Sunday, April 11, 2021

THE EPITAPH VOL. 35: NOS4A2 - SEASON 1 & 2 (2019-2020) - REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (2008) - THE UNDOING: AN HBO LIMITED SERIES (2021) - SATOR (2019) -THE JUNGLE JIM MOVIE COLLECTION 3 (1951-1955)


THE EPITAPH VOL. 35

NOS4A2 - SEASON 1 & 2 (2019-2020) - REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (2008) - THE UNDOING: AN HBO LIMITED SERIES (2021) - SATOR (2019) - THE JUNGLE JIM MOVIE COLLECTION 3 (1951-1955)

NOS4A2 - SEASON 1 & 2 (2019 - 2020)

Label:
Acorn Media International
Region Code: 2 (PAL) 
Rating: Cert: 15 
Duration: 873 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Directors: Kari Skogland, John Shiban, Tim Southam, Jeremy Webb, Hanelle Culpepper,  Stefan Schwartz, Craig Macneill, Tricia Brock, Toa Fraser, 
Cast: Ashleigh Cummings, Zachary Quinto, Jahkara J. Smith, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Virginia Kull, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ashley Romans

NOS4A2 is based best-selling novel of the same name by Joe Hill, the talented son of horror maestro Stephen King, that was adapted into a two season series for AMC. 
Ashleigh Cummings (TV's Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries) stars as Massachusetts highschooler Victoria "Vic" McQueen, who discovers that she is a "strong creative", a person with an uncanny supernatural ability. She can summon a wooden covered bridge with the help of her totem, in her case it's a motorcycle, which can transport her pretty much anywhere she is thinking of. When kids in her neighborhood start to go missing she uses her newfound power to track down the culprit, a seemingly immortal man named Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto, Star Trek), a soul-sucking vampire who lures children, feeding off their souls, as they remain imprisoned in a place called Christmasland - a twisted Christmas village of Manx's imagination where every day is Christmas and unhappiness is not allowed. The kids he imprisons there are transformed into flesh eating ghouls, the essence of their corrupted souls keeping him unnaturally young.  Like Vic, Manx also has a totem, a vintage 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith, which allows him passage to his land of demented xmas make believe. Both Vic and Manx's  powers are tied to their totem's, if you take it away or damage them their powers are affected. Along the way Manx recruits a creepy, Christmas obsessed school janitor named Bing Partridge (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, True Detective) to assist him in procuring children, and Vic meets a purple-haired librarian named Maggie Leigh (YouTuber Jahkara Smith), who is also a "string creative", her totem being a purple velvet Scrabble bag, which spells out answers to questions posed by Maggie. While I thought the set-up was cool and I seriously wanted to love the show in the end I was only ever lukewarm on it. I found the characters of Vic so morose and unlikable to be honest, the character was just so dour, constantly arguing with her abusive, there were never any moments of this teenager having fun, everything was always a losing proposition. On the other hand I though both Quinto and Ólafsson were super creepy as the villains, and that's what kept me coming back week after week. Quinto as the soul-sucking vampire in both his young and aged forms is a menacing presence, and his murderous sexual predator sidekick whose enjoys gassing parents and assaulting them before killing them and stealing their children should have had a series to himself! While I did not love it I thought it was an intriguing swing and a miss, not a total loss but not hugely satisfying either. The 4-disc DVD set from Acorn arrives in two standard DVD keepcases with a slipcover holding them together, it looks solid in standard definition and has some great extras that dig into the series, which I enjoyed. 

Special Features: 
- A Look at the Series
- Meet the Characters
- Becoming Charlie Manx
- The Making of NOS4A2
- Adapting the Book
- The Rules of NOS4A2
- Joe Hill's Themes and Inspirations
- Joe Hill's Show & Tell
- A Look at Season 2
- Catching Up with the Characters
- The Origin of Charlie  Manx


REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (2008)

Label:
Umbrella Entertainment
Region Code: A, B
Rating: M
Duration: 119 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Dolby Digital French, German, Dutch, Italian and Castilian Spanish with Optional English, Danish, Ditch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, and Swedish Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Sam Mendez 
Cast:  Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Leonardo Di Caprio, Michael Shannon

The Sam Mendez adaptation of Richard Yates same-titled 1961 novel stars Leonardo DiCaprio (Django) as Frank and Kate Winslet (Heavenly Creatures) as his wife April Wheeler,  a couple who meet at a party at the start of the film. He's a longshoreman, and he's an aspiring actress, both have lofty personal ambitions, and they quickly fall in love and marry.  Despite feeling that they are far from ordinary both find themselves leading standard issue domestic 1950's lives in the suburbs of Connecticut a few years later. Frank works 10 hours a day at a soulless office job he hates while she is a not-so-happy homemaker, and mother of two. Both yearn for fulfillment and passion from a relationship that is increasing passionless, but hiding behind the visage of a happy suburban couple. Revolutionary Road  is a remarkably well-made period drama that is also remarkably depressing as we watch this couple implode from the inside. It's a brilliant film, albeit soul-crushing,  and not even the pastel-colored 50's veneer can mask the soul-destroying drama that plays out. The supporting cast is also fantastic, with appearances from Cathy Bates (Misery) as a nosey realtor, Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water) as a mentally unhinged truth-sayer, and Kathryn Hahn (WandaVision) and David Harbour (Stranger Things) as the couples neighbors. The Blu-ray from Umbrella looks fantastic with vibrant colors, sharp detail, wonderful depth and clarity, and we get all the extras the U.S. release, including a wonderful piece on Richard Yates. This is a top-notch HD presentation for Australian fans of the film. 

