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T2 Trainspotting (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

While no one should expect “T2 Trainspotting” to be better than the first film, the sequel was worth the wait as the story and its characters come full circle. This is a film that is less about drug-use but a story of friendship that has suffered from betrayal and anger. Filmmaker Danny Boyle, writer John Hodge and the actors reprising their roles have given us a sequel that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2017 TriStar Pictures LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: T2 Trainspotting

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 117 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English and French – Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: TriStar/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Drug Use, Language throughout, Strong Sexual Content, Graphic Nudity and Some Violence)

RELEASE DATE: June 27, 2017


Based on the Novels by Irvine Walsh

Directed by Danny Boyle

Written by John Hodge

Produced by Bernard Bellew, Danny Boyle, Christian Colson, Andrew MacDonald

Executive Producer: Allon Reich, Irvine Welsh

Cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle

Edited by Jon Harris

Casting by Gail Stevens

Production Design by Patrick Rolfe, Mark Tildesley

Art Direction by Patrick Rolfe, Adam Squires, Christopher Wyatt

Set Decoration by Orlin Grozdanov, Veronique Melery

Costume Design by Rachael Fleming, Steven Noble


Starring:

Ewan McGregor as Renton

Ewen Bremner as Spud

Johnny Lee Miller as Simon

Anjela Nedyalkova as Veronika

Kevin McKidd as Tommy

Robert Carlyle as Begbie

Kelly MacDonald as Diane

Steven Robertson as Stoddard

Shirley Henderson as Gail

Gordon Kennedy as Tulloch

James Cosmo as Renton’s Father


First there was an opportunity……then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to the only place he can ever call home. They are waiting for him: Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance.


First there was an opportunity……then there was a betrayal.

The long awaited “Trainspotting”  sequel from filmmaker Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge (“Trainspotting”, “The Beach”, “Trance”, “Shallow Grave”) has finally come.

Titled “T2 Trainspotting”, the story takes place twenty years later and the original stars from the first film reprise their role.

Starring Ewan McGregor (“Star Wars” films, “Big Fish”), Jonny Lee Miller (“Elementary”, “Hackers”, “Dark Shadows”), Ewen Bremmer (“Snatch”, “Black Hawk Down”, “Pearl Harbor”), Robert Carlyle (“28 Weeks Later”, “The Full Monty”, “Once Upon a Time”), Kelly MacDonald (“No Country for Old Men”, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”) and Anjela Nedyalkova (“Ave”, “The Paradise Suite”, “Eastern Plays”).

NOTE: If you haven’t seen “Trainspotting”, do not read any further as it may contain spoilers:

With Mark “Rent Boy” Renton (portrayed by Ewan McGregor) having stolen money from Begbie (portrayed by Robert Carlyle) and instead of splitting with everyone, after being hospitalized with a heart problem, Renton, who has been sober for 21-years, lives a life unfulfilled, decides to return back home to Edinburgh.  Back to the friends he had abandoned.

Francis “Franco” Begbie is serving a 25-year prison sentence and has been denied parole due to his temper.

Daniel “Spud” Murphy (portrayed by Ewen Bremmer) is not doing well, with a failed marriage, a drug addict and is suicidal.

Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson (portrayed by Johnny Lee Miller) is even more of a cocaine-addict who runs Port Sunshine, which he inherited and along with his Bulgarian girlfriend Veronika (portrayed by Anjela Nedyalkova), run an operation by blackmailing men and luring them into sex (and videotaping the experience).

As no one has heard from Renton for 20-years, including his family, Renton discovers that his mother passed away hoping to see him return one day.

Simon comes to visit Spud, who is attempting suicide by asphyxiating himself, but Renton comes just in time to save his life.  But Spud is angry of how Renton just took off and left.

Seeing how Spud has screwed up his life with drugs, Renton tries to help Spud by getting him to workout and channeling his addiction problems to other areas in his life positively.

As for Simon, when Renton comes to visit him, Renton unleashes all that pent up anger towards Renton and beating him   But when Renton leaves him his share of the money 20-years later, Simon is not too appreciative.  Wanting to open up a brothel with Veronika, Simon wants to get Renton to help him out and get the finances needed, but then to screw him over.

But unknown to any of them, Begbie has orchestrated his escape from prison and he has returned back home.  And he wants nothing but to get his revenge upon Renton.


VIDEO:

“T2 Trainspotting” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks fantastic, may it be the outdoor scenes, wonderful detail during closeups and even the darkest of scenes, the film looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  I didn’t notice any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“T2 Trainspotting” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English and French – Audio Description Track, Spanish. Dialogue and music are crystal clear, while the surround channels are primarily for crowd-driven scenes, ambiance and an action sequence, for the most part, the overall soundtrack is crystal clear.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“T2 Trainspotting” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with Danny Boyle and John Hodge
  • 20 Years in the Making: A Conversation with Danny Boyle & The Cast – (24:48) Danny Boyle sits with Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller and Rob Carlyle about returning to a “Trainspotting” film 20 years later.
  • Calton Athletic Documentary: Choosing Endorphins Over Addiction – (4:23) A featurette about users discussing their addiction issues and how they changed.
  • Deleted Scenes – (30:09) Featuring 29 deleted scenes.

EXTRAS:

“T2 Trainspotting” comes with a slipcover and an Ultraviolet HD Digital code.


Back in 1996, when the original “Trainspotting” film was screened at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, there was a lot of buzz.  And not long after, when it was released in theaters, the low budget independent film would go on to make $71 million internationally and was the fourth highest grossing British film in history at the time.

The film received critical praise for the film’s ability to tape into the youth subculture of the ’80s and shows us the craziness but also the horrors of drug addiction.  But also to see how a group of best friends took a chance to steal a lot of money and one of them, the main character in the film, stealing the money and disappearing.

The film utilized music to come together with its wonderful storyline and as the film became a cult hit, even ranked as high as #10 by the British Film Institute (BFI) in the list of top 100 British films of all time, many have hoped for a sequel.

And as Irvine Welsh had written the novel “Porno” in 2002 as the sequel to “Trainspotting”, filmmaker Danny Boyle said if he was to create a sequel, it would be in 2016.  It’s important to note that the filmmakers did not want to trash the legacy of “Trainspotting” and wanted to create a film that was very fresh and contemporary”.

With the sequel, the film focuses on the four individuals: Mark “Rent Boy” Renton, Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson, Daniel “Spud” Murphy and Francis “Franco” Begbie.

This time around the film is less about the drugs but more on how the lives of these five individuals have changed 20 years later.  Much has changed, but much have remained the same.

For Renton, his return back to Edinburgh, means confronting his best friends he betrayed.  While Renton has remained sober for 20-years, unfortunately his friends have not done so well.

Spud has become a heroin addict, losing his job and his family.  Simon is still addicted to cocaine and trying to find ways for he and his girlfriend Veronika to make money and he has an idea of starting a brothel.

Begbie was sentenced to prison for 25-years and figured out a plan to escape but he wants nothing more but to kill Renton.  Begbie hasn’t seen his family in a very long time and he will discover a lot has changed especially with his son.

We get to see characters from the original film such as Diane, who has done quite well with her life and becoming a lawyer that Renton will need her legal assistance.  And we also get to see other characters such as Renton’s father, Gail and more.

But also questions that people had about the first film, we see certain topics being confronted or at least spoken.

For the most part, I’m somewhat glad that director Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge didn’t go with a true adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s “Porno” and created something fresh and new.  While purists may be upset that the film sequel is quite different than its book counterpart.  But the film allowed viewers to come back to what was missing in Renton’s life and that is his relationship with his childhood friends.  Living with a sense of gilt for what he had done and very much hoping to see these characters turn a new leaf in their lives 20-years later.

And despite how much time has passed, Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewan Bremner and Robert Carlyle were as fantastic now as they were back then.

While the film is much different than “Trainspotting” and has less disgusting situations or even deplorable situations, because the film takes place 20-years later, there is maturation on the side of Renton and he is much a different man than he was when he was younger.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and the lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music.  There are also numerous special features included as well.

Overall, while no one should expect “T2 Trainspotting” to be better than the first film, the sequel was worth the wait as the story and its characters come full circle.  This is a film that is less about drug-use but a story of friendship that has suffered from betrayal and anger.  Filmmaker Danny Boyle, writer John  Hodge and the actors reprising their roles have given us a sequel that I highly recommend!

