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Neon Bull (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Gabriel Mascaro’s “Neon Bull” is a unique, sensual film that entertains viewers with its honest portrayal of its characters that work within the vaquejada in northeastern Brazil.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Desvia, Malbicho cine, Viking Film, Canal Brasil. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Neon Bull

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 103 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2:35:1, Portuguese 5.1 Surround, Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber Inc.

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: September 6, 2016


Directed by Gabriel Mascaro

Written by Gabriel Mascaro

Produced by Rachel Ellis

Co-Produced by Rodrigo Pia, Sandino Saravia Vinay, Marleen Slot

Music by Carlos Montenegro, Otavio Santos

Cinematography by Diego Garcia

Edited by Fernando Epstein, Eduardo Serrano

Art Direction by Maira Mesquita


Starring:

Juliano Cazarre as Iremar

Maebe Jinkings as Galega

Josinaldo Alves as Mario

Roberto Berindelli as Fazendeiro

Samya De Lavor as Geise

Vinicius de Oliveira as Junior

Abigail Pereira as Valquiria

Carlos Pessoa as Ze

Alyne Santa as Caca


Neon Bull is a wild, sensual and transporting experience. Brazilian writer-director Gabriel Mascaro s second fiction feature (after August Winds), it takes place within the world of the vaquejada, a demanding traditional style of rodeo in which cowboys attempt to wrest bulls to the ground by their tails. Neon Bull explores this dangerous job through the eyes of Iremar (Juliano Cazarre ), a mysterious and handsome cowboy who cares for the bulls. While riding the roads with the animals and his close-knit circle of outcast friends, he begins to think of a world outside the ring, dreaming of sequins and fabrics and of his desire to become a fashion designer.


Filmmaker Gabriel Macaro known for his documentary “HOUSEMAIDS” and his first feature film “Ventos de Agosto” (August Winds) has received a lot of attention and critically praised reviews.  And his 2015 film “Boi Neon” (Neon Bull) would receive nominations and win awards at various festivals around the world.

And now Macaro’s “Neon Bull” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

Shot in northeastern Brazil, the film captures life for those who work at the Vaquejadas (a rodeo in which two cowboys ride on horseback to bring down a bull by grabbing its tail).

One of the cowboys, Iremar (portrayed by Juliano Cazarre) shares his quarters with others from the rodeo and lives in a truck that transports livestock to various events.  While most of the day, he is grooming the animals and doing his fill of shoveling manure, his passion is creating costumes, especially for his sexy female friend, Galega.

One of the truck drivers, Galega (portrayed by Maeve Jinkings) is an exotic dancer who is a truck driver by day, but participates in sexy dances for patrons wearing a horse head and tail, while neon lights shine upon her.

Galega’s husband is hardly in the picture but she has to raise her daughter Caca (portrayed by Aline Santana) who is a bit curious for her own good and being one of the youngsters touring with the Vaquejadas crew, she tends to find things that others are not wanting her to know.  Such as Ze’s (portrayed by Carlos Pessoa) stash of pornography.

But Galega is more interested in trying to live her life and is not so thrilled that Caca lives with her and not going to school and feels she should live with her grandmother, so she can live a better life at school.

Meanwhile, Galega becomes attracted to the new guy named Junior (portrayed by Vinicius de Oliveira).  While, Iremar starts to take interest in a pregnant woman who tends to show up selling cologne and perfume which she works during the day and working as a security guard at night.

Gabriel Mascaro’s “Neon Bull” is a honest portrayal of life within a group of people within a Vaquejadas crew.


VIDEO:

“Neon Bull” is presented in 1080p (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality for the most part is very good.  Closeups show great detail, lighting is very well done when focused on the characters (lighting plays a big part in the film).  Skintones look natural, black levels are nice and deep and there is a good amount of grain throughout the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Neon Bull” is presented in Portuguese 5.1 Surround.  The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear, rodeo announcer and crowd ambiance or animal ambiance can be heard through the surround channels.  Dialogue is crystal-clear as the club music and subtitles are easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Neon Bull” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette – (14:30) Behind-the-scenes of the rehearsing and filming of “Neon Bull”.
  • Interview with Director Gabriel Mascaro – (21:09) Interview with filmmaker Gabriel Mascaro about “Neon Bull”
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Neon Bull”

When it comes to showcasing characters in a natural light, filmmaker Gabriel Mascaro is able to accomplish that very well in his previous films including his latest, “Neon Bull”.

A film that focuses on people that work within the vaquejada in northeast Brazil, “Neon Bull” is a film that is not a film one follows for its story, because there really isn’t one.  If anything, it’s an honest portrayal of workers that live their life, making sure they take care of the animals and try to co-exist with each other.

Iremar works in the upkeep of the animals, creating sultry costumes for the female driver, Galega (who behave like brother and sister) and often helping out her daughter Caca, who is at that age of sexual curiosity but still wanting her mother’s attention but never receiving much of it.

While the film can be described as sensual or sultry, considering how much dedication is put into the sex scenes in the film, one can find enjoyment in the film for its actions and dialogue.  To even the animals as Iremar and Ze use the scent of a mar to arouse a stallion, to steal his sperm to a group of guys showering together nude, filmmaker Gabriel Mascaro wants to show viewers how sex, to maintaining animals is just as everyday part of life for the characters.

But humor can be found in the film as Iremar’s pot-bellied co-worker Ze is often looking at porno and while his sticky nude pages are often drawn over by Iremar trying to envision fashion and drawing it on the nude women, he and Ze are often involved in verbal spars as Ze can’t understand why Iremar focuses to much on fashion and not the women.

But when Ze is transferred and a long-haired young man named Junior arrives and immediately, he starts to get the attention of all the women including young Caca, which leaves Iremar quite jealous.

Meanwhile for female character, Galega, she is stuck trying to work as a truck driver for the animals, wanting to have fun with the men but her life is made difficult as she feels her young daughter Caca is in her way.  So, as Galega tries to focus on her work and her life, most often, Caca is with Iremar.

So, if anything, it’s those small interactions which makes up for the film.  Emotions of characters, character interaction and how everything culminates into an honest, entertaining film.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is very good as cinematography showcases the characters, character interactions with animal or their daily worklife, to the lighting that shines on them when indoors, to their events with the neon bull.  The cinematography brings the characters to life.  And as for audio, the loss audio features crystal clear dialogue, music and also surround sound usage geared for crowd, animals or announcer ambiance.  And the film has a good number of special features included such as a behind-the-scenes featurette and an interview with director Gabriel Mascaro.

Overall, Gabriel Mascaro’s “Neon Bull” is a unique, sensual film that entertains viewers with its honest portrayal of its characters that work within the vaquejada in northeastern Brazil.  Recommended!

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

September 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Destiny” is no doubt a wonderful, technical achievement by Fritz Lang for its time and one can see how this film would inspire filmmakers during that era for its use of storytelling and special effects.  This new restoration is the authorized and definitive presentation of “Destiny” and another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang Blu-ray release that I strongly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Friedrich-Wilheim-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Destiny

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1921

DURATION: 98 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: Color Tinted, 1:33:1, Intertitles, 20 Stereo

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber Inc.

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2016


Directed by Fritz Lang

Screenplay by Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou

Produced by Erich Pommer

Music by Cornelius Schwehr as commissioned by ZDF/ARTE performed by the 70-member Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the director of conductor Frank Strobel

Photographed by Erich Nitzschmann, Hermann Saalfrank, Fritz Acno Wagner

Art Direction by Robert Herlth, Walter Rohrig, Hermann Warm with Bernhard Goetzke, Lil Dagover, Walter Janssen, Hans Sternberg, Wilhelm Diegelmann, Rudolf Klein-Rogge


Starring:

Lil Dagover as Young Woman, Das junge Madchen, Zobeide, Monna Fliametta, Tiao Tsien

Walter Janssen as Young Man, Der junge Mann, Franke, Giovan Francesco, Liang

Bernhard Goetzke as Death, der Tod, El Mot, Bogner, Archer

Hans Sternberg as Mayor, Burgermeister

Karl Ruckert as Reverend

Max Adalbert as Notary, Notar, Schatzmeister, Chancellor

Wilhelm Diegelmann as Doctor, Arzt

Erich Pabst as Teacher, Lehrer

Karl Platen as Pharmacist, Apotheker

Hermann Picha as Taylor, Schneider

Paul Rehkopf as Grave-Digger, Kuster


A dizzying blend of German Romanticism, Orientalism, and Expressionism, Fritz Lang s DESTINY (Der made Tod) marked a bold step for Lang, away from the conventional melodrama and into the kind of high-concept filmmaking that would culminate in such über-stylized works as Die Nibelungen and Metropolis. DESTINY is a visually ambitious, cinematic allegory in which a young woman (Lil Dagover) confronts the personification of Death (Bernhard Goetzke), in an effort to save the life of her fiancé (Walter Janssen). She is transported to a Gothic cathedral, where lives are represented as burning candles of varying length. Death weaves three romantic tragedies, and offers to unite the girl with her lover, if she can prevent the death of the lovers in at least one of the episodes. Thus begin three exotic scenarios of ill-fated love, in which the woman must somehow reverse the course of destiny: Persia, Quattrocento Venice, and a fancifully-rendered ancient China. Restored by Anke Wilkening on behalf of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, this definitive presentation of Destiny preserves the original German intertitles and simulates the historic color tinting and toning of its initial release. Accompanying the film is a newly-composed score by Cornelius Schwehr as a commissioned composition by ZDF / ARTE performed by the 70-member Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Frank Strobel.


Before filmmaker Fritz Lang created films such as “Metropolis”, “M”, “Woman in the Moon”, “Spies” and his “Dr. Mabuse” films, he created the film, “Destiny” (Der müde Tod).  A film which he also co-written with Thea von Harbou.

