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Patriots Day (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

March 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Peter Berg’s “Patriots Day” is well-made, well-researched, well-acted and felt that the film was a wonderful tribute to the heroes of the Boston Marathon Bombing and not being exploitative.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 CBS Films Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Patriots Day

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 133 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English DTS:X Audio, DTS Headphone:X Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio Optimized for Late- Night Listening SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, Spanish, French

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (Violence, Realistically Graphic Injury Images, Language Throughout and Some Drug Use)

RELEASE DATE: March 28, 2017


Directed by Peter Berg

Screenplay by Peter Berg, Matt Cook, Joshua Zetumer

Story by Peter Berg, Matt Cook, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson

Producer: Dorothy Aufiero, Dylan Clark, Stephen Levinson, Hutch PArker, Michael Radutzky, Scott Stuber, Mark Wahlberg

Associate Producer: Lauren Downey, Daphne Lambrinou, Joseph J. Micucci, Bo Shen, stephen Stapinski, Shixing Zhou

Executive Producer: Louis G. Friedman, Eric Johnson, Nicholas David Nesbitt, John Logan Pierson, Paul Tamasy, Dan Wilson

Music by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

Cinematography by Tobias A. Schliessler

Edited by Gabriel Fleming, Colby Parker Jr.

Casting by Sheila Jaffe, Angela Peri

Production Design by Tom Duffield

Art Direction by Steve Cooper

Set Decoration by Ronald R. Reiss

Costume Design by Virginia Johnson


Starring:

Mark Wahlberg as Tommy Saunders

John Goodman as Commissioner Ed Davis

Kevin Bacon as Special Agent Richard DesLauriers

J.K. Simmons as Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese

Christopher O’Shea as Patrick Downes

Rachel Brosnahan as Jessica Kensky

Michelle Monaghan as Carol Saunders

Jimmy O. Yang as Dun Meng

Melissa Benoist as Katherine Russell

Alex Wolff as Dzohkhar Tsarnaev

Themo Melikidze as Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Martine Assaf as Connie Pugliese

James Colby as Superintendent Billy Evans

Michael Beach as Governor Deval Patrick

Rhett Kidd as Harrold


Mark Wahlberg shines in this all-star action-thriller that chronicles the courage and power of the people of Boston during the real-life manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers.


From filmmaker Peter Berg (“Hancock”, “Friday Night Lights”, “The Kingdom”) comes the American drama-thriller film “Patriots Day” about the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing and the terrorist manhunt that took place.

Featuring a screenplay co-written by Berg, Matt Cook (“The Duel”, “Triple 9”) and Joshua Zetumer (“RoboCop”), the film would receive positive film reviews from critics.

The film stars Mark Wahlberg (“Boogie Nights”, “The Fighter”, “Prisoners”), John Goodman (“The Artist”, “Roseane”, “The Big Lebowski”, “10 Cloverfield Lane”), Kevin Bacon (“Apollo 13”, “Footloose”, “X-Men: First Class”), J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”, “Spider-Man” films, “The Closer”), Michelle Monaghan (“Gone Baby Gone”, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, “Due Date”), Themo Melikidze (“Beautiful Something”, “Transit 17”), Alex Wolff (“The Naked Brothers Band”, “Come Through the Rye”, “The Sitter”), Jimmy O. Yang (“Silicon Valley”, “The Internship”), Melissa Benoist (“Supergirl”, “Whiplash”, “Glee”), Jake Picking (“Dirty Grandpa”, “Goat”), Christopher O’Shea (“Baby Daddy”, “Madam Secretary”), Rachel Brosnahan (“Beautiful Creatures”, “Manhattan”, “The Finest Hours”) and many more.


VIDEO:

“Patriots Day” 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 clarity and day scenes are vibrant.  Many of the scenes are shot at night, but light is well done 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:

“Patriots Day” is presented in English DTX-X Audio, DTS Headphones: X Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio.

