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Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you enjoy anime that is set in high school and focuses on a hardcore otaku teacher trying to help his students through unusual ways, will no doubt want to give “Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 2” a try!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part Two

ANIME SERIES AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: (Episodes 13-14) 300 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9), English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Funimation

Release Date: February 1, 2017


Originally created by Takeshi Azuma

Directed by Masato Sato

Series Composition by Atsushi Maekawa

Music by Ryuuichi Takada

Character Design by Isao Sugimoto

Art Director: Daiki Kuribayashi

Art Design by Iho Narita

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroshi Kamiya/Anthony Bowling as Jun’ichirō Kagami

Rena Matsui/Mikaela Krantz as Suzune Kagami

Aki Toyosaki/Tia Ballard as Kōtarō Araki

Aya Hirano as Yamato Tōne

Ayahi Takagaki as Tim Berners Lynn

Ayane Sakura as Kisaki Tenjōin/Sachiko Tanaka

Azusa Tadokoro/Dawn M. Bennett as Kiriko Shikishima

Daisuke Namikawa/Eric Vale as Hell Gates

Kana Hanazawa/Lindsay Seidel as Reiko Mukyō

M.A.O/Alexis Tipton as Madoka Kuramachi

Rina Hidaka/Monica Rial as Kanon Chinami

Risa Taneda/Kristi Yang as Matome Nishikujō

Risae Matsuda/Felecia Angelle as Taki Komiya

Saori Ōnishi/Caitlin Glass as Makina Momozono

Satsumi Matsuda/Bryn Apprill as Nagaru Komiya

Shiina Natsukawa/Leah Clark as Moemi Kushinada

Sora Amamiya/Sarah Wiedenheft as Minako Kanō

Suzuko Mimori/Jad Saxton as Koyomi Hiiragi

Tomoko Tsuzuki/Terri Doty as Kazuya Momozono


The ultimate otaku teacher, Junichiro Kagami, is back with his unique group of students. But as the school year goes on, things start to get…spooky! When tasked to clean out the old dorms, Kagami and his students stumble upon the ghost of a former classmate. All she wants to do is pass on to the next life but is having a little trouble. Are they up for this spiritual lesson?

Things heat up when conflict arises between a gang leader and pop idol. Are street smarts more important than school smarts? Once things start to calm down, even Kagami’s most troubled students start settling into better lives. Realizing that he’s neglected things he used to care about like his blog, figurines, and anime, Kagami begins to question if teaching is where he truly belongs. When the opportunity to work on his Anywhere Door arises, he’ll have to make a tough choice.

What does Kagami really yearn to do: teach or research?


In 2011, mangaka Takeshi Azuma created the manga series “Denpa Kyoshi” (which translates to “electromagnetic-wave teacher”).

As the series is still ongoing in Japan, an anime adaptation was produced by A-1 Pictures in 2015 and the anime has now be released in two parts on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation.

The anime series is directed by Masato Sato (“Explorer Woman Ray”, “Silent Mobius”, “Montana Jones”), script by Atsushi Maekawa (“Digimon Adventure”, “Bakugan Battle Brawlers”, “Dragon Ball Z”), music by Ryuuichi Takada (“Idolm@ster”, “Dusk maiden of Amnesia”), character design by Isao Sugimoto (“Bakuon!!”, “Kemeko Deluxe!”, “Maze”) and background art by Daiki Kuribayashi (“Show By Rock!!”, “Code: Breaker”, “Chaos;Child”).

The anime series introduces us to Jun’ichiro Kagami, a 24-year-old mega-otaku who rather work on his anime blog. But while a big otaku, Jun’ichiro was once an intelligent physics major who published a paper that would make headwaves in the scientific world when he was 17. And Jun’ichiro was scouted to work at one of the most important research centers in the world. But when he wanted to create the “Anywhere Door” that allows teleportation, he became ridiculed by academics and so far, his efforts to dispute his critics have failed and he hasn’t developed the technology to create it.

So, Jun’ichiro decudes that he suffers from “YD” and only wants to work that he yearns to do and not do anything else. And that is be a hardcore otaku.

But his younger sister Suzune is tired of him staying at home and not making a living, and because she is responsible for the family finances, she forces her brother to get a job. Or else she will beat him up.

So, Jun’ichiro takes up a job to become a teacher at Hiiragi Academy and help students and teach students his own way. So, he can balance his teaching job (doing things his way) and also focus on his otaku lifestyle. But can he teach these students with his otaku style?

In the second part of “Ultimate Otaku Teacher”, new characters are introduced such as Tim Bernards Lynn, the head scientist at CERM Particle Physics Laboratory; Madoka Kuramachi, the student council treasurer; Joe Odawara, a student of Jun’ichiro who wants to confess his love to Makina; gang leader Taki Komiya and childlike intern, Reiko Mukyo.

Also, what happens when Jun’ichiro challenges Hell Gates, the CEO of Activision Frigate and a computer game world champion. If Jun’ichiro wins, Hell Gates must takeover KMC. If Hell Gates wins, Jun’ichiro can never play any computer game ever again.

And what is the results of Jun’ichiro teaching at the academy? Does he pass or fail?


VIDEO:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). There is a lot of detail featured in the art backgrounds, a lot of characters featured and these characters have great detail and shadowing. A vibrant anime series from A-1 Pictures.

I found no compression artifacts or any problematic issues with this Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. The series for the most part features crystal clear dialogue and music and is front-channel driven.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 2” features the following special features:

  • Episode 15 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by ADR Director Kyle Phillips, Alexis Tipson (voice of Madoka Kuramachi) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (voice of Tim Berners Lynn) and script writer and voice actor, Clifford Chapin (voice of Joe Odawara).
  • Episode 21 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by ADR Director Kyle Phillips and voice talents Felecia Angelle (voice of Taki Komiya), Mallorie Rodak (voice of Yamato Toune) and Bryn Apprill (voice of Nagare Komiya)
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song
  • U.S. Trailer – Funimation trailer for “Ultimate Otaku Teacher”.

EXTRAS:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the series plus a slipcover.


What happens when you get a former intelligent academic student turned hardcore otaku and make him a teacher and allow him to teach his students with his otaku style?

This is the story of Jun’ichiro Kagami, a hardcore otaku who has kept away from working professionally because he wants a job which he can be himself.

Unfortunately, not many jobs are open to that until Koyomi Hiiragi, chairman of Icho Academy who wants Japan to be a more amusing place. Having spied and followed Jun’ichiro, she feels that his teaching methods, no matter how absurd they may be, can teach the students at the Academy.

Each episode features how Jun’ichiro helps out a student. In Part 2, for example, Jun’ichiro wants to save student council treasurer, Madoka Kuramachi. Madoka’s family owns the KMC company who makes a video game that Jun’ichiro plays. And the company is about to be take over by Activision Frigate, a rival company and she is being forced to marry the rival company’s CEO, Hells Gate.

Another episode has Jun’ichiro trying to help a ghost who is a big fan of “Kisaki Tenjoin” and wants to know how the manga ended before author Sachiko could complete it. And the ghost wants desperately to know how the manga would have ended.

And how will Jun’ichiro help Taki Komiya, a gang leader named Taki, whose twin sister happens to be to be idol singer, Komi-Ryu.

And the series culminates as we learn the results of Jun’ichiro being at teacher. Will he succeed?

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant and colorful, while lossless audio for both Japanese and English soundtracks are 2.0 DTS-HD MA. For special features, you get two audio commentary.

Overall, “Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 2” is an anime series that may be compared to “Assassination Classroom”, teachers who have their own way of teaching their own students, students who are truant or have major problems at school. Where “Assassination Classroom” is more action-packed and driven by the fact the students must grow in order to assassinate their alien teacher who plans to destroy the planet, “Ultimate Otaku Teacher” is about an otaku teacher who loves his anime, video games and figurines.

While he is obsessed with otaku duties, the fact that he is given an opportunity to teach at an Academy and be himself is a major plus to him. So, using his love for video games, anime, etc. allows him to reach out to these troubled students.

The series has elements of what people tend to enjoy in an anime series. From having an otaku protagonist, a tsundere sister and students who are helped by Jun’ichiro’s otaku ways, may it be through video games or something really weird or awkward, he manages to get the job done.

Overall, if you enjoy anime that is set in high school and focuses on a hardcore otaku teacher trying to help his students through unusual ways, will no doubt want to give “Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 2” a try!

 

Wolf’s Rain: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

 I can’t recommend “Wolf’s Rain” enough for those wanting a deep, captivating story with wonderful animation.  It’s a classic anime series for sure!  Yes, it may not be perfect but it’s still one of the shining gems from the early 2000’s worth owning on Blu-ray!  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2017 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Wolf’s Rain: The Complete Series

YEAR: 2003

DURATION: Episodes 1-30 (750 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 7, 2017


Originally Creator: Keiko Nobumoto

Directed by Tensai Okamura

Script by Keiko Nobumoto

Music by Yoko Kanno

Character Design by Toshiro Kawamoto

Art Director: Atsushi Morikawa

Mechanical Design by Shinji Aramaki

Anime Production by BONES


Featuring the following voice talent:

Akio Suyama/Joshua Seth as Hige

Hiroki Shimowada/Mona Marshall as Toboe

Kaho Kouda/Kari Wahlgren as Cher Degre

Kenta Miyake/Crispin Freeman as Tsume

Mamoru Miyano/Johnny Yong Bosch as Kiba

Arisa Ogasawara/Sherry Lynn as Cheza

Atsuko Tanaka/Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as Jagura

Mayumi Asano/Jessica Straus as Blue

Mitsuru Miyamoto/Robert Buchholz as Hubb Lebowski

Takaya Kuroda/Steven Jay Blum as Darcia

Unshō Ishizuka/Tom Wyner as Quent Yaiden


Paradise-a legend, a myth, and a hopeless dream in a world that has become a wasteland. It is not meant for everyone, only the wolves thought to be extinct yet still roam the lands. When the Flower Maiden awakens, the path to the end will open.

Kiba, a lone white wolf, wanders into a poverty stricken city on a quest. The scent of Lunar Flowers and the will to find Paradise is all he has. Along the way, he runs into other outcast wolves: Tsume, Hige, and Toboe, each with their own story and troubles. Fate bringing them together, and together they seek out the Flower Maiden, Cheza, and their way to Paradise. But, doing so is no simple matter.

Up against a world that fears them and a man with mysterious abilities, their journey is overrun with challenges and worse-sacrifices. With limited time, they must fight to protect Cheza against everyone who seeks her and discover the hidden path to their destiny. This group of broken souls will form a pack and take their journey to the doors of Paradise. But is it worth the end of the world?