 

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

June 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Life” is a sci-fi horror film that is full of suspense from beginning to end.  While simplistic in story and gorgeous visually through its wonderful set design and visual effects, Daniel Espinosa’s “Life” is a film worth watching but you can’t help but feel that the film could have been better.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Skydance Productions LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Life

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 104 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:39:1 aspect ratio, English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Subtitles: English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Language thrughout, Some Sci-Fi Violence and Terror)

RELEASE DATE: June 20, 2017


Directed by Daniel Espinosa

Written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick

Produced by Bonnie Curtis, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Julie Lynn

Executive Producer: Vicki Dee Rock, Don Granger

Co-Producer: Lisa Dennis

Associate Producer: Josh Robertson

Music by Jon Ekstrand

Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey

Edited by Mary Jo Markey, Frances Parker

Casting by Mindy Marin

Production Design by Nigel Phelps

Art Direction by Steven Lawrence

Set Decoration by Celia Bobak

Costume Design by Jenny Beavan


Starring:

Hiroyuki Sanada as Sho Murakami

Ryan Reynolds as Rory Adams

Rebecca Ferguson as Miranda North

Jake Gyllenhaal as David Jordan

Olga Dihovichnaya as Ekaterina Golovkina

Ariyon Bakare as Hugh Derry


Life is a terrifying sci-fi thriller about a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station whose mission of discovery turns to one of primal fear when they find a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.


From filmmaker Daniel Espinosa (“Safe House”, “Child 44”, “Easy Money”) and writing duo, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (“Deadpool”, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”, “Zombieland”) comes their sci-fi action-horror film, “Life”.

The film stars Ryan Reynolds (“Deadpool”, “The Proposal”, “Green Lantern”), Jake Gyllenhaal (“Donnie Darko”, “Nightcrawler”, “Zodiac”), Rebecca Ferguson (“Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation”, “The Girl on the Train”, “Florence Foster Jenkins”), Hiroyuki Sanada (“The Wolverine”, “47 Ronin”, “Sunshine”), Olga Dihovichnaya (“House of Others”, “Twilight Portrait”, “Two Days”) and Ariyon Bakare (“Dancing on the Edge”, “A Respectable Trade”).

The film revolves around a crew of the six-member International Space Station (ISS) crew awaiting a probe returning from Mars which contains a soil sample that may contain evidence of extraterrestrial life.

As experiments are done on the soil sample, exobiologist Hugh Derry (portrayed by Ariyon Bakare) manages to revive a dormant cell sample which grows into a multi-celled organism.  The news excites people on Earth and for a contest among school children, the winning school names the organism, “Calvin”.

But when Hugh revives Calvin via mild electric shocks, the organism becomes hostile and grabs onto Hugh’s hand.  While his crewmates watch outside the lab and watch as Hugh tries to escape from the organism’s pull, Hugh manages to remove his hand but it was crushed by the organism.

As the group debate on what to do, keep the interior contained or save Hugh, Rory Adams (portrayed by Ryan Reynolds) makes the decision to save Hugh.  And while he is able to get Hugh out of the room, Rory is captured by the organism which grabs onto his leg.  As Rory grabs a flame device to kill the organism, the organism shows intelligence and flows into Rory’s mouth and kills him inside.

With communications cut off from Earth, the now five member crew must find a way to get help but also prevent themselves from being the next one killed by the alien organism.  Will anyone survive from this ordeal?


VIDEO:

“Life” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with awesome detail and with fantastic visual effects, the film looks amazing on Blu-ray.  I didn’t notice any artifacts, banding issues or problematic problems with picture quality.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Life” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.   The lossless soundtrack with the various spacecraft collisions to the way music is utilized to create frightening, intense moments, the surround channels are utilized very well.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear and I was very pleased by the overall soundtrack!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Life” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes– (5:46) Featuring six deleted scenes.
  • Life: In Zero G – (6:52) The making of “Life” and shooting in the dark and shooting in zero gravity.
  • Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin – (7:07)  A featurette on the creation of a creature and how it adapts and how it manipulates to its environment.
  • Clausterphobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space – (7:28) A featurette about the thought of discovering extraterrestrial life.
  • Astronaut Diaries – (2:58) Web-based astronaut diaries featuring the characters of the film.

EXTRAS:

“Life” comes with a slipcover and an Ultraviolet HD Digital code.


As we progress in technology and our discoveries of what lies in the soil of other planets are becoming known, with the pursuit of trying to find out if there is life outside of the planet Earth, the question is still unanswered, “is their life outside of our planet”?

The last decade alone, NASA has manage to discover so much about Planet Mars but also other planets in our solar system.  But in Mars alone, with the discovery of evidence of water in Mars, what would happen if we were able to get a soil sample to find out if there is alien life in Mars?

And sure enough, “Life” is a film that takes a frightening yet thought-provoking look of what if we are opening Pandora’s box by pursuing this search for life?

In the case of the six-member International Space Station (ISS) crew, they quickly discover that the organism discovered from the Mars soil sample is quite violent and can quickly grow through eating the life of a living creature.

The film is no doubt a sci-fi horror film but it’s also a film about survival and trying to prevent this organism from reaching Earth.

We learn from a theory that the reason life was dormant in Mars is because there is no breathable air, but now that there is air, this organism is now alive and threatening the crew.

While one may think of “Aliens” which humans fought back or “Sunshine” (which also starred actor, Hiroyuki Sanada), the goal of the writers was to create a thought-provoking film because of what we are accomplishing with modern technology and discovering new things from other planets.

While there are people who are thinking that the film may be a prequel to the Marvel Comics film “Venom” (which is also written by “Life” writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese), I doubt that would be the case, without a Marvel logo at the beginning and no mention of Marvel anywhere in the credits.   But if there was a connection, it would be very cool!

But the film, while full of suspense, will entertain the popcorn suspense or sci-fi action film fans, the film doesn’t strive too far from the “trying to stay alive to the end of the film” concept which is quite banal in similar style of films.  Character dynamics are not the film’s strongest area and because of that, so much of the film is focused on the survival aspect and character, exobiologist Hugh Derry running tests on the organism.

It’s not a deep film at all but I will say that I do enjoy suspense films, I do love Sci-fi films and while not the best, I was entertained.  Especially since there is potential for a sequel.

The film looks and sounds great on Blu-ray and you also get a few special features as well.

Overall, “Life” is a sci-fi horror film that is full of suspense from beginning to end.  While simplistic in story and gorgeous visually through its wonderful set design and visual effects, Daniel Espinosa’s “Life” is a film worth watching but you can’t help but feel that the film could have

 

Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” is a captivating fantasy tale that will no doubt attract RPG video gamers and action/adventure anime fans. With several volumes of the light novel having been published, one can only hope that more episodes and seasons are created because this is one anime series that I would love to watch more of. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Ao Jumonji,  OVERLAP/Grimgar. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions

ORIGINAL TV AIR DATE: 2016

DURATION: 12 Episodes (335 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: May 2, 2017


Originally created by Ao Jumonji

Directed by Ryosuke Nakamura

Script by Ryosuke Nakamura

Music by R.O.N.

Original Character Design by Eiri Shirai

Character Design by Mieko Hosoi

Art Director: Hidetoshi Kaneko

Chief Animation Director: Mieko Hosoi

Animation Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Ricco Fajardo as Haruhiro

Chika Anzai/Jad Saxton as Mary

Daisuke Namikawa/Todd Haberkorn as Kikkawa

Fukushi Ochiai/Jarrod Greene as Moguzo

Haruka Terui/Sarah Wiedenheft as Shihoru

Hiroki Yasumoto/Mike McFarland as Brittany

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Orion Pitts as Ranta

Mamiko Noto/Jamie Marchi as Barbara

Mikako Komatsu/Jeannie Tirado as Yume

Nobunaga Shimazaki/Justin Briner as Manato

Tomokazu Seki/Jason Liebrecht as Renji



Back in 2013, writer Ao Jumonji and illustrator Eiri Shirai collaborated on a Japanese light novel series titled “Hai to Genso ni Gurimugaru” (“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions”).  With a total of nine novels created, a manga adaptation by Mutsumi Okubashi was serialized in “Gangan Joker” in 2015.

Due to the popularity of the series, a 12-episode anime series produced by A-1 Pictures aired in Japan from January through March 2016 and an OVA followed afterward.

The series is directed and written by Ryosuke Nakamura (“Aiura”, “Nana”, “Psychic School Wars”, “Moryo no Hako”), music by R.O.N. (“Aquarion Logos”, “Solty Rei”, “Unlimited Fafnir”), character design by Mieko Hosoi (“Aiura”, “Aoi Bungaku”) and art direction by Hidetoshi Kaneko (“”Devil Hunter Yohko”, “Chance Pop Session”, Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals”, “Jubei-Chan the Ninja Girl”, “Mermaid’s Scar”, “X”).

