Monday, October 14, 2019

JACKIE CHAN'S WHO AM I? (1998) (Umbrella Blu-ray Review)

JACKIE CHAN'S WHO AM I? (1998) 

Label: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: PG
Duration: 108 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1 (No Subtitles) 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Benny Chan, Jackie Chan
Cast: Jackie Chan, Michelle Ferre, Mirai Yamamoto, Ron Smerczak, Ed Nelson

Synopsis: A group of covert CIA operatives trailing a potential new energy source are double-crossed by corrupt agent Morgan (Ron Smerczak), who causes a helicopter crash in remote South Africa. The sole survivor (Jackie Chan), suffering severe amnesia, is nursed to recovery by a kindly native tribe who call him "Whoami" after the question he keeps asking. With the help of a mysterious reporter (Michelle Ferre), Whoami pieces together his past and tracks the turncoat agent and his criminal cohorts.


Jackie Chan's Who Am I? (1998) is a fun slice of martial arts action starring Jackie Chan as a member of a elite multi-national military task force who are hired to steal a energy source powered by an newly discovered extraterrestrial element found in a meteorite in Africa. During the mission the helicopter goes down and everyone dies, except for Jackie Chan, who's fall to the ground is somewhat softened by the canopy of tree branches. He ends up injured and suffering from amnesia, but he is taken in by a friendly native tribe who take to calling him "Whoami", which is what he says over and over again when asked his name. Eventually they nurse him back to health and he begins to learn their native ways, but eventually he finds his way back to civilization after he saves the life of a rally car driver and his attractive sister Yuki (Mirai Yamamoto).


After Jackie and his new friends win the road rally a reporter named Christine (Michelle Ferre) reports on the story which makes national news. While Jackie tries to sort out who he is the turncoat CIA spook who hired the mercenaries to steal the device discovers he's still alive, which could potentially spoil his lucrative plans for the energy device, so they send in a kill-team to finish the job and tie off loose ends, but killing Jackie Chan is never gonna be easy! 

As always Chan is charismatic and energetic fun, the fight choreography and action-sequences are quite good, with lots of that patented Chan parkour and thrilling fight sequences to go around, plus we get some very cool car chases that I wasn't expecting. I think that the story is only so so to be honest but the blend of action, humor and imaginative thrills makes this a fun one for sure, and the ending is an action-packed face-off with Chan facing off against the main baddies henchmen. 

Audio/Video: Who Am I? (1998) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment in 1080p HD cropped to 1.78:1 from the original 2.35:1 widescreen framing, which according to Umbrella is because the rights holder for their territory only has the cropped HD master to work with. It looks like an older master to my eyes as well, not having the clarity, sharpness or better resolved grain that you'd expect from a newer 2K or 4K scan. There's some mild print damage in spots, but nothing to awful. Colors look natural if a bit soft in spots, blacks are adequate but not strong. The new framing doesn't look to bad, at times it feels a bit tight, but Umbrella do offer a standard-def version of the film in the original 2.35:1 widescreen, that while properly framed, is also darker, softer and uglier, though I do appreciate the original aspect ration. Note, both versions of the film are of the shorter 108-min U.S. cut of the film and not the longer running Hong Kong cut. 

Audio in the disc comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo with no subtitles. The standard-definition version of the film also offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio. Both tracks are clean and well-balanced, no complaints about the audio. 


The only extras on the disc are a theatrical trailer for the film and the 2.35:1 framed widescreen version of the film in standard definition. The single-disc release comes housed in an over-sized Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, both featuring the same artwork with one omitting the unsightly ratings logo. The disc features an excerpt the same artwork, which looks to be a mock-up of a pair of existing movie poster images.      

