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Dormant Beauty (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“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.

 

Les Blank: Always For Pleasure – The Criterion Collection #737 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Les Blank: Always for Pleasure” is a wonderful collection of several of Les Blank’s films spanning four decades.  Bundled with plenty of special features, this is a wonderful set from the Criterion Collection that celebrates the career of one of America’s well-known independent filmmakers.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Les Blank: Always For Pleasure – The Criterion Collection #737

YEAR OF RELEASE: The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins (1968), God Respects Us When Work, But Loves Us When We Dance (1968), Spend It All (1971), A Well Spent Life (1971), Dry Wood (1973), Hot Pepper (1973), Always For Pleasure (1978), Garlic is As Good As Ten Mothers (1980), Sprout Wings and Fly (1983), In Heaven There is No Beer (1984), Gap-Toothed Women (1987), Yum! Yum! Yum! A Taste of Creole Cooking (1990), Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists (1994), Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Fransisco Aguabella (1995)

DURATION: 563 Minutes – The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins (31 minutes), God Respects Us When Work, But Loves Us When We Dance (20 minutes), Spend It All (43 minutes), A Well Spent Life (44 minutes), Dry Wood (37 minutes), Hot Pepper (54 minutes), Always For Pleasure (57 minutes), Garlic is As Good As Ten Mothers (50 minutes), Sprout Wings and Fly (30 minutes), In Heaven There is No Beer (49 minutes), Gap-Toothed Women (31 minutes), Yum! Yum! Yum! A Taste of Creole Cooking (31 minutes), Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists (53 minutes), Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Fransisco Aguabella (34 minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Color, Monoraul, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio

COMPANY: The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: November 25, 2014


An uncompromisingly independent filmmaker, Les Blank made documentaries for nearly fifty years, elegantly disappearing with his camera into cultural spots rarely seen on-screen—mostly on the peripheries of the United States, but also occasionally abroad. Seemingly off-the-cuff yet poetically constructed, these films are humane, sometimes wry, always engaging tributes to music, food, and all sorts of regionally specific delights. This collector’s set provides a diverse survey of Les Blank’s vast output, including fourteen of his best-known works and eight related short films.


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When it comes to documentaries featuring American traditional musicians, filmmaker Les Blank is known.

A man who filmed things that he was passionate about, may it be young hippies, those who have gaps in their teeth, garlic as a food component to covering musicians from jazz and blues, there was no doubt that Les Blank was a filmmaker that shot the things he loves.

With a low budget and respected for his independent filmmaking, an oeuvre that would earn him an Edward MacDowell Medal, an American Film Institue Maya Deren Award for outstanding life achievement as an independent filmmaker and even has an event known as “Les Fest” dedicated to him.

His style was simple but unique for its time, as it took place before independent film.  Film a subject as long as possible, muttering no words and letting his subjects be themselves.

And to help celebrate the career of Les Blank, the Criterion Collection has released a box set collection of many of his films on Blu-ray and DVD titled “Les Blank: Always for Pressure”.

The set would feature the following films:

  • The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkis (1968) – After founding Flower Films in 1967, Les Blank shot his first film about the legendary Texas blues musician Lightnin’ Hopkins (Sam John Hopkins).
  • God Respects Us When Work, But Loves Us When We Dance (1968) - On Easter Sunday of 1967, Les Blank went to shoot the flower children at Elysian Park in Los Angeles.
  • Spend It All (1971) – Les Blank goes to Southwest Louisiana to film the region’s Cajun community, including the descendants of the Acadians (the first French settlers in North America).
  • A Well Spent Life (1971) – Les Blank films Mance Lipscomb, the greatest blues guitarist who ever lived.
  • Dry Wood (1973) – Les Blank documents the Mardi Gras celebrations and religious rituals of the black Creole community in Southwest Louisiana.
  • Hot Pepper (1973) – A companion piece to “Dry Wood”, Les Blank filmed Grammy-winning Creole musician Clifton Chenier a.k.a. the King of Zydeco.
  • Always For Pleasure (1978) – Les Blank’s tribute to the sights, sounds and flavors of New Orleans.
  • Garlic is As Good As Ten Mothers (1980) – Les Blank’s ode to the “stinking rose” and features ardent garlic fans.
  • Sprout Wings and Fly (1983) – Les Blank films the life of a musician in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
  • In Heaven There is No Beer (1984) – Les Blank films the Polish American polka subculture.
  • Gap-Toothed Women (1987) – Les Blank’s ode to gap-toothed women.
  • Yum! Yum! Yum! A Taste of Creole Cooking (1990) – Les Blank visits Southwest Louisiana to film the cuisine of the area.
  • Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists (1994) – Les Blank films Gerald Gaxiola, the King of the Cowboy Artists.
  • Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Fransisco Aguabella (1995) – Les Blank films Francisco Aguabella, the great Afro-Cub percussionist.

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VIDEO:

“Les Blank: Always For Pleasure” is presented in 1:33:1 aspect ratio. According to the Criterion Collection, “These new digital transfers were created in 2K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from internegatives at Technicolor Los Angeles.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while DigitalVision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain and noise management.

If you do want the best in picture quality, I highly recommend checking out the Blu-ray version of this Criterion release.  For the most part, these are probably the best these films will ever look. On DVD, the films continues to feature its original grain and the picture quality show Les Blanks films with much better clarity and no discoloration.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Les Blank: Always For Pleasure – The Criterion Collection #737″ is presented in English monaural and stereo (depending on the film).

For the majority of the films, they were remastered at 24-bit from 35 mm full-coat magnetic tracks.  The original monaural soundtrack for “Hot Pepper” was remastered at 24-bit from the original 16 mm full-coat magnetic tracks.  The original monaural soundtrack for “God Respects Us When We Work, but Loves Us When We Dance” was remastered at 24-bit from a restored DA-98 tape and the restored 35 mm full-coat magnetic track.  The original monaural soundtrack for “Spend It All” were remastered at 24-bit from a restored WAV file.  And the original stereo soundtrack for “Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella” was remastered at 24-bit from the original 16 mm full-coat magnetic track.

According to Criterion, “Clicks thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation and iZotope RX3.

Overall, while there is dialogue, some films may be hard to understand (not because of the audio but because of how a few people generally speak) but for the most part, dialogue is understandable for the majority of the films.  But for anyone interested in Les Blank, it’s always pleasing to see how he would combine music and imagery and find that wonderful balance.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Les Blank: Always For Pleasure – The Criterion Collection #737″ comes with the following special features:

DISC 1

  • The Sun’s Gonna Shine – (9:54) A director Filmed with Les was filming “The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins”‘s lyric recreation of a memory of Hopkin’s youth.
  • Mr. Charlie Your Rollin’ Mill is Burnin’ Down – (7:29) An outtake from “The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins””.
  • Lightnin’ Les – (3:32) Footage showing Hopkins performing a song he wrote in honor of the filmmakers futile efforts at the table.
  • Making “Lightnin” – (8:38) A short piece produced by the Criterion Collection in 2014 featuring an interview with Skip Gerson, director Less Blanks’ collaborator on the film.
  • An Appreciation by Talor Hackford - (10:04) A short piece produced by the Criterion Collection in 2014 featuring an interview with filmmaker Taylor Hackford discussing the film that galvanized Blank’s career.
  • Lighing LesAn Appreciation by Taylor Hackford - (10:04) Featuring filmmaker Taylor Hackford discussing Les Blank and discussing the Texas Blues musician, Lightnin’ Hopkins and what he loved about “The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins”.
  • Flower Power – (6:19) Featuring Skip Gerson, Director and Les Blank’s collaboratonr on the film, Blank’s son Harrod discussing the origins of Blank’s production company and the love-in of 1967.
  • An Appreciation by Werner Herzog – (10:00) Featuring filmmaker Werner Herzog discussing his admiration for the film “Spend it All”.
  • Les Blank: A Quiet Revelation – (10:17) A short excerpt from Harrod Blank and Gina Leibrecht’s upcoming documentary.

DISC 2:

  • No Man Like Mance - (13:14) A short documentary featuring interviews with Skip Gerson, director Les Blanks collaborator on the film and his sons, Harrod and Beau, and Chris Strachwitz, founder of Arhoolie Records.
  • Meeting Mance - (7:14) Chris Strachwitz, a friend and collaborator of Les Blank’s discusses the story of meeting the famous blues musician who became of of Blank’s subjects.
  • A Cultural Celebration - (18:28) A short documentary about “Dry Wood” and “Hot Pepper”, featuring interviews with Maureen Gosling (Les Blank’s collaborator), Blank’s son Beau and filmmaker Taylor Hackford.

