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SpongeBob SquarePants: Spongebob, You’re Fired! (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

April 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

spongebob-fired

“SpongeBob SquarePants: Spongebob, You’re Fired!” is an entertaining and fun DVD for the entire family or the young at heart!

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

DVD TITLE: Spongebob, You’re Fired!

DURATION: 186 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Full Screen, Dolby Digital – English Stereo

COMPANY: Paramount Home Entertainment/Nickelodeon

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: April 29, 2014

Created by Stephen Hillenburg

Directed by Mark Caballero, Seamus Walsh

Writers: Derek Iversen, Tom Kenny, Mr. Lawrence, Dani Michaeli, Andy Paley, Richard Pursel, Paul Tibbitt

Supervising Director: Alan Smart

Featuring the voices of:

Tom Kenny as SpongeBob SquarePants

Bill Fagerbakke as Patrick Star

Rodger Bumpass as Squidward Tentacles

Clancy Brown as Mr. Eugene H. Krabs

Mr. Lawrence as Plankton

Carolyn Lawrence as Sandy Cheeks

Has Mr. Krabs really given SpongeBob the heave-ho so he could save some money (a nickel!)? Find out in the special double episode, “SpongeBob, You’re Fired!”; plus enjoy 14 other work-centric tales.

In the many years of “SpongeBob SquarePants”, we have seen SpongeBob loving his job as a fryer and working with Mr. Krabs.  And while he has maintained his job at the Krusty Krab restaurant, there were numerous times in which SpongeBob had lost his job.

And to showcase all these episodes of where SpongeBob was fired and later re-hired, Nickelodeon has gathered 14 episodes (3 hours) and are featuring them in a new DVD release titled “SpongeBob SquarePants: Spongebob, You’re Fired!”.

What is “SpongeBob SquarePants”?

For over a decade, “SpongeBob SquarePants” has become such a tremendous hit for Nickelodeon and an animated series that many children have grown up with. A popular franchise which includes video games, the character featured on a variety of food products, toys, health-related items and more.

Needless to say, “SpongeBob SquarePants”, although not a series shown on broadcast television, has managed to become a character that is part of American pop culture and still shows no signs of waning, especially with a new group of young viewers every year.

Created by Stephen Hillenburg in 1999, “SpongeBob SquarePants” is an animated series about a group of characters that live in the underwater city known as “Bikini Bottom”.

The main character of “SpongeBob SquarePants” are:

  • SpongeBob SquarePants - A energetic and naive sea sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea with his pet snail Gary and works as a cook for The Krusty Krab. He enjoys hanging out with his best friend Patrick.
  • Patrick Star – A pink starfish and the best friend of SpongeBob. Known for his ignorance and stupidity but still a good friend to SpongeBob.
  • Squidward Tentacles – An egotistical cephalopod (squid or octopus) who works as a cashier at the Krusty Krab and although he doesn’t care for SpongeBob, he tolerates him.
  • Sandy Cheeks – A squirrel who is a science genius and lives in an underwater dome who hails from Texas.
  • Mr. Krabs – The money-loving boss of The Krusty Krab restaurant and boss of SpongeBob and Squidward.
  • Plankton – The nemesis of Mr. Krabs who runs the rival restaurant, The Chum Bucket.

“SpongeBob & Friends: Patrick SquarePants” features the following new episodes:

  • Episode 189 – SpongeBob You’re Fired!– Mr. Krabs fires SpongeBob to save a nickel.
  • Episode 19b – Neptune’s Spatula – Neptune vs. SpongeBob in a cooking contest.
  • Episode 34a – Welcome to the Chum Bucket – SpongeBob must work for Plankton after Mr. Krabs loses in a bet.
  • Episode 82a – The Original Fry Cook - What happens when the original fry cook for Krusty Krab returns?
  • Episode 91b – Le Big Switch – SpongeBob is put into a chef exchange program.
  • Episode 130b – Model Sponge– How will SpongeBob treat Patrick now that he is a model?
  • Episode 12b - Employee of the Month – What happens when Mr. Krab tries to trick SpongeBob that Squidward is wanting to become “Employee of the Month”.
  • Episode 22b – Bossy Boots – What happens when Pearl gets a job at Krusty Krab?
  • Episode 150a – Krusty Dogs – What happens when SpongeBob’s “Krusty Dogs” become the hottest thing in Bikini Bottom?
  • Episode 181a – License to Milkshake – What happens when SpongeBob serves milkshake from an old, bad machine?
  • Episode 1a – Help Wanted – The first episode featuring SpongeBob trying to get a job at Krusty Krab.
  • Episode 50a – Wet Painters - Mr. Krabs has a super secret project for SpongeBob and Patrick.
  • Episode 50b – Krusty Krab Training Video – Mr. Krabs creates a training video for Krusty Krab featuring SpongeBob.
  • Episode 5a – Pizza Delivery – In order to make money, Mr. Krabs creates Krabby Patty Pizza and Squidward and SpongeBob to deliver them.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“SpongeBob SquarePants: Spongebob, You’re Fired!” is featured in full screen and audio is featured in Dolby Digital English Stereo. Animation for the series, especially for these newer episodes are vibrant. Dialogue is front channel driven and understandable.

There are no subtitles but the episodes are in closed caption.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“SpongeBob SquarePants: Spongebob, You’re Fired!” comes with no special features.

For longtime “SpongeBob SquarePants” fans, a DVD release that consists of a lot of episodes where SpongeBob loses his job or is in fear of losing his job are all collected on a DVD titled “SpongeBob SquarePants: Spongebob, You’re Fired!”.

From the very first episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants” featuring SpongeBob getting a job at Krusty Krab to many episodes from the 14 years of the animated series, you can see how Mr. Krabs has used SpongeBob’s fear of losing his job as a gain for the restaurant.  But you also see how SpongeBob has developed something new for the restaurant such as the popular “Krusty Dogs” which he quickly gets bored of and wants to return to the original Krusty Krab burgers.

Overall, if you are a big fan of “SpongeBob SquarePants”? You will definitely enjoy “SpongeBob SquarePants: Spongebob, You’re Fired!” featuring 14 episodes (over 3 hours) of fun and crazy episodes featuring SpongeBob’s close call moments of losing his job and of course, always finding a way to get himself rehired.

“SpongeBob SquarePants: Spongebob, You’re Fired!” is an entertaining and fun DVD for the entire family or the young at heart!

 

Smuggler (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

April 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

smuggler

Director Katsuhito Ishii manages to bring his staple of creativity, unusual but yet stylish flair to “Smuggler”, while also making sure the film stays consistent with Shohei Manabe’s wild and violent storyline and its crazy characters. An enjoyable yet extremely violent film that may not be for everyone, if you are looking for a film that is gritty, dark, violent with a lot of humor, then”Smuggler” is a film worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © Shohei Manabe-Kodansha Ltd./2001 “Smuggler” Film Partners. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Smuggler

DURATION: 114 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9, Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV MA

AVAILABLE ON: April 1, 2014

Directed by Katsuhito Ishii

Based on the manga “Smuggler” by Shohei Manabe

Screenplay by Katsuhito Ishii, Masatoshi Yamaguchi, Kensuke Yamamoto

Music by Toshiro Nakagawa, Tatsuo Yamaguchi

Cinematography by Hiroshi Machida

Edited by Katsuhito Ishii, Sayaka Noji

Art Direction by Yuji Tsuzuki

Costume Design by Ikuko Utsunomiya

Starring:

Satoshi Tsumabuki as Kinuta Ryosuke

Masatoshi Nagase as Joe

Yasuko Matsuyuki as Yuki Yamaoka

Hikari Mitsushima as Tanuma Chiharu

Tsuyoshi Abe as Bukutadashi Kabashi

Masanobu Ando as Verterbrae

Tatsuya Gashuin as Jijii

Ryushi  Tei as Viscera

Hitoshi Kiyokawa as Takahashi Yoshiharu

Fumiyo Kohinata as Kenji Nishio

Kinuta’s life is at a crossroads. His acting career hit the skids, and his gambling addiction just landed him in major debt to the mob. Bad guys with itchy trigger fingers want to put the kid six feet under until a mistress of the underworld scores him a job smuggling corpses. But death is nasty business, and Kinuta soon crosses paths with Vertebrae and Viscera, an insanely deadly duo of ninja assassins. These lethal psychopaths kill everyone in sight, drawing the vengeful wrath of a demented Mafioso. What ensues is cinematic sequence almost too extreme for American audiences. Kinuta accidentally springs Vertebrae from a harrowing death march, landing himself in the unenviable position of having to impersonate a psycho killer – or end up dead. This heinous game of cat and mouse becomes a splatterfest of guts and gore as a diaper-clad madman puts Kinuta’s will to live to the ultimate test!

In Japan, Shohei Manabe has been known to create wild, crazy and violent and creative stories such as “Yamikin Ushijima-kun” “The End” and “Smuggler”.

But who can bring this wild story to the big screen, if there was one person suitable in those type of adaptations, Katsuhito Ishii can!

From the director of wild and crazy films such as “The Taste of Tea” and “Funky Forest: the First Contact”, for those of you who are familiar with Katsuhito Ishii’s work, then you know this man can do crazy!

And with “Smuggler”, the story plays out like a manga featuring an ensemble cast.

The film begins with a college graduate named Kinuta Ryosuke (portrayed by Satoshi Tsumabuki), a carefree guy who has always failed in life, has not done much in pursuing his goal of becoming an actor and is often playing pachinko.  One day, he is told by gang leader Zhang (portrayed by Tsuyoshi Abe) that he can earn a lot of money using rigged pachinko machines if he beats up a guy.

While Kinuta does what Zhang tells him to do, he is caught by police and the victim he beat up and is ordered by Zhang and his gang to pay 3 million in damages.

Because he has no money, Kinuta is forced to go to the banker Yuki Yamaoka (portrayed by Yasuko Matsuyuki) who pays off his debt but now she is indebted to her.

Kinuta must work a job of being and underground smuggler along with Jo (portrayed by Masatoshi Nagase) and Jijii (portrayed by Tatsuya Gashuin).  One day they are called by Yuki to prepare for a major smuggling job.