Originally released in the US with the title “Behind the Wall”, the silent film is known for its special effects, which was innovative for its time and a film that incorporates three Expressionistic stories.

“Destiny” was also an influential film in the careers of filmmakers, Alfred Hitchcock and Luis Bunuel.

And now “Destiny” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Destiny” begins with Death (portrayed by Bernhard Goetzke) appearing near an area where lovers, a young woman (portrayed by Lil Dagover) and  man (portrayed by Walter Janssen) are sharing an intimate time together.

Death goes into the carriage and rides alongside the couple and when they get into town, Death who is known as “The Stranger” purchases a local cemetery and immediately erects a tall wall around the area with no entrance gates which mystifies the townspeople.

As the couple are enjoying a meal together, the Stranger immediately sits next to them and as the couple are playing with a periscope, they see something that scares both of them that they stop.

As the young woman goes upstairs and finds a dog with a few kittens to play with them, the young man stays with the Stranger at the table.  When the young woman returns, the young man is gone and the townspeople tells her that he left with the stranger.

When she goes to look for him, she can’t find him.

When she looks around, she ends up near the cemetery area and she sees ghosts approaching her and going through the wall to the cemetery and then sees her lover, coming towards her as a ghost and then entering the cemetery.

She faints after seeing the love of her life, now dead.  But somehow the young woman has found a way to enter Death’s domain.

When she confronts Death and she anguishes over the death of her beloved, Death grants her three chances to bring back her love if she can prove that love can overcome death.

But can she defeat destiny?


VIDEO:

“Destiny” is presented in 1:33:1 and is color-tinted. It’s important to note that the 2K digital restoration supervised by Anke Wilkening on behalf of Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung is magnificent.

As for picture quality, as one can expect from a film that is a 100-years-old, you are going to see some scratches but in the context of silent films, “Destiny” looks quite magnificent as there was great love (and a lot of hardwork) that was put into this restoration.  The film on blu-ray does not exhibit any major nitrate damage, warping, blurring or blackening on the film print.

I also liked the changes that were made to this film in order to get the color tinting right to match with the storyline and its toning of its initial release.

This is another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang film that looks absolutely magnificent on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Destiny” is presented in lossless stereo with German intertitles with optional English subtitles. The music featured on this Blu-ray releases is by Cornelius Schwehr as commissioned by ZDF/ARTE performed by the 70-member Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the director of conductor Frank Strobel.

The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear and I absolutely loved the score.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Destiny” comes with the following special features:

  • Restoration Demonstration Footage – (15:22) A comparison between the original film and the restored version of the film.
  • 2016 Re-release Trailer

“I think the main characteristic of all my pictures is this fight against destiny, against fate.  I once wrote in an introduction to a book that is the fight which is important, not the result to it…” – Fritz Lang

Before Fritz Lang would create his plethora of silent film masterpieces within his extensive oeuvre, one of his most influential and technological marvels was his 1921 silent film, “Destiny”.

Using the technology of superimposition to show the dead going through the wall, all done with filming via camera before the days of editing in a laboratory shows and what great length the filmmaker went in order to create this supernatural tragic love story.

A film of surrealism showcasing death on his mission of what is destiny, confronting a woman in anguish over the death of her love one, who dares to prove to him that love overcomes death and she can go against what is destiny.

Is love stronger than death?  Can it overcome death?  Can she prove it?

This stoic death may look threatening but this version does not have the horrors of a skeletal being cloaked in a robe or anything too macabre.  In fact, Bernhard Goetzke’s version of “Death” must perform his mission but yet he does have compassion enough to give the young woman three chances that love is stronger than death.

And so, there are three different stories in which the young woman (portrayed by Lil Dagover) must save her lover (portrayed by Walter Janssen).

The first chance/story is set in the Middle East during Ramadan, and a man, who is a Franke wants to rescue Zobeide (sister of the Caliph of Baghdad) from the palace.  But when it is revealed that the man has desecrated the holy site, he is targeted for death by everyone.  But can Zobeide rescue him?

The second chance/story is set in Quattrocento, Venice.  The story revolves around a planned sword fight between Monna Fiametta’s lover Giovan Francesco and the best swordsman, Girolamo.  Girolamo expects Monna to marry him after he kills Giovan.  But can Monna rescue her lover?

The third chance/story is set in China and the Chinese emperor wants the magician’s daughter, Tiao Tsien to be with him.  But she likes Liang instead.

Of the three stories, the third is rather fascinating for its use of special effects and its multiple uses of superimposition.

But there is a fourth chance but I would rather not spoil it with a summary as it is used as part of the final conclusion to the film.

But the film manages to exhibit surrealism, expressionism and romanticism combined with various stories to show tragedy in various aspects but how a woman feels her destiny is to be with the man she loves.

As for the restoration of this wonderful Fritz Lang film, the 2K digital restoration supervised by Anke Wilkening was fantastic.  The film looks very good considering it’s a century old and while scratches and few frames of damage do appear, there is no significant major nitrate damage or major film warping that interrupts your viewing of the film.

The lossless soundtrack features a wonderful score by Cornelius Schwehr as commissioned by ZDF/ARTE performed by the 70-member Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the director of conductor Frank Strobel.  The music really brings emotion to the characters and was quite pleased with the soundtrack.

In addition, there is also a restoration featurette and a trailer included.

Overall, “Destiny” is no doubt a wonderful, technical achievement by Fritz Lang for its time and one can see how this film would inspire filmmakers during that era for its use of storytelling and special effects.  This new restoration is the authorized and definitive presentation of “Destiny” and another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang Blu-ray release that I strongly recommend!

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

August 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Spiders” is a Blu-ray release worth watching.   You often don’t come upon a silent film release in which its main protagonist has that James Bond suave look, characters traveling to exotic locations and action sequences in different parts of the world.  If you are a cineaste who is passionate about Fritz Lang’s oeuvre especially his very early works, this Blu-ray release featuring both episodes of Fritz Lang “The Spiders” films is a fine addition to add in your silent cinema collection!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Friedrich-Wilheim-Murnau-Stiftung. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Spiders (Die Spinnen)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: (1919)  The Spiders – Episode 1: The Golden Sea (Die Spinnen, 1. Teil – Der Goldene See), (1920) The Spiders – Episode 2: The Diamond Ship (Die Spinnen, 2. Teil – Das Brillantenschiff)

DURATION: (1919)  The Spiders – Episode 1: The Golden Sea (Die Spinnen, 1. Teil – Der Goldene See – 69 Minutes), (1920) The Spiders – Episode 2: The Diamond Ship (Die Spinnen, 2. Teil – Das Brillantenschiff – 104 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: Color Tinted, 1:33:1, Intertitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber Inc.

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2016


Episode One: The Golden Sea

Directed by Fritz Lang

Written by Fritz Lang

Produced by Erich Pommer

Music by Max Josef Bojakowski

Cinematography by Karl Freund, Emil Schunemann

Production Design by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrich Umlauff, Hermann Warm

Costume Design by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrcih Umlauff, Hermann Warm

Episode Two: The Diamond Ship

Directed by Fritz Lang

Written by Fritz Lang

Produced by Erich Pommer

Cinematography by Karl Freund

Art Direction by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrich Umlauff, Hermann Warm

Costume Design by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrich Umlauff, Hermann Warm

 


Starring:

Carl de Vogt as Kay Hoog

Ressel Orla as Lio Sha

Georg John as Dr. Telphas

Lil Dagover as Sonnenpriesterin Naela

Rudolf Lettinger as Terry Landon

Friedrich Kuhne as All-Hab-Mah

Meinhart Maur as Chinese/Bucherwurm

Paul Morgan as Jude/Diamantenexperte

Edgar Pauly as Vierfinger-John

Reiner Steiner as Kapitan des Diamantenschiffs

Thea Zander as Ellen Terry


With this exotic adventure film, director Fritz Lang established himself as a master of epic storytelling, a talent that would reach its pinnacle in such monumental films as Metropolis and Die Nibelungen. Influenced by the French serials of Louis Feuillade (Fantômas) and infused with Lang s own fascination with Asian culture, THE SPIDERS follows international adventurer Kay Hoog (Carl de Vogt) in his quest for Incan gold and the precious Buddha s head diamond. Along the way, he must contend with an organization of criminal spies known as The Spiders, who will employ any form of treachery, including murder, to snatch the artifacts from his possession.


Many decades before Steven Spielberg and George Lucas would create the “Indiana Jones” films, back in the 1919, Austrian filmmaker Fritz Lang would write and direct his adventure epic “The Spiders (Die Spinnen)”.

It all began not long after Lang was discharged from the Austrian Army, having been wounded in combat, Lang would use his time during his recovery to write ideas he had for films.  As an actor for the Viennese theater circuit, he was hired at Decla, which was a Berlin-based production studio led by producer Erich Pommer.

During the early stages of his career, Fritz Lang would create art films but his popular thriller “The Spiders” was known for combining German Expressionist techniques and popular mainstream cinema and in essence, it was considered as art house cinema.

And for many decades, this film had been considered lost until it was discovered in the 1970’s.  While a restoration was done in 1978 and released on DVD in 1999.  A new restoration was commissioned from a tinted 35mm print and footage that was not included in the 1999 DVD release was added to the 2012 DVD release courtesy of Kino Lorber Inc.  And now in 2016, the film receives a remastered HD version as “The Spiders” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“The Spiders” is considered to be the beginning of the golden age of silent cinema.  Originally, there was a planned trilogy but only two films were created.

The first episode “The Golden Sea” begins with a man escaping from the Inca’s who are planning to use him as a sacrifice. The man, a Harvard professor who has been missing since his travel to Peru,  writes a note, which he puts into a bottle and throws it off to the ocean before being speared.

