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Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19 – Original & Uncut (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

July 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

narutoshippuden-19

The origin of Eight Tails and preparation for the Great Ninja War!  If you are a fan of the anime series and are staying in for the long haul, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19 – Original & Uncut” is a fun and enjoyable filler volume worth watching!

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

DVD TITLE: Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19 – Original & Uncut

DURATION: Episodes 232-244 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Shonen Jump/Viz Media

RATED: Rated T for Older Teen

Release Date: July 8, 2014

Originally created by Masashi Kishimoto

Series Directed by Hayato Date

Produced by Tomoko Gushima, Ken Hagino

Series Coordinator by Junki Takegami, Satoru Nishizono

Character Design by Tetsuya Nishio, Hirofumi Suzuki

Music by Yasuharu Takanishi, Yaiba

Music Production by Aniplex

Anime Production by TV Tokyo, Pierrot

Featuring the following voice talent:

Junko Takeuchi/Maile Flanagan as Naruto Uzumaki

Chie Nakamura/Kate Higgins as Sakura Haruno

Noriaki Sugiyama/Yuri Lowenthal as Sasuke Uchiha

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

Hideo Ishikawa/Crispin Freeman as Itachi Uchiha

Houchu Ohtsuka/David Lodge as Jiraiya

Kazuhiko Inoue/Dave Wittenberg as Hatake Kakashi

Kentarou Itou/Robbie Rist as Chouji Akimichi

Kenyuu Horiuchi/Troy Baker as Pain

Kouichi Toochika/Steve Staley as Neji Hyuuga

Kousuke Toriumi/Kyle Hebert as Kiba Inuzuka

Kujira/Steven Blum as Orochimaru

Masako Katsuki/Debi Mae West as Tsunade/Fifth Hokage

Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Sheh as Hinata Hyuuga

Nobutoshi Canna/Henry Dittman as Kabuto Yakushi

Rikiya Koyama/Troy Baker as Yamato

Romi Paku/Tara Platt as Temari

Ryoka Yuzuki/Colleen O’Shaughnessey as Ino Yamanaka

Satoshi Hino/Ben Diskin as Sai

Shinji Kawada/Derek Stephen Prince as Shino Aburame

Yasuyuki Kase/Michael Lindsay as Kankurou

Yoichi Masukawa/Brian Donovan as Rock Lee

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

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

As the allied ninja forces prepare for the Great Ninja War, at Konoha, ninja’s prepare for their role in the battlefield.

For the Hyuga clan, Neji is assigned to lead the clan to war.  Naruto is on his way for his special mission but finds out an imposter is ruining his reputation.

Back at the village Konohamaru, Udon and Moegi want to get into action but for Konohamaru, he wants to pick a fight…but with the Sand Village’s Temari?

Shino looks back at the past, Tenten remembers how she wanted to be like Tsunade, Sai remembers his time spent with Naruto and Sakura, Kiba wants to prove himself and Guy remembers how he became Kakashi’s rival.

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

What is “Naruto”?

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

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

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

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

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

What is “Naruto Shippuden”?

In “Naruto Shippuden”, the storyline now features everyone a little grown up but the stakes are much higher. We learn that the Akatsuki including Orochimaru are looking for those who possess a jinchuriki. With this power, this will give too much power to evil and this can lead to the death of many people and the destruction of many villages.

In the past few volumes, the Leaf Village along with other villages have managed to defeat the Akatsuki, unfortunately the price paid was the death of Asuma and a few other members of the Leaf and Sand Ninja.

Now, Orochimaru using Kabuto, have their sites set on capturing the other jinchuriki, as do the Akatsuki who have been after Naruto.

In vol. 18 of “Naruto Shippuden – Original & Uncut”, after the epic battle with Pain, Lady Tsunade’s injuries causes concern in the leaf village and a discussion to select a new Hokage comes into play. Who will be the next choice of leading the village?

Meanwhile, the five Kage’s must plan and discuss the fourth Great Ninja War against the Akatsuki. Meanwhile, Naruto takes part in an S-ranked mission with Aoba, Guy and Yamato.

Which leads to vol. 19, a filler season (Season 11)  which features various storylines on various leaf ninja preparing for the war and reminiscing of their earlier years but also how Naruto has inspired them.

