Tuesday, April 30, 2024

THE OCEAN’S TRILOGY (2001-2007) (WBDHE 4K UHD Review)

THE OCEAN’S TRILOGY (2001-2007) 
4K Ultra HD + Digital

Label: WBDHE 
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: PG-13 
Duration:116 minutes, 125 minutes, 122 minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: HDR10 2160p 4K Ultra HD Widescreen (2.39:1) 
Director: Steven Soderberg 
Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia

Synopsis: The trilogy of beloved crime heist films – Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, and Ocean’s Thirteen - from Academy Award winning director Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Andy Garcia. Inspired by and based on the 1960 heist film Ocean's 11, the three films are directed by Soderbergh from screenplays by Ted Griffin, George Nolfi, and Brian Koppelman & David Levien.

Ocean’s 11 (2001)
Danny Ocean (George Clooney) likes taking chances. All he asks is that his handpicked squad of ten grifters and cons play the game like they have nothing to lose. If all goes right, the payoff will be a fat $150 million. Ocean’s 11, in alphabetical order, stars George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Elliott Gould, Bernie Mac and Carl Reiner also star.

Ocean’s 12 (2004)
They’re back. And then some. Twelve is the new eleven when Danny Ocean and pals return in a sequel to the cool caper that saw them pull off a $150 million heist. But $150 million doesn’t go as far as it used to. It’s time to pull off another stunner of a plan. Exciting locations include Amsterdam, Paris and Rome.Ocean’s 12 stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Andy Garcia, Don Ch eadle, Bernie Mac and Julia Roberts.

Ocean’s 13 (2007)
Danny Ocean rounds up the boys for the most dazzling heist yet, after casino owner Willy Bank (Al Pacino) double-crosses one of the eleven, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould).
George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and more reteam with director Steven Soderbergh for a split-second caper that stacks the deck with wit, style and cool. 
Ocean’s 13 stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Ellen Barkin and Al Pacino. Rounding out the ensemble cast are Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, Shaobo Qin with Carl Reiner and Elliott Gould.

No real review for the individual flicks other than to say the first one is a stone-cold casino-heist classic, it has an amazing cast and is superbly crafted with stylish visuals and a swank casino-caper soundtrack, it;s a 10 out of 10 in by book. The sequels are lesser in my opinion but are still star-studded, high-gloss caper flicks, but they become a bit bloated, a bit too self-referential, but still dynamite entertainment and worth owning if you dig heist flicks.   

Audio/Video: All three of the Ocean's flicks arrive on 4K Ultra HD with brand new 4K remasters completed at Warner Bros. Discovery’s Motion Picture Imaging (MPI) with the participation of director Steven Soderbergh. Honestly, I have not rewatched these, at least the first two that I caught at the cinema, since I last saw them at the cinema, having never owned them on DVD, Blu-ray or even having re-watched them on any streaming service in the interim. They are presented here on three separate discs in 2160p UHD with HDR10 enhanced color-grading, framed in 2.39:1 widescreen. To put it simply, all three films look absolutely stunning in 4K UHD. The sources are immaculate, grain is lush and finely resolved, and the colors are well-saturated, actually luminescent. Fine detail and textures are quite wonderful as well, stubble and skin pores are crisp and clean, and that HDR color-grading really brings the colors to life. Blacks are deep and inky with pleasing shadow detail throughout, enhancing contrast and just wowing me scene after scene. This is a reference quality visual presentation that highlights Soderberg's stylish and lushly detailed cinematography. 

The restored DTS-HD MA 5.1 was overseen by original re-recording sound mixer and sound editor Larry Blake. While there is no Atmos remix it should be noted that previous Blu-ray editions only sported lossy Dolby Digital mixes, and while I don;t have those to compare to the audio mixes on these three casino-capers are a knockout. Dialogue is crisp and clean, effects are delivered with precision and the soundtracks by composer David Holmes (Out of Sight) are the epitome of cool, full or swank and swagger and they've never sounded better or more dynamic that with these gorgeous 4ka releases. 

Onto the extras, having never owned the Blu-rays I do not know this for certain, but after doing some research it looks to me like all the archival extras have been carried over for this set, and no new extras have been commissioned.  These include commentaries, deleted scenes, making of featurettes, and quite a bit more. It;s a well-stocked set.

