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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!

 

Smurfs: The Lost Village (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

July 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

For those who enjoy the Smurfs and videophile/audiophile parents looking for an animated film that looks great in 4K Ultra HD, who also want to entertain their children or the entire family, you can’t go wrong with “Smurfs: The Lost Village”. Recommended for the entire family!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Smurfs: Lost Village

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Compatible), English – Audio Description Track, Catalan, Cantonese, Mandarin, Danish, Dutch (Netherlands), finnish, French, German, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Vietnamese 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French, Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Mild Action and Rude Humor)

RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017


Based on the Characters by Peyo

Directed by Kelly Asbury

Written by Stacey Harman, Pamela Ribbon

Producer: Mary Ellen Bauder, Jordan Kerner

Co-Producer: Veronique Culliford, Mandy Tankenson

Executive Producer: Raja Gosnell, Ben Waisbren

Co-Executive Producer: Ben Haber

Music by Christopher Lennertz

Edited by Bret Marnell

Casting by Mary Hidalgo

Production Design by Noelle Triaureau

Art Direction by Dean Gordon, Marcel Vignali


Starring:

Demi Lovato as Smurfette

Rainn Wilson as Gargamel

Joe Manganiello as Hefty Smurf

Jack McBrayer as Clumsy Smurf

Danny Pudi as Brainy Smurf

Mandy Patinkin as Papa Smurf

Dee Bradley Baker as Monty

Frank Welker as Azrael

Michelle Rodriguez as SmurfStorm

Ellie Kemper as SmurfBlossom

Julia Roberts as SmurfWillow

Ariel Winter as SmurfLily

Meghan Trainor as SmurfMelody

Bret Marnell as Snappy Bug

Brandon Jeffords as Cauldron

Kelly Asbury as Nosey Smurf

Jake Johnson as Grouchy Smurf

Gabrielle Iglesias as Jokey Smurf

Tituss Burgess as Vanity Smurf


In this fully animated, all-new take on the Smurfs, a mysterious map sets Smurfette and her best friends Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty on an exciting and thrilling race through the Forbidden Forest filled with magical creatures to find a mysterious lost village before the evil wizard Gargamel does. Embarking on a roller coaster journey full of action and danger, the Smurfs are on a course that leads to the discovery of THE biggest secret in Smurf history!


Back in the late ’50s, Belgian cartoonist Peyo created the comic strips featuring small blue fictional characters known as the Smurfs. A big success in France, the Smurfs would receive various adaptations.

The first were in Belgium via TV animated shorts that were created in 1961-1967, a few of the shorts would be featured in the 1965 in the black-and-white animation “Les Adventures des Schtroumpfs” and then followed by a 1976 animation titled “La Flûte à six schtroumpfs” (The Smurfs and the Magic Flute) which would receive an English version that would inspire more full-length Smurf animated films.

But in America, where the Smurfs gained its popularity is through the 1981 animated TV series which was nominated many times for a Daytime Emmy Award and won the “Outstanding Children’s Entertainment Series” for 1982-1983. The animated series would broadcast on television through 1989.

In 1997, producer Jordan Kerner has been trying to get a “Smurfs” film created but it wasn’t until 2002 when Peyo’s heirs accepted Kerner’s offer and people were able to get their first look at the film via leaked footage on the Internet in 2008.

And in 2011, the first live-action/CG Smurf film of a planned trilogy was released in theaters in 2011. The film which was budgeted for $110 million received lackadaisical reviews from film critics but the film was popular among the younger viewers and earned over $559 million in the box office ensuring the film as a success for Columbia Pictures which would ensure a sequel.

In 2013, “Smurfs 2” would go on to earn over $374 million in the box office, making it another success.

But wanting to create a full 3D CG animated film, the film series was rebooted (now no longer featuring the live action portion), this film (unrelated to the previous two films) is directed by Kelly Asbury (“Shrek 2”, “Gnomeo & Juliet”) and co-written by Stacey Harman (“The Goldbergs”) and Pamela Ribon (“Moana”, “Samantha Who?”, “Bears”) and the film would go on to make $194.7 million in the box office.

And now “Smurfs: The Lost Village” will be released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD in July 2017.  The version I am reviewing is the 4K Ultra HD version which comes with the Blu-ray and an UltraViolet Digital Code.

In this latest film, we are introduced to the story of Smurfette, the only girl in the Smurf Village and how she was created by the wicked wizard Gargamel from a lump of clay.  Despite being created for the purpose of evil (as he in search of the Smurf village to steal all of their essences to become the most powerful wizard in the world), she was given a chance by Papa Smurf and became part of the village.