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Naruto Shippuden” is an anime series that was never known for having spectacular background art, but it’s know for its action and its characters and how it captures emotion and its intense battles. While in this episode, a lot of episodes are contained in areas near lush green trees, water or dirt, it’s not so much of the background but how the characters are design and how well the battles are portrayed. And I can easily say that with “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19- Original Uncut”, the fast-paced action in this volume is great for a TV series and good for what one can expect on DVD.

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

As for the audio, the audio for “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19″ is pretty much Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 Bilingual (Japanese and English). Similar to a series like “Dragon Ball Z”, with “Naruto”, I have always enjoyed the voice acting of the English dub series. It’s well done and the voices fit the characters very well.

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

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19 – Original & Uncut” comes with the following special features on disc 2:

  • Storyboards – View through the storyboards of episodes featured in volume 15 of “Naruto Shippuden”.
  • Clean Openings
  • Clean Endings
  • English Credits
  • More from Viz Media – Viz Media trailers

narutoshippuden-19b

As the Fourth Great Ninja War was taking place in Japan for the manga series, the anime series was catching up to quickly and thus, in order to stretch out the storyline and give mangaka Masashi Kishimoto time to write many more chapters, for the anime series, in order to give him that space, it was going to be another season of filler episodes.

And with season 11 (episodes 222-242) which aired from July through December 2011, writers made sure to focus on the planning of the Fourth Great Ninja War while having Naruto and others from the Leaf Village on special missions.

So, for  “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19″ which covers episodes 232-244, the writers of the anime series knew they needed to extend the season before returning to any storyline that is from the original manga.

The series brings things home by focusing on a character that we have grown up watching from the original series.  Neji, Shino, Shikamaru, Tenten, Guy, Kiba, etc.  Pretty much you get an episode of a lot of reflection of why these ninja want to protect Naruto and what Naruto did for them as individuals.

And in someway, these filler episodes are very enjoyable for the fact that in the manga series, as one expects, the focus is primarily on Naruto and his close circle of teammates, while the anime series gave fans more exploration of these characters and have developed them over time.

So, in some ways, it’s great to see these episodes focused on these characters.

This volume also features the first two episodes of season 12 (episodes 243-244) which features Naruto meeting Killer Bee and wants KB to train him and we get to see the origin of Eight Tails.

And this will focus on the Naruto/Killer Bee storyline that was featured in the original manga series from Masashi Kishimoto.

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

Overall, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19 – Original & Uncut” is rather fun, but for those who have read the manga series, will notice that the majority of all episodes in this latest volume are mostly filler episodes. Fortunately, the filler episodes are fun, fascinating and enjoyable and feature storylines that include characters that we have grown to appreciate in the Naruto world.

If you are staying in for the long haul, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19 – Original & Uncut” is a fun and enjoyable filler volume worth watching!

 

Prisoners of War: Season One (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

July 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

PrisonersOfWar-s1

“Prisoner of War: Season One” has turned out to be a magnificent and riveting series that makes viewers wanting more and more! And I have to admit, I enjoyed “Prisoners of War” much more than “Homeland”, so if you enjoyed the American political thriller, definitely give this award-winning Israeli series a chance. Especially now that it is available on DVD in America courtesy of Shout! Factory! Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014 Keshet Media Group. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Prisoners of War: Season One

RELEASE OF TV SERIES: 2009

DURATION: 13 Episodes (530 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Anamorphic Widescreen, Hebrew with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Shout Factory!

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASED: July 8, 2014

Directed by Gideon Raff

Written by Gideon Raff

Produced by Liat Benasuly

Cinematography by Itai Ne’eman

Edited by Simon Herman

Casting by Hila Yuval

Starring:

Gal Zaid as Haim

Yael Eitan as Dana

Salim Dau as Jamal

Sendi Bar as Iris

Hadar Ratzon Rotem as Leila Qasab

Mili Avital as Nurit Halevi-Zach

Assi Cohen as Amiel Ben-Horin

Adi Ezroni as Yael Ben-Horin

Ishai Golan as Uri Zach

Yoram Toledano as Nimrod Klein

Guy Selnik as Hatzav

After 17 years in captivity, three Israeli soldiers are finally returned to their families: one of them in a coffin. The first season of this award-winning and controversial series follows the former captives and their families as they try to reconnect with each other. But the adjustment is painful, and when secrets of the years gone by begin coming to light, betrayal, resentment and suspicion threaten to destroy their lives all over again.

This deeply moving, intense and thrilling series was adapted into the acclaimed drama Homeland.