Meanwhile, we are taken to a scene featuring the Tanuma gang who have stolen drugs from a Chinese gang.  As the Tanuma gang plots to make money from the stolen drugs, two top-notch Chinese assassins – Vertebrae (portrayed by Masanobu Ando) and Viscera (portrayed by Ryushin Tei) arrive and slaughter everyone.  The banker Yuki Yamaoka sends her cleaning team to take care of the place, while calling her smuggling team to dispose of the bodies.

Vertebrae takes gang leader Tanuma’s head to send it back to their gang and while at a convenience store to send the package, both men come into contact with Jo and nearly get into a fight.

As Jo and his team are told that they must pickup the delivery and take it to another location, Kinuta opens a bag thinking there may be something cool inside but instead, finds a headless body.

As Jo and his team goes to deliver the bodies to an incinerator, the Tanuma gang receive the delivered head of their boss and now, hotheaded Seiji Kawashima (portrayed by Masahiro Takashima) and the more cool-headed Kenji Nishino (portrayed by Fumiyo Kohinata) want revenge and are now after Vertebrae and Viscera and they will do anything to capture them by any means necessary.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Smuggler” is presented in 16:9 and in Japanese 5.1 Dolby Surround.

“Smuggler” looks very good on DVD and I’m a bit surprised it did not receive a Blu-ray release.  But for the most part, picture quality is as good as you can get with DVD and dialogue and musical soundtrack is clear and understandable.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Smuggler” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Smuggler – (17:23) Behind-the-scenes of the making of “Smuggler” and interviews with the cast.
  • Original Trailer 1 & 2 – Original Japanese theatrical trailer for “Smuggler”.

EXTRAS:

“Smuggler” comes with a slipcover.

Having reviewed Katsuhito Ishii films before, I admit that they are not easy films to describe.  There is a level of creativity, humor and unusual nature to his films that will make you laugh or at least amuse you.

But now that he has done an adaptation for Shohei Manabe, a wild and crazy mangaka who creates violent, humorous manga, in many ways, this is a collaboration that balances itself out because both are creative people.

So, while it’s hard for me to describe the film without too many spoilers, what I loved about the film is its sheer craziness.

The characters are the main key to this storyline!

Kinuta is somewhat of the protagonist but he is a kind-natured guy who is often a failure or to carefree that his life is turned upside down when he is forced to become a smuggler.  He must team up with the cold and stoic Jo and the 70′s dressed old man, Jijii.  And their older, Harajuku lolita dressed banker, Yuki.

Meanwhile, you have the Chinese mafia with the supernatural Vertabrae (who is like watching Spider-Man, Flash and Bruce Lee as one man) who talks to the dead and ponders about death, his partner Naizou who is wanting some guy-on-guy action, especially with Zhang (who wants to climb the Chinese gang ladders).

Then for the Tanuma gang, you have the violent, wild and crazy Seiji Kawashima, the more calm Kenji Nishio and the “my girlfriend is not ugly” Yoshiharu Takahashi.  And Tanuma’s golddigger and blunt wife, Chiharu.

All of these characters are in search of something, may it be answer, may it be money or may it be something which includes squid, suffice to say its efficacy is that it is a film that manages to incorporate violence and humor.

There are many times in the film that you want to laugh but then the violence gets over-the-top and possibly a bit too extreme.

And while I enjoyed the film for its characters and unpredictability, it’s low point are the torture scenes.  I felt the torture sequence went way too long for my taste but I suppose to showcase the brutality of Shohei Manabe’s manga series in full effect, the film had to become extreme and so some may enjoy those scenes, other may feel it was too much.

As for the DVD, picture quality was good as one can expect on DVD.  I am surprised there was no Blu-ray release for this film but picture quality was good, dialogue and music were crystal clear and you get a few special features included.

Overall, director Katsuhito Ishii manages to bring his staple of creativity, unusual but yet stylish flair to “Smuggler”, while also making sure the film stays consistent with Shohei Manabe’s wild and violent storyline and its crazy characters.   An enjoyable yet extremely violent film that may not be for everyone, if you are looking for a film that is gritty, dark, violent with a lot of humor, then”Smuggler” is a film worth checking out!

 

 

Shelter Island (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

April 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

shelterisland

A documentary of how kindness can go a long way, “Shelter Island” is inspiring, entertaining and recommended!

DVD TITLE: Shelter Island

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 77 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Documentary, Color, NTSC

COMPANY: Shleter Island/Glass Eye Pix/TDC Entertainment

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: May 13, 2014

Directed by Michael Canzoniero

Produced by Shawn Bell, Michael Canzoniero, Carl MacLaren

Executive Producer: Mitchell Stuart

Music by Aaron Drake

Cinematography by Shawn Bell

Edited by Ari Feldman

Starring:

Harald Olson

James Olkinkiewicz

Alex Olinkiewicz

Brittany Olinkiewicz

Outsider artist Harald Olson and his eccentric patron Jimmy Olinkiewicz found each other on Shelter Island, NY, and teamed up to sell paintings roadside. The semi-homeless painter and the father of an autistic child were magically connected, and together took friendship to a new level when they secured a major gallery showing of Olsons unconventional work in NYC. Shelter Island is an elegant, beautiful tale of how art, compassion and creativity can unlock hidden potential in unexpected places

For Shelter Island artist Harald Olson, his artwork has captivated many people in New York.

But one of the reasons that Olson has garnered plenty of attention is because he is homeless.  And one of the people who believes in the work of Olson is gas station owner/contractor/single father Jimmy Olinkiewicz.  A father of an autistic child and a man who believes in Olson’s work, and promotes it.

But what happens when Harald gets the once in a lifetime opportunity by artist/sculptor David Rankin to showcase his paintings at a Chelsea art gallery in Manhattan?

Directed by Michael Canzoniero, “Shelter Island” was a film that successfully met its goal on Kickstarter and has won several awards.

And now “Shelter Island” will be available on DVD and sold on Indiepix.com.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Shelter Island” was shot digitally and picture quality for the most part is good on DVD.  The documentary is well-edited and dialogue is clear and understandable.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Shelter Island” comes with the following special features:

  • In My Mind – (8:05) Alex Olinkiewicz YouTube video about having Asperger’s Syndrome.  The video has received over a million views.
  • Paintings Montage – (2:31) Featuring a montage of Harald Olson’s work.

Michael Canzoniero’s “Shelter Island” is a entertaining documentary about a homeless but yet talented artist named Harald Olson, who scours dumps for paint and usable paint brushes which he would create works of art that has captivated those who appreciate his artwork.

For gas station owner Jimmy Olinkiewicz, after seeing Harald paint on his old gas pumps, noticing his talent, he gave Harald an outlet to paint but also promoting his work.

And as the documentary focuses on how Harald is able to paint, but we also get to see how this talented painter works despite being unemployed and putting everything towards his paintings.

But when Jimmy asked his friend, renown artist/sculptor and “Shelter Island” resident David Rankin to give Harald an opportunity, sure enough, Rankin was able to give Harald an opportunity to promote his paintings at a Chelsea art gallery in Manhattan.

The film also shows how Jimmy Olinkiewicz is not only a compassionate friend, he’s also a father who cares for his son Alex, who has Asperger’s Syndrome.  And how this single father tries to balance his time with family, his work at the gas station but also as a busy contractor.  But most importantly, his willingness to help Harald and give him positive advice to deal with life.

For the most part, Michael Canzoniero’s documentary goes in-depth of showcasing the different lives of both men but how they came together and are trying to do something very positive together and I hope that this relationship will continue and perhaps Harald will be able to get out of the streets and do something even greater with his talent.

As for the DVD, we get to see a montage of Harald’s paintings but also the YouTube video by Alex Olinkiewicz.  As for picture quality, the film was shot digitally and colors are very good and the audio is clear.

Overall, “Shelter Island” is an entertaining documentary about one man’s compassion to promote and showcase one man’s artwork and a man who has artistic talent but because of his situation in life, never really had the opportunity to get his feet on the ground and showcase his art until now.

A documentary of how kindness can go a long way, “Shelter Island” is inspiring, entertaining and recommended!

 

 

American Jesus (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

April 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

americanjesus

“American Jesus” is an enjoyable and fascinating documentary on Christianity in America and for anyone fascinated by different Christian groups and beliefs, I definitely recommend this film!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Caravan USA LLC. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: American Jesus

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 67 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Documentary, Color, NTSC

COMPANY: Shleter Island/Glass Eye Pix/TDC Entertainment

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: May 13, 2014

Directed by Aram Garriga

Written by Aram Garriga, Xavi Prat

Producer: Aram Garriga, Brent Kunkle

Executive Produer: Larry Fessenden, Carles Torras

Music by Erisian, Zlaya Hadzic

Cinematography by Aram Garriga

AMERICAN JESUS is an exploration of Christianity in every faction of American Life, from the breadline to the yoga studio, from the humble churches of snake handlers to the mega churches in the ex-urbs. Christian cowboys, bikers and musicians, comedians, surfers and cage-fighters, they are all doing it for Christ. Aram Garriga travels from his native Barcelona to the politically divided United States to chronicle the sometimes bizarre relationship between faith, materialism, politics and personal passions in this uniquely American tableaux.

Populated by an array of religious and secular characters offering candid, often illuminating testimonials, AMERICAN JESUS is a vivid mosaic of personalities and conflicting points of view that emerges as a portrait of an America yearning for solace and meaning in the modern world.

When it comes to Christianity, in America, there are many people who call themselves Christian but when you ask about their beliefs or denomination, there will be some sort of conflicting answer.

While all Christians believe in God, there beliefs are different and often in conflict with other Christian perspectives.

Aram Garriga’s “American Jesus” is a documentary that explores the various Christian points of views through interviews with a large varieties of groups, from Pastor Ty Jones of the “Arena of Life Cowboy Church” featuring a group of Christian cowboys; the Christian surfers of Santa Cruz, California; Bikers of Christ in New York, the athletes of Team Impact, actor Jason David Frank (of “The Power Rangers”) who used his fame to promote his Christian MMA clothing line; former stripper Harmony Dust of “Treasures Stripclub Ministry” who reaches out to strippers and women in the sex industry in Las Vegas and gives them the tools to live healthy lives and more.

There are interviews with individuals such as Mara Einstein, author of “Brands of Faith: Marketing Religion in a Commercial Age” who discusses how today’s religions use marketing to promote themselves to the masses.  And a segment that showcases celebrities who have become more religious and finds ways to promote their business.

