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The Son of the Sheik (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Son of the Sheik” is no doubt an exciting romance/action silent film worth watching.  And will forever be remembered as a Rudolph Valentino classic.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1926 Artcinema Associates. 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Son of the Sheik

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1926

DURATION: 80  Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p, Color tinted, DTS-Master Audio 2.0

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2017


Based on the Novel by Edith Maude Hull

Directed by George Fitzmaurice

Screen Adaptation by Frances Marion, Fred De Gresac

Titles by George Marion Jr.

Produced by George Fitzmaurice

Music Composed and Performed by Alloy Orchestra

Cinematography by George Barnes


Starring:

Rudolph Valentino as Ahmed/The Sheik

Vilma Banky as Yasmin

George Fawcett as Andre

Montagu Love as Ghabah

Karl Dane as Ramadan

Bull Montana as Mountebank

Agnes Ayres as Diana – Wife of the Sheik


In this visually intoxicating sequel to Valentino’s career-defining film The Sheik, the silent screen’s greatest lover portrays a cultured yet untamed young man who is lured into a thieve’s trap by a beautiful dancer, Yasmin (Vilma Banky). After escaping, he kidnaps the damsel and holds her captive in his desert lair, dressing her in Arabian finery and threatening to unleash his violent passion upon her. Exotic romance saturates every frame of this Orientalist epic; its sadomoasochistic fantasies are acted out against the lavish set design of William Cameron Menzies (The Thief of Bagdad) and lushly photographed by George Barnes (Sadie Thompson). The Son of the Sheik proved to be Valentino’s final film. He died suddenly on August 23rd, 1926 at the age of 31, just before the picture’s release. This edition is mastered from the best surviving 35mm elements and features a dazzling score by Alloy Orchestra.


In 1921, “The Sheik” was the film that launched Hollywood’s first male sex symbol, Rudolph Valentino.

Despite the success of “The Sheik” and his 1922 film “Blood and Sand”, due to his divorce with Jean Acker and the negative publicity he had received for being romantically involved with silent film costume and set designer, Natacha Rambova, thus earning a reputation of a bigamist, he was also in a battle against Famous Players which earned him a reputation of having an ego and being a diva for not settling for the proposed salary that they had given him.

And Valentino would then go on a break until his return to make more films and eventually signing with United Artists thanks to his friends and fellow silent actors, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks.  And in 1926, he would go on to film “The Son of the Sheik” despite his known hatred to use the sheik image.  But took on the role in order to pay off his debts.

While “The Son of the Sheik”, which is based on a 1925 romance novel by Edith Maude Hull was a success in the box office (grossing $1,000,000 within the first year of its release) and many decades later would be selected for preservation in the United Stations National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, it was not a film that Valentino would enjoy.

While on a nationwide tour to promote the film, Valentino collapsed in his New York hotel room and doctors discovered that he had a perforated ulcer which required surgery.  But unfortunately, after the surgery, Valentino developed peritonitis and would die on August 23, 1926.  As critics raved Valentino’s performance as his best, the film would be released two weeks after the actor’s death.

“The Son of Sheik” was directed by George Fitzmaurice (“Suzy”, “Raffles”, “The Devil to Pay!”) and features a screen adaptation by Frances Marion (“Camille”, “The Scarlet Letter”, “The Red Mill”) and Fred De Gresac (“Sweet Hearts”, “Vida Bohemia”, “Hell Harbor”).

The film would star Valentino in a dual role as The Sheik (of the original film) and who is the father of the film’s protagonist, Ahmed.  The film would also star Agnes Ayres reprising her role as Dianna, the mother of Ahmed.  And the film would star Vilma Banky (“The Eagle”, “The Winning of Barbara Worth”, “The Awakening”), George Fawcett (“Flesh and the Devil”, “The Wedding March”, “The Merry Widow”), Montagu Love (“The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “Gunga Din”, “The Mark of Zorro”) and Karl Dane (“The Big Parade”, “The Big House”, “The Scarlet Letter”).

And now “The Son of the Sheik” will be released on Blu-ray in May 2017 (as well as the 1921 film, “The Sheik”) by Kino Lorber.

The film begins with an introduction to a gang of criminals who disguise themselves as a troupe.  The daughter of the gang’s leader is Yasmin (portrayed by Vilma Banky) who is a dancing girl that performs in front of men and keeps their eyes fixed on her, while her father and his men do their crimes.

One day while dancing in the ruins of Touggourt, she and Ahmed (portrayed by Rudolpha Valentino), the son of the Sheik (an older version of the character from the the first film, also played by Valentino), fall for each other and have a secret romance.  When one of the men catches the two together, her father is disappointed as she is promised to Ghabah (portrayed by Montagu Love).

Meanwhile, Ahmed is captured by the gang, as they feel they could collect a large ransom because he is the son of the Sheik.  When Ahmed asks for Yasmin, he is told by Ghabah that it was all a ruse and that Yasmin was faking everything to lure him in.  Ahmed is beaten and tortured.

While Ahmed’s men would come and rescue him, Ahmed can’t believe the woman he loved was using him.

Will his love turn to anger?  And when his father finds out that Ahmed was having a romantic relationship with a dancing girl, how will his parents react?


VIDEO:

“The Son of the Sheik” is presented in 1080p High Definition(1:331 aspect ratio) and is color-tinted. It’s important to note that the last version I have of this DVD is the 2000 Kino Lorber DVD. And I can say that the quality of the film on Blu-ray is much better in terms of clarity and sharpness. The film is color-tinted (not black and white) and while there are scratches and some frames look blurrier, the entire film actually looks very good considering the film is over 90-years old. The picture quality is definitely an improvement over the 2000 DVD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Son of the Sheik” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is music composed and performed by Alloy Orchestra.  The orchestra version really gives an exciting adventure-action film type of feel to it. but I’m sure there are people who may be wondering if a second musical score is included and the theatre organ score by Jack Ward featured on the 2000 Kino Lorber DVD is not included on this Blu-ray release.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Son of the Sheik” comes with the following special features:

  • Introductions by Orson Welles –  (17:34) Orson Welles discusses Valentino and “The Son of the Sheik”.
  • Newspaper Headlines Announcing Valentino’s Illness and Death – (1:29) Newspaper clips featuring the headlines regarding Valentino’s illness and death.
  • Valentino: His Life and Times – (8:32) A short documentary about Rudolph Valentino.
  • Valentino at the Beach – A Short Subject – (2:25) A small short shot during a time Rudolph Valentino was not with a film company.
  • The Young Rajah Theatrical Trailer – (2:30) A trailer for Valentino’s 1922 film “The Young Rajah”.

As Rudolph would continue to make women swoon and men would question his masculinity because of the actor’s European upbringing and style.  While it has been a few years since Valentino had a major box office hit, “The Son of the Sheik” would become the actor’s finest film that would earn a significant amount of money in the box office for its time.

But the film would also showcase the final work of Valentino, as the actor passed away during the promotion of the film at the young age of 31.

Reuniting both Valentino and his “The Eagle” co-star, Vilma Banky to star in a film showcasing the love and passion between the two individuals, their love is put to the test as Valentino, playing the young Ahmed (son of “The Sheik” character of Ahmed) is captured, tortured by a gang and offered for ransom.  To make things worse, the gang puts in Ahmed’s head that his girlfriend Yasmin was using him and was in on the plan of luring him.

While Ahmed is eventually freed by his men, he has developed a hatred towards the woman he once loved.  But what happens when he captures Yasmin and keeps him at his home, his father, The Sheik is disappointed in his son’s actions.

Meanwhile, the gang wants Yasmin back and it would lead to an action-packed battle between Ahmed, his father and their soldiers versus this gang of ruffians.  What will happen to Ahmed and Yasmin?  Can their love be tested in such fashion and can these two overcome this test?  Or will Ahmed’s hatred towards Yasmin for thinking he wronged him, start to consume him?

A worthy sequel to “The Sheik”, which showcases Valentino in dual roles and also featuring the return of Agnes Ayres as the Sheik’s wife, Dianna, the sequel was a major success because of its stars but also because it had a sultry storyline which showcase Valentino and Banky showing amazing chemistry (on the big screen) with one another.  But also delivers in action, which many people will love because there is so much of it.

So, there is a good balance of drama and action in “The Son of the Sheik” and it’s a silent film that showcases Valentino’s strength as an actor.

As the film looks fantastic on Blu-ray and the Alloy Orchestra musical score is quite awesome.  But I can understand if there are those who are not thrilled that Jack Ward’s theatre organ score from the 2000 Kino Lorber DVD is not included on this Blu-ray release.

You also get a few special features which also includes another different way of seeing the funeral of Valentino, news headlines of his sickness and his death but also an introduction by Orson Welles showing his respect towards Valentino.

Overall, “The Son of the Sheik” is no doubt an exciting romance/action silent film worth watching.  And will forever be remembered as a Rudolph Valentino classic.  Recommended!

 

The Sheik (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Sheik” is a film that no doubt made Valentino popular despite the fact that in reality, he didn’t care for the film, nor being a Sheik. But it did cement him as Hollywood’s first sex symbol and those details may overshadow the actual film, “The Sheik” is still quite entertaining after all these years. And one should at least watch this film before watching “The Son of the Sheik”. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1921 BY AMOUS PLAYERS AND LASKY CORP. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Sheik

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1921

DURATION: 75 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p, Color tinted, DTS-Master Audio 2.0

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2017


Based on the Novel by Edith Maude Hull

Directed by George Melford

Adaptation by Monte M. Katterjohn

Music Composed and Performed by Ben Model

Cinematography by William Marshall


Starring:

Rudolph Valentino as The Sheik, Ahmed Ben Hassan

Agnes Ayres as Lady Diana Mayo

Ruth Miller as Zilah

George Waggner as Yousaef, Tribal Chieftain

Frank Butler as Sir Aubrey Mayo

Charles Brinley as Mustapha Ali, Diana’s Guide

Lucien Littlefield as Gaston

Adolphe Menjou as Dr. Raoul de St. Hubert

Walter Long as Omair, the Bandit


Hollywood’s first male sex symbol, Rudolph Valentino, appears in his most iconic roles in The Sheik (1921). Agnes Ayres stars as Lady Diana Mayo, a headstrong Western woman who infiltrates the private party of the handsome Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan (Valentino). When the Sheik later encounters Diana in the desert, he abducts her and takes her to his sumptuous lair. Unable to resist the Sheik’s cruel magnetism, Diana’s defiant nature crumbles and she begins to develop affectionate feelings for her captor. The Sheik plays upon a long tradition of Orientalism in Western art, which romanticized the sands of Northern Africa as a hotbed or seduction and captivity. Theatrical organ score by Ben Model.


“The Sheik”, it was the film that launched Hollywood’s first male sex symbol, Rudolph Valentino.

A man who made women swoon and angered many men due to being different from the typical male actors of his time, as Valentino was seen as a man who was very much into high fashion, slicking back his hair and was considered by the American male populace as being effeminate.

Needless to say, while Valentino was very much a different looking man in Hollywood courtesy of his Italian father and French mother and raised with a European influence.

And with the success of the 1921 film, “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse”, earning $1,000,000 at the box office and Valentino’s looks, it would ear lead to Valentino working with Famous Players-Lasky (which would become Paramount Pictures) and Jessy Lasky wanting to capitalize on Valentino’s looks, cast him for “The Sheik” as the film’s protagonist Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan.

The film is based on the bestselling romance novel by Edith Maude Hull and the adaptation was directed by George Melford and the adaptation written by Monte M. Katterjohn.

“The Sheik” starred Valentino along with Agnes Ayres (“Forbidden Fruit”, “Eve’s Love Letters”), Ruth Miller (“The King of Kings”, “The Affairs of Anatol”), George Waggner (who would later become a director of films such as “The Wolf Man”, “77 Sunset Strip”, “Operation Pacific”), Frank Butler (who would go on to write films such as “Going My Way”, “Road to Morocco”, “Road to Bali”, Babes in Toyland”), Charles Brinley (“Moran of the Lady Letty”, “In the Days of Daniel Boone”), Lucien Littlefield (“Sons of the Desert”, “The Little Foxes”), Adolphe Menjou (“Paths of Glory”, “A Star is Born”, “A Farewell to Arms”) and Walter Long (“The Birth of a Nation”, “Intolerance”).

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray  Kino Lorber in May 2017.

The film begins with an introduction to Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan as the Arabs are having a wife lottery.

Meanwhile, in the North African town of Biskra, we are introduced to the independent Lady Diana Mayo (portrayed by Agnes Ayres).  Many of the women are gossiping about Lady Diana because she plans to go to the desert alone and take on a month-long trip escorted only by natives.