Before “Homeland” became a popular American political thriller, there was “Hatufim” (Prisoners of War), the Israeli drama series created by Gideno Raff, which “Homeland” was based on.

But while the series have similarities, because the difference in culture and what is going on in the Middle East, especially with Israel, “Prisoners of War” differs from its American counterpart as the focus is less on political thriller but more on a POW’s acclamation into society and their relationships with their family upon returning home.

A winner of “Best Drama Series of 2010″ by the Israeli Academy of Film and Television and multiple awards, the controversial series would become Israel’s highest rated TV drama of all time.

And with a third season of “Prisoner of War” greenlighted, the first season was released in North America on DVD courtesy of Shout! Factory.

“Prisoners of War” revolves around three families.

For 17 years, these families have hoped for Israeli soldiers: Uri Zach (portrayed by Ishai Golan), Nimrod Klein (portrayed by Yoram Toledano) and Amiel Ben-Horin (portrayed by Assi Cohen) to be returned back home.

For a long period of time, both men were held in Lebanon and tortured but after negotiations for their freedom (in return of the release of prisoners), the families receive news that their love ones will be returning.

For Nimrod’s wife, Talia Klein (portrayed by Yael Abecassis), she has worked hard for her husband’s release.  But in return, her family has had it’s major trouble.

Dana (portrayed by Yael Eitan) is a rebellious daughter who has dealt with not having her father around by having sexual relations with older men.  While Hatzav is the teenage son that Nimrod had never met and was born after Nimrod was captured.

For the Zach family, Uri’s return is not as easily accepted as Uri’s longtime girlfriend, Nurit (portrayed by Mili Avital) went on to marry his older brother Yaakov (portrayed by Mickey Leon) and both have a son named Asaf (portrayed by Adam Kent).  While Nurit and Yaakov are not as thrilled and are not sure on how to handle this situation, his father Joseph (portrayed by Shmuel Shilo) is happy for his son’s return.

For the Ben-Horin family, Adi Ezroni has been waiting to find out that her brother Amiel (portrayed by Assi Cohen) would return back home but learns that he was killed during captivity.

While the families deal with the difficulties of learning that their loved ones have changed severely due to captivity, Dana has a hard time dealing with Nimrod’s attitude, as Nimrod feels he could get back to normal life immediately but quickly learns that his wounds from torture is much deeper than expected.

And possibly, Nimrod is keeping a secret of what happened during his captivity.

Meanwhile for Uri, he has been reduced to a shy individual due to the beatings he had suffered.  As for Nurit, life is not easy for her because unlike Talia who remained single and waited for her husband’s return, she chose to marry his older brother and public opinion towards her has been nothing but negative.  Meanwhile, Yaakov is not comfortable that Nurit has been told to pretend she was waiting for him and she is willing to keep from Uri the truth that she had married his older brother.

As for Yael, she is dealing with Amiel’s death very hard and keeps seeing visions of Amiel alive and trying to communicate with her.

But as Nimrod and Uri are being studied by IDF psychologist Haim Cohen (portrayed by Gal Zaid), who suspects something may be amiss between the stories of captivity that both men are giving, what happened to both men during captivity and what secret(s) are they hiding?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Prisoners of War: Season One” is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen and Hebrew Dolby Digital with English subtitles. Overall, picture quality is good for what one can expect on DVD.  It helps that Shout! Factory has kept a minimum of 3-4 episodes per DVD.  While I didn’t notice any major artifacts or problematic video, I do wish that “Prisoners of War: Season One” was released on Blu-ray.

But dialogue is clear and English subtitles are easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Prisoners of War: Season One” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary  – Featuring audio commentary for episodes 1-3 by show creator  Gareth Evans and Director of Photographer Itai Neeman.
  • An Open Wound: Making Prisoners of War – (38:176) Featuring the making of “Prisoners of War” with interviews with creator Gideo Raff, cast and crew.

Having watched “Homeland”, I have been wanting to watch “Hatufim” (Prisoners of War) after reading so much about the series and how it inspired the American political thriller but also reading on forums of how the original was much better.

With “Homeland” being the focus of a POW who is deemed a hero by America, a CIA operative believes this hero may have been turned by terrorist group,  al-Qaeda.

“Prisoners of War” takes a different approach to its storyline.

As Israel is constantly always preparing for war with a few of its neighboring countries, the discussion of POW’s continues to be a hotly debated topic in the country and “Prisoners of War” tries to depict the torture that these POW’s must face especially with a lower budget made the crew focus on the families affected.

