‘Superman’ Five-Film Collection on 4K Review

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

The idea of being a superhero is something which appeals to people all across the world.  They want the chance to start out as an ordinary individual and transform themselves into something special and magical.  1978’s “Superman” is a perfect example of this, especially with its leading man, Christopher Reeve.  It’s an iconic role and performance which continues to stand the test of time.  It also achieved the rare feat of being both a financial and critical success.  When that happens in Hollywood, everyone is pleased as punch. It’s the magic formula Hollywood is always trying to achieve as they want to do quality work which is meaningful to an audience while also making a lot of money.

There are so many things which make “Superman” great.  Of course, as mentioned previously, you have the tremendous performance by the late, great Christopher Reeve. However, you also need a really, really effective villain, and it’s hard to find a better Hollywood villain than the legendary Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor.  He oozes with charisma, personality, and you love to root against him. As far as the supporting cast, it is filled with some of the greatest working actors and actresses in Hollywood history, such as Marlon Brando, Margot Kidder, Glenn Ford, Jackie Cooper, Terence Stamp, Ned Beatty, Jack O’Halloran, Maria Schell and Sarah Douglas.

It also doesn’t hurt when you have a director like Richard Donner behind the camera as well.  He knows how to pace the film, allow his actors room to breathe, and he is also respectful of the source material. There was also the magnificent score by the iconic John Williams. When you have all of the right pieces in place like Donner did such as the script, the actors and the budget, you have to stay on track and basically not screw it up. He was just the right man for this big budget affair.  During its release, it had the highest budget for a film at the time, coming in at $55 million.  It’s funny to hear that number now, considering how much budgets have increased in Hollywood since then.

What speaks to me about the first “Superman” film is the idea of having a double life and people not knowing who you really are.  During the day you are Clark Kent, a mild-mannered reporter, but you also have the ability to be Superman.  It shows we all have something special inside of us.  It is up to us to really find that, harness it, and use it for good.  Superman is your all-American, clean cut, good guy.  He’s very likable and effortlessly charming.  On paper, this idea might sound ludicrous, but because the filmmakers took it seriously and had the right actors and participants involved, they really had lightning in a bottle.  Even to this day, the film holds up incredibly well.  When you see the special effects, they were really ahead of their time and they helped pave the way for a lot of the effects we see today, only they are now taken up a notch. Most importantly, this film has a big heart and a big soul attached to it. This is why the film is beloved by so many.

With this tremendous release from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment, we are also treated to “Superman II” in two different versions. We get the original theatrical cut by Richard Lester and the Richard Donner Cut on 4K. To this day, people still debate which version they like better and which is more worth watching.  If you ask me, it’s best to watch both versions.  I see things in Donner’s film I like more than in Lester’s and vice versa, but overall, I felt like Lester’s version was a much more polished, easy to follow, and complete film. Donner’s version is flawed with moments of greatness, and it deserves to be seen. Thanks to this set, you can watch both versions, which, as stated previously, I highly encourage you to do as I love a good film discussion.  Film is subjective and there is really no right or wrong answer. 

In “Superman II,” Mario Puzo is back once along with fellow screenwriters, David and Leslie Newman, again with a really good story, and this is a great thing for the audience.  All three really know how to flesh out a story and create unique and interesting characters. It doesn’t hurt when you have actors like Beatty, Kidder and Hackman completely invested in the material. While not as good as the first one, and it’s rare for a sequel to be as good as its predecessor, it’s still a very, very good movie. There is some great humor here, and even in a superhero movie where the stakes are high and we are in a fictional world, some levity is very much appreciated!  Sometimes it is nice to have a different vision and a new voice in a franchise while also staying true to what made the first film successful.  Richard Lester was not put in an ideal situation, but he made it work, and you have to give him credit for that.

By “Superman III,” it seemed like the magic was starting to disappear, and they totally shifted the focus of the franchise into a campy, goofy and comedic realm which really rubbed audiences the wrong way.  I understand they were going for something different, and they brought in Richard Pryor, but the script, the jokes and the material are just really, really bad. There is no denying that Pryor is a funny man with great comedic timing, but his abilities didn’t lend themselves to this film franchise. Overall, “Superman III” was doomed because of behind-the-scenes issues, script issues, and a film in search of the right tone.  The filmmakers seemed to have lost the plot all together as well as their love for the character and the franchise.  When a franchise has success, many times it is how the filmmakers handle that success which defines how it will carry on and continue.  It is clear they didn’t know how to handle success here.

It didn’t get any better with “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.” It was so poorly made and received that they didn’t make another Superman film until 2006. As is often the case with sequels, they went cheap.  Even though Hackman returns and Kidder receives more screen time, this film was dead on arrival.  The plot is incoherent, messy, and just plain dumb.  It was a cash-grab sequel, and when you are focused on money over quality work, you end up with “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.”  It’s a very frustrating film and incredibly hard to follow. As you can see with the “Superman” franchise, you have the law of diminishing returns.

4K Info: The “Superman” 5-Film Collection 1978-1987 is in a terrific box set with all the films getting their own individual dual 4K case which also includes a Blu-ray version of the them. I was really happy they didn’t stack the discs in the set here, as that is always a pet peeve of mine. I was also very happy they gave each film its day in court with artwork and its own individual dual case. “Superman” was previously released on 4K, but this is the first time the other four films have been released in this format.  You also a digital code for all of the films as well.

Video Info: If you already own the first “Superman” 4K, please know they have not added anything new to it here.  It’s the same “Superman” 4K that had been released in its standalone edition.  That being said, it’s hard not to be stunned and blown away by the beautiful Dolby Vision look of the original film.  I had not previously owned the first “Superman” film, so I had no qualms about there not being anything new here. It’s just something to keep in mind for those who already own it on 4K. Overall, this is far and away the best these five films have ever looked on home video.  They look sharp, clean and free of grain or mess. They have cleaned these films up very, very nicely.  I was very impressed with these transfers. Warner Brothers has really been knocking it out of the park with their releases this year during their 100-year anniversary celebration, and this “Superman” box set is no exception.

Audio Info: We are treated to Dolby Atmos on all five films which is fantastic news!  I am a huge fan of Dolby Atmos, and the sound is such a vital part of these films.  The audio sounds crystal clear, concise, and it comes in at just the right pitch without being too loud or in-your-face.  I’m always happy when I can leave it on one volume setting and still get the same impact throughout. That was the case with all five films. They also all come with subtitles in French, English and Spanish as well.

