‘Casablanca’ Movie and 4K/Blu-ray Review

The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.

Casablanca” is a film which conjures up an immediate reaction from film fans whenever they hear the title.  It’s right up there with “Citizen Kane” as one of those films which film buffs and historians consider one of the greatest movies ever made.  There are many reasons for this, but the biggest reason is the love story between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.  There is also the dialogue and the many quotable lines which come to mind when thinking of this film.  I won’t be repetitive here and list all of them for you, but if you have seen “Casablanca,” you know the lines by heart.  It’s one of those films which means a lot to a great deal of people and for good reason.

Set in 1941, the film introduces the audience to Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), the owner of the nightclub Rick’s Café Américain. He refuses to have drinks with any of the customers and mostly keeps to himself.  The audience can tell he’s cynical, unhappy, and something has happened to him to cause him to lose a big part of himself. He tends to stay neutral on almost every topic.  Even though he’s cynical, he’s still a good guy with a good heart.  His world gets turned upside down when his old flame, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), shows up with her husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), as he’s seeking protection from German Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) who intends to arrest him.

Victor Laszlo is a fugitive Czech Resistance leader. Rick’s Café serves as a place for all sorts of types, good and bad, because of World War II.  A lot of people there are looking to keep a low profile while others are looking to find someone to arrest.  Rick has some war experience himself, but now he’s focused on his nightclub.  He starts to become very focused on Ilsa when he catches up with her again, and it’s clear there are still strong feelings between the two.  They were in love back in Paris, but when it was time to leave, she just left him hanging with a note that left him with more questions than answers.

Rick has letters of transit, which allow two individuals to get out of Casablanca safe and sound and start over without any consequences. Rick can give the letters to Ilsa, but that also means he will be giving her up as well.  Again, even though he stays neutral on most topics, he can tell the good guys from the bad guys.  He’s not afraid to lend a helping hand to someone in need. However, if he helps her and Victor out, he knows he will never see the love of his life ever again.  That was the beauty of some of the old Hollywood films: the romance felt urgent and very important.  It never felt frivolous or silly.  You can tell that two people really loved each other, and it made a huge impact on their lives.

“Casablanca” is an old-fashioned Hollywood classic in every sense of the word.  You have the black and white picture, the classic romance, and the big stars. You also have great supporting work from actors like Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, and Paul Henreid.  It all feels vital and like it serves a purpose.  It’s old-fashioned Hollywood craftsmanship at its finest.  The story with the war can sometimes bog the film down a little bit, but it’s there to push the love story between the two leads.  They are the heart and soul of this beautiful picture.  Like fine wine, this is the kind of film which gets better with age.  Even if you have seen it multiple times and know how it’s going to end, you still can’t help but get swept up in the story.  “Casablanca” is the kind of movie Hollywood doesn’t make anymore, but I wish they did.

This is Bogart’s best performance in his storied career.  He has a certain vulnerability to him we don’t often get to see on film.  He’s also an everyman in this film, and it’s great to see him connecting with his black piano player, Sam (Dooley Wilson).  He respects people and does the right thing, but it doesn’t feel forced. It’s a completely natural performance. It’s not a big or showy performance, and it doesn’t need to be as we see everything in his face: all of the pain and the agony. Bergman is sweet, tough and very, very smart.  She’s the perfect actress to go toe-to-toe with Bogart in this film.  She looks absolutely stunning and gorgeous on screen.

I was sucked into “Casablanca” from start-to-finish, like I am every single time I watch it.  Even though I know how it’s going to end, I’m still on the edge of my seat when they get to the final scene.  The last line of dialogue is iconic and the perfect note to end this film on as well.  I’m a huge fan of old Hollywood when stars were stars, and they could light up the screen with their presence. It should also be noted that “Casablanca” won Best Picture in 1942 along with Best Director (Michael Curtiz) and Best Screenplay. This is Classic Hollywood at its finest!

* * * * out of * * * *

4K/Blu-ray Info: “Casablanca” is released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It also comes with a digital copy of the film as well.  It has a running time of 102 minutes and is rated PG for mild violence.

4K Video Info: “Casablanca” looks pretty good on 4K.  The black and white and older films in particular play pretty well with light and darkness on HDR.  It’s not a fantastic upgrade, but I don’t know how much more they could have done to really upgrade a film from the 40’s. It’s better than the Blu-ray, but it’s not a huge improvement.

Audio Info: The audio for the film comes on DTS-HD MA: English 1.0, and Dolby Digital: French and Spanish.  It also comes with subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.  There isn’t a huge upgrade on the audio here, but it still sounds pretty solid.  I don’t really think this is the kind of film which needed a huge audio upgrade.