We are then introduced to Kay Hoog (played by Carl de Vogt), a sportsman who is attending a high society party for those involved in a major yacht race from San Francisco to Japan.  But Kay is not planning to take part in the competition as he found a bottle in sea from the missing Harvard professor that said there is treasure located inside a temple of a lost Incan civilization.  Coordinates were included and now Kay hopes to travel to that area and find some treasure.

But also attending the party is Lio Sha, the head of a secret criminal organization known as the Spiders now wants that information that Hoog possesses.  And immediately, they break into Hoog’s home and steals the treasure map.

It’s a race against time as Hoog begins his expedition to find the treasure at the lost Incan civilization and hopefully get it before the Spider’s can.  But in return for them stealing his map, Hoog ends up stealing an even more important map from the Spiders on the location of The Diamond Ship.

As Kay is wanted by the Spiders and everyone trying to find the lost treasure, Kay encounters the beautiful Priestess of the Sun named Naela.  But with the Incan’s aware that there are outsiders in their area, who will live and who will die?

In episode two, “The Diamond Ship”, after facing a major tragedy caused by the hands of the Spiders, they have now made things personal for Kay.

With the Spiders now seeking a diamond on the “Diamond Ship”, the Spiders hope with the possession of the Buddha head diamond will release Asia from tyranny.  And Lio Sha believes that the diamond may be in the possession of a millionaire named Terry Landon (played by Rudolph Lettinger).  But when the Spiders do not find it, they kidnap his daughter Ellen (played by Thea Zander) and will not release her until they get the diamond.

But since Kay has the information about the Diamond Ship which he stole from the Spiders, perhaps he can find it and help bring Ellen back home.


VIDEO:

“The Spiders” is presented in 1:33:1 and is color-tinted from sepia to red.  It’s important to note that the color-tinting is not the same as the 1999 Image Entertainment DVD release.  With the new restoration that was done by the Blazena Urgosikova and Ingrid Tetkova, the main goal was to introduce some of the missing footage but also to fix the speed of the film.

With the original 1999 DVD release, there were silent film fans who were critical that “The Spiders” was a bit too fast.  I personally have not seen the 1999 DVD release but have read that the new restoration does fix that problem.  Personally, movements seemed natural to me and not overly sped up or too slow.

As for picture quality, as one can expect from a film that is 90-years-old, you are going to see some scratches but in the context of silent films, “The Spiders” looks very good and doesn’t have any major nitrate damage, warping, blurring or blackening on the film print.

While it’s not my preference to see a lot of red color tinting in the film (as I’m so used to seeing sepia, orange, blue and green), I am not too sure of the differences of the color tinting from the previous Dave Shepard restoration.

As for those who owned the Kino Lorber 2012 DVD release, you will be pleased to know that the 2016 Blu-ray releases looks even better in HD as details are much more evident.  Black levels are much sharper, gray and white scenes are well-contrast and the film just looks a bit better.  Sure, the film has not been restored, scratches still remain but this is the best I have seen of “The Spiders” yet!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Spiders” is presented in lossless stereo with English intertitles.  The music featured on this Blu-ray releases is the same Ben Model score that was featured in the 2012 Kino Lorber DVD release.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Spiders” does not come with any special features.


The release of “The Spiders” on Blu-ray is fantastic!

Compared to the older 1999 DVD release of “The Spiders”, this 2016 version is superior not only in picture quality because it’s presented in HD  because it includes lost footage and is also presented in a corrected speed.

The original Image Entertainment DVD ran for 137 minutes, this new version is 170 minutes long (which is possibly the newer footage and the slowing down of speed).  According to the credits, this version was licensed by Transit Film on behalf of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and archival sources were from the Cinematheque Royale de Belgique and Filmovych laboratorich Barrandov Praha.

“The Spiders” was an intriguing and surprising adventure epic.

Sure, “The Spiders” was shot many decades before the Indiana Jones films and sure, the technology involved in production has evolved a lot since 1919 and 1920 but considering what was accomplished on this film, there was a decent amount of production in recreating the Incan civilization with its appearance of Incan carved rocks in the first film and a lot of focus on makeup and costume design for both films.

The first film “Episode One: The Golden Sea” was enjoyable as you get the suave adventurer/sportsman Kay Hoog.  With the tuxedo and the slicked back hair and look that seemed more like a prototype to a James Bond film, “The Spiders” had style but it also had an intriguing story with Kay trying to get to the treasure before his adversaries, the criminal organization the Spiders and their leader Lio Sha gets to it.

And for 1919, the overall storyline was adventurous and intriguing but it’s that extra touch at the end which you don’t expect, that made the first film so much more enjoyable and exciting and making you want to see the sequel.

But one you do watch the sequel, “Episode Two: The Diamond Ship”, I felt that the second film was rushed as Fritz Lang tried to incorporate too much and focus more on the adventures and action than the storyline itself.

While it was intriguing to see Kay Hoog going underground in China Town to find Lio Sha and the Spiders, everything afterward seemed as if it was not well-planned.  As much as I enjoyed the fact that Lang wanted to take the viewer from one location to another, unfortunately, it’s not executed all that well.  There were far too many characters and unlike the first film which tried to narrow things down between Kay Hoog and Lio Sha, the storyline was all over the place.

But bare in mind, this was Fritz Lang’s earlier work, done way before “Metropolis”, “Spies”, “M” and his “Dr. Mabuse” films, but there is no doubt that with Lang working on these two films, he would improve significantly a few years later to take on films such as “Destiny” (1921), “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” (1922) and “Siegfried” (1924).

For any Fritz Lang cinema enthusiasts, “The Spiders” is essential viewing if you want to see Lang’s earlier work but how he tries to integrate German expressionism and arthouse with a action/adventure theme.  Whether or not it’s good, it is all subjective but I enjoyed “The Spiders”, the first episode a lot more than the second.  But for any cineaste, one can see how much Fritz Lang evolved in filmmaking during the 1920’s and eventually for hardcore fans, how much his work has changed when he left to work in America.

Overall, “The Spiders” is a Blu-ray release worth watching. You often don’t come upon a silent film release in which its main protagonist has that James Bond suave look, characters traveling to exotic locations and action sequences in different parts of the world. If you are a cineaste who is passionate about Fritz Lang’s oeuvre especially his very early works, this Blu-ray release featuring both episodes of Fritz Lang “The Spiders” films is a fine addition to add in your silent cinema collection!

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

July 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

fastball

“Fastball” is one of the best baseball documentaries ever created! Well-researched, well-edited and featuring well-selected archived sources and also going as far to interview former legends to current elite pitchers in the MLB. “Fastball” is a documentary that well-crafted, amazing and highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Pitcher’s Mound Productions LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Fastball

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 86 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English 5.1 Suround

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: June 28, 2016


Directed by Jonathan Hock

Produced by Philip A. Aromando, Michael Tollin, Thomas Tull

Executive Producer: Jack Selby

Co-Executive Producer: David Check, Nicholas Trotta

Associate Producer: David Kaufmann

Music by Tony Morales

Edited by Peter Panagoulias, Steven Pilgrim


Starring:

Kevin Costner (Narrator)

Derek Jeter

Denard Span

Craig Kimbrel

Nolan Ryan

Justin Verlander

Bryce Harper

Miguel Cabrera

Todd Frazier

Matt Harvey

Giancarlo Stanton

Yasiel Puig

Andrew McCutchen

David Price


The essence of baseball is the primal battle between the pitcher and the batter, a magical moment only 396 milliseconds in the making. The mysteries and memories of baseball s greatest heroes are revealed in Fastball, as it features interviews with dozens of former players, from legendary Hall-of-Famers to up-and-coming All-Stars, including Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, and Derek Jeter, with narration by Kevin Costner (Field of Dreams). Fastball is peppered with archival footage of baseball s greatest moments, plus original high-speed 4K footage and motion graphics that unlock the secrets hidden within a ball traveling over 100 mph. While players, historians, and scientists might disagree on who was actually the fastest pitcher in history – and yes, the film does the physics and concludes with a clear verdict – Fastball tells the story of the game itself.


To throw a fastball, it’s a duty of a pitcher to throw this type of pitch.

But in the history of baseball, there are a few “power pitchers” who are able to consistently throw over 100 mph with great control.

Jonathan Hock, director of ESPN’s “30 for 30”, “Through the Fire”, “Off the Rez”, “The Lost Son of Havana” and producer Thomas Tull (“Dark Knight”, “Inception”, “42”, “Jurassic World”) explores the mysteries and memories of baseball’s greatest heroes.

Narrated by Kevin Costner (“Dances with Wolves”, “Waterworld”, “The Untouchables”, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”), the film features interviews with current and former baseball players about the fastball, their approach to it but also their memories of the best pitchers.  But also examining data of who has thrown the fastest fastball in baseball history.

The film explores the pitching of Walter “The Big Train” Johnson, the person who is known for popularizing the fastball and became a hero for throwing the fastest fastball of all time (122 feet per second).  And many people who traveled long and far to watch Walter Johnson pitch. And also showcasing one of the fastest pitchers today, Aroldis Chapman.

But also exploring various fastball pitchers such as Richard Michael “Goose” Gossage, Bob “Hoot” Gibson, Craig Kimbrel and more.

But also showcasing Steve Dalkowski, considered as one of the best fastball pitcher’s (rumored to throw 125 mph) that unfortunately never played an official game due to a freak accident before he was to pitch his first game in the majors.  An a player that inspired the character of “Nuke” LaLoosh in the 1988 film “Bull Durham”.

And also featuring legendary pitcher, Sanford “Sandy” Koufax, who had  six outstanding years (including becoming the first pitcher to achieve four no-hitters, the eighth pitcher to pitch a perfect game and winner of the NL Triple Crown) but unfortunately, had a career that ended at the age of 30 due to arthritis.