Special Features: 

- Theatrical Trailer
- Widescreen (2.35:1) Presentation in SD

Who Am I? (1998) offers up plenty of Jackie Chan charm, thrilling stunt work and loads of high-energy action with a healthy side-order of double-crossing, and while I am not all that familiar with Chan's body of work I thought this was a fun romp that fans of 80's style action should enjoy.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

THE DEATH AND RETURN OF SUPERMAN (4K Ultra HD Review)

THE DEATH AND RETURN OF SUPERMAN (2019) 
Complete Film Collection
Limited edition Gift set 

Label: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Region Code: Region-Free (4K), A (Blu-ray) 
Duration: 166 Minutes
Rating: PG-13
Audio:  English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 2160p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)(4K), 1080P HD Widescreen (1.78:1) (Blu-ray)  
Director:
Cast: Jerry O’Connell, Rainn Wilson, Jason O’Mara, Rosario Dawson, Shemar Moore, Nathan Fillion, Matt Lanter, Christopher Gorham, Nyambi Nyambi, Cress Williams, Cameron Monaghan, Patrick Fabian, Tony Todd, Charles Halford, Rocky Carroll, Toks Olagundoyet, Max Mittleman, Paul Eiding, Jennifer Hale, Trevor Devall, Bruno Mannheim, Erica Luttrell, Jonathan Adams, Rick Pasqualone, Amanda Troop 

The Death and Return of Superman Complete Film Collection is a 166-min super-cut of the DC animated films The Death of Superman (2018) & Reign of the Supermen (2019), combining the pair of films and adding additional scenes not seen in either to create an epic telling of the classic Death of Superman story-line as first read in DC’s landmark 1992-93 comic phenomenon. 

The title of the film really spoils a few key plot points here, namely the death and return of Superman, and unless you have lived under a rock you probably already know that in this tale Krypton's son Superman must face off against the alien Doomsday, an unstoppable killing machine sent to Earth by Darkseid (voiced by Tony Todd, Candyman). As implied in the title Superman dies during the battle, saving the Metropolis and the Earth. After his death a series of new super-men arrive on the scene to fill the void. We have the Luthor funded clone Superboy, an actual man-of-steel Steel, the merciless The Eradicator, and a half-man, half-cyborg version of Superman that claims he is the real Superman, but the question lingers, are any of these super-men the real Man of Steel? 

Strangely Superman's nemesis Lex Luthor is not having as good a time as he would have thought in the Man of Steel's absence, and of course he has his fingers in the mix of new super-men with his own self-aggrandizing agenda. The heart of the story in my mind is two-fold, you have the deeply felt absence by the entire Earth when their hero dies, and then you have intrepid reporter Lois Lane dealing with the loss of her love Clark Kent/Superman, carrying on her career investigating these super-men, with the cyborg superman coming the closest to making her think he might actually be the real deal, with him having memories that only the real Superman should have. 

This epic super-cut looks fantastic, I love the animation style, it's gorgeous, action-packed and bursting with eye-popping visuals that looks wonderful from start to finish. The character designs are excellent, this is probably my favorite animated version of Cyborg I've seen yet, and the iconic Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman  and Green Lantern are all done proper justice. Krypton-killer Doomsday looks terrific as well, I love the way he is slowly revealed through the battle as his space-suit he arrived in is slowly torn away in battle with Superman and the Justice League. 

The voice cast here is phenomenal as well, we have Jerry O’Connell (Pirahna DD) as Superman, Rainn Wilson (The Meg) as Lex Luthor), Rebecca Romijn (X-Men) as Lois Lane), Nathan Fillion (Slither) as Green Lantern), Christopher Gortham as The Flash), and Rosario Dawson (Clerks II) as Wonder Woman. 

Audio/Video: The Death and Return of Superman arrives on 4K & Blu-ray Combo in 2160p Ultra HD framed in 1.78:1 widescreen, with a new HDR color-grading. The image looks rock solid, comparing it to the accompanying Blu-ray I will note that I did not think it benefited from the 4K uptick the way vintage live-action films have, but the HDR certainly gives the primaries a nice boost with deeper blacks. 

