Kingdom: The Complete First Season (a J!-ENT Anime on DVD Review)

May 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 


“Kingdom” is one of the best anime series I have watched in quite some time, and I have to say it is one of the most exciting action-driven anime series I have watched since I have been reviewing anime series since 1993. “Kingdom: The Complete First Season” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Kingdom: The Complete First Season


DURATION: Episodes 1-38 (Duration: 975 Minutes, 6 DVD’s)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, Japanese Stereo, English Stereo, English subtitles



Release Date: January 26, 2016

Originally created by Yasuhisa Hara

Directed by Jun Kamiya

Series Composition by Naruhisa Arakawa

Music by Minako Seki

Art Director by Junichi Higashi

Animation Production by Pierrot

Featuring the following voice talent:

Masakazu Morita/Justin Cook as Ri Shin (Xin)

Jun Fukuyama as Piao/Yin Zing

Junichi Suwabe as Lord Changping

Koji Yusa as Heki

Kouki Miyata as Seikyō

Masaya Takatsuka as Hou Ken

Mie Sonozaki as Yang Duan He (You Tan Hei)

Rie Kugimiya as Karyō Ten

Rikiya Koyama as Ō Ki

Yōko Hikasa as Kyō Kai

Yutaka Nakano as Shōbun-kun

When low-born servant boys Piao and Xin set out to become the world’s greatest war generals, they quickly find themselves caught up in a violent struggle between two noblemen plotting to overthrow the King. After Piao is killed protecting the rightful ruler of the kingdom of Qin, Xin sets out on a campaign for revenge that leads him straight into the fire of war.

Now, with a target on his back and an army of enemies standing in his way, it will be up to a boy with no name and a young king without a throne to return order to their war-torn country in this historical action-drama based on the Tezuka Award-winning manga, Kingdom.

In 2006, mangaka Yasuhisa Hara created his award-winning manga series “Kingdom”.

A fictionalized account of the Warring States period, the series has sold over 20 million copies in 2015 and was the grand prize winner of the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2013.

The anime series adaptation produced by Pierrot aired on NHK in 2012-2013, with a second season having aired in 2013-2014.

And now the first season of “Kingdom” is now available on DVD in the U.S. courtesy of FUNimation.

The anime series begins with the introduction of two war-orphans, Xin and Piao.  Both often training their fighting skills and have their dreams of becoming “Great Generals of the Heavens” in the kingdom of Qin.  But both are peasants and are household slaves.

Xin is more of the hotheaded and blunt of the two, one day while fighting, a minister arrives and gives Piao the opportunity to have a position in the Palace, while Xin who is saddened he would be separated from Piao, knows that if one of them can make their dreams come true to become a general, then their dreams will be fulfilled.

A short time has past and one day, a bloodied and near-death Piao arrives and tells Xin that he must fulfill a mission as he is unable to make it.  Piao tells Xin that an assassin hired by the Cheng Jiao Faction is responsible and that their dreams will now be up to him but he must take a map and fulfill the rest of the mission.  Piao dies and Xin wants revenge on who is responsible for killing him.

Xin is joined by Heliao Dao, the last descendant of her Mountain Tribe, the Kyuumei and has disguised herself as a male.  Both try to find out what happened to Piao and it was learned that the reason why Piao was taken to the palace was to become the body double of King Ying Zheng who was targeted by opposing forces.  A job which Piao was proudly to take.

As Xin takes up the mantle to protect Ying Zheng (in reality, would become the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang and the person responsible for unifying China), the journey of the anime series would show how Xin would develop his skills, learn from the best generals and eventually become a field commander and prepare for his journey to make his dream of becoming a general come true.

But every step of the way, the kingdom of Zhao and their powerful generals are bent on destroying the Qin and their legendary general, Wang Qi.

“Kingdom” consists of:

Xin – The main protagonist.  A young man who dreams of becoming the “World’s Greatest General”.  The story follows this war orphan as he slowly becomes a commander and works and trains to become a general and taking part of many major military campaigns with his “Flying Xin Unit”.

Ying Zheng – The young king of Qin, who looks like Xin’s best friend Piao.  Dreams of uniting China.

Piao – Xin’s childhood friend and he and Xin dream of becoming “Generals of the Heavens”.  One day, he is approached by the minister for a position in the Palace.

Heliao Dao – The last descendant of her Mountain Tribe, the Kyuumei.  She disguises herself as a male and is trying to find her way in the world.  She also has a crush on Xin, who doesn’t know she is a girl.

Changwen-jun – A former warrior and senior adviser of Ying Zheng.

Bi – A loyal subordinate of Changwen Jun and a 1000-man commander.

Qiang Hui – The heir of the legendary assassin clan “Chi You”, only Xin and Dao know that she is female.  A wonderful soldier and strategist.  Obsessed with getting revenge for the one responsible of murdering her sister.

Wang Qi – The legendary Strange Bird general of the Qin Empire and one of the Six Great Generals of Qin who was a general under Ying Zheng’s father.  Responsible for conquering the middle kingdoms and is an excellent warrior and strategist.  He is the mentor of Xin and dreams of uniting China.

Li Mu – The Prime Minister of Zhao and the series primary antagonist.  A brilliant strategist seeking to destroy the Qin.

Pang Nuan – A general for the Zhao, he doesn’t command any troops and proclaims himself “The God of War”.  He is literally a one-man army and has only lost to one man in the past, Wang Qi.


A fantastic anime series that compliments Yasuhisa Hara’s manga series.  The emotion of the characters are well-displayed, action on the battlefield is wonderfully presented. Colors are vibrant and I really wished this series received a Blu-ray release.  But for the most part, “Kingdom” looks great on DVD.


As for the audio, “Kingdom” is presented in Japanese and English stereo.  Both are well-acted but since I watched the series originally in its Japanese format, I’m a bit more biased towards the Japanese voice acting.  But I’m glad that this series is presented in both Japanese and English and anime action fans can surely enjoy this awesome series.

Subtitles are in English.


Kingdom” unfortunately doesn’t come with any special features.

It’s been long time since I have been excited about watching an anime series.

I have been aware of the rave reviews that Yasuhisa Hara’s “Kingdom” manga series had received and watching the anime series, I was in awe of how entertaining this action-driven anime series was.

From its smart display of using strategy of the Qin Empire and its enemies, the storyline is wonderfully written, pacing is excellent and unlike other anime series with plenty of characters, “Kingdom” is not hampered by complicated storylines, too much focus on other characters in order to create filler.

This is a straight-up, action-driven anime series focused on Xin’s learning of the battlefield, growing as a commander and working towards his goal of becoming a general and how he inspires people around him.

When focusing on another character, it gives short glimpses of their past, but never to the point it seems like filler just to extend a battle.  So, for those who are familiar with series such as “Naruto” and “Bleach” and had to wait season after season (several years) just to finish one war, “Kingdom” doesn’t waste any time at all.  And that’s a major plus!

The series also showcases the importance of war, but also how the deaths of comrades lies on the shoulders of generals and episodes show the bonds with a leader and their soldiers.

While the first dozen episodes does a good job of introducing Xin and his temper getting the best of him, but yet showing qualities of a great soldier, it’s the overall pacing of seeing his growth on the battlefield that I found very intriguing, the strategies employed to be fascinating and the storyline is fantastic.

“Kingdom: The Complete First Season” features the first 38 episodes and I can’t wait for season 2.

Presented in both Japanese and English, anime fans who love war and action-driven storylines will enjoy “Kingdom”.  While I wish the anime series was released on Blu-ray, the anime series still looks good on DVD.  There are no special features included.

While not having any special features is unfortunate, the fact that you get all 38-episodes for the first season for this DVD collection at a great price is wonderful!

Overall, “Kingdom” is one of the best anime series I have watched in quite some time, and I have to say it is one of the most exciting action-driven anime series I have watched since I have been reviewing anime series since 1993.

“Kingdom: The Complete First Season” is highly recommended!


One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Five (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

May 12, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 


“One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Five” features Luffy’s race to free his brother Ace from execution, but Luffy must take on his biggest rival yet, Magellan.

Image courtesy of © 1999 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Five

DURATION: Episodes 434-445 (Duration: 320 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English and Japanese stereo



Release Date: January 26, 2016

Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto, Konosuke Uda, Munehisa Sakai

Series Composition by Hirohiko Uesaka

Script by Hirohiko Uesaka, Hiroshi Hashimoto, Junki Takegami, Michiru Shimada, Naoki Koga, Ryota Yamaguchi, Suminori Takegami, Yoshiyuki Suga

Music by Kouhei Tanaka, Shiroh Hamaguchi

Character Design by Kazuya Hisada, Noboru Koizumi

Animation Production by Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Young as Nico Robin

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Duncan Brannan as Mr. 3

Kazuki Yao/Barry Yandell as Bon Clay

The Burning Hot Hell of Impel Down serves as the backdrop for a showdown with Warden Magellan, a monster with a penchant for poisoning prisoners! Luffy throws down with the toxic terror, but no warrior escapes unscathed when pummeling a foe too poisonous to touch.

