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Labyrinth of Lies (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

labyrinth

“Labyrinth of Lies” is a powerful and thought-provoking film based on real events of how post-war Germany was trying to move forward from World War II and the fall of the Nazi regime, but how a prosecutor was determined to go after as many Nazi soldiers who were involved in atrocities at Auschwitz, despite pressures for him to give up and quit. Giulio Ricciarelli’s “Labyrinth of Lies” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014-2015 Claussen-Putz Filmproduktion GmbH and naked eye filmproduction. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Labyrinth of Lies

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 123 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1, German 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RELEASE DATE: February 16, 2016


Directed by Giulio Ricciarelli

Screenplay by Elisabeth Bartel, Giulio Ricciarelli, Amelie Syberg (collaboration)

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:

Alexander Fehling as Johann Radmann

Andre Szymanski as Thomas Gnielka

Friederike Becht as Marlene Wondrak

Johannes Krisch as Simon Kirsch

Johann von Bulow as Staatsanwalt Otto Haller

Robert Hunger-Buhler as Oberstaatsanwalt Walter Friedberg

Hansi Jochmann as sekretarin Schmittchen

Lukas Miko as Hermann Langein

Gert Voss as Generalstaatsanwait Fritz Bauer

Tim Williams as Major Parker


Germany 1958. In those years, “Auschwitz” was a word that some people had never heard of, and others wanted to forget as quickly as possible. Against the will of his immediate superior, young prosecutor Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling) begins to examine the case of recently identified teacher who was a former Auschwitz gard. Radmann soon lands in a web of repression and denial, but also of idealization. He devotes himself with utmost commitment to his new task and is resolved to find out what really happened. He oversteps boundaries, falls out with friends, colleagues and allies, and is sucked deeper and deeper into a labyrinth of lies and guilt in his search for the truth. But what he ultimately brings to light will change the country forever.


Italian Actor and producer Giulio Ricciarelli (“Rosselini”, “Black Money”) is known for his roles on camera but this time around, the actor focused on his experience behind the camera in the 2014 German drama “Im Labyrinth des Schweigens” (Labyrinth of Lies).

Featuring a screenplay co-written by Ricciarelli and Elisabeth Bartel, the film would star Alexander Fehling (“Inglorious Basterds”, “Young Goethe in Love”, “Am Ende Kommen Touristen”), Andre Szymanski (“Wolfsburg”), Friederike Becht (“The Reader”, “Hannah Arendt”), Johannes Krisch (“Revanche”, “360”), Johann von Bulow (“The Stranger in Me”, “13 Minutes”), Robert Hunger-Buhler (“Angst”, “Unter dir die Stadt”), Hansi Jochmann (“Shining Through”, “Pfarrer Braun”) and Gert Voss (“Der Kopf des Mohren”, “Doktor Knock”).

And now the Blu-ray will be released courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Inspired on a true story, “Labyrinth of Lies” takes place in the late 1950’s.  A scene begins near a school and a Jewish artist named Simon Kirsch (portrayed by Johannes Krisch) needs a light and comes across a man named Charles Schulz (a former Auschwitz extermination camp commander) which he remembers and is scared of him.

We are then taken to a law office and are introduced to young public prosecutor Johann Radmann (portrayed by Alexander Fehling).  Not knowing how things work around his office, when he sees Walter Friedberg (portrayed by Robert Hunger-Bhuhler) and the older man ask for the law office to take on the case and how a Nazi is teaching at a school and how it’s not right.

The law office is not interested and talk about Auschwitz of being western propaganda and whatever happened in the past is past.

But when Walter goes to Radmann and gives him a paper, his boss throws the paper away and tells Radmann to focus on his own work.

But always being curious, Radmann decides to retrieve the paper and brings it up during a lawyer’s meeting with the head boss Fritz Bauer (portrayed by Gert Voss) listening and how he would like to pursue this case.  Fritz tells him that it may be a difficult because for a lot of people in the war who were Nazi, many went to go work in a variety of jobs, including the government.  He would need to have proof.

When Radmann goes to meet with Walter and Simon, he begins to research on what happened in Auschwitz and learn about the details of what really happened when the Nazi’s kept Jews imprisoned in the camps.  While Radmann wants Simon to give him more information, for some reason, Simon is not interested in talking about the past.

But Radmann and Walter end up stealing papers from Simon which detail thousands of Nazi’s who worked in Auschwitz and those who are still employed in Germany.

But when Radmann begins discussing with survivors from Auschwitz of what happened, he learns that many were tortured and killed.  Many just for glancing at Nazi soldiers.  But learns that the deaths were not a few, nor a dozen, nor a hundred, but thousands of people of all ages who were murdered.

Needing more witnesses and hoping to get Simon to be a witness, he learns the truth from Simon of why he doesn’t talk about the past.  It’s because he had two beautiful twin daughters and thinking that the doctor that he gave them to, would take good car of them in Auschwitz, he learned that the doctor was Josef Mengele, who tortured and experimented on twins.

This leads Radmann, sickened by all the witness testimonies and what happened to Simon’s children to now want to do all he can and put those who caused crimes in Auschwitz and have the proof of it, and let justice speak in behalf of the victims.

But Radmann is quick to learn, Germany has never prosecuted the Nazi’s and for whatever happened in the past, many feel it necessary to keep it in the past.


VIDEO:

“Labyrinth of Lies” is presented in 2:35:1 black and white and in 1080p High Definition. Closeups of characters and clothing show great detail.  Skin tones look natura and black levels look nice and deep.  I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Labrynth of Lies” is presented in German 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  The film is primarily dialogue and music driven with surround channels showcasing ambiance or noises from the parties which the characters are in.  But for the most part, dialogue and music are crystal clear.

Features English, English SDH and French subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Labyrinth of Lies” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Giulio Ricciarelli and Alexander Fehling.
  • Deleted Scenes – (5:46) Featuring seven deleted scenes.
  • LA Jewish Film Festival Q&A – (43:01) Featuring a Q&A with director Giulio Ricciarelli and actor Alexander Fehling.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailers for “Labyrinth of Lies”.

 

EXTRAS:

“Labyrinth of Lies” comes with an UltraViolet code for digital viewing.


I think for many people who have read their history books or watched archived news of the rise and fall of the Nazi Germany, there is always something in back of your mind that wanted to know of what happened after the war.

While modern news have showcased various war criminals who have been put on trial, there is not much known outside of Germany of what happened to the soldiers who served Hitler and how Germans felt.  Nor what transpired after World War II aside from the dismantling of Germany by the Allied Forces.  Or how regular people felt about the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime.

With “Labyrinth of Lies”, the story is based on a true story of lawyers who wanted to carry out justice for the Auschwitz survivors against those who were involved in the mass killing of European Jews.

Many of those who served at Auschwitz went back home, started new careers and moved on.  Germany and its people moved on and move forward after Germany’s loss in the war.

But not many people knew about the atrocities committed by the Nazi people and what took place at the camps.  What happened was that Nazi soldiers returned back home to civilian life and they were protected by the German government and the country’s statute of limitations forbid any of the soldiers being tried unless they committed a murder.

For Italian actor/producer turned filmmaker Giulio Ricciarelli (who resides in Germany), his goal was to research and create a story based on the prosecutors who worked on the first public prosecution against war criminals in Germany and how they were determined to get all the witness statements that they can in order to persecute these individuals who had involvement in the atrocities.

“Labyrinth of Lies” is a film that doesn’t focus on the Nazi’s, Germany’s loss in the war or World War II, it’s about a young prosecutor named Johann Radmann, due to his youth and hard-headedness, wanted to take on the case against those who committed atrocities on innocents at Auschwitz and hold them accountable and let Justice carry out the punishment for those involved.

The film would show how public sentiment was towards Radmann pursuing such a case.  A superior who is dedicated to this country, feels that Radmann is bring up old wounds and he should stop.  Radmann himself and many others, unaware of what happened in Auschwitz and if they did hear of something, they pushed it aside and treated it as western propaganda.

But seeing Radmann discovering the stories of the many Jews who were imprisoned at Auschwitz and their stories of being tortured or having loved ones murdered by the Nazi’s, no doubt touched his soul to the point that the case was the mission.

But as Radmann would soon find out, going after the Nazi’s is generally going against a huge demographic of Germans who served their country and in essence, during World War II, were Nazi themselves.

So, as the film focuses on justice for the dead and those who survived Auschwitz, the film is also about learning, growing and essentially Germany learning about what really transpired at Auschwitz and why these Germans who worked at Auschwitz, who are now working as government officials, teachers or someone that works at a store one typically frequents, are unaware the devilish , tragic and disgusting things that were committed at Auschwitz.

There is no doubt that “Labyrinth of Lies” is a powerful film that took much research (it took director Ricciarelli three years to work on the script) but to also create a film that shows an apathetic Germany, it was no doubt one of the hot, possibly taboo topics for one to discuss at that time and inspired by real events, brought to the big screen over 50-years later.

Fortunately, for those who want to take a breather from the more deeper scenarios featured the film, there is a romance story between Johann Radmann and Marlene Wondrak (portrayed by Friederike Becht) that does bring a little laughter in the film.  But while I felt there were certain scenes involving the two that could have been cut out of the film.