While the film features crystal clear audio (dialogue) and music, surround channels are well-utilized for action sequences during explosions, gun exchanges and crowd ambiance.  Great use of the surround channels and LFE!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Patriots Day” comes with the following special features:

  • Boston Strong – (21:34) Featuring interviews with Dr. Jeffrey Kalish, Dun Meng and Sgt. Jeff Pugliese.
  • The Boston Bond: Recounting the Tale – (21:43) The cast and crew talk about filming in Boston and working with the community.
  • The Real Patriots: The Local Heroes’ Stories – (19:41) Filmmaker Peter Berg discusses the various heroes that he met and the real people that inspired the characters for the film.
  • The Cast Remembers – (5:52) The cast discuss how they found about the Boston Marathon bombings.
  • Actors Meet Real-Life Counterparts: A 2-Part Series – (10:08) Featuring John Goodman and Ed Davis and Jimmy O. Yang and Dun Meng.
  • Researching the Day – (11:22) Director Peter Berg and crew discuss the research of recreating the 2013 Boston Marathon and the bombing.

EXTRAS:

“Patriots Day” will come with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray and UltraViolet Digital HD code.


I remember the Boston Marathon bombings quite clearly.

Watching things unfurl on CNN, immediately I was glued to the TV set, angered that our country was once again being targeted by terrorist attacks and to find out that were many people, including children who were dead or injured.  Then to find out about the two accused of the bombings, finding out a university police officer was killed, followed by a kidnapping of a Chinese man who revealed the brothers are planning to bomb New York and just following the news for the hunt of the Tsarnaev brothers.

It was a story that captivated America where in 9/11, the terrorists killed themselves.  While in this case, these two terrorists were out in public and we wanted them caught and to answer for their crimes.

With Peter Berg’s “Patriots Day”, we get to see how things went for those harrowing days, the people involved in the manhunt for the two terrorists, those who were injured and those who lost their lives.

Peter Berg and fellow writers Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer no doubt made sure to pay their respects to those involved in the capture of one of the terrorists but to also pay respects to law enforcement and those who’s life was changed forever, but keeping the theme of “Boston Strong” central to the film and showing how the support for law enforcement and the victims will remain in the hearts of people who remember that fateful day and have managed to continue, to move on and show true determination but also providing inspiration for those watching the film.

Mark Wahlberg’s character of Tommy Saunders is a fictional character but his role captures the heart of Boston PD who were doing all they can to catch the terrorists.  Police officers who were on duty, with hardly any sleep, determined to keep Boston safe and to catch those who are responsible.

John Goodman also did a great job of portraying Commissioner Ed Davis and Kevin Bacon as Special Agent Richard DesLauriers of the FBI who worked tirelessly to control information in regards of who was responsible for the bombings but also coordinating their men for the manhunt.

J.K. Simmons as Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese of the Watertown PD who was there to take on one of the terrorists during a shootout.  Jimmy O. Yang as Dun Meng, the man who was carjacked and held by gunpoint by the two terrorists for a long period of time until he made a major risk by bolting from his vehicle when one of the terrorists were preoccupied and managed to run and call police.

Peter Berg tries to show the loving side of both characters, Sgt. Pugliese with his wife and Dun Meng with a woman he met.

But “Patriots Day” also effectively pays tribute to those who lost their lives or those who were caught in the blast.

“Patriots Day” pays respect to MIT Officer Sean Collier (portrayed by Jake Picking) who was ambushed by the two terrorists and was killed.  While he never had a chance to fight back, they tried to steal his weapon unsuccessfully.  The film also tries to show the loving and friendly side of Collier, from going on a date with a student to him hanging out with his friends, singing a song and playing video games.

We also get to see victims such as couple, Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, father Steve Woolfenden taking his young boy on a stroller to watch the Boston Marathon, both were near the first bomb that exploded.  Berg shows the love between Patrick and Jessica and the father and son relationship with the Woolfenden’s.

Possibly a tough role were to play the terrorists and actors Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze no doubt had to pull off these individuals and show the audience of their mindset but also their cowardly, evil actions.  The same with Melissa Benoist who plays the bomber’s wife and showing viewers on what happened when she was interrogated by law enforcement.

The film’s efficacy also helps with the real archived video of the terrorists and video caught from banks and at stores they were at.  It helped remind audience that what people were watching, was the real deal.

I felt that filmmaker Peter Berg and his fellow writers did amazing job in crafting this drama-thriller by sticking to facts, despite the film focusing on a fictional character.

The 4K Ultra HD is wonderfully detailed during closeups and also features an impressive lossless soundtrack especially during the bombings, the gun battle exchanges, the explosions sounds quite amazing through the surround channels and the use of LFE.  And the numerous special features included are also fascinating to watch and thankfully they are of good duration and not too short.

