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

February 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

For anyone who are open to learning about new cultures and seeing the life of those living in rural regions, Otto Bell’s “The Eagle Huntress” is truly inspirational and also visually beautiful to watch.  I enjoyed it and also recommend it!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Eagle Huntress, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Eagle Huntress

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, Kazakh 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: G (General Audiences)

RELEASE DATE: February 7, 2017


Directed by Otto Bell

Produced by Otto Bell, Sharon Chang, Stacy Reiss

Executive Producer: Jeremy Chilnick, Dan Cogan, Barbara Dobkin, Susan MacLaury, Daisy Ridley, Regina Kulik Scully, Marc H. Simon, Morgan Spurlock

Music by Jeff Peters

Cinematography by Simon Niblett

Edited by Pierre Takal


Starring:

Narrated by Daisy Ridley

Aisholpan Nurgaiv

Rys Nurgaiv


THE EAGLE HUNTRESS follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl, as she trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter, and rises to the pinnacle of a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for centuries. Set against the breathtaking expanse of the Mongolian steppe, THE EAGLE HUNTRESS features some of the most awe-inspiring cinematography every captured in a documentary, giving this intimate tale of a young girl’s quest the dramatic force of an epic narrative film.


In 2016, filmmaker Otto Bell would film a Kazakh-language British-Mongolian-American documentary titled “The Eagle Huntress”.

Executive-produced by documentarian Morgan Spurlock (“Super Zie Me”, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”, “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?”) and Daisy Ridley (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, “Scrawl”, “Lifesaver”), who also narrates the film.

And now the documentary will be released by Sony Pictures Classics in February 2017.

“The Eagle Huntress” revolves around Aisholpan Nurgaiv, a 13-year-old Kazakh girl from Mongolia and is from a family of nomads that spend their summers in a yurt in the Altai mountains and during the winter, they live in town.

For seven generations, her family have been eagle hunters and she wants to become one.

While Aisholpan studies hard as she dreams of becoming a doctor but also has learned from her father Nurgaiv, an eagle hunter/trainer, who has won a few Golden Eagle competitions.  She was taught by her father to care for an eagle and train them and dreams of competing in the major competition, but the competition is dominated by male eagle hunters who believe in a males-only tradition.

But Nurgaiv has always believed that males and females are equal and that Aisholpan can compete.

So, one day, Aisholpan with her father climb up a mountain and she is able to capture and train her own eaglet.

But what happens when Aisholpan enters the annual Golden Eagle Festival?


VIDEO:

“The Eagle Huntress” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). Overall picture quality shows amazing detail during closeups. Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep. Many outdoor shots and for the most part vibrant and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. The documentary looks very good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Eagle Huntress” is presented in Kazakh 5.1 DTS-HD MA and an English audio description track 5.1 Dolby Digital.

The lossless audio is primarily dialogue and musically driven, with surround channels for natural ambiance (especially with the eagle or birds squawking or chirping in the background).

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Eagle Huntress” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Otto Bell.
  • Capturing the Eagle Huntress – (10:26) Behind-the-scenes on the making of “The Eagle Huntress”.
  • Theatrical Trailer

What started with a photograph from a photographer, would lead filmmaker Otto Bell to go to western Mongolia to create a film in the least populated rural region of the country.

Observing families and how eagles were living with the humans and sure enough, when Otto Bell and his crew proposed to make a film about 13-year-old Aisholpan Nurgaiv, the daughter of an eagle hunter/trainer, from her catching an eagle to her competing in the annual Golden Eagle Festival.

But also to learn about the challenges that Aisholpan experienced because she was female competing in a competition that was primarily male-dominated.  And no doubt, a gender-breaking opportunity and showing that a female can compete along with the males.

With no money, no budget and shooting on a shoestring budget, with only a few crew (which included using GoPro cameras), the crew were able to get aerial shots with a drone and utilize a RED EPIC camera and lightweight crane to accomplish the film.

The film no doubt was able to be boosted by narration by actress Daisy Ridley but the storyline of “The Eagle Huntress” is made enjoyable with the true-to-life filming of the daily life of young Aisholpan but also the cinematography of Simon Niblett was able to capture the beauty but also showing us the risk that Aisholpan had to accomplish in hunting her first eagle but eventually training it for competition.

“The Eagle Huntress” documentary that is no doubt amazing for the accomplishment of a 13-year-old girl, who many considered not suitable to participate in the annual Golden Eagle Festival competition but what happens after and to hear the male competitors discuss her win, was no surprise.

While the documentary is inspirational, I was also impressed by what the film crew with hardly any budget was able to accomplish in getting this film made.  And with modern technology, director Otto Bell and cinematographer Simon Niblett were able to document a day in the life of a teenager and a region that many people are not familiar with.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music.  Special features includes an insightful audio commentary but also a featurette showing the challenges of filming this documentary on a shoestring budget.

For anyone who are open to learning about new cultures and seeing the life of those living in rural regions, Otto Bell’s “The Eagle Huntress” is truly inspirational and also visually beautiful to watch.  I enjoyed it and also recommend it!

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The Handmaiden (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

At times humorous, at times quite dark and many times erotic and sexually charged, Chan-wook Park’s “The Handmaiden” is a unique and intelligent film that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2016 CJ E&M  Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: The Handmaiden

FILM YEAR: 2015

DURATION: 145 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:39:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Korean 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Amazon Studios/Sony Pictures Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

AVAILABLE ON: January 24, 2017


Inspired by the novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters

Directed by Chan-wook Park

Screenplay by Seo-kyeong Jeong, Chan-wook Park

Produced by Jose Ibanez, Carter Logan, Fernando Sulichin

Executive Producer: Jon Kilik, Serge Lobo, Robert S. Wilson

Edited by Affonso Goncalves, Adam Kurnitz


Starring:

Min-hee Kim as Lady Hideko

Tae-ri Kim as Sook-Hee

Jung-woo Ha as Count Funiwara

Jin-woong Jo as Uncle Kouzuki

Hae-suk Kim as Miss Sasaki

So-ri Moon as Aunt of Lady Hideko


From PARK Chan-wook, the celebrated director of OLDBOY, LADY VENGEANCE and STOKER, comes a ravishing new crime drama. PARK presents a gripping and sensual tale of two women – a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but is secretly plotting with a conman to defraud her of a large inheritance. Inspired by the novel Fingersmith by British author Sarah Waters, THE HANDMAIDEN borrows the most dynamic elements of its source material and combines it with PARK Chan-wook’s singular vision to create an unforgettable viewing experience.


In 2002, Sarah Waters wrote the historic crime novel “The Fingersmith”.

Over a decade later, a South Korean erotic psychological thriller inspired by “The Fingersmith” titled “The Handmaiden” and directed by Chan-wook Park (“Oldboy”, “Lady Vengeance”, “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance”) and co-written by Park and Seo-kyeong Jeong (“I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK”, “Thirst”, “Lady Vengeance”).

The film stars Min-hee Kim (“Right Now, Wrong Then”, “No Tears for the Dead”, “Helpless”), Tae-ri Kim (“Moon-young”, “Who Is It?”), Jung-woo Ha (“Chaser”, “The Berlin File”, “The Yellow Sea”), Jin-woong Jo (“The Admiral”, “Assassination”, “Nameless Gangster”), So-ri Moon (“Oasis”, “A Good Lawyer’s Wife”, “Peppermint Candy”) and Hae-suk Kim (“Thirst”, “The Throne”, The Thieves”).

The film would receive critical acclaim and  now will be released on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“The Handmaiden” is told in three parts and is set during the Japanese occupation in Korea.

We are introduced to Sook-Hee (portrayed by Tae-ri Kim), a thief who is from a family of con artists and Count Fujiwara (portrayed by Jung-woo Ha), also a thief.  Both plan to steal from Japanese heiress Lady Hideko (portrayed by Min-hee Kim), as Sook-Hee was hired to become Lady Hideko’s new maid.  Count Fujiwara’s plan is to marry Lady Hideko but needs Sook-Hee’s help to make it happen and also to find a way to have Lady Hideko committed to an asylum.

We also learn of how Lady Hideko is controlled by her authoritarian Uncle Kouzuki (portrayed by Jin-woong Jo), who is into erotica and uses fear and torture to have control of Lady Hideko, scaring her by reminding that she should not forget the basement.

At first, Sook-Hee was sticking to her plan of getting close and doing her job around Lady Hideko but the more they spend time with each other, both women become attracted towards each other and eventually, become passionate towards each other.

As Sook-Hee’s job is to push Lady Hideko to marry Count Fujiwara, she becomes more jealous and is more reluctant to follow through with the plan.

