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

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

Poltergeist” is a film I haven’t watched in probably close to sixteen years.  The last time I remember watching it was when I was preparing to interview the late Zelda Rubinstein for the DVD release of the film back in the day.  Upon revisiting “Poltergeist,” I found it to be a mixed bag.  There are certain aspects which feature solid special effects, some good scares, and intense moments of horror.  There are also long-drawn-out scenes that drag the film down at other points.  The film also feels very dated in many ways. I had trouble deciding my feelings on the film even after watching and sitting with it for a few hours.

Poltergeist” introduces the audience to your average suburban husband and wife played by Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams. They are doing their best to raise their children: Carol Ann (Heather O’Rourke), Robbie (Oliver Robins), and Dana (Dominique Dunne). Carol Ann is the mischievous youngest child of the bunch, Robbie is the scared middle child, and Dana is the sixteen-year-old teenager with a bit of sass to her. Their world is turned upside down when strange and bizarre things start happening in their home.  They find that the furniture is moving all around the house, and the house itself seems to have a mind of its own.  When they lose their youngest, Carol Ann, to the TV, they start to become incredibly concerned about their living situation.

One of the positive aspects of “Poltergeist” is the fact that the family can’t just leave the house because their daughter is inside of it somewhere.  In many haunted house films, it’s frustrating to watch as a viewer because you just want to scream, “Leave the house already! Get out of there!” It’s not that easy this time.  They need to stay in the house in order to save their child.  This is causing sleepless nights and a tremendous amount of anxiety for the parents. Dana ends up staying with a friend to get away from the chaos of the home while Robbie stays with his grandmother. Steve and Diane are determined to get to the bottom of this.

This is also where the film falls off the rails a little bit. They end up bringing in some experts to help them with this issue, as they want to find out if it’s a simple haunting or a poltergeist intrusion. All of this is new to them, and they are learning as they go along. They end up bringing in a spiritual medium, played by Zelda Rubinstein, in the hopes of finally getting to the bottom of this.  She is attempting to help Steve and Diane communicate with their youngest daughter and figure out a way to get her back to them safe and sound.  However, this is going to be much easier said than done because of all of the obstacles and roadblocks that are in their way.  There is also a hidden secret that explains why Carol Ann says “they’re here” when she looks at the TV.

Overall, there is a good movie in here somewhere dying to come out. “Poltergeist” maybe needed a spiritual medium of its own to get the most out of its production.  It’s directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg.  Many have stated Spielberg was responsible for directing most of the film and, in turn, should have been labeled a co-director on the project at the very least. It has been a Hollywood inside story for a while, but it does feel like a movie in search of a tone and direction.  The “ghost story” aspects are too convoluted at times, which is when it starts to feel a bit tedious and tiresome to watch. The straight-up horror aspects are the ones which really work and are incredibly effective. There are some set pieces and scenes which were really ahead of its time and truly terrifying. Sadly, those scenes are few and far in between.

“Poltergeist” is also bogged down by its PG rating.  It feels like a crowd-pleasing PG horror movie instead of a horror thrill-ride.  Once again, this feels like a film at odds with itself.  The performances by Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams are really, really good.  They show just the right amount of anguish and distress as the parents.  The younger actors are not given a whole lot to do here, which is a shame, because young children in peril, when done right and with no agenda, can also add to the terror. Overall, this film was a mixed bag for me, so I can’t quite recommend it, even though I truly enjoyed certain scenes, the performances, and the special effects.

* * ½ out of * * * *

4K/Blu-ray Info: “Poltergeist” is released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray Combo Pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  It is rated PG and has a running time of 114 minutes. It also comes with a digital copy of the film.

Video Info: The 4K HDR transfer of the film looks incredible. This film was released in 1982, and it looks better than ever here on 4K.  Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has really stepped up their game with their 4K releases from their catalogue of films. The vivid and bright colors are really popping here while the dark and gloomy scenes are done just right.  There is a warning for this film if you are susceptible to epilepsy or have trouble with photosensitivity, so keep that in mind if you are going to buy this film or watch it.

Audio Info: The film comes with two audio tracks in English: DTS-HD MA: English 5.1 and 2.0 along with Dolby Digital: French and Spanish to go along with it.  Subtitles are included in English, French, and Spanish.  The audio is really taken up a notch when it comes to the more intense horror scenes.  It really enhances the strength of the scenes.

Special Features:

“They Are Here: The Real World of Poltergeists Pt. 1- Science of the Spirits”: 15:30

“They Are Here: The Real World of Poltergeists Pt. 2- Communing with the Dead”: 15:31

“The Making of Poltergeist”: 7:15

Trailer: 2:25

Should You Buy It?

As per usual, these special features have been previously released on the Blu-ray of the film.  All in all, they are decent enough special features if you enjoyed the film.  The more I thought about this film, the more I realized I was trying to talk myself into liking it.  I didn’t hate it and it’s not a bad movie.  It’s simply OK.  It could have been a lot better considering the actors and the director and producer behind it.  This should have been a great film and a horror classic.  It’s overrated in many ways.  It’s not a film that is going to have great repeat value or one that I think many will come back to time and time again.  I can’t recommend that you purchase this film, even though I thought I was going to enjoy it quite a bit.  It’s a disappointment, as the potential is there, and it’s shown in certain scenes and with the performances.  It’s just not consistent enough throughout the film. The beginning and the end of the film are really good, but the middle is a mess and quite boring at times.  The 4K of the film is impressive and a major upgrade.  If you are a fan of the movie, you will enjoy the 4K transfer.  If you aren’t a fan of the film or haven’t seen it before, I don’t think you need to spend your money on this 4K.

**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.

‘The Lost Boys’ Movie and 4K/Blu-ray Review

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

The Lost Boys” falls into the category of a great horror film I have never seen before until now.  With its release on 4K and Halloween a little over a month away, I couldn’t wait to take a bite into this movie (see what I did there?).  Vampires, zombies and werewolves are familiar creatures used in horror films.  The thing which separates the good films from the bad are two things: the characters and the story.  Are we invested in the characters? Is there a compelling story? In the case of “The Lost Boys,” the answer is a resounding yes.  I loved this film, and even though I’m late to the party in watching it, it’s better late than never.

Lucy (Dianne Wiest) and her two sons Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) have relocated to Santa Carla, California following her divorce.  They end up living with her eccentric, oddball father played brilliantly by Barnard Hughes, and he doesn’t want anyone to touch his root beer or his Oreos.  He also spends a lot of time dabbling in taxidermy and often gives Sam some unwanted presents.  Sam is also flanked by his loyal dog Nanook, an Alaskan Malamute. Sam is doing his best to adjust to this beach town by catching up on some comic books. He ends up getting to know the Frog Brothers, Edgar and Allan, played by Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander, who know a lot about vampires and comic books.  Their performances are comedy gold in this film, and they are their own little “Strangers Things” group here.

Michael ends up falling for a young lady named Star, played by Jami Gertz. She hangs around a biker gang led by David (Kiefer Sutherland).  Something is clearly unusual and odd about them, but Michael is hoping that if they accept him, he can get to know Star.  Lucy ends up getting a job at the local video store which is owned by Max (Edward Herrmann).  Max is a dorky putz, but he means well and seems genuinely interested in getting to know Lucy.  This in spite of the fact that their dates usually always end up in disaster because Sam is convinced something is off with Michael.  Sam wants to protect Michael because that’s his brother, but he’s not entirely happy with how he’s acting lately.  Michael is sleeping all the time and coming home very late now that he has his new friends.