But even the relationship starts to take a more serious direction when Radmann, who begins to lose it after discovering how Germany would choose to forget the past or what the Nazi regime did and many Germans at the time, served with the Nazi military and starts to question himself and this mega case.  Eventually Radmann’s curiousity leads him to start his own investigation and find out if his own father and Marlene’s father have a connection to the Nazi regime.

The film is no doubt an eye-opener but watching the Q&A featurette with director Giulio Ricciarelli and actor Alexander Fehling at the LA Jewish Film Festival, it was rather interesting to watch because Fehling’s reactions, having been raised in Germany to answer the questions of German’s feelings towards the genocide is no surprise, because it’s the same similar answer I get when I discuss with my friends in Japan about what Japan did to China and what the Imperial Army committed during World War II.  Many people in Japan look at what happened back then, is something that happened back then and doesn’t affect the present.  Fehling answer and how one person he knew, said something similar of, “what happened was tragic, but what does it have to do with me”.

And I often suspect, that’s how countries dealt with such situations, to distance itself from the past and move forward.  But unfortunately, because of the magnitude of the atrocities, for those living in other countries that pays respect to those who lost their lives and to family members who suffered, these are situations that one can not forget and will never forget.

It’s important to note that while the film features Radmann and team going after various Nazi soldiers, it shows Radmann wanting to go after Joseph Mengele and him working with the Mossad (the National Intelligence Agency of Israel) but also with details of how Adolf Eichmann was captured.  For those who want to know more about the trial of Eichmann, will want to watch “Hannah Arendt”, the 2012 film directed by Margarethe von Trotta.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture and lossless audio quality is very good, while special features include an audio commentary, Q&A from the LA Jewish Festival and deleted scenes.

Overall, “Labyrinth of Lies” is a powerful and thought-provoking film based on real events of how post-war Germany was trying to move forward from World War II and the fall of the Nazi regime, but how a prosecutor was determined to go after as many Nazi soldiers who were involved in atrocities at Auschwitz, despite pressures for him to give up and quit.

Giulio Ricciarelli’s “Labyrinth of Lies” is recommended!

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

January 31, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

grandma

“Grandma” is an enjoyable comedy/drama with a solid cast, but what keeps this film entertaining is the wonderful performance by actress Lily Tomlin, in her first leading role since 1988.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Papote, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Grandma

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 102 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), English, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 Audio Description Track, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Language and Some Drug Use)

Release Date: February 9, 2016


Directed by Paul Weitz

Written by Paul Weitz

Executive Producers: Dan Balgoyen, Stephanie Meurer, Danielle Renfrew

Produced by Terry Dougas, Paris Kasidokostas Latsis, Andrew Miano, Paul Weitz

Co-Producer: Brenda Vogel

Associate Producer: Laura Tuck

Music by Joel P. West

Cinematography by Tobias Datum

Edited by Jon Corn

Casting by Douglas Aibel, Henry Russell Bergstein, Deborah Maxwell Dion

Production Design by Cindy Chao, Michele Yu

Set Decoration by Brittany Ruiz

Costume Design by Molly Grundman


Starring:

Lily Tomlin as Elle Reid

Julia Garner as Sage

Marcia Gay Harden as Judy

Judy Greer as Olivia

Laverne Cox as Deathy

Elizabeth Pena as Carla

Nat Wolff as Cam

John Cho as Chau

Sam Elliott as Karl


Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin) has just gotten through breaking up with her girlfriend when her granddaughter, Sage, unexpectedly shows up needing $600 before sundown. Temporarily broke, Grandma Elle and Sage spend the day trying to get their hands on the cash, as their unannounced visits to old friends and flames end up rattling skeletons and digging up secrets.


From filmmaker Paul Weitz (the director of “American Pie”, “About a Boy”) comes his comedy drama “Grandma”.

The closing film for the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, the film marks the first film for Lily Tomlin in a leading role since 1988’s “Big Business” and features a film that was written for Lily Tomlin in mind (both work together in the 2013 film “Admission”).

The film stars Lily Tomlin (“I Heart Huckabees”, “Nine to Five”, “Nashville”), Julia Garner (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”, “Electrick Children”), Marcia Gay Harden (“Into the Wild”, “Mystic River”, “The Mist”), Judy Greer (“Ant-Man”, “Jurassic World”, “13 Going on 30”), John Cho (“American Beauty”, “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle”, “Star Trek”) and Sam Elliott (“Hulk”, “Up in the Air”, “Tombstone”).

“Grandma” is a film that is divided in six chapters and begins with Elle Reid (portrayed by Lily Tomlin), a lesbian poet breaking her relationship with relationship with Olivia (portrayed by Judy Greer), and is still reeling from the recent death of her partner.

Not long after, her 18-year-old granddaughter Sage (portrayed by Julia Garner) has stopped by asking for $630 to pay for her abortion.  Having no money and no credit card, Elle wants to help her grandaughter and take a road trip together in order to get the money for the abortion.

But with grandma’s temper and her need for money, she must visit people from her past…but will her temper prevent her from getting the money?


VIDEO:

“Grandma” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks absolutely wonderful in HD as skin tones are natural, close-ups show very good detail. With a good mix of indoor and outdoor shots, the scenes are well-lit and outdoor scenes are vibrant. I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Grandma” is presented in English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1. The film is primarily dialogue and music driven with surround channels more geared towards the news ambiance. But overall dialogue and music is crystal clear.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Grandma” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary with director Paul Weitz, actress Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner and actor Sam Elliott.
  • A Family Portrait: Making Grandma – (25:14) Featuring interviews with director Paul Weitz and the cast.
  • Q&A with Lily Tomlin, Sam Elliott and Director Paul Weitz – (20:56) Pete Hammond interviews director Paul Weitz, actress Lily Tomlin and actor Sam Elliott.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Grandma”.

EXTRAS:

“Grandma” comes with a slipcover.


Paul Weitz’ “Grandma” is a film about self-discovery and relationships.

Broken down to various chapters, the film focuses on grandmother and famous lesbian poet Elle Reid, who is still trying to get over the death of her partner for over 35-years and having difficulty being in another relationship with another woman (who happens to be younger), Olivia (portrayed by Judy Greer).

Having a temper and also an estranged relationship with her daughter Judy (portrayed by Marcia Gay Harden), she decides to help her granddaughter Sage (portrayed by Julie Garner) who is in need of financial help.

While Elle would like to help Sage, she has no money and as the two try to get the money from her boyfriend, unfortunately he has no money and it leads Grandma and granddaughter on a road trip to get money from friends and people from her past.

But with each person Elle meets, she learns more about herself, the ways she was with people, while Sage learns more about her grandmother’s life aside from her being a famous poet.

A film created for Lily Tomlin, for her first major role since 1988, Lily Tomlin does an amazing job playing the high-temper grandmother, Elle.  The performance by Lily is wonderful and helped make this film much more enjoyable.

The film also features a good number of talents such as John Cho as a coffee shop owner trying to kick Elle out due to her loud demeanor.  The film also stars Sam Elliott as a former jilted lover of Elle who is still hurt after she left him with no notice and Marcia Gay Harden does a fine job of playing Sage’s mother and a woman who never had a close relationship with her mother Elle.  And because of her busy work, her relationship with Sage is not so strong.

The Blu-ray looks fantastic in HD and the lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue-driven.  Special features include an audio commentary, interview with the director and cast featurette and a Sundance Q&A with filmmaker Paul Weitz, Lily Tomlin and Sam Elliott.

Overall, “Grandma” is an enjoyable comedy/drama with a solid cast, but what keeps this film entertaining is the wonderful performance by actress Lily Tomlin, in her first leading role since 1988.  Recommended!

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

January 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

truth

“Truth”, as like most political thrillers, the film is no doubt subject to the individual.  And if you have strong liberal or conservative ideals, one will either love or despise this film.  But the fact is that the crew of “Truth” had a goal in mind with this film and that was to create dialogue and give the viewer a chance to make their own decision about the film.  “Truth” is a film worth checking out!

Image courtesy of © RatPac Truth, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Truth

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 102 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Language and a Brief Nude Photo)

Release Date: February 2, 2016


Based on the book by Mary Mapes

Directed by James Vanderbilt

Screenplay by James Vanderbilt

Executive Producers: Antonia Barnard, Mikkel Bondesen, James Packer, Steven Silver, Neil Tabatznik

Produced by Brad Fischer, Doug Mankoff, Brett Ratner, William Sherak, Andrw Spaulding, James Vanderbilt

Co-Producer: Martin Cohen, Alaric McAusland

Music by Brian Tyler

Cinematography by Mandy Walker

Edited by Richard Francis-Bruce

Casting by Niki Barrett, John Papsidera

Production Design by Fiona Crombie

Art Direction by Fiona Donovan

Set Decoration by Glen W. Johnson

Costume Design by Amanda Neale


Starring:

Cate Blanchett as Mary Mapes

Robert Redford as Dan Rather

Topher Grace as Mike Smith

Dennis Quaid as Lt. Colonel Roger Charles

Elisabeth Moss as Lucy Scott

Bruce Greenwood as Andrew Heyward

Stacy Keach as Lt. Colonel Bill Burkett

John Benjamin Hickey as Mark Wroistad

David Lyons as Josh Howard

Dermot Mulroney as Lawrence Lanpher

Rachael Blake as Betsy West

Andrew McFarlane as Dick Hibey


Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett star in TRUTH, based on a riveting true story of one of network news’ biggest scandals. As a renowned producer and close associate of Dan Rather (Redford), Mary Mapes (Blanchett) believes she’s broken the biggest story of the 2004 election: revelations of a sitting U.S. President’s military service. But when allegations come pouring in, sources change their stories, document authenticity is questioned, and the casualties begin to mount. This dramatic thriller goes behind the scenes to expose the intricacies of journalistic integrity and what it takes to reveal the TRUTH.