The audio on the disc is DTS-HD MA 5.1 with optional English subtitles. It's a lively and bombastic presentation with lots of bass, this animated epic has loads of fights, lasers, explosions and action which I thought really gave the surrounds a good workout. I would have appreciated a Atmos remix but the DTS is excellent.  

This sucker is packed with extras beginning with a 4K Ultra HD bonus disc of Superman: Doomsday, which is the animated films's debut on the premium format. The story is an abridged version of the Death and Return of Superman story, While I am not a fan of the animation style it's a solid story, if it pales in comparison to this new definitive super-cut. The Superman: Doomsday gets it's own 4K UHD disc, there are no extras. 

On the Blu-ray disc is were all the extras are, with over 78-min of featurettes exploring the Death of Superman comic event, Superman in popular culture and an appreciation of super-villain Lex Luthor, it's all great stuff. We also get six episodes from the DC Vault, that's six 20 min episodes of The Legion of Superheroes, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited animated series. There are also over 40-min of previews of Wonder Woman: Blood Lines, Justice League vs. The Fatal Five, Reign of the Supermen, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part One, and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part Two. 

This Limited Edition Gift Set is limited to 52,000 is numbered and arrives in an over-sized box, inside the box is the 4K UltraHD release with a slipcover featuring the same artwork, the set also includes an exclusive  4" Steel figurine.  The discs come in a black keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork with the same artwork as the box and slipcover, inside there are two 4K UHD discs and a Blu-ray, plus a Movie Anywhere digital code for the main feature in the 4K along with the extras. 

Special Features: 
- Superman: Doomsday included 4K Ultra HD (Limited-Edition Gift Set)
- Long Live Superman (46 min) 
- The Death of Superman: The Brawl That Topped Them All (16 min) 
- Lex Luthor: The Greatest Nemesis (16 min)
- From the DC Vault: Legion of Superheroes, “Dark Victory: Part 1” (23 min) 
- From the DC Vault: Legion of Superheroes, “Dark Victory: Part 2” (23 min) 
- From the DC Vault: Superman: The Animated Series, “Heavy Metal” (21 min) 
- From the DC Vault: Justice League Unlimited, “The Doomsday Sanction” (23 min) 
- From the DC Vault: Justice League Unlimited, “Panic in the Sky” (23 min) 
- From the DC Vault: Batman: The Brave and the Bold, “Darkseid Descending!”  (23 min) 
- A Sneak Peek at DC Universe’s Next Animated Movie, Wonder Woman: Bloodlines (10 min)
- A Preview of Justice League vs. The Fatal Five (10 min)
- A Preview of Reign of the Supermen (10 min)
- A Preview of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part One (13 min)
- A Preview of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part Two (7 min)
Trailers: Joker (3 min), Teen Titans Go Vs. The Teen Titans (2 min) 

The Death and return of Superman (2019) is my favorite of DC's animated Superman films, though I still more of Batman fan personally, its epic and action-packed, plus I really dig the animation style a bunch. The 4K presentation is fantastic, and of right now Limited Edition Gift set is the only way to also get the Superman: Doomsday on 4K Ultra HD, plus you get a cool Steel figurine as well, making this a desirable release for superhero animation fans. Alright DC, now lets gets working on a 4K Ultra HD super-cut of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part One &amp Two! 