After the rubber-man succumbs to the toxins breaking down his body, Bon Clay braves subzero temperatures and bloodthirsty wolves to track down a miracle worker rumored to have vanished into the gates of hell! Enter Emporio Ivankov. This larger-than-life personality has the Healing Hormones needed to save Luffy, but the cure could take ten years off the pirate’s life!

Consequences be damned, Luffy and Bon Clay take the ultimate leap of faith as they hurtle toward a reunion with Crocodile – and prison riot that could spring them from the clink and speed them on the way to saving Ace!

The race is on to save Luffy’s brother, Ace from being executed.

With Ace being held prisoner inside the hellish prison known as Impel Down, Luffy and Bon Clay must confront the poisonous warden, Warden Magellan.

Find out if Luffy is able to achieve his goal in “One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Five”, available now on DVD from FUNimation!

What is “One Piece”?

“ONE PIECE” is a popular anime series based on the popular manga series serialized in Shonen Jump by Eiichiro Oda. Suffice to say, “ONE PIECE” is the highest selling manga for Weekly Shonen Jump and its popularity has extended to various anime (via the TV series, OVA and films) and video games in America and also worldwide.

The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is in its 17th season and a total of 741 episodes have been aired in Japan.

Despite receiving a heavily edited version in North America via 4Kids Entertainment earlier on, FUNimation began releasing the original, uncut versions since May of 2008 and here we are in 2016, now with the DVD release of “One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Five” (Episodes 434-445), available now, courtesy of FUNimation.

“ONE PIECE” is an adventure anime about a 17-year-old boy named Monkey D. Luffy who gained enormous strength (and stretching abilities) after eating a magical demon fruit. He eventually teams up with a group of pirates and have the name “The Straw Hats”. Luffy’s driven to one day obtain the most sought out treasure known as “One Piece” and eventually become the King of the Pirates.

So far, in “One Piece”, the group has entered Fishman Island and meet an old enemy, Hatchan and his friends Camie and Papagg. But also the first mate of Gold Roger, Silvers Rayleigh and also 9 rookie pirates known as the “11 Supernovas”.

The Straw Hat Pirates find out that their mermaid friend, Camie is being sold off in an auction and they must rescue her. News from the World Government arrives that they are going to execute the captured Portgas D. Ace, a move that could provoke a war with Whitebeard.

But what happens when the team fights for their life against Bartholomew Kuma, one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea?

The Straw Hat Pirates consists of:

Monkey D. Luffy – A 17-year-old guy who is the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates and dreams to be a pirate king by getting his hands on the “ONE PIECE” artifact. When he was young, he accidentally ate a devil fruit which made his body rubbery and can stretch and blow up. An airhead of sorts, loves to eat but always believes and fights for his friends.

Roronoa Zoro – A 19-year-old skilled swordsman. A skilled and very strong fighter. Wants to be the greatest swordsman in the world.

Nami – The navigator of the group. The main female crew member and really good at weapons.

Usopp – A 17-year-old marksman. A talented inventor and artistic. Known by his long nose, his marksmanship with slingshots and weapons are great. He quit the Straw Hat Pirates and took on a new identity.

Sanji – The chef of the crew. A skilled fighter that uses only kicks in battle and is passionate towards Nami.

Tony Tony Chopper – A reindeer with a blue nose. Ate a devil fruit known as human-human fruit which makes him human in someways but keeping his reindeer look. Able to speak to humans, walk upright and also able to have transformations to become a huge beast. But his talent is his medical skills as he was trained by the Doctrine to become a doctor. Has very low self-confidence because he had been treated badly not only by his kind but also by humans and has not really had a friend but the Doctor and Doctrine.

Nico Robin – The former Vice President of Baroque Works who has become the newest member of the Straw Hat Pirates despite some of the crew not trusting her since she was a former enemy. Has the ability to use her body parts and project them elsewhere and other mysterious abilities not yet known.

Franky – A cyborg who can rebuild his body using pieces of metal and his dream is to build a ship and become its shipwright and sail to the end of the world.

Brook – A pirate from before the time of Roger, he was killed but because of the Paramecia-type-Revive-Revive Fruit, he rose again as a skeleton. An excellent musician, he becomes a member of the Straw Hat Pirates.


For most television series, because they are created nearly before they are aired on television, unlike film and OVA’s, there typically is not much detail involved in a Japanese animated television series. “ONE PIECE” is probably one of those rare exceptions in that it has really cool character designs and very detailed artistic backgrounds. Of course, since it is on DVD, you will see some artifacting, combing and edge enhancement but it’s not so noticeable unless you are really looking for it.

The anime series is presented in standard 4:3 definition but for a television series, “ONE PIECE” sports cool and unique character designs and beautifully painted artistic backgrounds. Definitely one of the better looking anime series that has remained consistent and has not downgraded since it first aired on television. Character designer Kazuya Hisada (who worked on the “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball GT” series) and Noboru Koizumi (who worked on “Giant Robo”, “Dragon Ball GT” and “Tenchi Universe”) have been very good of capturing “One Piece” creator Eiichiro Oda’s unique style.


As for the audio, “One Piece” is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English Stereo and Japanese Stereo. Of course, the English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound is the better audio choice to listen to, although one who has a receiver that can set their audio to all channels can definitely enjoy the Japanese stereo track as well. But both audio tracks are done very well and I have to admit that “ONE PIECE” has one of the most solid English dub tracks for an anime TV series. Very well done on both audio tracks but again, have been very impressed by the voice talent for the series thus far.

Subtitles are in English.


One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Five” comes with the following special features:


  • EPISODE 434 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by ADR Director Mike McFarland, Colin Clinkenbeard (voice of Luffy), Duncan Brannan (voice of Mr. 3) and Barry Yandell (voice of Bon Clay).


  • Cooking with Sanji – (21:59) Featuring Eric Vale (voice of Sanji) in a cooking featurette for a Thai pasta dish.
  • Episode 442 Commentary – ADR Director Mike McFarland with voice talents Colin Clinkenbeard (voice of Luffy), Jeremy Inman (voice of Magelan) and Randy Pearlman (voice of Ivankoff).
  • Textless Opening – Textless opening song for “Kaze wo Sagashite”
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming FUNimation releases.

With the release of “One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Five”, the episodes are from the 13th season (featuring episodes 434-445), Luffy and Mr. 2 (Bon Clay) are trying to find Luffy’s brother, Ace, who has been captured and sentenced for execution by the ruthless and poisonous warden Magellan.

As Magellan is prepping Ace for the Marines, Luffy is willing to fight the warden, despite his ability of excreting poison.

Meanwhile, in order to survive, Luffy may need to turn to former enemies for their help.

As for the DVD, picture quality is very good on DVD, audio is also crystal clear with both voice acting soundtracks are well done, as “One Piece” is one of the best cast anime series, everyone is right for their role and considering that Toei was strict on the casting for the English dub, FUNimation did a fine job in their cast selection and I was pleased with both Japanese and English dub soundtracks. As for special features, you get two audio commentaries and a cooking featurette with Sanji dub voice actor, Eric Vale.

Overall, “One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Five” is an another action-packed volume as Luffy must take on his most dangerous opponent yet, Warden Magellan.  Meanwhile, trying to survive in order to save his brother Ace from execution.

If you are a “One Piece” fan, “One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Five” is worth watching!



East Side Sushi (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

April 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 


“East Side Sushi” in some ways incorporates what I have seen in California, New York and other metropolitan cities. From its food culture of fusion foods, to people of multicultural backgrounds discovering another culture’s food and having the drive to learn to prepare it correctly but also breaking down barriers and people of different cultures understanding, learning from each other. A delightful and inspiring film…Anthony Lucero’s “East Side Sushi” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Blue Sun Pictures LLC. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: East Side Sushi


DURATION: 106 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Brief Violence, Suggestive Content and Mild Language)

AVAILABLE ON: May 3, 2016

Directed by Anthony Lucero

Written by Anthony Lucero

Executive Produced by Zheng Xu


Diana Elizabeth Torres as Juana

Yutaka Takeuchi as Aki

Rodrigo Duarte Clark as Apa

Kaya Jade Aguirre as Lydia

Roji Oyama as Mr. Yoshida

Lane Nishikawa as Jimmy Nishida

Miyoko Sakatani as Mrs. Yoshida

Single mom Juana, can slice and dice anything with great speed and precision. After working at a fruit-vending cart for years, she decides to take a job at a local Japanese restaurant, which provides security and benefits. Intrigued by the food, she learns to make a multitude of sushi on her own, fusing it with her own culture. When she attempts to become a sushi chef, she is shut down since she is the ‘wrong’ race and gender. Against all odds, Juana embarks on a journey of self-discovery, determined to not let anyone stop her from achieving her dream.