While her brother tries to convince her to not go, Lady Diana is dead set in going.  And her friend proposes to her but she tells him that she doesn’t want to be married because it would make her a captive and she would rather live a life of freedom.

As she goes to a local casino, the people tell her she can not enter because an important Sheik, Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan is there for the evening and because she is not Arab, she is not permitted to go inside.  But when the Sheik arrives, he is captivated by Lady Diana’s beauty.

And Lady Diana decides to sneak into the casino by swapping clothes with a dancer and disguising herself as one of the women.  And what Lady Diana sees is women being given away for her marriage, which she can’t fathom.  And when Lady Diana is selected as one of the women to be put up in the lottery, the Sheik sees the woman’s reluctance and realizes its the woman he saw outside of the casino.  And for her protection, he escorts her out of the casino.  And he is told by Lady Diana’s guide that he will be escorting her for her trip.

As Lady Diana goes to ride with her guide for her month-long trip through the desert, the Sheik and his men arrive with their horses and while Lady Dianna tries to flee, the Sheik captures Lady Diana and takes her to his home.

As Diana is distraught and wants to leave, the Sheik tells her that she will learn to love him.

And as her captive, will she learn to love him or will she escape from him?


VIDEO:

“The Sheik” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is color-tinted.  It’s important to note that the last version I have of this DVD is the 2002 Image Entertainment DVD.  And I can say that the quality of the film on Blu-ray is much better in terms of clarity and sharpness.  The film is color-tinted and while there are scratches and some frames look blurrier, the entire film actually looks very good considering the film is nearly a hundred years old.  The picture quality is definitely an improvement over the 2002 DVD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Sheik” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is music composed and performed by Ben Model.  And once again, another splendid musical composition by Ben but I’m sure there are people who may be wondering if a second musical score is included, there is only one and the Gaylord Carter composition is not included.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Sheik” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by historian Gaylyn Studlar.
  • Archival Footage  – (3:02) Archived footage taken at Rudolph Valentino’s funeral.
  • “Blood and Sand” (1922) Theatrical Trailer – (2:02) The original theatrical trailer.

Considered as one of the biggest box office silent films and also socially influential films of all time, “The Sheik” is also known for propelling the career of Rudolph Valentino, making him Hollywood’s first sex symbol.

In someway, the film was an unknown risk.  As Edith Maude Hull’s best selling novel “The Sheik” was controversial for racial miscegenation and rape, the film left out certain aspects from the film.

The other risk was by Jesse Lasky of Famous Players-Lasky (which would eventually become Paramount Pictures) casting the not too established actor, Rudolph Valentino.  But wanting to capitalize on Valentino’s “Latin Lover” reputation, the risk paid off as many women turned out to the film to watch Valentino on the big screen.

For me, watching the film again over a decade later, I appreciate the film much more today.  For one, the film features Lady Diana Mayo, an independent woman, who speaks against herself getting married, as she sees marriage as being in captivity and the end of independence.  And the character, keeps her strong demeanor throughout the film, despite being distraught of being captured and possibly being forced to do things against her will.

In the original novel, the character of Lady Diana was raped by the Sheik but in the film, while the Sheik wants to take advantage of her, he sees her crying and distraught, that he decides to leave her alone.  Many critics wrote that they wish there was no deviation from the original novel, but perhaps rape would be strong for a major film and it works to the favor of Rudolph Valentino as he is shown as a man with sensitivity and not going primal and making his captive, his sexual plaything.

I also am in awe of how far the director and film crew had gone to ensure a desert setting involving many extras, especially many who are on horseback.  And while there is no clear answer of where the film was shot, set design to costume design is really well-done for this 1921 classic silent film.

My enjoyment of watching this film on HD is seeing the clarity of the film on Blu-ray versus how things looked on DVD 15-years ago.  While not pristine, the film still looks much better than it ever has.  And for the accompany musical score by Ben Model, he did a wonderful job scoring the film from beginning to end.  And you also get a small featurette featuring Valentino’s funeral and the original theatrical trailer for “Blood & Sand”.

While “The Sheik” will be remembered for being a successful film that propelled both Rudolph Valentino and Agnes Ayres, a film so beloved by women that it made women in the audience faint and “The Sheik” would also become part of teenage lingo and even created a fashion trend for Arabian clothing.  And the moniker “Valentino” has been used to describe certain type of guys still goes on today, despite many of those saying it, probably don’t know much about Rudolph Valentino at all.

“The Sheik” is a film that no doubt made Valentino popular despite the fact that in reality, he didn’t care for the film, nor being a Sheik.  But it did cement him as Hollywood’s first sex symbol and those details may overshadow the actual film, “The Sheik” is still quite entertaining after all these years. And one should at least watch this film before watching “The Son of the Sheik”.

Recommended!

 

One Piece Film Gold (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Definitely one of the more exciting “One Piece” films I have watched in a decade and definitely the best looking “One Piece” film created. If you are looking for a “One Piece” film with action, wonderful animation and awesome voice acting, definitely give “One Piece Film Gold” a try!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: One Piece Film Gold

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL DATE: 2016

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: May 2, 2017


Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto

Script by Tsutomu Kuroiwa

Music by Yuuki Hayashi

Character Design by Masayuki Sato

Art Director: Kazuo Ogura 

Chief Animation Director: Masayuki Sato

Mechanical Design: Hiori Denforword Akishino 

Art Design by Nobuhito Sue

Animation Production by Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Young as Nico Robin

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Ian Sinclair as Brook

Travis Willingham as Portgas D. Ace

Edward Newgate as Whitebeard



“ONE PIECE” is a popular anime series based on the popular manga series serialized in Shonen Jump by Eiichiro Oda. Suffice to say, “ONE PIECE” is the highest selling manga for Weekly Shonen Jump and its popularity has extended to various anime (via the TV series, OVA and films) and video games in America and also worldwide.

The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is in its 18th season and a total of over 776 episodes having been aired in Japan.  Several animated films, many video games and for the most part, a very successful anime/manga series worldwide.

“ONE PIECE” is an adventure anime about a 17-year-old boy named Monkey D. Luffy who gained enormous strength (and stretching abilities) after eating a magical demon fruit. He eventually teams up with a group of pirates and have the name “The Straw Hats”. Luffy’s driven to one day obtain the most sought out treasure known as “One Piece” and eventually become the King of the Pirates.

And here we are with the latest film (2016) titled “One Piece Film Gold”, the 13th “One Piece Film” which will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and HD Digital in May 2017.

The film begins with the Straw Hat Pirates arriving at Gran Tesoro, a large entertainment city-ship which is owned and ruled by Gild Tesoro.

When the team arrive to the music of Tesoro and Carina, they are suddenly attacked by enemy pirates.  The group show their battle and might as a team and beat the pirates and are visited by a concierge named Baccarat.  Baccarat offers the Straw Hat Pirates VIP access to Gran Tesoro due to the group’s infamy.

When Gild Tesoro challenges the group to a dice game where they can become millionaires, the hotel will give them $300 million to spend.

When the group takes on the challenge, they start to win. Gran Tesoro offers a deal, if they win a challenge they get 10x of what they have. But when they bet it all on the competition and Gran Tesoro uses her Devil Fruit powers to take away Luffy’s luck and the group loses, Gran Tesoro demands the Straw Hat Pirates to pay for losing the $320 million they lost.  But the group accuses Baccarat of cheating and she admits to them that she used her power to make Luffy unlucky.

The group fights Tesoro and his executives, Baccarat, Tanaka and Dice but the executives outsmart the Straw Hat Pirates and they are beaten.

When Roronoa Zoro goes to attack Tesoro, he shows them his power of manipulating gold and encases Zoro’s legs.  And now, Tesoro gives the Straw Hat Pirates ’till 12:00 the following day to pay their debt.  If they don’t, Zoro will be executed.

Knowing they need money, Nami spots an former friend named Carina from her past.  Carina tells the group that Tesoro posesses 20% of the world’s wealth and keeps his riches in a suite on top of the hotel.  She offers to help the Straw Hat pirates to break into the hotel and steal the money to help repay their debut.

But can the group pull out this major heist?


VIDEO:

“One Piece Film Gold” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the film looks vibrant. Colors look fantastic in HD and his is probably the most detailed “One Piece” film that I have seen yet.  Great balance of CG for the detailed backgrounds, animation is well done and for the most part, character designs are great.

Overall, animation production from Toei Animation is magnificent!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“One Piece Film Gold” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 . Both soundtracks are fantastic and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the center, front and surround channels.  Music plays a big part in this film, as well as action.  So, this is no doubt one of the better lossless soundtracks I have heard in a “One Piece” film.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“One Piece Film Gold” comes with the following special features:

  • Place Your Bets on the Straw Hats – (28:06) A featurette featuring the English dub voice actors: Colleen Clinkenbeard (voice of Luffy), Christopher R. Sabat (voice of Roronoa Zoro), Eric Vale (voice of Sanji), Ian Sinclair (voice of Brook), Brina Palencia (voice of Chopper), Stephanie Young (voice of Nico Robin), Luci Christian (voice of Nami) and Sonny Strait (voice of Usopp).
  • Trailers – Funimation trailers.

EXTRAS:

“One Piece Film Gold” comes with the Blu-ray, DVD and Ultraviolet Digital HD version of the film.


“One Piece” meets “Oceans Eleven”.

Where the majority of “One Piece” films tend to have a story about the team finding ways to outsmart their antagonist and saving locals who can’t fight for themselves, “One Piece Film Gold” is consistent with the other films with a powerful antagonist and his group, but this time, what makes the film so different is that the storyline is about outsmarting the other opponent.

Set in a huge ship that functions as a giant casino, the whole area is ruled by Grand Tesoro.  A cruel ruler who uses his Devil Fruit powers of controlling gold and able to control it and manipulate it.  Which makes him dangerous.  To make things worse, he has a group of executives such as Baccarat who makes people lose with her Devil Fruit power to make those unlucky.  And so many people become slaves (including their families and children) to Grand Tesoro to pay off their debt.

And now, Tesoro and his group has created a ruse and used deception to win against the Straw Hat Pirates and now they are in debt.

In this case, the Straw Hat Pirates are in bad situation as Grand Tesoro is threatening to execute Rorona Zoro if the group can’t come up with $320 million to pay off their debt.

The group plans to do the impossible by stealing from Grand Tesoro as his riches are kept in a suite on the top of the hotel.  And they must do it with the help of a thief named Carina that Nami knows from her past.

And just when you think the Straw Hat Pirates have enough with Tesoro and his executive team to fight against, thinks are even more complicated when the Marines arrive.

“One Piece Film Gold” is no doubt the best looking “One Piece” film I have so far.  The amount of detail for the art backgrounds and the characters are wonderfully detailed and shaded.  Toei Animation definitely put a lot of time and effort in the making of this film.

Special features include a half hour featurette with the English dub voice cast.  And you get the Blu-ray, DVD and Ultraviolet Digital HD version of the film.

Overall, definitely one of the more exciting “One Piece” films I have watched in a decade (my favorite is still the eight film “One Piece Movie: The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta”) and definitely the best looking “One Piece” film created.  If you are looking for a “One Piece” film with action, wonderful animation and awesome voice acting, definitely give “One Piece Film Gold” a try!

 

Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Exciting, action-packed showcasing the Great Martial Arts World Tournament, for those wanting to experience “Dragon Ball Z” in HD, will definitely want to watch “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” on Blu-ray.  Recommended for the die-hard DBZ fans!

Image courtesy of © Bird Studio/Shuiesha/Toei Animation. 2009 Toei Animation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One

DURATION: (Episodes 99-121) 575 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (4:3), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Toei Animation/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: April 25, 2017


Originally created by Akira Toriyama

Directed by Yasuhiro Nowatari

Produced by Kazuya Watanabe, Kohei Obara, Kyotaro Kimura, Makoto Seino

Music by Kenji Yamamoto

Theme Song Arrangement: Seiichi Kyouda

Anime Production: Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Kyle Hebert as Son Goku

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan (Tien)

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-sennin

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Krillin (Kuririn)

Naoki Tatsuta/Bryan Massey as Oolong

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chi-Chi

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Brina Palencia as Chiaotzu/Puar

Tohru Furuya/Christopher R. Sabat as Yamcha

Toshio Furukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Unsho Ishizuka/Chris Rager as Mr. Satan

Shino Kakinuma/Kara Edwards as Videl

Takeshi Kusao/Laura Bailey as Trunks

Masako Nozawa/Kara Edwards as Goten


Seven years have passed since Cell’s defeat, and the Z Fighters have returned to normal life. Goku has continued his training in the Other World, Krillin has gotten married, and Gohan has his hands full attempting to navigate the pitfalls of high school. But with the new World Martial Arts Tournament about to begin, it’s time for Goku and the Z Fighters to reunite and face off against the greatest warriors on Earth!