Special Features:

“Superman: The Movie” Special Features:

  Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spangler

  The Making of Superman – vintage featurette

  Superman and the Mole-Men – vintage featurette

  Super-Rabbit – 1943 WB cartoon

  Snafuperman – 1944 WB cartoon

  Stupor Duck – 1956 WB cartoon

  TV Spot

  Teaser Trailer

  Theatrical Trailer

‘Superman II” Special Features:

    Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler

    The Making of “Superman II” – 1980 TV Special

    Superman’s Soufflé – Deleted Scene

    First Flight

    Fleischer Studios’ Superman vintage cartoons:


        The Mechanical Monster

        Billion Dollar Limited

        The Arctic Giant

        The Bulleteers

        The Magnetic Telescope

        Electric Earthquake


        Terror on the Midway

    Theatrical Trailer

“Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut” Special Features:

    Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz

    Introduction by Richard Donner – featurette

    Superman II: Restoring the Vision – featurette

    Deleted Scenes

        Lex and Ms. Teschmacher Head North

        Lex and Ms. Teschmacher Head South

        The Villains Enter the Fortress

        He’s All Yours, Boys

        Clarke and Jimmy

        Lex’s Gateway

    Famous Studios vintage cartoons:



        Eleventh Hour

        Destruction, Inc.

        The Mummy Strikes

        Jungle Drums

        The Underground World

        Secret Agent

“Superman III” Special Features:

    Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler

    The Making of “Superman III” – 1983 TV Special

    Deleted Scenes:

        Save My Baby

        To the Rescue

        Making Up

        Going to See the Boss

        Hatching the Plan

        The Con

        Rooftop Ski

        Boss Wants This to Go

        Superman Honored

        Gus’ Speech

        Hanging Up on Brad

    Theatrical Trailer

“Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” Special Features:

    Commentary by Mark Rosenthal

    Superman 50th Anniversary Special – 1988 TV Special

    Deleted Scenes:

        Clark’s Morning

        Jeremy’s Letter

        Superman’s Visit

        Nuclear Man’s Prototype

        Metropolis After Hours

        Lex Ponders

        Flying Sequence (Extended Scene)

        Battle in Smallville

        Battle in the U.S.S.R.

        Nuclear Arms Race

        Superman’s Sickness

        Red Alert

        By My Side

        Lark and Lacy Say Goodbye

        No Borders

    Theatrical Trailer

Should You Buy It?

Last time I checked, this set is going for about $90, which is a great price for five films. Granted, you are really paying for “Superman,” “Superman II” and “Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut,” so you need to own all of the Christopher Reeve “Superman” films if you are a completist like myself. I’ve heard a lot of people in the film community complain about some of the special features from other releases not being included on this set but they are included in the other Blu-ray releases.  This did not bother me as there are still plenty of special features to shift through here. I’m happy they included the Blu-ray discs for all of the films and didn’t just include the 4K’s.  The good films in this franchise leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.  When films make me feel this way and put a smile on my face, I’m a happy camper.  There is also something to enjoy about the total and complete absurdity of the bad films as well.  If you have a sense of humor and come in with the right mindset, you can enjoy them on the level of they are aiming at.  All the films come with Dolby Atmos tracks, which is a great perk.  My one minor nitpick is the fact that not all these films include Dolby Vision except for the first one.  However, in 2023, when physical media is hard to come by in stores but very much appreciated by us hardcore film historians and lovers, I don’t want to be too overly critical or negative over the little things.  Warner Brothers and other studios are really going all out to preserve important pieces of cinematic history.  We shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  This set comes highly recommended, and I enjoyed revisiting these films in 4K.  It gave me a whole new appreciation for these films, Christopher Reeve’s performance, and the intense feelings of happiness and joy the first two (three if you are counting the Richard Donner cut) films brought to me. You can’t put a price tag on that. This set comes highly recommended!

* * * ½ out of * * * *

**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.

‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance’ Movie and Blu-ray Review

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

I thought the first two “Magic Mike” films served two different purposes, but they were entertaining and fun in different ways.  The first “Magic Mike,” directed by Steven Soderbergh, was more artistic and character driven.  It was a good film with great performances and cinematography. In “Magic Mike XXL,” we got some comedic touches to the material, and it was a charming and fun journey.  “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” features style but very little substance and almost none of the charm of the second film.  Instead, we are left with a film which really serves no purpose. I really hope it is Magic Mike’s last dance because what else is left to explore with this franchise at this point?

Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) has fallen on hard times after his furniture business went under because of the pandemic.  He is now a bartender in Miami and trying to keep a low profile.  It’s not that he is ashamed of his past, it’s just that he is looking to leave it behind and move forward. While bartending, one of Mike’s former clients recognizes him, but she plays it cool because she is with her husband.  This information gets passed onto Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault) who offers him $6,000 for a dance.  He initially asked for $60,000, but they were able to settle on $6,000.  After he dances for her, she offers him a chance to earn that $60,000 in London, but she leaves out the details.

MAGIC MIKE’S LAST DANCE Copyright: © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures Caption: (L-r) SALMA HAYEK PINAULT as Maxandra Mendoza and CHANNING TATUM as Mike Lane in Warner Bros. Pictures musical comedy “MAGIC MIKE’S LAST DANCE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

While in London, we discover Max is in the middle of a divorce and is now in possession of the Rattigan Theatre. She wants Mike to choreograph dance elements into “Isabel Ascende,” a play which was being run there before she arrived and shut it down.  When Mike and Max come together, they come up with the idea of incorporating erotic dance into the production in a way which will spice things up around town.  This, however, does not come without problems from her ex-husband, Roger (Alan Cox).  Max believes Mike can find a way to put something magical out there, even if it is for only one night, as he really made an impression on her back in Miami with his dancing.

One of the biggest problems with this film is the fact it does not feature the previous crew of dancers such as Kevin Nash, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer and Adam Rodriguez. They are only shown here on a brief Zoom call, where Mike promises to get them their money back after the furniture business they invested in with him went out of business.  The film was really missing their presence and chemistry together as a group.  Overall, the film does have some great dance numbers, especially the one in the beginning between Mike and Max and some big numbers at the end.  It is everything in the middle which just seems unnecessary and unimportant to the viewers.

I liked the chemistry between Tatum and Hayek Pinault. I wanted their relationship to develop more on screen from a character perspective instead of just being a physical attraction. I thought her personal assistant, Victor (Ayub Khan-Din), had some great one-liners and used his screen time wisely. More of his character would have been appreciated. Max’s adopted daughter, Zadie, played by Jemelia George in her first film role, also showed tremendous timing and screen presence.  There is a genesis for an entertaining film here, but at nearly two hours long, it’s a real slog to sit through from start to finish. The first two films were better than I expected them to be, but this one is a drag.  There is not a lot of enjoyment to be had here as this sequel is really flat and uninspired.