And featuring one of the best pitchers of all time, Nolan Ryan who is the all-time leader in no-hitters, leader in strikeouts, fewest hits allowed per nine innings and a player who has played in 27 seasons.

Also, the documentary showcases the the original and modern technology to estimate the speed of a fastball.  The human brain’s perception of a fastball pitch, which player that baseball legends think is the hardest pitcher of all time and ending with the evaluation by scientists of who is the fast pitcher of all time.


VIDEO:

“Fastball” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio) and is a documentary that features modern footage via digital video and also incorporates footage from archived sources throughout baseball history.  For the most part, for a documentary with so much classic footage, different sources vary in quality but for the most part, “Fastball” looks very good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Fastball” is presented in English 5.1 Surround and narration and spoken dialogue is clear and understandable.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Fastball” comes with the following special features:

  • Extended Interviews – (31:15) Featuring extended versions of the interviews featured in the film.
  • Hall of Fame Outtakes – (2:21) Featuring outtakes with five Hall of Famers discussing various pitchers.
  • Steve Dalkowski Extended Scene – (11:37) Featuring more extended scenes of the Steve Dalkowski segment.
  • Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “Fastball”.

For any baseball fan, “Fastball” is a magnificent documentary researching the fastest and hardest throwing pitchers in baseball history.

Well-researched, edited and featuring archived footage of the best pitchers who can throw a fastball to interviews with baseball legends and current MLB players, “Fastball” will no doubt entertain you but it also tackles one of the most hotly debated topics of baseball with an unofficial test of who has thrown the fastest fastball in MLB history.

“Fastball” definitely takes a lot of players into consideration but also paying respect by showcasing magical moments of baseball history, including what was once lost footage of Sandy Koufax’s pitching during the night of his famous no-hitter, a fascinating interview with Bob “Hoot” Gibson, especially going into his ability to take on batters (including throwing a ball at them) but also the racial tensions that existed at the time.

Possibly two of the most fascinating scenes involve the legend Nolan Ryan and his historical moments throughout his career, but also interviewing the pitcher about his final pitch.

But as the documentary showcases those who have achieve success, the documentary also shows one of the heartbreaking stories of baseball, the legend that never was, Steve Dalkowski.  “Fastball” creators were able to track down Dalkowski, who went through hard times after the freak accident that claimed his baseball career and to show what had happened to the player after the accident and what is he up to today.

And of course, showcasing the technology that was used from past to present in measuring the speed of a pitch and scientist trying to determine who threw the fastest pitch of all time.  And trying to ascertain how fast the pitchers from the past were, and compared to pitchers today.

The Blu-ray release features great picture quality but one should know that because the documentary features different archived sources from different eras of baseball history, picture quality of those archived sources differ from each other.  But modern footage looks great!  As for lossless audio, the documentary is primarily dialogue-driven and dialogue is crystal clear.  “Fastball” also comes with a few special features including extended interviews, Hall of Fame outtakes and an extended scene of Steve Dalkowski’s segment.

Overall, “Fastball” is one of the best baseball documentaries ever created!  Well-researched, well-edited and featuring well-selected archived sources and also going as far to interview former legends to current elite pitchers in the MLB.

“Fastball” is a documentary that well-crafted, amazing and highly recommended!

 

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

June 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

gold

It is rare to find any films, especially science fiction films released during the Third Reich era to be released in the U.S. And for cineaste that are passionate about German cinema, it is wonderful to see Kino Lorber releasing Karl Hartl’s 1934 sci-fi film, “Gold” on Blu-ray. An entertaining film worth recommending!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Gold

FILM RELEASE: 1934

DURATION: 117 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1), German Monaural with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics

RATED: N/A

Release Date: June 14, 2016


Directed by Karl Hartl

Written by Rolf E. Vanloo

Produced by Alfred Zeisler

Music by Hans-Otto Borgmann

Cinematography by Otto Baecker, Werner Bohne, Gunther Rittau

Edited by Wolfgang Becker

Art Direction by Otto Hunte


Starring:

Hans Albers as Werner Holk

Friedrich Kaybler as Prof. Achenbach

Brigitte Helm as Florence Wills

Michael Bohnen as John Wills

Ernst Karchow as Willi Luders, alias Charlie Jenkins

Lien Deyers as Margin Moller

Eberhard Leithoff as Harris, a Technician

Rudolf Platte as Schwarz

Walter Steinbeck as Braun

Heinz Wemper as Vesitsch

Hansjoachim Buttner as Becker, the Murderer

Erich Haubmann as Secretary


A rare science fiction film made in National Socialist Germany, Karl Hartl’s GOLD is a high-tech thriller dramatizing the ongoing war between scientific progress and corporate greed (resurrecting some of the themes and spectacle of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis). Hans Albers stars as Professor Holk, an idealistic scientist developing the process of atomic fracturing, constructing an enormous electrical device to transform common lead into gold. When the operation is sabotaged by corporate rivals, resulting in the death of Holk’s mentor (Friedrich Kayssler), Holk must accept the backing of a ruthless English businessman, John Wills (Michael Bohnen), whose interest in atomic fracturing is purely economic. Though he makes a deal with the devil, in order to continue his research, Holk recognizes it as a golden opportunity not for a paycheck, but for payback and plots to destroy Wills’s titanic gold-making machinery. While Holk enacts his revenge, he captures the interest of the millionaire’s rebellious daughter (Brigitte Helm, Metropolis), who is enthralled by the scientist’s vision and integrity. GOLD is not only a handsomely-produced drama of corporate espionage, it also reveals the ways in which English and American culture was subtly condemned in films made under the Third Reich.


Best known for films such as “The Life and Loves of Mozard”(1955), “The Angel with the Trumpet” (1948) and  “Two Merry Adventurers” (1934), filmmaker Karl Hartl was known earlier in his career for his science fiction work.

Which began with “Der Tunnel”, in 1934, Hartl would work on his next sci-fi film, “Gold” which took about 14 months to shoot.

The film would star Hans Albers (“The Blue Angel”, “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen”, “Two Merry Adventurers”), Friedrich Kaybler (“Der Zerbrochene Krug”, “Frisions in Distress”), Brigitte Helm (“Metropolis”, “L’Argent”, “L’Atlantide”) and Lien Deyers (“Spies”, “Captain Fracasse”, “Laughing Heirs”).

While the film was made in Germany in 1934, a French version (“L’or”) was made the same year but the only actor that would work on both films was actress Brigitte Helm for her role as Florence Wills.

And now Karl Hartl’s “Gold” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film begins with a written introduction of how for hundreds of years, men have tried to create gold artificially as it is the joy and curse of the world.  How clans, tribes and nations have been in war with each other for the sake of gold.  Men cheat, persecute and have killed for gold.

In the United Kingdom, a British scientist is convinced that he can turn base materials into gold by using a giant underwater atomic reactor.

Prof. Achenbach (portrayed by Friedrich Kaybler) is a German scientist working on a similar experiment of trying to turn lead into gold, meanwhile earlier before the experiment, the professor’s technician, Becker (portrayed by Hans-Joachim Buttner) has been given something by a group of men  in order to sabotage the experiment.

While Prof. Achenbach (portrayed by Friedrich Kaybler) and his assistant Professor Werner Holk (portrayed by Hans Albers) is working on the experiment, an explosion takes place killing the professor, while Holk is seriously injured.

With the help of the blood donation by Margit Moller (portrayed by Lien Deyers), Holk is able to heal and immediately and when he goes to check the area of the explosion, finds the lead components and feel they have been tampered with.

Offered to work with Scotch mining magnate John Wills (portrayed by Michael Bohnent), Holk wonders if Wills may be responsible for sabotaging Prof. Achenbach’s experiment.  So, Holk offers to meet with Wills in order to find out if he is responsible for Achenbach’s death.

Holk agrees to work on Wills project, but Wills knows that Holk is trying to establish a connection with him and Achenbach’s death.

How far will Holk go to get his revenge?


VIDEO:

“Gold” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio), black and white.  It’s important to note that Kino Lorber does not do any film restoration with their films, they simply present them in HD as the films are in their current format (so, if films are restored, then they will receive the latest restoration on Blu-ray and DVD).

With that being said, “Gold” does feature some damage and at times some frames have more scratches, flickering and even missing frames at times.  But by no means is the film’s picture quality terrible.  Picture quality is good and offers better clarity and sharpness over the IHF DVD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Gold” is presented in German monaural with English subtitles.  I personally didn’t notice any major hissing or crackle during my viewing of the film.  Dialogue including the shrieking of the atomic reactor is crystal clear.

Subtitles feature optional English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gold” does not come with any special features.


With the collapse of the Weimar Republic in 1933, cinema would change in Germany as many filmmakers and performers would leave the country as the Nazis came to power and the establishment of the Third Reich and its Reichsfilmkammer (Reich Chamber of Film).

All those employed in the film industry must be members for the Reichsfachschaft film and those whose politics or personal life were unacceptable by the Nazis were excluded and denied employment.

Needless to say, the artful cinema of the Wiemar Republic had ended but UFA would create an expensive film that would take 14-15 months to create and it was Karl Hartl’s science fiction film, “Gold”.

A film that took so long to make that even actor Hans Albers tried to sue for almost double his salary.  But because two versions of the film were created, one in German and one in French (with a different cast, except Brigitte Helm who starred in both productions), the film took long to make.

Back in 1934, even Americans were enamored by the production quality of its film and mechanical designs.

“New York Times” reviewer H.T.S. wrote, “This time the dream of many ancient, and some modern, would-be gold manufacturers is realized on the screen by the UFA, with a remarkable display of thrilling scenes involving excellent views of some fearful and wonderful machinery.”