The three-disc UHD release arrives in a standard black keepcase with a flipper tray housing the three discs. We get a single-sided sleeve of artwork, the same key artwork is also featured on the slipcover, which has embossed highlights and a metallic finish. Tucked away inside is a redemption code for digital copies of the flicks in 4K UHD, the extras were available via Movies Anywhere but not through Vudu.  

Special Features: 
Ocean’s Eleven

- Audio Commentary with director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Ted Griffin
- Audio Commentary with actors Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, and Brad Pitt
- Are You In or Out?: The Making of Ocean's Eleven (28:10)
- Pros and Cons: Inside Ocean's Outfit (13:02)
- The Style of Steal (10:49)
- The Look of the Con (9:40)
- Original Ocean's, Original Cool (13:59)
Ocean’s Twelve
- Audio Commentary with director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter George Nolfi
- Ready, Jet Set, Go: The Making of Ocean's Twelve (25:39)
- HBO First Look: Twelve is the New Eleven (13:02)
- 18 Deleted Scenes (28:19)
Ocean’s Thirteen
- Audio Commentary with director Steven Soderbergh and writers Brian Koppelman & David Levin
- Third's a Charm: The Making of Ocean's Thirteen (29:46)
- Ahab with a Piggyback: The Means & Machines of Ocean's (9:03)
- Jerry Weintraub Walk and Talk (2:25)
- Masters of the Heist (44:02)
- 4 Deleted Scenes (4:35)

Monday, April 29, 2024

THE SHAPE OF NIGHT (1964) (Radiance Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Radiance Films 
Region Code:
Duration: 106 Minutes 32 Minutes   
Audio: Japanese PCM 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Noboru Nakamura
Cast: Miyuki Kuwano, Mikijiro Hira, Bunta Sugawara, Keisuke Sonoi, Masuyo Iwamoto, Misako Tominaga, sao Kimura, Yoshiko Hiromura, Emiko Kure, Akitake Kôno, Kôji Matsubara, Hideaki Nagai, Miyoko Nakamura, Yoshihide Satô, Noriko Sengoku, Hifumi Takaoka, Shinji Tanaka, Bonta Tokyo

Directed by Noburo Nakamura The Shape of Night (1964) tells the story of a nineteen year-old woman from the 
countryside named Yoshie Nomoto (Miyuki Kuwano, Cruel Story of Youth) who at the start of the film is a prostitute. She's meeting with a seemingly kind john named Hiroshi Fujii (Keisuke Sonoi) who she has been meeting with regularly, after he inquires about her past she tells her sad story and we experience it in flashback. 

Her tale starts with working at a factory before leaving that job to work at a nightclub in the city, which is where she met Eiji Kitami (Mikijirô Hira, Sword of the Beast), a low level Yakuza hood, the pair fall madly in love and are quite happy together. However, when he experience money problems he sweet talks into prostituting herself to generate some cash, which she does dutifully for love. What was supposed to be a one-off event proves to be a new way of life for her after her boyfriend's Yakuza boss demands a cut of the action, she finds herself drawn into a nightmare world of seemingly inescapable sex work on the neon lit streets of Tokyo

Beautifully shot with some terrific use of neon lighting this is quite a disturbing examination of prostitution and what one young woman will do for love, Miyuki Kuwano's performance is absolutely engaging, she pulls you into it her plight. Early on she is gang-raped by the Yakuza gang, most of the sexual violence happens just off screen, but it's impactful stuff. When she tries to leave Eiji, whom she still clearly loves despite all that he has put her through, she feels she needs to stay to take care of him, he having become more pathetic as the story continues, but she is torn between staying and leaving him for her new knight in tarnished armor who says he wants to take her away from it all. This is a terrifically engaging story with gorgeous cinematography and and gripping performances, and I highly recommend this slice of life drama that tells the tale of how a sweet young girl from the county looking for more falls in love and finds herself drawn into the seedy world of sex work. 

Audio/Video: The Shape of Night (1964) arrives on Blu-ray from Radiance Films with a gorgeous presentation of the film in 1080p HD widescreen (2.35:1), we get a filmic layer of grain, colors are reproduced nicely with good saturation, black levels are pleasing and fine detail and textures in close-ups are solid. Audio comes by way of original Japanese PCM 2.0 dual mono with optional English subtitles. The track is clean and free of hiss or distortion, dialogue sounds terrific and the score has a nice showing in the mix. 