As Lady Hideko wants to know if she should go through with the marriage, Sook-Hee tells her that she should but it upsets Lady Hideko.

Meanwhile, both Count Fujiwara and Lady Hideko are married and Count Fujiwara becomes wealthy.  But as the three travel to the asylum, to Sook-Hee’s shock, they committed her, not Lady Hideko to the asylum.

But everything is not as it seems…


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Handmaiden” is presented in 2:38:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and Korean 5.1 Dolby Digital. Picture quality is good (as good as it can get on DVD) and I was quite shocked that the film was not available on Blu-ray.  For the most part, cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung is fantastic!  Audio is primarily dialogue-driven but surround channels capture the ambiance of the film.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Handmaiden” comes with no special features.


As I watched “The Handmaiden”, I felt that this sexually-charged erotic thriller gives every viewer the opportunity to see filmmaker Chan-wook Park work his magic in another fantastic film!

The film, which is broken into three parts, no doubt will surprise viewers but also entertain them by its wonderful screenplay but also the cinematography and directorial excellence of Chan-wook Park.

From storyline to cinematography, everything from how everything is orchestrated, planned and written made “The Handmaiden” one of the top films I have watched for 2017.

The acting by Min-hee Kim and Tae-ri Kim and having to perform sex scenes together and make it seem realistic and erotic, definitely will keep viewers on their toes.

Multiple twists, a lot of backstabbing but the story was intelligently written and each scene was well-done.

The first part of the film sets you up for a shocking betrayal, but the next part will shock you because you are surprised about character motivations and how things were thoroughly planned.  Leading to a final part that will shock you but at the same time, after it’s all done, realizing you just watched an amazing film!

As for the DVD, it’s a barebones DVD release unfortunately.  But I hope that doesn’t sway people because it’s a wonderful film.

At times humorous, at times quite dark and many times erotic and sexually charged, Chan-wook Park’s “The Handmaiden” is a unique and intelligent film that I highly recommend!

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Attack on Titan: The Movie Part 1 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Attack on Titan: The Movie Part 1” may not be the film that die-hard fans have hoped for.  But for those who have seen many of their favorite comic book stores receive live-action adaptations, deviation from the original source is expected.  The most you can hope is that key elements from Hajime Isayama’s popular manga series is incorporated into the film.  And for the most part, the first part of the film is entertaining and action-packed and while not a great film, it’s a decent popcorn action film.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Attack on Titan: The Movie Part 1

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 98 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: October 4, 2016


Based on the manga by Hajime Isayama

Directed by Shinji Higuchi

Screenplay by Yusuke Watanabe, Tomohiro Machiyama

Produced by Yuji Ishida, Genki Kawamura

Music by Shiro Sagisu, Shiro Washizu

Cinematography by Shoji Ehara

Edited by Yusuke Ishida

Production Design by Takeshi Shimizu

Costume Design by Shin’Ichi Mita


Starring:

Haruma Miura as Eren

Kiko Mizuhara as Mikasa

Kanata Hongo as Armin

Satomi Ishihara as Hange

Nanami Sakuraba as Sasha

Takahiro Miura as Jean

Hiroki Hasegawa as Shikishima

Ayame Misaki as Hiana

Pierre Taki as Souda

Jun Kunimura as Kubal

Shu Watanabe as Fukushi

Satoru Matsuo as Sannagi

Rina Takeda as Lil


When the Titans first attacked, life for mankind was forever changed. Fearing the massive man-eating humanoids, survivors constructed three enormous walls for protection. From that point on, humanity lived safely behind the walls for the time being. A century later, life is peaceful.

Eren and his friends live inside the walls, yearning to explore beyond the borders they’ve always known. But the opportunity comes sooner than expected when a Colossal Titan appears above the wall. With a single kick the barricade is pierced, allowing a swarm of titans to pour in and devour their newly exposed prey. Witnessing the devastation, Eren and his friends vow to destroy the man-eating terrors. The future looks bleak, but there’s more to Eren than meets the eye: he may be humanity’s last hope against extinction.


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

In 2009, “Shingeki no Kyojin” began serialization in Kodanasha’s “Bessatsu Shonen Magazine” and has spawned a popular manga and anime series, three light novel volumes, multiple video games, manga spin-offs.

In 2015, a live-action film titled “Attack on Titan: The Movie” directed by Shinji Higuchi with a screenplay by Yusuke Watanabe and Tomohiro Machiyama was released in theaters.

The film revolves around Eren Yeager, his foster sister Mikasa Ackerman and their childhood friend Armin Arlert.  As they stand around a undetonated missile and see a picture of the ocean, which Mikasa is fascinated with.

Eren wants to show her how the ocean looks like, so the three sneak past a Garrison outpost and climb towards the base of the wall.  Because it’s windy, Eren gives Mikasa his scarf.

The three live in Shinganshina and are protected with huge walls to protect them from huge titans that killed many people over a hundred years ago.  But now, the surviving humans live in peace within the walls.

But no one has seen a titan and even Eren doesn’t believe they exist.  That is until the three fel the ground shake and a Colossal Titan breaches the wall and let other giant humanoid beings enter the village.  Many lost their families and friends and for Eren, he not only lost his mother, he was separated from Mikasa and think she may have died.

Two years later, we find out that Eren and Armin are now scouts for the military and Eren wants to make sure that he gets his revenge on the titans that killed his mother and Mikasa.


VIDEO:

“Attack on Titan: The Movie” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and interior scenes are well-lit.  And for the most part, CG for the Colossal Titan was good for the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Attack on Titan: The Movie” is presented in Japanese and English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD. Dialogue and music is crystal clear. Surround channels are primarily for ambiance and music but the overall soundtrack is dialogue and music-driven.   While I am more biased towards the Japanese soundtrack, both soundtracks are well-acted.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Attack on Titan: The Movie” comes with the following special features:

  • Japanese Trailers – Featuring two trailer versions.
  • U.S. Trailer – Featuring the U.S. theatrical trailer version.

EXTRAS:

“Attack on Titan: The Movie” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD plus an UltraViolet code.


Having read the manga series and watched anime version of “Attack on Titan”, knowing how most adaptations of manga series for live action are often different, I expected deviation from the manga/anime storyline.

Afterall, I’ve seen it happen also in the United States with superhero films and you just aren’t going to get so much of what is featured in several manga volumes in terms of storyline into one film.  So, I expected the deviation and I expected many fans to get upset by the live-action adaptation.

I did feel that filmmaker Shinji Higuchi had no doubt take on a project that would be scrutinized, I also felt that Higuchi, with his work on the anime series “Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water” and the films “Japan Sinks”, “Hidden Fortress: The Last Princess” and “The Floating Castle” had more than enough experience to take on the film, but it would rely on screenwriters Yusuke Watanabe (who worked on the live film adaptations for “Gantz” and “20th Century Boys” films) and Tomohiro Machiyama to bring Hajime Isayama’s popular story to life.

Considering the manga was still ongoing, with two films to write, there was bound to be deviation from the manga series.

But how one felt about the film is subjective.  And because so many people were posting on social media, bashing the film, I didn’t have high expectations and was expecting the worse.

But having watched the film, it’s not terrible, it does deviate from the manga/anime series but it manages to take key events from Hajime Isayama’s story and try to incorporate what it can into a 98-minute film.

Eren is no doubt the focal point in the live-action film and while the friendship between he and Mikasa and Armin are showcased in the film, Eren’s relationship with Mikasa is not as signficant as fans of the manga/anime series would have hoped.

The key points of motivation for Eren wanting to serve in the military and also the political and economic instability was also not prominent in the film.  So, the scout missions and the role of the military prior to Eren joining the military is not as prominent.

So, key elements were stripped away.  Character interactions are changed and so, the adaptation is different.  But again, a lot of live film adaptations deviate from their original source, so I gave Yusuke Watanabe and Tomohiro Machiyama the benefit of the doubt.  And in the end, I was expecting a popcorn action film that would entertain me for the 98-minutes.

And that’s what I got, a 98-minute film with a lot of action and surprising situations that left me wanting to watch the second film and see how they would complete the storyline.

Am I disappointed about how the film is different from the manga series?  It’s like asking a person if they are disappointed with how “X-Men”, “The Avengers”, “Fantastic Four”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Spider-Man” films, to other superhero related live-action film adaptations that have been made?

I think by now, many of us can expect deviation from the original source, so with that I’m not disappointed.  But what about how the film is executed?  Having read over a dozen graphic novels, I can’t fathom how difficult it was for Yusuke Watanabe and Tomohiro Machiyama but I have seen Watanabe do it with “Gantz”, “20th Century Boys” and also “Gatchman”.  It’s not perfect, but he managed to incorporate enough key elements from the original source but there is way too much story and many characters to fit into one film.  So, I’ll give the writers the benefit of the doubt and with what Shinji Higuchi had to work with, he worked with the screenplay he was given and the budget that he had.

