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Bleach DVD Set Twenty-Three: Original & Uncut (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

January 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

bleach-23

If you are a fan of “Bleach” and stood with this anime series from the very beginning or have followed the anime/manga series for a very long time , “Bleach DVD Set Twenty-Three: Original and Uncut” features a new storyline not featured on the manga series and no doubt will entertain “Bleach” fans!  The series does manage to connect things quite well after the Aizen battle but for the most part, each episode features quite a bit of action and an interesting storyline and if you are a fan of “Bleach” the animated series, then definitely give this latest DVD a try!

Image courtesy of © Tite Kubo/Shueisha, TV Tokyo, Dentsu, Pierrot. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Bleach DVD Set Twenty-Three – Original and Uncut

DURATION: Episodes 317-329 (307 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, Bilingual Japanese & English, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: VIZ Media

RATED: 13+

Release Date: December 16, 2014

Originally created by Tite Kubo

Directed by Noriyuki Abe

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Character Design by Masashi Kudo

Art Director: Natsuko Suzuki, Sawako Takagi

Anime Production by TV Tokyo, Dentsu, Studio Pierrot

Featuring the following voice talent:

Fumiko Orikasa/Michelle Ruff as Rukia Kuchiki

Masakazu Morita/Johnny Yong Bosch as Ichigo Kurosaki

Hiroki Yasumoto/Jamieson Price as Sado “Chad” Yasutora

Kentarou Itou/Wally Wingert as Abarai Renji

Masakazu Morita/Johnny Yong Bosch as Hollow Ichigo

Noriaki Sugiyama/Derek Stephen Prince as Ishida Uryuu

Satsuki Yukino/Wendee Lee as Shihouin Yoruichi (human form)

Shinichiro Miki/Michael Lindsay as Urahara Kisuke

Yuki Matsuoka/Stephanie Sheh as Inoue Orihime

Kaya Matsutani/Megan Hollingshead as Rangiku Matsumoto

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Vic Mignogna as Ikkaku Madarame

Jun Fukuyama/Brian Beacock as Yumichika Ayasegawa

Romi Paku/Steve Staley as Toshiro Hitsugaya

With Aizen’s defeat, peace has returned to the both the Soul Society and the World of the Living. But soon reports begin to surface of Soul Reapers going missing in the Precipice World, and Ichigo is a prime suspect. He and Rukia go on the run from the 13 Court Guard Squads, while in the World of the Living, Kon finds an unconscious girl lying in the street. When Ichigo and Rukia find out more about the girl, Nozomi, they realize their world, as well as the Soul Society, is in danger, and the Soul Reapers pursuing them and Nozomi are actually imposters known as Reigai, who have switched places with the missing Soul Reapers!

With the downfall of Aizen, all things should be peaceful in the Soul Society.

But strange events have taken place in the Soul Society as numerous Soul Reapers have disappeared without a trace.  Ichigo Kurosaki and friends investigate the phenomenon and must prepare for whoever may be responsible, despite losing his powers during his previous battle with Aizen.

Find out what happens in “Bleach DVD Set Twenty-Three” which features season 15 (episodes 317-329)!

So, what is “Bleach”?

“Bleach” is one of those titles, alongside “Naruto” and “Dragon Ball Z” that has managed to capture the attention of anime fans and continues to reinvent itself with new sagas and characters. Created in 2001 by mangaka Tite Kubo, the manga has been published on Weekly Shonen Jump and the animated series has been airing on Japanese television since 2004.

The series has manged to grow its fandom worldwide, especially in the US as the series has aired on television on the Cartoon Network and the various video games for the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP have also been popular among the fans as well.

The manga series revolves around teenager Ichigo Kurosaki, who has the ability to see Soul Reapers (a military group that escorts the souls of the dead) and in this case, Ichigo has seen a female Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki. One day, a hollow (a monster that was once a human soul) has come to attack and when Rukia was injured, she transferred her spirit pressure to Ichigo in order for him to fight the hollow.

The series focused on Ichigo and Rukia’s friendship as somehow nearly all her spirit pressure had been transferred to Ichigo and stripping away her soul reaper power and thus Ichigo now has the power to take on the hollows while Rukia helps guide him through the battles with her knowledge. As Rukia temporarily lives with Ichigo, the two together battle hollows.

It’s important to note that because of how quickly the animated series has caught up with the manga series, in order to give Tite Kubo enough time to continue the storyline on the manga series, an original storyline was crafted for the 15th season of “Bleach”.

For this season, Ichigo and friends must find out why numerous Soul Reapers are disappearing without a trace in the Soul Society.  Who is responsible?

The main characters of “Bleach” are:

  • Ichigo Kurosaki – The main protagonist. A teenager who becomes a substitute soul reaper after absorbing Rukia’s powers. Accepting his new powers and wanting to protect everyone around him. Ichiro manages to grow in power with every battle he gets involved in.
  • Rukia Kuchiki – A Soul Reaper who transferred her spiritual power to Ichigo.
  • Orihime Inoue – A longtime classmate of Ichigo who is very caring and manages to develop her spiritual awareness and after her brother is killed by a hollow, she has managed to grow in power which is tied to a hairpin that her brother had given her.
  • Yasutora “Chad” Sado – A friend of Ichigo and very quiet. Developed a sense of seeing hollows and eventually gaining a power of strength and a right arm that is literally a weapon to fight against hollows.
  • Uryu Ishida - A classmate of Ichigo and a descendant of a priest group that hunted hollows known as Quincy. Earlier on, Uryu was a rival of Ichigo due to his hatred towards the Soul Reapers and eventually becomes friends with him.
  • Kon – A modsoul who’s life soul is put into a stuffed lion. When Ichigo is a Soul Reaper, Kon takes over Ichigo’s body, so no one including Ichigo’s family knows that Ichiro is actually not there. Mostly a comedy-driven character known for his perverseness and always complaining about something.
  • Kisuke Urahara – Owner of the Urahara shop and a former captain of the 12th Division in the Soul Society. He caught Aizen converting Soul Reapers to Visoreds but before he can save them, Aizen framed him for the crimes and Urahara fled to the real world.
  • Yoruichi Shihoin – An old friend of Kisuke Urahara who can turn into a black cat. She is the former captain of the 2nd Division and former Commander in Chief of the Secret Mobile Corps.
  • Renji Abarai – Lt. of the 6th Division in the Gotei 13 under Captain Byakuya Kuchiki. Known to be cocky about his skills, Renji cares deeply for Rukia and thus the reason why he is seen with Ichigo and friends.
  • Byakuya Kuchiki – 28th head of the Kuchiki Clan and Captain of 6th Division in the Gotei 13. Stepbrother of Rukia.
  • Toshiro Hitsugaya – Captain of the 10th Division in the Gotei 13.
  • Rangiku Matsumoto – Lieutenant of the 10th Division of the Gotei 13.

VIDEO:

If there is one thing that I’ve always enjoyed about “Bleach” is that for a TV series that is cranked out in Japan, the TV series features a good amount of detail in the background art. The series tends to really showcase quite a bit of locations and thus, not always reusing scenes.

Also, the character designs, despite not always being detailed, is shown great care by character designer Masashi Kudo who definitely respects the original illustrations of Tite Kubo. Some closeups are really well done and there is a good amount of focus on the actual animation during the battle sequences.

For a TV series, especially knowing how in Japan, many of these studios tend to crank them out because they have other deadlines taking on other series, “Bleach” continues to look very good.

As for picture quality, of course on DVD, you are going to see some softness, banding and edge enhancement but for the most part, picture quality is very good on DVD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Bleach DVD Set Twenty-Three – Original and Uncut” is presented in stereo English and Japanese. Both dialogue tracks are clear and understandable. For those with a modern receiver may want to set their setting to stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Bleach DVD Set Twenty-Three – Original and Uncut” comes with the following special features:

  • Clean Opening and Ending – The clean opening and ending themes.
  • Omake – The ending omake for episodes 317-329.

As the fight against Aizen had come to an end, while the manga series in Japan was continuing slowly, the writers needed to come up with original episodes for the 15th season to give Tite Kubo some time to work on his manga series.

And the result was this new storyline about Soul Reapers suddenly disappearing from the Soul Society.  As a weakened Ichigo (due to his battle with Aizen) and his friends investigate the phenomena, they are attacked by Renji and Ikkaku.  Fortunately, Yoriuchi comes to their aid but explains that the Soul Reapers are being replaced secretly by Reigai, which houses the spiritual essence of Soul Reapers and thus functioning like a Gigai.

To make things much more challenging, the reigan contains near-perfect copies of a Soul Reaper’s memories, personalities and behaviors.

But who is responsible for this?

And suffice to say, there are fans who will enjoy this new storyline that was created for the series and those who have followed the manga series and will feel this season was all-filler.

But this is a common ongoing situation with “Bleach” as the anime series is catching up to the manga series very quickly and the only way to give Tite Kubo enough time to craft more stories is to let him do what he has to do for the next seven months, while writers can focus on this new storyline.

In some ways, while these episodes were never featured in the manga series, writers were able to craft episodes that take place right after the Aizen conflict but also focus on stories of a weakened Ichigo.  And his struggles of losing his power after fighting Aizen.

So, for now, one can expect DVD set 23-25 to focus on the Gotei 13 Invading Army Arc before getting back to episodes that reflect what is happening in the manga.