There is plenty to enjoy with “The Lost Boys,” but the key ingredient is the cast.  The actors really sell this material with just the right amount of humor and terror.  Director Joel Schumacher also knows how to get the most out of every single scene.  This film is 97 minutes and frankly, it is the perfect running time for a film like this. We get to know the characters, their dilemma unfolds, and it ends with a bang, literally and figuratively speaking. I really enjoyed the fact the filmmakers went with an R rating.  They build up to the violence, so it really means something when the bodies start to explode and heads begin flying off.  The special effects and make-up are top notch.  When you add in the fact this is a 4K release, everything is enhanced to an even greater degree.

The film also doesn’t lean in too heavily with the vampire gimmick.  Yes, there are characters who are vampires and there are rules to follow, but at the end of the day, it’s a film about a mother and her two sons trying to survive.  Dianne Wiest, a favorite actress of mine, is perfect as the concerned but confused mother.  The late Corey Haim is also top-notch here.  I know I’m singling out their work, but there is not a bad performance in this film.  It also helps that the atmosphere goes back and forth between day and night.  It’s an atmospheric and intense flick which hits all of the right notes you would want in a film like this. I went into it not knowing what to expect, and I ended up having a big smile on my face when the credits were rolling at the end.

“The Lost Boys” is an 80’s gem which deserves to be seen on 4K.  It’s one of those rare examples of a film where everything falls into place: the cast, the acting, the director, the writing, the blood and guts and the twists and turns.  The comedy is done at just the right moments without being too hokey or phony. The action and violence are really turned up a notch without being too much or overdone. This is the perfect Halloween movie to pick up in time to watch for the holiday.  Trust me when I tell you this: You won’t regret it, and you will love it. If you have already seen it, you will love it even more with the 4K upgrade.

* * * * out of * * * *

4K/Blu-Ray: “The Lost Boys” is being released on a two-disc 4K and Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It also comes with a digital copy of the film as well.  It is rated R and has a running time of 97 minutes.

Video Info: The 4K of this film comes with stunning High Dynamic Range (HDR), and it looks incredible.  As I mentioned earlier in my review, the outdoor shots of California are absolutely stunning. When the film is darker and more brooding, it switches to that tone with its color palette.  This is a terrific-looking 4K, and I enjoyed taking it all in for the first time.

Audio Info:  I was hoping they would have a Dolby Atmos track as the audio is good but it’s a little inconsistent at times. It comes on a DTS-HD MA: English 5.1 audio track along with Dolby Digital audio tracks in French and Spanish. Subtitles are in English, French, and Spanish.

Special Features:

4K UHD Disc

·           Commentary by Joel Schumacher

Blu-ray Disc

·           Commentary by Joel Schumacher

·           “The Lost Boys: A Retrospective”: 24:00

·           “Inside the Vampire’s Cave: A Director’s Vision”: 6:58

·           “Inside the Vampire’s Cave: Comedy vs. Horror”: 4:44

·           “Inside the Vampire’s Cave: Fresh Blood-A New Look at Vampires”: 4:23

·           “Inside the Vampire’s Cave: The Lost Boys Sequel?”: 2:25

·           “Vamping Out: The Undead Creations of Greg Cannon”: 14:02

·           “The Return of Sam and the Frog Brothers: Haimster & Feldog-The Story of the 2 Coreys”: 4:30

·           “The Return of Sam and the Frog Brothers: Multi-Angle Video Commentary by Corey Haim, Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander”: 18:23

·           The Lost Scenes: 15:16

·           Lou Gramm “Lost in the Shadows” Music Video: 4:35

·           Trailer: 1:26

Normally, I would complain about the fact they don’t have any new special features for the 4K here, but considering this was my first time watching the film, all of the special features were new to me.  There is a commentary track with the director and plenty of lengthy special features discussing the film.  Based on the quality of the movie, the 4K upgrade, and the special features, this one comes highly recommended as a day-one purchase.  If you are a horror enthusiast, you owe it to yourself to watch this film at the highest quality available.  As far as the film itself, there is so much to like about it. Even though the film is a vampire film, it doesn’t feel like a vampire film.  I felt the vibes of It and Stranger Things mixed with a family drama.  The acting is really, really good, and it’s a big reason why it’s such an effective film.  The kills featured in the film are also really grisly and blood-soaked.  I loved this movie! I’m really enjoying the fact that Warner Brothers Home Entertainment is going into their vault and releasing a lot of their older titles on 4K.  This is a top-of-the-line upgrade with bright colors and a vivid picture. If you are like me and haven’t seen this movie, you owe it to yourself to add it to your collection.

**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.

‘Elvis’ Movie and 4K/Blu-ray Review

The following review was written by Ultimate Correspondent, Tony Farinella.

Elvis Presley is, without question, one of the biggest names in music history. As a matter of fact, many think he’s the gold standard. Nearly four decades after his death, he is still worshiped and celebrated by legions of fans.  However, there has never been a true Elvis biopic worth its salt. For a man with such a historic legacy, it seemed rather unusual that a true Elvis biopic with a big studio behind it had never been released.  This changed in 2022 with the release of “Elvis,” directed by Baz Luhrmann.  If there ever was a director to bring the life of Elvis to the big screen, it was certainly Luhrmann.  He’s known for his big productions and big budgets.  There is a reason why he hasn’t directed many films. He puts everything into his work, and he’s involved in many aspects of the filmmaking process as a whole.

I remember hearing about this film back in 2020 as Tom Hanks contracted Covid-19 while filming his part as Colonel Tom Parker. When it was finally able to hit the big screen in the summer of 2022, I noticed it was getting people back in the theaters once again.  Now, it has not grossed anywhere near the level of “Top Gun: Maverick,” but it’s still playing in certain theaters to this day even though it was released in June. I credit this to the power of Elvis as he always had a way of bringing people together.  This is certainly the case with this big screen blockbuster.

While the film is called “Elvis,” it could have easily been called Elvis and Colonel Tom Parker, as it focuses on the relationship between the two.  Colonel Tom Parker is played by Tom Hanks.  If I had to go out on a limb here, I’d say they wanted to cast a big-name actor in Hanks because not many people were familiar with Austin Butler. Prior to seeing the film, I had never heard of Butler myself.  While I understand the casting of Hanks and the reason behind Parker being such a pivotal character in the film, his performance is extremely cartoonish and silly.  Colonel Tom Parker was a character indeed, but this performance feels like Hanks in a fat suit with a forced accent.

ELVIS Copyright: © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures Caption: (L-r) TOM HANKS as Colonel Tom Parker and AUSTIN BUTLER as Elvis in Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “ELVIS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

This film focuses on how Elvis was discovered by Colonel Tom Parker who took him under his wing as he saw something special in the young man.  Elvis, being loyal to his family, especially his mother, would do anything to help them out financially, so he did whatever Colonel Tom Parker told him to do even if his mother saw right through him. Elvis’ father was a bit of a simpleton and really wasn’t looking out for his son’s best interests as he had problems of his own. Colonel Parker, on the other hand, was a carney who knew how to manipulate and con Elvis into doing anything he wanted him to do.  Elvis was loyal to a fault. As a matter of fact, they had a contract where Colonel Parker would get half of Elvis’ earnings, which is unheard of in today’s entertainment industry.