* * out of * * * *

Blu-ray Info: “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” is released on a two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  It has a running time of 112 minutes and is rated R for sexual material and language. This combo pack comes with the Blu-ray, DVD, and a digital copy of the film as well.

Video Info: The 1080p High-Definition transfer looks really, really good here. I’ve always been a big fan of the look and feel of Steven Soderbergh’s films, and this is no exception here. It has a crisp, clear look, but it also knows when to light up during the dance numbers.  This is a really, really good-looking Blu-ray.

Audio Info: The DTS-HD MA: English 5.1 audio transfer is also top notch with flawless sound.  It also comes on the following audio formats: Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Audio, French, and Spanish. Subtitles are in English, French, and Spanish.

Special Features:

Magic Mike’s New Moves

Deleted Scene

Should You Buy It?

I understand they wanted to do something different with the third film. They took it to London and added Hayek Pinault. They had good intentions here.  After all, this is Tatum’s baby, and he’s a producer on the film.  However, they left behind the boys from the first two films, and they are such a big part of this franchise. They added the flavor and the fun factor.  The film also takes itself too seriously with these voiceovers which come across as too self-important.  There are good intentions here, as I mentioned, but the execution is very poor. There is no meat on the bone with the screenplay here. I did not feel like I knew any of the other dancers all that well, and I wanted to know more about Hayek Pinault’s character besides the fact she is getting divorced from a wealthy businessman.  If this is on HBO one night, you can check it out.  I would not go out of my way to see it or buy it.

**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.

‘Rebel Without a Cause’ Movie and 4K Review

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

James Dean only made three major motion pictures in his short career: “East of Eden,” “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant.”  Unfortunately, he tragically passed away in a car accident at only twenty-four-years old.  He will always be remembered as one of the greatest “What ifs?” in Hollywood history.  However, when people say the name James Dean or think of the man, they think of how naturally cool he was and how he was able to connect with a younger audience that was yearning to be seen and heard.  Dean had the ability to speak their language and get across that intense emotion and pain on screen.  Perhaps no film of his does a better job of this than “Rebel Without a Cause,” which still holds up incredibly well today.

The film is set in Los Angeles during the mid-1950’s, and as soon as the audience sees Jim Stark (James Dean) on screen, they know he is troubled and dealing with a lot of issues at home.  It is one of the reasons he is arrested for public intoxication.  His father, Frank (Jim Backus), is trying to connect with his son and be there for him, but Jim doesn’t exactly look up to him.  He sees the way his father is afraid of his wife, Carol (Ann Doran), and how she bosses him around.  Quite frankly, he doesn’t see his father as much of a man. While Jim is showered with material items, he is looking for something more out of his parents, and they are unable to provide that because they are always bickering with one another.  His mother’s solution to their problems is to always move to a new city.

No matter where they live, Jim never truly feels like he fits in or is living an authentic life. There is a tremendous line in the film from Jim Stark which sums up his feelings on life, “If I had one day when I didn’t have to be all confused and I didn’t have to feel that I was ashamed of everything. If I felt that I belonged someplace. You know?”  Even though he might partake in bad behavior, Ray (Edward Platt), a police officer in the juvenile unit, sees something in Jim and wants to help him and make sure he stays on the straight and narrow. Ray knows it’s not easy considering the life Jim has at home with his parents.  On the surface, everything looks fine and dandy with his parents.  Jim, however, sees through the façade his parents show to the world, and he is not buying it. As his friend Plato puts it, Jim is sincere.

There are two other kids he connects with through the juvenile ward in prison and at Dawson High, and they are Plato (Sal Mineo) and Judy (Natalie Wood).  Plato has mental health problems and is without a family or friends.  Jim is his friend, though, and Plato looks up to him as a father figure.  Judy is dealing with problems at home as well, as her father is not too happy with the fact his sixteen-year-old daughter is growing up.  He calls her a tramp and is disconnected from her.  The three of them form a tight bond and kinship after some time. One of the other kids at Dawson High, Buzz (Corey Allen), is looking to make life a living hell for Jim, first by challenging him to a knife fight and then to a dangerous game with fatal consequences.  This does not end well for Buzz, and it leaves Jim with some serious questions about what is the right thing to do in the aftermath of this accident. When he looks to his parents for advice and guidance, they give him answers which are not in line with Jim’s strict moral code of what is right and wrong.

Buzz’s gang is looking for revenge against Jim, and they are also concerned about the consequences they might face from the police. This whole ordeal brings Judy, Plato and Jim closer together, as they all share a common bond: feeling misunderstood from the world that has been presented to them by their families.  Plato has been left behind.  Yes, he gets money, but Plato would trade it all for the love of his parents instead of living with a caregiver.  Judy wants her father to understand she is growing up and not his little girl anymore, and he is fighting this at every turn.  With Jim, he has no respect for a father with no backbone and a controlling mother.  Together, they have their own little family, and it is quite beautiful to see as an audience member.  It reminds me of the old saying, “Friends are the family you choose.” This is a very powerful motion picture in so many ways, and it really struck a chord with me considering the lack of understanding and involvement my parents had in my own life growing up.

If you love acting as much as I do, you will love the acting of Dean and Wood as they are so tender and gentle together on screen.  If Dean had lived a lengthy life, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he would have been the next Marlon Brando.  Even though he is playing someone who is cooler than the other side of the pillow, he is also vulnerable, sensitive and relatable without ever coming across as weak.  He is simply human. Wood, in addition to being a real Hollywood beauty on screen, is tough but sweet, and she and Dean work perfectly together.  There is a scene where they are talking about love, and the way she is rubbing her chin on his face is simply beautiful and movie magic.

As soon as I finished this movie, I couldn’t wait to sit down on my laptop and start writing this review.  It was a film I had not seen in ages, so I felt like I was watching it for the first time.  It is directed by one of my favorite directors, Nicholas Ray, whose films include “In a Lonely Place,” “Bigger Than Life” and “They Live by Night.”  “Bigger Than Life,” in particular, is one of my favorite films of all time.  It deals with the side effects of medication that was way ahead of its time.  The films I’ve seen of Ray’s have all left me speechless as a viewer.  I give a slight nod to “Rebel Without a Cause,” but “Bigger Than Life” is also a really, really good film which I recommend you check out as soon as possible as it is part of the Criterion Collection.  With “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Bigger Than Life,” I almost feel like Nicholas Ray is speaking to me directly.

* * * * out of * * * *

4K Info: “Rebel Without a Cause” is released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  It is rated PG-13 for some violence and thematic elements and has a running time of 111 minutes.  It also comes with a digital copy of the film.