If you are a fan of “Bleach” and stood with this anime series from the very beginning or have followed the anime/manga series for a very long time , “Bleach DVD Set Twenty-Three: Original and Uncut” features a new storyline not featured on the manga series and no doubt will entertain “Bleach” fans!  The series does manage to connect things quite well after the Aizen battle but for the most part, each episode features quite a bit of action and an interesting storyline and if you are a fan of “Bleach” the animated series, then definitely give this latest DVD a try!

 

Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 31, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

kinoshita-a

“Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II” is one of the better Eclipse Series DVD sets that I have watched and is deserving of five stars because it is a magnificent release!

Image courtesy of © 2009 Toho Co., Ltd. © 2010 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II

YEAR OF RELEASE: Port of Flowers (1943), The Living Magoroku (1944), Jubiliation Street (1944), Army (1944), Morning for the Osone Family (1946)

DURATION: Port of Flowers (82 Minutes), The Living Magoroku (89 Minutes), Jubiliation Street (73 Minutes), Army (87 Minutes), Morning for the Osone Family (81 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio, Monaural, Japanese with English subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: December 16, 2014

Hugely popular in his home country of Japan, Keisuke Kinoshita worked tirelessly as a director for nearly half a century, making lyrical, sentimental films that often center on the inherent goodness of people, especially in times of distress. He began his directing career during a most challenging time for Japanese cinema: World War II, when the industry’s output was closely monitored by the state and often had to be purely propagandistic. This collection of Kinoshita’s first films—four made while the war was going on and one shortly after Japan’s surrender—demonstrates the way the filmmaker’s humanity and exquisite cinematic technique shone through even in the darkest of times.

portofflowers

Before legendary and prolific Japanese filmmaker Keisuke Kinoshita directed the widely acclaimed films “Twenty-Four Eyes”, “Immortal Love”, “The Ballad of Narayama”, to name a few, it took the filmmaker some blood, sweat and tears to become one.

Becoming a fan of cinema at the age of eight and doing all that he could to learn about movies (without university education) and having been drafted into war in 1940, life would change for Kinoshita when he got out of the military and pursued a job at Shochiku. And by 1943, he would get his first big break directing films during World War II. A time when cinema was closely monitored by the government and were to be propagandistic.

While many are enamored by the cinema master who excelled in all genres that he took on, many of Kinoshita’s earlier work has not been seen until now.

“Port of Flowers” (1943), “The Living Magoroku” (1943), “Jubiliation Street” (1944), “Army” (1944) and “Morning for the Osone Family” (1946) will be released by the Criterion Collection as part of its Eclipse Series (#41) DVD set titled “Kinoshita and World War II”.

Here are my reviews for each of the films included in this DVD set:

Port of Flowers (Hana saku minato)

The Living Magoroku (Ikite iru Magoroku)

Jubilation Street (Kanko no machi)

Army (Rikugun)

Morning for the Osone Family (Osone-ke ashita)

livingmagoroku

There are a good number of filmmakers from Japan that are beloved for their long standing oeuvre of work.

Keisuke Kinoshita represents a filmmaker who created films, for the most part, the way he wanted to.  He was also a filmmaker who can take on a variety of genres and excel.

And while many watched Kinoshita’s work, not many are familiar with Kinoshita’s earlier films, films that were created during World War II.

Five films about Japan during World War II, Kinoshita’s films show a transition of films that were closely observed by Japanese censors and for the most part, carry propagandist tones, by 1994 with the release of “Army”, we get to see the most daring side of Kinoshita who created a film which is essentially an anti-war film that slipped by through Japanese censors.

And by the surrender of Japan in 1945, it would allow the pacifist filmmaker to create “Morning for the Osone Family”, the voice for Japanese who did not support the war and a film that would demonstrate a different side of a Japanese family that didn’t preach solidarity and if anything, questioned the purpose of Japan’s involvement in World War II.

army

Prior to watching “Port of Flowers”, I thought about how American World War II films were back in the 1940’s and in some way, expected the bravado and even propagandist tone the films would have with the Japanese war films.  Especially since it was an earlier Kinoshita film and that the films were under the scrutiny of the Japanese government, you expect to see the other side of the Japanese perspective and ideology in “Port of Flowers”.

For the first hour, you realize that the film is more about the characters and less about the war.  Will these two con men pull of the ultimate scam?

And you start to see how each men find it difficult because the plan of buying shares to build a shipyard proved to be popular among the locals and all are united to go as far to put their life savings in making it happen.

Throw in characters that you care about (and the con men eventually start to care about) and also a bit of a conundrum when the deceased man’s wife and daughter arrive, not knowing that he had two sons.

Suffice to say, the con men are put into a major predicament but they have the choice to steal the money and leave or help the people of the port town.  And then, World War II begins and everyone’s perspective changes.

While the film is more upbeat than any of the other four films in the “Kinoshita and World War II” DVD set. It’s one of the more enjoyable and easily accessible films because it relies on humor and you are left wondering if the con men will pull off the major crime or will they change when they hear about the importance of a shipyard during a time of war.

As “The Port of Flowers” was a film that was more comedy but tried to show national solidarity, “The Living Magoroku” is a film that has the feeling of a film that deals with Japanese traditional beliefs vs. the needs of the country and its soldiers.

The Onagi family has owned the land for 300 years and has prevented any farming as samurai have bled and died in the field, but the soldiers who respect the land as their ancestors, want the Onagi family to know that by letting the military cultivate that land, they would be dong the right thing by feeding the Japanese soldiers.

In many ways this is a propaganda film in the fact that the Japanese government and its military did what it can to have farmers give up their crops for the military and history would go to show that many of these farmers gave up so much and received so little, all in the name of Japanese solidarity as the soldiers were fighting a war for the country and have the samurai spirit.

While the farming portion is quite predictable, there are other subplots involving a couple who want to marry, a man who seeks the legendary Magoroku sword and complications of a matriarch who stays firm of not wanting the farmland to be cultivated, while her son is often feeling bad for himself because his lung disease prevents him from fighting in the war like the other guys his age.

But the spirit of the Japanese people are tough and we see the solidarity in full effect.

Compared to “Port of Flowers” which had an enjoyable story of men who try to pull of a major scam on locals but feelings change after Japan enters the war, “The Living Magoroku” is an inspiring film for Japanese, especially at that time where there was pride of having an ancestor who was samurai but the importance of doing all you can for your country.  Can one young man who is sick, still become a hero without being a soldier?

The film tries to show audiences that despite one not fighting in the war, they still have an important role and that is to support Japan’s effort. All Japanese to be as one.

Of all the films that are propagandistic, “The Living Magaroku” is possibly the most straightforward in its attempt to preach solidarity in this “Kinoshita and World War II” DVD set. It’s rather interesting when compared to American-based war films which tend to be situated on the actual war itself, “The Living Magaroku” features discussion about the war but it’s about its characters and the decisions that they make for the sake of their country.

jubilationstreet

As Kinoshita Keisuke continued to make films on the World War II in 1944, “Jubilation Street” is his more ambitious films shot during the war.

From camera experimentation to careful direction with the staff, “Jubilation Street” while having its share of propaganda, is much different compared to “Port of Flowers” and “The Living Magoroku” because of the number of characters featured and trying to convey those who were displaced or forced to move out of their homes.

Similar to “Port of Flowers”, the film saves its solidarity towards the end, as the majority of the film focuses on the relocation effort, but also the romantic drama between Shingo and Takako.  But most importantly, showcasing another side of “loss” due to the war (losing your home, losing a love one, etc.) and Kinoshita’s ability to work with talent he was most comfortable with.  No one is happy that they are relocating but they all try to find solace with one another.

“Army” was a huge departure from the previous three films that focused on the pride of Japanese, but with “Army”, you can see a major change in tone as Kinoshita wanted to work on a film that he can get away with without censorship.

And “Army” was the result and it’s a film that prevented him from making anymore war films.

The fact is that “Army” is almost a lesson of how the mindset of Japanese were instilled by their parental figures from the past.  The Japanese of the 1800’s brought up by their respect of samurai culture, pride in their country and obedience for their emperor, it was the way of life and their ideology.

But children being brought up in the 1930’s and having to fight in World War II in the 1940’s, we see how the war has changed both Tomohiko and Waka from their earlier years in their marriage and when they grow older together and putting all their faith in Shintaro.

Tomohiko is a man who is seen as weak.  A man that couldn’t fight or defend his country because of the way he was physically, he was sent back home.  While Tomohiko tries to carry that pride instilled to him by his father, he sees a lot of himself in his son Shintaro, who is also weak.  Often crying, often ridiculed by other children because of his fear, Waka becomes the mother who is more suitable of instilling the ideology that Tomohiko received from his father and is seen as the woman holding the family together.

But when his father’s attitude with Mr. Sakuragi become tense, it puts a damper since Shintaro is great friends with Sakuragi’s son and both want to fight a war not worried about their father’s feud with one another.

But the film literally rides on the shoulders of actress Kinuyo Tanaka.  Her facial emotions seemed genuine, as a scolding parent to a concerned mother, she was the emotional synergy that made the film much more appealing but also adds to the feeling of a concerned mother, instead of a mother that would want her son to die for her country, which many of the other adults have resigned themselves to believing.

Die for your country and your emperor.  Kinoshita wanted to show audience that people have genuine emotions and that people were concerned about their love one’s safety.

