Top

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!

 

 

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

June 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

a872872a-a33f-4566-9729-69f7a363e406

“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!

 

 

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!

 

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!

 

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!

 

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!

 

Gueros (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

gueros

“Gueros” was a film that captivated me from beginning to end and of the many Mexican films that I have watched in my lifetime, “Gueros” was no doubt one of the best. Highly recommended!

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


TITLE: Gueros

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Black and White, Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: December 8, 2015


Directed by Alonso Rulzpalacios

Screenplay by Alonso Rulzpalacious, Gibran Portela

Produced by Ramiro Ruiz

Executive Producer: Alonso Rulzpalacios

Co-Producer: Coria Corial, Jose Felipe

Associate Producer: Gael Garcia Bernal

Assistant Producer: Xochiti Enriquez Mendoza

Line Producer: Claudia Valdez

Music by Tomas Barreiro

Cinematography by Damian Garcia

Edited by Yibran Asuad, Ana Garcia

Casting by Alejandro Caballero

Production Design by Sandra Cabriada

Costume Design by Ingrid Sac


Starring:

Tenoch Huerta as Sombra

Sebastian Aguirre as Tomas

Ilse Salas as Ana

Leonardo Ortizgris as SAntos

Raul Briones as Furia

Laura Almela as Isabel

Adrian Ladron as Moco

Camila Lora as Aurora

Alfonso Charpener as Epigmenio

Marcelo Tobar as Film Director


The winner of five Ariels (the Mexican Academy Awards), including Best Picture and Best Director, Gueros is one of the most striking debut features in recent memory.

Ever since the National University strike broke out, Sombra (Tenoch Huerta) and Santos (Leonardo Ortizgris) have been living in angst-ridden limbo. Education-less, motionless, purposeless, and unsure of what the strike will bring, they begin to look for strange ways to kill time. But their idiosyncratic routine is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Tomas (Sebastian Aguirre), Sombra’s kid brother. Unable to fit in amongst these older slackers, Tomas discovers that unsung Mexican folk-rock hero Epigmenio Cruz (Alfonso Charpener) has been hospitalized somewhere in the city. Toma s convinces Sombra and Santos that they must track him down in order to pay their final respects. But what they thought would be a simple trip to find their childhood idol soon becomes a voy-age of self-discovery across Mexico City’s invisible frontiers.


Guero – A person of fair complexion or with blond or red hair.

“Gueros” happens to be the title of the award winning 2014 Mexican film by filmmaker Alonso Ruizpalacios (“Cafe paraiso”, “La revista”, “XY”).  And is a film that was inspired by the 1999 strike at the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico), which was caused by the tuition hike from 0.02 dollars to $150 a semester.  Leading students to declare a strike and block the main campus and would last for 292 days.

The film won five Ariels including “Best Picture” and “Best Director” and now it was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Gueros” is co-written by Alonso and Gibran Portela and stars Tenoch Huerta, Sebastian Aguirre, Ilse Salas, Leonardo Ortizgris, Raul Briones and Alfonso Charpener.

The film begins with a young woman frantic to run away with her baby.  As she tries to run away from her building, Tomas (portrayed by Sebastian Aguirre) and a friend drop water balloons from the top of their building and accidentally hit the baby.

Unfortunately for Tomas, his troubles have led his mother to send him away to live with his older brother Sombra (portrayed by Tenoch Huerta).

Sombra is a student at National University and lives with his friend Santos (portrayed by Leonardo Ortizgris), but due to a strike at the university, the two are unsure about their future as students.

Now Sombra and Santos are nervous, frustrated, education-less and not sure what they will do with their lives without the proper education.  In order to pass time, they try to get a mentally disabled girl to send up an extension cord to the men in order to power up their apartment.

And now with Tomas living with them, it complicates matters because they have no means of taking care of him.

But when Tomas finds out that his folk-rock music hero Epigmenio Cruz (portrayed by Alfonso Charpener) has been hospitalized, he gets Sombra and Santos to take him to get an autograph.

But the three find out through their trip that the quest to find Epigmenio is full of danger but also surprises and also giving them a time for self-reflection as their adventures take them across Mexico City.


