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LEGO Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

August 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

LegoStarWarsTheNewYodaChroniclesDVD

For the young or the young at heart, “LEGO Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles” is a wonderful CG animated series featuring a lot of humor, action and adventure for the entire family!


DVD TITLE: LEGO Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles

DURATION: (Four Episodes) 92 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: TV Y7 FV

Release Date: September 15, 2015


Directed by Michael Hegner

Written by Michael Price

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/Admiral Piett/Bib Fortuna/Jar Jar

Sam Vincent as Rako/Young Obi Wan

Kelly Metszger as Vaash Ti

Brian Drummond as Bobby/Storm Trooper 1

Tabitha St. Germain as Bene

Andrew Francis as Bail Organa/Storm Trooper 2

Michael Donovan as Ghost (older) Obi Wan

Brian Dobson as JEK/Nemoidian Senator

Michael Dangerfield as Han Solo/Black Squadron Pilot

Eric Bauza as Luke Skywalker/Rusty

Heather Doerksen as Princess Leia


Your favorite Star Wars heroes are back with four complete episodes (plus a bonus alternate ending!) that unleash the lighter side of the Force.

After headstrong Luke nearly delivers the good guys into Palpatine’s clutches, Master Yoda and the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi unearth the Holocrons – last remnants of the secrets of the Jedi – to further Luke’s training. But Darth Vader also seeks the Holocrons, and he’ll stop at nothing to get to them first! Meanwhile, courageous superclone Jek-14, a Force-sensitive clone, comes out of retirement to help bolster the Rebels. Share all the action-packed thrills of these interlocking, intergalactic adventures in LEGO® STAR WARS: The New Yoda Chronicles!


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: The New Yoda Chronicles” a chance.

The series takes place before “LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace” and during a time when Yoda is training Padawans at the Jedi Temple Academy and feels a disturbance in The Force.

With the first season consisting of three episodes airing on the Cartoon Network, Disney started to release the second season consisting of four episodes  (episodes 4-7) in 2014 on Disney Channel and Disney XD.

And now, “LEGO Star Wars: The Yoga Chronicles” will be released on DVD in Sept. 2015!

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

  • Episode 7 – Escape from the Jedi Temple – Luke and friends are captured by Darth Vader.
  • Episode 8 – Race for the Holocrons – Darth Vader is in search of the Holocrons, meanwhile Luke, Leia and the droids are in Utapau trying to find a ship to travel to Tatooine.
  • Episode 9 – Raid on Coruscant – The Empire attacks Naboo, while Luke and friends must evacuate from Kashyyyk.
  • Episode 10 – Clash of the Skywalkers – The Emperor sends Darth Vader to destroy Luke Skywalker.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“LEGO Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles” 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!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“LEGO Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles” comes with the following special feature:

  • Alternate Ending: “Clash of the Skywalkers” – (1:50) An alternate ending to the seventh episode (season two finale).

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: The New Yoda Chronicles”, 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.

For the second season of “LEGO Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles”, the primary goal is Darth Vader going after Luke Skywalker but also going after the Holocrons.

And while Yoda and the ghost of Obi Wan Kinobi sense a change within the Force, Luke Skywalker and friends try to avoid the Empire as best as they can.  Of course, Han Solo and Leia’s early relationship has a bit of friction and C-3PO tends to get in more trouble than expected, but still, the adventures of Luke and friends are entertaining, fun and the humor will no doubt having adults and children laughing.

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: The New Yoda Chronicles”.

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.  There is only one special feature, which is an alternate ending of episode 7’s “Clash of the Skywalkers”.

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

Recommended!

 

 

The Goldbergs: The Complete Second Season (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

August 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

thegoldbergs-s2

“The Goldbergs” is nostalgic, hilarious and addictive!  “The Goldbergs: The Complete Second Season” is highly recommended!

© 2014, 2015 Sony Pictures Television, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Goldbergs: The Complete Second Season

YEAR OF TV SERIES: 2015

DURATION: 24 Episodes (519 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen (1:78:1), English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

RATED: NOT RATED

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Released Dated: September 8, 2015

Directed by Seth Gordon, David Katzenberg, Victor Nelli Jr., Michael Patrick Jann, Claire Scanlon, Jason Ensler, Troy Miller, Mat Sohn, Roger Kumble, Ken Marino, Fred Savage

Written by Adam F. Goldberg, Kristopher Valentine, Andrew Secunda, Stacey Harman, Chris Bishop, Alex Barnow, Sally Bradford, Marc Firek, Lew Schneider, Niki Schwartz-Wright, Matt Tarses, Michael J. Weithorn, Darlene Hunt, Aaron Kaczander, Vanessa McCarthy

Executive Producer: Adam F. Goldberg, Seth Gordon, Doug Robinson

Producer: Andrew Secunda, Stephen Basilone

Co-Executive Producer: Annette Sahakian Davis, Marc Firek, Sally Bradford, David Katzenberg, Robia Rashid

Co-Producer: Mary Rohlich, Nikki Schwartz-Wright

Associate Producer: Erin Braun, Courtney Wieden

Cinematography by Joseph E. Gallagher, Jason Blount, David Hennings

Edited by Ivan Victor, Jon Corn, Scott Pellet

Casting by Leslie Litt

Production Design by Cory Lorenzen, Shepherd Frankel

Art Direction by Bill Brownell

Set Decoration by Suzette Sheets, Jennifer Lukehart

Costume Design by Keri Smith, Carol Ramsey


Starring:

Wendi McLendon-Covey as Beverly Goldberg

Sean Giambrone as Adam Goldberg

Troy Gentile as Barry Goldberg

Hayley Orrantia as Erica Goldberg

George Segal as Albert “Pops” Solomon

Jeff Garlin as Murray Goldberg

Patton Oswalt as the Narrator

AJ Michalka as Lainey Lewis

Virginia Gardner as Lexy Bloom

Natalie Alyn Lind as Dana Caldwell

Kenny Ridwan as Dave Kim

Stephn Tobolowsky as Principal Ball

Jackson Odell as Ari Caldwell

Jacob Hopkins as Chad Kremp

Matt Bush as Andy Cogan

Sam Lerner as Geoff Schwartz

Noah Munck as “Naked” Rob Smith


The aerobics-loving, mixtape-making, royal wedding-watching Goldbergs are back! This season finds the siblings involved in hoverboard accidents, the treacherous world of male modeling, wannabe pop star making, reenacting Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and lots more. The parental units are busy as well. Beverly is at her best meddling and matchmaking when she’s not bedazzling everything, while Murray is waging war against Cowboys fans. Love, rad antics, and a lot of laughs keep this family together. THE GOLDBERGS: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON is cold-chillin’ awesomeness.


In 2013, the series “The Goldbergs” created by Adam F. Goldberg (“Breaking In”) aired on television.

Starring Wendi McLendon-Covey (“Brides Maids”, “Reno 911!”), Jeff Garlin (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”, “Daddy Day Care”), George Segal (“Look Who’s Talking”, “The Cable Guy”), Haley Orrantia, Troy Gentile (“Nacho Libre”, “Drillbit Taylor”, “Good Luck Chuck”), Sean Giambrone (“I Heart Shakey”, “Clarence”) and narration by Patton Oswalt (“The King of Queens”, “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas”).

With a third season to air on ABC, the second season which consists of 24-episodes, will be released on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“The Goldbergs” is a comedy set in the 1980’s and is based on the life of series-creator Adam F. Goldberg (at the end of each episode are real life video camera footage that Adam filmed of him and his family from the ’80s).

The series takes place in Jenkinstown, Pennsylvania and features Murray Goldberg (portrayed by Jeff Garlin) as the furniture salesman and family patriarch, the intruding but loving mother Beverly (portrayed by Wendi McLendon-Covey).

Both Murry and Beverly are parents to the popular and rebellious Erica (portrayed by Hayley Orrantia), the always trying hard but very naive, mama’s boy Barry (portrayed by Troy Gentile) and the young but mature for his age, Adam Goldberg (portrayed by Sean Giambrone).

The family are often visited by the children’s grandfather Albert “Pops” Solomon (portrayed by George Segal), who tries to help when he sees his daughter Beverly getting too involved in the kid’s lives.

In season two, there are some life changes in the Goldberg family as both Adam and Barry have girlfriends, Murray makes a new friend, Beverly wants to be involved with Erica’s life and more!