And now the “Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” is available on Blu-ray/DVD courtesy of FUNimation.

The story follows a young man named Haruhiro and several people who awaken in a fantasy world and remember nothing but their own names.  They all find out that they must become Trainee Volunteer Soldiers and must support themselves to survive and that is by killing goblins to earn money.  As many of the strong join groups, Haruhiro and others were not chosen and so they form their own group.

As Haruhiro and his friends become Trainee Volunteer Soldiers, they must join forces to survive and train and use their skills to defeat goblins.

The primary characters in “Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” are:

  • Haruhiro – A softspoken person who is level-headed and becomes the group’s thief.
  • Yume – She is brave and is the hunter of the group.   She often tries to protect Shihoru and is att odds with Ranta.
  • Shihoru – The shy member of the group. She is a mage.
  • Ranta – The Dark Knight of the group.  He is perverted and outspoken and tends to cause trouble with the group because of his rash decisions.
  • Manato – The teams priest (healer) and the group leader.  A strategist that sees the positive in each member of the group.
  • Moguzo – The tallest and heaviest member of the group and the team’s warrior.  Loves cooking.
  • Mary – A priest (healer) who became colder due to the death of her friends.
  • Renji – Arried the same time Haruhiro and others but has graduated from being a trainee quickly.

VIDEO:

“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” is presented in 1080p High Definition and A-1 Pictures did a wonderful job with this series.  The backgrounds are nicely painted and look like it was painted with watercolors.  Meanwhile, characters are well shaded and colors are vibrant.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0.  Dialogue and music including environment and ambiance are well-utilized throughout the surround channels for the lossless English dub soundtrack.  Both soundtracks are well-acted but in terms of channel utilization, with the English lossless soundtrack receiving a 5.1 treatment, that soundtrack has an edge.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” comes with the following special features:

  • OVA 2.5 – Staking Our Youths on the Bath Wall – One More Centimeter
  • Episode 04 Video Commentary – Featuring Funimation staff Godswill (social media coordinator), Casey (promo video) and Ian (senior graphic designer)
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” comes with the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


For those who play video games, I’m sure the gamer had once thought, “what if we were in our own video game?”.

It’s something I know my RPG-loving friends have joked about and while we have seen anime where characters’s avatars or consciousness were trapped in a video game (ala “.Hack” or “Sword Art Online”) but what if people were transported into a fantasy world where they fought in classes like an RPG video game?

This is somewhat of the idea in “Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions”.  Numerous people transported to a fantasy world and they have no choice but to fight or die.

Fighting is the only option for one to make money, buy food or purchase things and to do that, you must become a soldier.  And for these new people who have arrived, they immediately must become Trainee Volunteer Soldiers and join up in guilds.  Train and learn new skills and fight goblins who will do all they can to kill you.

The anime series focuses on a group of people who were not selected to join a major guild, so they join forces and become their own group.  And as they become friends and try to learn how to use their skills to fight goblins, they don’t know how bad the dangers are until one of their own is killed.

And now they must find a way to continue on, grow as a team and protect each other.

Featuring beautiful animation and beautifully painted backgrounds courtesy of A-1 Pictures, the anime series looks vibrant and gorgeous on Blu-ray.  The lossless soundtrack for both English and Japanese soundtracks are fantastic but the English soundtrack gets an edge as it was made into a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, while the Japanese version is a stereo lossless soundtrack.

“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” come with an OVA and an episode 4 video commentary by the English dub talent.

Overall, “Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” is a captivating fantasy tale that will no doubt attract RPG video gamers and action/adventure anime fans.  With several volumes of the light novel having been published, one can only hope that more episodes and seasons are created because this is one anime series that I would love to watch more of.

Recommended!

 

Railroad Tigers (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Sure, it’s a Jackie Chan action film but it pales in comparison to past Jackie Chan action films. And despite the visual effects and budget that went into this film, it’s also not one of Ding Sheng’s best. For those wanting a popcorn action film and are Jackie Chan film loyalists, then “Railroad Tigers” may be to your liking.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Beijing Sparkle Roll Media Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Railroad Tigers

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 125 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 aspect ratio, Mandarin DTS: X, Mandarin 2.0 Stereo, Mandarin DTS Headphone: X, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Stereo

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: June 20, 2017


Directed by Ding Sheng

Screenplay by Alex Jia, He Keke, Ding Sheng

Produced by Jackie Chan, Zhao Lei, Maofei Zhou

Executive Producer: Jackie Chan, Qin Hong, Jianhong Qi, Zhong-Lun Ren, Joe Tam

Co-Executive Producer: Lv Peng, Wang Peng

Co-Producer: Yu Liang, Wang Sen

Associate Producer: Zhang Miao, Tianyun Wang

Music by Zai Lao

Cinematography by Yu Ding

Edited by Ding Sheng

Production Design by Ligang Feng

Costume Design by Cao Yangui, Wang Yi


Starring:

Jackie Chan as Ma Yuan

Zitao Huang as Da Hai

Jaycee Chan as Rui Ge

Kai Wang as Fan Chuan

Hiroyuki Ikeuchi

Ping Sang as Da Qui

Alan Ng as Xiao Qi

Fan Xu

Darren Wang as Da Guo


In this action-comedy caper harkening back to Jackie Chan s classic Hong Kong films, a railroad worker (Chan) and his ragtag group of freedom fighters find themselves on the wrong side of the tracks when they decide to ambush a heavily armed military train filled with desperately needed provisions. Unarmed and outnumbered, they must fight back against an entire army using only their wits, in a series of a dazzling set pieces and action scenes rivaling anything seen on the big screen.


Filmmaker Ding Sheng has had several collaborations with action legend, Jackie Chan.

From the films “Little Big Soldier” and “Police Story: Lockdown”, Sheng and Chan reunite once again for the action film “Railroad Tigers”.

And now “Railroad Tigers” will be released in the U.S. courtesy of Well Go USA.

The film revolves around a group of Chinese resistance fighters during a time when Japan is occupying China.

Ma Yuan (portrayed by Jackie Chan) is responsible for a group of individuals (a.k.a. Railroad Tigers) who cause problems for the Japanese army.  They hijack trains, steal supplies and they don’t have any major purpose but just to steal supplies.

But keeping an eye on Ma Yuan and friends is the the tough and cold-hearted Japanese captain, Yamaguchi (portrayed by Hiroki Okeuchi) who is in charge of finding out who has been stealing supplies.

But life for Ma Yuan and friends change when they discover a Chinese soldier named Daguo (portrayed by Darren Wang) who is badly injured.

Ma Yuan hides the soldier from the Japanese and when nursing him, they discover that he has a major mission and that is to blow up a bridge that the Japanese army uses to deliver reinforcements and carry supplies to other locations for the Japanese military.

Ma Yuan and friends decide to assist Daguo in getting the mission accomplished, but they have only four days to do it and it’s not going to be easy while Yamaguchi and a sadistic Japanese assassin after them.


VIDEO:

“Railroad Tigers” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35 1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as a lot of the scenes were shot outdoors. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Railroad Tigers” is presented in Mandarin DTS: X, Mandarin 2.0 Stereo, Mandarin DTS Headphone: X, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Stereo.  Dialogue is crystal clear and surround channels utilize environment ambiance, trains going on the tracks and action sequences that utilize the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Railroad Tigers” comes with the following special features:

  • Director’s Featurette– 2:52 a sample of the films directed by Ding Sheng and interviews with the filmmaker, Jackie Chan and crew about the film.
  • The Dangers of Shooting – (2:35) With a short amount of time and 300 people on crew to device the sets in -20 celcius weather, the dangers of shooting this kind of film. especially with a train is is high.
  • The Making of – (21:11) Filmmaker Ding Sheng, Jackie Chan and crew discuss the making of the film.  Scenes shot during production and featuring behind-the-film shots.
  • VFX Featurette – (3:50) A featurette about the making of the visual effects to make the film’s action scenes look authentic.
  • The Characters – (3:09)  A featurette about the various characters in the film and how unique they are.  Interviews with the cast.
  • Trailer – Featuring the theatrical trailer and International Trailer versions.

EXTRAS:

“Railroad Tigers” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD.


On paper, “Railroad Tigers” sounds like a fascinating film.  A film starring father and son (Jackie Chan and son Jaycee), a film starring former EXO music artist Zitao Huang, a big budget war-era action film and for the most part, an action film starring action legend Jackie Chan, who reunites with filmmaker Ding Sheng.