Back in 2003, BONES anime studio released the 26-episode + 4 OAV anime series “Wolf’s Rain” on Fuji TV.  The series would receive a short two-volume manga retelling by Keiko Nobumoto and Toshitsugu Iida (illustrations) and serialized in “Magazine Z”.

The anime series was done well in Japan but when the anime series was released on Adult Swim, needless to say, it would attract many America viewers.  So popular that the DVD release sold well in North America .  And now 15-years later, the series will be released on Blu-ray as a complete series courtesy of FUNimation.

The series begins with a telling of an old legend that when the end of the world is coming, Paradise will appear.  But only wolves can find Paradise.

While wolves have been extinct on Earth for nearly 200-years, they still exist, but now casting illusions onto themselves to make them appear human to the public.

The anime series first introduces us to an injured lone white wolf who is going to Freeze City (where the majority of people are living in poverty).

As Kiba, the lone white arctic wolf is going to Freeze City following the scent of the Lunar Flower, Kiba is in search for this flower as it is a key to open Paradise but most of all, to protect Cheza, the flower maiden.

Kiba is rescued by a Mexican wolf named Hige, who loves to eat and talk to women.  While he feels comfortable living in human society, he decides to join Kiba in his mission to find Paradise.

Toboe is a red wolf and the youngest of the group.  He is considered the runt of the group and was raised by an old woman who found him outside the city and wears bracelets that she gave him.  He is friendly and protective towards most humans and he was saved by the rash Tsume.  He is not much of a fighter and is quite naive.

Tsume is a grey wolf with a X scar across his chest.  He is a strong fighter, rash, rude and seems as if he is mad at the world.  After his human gang leaves him, he decides to join Kiba, Tsume and Hige in their quest of paradise, even though he is skeptical that it exists.

Meanwhile, an ex-sheriff named Quent Yaiden is on the hunt for wolves, whom he blames for killing his wife and son.  Quent has developed a pure hatred towards wolves and despite hunting them, humans don’t believe that wolves exist but Quent has suspicions that wolves are disguising themselves as humans after he comes across Toboe.

He is approached by a police detective named Hubb Lebowski, who is investigating that wolves are involved, despite being skeptical.

His ex-wife Cher Degre is a scientist studying Cheza and her dedication of learning about Cheza has taken over her life, and thus her divorcing her husband.  But when Cher disappears, Hubb tries to find her.

When Hubb discovers the banned book “Book of the Moon” in Cher’s apartment, he joins forces with Quent in hopes it would lead him to his ex-wife, who he still loves.

Will any of these four wolves searching for Paradise find what they are looking for?


VIDEO:

“Wolf’s Rain: The Complete Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition. With this being an older anime series, it’s important to note that this is an SD Remaster.  While colors are vibrant, there is softness as one could expect for a TV series.  But for the most part, this classic anime series features wonderful animation and art backgrounds and watching it nearly 15-years later, you can’t help but feel that BONES did a marvelous job with this anime series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Wolf’s Rain: The Complete Series” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD stereo. Both soundtracks are well-acted but I felt the English dialogue had the advantage of the use of the surround channels when it comes to lossless audio utilization.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Wolf’s Rain: The Complete Series” comes with the following special features:

  • Cast Interview 1 – (6:57) Featuring an interview with Japanese voice actors: Mamoru Miyano (voice of Kiba), Kenta Miyake (voice of Tsume) and Hiroki Shimowada (voice of Toboe).
  • Cast Interview 2 – (8:18) Featuring an interview with Unshou Ishizuka (voice of Quent Yaiden), Takaya Kuroda (voice of Darcia), Kaho Kouda (voice of Cher Degre), Mitsuru Miyamoto (voice of Hubb Lebowski), Arisa Ogasawara (voice of Cheza).
  • Staff Interview – (6:08) Behind-the-scenes recording with the producers and staff about the creation of “Wolf’s Rain”.
  • Pilot Film – (2:18) Japanese pilot film for “Wolf’s Rain”.
  • Promo Film 1 & 2 – Japanese promotional videos for “Wolf’s Rain”.
  • 15-Second Promos
  • Textless Opening and Closing Songs

EXTRAS:

“Wolf’s Rain: The Complete Series” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the series.


Back in 2004, “Wolf’s Rain” was no doubt a hit anime series that captivated not just Japanese audiences but also American audiences.

An anime series that managed to have wonderful, dark visuals plus fascinating characters and a lot of action, I enjoyed “Wolf’s Rain” for its originality and also how the series ended.

Similar to feudal Akira Kurosawa series, where you never know if the protagonists are going to survive to the end, “Wolf’s Rain” is a series that shows that in this dismal world, these wolves that dream of paradise have made the decision to move forward, whether or not paradise exists or not.

All I can say is have the tissue box nearby, you’ll be shedding a few tears watching this anime series.

As much as I enjoyed this series, as most people who followed the series back then are aware that “Wolf’s Rain” did suffer production problems.  And episodes 15-18 were recap episodes told from the perspective of Tsume, Toboe, Hige and Hubb expanding the series to 30 episodes.

With the release of “Wolf’s Rain: The Complete Series” on Blu-ray/DVD you get the full series for a lower price.  Back in 2004-2005, people had to purchase all seven volumes to watch the entire series until the limited edition box set was released in late 2005 and a Perfect Collection (Anime Legends) release came out in 2009.

This release is essentially the Perfect Collection but with an SD Remaster onto Blu-ray.  So, for those wanting the better picture quality and lossless soundtrack will want to opt for this version.

Overall, I can’t recommend “Wolf’s Rain” enough for those wanting a deep, captivating story with wonderful animation.  It’s a classic anime series for sure!  Yes, it may not be perfect but it’s still one of the shining gems from the early 2000’s worth owning on Blu-ray!  Recommended!

 

Sailor Moon R: The Movie (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

There is no doubt that “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” was ahead of its time. A classic, dramatic “Sailor Moon” film that manages to balance drama and action very well. If you are a big fan of the film, definitely own this film on Blu-ray, it’s the definitive version worth purchasing! Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1993 TOEI ANIMATION. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sailor Moon R: The Movie

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL DATE: 1993

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese 2.0 Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: April 18, 2017


Originally Created by Naoko Takeuchi

Director: Kunihiko Ikuhara

Screenplay: Sukehiro Tomita

Character Design by Kazuko Tadano

Music by Akiko Kosaka, Takanori Arisawa, Tetsuya Komuro

Art Design by Junichi Taniguchi

Animation Director: Kazuko Tadano

Anime Production: Toei Animation/TV Asahi


Featuring the following voice talent:

Aya Hisakawa/Kate Higgins as Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury

Emi Shinohara/Amanda C. Miller as Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter

Kotono Mitsuishi/Stephanie Sheh as Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon

Michie Tomizawa/Cristina Vee as Rei Hino/Sailor Mars

Rica Fukami/Stephanie Morgenstern as Minako Aino/Sailor Venus

Kae Araki/Sandy Fox as Chibi Usa

Keiko Han/Jill Frappier as Luna

Tohru Furuya/Robbie Daymond as Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Kamen

Yasuhiro Takato/Ron Rubin as Artemis

Hikaru Midorikawa/Ben Diskin as Fiore

Hiromi Nishikawa as Campanula

Mahito Ohba as Newscaster

Megumi Ogata as Mamoru Chiba (as a child)

Tomoko Maruo as Fiore (as a child)

Wakana Yamazaki as Flower Youma Gurishina

Yumi Touma as Kisenian


Long before Mamoru found his destiny with Usagi, he gave a single rose in thanks to a lonely boy who helped him recover from the crash that claimed his parents. This long-forgotten friend, Fiore, has been searching the galaxy for a flower worthy of that sweet gesture long ago. This Xenian flower is beautiful, but has a dark side- it has the power to take over planets! To make matters worse, the strange plant is tied to an asteroid hurling towards Earth! Faced with an enemy blooming out of control, It’s up to Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians to band together, stop the impending destruction and save Mamoru!


Back in 1991, mangaka Naoko Takeuchi would create her shojo manga series “Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon”.

Serialized in “Nakayoshi” (from 1991-1997) with a total of 18 tankobon (graphic novel) versions published, the series would reach enormous popularity with over 35 million copies sold worldwide and the release of the anime series would further the popularity worldwide with 200 episodes created (1992-1997), three animated films, a live-action TV series, musicals, video games and more.

In 2016, Viz Media showcased “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” at Anime Expo featuring a new English dub, uncut for the first time in American theaters.

The original film was released in theaters back in 1993 and was directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara and written by Sukehiro Tomita and takes place after the original “Sailor Moon R” series.

And now, “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Viz Media.

The film begins with Usagi, Mamoru, Chiba-Usa and friends taking a trip to the Jindai Botanical Garden.

Meanwhile, we see a flashback of a young Mamoru giving a rose to a mysterious boy and the boy promising to return to bring Mamoru many flowers.

As Mamoru steps outside after the other Sailor Senshi are caught spying on the two as they are about to kiss, the mysterious boy, now a man comes to give Mamoru flowers and holds his hand.

Usagi sees the man’s affections towards Mamoru and Usagi tells him that Mamoru is her boyfriend and the mysterious man knocks her down and vows that no one will prevent him from keeping his promise and he disappears.

As the Sailor Senshi are talking among others, they talk about how Mamoru is not only popular with the women but also probably towards men.  Meanwhile, a ball of light is seen floating and buries itself to the ground and a flower grows.

The following morning, Rei meanwhile senses an evil aura and she and the other Sailor Senshi follow Rei and find many of the local city people all fallen to the ground.  When they go to check on them, the people awaken (like zombies) with plants controlling them and they try to attack them.

They find that the person responsible is a flower monster named Glycina and it drains energy from people. As the Sailor Senshi tries to fight her, Fiore appears and uses a flower called Xenian to hurt them.

As Mamoru shoes up to talk to Fiore and prevent him from fighting the Sailor Senshis, he learns that the Xenian is controlling his mind.  As Fiore tries to attack Usagi, Mamoru saves her just in time but is hurt.  Fiore manages to take the injured Mamoru away from Earth to an asteroid and plans to revive him in a crystal.

What is this connection between Fiore and Mamoru?  And can Usagi and friends save Mamoru and defeat Fiore?  And why is Fiore so angry?


