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Sing (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Sing” is very much an uplifting story with wonderful music, great voice acting and fantastic animation. And the film will no doubt entertain people of all ages. Recommended!d!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sing

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 1 hr., 48 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080P High Definition 1:85:1, 1080p High Definition, English ATMOS Dolby True HD/DVS 2.0, Espanol Dolby Digital Plus 7.1, Francais Dolby Digital, Engish Dobly Digital 7.1/2.0, Subtitles: English SDH, Espanol and Francais

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Rude Humor and Mild Peril)

RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2017


Directed by Garth Jennings

Co-Director: Christophe Lourdelet

Written by Garth Jennings

Producer: Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri

Co-Producer: Igor Khait

Associate Producer: Brett Hoffman, Robert Taylor

Music by Joby Talbot

Edited by Gregory Perler

Casting by Allison Jones, Mickie McGowan

Production Design by Eric Guillon

Art Direction: Francois Moret


Featuring the Voices of:

Matthew McConaughey as Buster moon

Reese Witherspoon as Rosita

Seth MacFarlane as Mike

Scarlett Johansson as Ash

John C. Reilly as Eddie

Taron Egerton as Johnny

Tori Kelly as Meena

Jennifer Saunders as Nana

Jennifer Hudson as Young Nana

Garth Jennings as Miss Crawly

Peter Serafinowicz as Big Daddy

Nick Kroll as Gunter

Beck Bennett as Lance

Jay Pharoah as Meena’s Grandfather

Nick Offerman as Norman

Leslie Jones as Meena’s Mother

Rhea Perlman as Judith


From Illumination Entertainment, the studio that brought you The Secret Life of Pets comes an animated comedy about finding the music that lives inside all of us. Sing stars Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey as Buster Moon, an eternally optimistic koala who puts on the world’s greatest singing competition to save his crumbling theater; Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon as Rosita, an overworked and underappreciated mother of 25 piglets desperate to unleash her inner diva; Scarlett Johansson as Ash, a punk rock porcupine with a beautiful voice behind her prickly exterior; and Taron Egerton as Johnny, a young gangster gorilla looking to break free of his family’s felonies. Sing is the musical comedy event of the year!


From writer/director Garth Jennings (director of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “Son of Rambow”) and Christopher Lourdelet (storyboard artist of “Minions”, “The Lorax”, “A Monster in Paris”) comes the Illumination Entertainment animated film, “Sing”.

Featuring the voices from talents such as Matthew McConaugey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson, Garth Jennings, Peter Serafinowicz, Nick Kroll, Beck Bennett, Nick Offerman, Rhea Perlman and many more.

The animated film would feature more than 60 classic songs and originally budgeted at $75 million, would go on to make $578 million worldwide.  Ensuring a single slated for 2020.

And now “Sing” will be available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD in March 2017.

The film begins with a young koala named Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) owning a theater and being congratulated by his father who took him to his first music show as a child.  Fastforward and Buster’s theater has been losing a lot of money due to unsuccessful programs and now many workers are demanding pay.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to various characters:

  • Rosita (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) – A pig who gave up her teenage music dreams to become a wife to Norman and her 25 piglets.  She can sing and is very crafty.
  • Mike (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) – An arrogant small mouse who loves to sing Sinatra classics as a street performer but also known to get into a lot of trouble.
  • Ash (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) – A porcupine who is a punk rocker along with her boyfriend, Lance.
  • Meena (voiced by Tori Kelly) – A teenage elephant with a great voice but is shy and has severe stage fright.
  • Johnny (voiced by Taron Egerton) – A gorilla who wants to sing, but his father, Big Daddy (voiced by Peter Serafinowicz), a thief always wants him to be his lookout and follow his life into crime.
  • Gunter (voiced by Nick Kroll) – A vibrant pig who loves to dance.

As the bank rep Judith is demanding payment or the theater will be closed within a month, Buster comes up with an idea to create a singing competition with a prize of $1,000 which he tells his buddy, Eddie Noodleman (voiced by John C. Reilly), the nephew of Miss Nana Noodleman (voiced by Jennifer Saundres), a popular singer that inspired Buster.

Buster’s assistant, Mrs. Crawley (voiced by Garth Jennings) accidentally puts two zeroes and makes the prize $100,000 and before he could see them, the wind blows the flyers out the window and they fly all over the city.

And everyone interested in singing auditions to be part of the singing competition.

Despite finding about Miss Crawley’s error, Buster, an optimist feels that his singing competition may be able to make the money back.  But can he and his fellow singers pull off a successful production?


VIDEO:

“Sing” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio) and features vibrant animation and wonderful detail.  The hair effects and textures can be seen on the surface of the animals and also the clothing which are animated wonderfully.

Overall picture quality is fantastic and if you want the best version, an 4K Ultra HD version of the film is available.

AUDIO:

“Sing” is presented in English ATMOS Dolby True HD/DVS plus a Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The film features crystal clear dialogue and musical score.

Because the film’s many songs featured, the music plays a big part of the soundtrack.  But also the sound effects and overall ambiance can be heard through the surround channels.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Espanol and Francais.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sing” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Sing – (4:40) Director/writer Garth Jennings discuss how the movie came to be and behind-the-scenes on the making of “Sing”.
  • Finding the Rhythm: Editing Sing – (2:43) Editor Greg Perler discusses the challenge of editing “Sing”.
  • Character Profiles – (12:25) Featuring the various talents/voice actors for each character discussing voice work and being in the studio to record their characters.  And their thoughts about their character.
  • Things You Didn’t Know About – (3:52) The directors, cast and crew are given rapid-fire questions.
  • “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” Music Video – Featuring a music video from Tori Kelly.
  • Making a Music Video with Tori Kelly – (2:52) The making of “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing”.
  • Faith Music Video – (2:43) Featuring a music video from Stevie Wonder.
  • Faith Lyric Video 
  • Set It All Free Lyric Video
  • “Sing & Dance – Faith” – (6:27) Learn the dance moves for “Faith”.
  • The Sing Network – Featuring short featurettes showcasing “Gunter’s Dance Studio”, “The Moon Theater”, “Rosita’s Babysitting Gizmo”, “Miss Crawley’s Matchmaking Service” and “In the News”.
  • The Best of Gunter – (1:03) Scenes featuring Gunter.
  • Mini-Movies: Gunter Babysits – (3:40) Gunter has to babysit Rosita’s 25 piglets.
  • Mini-Movies: Love at First Sight – (4:15) Johnny introduces Miss Crawley to online dating.
  • Mini-Movies: Eddie’s Life Coach – (4:15) A featurette about Eddie watching an informercial.
  • The Making of the Mini-Movies – (5:49) A featurette on the making of the short films.

EXTRAS:

“Gunter” comes with a slipcover, a DVD version of the film and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


Films about an unsuccessful attraction or production have been featured in past films before, but not with anthropomorphic animals.

As Illumination Entertainment animated films such as the “Despicable Me”, “Minions”, “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” films and “The Secret Life of Pets” have done amazingly well in the box office, the company’s latest film focuses on singing animals.

And while singing animals are nothing new to animated films, what “Sing” does differently is incorporate today’s top 40 songs or classics and integrate that to a storyline of singing hopefuls that want a chance to make it in the spotlight.

In today’s world of singing reality TV shows it’s a concept that people know much to well, “Sing” takes those hopefuls, which happen to be animals, trying out for a chance of stardom.  Not knowing that the intention of the singing competition is to save a fledgling theater and also for big money which is an error made by a lizard who’s eye ball pops out and bounces on the zero key on the keyboard twice.

The most important factor of the film is the character development.  “Sing” is a film that makes you care for its characters.

Buster Moon is a koala with good intentions but so far, his business sense has led to failed productions and now he may lose his theater.

Rosita is a pig who can sing but chose to be a mother and wife and wonders if she pursued a career singing.  Mike is an arrogant Sinatra-singing mouse who is a street performer that gets into a lot of trouble.  Ash is a punk rock singer, always in the shadow of her boyfriend and has a troubled relationship.  And Johnny is a gorilla who wants to be a singer but his father, a thief, wants his son to follow his life in crime.

We watch as these individuals go through their own personal struggles, self-doubt but together, they learn to unite and try to put on the greatest show they can.

And as far as its voice acting is concerned, the film features a star-filled talent showcase with Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly and many more.  Also, to hear the music from powerful voices of Tori Kelly and Jennifer Hudson was a major plus as well.

On Blu-ray, the film shows amazing detail, colors are vibrant and the lossless soundtrack whether it be dialogue or the large amount of music featured in the film are all crystal clear.  And there are a good number of special features included as well.

And when you’re done, there are also three entertaining mini movies included featuring the characters from “Sing”!

Overall, “Sing” is very much an uplifting story with wonderful music, great voice acting and fantastic animation.  And the film will no doubt entertain people of all ages.

Recommended!

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Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale (a J!-ENT Anime Film Review)

March 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I found the storyline of “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” to be extremely satisfying and as a person who has watched the series and loved nearly every episode, I really enjoyed seeing the progression of Kirito and Asuna’s relationship and how that relationship plays a big part in the film’s storyline. I really do feel that fans will enjoy this SAO film! A wonderful and engrossing storyline filled with action and drama, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of  2017 © REKI KAWAHARA/PUBLISHED BY KADOKAWA CORPORATION ASCII MEDIA WORKS/SAO MOVIE Project. © RK/KC AMW/SM


Originally created by Reki Kawahara

Original Character Design by abec

Directed by Tomohiko Ito

Scenario by Reki Kawahara, Tomohiko Ito

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design: Shingo Adachi

Art Director: Takayuki Nagashima

Chief Animation Director: Shingo Adachi

Sound Director: Yoshikazu Iwanami

CGI Director: Ryuta Undo

Director of Photography: Kentaro Waki

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Haruka Tomatsu as Asuna Yūki

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Kazuto Kirigaya/Kirito

Ayahi Takagaki as Rika Shinozaki/Lizbeth

Ayana Taketatsu as Suguha Kirigaya/Leafa

Hiroaki Hirata as Klein

Hiroki Yasumoto as Andrew Gilbert Mills/Agil

Kanae Itō as Yui

Miyuki Sawashiro as Shino Asada/Sinon

Rina Hidaka as Keiko Ayano/Silica

Sayaka Kanda as Yuna

Takeshi Kaga as Professor Shigemura

Yoshio Inoue as Eiji

Kouichi Yamadera as Akihiko Kayaba


2022 – The NerveGear, the world’s first dedicated full-dive device developed by the genius programmer, Akihiko Kayaba. It was a revolutionary machine that opened up infinite possibilities for the world of VR (Virtual Reality.) 4 years later…. A next-generation, wearable multi-device called the Augma has been released to compete with the NerveGear’s successor – the Amusphere. A cutting-edge machine boasting the ability to enhance AR (Augmented Reality) to the maximum, the Augma offers a safe, user-friendly experience, as it can be used while the player is awake, making it an instant hit. Its killer title is an ARMMORPG developed exclusively for the Augma, “Ordinal Scale (a.k.a. OS).” Kirito is about to join Asuna and the others as an Ordinal Scale player, but…


The year 2026.