DISC 3:

  • Lagniappe - (25:24) 25-minutes of additional footage shot during the filming of “Always for Pleasure” and compiled by Les Blank and Maureen Gosling.
  • Celebrating a City – (10:12) A short documentary produced by the Criterion Collection in 2014, featuring interviews with Maureen Gosling who colaborated with director Les Blank and David Silberbrg, who worked with Blank on numerous other film projects.
  • For the Love of Garlic - (10:29) A Short piece produced by the Criterion Collection in 2014 with Maureen Gosling (Les Blank’s collaborator, the film’s editor), Blank’s son Harrod and Alice Waters, chef and founder of Chez Panisse in Berkeley.
  • Remembering Les - (10:26) Tom Luddy and Alice Waters reminisce about Blank and his contributions to their community and the world of film.

DISC 4:

  • My Old Fiddle - (17:29) Footage shot during the making of “Sprout Wings and Fly” and continues the story of Tommy Jarrell and the origins of his famous fiddle.
  • Julie - (12:18) Footage shot during the making of “Sprout Wings and Fly” and focuses on Julie Lyons, sister of the film’s subject, Tommy Jarrell.
  • An Elemental Approach – (5:22) Maureen Gosling discusses her approach to editing “Sprout Wings and Fly”.
  • Polka Happiness – (8:20) Produced by the Criterion Collection in 2014, featuring an interview with Chris Simon who collaborated with director Les Blank on numerous films.
  • Mind the Gap – (10:50) A piece produced by the Criterion Collection in 2014, featuring interviews with Susan Kell and Chris Simon, both who collaborated with director Les Blank and also Blanks’ son Harrod.

DISC 5:

  • Marc and Les - (6:40) A short piece produced by the Criterion Collection in 2014 and features Chris Simon and Chris Strachwitz who both collaborated with Les Blank on numerous films.
  • The Maestro Rides Again! - (28:58) After completing “The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists”, Les Blank continued filming.  The following follow-up was released in 2005.
  • The Maestro – (12:30) Featuring an interview with Gerald Gaxiola a.k.a. The Maestro and his unique perspective on the film.
  • Art for Art’s Sake - (6:57) Produced by the Criterion Collection in 2014, features an interview with Chris Simon, who collaborated with Director Les Blank.

EXTRAS:

“Les Blank: Always For Pleasure – The Criterion Collection #737″ comes with a 58-page booklet with the essay “Les Blank’s Cinema Vitalite” by Andrew Horton.


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When Les Blank passed away back in 2013, many people mourned the death of the unique independent filmmaker but also celebrated his life by remembering his films in his oeuvre

Unlike other well-known documentary workers who try to build a story about an event, may it be good and bad, there is always view points to help create a story line through its dialogue.

With Les Blank, he did things his way without a huge film crew.  He shot his subjects poetically, as if he was invisible to the subject and captured the person naturally in their environment and he was not a man who liked being called a documentarian.

His films were not very long but its his ability to capture life of an individual or individuals in their natural state through image and sound without following the typical documentary process of Q&A’s or having to piece things together to meet any requirement of a typical documentary.  And that is what made his work so unique and different.

With the the Criterion Collection’s release of “Les Blank: Always For Pleasure”, this is a wonderful collection of independent films he shot within four decades.

Not all of his films as he has made so many films during his life time but you do get a great collection of his work in this one set.

From his passion of covering blues artists such as Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, to fiddler Tommy Jarrell, polka musical figures such as Jimmy Sturr, Eddie Blazonczyk and Walt Solek to name a few.

He would also delve in to other non-musical documentaries such as “Gap-Toothed Women”, to his passion of creole cooking in documentaries such as “Yum! Yum! Yum!” or the flower children in “God Respects Us When We Work, But Loves Us When We Dance”.

He was a man that wanted to capture the intimacy of human beings and shot films without a big budget and took on the role of director, producer, editor, promoter and shown people his films ala cinema verite, observing his subjects with no voice-over narration.  But also his unique way of combining music with images.

And along with the films presented on this set are a plethora of special features that celebrate the life of Les Blank but also includes extra footage from his films.  Especially his collaboration with filmmaker Maureen Gosling who worked with Blank for more than a dozen films in over 20 years.  Looking at Blank as her mentor, she learned about his style and in his words “to make the audience see, feel, and experience a moment on film ‘freshly and with intensity'”.

But also learning about Les Blank through various collaborators but also as a filmmaker and as a father from his children, Harrod and Beau who also participate in the special features.

Overall, “Les Blank: Always for Pleasure” is a wonderful collection of several of Les Blank’s films spanning four decades.  Bundled with plenty of special features, this is a wonderful set from the Criterion Collection that celebrates the career of one of America’s well-known independent filmmakers.  Recommended!

 

The Shooting/Ride in the Whirlwind – The Criterion Collection #734-735 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Shooting/Ride in the Whirlwind” is a wonderful release from the Criterion Collection as you get both films together. This is the best looking version of both films to date and if you are looking for two artistic western films that are unique, fresh and entertaining, “The Shooting/Ride in the Whirlwind – The Criterion Collection” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2012 SGF Properties Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Shooting/Ride in the Whirlwind – The Criterion Collection #734-735

YEAR OF RELEASE: The Shooting (1966), Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)

DURATION: The Shooting (81 Minutes) / Ride in the Whirlwind (82 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Color, Monoraul, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio

COMPANY: The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: November 11, 2014

The Shooting

Directed by Monte Hellman

Written by Carole Eastman

Produced by Monte Hellman, Jack Nicholson

Associate Producer: John Herman Shaner

Executive Producer: Roger Corman

Cinematography by Gregory Sandor

Edited by Monte Hellman

Art Direction by Wally Moon

Ride in the Whirlwind

Directed by Monte Hellman

Written by Jack Nicholson

Produced by Monte Hellman, Jack Nicholson

Associate Producer: John Herman Shaner

Executive Producer: Roger Corman

Music by Robert Drasnin

Cinematography by Gregory Sandor

Edited by Monte Hellman

Art Direction by James Campbell

“The Shooting” Starring:

Will Hutchins as Coley Boyard

Millie Perkins as Woman

Jack Nicholson as Billy Spear

Warren Oates as Willet Gashade

“Ride in the Whirlwind” Starring:

Cameron Mitchell as Vern

Millie Perkins as Abigail

Jack Nicholson as Wes

Katherine Squire as Catherine

George Mitchell as Evan

Rupert Crosse as Indian Joe

Harry Dean Stanton as Blind Dick

John Hackett as Winslow

Tom Filer as Otis

B.J. Merholz as Edgar

In the midsixties, the maverick American director Monte Hellman conceived of two westerns at the same time. Dreamlike and gritty by turns, these films would prove their maker’s adeptness at brilliantly deconstructing genre. Shot back-to-back for famed producer Roger Corman, they feature overlapping casts and crews, including Jack Nicholson in two of his meatiest early roles. The Shooting, about a motley assortment of loners following a mysterious wanted man through a desolate frontier, and Ride in the Whirlwind, about a group of cowhands pursued by vigilantes for crimes they did not commit, are rigorous, artful, and wholly unconventional journeys to the Old West.

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Before filmmaker Monte Hellman directed his popular 1971 road movie “Two-Lane Blacktop”, Hellman would collaborate with producer Roger Corman  for two westerns and reuniting with actor Jack Nicholson (who worked with Hellman on “Back Door to Hell” and “Flight to Fury”).

After Hellman and Nicholson’s cinema collaboration, both co-wrote a screenplay called “Epitaph” and presented it to Roger Corman in hopes of him producing it, but he was not interested in the screenplay, but he did ask the two if they would make a western instead.

And because “Back Door to Hell” and “Flight to Fury” were shot back-to-back in the Philippines, Corman asked both men if they can do the same by filming “The Shooting” and “Ride in the Whirlwind” back-to-back in Utah.  And that the film would be under the condition that they would get a budget of $75,000, a production crew of seven people and if they went over budget, they would have to finance any additional costs from their own pockets.

So, as the two began working on both films, with Nicholson working on “Ride in the Whirlwhind”, both men asked their friend Carole Eastman to write “The Shooting”.  Because the two films were shot with a low-budget, using natural light for both films, the duo were able to complete both films in six weeks.

While the film screened with excellent reviews for both films, unfortunately no U.S. distributor was interested, shown i the art film circuit and the right to both films were sold directly to television.

And now, nearly 50-years later, since both films were screened at the Montreal World Film Festival, “The Shooter” and “Ride in the Whirlwind” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

“The Shooting” begins with former bounty hunter Willet Gashade (portrayed by Warren Oates) returning to a small mining camp to find his friend Coley (portrayed by Will Hutchins) scared and shooting at anyone, including Willet.

After Coley realizes that Willet has returned, he explains to him that their partner Leland Drum (portrayed by B.J. Merholz) was shot to death by someone.  He believes it may have been committed as revenge for the accidental trampling death of a little boy, which may have been done by Willet’s brother, Coin.  And now Coin left the mining camp before Leland’s death.