Meanwhile, the evil wizard Babidi has traveled across the galaxy on a quest for revenge, hoping to fulfill his father’s thwarted dreams of universal domination. The Supreme Kai has come to enlist the aid of the Z Fighters in his effort to prevent Babidi from awakening a monster of unimaginable terror—Majin Buu!


The exciting action-packed anime series “Dragon Ball Z” is back with the final HD version of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” (volume seven) as the safety of the world rests on the shoulders of young Gohan, as he takes on the evil Perfect Cell.

Having grown up with “Dragon Ball Z” and during my teenage years visiting the local Japanese video rental store and always in heavy anticipation of what was being shown on television in Japan that week and waiting the two weeks it would arrive in the US and watching it in Japanese, despite not knowing what was being said, I enjoyed the series tremendously.

The main protagonist Son Goku was Japan’s equivalent to America’s Superman. I’m sure the juxtaposition of both Superman and Dragonball can be seen as a baby from other planet comes to Earth, the baby growing up to becoming a boy with tremendous strength and abilities and raised by a loving person who instilled good in his heart.

Granted, Goku’s original mission when landing on Earth was to destroy humanity but learning kindness towards people, nature and animals, he became a hero that protected all that he loved from any evil. But most importantly, Goku was a character that was far from perfect. He was a character that was always learning about people, enjoying life but most of all, setting a goal to becoming stronger and developing his skills in order to protect the people and the planet that he loves.

I was captivated by the original “Dragon Ball” series (which featured Goku as a child) and later with “Dragon Ball Z” featuring Goku as an adult. The series would bring back the characters that were seen on the original “Dragon Ball” series but this time around, the series took on more of a serious tone as the enemies became more deadly and Goku and his friends were put into grave situations that they have never had to face before. “Dragon Ball Z” would feature wonderful character development, intense action sequences and most of all, knowing how to extend the series to tease fans and keep people in high anticipation of what would be happening next.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to see this DBZ fandom grow in the US from the very early ’90s and seeing “Dragon Ball Z” viewing parties at the early anime conventions and then seeing how the series exploded into American pop culture once the series began airing on television in the US and with its DVD releases. It’s hard to believe that this series I have followed for years and began in 1989 has celebrated its 20th Anniversary celebration in 2009.

But the celebration was fantastic news for fans as this time, “Dragon Ball Z” would be remastered for HD TV and would be called “Dragon Ball Z Kai” which would include a brand new opening and ending sequence, commercial cut scenes, new frames produced digitally, re-recording of the voice talent, new music and most importantly, focusing on the main story arcs and reducing the series 291 episodes to a total of 97 episodes (plus a bonus 98th episode or extra which was included in the Japanese release).

Needless to say, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” received rave reviews from fans in Japan, while some hardcore DBZ fans had a hard time watching a new interpretation of the series (especially with newer music) but when it was announced that the series would be released in the USA on Blu-ray and DVD, fans were happy and with the first volume, needless to say, I was quite happy with the first Blu-ray release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and if you enjoyed the previous volumes, there is no doubt that you are going to enjoy “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One”.

For my review of this Blu-ray release, I’m going to assume that many of the people reading this are familiar with the series. If you aren’t, if you want to experience the full “Dragon Ball Z” 291 episodes, FUNimation Entertainment currently has the full series of “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball Z” available on DVD but at the same time, it is not imperative to watch the original “Dragon Ball” series to understand “Dragon Ball Z Kai”. But watching it completely is important if you want to know the relationships of each character.

As mentioned, currently available from FUNimation Entertainment is “Dragon Ball” which covers the younger years of Goku. “Dragon Ball Z” covers the adults years of Goku and have been released in nine volumes (seasons) via an “orange box release”. All nine volumes covers all 291 episodes and were remastered by FUNimation Entertainment but presented in 16×9 and utilizes both English and Japanese dub but caters to the English audience crowd who watched the series on television.

FUNimation Entertainment have also released the “Dragon Box Z” DVD box set releases (all eight volumes of “Dragon Box Z” have been released). These releases are to satisfy the hardcore Dragon Ball Z fans who wanted the original Japanese uncut episodes, original Japanese music score but most importantly, the series being presented in its original aspect ratio of 4×3.

Also, released from FUNimation Entertainment were the movies and specials (on Blu-ray and DVD) and also the next story arc known as “Dragon Ball GT” (which “Dragon Ball” manga creator Akira Toriyama had nothing to do with until the final episode) which follows the Z-Warriors ten years later and focuses on Goku, an adult Trunks and Goku’s granddaughter Pai. This series was released on DVD in 2009 by FUNimation.

So, here were are in 2017 with the release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” presented in HD. These episodes are without the non-essential scenes or filler episodes and instead of 291 episodes, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” + the previous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” has a duration of 167 episodes and with this latest volume, you have episodes 99-121.

The focus for these episodes is the arc known as “World Tournament Saga” and takes place seven years since the battle with Cell.

Gohan is now a teenager and will be attending public high school for the first time.  As expected, with his strict mother Chi Chi, Gohan becomes a straight A student.  But you also learn that he has a seven year old brother named Goten.

As Gohan enters high school in Satan City (named after Mr. Satan because of his lie that he is the one that defeated Cell), he sees that there is trouble in the city with bank robbers and so forth, so with the help of Bulma, creates a costume for him and thus Gohan goes under the secret identity of Great Saiyaman.

In high school, he meets Bedil (Mr. Satan’s daughter) who is a powerful fighter and helps the police force take on the criminals.  Eventually, she catches on to Gohan’s identity and demands Gohan to teach her how to fly or else, she will reveal his secret identity.

I have to admit that when I first watched these episodes (when it was first released in Japan), I absolutely loved the chemistry between Gohan and Bedil.  So, it was great to see how the two fighters get close to each other and it’s almost similar to how Goku and Chi Chi became boyfriend and girlfriend (and eventually husband and wife).

For the third arc, a new World Martial Arts Tournament is happening and the Z-Fighters intend to take part.  Also, Goku has been granted a 24-hour stay in Planet Earth to take part in the tournament.  The first part of this third arc features the junior division in which Son Goten and Trunks enter the tournament.  The second part features the main division which the Z-Fighters (Goku, Vegita, Piccolo, Krillin, No. 18, Gohan, Android 18 and Trunks/Goten in disguise) are taking part in.   But introduces two mysterious characters named Shin and Kibito which somehow scares Piccolo for some unknown reason.

And then there are other fighters who seem to have superhuman power levels and along with the two mysterious characters, the Z-Fighters must find out who they are and what is their scheme.


VIDEO:

I always find it interesting when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z” because each review, I’ve always mentioned how things look much better when I saw the series especially comparing to my old Japanese TV recordings. But with the release of the series via the orange box season sets and then the Dragon Box Z releases, although they look good…nothing compares to how gorgeous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” looks. The picture quality is clean, no spotting, no blemishes, no dust, no speckles… Colors are absolutely vibrant, blacks are nice and deep and the series looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray.

Presented in 1080p High Definition and 4×3. As mentioned earlier, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is not a remaking of the series in HD. The most noticeable addition is the opening and ending sequence and also the commercial cut scenes which use new animation and featured in HD. But ow awesome would it be if a “Dragon Ball” related series was re-created to look like those digital HD scenes? That would have been amazing.

But once the series begins, for those who have been watching “Dragon Ball Z” long enough or multiple times will just in awe of how beautiful and how clean the anime series looks in HD on Blu-ray. You’ll also notice scenes that you have never seen before.

First, lets discuss the picture quality. Not one blemish can be seen in these episodes. With the sketches and animation cels having since been discarded and anime series back in the ’80s and early ’90s not really being taken care of, Toei animation had new frames produced for this series and it was a laborious job of digitally tracing over still frames from existing footage and filling them with softer colors. Some scenes were cropped and new scenes were added.

But watching this series on Blu-ray, I can say that “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” does not look like a series that came from 1989. Tohei Animation did a wonderful job with this animated TV series, editing these episodes and choosing what scenes to include and what new scenes to add to ensure that the pacing works out fine. In terms of picture quality, those ugly dust, speckles and blemishes are gone, I did not see any major edge enhancement or compression artifacts. I have no doubt that fans will enjoy this HD presentation of “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters”.

Of course, for those wanting the true anime on HD treatment, this is probably not the series one should look for as you do get the original late ’80s animation and this series was created long before animators considered HD let alone were making the series digitally. But it all comes down to how it looks compared to the original series released on DVD and I have to say that this is the best looking version of the series available despite it being a modified and shortened version of the “Dragon Ball Z” series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

This is where “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” shines on Blu-ray and its the lossless audio. The series is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) and Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese).

Because the English is mixed and utilizes more channels, there is a dramatic difference in sound, although for those with a modern receiver and have a solid 5.1 or 7.2 setup, can easily switch their receiver to stereo on all channels for the Japanese soundtrack for a more immersive soundscape.

There are online stores showing that the Japanese is Dolby Digital 2.0 but this is incorrect, it is indeed a lossless Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 soundtrack. And both soundtracks sound great!

But here is the lowdown on the lossless audio. Sound effects are now heavily utilized on the surround channels. Obviously, the more noticeable uses of the surround channels are the music and whenever the Z Warriors are in flight. But the biggest and most noticeable difference when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and its previous “Dragon Ball Z” releases on video is the music. As a hero like Superman or Batman will have its own musical orchestra driven theme song in a film, Goku now has a theme, the enemies have their theme and when a Z-Warrior passes away, there is a theme. Music is used to full effect in the series and the majority of it is orchestra driven and also utilized in the surround channels. You will hear the strings or brass playing through the surrounds and its done rather nicely. Some people may have an issue with the battle music as the music tends to incorporate the style that you hear from the most recent video games and transitions from jazz/funk to synthrock.

But these effects and music sound so delightful via lossless, its hard not to be impressed by it. Again, the English soundtrack is much more immersive because it utilizes a 5.1 lossless soundtrack versus the Japanese 2.0 lossless track. But I know fans who have wanted anime on Blu-ray with Japanese lossless should be happy. It’s important to note that this is a TV series and not an OVA or film, so the fact that there is so much going on with this TV series audio-wise is pretty awesome.

Granted, I know there are hardcore fans who will tell me that they loved the original Japanese music and I’m sure there will be fans including myself who love the new music, but of course, this is all subjective. And with that being said, for those who liked the Falcouner music, then buy the orange season box sets. If you want the original Japanese BGM, then the “Dragon Box Z” sets is for you. If you want a lossless soundtrack with outstanding music that is fully utilized with your home theater setup, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” is fantastic.

As for the dubwork, the voice acting has also been revamped with Colleen Clinkenbeard now providing the voice for Son Gohan, Monica Rial for Bulma and Brina Palencia for Chiaotzu and Puar. In Japan, the most noticeable difference is for Kame Sen’nin (Master Roshi) as Kohei Miayuchi passed away during the final season of “Dragon Ball Z” back in 1995 and for DBZ Kai is voiced by Masaharu Satou.

For the most part, both voice acting for the English and Japanese were very good. Of course, listening to both soundtracks voices are much different from each other especially the voice of the main character Goku. But depending on your preference, both Masako Nozawa and Sean Schemmel do a fantastic job as Goku. For those who watched the English dub and have played all the DBZ video games will probably see the most noticeable different with the character of young Gohan.

Overall, because of the clarity of the audio and how much it plays in the part of enhancing the enjoyment of the anime series, the lossless soundtrack for “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” is awesome!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 112 Video Commentary – (23:11) ADR writer J. Michael Tatum, Kara Edwards (voice of Goten and Bidel), Andrew T. Chandler (voice of Spopovich), voice of Kyle Ebert (voice of Gohan).
  • Textless Opening Song
  • Textless Closing Song
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming or currently available titles from FUNimation Entertainment.

EXTRAS:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” Part One comes with a slipcover case.


With the release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One”, I really enjoyed the Great Saiyaman arc.  We watched little Gohan grow up and now he is a teenager and although he doesn’t know it yet, he has met someone he cares about and willing to help her no matter what.  The chemistry between Gohan and Bedil is just awesome and episodes just focusing on these two were just great.

Also, episodes featuring Goten and Trunks and seeing these two go against each other in the Junior Division of the World Tournament was fun to watch.

And of course, to see how everyone has changed.  Especially Krillin who is now married to Android 18 and both have a daughter.  Heck, Krillin now has hair!