Video Info:  This is another fantastic release from Warner Brothers as they dig deeper into their rich history of classic films for their 100th year anniversary. The film is simply electric on Ultra HD, High Dynamic Range. There were scenes here and there which looked a little grainy, but they were cleaned up quickly and did not linger, so they were not massive issues. James Dean and Natalie Wood look GREAT on 4K, and the film itself is a stunner with rich, vivid colors which pop off the screen.

Audio Info:  Thankfully, we are treated to a great Dolby Atmos track with this 4K release, and I am really happy about that because out of the three films I received to review (“Rebel Without a Case,” “Cool Hand Luke” and “The Maltese Falcon”), this film was my favorite, and it received the best audio track. All of the sizzling dialogue is on display here, and it really pops with the Dolby Atmos track. Subtitles are included in English, French and Spanish as well.

Special Features:

Commentary by Douglas L. Rathgeb

“James Dean Remembered” (1974 TV special)

“Rebel Without a Cause: Defiant Innocents” (featurette)

“Dennis Hopper: Memories from the Warner Lot” (featurette)

Screen Tests

Wardrobe Tests

Deleted Scenes

Should You Buy It?

HECK YES!! If you have never seen any of James Dean’s films, this is the place to start, without question.  As a matter of fact, after watching “Rebel Without a Cause,” I bought “Giant” on Amazon, as I want to own as many of Dean’s films in 4K as possible. I am such a fan of actors who put so much of themselves and their histories into their films.  I didn’t know a lot about Dean’s backstory, but I knew he used a lot of his childhood to tap into this performance.  It shows in each and every scene as he is so raw, real and vulnerable for the camera. He likes the camera, and the camera likes him.  This film perfectly captures the disconnect between teenagers and their parents during this era without ever being preachy or too on-the-nose.  It hits all the right notes.  The late, great Natalie Wood is also a movie star on screen.  I am such a fan of this period of Hollywood where actors were taking chances and putting their blood, sweat and tears into their performances.  The film comes with the previously released Blu-ray special features, so there is not anything new as far as documentaries on Dean. The Dolby Atmos track is a very nice touch and, despite a few rough patches, the 4K video transfer is just about perfect. It is a red-hot movie in 4K, and I loved getting to watch it in this format. This is a day-one purchase without any hesitation, whatsoever.

**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 Maltese Falcon’ Movie and 4K Review

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

The Maltese Falcon” is a film I imagine I will enjoy a lot more on a second viewing, as this was my first time watching it. The reason I say this is because there are a lot of moving pieces in this film, and it is never boring.  However, at times, I found myself trying to follow the story and the plot instead of being as immersed in the story as I would have liked to have been.  Many people have called it the first-ever film noir.  Film noir is a genre that Humphrey Bogart excelled in throughout his career.  He had a rough look and a gruff voice.  He wasn’t going to take any nonsense from anyone, and no matter how dire a situation was, he always seemed to know what was going on, and he was not going to be rattled by the circumstances around him.

Humphrey Bogart plays a private investigator named Sam Spade.  He is in business with his partner, Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan).  One day, a woman walks into their office by the name of Ruth Wonderly (Mary Astor), claiming her sister ran off from New York to San Francisco with a man named Floyd Thursby.  She is hoping that Spade and Archer can help her find her sister.  Archer agrees to look into it, but he ends up dead along with Floyd Thursby.  This captures the attention of Sam Spade, who is beginning to wonder the validity of her story.  Before long, he discovers that her real name is actually Brigid O’Shaughnessy.

Throughout all of this mystery and intrigue, Sam finds himself in the crosshairs of Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), who offers Sam some money for a highly valued falcon statue.  There is also a young man named Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.) who is keeping his eyes on Sam along with Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet), a rotund money man who will stop at nothing to get his hands on this bird. Throughout all of the twists and turns, Sam isn’t sure who to believe, who to trust, and who is telling the truth. He stays in control and makes smart decisions, even when people are pointing their guns at him or he’s suspected of murder by the police.

One of the strong points of “The Maltese Falcon” is the running time. At 100 minutes, there is not a dull moment in the film.  It is paced perfectly and directed with great skill by John Huston. It has the look and feel that one would expect from a film noir.  You have your femme fatale in Mary Astor.  She’s brilliant here, as she’s able to go from vulnerable and naïve to cunning and savvy in the blink of an eye. Of course, you have Bogart, who made a living in Hollywood playing this type of character.  Guys liked and respected him, and women were drawn to his tough exterior. As mentioned earlier, he is always able to stay level-headed, even in life-or-death circumstances.  He still seems to know what to do and what to say to get himself out of a jam.

In the end, I respected and admired “The Maltese Falcon” as a film.  I can’t say I enjoyed it a ton because of the storytelling.  It’s not an overly complicated film, but at times, there are too many twists and turns happening at once.  That being said, I think the more I watch this film, the more I will enjoy it and have a better understanding of everything.  Because of the deception happening on screen and characters coming and going, it’s not that it was hard to follow, it’s more that I was keeping up with the plot instead of getting lost in it. I look forward to watching this film many more times in the future, as I think I will gain an even greater appreciation for the skilled acting and directing on display.

* * * out of * * * *

4K Info: “The Maltese Falcon” is released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. The film has a running time of 100 minutes.  It also comes with a digital copy of the film. As far as the film’s rating, it is not rated, but that is not because it’s a raunchy film. It was released in 1941 and is very tame.

Video Info:  Ultra High Definition HDR always stands out on older films.  A lot of movie buffs like to talk about how older films are enhanced by a 4K transfer, and that is certainly the case here. From the swift movements of the characters to the deep blacks, this is a stunning transfer of a black and white film. Right now, 4K is doing some truly amazing work with classic Hollywood films.

Audio Info: The film is presented on the following audio formats: DTS-HD MA: English 2.0 Mono and Dolby Digital: Spanish. Subtitles are included in English and Spanish as well.  The audio is crisp, clear, and all of the great dialogue you would expect from a film noir is easy to digest while watching this film.

 Special Features:

 Commentary by Humphrey Bogart Biographer Eric Lax

“Warner Night at the Movies”

“Sergeant York” Trailer

“New Highlights of the Roosevelt Churchill Parley” (newsreel)

“The Gay Parisian” (1941 WB short)

“Meet John Doughboy” (1941 WB cartoon)

The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird

Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart

Breakdowns of 1941 (WB short)

Make-up Tests

2/8/43 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast

9/20/43 Screen Guild Theater Broadcast

7/3/46 Academy Award Theater Broadcast


1936 “Satan Met a Lady”

1941 “The Maltese Falcon”

Should You Buy It?