The film is primarily a revenge-driven film that showcases the competition of scientific progress and corporate greed, as countries try to find a way to create gold using atomic reactors.

In the film, the Germans are close to making a discovery and with their experiment, was sabotaged and the leading scientist is killed and the assistant is badly injured.

Saved by a woman who donated blood, the assistant, Professor Holk wants to find out who was responsible of sabotaging their experiment.  And what best way but to infiltrate the organization who he suspects are responsible, the evil Scotch mining magnate, John Wills.

But Wills knows that Holk is trying to establish a connection to him and Professor Achenbach’s death and audiences watch to find out if Professor Holk can get his revenge.

For those who have watched Friz Lang’s 1927 silent film masterpiece “Metropolis”, will love that the film stars the beautiful Brigitte Helm as the daughter of John Wills, who has fallen for Professor Holk.

But for German cinema fans, it is not very often to get any film (aside from Leni Riefenstahl films) made during the Third Reich era to be released in North America on Blu-ray. Especially UFA films of that era, before all film companies were seized and formed one corporation, UFA-Film GBMN (UFI) in 1942.

So, “Gold” is a rare gem to see and for its era, was considered a high-tech thriller, so much that Allied Censorship boards after World War II made viewers wonder if German scientists had been able to build a nuclear reactor long before it was originally thought that they did.

As for the Blu-ray release, the Blu-ray is no doubt better than the previously released IHF DVD’s.  Because of the upscale to HD, the black and whites are well-contrast but because Kino Lorber does not do any restoration work, any dust, scratches that were on the film can be seen on this Blu-ray release.  Any flickering or missing frames can be seen on this Blu-ray release.  But by no means is there any damage that makes the film unviewable, in fact, “Gold” looks very good in HD.  And cineaste should be thrilled that this rare gem was released on Blu-ray.

Unfortunately, there are no special features included, and I was hoping that either the French version of the film or featurettes with film scholars discussing the making of the film were included.

Overall, it is rare to find any films, especially science fiction films released during the Third Reich era to be released in the U.S.  And for cineaste that are passionate about German cinema, it is wonderful to see Kino Lorber releasing Karl Hartl’s 1934 sci-fi film, “Gold” on Blu-ray.

An entertaining film worth recommending!

 

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Rabin, the Last Day (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Rabin, the Last Day” was constructed with a lot of thought, quite a provocative film and true but also containing a message that what happened in Israel during that time, can happen in other countries where hatred and fear start to overcome peace. An important, thought-provoking political thriller that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2015 LGM Cinema, Les Films du Worso, France 2 Cinema, Orange Studio, Agav Films. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Rabin, the Last Day

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 156 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), Hebrew with Optional English Subtitles, 5.1 Surround

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: June 28, 2016


Directed by Amos Gitai

Written by Amos Gitai, Marie-Jose Sanselme

Produced by Cyril Colbeau-Justin, Francesco Di Silvio, Jean-Baptiste Dupont, Amos Gitai, David Kessler, Sylvie Pialat, Michael Tapuah, Laurent Truchot

Executive-Producer: Shuki Friedman, Gady Levy, Benoit Quainon

Cinematography by Eric Gautier

Casting by Ilan Moscovitch

Music by Amit Poznansky

Edit by Yuval Or

Production Design by Miguel Markin


Starring:

Yael Abecassis as Interviewer

Shimon Peres as Himself

Yitzhak Hizkiya as Head of the Commission

Pini Mittelman as Commission Member

Michael Warshaviak as Commission Member

Einat Weitzman as Commission Lawyer

Yogev Yefet as Rabin’s Assassin

Tomer Sisley as Rabin’s Driver

Ronen Keinan as Commission Lawyer

Yariv Horowitz as Doctor

Amanda Soroudi as Nurse Michal


On the evening of Saturday, November 4th, 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated with three bullets at the end of a political rally in the center of Tel-Aviv. His killer, apprehended at the scene, was a 25-year-old student (and observant Jew). The following investigation reveals a frightening world that made this killing possible: a subculture of hate fueled by hysterical rhetoric, paranoia and political intrigue. In Rabin, The Last Day, acclaimed filmmaker Amos Gitai (Kadosh) masterfully combines staged re-enactments with actual news footage of the shooting (and its aftermath) to create a thought-provoking political thriller.


A powerful and provocative political thriller from filmmaker Amos Gitai (“September 11”, “Free Zone”, “Kippur”, “Kadosh”), his latest film focuses on the shocking 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The film titled “Rabin, The Last Day” was an Israeli-French docudrama that would showcase modern interviews with a re-enactments of what took place before, during and after the assassination.

And now “Rabin, The Last Day” will be released on Blu-ray in north America courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film begins with actress Yael Abecassis (“Live and Become”, “Kadosh”, “Alila”, “Prisoners of War”) interviewing the ninth President of Israel, Shimon Peres (2007-2014) about why he admired Yitzhak Rabin and would he have accomplished more if he were still alive.

The interview then transitions to archived news footage of Prime Minister Rabin’s speech for peace and people coming out to the rallies in support for peace and the Oslo I Accord which would try to find a resolution of the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The footage would feature Rabin greeting the people and heading into his motorcade.  Overhead footage is shown near the motorcade (which then transitions from archived news footage to the film re-enactment) and then a crowd surrounding the motorcade and as the door opens for Rabin to get in the car, Israeli ultranationalist Yigal Amir coming right behind him and shooting the Prime Minister.

We watch the chaos inside the car as the security guards try to keep the Prime Minister alive as they rush into the hospital.

Meanwhile, we watch as an investigative commission are discussing the lack of security, communication breakdowns, how someone was able to film the assassination from above and interviews with the man who shot the video of Rabin’s assassination and how he was able to get into the area.  And many more unfortunate circumstances that transpired on that night.

From the confusion of supporters, the mindset of other politicians but also going a few days prior to the assassination of how his political detractors (right-wing conservatives and Likud leaders who felt the Oslo peace process was an attempt to forfeit the occupied territories) were against his pursuit for peace.

But the film would then showcase a story of political rivals of Rabin who do not agree with his plan for peace with neighboring rivals and are spiteful that instead of Jewish expansion, they see Rabin as the enemy and his political rivals and their supporters asking for Rabin’s death.

And despite the trouble, Rabin and others never expected any type of terrorism or attack and also the unfortunate planning of protecting Rabin, despite the hostile detractors wanting him dead.

“Rabin, the Last Day” delves into why Yigal Amir assassinated Rabin but most importantly how this event which took place in 1995 can serve as a warning, as violent extremists who believe its in accord to their religious beliefs, for them to exact violence.  Unfortunately a mindset which continues to this day.


VIDEO:

“Rabin, the Last Day” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The docudrama manages to blend in archived news footage with staged re-enactments effectively.  News footage of course is not crystal clear but that is to be expected.  The overall film looks good and full of detail.  Skintones look natural and picture quality is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rabin, the Last Day” is presented in Hewbrew 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features a lossless soundtrack that has crystal clear dialogue.  There are moments where gun shots ring so clearly and you can hear the screams of despair through the various audio channels, but for the most part, the film is a center and front-channel, dialogue driven film.

Subtitles feature optional English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rabin, the Last Day” comes with a trailer.


When it comes to international politics, for many people living in the west, one tends to focus on the politics of their own state or country.

And for some of those who are of that ethnicity and interested in their country’s politics or for those who have a an interest in global politics, there are few moments in the world that have shocked the world.

The assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was no doubt a shocking moment in politics.

Because prior to the assassination, many of us watched history happen as Rabin and Yasser Arafat, along with then-President Clinton at the Oslo Accords signing ceremony back in 1993.

In my mind, I thought at the time, it would be a hard road but how wonderful that these two opposing forces can come together and try to work towards peace.

Fast forward two years later and Rabin is dead and to learn that he was killed by an observant Jew, who killed the Prime Minister because of his belief that Rabin’s peace initiative and Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank would deny Jews their “biblical heritage which they had reclaimed by establishing settlements”.  And believed that Rabin was endangering Jewish lives.  So, he felt he had the justification to assassinate Rabin because he thought of him as a threat to Jews in those territories.

At the time, I thought it to be madness.

And watching Amos Gitai’s “Rabin, the Last Day”, not only do we get to see the mindset of Yigal Amir, but we get to see those who had opposed Rabin and how violent there extremism was.  There is no doubt that one can watch this film and find it relevant in today’s world.

Where violence is conducted on a daily basis and many of those committing the violence feel they are justified with their (mis)interpretation of religion.

But it’s one thing to watch the political rival plan out their strategy to oust Rabin, but there is a slowly building message about the madness of people who want to fight against any change, even if that change was for peace.

In a long scene, we watch as a clinical psychiatrist tries to psychoanalyze Rabin and you start to realize that the professional advice she is giving is more along her political beliefs, as she tries to make comparisons with Rabin and Hitler because of the repeated use of the word “I”.  And to her, those who use “I” is a sign of megalomania.  And we start to see everyone boil with anger as they see Rabin’s government to be satanic.

But equally frustrating is to see the neglect in protection.  There was a lapse of security, police didn’t receive clear instructions of their position, there were too much finger wagging of who was at fault.  And in the end, after watching this film, the breakdown of communication and effective planning was at fault.

And even seeing how judges react to Rabin’s death and the way they handled the overall assassination was also surprising.  For example, after the assassination, they were more intent of grilling the person who filmed the assassination versus those who planned overall security and delve into the weakness of the security detail of Rabin that day.

With that being said, it is important to say that even Rabin didn’t feel he needed the security.  The former soldier was about meeting the people and not being too detached from them.

But similar to the political atmosphere of today’s United States before the Presidential elections, as more Americans are being dissatisfied with how politicians have run with the country, it is an echo of what took place in Israel.  As those who were against Rabin’s march towards peace, are now in charge.

