Top

The Zookeeper’s Wife (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” is a holocaust film that is entertaining, full of hope and based on a true story.  It’s not heavy or too deep, nor is there too much danger presented onscreen but mostly capturing human emotion to one another, towards animals and more.  These elements makes the film enjoyable from beginning to end.  And I recommend it!

Images courtesy of © 2016 ZOOKEEPERS WIFE, L.P. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Zookeeper’s Wife

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 2 Hrs., 6 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Espanol DTS Digital Surroudn 5.1, Subtitles: English, Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1, English DVS Dolby Digital 2.0

COMPANY: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: July 4, 2017


Based on the book by Diane Ackerman

Directed by Niki Caro

Screenplay by Angela Worman

Produced by Jeff Abberley, Diane Miller Levin, Jamie Patricof

Executive Producer: Julia Blackman, Marc Butan, Jessica Chastain, Mickey Liddell, Jennifer Monroe, Joanne Sennitt, Pete Shilaimon, Michael Tollin, Robbie Tollin, Kevan Van Thompson

Co-Producer: Katie McNeill

Music by Harry Gregson-Williams

Cinematography by Andrij Parekh

Edited by David Coulson

Production Design by Suzie Davies

Art Direction: Jan Kalous, Dan Taylor, Magdalena Zemanova

Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts 

Costume Design: Bina Daigeler


Starring:

Jessica Chastain as Antonina Zabinska

Johan Heidenbergh as Jan Zabinski

Daniel Bruhl  as Lutz Heck

Timothy Radford as Ryszard Zabinski (younger)

Efrat Dor as Magda Gross

Iddo Goldberg as Maurycy Fraenkel

Shira Haas as Urszula

Michael McElhatton as Jerzyk

Val Maloukou as Ryszard Zabsinki (Older)


In 1939 Poland, Antonina Zabinska (two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain) and her husband successfully run the Warsaw Zoo and raise their family in an idyllic existence. Their world is overturned, however, when the country is invaded by the Nazis and they are forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed zoologist (Daniel Brühl). To fight back on their own terms, the Zabinskis risk everything by covertly working with the Resistance and using the zoo’s hidden tunnels and cages to save families from Nazi brutality.


Based on the book “The Zookeeper’s Wife” by Diane Ackerman, based on the unpublished diary of Antonina Zabinski, the film with the same name, is based on Jan Zabinski, the director of the Warsaw Zoo and his wife Antonina Zabinski.

The two are known for saving the live of 300 Jews who were imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto following the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.  Yad Vashem (Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust) recognized Jan and Antonina Zabinski as “Righteous Among the Nations”.

The film is directed by Niki Caro (“Whale Rider, “North Country”, “McFarland, USA”) with a screenplay by Angela Workman (“Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” and “War Bride:).

The film stars Jessica Chastain (“The Martian”, “Zero Dark Thirty”, “The Help”), Johan Heldenbergh (“The Broken Circle Breakdown”, “Moscow, Belgium”, “The Brand New Testament”), Daniel Bruhl (“Inglorious Basterds”, Good Bye Lenin!”, “The Bourne Ultimatum”), Efrat Dor (“Asfur”, “Cupcakes”, “Dowtown Precinct”), Iddo Goldberg (“Secret Diary of a Call Girl”, “Salem”, “Peaky Blinders”), Shira Haas (“Princess”, “Shtisel”, “The Body Remembers”), Michael McElhatton (“Game of Thrones”, “The Fall”, “Genius”).

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film begins with an introduction to Dr. Jan Zabinska (portrayed by Johan Heldenbergh) and his wife Antonina (portrayed by Jessica Chastain).  Jan is the director of the Warsaw Zoo, while his wife Antonia is one of the keepers and cares deeply about the animals.

The two are parents to Ryszard (portrayed by Timothy Radford and Val Maloku) and one evening they entertain Berlin Zoo zoologist, Dr. Lutz Heck (portrayed by Daniel Bruhl).  Heck observes how Antonina cares for the animals and all would seem good with the zoo.

That is until an aerial bombardment of Warsaw and German forces start to storm Poland.  Many of the animals are killed and Dr. Jan Zabinski and the family are stuck at the zoo.  Dr. heck arrives to the zoo and tells Antonina that he wants to save the “prize” specimens, but she will have to let him have them.  Antonia, wanting to keep the animals alive agrees to do it.

But when Heck arrives, he has his men slaughter the animals, because he said that he had them killed out of mercy as they would have died in the cold.

Meanwhile, many of the Jews are moved to the Ghetto and the Zabinski’s friends, Maurycy Frankel (portrayed by Iddo Goldberg) and his girlfriend Magda Gross (portrayed by Efrat Dor) seek haven.  The Zabinski’s knowing the danger decide to offer shelter to Magda in a zoo cage in the attic, knowing that if they are caught, they would be killed by the Nazi.

The Zabinski’s realize they could use the zoo as a safe haven for the Jews but also use the zoo as a getaway whenever he needs to get supplies for animals, so they work out a deal with Dr. Heck that they can use the zoo as a pig farm to feed the soldiers, and Heck realizes that he can also use the zoo to test his bison specimens in hopes to experiment on them and recreate ancient beasts.

So, Heck makes it happen and immediately, and while Jan Zabinski starts to find ways to slowly bring Jews to hide them in the zoo and also create papers to make them German and also dying their hair blonde in hopes it will get them to safety.

But while Jan is gone, trying to save Jews, Antonina tries to keep the Jews hiding in the attic of their home safe, even if it means letting Dr. Heck getting close to her, which her husband disapproves of.


VIDEO:

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40 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:

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DVS 2.0 and Espanol DTS Digital Surround 5.1. Dialogue is crystal clear and surround channels utilize environment ambiance, but also moments of aerial bombings.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Espanol and Francais.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Zookeper’s Wife” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes– (4:00) Featuring seven deleted scenes.
  • The Making of the Zookeeper’s Wife – (7:05) Featuring author Diane Ackerman, the producers and film’s stars.
  • The Zabinski Family – (3:56) A featurette about the Zabinski family and the Warsaw Zoo.

EXTRAS:

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD plus an Ultraviolet HD Code.


Niki Caro’s film, “The Zookeeper’s Wife” manages to showcase the true story of the Zabinski family.  Jan and his wife Antonina, who used the Warsaw Zoo to hide hundreds of Jews and help them escape is a true story that showcases the high risk involved by the couple and the great lengths they had of trying to make it happen.

For the most part, the film is equally entertaining and captivating.  Jessica Chastain and Johan Heldenbergh’s performance were wonderful but what I found even more mesmerizing is how far the Zabinski’s went in trying to plan this refuge out but also how the Warsaw Zoo, which is thriving today, played a big part of how the Zabinski’s were able to rescue so many people.

But for those who watch film adaptations of true stories, the stories are often seeded with fictional situations and to make them a movie, there are are situations that never happened.  Through the diaries of Antonina Zabinski, we know about the risks involved and what the family had to endure.  But the film’s antagonist, Daniel Bruhl, who was a real-life German zoologist, animal researcher and director of the Berlin Zoological Garden, was indeed trying to recreate extinct wild animals.

It is true that the he was a high ranking officer and it was true that he came into contact with the Zabinki family.  But unlike the film, the real Heck was no longer needed once the pig farm was established, so there was no sexual advances or any major cowering of Antonina by the real-life Dr. Heck.

