Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Bandits of Orgosolo: Limited Edition – Radiance Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1961
Director: Vittorio De Seta
Writers: Vera Gherarducci, Vittorio De Seta
Cast: Michele Cossu, Peppeddu Cossu, Vittorina Pisano

Release Date: June 25th, 2024
Approximate Running Time: 96 Minutes 10 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $39.95

"A Sardinian peasant is suspected of murder following an encounter with bandits. In order to survive, he has no option but to turn to banditry himself." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 5/5

Here’s the information provided about the transfer, "Restored in 4K in 2023 by The Film Foundation and Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, from the original camera negative. In association with Titanus with funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation."

Bandits of Orgosolo comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 35.1 GB

Feature: 28.4 GB

The source looks exceptional; image clarity, contrast, black levels, and compression are solid, and the image always looks organic.

Audio: 4.5/5

This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Italian with removable English subtitles. This is a film that relies more on ambient sounds than a score, and range-wise, this track always gets the job done, dialog always comes through clearly, and everything sounds balanced.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (2 minutes 52 seconds, LPCM mono Italian with removable English subtitles), an interview with curator and filmmaker Ehsan Khoshbakht (11 minutes 16 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with cinematographer Luciano Tovoli (27 minutes 48 seconds, LPCM stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), reversible cover art, removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings and a 24-page booklet limited to 3000 copies) cast & crew information, an essay titled An Anthropologist with the Voice of a Poet written by Roberto Curti, and information about the transfer.

Summary:

Bandits of Orgosolo was the feature film debut of Vittorio De Seta, a filmmaker who, at that point in his career, was known for directing documentary short films. That said, despite directing for the next 47 years, he would only direct five theatrical feature films.

The narrative revolves around an innocent man, a sheep herder, who becomes a fugitive because of an encounter with bandits.

Bandits of Orgosolo shows Italian Neorealism's influence, even though most Italian Neorealist filmmakers had moved on by then. Whether it be Vittorio De Seta's documentary-like approach to his direction or how most of the cast would appear in a film, both of these things play into Bandits of Orgosolo’s connection to Italian Neorealism.

The simplicity of the narrative is what immediately grabs you. What starts off as a mundane tale about a sheep herder and his brother’s daily routines quickly takes an abrupt turn when bandits force themselves into their tranquil lives. And when it becomes clear that he can no longer go back to the life he once had, the sheep herder definitely refuses to sell his sheep and takes them with him while trying to stay one step ahead of the law.

Bandits of Orgosolo is a story about decisions and the role that they play. Instead of taking the easy way out, the protagonist makes several choices that hurt him. And no choice comes at a higher price than his refusal to give up his livelihood. He would rather die than lose everything that he has worked his entire life for.

From a production standpoint, there is no area where Bandits of Orgosolo does not deliver. The well-executed narrative does a phenomenal job of building tension. The beautifully photographed scenic landscapes greatly add to the atmosphere. Instead of using a traditional score, Bandits of Orgosolo very effectively uses ambient sounds. And despite the cast's lack of experience, all the performances are excellent. Ultimately, Bandits of Orgosolo is a powerful drama about one man’s determination when faced with insurmountable odds.

Bandits of Orgosolo gets an exceptional release from Radiance Films that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and informative extras, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Monday, June 24, 2024

Ennio – Music Box Selects (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy/Belgium/Netherlands/Japan, 2021
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Cast: Ennio Morricone, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Dario Argento, Wong Kar-Wai, Oliver Stone, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen

Release Date: June 25th, 2024
Approximate running time: 156 Minutes 32 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Italian, DTS-HD Stereo Italian
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $32.98