And for the most part, the writers were able to pull off the emotional return but also the difficult of the POW’s and families adjusting as so many years have passed.

For series creator,  Gareth Evans did his research in trying to learn from POW’s and their families of how they felt before and after their loved one’s release and how life is not that easy and that life and the normalcy of life will never be the same.

The character of Nimrod is rather fascinating.  A man with so many plans, he comes back to find out that his young daughter is a troubled young woman and he has a teenage son that he never knew.  He notices that times have changed with cell phones, fashion styles and the Israel which he knew, is not the same.  And the wife he loved, has gotten older but also insistent that he gets help and is worried about his well-being.

And then there is Uri, once a young man who was looking forward to marrying his longtime girlfriend Nurit.  But to be emotionally destroyed in captivity and now, a very shy man, he returns back home to find out his love has married his older brother and to find out that his loving mother had passed away while he was in captivity.  Similar to Nimrod, both men have faced daily and severe torture while in captivity and both feel that despite their freedom, the world they once knew and the people they loved, have all changed.

But to add intrigue to the storyline is the storyline of what happened to these men during captivity and each glimpse that we get, the more we learn that something ominous has happened to both of them and the two are keeping a secret which they do not want anyone to know about.

What happened while these men were imprisoned?  Suffice to say, each episode is riveting and captivating that you can’t help but watch episode after episode.

The writing for the series is well-done and I can only hope that the second season (which did even better in the ratings) is even better, which is hard to do when the first season was critically acclaimed.

As for the DVD, you get three audio commentary tracks and a making-of featurette.  Picture quality is good, as what one can expect on DVD and I didn’t notice any major severe artifacts during my viewing.  The audio is clear and English subtitles were easy to read

Overall, “Prisoner of War: Season One” has turned out to be a magnificent and riveting series that makes viewers wanting more and more!  And I have to admit, I enjoyed “Prisoners of War” much more than “Homeland”, so if you enjoyed the American political thriller, definitely give this award-winning Israeli series a chance.  Especially now that it is available on DVD in America courtesy of Shout! Factory!

Highly recommended!

 

 

Helix: Season 1 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

July 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

helix

“Helix” is a fascinating, violent and entertaining sci-fi series. It’s also a series that one should not try to pigeonhole as a banal virus outbreak series because as the series develops, because overtime, it becomes another different beast entirely which includes a story about survival, mutated people, killer mercenaries, action (bloody) scenes galore and literally many people (including key characters) dying. But as much as this first season of “Helix” was meant to develop the main characters, it sets up for an exciting second season that I definitely look forward to watching!

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

TITLE: Helix: Season 1

RELEASE OF TV SERIES: 2014

DURATION: 13 Episodes (531 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASED: July 1, 2014

Directed by Brad Turner, Jeremiah S. Chechik, Duane Clark, Mike Rohl, Bradley Walsh, Steven A. Adelson, Jeffrey Reiner

Written by Cameron Porsandeh (Creator), Misha Green, Sean Crouch, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Adam Lash, Cori Uchida, Ed Decter, Tiffany Greshler, Mark Haslett, Keith Huff

Executive Producer: Steven Maeda, Ronald D. Moore, Brad Turner

Co-Executive Producer: Maril Davis, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Cameron Porsandeh

Produced by Sandrine Gros d’Aillon

Co-Producer: Misha Green

Associate Producer: Stephen Welke

Music by Reinhold Heil

Cinematography by Stephen McNutt

Edited by Randy Bricker, Elena Maganini, Blake Maniquis, Marta Evry, Todd Desrosiers

Production Design by Guy Lalande

Art Direction by Louis-Rene Landry, David Gaucher, Charlotte Rouleau

Set Decoration by Suzanne Cloutier, Ginette Robitaille

Costume Design by Mariane Carter

Starring:

Billy Campbell as Dr. Alan Farragut

Hiroyuki Sanada as Dr. Hiroshi Hatake

Kyra Zagorsky as Dr. Julia Walker

Mark Ghanime as Major Sergio Balleseros

Jordan Hayes as Dr. Sarah Jordan

Meegwun Fairbrother as Daniel Aerov

Neil Napier as Dr. Peter Farragut

Luciana Carro as Anana

Chimwemwe Miller as Dr. Haven

Catherine Lemieux as Dr. Doreen Boyle

Amber Goldfarb as Jaye

Patrick Baby as Dr. Philippe Duchampe

Robert Naylor as the Scythe

Christian Jadah as Dr. Victor Adrian

Alain Goulem as Bryce

Alexander Ordolis as Blake

Jeri Ryan as Constance Sutton

Masters of Sex stars Golden Globe® and BAFTA Award nominee Michael Sheen and acclaimed actress Lizzy Caplan, who portray the real-life pioneers of the science of human sexuality, Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson. The series chronicles the unusual lives, romance and pop culture trajectory of Masters and Johnson and the effect their research had on the family and colleagues around them. Their study ignited a sexual revolution and took them from a Midwestern teaching hospital in St. Louis to the cover of Time magazine. Also starring Caitlin FitzGerald, Teddy Sears and Nicholas D’Agosto. Guest Starring two-time Golden Globe® winner Beau Bridges.

In 2014, the American sci-fi series “Helix” premiered on SyFy.  Created by Cameron Porsandeh and executive produced by Ron Moore (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”, “Battlestar Galactica”, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, “Roswell”), the first season of “Helix” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in July 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The series would star Billy Campbell (“The Rocketeer”, “Dracula”), Hiroyuki Sanada (“The Wolverine”, “47 Ronin”, “Sunshine”), Kyra Zagorsky (“Toxin”, “Green Season”), Neil Napier (“300″, “Immortals”) and Jordan Hayes (“House at the End of the Street”, “10 Speed”).

Far out at an arctic bioresearch station, a few employees were infected by an unknown virus.

Because of the sensitivity of what is taking place at the bioresearch station and worry of a potential outbreak, top CDC scientist Dr. Alan Farragut (portrayed by Billy Campbell), Dr. Julia Walker (portrayed by Kyra Zagorsky) and Dr. Sarah Jordan (portrayed by Jordan Hayes) are assigned to the lab do their research on the infected individuals.

One of those infected is Dr. Peter Farragut (portrayed by Neil Napier), brother of Dr. Alan Farragut but as they try to learn more about the virus and hunt down those who may have been exposed to the virus, panic starts to grow in the station and to make things worse, Julia is attacked by Peter and becomes infected.

But as Dr. Alan Farragut and his team start to learn more about the virus, he starts to uncover secrets that Dr. Hiroshi Hatake (portrayed by Hiroyuki Sanada) is hiding and why has the Ilea Corporation led by Constance Sutton (portrayed by Jeri Ryan) bringing mercenaries aboard the research station?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Helix: Season 1″ is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen and English Dolby Digital. It’s important to note that if you want the best picture quality and lossless audio, “Helix” is available on Blu-ray.

As for the DVD, the series looks good on DVD and spread out on three DVD’s.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Helix: Season 1″ comes with the following special features:

  • Pilot Episode – Audio Commentary on the Pilot – Featuring audio commentary by actor Billy Campbell and creator Cameron Porsandeh.
  • Final Episode – Audio Commentary on the Pilot – Featuring audio commentary by actor Billy Campbell and executive producer Steven Maeda.
  • Ronald D. Moore: The Outlier of Science Fiction – (7:13) Creator Cameron Porsandey, Executive Producer Lynda Obst discuss working with executive producer Ronald D. Moore and making things extreme and taking on questions of “what if?”.
  • The Future of Disease – (5:28) Taking on plausible viruses for science fiction and coming up with storylines based on viruses and how it behaves differently with people and how creator Cameron Porsandeh had a real life virus in him and how it inspired him to learn more about viruses.
  • Dissecting the Characters – (10:32) A featurette about the casting of the series.
  • The Art of Isolation – (5:52) A featurette about the series setting.
  • Outtakes – (3:22) Outtakes from season 1 of “Helix”.
  • Deleted Scenes – 13 deleted scenes.

What if man tried to create a new virus in order to eliminate all viruses in the planet?

What if that created virus could end up destroying humanity?

The “What If” is what the sci-fi series “Helix” explores throughout its first season.

In many ways, this series has surprised me because in some ways, each time I think I figured out what this series is about, the series tends to evolve into something different entirely.

Is this virus outbreak a way to show how zombies were created?  That’s what I started to think at first but it has become a series about virus outbreaks to the hunters going after civilians.  Not only is the body count high in this series, no character is safe at all.

Characters that you start to root and support, next thing you know, they are killed off and you wonder who will be the next to die and how far will the writers go with this series?

