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Stranger Things: Season 1 Collector’s Edition (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

June 5, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s a shame because I really loved “Stranger Things: Season 1”, but unfortunately, Netflix didn’t give 4K UHD consumers the release they should’ve gotten.

Images courtesy of © Netflix. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Stranger Things: Season 1 Collector’s Edition

TV AIRDATE: 2016

DURATION: 8 Episodes (480 Minutes)

4K INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition, 2:00:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio / The Blu-ray is 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and English 5.1 Descriptive Audio

COMPANY: Netflix

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: November 14, 2017


Directed by Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Shaw Levy

Written by Mat Duffer, Ross Duffer, Paul Dichter, Jessie Nickson-Lopez, Justin Doble, Jessica Mecklenburg, Alison Tatlock

Producer: Justin Doble, Rand Geiger

Co-Producer: Alison Tatlock

Executive Producer: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen, Karl Gajdusek, Brian Wright, Cindy Holland, Matthew Thunell, Iain Paterson

Co-Executive Producer: Jessica Mecklenburg, Curtis Gwinn

Music by Kyle Dixon, Michael Stein

Cinematography by Tim Ives, Tod Campbell

Edited by Kevin D. Ross, Dean Zimmerman

Casting by Carmen Cuba

Production Design by Chris Trujillo

Art Direction by William G. Davis

Set Decoration by Jess Royal

Costume Design by Malgosia Turzanska, Kimberly Adams-Galligan


Starring:

Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers

David Harbour as Jim Hopper

Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler

Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven

Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson

Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas Sinclair

Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler

Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers

Cara Buono as Karen Wheeler

Joe Keery as Steve Harrington

Noah Schnapp as Will Byers

Sadie Sink as Max Mayfield

Dacre Montgomery as Billy Hargrove

Joe Chrest as Ted Wheeler

Matthew Modine as Dr. Martin Brenner

Randy Havens as Mr. Clarke

John Reynolds as Officer Callahan

Tinsley Price as Holly Wheeler


Hop on your bike, grab some waffles and get ready to save Will and Barb with the Stranger Things Season 1 Collector’s Edition: Blu – Ray / 4K Disc / Poster. The ‘80s are alive and well in this special edition of your favorite binge-worthy show, coming in a VHS-style box containing a Blu-ray Disc and 4K Disc. Whether you want to enjoy one episode at a time or you’re ready to finish them all in one sitting, this Stranger Things box set will have you ready to take a trip to the Upside Down. Stranger Things Season 1 has been one of the biggest breakout shows in recent memory. When a young boy vanishes, a small town uncovers a mystery involving secret experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one strange little girl.


In 2016, “Stranger Things” made its debut on Netflix.

The sc-fi drama series created by Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer has received critical acclaim winning a Screen Actors Guild Award for “Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series” and also receiving 19 nominations for the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series.

With a third season being planned and the Duffer Brothers having said that they plan to end the storyline after its fourth or fifth season, “Stranger Things” has no doubt attracted audiences thanks to its homage to 1980s genre films, pop culture and more.

The series stars Winona Ryder (“Little Women”, “Girl, Interrupted”, “Edward Scissorhands”), David Harbour (“Revolutionary Road”, “Suicide Squad”, “The Green Hornet”), Finn Wolfhard (“It”, “Carmen Sandiego”), Millie Bobby Brown (“NCIS”, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”, “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”), Gaten Matarazzo (“Blacklist”), Caleb McLaughlin (“The New Edition Story”), Natalia Dyer (“Blue Like Jazz”, “I Believe in Unicorns”, “Hanna Montana: The Movie”), Charlie Heaton (“The New Mutants”, “The Secret of Morrowbone”), Cara Buono (“The Sopranos”, “Mad Men”), Joe Keery (“Molly’s Game”, “Slice”), Noah Schnapp (“Bridge of Spies”, “The Peanuts Movie”) and Matthew Modine (“Full Metal Jacket”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, Vision Quest”).

The series was released on 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray and Blu-ray + DVD courtesy of Netflix.

The series is set during the early ’80s in Hawkins, Indiana.

Will Byers (portrayed by Noah Schnapp) is a young man who likes hanging out with his best friends Mike Wheeler (portrayed by Finn Wolfhard), Dustin Henderson (portrayed by Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas Sinclair (portrayed by Caleb McLaughlin) and together they enjoy a game of tabletop RPG.

Will’s mother Joyce (portrayed by Winona Ryder) is a single mother trying to raise the children on her own, so she is busy working and her oldest son Jonathan (portrayed by Charlie Heaton) is also trying to work to help the family.  Jonathan is a person who is anti-social but loves music and photography.  He is also attracted to Mike’s older sister, Nancy.

As Will is returning home, something out of the woods tries to abduct Will.  Will gets knocked off his bike and when he runs home and tries to get the shotgun, unfortunately he is abducted.

Meanwhile, at the nearby Hawkins National Laboratory, a young girl (portrayed by Millie Bobby Brown) with a shaved head escapes.  As the girl manages to escape to a local burger joint, the owner tries to help her and finds out that she goes by the name “Eleven” (a mark that is on the skin of her arm).  While the business owner calls protective services to help, it turns out the government agents are bad, killing the business owner and trying to capture Eleven.

As Joyce goes to report a child missing to the town’s police chief, Jim Hopper, Jim has a hard time believing anything bad can happen in Hawkins.

Meanwhile, Mike, Dustin and Lucas go to find Will and instead find Eleven.  As Mike takes her into her home, they all find out that Eleven is a girl blessed with special psychokinetic abilities.

Also, Mike’s sister Nancy Wheeler (portrayed by Natalia Dyer) is an intelligent teen who is being pursued by the bad boy in school,  Steve Harrington (portrayed by Joe Keery), who wants Nancy to be her boyfriend.  Nancy’s best friend Barbara Holland (portrayed by Shannon Purser) is not happy that her best friend is hooking up with a bad boy and when Nancy gets invited to a pool party at Steve’s home, Nancy goes with her.

But after a night of drinking and Nancy going upstairs with Steve for alone time, Jonathan who is taking pictures of the area, takes photos of Nancy and friends at the pool party.  He doesn’t realize that a photo he took of Barbara alone shows a monster above her.

As Joyce tries to look for her son, she realizes that Will is trying to communicate with her through the house. Joyce starts putting up Christmas lights in the home for her son to communicate with her but starts to realize he is in danger when a monster starts coming out of the walls of her home.

As for Eleven and Mike’s friends, Mike wants to use Eleven’s powers to find Will but her involvement is causing friction between Mike and Lucas, who doesn’t trust her at all.

As police chief Jim Hopper investigates, he seems that things are amiss when the Indiana State Trooper starts to get involved in the case and realizes that all things point to the Hawkins National Laboratory.  What is going inside there?

And most of all, can they rescue Will?


VIDEO:

“Stranger Things: Season 1 Collector’s Edition” is presented in 4K Ultra High Definition ala 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition (2:00:1 aspect ratio).

The original show was shot in Redcode RAW codec 6K using RED Epic Dragon Cameras, but Netflix chose to not present the series in HDR.

So, Netflix pretty much skimped on the 4K Ultra HD release, not presenting it in the best quality as possible and while it does look slightly better than its Blu-ray counterpart, not by much.  But if you thought that Netflix skimped on the video, they also skimped on the audio as well.

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 (Category 2) Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Stranger Things: Season 1 Collector’s Edition” and its audio is probably the main thing that will surprise those who were considering to purchase the 4K Ultra HD over the Blu-ray + DVD version (which is $5 less).  What is surprising is that while the Blu-ray is given an English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD lossless audio soundtrack and an English 5.1 descriptive audio track.  The 4K UltraHD version is just given a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.  Below the quality of the Blu-ray release.

Part of the reason is that Netflix chose to have the series on two Blu-ray discs (four episodes each).  Possibly for cost-saving reasons and packaging reasons, not wanting to create a third or fourth disc with a lossless soundtrack, they chose Dolby Digital 5.1.  So, this a rare situation in which the included Blu-ray release has a better soundtrack than it’s 4K Ultra HD counterpart.  It’s not suppose to be this way, but it’s what Netflix decided.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Stranger Things: Season 1 Collector’s Edition” comes with no special features.

EXTRAS:

“Stranger Things: Season 1 Collector’s Edition” comes with a poster and special VHS packaging to hold two Blu-rays and two 4K Ultra HD discs.


It has been a long while where I watched a series from beginning to end during a weekend because I enjoyed it so much.

In some ways, the series manages to combine the ’80s teen adventure of “The Goonies”, the government chasing the teens of “E.T”, the us vs. the monsters style of “Monster Squad” and “The Lost Boys” and child/parent communication of “Poltergeist”, the “Uncanny X-Men” references and the homage to the ’80s in this series was fantastic.

But it’s the engrossing storyline that keeps you glued to the series.  

You literally have four storylines that later converge.

The first storyline revolves around mother trying to find her son, not believing anyone who thinks that her son is dead and manages to communicate with him through Christmas lights.

The second storyline revolves around Will’s friends: Mike, Lucas and Dustin who discover a scared girl named Eleven who has special abilities.  The children’s storylines are my favorites as these kids are often bullied, but through Eleven, they believe their friend is alive and are trying to save him, without going to the adults.  Of course, when the government knows they are harboring Eleven, they realize their life is in danger.

The third storyline revolves around Nancy and Jonathan.  Nancy’s storyline starts out slow as she is an intelligent teen who goes for the bad boy in school, Steve Harrington.  And while she starts to become rebellious in order to see Steve, in the process, her best friend Barb is abducted.  And the only person who may have proof that a monster abducted her is Jonathan, who is out trying to find his brother in the woods but manages to take a photo in a stalker-like fashion of Nancy and friends out partying at Steve’s pool.  But also getting a photo of Barb before she is abducted by a monster.  And with Jonathan seeing his mother’s craziness at home of trying to communicate with Will and Nancy seeing a monster with no face, what happens when these two teens team up to find out who is responsible for Will and Barb’s disappearance?

The fourth storyline revolves around police chief Jim Hopper.  While his fellow police are not used to seeing much crime in Hawkins, Indiana, the case starts to become important for Jim as he lost his daughter (which we learn how towards the end of the series) but it’s a drive that makes him want to find Will.  But it all becomes real when he tries to investigate the nearby Hawkins National Laboratory.