From James Vanderbilt, the writer of the first two “The Amazing Spider-Man” films, “White House Down”, “Zodiac” and “The Losers”, comes his directorial debut with the an American political docudrama titled “Truth”.

Based on American journalist and television news producer Mary Mapes’ memoir “Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power”, the drama focuses on the controversial Killian documents controversy which took place months before the 2004 presidential election and asserted that in the early 1970’s, President George W. Bush received preferential treatment from officials of the Texas Air National Guard.

During the research of the documents, producer Mary Mapes and news anchor Dan Rather reported the news, which immediately received criticism and also allegations which were called into question and would subsequently lead to the firing of Mary Mapes, the resignation of Dan Rather and others for CBS News losing their jobs.

The film would star Cate Blanchett (“Lord of the Rings” films, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), Robert Redford (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “The Sting”, “All the President’s Men”), Topher Grace (“That ’70s Show”, “Spider-Man 3”, “Interstellar”), Dennis Quaid (“The Day After Tomorrow”, “Frequency”, “Vantage Point”), Elisabeth Moss (“Madmen”, “Girl, Interrupted”, “Get Him to the Greek”), Bruce Greenwood (“Stark Trek”, “I, Robot”, “Star Trek Into Darkness”), David Lyons, John Benjamin Hickey (“Transformers: Re”Flags of Our Fathers”, “The Bone Collector”, “Pelham 123”) and Stacy Keach (“Nebraska”, “The Bourne Legacy”, “American History X”).

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

“Truth” focuses on the “60 Minutes Wednesday” news crew which includes producer Mary Mapes (portrayed by Cate Blanchett) and CBS national news anchor Dan Rather (portrayed by Robert Redford).

As the crew is known for their award-winning journalism, months before the US 2004 Presidential election, with President George W. Bush seeking re-election, the crew which also includes Kt. Colonel Roger Charles (portrayed by Dennis Quaid), Mike Smith (portrayed by Topher Grace) and Lucy Scott (portrayed by Elisabeth Moss) are researching their next big story.

CBS News producer Mary Mapes obtained copies from Lt. Col. Burkett, a former officer in the Texas Army National Guard, that President George W. Bush had received preferential treatment in the early ’70s by the Texas Air National Guard.  Allegations which include concealing Bush’s failure to meet minimal training and performing requirements, in addition to being absent from the Air Guard for most of 1972 following a transfer to the Alabama Air National Guard.

The papers were made by Bush’s commander, the late Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killiam who criticized Bush’s service.

As Mapes and her crew did their research and felt they did all the work they needed to do on this story, they went public with Dan Rather reporting on the breaking news story.

But immediately, a variety of sources questioned the Killian documents and that they were not real but forgeries.  The memos were scrutinized and that they were not created by a typewriter but on Microsoft Word, thus invalidating the documents.

How would Mary Mapes, Dan Rather and their team react to the scrutiny in regards to their research?

What is the truth?


VIDEO:

“Truth” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks absolutely wonderful in HD as skin tones are natural, close-ups show very good detail.  With a good mix of indoor and outdoor shots, the scenes are well-lit and outdoor scenes are vibrant.  I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Truth” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is primarily dialogue and music score driven with surround channels more geared towards the news room ambiance. But overall audio is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English and English SDH..

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Truth” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary with director James Vanderbilt, Brad Fischer and William Sherak.
  • Deleted Scenes – (12:11) Featuring six deleted scenes.
  • The Reason for Being – (11:32) Dan Rather and Mary Mapes discuss their experience of what transpired and “the definition of truth”.
  • The Team – (8:44) The cast discuss working on “Truth”.
  • Q&A with Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss and Director/Writer James Vanderbilt – (33:00) Jenelle Riley interviews director/writer James Vanderbilt, actress Cate Blanchett and Elisabeth Moss.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Truth”.

EXTRAS:

“Truth” comes with a slipcover and Ultraviolet code.


“Truth” is a fascinating, yet controversial thriller about what transpired in 2004 with the CBS news crew.

One of the well-known media news faux pas in modern times, “Truth” is a gripping film that is based on the memoir of fired CBS news producer Mary Mapes and CBS News anchor Dan Rather and with their sources, going through with a potentially election damaging news report about President George W. Bush going AWOL from the Texas Army National Guard.

The film does not skirt around the subject that Mapes and her crew did not thoroughly have the documents authenticated, but at the same time, with the number of sources they had, it was unfortunate because the crew and the senior news executives have had wonderful success in their careers prior to the uncovering of the Killian documents.

Which brings me to how I felt about “Truth”.  As I tried to put myself on both sides and playing devil’s advocate, my first thought was if you were going after the President of the United States, one should make sure they have all the facts needed before going public.

I felt that the lack of authentication is no doubt the primary issue and for media professionals, it was a grave error and with media and bloggers coming out to disprove the report, because of CBS News’ involvement, it was a problem that was too big to fix and it doesn’t help that this was exposed before the election. Mary Mapes was terminated. Executive Producer Josh Howard and Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy resigned and Dan Rather apologized and stepped down.

But at the same time, I felt that Dan Rather, Mary Mapes and her crew stood for what they believed in and believed that while the documents turned out to be false, the underlying story is true.

With that being said, I understand CBS’ position in the matter and how CBS chief spokeman Gil Schwartz felt that “the film tries to turn gross errors of journalism and judgment into acts of heroism and martyrdom” (“Fortune” Magazine, October 16, 2015).

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality was very good and the lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and musical score.  There are interesting featurettes included such as the real Mary Mapes and Dan Rather discussing the pursuit of “truth”, interviews with the cast members and there is also an informative Q&A session plus audio commentary included as well.

“Truth”, as like most political thrillers, the film is no doubt subject to the individual.  And if you have strong liberal or conservative ideals, one will either love or despise this film.  But the fact is that the crew of “Truth” had a goal in mind with this film and that was to create dialogue and give the viewer a chance to make their own decision about the film.

“Truth” is a film worth checking out!

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

January 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

diaryteen-a

Marie Heller’s “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” is a unique and entertaining film about sexual discovery and features an amazing performance by Bel Powley.  Definitely a film worth checking out!

Image courtesy of (C) 2015 Diary the Movie, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 102 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:42:1 Aspect Ratio), English, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Strong Sexual Content including dialogue, graphic nudity, drug use, language)

Release Date: January 19, 2016


Based on the Novel by Phoebe Gloeckner

Directed by Marielle Heller

Screenplay by Marielle Heller

Executive Producers: Amanda Marshall, Amy Nauiokas, Michael Sagol, Jorma Taccone

Produced by Miranda Bailey, Anne Carey, Bert Hamelinck, Madeline Samit

Co-Producer: Debbie Brubaker, Corentine De Saedeleer

Associate Producer: Shani Geva

Music by Nate Heller

Cinematography by Brandon Trost

Edited by Marie-Helene Dozo, Koen Timmerman

Casting by Nina Henninger

Production Design by Jonah Markowitz

Art Direction by Emily K. Rolph

Set Decoration by Susan Alegria

Costume Design by Carmen Grande


Starring:

Bel Powley as Minnie

Kristen Wiig as Charlotte

Abby Wait as Gretel

Alexander Skarsgard as Monroe

Miranda Bailey as Andrea

Carson D. Mell as Michael Cocaine

John Parsons as Burt

Madeleine Waters as Kimmie

Austin Lyon as Ricky Wasserman

Quinn Nagle as Chuck

Willie as Domino the Cat


In 1976 San Francisco, Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) is growing up at the crossroads of the fading hippie movement and the dawn of punk rock. Like most teenage girls, Minnie is longing for love, acceptance and a sense of purpose in the world. Minnie begins a complex love affair with her mother’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend, “the handsomest man in the world,” Monroe Rutherford (Alexander Skarsgård). What follows is a sharp, funny and provocative account of one girl’s sexual and artistic awakening, without judgment.


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From actress/filmmaker Marielle Heller (“MacGruber”, “A Walk Among the Tombstones”) comes  her indie directorial debut “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”.

Having won various awards including “Best New Filmmaker” at the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards, “Best Feature Film” and the “Berlin International Film Festival” and more.

The film stars Bel Powley (“A Royal Night Out”, “Side by Side”), Kristen Wiig (“Bridesmaids”, “The Martian”, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”), Alexander Skarsgaard (“True Blood”, “Battleship”, “Generation Kill”, “Melancholia”), Christopher Meloni (“Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”, “Man of Steel”, “42”, “Bound”) and Abby Wait.

And now “The Diary of the Teenage Girl” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The coming-of-age film is set in 1976 and begins with an introduction to Minnie (portrayed by Bel Powley) and is often thinking about wanting to lose her virginity, but at the same time, having esteem issues of feeling that she is unattractive.

Minnie and her young sister Gretal (portrayed by Abigail Wait) live with their Bohemian mother Charlotte (portrayed by Kristen Wiig).  And Charlotte is often partying with her boyfriend Monroe Rutherford (portrayed by Alexander Skarsgard) and often drunk or on drugs.