The following is a spoilerless summary of the second season of “The Goldbergs”:

  • EPISODE 24 – Adam creates a mix tape for his girlfriend by his mom thinks the mix tape is for her.
  • EPISODE 25- Adam isn’t cast for the main role for the school musical and his mother decides to do something about it.
  • EPISODE 26 – Adam and Barry form a garage band but Erica and her best friend end up taking over.
  • EPISODE 27 – Adam is desperate to join Barry’s group of friends, so what happens when the group expect Adam to change their school grades by hacking into the school?
  • EPISODE 28 – Beverly (mom) feels that she is being abandoned because she is getting old.
  • EPISODE 29 – Adam is hurt in dodgeball and now his mother is set to do something about it.
  • EPISODE 30 – It’s a Goldbergs Thanksgiving.
  • EPISODE 31 – Adam gets hurt by singing George Michael’s “Faith” and tries to come up with an alibi of how he got hurt.
  • EPISODE 32 – Barry is selected by a scout to become a model.
  • EPISODE 33 – Adam and Barry tease Erica about being a New Kids on the Block fan
  • EPISODE 34 – Erica is not happy that Barry is spending too much time with her best friend, so she tries to break them up and tries to find him a date for the Sadie Hawkins dance.
  • EPISODE 35 – Murray comes with Barry to meet his girlfriend’s father.
  • EPISODE 36 – Erica and Barry become rebellious and purchase a van.
  • EPISODE 37 – Adam and Barry want to experience “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.
  • EPISODE 38 – What happens when Beverly (mom) ruins a health class assignment.
  • EPISODE 39 – Adam gets lost in Veteran’s Stadium.
  • EPISODE 40 – It’s April Fool’s Day and a feud between brothers develops when jokes go too far.
  • EPISODE 41 – Adam deals with the fallout when a bad beer experience ruins his birthday party.
  • EPISODE 42 – Beverly intervenes in trying to help raise Adam’s Spanish grade.
  • EPISODE 43 – Erica and Beverly square off during the presidential election.
  • EPISODE 44 – Adam tricks his father into buying him a sword.
  • EPISODE 45 – Erica, Barry and his girlfriend try to prepare for “Dance Party USA”.
  • EPISODE 46 – Murray starts to hang out with Barry’s girlfriend’s father more.
  • EPISODE 47 – Erica prepares to leave town for the summer and Barry becomes the school’s mascot.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Goldbergs: The Complete Second Season” is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen and English 5.1 Dolby Digital. Picture quality on DVD is very good as the series is broken up in three discs. Audio quality is good with clear dialogue. I did not notice any artifacts or any problematic issues during my viewing of the series.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Goldbergs: The Complete Second Season” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • On Location with Sean Giambrone – (9:40) Sean Giambrone (Adam) discusses his day of shooting “The Lost Boy” episode.
  • Deleted Scenes – (5:39) Featuring eight deleted scenes.

DISC 2:

  • Making Barry Goldberg’s Day Off – (9:25) The making of “Barry Goldberg’s Day Off” and how it was inspired by “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.
  • Gag Reel – (4:37) The gag reel for the second season of “The Goldbergs”.
  • Deleted Scenes – (4:07) Eight deleted scenes.

DISC 3:

  • On the Set with Wendi McLendon-Covey – (11:36) A featurette with a day at the studio with Wendi McLendon-Covey.
  • Deleted Scenes – (3:32) Featuring nine deleted scenes.

EXTRAS:

“The Goldbergs: The Complete First Season” comes with a slipcover.


As a child of the ’80s and having experienced the fads, the music, the clothing, the toys of that time period, how awesome and fresh is it to find a TV show that incorporates the pop culture of that timeline but making it accessible for today’s generation and also for those who grew up during that time period.

And to find out that the Goldberg’s are modeled after series creator, Adam F. Goldberg’s life and being treated with actual video camera footage, how cool is that?

But there is so much to enjoy about this coming-of-age comedy series. Many of us can sympathize with young Adam Goldberg because we grew up with the amazing toys of the ’80s such as the Transformers (in season two, Adam anguishes over the death of Optimus Prime after watching “The Transformers: The Movie”) and also grew up watching movies such as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, which both the character Adam and Barry try to re-enact and also the well-known scene from “Say Anything”.

But while the series does jump different years during the ’80s, it still tries to capture the ’80s through music and pop culture.  From MTV, the popularity of the “A-Team”, the popularity of the Nintendo Power Glove (and how it really never worked all that well), the popularity of New Kids on the Block and the old dance show, “Dance Party USA”.

This is pop culture that I grew up with and it’s brought to the masses tastefully to the point that you can’t help but be entertained.  In fact, my 12-year-old wanted to join and watch a marathon of all the episodes in the second season for the weekend because he also enjoyed the series and the humor as well.

But what makes this series work so well is its characters.

While Adam is the level-headed, trying to figure out life young teen, Barry is that awkward guy that many of us guys had seen or had similar experiences that were just as awkward. Trying to fit in, trying to be cool, being a wannabe breakdancer or rapper, Barry is that awkward side that many of us get embarrassed by watching, but knowing that he’s cool in his own way at times, despite others thinking that he is a bit uncool.

Both Goldberg brothers make major headways in the second season as they both get girlfriends and it’s interesting because of the shenanigans that take place.

And you have the popular sister, the often medling mother and the father who just wants to be cool, relax after a hard day at work (and likes to drop his pants before sitting and watching television) but is  also more than often having to be the husband trying to prevent his wife from doing something embarrassing to their children, as she wants to often meddle in their affairs. And of course, you have the cool grandfather with “Pops”, who also tries to play things cool with the kids.

Each of the talent does a great job in portraying their character and all 25 episodes of “The Goldbergs” have been nothing but entertaining and fun and definitely one of my favorite comedy series on television.  In fact, the writing is much better in season two and everyone is in sync.  I really enjoyed this second season a lot!

As for the DVD, picture and audio quality is good and you get a good number of audio commentary and special features are included.  While you get featurettes, unfortunately gone are the audio commentaries.  But still, you get featurettes and we get to learn more about Sean Giambrone and Wendi McLendon-Covey this time around.

Overall, “The Goldbergs” is nostalgic, hilarious and addictive!  “The Goldbergs: The Complete Second Season” is highly recommended!

 

Agnes Varda in California – Eclipse Series #43 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

August 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

agnesvarda-cali-1a

A fascinating look-back into a different world which Agnes Varda captured of California during the late ’60s and early ’80s, “Agnes Varda in California” are documentaries and experimental films from the French filmmaker worth watching.  And yet another wonderful set included in the Criterion Collection’s Eclipse Series.

Image courtesy of © Agnes Varda et enfants 1994. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Agnes Varda in California – Eclipse Series #43

YEAR OF FILM: Uncle Yanco (1967), Black Panther (1968), Lions Love (…and Lies) (1969), Murs Murs (1980), Documenteur (1981)

DURATION: Uncle Yanco (19 minutes), Black Panther (28 minutes), Lions Love (…and Lies) (112 minutes), Murs Murs (82 minutes), Documenteur (65 minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: color, English and French with English subtitles, 1:37:1 and 1:66:1 aspect ratio

COMPANY: The Criterion Collection

RELEASED DATE: August 11, 2015


Lions Love (…and Lies) (1969)

Directed by Agnes Varda

Written by Agnes Varda

Produced by Agnes Varda

Music by Joseph Byrd

Cinematography by Stevan Larner

Edited by Robert Dalva, Carolyn Hicks

Art Direction by Jack Wright III

Mur Murs (1981)

Written and Directed by Agnes Varda

Cinematography by Nurith Aviv

Edited by Bob Gould, Sabine Mamou

Documenteur (1981)

Written and Directed by Agnes Varda

Cinematography by Nurith Aviv, Affonso Beato, Bob Carr

Music by Georges Delerue

Edited by Bob Gould, Sabine Mamou


Starring:

Lions Love (…and Lies)

Viva as Viva

Gerome Ragni as Jim

James Rado as Jerry

Eddie Constantine

Peter Bogdanovich

Billie Dixon

Richard Bright

Jim Morrison

Rip Torn

Agenes Varda

Andy Warhol

Mur Murs (1980)

Juliet Berto as La Visiteuse

Judy Baca

Mathieu Demy

Arno Jordan

Kent Twitchell

Documenteur (1981)

Sabine Mamou as Emilie Cooper

Mathieu Demy as Martin Cooper

Lisa Blok-Linson as Lisa, l’amie

Tina Odom as Tina, la serveuse

Gary Feldman as L’ecrivain a sa fenetre

Tom Taplin as Tom Cooper


The legendary French filmmaker Agnès Varda (Cléo from 5 to 7), whose remarkable career began in the 1950s and has continued into the twenty-first century, produced some of her most provocative works while living on the West Coast of the United States. After temporarily relocating from France to California in the late sixties with her husband, Jacques Demy, so that he could make his first Hollywood film, Varda became entranced by the politics, youth culture, and sunshine of the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, and created documentary explorations and fictional narratives—sometimes within the same film. She returned a decade later, and made more fascinating portraits of outsiderness. Her five revealing, entertaining California films, encompassing shorts and features, are collected in this set, which demonstrates that Varda was as deft an artist in unfamiliar terrain as she was on her own turf.