All that went through my mind when I was watching “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” was how awesome an experience it was to see this series later episodes finally in HD and how fantastic it looked and how incredible the lossless audio track was.

“Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters ” part one is primarily the tournament battle, this time, the little ones, Goten and Trunks get in the action.  Of course, these episodes are a nice diversion before going full force with the Majin Buu arc that comes afterward.

Now does “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” replace my feelings towards the original series? Of course not. But I can tell you right now that when watching “Dragon Ball Z” many years ago and even watching it again and again, part of the experience at the time was being kept at the edge of your seat because each saga lasted so long. We would literally have to wait weeks as it would come out to our Japanese video rental store and each VHS tape in bad quality would contain maybe two to four episodes. And this really tested your patience especially with each saga or battle lasting like 30 episodes or more.

If you were an original DVD purchaser of “Dragon Ball Z” when it was released per volume, not only was it an excruciating wait, it was expensive to collect all volumes. Sure, the DVD box set releases definitely have fixed the problem and is much cheaper than how things were back then. But what “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does is cut down all non-essential scenes, all filler episodes and focusing on the more important scenes of the story including the action sequences. Footage was re-edited to closely follow the manga and the action is now a more faster pace and I found the pacing for this series to be quite enjoyable and for those watching anything Dragon Ball related for the first time, especially on television, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” and the previous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” makes it much easier for those viewers, especially those with a short attention span.

For long-time fans, this new revision of the series maintains the heart and soul of “Dragon Ball Z” but gives us the best looking and best sound version of the series. It’s not meant to replace the previous “Dragon Ball Z” series that we have enjoyed (and for many, have spent money for via the box sets) but to compliment it and also to bring the series to HD and now on Blu-ray.

“Dragon Ball Z” has been such a part of the lives of many people for two decades and with this release, hopefully will entertain a new generation of DBZ fans or hook fans who have been curious about the series for a long time.

Overall, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” is easily a must-own anime on Blu-ray series if you love “Dragon Ball Z” or wanting to watch “Dragon Ball Z” but just don’t have the time necessary to watch every episode. Also, it helps that the series is now on Blu-ray, so people can enjoy these episodes in HD.

Exciting, action-packed showcasing the Great Martial Arts World Tournament, for those wanting to experience “Dragon Ball Z” in HD, will definitely want to watch “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” on Blu-ray.  Recommended for the die-hard DBZ fans!

 

My Hero Academia: Season One (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“My Hero Academia” is fast-paced and enjoyable! The characters and their powers can be a bit way over-the-top but its unpredictability and enjoyable storyline, makes “My Hero Academia”, an anime series on Blu-ray worth checking out!

Image courtesy of © 2014 by Kohei Horikoshi. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: My Hero Academia: Season One

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL DATE: 2016

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, DTS-HD Master Audio: English and Japanese 5.1, 2.0 Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: April 18, 2017


Originally Created by Kohei Horikoshi

Director: Kenji Nagakasaki

Series Composition: Yousuke Kuroda

Character Design by Yoshihiko Umakoshi

Music by Yuuki Hayashi

Art Director: Shigemi Ikeda, Yukiko Maruyama

Anime Production: BONES


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ayane Sakura/Luci Christian as Ochaco Uraraka

Daiki Yamashita/Justin Briner as Izuku Midoriya

Kaito Ishikawa/J. Michael Tatum as Tenya Iida

Kenta Miyake/Christopher R. Sabat as All Might

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Clifford Chapin as Katsuki Bakugō

Yuuki Kaji/David Matranga as Shōto Todoroki

Aoi Yūki/Monica Rial as Tsuyu Asui

Eri Kitamura/Caitlin Glass as Mina Ashido

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Sonny Strait as Present Mic

Inuko Inuyama/Morgan Berry as Thirteen

Junichi Suwabe/Alex Organ as Shota Aizawa

Kaori Nazuka/Felecia Angelle as Tooru Hagakure

Kei Shindou/Trina Nishimura as Kyōka Jirō

Kiyotaka Furushima/Christopher Bevins as Hanta Sero

Kōsuke Kuwano/Joel McDonald as Yūga Aoyama

Kosuke Miyoshi/MikeMcFarland as Mashirao Ojiro

Kouki Uchiyama/Eric Vale as Tomura Shigaraki

Marina Inoue/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Momo Yaoyorozu

Masakazu Nishida as Mezō Shōji

Ryou Hirohashi/Brina Palencia as Minoru Mineta

Takahiro Fujiwara/Chuck Huber as Kurogiri

Tasuku Hatanaka/Kyle Phillips as Denki Kaminari

Tooru Nara/Cris George as Rikidō Satō

Toshiki Masuda/Justin Cook as Eijirō Kirishima

Tsuguo Mogami as Noumu

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Joshua Grelle as Fumikage Tokoyami


It’s an exciting age of heroes, where most people develop supernatural abilities known as Quirks. Bright-eyed kids like Izuku Midoriya—Deku for short—dream of the day they become champions of the people. There’s just one little problem standing in Deku’s way. In a world full of heroes, he’s Quirkless. Crushed, but not down for the count, this superhero-fanboy dedicates his time to studying the pros in hopes that he, too, can join a prestigious high school for heroes. In the face of despair, Deku’s courage catches the eye of his ultimate idol, the symbol of justice known as All Might! With special training from the big guy himself, Deku and the talented first-years of the academy may finally have a shot at achieving their dreams. But these amateurs are put to the test of a lifetime when routine training becomes a battle against real villains!


From Kohei Horikoshi, the creator of “Omagadoki Dobutsuen” and “Barrage”, came his manga series “My Hero Academia” (Boku no Hero Academia).

Serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump in 2014, an anime adaptation began in April 2016 through June 2016 (for the first season) and a second season begain in April 2017.

The anime series is produced by BONES and is directed by Kenji Nagasaki (“Classroom Crisis”, “Gundum Build Fighters”, “No. 6”), series composition by Yousuke Kuroda (“Battle Girl High School”, “Fire Emblem”, “Gundam Build Fighters”), music was composed by Yuuki Hayashi (“Death Parade”, “Haikyu!!”, “Robotics;Notes”), character designs are by Yoshihiko Umakoshi (“Air master”, “Boys Over Flowers”, “Heartcatch Precure!”) and art direction by Shigemi Ikeda (“Battle Athletes Victory”, “Afro Samurai”, “Bastard!!”) and Yukiko Maruyama (“El-Hazard: The Wanderers”, “Macross Delta”, “Active Raid”).

And now the first season (featuring the first 13 episodes) is available on Blu-ray courtesy of Funimation.

“My Hero Academia” is a story that revolves around Quirks (people who begin to manifest special abilities) and all of a sudden people in the world began to have many people who became superpowered individuals.  Some who use their powers for good, some who use their powers for evil intentions.

Because the government is not equipped to deal with these superpowered thugs, a special group of heroic superpowered individuals came together to protect the people and keep the peace.

The series revolves around a boy named Izuku Midoriya, a boy born Quirkless and looked up to the world’s top hero, All Might.  And hoped that one day he could be a hero, despite not having a quirk.

One day, All Might received a near-fatal wound and now, he is losing his powers.  When Izuku proves his bravery, All Might decides to transfer some of his power on to Izuku and now, Izuku must train to learn how to use All Might’s quirk and must prove that he has the skills to attend the prestigious U.A. High School.

“My Hero Academia” focuses on the following characters:

  • Izuku Midoriya – A shy and timid boy who dreamed of becoming a superhero like All Might.  Often studying superheroes, when he steps up to save his childhood bully/acquaintance Katsuki from a villain, All Might chooses to transfer some of his quirk to Izuku.  And now Izuku has the opportunity to attend the prestigious U.A. High School.  He has a crush on Ochako.
  • Katsuki Bakugo – Izuku’s classmate and bully.  He possesses the Quirk Explosion which allows his palm to sweat to become nytrolglycerin and explode.  He is egotistical to people he deems are lower than him.
  • Ochako Uraraka – A girl who has the Quirk Zero Gravity, which makes any object she touches float.
  • Tenya Iida – The president of class 1-A who has the Quirk Engine, which gives him super-speed via jet engines in his legs.  Often seen as serious and scary.
  • Shoto Todoroki – A student in class 1-A and has the Quirk Fire and ice, which allows his left side to control fire and his right side to control ice.  He is the youngest child of Endeavor, the second top hero after All Might.
  • Toshinori Yagi/All Might – The top superhero in the world.  But only Itsuku knows his secrt that five years ago, he was severely injured in battle and now he is losing his power and can use it only for three hour a day.  He is a teacher at U.A. High School and his Quirk One For all allows him to transfer his power on to another.

VIDEO:

“My Hero Academia: Season One” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the anime series is respectful to the original character designs by Kohei Horikoshi.  Animation is vibrant and characters are well-drawn and shaded, art backgrounds are also well-done.

As most TV series has a bit of softness, “My Hero Academia” looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  I didn’t notice any banding issues or artifacts during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“My Hero Academia: Season One” is presented in Japanese DolbyTrue HD 2.0 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Both soundtracks are fantastic and are well-acted. dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the center, front and surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“My Hero Academia: Season One” comes with the following special features:

  • Anime Expo 2016 Interview with Kenji Nagasaki and Wakana Okamura – (12:46) Featuring director Kenji Nagasaki and producer Wakana Okamura at AX 2016 and with the duo being interviewed and having fun at AX.
  • My Hero Academia: Meet the Characters – (6:24) An English introduction to the characters of “My Hero Academia” (Funimation promos).
  • AnimeFest 2016 Interview with Ayana Nishino – (8:42) Featuring an interview with animation director Ayana Nishino.
  • AnimeFest 2016: Artist Sketches – (6:29) Featuring a sped up art feature of the artists of “My Hero Academia” drawing a sketch of various characters.
  • Anime Expo 2016: My Hero Academia Panel – (36:34) Masahiko Minami of BONES, producer Wakana Okamura, director Kenji Nagasaki and English dub actors Clifford Chapin, Justin Briner, Christopher R. Sabat.
  • Anime Expo 2016 Interview with Christopher R. Sabat & Justin Briner – (19:16) FUNimation interviews Christopher R. Sabat and Justin Briner.
  • Anime Expo 2016: Interview with Masahiko Minami – (8:08) FUNimation interviews BONES Masahiko Minami.
  • Inside the Episodes – Short Omake sketches that were featured at the end of each episode
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song
  • Trailer – Funimation trailers.

EXTRAS:

Both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the “My Hero Academia: Season One” are included on this Blu-ray release.


At first, I was wondering if “My Hero Academy” will be like another “X-Men” style storyline of humans vs. mutants and the world fearing mutantkind.  In this case, humankind fearing Quirks.

What I enjoy about this series is the fact that our heroes are not exactly what you expect in terms of heroic characters.  Whereas superpowered individuals in American comic books often showcase a character that is ripped, muscular, charismatic or gorgeous, “My Hero Academia” features regular characters and its main protagonist, Izuku Midoriya, is wide-eyed and looks far too innocent and unlikely to be a hero.

It’s heroes vs. heroes as the focused on a yearly sports festival in which the heroes must succeed and move up in the ranks and prepare themselves for whichever challenge comes their way. We also get to see a second competition featuring one-on-one battles as Izuku Midoriya of the Hero Course takes on Hitoshi Shinso from General Studies.  And also, Hanta Sero of the Hero Course vs. Shoto Todoroki of the Hero Course.

Also, Midoriya and friends in one of the most challenging battles they have ever faced as they must take on the League of Villains Hero Killer Stain.

Meanwhile, the Academy is having its Practical Exam and must be paired to take on a Hero, but with Midoriya and Bakugo, they find out they must take on All Might.

And all this and more in the first season of “My Hero Academia”.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant and BONES did a wonderful job with this TV series as not only did the animation compliment the manga series in terms of overall design but the series looked great on Blu-ray and softness was not overly evident.  The English soundtrack gets the better lossless 5.1 soundtrack and subtitles are in English.

I also have to add that this is probably one of the better FUNimation special features included with actual full panels and interviews included with both Japanese crew and English dub talent from Anime Expo 2016 and AnimeFest 2016.  I was pleasantly surprised to see FUNimation putting much effort to have these special features and definitely adds to the enjoyability of this Blu-ray release.

Overall, “My Hero Academia” is fast-paced and enjoyable! The characters and their powers can be a bit way over-the-top but its unpredictability and enjoyable storyline, makes “My Hero Academia”, an anime series on Blu-ray worth checking out!