Elvis was clearly influenced by African American music, and the film is wise to show that here. While many African-Americans say Elvis stole their music, others say he took from their music while adding his own touches to it. There are many opinions on the subject, but the film does give African-American artists their due and shows he was impacted and moved by their music while growing up in the South.  It’s a tricky subject but the film gives African-American artists their due and acknowledges how Elvis was in awe of what they were doing at the time and how heavily inspired he was by the musical scene on Beale Street in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Elvis Presley is also seen as dangerous because of his sexuality and dance moves.  It’s funny to think of this now because of what other artists are doing today and how far they push the envelope with their sexuality. You have to remember that when Elvis was around, it was during the late 1950’s and early 60’s, so audiences were not yet exposed to this type of artist. Some feared his music and dancing would promote sexuality amongst the younger crowd. Luhrmann also touches on Elvis’ film career, his relationship with Priscila Presley, and his time in the Army.  Luhrmann and his fellow collaborators cover a lot of ground in 159 minutes, but the film doesn’t feel too long in the tooth as there is always something happening on screen.

Let’s start with the pros of the film: Austin Butler is now an official movie star. It would not surprise me if he is nominated and even wins an Oscar for Best Actor. The Academy loves musical biopics, and this is the type of performance which seems right up their alley. It’s definitely one of the best performances of 2022, but there are other films yet to be released in this calendar year. It wouldn’t get my Oscar vote if I had one, but I certainly think it’s a phenomenal performance. Butler looks and sounds just like Elvis.

The film also takes the time to dive into the effect the deaths of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. had on Elvis as he wanted to make music about something instead of always playing it safe due to Colonel Tom Parker’s influence.  The soundtrack is also top-notch and it’s incredibly moving at times. It’s flashy, fun, in-your-face, and a real crowd-pleaser.

Now let’s talk about the cons: Tom Hanks.  What in the world is this performance? I read a comment from Scott Mendelson from Forbes who said it seemed like Hanks was trying to win an Oscar and a Razzie at the same time. That is the perfect way to describe his performance.  The film also follows the usual beats of a biopic: the young kid doesn’t believe in himself, has success, hits roadblocks, and it ends on a high-note.  The only difference here is the Elvis story doesn’t end on a high note as we all know. 

The film also seems a little too uncomfortable with criticizing Elvis and a lot of the things he did in his life and career. He was far from perfect, but the film seems content to blame it all on Parker instead of looking at Elvis for some of the blame. When all is said and done, he’s far from innocent.

I enjoyed “Elvis,” but I didn’t love it.  Luhrmann doesn’t show the ugly side of Elvis, and there was an ugly side to him.  It’s not a very deep or relatable film either.  The story could have been a little more meaningful and thought-provoking but, at times, it seems to fall in love with its star much too often.  It’s a good movie, but it’s not a great one.  I recommend you check it out, as you won’t be disappointed, but I would have liked a little more meat on the bone here.

* * * out of * * * *

4K/Blu-ray Info: “Elvis” is being released on a two-disc 4K and Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment which also comes with the digital copy of the film. It is rated PG-13 for substance abuse, strong language, suggestive material, and smoking.  It has a running time of 159 minutes.

Video Info: “Elvis” comes to 4K on eye-opening HDR 10+ along with Dolby Vision.  It’s a stunning movie filled with life and color, and it truly took my breath away watching it in 4K.  With some films, you don’t really notice the difference with a 4K release.  Bu this is a film where, if you have a 4K player and TV, it is the way to go without hesitation.  It came to life right before my eyes.

Audio Info: The Dolby Atmos track brings all of the great music right into your living room.  This is a great disc, and they really went all out for this release.  Subtitles are also included in English, Spanish and French.

Special Features:

Bigger Than Life: The Making of ELVIS

Rock ‘N Roll Royalty: The Music & Artists Behind ELVIS

Fit for a King; The Style of ELVIS

Viva Australia: Recreating Iconic Locations for ELVIS

“Trouble” Lyric Video

Should You Buy It?

If you are a hardcore Elvis Presley fan, and I know plenty of them in my own life, you have already made up your mind and are buying this on its release date.  If you are not an Elvis fan, I still think this is a solid and well-made flick.  Would I buy the film if I were a casual Elvis fan?  I would because of the 4K release Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has put out along with the great special features on its making.  However, I’d probably wait for the price to drop a little bit as the 4K version is going for $29.99.  This film was made for 4K. 

Elvis Presley fans, this is probably the best Elvis movie which will ever be made, and it makes me happy to see people I care about enjoying it.  From talking to the diehard Elvis fans in my life, they are in love with this film and have seen it multiple times in theaters and started watching it right away when it debuted on HBO Max. It definitely resonated with a ton of people. I liked “Elvis” and recommend it, but I wish it had a bit more of an edge.  It played it safe too often for my liking. Still, this is one of the best 4K releases of the year so far and a great use of the technology.

**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.

‘Dog Soldiers’ Movie and 4K/Blu-ray Review

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

It’s amazing what a 4K upgrade can do for a film like “Dog Soldiers.” I remember renting the DVD many years ago, and the quality was so poor that it was hard to even watch the film, let alone enjoy it.  Now, with this 4K Collector’s Edition from the fine folks at Scream Factory, the film is much improved from an image standpoint.  This one comes with a 4K scan of the original negative, and it has never looked better. Keep in mind, it is a low-budget film, so some of the grain and messiness of the film is included here, but that is intentional and adds to the guerrilla filmmaking style of director Neil Marshall. It’s supposed to look that way.  This was Marshall’s debut film, and he came onto the scene with a bang.

After an unsuspecting couple is killed by a werewolf, we are introduced to Cooper (Kevin McKidd) who is being recruited to join a special forces unit.  However, they don’t think he has the killer instinct necessary to do the job because he won’t kill a dog.  This was a direct order from Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham) who was in charge of picking his team.  Cooper thought the process of killing a dog was unnecessary and didn’t understand the reasoning behind it.

Four weeks later, Cooper is part of a training exercise with six other men in the Scottish Highlands when he happens to discover that Captain Ryan is in bad shape.  Ryan’s team was attacked by something they don’t quite understand.  They receive shelter thanks to a zoologist named Megan (Emma Cleasby) who takes the remaining men along with Captain Ryan to a house where they will figure out what to do in order to survive.

At first, this group of men can’t believe what they have seen.  They don’t know what has attacked them, and they have a hard time believing it was werewolves.  Once Megan explains the situation with the house and the werewolves, they learn they must survive by sunrise while fending off the werewolves that are coming for them.  The film does a great job of letting us get to know Cooper, Megan, Ryan, Sergeant Wells (Sean Pertwee), Joe, and Terry. We are right there with them, and we know all of their quirks and personality traits, such as the fact Joe is really upset about having to miss a football game between England and Germany. We are right there with them in the house, fighting off the werewolves.

At this point, the soldiers are wondering what their best course of action is. Do they wait until sunrise, or do they fight back against the werewolves? There isn’t any help for miles, and it’s not exactly safe to leave the house because the werewolves are ready and willing to maim and kill. They wait for this time of the month where it’s a full moon, and they usually make quick work of whoever gets in their way.

