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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!

 

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

May 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 107 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Sequences of Violence Throughout)

RELEASE DATE: May 16, 2017


Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

Written by Paul W.S. Anderson

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

Associate Producer: Hiroyuki Kobayashi, Bernhard Thur

Executive Producer: Victor Hadida, Martin Moszkowicz

Music by Paul Haslinger

Cinematography by Glen MacPherson

Edited by Doobie White

Casting by Suzanne Smith

Production Design by Edward Thomas

Art Direction by Guy Potgieter, Lusa Van Velden

Set Decoration by Anneke Botha

Costume Design by Reza Levy


Starring:

Milla Jovovich as Alice/Alicia Marcus

Iain Glen as Dr. Isaacs

Ali Larter as Claire Redfield

Shawn Roberts as Wesker

Eoin Macken as Doc

Fraser James as Razor

Ruby Rose as Abigail

William Levy as Christian

Rola as Cobalt

Ever Anders as Young Alicia/Red Queen

Mark Simpson as James Marcus

Joon-Gi Lee as Commander Chu


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Underworld: Blood Wars (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

April 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A worthy continuation of the “Underworld” film series that leans very heavy on the action, if you are looking for an all-out action film with vampires vs. werewolves, “Underworld: Blood Wars” will definitely appeal to you!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lakeshore Entertainment Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Underworld: Blood Wars

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmost (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Strong Bloody Violence and Some Sexuality)

RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2017


Based on the Characters by Kevin Grevioux, Len wiseman, Danny McBride

Directed by Anna Foerster

Screenplay by Cory Goodman

Story by Kyle Ward, Cory Goodman

Producer: David Kern, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Len Wiseman, Richard S. Wright

Co-Producer: David Minkowski, Jackie Shenoo, Matthew Stillman

Executive Producer: James McQuaide, Ben Waisbren, Skip Williamson, Henry Winterstern

Music by Michael Wandmacher

Cinematography by Karl Walter Lindenlaub

Edited by Peter Amundson

Casting by Julie Hutchinson, Maya Kvetny, Suzanne Smith

Production Design by Ondrej Nekvasil

Art Direction by Bryce Tibbey, Martin Vackar

Set Decoration by Beatrice Brentnerova

Costume Design by Bojana Nikitovic


Starring:

Kate Beckinsale as Selene

Theo James as David

Tobias Menzies as Marius

Lara Pulver as Semira

Charles Dance as Thomas

James Faulkner as Cassius

Peter Andersson as Vidar

Clementine Nicholson as Lena

Bradley James as Varga

Daisy Head as Alexia

Oliver Stark as Gregor

Sveta Driga as Amelia


In the next installment of the blockbuster franchise, Vampire death dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) fends off brutal attacks from both the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her. With her only allies, David (Theo James) and his father Thomas (Charles Dance), she must stop the eternal war between Lycans and Vampires, even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.


With the success of the “Underworld” films, the fifth film “Underworld: Blood Wars” continues the storyline about the war between the vampires and the Lycans (werewolves).

Directed by Anna Foerster (“Outlander” TV series) and as screenplay by Cory Goodman (“Priest”, “The Last Witch Hunter”), the film is a sequel to the fourth film, “Underworld: Awakening” and features the return of Kate Beckinsale as the immortal vampire Selene and Theo James as David.

The film also stars Lara Pulver (“Edge of Tomorrow”, “Da Vinci’s Demons”, “The Special Relationship”), Tobias Menzies (“Outlander”, “Casino Royale”, “Atonement”), Daisy Head (“The Last Seven”, “Guilt”), Clementine Nicholson, Charles Dance (“Ghostbusters”, “Alien 3”, “Game of thrones”), James Faulkner  (“Downton Abbey”, “Da Vinci’s Demons”, “Game of Thrones”), Bradley James (“Merlin”, “Damien”, “Dis/Connected”) and Oliver Stark (“Into the Badlands”, “Luther”, “MindGamers”).

What is “Underworld” about?

“Underworld” takes place during a time where the vampires and the Lycans (werewolves) are at war.  In the past, the Lycans were used as slaves for centuries by the vampires but rebelled courtesy of their leader Lucian and have been in war since.

In the first film, Selene who has fought and killed Lycans believing that they were responsible for her family’s massacre learned from Kraven that Viktor was responsible for her family’s death.  With Michael near death due to the silver nitrate in his body that was shot by Kraven, Lucian (who was revealed to have started the war because he was in love with Sonja, a vampire and daughter of Viktor and was killed by her father to stop the relationship between a vampire and Lycan) tells Selene that in order to save him, she must bite him.