And when these four storylines converge, that’s when the series grows even more exciting, considering it was already captivating beforehand.

In essence, this series is wonderfully written and performed.  And I can see why “Stranger Things” was nominated for so many awards and why it has received critical acclaim.  

And while I give the series 5 stars, I can’t say the same for the “Stranger Things: Season 1 Collector’s Edition” on 4K UHD/Blu-ray.

Perhaps for the first time in a 4K Ultra HD release, we have a release that is not as good as it’s Blu-ray counterpart.  Not only does Netflix choose to release “Stranger Things” without HDR, they chose to release it with in Dolby Digital 5.1 unlike the Blu-ray which has a lossless DolbyTrue HD 5.1 soundtrack.  And as for special features, there are none.

So, while it’s tempting to go for the 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray version because it’s $5 more than the Blu-ray/DVD version, you’re not missing much and that’s unfortunate.  So, if you are on the fence of trying to decide which version to get and you want to save $5, then go for the Blu-ray/DVD version.

Otherwise, for $20 for 8-episodes, I still found it a great price for a 4K Ultra HD release.  But it just comes up short when it comes to a 4K Ultra HD release and for us reviewers, it’s not all about the story, it’s about the whole package.

And it’s a shame because I really loved “Stranger Things: Season 1”, but unfortunately, Netflix didn’t give 4K UHD consumer the release they should’ve gotten.

 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

December 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is a magnificent, classic James Cameron sci-fi action film.  And as the film had various releases on DVD and Blu-ray, unfortunately this is not the perfect 4K Ultra HD release that fans may have wanted.  The film would stand on its own but this 4K Ultra HD release defeats the point of being a great release with the overuse of DNR.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lionsgate. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1991

DURATION: 137 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, German 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  SUBTITLES: English, Spanish, French and German Subtitles

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (Strong Sci-Fi Action and Violence and For Language)

RELEASE DATE: December 26, 2017


Directed by James Cameron

Written by James Cameron, William Wisher

Producer: James Cameron

Executive Producer: Gale Ann Hurd, Mario Kassar

Co-Producer: Stephanie Austin, B.J. Rack

Music by Brad Fiedel

Cinematography by Adam Greenberg

Edited by Conrad Buff IV, Dody Dorn, Mark Goldblatt, Richard A. Harris

Casting by Mali Finn

Production Design by Joseph C. Nemec III

Art Direction by Joseph P. Lucky

Set Decoration by John M. Dwyer

Costume Design by Marlene Stewart


Starring:

Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor

Edward Furlong as John Connor

Robert Patrick as T-1000

Earl Boen as Dr. Silberman

Joe Morton as Miles Dyson

S. Epatha Merkerson as Tarissa Dyson

Castuolo Guerra as Enrique Salceda

Danny Cooksey as Tim

Jenette Goldstein as Janelle Voight

Xander Berkeley as Todd Voight


Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the Terminator in this explosive action-adventure spectacle. Now he’s one of the good guys, sent back in time to protect John Connor, the boy destined to lead the freedom fighters of the future. Linda Hamilton reprises her role as Sarah Connor, John’s mother, a quintessential survivor who has been institutionalized for her warning of the nuclear holocaust she knows is inevitable. Together, the threesome must find a way to stop the ultimate enemy: the T-1000, the most lethal Terminator ever created. Co-written, produced, and directed by James Cameron (THE TERMINATOR, ALIENS, TITANIC), this visual tour de force is also a touching human story of survival.


For those who grew up during the early years of cable television, James Cameron’s 1984 film “Terminator” shocked and electrified audiences with its special effects and the film’s final scenes.

When it was announced that a sequel was being planned and would be released in 1991, bringing back Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising his role as the Terminator and Linda Hamilton, reprising her role as Sarah Connor.

Suffice to say, the second installment of the “Terminator” franchise didn’t disappoint.  Earning $523.7 million in the box office, which was a huge box office success and earning critical acclaim.

The film would also star a young Edward Furlong (“Detroit Rock City”, “American History X”), Robert Patrick (“The Faculty”, “The Marine”, “Charlie’s Angels”) and Joe Morton (“Justice League”, “Paycheck”, “Speed”) and the film has been released on video via theatrical version, special edition and extended special edition on VHS, LD, DVD, Blu-ray and now on 4K Ultra HD.

And I will be reviewing the 4K Ultra HD version.  It’s important to note that the 4K Ultra HD version features the original theatrical version, but it’s included Blu-ray includes all three versions of the film.

The film is set in 1995, John Connor (portrayed by Edward Furlong) is living with his foster parents and tends to get into trouble.  Meanwhile, his mother, Sarah (portrayed by Linda Hamilton) was arrested and imprisoned at a mental hospital after attempting to bomb a computer factory.

Prior to that, John’s mother had been preparing him for his role as the Human Resistance Leader against Skynet, the artificial intelligence that will be given control of the United States nuclear missile technology and would initiate a nuclear holocaust known as “Judgment Day” on August 29, 1997.

With 3 billion humans killed, Skynet would create robots known as Terminators to kill humankind.  But fighting them is the Human Resistance and in the future, John sends a reprogrammed T-800 Terminator (portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger) to find and protect his younger self back in 1995.

But Skynet sends a new Terminator known as T-1000 back in time to kill John Connor and this time, the Terminator is made out of mimetic poly-alloy (liquid metal), so this new Terminator can take any shape and appearance and make any part of its body a weapon.  In this case, transforming his arms into blades.

The Terminator T-800 is able to trackdown John, who is running away from the T-1000 Terminator disguised as a police officer.  Because the Terminator follows John’s instructions, fearing that the T-1000 will kill his mother, John orders the Terminator to help him rescue his mother Sarah.

As the two are able to free Sarah, she is intent in finding Miles Bennett Dyson (portrayed by Joe Morton), the Cyberdyne Systems engineer responsible for creating Skynet.

But hot on their trail is the T-1000 intent in killing all of them.

Can Sarah, John and the T-800 survive against the T-1000?


VIDEO:

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is presented in 4K Ultra High Definition ala 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).

Picture quality was a bit of a surprise.  Digital Noise Reduction (DNR) was utilized for the clean up for the video and so, the film is devoid of the grain that it previously incorporated.  While casual viewers probably may not be able to tell, videophiles will notice the change in details as picture quality is a bit waxy.

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 (Category 2) Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio quality is very good with an English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack and a German 6.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack.  With the high level of action featured in this film, may it be the T-800 vs. the T-1000 or the Terminator taking on the police with machine guns ablazing, this is no doubt an immersive action-driven soundtrack.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” comes with the following special features (on the Blu-ray Disc):

  • T2: Reprogramming the Terminator – The Making of T2 Documentary from 1993 – (30:54) The original “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” documentary from 1993.
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio commentary – (3:13) Two deleted scenes with optional audio commentary from James Cameron.

EXTRAS:

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code (Theatrical Version).


“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is one of those films that I watch often, mainly because it’s a film that brings me a lot of memories.

Going out on a movie date with my girlfriend, who would eventually become my wife.  Purchasing the film on VHS, LD, DVD, multiple times on Blu-ray and now once again watching it on 4K Ultra HD.

Of all the “Terminator” film installments, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” resonates strongly for its storyline and character portrayals and it was an amazing follow-up to the first film.  It was James Cameron’s story, his vision and executed his way.  As for the other films that came after, unfortunately, other films were quite forgetful.

It’s a shame that director James Cameron never came back to “Terminator” soon after the 1991 release, but he, Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton will be back with the sequel to “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” in 2019 and for me, I just want to see the “Terminator” series done right and with James Cameron back, perhaps this is what the franchise had needed long ago.

But as I watch this film again, I still enjoyed it like I did when I was in my teens.  It’s an awesome sci-fi action film that builds upon the original and while there are plenty of action sequences, in today’s cinema world, which dominates many action films over its plot, Cameron wrote a film that balances its action with a storyline that matters.  A storyline that captivates you and a storyline that no doubt took advantage of the special effects of its time in its full efficacy.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was fantastic as the reprogrammed T-800 trying to protect a young John Connor while helping his toned mother, Sarah, portrayed by the toned, muscular Linda Hamilton showing us that she has become a strong female character that can kick a lot of arse. I remember watching her scenes and being amazed of how much she worked out for this film and at the time, showing us a strong female character that took matter into her own hands in order to get the job done.  That was really rare to see in the early ’90s.

You then had the debut of Edward Furlong who had a promising outlook to another young actor at the time, Leonardo DiCaprio but both with two different outcomes in their personal life and acting career.  And sure enough, it was James Cameron’s 1997 “Titanic” film starring DiCaprio that would shoot the young actor’s career into superstardom.  And you had Robert Patrick in one of the coolest antagonist roles at the time.

The film just worked as the action and storyline went smoothly but what James Cameron has planned for the next film, will be exciting to see.  And I look forward to seeing it.

As awesome this film was and how many times I have owned it, I have been looking forward to this 4K Ultra HD version.  As much as I enjoy this film, there are a few problematic things with this release that prevents it from being a five-star release.  All three films are presented in this release, but only on the Blu-ray disc.  The 4K Ultra HD version only showcases the original theatrical version.

The next unfortunate part of this release is the choice to utilize DNR to strip the film’s grain and for videophiles who care about picture quality, this is a no-no.  When you remove the DNR, things look waxy and this may be fine for the casual viewer but for those who invested in 4K Ultra HD, the experience in watching these films in the best way and as close to the original presentation is important.  So, why the choice to use DNR, I am not sure but it affected the picture quality of this release.

But again, all is not lost, as you do get the three versions: theatrical, special edition and extended special edition on the Blu-ray disc and you do get an UltraViolet Digital HD code for the theatrical version.

As for lossless audio, the film sounds great especially how immersive things become during the more action-driven scenes in the film.  So, that’s a plus!

As for special features, the original 1991 documentary and two deleted scenes with optional commentary can be found on the Blu-ray disc.