The following day, a young and rude woman comes to visit Willet and Coley and she requests that Willet Gashade become her guide, which he agrees to do so.  Meanwhile, a man in black named Billy Spear (portrayed by Jack Nicholson) has followed them, but where is the woman taking Willet and Coley?  And who is that mysterious man in black that has been following them?

In “Ride in the Whirlwind”, a cowboy trio which consists of Vern (portrayed by Cameron Mitchell), Wes (portrayed by Jack Nicholson) and Otis (portrayed by Tom Filer) stop to rest at a remote hideout used by a gang of outlaws led by Blind Dick (portrayed by Harry Dean Stanton).

But because the three men were in the same hideout as the criminals, they are branded as outlaws themselves and the vigilante hanging party goes after them and a police shootout ensues.  Vern and Wes end up escaping and reaching a farm which is owned by Abigail’s (portrayed by Millie Perkins) parents.  But can they escape from the vigilante hanging party?Or be captured and killed by them?

VIDEO:

“The Shooting/Ride in the Whirlwind”are presented in color and in 1:85:1 aspect ratio. According to the Criterion Collection, “The Shooting” and “Ride in the Whirlwind” was supervised by Monte Hellman.  These new digital transfers were created in 4K resolution on a scanity film scanner from the original camera negative.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain and noise management.

For the most part, the picture quality is very good for  both film considering they were both created back in 1966. 50-years-later, the beauty and detail of “The Shooting” and “Ride in the Whirlwind” is showcased through this DVD. But if you do want the best in picture quality, I highly recommend checking out the Blu-ray version of this Criterion release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Shooting/Ride in the Whirlwind is presented in English monaural. According to Criterion, the original soundtracks were remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm  magnetic tracks.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD.  AudioCube’s integrated workstation and iZotope RX 3.

Overall, dialogue is clear and understandable. Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Shooting/Ride in the Whirlwind – The Criterion Collection #734-735″ comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • The Shooting Audio Commentary - Featuring audio commentary by Monte Hellman and film historians Bill Krohn and Blake Lucas.
  • Ride in the Whirlwind Audio Commentary - Featuring audio commentary by Monte Hellman and film historians Bill Krohn and Blake Lucas.

 

DISC 2:

  • House of Corman - (6:00) An interview between director Monte Hellman and producer Roger Corman.
  • The Diaries of Millie Perkins - (16:03) Interview between Monte Hellman and actress Millie Perkins.
  • Whips and Jingles - (15:16) An interview between Jake Perlin and “The Shooting” actor Will Hutchins.
  • Blind Harry – (2:58) An interview between Monte Hellman and Harry Dean Stanton.
  • The True Death of Leland Drum - (16:58) An interview between Monte Hellman and actors B.J. Merholz and John Hackett.
  • Heart of Lightness – (18:43) An interview with Monte Hellman and assistant director Gary Kurtz.
  • The Last Cowboy – (17:05) An interview with Monte Hellman and Calvin Johnson and revisiting the area where they shot the westerns.
  • An American Original - (13:57) A 2014 video appreciation of actor Warren Oates written and narrated by film critic Kim Morgan.

EXTRAS:

The Shooting/Ride in the Whirlwind – The Criterion Collection #734-735″ comes with a poster sized insert featuring the essay “We Can Bring a Good Bit of Rope” by Michael Atkinson.

rideinthewhirlwind

During the 1960’s, western films were very popular.  American westerns had its fair share of resurgence from the silent era and again during the 1960’s, to the Spaghetti westerns of the 1960s and 1970s.

And while there were a good number of sub-genres within the western cinema genre, there were two films that separated itself from the commercial genre and became arthouse westerns and that were Monte Hellman’s 1966 films “The Shooting” and “Ride in the Whirlwind”.

And while the film will be remembered as another collaboration between Monte Hellman and Jack Nicholson, the collaboration with producer Roger Corman will also be remembered.

For those not familiar with Roger Corman’s work, as a producer and director, he was known for his low-budget horror and counterculture films of the ’60s.  He is also known for founding the independent productions studio New World Pictures which became the U.S. distributor for foreign films by Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini and more.

He was a rebel of Hollywood and the westerns he produced and Monte Hellman was going to direct would continue the trend of not following Hollywood big budget films.  If anything, these were two low-budget films that would receive rave reviews by film critics and instead of receiving film distribution, these two films would be seen on television.

While both films have been released on DVD back in 2000, it wasn’t until 2014 when they would receive 4K digital transfers courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

And what best to celebrate the Hellman/Nicholson/Corman collaboration than to release both westerns together.

For “The Shooting”, the film is a simple storyline, shot outdoors with no major sets.  Focusing on four individuals –  A bounty hunter, his not-so-smart friend, a woman and a mysterious man.  We are taken on the path of watching these men hired by a woman for some reason and that big reveal is made in the end.

But unlike westerns, the way the film was edited, the films were created with a feeling of gloom and uncertainty.

The same that can be said about “Ride in the Whirlwind” as three men looking for shelter, end up staying with criminals and immediately are branded by a hanging posse as collaborating with the criminals.  These men, falsely accused, try to find a way to survive, not knowing what their future lies ahead of them now that they are wanted as criminals.

Of the two, “The Shooting” is a much better film, because you never know what to expect and what is behind each person’s motivation.  With “Ride in the Whirlwind”, you pretty much can figure out what is going to happen, no surprises, it’s a straightforward film.

As for the Criterion Collection release of these two films, of course, if you want the best picture quality, you will want to opt for the Blu-ray version.  But if you are purchasing the DVD releases of “The Shooting/Ride in the Whirlwind”, I can tell you that these pictures look much better than its 2000 counterpart.  The 4K digital transfer brings out the colors of the film and makes the film look not so aged, nor is their any blurriness.  If anything, Criterion presents both films with better picture quality with grain intact.

The lossless soundtrack is also clear without any significant hiss, crackle or anything negative.  And last, you get a good number of special features including audio commentary (note: the audio commentary is the 2014 versions with Hellman and two film historians, not the 2000 audio commentary) as Monte Hellman reunites with many who worked on the two films, with the exception of Jack Nicholson.

Overall, “The Shooting/Ride in the Whirlwind” is a wonderful release from the Criterion Collection as you get both films together. This is the best looking version of both films to date and if you are looking for two artistic western films that are unique, fresh and entertaining, “The Shooting/Ride in the Whirlwind – The Criterion Collection” is highly recommended!

 

What If (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

whatif

“What If” is a charming romantic comedy.  Both Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan are perfectly cast and both talents feed off each other’s awkwardness.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 F Word Productions Inc., PCF F-Word The Movie Inc. and Fastnet Films. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: What If

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 98 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Sexual Content Including References Throughout, Partial Nudity and Language)

RELEASE DATE: November 25, 2014


Directed by Michael Dowse

Written by Elan Mastai

Based on the Play “Toothpaste and Cigars” by T.J. Dawe and Michael Rinaldi

Executive Producer: Jeff Arkuss, Mark Costa, Michael Dowse, HArtley Gorenstein, Elan Mastai, Ford Oelman, Jesse Shapira, Patrice Theroux

Producer: David Gross, Macdara Kelleher, Andre Rouleau

Associate Producer: Jonathan Loughran, Marlinda Walcott

Music by A.C. Newman

Cinematography by Rogier Stoffers

Edited by Yvann Thibaudeau

Casting by Ronna Kress

Production Design by Ethan Tobman

Art Direction by Mark Steel

Set Decoration by Mary Kirkland

Costume Design by Lea Carlson


Starring:

Daniel Radcliffe as Wallace

Zoe Kazan as Chantry

Megan Park as Dalia

Adam Driver as Allan

Mackenzie Davis as Nicole

Rafe Spall as Ben

Lucius Hoyos as Felix

Jemima Rooper as Ellie


WHAT IF is the story of medical school dropout Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe), who’s been repeatedly burned by bad relationships. So while everyone around him, including his roommate Allan (Adam Driver) seems to be finding the perfect partner (Mackenzie Davis), Wallace decides to put his love life on hold. It is then that he meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan) an animator who lives with her longtime boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall). Wallace and Chantry form an instant connection, striking up a close friendship. Still, there is no denying the chemistry between them, leading the pair to wonder, what if the love of your life is actually your best friend? The ensemble romantic comedy costars Megan Park and Oona Chaplin.


In 2013, the Irish-Canadian romantic comedy “The F Word” (retitled to “What If”) was an adaptation based on the T.J. Dawe and Michael Rinaldi play “Toothpaste and Cigars”.

Directed by Michael Dowse (“Goon”, “It’s All Gone Pete Tong”) and written by Elan Mastai (“Alone in the Dark”, “The Samaritan”), the film premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and was the winner for Adapted Screenplay at the Canadian Screen Awards.

