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

February 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

For anyone who are open to learning about new cultures and seeing the life of those living in rural regions, Otto Bell’s “The Eagle Huntress” is truly inspirational and also visually beautiful to watch.  I enjoyed it and also recommend it!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Eagle Huntress, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Eagle Huntress

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 88 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: G (General Audiences)

RELEASE DATE: February 7, 2017


Directed by Otto Bell

Produced by Otto Bell, Sharon Chang, Stacy Reiss

Executive Producer: Jeremy Chilnick, Dan Cogan, Barbara Dobkin, Susan MacLaury, Daisy Ridley, Regina Kulik Scully, Marc H. Simon, Morgan Spurlock

Music by Jeff Peters

Cinematography by Simon Niblett

Edited by Pierre Takal


Starring:

Narrated by Daisy Ridley

Aisholpan Nurgaiv

Rys Nurgaiv


THE EAGLE HUNTRESS follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl, as she trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter, and rises to the pinnacle of a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for centuries. Set against the breathtaking expanse of the Mongolian steppe, THE EAGLE HUNTRESS features some of the most awe-inspiring cinematography every captured in a documentary, giving this intimate tale of a young girl’s quest the dramatic force of an epic narrative film.


In 2016, filmmaker Otto Bell would film a Kazakh-language British-Mongolian-American documentary titled “The Eagle Huntress”.

Executive-produced by documentarian Morgan Spurlock (“Super Zie Me”, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”, “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?”) and Daisy Ridley (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, “Scrawl”, “Lifesaver”), who also narrates the film.

And now the documentary will be released by Sony Pictures Classics in February 2017.

“The Eagle Huntress” revolves around Aisholpan Nurgaiv, a 13-year-old Kazakh girl from Mongolia and is from a family of nomads that spend their summers in a yurt in the Altai mountains and during the winter, they live in town.

For seven generations, her family have been eagle hunters and she wants to become one.

While Aisholpan studies hard as she dreams of becoming a doctor but also has learned from her father Nurgaiv, an eagle hunter/trainer, who has won a few Golden Eagle competitions.  She was taught by her father to care for an eagle and train them and dreams of competing in the major competition, but the competition is dominated by male eagle hunters who believe in a males-only tradition.

But Nurgaiv has always believed that males and females are equal and that Aisholpan can compete.

So, one day, Aisholpan with her father climb up a mountain and she is able to capture and train her own eaglet.

But what happens when Aisholpan enters the annual Golden Eagle Festival?


VIDEO:

“The Eagle Huntress” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). Overall picture quality shows amazing detail during closeups. Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep. Many outdoor shots and for the most part vibrant and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. The documentary looks very good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Eagle Huntress” is presented in Kazakh 5.1 DTS-HD MA and an English audio description track 5.1 Dolby Digital.

The lossless audio is primarily dialogue and musically driven, with surround channels for natural ambiance (especially with the eagle or birds squawking or chirping in the background).

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Eagle Huntress” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Otto Bell.
  • Capturing the Eagle Huntress – (10:26) Behind-the-scenes on the making of “The Eagle Huntress”.
  • Theatrical Trailer

What started with a photograph from a photographer, would lead filmmaker Otto Bell to go to western Mongolia to create a film in the least populated rural region of the country.

Observing families and how eagles were living with the humans and sure enough, when Otto Bell and his crew proposed to make a film about 13-year-old Aisholpan Nurgaiv, the daughter of an eagle hunter/trainer, from her catching an eagle to her competing in the annual Golden Eagle Festival.

But also to learn about the challenges that Aisholpan experienced because she was female competing in a competition that was primarily male-dominated.  And no doubt, a gender-breaking opportunity and showing that a female can compete along with the males.

With no money, no budget and shooting on a shoestring budget, with only a few crew (which included using GoPro cameras), the crew were able to get aerial shots with a drone and utilize a RED EPIC camera and lightweight crane to accomplish the film.

The film no doubt was able to be boosted by narration by actress Daisy Ridley but the storyline of “The Eagle Huntress” is made enjoyable with the true-to-life filming of the daily life of young Aisholpan but also the cinematography of Simon Niblett was able to capture the beauty but also showing us the risk that Aisholpan had to accomplish in hunting her first eagle but eventually training it for competition.

“The Eagle Huntress” documentary that is no doubt amazing for the accomplishment of a 13-year-old girl, who many considered not suitable to participate in the annual Golden Eagle Festival competition but what happens after and to hear the male competitors discuss her win, was no surprise.

While the documentary is inspirational, I was also impressed by what the film crew with hardly any budget was able to accomplish in getting this film made.  And with modern technology, director Otto Bell and cinematographer Simon Niblett were able to document a day in the life of a teenager and a region that many people are not familiar with.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music.  Special features includes an insightful audio commentary but also a featurette showing the challenges of filming this documentary on a shoestring budget.

For anyone who are open to learning about new cultures and seeing the life of those living in rural regions, Otto Bell’s “The Eagle Huntress” is truly inspirational and also visually beautiful to watch.  I enjoyed it and also recommend it!

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

November 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Hollars” is a film that will make you laugh and also will make you cry. It’s a film that feels real and manages to balance comedy and emotion wonderfully thanks to the magnificent performances by Margo Martindale and Richard Jenkins. “The Hollars” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Hollars SP, LLC, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Hollars

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, English and Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese (traditional), Japanese

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Brief Language and Some Thematic Material)

RELEASE DATE: December 6, 2016


Directed by  John Krasinski

Written by James C. Strouse

Produced by John Krasinski, Ben Nearn, Tom Rice, Allyson Seeger

Executive Producer: Michael London, Mike Sablone, James C. Strouse, Janice Williams

Associate Producer: Hillary Schoelzel

Line Producer: Kirk Michael Fellows

Music by Josh Ritter

Cinematography by Eric Alan Edwards

Edited by Heathr Persons

Production Design by Daniel B. Clancy

Set Decoration by Gretchen Gattuso

Costume Design by Caroline Eselin


Starring:

Margo Martindale as Sally Hollar

Sharito Copley as Ron Hollar

Richard Jenkins as Don Hollar

John Krasinski as John Hollar

Anna Kendrick as Rebecca

Randall Park as Dr. Fong

Ashley Dyke as Stacey

Isabela Constine as Constance

Didi Costine as Matilda

Josh Groban as Reverand Dan

Charlie Day as Jason

Mary Kay Place as Pam


A struggling NYC artist, John Hollar (John Krasinski), is forced to return to the small, middle-American town he left behind after learning about his mother’s illness. Back in the house he grew up in, John is immediately swept up in the problems of his dysfunctional family, high school rival and an over-eager ex-girlfriend as he faces impending fatherhood with his NYC girlfriend (Academy Award Nominee Anna Kendrick, 2009, Best Supporting Actress, Up in the Air). John Krasinski’s second feature as a director is a poignant look at the bonds of family and friendship.


In 2016, screenwriter James C. Strouse (“Grace is Gone”, “The Winning Season”, “New York, I Love You”) wrote “The Hollars”, a story based on Strouse’s experiences with his family.

The script would be purchased by actor John Krasinski (“The Office”, “13 Hours”, “Leatherheads”) and would direct the film (his second film).

The film would star Krasinski, Margon Martindale (“Million Dollar Baby”, “August: Osage County”, “The Hours”), Richard Jenkins (“Jack Reacher”, “The Cabin in the Woods”, “Burn After Reading”), Sharito Copley (“District 9”, “Chappie”, “Maleficent”), Anna Kendrick (“Up in the Air”, “Pitch Perfect” films, “Into the Woods”), Charlie Day (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, “Horrible Bosses”, “Pacific Rim”), music artist Josh Groban, Randall Park (“Fresh Off the Boat”, “The Interview”, “Veep”), Ashley Dyke (“12 Years a Slave”, “Dependent’s Day”, “Hello Ladies”) and more.

“The Hollars” begins with the introduction to the Hollar family.  Sally Hollar (portrayed by Margo Martindale) is doing her makeup in the bathroom, Ron Hollar (portrayed by Sharito Copley) is the eldest, divorced son who has moved back home and is trying to get into the bathroom which is occupied.  And Don Hollar (portrayed by Richard Jenkins) is the father who catches his son peeing in a jar in the kitchen.

When Don hears a crash, he checks on his wife and finds her laying on the bathroom floor.  Thinking that she may have just fallen or playing a joke, Ron sees his mother down and has his father call for an ambulance.

Meanwhile, in New York, John Hollar (portrayed by John Krasinski) is a graphic novelist who is having a difficult time on the job.  His pregnant girlfriend, Rebecca (portrayed by Anna Kendrick) comes to his work and tells him that his mother is in the hospital with a possible brain tumor.