View and download a “Tasty” video that shows the step-by-step way to create the Green Diablo Sushi Roll from EAST SIDE SUSHI

Watch an Exclusive Clip of how the talents prepared for their role on EAST SIDE SUSHI

Lucero may not be a well-known director or writer, but many people may be familiar with his visual effects works for other films.

Having worked on visual effects for films such as “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones”, “The Avengers”, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2”, “Men In Black 2”, “Iron Man” to name a few, the visual effects veteran makes his directorial and screenplay debut for “East Side Sushi”.

An award-winning and nominated indie film at film festival across the United States, the film will be released on DVD Courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in May 2016.

The film stars Diana Elizabeth Torres (“Private Number”, “Inherent Vice”, “Morir de Pie), Yutaka Takeuchi (“Battleship”, “Letters fro Iwo Jima”), Rodrigo Duarte Clark, Roji Oyama, Lane Nishikawa, Miyoko Sakatani and more.

The film revolves around Juana (portrayed by Diana Elizabeth Torres).  She and her father Apa (portrayed by Rodrigo Duarte Clark) are trying to make ends meet.  Juana works at a fruit cart and a single mother for daughter Lydia (portrayed by Kaya Jade Aguirre) nearly is killed by robbers.

Finding a job at a local gym, Juana has experience working at Mexican restaurants and can cook but often, has not found a job that she really enjoys.

One day, while walking from her work, she passes by a Japanese sushi restaurant who is hiring help.  Juana decides to go for the interview and is hired to work in the back, washing dishes, carrying bags of rice and later cutting vegetables.

As she learns about Japanese food preparation, she learns about sushi from chef Aki (portrayed by Yutaka Takeuchi) and through her observation, she quickly learns how to prepare sushi, cutting the fish and Aki is surprised of how Juana is passionate about making Japanese food.

But Juana also wants to learn how to be a sushi chef but also find ways to create a fusion of Japanese and Mexican ingredients to make creations for her own family.

And as Juana works at the restaurant for more than a year and wants to get better and see herself grow at the restaurant, the owner of the restaurant, Mr. Yoshida is not so thrilled to see her staff that is to work in the back, trying to become a sushi chef.

Juana quickly learns that due to culture, women are not seen as chefs at sushi restaurant and learns that Mr. Yoshida wants to promote authenticity at his restaurant, wanting customers to know they are receiving quality food from those who are sushi chefs in Japan or were trained in Japan.

How will Juana prove herself that she can be a sushi chef?  Or can she?


“East Side Sushi” is presented in 1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and English 5.1 Dolby Digital. Picture quality is good, as one can expect on DVD. But I wished this film was released on Blu-ray.   But overall picture quality and audio is very good.

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


“East Side Sushi” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind the Sushi – (13:04) A look behind-the-scenes on the making of “East Side Sushi” with excerpts of the auditions, training the actors on how to prepare the sushi but also the research done for the film.
  • Behind the Music – (4:51) Composer Alex Mandel discusses the music of the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – (4:07) Featuring two deleted scenes with commentary.

Anthony Lucero’s “East Side Sushi” brings up a topic that I know myself and other sushi enthusiasts have discussed many times.  Can people who are from other ethnicities other than Japanese become a sushi chef?

While I have traveled far to sample the best sushi all over Japan, I have also have traveled to even the smallest areas in California and have discovered Japanese restaurants in which the chefs were Chinese, Korean, Hmong, Mexican and of other ethnicities.

It has been intriguing to me and always a conversation starter among me and other friends who are passionate about sushi.

And what a fitting storyline which delves further into the topic on not just ethnicity but also a woman as a sushi chef, which you never see at a restaurant.

“East Side Sushi”, a story about a single mother named Juana who had worked at many La Taqueria and a family fruit stand (and fears the job after being beaten and robbed) but is needing a job to support her family including her father.

So Juana applies as a dishwasher for a sushi restaurant. And while working there, she learns about sushi, the Japanese approach to sushi and its ingredients and preparing them when the sushi chefs are busy. And as she becomes passionate about making sushi, she even tries to combine sushi with Mexican ingredients at home in order to feed her family and learn on how t make it.

But having learned from a Japanese chef, she now wants to become a sushi chef in the front, instead of being kept in the back room. And of course, the conundrum of a woman and a non-Japanese being a sushi chef, becomes the main issue in the film.

As the owner of the restaurant and even a few patrons want Japanese authenticity.

What’s interesting is that this is a topic that me and friends have discussed many times.

Would you eat at a sushi restaurant where sushi is not prepared by a Japanese chef or someone that was not trained in Japan?

This is a topic which sushi enthusiasts often talk about but in Juana’s case, she learned from a Japanese sushi chef and her intellect and observation of trying to mimic the best, has led her to strive to become a sushi chef and bettering herself in the process.  But also finding ways of creating culinary fusion by combining Japanese with Mexican ingredients.

“East Side Sushi” is a delightful film and a solid debut for writer/director Anthony Lucero, who is best known for working in visual effects for Hollywood’s top superhero and sci-fi action films.

And as an independent film, the performance by Diana Elizabeth Torres, Yutaka Takeuchi, Rodrigo Duarte Clark and Roji Oyama were well-done.  The cast members received sushi training courtesy of Andy Matsuda and his Sushi Chef Institute and while I’m not an erudite on the exact preparation, preparation of vinegar rice or the cutting of sushi, the actors did look convincing.

And even small moments involving chopsticks on top of the rice, made me groan.  So, it was interesting to see those little tidbits added to the film.

Last, I felt it was great for filmmaker Anthony Lucero to bring parts of East Oakland to the big screen. It also added a bit of authenticity of the different multicultural backgrounds in the city and also influence the two distinct cultures featured on screen, as we get to learn more about Juana’s family and also those working at the sushi restaurant.

Speaking of sushi restaurants, sushi enthusiasts in the East Bay will notice the scenes in the film are from sushi restaurants: Coach Sushi, b-dama and Mijori Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar.

Sure, the Iron Chef style ending does get a bit campy but for the most part, I found the film to be charming, enjoyable and a lot of fun to watch.

I also enjoyed the hint of romance between Juan and Chef Aki.  In California, I know many Japanese who have dated and married American men who are of different ethnicities, so I love the multicultural touch this incorporates and showing the appreciation of other cultures.

Overall, “East Side Sushi” in some ways incorporates what I have seen in California, New York and other metropolitan cities.  From its food culture of fusion foods, to people of multicultural backgrounds discovering another culture’s food and having the drive to learn to prepare it correctly but also breaking down barriers and people of different cultures understanding, learning from each other.

A delightful and inspiring film…Anthony Lucero’s “East Side Sushi” is recommended!


The Great Hypnotist (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

April 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 


“The Great Hypnotist” is a wonderful Chinese mystery-thriller that has you thinking one way, until the film pulls of major twists that will either surprise you or turn you off. It’s unexpected, but I felt the sudden twists in the storyline made this film much more enjoyable. “The Great Hypnotists” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Wanda Media Co. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Great Hypnotist


DURATION: 102 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Mandarin 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment


AVAILABLE ON: April 5, 2016

Directed by Leste Chen

Written by Ren Peng

Executive Produced by Zheng Xu


Zheng Xu as Xu Ruining

Karen Mok as Ren Xiaoyan/Gu Jie

Jing Hu as Chen Ting

Zhong Lu as Pro Fang

David Yao-Qing Wang as Luo Yusong

Xu Ruining (Xu Zheng), a nationally renowned therapist incredibly skilled in hypnotherapy. But when his career takes off, he meets a patient named Ren Xiaoyan (Karen Mok) who brings him a complex problem. Xu Ruining discovers that with this particular case, the struggle between the doctor and the patient is not as easy as he expected. Despite her thin and weak appearance, Ren Xiaoyan always reacts violently to any problems with Xu Ruining. He wonders what exactly makes her closed-off to everyone. Is it from a painful memory in her childhood or the ring mark still visible on her middle finger? While sparing no efforts to figure out what has happened, he finds himself falling into a horrible trap…


From Leste Chen, the director of “The Heirloom” and “Eternal Summer” comes the 2014 Chinese mystery thriller, “The Great Hypnotist”.

Starring actor Zheng Xu (“Lost in Thailand”, “No Man’s Land”, “Lost in Hong Kong”) and actress Karen Mok (“Shaolin Soccer”, “Man of Tai Chi”, “Around the World in 80 Days”, “Fallen Angels”), “The Great Hypnotist” would earn over $44 million (US) at the Chinese Box Office and earned a total of $45.6 million (US) internationally.