One day, Brainy Smurf is creating an invention that can determine one’s energy.  As Hefty Smurf was tested, the invention showed that his energy was strength and Brainy was able to extract that into a liquid.  But when tested on Smurfette, because she isn’t a true Smurf, she drew in energy and so the invention didn’t work on her.

As Smurfette, Brainy, Hefty and Clumsy Smurf go out for some playtime, while flying out with a leaf, a gust of wind carries her to the Forbidden Forest where she crashes.  Smurfette sees a smurf watching her and it runs off past the wall leading to the Forbidden Forest.

But when Smurfette tells the three of what she saw, she is grabbed by Gargamel’s vulture, Monty back to his lair.

This leads Brainy, Hefty and Clumsy to go on a rescue mission to save Smurfette and when they get her out to go to the village, they want to tell Papa Smurf about her discovery.  But when Papa Smurf forbids them and punishes them for going out there, the four sneak out to search if there is a “LostVillage”of Smurfs aside from theirs.


VIDEO:

“Smurfs: Lost Village” receives its first 4K Ultra HD release and this latest animation is fantastic.  Presented in 2160p (1:85:1 aspect ratio), it’s a different style compared to the previous two films which tries to add skin texturing but for the most part, the animation is done very well with great hair physics and for the most part, it’s an animation style that is respectful to Peyo’s original work and also for those who remember the animated series.   Meanwhile, environments are well-rendered with amazing detail.  The picture quality of this film is fantastic!

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), English – Audio Description Track, Catalan, Cantonese, Mandarin, Danish, Dutch (Netherlands), Finnish, French, German, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Vietnamese 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Considering that this animated film has a good 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, French, Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Smurfs: The Lost village” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special features:

  • Emoji Sneak Peak – (2:04) A sneak peek for the upcoming “Emoji” film.
  • Filmmaker Commentary– Featuring audio commentary by director Kelly Asbury and Allan Hawkins (Animation Supervisor) and Brandon Jeffords (Head of Story).
  • Deleted Scenes – (7:35) Featuring four deleted scenes.
  • Kids at Heart! The Making of Smurfs: The Lost Village – (9:09) The making of “Smurfs: The Lost Village” and behind-the-scenes at Sony Pictures Animation.
  • The Lost Auditions – (4:07) Voice talents auditioning for other Smurf roles.
  • Demi Lovato Meets Smurfette – (:58) Smurfette interviews Demi Lovato.
  • Lost Village Dance Song  – (3:10) Featuring children dancing to the “Lost Village Dance Song”.
  • Smurfify Your Nails – (2:18) A featurette on how to smurfify nails.
  • Baker Smurf’s Mini Kitchen – (4:05)  A featurette featuring Baker Smurf narrating one preparing a baked dish.
  • Meghan Trainor “I’m a Lady Music Video”
  • Making the Song “You Will Always find Me In Your Heart” – (3:00) Christopher Lennertz discuss making the music for a certain scene.
  • The Sound of The Smurfs – (3:42) Kelly Asbury and Christopher Lennertz discuss the music for Smurfs: The Lost Village”.
  • Draw Your Favorite Smurfs – (7:40) How to draw various Smurf characters.
  • See More Smurfs! – (5:48) “Smurf” film trailers

EXTRAS:

“Smurfs: The Lost Village” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


Having grown up with watching “Smurfs” on television and reading the comics, and since 2011, it was cool to watch the films alongside my young son who pretty much grew up not with the animated films but the two previous films.

And he were are now in 2017, we have an animated film which will no doubt entertain families but I feel it’s a film that is much easier for me, as an adult to watch, versus watching Smurf and human collaborations onscreen.

Part of the entertaining factor of the original series is the adventures that the Smurfs are involved in and the various characters to work with.  While “Smurfs: The Lost Village” features primarily Smurfette, Brainy Smurf, Hefty Smurf and Clumsy Smurf, the film does a great job of incorporating other Smurfs but most importantly answers a question of what if there is a village of other Smurfs out there?

What if Smurfette wasn’t the only female Smurf around?

And sure enough, “Smurfs: The Lost Village” is quite fun to watch because we see another village but instead of all male, it’s all female.  And similar to Papa Smurf and his village of male smurfs, we see Mama Smurf and her village of female smurfs.  And needless to say, it makes for a fun, entertaining story.

As always, Gargamel is the primary antagonist.  Still trying to search for Smurfs to capture their essence in order to make him a powerful wizard.  Sure there is quite a bit of peril and rude humor (thanks to Gargamel) that raises the rating to PG but parents watching alongside their children need not worry at all.  It’s a great animated film that the entire family can enjoy!