VIDEO:

“Sailor Moon R: The Movie” is presented in 1080p High Definition and one must remember that this is an old school anime film and created with cels not digitally as anime is made today.  And handling of anime series were done differently back then and so you may see some occasional spotting in certain frames.

With that being said, this HD version is no doubt the best version I have seen of this film to date.  Having had the original Pioneer DVD, this Blu-ray release from Viz Media is much better in terms of color vibrance and sharpness.  I didn’t notice any major artifacts or banding during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sailor Moon R: The Movie” is presented in Japanese and English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. Both soundtracks are done quite well and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the front channels.  It’s important to note that this animated film on Blu-ray features the current cast featured on the Viz Media releases and not the English dub from the 2000 Pioneer DVD release.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sailor Moon R: The Movie” comes with the following special features:

  • Make Up! Sailor Guardians Featurette – (16:32) A special feature about the Sailor Guardians, a recap that was shown originally before the animated film in Japan in theaters (presented in Japanese and English).
  • Theatrical Intro with English Cast – (10:46) Featuring the English dub voice talent: Stephanie Sheh, Robbie Daymond and Ben Diskin being interviewed about the film.
  • 2017 Los Angeles Premiere – (34:29) Featuring a post-panel with Voice Director – Suzanne Goldish, the English voice talent of “Sailor Moon R” (from the Los Angeles Premiere) and cosplayers.
  • Gallery – “Sailor Moon R” image gallery
  • Trailer – “Sailor Moon R” theatrical trailer

Back in 1993, “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” was released in Japanese theaters and for many fans of the animated series, this was anticipated holiday movie release during the Christmas time in Japan.

At the time, Toei Animation really did a lot of promotion for the film, going so far to have a special “Sailor Moon and X’mas” event in Ginza limited to several hundred people.

One of the earlier personal anime-driven websites in the early ’90s owned by Hitoshi Doi, said of the movie, “It was a great movie.  Maybe my favorite movie of all time”.

Meanwhile, on anime BBS, there was a lot of discussion about the content and possible homosexual storyline about love between two boys.  A topic that was debated at the time and while not super controversial, it was enough for Pioneer Entertainment to release it in 1999 on VHS edited and in Japanese only with English subtitles.

But for the bilingual DVD release back in 2000, Pioneer Entertainment released it uncut but also an edited version of the VHS dub as it was censored for content.

Needless to say, with the release of “Sailor Moon R: The Movie”, the goal was to release this film, with the new English voice cast that have been used for Viz releases.  But most importantly, to feature a storyline that is not censored but to accept what the original Japanese story had been about and not changing the story to reflect that two young male characters that do care about each other.

So, with the changing of the times, we have a new Blu-ray release of “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” that gets things right by not deviating from the story’s original intention.

I actually wrote back when the original DVD was released, “The movie is actually pretty good.  Touching in some areas and it’ll maybe make you want to cry.  When people buy this, they may think they can just buy this for their kids but if you want to explain to your children about homosexuality references and so forth, then go ahead and buy it.”

Watching this film nearly 25-years later and 17-years after the DVD was released, I look back and see Hitoshi Doi’s 1993 post and in Japan, they don’t make any references about two boys liking each other, in fact, fans loved it because of its dramatic storyline of sacrifice and love.  In addition to the action sequences involved as well.

It’s a shame that back then, companies had to censor the film and it was unfortunate, that I felt the need to warn parents because of the references.  Things have changed so much in terms of what can be accepted in film or pop culture in terms of references to LGBT.  If anything, there is no warning that should be needed.  Children watching this may think friendship, while its the parents who may be doing most of the questioning, hopefully people can watch this film and not make such a big deal of the references made between Mamoru and Fiore.

The story revolves around a young Mamoru and a boy named Fiore.  Mamoru gives Fiore a rose and a young Fiore made a promise to bring a flower back to Mamoru.  So, Fiore made it his life duty to fulfill that promise by searching for a flower across the galaxy just for Mamoru.

And when Fiore comes back as an adult to Mamoru to give him the flower he had found and showing his true affections that he has long had for Mamoru, Usagi tells Fiore that Mamoru is her boyfriend.

Needless to say, that doesn’t suit well for Fiore and to make things worse, since Fiore is possessed by the Xenian flower, he uses the power of the flower-monster Glycina to feed on people’s energy and uses it against Sailor Moon and friends.

But it’s a battle for Mamoru’s affections…who will win?  Usagi or Fiore?

No doubt the ending is quite predictable but the film features a strong dramatic storyline that shows how deep Usagi’s love for Mamoru and her friends.  And how far she will go to sacrifice her life for those who are important to her.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” looks very good in HD.  One must remember that this is an old school anime film and created with cels not digitally as anime is made today.  And handling of anime series were done differently back then and so you may see some occasional spotting in certain frames.  But colors and sharpness are wonderful and this is the best version I have seen of the film to date.

And for lossless audio, we get a lossless audio stereo track that sounds great in HD!

And this release also comes with the original Make Up! Sailor Guardians Featurette, which was shown prior to the film’s screening in Japan, to get fans and also non-fans up to speed about each character and where the story is heading at that point of time. Plus, you get interviews with the English cast and the post-screeening of the film panel shown at the film premiere in Los Angeles.

Overall, there is no doubt that “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” was ahead of its time. A classic, dramatic “Sailor Moon” film that manages to balance drama and action very well.  If you are a big fan of the film, definitely own this film on Blu-ray, it’s the definitive version worth purchasing!

Recommended!

 

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

April 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Red Turtle” was an ambitious collaboration, the first for Studio Ghibli with a company and director overseas.  Filmmaker Michael Dudok de With and co-writer Pascale Ferran have truly created a film that is magical and captivating.  I really love this film and I can’t highly recommend it enough.  “The Red Turtle” is magnificent!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Studio Ghibli. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Red Turtle

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 81 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Thematic Elements and Peril)

RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2017


Directed by Michael Dudok de Wit

Story by Michael Dudok de Wit

Screenplay by Pascale Ferran and Michael Dudok de Wit

Producer: Pascal Caucheteux, Vincent Maraval, Gregoire Soriat, Toshio Suzuki

Co-Producer: Remi Burah, Leon Perahia, Olivier Pere

Artistic Producer/Producer: Isao Takahata

Equity Provider: Serge Hayat

Line Producer: Christophe Jankovic

Music by Laurent Perez Del Mar

Edited by Celine Kalepikis


Featuring the Voices of:

Emmanuel Garijo as The Father

Tom Hudson as the Son (young adult)

Baptiste Goy as The Son (child)

Axel Devillers as The Baby (voice)

Barbara Beretta as The Mother (voice)


Marking the much-anticipated return of Studio Ghibli, this masterfully animated fantasy film tells the story of a man shipwrecked at sea who becomes stranded on a beautiful but desolate island. He learns to live in isolation, seemingly tormented in his efforts to escape the island by a giant red turtle. Miraculously, he soon comes upon a young woman also lost at sea and they create a family together.


Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit had worked on numerous animated shorts.  From “The Monk and the Fish”, “Father and Daughter” and “The Aroma of Tea”.

The touching 2000 animated short “Father and Daughter” made an impression on legendary Japanese animation filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki with the intent for Studio Ghibli to co-produce a film with Wild Bunch but with Michael Dudok de Wit to be part of the project.

Wild Bunch met with Dudok de Wit and it didn’t take long for him to say yes, as he is a huge fan of Studio Ghibli animated films.  And together with writer Pascale Ferran, she and Dudok de Wit would create “The Red Turtle”.

Studio Ghibli giving Dudok de Wit input but for the most part, giving him the creative freedom for this animated project.

Making its premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, the film would receive applause and eventually critical acclaim.

The film would be nominated for “Best Animated Feature” for the Academy Awards and now “The Red Turtle” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“The Red Turtle” is a film that has no dialogue but yet manages to captivate one’s attention with wonderful storytelling through actions of the characters and their surrounding environment.

The film begins with a man caught in a storm in the ocean and wakes up on a deserted island.

The man tries to leave the island by making a raft made of bamboo but unfortunately, his raft is destroyed when it hits an animal in the ocean.

The man tries to leave again with another raft that he had built, but once again, something in the ocean has prevented him from leaving.

When the man tries for a third time to leave the island with the raft, once again his attempts are foiled but this time, the man finds out that what is preventing him from leaving and it is a red turtle.

When the man spots the red turtle walking inland, the man gets his revenge by hitting the turtle on the head, turning the turtle on its back and jumping on him.

As the man tries to leave the island again with a raft, he feels guilty about what he had done to the turtle and catches a fish to feed it.  But it’s too late, the red turtle had died and the man is racked with guilt for what he had done.

Overnight, while sleeping with the dead turtle, he wakes up when he hears the turtles shell crack open through the center.  When the man looks out to the ocean and turns his head back to the turtle, to his shock and surprise, the turtle is gone and a woman is inside the shell and she is alive.

And when the man tries to take care of the woman and try to revive her, what will happen on the deserted island?


VIDEO:

“The Red Turtle” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). While the film is not a Studio Ghibli film in terms of animation style, the film features simple but yet well-drawn characters (which includes wonderful animated movements such as people running, swimming, etc.) and beautifully drawn environments, may it be the bamboo forests, water reflections, lighting effects, reflections on water, or even ocean water moving towards the shore, the film looks great.   There is no banding issues or artifacts.  Daylight animated scenes are vibrant and overall picture quality is great.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Red Turtle” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Englsh Audio Description 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.

While there is no dialogue throughout the film, there is great use of ambiance of life living in a deserted island and a wonderful musical score by Laurent Perez Del Mar.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Red Turtle” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director and co-writer Michael Dudok De Wit.
  • The Birth of the Red Turtle – (56:34) A featurette on the birth and making of “The Red Turtle”.
  • The Secrets of the Red Turtle – (17:44) Featuring director/co-writer Michael Dudok de Wit showing the secrets to sketching the film and tracing for setting up a frame and more.
  • The Red Turtle at AFI Fest Q&A – (20:44) Featuring a Q&A with director/co-writer Michael Dudok de Wit.
  • Theatrical Trailer

I have to admit that I was a little standoffish about a collaboration of Studio Ghibli with another company and director outside of Japan.

Having grown up with Studio Ghibli films, especially with Hayao Miyazaki films, there is part of you that will never forget classics such as “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, “Laputa: Castle in the Sky”, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, “Howl’s Moving Castle”, to name a few.

Films that go beyond wonderful animation but stories that touch your soul.  Symbolization through actions that mirror the world, messages in a film that make you think twice and so much included in a film that you discover new things each time you view them.