She purchases plane tickets for John and John heads back home to the small city in Ohio that he grew up in and reunites with his family.

As John comes back, he sees his family as dysfunctional as ever.  We learn that John has stopped contacting his family and is shocked to find out how much things have changed back at home.

He finds out that his father’s business is not doing very well and near bankruptcy and may lose the business.

John also finds out that his brother Ron has been spying on his ex-wife and kids and regrets leaving his family and Ron is very jealous that his ex-wife Stacey (portrayed by Ashley Dyke) is with Reverend Dan (portrayed by Josh Groban).  And his father and Ron are not getting along well.

John also finds out that his ex-fiance Gwen (portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) married his former classmate now nurse, Jason (portrayed by Charlie Day).

As the family learns that Sally Hollar has a huge brain tumor that she may have had for the last 15 years and she and her father had ignored the symptoms and thought it was weight related.

The family must band together to support her mom who needs emergency surgery (as she doesn’t want to go through with it).

Meanwhile, the family think that John and his girlfriend are not doing well because he hasn’t married her.  But in truth, John is scared because of his uncertainties of his current job and he will soon become a father.

What will John discover as he stays with his family for the week?


VIDEO:

“The Hollars” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). Overall picture quality shows amazing detail during closeups. Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep. Many outdoor shots and for the most part vibrant, the film looks very good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Hollars” is presented in English and Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA.

The lossless audio for “I Saw the Light” features crystal clear dialogue and music. Surround sound usage is primarily for ambiance.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese (Traditional) and Japanese.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Hollars” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director and actor John Krasinski and actress Margo Martindale.
  • The Family Trust: Inside the Hollars – (17:37) Behind-the-scenes on the making of “The Hollars”.
  • Persistent Vision: Margo Martindale – (6:03) Featuring interviews with actress Margo Martindale and cast discuss working with her.
  • LA Film Festival Q&A – (18:54) Featuring the Q&A for “The Hollars” at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “The Hollars”.

EXTRAS:

“The Hollars” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


Often a few may watch a film and be remind of their own family.  “The Hollars” is one of those films that may not be a financial blockbuster, but its story and its characters are endearing, compassionate, funny and its a story that really hit home for me and I found it to be delightful.

The film revolves around New York-based graphic novelist John Hollar, a man who is uncertain about his job and the stress from that, but also because his girlfriend Rebecca is pregnant and is expected to give birth soon.

And if John is feeling stressed, he receives news that his mother is in the hospital and has a brain tumor.

As John returns home, we learn that not only hasn’t he had much communication with his family, he pretty much has been out of the loop on what is going on with his family members.

He learns that his older brother Ron has moved back home and was fired by his father.  Ron, who ended his marriage with his wife Stacey, has been spying on her and the kids when he finds out that she is dating the youth pastor in town.

Meanwhile, John finds out his father is nearly bankrupt as the family business is now in danger of shutting down.

But as John is primarily there for his mother and being there to support her as she must prepare for an emergency surgery to remove the brain tumor, he spends precious time with his family, seeing former friends including his ex-fiance but also discovering the more important things in life and how he really feels about his current girlfriend, Rebecca.

What touched me about the film is to see the humor among the family members, as humor plays a big part in the relationship of the Hollars, despite being a dysfunctional family (what family isn’t?).  But also the feeling that many men feel when working a job and not sure about their future, especially their financial future and the beginning of family and responsibilities.

These are all natural feelings that many can relate to with John, but also many people can related to the hardships of the Hollars, especially for those who have had a loved one in the hospital and have experienced the emotional high and lows.

The acting by Krasinski, Copley and Kendrick was good but the two that really made this film so fantastic is actress Margo Martindale and actor Richard Jenkins.  Not only do these two have great chemistry onscreen but both nailed the varying emotional states of their characters during a difficult time.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is good as details are great on closeups, while lossless audio is primarily dialogue and musically driven throughout the film.  There are also a few special features including an insightful commentary, a Q&A from the Los Angeles Film Festival and more.

Overall, “The Hollars” is a film that will make you laugh and also will make you cry.  It’s a film that feels real and manages to balance comedy and emotion wonderfully thanks to the magnificent performances by Margo Martindale and Richard Jenkins.

“The Hollars” is recommended!

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Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

If Frank Zappa’s legacy is going to extend through the next generation of music fans, one would hope that this documentary reaches out to existing, the new, the curious and those who are open to discovering Frank’s music. “Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Les Films Du Poisson, UFA Fiction, ARTE France and SWR. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Eat That Question

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 93 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:33:1 Full Screen, English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Language, Some Sexual References and Brief Nudity)

AVAILABLE ON: September 27, 2016


Directed by Thorsten Schutte

Written by Lorene Scafaria

Produced by Estelle Fialon

Co-Producer: Arte France, Jochen Laube

Executive Produced by Thorsten Schutte, Ahmet Zappa, Gail Zappa

Associate Producer: Markus Brunnemann, yael Fogiel, Laetitia Gonzalez, Nico Hofmann, Joachim Kosack

Cinematography by Brett Pawlak

Edited by Willibald Wonneberger


Starring:

Frank Zappa

Gail Zappa

Steve Allen

Angel

Chuck Ash

Arthur Barrow

Adrian Belew

Theodore Bukel

Jimmy Carl Buck

Pierre Boulez

Thomas Braden

Napoleon Murphy Broc

Tom Brokaw

Wally Bruner

Paul Carman

Del Casher

Connie Chung

Vinnie Colaiuta

Katie Couric

Robin Denselow

Mike Douglas

George Duke


Told solely through rare and never before seen historic footage of Frank Zappa’s highly acclaimed 30-year career, this unique 90 minute documentary is an energetic celebration of an often outspoken and brilliant musician. Unforgettable Zappa interviews and performances from one of rock and roll’s most legendary self-taught musicians have been painstakingly gathered across decades by director THORSTEN SCHÜTTE from the obscure vaults of TV stations around the world to create this unparalleled look at one of the brightest minds popular music has ever witnessed.


Frank Zappa, the American musician and songwriter who created lyrics which reflected his iconoclastic views of the social and political establishment and was quick to challenge politicians as an advocate for the freedom of speech and the abolition of censorship.

Considering the fact that he was counterculture and was against the music industry, he was a highly productive music artist and was respected for his ability to not be controlled by the music industry, worked as an independent artist for the majority of his career and did things on his own.

Voted by “Rolling Stone Magazine” as one of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” (voted #71) and “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” (22), Frank Zappa is well-respected not just by admirers in the United States but found commercial success in Europe.

In 2016, filmmaker Thorsten Schutte would create a film to pay respect to Frank Zappa and his highly acclaimed 30-year career with his documentary “Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words”.

Featuring a culmination of interviews, rare footage, archived news and television performances, concert footage and more, Schutte’s film is a wonderful collage showcasing the musical oeuvre and also the philosophy of one of the greatest music artists, musicians, producers despite that had his supporters but also detractors for his outspoken brilliance.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words” is presented in 1:33:1 and in English 5.1 Dolby Digital.

The documentary is a culmination of archived interviews, concert performances, television appearances and more.  So, while archived sources vary depending on the scene, for the most part, picture quality is good and audio which also comes from various archived sources, is very good.

Subtitles are in English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words” comes with a theatrical trailer.


When it comes to Frank Zappa, while I discovered his music thanks to “Valley Girl” in the ’80s, I discovered more of his philosophy and his music through following the music of his son Dweezil Zappa and seeing Dweezel and Moon Unit on MTV and then also following Ahmet Zappa later on.

But what led me to Frank Zappa’s music is the Los Angeles radio station, KROQ.  Where I listened to a lot of alternative rock music and Frank Zappa’s music would be played on the station throughout the ’80s and early ’90s.

But while a lot of us who saw Frank Zappa on television was mostly about music censorship, which he was vehemently against, I’ve always wanted to know more about Frank Zappa beyond what one can find on YouTube and this is where Thorsten Schutte’s documentary, “Eat that Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words” does remarkably and that is creating a timeline but also a context of Frank Zappa showcasing his music, his philosophy, his feelings towards commercial success up to his final TV interview before his death.

And what we have is a fantastic documentary that really show us how bold, how intelligent and how brilliant Frank Zappa really was.

While I am very proud of what Thorsten Schutte was able to accomplish with this film, I hope its brilliance is not overshadowed by the drama (or here) that is ongoing between the Zappa brothers.  Watching this documentary, I can only picture in my mind of how Frank Zappa would react to what’s going on with his family right now and its unfortunate.

If Frank Zappa’s legacy is going to extend through the next generation of music fans, one would hope that this documentary reaches out to existing, the new, the curious and those who are open to discovering Frank’s music.

“Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words” is highly recommended!


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The Meddler (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Susan Sarandon is magnificent in the role of a loving mother, but also as a widow trying to find herself in life after losing her husband. May you think Marnie as a meddlesome and constricting mother or you see her as a woman that hides her pain through optimism, Lorene Scafaria’s “The Meddler” is delightfully funny very entertaining.  And a film that I recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: The Meddler

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 103 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:39:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, English – Audio Description Track, French, Portuguese, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital,  Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese (Traditional), French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Brief Drug Content)

AVAILABLE ON: September 6, 2016


Directed by Lorene Scafaria

Written by Lorene Scafaria

Produced by Paul Green, Joy Gorman Wettels

Co-Producer: Fiona Walsh Heinz

Executive Produced by Steve Golin, Shea Kammer, Susan Sarandon

Associate Producer: Chadwick Prichard

Music by Jonathan Sadoff

Cinematography by Brett Pawlak

Edited by Kayla Emter

Casting by Nicole Abellera, Jeanne McCarthy, Jeff Olan

Production Design by Chris L. Spellman

Set Decoration by Karuna Karmarkar

Costume Design by Annie Bloom


Starring:

Susan Sarandon as Marnie

Rose Byrne as Lori

J.K. Simmons as Zipper

Jerrod Carmichael as Freddy/Fredo

Cecily Strong as Jillian

Lucy Punch as Emily

Michael McKean as Mark

Jason Ritter as Jacob

Sarah Baker as Elaine

Casey Wilson as Trish

Amy Landecker as Diane

Billy Magnussen as Ben

Megalyn Echikunwoke as Elise


With a new iPhone, an apartment near the Grove, and a comfortable bank account left to her by her beloved late husband, Marnie Minervini (Susan Sarandon) has happily relocated from New Jersey to Los Angeles to be near her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), a successful but still single screenwriter, and smother her with motherly love. But when the dozens of texts, unexpected visits, and conversations dominated by unsolicited advice force Lori to draw strict personal boundaries, Marnie finds ways to channel her eternal optimism and forceful generosity to change the lives of others – as well as her own – and find a new purpose in life.


Filmmaker Lorene Scafaria (“Seeking a Friend For the End of the World”, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) returns with “The Meddler”, which she wrote and directed and is based on her experiences with her mother.

The film stars Susan Sarandon (“Thelma & Louise”, “Dead Man Walking”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”), Rose Byrne (“Neighbors”, “X-Men: First Class”, “28 Weeks Later”), J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”, “Spider-Man”, “The Closer”), Jerrod Carmichael (“Neighbors”, “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”, “The Carmichael Show”), Cecily Strong (“Saturday Night Live”, “The Boss”, “Ghostbusters”), Lucy Punch (“Bad Teacher”, “Into the Woods”, “Dinner for Schmucks”), Michael McKean (“Planes, Trains & Automobiles”, “This is Spinal Tap”, “Whatever Works”) and Jason Ritter (“Freddy vs. Jason”, “Joan of Arcadia”, “The Event”).

And now the film will be released on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“The Meddler” revolves around a widow from New Jersey named Marnie Minervini (portrayed by Susan Sarandon) who has relocated to Los Angeles after the death of her husband.

Unfortunately, her daughter Lori (portrayed by Rose Byrne) has also moved to Los Angeles earlier to pursue her career but to keep distance away from her mother, because Marnie tends to like to interfere and get involved with Lori’s business.

Always texting her daughter, always wanting to know what Lori is doing and even going so far to meeting with Lori’s therapist to know what her daughter is up to and thinking.  Even going to Lori’s friend’s baby shower, when she wasn’t invited.

But when Lori has to go to New York for her job and to get fresh air away from her ex, Jacob (portrayed by Jason Ritter), Lori starts to get involved with other people’s lives, wanting to be helpful and give motherly advice.

From offering to pay and plan Lori’s friend Jillian’s (portrayed by Cecilia Strong) wedding to helping out Apple Store Genius employee Freddy (portrayed by Jerrod Carmichael) by listening to his problems and driving him home from work.  Or by visiting an elderly woman in the hospital and talking to her daily.

But for Marnie, keeping herself busy and active is due to her wanting to not think about her deceased husband.

But when Marnie meets ex-cop, Zipper (portrayed by J.K. Rowling), will Marnie finds herself in an unexpected romance?  Will she be able to build a stronger relationship with her daughter?  And will she be able to move on with life?


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Meddler” is presented in 2:39:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and English 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is also presented in English – Audio Description Track, French, Portuguese and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.

It’s important to note that if you want the best picture quality for “The Meddler”, you will definitely want the Blu-ray version.  Otherwise, picture and audio quality is good as it can get on DVD.  Skin tones are natural, no major artifacts.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese (traditional), French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Meddler” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with director Lorene Scafaria and actress Susan Sarandon.
  • Gag Reel – (4:07) Gag reel for “The Meddler”.
  • The Real Marnie – (12:08) Filmmaker Lorene Scafaria and her mother Gail Scafaria and how Gail is the real Marnie and the differences from real life and the film.
  • The Making of “The Meddler” – (16:02)  Behind-the-scenes making of “The Meddler” and making a film based on the personal life of writer/director Lorene Scafaria and her mother Gail.  Interviews with the cast and crew.

When it comes to mother and daughter films, Susan Sarandon is an actress who is best known for films such as “Stepmother” and “Little Women”, but while those two films were more dramatic, this time around, Sarandon takes on the role of a widow, who has not fully grieved after the death of her husband and is now trying to focus on staying optimistic for her daughter and everyone else around her.

A delightful and charming film, “The Meddler” shows life of a widow named Marnie, doing what she can to be busy and trying to stay optimistic by becoming closer with her daughter, her daughter’s friends and an Apple Store Genius employee that she purchased an iPad from.

And as her daughter Lori finds her mom’s love to be a bit too constricting and meddlesome.

At first, one can feel that Marnie wanting to be part of Lori’s life a bit too much and over-the-top, the fact is that some parents are like that.  Texting too much, always wanting to spend time with their children.

But while Lori looks at her mom as meddlesome, when Marnie starts helping out other people, others look at Marnie as the ultimate mom.

But while the cover or promotional poster of the film may make you think the film is entirely about a mother and daughter film, “The Meddler” is a film about a mother and widow trying to find herself after the death of her husband.   And the conflict that Marnie feels, if she’s ready to be in another relationship or should she just continue to keep herself busy and focus all that energy on her daughter and others.

As for the DVD, I do recommend the Blu-ray version if you are concerned of picture and audio quality.  And there are a good number of special features included.

So, while “The Meddler” is seen as a mother and daughter film, I look at it as a more of a film about self-discovery.

Susan Sarandon is magnificent in the role of a loving mother, but also as a widow trying to find herself in life after losing her husband. Rose Byrne also did a wonderful job of portraying the role of Lori and playing a role that can go from anger to emotional to happiness very quickly.

May you think Marnie as a meddlesome and constricting mother or you see her as a woman that hides her pain through optimism, Lorene Scafaria’s “The Meddler” is delightfully funny very entertaining.  And a film that I recommend!

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Dark Horse (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

August 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Dark Horse” is a fantastic underdog documentary about how a racehorse owned by a group of non-wealthy commoners would not only win a horse race but how the racehorse would make an amazing comeback after a terrible injury to race again and defy expectations. Louise Osmond’s “Dark Horse” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © Darlow Smithson Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Dark Horse

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 86 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:40:1, Anamorphic Widescreen, English, English -Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH and French

COMPANY: Sony Picture Classics

RATED: PG (Some Mild Thematic Elements and Language)

RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2016


Directed by Louise Osmond

Written by Louise Osmond

Produced by Judith Dawson

Executive Producer: Adam Partridge, Anna Miralis, Anna Higgs, Lizzie Francke, Julian Ware

Cinematography by Benjamin Kracon

Music by Anne Nikitin

Edited by Joby Gee


Set in Wales, DARK HORSE is the inspirational true story of a group of friends who decide to take on the elite ‘sport of kings’ and breed themselves a racehorse. Raised on a slagheap allotment, their foal grows into an unlikely champion, beating the finest thoroughbreds in the land, before suffering a near fatal accident. Nursed back to health by the love of his owners, he makes a remarkable recovery, returning to the track for a heart-stopping comeback.


In 2014, filmmaker Louise Osmond created her 2014 documentary “Dark Horse” about the true story of a racehorse named Dream Alliance.

The story of Dream Alliance is amazing but also the story of how this champion racehorse came to be and how this amazing horse would come back to racing after a terrible racing injury.