A huge positive about “Dog Soldiers” is that it has a sense of humor about the werewolves. Make no mistake about it, the filmmakers take these animals seriously, but they also realize the absurdity of the situation without making it too campy. It’s a fine line, and the film nails it perfectly by trying to ease the tension with humor while also not mocking the seriousness of the action.

As mentioned earlier, this film had a low budget, but that is part of “Dog Soldier’s” charm.  There is something truly magical and exciting about watching a film make up for its lack of budget with creativity.  The werewolves are very twisted and creepy, and they come out at just the right time.  The fact the majority of the action is set in this house also adds to the terror and tension.  The third act is also filled with a ton of twists and turns where you don’t really know who is going to survive, who can be trusted, and what their individual motives are as things come to a close.  The film is also not afraid to splatter blood all over the screen.  It’s a hugely entertaining ride.

“Dog Soldiers” starts off a little slow at the beginning, but once they enter the house, there is not a wasted scene or moment throughout.  It’s remarkable and has just the right amount of anxiety, humor, heart, and gore. It’s also not afraid to go balls-to-the-wall. With many first-time directors, they don’t know if they will get a chance to make another feature, so they throw a lot into their first project.  All the ingredients work here to make a magnificent horror film where the action is timed just perfectly. We get to spend time with all of these characters, so we care about what happens to them. 

The more I thought about “Dog Soldiers,” the more I loved it.

* * * ½ out of * * * *

4K/Blu-Ray Info: This is the 20th anniversary of “Dog Soldiers,” and it’s released on a two-disc 4K and Blu-ray combo pack from Shout Factory/Scream Factory. The film has a running time of 105 minutes and is rated R for strong violence, gore and language. There are two discs here: one featuring the 4K version, and the other one featuring the Blu-ray.

Audio Info/Video Info: The 4K comes with a 2160p Ultra High-Definition HDR Widescreen (1.85:1) transfer while the Blu-Ray comes on 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.85:1). The audio for both films comes on the following formats: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Stereo 2.0.  I found the video quality to be much improved from the original DVD I watched many moons ago. The film is grainy and dirty at times, as mentioned earlier, but it’s also clear and bright during the rare outdoor scenes. When I say it’s grainy and dirty, I am acknowledging that it adds to the look of the film and that is a positive, not a negative. The high dynamic range is also a huge bonus with any 4K release. You can also watch the 4K of the film in Dolby Vision as well.

Special Features:

DISC ONE (4K UHD):

NEW 4K Restoration from The Original Camera Negative by Second Sight Films – Approved by Director Neil Marshall and Director of Photography Sam McCurdy-Presented in Dolby Vision

NEW Audio Commentary by Writer and Associate Professor of Film Alison Peirse

Audio Commentary with Director Neil Marshall

Audio Commentary with producers David Allen and Brian O’Toole

NEW 4K Restoration from The Original Camera Negative by Second Sight Films Approved by Director Neil Marshall and Director of Photography Sam McCurdy

NEW Audio DISC TWO (BLU-RAY):

Commentary by writer and associate professor of Film Alison Peirse

NEW Werewolves, Crawlers, Cannibals and More – an interview with Neil Marshall

NEW A History of Lycanthropy – author Gavin Baddeley on Werewolf Cinema

NEW Werewolves, Folklore and Cinema – a video essay by author Mikel J. Koven

Audio Commentary with Director Neil Marshall

Audio Commentary with producers David Allen and Brian O’Toole

Werewolves vs. Soldiers – a look at the making of “Dog Soldiers” featuring Interviews with Director Neil Marshall, Producers Christopher Figg and Keith Bell, Actors Kevin McKidd, Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Leslie Simpson and Emma Cleasby, Special Effects Artist Bob Keen and more!

A Cottage in the Woods – a look at the production design with production designer Simon Bowles

UK Theatrical Trailers and U.S. Home Video Promo

“Combat” – A short film by Neil Marshall

Two Still Galleries – Photos from the film and rare photos from Production Designer Simon Bowles and Special Effects Artist Dave Bonneywell’s archives

Should You Buy It?

Considering there are over three hours of special features, both new and old, and the quality of the film, I cannot recommend this special edition of “Dog Soldiers” enough.  One thing I will say with a great deal of confidence:  Please watch the HDR version over the Dolby Vision version. This is a dark film to begin with, and the Dolby Vision version is too dark at times to fully enjoy the experience.  Dolby Vision is great for certain films, but I don’t think it fully works here. The HDR version is miles ahead in terms of clarity, mood, and picture quality.

As far as the film itself, with the 4K upgrade, I felt like I was watching a whole new movie.  “Dog Soldiers” is in-your-face and unrelenting.  I truly had a blast with it.  I look forward to September and October with some of the releases from Scream Factory, as there are some really cool horror titles coming out. As of right now, if you are a hardcore collector of boutique labels like myself, this one is going to be right up your alley. If you pick up this film, you won’t regret it!

‘Edge of Tomorrow’ Movie and 4K/Blu-ray Review

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

Edge of Tomorrow” is a film that, on paper, had all the ingredients for a film I would enjoy.  Tom Cruise has always been an actor who has never been afraid to really throw himself into a project.  He takes his work seriously, and it shows with the films he releases.  He has great quality control.  Emily Blunt is one of the best-working actresses in Hollywood with a ton of range and depth.  When you throw in director, Doug Liman (known for action films such as the “The Bourne Identity” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”), it seemed like a recipe for a fun action film featuring some impressive action sequences and top-notch performances by its leads. However, the film forgot one of the most important ingredients of any truly successful action film: a great story.  It uses the Groundhog Day gimmick of repeating the same day over and over again.

A group of aliens, which are known as “Mimics,” are coming to destroy Earth.  They are fast, smart, and incredibly difficult to defeat. U.S. Army Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is thrown into the fire by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) to help what is essentially a suicide mission against these Mimics. William Cage makes sure to tell him he has no combat experience, and he is not fit for any type of action. Brigham, however, is only looking out for himself, and he is looking to make Cage the fall guy. When he’s arrested and sent to Heathrow Airport, Cage soon discovers he is in way over his head. He’s part of a ragtag group of misfits known as the J-Squad.

Cage is killed instantly and starts to have the same day over and over again.  If this sounds familiar, it is because this formula has been used countless times in other films, most recently with the “Happy Death Day” franchise. During one of his multiple trips to France, he ends up meeting Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt).  It doesn’t take long for them to connect, and she reveals to Cage she also once had the same power he now possesses, where she had to repeat the same day over and over again.  She has since lost it.  If the two of them can team up, maybe together they can figure out a way to save the world from the Mimics.

“Edge of Tomorrow” is a very complicated film to follow at times. All of this talk about Mimics, alphas, betas, superorganisms and loops starts to become quite tedious after a while.  This should have just been a fun, easy-to-follow film with some action and laughs thrown in the mix.  There is plenty of action, in fact, there is too much of it.  At times, it really took me out of the film. A little bit of character development and a little time to stop and smell the roses would have been appreciated. Any great action film takes the time to really let us get to know about our main characters. We know absolutely nothing about them. Cruise and Blunt are entertaining when paired together, but it doesn’t take long for the film to resort to wall-to-wall action right away.