Two years after the “Sword Art Online” fiasco perpetrated by SAO creator Akihiko Kayaba which left many gamers injured or dead, a new technology is to be released.  A technology that is thought to be safe and nothing like the Nerve Gear that was used in “Sword Art Online”.

Now people can use the Augma, the successor to the Amusphere full-dive system which allows a player to play a game that simulates reality while the player is conscious (via augmented reality).

And one of the popular games created for the Augma is “Ordinal Scale”.  A game which has quickly gain popularity that Asuna, Lisbeth and Silica are playing it, but surprisingly Kirito hasn’t jumped aboard to play the game just yet until now.

As people get into the game, part of the main appeal to “Ordinal Scale” is the game’s mascot, an AI idol singer named Yuna who appears during the game to increase the stats of players.

While everyone is playing, the #2 ranked player Eiji helps the Kirito, Asuna and team defeat the level boss but Eiji uses the words “switch”, a term that was used in SAO to Asuna.

Meanwhile, Asuna tells Kirito that Eiji is most likely a member of the Knights of the Blood Oath named Nautilus, Yui tells them that the appearance of Aincrad bosses in “Ordinal Scale” are similar to the line up with the SAO dungeon maps.

As Asuna goes to play the game with her friends again, immediately Yuna and Eiji appear and Eiji pushes Asuna towards the level boss.

When Asuna is hit, she passes out and suddenly, Asuna starts to realize that her memories from SAO are starting to disappear. Concerned, Kirito takes Asuna to the hospital to get checked out and it is learned that the Augma device has scanned her brain for SAO memories, and it may have happened to other SAO players that are playing “Ordinal Scale”.

With Asuna’s memory loss of SAO, that means her memories of her friends, but most importantly her memories of Kirito will disappear.

A desperate Kirito tries to search for answers and promises that he will do whatever he can to get Asuna’s memories back.  But what will his search unveil?

What is “Sword Art Online” about:

In 2002, writer Reki Kawahara wrote a novel series titled “Sword Art Online” under the name Fumio Kunori.

While Kawahara would receive critical acclaim for his novel “Accel World” in 2009, which earned Kawahara an ASCII Media Works’ 15th Dengeki Novel Prize and also winning the Grand Prize in 2008, the popularity of his “Accel World” storyline would lead to “Sword Art Online” being republished and also featuring the art work of illustrator, abec.

This time using his real name on ASCII Media Works’ Dengeku Bunko label from April 10, 2009 and a spin-off series in 2012.  The series has since spawned a total of ten manga adaptations, two anime series, one TV film, five video games and now an animated film.

The original “Sword Art Online” series is set in 2022 and many are playing the Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG), “Sword Art Online” (SAO for short).

The game comes with a virtual reality helmet known as a Nerve Gear which uses the five senses of the brain and so players can control their characters with their mind.

The anime series focuses on protagonist, Kirito, one of the 1,000 beta testers of the Closed Beta version of SAO.  On November 6th, the game is released to the public and Kirito is enjoying the game and meets Klein, who has experience playing RPG’s but learns from Kirito about the basics of the game.

While the two are talking, suddenly they are transported to the main courtyard and are unable to log out.  They are told by the creator of SAO, Akihiko Kayaba, that all of the people playing are stuck in the game.  If anyone takes of the virtual reality helmet of a player, they will die.

As for those playing the game, if they want to be free of the game, they must reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss.  But if their avatars (their game character) dies in the game, their bodies will also die in the real world.  Also,  people in the real world who were stuck in the game have died by someone removing their Nerve Gear.

In the first series, Kirito and Asuna have become an online couple and while Kirito was able to succeed and free everyone by defeating the final boss of “Sword Art Online”, he has been utilized by law enforcement to assist in troubles that have affected users (as seen in “Sword Art Online II”).

In reality, Kazuto Kirigaya (Kirito) and Asuna Yuuki (Asuna) have continued their relationship outside of the game.  Asuna dreams of marrying Kazuto and having a family with him in the future.

And with the 2017 animated film “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale”, with Asuna’s memories of SAO fading, the dreams of her and Kirito being together may now be in jeopardy.


If there is one thing that “Sword Art Online” has proved over the years, that Reki Kawahara’s light novels and the anime adaptation inspired from it, are popular among many fans worldwide.

I had no doubt in my mind that “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” would do well as a theatrical release, not just in Japan but other countries worldwide, especially the United States.

Considering the film is not a Studio Ghibli film or an animated film with no Disney or Hollywood movie studio connect, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” grossed $1.35 million in the first four days of its North American run.

In fact, the film set an opening weekend record for an Aniplex of America theatrical release and has played in 560 theaters nationwide.

And that is for a film that debuted in American theaters with Japanese voice acting and English subtitles.  And for those who dislike reading during their films, Aniplex of America will be releasing the film with an English dub soundtrack in April 2017 for a limited theatrical engagement.

Watching “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale”, it has everything that fans have loved in the series.  A lot of action, a lot of humor but also emotional drama as viewers have watched and seen the relationship between Kazuto (Kirito) and Asuna evolve and in this film, you really see how far their love for each other has blossomed.  And so, this film has become a fight for love and Kazuto doing all that is necessary to make sure that the young woman he loves is saved from losing her memories due to a new threat.

Fans will also love seeing characters from the past making their appearance in the video game but one will no doubt be anticipating the next SOA storyline as the ending teaser (after all the credits are done) shows us another menacing threat that will surely surprise fans of the series.

Animation is fantastic as A-1 Pictures did a wonderful job with capturing emotion in the faces of the characters but also within action sequences.  Voice acting is wonderful in its original Japanese soundtrack and English subtitles were easy to read.  And having watched the original series in both Japanese and English, I’m expecting the English dub to be equally fantastic when the English version of the film is released in US theaters this April.

If there was anything that I didn’t get into all that much in regards to “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is the overuse of AI idol singer Yuna.  Music plays a big part in the film and where idol singers through battle is something we are accustomed to seeing in “Macross” anime series or film, it was not something I expected all that much in “Sword Art Online” and felt it was done a little bit too much for my tastes but at the same time, I’m sure it benefits Aniplex for music soundtrack sales and I’m sure fans who loved the music in the film will no doubt be seeking to purchase the soundtrack.

But I also hope that Aniplex, a company known for giving fans a lot of swag with their limited edition releases, will include the film’s soundtrack with the Blu-ray release of “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale”.

I absolutely enjoyed “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” but I do recommend people who know nothing about the series to at least watch the SAO series before jumping into the film.

Overall, I found the storyline of “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” to be extremely satisfying and as a person who has watched the series and loved nearly every episode, I really enjoyed seeing the progression of Kirito and Asuna’s relationship and how that relationship plays a big part in the film’s storyline.  I really do feel that fans will enjoy this SAO film!

A wonderful and engrossing storyline filled with action and drama, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is highly recommended!

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Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace: The Complete Series” is for the anime fan who loves mystery anime series.  And it’s also easier to follow since it’s only eleven episodes long.  “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is an anime series worth watching!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace: The Complete SeriesThe Asterisk War: Limited Edition Blu-ray Vol. 3

ANIME SERIES AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: (Episodes 1-11) 275 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9), English Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Funimation

Release Date: December 13, 2016


Originally Concept by Rampo Edogawa

Directed by Seiji Kishi

Series Composition by Makoto Uezu

Music by Masaru Yokoyama

Character Design by Kazuaki Morita

Art Director: Ayumi Miyakoshi

Chief Animation Director: Kouji Yamagata, Yusuke Kamata

Anime Production: Lerche


Featuring the following voice talent:

Daiki Yamashita/Justin Briner as Hashiba

Rie Takahashi/Jill Harris as Kobayashi

Takahiro Sakurai/Eric Vale as Akechi

Cho/Mark Stoddard as Nakamura

Jun Fukuyama/Todd Haberkorn as Namikoshi

Kappei Yamaguchi/Jerry Jewell as Shitai-kun (Corpsey)

Katsuyuki Konishi/J. Michael Tatum as Kagami

Saki Fujita/Jad Saxton as Minami

Takehito Koyasu/Sonny Strait as Kage-Otoko (Shadow-Man)

Yōko Hikasa/Mallorie Rodak as Kuro Tokage (Black Lizard)


Inspired by the works of Edogawa Rampo, Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace tells a macabre detective story rife with symbolism and visual tricks that exist somewhere in the delicate balance between gruesome and gorgeous.

Middle school life was dull for the intelligent and charismatic Kobayashi, until the day he was framed for his homeroom teacher’s murder. After the event drew the media’s attention, an infamous high school detective inserted himself into the investigation. Brooding and brilliant, Akechi quickly cleared Kobayashi’s name and took the inquisitive young student on as his assistant. But for every case they closed, two more seemed to open in its place.

The streets were alive with whispers of one deadly name, Twenty Faces–a legendary murderer who killed criminals in the name of justice. With cryptic clues leading the way, Kobayashi and Akechi began following the trail of bodies left by the prolific killer. But will they be able to stop him before countless innocent people, inspired by his deranged cause, start following his lead?


In Japan, one of the most well-respected authors of mystery fiction novels was Edogawa Ranpo (Taro Hirai).  A pseudonym used by Taro is a rendering of one of his favorite writers, Edgar Allan Poe.

In 2015, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Edogawa Ranpo, a series titled “Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace” was produced by Lerche and directed by Seiji Kishi (“Kamisama Dolls”, “Assassination Classroom”, “Fate/Prototype”) and a screenplay by Makoto Uezu (“Akame ga KILL!”, “Assassination Classroom”, “Danganronpa the Animation”).

The anime series is set at a middle school where several murders have taken place.  A 17-year-old middle school boy, who is mistaken for a girl named Kobayashi is blamed for dismembering his homeroom teacher.

A person who loves solving mysteries, Kobayashi and her good friend Hashiba (a popular guy who wants to protect Kobayashi at all costs) want to team up with Kogoro Akechi, a 17-year-old genius detective who solves abnormal crimes.

Kogoro offers Kobayashi to become his assistant only if he can find the killer responsible for dismembering his teacher.

As Kobayashi is successful in helping Kogoro, the trio then work on various cases such as trying to find the Shadow-Man, a thief accused of kidnapping several girls.  But also trying to find a vigilante known as Twenty Faces, who kills murderers who have not been brought to justice and killing them the way the murderers had killed their victims.

But as the trio investigates, Kogoro realizes that Twenty Faces may be tied to a person from his past.