One of Rabin’s harshest critics during the Oslo Accord I, was the now current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (and chairman of the Likud Party) is going for his fifth term and has had success, bolstered by the escalated tensions between Israel and Palestine and his strong belief of a two-state, not a one-state solution.

As for the film, I felt that filmmaker Amos Gitai, did a wonderful job of trying to show a country divided and the political and social tensions of that moment in time.  The re-enactments and the real life archived news footage were blended together with efficacy.

I enjoyed this docudrama and political thriller because it was provocative, it does open your eyes on how sensitive things were at the time but also seeing two perspectives, from Rabin’s focus for peace, while seeing even the assassin, why he was motivated to kill Rabin.  But also seeing the vitriol of the opposition.

And for those of us not living in Israel, nor an erudite of Israeli politics, viewers may take this film as 100% fact.  I’m not familiar with Israeli politics or the sociopolitical situation and how most Israeli’s feel about the film.

So, it’s important to sift through reviews especially from Israel and see how critics respond and see where the weakness of the film is and how much does Gitai get right.  Haaretz writer, Uri Klein’s review of the film points out the weaknesses of the film, and his review gave me better insight.  And also to reading interview with Gitai around the time of the film’s release in regards to how the hate was strong and there were banners and signs all over the place (and featured in the archived news footage) to show the hate campaign that transpired during that time.

Gitai told Haaretz:

“In this Rabin government, there is a profound understanding that if you want to make peace … a real reconciliation, to construct something different, you have to be aware that the other (side) exists, that he has another vision of the conflict. 

“I think that Rabin was really the first and until now the only Israeli political figure who understood,” Gitai said. 

Overall, “Rabin, the Last Day” was constructed with a lot of thought, quite a provocative film and true but also containing a message that what happened in Israel during that time, can happen in other countries where hatred and fear start to overcome peace.

An important, thought-provoking political thriller that I highly recommend!

 

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

April 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

themessenger

“The Messenger” is a visually thrilling documentary with an urgent message of why we should be aware of the depletion of the population of birds around the world.   Recommended!

Images courtesy of © SONGBIRDSSOS PRODUCTIONS INC. & FILMS. 2016 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Messenger

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 Original Aspect Ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: March 3, 2016


Directed by Su Rynard

Story/Written by Su Rynard

Co-Written by Sally Blake

Executive Produced/Produced by Sally Blake, Martin de la Fouchardiere, Joanne Jackson, Su Rynard, Diane Woods

Music by Philip Strong

Cinematography by Amar Arhab, Laurent Charbonnier, Daniel Grant

Edited by Sally Blake, Carole Larsen, Eamonn O’Connor


For thousands of years, songbirds were regarded by mankind as messengers from the gods. Today, these creatures woven inextricably into the fabric of our environment are vanishing at an alarming rate. Under threat from climate change, pesticides and more, populations of hundreds of species have dipped dramatically. As scientists, activists and bird enthusiasts investigate this phenomenon, amazing secrets of the bird world come to light for the first time in the acclaimed and visually thrilling documentary The Messenger. Find out what s killing our songbirds, and what can be done about it. As in ancient times, songbirds may once again be carrying a message to humans one that we ignore at our own peril.


From director and writer Su Rynard comes her 2015 documentary film “The Messenger”.

A look at why the population of songbirds throughout the world are depleting and why this is problematic to humans and the world.  And what some countries are trying to do to protect them.

And now “The Messenger” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

In “The Messenger”, Su Rynard shows our connection to birds and their uncertain fate might mirror our own.

Considering that birds are humankind’s early warning system, for thousands of years, humans have looked at birds to foretell the future.  From the coming of storms, the change of season and more, from man-made structures, pesticides, trapping to even cats, have led to the depletion of the population of songbirds.  Many birds who have become extinct since the 1960’s.

Featuring research that explores the Boreal Forest, the wetlands in Mount Ararat, the streets of New York City, Canada, France and more, we start to learn of how a mass depletion of songbirds on multiple continents are taking place and why it should be taken seriously.


VIDEO:

“The Messenger” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). Featuring video footage from multiple locatons throughout the world, picture quality is vibrant, featuring amazing detail but what is amazing is the use of technology in order to capture video and images of songbirds in flight, courtesy of the scientists at Western University’s unique Avian research facility, AFAR.

Despite a small crew using a Phantom camera and a series of prime lenses, the film crew were able to capture wonderful images of these songbirds.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Messenger” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD.  Dialogue is crystal clear, as the sounds of the bird and surrouding environments which were well-captured.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Messenger” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette – (4:45) How the Messenger film crew were able to film the birds at Western University’s Advanced Facility for Avian Research.
  • A Coffee Primer for Birds and People – (3:33) A connection with birds and coffee.
  • Deleted Scene – (6:07) A deleted scene on checking out woodthrush nests and their eggs and trying to find out who the predators are and there dwindling population.
  • Interview with Director Su Rynard – (8:49) An interview with director Su Rynard.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “The Messenger”.

EXTRAS:

“The Messenger” comes a ten page booklet which includes information about the film, information from the director and the press the film has received.


Whether or not you appreciate birds or not, the dwindling population of various bird species is important to know and perhaps be aware of, in hopes to preserve the populations.

And for those who need to know why it is important, one can look back in the late ’50s.

What many may not be familiar with is “The Great Sparrow Campaign” that took place in China between 1958-1962, which was a goal to eliminate mosquitoes, flies, rats and sparrows.

The reason why the birds were eliminated was because the birds ate grain sees and it was thought that the birds were robbing from the people.  So, sparrows and other birds were shot, eggs were broken, nestlings were killed and citizens kept banging pots and pans, drums in order to scare the birds from landing and they eventually died of exhaustion.

But by 1960, Chinese leaders realized that the birds were important because they ate the insects and unfortunately, the locust population grew increasingly and swarmed the country and helped in ushering the Great Chinese Famine, which would to 20 million people dying of starvation.

With Su Rynard’s “The Messenger”, her inspiration of creating the film was due to the dwindling of populations and not seeing or hearing the birds that was part of her childhood.

Her and the crew would research of why the songbirds have disappeared and the reasons were troubling but at the same time, we learn how much of the problem is manmade.

Many of us have seen birds head straight to the windows and die.  Birds see the windows which reflect foliage and the sky and so they fly directly into it.  Up to 1 billion birds die from window strikes in the US alone, can you imagine worldwide?

While some countries have taken action and using special windows, many countries have not done anything and so the problems of birth deaths continue.

Of course, with pesticides, many birds are dying because of the chemicals mixed in water and what they drink.

Another is cats, a predator of birds and while it is recommended to keep cats indoors, many of us know that owners simply don’t do it.

While Rynard and crew are able to showcase many reasons of why there are dwindling populations, some may be surprised of the death of ortolans.  Birds that French have eaten for decades, but despite the French government enforcing ignored laws to protect the birds (ortolan hunting has been banned in France since 1999), many continue to hunt and eat them.

Many may also be surprised to find out the importance of birds their relation to coffee.  With many areas using harmful pesticides to coffee that run into streams and rivers, billions of pounds of the noxious chemicals are injected into natural ecosystems that support wildlife and communities.

And so there are coffee companies who are taking a step forward with their coffee by showing a “Bird Friendly certification” as a prerequisite if they are going for organic certification.

So, by purchasing coffee with the bird friendly label or even requesting your supermarket to carry it, goes a long way in the preservation of birds.

The Blu-ray release of “The Messenger” is vibrant with great detail.  Lossless audio of dialogue, bird sounds and ambiance was crystal clear.  But I was impressed with how the film crew captured the birds in flight.  Working with Western University’s Avian research facility, AFAR, Rynard and crew were able to capture these songbirds in flight with efficacy. There was great care in making sure how these birds were filmed and it’s good to see this in the special features.

If there is one thing that I’m proud of “The Messenger” is that it builds awareness and how one can make a difference.

It’s important to note that Rynard also shows the other side to the equation, for example, why there are those who capture ortolans and eat them.  And why there are those who risk their lives to stop these hunters.

If anything, the documentary does a great job of delivering an urgent message to viewers and one can hope that many will learn from the film and take action.

Overall, “The Messenger” is a visually thrilling documentary with an urgent message of why we should be aware of the depletion of the population of birds around the world.   Recommended!

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Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

taxi

“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is captivating, enjoyable but hidden deep within the film is a serious message. Whether or not certain scenes are staged or not, the fact is that the film is Panahi’s way to challenge the lack of freedom in his country by creating a film illegally. He may be banned from creating films, but his voice continues through cinema, has not been silenced. “Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Jafar Panahi’s Taxi

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 81 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Farsi 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: March 1, 2016


Directed by Jafar Panahi

Written by Jahar Panahi


Starring:

Jafar Panahi


A yellow cab is driving through the vibrant and colourful streets of Teheran.

Very diverse passengers enter the taxi, each candidly expressing their views while being interviewed by the driver who is no one else but the director Jafar Panahi himself.

His camera placed on the dashboard of his mobile film studio captures the spirit of Iranian society through this comedic and dramatic drive…


Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi is best known for his feature film “The White Balloon” (1995), which won the Cannes d’Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.

He has since won awards and received critical acclaim for films such as “The Mirror” (1997) and “Offside” (2006).

But in 2010, he was arrested alongside his wife, daughter and 15 friends and were charged with propaganda against the Iranian government.

Panahi was sentenced to six years in jail (under house arrest) and a 20-year ban from directing any movies, writings screenplays or being interviewed by Iranian or foreign media.  Nor can he leave the country unless it was for receiving medical treatment or making the Hajj pilgrimage.

Despite his ban from filmmaking, Panahi has continued to make films illegally.