“Dark Horse” would premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and would win a World Cinema audience award.  And now, “Dark Horse” will be available on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

In a small town in South Wales, a barmaid named Janet Vokes who is known for breeding whippets and racing pigeons decides to breed her own race horse. Overhearing a tax adviser about owning his own racehorse, she is inspired and she and her husband purchase a mare named Rewbell who was sold for cheap because it suffered injuries due to a barbed wire and had a bad temper.

Hiring the tax adviser, Howard Davies to become the racing manager, they bred Rewbell with a stallion named Bien Bien and in 2001, the foal was born.

As the Vokes reared the foal in the Cefn Forest near the town of Blackwood, they pitched to fellow commoners to pitch in money and join the effort to join an ownership syndicate and each member would contribute ten pounds per week to help develop the young horse and train him for racing.

In order to make this work, with 30 people contributing ten pounds, they can pay for the estimated 15,000 pounds a year to keep the horse trained for racing.

And by 2004, the young horse named Dream Alliance would be entered in his first race.  The horse came in fourth and eventually would take part in more races and got better.  And would eventually win his fourth race.

But in 2008, at the preparatory race for the Grand National at the Aintree Festival, Dream Alliance suffered a terrible injury and sliced a tendon.

And as a horse who would suffer such a terrible injury would be put down, Dream Alliance’s owners said that they would rather have him go back home than euthanized.

But when the syndicate made the decision to give Dream Alliance a new type of stem cell treatment, Dream Alliance would heal.  But what would come after Dream Alliance’s healing would become a miracle.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Dark Horse” is presented in 2:40:1 aspect ratio (Anamorphic Widescreen) in English and English – Audio Description track in 5.1 Dolby Digital.

As for the DVD, picture quality is very good as one can expect on DVD.  Picture quality is very good, with some race footage looking a tad bit aged but as most documentary archived sources are never pristine, for the most part, picture quality is good.  You also have camera footage of when Dream Alliance was born.

As for audio, the soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music.  Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dark Horse” comes with a photo gallery and a theatrical trailer.


I have watched reviewed documentaries and films about horses, especially about race horses.

And if you are a viewer of horse racing, the story of Dream Alliance is quite fascinating because the horse survived a terrible accident which many horses would often be put to sleep.

But with stem cell treatment, Dream Alliance became the first horse to make a comeback to horseracing after a terrible injury due to the new treatment but also the first horse to win a horse race after stem cell treatment.

In many ways, one can root for the horse and its syndicate because they were the underdogs.

Where most horses come from affluent families and are trained by the top trainers, the storyline of Dream Alliance is fascinating because the horse was trained courtesy of the investment by commoners living in Blackwood in South Wales and it all began with a barmaid named Jan Vokes who overheard a local tax adviser talking about a racehorse he owned.

Jan would eventually be inspired to breed a racehorse and she and her husband would purchase an injured horse named Rewbell, mate it with a stallion named Bien Bien (first year at stud in the UK) and next thing you know, a foal was born.

Jan would make Howard Davies, the tax adviser the racing manager and commoners of Blackwood would donate ten pounds a week as part of a syndicate that would pay for Dream Alliance’s race training.

Of course, because they were commoners and not wealthy, nor were they from families that raised horses and passed down the raising of horses from generation after generation.  The syndicate were looked down by the horseracing community.

Many race horses are bred for many generations and are worth over millions of dollars.  Dream Alliance was born from the injured, chubby and bad tempered mare named Rewbell who only cost 350 pounds.

And so when Dream Alliance raced, not much was expected from the horse because the horse was owned by non-wealthy commoners.  But these commoners believed in their horse and looked at treated him like family and sure enough, the horse defied expectation.

But of course, Dream Alliance would defy any expectation when it bounced back from a terrible injury, spared from being put down and would achieve a miracle.

As for the DVD, picture quality is as good as one can expect on DVD, and as for audio, the documentary features crystal clear dialogue and music.  There are not many special features included but a photo gallery and a theatrical trailer.

Overall, “Dark Horse” is a fantastic underdog documentary about how a racehorse owned by a group of non-wealthy commoners would not only win a horse race but how the racehorse would make an amazing comeback after a terrible injury to race again and defy expectations.

Louise Osmond’s “Dark Horse” is recommended!

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Maggie’s Plan (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

maggiesplan

“Maggie’s Plan” is a contemporary romantic comedy that goes against the usual Hollywood trend of happily ever after. Because of this, it may not be for everyone, but for those who are open to a contemporary romantic comedy, may find Rebecca Miller’s “Maggie’s Plan” to be smartly written, delightful and entertaining. “Maggie’s Plan” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Lilly Harding Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Maggie’s Plan

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 124 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, English, 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Russian VO, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Russian, Thai, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Some Language and Brief Sexuality)

RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2016


Directed by Rebecca Miller

Written by Rebecca Miller

Story by Karen Rinaldi

Based on the book by Colin Escott, George Merritt, William MacEwen

Produced by Gabor Rajna, Gabor Sipos

Executive Producer: Judit Stalter

Associate Producer: Robert Vamos

Line Producer: Krisztina Pinter

Music by Laszlo Melis

Cinematography by Matyas Erdely

Edited by Matthieu Taponier

Casting by Eva Zabezsinszkij

Production Design by Laszlo Rajk

Art Direction by Hedvig Kiraly

Set Decoration by Dorka Kiss, Judit Varga

Costume Design by Edit Szucs


Starring:

Greta Gerwig as Maggie

Bill Harder as Tony

Ethan Hawke as John Harding

Maya Rudolph as Felicia

Julianne Moore as Georgette

Wallace Shawn as Klieger

Mina Sundwall as Justine

Jackson Frazer as Paul


In Rebecca Miller’s witty romantic comedy, Maggie (Greta Gerwig) is a vibrant New Yorker, who without success in finding love, decides to have a child on her own. But when she meets John Harding (Ethan Hawke), an anthropology professor and struggling novelist, she falls in love for the first time. Complicating matters, John is in an unhappy marriage with Georgette (Julianne Moore), an ambitious academic who is driven by her work. With some help from Maggie’s eccentric best friends, married couple Tony (Bill Hader) and Felicia (Maya Rudolph), Maggie sets in motion a new plan that intertwines their lives and connects them in surprising and humorous ways.


From filmmaker/writer Rebecca Miller (“The Private Lives of Pippa Lee”, “The Ballad of Jack and Rose”, “Personal Velocity”) comes her romantic comedy, “Maggie’s Plan”.

Based on an original story by Karen Rinaldi, the film stars Greta Gerwig (“Frances Ha”, “Mistress America”, “No Strings Attached”, “Greenberg”), Ethan Hawke (“Gattaga”, “Before Sunset”, “Before Sunrise”, “Training Day”), Julianne Moore (“The Big Lewbowski”, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”, “The Kids Are All Right”), Bill Hader (“Superbad”, “Saturday Night Live”), Maya Rudolph (“Bridesmaids”, “Gattaca”, “Idiocracy”), Wallace Shawn (“The Princess Bride”, “My Dinner with Andre”, “Personal Velocity”) and Travis Fimmel (“Warcraft”, “Vikings”, “The Baytown Outlaws”).

And now “Maggie’s Plan” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The film revolves around Maggie (portrayed by Gerta Gerwig), a woman in New York who likes to have everything organized and kept in c0ntrol in her life.  And now Maggie desires to become a single mother despite her best friend Tony (portrayed by Bill Hader) telling her it’s not a good idea.

Wanting her college friend Guy (portrayed by Travis Fimmel) to donate his sperm, so she can inseminate herself, things take an unexpected turn when she has an affair with a ficto-critical anthropologist named John (portrayed by Ethan Hawke).

John is married to a Columbia University Professor named Georgette (portrayed by Julianne Moore) and his marriage is falling apart.  She is consumed by work and feeling that he is not getting anything in the marriage.

And so, as Maggie and John have an affair and Maggie gets the child that she wants, while the child was what she always wanted, is John supposed to be in her life?  Or does she feel that John was supposed to be with Georgette?


VIDEO:

“Maggie’s Plan” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). Overall picture quality shows amazing detail during closeups. Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.  Many solid outdoor shots to bring a New York feel to the film.   The film looks great in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Maggie’s Plan” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Also, an English- Audio Description Track Dolby Surround, Russian VO and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.

The lossless audio for “I Saw the Light” features crystal clear dialogue and music. Surround sound usage is primarily for crowd ambiance but for this soundtrack, the film is primarily dialogue and music driven.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), French, Russia and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Maggie’s Plan” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Rebecca Miller
  • Controlling Fate: The Making of Maggie’s Plan – (15:52) Director Rebecca and the cast discuss the film’s modern romance and how “Maggie’s Plan” is a contemporary story.
  • Outtakes – (7:21) Outtakes from “Maggie’s Plan”.
  • Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival – (11:29) Featuring the Q&A from “Maggie’s Plan” at the Sundance Film Festival.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Maggie’s Plan”.