Monday, October 7, 2019

THE SHINING (1980) (4K UltraHD Review)

THE SHINING (1980) 

Label: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Region Code: Region Free (4K), A (Blu-ray) 
Duration: 144 Minutes
Dating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional english Subtitles
Video: 2160p UltraHD Widescreen (1.78:1), 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, Danny Lloyd 

I was eleven years-old the first time I watched The Shining on late-night cable, I remember it well, it was a chilly winter's night in Upstate New York and I was staying at my friend Barry McDonald's house. I use to love staying at his place because his folks had satellite TV with all the cool channels, and his parents love to watch semi-raunchy comedies, which I thought was cool. As the night bore on his folks would usually go off to their room and leave us alone watching Terminator or something of that ilk, and then Barry would either fall asleep on the floor or retire to his room for the night. I would stay up late into the wee-hours to watch scary movies, and one night I tuned into something called The Shining, I was transfixed by the birds-eye view of a yellow VW driving up a winding road, and it scared me something terrible. It's the tale of a father who moves his suffering wife and young son to a mountaintop resort, the grand Overlook Hotel, to be the caretaker for the place while it's closed down for the five-months of winter during the off-season.

While there the aspiring author and recovering alcoholic begins to lose his grip on reality, succumbing to seemingly supernatural forces that inhabit the Overlook, forces that are pushing him to ax-murder his whole family, including his supernaturally attuned son Danny, who has something called "the shining", a psychic link of a sort that also allows him to tap into the supernatural vibes of people and places. 


This was probably the first film I ever watched where I was acutely aware of the movement of the camera, an early adopter of the Steadicam, which allowed for gorgeous disembodied and fluid camera movements that give the film an eerie atmosphere, especially when combined with the thrum and drone of the dissonant score. 

Something I've caught onto in the years since first watching this is that Nicholson's character Jack Torrance was already a bit of nutter from the opening scenes of the film, or there's just something about Nicholson's manically arched eyebrows that broadcast crazy, or maybe it's a bit of both. The dad who at one point dislocated his young son's shoulder out of anger has since sworn off the sauce, and sees the secluded five-month caretaker job as a way to keep dry and work on his new novel, but seclusion and hallucinations, supernatural or otherwise, begin to chip away at his sanity, with his family's every action beginning to grate on his frayed nerves until he erupts into an unforgettable ax-wielding kill-spree!

The cast here is fantastic, and if you have ever read or watched any interviews with the cast and crew Kubrick really put them through the wringer, with legendary amounts of shooting the same scene again and again, playing psychological games that chipped away at the sanity of poor Shelly Duval to keep her in a constant state of hysteria, literally on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Even the lovable Scatman Crothers (Deadly Eyes) was not immune to the director's actor brow-beating, having to do so many takes it nearly brought him to tears! Was it worth it, it must have been, because the end result is a technical marvel of a dread-filled film with a core cast of characters who drive the film to the delirious heights of fright.

Young Danny Torrance as played by Danny Lloyd always gave me a young Corey Feldman (The Goonies) vibe without the comedic slant, he's really terrific here playing against both Duval and Nicholson, and even in his early scenes with the cook played by Scatman Crothers, whose character also has "the shining". The kid has a great range of emotion, but doesn't overplay anything, the scenes of him enthralled in terror - which are many - are all well-done, it's a shame he didn't go onto do more in film. Duval's character use to irk me quite a bit, coming off as a simple-minded victim of domestic abuse, but in the end she comes through with an inner-strength that turns me around on her character. As stated before Nicholson is in top demented form here, when I was a kid I though it was the Overlook that drove him mad, but when I watch it now he just seems like a bomb with the fuse already lit from the opening scenes, which combined with alcoholism, cabin fever, and a malevolent supernatural forces, are a recipe for psycho-thriller terror.

This of-course is based on Stephen King's blockbuster novel of the same name, and it's directed by a Kubrick who was at the top of his game, but the finished film was less than pleasing to the author who compared the film to a "big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it”, continuing to disparage it for years in the press and interviews which sort of drove me mental, how could he not think this was a masterpiece? Looking back at it now and having read the novel I can see where the creator is coming from, the character of a good but struggling alcoholic father driven to terrible deeds by a malevolent force is lost in Kubrick's film. That said, if you've seen the TV mini-series version of the story directed by Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers), which is spot-on faithful to King's novel, killer CGI topiary and all, you will known that truer to the source does not necessarily mean better. Kubrick made the superior film (sorry Mick), not just a superior King adaptation but one of the best horror film's ever made in my humble opinion.  