VIDEO:

“Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). There is a lot of detail featured in the art backgrounds, a lot of characters featured and these characters have great detail and shadowing. Colors are absolutely vibrant. There is slight softness, but that is expected with anime TV series. But overall, animation is solid throughout.  I found no compression artifacts or any problematic issues with this Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD Stereo 2.0. Both soundtracks are well-acted and are crystal clear through the front channels but with the 5.1 soundtrack, the English dub has an edge due to the use of the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” features the following special features:

  • Episode 6 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Eric Vale, Justin Briner, Jill Harris and Sonny Strait.
  • Promotional Videos
  • Commercials – Japanese commercials
  • Textless Opening and Ending Song

EXTRAS:

“Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” comes with a slipcover and also both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the anime series.


In Japan, mystery manga and anime series are quite popular.  In fact, one of the longest running anime series still on television is “Meitantei Conan” (Case Closed) which has been airing since 1996 (and the manga series since 1994).

But part of the excitement surrounding the anime series “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is that it commemorates the 50th anniversary of the death of Rampo Edogawa.  An author known for creating mystery fiction novels and many works that were inspired by his original oeuvre.

Set for a modern age, “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is a mystery anime series that focuses on murder cases, but primarily focusing on Twenty Faces, a vigilante who murders people who have not received justice for murdering their victims.

Where other mystery anime series have a humorous side and often a touch of darkness, “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” has that but in a weird, unusual way, one of the main characters, Kobayashi (a boy who is often mistaken for a girl), has a different perspective of seeing things in life.  Perhaps it’s the way she was raised or the challenges in life that she has endured, but sometimes her thinking puts her in odds with her good friend Hashiba (a guy who obviously likes Kobayashi).

Meanwhile, main protagonist Kogoro Akechi is rather interesting in the fact that he also sees life in a different way, similar to Kobayashi.  But he has skeletons in his past that are slowly revealed throughout the anime series.

As for the Blu-ray, animation is fantastic as colors are vibrant and characters are well-drawn.  Lossless soundtrack for both English and Japanese soundtracks are well-done, with the English dub receiving the 5.1 treatment.  But both soundtracks are well-acted.  As for special features, you get an audio commentary (possibly one of the worst Funimation audio commentaries that I’ve listened to), Japanese promotional videos and commercials.

Overall, “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace: The Complete Series” is for the anime fan who loves mystery anime series.  And it’s also easier to follow since it’s only eleven episodes long.  “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is an anime series worth watching!

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Arsenal (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Arsenal” is a film that makes for a decent popcorn action flick, where one doesn’t need to think too deeply about the plot or its characters.  A film where you can see Adrian Grenier as an action hero, Nicolas Cage as a psychotic kingpin and John Cusack as an emo guy with contacts to the underground.  If that interests you, then “Arsenal” is worth checking out.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Arsenal

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 92 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Lionsgate Premiere

RATED: R (Brutal Bloody Violence, Language Throughout and Drug Use)

RELEASE DATE: March 28, 2017


Directed by Steven C. Miller

Written by Jason Mosberg

Produced by George Furia

Co-Producer: Anthony Callie, Timothy C. Sullivan

Executive Producer: Barry Brooker, Ted Fox, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Marc Goldberg, Robert Jones, Corey Large, Vance Owen, Steven Saxton, Kirk Shaw, Mark Stewart, Stan Wertlieb

Associate Producer: Arnaud Lannic

Music by Ryan Franks, Scott Nickoley

Cinematography by Brandon Cox

Edited by Vincent Tabaillon

Production Design by Niko Vilaivongs

Art Direction by Aaron Bautista

Set Decoration by Kami Laprade

Costume Design by Rachel Stringfellow


Starring:

Nicolas Cage as Eddie King

John Cusack as Sal

Adrian Grenier as JP

Johnathon Schaech as Mikey

Lydia Hull as Lizzie

Abbie Gayle as Alexis

Heather Johansen as Kristy

William Mark McCullough as Luca

Kelton DuMont as Young JP

Zachary Legendre as Young Mikey


Family loyalty is tested when a successful businessman must rescue his deadbeat brother from the vicious mobster holding him hostage.


From Steven C. Miller (“Marauders”, “The Aggression Scale”, “Silent Night” and “Extraction”) comes his 2017 thriller “Arsenal” (a.k.a. “Southern Fury”).

Written by Jason Mosberg, the film stars Nicolas Cage (“Leaving Las Vegas”, “National Treasure”, “Moonstruck”), John Cusack (“Say Anything”, “Being John Malkovich”, “2012”), Adrian Grenier (“Entourage”, “The Devil Wears Prada”, “Drive Me Crazy”), Johnathon Schaech (“Legends of Tomorrow”, “That Thing You Do!”, “Prom Night”) and Lydia Hull (“Escape Plan”, “Marauders”, “Heist”).

The film begins with an introduction to Mikey and his younger brother JP when they were younger.  Mikey was hard on his younger brother but life changed when their guardian shot himself in the head, leaving Mikey to work for the town gangster, Eddie King (portrayed by Nicolas Cage).

Fastforward 23-years later and JP Lindel (portrayed by Adrian Grenier) is a successful businessman, while his older brother, ex-Marine Mikey (portrayed by Johnathon Schaech) is back in town, messing around with drugs, divorced and broke.

JP wants to take care of Mikey and help him walk on the straight and narrow.

Mikey borrows ten grand from JP which he was supposed to use to pay off his bills and pay for his daughter’s braces but JP’s buddy Sal (portrayed by John Cusack) tells JP that Mikey used the money to purchase drugs in order to flip it, become a drug dealer to make more money.

But things don’t go well for Mikey as the town’s main gangster, Eddie King sends thugs to Mikey’s home to steal the drugs and warn him for intruding on his turf.

An angry Mikey goes to confront Eddie King but with Eddie telling Mikey that he owes him money and knows that his younger brother JP is successful, both should work together.

The following morning, JP receives a call that if he doesn’t raise $350,000, Mikey will be dead.  So, the kidnappers are demanding hostage money or else Mikey dies.  And to make things worse, Mikey’s daughter Alexis may be missing.

Now JP and his friend Sal, must do all they can to find Mikey.


VIDEO:

“Arsenal” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film features great detail on closeups and retains its grain. For the most part, picture quality for the film is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Arsenal” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue and music is crystal clear. Action sequences utilize the surround channels quite well, with a lot of fighting, crowbar clanging, glass smashed up and the occasional gun shots.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Arsenal” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with director Steven C. Miller and actor Johnathon Schaech.
  • Building an Arsenal – (9:47) Interviews with the director Steven C. Miller and the crew about working on “Arsenal”.
  • Extended Cast/Crew Interviews – Featuring the longer extended interviews with Adrian Grenier, Johnathon Schaech, Lydia Hull, director Steven C. Miller and Brandon Cox.
  • Trailer Gallery

EXTRAS:

“Arsenal” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


“Arsenal” is a film about a younger brother named JP wanting to help out the big brother Mikey who gets into a lot of trouble and also treated him like crap when they were younger.

So, now JP, who has worked his butt to become a successful businessman, may have to throw everything he earned and risk to save his brother, because the town’s kingpin has kidnapped Mikey and is holding him ransom.

Unfortunately, the story makes you want to scratch your head and wonder… Why is JP willing to risk it all?  Especially for a brother who treated him like crap.

At first, I thought this was an ’80s period film and probably would have made this film work since Nicolas Cage is wearing a prosthetic nose and has a hairstyle and clothing that made him seem that this film was set in the ’80s.  Meanwhile, Jon Cusack is trying to be the emo guy wearing his hoodie and dress in all black, trying to help JP find his brother through his underground connections.

But for JP, who seemed like a meek child in the beginning of the film, it’s one thing to be successful but to be Mr. Bravado and willing to take on the kingpin and risk his life and his family’s life for his f’d up brother?  A family/business man who has appeared to channel “Die Hard” character, John McClane or simply becomes Marvel Comics character, The Punisher, dodging bullets and killing people with so much precision.

And what about consequences?  With quite a  few people dying in this film, the film resolves itself with too happy of an ending.

It’s one thing for Lionsgate of wanting popcorn action films, films shot with a low-budget and done within two week.   Everything is rushed and it’s the kind of schedule that director Steven C. Miller has had to work with.  The fact that everyone came to work and got this film made in time is great, but this is a film in which the script needed to be tweaked, especially its ending.

Picture quality for the Blu-ray looks good but it’s one thing to have watched John Woo slow motion action scenes, which work.  Steven C. Miller slow motion scenes were overdone. While the the lossless soundtrack was good and features good use of the surround channels.  And you also get an audio commentary and two featurettes.

Lately, it seems that Lionsgate have been utilizing Adrian Grenier as the next up and coming action star and Nicolas Cage in more antagonist roles (as they have done with Bruce Willis in recent films).  And it appears we may see more of John Cusack as well.

But it kind of sucks that the film promotes these three men, when Johnathon Schaech is the actor you will see the most throughout the film, along with Grenier, but yet he doesn’t get any top billing at all.

Overall, “Arsenal” is a film that makes for a decent popcorn action flick, where one doesn’t need to think too deeply about the plot or its characters.  A film where you can see Adrian Grenier as an action hero, Nicolas Cage as a psychotic kingpin and John Cusack as an emo guy with contacts to the underground.  If that interests you, then “Arsenal” is worth checking out.

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Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V – Vol. 1 by Shin Yoshida and Naohito Miyoshi (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

March 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V” is a manga series with card battles that young fans and even older fans may enjoy. Personally, I enjoy the complexity of the battles and the strategy combined with a storyline featuring action and humor. And to have a protagonist who wants to be more of an entertainer (that can battle) is also fascinating. If you are a fan of card gaming and also a “Yu-Gi-Oh!” fan, “Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V” is recommended!

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Image courtesy of © 2014 Kazuki Takahashi, Shin Yoshida, Naohito Miyoshi. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V – Vol. 1

STORY AND ART BY: Shin Yoshida and Naohito Miyoshi

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: SHUEISHA, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC/Shonen Jump Manga

RATED: T for Teen

RELEASE DATE: April 4, 2017


Action Duels have become a global sensation, but what is the dark secret behind them that threatens to destroy the world? 

Yuzu Hiiragi and her father run a Dueling school that’s seen better days. If only they had a star teacher to bring in new students! When a rogue Duelist known as Phantom appears in the city, Yuzu may have found a savior, but Phantom will have to deal with the Leo Corporation’s special forces before he can get into any community service!


In 1996, Kazuki Takahashi would create a manga series about card games known as “Yu-Gi-Oh!”. Wanting to create a battle manga that was unique and not about fighting and a fan of tabletop role-playing games, Takahashi did not imagine how popular the series would be among fans worldwide.

With the original manga serialized in Sept. 1996 through 2004, the games have been popular among anime, manga and of course, the card gaming fans in America and also around the world. The series would spawn off various series (featuring manga adaptations by other artists/writers) such as “Yu-Gi-Oh! GX” (2005-2011), “Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s” (2008-2011) and “Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal” (2011-2012).

With the completion of “Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal”, the fifth “Yu-Gi-Oh!” franchise titled “Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V” was unveiled in 2014 and a manga adaptation serialized in Shueisha’s “V-Jump” magazine in August 2015.

And now “Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V” is now released in America courtesy of Viz Media.