"Giuseppe Tornatore, director of the beloved Cinema Paradiso, turns his camera on his longtime collaborator Ennio Morricone (1928 - 2020) in a moving and comprehensive profile of the indefatigable composer. Tornatore’s documentary portrait explores the breadth of the maestro’s career, from his early Italian pop songs to the fistful of unforgettable film scores that he wrote, including The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Thing, Days of Heaven, and hundreds of others. This examination thoughtfully captures insightful commentary from Morricone’s closest collaborators and contemporaries, featuring testimonies from artists and directors such as Bernardo Bertolucci, Marco Bellocchio, Giuliano Montaldo, Dario Argento, Clint Eastwood, Joan Baez, Quentin Tarantino, and more. ENNIO affords the master one last chance to recount his career and deconstruct the artistic process that led him to win two Academy Awards and author over 500 unforgettable soundtracks." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 5/5

Ennio comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 41.6 GB

Feature: 36.4 GB

Ennio is a documentary that consists of newly shot interviews and archival footage. The newly shot footage looks excellent, and the archival footage varies in quality. Since the archival footage is essential to the story being told, lowering the overall score of this transfer wouldn't be a fair assessment.

Audio: 5/5 (DTS-HD 5.1 Italian, DTS-HD Stereo Italian)

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Italian and a DTS-HD stereo mix in Italian. Though most of the participants speak Italian, there are some who speak English, French, Portuguese, and Chinese. Both audio tracks sound excellent; they are clear, balanced, and robust when they should be. Included are removable English subtitles and removable English SDH.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (2 minutes 8 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian and English with non-removable English subtitles), a deleted scene titled The Democracy of Sound (2 minutes 6 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles and English SDH), a behind the scenes featurette titled Ennio’s Office Concert (6 minutes 54 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles and English SDH), an interview with director Giuseppe Tornatore (32 minutes 42 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles and English SDH), and a slipcover limited to 1,000 units (OOP).

Summary:

Ennio follows a linear path as it begins with stories from his youth, how his father was a trumpeter, his time as an arranger for RCA, and a well-rounded overall view of his work as a film composer.

Ennio is not simply a talking head documentary; it is a deep dive into the life and career of Ennio Morricone. Besides comments from those who knew and worked with him, this documentary greatly benefits from the recollections of Ennio Morricone. He completed the documentary before his death in 2020, despite some previously archived comments, most of his contributions were newly shot. That said, Giuseppe Tornatore, a long-time collaborator of Ennio Morricone, fittingly made this documentary.

Throughout his career, Ennio Morricone would constantly push himself by taking film scoring into uncharted territories. And though he would effortlessly assimilate into whatever genre he was composing for, he never composed anything that was not right for that moment. Ennio Morricone is a film composer whose music is instantly recognizable, even if you’re not familiar with the film it originated with. Ultimately, Ennio is an extraordinary exploration of the life and career of what is arguably cinema’s greatest composer.

Ennio is an essential purchase, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Nobody’s The Greatest – Tobis Entertainment (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1975
Director: Damiano Damiani
Writers: Fulvio Morsella, Ernesto Gastaldi, Damiano Damiani
Cast: Terence Hill, Miou-Miou, Robert Charlebois, Patrick McGoohan, Raimund Harmstorf, Piero Vida, Rik Battaglia, Mario Valgoi, Mario Brega, Jean Martin, Klaus Kinski, Miriam Mahler, Clara Colosimo

Release Date: March 15th, 2013
Approximate running time: 123 Minutes 25 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: FSK 12 (Germany)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English, DTS-HD Mono German
Subtitles: English, German
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: 7,55 Euro (Germany)

"Nobody is a genius: quick-witted, cunning and accurate. His best friend, with whom he is constantly at loggerheads, is called "Locomotive". Locomotive is an Indian. Together, Nobody and Locomotive are a resounding success team. This time they have set out to bring down the fraudulent fort commander, Major Cabot. This officer has embezzled 300,000 dollars in government funds that were intended as maintenance allowances for Indians. Government auditor Colonel Pembroke is also already on the way. Without further ado, Major Cabot has the entire Indian tribe for whom the money was intended exterminated. Dead men do not accuse. Then he sends out a bandit. He is to murder the arriving Colonel Pembroke. But Nobody and Locomotive always know which way the wind is blowing. Locomotive disguises himself as a government auditor and wants to secure the embezzled dollars. But Major Cabot is warned and throws Locomotive in prison. Now he has a hostage and can force Nobody to support his criminal moves. In order to checkmate Cabot at the end, Nobody and the locomotive have to blow up an entire mountain." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3.25/5