As for the 4K Ultra HD presentation, animation is fantastic.  While much different compared to the previous two films, this time around, the animated film is much truer to Peyo’s work.  Especially for those who grew up watching the animated series.  Movements and hair physics to the way the characters move were well-animated and the detail of environments are full of detail.  In fact, this film looks absolutely vibrant in HD.

The lossless soundtrack is just as impressive.  Featuring crystal clear dialogue and music but also great use of the surround channels during the action sequences.  And last, there are a good number of special features included as well.

Overall, for those who enjoy the Smurfs and videophile/audiophile parents looking for an animated film that looks great in 4K Ultra HD, who also want to entertain their children or the entire family, you can’t go wrong with “Smurfs: The Lost Village”.  Recommended for the entire family!

 

 

The Fifth Element (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

July 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Fifth Element” is a fascinating, entertaining Luc Besson sci-fi action film that looks and sounds better with this 2017 4K Ultra HD release.  While not the best Besson film ever created, nor the best sci-fi action film ever made, still “The Fifth Element” remains as a popcorn action sci-fi film worth watching and a cult favorite that continues to entertain audiences 25 years later.

Images courtesy of © 1997 Gaumont. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Fifth Element

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1997

DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Scenes of Strong Graphic Violence and for Language)

RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017


Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Screenplay by Robert Mark Kamen

Producer: Patrice Ledoux

Co-Producer: Iain Smith

Associate Producer: Thierry Arbogast

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Lucinda Syson

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Ira Gilford, Ron Gress, Michael Lamont, Jim Morahan, Kevin Phipps

Set Decoration by Maggie Gray, Anna Pinnock

Costume Design by Jean-Paul Gaultier


Starring:

Bruce Willis as Korben Dallas

Gary Oldman as Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg

Ian Holm as Father Vito Cornelius

Mila Jovovich as Leeloo

Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod

Luke Perry as Billy

Brion James as General Munro

Tommy “Tiny” Lister as President Lindberg

Lee Evans as Fog

Charlie Creed-Miles as David

Tricky as Right Arm

John Neville as General Staedert

John Bluthal as Professor Pacoli


New York cab driver Korben Dallas didn’t mean to be a hero, but he just picked up the kind of fare that only comes along every five thousand years: A perfect beauty, a perfect being, a perfect weapon. Together, they must save the world. Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, and Gary Oldman star in acclaimed director Luc Besson’s outrageous sci-fi adventure, an extravagantly styled tale of good against evil set in an unbelievable twenty-third century world. Now presented in full 4K resolution, experience this dynamic action favorite like never before.


From the director Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita”, “Leon: The Professional”, “Taxi”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”) comes his 1997 sci-fi action film “The Fifth Element”.

Starring Bruce Willis (“The Sixth Sense”, “Die Hard”, “Looper”), Gary Oldman (“The Dark Knight Rises”, “Leon: The Professional”, “Batman Begins”), Iain Holm (“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”, “Alien”), Milla Jovovich (“Resident Evil” films, “The Three Musketeers”), Chris Tucker (“Rush Hour” films, “Silver Linings Playbook”) and Luke Perry (“Beverly Hills, 90210”, “Jeremiah”, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”).

A story that was written by Luc Besson when he was 16-years-old, the film would be made 32-years later. While receiving mixed reviews from critics, the film was a box office success with a budget of $90 million, “The Fifth Element” would go on to to make over $90 million.

And now, a new 4K Ultra HD release for “The Fifth Element” will be released in 2017 to celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary. Now presented in full 4K Ultra High Definition and in Dolby Atmos, this is the best version of the film available on physical media!

The film begins in 1914 as scientists discover something huge in an ancient Egyptian temple. Not long after, aliens known as Mondoshawans have arrived to collect (for safekeeping) a weapon capable of defeating a great evil that appears every 5,000 years.

The weapon is a sarcophagus that contains four classical elements which combines each element to create a divine light of defeating evil. The aliens say they will return when the great evil returns.

Fast forward to 2263 and the great evil has now reappeared as a giant ball of black fire. As the priest Vito Cornelius (portrayed by Ian Hom) tries to send a message to the President of the Federated Territories (portrayed by Tom Lister, Jr.) about how they must defeat the great evil with the weapon that can stop it, the Mondoshawans make their return.

But while they return, the Mangalores led by Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (portrayed by Gary Oldman), has been instructed by the great evil to acquire the stones. A hand of the Fifth element after an exchange between the Mondoshawans and Mangalores and scientist use the technology to reconstruct a humanoid woman named Leeloo (portrayed by Milla Jovovich).