If anything, there were characters and situations created primarily for dramatic tension, which is understandable.  One can also read about what is fact and fiction, by clicking here.

Still, the film manages to be entertaining and for some people, also educational.  “The Zookeper’s Wife” was one of the most successful independent films to be released in 2017 but some may feel the film doesn’t play out the horror that was being inflicted on Jews.  Nothing too shocking or violent, if anything, the film plays it safely, to the point that it makes the film free of any major tension but also relieves the film from being overly heavy.  Those wanting nothing too deep will find “The Zookeepers Wife” to be a fine balance of between a film that has hope but less despairity compared to other holocaust films.

The Blu-ray features great detail and for the most part, the film looks great when shown close-up.  Lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and ambiance and also a few special features are included.

Overall, “The Zookeeper’s Wife” is a holocaust film that is entertaining, full of hope and based on a true story.  It’s not heavy or too deep, nor is there too much danger presented onscreen but mostly capturing human emotion to one another, towards animals and more.  These elements makes the film enjoyable from beginning to end.  And I recommend it!

 

Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete Blu-ray Set (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic” is a fantastic, action-packed season with a wonderful second half that makes one crave for more!   I’m really hoping there is a third season but if you want an entertaining, action-driven anime series with a lot of humor and heart, definitely give “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic and “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic” on Blu-ray a chance! 

Purchase from Right-Stuf

Images courtesy of © 2012 Shinobu Ohtaka/SHOGAKUKAN, Magi Committee, MBS. All rights reserved.


TITLE: Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete Blu-ray Set

DURATION: Episodes 1-25 (or 26-50 if both seasons include) (625 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9 HD Widescreen), English and Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: June 27, 2017


Originally Created by Shinobu Ohtaka

Directed by Koji Masunari

Series Composition by Hiroyuki Yoshino

Screenplay by Masanao Akahoshi

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Character Design by Toshifumi Akai

Art Director by Ayu Kawamoto, Taichi Maezuka

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kaori Ishihara/Erica Mendez as Aladdin

Yuuki Kaji/Erik Kimerer as Alibaba Saluja

Haruka Tomatsu/Cristina Vee as Morgiana

Darrel Guilbeau/Kensho Ono as Ren Hakuryu

Julie Ann Taylor/Asami Seto as Seishun Li

Keith Silverstein/Yoshimasa Hosoya as Masrur

Kira Buckland/Kana Hanazawa as Ren Kogyuku

Lucien Dodge.Takahiro Sakurai as Ja’far

Marc Diraison/Shinichiro Miki as Ithnan

Matthew Mercer/Daisuke Ono as Sinbad

Patrick Seitz/Toshiyuki Morikawa as Ugo

Sean Chiplock/Jun Fukuyama as Cassim

Todd Haberkorn/Ryohei Kimura as Judal

Trinity Lee/Nana Mizuki as Ren Hakuei

Vic Mignogna/Kenichi Suzumura as Ka Kobun

 


Equipped with a charm to mask his powers as a Magi, Aladdin arrives to Magnoshutatt to study magic, with another goal—to investigate the nation’s relation with the Al-Tharmen, the power behind the “Abnormalities of the World.”

While training at the academy, Aladdin meets Titus Alexius, a prodigy from the Leam Empire, who also has the same charm as Aladdin’s


With the success of conquering a dungeon, Aladdin, Alibaba, Morgiana and Hakuryu Ren know that they must each embark on a new journey alone.

Aladdin must train to become a stronger magi, Alibaba travels to the Leam Empire to challenge the gladiators, Morgiana heads to her homeland of Katarg and Hakuryu makes his return to the Kou Empire as a different man.

Will each of them learning anything from their training?

Find out in “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete Blu-ray Set”.

What is “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” about?

When it comes to opportunities of becoming a manga writer/artist (mangaka), Shinobu Ohtaka’s story.

She has written about her story of how she became a manga artist, as a person who was the person who would sit quietly in the corner of class and was not really great at anything and often playing a supporting role. But if there was one thing that she was confident in, it was drawing pictures.

And now this shy artist would not only have a hit manga but also anime series!

Her first year in high school, she was submitting manga manuscripts because it was her dream to become a manga author. And like many writers, her submissions were denied and this continued through high school and college. And when she was about to call it quits, she was given the opportunity to do a one-shot and it led to the creation of the series “Sumomo Momomo” in 2004 which would eventually become a 34 volume manga series (as of June 2017) and also a 50-episode anime series (for both “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” and “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic”).

And now both seasons will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex.

In the second season of the series, the story takes place after Aladdin, Alibaba, Morgiana and Hakuryu have defeated the dungeon.

But with Aladdin wanting to leave and go on his own adventure in order to grow stronger and study magic, the others realize they need to get stronger too and each go on their own direction.

For Aladdin, he knows he must learn how to master his magic and find out what kind of magic he can take control of. But needs to learn the power behind the “Abnormalities of the World”.  He comes across a mysterious prodigy from Lea named Titus Alexius.  But who is this man?

Alibaba must get stronger, so he decides to challenge the gladiators of the coliseum but he learns that he has two magoi in his body that may tear his insides apart.

Meanwhile, Morgiana goes back to her home of Katarg but is told that if she goes to other side of the mountain, she will be unable to come back to the other side.

As Hyakuren goes back to the Kou Empire in hopes that he will be the new leader but someone else has been assigned as leader.

Also, Aladdin continues his training at the Academy but the Academy’s Director has his own plans of what he is expecting from the magician’s and that is all out war against non-magicians.


VIDEO:

“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The series is well-animated, well-shaded and tends to feature hilarious character designs during the more comedy scenes, while showcasing emotion and drama during the most serious situations. Action scenes are well-animated, background art is well-detailed and painted beautifully.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo. Audio on the Blu-ray is front-channel driven but voice acting is well-done for both Japanese and English soundtracks. Dialogue, sound effects and music are crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening and Endings
  • English Version Trailer

EXTRAS:

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” comes with a slipcase.


With the second season of “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic”, we get a whole season dedicated to the training and growth of each of four individuals: Aladdin, Alibaba, Morgiana and Hakuryu for the first half.

But the storyline for the second half focuses on Aladdin and his year-long training at a magician’s academy, growing in power, learning about magic but also preparing for a major war in the Kou Empire as true evil has descended in the land.

As episodes 13-16 focuses on Aladdin’s training, by episode 17, war begins as what begins as a major battle between nations, grows to a major battle against a monster that drains all White Rukh.

But what I enjoyed about this second half of season two is the focus on Aladdin and seeing him grow. He’s come such a long way since we first saw him and now he’s taller, he’s braver and he’s starting to get a better grasp of what is important to him but also what he wants to fight against.

I know my summary is quite vague but in truth, I really don’t want to spoil or even mentioned in the second half, who appears because the battles are intense and the storyline is quite appealing that it no doubt sets up for even more stories in the future. Expect to see a few surprises, especially for the viewer who have followed the series for so long. And especially in the final minutes of episode 5, which I never saw coming!