Overall, Peter Berg’s “Patriots Day” is well-made, well-researched, well-acted and felt that the film was a wonderful tribute to the heroes of the Boston Marathon Bombing and not being exploitative.  Highly recommended!

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

March 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: Sing

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 1 hr., 48 minutes

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

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Rude Humor and Mild Peril)

RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2017


Directed by Garth Jennings

Co-Director: Christophe Lourdelet

Written by Garth Jennings

Producer: Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri

Co-Producer: Igor Khait

Associate Producer: Brett Hoffman, Robert Taylor

Music by Joby Talbot

Edited by Gregory Perler

Casting by Allison Jones, Mickie McGowan

Production Design by Eric Guillon

Art Direction: Francois Moret


Featuring the Voices of:

Matthew McConaughey as Buster moon

Reese Witherspoon as Rosita

Seth MacFarlane as Mike

Scarlett Johansson as Ash

John C. Reilly as Eddie

Taron Egerton as Johnny

Tori Kelly as Meena

Jennifer Saunders as Nana

Jennifer Hudson as Young Nana

Garth Jennings as Miss Crawly

Peter Serafinowicz as Big Daddy

Nick Kroll as Gunter

Beck Bennett as Lance

Jay Pharoah as Meena’s Grandfather

Nick Offerman as Norman

Leslie Jones as Meena’s Mother

Rhea Perlman as Judith


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


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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, we are introduced to various characters:

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

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

AUDIO:

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

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

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Espanol and Francais.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sing” comes with the following special features:

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended!

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Sengoku Basara: End of Judgement (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Sengoku Basara: End of Judgement” is a series that will interest those who continue to play the “Sengoku Basara” video games and those who have watched the previous anime series and the animated film. With the many characters featured, literally there can be new “Sengoku Basara” anime series dedicate to various army’s and multiple storylines. This third series focuses on the Battle of Sekigahara and focuses on Ishida Mitsunari and Tokugawa Ieyasu. All in all, an anime series with a good combination of humor and action but also more of a focus on human emotion after tragedy. If you enjoy “Sengoku Basara”, definitely give “Sengoku Basara: End of Judgment” a try!

Image courtesy of © CAPCOM/TEAM BASARA. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sengoku Basara: End of Judgement

DURATION: Episodes 1-12 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: December 27, 2016


Directed by Takashi Sano

Series Composition by Natsuko Takahashi

Character Design by Michinori Chiba

Art Director: Daisuke Jinba

Chief Animation Director: Toshimitsu Kobayashi, Yumenosuke Tokuda

Anime Production by Telecom Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kazuya Nakai/Robert McCollum as Date Masamune

Souichiro Hoshi/Johnny Yong Bosch as Sanada Yukimura

Tomokazu Seki/Matthew Mercer as Ishida Mitsunari

Toru Ohkawa/Liam O’Brien as Tokugawa Ieyasu

Ami Koshimizu/Kat Steel as Tsuruhime

Fumihiko Tachiki/Mark Stoddard as Ohtani Yoshitsugu

Jun Fukuyama/Tony Oliver as Kobayakawa Hideaki

Kenichi Ogata/R. Bruce Elliott as Shimazu Yoshihiro

Mamiko Noto/Laura Bailey as Oichi

Masakazu Morita/Eric Vale as Maeda Keiji

Natsuko Kuwatani/Stephanie Sheh as Kasuga

Noriaki Sugiyama/Brittney Karbowski as Otomo Sourin

Rikiya Koyama/Richard Epcar as Kuroda Kanbee

Romi Park/Greg Ayres as Uesugi Kenshin

Takehito Koyasu/Michael Sinterniklaas as Sarutobi Sasauke

Tessho Genda/Chris Ayres as Takeda Shingen

Toshiyuki Morikawa/Travis Willingham as Katakura Kojuro


Get ready for the hacking, slashing battle of a lifetime in a new adaptation of the Sengoku Basara franchise. The new installment, based on the world created by Capcom, revolves around one massive conflict featuring mechanized samurai, mystical ninjas, gun-toting warriors, and a blinding array of deadly special moves! During the turbulent period of warring states, numerous feudal lords sought to rule the land of the rising sun. With Nobunaga defeated, Hideyoshi lead a brutal campaign to wipe out the remaining combatants. His ambitions were crushed, however, when he was betrayed by the idealistic Tokugawa Ieyasu. Ieyasu’s rebellion marked the start of a new conflict that would put old and new alliances to the test as Hideyoshi’s loyal followers began plotting their revenge, and the other remaining lords prepared their armies for the showdown at Sekigahara.