What is “Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V”?

“Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V” continues the card battling theme that the original series was most popular for.

The series is set in the near future in a place called Maiami City and starts off at the Syo Zo Duel School where Principal Syu Zo Hiragi and his daughter Yuzu are worried that they will be unable to pay rent because they have no students.

Meanwhile, three helicopters from the Leo Corpration are in pursuit of  Yuya “The Phantom” Sasaki and when they corner him, Shingo Sawatari confronts the hooded individual and the young man tells them he isn’t Yuya Sasaki but his name is Yuto, but he will battle them.

As Yuzu watches from another building, she comes up with an idea, what if she can get Yuto to be a teacher at the school, then the school can make money.

As the battle between Yuya and Shingo begins, Shingo thinks he will win the battle but to everyone’s surprise, Yuto unleashes a pendulum summon and then reveals himself to be the best entertainment duelist in the world, Yuya Sasaki.

And when Yuya thinks he has a fan and goes to sign a paper, thinking he’s signing an autograph for Yuzu, he actually is signing a contract to teach at the Syu Zo Duel School.

Meanwhile, Reiji Akaba of the Leo Corporation will do anything to find and capture Yuya Sasaki.  But what is his motivation for doing so?


The concept of “Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V” is one that will appeal not only to fans of the original series and love card battling.  Where previous stories allowed for building certain card characters and turning them into something more powerful, the concept still remains but you now have this pendulum factor that really make a huge difference in a battle, along with four random action cards scattered around the action field.

It’s a much different concept than the other previous series, but the storyline has mystery and humor, which fans of the series will surely enjoy.

It’s important to note that with each volume purchased of “Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V”, an exclusive card is featured. In this case, an Odd-Eyes Phantom Dragon.

Overall, “Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V” is a manga series with card battles that young fans and even older fans may enjoy. Personally, I enjoy the complexity of the battles and the strategy combined with a storyline featuring action and humor.  And to have a protagonist who wants to be more of an entertainer (that can battle) is also fascinating.

If you are a fan of card gaming and also a “Yu-Gi-Oh!” fan, “Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V” is recommended!

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Moana (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Moana” resonated with me, entertained me but also made me respect the work of Ron Clements and John Musker so much more. Especially for Disney for taking on an animation that involves Polynesian culture, hiring those who are of Polynesian descent but also listening to Pacific Islanders for feedback in regards to the how their culture is depicted. “Moana” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Moana

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 107 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080P High Definition 2:39:1, 1080p High Definition, English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: PG (For Peril, Some Scary Images and Brief Thematic Elements)

RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2017


Directed by Ron Clements, John Musker

Co-Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams

Screenplay by Jared Bush

Story by Ron Clements, John Musker, Chris Williams, Don Hall, Pamela Ribon, Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell

Producer: Osnat Shurer

Executive Producer: John Lasseter

Associate Producer: Nicole P. Hearon

Music by Mark Mancina, Opetaia Foa’i, Lin-Manuel Miranda

Edited by Jeff Draheim

Casting by Jamie Sparer Roberts, Rachel Sutton

Production Design by Ian Gooding


Featuring the Voices of:

Auli’l Cravalho as Moana

Dwayne Johnson as Maui

Rachel House as Gramma Tala

Temuera Morrison as Chief Tui

Jemaine Clement as Tamatoa

Nicole Scherzinger as Sina

Alan Tudyk as Heihei

Louise Bush as Toddler Moana

Chris Jackson as Chief Tui


From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes MOANA, an epic adventure about a spirited teen who sets sail on a daring mission to save her people. Along the way, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) meets the once mighty demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), and together they cross the ocean on a fun-filled, action-packed voyage. Bring home the movie full of heart, humor and oceans of bonus extras!


In November 2016, the 56th Walt Disney animated feature film “Moana” was released in theaters.

Earning $587.3 million at the box office, the film reunites directors Ron Clements and John Musker (both were co-directors for “Aladdin”, “The Little Mermaid”, “Treasure Planet” and “The Princess and the Frog”).  The film also features co-direction by Don Hall and Chris Williams (both directed “Big Hero 6”) and features a screenplay by Jared Bush (“Zootopia”).

The film features the voices of Auli’i Cravalho (“Gone Fishing”), Dwayne Johnson (“Baywatch”, “San Andreas”, “Furious 7”), Rachel House (“Whale Rider”, “Eagle vs. Shark”), Temuera Morrison (“Star Wars” – Episodes II and III), Jemaine Clement (“Rio” films), singer Nicole Scherzinger and Alan Tudyk (“Rogue One”, “I, Robot”, “Frozen”, “Serenity”).

The Disney animated film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in March 2017.

The film begins with an introduction to demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), who was planning to give a small pounamu stone (which happens to be the mystical heart of the island goddess Te Fiti) to humanity as a gift.

Instead, Maui runs off with the stone and he is chased and attacked by the lava demon Te Ka.  Maui ends up not just losing his magical fish hook in the ocean but also loses the pounamu stone.

A thousand years later, a young girl named Moana, the daughter and heir of the chief of the Polynesian island Motunui, is chosen by the ocean to receive the pounamu stone/Te Fiti’s heart.  Something he does not feel is necessary as he feels the island provides the villagers everything they need.

But as Moana (voiced by  Auli’i Cravalho) gets older, the villagers are scared as fish is becoming scarce and the vegetation of Motunui is dying.  Moana wants to travel beyond the reef as she feels she can catch fish for the village but her father is against it.  She learns from her mother that her father’s friend died out in sea and fears of Moana going out to the ocean.

Despite her father forbidding Moana to sail past the reef, her grandmother Tala (voiced by Rachel House) tells her that there is a secret cave behind the waterfall and also telling her that the villagers ancestors were once voyagers and traveled and discovered new islands across the world.  But the ancestors stopped voyaging because the demigod MAui stole the heart of Te Fiti and this led to monsters appearing in the ocean.  And now Te Ka’s darkness is spreading from island to island, slowly killing the islands.

Tala gives Moana the heart of Te Fiti.  But not long after, Tala becomes ill and before she dies, she tells Moana to set sail.  So, against her fathers wishes, Moana travels beyond the reef in search of the demigod, Maui.

What will she find beyond the reef?


VIDEO:

So, far the Walt Disney Blu-ray disc animated (as well as theatrical) releases are among the best in picture and audio quality.

“Moana” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio) and Disney has released a lot of animated films that look wonderful in HD, but “Moana” is visually impressive from water effects (which look nearly realistic), lush green and vibrant vegetation, close-up details of Moana and Maui, especially their hair and also Maui’s tattoos and more.

“Moana” will no doubt pleasure the most demanding videophiles (well, unless they are demanding a 4K or 8K release).  Overall picture quality is fantastic!

AUDIO:

“Moana” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with an English 2.0 Descriptive audio track and a Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. The film features crystal clear dialogue and musical score.

From its musical sequences and wonderful action, along with magnificent video, you also get magnificent lossless audio.  From the waves crashing, Maui’s transformations to the wonderful crystal clear vocals.  I absolutely loved this soundtrack and just to make things clear, videophiles are not the only ones who will love this Blu-ray, audiophiles will absolutely enjoy this lossless soundtrack on Blu-ray as well!

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Moana” comes with the following special features:

  • Theatrical Short Film: Inner Workings – (6:26) Featuring an introduction by Leonardo Matsuda and producer Sean Lurie to “Inner Workings” and the animated short.
  • Maui Mini-Movie: Gone Fishing – (2:29) Moana and Maui return in an animated short.
  • Voice of the Islands – (31:13) A featurette about finding the location for “Moana” and the inspiration that came from the island and working with the locals from Tahiti who lent their voice to their characterization in the film.
  • Things You Didn’t Know About – (3:52) The directors, cast and crew are given rapid-fire questions.
  • Island Fashion – (5:13) A costume design featurette.
  • The Elements Of… – (14:14) Creating characters featuring Maui and Mini Maui (tattoos that come to life on Maui’s body depicting his heroism).
  • They Know the Way: Making the Music of Moana – (12:36) The making of the music for “Moana” featuring Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
  • Deleted Song: Warrior Face with Introduction by Songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda – (3:33) A glimpse of “Warrior Face”, a deleted song from the film with sketched animation.
  • Fishing for Easter Eggs – (2:52) The cast talk about their characters and discuss easter eggs shown in the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – (25:54) Seven deleted scenes with optional introductions with co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker.
  • “How Far I’ll Go” – Music video performed by Alessia Cara
  • “How Far I’ll Go Around the World” – (2:40) A featurette showcasing “How Far I’ll Go” performed by music artists for their respective countries.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker.

EXTRAS:

“Moana” comes with a slipcover, a DVD version of the film and a Disney Digital HD code.


As a fan of works by Ron Clements and John Musker, it’s one thing to be in love with “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin” but you also have to appreciate their approach to animation.  And with the release of the CG animated film, “Monna”, I was very interested in seeing the duo take on this medium but also seeing their style of animation incorporating new animation technologies but also a storyline with humor, action and emotion.

One thing that I was impressed about “Moana” was how the directors and producers wanted to make this film right.  From going to Tahiti and respecting local traditions and costumes, including music but also respecting the island and making sure nature plays a big part in the film.

As an Asian American with 33% Pacific Islander in my blood, one thing that has gotten to me is Hollywood not hiring people of ethnicity for major roles.  With “Moana”, the directors and producers made sure that Polynesian talent were hired for the role.

You have the debut of Hawaiian actress/singer Auli’l Cravalho as Moana and Dwayne Johnson (Black Nova Scotia and Samoan) as Maui.  But you also have Rachel House (Maori, indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand), Temuera Morrison (Maori), Jemaine Clement (Maori) and Nichole Scherzinger (Filipino/Native Hawaiian and Ukrainian).

Hiring talent to play characters who are of Polynesian descent may not seem like a big deal considering it’s a voice acting role, but for those of us who have watched Hollywood pass over people of a ethnicity over a well-known Caucasian talent to play an ethnic role is disheartening. And sure, while “Moana” is an animated film, the casting of these voice talents to play these characters is important and goes a long way.

I was impressed by the voice acting, the singing and the music of the film and the work of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i were fantastic.

Watching the film, I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face because of the attention to detail.  From the hair, the clothing, the tattoos but also the respect of the island.  Directors Ron Clements and John Musker often have said in interviews how visiting the island and meeting with the people changed their lives and influenced them heavily in the making of this film.  And that influence can be seen in “Moana”.  I love seeing that!

As far as watching “Moana”, it’s simply amazing to see how far Walt Disney Animation Studios has come and how much technology when it comes to animation has evolved in the last 10 years.

It’s one thing to expect wonderful skin detail and detailed hair but water has always been a tricky thing to animate and so, seeing Walt Disney Animation Studios taking on a story that deals with a Pacific Islander story and capturing the island vibe, lush greenery and beautiful oceans, I couldn’t wait to see how far animation technology has evolved.

