Synopsis: A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program, just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.
What’s it like? James Bond meets Quentin Tarantino.
Film: 9/10. Director Matthew Vaughn amps everything up to 11 in this spy homage/parody and it works… most of the time. The film has a serious dramatic core which occasionally finds itself at odds with the insanity on show in the rest of the film. Aside from that, it’s refreshing to see a film committed to extreme comedy and action and unafraid of going places a lot of “action” films won’t these days. The church scene alone is worth the price of admission! 129 mins.
Picture quality: 9/10. Kingsman is a solid looking disc. There’s plenty of fine detail on show and the colour palette is quite natural save for certain sequences where tones are adjusted for effect. It’s so precise that ultimately the only detractor is that some of the CGI doesn’t quite hold up, but that’s no fault of the technical presentation on the disc.
Audio quality: 9/10. Kingsman is a sonic assault in the best sense. Right from the opening scene we’re treated to deep low end content, plenty of surround activity and a thumping soundtrack. It sets the tone for the film and is the perfect accompaniment for the visuals. Occasionally the dialogue is slightly low in the mix when competing with the heaviest of action sequences filled with sound effects and score. It’s a minor detractor though.
Disc reviewed: Country: U.S., Studio: 20th Century Fox, Region: Region free
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton
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Synopsis: Coming closer to his dream of leading a normal life, a professional safecracker agrees to do a job for the Mafia, who have other plans for him.
What’s it like? Rififi meets The Killing
Film: 10/10. Michael Mann’s theatrical directorial debut may just be his best work. Less well known than Heat but more impressive, Mann captures the duality of the city of Chicago – “normal” by day, but filled with dangerous dark spaces and brightly lit neon lights that assault the senses at night. Caan’s best leading performance. 125 mins.
Picture quality: 10/10. Arrow has used Criterion’s 4K restoration and it’s incredibly impressive. Aside from a handful of shots with source related issues (soft shots mainly) there’s an amazing level of detail on show. Contrast and colour reproduction is excellent and really makes the vivid lighting of the city stand out in the night-time sequences.
Audio quality: 10/10. The remastered audio is top notch. Dialogue is perfectly reproduced, the atmospheric effects make the city come alive and the various heist and action scenes are filled with a flurry of precise activity. Tangerine Dream’s amazing score is a character of the film itself and sounds fantastic.
Disc reviewed: Country: U.K., Studio: Arrow, Region: B locked
Director: Michael Mann
Starring: James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Willie Nelson, James Belushi, Robert Prosky
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Synopsis: A wealthy art gallery owner receives a draft of her ex-husband’s new novel, and once she starts reading it she just cannot put it down.
What’s it like? The abstract nature of a David Lynch film meets the ruthlessness of No Country for Old Men encased in a Terrence Malick-like philosophical experiment.
Film: 9/10. Tom Ford weaves two distinct tales (fictional and real world) and draws them together until they combine in a confronting tale of loss. 116 mins.
Picture quality: 10/10. A flawless presentation. Ford creates unique visual styles for each of the main locations in the film and they’re all realised with perfect clarity. Colours, contrast, grain, textures – they all impress.
Audio quality: 9/10. It’s a primarily dialogue driven affair but all aspects of the audio are rendered with amazing attention to detail. The score and atmospheric effects are crystal clear. It’s precision work, even if it’s not the most showy track.
Disc reviewed: Country: U.K., Studio: Universal Studios, Region: region free
Director: Tom Ford
Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher
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Synopsis: A rich but jealous man hires a private investigator to kill his cheating wife and her new man. But, when blood is involved, nothing is simple.
What’s it like? Double Indemnity meets Cape Fear
Film: 9/10. The Coen Brothers’ theatrical debut is a masterclass in noir film-making. What starts off as a seemingly simple revenge film escalates into a cat and mouse thriller with plenty of twists and turns. 96 mins.
Picture quality: 6/10. It’s serviceable and a marked improvement on the DVD but unfortunately it’s quite soft and colours are not always accurate. Criterion released a remaster in 2016 that showed a marked improvement in both areas.
Audio quality: 8/10. The stereo surround track does the job nicely. The score in rendered well, as are the multitude of effects. For a film made on a relatively small budget and of this age the sound design is very nuanced.
Disc reviewed: Country: U.S., Studio: MGM, Region: A locked
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring: Dan Hedaya, Frances McDormand, John Getz, M. Emmet Walsh, Samm-Art Williams
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What’s it like? It’s a David Cronenberg film. They’re never like anything else!
Film: 8/10. The mediums may have changed to an extent, but Cronenberg’s commentary on the effect of media on our lives is more relevant than ever. 89 mins.
Picture quality: 7/10. Detail is quite good, clarity is excellent and colours are reproduced well. Some edge enhancement halos creep into preceedings at times.
Audio quality: 8/10. It’s a mono mix and a product of its time. The sound design is relatively basic but the mix ticks all the boxes. It’s presented here well but won’t wow you. Howard Shore’s score sounds great.
Disc reviewed: Country: U.K., Studio: Arrow, Region: B locked
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: James Woods, Sonja Smits, Debbie Harry, Peter Dvorsky, Leslie Carlson
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What’s it like? Day of the Dead meets The Thing meets Silent Hill.
Film: 8/10. Based on the graphic novel, this vampire film breaks free from most horror cliches to deliver an experience with as much focus placed on the emotions of the characters as there is on the copious amounts of claret that flows freely. 113 mins.
Picture quality: 9/10. One of the most impressive releases early on in the Blu-ray format’s life, this film has amazing detail and colour reproduction considering the majority is set at night.
Audio quality: 10/10. Subtle at times and aggressive at others, this mix has perfect prioritisation. A flawless mix with plenty of surround activity and LFE content.
Disc reviewed: Country: U.K., Studio: Icon Home Entertainment, Region: region free
Director: David Slade
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Mark Boone Junior
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What’s it like? Unforgiven meets The Wild Bunch meets Seraphim Falls.
Film: 8/10. An unusually brisk western populated with an assortment of odd characters. It plays out with a few unexpected twists amongst some confronting violence and subversive comedy. 84 mins.
Picture quality: 9/10. New Zealand fills in for the American West and the results are amazing. Fine detail and depth of field are excellent. There’s a warmth and golden hue to much of the film. Some nighttime scenes have a little noise and crush, but otherwise it’s a looker!
Audio quality: 9/10. A very natural and effective mix. It’s not overtly showy but the dynamics are excellent, especially in the action sequences.
Disc reviewed: Country: U.K., Studio: Lionsgate, Region: B locked
Director: John Maclean
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender, Caren Pistorius, Ben Mendelsohn, Jeffrey Thomas
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