Overall, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is a magnificent, classic James Cameron sci-fi action film.  And as the film had various releases on DVD and Blu-ray, unfortunately this is not the perfect 4K Ultra HD release that fans may have wanted.  The film would stand on its own but this 4K Ultra HD release defeats the point of being a great release with the overuse of DNR.

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Disc Review)

October 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” may not be featuring the Spider-Man that I grew up reading but I will say that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was entertaining to the point that I watched it multiple times already because I really enjoyed watching the film.  The way I see it, if the “Spider-Man” trilogy or the next two films didn’t win you over, this movie may.  Wonderful story, loved the characters and this film was just a lot of fun and I highly recommend it!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Spider-Man: Homecoming

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 133 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition, 2:39:1 aspect ratio, English Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio,  French, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, Arabic, Cantonese,  Chinese, Dutch, French, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Spanish and Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: October 17, 2017


Based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Directed by Jon Watts

Screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

Producer: Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal

Executive Producer: Victoria Alonso, Avi Arad, Louis D’Esposito, Jeremy Latcham, Stan Lee, Matt Tolmach, Patricia Whitcher

Co-Producer:  Mitchell Bell, Eric Hauserman Carroll, Rachel O’Connor

Music by Michael Giacchino

Cinematography by Salvatore Totino

Edited by Debbie Berman, Dan Lebental

Casting by Sarah Finn

Production Design by Oliver Scholl

Set Decoration by Lauri Gaffin

Costume Design by Louise Frogley


Starring:

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man

Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man

Marisa Tomei as May Parker

Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan

Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts

Zendaya as Michelle

Donald Glover as Aaron Davis

Jacob Batalon as Ned

Laura Harrier as Liz

Tony Revolori as Flash

Bokeem Woodbine as Herman Schultz/Shocker

Tyne Daly as Anne Marie Hoag

Garcelle Beauvais as Doris Toomes


A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – but when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.


It is well-known that there is friction between Marvel Studios (which is currently owned by Disney) and their Marvel’s deal with FOX which gave them ownership to the X-Men films (and formerly the “Fantastic Four” films) which prevents the interaction of characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to co-exist.  But one big question that many have wondered is if one of the most iconic characters, Spider-Man, which the films are with Sony Pictures, would ever appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

And when it was announced that Sony Pictures, Marvel Studios and Disney would collaborate and allowed Spider-Man to be featured in a MCU film, not only was it unprecedented, fans applauded the studios of working together.

Spider-Man would be featured in “Captain America: Civil War” and now we have a new Spider-Man film which allows Tony Stark (Iron Man) and even Captain America to be featured in a Sony Pictures film, “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.

The film begins not long after the Battle of New York (as featured in the first “Avengers” film).  Adrian Toomes (portrayed by Michael Keaton) owns a salvage company and is contracted to clean up the city of the destroyed alien Chitauri technology that have littered the streets of New York.

As Adrian sees the financial possibilities of obtaining this technology, the Department of Damage Control (D.O.D.C.) and a partnership with Stark Industries and the U.S. government have come in to take over, upsetting Adrian because he hired a lot of helped and spent his own money for the operation.

Having lost the job, his men reveal that they still have some of the alien technology.

Fastforward eight years later (following the events that took place in “Captain America: Civil War”), Peter Parker went to help Tony Stark/Iron Man and when taken home, is told that if they need him, they will call. Meanwhile, Happy Hogan (portrayed by Jon Favreau) would be watching over him.

And while Peter lives a double life as an intelligent studying at the Midtown School of Science and Technology, he takes on thugs or helps people with issues around the city, growing bored and wanting to do something huge.  He lives with his Aunty May (portrayed by Marisa Tomei) and hangs out with his best friend Ned (portrayed by Jacob Batalon) and has a crush on Liz (portrayed by Laura Harrier).

Meanwhile, we see that Adrian Toomes and his men have utilized the technology to pull of major theft of alien technology and selling it to the highest bidder and becoming wealthy because of it.

One device made is a shocking device and the person utilizing the technology would be known as The Shocker, while Toomes has a vulture like apparatus that allows him to fly and use the machinery as a weapon.

One day, as Spider-Man is out patrolling, he discovers a group of thieves dressed up with Avengers masks trying to rob a bank near his home.  Spider-Man goes to stop them but is shocked that they have alien technology that can literally destroy buildings quickly and another that makes him utilizing magnetic technology.

When he goes back home and sneaks in, Peter is unaware that his friend Ned is in his room and now Ned knows his secret that Peter is Spider-Man.

And as Peter tries to keep his double life in check, he is wanting to know more about the people using the alien technology despite the warning he receives from Tony Stark that he must stay on the ground.  Will Peter’s pursuit of who is using the Chitauri put him in true danger, especially of the people who are close to him?


VIDEO:

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is presented in 4K Ultra High Definition ala 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).

The film looks absolutely magnificent in 4K Ultra HD and Spider-Man’s outfit is vibrant, colors and visual effects look magnificent and with each passing year, I can’t help but be in awe of how these MCU films look better and better.

Videophiles will no doubt be happy with this release.

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 (Category 2) Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio quality is equally impressive. Presented in English Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description.

The lossless audio is no doubt immersive considering the amount of action featured in this film.   Each shockblast, each web shot by Spider-Man, hearing the Vulture’s steel wings in action to the many numerous situations that involve explosions and weaponry, these sound effects for this film is truly marvelous.  Similar to the picture quality, for audio, lossless audio for this film is magnificent!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese, Dutch, French, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Spanish and Thai

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” comes with the following special features (on the Blu-ray Disc):

  • The Spide Study Guide – Watch the film with informative pop-ups and hidden references.
  • Gag Reel – (2:17) Bloopers from “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (16:17) Featuring ten deleted and extended scenes.
  • A Tangled Web – (6:12) Stan Lee and filmmakers discusses Spider-Man becoming part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Searching for Spider-Man – (8:05) A featurette about Tom Holland and having him as Spider-Man.
  • Spidey Stunts – (5:48) A featurette about the stunts on “Spider-Man” and how when Tom Holland auditioned for the film, he was doing stunts and using his gymnastic/dance background in the film.
  • Aftermath – (4:48) A featurette about the expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe and incorporating storyline elements (featured in the “Avengers” film) to Spider-Man.
  • The Vulture Takes Flight – (6:02) A featurette about creating the antagonist, the Vulture on film.
  • Jon Watts: Head of the Class – (5:30) A featurette about hiring Jon Watts as the director of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and how he takes the character somewhere that has never been done for character on film.
  • Pros and Cons of Spider-Man – (3:28) Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon discussing the pros and cons of Spider-Man.
  • Rappin with Cap – (2:26) Featuring all four Captain America school films.
  • Photo Gallery
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


Growing up as a fan of “Spider-Man”, it has been interesting cinematic experiences.  From the Sam Raimi trilogy featuring actor Tobe Maguire in the 2000’s and the Marc Webb films starring Andrew Garfield in 2012 and 2014.  I was entertained by those films.

But with the Marvel Cinematic Universe establishing a well-oiled machine showcasing Marvel’s well-known characters interacting in each other’s films, one of the troubling situations was knowing that various superhero teams or superheroes featured from one studio, may not appear in the Disney/Marvel Studios films.

And when it was announced that Sony agreed to a collaboration for Spider-Man to be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, first with “Captain America: Civil War” and now with “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and I see this as a win-win, for the studios but also the fans who have seen the MCU and how these characters and films tie together as a major plus.

But with numerous Spider-Man films, how would “Spider-Man: Homecoming” do compared to the other films?

For one, there is no rehash of how Spider-Man became a hero, no Uncle Ben, no jocks vs. geeks storyline.  No Mary Jane Watson.  No Gwen Stacy.  In fact, no one knew what to expect from filmmaker Jon Watts (known for indie films, “Cop Car” and “Creative Control”), especially as the film had numerous writers such as Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Watts along with Christopher Ford and Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers.

And probably the unknown is what made this film so enjoyable for me.  We saw how Spider-Man was recruited by Tony Stark in “Captain America: Civil War”, but what happened after that film is what many wondered how “Spider-Man: Homecoming” would end up.

The film would kick off by creating a tie-in to the first “Avengers” film with showing how Adrian Toomes owning a salvage company, taking alien high-technology from the ravaged streets of New York and then being kicked to the curb by the government and Stark Industries.  But Toomes and company managed to keep some of that alien technology and eight years later, he and his crew would be able to create superpowered weaponry with the salvaged Chitauri technology and become an arms trafficker.

Meanwhile, Peter Parker who served with Iron Man and other Avengers would now be returned back home and would need to report to Happy Hogan, the former head of security of Stark Industries.  While wanting to be in major skirmishes like the Avengers, Peter Parker for now will be the neighborhood crime-fighting hero, even if it means walking elderly across the street or vandalism.

But meanwhile Peter is trying to balance school and uses his superhero front working with Stark Industries as a “student internship” and trying to enjoy his teenage life with his buddy Ned while enjoying the presence of his high school crush, Liz from afar.

But life changes for Peter when he discovers Toome and their crew trying to use Chitauri technology for crime and because of their deadly weapons, he was nearly killed until Tony Stark utilized one of his costumes to save Peter.  But Peter wanting to prove himself to Tony Stark pursues the criminals not realizing the full extent of the danger that awaits him but also how with great power comes great responsibility.

The major difference between this Peter Parker than other incarnations of Peter Parker is that this is a modern film.  The costume that Peter Parker wears utilizes technology from Stark Industries giving him a wide range of selections for combat and even has an assistant built in to the costume.  And part of the entertainment factor is seeing Parker learn what his costume is capable of.

Meanwhile, as for Peter, another key difference is that while he is often bullied by Flash, unlike the first trilogy and the comic books, Flash is not an athlete but a part of Peter’s decathlon team.  Modernized for today’s generation, I liked how the film portrayed Peter, Ned, Liz, Flash as smart, intelligent teens and showcasing geeks as “cool” unlike the past where the geeks were always tormented by the jocks.

The film mirrors today’s world society and one of the things that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done was to show diversity.  The film showcases a white teen who has a crush on an African American teen, her mother is married to a Caucasian man, the film features Peter Parker’s best friend Ned who happens to be a Filipino.