And now, “The Great Hypnotist” will be released on DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“The Great Hypnotist” begins with an introduction to Dr. Xu Ruining (portrayed by Zheng Xu), who psychiatrist who treats his patients through hypnotism.

His former Academic Professor, Professor Fang (portrayed by Zhong Lu) asks for his help with a patient named Ren Xiaoyan (portrayed by Karen Mok), a patient who has stumped many psychiatrists.

As a favor, Dr. Ruining takes on the patient.  As he meets Ren, he realizes that the things she talks about is not normal.  She claims that she can talk to dead people, which Dr. Ruining refuses to believe in and feels that perhaps she is a mental case.

Through hypnotism, he tries to find out why she thinks she can talk to ghosts, but Ren is just as defiant to ask why he doesn’t believe her.

But through his analysis of trying to treat Ren, he starts to find himself in unusual territory.  What if Ren is telling the truth?



“The Great Hypnotist” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and Mandarin 5.1 Dolby Digital. Picture quality is good on DVD. But I wish this film was released on Blu-ray.  The film features good use of CG and visual effects, which work well for the film’s storyline.  Audio is crystal clear with action scenes utilizing the film’s rear surround channels effectively.

Subtitles are in English.


“The Great Hypnotist” comes with a theatrical trailer.


A little mix of “The Sixth Sense”, in truth, what you are expecting to happen in this film, doesn’t happen because there is a significant twist that sends the film to a whole new direction.

Quite often that diverting path for a film can be scrutinized and may work against the film’s storyline, but for Leste Chen’s mystery thriller, it works very well!

The film revolves around the battle of different perspectives as Dr. Ruining is a man who proves everything by fact and there is a reason for a patient having certain afflictions.  But the character of Ren is adamant that she is not crazy and she can see dead people and tries to explain to Dr. Ruining of the experience she has had.

While similar to “The Sixth Sense”, because of the strict Chinese film bureau on supernatural themes onscreen, Chinese films can’t show horror like other countries.

But without spoiling the film, viewers are given two significant twists that literally cancels everything a viewer has watched for the first hour of the film and while one can see it as a bad thing, in the context of the film’s storyline, who the characters represent and why, I happen to find the storyline to be clever.

Also, I enjoyed the film for having this battle of perspectives between Dr. Ruining and Ren.  Actor Zheng Xu has no doubt become the popular actor to come from China, while Hong Kong singer/actress Karen Mok, who has won us over with many of her past films in the ’90s and 2000’s, returns in a wonderful role for her to showcase her emotion portrayal and a reminder of why she has won multiple awards in the past for her acting.

Both do a wonderful job working with each other, as the camera focuses on these two characters primarily.  But while most of the film is shot in Dr. Ruining’s office, there is a good use of editing and visual effects to dig into the psyche of a character and literally taking them to another world or alternate reality.

While I wish the film was released on Blu-ray instead of DVD, the DVD is as good as one can expect on DVD.  Picture quality is good, lossless audio showcase the more action-driven scenes through the rear surround channels.  And unfortunately, the DVD is barebones with no special features but a theatrical trailer.

Overall, “The Great Hypnotist” is a wonderful Chinese mystery-thriller that has you thinking one way, until the film pulls of major twists that will either surprise you or turn you off.  It’s unexpected, but I felt the sudden twists in the storyline made this film much more enjoyable.

“The Great Hypnotists” is recommended!


Stealing Cars (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

March 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 


“Stealing Cars” is an average film with character situations that seem a bit too farfetched for its own good.  But it’s still an entertaining film to watch and pass the time.

© 2015 Cuckoo Luke LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Stealing Cars


DURATION: 101 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation 1:85:1, English, French and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified, Spanish, Thai

RATED: R (Language Including Some Sexual References and Brief Drug Use)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Released Dated: April 5, 2016

Directed by Bradley Kaplan

Written by Will Aldis, Steve Mackall

Produced by Dan Keston, Rachel Winter

Executive Produced: Russell Geyser, Erika Hampson, Stephen Levinson, Clay Percorin, Mark Wahlberg

Co-Executive Producer: Sean Lydiard

Music by Phil Mossman

Cinematographer: Martin Ahlgren

Edited by Jarrett Fijal, Sabine Hoffman, Adam Zuckerman

Casting by Venus Kanani, Meredith Tucker, Mary Vernieu, Christina Wright

Production Design by Paul Avery

Art Direction by Lisa Myers

Set Decoration by Jesika Farkas

Costume Design by Deirdra Elizabeth Govan


Emory Cohen as Billy Wyatt

Heather Lind as Nurse Simms

William H. Macy as Philip Wyatt

Paul Sparks as Conrad Sean Lewis

John Leguizamo as Montgomery De La Cruz

Felicity Huffman as Kimberly Wyatt

Mike Epps as Sherif Till

Chance Kelly as Jimmy Carmichael

Paul Borghese as Guard Guarino

Jeff Lima as Carlos

Tariq Trotter as Lionel McWrothers

Al Calderon as Nathan Stein

Billy Wyatt (Emory Cohen) is a young man with tremendous promise, but a troubled past leads him to the Bernville Camp for Boys. Billy must navigate his way through dangerous inmates and a cruel and punishing staff, but during it all, he learns to inspire others and find out the truth about himself in the process. STEALING CARS is a compelling drama with powerful performances by Emory Cohen, John Leguizamo, Mike Epps and Academy Award nominees William H. Macy – Best Supporting Actor, FARGO, 1996 and Felicity Huffman – Best Actress, TRANSAMERICA, 2005.

The first film from filmmaker Bradley Kaplan and written by Will Aldis (“Avenging Agelo”, “Black Cadillac”) comes the American crime drama, “Stealing Cars”.

Executive produced by Mark Wahlberg, the film stars Emory Cohen (“Brooklyn”, “Afterschool”, “The Place Beyond the Pines”), Heather Lind (“Demolition”, “Turn”, “Guest House”, “A Single Shot”), William H. Macy (“Fargo”, “Jurassic Park III”, “Pleasantville”), Paul Sparks (“Mud”, “Boardwalk Empire”, “Synecdoche, New York”), John Leguizamo (“Moulin Rouge”, “Carlito’s Way”, “Romeo + Juliet”), Felicity Huffman (“Desperate Housewives”, “Transamerica”, “Sports Night”) and Mike Epps (“The Hangover” films, “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”, “Next Friday”).

“Stealing Cars” made its premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June 2015 and now the film will be available on DVD in April 2016.

“Stealing Cars” revolves around Billy Wyatt (portrayed by Emory Cohen), a rebellious teenager who is highly intelligent but because of his troubles, he is sentenced to time at the Bernvillle Camp for Boys.

The camp is led by its cruel camp led by Montgomery De La Cruz (portrayed by John Leguizamo) and officers led by Conrad Sean Lewis (portrayed by Paul Sparks) who try to break down the kids, many who are dangerous inmates.

At first, many of the inmates see Billy as weird and unusual, but because of his rebellious nature, begins to win over various inmates by inspiring them.

Meanwhile, Emory befriends the often punished Nathan Stein (portrayed by Al Calderon) and falls for the camp’s nurse, Nurse Simms (portrayed by Heather Lind).

But as Billy tries to give hope to those in the camp, he starts to discover more about himself and the source of his troubles.


“Stealing Cars” is presented in Anamorphic widescreen (1:85:1) and is presented in English, French and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1.

Picture quality looks and sounds good as can be expected on DVD. There are moments of good surround usage during a fight and an accident.  But for the most part picture, “Stealing Cars” features crystal clear dialogue and audio..

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified, Japanese, Thai and Korean.


“Stealing Cars” comes with no special features.

“Stealing Cars” is a title that may imply that the film is about a young man serving time for vehicular theft.

But the film’s title is probably not the best description of this film as it is less about stealing cars and more about redemption and personal discovery.

Emory Cohen plays the protagonist, a rebellious teen named Billy Wyatt.  We are given pieces of his past which involves his father (portrayed by William H. Macy) and his sister enjoying family time together.

What we don’t know is what brought this highly intelligent teenager to the Bernville Camp for Boys.  It is quickly established that being the new guy at the camp, there are dangerous inmates but immediately, Billy shows his unusual side that irritates his fellow inmates, but also wins their respect because of his lack of bowing down to authority.

The camp which is headed by Leguizamo’s Montgomery De La Cruz runs a tight camp and the officers led by Conrad Sean Lewis (portrayed by Paul Sparks), tries to breakdown any inmate that shows any sign of weakness or disobedience.