Sure, I know I am lenient more than others who have disliked the film but as a popcorn action film and a live-adaptation of a manga series, it was not the worse I have ever seen, nor was it the great adaptation. To me, it was a popcorn live-action film, nothing more and nothing less.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality for the most part is solid and voice acting for both English and Japanese soundtracks were well-done.  Lossless audio was well-utilized for the major action sequences and as for special features, all you get is the Japanese and U.S. trailers.

Overall, “Attack on Titan: The Movie Part 1” may not be the film that die-hard fans have hoped for.  But for those who have seen many of their favorite comic book stores receive live-action adaptations, deviation from the original source is expected.  The most you can hope is that key elements from Hajime Isayama’s popular manga series is incorporated into the film.  And for the most part, the first part of the film is entertaining and action-packed and while not a great film, it’s a decent popcorn action film.

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Train to Busan (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Snowden” may be a tame film from filmmaker Oliver Stone but it’s a film that is entertaining, insightful and an eye-opener. But how you feel about Edward Snowden after watching the film, may you feel that he is a traitor or hero? That is subjective to the viewer. But yet, “Snowden” is a film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2016 NEXT ENTERTAINMENT WORLD & REDPETER FILM. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Train to Busan

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 118 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (16:9), Korean and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: January 17, 2017


Directed by Sang-ho Yeon

Screenplay by Sang-ho Yeon

Produced by Yuji Ishida, Genki Kawamura

Music by Shiro Sagisu, Shiro Washizu

Cinematography by Shoji Ehara

Edited by Yusuke Ishida

Production Design by Takeshi Shimizu

Costume Design by Shin’Ichi Mita


Starring:

Yoo Gong as Seok Woo

Soo-an Kim as Soo-an

Yu-mi Jung as Sung Geyong

Dong-seok Ma as Sang Hwa

Woo-sik Choi as Young Gook

Sohee as Jin-hee

Eui-sung Kim as Yong-Suk

Gwi-hwa Choi as Homeless Man


TRAIN TO BUSAN is a harrowing zombie horror-thriller that follows a group of terrified passengers fighting their way through a countrywide viral outbreak, trapped on a suspicion-filled, blood-drenched bullet train ride to the Safe Zone…which may or may not still be there.


From filmmaker Sang-ho Yeon, known for directing the animated films “The King of Pigs”, “The Fake” and the zombie infestation animated film “Seoul Station”.

In 2016, the live action zombie apocalypse horror film “Train to Busan” was written and directed by Sang-ho Yeon and stars Yoo Gong (“Silenced”, “The Age of Shadows”), Soo-an Kim (“Gyeongju”, “Mad Sad Bad”), Yu-mi Jung (“Our Sunhi”, “In Another Country”, “Silenced”), Dong-seok Ma (“The Good, The Bad the Weird”, “Nameless Gangster”, “One on One”), Sohee (“Hellcats”), Eui-sung Kim (“Hill of Freedom”, “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon”, “Architecture 101”) and Woo-sik Choi (“Set Me Free”, “Big Match”, “Secretly, Greatly”).

Th film was premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and set a record for the film being viewed with over 10 million theatergoers.  Sang-ho Yeon’s animated film “Seoul Station” was released a month after “Train to Busan” and serves as the animated prequel to the film.

And now “Train to Busan” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well go USA Entertainment.

The film revolves around Seok-woo (portrayed by Yoo Gong), a divorced hedge fund manager who is always working and never there for his young daughter, Soo-an (portrayed by Soo-an Kim).  He buys her a Nintendo Wii, but doesn’t realize he bought that gift for her already.

All she wanted is to go to Busan, so she can see her mother.  And each time her father promises, unfortunately his work gets in the way.

But Seok-woo decides to grant his daughter her wish and takes her on the train to Busan.  But right when they are about to leave, a sickly woman enters the train right before it departs.

Also aboard the train is Sang-hwa (portayed by Ma Dong-seok) and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong (portrayed by Jung Yu-mi), a high school baseball team which includes Young Gook (portrayed by Woo-sik Choi) and the girl that likes him, Sohee (portrayed by Jin-hee), a selfish businessman named Yong-suk and others.

When a train attendant sees the sickly woman and goes to help her, it is revealed that the woman is infected and turns into a zombie.  She bites the attendant and this triggers a zombie train reaction as people that are bitten and infected turn into zombies and now the train becomes a hub of zombie activity and survivors try to survive on the train to Busan.  But will they ever get to Busan?


VIDEO:

“Train to Busan” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and interior scenes inside the train are well-lit.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Train to Busan” is presented in Korean and English dub 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The series features crystal clear dialogue and a lot of intense moments of chaos, from fights with the zombie, screaming and crying as ambiance but there are major action sequences with train derailments and more.  The lossless soundtrack is very good for this film.

I also watched the film with its English dub and I have to say, that although I do not watch Asian cinema with English dub tracks, I wanted to see how the voice acting was and if anything improved with English dubbing for Asian cinema and sure enough, it’s one of the better English dubs I’ve listened to and well-acted.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Train to Busan” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – (13:01) Featuring the Making of “Train to Busan”
  • That’s a Wrap – (4:34) Final scene and interviews with the director and cast.
  • Trailer – “Train to Busan” theatrical trailer

EXTRAS:

“Train to Busan” comes with a slipcover.


I have watched a fair share of zombie apocalypse horror films and you often run into films that feature a protagonist going in hero mode taking on the zombies or pretty much trying to figure out which survivors will make it to the end of the film.

“Train to Busan” is the latter, but instead of being banal like any other zombie film, this film adds an emotional component as the protagonist is a workaholic father who is never there for his daughter, but for her birthday, promises to take her to see her mother in Busan.

And as the father and daughter take the train, all hell breaks loose when an infected woman sneaks aboard and bites the train attendant, who then becomes infect and not long after, the whole train becomes infected with zombies and survivors try to stay alive and outwit the zombies, if at all possible.

You have Yoo Gong in the starring role as Seok Woo, the workaholic father and fund manager who is trying to be there for his daughter but never could make it to any of her classroom festivities or birthday due to his work.  So, for his daughter’s birthday wish of wanting to see her mother, at least he could do that for her and accompany her to Busan by train.

The father and daughter chemistry between Yoo Gong and young actress Soo-an Kim is well-done but most importantly, far too often, you see a young actress who can deliver the most emotional, devastating scenes and Soo-an Kim is a young girl who delivers with pure emotion.

Also, starring in the film is Dong-seok Ma as the big and bulky Sang Hwa.  He may come off abrasive but he is a loving husband to his pregnant wife Sung Geyong (portrayed by Yu-mi Jung).

Sang Hwa is the most athletic of the men in the film and with his hulking presence and sometimes rude and other times humorous, he becomes a character that many want to root for.

But of course, you have your characters who are true jerks and with an apocalyptic horror film, you always have to have the one jerk who cares about no one but themselves and that is Yong-Suk (portrayed by Eui-sung Kim).

Needless to say, there are some decisions made by certain characters that may infuriate the viewer or make them scratch their head of why the character did what they did but every zombie apocalypse storyline always has to have a jerk and bad decision making people in the mix.

But I really enjoyed “Train to Busan” as the film is no doubt one of the best zombie apocalypse films I have watched from Asian cinema. And I have to say that as a zombie film period, it’s full of adrenaline, surprises and you really are captivated by the film and keeping you on the edge of your seat of which person or people survive and make it to the end of the film.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is very good as outdoor scenes are vibrant, close-ups are also well-done with great clarity.  Lossless audio is also very good and comes with both a Korean and English lossless track.  And you get two short special features as well.

Overall, the Korean film “Train to Busan” may be one of the better zombie apocalypse horror films ever made in Asian cinema.  Pulse-pounding action, well-written storyline and interesting characters, Sang-ho Yeon’s “Train to Busan” is highly recommended!

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Jackie Chan Presents: Amnesia (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Yinxi Song’s “Amnesia” will entertain those wanting a popcorn action film.  But having reviewed martial arts action films for over 20-years, “Jackie Chan Presents: Amnesia” is no doubt one of the most inconsistent, badly written martial arts action film that I have ever watched.