Selene has bitten Michael and transforming him to half Lycan/half vampire and both killed Viktor.  Meanwhile, the next elder vampire that is in line to be revived is Marcus and because Singe was killed near Marcus’ tomb and his blood has dripped into his tomb, that Marcus will now be revived early.

The first film would with Selene knowing that she has changed the course of the war by converting Michael by making him half vampire/half Lycan and because she aided a Lycan, she will now be hunted.

“Underworld: Evolution” begins with the three vampire elders: Marcus, Viktor and Amelia in the year 1202 A.D.  Viktor and Amelia capture William Corvinus (brother of Marcus who happens to be a powerful Lycan).  As Marcus tries to defend his brother from being harmed, Viktor has William imprisoned in a secret location for eternity.

Fastforward to the present, Selene hides Michael in a safehouse but returns to the vampire coven to confront Kraven.  She knows that Kraven has plans to eliminate Marcus and wants to stop him before he does.  But because Lycan blood is what has dripped into Marcus’ tomb, Marcus has now reawaken as a Vampire-Dominant hybrid.

Selene also learns the true reason why Viktor spared her from death when her family was massacred and why they were massacred.  And because of that reason, Markus is wanting to get to her as well.

Alexander Corvinus has given Selene his blood and thus given immortality.

Since then, both Selene and Michael have been on the run trying to protect each other from both vampire and Lycan who want them dead.

Because creators of the “Underworld” films wanted to explain how the feud between the Death Dealers and the Lycans started.  “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans”, a prequel to the first two films, was created and released in theaters back in 2009.

With the fourth film, “Underworld: Awakening”, after the events of “Underworld: Evolution”, the world now knows that vampires and Lycans exist.  And there is a massive cleansing (known as “The Purge”) as humans now try to exterminate vampires and Lycans.  Survivors have now moved underground, while both Selene and Michael have become the hunted.

Split off from each other, both try to come together during a standoff with the authorities but as Michael is shot and falls into the ocean, Selene goes after him and tries to save him.  But in the process, both are separated by a detonator.

Fast forward, 12 years later and during this time, “The Purge” has now been concluded as 95% of the vampires have been annihilated and the Lycans are considered as extinct.

Selene is being kept inside a cryogenic suspension by the medical corporation known as Antigen, which are trying to create an antidote for the virus which creates vampires and Lycans

Known as “subject 1”, someone has broken into the lab facility and have released Selene.  As Selene awakens and puts on her leather costume, she looks for Michael but is not sure where he is kept and thus she escapes Antigen facilities.

eanwhile, murders are occurring in the city and while the normal judgment by police is to think that the vampires had committed the crime (since Lycans are thought to be extinct), Detective Sebastian (played by Michael Ealy), looking at how the body was murdered, doesn’t think so.  And he spots Selene, who quickly disappears.

But also spotting Selene is a young vampire named David (played by Theo James).  He goes to track down Selene, who is trying to find answers of where Michael may be.  When David tracks her down, he tells her the truth that the Lycans have been forced to live underground, no food, diseased and something has riled them up in order for them to go back up to the surface.  And he thinks Selene knows the answer to why the Lycans are back.

But Selene starts to see images, images that usually come from the bond that she has with Michael.  Thinking that Michael is in trouble and is being hunted by the Lycans, she and David fight them off but instead of finding Michael, she finds a young girl named Eve (played by India Eisely).

Why does girl have this power and why is Selene reacting to it?  As the three are pursued by the Lycans, Eve tells Selene that she was Subject 2 at Antigen and was responsible for setting her free.  She also revealed that she was in a chamber next to her mother…which would be Selene.  Needless to say, Selene is shocked because 12 years ago, she was with Michael.  Now when she awakens, instead of finding Michael, she finds out that both had a daughter.

This now leads us to the fifth film in the “Underworld” series, things are not looking good for the vampire covens as they are nearly wiped out by the Lycans.  Both groups are seeking out Death Dealer, Selene (portrayed by Kate Beckinsale) for the deaths of Viktor and Marcus and the Lycans, wanting Selene in order to find her daughter Eve (who has the blood of vampire-werewolf) and want to create an army of vampire-werewolf hybrids.

Because of the threat of either side looking for Eve, Selene’s daughter was taken away from her to an undisclosed location in order to protect Eve.  That even Selene has no idea of her daughter’s whereabouts.

Semira (portrayed by Lara Pulver), a council member of the Eastern Coven wants Selene to be granted clemency, so she can train the Eastern Coven’s neophyte Death Dealers.

And as Selene arrives to the Eastern Coven with her protege, David (portrayed by Theo James), while training the Death Dealers, Semira’s lover Varga (portrayed by Bradley James) betrays Selene and kills all the Death Dealers as planned by Semira.