The film stars Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter” films, “A Young Doctor’s Notebook”), Zoe Kazan (“Ruby Sparks”, “Fracture”, “Revolutionary Road”), Adam Driver (“Frances Ha”, “Inside Llewyn Davis”), Mackenzie Davis (“That Awkward Moment”, “Smashed”, “Breathe In”) and Megan Park (“The Secret Life of the American Teenager”, “Diary of the Dead”).

“What If” revolves around two people.  Wallace (portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe) is a medical school dropout and currently living with his sister and nephew in Toronto.  He hasn’t been the same since catching his girlfriend having an affair with his Anatomy teacher and literally has stayed at home for nearly a year until his friend Allan (portrayed by Adam Driver) invites him to a party.

At the party, despite being bored, he meets Allan’s cousin, an animator named Chantry (portrayed by Zoe Kazan) and immediately, the two become caught up in a discussion.  While Allan manages to meet a woman named Nicole (portrayed by Mackenzie Davis), Wallace and Chantry continue to have a fun and healthy discussion.

When the two leave the party and walk home, Chantry gives Wallace her phone number but also tells him that she has a boyfriend.

One day, as Wallace goes out to the theater to watch “The Princess Bride”, he happens to see Chantry at the theater.  And from that moment on, the two begin hanging out like best friends and enjoying each other’s company.

While it is obvious to Wallace’s friends that he is in love with Chantry, Chantry often wonders if her five-year relationship with Ben (portrayed by Rafe Spall) would last, after he moves overseas for six months to work for the United Nations.  But during this time together, both Wallace and Chantry begin hanging out with each other more and more and seeing how much they have in common.

But will Wallace ever let Chantry know how he truly feels for her or will he hold back, knowing that she has had a long relationship with another man?


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“What If” is presented in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen and English 5.1 Dolby Digital.  It’s important to mention that if you want the best picture quality for “What If”, you will want to purchase the Blu-ray version of the film.  Otherwise, the DVD quality is very good as one can expect on DVD.  There are no major artifacts with the DVD version and audio is dialogue-driven and is crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“What If” comes with the following special features:

  • Blurred Lines - (3:57) A brief featurette with the cast talking about their character.
  • Opposites Attract – (3:51) A brief featurette with the cast discussing working each other.

Not too often do you find a charming romantic comedy that revolves around one-sided love and the exploration of finding someone with similar interests but yet committed to another relationship.

“What If” is that type of film and what makes it work is the chemistry between its two main talent, Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan.

Radcliffe plays the role of the awkward Wallace.  A medical school dropout who literally shut himself off from the world after catching his then-girlfriend kissing his anatomy teacher.  Breakups are traumatic and for Wallace, he had a full year of staying at home with his sister and nephew and is willing to go out to a friend’s party.

And it’s the party where he meets his friend’s cousin Chantry.  It was love at first sight for Wallace and both enjoy talking with each other and finding so much in common with one another.  But both are awkward and quirky.  As Wallace loves his time with Chantry, Chantry loves spending time with Wallace, despite having a boyfriend (who is more often busy with work with the United Nations).

Often bypassing promotions at her job, Chantry is an animator who somewhat rides on the beat of her own drum.  And when these two are together, there is an instant connection, magic.  But for Chantry, she has invested five years of her life with this one man and for Wallace, his one-sided love is obvious to his friends, but being a gentleman (but also receiving a warning from Chantry’s boyfriend, Ben), he chooses not too act on his feelings for Chantry.  Just be there as a friend.

But as it was explored in the popular romantic comedy “When Harry Met Sally”, a man and a woman can’t be friends…  Unless both are in relationships.

Can Wallace and Chantry be friends?  Wallace knows there is a connection, Chantry knows there is a connection as well and both don’t act upon it because Chantry is in a relationship.

The romantic dilemma which has plagued many people who are invested in relationships and meet someone that automatically throws their thoughts out of the window and makes them realize, what if the person you are destined to be with, is that person that makes you laugh, that makes you smile but most importantly, you have that instant connection!  And this is the premise of “What If”, a charming comedy.

If there is one fault in the entire film, it’s how various friends are utilized.

Allan is the type of friend who comes off as a jerk to Wallace and you have his girlfriend Nicole.  When together, .both act as if they are out of this world and people you would never think to see the more reserved Wallace being around.  While Chantry’s friend, Dalia’s is perfectly fine for support and is there to listen to her friend.

“What If” looks and sounds good on DVD but for those who want better picture quality, you definitely want to go for the Blu-ray version of the film.  You also get two short featurettes for special features.

Overall, “What If” is a charming romantic comedy.  Both Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan are perfectly cast and both talents feed off each other’s awkwardness.  Recommended!

 

 

Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Enjoyable, and a lot of fun… “Phineas and Ferb: The Perry Files – Animal Agents” features 12 episodes of “Phineas and Ferb” plus a cool spy kit! Recommended!

Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars

DURATION: 164 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen (1:78:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions, English Dolby Digital 2.0, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: TV G

RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2014

Directed by Zac Moncrief, Dan Povenmire, Robert Hughes, Jay Lender, Jeff “Swampy” Marsh

Written by Dan Povenmire, Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, Martin Olson, John Colton Barry, Bobby Gaylor, Antoine Guilbaud, Aliki Theofilopoulos, Kim Roberson, Sherm Cohen, Chong Lee, Piero Piluso, May Chan, Kaz, Michael Diederich

Executive Producer: Dan Povenmire

Co-Executive Producer/Executive Producer: Jeff “Swampy Marsh

Line Producer: Natasha Kopp

Music by Danny Jacob

Edited by Ted Supa

Art Direction by Alan Bodner, Jill Daniels

Featuring the voices of:

Vincent Martella as Phineas

Thomas Sangster as Ferb

Ashley Tisdale as Candace/Stormtrooper Candace

Dan Povemire as Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz/Darthenshmirtz

Jeff “Swampy” Marsh as Major Monogram

Dee Bradley Baker as Perry the Platypus

Caroline Rhea as Mom

Alyson Stoner as Isabella

Mitchell Musso as Jeremy

Maulik Pancholy as Baljeet

Richard O’Brien as Dad

Bobby Gaylor as Buford

Tyler Alexander Mann as Karl

Kelly Hu as Stacy

Olivia Olson as Vanessa

A couple of summers ago in a galaxy far, far away, Phineas and Ferb are happily basking in the glow of Tatooine’s twin suns — until plans for the Death Star accidentally fall into their hands, thrusting them (and Agent P) into a galactic rebellion and an epic struggle of good versus evil in PHINEAS AND FERB: STAR WARS(TM). Will Phineas and Ferb be able to resist the Dark Side? Will Stormtrooper Candace finally bust a Rebel? Can Agent P stop Darthenshmirtz from using his Force-powered “Sith-Inator”? Featuring five additional episodes for over two hours of action-packed fun, this mind-blowing, intergalactic adventure is a blast for all ages. May the Ferb be with you… always.

We have seen special collaborations with the popular animated series “Phineas and Ferb”.  From the 2013 release of “Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel” with Marvel Comics characters, for 2014, Disney is showcasing another collaboration with “Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars”.

Set during “Episode IVa: May the Ferb Be With You”, on the desert planet of Tattoine, Phineas and Ferb work as moisture farmers.  Meanwhile, up in space, the Galactic Empire has recently completed the construction of the ultimate weapon known as the Death Star.

But the rebels learned about the Death Star’s plans and they sent out a platypus agent to obtain them, in hopes of trying to find a weakness.  Agent P gives Princess Leia the plans, which are then given to R2D2.

As Stormtrooper Candace discovers the plot of the stolen plans, she and her fellow stormtroopers try to get back the Death Star plans.

Meanwhile, Phineas and Ferb are given a data disc by R2D2 but not knowing how to play the disc, the two head to Mos Eisley and learn about the Death Star.  Knowing that these plans can help the rebel alliance, Phineas and Ferb must do what they can to get the plans to the rebels, before Stormtrooper Candace and her group takes it back.

Will they succeed?  Find out in a special episode of “Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars”!

Also, included are five additional episodes: “For Your Ice Only/Happy New Year!”, “Steampunx/”It’s No Picnic”, “Terrifying Tri-State Trilogy of Terror (Parts 1 and 2)”, “Doof 101/Father’s Day” and “Tales from the Resistance (Parts 1 and 2)”.

What is “Phineas and Ferb”?

Since 2007, “Phineas and Ferb” has been an animated show that has been entertaining children (and also adults) on the Disney Channel with its running gags, interesting and hilarious characters.