The Blu-ray release doesn’t have any significant special features but the textless opening and ending themes and an English trailer. Also, the swag that were included on the original DVD releases such as the two-sided deluxe illustration board and a mini-poster are not included. But you do get all 25 episodes in this one set in HD! So, it all comes down to if you are in it for the series or the swag? If you are more for the swag, then you may want to search out the 2015 DVD releases.

Overall, “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic” is a fantastic, action-packed season with a wonderful second half that makes one crave for more!   I’m really hoping there is a third season but if you want an entertaining, action-driven anime series with a lot of humor and heart, definitely give “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic and “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic” on Blu-ray a chance!

Purchase from Right-Stuf

 

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete Blu-ray Set (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” is awesome! Highly entertaining, full of action and humor! Definitely recommended!

Purchase from Rightstuf

Images courtesy of © 2012 Shinobu Ohtaka/SHOGAKUKAN, Magi Committee, MBS. All rights reserved.


TITLE: Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete Blu-ray Set

DURATION: Episodes 1-25 (625 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9 HD Widescreen), English and Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: June 27, 2017


Originally Created by Shinobu Ohtaka

Directed by Koji Masunari

Series Composition by Hiroyuki Yoshino

Screenplay by Masanao Akahoshi

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Character Design by Toshifumi Akai

Art Director by Ayu Kawamoto, Taichi Maezuka

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kaori Ishihara/Erica Mendez as Aladdin

Yuuki Kaji/Erik Kimerer as Alibaba Saluja

Haruka Tomatsu/Cristina Vee as Morgiana

Darrel Guilbeau/Kensho Ono as Ren Hakuryu

Julie Ann Taylor/Asami Seto as Seishun Li

Keith Silverstein/Yoshimasa Hosoya as Masrur

Kira Buckland/Kana Hanazawa as Ren Kogyuku

Lucien Dodge.Takahiro Sakurai as Ja’far

Marc Diraison/Shinichiro Miki as Ithnan

Matthew Mercer/Daisuke Ono as Sinbad

Patrick Seitz/Toshiyuki Morikawa as Ugo

Sean Chiplock/Jun Fukuyama as Cassim

Todd Haberkorn/Ryohei Kimura as Judal

Trinity Lee/Nana Mizuki as Ren Hakuei

Vic Mignogna/Kenichi Suzumura as Ka Kobun


Alibaba is a young carrier who dreams of venturing into a “Dungeon,” where secret treasures lie deep within its labyrinth, to gain enough money to buy an entire country.

One day, Alibaba meets a mysterious boy named Aladdin, who can summon a mighty blue spirit from his flute. Hoping to harness Aladdin’s magical power, Alibaba invites him on his dungeon-capturing expedition.

Along the way, through numerous encounters and farewells, both of them will come to learn the truth about their destinies.


When it comes to opportunities of becoming a manga writer/artist (mangaka), Shinobu Ohtaka’s story.

She has written about her story of how she became a manga artist, as a person who was the person who would sit quietly in the corner of class and was not really great at anything and often playing a supporting role.  But if there was one thing that she was confident in, it was drawing pictures.

And now this shy artist would not only have a hit manga but also anime series!

Her first year in high school, she was submitting manga manuscripts because it was her dream to become a manga author. And like many writers, her submissions were denied and this continued through high school and college.   And when she was about to call it quits, she was given the opportunity to do a one-shot and it led to the creation of the series “Sumomo Momomo” in 2004 which would eventually become a 34 volume manga series (as of June 2017) and also a 50-episode anime series.

Having been released on DVD by Aniplex, for the first time the entire season will be collected in a Blu-ray set and will be released in June 2017.

“Magi” begins with a young Aladdin being given one wish.

We then see Alibaba, a thief who is working for a slave master who has been trying to find a dungeon for treasure. Everyone thinks that Alibaba is searching for something that doesn’t exist. But when he starts loading up a caravan with fruit, he catches a boy (Aladdin) eating all the watermelon.

Alibaba gets in trouble but as Aladdin follows Alibaba, Alibaba talks about dungeons that appeared 14 years ago and and Alibaba explains if one can capture one, there is a genuine magi wandering around and will grant magical power to someone. And Alibaba is in search of the magical vessel.

The following day, Aladdin bumps into a slave (Morgiana). When Aladdin wonders why her legs are chained, Alibaba tries to explain to Aladdin of what a slave is. So, not wanting to see Morgiana chained, Aladdin frees her by blowing into his flute and shattering the steel chain.

But not long after, one of the slave masters start pushing and stepping all over Morgiana, Aladdin tells the man to stop and the man threatens to execute Aladdin.

Aladdin then blows into the flute, massive arms come out of the flute. Ugo is a Djinn, spirits that appear in myth and not many people thought it was a real thing, but we learn through a flashback that Aladdin was given three wishes in which he could have fortune, fame and eternal life. But instead, he just wanted one wish and that is for Ugo to be his friend. And since then, the two have been together.

Ugo has a massive body without a head. As Aladdin goes on trips with various people, we learn that Aladdin must be well fed and have had a lot to drink in order to use Ugo, but also Ugo is shy if a girl touches him.

And as Alibaba finds out that Aladdin has a Djinn vessel, he decides to use Aladdin to use and partner with him in order to find a dungeon. Alibaba’s wish is to be rich and find treasure inside buildings that have shown up all over the world. And treasures with wonderful powers are the most valuable, the one that Alibaba seeks is the Djinn’s metal vessel.

But as Alibaba sees using Aladdin as important in his plans as Aladdin’s use of Ugo can help protect them while they visit the dungeons to find treasure, but he also realizes that for Aladdin, his main thing that makes him happy is having a friendship. For Alibaba, for now, he’ll play the role of being a friend in order to find treasure and obtain a Djinn metal vessel.

As Alibaba along with Aladdin look for the treasure inside a dungeon, not far behind them is the tyrant slave owner named Lord Jamil along with two slaves, including Morgiana.

Meanwhile, nearby is another person similar to Aladdin, clad in black and evil, a magi named Judar has decided to cause trouble for Aladdin and friends?  But what happens when Aladdin goes all out in his battle against Judar?

Meanwhile, an even greater threat arrives as Aladdin and friends must take on Dark Djinn’s, while Sinbad must protect the country against Al-Thamen and his forces.

The main characters of “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” are:

    • Aladdin – A young magi who doesn’t know too much about himself or the outside world. But he’s kind and goodhearted and wants to protect the people he cares about. When he blows into a flute, a headless blue giant named Ugo comes out.
    • Alibaba – A thief who appears to have a mysterious background that befriends Aladdin.
    • Morgania – A slave who comes from a country of people known for their superior leg strength and speed. She is the slave of the tyrant, Lord Jamil.
    • Amon – A djinn with fire elemental powers contained in Alibaba’s training sword.
    • Sinbad – The King of Sindria and leader of the Alliance of the Seven Seas.  He has sailed the seven seas and captured seven dungeons and is a master of seven djinn.
    • Masrur – A Fanalis who works for Sinbad and trains Morgiana in hand to hand combat.
    • Ja’far – A former assassin who becomes loyal to Sinbad.
    • Hakuryuu Ren – The fourth prince in the Kou Empire who becomes an ally of Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgianna.
    • Judar – An evil Magi working for Al-Thamen.  Raised by Al-Thamen after the organization killed his parents.