VIDEO:

“Gueros” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). Shot in black and white, the film features wonderful sharpness.  Black levels and are nice and deep, grays and white are well contrast and closeups show amazing detail.  I didn’t notice any major artifacts or issues while watching the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Gueros” is presented in Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA and features crystal clear dialogue and music.  The film showcases crowd ambiance and natural sounds that utilizes the surround channels, but the film is primarily center and front channel driven.

The film is presented with optional English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gueros” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (12:05) Featuring six deleted scenes.
  • Interview with the Director – (14:04) Filmmaker Alonzio Ruizpalacios discusses how the Students Strike of 1999 influenced the film.
  • Short Films – Featuring two of Alonzio Ruizpalacios short films “Cafe paraiso” (10:32) and “el ultimo canto del pajaro cu” (14:52.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Gueros”.

EXTRAS:

Featuring an 8-page booklet with an essay by Godfrey Cheshire.


I have to admit that I feel it’s been awhile since I have been captivated by a Mexican film, but filmmaker Alonso Ruizpalacios has managed to craft a film, paying homage to films from the French New Wave but creating something so magical, entertaining and a film I would probably watch several times.  That’s a testament of how much I enjoyed this film.

From its characters, the adventures undertaken by each of these characters, the music and the cinematography, “Gueros” is a cinematic masterpiece.

In some ways, after watching the film and reflecting on the various adventures that Tomas, Sombra and Santos go through, I couldn’t help but think of the fascinating adventures of Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel character which began with the “The 400 Blows”.

Antoine was no doubt a troublemaker and a person who’s curiosity got the best of him at times, but as Tomas is the troublemaker, the film becomes less about Tomas’ troubles but giving us a perspective of how students were in 1999 after finding out that the the college tuition was going from 0.02 cents to $150 a semester.  A lot of these individuals crave education, are smart but come from poverty and their hopes and dreams of their family was to make money after graduating from college.

Unfortunately, many were forced to go without school for nearly a year and we get to see how Sombra and Santos are not sure what to do with their lives and for the most part, have become slackers.  And for young Tomas, by seeing Sombra in a funk, he is not too pleased that he must live with them.

But he does give the two purpose when he finds out that the Mexican Folk-Rock hero of his father and his family, Epigmenio Cruz has been hospitalized and he wants Sombra to take him to get his tape cassette signed.

But through their trip to find Epigmenio, the group are taken on an adventure, some being fun, some being risky and scary and some situations giving them the time to reflect on their current lives and making a decision of whether to fight for their college education or just stay home and do nothing and live within their depressing paradigm.

Nevertheless, “Gueros” is a film that pays homage to French Nouvelle Vague, from its cinematography to its storyline that will no doubt entertain audiences.  I absolute enjoyed this film!

As for the Blu-ray, The Blu-ray looks and sounds good in HD.  You also get an featurette with an interview with director Alonso Ruizpalacios, two short films and deleted scenes.

Overall, “Gueros” was a film that captivated me from beginning to end and of the many Mexican films that I have watched in my lifetime, “Gueros” was no doubt one of the best.

Highly recommended!

 

The Epic of Everest (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

evpiceverest

“The Epic of Everest” is a fascinating documentary.  It gives us an early peek into the lives of those in Tibet during the 1920’s and also what transpired when filmmaker J.B.L. Noel and the mountaineers of the 1924 Everest Expedition began their ascent.  A silent documentary that manages to capture beauty and tragedy.  Recommended!

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


TITLE: The Epic of Everest

FILM RELEASE: 1924

DURATION: 87 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 Original Aspect Ratio, B&W with color tinting, 5.1 DTS-HD MA with with a newly commissioned score by Simon Fisher Turner.

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: September 8, 2015


Directed by J.B.L. Noel

Music by Simon Fisher-Turner


Starring:

Andrew Irvine

George Mallory


The 1924 Everest expedition culminated in the deaths of two of the finest climbers of their generation, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, and sparked an ongoing debate over whether or not they did indeed reach the summit. THE EPIC OF EVEREST (1924) is an awe-inspiring travelogue of their perilous journey.

Filming in brutally harsh conditions with a specially adapted camera, Captain John Noel captured images of breathtaking beauty and considerable historic significance. The film is also among the earliest filmed records of life in Tibet and features sequences at Phari Dzong (Pagri), Shekar Dzong (Xegar) and Rongbuk monastery. But what resonates so deeply is Noel s ability to frame the vulnerability, isolation and courage of people persevering in one of the world’s harshest landscapes.