With each episode, Phineas and Ferb are both working on a project and each time, their sister Candace is always scheming to finally bust them. Meanwhile, the evil scientist Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz is up to no good and Major Monogram and the secret agent Perry the Platypus (Agent P) are doing all they can to stop Doofenshmirtz.

The main characters of “Phineas and Ferb” are:

  • Phineas Flynn – One of the main protagonist of the show who joins his stepbrother Ferb in various projects.
  • Ferb Fletcher – The intelligent step-brother of Phineas who is from England and although quiet he happens to be an engineering genius. He also has a crush on Vanessa Doofenshmirtz.
  • Candace Flynn - A 15-year-old teen and the older sister of Phineas and step-sister to Ferb. She is always trying to bust her younger brothers. Meanwhile, she is dating Jeremy Johnson.
  • Perry the Platypus - The pet of the Flynn-Fletcher family and is thought of being useless. But the truth is that he is a special agent working for the O.W.C.A. (Organization Without a Cool Acronym) and is constantly battling his nemesis Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz.
  • Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz - A mad scientist and father of Vanessa Doofenshmirtz. his goal is to take control of the Tri-State area.
  • Isabella Garcia-Shapiro – A friend of Phineas and Ferb and has a crush on Phineas. Also, has skills to help the boys courtesy of her involvement with the Fireside Girls.
  • Major Monogram – The head of the O.W.C.A. and responsible for sending Perry out on missions.
  • Linda Flynn-Fletcher – The mother of Phineas and Candace and step-mother of Ferb.
  • Baljeet Rai – The Indian-American neighbor of Phineas and Ferb and is very smart but constantly bullied by Buford.
  • Buford Van Stomm – Because of his size, he is looked at as a bully but the truth is that he’s a nice kid who tries to act tough.
  • Lawrence Fletcher – Father of Ferb and step-father to Phineas and Candace.
  • Jeremy Johnson – The boyfriend of Candace.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars” is presented in widescreen (1:78:1) – enhanced for 16×9 televisions and is presented in English 2.0 Dolby Digital.

Each of the episodes of “Phineas and Ferb” sport vibrant colors and for the most part, picture quality should be fine for the children. If anything, the series is known for its unique character design and for the most part, the animation is quite enjoyable to watch because it’s quite different with the characters and their geometric shaped heads.

Dialogue and music are clear and are heard clearly through the front and center channels.

Subtitles are in English SDH

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars” comes with five full length episodes.

EXTRAS:

“Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars” comes with a slipcover case. Also, included is a Perry in Carbonite keychain.

In the past few years, thanks to my young son, my wife and I have been following the adventures of “Phineas and Ferb”.

With Marvel and the “Star Wars” franchise now becoming owned by Disney, it has been no surprise to see these special collaborations.  And in 2014, the collaboration with LucasFilm Ltd. has been a positive as we get a beautifully animated special feature featuring the “Phineas and Ferb” characters in the “Star Wars” universe.

While the story was a fascinating take on “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”, seeing the Star Wars universe animated for “Phineas and Ferb” was rather fascinating, especially to see Candace as a Stormtrooper, Darthenshmirtz and seeing Perry encased in carbon was very fun and the attention to detail on the “Star Wars” vehicles and giving their own spin to them was also pretty cool to see as well.

The “Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars” episode is your standard 20-minute full-length episode, so in order to bulk up this DVD release, Disney added five full-length episodes.  Episodes that are perfect for the winter holiday but also episodes that will no doubt entertain the children during winter break.

Included are the season four episodes such as “For Your Ice Only” as Phineas and Ferb play hockey with the help of NHL legend Luc Robitaille, Phineas and Ferb planning their own New Year’s Eve ball drop for “Happy New Year!”,

In “Steampunx”, Phineas and Ferb go back in time for the 1903 Danville World’s Fair and for “It’s No Picnic”, Buford and Baljeet get into a food fight.

For “Terrifying Tri-State Trilogy of Terror”, the two part episode is a three part tale.  Candace turns her Ducky Momo plushie into a living and breathing doll that stalks her, Dr. Doofenshmirtz discovers a giant floating baby head that grants cursed wishes and Phineas and Ferb must stop the evil platypuses.

In “Doof 101″, Dr. Doofenshmirtz gets punished with community service for being evil.  In “Father’s Day”, Perry tries to help Doof retrieve his father’s old lawn gnome.

And in “Tales from the Resistance”, the two part tale features the aftermath of the “Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension” and a new threat emerges from the 2nd Dimension.

Overall, “Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars” is a magnificent release that children and the young at heart will enjoy.  You get a fantastic “Star Wars” episode, five full length episodes and also a Perry-in-Carbonite keychain!  All for a great price and just in time for the winter holiday!

Recommended!


 

Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

November 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut” is another must-see volume as the storyline shifts back to what transpires in the manga series but most importantly, we learn more about Naruto’s background and what happened to his parents on that fateful day. If you are a “Naruto” fan staying in for the long haul, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2002 Masashi Kishimoto/2007 Shippuden. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut

DURATION: Episodes 245-257 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 2.0 Stereo Surround Sound, Bilingual (Japanese & English), English Subtitles

COMPANY: Shonen Jump/Viz Media

RATED: Rated T for Older Teen

Release Date: October 14, 2014

Originally created by Masashi Kishimoto

Series Directed by Hayato Date

Produced by Tomoko Gushima, Ken Hagino

Series Coordinator by Junki Takegami, Satoru Nishizono

Character Design by Tetsuya Nishio, Hirofumi Suzuki

Music by Yasuharu Takanishi, Yaiba

Music Production by Aniplex

Anime Production by TV Tokyo, Pierrot

Featuring the following voice talent:

Junko Takeuchi/Maile Flanagan as Naruto Uzumaki

Chie Nakamura/Kate Higgins as Sakura Haruno

Noriaki Sugiyama/Yuri Lowenthal as Sasuke Uchiha

Akira Ishida/Liam O’Brien as Sabaku no Gaara (Gaara of the Desert)

Hideo Ishikawa/Crispin Freeman as Itachi Uchiha

Houchu Ohtsuka/David Lodge as Jiraiya

Kazuhiko Inoue/Dave Wittenberg as Hatake Kakashi

Kentarou Itou/Robbie Rist as Chouji Akimichi

Kenyuu Horiuchi/Troy Baker as Pain

Kouichi Toochika/Steve Staley as Neji Hyuuga

Kousuke Toriumi/Kyle Hebert as Kiba Inuzuka

Kujira/Steven Blum as Orochimaru

Masako Katsuki/Debi Mae West as Tsunade/Fifth Hokage

Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Sheh as Hinata Hyuuga

Nobutoshi Canna/Henry Dittman as Kabuto Yakushi

Rikiya Koyama/Troy Baker as Yamato

Romi Paku/Tara Platt as Temari

Ryoka Yuzuki/Colleen O’Shaughnessey as Ino Yamanaka

Satoshi Hino/Ben Diskin as Sai

Shinji Kawada/Derek Stephen Prince as Shino Aburame

Yasuyuki Kase/Michael Lindsay as Kankurou

Yoichi Masukawa/Brian Donovan as Rock Lee

As the Leaf Village prepares for war, each shinobi and clan must contemplate the role they will play in the battles to come. While Naruto’s peers seek training from surprising sources, Naruto himself must confront both his biggest weakness and greatest strength – the Nine-Tailed Fox.

To reach optimum power, Naruto must learn to control the beast within him, so he seeks help from the one person who has mastered just that, Killer Bee! But the Jinchuriki of Eight Tails wants nothing to do with training Naruto!

As the allied ninja forces prepare for the Great Ninja War, at Konoha, ninja’s prepare for their role in the battlefield and their mission, to protect Naruto Uzumaki from the Akatsuki.

All this and more in “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19 – Original & Uncut”.

What is “Naruto”?

Since 1999, “Naruto” created by Masashi Kishimoto (“Karakuri”) has been one of the most popular anime and manga series in Japan and has easily become a favorite best selling anime/manga series among fans all over the world.

For the anime series, since 2002, “Naruto” lasted until 2007 with a total of 220 episodes. The series would follow the adventures of a boy named Naruto Uzamaki, who may not be the brightest ninja from the Konoha Village but he makes it up with heart and also tremendous power as the killer beast known as the nine-tailed fox has been sealed within him.

Earlier in the series, the anime series focused on Naruto and his team members Sasuke Uchida and Sakura Haruno as they would go on adventures and learn to become a team and also honing their ninja abilities. The series would then begin to introduce other young ninjas from the village who Naruto would be paired up with and the young ninjas would take on rival clans to helping people in need. But somehow as the series continued, Sasuke Uchida would then go off on his own personal mission to stop his brother Itaki Uchida, who murdered the whole Uchida clan and his family, only leaving Sasuke alive.