For the most part, the film should be exciting and entertaining and with a lot of expectations being high for a Jackie Chan action film, unfortunately “Railroad Tigers” is not one of his best, nor one of his most memorable.

If anything, for me, it seems like a big budget film used to showcase father and son together and also showcase pop star Zitao Huang into films.

But should anyone be surprised?  You are not going to get the same Jackie Chan that one saw in the ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s and even the 2000s.  He is a versatile actor that still manages to show us that he can still do action films but similar to other older action stars, may it be Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone, etc., there is only so much you can expect Chan to do at age 63.

But even at 63, Chan still shows us that he can still do action and “Railroad Tigers” doesn’t disappoint when it comes to action.

But the pacing and the storyline itself is problematic.  Aside from watching a group of individuals fight against the Japanese army and literally go on a suicide mission to blow up a train to prevent the Japanese from using the trains to transport their army or supplies, the film doesn’t do a good job of utilizing characters outside of Jackie Chan all that well.

The film probably works in bringing together Jackie and his son Jaycee together on the big screen.  Considering that Jaycee Chan’s music and acting career could have been over after being busted for drug possession in 2014 and spent 148 days in detention.  Newspapers in China have been focused on the estranged relationship between the two but the film no doubt is a good sign of reconciliation and the industry giving Jaycee a second chance (which is typically rare).

And the surprise was seeing pop star Zitao Huang in an action film.  Also, being in the public eye for shocking fans by leaving the popular South Korean/Chinese Pop group, EXO, but having bounced back and showing that he can succeed as a music star in China and also as an actor.

So, in some ways, “Railroad Tigers” is like a film of second chances.  But despite the talent-filled roster in this film, it doesn’t make the storyline any better.  Sure, it’s a Jackie Chan action film but it pales in comparison to past Jackie Chan action films.  And despite the visual effects and budget that went into this film, it’s also not one of Ding Sheng’s best.

Overall, for those wanting a popcorn action film and are Jackie Chan film loyalists, then “Railroad Tigers” may be to your liking.

 

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

June 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Altitude” is a popcorn action/hijacking film that people may get the wrong idea through the cover and think that this is primarily a Dolph Lungren action film, but in truth, this is an action film where Denise Richards is the main protagonist and the main antagonist is Greer Grammer.  A decent but “so cheesy that it will make you laugh” type of hijacking film.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Altitude Movie LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Altitude

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 88 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (Language and Some Violence)

RELEASE DATE: June 20, 2017


Directed by Alex Merkin

Story by Tyler W. Konney, Jesse Mittelstadt, Richard Switzer

Screenplay by Jesse Mittelstadt

Produced by Joanthan Delponte, Phillip B. Goldfine, Tyler W. Konney, John Landolfi, Chad Law, Jared Safier, Richard Switzer

Executive Producer: David Allen, Michael Bien, RJ Burne, Brandon Burrows, Jason Cherubini, Alexander Ferguson, Milan Friedrich, Mickey Gooch Jr., Hans Hernke, Joanna Koss, Alex Lebovici, Jordan Yale Levine, Jonathan Lipnicki, Michael Maccini, James Macmillan, Timothy Marlowe, Chad Oliver, Jason Owalabi, Courtney Lauren Penn, Steve Ponce, Nick Reed, Benjamin Sacks, Mike Santoro, John Sword, Randy Wayne

Co-Executive Producer: Ryan King Persaud, George Saunders

Associate Producer: Brnnan Dyson, David Gere, Neville Headley, Erik Johnson, Joel Paul Reisig, Dennis Switzer

Music by Bobby Tahouri

Cinematography by Dane Lawing

Edited by Alex Merkin

Casting by Amey Rene

Production Design by Shannon Muldoon, Alex Napiwocki

Costume Design by Corey Czerwinski, Tomika Smalls, Elke Van der Steen


Starring:

Dolph Lundren as Matthew Sharpe

Denise Richards as Gretchen Blair

Jonathan Lipnicki as Rick

Greer Grammer as Sadie

John Posey as Pilot

Jordi Vilasuso as Luke Byres

Chuck Liddell as Rawbones

Chelsea Edmundson as Clare

Kirk Barker as Terry


 FBI agent (Denise Richards) is offered millions to help a thief survive when his ex-partners (Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Liddell, and Greer Grammer) hijack his plane.


From Alex Merkin, director of “This Moder Man is Beat”, “Across the Hall”, “House of Bodies” comes his action thriller, “Altitude”.

Starring Dolph Lundgren (“The Expendables”, “Universal Soldier”, “Rocky IV”), Denise Richards (“Starship Troopers”, “The World is Not Enough”, “Wild Things”), Greer Grammer (“Deadly Sorority”, “Emma’s Chance”), Jonathan Lipnicki (“Jerry Maguire”, “Stuart Little” films), Jordi Vilasuso (“This Modern Man is Beat”, “The Invitation”, “All My Children”), Chelsea Edmundson (“Daylight’s End”, “Isolation”), Kirk Barker (“Arthur & Merline”, “A Prince for Christmas”) and UFC star Chuck Liddell (“Drillbit Taylor”).

And now”Altitude” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Lions Gate.

The film begins with FBI Agent Gretchen Blair (portrayed by Denise Richards) not following orders during a hostage attempt.  While securing the hostage taker, because she didn’t listen to orders, she is demoted and sent to Washington D.C. to work a desk job.

Upset about the whole situation, Gretchen takes the flight to DC and sits next to a wealthy businessman named Terry (portrayed by Kirk Barker).  When Terry sees Matthew Sharpe (portrayed by Dolph Lundgren) on the flight, he knows he is in big trouble.

Terry immediately offers Gretchen a business proposal, millions of dollars if she is able to make sure he survives the entire flight.  He tells her that there are people that will hijack the plane.

Gretchen doesn’t believe any of Terry’s claims and warns him that the claims he is making, she will report him to authorities.

Meanwhile, one of the flight attendants Sadie (portrayed by Greer Grammer) starts murdering the other flight attendants and pilots and the terrorits take over the flight.  She and Matthew tie Terry in the back and try to extract information where he may be keeping what they are looking for.

As Gretchen notices something awry going on, she discovers the dead flight attendant and realizes that Terry’s claim may be true.  She immediately tries to find what these terrorists are looking for and together with the air marshal on the flight, Luke Byres (portrayed by Jordi Vilasuso), they both go to look for what may be hidden on the plane, meanwhile trying to protect Terry from those looking for him.

But in order to protect the people on plane, will FBI Agent Blair choose to side with the enemy to protect the people on the plane, or will she protect Terry, so she can make money from the deal?


VIDEO:

“Altitude” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film is well-lit and close-ups show good detail.  I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Altitude” is presented in English and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is primarily dialogue and music-driven with surround sound use during fight scenes which takes places sporadically through the film.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Altitude” comes with a trailer.

EXTRAS:

“Altitude” comes with both a Blu-ray and an Ultraviolet Digital HD code.


For the past few years, Lionsgate has been releasing films featuring major action stars from the ’80s and ’90s.  While these action stars continue to bring in an audience for the home video market, may it be Dolph Lungren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Stephen Seagal, Bruce Willis, Nicolas Cage to name a few, we are seeing how stories manage to incorporate these action stars but with limited time.  And at the same time, giving other talents screen time and opportunities to become action stars.

And this is the case with Alex Merkin’s “Altitude”.  With Dolph Lungren being the primary antagonist (who has limited time), while also including UFC fighter Chuck Liddell, the film is giving Bond girl, actress Denise Richards a chance to return to her roots to action films since her films, “Starship Troopers” (1997) and “The World is Not Enough” (1999).

The film also gives actress Greer Grammer a chance to step out of her teenage actress roles and a chance to play a deadly assassin with a good amount of action scenes.  Which is quite surprising for me as a reviewer, since the last time I watched Greer Grammer in a film was a teenager working community service hours bonding with a horse in the 2016 film “Emma’s Chance”.  But I’ll give Grammer the benefit of the doubt, because she does a great job in an antagonist role and taking on a role that is so different from anything she has done in the past.

For the most part, while this is a plane hijacking film, it’s nowhere as entertaining compared to films such as “Air Force One” or “Flightplan”.  In fact, the film incorporates plenty of comedy as former child-star Jonathan Lipnicki (from “Jerry Maguire” and the “Stuart Little” films) plays the dancing flight attendant and immediately you know he’s probably going to be the first one killed in this film.