As Minnie is an inspiring cartoonist, she is inspired by cartoonist Aline Kominsky.  And as she starts to hang out with Monroe, she does all she can to attract him and make him have sex with her.  But after sex, she often wonders if there is more to the sex and is wanting to have more with Monroe, despite him being his mother’s boyfriend.

But as Minnie wants to learn more about her sexuality, will this sexual fling with her mother’s boyfriend continue and for how long?  And through these experiences, what will Minnie discover about herself?


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VIDEO:

“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).

The film features a combination of the film and animated scenes (often when Minnie is thinking and recording herself) but overall picture quality is good.  Because the film tries to energetic a look to the past, where intentional softness is used in the film to make the setting of the ’70s feel realistic.

For the most part, picture quality is good and I didn’t notice any issues with artifacts.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” is presented in English and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Spanish Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The film is primarily dialogue and music score driven with surround channels more geared towards the ambiance.  But overall audio is crystal clear.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

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

  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary with director Marie Heller, actress Bel Powley and actor Alexander Skarsgard.
  • Deleted Scenes – (5:25) Featuring three deleted scenes.
  • Marielle’s Journey: Bringing the Diary to Life – (23:07) How the novel became a film and interviews with director Marie Heller and the cast.
  • Q&A with Marielle Heller, Alexander Skarsgard and Bel Powley – (25:19) Q&A from the Los Angeles Film Festival.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “The Diary of a Teenage Girl.

EXTRAS:

“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” comes with a slipcover and Ultraviolet code.


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Far often, the majority of the films dealing with coming-of-age revolve around boys discovering love and also their sexuality.

With “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”, the film focuses on a female perspective and it’s perhaps a film that genuinely feels natural, neither unnatural and literally explores the character of Minnie and the self-esteem issues of her body and her thoughts about sex.

With the backdrop of the mid-’70s and the exploration of sexuality of a young woman, Bel Powley’s performance of a young woman wanting to have a sexual connection with her mother’s boyfriend is rather interesting.  Especially knowing that things are not going to go as well when caught.

Actor Alexander Skarsgard does a wonderful job of playing the role of Minnie’s attraction, but also her mother’s boyfriend.  A person that lives a bohemian lifestyle where everything goes and life is pretty much drinking, doing drugs and partying, he’s a person without true boundaries.

Kristen Wiig does a fine job in a non-comedy role and showing us that she can do serious character roles (2015 also featured Kristen Wiig in a serious role for “Nasty Baby”), but for this film, a mother who also lives a bohemian lifestyle, loving to party, drink and do drugs in front of her children.  But starts to notice her boyfriend’s attention towards her oldest daughter.

I do commend director Marielle Heller and crew for creating a film in 24 days in San Francisco on such a small budget.  The film looks great but I also enjoy the fact that she was determined on creating a film after enjoying the original book and remaining persistent in getting the rights for the film adaptation and exploring a young woman’s sexual and artistic discovery.

It’s a story which many of us can relate to.  Feelings of inadequacy, feelings of self-doubt and also those awkward moments which we have experienced in our life.  If anything, the performances sold the film and no doubt made this film much more enjoyable for me.

As for the Blu-ray release, as the film utilizes a bit of softness in order to create a ’70s atmosphere, picture quality is good and lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music.  Also, includes are informative featurettes including an entertaining LA Film Festival Q&A and audio commentary.

Overall, Marie Heller’s “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” is a unique and entertaining film about sexual discovery and features an amazing performance by Bel Powley.  Definitely a film worth checking out!

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Testament of Youth (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Testament of Youth” is a wonderful yet tragic film with a clear defining message paying great respect to author Vera Brittain.  James Kent’s film adaptation of “Testament of Youth” is well-crafted and worth watching!


TITLE: Testament of Youth

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 150 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 Aspect Ratio), English, German 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Czech, Hungarian, Polish VO, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Bulgarian, Chinese Traditional, Croation, Czech, French, German, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian Buhasa, Korean, Polish, Romanish, Serbian, slovak, Slovena, Spanish, Thai, Turkish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Thematic Material Including Blood and Disturbing War Related Images)

Release Date: October 20, 2015


Based on the Autobiography by Vera Brittain

Directed by James Kent

Screenplay by Juliette Towhidi

Executive Producers: Hugo Heppell, Zygi Kamasa, Christine Langan, Richard Mansell, Joe Oppenheimer, Henrik Zein

Produced by Rosie Alison, David Heyman

Co-Producer: Celia Duval

Music by Max Richter

Cinematography by Rob Hardy

Edited by Lucia Zucchetti

Casting by Lucy Bevan

Production Design by Jon Henson

Art Direction by Philip A. Brown

Set Decoration by Robert Wischhusen-Hayes

Costume Design by Consolata Boyle


Starring:

Colin Morgan as Victor Richardson

Alicia Vikander as Vera Brittain

Taron Egerton as Edward Brittain

Dominic West as Mr. Brittain

Emily Watson as Mrs. Brittain

Kit Harington as Roland Leighton

Joanna Scanalan as Aunt Belle

Miranda Richardson as Miss Lorimer


Testament of Youth is a powerful story of love, war and remembrance, based on the First World War memoir by Vera Brittain, which has become the classic testimony of that war from a woman’s point of view. A searing journey from youthful hopes and dreams to the edge of despair and back again, it’s a film about young love, the futility of war and how to make sense of the darkest times.


 

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In 1933, the memoir of author Vera Brittain was released.  Titled “Testament of Youth” which covered Vera Brittain’s life from 1900-1925 (followed by “Testament of Experience” of her years from 1925-1950 and “Testament of Friendship” about her colleague and friend Winifred Holtby), Vera Brittain’s books are historically important in British literature, as well as feminist literature.

“Testament of Youth” is acclaimed for its depiction of World War I but also the lives of women and the middle-class of Great Britain.  It’s also important as it is considered a classic in feminist literature depicting a woman’s struggle to have an independent career in a society where educated women were not too tolerated by society.

And in 2014, a film adaptation of the life of Vera Brittain was brought to the big screen courtesy of director James Kent (“Margaret”, “The Thirteenth Tale”, “The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister”) and writer Juliette Towhidi (“Calendar Girls”, “Love, Rosie”).

The film stars Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”, “A Royal Affair”, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”), Kit Harrington (“Game of Thrones”, “Pompeii”, “How to Train Your Dragon 2”), Colin Morgan (“Merlin”, “Legend”, “Parked”), Taron Egerton (“Kingsman: The Secret Service”, “Legend”, “The Smoke”), Dominic West (“300”, “The Wire”, “Chicago”), Emily Watson (“War Horse”, “Red Dragon”, “Breaking the Waves”), Joanna Scanlan (“Notes on a Scandal”, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, “Stardust”) and Miranda Richardson (“Sleepy Hollow”, “Empire of the Sun”, “The Phantom of the Opera”).

The film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics in October 2015.

“Testament of Youth” revolves around Vera Brittain (portrayed by Alicia Vikander), a young woman who desires to become a novelist and to attend Somerville College in Oxford.

At first her father is against her attending Oxford as he thinks its a waste of money to pay for a young woman’s education and would rather see her focus on playing the piano and marrying a man.

But after her brother Edward (portrayed by Taron Egerton) has his friend Roland Leighton (portrayed by Kit Harington) come over and vouch for her to attend college, her father allows her to attend Somersville College.

She eventually begins to fall in love with Roland and the two have a romantic relationship.  Both plan to go to Oxford together and enjoy their time in college.

But life changes when Roland, Edward and his friend Victor Richardson (portrayed by Colin Morgan) join the military to serve their country in World War I.

The film features Vera’s life as a student in Somerville College as she is being mentored by feminist Miss Lorimer (portrayed by Miranda Richardson), her experience during World War I to join the Voluntary Aid Detachment as a nurse for both the British and the enemy who were wounded in combat but also her life with her brother Edward, her fiance Roland and their friends Victor and Geoffrey.

And how out of tragedy, a story of a woman became an amazing story of courage, independence but also the struggles for an educated woman in society during the early 1900’s.


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VIDEO:

“Testament of Youth” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). I have to admit that there were interesting cinematic directions coming from cinematographer Rob Hardy (“Ex Machina, “Boy A”, “Blitz”) during the making of this film.

For one, capturing the emotion and vitality of actress Alicia Vikander as Vera Britain was well-done.  Capturing the emotions and the tragedies of war was also well-done.  Although, it’s rather interesting to see the director shoot bokeh-driven scenes when showcasing her and her brothers in the countryside, I think the location shots and the close-ups were well-done.

Picture quality is very good, there is a good amount of grain, with some moments of softness but for the most part, closeups show great detail and if anything, while not necessarily vibrant, the film shows a sort of moody, melancholic atmosphere, which probably matches a lot of the unfortunate experiences which Vera had to go through in her life.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Testament of Youth” is presented in English, German 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Czech, Hungarian, Polish VO, Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The film is primarily dialogue and music score driven with surround channels more for ambiance.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Bulgarian, Chinese Traditional, Croation, Czech, French, German, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian Buhasa, Korean, Polish, Romanish, Serbian, slovak, Slovena, Spanish, Thai and Turkish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Testament of Youth” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Kit Harington and James Kent – Audio commentary with director James Kent and actor Kit Harrington (who plays the character Roland).
  • Testament of Youth Behind the Scenes – (6:30) A behind-the-scenes of “Testament of Youth” and the cast and crew discussing the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – (5:23) Featuring four deleted scenes.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Testament of Youth”.