Image courtesy of © 2017 Lions Gate. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Jackie Chan Presents: Amnesia

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 102 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen 2:35:1 aspect ratio, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English and Spanish

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: January 3, 2017


Directed by Yinxi Song

Written by Xiaoshuai Hu and Yinxi Song

Produced by Yinxi Song, Zhang Shijia

Executive Producer: Jackie Chan, Jianguo Xu, Yinxi Song

Music by Varqa Buehrer, Tiannan Cai, Huazhang Dai, Zhao Zhao


Starring:

Wang Haixiang (Ocean) as Li Ziwei

Ken Lo

Xingtong Yao as Tong Xin

Ronguang Yu

Lanxin Zhang


Martial-arts legend Jackie Chan presents this pulse-pounding update to his own classic thriller.


In 1998, Jackie Chan co-directed (with Bennie Chan) and starred in the film “Who Am I?” which featured Chan playing an agent who suffers from short-term memory loss and travels the world.

Fast forward 17-years later and Jackie Chan is the executive producer of “Amnesia”, a vehicle to promote his protege and friends in a film that is not a remake or reboot of “Who Am I?”.  And what better to launch their careers than attach a legends name to the project and get people excited of what may be a remake, reboot or update of his 1998 film.

With “Amnesia”, while the film does have Jackie Chan’s name attached to it as an Executive Producer, what we have is an action film co-written and directed by Yinxi Song and a vehicle for new actor Ocean Wang.

And now the film is available on DVD courtesy of Lions Gate.

“Amnesia” begins with bike courier (but also street racer and also one who likes to take part in parkour) Li Ziwei (portrayed by Ocean Wang) delivering a package.

Unfortunately, he notices something awry and realizes that the two people he meets are involved in a murder scene and want the package that Li Ziwei is delivering.

But during the pursuit, while Ziwei manages to escape, he hits his head on the bridge and tumbles and falls into a river.

Now Li Ziwei is suffering from prosopagnosia, a cognitive disorder known as “face blindness” in which one can’t recognize faces including one’s own due to damage to the brain.

As Li Ziwei awakes from being hospitalized, he doesn’t know where he is or his surroundings abut receives a mysterious phone call about his condition and that he must try to protect the package that he has in his position.  He is also reminded of his car racing skills, his parkour and martial arts skills but also the death of his girlfriend.  But also that he is now a wanted man as the death (of the person who was supposed to receive the package) has been attributed to him and now he is a wanted man.

Meanwhile, the murderers who are after the package have discovered Li Ziwei’s identity and are now after him.

As Li Ziwei tries to avoid being captured by the murderers, he is joined by a sassy hitchiker named Tong Xin (portrayed by Xingtong Yao) and he tries to find out why people want the package but also to clear his name.


VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Amnesia” is presented in 16:9 anamorphic (2:35:1 aspect ratio) and Mandarin 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Picture quality and audio quality is as good as it can get on DVD. The film is primarily dialogue driven. Dialogue and music is crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Amnesia” comes with no special features.


Quite often in sports, you often see in sports news discussing who will be the next legend.

And for martial arts films, there is always discussion of who will be the next Jackie Chan, Jet Li, etc.

And while the last 15-years have gave us a glimpse of who may be the next action star, but a lot of them have not become action stars but just film stars.

And when it comes to action films, one way of getting attention is by attaching your name to a project and for martial arts legendary actor Jackie Chan, attaching your name to a film with a title that may make people think it’s an update, remake or reboot of a past film will surely receive hype.

In 2015, Yinxi Song wrote and directed “Amnesia” and as the film would be his introduction as writer and director, young actor Ocean Wang would get a chance to show that he can be the next martial arts star.

Unfortunately, “Amnesia” is a film that would have benefited if there was no relation to Jackie Chan’s 1998 film “Who Am I?” but when it comes to financing a martial arts film, you need all the help you can get it and what best than to utilize Jackie Chan’s name to make an action film.

The problem is, “Amnesia” has nothing to do with actual amnesia like the 1998 film and while an entertaining martial arts popcorn action film, the film’s plot is quite weak.

The film reminds me of a martial arts version of David Koepp’s 2012 action-thriller, “Premium Rush”.  A film about a bicycle messenger who is delivering a package and now is wanted and pursued by a corrupt police officer.

“Amnesia” revolves around a bike courier being pursued by a triad with two murderers who are after a package that the courier, Li Ziwei, has in his possession.

But when the bike courier has brain damage due to hitting his head on a bridge, he now suffers from prospagnosia and is unable to recognize any faces, including his own.

All he knows is through a mysterious call, traces of his past, fragments of memories and is now joined by a sassy hitchhiker that he picks up and realizes there are people out to kill him and police think he’s a criminal.

All Li Ziwei can do is run and fight.

And of course, no matter how far he travels to escape the gang, they always know where he is headed.

While if the film focused on action, it’s muddled due to his fragmented memories of a girlfriend that has died. And he starts thinking the girl he picked up is his girlfriend and she tends to go along with it as she starts to have feelings for him.

The problem with the film is that it tries to teeter with two stories of a man who is wanted and a man who can’t escape the guilt of the past and his girlfriend that died.

To make things worse, we are given an ending that cheats viewers out of any true ending and felt it was put together in haste and that the hour that one has been watching, has been thrown out of the window by giving a finale that really seems it came from another script.

To put it simply, this is one of the worse screenplays that I have seen when it comes to continuity.  How the film is resolved was poorly done and how the film deals with the two murderers that we see pursuing Li Ziwei throughout the film is really stupid.  If they wanted to make up for this monstrosity of a script, they could have explained it with Li Ziwei waking up from his coma or sleep and saying “that was a weird dream”.

The film looks and sounds as good as it can get on DVD and it’s a barebones release, so there are no special features.

Again, just because Jackie Chan’s name is on the title and he is the executive producer should not come into watching this film and expecting a Jackie Chan martial arts film.  Nor does it have anything to do with his 1998 film “Who Am I?”.

Overall, Yinxi Song’s “Amnesia” will entertain those wanting a popcorn action film.  But having reviewed martial arts action films for over 20-years, “Jackie Chan Presents: Amnesia” is no doubt one of the most inconsistent, badly written martial arts action film that I have ever watched.

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

October 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Na Hong-jin “The Wailing” is no doubt one of the better, chilling and yet smartly written horror series to come out in the last decade.  There is a reason why this film is critically acclaimed, it’s a horror thriller that is unpredictable, chilling but yet very satisfying.  And I highly recommend it!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Wailing

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 157 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English and Chinese

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment/20th Century Fox

RATED: NR

Release Date: October 4, 2016


Directed by Hong-jin Na

Written by Hong-jin Na

Produced by John Penotti

Cinematography by  Kyung-pyo hong


Starring:

Do-Won Kwak as Jon-Goo

Jun Kunimura as The Stranger

Woo-hee Chun as Moo-Myeong

Jung-min Hwang as Il-Gwang

Kim Hwan-hee as Hyo-jin


In this unbelievably tense supernatural thriller, a foreigner s mysterious appearance in a quiet, rural village causes suspicion among the locals – suspicion which quickly turns to hysteria as the townspeople begin killing each other in brutal outbursts for seemingly no reason. As the investigating officer watches his daughter fall under the same savage spell, he agrees to consult a shaman for answers – unknowingly escalating the situation into something far more dangerous.

Over six years in the making, director Na Hong-jin s meticulously crafted follow-up to the globally acclaimed THE YELLOW SEA and THE CHASER (his third to premiere at the Festival de Cannes) smashed box office records upon its debut in South Korea, where fans are already making return viewings to catch new clues and debate what s sure to be the most talked-about ending of 2016.


From award-winning filmmaker/writer Hong-jin Na (“The Chaser”, “The Yellow Sea”) comes his latest horror thriller film “Goksung” (“The Wailing”).

The film stars Do-won Kwak (“The Man from Nowhere”, “A Company Man”, “The Berlin File”, “Tazza: The Hidden Card”), Jun Kunimura (“Kill Bill” films, “Audition”), Jung-min Hwang (“New World”, “Ode to My Father”, “Veteran”) and Woo-he Chun (“Mother”, “Vampire Idol”, “Han Gong-ju”).

The film has received critical acclaim internationally and now “The Wailing” is available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film begins with a shot of a little village (in Korean is translated to “Goksung” and the title of the film) bu the lake up in the mountains of South Korea.  We see an older Japan man fishing by the river.

We are introduced to police officer Jong-goo (portrayed by Do-won Kwak) who is called early in the morning of a homicide.  Every morning, his mother, wife and child, Hyo-jin (portrayed by Kim Hwan-hee) are often trying to make sure Jong-goo eats well and is there for his family.

When Jong-goo arrives, he sees a family that is bludgeoned and a man that is handcuffed looking terrible with his eyes glowing red.  When Jong-goo is disgusted by the sight, he sees a Japanese man looking from the distance.