The documentary shows the various extremes of Christian groups and beliefs, criminals who reach out to other criminals and bringing Christianity into their lives but are talked about badly by other Christian groups, to liberal perspectives in Christianity and many other examples.

A fascinating documentary on Christianity in America, “American Jesus” is a fascinating documentary worth watching!

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“American Jesus” is presented in 1:78:1 aspect ratio.  Picture quality varies from beautiful digital videography to archived sources from the past, but for the most part, video portions were well-selected, are viewable and clear.  While the same can be said about the audio, audio for the most part is clear and understandable on DVD.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“American Jesus” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – (7:29) A behind-the-scenes making of “American Jesus”.
  • Bonus Interviews – Featuring interviews with Christian Musician: Bradley Hathaway, Megadeth’s David Ellefson, Jesus painter Mike Lewis, Christian tattoos by K-Lee, Nashville Cowboy Church: Harry Yates & Joanne Cash, Gospel Graffiti: Cameron Moeburg, Christian Hardcore Music: The Chariot and The Hip Hop Church: Harlem.

When it comes to Christianity, if one tried to understand the various beliefs of Christian groups throughout America, not only one can find it jarring, but sometimes you can wonder, “are these people really Christian?”.

Sometimes its hard to put into perspective of what one may have experienced in life of being a part of a Christian group and how different they are.

Sure, media loves to portray the usual banal ultra-conservative or the snake wielding pastors, but there are many groups out there, who believe in good, who believe in love and those who believe in the power of Jesus Christ, while there are others who use Christianity in other means that may make others feel that they are shady or even trying to extort money over individuals.

But there are also people who want to identify with those who have a similar point of view, those who have a similar perspective in life and those who can relate to others out there.

And with Aram Garriga’s documentary “American Jesus”, we see these various different groups, different personalities and different forms of Christianity.

Some Christians may have positive or negative interpretations towards these groups but the main purpose of this documentary is to show how and why these groups began.

From one pastor who was a cowboy and wanted to reach out and spread the gospel to fellow cowboys, the same can be said of surfers who wanted to reach out to people into extreme sports who may have fallen to bad times but needs the help of positive Christians who enjoy the sports but live a life dedicated to God or a person who had a troubled childhood and adulthood but now wanted to take that energy to refocus into something positive and help out those in the sex industry who want to be closer to God.

Of course, there are many other Christian beliefs that are more towards extremism in a negative type of way.  And unfortunately, it’s the ugly side of Christianity which many people probably have seen.  Those who talk badly of other christian groups, those who try to take down other Christian groups because they don’t agree with those involved.

But no matter which perspective these people have towards Christianity, they do have the essential belief in God, but different ways of representing the gospel.

While there were riskier directions that Garriga and crew could have pursued, for the purpose of understanding Christianity in America, “American Jesus” is a pretty fascinating documentary that doesn’t try to preach about what religion is the best but to showcase the various degrees of beliefs and how one practices Christianity in their own way and their own style.

The DVD for the most part looks good and sounds good, and you do get a few special features which include interviews and a brief making-of.

But the primary reason for one to watch this documentary is to get a good grasp of the different Christian groups out there and how they are all different and often conflict with each other.  I do enjoy the non-polemic direction of the film but to be more information-driven than trying to feel that you are being forced to join a certain group.  If anything, to be conscience of Christianity in the United States and more.

“American Jesus” is an enjoyable and fascinating documentary on Christianity in America and for anyone fascinated by different Christian groups and beliefs, I definitely recommend this film!

 

 

One Piece: Collection 9 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

April 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

onepiece-c9

The conclusion of Luffy vs. Foxy the Silver but also the first confrontation between the Straw Hat Pirates and one of the three, Marine Admirals.  Exciting, crazy but so much fun, “One Piece: Collection 9” is recommended! 

Image courtesy of © 2001 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: One Piece: Collection 9

DURATION: Episodes 206-229 (Duration: 600 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: April 15, 2014

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

When Luffy and his mates drop anchor at the bizarre island of Long Ring Long Land, they’re challenged to a Davy Back Fight by the fast-talking Foxy Pirates! The Straw Hats are no strangers to squabbles, but the sacred code of pirates decrees that this contest could cost Luffy his crew!

 

Next on the horizon for the Hats, it’s a case of missing memories as everyone but Robin forgets they ever knew each other. Usopp is quick to claim the title of captain, and Zoro does the unthinkable by attacking Luffy! Can Robin recover the crew’s lost recollections before disaster strikes?! She’d better work fast, because far greater foes lie ahead, and the Straw Hats will need all hands on deck if they hope to survive the return of Captain Foxy – and the icy arrival of Admiral Aokiji!

The “Davy Back Fight” competition between Luffy (with an afro wig) vs. Foxy concludes, but who will be the victor?  Meanwhile, while sailing at sea, Nico Robin finds out that everyone on the ship (who has fallen asleep), has lost their memory.  Get a glimpse of each Straw Hat Pirate’s past life before they joined the group.

And as Luffy and Foxy continue to challenge each other, the Straw Hat Pirates come across  the first of the powerful three Marine admirals, Admiral Aokiji.  And the fact that this man has Nico Robin cowering in fear, goes to show how powerful and deadly this man really is.  But why has he been searching for the Straw Hat Pirates?

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 at 563 episodes and despite receiving a heavily edited version in North America via 4Kids Entertainment earlier on, FUNimation Entertainment began releasing the original, uncut versions since May of 2008 and here we are now with the DVD release of “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage One”.

“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.

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.

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.

“One Piece”, Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates continue their search for “One Piece” and last when seen them, the Straw Hat Pirates were taking on the Marines who have captured them and have taken all their treasure.

But the crew have managed to work as a team and take back their treasure. Now they escaped from the Marines but immediately come into contact with a mysterious pirate ship and are captured by the Foxy Pirate crew. And now Captain Foxy and his subordinates have challenged Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates to a “Davy Back Fight” contest and to make things worse, the Foxy Pirate Crew have taken Chopper and if the Straw Hat Pirates don’t win, Chopper will need to join their crew.

The “One Piece: Collection 9″ comes with episodes 206-229 on four DVD discs (note: In Japan, these episodes are actually considered as season 7). Here are the spoiler-less summaries of each episode:

  • EPISODE 206 – Farewell, Marine Fortress! The Last Battle for Escape! - How will the Straw Pirates crew escape from the Marine Fortress?
  • EPISODE 207 – Great Adventure at Long Ring Long Land – The Going Merry is captured by the Foxy Pirate Crew.
  • EPISODE 208 – A Davy Back with the Foxy Pirates – Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates are challenged by the Foxy Pirate crew in a Davy Back Fight.
  • EPISODE 209 – Round 1! One Lap of the Donut Race! – The first challenge….a tiny boat race around the island.
  • EPISODE 210 – Silver Fox Foxy! The Merciless Interference! – Fox shows off his Devil Fruit powers and Porche takes Chopper.
  • EPISODE 211 – Round 2! Shoot It Into the Groggy Ring! – The Straw Hat Pirates vs. the Foxy Pirates in a ball game.
  • EPISODE 212 – A Barrage of Red Cards in Groggy Ring! – Sanji and Zoro must work together in order to win…but can they?
  • EPISODE 213 – Round 3! The Round-and-Round Roller Race! - The next round…roller skate competition.
  • EPISODE 214 – A Seriously Heated Race! Into the Final Round! – The Straw Hats come back and now it’s time for the final round!
  • EPISODE 215 – Screaming-Hot Bombardment! Pirate Dodgeball! – Chopper returns back to the Straw Hats but instead of leaving, Luffy accepts another challenge by Foxy.
  • EPISODE 216 – Showdown on the Cliff! Red Light, Green Light! – Foxy takes Robin from Luffy.
  • EPISODE 217 – The Captains Square Off! The Final Combat Round! - It’s the final game….a battle between Luffy and Foxy in a battle of brawn aboard Foxy’s ship.
  • EPISODE 218 - The fight between Luffy and Foxy continues!
  • EPISODE 219  – The conclusion between the battle of Luffy and Foxy.
  • EPISODE 220 - Nico Robin finds out that all the Straw Hat Pirates have lost their memories.
  • EPISODE 221 - Robin and the group try to piece how they lost their memory and what they remember the night before.
  • EPISODE 222 - The group try to find out who is responsible for stealing their memories.
  • EPISODE 223 - Before they can restore their memories, the group must find the entranced Zoro.
  • EPISODE 224 - The thing responsible for stealing memories, tries to steal the memories of the local townspeople.  Can Luffy stop it?
  • EPISODE 225 - The Straw Hat Pirates find a troubled Foxy, Hamburg and Porche stranded in sea.
  • EPISODE 226  – Foxy wants one more battle vs. Luffy.
  • EPISODE 227 - The group encounter the first Marine High Admiral, Aokiji.
  • EPISODE 228 - The Straw Hat Pirates vs. Aokiji.
  • EPISODE 229 - The Straw Hat Pirates meet an old woman named Kokoro and her daughter Chimney, who gives them a map to Water Seven.

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.

It’s important to note that in Japan, the 207th episode was the first “One Piece” episode to be broadcasted in HD and in widescreen. So, it will be interesting to see if FUNimation does release this season on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, the series 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 awesome 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: Collection 9″ comes with the following special features:

  • EPISODE 211 Audio Commentary - Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice actors Ian Sinclair, Eric Vale and Christopher Sabat.
  • EPISODE 215 Audio Commentary - Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice actresses Tia Ballard (Porche) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy).
  • EPISODE 218 Audio Commentary - Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice actress Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy) and Jonathan Brooks (Foxy the Silver).
  • EPISODE 229 Audio Commentary - Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice talent Stephanie Young (Nico Robin) and Sonny Strait (Usopp).
  • Textless Songs – Textless songs for “BON VOYAGE”, “Kokoro no Chizu”, “Dreamship” and “Eternal Pose”.
  • U.S. Trailer – Funimation trailer.
  • Trailers - Trailers for upcoming FUNimation Entertainment releases.

With this new DVD volume, the Straw Hat pirates have escaped the Marine Fortress but after escaping one troublesome group, they run into another. This time they run into the very odd Foxy Pirate crew.