Not knowing of where she is and unaware of her surroundings, Leeloo escapes and jumps off a ledge and crashes into a flying taxicab driven by Korben Dallas (portrayed by Bruce Willis), a former major of the special forces.

Will Leeloo become the key to stop the great evil? Or will she be used as a weapon to destroy humanity?


VIDEO:

“The Fifth Element” receives its first 4K Ultra HD release in time for its 20th Anniversary. This 2017 4K Ultra HD release is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).

Featuring wonderful detail and better clarity, the film looks even better in HD. Skin tones look natural and there is a good amount of grain present. I didn’t notice any major banding issues during my viewing of the film, nor does this film looked aged.

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. Featured in English 7.1 Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Considering that this sci-fi action film contains a lot of action sequences, the fact that the 2007 and 2015 Blu-ray release had a magnificent lossless soundtrack that utilized the surround channels, now this Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1) lossless soundtrack is quite impressive. From the scenes which Dallas encounters Leloo for the very first time to the ending action sequence, the film features great use of the surround and rear surround channels, as well as utilizing LFE.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Fifth Element” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special features:

  • The Visual Element – (18:25) A featurette about the films visual effects.
  • The Visual Element Extras – (6:13) Featuring seven visual element tests.
  • The Star Element: Bruce Willis – (4:19) Featuring an interview with actor Bruce Willis.
  • The Star Element: Mila Jovovich – (12:47) Featuring an interview with actress Mila Jovovich.
  • The Star element: Mila Jovovich Extras – (12:02) Featuring four screen tests with Mila Jovovich.
  • The Star Element: Chris Tucker – (4:17) Featuring an interview with actor Chris Tucker.
  • The Alien Element: Mondoshawans – (8:13) Featuring how they created the Mondoshawans and their movements.
  • The Alien Element: Mondoshawans Extras – (3:23) Featuring six outtakes and screen tests for the Mondoshawans.
  • The Alien Element: Mangalores – (9:47) A featurette about the evil Mangalores and how to bring these aliens to life.
  • The Alien Element: Mangalores Extras – (2:11) Featuring two Mangalores extras.
  • The Alien Element: Picasso – (4:17) A featurette  about Zorg’s pet, Picasso.
  • The Alien Element: Strikers – (3:04) A featurette about the Strikers that did not make the final cut of the film.
  • The Alien Element: Strikers Extras – (1:32) Featuring four Striker extras.
  • The Fashion Element – (7:46) A featurette about the fashion in “The Fifth Element”.
  • The Fashion Element: Extras – (5:17) Featuring four fashion extras.
  • The Diva – (16:16) The actress who brought Diva Plavalaguna to life.
  • The Divas Extras – (8:03) Four outtakes featuring Diva Plavalaguna.
  • The Digital Element – (9:49) A featurette about Digital Domain bringing “The Fifth Element” to life.
  • Imagining The Fifth Element – (5:14) The concept design, visual effects design and imagining of “The Fifth Element”.
  • The Elements of Style – (5:13) A featurette of an interview with Jean-Paul Gaultier and the film’s costume design.
  • Fact Track – Watch “The Fifth Element” with fact tracks.

EXTRAS:

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


It has been 20-years since the release of “The Fifth Element” and with each watch, my perception of the film changes overtime.

With my older 1999 DVD review of the film, I wrote:

I finally saw this movie and this is what I thought.  I liked it a lot!  This movie is visually stunning and the computer graphics were wonderful.  The storyline is good but it appears that an extra 30 minutes or an hour would have given this movie judgment a much better score because I felt there were some loose ends that were never answered.

Watching this film once again in 4K Ultra HD in 20017, my thoughts that while the film was often considered a reference title for video and audiophiles (back during the DVD days), it’s a popcorn action films with impressive visuals.  With some CG elements that still hold up, while other scenes do look its age.

But what I enjoyed about the film at the time was the fact that it introduced us to Mila Jovovich, who would become a much bigger star with the “Resident Evil” films years later, Chris Tucker who would become a big star with his “Rush Hour” films not long after, and for Bruce Willis fans, the film gave us another chance to watch the man who wowed us in the ’90s with his “Die Hard” films to return in a sci-fi action film which we can see his character kicking butt once again.  And of course, watching Bruce Willis as a protagonist (with the similar bravado as his other action characters in previous films) and Gary Oldman as the antagonist, made the film worthwhile.

The film benefits from its visual imagery and imaginative settings, but the CG is well-done and its far-out Jean-Paul Gaultier costume design was also interesting to see.  But how I felt about the film back in 1999, again in 2006-2007, 2015  and in 2017 has not changed.  “The Fifth Element” does not have the greatest story but it was no doubt an entertaining film.