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“Testament of Youth” is for the most part a wonderful film adaptation of British author Vera Brittain’s memoir written about her experience prior to World War I.

A woman of independence, well-educated and strong-willed, she is also a woman of courage and compassion and director Jeff Kent has done a magnificent job of portraying Brittain and her life and trying to keep a fine balance between what is autobiographical and a little change in order to make for a coherent and enjoyable film.

I have to admit that I was surprised when I watched this film, as I am not familiar with Vera Brittain’s literary classic but to find out how much pain she had to endure, but the strength she had to pursue what she believed in.

I really don’t want to spoil the film, although those familiar with Vera Brittain already know the tragedies that she faced one after another during the war and unfortunately, there is more pain that she had to endure (that is brought up in the informative audio commentary by director James Kent) not included in the film but in the memoir.

It was interesting to see how she was treated because she was a well-educated woman who wanted to further her education in Oxford.  Her father saw it as a waste of his money to use his money for her college education, others treated her unfairly because she went to Oxford.  But she persevered, despite the pain she had to endure quite often in her life.

While the film takes place during World War I, this is not a war film but more about a woman who learned from war, up close & personal.

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander delivered a wonderful performance throughout the film and while featuring a notable cast, it is Vikander who carries this film on her shoulders and delivers her greatest performance thus far.

Picture quality of the Blu-ray is very good, but not vibrant, in fact more on the melancholic side, which fits the film quite well.  The lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue and musically driven.  And there are a few special features including audio commentary, deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

Overall, “Testament of Youth” is a wonderful yet tragic film with a clear defining message paying great respect to author Vera Brittain.  James Kent’s film adaptation of “Testament of Youth” is well-crafted and worth watching!

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Saint Laurent (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

saintlaurent

“Saint Laurent” is a fascinating biographic film that comes short in its introduction to those close to Yves Saint Laurent, but when covering his life as a fashion icon and showcasing his creative genius but also his own personal faults, director Bertrand Bonello does a wonderful shop in showing audiences that even the man behind the iconic fashion brand.


TITLE: Saint Laurent

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 150 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (for graphic nudity/strong sexual situations, substance abuse throughout and some language)

Release Date: September 22, 2015


Directed by Bertrand Bonello

Screenplay by Thomas Bidegain, Bertrand Bonello

Produced by Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, Christophe Lambert

Co-Producer: Remi Burah, Genevieve Lemal, Olivier Pere

Music by Bertrand Bonello

Cinematography by Josee Deshaies

Edited by Fabrice Rouaud

Casting by Richard Rousseau

Production Design by Katia Wyszkop

Costume Design by Anais Romand


Starring:

Gaspard Ulliel as Yves Saint Laurent

Jeremie Renier as Pierre Berge

Louis Garrel as Jacques de Bascher

Lea Seydoux as Loulou de la Falaise

Amira Casar as Anne-Marie Munoz

Aymeline Valade as Betty Catroux

Helmut Berger as Yves Saint Laurent en 1989

Michae Lescot as Monsieur Jean-Pierre

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi as Mme Duzer


Dive into the color and lush textures of the incredible life of fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent. Explore the mind of a creative genius, the intricacies that turned a haute-couture label into a worldwide phenomenon, and the glamour and decadence that followed Saint Laurent’s footsteps of fame and fortune.


Yves Saint Laurent, the legendary French fashion designer who built a remarkable brand around his name, but best known for igniting the synergy of couture in the sixties and was no doubt a creative man that was ahead of his time.

Known for his ready-to-wear products and creating tuxedo jackets for women and using multicultural models early in his career, while YSL was a prominent luxury fashion house, Yves Saint Laurent and his brand died in 2008.

In 2015, his brand was revived by Hedi Slimane and boutiques with Saint Laurent merchandise continues the Yves Saint Laurent name.

But as for Yves Saint Laurent, many are curious about the man behind the fashion, aside from the more available news of his addiction to alcohol and drugs during the ’60s and ’70s and his love for his French Bulldog, Moujik, outside of his circle, not many people know about the life of Yves Saint Laurent.

And thus, two films were created in 2014.  “Yves Saint Laurent”, the 2014 French biographical drama directed by Jalil Lespert (who was granted access by Pierre Berge to the YSL archives) and the more well-received and critically-praised French biography drama film co-written and directed by Bertrand Bonello (“The Pornographer”, “House of Tolerance”, “Tiresia”).

The latter will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics in September.

The film stars Gaspard Ulliel (“Hannibal Rising”, “Paris, je t’aime”, “A Very Long Engagement”) who plays the younger Yves Saint Laurent, Jeremie Renier (“In Bruges”, “L’enfant”, “The Kid with a Bike”, “La Promesse”), Louis Garrel (“The Dreamers”, “The Beautiful Person”, “Regular Lovers”, “Love Songs”), Lea Seydoux (“Blue is the Warmest Color”, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “Inglorious Basterds”, “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”), Amira Casar (“Sulvia”, “Anatomy of Hell”, “Why Not Me?”), Aymeline Valade and Helmut Berger (“The Godfather Part III”, “Ludwig”, “Conversation Piece”) as the older Yves Saint Laurent.

The film focuses on the life of Yves Saint Laurent from 1968-1978 and the final years of his life.

“Saint Laurent” begins with Yves Saint Laurent discussing how he was committed during his service for the French Army during the Algerian War of Independence and how he suffered disorders because of that experience.

A quick shot then shows Yves Saint Laurent lying on the ground bleeding.

The film then switches to different time periods.

In 1968, seamstress are working on designs for Saint Laurent.  We are introduced to a man who likes to play classical music while working on his designs.

We are introduced to the closest people to him, the head of YSL studio, Anne-Marie Munoz (portrayed by Amira Casar) and his partner and co-founder of Yves Saint Laurent Couture House, Pierre Berge (portrayed by Jeremie Renier).

The film then goes to the gay bar, where he would meet Chanel model Betty Saint (portrayed by Aymeline Valade), a woman who would one day be one of Saint Laurent’s closest friends and a woman in which Yves saw himself as and often called her his twin or reincarnation.  But in the scene, Saint Laurent tries to get Betty to represent YSL, but she resists because she is representing Chanel.

But not long after, we see Betty modeling Saint Laurent’s suit and then we see his creation of tuxedoes for women.

The film then switches to 1971 and introduces us to Saint Laurent’s haute couture and introduces us to another woman close to Saint Laurent, his good friend Loulou de La Falaise (portrayed by Lea Seydoux), who would later become the fashion muse and designer of fashion, accessories and jewelry for Yves Saint Laurent.

As Saint Laurent and his friends have alcohol and drug parties, we are introduced to Saint Laurent’s good friend, actress Talitha Getty (portrayed by Jasmine Trinca),  who we often seen shooting up on heroin.

The film would then showcase the press and those at a YSL fashion event in surprise after seeing the models in suits and ready-to-wear clothing (which were haute coteur, but yet showing how people didn’t understand it at the time).  The tepid response would send Saint Laurent in a fit.

By 1972, American investors are upset in seeing the lowest in YSL revenue and Pierre Berge fighting for the brand and reminding investors that they must be patient with Yves Saint Laurent as a creative visionary and to accept the risk in ready-to-wear clothing because haute couture will become internationally.  But the investors also bring up worries about Yves Saint Laurent’s health.

The film then shows us the stress which Saint Laurent endures before and after each collection.  And as he tries to seek out inspiration, he goes to his local gay disco bar and encounters Karl Lagerfeld’s protege and lover, Jacques de Bascher (portrayed by Louis Garrel).  Because Saint Laurent started to be unhappy with his relationship with Pierre Berge, he has an affair with de Bascher, which would eventually lead to the rivalry between the Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld.

The film would continue the life of Saint Laurent during the ’70s but then would switch off to the his final years, wondering if Yves Saint Laurent is looked as a has-been and a name without relevance.


VIDEO:

“Saint Laurent” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film is quite detailed during closeups but manages to capture the luxurious lifestyle of Yves Saint Laurent.  I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding and for the most part, the film looks fantastic on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Saint Laurent” is presented in French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is primarily dialogue and music-driven, so it’s a center and front-channel soundtrack with occasional surround channels used for ambiance.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Saint Laurent” comes with the following special features:

  • Bertrand Bonello – (1:37) A short featurette with director Bertrand Bonello discussing the making of the film.
  • The Characters – (2:24) A few of the cast members discuss Yves Saint Laurent.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Saint Laurent”.

For those with interest and knowledge to the life of Yves Saint Laurent, Bertrand Bonello’s “Saint Laurent” is a fascinating film that tries to incorporate a lot of details of Saint Laurent’s life, his relationships with Pierre Berge and Jacques de Basher and his friendships to important women in his life.

But for those not familiar with Yves Saint Laurent, they will view this film of a man who is depressed, who drunk a lot of alcohol and did a lot of drugs, while creating fashion that was ahead of its time and people didn’t really understand.

Unfortunately, there are no introductions to why these people are important in the life of Yves Saint Laurent, you have to read, watch or do research on his personal life to know who these people are.