His 2011 film, “This is Not a Film” was smuggled on a USB flash drive inside a cake, his 2013 film “Closed Curtain” won a Silver Bear for Best Script and now his 2015 film “Taxi” won Golden Bear, the prize awarded for the best film at the Berlin Film Festival.

While many filmmakers, actors and artists have asked for Jahar Panahi’s release, as of this current time, his sentence continues, but Jafar still remains vigilant and will continue to make films.

And now Jahar Panahi’s award winning film “Taxi” was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

It’s important to note that because the film was shot illegally, there are no credits for the film.

In “Taxi”, Panahi has installed a camera in a taxi to record life in Tehran as a taxi driver and for people to learn more about a true portrait of people in Tehran, as passengers speak their own mind to Panahi.

But what we see from the passengers and learn about life in Tehran, is quite surprising.

From Panahi picking up passengers who debate about punishments for muggers, picking up a passenger selling bootleg copies of American film or television shows, to illegal foreign films.

To shocking moments when Panahi is stopped and takes in a man who just got into a vehicular accident and must transfer the bloodied man and his crying wife to the hospital

The second half showcases Panahi picking up his niece, who is an aspiring young filmmaker, but has been given strict rules that she must follow by her teacher.


VIDEO:

“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). It’s important to note that in order for Jafar Panahi to film this movie, he had to use a digital camera affixed on the dashboard of the taxi but also incorporating video from his niece’s digital camera.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is presented in Farsi 5.1 DTS-HD with optional English subtitles.  The lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue-driven.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” comes with no special features but the theatrical trailer.

EXTRAS:

“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” comes a ten page booklet which includes an essay by Jamsheed Akrami, film professor at William Paterson University.


Jafar Panahi’s “Taxi” is another wonderful film by the filmmaker, made shocking for the fact that it’s real and not staged.  But showcasing true discussions that is reflective of Iranian society.

The film begins with a conversational debate among two passengers of what should happen to muggers, one who believes muggers should be taught a lesson by receiving death, while another tries to argue that it is two extreme for one to die for stealing tires.  It becomes a heated debate about the morality of capital punishment and Sharia law.

Another passenger, who recognizes Panahi, worked at a video store and now pirates foreign films, especially American film and TV shows into Tehran and sales them to people illegally and showing that there is an interest from people to watch entertainment from overseas.

This scene is rather interesting because a lot of film are not available in the country and many would not be familiar with commercial or arthouse film without these people giving them access to the bootlegs.

But a shocking moment is when Panahi picks up a man who has gotten into an vehicular accident and along with his wife, rushes to the hospital, while he tries to give his will while bleeding profusely.  The man wants it written on paper or recorded on a phone, because of the inheritance laws and wanting to make sure his brothers do not do anything against his wife and that they follow his wishes.

Meanwhile the bootlegger asks the question that many people are wondering while watching the movie, was what happened staged or was it for real?

While there are other passengers, one of the most interesting is part of Panahi’s family.  The film’s second half features Panahi and his niece Hana Saeidi who has a school assignment which was to create a short film about true society, but the rules given by the teachers try to force the students to go by rules that are not necessarily true of society.

His niece, young Hana brings a vibrant side to the film as she is often trying to scold her busy uncle but also trying to get that perfect shot of him or others.  And it’s interesting to see this young aspiring filmmaker, trying to shoot a film that would one day become “distributable” and learns about “sordid realism”.  But the rules reads more like, do not create a film like your uncle.

When Jafar and Hana visit his old friend, Jafar asks Hana if his friend looks like a bad man? Because he wears a suit, a tie and doesn’t have a beard (which her teacher recommends for her film, good men must have a beard, not wear a tie or a suit).

The film ends with Jafar picking up human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is going to meet a female athlete who was imprisoned.  Which is reminiscent of Panahi’s 2006 film “Offside” about girls who are forbidden to watch the World Cup qualifying match because of their sex (on the grounds that there will be a high risk of violence or verbal abuse against them).  A film that was inspired by Panahi’s daughter.

Sotoudeh’s words brings hope, as she has seen her friend Jafar Panahi still making films despite what had happened to him.

There is no doubt an underlying message that Jafar Panahi was able to communicate with viewers about how reality is for people in his country, but also the prohibitions that people must follow and what happens to those who don’t.

As for the Kino Lorber Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good, considering the limitations that Jafar Panahi had to work with.  A digital video camera on his car’s dashboard and also utilizing footage from his niece’s digital camera, Panahi who continues to make films illegally due to his punishment, uses whatever he can to get the job done.

Picture quality is good, lossless audio is clear and while I wish there were special features, unfortunately Jafar Panahi is not allowed to speak to any media as part of his sentence.  But I will share this video of Panahi’s niece Hana, receiving the “Golden Bear” award on his behalf at the Berlin Film Festival:

Overall, “Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is captivating, enjoyable but hidden deep within the film is a serious message.  Whether or not certain scenes are staged or not, the fact is that the film is Panahi’s way to challenge the lack of freedom in his country by creating a film illegally.  He may be banned from creating films, but his voice continues through cinema, has not been silenced.

“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is highly recommended!

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Gog in 3-D (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

gog

“Gog” is a classic 3-D sci-fi film that finally is released in 3-D as it was meant to be seen. Considering the early ideas of a space station (as the United States was still trying to find ways to get people up into space), spies controlling technology (with the Cold War, anything was possible) and cool technology at the time combined with scientific fact, it was interesting to see how this film would come to play, despite not having a huge budget but trying to make the film work. If you are a sci-fi fan and want to own one of the classic 3-D sci-fi films on Blu-ray, “Gog in 3-D” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1954 Orion Pictures Corporation. 2016 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Gog in 3-D

FILM RELEASE: 1954

DURATION: 85 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:66:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Color, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (Mono)

COMPANY: Orion Pictures/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: March 1, 2016


Directed by Herbert L. Strock

Screenplay by Tom Taggart

Story by Ivan Tors

Produced by Ivan Tors

Associate Producer: Maxwell Smith

Music by Harry Sukman

Cinematography by Lothrop B. Worth

Edited by Herbert L. Strock

Art Direction by William Ferrari

Set Decoration by Victor A. Gangelin

Costume Design by Valerie Vernon


Starring:

Richard Egan as David Sheppard

Constance Dowling as Joanna Merritt

Herbert Marshall as Dr. Van Ness

John Wengraf as Dr. Zeitman

Philip Van Zandt as Dr. Pierre Elzevir

Valerie Vernon as Mme. Elzevir

Stephen Roberts as Maj. Howard

Byron Kane as Dr. Carter

David Alpert as Dr. PEter Burden

Michael Fox as Dr. Hubertus

William Schallert as Engle

Marian Richaman as Helen

Jean Dean as Marna Roberts

 


Newly restored in HD and 3-D! In a remote, underground research laboratory two scientists, engaged in space travel research, are frozen to death in a cold chamber when their instruments comes under the control of an unknown power. A security agent, Dr. David Sheppard (Richard Egan, The 300 Spartans) arrives at the secret space research base, home of two experimental robots to investigate the possible sabotage. Early in his investigation, Sheppard finds that the underground laboratory under the control of the Supercomputer NOVAC and experimental robots GOG and MAGOG. Herbert L. Strock (The Crawling Hand) directed this Sci-Fi/Horror classic with a stellar cast that includes Constance Dowling (Black Angel), Herbert Marshall (The Letter) and William Schallert (TV s The Patty Duke Show).


Ivan Tors, the Hungarian writer/filmmaker/producer will be known by his fans for his sci-fi and animal films.  But most of all, using scientific fact rather than focus on scientific fantasy.

In the 1950’s, Tors created the Office of Scientific Investigation (OSI) trilogy featuring the films “The Magnetic Monster”, “Riders to the Stars” and “Gog”.  The third film, “Gog” was popular among sci-fi fans because it was shot in 3-D (during a time when 3-D was the fad in cinema in 1953-1954) but also shown normally in theaters.  The film was also well-received by sci-fans.

And while the 2D version of “Gog” was released via “Made on Demand”, many have wanted to see the original 3-D version that was released in theaters.

And now the 3-D (and 2D) version of “Gog” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Gog” is directed by Herbert L. Strock (“I Led 3 Lives”, “The Crawling Hand”) and a screenplay by Tom Taggart, the film would star Richard Egan (“Pollyana”, “The 300 Spartans”, “A Summer Place”) and Constance Dowling (“Black Angel”, “Up in Arms”).  This film would also introduce the actress to Ivan Tors, which would lead to their marriage two years later.

“Gog” begins at a top-secret government facility under the New Mexico desert where a space station is being constructed.  Scientist are currently working on a freezing project but something goes awry as the scientists are locked inside the freezing chamber as something mysterious has taken over the controls of NOVAC (Nuclear Operative Variable Automatic Computer), a central computer which controls all equipment in the facility.  And eventually, two scientists are froze to death.

With 150 of the lab’s top scientist are killed, Laboratory supervisor Dr. Van Ness (played by Herbert Marshall) calls in OSI agent Richard Egan (played by David Sheppard) from Washinton, D.C. to investigate.   Egan joins OSI agent Joanna Merritt (played by Constance Dowling) to investigate the laboratory. Both Egan and Merritt also happen to have a close relationship, once upon a time.

The two try to determine who is sabotaging the lab and killing the scientists, the mysterious enemy manages to kill six more scientists and Chief of Security, Major Howard.

Meanwhile, an enemy plane has been detected overhead but is not registering on radar.  Could this mysterious plane be involved with what is happening inside the underground laboratory?


VIDEO:

First, let’s discuss the 3-D version of the film.  I have only watched the 2D version of “Gog”, so I was highly anticipating how this film would look via the Natural Vision 3D which people watched back in 1954.

And I will say that I was quite impressed.  From the earlier moments of the film, the 3-D features really good use of depth.  From the nurse, who is about to inject the monkey with a needle and her approaching the camera with the needle, to the observers behind the glass window and seeing very good separation.