I was impressed and of course, watching it on Blu-ray, seeing the details and the vibrant colors in HD was amazing.  The crystal clear lossless soundtrack was also impressive and there are a good number of special features included as well.

Overall, “Moana” resonated with me, entertained me but also made me respect the work of Ron Clements and John Musker so much more.  Especially for Disney for taking on an animation that involves Polynesian culture, hiring those who are of Polynesian descent but also listening to Pacific Islanders for feedback in regards to the how their culture is depicted.

“Moana” is highly recommended!

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Attack on Titan: Complete First Season (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Attack on Titan” was one of the most heavily anticipated series to be released back in 2014 and as much hype that has come out for this series, the fact that all the hype is warranted. The characters, the storyline, the animation and it’s overall presentation from FUNimation makes this one anime series worth owning! “Attack on Titan” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Attack on Titan: The Complete First season

DURATION: Episodes 1-25 (625 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV M

Release Date: January 24, 2017


Originally created by Hajime Isayama

Directed by Tetsuro Araki

Series Composition by Yasuko Kobayashi

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design: Kyoji Asano

Art Director: Shunichiro Yoshihara

3D Director: Shuhei Yabuta

Director of Photography: Kazuhiro Yamada

Anime Production by Wit Studio


Featuring the following voice talent:

Yui Ishikawa/Trina Nishimura as Mikasa Ackerman

Yuuki Kaji/Bryce Papenbrook as Eren Jaeger

Marina Inoue/Josh Grelle as Armin Arlelt

Daisuke Ono/J. Michael Tatum as Erwin Smith

Hiro Shimono/Clifford Chapin as Conny Springer

Hiroshi Kamiya/Matthew Mercer as Levi

Keiji Fujiwara/David Wald as Hannes

Kishô Taniyama/Mike McFarland as Jean Kirschtein

Romi Park/Jessica Calvello as Hanji (Hange Zoe)

Ryota Ohsaka/Austin Tindle as Marco Bodt

Saki Fujita/Elizabeth Maxwell as Ymir

Shiori Mikami/Bryn Apprill as Christa Renz

Tomohisa Hashizume/David Matranga as Bertholt Fubar (Bertholdt Hoover)

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Robert McCollum as Reiner Braun

Yu Kobayashi/Ashly Bursch as Sasha Browse

Yu Shimamura/Lauren Landa as Annie Leonhart


When the man-eating giants called Titans first appeared, humans retreated behind massive walls. After a hundred years of safety, a colossal-sized Titan smashes through the defenses, unleashing a flood of giants and carnage in the streets. Eren Jaeger watches helplessly as one of the creatures devours his mother.

He vows to kill every Titan walking the earth.

Eren and his surviving friends enlist to fight against the insatiable monsters. The future looks bleak, but there’s more to Eren than meets the eye: he may be humanity’s last hope against extinction. From the director of Death Note and High School of the Dead comes the series Anime News Network calls “an intense, visceral, and graphic thrill ride.” The Titans have come to feast. Anything can happen. No one is safe.


Back in 2006, Hajime Isayama wrote a 65-page one-shot of “Shingeki no Kyojin”. Inspired during an encounter with an irate customer while working at an internet cafe, the encounter would eventually be the basis of his hit series which is known internationally as “Attack on Titan”.

In 2009, “Shingeki no Kyojin” began serialization in Kodanasha’s “Bessatsu Shonen Magazine” and is currently on its 13th tankobon volume.  With several light novel volumes, multiple video games, manga spin-offs and two live-action films, many would discover “Attack on Titan” thanks to its 25-episode anime series which began airing in April 2013.

With the announcement that “Attack on Titan” season two will be created, Funimation has released “Attack on Titan: The Complete First Season” on Blu-ray.

“Attack on Titan” is set in a world that was besieged by giant humanoid creatures over a hundred years ago.   These humanoid creatures nearly wiped out all humans and want nothing but to devour humans.

Humanity has no answer to defeat the Titans but to protect what is left of humanity, the country of surviving humans now live within three enormous walls which include the outer wall Wall Maria, the middle wall known as Wall Rose and the inner wall known as Wall Sina.

And for 100 years, despite having a team that ventures out to confront the Titans, humanity has had no such luck.

We are introduced to three children which includes the impulsive and hotheaded Eren Yeager, his friend that always protects and cares for him, Mikasa Ackerman and the often scared but very smart Armin Arlert.

One day, while these three children were together in what was supposed to be a peaceful land where Titans are unable to enter, lightning has struck and born was a 200 ft. Titan who is taller than the walls that were constructed.  The titan breaches the outer wall, allowing the smaller Titans to enter the village and devour humans.  While Eren tries to find his mother, he finds her pinned under the house.

While a family friend named Hannes is able to rescue the two kids, Eren’s final memory was seeing his mother devoured by a Titan and from that point, he has dedicated his life to defeat and destroy the Titans.

Eren, Mikasa and Armin survives the attack by the Titans and have no choice but to retreat behind Wall Rose.  But he has these nightmares of his father injecting him with something and reminding him about his key and for him to go into the cellar.

As the food shortage hits the country and refugees are forced to work in farms or fight to reclaim Wall Maria, Eren vows to destroy the Titans and to do that, he must join the army in which Mikasa and Armin follow their friend.

Fast forward five years later, Eren, Mikasa and Armin are training in the army and each meets new friends and rivals but just when they thought there was some semblance of peace, the Colossus Titan returns once again.  Mikasa is set to a different squad to backup the front lines, while Eren and Armin must prepare to attack and fight the Titans, learning that the weakness of a Titan is cutting a piece of their flesh from the nape of the Titan’s back neck.

Will the army have what it takes to protect humanity from this new attack from the Titans?


“Attack on Titan features the following main characters:

Eren Yeager – A hotheaded teenager who wants to destroy the Titans for what they have done to his family and people. Often upset that Mikasa is constantly defending him. For some reason, he has nightmares of his father injecting him with something and telling him to bring the key to the cellar.

Mikasa Ackerman – The adoptive child of the Yeager family who was rescued by Eren and her father when she was younger. She is quiet, often wants to protect Eren from trouble and cares deeply for her foster brother.

Armin Arlert – Often bullied by other kids and rescued by Eren and Mikasa, Armin has a sharp mind when it comes to strategy. But he sees himself as a person always in fear and often scared.

Levi Ackerman – A member of the Survey Corps and is seen as humanity’s most powerful soldier. He leads the Special operations Squad.

Annie Leonhart – A former member of the Military Police Brigade. A lone wolf and excels in unarmed combat.

Reiner Braun – A former member of the Survey Corps. A man with a strong sense of duty.

Hange Zoe – A former Squad Leader of the fourth squad. Conducts research on Titans and is obsessed with them.


VIDEO:

“Attack on Titan” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The anime series is absolutely vibrant. Character designs are well-shaded and I like how the series uses the strong darker lines around the character designs which shows plenty of detail. But I felt the transition of Hajime Isayama’s work from the manga series received a fantastic adaptation and bringing these Titans to life. I personally didn’t notice any artifacts or banding during my viewing of the anime series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Attack on Titan” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. While both voice acting soundtracks are well-done, as one can expect from the English soundtrack receiving a 5.1 lossless treatment, while the Japanese is crystal clear through the front channels, the English soundtrack is immersive. Great use of sound effects from the surround channels and also great use of LFE.

One thing I also want to add is that FUNimation made the right decision by bringing Mike McFarland to become the ADR Director for this series. He has done an epic job for “One Piece” and for a series this important with a multitude of characters, he’s the man for the job and the casting for the English dub was well-done. Yes, it is different for those who are familiar with the Japanese vocal talent but I felt that the comparable differences and love the fact that the voice casting was not repetitive of talent used in many other FUNimation series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Attack on Titan: The Complete First Season” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 3 Commentary -Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), Trina Nishimura, Josh Grelle and Bryce Papenbrook.
  • Episode 13 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), J. Michael Tatum (Lead Adaptive Writer), Scott Freeman and Clifford Chapin.
  • The Making of Attack on Titan – (52:34) The first  major in-depth FUNimation featurette about how hard they worked in bringing “Attack on Titan” to the United States.
  • Chibi Theater: Fly, Cadets, Fly! – (47:10) Animated shorts in super-deformed format featuring the Cadet Corps.
  • Eyecatch Gallery – Gallery collection.
  • Textless Opening Song “Feuerroter Pfeil und Bogen”
  • Textless Closing Song: “Utsukushiki Zankoku na Sekai”
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer
  • Episode 14 Commentary -Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), J. Michael Tatum (Lead Adaptive Writer/voice of Erwin Smith) and Matthew Mercer (voice of Captain Levy).
  • Episode 25 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), Lauren Landa (Annie Leonhardt) and Bryce Papenbrook (Eren Yeager).
  • Attack on Titan at Anime Expo – (16:21) “Attack on Titan” group cosplayers from Anime Expo and also featuring interviews with producer Joji Wada.
  • Chibi Theater: Fly, Cadets, Fly! – (47:15) Animated shorts in super-deformed format featuring the Cadet Corps.
  • Eyecatch Gallery – Gallery collection.
  • Textless Opening Song “Jiyuu no Tsubasa”
  • Textless Closing Song: “Great Escape”
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer

EXTRAS:

“Attack on Titan: The Complete First Season” features the series on Blu-ray and DVD and comes with a slipcover.


Once in awhile, you run across an anime series or film that becomes not just a hit among anime fans but even non-anime fans.

“Attack on Titan” has captivated fans all over the world thanks to its characters, its story of humanity’s survival but also its fight against humanoid behemoths. And along with the series comes a stylish costume design for its army which have driven people all over the world to cosplay as a military member from the anime series.

Yes, “Naruto” and even “Bleach” have captivated many fans throughout the years but any anime series tied to a Shonen Jump has no doubt become bonafide hits in Japan and outside of the country, “Attack on Titan” is rather unique as it has partnered with various companies from having a car commercial, a burger release and also a live action film that people are heavily anticipating.

The fact is “Attack on Titan” is a captivating, violent but entertaining anime series and there is no slowdown in the pacing of the anime series, it’s just one exciting episode after the other and frankly, having watched anime series and having reviewed them for decades, I found myself becoming a “Shingeki no Kyojin” fan.

I love the us vs. them storyline and this time it’s not a zombie infestation, nor is it an attack by alien species.  To tell you the truth, I’m not sure what the Titans are but they have humanoid features with mouths of monsters wanting to chomp down on any human it comes in contact with.

By the second season of the series becomes very interesting as it was revealed that Eren Yeager has the special ability to transform into a Titan. While he is not sure how to control the power or his rage towards the Titans, despite being thought of as humanity’s threat, because of his determination to stop all Titans, he is also a final resort into protecting of what is left of humanity from the Titans.

As he now becomes part of the team led by Levi Ackerman, one of the best soldiers out there, Eren must learn to keep his temper in check and to become part of a team rather than fight alone.

Meanwhile, a tall female titan has appeared out of nowhere and is causing destruction to those who kill it. But with captive Titans being murdered by an unknown assailant, humanity must push forward into finding how to defeat the Titans but finding a weakness of mobilizing the female titan.