I don’t feel like I am really giving this film the credit it deserves, but keep in mind, this was my first time watching it.  I have always been a big believer that you need to watch a great film a few times in order to fully appreciate it.  It doesn’t always strike on the first chord.  There is a lot to like, especially the acting and the pacing of the plot, but the story took me out of it at times.  With all of that being said, if you are a fan of “The Maltese Falcon,” you owe it to yourself to buy it on 4K.  It looks fantastic here in black and white and in high dynamic range with its 4K transfer.  It’s such a moody film noir that truly gets a boost from 4K.  The special features are transferred over from the previously released Blu-ray, so if you are looking for anything new here, you are not going to find it, but I don’t expect anything new from a film that was released in 1941 as most, if not all, of the actors have passed away.  If you are a first-time viewer like myself, I still think you should buy it as you will get the slipcover and might enjoy it more than I did.  If you love the film and have seen it many times, you will enjoy it even more on 4K. I look forward to seeing what else Warner Brothers is going to be releasing throughout the year during their 100th year anniversary.

**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.

‘Cool Hand Luke’ Movie and 4K Review

WRITER’S NOTE: The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.

When I think of a movie star, I think of someone who possesses the “it factor” and stands above the rest of the pack.  Paul Newman was a movie star, and I would argue it was never more prevalent than in the film “Cool Hand Luke.”  Of course, many can talk about his mesmerizing performances in films such as “The Verdict,” “The Hustler,” “Slap Shot” or “The Sting.”  However, in “Cool Hand Luke,” he burns up the screen and you can’t take your eyes off of him.  It’s such a minimalistic performance, but it is captivating, spellbinding and intense.  There is no wasted moment or line of dialogue from this legendary actor here.  When I think of Newman, I think of this film.

After World War II, Luke (Paul Newman) finds himself knocking over parking meters while under the influence of alcohol, which lands him a two-year stay in prison.  Upon entering the chain gain of prison, Luke keeps to himself, but he has this unique and magnetic presence about him without even trying to do anything out of the ordinary. There is an aura about him which keeps people interested in him and talking about him.  There is a story behind the man, but the film allows those layers to unfold throughout.   Many of those working on the chain gang in this prison camp seem to fall in line and follow orders.  Luke, on the other hand, is not a fan of authority. He likes to ruffle their feathers, especially when it comes to Boss Godfrey (Morgan Woodward) and the Captain (Strother Martin).

He endears himself to his fellow prison mates by playing cards, trying to escape, and even having a contest where he says he can eat fifty eggs in an hour.  They start to see hope and light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to Luke.  As the title says, he is cool.  Every little thing about him is cool and laid-back.  Even when his attempts to escape don’t go as planned, he flashes that famous Paul Newman smile with those baby blue eyes and rolls with the punches.  He refuses to be defeated or get angry about his situation.  Instead, he is looking for solutions.  One of his closest friends there is Dragline, played by George Kennedy, in an Academy-Award winning performance.

Throughout the prison, we also see legendary actors such as Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton, which I really appreciated as I’m a huge fan of their careers. Director Stuart Rosenberg knows how to show the mundane of prison life without ever making it feel boring or uninteresting.  Much like Newman, he doesn’t waste a single scene or shot here.  Everything here has a rhyme and a reason to it. The film has a lot of outdoor scenes, and they look absolutely stunning in 4K.  This is truly one of the best-looking 4K films I’ve watched in a while.  The sunshine and the light symbolize what Luke brings to the prisoners.  He lets them know there is more to life than digging ditches.

I don’t think the anti-hero has ever been portrayed as well on screen as it is here by Newman.  The fact he’s not trying to be liked is what makes us, as an audience, like him even more.  It’s all natural.  This is a man who is in prison along with a host of prisoners that have done various crimes.  They admit that.  The film is able to make us like all of them, Dragline especially, and really root for them to get out from under the thumb of this rigid prison and its rules.  In many ways, I feel like “Cool Hand Luke” was a film in 1967 that was ahead of its time.

There are so many great quotes from the film that I could spend a good portion of my review reciting them. I’ll stick to the famous one, which is, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” This quote was also used in the opening of the Guns N’ Roses song “Civil War”.  This film is a powerful masterpiece.  As someone who is a big believer in anti-establishment and someone who doesn’t always like to play by the rules, “Cool Hand Luke” is a film which resonated with me. You might knock Luke down and you might have him on the ropes, but he is not going to go down without a fight.  He is also going to smile in your face, no matter what happens to him or how much you push him.  He’s never going to lose that smile.

* * * * out of * * * *

4K Info: “Cool Hand Luke” is released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. The film has a running-time of 126 minutes and is rated PG.  Keep in mind, the ratings system was run much differently during this time.  It’s not an overly violent film, and I don’t recall a ton of curse words in it.  It also comes with a digital copy of the film.

Video Info: “Cool Hand Luke” never looked bad on Ultra HD, High Dynamic Range.  The film looks stunning and crystal clear.  As I mentioned, a good portion of the scenes take place outside, and it’s a colorful and bright looking film without being too bright where it’s going to hurt your eyes.  They did a tremendous job of cleaning this picture up, as I loved every second of this beautiful transfer.  I tip my cap to the fine folks over at Warner Brothers on this one.

Audio Info:  The same can be said for the audio which comes on DTS-HD MA: English 2.0 Mono and Dolby Digital: Spanish and French. Subtitles are also included in English, Spanish, and French.  The audio is crystal clear throughout, and all of the tremendous dialogue can be heard without any issues whatsoever.

Special Features:

Commentary by Historian/Paul Newman Biographer Eric Lax

A Natural-Born World-Shaker: Making Cool Hand Luke


Should You Buy It?

You are buying this for the movie itself as well as the audio and visual aspects that Warner Brothers have put together for this tremendous release. You are not buying it for the special features, which I’ve talked about in previous reviews.  I’m a big believer in preserving film history, and I love that it is the 100th anniversary of Warner Brothers because they are digging deep into their archives with releases of some of the greatest films ever made.  They are also taking the time to make sure they are seen and heard in the highest video and audio quality possible.  They are not just upgrading these films to re-release them.  They are making sure, as a viewer, you are not only going to enjoy a classic film, but that you are going to enjoy it in 4K with a transfer worthy of the film itself.  Because of this, it is up to us, as film collectors and lovers, to support and purchase films like “Cool Hand Luke” on 4K.  It ensures us that we will get more great physical media releases in the future. I can’t recommend this film and this visual presentation any further. Buy it right now!

**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.

Favorite Opening Titles: ‘Bullitt’

Peter Yates’ 1968 neo-noir action thriller film “Bullitt” was my introduction to one of the coolest actors and movie stars ever to inhabit this planet of ours, Steve McQueen. It also starts off with one of the most ingenious opening title sequences I have ever seen as a dozen men are waiting outside of a building for a certain individual whom we later see is waiting for them and already prepared to escape their clutches. Seeing the names of the main actors being revealed and then having them come right at us showed how creative one can get with opening titles, and they have the benefit of being scored by the man who would later create the music which Edgar Wright would call “acid jazz” for “Dirty Harry,” Lalo Schifrin.