While not all the film utilizes the 3-D with great efficacy (such as the outdoor scenes with aircraft where the 3-D is not as noticeable or the archived footage), the majority of the indoor scenes shows good depth but for a 3-D film that is over 50-years-old, I was pretty impressed.

Note: To view a Blu-ray in 3D, you must have the 3-D enabled hardware and 3-D glasses.

As for the 2D version, “Gog” is presented on Blu-ray via 1:66:1 full aspect ratio and in color.  As far as picture quality goes, the film was restored by the 3-D film archive, so the quality of the film on Blu-ray is much better than the 2012 Orion/MGM/20th Century Fox M.O.D. (Made on Demand) DVD release.

The picture quality for “Gog” is actually very good.  There are some white specs that do show up from time to time, I did notice a few frames that had some damage but considering the film’s age, “Gog” looks quite good on Blu-ray.  There is a fine layer of grain, colors are good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Gog” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the dialogue is clear and I detected no pops or hissing during my viewing of “Gog”.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gog 3-D” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by film historians Tom Weaver, Bob Furmanek and David Schecter.
  • A Restoration Demo – (6:50) Featuring a restoration demo and how the film was restored by the 3-D Film Archive.
  • Interview with director Herbert L. Strock (8:26) and Natural Vision Co-Creator Lathrop Worth (19:03)
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Gog”.

“Gog” is possibly among the better 1950’s sci-fi films especially one that tries interject actual science into its plot.  Stories that Ivan Tors is known for.

And while sci-fi fans who appreciate older sci-films will be nostalgic with the release of “Gog” ala 3-D and 2D on Blu-ray.

One must remember that “Gog” was before “Star Trek”, before “2001: A Space Odyssey” and while sci-fi films have explored aliens landing on Earth, films didn’t really explore technology going awry.  Sure, the film looks dated today but back then, I can only assume that the actual science and featuring robots, computers, the use of cryogenics, mirror reflections and high frequency sound used as weapons, may have been quite significant and also exciting to people back in the ’50s.  And with the Cold War, the idea of an enemy plane spying on top-secret military facilities probably made this film seem all too real and may have freaked out a lot of people.

For so many decades, many fans of this sci-film have wanted to see Ivan Tors trilogy released on 3-D.  While “Gog” was released in 2012 as “Made on Demand” DVD courtesy of Orion/MGM/20th Century Fox, it was only the 2D version.  So, it’s great to finally watch the film in Nature Vision 3-D!

As for the film, while “Gog” may be nostalgic for many who grew up watching it, for some people, it may seem a bit too-dated or a rather a B sci-fi film.  But in a way, it still has relevance in today’s world with international espionage and the hacking of technology.

I personally enjoyed the film but also admit that it is a bit dated and cheesy but as always, I try to put myself in the shoes of the viewer watching the film during that era.  And with the mystery of who is killing all the scientists and who is controlling NOVAC and the robots, there is also an action element as well.  So, I can see how some may have been entertained by “Gog”.  Where else can you find a film that features a one-on-one fight between a human vs. a robot?  How cool was that?

And to watch a sci-fi film in 3-D back in the day, that must have been awesome!

As for the Kino Lorber Blu-ray release, I love the fact that you get both 3-D and 2D version of the films.  The restoration of Gog was done well, but one can’t expect anything too pristine (which would cost a lot of money to do), as white specks can still be seen.

Included is an in-depth audio commentary recorded in December 2015 by film historians Tom Weaver, Bob Furmanek and David Schecter.  A restoration demo and a 2003 interview with director Herbert L. Stock and more.

Overall, “Gog” is a classic 3-D sci-fi film that finally is released in 3-D as it was meant to be seen.  Considering the early ideas of a space station (as the United States was still trying to find ways to get people up into space), spies controlling technology (with the Cold War, anything was possible) and cool technology at the time combined with scientific fact, it was interesting to see how this film would come to play, despite not having a huge budget but trying to make the film work.

If you are a sci-fi fan and want to own one of the classic 3-D sci-fi films on Blu-ray, “Gog in 3-D” is recommended!

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

December 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

thekindergartenteacher

“The Kindergarten Teacher” is a film that is innocent, unnerving and captivating.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Kindergarten Teacher

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 Original Aspect Ratio,  Hebrew 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: December 8, 2015


Directed by Nadav Lapid

Written by Nadav Lapid

Produced by Osnat Handelsman-Keren, Talia Kleinhendler, Carole Scotta

Co-Producer: Olivier Pere

Associate Producer: Simon Arnal, Caroline Benjo

Line Producer: Julie Billy

Music by Michael Emet

Cinematography by Shai Goldman

Edited by Era Lapid

Casting by Orit Azoulay

Art Direction by Miguel Markin

Costume Design by Doron Ashkenazi


Starring:

Sarit Larry as Nira

Avi Shnaidman as Yoav Pollak

Lior Raz as Nira’s Husband

Jill Ben David as The Poetry Teacher

Ester Rada as Miri

Guy Oren as Asi

Yehezkel Lazarov as Amnon Pollak

Dan Toren as Aharon Pollak

Avishag Kahalani as Kindergarten Teacher


Nadav Lapid’s The Kindergarten Teacher is the story of a teacher who becomes at first enchanted, and then ultimately consumed, by the poetic genius of her five-year-old student. Nira (Sarit Larry) discovers that her young student Yoav (Avi Shnaidman) has an otherworldly talent for language and poetry, and becomes interested in cultivating the boy s gift. but when fascination morphs into obsession, Nira pushes the boundaries of her relationship with the boy and his family in an attempt to protect the purity of his talent. Following his critically acclaimed debut Policeman, lapid demonstrates the aesthetic vision of a true auteur, combining a ve rite approach with a thrilling cinematic narrative that has made him, the most internationally acclaimed Israeli filmmaker in recent memory…and perhaps ever (J. Hoberman, tablet).


Nadav Lapid was best known for directing and writing “Policeman”, but now he has returned with an award winning film titled “The Kindergarten Teacher”.

The film stars Sarit Larry (“Domino”, “Zman Avir”), Avi Shnaidman, Lior Raz (“Fauda”, “The World is Funny”), Ester Rada and Yehezkel Lazarov (“Plasticine, “Waltz with Bashir”).

And the film was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film begins with married couple Nira (portrayed by Sarit Larry) and her husband (portrayed by Lior Raz) as they watch television.

Nira is a kindergarten teacher and also passionate about poetry.

Her life changes when she discovers the talents of a five-year-old boy named Yoav (portrayed by Avi Shnaidman).

When he starts walking back and forth, he tells his nanny Miri (portrayed by Ester Rada) that he has a poem and he begins reciting a poem that he has created himself.

A possible poetic genius, this captivates Nira, because Yoav can be the next Mozart.  And it’s important for her, as interest in poetry has declined in her country, she wants to further his talents by cultivating it.

But she is troubled by Miri using Yoav’s poetry as her own during her acting auditions.

As she starts to get closer and learning more about Yoav’s talents, Nira also starts to use Yoav’s poetry with others at her poetry club and people are fascinated by it, not telling them that it’s the poetry of a five-year-old boy.

Nira then begins to push the boundaries between teacher and student.

But how far will Nira go with her obsession?


VIDEO:

“The Kindergarten Teacher” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  Shot in HD, the film features wonderful detail, especially during closeups.  Skintones look natural and for the most part, the film looks great in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Kindergarten Teacher” is presented in Hebrew 5.1 DTS-HD MA and features crystal clear dialogue and while the film is dialogue driven, there are moments where the film utilizes the surround channels for a thunder/rainstorm to Niri dancing in a dance club or in her kindergarten classroom.  And while there are good use of surround for ambiance, the overall lossless soundtrack is very good.

The film is presented with optional English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Kindergarten Teacher” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with director Nadav Lapid – (18:35) Featuring an interview with director Nadav Lapid.
  • “Why?”, a short film by director Nadav Lapid – (5:22) Nadiv Lapid’s Frencg short film.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “The Kindergarten Teacher”.

Once in awhile, you run across a film that looks innocent, but as the film progresses it becomes quite unnerving.

As many cineaste can probably understand the feelings of kindergarten teacher, Nira (portrayed by Sarit Larry), of the waning interest of language and poetry, she sees the gift of her young five-year-old student Yoav, going into some sort of trance and out of his mouth, the most eloquent words that are yet so deep and captivating.

We can understand Nira’s drive to cultivate Yoav’s gifts but the problem is growing obsession to do so.

Yoav is of course a young boy that is oblivious to what Nira is doing. Not having a motherly figure and putting his trust into his teacher, he loves the attention he gets because Nira is so interested in his poetry.  Nira gives him so much attention, that he enjoys it.

But for anyone else who sees Nira’s obsession growing out of control, pushing the boundaries between teacher and student, the sympathy we have had for Nira earlier in the film has all but dissipated because her drive has transformed to something so unexpected and unusual.

But Sarit Larry gives a fine performance as the unstable Nira and director Nadav Lapid shows his inner Godard by going further with camera interaction by having his actors bump into the camera, grabbing at it, rather than just talking and looking directly at it.

There is no doubt a poetic and dark feel to “The Kindergarten Teacher”, which was a film that was loosely inspired by Lapid’s younger years but he manages to create a film of unhealthy obsession but yet a yearning of wanting to protect something that is intellectual and yet trying to retain in a world that no longer values language and poetry like yesteryear.

The Blu-ray release looks wonderful and also features a solid lossless soundtrack.  But the interview with director Nadav Lapid is insightful and his short film “Why?” is also rather interesting and artsy.

Overall, “The Kindergarten Teacher” is a film that is innocent, unnerving and captivating.  Recommended!

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