Not long after, the police are called out into area again and this time they discover a husband and wife who look like they are burned and no longer human and their home burned down.  And Jong-goo and other police officers are attacked. As Jong-goo tries to balance the time with his family, especially his daughter but he is spooked by what is happening in the area.

Jong-goo is told by his partner about the story he heard from villagers about a man who discovered a naked man hovering over bodies and eating them.  They then see a woman standing outside of their police building scaring both officers.  When they go out to look, she’s gone.

Another incident happens with the woman (who’s home being burned down) is found hanging from a tree.

As Jong-goo and a few officers check things out, Jong-goo watches over the burned building and discovers a woman in white named Moo-myeong (portrayed by Chun Woo-hee, the name translates to “no name” in Korean).  She tells him to follow her to the burned building and tells him that the Japanese stranger is involved with the deaths.  She tells him to be careful and when he calls his superiors that he found a witness, the woman is gone and he discovers the Japanese man going after him.  Once again, a nightmare that Jong-goo is having.

When Jong-goo talks to another officer about investigating the Japanese man, a Japanese-speaking priest and translator arrives and they all investigate the stranger’s home int he mountain.  While, Jong-goo and the priest try to fight off an angry dog on the premises, the police officer discovers photos of everyone in the village, including Jong-goo and his family and finds Jong-goo’s daughters shoe.

Jong-goo’s family has realized that Hyo-jin is no longer behaving like she usually does, she has become foul-mouthed and talks about killing them.

When Jong-goo confronts his family, his fear is confirmed that she may be possessed.  His mother recommends bringing a shaman, meanwhile, Jong-goo feels he must confront the mysterious Japanese man.

Will Hyo-jin be returned to normal?  Will Jong-goo stop the murders and deaths happening in the small village?


VIDEO:

“The Wailing” is presented in 1080p High Definition. As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality features great detail when it comes to closeups and skintones look natural. Even the mutated humans featured wonderful make-up effects and overall atmosphere to make the film quite chilling.

Picture quality for the most part looks very good with no signs of artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Wailing” is presented in Korean 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film, while primarily dialogue-driven, manages to use sound, environment ambiance to create a chilling, menacing feel throughout the film.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Wailing” comes with the following special features:

  • The Beginning of the Wailing – (1:50) A short featurette of why director Na Hong-Jin created “The Wailing”.
  • Making Of – (4:55) Featuring the cast and crew discussing the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “The Wailing”.

Far often, horror films are films that are created to scare the hell out of an audience and then there are those that try to incorporate humor and try to balance a horror film with what one expects from banal slashers.

Once in awhile, you come across a horror film that is actually quite deep and a lot of thought went into the film storyline and the development of its characters.

Award-winning filmmaker Na Hong-jin is one of those filmmakers that continually makes horror films that make you think, one that makes you want to watch it multiple times for better comprehension.

And “The Wailing” is a very deep horror film, enjoyable, terrifying and yet one can be satisfied that they watched a rare and impressive horror film.

The film starts out lighthearted, as police officer Jong-goo, could be seen as a goof ball.  Tough at home with his family, kindhearted father always there for his daughter but as a police officer, he’s not brave until he is pushed to the limit when his daughter is possessed and Jong-goo is forced to defend his family.

While horror films in Asia and stories about supernatural or evil forces residing in the mountainous areas, small villages and villagers being possessed are commonplace, what makes “The Wailing” so interesting is how it has Christian overtones, but yet a film’s storyline not really promoting Christianity.

The main character, officer Jong-goo encounters a woman with no-name (Moo-Myeong) who continually warns him.

Dressed in white, seen throwing stones towards Jong-goo which may be inspired by the biblical reference (John 8:7) “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

If Moo-Myeong is a biblical reference similar to an angel, the Japanese man is reference to being a demon.  A man who takes the souls of villagers, but is he a biblical reference to satan? Or is this a subtle reference to how Koreans have felt about Japan because of their bitter history involving Japanese occupation?

And there are other situations especially surrounding other characters which many have posted their theories online. May it be biblical undertones or an even deeper message than filmmaker Na Hong-jin was trying to convey.

Needless to say, the film gives viewers a lot to think about after watching the film.

To see how this film gently builds to a chilling transition is very interesting and in no way, was it even possible to predict this film.  Where many horror films are predictable, “The Wailing” bucks the trend of being banal and being a film that wants to scare you,but also wants to be a film that makes you think.  It’s a deep horror film and those are words I rarely have used for a horror film review.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and while the majority of the film is dialogue-driven, there are moments of using screams, using thunder, using a shaman’s dance routines to really make the atmosphere quite dark and menacing.  The Blu-ray release features a few special features such as “The Beginning of Wailing” and a making of featurette.

Overall, Na Hong-jin “The Wailing” is no doubt one of the better, chilling and yet smartly written horror series to come out in the last decade.  There is a reason why this film is critically acclaimed, it’s a horror thriller that is unpredictable, chilling but yet very satisfying.  And I highly recommend it!

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Sherpa (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” is an insightful and wonderful documentary on Sherpa culture, big business, high tension, unfortunate tragedy but also hope for changes in the system after the avalanche tragedy of 2014. “Sherpa” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Felix Media Ply Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Sherpa

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 96 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen 2:35:1 aspect ratio, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: N/A

Release Date: October 11, 2016


Directed by Jennifer Peedom

Written by Jennifer Peedom

Produced by Bridget Ikin, John Smithson

Executive Producer: John Maynard, David Griffin, David Gross

Music by Antony Partos

Cinematography by Renan Ozturk, Hugh Miller, Ken Sauls

Edited by Christian Gazal


Every year, Western mountain climbers make news ascending Mount Everest. But the compelling stories of the Sherpas, the Nepalese guides who risk their lives to provide for their families, have gone untold — until now. SHERPA chronicles a fateful 2014 expedition and the tragic avalanche that spurred the Sherpas to make a stand for human rights and respect. SHERPA will forever change the way you look at the world’s most famous mountain — and the brave guides who navigate it.


Sherpa.  They are an ethnic group in eastern Nepal and are the guides that have helped climbers accomplish their Mount Everest expeditions.

The importance of the Sherpa people as guides have been well-documented on film, including the 1924 J.B.L. Noel documentary “The Epic of Everest” about English mountaineers Andrew Irvine and George Mallory to Eric Valli’s documentary “Himalaya” about the life of villagers in the area.

We know that life is difficult, making money is difficult in Nepal.  But while many large expeditions every year on Mount Everest has led to multi-million dollar industry, the government makes the money, while the Sherpa risk their lives by being guides to those on an expedition.

In 2013, the Serpa people showed how they were not subservient people to the foreigners as a fight had broken out.  But what one would not expected is the deadly 2014 expedition due to a tragic avalanche and what came after the fatal expedition.

Documenting events that have happened in the area from 2013-2014, filmmaker Jennifer Peedom and her film crew were there to document the expeditions of 2013 and 2014 for her 2015 film, “Sherpa”.

“Sherpa” is a film that follows Phurba Tashi, a Sherpa who has made 21 Mount Everest ascents and is trying to go for the world record.  His family dislikes Phurba taking on this risky job, fearing that he will never come back, but Phurba enjoys it and feels its the only way to make good money.

His latest job is for New Zealand’s Russel Brice who runs one of the more reputable expedition company’s for Mt. Everest, Himex.

Phurba gathers a team of Sherpas to take these foreign climbers up Mt. Everest, but what they are not aware or prepared for is a major ice avalanche which would kill over a dozen Sherpas.

As Brice and his crew feel the expedition must go-on and feels that mountaineering has its risks, for business, he wants to continue with the expedition.

Meanwhile, after the deaths of their own people, the Sherpas stage a protest and in solidarity, want to hit back at the government for their unfair treatment of Sherpa guides who hardly make money versus the government who are pocketing millions from these expeditions.

Will this expedition continue?  Or will there be a resolution among the Sherpa people and their government?


VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sherpa” is presented in 16:9 anamorphic (2:35:1 aspect ratio) and English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Picture quality and audio quality is as good as it can get on DVD. The film is primarily dialogue driven.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear.

If anything, I wish this documentary was released on Blu-ray!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sherpa” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Sherpa – (11:49) Interviews with filmmaker Jennifer Peedom and her film crew especially filming a traumatic moment.
  • Deleted Scenes

EXTRAS:

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


I have watched films, read many articles about the importance of the Sherpa guides in expeditions to Mount Everest.

From the 1924 J.B.L. Noel documentary “The Epic of Everest” about English mountaineers Andrew Irvine and George Mallory which was the first film to document an expedition to Mount Everest, the film would feature a major tragedy.

Fastforward to 2016 and Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” not only shows us how expeditions have become big business in Nepal and tensions have grown between westerners and Sherpa.  Peedom’s crew wanted to document this and what she got was more than she expected, with the tragic avalanche of 2014.