These episodes are actually quite fun and what makes it so different from past antagonists is that the Captain Foxy and his crew are somewhat, like rejects. Obviously, Captain Foxy and his crew have not received any recognition, so that is why they are taking on the Straw Hat Pirates who have gained notoriety and are wanted by the marines.

And as odd as Foxy and his crew look, you think it’s all fun and games until you realize that the Straw Hat Pirates are put at a disadvantage (Foxy Pirates are constantly cheating) but suffice to say, Luffy and gang have met another challenge. We see Zoro and Sanji being put together as a team and this is a major challenge as both teammates are always at each other’s throat. And because they are distracted towards each other, they are in dangerous of losing their matchup.

Possibly the cutest situation of this entire volume is seeing Chopper being taken by Porche and with Tony Tony Chopper in tears, the crew makes him remember he is a man and must be brave and watching his character trying to put on brave face for his teammates.

But this is probably one of the craziest seasons of “One Piece” that I have seen yet. These episodes are essentially a game competition filled with colorful, odd looking characters but yet so fun to watch. It may not be the darkest or most threatening of adversaries but despite how nonthreatening or goofy the Foxy Pirates look, they have become an interesting opponent so far. And it’ll be interesting to see how things continue for the remainder of this series and to see if Foxy does pose a threat in the next few episodes.

This set also features the conclusion of the season as we get battles between Luffy vs. Foxy the Silver but also insight to the past history of a few of the members of the Straw Hat Pirates, especially learning why Nami desires money so much, and it’s not about greed but something tragic that happened in her past.

But also, ending with the confrontation with Marine High Admiral Aokiji and the fact that Nico Robin is shaking in fear in Aokiji’s presence, goes to show that this man is powerful and dangerous!

With “One Piece: collection 9″, with episode 207 being the first episode to be broadcast in HD and widescreen in Japan, it would be awesome if the series would get a Blu-ray release in the United States. But as for the DVD, the DVD is colorful, vibrant and looks good on DVD, but it would be interesting to see how this series would look in HD and I’m looking forward to whenever that day comes. Audio is good, dialogue is clear. And for special features, we do get two fun audio commentaries featuring the English dub voice talent, textless opening and ending themes plus trailers.

It’s important to note that this is a re-release of “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage One” and “One Piece: Seaason Four, Voyage Two” which were released back in 2012.  But the benefit of buying the collections is that you get nearly two dozen episodes and is great if you have never watched “One Piece” and are looking for an economical way to watch the series, considering there are many episodes included.

Overall, I enjoy the adventures of the Straw Hat Pirates and I’m in it for the long haul.  While, we are 229 episodes down and are over 400 more episodes behind Japan, it is the longest running action anime series in Japan and the fact that young and old continue to read and watch this series, its a testament of how addictive “One Piece” really is.

“One Piece: Collection 9″ is recommended!

 

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

April 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2″ is a fantastic, action-packed anime series!  If you loved the first half, you will certainly love the second half as the storyline and animation is quite captivating.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Shinobu Ohtaka/SHOGAKUKAN, Magi Committee, MBS. All rights reserved.

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

TV SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2013

DURATION: Episodes 13-25 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 widescreen, Japanese Linear PCM, English Dolby Digital 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: 13 and up

RELEASE DATE: March 18, 2014

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, Taichi Maezuka

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

Aladdin has yet to regain consciousness from the battle with the fallen magi Judar. Meanwhile, as the third prince of Balbadd, Alibaba tries to stop his older brother King Ahbmad from turning Balbadd into a slave-exporting nation. But his plans are thwarted by none other than Cassim, his childhood friend from the slums, now transformed into a Dark Djinn by the Dark Metal Vessel. Cassim tries to strike down the royal family for causing their citizens to suffer for many years.

Cassim’s attacks crush Alibaba both physically and mentally, but he gets back up again and again. Just then, a friend reaches out a helping hand! With Aladdin’s support once again, can Alibaba rescue his country, people, and Cassim from the darkness?

Soon after, Alibaba and Aladdin will learn about Al-Tharmen, the organization that has been causing the “Abnormalities of the World”…

Aladdin takes on the evil magi known as Judar.  Meanwhile, a new adventure awaits for Alibaba, Aladdin and Morgiana as Sinbad sends them to Sindria, while the Kou Empire approaches Balbadd, preparing to invade the city. And a new member joins Aladdin and friends!

While Sinbad and his forces prepare for an attack from Al-Thamen and his forces.

Find out which side is successful in the battle in “Magi: The Labyrinth 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 13-25 of the first season of “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” was released on DVD in the United States in March 2014.

“Magi” begins with a young Aladdin being given one wish.

We then see Alibaba, a thief who is working for a slave master who has been trying to find a dungeon for treasure. Everyone thinks that Alibaba is searching for something that doesn’t exist. But when he starts loading up a caravan with fruit, he catches a boy (Aladdin) eating all the watermelon.

Alibaba gets in trouble but as Aladdin follows Alibaba, Alibaba talks about dungeons that appeared 14 years ago and and Alibaba explains if one can capture one, there is a genuine magi wandering around and will grant magical power to someone. And Alibaba is in search of the magical vessel.

The following day, Aladdin bumps into a slave (Morgiana). When Aladdin wonders why her legs are chained, Alibaba tries to explain to Aladdin of what a slave is. So, not wanting to see Morgiana chained, Aladdin frees her by blowing into his flute and shattering the steel chain.

But not long after, one of the slave masters start pushing and stepping all over Morgiana, Aladdin tells the man to stop and the man threatens to execute Aladdin.

Aladdin then blows into the flute, massive arms come out of the flute. Ugo is a Djinn, spirits that appear in myth and not many people thought it was a real thing, but we learn through a flashback that Aladdin was given three wishes in which he could have fortune, fame and eternal life. But instead, he just wanted one wish and that is for Ugo to be his friend. And since then, the two have been together.

Ugo has a massive body without a head. As Aladdin goes on trips with various people, we learn that Aladdin must be well fed and have had a lot to drink in order to use Ugo, but also Ugo is shy if a girl touches him.

And as Alibaba finds out that Aladdin has a Djinn vessel, he decides to use Aladdin to use and partner with him in order to find a dungeon. Alibaba’s wish is to be rich and find treasure inside buildings that have shown up all over the world. And treasures with wonderful powers are the most valuable, the one that Alibaba seeks is the Djinn’s metal vessel.

But as Alibaba sees using Aladdin as important in his plans as Aladdin’s use of Ugo can help protect them while they visit the dungeons to find treasure, but he also realizes that for Aladdin, his main thing that makes him happy is having a friendship. For Alibaba, for now, he’ll play the role of being a friend in order to find treasure and obtain a Djinn metal vessel.

As Alibaba along with Aladdin look for the treasure inside a dungeon, not far behind them is the tyrant slave owner named Lord Jamil along with two slaves, including Morgiana.

Meanwhile, nearby is another person similar to Aladdin, clad in black and evil, a magi named Judar has decided to cause trouble for Aladdin and friends?  But what happens when Aladdin goes all out in his battle against Judar?

Meanwhile, an even greater threat arrives as Aladdin and friends must take on Dark Djinn’s, while Sinbad must protect the country against Al-Thamen and his forces.

The main characters of “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” are:

    • Aladdin – A young magi who doesn’t know too much about himself or the outside world. But he’s kind and goodhearted and wants to protect the people he cares about. When he blows into a flute, a headless blue giant named Ugo comes out.
    • Alibaba – A thief who appears to have a mysterious background that befriends Aladdin.
    • Morgania – A slave who comes from a country of people known for their superior leg strength and speed. She is the slave of the tyrant, Lord Jamil.
    • Amon – A djinn with fire elemental powers contained in Alibaba’s training sword.
    • Sinbad – The King of Sindria and leader of the Alliance of the Seven Seas.  He has sailed the seven seas and captured seven dungeons and is a master of seven djinn.
    • Masrur – A Fanalis who works for Sinbad and trains Morgiana in hand to hand combat.
    • Ja’far – A former assassin who becomes loyal to Sinbad.
    • Hakuryuu Ren – The fourth prince in the Kou Empire who becomes an ally of Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgianna.
    • Judar – An evil Magi working for Al-Thamen.  Raised by Al-Thamen after the organization killed his parents.

 

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2″ is presented in 16:9 widescreen and Japanese Linear PCM 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 Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2″ comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening and Ending

EXTRAS:

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2″ comes with a 2-sided reversible cover illustrated by Toshifumi Akai (character designer/chief animation director), a deluxe booklet and a five collectable foil stamped postcards.  Also, a slipcover is included.

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As the first half of Shinobu Ohtaka’s “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” was lighthearted, full of humor and entertaining.  The second half of the series has become much more deeper, serious and action-packed and Alibaba must make difficult decisions, Aladdin faces his greatest foe yet and Morgiana does all she can to become more powerful but to what expense?

In the first half, we watched as Aladdin was dependent on a headless giant named Ugo, but with Ugo gone after a major battle with the evil Judar, what will happen to Aladdin?

Also, a major difference between the first half of the series and the second half, is the inclusion of more characters.  Sinbad plays much more of a role as Al-Thamen declares war on Sindria and Sinbad and forces must do all they can to fight against Al-Thamen and the Dark Djinn.

With the conclusion to season one featuring a battle with someone they know quite well.

But for the most part, this second half for season one is a whole different vibe than the first.  While you do get the perverted humor for a brief moment, the series is primarily action non-stop with so many dire situations involving Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgiana.

While the trio meet new friends and allies, there is also a lot of heartbreak as both Aladdin and Alibaba lose something special in their lives.  So, one can expect a deep, action-packed storyline for episodes 13-25.

For those wondering if the series is safe to watch around children, this is a show for teens. There is quite a bit of violence, maybe not as bloody as some of the episodes of the first half, but there is quite a bit of fighting violence.

While I wish “Magi: The Labyrinth 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 a lot of swag. In this case, five collectable foil stamped postcards, 2-sided reversible cover illustrated by Toshifumi Akai (the character designer/chief animation director) and a 16-page deluxe booklet.

Overall, “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2″ is a fantastic, action-packed anime series!  If you loved the first half, you will certainly love the second half as the storyline and animation is quite captivating.  Highly recommended!