It may not mean a lot to some people but for those who have been wanting to see diversity, wanting to see situations that mirror real life and have wanted Hollywood to showcase diversity will definitely get that with “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.

The film looks absolutely fantastic on 4K Ultra HD and the lossless soundtrack is immersive and quite active thanks to the plethora of action sequences.  And you also get a numerous special features included as well.

Overall, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” may not be featuring the Spider-Man that I grew up reading but I will say that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was entertaining to the point that I watched it multiple times already because I really enjoyed watching the film.  The way I see it, if the “Spider-Man” trilogy or the next two films didn’t win you over, this movie may.  Wonderful story, loved the characters and this film was just a lot of fun and I highly recommend it!

 

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

October 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Gavin O’Connor’s “Warrior” is a riveting action film that captures the thrill of MMA fighting, the thrill of competition and the heart of a fighter.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Lions Gate Films LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Warrior

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 140 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition. 2:40:1 Aspect Ratio, English Dolby Atmos, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio Optimized for Late Night Listening, English 7.1 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (on Blu-ray), SUBTITLES: English, English SDH,  Spanish

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: October 24, 2017


Directed by Gavin O’Connor

Screenplay by Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman

Story by Gavin O’Connor, Cliff Dorfman

Producer: Gavin O’Connor, Greg O’Connor

Executive Producer: Lisa Ellzey, John J. Kelly, David Mimran, Michael Paseornek, Jordan Schur

Co-Producer:  Josh Fagin, Jamie Marshall, Anthony Tambakis

Music by Mark Isham

Cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi

Edited by Sean Albertson, Matt Chesse, John Gilroy, Aaron Marshall

Casting by Randi Hiller

Production Design by Dan Leigh

Art Direction: James Donahue

Set Decoration by Ron von Blomberg

Costume Design by Abigail Murray


Starring:

Joel Edgerton as Brendan Conlon

Tom Hardy as Tommy Conlon

Nick Nolte as Paddy Conlon

Jennifer Morrison as Tess Conlon

Frank Grillo as Frank Campana

Kevin Dunn as Principal Zito

Maximiliano Hernandez as Colt Boyd

Bryan Callen as Bryan Callen


An ex-Marine haunted by a tragic past, Tommy Riordan returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh and enlists his father, a recovering alcoholic and his former coach, to train him for an MMA tournament awarding the biggest purse in the history of the sport. As Tommy blazes a violent path toward the title prize, his brother Brendan, a former MMA fighter unable to make ends meet as a public school teacher, returns to the amateur ring to provide for his family. Even though years have passed, recriminations and past betrayals keep Brendan bitterly estranged from both Tommy and his father. But when Brendan’s unlikely rise as an underdog sets him on a collision course with Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront the forces that tore them apart, all the while waging the most intense winner-take-all battle of their lives.


From filmmaker Gavin O’Connor (“Tumbleweeds”, “Pride and Glory”, “The Accountant”) came his 2011 film “Warrior”.  And was written by O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis and Cliff Dorfman.

The film earned Nick Nolte (“Thin Red Line”, “48 Hrs.”, “Cape Fear”) an Academy Award nomination for “Best Supporting Actor” and would jettison the acting career of Tom Hardy (“Mad Max: Fury Road”, “The Revenant”) as a major presence in the movie industry.

“Warrior” stars Nolte and Hardy but also stars Joel Edgerton (“Black Mass”, “The Gift”, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”), Jennifer Morrison (“Once Upon a Time”, “House”, “Star Trek”), Frank Grillo (“The Grey”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, “The Purge: Anarchy”), Kevin Dunn (“Transformers”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) and many more.

The film begins with U.S. Marine Tommy Riordan (portrayed by Tom Hardy) visiting his father, Paddy Conlon (portrayed by Nick Nolte).  When Tommy sees his father, he offers him a bottle of alcohol and talks rudely to his father.  We learn that Paddy is a recovering alcoholic and as an alcoholic, he was quite abusive.  But now, he has returned to his Catholic faith and has been sober for quite awhile now.

But for Tommy, he has only contempt towards his father because he had to runaway with his mother, who was dying and was there through the hard and difficult times of having to clean and watch his mother die.  And he has not forgiven his father for the way he treated them.

Paddy tries to tell him that he’s a changed man, but Tommy has a hard time accepting it.

The day after, Tommy goes to a local gym where a professional MMA fighter named Pete “Mad Dog” Grimes (portrayed by Erik Apple) is giving a spar to a few of the gym trainees.  But Tommy signs a release that he wants a real fight against “Mad Dog” and if he gets hurt, letting the gym and Mad Dog that they are not liable for any damage he receives.  And when the match starts, in less than a minute, Tommy knocks out Mad Dog and those filming the fight have posted on YouTube, making Tommy a superstar on social media as the video has gone viral.

When he finds out that there is a MMA tournament called Sparta in which the winner will receive $500,000, he feels that he wants to do it, to help support the family of his friend who was killed in battle.  As the video goes viral, a soldier sees it and recognizes that Tommy was a person who saved his life and not only does Tommy become a social media sensation but he is branded a hero, despite there is nothing about him that can be found online.

While Tommy does not want a relationship with his father, he asks Paddy to be his trainer (as his father trained him to become a champion wrestler when he was younger).  Paddy looks at this as an opportunity to get close to his son, but Tommy wants nothing from him.  Just to keep the relationship as trainer/pupil.

The film then shifts to another person, Brendan Conlon (portrayed by Joel Edgerton).  Brendan is a high school physics teacher and a former UFC fighter.  He is married to Tess (portrayed by Jennifer Morrison) and have two daughters.  But because one of his daughter had open heart surgery, the medical bills have hurt the family that Brendan is having difficulties paying the mortgage.  And now he is months away from foreclosure, so he needs the money badly.

When he goes to make money in a MMA parking lot match, he wins but because his face is bruised and rumors are running through the school about his fight, the supervisor of the school district punishes Brendan by suspending him.

With no money to pay the bills, Brendan makes the decision, to get back into MMA full time and he goes to his buddy Frank Campana, who owns a gym and trains up-and-coming MMA fighters.  While Frank feels that Brendan is a bit older and its time for the younger fighters to shine, when Frank’s top prospect is injured during a run, Brendan asks Frank if he can take his place and fight in the Sparta tournament.  This would also be a way to make the money needed to pay for their mortgage.

But his wife Tess is scared of him fighting, especially that one of the top MMA fighters in the world, Russia’s Koba (portrayed by Kurt Angle) will be fighting in Sparta.  She thought Brendan would be fighting parking lot fights, not a major fight that could hurt him tremendously.

As Brendan is heading back home, he is met by Paddy and it is revealed that Paddy is his father and similar to Tommy, Brendan wants nothing to do with his father, because he was an abusive alcoholic.  Also, the fact that Paddy favored Tommy even more (because of his success in wrestling) and as Paddy tries to apologize, tells them he is sober and wants to see the kids, Brendan doesn’t want his father around.

And now both brothers will be entering the Sparta tournament.  Will any of them be victorious despite being the unknown underdogs?


VIDEO:

“Warrior” receives its first 4K Ultra HD release and is presented in 4K Ultra High Definition. The film is presented in 2160p (2:40:1 aspect ratio)

Picture quality is fantastic.  From capturing skin detail on closeups, capturing the scars, cuts and bruises of a competitor and for the most part, skin tones look natural, black levels are nice and deep and 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 (Category 2) Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio quality for “Warrior” is equally impressive. Featured in English Dolby Atmos, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio Optimized for Late Night English Listening and an English 7.1 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.   Featuring crystal clear dialogue, great use of surround channels for audience and large crowds in the audience of the Sparta arena and crystal clear music.  For the most part, a wonderful lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Brazilian, Portuguese, Complex Mandarin, French Canadian, Japanese and L.A. Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Warrior” comes with the following special features (on the Blu-ray Disc):

  • Full Contact: Feature Length Enhanced Viewing Mode – While watching the film, you can get access to special features of the filmmakers and the making of the film..
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with filmmakers and actor Joel Edgerton
  • Redemption: Bringing Warrior to Life Documentary – (31:57) A documentary on the cast and crew in making “Warrior”.
  • The Diner: Deleted Scene (with optional commentary) – (3:02) A deleted scene with optional commentary with the filmmakers.
  • Cheap Shots: Gag Reel – (3:58) The gag reel for “Warrior”.
  • Brother vs. Brother: Anatomy of the Fight – (11:49) How Director Gavin O’Connor used traditional storyboards as well as live action pre-visualization shots in preparation in creating the fight segments for the film.
  • Philosophy in Combat: Mixed Martial Arts Strategy – (21:01) World-renowned MMA trainer Greg Jackson reunited with friend and actor Frank Grillo to discuss Mixed Martial Arts and their experiences on the film “Warrior”.
  • Simply Believe: A Tribute to Charles “Mask” Lewis, Jr. – (13:58) A featurette dedicated to Tapout co-founder Charles “Mask” Lewis Jr. who was an asset to director Gavin O’Connor.  Mask passed away before the film was released in theaters.

EXTRAS:

“Warrior” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


When I first watched “Warrior” back in 2011, one can’t help but be inspired by the storyline of underdogs making it into the MMA industry and beating the top challengers to make it into the finals.

The film manages to capture the thrill of MMA but also capture the heart of competition but most of all having a storyline so riveting that you are instantly captivated by the two stories of a fractured family, two estranged brothers who have lived different lives, both with MMA talent and knowing that both are on a collision course of what if these two were to make it into the Sparta final.

Of course, there is nothing to spoil as the poster of “Warrior” already gives that away but what is interesting is to see one brother, Tommy, who has grown up under abuse, trying to raise his terminally ill mother and seeing her die.  Then going into the military to see his fellow brothers all die and he being the only one to live.

He is a man full of pent-up frustration, rage, hate and so much anger that his only solace in life is to help a family of his friend who was killed in battle.  As an MMA fighter, he is a man of pure brutality.  A man who hurts people with his hits.  A former wrestling champion, he is a man that is pure offense.

Meanwhile, his older brother Brendan is the opposite.  While he grew up in a home of abuse, unlike Tommy who ran away with his mother to escape abuse and take care of her, Brendan fell in love with a woman named Tess and stayed with her.  He fell in love, fought in the UFC, while also going to college to become a physics teacher.