And you have a scene where Dolph Lungren as Matthew Sharpe is trying to land the plane and while Greer Grammer’s Sadie takes the passenger seat, the harsh landing equates to the two having sex.

And how they end up rescuing the passengers on the airplane and how the film ends… Definitely cheesy.

As for the film on Blu-ray, closeups show great detail, lossless audio is primarily dialogue and music-driven with ambiance being used for the surround channels.  There are no special features, so this is a barebones Blu-ray release.  But you do get an Ultraviolet code included with the Blu-ray release.

Overall, “Altitude” is a popcorn action/hijacking film that people may get the wrong idea through the cover and think that this is primarily a Dolph Lungren action film, but in truth, this is an action film where Denise Richards is the main protagonist and the main antagonist is Greer Grammer.  A decent but “so cheesy that it will make you laugh” type of hijacking film.

 

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

June 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I was entertained by the story of a man fighting his inner demons and through his fight for survival, he discovers a lot about himself and his willingess to want to live and be with his fiancee and be a better person.  A solid performance from Armie Hammer and a good debut from Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro, “Mine” is a film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Mine Canarias AIE. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Mine

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 107 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1, English and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

RELEASE DATE: June 13, 2017


Directed by Fabio Guaglione, Fabio Resinaro

Screenplay by Fabio Guaglione, Fabio Resinaro

Produced by Peter Safran

Co-Producer: Andrea Cucchi, Isaac Torras, Joan Mao, Pasquale Pozzessere

Executive Producer: Miguel Angel Faura, Natalia Safran

Music by Luca Balboni, Andrea Balboni

Cinematography by Sergi Vilanova

Edited by Filippo Mauro Boni, Fabio Guaglione, Matteo Santi

Casting by Rose Wicksteed

Production Design by Mani Martinez

Costume Design by Coro Mateo


Starring:

Armie Hammer as Mike

Annabelle Wallis as Jenny

Tom Cullen as Tommy Madison

Clint Dyer as Berber

Geoff Bell as Mike’s Father

Julie Aubrey as Mike’s Mother

Ines Pinar Mille as Berber Girl


A U.S. soldier (Armie Hammer, FREE FIRE, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.) is stranded in the desert for 52 hours after a mission falls apart and must fight for survival against his enemies, the hostile environment, and the creeping psychological toll of his treacherous situation. Annabelle Wallis (ANNABELLE, THE MUMMY) and Tom Cullen (DOWNTON ABBEY) co-star in this tense, explosive military thriller from the producer of BURIED and THE CONJURING.


What would you do if you were in the middle of desert, foot steps on a mine and the only rescue is three days away?

This is the main story in the psychological thriller film co-directed and co-written by Italian filmmaking duo Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro (both worked on the short films “The Silver Rope”, “Y/N: You Lie, You Die”), their filmaking debut.

The film stars Armie Hammer (“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, “The Lone Ranger”, “Nocturnal Animals”), Annabelle Wallis (“Annabelle”, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”) , Tom Cullen (“Weekend”, “Knightfall”, “Black Mirror”) and Clint Dyer (“Sus”).

“Mine” takes place in a country where US Marines Mike Stevens (portrayed by Armie Hammer) and Tommy Madison (portrayed by Tom Cullen) are sent to assassinate a terrorist while at a wedding ceremony.

As Tommy tries to get Mike to make the shot, Mike resists, not wanting to kill someone during their wedding and his personal convictions get in the way of his mission and they fail their mission.

To make matters worse, both men are seen by the terrorists guards and due to an oncoming sandstorm in the desert, both men are able to escape from the terrorists.  But unfortunately, with their GPS broken to reveal their position to the military, the two are lost and are not sure where they are going.

After walking for miles and the sandstorm disappearing and with little water, both walk into an area where they discover a warning sign.  Tommy tells them its a Berber trick to keep people away from villages but Mike estimates that with 40 years of conflicts, there are over 33 million landmines in the area (Fact: To this day, there are an unknown number of mines throughout areas like North Africa, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and the Western Sahara and to this day, thousands of people and also animals have been affected by land mines.  And extraction of landmines from the desert have been slow.)

As Mike and Tommy walk to the area, Tommy steps onto a mine and his legs are blown off.  While Mike also steps on a mine but his foot remains place on top.  As both men are panicking and Tommy is in extreme pain, he decides to end his life, while Mike tries to radio in for help.  But with no help for 58 hours, he must withstand the elements, withstand wolves and possible enemies until then while remaining in place and not lifting his foot off the mine.

Will he succeed?  And will he be rescued?


VIDEO:

“Mine” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as the majority of the film are outdoor scenes which are colorful and vibrant.  Scenes of blown up appendages, blood and grime are also quite detailed. But great use of visual effects throughout the film.

I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Mine” is presented in English and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  The film is primarily dialogue driven with surround sound usage during gun fire which takes places sporadically through the film.

Subtitles are in English SDH

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mine” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring four deleted scenes.
  • Storyboards – (4:45) The making of the film via storyboards.  A comparison with the storyboards and the final cut of the film.
  • VFX – (4:54) A featurette about the visual effects used in the film in transforming visual scenery to look like a real desert, Tommy’s blown up legs and creations of sandstorms to mine explosions.
  • The Making of With Armie Hammer – (13:09) Armie Hammer talks about the making of “Mine”.
  • Trailer

EXTRAS:

“Mine” comes with both a Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


For the directorial debut for duo Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro, their psychological thriller “Mine” is less about a military film about American Marines versus the terrorists but more about a soldier forced to face his own demons and internal conflict.

Actor Armie Hammer takes on one of the more psychological and dramatic roles in his career.  As Mike Stevens, Mike must go through sleep and water deprivation and to keep himself awake and alert, he starts to think about his life.  How he has treated his girlfriend Jenny (portrayed by Annabelle Wallis) but also his anger issues that go far back, with an abusive father (portrayed by Geof Bell) and seeing his mother (portrayed by Juliet Aubrey) being abused and remembering the times he was beaten up.  But how it led him to have anger issues and fighting himself inside of not wanting to be like his father.

But throughout the film, we start seeing a few characters.  Are they real?  Are they figments of his imagination?

If anything, the film rests slowly on Armie Hammer’s shoulders as he must play a character in various stages of sleep, water and food deprivation.  Fear, anger, sadness, happiness, you name it, it’s a type of character role that many actors don’t often get to play.

And while I enjoyed the psychology aspect of the film, we go back to the first 15 minutes and I’ve read a few people who are from the military questioning how the US Marines are treated.  I’m not an erudite on military strategy or how soldiers are treated, so I can’t tell you if how these soldiers are portrayed would happen in real life.

Are important missions to two-man teams?  Would a soldier be left in the desert for that long?  Would a soldier be able to withstand movement during a heavy sandstorm, while trying not to lift his foot off a mine?  I don’t have the answer to those questions.  And I’m sure for some people, there would be many questioning those aspects of the film.

But through my research, I was surprised to read that to this very day, there are thousands of people and animals that are killed or seriously injured by mines planted in the desert since World War II. Extraction of the mines have been slow and for the most part, the desert (especially in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and the Sahara Desert) is still unsafe because there are unknown number of land mines that were planted and are still there.

But I watched the film not focused too much on the military operations or storm physics but more of the psychological battle of a man who is trying to fight and survive.

The film was shot in Morocco and with the accompanied VFX special feature, it’s amazing how the location was made to look like a desolate desert in post, to have sand flying around the soldiers and color correcting to make the film look authentic.  In someways, it would have been interesting to have an audio commentary included because I’m curious about how much was invested in the film and if it was shot entirely on a low budget with most of the work done via visual effects during the post-production process.

Overall, I was entertained by the story of a man fighting his inner demons and through his fight for survival, he discovers a lot about himself and his willingess to want to live and be with his fiancee and be a better person.  A solid performance from Armie Hammer and a good debut from Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro, “Mine” is a film worth watching!

 

Those Redheads from Seattle (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Those Redheads from Seattle” may not be a well-known musical classic, but it is a notable American film as the first ever 3-D musical and the first widescreen film released by Paramount Pictures.  And now, one can enjoy the this wonderful Blu-ray release (in 2D and 3-D) courtesy of Kino Lorber.