That is the power of a Studio Ghibli film.  But when I read that Hayao Miyazaki was the person that wanted director Michael Dudok de Wit to be involved in a collaboration project, you can’t just say “why?”.  You have to put your trust that Studio Ghibli wanted Dudok de Wit for a reason.

I personally have not see any of Michael Dudok de Wit’s films, so I didn’t know what to expect with “The Red Turtle”.

When I started to watch the film, I noticed how different it was from the Japanese film productions of Studio Ghibli, but Wild Bunch and Dudok de Wit’s storytelling are strong, the symbolism is strong but most importantly, like Studio Ghibli films before it, this film left me with an emotional impact.  I discovered new things each time I have watched the film (which have been multiple times already).

While character designs may seem simple, the movements and the actions of the characters are what capture your attention.  The environments compliment the characters with reflections to water visual effects but it’s the humanity of the film that you are captivated from beginning to end.

A man who is stuck in a deserted island, feeling isolated, feeling guilty for killing an animal and to see it transform to a beautiful woman.  And where marriage, we know of the words “‘Til Death Do Us Part”, this film is about love between a couple, a love between a family, the joys of growing with your family but also the heartbreak of enduring near tragedy and of course, the process of life of growing old the one you love.

This is a magical love story that needs no words to tell the story.  It’s simple yet complex and it’s a Studio Ghibli, that may be visually different but yet the storyline captures your attention.

I absolutely love this film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant, the lossless soundtrack is primarily outdoor ambiance and ocean sounds but the musical soundtrack by Laurent Perez Del Mar is emotionally moving.  Also, there are numerous, lengthy special features that admirers of the film will enjoy watching or listening to.

Overall, “The Red Turtle” was an ambitious collaboration, the first for Studio Ghibli with a company and director overseas.  Filmmaker Michael Dudok de With and co-writer Pascale Ferran have truly created a film that is magical and captivating.  I really love this film and I can’t highly recommend it enough.  “The Red Turtle” is magnificent!

 

Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Entertaining and quite enjoyable, if you are a fan of Sailor Moon and friends, “Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2” is definitely recommended!

Image courtesy of © Naoko Takeuchi / PNP / KODANSHA / TOEI ANIMATION. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2

DURATION: Episodes 15-26 (276 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 28, 2017


Originally Created by Naoko Takeuchi

Director: Chiaki Kon

Series Composition: Yuji Kobayashi

Character Design by Akira Takahashi

Music by Yasuharu Takanashi

Art Design by Takashi Kurahashi

Anime Production: Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kotono Mitsuishi/Stephanie Sheh as Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon

Rina Satou/Cristina Vee as Rei Hino/Sailor Mars

Ami Koshimizu/Amanda C. Miller as Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter

Hisako Kanemoto/Kate Higgins as Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury

Shizuka Itou/Cherami Leigh as Minako Aino/Sailor Venus

Sayaka Ohara/Veronica Taylor as Michiru Kaiō/Sailor Neptune

Kenji Nojima/Robbie Daymond as Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Kamen

Misato Fukuen/Sandy Fox as Chibi-usa/Sailor Chibi Moon

Ryou Hirohashi/Michelle Ruff as Luna

Youhei Oobayashi/Johnny Yong Bosch as Artemis

Shoko Nakagawa/Debi Derryberry as Diana


The next set in the brand new anime series, Sailor Moon Crystal!

Usagi Tsukino is a little clumsy and a crybaby, but she’s also one spirited eighth grader. One day she meets Luna, a black cat with a crescent moon mark on her forehead, and transforms into the pretty guardian of love and justice in a sailor suit, Sailor Moon! As a chosen guardian of justice, Usagi apparently has a mission to protect a princess, and to find her fellow Guardians and the phantom Silver Crystal. Meanwhile, Queen Beryl of the Dark Kingdom sends her subordinates to the town where Usagi lives. They cause strange events to occur there, all in an effort to acquire the tremendously powerful Silver Crystal… Can Sailor Moon and the other Guardians successfully find the phantom crystal, and protect the princess…!?


Back in 1991, mangaka Naoko Takeuchi would create her shojo manga series “Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon”.

Serialized in “Nakayoshi” (from 1991-1997) with a total of 18 tankobon (graphic novel) versions published, the series would reach enormous popularity with over 35 million copies sold worldwide and the release of the anime series would further the popularity worldwide with 200 episodes created (1992-1997), three animated films, a live-action TV series, musicals, video games and more.

In 2014, Toei Animation did a reboot of the anime series titled “Sailor Moon Crystal” to celebrate the 20th Anniversary but instead of releasing the anime on television, the series was released online on the first and third Saturdays of each month.

The anime series would feature voice actress Kotono Mitsuichi reprising her role as Sailor Moon in Japan while in America, the series would feature an all new English cast.

There first arc titled “Dark Kingdom” was featured in episodes 1-14, while the second arc “Black Moon” is featured in episodes 15-26.  A third season “Death Busters” aired in Japan on April 2016 and a sequel/fourth season was announced in January 2017.

And now the second arc (“Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2”) will be released on Blu-ray/DVD as a normal and a limited edition courtesy of Viz Media.

In the second arc, while Usagi and Mamoru are alone, a pink-haired girl falls from the sky.  She immediately points a gun towards Usagi and demands that Usagi give her the Legendary Silver crystal.

As Mamoru goes to the pink-haired girl, he finds out it is a fake gun and because her name is also Usagi, she is called “Chibi-usa”.  When they take Chibi-usa back to Usagi’s home, she immediately hypnotizes Usagi’s parents and they allow her to stay with them.

As for the others, Rei and Minako are looking into incidents of people being abducted and spontaneously combusting.

Meanwhile, the Black Moon Clan is after the Legendary Silver Crystal and with the Spectre Sisters, Rubeus and Prince Demande after the Crystal, they start to go after each of the Sailor Senshi’s and try to kidnap them in order to lure Sailor Moon.

But who can Usagi and Mamoru turn to for help?  Perhaps King Endymion and Neo Queen Serenity?


VIDEO:

“Sailor Moon Crystal” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the animation from Toei Animation is vibrant and colorful.

While the first series of “Sailor Moon Crystal” received a lot of flack with its earlier animation (which had to be redone for the Blu-ray and DVD release), this second series features much better character design and animation, as well as background art.  Better shadowing and for the most part, the series looks much better!

Picture quality is great and I didn’t notice any major artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sailor Moon Crystal” is presented in Japanese and English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. Both soundtracks are done quite well and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with the band Momoiro Clover Z Part 2 – (9:58) Featuring footage from Momoiro Clover Z’s appearance at Anime Expo and an interview with the group about their feelings of “Sailor Moon Crystal” and the characters.
  • Art Gallery
  • Clean Opening
  • Clean Ending

As a person who watched the anime series as it was airing in Japan and also reviewing it when the DVD’s were first released in the United States, “Sailor Moon Crystal” is no doubt an entertaining, action-packed, dramatic reboot without the filler episodes.

Back in the ’90s and even with today’s popular anime adaptation of successful manga, filler episodes are important to not just to allow for a mangaka to continue their work on a manga series and further the story, so the manga doesn’t catch up too quickly.

The caveat, as some have seen for series such as “Dragon Ball Z”, “Bleach”, “Naruto” and even “One Piece”, filler episodes can drag on for a long time.  But for companies banking on the successful anime to produce merchandise for years, filler episodes have become part of anime culture.

The same was the case with the original “Sailor Moon” series, as much was focused on to give various members their own identity through many character building episodes, establishing friendships, quarrels and such, and adding so many episodes that in the process, not only was there a ton of merchandising but the character was popular enough to get fans or parents to purchase the merchandise for their daughters.

In America, fans were purchasing soundtracks and video games for the 3DO and the original PSX back in the ’90s and every year since Sailor Moon appeared in Japan, conventions have always had someone sporting an outfit from the series.  It was a popular series and eventually, “Sailor Moon” was released in America.  So popular that even American band Barenaked Ladies featured the mention of “Sailor Moon” in their 1998 hit song “One Week”.

So, “Sailor Moon Crystal” as an ONA (Original Net Animation) versus being shown on television would seem like a big surprise but there was no doubt that Toei Animation was already banking on the series popularity that people would turn into the series online and for the most part, their gamble paid off as people were watching, people responded (especially about the animation in the first arc) and while opinion was mixed, “Sailor Moon” merchandise not just for children but also for adults have become popular in Japan.

But with “Sailor Moon Crystal”, no filler, it’s a series straight-up trying to complete various arcs within 12-14 episodes.  No long seasons and as I grow less patient with anime filler episodes, so thrilled that “Sailor Moon Crystal” arcs manages to achieve completion quickly and not test my or others who are low on patience.

And here we are with the “Black Moon Arc”, the second series featuring episodes 15-26.  Now featuring better character designs and animation, the storyline now introduces Chibi-Usa, as well as an appearance of Sailor Pluto.

While there are not too much of an emphasis on the other Sailor Senshi, there are a few episodes where we get to see each character put up a fight against the servants of Black Moon.

This latest arc primarily focuses on Chibi-Usa and the connection she has with Usagi and Mamoru and how she entered the present-time and left the future and what had happen to everyone, but also the origins of the Black Moon.

There is no doubt an emphasis on emotional drama especially between Usagi and Mamoru but also the two and their relationship with Chibi-Usa but this latest features a focus on the emotional ties that bond these three forever.

As for the Blu-ray release, animation is no doubt better with better shading and detail, while colors are vibrant and the series looks great in HD, part of the benefit with watching this series on Blu-ray is to find out how wonderful the acting is for both the Japanese and English dub.

It was awesome to have Kotono Mitsuishi return to voice Usagi/Sailor Moon for the Japanese dialogue and the Japanese voice acting by everyone else is great.  But with the English dub, I just felt that Stephanie Sheh did an amazing job as Usagi.  Both voice actresses were able to nail the emotional scenes with efficacy and also big kudos to Sandy Fox as Chibi-Usa.

Also on the Blu-ray release, the included interview with Momoiro Clover Z was also fantastic and it was great to see them discuss Sailor Moon and their opinion of the characters and hearing about their favorite character in the series.

Overall, “Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2” features the entire “Black Moon Arc” and features a great balance of humor, drama and action.  The voice acting in Japanese and the English dub was superb and the animation is much better.

Entertaining and quite enjoyable, if you are a fan of Sailor Moon and friends, “Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2” is definitely recommended!