Within those six years, we have seen Naruto and his friends grow as friends and also in their abilities. For Naruto, all he has wanted is to become the next Hokage (the leader of the village) when he grows older and to help his friends accomplish missions. He knows that to be a good leader, he will need to get stronger so he can protect the village once he grows older. Of course, there is so much involved in the “Naruto” anime series and what makes its special is its humor, its action but also how well the series integrates so many characters but yet features a good number of character driven episodes that makes the viewer appreciate many of the characters in the series.

“Naruto”, the first series ended with the young ninja leaving to train with Jiraiya for two-and-a-half years.

What is “Naruto Shippuden”?

Sasuke has aligned with the Akatsuki who wants to destroy the Leaf Village – Konoha.  Madara has declared war and thus an Allied Shinobi Force is formed. The elder leaders of all villages, allies to the Leaf Village have realized that the Akatsuki are after Naruto (Nine Tail) and Killer B (Eight Tail Beast).  They have since accomplished extracting the beasts (Jinchuriki)  from others.

In “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20″, the series now returns back to storyline that is featured on the manga series.

As Naruto tries to control the power of the nine tails, Naruto’s mother enter his consciousness to explain the secrets of his birth and learns about heir hopes and renews his vow to be come Hokage!

All is revealed about what transpired during the day of Naruto’s birth and who was responsible for attacking the Leaf Village with the nine tails.  And given the final moments to meet and speak with his mother one last time.

And as Naruto has become the prime target of the Akatsuki, Yamato, Guy and a few other Leaf Ninja, including Killer B have convinced Naruto that he is on an S-Ranked Environmental Mission at an island.

But hiding among them is the Akatsuki Kisame (who was thought to be dead) and has been spying on them all this time and now is trying to leak the intel back to the Akatsuki.  But in order to stop them, only one man will be to take him on…Guy.

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Naruto Shippuden” is an anime series that was never known for having spectacular background art, but it’s know for its action and its characters and how it captures emotion and its intense battles. While in this episode, a lot of episodes are contained in areas near lush green trees, water or dirt, it’s not so much of the background but how the characters are design and how well the battles are portrayed. And I can easily say that with “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20- Original Uncut”, the fast-paced action in this volume is great for a TV series and good for what one can expect on DVD.

It’s important to note that in 2014, Viz has went from releasing episodes on three DVD discs to two DVD discs per volume.

As for the audio, the audio for “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20″ is pretty much Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 Bilingual (Japanese and English). Similar to a series like “Dragon Ball Z”, with “Naruto”, I have always enjoyed the voice acting of the English dub series. It’s well done and the voices fit the characters very well.

Especially Maile Flanagan’s Naruto Uzumaki. Personally, I didn’t think there would be a voice actor that could capture Junko Takeuchi’s Naruto vocals and sure enough, Flanagan does a great job. But I have watched the series in Japanese and English and for the most part, voice acting for both soundtracks are well-done.

Since the series is front channel driven, for those with a modern home theater receiver probably will enjoy a more immersive soundscape by selecting stereo on all channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut” comes with the following special features on disc 2:

  • Art Gallery
  • Omake
  • Storyboards
  • Clean Openings/Endings
  • English Credits
  • More from Viz Media – Viz Media trailers

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With the release of “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut”, the series leaves the filler episodes from Season 11 from Japan and enters Season 12 which was featured in the manga.

With this latest batch of episodes, we get the emotional storyline from the manga series which revolves with Naruto reuniting with his mother for a brief time.  It is revealed of what had happened on the day of Naruto’s birth and how he was sealed with the nine-tail jinchuriki, the setting of the danger of impending war continues.

We also get to see Guy takes on Kisame, who had been thought to be dead.  But to realize, he had transformed and affixed himself onto Killer B’s sword and spying on the group all this time.  Now its a race against the clock as they try to stop him from leaking the intel to the Akatsuki.

We also get to see the return of Konan as she reminisces about what transpired between Naruto and Nagato leading to a final between her and Tobi.

So, there are many revelations that people will get to see with this latest DVD set of “Naruto Shippuden” and it is definitely one of the more emotional volumes as the meeting between Naruto and his mother was well-written!

As for the DVD set, you get a total of 13 episodes and a the typical special features such as art gallery, storyboard, omake, clean opening and endings for each episode.

Overall, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut” is another must-see volume as the storyline shifts back to what transpires in the manga series but most importantly, we learn more about Naruto’s background and what happened to his parents on that fateful day.

If you are a “Naruto” fan staying in for the long haul, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut” is recommended!

 

Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special 2 – Villains in Paradise (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special 2 – Villains in Paradise” is another hilarious, crazy and fun special from the crew of “Robot Chicken”.  For the DC Comics fans who grew up with these characters in the past and for those reading the comic books in the present, to the “Robot Chicken” fans who love the series no matter which characters they feature, “Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special 2 – Villains in Paradise” is worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special 2 – Villains in Paradise

TV SERIES AIR DATE: 2014

DURATION: 22 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Full Screen, Dolby Digital English Stereo

COMPANY: Adult Swim

RATED:  TV MA

RELEASE DATE: October 14, 2014

Directed by Seth Green

Written by Matthew Ireland Beans, Mike Fasolo, Douglas Goldstein, Seth Green, Geoff Johns, Breckin Meyer, Tom Root, Matthew Senreich, Kevin Shinick, Zeb Wells

Executive Produced by Seth Green, John Harvatine IV, Geoff Johns, Sam Register, Matthew Senreich, Eric Towner

Co-Producer: Ethan Marak

Music by Shawn Patterosn

Cinematography by Helder Sun

Edited by Jenny McKibben

Costume Design by Becky Van Cleve

Featuring the voices of:

Abraham Benrubi as Cyborg, Kilowog, Appa Ali Apsa, Icicle, Solomon Grundy

Alex Borstein as Wonder Woman, Giganta, Woman

Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern, Mr. Freeze

Brecken Meyer as Superman

Megan Fox as Lois Lane

Clare Grant as Cheetah, Ice, Abby Holland

Seth Green as The Nerd, Batman, Robin, Aquaman, The Penguin, Martian Manhunter, Toyman, Scarecrow, Gorilla Grod, Cheese, Swamp Thing, Abin Surg, Ganthet, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Jimmy Olsen

Neil Patrick Harris as Two-Face, Black Manta

Breckin Meyer as Superman, Mirror Master

Alfred Molina as Lex Luthor, Firestorm

Aaron Paul as Mister Banjo, Glenn

Paul Reubens as The Riddler

Tom Root as Captain Cold

Kevin Shinick as Narrator

Matthew Senreich as The Flash, Chillblaine, Brainiac

Tara Strong as Harley Quinn, Selena Gomez

Zeb Wells as Sinestro, B’dg

The Robot Chicken DC Comics Special II: Villains in Paradise returns the DC Comics universe of characters back into the twisted talons of the Emmy Award(R)-winning Robot Chicken. This time around, the villains take charge of the narrative, and their unpredictable tale takes them from the swamps to the sky to the beach, where they finally face a mind-boggling threat to their very existence! The all-star cast includes Seth Green as Batman and Robin, Zac Efron as Superboy, Alfred Molina as Lex Luthor, Sarah Hyland as Lex Luthor’s daughter Lena, Nathan Fillion as the Green Lantern, Alex Borstein as Wonder Woman, Clancy Brown as Gorilla Grodd, Giovanni Ribisi as the Joker, Tara Strong as Harley Quinn, Breckin Meyer as Superman, plus Hugh Davidson, Matthew Senreich, Clare Grant, Zeb Wells, and Kevin Shinick as the narrator.

In 2005, actor Seth Green (“Austin Powers” films, “Family Guy”, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and Matthew Senreich along with writers Douglas Goldstein and Tom Root created the stop-motion animated comedy “Robot Chicken”.

Featuring many celebrity guest voice talent and taking on a variety of well-known franchises and doing parodies for “Star Wars”, “Cat and the Hat”, “Law and Order”, “Voltron”, “Teen Titans”, “Beavis and Butthead” and more.

The series has won an Annie Award and three Emmy Awards and in 2013, with a total of six seasons and 120 episodes and five specials being made, the “Robot Chicken” staff will be releasing their new “DC Comics Special” on Blu-ray and DVD on July 9, 2013.

For those not familiar with Robot Chicken, the animated series uses action figures and shoots each frame until they put them together via animation.  The series puts certain characters in hilarious and embarrassing situations and includes mouths on the action figures and are voice acted by the Robot Chicken staff or via celebrities.

In this second “DC Comics Special” of “Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special 2 – Villains in Paradise”, the story shifts from the heroes and focuses on the villains.  What happens when the villains get some R&R in a private beach and Lex Luthor’s daughter Lena falls in love with Superman and Wonder Woman’s son (or the clone Superman/Superboy) and both want to get married?