Nobody’s The Greatest comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 21.1 GB

Feature: 18.3 GB

For a transfer that is not 11 years old, there is definitely room for improvement. And though the source generally looks great, there are a few moments where quality drops. Colors look good, clarity is strong, and compression is very good. 

Audio: 4/5 (DTS-HD Mono English)

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and a DTS-HD mono mix in German. For this review, I only listened to the English-language track. It sounds clean, clear, balanced, and robust when it should. Included are removable English and German subtitles.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a German TV promo (3 minutes 28 seconds, DTS-HD mono German, no subtitles), a German theatrical trailer (4 minutes 29 seconds, DTS-HD mono German, no subtitles), and an archival interview with actor Terence Hill titled The Star on Nobody and His Career (9 minutes 10 seconds, DTS-HD stereo English with removable English and German subtitles).

Other extras include trailers for My Name is Nobody, A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and They Call Me Renegade.

Summary:

Directed by Damiano Damiani, whose other notable films include The Witch (La strega in amore), A Bullet for the General, The Most Beautiful Wife (La moglie più bella), The Day of the Owl, A Complicated Girl, Confessions of a Police Captain, The Case Is Closed, Forget It, and How to Kill a Judge.

A gunslinger vagabond named Joe Thanks, whose mouth is as quick as his trigger finger, comes up with a scheme that will make him and his two friends $300,000. Major Cabot, a notorious Indian murderer, stands in their way. He amassed a small fortune by staging fake Indian attacks to drive people off their land. Will their plan go off without a hitch, or will they find their necks at the end of a noose?

Nobody’s the Greatest is only a sequel to My Name Is Nobody in Name Only. Though Terence Hill returns in the role of the protagonist, this time around he portrays a different character. That said, Terence Hill’s character, Joe Thanks, bears a striking resemblance to the character he portrayed in My Name Is Nobody.

Despite being known for his work in the Poliziotteschi genre, Damiano Damiani isn’t a complete novice when it comes to directing a spaghetti western. His only other foray in the spaghetti western genre is A Bullet for the General, which stands out as one of this genre's high points. And when it comes to his direction, despite being solid, he does not create the epic moments that are synonymous with Sergio Leone. That said, Sergio Leone reportedly directed the most visually arresting pre-credits sequence in the film.

Though the entire cast is enjoyable in their roles, the main draw is Terence Hill’s (They Call Me Trinity) portrayal of Joe Thanks. This character is essentially the same one he established with the Trinity films and subsequently portrayed in numerous films in the 1970s. He is an actor whose comedic timing is pitch perfect; he easily slides into a persona he has portrayed numerous times.

From a production standpoint, despite Sergio Leone’s involvement, the result is a film that never archives the sum of its parts. Nowhere is this clearer than the convoluted narrative, which never firmly establishes any direction, and at just over two hours, there are a few moments where pacing drags. Besides Terence Hill’s performance, Ennio Morricone’s superb score is Nobody’s Greatest's only other saving grace. Ultimately, Nobody’s The Greatest is a waterdowned version of Sergio Leone that has a few memorable moments.