 

 

Punching Henry (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Punching Henry” is no doubt a smart and hilarious comedy film that gives a glimpse of the life of a musical comedian.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Still Punching LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Punching Henry

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 95 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: April 18, 2017


Directed by Gregori Viens

Written by Henry Phillips, Gregori Viens

Produced by Jim Hart, Arun Kumar, David Permut, Henry Phillips, Matt Ratner, Rick Rosenthal, Gregori Viens

Co-Producer: Ian Coyne, Nalit Patel

Executive Producer: Howard Barish, David P. Beitchman, Adam Brawer, Luca Costa, Luke Daniels, Robert J. Harley, Brandon K. Hogan, Bert Kern, Atif Malik, Chris Mangao, Sean McEwen, Nick Morton, Alan Pao, Deborah Ratner

Cinematography by Bryce Fortner

Edited by Michael R. Miller, Gregori Viens

Casting by Eyde Belasco

Production Design by Jodi Ginnever

Set Decoration by Laurie McDaniel

Costume Design by Sarah Trost


Starring:

Henry Phillips as Henry Phillips

Tig Notaro as Julian

J.K. Simmons as Jay Warren

Mark Cohen as Stupid Joe

Sarah Silverman as Sharon Levine

Ellen Ratner as Ellen Pinksy

Mike Judge as Ed

Jim Jefferies as Charlie

Stephanie Allynne as Zoe

Michaela Watkins as Mara

Ashley Johnson as Danielle


In this hyper-intelligent comedy, a journeyman comedian is lured to L.A. by a TV producer (J.K. Simmons, Whiplash) who wants to make him a reality star. As reality sets in, he must decide whether his legacy will be to tell jokes for a living or become the butt of them. With an all-star cast including Sarah Silverman, Tig Notaro, Jim Jefferies, Doug Stanhope, and more, PUNCHING HENRY is a hilarious and heartwarming glimpse behind the curtain at the weird world of comedy.


From musical comedian Henry Phillips and director/co-writer Gregori Viens comes “Punching Henry”, a comedy which premiered at South by Southwest in March 2016.

The film stars Henry Phillips as himself, actress Tig Notaro (“In a World”, “One Mississippi”) and wife Stephanie Allynne (“All Nighter”, “In a World”, “One Mississippi”), J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man” films, “Whiplash”), Mark Cohen (“The Aristocrats”, “Funny People”), Sarah Silverman (“School of Rock”, “Wreck-it Ralph”, “There’s Something About Mary”), comedian Jim Jefferies, Michaela Watkins (“The Back-Up Plan”, “Enough Said”, “Wanderlust”).

The film is now available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Punching Henry” is a film that is based on the comedy of Henry Phillips standup routine which is playing a classic loser, hapless with women and unsuccessful in show business.

Henry Phillips is a music comedian trying to make a living traveling to various locations and trying to entertain audiences (some who get him, some who don’t).

His agent Ellen Pinsky (portrayed by Ellen Ratner) calls Henry to let him know that producer Jay Warren (produced by J.K. Simmons) wants to meet with him in Los Angeles.

For Henry, returning to Los Angeles is difficult ever since the media crucified him for being a white supremacist, which was a misunderstanding that got blown out of proportion.

And a lot of his adventures are often discussed in his friend Sharon Levine’s (portrayed by Sarah Silverman) radio show.  And his feelings of going to Los Angeles and not wanting people to take advantage of him.

As Henry goes to Los Angeles to stay with his friend Jillian (portrayed by Tig Notaro) and her wife Zoe (portrayed by Stephanie Allynne).  His first day doesn’t go all that well as his car has been stolen and he has to endure a heckler during his comedy performance which producer Jay Warren has come to observe.

As Henry goes to meet with Jay, he finds out that showrunner Mara (portrayed by Michaela Watkins) wants to create a television show based on his life as a loser.  Mara and other showrunners thinks that Henry’s experiences were part of his comedy routine but they are genuine experiences from his life.

But can Henry’s time in Los Angeles get any worse?  And how does Henry feel about a show being based on his life and how people perceive him due to social media?


VIDEO:

“Punching Henry” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film features wonderful detail during closeup scenes and outdoor scenes. I didn’t notice any problems with artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Punching Henry” is presented in English  DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is primarily dialogue and ambiance-driven. The surround channels do a good job of showcasing the crowds at venues but for the most part, the film is dialogue-driven and focused on the front and center channels.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Punching Henry” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring two deleted scenes.
  • Brendon Walsh suffers – (1:31) Behind-the-scenes on Brendon Walsh’s painful scene.
  • Stupid Joe – (1:45) Improvisation of Mark Cohen’s comedy character Stupid Joe.

For those who have watched Henry Phillips’ comedy routine on “Comedy Central” or watched his hilariously awkward “Henry’s Kitchen” cooking shows on YouTube or his various musical comedy routines, you know that Phillip’s tends to play a character who is often a loner or loser and nothing really goes well for him.

And what if Henry the comedian and his routines were wrapped all in one.  That’s the storyline for “Punching Henry”, a story of how comedy musician Henry Phillips is given the opportunity to have a television show based on his life.

And as everyone in the entertainment world thinks this is part of Phillips’ comedy routine, the fact is that bad luck accompanies him wherever he goes and nothing goes right for him.

Starring many fellow comedians and actress Tig Notaro and J.K. Simmons, for those who enjoy Henry Phillips’ comedy will enjoy this film because it’s literally a film extension of his comedy routine.

From Henry going to Los Angeles and his car stolen within minutes of arriving, getting heckled at a venue, to his lesbian friends asking him to impregnate one of them (so they can have children) and he somehow manages to mess that one up.

But for Henry, now having this opportunity of having his life as a TV series and execs thinking how good of an idea to create a series based on a loser’s loser, for Henry those are painful things in his life that occur frequently, how will he deal with the opportunity and newfound fame thanks to a mishap onstage which becomes popular on social media.

Featuring appearances by many comedians and a solid performance from Henry Phillips, “Punching Henry” is no doubt a smart and hilarious comedy film that gives a glimpse of the life of a musical comedian.

 

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

April 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release of “The Wanderers” is not only entertaining and cool, it’s the definitive version of the film to own!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1979 Orion Pictures Company. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Wanderers

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1979

DURATION: 117 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1:85:1, DTS Stereo

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: March 28, 2017


Based on the Novel by Richard Price

Directed by Philip Kaufman

Screenplay by Rose Kaufman, Philip Kaufman

Produced by Martin Ransohoff

Executive Producer: Fred C. Caruso, Richard R. St. Johns 

Associate Producer: Fred C. Caruso

Cinematography by Michael Chapman

Edited by Stuart H. Pappe, Ronald Roose

Casting by Scott Rudin

Production Design by John Jay Moore

Set Decoration by Thomas C. Tonery

Costume Design by Robert De Mora


Starring:

Ken Wahl as Richie

John Friedrich as Joey

Karen Allen as Nina

Toni Kalem as Despie Galasso

Alan Rosenberg as Turkey

Jim Youngs as Buddy

Tony Ganios as Perry

Linda Manz as Peewee

William Andrews as Emilio

Erland van Lidth as Terror

Val Avery as Mr. Sharp

Dolph Sweet as Chubby Galasso

Michael Wright as Clinton

Dion Alabanese as Teddy Wong

Olympia Dukakis as Joey’s Mom


Brand New 2K Restoration! Meet the Wanderers, the Coolest Guys in Town! Tully High School seniors Richie, Joey and Perry run with a gang called The Wanderers in the Bronx. The year is 1963 but their experiences are universal: falling in love, surviving in school and defending their turf against rivals like the Fordham Baldies, the Del Bombers and the Ducky Boys. From the acclaimed first novel by Richard Price (Clockers), The Wanderers is a rich fabric of comedy and tragedy, fantasy and farce. Director Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff) mixes dynamic talents that include Ken Wahl (The Soldier), Karen Allen (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Toni Kalem (The Sopranos) and Linda Manz (Days of Heaven) with a jukebox full of golden oldies to generate a heady atmosphere. Like American Graffiti and Saturday Night Fever, this cult-classic is a nostalgic window to a vanished world. Beautifully shot by the great Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull). This special edition includes both the original theatrical version and the very rarely seen Preview Cut.


Back in 1979, director Philip Kaufman released his American drama film “The Wanderers” which was loosely based on the novel by Philip Price.

Featuring a screenplay by Philip Kaufman and his wife Rose, “The Wanderers” would star Ken Wahl (“Wiseguy”, “Fort Apache, The Bronx”, “Purple Hearts”), John Friedrichs (“The Boy in the Plastic Bubble”, “Thank God It’s Friday”, “The Final Terror”), Karen Allen (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, “The Perfect Storm”), Toni Kalem (“Sister Act”, “Silent Rage”), Jim Youngs (“Footloose”, “Youngblood”, “Hotshot”), Tony Ganios (“Die Hard 2”, “Porky’s”, “Porky’s Revenge”), Linda Manz (“Days of Heaven”, “The Game”, “Out of the Blue”), William Andrews (“Saturday Night Fever”, “Plainsong”), Michael Wright (“The Interpreter”, “The Five Heartbeats”, “The Principal”) and Olympia Dukakis (“Look Who’s Talking”, “Moonstruck”).

Since its debut in 1979, “The Wanderers” has a significant cult following and with the new brand new 2K restoration, the Kino Lorber Blu-ray and DVD release of “The Wanderers” features the original 118 minute theatrical version and the very rarely seen 124 minute “Preview Cut”.

The film is set in the Bronx back in 1963 and begins with a gang of Italian-American teenagers known as the Wanderers and members Joey (portrayed by John Friedrich) and Turkey (portrayed by Alan Rosenberg) walking around.  Turkey has shaved his head in hopes he could join the rival gang, the Fordham Baldies.

Joey tries to persuade Turkey from joining and when Joey says something bad about the Baldies, the rival gang’s leader’s girlfriend Peewee (portrayed by Linda Manz) overhears them. She tells her boyfriend, Baldies leader Terror (portrayed by Erland van Lidth) and Joey and Turkey take off running and the Baldies gang chases after them.

Meanwhile, Wanderers leader, Richie (portrayed by Ken wahl) is having sex with his girlfriend Despie (portrayed by Toni Kalem), but when he hears the two in trouble, Richie and Buddy (portrayed by Jim Youngs) try to give them help but find out the entire Baldies gang is after them.

As the four Wanderers are cornered by members of the Baldies, a tall Italian guy named Perry (portrayed by Tony Ganios) comes to their rescue and beats up some of the Baldies and saves them.