 

The Gabby Douglas Story (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

April 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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An inspirational story that will no doubt inspire many young gymnasts for generations, “The Gabby Douglas” story is heartwarming and entertaining.   Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Sony Pictures Television Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Gabby Douglas Story

DURATION: 86 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: NOT RATED

AVAILABLE ON: April 15, 2014

Directed by Gregg Champion

Story by Sterling Anderson, Maria Nation

Produced by David A. Rosemont

Co-Produced by Michael Swidler

Executive Producer: Zev Braun, Gabby Douglas, Natalie Hawkins, Philip Krupp

Music by Robert Duncan

Cinematography by Gordon Lonsdale

Edited by Anita Brandt-Burgoyne

Casting by Tracy “Twinkie”” Bird and Donna Rosenstein

Production Design by Rejean Labrie

Costume Design by Mary Partridge-Raynor

Starring:

Regina King as Natalie Hawkins

Imani Hakim as Teenage Gabby Douglas

Sydney Mikayla as Young Gabby Douglas

Brian Tee as Liang Chow

David Haydn-Jones as Dirk

S. Epatha Merkerson as Miss Caroline

Gabby Douglas as Gabby Douglas

Kyal Legend as Joyelle Douglas

Lola Assad as Young Joyelle Douglas

Dean Armstrong as Travis Lonsdale

Ashanti Bromfield as Arielle Douglas

Riele Downs as Young Arielle Douglas

Kristen Harris as Sally Lonsdale

Stephan James as John Douglas

Jai Jai Jones as Tim Douglas

Thamela Mpumiwana as Young John Douglas

Sarah Surh as Li Chow

A prodigy from a very young age, Gabby Douglas originally made her mark on the world of competitive gymnastics at age eight. She won numerous state championship titles in her age group throughout her early competitive career. While her star was fast rising in the arena, Gabby and her family faced economic challenges at home and she made the difficult decision to leave her mother Natalie, three siblings and grandmother in Virginia Beach and move to Des Moines, Iowa, to train with renowned coach Liang Chow to pursue her dream of Olympic glory. Buoyed by her early success, dedication and unyielding love from her family, Gabby made it onto the 2012 U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team, with whom she faced intense competition in the London Games. Her sacrifice and perseverance were triumphantly rewarded with Team Competition and Individual All-round gold medals, placing Gabby and her teammates – known as “The Fierce Five” — among the world’s all-time greats in gymnastics.

With every Olympics, there are a number of inspiring stories and in the 2012 Summer Olympics, there was one story that captivated the hearts of many.

With the US Gymnastics team showcasing several of their top athletes, African-American gymnast, Gabby Douglas did something that shocked many watching on television.  Not only did she become the individual all-around champion, she became the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics.  Also, being the only American all-around champion to win multiple gold medals.

And as we watched this young, magnificent gymnast dominate in competition and win gold medals, it’s the story that came out after she became a champion that made Americans even more teary eyed and inspired because not only was she a person that showed promising talent at a very young age, despite how poor her family was, she was able to learn gymnastic, found a way to be coached by renown gymnastics coach Liang Chow and in a year and a half, become one of the greatest athletes in gymnastics history.

And her story received a teleplay for Lifetime and now the film will be released on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in April 2014.

“The Gabby Douglas Story” is a biopic directed by Gregg Champion (“The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn”, “The Cowboy Way”, “Stealing Christmas”) and written by Sterling Anderson (“The Unit”, “Too Young to Marry”) and Maria Nation (“The Inheritance”, “Salem Witch Trials”, “Ellen Foster”).

The film would star Regina King (“Jerry Maguire”, “Enemy of the State”, “Ray”), Imani Hakim (“Everybody Hates Chris”, “Reign Over Me”), Sidney Mikayla (“A Beautiful Soul”, “Whitney”), Brian Tee (“The Wolverine”, “We Were Soldiers”) and S. Epatha Merkerson (“Terminator 2: Judgement Day”, “Law & Order”).

“The Gabby Douglas Story” begins with Natalie Hawkins (portrayed by Regina King) giving birth to Gabrielle.  The baby was born with a medical condition and times were tough for the Douglas family as Timothy tried to find work, while Natalie tried to raise her four children.

But after living in a van for weeks, Natalie would eventually separate from her husband and live with her mother until she was able to find a job.

And as Natalie would raise her children, Gabby would show her passion for gymnastics, idolizing Shawn Johnson (2008 Olympic balance beam gold medalist and team, all-around and floor exercise silver medalist) coached by Liang Chow.

As Gabby would be given a chance to learn gymnastics in Virginia, she would have to face hardships because she was shorter and also not having much people believing in her talent aside from her family.

But as Natalie would get sick, without a job, the family would go through tough financial times.  And as for Gabby, it was not known if the family’s financial troubles would prevent her from attending gymnastics.

For Gabby, life would change when Liang Chow would come to her local gymnastics school to train for a day.  And after meeting Liang Chow, life would never be the same for Gabby as she became more determined to be in the 2012 Olympics in London.

With so many odds against her, from her mother’s illness and financial problems that the family was experiencing, would Gabby Douglas ever have a chance to become the gymnast that she dreamed and work hard in becoming?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Gabby Douglas Story” is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen with an English 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.  Subtitles are in English SDH, English and French.

The film would look good on DVD as one can expect.  Mild artifacts and banding but for the most part, picture quality is good.  Audio is crisp and clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Gabby Douglas Story” comes with no special features.

Like many Americans, I watched the 2012 US Olympics and cheering for Gabby Douglas.

And like many people, inspired by her story of determination but also seeing how she made what would seem impossible, possible.

I’ve read many stories of Olympic athletes who collect video or maintain recordings of those who inspired them and as Gabby was inspired by Shawn Johnson, I have no doubt in my mind that Gabby Douglas inspires many people throughout our country.

It’s the great American story of an athlete who’s mother tried to take care four of her children, despite being financially in trouble.  Believing in her daughter’s talent, while the other siblings gave up their passions in order for the money to be used for Gabby’s gymnastics training.

There is also another inspiring storyline that deals with one overcome other types of challenges, may it be others looking down on you because you are too short, not wealthy but Gabby proved herself through results and that she was just as good, if not better than the other girls in her gymnastics school.

From leaving her family to move to Iowa, live with another family (who were not African-American), train with one of the greatest coaches in gymnastics but having to try her best after a major injury and when she even doubted herself, to the point that she was close to quitting gymnastics.

“The Gabby Douglas” story is inspiring, entertaining and also well-acted.  Actress Regina King did a wonderful job of playing the strict but caring and loving mother Natalie, while both Sydney Mikayla and Imani Hakim did a great job of portraying Gabby Douglas during her younger and teenage years.

If anything, the struggles that Gabby faced and how the talent were able to convey that into the film was nicely done and for the most part, “The Gabby Douglas Story” is another inspiring and enjoyable film to air on Lifetime.

An inspirational story that will no doubt inspire many young gymnasts for generations, “The Gabby Douglas” story is heartwarming and entertaining.  Recommended!

 

Ranma 1/2 – Set 1 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

April 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Featuring a hilarious and delightful storyline written with non-stop humor and action, “Ranma 1/2″ is at true anime classic that will forever entertain many generations of anime fans and will forever be remembered for its characters and wild and crazy stories.  And it’s a Rumiko Takahashi anime series that I highly recommend!  If you can, avoid the DVD release of “Ranma 1/2 – Set 1″ and go for the Blu-ray version!

Image courtesy of © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Ranma 1/2 – Set 1 (らんま1/2)

DURATION: Episodes 1-23 (450 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16×9 Widescreen, 2.0 Stereo Surround Sound, Bilingual (Japanese & English), English Subtitles

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: March 25, 2014

Original Creator: Rumiko Takahashi

Series Director: Tomomi Mochizuki

Director: Junji Nishimura, Koji Sawai, Tsutomu Shibayama

Series Composition: Hiroshi Toda, Shigeru Yanagawa, Toshiki Inoue, Yoshio Ursasawa

Music by Miko Endo

Character Design: Atsuko Nakajima

Art Director: Satoshi Miura

Director of Photography: Mitsunobu Yoshida

Anime Production: Studio DEEN

Featuring the following voice talent:

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sarah Strange as Ranma Saotome(Male)

Megumi Hayashibara/Venus Terzo as Ranma Saotome(Female)

Noriko Hidaka/Myriam Sirois as Akane Tendou

Hiromi Tsuru/Kelly Sheridan as Ukyou Kuonji

Hirotaka Suzuoki/Ted Cole as Tatewaki Kunoh

Ichirô Nagai/Paul Dobson as Happousai

Kenichi Ogata/Robert O. Smith as Genma

Kikuko Inoue/Willow Johnson as Kasumi Tendou

Kouichi Yamadera/Michael Donovan as Ryouga Hibiki

Minami Takayama/Angela Costain as Nabiki Tendou

Miyoko Asou/Elan Ross Gibson as Cologne

Rei Sakuma/Cathy Weseluck as Shampoo

Ryunosuke Ohbayashi/David Kaye as Souun Tendou

Saeko Shimazu/Teryl Rothery as Kodachi Kunoh

Tatsuyuki Jinnai/Scott McNeil as Principal Kunoh

Toshihiko Seki/Brad Swaile as Mousse

Yuji Mitsuya/Ian James Corlett as Ono Toufuu-sensei (Dr. Tofu)

From the legendary oeuvre of master creator Rumiko Takahashi, the mixed-up, madcap, martial arts romantic comedy RANMA 1/2 returns! After taking a surprise dip in a cursed spring while on a training journey in China, martial artist Ranma Saotome and his father, Genma, aren’t quite themselves anymore. Now Ranma turns into a girl whenever he’s splashed with cold water, and Genma turns into a panda!

Their new forms cause nothing but confusion at the Tendo dojo, where Soun Tendo is waiting to introduce one of his three daughters to Ranma – as his fiancee! Turns out Genma and Soun arranged the match long ago, but the girl, Akane, and the boy, Ranma, aren’t exactly crazy about the idea, or each other! Or are they? Watch the gender switching, jealous rages, and martial arts battles unfold all over again!

Mangaka Rumiko Takahashi is no doubt a legendary mangaka who has had amazing success in Japan.