But as an MMA fighter he is pure defense.  Using timing, using strategy and doing what he can to expose a fighter by using various locking moves to put them in pain.  He can punch and kick but it’s being smart and looking for any holes in the opponent’s strategy and waiting for the opportunity to strike.

As both actors Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are magnificent, a lot has to be said about Nick Nolte’s performance as Paddy Conlon, the father of both men who was an abusive alcoholic.  Hated by his children but yet reunited, as Paddy has found God and also has become sober.

For Tommy, seeing his father now clean and sober frustrates him for all the pain he put him and his mother through.  For Brendan, the same situation but unlike Tommy, lived with his girlfriend and not aware of the pain that Tommy went through.  Not aware of how his mother died and because he chose his girlfriend, Tommy held an anger towards his older brother for abandoning him and his mother.

The family is no doubt dysfunctional but it’s these relationships that add dimension to Warrior’s wonderful story.  Add in the action and the thrill of MMA and watching these brothers overcome major odds is no doubt thrilling.

Gavin O’Connor has no doubt crafted one of his finest films yet and the cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi was also on point and he managed to capture the thrill of the fight!

The film makes its debut in 4K Ultra HD and the film looks wonderful with closeups showing much more detail.  You can see the split in Brendan’s cut’s underneath his eyes or bruises around his face with clarity, that’s how much detail you get in watching a film in 4K.  The lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music but the surround channels also do a great job of capturing the thrill of a fight with the audience screaming.  The soundtrack is quite immersive and alive during those moments.

The special features are located on the Blu-ray disc and features numerous featurettes that showcase the making of the film, those who contributed to the film and more!

Overall, Gavin O’Connor’s “Warrior” is a riveting action film that captures the thrill of MMA fighting, the thrill of competition and the heart of a fighter.  Recommended!

 

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

September 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

For fans of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and have the equipment to play 4K Ultra HD films, then definitely upgrade to this 4K Ultra HD 35th Anniversary release.  The film looks and sounds better than ever and I highly recommend Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” on 4K Ultra HD.

Images courtesy of © 1982 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1982

DURATION: 1 Hr. and 55 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition, English Dolby Atmos, French, Spanish, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese

COMPANY: Universal

RATED: PG

RELEASE DATE: September 12, 2017


Directed by Steven Spielberg

Screenplay by Melissa Mathison

Producer: Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg

Associate Producer:  Melissa Mathison

Music by John Williams

Cinematography by Allen Daviau

Edited by Carol Littleton

Casting by Jane Feinberg, Mike Fenton, Marci Liroff

Production Design by James D. Bissell

Set Decoration by Jackie Carr

Costume Design by Kurt and Bart


Starring:

Dee Wallace as Mary

Henry Thomas as Elliott

Peter Coyote as Keys

Robert MacNaughton as Michael

Drew Barrymore as Gertie

K.C. Martel as Greg

Sean Frye as Steve

C. Thomas Howell as Tyler

Erika Eleniak as Pretty Girl


Relive the adventure and magic in one of the most beloved motion pictures of all-time, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, from Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg. Captivating audiences of all ages, this timeless story follows the unforgettable journey of a lost alien and the 10-year-old boy he befriends. Join Elliot (Henry Thomas), Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and Michael (Robert MacNaughton) as they come together to help E.T. find his way back home, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is “one of the great American films” (Leonard Maltin) that forever belongs in the hearts and minds of audiences everywhere.


As the film “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” celebrates its 35th anniversary this year and 2017 features the film’s debut on 4K Ultra HD.

There is no denying how beloved this film is.  A personal film created and directed by Steven Spielberg, the concept came from his imaginary friend that he had after his parents divorce in 1960.  He and writer Melissa Mathison would eventually develop the film and with a budget of $10.5 million, the film would become the highest-grossing film of all time for eleven years until Spielberg topped it in 1993 with his film “Jurassic Park”.

But “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is well-known for everyone going out to watch the film, critics praised the film and for “Star Wars” fans, remembering that “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” would overthrow the film as the highest-grossing film but yet paying a homage to the film by featuring the toys in the film.

The film would launch Steven Spielberg’s career, it would also launch the careers of young Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore, but also would featuring up-and-coming talent with C. Thomas Howell and Erika Eleniak. While talents Dee Wallace and Peter Coyote had established careers, their careers would no doubt receive a boost from “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”.  And for producer Kathleen Kennedy, it was a beginning of what would become a string of consecutive high-grossing films in her producing oeuvre.

Considered by many as the greatest film ever made, in 1994, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

The film was re-released in 1985, would have a 20th Anniversary release in 2002 which featured a new premiere and a reunion of the cast and it’s first release on DVD.  And here we are in 2017 as the film will be celebrating it’s 35th Anniversary and the film makes its debut on 4K Ultra HD.

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” begins with alien botanists landing in a forest in California.  As they are obtaining plant samples, government agents arrive on scene and as the aliens flee in their spaceship, one is left behind.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to a ten-year-old boy named Elliott (portrayed by Henry Thomas) who is trying to fit in with his brother Michael (portrayed by Robert MacNaughton) and his friends, but also living with his recently-separated mother Mary (portrayed by Dee Wallace) and his younger sister Gertie (portrayed by Drew Barrymore).

As Elliott goes outside to meet with the pizza delivery person and get pizza for his brother’s party, he hears a noise inside the shed.  As he throws a baseball towards the shed, someone throws the ball back at him.

Freaking out, he runs inside telling everyone something is in the shed.  And when Michael and his friends go to check, they see footprints and suspect a coyote.

As Elliott doesn’t believe it’s a coyote and thinks it may be a goblin, he is made fun of by Michael and his friends.

This leads Elliott to do a test by placing Reese’s Pieces candy to see if he can lure whatever it maybe to his home and sure enough, he is able to lure an alien to his home.

Elliott eventually introduces Michael and also Gertie to the alien and they decide to keep it hidden from their mother.

The alien which they name E.T. is an intelligent life form that learns from the humans and tries to show them where he lives by levitating balls and also he revives a dead chrysanthemum.

It’s not long after, Elliott and E.T. begin to share a psychic connection.  Meanwhile, government agents start to do research around the forest and find Reese’s Pieces and are thinking that the alien was lured to a nearby neighborhood.  And start to use listening devices to hear any conversations that may be going on the neighborhood to see if someone had lured the alien to their home.

Meanwhile, the longer E.T. stays in Earth, Michael starts to notice that E.T. is getting sick and after seeing a comic strip featuring Buck Rogers, E.T. sees how humans are able to have devices to call home and E.T. tries to find ways to make a device to communicate with his fellow aliens to come back and retrieve him on Earth.

But as E.T. is getting sicker and the government agents are nearby, what will happen to both E.T.and Elliott, who is showing signs of being sick like E.T. as they both share a psychic connection.


VIDEO:

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” receives its first 4K Ultra HD release and is presented in 2160p (Widescreen 1:85:1 aspect ratio).

Having watched this film on DVD upon its first release and then on Blu-ray, I can easily say that the 4K Ultra HD is fantastic.  For the most part, the film doesn’t even seem ’80s because the resolution is so great.  But during the scenes with visual effects (such as Elliot and E.T. bike scene on air), the technology of its time does show its age in that moment.  Bu for the most part, this is the best version of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” that I have seen to date!

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 (Category 2) Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio quality is equally impressive. Featured in English DTS-X Immersive Audio, Brazilian, Portuguese, French European, Japanese, L.A. Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1 and English, Japanese DTS Digital Surround 2.0.

The film has a blend of crystal clear dialogue and the musical score by John Williams is spectacular!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Brazilian, Portuguese, Complex Mandarin, French Canadian, Japanese and L.A. Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“E.T. the Extra Terrestrial” comes with the following special features (on the Blu-ray Disc):

  • Deleted Scenes – (3:37) Deleted scenes from the film.
  • Steven Spielberg & E.T. – (12:31) Steven Spielberg discusses how he created E.T. and how he came up with the concept of the film.
  • The E.T. Journals – (53:37) A two-part documentary on the making of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” back in 1981.
  • A Look Back – (37:43) A look back during the film of “E.T.” with behind-the-scenes footage and also interviews with cast and crew.
  • The Evolution and Creation of E.T. – (50:13) A featurette on the making of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”
  • The E.T. Reunion – (17:55) The 20th Anniversary Reunion with Dee Wallace, Drew Barrymore, Henry Thomas, K.C. Martel, Peter Coyote, Steven Spielberg and producer Kathleen Kennedy.
  • The Music of E.T.: A Discussion with John Williams – (10:03) A featurette with John Williams on creating the music for “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”.
  • The 20th Anniversary Premiere – (17:49) A featurette of planning the 20th Anniversary Premiere with a live orchestra conducted by John Williams and setting up the stage at the Shrine Auditorium.
  • Designs, Photographs and Marketing – Featuring E.T. designs by production illustrator Ed Verreaux, E.T. Designs by Carla Rambaldi, Spaceship Designs by Ralph McQuarrie, Designs by Production Illustrator Ed Verreaux, Production Photographs and Marketing E.T.
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Special Olympics TV Spot

EXTRAS:

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


I grew up during the time “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” was released in theaters.  I can easily remember going to my uncle’s wedding in Reno, Nevada and hearing the news on the radio of how the film became the highest-grossing film of all time.

But the “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” madness didn’t end there, I purchased an Atari game which was supposed to be based on the film that frustrated me to no end and I also had a life-size E.T. toy chest, which my brother and I would use to scare my little sister when she was misbehaving.

I have to admit that I was indifferent towards the film, a little bit bitter as the film would kick “Star Wars” out of the top spot of highest-grossing films of all time.  But yet, each time I watched the film, I could see it’s charm, I could see why it attracted people to want to watch it many times.

And as I got older, I watched the film and appreciated it even more.  Especially when I first introduced the film to my child and he got to watch it and enjoy it.

And having watched this film many times, here I am reviewing it for the 35th anniversary release on 4K Ultra HD.

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is a film that captivates you.  A young boy who meets his first true friend and having to lose that friend.  A sci-fi film which government agents want to capture the alien and learn from it.  An action film as the children do whatever they can to protect their sick friend.  And the fact that the child actors believed E.T. to not be a puppet but like a living being, is what sold the film to audiences.