As the Wanderers gang are happy that Perry came to rescue them, Joey finds out that Perry has recently moved to the Bronx from New Jersey and they live across the hall from each other.  And Perry becomes the latest member of the Wanderers.

As Joey introduces Perry to the various gangs in the school and how the Blacks and the Asians are separated from each other, during class, their teacher wanted to show them how they shouldn’t hate each other, by having the Italians and the African-American students think of derogatory terms towards each other.

Unfortunately, what the teacher was trying to get them to do and show them how they are alike, instead pits the two together and Richie and Clinton (portrayed by Michael Wright) decide to fight each other with no knives or weapons, just a fight between the two ethnic groups.

But Richie and the Wanderers know they don’t have the numbers, so they start reaching out to other ethnicities, but none of them are interested.  And those who are, want to use weapons, which Richie said he and Clinton made a promise not to.

The group try to get the Wongs involved but their leader Teddy said they will make a decision at a later time to decide who they want to side with.

So, that leaves Richie, Joey and Turkey going to the Baldies for help.  But instead, they get back at the Wanderers for their earlier skirmish and have Richie and Joe take off their pants and have Turkey do the dirty work.  And allowing Turkey to join the Baldies after betraying his friends.

Meanwhile, Richie, Joey, Perry and Buddy later have fun with the women by playing a game of “elbow titting” and Richie meets Nina (portrayed by Karen Allen).  While Richie is interested in Nina and both are flirtatious towards each other, because Richie is dating Despie, he tries to set Joey up with Nina.  And the all decide to meet up at Despie’s party.

But what happens on the night of the party?


VIDEO:

“The Wanderers” is presented in 1080p (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Watching this cult classic once again, the 2K restoration actually looks fantastic and the best I have seen of the film yet.  Details are much more evident, closeups show better detail and I like how the colors look more vibrant instead of muted colors as seen with the older VHS version of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Wanderers” is presented in English Dolby Digital Monaural.  While dialogue and music are crystal clear through the center channel, I didn’t notice any pops or clicks considering the age of the film.  The monaural lossless soundtrack is very good.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Wanderers” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Philip Kaufman.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an insightful audio commentary by Columbia University Film Professor 7 author of “Philip Kaufman”, Annette Insdorf.
  • Back in the Bronx with Richard Price – (35:17) Author Richard Price talks about his book “The Wanderers” and it be adapted to a film.
  • Wanderers Forever – Live Q&A At NYC’s Film Forum – (16:37) Featuring a Q&A with Karen Allen, Toni Kalem, Tony Ganios and Richard Price.
  • The Wanderers Q&A at LA’s Cinefamily – (31:57) A Q&A with director Philip Kaufman, Alan Roseburg and Peter Kaufman
  • Audio Q&A at NYC’s Film Forum (19:46) An audio Q&A with director Philip Kaufman.
  • Audio Q&A at NYC’s Film Forum – (16:41) An audio Q&A with writer Richard Price
  • Re-Release Trailer
  • TV Spot

“The Wanderers” is no doubt a cult classic that entertains audiences for its take on the Bronx life of teenagers during the early ’60s, the gangs that existed back in the day but also the segregation among ethnic groups.

It was no doubt a tough and dangerous time back in the day, and despite the film being made in 1979, director Philip Kaufman who would be known for his work on the “Indiana Jones” films, will also be celebrated for creating this film adaptation of Richard Price’s original novel.

The film featured a cast of young talent who would later go on to make a name for themselves after “The Wanderers”.

Ken Wahl was a fixture on television thanks to the “Wiseguy” but unfortunately after an accident, his acting career was over.  But he and wife Shane Barbi (of the Barbi Twins) focus their energy on animal rights issues.

Karen Allen would become a big film star in the ’80s with “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Starman”, “Scrooged”). Toni Kalem would star in “The Sopranos” and “Sister Act and became a filmmaker (as did Karen Allen), Linda Manz was well-known for starring in Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven” in 1978 but would continue acting for two more decades and star in the David Fincher film “The Game”.

Alan Rosenberg would be seen in TV shows “The Guardian” and “Cybill” and Michael Wright would star in numerous films including “The Interpreter”, “The Five Heartbeats”, “The Principal” to name a few.

And while most of the film, these young talent would be character with their own differences, its the storyline and adaptation by Philip Kaufman that would bring these characters to life.  While not as risque as Richard Price’s original novel, “The Wanderers” manages to incorporate what people loved of films depicting ’60s life but also the film’s undertones and messages.  May it be to a reaction of JFK’s death, the music of Bob Dylan, teen fun and sexual innuendo, it’s an honest depiction of the times, including racial turbulence that was prevalent in the Bronx.

And there are numerous reasons to love the film.  For me, it was the characters, the adventures, the cultural complications, the gang lifestyle of the ’60s and as an adult, I appreciated the film so much more, in terms of character dynamics but also knowing the context of the characters and the meaning of certain scenes that I was not aware of when I saw this film in my early teens.

With the release of “The Wanderers” on Blu-ray, not only do fans get the definitive version to own but also a small reunion of characters for the film’s Q&A decades after the film was released in theaters.  But you learn about the filming and experiences behind-the-scenes as well.

I absolutely enjoyed the various Q&A featurettes but also the two insightful audio commentaries and for the most part, this is one of the most entertaining, pleasant Blu-ray releases one can own if you love “The Wanderers”.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release of “The Wanderers” is not only entertaining and cool, it’s the definitive version of the film to own!  Highly recommended!

 

Hunter x Hunter vol. 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Hunter x Hunter” is an improvement over the first series and is respectful to the original manga series by Yoshihiro Togashi but also features a more action-driven storyline with much more violence.  So, it’s not as child-friendly as the first series from 1999-2001 but this newer “Hunter x Hunter” is a series that I found entertaining and full of action!  Recommended!” a try!

Image courtesy of © POT (Yoshihiro Togashi, 1998-2011). All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Hunter x Hunter vol. 2

DURATION: Episodes 14-26 (300 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese 2.0 LPCM, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 28, 2017


Originally created by Yoshihiro Togashi

Director: Hiroshi Koujina

Series Composition: Atsushi Maekawa, Tsutomu Kamishiro

Character Design by Takahiro Yoshimatsu

Art Director: Mio Isshiki

Executive Producer: Seiji Okuda

Producer: Akira Shinohara, Manabu Tamura, Naoki Iwasa, Tetsuto Motoyasu, Tomoko Yoshino, Toshio Nakatani

Anime Production: Madhouse


Featuring the following voice talent:

Megumi Han/Erica Mendez as Gon Freecss

Keiji Fujiwara/Matthew Mercer as LeoRio

Kanako Mitsuhashi/Cristina Vee as Killua Zaoldyeck

Miyuki Sawashiro/Erika Harlacher as Kurapica

Akio Ohtsuka/Patrick Seitz as Mizaistom Nana/Uvogin

Aya Endo as Komugi

Ayumi Fujimura as Neferpito

Chisa Yokoyama as Biscuit Krueger

Cho as Bonolenov

Daisuke Kishio/Ray Chase as Hanzo

Daisuke Namikawa/Keith Silverstein as Hisoka


In the Fourth Phase of the Hunter Exam the participants must steal ID badges from each other—and anyone without enough badges at the end of one week fails! It will take trickery, unexpected alliances, and careful negotiations for Gon and his friends to succeed. In the Final Phase, the remaining Hunter candidates are matched up for one-on-one battles—but the only way to win this fight is to lose! After the exam, Gon discovers that Killua has gone back home, so he and his friends head to the Republic of Padokea to find him.


The “Hunter x Hunter” series is one of the most popular and long-running manga series in Japan.  Written and designed by Yoshihiro Togashi (creator of “Yu Yu Hakusho’), the manga series began in 1998 and is still ongoing to this day with 33 volumes published.

As for the animated series, the first series premiered in 1999 through 2001 and lasted 62 episodes.  A 30 OVA episodes then was released from 2002-2004.  And then nearly a decade later, a 148-episode TV series which was shown on NTV which ran from 2011-2014.

And now, the recent “Hunter x Hunter” TV series will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Viz Media.

This new series is a reboot of the anime series and is based on Yoshihiro Togashi’s “Hunter x Hunter” manga and this time is produced by Madhouse and is directed by Hiroshi Kojina.  The new series also features an all new voice talent (both for the Japanese and English dub).

The new series revolves around Gon Freecss, who finds out that his father who was thought to be dead, is very much alive.  Having been brought up by his aunt Mito,  Gon finds out that his father is Ging, the legendary “Hunter” and now Gon, wants to follow his father’s footsteps by passing the “Hunter Examination” and one day, to be reunited with his father.

On his path to become a hunter, he meets Kurapika (who wants to become a hunter to hunt down the Phantom Troupe, who massacred his clan) and Leorio (who wants to be a hunter for the money).

In the first volume, the three arrived at Zaban City and take part in the first three phases of the Hunter exam venue.

In the second volume (episodes 14-26), the applicants arrive at Zevil Island for the fourth phase of the exam.  Each person draws a number to find out who their target is and the goal is to steal their opponents ID tag.  Each applicant must collect six points in order to pass the fourth phase.

Gon finds out that his opponent is the murderous Hisoka and thrives on near death experiences.  Leorio finds out his target is Ponzu (who specializes in traps and poison) and Kurapika’s target is Tonpa.

As the two form an alliance, they are now stalked by Hisoka.

The second volume also features the final phase of the Hunter Exam, where winners lose and the losers advance. Will Gon, Kurapika or Leorio pass the Hunter exam?

And also is included are the beginning episodes of the Zoldyck Family Arc (starting with episode 22) and Gon and friends go to Kukuroo Mountain to visit Killua.  Meanwhile, we learn about Killua’s family and childhood.


VIDEO:

“Hunter x Hunter” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the animation from Madhouse is no doubt respectful to Yoshihiro Togashi’s manga series.

As expected with a TV series, there is a slight hint of softness but for the most part, colors are vibrant and overall animation and fighting animation is done well.  I didn’t notice any major issues with artifacts or banding.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Hunter x Hunter” is presented in LPCM Japanese and English 2.0.  Both soundtracks are done quite well and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Hunter x Hunter” vol. 2 features the clean opening and ending songs, trailers and ending credits.

EXTRAS:

“Hunter x Hunter” vol. 2 comes with three post cards.


“Hunter x Hunter” is an adventure, action-packed anime series that will attract anime fans who are willing to invest their time in another popular anime series that has lasted for over a hundred episodes.