The opening titles for “Bullitt” were designed by Cuban-American graphic and film titles designer, Pablo Ferro. His list of credits is extensive, and many of his other film titles may end up on this website at some point. What I love about his work on this particular sequence is how cool it all works and how it gives you a sense of not only characters on the move like John Ross, but also of how we are invited to look much closer at everything which goes on here. While everything might seem crystal clear on the surface, the antagonists are eventually going to get quite a rude awakening when they realize they are not as smart as they think.

Keep in mind, we do not see any of the main characters in these opening titles. What we do see is the beginning of a chase for a certain individual, and it is contained within a motion picture which has one of the greatest car chases in cinematic history. While we are left to guess how everything we see here adds up, this is perfect as the characters we are eventually introduced to such as Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt, Robert Vaughn’s Walter Chambers and Don Gordon’s Detective Delgetti are thrust into a situation which has more layers than they initially realize.

“Bullitt” remains one of the greatest cop movies ever this side of “The French Connection,” and I recommend you check it out if you have not yet done so. Please feel free to check out its opening titles down below.

‘South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut’ – One of the Best Musicals Ever!

Walt Disney Pictures has released many classic animated movies over the years, but none of them compare to the sheer anarchic lunacy of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s “South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut.” While “Beauty and the Beast, “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” have given us songs not easily forgotten, so many other Disney animated musicals have only stayed in our minds for so long before they are easily forgotten, and they only dream of being as tuneful as this 1999 animated musical. It takes advantage of its big screen format to mercilessly satirize the MPAA (or the MPA as it is known as these days), hypocrisy, and of various musicals we all grew up with.

One does not have to be a fan of “South Park” to enjoy this movie. The characters of Stan, Cartman, Kenny and Kyle are introduced to the audience in wonderful fashion through the opening song “Mountain Town,” and they go off to the local movie theater for the opening day premiere of “Asses of Fire,” a Canadian film starring their favorite comedy duo of Terrence and Phillip. They are, however, denied admission as the movie has been rated R by the ever-reliable MPAA. But instead of paying for a PG-13 movie and sneaking into “Asses of Fire,” they pay a homeless guy to be their adult guardian. It sure saves on the anxiety of getting caught and kicked out of the theater by that one usher who actually bothers to follow the rules.

All four of them love “Asses Of Fire,” and this movie could be seen as the way parents view “South Park” on Comedy Central. The song “Uncle Fucka” ends up outdoing anything Parker and Stone ever did on the show. Hilariously profane without setting any limits for decency’s sake, it sets off this powder keg of a musical in an unforgettably hilarious style. Stan, Cartman, Eric, and Kenny brag of how cool they are for seeing Terrence and Phillip on the silver screen, and they gleefully spout off the vulgar profanity from the film to the shock and delight of their fellow classmates.

But it does not take long for their parents to discover what their kids been up to, and they end up doing what just about any loving parent would do; blame someone other than themselves. Parental hypocrisy is one of the big targets of “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” as the parents here all refuse to take any sort of responsibility for their children’s behavior. Instead, they launch an all-out war against Canada as Terrence and Phillip originated from the country, and also because, you know, why not?

Kids are far more of aware of hypocrisy when it confronts them, and in many ways this movie is seen through the eyes of a child. Their parents’ intention to obliterate a country just because a comedy duo inadvertently taught kids some utterly hideous words is completely ridiculous, but so was George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. The media, movies and music are such easy targets even though they are emotional outlets, and those in power are quick to criticize them and suggest legislation to limit what they seem as their immoral influence for no good reason other than to put the more conservative population of America (a.k.a. white people) at ease.

Kenny also gets a bigger part than he ever had in the television show as he, of course, dies and ends up going to hell. When he arrives, he meets Satan who is far more vulnerable and sensitive than various depictions of him in popular culture have led us to believe. But the bigger problem though is Satan’s boyfriend who is none other than Saddam Hussein as he is shown to have died years before he actually did in real life. Saddam treats Satan like crap while Satan begs for him to be an affectionate partner in all things love. Satan also does his “Little Mermaid” number of how he yearns to be “up there” on Earth and above ground. Where else can one find Satan be more kind hearted than Saddam Hussein, let alone groups of parents?

This movie also satirizes those most famous of Broadway musicals such as “Les Miserables” on top of all those Walt Disney animated musicals we were raised on. In the process, both Parker and Stone, along with composer and lyricist Marc Shaiman, created the best musical Hollywood has seen in years. The songs are brilliant and insidiously, let alone gleefully, inspired as they stay with you long after you have finished watching this particular animated classic.

Seriously, after watching “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut,” who can forget songs like “Blame Canada,” which should have won the Best Original Song Oscar over “You’ll Be in My Heart,” or “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” For me, however, the real showstopper here is “Uncle Fucka” in which Parker, Stone and Shaiman deign to portray from their critics’ point of view of how the critics view the show “South Park” as opposed to the rational way any other decent human being would. Perhaps it might be easy to say that the music and songs here are brilliant because of the uninhibited profanity on display, but each song gets at a deeper meaning beneath its shamelessly filthy lyrics.

The other great thing about this “South Park” movie is how it is proof Parker and Stone did not sell out. They could have made this into a PG-13 comedy and would have made three times more money in the process, but they both resisted Paramount Pictures urging to tone things down and succeeded in taking the show beyond the stifling confines of television. Seeing them stick to their guns is highly commendable, but perhaps it should not be seen as a surprise as they go after everything and everyone, and the show no hesitation in biting the hand that feeds them (Comedy Central).

All these years later, “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” remains uproarious as ever. The MPAA (a.k.a. the MPA) remains an overly conservative bunch of hypocrites who give NC-17 ratings to movies for all the wrong reasons, and parents continue to blame others for the ills of their children and society. Thankfully, this is not a motion picture that can be easily relegated to the Disney vault for an “anniversary release” twenty years into the future. Trey Parker and Matt Stone still fight the good fight, and the big screen version of their brilliant television show became a brilliant musical, which later led to others like “Team America” and the Broadway smash “The Book of Mormon.”

Like Kenny, “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut’s” legacy will never die. But, like Kenny, if it ever does die, it will eventually be resurrected sooner than we think.

* * * * out of * * * *

Oscars 95 – The Show Can Still Put a Smile on My Face

With each passing year, I find myself getting increasingly cynical and disenchanted with the Academy Awards/Oscars. As a kid, I watched them with wonder and excitement as the winners gave such great speeches in front of an audience that adored them. But as an adult, I see more and more how the wheels spin as movie studios continue to spend millions upon millions of dollars on their Oscar campaigns in hopes of obtaining one or more of those golden statues. Let’s face it if we have not already, an Oscar win means big box office money, and everyone wants to see their films turn a profit even if those Hollywood accountants will eventually tell them they did not, news which we greet with a loud, “Bitch, please!”