And even back for the film’s 20th Anniversary, the cast talked honestly about how they never thought about E.T. as a puppet but as an actual thing that was truly alive and that was quite fascinating.

It’s a film that moved audiences, a film that moved President Reagan and his wife, a film that moved Princess Diana and it was a film that was no doubt a masterpiece by Steven Spielberg who would go on to make many more wonderful films in his long oeuvre.

And it’s a film that will no doubt stand the test of time with a new generation of moviegoers.

Now there are a few things I must discuss, for those who owned the 20th Anniversary version which had both the theatrical and the 20th Anniversary Extended Version of the film.  The 2002 version digitally removed the guns used by government agents with walkie talkies (towards the end of the film).

In 2011, Steven Spielberg made it clear that there will be no more digital enhancements and perhaps he learned by fan backlash of the George Lucas’ original “Star Wars” trilogy and also backlash from critics and also ridiculed in a “South Park” episode, no doubt Spielberg learned a lesson.  He has made it clear that he wants people to watch the original 1982 version and sure enough, with the 4K Ultra HD release, you are getting the 1982 film and yes, the agents have their guns.  And no, the 2002 version is not included.  So, if you like that version, keep (or find) that 2002 20th Anniversary DVD release.

As far as the 4K Ultra HD version is concerned, this is the best version I have seen of this film to date.  While created in 1982, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” on 4K Ultra HD doesn’t even look its age.  It looks almost recent, aside from when the bike flying scene is shown, that is the only time where old technology and 4K Ultra HD tends to show the aging visual effects of its time.  But other than that, everything else about this film looks great in 4K!  The lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue especially crystal clear music from John Williams.  And last, all the 20th Anniversary special features from the DVD are included in this release and more.

Overall, for fans of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and have the equipment to play 4K Ultra HD films, then definitely upgrade to this 4K Ultra HD 35th Anniversary release.  The film looks and sounds better than ever and I highly recommend Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” on 4K Ultra HD.

 

Baywatch: Extended Cut (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

August 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Baywatch: Extended Cut” is a hilarious action comedy that pays homage to the hit TV series but also is a laugh-out loud, fun and crazy film.  Sure, it may not be for everyone, but as a guy who watched the original “Baywatch” series many times during my teenage years, I can’t help but enjoy Seth Gordon’s “Baywatch”!  An action comedy worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Baywatch: Extended Cut

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition, English Dolby Atmos, French, Spanish, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese

COMPANY: Paramount

RATED: R (For Language Throughout, Crude Sexual Content and Graphic Nudity)

RELEASE DATE: August 29, 2017


Based on the series “Baywatch” by Michael Berk, Douglas Schwartz, Gregory J. Bonann

Directed by Seth Gordon

Screenplay by Damian Shannon, Mark Swift

Story by Jay Scherick, David Ronn, Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant

Producer: Ari Arad, Michael Costigan, Steven PAul

Co-Producer: Holly Bario, Jane Nerlinger Evans, Maki Terashima-Furuta

Executive Producer: Tetsuya Fujimura, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, Yoshinobu Noma, Jeffrey Silver

Music by Lorne Balfe, Clint Mansell

Cinematography by Jess Hall

Edited by Billy Rich, Neil Smith

Casting by Lucy Vevan, Liz Mullane, Miranda Rivers

Production Design by Jan Roelfs

Art Direction by Matt Austin, Simon Bright, Leri Greer, Miro Harre, Ben Hawker, Richard L. Johnson, Agata Maliauka, Andy McLaren, Erik Polczwartek, Brad Ricker, Ken Turner

Set Decoration by Greg Cokerill, Elli Griff, Craig Poll, Calvin Tsoi, Brana Rosenfeld, Kitt Van Der Kidd

Costume Design by Kurt and Bart


Starring:

Dwayne Johnson as Mitch Buchannon

Zac Efron as Matt Brody

Priyanka Chopra as Victoria Leeds

Alexandra Daddario as Summer Quinn

Kelly Rohrbach as CJ Parker

Ilfenesh Hadera as Stephanie Holden

John Bass as Ronnie Greenbaum

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Sgt. Ellerbee

Hannibal Buress as Dave the Tech

David Hasshelhoff as The Mentor

Pamela Anderson as Casey Jean Parker

Rob Huebel as Captain Thorpe


When a dangerous crime wave hits the beach, legendary Lt. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson, The Fate of the Furious) leads his elite squad of badass lifeguards on a mission to prove you don’t have to wear a badge to save the bay. Joined by a trio of hot-shot recruits including former Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising), they’ll ditch the surf and go deep undercover to take down a ruthless businesswoman (Priyanka Chopra, TV’s “Quantico”), whose devious plans threaten the future of the bay.


Back in 1989, “Baywatch” aired on television.  Unfortunately, the first series didn’t last that long but when it was revived for the first-run syndication market in 1991, the show was successful not just in the United States but internationally and would air for a decade, ending with it’s final series “Baywatch: Hawaii” in 2001.

The series would receive a film adaptation but instead of drama, the film was created as an action comedy.  Directed by Seth Gordon (“Horrible Bosses”, “Identity Thief”) and a screenplay by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift.

The film stars Dwayne Johnson (“Fast & Furious”, “San Andreas”, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”), Zac Efron (“High School Musical”, “17 Again”, “That Awkward Moment”), Priyanka Chopra (“Quantico”, “Barf!!”), Alexandra Daddario (“San Andreas”, “Percy Jackson” films), Kelly Rohrbach (“Broad City”, “Cafe Society”), Ilfenesh Hadera (“Oldboy”, “Billions”), Jon Bass (“Loving”, “Big Time in Hollywood”, “All Nighter”) and “Yahya Abdul-Mateen II” (“The Get Down”, “Aquaman”).

The film which was budgeted at $69 million and would earn $177.4 million in the box office.

And now “Baywatch: Extended Cut” is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD.

The film is set in Emerald Bay, Florida and Lt. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) is doing his rounds at the beach, alongside his second-command Stephanie Holden (portrayed by Ifenesh Hadera) and fellow bodyguard C.J. Parker (portrayed by Kelly Rohrbach).  The three work on the beat for the Baywatch division and as the are planning to hire new bodyguards, Mitch is told by his superior, Captain Thorpe (portrayed by Rob Huebel) that due to a decrease in funding, for publicity, he will need to take in Olympian swimmer Matt Brody (portrayed by Zac Efron).

Unfortunately, Matt thinks he’s entitled, cocky and immediately rubs Mitch and crew the wrong way.

As for those trying out to be part of Baywatch, Ronnie Greenbaum (portrayed by Jon Bass) is a chubby (yet well-endowed) guy who has always liked CJ and each time she is nice to him, he feels that’s not good enough to be around her.  It doesn’t help that Ronnie can’t speak or does weird things when she’s around but will he make the cut for Baywatch?

As for Summer Quinn, she’s determined and blunt and often has words for Matt especially since he can’t stop looking at her boobs.

Meanwhile on the beach, Victoria Leeds (portrayed by Priyanka Chopra) is the new owner of a private bar, while sweet on the outside, she is actually a crime boss selling drugs on the beach.

When the new Baywatch team is selected, immediately they start noticing drugs on the beach and during a rescue attempt for a congressman and a few partying women, Mitch thinks the drugs and cases of homicides are related to Victoria Leeds.

And as much as he wants to bust them, Sgt. Ellerbee often reminds Mitch and team that they are not police and solving these crimes are his jurisdiction.  And Matt agrees with the Sgt., and bickers with the other Baywatch members because he doesn’t feel they should be investigating homicides but helping people who drown or people who get sunburned.

Will this new Baywatch team ever gel?  And will they find out who is responsible for the drugs and homicides that are occuring at Emerald Beach?


VIDEO:

“Baywatch: Extended Cut” receives its first 4K Ultra HD K Ultra HD release and is presented in 4K Ultra High Definition.

With the film shot outdoors, colors are absolutely vibrant and the film looks colorful and wonderful in 4K Ultra HD.  Closeups show amazing detail and for the most part, this film looks great in 4K!

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:

Lossless audio quality is equally impressive. Featured in English Dolby Atmos, French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital and with an English audio description.

The film has a blend of crystal clear dialogue, music and great use of sound effects during action sequences, which there are plenty.  “Baywatch” sounds amazing!

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Baywatch: Extended Cut” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special features:

  • Meet the Lifeguards – (21:36) A featurette with the cast talking about the fun they are having on the set and working with each other on set.
  • Continuing the Legacy – (9:28) A featurette about creating a film re-imagining the “Baywatch” TV series.
  • Stunts & Training – (9:10) A featurette about the training that the cast had to go through for the film and the stunts they took part in.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes – (10:06) Featuring six deleted and extended scenes.

EXTRAS:

“Baywatch: Extended Cut” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


I’m going to be up front about this…growing up, I absolutely enjoyed “Baywatch”.  Sure, that teenager in me loved watching the film for the many women on the show, watching surfer Kelly Slater in his first major acting gig and for the most part, it was syndicated TV that was popular for its time.

I can easily remember that after football on Sundays, there was always “Baywatch” and it was a series that was hard to resists, and also a reminder of how I wished I was at the beach during the hot summer.

So, with the announcement of “Baywatch”, I must admit that hearing about a movie adaptation but instead of being dramatic, the film is more action comedy.  And the trailer was enough to peak my interest as it had done with other ’80s shows such as “21 Jump Street”, why not “Baywatch”?

And what a hilarious and fun film this turned out to be.  Sure, I know many people are going to pan this film as “Baywatch” embodies a series that was often T&A and many guys watching for the ladies, and there were ladies who watched it for the men.  And the film retains the T&A jokes but also some of the immature comedy that one often sees with an Apatow or Sandler film.  And a lot of those films tend to turn film critics off.

The thing about this film is you don’t take it seriously.  This is not a film that tries to capture the true life of bodyguards, it’s more of a comedy of a group of bodyguards who get involved in a major murder mystery (something out of their jurisdiction) but they just want their beaches safe.