EXTRAS:

“Maggie’s Plan” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


With many romantic comedies, they are typically about traditional romance and finding love and sometimes a story that is happily ever after.

“Maggie’s Plan” is a contemporary story that takes the traditional romance story and flips it upside down and what if the woman finds out the man was probably best with the woman he was originally in a relationship with.

The film also takes a modern look at the independent woman who wants to have a child but not be in a relationship.

So, “Maggie’s Plan” is very different from your average romantic comedy and for those looking for sparkle and finding true love at the end, may find “Maggie’s Plan” to be disappointing.  But for those who embrace a different and modern storyline of a woman making her own decisions, control of her own destiny and when she finds a guy that she thinks she loves but then feels… maybe not.  Then this film is for you.

The film revolves around the charming Greta Gerwig who has a career but now wants to have a child.  And in wanting to have a child, she’s not going to go through any major scientific process of having it professionally done, she is hoping one of her male friends can donate their sperm and she finds out that her college friend, a math wize named Guy will donate his sperm to her and she will inseminate herself.

Greta feels that she is ready to be a mother and that she knows that she is not a person that can stay with someone for more than six months.  And she wants to do this within four months, after she saves enough money.

In a way I enjoyed the film for its honesty.  These are things that some people (especially people that I know) feel and they make their own choices which goes against traditional society ways of thinking.  So, I appreciate the film for showing a different side of how romance starts, romance ends but in the end, just staying honest with the characters, no matter how educated and flawed they may be, no one is put in a pedestal.  It’s really an honest portrayal.

May it be Maggie with John, Maggie and her friends, Maggie with Georgette or Maggie with her young daughter.

I love the quirkiness of Maggie and I also enjoyed the film’s use of improvisation and while some may find areas of vocal stammering in a film due to the improvisation and not a smooth delivery, again, I enjoy how the film is natural, smartly written and conversations are entertaining while not complex as a Eric Rohmer film, I enjoyed “Maggie’s Plan” for its characters and smart dialogue.

I felt Greta Gerwig did a wonderful job in portraying Maggie.  It’s a quirky but smart performance which I enjoy seeing her do in films such as “Damsels in Distress” and “Frances Ha”.  And she absolutely shines in “Maggie’s Plan”.

Although, it was a little unusual to see Julianne Moore with speaking with a foreign accent but I’ll leave it up to the linguistics erudite on whether or not they felt her accent was up to par.

The Blu-ray looks great in HD.  Closeups are full of detail, outdoor scenes are vibrant, skintones look natural and for the most part, the film looks very good in HD!  The lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music and also is adequate for this type of film.  As for special features, you get an entertaining audio commentary, featurette and also hilarious outtakes.

Overall, “Maggie’s Plan” is a contemporary romantic comedy that goes against the usual Hollywood trend of happily ever after.  Because of this, it may not be for everyone, but for those who are open to a contemporary romantic comedy, may find Rebecca Miller’s “Maggie’s Plan” to be smartly written, delightful and entertaining.

“Maggie’s Plan” is recommended!

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I Saw the Light (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

isawthlight

While Marc Abraham’s “I Saw the Light” is not a wonderful film, it’s not a bad film either. It’s just that it’s a simple, pedestrian biopic that had the potential to be so much more.

Image courtesy of © 2016 I Saw the Light Movie, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: I Saw the Light

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 124 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 Aspect Ratio, English, French, Thai 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Korean, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Some Language and Brief Sexuality, Nudity)

RELEASE DATE: July 5, 2016


Directed by Marc Abraham

Written by Marc Abraham

Based on the book by Colin Escott, George Merritt, William MacEwen

Produced by Gabor Rajna, Gabor Sipos

Executive Producer: Judit Stalter

Associate Producer: Robert Vamos

Line Producer: Krisztina Pinter

Music by Laszlo Melis

Cinematography by Matyas Erdely

Edited by Matthieu Taponier

Casting by Eva Zabezsinszkij

Production Design by Laszlo Rajk

Art Direction by Hedvig Kiraly

Set Decoration by Dorka Kiss, Judit Varga

Costume Design by Edit Szucs


Starring:

Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams

Elizabeth Olsen as Audrey Williams

Bradley Whitford as Fred Rose

Cherry Rose as Lillie Williams

Maddie Hasson as Billie Jean Jones

Wrenn Schmidt as Bobbie Jett

David Krumholtz as James Dolan

Josh Pais as Dore Schary

Wesley Robert Lanlois as Don Helms – Steel

Joshua Brady as Sammy Pruett- Guitar

Casey Bond as Jerry Rivers as Fiddle

Michael Rinne as Lum York – Bass

Will Beinbrink as Jim Denny


I SAW THE LIGHT is the story of the legendary country western singer Hank Williams (Tom Hiddleston), who in his brief life created one of the greatest bodies of work in American music. The film chronicles his meteoric rise to fame and its ultimately tragic effect on his health and personal life. Also starring Elizabeth Olsen, Cherry Jones, Bradley Whitford, Maddie Hasson and Wrenn Schmidt.


Hank Williams is a music legend.

One of America’s influential and significant singer/songwriters of the 20th century, unfortunately Williams did not live a long life, considering he recorded 35 singles (five released after his death) and they reached the top 10 of the Billboard Country and Wester Best Sellers chart, and eleven of those 35 singles ranked number one.

Colin Escott, George Merritt and William MacEwen would detail the struggles that Williams faced as a singer/musician and his battle with drugs and alcohol in their book “Hank Williams: The Biography”.  And a film adaptation by filmmaker Marc Abraham (producer of films such as “Air Force One”, “In Time”, “Children of Men”) titled “I Saw the Light” (the title of his song released back in 1948) was released in 2015.

Starring Tom Hiddleston (“The Avengers”, “Thor”, “Thor: The Dark World”, “Crimson Peak”), Elizabeth Olsen (“Avengers: Age of Ultron”, “Godzilla”, “Captain America: Civil War”), Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing”, “The Cabin in the Woods”, “Scent of a Woman”), Cherry Jones (“Signs”, “The Village”, “The Perfect Storm”),  Maddie Hasson (“God Bless of America”, “Twisted”, “The Finder”) and Wren Schmidt (“Preservation”, “Our Idiot Brother”, “13 Hours”).

“I Saw the Light” revolves around Hank Williams marriage and relationship with his first wife Audrey.  As the couple and their bandmates of the Drifting Cowboys band performed together, as much as Williams tried to put his wife first, the problem is that she is not a good singer and his manager and bandmates feel that he must end his musical relationship with her in order for Williams to succeed.

But it leads to challenges between husband and wife and it doesn’t help matters when Williams struggles with alcohol and also has sexual liaisons with other women.

But as his career starts to skyrocket and he finally is accepted for Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, how will Williams deal with the limelight but will he be able to maintain his marriage?


VIDEO:

“I Saw the Light” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1). Overall picture quality shows amazing detail during closeups. Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep. The film looks great in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “I Saw the Light” is presented in English, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Also, with French and Thai 5.1 and an English- Audio Description Track Dolby Surround.

The lossless audio for “I Saw the Light” features crystal clear dialogue and music.  Surround sound usage is primarily for crowd ambiance during live performances.   But overall, the lossless audio is very good!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“I Saw the Light” comes with the following special features:

  • Feature Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Marc Abraham
  • Deleted Scenes – (22:07) Featuring an introduction to deleted scenes by Marc Abraham, introductions to each of the deleted scenes (optional) by director Marc Abraham and eleven deleted scenes.
  • Talking Hang – (21:39) A Q&A with Peter cooper (of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum), executive music producer Rodney Crowell and actor Tom Hiddleston.
  • A Night in Nashville: Premiere and Musical Performance by Tom Hiddleston – (10:52)  The premiere of the film and Tom Hiddleston and the musicians play three songs in front of a live audience.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “I Saw the Light”.

EXTRAS:

“I Saw the Light” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


I have to admit that I really knew nothing about Hank Williams’ personal life prior to watching Marc Abraham’s “I Saw the Light”.

Despite having grown up with his music playing when I was younger via my father’s old LP’s, I knew he was a country music legend.  I just didn’t know of the challenges that he faced, the life that he lived and that he died at a young age.

Unfortunately, Williams tale is reminiscent of many other musical talents.  Alcoholism and drug use and literally wreckless living.  But to create a film about a musical legend, who was a significant talent, how would you deal with the personal life issues?

Do you go full on and show how he lived a wreckless life?  Or do you show him as a significant and talented musician?