But I feel each time I watch it, my appreciation of the film tends to lessen.  The fact is, back in the DVD years, we considered “The Fifth Element” as a reference quality film to showcase our surround sound system. Especially now as its prsented in Dolby Atmos.  And watching this film in 2160p 4K Ultra HD, along with the 7.1 lossless soundtrack makes the film even more enjoyable and video/audiophiles should be pleased.

And with this 2017 4K Ultra HD release, fans of the film will also get a good number of special features and an Ultraviolet HD code.  For those who purchased the 2015 Blu-ray release, the special features are the same.  The difference of course between 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray is that the 4K Ultra HD is presented in 2160p Ultra High Defition versus 1080p (on Blu-ray).

Overall, “The Fifth Element” is a fascinating, entertaining Luc Besson sci-fi action film that looks and sounds better with this 2017 4K Ultra HD release.  While not the best Besson film ever created, nor the best sci-fi action film ever made, still “The Fifth Element” remains as a popcorn action sci-fi film worth watching and a cult favorite that continues to entertain audiences 20-years later.

 

Leon the Professional (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

July 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Leon the Professional” is a Luc Besson masterpiece. It’s one of the most exciting films to come out from Besson with action, emotion and just all-out frenzy that you just can’t stop watching! Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman are fantastic in this film and it’s a film that I highly recommended on 4K Ultra HD!

Image courtesy of © 1994 Gaumont and Les Films du Dauphin. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Leon the Professional

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1994

DURATION: 109 Minutes (Theatrical Version)/133 Minutes (Extended Version)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible), French, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Scenes of Strong Graphic Violence and for Language)

RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017


Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Executive Producer: Claude Besson

Line Producer: John Garland and Bernard Grenet

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Todd M. Thaler

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Gerard Drolon

Set Decoration by Francoise Benoit-Fresco

Costume Design by Magali Guidasci


Starring:

Jean Reno as Leon

Gary Oldman as Stanfield

Natalie Portman as Mathilda

Danny Aiello as Tony

Peter Appel as Malky

Michael Badalucco as Mathilda’s father


The mysterious Léon (Jean Reno) is New York’s top hitman. When his next-door neighbors are murdered, Léon becomes the unwilling guardian of the family’s sole survivor – 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman). But Mathilda doesn’t just want protection; she wants revenge. From the electrifying opening to the fatal finale, THE PROFESSIONAL is a nonstop crescendo of action and suspense. After winning a competition to spend a week at the mountain estate of his company’s party hardy CEO, programmer Caleb Smith arrives to discover he has been chosen to take part in a study of artificial intelligence. Sworn to secrecy and cut off from the outside world, Caleb meets his subject, a beguiling and seductive cyborg named Ava (Alicia Vikander) – and is plunged into an A.I. experiment beyond his wildest imaginings in this epic thriller charged with heart-stopping suspense.


Hot after his film “La Femme Nikita”, in 1994 Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”, writer of “The Transporter” films) would go on to work on his film “Leon” (Leon the Professional). The film was written and directed by Besson and featured music by Eric Serra (“The Fifth Element”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”, “GoldenEye”) and cinematography by Thierry Arbogast (“Babylon AD”, “Femme Fatale”, “Kiss of the Dragon”, “The Messanger: The Story of Joan of Arc).

The film would reunite Besson with popular French action star Jean Reno (Mission: Impossible”, “Ronin”, “The Da Vinci Code”, “The Pink Panther”) who he worked on in “Nikita” and “Le grand bleu” and would be the first major film for 12-year-old actress at the time, Natalie Portman (“Star Wars: Episodes I-III”, “V for Vendetta”, “Paris, je ‘taime”). For the most part, the film received mostly positive critic reviews but also some controversy as the film would feature an older man raising a young girl and teaching her how the life of a hitman. Let alone, a 12-year-old who is attracted to an older man.

But the film is primarily about two people who find importance with each other. A hitman and a girl who lost her family and both are trying to survive.

“Leon the Professional” is about professional hitman Leon (Reno) who is known as a “Cleaner”. A man who works for mafia boss Tony (played by Danny Aiello, “Do the Right Thing”, “Lucky Number Slevin”, “Hudson Hawk”) and is skilled at making the kill and getting the target. Outside of being a hitman, Leon lives a calm, solitary life of working out, drinking milk and taking care of a plant (who he calls his best friend).

Each time he returns to his apartment, he sees a teenage girl named Mathilda (Portman) who looks as if she has been physically abused and smoking a cigarette. Meanwhile, Mathilda’s father (played by Michael Badalucco, “The Practice”) is shown having some major problems with corrupt DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents led by Stansfield (played by Gary Oldman, “The Fifth Element”, “Air Force One”, “Sid and Nancy”, “Harry Potter” films). The agents have been paying Mathilda’s father to store illegal drugs in his apartment and appears to be stealing the drugs.