VIDEO:

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  The series is well-animated, well-shaded and tends to feature hilarious character designs during the more comedy scenes, while showcasing emotion and drama during the most serious situations. Action scenes are well-animated, background art is well-detailed and painted beautifully.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo.  Audio on the Blu-ray is front-channel driven but voice acting is well-done for both Japanese and English soundtracks. Dialogue, sound effects and music are crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening and Endings
  • English Version Trailer

EXTRAS:

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” comes with a slipcase.


Hilarious, fun and a little naughty, Shinobu Ohtaka’s “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” has turned out to be a pretty enjoyable series.

The main protagonist Aladdin is rather interesting because he has an appearance of a little boy who possesses a flute that houses a headless giant named Ugo. But there are quirks with Alibaba, for one, he’s often hungry and thirsty, which helps with activating Ugo. He’s also somewhat of a pervert as he is often wanting to rub his head on a woman’s breast.

But most importantly, it’s his strong desire to find and have friends which makes him a bit naive when people pretend to be his friend but they have ulterior motives.

One of these friends that he does make is Alibaba, a boy who is in severe debt and people who owe debts, end up being slaves for a wealthy owner (most often a tyrant). He desires wealth but most of all a Djinn, similar to Aladdin and hopes that with partnering with him, he can obtain treasure and a Djinn.

Also, adding interest to the overall storyline is the fact that everything takes place in the desert where bandits have ruled the land and many people have been killed or have become slaves. The only way to survive is by being a merchant and as a merchant, you are constantly under the threat of your merchandise being stolen by bandits and being killed. So, the storyline is set during a dangerous time where buildings have shown up all over the land and inside are treasures. But for those who have tried, all have not come back from their search.

But with the power of Ugo, Alibaba is betting that having Aladdin on his side, their chances of finding treasure and a Djinn is great.

The first quarter of the series features on developing the three characters of Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgiana and to showcase their backgrounds but also how the three became friends.

The middle part of the first season goes into Aladdin and Alibaba being separated but both going through trying experiences but learning about the outside world within the six months they were separated.

And the final part of the series, introduces us to a more deeper storyline involving all three but also introducing us to Sinbad and establishing the true antagonists of the series, especially the taller, dark version similar to Aladdin, an evil magi named Judar.

For those wondering if the series is safe to watch around children, this is a show for teens. As episode 1 alone has a bit of nudity and showcases Aladdin’s attraction to big breasts. Another episode has nudity as well, but there is also violence, for example, you will see one scene in which the tyrant Lord Jamil is seen stabbing one of his slaves repetitively with a sword.

As for differences between the manga and anime series, the anime series almost focuses on the manga completely with the exception of Aladdin’s introduction at the Oasis of Utan, in which Aladdin tags along with merchants Laylah and Sahsa, the daughter of a caravan leader (featured in the opening chapters of the first volume of the manga series). The two are introduced later in the series but are not featured in episode 1.

But for the most part, the anime series does not stray too far from Shinobu Ohtaka’s manga series.

As the first half of Shinobu Ohtaka’s “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” was lighthearted, full of humor and entertaining. The second half of the series has become much more deeper, serious and action-packed and Alibaba must make difficult decisions, Aladdin faces his greatest foe yet and Morgiana does all she can to become more powerful but to what expense?

In the first half, we watched as Aladdin was dependent on a headless giant named Ugo, but with Ugo gone after a major battle with the evil Judar, what will happen to Aladdin?

Also, a major difference between the first half of the series and the second half, is the inclusion of more characters. Sinbad plays much more of a role as Al-Thamen declares war on Sindria and Sinbad and forces must do all they can to fight against Al-Thamen and the Dark Djinn.

With the conclusion to season one featuring a battle with someone they know quite well.

But for the most part, this second half for season one is a whole different vibe than the first. While you do get the perverted humor for a brief moment, the series is primarily action non-stop with so many dire situations involving Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgiana.

While the trio meet new friends and allies, there is also a lot of heartbreak as both Aladdin and Alibaba lose something special in their lives. So, one can expect a deep, action-packed storyline for episodes 13-25.

For those wondering if the series is safe to watch around children, this is a show for teens. There is quite a bit of violence, maybe not as bloody as some of the episodes of the first half, but there is quite a bit of fighting violence.

The Blu-ray release doesn’t have any significant special features but the textless opening and ending themes and an English trailer.  Also, the swag that were included on the original DVD releases such as the collectable foil stamped postcards and deluxe booklets are not included.  But you do get all 25 episodes in this one set in HD!  So, it all comes down to if you are in it for the series or the swag?  If you are more for the swag, then you may want to search out the 2014 DVD releases.

Overall, “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” is awesome! Highly entertaining, full of action and humor!  Definitely recommended!

Purchase from Rightstuf

 

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

July 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a silent film fan, definitely consider Allan Dwan’s “Zaza” and discover one of many films featuring legendary actress, Gloria Swanson.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1923 Paramount Pictures. 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Zaza

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1923

DURATION: 84 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), B&W,

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017


Based on the Play by Pierre Berton and Charles Simon

Directed by Allan Dwan

Written by Albert S. Le Vino

Produced by Allan Dwan

Executive Producer: Adolph Zukor

Music Performed by Jeff Rapsis

Cinematography by  Harold Rosson


Starring:

Gloria Swanson as Zaza

H. B. Warner as Bernard Dufresne

Ferdinand Gottschalk as Duke de Brissac

Lucille La Verne as Aunt Rosa

Mary Thurman as Florianne

Yvonne Hughes as Nathalie, Zaza’s Maid

Riley Hatch as Rigault

L. Rogers Lytton as Stage Manager


Gloria Swanson is all flounce and swagger as Zaza, a street gamine turned music hall star, strutting her stuff, tossing off quips and taunts with her irrepressible backside, which is sometimes adorned with a pert bow for emphasis. Over the course of the film, directed by Allan Dwan (Robin Hood), she engages in two knock-down drag-out cat fights, frisks through playful love scenes, writhes in a hospital bed, nurses a broken heart, and evolves into a soberly dignified woman. Her physicality dominates the film, which does not suffer from being essentially a well-crafted frame for her performance. Swanson s ebullience in Zaza was unfeigned; she called it the fastest, easiest, most enjoyable picture I ever made. Imogen Sara Smith


Back in 1899, the French play “Zaza” had entertained audiences.  So, popular that the play was produced on Broadway and the first film adaptation was released by Paramount in 1915.

While there were a few more adaptations of “Zaza” created, in 1923, a silent romantic drama directed and produced by Allan Dwan (“Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm”, “Sands of Iwo Jima”, “Robin Hood”) and executive produced by Adolph Zukor was released.

Starring Gloria Swanson (“Sunset Boulevard”, “Queen Kelly”, “The Trespasser”, “Indiscreet”), H.B. Warner (“It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Sunset Boulevard”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”), Ferdinand Gottschalk (“Grand Hotel”, “Les Miserables”, “Tonight or Never”), Lucille La Verne, Mary Thurman, Yvonne Hughes, Riley Hatch and L. Rogers Lytton.

And a print of the film is housed at the George Eastman House and the Library of Congress.

During this time, Gloria Swanson was the most sought-after actress in Hollywood and a box office draw for Paramount.  In fact, what she wore on screen influenced fashion  all over the world.