I’m sure that in today’s society, many have come to terms that musicians aren’t perfect.  Despite their musical accomplishments, not everyone has a perfect personal life and that includes superstars.

From Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Prince, Janis Joplin, Whitney Houston, Jimmy Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and the list goes on, many talents who have suffered from drug overdoes and in Hank Williams case, his use of alcohol and drugs may have led to the hemorrhages found in his heart and neck.  But it did help end his marriage and him being dismissed by the Grand Ole Opry. Because he was constantly drunk and missing shows.

But how would you portray the character?  Would you do what Danny Boyle did in his 2015 film “Steve Jobs” and really showcase the person’s talent but also showing the person as the ultimate jerk?  Or do you focus on the musical genius that he was, the music that he creates or do you focus on the protagonist’s dysfunctional relationship?  For “I Saw the Light”, writer/director Marc Abraham chose the latter.

For “I Saw the Light”, the film was no doubt sympathetic to Hank Williams.  Part of the difficulty is finding out why Hank Williams lived such a life?  Did his marriage to Audrey drive him to drink?  Did he have this lifestyle before he was married.  If anything, the film shows the two as truly in love but Williams liked to have his fun, while Audrey was not having any of it.

And as I enjoyed the majority of the film, once Audrey leaves Hank, the film story suddenly goes on a downward trajectory.  As the storyline allows to show the drama between Williams and Audrey, showing the other women in his life is not interesting at all.  There is no drama, there really isn’t much of anything.  And that is what is disappoint, you don’t want to have a film with all the wonderful things happening in the first half, but to not build on anything for the second half.

There was potential for exploration of Williams music and why he wrote so many songs to help illustrate why he is a musical legend but filmmaker Marc Abraham chose the less riskiest path, no doubt a simple one for creating this film.

I admit that I was skeptical about English actor Tom Hiddleston playing the country music singer, but I thought his charisma and his singing voice added to the enjoyablity of this film.  Meanwhile, actress Elizabeth Olson did a wonderful job of playing the emotional wife of Williams.  Both talents had wonderful chemistry and made the film enjoyable for me.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture and lossless audio is very good.  While the special features really go into details of Tom Hiddleston’s training to take up the role of Hank Williams, to play the music and sing these classic Williams songs in front of a live audience.

Overall, while Marc Abraham’s “I Saw the Light” is not a wonderful film, it’s not a bad film either.  It’s just that it’s a simple, pedestrian biopic that had the potential to be so much more.

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Son of Saul (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

sonofsaul

“Son of Saul” manages to be one of the most horrific, grim films on the genocide which I found to be disturbing, thought-provoking and had left me feeling unsettled days after watching it.  Knowing that the film is quite powerful and yet it felt real and troubling.  I think many will feel that way watching this film, but at the same time feeling of how well-made this film was, thanks to the direction of Laszlo Nemese and the powerful acting performance by Géza Röhrig. Overall, “Son of Saul” is a film that is most deserving of the awards it had but it’s not an easy film to watch. But it’s no doubt an impressive debut for filmmaker Laszlo Nemes and a film that I do recommend!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Lagkoon Film Group. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Son of Saul

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 107 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 Aspect Ratio, Hungarian 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Disturbing Violent Content and Some Graphic Nudity)

RELEASE DATE: April 26, 2016


Directed by Laszlo Nemes

Written by Laszlo Nemes, Clara Royer

Produced by Gabor Rajna, Gabor Sipos

Executive Producer: Judit Stalter

Associate Producer: Robert Vamos

Line Producer: Krisztina Pinter

Music by Laszlo Melis

Cinematography by Matyas Erdely

Edited by Matthieu Taponier

Casting by Eva Zabezsinszkij

Production Design by Laszlo Rajk

Art Direction by Hedvig Kiraly

Set Decoration by Dorka Kiss, Judit Varga

Costume Design by Edit Szucs


Starring:

Geza Rohrig as Saul Auslander

Levente Molnar as Abraham Warszawski

Urs Rechn as Oberkapo Biederman

Todd Charmont as Bearded Prisoner

Marcin Czarnik as Feigenbaum

Sandor Zsoter as Dr. Miklos Nyiszli


October 1944, Auschwitz-Birkenau. Saul (Géza Röhrig) is a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando, the group of Jewish prisoners forced to assist the Nazis. While working, Saul discovers the body of a boy he takes for his son. As the Sonderkommando plans a rebellion, Saul decides to carry out an impossible task: save the child’s body, find a rabbi to recite the mourner’s Kaddish and offer the boy a proper burial.


From director Laszlo Nemes comes his Academy Award and Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix winning film, “Son of Saul”.

As the film is set for release on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics, the film would star Géza Röhrig (“Eszmelet”), Levente Molnar (“Morgen”), Urs Rechn (“Eight Miles high”, “Aufrecht stehen”), Todd Charmont (“The Last of the Mohicans”, “Anatomy 2”, “We Are Young. We Are Strong.”).

The film has received critical acclaim but also controversy as the film took on the topic of the Sonderkommando (German Nazi death camp prisoners forced to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims during the Holocaust).

With a debate that Sonderkommandos participated in the death of their own, facts over the decades have shown that the death camp prisoners (who were primarily Jewish) were forced into the position under the threat of death.  They were not given advance notice of their tasks, they could not refuse or resign other than by committing suicide.  It’s important to note that there have been confusion by people of the Sonderkommandos duty, confusing them with SS-Sonderkommandos and also with the Kapos (prisoners assigned by the SS guards to supervise force labor or carry out administrative tasks in the camp, these were also victims, but given different privileges and who were brutal towards their own people).

And it was a topic which director Laszlo Nemes wanted to take on and there were immediate struggles as financiers were not wanting to invest in a film developed by a first time director and the film’s unconventional approach.  So, the film was produced entirely in Hungary.

“Son of Saul” is set in October 1944 and would focus on Sonderkommando Saul Auslander (portrayed by Géza Röhrig), a  Hungarian-Jewish prisoner in the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The film begins with many Jews having their clothes removed and Saul and other Sonderkommandos assisting them and escorting them into a chamber.  For many of the people, they do not know that the chamber is a gas chamber.

And once that group of people are killed, the Sonderkommandos must clean all the blood on the floors and stack the bodies in preparation for a new group that will be killed.

But Saul hears a boy coughing.  He carries the boy in hopes to get him some help but he dies.  Because the boy lived for a short while, he is designated for autopsy and for Saul, because the boy did not die with the others, he wants the boy to be properly buried and to be administered by a rabbi who can give him a proper Jewish burial.

So Saul takes the boy as his own son and pleads to the prison doctor, also forced to work in the camp, Miklos (portrayed by Sandor Zsoter) to not perform the autopsy and give him a proper burial.

While Miklos is not sure how to make that happen, as he is being watched, he tries to buy some time for Saul.

Meanwhile, another member of the Sonderkommando, Abraham (potrayed by Levente Molnar) has heard that there will be a rebellion against the SS-guards with Oberkapo Biedermann (portrayed by Urs Rechn).  Abraham supports the uprising, while Biedermann wants to see photographs secretly taken of the camp’s atrocities and to smuggle the pictures outside in order to attract attention.

While working with another prisoner at the camp, which has a camera inside, Saul finds out from his friend Yankl (portrayed by Attila Fritz) that there is a rabbi in another Sonderkommando unit named Apikoyres.

This leads Saul to find a way to find the rabbi who can perform the Jewish ritual on the boys corpse.


VIDEO:

“Son of Saul” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1).  In order to create the look of the film, Nemes and cinematographer Matyas Erdely wanted to take on and shoot on 35 mm film in Budafok, Budapest.  A 40 mm lens and the Academy aspect ratio of 1:37:1 was utilized in order to showcase shallow focus and portrait-like narrow field of vision.

So, while there are images of immense tragedy that can be seen on the edges, because the focus is on the primary character in the center, the edges are purposely blurred as intended.

But overall picture quality shows amazing detail during closeups.  Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.  The film looks fantastic in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Son of Saul” is presented in Hungarian 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Also, with an English – Audio Description Track Dolby Surround.

The lossless audio for “Son of Saul” features crystal clear dialogue but utilizes the surround channels very well when it comes to the environment and overall ambiance.  You can hear gun shots, metal doors closing for the crematoria, screams of people being killed and sounds that can be quite unnerving.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Son of Saul” comes with the following special features:

  • Feature Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Laszlo Nemes, actor Géza Röhrig and cinematographer Matyas Erdely.
  • Deleted Scene: Return from the River – (2:06) A deleted scene  from “Son of Saul”.
  • Q&A at the Museum of Tolerance – (1:03:27) A Q&A with director Laszlo Nemes, actor Géza Röhrig and cinematographer Matyas Erdely.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Son of Saul”.