VIDEO & AUDIO

“Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special ” is presented in widescreen.  For the most part, the Mego dolls and action figures look good on DVD, while the stage setups for the figures and the lighting was very well-done.  There were some scenes with banding and artifacts issues.  But for the most part, picture quality is very good on DVD.

Audio is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and dialogue is clear!  And comes with subtitles in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special 2 – Villains in Paradise” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of #RCDC2VIP -(9:31)  The making of “Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special 2 – Villains in Paradise”.
  • Bad Hair, Musical Numbers & Sequels – (8:55) A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the music for “Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special 2 – Villains in Paradise”.
  • The Ones That Got Away - (7:06) A therapeutic featurette with writers releasing some steam about their sketches being cut out of the final version of “Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special 2 – Villains in Paradise”.
  • 20 Questions – (13:25) The “Robot Chicken” staff must answer 20 questions in regards to DC Comics.
  • Cut Animatics - (5:19) Featuring five animatics and learn why they were cut.
  • Cut Sketches – (2:16) Featuring two sketches and learn why they were cut.
  • Chicken Nuggets – (1:02) Watch the full special and if you see a chicken, click on your remote (or mouse) and find out more about the behind-the-scenes via a video commentary.
  • Actors Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with Seth Green, Matthew Senreich, Nathan Fillion, Breckin Meyer and Zeb Wells.
  • Writers Commentary – Featuring writers commentary with Hugh Davidson, Mike Fasolo, Tom Root, Kevin Shinick and Zeb Wells.

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If you are a “Robot Chicken” fan or a longtime fan of DC Comics, you can’t help but watch the “Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special 2 – Villains in Paradise” special and just laugh out loud!

Sure, the special captures the craziness that we have seen on “Robot Chicken” and as a longtime reader of DC Comics titles, what I enjoyed about this special is that the characters are not something created from today’s comic books but for those who read and grew up with DC comics.

From the use of Mego characters, the fact that the villains featured are those who grew up watching the old school “Super Friends” animated series and of course, putting an adult and hilarious spin on the characters.  From utilizing Lex Luthor and showing his old rock n’ roll self known as Sexx Luthor and him having a child, or seeing the joke about the clone Superboy being the actual child of Superman and Wonder Woman.  And what happens when Green Lantern gives Batman a ride?

Suffice to say, the series was crazy and hilarious because it focused on the DC villains with a “Grease” spin, so you do get to see the DC superheroes as well.

If there was anything negative to say about this special, it was too short at 22 minutes long.  Fortunately, you get a good number of special features that makes this DVD worth while.

But aside from the short episode duration, I can only hope that “Robot Chicken” continues to do more DC Comics specials in the near future, because each episode has been crazy and hilarious.

So, while this special episode is short, fortunately, there are many special features included with this DVD release.  It was great to listen to both audio commentaries.   From the writers about the inclusion of characters for the series to the actors on their thoughts of playing a character and both commentaries are hilarious and fun to listen to.  And while 22-minutes long, definitely watch the special again with the hilarious “chicken nuggets” special feature and hear the “Robot Chicken” staff offer several tidbits about various scenes.

And just a reminder to those who have never watched a “Robot Chicken” episode, if you are a parent who is curious about “Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special 2 – Villains in Paradise”, this is not a children’s DVD.  The special features mature language and it features adult humor.

Overall, “Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special 2 – Villains in Paradise” is another hilarious, crazy and fun special from the crew of “Robot Chicken”.  For the DC Comics fans who grew up with these characters in the past and for those reading the comic books in the present, to the “Robot Chicken” fans who love the series no matter which characters they feature, “Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special 2 – Villains in Paradise” is worth checking out!

 


 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Beginning – The Complete 1st Season (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

tmnt-thebeginning

if you are a parent of a child who loves the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” or a person that is young at heart and wants to catch up on this latest animated series, then “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Beginning – The Complete First Season” for its cheap price and the fact you get the complete first season, is a DVD set worth purchasing!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Beginning – The Complete 1st Season

TV SERIES AIR DATE: 2012-2013

DURATION: 625 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Full Screen, Dolby Digital English Stereo

COMPANY: Nickelodeon/Paramount

RATED: NOT RATED / Home Video Rating is PG for Violence

RELEASE DATE: October 7, 2014

Directed by Michael Chang

Written by Joshua Sternin, Jr. Ventimila

Originally created by Kevin Eastman

Produced by MacGregor Middleton

Executive Producer: Peter Hatings, Ciro Nieli, Joshua Sternin, J.R. Ventimilia

Supervising Producer: Ant Ward

Music by Sebastian Evans

Casting by Sarah Noonan

Production Management: Vladimir Radev

Featuring the voices of:

Sean Astin as Raphael

Jason Biggs as Leonardo

Greg Cipes as Michelangelo

Rob Paulsen as Donatello

Mae Whitman as April O’Neil

Hoon Lee as Splinter

Nickelodeon’s all-new, CGI-animated hit series debuts on DVD with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles. Join these four ninja brothers – Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo – in this action-packed adventure as they emerge from their hidden lair in the sewers of New York City for the very first time. In addition, enjoy six awesome “making of animatics” and a karaoke music video to the show’s tubular theme song. And as an added bonus, each DVD will include an exclusive Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles poster for a limited time only.

In 1984, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird began working on a comic book series titled “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” for Mirage Studios. Featuring a darker, action-driven storyline, the comics became major collectors items due to its short print run. And because of the popularity of the comics, Playmates Toys Inc. was approached to create an action figure toyline and before they began working on the risky project, the toy company would only agree to do so, if an animated TV series was created.

Geared for children and featuring characters with color coded masks, spoke with stereotypical surfer dialogue and a love for pizza, the series was a major hit. Created in 1987, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” would air on television through 1996, and along with the TV series, the toyline was also a big success and would continue on with a live action series, multiple video games and also several live action films.

By 1997, the series has a live action series titled “Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation” which lasted for a single season and in 2003, the series was resurrected by FOX and with 4Kids Entertainment, the remake would be produced by Mirage Studios (the original series had no ownership by Mirage) and would be more edgier like the original comic books and much more darker than its 1987 counterpart and once again, the series and its toyline would become a major success.

And now “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is back! In 2012, Nickelodeon acquired the rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from Mirage Group and 4Kids Entertainment and this time around, wanted to go with a CG-animated series and that there would be slight changes for this 2012 version from the original series and previous series that fans may have been accustomed to.

The new series would feature voice acting from Jason Biggs as Leonardo, Rob Paulsen as Donatello, Sean Astin as Raphael, Greg Cipes as Michelangelo, Mae Whitman as April O’Neil and Hoon Lee as Splinter. In this newer series, each of the Ninja Turtles try to get accustomed to being heroes as they are taught by their sensei Splinter. A former human that was changed into a rat.

The leader of the group is Leonardo (blue mask) who fights with two katana swords and is the level-headed member of the four; Donatello is the hacker and computer/science expert (purple mask) and fights with a rokushakubo. He also has a crush on the video gamer girl, April O’Neil; Raphael is the hot head of the group who acts on impulse and tend to be a problem with the group, as he tends to not think before acting. He fights with two sais and has a pet turtle named Spike and Michelangelo is the person who loves video games, skateboarding and pizza but he is also seen as the jokester and idiot of the group. He fights with two nunchaku and is the immature member of the.

And the group gets help from a human named April O’Neill who loves video games and pizza but also has a special spiritual sensitivity and is being trained by Splinter to be a ninja.

Together, they take on a mysterious group known as the Kraang that is led by Shredder.

A total of 26-episodes were made and the first season began premiering on Nickelodeon in Sept. 2012 and as the second season is airing on television, Nickelodeon will be releasing the 1st season in a DVD collector’s pack titled “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Beginning – The Complete 1st Season”.

Included in “Rise of the Turtles” are the following episodes (featuring spoilerless summaries):

  • EPISODE 1: Rise of the Turtles, Part I – The Ninja Turtles try to follow the Kraang who have abducted April O’Neill and her father Kirby.
  • EPISODE 2: Rise of the Turtles, Part II – The Ninja Turtles try to rescue the O’Neills.
  • EPISODE 3: Turtle Temper – Raphael has a problem with his temper and because Raphael and Michelangelo get into a bit of squabble, they end up messing up their reconnaissance mission and are recorded by a man with a cell phone who wants to make money with the video footage. Now Raphael must get the man to not sell that video.
  • EPISODE 4: New Friend, Old Enemy – Michelangelo’s TV hero is the martial artist Chris Bradford, but what Michelangelo doesn’t know is he is Shredder’s top lieutenant.
  • EPISODE 5: I Think his Name is Baxter Stockman – The team sneaks out against Splinter’s orders, they battle a crazed man in a suit known as Baxter Stockman that is powered accidentally by a device Donatello created.
  • EPISODE 6: Metalhead – Donatello creates Metalhead (a remote-controlled robot turtle reverse engineered from Kraang technology).