And now the silent classic will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Zaza” is set in France and begins with showing us how Zaza (portrayed by Gloria Swanson) is a popular performer with a temperament.  Often taking things out on her maid Nathalie (portrayed by Mary Thurman) when she loses things and is frustrated, when she is kind, she can be a major giver of fine jewelry to her maid.

Meanwhile, many men desire Zaza including Duke de Brissac (portrayed by Ferdinand Gottschalk) but the only man Zaza is interested in is Bernard Dufresne (portrayed by H.B. Warner) of the diplomatic corps.  Who often comes to visit the stage as he also fancies Zaza.

While Florianne (portrayed by Mary Thurman), Zaza’s stage rival, was once popular in the Odeon, she also fancies Dufresne.

At the show, it was said whoever catches Zaza’s shoe can be with her and when one man comes to claim his “prize”, he manhandles Zaza, in which Bernard Dufresne comes to her rescue.

But as both Zaza and Florianne vie for Dufresne’s attention, which woman will win?

Meanwhile, what secrets is Bernard hiding from Zaza?  And will the fact that Bernard lives far from Zaza affect any chance of a relationship?


VIDEO:

“Zaza” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:331 aspect ratio) and is presented in black and white. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is very good in terms of clarity and sharpness. The film is does have scratches but for the most part, the film looks very good on Blu-ray considering its over 90-years old.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Zaza” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is a wonderful piano score by Jeff Rapsis.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Zaza” comes with the following special feature:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Frederic Lombardi (author of Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios)

A silent romantic drama about love discovered, distance that hinders romance but secrets that can tear people apart.

This is the story of “Zaza”, among one of the well-known silent films starring the legendary actress Gloria Swanson and actor H.B. Warner and also one of the last films to star Mary Thurman (who could come down with pneumonia working on a film a year later and would die from complications from the illness the following year), who was also engaged to the film’s director, Allan Dwan.

In some ways, since the film is based on a play, the film can also get a little bit of exhausting wondering if these two individuals, Swanson’s Zaza and Warner’s Dufresne would be together.

While Zaza comes off as impetuous and bombastic early in the film, we see her character transform.  Transformed by love, by jealousy, by anger and by sadness.  Gloria Swanson had to no doubt show various sides of Zaza and for the most part, it was a very well-done performance.  From emotional to even action as she and Thurman’s Florianne engage in a few tussles onscreen.

H.B. Warner plays a stoic Bernard Dufresne.  A man who is captivated by Zaza but there is something preventing him from going to far in his relationship wtih Zaza, which we find out the truth later in the film.

The film on Blu-ray features wonderful detail for the film over 90-years old and for its lossless audio, you get a piano score composed and performed by Jeff Rapsis, adapted from the original 1923 cue sheet.  And also included is a very informative audio commentary by Frederic Lombardi.

Overall, I really welcome Allan Dwan’s “Zaza” on Blu-ray.  One of the things that I hope to see is more silent actresses films on Blu-ray.  There have been so much focus on Chaplin, Keaton, Harold Lloyd, on Blu-ray, which is understandable but it would be nice to see more Pickford, more Swanson, more Gish, Bow, Brooks, Talmadge, Normand, Davies, Bara, Thomas, to name a few on Blu-ray.  So, Gloria Swanson’s “Zaza” on Blu-ray is a major plus and hopefully this means more silent actress greats and their films will be featured on Blu-ray in the near future.

If you are a silent film fan, definitely consider Allan Dwan’s “Zaza” and discover one of many films featuring legendary actress, Gloria Swanson.  Recommended!

 

Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part Two (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Exciting, action-packed showcasing the Great Martial Arts World Tournament, for those wanting to experience “Dragon Ball Z” in HD, will definitely want to watch “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” on Blu-ray. Recommended for the die-hard DBZ fans!

Image courtesy of © Bird Studio/Shuiesha/Toei Animation. 2009 Toei Animation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part Two

DURATION: (Episodes 122-144) 575 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (4:3), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Toei Animation/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: May 23, 2017


Originally created by Akira Toriyama

Directed by Yasuhiro Nowatari

Produced by Kazuya Watanabe, Kohei Obara, Kyotaro Kimura, Makoto Seino

Music by Kenji Yamamoto

Theme Song Arrangement: Seiichi Kyouda

Anime Production: Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Kyle Hebert as Son Goku

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan (Tien)

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-sennin

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Krillin (Kuririn)

Naoki Tatsuta/Bryan Massey as Oolong

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chi-Chi

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Brina Palencia as Chiaotzu/Puar

Tohru Furuya/Christopher R. Sabat as Yamcha

Toshio Furukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Unsho Ishizuka/Chris Rager as Mr. Satan

Shino Kakinuma/Kara Edwards as Videl

Takeshi Kusao/Laura Bailey as Trunks

Masako Nozawa/Kara Edwards as Goten


As Goku and Vegeta land blow after blow in their brutal duel, an enormous amount of energy is transferred to Majin Buu. And despite Gohan’s valiant efforts, the monster reaches full power faster than anyone could have predicted. With the ancient evil awakened and free to wreak havoc across the planet, the Z Fighters must give everything they’ve got to put Buu back to bed for good.


The exciting action-packed anime series “Dragon Ball Z” is back with the final HD version of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” (volume eight) as a new major threat has arrived…Majin Buu.

Unbeknownst to the Z-Warriors is that an evil Warlock named Babidi and the evil Demon King Dabura are trying to unseal a monster named Majin Buu. Meanwhile, Kaoishin, the ruler of the Kaios of the Other World and his bodyguard Kibit have come to Earth in order to recruit the Z-Warriors to fight Majin Buu and Babidi.

Having grown up with “Dragon Ball Z” and during my teenage years visiting the local Japanese video rental store and always in heavy anticipation of what was being shown on television in Japan that week and waiting the two weeks it would arrive in the US and watching it in Japanese, despite not knowing what was being said, I enjoyed the series tremendously.

The main protagonist Son Goku was Japan’s equivalent to America’s Superman. I’m sure the juxtaposition of both Superman and Dragonball can be seen as a baby from other planet comes to Earth, the baby growing up to becoming a boy with tremendous strength and abilities and raised by a loving person who instilled good in his heart.

Granted, Goku’s original mission when landing on Earth was to destroy humanity but learning kindness towards people, nature and animals, he became a hero that protected all that he loved from any evil. But most importantly, Goku was a character that was far from perfect. He was a character that was always learning about people, enjoying life but most of all, setting a goal to becoming stronger and developing his skills in order to protect the people and the planet that he loves.

I was captivated by the original “Dragon Ball” series (which featured Goku as a child) and later with “Dragon Ball Z” featuring Goku as an adult. The series would bring back the characters that were seen on the original “Dragon Ball” series but this time around, the series took on more of a serious tone as the enemies became more deadly and Goku and his friends were put into grave situations that they have never had to face before. “Dragon Ball Z” would feature wonderful character development, intense action sequences and most of all, knowing how to extend the series to tease fans and keep people in high anticipation of what would be happening next.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to see this DBZ fandom grow in the US from the very early ’90s and seeing “Dragon Ball Z” viewing parties at the early anime conventions and then seeing how the series exploded into American pop culture once the series began airing on television in the US and with its DVD releases. It’s hard to believe that this series I have followed for years and began in 1989 has celebrated its 20th Anniversary celebration in 2009.