Audio/Video: Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) arrives on 4K UltraHD from Warner Bros. with a new 4K scan from the original camera negative, slightly cropped from the original 1.85:1 widescreen to a widescreen TV friendly 1.78:1, which I am sure is gonna be controversial, but I personally found it fine all things considered, though you do lose some very minor information on the edges of the frame. Re-framing aside the image looks superb, with a healthy amount of grain throughout, which also allows for rich texturing and fine detail to shine through in 4K! Colors looks natural and true, the HDR color-grading allowing for deep hues and contrast and clarity are very pleasing. The blacks are deep and inky with superior shadow detail throughout. Right from the opening opening helicopter shots of the Torrence's yellow VW Bug driving up the winding sidewinder road the improvement is readily noticeable. 

Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD Ma 5.1 with optional English subtitles. Again, like the Pan's Labyrinth 4K UHD I am a bit disappointed we do not get a Atmos upgrade, but the DTS is nothing short of excellent. Notably we still do not get the original mono audio mix, which n this day and age of 4K with it's vast storage is a damn shame, but like I said, the audio as presented with the DTS os solid, and not something to worry too much about. 

Extras on the 4K disc is limited to the audio commentary by steadicam inventor Garrett Brown and Kubrick biographer John Baxter. Onto the Blu-ray we get nearly all the vintage extras from Warner's 2007 Blu-ray, with the exception of the original fullframe trailer for some strange reason. The Blu-ray also offers the new 4K scan of the film in 1080p HD without the benefit of the HDR re-grading, which is cool, I sort of hate it when we just get a recycled Blu-ray from a past release with the 4K releases.

The 2-disc release arrives in a black eco-case with a one-sided sleeve of artwork featuring a new illustration that I liked very much, and there's a slipcover containing the same artwork. Inside there's a digital redemption code for 4K digital copy of the film. Note, make sure to check out the cool variant artwork on the Best Buy Exclusive Steelbook exclusive, it's pretty darn cool, I might double-dip to have that on my shelf, also hoping we see a Steelbook with the original Saul Bass artwork at some point.



Best Buy Exclusive Steelbook edition  

Special Features: 

- Commentary by Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown and Kubrick biographer John Baxter 
- The Making of The Shining (35 Mins) *
- View from the Overlook: Crafting The Shining (26 Mins) *
- Wendy Carlos, Composer (8 Mins) *
- The Visions of Stanley Kubrick (17 Mins) *
* Blu-ray Extra Only 

The new 4K UltraHD of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining looks phenomenal, lack of new extras, Atmos or the original mono is absolutely a downer, but not even close to a deal-breaker. The improved picture quality on this is outstanding, if you're a fan of this supernatural psycho-thriller you need this release in your life, highly recommended! 

PAN'S LABYRINTH (2006) (4K Ultra HD Review)

PAN'S LABYRINTH (2006) 

Label: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
region Code: Region-Free (4K), A (Blu-ray)
Rating: R
Duration: 119 Minutes 
Audio: Castillian Spanish DTS-HAD 5.1, DTS-HD 7.1 (Blu-ray Only) with Optional English 
Subtitles
Video: 2160p HD Widescreen (1.85:1), 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil, Álex Angulo

Synopsis: Following a bloody civil war, young Ofelia enters a world of unimaginable cruelty when she moves in with her new stepfather, a tyrannical military officer.  Armed with only her imagination, Ofelia discovers a mysterious labyrinth and meets a faun who sets her on a path to saving herself and her ailing mother.  But soon, the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur, and before Ofelia can turn back, she finds herself at the center of a ferocious battle between good and evil.

