and sound design have, in my opinion a layered robust quality. Dialogue comes through nicely with no drop out issues. Overall, a stellar sound track. 

Extras: Collateral has a nice collection of bonus features. Such as: Audio Commentary with Michael Mann, Some featurettes: City of Night: The Making of Collateral, Special Delivery. Also included is Deleted Scenes (w/ commentary), Shooting on Location: Annie's Office, Tom Cruise & Jamie Foxx Rehearse and Visual FX: MTA Train. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

HBO's Perry Mason Blu Ray Review

Perry Manson Season One Blu Ray 12/1/2020

Created By: Ron Fitzgerald, Rollin Jones 

Starring: Mathew Rhys, John Lithgow, Juliet Rylance, Chris Chalk, Shea Whigham, Tatianna Maslany 

Disclaimer: Warner Brothers has provided me with a copy of this series free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

     File the new Perry Mason under a gritty reboot I never knew I wanted but cannot live without. I`ll be up front and say that though I am very much aware of the original Perry Manson series, which ran an impressive nine seasons and a whooping two-hundred and seventy one episodes, I have never seen it. Therefore I will be judging the new series under its own merits and won't be comparing it with the original. Set in early '30's Hollywood, a down and out defense attorney named Perry Mason (Mathew Rhys) is investigating the brutal murder of a child. Of course, Mason unearths a web of lies, murder and corruption as he works the dirty underbelly of tinsel town. I think when you reboot a show especially one from the '50's it's important to right off the bat firmly establish the tone. Perry Mason does just that with the first episode which is teeming with sex, nudity, violence and, a dead baby with his eye's sown open. Clearly this isn't your grandfather's Perry Mason. I've heard other reviews saying that the show takes a little while to really get going, which, I think is a bit unfair. This series is as much about the characters as the crime itself so, I don't mind when we take some time to unfold Mason's backstory all whilst moving the mystery forward. This balancing act is not easy, as any screenwriter could attest to. For the record, I think it does a great job at introducing and developing characters all while never letting the story drag. Honestly, I don't think I found a filler episode this season. Every episode furthers the plot while also giving us ever growing insights into not only Mason but the supporting players as well. And while were on the subject, the acting is fantastic. Matthew Rhys plays the titular character and is really an inspired choice. Rhys Mason best known for The Americans is somehow likable even though he is clearly a troubled even cynical person. John Lithgow is always a delight to see in anything. The two time Oscar nominated and Emmy winning actor brings class to the affair. Gaye Rankin, Juliet Rylance and Lili Taylor are among the stellar performances that make this show a must-watch. The one aspect that seems to never get discussed is how great this film looks both in a realistic '30's design and how interesting camera angles and shot compositions are. It's something I think a lot of people take for granted but this is beautifully photographed and makes the most of lighting and style (without going over board). 2020's Perry Mason is a wonderful and frankly at times very dark outing but one that I think is very much worth exploring for yourself. 

Picture: Perry Mason is the kind of detailed show that is a must-see on HD. And, this 1080p presentation does not disappoint. Locales and set designs as well as the film's color palette are highlighted nicely and overall there is a richness in detail. Skin tones look natural. 

Sound:  Perry Mason has a DTS 5.1. This track offers a robust and complex sound presentation. Sound design is well handled and gives a full 3d sound experience in my opinion. 

Extras: Disc 1) The Characters of Perry Mason (2mins) A brief look at the characters within the show as told by the cast and crew including Juliet Rylance, Matthew Rhys, Joh Lithgow, Tatianna Maslany 
Chris Chalk 

Under the Fedora (4mins) Another short featurette on the show and characters as told by the director, writers and actors. Features some really nice behind the scenes footage. 

Disc 2)  Robert Downey Jr. & Matthew Rhys Conversation (4mins) a Zoom interview with Robert Downey Jr who serves as the shows Executive Producer and lead actor Matthew Rhys. This is a really fun and engrossing featurette. 

Susan Downey & Robert Downey Jr.  (4mins) Both Executive producers talk about the show from the origins as a scrapped feature film to television show. Really interesting and well worth a watch. 

HBO's Chernobyl 5-Part Mini Series UHD Review

Chernobyl Limited Series HBO/Warner Brothers 12/1/2020

Directed By: Johan Renck 

Starring: Jared Harris, Jessie Buckley, Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgard 

Disclaimer: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has provided me with a copy of this series free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    2019 was a stellar year for both cinema and television and, Chernobyl was a really stand out mini-series that will likely go down in history as a stunning and disturbing work of art. For those of you living under a rock or in a deep dark bunker Chernobyl tells the story of the 1986 explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. It would go onto be the worst disaster of it's kind. It's made all the more tragic in how it was handled by the Soviet government.  Director Johan Renck and writer Craig Mazin (who actually started his professional career writing goofy comedies) crafts a truly stomach frightening series, yet, and this is key, it never once feels disrespectful or exploitative.  Yes, it shows some gruesome stuff but it's always in the service to the story and never in a shock-value kind of way. Of course, the 5-episode series is directed with stunning pin-point precision by Johan Renck  with DP Jakob Ihre giving a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere with images that have been, for better or worst burned into my gray matter.  Also, we get a memorable score by Hildur Guonadottir who would go onto win an Oscar for her score for The Joker (2019). This is by no means an easy watch, but it's not suppose to be. However, it's well worth remembering that something this tragic and ultimately preventable actually did happen and, not all that long ago. I know that something a show this heavy is maybe a big ask because, viewing this in 2020 is very different and governments mishandling a big disaster is eerily familiar. It's a stellar series and truly pushes what a Limited series can achieve. I think that this will go down as a defining moment in television history and it's really a must-watch. 

Picture: As I said in my review Chernobyl is a series that has a provoctative visual style. It straddles the line between grounded and hyper-stylized which is not an easy thing to do. This film is dark and I mean not just in subject matter but also visually. Colors are often muted and things have a sickly tint to them. The upgrade to 2160p really celebrates the series and is certainly in my opinion the way to go if you want to see this series as it really is intended. The overall images and in my opinion are sharp and retain a lot of detail in clothes, sets and locales. As I said this series isn't a big bright colorful outing so you may not knock your socks off. However, I think it's in the subtle details that makes this set shine. 

Sound: Chernobyl has a DTS 5.1 soundtrack. The show has some amazing sound design and score which come through incredibly in this track. Sounds have a complex 3D sound which I think really sets the right tone. 

Extras: Chernobyl has a nice array of bonus features. Included are Inside the Episodes a short but really worth while look into the making of each episode and the core themes explored within. 

Behind-the-Curtain Featurette-Director Johan Renck goes into the creation of the series. 

Meet the Key Players: Cast members Jared Harris, Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgard discuss bringing these characters to life.

What is Chernobyl Cast and crew discuss the real life tragedy that inspired this series.

Pivotal Moment -The Trial In this short feature the trial scene is explored. 

Script to Screen Featurette Highlights the making of some of the more harrowing moments from the series.