But the celebration was fantastic news for fans as this time, “Dragon Ball Z” would be remastered for HD TV and would be called “Dragon Ball Z Kai” which would include a brand new opening and ending sequence, commercial cut scenes, new frames produced digitally, re-recording of the voice talent, new music and most importantly, focusing on the main story arcs and reducing the series 291 episodes to a total of 97 episodes (plus a bonus 98th episode or extra which was included in the Japanese release).

Needless to say, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” received rave reviews from fans in Japan, while some hardcore DBZ fans had a hard time watching a new interpretation of the series (especially with newer music) but when it was announced that the series would be released in the USA on Blu-ray and DVD, fans were happy and with the first volume, needless to say, I was quite happy with the first Blu-ray release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and if you enjoyed the previous volumes, there is no doubt that you are going to enjoy “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One”.

For my review of this Blu-ray release, I’m going to assume that many of the people reading this are familiar with the series. If you aren’t, if you want to experience the full “Dragon Ball Z” 291 episodes, FUNimation Entertainment currently has the full series of “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball Z” available on DVD but at the same time, it is not imperative to watch the original “Dragon Ball” series to understand “Dragon Ball Z Kai”. But watching it completely is important if you want to know the relationships of each character.

As mentioned, currently available from FUNimation Entertainment is “Dragon Ball” which covers the younger years of Goku. “Dragon Ball Z” covers the adults years of Goku and have been released in nine volumes (seasons) via an “orange box release”. All nine volumes covers all 291 episodes and were remastered by FUNimation Entertainment but presented in 16×9 and utilizes both English and Japanese dub but caters to the English audience crowd who watched the series on television.

FUNimation Entertainment have also released the “Dragon Box Z” DVD box set releases (all eight volumes of “Dragon Box Z” have been released). These releases are to satisfy the hardcore Dragon Ball Z fans who wanted the original Japanese uncut episodes, original Japanese music score but most importantly, the series being presented in its original aspect ratio of 4×3.

Also, released from FUNimation Entertainment were the movies and specials (on Blu-ray and DVD) and also the next story arc known as “Dragon Ball GT” (which “Dragon Ball” manga creator Akira Toriyama had nothing to do with until the final episode) which follows the Z-Warriors ten years later and focuses on Goku, an adult Trunks and Goku’s granddaughter Pai. This series was released on DVD in 2009 by FUNimation.

So, here were are in 2017 with the release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” presented in HD. These episodes are without the non-essential scenes or filler episodes and instead of 291 episodes, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” + the previous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” has a duration of 167 episodes and with this latest volume, you have episodes 122-144.

The focus for these episodes is the Majin Buu Arc.  The series features:

Goku – Now an adult, married to Chichi and has a son named Gohan. Constantly training in order to become stronger. Still naive and hungry as he was when he was younger. Currently, he is deceased and using his time to train before returning back to the land of the living.

Gohan – Goku’s young son. Goku realizes that Gohan has strong potential but during an unfortunate incident, asks for Piccolo to train his son in fighting to protect people and the planet. Gohan has accompanied Bulma and Kuririn to find the Dragon Balls in the Planet Nemek.

Kuririn – Goku’s childhood friend who accompanies Gohan and Bulma to find the Dragon Balls in the Planet Nemek.

Bulma – A woman still developing products at her father’s company, Capsule Corp. and uses her intelligence to solve the Z Warriors under dire circumstances. With her Dragon Ball scanner, she joins Gohan and Kuririn to find the Dragon Balls in Planet Nemek.

Kaiosama – One of the Kings who trains Goku on how to fight with gravity ten times greater than Earth at Kaio’s world.

Vegeta – The Prince of Saiyan and the most powerful Saiyajin of them all. Comes to Earth in order to destroy it but after being defeated by Goku, rehabilitates himself and now finds himself fighting alongside Gohan and Kuririn.

Trunks – The young son of Bulma and Vegeta who hangs out with Goten

Goten – The second son of Goku and Chichi and hangs out with Trunks.

Kaioshin – The ruler of the Kaios of the Other World, Kaioshin has taken over the position after the previous Kaoshin was killed by the warlock Babidi.  He has come to the Earth realm to recruit the Z-Warriors to fight against Babidi and Majin Buu.

Kibit – The loyal bodyguard of Kaioshin.

The main antagonists are:

Babidi – The evil warlock trying to release the seal and revive Majin Buu that was created by Babidi’s father, Bibidi.

Dabura – The Demon King who is assisting Babidi in trying to unseal Majin Buu.

Majin Buu – Created by Bibidi, Buu was created to destroy worlds and was sealed away by the former Kaoshin, until he was released once again by Babidi.  But is this the same Majin Buu who is known as the destroyer of worlds?


VIDEO:

I always find it interesting when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z” because each review, I’ve always mentioned how things look much better when I saw the series especially comparing to my old Japanese TV recordings. But with the release of the series via the orange box season sets and then the Dragon Box Z releases, although they look good…nothing compares to how gorgeous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” looks. The picture quality is clean, no spotting, no blemishes, no dust, no speckles… Colors are absolutely vibrant, blacks are nice and deep and the series looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray.

Presented in 1080p High Definition and 4×3. As mentioned earlier, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is not a remaking of the series in HD. The most noticeable addition is the opening and ending sequence and also the commercial cut scenes which use new animation and featured in HD. But ow awesome would it be if a “Dragon Ball” related series was re-created to look like those digital HD scenes? That would have been amazing.

But once the series begins, for those who have been watching “Dragon Ball Z” long enough or multiple times will just in awe of how beautiful and how clean the anime series looks in HD on Blu-ray. You’ll also notice scenes that you have never seen before.

First, lets discuss the picture quality. Not one blemish can be seen in these episodes. With the sketches and animation cels having since been discarded and anime series back in the ’80s and early ’90s not really being taken care of, Toei animation had new frames produced for this series and it was a laborious job of digitally tracing over still frames from existing footage and filling them with softer colors. Some scenes were cropped and new scenes were added.

But watching this series on Blu-ray, I can say that “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” does not look like a series that came from 1989. Tohei Animation did a wonderful job with this animated TV series, editing these episodes and choosing what scenes to include and what new scenes to add to ensure that the pacing works out fine. In terms of picture quality, those ugly dust, speckles and blemishes are gone, I did not see any major edge enhancement or compression artifacts. I have no doubt that fans will enjoy this HD presentation of “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters”.

Of course, for those wanting the true anime on HD treatment, this is probably not the series one should look for as you do get the original late ’80s animation and this series was created long before animators considered HD let alone were making the series digitally. But it all comes down to how it looks compared to the original series released on DVD and I have to say that this is the best looking version of the series available despite it being a modified and shortened version of the “Dragon Ball Z” series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

This is where “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” shines on Blu-ray and its the lossless audio. The series is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) and Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese).

Because the English is mixed and utilizes more channels, there is a dramatic difference in sound, although for those with a modern receiver and have a solid 5.1 or 7.2 setup, can easily switch their receiver to stereo on all channels for the Japanese soundtrack for a more immersive soundscape.

There are online stores showing that the Japanese is Dolby Digital 2.0 but this is incorrect, it is indeed a lossless Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 soundtrack. And both soundtracks sound great!