The restoration by the BFI National Archive has transformed the quality of the surviving elements of the film and reintroduced the original colored tints and tones. Revealed by the restoration, few images in cinema are as epic or moving as the final shots of a blood-red sunset over the Himalayas.


In 1924, filmmaker and mountaineer, J.B.L. Noel would film a documentary about English mountaineers Andrew Irvine and George Mallory on an expedition to Mount Everest.

The pair set a goal to make the first ascent of the world’s highest mountain and when the two mountaineers tried to achieve their goal on the third attempt, the two never came back down and  were declared as deceased.  Whether or not the two have successfully climbed the summit, no one would know.

But what is for certain, J.B.L. Noel documented the expedition in which the two men and others would perish during the 1924 British Mount Everest Expedition and would be featured in the documentary “The Epic of Everest”.

The film would receive digital restoration in 2013 and was re-released in UK cinemas.  And now the digitally restored version was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The documentary “The Epic of Everest” follows Captain John Noel filming in brutally harsh and cold conditions, so harsh that two men involved in the expedition would die of frostbite and hypothermia.

The film would feature the expedition group meeting with the Sherpa and also capturing the beauty of Tibet and the Phari Dzong, Shekar Dzong and Rongbuk monastery and the documentary is also essentially one of the first to films to show life in Tibet.

But the focus is on the brave souls who took part in the expedition but to also further the debate of whether or not both George Mallory and Andrew Irvine ever climbed to the top of the summit.


VIDEO:

“The Epic of Everest” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and is color tinted.  The Blu-ray release features a new digital restoration that brings out the clarity of the film.   The film has a little wear considering it’s age, there is no major warping or nitrate damage, so for a silent film/documentary, picture quality is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Epic of Everest is presented in 5,1 DTS-HD MA featuring a newly commissioned score by Simon Fisher-Turner with instruments that utilize the surround channels.  I was quite impressed by the use of the surround channels for this documentary.

The film is presented with English intertitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Epic of Everest” comes with the following special features:

  • Introducing the Epic of Everest – (9:02) Featuring interviews with a BFI curator, Bryony Dixon and Sandra Noel (daughter of Captain John Noel) who filmed “The Epic of Everest” and more.
  • Scoring the Epic of Everest – (8:16) A featurette about the new music score by Simon Fisher Turner.
  • Restoring the Epic of Everest – (6:19) A featurette about why and how the film was restored.
  • Trailer – (1:31) Theatrical trailer for “The Epic of Everest” for its 2013 theatrical re-release.

“The Epic of Everest” is considered a national treasure as it is an official record of what took place during the 1924 Mount Everest Expedition and what happened to the individuals who took part in the expedition.

But as the story about Andrew Irvine and George Mallory is important, I would like to first focus on Noel’s film outside of the two men.

JBL Noel had mountaineering in his blood.  Having spent time near the Himalayas in 1913, taking part in the 1922 Everest expedition as the official photographer and filmmaker and even making a short film titled “Climbing Mount Everest” in 1922.

So, there is no doubt that Noel was passionate about being a filmmaker and capturing other fellow mountaineers on camera and what best for him to film the 1924 Everest expedition with Andrew Irvine and George Mallory.

Enamored with the Tibetans and having worked with them to get to Everest, “The Epic of Everest” is a historical film in the sense of capturing the culture in the early 1920’s.  From observances of their culture, their clothing, how they raise their families, etc.

But once the expedition begins as the crew make their way and begin their climb on Everest, you are then captivated by the sheer beauty of the images of Everest that Noel was able to capture.  And also to see the brave crew push themselves to the limits.

But with each successful ascent, things become more grave as the freezing temperatures and mother nature become a force that even the best mountaineers may not be ready for.

But while J.B.L. Noel, an experienced mountaineer even knew his own personal limits, there is no doubt that he understood the magnitude of his film that would be documenting the final moments of a few of the men he met during the expedition.

So, for a beautiful documentary that showcased the gorgeous Everglades, unfortunately the film clearly demonstrates the risks that mountaineers must be prepared for, in order to scale the summit.