Similar to “Naruto”, “Bleach” and “Dragon Ball Z”, “Hunter x Hunter” has been a popular manga and anime series in Japan and with the original series feeling that it was aiming for a younger demographic, this recent series has a more darker feel as the violence is more evident and people do die.

Having watched the original series, this latest version is quick to bring Gon and his friends to take the Hunter exam, while the original put a lot of character development into Gon and how Gon is different from other hunters since he was raised by a loving relative and lived in a village where there has not been much strife or conflict, so he is a bit naive about the world around him.  In fact, his motivation in becoming a hunter is so opposite of what other hunters are wanting it for.  But Gon’s pure and positive attitude seems to have an effect on the people that he meets.  In some ways, the original series reminded me of the character Naruto in that aspect.

But Gon is still an entertaining character to watch.   Gon has the ability to communicate with animals like his father and carries a fishing pole that acts like a weapon and helps him swing to different areas.  He is also learning more and more about his abilities as he continues on in his hunter training with his friends.

Kurapika is intelligent, a balanced fighter and also is a conjurer and specialist with the ability to materialize objects with his imagination.  He is a character that is on a mission to become a hunter to hunt down the Phantom Troupe, who massacred his clan.

Leorio is a man with a hot temper but has a good heart.  He seems to want to be a hunter because of money and he is a great fighter.

The second volume shows how this friendship grows among the three but also introduces Killua Zoldyck.

But the big focus with this second volume is more focus on Hisoka, the 44th applicant who has a lust for blood and kills his opponents and it led to his failure in last year’s Hunter exam.

As for the anime series, the Blu-ray release features a solid lossless stereo soundtrack and both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-acted.  Animation is also very well-done by Madhouse and while there is a hint of softness, the anime series is quite colorful and looks great in HD.

While special features are the usual clean opening and ending theme, trailers and credits, “Hunter x Hunter” vol. 2 comes with three collectible postcards.

Overall, “Hunter x Hunter” is an improvement over the first series and is respectful to the original manga series by Yoshihiro Togashi but also features a more action-driven storyline with much more violence.  So, it’s not as child-friendly as the first series from 1999-2001 but this newer “Hunter x Hunter” is a series that I found entertaining and full of action!  Recommended!

 

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

April 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Lion” is deserving for each of its award nominations, critical praise internationally and it’s a film that many people will no doubt find extraordinary and worth watching on Blu-ray. “Lion” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Lion

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 118 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Anchor Bay Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Thematic Material and Some Sexuality)

RELEASE DATE: April 11, 2017


Based on the book “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierly

Directed by Garth Davis

Screenplay by Luke Davies

Produced by Iain Canning, Angie Fielder, Emile Sherman

Associate Producer: Simone Nicholson, Karen Sproul

Executive Producer: Andrew Fraser, David Glasser, Daniel Levin, Shahen Mekertichian, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein

Associate Producer: Simone Nicholson, Karen Sproul

Music by Volker Bertelmann, Dustin O’Halloran

Cinematography by Greig Fraser

Edited by Alexandre de Franceschi

Casting by Kirsty McGregor

Production Design by Chris Kennedy

Set Decoration by Nicki Gardiner, Seema Kashyap

Costume Design by Cappi Ireland


Starring:

Dev Patel as Saroo Brierly

Rooney Mara as Lucy

Sunny Pawar as Young Saroo

David Wenham as John Brierly

Nicole Kidman as Sue Brierly

Abhishek Bharate as Guddu

Divian Ladwa as Mantosh Brierly

Priyanka Bose as Kamla

Tannishtha Chatterjee as Noor

Pallavi Sharda as Prama

Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Rama


Five-year-old Saroo gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of Kilometers across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.


In 2013, businessman Saroo Brierly wrote a book titled “A Long Way Home” which is based on his autobiographical account of being separated from his biological mother and family at the age of 5 and adopted by an Australian couple and then 25-years later being reunited with his biological mother.

Brierly’s book received international recognition when his book was released worldwide in 2014 and in 2016, his story received a live film adaptation.

The Australian biographical film was directed by Garth Davis (“Mary Magdalene”, “Alice”, “P.I.N.S.”) and features a screenplay by Luke Davies (“Candy”, “Life”).

The film stars Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire”, “Chappie”, “The Last Airbender”, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”), Nicole Kidman (“Moulin Rouge”, “The Others”, “Eyes Wide Shut”, “The Hours”), Rooney Mara (“The Social Network”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “Side Effects”), David Wenham (“300”, “The Lord of the Rings” films, “Van Helsing”), Divian Ladwa (“Dectorists”, “8 Minutes Idle”, “Saxon”), Priyanka Bose (“Johnny Gaddaar”, “Gulaab Gang”, “Guzaarish”), Abhishek Bharate and Sunny Pawar.

The $12 million film would go on to earn $130.2 million worldwide and receiving positive reviews from critics worldwide.  The film would receive six Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards and received five nominations at the 70th British Academy Film Awards.

The film begins in 1986 and is set in Khandwa, India.   The film introduces us to a young Saroo (portrayed by Sunny Pawar), a five-year-old boy who wants to prove to his older brother Guddu (portrayed by Abhishek Bharate) that he can work and provide for their poor family.  His mother Kamla is busy raising the two boys and their young sister and works at a job hauling rocks.

One day, Guddu is planning to do some salvaging at a nearby train station and Saroo begs for his older brother to take him along.  Guddu allows him and when they arrive to the station late at night, Saroo is too sleepy.  So, Guddu tells his little brother to sleep on the bench, while he goes out to salvage.

When Saroo wakes up, he realizes that Guddu is not around and starts looking for him.  He ends up going inside a train to look for his brother but is unable to find him.  He goes back to sleep but this time inside the train.  Too his surprise, when he wakes up, he finds out that he is locked in the train and the train is in motion.

Unfortunately, Saroo is unable to leave and for several days, the train takes him thousands of miles to Calcutta.  When the doors open, unfortunately Saroo is unable to communicate because he speaks Hindu, while the locals speak Bengali.  When he tries to tell the ticket counter that he needs to go back home to “Ginestlay”, no one understands.

Saroo is forced to sleep overnight in the streets but starts to learn of the dangers as many of the homeless children sleeping in the streets are kidnapped by child predators late at night.  Saroo manages to escape and live in the streets, homeless and one day he finds a spoon buried in the dirt.  As he goes into the city, he watches a young man eating soup with a spoon and starts to emulate him.

The young man takes Saroo to the police and they try to help him and hope by publishing his photo in a major newspaper that reaches all over India, his family may come to claim him.  But not knowing where Saroo comes from, they put him up in an orphanage.

Eventually an Australian couple, Sue (portrayed by Nicole Kidman) and John Brierly (portrayed by David Wenham) are interested in adopting an Indian boy and moves Saroo from India to Hobart, Tasmania in 1987.  And they raise Saroo with a lot of love and he eventually comes to love his new parents.

A year later, they adopt another boy named Mantosh, a boy who has a mental problem and tends to harm himself which puts a little strain on the Brierly’s.

Fastforward 20-years later and Saroo (portrayed by Dev Patel) is moving to Melbourne to study hotel management.  He has a relationship with fellow student, Lucy (portrayed by Rooney Mara) and when they go to a party with other fellow Indian students, many are interested in how Saroo came to Australia and learn of how he was lost and was later adopted.

This triggers memories of Saroo’s mom and brother and the thought of them looking for their son haunts Saroo.  He starts to use Google Earth and using information on the Internet to find where he may come from.  All he knows is the two towers that he saw at a station, a field where his mother collected rocks and he becomes obsessed of finding where he came from and reuniting with his family.

But will Saroo ever find his biological family?


VIDEO:

“Lion” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  The film features wonderful detail during closeup scenes and outdoor scenes.  I didn’t notice any problems with artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Lion” is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is primarily dialogue, music and ambiance-driven.  The surround channels do a good job of showcasing the train sounds through the surround channels, but for the most part, the film is dialogue and music-driven and focused on the front and center channels.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Lion” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (4:36) Featuring three deleted scenes.
  • Behind the Scenes Gallery – (22:16) Features “A Conversation with Saroo Brierly”, “A Conversation with Dev Patel”, “A Conversation with Nicole Kidman”, “A Conversation with Director Garth Davis” and “Making the Music”.
  • “Never Give Up” Music Video – Performed by Sia – (3:44)

EXTRAS:

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


As a father, I can’t fathom the heartbreak of living life wondering if your child is alive or dead.  As a child, separated from his biological family, one can only wonder the pain they experience and wondering if their family is looking for them.

Based on a true story about Saroo Brierly’s quest to find where he lived using modern technology and in hopes being reunited with his family.  And hopefully accomplish this as the sight of his family searching for him or in pain of not knowing what had become of him, haunts him to the point that he is unable to stay in school or have any personal relationships.

He is clearly devastated, depressed but also determined.  But he just needs a break because his search for his family is difficult because all he remembers are just a few things, such as a two towers near a station, helping his mother collect rocks in a big dirt field and how many days he was stuck on a train.

While his adoptive parents are supportive and love him wholeheartedly, he doesn’t get along with his brother Mantosh all that much (because of his mental issues and self-harming affects his parents, especially his mother) and his relationship with Lucy is troubled because of his obsession of finding his biological family.

The film is driven in two parts.  The first part with a younger Saroo (portrayed by Sunny Pawar) and seeing this young-child survive in India, without speaking the native language of Bengali in Calcutta but also seeing the dangers of child predators.  And seeing how this young boy was able to go from homeless in the streets to being adopted by a very good family in Australia.

The second part features an older Saroo who has no clue about his past life and unlike other Indians who can identify with their culture, Saroo never knew of his Indian culture but as he is asked about it frequently and going to a party with other Indian classmates, his memories of his past start to come back and he finds himself more determined to finding where he came from and driven to be reunited with his mom and family.

While the first part is no doubt powerful, as we see a child of innocence becoming a boy surviving in the streets, the second part is about the search and that is where the film focuses on Saroo’s well-being and the thoughts of his mom and brother searching for him, starting to take over his life.  And because of this, affecting his relationships to the people most close to him.

The film is no doubt powerful, inspirational and moving.  Because you know it’s a true story, you can’t help but root for young and adult Saroo.  But be marveled by the journey that Saroo had to endure as a young child but also as an adult, using today’s modern technology to help him find his biological family and wondering if they are alive or if they still live in the same area or have moved away.

The Blu-ray features wonderful picture and lossless audio.  There are also a few special features included with the real-life Saroo, the talent, the director and how the music was conceived for the film.