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


TITLE: Those Redheads from Seattle

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1953

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:66:1 Aspect Ratio

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: May 23, 2017


Directed by Lewis R. Foster

Written by Lewis R. Foster, Daniel Mainwaring, George Worthing Yates

Produced by William H. Pine, William C. Thomas

Music by Sidney Cutner, Leo Shuken

Cinematography by Lionel Lindon

Edited by  Archie Marshek

Art Direction: A. Earl Hedrick, Hal Pereira

Set Decoration by Sam Comer, Ray Moyer

Costume Design by Edith Head


Starring:

Rhonda Fleming as Kathie Edmonds

Gene Barry as Johnny Kisco

Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Edmonds

Teresa Bower as Pat Edmonds

Th Bell Sisters as Connie and Nell Edmonds

Jean Parker as Liz

Roscoe Ates as Dan Taylor

John Kellogg as Mike Yurkil

Frank Wilcox as Vance Edmonds

Walter Reed as Whitey Marks

William Pullen as Rev. Louis Petrie


Newly Restored in HD and 3-D from 2K Scans! A married woman (Agnes Moorehead) takes her four unmarried redheaded daughters (Rhonda Fleming, Teresa Brewer, Cynthia and Kay Bell of The Bell Sisters) to Alaska during the 1898 Gold Rush so they could help their father run his newspaper. All four are members of the singing sister act The Edmonds Sisters, and upon arriving in Yukon they find out their father was murdered. The four heroines get work at the saloon owned by Johnny Kisco (Gene Barry). Kathie Edmonds (Fleming) searches for her father s murderer, who may or may not be Kisco. Hollywood veteran Lewis R. Foster directed this wonderful and colorful musical, which was the first ever 3-D musical and the first widescreen film released by Paramount Pictures.


In 1953, the 3-D American Technicolor film “Those Redheads from Seattle” was released in theaters.

While “Kiss Me Kate”, the November 1953 MGM film adaptation of the Broadway musical, was considered as the first 3-D musical, Paramount Pictures “Those Redheads from Seattle” was released a month before and is now considered the first ever 3-D Musical.  Also the first widescreen film released by Paramount Pictures.

“Those Redheads from Seattle” was directed by Lewis R. Foster (who wrote the film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “The More the Merrier”) and co-written along with Daniel Mainwaring and George Worthing Yates.

The film stars Rhonda Fleming (“Spellbound”, “Out of the Past”, “The Spiral Staircase”), Gene Barry (“Burke’s Law”, “The War of the Worlds”, “Bat Masterson”), Agnes Moorehead (“Bewitched”, “Citizen Kane”, “The Magnificent Ambersons”), music artist Teresa Brewer, singing duo The Bell Sisters, singer Guy Mitchell and John Kellogg (“Twelve O’Clock High”, “The Greatest Show on Earth”).

The 3-D film was remastered in 2K and now “Those Readheads from Seattle” will be released (both 2D and 3-D versions together on Blu-ray) courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film is set in Alaska during the 1898 Gold rush and Dawson is a booming community. We see an article on the Dawson Daily Bonanza newspaper with the heaadline “No Place in Dawson for Klondike Club – say Law Abiding Ciizens” and how the newspaper would be publishing prison records of Klondike Club employees.  And then we see a man burning the newspaper and then we see the Daily Bonanza warehouse on fire.

Dawson Daily Bonanza publisher, Vance Edmonds (portrayed by Frank Wilcox) and the citizens suspect that someone working for John Kisco (portrayed by Gene Barry), owner of the Klondike Club is responsible.  And Edmonds confronts Kisco’s partner Mike Yurkil (portrayed by John Kellogg) and splashes water on him.

Despite the warehouse being burned down, Edmonds manages to use wallpaper to publish the latest newspaper and goes into the Klondike Club to present that day’s newspaper. Johnny confronts Mike and Mike admits that he burned the warehouse and John warns him to stop because it will give his place a bad name.

Seeing that Vance may pose a problem, while writing his family back home to not visit Alaska (due to the problems), while on his way to mail the letter, he is shot and killed by Mike, who then suddenly disappears.

Back home, we are introduced to the Edmonds family.  Pat (portrayed by Teresa Brewer) is the daughter he saw a burlesque and would love to be onstage doing that type of career, while oldest sister Kathie (portrayed by Rhonda Fleming) is more conservative.  Meanwhile, middle sister Connie (member of the Bell Sisters) has a similarity with her sisters that they each have red hair, with the exception of younger sister Nell (the other half of the Bell Sisters) who has blonde hair and often teased by her sisters because of her hair color and also because she tends to tattle on them.

While the Edmonds live a lavish life and each of them are well-educated, with their mother (portrayed by Agnes Moorehead) worried about her husband, she and the family make the decision to travel to Alaska. When they arrive, the family has been waiting for transportation to take them to Dawson but after a week waiting, they are still stranded in Skagway.

When the ladies arrive, middle sister Connie Edmonds strikes a friendship with Joe Keenan (portrayed by Guy Mitchell), a singer who comes to Alaska to perform at the Klondike Club and wanting to help the Edmonds family get to Dawson, convinces his friend Joe to bring the family and escort them to Dawson.  While John was unwilling, when he finds out that they are the family of Vance Edmond’s, feeling guilty for what his partner did to Mr. Edmonds, he decides to help the Edmonds family get to Dawson.

When the ladies and their mother arrive to Dawson to book a room at the hotel, he is unaware that the family does not know what happened to Mr. Edmonds.  While no one has the guts to tell them that Mr. Edmonds had passed, Johnny has Rev. Louis Petrie (portrayed by William Pullen) tell Mrs. Edmonds and the children the bad news.

But as there is an attraction by Kathie and Johnny, when she finds out that he knew that her father was killed, she wants nothing to do with him.  But to make things worse, while she still has feelings for Johnny, her sister Pat comes in and kisses him and reveals that she has become one of the burlesque dancers at his club (Johnny has feelings for Kathie but due to the circumstances, he knows that the kiss from Pat probably hurt his chances with her).

This leads Kathie to continue the work that her father had done and that is to be the new editor of the newspaper.

But what will happen between John and Kathie?  And will the murderer of Mr. Edmonds ever be caught?


VIDEO:

“Those Redheads from Seattle” maintains the Technicolor look and thanks to the restoration and 2K remastering, the film’s colors are much more vibrant, detail is much more evident.  But while the HD restoration no doubt makes this film look great on Blu-ray, watching the film in 3-D, was quite amazed of how much went into the 3-D of this film in 1953.

Credits are shown in different levels and for an older 3-D film, there is impressive depth, much better than a few modern 3-D films that I have watched.  Overall, a wonderful restoration by the 3-D Film Archive.

It’s important to note that to watch the 3-D version of the film, you must have a 3-D enabled Blu-ray player and 3-D glasses.  Otherwise you can select the 2-D version.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Those Redheads from Seattle” is presented in the film’s original 1953 monaural soundtrack (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0) and also a 3.0 soundtrack.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear through either soundtrack.

It’s important to note that the original 1953 3-channel magnetic stereophonic tracks no longer survive.  So, this is a new 3.0 stereo mix from existing elements.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Those Redheads in Seattle” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by film historians Hillary Hess, Greg Kintz, Jack Theakston and Bob Furmanek.
  • Restoration Demo – (5:25) 3-D Film Archive discusses the restoration demo through comparisons and the challenges they faced for the restoration.
  • 3-Channel Stereo Demo – (3:00) A demonstration via the song “Chick-a-Boom” and how the central channel is utilized with the front channels.
  • Interview with Rhonda Fleming – (8:15) An interview with Rohnda Fleming by Bob Furmanek at the 2006 3-D screening at the World 3-D Expo in Hollywood.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

“Those Redheads from Seattle” will historically be known to be one of the first drama/musical films to be released in 3-D.  In fact, technically it is the first 3-D drama/musical, despite MGM proclaiming “Kiss Me Kate” of being the first 3-D musical, the Paramount Pictures film came out one month before the MGM film.

The film would star the popular Rhonda Fleming (who starred in the Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck, Alfred Hitchcock 1945 film “Spellbound”), while Gene Barry was known for his work on “The War of the Worlds”.

“Those Redheads from Seattle” would also star music artist Teresa Brewer (popular for her hit songs “Music! Music! Music!” and “‘Till I Waltz Again With You”), music duo The Bell Sisters (best known for their songs “Bermuda”, their cover of “Wheel of Fortune”) and music artist Guy Mitchell (known for his hits “My Heart Cries For You”, “Singing the Blues”, “Heartaches By the Number” and “My Truly, Truly Fair”).

The film is quite entertaining and also humorous.  As it deals with a love triangle between sisters Kathie and Pat vying for John Kisco.  Also, drama as Kathie is upset that John never told her that he knew about their father’s murder and that his partner was responsible.  This leads Kathie taking up the newspaper publisher/editor mantle of her deceased father and continuing his goal to stop the Klondike Bar, which is run by John Kisco.  John’s livelihood is the club but he also has fallen for Kathie Edmonds.