And the final sequence of the film explains how Waka feels about Shintaro and his military service, without the use of words.  Tanaka’s performance was fantastic!

morningosone

As the war produced propaganda films that the Japanese government approved during World War II, “Morning for the Osone Family” was the film that Kinoshita was able to create and have it become the voice of the liberal families who were against the war.

Unlike the previous war films from Kinoshita depicting families who were about solidarity and fighting for the country, “Morning for the Osone Family” was the opposite.  This family were against the government’s belief of fighting the war, this family questioned the war and what the purpose was for?

The mother, Fusako, represents the Japanese mother who followed the man’s lead and did not step in the way of trying to block Issei Osone, the Army General and her children’s uncle.

Ichiro represents those who voiced opposition towards the Japanese government and the war and were jailed, Taiji represents the young men who didn’t want to fight in a war and didn’t believe in it, but yet was drafted and forced to fight for their country.  Takashi represents those who voluntarily enlist in military because they bought into the ideology of Japanese spirit and pride, fighting for their country is the most important thing.

While I don’t want to spoil this film for anyone wanting to watch this film for the very first time, the film did make me think about the film “Saving Private Ryan” and I’ll leave it at that.

The performances by Haruko Sugimura and Eitaro Ozawa was fantastic but the overall direction and the writing of the film was fantastic and not only did I feel happy for Kinoshita now being able to have the freedom of creating a war film that he wanted to make but also creating a film that went against many other war films that were propagandist in nature and having the audacity during that time to create an anti-war film.

The message of the film delivered by Haruko Sugimura’s character Fusako was wonderful and because of how this film was a 180 degree change from Kinoshita’s previous war films, it made watching “Morning for the Osone Family” so enjoyable!

With the release of “Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II”, cineaste are getting five wonderful and earlier Keisuke Kinoshita films, many which a lot of fans may see for the very first time.

To watch how his films evolve during the war is rather interesting and while you can see the sparkling of this filmmaker’s genius during his earliest cinema work, you can’t help but admire how he manages to have each of these stories flow so well, despite the watchful eyes of the Japanese government and then slowly building from propaganda film to a film in which Kinoshita would create and defy censors with his 1944 film “Army” and then creating his anti-war film “Morning for the Osone Family”.  In many ways, his boldness was seen in an early age and an act that probably could have been a worst case scenario for Kinoshita.

But that is what makes this DVD set so magnificent is because we finally get early Keisuke Kinoshita films finally on DVD and for anyone who follows Kinoshita’s work, this is a rarity and I’m quite thrilled that the Criterion Collection has released these films as part of the Eclipse Series.

As some may wonder why these films were not released on Blu-ray, a lot of these films are not in the “Criterion Collection” quality presentation and while watchable and not too bad at all to prevent one from enjoying these films, there are films with good picture quality with films that have louder hiss than others.

Overall, “Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II” is one of the better Eclipse Series DVD sets that I have watched and is deserving of five stars because it is a magnificent release!

 

Morning for the Osone Family (as part of the Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 31, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

morningosone

“Morning for the Osone Family” is no doubt, my favorite film in the “Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II” DVD box set.  A fantastic film and a fantastic DVD box set that I highly recommend!

Image courtesy of © 1944 Shochiku Co. Ltd. © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Morning for the Osone Family (as part of the Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II)

YEAR OF FILM: 1946

DURATION: 81 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio, Monaural, Japanese with English subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: December 16, 2014


Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita

Screenplay by Ejiro Hisaita

Produced by Tatsuo Hosoya

Cinematography by Hiroshi Kusuda


Starring:

Haruko Sugimura as Fusako Osone

Eitaro Ozawa as Issei Osone

Mitsuko Miura as Yuko Osone

Shin Tokudaiji as Taiji Osone

Shiro Osaka as Takashi Osone

Toshinosuke Nagao as Ichiro Osone

Junji Masuda as Akira Minari

Eijiro Tono as Ippei Yamaki


Kinoshita’s first film after the end of World War II is a wrenching, superbly wrought tale about a liberal-minded Japanese family torn apart by war and imperialist politics. Morning for the Osone Family is both palpably bitter about the nation’s fresh wartime wounds and inspiringly hopeful about a democratic tomorrow.


kinoshita-a

Before legendary and prolific Japanese filmmaker Keisuke Kinoshita directed the widely acclaimed films “Twenty-Four Eyes”, “Immortal Love”, “The Ballad of Narayama”, to name a few, it took the filmmaker some blood, sweat and tears to become one.

Becoming a fan of cinema at the age of eight and doing all that he could to learn about movies (without university education) and having been drafted into war in 1940, life would change for Kinoshita when he got out of the military and pursued a job at Shochiku. And by 1943, he would get his first big break directing films during World War II. A time when cinema was closely monitored by the government and were to be propagandistic.

While many are enamored by the cinema master who excelled in all genres that he took on, many of Kinoshita’s earlier work has not been seen until now.

“Port of Flowers” (1943), “The Living Magoroku” (1943), “Jubiliation Street” (1944), “Army” (1944) and “Morning for the Osone Family” (1946) will be released by the Criterion Collection as part of its Eclipse Series (#41) DVD set titled “Kinoshita and World War II”.

The fifth and final film I will be reviewing from the “Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II” is his 1946 film “Morning for the Osone Family” (Osone-ke ashita).  His definitive anti-war film from 1946.

Having to make propagandist films in 1943-1944, Kinoshita was accused with creating an anti-war film, “Army” and after the criticism from that film, he would never make a film during the war.

His next film, “Morning for the Osone Family” would be created after Japan’s unconditional surrender in September 1945.  And while they no longer had to worry about making a film under the government, they would now have to pass through American censors which had rules prohibiting militarism, anti-foreignness, discrimination and anything anti-democratic or discriminative.

With Kinoshita being a pacifist, the rules were something he could live by and thus the “Morning for the Osone Family” was created.

The film would begin with introducing us to the Osone family, a creative liberal family who were antiwar, despite having samurai lineage and military members in the family.

The family consists of the widowed matriarch, Fusako Osone (portrayed by Haruko Sugimura), daughter Yuko (portrayed by Mitsuko Miura) and her three sons, writer Ichiro (portrayed by Toshinosuke Nagao), the sensitive painter Taiji (portrayed by Shin Tokudaiji) and Takashi (portrayed by Shiro Osaka).

Because of the war, Ichiro is imprisoned for writing articles criticizing the Japanese government, Taiji ends up being drafted to fight in the war, while Takashi is influenced by their ultraconservative army general/uncle Issei (portrayed by Eitaro Ozawa) to fight for the country.

But what kind of toll will the war have on the Osone Family, especially when Japan surrenders?


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Morning for the Osone Family” is presented in black and white (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio). Considering the film is nearly 70-years-old, while some frames of the film had suffered damage overtime, and features white/black specks, they are not the type that hurts your viewing of the film.  The film is among the better looking films in the Eclipse DVD set.

The film is presented in Japanese monaural with English subtitles. There is hiss that can be heard throughout the movie but nothing that deters you from watching.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Eclipse Series releases do not come with special features but included in the insert is a background on Kinoshita and his work on “Morning for the Osone Family”.


As the war produced propaganda films that the Japanese government approved during World War II, “Morning for the Osone Family” was the film that Kinoshita was able to create and have it become the voice of the liberal families who were against the war.

Unlike the previous war films from Kinoshita depicting families who were about solidarity and fighting for the country, “Morning for the Osone Family” was the opposite.  This family were against the government’s belief of fighting the war, this family questioned the war and what the purpose was for?

The mother, Fusako, represents the Japanese mother who followed the man’s lead and did not step in the way of trying to block Issei Osone, the Army General and her children’s uncle.

Ichiro represents those who voiced opposition towards the Japanese government and the war and were jailed, Taiji represents the young men who didn’t want to fight in a war and didn’t believe in it, but yet was drafted and forced to fight for their country.  Takashi represents those who voluntarily enlist in military because they bought into the ideology of Japanese spirit and pride, fighting for their country is the most important thing.

While I don’t want to spoil this film for anyone wanting to watch this film for the very first time, the film did make me think about the film “Saving Private Ryan” and I’ll leave it at that.

The performances by Haruko Sugimura and Eitaro Ozawa was fantastic but the overall direction and the writing of the film was fantastic and not only did I feel happy for Kinoshita now being able to have the freedom of creating a war film that he wanted to make but also creating a film that went against many other war films that were propagandist in nature and having the audacity during that time to create an anti-war film.

The message of the film delivered by Haruko Sugimura’s character Fusako was wonderful and because of how this film was a 180 degree change from Kinoshita’s previous war films, it made watching “Morning for the Osone Family” so enjoyable!

Overall, “Morning for the Osone Family” is no doubt, my favorite film in the “Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II” DVD box set.  A fantastic film and a fantastic DVD box set that I highly recommend!

Overall, “Army” starts to make its transition from the early propagandist war films from Kinoshita to a film which is considered as an anti-war film, and easily leading the director to create his true anti-war film “Morning for the Osone Family” two years later. A fascinating war film from Keisuke Kinoshita and a wonderful addition to the “Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II” DVD box set!

 

Army (as part of the Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 31, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

army

“Army” starts to make its transition from the early propagandist war films from Kinoshita to a film which is considered as an anti-war film, and easily leading the director to create his true anti-war film “Morning for the Osone Family” two years later. A fascinating war film from Keisuke Kinoshita and a wonderful addition to the “Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II” DVD box set!