When it comes to video games that feature samurai’s and a general taking on hoards of enemies, in the US, “Samurai Warriors” (similar to Dynasty Warriors) from KOEI is well-known. But in Japan, CAPCOM began their own series known as “Sengoku Basara” (Devil Kings) which takes place during the Sengoku period and a similar concept as their rivals and has also earned its strong fan following.

In 2005, the first game was released for the Sony Playstation 2 and was released in the U.S. (as “Devil Kings”) but unfortunately, CAPCOM tried to change the whole story of the Sengoku period by trying to connect it to their “Devil May Cry” series in order to attract players but because of the changes and the localization crew feeling they needed to make it more difficult in America, needless to say, it was a failure. People wanted the same game that was in Japan and within the last six years, there have been numerous video game releases.

In Japan, two seasons of “Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings” aired. Followed by “Sengoku Basara II” in 2010, a film version titled “Sengoku Basara: The Last Party” was released in 2011 and in 2014, a third TV series titled “Sengoku Basara: End of Judgment” based on the video game “Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes” was released and was released by Funimation.

What is “Sengoku Basara: End of Judgement” about?

The third anime series is much different from the previous two seasons as the previous were animated by Production I.G. and now the series is produced by Telecom Animation Film.  As this storyline is considered an “alternate setting” and instead of focusing on many battles, the storyline focuses on the Sekigahara Battle and takes place after the death of Oda Nobunaga.

The anime series takes place during the Sengoku Period and the warlord Oda Nobunaga was betrayed and killed by his retainer Akechi Mitsuhide.  Toyotomi Hideyoshi would defeat Mitsuhide and would launch an attack on Odawara Castle, home of the Houjoi Clan.

As the Date Army got involved with the battle, they were defeated by Toyotomi’s warrior, Ishida Mitsunari.

Toyotomi’s attack was short-lived as Tokugawa Ieyasu would defeat Toyotomi Hideyoshi and kill him in combat.  But another force tried to attack Tokugawa’s forces, Oda Nobunaga’s sister, Oichi.   As for Toyotomi’s army, the new leader would now be led by Ishida Mitsunari.

Meanwhile, word gets through to Chousokabe Motochika that his land had been attacked by his friend, Tokugawa.  And due to his betrayal, Chousokabe wants revenge.

And as everyone worries about war in the land, new alliances are formed.  Who will be left standing?


VIDEO:

“Sengoku Basara: End of Judgment” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the animation from Telecom Animation is slightly different from Production I.G. when it comes to character design and also background designs.  It’s subjective to the viewer and I’m slightly biased towards Production I.G., but I will say that Telecom Animation did a good job.

Colors are absolutely vibrant and bold. Also, very good lighting effects throughout the film.  I detected no banding, artifacting or anything negative about the picture quality for “Sengoku Basara: The Last Party”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sengoku Basara: The Last Party” is presented in lossless English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby TrueHD. Personally, I enjoyed the Japanese soundtrack because the generals sound much more menacing while I felt the English dub, as good as it is, sometimes I feel certain voice talent are overly used and they sound the same for no matter what characters they play.

Personally, I enjoyed the Japanese soundtrack because the generals sound much more menacing while I felt the English dub, as good as it is, sometimes I feel certain voice talent are overly used and they sound the same for no matter what characters they play. In the first season, I mentioned that although I enjoy Johnny Yong Bosch’s acting work when it comes to “Bleach”, but his Yukimura (Sengoku Basara) sounds like an annoying version of Ichigo (Bleach). But with that being said, the English dub has grown on me and felt the FUNimation English dub actors did a fine job.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“SSengoku Basara: Edge of Judgement” contains the following special features:

  • Episode 01 Audio Commentary – Audio Commentary by Taliesen Jaffe (ADR Director) and Michael Sinterniklaas (voice of Sarutobi Sasuke).
  • Episode 03 Audio Commentary – Audio Commentary by Christopher Bevins (ADR Director), Robert Mccollum (voice of Data Masamune) and Eric Vale (voice of Maeda Keiji).
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song – Featuring “Thunderclap” and “Hokkyokusei ~Polaris~”.
  • Trailers

There is no doubt that in Japan, “Sengoku Basara” has a pretty strong fan following from its video games and anime series, especially among the cosplayers who are often seen doing group cosplay of the characters from the series.