Far often, what we read are the challenges of climbing Mount Everest.  The challenges of altitude and finding experienced Sherpas.

But while we have read the communal respect of climbers and the Sherpa, things changed in 2013, which had been detailed in various news sources and publications (read this interview from National Geographic).  And situations became hostile, as customs and miscommunication reared its ugly head.

While, “Sherpa” goes into that and the avalanche tragedy of 2014, this is not a film about how much of a mess things have become due to commercialization and money.  But filmmaker Jennifer Peedom also goes into detail of showing us Nepal culture but paying respect to people such as Tenzing Norgay, one of the first two individuals to reach the summit of Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary.  And also, now retired, Sherpa mountaineer Phurba Tashi Sherpa Mendewa (who was featured in the 2009 Discovery Channel series, “Everest: Beyond the Limit”) and learning of the challenges he faces as a father, who’s family wants him to quit being a mountaineer.  But also knowing that when it comes to being a Sherpa guide, it’s the only job that pays well.

The film also features Russel Brice, owner of Himex guide firm responsible for organizing expeditions to Mount Everest.  And the challenges he feels as the middleman of having to work with the Sherpa, especially after the 2014 tragedy and within days, knowing the troubles that surround the Sherpa as many want to continue with the expedition, but were threatened by other Sherpa that if they do so, they would be beaten.

It’s obvious that watching “Sherpa”, there has been lingering tensions as the need of Sherpa guides have grown exponentially and has been a huge business for organizers of expeditions and the Nepal government.  Because of the big money involved, there is a lot of competition, a lot of anger and tensions over lack of pay, lack of government willingness to pay compensation to victims families.

So much has changed and I never knew the extent of tensions and how competitive things are until I watched this documentary.  And the thing is, you can put yourself in the shoes of the Sherpa, Phurba Tashi, Russel Brice or his clients and you can understand what they are going through.

The Sherpa guides are doing a high risk business where there are a number of casualties and they know how much each client pays to be part of an expedition (as of 2016, the estimated range is $60,000 – You can see a financial breakdown here.).  Phurba Tashi is a man who wants to provide for his family and has a passion for the mountains. Russel Brice is a man with a business and his business survives on expeditions but having to please both the Sherpas and his clients.  And the clients, for many, Mount Everest is their dream.  Many save up and sacrifice their job, leave their families for two months to pursue this expensive dream.

You can read about the tensions, but nothing really compares to when you see the tensions up front and Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” does a magnificent job of showing us how bad things have gotten in 2013 and 2014.  To make matters worse, in April 2015 was the Nepal Earthquake which killed 9,000 people and injured 22,000.  On Mount Everest, the earthquake would trigger an avalanche that would kill 21.  And to this day, aftershocks in different areas of Nepal have continued.

While how things will go for Mount Everest Expeditions from 2016 and on, no one knows.  But there are obvious issues that have been slowly burning, almost similar to a situation of gentrification in inner cities, between the haves and have nots, things are much more complicated as exhibition organizers want to build a business but work with the Sherpa and their clients.  Clients want to accomplish a dream of climbing Mount Everest and while the government pockets from these expeditions and more Sherpa guides are wanted, thus bringing a new and unknown set of people without experience into the mix, it’s hard to not think that while tensions were elevated in 2013, there is a boiling point that has not yet been fully reached.

And that can be scary.

Overall, Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” is an insightful and wonderful documentary on Sherpa culture, big business, high tension, unfortunate tragedy but also hope for changes in the system after the avalanche tragedy of 2014.

“Sherpa” is recommended!

 

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Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla” is a film that many Godzilla fans have wanted to see released on Blu-ray and DVD.  Especially its uncut/uncensored version.  I absolutely enjoyed this film and if you are a kaiju film fan, “Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1984 Toho, Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla

YEAR OF FILM: 1984

DURATION: 103 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Kraken Releasing/Toho

RATED: PG-13 (For Sci-Fi Violence and Brief Mild Language)

Release Date: September 13, 2016


Directed by Koji Hashimoto

Written by Hideichi Nagahara

Produced by Norio Hayashi, Kiyomi Kanazawa

Associate Producer: Fumio Tanaka

Executive Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka

Music by Reijiro Koroku

Cinematography by Kazutami Hara

Casting by Tadao Tanaka

Edited by Yoshitami Kuroiwa

Production Design by Akira Sakuragi

Art Direction by Akira Sakuragi

Set Decoration by Akio Tashiro

Costume Design by Kenji Kawasaki


Starring:

Ken Tanaka as Goro Maki

Yasuko Sawaguchi as Naoko Okumura

Yosuke Natsuki as Dr. Hayashida

Shin Takuma as Hiroshi Okumura

Keiju Kobayashi as Prime Minister Mitamura

Eitaro Ozawa as Finance Minister Mitammura

Taketoshi Naito as Takegami, Chief Cabinet Secretary

Mizuho Suzuki as Foreign Minister Emori

Junkichi Orimoto as Director-General of the Defense Agency


With a higher budget and more advanced special effects than any previous film in the series, THE RETURN OF GODZILLA® returns Japan’s greatest monster to his intended role as an epic force of destruction and the film’s spectacular success re-launched the Godzilla® franchise after nearly a decade in suspended animation.

Unfortunately for North American audiences, this direct sequel to the original 1954 feature film has previously only been available in a highly edited version that cut over twenty minutes of original footage and effects, changed key plot points and altered the dark dramatic tone and narrative by inserting additional scenes and humor in an attempt to “Americanize” the film. But now, at long last, the acclaimed kaiju masterpiece finally hits American shores in all its uncut original glory! Get ready for the biggest Godzilla® epic that you’ve never seen as Kraken Releasing unleashes the complete and unedited THE RETURN OF GODZILLA®!


With a string of Godzilla films since the original 1954 film, Toho decided to do a reboot of the Godzilla franchise for its 1984 release.

The 16th film in the Godzilla franchise and the first film in the Heisei series, “Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla” was created to be a direct sequel of the original 1954 film.

So, as many of the Godzilla films became lighter toned and featured Godzilla taking on other kaiju monsters, the 1984 film is a return to the darker tone of the film and featuring Godzilla as the antagonist of Japan.

While the film was released by New World Pictures as “Godzilla 1985” and re-edited to feature footage with Raymond Burr (to connect to the film, “Godzilla, King of the Monsters!”), the original Japanese version will be released for the first time in the US uncut and uncensored courtesy of Kraken Releasing.

The film begins with the crew of the Yahata-Maru Japanese fishing vessel being caught in strong currents after a volcanic eruption on Daikoku Island.

As the fishing vessel drifts into shore and the island erupts, a giant monster comes out of the volcano.

A few days later, we see journalist Goro Maki (portrayed by Goro Maki) sailing in the area and spotting the vessel.  As he goes inside, to his shock, he finds nearly everyone killed.

He finds a survivor inside a locker, Hiroshi Okamura (portrayed by Shin Takuma) who has been wounded.  What Goro doesn’t know is inside the boat is a giant Shockirus sea louse which attacks him immediately.  To Goro’s suprise, a sea louse which is usual a few inches long is several feet tall and nearly kills him until he is rescued by Okamura.  Okamura tells him of the huge monster he and the crew had come across.

As Goro and Okamura are rescued, Goro writes an article but his editor refuses to publish it because the huge monster has been reported to be Godzilla and if they publish the news that Godzilla has returned, it may cause widespread panic.  Meanwhile, the Japanese government continues to find out how to protect Japan in case Godzilla attacks, knowing that he needs radiation to recharge.

Meanwhile, when a Russian submarine spots an anomaly in the ocean, it tries to attack it with torpedoes, thinking it may be the Americans.  The anomaly turns out to be Godzilla who destroys the submarine and killing the crew inside it.

This causes the Russians to go on full alert and accuses the Americans and World War III could possibly erupt.  This forces the Japanese government to lessen the tensions by announcing that Godzilla has returned.

As the Japanese, the American and Russian government have their own thoughts of stopping Godzilla, one which the Americans and Russians feel is necessary is to nuke Godzilla, the Japanese government want to find ways to destroy Godzilla their own way.

Professor Makoto Hayashida (portrayed by Yosuke Natsuki), Hiroshi Okumura and his sister Naoko (portrayed by Yasuko Sawaguchi) and Goro Maki try to find ways of stopping Godzilla and observing Godilla being distracted by birds.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government puts their trust into their superweapon, Super X to take on Godzilla.

Can anyone stop the terror of Godzilla?


VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla” is presented in 16:9 anamorphic and English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Picture quality and audio quality is as good as it can get on DVD. The film features quite a bit of action sequences, so there is good use of the surround channels during these moments. Dialogue is crystal clear.