But the plot is rather intriguing as the story is about a bioresearch lab in the arctic that does its research on viruses but through its head scientist, Dr. Hiroshi Hatake, illegally experiments on a virus to end all viruses (or does it do that exactly?).

We learn of how far this bioresearch lab has gone in trying to find guinea pigs, part of the storyline revolves around children kidnapped from their families to be experimented on.  We see a lot of freaky situations that happen throughout the series that revolve around the virus and how far the Ilea Corporation would go in trying to find a person who can be the antidote in fighting the virus.

Throw in mercenaries and assassins and you get one hell of a wild and bloody series!

As I enjoyed the first season, there are some things that I was hoping to not see but it does happen.  The last thing I wanted to see is the “Gray’s Anatomy” romantic element (ie. male doctor sleeps with all female doctors) but fortunately, the unusual situations, the trippy and surreal happenings throughout the series and the amount of violence has kept my interest in each episode and the series definitely ends with a crazy cliffhanger to help setup season 2!

As for the DVD, the DVD does look and sound good but if you really want the best picture and audio quality, the Blu-ray version of the series is the way to go!  As for special features, you get two audio commentaries and several featurettes and many deleted scenes.

Overall, “Helix” is a fascinating, violent and entertaining sci-fi series.  It’s also a series that one should not try to pigeonhole as a banal virus outbreak series because as the series develops, because overtime, it becomes another different beast entirely which includes a story about survival, mutated people, killer mercenaries, action (bloody) scenes galore and literally many people (including key characters) dying.

But as much as this first season of “Helix” was meant to develop the main characters, it sets up for an exciting second season that I definitely look forward to watching!

 

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Good, the Bad and Casey Jones (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

July 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

tmnt-casey

A lot of humor, fun and action-packed battles as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Slash, Casey Jones and the revelation of April O’Neil’s past! “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Good, the Bad and Casey Jones” features seven episodes from season 2! Recommended for the older fans and the young at heart! Recommended!

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

DVD TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Good, the Bad and Casey Jones

TV SERIES AIR DATE: 2013-2014

DURATION: (7 episodes) 133 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Full Screen, Dolby Digital English Stereo, Closed Caption

COMPANY: Nickelodeon/Paramount

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: July 2014

Directed by Michael Chang

Written by Joshua Sternin, Jr. Ventimila

Originally created by Kevin Eastman

Produced by MacGregor Middleton

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

Supervising Producer: Ant Ward

Music by Sebastian Evans

Casting by Sarah Noonan

Production Management: Vladimir Radev

Featuring the voices of:

Sean Astin as Raphael

Jason Biggs as Leonardo

Greg Cipes as Michelangelo

Rob Paulsen as Donatello

Mae Whitman as April O’Neil

Hoon Lee as Splinter

Nolan North as The Kraang

Kelly Hu as Karai

Phil LaMarr as Baxter Stockman

Casey Jones Steps Up and takes on pure evil.  Meanwhile, the Turtles learn a shocking secret about April’s past, and they come face-to-face with another mutant turtle called Slash, a rewired metalhead, a fungus mutant spreading throughout the sewers and the Rat King!

What happens when Raphael’s pet turtle drinks mutagen?  What happens when neighborhood hero, Casey Jones, looks at the turtles as enemies?  And April O’Neil’s past revealed!

And which enemy of the Turtles makes his return?

Find out in the latest seven episodes from the second season of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”!

What is “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A total of 48-episodes were made and the second season is currently airing on Nickelodeon. And now episodes 33-38 will be released on DVD courtesy of Nickelodeon.

Included in “Mutagen Mayhem” are episodes 27-32. The following are spoilerless summaries:

  • EPISODE 33: Slash and Destroy - What happens when Raphael’s pet turtle Spike drinks some mutagen?
  • EPISODE 34: The Good, the Bad, and Casey Jones – Casey Jones wants to protect the neighborhood from all ninjas, including the Turtles.
  • EPISODE 35: The Kraang Conspiracy – The past of April O’Neil revealed!
  • EPISODE 36: Fungus Humungous – What happens when mutated sentient mushrooms start to spread throughout the sewers?
  • EPISODE 37: Metalhead Rewired - What happens when Donatello upgrades Metalhead’s A.I.?
  • EPISODE 38: Of Rats and Men - The Rat King returns and Splinter fears of what will happen if he is controlled by the Rat King once again.