Still, as I watched the 95th Annual Academy Awards which saw the return of Jimmy Kimmel as host, I found myself swept in the innocence of everything cinematic as the speeches the winners gave moved me to no end. Granted, this ceremony is essentially Hollywood’s way of congratulating itself, but sometimes they get it right with the winners (case in point: “Parasite”). Plus, it is the only awards show I bother to watch as the Emmys and the Grammys never do anything for me. As for the Golden Globes, they are enjoyable for all the wrong reasons.

Allow me to take a look at this year’s Oscars before I slip into my cynical self and discover all the things which were wrong with it. Call me naïve or woefully ignorant, I would rather celebrate this evening right now rather than lay waste to it.

Well, there were virtually no surprises as “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won the most Oscars including Best Picture. “All Quiet on the Western Front,” however, looked at one point to be the evening’s upset victor as it scored more wins than many initially suspected. But with Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s film  walking off with key prizes at the DGA and PGA award shows, we all walked in to this one knowing who would be victorious.

Ke Huy Quan proved to be an unforgettable presence in both “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “The Goonies” before his acting career lost speed and he went to work in film production and as a fight choreographer. His win for Best Supporting Actor was an emotional one as he spoke of how he spent a year in a refugee camp long before arriving on the stage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Here is what he also said:

“Dreams are something you have to believe in. I almost gave up on mine,” he said. “To all of you out there, please keep your dreams alive.”

Regardless of how cynical I may have become, I could not help but be moved by what Quan said as our dreams and passions are what we should be living for.

And how cool is it to finally be able to call Jamie Lee Curtis an Oscar winner? I have said this over and over, but you can put her in a god awful movie (“Virus” for example) and she will still deliver a terrific performance regardless of the material she has been saddled with. Her win for Best Supporting Actress comes on the heels of her laying waste to Michael Myers one last time in “Halloween Ends.” Granted, the Akkad family is bound to resurrect the “Halloween” franchise at some point in the future, but Curtis, as Laurie Strode, still got to have the last word.

As for Curtis’ speech, it was as moving as Quan’s as she slowly accepted the reality that she actually won an Academy Award. While many were not shocked at her taking home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, she clearly was. Her proclamation of “I just won an Oscar” may come to rival Sally Field’s infamous one of “You like me! You really like me!”

When it comes to Best Original Song, the performances of each nominee can either be a much needed bathroom break or something spectacular which upstages the rest of the show. This year was a mixed bag when it came to that, but the winner of this category, “Naatu Naatu” from the film “RRR” brought the house down with its energetic performance as the performers and singers displayed an infinite amount of passion and audacity as they danced and sang the night away. The standing ovation which accompanied this was well deserved.

Still, when it came to the other original song nominees, Lady Gaga was not far behind with her performance of “Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick” which proved to be both emotional and rousing. Moreover, while she came into the Dolby Theatre looking as glamorous as anyone else, Lady Gaga performed this song sans makeup and in a dark t-shirt which made her rendition of this song infinitely remarkable and wonderfully defiant.

I got to interview Michelle Yeoh a few years ago when she was doing press for “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny,” and she look fabulous and was great to talk to. I was reminded of this during her speech when she won Best Actress for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” as she gave us some of the most memorable lines of the evening:

“Ladies, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are past your prime.”

“For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibility.”

No one can ever forget the inevitable “In Memorium” segment which pays tribute those who have since passed away, and which also infuriate so many who get deeply angered over who got omitted (speaking of which, what about Richard Belzer?). Having John Travolta introduce this segment seemed both appropriate and highly emotional as two of his co-stars, Olivia Newton John and Kirstie Alley, died after their long fights with cancer, and the death of his beloved wife Kelly Preston still hangs heavy on him. Lenny Kravitz pulled off a memorable performance as the names of the deceased were unveiled before us. Was anyone left out? Probably, but I will let others get into that. I do not have the energy to do it here.

And when it comes to predestination, Brendan Fraser’s win for Best Actor in “The Whale” was an inescapable certainty. Everyone loves a comeback, and no one could seem to get enough of his performance as a morbidly obese man desperate to restore his relationship to his daughter. Some will say there are no absolutes in life, only in vodka, but there was little doubt Fraser was going to take home the prize. And even after all the accolades he has received thus far, he remained as emotional as he was on the WTF Podcast with Marc Maron as he thanked director Darren Aronofsky for “throwing me a creative lifeline and hauling me aboard.”  That is quite the compliment.

It is moments like these which quickly remind me of why I love watching the Academy Awards/Oscars. Regardless of the ridiculously competitive races Hollywood studios participate in, and whether or not you believe these winners even deserve to be nominated, I cannot help but love how thrilled the winners are to have reached such a penultimate recognition. History is always being made, and careers are being rewarded to where I cannot and do not want to deny that dreams can come true. Even if they do not come true for everyone, it always provides a beacon of hope we all need and thrive upon in this crazy realm known as show business.

Even as I still wonder if the Oscar campaign tactics of the Weinsteins are still being utilized by others, there is still a special place in my heart for the Academy Awards. Even if they seem more political than anything else, watching them still makes my spirits rise even when they seem too low down. Now please excuse me as I have to end this article before the things which pissed me off about this year’s Oscars rise to the surface…

…Okay, there a couple of things. I mean seriously, did we really need Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy introducing the new trailer for Rob Marshall’s take on “The Little Mermaid?” This struck me as crass commercialism as the producers have better things to do than promote upcoming films during this ceremony. Besides, if they are going to show a trailer for that, what about other studio releases? What is so special about Disney that they get to promote yet another live action remake of one of their famous animated classics?

As for the tribute to Warner Brothers on its 100th anniversary, someone needs to do a little more research as some of the movies they showed originated under MGM, not Warner Brothers. Even Bugs Bunny was rolling his eyes at this, and yes, he did this while in drag.

Okay, that is all for now.

‘Training Day’ Movie and 4K UHD Review

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

It has been a long time since I have sat down and watched “Training Day” from start to finish.  Upon hearing about its 4K release from the fine folks over at Warner Brothers, I was looking forward to sitting down and revisiting it and seeing how it would hold up twenty-two years later.  Denzel Washington can always be counted on to give a powerful performance, and he does not disappoint here in a role that earned him an Oscar.  Ethan Hawke is one of Hollywood’s most underrated actors, and the pairing of these two together was something I looked forward to with great anticipation. When you throw in the direction of Antoine Fuqua, a frequent collaborator with Washington, everything seemed to be in order for a great film.