It’s important to note that the film will be available on Blu-ray for those who want the best in picture and audio quality.

The film is presented with optional English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla” comes with the Japanese theatrical promo.


As a fan of kaiju films and also having watched many of the Godzilla films.  May it be from the Showa Series, Heisei Series, Millennium Series to the recent Shin Godzilla release in Japan this year.

While the original film from the Showa timeline that debuted in 1954 still remains my favorite Godzilla film as it introduces us to Godzilla and the terror the behemoth brought to the people of Japan, somehow the films have went to a more lighthearted storyline.

While we would see Godzilla taking on Mothra, King Ghidorah, Biollante, Mechagodzilla to name a few, and also to see Godzilla’s son, Minilla and humans helping Godzilla, while entertaining its own way, it departed from the original dark storyline of the original film.

To remedy that, Toho rebooted the series with “The Return of Godzilla” and is known as the Heisei series (only one Godzilla film was released during this time).  The film is a direct sequel to the 1954 film and ignores the lighthearted films in the series from the Showa era.

And for me, this return of Godzilla was entertaining, especially how it incorporated the real life tensions between the U.S. and Russia during the early 1980’s.  And Godzilla was a true antagonist and we would see the Japanese trying to find ways to defeat Godzilla, but now seeing other countries interfere and wanting to nuke it.  No doubt a message about the nuclear arms race that scared everyone in the early ’80s.

While the film was acquired by New World Pictures, the film was recut and re-dubbed with the addition of American shot scenes with Raymond Burr.  The film was only released in VHS and LD and has not been released on video since.

In 2015, Toho struck a deal with Kraken Releasing to release “The Return of Godzilla” and the version to be released is the uncut/uncensored version and it’s definitely the version of the film that I wanted to see.

As the picture quality and the audio is good as it can get on DVD, for those wanting the best picture quality and lossless audio will want to go for the Blu-ray release of the film.  Included is the Japanese and English dub in 5.1 Surround Sound.  And while I’m not a big fan of ’70s and ’80s English dubbing of kaiju film (or Asian martial arts films), it was great to watch this film in its original Japanese audio presentation.  Unfortunately, there is no major special features aside from the theatrical promo but aside from the first film, Godzilla films DVD or Blu-ray releases never really had any major special features at all.

Overall, “Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla” is a film that many Godzilla fans have wanted to see released on Blu-ray and DVD.  Especially its uncut/uncensored version.  I absolutely enjoyed this film and if you are a kaiju film fan, “Godzilla 1984: The Return of Godzilla” is highly recommended!

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

September 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Bodyguard” is an entertaining, martial arts action film that Sammo Hung fans will no doubt enjoy! He directs and stars in the film and shows us that he can still choreograph fights, he is as effective as a martial arts actor now as he was since starring in films in the early ’60s. If you love martial arts films and have watched Sammo Hung kick butt in the last five decades, “The Bodyguard” is a film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Irresistible Alpha Limited, Edko Films Limited, Focus Films Limited. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Bodyguard

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English and Chinese

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: September 6, 2016


Directed by Sammo Kam-Bo Hung

Written by Jun Jiang

Produced by Min-jung Park

Executive-Producer: Jae-Duk Han

Line Producer: Minkyung Shin

Cinematography by Moo-gae Lee

Music by Yeong-wook Jo

Art Direction: Hwa-sung Cho

Costume Design by Sang-gyeong Jo


Starring:

Sammo Kam-Bo Hung as Ding

Jacqueline Chan as Cherry Li

Qinqin Li as Park Seon Nun

Andy Lau as Li Zheng Jiu

James Lee Guy as Sergei

Tomer Oz as Vasily


Retired Special Agent Ding (Sammo Hung) makes a home in a quiet village on the Russia / China border. He befriends a young girl whose father, in debt with the mob, disappears – leaving her in Ding s care. Now he must recall his superior strategic and tactical skills to save both their lives.


Legendary martial arts actor Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (“Ip Man 2”, “Martial Law”, “Winners & Sinners”) directs and stars in the HK action film “The Bodyguard”.  The film would become the first film Sammo has directed since the 1997 film “Once Upon a Time in China and America”.

The film stars Jacqueline Chan, Qinqin Li (“Cala, My Dog!”, “A Great Wall”, “Moment in Peking”), Andy Lau (“Infernal Affairs”, “House of Flying Daggers”, “The Warlords”), James Lee Guy and Tomer Oz (“Skiptrace”, “Dragonblade”, “Mechanic”).

The film is set in a Chinese city in northeast China, near the Russian border.  A group of Russians are slaughtered by a Chinese gang led by Choi and the only person to witness it was Ding (portrayed by Sammo Kam-Bo Hung).  Unfortunately, Ding’s memory is terrible and he is unable to remember who he saw kill the men.

As Ding stays at home, he often takes care of a neighbor’s daughter, Cherry Li (portrayed by Jacqueline Chan), who’s father Li Zheng Jiu (portrayed by Andy Lau) is a gambler who has run up debt with Choi and is in big trouble.

When Choi threatens to hurt him, he gives Li a chance to live by going to the hotel occupied by a Russian gang leader and to steal a shoulder-bag.  But the Russians go after Li, who runs off with the case.  But when Choi tells Li that his debt isn’t cleared, Li runs off with the bag and goes into hiding.

To get back at Li, they go after his prized possession, his daughter Cherry.  But when the gang tries, Ding, who still remembers his martial arts technique, manages to save her life.  But Choi’s gang will do anything to capture her.

Meanwhile, a gang war between the Russians and Choi’s gang is escalating.


VIDEO:

“The Bodyguard” is presented in 1080p High Definition. As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality features great detail when it comes to closeups and skintones look natural.  Picture quality for the most part looks very good with no signs of artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Bodyguard” is presented in Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film features a lot of action sequences and primarily a lot of fight scenes that utilize the surround channels, while dialogue and music are crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English and Chinese.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Bodyguard” comes with the following special features:

  • An All-Star Cast with All-Star Support – (2:46) Featuring behind-the-scenes with the various all-star cast.
  • About the Characters – (2:25) Featuring the cast discussing their characters
  • A View of the Legend, On and Off-Screen – (2:10) Getting to know Sammo Kam-Bo Hung
  • Sammo Hung: Kindness is His Calling Card – (2:35) A featurette showing Sammo Hung’s kindness and his love for children.
  • About the Action – (2:38) A featurette about the action in the film.
  • About the Girl (Jacqueline Chan) – (2:38) A featurette about the young actress Jacqueline Chan.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “The Bodyguard”.

For any martial arts fan, “The Bodyguard” is a film that many Sammo Hung fans have wanted to see.

As Sammo Hung was popular through the ’70s, 80’s and ’90s and would have his own US TV show titled “Martial Law”, a lot of films that he has appeared in the 2000’s would feature Sammo Hung as a supporting character or as the elder teacher.

But Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan emerged on the big screen together in 1962 and as Jackie Chan still takes on roles as the main protagonist, it has been awhile since we saw Sammo Hung in the main protagonist role.

So, “The Bodyguard” is rather interesting because this is no doubt a Sammo Hung film in which his friends have come along and joined him on this action-packed adventure (with the exception of Jackie Chan, who was supposed to have a role but due to his son’s scandal, was unable to take part in the film).

Still, we have Andy Lau as an executive producer, we have cameos by legendary filmmaker Hark Tsui and legendary martial arts actors Bo Yuen, Ng Ming-Choi and Qiu Yuen having cameos in the film.

But for martial arts fans, the chance of watching Sammo Hung in an action-driven martial arts film and seeing Hung showing us that he still has what it takes to be a main protagonist and still showing us he can still choreograph his fights and still be as effective as a martial arts actor.

“The Bodyguard” is an entertaining film as Sammo Hung plays the character of Ding, a retired Central Security Bureau Officer who has lost his memory.  Unfortunately, the only things he can remember are terrible things that have happened in his life which he hasn’t talked about but as his memory is rapidly deteriorating, he has struck a friendship with a young girl named Cherry.

Cherry is a vibrant girl who occasionally sneaks into his home, because her father is often out getting himself into trouble.  And for Ding, the only people that really care for him is Cherry and his neighbor, an elderly woman named Park.

But in the city they live in near the Russian border, a Chinese and Russian gang are at war with each other and when Cherry’s father gets involved, he becomes a target, but also making Cherry a target as well.  And the only person that can protect her is Ding.

And when the Chinese gang start going after Cherry, they’ll learn quickly that the old, senile Ding is not a person to mess around with.