Semira drains Selene’s blood and will drink it in order to gain her power, but when vampire elder Thomas (portrayed by Charles Dance) and David arrive, a battle begins with Semira and Varga.

And in order to save their lives and buy time for David to rescue Selene, he sacrifices his life in battle.

As David and Selene head to the Nordic Coven, pursuing them are Marius (portrayed by Tobias Menzies) and the Lycans who are intent in finding out where Eve is located.  But also pursuing Selene is Alexia (portrayed by Daisy Head), a death dealer from the Eastern Coven and the lover of Marius, the Lycan leader.


VIDEO:

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

Picture quality is fantastic as closeups show amazing detail and the film maintains its cool, dark look with blues, gays and blacks.  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:

“Underworld: Blood Wars” is presented in English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 5.1), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English-Audio Desription Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.

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

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Underworld: Blood Wars” comes with the following special features on the second Blu-ray disc:

  • The Evolution of Selene – (8:09) A featurette about the main protagonist, Selene and interviews with Kate Beckinsale and producers of the film.
  • Old & New Blood – (6:15) Cast and producers discuss the Nordic Coven featured in the film.
  • The Evil Evolved – (6:07) A featurette about the Eastern Coven and the Lycans.
  • Building a Blood War – (12:01) Director Anna Foerster and producers discussing of bringing back the look of the original but creating something fresh and new.
  • Underworld: Blood Wars – The Official Movie Graphic Novel – Darkstorm Comics graphic novel.  Using your remote, you can cycle through each page of the comic book.

EXTRAS:

“Underworld: Blood Wars” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray discs and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


With the original “Underworld” trilogy, there was a good focus on the storyline between the vampires (Death Dealers) and the Lycans (werewolves) and balancing it out with the action.

While I have always looked at the “Underworld” films as your vampire vs. werewolf popcorn action film series.  With “Underworld: Awakening”, the writers were moving away from the “Twilight” mushy romance (or Romeo & Juliet romance, as I called the first two films).

With “Underworld: Awakening”, the film became more action-heavy and as far as the storyline was concerned, the romantic element was eliminated and became more of a focus on Selene’s daughter having vampire/Lycan blood, making her a target for both sides.

Selene had become the hunted, as both sides want to know where Eve is located and that storyline continues with “Underworld: Blood Wars”.  And once again, you get a popcorn action film with actress Kate Beckinsale once again donning her tight black leather uniform that fans have come to love about the “Underworld” films.

But I’ve felt the film has taken a step into the direction of popcorn action with a forgetful storyline that seems like it would be appropriate more for a video game than a film. But giving the film the benefit of a doubt that writer Cory Goodman is trying to setup a connection for the next film, I can’t help but feel bad for director Anna Foerster.

Having loved what she has done with the “Outlander” series which feature episodes that are character and story-driven, Foerster is left with trying to create a film that revolves around chaotic action.

But despite the forgetful storyline, I did enjoy the film for its connection to the series as I enjoy the “Underworld” storyline.  I just wish there was more of it to enjoy because the characters are important and while it’s new to take adventures to a different coven and focus on the war with the Lycans nearly wiping out the vampires, you just feel that there should be more.  Considering the original trilogy was story-driven, you just want to see a good story go along with that chaotic action and not have the action dominate so much of the film.

So, considering how I enjoyed the original trilogy and knew that the fourth film “Underworld: Awakening” was heading to a different direction than the previous films, “Underworld: Blood Wars” remains consistent with the last film with no engrossing story, just a film with plenty of action and visual effects.  But yet, the final minute gives us a tease of something for fans of the film to look forward to when the sixth film is released in the future.

As for the 4K Ultra HD release, picture quality is magnificent and the darkness of the film with the use of blues, grays and blacks are still continued with this latest film.  Close-ups show great detail and Lycan transformations look great.  And similar to the last film, the lossless soundtrack is magnificent and immersive.  And considering the amount of action in this film, audiophiles should be quite thrilled to see how immersive the action sequences are and the use of the surround channels and LFE.

And as far as special features go, you are given a good number of special features including the official movie graphic novel and a few featurettes on a second Blu-ray disc.

Overall, while “Underworld: Blood Wars” is not a film that focuses on a deep storyline and fans of the previous film can expect to see a lot of fighting, a lot of deaths, non-stop action and Kate Beckinsale continuing to look awesome and also kicking a lot of arse!

A worthy continuation of the “Underworld” film series that leans very heavy on the action, if you are looking for an all-out action film with vampires vs. werewolves, “Underworld: Blood Wars” will definitely appeal to you!