Guillermo del Toror's Pan's Labyrinth (2006) is what I would consider his absolute masterpiece so far, a horrific children's tale of a young girl growing up in the summer of 1944, following the Spanish Civil War, during the Franco-ist fascist period. At the start of the film young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero, Romasanta) joins her mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil, Appaloosa), who is with-child, to join her new husband, Captain Vidal (Sergi López, Dirty Pretty Things). Vidal is a cruel and sadistic Francoist militant who has been assigned a post in the countryside rounding up small pockets of Republican rebels. Soon after arriving young Ofelia sees a strange looking stick insect which she follows into the woods, where it reveals itself to be a fairy, leading her to a ancient stone labyrinth located in the nearby woods. this opens her up to a fairy-tale world inhabited by a deer-like humanoid creature named Faun (Doug Jones, Hellboy) who believes Ofelia to be the reincarnation of a long-lost fairy-tale Princess named Moanna. Faun gives her a magical book and sets her on three tasks which will confirm her true lineage, which if proven true will allow her to take her place among a magical kingdom hidden away from the real world. 

Naturally a young girl growing up in fascist regime would yearn for the fantastical refuge of fairy tales, the film makes no bones about the horrors she's experienced in life and now in the hands of the cruel Captain Vidal, which the film makes clear is a man who only married her mother to sire an heir of his own, His feelings towards the young Ofelia are truly unpleasant and only get worse as the film rolls along. However, the young girl finds a real-world friend by way of the sympathetic housekeeper Mercedes (Maribel Verdú, Y tu mamá también), who it turns out is a rebel sympathizer who assists the rebellion right under the nose of the Captain, which will prove to have some serious consequences. 

The imagery of the film is sublime, a deep forest fairy-tale set in a mountainous region, with magical creature by way of Faun, the deeply unsettling Pale Man - a child-eater of the fairy-tale world, and a giant toad that lives deep within the roots of a magical tree. The transition from the horrors of the real world to the fairy-tale world are organic and well-done throughout the entire film. The cast is also superb, young Ofelia's curiosity and sadness are deeply felt, as are the cruelties of her fascist stepfather. Obviously a film about sad little girl and  magical kingdom might beg the question is any of this magical stuff real, or is it just escapist imagination in the mind of a troubled young girl, and I don't think the film itself answers that question, but I certainly wanted to believe their was more to this young girl's life that the hard reality of her situation, and regardless of what was intended the film is a magic bit of fantasy. 

Audio/Video: Pan's Labyrinth arrives on 4K Ultra HD in 2160p HD widescreen (1.85:1), the image is fantastic looking, vastly improving upon the previous Warner Bros. Blu-ray edition with deep true blacks and pleasing  shadow detail. Thankfully the compression and black crush that marred that previous release are nowhere to be seen here. Colors are strong throughout, tastefully emboldened and deepened by the HDR10 enhancement which looks excellent, there's also a nice uptick in fine detail and clarity throughout the presentation.  

Audio on the 4K Ultra HD disc comes by way of a Spanish DTS-HD 5.1 surround mix with optional English subtitles. It's a solid and immersive track, though I do find it a bit baffling that we do not get a Dolby Atmos remix, or even the previous DTS 7.1 mix from the previous Warner Blu-ray release. That said, it's a solid track that is dynamic and nicely nuanced, with the Javier Navarrete (The Devil's Backbone) score having a nice presence in the mix.


The only extra on the 4K Ultra HD disc is the audio commentary with Guillermo del Toro, with the other extras being on the accompanying Blu-ray disc which is the same exact disc as the previous Blu-ray, it does not feature a new scan of the film, but does feature the previous DTS 7.1 mix that s not present on the 4K disc, plus we get the previous Warner Bros. Blu-ray extras, nothing new here, this does not contain any of the Criterion extras from their 2017 Blu-ray release. 

The 2-disc release arrives in a black eco-case with a one-sided sleeve of artwork with a slipcover containing the same art. Inside there's a digital redemption code for the film.  