3-DVD BOX SET INCLUDES:

UNCLE YANCO BLACK PANTHERS Agnès Varda’s first California films were two short documentaries made in the San Francisco Bay Area, one personal, the other political. In Uncle Yanco, Varda tracks down a Greek emigrant relative she’s never met in Sausalito. In Black Panthers, she turns her camera on an Oakland demonstration protesting the imprisonment of activist and Black Panthers cofounder Huey P. Newton. These films chart a course from the delightful to the urgent, each in its own way revealing Varda’s curious, empathetic nature.

LIONS LOVE (. . . AND LIES) Agnès Varda goes to Los Angeles, taking New York counterculture with her. In a rented house in the sun-soaked Hollywood hills, a woman and two men—Viva, of Warhol Factory fame, and James Rado and Gerome Ragni, who created and starred in the rock musical Hair—delight in each others’ bodies while musing on love, stardom, and politics. They are soon joined by underground director Shirley Clarke, playing herself as well as functioning as a surrogate for Varda. Lions Love (. . . and Lies) is a metacinematic inquiry into the alternating currents of whimsy and tragedy that typified late sixties America.

MUR MURS  DOCUMENTEUR After returning to Los Angeles from France in 1979, Agnès Varda created two films, different in form and tone yet complexly interwoven. Mur Murs is a kaleidoscopic documentary about the striking murals that decorate the city; Documenteur is a small-scale fiction about a divorced mother and her child (played by Varda’s own son) living a quiet existence on L.A.’s margins. Taken together, these films, with their overlapping images and ideas, sketch a portrait of a metropolis at once sprawling and isolating, bursting with life and haunted by loneliness.


In 1954, Agnès Varda in her late ’20s had a passion about novels and had dreams of wanting to direct her own film.

But in France, one must go through protocol and having learn the ropes of becoming a director.

Varda never watched many films, she never went to film school but she knew what she wanted to do and that was make a film.  Varda was inspired by William Faulkner’s novel “The Wild Palms” (also known as “If I Forget Thee Jerusalem”) and how the novel would focus on two unrelated stories, one about a couple and another about two escaped convicts.

In Varda’s screenplay, her story would focus on a couple and a fishing town in the Port of Sète where Varda and family lived during wartime and would visit every summer.  The location would be the setting for “La Pointe Courte”.

So, she and her mother put in around $14,000 of her own money and Varda recruited two thespian friends Silvia Monfort as Elle and Philippe Noiret as Lui to play a couple and the residents of the fishing village to play a part in the film.

All actors and talent would volunteer their time for this film and she would work with a short crew which included filmmaker and well-known film editor, Alain Resnais (Hiroshima mon amour”, “Last Year at Marienbad”).  And thus, Varda’s low-budget independent film “La Point Courte” was made.

The film would be known for bucking traditional filmmaking, showcasing a creative style of filmmaking before Nouvelle Vague and during its run at Cannes International Film Festival and screened to the intellectual cineaste, the film would receive critical praise and Varda a few years later would receive the distinction as one of the primary filmmakers, let alone a female filmmaker, who would inspire the French New Wave.

Also, giving her the title of “Grandmother of the French New Wave” (or “Ancestor of the French New Wave”).

Back in 2007, The Criterion Collection celebrated Varda’s career by releasing a DVD box set titled “4 by Agnès Varda” featuring “La Pointe Courte” and the three films: “Clèo from 5 to 7″, “Vagabond” and “Le Bonheur”.

In 2015, The Criterion Collection will once again release another set through their Eclipse Series line titled “Agnes Varda in California – Eclipse Series #43”.

The set will feature five films: “Uncle Yanco” (1967), “Black Panthers” (1968), “Lions Love (…And Lies” ) (1969), “Mur Murs” (1980) and “Documenteur” (1981).

Each of these films were restored in 2013 at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in association with The Film Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and Cine-Tamaris.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

Each of these films were restored in 2013 at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in association with The Film Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and Cine-Tamaris.  Overall, picture quality depends on each film but watching the DVD on my 4K TV, I felt that all films especially “Uncle Yanco”, “Black Panthers” and “Lions Love (…And Lies)” look very good on DVD.  There is a good amount of grain and noise, especially for “Documenteur”.

Audio is crystal clear and I didn’t detect any significant hiss.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Eclipse Series DVD’s unfortunately do not come with any special features. But with each DVD, there is an insert of information or information printed on the interior DVD cover (which can be read since the DVD slim cases are clear) on the film.


“Agnes Varda in California – Eclipse Series #43” is a fascinating set featuring five films directed by Agnes Varda during her time in California.  Included are “Uncle Yanco” (1967), “Black Panthers” (1968), “Lions Love (…And Lies” ) (1969), “Mur Murs” (1980) and “Documenteur” (1981).

The first three films were shot when she and her husband, actor Jacques Demy temporarily relocated to California after his success starring in the film “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”.  The last two films when she returned back to California in the early ’80s.

But during the late ’60s, Varda was able to capture the youth movement and also culture that was the sign of the times.

In the 1967 short film “Uncle Yanco”, a fictional tale in which Agnes Varda plays herself, looking for a relative that she has never met, a Greek emigrant living in the boathouse area in Sausalito.

While author Phil Frank has done a wonderful job covering the history of the boathouses in his 2008 book “Houseboats of Sausalito”, Agnes Varda’s film is a wonderful snapshot of Sausalito during the late-’60s.

While “Uncle Yanco” was conceived by Varda in a few days after meeting Yanco, it’s a fascinating short film showcasing Yanco’s artwork but also the city of Sausalito.

The second film featured is “Black Panthers” which Agnes Varda shot in 1968.  This is a documentary capturing the African American radical movement of the Black Panthers and was intended for a French television network, but never aired.  But the film would give people a voice and the concerns of African Americans at that time.  In this case, the protest against the imprisonment of African American activist Huey P. Newton.

The third film “Lions Love (…And Lies)” is a fascinating film for its time.  Varda who called the film an “amorphous meditation on late-sixties American counterculture and politics) but a film about the carefree living of three individuals in Los Angeles in 1969.

Showcasing actress Viva (best known for starring in Andy Warhol’s experimental films), James Rado and Gerome Ragni, the three play themselves as they sleep together, have sex together and have fun, living free.  And are asked by actual underground filmmaker Shirley Clarke, that she wants to shoot them.

In some ways, this film is experimental as it seems that it’s a documentary but it’s a film, as we see a brief flash as the video features underground filmmaker Shirley Clarke, but then suddenly for a brief few seconds, it changes to Agnes Varda wearing the same outfit.

But the film tries to capture the reality of the three individuals, from driving around Los Angeles (which the film is no doubt a time stamp of LA during the late ’60s) but also the reactions to the people during the news coverage of Robert Kennedy’s assassination, to possibly a re-enactment of Hollywood execs discussing the budget of Clarke’s film and whether a director should have artistic control over the final cut of the film.

In many ways, the film is fictional, but also it’s not.  The situations that inspired the film are based on Agnes Varda’s real-life dilemma when she was in negotiations with Columbia Pictures for a scene she had written called “Peace and Love” and refused to grant her creative control on the final cut of the film.

In the fourth film “Mur Murs”, which was shot in 1980, and a return by Agnes Varda to Los Angeles.  During her stay in Los Angeles, she created “Mur Murs”, a documentary of the large-scale murals around Los Angeles.   The murals featured are those located in Mexican and African American communities and Varda interviews those who have painted the murals and learn the reason of what inspired these people to create them.

In the final fifth film featured in “Agnes Varda in California – Eclipse Series #43”, “Documenteur” is a drama with a documentary feel.  The film revolves around a divorced mother named Emilie (portrayed by her editor, Sabine Mamou) and her young so, Martin (portrayed by her son, Mathieu Demy), living together in a house on the beach.

Varda has called the film “the shadow of the first one…what you don’t see in Los Angeles, the nowhere city inside the city”.

But the film is no doubt self-reflective as Varda at the time was separated from Jacques Demy, living alone with her son in Venice Beach and trying to live life in California during tough times in her personal life.

Among these films, among my favorites were “Uncle Yanco” as it showcased Sausalito during the late ’60s (which was great to see!), “Black Panthers” was a fascinating look at African American activism during the late ’60s, while “Lions Love (…And Lies)” was fascinating for its bohemian, free living among its characters but also seeing the experimental touches that Varda added to the film, to show that the film is also part of her life.

While “Mur Murs” and “Black Panthers” are more documentary in style, “Documenteur” is a different style of film as it looks like a documentary in terms of how the film was created, but the more you watch, you can’t help but see the sadness depicted in the film, no doubt, possibly how Varda felt living alone with her young son Mathieu (who also plays the main son, Martin, in the film).

The film no doubt resonates with you in terms of how the character is so isolated in Los Angeles, yet trying to do what she can to make her son happy.  It is visually poetic but yet the opposite of “Lions Love (…And Lies)”, which was created over a decade earlier.