Many know her from her popular series “InuYasha” but decades before, she won over manga and anime fans through her series “Urusei Yatsura”, “Maison Ikkoku”, The Mermaid series and of course, her well-known series, “Ranma 1/2″.

“Ranma 1/2″ was created back in 1987 and lasted through 1996 and serialized in Shogakukan’s “Weekly Shonen Sunday” with a total of 38 tankobon volumes (graphic novels) published.

The series like most of Rumiko’s work received an anime adaptation and in 1989, a total of 18 episodes were created and aired in Fuji TV before being canceled.

But unlike most cancellations, “Ranma 1/2″ would get a second life on television a month later with a new name titled “Ranma 1/2 Nettouhen” which was based on the manga but featured also a lot of filler episodes and characters not featured in the manga series.

While “Ranma 1/2″ was popular and would help jumpstart the careers for voice talents such as Megumi Hayashibara (“Video Girl Ai”, “Meitantei Conan”, “Slayers”, “Pokemon”), Kappei Yamaguchi (“Meitantei Conan”, “InuYasha”, “One Piece”), Noriko Hidaka (“InuYasha”, “Gunbuster”, “Nadia – The Secret of Blue Water”), Hiromi Tsuru (“Dragon Ball Z”, “Anpanman”), Kikuko Inoue (“Ah! My Goddess”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”), Minami Takayama (“Meitantei Conan”, “Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko”) and Rei Sakuma (“Mobile Suit Gundam 0083″, “Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ”).

The series would become popular overseas as it was one of the first anime series to receive a fan sub and because it would help jumpstart the anime and manga craze during the early 1990′s including “Ranma 1/2″ released in comic book format. Viz Media would then bring an English dub of the anime series to the United States.

And while the anime series was released little by little with two episodes on VHS and then later with season box sets on DVD, in America, “Ranma 1/2″ has always been a fan favorite.

But when it was announced that Rumiko Takahashi’s earlier hit series “Urusei Yatsura”, “Maison Ikkoku” and “Ranma 1/2″ would be remastered and released in Japan on Blu-ray as part of Shogakukan’s 90th anniversary, suffice to say, fans became very excited and wondered if the series in HD would be released in America.

And sure enough, Viz Media surprised fans with the announcement that “Ranma 1/2″ would be released on Blu-ray and DVD plus an omnibus release of the manga series in March 2014.

Unlike the first season box set which features the first 18 episodes of season 1, “Ranma 1/2 – Set 1″ will feature 23 episodes.

“Ranma 1/2″ is a story about a teenage boy named Ranma Saotome.  His father Genma Saotome and his good friend Soun Tendo have made a deal that Ranma can marry one of Soun’s daughters and so both are headed to Japan after training in China.

But because both Ranma and Genma have fallen into cursed lakes, whenever they come into contact with cold water, Ranma turns into a girl, while Genma turns into a panda.

And because Akane hates boys and Ranma is half boy/half girl, her older sisters Kusumi and Nabiki volunteer Akane to be Ranma’s betrothed.

But both Ranma and Akane are like oil and water and don’t get along.  Both often tease each other and Akane tends to beat Ranma up.   And as the two are to try and be a happy couple, also in school, both must put up with a cast of fascinating characters including Tatewaki Kuno and his sister Kodachi, Ranma’s eternal rival Ryouga Hibiki, the Chinese fighter named Shampoo and others who are happy to destroy their relationship.

The main characters of “Ranma 1/2″ are:

  • Ranma Saotome – The series protagonist and martial artist who is often training with his father.  He and Akane tend to not get along and he often says things bad to her, which leads her to beat him up or get him into trouble.  Because he fell into a cursed lake where a teenage girl had died, he transforms into a teenage girl when he comes into contact with cold water and reverts back to a male when he comes into contact with hot water.  Due to his father’s arrangement with Soun Tendo, he is the fiance of Akane Tendo.
  • Genma Saotome – The father of Ranma Saotome and is often training with his son.  He is the childhood best friend of Soun Tendo and together, they made a promise that their children will marry.  Because he fell into a cursed lake where a panda had died, he transforms into a panda when he comes into contact with cold water and reverts back to a male when he comes into contact with hot water.  He and Genma were trained by their master, Happosai.
  • Akane Tendo – The female protagonist who is a tomboy that loves martial arts.  She is popular at school and many guys want her to be their girlfriend.  Due to her father’s arrangement with Genma Saotome, she is engaged to Ranma Saotome.  She also has a hot temper and is often arguing and beating up on Ranma.
  • Soun Tendo – The owner of the Tendo Dojo, he is the father of Kusumi, Nabiki and Akane.  He and his childhood friend Genma had an arrangement that their children will marry.  He and Genma were trained by their master, Happosai.
  • Kusumi Tendo – She is the most ladylike of the Tendo family, the eldest sister who is always kind, she is often seen taking care of her sisters and cooking for the entire family and also cleaning the house.
  • Nabiki Tendo – The middle child, Nabiki likes to make money and spend it! Often trying to find ways to make money.
  • Tatewaki Kuno – From a wealthy family and has a cocky attitude and because of his inflated ego, calls himself “Blue Thunder”. He is in love with Akane and female Ranma.  He is an expert with a wooden sword.
  • Ryoga Hibiki – Ranma’s rival .  Ryoga is terrible with directions and whenever he is planning to fight with Ranma, it would take him days or weeks, because he walked hundreds of miles in another direction.  One day he followed Ranma and Genma all the way to China and was kicked by a girl and landed in a cursed lake where a small black pig had died.  Whenever he comes in contact with cold water, he will turn into a black pig and whenever he comes in contact with hot water, he reverts back to his normal self.  As a pig, named P-chan, he is taken in as a pet by Akane Tendo.
  • Kodachi Kuno – The captain of the St. Hebereke School for Girls Gymnastic team and while a great gymnast, she also uses poison and other methods in combat which has earned her the nickname “The Black Rose”.
  • Dr. Tofu Ono – A very good doctor, it’s that people worry when Kasumi is around because Tofu is in love with Kasumi and he begins behaving unusually towards everyone.
  • Shampoo – The hero of her village in China.  She despises female Ranma and loves male Ranma.  She also fell in a cursed lake in Jusenkyou and turns into a pink cat.  Whenever she comes into contact with cold water, she turns into a cat.  When in contact with hot water, she reverts back to normal.  She runs the Neko Hanten Chinese restaurant.
  • Mikado Sanzenin – One half of the Golden Pair figure skating duo.  Conceited and wanting to kiss pretty girls.
  • Azusa Shiratori – One half of the Golden Pair figure skating duo.  She believes anything cute must be owned by her and will do anything to keep it.  She badly wants Akane’s black Pig, P-Chan which she has named “Charlotte”.

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Ranma 1/2″ is presented in standard definition and English and Japanese stereo.

It’s important to remind people that the version I am reviewing is the DVD version.  So, if you owned the previous DVD set, there is not going to be a huge difference unless you purchase the Blu-ray version.

The primary difference that you will see is that “Ranma 1/2 Set 1″ has visible grain and that reds and blues are much more vibrant and colors are much more pleasing but I can only imagine how gorgeous this series would look in HD versus SD.

Having compared the original season box set and this 2014 DVD release, the differences are there but not enough for me to tell fans to throw away their older DVD box sets.  In fact, if you own the previous release, don’t even bother purchasing the DVD release, upgrade to the Blu-ray release instead.

Also, one should not come into watching “Ranma 1/2″ and expect major restoration work such as “Akira”.  This is a TV series from the late ’80s utilizing cells and is old school animation.

But as for differences from the original first season DVD box set and the 2014 “Ranma 1/2 – Set 1″ release, please look at the following (top photo version is from the original season 1 DVD box set, bottom photo is from the 2014 DVD release):

Original Season 1 DVD Release Screen Capture:

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“Ranma 1/2 – Set 1″ DVD Screen Capture:

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Original Season 1 DVD Release Screen Capture:

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“Ranma 1/2 – Set 1″ DVD Screen Capture:

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Original Season 1 DVD Release Screen Capture:

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“Ranma 1/2 – Set 1″ DVD Screen Capture:

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As for audio, on DVD, you get both the wonderful Japanese soundtrack and the English dub.  It’s important to note that the English dub back in the ’90s were a much different style than the English dubs that people are accustomed to today.  At the time, Viz Media and other companies were entering a new field for English dubs after many people have seen the Japanese version (due to fan subs).

So, back in 1995, Viz Media was criticized for its English dub soundtrack.  The dub was no doubt subjective to the listener.  Some didn’t mind, some were very vocal about it but the good news is that on this DVD, you have a choice between Japanese or the English dub unlike the VHS release which you had to choose separately.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ranma 1/2 – Set 1″ comes with the following special features:

  • NYCC Highlights – Highlights of “Ranma 1/2″ cosplayers at New York Comic Con.
  • Trailers – Viz Media trailers

While many Americans had their first exposure of Japanese animation during the 1970′s, with “Battle of the Planets” and in the ’80s through “Robotech” and “Voltron”, for the anime fans of the early ’90s, many discovered Japanese animation (anime) through a series known as “Ranma 1/2″.

I was among those who grew up with “Ranma 1/2″ and discovered the series back in 1992.  I credit this series for introducing me to Japanese animation and while the series has not been forgotten, a new generation of anime and manga fans would grow up with another Rumiko Takahashi series titled “InuYasha” in the late ’90s and early 2000′s, while those of us who were fortunate to have grown up with “Ranma 1/2″, “Urusei Yatsura”, “Maison Ikkoku” and other Takahashi titles, will always remember that moment of time when anime and manga was fresh and new in the United States.

For me, being a long time “Ranma 1/2″ fan, from watching “Ranma 1/2″ in original Japanese when it first came out on LaserDisc and watching it at a local club viewing back in the early ’90s, purchasing nearly every “Ranma 1/2″ CD soundtrack to meeting Megumi Hayashibara (voice of female Ranma) and also meeting Venus Terzo (English dub voice actress for female Ranma) and Myriam Sirois (voice of Akane) and literally purchasing nearly everything or anything “Ranma 1/2″ related in LD and VHS… What a great time to see “Ranma 1/2″ released for a new generation of anime fans but also for those who have wished for more old school anime to be released on Blu-ray!