It’s probably one of the first documentaries that exposed people to nature in such a truthful, honest way and showing that even the most beautiful locations are challenging to film, challenging to climb and even with skilled mountaineers, even the best may not make it alive.

And while the footage was probably shocking for its time, for those of us today, we marvel at the risks taken by J.B.L. Noel as a filmmaker, because he like others in the expedition, they sacrificed their lives to strive for their goal.

And for Andrew Irvine and George Mallory, the film shows how courageous these men are, but what happened when these two skilled individuals never came back.

And while the 1999 discovery of one of the bodies gave us additional clues to what may have happened to the men, the debate of whether or not they accomplished their goal and reached the summit is not yet known.

But “The Epic of Everest” is more or less a documentation of their perseverance and moments leading to their tragic end.

As for the Blu-ray release, “The Epic of Everest” looks great in HD.  The digital restoration and remastering features more clarity and its newly commissioned soundtrack is crystal clear.  And most impressively, the use of the soundtrack and its output through the surround channels.

The additional special features were also good to see as the BFI curator discusses the importance of the film, while we get to know more about the men who gave their lives in the 1924 Everest expedition.

Overall, “The Epic of Everest” is a fascinating documentary.  It gives us an early peek into the lives of those in Tibet during the 1920’s and also what transpired when filmmaker J.B.L. Noel and the mountaineers of the 1924 Everest Expedition began their ascent.  A silent documentary that manages to capture beauty and tragedy.  Recommended!

 

Diary of a Lost Girl (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

diaryofalostgirl

“Diary of a Lost Girl” is a must-see, must-own film for silent film fans but also Louise Brooks fans.  It’s more than a classic, I tend to look at the film as one of G.W. Pabst’s top films in his lengthy oeuvre.  Louise Brooks is absolutely captivating!  Recommended!

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


TITLE: Diary of a Lost Girl

FILM RELEASE: 1929

DURATION: 112 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 Original Aspect Ratio, B&W, German 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with German Intertitles with Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: October 20, 2015


Based on the Novel by Margarete Bohme

Directed by George Wilhelm Pabst

Written by Rudolf Leonhardt

Produced by Georg Wilhelm Pabst

Music by Otto Stenzeel

Cinematography by Sepp Allgeier, Fritz Arno Wagner

Art Direction by Emil Hasler, Erno Metzner


Starring:

Louise Brooks as Thymian

Andre Roanne as Count Nicolas Osdorff

Josef Rovensky as Robert Henning

Fritz Rasp as Meinert

Vera Pawlowa as Aunt Frieda

Franziska Kinz as Meta

Arnold Korff as Elder Count Osdorff

Andrews Englemann as The Director of the Estate

Valeska Gert as The Director’s Wife

Edith Meinhard as Erika

Sybille Schmitz as Elisabeth


The second and final collaboration of actress Louise Brooks and director G.W. Pabst (Pandora’s Box), DIARY OF A LOST GIRL is a provocative adaptation of Margarethe Böhme’s notorious novel, in which the naive daughter of a middle class pharmacist is seduced by her father’s assistant, only to be disowned and sent to a repressive home for wayward girls. She escapes, searches for her child, and ends up in a high-class brothel, only to turn the tables on the society which had abused her. It’s another tour-de-force performance by Brooks, whom silent film historian Kevin Brownlow calls an actress of brilliance, a luminescent personality and a beauty unparalleled in screen history.


The greatest director of German cinema, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, is known for wonderful films such as “The 3 Penny Opera”, “Westfront 1918” and two films which starred American silent film star, Louise Brooks.

In 1929, Pabst shot two films with the Brooks, “Pandora’s Box” and “Diary of a Lost Girl” and both are considered masterpiece films in his oeuvre and one of the wonderful films to come out of Weimar Germany.

An adaptation of Margarete Bohme’s “Tagebuch einer Verlorenen” (1905), a controversial but also a bestselling novel for its subject matter about a young woman forced into a life of prostitution.  The subject matter for its time was considered sensational, notorious but yet commercially successful, selling over a million copies by the end of the 1920’s.