Comedy is primarily for younger Bell Sisters, Kay Strother, who places Nell Edmonds, the only sister with blonde hair.  And the treatment the redhead sisters give to their younger sister, treating her that she may not be part of the family, which upsets their very conservative mother, played by Agnes Moorhead.

And while the 2K restoration of this film look great on Blu-ray, what made me watch this film in awe is how well-planned the 3-D was for this film, when it came to how the credits were featured and the depth which was very great for its time and even bests a few of the 3-D films of today.  But of course, the technology of the time was not perfect, as viewers suffered headaches or eye problems during the earlier years of 3-D and not much was known about the technology, other than trying to get people into the movie theater as the theaters saw television being a major threat.  But whichever version you want to see, both 2D and 3-D version of the films are included.

Also, included is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 monaural soundtrack and also a new three channel stereophonic sound soundtrack as well.

As for special features, the Blu-ray comes with an audio commentary by film historians Hillary Hess, Greg Kintz, Jack Theakson and Bob Furmanek, a 2006 interview with actress Rhonda Fleming who plays the role of Kathie, the before/after restoration and a stereophonic sound demonstration.

Overall, “Those Redheads from Seattle” may not be a well-known musical classic, but it is a notable American film as the first ever 3-D musical and the first widescreen film released by Paramount Pictures.  And now, one can enjoy the this wonderful Blu-ray release (in 2D and 3-D) courtesy of Kino Lorber.

 

Kill ‘Em All (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Action-packed and entertaining, Jean-Claude Van Damme still shows us that he shows no sign of slowing down as an action star and that he can still deliver in Peter Malota’s directorial debut, “Kill ‘Em All”.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Kill Em All Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Kill ‘Em All

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 96 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1, English, French, Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Polish VO 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese (Simplifed), Chinese (Traditional), Croatian, Czech, French, Hebrew, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovaine, Spanish (Castillan), Spanish (Latin American), Thai, Turkish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: NR (Violence and Language)

RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017


Directed by Peter Malota

Written by Jesse Cilio, Brian Smolensky, Craig Stewart

Music by Aldo Shilaku

Cinematography by Mark Rutledge

Edited by Yvan Gauthier

Casting by Jillian Hendrix 

Production Design by Joe Lemmon

Set Decoration by David Wade Jackson, Steve Moon

Costume Design by Tamika Jackson


Starring:

Jean-Claude Van Damme as Philip

Autum Reeser as Suzanne

Peter Stormare as CIA Agent Holman

Maria Conchita Alonso as FBI Agent Sanders

Kris Van Damme as Dusan

Daniel Bernhardt as Radovan

Paul Sampson as Klaus


After a massive shootout, a mysterious stranger (Van Damme) arrives at a local hospital on the brink of death. Then, a foreign gang brazenly comes to the hospital to hunt him down. His nurse, the sole surviving witness to the follow-up shootout, must face an FBI interrogation that unlocks a plot of international intrigue and revenge. With enough twists and turns, Kill ‘Em All will keep you guessing until the final bullet is fired.


From filmmaker Peter Malota (stuntman for “Double Impact”, “Universal Soldier”, “The Butterfly Effect 3”) and writers Jesse Cilio, Brian Smolensky and Craig Stewart comes an action film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme (“Double Impact”, “Universal Soldier”, “Kickboxer”), Autumn Reeser (“The O.C.”, “Entourage”, “The Arrangement”), Peter Stormare (“Fargo”, “22 Jump Street”, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”), Maria Conchita Alonso (“The Running Man”, “Predator 2”, “The House of the Spirits”), Kris Van Damme (“Assassination Games, “6 Bullets”, “Universal Soldier: Regeneration”), Daniel Bernhardt (“John Wick”, “Logan”, “The Matrix Reloaded”) and Paul Sampson (“Night of the Templar”, “Whacked!”, “Rage”).

The film is told in the present during a tragic hospital attack and and an FBI interrogation between CIA Agent Holman (portrayed by Peter Stormare) and FBI Agent Sanders (portrayed by Maria Conchita Alonso) and the hospital nurse, Suzanne (portrayed by Autumn Reeser) about what happened at the hospital.

We then see what transpired at the hospital earlier.  When a badly injured man named Philip (portrayed by Jean-Claude Van Damme) arrives to the hospital, he is given care by the nurse, Suzanne.

But not long after, Radovan (portrayed by Daniel Bernhardt) and a group of assassins go to the hospital and start killing people onsite, as they go to look for Philip.

As Philip and Suzanne try to find safety, numerous assassins are intent of killing the two.

Why is Philip being targeted?  And will he and Suzanne survive the ordeal?


VIDEO:

“Kill ‘Em All” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and vibrant. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kill ‘Em All” is presented in English, French and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Hungarian, Polish VO 5.1 Dolby Digital. Because the heavy amount of action in this film, the film utilizes the surround channels and LFE very well.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese (Simplifed), Chinese (Traditional), Croatian, Czech, French, Hebrew, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovaine, Spanish (Castillan), Spanish (Latin American), Thai, Turkish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kill ‘Em All” comes with no special features but a trailer.


Jean-Claude Van Damme is an action star that has entertained audiences for four decades.  Among the numerous action stars who continue to show that they can still deliver action films and Van Damme repeatedly showing us that he’s still in solid form and can still pull off the damaging kicks that he had been known for throughout his career, he returns once again for another action film titled “Kill ‘Em All”.

The film reunites Van Damme with stunt coordinator and fight choreographer Peter Malota (both worked on the 1991 film “Double Impact” and the 1992 film “Universal Soldier”) who makes his directorial debut.

And for Van Damme’s latest film, while Van Damme has numerous action scenes for 50% of the time, the film follows the character Suzanne, who many people will remember Autumn Reeser from the popular drama series, “The O.C.”.  As Suzanne is primarily with Van Damme’s character Philip in terms of giving care or hiding behind him to find safety from the assassins, she is also being interrogated by CIA Agent Holman (Stormare) and FBI Agent Sanders (Alonso), with Agent Holman not believing Suzanne and feels that she is hiding something.

While Reeser is known for her dramatic roles, in “Kill ‘Em All”, the actress gets to fight and no doubt had to train for her role.  And also, another film starring JVD’s son, Kris showing that he is an up-and-coming action star.

The film is heavy on action as we get to see Daniel Bernhardt as Radovan leading a group of assassins to take down Philip and this sets up one-on-one confrontations between JVD and these assassins, while Reeser’s Suzanne takes on beautiful assassin, Serbian model Mila Kaladjurdjevic.

For the most part, “Kill ‘Em All” is a popcorn action film from beginning to an end, and the ending is reserved with a special twist that I surely didn’t see coming.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality and lossless audio are great.  Unfortunately, no special features are included, so this is a barebones Blu-ray release.

Action-packed and entertaining, Jean-Claude Van Damme still shows us that he shows no sign of slowing down as an action star and that he can still deliver in Peter Malota’s directorial debut, “Kill ‘Em All”.

 

One Piece: Heart of Gold (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Definitely one of the more exciting “One Piece” films I have watched in a decade and definitely the best looking “One Piece” film created. If you are looking for a “One Piece” film with action, wonderful animation and awesome voice acting, definitely give “One Piece Film Gold” a try!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: One Piece: Heart of Gold

ORIGINAL TV AIR DATE: 2016

DURATION: 130 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: May 2, 2017


Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Tatsuya Nagamine

Script by Tsutomu Kuroiwa

Music by Kohei Tanaka, Shiroh Hamaguchi, Yasunori Iwasaki

Character Design by Keiichi Ichikawa

Art Director: Yoshito Watanabe, Yukako Ogawa

Chief Animation Director: Keiichi Ichikawa

Animation Production by Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Young as Nico Robin

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Ian Sinclair as Brook

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Akron Watson as Psycho P

Kiko Mizuhara/Kenneisha Thompson as Naomi Drunk

Kiyohiko Shibukawa/Bryn Apprill as Ashie Miskina

Minami Hamabe/Sara Ragsdale as Orga Miskina

Shun Oguri/Troy Hughes as Mad Treasure



“ONE PIECE” is a popular anime series based on the popular manga series serialized in Shonen Jump by Eiichiro Oda. Suffice to say, “ONE PIECE” is the highest selling manga for Weekly Shonen Jump and its popularity has extended to various anime (via the TV series, OVA and films) and video games in America and also worldwide.