For “Sengoku Basara”, it’s a popular video game series that has tried to make these warring clans (that happen to live in the same time period) and generals with amazing abilities take on each other. But in order to keep the storylines fresh for the video games, alternate settings are going to be common place and the same can be said for the “Sengoku Basara” anime series.

In the case of “Sengoku Basara”, because there are many characters, instead of focusing on a certain historical battle of the same two people, the series tends to focus on other characters.

“Sengoku Basara: End of Judgment” is the third series and the two characters foucused on is Ishida Mitsunari and Tokugawa Ieyasu.  For those not familiar with Japanese history, the “Battle of Sekigahara” was a battle that would establish the Tokugawa shogunate and prove to people the power and leadership of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

The series focuses on the storyline of Oda Nobunaga as the person who had control of most of Japan until he was betrayed by his retainer Akechi Mitsuhide.  Toyotomi Hideyoshi avenged his master.  And this is where the anime series differs from history as Tokugawa Ieyasu betrays Toyotomi Hideyoshi, leaving Hideyoshi’s warrior Ishida Mitsunari to seek revenge on his former friend.

In the first series, we saw various battles between Sanada Yukimura and Date Masamune vs. Oda Nobunaga and Kojuro vs. Mitsuhide.  In the second series, the series focused on Toyotomi Hideyoshi as the antagonist.

And for this third anime series, we have Ieyasu Tokugawa as the main antagonist and Mitsunari wanting revenge on Ieyasu for killing his master, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

The other characters have significant roles but more of showing which their allegiance lies.  Fans of Date Masamune and Sanada Yukimura may be surprised that their significance in the series is decreased, but they still remain important to the storyline.

And it’s probably best to leave it at that because of the numerous characters featured, unless you are familiar with the game and the anime series, just the sheer mention of the characters and the alternate plots will confuse people.

But I will say that if you followed the anime and the video games, “Sengoku Basara: End of Judgment” is an interesting way to keep the storyline fresh as it’s an anime with new motivations, interesting perspectives but most of all, a focus on different characters, but yet also introducing new characters as well.  Also, how this series tend to show more of the human emotion after the deaths of various leaders and how certain individuals are affected by the deaths.

The third series features a new anime production team with Telecom Animation in charge, but cast of both the Funimation series and the video game series are involved in the third series as it was a collaboration between Funimation and Capcom as mentioned in the first audio commentary.

Animation is very good, but it’s subjective as I’m sure there are those who prefer Production I.G.’s animation and those who may prefer the Telecom Animation animation.  But the anime series is colorful and vibrant and both lossless soundtracks are well-done with the English dub having an edge with the 5.1 lossless soundtrack.

Overall, “Sengoku Basara: End of Judgement” is a series that will interest those who continue to play the “Sengoku Basara” video games and those who have watched the previous anime series and the animated film.  With the many characters featured, literally there can be new “Sengoku Basara” anime series dedicate to various army’s and multiple storylines.  This third series focuses on the Battle of Sekigahara and focuses on Ishida Mitsunari and Tokugawa Ieyasu.  All in all, an anime series with a good combination of humor and action but also more of a focus on human emotion after tragedy.

If you enjoy “Sengoku Basara”, definitely give “Sengoku Basara: End of Judgment” a try!

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

March 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Image courtesy of © 2016 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


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

ANIME SERIES AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: (Episodes 1-11) 275 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

Release Date: December 13, 2016


Originally Concept by Rampo Edogawa

Directed by Seiji Kishi

Series Composition by Makoto Uezu

Music by Masaru Yokoyama

Character Design by Kazuaki Morita

Art Director: Ayumi Miyakoshi

Chief Animation Director: Kouji Yamagata, Yusuke Kamata

Anime Production: Lerche


Featuring the following voice talent:

Daiki Yamashita/Justin Briner as Hashiba

Rie Takahashi/Jill Harris as Kobayashi

Takahiro Sakurai/Eric Vale as Akechi

Cho/Mark Stoddard as Nakamura

Jun Fukuyama/Todd Haberkorn as Namikoshi

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

Katsuyuki Konishi/J. Michael Tatum as Kagami

Saki Fujita/Jad Saxton as Minami

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: Arsenal

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 92 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Lionsgate Premiere