Extras for this release include  a 16-min Interview with Yoshio Nakamura, the son of director Noboru Nakamura (2024), the son of the director; the 13-min Major Changes: Visual essay on the artistic upheavals at Shochiku studios during the 1960s by Tom Mes (2024), plus a Easter Egg featuring five more minutes with Nakamura. 

The single-disc release arrives in a clear full-height Scanavo packaging with a Reversible Sleeve of Artwork featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Time Tomorrow, plus Radiance's signature Removable OBI Strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings if you so wish. Tucked away inside is a 28-page Limited Edition Illustrated Booklet featuring new writing by Chuck Stephens, an archival piece from The Shape of Night cinematographer 
Toichiro Narushima, plus cast and crew info, transfer notes, acknowledgements and release credits.

Special Features: 
- Interview with Yoshio Nakamura, son of director Noboru Nakamura (2024) (15:45)
- Major Changes: Visual essay on the artistic upheavals at Shochiku studios during the 1960s by Tom Mes (2024) (13:45) 
- Trailer
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Time Tomorrow
- Limited edition booklet featuring new writing by Chuck Stephens
- Limited edition of 3000 copies, presented in full-height Scanavo packaging with removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings

Screenshots from the Radiance Films Blu-ray: 


Buy it!

Sunday, April 28, 2024

GOODBYE UNCLE TOM (1971) (Limited Edition 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + CD Soundtrack Review)

aka Addio Zio Tom
4-Disc Limited Edition 
4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + CD 
Label: Blue Underground
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: Goodbye Uncle Tom (123 Minutes 17 Seconds), Addio Zio Tom (134 Minutes 48 Seconds)
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 1.0; Italian DTS-HD MA 1.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: Dolby Vision HDR10 2160p Ultra HD Widescreen (2.40:1)
Directors: Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi
Cast: Stefano Sibaldi, Susan Hampshire, Dick Gregory

Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971) aka Addio Zio Tom is one of the most incendiary of the Italian mondo-docudramas, directed by the 'Godfathers of Mondo' Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi (Mondo Cane), the exploitative film is based on the rise and revolt of slavery in America, depicted with an unflinching brutality with scenes of such abborehent racism that it has long been considered a racist slice of exploitation. As Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi set out to exploitatively docu-drama-mentary the atrocities of the antebellum south and the horrors of the slave trade it's easy to see why this particular mondo flick is so inflammatory and unsavory, it is not an easy film to stomach with black skinned people being treated as subhuman by white skinned slavers. The film was largely shot in Haiti where Haitian despot Francois Duvalier gave the filmmakers carte blanche to use whatever locations and extras they wanted to make their film, the extras put through what looks to be some truly inhumane treatment as they are chained and herded like cattle, subjugated and mistreated, it all looks a bit too real to be honest. While they set out to make a film purportedly about how America was built on a foundation of rape, slavery and murder it's all so unsavory I am not sure that the message comes through as pure as the mondo filmmaking duo think it did.

When the film was shown to U.S. distributors they demanded cuts me made, and thus the Italian Addio Zio Tom became Goodbye Uncle Tom, but the shorter truncated English-dub version is actually a bit more harrowing of a watch in my opinion, losing much of the, dare I even say it, nuance, that juxtaposes 1970 america race relations to what was happening during the era of slavery. On one hand, yes it does depict the dehumanizing atrocities inflicted on dark skinned people, but on the other hand it's done so exploitatively and the compare/contrast even the superior Italian version offers is still problematic and perhaps ultimately misguided . 

Audio/Video: Both the  Addio Zio Tom and Goodbye Uncle Tom versions of the film have been fully restored by Blue Underground in 4K 16-bit restorations from their original camera negatives, presented here on separate UHD discs framed in 2160p UHD Widescreen (2.40:1) with Dolby Vision HDR color-grading. Grain is well-managed throughout, maintaining a course filmic presentation with excellent depth and clarity, some newsreel footage looks considerably worse of course, but the filmed scenes reveal plenty of disturbing depth and clarity as we bare witness to largely nude people subjected to rape, torture, forced surgeries, and inhuman degradation. It's a hard watch for sure, but the source is in pristine shape with nary a photochemical flaw to distract from the unrelenting  racism of humanity at it's absolute worst. Blue Underground have also released a simultaneous 4-disc Blu-ray edition, be aware that no Blu-ray of the feature films are included on the 4K UHD set.  