Between the convoluted story, the non-stop action and lack of character development, I found it hard to really get into “Edge of Tomorrow.” I can’t deny the special effects are impressive and the Mimics look really good, but I didn’t sign up for either of them though, I realize I’m in the minority on this 2014 film, which made quite an impression with a majority of critics. I truly wanted to like this film, and I was prepared to sit back and shut my brain off and enjoy myself for two hours. I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief for that long because the film was throwing too much at me with little rhyme or reason.  It didn’t take the time to explain things or to make us care about what was happening on screen.

* * out of * * * *

4K Info: “Edge of Tomorrow” is released on a two-disc 4K Combo Pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It comes with the 4K, Blu-ray, and a digital copy of the film.  It has a running time of 113 minutes and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive material.

Audio Info: The audio formats for this film are Dolby Atmos-TrueHD: English, DTS-HD MA: French, Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Audio, French, and Spanish. The film has subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. I’m always a huge fan of Dolby Atmos audio, and it really stands out in a film like this.

Video Info: The 4K is released on 2160p Ultra High Definition. The High Dynamic Range really makes the film look moody, dark, and shadowy. It’s an impressive looking 4K. The Blu-Ray is in 1080p High Definition.

Special Features:

Operation Downfall – Adrenaline Cut

Storming the Beach

Weapons of the Future

Creatures Not of This World

On The Edge with Doug Liman

Deleted Scenes

Should You Buy It?

Sadly, I can’t recommend you go out and purchase “Edge of Tomorrow.”  However, if you are a fan of the 2014 film, I would encourage you to upgrade from the Blu-ray to the 4K.  There is a noticeable difference between the two formats in terms of picture quality and audio.  It had been eight years since I watched the film, and I didn’t think much of it back then.  I thought maybe a second viewing would give me a new appreciation for the film.  I’m sad to report that is not the case.  It’s still not a film I enjoy or can recommend you pick up unless you own the Blu-ray and want the 4K experience.  I like all of the participants in the film, but the storyline has been done before and done better. The actors are really hampered by the exhausting script. It’s too much movie and there is no brain behind it.  The characters are also written without a lot of thought behind them. The film is simply eye candy with its special effects.

**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.

‘The Batman” Movie and 4K/Blu-ray Review

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

I have stated in the past I’m not the biggest fan of superhero/comic book films. I know they are insanely popular, and they make up most of the current box office these days.  However, they have never quite tickled my fancy. A recent exception to the rule would be 2019’s “The Joker.”  It was my favorite film of 2019. When a superhero or comic book film is dark, gritty, and focused on character development as opposed to explosions and car chases, I can get into the film and appreciate the characters and the story. I’m happy to report “The Batman” is a really, really good movie that surprised the hell out of me.

When Robert Pattinson was named as the latest Batman, a lot of fans of the franchise were disappointed and fixated on his previous work in the “Twilight” franchise. Between “The Batman” and “Good Time,” directed by the Safdie brothers, Robert Pattinson has proven he is a solid actor when given the right material.  Everyone has their favorite Batman from the various films in the franchise. I haven’t seen all of them, so I can’t say with any clarity which one is my favorite or which actor has done the best job. I don’t feel as though Pattinson was asked to do a lot here, but what he does do is slightly above average.

It’s rather tough to judge Pattinson’s performance, as there is a lot going on in this nearly three-hour film.  It wasn’t a standout performance or one that blew me away. At times, it felt like the film was protecting him and didn’t give him a lot to do. When the film was over, I was impressed with the film and not really thinking about his performance as Batman. I would have liked to have seen more from Catwoman, played by Zoë Kravitz.  Considering the film’s length, I felt as though they could have included her a little bit more in the film.  There are also stand-out performances from Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, and an unrecognizable Colin Farrell.

It’s Halloween in Gotham City, and it turns out to be a night of mayhem after its mayor Don Mitchell Jr. is killed by the Riddler. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), of the Gotham City Police Department, calls Batman into action as he feels he can be an ally in this case.  This is not met with open arms by the Gotham City Police Department.  This will also not be the first body that is found dead by Batman and James Gordon. The Riddler is leaving behind cards with various clues, taunting Batman.  In some ways, this film had the feel of “Se7en” to it.  This is much more of a dark thriller/horror film than a superhero film, which was appreciated. It helped that the film was directed by Matt Reeves of “Cloverfield,” “Let Me In,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “War for the Planet of the Apes” fame.  He knows how to make a tightly wound thriller with human elements.

What makes “The Batman” work so effectively as a story is that the Riddler, right or wrong, has a motive behind all of his killings. He sees all the lies and coverups that are happening in Gotham City.  He just wants to expose the truth to the public. Speaking of the Riddler, I would have liked to have seen more from Paul Dano in this film.  I understand they want to build up to showdown between Batman and the Riddler, but it left me wanting more.  I imagine that is for us in the eventual sequels.  Again, I would have liked more from the Riddler and Catwoman.

There is also a moral dilemma at the heart of the film.  Bruce Wayne/Batman is looking to figure things out about his family with the help of the family butler, Alfred (Andy Serkis).  He’s piecing the clues together at the same time the audience is figuring them out as well.  There is a rhyme and a reason to everything which happens in this film.  At times, it felt like a smarter “Saw” film with some of the traps, letters, and messages that were being sent out by the Riddler.  The film is an intense ride which really packs a wallop.  That being said, I would have trimmed about 20-30 minutes from it.  That would have made it a four-star film.

I’m really surprised they were able to get away with a PG-13 rating with all of its dark material, which deals with subjects such as mental illness, grief, death, trauma, and explosives.  While I have no issues with films that are willing to be bleak and dark, it felt like an R-rated film to me, which is high praise.  I’m going to give the film three and a half stars because of the run-time.  At times, it really gets bogged down and can feel tedious.  In the end, this is a very enjoyable look at Batman from director Matt Reeves.  The way the film is shot is absolutely brilliant.  The dark, brooding cinematography and tone were very much appreciated.  I really, really liked “The Batman.”

* * * ½ out of * * * *

4K Info: “The Batman” is released on a three-disc 4K Combo Pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It has a running time of 176 minutes and is rated PG-13 for strong violence and disturbing content, drug content, some language, and some suggestive material.  One disc is the 4K, another disc is the Blu-ray, and there is an entire Blu-ray disc devoted to the special features, which are over two hours long!

Video Info: Released in 2160p Ultra High Definition, “The Batman” is simply stunning with its dark black imagery. It’s a remarkable 4K, and it’s exactly why the format is really finding its way into the homes of more hardcore film collectors.  The film also comes with Dolby Vision. You won’t be disappointed by a single scene in this film.  It’s breathtaking. For the Blu-ray, you get your usual 1080p High Definition.  The special features come on a separate Blu-ray disc as mentioned earlier.

Audio Info: For the 4K and Blu-ray, you receive the following audio formats: Dolby Atmos-TrueHD: English, Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Audio, English, French, and Spanish. Subtitles are also in English, Spanish, and French.

Special Features:

Vengeance in the Making: A Making-of Documentary Featuring Cast and Crew

Deleted scenes with director’s commentary

Anatomy of a Car Chase featuring the Batmobile

The Batman: Genesis

Becoming Catwoman

and more!!