 

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

March 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: Patriots Day

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 133 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Lionsgate

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

RELEASE DATE: March 28, 2017


Directed by Peter Berg

Screenplay by Peter Berg, Matt Cook, Joshua Zetumer

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

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

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

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

Music by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

Cinematography by Tobias A. Schliessler

Edited by Gabriel Fleming, Colby Parker Jr.

Casting by Sheila Jaffe, Angela Peri

Production Design by Tom Duffield

Art Direction by Steve Cooper

Set Decoration by Ronald R. Reiss

Costume Design by Virginia Johnson


Starring:

Mark Wahlberg as Tommy Saunders

John Goodman as Commissioner Ed Davis

Kevin Bacon as Special Agent Richard DesLauriers

J.K. Simmons as Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese

Christopher O’Shea as Patrick Downes

Rachel Brosnahan as Jessica Kensky

Michelle Monaghan as Carol Saunders

Jimmy O. Yang as Dun Meng

Melissa Benoist as Katherine Russell

Alex Wolff as Dzohkhar Tsarnaev

Themo Melikidze as Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Martine Assaf as Connie Pugliese

James Colby as Superintendent Billy Evans

Michael Beach as Governor Deval Patrick

Rhett Kidd as Harrold


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


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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

Picture quality is fantastic as closeups show amazing clarity and day scenes are vibrant.  Many of the scenes are shot at night, but light is well done and for the most part, the film looks great in 4K Ultra HD!

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Patriots Day” comes with the following special features:

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

EXTRAS:

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


I remember the Boston Marathon bombings quite clearly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bad Santa 2 Unrated (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

February 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Bad Santa 2” is a black comedy Christmas film that is definitely not for the sensitive, politically correct viewers.  But “Bad Santa 2 Unrated” will appeal to those who enjoyed the first film and enjoy audacious black comedies with a lot of profanity and sex.  And fans of the first film will surely enjoy seeing Willie, Marcus and Thurman together again!

Images courtesy of © 2017 BGP Releasing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Bad Santa 2 Unrated

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 113 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Espanol DTS-HD Mater Audio 5.1, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, Espanol

COMPANY: Broadgreen Pictures/Miramax

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

RELEASE DATE: February 21, 2017


Based on the Creators Created by Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

Directed by Mark Waters

Written by Johnny Rosenthal, Shauna Cross

Producer: Andrew Gunn, Geyer Kosinski

Co-Producer: Jeffrey Lampert

Executive Producer: Zanne Devine, Doug Ellin, Adam Fields, Daniel Hammon, Gabriel Hammond, David Thwaits, Jessica Tuchinsky, Mark Waters

Music by Lyle Workman

Cinematography by Theo van de Sande

Edited by Travis Sittard

Casting by Lisa Beach, Sarah Katzman, Andrea Kenyon, Randi Wells

Production Design by Isabelle Guay

Art Direction by Jean-Pierre Paquet

Set Decoration by Marie-Soleil Denomme

Costume Design by Mario Davignon


Starring:

Billy Bob Thornton as Willie Stoke

Kathy Bates as Sunny Soke

Tony Cox as Marcus Skidmore

Christina Hendricks as Diane Hastings

Brett Kelly as Thurman Merman

Ryan Hansen as Regent Hastings

Jenny Zigrino as Gina De Luca

Jeff Skowron as Dorfman

Cristina Rosato as Alice

Mike Starr as Jolly Santa

Octavia Spencer as Opal


Fueled by cheap whiskey, greed and hatred, Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) teams up with his angry little sidekick, Marcus, to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. Along for the ride is chubby and cheery Thurman Merman, a 250-pound ray of sunshine who brings out Willie’s sliver of humanity. Mommy issues arise when the pair are joined by Willie’s horror story of a mother, Sunny Soke, who raises the bar for the gang’s ambitions, while somehow lowering the standards of criminal behavior.


In 2003, the black comedy “Bad Santa” starring Billy Bob Thornton (“Armageddon”, “Sling Blade”, “The Man Who Wasn’t There”), Tony Cox (“Oz the Great and Powerful”, “Me, Myself & Irene”) and Brett Kelly (“Unaccompanied Minors”, “Trick ‘r Treat”) would become a box office hit.

The film about professional thieves Willie T. Soke (portrayed by Thornton), who always dresses up as Santa Claus and Marcus (portrayed by Tony Cox) who disguises himself as an elf, so they can rob shopping malls at night.

At the mall, as Santa, Willie is visited by Thurman Merman (portrayed by Brett Kelly) who is naive and gullible and thinks Willie is the real Santa.  Always bullied, Willie tries to help Thurman but also tricking him to steal for him.