Suffering in the camp is the often sick Nathan Stein (portrayed by Al Calderon), who is suffering, but yet the camp does nothing to help him and officers who are fed up with his sickness try to get Nathan punished.  But often to his rescue is Billy, who befriends Nathan and others at the camp.

As Billy falls for Nurse Simms (portrayed by Heather Lind) and is not happy to see his mother Kimberly (portrayed by Felicity Huffman), we start to see that something bad has happened to Billy and led him to a troublesome path.  And the cause is something he has buried deep in his head and never wanted to confront.

What crime has Billy committed and led him to the Bernville Camp for Boys?  And will he survive in the camp due to its cruel and punishing staff?

While the film is interesting and seeing bits and pieces of Billy’s past and how we start to see why he became a rebel, the film suffers from loose character connections and consistency.

As mentioned, the title of the film has nothing to do with the overall film.  The film is a drama about self-discovery but also how an intelligent and rebellious teen is able to survive punishment but also get along with his fellow inmates.

But after one escape from the heavily gated camp, it’s hard for me to believe that Billy can keep escaping from the camp and returning anytime he wants or when the Sheriff brings him back home.   Also, a potential relationship by a high school teenager and the camp’s nurse and a potential romantic scene feels out of place in the film.

Also discovering Billy’s past leaves a few questions to his criminal past and what caused a riff between him and his mother, is really never answered.  In fact, there are some plot situations that unfortunely, has no answers.

As for the DVD, “Stealing Cars” is a barebones DVD.  While picture quality and audio is what one can expect on DVD.  It’s a bummer that no special features are included.

Overall, “Stealing Cars” is an average film with character situations that seem a bit too farfetched for its own good.  But it’s still an entertaining film to watch and pass the time.


LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

March 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 


For the young or the young at heart, “LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales” is a wonderful and hilarious CG animated series for the entire family!

DVD TITLE: LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales

DURATION: (Five Episodes) 115 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:78:1, English, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 2.0 Dolby Digital Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish



Release Date: March 1, 2016

Directed by Michael Hegner, Martin Skov

Written by Michael Price, Mick Kelly, Matty Smith

Original Music by John Williams

Executive Producers: Erik Wilstrup, Torsten Jacobsen, Michael Price

Producer: Irene Sparre

Produced by WIL FILM ApS

Featuring the voices of:

Tom Kane as Yoda/Narrator

Anthony Daniels as C-3P0

Matt Sloan as Darth Vader

Trevor Devall as Emperor Palpatine

Michael Daingerfield as Han Solo

Eric Bauza as Luke Skywalker

Heather Doerksen as Princess Leia

Michael Donovan as Count Dooku

Lee Tockar as Nute Gunray

Kirby Morrow as Anakin Skywalker

Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian

Brian Drummond as Watto

Sam Vincent as Young Obi-Wan Kenobi

Adrian Holmes as Mace Windu

Montana Norberg as Padme Amidala

Colin Murdock as General Veers

Elysia Rotaru as Sabine Wren

Nicole Oliver as Hera Syndulla

The fun begins following the victory celebration in the Ewok village on Endor, at the end of STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI. R2-D2 and C-3PO have gathered to regale Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca and the other Rebels with the tales of their adventures that led to the events of STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE. An accidental kidnapping occurs while the droids are reminiscing, and suddenly you’re taken on a new journey that leads to the retelling of the entire STAR WARS saga, as told by R2-D2 and C-3PO! It’s hilarious and playful, packed with all your favorite interlocking characters. LEGO(R) STAR WARS(TM): DROID TALES is intergalactic thrills for the whole family!

For those who have enjoyed the LEGO Star Wars games and the toys and are looking for a LEGO series that is lighthearted, plenty of humor and all-out fun, one will want to give “LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales” a chance.

Aired on Disney XD back in July 2015, this five-part mini-series is C-3P0’s tales of his perspective of the 30-years with R2-D2 and his previous adventures from the Clone Wars, working with the Ghost crew (of “Star Wars Rebels”) and working with others against the Galactic Empire.

And now, “LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales” will be released on DVD in March 2016!

Here is a spoilerless summary of each episode featured on the DVD:

  • Episode 1 – Exit from Endor – C-3P0 recalls his adventures during “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones”.
  • Episode 2 – Crisis on Coruscant – C-3P0’s tale continues of what transpired during “Revenge of the Sith”.
  • Episode 3 – Mission to Mos Eisley – C-3P0 meets a Twi’lek kid who collects Rebel Cards and tells his story of working with the Ghost rebel crew.
  • Episode 4 – Flight of the Falcon – C-3P0 recalls what took place during “The Empire Strikes Back” and he, Chewbacca and Nien Nunb went to search for R2-D2.
  • Episode 5 – The search for R2-D2 continues and C-3P0, Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian are captured by General Veers.  C-3P0 tells the rogue stormtroopers his stories from “Return of the Jedi”.




“LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales” is presented in 1:78:1 aspect ratio and is enhanced for 16×9 televisions. Dialogue is presented in English and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and French 2.0 Dolby Digital. Subtitles are presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.

While I would have loved to watch this series in HD, I will say that this series and its CG is fantastic. The LEGO series captures the toyline very well and I love the textures as the characters showcase their plastic sheen, as well as the actual LEGO parts. Voice acting is well-done and CG effects are also well done!

Colors are vibrant and for the most part, the series looks very good on DVD!


“LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales” comes with no special features.


“LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales” comes with a Disney Movie Rewards code and three “LEGO Star Wars: Droids Tales” Topps cards.

As an adult who has grown up with the LEGO Star Wars toys and video games and have watched my son over the years to grow to up to enjoy these games and also build the LEGO Star Wars sets, “LEGO Star Wars” has been a brand that has brought myself and my son together for family time.

And with the release of “LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales”, I found the series to be another LEGO animated series that appeals to people of all ages.

Who doesn’t love LEGO? Who doesn’t love “Star Wars”? And when you have the mixture of the two for the toys, the video games and a CG animated series, you know you’re going to have a lot of fun.

It’s important to note that LucasFilm gave LEGO to have fun and create their own stories within the “Star Wars” universe.

What I enjoyed the most of “Star Wars: Droid Tales” is that it covers the first six “Star Wars” films.  So, many characters from the Annakin/Padme storyline and the Luke/Leia/Han Solo/Chewbacca storyline are showcased.  And for those who enjoyed the “Star Wars Rebels” animated series, will enjoy the inclusion of one episode featuring those characters.

And the amount of humor involved poking fun on certain details from the films are absolutely hilarious!

If anything, I know I’m a bit biased towards “LEGO Star Wars” but I love the combination of “Star Wars” and “LEGO” and the humor, action and animation that goes along with a series such as “LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales”.

The CG is wonderful as characters retain their LEGO shiny plastic sheen, the environments are well-rendered and detailed and while not released on Blu-ray, the picture quality looks good on DVD. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (English and Spanish, while French is in Dolby Digital 2.0) and dialogue, music and sound effects are crystal clear.

Unfortunately, there are no special features on this DVD.

Overall, for the young or the young at heart, “LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales” is a wonderful CG animated series featuring a lot of humor, action and adventure for the entire family!



The Lion Guard – Return of the Roar – (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 


 For those who enjoyed the “Lion King” and the direct-to-video sequels, will no doubt enjoy this short animated television film on DVD as Simba and Nala’s young son and his friends must protect the Pride Lands from the hyenas. For children and the young at heart, this Disney animated film is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Lion Guard – Return of the Roar –

DURATION: 44 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:78:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish



Release Date: February 23, 2016

Directed by Howy Parkins

Written by Ford Riley

Produced by Ford Riley

Casting by Brian Mathias

Featuring the following voice talent:

Dee Bradley Baker as Hyenas

Jeff Bennett as Zazu

Dusan Brown as Beshte

Max Charles as Kion

Sarah Hyland as Tiifu

James Earl Jones as Mufasa

Andrew Kishino as Janja

Rob Lowe as Simba

Vargus Maon as Cheezi

Khary Payton as Rafiki

Madison Pettis as Zuri

Jonny Rees as Mzingo

Eden Riegel as Kiara

Meet Kion, second-born cub of Simba and Nala, as he assumes the role of leader of “The Lion Guard,” an elite team of animals tasked with preserving the Pride Lands. Follow him as he assembles a group of unlikely heroes: Bunga the honey badger, Fuli the cheetah, Beshte the hippo and Ono the egret. Join them on a thrilling adventure as they use their unique abilities to defend the Pride Lands from predators and maintain balance within the Circle of Life. Bursting with humor, music, beloved characters and heart, The Lion Guard: Return Of The Roar is a must-own for the entire family!

Disney has had many successes since Walt Disney created the popular animation studio back in 1923.