Even though the film is incredibly lengthy, I’d love to watch it again.  I really liked the direction they went with this film as far as the Riddler having an agenda behind his killings.  I also thought the moral dilemma and the code Batman lives by was really tested throughout the film.  It’s an impressive movie.  I’m not going to discredit the work of Robert Pattinson in the film, as I thought he did a fine job, but it did feel like the film really didn’t allow him to show off more of his acting chops.  He’s really hiding behind the Batman character. This might have been by design.  However, I would have loved to have seen a performance that rivaled the film.  Once again, maybe it was not the intention of the filmmaker or the people behind the film.  Still, if you enjoy your superhero movies with a dark edge to them, you will not be disappointed by “The Batman.”  There is no stone left unturned with the special features as well.  Without question, this is a day-one purchase at your local retailer.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with for the sequels.

**Disclaimer** I received a 4K/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.

‘Dog’ Movie and Blu-ray Review

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

There is nothing about “Dog” that will offend your cinematic senses, nor is there anything in the film which will reinvent the wheel.  This is a simple movie with a simple concept.  For a lot of filmgoers, they probably love the idea of a dog movie starring Channing Tatum, who also co-directed the film with its screenwriter, Reid Carolin.  For some people, they are fine with a film that just leaves them feeling happy and does not require a lot of thought behind it.  They simply kick back their feet and enjoy themselves.  At times, I believe film can be a great form of escapism when done right.  In the case of “Dog,” there are individual moments that worked in the film, but as a whole, it’s missing a lot of key ingredients.

“Dog” follows Jackson Briggs (Channing Tatum), a former U.S. Army Ranger, who is having a tough time adjusting to regular life.  He has brain injuries and PTSD.  When the film opens, he’s making sandwiches at a sandwich shop, which is clearly not the best use of his skills.  Because of this, he’s eager to do something that will challenge and excite him. He wants to be put on the rotation for Pakistan, but there are major concerns about his health and if he will be able to handle it. He assures them he is fine, but it is clear he’s struggling.

This image released by MGM shows Channing Tatum in a scene from “Dog.” (Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures via AP)

When one of his former squad members is killed in a car accident, he is given the task of driving Lulu, a Belgian Malinois military dog, to Arizona for the funeral.  If he does this successfully, they will put in a good word for Briggs for a future tour. After the funeral, Lulu, because of its violent nature, will have to be put down. From here, the film turns into a road trip movie with Briggs and Lulu.  The dog causes a lot of headaches for him, especially when he’s trying to have sex. There is also a comical run-in with a psychic and her paranoid husband, played by former professional wrestler Kevin Nash.  It was great to see Nash on the big screen once again.  There is also a cameo by comedian Bill Burr.

There are other encounters along the way for both Briggs and Lulu. Some of them are successful and some of them are unsuccessful.  Some of them are funny, and some of them are what you would expect in a road trip movie featuring Tatum and a dog.  I imagine that was a big selling point for the film.  Considering the low budget for the film and its final box office numbers, it was a low-risk, high reward project for the studio.  From an artistic standpoint, the film has real issues with its pacing.  It’s very slow-moving and tedious to sit through at times, even though it’s 101 minutes. Tatum is a fine actor, but he’s not the kind of actor who is going to keep my interest for an entire film as the lead.  Even though I love animals, the same is true of the dog.

This is a feel-good flick with a lackluster story.  It’s not a bad movie.  It’s average, run-of-the-mill, and forgettable.  After it was over with, there wasn’t anything from the film that really stayed with me.  Considering its subject material (the impact and healing powers of animals and the real struggles the military deals with from a mental health perspective), they could have done a lot more here.  Instead, they played it safe and easy with a formulaic film that needed a little more bite to it, no pun intended. There are some laughs to be had here, especially with some of the cast members I mentioned, but they are few and far between.  I’m sure a lot of families and Tatum fans will enjoy this film. It didn’t do it for me, however.

* * out of * * * *

Blu-ray Info: “Dog” is released on a two-disc Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment, which also comes with a digital copy of the film. It is rated PG-13 for language, thematic elements, drug content, and some suggestive material.  It has a running time of 101 minutes.

Video/Audio Info:  The film comes on 1080p High Definition with two audio tracks: DTS-HD MA: English 5.1 and Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Audio. Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

Special Features:

“Dog” Trailer

Should You Buy It?

I can’t think of any reason to buy this film unless you are part of the Channing Tatum fan club.  The film has its heart in the right place, so I can’t fault it for that.  It just doesn’t want to try to break out of its formula.  The film follows all of the familiar beats one would expect in a film like this, and it ends exactly how you would expect it to end.  It follows the formula from A to Z.  It does not take any chances or have any surprises, whatsoever.  I don’t even think it’s worth a Redbox rental.  It’s a film you can completely pass on, and you will be just fine. The Blu-ray does not come with any special features, which is a bummer.  It would have been nice to see how Tatum worked with the dog and some of the challenges it presented for the actor. I feel like the Grinch giving this film a bad review, but its screenplay is just lazy and the pacing is really rough.  I’d pass on this one altogether.

**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.

‘Singin’ in the Rain’ Movie and 4K/Blu-ray Review

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

Even though “Singin’ in the Rain” is celebrating its 70th anniversary with this 4K release, in my 36 years on this planet, I have yet to see it until now. I was familiar with a few of the songs from the film, as they are part of cinema history, but I never sat down to view it from start to finish.  It’s better late than never!  That is the beauty of film: even if you think you have seen all of the classics out there, there is always one that slips through the cracks from time-to-time.  “Singin’ in the Rain” is one of the best 4K releases of this year so far with its vivid colors, lifelike images, and crystal-clear picture.  It is truly a treat to enjoy.

The film stars Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, a Hollywood stuntman and hoofer.  He is quite popular in silent films and lives by the motto, “Dignity. Always dignity.”  It’s appropriate for his performance in this film, as it’s dignified and classy.  You can’t keep your eyes off him whether he is dancing, singing, or acting.  He has the “it” factor on screen in this film. He was also the co-director on the film along with Stanley Donen. Don’s leading lady, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) is the complete opposite of him as she’s superficial, selfish and rude throughout their time together.  Monumental Pictures, the studio behind Lockwood and Lamont, tries to put out this image of the two of them together as a happy couple in order to better increase the gate on their films together.

Don, on the other hand, sees right through Lina and tries to distance himself from her as much as possible. Don’s best friend is Cosmo Brown, played brilliantly by Donald O’Connor. He’s always there to listen, come up with ideas for Don and support him.  He understands why Don has to get as far away as possible from Lina at times.  It causes him to jump into the car of Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), a stage actress who doesn’t think too highly of the movies Don Lockwood is putting out there.  She is there to tell him the truth about exactly what she thinks of him, which opens up Don’s eyes, as he’s used to people telling him how great he is all the time. He sees she is talented and smart, and he quickly takes a liking to her.

With the success of “The Jazz Singer,” talking pictures are becoming more and more popular in Hollywood.  This puts Lamont and Lockwood in a position where they have to learn a new way of doing things. Don is a natural and is also willing to put in the work to adapt to the new way of Hollywood.  Lina, on the other hand, has a voice which is rough on the ears.  However, people are used to seeing the two of them in films together.  Because of this, Cosmo comes up with the idea of dubbing over Lina’s lines with Kathy’s voice in an upcoming musical.  This idea is spawned after the public laughs at a screening when they hear Lina’s voice and mistakes throughout one of their films.