And now, 13-years after the last film, the three return in the film “Bad Santa 2”, directed by Mark Waters (“Mean Girls”, “Freaky Friday”, “The Spiderwick Chronicles”) and is co-written by Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross (“Whip It”, “If I Stay”, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”).

With the sequel, Willie Soke is depressed about his life.  Things didn’t go well with Sue and now he feels suicidal.  He is often visited by an older Thurman who is now 21-years-old and works at a sandwich shop.

While Willie is trying to hang himself, Thurman comes inside and delivers a package for Willie featuring a lot of money.  When Willie goes to meet the person who sent him the money, it happens to be his former partner Marcus who was just released from jail.

Marcus feels remorse for betraying Willie and tells him that there is an opportunity in Chicago that can earn the both of them millions, but he can’t tell Willie who the contact in Chicago is.

Because it’s big money, Willie agrees to partner with Marcus once again.

When Willie arrives in Chicago, he finds out that the opportunity is conning a charity and the person running it is his estranged mother Sunny.  A woman who has always treated him like crap.  But when she tells him that she is suffering from early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, he agrees to help Sunny.  But secretly makes a deal with Marcus that they will cut out Sunny at the right time.

As Willie goes to apply for the charity to don the Santa Claus costume once again and Marcus as an elf, Willie immediately gets the hots for charity co-founder Diane (portrayed by Christina Hendricks) and immediately wants to have sex with her.

As Sunny, Willie and Marcus plan their con out, Willie gets an unexpected visit from Thurman, who has followed Willie to Chicago.

Will Willie still be able to accomplish the con?  And will get lucky with Diane?


VIDEO:

“Bad Santa 2 Unrated” is presented in 2160p High Definition (1:85:1). The film is presented in 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray.

Picture quality is fantastic as closeups show amazing clarity, the red on Santa Claus and Mrs. Klaus’ clothing are vibrant and outdoor scenes are colorful and 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:

“Bad Santa 2 Unrated” is presented in English and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.

While the film features crystal clear audio (dialogue) and music, surround channels are well-utilized for crowd atmosphere, outdoor ambiance. May it be when Willie is outside as Santa and getting in fight to Thurman singing a Christmas song.  Lossless audio is great!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Bad Santa 2 Unrated” comes with the following special features:

  • Thurman Then & Now – (2:27) A featurettte about Brett Kelly reprising his role as Thurman and Billy Bob working with Brett again.
  • Just Your Average Red Band Featurette – (2:00) Red Band trailer for “Bad Santa 2”.
  • “That’s My Willie” Original Animated Series – (3:51) Featuring a few animated shorts featuring Thurman talking about his Willie memories.
  • Jingle Balls – (:33) Jingle Bells music along with plenty of profanity.
  • Trailers and Spots – (7:14) Featuring the Red Band Teaser Trailers and spots.
  • Gag Reel – (3:57) Outtakes from “Bad Santa 2”.
  • Alternate Opening – (1:00) Alternate opening scene.
  • Deleted Scenes – (2:41) Deleted scenes from “Bad Santa 2”.
  • Alternate Ending Scene – (2:49) Featuring an alternate ending scene for “Bad Santa 2”.

EXTRAS:

“Bad Santa 2 Unrated” will come with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray.


Back in 2003, “Bad Santa 2” came out during at time when audacious comedies were popular.  Moronic comedy and a plethora of profanity was the norm of comedies in the 2000’s and a character such as Willie Soke and Marcus Skidmore talking badly about women they want to have sex with were ok.

Fastforward to 2013, while moronic comedies still exist, America’s tastes have changed, social media and people vocalizing their displeasure and calling out anything that is deemed inappropriate is commonplace.

And the film came out during a time when a Presidential campaign had a candidate receiving notoriety for his words or actions against women, would lead to a movement of women becoming vocal of not taking it.  Vocal when a comedian is accused of raping and sexually harassing dozens of women.  And for the most part, political correctness and today’s culture are more vocal against the negative portrayal of women, especially men’s behavior towards women.

And “Bad Santa 2” was a film that was called out by many critics, who gone on to say that the first film was appropriate 13-years ago, as many comedies were similar. But now, Willie Soke’s comments of wanting to do women and doing it, will no doubt infuriate those who are sensitive of this style of comedy.

While those who watched the original film and loved it, will no doubt enjoy the sequel.

The film has its hilarious moments, especially each time Brett Kelly’s naive character Thurman Merman appears on the big screen.

While the exchanges between Willie and Marcus is expected, I think there are people who will be shocked to see Kathy Bates playing a con and a bad mother trying to reconnect with her estranged son.  As for Christina Hendricks, she plays a co-owner of a charity (that Willie, Marcus and Sunny are trying to con) but not having sex in a decade, she shows her dirty girl side towards Willie.