 

Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc)

May 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you thought “Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu” was great, “Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu” is fantastic! Action-packed, great character development and wonderful animation and artistic backgrounds. It’s absolutely a must-own Blu-ray release for fans of the “Monogatari” series! Recommended!

Image courtesy of © NISIOISIN/KODANSHA, ANIPLEX, SHAFT. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu

FILM YEAR: 2016

DURATION: 68 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: 16+

Release Date: May 9, 2017


Chief Director: Akiyuki Shimbo

Directed by Tatsuya Oishi

Storyboard by Tatsuya Oishi

Music by Satoru Kousaki

Originally Created by NisiOisin

Character Design by Akio Watanabe, Hideyuki Morioka

Art Director: Hisaharu Iijima

Anime Production: SHAFT


Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroshi Kamiya as Koyomi Araragi

Maaya Sakamoto as Shinobu Oshino

Yui Horie as Tsubasa Hanekawa

Takahiro Sakurai as Meme Oshino


PART 2: NEKKETSU STORY

Koyomi Araragi was turned into a vampire by the legendary vampire, Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade, and he needs to revive the weakened vampire back to her complete form to return to being human again. The only way for Koyomi to achieve his goal is to fight the three vampire hunters – Dramaturgy, Episode and Guillotinecutter.


In 2005, a light novel titled “Bakemonogatari” was written by Nisio Isin and featured the illustrations by Vofan.

For Isin, he is known for his “Zaregoto” novel series (2002-2005) which led to series such as “Ningen” and “Sekai”published by Kodansha. By 2006, Isin would begin working on the “Bakemonogatari” series which is based on short stories published in “Mephisto Magazine”.

The first story featured a first volume with three stories “Hitagi Crab”, “Mayoi Snail”, “Suruguta Monkey” and a second volume with two “Nadeko Snake” and “Tsubasa Cat”.

“Bakemonogatari” focused on a third year high school student named Koyomi Araragi. A perverted teenager with a loli complex who doesn’t do well in school. One day, Koyomi was attacked by a vampire named Shinobu Oshino, a 500-year-old vampire who once was a vicious, beautiful vampire but now has the appearance of an eight-year old girl.

Koyomi turned into a vampire but thanks to Meme Oshino (an expert in the apparitions field), he was able to become human again but still has several side effects including seeing in the dark, his eyes turning red when incredibly angry, amazing healing power and strength.

While his parents are away, Koyomi helps raise his two young sisters, Karen (the middle child who is taller than Koyomi and likes to take part in martial arts and outdoor activities) and his little sister Tsukihi, who is the opposite of Karen and rather do indoor activities but also prefers wearing a yukata (Japanese traditional outfit).

With this new power of Koyomi, in “Bakemonogatari”, he had to help characters with apparitions.

A prequel to “Bakemonogatari” titled “Koyomi Vamp” which focused on Shinobu Oshino and her role as a vampire before attacking Koyomi and a separate volume known as “Kizumonogatari” was published in Pandora Magazine in 2008.

In 2009, “Bakemonogatari” was adapted into an anime series.

The sequel to “Bakemonogatari” titled “Nisemonogatari” which was released in 2008 and adapted to an anime series in 2012.

And while the series focused on the character of Koyomi, other series and episode arcs would focus on other characters in the “Monogatari” series.

In 2014, a five episode arc was released titled “Hanamonogatari” which focuses on the character Suruga Kanbaru.

And in October through November 2015, the Owarimonogatari novels received an anime adaptation which aired on Japanese television.

Which now leads us to the three-part film series known as “Kizumonogatari”.  The films would serve as a prequel to “Bakemonogatari” and “Nekomonogatari Kuro” and features an adaptation of the Koyomi Vamp arc.

The first film known as “Tekketsu” would feature Naoetsu Private High School loner Koyomi Araragi and how he would meet the character Tsubasa Hanekawa for the very first time.  But also how Koyomi encountered the vampire Kiss-shot-Acerola-orin Heart-under-blade and how he was turned into a vampire and how he badly wants to be a human again.

With the second film “Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu”, after learning in the first film of the sacrifice that Koyomi had taken to save the vampire Kiss-shot-Acerola-orin Heart-under-blade and that was by offering his blood, he becomes a vampire subordinate.

Now he has been given the task to retrieve Kiss-shot’s missing limbs that vampire hunters have taken.  But knowing the danger he’s in, as much as he loves to have Tsubasa Hanakawa near him.  He knows he can’t put her in danger, so he tries to do all he can to upset her, to drive her away.  But she is unwilling.  She wants to be by Koyomi’s side.

And now he must take on the most powerful vampire hunters such as the gigantic vampire known as Dramaturgy and the vampire-human half-breed known as Episode who has Kiss-shot’s legs and the most deadly hunter, the fully human priest known as Guillotine Cutter who has her arms.

But this is an extreme battle in which Koyomi will find himself in the most violent, bloodiest and no doubt highly risky situation he has ever been in, in his entire life.

Will he be successful?


VIDEO:

“Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the overall animation for the film is much different compared to the TV series. The film uses a lot of pinkish colors with an emphasis on brown, red and white. Also, a heavy use of 3D CGI backgrounds and real-life photos versus the abstract, 2D backgrounds as shown in the TV series.

But as one can expect from a film, bigger budget, vibrant colors and a different style, it’s no doubt refreshing visual look especially for some of the primary characters that we have seen in the “Monogatari” TV series.

“Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu” looks fantastic on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu” is presented in uncompressed Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 with English subtitles. Dialogue is crisp and clear and being a film, while the TV series is front-channel driven, the film makes great use of music and also sound effects ala ambiance through the surround channels. Also, the musical soundtrack is also crystal clear!

It’s important to emphasize that there are no English dubs with this Blu-ray set.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu” comes the following special features:

  • PV – Japanese Promotional Video
  • CM – Japanese Commercials

EXTRAS:

“Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu” comes with a 46-minute, 28-track original soundtrack, a slip case package illustrated by Akio Watanabe, a 40-page deluxe booklet and a six pinup postcard set.


As a faithful watcher and reviewer of the “Monogatari” anime series, after watching the first film “Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu”, I felt the film was refreshing, captivating and quite enjoyable to watch.  Now having watched “Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu”, I can easily say that this is the best Monogatari storyline I have watched yet!

The television series and the last film, they always have had an artsy, artistic visual side that I absolutely loved but a pretty unique style of story presentation that watching it once is not enough, you’ll probably discover new things if you watch each episode a few times.

But as the TV series featured a lot of comedy and the visual art made the series vibrant and unique, the films have been more on the darker, edgier side of a monogatari storyline.

This prequel allows us to understand the sacrifices that Koyomi has made to save Kiss-Shot but also the deadly sacrifices he will undertake in the second film to get her legs and arms back to make her whole and as an adult once again.

But with the first film, Koyomi sacrificed his humanity to save Kiss-Shot, but in part two, he has to make a major decision if he’s willing to lose his humanity in order to save someone he cares about.

A more action-driven storyline, what I enjoyed about “Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu” is that not only is the action well-done, but the visual presentation, the artwork to show motion, there was a lot of attention paid to making things look fluid and sometimes life-like.  The artwork is magnificent and I was blown away of how well-balanced the story and art was but how captivating the storyline was that really drew me in and couldn’t stop watching.  This second film was that good!

The second film also builds upon the friendship between Koyomi and Tsubasa and it’s great to see how close these two were earlier on but how different she was compared to what transpires with her character in “Nekomonogatari” and also as seen in the books.  Nevertheless, great character dynamics and how these two characters were developed in this film.

And with this being a film, there is a visual style that was refreshing to see and how it differs from the TV series. From character design, animation, the use of colors and 3D CG, the film looks great on HD!

It is important to note that “Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu”, like the first film, is violent and bloody, so you don’t want to show this animated film to young children.

As for the lossless soundtrack, also a major difference is you get a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack in Japanese 5.1 and 2.0. No English dub was included for this Blu-ray release.

And while special features are the usual CM and PV’s, you also get the second original soundtrack on CD and also a 40-page booklet and a six postcard set.  Along with a package illustrated by character designer, Akio Watanabe.

Because this is the beginning of Koyomi’s storyline and a prequel to the monogatari TV series, once can easily jump into this film and start with the “Kizumonogatari”  films.  watch and see how Koyomi met key people like Kiss-Shot and Tsubasa Hanakawa and then watch the anime series from it “Bakamonogatari” up to “Owarimonogatari”. The visual style is a bit different from the film, as one can expect from a bigger budget film vs. a TV series. But because the series is always creative, vibrant and unique, the film exhibits creativity, different uses of color and a different presentation that fans will probably enjoy, especially for its refreshing visual presentation and its use of pinks, red and whites.

Overall, if you thought “Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu” was great, “Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu” is fantastic!

Action-packed, great character development and wonderful animation and artistic backgrounds.  It’s absolutely a must-own Blu-ray release for fans of the “Monogatari” series!

Recommended!

 

The Gianfranco Rosi Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Each of these four films presented in the “Gianfranco Rosi Collection” are entertaining but also highlight the artful technique of the skillful documentarian, Gianfranco Rosi.  Observational and enlightening, “The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” is an excellent addition to one’s cinema collection featuring the works of one of the most awarded and and respected documentarians of today.  Recommended!

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


TITLE: The Gianfranco Rosi Collection

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: Fire at Sea (2016), Below Sea Level (1988), Boatman (1993), Sacro GRA (2013)

DURATION: Fire at Sea (113 Minutes), Below Sea Level (117 Minutes), Boatman (57 Minutes), Sacro GRA (91 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: Fire at Sea (1:85:1, 5.1 Surround), Below Sea Level (1:85:1, 2.0 Stereo), Boatman (1:33:1, 2.0 Stereo), Sacro GRA (1:78:1, 2.0 Stereo)

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: PG

RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2017


Fire at Sea

Written by Gianfranco Rosi

Idea by Carla Cattani

Produced by Roberto Cicutto, Paolo Del Brocco, Camille Laemle, Serge Lalou, Donatella Palermo, Gianfranco Rosi, Martine Saada

Co-Producer: Remi Burah, Olivier Pere

Cinematography by Gianfranco Rosi

Edited by Jacopo Quadri

Blow Sea Level

Written by Gianfranco Rosi

Boatman

Written by Gianfranco Rosi


Fire at Sea

Samuele Pucillo, Pietro Bartolo, Samuele Caruana, Maria Costa, Maria Signorello, Mattias Cucina, Francesco Paterna, Giuseppe Fragapane, Francesco Mannino


Gianfranco Rosi has emerged as one of the most awarded and provocative documentarians working today. His observational films artfully and sympathetically depict the lives of subcultures and displaced peoples the world over. The Gianfranco Rosi Collection includes four of his greatest films. Fire at Sea (2016), an Academy Award® Nominee for Best Documentary Feature and winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, is a heartwrenching portrait of African refugees pouring into the Italian island of Lampedusa. Sacro GRA (2013), winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, is an engaging tour of Rome s ring road, populated by a fascinating group of eccentrics. Rosi spent five years shooting Below Sea Level (2008), which documents the hand-to-mouth existence of California flatland squatters. And his first feature, Boatman (1993), captures life and death on the Ganges River in India.


One of the most prominent documentary filmmakers in Italy is Giafranco Rosi.  A man who not only directs, also is a camera operator, producer and screenwriter.

Rosi gained prominence when his 2013 documentary “Sacro GRA” won a Golden Lion at the 70th Venice International Film Festival and was the first documetnar film to win a Golden Lion in the history of the Venice Film Festival and the first Italian film to win at the festival in 15 years.

Rosi followed up with another award-winning documentary in 2016 titled “Fire at Sea”, which won a Golden Bear at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.

Rosi has created a total of six films since 1993 and now his four films: “Fire at Sea”, “Below Sea Level”, “Boatman” and “Sacro GRA” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The first film featured is Rosi’s most recent film “Fire at Sea” (2016) and is shot on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.  Shot during the European migrant crisis but also featuring the reality of many people who are refugees and those who risk their lives to travel through the Mediterranean Sea in hopes to get to Lampedusa and start a new life.

The film gives us perspectives of those living in Lampedusa.  A young boy named Samuele who belongs to generations of fisherman living in Lampedusa and gives us an innocent look at life on the island.  The film also shows us a perspective through the life of Dr. Bartolo, the doctor and director of the hospital at Lampedusa who is sensitive and wanting compassion towards refugees.  To not turn them away and lead them to their deaths but to let them, treat them and then discussion can begin.  But far too often the harsh reality is many who travel far to go to Lampedusa do not survive.

And we learn from the refugees of why many of them risk their lives to travel to Lampedusa.