Image courtesy of © 1944 Shochiku Co. Ltd. © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Army (as part of the Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II)

YEAR OF FILM: 1944

DURATION: 87 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio, Monaural, Japanese with English subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: December 16, 2014


Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita

Original Story by Ashihei Hino

Screenplay by Tadao Ikeda

Cinematography by Yoshio Taketomi


Starring:

Chishu Ryu as Tomohiko

Kinuyo Tanaka as Waka

Kazumasa Hoshino as Shintaro

Eijiro Tono as Sakuragi

Ken Uehara as Nishina

Ken Mitsuda as Tomonojo

Haruko Sugimura as Setsu


As World War II escalates, the tight-knit inhabitants of a street in Tokyo must relocate from their homes so the government can use the space. Kinoshita’s sensitive film—beautifully and resourcefully shot—traces the fears and desires of the evacuees.


kinoshita-a

Before legendary and prolific Japanese filmmaker Keisuke Kinoshita directed the widely acclaimed films “Twenty-Four Eyes”, “Immortal Love”, “The Ballad of Narayama”, to name a few, it took the filmmaker some blood, sweat and tears to become one.

Becoming a fan of cinema at the age of eight and doing all that he could to learn about movies (without university education) and having been drafted into war in 1940, life would change for Kinoshita when he got out of the military and pursued a job at Shochiku. And by 1943, he would get his first big break directing films during World War II. A time when cinema was closely monitored by the government and were to be propagandistic.

While many are enamored by the cinema master who excelled in all genres that he took on, many of Kinoshita’s earlier work has not been seen until now.

“Port of Flowers” (1943), “The Living Magoroku” (1943), “Jubiliation Street” (1944), “Army” (1944) and “Morning for the Osone Family” (1946) will be released by the Criterion Collection as part of its Eclipse Series (#41) DVD set titled “Kinoshita and World War II”.

The fourth film I will be reviewing is “Army” (Rikugun) and unlike the previous films that Kinoshita had directed, he found a way to have the film made without it being halted by sensors.

It’s his most daring film that he had created during wartime and so controversial that an army general accused Kinoshita of treason.

Suffice to say, the film was seen as an antiwar film and after this film was made, Kinoshita would no longer be able to make anymore films during the remainder of the war.

“Army” is a multi-generational film and it begins with showing the tensions between Japan and the western nations.

The film would begin with a younger Tomohiko, a young man who wanted so much of his father’s appreciation, that he learned from his father about being obedient to the emperor, and the nation and become a soldier.

After his father’s death, we learned what happened to Tomohiko (adult version portrayed by Chishu Ryu),who we learn is now married to a woman named Waka (portrayed by Kinuyo Tanaka) but was released by the military because of his weakness to fight in the front lines.  Tomohiko ends up trying to run a shop with his wife and his two children.

Trying to survive, both parents hope that their son Shintaro (who is often crying and picked on by other children) will not be weak like his father.

Tomohiko ends up receiving a tip to apply for a management job at the mill owned by Mr. Sakuragi (portrayed by Eijiro Tono), but the pride of both men ends up getting in the way, as both have their own personal views on the war.

But how will the parents react once Shintaro grows older and is ready to fight in the war.  Will he be the man that they wanted him to be?  And will both parents remain in solidarity over the war?


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Army” is presented in black and white (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio). Considering the film is 70-years-old, while some frames of the film had suffered damage overtime, and features white/black specks, they are not the type that hurts your viewing of the film.

The film is presented in Japanese monaural with English subtitles. There is hiss that can be heard throughout the movie.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Eclipse Series releases do not come with special features but included in the insert is a background on Kinoshita and his work on “Army”.


“Army” was a huge departure from the previous three films that focused on the pride of Japanese, but with “Army”, you can see a major change in tone as Kinoshita wanted to work on a film that he can get away with without censorship.

And “Army” was the result and it’s a film that prevented him from making anymore war films.

The fact is that “Army” is almost a lesson of how the mindset of Japanese were instilled by their parental figures from the past.  The Japanese of the 1800’s brought up by their respect of samurai culture, pride in their country and obedience for their emperor, it was the way of life and their ideology.

But children being brought up in the 1930’s and having to fight in World War II in the 1940’s, we see how the war has changed both Tomohiko and Waka from their earlier years in their marriage and when they grow older together and putting all their faith in Shintaro.

Tomohiko is a man who is seen as weak.  A man that couldn’t fight or defend his country because of the way he was physically, he was sent back home.  While Tomohiko tries to carry that pride instilled to him by his father, he sees a lot of himself in his son Shintaro, who is also weak.  Often crying, often ridiculed by other children because of his fear, Waka becomes the mother who is more suitable of instilling the ideology that Tomohiko received from his father and is seen as the woman holding the family together.

But when his father’s attitude with Mr. Sakuragi become tense, it puts a damper since Shintaro is great friends with Sakuragi’s son and both want to fight a war not worried about their father’s feud with one another.

But the film literally rides on the shoulders of actress Kinuyo Tanaka.  Her facial emotions seemed genuine, as a scolding parent to a concerned mother, she was the emotional synergy that made the film much more appealing but also adds to the feeling of a concerned mother, instead of a mother that would want her son to die for her country, which many of the other adults have resigned themselves to believing.

Die for your country and your emperor.  Kinoshita wanted to show audience that people have genuine emotions and that people were concerned about their love one’s safety.

And the final sequence of the film explains how Waka feels about Shintaro and his military service, without the use of words.  Tanaka’s performance was fantastic!

Overall, “Army” starts to make its transition from the early propagandist war films from Kinoshita to a film which is considered as an anti-war film, and easily leading the director to create his true anti-war film “Morning for the Osone Family” two years later. A fascinating war film from Keisuke Kinoshita and a wonderful addition to the “Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II” DVD box set!

 

Jubilation Street (as part of the Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

jubilationstreet

Kinoshita’s “Jubilation Street” features another side of the World War II and focuses on many characters who must relocate as the government wants their property for the war effort.  The film also showcases Kinoshita’s experimentation style…  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1944 Shochiku Co. Ltd. © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Jubilation Street (as part of the Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II)

YEAR OF FILM: 1944

DURATION: 73 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio, Monaural, Japanese with English subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: December 16, 2014


Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita

Script by Kaori Morimoto

Music by Sakari Abe

Cinematography by Hiroshi Kusuda

Art Direction by Isamu Motoki


Starring:

Ken Uehara as Shingo Furukawa

Mitsuko Mito as TakakoChiyo Nobu as Kiyo, Shingo’s Mother

Eijiro Tono as Shingo’s Father

Makoto Kobori as Bathhouse Owner

Choko Iida, Wife of Bathhouse Owner


As World War II escalates, the tight-knit inhabitants of a street in Tokyo must relocate from their homes so the government can use the space. Kinoshita’s sensitive film—beautifully and resourcefully shot—traces the fears and desires of the evacuees.


kinoshita-a

Before legendary and prolific Japanese filmmaker Keisuke Kinoshita directed the widely acclaimed films “Twenty-Four Eyes”, “Immortal Love”, “The Ballad of Narayama”, to name a few, it took the filmmaker some blood, sweat and tears to become one.

Becoming a fan of cinema at the age of eight and doing all that he could to learn about movies (without university education) and having been drafted into war in 1940, life would change for Kinoshita when he got out of the military and pursued a job at Shochiku. And by 1943, he would get his first big break directing films during World War II. A time when cinema was closely monitored by the government and were to be propagandistic.

While many are enamored by the cinema master who excelled in all genres that he took on, many of Kinoshita’s earlier work has not been seen until now.

“Port of Flowers” (1943), “The Living Magoroku” (1943), “Jubiliation Street” (1944), “Army” (1944) and “Morning for the Osone Family” (1946) will be released by the Criterion Collection as part of its Eclipse Series (#41) DVD set titled “Kinoshita and World War II”.

The third film I will review from the DVD set is “Jubilation Street” (Kanko no Machi).

As “Port of Flowers” was a comedy and “The Living Magoroku” preaching solidarity, “Jubilation Street” focuses on multiple characters who live in a street in which the inhabitants must relocate, as the government intends to use the buildings/homes in the area in preparation of air raids.

You have families or people who lived in the street area and not knowing where their life may be or what they are supposed to do after relocating.

In one storyline, Shingo Furukawa (portrayed by Ken Uehara) is training as a pilot and has had his fair share of close calls.  And as he spends his days with his girlfriend Takako, she realizes that the country comes first before their relationship.

Meanwhile, Shingo is unaware that his father who had left his family to find work has returned.  But his father is too scared to approach his wife and son.

We see other people affected such as Mr. Zenba, a farmer turned city developer, who now must leave his home and the street that he help build.   While he wants to move to the country, his wife Nobuo and his daughter Takako does not want to.

But as the date for relocation is quickly coming, what will happen to these families?  Will Shingo return for Takako?  Will Shingo’s father find the courage to meet with his family after leaving them for too long?


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Jubilation Street” is presented in black and white (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio). Considering the film is 70-years-old, while some frames of the film had suffered damage overtime, and features white/black specks, they are not the type that hurts your viewing of the film. The film is probably one of the better looking films in the “Kinoshita and World War II” DVD set.