Audio for the Goodbye Uncle Tom version comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 1.0; while Addio Zio Tom gets Italian DTS-HD MA 1.0, both with optional English subtitles. Both tracks are clean and well-balanced, the score from Riz Ortolani (Warriors of the Year 2072) is full-bodied. It's one of the Ortolani score that is surprisingly upbeat and jaunty considering the subject matter, it's an off-putting dichotomy.  

Extras on the 4K UHD versions of the features are limited to the just the Theatrical Trailers, with all other extras available on a dedicated Blu-ray with five hours of extras, including two feature-length documentaries about Directors Gualtiero Jacopetti & Franco Prosperi, 20-minutes of Interviews with Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi, and Composer Riz Ortolani; 50-min of Behind-the-Scenes 8mm Footage with Audio Commentary by Production Manager Giampaolo Lomi, 47-minutes of academic interviews with Author Mark Goodall and  Professor Matthew J. Smith. The extras disc is buttoned-up with plentiful Still Galleries, including posters, advertising materials, lobby cards, stills, home video releases and soundtracks, plus Giampaolo Lomi’s Behind-the-Scenes Photos.

A fourth disc is the 23-track CD soundtrack by Riz Ortolani that runs about 53-minutes, a gorgeous sounding soundtrack and a very cool bonus. The 4-disc release arrives in an oversized 4-hibbed Scanavo keepcase housing the disc with a Reversible Sleeve of Artwork featuring both the illustrated Goodbye Uncle Tom and Addio Zio Tom artworks. Tucked away inside is a 20-page Illustrated Collectible Booklet with new "A Case for Goodbye Uncle Tom" essay by Dan Madigan, plus CD track list, and chapter selection for both the English and Italian versions. This edition also comes with slipcover featuring the Goodbye Uncle Tom artwork with embossed lettering on the front, back and spines.  

Special Features:
Disc 1 (4K UHD) Feature Film + Extras:
- English Version (123 Minutes, 16 Seconds) 
- English Trailer (3:29) 
Disc 2 (4K UHD) Feature Film + Extras:
- Italian Version (135 Minutes, 48 Seconds)
- Italian Trailer (5:00) 
Disc 3 (Blu-ray) Extras:
- The Importance of Shocking: Gutiero Jacopetti – A feature-length documentary by Director Andrea Bettinetti (93:59)
- The Godfathers of Mondo – A feature-length documentary by Director David Gregory (89:16)
- Goodbye Cruel Mondo - Interviews with Writers/Directors Gualtiero Jacopetti & Franco Prosperi, and Composer Riz Ortolani (20:00)
- Behind-the-Scenes 8mm Footage with Audio Commentary by Production Manager Giampaolo Lomi (49:52) 
- Mondo Mercenaries - Interview with Author & Academic Mark Goodall (27:15)
- Abjection Under Authoritarianism - Interview with Professor Matthew J. Smith (19:47)
- Extensive Still Galleries, including Giampaolo Lomi’s Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Disc 4 (CD):
- Goodbye Uncle Tom Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Riz Ortolani (23 Tracks, 53 Minutes) 
- 20-Page Illustrated Collectible Booklet with new essay by Dan Madigan

This slice of mondo exploitation is a tough watch, but it's important to remember that controversial art is meant to be controversial, and the depiction of the unsavory is not necessarily the same as endorsing it, it's meant to be offensive, what we are seeing is offensive, and it should not be glimpsed glibly, it should be a gut-punch, and boy-howdy, is this ever a punch to the guts. Blue Underground have done exceptional work beautifully restoring both versions of the controversial film, as well as including a wealth of explorative extras and the gorgeous CD soundtrack that make this the definitive edition to own, and from the looks of it this 4K UHD is only getting one pressing, so act fast of you want to own it.

Screenshots from the Bonus Features Blu-ray: 

Buy it!