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

RELEASE DATE: March 28, 2017


Directed by Steven C. Miller

Written by Jason Mosberg

Produced by George Furia

Co-Producer: Anthony Callie, Timothy C. Sullivan

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

Associate Producer: Arnaud Lannic

Music by Ryan Franks, Scott Nickoley

Cinematography by Brandon Cox

Edited by Vincent Tabaillon

Production Design by Niko Vilaivongs

Art Direction by Aaron Bautista

Set Decoration by Kami Laprade

Costume Design by Rachel Stringfellow


Starring:

Nicolas Cage as Eddie King

John Cusack as Sal

Adrian Grenier as JP

Johnathon Schaech as Mikey

Lydia Hull as Lizzie

Abbie Gayle as Alexis

Heather Johansen as Kristy

William Mark McCullough as Luca

Kelton DuMont as Young JP

Zachary Legendre as Young Mikey


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Arsenal” comes with the following special features:

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Moana

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 107 minutes

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

COMPANY: Disney

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

RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2017


Directed by Ron Clements, John Musker

Co-Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams

Screenplay by Jared Bush

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

Producer: Osnat Shurer

Executive Producer: John Lasseter

Associate Producer: Nicole P. Hearon

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

Edited by Jeff Draheim

Casting by Jamie Sparer Roberts, Rachel Sutton

Production Design by Ian Gooding


Featuring the Voices of:

Auli’l Cravalho as Moana

Dwayne Johnson as Maui

Rachel House as Gramma Tala

Temuera Morrison as Chief Tui

Jemaine Clement as Tamatoa

Nicole Scherzinger as Sina

Alan Tudyk as Heihei

Louise Bush as Toddler Moana

Chris Jackson as Chief Tui


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will she find beyond the reef?


VIDEO:

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

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

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

AUDIO:

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

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

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Moana” comes with the following special features:

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Moana” is highly recommended!

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

March 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Image courtesy of © FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Attack on Titan: The Complete First season

DURATION: Episodes 1-25 (625 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV M

Release Date: January 24, 2017


Originally created by Hajime Isayama

Directed by Tetsuro Araki

Series Composition by Yasuko Kobayashi

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design: Kyoji Asano

Art Director: Shunichiro Yoshihara

3D Director: Shuhei Yabuta

Director of Photography: Kazuhiro Yamada

Anime Production by Wit Studio


Featuring the following voice talent:

Yui Ishikawa/Trina Nishimura as Mikasa Ackerman

Yuuki Kaji/Bryce Papenbrook as Eren Jaeger

Marina Inoue/Josh Grelle as Armin Arlelt

Daisuke Ono/J. Michael Tatum as Erwin Smith

Hiro Shimono/Clifford Chapin as Conny Springer

Hiroshi Kamiya/Matthew Mercer as Levi

Keiji Fujiwara/David Wald as Hannes

Kishô Taniyama/Mike McFarland as Jean Kirschtein

Romi Park/Jessica Calvello as Hanji (Hange Zoe)

Ryota Ohsaka/Austin Tindle as Marco Bodt

Saki Fujita/Elizabeth Maxwell as Ymir

Shiori Mikami/Bryn Apprill as Christa Renz

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

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Robert McCollum as Reiner Braun

Yu Kobayashi/Ashly Bursch as Sasha Browse

Yu Shimamura/Lauren Landa as Annie Leonhart


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

He vows to kill every Titan walking the earth.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“Attack on Titan features the following main characters:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Attack on Titan” is highly recommended!

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

March 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: Deluge

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1933

DURATION: 70 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Lobster/Kino Lorber Inc.

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: February 21, 2017


Based on the Novel by S. Fowler Wright

Directed by Felix E. Feist

Written by Warren Duff, John F. Goodrich

Produced by Samuel Bischoff, Burt Kelly, William Saal

Music by Val Burton

Cinematography by Norbert Brodine

Edited by Martin G. Coh, Rose Loewinger

Art Direction by Ralph M. DeLacy


Starring:

Peggy Shannon as Claire Arlington

Lois Wilson as Helen Webster

Sidney Blackmer as Martin Webster

Lane Chandler as Jack

Ronnie Cosby as Ronny Webster

John Elliott as Preacher

Ralf Harolde as Norwood

Samuel S. Hinds as Chief Forecaster

Fred Kohler as Jepson

Matt Moore as Tom


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will happen to Martin, Claire and Lois?