With the success of their live action films and their PIXAR 3D animated films, still to this day, “The Lion King”, the 32nd film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics remains as the most successful animated film for the legendary company earning over $862 million in the box office (created with a budget of $45 million) and in terms of overall animation, it’s the fifth highest grossing animated film of all time and the #1 highest grossing film when it comes to hand-drawn animation.

The film earned two Academy awards plus a Golden Globe for “Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy” and is the #4 animated film on the American Film Institute’s “10 Top 10” list.

“The Lion King” made its debut on Blu-ray (2-disc) courtesy of a Diamond Edition on Oct. 4, 2011, as well as a 3D Blu-ray (4-Disc) and also an 8-disc “The Lion King” trilogy box set which included both direct-to-video films “The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride” and “The Lion King 1 1/2”.

And here we are in 2016 with the DVD release of “The Lion Guard – Return of the Roar-“, the television animated film which aired on Disney Junior back in November 22, 2015.

The story continues with Kion, the second-born cub of Simba and Nala.

As Kion and his good friend Bunga love to have fun and play a game of Baobab Ball.  While Simba is teaching Kiara about the life as a monarch, both Kion and Bunga interrupt and are told to play elsewhere.

The two end up playing in the Pride Lands but when they lose their ball in the Outlands, Bunga jumps down to retrieve it, despite Kion’s warnings.

Bunga ends up getting caught by Janja, the leader of the hyenas and his minions Cheezi and Chungu.  But when Kion releases a mighty roar (and a mark shows up on his left shoulder), the hyenas drop Bunga and run to safety.

As Kion and Bunga head back to Pride Rock, they can’t help but discuss how powerful Kion’s roar was.

Nala, Rafiki and Simba overhear the discussion and both Nala and Rafiki come with the conclusion that Kion will be the new leader of the Lion Guard (a group of lions that protect the Pride Lands from danger) because he is bestowed with the “Roar of the Elders”. But Simba is hesitant but decides to tell Kion the story of what happened to the previous Lion guard and how Scar once lead the Guard at one time.

Simba asks Kion to assemble the team of who will be the Lion Guard (which Simba meant lions, but instead Kion selects his friends).

Selected by Kion is Bunga (honey badger) the bravest, Beshte (hippopotamus) the strongest, Ono (egret) the keenest of sight and Fuli (cheetah) the fastest.  But spying on them is Mzing, the vulture who is friends of Janja.

After Janja is told about the new Lion Guard, Janja and the hyenas plan to take down the Lion Guard.

Can Kion’s Lion Guard protect the Pride Lands?


Each time I have watched a Disney animated classic, suffice to say, there are no disappointments. Each release has been spectacular when it comes to picture quality and while “The Lion Guard – Return of the Roar-” was not released on Blu-ray, it still manages to retain the vibrant colors as the previous films.

And for a direct-to-video film, “The Lion Guard – Return of the Roar-” looks very good in DVD.

Presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), there is no doubt that fans of the film and children who loved “The Lion King” films will enjoy this DVD.

The animated film is presented in English 5.1 and French Dolby Digital.  Dialogue and music is clear and the action sequences sound very good via the surround channels.


“The Lion Guard – Return of the Roar-” comes with a music video featuring Beau Black performing the single “Here Comes the Lion Guard”.


“The Lion Guard – Return of the Roar-” comes with a slipcover, Disney Movie Reward code and a special talking Kion backpack pull.

“The Lion Guard – Return of the Roar-” marks a sort of passing of the torch as Simba’s son Kion has demonstrated that he has the “Roar of the Elders” and will be the leader of The Lion Guard and protect the Pride Lands.

But instead of finding lions to form the group, Kion chooses his friends to protect the Pride Lands and now, a new group of hyenas led by Janja are determined to cause trouble and destroy The Lion Guard.

Featuring an odd grouping of animal characters which Kion has chosen to be the Lion Guard, the characters are humorous and fun to watch.   And at 44 minutes long, the animated film will no doubt entertain children and even the young at heart.

As the film, “The Lion Guard – Return of the Roar” focuses on Kion (the second-born cub).

And while we get to see Simba, Nala and Rafiki once again, the film also shows a little of Kion’s older sister Kiara.  I have no doubt for some who followed the original film, I’m sure that fans of the older “The Lion King: Six New Adventures” books who will be shocked to find out that Kopa (who was Simba’s first son in the books) is not even mentioned or featured in “The Lion Guard – Return of the Roar” (nor was he featured in “The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride”).  So, with the release of these animated films, it looks like “Kopa” is an unofficial character that probably may never be featured in the animated series, so Kion will be recognized as Simba and Nala’s only son in the animated films.

With that being said, as “The Lion King 1 1/2” focused on Timon & Pumbaa and  “The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride” focused on Simba and Nala’s daughter Kiara, it’s good to see Kion getting his own story and also seeing The Lion Guard resurrected.

For the most part, it’s a short animated film with a good dose of humor and action.  And for those who enjoyed the original film and direct-to-video sequels and enjoyed the film when it debuted on Disney Junior, will no doubt enjoy this DVD release.

For parents who are curious if there are any dark situations that may scare young children, not really.  Compared to the original “Lion King” film in which Scar and his team of lions or even the creepy hyenas, the hyenas featured in “The Lion Guard – Return of the Roar -” are just as young as Kion.  So, in a way, this film was created for a much younger demographic.

Picture quality and audio quality is as good as it can get on DVD and as for special features, you get a music video.  A plus is that the DVD does come with a talking Kion backpack pull.

Overall, for those who enjoyed the “Lion King” and the direct-to-video sequels, will no doubt enjoy this short animated television film on DVD as Simba and Nala’s young son and his friends must protect the Pride Lands from the hyenas.

For children and the young at heart, this Disney animated film is recommended!


Saints & Strangers (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 


For those who are interested in watching a miniseries about America’s early settlers and the trials and tribulations of the Pilgrims and Indians, will no doubt want to give “Saints & Strangers” a try!

© 2015 Sony Pictures Television Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Saints & Strangers


DURATION: 192 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation 1:78:1, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

RATED: Not Rated

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Released Dated: February 16, 2016

Directed by Paul A. Edwards

Written by Seth Fisher, Eric Overmeyer

Produced by Jeff Sackman, Kirk Shaw

Executive Producer: Seth Fisher, Eric Ellis Overmeyer, Teri Weinberg, Grant Scharbo

Producer: Peter McAleese

Associate Producer: Ioanna Vassiliadis Willis

Line Producer: Jayson de Rosner

Music by Lorne Balfe

Cinematographer: Balazs Bolygo

Casting by Rene Haynes, Bonnie Rodini, Amy Hubbard

Production Design by Cristina Casali

Set Decoration by Irma van Heerden

Costume Design by Kate Carin


Ray Stevenson as Stephen Hopkins

Michael Jobson as Myles Standish

Vincent Kartheieser as William Bradford

Kalani Queypo as Squanto

Barry Sloane as Edward Winslow

Vere Tindale as John Howland

Ron Livingston as John Carver

Bianca Simon Mannie as Kaya

Natascha McElhone as Elizabeth Hopkins

Raoul Max Trujillo as Massasoit

Meganne Young as Priscilla Mullins

Del Zamora as Aspinet

Maria Vos as Elizabeth Winslow

Tatanka Means as Hobbamock

Brian F. O’Byrne as John Billington, Sr.

Keenan Arrison as Canacum

Michael Greyeyes as Canonicus

Nahum Hughes as Wematin

Anna Camp as Dorothy Bradford

Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men), Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect) and Ron Livingston (Office Space) star in the acclaimed miniseries event Saints & Strangers, which dramatizes the Pilgrims’ harrowing voyage and arrival to America. Upon landing they encounter hunger, disease, and the proud but wary Native Americans. Loyalties are tested and hard-fought alliances between leaders become strained when the Pilgrims suspect a traitor in their midst.

For those who went to school in the U.S., earlier in our lives, we learned through school about the pilgrims that rode on the Mayflower ship from Plymouth, England and also Holland to the New World (Massachusetts) in 1620.

And how the pilgrims established New Plymouth, met Indians who taught them how to plant and cultivate corn and this friendship led to the holiday Thanksgiving.

If only things went as smoothly, but the story about the pilgrims and the Indians is not simple as the story of what transpired was anything but simple.

And the story about the Pilgrims and the Indians as found in the journals of English Separatist leader William Bradoford, are featured in the miniseries, “Saints & Strangers”.

The Pilgrims were the first English separatists who rode on the Mayflower and while on the Mayflower, due to the harsh weather and disease, many of them would not survive.

The journey was long and terrible, but for Governor John Carver (portrayed by Ron Livingston) and the surviving pilgrims, in a new world, they needed to find food and so they looted Indian villages and stole their supplies.