Kathy and Don start to become closer and closer, which does not make Lina happy at all.  She is still unwilling to see her flaws or work on her craft to get better.  Kathy, on the other hand, is immensely skilled and talented.  I must admit I am not the biggest fan of musicals as it’s not one of my favorite genres.  The beauty of “Singin’ in the Rain” and why it’s a classic is the fact they know when to have music and dancing, but also know when to focus on the actors and give them the space they need to act and develop their characters.  When the musical numbers hit, they are out of this world.  The songs are memorable, and they will stay in your head after the film is over.  That is huge in a musical.

The dancing is also top-notch and terrific. There are certain scenes where they keep the camera on the actors dancing, and my eyes were glued to their movements and the poetry in which they were moving.  It was truly something to behold.  The amount of work, preparation, and time it took to pull this off is why people are still interested in watching this movie 70 years later.  It holds up incredibly well.  I’ve always been a fan of old-Hollywood.  The 50’s created some of the most iconic movies, and “Singin’ in the Rain” is up there.  I’m just disappointed it took me this long to check it out.  Now, I want to watch it again and again.

For me, the two stand-outs in the film are Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds.  Kelly has an effortless charm and is so darn likable.  He’s the perfect actor for this role.  Reynolds is elegant and pure class in her role.  As an audience member, I was really rooting for them to end up together. Of course, the “Singin’ in the Rain” moment is one even I was familiar with, even though I hadn’t seen the film.  It’s a gorgeous scene to watch and it just put a big smile on my face.  This film has it all: humor, romance, heart, love and great, great music. People will still be talking about “Singin’ in the Rain” 70 years from now.

* * * * out of * * * *

4K Info: “Singin’ in the Rain” is released on a two-disc combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It has a running time of 103 minutes and is rated G.  It comes with the 4K, Blu-ray and a digital code as well.

4K/Blu-ray Info: The film is released in 2160p High Definition, and it’s leading the way as one of the best 4K releases of 2022.  The film might be 70-years-old, but it looks incredible. With high dynamic range, you see every color come to life on screen.  This is a visual feast for the eyes.  As mentioned earlier, this film was made for 4K.  It is a huge improvement over the previous releases.

The Blu-ray comes in 1080p High Definition. The 4K comes with the following audio formats: DTS-HD MA: English 5.1, English Mono, Dolby Digital: French and Spanish. Subtitles are in English, French and Spanish. For the Blu-ray, it comes on DTS-HD MA: English 5.1 and Dolby Digital: French and Spanish. The subtitles are also in English, French, and Spanish.

Special Features:

Commentary by Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, Stanley Donen, Betty Camden, Adolph Green, Baz Lurhmann and Rudy Behlmer

“Singin’ in the Rain:” Raining on a New Generation Documentary

Theatrical Trailer

Should You Buy It?

If you are a hardcore physical media collector like yours truly, this one is a no-brainer.  If you have seen the film before and don’t own it, it’s an even bigger no-brainer.  The one disappointment I always bring up with some of these 4K releases is they are still using previously released special features.  I know it’s a 70-year-old film, but I still think you can add a modern-day special feature with new interviews from film historians and actors to the 4K release instead of just recycling the old ones.  For the price point and the look of the film, Warner Brothers has knocked it out of the park with this 4K release.  It’s simply mesmerizing.  As far as the film itself, it’s one of the greatest of all-time for a reason.  If you own a 4K TV and player, this is the movie you need to buy right now.  You won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen.  This one comes highly recommended!

**Disclaimer** I received a 4K/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.

‘The Green Mile’ Movie and 4K/Blu-ray Review

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

The Green Mile” is a special film that can be watched over and over again, and its impact is still felt.  In today’s trying times where people are still divided, it’s a healthy reminder of the power of being kind to one another. Frank Darabont had previously tackled the world of prison with “The Shawshank Redemption,” which many people consider one of the greatest films of all time.  It has battled for the top spot with “The Godfather” for quite some time on IMDB. While “The Green Mile” is not in the category of “The Shawshank Redemption,” it’s still an incredible film.  It has a running time of over three hours, but with a cast and screenplay as good as the one featured in this film, one does not pay attention to the running time.

The film is set in 1935 and follows Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks), a prison guard who overlooks death row inmates.  He’s firm but compassionate. His sidekick is Brutus “Brutal” Howell, played by David Morse. They see eye-to-eye on most things, especially when it comes to the evil and heinous Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison), another prison guard with an evil and aggressive side to him because of the fact his aunt is married to the governor.  Even though these inmates are on “The Green Mile,” which is where they walk before they are to be executed, Paul has humanity and kindness in a job that is not easy to navigate.  Even though they are inmates with varying degrees of crimes committed, he sees them as human beings.  This is the strength of Darabont’s film: the heart attached to it.  There is also a good deal of humor in the story as well when the scene calls for it.

Everything changes at the Cold Mountain Penitentiary when they meet a large inmate with an even larger heart in John Coffey, played by Michael Clarke Duncan. He has been convicted of raping and killing two white girls.  Paul and Brutus, however, have a hard time believing he could be capable of such a crime when they see such a gentle and kind soul inside of him.  They also notice he has magical healing powers as well.  In the hands of a lesser filmmaker and lesser source material (the film is based on the novel by Stephen King), this could have been very cheesy and hokey.  Here, the emotion and the heart, as mentioned earlier, are felt very powerfully.  This is a film that makes the audience believe in the goodness of John Coffey and in humanity.

However, it doesn’t shy away from the dark side of the inmates.  Not all of them are great human beings.  Some of them are downright evil and cruel, such as William “Wild Bill” Wharton who is played by Sam Rockwell.   He’s racist, violent, and completely out of control. The film is told in flashback style from the perspective of an older Paul Edgecomb.  It’s a sensitive film that really allows the audience to spend time with all of the characters and get to know them.  The attention to detail shown here is truly remarkable.  Even though the film is filled with happy and sad moments, I tend to think of it more as an uplifting film about life and how fragile it is and how there can be beautiful moments we don’t always believe in at first, but we believe in them when we allow ourselves to really look at what’s happening right in front of us.

“The Green Mile” is now 23 years old, having been released in 1999. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Sound. It did not win any Oscars, but it was another great film released in 1999, a groundbreaking year for cinema.  It’s a feel-good movie, yes, but it’s done in a realistic way that doesn’t insult the audience.  There have been a lot of prison films in Hollywood, but this is one of the better ones because of the acting, writing, and direction.  It’s an emotional film that leaves you with a lot to think about after the credits are done rolling. Now that it’s on 4K, I imagine a lot of people are going to enjoy revisiting this classic.

* * * * out of * * * *

4K/Blu-ray Info: “The Green Mile” is released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  It has a running time of 188 minutes.  It is rated R for violence, language, and some sex-related material.  The film also comes with a digital code.

Video Info: The 4K is released on 2160p Ultra High Definition, and it is a massive upgrade over the Blu-ray.  In 4K, the film really stands out with its vibrant colors and imagery. The Blu-ray is released in 1080p High Definition. While the Blu-ray looks good, the 4K simply looks fantastic. I’m really glad Warner Brothers and other studios are looking into their vaults to re-release classic films in 4K.

Audio Info: The 4K comes in the following audio formats: Dolby Atmos-TrueHD: English, Spanish, and French. The Blu-ray has the following audio formats: Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby Digital: English, French, and Spanish.  With 4K releases, I tend to notice the difference in the video more than the audio.  The high dynamic range is where it’s at with 4K.