We see Anne-Marie Munoz and Loulou de la Falaise, two important people in the Yves Saint Laurent circle shown throughout the film.  We know they are important, we know they are close to Saint Laurent, but without knowledge of these two individuals, their presence as characters are lost to the viewers.

The same can be said of Chanel model Betty Catroux (or known as Betty Saint).  She is often seen hanging out and partying with Saint Laurent but viewers are probably are also lost of who this character is and why Yves Saint Laurent keeps seeing himself when the camera is directed at her.

The same can be said about Talitha Getty.  All viewers not familiar with her, will see and remember her scenes as a woman who keeps shooting up with heroin. Not knowing her as a pivotal figure in “Bohemian” culture and fashion and married to oil heir and philanthropist John Paul Getty Jr.

But the film does go into the affair of Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld protege, Jacques de Basher.  While not showing how it led to a rival between both camps, the film does show Pierre Berge’s disdain towards the affair and toward de Basher.

The film does go into Saint Laurent’s love for his French Bulldog, Moujik and how after each dog would die, he would find one that would look like him, name the dog Moujik and continue to raise it like a son.

But despite the film’s shortcoming of its side characters and possible confusion of the jump in timelines, while others may not be as kind to the film because of this, others will probably find the film as entertaining to its eroticism and it’s portrayal of Yves Saint Laurent during the peak of YSL haute couture.

The costume design for the film is impeccable and stylish, set design as decadent and the performance by Gaspard Ulliel to be wonderful.    While I’m not an erudite of Yves Saint Laurent fashion oeuvre, I was able to do my research of various characters prior to watching the film.

The film is not critical of Yves Saint Laurent as the alcohol and drugs were the life of a fashion jetsetter, especially during the time of the ’60s and ’70s.  The criticism were primarily by the press which is actually shown in the film as rumors of his bad health or his demise was ongoing.

“Saint Laurent” also goes to show how persistence, a great team and of course, Saint Laurent’s vision of ready-to-wear attire would become popular and there is no doubt that many other companies were inspired by his designs and that inspiration and fashion can be seen today’s modern fashion.  He was a man ahead of his time, a creative genius.

As for the Blu-ray release, Picture quality is is wonderful as closeups show wonderful detail.  I saw no sign of artifacts, banding or any problematic issues.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue and music-driven, but both are crystal clear.  There are short features included as well.

Overall, “Saint Laurent” is a fascinating biographic film that comes short in its introduction to those close to Yves Saint Laurent, but when covering his life as a fashion icon and showcasing his creative genius but also his own personal faults, director Bertrand Bonello does a wonderful shop in showing audiences that even the man behind the iconic fashion brand.

 

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Merchants of Doubt (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

merchantsofdoubt

“Merchants of Doubt” is a documentary that will open many eyes and will be a film that will inform, anger or cajole an individual, or hopefully a next generation of future leaders or scientists and inspire them to do something in the best interest of the people and planet, not just for increased profits. “Merchants of Doubt” is highly recommended!


TITLE: Merchants of Doubt

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 93 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Turkish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Brief Strong Language)

Release Date: July 7, 2015


Directed by Robert Kenner

Written by Erik M. Conway, Robert Kenner, Naomi Oreskes, Kim Roberts

Produced by Robert Kenner, Melissa Robledo

Executive Producer: Pierre Omidyar, Jeff Skoll

Co-Producer: Dylan Nelson, Taki Oldham, Brian Pearle, Youtchi von Lintel

Music by Mark Adler

Edited by Kim Roberts


Starring:

Patricia Callahan

Matthew Crawford

Stanton A. Glantz

James Hansen

Katharine Heyhoe

Bob Inglis

Michael Mann

Marc Morano

Bill O’Keefe

Naomi Oreskes

John Passacantando

Tim Phillips

Sam Roe

Benjamin Santer

Michael Shermer

Frederick Singer

Jamy Ian Swiss


Inspired by the acclaimed book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, MERCHANTS OF DOUBT takes audiences on a satirically comedic yet illuminating ride into the heart of conjuring American spin. Filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the curtain on a secretive group of highly charismatic, silver-tongued pundits-for-hire who present themselves in the media as scientific authorities – yet have the contrary aim of spreading maximum confusion about well-studied public threats ranging from toxic chemicals to pharmaceuticals to climate change.


In 2010, American historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway wrote “Merchants of Doubt”.  A book that would identify the parallels between the global warming controversy and also earlier controversies such as tobacco smoking, acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer.

In 2014, award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner (“Food, Inc.”, “America’s Endangered Species: Don’t Say Goodbye”) would create his latest documentary based on the 2010 book.  And now, “Merchants of Doubt” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Picture Classics.

“Merchants of Doubt” is a documentary that tries to show the debate between science and politically conservative scientists or groups that are funded by corporations supporting a certain product.

The film would first focus on the tobacco industry and how the major players in the industry would testify that there were no proof that tobacco would cause lung cancer.  The documentary would feature an interview with Stanton Glantz and how tobacco companies and the doctors were reporting of how there is no conclusive evidence.  But how a whistleblower would eventually leak documents .

But how other companies would focus on a similar style such as the tobacco companies and other people observing the documents would look into other dangerous topics that companies may be hiding its dangers.

Another topic is in regards to flame retardant chemicals and how they are used on furniture and material used by children.  And how the Chicago Times focused on a story of flame retardants and the doctors downplaying the dangers of the chemicals.

The next topic which is greatly focused on, would be about global climate change and the battle between scientists, special interest groups, individuals, organizations and how certain “experts” are undermining the scientists and delaying any progress of trying to prevent global warming.  And both continuing the ongoing debate who is right and who is wrong.

But the film focuses on how corporate-financed public relation efforts are utilized to create confusion and skepticism and interviewing scientists, activists, whistleblowers and politicians who have tried to expose these activities.


VIDEO:

“Merchants of Doubt” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The documentary uses newer, digital footage and also archived video sources.  For the most part, the picture quality of the film is very sharp and colorful.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Merchants of Doubt” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.  For this documentary, dialogue and musical soundtrack is crystal clear and there are some moments where surround channels are utilized.  But for the most part, this is a dialogue-driven soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Turkish

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Merchants of Doubt” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Robert Kenner.
  • An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival with Robert Kenner – (17:45) A Q&A with director Robert Kenner about “Merchants of Doubt” at TIFF
  • Unlikely Voices – (5:25) Featuring a group of other individuals that were not featured in the final cut of “Merchants of Doubt”.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Merchants of Doubt”.

EXTRAS:

“Merchants of Doubt” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


“Merchants of Doubt” is no doubt an informative and important documentary from award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner.

There are no doubt a lot of things in the world and how human actions have affected this planet and while you have a large group of scientists who are vocal about how the world will need to change its ways or else it’s too late, there are other groups who intend to discredit the scientists and both offering their facts.  Who is right?  Who is wrong?

And these groups who provide evidence and studies showing something detrimental to one’s health or to the planet, there is always a group to discredit the findings and this is something we will see ongoing for the rest of our lives.

We can read many stories in the newspaper, from the threat of cell phones being held to one’s head so long, may lead to cancer.  Eating too much of this food or that food is bad for you.  And I’m sure many of us have seen many similar stories of other subject in the media throughout our lifetime, not knowing who is right and who is wrong.

But “Merchants of Doubt” does a wonderful job of showing how facts can be spun and how a quote from a scientist can be used out of context, how doctors, scientists serving a certain corporation can easily support their superiors and discrediting the facts.

The film first establishes how the tobacco industry was able to hide the facts that cigarettes were harmful to people and delayed the process in order to make money.  A whistleblower was able to leak classified information and the tobacco industry would receive a punishment but also open pandora’s box of other companies who may be doing something similar.

While Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway has done a wonderful job with their book, what’s surprising about Kenner’s documentary is the ability to interview individuals on both sides.  At first, because the film tries to show how corporations and hired clients try to create confusions and skepticism about the research from the scientists, we learn how its affected various scientists (many who receive death threats), how one politician went from highly favorable to losing in an election because of his perspective on global warming.

While the film tries to be optimistic that wrongs will be eventually be fixed in hopefully a shorter time it has taken with the tobacco industry, unfortunately, the days of seeing America take climate change seriously and the government backing it, seems unattainable, especially if politicians keep flipflopping from originally supporting that global warming was man-made and then suddenly changing their tone, of not sure who to blame.

But these topics are not restricted to global warming and there is no point of rehashing other topics since we live with it daily and can see it in the media too often than we would like.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Merchants of Doubt” is a film that is well-put together, considering Kenner was able to get individuals on both sides discussing their thoughts and their perspective of what they are supporting.  Picture and audio quality is well-done and you also get quite a few special features included as well!

I personally would love to share the same optimism that Robert Kenner has set in “Merchants of Doubt” by offering hope that things would someday change.  But for now, “Merchants of Doubt” is a documentary that will open many eyes and will be a film that will inform, anger or cajole an individual, or hopefully a next generation of future leaders or scientists and inspire them to do something in the best interest of the people and planet, not just for increased profits.

“Merchants of Doubt” is highly recommended!