VIDEO & AUDIO

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

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

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

There are no subtitles but closed captions are included.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Good, the Bad and Casey Jones” comes with the following special features:

  • The Mutation of a Scene – (36:57) A look between the storyboard animatic, primary animation and final render of a scene from the following seven episodes.
  • Meet Casey Jones – (2:50) A short featurette with producers discussing the character of Casey Jones.

With the latest volume of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (the 2012, third animated series), we get to see characters that were featured in the original series.

The storylines have changed but we get to see Raphael’s turtle named Spike turn into the mutated enemy known as Slash.  While the original was more of a “Hulk Smash” type character, for the 2012 series, the character of Slash makes sense as he was there to often hear Raphael complain and rant about his brothers and also learn how to fight by watching the Turtles spar with each other.  But it helped develop his hatred towards the Turtles.

What’s interesting about the Slash character is that his voice is provided by Corey Feldman, who played Donatello in the live action films.

The series also features the return of Metalhead.  In this series, Metalhead was created by Donatello from a salvaged Kraang droid, while in the original series, he is a robot with an identity disorder.  But it’s interesting to see the change of Metalhead for this latest series, as he is more of a Droid that becomes an asset to the Turtles.

But the biggest difference that people will find in this series is the character of April O’Neil.  From the reporter of the original series, she is now the teenage daughter of scientist Dr. Kirby O’Neil and like the Turtles, she loves video games, pizza and learning on how to become a ninja.  But we learn more about this special spirituality sensitivity she has and why.

And to conclude this volume is the return of one of the Turtles toughest enemies, the Rat King.  So, suffice to say, this sets up another dose of Rat King episodes in the future.

And as mentioned in previous DVD volumes, I like the fact that this latest animated release of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” allows April O’Neil to play a much bigger part, not only as a protective daughter but also seeing her in action, having been trained by Shredder. So, it’s a different type of April O’Neil that many of us who are familiar with past “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” are used to.

And also, I enjoy how this series utilizes notable celebrities to do the voicework for the series. From Sean Astin, Jason Biggs and Kelly Hu, the voice work for this series is pretty cool and not too annoying.

And I feel for older fans or the newer generation, these Ninja Turtles are still fun to watch and yet different from previous series but still retaining the positive aspects of previous series.

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

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

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

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

I have to admit that while I was raised on the original series, I’m glad the “Cowabunga” days of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are gone and while I thought the 2003 series was fantastic as it featured a more darker tone, I think for today’s younger fans, especially the Nickelodeon audience, children will enjoy this series. Yes, there is fighting violence, but nothing too violent that parents need to worry.

The series has always been about Splinter and his four teenage mutant ninja turtles taking on Shredder and his ninja and other bad guys and that still exists in this latest CG series. While April, Karai and Casey Jones have changed a bit, this alternate version of these characters are very cool and the new generation of fans will surely enjoy this series.

Picture and audio quality are good on DVD and you get animated comic books plus more “Mutation of a Scene” shorts for each of the seven episodes featured on this DVD.

Overall, if you are have grown up with this series and still appreciate it, a fan that is young at heart or want to introduce your own child to the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Good, the Bad and Casey Jones” is a fun, action-packed series for today’s generation of young viewers.


 

The Boondocks: The Complete Fourth Season – Uncut & Uncensored (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

June 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

boondocks

“The Boondocks: The Complete Fourth Season – Uncut & Uncensored” features the final season of the animated series.  Obviously missing series creator Aaron McGruder and focusing on Granddad primarily for this season, it seemed like a different type of show than what we have been used to, for the last three seasons.  But the season does get provocative and crazy and for that, I can recommend this series for hardcore fans of “The Boondocks”.

Image courtesy of: © 2014 Adelaide Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Boondocks: The Complete Fourth Season – Uncut & Uncensored

DURATION: 10 Episodes (225 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: June 10, 2014

Created by Aaron McGruder

Written by Rodney Barnes

Co-Executive Producer: Rodney Barnes, Brian J. Cowan

Consulting Producer: Meghann Collins

Music by Jonathan Jackson and Jabril Battle

Featuring the voices of:

Regina King as Huey and Riley Freeman

John Witherspoon as Robert “Grandad” Freeman

Cedric Yarbrough as Tom Dubois

Gary Anthony Williams as Uncle Ruckus

Gabby Soleil as Jazmine Dubois

Jill Talley as Sarah Dubois

At long last, “The Boondocks” is back in the uncut, uncensored, unpredictable final season of the controversial award-winning animated series.  Grandad, Huey and Rile find themselves neck deep in all new kinds of trouble as money woes lead to desperate measures.  From breaking bad in an RV chem-lab to senior citizen streetfights, times have never been wilder in the sleepy suburbs of woodcrest.