For the 2008 film “Below Sea Level”, the film gives us a perspective of people who live their lives in Slab City, a desolate area in Imperial County, California where many RV owners and squatters from North America come to live permanently.  Some to stretch their retirement income, others to live off the grid and others to get away from society.

“Below Sea Level” was shot over a five-year period and documented the lives of a small group of homeless residents living in RV’s, buses or tents.

For Rosi’s first film “Boatman” (1993), the film is set in the River Ganges in India which stretches from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal.  The river is considered sacred and millions of Hindus cremate their dead.

It is believed by practicing Hindus that an unwed girl given a water burial will ensure she is born again into the family.  Also, due to poverty, to avoid the cost of cremation, many conduct water burials.

Also, many go into the river to cleanse themselves, believing that the river will cleanse them of sin and free them from the cycle of rebirth.

While the film interviews and showcases many who have come to the river to bury the dead including travelers who are in awe of what they are seeing, as boats run through the river with dead bodies floating up in the water.

The film focuses on a boatman whose job is to ferry people through the rivers and Rosi gives us a personal look at the life of the boatman, his job and the questions that he receives from foreigners so often.

And the final film is “Sacro GRA” (2013), the film features life for those who live along the Grande Raccordo Anulare, the ring-road highway that circles Rome.

Rosi spent two years filming and another eight months to edit and the film was inspired by Italo Calvino’s novel “Invisible Cities”, which is about Marco Polo as imagined describing his travels to the Emperor of China Kublai Khan.

The film showcases those who live near the highway such as EMS worker Roberto and taking care of his elderly mother.  Francesco is a scientist who catalogues palm trees that were ravaged by the red palm weevil.  Paolo and his daughter Amelia from northern Italy transferred to a new housing block.  Cesare is one of the last eel fisherman on the Tiber River who talks about the endangered traditions due to the GRA.  Filippo is a proprietor with a home with statues and an emporium of memorabilia that is rented out for movie sets and theater companies.  Also, to host parties and also is a B&B.  Also, life featuring prostitutes and go-go dancers at some of the neighborhoods.

No interactions with the camera, just the camera capturing the day and the life of the various people living near the GRA.


VIDEO:

For “The Gianfranco Rosi Collection”, the more recent the film, the better the picture quality.  “Fire at Sea” and “Sacro GRA” being the latest films (the former presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio and the latter in 1:78:1 aspect ratio) by Rosi looks great on Blu-ray, “Below Sea Level” (presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio) also looks very good, while “Boatman” being the oldest of the films, is presented in black and white 1:33:1.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Each of the films from “The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” is presented in 2.0 stereo, with the exception of “Fire at Sea” which is is presented in Italian 5.1 surround.  “Below Sea Level” is presented in English, “Boatman” in English, Italian and Hindi” and “Sacro GRA” in Italian.  Each with optional English subtitles.

Dialogue is clear through the front channels and English subtitles are easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Gianfranco Rosi – (5:12) Filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi talks about his filming style and waiting for the right moments to shoot and how the location and the people are important.
  • Interview with Pietro Bartolo – (29:55) Interview with Pietro Bartolo, doctor and director of the hospital of Lampedusa.
  • NYFF: Q&A with Gianfranco Rosi  – (23:41) Q&A with filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi.  Q&A is moderated by Dennis Lim, courtesy of Film Society of Lincoln Center.

EXTRAS:

“The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” comes with a 12-page booklet featuring an essay “Unsentimental Journeys: The Films of Gianfranco Rosi” by Nicolas Rapold.


Filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi is known for his attentiveness to form, waiting for the right moments to capture emotion and reactions and showcase reality in its purest form for his documentaries.

Kino Lorber’s “The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” features four different type of documentaries capturing humanity in various levels.

The first film featured is Rosi’s “Fire at Sea”, a heartbreaking film that shows us the reality of African, Syrian and other refugees from other countries who have risked their lives to leave their country in hopes for a better life in Lampadusa.

Visually, “Fire at Sea” is Gianfranco Rosi’s most impressive film.  Each shot is beautiful one side and the other side is tragic.  As the film tries to show us the more joyful side of Lampadusa of young Samuele on the island, the reality is that the island is the destination for those seeking refuge away from Africa, the Middle East and so many people perish because no other country would allow them in, but the island of Lampadusa.

We watch as a boat of African refugees arrive.  While at first you think everyone on top is safe and has made it, you start to learn the reality that the boat is a triple decker.  Those who paid more are put in the boat like sardines on top, others who have windows through the middle but those on bottom, with barely enough air to breath and to move, these are the ones that paid only a few hundred dollars less and have the most terrible conditions and where most of the dead are found.

Dr. Pietro Bartolo is a man we learn on how tragic things are, as he is the main physician and director at the hospital trying to help these refugees.  And questioning why so many have to die, when others could have let them into their countries, maybe not to live but at least give them treatment because the rid on the Mediterranean Sea is not only treacherous but they are in inhumane conditions to begin with.

And to see death as Italian authorities remove people from the boat one by one is shocking and heartbreaking and gives a new perspective to those wondering why people sacrifice their lives.  And for these people, it’s hope.  Hope that they can start a new life away from a country they once called home but is actually a living hell.  Having lived in that hell, to confront death on sea in hopes that they can survive and live a new life in a new country.

“Below Sea Level” is not as heartbreaking but more of a day in the life of those who chose to live in Scab City, away from society, homeless and all they have is whatever is in their RV or bus and just trying to make it.  Those who have called the region their home, a desolate area where many joint together to play instruments and have fun.  While others get annoyed by their neighbors.

The main highlight of the film is watching two intelligent individuals, a man and woman who are together for intelligent conversation but also for companionship.  But because their nasty living conditions with scabies and unclean areas, the female woman known as “Doctor” (who helps those in the area with medical needs) has enough and complains to her companion that she can’t live in such conditions.  But the man retorts with the fact that they are both homeless and she shouldn’t be complaining.

Others who have families, stays in touch with them via cell phone but know they chose a life of desolation.

This is not a film for one to feel bad about the individuals because for many of them, this is the life they live and are used to living.  Only a few of them want to escape that life but for the most part, it’s the only life they have lived and are comfortable with.  And Rosi just captures their conversations and their day-to-day life without questioning their lifestyle.

The third film “Boatman” is probably one of my favorites in the collection because of the correlation of what is presented on camera back in 1993 but then reading in the newspapers of the problems today.

The documentary shows us a boatman rowing through deep waters, many coming to the River Ganges to cleanse themselves of their sins or the poor to bury their loved ones in the water.  The problem today, 25-years after the film was shot is that the river has receded and the bodies are now all floating, the stench is gastly and dogs and vultures feed upon the deceased.

Eliminating the problems of the present, the film is rather interesting because we see many people who flock to the river for river burials or cleansing, travelers being taken on a tour through the river as the foreigners take pictures of the thousands who have flocked to the river, meanwhile dead bodies are floating all around.  And we learn from the Boatman of why their are bodies floating, why people bury their loved ones and while non-natives may question the Hindu tradition, the Boatman looks at it as part of life.  How it has been and no one questions it…just the foreigners who have so many questions.

Also, featured are interviews with foreigners living in India.  This includes an Italian man who is broke and homeless and stuck in India, an English doctor who cleanses himself in the waters, to foreigners who immersed themselves in Hinduism and more.

But “Boatman” is a compelling and fascinating documentary.

“Sacro GRA” is the final film which shows us the various people living near the highway circling Rome.  The winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, the film is also a day-in-the-life of various people.  Whereas “Below Sea Level” features people who are homeless and living as a community in a desolate area in California, “Sacro GRA” is about the different people, each with different lives, living near Sacro GRA.

Each of these four films presented in the “Gianfranco Rosi Collection” are entertaining but also highlight the artful technique of the skillful documentarian, Gianfranco Rosi. Observational and enlightening, “The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” is an excellent addition to one’s cinema collection featuring the works of one of the most awarded and and respected documentarians of today. Recommended!

 

 

Boruto – Naruto the Movie (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a big fan of the “Naruto” manga/anime series, I highly recommend “Boruto – Naruto the Movie”. Action-packed, full of drama and excitement. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2002 Masashi Kishimoto/2007 Shippuden, BMP 2015. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Boruto – Naruto the Movie

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL DATE: 2015

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, DTS-HD Master Audio: English and Japanese 5.1,  2.0 Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: March 28, 2017


Originally Created by Masashi Kishimoto

Director: Hiroyuki Yamashita

Screenplay: Masashi Kishimoto

Character Design by Hirofumi Suzuki, Masashi Kishimoto, Tetsuya Nishio

Music by -yaiba-, Yasuharu Takanashi

Art by Akemi Konno, Kazuyuki Hashimoto, Kentaro Akiyama, Masanobu Nomura, Mutsuo Koseki, Naruyo Kiriyama, Satoshi Matsuoka

Art Design by Hiroto Tanaka, Masaaki Endou

Chief Animation Director: Tetsuya Nishio

Anime Production: Pierrot


Featuring the following voice talent:

Junko Takeuchi/Maile Flanagan as Naruto Uzumaki

Yuko Sanpei/Amana C. Miller as Boruto Uzumaki

Akira Ishida/Liam O’Brien as Gaara

Chie Nakamura/Kate Higgins as Sakura Uchiha

Daisuke Namikawa/Xander Mobus as Momoshiki

Hana Takeda/Laura Bailey as Kurotsuchi

Hidenori Takahashi/Max Mittelman as Konohamaru Sarutobi

Hiroki Yasumoto/Wally Wingert as Kinshiki Otsusuki

Kokoro Kikuchi/Cherami Leigh as Sarada Uchiha

Kouki Miyata/Brian Beacock as Chōjūrō

Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Sheh as Hinata Uzumaki

Noriaki Sugiyama/Yuri Lowenthal as Sasuke Uchiha

Ryota Takeuchi/Catero Colbert as Darui

Ryūichi Kijima/Robbie Daymond as Mitsuki

Satoshi Hino/Ben Diskin as Sai

Showtaro Morikubo/Tom Gibis as Shikamaru Nara

Yoichi Masukawa/Brian Donovan as Rock Lee

Atsushi Abe/Spike Spencer as Inojin Yamanaka

Hisao Egawa/Catero Colbert as Killer Bee

Kengo Kawanishi/Bryce Papenbrook as Yurui

Kensho Ono/Todd Haberkorn as Shikadai Nara

Saori Hayami/Melissa Fahn as Himawari Uzumaki

Yukari Tamura/Danielle Judovits as Tenten


Boruto: Naruto the Movie takes place in the Hidden Leaf Village with Naruto as the Seventh Hokage. The Hidden Leaf Village is planning to host the Chunin Exams to train new shinobi from the village and from their allied villages. Among the entrants are Sasuke’s daughter, Sarada, Mitsuki, an exceptionally talented yet mysterious shinobi… And Boruto, Naruto’s talented but impetuous son.

Meanwhile, Sasuke who’s been on a mission in another dimension appears before Naruto to warn of a strange impending danger. Shrouded with an evil aura, Momoshiki and Kinshiki appear and attempt to assassinate Naruto. Petrified, Boruto is shielded by Naruto, only to disappear in front of Boruto’s own eyes.


The popular manga series “Naruto” has been going strong since its debut in Shueisha back in 1999 via “Weekly Shonen Jump” magazine.   With 72 volumes published, the manga series ended in November 2014.  Meanwhile, the anime series, the first titled “Naruto” began in 2002-2007 and lasted for 220 episodes.  And would continue with “Naruto: Shippuden” which lasted from 2007-2017 with a total of 500 episodes created.

The original manga by Masashi Kishimoto is about a young ninja named Naruto Uzamaki, a ninja of the Konoha leaf village who grew up facing prejudiced within his fellow ninjas because the evil nine-tailed fox was sealed inside him. But throughout the series, we have seen how Naruto is a kind-hearted boy who has worked hard in protecting his friends and staying true to his word with the goal of someday becoming the next Hokage of the village.

In 2014, Kishimoto wrapped up the “Naruto” manga and in the final chapter (featured in volume 72), Naruto would eventually become the Hokage of the Leaf Village and he and his wife Hinata would have two children, Boruto and Himawari.

Meanwhile, Sasuke and Sakura would have a daughter named Sarada, Shikamaru Nara and Temari would have a son named Shikadai, Sai and Ino would have a son named Inojin and Choji Akimichi and Karui would have a daughter named Chocho.

Everyone has grown up and Naruto is busy as the new Hokage at the village, this causes resentment from Naruto’s son Boruto who feels that his father was never there for him or the family.