But while the film is not better than the original film, the heist is overshadowed by Willie’s dysfunctional relationship with Thurman, who in someways as the annoy child that Willie can’t stand but yet, feels that he needs to take care of him, considering that Thurman is the only person in his life that treats him with true appreciation.

As for the 4K Ultra HD release, picture quality is fantastic and vibrant. Colors are much more bolder and close-ups show great detail.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue and musically driven, but ambiance is well-utilized throughout the film and its surround channels.  And there are a good number of special features included.

As for the differences between the unrated and theatrical versions, it’s only three minutes extra and those three minutes are more extended sex scenes.

Overall, “Bad Santa 2” is a black comedy Christmas film that is definitely not for the sensitive, politically correct viewers.  But “Bad Santa 2 Unrated” will appeal to those who enjoyed the first film and enjoy audacious black comedies with a lot of profanity and sex.  And fans of the first film will surely enjoy seeing Willie, Marcus and Thurman together again!

 

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

February 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Ang Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” may have not won me over compared to his other films but I did enjoy the artistic freedom of using technology and the highest film FPS and trying something fresh and different compared to other films shot digitally.  Storywise, it may not be a heavy-hitting war film, but “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” does manage to capture brotherhood at arms, American war propaganda and the distorted perception of heroism. A film worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 113 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French, Portuguese, Thai, English and French Audio Description Tracks 5.1 Dolby Digital. SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Czech, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese (Classic), Spanish (Castilan and Latin American) and Thai.

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Language Throughout, Some War Violence, Sexual Content and Brief Drug Use)

RELEASE DATE: February 14, 2017


Based on the Novel by Ben Fountain

Directed by Ang Lee

Written by Jean-Christophe Castelli

Producer: Stephen Cornwell, Ang Lee, Marc Platt, Rhodri Thomas

Executive Producer: Brian Bell, Guo Guangchang, Jeff Robinov, Ben Walsbren

Associate Producer: Alexei Boltho, Simon Cornwell, Ben Fountain, David Kosse, David Lee

Music by Jeff Danna, Mychael Danna

Cinematography by John Toll

Edited by Tim Squyres

Casting by Salah Benchegra, Shay Griffin, Avy Kaufman

Production Design by Mark Friedberg

Art Direction by Gregory S. Hooper, Kim Jennings, Thomas Minton, Aziz Rafiq

Set Decoration by Elizabeth Keenan

Costume Design by Joseph G. Aulisi


Starring:

Joe Alwyn as Billy

Garrett Hedlund as Dime

Arturo Castro as Mango

Mason Lee as Foo

Astro as Lodis

Beau Knapp as Crack

Ismael Cruz Cordova as Holliday

Barney Harris as Sykes

Vin Diesel as Shroom

Steve Martin as Norm

Chris Tucker as Albert

Kristen Stewart as Kathryn

Makenzie Leigh as Faison

Ben Platt as Josh

Bruce McKinnon as Billy’s Father

Deirdre Lovejoy as Billy’s Mother

Laura Lundy Wheale as Patty Lynn

Allen Daniel as Major Mac


Academy Award® winner Ang Lee (2012, Best Director, Life Of Pi ) brings his extraordinary vision to Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, based on the widely-acclaimed, bestselling novel. The story is told from the point of view of 19-year-old private Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) who, along with his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad, becomes a hero after a harrowing battle in Iraq and is brought home temporarily for a victory tour. Through a sequence of flashbacks the truth about what really a happened is revealed – contrasting the realities of the war with America’s distorted perceptions of heroism. Co-starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, with Vin Diesel, and Steve Martin.


In 2012, award-winning writer Ben Fountain wrote his debut novel “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”.

Published in 2012, the novel received critical acclaim and won several awards, including the National Book Critics Award for Fiction, the 2012 National Book Award and Fountain would win the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize.

This would lead to a British-American war film adaptation directed by Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Brokeback mountain”, “The Ice Storm”, “Hulk”) and a screenplay by Jean-Christophe Castelli (“Sense and Sensibility”, “Life of Pi”, “The Ice Storm”).

The film stars Joe Alwyn (“The Sense of an Ending”,”A Higher Education”, “Keepers”), Garrett Hedlund (“Tron: Legacy”, “Unbroken”, “Four Brothers”, “Troy”), Arturo Castro (“Bushwick”), Mason Lee (“The Hangover Part II”), Astro (“Earth to Echo”, “A Walk Among the Tombstones”), Beau Knapp (“The Nice Guys”, “Southpaw”, “Super 8”), Ismael Cruz Cordova (“In the Blood”, “Exposed”), Barney Harris (“The Hollow Crown”, “Billionaire’s Boys Club”, “All Roads Lead to Rome”), Vin Diesel (“xXx” films, “Fast & Furious” films), Steve Martin (“The Jerk”, “Bowfinger”, “The Pink Panther” films, “Cheaper by the Dozen” films), Chris Tucker (“Rush Hour” films, “Silver Linings”, “The Fifth Element”), Kristen Stewart (“Twilight” films, “Snow White and the Huntsman”), Makenzie Leigh (“The Slap”, “Gotham”) and Ben Platt (“Pitch Perfect” films, “Ricki and the Flash”).