The film is presented in Japanese monaural with English subtitles. There is hiss that can be heard throughout the movie.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Eclipse Series releases do not come with special features but included in the insert is a background on Kinoshita and his work on “Jubilation Street”.


As Kinoshita Keisuke continued to make films on the World War II in 1944, “Jubilation Street” is his more ambitious films shot during the war.

From camera experimentation to careful direction with the staff, “Jubilation Street” while having its share of propaganda, is much different compared to “Port of Flowers” and “The Living Magoroku” because of the number of characters featured and trying to convey those who were displaced or forced to move out of their homes.

Similar to “Port of Flowers”, the film saves its solidarity towards the end, as the majority of the film focuses on the relocation effort, but also the romantic drama between Shingo and Takako.  But most importantly, showcasing another side of “loss” due to the war (losing your home, losing a love one, etc.) and Kinoshita’s ability to work with talent he was most comfortable with.  No one is happy that they are relocating but they all try to find solace with one another.

If you love Japanese cinema, not only is “Jubilation Street” recommended for viewing but the DVD set is worth owning for its wonderful five films featuring Keisuke Kinoshita’s earlier work!

 

The Living Magoroku (as part of the Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

livingmagoroku

If you love Japanese cinema, not only is “The Living Magoroku” recommended for viewing but the DVD set is worth owning for its wonderful five films featuring Keisuke Kinoshita’s earlier work from World War II!

Image courtesy of © 1943 Shochiku Co. Ltd. © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Living Magoroku (as part of the Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II)

YEAR OF FILM: 1943

DURATION: 89 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio, Monaural, Japanese with English subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: December 16, 2014


Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita

Cinematography by Hiroshi Kusuda

Art Direction by Isamu Motoki


Starring:

Yasumi Hara as Yoshihiro Onagi

Jurumi Yamabato as Makoto Onagi

Ken Uehara as Sagara Kiyomatsu

Mitsuko Yoshikawa as Mrs. Onagi

Toshio Hosokawa as Sakabe Katsusuke, the Army Doctor


A superstitious farming family is hesitant to use its fields to grow crops to help feed the nation’s troops. Keisuke Kinoshita’s rural drama was made to promote the war effort, but his story branches off in many directions, including one subplot about the family’s heirloom samurai sword and another about a blossoming young romance.


kinoshita-a

Before legendary and prolific Japanese filmmaker Keisuke Kinoshita directed the widely acclaimed films “Twenty-Four Eyes”, “Immortal Love”, “The Ballad of Narayama”, to name a few, it took the filmmaker some blood, sweat and tears to become one.

Becoming a fan of cinema at the age of eight and doing all that he could to learn about movies (without university education) and having been drafted into war in 1940, life would change for Kinoshita when he got out of the military and pursued a job at Shochiku. And by 1943, he would get his first big break directing films during World War II. A time when cinema was closely monitored by the government and were to be propagandistic.

While many are enamored by the cinema master who excelled in all genres that he took on, many of Kinoshita’s earlier work has not been seen until now.

“Port of Flowers” (1943), “The Living Magoroku” (1943), “Jubiliation Street” (1944), “Army” (1944) and “Morning for the Osone Family” (1946) will be released by the Criterion Collection as part of its Eclipse Series (#41) DVD set titled “Kinoshita and World War II”.

The second film I will review from the DVD set is “The Living Magoroku” (Ikite iru Magoroku).

The film begins in 1573 with samurai fighting and dying in the fields.  The film then shifts to present-day Japan as a group of soldiers are training on the same farming land where their ancestry, samurai have died.

And as they prepare to fight the United States, the military want to cultivate the farming land to help feed the soldiers but also become symbols of national solidarity.

But the 75-acres of farm land hasn’t been used in 300 years because the owners, the wealthy Onagi dynasty, has believed that the blood of their samurai ancestry is on those lands and in respects to those who have fallen, the farm land will never be used for farming ever again.

We are introduced to Yoshihiro (Yasumi Hara) of the Onagi dynasty.  He is saddened because unlike people his age who have become soldiers, he must stay at home because he is suffering from lung disease.  Because of his look in life, he doesn’t behave like the man of the family.

Meanwhile, as one soldier does all he can to convince the family to give up their land, another tries to convince the family to give up their coveted rare samurai sword which was crafted by the ancient blacksmith Magoroku the First.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Living Magoroku” is presented in black and white (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio). Considering the film is 70-years-old, while some frames of the film had suffered damage overtime, and features white/black specks, they are not the type that hurts your viewing of the film.

The film is presented in Japanese monaural with English subtitles. There is quite a bit of hiss and the picture quality is not the greatest, but still, it’s quite viewable.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Eclipse Series releases do not come with special features but included in the insert is a background on Kinoshita and the information about the film and the battle between pragmatism and superstition.


As “The Port of Flowers” was a film that was more comedy but tried to show national solidarity, “The Living Magoroku” is a film that has the feeling of a film that deals with Japanese traditional beliefs vs. the needs of the country and its soldiers.

The Onagi family has owned the land for 300 years and has prevented any farming as samurai have bled and died in the field, but the soldiers who respect the land as their ancestors, want the Onagi family to know that by letting the military cultivate that land, they would be dong the right thing by feeding the Japanese soldiers.

In many ways this is a propaganda film in the fact that the Japanese government and its military did what it can to have farmers give up their crops for the military and history would go to show that many of these farmers gave up so much and received so little, all in the name of Japanese solidarity as the soldiers were fighting a war for the country and have the samurai spirit.

While the farming portion is quite predictable, there are other subplots involving a couple who want to marry, a man who seeks the legendary Magoroku sword and complications of a matriarch who stays firm of not wanting the farmland to be cultivated, while her son is often feeling bad for himself because his lung disease prevents him from fighting in the war like the other guys his age.

But the spirit of the Japanese people are tough and we see the solidarity in full effect.

Compared to “Port of Flowers” which had an enjoyable story of men who try to pull of a major scam on locals but feelings change after Japan enters the war, “The Living Magoroku” is an inspiring film for Japanese, especially at that time where there was pride of having an ancestor who was samurai but the importance of doing all you can for your country.  Can one young man who is sick, still become a hero without being a soldier?

The film tries to show audiences that despite one not fighting in the war, they still have an important role and that is to support Japan’s effort. All Japanese to be as one.

Of all the films that are propagandistic, “The Living Magaroku” is possibly the most straightforward in its attempt to preach solidarity in this “Kinoshita and World War II” DVD set. It’s rather interesting when compared to American-based war films which tend to be situated on the actual war itself, “The Living Magaroku” features discussion about the war but it’s about its characters and the decisions that they make for the sake of their country.

And because of the film’s overall style, “The Living Magaroku” is an excellent fit for the Eclipse Series #41’s “Kinoshita and World War II” DVD set.

If you love Japanese cinema, not only is this film recommended for viewing but the DVD set is worth owning for its wonderful five films featuring Keisuke Kinoshita’s earlier work from World War II!

 

Port of Flowers (as part of the Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

portofflowers

“Port of Flowers” is one of the two films that Kinoshita Keisuke directed that year.  The film is upbeat, humorous, captivating and quite enjoyable!  A wonderful addition to the “Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II”!

Image courtesy of © 1943 Shochiku Co. Ltd. © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Port of Flowers (as part of the Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II)

YEAR OF FILM: 1943

DURATION: 82 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio, Monaural, Japanese with English subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: December 16, 2014


Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita

Story by Kazuo Kikuta

Script by Yoshiro Tsuji

Music by Sakari Abe

Cinematography by Hiroyuki Kusuda

Art Direction by Isamu Motoki


Starring:

Eitaro Ozawa as Shuzo

Ken Uehara as Tomekichi

Mitsuko Mito as Oharu

Chieko Higashiyama as Okano

Chishu Ryu as Nobadama

Eijiro Tono as Hayashida


The sweet but naive denizens of a charming port town are hoodwinked by a couple of con men at the outset of World War II. But the hustlers’ plan backfires when they come down with severe cases of conscience. Keisuke Kinoshita’s directorial debut is a breezy, warmhearted, and often very funny crowd-pleaser that’s a testament to the filmmaker’s faith in people.


kinoshita-a

Before legendary and prolific Japanese filmmaker Keisuke Kinoshita directed the widely acclaimed films “Twenty-Four Eyes”, “Immortal Love”, “The Ballad of Narayama”, to name a few, it took the filmmaker some blood, sweat and tears to become one.

Becoming a fan of cinema at the age of eight and doing all that he could to learn about movies (without university education) and having been drafted into war in 1940, life would change for Kinoshita when he got out of the military and pursued a job at Shochiku.  And by 1943, he would get his first big break directing films during World War II.  A time when cinema was closely monitored by the government and were to be propagandistic.

While many are enamored by the cinema master who excelled in all genres that he took on, many of Kinoshita’s earlier work has not been seen until now.

“Port of Flowers” (1943), “The Living Magoroku” (1943), “Jubiliation Street” (1944), “Army” (1944) and “Morning for the Osone Family” (1946) will be released by the Criterion Collection as part of its Eclipse Series (#41) DVD set titled “Kinoshita and World War II”.

The first film I will review from the DVD set is “Port of Flowers” (Hana saku minato), the only comedy Kinoshita made during the war.

“Port of Flowers” introduces us to those who live in a port town, wanting to see business prosper, they receive a telegram that the son of one of their former longtime locals is coming to visit.