For any cineastes who are expecting Varda ala Nouvelle Vague, each of these films are nothing like her French films.  If anything, “Agnes Varda in California” is a set showcasing Varda’s interest in the youth culture of the late ’60s, the Los Angeles community and its murals during the ’80s through documentaries.  While we get two films that are self-reflective and are drawn from Varda’s own personal experiences at the time.

A fascinating look-back into a different world which Agnes Varda captured of California during the late ’60s and early ’80s, “Agnes Varda in California” are documentaries and experimental films from the French filmmaker worth watching.  And yet another wonderful set included in the Criterion Collection’s Eclipse Series.

 

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

August 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

onepieces7p2-a

“One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Two” is an another action-packed volume as the Straw Hat Pirates take on their most powerful adversary yet, one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, Bartholomew Kuma and we will see the group in a position that they have never been in before! Exciting and if you are a “One Piece” fan, worth watching! Recommended!

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


DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Two

DURATION: Episodes 397-409 (Duration: 320 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: September 1, 2015


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

Izo Oikawa/Philip Weber as Iceburg

Takahiro Yoshimizu/David Wald as Paulie

Bin Shimada/Jonathan Brooks as Foxy the Pirate

Tomokazu Seki/Jason Liebricht as Rob Lucci

Masaya Onosaka/Christopher Corey Smith as Spandam

Kumiko Watanabe/Alexis Tipton as Fukuro

Naomi Shindo/Shelley Calene-Black as Kalifa

Hiroaki Yoshida/Andrew Love as Kumadori

Ryotaro Okiayu/Alex Organ as Kaku

Masaya Takatsuka/Phil Parsons as Jabura


Luffy turns a mermaid auction into a pirate-style brawl when he knocks the snot out of a celestial dragon. The punch heard ’round the island may have saved Camie, but it lands the Straw Hats squarely in the sights of an entire fleet of marines! A little help from fellow pirates Trafalgar Law and Eustass Captain Kid buys the crew some breathing room, but the situation goes from bad to worse when an army of Kuma-clone Pacifistas make their presence felt. Throw in some Light Speed Kicks from Admiral Kizaru and Senfomaru’s battle axe, and things couldn’t get much worse for the Straw Hats.

Or could they? Luffy is forced to watch in horror as the real deal Bartholomew Kuma makes his beloved friends vanish one by one until the rubberman ends up a lonely castaway on the island of Amazon Lily!


The Sabaody Archipelago Chapter continues as the Straw Hats entered Fishman Island and they get more than they ask for when they met an old enemy Hatchan, his friends Camie and Papagg (a first mate of Gold Roger), Silvers Rayleigh and the 9 rookie pirates known as 11 Supernovas.

But what happens when the Straw Hat Pirates are attacked by Bartholomew Kuma, one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea?

Find out in “One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Two”, available now 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 705 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 2015, now with the DVD release of “One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Two” (Episodes 397-409), available in September, 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.


 

VIDEO :

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.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 398 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Justin Cook (voice of Eustass Kidd) and voice actress Luci Christian (voice actress of Nami).

DISC 2:

  • One Piece in the Booth: With Sonny Strait – (22:10) Featuring an interview between Joel McDonald (ADR Director/Line Producer) and Sonny Strait (voice actor of Usopp).
  • Episode 405 Commentary –  ADR Director Joel McDonald with voice talent (with Supernovas) Laura Wetsel (Jewelry Bonney) and Major Attaway (Urouge).
  • Textless Opening – Textless opening song for “Share the World”
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming FUNimation releases.

With the release of “One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Two”, the episodes will complete season 11 and begin season 12 and continues the Sabaody Archipelago Chapter as the Straw Hat Pirates try to save their good friend, Camie who is being auctioned off.

But possibly one of the coolest action-driven arcs as we see the Straw Hat Pirates go against one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, Bartholomew Kuma.  And suffice to say, things do not bode well for our favorite pirates.

While I don’t want to spoil what happens at the end of the Sabaody Archipelago Arc, by episode 408-409, this kicks off season 12 and is a single story arc titled “Maiden Island” and is based on vol. 53 & 54 of Oda Eiichiro’s manga.

But this is probably one of the arc’s to jump into because it becomes the starting point of Portgas D. Ace being captured by the New Government and is set to be executed.  The other importance is the introduction to a new character that will play a prominent role in “One Piece”, her name is Boa Hancock.

This is a long story arc but as the storyline gets ready to jump into the Portgas D. Ace storyline, it’s one of the heaviest, action-packed storylines of “One Piece”, so it’s definitely an important for “One Piece” fans to definitely jump on the viewing bandwagon with “One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Two”.

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 also the latest “One Piece in the Booth” featuring Sonny Strait.

Overall, “One Piece: Season Seven, Voyage Two” is an another action-packed volume as the Straw Hat Pirates take on their most powerful adversary yet, one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, Bartholomew Kuma and we will see the group in a position that they have never been in before!

Exciting and if you are a “One Piece” fan, worth watching!

Recommended!

 

The Seventh Dwarf (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

August 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

theseventhdwarf

“The Seventh Dwarf” is a fun, adventurous animated film for the entire family!


DVD TITLE: The Seventh Dwarf

DURATION: 88 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Anamorphic Widescren (1:85:1), English/French Dolby Digital 5.1, Closed Captions

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: PG

Release Date:  August 18, 2015


Directed by Boris Aljinovic, Harald Sipermann

Written by Harald Siepermann, Daniel Welbat, Douglas Welbat

Producer: Douglas Welbat

 


Featuring the voices of:

Cameron Elvin as Speedy

Matt Gilbert as Tschakko

Joshua Graham as Bobo

Peyton List as Princess Rose

Norm MacDonald as Burner, the Dragon

Joe Marth as Cooky

Geoff May as Sunny

Al Parrish as Cloudy


It’s the eve of Princess Rose’s 18th birthday. Everyone in the kingdom has come to the castle to celebrate including Snow White, the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella and Red Riding Hood. But just before the stroke of midnight, Bobo, the youngest dwarf, accidentally pricks the finger of Princess Rose (a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty) with a cursed needle and sends the kingdom into a century-long slumber! To find Rose’s true love, Jack, to save her with a kiss, Bobo and the other six dwarfs must go on a treacherous journey, face a fiery dragon and outwit the jealous, scheming and evil witch, Dellamorta!


From German actor/director Boris Aljinovic (“Seven Dwarfs”, “7 Dwarves: The Forest is Not Enough”) and character designer/writer Harald Siepermann (“Who Framed Roger Rabit”, “Tarzan”, “Brother Bear”) comes the animated film “The Seventh Dwarf” (Der 7bte Zwerg).

The film marks the final animated film written and directed by Harald Siepermann who passed away of cancer in 2013.

“The Seventh Dwarf” was also co-written by Daniel Welbat and Douglas Welbat and now “The Seventh Dwarf” will be released on DVD in August 2015 courtesy of Shout! Factory.

“The Seventh Dwarf” is set during a time when Princess Rose is set to celebrate her 18th birthday.

Her true love Jack and the Princess are trying to keep their relationship hidden because of the evil Dellamorta will do anything to put a curse on the princess.

She tells him that he is on the only one that can lift the curse if Dellamorta gets to her and the only way to help her is with a kiss.  But he must stay safe from Dellamorta, in order to save her, so Princess Rose gives him a map for him to travel to an area of safety, and also a locket that plays music.  But he must return after the 18th birthday celebration.

But as Jack goes to travel to the safe location, he runs into the youngest dwarf Bobo and when he plays the music on the locket, he immediately reveals his position to Dellamorta, who sends a dragon to capture him.

On the 18th birthday of the Princess, Snow White, the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderalla and the Red Riding Hood come to celebrate with the Princess but when Dellamorta shows up, she tells Princess Snow of her plans to curse her.

Hoping for Jack to come and rescue her, she finds out that Jack has been kidnapped by Dellamorta and to make things worse, Bobo accidentally allows the Princess to get pricked in the finger, putting her into a curse.

Wanting to make things right, Bobo and the Seven Dwarfs go on a mission to rescue Jack and save the Princess.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Seventh Dwarf” is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen (1:85:1) and in English/French Dolby Digital 5.1.

It’s important to note that if you want the best picture and audio quality, “The Seventh Dwarf” is available on Blu-ray.  But on DVD, picture quality is as good as one can expect on DVD with DNR.  Picture quality for the most part is good and the children will not mind.  The film is colorful and objects and scenery are well-detailed and shaded.

Subtitles are in English SDH and also provided in Closed Captions.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Seventh Dwarf” comes with the following special features:

  • Character Profiles – Text-based character profiles.
  • Fairy Tales– (2:08) Featuring a behind-the-scenes recording with talents Peyton List and Norm Macdonald.
  • Sing-Alongs – Featuring two songs “Cake” and “Friend”
  • Royal Birthday Invitation – A PDF-based invitation that can be read when the DVD is put on a laptop or PC.

For those who grew up with animated films or fairy tales featuring the seven dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White will find “The Seventh Dwarf” to be an enjoyable animated film for the entire family.