Included in “Enter Shredder” are episodes 7-14 (note: Episode 13 “I, Monster” is not included on this volume but will be included in the next volume – “Ultimate Showdown”.  Featuring spoilerless summaries):

  • EPISODE 7: Monkey Brains – The Ninja Turtles and April try to figure out what happened to the missing Dr. Tyler Rockwell.
  • EPISODE 8: Never Say Xever – Mr. Murakami has been taken hostage by the Purple Dragons.  Can Leo and the other Ninja Turtles save him.
  • EPISODE 9: The Gauntlet – The Ninja Turtles and April try to find her imprisoned father, but Shredder is awaiting them.
  • EPISODE 10: Panic in the Sewers – Shredder puts the Ninja Turtles under intense training 24/7 to prepare for their fight against Shredder.
  • EPISODE 11: Mousers Attack! – The turtles must split into two teams, Leo and Raph as A-Team (which the two consider themselves as the best fighters of the group) and Michelangelo and Donatello as B-Team.
  • EPISODE 12: It Came From the Depths – The Ninja Turtles save an anger-prone alligator from Krane.
  • EPISODE 14: New Girl in Town – Snakeweed returns and he begins abducting people.  Meanwhile, Leo gives Raph a chance to be leader.

Included in “Ultimate Showdown” are episodes 13-26 (note: Episode 14 “New Girl in Town” was included in the last DVD “Enter Shredder”). The following are spoilerless summaries:

  • EPISODE 13: I, Monster - The Ninja Turtles take on the Rat King.
  • EPISODE 15: The Alien Agenda – Can Karai be trusted?
  • EPISODE 16: The Pulverizer – A Ninja Turtle wannabe (with no fighting skills whatsoever) named the Pulverizer wants to team up with the Ninja Turtles.
  • EPISODE 17: TCRI – What is Kraang really up to?
  • EPISODE 18: Cockroach Terminator- Donatello creates a spyroach to spy on Kraang, but it mutates and targets Raphael.
  • EPISODE 19: Baxter’s Gambit – After many failures, Baxter Stockman convinces Shredder to test out his new plan on the Ninja Turtles.
  • EPISODE 20: Enemy of My Enemy – Karai wants to partner with the Ninja Turtles to stop Kraang, but can they trust her?
  • EPISODE 21: Karai’s Vendetta – Shredder sends Karai to capture April.
  • EPISODE 22: The Pulverizer Returns- The Pulverizer joins the Foot Clan?
  • EPISODE 23: Parasitica – The Ninja Turtles  take on a giant mutant wasp which stings Leo.  What will happen to Leo?
  • EPISODE 24: Operation: Break Out – Donatello wants to impress April, so he tries to rescue her father Kirby from Kraang detention center.
  • EPISODES 25-26: Showdown, Parts 1 & 2 – Kraang is planning on an invasion, meanwhile the Turtles tries to stop Kraang’s portal.

VIDEO & AUDIO

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Beginning” is presented in full screen format. The CG animation and the character designs is quite different from its previous series predecessors but for the most part, the animation is pretty cool. I love how the series mixes CG but also cool artwork at times. The overall look of the city and the integration of the characters to the environments is cool and detail of the CG animation is a plus for the series. I also like how they gave each ninja turtle a distinct look. From Donatello have a gap to Raphael having a chipped shell.

But for the most part, the series does look good as one can expect on DVD.

As for audio, the series is presented in Dolby Digital and dialogue and music is clear and understandable.

There are no subtitles but closed captions are included.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles” comes with the following special features:

  • The Mutation of a Scene: Rise of the Turtles, Pt. 1 – A three minute look between the storyboard animatic, primary animation and final render of a scene from the following episode.
  • The Mutation of a Scene: Rise of the Turtles, Pt. 2 – A three minute look between the storyboard animatic, primary animation and final render of a scene from the following episode.
  • The Mutation of a Scene: Turtle Temper - A three minute look between the storyboard animatic, primary animation and final render of a scene from the following episode.
  • The Mutation of a Scene: New Friend, Old Enemy – A three minute look between the storyboard animatic, primary animation and final render of a scene from the following episode.
  • The Mutation of a Scene: I Think His Name is Baxter Stockman - A three minute look between the storyboard animatic, primary animation and final render of a scene from the following episode.
  • The Mutation of a Scene: Metalhead – A three minute look between the storyboard animatic, primary animation and final render of a scene from the following episode.
  • Theme Song: Karaoke Music Video – (1:02) A karaoke music video of the theme song.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Enter Shredder” comes with the following special features:

  • Tails from the Lair, Pt. 1 – A comic book which you can navigate page after page using your remote (or arrow keys if played on a computer).
  • Tails from the Lair, Pt. 2 – A comic book which you can navigate page after page using your remote (or arrow keys if played on a computer).
  • The Mutation of a Scene: New Girl in Town - (09:18) A look between the storyboard animatic, primary animation and final render of a scene from the following episode.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ultimate Showdown” comes with the following special features:

  • The Mutation of a Scene: The Pulverizer - (11:14) A look between the storyboard animatic, primary animation and final render of a scene from the following episode.
  • The Mutation of a Scene: TCRI - (15:02) A look between the storyboard animatic, primary animation and final render of a scene from the following episode.
  • The Mutation of a Scene: Cockroach Terminator - (10:40) A look between the storyboard animatic, primary animation and final render of a scene from the following episode.
  • The Mutation of a Scene: Baxter’s Gambit - (13:40) A look between the storyboard animatic, primary animation and final render of a scene from the following episode.
  • Animated Comic Books – Featuring animated comic books for “Tales from the Turtle Lair”, Parts Three through Six.  A comic book which you can navigate page after page using your remote (or arrow keys if played on a computer).
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Video Game Trailer – (:56) Game trailer for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”.

EXTRAS:

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Beginning – The Complete 1st Season” comes with a slip case.

I was very fortunate to be around when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book came out and since then, like many other adults who grew up with the franchise, it’s been part of our lives. May it be when were a child watching the animated series or playing the video game at the arcade or at home on a video game console. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” has been a big part of American pop culture for 25 years.

I have grown up watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and seeing every incarnation of the series. And so far, each has brought something new and different to keep the series fresh and new for the new generation of viewers watching it.

With this new series that began in 2012, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” somewhat gets a new reboot. The characters are the same four ninja turtles but they now have their distinct style, their own look and some characters are much different than how they were presented in past series.

This time around, I watched the series with my then ten-year-old. He was just born when the 2003 series was featured on television but at three or four, I began introducing him to the original series and also the 2003 version. And he also had a chance to watch the 1997 live action version as well.

But while watching the series, I can tell he was captivated by this newer series because the series is now CG. He loved seeing the characters and he kept talking about the commercials on Nickelodeon portraying Donatello as dumb as SpongeBob SquarePants’ Patrick and he enjoyed the craziness of that character.

And watching this series, I have to say it was pretty cool. I’m glad the “Cowabunga” days of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are gone and while I thought the 2003 series was fantastic as it featured a more darker tone, I think for today’s younger fans, especially the Nickelodeon audience, children will enjoy this series. Yes, there is fighting violence, but nothing to severe.

And with “Enter Shredder”, this DVD features Shredder making his entrance and the turtles having to go against them.

But the focus on teamwork is evident in this series as the group learns that despite who is better at fighting, they need each other.  Meanwhile, April also becomes a significant part of the series, as she continues to try to find her father.

With “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ultimate Showdown”, instead of one disc, you get the remaining 13 episodes to complete the first season.  So, for fans of the series, you’re getting an action-packed volume of the Ninja Turtles and what best than to bring all these antagonists from past series to the series but also opening up the gate to possibly see other characters possibly showing up.  Hun, Silver Sentry, Asagi Yojimbo?  Anything is possible now?

But I also like how the series tends to incorporate April much more.  She’s actually having a part in the series and writers are doing a good job of giving fans something different and new with this newer series.  And most importantly, utilizing notable celebrities to do the voicework for the series.

These modern Ninja Turtles are still fun to watch and yet different from previous series but still retaining the positive aspects of previous series.

The series has always been about Splinter and his four teenage mutant ninja turtles taking on Shredder and his ninja and other bad guys and that still exists in this 2012 series. While April is changed a bit, as Splinter is teaching her to be a ninja, which is quite fascinating.

Picture and audio quality are good on DVD and you get animated comic books plus the “Mutation of a Scene” featurettes that are showcased on all three DVD volumes and more!

Overall, if you are a parent of a child who loves the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” or a person that is young at heart and wants to catch up on this latest animated series, then “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Beginning – The Complete 1st Season” for its cheap price and the fact you get the complete first season, is a DVD set worth purchasing!


 

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