The locals are hoping to impress the son in hopes he has his father’s drive and hopefully bring people to the port town and make the area more prosperous.

But the locals are not aware that the son Shuzo (portrayed by Eitaro Ozawa) is actually a con man who wants to steal money from the locals and leave.  But to make things complicated, another man named Tomekichi (portrayed by Ken Uehara) pretends to be the son as well.  Shuzo immediately tells the locals they are brothers.

The men hatch a plan to issue (fake) shares as families and those living in the port town want to see a shipyard built and it was the original dream of their deceased father.

But the longer both Shuzo and Tomekichi stay in the port town, they realize how kind and grateful the people are and how they welcomed the men with open arms.  And with Japan going to war against the United States, the men start to realize their responsibility as Japanese and to the people.

Will they be able to pull off their plan of stealing from the people?


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Port of Flowers” is presented in black and white (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio). Considering the film is 70-years-old, while some frames of the film had suffered damage overtime, and features white/black specks, they are not the type that hurts your viewing of the film. The film is probably one of the better looking films in the “Kinoshita and World War II” DVD set.

The film is presented in Japanese monaural with English subtitles.  There is slight hiss but similar to the picture quality, “Port of Flowers” is possibly the best in terms of audio quality compared to the other films in the set.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Eclipse Series releases do not come with special features but included in the insert is a background on Kinoshita and the information about the film and Kinoshita’s entrance to Shochiku making war films.


Prior to watching “Port of Flowers”, I thought about how American World War II films were back in the 1940’s and in some way, expected the bravado and even propagandist tone the films would have with the Japanese war films.  Especially since it was an earlier Kinoshita film and that the films were under the scrutiny of the Japanese government, you expect to see the other side of the Japanese perspective and ideology in “Port of Flowers”.

For the first hour, you realize that the film is more about the characters and less about the war.  Will these two con men pull of the ultimate scam?

And you start to see how each men find it difficult because the plan of buying shares to build a shipyard proved to be popular among the locals and all are united to go as far to put their life savings in making it happen.

Throw in characters that you care about (and the con men eventually start to care about) and also a bit of a conundrum when the deceased man’s wife and daughter arrive, not knowing that he had two sons.

Suffice to say, the con men are put into a major predicament but they have the choice to steal the money and leave or help the people of the port town.  And then, World War II begins and everyone’s perspective changes.

While the film is more upbeat than any of the other four films in the “Kinoshita and World War II” DVD set. It’s one of the more enjoyable and easily accessible films because it relies on humor and you are left wondering if the con men will pull off the major crime or will they change when they hear about the importance of a shipyard during a time of war.

“Port of Flowers” is one of the two films that Kinoshita made in 1943 and it’s a wonderful inclusion in the “Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II”.

If you love Japanese cinema, not only is this film recommended for viewing but the DVD set is worth owning for its wonderful five films featuring Keisuke Kinoshita’s earlier work!

 

Dormant Beauty (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

dormantbeauty

“Dormant Beauty” is another thought-provoking and wonderful film from the great Marco Bellochio.  Featuring strong performances from its cast, this bold film is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kino Lorber. All rights reserved.


DVD TITLE: Dormant Beauty (Bella addormentata)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 120 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Cinecita/Kino Lorber

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: October 28, 2014


Directed by Marco Bellocchio

Story by Marco Bellocchio

Screenplay by Marco Bellocchio, Veronica Raimo, Stefano Rulli

Producer: Marco Chimenz, Giovanni Stabilini, Riccardo Tozzi

Co-Producer: Fabio Conversi

Cinematography by Daniele Cipri

Music by Carlo Crivelli

Edited by Francesa Calvelli

Production Design by Marco Dentici

Art Direction by Briseide Siciliano

Set Decoration by Laura Casalini

Costume Design by Sergio Ballo


Starring:

Tom Servillo as Uliano Beffardi

Isabelle Huppert as Divina Madre

Alba Rohrwacher as Maria

Michele Riondino as Roberto

Maya Sansa as Rossa

Pier Giorgio Bellocchio as Dr. Pallido

Gianmarco Tognazzi as Marito della Divina Madre

Brenno Placido as Federico

Fabrizio Falco as Pipino

Gigio Morra as Il Persuasore

Federica Fracassi as Madre

Carlotta Cimador as Rosa


The issue of assisted suicide made national headlines in Italy when the decision was made to end the life of Eluana Englaro, after she spent seventeen years in a vegetative state.

In Dormant Beauty, directed by the great Marco Bellocchio (Vincere), this real-life drama will affect the lives of four characters struggling with their own beliefs. A senator (Toni Servillo), forced to vote for a law with which he profoundly disagrees, is torn between his conscience and his loyalty towards the leaders of his party. His daughter (Alba Rohrwacher), a right-to- life activist, falls in love with an advocate (Michele Riondino) for assisted suicide. A famous actress (Isabelle Huppert) turns towards faith and miracle cures in the hope of bringing her daughter out of an irreversible coma, thus neglecting her son who longs for his mother’s love. And the beautiful Rossa (Maya Sansa), lost in despair and determined to die, is saved by the young doctor Pallido (Pier Giorgio Bellocchio) and reawakens to life. These converging stories profoundly wrestle with the how to find meaning in life in the face of death.


From Marco Bellocchio, director of “Vincere”, “Good Morning, Night” and “My Mother’s Smile” comes his latest film “Dormant Beauty” (Bella Addormentata).

A film that revolves around people debating assisted suicide during the time that the true story of Eluana Englaro, an Italian woman who was in a vegetative state after a car accident in 1992 captivated media.

The story was all over media as Eluana told her father Beppo, that she did not want to be kept alive (as a friend she had was in a coma), the medical staff kept feeding Elluana against her parent’s wishes for 17 years.  And the authorities refused her request until 2009, when the decision was reversed.

The decision was heavily debated in the courts, even amongst politicians who also debated on the treatment of Eluana.

And the film would use Eluana’s story as a background to showcase characters who are affected.

The film would star Tony Servillo (“The Great Beauty”, “The Consequences of Love”, “Il Divo”), Isabelle Huppert (“Amour”, “The Piano Teacher”, “I Heart Huckabees”), Alba Rohrwacher (“I Am Love”, “The Man Who Will Come”, “Come Undone”), Michelle Riondino (“Fortapasc”, “Ten Winters”, “The Past is a Foreign Land”), Maya Sansa (“Good Morning, Night”, “The Man Who Will Come”, “The Best of Youth”) and Pier Giorgio Bellocchio (“Vincere”, “Good Morning, night”, “The Nanny”).

And the film was released on DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Dormant Beauty” revolves around several key characters.

Uliano Beffardi (portrayed by Toni Servillo) is a politician who is called to vote if Eluana Englaro should or shouldn’t receive treatment.  The politicians he works with are adamant he against euthanasia and stop Eluana Englaro form being taken off life support.

Meanwhile, his daughter Maria (portrayed by Alba Rohrwacher) is an activist who is a right-t0-life activist, especially since she and her father had to make difficult decisions in the past as her mother was kept alive by machines.  But Maria falls for an activist named Roberto (portrayed by Michele Riondino) and wants to get closer to him.

Divina Madre (portrayed by Isabelle Huppert) is a famous actress who has stepped away from the limelight to divert all her time to her daughter who is in a irreversible coma.  So she has turned to religion and has dedicated herself to it.   But she has not been spending time with her family and for her younger son, its taking its toll on him as he wants to further his acting career with his mother’s help, but her mother has no time for him, as she is spending her time with her comatose daughter.

Rossa (portrayed by Maya Sansa) is a thief but also a woman who doesn’t feel she should live.  She tries to steal money from Dr. Pallido (portrayed by Pier Giorgio Bellochio) and when he sees her again at the hospital, she tries to slice her wrists because she wants to die.  But Dr. Pallido will do all he can to prevent her from killing herself.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Dormant Beauty” is presented in 2:35:1 aspect ratio. While the film received a Blu-ray release in Europe, unfortunately for now, it will only be released on DVD in the U.S.

While outdoor scenes look good as one could expect on DVD, especially during the outdoor sequences.  As for the soundtrack, the Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is clear and understandable and the English subtitles are easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dormant Beauty” comes with a stills gallery.


“Dormant Beauty” is another bold film for filmmaker Marco Bellocchio.

A filmmaker who likes to take on controversial subjects, such as his 2002 film “My Mother’s Smile” which took on religion and a son who was against his mother’s beatification; his 2003 film “Good Morning, Night” about a Red Brigade member’s perspective of the kidnapping of Italian politician Aldo Moro who was killed by the Red Brigades after 55 days in captivity.  While his 2009 film “Vincere” was about Mussolini’s secret lover Ida Dalser and their son Albino.

Not afraid to challenge the status quo, Bellocchio created a film based on a hot topic of Italian culture that had been debated for many years and that is the subject of assisted suicide.

As assisted suicide was hotly debated in Italy, moreso in the media as politicians entered the fray.

But what Bellocchio does for “Dormant Beauty” was not focus on assisted suicide but showcase various characters and their views on life.

In the film, politician Uliano Beffardi must vote along with his party or to vote for what he truly believes, or simply leave the job altogether.  He knows his daughter Maria is a right-to-life activist but for some reason, he also believes in one’s right to die, if the individual or their family wanted their loved one off of life support.  So both have differing opinions, we start to learn why UIliano and his daughter are affected by Eluana Englaro’s story.