A film made in Germany and showcasing American talent such as Peyton List and Norm MacDonald providing voices of the Princess and Burner, the Dragon, this tale is much different than the story tales which we grew up watching or reading and focuses on the adventures of seven dwarfs, especially the shy and clumsy Bobo, who try to make things right by going on a mission to find Jack, the only person who can awaken Princess Rose from her sleep.

But before they can do that, they must prepare themselves with a confrontation with a dragon before facing the evil Dellamorta.

While the animation should not be compared with the big budget Disney Pixar films (for visual graphics and deep storyline), for the most part, CG is well-done and the film has its own personal, unique style for character designs with a story that children and families will enjoy.

While the film is rated PG, due to the dark nature of its antagonist, Dellamorta and slight violence caused by a dragon, for the most part, the film is safe for children.

As for the DVD release, while picture quality is good, for those looking for better picture quality and audio will want to go for the Blu-ray release of this title.  But the DVD looks good as one can expect on DVD and you get a few special features as well.

Overall, “The Seventh Dwarf” is a fun, adventurous animated film for the entire family!

 

 

Robot Chicken: Season 7 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

July 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

robotchicken-7a

“Robot Chicken: Season 7″  retains the adult humor and continues the craziness and bold parodies that the series is known for.  While there are some sketches that will appeal to many of the people who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s,  for the most part, if you are into over-the-top, adult humor, especially involving toys and claymation characters, you’ll love this latest season of “Robot Chicken”!


DVD TITLE: Robot Chicken: Season 7

DURATION: (Episodes 121-139) 220 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Adult Swim

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: July 21, 2015


Directed by Zeb Wells

Written by Douglas Goldstein, Tom Root, Jordan Allen-Dutton, Zeb Wells, Matthew Ireland Beans, Rachel Bloom, Jason Reich, Mehar Sethi, Jessica Gao

Executive Producer: John Harvatine IV, Eric Towner

Co-Producer: Ethan Marak

Supervising Producer: Janet Dimon

Line Producer: Victoria L. Howard

Associate Producer: Nakia Trower

Music by Shawn Patterson

Cinematography by Helder Sun

Edited by Matt Mariska, Jenny McKibben

Casting by Ivy Isenberg

Art Direction by Trisha Gum

 


Featuring the voices of:

Seth Green

Breckin Meyer

Matthew Senreich

Dan Milano

Tom Root

Laurent Vernin

Seth MacFarlane

Jamie Kaler

Abraham Benrubi

Victor Yerrid


Adult Swim’s Emmy® Award-winning stop-motion animated series Robot Chicken returns on DVD with 20 all-new episodes from Season 7, including the now famous “Bitch Pudding Special”. Packed with hours of bonus content, Robot Chicken Season 7 will include 20 commentaries from show creators and cast, deleted animatics, outtakes, interviews, behind the scenes, and more.


In 2005, actor Seth Green (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Austin Powers” films) and Matthew Senreich along with writers Douglas Goldstein and Tom Root went on to create “Robot Chicken”.

Back when “ToyFare” was published, the magazine writers Senreich, Goldstein and Root would feature a humorous photo comic-strip  and sure enough along with Green, the guys would create a sketch comedy featuring parodies of popular American pop culture using toys via stop-motion or claymation.  Inspired by a dish at Kung Pao Bistro, “Robot Chicken” was born and it would air on Carton Network’s “Adult Swim” in 2005.

The show has won an Annie Award including three Academy Awards and as the series will continue for another eighth season on Adult Swim, the seventh season of “Robot Chicken” has been released on DVD in July 2014.

And this time around, the crew bring in more celebrities for voicework but also a few female writers for a fun and crazy season!

For those not familiar with “Robot Chicken”, each episode is about eleven minutes long and features a number of stop-motion and claymation skits. The episodes are not for children as their is profanity and adult discussions on each episode.

For the seventh season, there are a total of 20 episodes:

1. Bitch Pudding Special
2. G.I. Jogurt
3. Link’s Sausages
4. Secret of the Booze
5. Rebel Appliance
6. Legion of Super-Gyros
7. El Skeletorio
8. Snarfer Image
9. Up, Up and Buffet
10. Panthropologie
11. Catdog on a Stick
12. Super Guitario Center
13. Noidstrom Rack
14. Stone Cold Steve Cold Stone
15. Walking Dead Lobster
16. The Hobbit: There and Bennigan’s
17. The Robot Chicken Lots of Holidays but Don’t Worry Christmas is Still in There Too so Pull the Stick Out of Your Ass Fox News Special
18. Batman Forever 21
19. Victoria’s Secret of Nimh
20. Chipotle Miserables

Plus the following specials “Bitch Pudding Special”, the 2013 Christmas special “Born Again Virgin Christmas Special” and the 2014 Christmas/New Year special “Lots of Holidays but Don’t Worry Christmas is Still in There Too so Pull the Stick Out of Your Ass Fox News Special”.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Robot Chicken: Season 7″ is presented in widescreen.  While the series received an HD release last year, for the seventh season, the DVD releases is good as one can expect on DVD. The details can be seen on the toy and claymation figures but there are some jaggedness with animation and DNR is applied.

Dialogue is clear and understandable, while certain scenes with explosions have good dynamic range coming from the front channels.  For the most part, the episodes are primarily front and center-channel driven.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Robot Chicken: Season 7” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary – All episodes come with audio commentary.
  • The Ones That Got Away – (6:07)  A featurette about sketches that got cut.
  • Beneath Harv’s Beard – (6:54) John Harvatine IV gets a shave after losing a bet.
  • Favorites from the Room – (4:00) The creators discuss their favorite sketches.
  • The Gummy Bear Challenge – (5:01) A few of the staff members take the gummy bear challenge.
  • Born Again Virgin Christmas Special – (11:10) The 2013 “Robot Chicken” Christmas special
  • Stoopid Buddy Stodios Takes San Diego Comic Con – (4:02) The crew visits San Diego Comic Con.
  • Cut Sketches – (18:04) The crew discuss some of their cut sketches and feature the sketches (with voice acting).
  • The Making of Bitch Pudding Special – (4:21) A special feature about the making of the Strawberry Shortcake sketch character and how the fan demanded more of Bitch Pudding.

robotchicken-7b

As a fan of “Robot Chicken”, the comedy around stop motion and action figures/toys was a fascinating and hilarious concept when it was first conceived and still remains crazy, hilarious and fun today!

Sure, the comedy is mature and each episode is about 11 minutes long but part of the allure is how much stop-motion and the amount of creativity that goes into the making for each small stop-motion story in each episode.

I haven’t personally counted on how many stop-motion toy skits there are per episode but I can imagine that the serious takes a long time just to create but most importantly, the creativity that comes into writing for each episode and trying to emulate what is seen on the script and making it happen and believable with the action figures and toys.

But with the seventh season of “Robot Chicken”, it’s even more crazy and raunchy as ever (yes, I know I say this every year).

You can expect a good number of crazy episodes in season 7 as Cobra wants to outdo G.I. Joe when it comes to PSA’s, watch what happens when Punky Brewster become evil, the crew of the video game “Punch Out” visits Doc’s funeral, a Star Trek parody, many “Masters of the Universe” skits, Superman visiting Santa Claus and more!

This seventh season DVD set also features the return of Bitch Pudding, the mean Strawberry Shortcake sketch character in her own special. The DVD also includes the hilarious and crazy Christmas and New Years special titled “Robot Chicken: Lots of Holidays but Don’t Worry Christmas is Still in There Too so Pull the Stick Out of Your Ass Fox News Special”, with one of the craziest parody of “The Chipmunks” which always makes me laugh, each time I have watched it.  And also, the inclusion of the 2013 special which was not included on the season six Blu-ray or DVD.

As for the DVD release, this is a jam-packed and fans should love it as their are many hours of special features.  For one, each episode has audio commentary, then there are a number of hilarious featurettes included and also many deleted sketches and more.

Once again, this is a series not for children.  So, just because there are toys in stopmotion and claymation, there is a lot of profanity and adult humor featured on each episode.

Overall, “Robot Chicken: Season 7″  retains the adult humor and continues the craziness and bold parodies that the series is known for.  While there are some sketches that will appeal to many of the people who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s,  for the most part, if you are into over-the-top, adult humor, especially involving toys and claymation characters, you’ll love this latest season of “Robot Chicken”!

 

 

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

July 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

bleach-25

A fascinating storyline after the Arrancar arc, we knew life would not be the same for Ichigo Kurosaki, and this latest volume shows how life 17-months later has been tough on him since losing his powers. If you have stayed with this series for the long haul, this second-to-last volume of “Bleach DVD: Original & Uncut” is worth watching!