While I did enjoy the film, and while it is quite farfetched, there are some story sequences that don’t play out quite smoothly as one would hope.  And for some reasons, scenes that should have been deleted were included in the beginning of the end credits and were unnecessarily added.  Those scenes could have easily became deleted scenes in the special features menu of the Blu-ray/DVD.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality features great detail when it comes to closeups and skintones look natural.  The film features a lot of action sequences and primarily a lot of fight scenes that utilize the surround channels, while dialogue and music are crystal clear.

Overall, “The Bodyguard” is an entertaining, martial arts action film that Sammo Hung fans will no doubt enjoy!  He directs and stars in the film and shows us that he can still choreograph fights, he is as effective as a martial arts actor now as he was since starring in films in the early ’60s.

If you love martial arts films and have watched Sammo Hung kick butt in the last five decades, “The Bodyguard” is a film worth watching!

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Mountains May Depart (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Jia Zhangke has no doubt made another masterpiece with a powerful performance by actress Tao Zhao.  “Mountains May Depart” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Xstream Pictures (Beijing) – MK Productions – Arte France Cinema. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Mountains May Depart

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1, 1:85:1 and 2:35:1), Mandarin and English with Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: July 12, 2016


Directed by Zhangke Jia

Screenplay by Zhangke Jia

Produced by Shozo Ichiyama, Zhangke Jia, Nathanael Karmitz, Shiyu Liu, Zhong-lun Ren

Co-Produced by Patrick Andre, Remi Burah, Zhangke Jia, Nathanael Karmitz, Shiyu Liu, Zong-lun Ren

Music by Yoshihiro Hanno

Cinematography by Nelson Lik-wai Yu

Edited by Matthieu Laciau

Casting by Jacqueline Alliss

Art Direction by Qiang Liu


Starring:

Tao Zhao as Shen Tao

Yi Zhang as Zhang Jinsheng

Jing Dong Liang as Liang Jangjung aka Liangzi

Zijian Dong as Zhang Daole (Dollar)

Sylvia Chang as Mia


Mainland master Jia Zhangke (A Touch of Sin) scales new heights with Mountains May Depart. Starring the luminous Zhao Tao, the film is both an intimate drama and a decades-spanning epic about how China’s capitalist experiment has affected the lives of one splintered family, leaping in time from the past to the present to the speculative near-future. Jia’s new film is an intensely moving study of how China’s economic boom and the culture of materialism it has spawned has affected the bonds of family, tradition, and love.


From award winning filmmaker Jia Zhangke (“A Touch of Sin”, “Still Life”, “The World”) comes his 2015 “Mountains May Depart”.

Known for creating films that revolve around alienation with a minimalist/realist style and themes of alienated youth but also featuring contemporary Chinese history and showcasing Jia’s musical influences, his work has been compared to auteur, Michelangelo Antonioni.

His film “Mountains May Depart” is consistent with the style of his previous films and also would reunite Jia and his wife, actress Zhao Tao (“Platform”, “Still Life”, “With Shun Li and the Poet”) together.

The film also stars Yi Zhang (“Dearest”, “The Golden Era”), Jing Dong Liang (“Platform”, “The World”, “Unknown Pleasures”), Zijian Dong (“Young Love Lost”, “At Cafe 6”, “Young Style”) and Sylvia Chang (“20 30 40”, “Eat Drink Man Woman”, “All About Ah-Long”).

And now, “Mountains May Depart” is available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Mountains May Depart” is a film which features three parts that revolve around characters in 1999, 2014 and 2025.

[Note: Please avoid reading further as the brief synopsis of each part, may contain spoilers]:

The first part is set in 1999 and begins with Shen Tao (portrayed by Zhao Tao) dancing to the Pet Shop Boys song “Go West” with other people.

Shen Tao is a vibrant woman who loves to sing, loves to dance and hangs out with her good friend, a miner named Liangzi (portrayed by Jing Dong Liang).  Tao works with her father selling electronics and just enjoys having fun.

One day, her classmate Zhang Jinsheng (portrayed by Jing Dong Liang) returns back to the village.  Zhang is successful and wealthy and came back to the village to marry the girl of his dreams, Tao.

But despite having a nice car and successful career, he can’t stand that everytime he wants to be alone with her, she brings Liangzi around.  He knows Liangzi likes her, but he thinks that because of his success and wealth, her eyes should be on him.

And he feels that three is a crowd and Zhang tries to find a way to get Liangzi out of the picture, because he feels it’s a love triangle.

The second part takes place 15 years later and it’s 2014.  We see what has happened with Tao and Liangzi as Tao has been divorced from Zhang and she has a son named Zhang Daole (a.k.a. “Dollar”) who lives with his father, going to International School and being raised privileged.  But when tragedy hits, what happens when Tao requests for her young son to visit her for a funeral.

Meanwhile, Liangzi starts to suffer symptoms from working in the mines for a long time.  He is now married with a son and decides to return back to his hometown with his new family.  But with no income, how will he pay for medical care?

The third part is set in 2025 and revolves around a grown up Zhang “Dollar” Daole (portrayed by Zijian Dong) who lives in Australia with his father, Zhang Jinsheng.

Because he was raised in Australia and attended an international school, he and his father are unable to communicate as he speaks English and his father in Mandarin.  They often have to use Google Translate in order to communicate with each other.

He is unhappy living with his father, tired of living his life of going to school and what his father wants him to do and he has not seen his mother in over a decade, he is not sure what to do with his life but he knows he wants freedom.  And that is the freedom to make his own choices without his father’s interference.

But when Dollar starts to become interested in his older teacher, Mia (portrayed by Sylvia Chang), being with her, what major decisions will Dollar make in his life?


VIDEO:

“Mountains May Depart” is a gorgeous film and one that is quite interesting as Nelson Lik-wai Yu shoots the film in 1:33:1, 1:85:1 and 2:35:1 aspect ratios.

Featuring gorgeous scenery and the placement of the characters with mountains or temples in the background, well-framed and placement of characters are quite artistic and wonderful in symmetry and I can see aside from the alienation of its characters but its juxtaposition of people to various buildings, mountains and backgrouns, why Jia Zhangke would be compared to Michelangelo Antonioni.

Picture quality features wonderful detail, skintones look natural, black levels are nice and deep.  At times, there are archived sources used but for the majority of the film,  “Mountains May Depart” is a wonderful looking film on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Mountains May Depart” is presented in Mandarin and English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD MA and the lossless soundtrack is fantastic!  While one can expect crystal clear dialogue and also music, with ambiance, may it be a festival parade or fireworks launching in the air, can be heard via the surround channels.  Music by Yoshihiro Hanno is moving and emotional.

Subtitles feature optional English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mountains May Depart” comes with the following special features:

  • New York Film Festival – (1:13:04) A conversation with Jia Zhangke courtesy of Film Society of Lincoln Center conducted by Dennis Lim.
  • Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Mountains May Depart”.

Watching Jia Zhangke films, you can’t help but be captivated by the film’s beauty, the truth in his films but also understand the plight of alienation surrounding his characters.

Often compared to auteur filmmaker, the master of alienation, Michelangelo Antonioni, “Mountains May Depart” is non-traditional Chinese cinema in the sense that Jia Zhangke creates cinema that needs not to be categorized with other Chinese cinema.

From having a powerful storyline, there are time where we have jarring, colorful club images of random people that breakup the storyline, almost similar to what one were used to seeing of Jean-Claude Godard back in the French Nouvelle years of audio going off and on or imagery that may or may not make sense, we see those little pieces of artistic freedom with his films that is fresh and not a care of whether or not its coherent or incoherent, imagery that fits the timeline that co-exists with the storyline of its characters.

“Mountains May Depart” is rather captivating because of how well the story is crafted.  From the primary female character, Tao dancing to Pet Shop Boys’ “Go West” but then seeing her bubbly and vibrant personality that remains strong until she becomes part of a love triangle and must decide on whether or not to divert her attention to the poor but kind Liangzi or the crude, narcissistic and wealthy Zhang.

And we see the tensions start to simmer in this love triangle as Tao looks at Liangzi as a friend, Zhang looks at Liangzi as a man who gets in the way and very much believes in “Three’s a crowd”.

But how beautiful does the film get when it’s storyline weaves into the future.  As Tao has made her choice of a man but we see the result for each of the three individuals.

While I don’t want to spoil the film, this is where Jia Zhangke’s focus of human alienation comes into play.  Choices that we make, are we always happy with them.  But what if you are not happy, life goes on and you deal with with the repercussions of the choices one makes.

The film is visually moving, the story is absolutely captivating and melancholic and “Mountains May Depart” is a film that touches your soul!

Jia Zhangke has no doubt made another masterpiece with a powerful performance by actress Tao Zhao.  “Mountains May Depart” is highly recommended!

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