It’s important to note that while the series is popular, by no means should children watch this anime series. It is violent as body part dismemberment are shown, people being eaten or crushed by the Titans are shown and if anything, it’s visual violence adds to the viewer being interested in what happens because simply, you want to see humanity kick some major ass! That is if they can…

As for the Blu-ray, you get great picture quality as colors for the series are vibrant. Black lines are nice and solid and character design is well-done, well-shaded. Backgrounds are nicely painted and for the most part, “Attack on Titan” looks incredible in HD! As for the lossless audio, while I love the Japanese vocal track, the fact is that the Japanese soundtrack is Dolby TrueHD 2.0 while the English dub, which was well-cast, received a much better Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. Great use of special effects and use of the surround channels and LFE. If anything, I loved the fact that there was amazing focus in bringing this series out to the United States with the quality that fans and anime HD fans have come to expect and fortunately received in “Attack on Titan: Complete Season One”.

And I can’t wait until second season of “Attack on Titan” is released hopefully in the near future.

Also, for special features, FUNimation really went out of their way to give fans several audio commentary, an Anime Expo featurette with Studio I.G. producer Joji Wada to show how much time was put into bringing this series to the United States. You also get a Chibi animated shorts special feature and more!

Overall, “Attack on Titan” was one of the most heavily anticipated series to be released in 2014 and to this day, there is still a lot of anticipation for the series completion.  The first season is full of action, full of drama and overall, a captivation storyline with fascinating characters and overall presentation.

“Attack on Titan” is highly recommended!

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Deluge (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Deluge” on Blu-ray can be seen as a watching an entertaining 1933 natural disaster film, which was once considered as lost. Others may find the Blu-ray as a wonderful collection of two films starring actress Peggy Shannon.  I will say that this Blu-ray release is a fantastic collaboration between Kino Lorber and Lobster Films giving audiences the opportunity to watch and enjoy two entertaining films from the 1930’s.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Kino Lorber. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Deluge

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1933

DURATION: 70 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1:33:1, English DTS-HD 2.0

COMPANY: Lobster/Kino Lorber Inc.

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: February 21, 2017


Based on the Novel by S. Fowler Wright

Directed by Felix E. Feist

Written by Warren Duff, John F. Goodrich

Produced by Samuel Bischoff, Burt Kelly, William Saal

Music by Val Burton

Cinematography by Norbert Brodine

Edited by Martin G. Coh, Rose Loewinger

Art Direction by Ralph M. DeLacy


Starring:

Peggy Shannon as Claire Arlington

Lois Wilson as Helen Webster

Sidney Blackmer as Martin Webster

Lane Chandler as Jack

Ronnie Cosby as Ronny Webster

John Elliott as Preacher

Ralf Harolde as Norwood

Samuel S. Hinds as Chief Forecaster

Fred Kohler as Jepson

Matt Moore as Tom


Newly Restored! Earthquakes in the Pacific send a massive tsunami around the globe, reducing New York City to rubble. Martin Webster (Sidney Blackmer, Rosemary’s Baby) survives the catastrophe but is separated from his wife (Lois Wilson) and children. Pairing up with a headstrong young woman (Peggy Shannon), Webster struggles to rebuild civiilzation and cultivate a new post-apocalyptic moral code amidst the pillagers and vigilantes who remain. For years considered a lost film, and later emerging in a poor-quality Italian-dubbed version, Deluge is the holy grail of disaster movies. In 2016, Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films, with the help of the Library of Congress, located the original 35mm film elements, including the English-language soundtrack, and it is from these materials that the restoration has been meticulously performed. Directed by Felix E. Feist (The Devil Thumbs a Ride, Donovan s Brain), DELUGE lives up to its near-mythic reputation. Not only are the destruction scenes truly extraordinary, the drama of survival among the rubble is presented with a dark candor that is far more complex than one expects of a film of this vintage. Also featured on this disc is the Pre-Code drama BACK PAGE, starring Peggy Shannon (DELUGE) as a small-town newspaper woman who tries to bring down a notorious white-collar criminal.


In 1933, RKO Radio Pictures released a loose adaptation of S. Fowler Wright’s 1928 novel “Deluge”.

A film about life after a worldwide disaster, the film was directed by Felix E. Feist (“The Big Trees”, “Donovan’s Brain”, “The Man Who Cheated Himself”) and a screenplay co-written by Warren Duff (“Angels with Dirty Faces”, “Varsity Show”, “Frisco Kid”) and John F. Goodrich (“My Lady’s Lips”, “The Last command”, “Lilies of the Field”).

The film stars Peggy Shannon (“Back Page”, “Hotel Continental”, “The Devil’s Mate”), Lois Wilson (“Guiding Light”, “Miss Lulu Bett”, “Bright Eyes”), Sidney Blackmer (“Rosemary’s Baby”, “High Society”, “Little Caesar”), Lane Chandler (“Winds of the Wasteland”, “Samson and Delilah”, “The Well”), Fred Kohler (“Underworld”, “Fighting Caravans”, “The Iron Horse”), Ralf Harolde (“Murder, My Sweet”, “I’m No Angel”, “Smart Money”) and Samuel S. Hinds (“It’s a Wonderful Life”, “You Can’t Take It With You”, “Scarlet Street”).

The film was a modest hit for RKO Radio Pictures but the film (which was later bought by Republic Pictures) is more remembered for its destruction footage which was used for films in the ’40s.

But for many decades, the film was lot until  an Italian print dub was found (note: there are two versions of how this Italian version of the film was found, one via a film archive in 1981 discovered by Forrest J. Ackerman.  The other is Wad Williams discovering a nitrate version of the film in an old mansion in Rome in 1981).  The film was eventually subtitled in English and released on VHS.

But in 2016, the nitrate dupe negative with the English soundtrack was discovered and Lobster Films did a 2K scan restoration and the film would receive a theatrical released and now a Blu-ray and DVD release courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film begins with scientists discovering that a violent storm is heading towards New York City and they issue warnings throughout the city.  Suddenly an eclipse of the sun leads to global destruction as unending earthquakes slam cities causing major tsunamis and leveling cities.

We are introduced to Claire Shannon (portrayed by Peggy Shannon), a world-class long distance swimmer who was supposed to go on another challenge but since the change of weather, she ends up going with a friend and staying with her family in the country.

We are then introduced to lawyer Martin Webster (portrayed by Sidney Blackmer) and his wife Helen (portrayed by Lois Wilson) putting their two kids to sleep.  As the couple know bad weather is coming their way and their home may be destroyed, Martin takes his children and wife to stay behind a huge boulder in hopes it would protect them from the bad weather.

As Martin knows they need more provisions and clothes, he leaves his wife and children to go back to the house.  But the next major earthquake hits, which destroys New York City and destroys the home.

Martin is knocked unconscious and when he awakes, his home and land is gone and water has covered  the ground all around him.  And he fears that he lost his family to the tsunami.

Meanwhile, at a small house nearby, two men, the burly Jepson (portayed by Fred Kohler) and the anxiety-filled Norwood (portrayed by Ralf Harolde) are afraid they may be the last two people on the planet.  As Jepson goes outside the cabin, he discovers an unconscious Claire.

Fastforward and over a month and a half has passed.  Martin has built a shelter behind a rock and uses a nearby tunnel in a cave to store many provisions.

As for Jepson and Norwood, the two get into a major disagreement of who owns Claire.  Jepson tells Norwood that since he found the house and Claire, she belongs to him.  As Jepson goes to work on the boat, Norwood tries to sexually assault Claire and Jepson walks in and angered, he chokes and kills Norwood.  As for Claire, it gives her the moment to slip away and swim away from Jepson.  Who then gets his rifle and boat to go after her.

As Martin walks out of his home, he sees a body from the distance.  He goes to it and discovers Claire who is nearly unconscious and nurses her back to health.  Meanwhile, he sees from a distance, Jepson arriving near his home with his boat.  As he trails Jepson from a distance, both men discover a woman who was raped and killed.

Jepson comes across a gang of ruffians and he tells him that he is looking for a woman that belongs to him.  Meanwhile, Martin goes back hom to make sure he can protect Claire.  And the two start to have feelings towards each other.

Meanwhile, not far from the area, survivors in a nearby town have gathered to start a new civilization.  Among the survivors are Helen and her two children.  One of the townsmen, Tom (portrayed by Matt Moore) has taken care of Helen (and has fallen in love with her).  He tells her to forget about her husband, but she says that she believes Martin is alive.  She can feel it.

Tom tells her that soon, the women in the town will be assigned a man.  If she wants to prevent being hooked up with someone else, she should marry him now.

What will happen to Martin, Claire and Lois?


VIDEO:

“Deluge” is presented in 1080p (1:33:1 aspect ratio). Before I begin, it’s important for everyone to know that when it comes to film cleanup, Kino Lorber and Lobster Films do not invest in significant cleanup compared to major film releases from the large studios or film foundations.  What you are going to get are HD scanning of the original negatives to feature the film in the best resolution, but you will see white specks, scratches, slight frame damage, mild flickering, etc.

For those who watch silent films to early talkies, I’m just grateful these films are released and for this release, Lobster Films had done a 2K scan of this film once considered lost.

Picture quality is good considering the age of the film and the fact that a nitrate version of the film with an English soundtrack, “Deluge” is no doubt a film that looks very good.  The film maintains its grain structure and I’ve seen classic Hollywood films with major damage and this film does not suffer from major damage.  Yes, there are white specks, scratches, and some frames with an occasional larger white speck but really, this is common with older films, let alone nitrate films.  So, I felt the picture quality was very good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Deluge” is presented in English DTS-HD 2.0 Surround. The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear through the front channels and the dialogue and soundtrack is crystal clear with no major crackle or pops.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Deluge” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an insightful audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith.
  • Interview with Director Gabriel Mascaro – (21:09) Interview with filmmaker Gabriel Mascaro about “Neon Bull”
  • Back Page (1934 film) – (1 hr., 04 min.) In this film starring Peggy Shannon, the film features Peggy as Jerry Hampton, a young female reporter who was fired from a major big city newspaper.  Jerry decides to take over a troubled small town newspaper and learns about small town politics and the difficulties of finding advertisers to keep the newspaper afloat.  Also, the troubles she receives as people don’t feel confident a woman can run the newspaper.
  • The Hurricane Trailer
  • Avalanche Trailer
  • Meteor Trailer

“Deluge” is a fascinating 1934 natural disaster film that despite its visual effects for its time and at times for its corny dialogue, I actually enjoyed “Deluge” more than many other natural disaster films, including big budget natural disaster films that came out decades after.

A loose adaptation of S. Fowler Wright’s novel, “Deluge” focuses on a global natural disaster during a time when technology and natural disaster warnings was limited, where earthquakes become rampant and along with a tsunami, cities were destroyed and humanity is reduced.