Special Features:

Commentary by Roger Ebert

Commentary by Rudy Behlmer

Introduction by Lauren Bacall

Warner Night at the Movies

Now, Voyager trailer

Newsreel

“Vaudeville Days” (1942 WB short)

“The Bird Came C.O.D.” (1942 WB cartoon)

“The Squawkin’ Hawk” (1942 WB cartoon)

“The Dover Boys at Pimento University” (1942 WB cartoon)

“Great Performances: Bacall on Bogart” (1988 PBS special)

Michael Curtiz: The Greatest Director You’ve Never Heard Of

Casablanca: An Unlikely Classic

You Must Remember This: A Tribute to “Casablanca” (1992 TEC documentary)

As Time Goes By: The Children Remember

Deleted Scenes

Outtakes

“Who Holds Tomorrow?” (1955 “Casablanca” TV episode)

“Carrotblanca” (1955 WB Cartoon)

Scoring Stage Sessions (audio only)

Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater Radio Broadcast – 4/26/43 (audio only)

Vox Pop Radio Broadcast – 11/19/47 (audio only)

Trailers

I can’t get too upset over the lack of updated special features, as they transported a ton of special features from previous releases. The fact you get two commentary tracks, especially one with Roger Ebert, is quite a treat.  There are A LOT of special features here.  This one is pretty simple for film buffs and physical media collectors out there—if you love classic Hollywood, you owe it to yourself to pick up this film on 4K and watch it in the best possible format.  As mentioned previously, it’s an upgrade over the Blu-Ray, even if it’s not a massive upgrade.  Nonetheless, this is a film you should add to your collection on day one with the slipcover. Personally speaking, I love a good slipcover on my favorite films, and if you want the slipcover, it’s always better to buy it sooner rather than later. This will make the film lover in your life very happy this holiday season!

**Disclaimer** I received a copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free.  The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.

‘Cry Macho’ Movie and Blu-ray Review

The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent Tony Farinella.

Cry Macho” shows a more sensitive and vulnerable Clint Eastwood looking back on his film career and life. After all, this is the 50th anniversary of his working relationship with Warner Brothers.  He has always been a patient filmmaker known for gorgeous scenery and knowing how to get the most out of each and every scene. Roger Ebert once said Eastwood’s films are a prime example of old-fashioned Hollywood craftsmanship.  The fact Eastwood is 91 and still directing and acting in films is truly astounding and surreal. This is a quiet, peaceful and contemplative film.  As an actor, he has always known how less is more. He’s never been an overly loud or showy actor, and he knows the best way to get an emotional reaction out of the audience is through his face. 

This film is set in 1979 as Eastwood plays Mike Milo, a retired rodeo star who has turned to booze and pills due to a broken back. His ex-boss Howard Polk (Dwight Yoakam) calls in a favor with Mike after all he’s done to support him throughout the years.  He wants Mike to go from Texas to Mexico and bring back his thirteen-year-old son Rafo (Eduardo Minett).  Howard claims he can’t go there for legal reasons and because of trouble with the son’s mother.  Mike will do this job as a one-time favor for Howard, but he has his reservations about the situation.  He wonders if Howard’s son will come with him and how he’s going to pull this off.

Upon entering Mexico, he runs into Howard’s ex, Leta (Fernanda Urrejola), who claims he can take her son if he’s able to find him.  In her eyes, he’s getting into trouble all of the time and spending too much time at cock fights with his rooster named Macho. Rafo doesn’t trust anyone, especially Mike, but he’s interested in reconnecting with his father and getting away from his mother and her many male suitors.  Many of these men have beaten Rafo in the past, and he wants to get as far away from that as possible.

Along the way, Mike, Rafo and Macho have to escape from police officers as well as Leta’s goons.  They have car issues and also have trouble connecting with each other at times.  On the other hand, Mike sees a chance at redemption with Rafo in that he can make up for the mistakes of his past. He sees something special in Rafo, especially with how the kid has been forced to grow up very quickly because of his upbringing. They do get some help along the way from a widow named Marta (Natalia Traven) and her grandchildren.  There might even be a little bit of a love story between Marta and Mike as well.

First and foremost, let’s talk about the good things in “Cry Macho.” The film is beautifully paced. Eastwood is known as a director who usually shoots scenes in one-take. There is something very authentic and real about his films. There is a sense of time and place throughout the film. He’s the major star here, and he’s still got it at age 91.  At times, he does appear a little frail, but I’m going to chalk that up to the character he’s playing having broken his back.  His comedic timing, line deliveries and charisma are still on full-display.  He’s a minimalist actor, as mentioned earlier, which I’ve always appreciated.