But here is the lowdown on the lossless audio. Sound effects are now heavily utilized on the surround channels. Obviously, the more noticeable uses of the surround channels are the music and whenever the Z Warriors are in flight. But the biggest and most noticeable difference when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and its previous “Dragon Ball Z” releases on video is the music. As a hero like Superman or Batman will have its own musical orchestra driven theme song in a film, Goku now has a theme, the enemies have their theme and when a Z-Warrior passes away, there is a theme. Music is used to full effect in the series and the majority of it is orchestra driven and also utilized in the surround channels. You will hear the strings or brass playing through the surrounds and its done rather nicely. Some people may have an issue with the battle music as the music tends to incorporate the style that you hear from the most recent video games and transitions from jazz/funk to synthrock.

But these effects and music sound so delightful via lossless, its hard not to be impressed by it. Again, the English soundtrack is much more immersive because it utilizes a 5.1 lossless soundtrack versus the Japanese 2.0 lossless track. But I know fans who have wanted anime on Blu-ray with Japanese lossless should be happy. It’s important to note that this is a TV series and not an OVA or film, so the fact that there is so much going on with this TV series audio-wise is pretty awesome.

Granted, I know there are hardcore fans who will tell me that they loved the original Japanese music and I’m sure there will be fans including myself who love the new music, but of course, this is all subjective. And with that being said, for those who liked the Falcouner music, then buy the orange season box sets. If you want the original Japanese BGM, then the “Dragon Box Z” sets is for you. If you want a lossless soundtrack with outstanding music that is fully utilized with your home theater setup, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” is fantastic.

As for the dubwork, the voice acting has also been revamped with Colleen Clinkenbeard now providing the voice for Son Gohan, Monica Rial for Bulma and Brina Palencia for Chiaotzu and Puar. In Japan, the most noticeable difference is for Kame Sen’nin (Master Roshi) as Kohei Miayuchi passed away during the final season of “Dragon Ball Z” back in 1995 and for DBZ Kai is voiced by Masaharu Satou.

For the most part, both voice acting for the English and Japanese were very good. Of course, listening to both soundtracks voices are much different from each other especially the voice of the main character Goku. But depending on your preference, both Masako Nozawa and Sean Schemmel do a fantastic job as Goku. For those who watched the English dub and have played all the DBZ video games will probably see the most noticeable different with the character of young Gohan.

Overall, because of the clarity of the audio and how much it plays in the part of enhancing the enjoyment of the anime series, the lossless soundtrack for “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” is awesome!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part Two” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 131 Video Commentary – (23:11) ADR writer J. Michael Tatum, Kara Edwards (voice of Goten and Bidel), Rolly Pickens (chief engineer), Kent Williams, Duncan Brannan, Monica Rial (voice of Bulma)
  • Textless Opening Song
  • Textless Closing Song
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming or currently available titles from FUNimation Entertainment.

EXTRAS:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” Part Two comes with a slipcover case.


Here we are with the next volume of “Dragon Box Z Kai: The Final Chapters” which continues the final chapter of the “Dragon Ball Z” series, which I like to call the “Majin Buu Arc”.

What can I say… if you thought the Frieza and Cell sagas were fantastic villains, the Majin Buu saga and where it will go from here is quite amazing. Personally, having grown up with the series and watching the Buu series when it aired in Japan, I was hooked and it’s so great to watch it again!

No villain in “Dragon Ball Z” has looked as cute and nonthreatening as Majin Buu but yet has managed to slaughter a millions of people and really put the Z-Warriors in a position that they have never been in before.

The high points of this season is the fact that you get a long awaited battle between Goku vs. Vegeta, you get the Super Saiyan level 3 transformation of Goku but then we get to see the fusion technique.

Each episode has a very good storyline that it’s quite easy to watch episode after episode and find yourself watching a marathon of multiple discs because the episodes were quite enjoyable and action-packed. I also, have to say that there are no filler episodes and each episode, you’re going to get hardcore battles and just non-stop action. It’s what you would expect from a series such as “Dragon Ball Z” and nothing less.

Vegeta fans will definitely enjoy his character transformation but most of all his redemption. The first half is very Vegeta intensive and in Japan, many people wanted more of him and they got it. So, to see a powerful Vegeta going against Goku was awesome.

The series manages to weave in every character close to the Z-warriors that we have known from the series in this eighth season, which is very cool. And also, for Hercule/Mr. Satan fans, you will actually get to see him in action as well.

But it’s the instability of Majin Buu’s character which is quite interesting. Because of the way this being is made, unlike Frieza and Cell, the ability to continually regenerate, makes him nearly an unstoppable character. His look and demeanor is nothing like we have seen in the first 200-episodes and to see him kill people for the sake of hunger or for enjoyment to hear things go “boom”, makes Majin Buu an interesting but moreso, a deadlier villain than any villain that has appeared on “Dragon Ball Z” thus far.

If you were an original DVD purchaser of “Dragon Ball Z” when it was released per volume, not only was it an excruciating wait, it was expensive to collect all volumes. Sure, the DVD box set releases definitely have fixed the problem and is much cheaper than how things were back then. But what “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does is cut down all non-essential scenes, all filler episodes and focusing on the more important scenes of the story including the action sequences. Footage was re-edited to closely follow the manga and the action is now a more faster pace and I found the pacing for this series to be quite enjoyable and for those watching anything Dragon Ball related for the first time, especially on television, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” and the previous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” makes it much easier for those viewers, especially those with a short attention span.

For long-time fans, this new revision of the series maintains the heart and soul of “Dragon Ball Z” but gives us the best looking and best sound version of the series. It’s not meant to replace the previous “Dragon Ball Z” series that we have enjoyed (and for many, have spent money for via the box sets) but to compliment it and also to bring the series to HD and now on Blu-ray.

“Dragon Ball Z” has been such a part of the lives of many people for two decades and with this release, hopefully will entertain a new generation of DBZ fans or hook fans who have been curious about the series for a long time.

Overall, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” is easily a must-own anime on Blu-ray series if you love “Dragon Ball Z” or wanting to watch “Dragon Ball Z” but just don’t have the time necessary to watch every episode. Also, it helps that the series is now on Blu-ray, so people can enjoy these episodes in HD.

Exciting, action-packed showcasing the Majin Buu Arc, for those wanting to experience “Dragon Ball Z” in HD, will definitely want to watch “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” on Blu-ray. Recommended for the die-hard DBZ fans!