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


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

DURATION: Episodes 343-354 (288 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: VIZ Media

RATED: 13+

Release Date: June 23, 2015


Originally created by Tite Kubo

Directed by Noriyuki Abe

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Character Design by Masashi Kudo

Art Director: Natsuko Suzuki, Sawako Takagi

Anime Production by TV Tokyo, Dentsu, Studio Pierrot


Featuring the following voice talent:

Fumiko Orikasa/Michelle Ruff as Rukia Kuchiki

Masakazu Morita/Johnny Yong Bosch as Ichigo Kurosaki

Hiroki Yasumoto/Jamieson Price as Sado “Chad” Yasutora

Kentarou Itou/Wally Wingert as Abarai Renji

Masakazu Morita/Johnny Yong Bosch as Hollow Ichigo

Noriaki Sugiyama/Derek Stephen Prince as Ishida Uryuu

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

Shinichiro Miki/Michael Lindsay as Urahara Kisuke

Yuki Matsuoka/Stephanie Sheh as Inoue Orihime

Kaya Matsutani/Megan Hollingshead as Rangiku Matsumoto

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Vic Mignogna as Ikkaku Madarame

Jun Fukuyama/Brian Beacock as Yumichika Ayasegawa

Romi Paku/Steve Staley as Toshiro Hitsugaya


A year has passed since Ichigo lost his Soul Reaper powers and resumed the life of a normal teenager. But those ordinary days come to an end when Ichigo meets a mysterious man named Kugo Ginjo, who offers to help him get his Soul Reaper powers back-and gives him only a day to decide! Ichigo is dead set against it, until Uryu is injured by an unknown attacker. Ichigo, powerless to help, turns to Ginjo and is introduced to the group Xcution, whose Fullbring powers Ichigo must face in battle if he ever hopes to get strong again!


Ichigo Kurosaki, a teenager who has developed incredible powers has lost it all during his battle with Aizen 17-months earlier.  Since then, he has kept him distant from his family and friends.

No powers, unable to feel the hollow’s spiritual energy, Ichigo Kurosaki feels that he is no use to anyone anymore.  But will Ichigo ever recover his powers?

Find out what happens in “Bleach DVD Set Twenty-Five” which features season 16 (episodes 343-354)!


 

So, what is “Bleach”?

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

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

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

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

With the release of “Bleach DVD Set Twenty-Five: Original and Uncut”, while the manga series continues after this arc, the anime series ends.  So, this volume begins the 16th season and vol. 26 will be the final season of “Bleach” for the time being (these episodes were released in Japan back in 2012) and there may be a possibility of more episodes with the completion of the manga series.

In this latest volume, Ichigo has lost his power.  While his friends continue to fight against the Hollows, including his sister Karin who has developed the power to see and fight Hollows, 17-months later and Ichigo is still down in the dumps.  Feeling that the loss of power, he can’t do greater things to help the world like he used too.  He also misses seeing his friends from the Soul Society and all he can do is participate in school activities and go to work.

But there is someone keeping his eye out for Ichigo and even Orihime senses that he is being followed.  As does Uryu, and when he goes towards Ichigo’s home, Uryu sees someone running with unbelievable speed.  And the person is not a Soul Reaper.

And by the time Uryu goes to catch him, the assailant injures him.

What is going on and who are these people with special abilities and who is following Ichigo?

The main characters of “Bleach” are:

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

VIDEO:

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

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

  • Clean Opening and Ending – The clean opening and ending themes.
  • Omake – The ending omake for episodes 343-354.

17-months after his battle with Aizen and losing all his powers, it’s interesting to see how dissatisfied he is with life because he can contribute and help out his friends.  Being normal is starting to get on his nerves and he is starting to push family and friends away.

Without spoiling anything with this volume, what I can say is that someone is following Ichigo and there is a new group of supernatural people that have their eyes on not just Ichigo but also his friends.  Something bad is going on and when one of them makes contact with Ichigo, looking for his father.  Suffice to say, it’s driving Ichigo crazy because he can’t do anything to protect his family.

But when Uryu is severely injured, this puts Ichigo in a problematic situation.  What can he do?  And who are these mysterious individuals?

With this latest volume of “Bleach”, it sets up the final volume on DVD for now (the anime series ends with this season/arc).  The storyline is no doubt a new chapter in the life of Ichigo Kurosaki.  Powerless and now just a normal human being, you know that the lead protagonist can only be powerless for so long.  The question is how will he get his powers back?  These new mysterious people in town may have the answers that Ichigo has been looking for.

If you are a fan of “Bleach” and stood with this anime series from the very beginning or have followed the anime/manga series for a very long time , “Bleach DVD Set Twenty-Five: Original and Uncut” features a new storyline not featured on the manga series and no doubt will entertain “Bleach” fans! A fascinating storyline after the Arrancar arc, we knew life would not be the same for Ichigo Kurosaki, and this latest volume shows how life 17-months later has been tough on him since losing his powers.

If you have stayed with this series for the long haul, this second-to-last volume of “Bleach DVD: Original & Uncut” is worth watching!

 

Hiroshima mon amour – The Criterion Collection #196 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

July 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Hiroshima mon amour” is an Alain Resnais masterpiece. The filmmaker no doubt has wonderful gems in his oevure, but “Hiroshima mon amour” is a unique film that is ahead of its time and as it had captivated me in my younger years when I first watched the film, the film still entertains me today because I see this as forward thinking, wonderful cinema that I absolutely love. “Hiroshima mon amour” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1959 Argos Films. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Hiroshima Mon Amour – The Criterion Collection #196

YEAR OF FILM: 1959

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1, French Monaural, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: July 14, 2015


Directed by Alain Resnais

Written by Marguerite Duras

Produced by Anatole Dauman, Samy Halfon

Music by Georges Delerue, Giovanni Fusco

Cinematography by Michio Takahashi, Sacha Vierny

Edited by Jasmine Chasney, Henri Colpi, Anne Sarraute

Production Design by Minoru Esaka, Mayo Petri, Lucilla Mussini

Costume Design by Gerard Collery

 


Starring:

Emanuelle Riva as Elle

Eiji Okada as Lui

Stella Dassas as Mother

Pierre Barbaud as Father

Bernard Fresson as German Lover


A cornerstone of the French New Wave, the first feature from Alain Resnais is one of the most influential films of all time. A French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) and a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada) engage in a brief, intense affair in postwar Hiroshima, their consuming mutual fascination impelling them to exorcise their own scarred memories of love and suffering. With an innovative flashback structure and an Academy Award–nominated screenplay by novelist Marguerite Duras, Hiroshima mon amour is a moody masterwork that delicately weaves past and present, personal pain and public anguish.


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A few years after creating his award-winning documentary short “Night and Fog”, filmmaker Alain Resnais would return with “Hiroshima mon amour”.

While many would give credit to Jean Pierre Melville for jumpstarting Nouvelle Vague (The French New Wave) with his 1956 film “Bob le Flambeur” and employing the jump cut, in 1959, Alain Resnais’ latest film would be seen as innovative for its use of miniature flashbacks in creating a unique nonlinear storyline.

The film would become a co-production from both France and Japan and would utilize a film crew and cinematographer from both countries.

“Hiroshima mon amour” would star first-time actress Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”, “Leon Morin, Priest”, “Three Colors: Blue”) and Eiji Okada (“Woman in the Dunes”, “Antarctica”, “The Ugly American”) and would receive an Oscar nomination for “Best Screenwriting” for screenwriter Marguerite Duras, a Fipresci International Critics’ Prize at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival and would win the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Film Critics Association in 1960.

The film would receive praise from film critics including filmmakers involved in the French New Wave such as Jean-Luc Godard and Eric Rohmer.

And now “Hiroshima Mon Amour” will receive its first Blu-ray treatment and DVD re-release from the Criterion Collection.

“Hiroshima mon amour” is a story that takes place within 36-hours in Hiroshima, Japan.  A married French actress (portrayed by Emmanuelle Riva) who is filming a film about the effects of the Hiroshima bomb, has a one night stand with a married, Japanese architect (portrayed by Eiji Okada) have spent the night together.

But on the day that the actress is supposed to leave and go back to France, the Japanese architect wants to see her again and for her to stay a little longer.

But the actress tells him no and it’s impossible.

As he becomes persistent of wanting to be with her, the two partake in a series of conversations and we learn more about her life and past relationship, while he contradicts her statements.  Rejecting her perspective and the things she says and continues to pursue her.

But learning of why the actress compares Hiroshima to her youth in the French town of Nevers.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Hiroshima mon amour – The Criterion Collection #196” is presented in 1:37:1 aspect ratio (black and white) and French/Japanese monaural with English subtitles.

It’s important to note that if one wants the best picture and audio quality, they will want to purchase this film on Blu-ray. But the DVD features very good picture quality as I didn’t notice any damages to the film, white and gray levels are well-contrast, as one can expect on DVD.  And an improvement over the older Criterion Collection DVD release.