While I was not able to obtain a review copy of the Blu-ray release, I did receive a review copy of the DVD release and I’m going to be blunt about this…  Don’t buy “Ranma 1/2 – Set 1″ on DVD unless you have to!

Part of the enjoyment of watching “Ranma 1/2″ in 2014 is for its HD release on Blu-ray and this is where you are going to see an improvement in picture quality.

Having compared the original Viz Media “Ranma 1/2″ DVD box set and the 2014 “Ranma 1/2 – Set 1″, what you will notice in the newer release is more grain, colors that pop but also colors that are not so dark and better color where skies are lighter blue instead of having this aqua tinge.  There is no doubt that the 2014 DVD release looks much better on DVD than its older counterpart but not a whole lot.  That’s why I can only recommend the “Ranma 1/2″ released on Blu-ray.  Sure, it would have been great to have a Blu-ray +DVD combo pack but

Also, you get 23 episodes in the 2014 DVD release (so you get both “Ranma 1/2″ and a little of season two of “Ranma 1/2 Nettouhen”) as opposed to the 18 episodes of season one.  While in Japan, our counterparts are getting 54-episodes on Blu-ray but they are also paying over $350 per box set.  So, considering that 23 episodes are being sold for under $50, the price is great, considering the VHS and LD for “Ranma 1/2″ for a few episodes was quite expensive back then.

As for audio, it’s stereo and for special features, you get a short two minute NYCC highlight and trailers.  As much as I would have loved more special features, I wish the textless opening and ending themes were included.

The “Ranma 1/2″ series was a big part of my older teenage years and I feel it’s a wonderful experience for today’s readers to discover or re-discover one of the more well-known Rumiko Takahashi series that has had a worldwide impact for longtime fans.

While I do wish I can give a huge recommendation for the “Ranma 1/2 – Set 1″ DVD release, the truth is that it’s not a whole lot different from the original DVD release.   But if you want to watch “Ranma 1/2″ in the best quality possible and own the definitive version, then the Blu-ray is the way to go. The Blu-ray not only has better picture quality but Viz Media has included more swag and a better case, while the DVD is left with zilch.  I only recommend this DVD set only if you don’t own a Blu-ray player.

And assuming, you don’t have a Blu-ray player, then you are getting a great deal for one DVD set with 23 episodes.

Featuring a hilarious and delightful storyline written with non-stop humor and action, “Ranma 1/2″ is at true anime classic that will forever entertain many generations of anime fans and will forever be remembered for its characters and wild and crazy stories.  And it’s a Rumiko Takahashi anime series that I highly recommend!

 

K – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

March 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Stylishly cool, action-packed and overall fantastic!  “K- The Complete Series” was an entertaining and awesome anime series from beginning to end!

Image courtesy of © GoRA – GoHands/K-Project. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: K – The Complete Series

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16×9 Widescreen, 2.0 Stereo Surround Sound, Bilingual (Japanese & English), English Subtitles

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 25, 2014

Original Creator: GoRa

Series Director: Hiromitsu Kanazawa, Susumu Kudo

Director: Shingo Suzuki

Series Composition: GoRa, Tatsuki Miyazawa

Music by Miko Endo

Character Design: Shingo Suzuki

Art Director: Masanobu Nomura

Chief Animation Director: Makoto Furuta

Anime Production: GoHands

Featuring the following voice talent:

 Daisuke Namikawa/Sam Regal as Yashiro Isana

Daisuke Ono/Matthew Mercer as Kuroh Yatogami

Kenjiro Tsuda/Keith Silverstein as Mikoto Suoh

Mikako Komatsu/Stephanie Sheh as Neko

Tomokazu Sugita/Patrick Seitz as Reisi Munakata

Jun Fukuyama/Ben Diskin as Misaki Yata

Mamoru Miyano/Johnny Yong Bosch as Saruhiko Fushimi

Miyuki Sawashiro/Tara Platt as Seri Awashima

Satomi Satou /Carrie Savageas Kukuri Yukizome

Sho Hayami/Grant George as Miwa Ichigen

Shozo Iizuka/Kirk Thornton as Daikaku Kokujouji

Takahiro Sakurai/Todd Haberkorn as Izumo Kusanagi

Tetsuya Kakihara/Lucien Dodge as Adolf K. Weisman

Yui Horie/Colleen O’Shaughnessey as Anna Kushina

Yūichi Nakamura/Grant George as Rikio Kamamoto

Yuuki Kaji/Lucien Dodge as Tatara Totsuka

Shiro is an easygoing teenager content with just being a student – until his seemingly perfect life is halted when a bloodthirsty clan, glowing red with fire, attempts to kill him in the streets. Unbeknownst to Shiro, he is suspected of murdering a member of their clan and will need a miracle to escape their vengeance. Miraculously, a young man named Kuroh Yatogami swings in and aids Shiro in his getaway, only to reveal he’s also after Shiro’s life.

Now a hunted man, Shiro will have to evade the clans of seven powerful kings and desperately try to prove his innocence – before it’s too late!

In 2012, studio GoHands and director/character designer Shingo Suzuki’s (“Mardock Scramble” films, “Coppelion”, “Gravion”) anime series titled “K” began airing on television in Japan via MBS.

The anime series would go on to launch manga prequels, light novels, a visual novel and a sequel film slated for a summer 2014 release.

And now, “K – The Complete Series” was released on Blu-ray and DVD in February 2014.

“K” revolves around a teenager named Yashiro “Shiro” Isana, a happy-go-lucky teenager.

What would appear to be a happy day of finding a small cat which he calls “Neko” and just a normal teenage life, his life is changed when he is attacked by Misaki Yata of the faction known as HOMRA.  As Shiro tries to outrun him, he is pursued by more of the Red Clansmen of HOMRA.

But all of a sudden, he is rescued by Kuroh “The Black Dog” Yatogami, a swordsman who is hunting down the next “Colorless King” and serves the late King and master, Ichigen Miwa.

But as the Red Clansmen leave when they see Kuroh, what Shiro believes Kuroh to be a friend is actually a person who is wanting to hunt him and kill him.

Shiro is then shown a video of a future in which he murders Tatara Totsuka, a popular member from Homra.  And Shiro is seen, claiming to be the next “Colorless King”.  But Shiro claims he is not the person in the video.  The person looks like him, but it’s not him.  So, Kuroh gives him the benefit of the doubt to prove his innocence.

To make Shiro’s day even more stranger is when his cat Neko turns into a human cat girl who has pledge to serve Shiro and help prove his innocence.  Meanwhile, factions such as HOMRA and SCEPTER 4 are after Shiro.

The main characters of “K” are:

  • Yashiro “Shiro” Isana – The main protagonist who is a normal high student who is being pursued by factions who believe he murdered Tatara Totsuka of HOMRA.  A video was show of Shiro shooting Tatara Totsuka and claiming to be “The Colorless King”.  Yet, Yashiro claims his innocence.
  • Kuroh Yatogami – A swordsman serving the late king and master, Ichigen Miwa.  A man of honor, despite having a cold exterior, he is on the hunt for the next “Colorless King”.  Despite having video footage of Shiro killing Tatara Totsuka, he is giving Shiro a chance to prove his innocence.
  • Neko – A cat that Shiro found, she mysteriously changes to a girl and will do anything for Shiro.
  • Mikoto Shou – The Red King and leader of HOMRA.  Held in custody by SCEPTER 4.
  • Izumo Kusanagi – The second in command of HOMRA and owner of the Bar HOMRA.
  • Misaki Yata – A member of HOMRA who is a skateboarder.
  • Anna Kushina – The youngest and only female member of HOMRA who will do anything for Mikoto.
  • Reisi Munakata – The Blue Kiong and head of the Special Task Force Unit SCEPTER 4.  Enemy of Mikoto.
  • Seri Awashima – Second-in-Command the only female member of SCEPTER 4.
  • Saruhiko Fushimi – A former member of HOMRA and current member of SCEPTER 4.  A man with a bad attitude.
  • Kukuri Yukizome – Yashiro’s friend who often tries to help Kuroh find Shiro.

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“K – The Complete Series” is an anime series that is known for its many characters, it’s beautiful art backgrounds and detailed artwork.  The look and feel of “K” is colorful and stylish and definitely one of the cooler looking 13-episode anime series thanks to the production value.  Cool character designs, awesome background art, it’s a beautiful anime series.

But I recommend for anyone who wants the best picture and audio quality, to check out the Blu-ray release of “K – The Complete Series”.  On DVD, picture quality does look good!

Since the series is front channel driven, for those with a modern home theater receiver probably will enjoy a more immersive soundscape by selecting stereo on all channels.  But the voice acting in Japanese and English Dolby Digital Stereo are both well-done!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“K – The Complete Series” comes with the following special features:

  • K Events – US Convention Highlights – Highlights of “K” cosplayers at Anime Expo 2013 and the English dub voice talent.
  • Clean Opening/Ending
  • K Trailers
  • More from Viz Media – Viz Media trailers

Stylishly cool, action-packed and so much fun!  “K- The Complete Series” was an entertaining and awesome anime series from beginning to end!

What draws you into the series is no doubt the beautiful visuals but also its storyline of one teenager who happens to be hunted down by various factions for his killing of a popular member of the faction HOMRA.

Yashiro “Shiro” Isana seems like your average go-lucky type of guy until he becomes the hunted and with Kuroh Yatogami on his side (more like giving him a chance to prove his innocence or else he will slay him), it’s a rather interesting storyline with each episode building up to something more exciting with more twists along the way.

It’s one of the major positive draws of the series is its steady pacing, its attention to character building storylines and of course, the wonderful character design and art backgrounds.  And aside from beautiful visuals, the acting on both Japanese and English soundtracks are also well-done.

While my review is for the DVD version, I strongly recommend the Blu-ray version if you do prefer better picture quality.  Special features are limited but I did enjoy the short convention highlight from Anime Expo 2013.

Overall, “K – The Complete Series” turned out to be a fantastic, stylish anime series.  It’s easily accessible thanks to its 13-episode storyline but it’s one of the cooler anime series I have seen for 2014.

If you are looking for an action-driven storyline with gorgeous visuals, “K – The Complete Series” is highly recommended!