The film had its world premiere at the 54th New York Film Festival and was released in 3D in theaters courtesy of TriStar Pictures.

The film begins with showing 19-year-old Army specialist Billy Lynn (portrayed by Joe Alwyn) of “Bravo Squad” from Texas dragging his wounded Sergeant Virgil “Shroom” Breem (portrayed by Vin Diesel) to safety during a firefight with enemies in Iraq.

While Shroom did not survive, the act of courage makes Billy an American hero, including his fellow soldiers of Bravo Squad.  And now each of them are on a nationwide tour which will end at the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving home game halftime show.

As Billy visits his family at home, his sister Kathryn (potrayed by Kristen Stewart) and we learn through a flashback that the reason that Billy joined the military because he destroyed the car of his sister’s boyfriend, who dumped her after she was in a car accident that required multiple facial reconstruction procedures.  And after destroying the car, he was given a choice to serve time or join the military and Billy chose to join the military.

But Kathryn wants her brother to no longer fight because he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and wants him to be honorably discharged, so that he doesn’t have to go back to Iraq.  And she feels guilty that he had to go to war in Iraq because of her.

As film producer Albert Brown (portrayed by Chris Tucker) tries to secure a film deal for the men of Bravo Squad, they meetup with Dallas Cowboys PR representative Josh (portrayed by Ben Platt) to the stadium.

While at the stadium, during the press conference, Billy falls for a cheerleader named Faison (portrayed by Makenzie Leigh), meanwhile meeting the owners of the Cowboys, Norm Oglesby (portrayed by Steve Martin), which Albert is hoping will investing in his film about the incident in Iraq.

How will the day go for Billy and his fellow soldiers of Bravo Squad as they prepare for the big halftime show?


VIDEO:

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is presented in 2160p High Definition (1:85:1).  The film is presented in 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray 3D and on normal Blu-ray.

The film received a lot of attention from videophiles as filmmaker Ang Lee made sure the film was shot with a projection frame rate of 120 frames per second in 3D at 4K HD resolution.  Especially as Lee wanted to make sure the film was “immersive” and “realistic” as possible.  So, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” was the first feature film ever to be shot with a high frame rate (this film was 120fps, the last film to be shot with a high fps was “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” which was shot at 48 fps).

So, because the film was shot with a high fps, another major direction Ang Lee wanted to accomplish is that no make-up was allowed, so the make-up artist Luis Abel found a way to use make-up by using a silicone-based makeup that can see through skin.

Having watched this film in several formats, first let’s discuss the 4K Ultra HD.  Picture quality is fantastic and I can see where Ang Lee wanted to keep things real, as characters are not glammed up.  They are depicted like normal people and for the most part, may it be inside a stadium or outdoors during a major firefight, the film looks great in 4K!  It’s important to note that while the film was shot in 120 fps, it is presented in 4K Ultra HD in 60 fps.

With that being said, I think for some people, without the grain and the usual look of film that may turn a few people off.  It may look too realistic, so it is subjective to the viewing audience.  As many people are used to watching film shot in digital, this film no doubt looks different. And it’s the first film that tries to capture realism.  It’s just whether or not you enjoy it or not.

Watching the film via 3D Blu-ray, since the film was shot originally in 3D, the depth perception is fantastic!  May it be Billy waiting behind Destiny’s Child or during a firefight and seeing the machine gun bullets flying in the air.  I’m not a huge fan of 3D films on Blu-ray as a lot of it tends to get banal, but I enjoyed watching “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” in 3D.

And of course, the film is also featured on Blu-ray and you also get to an UltraViolet code to watch the film in Digital 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:

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is presented in English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French, Portuguse, Russian, Thai, English and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio Description Track.

While the film features crystal clear audio and music, surround channels are well-utilized for crowd atmosphere, especially during the half-time sequence, but also during the war-based action sequences.  This is a lossless soundtrack that really does take advantage of an immersive soundspace.