Tobis Entertainment gives Nobody’s The Greatest, a strong release that comes with a good audio/video presentation and an informative interview, recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Friday, June 21, 2024

La Femme Nikita: Steelbook – Sony Pictures (4k UHD)

Theatrical Release Date: France/Italy, 1990
Director: Luc Besson
Writer: Luc Besson
Cast: Anne Parillaud, Marc Duret, Tchéky Karyo, Jeanne Moreau, Philippe Leroy, Jean Reno

Release Date: June 11th, 2024
Approximate Running Time: 117 Minutes 18 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 2160 Progressive / HEVC / H.265 / Dolby Vision HDR10
Rating: R
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 French, DTS-HD Stereo French, DTS-HD 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $45.99

"Convicted felon Nikita (Anne Parillaud), instead of going to jail, is given a new identity and trained to be a secret police assassin controlled by the government. Her lonely life is warmed when she falls in love with a man who knows nothing of her mysterious life." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 5/5

La Femme Nikita comes on a 66 GB dual layer 4K UHD.

Disc Size: 59.1 GB

Feature: 58.4 GB

The source looks exceptional; this is easily the best La Femme Nikita has ever looked on home media. Flesh tones look correct, colors look appropriately vivid, image clarity, contrast, shadow detail, and compression are solid, and the image always looks organic.

Audio: 4.5/5 (DTS-HD 5.1 French), 4.25/5 (DTS-HD Stereo French), 4/5 (DTS-HD 5.1 English)

This release comes with three audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in French, a DTS-HD stereo mix in French, and a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English. All of the audio tracks sound clean, clear, balanced, and robust when they should. The most dynamic of these three audio tracks is the DTS-HD 5.1 French-language track. Included are removable English subtitles for the French language track and removable English SDH and removable Spanish subtitles for the English language track.

Extras:

There is no extra content.

Summary:

After breaking into the drug store that one of their accomplices' fathers owns, Nikita and her friends are searching for their next fix. Things quickly spiral out of control when the police show up and a shootout ensues. When the smoke clears, Nikita, the only survivor, seals her own fate by killing a policeman. A government agent approaches Nikita, who is now imprisoned, with an offer for a second chance if she agrees to work as a government assassin.

Though there have been other films about female assassins that predate La Femme Nikita, no film before or since Nikita has come close to replicating a female assassin as compelling and enigmatic as Nikita. As we look at her for the first time in the drug store, very little is revealed about who she is or where she has been before this moment. As the narrative evolves, she keeps her backstory a tightly held secret, never fully revealing it. When her mentor Bob discusses her past, he shares childhood memories with Nikita and her lover Marco; they are fictitious stories made up by Bob. And when the moment arrives where Nikita makes her exit at the end of the film, she is just as mysterious of a character as she was when the film began.

In many ways, Nikita is an empty shell when we first see her. Over the course of the narrative, she starts to reveal some of her more human side when the pressure gets to her and she breaks down. One moment that immediately springs to mind is a scene when she tries to escape from the ministry, her new home. In her desperate attempt for freedom, she takes Bob’s gun and uses him as a hostage. She makes it as far as the door before she realizes that escape is not possible. She then turns the gun on herself, wanting to end her life. Bob then grabs the gun from her before she’s able to get off a shot. A scene where a character named Victor, a cleaner, is called in when a mission goes wrong for Nikita becomes a key turning point for Nikita. Sitting in the corner, whining, Nikita is ready to call the mission off. Victor eventually gets fed up with her overflow of emotions and lets her know that they are going to see the mission through to the very end, even if it means an almost certain death.

After working with cinematographer Carlo Varini on his previous three films, La Femme Nikita would mark director Luc Besson's first collaboration with cinematographer Thierry Arbogast, who has worked on almost every film that Luc Besson has directed since. His notable credits include The Apartment (L’appartement), Woman on Top, Kiss of the Dragon, and Femme Fatale. Visually, La Femme Nikita frames characters and objects in compositions in a very stylish way. four action sequences—the drugstore, the restaurant murder, the apartment killing of a diplomat, and the bloodbath at an embassy—are all spectacular set pieces that beautifully contrast with the more human elements of the story. La Femme Nikita features another exemplary score from Eric Serra that blends in with what is going on and never becomes overpowering or distracting to the point of drawing attention to itself.