Meanwhile, William Bradford tries to calm the people on the Mayflower as more and more of their own die.


“Saints & Strangers” is presented in Anamorphic widescreen (1:78:1) and is presented in English, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1.

Picture quality looks and sounds good as can be expected on DVD. There are moments of good surround usage during a gun exchange with the Indians or the storm in which the Mayflower gets caught up in but primarily this is a dialogue and musically driven soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.


“Saints & Strangers” comes with 16 deleted scenes (19:10)

Growing up, we are typically taught a more simple, gentle way of how the Pilgrims and Indians came together and usually it’s primary reason is to explain why America has the holiday known as “Thanksgiving”.

But for the curious-minded of wanting to know how the life of Pilgrims and Indians were and the establishment of New Plymouth in the New World, “Saints & Strangers” is a television mini-series worth watching as it delves into the hardships in which the Pilgrims had to endure.

The first episode of the mini-series goes into the treacherous travel from England to the New World (Massachusetts) on the Mayflower.  I had no idea that the Pilgrims were people escaping the volatile political environment in England and their purpose was to separate themselves from the English state church.  It would have made the series much better to provide scenes or a primer to allow viewers to know that the Pilgrims, were people trying to escape persecution and that is why they left to establish a new home in the New World.

For those not familiar with English history, because of the 1559 Act of Uniformity, it was illegal not to attend official Church of England services – unless the church was a signatory to the allegiance to the Church of England. Puritans were fined for each missed Sunday and holy day and faced imprisonment, large fines and even execution.  Puritans still had membership and allegiance to the Church of England, while Separatists wanted nothing to do with the Church of England.

Also, I didn’t know that “New Plymouth” (1620) was second, after the founding of Jamestown, Virginia (1607) and learning from the series of the origination of Cape Cod (now known as Provincetown Harbor).

The series also focuses more on the character of William Bradford and I believe the reason why it focuses on the religious man, was because a lot of the detail on the Pilgrims are based on his journals and that he became the second governor after the death of John Carver.

Many of the decisions made by William Bradford were aligned with his religious beliefs, which often put him in odd against his own people. In the series, quite often it was against his confidant Myles Standish and also Stephen Hopkins.  Standish was showcased as a man who is a warrior, Hopkins is a man of reason and not necessarily religious but he is a person that goes through the most transformation in the series.

The other character featured is John Billington, Sr.  A man who had is own set beliefs of the Indians using witchcraft and also was cold and strict towards his family.  Often a hothead challenging Myles Standish’ orders.

And Edward Winslow, dedicated in his efforts to bring Pilgrims and Indians together peacefully but also was imperative not only for his writings about Plymouth but also in creating trust between the Indians and the Pilgrims.  But also, he was the main person who had a good relationship with Chief Massasoit.

While the series goes into the suffering the Pilgrims had endured due to the harsh winter and dwindling numbers as many people succumb to diseases, the extent of the looting done by the Pilgrims of Native American stores is only glanced upon in the series.

While the Pilgrims knew that the native Indians lived near them, the series shows the Pilgrims having knowledge of what they did by looting stores or corpses to be bad.  And as the Indians watched afar of the Pilgrims hungry and malnourished, the series does go into the first communication with Indian leader Samoset coming to the Pilgrim settlement and speaking English.  While in the series, Samoset said the Nauset Indians were upset because of the Pilgrims raiding the corn storage, other sources have pointed that the anger was due to the kidnapping by Englishman Thomas Hunt (a slave trader who was the Captain of one of the ships led by Captain John Smith – for those who are familiar with the story of “Pocahontas”).

For those watching the film and are not familiar with Thomas Hunt, this would lead viewers to google the name and finding out that Captain John Smith ordered Captain Thomas Hunt to pick up fish, skins and other items to load on their ship and bring back home.  But instead, Captain Thomas hunt kidnapped the Indians and went to Spain and sold them as slaves.

This is important to know because after Samoset met with the Pilgrims, the person to come back was Squanto who taught the Pilgrims on how to grow corn.  It’s not explained of how Squanto knew English, but Squanto alludes of how he rode the seas four times.  But through even more research (which I wished was discussed in the film), because Squanto was one of the slaves kidnapped, he learned English courtesy of London-based shipbuilder, John Slany.  When Squanto returned back home, he found out that the majority of coastal New England tribes were decimated by the plague and smallpox.

As the relationship from the Wampanoag Indians grew, their Chief Massasoit knew by having the English on their sides, it would show strength in the Wampanoag Tribe.  I had no idea of the strategies that went on between the tribes and one can call it the politics among the tribe of proof of power.  Chief Massasoit knew by giving the Pilgrims help, he had much better leverage with other tribes.

The second episode of the series would go into Squanto’s ego getting to his head.  Knowing that he had power because of his English capability and the Indians fear of guns and technology, he used his knowledge of English to get things taken care of between the Pilgrims and Indians, but also choosing his own words as translation in order to sway or upset a certain group or individual.  And show his undoing, but yet how he and William Bradford maintained a friendship and closeness through his death.

The other Indian who starts to have an important role is Hobbamock, who’s job was to watch over Squanto.  The series showed of his concerns towards the English, towards their belief of Christianity and also towards Squanto.  He was known for being a great warrior but also continuing where Squanto last left off and preserving the peace.

The series does a good job of integrating all these characters, including the supporting characters (women and children) into the film.  But the film does a great job of showing viewers of the challenges and tragedy experienced by America’s early settlers and how the Pilgrims and Indians would work together.

While “Saints & Strangers” is a fascinating mini-series for those who have any interest in the Pilgrims and Indians and what transpired back then, I wished there were more episodes because there is indeed more stories that needed to be told.

But the series does focus on the peaceful times between the Pilgrims and Indians and how they became allies (despite the children of these main characters, would lead to King Philip’s War between colonists and Indians) without getting too complex or straying too far from factual situations.

But for those who are interested in watching a miniseries about America’s early settlers and the trials and tribulations of the Pilgrims and Indians, will no doubt want to give “Saints & Strangers” a try!


Home Invasion (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

January 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 


For those wanting a less-heavy, popcorn home invasion film with its occasional thrilling moments, then “Home Invasion” may be your cup of tea.

© 2015 Origin Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Home Invasion


DURATION: 88 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation 1:78:1, English, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese Traditional, Korean, Portuguese, Thai and Spanish

RATED: PG-13 (Violence and Peril)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Released Dated: February 2, 2016

Directed by David Tennant

Written by Peter Sullivan

Produced by Jeff Sackman, Kirk Shaw

Executive Produced: Shawn Ashmore, Dave Hudakoc, Damian Lee, Jeffrey Schenck, Keith Shaw, Devi Singh

Music by Robert Smart

Cinematographer: Toby Gorman

Edited by Asim Nuraney

Casting by Dean E. Fronk

Production Design by Daren Luc Sasges

Costume Design by Zohra Shahalimi


Natasha Henstridge as Chloe

Jason Patric as Mike

Scott Adkins as Heflin

Liam Dickinson as Jacob

Kyra Zagorsky as Victoria Knox

Michael rogers as Astor

Christian Tessier as Xander

Brenda Crichlow as Bess

Inspired by true events, A BRILLIANT YOUNG MIND tells the story of teenage math prodigy Nathan, who struggles when it comes to building relationships. In his confusing world, Nathan finds comfort in the predictability of numbers. But after earning a spot to compete in the prestigious International Math Olympiad, he faces new and unexpected challenges, ultimately triumphing in life and love.

From TV and documentary filmmaker David Tennant and writer Peter Sullivan (“Abandoned”, “Finders Keepers”, Eve’s Christmas”) comes an indie film “Home Invasion”.

“Home Invasion” will be released on DVD in February 2016 and stars Natasha Henstridge (“The Whole Nine Yards”, “Species”, “Ghost of Mars”), Jason Patric (“Speed 2: Cruise Control”, “The Lost Boys”, “Narc”) and Scott Adkins (“The Bourne Ultimatum”, “Undisputed 3: Redemption”, “The Expendables 2”).

The film begins immediately with a woman named Chloe (portrayed by Natasha Henstridge) enjoying an evening with her friend Alice.  As someone drives up to the front of the home, the friend volunteers to find out what they need and she is shot to death.  Chloe sees her friend being killed in the security camera and drops her wine glass.

The film then goes back hours early and we learn that Chloe and her stepson Jacob (portrayed by Liam Dickinson) live in a very nice mansion.  She is trying to get access to her husbands bank accounts but having problems doing so.  It is also revealed that she and Jacob have relationship issues.

Jacob blames his stepmother for their father not coming home moving them to a small farming town away from the city and Chloe can’t understand why her husband hasn’t returned home.  Did he find another woman?  Marital issues?

