The Untouchables 4K UHD Review: The Chicago Way in 4K

I missed The Untouchables in theaters in 1987, not because it was rated R but because I was just a tad too young to have interest in it yet. For most of my life, I’d only seen it on cable, DVD or Blu-ray, though I was finally able to see it at the New Beverly here in L.A. That was a rewarding theatrical experience, but the new 4K UHD Paramount Home Entertainment released today takes even the film print to the next level. 

The 4K UHD maintains the film grain so it still looks like The Untouchables. The 4K clarity and detail highlights the period details of Chicago streets, cars and wardrobe. The low angles Brian De Palma favors also gives you a good look at the ceilings of those locations. 

There are several distinct looks on display in The Untouchables. Al Capone (Robert De Niro)’s hotel suites turn brown polished wood into colorful tapestries. Elliott Ness (Kevin Costner)’s home and the police stations are stark white.  

4K really highlights the shadows, especially when Ness leads back alley raids and sits in a darkened police car at night. But the middle section with the raid on a bridge gives the film a burst of open nature. Of course, in the train station set-piece, blood explodes against teh cold stone columns and stairs. 

The Untouchables has a good surround sound mix too, for a film that likely had a much simpler theatrical mix in 1987. Knocks on the door, police clatter during the raid and of course gunshots ring out in the rear speakers. Even booze leaking from a shot barrel pours right into your ear. Ennio Morricone’s score also fills the room, not just the front channels. 

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein 4K UHD Review: It Lives Again

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein opened while I was working at a movie theater. I still remember seeing it one Saturday afternoon before I worked the evening shift. The new Arrow 4K UHD brought me back to that experience, with a few fun surprises.

You can still see the grain from the 1994 film, but I don’t think my old theater captured the colors Arrow did. The blue in the Frankenstein manor is vivid, and running around the mountains has real Sound of Music vibes. When the film turns to fire and brimstone, as director Kenneth Branagh is wont to do, it glows. 

By the time Victor (Branagh) goes to Ingolstadt, the university and laboratories look more rustic and medieval. You can feel the squishy texture of flesh as Victor sews the body together. Branagh’s pecs glisten in his over the top re-animation scene. The red inflammation around the stitches in the creature (Robert De Niro)’s face really stand out, and fade as his body adapts. 

The white snow in the forest while the creature is on the run, and the icy mountains in the bookend sequences, provide yet another distinct 4K look. There are lots of great interior sets and location work throughout the film. 

The sound is a bit muted even if you turn the volume up. This mix doesn’t really use the rear speakers much. By 1994 I do remember big surround sounds but it does justice to Patrick Doyle’s underrated score. 

Arrow produced lots of new bonus features for this edition. The coolest though is the 1910 silent Frankenstein film. It really skips over a lot to get to the big scenes and spends the bulk of the brief running time on the re-animation, but you would have gotten your money’s worth if you’d seen it at the Nickelodeon.

In new interviews, James Acheson even discusses Branagh’s physique and he was the costume designer! He also addresses De Niro’s makeup as it pertains to costuming him. Most notably, it took 9 peg legs to get the right fit and De Niro practiced it. 

Doyle plays some themes on his piano. Not the most bombastic parts but he talks about those. Makeup artist Daniel Parker also gets technical. Additional features with historians analyze the book and Shelley history, and Branagh’s adaptation. 

The commentary by historians goes beyond the adaptation and filmmaking process. They address the use of the term scientist, or rather the lack thereof because they didn’t use that word in the early 1800s.

The packaging includes new, evocative art that highlights the film’s take on a cobbled-together creature. It is reversible though, the other side bearing the theatrical poster which I hung outside the theater in 1994. 

Arrow also included a booklet with two thorough articles. One on various Frankenstein adaptations compares Branagh’s faithfulness to others, and in the context of Branagh’s filmography. The second article is a provocative analysis of the film’s take on the morality and responsibility of science.


AFI Fest: I Asked Robert De Niro A Question!

The Comedian had it’s premiere at AFI Fest in Hollywood. I reviewed the film, after sitting in the audience with Robert De Niro, director Taylor Hackford, and stars of the film including Leslie Mann and Danny DeVito.

After the film, De Niro joined Hackford and his costars for a Q&A about playing a stand-up comedian in the film. When the audience got a chance to ask questions, I stood up so I could talk to Robert De Niro. I asked him:

The Comedian“Did you find that the act of standing on stage alone doing standup had a very different rhythm than the sort of performance you’re used to doing on film in dialogue with other actors?”

De Niro seemed very engaged to talk about a different kind of performance, so he answered me at length:

“Yeah, you need the interaction with the audience,” De Niro said. “When I was rehearsing a lot with Jessica Kirson and Lewis Friedman. We would do it without an audience and then sometimes some people would come in from The Comedy Cellar that were staff and so on. Taylor and some of the crew members would come in. Then with, I don’t want to call them real people, whatever. Even then, I got the reaction. You need that. You need some kind of response. The comic needs it just to feel good, things are working. Nothing can happen and you’re going to have to just deal with it. That’s called dying, I guess. Anyway, I worked my way through it all is what I’m saying and it was a very, very interesting and good experience. Not an easy one. I hope that answers your question.”

In The Comedian, De Niro plays fictional standup comic Jackie Burke, who once had a hit ‘80s sitcom, “Eddie’s Home.” These days, he’s struggling to get club gigs and everyone just wants him to do Eddie’s catch phrases again. The film shows Burke perform many times on stage, and other times to private audiences, so you have many opportunities to see De Niro do standup.

The Comedian opens December 21 in limited release and nationwide January 13, 2017.

AFI Fest Review: The Comedian – The King of Comedy

There’s nothing Robert De Niro can’t do. If a role requires a new skill, he will immerse himself in that craft and become excellent at it. The Comedian cast De Niro as a standup comic and it is totally worth it to see De Niro do standup comedy. The plot providing the vehicle for the stand-up comedy is thin, but there’s enough stand-up comedy that I’m glad The Comedian exists.

Jackie Burke (De Niro) goes to jail for assaulting a heckler, but the viral video of the incident gives him what they call in the business “heat.” While serving community service he meets Harmony (Leslie Mann) who is a typically Hollywood decades-younger love interest. He asks his brother (Danny DeVito) for a loan and goes to meetings to beg condescending millennials for work.

De Niro is a really good standup. Some of the material may be a little pedestrian but the thrill of seeing De Niro nail the delivery makes up for it. Jackie is an abrasive shock comic but doesn’t allow that to be a crutch. He also self-deprecates, and he can read the room. If one insult doesn’t play, he doesn’t harp on it. He knows the line and he moves on. He’s willing to push buttons, but only as far as the audience is having a good time.

It’s not just the sequences in comedy clubs. Jackie entertains the homeless people at a soup kitchen where he’s doing community service. He gives a toast at his niece’s wedding. He’ll even go one on one with Harmony’s father (Harvey Keitel) in a great scene that plays on the De Niro/Keitel history. They’ve faced off before, but this time it’s over Keitel’s daughter, which is still a Hollywood double standard but sort of seems like the warped Hollywood evolution of their Taxi Driver battle for Iris.

I do contest that this movie understands what would make a video go viral. It’s a lazy movie cliche when a viral video saves the day to make the plot move forward. It’s also hard to take the moral high ground when the film has such outdated ideas of what reality TV is. There’s plenty wrong with cable television, but Fear Factor has been off for 10 years (save for a season they apparently did in 2011) and that’s the model for the sleazy reality TV show in which Jackie finds himself.

They should have anticipated the nostalgia boom coming. Jackie starred on a hit ‘80s sitcom “Eddie’s Home” which everybody still wants him to do. If this were really happening, they’d probably be pitching an “Eddie’s Home” Netflix series.

The ComedianMann is great and completely holds her own with De Niro. I just wish Harmony had been more than a reflection of Jackie, and the “things” they give her to try to prove she’s an independent character feel like ideas male writers have about women. She’s got an ex, she’s struggling with her career, has an overbearing father, all things Jackie can try to fix.

But each of these generic plot elements leads to a scene where Jackie falls back on standup comedy, so there’s plenty of standup. It’s not a gimmick where he just learned one routine to do in the beginning of the movie. He does it throughout. As much as I’d rather just see 90 minutes of De Niro’s standup outtakes, there’s enough of it in The Comedian that I enjoyed the vehicle.