For a film that excels in every way, there would be no Nikita without Anne Parillaud, who gives a vulnerable and believable performance in the role of Nikita. Even with the lack of backstory for Nikita, she does a remarkable job bringing the character to life and making Nikita all the more tangible. Some of her strongest moments include a scene where she first meets Bob after her apparent death in prison and asks him, “Mister, is this heaven here or not?” to which he replies, "No, but it could turn out to be." Other key moments for the Nikita character include a scene where Bob brings her a birthday cake and lets her know they only have two weeks for her to make a complete turnaround or she is through; a scene where she assaults her martial arts teacher and then breaks out into dance; and the scene where she meets Marco for the very first time, all of which are crucial to her development as a character.

Any character stealing the spotlight from Nikita, even if only for one moment, is hard to imagine. And yet this happens after the arrival of Victor the cleaner, who actually only has two scenes. These scenes also happen to be two of the most powerful in La Femme Nikita, as they reveal that Nikita has not lost her humanity, while Victor, in direct contrast, has, as he is nothing more than dead inside. Jean Reno delivers a brilliant performance as Victor the cleaner, and Luc Besson cast him in a similar role four years later in Leon, which he wrote and directed.

Tchky Karyo and Jean-Hugues Anglade portray the two men in Nikita’s life. Tchéky Karyo in the role of Nikita’s mentor, Bob, is an exceptional example of a subtle performance that is as rich and complex as possible without ever losing any of the mystery of the character. Though he has been assigned to Nikita and transforms her into a cold-blooded killer, one can clearly see that he views her as so much more. His emotional attachment to and bond with her are in direct contrast with the persona he projects. In many ways, Nikita teaches him as much as he teaches her in return. Another performance of note is Jean-Hugues Anglade, who portrays Marco, the man who Nikita falls in love with. Also look out for Jeanne Moreau (Jules and Jim) and Philippe Leroy (The Frightened Woman) in minor secondary roles.

It would not take long for La Femme Nikita to find an audience, and its worldwide box office appeal would spawn an American remake titled Point of No Return. A few years after the American remake, there would be a TV series based on the character. All of the characters are equally fascinating and dysfunctional. Ultimately, La Femme Nikita’s lyrical dialog and scenarios elevate what could have, in lesser hands, been typical action fodder, making it something more significant.

Sony Pictures gives La Femme Nikita a solid audio/video presentation, highly recommended.

Note about the 4K screenshots: It is not possible to make Dolby Vision or HDR10 screenshots that faithfully match the experience of watching a film in motion on a TV. Instead of not having any screenshots, all of the 4K screenshots are m2ts taken with a VLC player and lossless PNGs.












Written by Michael Den Boer

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Homework – Unearthed Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1982
Director: James Beshears
Writers: Maurice Peterson, Don Safran
Cast: Joan Collins, Michael Morgan, Shell Kepler, Lanny Horn, Erin Donovan, Renee Harris, Mark Brown, Lee Purcell, Carrie Snodgress, Wings Hauser

Release Date: June 25th, 2024
Approximate Running Time: 89 Minutes 5 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: R
Sound: LPCM Stereo English, Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $34.95

"Homework follows Tommy (Michael Morgan), a young "rock star" who is also a virgin. As he tries to lose his virginity to local high school girls, a classmate's mother (Joan Collins) decides to make a man of him. The story unfolds through the promiscuous, funny, and sometimes touching life of the young high schooler. By the end of Tommy's senior year, he's ready to take on the world." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3.75/5

Homework comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 22.6 GB

Feature: 19.8 GB

The source looks very good, but some very minor debris still remains. Colors are nicely saturated, image clarity is strong, black levels fare well, and compression is very good. Also, the image always looks organic; there is a healthy layer of grain.