 

The Dean Martin: Celebrity Roasts – Fully Roasted (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

March 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Dean Martin: Celebrity Roasts – Fully Roasted” is a collection of hilarious roasts from the ’70s showcasing various roasts of celebrities, athletes and politicians.   Featuring 17 roasts, it’s just amazing to watch these roasts today featuring Betty White, Bette Davis, Muhammad Ali, Suzanne Somers, Angie Dickinson, Gov. Ronald Reagan to name a few.  And they are as hilarious today as they were back then.  Plus you get over five hours of special features from “The Dean Martin Show” and interviews with various talents over 40-years later.  A wonderful collection that I absolutely enjoyed!  “The Dean Martin: Celebrity Roasts – Fully Roasted” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 NBC Universal Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Carol Burnett Show: Christmas with Carol

DURATION: 115 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, Color, Monaural

COMPANY: Time Life/StarVista

RATED: NOT RATED

Written by Harry Crane, Michael Barrie, Norm Liebmann, Tom Tenowich, Jim Mulholland, Lary Markes, Bill Box, Mickey Rose, David Axelrod, Stan Burns, Mike Marmer

Producer: Ed Simmons, Arnie Rosen, Bill Angelos, Buz Kohan, Chris Jenkyns

Series Production Design: Spencer Davies

Set Decoration by Spencer Davies

Starring:

Dean Martin

Betty White

Ronald Reagan

Betty Davis

Muhammad Ali

George Burns

Angie Dickinson

Telly Savalas

Dan Rowan

Dick Martin

Barry Goldwater

Suzanne Somers

Dennis Weaver

Ralph Nader

Gabe Kaplan

Redd Foxx

Hugh Hefner

Zsa Zsa Gabor

Henry Fonda

Georgia Engel

Jonathan Winters

Shelley Winters

Amanda Blake

LaWanda Page

Billy Crystal

Gene Kelly

Orson Welles

Charo

Donald O’Connor

Henny Youngman

Tony Orlando

Freddie Prinze

Shirley Williams

Tom Bosley

Don Rickles

Jimmy Stewart

Relive all the fun holiday memories from The Carol Burnett Show with these classic episodes featuring the whole gang: Carol, Harvey, Tim, Vicki and more! Following the highly successful 2012 launch of the sketch comedy series that has sold over 4 million DVDs to date, now comes The Carol Burnett Show: Christmas with Carol, a new DVD from the beloved, landmark TV show, one of the most honored in history.

In 1965, the variety show “The Dean Martin Show” premiered on NBC.  Hosted by America’s well-known film star and crooner, Dean Martin’s variety show would run from 1965 through 1974 with a total of 264 episodes featured.

As the series came to an end, a special series which evolved from “The Dean Martin Show” was created titled “The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast” which were modeled after the New York Friars’ Club in which a celebrity would sit on a banquet table while insulted and chided by fellow celebrities and friends.

“The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts” would produce 54 specials and shows from 1974 through 1984 (note: No specials were active between 1980 and 1983).  The TV specials were recorded live at the MGM Grand Hotel’s Ziegfeld Room in front of a live audience.

In 2013, StarVista Entertainment released the “Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: The Complete DVD Collection” featuring all 54 specials on 23 discs.  Followed by two individual sets and now a third titled “The Dean Martin: Celebrity Roasts – Fully Roasted” featuring 17 complete specials (16.5 hours total) which include roasts for Betty White, Gov. Ronald Reagan, Bette Davis, Muhammad Ali, George Burns, Angie Dickinson, Telly Savalas, Dan Rowan & Dick Martin, Sen. Barry Goldwater, Suzanne Somers, George Washington, Dennis Weaver, Ralph Nader, Gabe Kaplan, Redd Foxx, Hugh Hefner and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Several celebrities involved in the roasts include Henry Fonda, Georgia Engel, Jonathan Winters, Shelley Winters, Amanda Blake, LaWanda Page, Billy Crystal, Gene Kelley, Orson Welles, Charo, Donald O’Connor, Henny Youngman, Sherman Hemsely, Jimmy Stewart, Tony Orlando, Freddy Prinze, Shirley Williams, Tom Bosley and many more.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Dean Martin: Celebrity Roasts – Fully Roasted” is presented in 4:3 and in monaural. The quality of the video is pretty good considering its age. Most series tend to show its age or show discoloration but every episode presented on this DVD is in very good shape. Dialogue and music is clear. I saw no defects or any problematic issues while watching these episodes.

Special features of recent interviews shot digitally look especially good on DVD as would be expected.

Audio is clear and understandable.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Dean Martin: Celebrity Roasts – Fully Roasted” comes with the following special features:

  • Bonus Comedy Sketches – Featuring Dean Martin, Howard Cosell, Vincent Prize, Steve Lawrence, William Holden, Ruth Buzzi and others from skits from the “The Dean Martin Show” back in the early ’70s.
  • Featurettes – Featuring three featurettes: “Ladies of the Dais” (35:34 – The woman who were featured in the roast), “Beauty & the Beast: Ruth Buzzi vs. Muhammad Ali” (6:06 – Discussing the roast of Muhammad Ali and the day she repeatedly hit him with a bag) and “Roast in Hell – Politicians Under Fire” (25:21 -  A featurette of the various politicians who were roasted).
  • Interviews – Featuring interviews with Phyllis Diller (22:16), Ruth Buzzi (17:28 and 18:40), Shirley Jones (8:23), Tony Danza (7:39), Angie Dickinson (18:35), Carol Burnett (7:38), Sheila Kuehl (29:02), Jimmie Walker (12:32), Abe Vigoda (5:05) and Fred Willard (16:15).

 EXTRAS:

“The Dean Martin: Celebrity Roasts – Fully Roasted” comes with a 30-page booklet featuring a summary of the roasts featured and more.

Before the celebrity roasts that people are familiar with today and before roasters became more venomous and hurtful to those being honored or fellow roasters, the most popular televised celebrity roasts on television were hosted by Dean Martin.

From 1974 to 1984, Dean Martin hosted a total of 54 specials in which a celebrity being roasted, would be honored by fellow celebrity friends, comedians or someone they may not have known, but it was all in good fun (or what was considered as “fun”) at the time.

In the case of “The Dean Martin: Celebrity Roasts – Fully Roasted”, a lot of the roasts were done in the late ’70s and would feature jokes that were aimed at a celebrity but at times, one can expect to see a lot of sexual jokes to jokes that some may deemed racially insensitive.  But it was the sign of the times, unlike today’s celebrity roasts where anything offensive can be spoken and literally anything goes.

But with this latest release, there are some beautiful gems included.

Having grown up during the ’70s and catch a few specials during my younger years,  as an adult and watching these shows today, I can’t help but feel of how fortunate I am to watch these gems of comedy from yesteryear but also a format which we will probably never see on television ever again.

From roasters joking with Betty White about her husband with humor, to Bette Davis being cool and smoking during her celebrity roast while being cool with the comedy aimed at her to Suzanne Somers who was popular for “Three’s Company” but everyone roasting her because of her body and her sexual prowess, to Muhammad Ali’s diction and more.

But of course, jokes about Dean Martin’s consumption of alcohol, jokes about how thin Jimmie Walker was, Zsa Zsa Gabor’s cleavage, Ruth Buzzi’s crazy woman character and the bold humor of LaWanda Page.  But what is also fascinating are the sheer number of celebrities who took part in the celebrity roasts and unlike today’s celebrity roasts which are primarily comedians, “The Dean Martin: Celebrity Roasts” were able to pull in major names as fellow roasters for a series of its time and helped NBC garner fantastic ratings!

The truth is that while there are talk shows that will bring in celebrities, comedians, politicians and athletes together, you will hardly see them brought together like what people will see in “The Dean Martin: Celebrity Roasts”.  While they were created for prime time television, there was a magic to see everyone together and be so free and have a lot of fun,while not being interrupted every 10 minutes or so for a commercial.

It was also an odd grouping of celebrities of a different ethnicity and sex, but the comedy didn’t go too far to be hurtful.  Compare the Dean Martin roast for Suzanne Somers versus Comedy Central’s roast for Pamela Anderson and while the Comedy Central roasts are not aired on public television, you can see how one has to have a thick skin to be on today’s modern celebrity roasts.  Everything and anything is a target for comedians.

So, watching these roasts, you can help but be amazed of the top star power featured on these specials.  There was no doubt that the popularity of the specials, everyone wanted to be on, even the politicians who knew they were going to be targeted by their roasters.

And with a total of 17 episodes featuring hilarious roasts, the five hours of special features would also include recent interviews with a few of the celebrities who appeared on the special over 40-years ago.  From Ruth Buzzi talking about the scenes of her repeatedly hitting Muhammad Ali with a bag during his celebrity roast, to how the female celebrities shined on the roasts and more.

My favorites for the “The Dean Martin: Celebrity Roasts – Fully Roasted” collection would have to be Betty White (who maintains her humor like she does today but also had the love of her life with her on the special), Bette Davis in one of her more upbeat and funny moments, Suzanne Somers who was a surprise because she hasn’t been on television all that long but was a sex symbol of the late ’70s and early ’80s, Red Foxx for his quips with LaWanda Page and more!

Part of the enjoyment of these roasts is that you had major talent who were roasters.  Henry Fonda, Jonathan Winters, Billy Crystal, Gene Kelly, Orson Welles, Jimmy Stewart to name a few.  It’s unbelievable to see how much star talent appeared for each roasting special.

While the majority of the roasts featured in this latest collection are hilarious (a few of the honorees were not too receptive especially the political honorees who showed hardly any emotion during their roasts), the fact that you are getting 17 specials (16.5 hours) plus five hours of special features is fantastic!  And for those who grew up with these specials, they still are able to make people laugh and the comedy still retains its humor over 40-years later!

Overall, “The Dean Martin: Celebrity Roasts – Fully Roasted” is a collection of hilarious roasts from the ’70s showcasing various roasts of celebrities, athletes and politicians.   Featuring 17 roasts, it’s just amazing to watch these roasts today featuring Betty White, Bette Davis, Muhammad Ali, Suzanne Somers, Angie Dickinson, Gov. Ronald Reagan to name a few.  And they are as hilarious today as they were back then.  Plus you get over five hours of special features from “The Dean Martin Show” and interviews with various talents over 40-years later.

A wonderful collection that I absolutely enjoyed!  “The Dean Martin: Celebrity Roasts – Fully Roasted” is highly recommended!

 

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