“Training Day” opens up by introducing the audience to Jake Hoyt, played by Hawke.  Jake is a young up-and-comer on the police force who is looking to make a name for himself in the Los Angeles Police Department.   But before he’s considered for a promotion, Jake must spend a day under the watchful eye of Detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) who will see if he’s cut out for the big leagues.  Jake is looking to clean up the streets and get rid of the drugs and crime in the Los Angeles area.  He’s eager to learn from Alonzo, but he’s not exactly sure what to make of him as Alonzo has a big personality. Also, Alonzo doesn’t always play by the rules. 

In Alonzo’s mind, he has to do what is necessary to survive out there in Los Angeles as a detective.  The great director William Friedkin used to talk about how there was a fine line between the police officer and the criminal as well as the good guy and the bad guy.  Alonzo is someone who definitely falls under that category.  However, the more time Jake spends with Alonzo, the more Jake realizes he didn’t exactly sign up for Alonzo’s unique style of being a detective.  Alonzo has got an edge to him, and it is something which makes Jake quite uncomfortable at times.

Make no mistake about it, this is Washington’s movie.  It is a big performance from the actor as he finds himself in many situations where he seems to be in control of things, but he’s also losing his sense of reality.  When certain people get into a position of power, they don’t always know when to stop or reel it in before it ends up biting them in the behind. Washington is captivating on screen, and he hits all of the right notes without ever being too over-the-top.  Yes, it’s a showy, loud and in-your-face performance, but this is what the film needs in order for the character to come across the way writer David Ayer and Fuqua drew him up to be.

Hawke, on the other hand, is subdued for most of the film, but you can also see the anguish on his face.  He’s uncomfortable by this whole situation, but he’s not in a position of power where he can do anything about it.  In the last forty-minutes, Hawke gets his chance to shine, and he delivers in a meaningful and intense way. He’s one of those actors who knows how to make big moments count.  In many ways, Jake is waiting in the wings and waiting for his chance to pounce and take over. Jake is not corrupt or out for money like Alonzo.  He truly wants to be a good cop and help people.  Their car rides provide for fascinating dialogue as we see the hardened and rough Alonzo interacting with the young and prideful Jake as he tries to fight off the cynicism and charisma of Alonzo.

Overall, “Training Day” is far from a perfect film.  The acting, though, is flawless.  Every single actor on screen is at the top of their game.  We even get scenes with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre.  The soundtrack is also really, really good.  However, I found the script to be a little bit repetitive in certain instances.  After a while, we get the idea of what’s happening with Alonzo and his moral compass.  We know what to expect from him and, at times, it seems like it’s the same scene just played out in a different setting and with different actors.  I was looking for more character development as well from the supporting cast.  The two leads could have been fleshed out more too.

In the end, the performances from Hawke and Washington mixed with a violent and brutal final act are what make this film worth watching and worth recommending.  I think it’s a good cop movie, but it could have been a great cop movie.  It’s a good movie with great performances, and I wish it was as good as the performances from its leads.  As mentioned previously, the third act features some really, really gripping material which stayed with me.  The middle act, however, tends to drag and seems to be spinning its wheels. I liked “Training Day” a lot, but I didn’t love it.

* * * out of * * * *

4K Info: “Training Day” 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 as well.  I found it interesting, however, that the 4K and Blu-ray are in Blu-ray packaging as opposed to a black 4K case.  It was different, and I didn’t mind it, but it is worth noting.  It also comes with a really nice slipcover. The film has a running time of 122 minutes and is rated R for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief nudity. The 4K looks really, really good with its HDR.  When the film gets darker, it has a really grim and moody look that makes it worth the upgrade.  This is the best I’ve seen this film look, and I was very impressed with the finished product.

Audio Info: We are treated to a Dolby Atmos track, and it really packs a big wallop here during the more intense and violent scenes.  However, it’s not so loud and overwhelming that it’s distracting or you need to look for your remote.  It’s perfect.

Special Features:

Pharoahe Monch’s “Got You” music video

Nelly’s “#1” music video

Deleted Scenes

Commentary by director Antoine Fuqua

“Training Day:” Crossing the Line Featurette

Alternative Endings

Should You Buy It?

Considering the memorable moments and performances, “Training Day” is a film I firmly believe you should add to your 4K collection.  As per usual, we get the same special features that have been transported over from the Blu-ray release.  I can’t be disappointed by this anymore, as it’s to be expected.  At this point, if you don’t own “Training Day” at all, or if you own the Blu-ray, you are wondering if you should upgrade to 4K.  In my eyes, it’s a no-brainer. I loved the dark and murky look of it.  It’s an unsettling film (in a good way) and the HDR transfer really encapsulates the dread and moodiness. If you haven’t seen the film before, there is a lot to like from Hawke and Washington on screen.  Washington shows why he is one of the greatest actors of his generation as he crushes it here.  Hawke, one of my favorite actors, gives a very subdued, conflicted and under-the-radar performance which only gets better with age.  This is a film which, if you are going to own it, you have to own it on 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.

Worst Opening Titles: ‘Superman IV – The Quest for Peace’

The opening credits to “Superman” and “Superman II” are among the best when it comes to movies. When Bryan Singer used this format for his “Superman Returns,” it felt like the return of a friend who had been gone for far too long, and the theme by John Williams is among the finest he has ever composed.

But then came “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace,” a sequel which was supposed to put this movie franchise back on track after the critical and commercial disappointments of both “Superman III” and “Supergirl.” Instead, we got a sequel which quickly became labeled as one of the worst motion pictures of all time. With the Salkind family abandoning the franchise and Cannon Pictures taking over, the budget got slashed in half do to their money problems, and everything came to look liken nothing but bargain basement deals or useless stuff which had been long since thrown in the trash.

As soon as the opening titles for “Superman IV” begin, we know it is going to be a rough ride even as Williams’ famous theme, conducted this time by Alexander Courage, is not enough to make our spirits soar. Even co-screenwriter Mark Rosenthal, whose audio commentary for this sequel I highly recommend, is quick to say the following in his opening remarks:

“You can tell from the very first credit that says Warner Brothers that something is terribly wrong in Metropolis.”

This is the Wal Mart, 99 Cent Store or Dollar Tree of opening credits as they look ridiculously cheap in ways the ones for the previous installments never did, and this proved to be quite the shock. Then again, perhaps they fit this sequel perfectly as the visual effects and sets look every bit as cheap as the opening titles. Watching them is heart breaking as they make clear that it is all downhill from here. No wonder this sequel was such a big bomb at the box office.

If you must, please feel free to check out the opening titles to “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” down below: