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Reviews of ‘Rio Bravo’ and ‘Kandahar’ on 4K and Blu-ray Discs

Here’s a look at a pair of home theater releases, both classic tales of heroes beating the odds.

Rio Bravo (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, not rated, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 141 minutes, $33.99) — Legendary Academy Award-winning director Howard Hawks went back to the Old West again in 1959 to deliver a Technicolor marvel packed with star power.

Based on a short story by B.H. McCampbell, the drama has small Texas town Sheriff John T. Chance (a vintage John Wayne wearing his signature Red River D belt buckle) arresting the arrogant brother of a wealthy land baron (Claude Akins) for murder.

While the prisoner resides in a holding cell waiting for the U.S. Marshal to arrive, the sheriff enlists the help of an alcoholic deputy, Dude (Dean Martin), and an elderly disabled deputy, Stumpy (a feisty and hilarious Walter Brennan) to hold off the baron’s minions who murder townsfolk and make numerous attempts to free the sibling.

Suffice to report, watching Wayne, Martin and Brennan on screen together is a pure joy for Western lovers. These guys are a comfortable fit loaded with charisma whether rolling cigarettes together or playing some skeet shooting with dynamite.

The supporting cast also helps sell the tale of courage and includes teen idol Ricky Nelson as gunslinger Colorado Ryan willing to help the lawmen and Angie Dickinson playing a flirtatious out-of-towner honing her sights on the sheriff.

Another moment to cherish for the ages finds Martin and Nelson singing together, with even Brennan on harmonica, to the classic “My Rifle, My Pony and Me.”

Warner does a masterful job restoring the screen-bursting gem giving the period costuming a new life with its collection of worn leather, finely buffed boots, 10-gallon hats, colorful kerchiefs, shiny belt buckles and bullet belts.

Now mix in a microcosm of the dusty Southwest and its panoramic backdrops while crisp details abound, down to examining some beautiful horses and intricate saddles and Dude’s constant state of sweatiness while fighting his addiction.

Best extras: The 4K disc offers an unusual optional commentary track featuring acclaimed horror director John Carpenter and film critic Richard Schickel in separately recorded sessions.

Obviously, the track would have been way better had the two been in the same room, but viewers still get plenty of anecdotes from the set, technical nuggets, plot themes, career highlights of Hawks and the actors and production minutiae.

It’s a solid track but also sort of hard to tell the difference between the men due to their very similar vocal pattern.

Considering the release was part of Warner’s celebration of its 100th anniversary, I am surprised it did not include an additional Blu-ray disc packed with legacy extras from its 2007 high definition release that included a 33-minute retrospective on the film and a 55-minute documentary on Hawks.

Viewers using the included digital code can stream one of the vintage featurettes, an eight-minute look at Old Tucson Studios where “Rio Bravo” and hundreds of other Westerns were shot.

Kandahar (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 119 minutes, $24.98) — Action star Gerard Butler gets stuck in a generic thriller short on thrills and crippled as a generic geopolitical drama.

In what had the makings of a “Mission Impossible”-style epic, the story focuses on a freelance CIA operative Tom Harris (Mr. Butler) after he shuts down Iran’s nuclear research facility by secretly injecting malware into the system.

A reporter gets information about his mission through a whistleblower, reveals Harris’ cover (after being kidnapped by Iran) and he must now survive a gantlet of attacks as he tries to escape from a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan where he gets chased by Iranians and a motorcycle-riding Pakistani agent.

Directed by former stuntman Ric Roman Waugh, “Kandahar” eventually offers a selection of high-energy action scenes, although after an agonizing 50 minutes into the movie.

However, the film drags and gets preachy throughout — tied to subplots focused between the dunderheaded CIA unable to help Harris and the U.S allowing the Taliban’s horrific reign to continue.

Suffice it to report, despite some firepower, it never resembles the popcorn-munching, head-shaking extremes of Mr. Butler’s previous efforts such as the “Olympus Has Fallen” franchise.

Best extras: Alas, Universal has nothing to offer fans of the film. One could wonder, why not an optional commentary track with the director or featurettes offering history lessons on Iran’s nuclear program or Afghanistan’s warring, political turmoil?

My Perspective:

‘Rio Bravo’ and ‘Kandahar’ are two movie releases that offer different experiences for viewers. ‘Rio Bravo’ is a classic Western film directed by Howard Hawks and featuring an all-star cast including John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Walter Brennan. The film showcases the charisma and chemistry of the actors, delivering an enjoyable and visually stunning Technicolor experience. The restoration of the film by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is commendable, as it brings the period setting and costumes to life. The 4K disc also includes a unique commentary track with director John Carpenter and film critic Richard Schickel, offering insights into the production. However, it is disappointing that Warner Bros. did not include additional legacy extras from previous releases.

‘Kandahar’, on the other hand, falls short of expectations. Despite having Gerard Butler as the lead, the generic thriller fails to deliver on excitement and falls into a preachy narrative. The action scenes, although energetic, only arrive late into the movie. The film explores geopolitical themes and the challenges faced by a CIA operative, but it lacks the intensity and impact of Butler’s previous works. The absence of any extras from Universal Studios Home Entertainment also leaves fans wanting more.

In conclusion, ‘Rio Bravo’ offers a rewarding cinematic experience for fans of Westerns, while ‘Kandahar’ disappoints with its generic plot and lackluster execution. Both films show the importance of supplementary features in enriching the home theater experience.

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