EXTRAS:

“Son of Saul” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


Having watched many films and documentaries about the extermination camps during World War II, I have to admit that I was completely unnerved by the shocking images shown in “Son of Saul”.

It’s a film that filmmaker Laszlo Nemes did all his best to convey the horrors that took place in the extermination camps and also the duties of the Sonderkommando.  How they were powerless, how they could not even alert other prisoners that the corridor they were entering is a gas chamber that would kill them within minutes.

These are not the only horrors as we see countless people getting shot and killed point blank range and the film shows a reminder of how tragic, how horrifying and how terrible the moments were for the people and also for the film’s protagonist, Saul Auslander.

There is no denying that the horrors that Saul must undergo and the hellish conditions that he must contend with are intensely grim.  As a viewer, you know immediately that there is no happy ending for Saul and other Sonderkommandos.  Not many of them survived, many were replaced by incoming prisoners and they were killed.

But for Laszlo Nemes’ story, one man doesn’t care so much of what happens to himself, he cares that one dead boy, who was breathing after everyone else had died in the gas chamber, is not operated on.  That this boy receives a proper burial by a Jewish rabbi.

And that is the goal for Saul as he does whatever he can to find that rabbi, but in order to do that, the viewer will be taken through a horrific journey and see if he will be successful to get the deceased boy a proper burial.

The film is unique and for the viewer, the horrific journey of Saul will no doubt be remembered and a film that no doubt will make viewers feel unnerved.  Through the horrors, you want to root for Saul, who will do whatever is necessary to give the boy a proper burial by defying all odds, but at the same time, defying even those who try to help him.

Because Saul is a man who has seen so much death.  He knows his chances of survival is slim, so if he can do one thing with purpose for good, he will do what he can to achieve it.  And that is what captivates the viewer, in seeing the intricate and complex dealings in order for him to accomplish his goals.

As for the Blu-ray release, I found that it was a wise decision to go with the 35 mm and 40 mm lens, to limit the focus on the center, typically on Saul but not so much being overloaded with death all around him.  And as picture quality is amazing in HD, the lossless soundtrack is no doubt haunting.  From the screams of the prisoners dying, the shots that go off as a prisoner is shot in the head point-blank, the sounds of the gas chamber closing, the muffling of sounds of screams.  Once again, this film is unnerving not just visually but also through its use of audio.

There are a few special features include, with the commentary and Q&A giving us an in-depth perspective of Laszlo Nemes’ filmmaking and his approach of making “The Son of Saul”.

While the 2001 Tim Blake Nelson film “The Grey Zone” showed viewers the life of the Sonderkommandos, it took a film to a different direction compared to “Son of Saul”.

“Son of Saul” manages to be one of the most horrific, grim films on the genocide which I found to be disturbing, thought-provoking and had left me feeling unsettled days after watching it.  Knowing that the film is quite powerful and yet it felt real and troubling.  I think many will feel that way watching this film, but at the same time feeling of how well-made this film was, thanks to the direction of Laszlo Nemese and the powerful acting performance by Géza Röhrig.

Overall, “Son of Saul” is a film that is most deserving of the awards it had but it’s not an easy film to watch. But it’s no doubt an impressive debut for filmmaker Laszlo Nemes and a film that I do recommend!

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The Lady in the Van (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

ladyvan

“The Lady in the Van” is an entertaining and endearing film but also a film that showcases a magnificent performance from Maggie Smith.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Van Productions Limited. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Lady in the Van

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 104 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Mandarin (PRC), Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Some Thematic Material)

RELEASE DATE: April 19, 2016


Directed by Nicholas Hytner

Written by Alan Bennett

Produced by Nicholas Hytner, Damian Jones, Kevin Loader

Music by George Fenton

Cinematography by Andrew Dunn

Edited by Tariq Anwar

Casting by Toby Whale

Production Design by John Beard

Art Direction by Tim Blake

Set Decoration by Niamh Coulter

Costume Design by Natalie Ward


Starring:

Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd

Jim Broadbent as Underwood

Clare Hammond as Young Margaret FAirchild

George Fenton as Conductor

Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett

Deborah Findlay as Pauline

Roger Allam as Rufus

Richard Griffiths as Sam Perry


Based on the true story of Miss Shepherd (played by a magnificent Maggie Smith), a woman of uncertain origins “temporarily” parks her van in Alan Bennett’s (Alex Jennings) London driveway and proceeds to live there for 15 years. What begins as a begrudged favor becomes a relationship that will change both their lives.Acclaimed director Nicholas Hytner reunites with iconic writer Alan Bennett to create this rare and touching portrait.


From director Nicholas Hytner (“The History Boys”, “The Object of My Affection”, “The Crucible”) and Alan Bennett, award-winning dramatist and screenwriter (“The Madness of King George”, “The History Boys”, “A Private Function”) comes a true story that revolves around a real-life experience from Bennett’s life on a factual person.

The story of Mary Shepherd, an elderly woman who lives in a dilapidated van and makes her permanent living area on Bennett’s driveway in the 1979’s and would stay living near his driveway for 15 years.

The film was shot in and around Alan Bennett’s real-life home and the area where the real Mary Shepherd parked her van.

The film would star Maggie Smith (“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”, “Downton Abbey”, “Harry Potter” films, “Gosford Park”), Alex Jennings (“The Queen”, “Babel”, “Bridge Jones: The Edge of Reason”), Jim Broadbent (“Moulin Rouge!”, “Gangs of New York”, “Cloud Atlas”), Roger Allam (“V for Vendetta”, “The Book Thief”, “The Queen”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”), Deborah Findlay (“Jane Eyre”, “Vanity Fair”, “Suite Francaise) and more.

The film begins with the sound of a man screaming.  The film then cuts to Miss Shepherd (portrayed by Maggie Smith) being chased by the police.  She then looks at her windshield which is cracked and has a blood stain on it.

The film then cuts to a pianist (Miss Shepherd when she was younger) playing along with a symphony as the audience watches.

We then watch as Alan Bennett (portrayed by Alex Jennings) is working on his article about Miss Shepherd, who has parked her old, dingy van in front of the driveway of Alan.

We see the two Alan Bennett’s (same person), one who is the writer that is intrigued by Miss Shepherd and the other who is becoming frustrated that her van is parked in front of their house and represents as the Alan that lives in the location.

Alan then begins his story of how he first encountered Miss Shepherd and how she moves into the neighborhood and how a homeless person in the area is received.

But how Alan and Miss Shepherd would communicate for the next 15 years as she would continue to live in her van in the neighborhood.  And would get to learn more about Miss Shepherd and her past.


VIDEO:

“The Lady in the Van” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). The lossless soundtrack showcases the details of the closeup of Maggie Smith’s face, the dirt and rainmarks on Miss Shepherd’s vehicle.  Skin tones are natural, lighting is well-done, although the film leads more to a cooler look outdoors, and warmer for indoors.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Lady in the Van” is presented in English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  Also, in Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, English – Audio Description Track Dolby Surround.

The lossless audio for “The Lady in the Van” is primarily dialogue and musical driven and both are crystal clear.  Surround channels are primarily for ambiance around the neighborhood, the slamming of Miss Shepherd’s car door.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Lady in the Van” comes with the following special features:

  • Feature Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Nicholas Hytner.
  • Playing the Lady: Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd – (6:20) A featurette about how this role was written for Maggie Smith.
  • The Making of Lady in the Van – (13:43) A discussion about the real Miss Shepherd and Alan Bennett discusses the real person that inspired the film.
  • The Visual Effects – (7:29) A featurette about the visual effects (used to create the two Alan Bennett characters).
  • Deleted Scenes – (4:34) Featuring three deleted scenes.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “The Lady in the Van”.

EXTRAS:

“The Lady in the Van” comes with a slipcover.


For those who have appreciated the work of Maggie Smith, “The Lady in the Van” features a wonderful performance by the legendary actress.

Based on the true story written by Alan Bennett about his personal experience and communication with a homeless woman who sets up camp right near his home, the film explores the relationship and friendship between the two people.

Alan Bennett’s character is broken up in two roles (same person), as one represents Alan the writer, writing an article on Miss Shepherd, while the other is an Alan Bennett that is growing frustrated by Miss Shepherd and doesn’t understand why the writer can’t give up on her and let her leave to another location.

Alan find the woman intriguing because of the way she talks and promotes herself, yet has become homeless.

Who is Miss Shepherd?  What led her to his neighborhood?  And why has Alan continued to help Miss Shepherd?

We watch as the two communicate with each other and the storyline starting out early as compassion and then letter transitioning into wanting to help Miss Shepherd live a bit more comfortably but to delve deeper into her background.