While the film received an adaptation in 1918 by director Richard Oswald, starring Erna Morena, the film is considered lost.  While the second film adaptation by Pabst, has entertained silent film fans for generations had been heavily censored.  In 1997, a reconstruction and photochemical restoration of the originally intended version was put together by the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden.  The film is based on a dupe-negative from the Danish Film Institute, Copenhagen and most of the missing scenes were added from a contemporary print from the Archivo Nacional de la Imagen-Sodre, Montevideo.

And now the remastered in 2K and restored print (based off the master negative) was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film revolves around the innocent and naive Thymian Henning (portrayed by Louise Brooks).

Thymian is the daughter of pharmacist Robert Henning (portrayed by Josef Rovensky) and the housekeeper, Elisabeth (portrayed by Sybille Schmitz) is released on the day of Thymian’s confirmation.  As Elisabeth tries to do all she can to plead to her wealthy employer to stay, because she is unmarried and pregnant, the prudish pharmacist let’s her go.

As Thymian does all she can to Elisabeth stay, she is unaware that her father’s assistant Meiner (portrayed by Fritz Rasp) knows the real truth of why Elisabeth was let go.  Because he is responsible for Elisabeth’s pregnancy.  But Meiner is a person who only cares about himself and a man who finds himself enamored by Thymian and wants her to himself.

As the day proceeds, Thymian father hires a new housekeeper named Meta (portrayed by Franziska Kinz) and unfortunately, on the day of Thymian’s confirmation, Elisabeth’s body is found, having died from an apparent suicide by drowning.

Distraught by Elisabeth’s death, she tries to find clues of why Elisabeth had died.  She goes to Meinert to learn the truth but ends up collapsing in Meinert’s arm.  Meinert uses the opportunity to take advantage of Thymian.

Many months later, it is revealed that Thymian has given birth to an illegitimate child.  The entire family wants to know who the father is but Thymian refuses to name the father.  But the housekeeper Meta tells the family that if they want to know, they must go through Thymian’s personal diary.  And it is revealed that Meinert is the father and they want Thymian to marry him immediately.

But Thymian refuses because she is not in love with him, so the family sends the baby to a midwife and wanting to punish Thymian, they send her to a very strict reformatory for wayward girls which is ran by the strict and mean manager (portrayed by Valeska Gert) and her tall assistant (portrayed by Andrews Engelmann).

Meanwhile, her friend Count Osdorff (portrayed by Andre Roanne) is disinherited by his wealthy uncle, who is not proud of his nephews lifestyle (and failing in school and trade) and strips him from any ties to the family wealth.

Thymian communicates with Count Osdorff to know of the bad conditions at the reformatory and how badly she and others are treated.  But because her father had married the new housekeeper and does not want Thymian butting into their relationship, she makes sure that Thymian’s message is never received by her father.

But the life of Thymian will never be the same as her tough life of having to survive alone, no skills to have a job and not wanting to return to the reformatory, leads poor Thymian to a life of prostitution.


VIDEO:

“Diary of a Lost Girl” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and in black and white.  Compared to the original Kino Lorber DVD, “Diary of a Lost Girl” on Blu-ray features much better clarity.  The film looks so much better in HD without the smeariness and slight blurriness of the older DVD release, it looks very good in HD!

According to Kino Lorber, “In 1997, a reconstruction and photochemical restoration of the originally intended version was put together by the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden.  The film is based on a dupe-negative from the Danish Film Institute, Copenhagen and most of the missing scenes were added from a contemporary print from the Archivo Nacional de la Imagen-Sodre, Montevideo.”

The remastered in 2K and restored print (based off the master negative) is what people will be watching on this Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Diary of a Lost Girl” is presented in 2.0 LPCM featuring a wonderful piano score by Javier Perez de Azpeitia.  The music is crystal clear through the front channels.

The film is presented with German intertitles and optional English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Diary of a Lost Girl” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Thomas Gladysz, director of the “Louise Brooks Society”.
  • Windy Riley Goes Hollywood – (20:02) An early talkie from Educational Pictures (1931) featuring Jack Shutta and Louise Brooks.
  • Promotional Trailer – The promotional trailer for “Diary of a Lost Girl”.

There is no doubt a mystique that surrounds Louise Brooks in a G.W. Pabst film.