Add in sexual tension and a cocky Matt Brody with plenty of improvisation and in the end, you get a film that is crazy, fun and if you are into immature jokes, something to make you laugh.

One scene has potential lifeguard, Ronnie Greenbaum choking on his food and CJ coming to give him the Heimlich maneuver, but with each thrust on him while in her red swimsuit gets Ronnie a stiffy and before CJ could see, he falls on a wooden chair on the beach.  But doesn’t realize that his long penis gets caught in the groove and he’s literally stuck.  Needless to say, everyone on the beach see it, record him on their smartphone and CJ and Mitch are brought into the mix.

It’s stupid jokes like these that you can’t help but laugh.  But it’s no doubt one of those moments in the film that stay with you because it’s so memorable (for some reason, a scene in “Porky’s” comes to mind, but not as sexually explicit).

And of course, this wouldn’t be a “Baywatch” film without the Hoff and Pamela Anderson making an appearance.  And even the cast joking about the slow-motion running and also poking fun of the popular TV show.

It’s important to note that because of the adult humor, this is not a film to watch with children in the room!

As for the 4K Ultra HD release, picture quality is absolutely fantastic.  Lossless audio is equally awesome and there are numerous special features included.

Overall, “Baywatch: Extended Cut” is a hilarious action comedy that pays homage to the hit TV series but also is a laugh-out loud, fun and crazy film.  Sure, it may not be for everyone, but as a guy who watched the original “Baywatch” series many times during my teenage years, I can’t help but enjoy Seth Gordon’s “Baywatch”!  An action comedy worth watching!

 

Ghost in the Shell (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

July 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Considering the other not-so-good Hollywood-made anime live-action film adaptations, one can’t deny that “Ghost in the Shell” is one of the better adaptations from an anime or manga series.  The film just misses the mark of being a wonderful, memorable film and feels like a simplified, less complex version of the original storyline and a film with untapped potential.  But there is always room for improvement if a sequel does happen in the future.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ghost in the Shell

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition, English Dolby Atmos, French, Spanish, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese

COMPANY: Paramount

RATED: PG-13 (For Intense Sequences of Sci-fi Violence, Suggestive Content and Some Disturbing Images)

RELEASE DATE: July 25, 2017


Based on the comic “The Ghost in the Shell” by Masamune Shirow

Directed by Rupert Sanders

Screenplay by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger

Producer: Ari Arad, Michael Costigan, Steven PAul

Co-Producer: Holly Bario, Jane Nerlinger Evans, Maki Terashima-Furuta

Executive Producer: Tetsuya Fujimura, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, Yoshinobu Noma, Jeffrey Silver

Music by Lorne Balfe, Clint Mansell

Cinematography by Jess Hall

Edited by Billy Rich, Neil Smith

Casting by Lucy Vevan, Liz Mullane, Miranda Rivers

Production Design by Jan Roelfs

Art Direction by Matt Austin, Simon Bright, Leri Greer, Miro Harre, Ben Hawker, Richard L. Johnson, Agata Maliauka, Andy McLaren, Erik Polczwartek, Brad Ricker, Ken Turner

Set Decoration by Greg Cokerill, Elli Griff, Craig Poll, Calvin Tsoi, Brana Rosenfeld, Kitt Van Der Kidd

Costume Design by Kurt and Bart


Starring:

Scarlett Johansson as Major

Pilou Asbaek as Batou

Takeshi Kitano as Aramaki

Juliette Binoche as Dr. Ouelet

Michael Pitt as Kuze

Chin Han as Togusa

Danusia Samal as Ladriya

Lasarus Ratuere as Ishikawa

Yutaka Izumihara as Saito

Tawanda Manyimo as Borma

Peter Ferdinando as Cutter

Anamaria Marinca as Dr. Dahlin


Set in a world where people are enhanced with technology, GHOST IN THE SHELL follows Major (Scarlett Johansson), who believes she was rescued from near death. The first of her kind, Major is a human mind inside an artificial body designed to fight the war against cyber-crime. While investigating a dangerous criminal, Major makes a shocking discovery – the corporation that created her lied about her past life in order to control her. Unsure what to believe, Major will stop at nothing to unravel the mystery of her true identity and exact revenge against the corporation she was built to serve.


The year 1989 and Masamune Shirow would create his manga “Ghost in the Shell”.

By 1995, an animated film was released and would become a box office hit in Japan, would achieve success via video retail and would also receive critical acclaim worldwide.  So much that even filmmaker James Cameron cited the film as a source of inspiration, saying “The first truly adult animation film to reach a level of literary and visual excellence”.

While considered complex and too some as cerebral, the popularity of the first film would lead to more animated films, animated series, video games and books.

And in 2008, DreamWorks and Steven Spielberg would acquire the rights to produce a live-action film adaptation of the original manga and in 2017, the film would be released in theaters, earning over $169 million in the box office.

The film is directed by Rupert Sanders (“Snow White and the Huntsman”) and would be co-written by Jamie Moss (“Safe House 2”, “Street Kings”), William Wheeler (“Queen of Katwe”, “The Hoax”) and Ehren Kruhger (“Transformers” films, “The Ring”).

The film stars Scarlett Johansson (“Lost in Translation”, “The Avengers”, “Lucy”), Pilou Asbaek (“Lucy”, “Hijacking”, “A War”), Takeshi Kitano (“Brother”, “The Blind Swordsman/Zatoichi”, “Fireworks”), Juliette Binoche (“The English Patient”, “Three Colors: Blue”, “Cache”, “Godzilla”), Michael Pitt (“Seven Psychopaths”, “I Origins”), Chin Han (“The Dark Knight”, “Contagion”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”), Danusia Samal (“Tyrant”, “Boom”) and Peter Ferdinando (“Tony”, “Starred Up”).

And now, the film will be released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Paramount.

The film begins with a woman being wheeled in via a stretcher and her brain being removed and inserted in a mechanical body (shell) at Hanka Robotics, the world’s leading developer of augmentative technology.

And the first experimented is made to integrate a human brain versus an AI, and the results on Mira Killian (portrayed by Scarlett Johansson) is a success.  While Dr. Ouelet (portrayed by Juliette Binoche) is thrilled that the experiment had worked, Hanka CEO Cutter (portrayed by Peter Ferdinando) wants to use her immediately as a soldier/counter-terrorism operative.

Dr. Ouelet tells Mira that she was involved in an accident and that her body was too damaged but they were able to rescue her brain.  She was also told that her parents have passed away.

Fastforward a year later and Mira is now a “Major” in the anti-terrorist bureau, Section 9, and she and her fellow operatives Batou (portrayed by Pilou Asbaek) and Togusa (portrayed by Chin Han) working under their boss, Chief Daisuke Aramaki (portrayed by Takeshi Kitano) are trying to prevent a terrorist attack on a Hanka business conference.

As the terrorists attack, Major acts on her own despite her Chief telling her not to to and in the process, she destroys a rogue geisha robot who ends up murdering her hostage.  After Major destroys the geisha robot, a message is given directly to her.

As Major goes for rehabilitation and medication, she tells Dr. Ouelet that she is experiencing hallucinations and that she doesn’t remember her past.

Wanting to know why the geisha robot gave her a message, she tells her partner Batou that she will be diving into the geisha robot and when she does, she knows she is breaking protocol.  But wanting to find answers, she finds out that the robot was hacked by a mysterious individual known as Kuze and Kuze tries to do a reverse hack.

As Major starts to be affected by the reverse hack, Batou has her disconnected and Major was able to extract information that leads her to a Yakuza nightclub.

As Major and Batou continue to investigate, what will they find out about this mysterious individual known as Kuze and because of her belligerence of not following orders, will she be deprogrammed?


VIDEO:

“Ghost in the Shell” receives its first 4K Ultra HD K Ultra HD release and is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition.

While the setting is in the future, the film reflects that with a lot of CG created buildings and virtual/holographic signs.  For the most part, closeups show great detail and the overall look of the film is cool.  Combining realistic scenes with a lot of CG, the two are able to coexist with great efficacy.

For the most part, the film looks fantastic 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:

Lossless audio quality is equally impressive. Featured in English Dolby Atmos, French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital and English audio description.

Considering that this sci-fi action film contains a lot of action sequences, this lossless soundtrack is quite impressive. Surround channels and LFE are well-utilized during the high actions sequences.  And may it be weapon shots to glass shattering, “Ghost in the Shell” sounds magnificent.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ghost in the Shell” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special features:

  • Hard-Wired Humanity: Making Ghost in the Shell – (30:05) A featurette on the making of “Ghost in the Shell” and bringing the popular manga to film and how it took nine years to develop.
  • Section 9: Cyber Defenders – (11:28) A featurette about the anti-terrorist unit, Section 9.  Interviews with the cast who are members of Section 9.
  • Man & Machine: The Ghost Philosophy – (10:35) A featurette with cast and crew discussing the quickly changing technology and the integration of human/technology.

EXTRAS:

“Ghost in the Shell” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


Having loved the animated film “Ghost in the Shell”, I have seen the manga/film evolve as a TV series, animated film, video games and literally captivate people all over the world.

So, when the film was announced that there would be a live-action film starring Scarlett Johansson, as beloved as they are too fans, they are also the harshest critics.

Could a live-action film due the manga/animated film justice?  Will the casting of Scarlett Johansson instead of an Asian actress hurt the film?

There are a lot of things that the film has been criticized and as a fan of “Ghost in the Shell”, you can see this film as being half empty and half full.

For one, I give the creators of the film credit for creating this CG landcape of a futuristic megalopolis.  The film does go into why the character of Major is not Asian.

But there are a few concessions that I can understand why the producers had to do it.  For example, the animated film, while awesome as it is, not everyone is able to follow it.  Many found it too smart, too cerebral for their own tastes, so in order to make money and make this film accessible to the public, the film can’t be too complex.

It’s important to note that in Japan, the film did much better than the original 1995 anime film, they also embraced Scarlett Johansson as the main protagonist.  Having watched many anime live-action film adaptations, believe it or not, “Ghost in the Shell” is probably one of the better adaptations from Hollywood.  You have star power in this film with Johannson, Takeshi Kitano, Pilou Asbaek, Juliette Binoche, to name a few and the acting is very good.  The visual effects are phenomenal.