 

Gangsta.: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 28, 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: Gangsta.: The Complete Series

ORIGINAL TV AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: 12 Episodes (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: May 16, 2017


Originally created by Kohske

Series Director: Koichi Hatsumi

Directed by Shukou Murase

Series Composition by Shinichi Inotsume

Music by Tsutchie

Character Design by Yoichi Ueda

Art Director: Masatoshi Kai

Chief Animation Director: Yoichi Ueda

Animation Production by Manglobe


Featuring the following voice talent:

Junichi Suwabe/Ian Sinclair as Worick Arcangelo

Kenjiro Tsuda/Brandon Potter as Nicolas Brown

Mamiko Noto/Felecia Angelle as Alex Benedetto

Ami Koshimizu/Jad Saxton as Constance Raveau

Aoi Yūki/Bryn Apprill as Nina

Atsumi Tanezaki/Clifford Chapin as Mikhail

Hideyuki Umezu/Greg Dulcie as Uranos Corsica

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Greg Ayres as Doug

Junji Majima/Ricco Fajardo as Emilio Benedetto

Kaito Ishikawa/Aaron Roberts as Cody Balfour

Kana Ueda/Alexis Tipton as Loretta Cristiano Amodio

Katsuhisa Houki/Mark Stoddard as Daniel Monroe

Koji Yusa/R Bruce Elliott as Domenico Arcangelo

Mari Yokoo as Georgiana “Big Mama

Masako Isobe/Rachel Robinson as Joel Raveau

Mikako Komatsu/Jamie Marchi as Ginger

Satoshi Mikami/Robert McCollum as Dr. Theo

Sayaka Ohara/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Beretta



In the city of Ergastulum, the area is full of thieves, whores and murderers.  And as for the police, they are corrupted and chaos is king.

This is the setting for the manga series known as “Gangsta.”, written and illustrated by female mangaka Kohske.

Debuting in 2009 with the short story “Postman” for Shonen GanGan Magazine, “Gangsta” has been running in “Monthly Comic Bunch” in 2011 and a total of seven tankobon volumes have been published in Japan.  Along a spinoff series titled “Gangsta: Cursed – EP_MARCO ADRIANO” which three volumes have been released in Japan so far.

In 2015, a 12-episode anime series from Manglobe was released in Japan and now, the anime series was released in the United States in May 2017 courtesy of FUNimation.

The series director is Koichi Hatsume, director is Shukou Murase, series composition by Shinichi Inotsume, character design by Yoichi Ueda and art direction by Masatoshi Kai.

“Gangsta.” begins with a prostitute being assaulted outside a building.  Meanwhile, inside a building are two owners of the business known as “Handymen”, Nic and Worick, two men paid to take on assassination or difficult jobs that police or big business can’t handle.

As Nic and Worick are completing a job with the elder businesswoman inside the building, they see the beaten prostitute going inside the building.

The Handymen are then called for business with the police department and are sent to go after a gang leader named Barry Abbot (the man seen beating on the prostitute in the opening pages).  Both Nick and Worick are hired by the inspector to eliminate him and his gang (including his prostitutes) as they are doing business in the restricted zone.  They work out a deal that they can take whatever they can in return for killing them.

As Nic and Worick go after the gang and eliminated everyone including the gang leader known as Barry. They run into the prostitute and give her the opportunity to escape.  But instead, the prostitute named Alex comes back and instead of killing her, they decide to take her (as in agreement with the inspector) and make her as part of the Handymen as one of their employees.

Meanwhile, as Alex continues to work for the Handymen, she tries to figure both Nic and Worick out.   Is Nic an ex-mercenary, does he talk at all?  Why does Worick wear an eyepatch?

One day, Alex sees a newspaper article about a massacre of the Arcangelo family 20-years-ago, all were killed except a 13-year-old boy who was 13 at the time.  And the perpretator, said to be a boy hired as a mercenary by the family.  And Alex begins to wonder, can the two boys be Worick and Nic?  Is Worick the missing boy that was never found?

But as Alex starts to wonder about the two men that she is working for, the Handymen get involved in major trouble as they must take on a gang that is threatening Dr. Theo and his assistant, Nina.a gang war seems to be inevitable as Corsica and Cristiano are engaged in a battle of outwitting each other and destroy each other’s families with the use of Twilights.  But what happens when the Handymen come and Nic must take on another Twilight A/O.


VIDEO:

“Gangsta.” is presented in 1080p High Definition and Manglobe did a wonderful job with this series. Capture Kohske’s world that was featured in the manga, character designs were done very well.  Characters are well-shaded and backgrounds are pained and are well-done.  There is a slight softness for some scenes, as one can expect from a TV series but for the most part, the anime looks great on Blu-ray and the reds (especially with the high amount of blood) is vibrant.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Gangsta.” 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.  And as the voice acting is well-done on both soundtracks, for the English dub, Brandon Potter, Felecia Angelle and Ian Sinclair did a wonderful job but also great care was made in trying get Nicolas Brown’s speech right, because he is deaf and Brandon Potter did a solid job with the speech patterns.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gangsta.” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 01 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with ADR Director Chris Bevins, Ian Sinclair (voice of Worick Arcangelo), Brandon Potter (voice of Nicolas Brown) and Felecia Angelle (voice of Alex Benedetto).
  • Episode 2 Video Commentary  – Featuring a video commentary with Ian Sinclair (voice of Worick Arcangelo), Brandon Potter (voice of Nicolas Brown) and Felecia Angelle (voice of Alex Benedetto).
  • Episode 9.5 – A “Gangsta.” recap episode. (Japanese only)
  • Promo Videos
  • Commercial
  • Textless Opening and Closing Themes
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Gangsta.: The Complete Series” comes with the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


With the release of “Gangsta.”, we get to see somewhat of a western influence in this manga series by Kohske.

Reminiscent of Frank Miller’s “Sin City”, where the world has gone corrupt and in the city of Ergastulum, a city overrun by thugs, gangs, mafia, whores and murderers, the police are just as bad and when the going gets tough, the only way for the police to maintain order is by hiring mercenaries, in this case, the Handymen, Nic and Worick.

Nic is the silent, deadly killer with a sword. Worick is the playboy with an eyepatch that is good with a gun and together, they are two men who aren’t afraid of taking on the most corrupt people in Ergastulum. And it’s not a duty done for the sake of morality but to them, it’s money and survival.

As these two men are mysterious individuals and through the eyes of former prostitute Alex, who joins the Handymen as their personal secretary or whatever she can be used for in order to get the job done, even Alex, has her thoughts on both men and their mysterious background.

But in this city, there is no normal.  There is no peace.  And right now, a major gang war is about to ignite between the Corsica and Cristiano gang.  And for the Handymen, they have their hands tied in trying to keep people alive while Twilight A/O’s have been hired to assassinate major gang members but now all of a sudden have become the hunted as anti-twilight groups are infiltrating Ergastulum to kill them off..

Meanwhile, Alex is wallowing in her depression, not knowing what has happened to her young brother that she was unable to protect.

With “Gangsta.”, we get to see how corrupt this world they live in but how they fit in to all the chaos. There is no one that is pure in Ergastulum, everything is corrupt, a lot of violence over runs the city but there is a sense of kindness for some people and with the Handymen, while killing is their job, the act of kindness of having Alex as an employee is rather fascinating.

Kohske has developed a intriguing series full of sex and violence but also an illustration style that is unique to her style of work. The anime series is respectful to the original manga content and there is a western influence and it will be interesting to see how the story of “Gangsta.” will continue considering there is other stories left for the anime to explore in the future.

And Manglobe and anime production crew did a wonderful job with this series and staying true to the original manga.  The anime series looks and sounds wonderful on Blu-ray and there are good number of special features included as well.

Overall, “Gangsta.” is an action-packed anime series about mysterious two assassins for hire in a crime-filled land and a former prostitute who starts working for them. An intriguing and rare manga series to come from Japan, if you are looking for a manga series with a little sex and plenty  of violence, “Gangsta.” by Kohske is a manga series worth recommending!

 

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.

 

« Previous PageNext Page »

Bottom