While no one knows how many people survived, the storyline of “Deluge” shows a side of humanity that is often depicted in post-apocalyptic films and that is the worst of society where gangs are rampant and some reverting to troglodyte behavior.  Women are raped and murdered and women are seen as possessions and not equal partners.

Sure, its a film that rings loud and clear of society back in the 1930’s, but the film provides a glance of the 1930’s through its characters.

Ziegfeld Follies Peggy Shannon who was to be the new “It” girl, is glamorous and beautiful sporting a bikini (when most women wore one piece swimsuits) and a woman who behaved independently until being convinced by her protector that she must make a decision to fall in love.

I bring up Peggy’s character of Claire as being independent because Shannon starred in a film titled “Back Page” about a fired big city reporter who wants to prove that she can run a smalltown paper, despite people thinking she can’t do that because she’s a woman.  The 1934 film is also included on this “Deluge” Blu-ray release, which makes the release quite enticing because it’s a film that follows a woman determined to succeed despite the challenges she may face.

Unfortunately, like a few other Hollywood talent of that time who were hooked on drugs and alcohol, Peggy Shannon’s star career was dimmed due to her alcoholism.

“Deluge” also stars Sidney Blackmer and Lois Wilson.  Blackmer plays the main protagonist Martin Webster, a man who thinks his wife and children died from the earthquake/tsunami and has built a home near a rocky mountain and in better shape as he has managed to stockpile on provisions.  His life changes when he meets Claire and slowly falls in love with her, not knowing that his wife Lois and her children are very much alive.

The primary antagonist is Jepson (portrayed by Fred Kohler), a burly man who thinks he is one of the last people left alive and since he found a house and also an unconscious Claire, he assumes that she belongs to him and no other.

Claire escapes from him and thanks to her world class swimming skills, she swims to the area that Martin is staying.  But not far behind is Jepson, who wants nothing but to bring Claire back.  Jepson meets the Bellamy Gang, who raped and killed a woman.

The film manages to establish that there is a good number of riff raff and in the new world, but there are good people who are willing to fight back which we have seen in movies such as “Mad Max” and other storylines.

This classic film manages to incorporate a lot of action and drama and definitely one of the earlier lower budget natural disaster films that is upstaged by the bigger budget MGM natural disaster film “San Francisco” starring Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Jeanette MacDonald that was released three years later (1936).

Part of the problem with “Deluge”, while some may point to visual effects, while cheesy for today’s standards, I felt the visual effects were customary for its time and the fact it uses stock footage of a natural disaster (hurricane) in the film shows that RKO Film, really wanted to drive the images of chaos and panic, while many cities are being destroyed by a global natural disaster, leading to the death of millions.  And one must remember, this is a low budget RKO film, not a big budget MGM film.

Where “San Francisco” focused on few characters, it also tries to show humanity really being affected by a major disaster.  In “Deluge”, too many times where the female characters are just seen as objects meant to be possessed.  They must make a choice to be with a man or else it’s too late.

Because it’s a pre-code film, I do like the fact we see violence in the film.  People die in this film, not just through the natural disaster but because of greed or envy.  The film goes to show how people are affected by chaos but even for those in the side of good, I feel later in the film, they aren’t more affected by the natural disaster, but the fact that their relationships are affected.

With the 1936 film “San Francisco”, the film was ambitious in special effects but the 1906 earthquake gave writers the opportunity to craft a story about the human spirit of willing to rebuild a city and start over.  In the 1993 film, “Deluge”, it’s not about human spirit during a time of chaos but the man and woman and the importance of a relationship during a time of chaos.

But once again, there are differences between the two films from star power and money budgeted.  And “Deluge” is in essence a low budget film, with no major big name talent, but still you see talent who had true potential and a natural disaster film that rivals big budget natural disaster films made in the last 40 years.  I enjoyed “Deluge” and what they were able to accomplish.

And as mentioned, this Blu-ray release comes with the Peggy Shannon 1934 film “Back Page”, and it’s one of the few pre-code films which shows an independent business woman trying to prove everyone that she can be a leader and a woman who can run a small town newspaper.  Also, for “Winnie the Pooh” fans, the longtime voice of the popular character courtesy of Sterling Holloway, has a role in the film.

But I found “Back Page” quite interesting because you rarely find career-driven women in classic Hollywood films.  Far too often, women were portrayed as vamps seducing men, women who need saving by a man or women having to be good wives or mothers.  But “Back Page” was interesting to see a protagonist running a newspaper and one that is so driven and standing her own ground.  A rarity to see in older Hollywood films.

As for the Blu-ray, as mention earlier, picture quality is very good, not pristine but considering what Lobster Films was able to accomplish, I’m quite grateful to have the best presentation of “Deluge” and “Back Page” to date with this Blu-ray release.  The lossless soundtrack features no significant crackle or pops and the special features include a wonderful and insightful audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith.

Overall, “Deluge” on Blu-ray can be seen as a watching an entertaining 1933 natural disaster film, which was once considered as lost. Others may find the Blu-ray as a wonderful collection of two films starring actress Peggy Shannon.  I will say that this Blu-ray release is a fantastic collaboration between Kino Lorber and Lobster Films giving audiences the opportunity to watch and enjoy two entertaining films from the 1930’s.  Recommended!

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Nisekoi: False Love Vol. 20 by Naoshi Komi (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

February 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

How will Raku respond to Yui’s confession of love? Meanwhile, Raku gets jealous when Chitoge tells him that she likes a guy. All this and more in this entertaining 20th volume of Naoshi Komi’s “Nisekoi: False Love”.  Recommended!

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© 2011 Naoshi Komi. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: Nisekoi: False Love Vol. 20

STORY AND ART BY: Naoshi Komi (古味直志)

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: SHUEISHA, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC/Shonen Jump Manga

RATED: T for Teen

RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2017


When Marika’s plan to watch the first sunrise of the year with Raku goes awry, they find themselves stranded on an uninhabited island! As Marika’s health begins to fail, will they find a way to see the sunrise? Plus, when Yui turns twenty, Night comes to her with a shocking pronouncement: it is time for Yui to get married!


The conclusion to Marika kidnapping Raku.  As Raku wants to know how sick Marika really is.

Meanwhile, Yui is ordered to get married, now that she has turned 20.  When she confesses her love to Raku, what will Rako do?

Also, when Raku asks if Chitoge like’s anyone and she tells him that she does (not telling Raku, it is him), Raku for some reason is starting to get jealous.  Now he wants to know who she likes.

And what happens when Raku and the ladies go to the shrine for New Year’s Day?  Will it be a repeat of last year (with all the ladies getting drunk)?

All this and more in Naoshi Komi’s hit manga series, “Nisekoi: False Love” vol. 20!

What is “Nisekoi: False Love”?

Naoshi Komi’s manga work is well-known for readers of Shonen Jump. From “Koi no Kami-sama”, “Williams” and “Double Arts”, Komi’s manga “Nisekoi” (False Love) was created as a one shot for Jump NEXT! in 2011 but then receiving the go-ahead as a weekly manga serialized in “Weekly Shonen Jump”.

“Nisekoi” revolves around high school Raku Ichijou. When Ichijou was a kid, he met a girl and he kept a lock, she kept the key and promised each other to get married if they one day find each other.

Since then, Ichijou has kept his promise and has worn the lock around his neck and has been hoping to meet her again.

But Ichijou’s life is a little complicated. While a good-natured individual, unfortunately for him, he is the son of the leader of the Shuei-gumi yakuza syndicate. He has no interested in become part of the yakuza but everyone expects him to be the next one to lead the syndicate in the future.

Meanwhile, while going to school, he sees a foreign girl jumping from a wall and landing on him. He loses the lock on his neck and is very upset of what had transpired. Next thing you know in class, that same girl becomes a new student in his class.

Chitoge Kirisaki just moved from the U.S. to Japan and since her mom is Japanese and her dad is America, she is fluent in both Japanese and English. And suffice to say, when both Ichijou and Kirisaki see each other, they start yelling at each other and she nails him with a hit after he calls her “monkey girl”. People see how tough she is but to make them get along, his teacher puts Ichijou in charge of showing her around school.

He tries his best but the two are like oil and water, they just don’t get along. For the next week of trying to assist her, the two end up arguing and getting in each other’s faces.

If anything, Ichijou focus is more on finding the lock that was lost when Kirisaki landed on him. And he wonders if Kosaki Onodera, the popular girl in school and a person who has treated him with nothing but kindness is the girl that he made the promise with. He hopes it is her.

But just when Ichijou is about to give up, Onodera pleads with him to keep his promise and Ichijou is reminded that a promise is a promise and he intends to keep it. But wants to ask Onodera if there is any chance she may be the girl he made the promise too.

What he doesn’t know is that Onodera does have a key and she has always liked Ichijou but doesn’t have the guts to tell him.

But as Ichijou wonders if Onodera is the girl he made a promise too and excited for the possibility that it might be, when he gets home, his father talks to him about something important.

The problem is that the Shuei-gumi and another rival yakuza gang are in the brink of all-out war that would damage both yakuza gangs, he and the other leader have come up with the plan. Ichijou must pretend to be dating the daughter of the leader of the opposing yakuza gang.

Ichijou doesn’t want to get involved and his father told him that he must forget dating any other girl and focus liking this girl they set him up with.

When the two are introduces, Ichijou is shocked that the girl is Chitoge Kirisaki. And for both of them, they must promise to be boyfriend and girlfriend for three whole years and be convincing to both yakuza gangs that they are truly in love.

Both don’t want to be involved with each other but they have no choice. But now they must find a way to co-exist with each other as both yakuza gangs are suspicious of their relationship especially Kirisaki’s guardian, Claude.

Meanwhile, Ichijou still wants to ask Onodera if she is the girl with the key and Onodera is about to let him know that she is. But before they can, the whole school are told that both Ichijo and Kirasaki are boyfriend and girlfriend.

And now it has made things tough for both Ichijou and Kirisaki, but can they keep this charade of being in love with each other, especially if they despite one another?

And since then, there are a few other complications as not only Chitoge and Onodera have fallen for Raku, but also Chitoge’s bodyguard Tsugumi and Marika Tachibana, who Raku’s father promised Marika’s father that they would marry?

But while Raku Ichijou and Chitoge Kirisaki are supposed to fake their relationship, Chitoge is starting to realize that with each moment spent with Raku, she is slowly falling in love with him.

For volume 19, Chitoge Kirasaki’s father has told her that she and Raku will no longer need to fake their relationship because she and Tsugumi will be moving back to the United States. This leaves Chitoge to become devastated that she will never ever confess her feelings to Raku and will never be around him and her friends. What last resort will Chitoge and Tsugumi pull in order for them to stay in Japan?

Meanwhile, what happens when Onodera and Raku goes on their first date together during the holidays? And what happens when Marika kidnaps Raku?

For volume 20, the conclusion of Raku and Marika stuck on the island and Raku wanting to know what is really wrong with Marika’s health.

Meanwhile, it’s New Year’s Day and time for Raku and friends to celebrate.