Special Features:

Commentary by Frank Darabont

Additional Scenes

Walking the Mile: The Making of “The Green Mile” Documentary

Miracle and Mystery: Creating “The Green Mile” Featurette Gallery

Tom Hanks Makeup Tests

Michael Clarke Duncan Screen Test

The Teaser Trailer: A Case Study

Theatrical Trailers

Should You Buy It?

I loved this film even more on 4K.  It’s an amazing upgrade that is worth every penny.  The only downside, which I’ve noticed with a lot of these upgrades, is the fact they are re-releasing the same special features from the Blu-ray.  I really wish if they were going to re-release these, they would add some new special features, even if it’s Zoom interviews with various cast and crew members.  As a film, it’s absolutely perfect to me.  A lot of people see it as a downer, but I see it as a very, very moving and inspirational flick despite some of the subject matter. The performances are great across the board, but the heart and soul of the film is with Michael Clarke Duncan.  There are also solid performances from Harry Dean Stanton, Barry Pepper, James Cromwell, Bonnie Hunt, and Patricia Clarkson.  It’s an all-star cast for an all-star movie.  This is a film which should be a day-one purchase for film lovers.

**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.

‘The Many Saints of Newark’ Movie and Blu-ray Review

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

As someone who considers “The Sopranos” the greatest television drama of all-time, I was supremely excited to check out “The Many Saints of Newark,” which is a prequel to the television series which captivated audiences from 1999-2007.  At the time, I did not have HBO, so I, unfortunately, didn’t catch the show on its original run. Upon working at Blockbuster, I was able to pick up the series on DVD.  I now own the entire series on Blu-ray, and it only gets better with multiple viewings as there is the family drama, the therapy scenes, the crime element, and even moments of comedy.  It’s a masterpiece.

With “The Many Saints of Newark,” we open up in the late sixties on a young Tony Soprano with his Uncle and mentor Dickie Moltisanti.  Dickie is played brilliantly by Alessandro Nivola in a performance that is perfect from start-to-finish. Dickie is part of the DiMeo crime family.  Other members of the family include Johnny Soprano, Junior, Silvio Dante, Paulie Walnuts, Pussy Bonpensiero, and Pussy’s father who is nicknamed Buddha. Some of the stand-out performers here include Jon Bernthal as Johnny Soprano, Tony’s father. Junior is played by the versatile Corey Stoll. Buddha is also played by the always entertaining comedian Joey Coco Diaz.

If you have never seen “The Sopranos” before, you will probably have a very difficult time understanding what is happening in the film.  This is a film which was made for those who have watched “The Sopranos” and are familiar with the characters and all of their personality traits and even lines of dialogue. It’s been a while since I’ve watched the show, and it took me a moment to piece it together.  Once I did, it was a nice trip down memory lane.  Prequels can be hit-or-miss, and “The Many Saints of Newark,” for the most part, is a hit.  It left me looking forward to hopefully future installments, which I’ve heard have been talked about by series creator David Chase.

During this time in Newark, there are riots breaking out after an African-American taxi driver is killed by a white policeman. One of Dickie’s runners, Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.) is an African-American, and he’s getting sick and tired of being only a runner.  He’s also taking part in the riots as he wants there to be equal footing for African-Americans to be able to do business as well. Since Tony Soprano doesn’t have a great relationship with his father, he looks up to Dickie Moltisanti. Tony is getting in trouble by smoking, drinking and gambling at school.  It’s hard for him because his father is not exactly a model citizen, and his mother Livia (Vera Farmiga) is never satisfied and incapable of showing any affection.

I could go into more detail with numerous backstories, but I don’t want to give away too much for those who are going into the film blindly.  As you can tell by reading my review, which only touches on certain aspects of the story, there is a lot happening at once.  In some cases, this is a bad thing.  It is definitely a tale of two movies.  The first hour of this two-hour movie is the weak link. When the film introduces us to teenage Tony Soprano, played by Michael Gandolfini, the son of the late, great James Gandolfini, it really starts to soar and take off.  If the entire film was like the second half of the film, it would have been perfect.

One of the things I did not mention in my review is the dual-performance of Ray Liotta, as both “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti and as Salvatore “Sally” Moltisanti.  The “Hollywood Dick” persona is loud, aggressive, and rude.  He marries a young Italian woman and treats her very poorly, which upsets his son Dickie as he saw the same behavior unleashed on his mother.  Salvatore, on the other hand, is in prison and full of Buddhist wisdom, which seems to be a great source of comfort for Dickie when he’s conflicted on what is the right thing to do in certain situations and scenarios.  Even though it’s the same actor, it’s two completely different performances.

In the end, “The Many Saints of Newark” is a film that almost reaches greatness, but the first half of the film is really hard to ignore.  However, the second half left me with goosebumps and reminded me of why I fell in love with the show in the first place.  The cast is also top-notch and incredible.  My personal favorite performance of the film comes from Vera Farmiga.  She really captures the essence of Livia and all of the drama and issues which came with her.  Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention the performance by Michael Gandolfini.  He’s not mimicking his father as Tony Soprano.  It’s more about getting the little nuisances of the character and how he felt as a young teenager which led to his issues in the show as an adult mob boss.   Everyone is great here, so if I’m leaving anyone out, it’s not intentional.

I must also talk about the look of the film.  It’s shot perfectly with a great sense of time and place. Alan Taylor really gets the little things right.  It’s a gorgeous film to look at with its use of blue tones.  He left no stone unturned in making this film.  The outfits worn by the characters are even spot-on, which shows how much thought went into this production.  It was co-written by series creator David Chase.   Since he spent so much time with these characters, it’s obviously a very personal project for him. While “The Many Saints of Newark” is not perfect, the scenes and performances that work really stand out and will leave hardcore fans of the show quite pleased.  I think it will also leave them wanting more.

* * * ½ out of * * * *

Blu-Ray Info: “The Many Saints of Newark” is released on a single-disc Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It also comes with a digital copy of the film.  It is rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual content and some nudity.  It has a running time of 120 minutes.

Video/Audio Info: “The Many Saints of Newark” comes on a crystal clear 1080p High-Definition transfer, which is simply stunning and incredibly vibrant.  The audio comes in a few different formats: Dolby Atmos-TrueHD: English, Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Audio, English, French, and Spanish. Subtitles are in English, French, and Spanish.

Special Features:

The Making of Newark

The Sopranos Family Honor

Deleted Scenes

Should You Buy It?

I really wrestled with whether I wanted to give this film three stars or three and a half stars.  I’ll put it this way: the first hour of the film is a two-star movie, and the second hour is a four-star movie.  I know four plus two equals six, so if you divide those two, you should get three stars.  However, the second hour is so impactful and mesmerizing, I broke the rules of math and gave it three and a half stars.  It left me with such hope and promise.  Once I heard that music play at the end of the film and saw the look in the eyes of Michael Gandolfini, I said to myself, “I want to see more of THIS.”  I imagine, as with anything which is popular and a prequel, the film is going to be polarizing to fans of the franchise. I completely respect that, as “The Sopranos” is a show which is very personal to a lot of people, myself included. As far as if you should buy the film, I would buy it if you are a hardcore fan of the show.  If you watched the show, liked it, and never thought about it again, you can probably hold off on buying it for a little while.  There are some decent special features here, but it seems like studios are really lacking with physical media special features these days.  I can’t remember the last time I listened to a commentary track on a physical release.

**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.