Audio: 4/5 (LPCM Stereo English), 3.5/5 (Dolby Digital Mono English)

This release comes with two audio options, an LPCM stereo mix in English and a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. Both audio tracks sound clear and balanced. That said, the stereo audio track is noticeably fuller than the mono audio track. Included are removable English subtitles and English SDH.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a photo gallery (advertisements/stills/posters/home video art), a theatrical trailer (1 minute 25 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an archival interview with legendary producer Max Rosenberg (27 minutes 20 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), and a slipcover (limited to the first pressing).

Other extras include trailers for Full Body Massage, Tokyo Decadence, and Nightwish.

Summary:

Homework was the directorial debut of James Beshears, and to date, it is his only credit as a director. His filmography mostly consists of sound and editorial department credits. Some notable films he’s worked on are Porky’s Revenge, Day of the Dead, and Color of Night.

The narrative revolves around a boy named Tommy who thinks of nothing but sex. He has a girlfriend who is more interested in swimming than spending time with him, and all of his classmates brag about having sex.

In the early to mid-1980s, there were an abundance of sex-themed teen comedies. Some films were produced quickly to capitalize on the popularity of this film genre, and their quality varied greatly. That being said, the best examples of this genre have stood the test of time.

The most impressive aspect of Homework is its cast: Joan Collins (Tales from the Crypt), Carrie Snodgress (The Fury), Lee Purcell (Big Wednesday), and Wings Hauser (Vice Squad).Homework garnered controversy when four prominent cast members, notably Joan Collins, took legal action against the production company. A nude body double was used in place of Joan Collins for a scene she wasn't aware of. The cast also features a topless Michelle Bauer (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers), who portrays a groupie in one of Tommy’s many daydreams.

Though there is a good foundation laid out, the result is a film that often gets in its own way. The narrative is a mess; it is unfocused, and just when it looks like it might build some momentum, everything comes to a halt. Also, despite having an ample amount of T&A (something 80s teen sex comedies are known for), any attempt at humor misses the mark. That said, teen comedies usually have some kind of message, or at least they make you feel for their characters. Homework has neither of these things.

Homework gets a strong audio/video presentation that comes with an informative interview.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Lifeline – Vinegar Syndrome Archive (4k UHD/Blu-ray Combo)

Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1997
Director: Johnnie To
Writer: Yau Nai-hoi
Cast: Sean Lau, Alex Fong, Carman Lee, Damian Lau, Ruby Wong, Raymond Wong Ho-yin, Chan Man-lei, Lam Suet, Chan Man-lei

Release Date: May 28th, 2024
Approximate Running Time: 109 Minutes 56 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 2160 Progressive / HEVC / H.265 / HDR10
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Cantonese, DTS-HD Stereo Cantonese, DTS-HD Mono Mandarin
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Region Coding: Region Free (4K UHD), Region A (Blu-ray)
Retail Price: $49.98

"Yau Sui is an arrogant firefighter working at a tight-knit Hong Kong fire station where he and his fellow firefighters believe their station is cursed due to the constant hardships they must face. Yau Sui struggles with trying to rise in the ranks of his department and his skill as a leader becomes challenged when a new senior officer is transferred to their station. In the meantime, Yau Sui sparks a relationship with a troubled doctor and he, like the rest of his fellow firefighters, struggles to maintain a balance between his personal and professional life. However, the drama comes to a head when a catastrophic five-alarm fire in a chemical plant forces Yau Sui and the other firefighters to put aside their differences and work together in an attempt to break their station's curse." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 5/5 (4K UHD), 4.5/5 (Blu-ray)

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "Newly scanned & restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative."

Lifeline comes on a 66 GB dual layer 4K UHD.

Disc Size: 61.3 GB

Feature: 60.3 GB

The source looks excellent; flesh tones and colors look correct; image clarity, contrast, black levels, and compression are solid; and the image retains an organic look.

Lifeline comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 43.1 GB

Feature: 33 GB

The Blu-ray uses the same source as the 4K UHD does for its transfer.