They give him a chance to recover the drugs and then we get to see the life of Mathilda, her father and family at the home. Mathilda is quite distant from her father and her older sister. She is close to her four year old brother but her home life is very dysfunctional. But Mathilda goes out to buy some groceries for her family.

While she’s out, Stansfield and the corrupt DEA agents storm the home and kills Mathilda’s father and the family members. While Mathilda returns, she realizes that something bad has happened and instead of going straight into her home, because DEA agent is posted outside the door, she goes straight towards Leon’s home and cries and pleads for him to open the door. Leon being the loner, doesn’t want to but seeing the anguish on her face, he allows her to come in. Stansfield realizes that not all family members are dead and now wants to find Mathilda.

This begins the life of Leon the Professional who takes care of Mathilda and are seen staying in different hotels as he works on his hits. But with Mathilda wanting revenge for her brother’s death, requests Leon to train her on how to become a “cleaner”. But as Leon has trouble with being close to anyone, the young 12-year-old starts to fall in love with the hitman. Meanwhile, Stansfield will do whatever he can to find the missing girl.

“Leon the Professional” had an original theatrical release but there was an extended version (or Director’s Cut) featuring an extra 24-minutes of footage which focuses on Leon training Mathilda but also the emotional connection the two have for each other. Both are included on the 4K Ultra HD release and personally, I prefer the extended version as the screenplay focuses a lot on the friendship between Leon and Mathilda.


VIDEO:

When I first saw “Leon the Professional”, I admit that I was happy. Why? Many films created between 1986-1996 and released on Blu-ray, some really look their age, transfer is not all that great or is very soft but for “Leon the Professional” on 4K Ultra HD, the colors are vibrant, black levels are great and deep and detail can be seen. The old buildings that Leon and Mathilda live in, you can see all the cracks and how old they look. It just seems much more clearer. Sharpness is great and the colors just pop. There is a nice amount of grain as well and no softness. This doesn’t look like a film that is 15-years-old. So, needless to say…picture quality is fantastic.

With that being said, this 2017 4K Ultra HD release is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).

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. Featured in English 7.1 Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1.

There are really good action sequences and gun fights that really utilize the soundscape from the front, center and surround channels. Especially during the final confrontation, the film sounds great. Music by Eric Serra also helps create the mood. For the most part, this is not an action film that is overly aggressive as most of the film is dialogue-based between Leon and Mathilda but for the most part, when the action scenes do happen, you’ll definitely hear those gun shots, machine gun rattling, explosions really clear.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Leon the Professional” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special features:

  • 10 Year Retrospective: Cast and Crew Look Back – (25:09) A featurette released on the 2004 DVD. A virtual reunion with interviews with the cast talking about a film they made 10 years ago. How the film came to be made and how the talent were cast for the film.
  • Jean Reno: The Road to Leon – (12:25) A featurette about Jean Reno, his personal life of him growing up and his previous works that led to him playing the character of Leon.
  • Natalie Portman: Starting Young – (13:49) Natalie Portman talks about reading the script at 11-years-old and wanting to do the part despite her parents feeling it was inappropriate. Working with Jean Reno and Luc Besson and how she was able to accomplish those emotional crying scenes and more.
  • Fact Track (Extended Version) – Viewers can watch the extended version of the film with a fact track.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Leon the Professional”.

EXTRAS:

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


“Leon the Professional” is a riveting, action-packed film. And for those who are familiar with Luc Besson films, you expect intense gunfighting sequences and plenty of destruction. Granted, he has done a lot more of that now with recent films but back in 1994, “Leon the Professional” was entertaining then and 15-years later, continues to be quite entertaining now.

Jean Reno is really good playing those action, hitman type of scenes. He’s a tough guy but Luc Besson knows how to utilize his character quite well in his films. Gary Oldman is always a fantastic villain and his character Stansfield is just repulsive. Murdering young children definitely made the viewer want either Leon or Mathilda to really get their revenge on him by the end of the film. And the way it played out, was well-done. But as Reno and Oldman were fantastic, Natalie Portman was incredible. The actress demonstrated in this film that she can be an actress that can excel in emotional scenes and for the most part, back in 1994, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that she would grow up to be an actress to watch for. Overall, great acting by the three main characters of the film.