You can expect bullets whizzing, hitting and flying everywhere through your surround channels, explosions and booms, an awesome music soundtrack coming through the surround channels and LFE. Lossless audio is fantastic!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish  and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” comes with the following special features:

  • Technology as Art: Changing the Way We View Cinema – (5:26) A 4K Ultra HD exclusive.  Ang Lee and crew discussing shooting the film in 120fps.
  • Deleted Scenes – (1:18) Featuring six deleted scenes.
  • Into Battle and Onto the Field: Stepping Inside Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – (9:19) Ang Lee discusses making a film that examines humanity.  Interviews with the cast and also shooting the film at a high fps in 3D.
  • Assembling a Cast – (11:26) Featuring interviews with the cast of the film and how each of them were cast for the film.
  • Recreating the Half Time Show – (6:25) The process of recreating the half-time show and the many people involved to create the scene.
  • The Brotherhood of Combat – (4:24) How the cast would have to go through boot camp training to prepare for their role for the film.

EXTRAS:

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” will come with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray plus an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


Having watched “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” several times while reviewing the film in its different formats, while the film tends to narrow the focus on the protagonist Billy and less on the other soldiers of Bravo Squad in terms of their individual lives, the film focuses on the brotherhood of Bravo Squad.

As Billy is seen as the hometown hero, he is a man who doesn’t feel much of a hero as the person he was trying to save, Bravo Squad leader Shroom didn’t make it, part of the film is told in flashbacks of how Billy was a troublemaker of the squad, but eventually became a brother and respected Shroom who taught him a lot about life.

Billy joined the military as he had to make a choice of being incarcerated or joining the Army, because of damaging the vehicle of his sister’s ex-boyfriend, who dumped her after she got into a near-tragic car accident which damaged her face and has had to go through multiple facial reconstruction procedures.

Billy’s sister feels guilty of the sacrifice that Billy had to endure of going to war and seeing him suffer from PTSD and desperately wants him to file for honorable discharge.  As Billy contemplates it, he and his brothers must go through a media campaign for a victory tour which culminates in their final appearance at the Dallas Cowboys halftime show.

But the film exposes the reality of war and what these men sacrificed and also how they are at home, suffering from PTSD and even loud noises makes them feel they are still in Iraq.  And while they are home temporarily and being looked at as heroes, how the military and the government are using this squad and giving America a distorted perception of heroism.

Watching this film, it reminded me about the story of Jessica Lynch and how her convoy was ambushed by Iraqi forces during the Battle of Nasiriyah and how the government and media made her out as a hero, but then reports would come out years later, Lynch testifying that she never fired her weapon and the reality of what happened was revealed.  She criticized media reports about putting her in the status of a heroine and she did not take credit for something that she didn’t do.

While “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is a fictional story, the story of Billy and his squad is reminiscent of Pentagon propaganda that took place during the early 2000’s.  And in the film, Billy and the Bravo Squad are no doubt being used to further America’s involvement in the Iraq War.

While I enjoyed the film for watching Billy and the Bravo Squad crew reaching the end of their victory tour, the film does focus more on brotherhood, while the more emotional moments are focused on Kristen Stewart’s Kathryn who feels guilty about her brother and wants him to leave the military and come back home.

The other men of Bravo Squad are more background characters that would have been effective to show how each of the men were suffering, but while Billy does suffer from PTSD, only one character in the squad is focused on and showing the difficulty of adjusting away from the war zone.  So, aside from Billy, for the other men in the film, character development was not really all there…and by watching the deleted scenes included on the Blu-ray, you start to realize that showcasing the squad a bit more, was left on the cutting room floor.

As for the 4K Ultra HD release, I was very impressed by the realness of the film and how it looked in 4K.  Director Ang Lee wanted to keep things real and for the most part, he was able to accomplish that with the wonderful detail of the film.  Again, impressive!  But I can see if some people are turned off with the hyper-realism look of the film in 4K Ultra HD.  But I enjoyed watching a film try something new and different technologically and giving audiences a chance to see if they enjoy watching a film that looks realistic.  Some will enjoy it, others will hate it, but it is all subjective to the viewer.

Even the 3D Blu-ray version of the film, I also felt it was enjoyable to watch as the depth perception was amazing and how it really utilized depth for many parts of the film, was quite impressive.  Especially during the half-time and firefight in Iraq.

And this release contains four versions of the film: 4K Ultra HD, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and UltraViolet Digital HD which is great!

Also, you get a good number of special features included (one that is exclusive on 4K Ultra HD and the others are featured on the Blu-ray disc).

Overall, Ang Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” may have not won me over compared to his other films but I did enjoy the artistic freedom of using technology and the highest film FPS and trying something fresh and different compared to other films shot digitally.

Storywise, it may not be a heavy-hitting war film, but “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” does manage to capture brotherhood at arms, American war propaganda and the distorted perception of heroism.  A film worth checking out!

 

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