This leads us to the film “Boruto – Naruto the Movie” which featured anime production from Studio Pierrot, direction by Hiroyuki Yamashita, a screenplay by Masashi Kishimoto, music by -yaiba- and Yasuharu Takanashi and character design by Hirofumi Suzuki, Masashi Kishimoto and Tetsuya Nishio and art design by Hiroto Tanaka and Masaaki Endou.

The film begins with Boruto telling his story and him and his team partners, Sarada and Mitsuki being trained by Master Konohamaru and trying to capture a bear (or panda).   After their mission, the four go to see Naruto, the Seventh Hokage.

And as Boruto gets into a little argument with his father (for not being part of his life due to his duties as Hokage), he reminds his father about his sister and Naruto’s daughter, Himawari’s birthday and how he needs to be there.

Meanwhile a scientist comes in and introduces the group to a new invention.  Now, a jutsu can be contained in a mini-seal and put into a bracelet which gives anyone, ninja or not, the power to use a jutsu.  No chakra is even needed to use the new technology and the scientists want it used for the upcoming Chunin exam but Naruto is against it and believes a ninja should use their own skills.

Meanwhile, Boruto meets with the scientist and takes the special bracelet.

With the next Chunin exams coming up, Sarada and Mitsuki want to take the exam but Boruto, he has no desire.  He doesn’t want to be like his father and that means not wanting to be Hokage.  But for Sarada, she wants to be Hokage and tries to get Boruto to take part in the Chunin exam to let his father know he could do it.

Meanwhile, Sasuke Uchiha returns to the village and Boruto, not wanting to be anything like his father, goes to Sasuke to take him in as a pupil.  But Sasuke will only agree if Boruto can learn the Sharingan jutsu.

As the groups get ready for their Chunin Exam to see who will become a ninja, round three will be in front of a public audience.  During a battle Boruto uses the bracelet to best his opponent, but for Naruto, he is disappointed that his son resorted to such a tactic and disqualifies his son from the Chunin exam and also taking away his ninja bandana as punishment.

This leads to an argument and Boruto complains that his father is never there for him.  Meanwhile, a new evil force attacks everyone at the Chunin Exam.


VIDEO:

“Boruto – Naruto the Movie” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the film looks vibrant.  Colors look fantastic in HD and with this being a film ,there is a good amount of backgrounds and detail in the background artwork.  Picture quality is fantastic!

I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Boruto – Naruto the Movie” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0. Both soundtracks are fantastic and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the center, front and surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Boruto – Naruto the Movie” comes with the following special features:

  • Special Naruto OVA – (10:23) It’s Naruto’s big day as his inauguration as Hokage is about to take place.  But time’s getting late because Boruto and Himawari are arguing.  But what happens when Boruto upsets his little sister?
  • Clean End Credits
  • Storyboards – Featuring a gallery of the storyboards for the film
  • Art Gallery – Featuring an art gallery from the film.
  • Trailer – Featuring the Japanese trailers.

Watching “Boruto – Naruto the Movie”, I can’t help but be entertained by the fact that the film focuses on the children of the characters that many of us grew up reading.

“Naruto” having lasted so long as a manga and anime series was a big part of the lives of many people who watched “Naruto” grow from a child, to a teenager and a young adult.  Seeing how his heart and his passion would inspire so many but also seeing him determined to defeat those who threatened the village or his friends.

With Naruto, he is a student that felt he had to prove himself through hardwork and determination.

So, it’s fascinating to see how Boruto is much different than his father.  Naruto, who had always said he would become Hokage is now the new Hokage of the Leaf Village but this new role means being busy with work and unfortunately, that means no time spent with the family.

Hinata is literally taking care of both children and you can see how Boruto is upset at his father for neglecting them, but he harbors a bit of anger for his father not being there for him.

What’s even more interesting is that Boruto is not too aware of his father’s past and how he grew up, so he is not aware of the challenges or difficulties his father grew up with.

And because of his feelings towards his father, he asks his dad’s rival, Sasuke Uchiha to become his master.

But during this peaceful time, a lot has changed as well.  Scientists have developed bracelets with technology that allow anyone to harness jutsu used by ninjas and to make things worse, a new evil has decided to attack the Leaf Village during the Chunin exams (like what happened to Naruto and friends when he was much younger).

And I’ll leave it that.

This is a new beginning, a new chapter as Boruto will continue the storyline of the ninjas at the Leaf Village and while I’m not sure if “Boruto” will last for another 15 years but for this film to jumpstart the new generation and Naruto’s son, Boruto, now the focal point, needless to say, this series will be interesting, considering that he’s not like his father at all.

And if you think Boruto Uzumaki has special skills learned from his father, wait until one gets to see the included OVA which shows us how powerful Himawari Uzumaki can get.

As for the Blu-ray release, the film is vibrant and with it being a film, has more detail when it comes to art backgrounds.  Lossless soundtrack is also well-done and the voice acting for both Japanese and English dub are magnificent.

Overall, if you are a big fan of the “Naruto” manga/anime series, I highly recommend “Boruto – Naruto the Movie”.  Action-packed, full of drama and excitement.

Recommended

 

 

The Asterisk War: Limited Edition Blu-ray Vol. 4 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The fourth volume of “The Asterisk War” is action-packed and entertaining as we get two different types of episode arcs, one full of action as Ayato and Julis make it into the finals of the Phoenix Festa, Saya and Kirin must save Flora from her kidnappers and the final episodes featuring Ayato, Julis and friends visiting Julis’ home country, Lieseltania and more trouble stands in their way. If you have commited yourself to watching this series, “The Asterisk War: Limited Edition Blu-ray Vol. 4” is recommended!

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Image courtesy of © 2017 FlyingDog, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Asterisk War: Limited Edition Blu-ray Vol. 4

ANIME SERIES AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: (Episodes 19-24) 150 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9), English and Japanese Linear PCM Stereo 2.0, English and Spanish Subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex of America Inc.

Release Date: February 21, 2017


Originally created by Yuu Miyazaki

Original Character Design by okiura

Chief Direction by Manabu Ono

Directed by Kenji Sato

Script by Munemasa Nakamoto, Yuki Sugawara, Yukito Kizawa

Music by Rasmus Faber

Character Design by Tetsuya Kawakami

Art Director: Yukihiro Watanabe

Chief Animation Director: Tetsuya Kawakami

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Kakuma/Kira Buckland as Julis-Alexia von Riessfelt

Atsushi Tamaru/Erik Scott Kimerer as Ayato Amagiri

Ari Ozawa/Brianna Knickerbocker as Kirin Todo

Ayana Taketatsu/Cherami Leigh as Pham Thi Tram (Fan Xinglou)

Chinatsu Akasaki/Cassandra Morris as Ernesta Kuhne

Haruka Chisuga as Sylvia Lyyneheym

Haruka Yoshimura as RM-C (Rimsy)

Juri Nagatsuma as Priscilla Urzaiz

Mai Nakahara/Michelle Ruff as Haruka Amagiri

Mutsumi Tamura/Cristina Vee as Camilla Pareto

Nao Tōyama/Erika Harlacher as Claudia Enfield

Nobuo Tobita/Lucien Dodge as Shuma Sakon


Based on the hit light novel by Yuu Miyazaki and directed by Manabu Ono (The irregular at magic high school), the Phoenix Festa is reaching its final climax!

During the search for Flora, Ayato runs into a mysterious girl who later turns out to be the student council president of Queenvail Girls’ Academy – Sylvia Lyyneheym. With Sylvia’s help, Ayato and Julis can now face AR-D and RM-C in the Phoenix Festa final match with all their strength. After the Festa, Julis invites Ayato and the crew to her hometown of Lieseltania, where Ayato learns a shocking truth.


The tournament’s final matchup between Ayato and Julis vs. AR-D and RM-C. Who will be the victors?

Meanwhile, Saya and Kirin try to rescue Flora from her kidnappers.

In the final episodes, what happens when Ayato, Julis, Claudia, saya and Kirin travel to Lieseltania for winter break?  But what is this fighting tournament, Gryps Festa all about?

What is “The Asterisk War” about?

In 2012, writer Yuu Miyazaki and illustrator okiura created the Japanese light novel series “The Asterisk War” (Gakusen Toshi Asutarisuku).

Published by Media factory, a two-volume manga adaptation was then created for Media Factory’s “Monthly Comic Alive”.

In 2015, A-1 Pictures would create an anime TV series adaptation with two seasons having now been completed.

And now, the anime series will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex of America Inc. With volume 3, this limited edition box set features the first episodes of the second season (episodes 13-18).

The anime is set in the 20th century and an event called Invertia has destroyed many cities on Earth. Because of the collapsing economy, the Integrated Enterprise Foundation has become the leader of the world.

A parallel city of Rikka, known as Asterisk is the the main setting of this anime series.

Asterisk has six academies which hold tournaments, known as “Festas” in which humans and people with super abilities called Genestella participate in battle against each other.

Seidoukan Academy is ranked fifth in Asterik and the series focuses on main protagonist Ayato Amagiri, a Genestella, who is investigating the disappearance of his sister Haruka.

On his first day of school, he meets a student (who happens to be a Lieseltanian princess) named Julis-Alexia von Riessfeld. And due to circumstances because he is new at the academy (which make him seem like a pervert), he is challenged to a duel against her.

The two get into battle and she is amazed by Ayato’s fighting ability and superpowers but the battle is ended when someone tries to send a spike towards Julis-Alexia and she is saved by Ayato (who, unfortunately lands on top of her and his hand on top of her chest).

The battle is ended early by Seidoukan Academy’s Student Council President Claudia Enfield because the match was not legal.

And who is this Kirin Todou that Ayato meets for the first time? And why is her uncle abusive towards her and how will Ayato make an impact on her life?

Meanwhile, the Phoenix Festa featuring a battle between duos and Ayato and Julis and their friends Saya and Kirin will face the strongest fighters from the other five schools.

For the second half of season two (episodes 19-24), Ayato and Julis must take on the powerful, devastating robotic duo, AR-D and RM-C.

Meanwhile, someone has kidnapped Flora and as Ayato and Julis must complete in the Phoenix Festa, this leaves Saya and Kirin to go after Flora.

Also, Ayato, Julis, Claudia, Saya and Kirin travel to Liseltania but what they discover is something quite sinister.

Enter…Ophelia and Gustave and also what is Gryps Festa?


“The Asterisk War” features the following characters:

  • Ayato Amagiri – A Seidoukan Academy student who transfers to the school to investigate his sister’s disappearance. He shows great power but can only control it for several minutes. He wants to protect Julis-Alexia von Riessfelt.
  • Julis-Alexia von Riessfelt – The fifth ranking student of Seidokan Academy and happens to be the First Princess of Lieseltania in the western Czech Republic. She is quite distant to everyone at the school but when Ayato tries to get close with her and wanting to protect her, she eventually starts to warm up to him.
  • Claudia Enfield – The blonde, buxom, second highest ranking student of Seidoukan Academy and also the Student council President. She tries her best to seduce Ayato.
  • Saya Sasamiya – A childhood friend of Ayato who moved abroad. She is an airhead at times and bad with directions. She is great with weapons and artillery and often gets Julis riled up as Saya prefers Ayato to spend time with her.
  • Kirin Toudou – The top ranking student of Seidoukan Academy. Because Ayato shows kindness to her all the time, she becomes a friend of his. But as she vies for Ayato’s attention, she deals with a demanding and abusive uncle.

VIDEO:

“The Asterisk War” 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, wonderful animation especially during the action sequences by A-1 Pictures.

I found no compression artifacts or any problematic issues with this Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Asterisk War” is presented in English and Japanese Linear PCM Stereo 2.0. Both soundtracks are well-acted and are crystal clear through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Asterisk War vol. 4” features the following special features:

  • Bonus Preview Episodes – Bonus preview episodes.
  • Web Previews
  • Textless Opening and Ending Song

EXTRAS:

“The Asterisk War: Limited Edition Blu-ray Vol. 4” comes with a slipcase with package illustration by Tetsuya Kawakami, clear cases with 2-side wraps, six collectible pinup cards, a 40-page deluxe booklet about the characters, sketches and more. Also, a bonus disc (CD included, Duration: 22 minutes) featuring “The Asterisk War Soundtrack – Expanded Universe #4” featuring one music track.


With the final half of the second season of “The Asterisk War” in vol. 4, the tournament concludes as Ayato and Julis must take on the robotic duo, AR-D and RM-C in the finals. And because Flora has been kidnapped and Ayato and Julis are preoccupied, Saya and Kirin must try to save Flora from her kidnappers.

With this fourth volume, we also find out what has happened to Ayato’s missng sister, Haruka.

And a new storyline begins with Ayato, Julis, Claudia, Saya and Kirin travel to Listeltania for winter break.  But as they arrive, Claudia asks if they can form a team of five for the upcoming Gryps Festa.