Now compare this to “Dragon Ball: Evolution”, “The Guyver”, “Fist of the North Star”, “Speed Racer”. Aside from “Edge of Tomorrow”, the majority of Hollywood live-action film adaptations of popular anime and manga series have led to crap.  And “Ghost in the Shell” is no doubt much better than those films I have mentioned.

In some ways, I like to think as those years of crappy anime film adaptations similar to where Marvel Comics live-action films used to be in the ’80s and ’90s.  Until Marvel was able to strike gold with “Spider-Man”, “X-Men” and later with “The Avengers”, “Iron Man” and the plethora of superhero films that are doing wonderfully in the box office, anime film adaptations are starting to show an improvement in quality and that’s important.

In Japan, the country is experiencing a boom of anime to live-action film adaptations with “Fullmetal Alchemist”, “Gintama”, “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures” starting to generate hype in 2017, people are fully aware of what happens when the film is in the hands of a director who takes the film with a different approach (ie. the two “Attack on Titan” live-action films).

I tend to see the future being bright for anime to live-action films in the future but while Japanese audiences are more accepting, outside of Japan, it’s a different story.  With social media and voices becoming more loud about Hollywood casting, at least the writing does find a way to make sense of Scarlett Johansson’s character.

If anything, I see “Ghost in the Shell” a live-action film that is on the lighter side of storytelling.  Unfortunately, the lighter side of storytelling is what hurts the film because aside from Major and Batou and of course, Kitano as Aramaki is a major win for the film, the problem is the development of the characters and motivations in the live-action film.

I don’t think the film’s antagonist was written all that well and if anything, I found Michael Carmen Pitt’s character, Kuze, to be forgetful.  When Major and Kuze come across each other, I didn’t care for Kuze’s character one bit even after the reveal is made.

I will give the producers and director Rupert Sanders credit for what they were able to accomplish.  The film looks great, visual effects were fantastic, the film featured solid acting but is hurt by its other characters and lack of a gripping storyline.

But considering the other not-so-good Hollywood-made anime live-action film adaptations, one can’t deny that “Ghost in the Shell” is one of the better adaptations from an anime or manga series.  The film just misses the mark of being a wonderful, memorable film and feels like a simplified, less complex version of the original storyline and a film with untapped potential.  But there is always room for improvement if a sequel does happen in the future.

 

Resident Evil: Vendetta (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

July 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a fan of the “Resident Evil” series and loved the video games and the previous two animated films, I can easily say that “Resident Evil: Vendetta” is the best animated film of the three so far, storywise and also awesome CG to go along with the story.  Definitely an animated film that I recommend for RE fans!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Capcom Co., Ltd. and Resident Evil CG2 Film Partners. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Resident Evil: Vendetta

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 97 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Compatible), Arabic, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish VO, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin America), Swedish, Thai, Turkish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Bloody Violence)

RELEASE DATE: July 18, 2017


Directed by Takanori Tsujimoto

Screenplay by Makoto Fukami

Adaptation/Dialogue: Joe McClean

Producer: Hiroyasu Shinohara

Co-Producer: Kei Miyamoto

Executive Producer: Takashi Shimizu

Supervising Producer: Hiroyuki Kobayashi 

Associate Producer: Kosei Sugimoto

Music by Kenji Kawai

Art Direction by Hiroaki Ueno


Featuring the Voices of:

Kevin Dorman as Chris Redfield

Matthew Mercer as Leon S. Kennedy

Erin Cahill as Rebecca Chambers

John DeMita as Glenn Arias

Fred Tatasciore as Diego Gomez

Cristina Valenzuela as Maria Gomez

Arif S. Kinchen as D.C.

Arnie Pantoja as Damian

Kari Wahlgren as Nadia

Alexander Polinsky as Patricio

Jason Faunt as Arron

Karen Strassman as Kathy White

Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as Zack White


BSAA Chris Redfield enlists the help of government agent Leon S. Kennedy and Professor Rebecca Chambers from Alexander Institute of Biotechnology to stop a death merchant with a vengeance from spreading a deadly virus in New York.

Directed by Takanori Tsujimoto with a screenplay by Makoto Fukami (Psycho Pass), RESIDENT EVIL: VENDETTA was produced by Hiroyasu Shinohara and executive produced by Takashi Shimizu, with music by Kenji Kawai (Ghost in the Shell).


In 1996, Japanese video game developer and publisher, CAPCOM released its survival horror video game for the Sony Playstation.  Since then, the video game has become one of the best selling titles from the company and many games have been released since then including  six live-action films (with a reboot being developed) and a three animated films.

“Resident Evil: Vendetta” was released in 2017 and is directed by Takanori Tsujimoto and a screenplay by Makoto Fukami.  Taking place between the “Resident Evil 6” and “Resident Evil 7: Biohazard” video games, this latest animated film features Chris Redfield, Leon S. Kennedy and Rebecca Chambers.

And now the film will be available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD.

The film begins with BSAA agent Chris Redfield and his fellow BSAA agents traveling to Mexico to infiltrate a mansion after their undercover source, Cathy White and her son Zack had vanished.

When the group arrives, they are ambushed by zombies and Chris discovers that both Cathy and her son have been infected and have turned to zombies.  Unfortunately, with deadly traps all over the mansion, the agents are killed with Chris being the exception.

Chris comes into contact with the person responsible, Glenn Arias, a death merchant who wants revenge against the U.S. government for killing his family and wife on the day of their wedding.

As the two fight, Glenn defeats Chris and leaves with Cathy (zombie) and his select crew, while Chris vows to get his revenge on Glenn.

The film then shifts to Rebecca Chambers, a former officer in the Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) who worked with Chris as a member of Bravo Team.

Rebecca has since traded her badge and gun to become a scientist working in a university laboratory, using her knowledge of medicine to develop cures for viruses.  But not long after she creates an antidote, zombies have invaded the laboratory and her fellow scientists are killed.

As the zombies go after Rebecca, she is rescued by Chris and Rebecca reveals to him that there are three components to the virus, which is the base virus, the trigger virus and the vaccine.  And because Rebecca administered the antidote on herself, she was not affected when Arias’ assassin, Maria releases the virus in to the laboratory.

Wanting to get back at Glenn, Rebecca joins Chris and team but Chris needs Leon S. Kennedy’s help.  But when they come to visit him, Leon has been drinking a lot, since his team was killed during the incident involving the BSAA source.

Can these three work together in hopes to track down Arias?


VIDEO:

“Resident Evil: Vendetta” is presented in 2160p (1:78:1 aspect ratio) and the visuals show great detail especially when compared to the last animated film “Resident Evil: Damnation”.  The motion capture is fantastic as the expressions and mannerisms of a character are well-captured. But the detail of facial characteristics is remarkable and with the realistic movements, show how far motion-capture has come in a few years. There is a lot of detail that can be seen with the characters, as well as the monstrous beasts. Overall, the CG for “Resident Evil: Vendetta” looks fantastic 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:

Audio quality is equally impressive. Presented in English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Compatible), Arabic, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish VO, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Turkish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Considering that this animated film has a solid number of action sequences, the lossless audio utilizes the surround channels. Dialogue and music are crystal clear, while action sequences sound magnificent through the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin America), Swedish, Thai, Turkish

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Resident Evil Vendetta” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special featured on two discs:

  • CGI to Reality: The Creature & Designing Vendetta – (24:05) Featuring two featurettes on how the CGI was created .
  • Still Gallery  – Featuring 30 sketches/designs
  • Filmmaker Audio Commentary – Japanese audio commentary with Director Takanor Tsujimoto, Executive Producer Takashi Shimizu and writer Makoto Fukami (English Subtitled)
  • Walk-Around on Set (Motion Picture) with Dante Carver – (11:01) Dante Carver gives a tour to the set in Japan where motion captures and production are taking place.
  • BSAA Mission Briefing: Combat Arias – (5:05) Introduction to the antagonist, Arias and his operatives.
  • Designing the World of Vendetta – (3:31) A featurette on the evolution of “Resident Evil” and designing the world of this latest animated film.
  • 2016 Tokyo Game Show Footage – (13:04) The screening of “Resident Evil: Vendetta” at the Tokyo Game Show.

EXTRAS:

“Resident Evil: Vendetta” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and a bonus disc.


Since the release of the first “Resident Evil” game for the Sony Playstation back in 1996, I have been a fan of the series purchasing the many games that have been released on various consoles, portable consoles and have also enjoyed the live-action films, despite the differences with the video game series. As well, as enjoying the first two CG films, “Resident Evil: Degeneration” and “Resident Evil: Damnation”, as a fan, you can’t help but feel giddy that Chris Redfield is reuniting with Rebecca Chambers and also joining the two is popular character Leon S. Kennedy.

The storyline continues the terrorizing details of how the virus is being utilized and now, you have the virus in the hands of Glenn Arias, a death merchant who wants nothing but revenge against the US Government for slaughtering his wife-to-be and his entire family during his wedding day.

This time around, we see a Leon S. Kennedy who is distraught and getting drunk after the slaughter of his fellow agents and we see Rebecca Chambers, last seen as a member of S.T.A.R.S. in the first video game and now a scientist developing a cure for the virus.  Having created an antidote which she has used on herself and seems to have worked.  Chris Redfield is always your heroic gung-ho character wanting to kick butt, so his character remains consistent.

But as Arias is getting his revenge, he also wants Rebecca because she is the spitting image of his deceased beloved.

In the last film, there were times where I felt this film was more “visual eye-candy” and for the most part, this is an all-action film that is no doubt looks awesome in 4K Ultra HD.  But I feel there is a much better storyline this time around and you get a good balance of storyline and visual eye-candy.

The 4K Ultra HD release looks magnificent and the lossless soundtrack is also immersive.  You get special features on the Blu-ray disc as well on the bonus disc provided.  Unfortunately, no UltraViolet HD code was provided, which was surprising but still, you do get three discs included.

Overall, if you are a fan of the “Resident Evil” series and loved the video games and the previous two animated films, I can easily say that “Resident Evil: Vendetta” is the best animated film of the three so far, storywise and also awesome CG to go along with the story.  Definitely an animated film that I recommend for RE fans!

 

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