VIDEO:

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Deluge” comes with the following special features:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Images courtesy of © 2017 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Doctor Strange

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 115 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Marvel Studios

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

RELEASE DATE: February 28, 2017


Based on the Marvel Comics by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Directed by Scott Derrickson

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

Produced by Kevin Feige

Co-Producer: David J. Grant

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

Music byMichael Giacchino

Cinematography by Ben Davis

Edited by Sabrina Plisco, Wyatt Smith

Casting by Sarah Finn, Reg Poerscout-Edgerton

Production Design by Charles Wood

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

Set Decoration by John Bush, Lauri Gaffin

Costume Design by Alexandra Byrne


Starring:

Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo

Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer

Benedict Wong as Wong

Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius

Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One

Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Nicodemus West

Benjamin Bratt as Jonathan Pangborn

Scott Adkins as Lucian


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Doctor Strange” comes with the following special features:

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

February 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five” is another fun, action-packed volume as Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates must become stronger and train harder for the next two years before reuniting. But will they be able to get the training to become stronger?

Image courtesy of © 1999 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five

DURATION: Episodes 505-516 (Duration: 300 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English and Japanese stereo

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: December 13, 2016


Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto, Konosuke Uda, Munehisa Sakai

Series Composition by Hirohiko Uesaka

Script by Hirohiko Uesaka, Hiroshi Hashimoto, Junki Takegami, Michiru Shimada, Naoki Koga, Ryota Yamaguchi, Suminori Takegami, Yoshiyuki Suga

Music by Kouhei Tanaka, Shiroh Hamaguchi

Character Design by Kazuya Hisada, Noboru Koizumi

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


The tragedy at Marineford sends shockwaves around the world, and the Straw Hats struggle desperately to meet again in Luffy’s most heart-wrenching time of grief.

Incapable of protecting his friends, Luffy questions his ability to become the King of the Pirates. His crew members, scattered to the farthest reaches of the globe, are more determined than ever to keep their promise and return to Sabaody Archipelago in three days. But when ”Dark King” Rayleigh offers Luffy a stern suggestion, Luffy must choose between reuniting with his friends or joining Rayleigh in training. Luffy’s decision drives him back to Marineford, where he pays his respects to the fallen and sends a secret message to his friends. The news stirs enemies from all walks of life. Monkey D. Luffy is ringing in the New Age!


As Luffy mourns the death of his brother, the latest episodes featured on “One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five” features on the aftermath as Luffy wants to train harder for the next two years, so he can protect those he cares about.

As news of Ace’s death starts to reach the Straw Hat Pirates, they also know that with two years left, until they all meet again, they must get stronger and train.

Meanwhile, Luffy’ makes a daring appearance at Marineford to deliver a message throughout the world.

What is “One Piece”?

“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 776 episodes have been aired in Japan.

“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.


The Straw Hat Pirates consists of:

Monkey D. Luffy – A 17-year-old guy who is the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates and dreams to be a pirate king by getting his hands on the “ONE PIECE” artifact. When he was young, he accidentally ate a devil fruit which made his body rubbery and can stretch and blow up. An airhead of sorts, loves to eat but always believes and fights for his friends.

Roronoa Zoro – A 19-year-old skilled swordsman. A skilled and very strong fighter. Wants to be the greatest swordsman in the world.

Nami – The navigator of the group. The main female crew member and really good at weapons.

Usopp – A 17-year-old marksman. A talented inventor and artistic. Known by his long nose, his marksmanship with slingshots and weapons are great. He quit the Straw Hat Pirates and took on a new identity.

Sanji – The chef of the crew. A skilled fighter that uses only kicks in battle and is passionate towards Nami.

Tony Tony Chopper – A reindeer with a blue nose. Ate a devil fruit known as human-human fruit which makes him human in someways but keeping his reindeer look. Able to speak to humans, walk upright and also able to have transformations to become a huge beast. But his talent is his medical skills as he was trained by the Doctrine to become a doctor. Has very low self-confidence because he had been treated badly not only by his kind but also by humans and has not really had a friend but the Doctor and Doctrine.

Nico Robin – The former Vice President of Baroque Works who has become the newest member of the Straw Hat Pirates despite some of the crew not trusting her since she was a former enemy. Has the ability to use her body parts and project them elsewhere and other mysterious abilities not yet known.