According to the Criterion Collection, “Restored in 2013 by Argos Films, the Fondation Groupama Gan pour le cinema, the Foundation Technicolor pour le Patrimoine du Cinema and the Cineteca di Bologna, with support from the Centre national du cinema et de l’image animee, this new digital was created in 4k resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original camera negative, the internegatives of teh special effects, and various archival footage held at L’Immagine Ritrovata at the cineteca di Bologna.  The original monaural soundtrack was restored by L’Immagine Ritrovata and the Criterion Collection.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Hiroshima mon amour – The Criterion Collection #196” comes with the following special features:

  • Alain Resnais – (5:42) Featuring an interview with Alain Resnais in 1961 for the TV show “Cinepanorama” and in (10:52) 1980 with Francois Chalais for “Le Cinema des cienastes”.
  • Emmanuelle Riva – (5:41) Interview with Emmauelle Riva in 1959 (for the debut at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival) and in 2003 with the Criterion Collection (19:19).
  • Francois Thomas on Hiroshima Mon Amour – (26:21) Film scholar Francois Thomas, author of “L’Atelier d’Alain Resnais” in Paris, March 2015.
  • Memory and Meaning: The Music of “Hiroshima Mon Amour” – (10:11) Tim Page, professor of music and journalism at USC talks about the contributions of composers Giovanni Fusco and Georges Delerue.
  • Revoir “Hiroshima”… – (11:13) The process of working on the 4k digital restoration of “Hiroshima mon amour” in 2013.

EXTRAS:

“Hiroshima mon amour – The Criterion Collection #196” comes with a 30-page booklet with the essay “Time Indefinite” by Kent Jones and “A Conversation About ‘Hiroshima mon amour'”.


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Watching “Hiroshima mon amour” once again, more than a decade later, I watched the film and I realized how the film was ahead of its time.

But where most films that are far ahead of its time tends to have this connotation that audiences don’t get it, I mean far ahead in the fact that the film would showcase an intelligent film about a French woman and a Japanese man, an interracial relationship and a relationship in acquiescence.

Being an Asian American cineaste, I tend to watch these films without thinking about my own race, but with “Hiroshima mon amour”, the film spoke to me at a younger age.  It made me interested in French pop culture.  It captivated me because of the love scenes between two different cultures and both engaged in intellectual conversation.  You just don’t see this in cinema, not just in the past but also in the present.  If anything, today, you are more apt to see an Asian woman with a Caucasian man, but once again, being an Asian American male, this film captivated me because of the characters and its storyline of impossible love.

An arbitrary moment of two married individuals, both happily married but yet found each other, drawn to each other because of the risk, because of the impossibility, longing for eachother but knowing deep inside, it’s never going to happen.

A storyline of two individuals engaged in a conversation and what takes place between the two throughout the day, as we learn about why the French actress does not want to see the man, while the man is intent of wanting to see her again.  It’s a clash between perspectives.  She says one thing, he against it.   She see things a certain way, he sees things differently.

I found this engagement of wits between these two characters to be interesting but even more exciting, bypassing any banality courtesy of its use of flashbacks and stylistic differences courtesy of Alain Resnais choice of using two cinematographers, a Japanese crew for the main story, while the woman’s flashbacks in France, courtesy of a French crew.

Because of its stylistic differences from traditional cinema and it was one of the earlier films to be part of Nouvelle Vague (the French New Wave), it was seen as unique and different.  A tete-a-tete that makes you want to see if any of the two will give in to each other, while seeing how the horrors of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima is weaved into the storyline but also how it’s woven into this intricate and wonderful film that I still enjoy to this day.

While I am reviewing the 2015 DVD version of this film, it is important for me to emphasize that if you want the best picture quality, the Blu-ray release is the way to go.  The 2015 DVD is very good and crisper and sharper than its previous Criterion Collection counterpart and also includes a few new special features as well.

Overall, “Hiroshima mon amour” is an Alain Resnais masterpiece.  The filmmaker no doubt has wonderful gems in his oevure, but “Hiroshima mon amour” is a unique film that is ahead of its time and as it had captivated me in my younger years when I first watched the film, the film still entertains me today because I see this as forward thinking, wonderful cinema that I absolutely love.

“Hiroshima mon amour” is highly recommended!

 

Here Is Your Life – The Criterion Collection #766 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

July 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Mesmerizing!  Jan Troell’s “Here Is Your Life” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1966 An Svensk Filmindustri. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Here Is Your Life – The Criterion Collection #766

YEAR OF FILM: 1966

DURATION: 168 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and white/color, 1:66:1 Aspect Ratio, Swedish Monaural, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: The Criterion Collection

RELEASED DATE: July 14, 2015


Directed by Jan Troell

Based on the Novel “Romanem om Olof” by Eyvind Johnson

Written by Bengt Forslund and Jan Troell

Produced by Bengt Forslund

Cinematography by Jan Troell

Edited by Jan Troell

Art Direction by Rolf Boman

Costume design by Knut Nylen


Starring:

Eddie Axberg as Olof Persson

Gudrun Brost as Olof’s Stepmother

Ulla Akselson as Olof’s Mother

Bo Wahlstrom as Older Brother

Rick Axberg as Second Brother

Holger Lowenadler as Kristiansson

Goran Lindberg as Olsson

Tage Sjogren as Lund

Tage Johnson as Linus

Allan Edwall as August

Max von Sydow as Smalands-Pelle

Ulf Palme as Larsson

Jan-Erik Lindqvist as Johansson


This mesmerizing debut by the great Swedish director Jan Troell (The Emigrants, The New Land) is an epic bildungsroman and a multilayered representation of early twentieth-century Sweden. Based on a series of semi-autobiographical novels by Nobel Prize winner Eyvind Johnson, Here Is Your Life follows a working-class boy’s development, from naive teenager to intellectually curious young adult, from logger to movie projectionist to politically engaged man of the people—all set against the backdrop of a slowly industrializing rural landscape. With its mix of modernist visual ingenuity and elegantly structured storytelling, this enchanting film—presented here in its original nearly three-hour cut—is a reminder that Troell is one of European cinema’s greatest and most sensitive illuminators of the human condition.


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While filmmaker Jan Troell will be known for his working relationship with Max von Sydow for films such as “The Emigrants”, “The New Land”, “Hamsun” and his 2008 film “Everlasting Moments”, he will also be known for his Swedish drama, “Here Is Your Life”.

Directed and co-written along with Bengst Forlund and created with a low-budget, the film was an adaptation of Eyvind Johnson’s semi-autobiographical series of four novels “Romanem om Olof”.

The film won Gold and Silver Hugo Awards at the 1967 Chicago International Film Festival for “Best Film” and “Best Director”, winner of “Best Director” at the 4th Guldbagge Awards, “Here Is Your Life” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection in July 2015.

“Here Is Your Life” revolves around 15-year-old Olof Persson (portrayed by Eddie Axberg).  With his aunt not having any money to take care of him, and his family (also not in the best financial setting) trying to nurse his sick father, while his mother tries to feed the other children in the family.  The young Oloff decides to do something about his life and that is to work full time.

Taking up survival jobs such as working at a logging camp and befriending August (portrayed by Allan Edwall), who tells him a story of his deceased wife.

Due to a mishap, Oloff moves on to other jobs which include working at a sawmill , working at a cinema, working at the freight yard, falling for the much older circus queen, Olivia.  Having fun in the outdoors with a friend and more.

This is a coming of age film showcasing a boy who has no choice but to grow up and become a man during a poverty-stricken time in Sweden.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Here Is Your Life – The Criterion Collection #766” is presented in 1:66:1 aspect ratio (black and white and in color) and Swedish monaural with English subtitles.

It’s important to note that if one wants the best picture  and audio quality, they will want to purchase this film on Blu-ray.  But the DVD features very good picture quality as I didn’t notice any damages to the film, white and gray levels are well-contrast, as one can expect on DVD and the Swedish monaural audio is understandable with no noticeable hiss.  English subtitles are also easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Here Is Your Life – The Criterion Collection #766” comes with the following special features:

  • Jan Troelle and Peter Cowie – (33:45) Featuring a conversation with co-writer, director, cinematographer and editor Jan Troell and film historian Peter Cowie in Sweden, March 2015.
  • Eddie Axberg  – (15:46) Interview with actor Eddie Axberg in Stockholm, March 2015.
  • Bengt Forslund – (14:54) Interview with producer co-writer Bengt Forslund in Stockholm, March 2015.
  • Interlude in the Marshland – (30:09) A short from Jan Troell’s 1965 omnibus film “4×4”.

EXTRAS:

“Here Is Your Life – The Criterion Collection #766” comes with an insert with the essay “Great Expectations” by Mark Le Fanu.


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Jan Troell’s “Here Is Your Life” is a fascinating film that showcases 20th century Sweden and a teenage boy who has no choice but to start making a living in order to support himself.

Knowing that he can’t depend on his parents (his mother raises his brothers, while his father is sick), he takes on jobs with other older men and literally has to grow up and earn money for himself.