As both mother and stepson are constantly arguing back and forth with each other, a major storm is approaching their town.  Chloe invites her friend over to help calm her nerves.

Meanwhile, an alarm security company and its employees are being trained by Mike (portrayed by Jason Patric) of what to say and not say on the phone with a client.  Mike is a single father, trying to raise his young daughter and has been putting a lot of hours at work.  Despite his boss telling him to get some rest, Mike is putting long hours.

We then see a criminal killing a toll bridge operator and a group of criminals headed by Heflin (portrayed by Scott Adkins) are choosing the mansion which Chloe and Jacob lives in and to break into the home.  And with terrible weather, now is their opportunity.

The scene repeats with Chloe and Alice talking and Alice going up to the car as a woman named Knox (portrayed by Kyra Zagorsky) is asking for directions.  As Alice answers the woman and heads back to the home, she is shot and killed.

As Chloe goes to call the police, she is not aware that it’s connecting to Knox, who is pretending to be a emergency dispatch operator.

Immediately, Chloe calls her home security company and the call immediately goes to professional Mike.  Mike learns that the home has normal security cameras and also hidden security cameras.

As the criminals break into the home, they begin looking for a safe and also the occupants of the home.

As Mike tries to help Chloe and Jacob navigate themselves to safety.  He must deal with his exhaustion but also his worries of keeping this family alive from criminals who may try to kill them.


“Home Invasion” is presented in Anamorphic widescreen (1:78:1) and is presented in English, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1.

Picture quality looks and sounds good as can be expected on DVD.  There are moments of good surround usage during a gun exchange with the criminal and sheriffs plus ambiance of the storm in town.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese Traditional, Korean, Portuguese, Thai and Spanish.


“Home Invasion” comes with no special features.

When it comes to home invasion films, there have been a good number of dark, violent films such as Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games”, Miguel Angel Vivas’ “Kidnapped” or the horrific “Inside” by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury.

There have also been riveting films such as David Fincher’s “Panic Room” which is an enjoyable thriller and there was Richard Loncraine’s “Firewall” starring Harrison Ford.

But home invasion films are aplenty and for some filmmakers to stray away from any signs of banality, they try to focus on horror and really messed up situations that will make you close your eyes.

And for some people, this is not their cup of tea.  They want a suspenseful, yet non-horrific film and David Tennant’s “Home Invasion” is that kind of film.

“Home Invasion” in someway reminds me of a lighter version of “Panic Room” that is suspenseful but yet less risky and has the look and feel of a lower-budget indie film.

Acting is not the best, writing feels rushed, editing is questionable and “Home Invasion” has the feel of a movie that is geared for television.

But for those wanting a less-heavy, popcorn home invasion film with its occasional thrilling moments, then “Home Invasion” may be your cup of tea.


A Brilliant Young Mind (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

January 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 


“A Brilliant Young Mind” is an entertaining coming-of-age drama but unfortunately, it falls short of being anything gratifying and is more or less an average film.

© 2015 Origin Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: A Brilliant Young Mind


DURATION: 112 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation 2:40:1, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish

RATED: PG-13 (Some Strong Language, A Sexual Reference, Drug Material and Disturbing Images)

COMPANY: Origin/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Released Dated: January 26, 2016

Directed by Morgan Matthews

Written by James Graham

Produced by Laura Hastings-Smith, David M. Thompson

Co-Producer: Joanie Blaikie, Ed Rubin

Executive Produced: Andrew Boswell, Hugo Heppell

Associate Producer: Elliot Ross, Fenella Ross

Line Producer: Sarah Wheale

Music by Martin Phipps

Cinematographer: Danny Cohen

Edited by Peter Lambert

Casting by Shaheen Baig

Production Design by Richard Bullock

Art Direction by Julie Ann Horan

Set Decoration by Duncan Wheeler


Asa Butterfield as Nathan Ellis

Rafe Spall as Martin Humphreys

Sally Hawkins as Julie Ellis

Eddie Marsan as Richard

Jo Yang as Zhang Mei

Martin McCann as Michael Elis

Jake Davies as Luke Shelton

Alex Lawther as Isaac Cooper

Alexa Davies as Rebecca Dunn

Orion Lee as Deng Laoshi

Edward Baker-Close as Nathan Ellis (9 Years Old)

Inspired by true events, A BRILLIANT YOUNG MIND tells the story of teenage math prodigy Nathan, who struggles when it comes to building relationships. In his confusing world, Nathan finds comfort in the predictability of numbers. But after earning a spot to compete in the prestigious International Math Olympiad, he faces new and unexpected challenges, ultimately triumphing in life and love.

Inspired by the true story of mathematical genius Daniel Lightwing, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder, a film taking a few elements of Daniel’s life would be made into a film.

Directed by documentary filmmaker Morgan Matthews (“Beautiful Young Minds”, “Shooting Bigfoot”, “Britain in a Day”) and written by James Graham (“The Vote”, “Coalition”), “A Brilliant Young Mind” (released as “X + Y” in Britain) will be released on DVD in the U.S. courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film would star Asa Butterfield (“Hugo”, “Ender’s Game”, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”), Rafe Spall (“Prometheus”, “Life of Pi”, “Shaun of the Dead”), Sally Hawkins (“Happy-Go-Lucky”, “Godzilla”, “Layer Cake”, “Blue Jasmine”), Eddie Marsan (“Sherlock Holmes”, “V for Vendetta”, “Hancock”), Jo Yang and Jake Davies.

The film begins with young couple Micheal (portrayed by Martin McCann) and Julie (portrayed by Sally Hawkins) having their son Nathan tested.  Nathan is diagnosed with autism but also shows amazing mathematical potential when he shows a fascination with primary numbers.

His parents work with their son, especially his father who he has a close relationship with.  Until one day, while they are out on a drive, both of them are involved in a car accident which kills Michael.

This leaves Julie alone to raise their son and enroll him in a school to be mentored by math genius Martin (portrayed by Rafe Spall), who understands Nathan but also treats him in a cold demeanor due to his physical limitations.  Also, Martin has become an alcoholic and is traumatized because parts of his body are no longer working as they used to.  But Martin’s goal is to work with Nathan and develop his talent in order to earn a spot and compete in the prestigious IMO (International Math Olympiad).

Fastforward and Nathan (portrayed by Asa Butterfield) who is now a little older is selected to take part in an IMO-preparatory summer camp in Taiwan, where he and other geniuses must learn from their teacher Richard (portrayed by Eddie Marsan) and compete but also befriend their Chinese counterparts.

But will introverted Nathan be ready to be around other people, let alone compete in the IMO?


“A Brilliant Young Mind” is presented in Anamorphic widescreen (2:401) and in English Dolby Digital 5.1. A lot of the film was shot outdoors and those scenes are vibrant and looks good on DVD. While not released on Blu-ray, for the most part, picture and audio quality is as good as one can expect for a DVD release.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.


“A Brilliant Mind” comes with no special features.

“A Brilliant Mind” takes the real story of Daniel Lightwing and modifying the original storyline in order to become a coming-of-age film.

Inspired by true events, “A Beautiful Mind” provides insight of a boy who is a mathematical genius but also is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.  Because of his fascination with numbers, his introverted and awkward mannerisms, the film takes the character of Nathan and sees how he is able to develop while not being at home, being away from his mother and mentor and thrust into a world with other geniuses in order to earn a spot and compete in the International Math Olympiad (IMO).

While the true story of Daniel Lightwing is less tragic than the film’s character, Nathan Ellis, the film is less about a genius trying to overcome all odds and win the IMO but focuses more on a mother’s relationship with her son and trying to connect and support him.

Meanwhile, the film focuses heavily on the friendship between Nathan and Zhang Mei.  Both are selected to partner with each other and for Zhang Mei, despite Nathan’s awkward nature, she tries to get close to him, if at all possible.

Meanwhile, Nathan tries to understand the emotions he is feeling but also tries to understand the other geniuses around him.

There is another storyline involving another genius, trying to place in the IMO who has a hard time trying to fit in among other geniuses who bully him.  And then there is Nathan’s mentor, Martin who begins to fall for his mother, Julie. And Martin dealing with his physical conditions, his alcoholism and the anger he harbors inside because of it.

And while performances by Asa Butterfield and Sally Hawkins were quite notable, unfortunately the problem with the film is that you expect things to happen.  May it be with other characters or seeing Nathan becoming triumphant. Personally, I found myself caring less about Nathan’s involvement in the IMO and more on this kindling romance between him and Zhang Mei.  Their friendship are probably the most enjoyable moments of the film.

Overall, “A Brilliant Young Mind” is an entertaining coming-of-age drama but unfortunately, it falls short of being anything gratifying and is more or less an average film.


Next Page »