Franky – A cyborg who can rebuild his body using pieces of metal and his dream is to build a ship and become its shipwright and sail to the end of the world.

Brook – A pirate from before the time of Roger, he was killed but because of the Paramecia-type-Revive-Revive Fruit, he rose again as a skeleton. An excellent musician, he becomes a member of the Straw Hat Pirates.


VIDEO :

For most television series, because they are created nearly before they are aired on television, unlike film and OVA’s, there typically is not much detail involved in a Japanese animated television series. “ONE PIECE” is probably one of those rare exceptions in that it has really cool character designs and very detailed artistic backgrounds. Of course, since it is on DVD, you will see some artifacting, combing and edge enhancement but it’s not so noticeable unless you are really looking for it.

The anime series is presented in standard 4:3 definition but for a television series, “ONE PIECE” sports cool and unique character designs and beautifully painted artistic backgrounds. Definitely one of the better looking anime series that has remained consistent and has not downgraded since it first aired on television. Character designer Kazuya Hisada (who worked on the “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball GT” series) and Noboru Koizumi (who worked on “Giant Robo”, “Dragon Ball GT” and “Tenchi Universe”) have been very good of capturing “One Piece” creator Eiichiro Oda’s unique style.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, “One Piece” is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English Stereo and Japanese Stereo. Of course, the English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound is the better audio choice to listen to, although one who has a receiver that can set their audio to all channels can definitely enjoy the Japanese stereo track as well. But both audio tracks are done very well and I have to admit that “ONE PIECE” has one of the most solid English dub tracks for an anime TV series. Very well done on both audio tracks but again, have been very impressed by the voice talent for the series thus far.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 506 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Brina Palencia (voice of Chopper) and Christopher R. Sabat (voice of Zoro).

DISC 2:

  • One Piece Outtakes: Part 1 – (10:50) Featuring outtakes with the English dub talent for the Straw Hat Pirates.
  • Episode 515 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Ian Sinclair (voice of Brook) and Sonny Strait (voice of Usopp).
  • Textless Opening Song – “Fight Together”

With the release of “One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five”, the episodes are the final episodes of the Japanese 14th season (featuring episodes 505-516) as this volume features the aftermath of Ace’s death and Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates know they have two years until they reunite, but with the two years, they must do all that’s necessary to become stronger.

As Luffy needs to get a message to the Straw Hat Pirates, he must take a bold trip to Marineford. Meanwhile, Luffy must learn a new skill in order to become a stronger leader and fighter. And Rayleigh, will do whatever is possible to get Luffy ready.

Chopper must train in Birdie Kingdom and learn more medicine, on Weatheria, Nami must learn on how to become a better navigator and learn from the scientists, on Kurakiri Island, Franky must learn new skills from Dr. Vegapunk’s inventions, on Kamabakka Kingdom, Sanji must learn from Ivankov about newkama cooking, in the Tehna Gehna Kingdom, Brook must train himself to reach 40 degrees and in the Bowin Islands, despite gaining a lot of weight, Usopp is trained by Heracules to become stronger. And Robin joins up with the Revolutionaries at East Blue’s large bridge to improve herself before returning to the group.

As this DVD volume prepares viewers for Season 15 (Japan) and fastforwards two years later, the volume focuses on Luffy and the Strawhat Pirates and their commitment to get stronger and train harder for the next two years.

The episodes also bring back footage from the past as they remember why they joined the Straw Hat Pirates and how Luffy was there for them. But also seeing pirates and even admirals who will become significant characters in the series.

For “One Piece” fans, this latest volume finally showcases the Straw Hat Pirates and seeing what they have been up to since each of them went their separate ways and making a vow to reunite a few years years later.

Needless to say, “One Piece” fans will not be disappointed!

As for the DVD, picture quality is very good on DVD, audio is also crystal clear with both voice acting soundtracks are well done, as “One Piece” is one of the best cast anime series, everyone is right for their role and considering that Toei was strict on the casting for the English dub, FUNimation did a fine job in their cast selection and I was pleased with both Japanese and English dub soundtracks. As for special features, you get two audio commentaries and an outtakes featurette.

Overall, “One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five” is another fun, action-packed volume as Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates must become stronger and train harder for the next two years before reuniting. But will they be able to get the training to become stronger?

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