May it be the hairstyle, the eyes that showcase human emotion with efficacy, the delicate naivety of her character, we are instantly captivated by her beauty and also sympathize with her sorrow.

While “Pandora’s Box” is considered a Pabst masterpiece and Louise Brooks as Lulu to be one of her defining films in her career, 1929 was a year of cinematic achievements by Pabst, with progressive content way ahead of its time.

As Lulu in “Pandora’s Box” and the content within the story and its story elements of men who desire the woman and also even women being drawn to her, “Diary of a Lost Girl” deals with a different type of woman.  A woman who came from a great family, had a great heart but was victimized by those who surrounded her family and was  forced to live under difficult situations and in order to survive, with no skills in life, she has no choice but to become a prostitute.

But both of G.W. Pabst films are captivating to the viewer for its story elements and its cinematography.  People who look directly to the camera, people who move to a rhythm, characters that are flawed was a symbol of Weimar cinema but also the bold steps that Pabst would go into making a film.  Hiring an American actress over a German actress was risky for the filmmaker for “Pandora’s Box” but I have no doubt in my mind that Louise Brooks captivated viewers and became the screen vixen that many women wanted to look like and men wanted to be with.

A combination of cinematic  genius and visual beauty, “Diary of a Lost Girl” stays with you and becomes a film that you will most likely not even forget because it’s well-crafted and well-performed.

Seeing how Pabst was so well in-tuned in what he wanted from his talent, treating them differently, having them do things that may have made them feel uncomfortable but was needed to obtain the performance he imagined.  From Pabst’s working in tandem with his cinematographer in capturing the scene the way he wanted, being their early in the morning and late at night to make sure they planned the details of what shots they wanted.  It’s amazing to see all that is captured in this film.

This is a film that utilizes facial expressions and action to tell an emotional story and Pabst does a wonderful job in crafting this masterpiece.  Louise Brooks is absolutely wonderful in this film and you have no doubt in your mind why she was one of the most wanted silent actresses of her time but with that being said, she was a rebellious actress who went against Hollywood tradition, and unfortunately blacklisted (while in Germany, she was asked to refilm her 1929 film “Canary Murder Case” as a talkie, but she refused to go back to America which led to her to never get a role in Hollywood from a major company ever again).  She lived her life, made her own decisions even though it may have been a detriment to her career.

Nevertheless, her role on both Pabst films have earned her praise from critics all over the world and made her an icon of silent film.

As for the Blu-ray release, having owned the previous Kino Lorber DVD release of “Diary of a Lost Girl”, there is no doubt that this film looks so much better than the DVD release.  Better clarity and the print looks much sharper, while the piano playing (presented in 2.0 LPCM) by Javier Perez de Azpeitia is absolutely wonderful and goes with the film remarkably well.

The Blu-ray release comes with an audio commentary, a 1931 Louise Brooks talkie and a promotional trailer.

Overall, “Diary of a Lost Girl” is a must-see, must-own film for silent film fans but also Louise Brooks fans.  It’s more than a classic, I tend to look at the film as one of G.W. Pabst’s top films in his lengthy oeuvre.  Louise Brooks is absolutely captivating!  Recommended!

 

Deutschland 83 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

deutschland83

Wonderful writing, awesome performances…”Deutschland 83″ is a riveting series that I highly recommend!

© 2015 Kino Lorber. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Deutschland 83

YEAR OF TV SERIES: 2015

DURATION: 8 Episodes (360 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen (1:78:1), German 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English

RATED: NOT RATED

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

Released Dated: September 29, 2015


Created by Anna Winger, Joerg Winger

Directed by Edward Berger, Samira Radsi

Written by Steve Bailie, Anna Winger

Executive Producer: Ulrike Leibfried, Sebastian Werninger

Producer: Nico Hofmann, Henriette Lippold, Jorg Winger

Line Producer: Tim Greve

Music by Reinhold Heil

Cinematography by Phillip Haberlandt, Frank Kupper

Edited by Sven Budelmann, Boris Gromatzki

Production Design by Lars Lange

Art Direction by Carsten Woithe

Costume Design by Katrin Schafer


Starring:

Alexander Beyer as Tischbier

Sonja Gerhardt as Annett

Sylvester Groth as Walter Schweppenstette

Jonas Nay as Martin Rauch

Ulrich Noethen as General Wolfgang Edel

Maria Schrader as Lenora Rauch

Ludwig Trepte as Alex Edel

Lisa Tomaschewsky as Yvonne Edel

Godehard Giese as Karl Kramer

Uew Preuss as Markus Fuchs

Anna von Berg as Ursula Edel

Carina N. Wiese as Ingrid Rauch

Niels Bormann as Fritz Hartmann

Vladimir Burlakov as Thomas Posimski

Errol Trotman-Harewood as General Arnold Jackson

Florian Bartholamai as Felix von Schwerin

Michaela Caspar as Frau Netz


Deutschland 83 is a groundbreaking new series from the producers of the international Emmy award-winning Generation War. It’s 1983. The Cold War is hot. Russian SS20 Missiles in East Germany are already pointed West. American Pershing II Missiles will soon be placed in West Germany, pointing East. The threat of nuclear conflict looms.

Our hero, Martin Rauch (Jonas Nay), is 23. Born and raised in East Germany, he is sent undercover, as Moritz Stamm, to West Germany, to work for a top General in the Bundeswehr. Officially, his job is to gather intelligence on the placement of the Pershing II Missiles. A secondary gig develops, infiltrating youth culture through close relationships with the General’s two children. But nothing and no one are as they seem.

Deutschland 83 is a coming-of-age story within a suspenseful thriller, set against the real events, culture wars and political realities of Germany in the 1980s.


In 2015, the eight episode German television series “Deutschland 83” aired on Sundance TV, becoming the first German-language series to air in the U.S.

Created by husband and wife team, Anna Winger (an American novelist) and Joerg Winger (a German TV producer), the series has received critical acclaim.

The series takes place years before the reunification of Germany (1990), with the East Germany (German Democractic Republic) and West German (Federal Republic of Germany) still within many decades of tension.

“Deutschland 83” is set during the time of Able Archer 83 (a ten-day NATO command post exercise which exercised a simulated period of conflict escalation and thus culminating into a simulated DEFCON 1 coordinated nuclear attack).

Because East Germany and Russian intelligence reports suggested that Able Archer was a ruse of war and was Germany with the help of NATO planning a genuine nuclear first strike in Germany, it was an instance where World War III was almost imminent.

The series begins with the introduction of Martin Rauch (portrayed by Jonas Nay), a border patrol guard from East Germany.  He is also a young man who lives with his mother Ingrid (portrayed by Carina Wiese) who is in badly need of a kidney transplant and dating Annett Schneider (portrayed by Sonja Gerhardt).

Life seems good for Martin until one day, his life would change forever.

His aunt, Lenora Rauch (portrayed by Maria Schrader) is the East German Embassy’s Cultural Attache (a diplomat with a special responsibility of promote the culture of their homeland) and she enlists Martin to be a spy for Walter Schweppenstette (portrayed by Sylvester Groth), Lenora’s boss at the East Germany Embassy.

Martin, against his will, is forced to become a spy for the East Germans (he is told that if he becomes a spy, his mother would be put on top of the list for a kidney transplant).

He must take the name of Moritz Stamm, the name of an actual soldier killed by an East German mercenary and become the aid of General Wolfgang Edel (portrayed by Ulrich Noethen) in Bundeswehr.  General Edel works with the Americans at NATO on the deployment of Pershing II Weapon System missiles and Martin’s mission is to take photos of strategic sites that NATO has planned to strike.

As the East German’s have spies that have infiltrated the West Germany military, Martin works with Tobias Tischbier (portrayed by Alexander Beyer), a professor at the University of Bonn and works in the STASI’s (Ministry for State Security) foreign arm, the Main Directorate for Reconnaisance (HVA).

While Martin succeeds in his first mission, the STASI want Martin to continue his espionage activities in order to find out more about Able Archer and when West Germany and their NATO allies will send a nuclear strike onto East German soil.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Deutschland 83” is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen and German 5.1 Dolby Digital. Picture quality on DVD is very good as the series is broken up in three discs.  I will admit that I wished Kino Lorber released this series on Blu-ray, but picture quality for the most part is very good. I did not notice any artifacts or any problematic issues during my viewing of the series.