For Divina Madre, her own daughter is comatose but she looks to divine intervention in hopes that her daughter would be able to escape her coma and she looks towards Eluana Englaro’s storyline closely in hopes that she is kept on life support because Eluana may come back out of her comatose and possibly, her own daughter will be the same.  But of course, the dedication of a mother to her comatose child has left her away from being a wife and mother and both her husband and her son are affected.

For Rossa, her storyline is a woman who possibly been homeless, hardcore drug user who has done all she can to get her fix.  But sinking down to her lowest of lows, she wants to end her life and feels she has every right to, but Dr. Pallido wants to ensure that Rossa does have every chance at life and perhaps he can help her value her own life.  If that is possible.

“Dormant Beauty” features a strong storyline with a wonderful acting performance by its cast who play characters that are near their breaking point and not sure what will happen with their life or the lives of their loved ones.

As for the DVD release, while I wished Kino Lorber would have released this film on Blu-ray (for the better PQ and AQ) in the USA but for now, the film is presented on DVD and the DVD picture quality is good and its audio is clear while English subtitles are easy to read.  There are no major special features on the DVD except a stills gallery.

Overall, “Dormant Beauty” is another thought-provoking and wonderful film from the great Marco Bellochio.  Featuring strong performances from its cast, this bold film is recommended!

 

 

 

Silver Spoon: Complete 2nd Season (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

December 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Silver Spoon: Complete 2nd Season” was an entertaining, charming and enjoyable series! But it’s also features realistic topics for those growing up or studying agriculture. Not only is it a hilarious and educational anime series about agriculture and the people who are raised in that environment but also a series that features characters that you root for and a series you can’t help but watch and enjoy.  “Silver Spoon: Complete 2nd Season” is a fantastic anime series that I highly recommend!  And I can only hope for a third season for the anime series and even for a US manga release!


Image courtesy of © Hiromu Arakawa, Shogakukan/EZONO Festa Executive Committee. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Silver Spoon: Complete 2nd Season

SERIES AIR DATE: 2013

DURATION: 11 Episodes (275 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 Letterboxed, Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: 13 and Up

RELEASE DATE: December 16, 2014


Directed by Tomohiko Ito

Originally created by Hiromu Arakawa

Original Character Designs by Jun Nakai

Series Composition by Taku Kishimoto

Music by Shusei Murai

Character Designs by Jun Nakai

Art Director: Sawako Takagi

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Marie Miyake as Aki Mikage

Ryohei Kimura as Yūgo Hachiken

Ayahi Takagaki as Tamako Inada

Katsuyuki Konishi as Shingo Hachiken

Kengo Takanashi as Hajime Nishikawa

Masayuki Shouji as Keiji Tokiwa

Nobunaga Shimazaki as Shinnosuke Aikawa

Nobuyuki Kobushi as Tarō Beppu

Shiori Izawa as Mayumi Yoshino

Tooru Sakurai as Ichirō Komaba

Asami Tano as Mika Toyonishi

Atsuko Yuya as Ichiko Fuji

 


The second trimester begins at Ezono as Hokkaido’s fall quickly kicks in. Hachiken is as busy as ever, taking over the position of vice president of the equestrian club, adopting a puppy, competing in his first equestrian event, and being in charge of many activities for Ezono’s school festival.

Even though the usual school life is carried out and they dream of their futures like any other teenager, Hachiken and his friends are forced to confront the harsh realities of agricultural businesses such as financial struggles and successor issues. Hachiken tries his best to support his peers, which ultimately leads him to face and overcome his own problems with his family.


From mangaka Hiromu Arakawa (best known for “Fullmetal Alchemist”) comes “Gin no Saji” (Silver Spoon).

A story that Arakawa wanted to challenge herself and that is writing a more realistic story, especially a story based on agriculture since she was born and raised in a dairy farm in Hokkaido.

Serialized in Shogakukan’s “Weekly Shonen Sunday”, the award-winning manga was adapted into a manga series which lasted two seasons from 2013-2014 and also a live-action film released earlier this year in Japan.

And now “Silver Spoon: Complete 2nd Season” will be released on DVD in Dec. 2014 courtesy of Aniplex.

“Silver Spoon” is an anime series that revolves around a student named Yugo Hachiken, a teenager who attended came from a wealthy family but has left the big city of Sapporo to live in a farming area and attend Yezo Agricultural High School.

Because of the expectations put on him by his parents, Hachiken’s true reason of going to Yezo is primarily to escape his parents but after seeing his schoolmates being so passionate about their future careers in agriculture, Hachiken starts to wonder what will he do for a living? And most importantly, how will he do at Yezo since he knows nothing about agriculture, let alone animals or where food comes from.

And the longer he stays at Yezo, he starts to understand the world of agriculture but also his perspective on life, on the food people eat but also how he starts to affect other students who are amazed by Hachiken’s perspective, because he didn’t come from an agricultural background.

As the first season featured Hachiken getting used to the school and making new friends, the second season features Hachiken trying to make difficult decisions of what he wants to do in life and also wanting to be more dedicated in trying to let Mikage know how he feels about her.  But also dealing with the stress of wanting to be there for his school but also prove to his father that he made the right decision to go to Yezo Agricultural High School.

The second season also showcases how farmers can struggle living with a farming business that is struggling and the difficult decisions even students have to make and how dreams can easily end.


The main characters of “Silver Spoon” are:

  • Yugo Hachiken – The main protagonist from Sapporo. Because he failed his entrance exams, he decides to attend Yezo Agricultural High School to get away from his demanding parents. But thinking it wold be an easy life, Hachiken finds out how challenging life is for those who work in agriculture but also the importance of their jobs and where food comes from. He manages to create friendships but also influence others due to his generosity and intellect.  In season two, he starts to have feelings for Mikage but not sure if she likes Komaba.
  • Aki Mikage – A member of the Equestrian Club who attends Yezo to prepare herself in inheriting the family business which specializes in cows and Ban’ei race horses. Her family is struggling to make ends meet.  In season two, she starts to have feelings for Mikage.
  • Ichiro Komaba – A skilled baseball player and a neighbor and childhood friend of Aki. His family owns a small dairy farm. His hope is to become a professional baseball player in order to help improve his family’s farm.
  • Shinnosuke Aikawa – A teenager who wants to be a veterinarian but the difficult decisions and his fear of the sight of blood often challenges his career decision. He is a member of the Holstein Club.
  • Tamako Inada – A wealthy classmate Hachiken. She is overweight but when she loses weight, she is often looked at guys for her beautiful figure. But she tends to gain all her weight quickly. She is obsessed with money and wants to inherit the family farm.
  • Keiji Tokiwa – A not-so-smart teenager that Hachiken tries to help with his math. His family owns a chicken farm.
  • Ayame Minamikujo – An aristrocratic, wealthy girl who is a rival to Aki Mikage who wants to specialize in making cheese.
  • Shingo Hachiken – Yugo’s older brother who managed to get into the University of Tokyo, but decided to stop attending after he realized that is more of his parent’s dream and not his. He suddenly moves by Yezo Agricultural High to Yugo’s chagrin.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Silver Spoon” is presented in 16:9 widescreen. While an anime like this would look vibrant on Blu-ray, the anime series is only being released on DVD with a Japanese soundtrack. Backgrounds are well-detailed and shaded, while character art is shaded but as one can expect from a TV series, there is a hint of softness. But as for the series, the series does look good as episodes carry up to four episodes, so no major artifact problems are visible.

But the film does have a colorful palette and the series looks good on DVD.

Hopefully, if the series does receive an English dub in the future, that the series with both soundtracks are released in HD on Blu-ray.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Silver Spoon: Complete 2nd Season” comes with the textless opening and ending and commercials.


A realistic and entertaining anime series that not only educates viewers on agriculture but also is quite enjoyable thanks to its comedy and characters.

“Silver Spoon” is a fascinating anime series because in some ways, I grew up like Hachiken. Not familiar with agriculture and having friends who were farmers and having a grandfather who was a chef, I was exposed to sides of farming that literally changed my perspective towards agriculture but also how our food is made.

In the anime series, we see the smart but yet naive Hachiken getting exposed to cows, pigs, horses for the first time but also his reaction when he sees where eggs come from, how difficult it is for him to work in a farm but also seeing how his classmates are putting so much effort into their work because of their future career or the fact they will be inheriting the family farm.

Of course, the camaraderie of the series is also a lot of fun, as the friends all take part in using prime ingredients to make their own pizza, Hachiken hanging out with his friends to see what a baseball game is all about but also getting to see how he changes others perspectives as well.

As the first season dealt with interesting details about the agricultural industry from the food eaten by people and how Hachiken learns everything from his classes, may it be from the where eggs come from, what happens to pigs or cattle, its learning about the agricultural industry and how Hachiken is able to learn and grow from his education.

But the second season kicks off with Hachiken learning from the Equestrian Club and about riding horses, taking on a pet puppy to preparing for the Yezo Agricultural Festival and eventually pondering about his life and his family life.  But when it comes to the agricultural industry, learning that with a bad economy can lead to hard times for farmers, including their children, in which one of Hachiken’s friends must deal with the closure of that student’s family ranch, but also how another friend is also impacted by the environment.