As for the controversy which led the film to be cut for its theatrical version, I can understand where opposition groups were coming from. Mathilda was a child that was raised in a dysfunctional setting and she has been emotionally damaged that the only person that she sees as her savior was Leon. A man who lives in isolation and his best friend is a plant. But of course, there is a sense of sadness that broods with the character of Leon and somehow, these two find comfort within each other. For Leon, it’s more of a friend, while Mathilda, looks at it her emotions as being in love. Nevertheless, for those who get disturbed by those scenes of Mathilda’s emotional anguish (ala Russian Roulette) and the fact that Leon trains Mathilda on how to kill people (using a paint gun), there is a theatrical version included on the Blu-ray that eliminates those scenes and an extended version that contains those extra 24 minutes.

As for the 4K UltraHD, I just felt the picture quality was fantastic for an early 90’s film. With quite a few 90’s films that looks its age, the amount of colors and detail for on this HD release is fantastic.  For those who purchased the 2015 Blu-ray release, the special features are the same. The main difference of course, is that this 4K Ultra HD version is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition, while the Blu-ray is presented in 1080p High Definition.

Overall, “Leon the Professional” is a Luc Besson masterpiece. It’s one of the most exciting films to come out from Besson with action, emotion and just all-out frenzy that you just can’t stop watching! Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman are fantastic in this film and it’s a film that I highly recommended on 4K Ultra HD!

 

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

May 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

It has been several years since I watched this film, and still “Ex Machina” still resonates strongly and stays in my mind.  I felt this film was  well-executed, brilliantly-written film that approaches the topic of humanoid robotics and artificial intelligence. Thought provoking and entertaining, Alex Garland’s “Ex Machina” is highly recommended!

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


TITLE: Ex Machina

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 108 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English DTSX Audio, DTS Headphone:X Audio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 DTS Digital Surround, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (Graphic Nudity, Language Sexual References and Some Violence)

RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017


Directed by Alex Garland

Written by Alex Garland

Producer: Andrew McDonald, Allon Reich

Associate Producer: Jason Sack, Joanne Smith

Executive Producer: Eli Bush, Tessa Ross, Scott Rudin

Music by Geoff Barrow, Ben Salisbury

Cinematography by Rob Hardy

Edited by Mark Day

Casting by Francine Maisler

Production Design by Mark Digby

Art Direction by Katrina Mackay, Denis Schnegg

Set Decoration by Michelle Day

Costume Design by Sammy Sheldon


Starring:

Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb

Oscar Isaac as Nathan

Alicia Vikander as Ava

Sonoya Mizuno as Kyoko


After winning a competition to spend a week at the mountain estate of his company’s party hardy CEO, programmer Caleb Smith arrives to discover he has been chosen to take part in a study of artificial intelligence.  Sworn to secrecy and cut off from the outside world, Caleb meets his subject, a beguiling and seductive cyborg named Ava (Alicia Vikander) – and is plunged into an A.I. experiment beyond his wildest imaginings in this epic thriller charged with heart-stopping suspense.


In 2015, the independent sci-fi psychological thriller, “Ex Machina” written and directed by Alex Garland (writer of “28 Days Later…”, “Dredd” and “Sunshine”) was released in theaters.

The concept for the film first emerged when Alex was 11 years old, doing basic coding on his PC and he felt the computer had a mind of its own.  Then later in his life, from a discussion with a friend who had experience in neuroscience and the discussion from his friend that machines could never become sentient.  Wanting to find out for himself if machines could become sentient, Alex started to read books about the possibilities.

It wasn’t until Alex read an article from Murry Shanahan (a professor of Cognitive Robotics at Imperial College London) who researches artificial intelligence, robotics and cognitive science.  This led to Alex Garland writing these ideas down (during the time that “Dredd” was in pre-production) and would come back to it later.

Wanting total freedom, Alex wanted to write and direct the film with the smallest budget as possible.  “Ex Machina” was born and along with Murray Shanahan and British genetecist, author and broadcaster Adam Rutherford serving as consultants, Alex was able to create the film for $15 million and the film would earn over $36.9 million worldwide.

The film stars Domhnall Gleeson (“The Revenant”, “About Time” and both “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” films), Oscar Isaac (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, “Inside Llewyn Davis”, “Drive”), Alicia Vikander (“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, “Jason Bourne”, “The Danish Girl”) and Sonya Mizuno (“La La Land”, “Annihilation”, “Beauty and the Beast”).

And the film would go on to win an Academy Award for “Best Visual Effects” in 2015.  And now for the first time, Ex Machina” will be released on 4K Ultra HD courtesy of Lionsgate.

“Ex Machina” begins with programmer Caleb Smith (portrayed by Domhnall Gleeson), an employee for a search engine company, Blue Book, winning a one-week visit to the home of CEO, Nathan Bateman.