Audio: 5/5 (DTS-HD Mono Cantonese, DTS-HD Stereo Cantonese), 4.25/5 (DTS-HD Mono Mandarin)

This release comes with three audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in Cantonese, a DTS-HD stereo mix in Cantonese, and a DTS-HD mono mix in Mandarin. The two Cantonese audio tracks sound excellent; the stereo track is a remix track that does a solid job expanding the original mono source. The Mandarin language track does not sound as robust as the Cantonese language tracks. All audio tracks sound clean, clear, and balanced. Included are removable English subtitles and removable English SDH for the Cantonese language track. 

Extras:

Extras on the 4K UHD disc include an audio commentary with martial arts film expert Frank Djeng.

Extras on the Blu-ray disc include a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 11 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo with Cantonese and English text, no subtitles), an archival Making Of documentary (15 minutes 6 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Cantonese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with director Johnnie To (4 minutes 12 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Cantonese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actress Ruby Wong (2 minutes 39 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Cantonese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actor  Raymond Ho-Yin Wong (1 minute 56 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Cantonese with removable English subtitles), an interview with special effects artist Chi Shui-Tim (10 minutes 35 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Cantonese with removable English subtitles), an interview with Johnnie To (27 minutes 5 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Cantonese with removable English subtitles), a video essay by film historian Samm Deighan titled Johnnie To in the 1990s (17 minutes 41 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with burnt-in English subtitles for film clips), and an audio commentary with Frank Djeng, 

Other extras include reversible cover art, double-sided full-color poster, a 28-page booklet with an essay titled In the mid-1990s written by  Sean Gilman, and a bottom loading VHS inspired slipcase.

Summary:

Although some may compare Lifeline and Backdraft, their only real connection is that they both feature firefighters. Backdraft is a police procedural that takes place in the world of arson, while Lifeline is more of a melodrama that focuses on the lives of its characters as much as it does their job as firefighters. That said, both films have impressive fire sequences that make you feel like you're in the middle of the action.

The narrative revolves around a group of firefighters as they navigate work and their personal lives. On the surface, what appears to be a basic premise turns out to be a film rich in character development. The result is anything remotely basic because, in the hands of director Johnnie To, he always approaches things in a unique way that elevates them. This is especially notable in how he balances characters' highs and lows.

Lifeline has an impressive cast who are all excellent in their roles, especially Sean Lau (Running Out of Time) and Carmen Lee (Burning Paradise). Their characters, a firefighter and a doctor, have a combative relationship that evolves into something romantic. That said, the evolution of their characters is greatly enhanced by their onscreen chemistry. Lam Suet, a frequent collaborator of Johnnie To's, makes a pair of appearances in Lifeline.

Lifeline’s main centerpiece is a 45-minute fire sequence that is spectacular in execution. This sequence is a perfect example of how to build tension. When it becomes clear that they can’t control the fire, they try to evacuate. Characters must change directions and find new escape routes as their previously chosen paths become unavailable, increasing tension.

From a production standpoint, there is no area where Lifeline does not excel; a superbly realized premise and a well-executed narrative do a phenomenal job of building momentum. Also, Johnnie To’s direction is solid, and there are several visually arresting moments. Ultimately, Lifeline is an exceptional melodrama about heroism through sacrifice and how real heroes take chances that put their lives on the line.

Lifeline gets an excellent release from Vinegar Syndrome Archive that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and a wealth of extras, highly recommended.

Note about the 4K screenshots: It is not possible to make Dolby Vision or HDR10 screenshots that faithfully match the experience of watching a film in motion on a TV. Instead of not having any screenshots, all of the 4K screenshots are m2ts taken with a VLC player and lossless PNGs.












Written by Michael Den Boer

Bandits of Orgosolo: Limited Edition – Radiance Films (Blu-ray) Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1961 Director: Vittorio De Seta Writers: Ve...