The second season is no doubt one of the most emotional episodes but also the most realistic.  Having grown up in an agricultural area, I have also had friends who were impacted by the economy, by California’s drought, the financial upkeep of a farm (especially if you lose a well or need to dig a deeper well because there is not enough water) and seeing family’s losing their farmland, their livestock and students who had futures of going into a college, dashed because they had to work in order to support their family.

But the fact is that as the title “Silver Spoon” is based on the fact that those who grew up with agriculture will no longer grow hungry as they have the means to take care of themselves, via farmland or livestock, the challenges of having a farm is not as easy and the anime series does a fine job of depicting those who come from an agricultural background.

As for the DVD, while “Silver Spoon: Complete 2nd Season” may not come with the swag that other Aniplex anime series tend to have, but you do get the complete second season on three DVD’s.   The anime series looks good as one can expect on DVD and dialogue and music are clear and understandable. Subtitles are easy to read.

Overall, “Silver Spoon: Complete 2nd Season” was an entertaining, charming and enjoyable series! But it’s also features realistic topics for those growing up or studying agriculture. Not only is it a hilarious and educational anime series about agriculture and the people who are raised in that environment but also a series that features characters that you root for and a series you can’t help but watch and enjoy.

“Silver Spoon: Complete 2nd Season” is a fantastic anime series that I highly recommend!  And I can only hope for a third season for the anime series and even for a US manga release!


 

Magic in the Moonlight (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight” is still entertaining and has a lot of charm, but considering the film uses the word “magic” in its title, it is a film that is missing that special magic that we have seen on other captivating Woody Allen films.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Gravier Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Magic in the Moonlight

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 97 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:39:1, Anamorphic Widescreen, English , French and English -Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Picture Classics

RATED: PG-13 (For a Brief Suggestive Comment and Smoking Throughout)

RELEASE DATE: December 16, 2014


Directed by Woody Allen

Written by Woody Allen

Produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson

Co-Produced by Raphael Benoliel, Helen Robin

Executive Producer: Ron Chez

Co-Executive Producer: Jack Rollins

Cinematography by Darius Khondji

Edited by Alisa Lepselter

Production Design by Anne Seibel

Set Decoration by Jille Azis

Costume Design by Sonia Grande


Starring:

Colin Firth as Stanley

Emma Stone as Sophie

Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs. Baker

Jacki Weaver as Grace Catledge

Hamish Linklaster as Brice Catledge

Simon McBurney as Howard Burkan

Eileen Atkins as Aunt Vanessa


Acclaimed magician Stanley Crawford (Academy Award Winner® Colin Firth*) dazzles his audiences with feats of supernatural amazement. But when it comes to the inexplicable, Stanley is a dedicated skeptic. Enter Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), psychic, soothsayer, and stunning seductress. As Stanley and Sophie embark on misadventures up and down the French Riviera, will they discover proof of a world beyond the laws of physics or have they fallen under the sway of a more earthly chemistry? Woody Allen pulls the strings with precision in this enchanting romantic comedy that explores the realm between what’s understood in our minds and what’s known in our hearts. *Colin Firth, Academy Award® Winner, The King’s Speech, Best Actor, 2010


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Since 1977, director Woody Allen has had a film released in the U.S. and with each release, cinema fans are often debating if the director’s later films are still just as sharp and brilliant as his past films or the director’s work has waned considerably late in his career.

But for those who enjoy Woody Allen films, each movie has been fresh, different from any past films that has done and for the most part, have entertained fans for nearly 40-straight years which is remarkable.

Not many filmmakers have had this longevity nor had they had a film released each year of their working life but Allen, continues to show movie fans that he is able to make films that will entertain audiences and the same could be said for his 2014 film “Magic in the Moonlight”.

The film would star Colin Firth (“The Kings Speech”, “A Single Man”, “Love Actually”), Emma Stone (“The Help”, “Easy A”, “The Amazing Spider-Man” films), Marcia Gay Harden (“Into the Wild”, “Mystic river”, “The Mist”), Simon McBurney (“The Duchess”, “Body of Lies”, “The Last King of Scotland”), Hamish Linklater (“Fantastic Four”, “42”, “Battleship”) and Jacki Weaver (“Stoker”, “Animal Kingdom”, “Silver Linings Playbook”).

The film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics in Dec. 2014.

“Magic in the Moonlight” is set in 1928 and introduces us to the famous illusionist, Wei Ling Soo, who happens to be a British man named Stanley (portrayed by Colin Firth).  After his performance, he is visited by a fellow (and not-as-popular) illusionist named Howard Burkan (portrayed by Simon McBurney), who tells him to accompany him to Cote d’Azure where a wealthy American family, the Catledges, have been taken in by a clairvoyant and mystic woman named Sophie (portrayed by Emma Stone).

The son, Brice (portrayed by Hamish Linklater) is smitten by Sophie and wants to marry her, while his sister Caroline (portrayed by Erica Leerhsen) and brother-in-law George (portrayed by Jeremy Shamos) are concerned of Brice proposing a marriage to her and want Stanley to find out if Sophie is a true clairvoyant or a fraud.

Howard believes that Sophie has uncovered secrets that no one else would know and that she may have supernatural powers, but Stanley, who is known to have debunked many charlatan mystics, will do what he can to prove that she is a fraud.  Even going so far as going by another name and a man who is a businessman.

The two end up spending time together and while visiting his aunt Vanessa (portrayed by Eileen Atkins), Sophie goes into various trances and is able to pull up personal details about his life and also Vanessa’s past, including her great love affair.

Shocked by this, Stanley feels that Sophie’s powers now have changed the way he looks at the world and immediately becomes smitten by her, despite being engaged to a woman named Olivia.

But as Stanley spends more time with Sophie, will he find a woman that is true to herself or will he determine that she is actually a fraud?


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VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Magic in the Moonlight” is presented in 2:39:1 aspect ratio (Anamorphic Widescreen) in English, French and English – Audio Description track in 5.1 Dolby Digital.

It’s important to note that if you want the best quality of “Magic in the Moonlight”, you will want to check out the film on Blu-ray as it will offer the best picture and audio quality.

As for the DVD, picture quality is very good as one can expect on DVD and there is a hint of the film grain during your viewing of the film.  Skin tones do look natural but I can imagine detail and clarity would become much more evident on Blu-ray.  I didn’t notice any major artifacts or banding issues while watching this DVD.

As for audio, the soundtrack employs a lot of Woody Allen’s passion for 1920’s jazz music, dialogue is clear and for this film, is strictly a center/front channel-driven soundtrack.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Magic in the Moonlight” features the following special features:

  • Behind the Magic – (11:21) The cast discuss the film, working on a Woody Allen film and more.
  • On the Red Carpet: Los Angeles Film Premiere – (2:46) The cast promote their film at the LA film premiere.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:08) Theatrical trailer for “Magic in the Moonlight”.

EXTRAS:

“Magic in the Moonlight” comes with an UltraViolet code, so one can watch this film via online streaming.


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I’m not the type of reviewer who tends to be critical of Woody Allen films to the point that they would stop watching them because they felt he has lost the magic of filmmaking.

It is surely not the case as we have seen him create wonderful films in the past five years which include “Blue Jasmine” and “Midnight in Paris” but when you look deep into his 40-year oeuvre, there are films that will no doubt captivate you, films that entertain you but you just want to see it just once and films that you feel, it’s best that he shouldn’t have made it.

“Magic in the Moonlight” is a film that interests me because knowing that Woody Allen loves the music of the 1920’s-1930’s, let alone having performed that style of music for his own band, I know he has enjoyed films from the Golden Years of Hollywood.

With his latest cinematic offering for 2014, I feel it’s another romantic comedy placed in the 1920’s that lie on the performance of its main characters played by Colin Firth and Emma Stone.

Colin Firth does a great job playing an arrogant illusionist named Stanley whose beliefs are set and anything to disrupt those beliefs are wrong and he one thing that he is skeptical about is clairvoyant mystics.

And he will do whatever he can to debunk them.

Enter Sophie played by Emma Stone.  Sophie, a younger clairvoyant mystic who is able to go in a trance and provide information that shocks Stanley because of her ability to know detail about his life, let alone his aunt’s life and thus challenging his thought on life and his set of beliefs.

While the character of Stanley is your typical “know-it-all”, Firth does a good job of playing the stick-in-the-mud who goes to the South of France in order to debunk an American young woman named Sophie.  Is she there to marry Brice and become wealthy?  Or is she a genuine clairvoyant mystic?

While the film is more of a life-changing experience for Stanley who can’t explain how Sophie knows these deep, personal moments about his life and his aunt’s life, it gives him a new lease on life.

While entertaining, the film is rather predictable.  And while the performance by Firth is very good, you can’t help but feel that his casting was a miscast as the chemistry with Emma Stone did not feel genuine onscreen.  It doesn’t help that Colin Firth could probably play Emma Stone’s father in a film.

Also, the film misses the intellectual dialogue that we often get from a Woody Allen film.  And its ending and overall scenarios seemed a bit rushed for my tastes.

While it’s hard to dislike this film because it is entertaining, the film seems like a step back when compared to “Blue Jasmine” and “Midnight in Paris”. While location and costume design, especially the music selection works well for the film, the Woody Allen magic we are used to seeing in his films are missing in “Magic in the Moonlight”.

But still, even Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight” is still entertaining and has a lot of charm, but considering the film uses the word “magic” in its title, it is a film that is missing that special magic that we have seen on other captivating Woody Allen films.

 

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