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with Director Sam Mendes and Screenwriter Justin Haythe
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director Sam Mendes and Screenwriter Justin Haythe HD 
- Lives of Quiet Desperation: The Making of Revolutionary Road HD
- Richard Yates: The Wages of Truth HD 
- Theatrical Trailer HD

 THE UNDOING: AN HBO LIMITED SERIES (2021) 

Label: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Rating: Unrated 
Region Code:
Duration: 360 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2:20:1) 
Director: Susanne Bier
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Édgar Ramírez, Noah Jupe, Lily Rabe, Matilda De Angelis, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Edan Alexander, Michael Devine, Donald Sutherland 

The HBO limited series The Undoing (2021) is based on the novel You Should Have Known (2014) by Jean Hanff Korelitz  and was directed by Susanne Bier (Bird Box), starring Nicole Kidman (BMX Bandits) and Hugh Grant (Lair of the White Work) as successful married couple Grace and Jonathan Fraser. She a psychologist and he an oncologist, on the surface they seemingly have perfect lives, they are well-respected, have influential friends, and live a posh lifestyle. However, when an enigmatic woman named Elena (Matilda De Angelis) is found brutally murdered Jonathan soon becomes a prime suspect, shattering the couples lives. I found this a rather decent thriller worth watching so I won't go onto spoil more, but over the course of the six one-hour episodes this slick murder mystery unfolds with a dizzying array of misdirects and detours that kept this pot-boiler moving along. Kidman and Grant are terrific in it, she often in a weird haze as she grapples with the possibility that her husband is not who he says he is, and Grant has never been a more a mysterious presence than he is here. While I thought that the final episode lacked the punch it deserved, I was along for the ride and never looked back, shotgunning all six episodes in an afternoon. The series is currently streaming on HBO MAX or you can pick it up on 2-disc Blu-ray and digital, with about a half-hour worth of extras on the Blu-ray. If you're a fan of stylish, well-acted murder mystery thrillers, and don't mind a bit of style or substance, I think you will dig this one, check it out. 

Special Features: 
- Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant Introduce The Undoing (4 min) HD 
- Creating The Undoing (3 min) HD 
- The Undoing Revelations (11 Parts) (26 min) HD 
- HD Digital Copy 

SATOR
(2019) 

Label: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Code: 1, 4 NTSC
Rating: Cert. 15+
Duration: 86 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphioc Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Jordan Graham
Cast: Gabe Nicholson, Michael Daniel, Rachel Johnson

Deep in the woods horror comes our way courtesy of Sator (2019), an abstract bit of one-the-verge-of-Lovecraftian horror about backwoods a family under the thrall of a entity known as Sator. What Sator is could be any number of things, it could be a Satanic presence, a backwoods cult, or it could be mental illness, and that director Jordan Graham doesn't care to elaborate makes this ultra-indie bit of forested fright that much more intruiging. In it family members both deny and believe in Sator, with the elderly matriarch of the family often falling under the spell of the enigmatic spirit, resulting in fits of autowriting,  with granny's hand being guided by the potentially malevolent spirit. Shot deep in the woods the film looks fantastic, the greenery of the forest and the rugged terrain makes a desolate backdrop for the unnerving  happening surrounding the family, including the sudden arrival of a Sator itself or some sort of Sator worshipping cult adorned in animal fur and adorned with skulls and jawbones, it's the stuff of a folk-horror nightmare. This is the sort of film that might take a few watches to "get", I myself started watching it three different times but was not in the mood to make it more than a few minutes. That might sound like a non-starter to some, but when I was in the right frame of mind and not distracted I found this to be a very creepy film that is hard to shake afterward. It's a slowburn in the best way, it's has an ominous tone that rings throughout that is quite eerie. The DVD from Umbrella Entertainment is bare-bones with no menu or subtitles, but looks solid in standard definition. I would have appreciated a commentary or interview with the director, because this debut feature film was a passion project that was made with his late grandmother, shot over the course of several years, I very much would have liked to hear the story behind that.

THE JUNGLE JIM MOVIE COLLECTION 3 (1951-1955)

Label: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Code: 4 (NTSC)
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 346 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Video: 1.33:1 Full Frame 
Directors: Charles S. Gould, Lew Landers, Spencer G. Bennet, William Berke
Cast: Johnny Weissmuller, William Henry, Angela Greene, Carol Thurston, Jean Byron, Myron Healey

Umbrella Entertainment have released the third and final  volume of their The Jungle Jim Movie Collection series of releases, this one containing Fury of the Congo (1951), Jungle Jim in the Forbidden Land (1952), Killer Ape (1953), Valley of the Headhunters (1953) and Jungle Moon Men (1955), completing the 16-film series that was produced by Sam Katzman for Columbia Pictures between 1948-1955. The film all starred former Olympic swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller, following the success of his role as Tarzan in serials from 1938-1948. In them Weissmuller plays an adventurer based in Africa who in each film finds himself caught up in another African adventure. Here we find him facing off against a scientist harvesting a gland from the endangered Okongo, a fictional half-antelope and half-zebra creature, to create a potent street drug, as well as a quest to find mythical giants, a legendary "killer ape", and mobsters looking to cash-in on lucrative oil rights, as well as a rescue mission to save someone from a tribe of moon-worshipping pygmy tribe known as the 'Moon Men'. The serialized adventures are a bit quaint for me, but Umbrella's release is attractively packaged, I love the design and layout of the release, the illustrated artwork on the wrap and on the discs themselves are very cool. If you're a fan of the series I cannot imagine you would be disappointed. No extras on these, but the full frame, black and white  presentations look and sound good for a vintage serial.  

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