As Raku asks if Chitoge if she likes anyone and she tells him that she does, he suddenly starts to feel jealous.  Why is that?

And Yui receives an order to get married now that she has turned 20-years old.  But when she confesses her feelings to Raku, how will he respond?


With volume 20 of Naoshi Komi’s “Nisekoi: False Love”, the manga starts to heat up with the series now heading towards its final volumes.

As we have read many volumes and seeing women who have fallen for Raku, I think we are now starting to see the storylines start to narrow down which girl Raku would end up with.

With this storyline, we get to see Raku’s feelings for Chitoge start to intensify as he gets jealous when she tells him that she likes someone (not telling him that it’s him).  And it starts to eat Raku up inside and he doesn’t know why.

But the primary storyline revolves around Yui, who is now turning 20 and she is ordered to get married to fulfill her duty as Don and she must make her first major adult decision or be arranged to marry someone else.

Feeling the pressure, the only person she has had feelings for is Raku and now Yui confesses her love.  But how will he react?

20 volumes in through the series, I really enjoy this manga series because it’s fresh take on the young promise made by youngsters to marry each other and it also has that similarity to “Ranma 1/2” of two people arranged by their parents to be together, although not to be married but to have this fake romance for three years. And then having multiple young ladies vying for his attention.

But with the introduction of other girls who made promises when they were younger, we clearly don’t know which girl Raku promised to marry when he was younger. But with everyone vying for Raku’s attention (and he being totally oblivious to what’s going on), it makes for a very entertaining storyline and series!

The artwork by Naoshi Komi is well-drawn, the series is full of humor and for the most part quite delightful in capturing their emotions on each page. But Naoshi Komi’s manga series has been nothing but delightful and very entertaining!

How will Raku respond to Yui’s confession of love? Meanwhile, Raku gets jealous when Chitoge tells him that she likes a guy. All this and more in this entertaining 20th volume of Naoshi Komi’s “Nisekoi: False Love”.  Recommended!

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Doctor Strange (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Scott Derrickson’s “Doctor Strange” was much better than what I was expecting. Having grown up with Stephen Strange and the various incarnations of the Sorcerer Supreme, I like the humanistic approach to this typically no-nonsense character but also balancing humor and action that made the storyline so entertaining and enjoyable. If you are a Marvel fan, “Doctor Strange” is a film I definitely recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Doctor Strange

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 115 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:39:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French Subtitles.

COMPANY: Marvel Studios

RATED: PG-13 (For Sci-Fi Violence and Action Throughout and an Intense Crash Sequence)

RELEASE DATE: February 28, 2017


Based on the Marvel Comics by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Directed by Scott Derrickson

Written by Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill

Produced by Kevin Feige

Co-Producer: David J. Grant

Executive Producer: Victoria Alonso, Stephen Broussard, Louis D’Esposito, Stan Lee, Charles Newirth

Music byMichael Giacchino

Cinematography by Ben Davis

Edited by Sabrina Plisco, Wyatt Smith

Casting by Sarah Finn, Reg Poerscout-Edgerton

Production Design by Charles Wood

Art Direction by Julian Ashby, Jim Barr, Thomas Brown, Ray Chan, Jason T. Clark, Jordan Crockett, Michael Manson, Mike Stallion and Mark Swain

Set Decoration by John Bush, Lauri Gaffin

Costume Design by Alexandra Byrne


Starring:

Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo

Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer

Benedict Wong as Wong

Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius

Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One

Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Nicodemus West

Benjamin Bratt as Jonathan Pangborn

Scott Adkins as Lucian


From Marvel Studios comes DOCTOR STRANGE, the story of world-famous neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose life changes forever after a horrific car accident renders his hands useless. When traditional medicine fails him, he travels to remote Kamar-Taj in search of a cure, but instead discovers the mystical arts and becomes a powerful sorcerer battling dark forces bent on destroying our reality.


Back in 1963, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko unveiled their new character, Dr. Stephen Strange in “Strange Tales” #110.

Since then, Dr. Strange has been established as one of Marvel Comics top iconic superheroes.

And while a 1978 television film based on the character was not well-received, a live action film was released in 2016 courtesyo of Marvel Studios and was directed by Scott Derrickson (“Sinister”, “Deliver Us from Evil”, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”) and co-written by Derrickson, Jon Spaihts (“Prometheus”, “Passengers”) and C. Robert Cargill (“Sinister”, “Sinister 2”, “As They Continue to Fall”).

The film would star Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”, “Star Trek Into Darkness”, “Black Mass”), Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”, “Children of Men”, “American Gangster”), Rachel McAdams (“Sherlock Holmes”, “Mean Girls”, “Midnight in Paris”, “Spotlight”), Benedict Wong (“The Martian”, “Prometheus”, “Moon”), Mads Mikkelsen (“Casino Royale”, “The Hunt”, “Hannibal”), Tilda Swinton (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”, “Adaptation.”, “The Chronicles of Narnia”) and Benjamin Bratt (“Law & Order”, “Miss Congeniality”).

The film which was budgeted at $165 million would go on to make $675.8 million in the box office and now the 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD will be released on Blu-ray in Feb. 2017.

“Doctor Strange” begins with a sorcerer named Kaecilius (portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen) and his group of zealots entering the secret compound Kamar-Taj in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Kaecilius beheads the librarian and steal a ritual from a book belonging to the Ancient One.  As the Ancient One pursues Kaecilius and his group, they escape with the ritual.

In New York City, we are then introduced to Stephen Strange (portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch), a neurosurgeon who is arrogant and also very intelligent thanks to his photographic memory. He has somewhat of a relationship with nurse Christine Palmer (portrayed by Rachel McAdams).

But while driving his car too fast in the rain and looking at his smartphone, he gets into a near fatal accident.  Unfortunately, Stephen Strange has extensive nerve damage and is becoming desperate, so he uses his entire fortune to pay for his experimental surgeries, which do not work.  And the failure would lead to him severing a lot of his relationships with people.

When he was told his trainer that someone who was paraplegic was able to come back from severe nerve damage and walk again, he goes to visit Jonathan Pangborn (portrayed by Benjamin Bratt) who explains to Stephen that he went to Kamar-Taj and learned how to walk again because of his visit and training.

This leads to Stephen going to Nepal and he meets a sorcerer named Mordo (portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor) and eventually the Ancient One (portrayed by Tilda Swinton).

As Stephen tries to get answers of how she was able to get Jonathan Pangborn to walk again after a severe injury, she tries to explain to him but Stephen refuses to believe that anything but cell regeneration is not possible.  The Ancient One then reveals to Stephen Strange the astral plane and other dimensions such as the Mirror Dimension.

This leads to Stephen begging her to teach him and eventually Stephen Strange learns from his time at Kamar-Taj, through training and the library, which is managed by Master Wong (portrayed by Benedict Wong).  But while Stephen is training, Kaecilius and his followers are trying to summon Dormammu of the Dark Dimension.


VIDEO:

“Doctor Strange” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Fantastic visual effects.  Because a lot of the film is shot on green screen, the film really depends on the delivery of visual effects and for “Doctor Strange”, the visual effects are phenomenal.  May it be astral form to Dormamu making his appearance, visual effects and the main scenes show great balance and everything looks great.  Closeups show great detail, many moments of vibrant lighting and more.  Definitely a film that looks amazing in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Doctor Strange is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Description Track, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital. Featuring a wonderful, immersive soundtrack as the film really takes advantage of the surround channels and LFE during the action-packed moments throughout the film.  Crystal clear audio (dialogue and music) but I was very impressed during the action-packed moments when Kaecilius infiltrates the sorcerer’s headquarters to the ending action scenes.  Audiophiles will no doubt enjoy this lossless soundtrack!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Doctor Strange” comes with the following special features:

  • Featurettes – (58:04) Includes: A Strange Transformation, Strange Company, The Fabric of Reality, Across Time and Space, The Score-Cerer Supreme
  • Marvel Studios Phase 3: Exclusive Look – (7:27)  A featurette about Marvel Studios plans and how Marvel Studios have evolved since 2006.  An awesome teaser to upcoming Marvel Studios films.
  • Team Thor: Part 2 – (4:35) A hilarious featurette featuring Thor being interviewed about living in Australia with a guy named Daryl.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes – (7:52) Featuring five deleted and extended scenes.
  • Gag Reel – (4:12) Featuring the gag reel from “Doctor Strange”.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Scott Derrickson.

EXTRAS:

“Doctor Strange” comes with a slipcover, DVD and a Digital HD code.


When I was younger, reading comic books featuring Doctor Strange was quite the commonplace.  As Doctor Strange was a major member of the Marvel super hero group known as “The Defenders” (they were the other superhero group outside of the Avengers, X-Men and Fantastic Four), it was a comic book that I would read quite often.

But as I got older, it seemed as if through the ’80s and ’90s, writers did not know what to do with the character and focused his stories more on the occult and sparingly used him in the Marvel Universe with other popular characters.

If anything, I think that Doctor Strange (and comics titled “Dr. Strange”) would become to cerebral to some and not as cool as other Marvel titles were focusing on integration and crossovers.  But later on, they would make the character much darker as his stories would become part of the “Midnight Sons” supernatural comics from Marvel and later, becoming a character doubting his power and currently a much different character than he was in the past.

With the Marvel Studios release of “Doctor Strange”, the film offers viewers to see Stephen Strange as vulnerable but also a character that has awesome magic abilities and using his intellect and what he has learned to become possibly the Sorcerer Supreme.

Personally, I felt Scott Derrickson did a huge service of making Doctor Strange cool, humorous but setting the character up to make quite of an impact with the other Marvel film crossovers (there are two scenes during the credits, one in the middle and one at the end, so don’t turn off your Blu-ray when the credits start).

Benedict Cumberbatch did a magnificent job with his portrayal of Doctor Strange and other talents such as Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong did a fine job.  I was surprised to see Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One but overall, I was pleased with the acting.

Now to make the world of Doctor Strange work, it would depend on visual effects and the team behind “Doctor Strange” did a magnificent job of showcasing Stephen during the astral plane and mirror plane and also during the dark dimensions.  The use of magic and the visual effects employed in those scenes, especially the more action-driven scenes were wonderfully done.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is magnificent, as with the lossless audio.  So, videophiles and audiophiles should be quite happy.  You get a good number of special features included with “Doctor Strange” and I think in addition to the “Doctor Strange” film, Thor fans will like the hilarious “Team Thor: Part 2” featurette and Marvel fans who love the films will love the “Marvel Studios Phase 3 Exclusive Look” feature as we get to see what Marvel has planned for upcoming films.

Overall, Scott Derrickson’s “Doctor Strange” was much better than what I was expecting.  Having grown up with Stephen Strange and the various incarnations of the Sorcerer Supreme, I like the humanistic approach to this typically no-nonsense character but also balancing humor and action that made the storyline so entertaining and enjoyable.

If you are a Marvel fan, “Doctor Strange” is a film I definitely recommend!

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