Meanwhile, Julis has her own reasons for returning to Lieseltania.

While vol. 4 is more of a tournament-driven, action-packed volume, the final three episodes become more dramatic and story-driven as it centers around Julis’ return to her hometown of Lieseltania.

Which leaves fans of the anime series hoping that a season three will be coming soon.

As for the animation, as always, A-1 Pictures does a magnificent job with character designs, action sequences and for the most part, background art and lighting effects are well-done.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good for a TV series and features a good stereo solid lossless soundtrack. Which are well-acted for both Japanese soundtracks and the English dub. Special features are your typical previews and opening and ending theme. But you do get slipcase, six collectible pin up cards, a third CD with a 22-minute soundtrack and 34-page deluxe booklet. So, there is quite a bit of swag included with “The Asterisk War: Limited Edition Blu-ray Vol. 4”.

Overall, the fourth volume of “The Asterisk War” is action-packed and entertaining as we get two different types of episode arcs, one full of action as Ayato and Julis make it into the finals of the Phoenix Festa, Saya and Kirin must save Flora from her kidnappers and the final episodes featuring Ayato, Julis and friends visiting Julis’ home country, Lieseltania and more trouble stands in their way.

If you have commited yourself to watching this series, “The Asterisk War: Limited Edition Blu-ray Vol. 4” is recommended!

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Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

May 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I did enjoy “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” for its action, its visual effects and make-up (for its many mutated zombies) and its storyline is a fitting conclusion to the film series featuring the film’s protagonist Alice. But if you are a “Resident Evil” fan of the video games or film, you may feel that the “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” was lacking and could have been better.  While I doubt this may be the end of the film series, considering how much money the film and video game series makes, there is still potential to explore other storylines of characters that are not featured in “The Final Chapter”.  Still an entertaining popcorn action film that fans of the film series will enjoy.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Constantin Film Production. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 107 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), Czech, English – Audio Description Track, French, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish (Castillan and Latin American), Thai, Turkish 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French, Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, Greek, Italian, Korean, Spanish (Latin American), Swedish, Thai, Turkish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Sequences of Violence Throughout)

RELEASE DATE: May 16, 2017


Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

Written by Paul W.S. Anderson

Producer: Paul W.S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Samuel Hadida, Robert Kulzer

Associate Producer: Hiroyuki Kobayashi, Bernhard Thur

Executive Producer: Victor Hadida, Martin Moszkowicz

Music by Paul Haslinger

Cinematography by Glen MacPherson

Edited by Doobie White

Casting by Suzanne Smith

Production Design by Edward Thomas

Art Direction by Guy Potgieter, Lusa Van Velden

Set Decoration by Anneke Botha

Costume Design by Reza Levy


Starring:

Milla Jovovich as Alice/Alicia Marcus

Iain Glen as Dr. Isaacs

Ali Larter as Claire Redfield

Shawn Roberts as Wesker

Eoin Macken as Doc

Fraser James as Razor

Ruby Rose as Abigail

William Levy as Christian

Rola as Cobalt

Ever Anders as Young Alicia/Red Queen

Mark Simpson as James Marcus

Joon-Gi Lee as Commander Chu


Picking up after Resident Evil: Retribution, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is the only survivor of what was meant to be humanity’s final stand against the undead. Now, she must return to where the nightmare began – The Hive in Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse.


In 2002, the sci-fi action horror film “Resident Evil”, which was inspired from the popular Capcom video game series, was released in theaters.

And since then, more films that revolve around the main character Alice were created.

“Resident Evil: Apocalypse” in 2004, “Resident Evil: Extinction” in 2007, “Resident Evil: Afterlife” in 2010, “Resident Evil: Retribution” in 2012 and “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” in 2016.

The latest film which grossed over $312 million worldwide, was the highest grossing film in the franchise, and with the series in whole, the “Resident Evil” film series is the highest-grossing film series to be based on video games , having grossed over $1.233 billion worldwide.

The film marks the return of director/writer Paul W.S. Anderson (“Death Race”, “AVP: Alien vs. Predator”) and the return of the main protagonist of the series, Alice portrayed by Mila Jovovich (“The Fifth Element”, “Zoolander 2”, “The Three Musketeers”).

“Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” also stars Iain Glen (“Game of Thrones”, “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”), Ali Larter (“Heroes”, “Final Destination” films, “Legends”), Shawn Roberts (“Edge of Darkness”, “X-Men”), Eoin Macken (“The Night Shift”, “The Forest”, “Centurion”), Fraser James (“Sometimes in April”, “Shopping”, “Wing Commander”), Ruby Rose (“Orange is the New Black”, “xXx: Return of Xander Cage”, “John Wick: Chapter 2”), William Levy (“Addicted”, “The Single Moms Club”), Japanese model Rola, young actress Ever Anderson and Joon-Gi Lee (“Virgin Snow”, “The King and the Clown”, “Iljimae”).

And now the “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” will be available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD in May 2017.

The film begins with a narration from Alice (portrayed by Milla Jovovich) and we see how Dr. James Marcus, the original founder of the Umbrella Corporation had a daughter who was dying of premature aging.

Wanting to save her, he discovered the T-virus but unfortunately, the virus had a side effect and that was sudden and uncontrollable mutation.

The first major incident took place in Raccoon City, as a young boy in a cable car with his family started convulsing and dying but then all of a sudden reawakening.  This led to the mutated boy biting his father and then starting the chain reaction.

Dr. James Marcus tries to have the program shut down but his colleague Dr. Alexander Isaacs (portrayed by Iaian Glen) refuses and he has Albert Wesker (portrayed by Shawn Roberts) kill the Dr. Marcus.

The film then shifts to events that took place after “Resident Evil: Retribution” and showing us that the White House has since been destroyed.  Alice searches for survivors but then is contacted by the Red Queen (portrayed by Ever Anderson) who tells he that she must return to Raccoon City within 48 hours and return to the Hive, as Umbrella Corporation has developed an airborne antivirus, which will kill every organism infected by the T-virus.  Fail to get there and humankind will be wiped out.  The Red Queen also tells Alice that she will answer her question of why she is trying to help Alice.

So, Alice leaves to go to Raccoon City and when she arrives, she is attacked by Isaacs (whom she thought she killed, but learns she killed a clone).  While  Isaacs tires her up to the back of his vehicle with hordes of mutated zombies chase after her, she manages to best Isaacs and his team and escape.

While making it into Raccoon City she encounters a group of survivors which includes her friend Claire Redfield (portrayed by Ali Larter), Abigail (portrayed by Ruby Rose), Doc (portrayed by Eoin Macken), Cobalt (portrayed by Rola), Christian (portrayed by William Levy) and Razor (portrayed by Fraser James).

Alice tells them that she needs to get to the hive as an antidote for the T-Virus is out there in the Hive.  Claire feels it could be a trap since the Red Queen was the one that gave her the information but she is also worried since Alice also has the T-Virus in her and that she could be killed by the antidote.  But for Alice, the opportunity to save the world is too great and so, she and the others are willing to put their lives in hopes to assist Claire in her mission.

But coming their way is Isaacs and thousands of mutated zombies.   With the time running out, can Alice get to the antidote in time?  And what awaits her in the Hive?


VIDEO:

“Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” is presented in 2160p High Definition (2:40:1). The film is presented in 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray.

Picture quality is fantastic as closeups show amazing detail and makeup and overall CG to show the mass horde of mutated zombies and also huge monsters and flying behemoths were done very well.  If anything, the visual effects were top notch for this film! Black levels are nice and deep and for the most part, the film looks great in 4K Ultra HD!

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: To watch 4K Ultra HD, you will need a 4K UHD TV with HDR and an Ultra HD Blu-ray Player + a high-speed HDMI 2.0A Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” is presented in English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), Czech, English – Audio Description Track, French, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish (Castillan and Latin American), Thai, Turkish 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.

I was so pleased with this soundtrack and just hearing constant immersive audio coming from front channels and also the surround channels for the many action scenes throughout the film. The music soundtrack also is utilized for the surround channels as well. Also, great use of LFE.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French, Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, Greek, Italian, Korean, Spanish (Latin American), Swedish, Thai, Turkish

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Resident Evil: The Final Chapter ” comes with the following special features on the Blu-ray disc:

  • Retaliation Mode – Only on the Blu-ray, Retaliation Mode delivers scene specific behind the scenes video and commentary with director/writer Paul W.S. Anderson and actress Milla Jovovich.
  • Stunts & Weaponry – (8:55) A featurette about the variety of weaponry and great action stunts in the film.
  • Explore the Hive – (4:15) A featurette about remaking “The Hive” and showing it in a different way with sets and visual imagery.
  • The Bad Ass Trinity & The Women of Resident Evil – (6:32) A featurette about featuring strong women and how women play a big role in the “Resident Evil” film series especially with “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter”.
  • Sneak Peek: Resident Evil: Vendetta – (4:22) A featurette showcasing scenes from the upcoming “Resident Evil” CG animated film, “Resident Evil: Vendetta”.

EXTRAS:

“Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


It has been 15-years since the original “Resident Evil” film was released in theaters.  While the original film was much different from the video game and my feelings towards the original film was a bit of a disappointment because it was too different from the original film, I kept an open mind in seeing how the films would progress in terms of storyline and character.

And I can definitely say that despite not canon with the video game series, the film series has managed to hold its own with certain elements from the video game incorporated and giving the character of Alice and actress Milla Jovovich to shine but also to show that this female action character is strong, smart and can be impressive onscreen and can hold up to other male action stars and literally kick a lot of butt.

There is no doubt that for now, the character of Alice is the only female protagonists to star in an action film for 15-years, for multiple films and her character has remained consistent throughout the years.

And here we are with “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” and I despite the “Final” in the film’s title, there is probably a chance that the character of Alice can return in another film, considering how much was made for this film and the entire film series alone.  The “Resident Evil” films have made over a billion dollars worldwide.  And as the video games continue, I can only imagine the films will as well.

Similar to previous “Resident Evil” films, there is a ton of action and if anything, one can see this film as ultimate popcorn action film.  There is a story, a simple one that revolves around Alice needing to head back to where it all began, Raccoon City and make it down into the Hive to get the antidote to kill the T-Virus.  She’s joined by a familiar face, Claire Redfield and her antagonists are also familiar faces, as Dr. Isaacs and Albert Wesker are back.

But while the film remains consistent in that front, it fails to address other issues that I’m sure fans have been wanting to know what happened. One of the biggest question marks is the character Jill Valentine, not only a major character in the video game series but actress Sienna Guillory’s character was seen being captured by umbrella, brainwashed and programmed to go after Alice.

The film also didn’t bring back Kmart, Ada Wong, Leon S. Kennedy, Chris Redfield which was a little disappointment.  But whether this opens things up for other films remains to be seen.  But  wouldn’t it be great if the survivors were this group that would team up with Alice in the end?  Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen that way.  But I’m hoping that we see Leon, Ada and Chris including Jill in another possible “Resident Evil” film?  A side-story/one shot or a new starting point and separate chapter to Alice’s quest.

But “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” does answer a lot of questions and it is a fitting conclusion, if the film proves to be the final live-action “Resident Evil” film.  But as a fan of the video games and also the film series, I see potential in a new RE film but with the other characters.

As for the 4K Ultra HD, this film looks fantastic in 4K HD.  The apocalyptic setting, the monsters and mutated humans to flying behemoths look fantastic.  The lossless soundtrack is equally impressive considering the amount of action throughout the film.  As for special features, you get a few including a sneak peek of “Resident Evil: Vendetta”.  And once you watch the film in 4K Ultra HD, you will want to watch the “Retaliation Mode” on Blu-ray as it reveals moments from the franchise and features director Paul W.S. Anderson and actress Milla Jojovich.

Overall, “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” is straight-up popcorn action from beginning to end.  High adrenaline action that will please fans who have enjoyd the previous films.  While you get answers of how the T-Virus had spread and why?  Supporting characters are like fodder, previous characters aside from Claire Redfield and the antagonists are nowhere to be seen and the storyline is not the best of the film series.

Still, I did enjoy “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” for its action, its visual effects and make-up (for its many mutated zombies) and its storyline is a fitting conclusion to the film series featuring the film’s protagonist Alice. But if you are a “Resident Evil” fan of the video games or film, you may feel that the “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” was lacking and could have been better.  While I doubt this may be the end of the film series, considering how much money the film and video game series makes, there is still potential to explore other storylines of characters that are not featured in “The Final Chapter”.  Still an entertaining popcorn action film that fans of the film series will enjoy.

 

 

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