The storyline revolving around Oloff is showing us how this young boy had to endure a harsh life and literally skip over his teenage years in order to work.  Jobs that are not safe but it was the only way he is able to survive.

With each job taken, there is wonderful focus on the characters and the setting.  There is also experimentation as the logging scene features the eldest August telling Oloff a story of his wife, which then becomes a colorful surreal escape from the black and white film, a woman searching for her children but in the end, succumbs to death.  While a scene that is different, it is interesting to see filmmaker Jan Troell taking part on experimental scenes and incorporating it into the final cut of the film.

And while we see Oloff trying to endure each job he takes, we see him grow from a timid young boy to a young man.  A young man discovering his sexual desires, a young man influenced by other men in wanting to make money and more of it.  But also enduring unusual people and situations that make you hope that Oloff is able to have some sort of good life, for all the trouble he has endured.

As for the DVD release, as mentioned, if you want the best picture quality, then go for the Blu-ray release.  As for the DVD release itself, picture quality is good as one can expect on DVD.

As the majority of the film is in black and white, the overall picture quality looks good on DVD and the monaural soundtrack shows no signs of hiss or crackle.  You also get a few special features as the Criterion Collection revisits the filmmaker, the producer/co-writer and also Eddie Axberg who plays Oloff in the film.

Overall, “Here Is Your Life” is quite long at 168 minutes long, but Jan Troell was able to create a mesmerizing film adaptation that makes you feel that the film is authentic and real.  The experimentation and the camera work for the film is also very well done and the fact that Troell and also writer/producer Bengt Forslun had to wear different hats in order to make this a reality, especially for Troell, it’s a surprise of how much he accomplished in making this film during frigid conditions and attention to detail.

Jan Troell’s “Here Is Your Life” is recommended!

 

Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

July 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” is a fantastic, action-packed conclusion to the second season and I can’t wait for a third season! Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Shinobu Ohtaka/SHOGAKUKAN, Magi Committee, MBS. All rights reserved.


DVD TITLE: Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2

TV SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 14-25 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 widescreen, Japanese Stereo and English Dolby Digital 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: 13 and up

RELEASE DATE: March 31, 2015


Originally Created by Shinobu Ohtaka

Directed by Koji Masunari

Series Composition by Hiroyuki Yoshino

Screenplay by Masanao Akahoshi

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Character Design by Toshifumi Akai

Art Director by Ayu Kawamoto

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kaori Ishihara/Erica Mendez as Aladdin

Yuuki Kaji/Erik Kimerer as Alibaba Saluja

Haruka Tomatsu/Cristina Vee as Morgiana

Darrel Guilbeau/Kensho Ono as Ren Hakuryu

Julie Ann Taylor/Asami Seto as Seishun Li

Keith Silverstein/Yoshimasa Hosoya as Masrur

Kira Buckland/Kana Hanazawa as Ren Kogyuku

Lucien Dodge.Takahiro Sakurai as Ja’far

Marc Diraison/Shinichiro Miki as Ithnan

Matthew Mercer/Daisuke Ono as Sinbad

Patrick Seitz/Toshiyuki Morikawa as Ugo

Sean Chiplock/Jun Fukuyama as Cassim

Todd Haberkorn/Ryohei Kimura as Judal

Trinity Lee/Nana Mizuki as Ren Hakuei

Vic Mignogna/Kenichi Suzumura as Ka Kobun


In their second year at the Academy, Aladdin, Titus, and Sphintus are granted Second Class Citizenship in Magnoshutatt and are allowed to venture outside of the campus. There, the group witnesses the harsh realities of racial inequalities and discrimination among the magicians and the humans. Even though Aladdin is shocked to learn the bitter history between the two races that acted as a catalyst for these prejudices, he is unable to agree with the Academy’s Director Mogamett’s vision of building a “country solely for magicians.” Aladdin also concludes that the magicians at Magnoshutatt are somehow connected to Dark Magic after coming into contact with the black rukh in his class. After learning that Titus defected to Magnoshutatt, the Leam Empire finally declares war. With the powerful Fanalis Corp. leading the attack, the Leam military begins its invasion! As Aladdin stands between the two nations to stop them with his powers as a Magi, some familiar faces come to his aid! Now with even the Kou Empire entering the war, countless black rukh cover the skies. The clash of nations may be just the beginning of the end of this world! Contains episodes 14-25 plus a two-sided deluxe illustration board and a mini-poster.


A year has passed and Aladdin continues his training at the Academy with other magicians.

Having made friends with Titus and Sphintus, Aladdin and friends learn that the Academy’s Director Mogamett has a goal to build a country only for magicians, but because Mogamett’s feelings towards non-magicians, the Director may be preparing to start a war.

Can Aladdin protect his friends and the innocent people who are drawn into the war?

Find out in “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2”.

What is “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” about?

When it comes to opportunities of becoming a manga writer/artist (mangaka), Shinobu Ohtaka’s story.

She has written about her story of how she became a manga artist, as a person who was the person who would sit quietly in the corner of class and was not really great at anything and often playing a supporting role. But if there was one thing that she was confident in, it was drawing pictures.

And now this shy artist would not only have a hit manga but also anime series!

Her first year in high school, she was submitting manga manuscripts because it was her dream to become a manga author. And like many writers, her submissions were denied and this continued through high school and college. And when she was about to call it quits, she was given the opportunity to do a one-shot and it led to the creation of the series “Sumomo Momomo” in 2004 which would eventually become 22 volume manga series and also a 22-episode anime series.

After completing “Sumomo Momomo”, Shinobu then created “Magi” which would be serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday in 2009 and to this day, the series is till ongoing (currently, at 18 volumes) and a 25-episode anime adaptation which was aired in Japan in Oct. 2012 – March 2013 and a 25-episode second season which was completed in Japan.

And now episodes 1-13 of the second season of “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic” was released on DVD in the United States courtesy of Aniplex in March 2015.

In the second season of the series, the story takes place after Aladdin, Alibaba, Morgiana and Hakuryu have defeated the dungeon.

But with Aladdin wanting to leave and go on his own adventure in order to grow stronger and study magic, the others realize they need to get stronger too and each go on their own direction.

For Aladdin, he knows he must learn how to master his magic and find out what kind of magic he can take control of. But needs to learn the power behind the “Abnormalities of the World”. He comes across a mysterious prodigy from Lea named Titus Alexius. But who is this man?

Alibaba must get stronger, so he decides to challenge the gladiators of the coliseum but he learns that he has two magoi in his body that may tear his insides apart.

Meanwhile, Morgiana goes back to her home of Katarg but is told that if she goes to other side of the mountain, she will be unable to come back to the other side.

As Hyakuren goes back to the Kou Empire in hopes that he will be the new leader but someone else has been assigned as leader.

In the second half of “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic”, Aladdin continues his training at the Academy but the Academy’s Director has his own plans of what he is expecting from the magician’s and that is all out war against non-magicians.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and Japanese and English Dolby Digital 2.0.

While I was hoping for a Blu-ray release of “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic”, the series is well-animated, well-shaded and tends to feature hilarious character designs during the more comedy scenes, while showcasing emotion and drama during the most serious situations. Action scenes are well-animated, background art is well-detailed and painted beautifully.

Audio on the DVD is front-channel driven but voice acting is well-done for both Japanese and English soundtracks. Dialogue, sound effects and music are clear.

Subtitles are available in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” comes with no special features.

EXTRAS:

“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” comes with a slipcase, a two-sided deluxe illustration board and a mini-poster.


 

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With the second season of “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic”, we get a whole season dedicated to the training and growth of each of four individuals: Aladdin, Alibaba, Morgiana and Hakuryu for the first half.

But the storyline for the second half focuses on Aladdin and his year-long training at a magician’s academy, growing in power, learning about magic but also preparing for a major war in the Kou Empire as true evil has descended in the land.

As episodes 13-16 focuses on Aladdin’s training, by episode 17, war begins as what begins as a major battle between nations, grows to a major battle against a monster that drains all White Rukh.

But what I enjoyed about this second half of season two is the focus on Aladdin and seeing him grow.  He’s come such a long way since we first saw him and now he’s taller, he’s braver and he’s starting to get a better grasp of what is important to him but also what he wants to fight against.

I know my summary is quite vague but in truth, I really don’t want to spoil or even mentioned in the second half, who appears because the battles are intense and the storyline is quite appealing that it no doubt sets up for even more stories in the future.   Expect to see a few surprises, especially for the viewer who have followed the series for so long.  And especially in the final minutes of episode 5, which I never saw coming!

While I wish “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic” received a Blu-ray release, the DVD still looks very good. And the voice acting for both English and Japanese soundtracks are well-done!

The DVD may not have any significant special features but for those who have purchased Aniplex products know by now, the company is known for providing swag. In this case, you get a two-sided deluxe illustration board and a mini-poster.

Overall, “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” is a fantastic, action-packed conclusion to the second season and I can’t wait for a third season!

Recommended!

 

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