Now, let’s focus on some of the issues.  Dwight Yoakam has acted before in films, but he reads his lines here in such a bland and flat manner.  Also, some of the lesser-known actors here are a little green when it comes to their acting chops.  In some cases, it lends itself perfectly to the film.  In other cases, it can be a little cringy and hard to watch.  When you have a seasoned pro like Eastwood, you are hoping to see him act alongside some really good actors.  It’s always good for up-and-comers to get an opportunity in a major motion picture, but even at age 91, Eastwood is miles ahead of them.  In some scenes, it was difficult to watch their inexperience, and in other scenes, it’s charming and exactly what the scene needs. Overall, this is not one of Eastwood’s greatest films, but it’s watchable, sweet and entertaining. It is good enough.

* * * out of * * * *

Blu-Ray Info: “Cry Macho” is released on a single-disc Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It has a running time of 104 minutes and is rated PG-13 for language and thematic elements. It also comes with a digital copy of the film.

Video/Audio Info: The film is presented in 1080p High Definition.  For the audio, it comes in the following formats: DTS-HD MA: English 5.1, Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Audio, French, and Spanish. Subtitles are included in English, French, and Spanish.

Special Features:

Back in the Saddle: The Making of Cry Macho and the Mustangs

Should You Buy It?

As with anything on HBO Max, I always enjoy a second viewing on Blu-ray.  I find I’m the type of viewer who likes to watch certain films multiple times to really grasp the vision of the director.  With “Cry Macho,” once again, I enjoyed it more on a second viewing.  It’s heartfelt, touching, and reflective on the part of Clint Eastwood.  He gives a great speech about being “macho” and what it really means. It feels like Eastwood has evolved as a human being, and he’s commenting on some of his past work. As far as the film itself, it was an enjoyable viewing experience.  It is nothing which is going to blow you away as a viewer or stay with you after it’s over.  The Blu-ray is pretty bare bones in terms of having only one special feature. I can’t recommend it as a purchase right away at its current price.  If you can get it in a few months for $10 or less and you are a big Eastwood fan, I’d pick it up then.  There is no need to rush out to buy it right away.

**Disclaimer** I received a Blu-ray copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free.  The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.

How Taxi Driver Forever Changed The Way I View Movies

While “Goodfellas” introduced me to the filmmaking brilliance of Martin Scorsese and became my all-time favorite movie, it was “Taxi Driver” which really shaped the way I view movies today. Before seeing it, I always tried to avoid those movies which would make me sad or were too dark. This was a result of my parents having to carry me out of “Star Trek II” and “E.T.,” both of which I cried so hard over to where others wondered if I was okay. I promised myself I would never put my family through such embarrassing situations ever again, and this was especially the case with my brother who was constantly annoyed at my emotional outbursts.

Unlike “Goodfellas” which was immensely entertaining and had great comedic moments, “Taxi Driver” is dark, dark, dark. There is nothing the least bit glamorous to see here as we watch the main character of Travis Bickle (played by Robert De Niro) get continually sucked into a corrupted environment he deeply despises. I kept hoping for him to achieve sort of redemption and maybe, just maybe, have another chance with Cybil Shepherd’s character of Betsy whom he had a memorable first date with. But as we reach the movie’s bloody conclusion, I realized there was nowhere for Travis to go but down. While the reaction to his actions may have been surprising, we all know the truth about Travis and realize something will set him off again before we know it.

Once the end credits went up, my dad asked me what I thought about “Taxi Driver.” My initial reaction was it was not exactly enjoyable. My dad’s response to this has always stayed with me, “Not all movies are meant to be enjoyed. Some are meant to be experienced.”

Looking back, I see what he meant. Look, there are a lot of reasons to not make a movie about someone like Travis Bickle; he’s seriously nuts, not a good date if you want to go to the movies, and watching him lose his mind is painful. But the thing about “Taxi Driver” is people like Travis exist, and turning a blind eye to their existence does us no good. We need to understand why people do the things they do. It’s like what Roger Ebert said in his review of the film:

“Scorsese wanted to look away from Travis’s rejection; we almost want to look away from his life. But he’s there, all right, and he’s suffering.”

With “Taxi Driver,” I came to see how you need these kinds of movies just as much as you need the average escapist entertainment. Some movies need to shine a light on the darker parts of human nature to remind us we need to acknowledge we have a dark side and realize we have more in common with Travis Bickle than we would ever care to think or admit.

Since watching “Taxi Driver,” I have become completely open to movies which disturb me or take me on a journey I would not necessarily want to endure in real life. I can’t stand to watch films in a passive manner. I want to be moved by what I see, be disturbed and shaken, and even weep. Movies are too powerful an art form to be made just for the sake of entertainment. There are so many things about the human existence which deserve to be captured on celluloid, and I believe audiences crave these kind of cinematic experiences as they do the next Marvel movie.

“Taxi Driver” is my second favorite movie of all time, right behind “Goodfellas.” It is a movie I admire above so many others, and I still watch it from time to time. There are many I get sick of watching, but this is one I will never tire of sitting through.