The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is in its 18th season and a total of over 776 episodes having been aired in Japan. Several animated films, many video games and for the most part, a very successful anime/manga series worldwide.

“ONE PIECE” is an adventure anime about a 17-year-old boy named Monkey D. Luffy who gained enormous strength (and stretching abilities) after eating a magical demon fruit. He eventually teams up with a group of pirates and have the name “The Straw Hats”. Luffy’s driven to one day obtain the most sought out treasure known as “One Piece” and eventually become the King of the Pirates.

To help promote the 13th “One Piece” film titled “One Piece Film Gold”, a TV special (the eleventh) was released on television in July 2016.

The film begins with the World Government and a man known as Mad Treasure pursuing a girl named Myskina Olga.  The reason why they are pursuing her is she knows the location of the Pure Gold, a substance that can buy the entire world.

While managing to escape, she approaches the Straw Hat Pirates and they make a deal to split the profits if they can find the Pure Gold.

And so it leads the group to the lost island of Alchemi, which is located inside the stomach of a large anglerfish known as Bonbori.

Unfortunately, Luffy and Olga are separated from the others but while hanging out, Luffy learns from Olga that she is actually 200 years old and she harbors a grudge towards her father for the death of her mother and most of all, making the Pure Gold which was eaten by Bonbori.

As Mad Treasure and his crew are able to capture Olga and the Straw Hat Pirates, Luffy who is on his own ends up meeting Myskina Acer, Olga’s father.  Who has no idea that his daughter is still alive.  Meanwhile, Zoro and Sanji who were not captured, try to stage a rescue attempt.  But standing in their way are Mad Treasure’s subordinates, Naomi Drunk and Psycho P.

Will Olga and the Straw Hat Pirates discover the Pure Gold?


VIDEO:

“One Piece: Heart of Gold” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the film looks vibrant. While a TV special, the animation looks fantastic and not too soft.  Colors look great!  Animation production from Toei Animation is magnificent!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“One Piece: Heart of Gold” is presented in Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 . Both soundtracks are fantastic and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the center, front and surround channels. But of course, with the English track having a 5.1 soundtrack is the better of the two.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“One Piece Film: Heart of Gold” comes with a theatrical trailer.

EXTRAS:

“One Piece Film Gold” comes with the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


The 11th “One Piece” TV special makes its way to North America along with the 13th “One Piece” film titled “One Piece Film Gold” and serves as correlation to promote the film.

Entertaining, fun and action-packed, the series features the Straw Hat Pirates teaming up with a young girl named Olga, who looks very young but is actually 200 years old and many people are pursuing her because she know the location of Pure Gold, which will allow anyone to buy the world.

While a fun film, Olga is literally a brat.  Often arguing or critical, it’s part of her life of being alone since the death of her parents.  And she has harbored a grunge towards her father because of the death of her mother.

While Luffy and Olga search for the Pure Gold, the others (except Sanji and Zoro) are captured by the main antagonist of the film, Mad Treasure.  A formidable opponent, there to fight for their boss are Naomi Drunk and Psycho P.

For the most part, the special is like other “One Piece” films with a balance of humor and action but the only thing that was not as fun to watch was Olga, who is pretty much a major brat.  But when you see her start to settle down as she sees others who are willing to fight for what they believe in.

While I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t watch “One Piece Film Gold”, you will see a few characters from the film mentioned and certain actions that lead to the group visiting the location featured in the film.  So, there is a solid connection from special to film and most importantly, make sure you watch the film after the ending credits, as there is a major teaser scene for “One Piece Film Gold”.

As for the Blu-ray, surprisingly there are no special features.  It’s a barebones Blu-ray release that looks and sounds good in HD.  Unfortunately, aside from the single trailer, there are no special features included.

Overall, an action-packed, entertaining and fun “One Piece” TV special worth watching.  Especially if you are a big fan of the anime/manga series!

 

Sky on Fire (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Ringo Lam films are known for its action-packed scenes and for popcorn action fans, “Sky on Fire” has plenty of it.  But if you are wanting a comprehensive story to go along with the action, unfortunately the film is hurt by a convoluted story involving too many characters and scenarios.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Skyman Development. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sky on Fire

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 100 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 aspect ratio, Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017


Directed by Ringo Lam

Written by Ringo Lam

Music by Dave Klotz

Cinematography by Man Lung Choi

Edited by David M. Richardson


Starring:

Hsiao-chuan Chang as Jia

Daniel Wu as Chong Tin-Po

Simon Yam

Amber Kuo as Jane

Zhang Ruoyun as Ziwan

Leon Lai

Ka Tung Kam

Jingchu Zhang as Gao Yu

Fan Guangyao as Wing-cheung


In this driving, non-stop action thriller, the chief security officer at a top-secret medical facility finds himself caught in an explosive battle when a young thief and his accomplices steal a groundbreaking curative medicine. After discovering the true origins of the medicine, the officer must decide whom he can trust to protect the cure from falling into the wrong hands and prevent an all-out war from bringing the city to its knees.

Famous for his dedication to realism and his use of practical effects, Ringo Lam is known as one of the most acclaimed action directors of all time. Now, teaming up with emerging superstar Daniel Wu (AMC s Into the Badlands), Lam s latest opus Sky on Fire promises to take the filmmaker s craft to a whole new level, with operatic gunfights and a twisting plot that will be immediately familiar and immensely satisfying to any fan of Hong Kong action cinema.


Filmmaker Ringo Lam is an action director known for martial art films such as “Full Contact”, “Twin Dragons”, “City on Fire”, “Full Alert” and Jean Claude Van Damme films “Maximum Risk” and “Replicant”.

Creating HK action films throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Lam would explore comedy and darker storyline in the 2000s.  But with his latest action film “Sky on Fire”, Lam makes his return to the hard-hitting action type of films that he is best known for.

The film stars Daniel Wu (“New Police Story”, “One Night in Mongkok”, “Warcraft: The Beginning”),  Hsiao-chuan Chang (“The Laundryman”, “Prince of Tears”, “Girlfriend Boyfriend”), Amber Kuo (“Au revoir Taipei”, “Love”, “Keeper of Darkness”).

In the film we are introduced to several characters. Tingbo (portrayed by Daniel Wu) is a security guard who is mourning his wife’s death from cancer.   We are also introduced to a trucker named Jia (portrayed by Hisago-chuan Chang) who is trying to help his sick sister Jane (portrayed by Amber Kuo) who traveled to Kowloon in hopes for Jane to get experimental stem-cell cancer treatment.

We are then introduced to a character flashback at the company where Tingbo works and see Professor Lee dying in a fire while a his female counterpart, Ko Yu (portrayed by Zhang Yingchu) is devastated by Lee’s death.  We learn that Tingbo works for Tang (portrayed by Fan-kuang Yao), a man who cares about nothing but profit and wants to use Professor Lee’s research to make money from stem-cell to create a mega drug for big profits.

Tang hires rival security guard Wolf (portrayed by Li Haitao) to prevent Professor Lee’s son Ziwan (portrayed by Zhang Ruo Yun) who is seeking revenge against him for the death of his father.

But when Jia and Jane are refused for a meeting for stem-cell research, they steal a lab van with a scientist and Ziwan joins them on a ride.

And Tingbo, is he a man who will support his crooked boss or the people fighting against him?


VIDEO:

“Sky on Fire” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and vibrant. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sky on Fire” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Because the heavy amount of action in this film, the film utilizes the surround channels and LFE very well. Frenetic action throughout the film, “Sky on Fire” has an action-driven lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sky on Fire” comes with no special features but a trailer.


I have enjoyed past Ringo Lam films in the past and while I am thrilled to see the filmmaker’s return for a modern action film, unfortunately this film tries to incorporate a several storylines that involve too many characters and the result, we have a confusing story that is further all over the place due to the film’s action-packed storyline.

I kind of liken the film to a summary film that we see from Asian TV dramas.  As Asian TV dramas will have several episodes, there is sometimes a summary episode which takes bits and pieces from each episode to make one episode to get people caught up.  In this case, “Sky on Fire” feels like we have bits and pieces of people’s lives that we don’t know why certain situations are happening.  This happens to frequently that you may find yourself confused by watching this film.

In some ways, I found the film an ode to older (not so popular) Hong Kong action films with plenty of action and sketchy character development.

Overall, Ringo Lam films are known for its action-packed scenes and for popcorn action fans, “Sky on Fire” has plenty of it.  But if you are wanting a comprehensive story to go along with the action, unfortunately the film is hurt by a convoluted story involving too many characters and scenarios.

 

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