 

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The Salt of the Earth (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

thesaltoftheearth

If you are a fan or a person who respects the work of Sebastião Salgado, “The Salt of the Earth” is highly recommended.  Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado has done a wonderful job in compiling this film but most of all giving us a wonderful look into the life and the mind of one of the world’s most important photographers.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Decla Films and Amazones Images. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Salt of the Earth

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 85 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), English/Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: July 14, 2015


Directed by Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders

Written by Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, David Rosier

Produced by David Rosier

Executive Producer: Wim Wenders

Co-Producer: Andrea Gambetta, Lelia Wanick Salgado

Music by Laurent Petitgand

Cinematography by Hugo Barbier, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado

Edited by Maxine Goedicke, Rob Myers


Starring:

Sebastiao Salgado as Himself/Photographer

Wim Wenders as Himself/Narrator

Juliano Ribeiro Salgado as Himself/Narrator

Hugo Barbier

Jacques Barthelemy

Lelia Wanick Salgado


For the last 40 years, the photographer Sebastiao Salgado has been traveling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity. He had witnessed some of the major events of our recent history: international conflicts, starvation and exodus. He is now embarking on the discovery of pristine territories, of wild fauna and flora, and of grandiose landscapes as part of a huge photographic project which is a tribute to the planet’s beauty.


Sebastião Salgado, the photojournalist and social documentary photographer who is well-known worldwide for his photography.

Featured in exhibits all over the world, gallery director Hal Gould has called Salgado as “the most important photographer of the early 21st century”.

From his most famous pictures taken at the Serra Pelada gold mine in Brazil to various tribes and landscapes and wildlife, filmmaker Wim Wenders (“Wings of Desire”, “Buena Vista Social Club”, “Pina”) and Salgado’s son, Juliano Ribiero Salgado has celebrated the work of Sebastião through their 2014 documentary titled “The Salt of the Earth”.

The documentary would win a special award at the Cannes Film Festival.

And now “The Salt of the Earth” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics in July 2015.

Discover the 40 years of Sebastião Salgado, his thoughts of his famous work capturing humanity and also nature, but his thoughts when he sees the photos and his memories of when he took those shots.

All this and more in Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado’s “The Salt of the Earth”.


VIDEO:

“The Salt of the Earth” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks absolutely gorgeous in HD as colors are vibrant during outdoor scenes, closeups show great detail, black levels are deep but most importantly, the colors and the detail stand out.  It’s important to note that the documentary showcases photography but the photos look great in HD.

I didn’t notice any artifacts or any problems with picture quality, “The Salt of the Earth” looks great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Salt of the Earth” is presented in English/Portuguese (note: The back of the package shows as English but I am assuming the other language mostly spoken throughout the film is in Portuguese) 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is primarily dialogue driven as we have narration by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, interviews with Sebastiao Salgado and more.  Dialogue is crystal clear and some outdoor scenes that showcase the ambiance of the environments  presented.

Subtitles are in English and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Salt of the Earth” comes with the following special features:

  • Filmmaker’s Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado.
  • Looking Back with Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado – (11:33) The directors discuss their experiences of making “The Salt of the Earth”.
  • Deleted Scenes – (10:02) Feature ten deleted scenes of more footage not included in the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “The Salt of the Earth”.

EXTRAS:

“The Salt of the Earth” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


Sebastião Salgado is a photographer that is passionate about photography and capturing humanity and life.

With an eye for what he wants to capture, for many who has traveled throughout the world, looking at his magnificent photography, you realize how he has covered so much of humanity and its landscapes but also has captured the good and bad, the light and dark, the hope and greed of what exists.  Like art, his photos has a story and for those fortunate to visit a gallery featuring his work know some background of his most famous works.

But with “The Salt of the Earth”, Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado gives us a better idea of what went on behind the camera for the elder Salgado and his present thoughts behind them but also his feelings of what photographing humanity and landscapes has taught him.

And this is what Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado has done amazingly well, by showing us how Sebastião takes his photos and his process by accompanying the world renown photographer through various countries, getting to know the man behind the camera but also knowing more about his past work.

The film shows gives us insight to Sebastião Salgado’s work such as how he became a photographer, traveling with his wife to various locations but also giving us insight to his famous photographs such as his photos from Serra Pelada gold mine in Brazil.

We also watch Sebastião photographing tribes, while Wenders and the young Salgado film from afar and seeing how Sebastião works with his subjects.

But you can see at a young age, how he was interested in photographing the poor, photos of those who were stricken by famine, people forced out of their homes, refugees traveling miles to find safety, people killed by unfortunate circumstances and discovering the greed of humanity and the tragedy, violence and brutality he caught on camera.

And while the film focuses a lot on Sebastião’s past, you also get to see his work in the present time and to see how his mission, his work, has not wavered as he is still passionate of capturing humanity and nature behind the lens.

But as the film is very much a tribute to the work of Sebastião Salgado, the film is also of family bonding or more of discovery as Juliano Ribeiro co-directs this film as a way of discovering his father, the photographer and adventurer for the very first time.

As for the Blu-ray, the documentary goes back and forth with showcasing photography from various decades and video footage from the present.   The sharpness and detail of the photography in the film is well-done.  Sebastião Salgado’s photography looks absolutely magnificent.  The lossless soundtrack features clear dialogue with music and also English subtitles that are easy to read.

Special features including a filmmaker’s commentary, deleted scenes with more footage not included in the film and also Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado looking back at working on the film.

It’s important to note that for those wanting to watch the film with children, be aware that because Sebastião Salgado goes deep into the Amazon to feature a tribe, the men, women and children in the tribe are completely nude.

Overall, if you are a fan or a person who respects the work of Sebastião Salgado, “The Salt of the Earth” is highly recommended.  Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado has done a wonderful job in compiling this film but most of all giving us a wonderful look into the life and the mind of one of the world’s most important photographers.

 

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Wild Tales (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

wildtales-a

 Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales” is a magnificent anthology film that revolves around revenge.  Well-acted, well-shot but also wonderfully directed!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Wild Tales

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 85 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 Aspect Ratio), Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG (For Thematic Material and Language)

Release Date: June 16, 2015


Directed by Damian Szifron

Written by Damian Sziron

Produced by Agustin Almodovar, Pedro Almodovar, Matias Mosteirin, Hugo Sigman

Executive Producer: Leticia Cristi, Pola Zito

Co-Producer: Axel Kuschevatzky

Music by Gustavo Santaolalla

Cinematography by Javier Julia

Edited by Pablo Barbieri Carrera, Damian Szifron

Casting by Javier Braier

Production Design by Maria Clara Notari

Costume Design by Ruth Fischerman


Starring:

Dario Grandinetti as Salgado

Maria Marull as Isabel

Monica Villa as Profesora Leguizamon

Rita Cortese as Cocinera

Julieta Zylberberg as Moza

Cesar Bordon as Cuenca

Leonardo Sbaraglia as Diego

Walter Donado as Mario

Ricardo Darin as Simon

Nancy Duplaa as Victoria

Oscar Martinez as Mauricio

Maria Onetto as Helena


WILD TALES is a fresco of rage, fury, deception, and revenge. Made up of six stories, it is an entertaining and jaw-dropping film about people crossing the line into madness when faced with perceived injustice. A lover’s betrayal, a return to the repressed past, and the violence woven into everyday encounters drive the characters to lose control and cross the line that divides civilization and barbarism.


wildtales-c

From the wild mind of filmmaker Damian Szifron (“On Probation”, “Bottom of the Sea”) comes the 2014 Argentine-Spanish black comedy film “Wild Tales”.

Produced by Agustin and Pedro Almodovar, “Wild Tales” stars an ensemble cast which includes Dario Grandinetti (“Talk to Her”, “The Dark Side of the Heart”), Maria Marull (“Bottom of the Sea”, “Antes del estreno”), Leonardo Sbaraglia (“Intacto”, “Burnt Money”), Ricardo Darin (“The Secret in their Eyes”, “Son of the Bride”), Rita Cortese (“Brother and Sister”, “Inheritance”), Monica Vila (“The Holy Girl”, “Waiting for the Hearse”), Julieta Zylberberg (“The Invisble Eye”, “Farsantes”), Oscar Martinez (“Don’t Die Without Telling Me Where You Are Going”, “Empty Nest”) and many more.

Most recently, “Wild Tales” received an Academy Award nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 87th Academy Awards.

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in June 2015, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The film is an anthology-type film which is composed of six standalone shorts about revenge.

The first short is titled “Pasternak” which begins with two passengers who meet on a plane and discover they know a man named Pasternak and others on the plane start to listen on the conversation and realize, they all know Pasternak.  But why are they all on the plane”?

The second short is titled “The Rats” and a loan shark stops at a small restaurant in the lonely highway.  His waitress recognizes the man that took her family’s money away, which caused his father to kill himself and he also sexually assaulted her mother, who escaped to the small town to get away from the man.  Scared of the man, the cook who is not afraid of him, offers to put rat poison in his food.  But the waitress doesn’t want to go to prison, but without the waitress’ knowledge, the cook went ahead and put poison in the food.  Will the waitress get her revenge or will her conscious get the best of her?

The third short is titled “The Strongest” and shows a man named Diego in his luxury car trying to overpass a slower, older car that blocks him on the road.  As Diego passes the other driver named Mario, he insults him and then speeds off.  That is until Diego’s car has a flat tire on the road, suddenly Mario, who drove the older car decides to stop his car right in front of him.