When Caleb arrives, he learns quickly that the home is isolated and very secure.  The only person he sees is the Japanese servant, Kyoko (portrayed by Sonya Mizuno), who doesn’t know any English.

When Nathan offers Caleb a chance to become of something important and special and having to sign a non-disclosure agreement to not mention any of this to anyone vocal, electronically or anyway possible, Caleb signs and finds out that Nathan has built a humanoid robot named Ava (portrayed by Alicia Vikander) with artificial intelligence.

Alicia has passed the Turing Test (a test developed in 1950 to test a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent or indistinguishable from that of a human) and Nathan wants Caleb to test Ava and find out if she is capable of thought and consciousness.

While Ava is confined to her apartment in a locked room, her facial features look real but around her body, is robotic.  Caleb then has talks with Ava and as Nathan is observing these private talks, Ava manages to drain the power and create temporary power outages that shuts down the surveillance system, Ava gives Caleb a distressing message that he can not trust Nathan.

And as the two become closer in their talks and she expresses romantic interest in Nathan, even flirting, Caleb starts to question Nathan and wants to help out Ava.


VIDEO:

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

While the film is considered low budget, the film was shot as ordinary live action and no special effects or green screen was used.  All effects were added in post-production.  Picture quality is fantastic as closeups show amazing detail of one’s skin to the vibrant outdoors and the lush, green forest area surrounding Nathan’s isolated home.

Black levels are nice and deep and for the most part, the film looks great in 4K Ultra HD!

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Ex Machina” is presented in English DTS: X Audio, DTS Headphone:X Audio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 DTS Digital Surround Audio.

Dialogue was crystal clear, the power outage sounds when Ava disrupts the surveillance system is crystal clear, as with the music especially when Nathan and Kyoko start dancing.  But for the most part, the film is dialogue and musically-driven.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ex Machina” comes with the following special features on the Blu-ray disc:

  • Through the Looking Glass: Making Ex Machina – (39:57) Interviews with writer/director Alex Garland, the producers and Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac.
  • SXSW Q&A with Cast and Crew – (1:00:58) Q&A with writer/director Alex Garland, actor Oscar Isaac, cinematographer Rob Hardy and music by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury.
  • Behind the Scenes Vignettes – (28:38) Vignettes featuring the visual effects of the film.  From creating Ava making Natha’s world, new consciousness, Alicia becoming Ava, directing the film and casting the film.
  • Trailers – Lionsgate trailers.

EXTRAS:

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


There have been numerous stories that went into possibilities of machines having artificial intelligence.

We have seen androids on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, rogue robots in animation such as “Bubblegum Crisis” to robot technology going awry and deadly in the “Terminator” films.

But what Alex Garland was able to write and direct, “Ex Machina”, is a film that is not only smartly written but it is a thought-provoking film that will no doubt stir up discussion and debates courtesy of its shock ending.

What starts out as innocent as programmer Caleb Smith is given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in a Q&A with a humanoid robot named Ava with artificial intelligence.

It’s one thing to be in the presence with the intelligent CEO of the search engine, Blue Book, Nathan Bateman but to be in his modern, advanced and very secure home but to see this humanoid robot with advance artificial intelligence thanks to the technology connected to the search engine Blue Book.

But when a power outage that causes the surveillance to go down and Ava taking the opportunity to give Caleb a warning that Nathan can not be trusted, starts to chain reaction that when the film concludes, viewers watching the film will be mind-blown, shocked, while those who let the film linger in their mind and see things scientifically, will know the ending does make sense.

It’s such a unique film and a wondrous first film for writer/director Alex Garland, featuring a wonderful performance from actress Alicia Vikander and also from Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac.

And even surprising is how the film was an independent, low-budget sci-fi film, which visual effects were added post-production and eventually earning the visual effects crew an Academy Award.  Garland set out to create a film, his way, his style, no Hollywood interference and what he is able to create is a sci-fi classic that will no doubt resonate for years, decades to come.

As for the film’s first 4K Ultra HD release, picture quality is magnificent.  Details are fantastic during closeups, outdoor scenes are vibrant and lush and the lossless soundtrack is crystal clear.  There are also numerous, lengthy special features included as well.  Plus the inclusion of the Blu-ray and Ultraviolet HD version of the film.

Overall, it has been several years since I watched this film, and still “Ex Machina” still resonates strongly and stays in my mind.  I felt this film was  well-executed, brilliantly-written film that approaches the topic of humanoid robotics and artificial intelligence. Thought provoking and entertaining, Alex Garland’s “Ex Machina” is highly recommended!

 

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