Needless to say, “Lion” is deserving for each of its award nominations, critical praise internationally and it’s a film that many people will no doubt find extraordinary and worth watching on Blu-ray.

“Lion” is recommended!

 

 

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I do recognize the pure awesomeness of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and its ending still makes an impact each time I watch it. And as mentioned earlier, for a sci-fi action-film, when you come across a film that makes you want to watch it multiple times, you know it’s a winner. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 133 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:39:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French Subtitles

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: PG-13 (For Extended Sequences of Sci-Violence and Action)

RELEASE DATE: April 4, 2017


Based on Characters Created by George Lucas

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy

Story by John Kroll & Gary Whitta

Produced by Simon Emanuel, Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur

Co-Producer: Kiri Hart, John Swartz, Susan Towner

Executive Producer: John Knoll, Jason D. McGatlin

Associate Producer: Toby Hefferman

Music by Michael Giacchino

Cinematography by Greig Fraser

Edited by John Gilroy, Colin Goudie, Jabez Olssen

Casting by Jina Jay

Production Design by Doug Chiang, Neil Lamont

Art Direction by Alex Baily, Alastair Bullock, Robert Cowper, Jordana Finkel, Lydia Fry, Ashley Lamont, Steven Lawrence, Oliver Roberts, Stuart Rose, Stephen Swain, Gary Tomkins, Helen Xenopoulos

Set Decoration by Lee Sandales

Costume Design by David Crossman, Glyn Dillon


Starring:

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso

Diego Luna as Cassian Andor

Alan Tudyk as K-2SO

Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe

Wen Jiang as Baze Malbus

Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic

Guy Henry as Governor Tarkin

Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera

Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook

Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso

Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa

Alistair Petrie as General Draven

Genevieve O’Reilly as Mon Mothma

Ben Daniels as General Merrick

Paul Kasey as Admiral Raddus

Stephen Stanton as Admiral Raddus (Voice)

Ian McElhinney as General Dodonna

Fares Fares as Senator Vaspar

Jonathan Aris as Senator Jebel

Sharaon Duncan-Brewster as Senator Pamlo

Spencer Wilding and Daniel Naprous  as Darth Vader

James Earl Jones as Darth Vader (voice)

Ingvild as Princess Leia

Anthony Daniels as C-3P0

Valene Kane as Lyra Erso


From Lucasfilm comes the first of the STAR WARS stand-alone films — ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, an epic adventure. In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the STAR WARS timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.


Ten years before the development of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, visual effects supervisor John Knoll who worked on the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy pitched the idea of standalone “Star Wars” stories.

And in 2014, it was announced that the first standalone story “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” would be directed by Gareth Edwards (“Monsters”, “Godzilla”) and a story would be written by Knoll (visual effects supervisor for “Avatar”, “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”, “Tomorrowland”) and Gary Whitta (“The Book of Eli”, “After Earth”) and a screenplay by Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”, “The Golden Compass”, “Cinderella”) and Tony Gilroy (writer of the “The Bourne” films).

The film starred Felicity Jones (“The Amazing Spider-Man”, “Inferno”, “The Theory of Everything”), Diego Luna (“Milk”, “The Terminal”, “The Book of Life”), the voice of Alan Tudyk (“I, Robot”, “Frozen”), Donnie Yen (“Ip Man” films, “Blade II”, “Hero”), Wen Jiang (“Devils on the Doorstep”, “Let the Bullets Fly”, “The Sun Also Rises”), Ben Mendelsohn (“Animal Kingdom”, “The Dark Knight Rises”), Guy Henry (“Holby City”, “V for Vendetta”, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”), Forrest Whitaker (“The Last Kingdom of Scotland”, “Platoon”, “Arrival”), Riz Ahmed (“Four Lions”, “Jason Bourne”, “Nightcrawler”) and Mads Mikkelsen (“Casino Royale”, “The Hunt”, “Doctor Strange”, “Hannibal”).

The film that was budgeted at $200 million, would become an enormous success as it would go on to earn $1.055 billion worldwide.

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in April 2017.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” begins with research scientist Galen Erso (portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen) and his wife Lyra (portrayed by Valene Kane) hiding their young daughter Jyn on the planet Lah’mu.  Not long after, Imperial weapons developer Orson Krennic (portrayed by Orson Krennic) arrives and approaches Erso to complete his work for the Death Star (a space station that has a superweapon to destroy planets).

Sensing that their daughter did not hide underground as told, Lyra fights against the stormtrooper and is killed.  As Erso gives himself up, Jyn manages to escape and is taken in by Rebel extremist Saw Gerrera (portrayed by Forest Whitaker).

Fastfoward 15-years later and cargo pilot Bodhi Rook (portrayed by Riz Ahmed) defects from the empire and smuggles a holographic message from Galen Erso for Saw Gerrera on the desert moon Jedha about the Imperial Army creating a planet killer, the Death Star.

Meanwhile, rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor enters an Imperial labor camp at Wobani and along with his reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO frees Jyn (portrayed by Felicity Jones).  Cassian takes Jyn to Rebel leader Mon Mothma, and in exchange for her freedom, she must rescue Galen so the Alliance can learn about the Death Star.

But in order to find her father, he must find Rebel extremist, Saw Gerrera, who she hasn’t seen for years to help her.

But Jyn is unaware that Cassian has been ordered by General Draven to kill her father father, not rescue him.

What happens when Jyn, Cassian and K-2SO go out to find Saw but also for Jyn to find her father, Galen?  And who else will join Jyn in her journey to find her father?


VIDEO:

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).

The film looks absolutely wonderful in HD with closeups showing detail of skin pigments to seeing the detail in clothing. Outdoor scenes are vibrant and the CG utilized for the film is incredible. This is reference quality video and the film on Blu-ray looks fantastic!

For the most part, I didn’t notice any problematic issues with banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  Also, included is an English 2.0 Description Audio and a French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Dialogue is crystal clear and there is good use of surround channels as chase scenes and shots and explosions can be heard all around.    Action sequences are just fantastic to listen to, dialogue and music are crystal clear and yes, like the video, the film on Blu-ray features reference lossless audio.  Fantastic!

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” comes with the following special features on a separate Blu-ray disc.

  • The Stories – (1:08:57) Featuring  the following featurettes: A Rogue Idea, Jyn: The Rebel, Cassian: The Spy, K-250: The Droid, Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills, Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & The Revolutionary, The Empire, Visions of Hope: The Look of Rogue One, The Princess & the Governor, Epilogue: The Story Continues
  • Rogue Connections – (4:30) A connection between “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and the previous “Star Wars” films.

EXTRAS:

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” comes with a slipcover, two Blu-rays (for the film and special features), a DVD and a Digital HD code.


If you love “Star Wars”, especially the original trilogy, you will most definitely want to watch “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” which serves as a self-contained storyline that eventually leads to the beginning of “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”.

As a “Star Wars” fan, a person who has watched every film when it first came out in the theater and also a fan who has a large “Star Wars” merchandise collection.  Suffice to say, I wasn’t sure what to expect of this film.

Fortunately, watching “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” and having enjoyed it immensely, gave me enough encouragement to know that LucasFilms now owned by Disney is taking every precaution to make sure that these newer films tie-in to the original and that there is true meaning and reasoning for these films to be created, other than for the fact that “Star Wars” films generate huge revenue.

With “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, the connection is quite upfront.  We know about the Death Star from “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” and how the Empire created a planet killer that happens to have a significant flaw.  How did this flaw come to existence and how was the information passed on to the Rebel Alliance?

The film introduces us to Galen Erso, the scientist responsible for creating the Death Star.  Forced to work for the Empire in order to keep his daughter Jyn safe, a cargo pilot named Bhodi Rook defects from the Empire and smuggles a holographic message from Galen to Rebel extremist Saw Gerrera.

Meanwhile, Jyn has lived a life of crime but has been given a second chance by the Rebel Alliance for her freedom, she must find Saw Gerrera (portrayed by Forest Whitaker) in order to get more information about this flaw in the Death Star that the Rebel Alliance can take advantage of the opportunity and destroy it.

Actress Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, the headstrong, rebellious daughter of Galen Erso, while Mexican actor Diego Luna plays the role of Cassian Andor, who must accompany Jyn in finding Saw Gerrera but also hoping she can lead him to Galen Erso.

The two are joined by K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial robot who serves as the film’s comedy droid thanks to his blunt observations.

Joining Jyn are Chirrut Imwe portrayed by Chinese martial arts superstar Donnie Yen and also another popular Chinese actor Wen Jiang as the heavy weapon toting Baze Malbus.

And of course, there are connections to both Star Wars trilogies.  While Peter Cushing who played General Tarkin in the original “Star Wars” trilogy passed away in 1994, with new technology, General Tarkin’s likeness has been created, while British actor Guy Henry supplies Tarkin’s voice.  And Anthony Daniels reprises his role as the voice of C-3PO.

For the newer trilogy, Genevieve O’Reilly who played Mon Mothma in “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”, reprises her role for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and Jimmy Smits (who started in “Star Wars: Episode II” and “Star Wars: Episode III”) reprises his role as Senator Bail Organa.

And of course, if you watched “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”, you know which major characters from that film’s beginning, will show up in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” to provide a connection between the two films.

What makes this film so entertaining is that this newfound team that Jyn is a part of, are opposites but know that the threat from the Empire is real and must do all they can to find the information on how to destroy the Death Star and get it to the Rebel Alliance.

I found the story to be captivating, the acting quite solid, the visual effects, set production and costume design to be magnificent and for a self-contained story, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” was wonderful.  In fact, when I watched in the theater, there was a part of me that wanted to watch it again.  And now that I’m reviewing the film on Blu-ray, I think I’ve watched it five times already.  That’s how much I really enjoyed this film.

The picture quality and lossless audio soundtrack are both reference quality and you get numerous special features that will surely entertain fans of the film.

But I’m not going to give it a perfect five stars because clearly, they held out on making this Blu-ray release quite definitive.  There are no special features, audio commentary or the long special features that we have come to enjoy from a “Star Wars” film.  While there will be a Blu-ray 3D release (that will be released the same time as the normal Blu-ray and DVD release), you can’t help but feel that there will be another release that will feature more and longer special features in the future.

And for audiophiles and videophiles, many await news of a 4K Ultra HD release of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”.

But still, I do recognize the pure awesomeness of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and its ending still makes an impact each time I watch it.  And as mentioned earlier, for a sci-fi action-film, when you come across a film that makes you want to watch it multiple times, you know it’s a winner.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is highly recommended!

 

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