The fourth short is titled “Little Bomb” and revolves around a demolitions expert named Simon Fischer.  One day, while picking up a birthday cake for his daughter, his car is towed away.  He tries to argue that there are no yellow lines and that his car is unfairly towed away and tries to argue with them, but not achieving any success.  He is told to come back to discuss his dispute and when he does and doesn’t get the refund that he is seeking, he goes ballistic and tries to attack the man behind the glass partition.  This leads to the story making it on the news and Simon losing his job and now close to losing his family.  How will Simon fight back?

The fifth short is titled “The Proposal” and revolves around a teenager who has killed pregnant woman with his car in a hit-and-run accident.  His father, the wealthy Mauricio Pereyra Hamilton hires his attorney who hatches a plan to put the blame on the groundskeeper.  The groundskeeper will agree to it for a lot of money, the lawyer wants his cut for his fee but also arranging with the prosecutor for monetary compensation as well.  But will Mauricio want to pay up?

The sixth and final short is titled “Until Death Do Us Part” and revolves around the wedding party of Romina and the groom, Ariel.  But when Romina tests a phone by calling someone up, a woman picks up and immediately, Romina finds out that her husband may have slept with another woman.  As she questions him if he did have sex with her, and admits to it.  Angered, depressed and feeling that her wedding has been destroyed, Romina decides to get her revenge at the wedding party.


VIDEO:

“Wild Tales” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). The film looks absolutely gorgeous in HD as colors are vibrant during outdoor scenes, closeups show great detail, black levels are deep but most importantly, the colors and the detail stand out.

I didn’t notice any artifacts or any noise problems, the film is just gorgeous to look at!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Wild Tales” is presented in Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film is primarily dialogue driven offering wonderful clarity of a scene’s environment and the ambiance of various locations.  Music is also crystal clear and showcase low frequency sounds of the bass.  But overall, dialogue and music is crystal clear, background sounds are well-utilized through the rear surround channels and overall, a fantastic lossless soundtrack!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Wild Tales” comes with the following special features:

  • Wild Shooting: Creating the Film – (25:00) A featurette that goes into the making of “Wild Shooting”.
  • An Evening at the Toronto Film International Film Festival with Damian Szifron  – (6:44) Featuring the Q&A with director Damian Szifron at TIFF.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Wild Tales”.

wildtales-b

Quite often with anthology films, they tend to lean more towards the romantic side and show us different interpretations of love.

But with Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales”, it’s quite the opposite as the film delves into the topic of revenge.

And without spoiling the film, I found Szifron’s take on revenge to be quite fascinating, over-the-top and fantastic!

Because of the film’s theme, we know that with every short, nothing is going to bode well for certain characters but the question is how will a character get their revenge?  Will it happen?  Does it happen?  And for the most part, you can’t help but be mesmerized with each story because Szifron manages to take you one direction that is plausible, sometimes expected but then goes off on a tangent to an unexpected territory that you can’t believe a story ended that certain way.  The film is cleverly written!

Each of the stories are wonderfully performed and the cinematography is also gorgeous.

The Blu-ray release features magnificent picture quality with vibrant colors during outdoor scenes to a consistent showcase of clarity.  I also can say positive things in regards to the lossless audio as dialogue and music are crystal clear but the environments sound wonderful through the surround channels.  And you get a few special features including a making-of and a Q&A at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Overall, Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales” is a magnificent anthology film that revolves around revenge.  Well-acted, well-shot but also wonderfully directed!  Highly recommended!

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

May 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

redarmy

“Red Army” is a magnificent documentary by Gabe Polsky examining the amazing Red Army ice hockey team and what went on behind-the-scenes after the loss against USA at the 1980 Olympics but also what happened to the players on their quest to play in the NHL.  Mesmerizing and wonderfully made, “Red Army” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Red Army

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 85 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG (For Thematic Material and Language)

Release Date: June 9, 2015


Directed by Gabe Polsky

Written by Gabe Polsky

Produced by Gabe Polsky

Executive Producer: Werner Herzog, Liam Satre-Meloy, Jerry Weintraub

Co-Executive Producer: Sean Carey

Music by Christophe Beck, Leo Birenberg

Cinematography by Svetlana Cvetko, Peter Zeitlinger

Edited by Eli B. Despres, Kurt Engfehr


Starring:

Scotty Bowman

Viacheslav Fetisov

Anatoli Karpov

Alexei Kasatonov

Ken Kurtis

Felix Nechepore

Vladimir Pozner

Tatiana Tarasova

Vladislav Tretiak


RED ARMY is an inspiring true story about the Cold War played out on the ice rink, and a man who stood up to a powerful system, paving the way for generations of Russians. From Oscar®-nominated and Emmy® award-winning filmmakers, RED ARMY examines the most successful dynasty in sports history: the Red Army hockey team. Told from the perspective of its captain, Slava Fetisov, the story portrays his transformation from national hero to political enemy. With the demise of Communism came the end of the Cold War, as Soviet players began joining the National Hockey League. The film examines how sport mirrors social and cultural movements in Cold War Russia.


For filmmaker Gabe Polsky, as a child of Russian parents and also a hockey player, Gabe originally planned to create a documentary about Russian hockey but also to explore his roots.

What he received is much more than he can ever imagine with his 2014 documentary film “Red Army”.  Exploring the Soviet Union’s dominance of ice hockey by the Red Army and the challenging obstacles the players had to face.

And now “Red Army” will be released on Blu-ray and  DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Red Army” is a film that is told through the eyes of team captain Slava Fetisov and also the players that consisted of the core 5 of the Red Army and a team that was regarded the best in the world.

Joseph Stalin would establish the Red Army Hockey Club to demonstrate Soviet Superiority in order to dominate the West.  And for decades, the Red Army Hockey Club dominated ice hockey and would beat every team including Team Canada.

But as the Red Army hockey team coach Tarasov would be punished and fired from the National Team for holding off a game in front of Leonid Brezhnev, the General Secretary of the Soviet Union, this would lead to a new coach hired by the KGB named Viktor Tikhonov, a man who was more volatile, demanding and pushed his players to the limit, but also would punish players extremely and even hit them.

And as the Soviet Union would beat every team they went against and Tikhonov had the best team in the world, things would change in 1979 as the dominating Soviet Union team would be beaten by the United States in the Olympics and would lead to a new Soviet team after all its senior team members were fired.

The five men unit would feature Slava Fetisov, Vladislav Tetriak, Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov and Alexei Kasatonov.  The most dominating Soviet Union hockey team that would go on to win the 1984 Olympics, beat the NHL championship teams and other NHL teams and were unbeatable.

But for these five players, the would encounter difficult challenges which included with playing for the NHL and also encountering family tragedy.


VIDEO:

“Red Army” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  It’s important to note that as a documentary, you are getting various sources for video.  Modern digital video footage, archived news footage but also home video footage.  For the most part, the film looks very good in HD and the fact that Gabe Polsky was able to obtain this much intimate footage of the players is amazing!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Red Army” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film is primarily dialogue driven, so a lot will be coming from the center and front channels.  There are some scenes with music but for the most part, the film is dialogue driven and the dialogue is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Red Army” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Gabe Polsky and executive producer Werner Herzog.
  • Interview with Hockey Legend Scotty Bowman – (16:17) An interview with Scotty Bowman, former Detroit Red Wings Coach and the winningest coach in NHL history.
  • Q&A with Director Gabe Polsky and Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul – (52:07) An audio Q&A featuring director Gabe Polsky and US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul discussing the film.
  • Toronto International Film Festival Q&A with Director Gabe Polsky – (14:24) A Q&A with Gabe Polksy from TIFF.
  • Deleted Scenes – (11:32) Featuring eight deleted scenes from the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Red Army”.

The “Red Army” documentary by Gabe Polsky answers a lot of questions that many of us had after America’s thrilling win over the Soviet Union at Lake Place for the 1980 Olympic Games.  What exactly happened to the team and were they punished?  Were they forcibly retired?

But also giving us interviews with the talented players who were part of that Core 5 that dominated the world in ice hockey and also beating our NHL teams.

I had no idea of the challenges these men faced, especially Slava Fetisov and how he was handled by the Soviet government and what happened to his teammates, after Fetisov was forced to leave the team.  The documentary really goes into detail of what happened, when it came to him playing for the NHL but also how Russians became the targets by players in the NHL.  But also to see how the Russian players would come to bring much needed energy and finesse to the Detroit Red Wings.

If anything, Gabe Polsky did a wonderful job in his buildup and smooth transition of the various players, their life story and having to see video footage to help corroborate the research.

And because of the unique coverage from archived sources retrieved by Polsky in Russia but also modern footage with interviews with the Core 5, made “Red Army” an amazing documentary.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality varies as one can expect from a documentary.  You have a lot of archived footage but also plenty of home video footage put together with modern digital video footage, so the quality varies but by no means does the film look bad at all.  If anything, anyone who enjoys documentary, should be thrilled of the amount of video footage, Polsky was able to obtain for his film.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue driven and dialogue is crystal clear.

“Red Army” also comes with a good number of special features including commentary, Q&A footage and an interview with hockey legend Scotty Bowman.

Overall, “Red Army” is a magnificent documentary by Gabe Polsky examining the amazing Red Army ice hockey team and what went on behind-the-scenes after the loss against USA at the 1980 Olympics but also what happened to the players on their quest to play in the NHL.  Mesmerizing and wonderfully made, “Red Army” is highly recommended!

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