Special Features:
- Audio commentary by Guillermo del Toro
- Video prologue by Guillermo del Toro *
- The Power of Myth (14 min) *
- The Faun and the Fairies (30 min) *
- The Color and the Shape (4 min) *
- The Director’s Notebook (5 min) *
* Blu-ray Only Extra
                                   
Pan's Labyrinth (2006) looks absolutely wonderful on 4K from Warner Bros., the lack of a Atmos audio option or new extras is disappointing but the archival extras are still excellent and the picture quality is superior to both the previous Warner and Criterion releases. 

  

Monday, September 30, 2019

THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT (2018) (Umbrella Blu-ray Review)

THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT (2018) 

Label: Umbrella Entertainment

Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: R
Duration: 153 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Lars Von Trier
Cast: Bruno Ganz, Matt Dillon, Uma Thurman



Director Lars Von Trier is no stranger to being a button-pusher, each of his films courting controversy as reliably as most people breath air. His latest knee-jerker The Jack That House Built (2018) stars Matt Dillon (Drugstore Cowboy) as an OCD-afflicted serial killer named Jack, a demented killer who also fancies himself something of an artist. As the film plays along we experience Jack recalling several formative incidents in his life that establish him as a deranged serial killer, which he is telling to a presence known as Verge (Bruno Ganz, The Boys From Brazil), whose role becomes more clear as the film plays along. Jack's story begin in the 70's with him picking up a stranded motorist (Uma Thurman, Kill Bill) who verbally assaults his masculinity. He seems to struggle with what to do with her, before smashing her face in with a carjack. Afterward he takes her body to an warehouse district where he keeps an industrial sized walk-in freezer that he keeps his victims in. 



The next story involves a widow (Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Funny Games) with Jack pretending to be a cop at first, then realizing she's not buying it changing his story to that of someone who can increase the payout of her husband's pension. This is the segment where I caught on this thing is a black comedy, the first kill hinted at it, but the way he goes about making up the story trying to get invited into this woman's home was so funny to me, absolutely ridiculous, and even sillier that she went along with it. 



This is also the segment where his OCD kicks in, and I loved the way they visualize it, and how his compulsion slows him down, and in fact delays him to the point that a cop in the area on an unrelated calls end up questioning him, leading to a rather funny scene of him fleeing the victim's house with her body tied to the back of his van, leaving a miles long trail of blood behind him as the asphalt eats away at her corpse's face! This segment also sets up a weird sort of divination by way of a rainfall that washes away the evidence in a downpour. 



I won't go into all the stories, but I will go into in one more, with Jack taking a woman and her two young boys on a picnic into a remote forest. There he teaches them how to shoot a scoped rife, before shooting both of her children and forcing her to feed one of their corpses pie, before going after her with the expected results. In the aftermath Jack takes the corpse of one of the boys to his industrial freezer and contorts it's faces into a macabre smile, that is disturbing. 


The film seems offers some sort of commentary on Von Trier's own career with a mixed media presentation that used animation and stock footage, in addition to clips from several of his films. Throughout the film Jack and Verge discuss philosophy and art, with Jack making the case for his kills to be works of art in themselves, with continued talk about his desire to build a house, but not finding the right raw materials, which is realized in the final leg of the film in a bizarre and grotesque way. 



Eventually Jack's murders get a bit more brazen and unplanned, and the cops end up storming his industrial freezer, which is where the film really gets strange, with Jack visiting Hell with Verge leading the way! Matt Dillon is absolutely phenomenal here, this is a strange and grotesque film, the way he plays this delightfully demented killer is fantastic, I applaud him for being so game for all of this, at times coming across as a more violent (but not that much more unhinged) variation on his nutso Pat Healy character from the comedy There's Something About Mary.