Maggie Smith and Alan Jennings do a phenomenal job of playing their respective roles.  For Maggie Smith, it was more or less playing a woman with mental illness but also playing a person who had a storied past, a person who is on the run, a person who is fearful of society and a woman who has put her trust towards the popular writer.  And how Alan Bennett remained patient with her, no matter how difficult she was towards everyone.

Meanwhile, Alan Jennings does a fine job of playing two different versions of Alan Bennett.  One who is kind and generous and is a writer, the other who is “the living” one that is more questioning the thinking and perspective of the writer.  And these two are often exchanging conversations of criticism and debate towards one another

But the onscreen chemistry between Smith and Jennings was enjoyable to watch but also to see the storyline unfold.  The acting is wonderful, but it’s the storyline that I found very interesting.  And the fact that the film was shot in the same location and same home, plus the fact that Alan Bennett was involved in the film was a major plus.

The Blu-ray release features wonderful detail while the lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and musical score.  The film also features audio commentary and a few short featurettes as well.

Overall, “The Lady in the Van” is an entertaining and endearing film but also a film that showcases a magnificent performance from Maggie Smith.  Recommended!

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Coming Home (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

cominghome

Zhang Yimou’s “Coming Home” is a powerful drama thanks to the magnificent performance of actress Gong Li.  A love story showcasing commitment and perseverance, “Coming Home” is a film that I highly recommend!

Image courtesy of © 2014 Le Vision Pictures Co. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Coming Home

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 109 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Mandarin (PRC), Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Some Thematic Material)

RELEASE DATE: March 8, 2016


Directed by Zhang Yimou

Based on the Novel by Geling Yan

Screenplay by Jingzhi Zou

Produced by Turi Vasile, Luggi Waldfeitner

Music by Benedetto Ghiglia, Piero Piccioni

Cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi

Edited by Franco Fraticelli

Production Design by Maurizio Chiari

Set Decoration by Bruno Cesari

Costume Design by Maurizio Chiari


Starring:

Li Gong as Feng Wanyu

Daoming Chen as Lu Yanshi

Huiwen Zhang as Dan Dan, the daughter

Tao Guo as Officer Liu

Ni Yan as Officer Li

Chun Li as Cui Meifang

Jia-yi Zhang as Doctor Dai

Peiqi Liu as Officer Liu

Jiali Ding as Mr. Fang’s Wife


Lu (Chen Daoming) and Feng (Gong Li) are a devoted couple forced to separate when Lu is arrested and sent to a labor camp as a political prisoner during the Cultural Revolution. When Lu is released years later, he returns home to find his beloved wife has amnesia and remembers little of her past. Unable to recognize him, she still patiently awaits her husband’s return. A stranger within his own family, Lu is determined to awaken his wife’s memory through gentle displays of unconditional and eternal love.


From filmmaker Zhang Yimou (“Hero”, “House of Flying Daggers”, “The Curse of the Golden Flower”) comes the 2014 drama “Coming Home”.  An adaptation of the novel by Geling Yan and a screenplay by Jingzhi Zou.

Starring Chen Daoming (“Hero”, “Infernal Affairs 3”, “Aftershock”), Gong Li (“2046”, “Hannibal Rising”, “Raise the Red Lantern”, “Miami Vice”) and Huiwen Zhang (“Forever Young”), the film was shot in Tanjin and Beijing and has received positive reviews from film critics worldwide.

And now, “Coming Home” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Coming Home” begins with Lu Yanshi (portrayed by Chen Daoming), a professor persecuted and sent to a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution (a sociopolitical movement in the People’s Republic of China between 1966-1976 by Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party of China, in order to preserve “true” Communist ideology and removing all capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society).

Lu Yanshi has escaped and is headed home.

We are introduced to a young woman named Dan Dan (portrayed by Huiwen Zhang), a ballerina who is working hard to be the lead dancer in a performance.  She and her mother Feng Wanyu (portrayed by Gong Li) are asked if they had any information on the whereabouts of Lu Yanshi and are told if they do, to not confront him but report him to authorities.

But for Feng Wanyu, who hasn’t seen her husband for a decade, she desperately wants to see her husband, but her daughter tells her not to.

Because word has gotten out about Lu Yanshi’s escape, Dan Dan is not given the lead role but meanwhile, she confronts her father who is hiding in their building, planning to see his family.

While authorities are keeping a close eye on the building that Feng Wanyu and Dan Dan are living, she sees that her mom has packed her clothing and is planning to leave.  She forbids her mother to do it but her mom tells her that she has spent her life taking care of Dan Dan, but now she must take care of her mother.  Dan Dan tries to prevent her mother by blocking the door.

The following morning, Dan Dan wakes up to find out her mother has left.

Feng Wanyu and Lu Yanshi try to find each other, but Dan Dan reports to the authorities of her father’s whereabouts, after she is told that she would be receiving the lead role.  As authorities capture Lu Yanshi, they try to stop Feng Wanyu from getting close to him and she is pushed and falls on the pavement and slamming her head.  Lu Yanshi is apprehended and Dan Dan is shocked about what has happened and worries for her mother.

Fast forward to the end of the Cultural Revolution, Lu Yanshi is released and comes home to find out that Dan Dan does not live at home and is no longer a dancer and works as a textile worker.

When he goes to visit Feng Wanyu, he finds out that she does not remember him.  She suffers from amnesia and something has happened to her and when she sees Lu Yanshi, she does not think he is her husband.

So, now Lu Yanshi must do what he can in hopes to reawaken his wife’s memory but also bring together his broken family if possible.


VIDEO:

“Coming Home” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1).  While scenes tend to be focused inside the home of Feng Wanyu and the room that Lu Yanshi is staying in, the scenes are well-lit, closeup details are very good and for the most part, make-up design is well-done in showcasing Gong Li as an older woman.  But the scenes shot by cinematography Xiaoding Zhao captures emotion and the state of Feng Wanyu’s well-being.  Cinematography is well-done, colors are natural and black levels are nice and deep.

I did not notice any artifacts or banding issues while watching the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Coming Home” is presented in Mandarin (PRC), Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.

The film is primarily dialogue driven with a few scenes such as crowds or during Dan Dan’s performance utilizing the surround channels for ambiance.  But this is a dialogue driven film with beautifully composed music by Qigang Chen.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Coming Home” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Zhang Yimou.
  • Toronto Film Festival Q&A with Zhang Yimou – (18:46) Featuring a post-screening Q&A with director Zhang Yimou.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailers for “Coming Home”.

Zhang Yimou has created beautiful masterpiece films in his cinematic oeuvre.  While many showcase action, “Coming Home” features on a family broken apart due to the Cultural Revolution in China.

About how a husband and wife remain committed to each other, even though one of them has amnesia.  A powerful, yet sad film about love between two people that has lasted for decades, the film relies heavily on the shoulders of actress Gong Li.

Known for her beauty and sensual scenes, in “Coming Home”, Gong Li gives a fantastic performance as Feng Wanyu, a woman who was separated by her husband because of the Cultural Revolution and forbidden to see or speak of him.  So, she holds hope that one day she can be reunited with him.

Unfortunately, the day that she is to reunite with him, after her husband had escaped from prison, she hits her head on the pavement and now suffers from amnesia.

At the end of the Cultural Revolution, her husband returns home but he finds out that while she awaits for her husband’s return, despite her husband being back home, she does not recognize him, as they have aged over the years.

She doesn’t retain much memories of the past and present but she retains memories of when her husband will return but also the disappoint she has towards her daughter (who reported her father to the authorities after he had escaped).

With the task of trying to bring his broken family together, Lu Yanshi must do all that is necessary to help bring his wife’s memory but also restore the relationship between mother and daughter.

A film that is beautifully shot and a screenplay by Jingzhi Zou that captures the trials and tribulations of each family member, the film is unique but also a film that you rarely see in Chinese cinema as it is set during the Cultural Revolution.

As Gong Li was fantastic in the film, credit also has to be given to actor Daoming Chen of being a husband that is hurt by his wife’s condition but is committed in hoping to bring her memories back.  And young actress Huiwen Zhang does a good job for her acting debut in a major film, playing a daughter that desperately wants her family’s love, but feels guilty for the pain she has caused.

The Blu-ray release features great cinematography and picture quality, while lossless audio is dialogue and music-driven.  You get a few special features such as a commentary, Toronto Film Festival Q&A and a theatrical trailer.

Overall, Zhang Yimou’s “Coming Home” is a powerful drama thanks to the magnificent performance of actress Gong Li.  A love story showcasing commitment and perseverance, “Coming Home” is a film that I highly recommend!

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