Audio quality is good with crystal clear German dialogue.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Deutschland 83” comes with the following special features:

DISC 3:

  • The Actors – (11:49) Interviews with Jonas Nay, Sonja Gerhardt and Ludwig Trepte who discuss the show and their characters.
  • The Creators – (13:19) Interviews with series creators Anna and Joerg Winger who discuss how the show came to fruition.
  • Q&A with Cast and Creators at the Goethe-Institut – (21:55) Q&A with series creators Anna and Joerg Winger, actors Jonas Nay, Sonja Gerhardt and Ludwig Trepte.

The first words that came out of my wife’s mouth after she watched a few episodes of “Deutschland 83″ on Sundance TV was…”You have to watch this show! It’s so good!”.

I have caught little glimpses of the series from time-to-time and wondered if she may be biased, considering she is German and she was and is still is, a huge Duran Duran fan.

But with Kino Lorber releasing “Deutschland 83” on DVD, I figured it was a very good time to check out the series that she and many people have been raving about this year.

And I have to concur that “Deutschland 83” is a magnificent spy thriller incorporating ’80s pop culture and captivating acting from its large cast.

But also taking one of the most tension-driven situations in Germany’s history and bringing it to television for the world to enjoy.  The fact is a lot of people in America who are not erudites on the history of East and West Germany and how close the world was for another World War, is quite amazing to see how intelligence played a big part in preventing any misdirection leading to war.

The storyline resonates strongly for those who grew up in the ’80s.  The pop culture such as Nena’s “99 Luft Ballons” or Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” and technology such as the Walkman being enjoyed.  Those little bits of pop culture hits home for those of us that enjoyed those things many years ago.

But of course, it’s the well-written storyline of how a young border guard is chosen by force to become a spy for his country, East Germany and transplanted to West Germany.  Not having to say goodbye to his sick mother or girlfriend, he tries in various attempts to contact them and of course, doing so at inopportune moments and risking his identity.

To take on the identity of an aid worker to a General and having to be so close in proximity to an American General and German General with access to highly classified material and is given the task to take photos of those documents and get it into East Germany through spies who infiltrated the West German government or military.

There are also quite a few side stories in play.   From General Edel’s son, Alex, who serves in the military with Martin but is slowly growing into becoming against the military.  And also, his daughter Yvonne, who becomes a member of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh cult.

Another story includes Martin’s girlfriend, Annett Schneider moving in with his mother Ingrid.  And Annett discovering a major secret that Ingrid has been hiding.  And also a story about Tobias Tischbier, an East German who works for the STASI but is in the West, working as a professor at the University of Bonn and his relationships with men and the fears, especially during the early ’80s in regards to the AIDS epidemic.

But the primary storyline revolves around Martin with the name of Moritz Stamm having forced to become a spy but is told that his mother would receive medical treatment and will be put on the list for a kidney transplant if he does his job.  So, we watch his journey of several risky missions he must undertake as a spy.

Every episode is thrilling and the acting by Jonas Nay, Maria Schrader, Alexander Beyer, Sonja Gerhardt, Sylvester Groth to name a few is definitely worth mentioning as their performance are fantastic.

But with a wonderful eight episodes making up the first season, can we expect a season two?

To ensure to not leave people hanging after its thrilling season finale, Anna and Joerg Winger have said in an interview (included on this DVD) that the plan is to have three seasons.  That is great news for fans of “Deutschland 83” and one can only hope the quality of the writing and acting remains consistent.

For parents who want to watch this series with their young children, just a little warning that the series does have violence and brief nudity.

As for the DVD, as much as I hoped that Kino Lorber would release “Deutschland 83” on Blu-ray, for now, only a DVD release will be available.  But the good news is that the episodes are broken up to three DVD discs, so picture quality is very good as one can expect on DVD.  Audio is German Dolby Digital 5.1 and English subtitles are easy to read.  Special features include interviews with three members of the cast, series creators and a Q&A which all take place in New York for the screening of the first episode.

Overall, “Deutschland 83″ is a magnificent spy thriller and as the first German television series to air in the United States, this series may open the gates for more international programming to be released in the U.S.

Wonderful writing, awesome performances…”Deutschland 83” is a riveting series that I highly recommend!

 

« Previous PageNext Page »

Bottom