I didn't find the film scary, but I found it equally repulsive and enthralling, the acts themselves are awful and disgusting, at one point Jack's drawing perforated lines with a red sharpie around the breasts of an unfortunate young woman before following the expected path, with him leaving a fleshy chunk of breast on the windshield of a cop's car, but there's an element of dark humor throughout that while not exactly softening the blow renders bit a bit less shocking to me, but still entertaining and gruesome. I also dig how they go back to his childhood and show the early on-set violence against small animals that hint at things yet to come - in this case a duckling, which for many viewers might be the most reprehensible image in the entire film.     



Audio/Video: The complete and unrated version of The House That Jack Built (2018) arrives on region-free (despite being labeled region B) Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment framed in 2.35:1 widescreen in 1080p HD. the digitally shot films looks excellent, everything crisp and well-defined with good clarity, colors looks natural and the blacks are deep throughout. 




The disc's English DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio is solid, dialogue and sounds effects are crisp and clean sounding, the score and soundtrack selections sound great, and the Bruno Ganz character's voice over narration has a wonderful disembodied quality. Unfortunately there are no subtitle options on the disc.




There are also no extras whatsoever, this is as bare as bare-bones gets in 1080p HD, with not even a start-up menu. The single-disc release arrives in an oversized Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve of artwork featuring the original movie poster with Jack peering out through a blood-spattered sheet of plastic. The reverse side is the same artwork minus the unsightly Australian ratings logo on the front cover, with the disc featuring an excerpt of the same artwork which almost lines up perfectly with the reverse side artwork when it in the disc tray minus the movie logo.




I loved The House That Jack Built (2018), it's a button-pusher that pushed all the right buttons for me, blending the macabre and grotesque with some interesting psychological underpinnings. There's a delightfully demented vein of humor throughout, and on top of all that is a rather brilliant performance from Matt Dillon, and a hilarious final song selection that is the cherry on top of this pitch-black serial killer thriller, highly recommended.      

More Screenshots from the Blu-ray: 


JAWBREAKER (1999) Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Blu-ray on November 19th!


THE “TEEN DREAM” TURNS 20…

THE DEVIOUSLY HILARIOUS CULT CLASSIC
COMES TO BLU-RAY NOVEMBER 19th
IN CELEBRATION OF ITS 20th ANNIVERSARY

STARRING ROSE MCGOWAN, REBECCA GAYHEART, JULIE BENZ, JUDY GREER, PAM GRIER AND CAROL KANE, FROM WRITER/DIRECTOR DARREN STEIN

BONUS FEATURES INCLUDE AN ALL-NEW 20th ANNIVERSARY RETROSPECTIVE COMMENTARY WITH STEIN, GAYHEART, BENZ and GREER

SYNOPSIS

First, I guess you need to know something about them: "The beautiful ones.” “The flawless four.” Everyone wanted to be them. You know them. They went to your school, too. First there's Courtney "Satan-in-Heels" Shayne (Rose McGowan) and her pawn, the dense but dangerous Marcie Fox (Julie Benz), a legend in her own little mind. Then there's angelic Julie Freedman (Rebecca Gayheart), doomed to be popular because of her pretty face. And lastly, the teen dream herself, Elizabeth Purr. When an ordinary kidnapping prank leaves the future prom queen dead (accidentally gagged with a jawbreaker), a deadly sweet prank leads to cover-up makeover in this edgy and unpredictable comedy. But there will be no mercy as prom night arrives, bringing this spirited tale to its cruel tiara-dropping conclusion.

BLU-RAY™ EXTRAS

- NEW! 20th Anniversary Retrospective Commentary: with Darren Stein, Rebecca Gayheart, Julie Benz and Judy Greer
- Original Commentary: with Darren Stein
- Theatrical Trailer

CAST AND CREW

Cast: Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, Julie Benz, Judy Greer, Chad Christ, Ethan Erickson and starring Carol Kane and Pam Grier
Director: Darren Stein
Written by: Darren Stein
Producers: Lisa Tornell and Stacy Kramer

SPECS

Run Time: Approx. 87 minutes
Rating: Rated R for sexuality, language and violence, all involving teens