Since 1996, Aaron MacGruder’s syndicated comic strip “The Boondocks” has entertained readers.

From its first days at the University of Maryland, College Park, to receiving an animated adaptation in 2005 for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, the characters of Huey, Riley and Robert Jebediah “Granddad” Freeman has been a controversial series in print and animated format for its observance of racial and socio-economic issues and it’s in your face nature with its humor.

With Aaron MacGruder’s participation with the animated series since it’s beginning, “The Boondocks” was an animated series that would air every two years, but after the third season which ended in 2010, rumors ran rampant online of whether or not “The Boondocks” animated series would continue.

In 2014, the Cartoon Network would give “The Boondocks” its final season but series creator, Aaron MacGruder would not be involved with the fourth season.

The season would air from April through June 2014 and now, “The Boondocks: The Complete Fourth Season – Uncut & Uncensored” was released on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“The Boondocks” revolves around the Freeman family which consists of:

  • Huey Freeman – The intelligent member of the family.  Has his values and goals set high and is often promoting social causes and critical of African-American pop culture.  He also can fight.
  • Riley Freeman – Unlike his brother, Riley is not intelligent and a follower of contemporary African-American pop culture.  He loves gangsta rap and is often in trouble or says something critical about Riley.
  • Robert Jebediah “Granddad” Freeman – The grandfather and legal guardian of Huey and Riley.  He is always interested in finding ways to be with crazy, sexy women.
  • Tom DuBois – A District Attorney who the Freeman’s see as someone who is weak and sensitive.  He is a stereotype of a Black man who behaves like a white-collar Caucasian man and is married to a white woman named Sarah and has a daughter named Jazmine.
  • Uncle Ruckus – Often the main antagonist to Granddad.  He supports the old black-slave culture and believes Black people should have the views of white racists.

The final season consists of the following 10 episodes (with spoiler-less summary):

  • EPISODE 46 – “Pretty Boy Flizzy” – R&B artist Pretty Boy Flizzy is arrested in an armed robbery and DA Tom DuBois must be his lawyer.
  • EPISODE 47 – “Good Times” – What happens when Granddad has to break it to his grandsons that they are broke.
  • EPISODE 48 – “Breaking Granddad” – A homage to “Breaking Bad”, the Freemans are on the run from salon owner, Boss Willona.
  • EPISODE 49 – “Early Bird Special” – Granddad becomes a prostitute for lonely women at a nursing home.
  • EPISODE 50 – “Freedom Ride or Die” – A flashback episode of a younger Robert who is a freedom rider.
  • EPISODE 51 – “Granddad Dates a Kardashian” – Granddad dates the long-lost Kardashian sister, Kardashia.
  • EPISODE 52 – “Freedomland” – In order to help Granddad with finances, the Freeman’s work at Ed Euncler Jr.’s slavery amusement park.
  • EPISODE 53 -  “I Dream of Siri” – What happens when Granddad buys an iphone and Siri becomes obsessed with him.
  • EPISODE 54 – “Stinkmeaner: Begun the Clone War Has” – A video of Colonel H. Stinkmeaner fighting with Grandad goes viral.
  • EPISODE 55 – “The New Black” – Riley gets in trouble for using the words “gay” and “retarded” at school.

 

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Boondocks: The Complete Fourth Season – Uncut & Uncensored” is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen.  Colors are vibrant for teh animation.  Characters are well-drawn, well-shaded and for the most part, looks very good on DVD.  I didn’t notice any major banding or artifact issues.

Audio is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Dialogue is crystal clear and for the most part, the dialogue is front-channel driven.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The special features on this “The Boondocks: The Complete Fourth Season – Uncut & Uncensored” are:

  • Boondocks Beats - (10:56) Interview with composers Jonathan Jackson and Metaphor the Great about the music for “The Boondocks”.
  • A Writer’s Perspective - (5:58) Rodney Barnes talks about working with Aaron McGruder, working on an animated series in which one could be free with their writing.

The final season of “The Boondocks” was a mix bag.  Without series creator Aaron McGruder involved, a lot was left on the plate for writer and producer Rodney Barnes (who had previously worked with Aaron McGruder) to carry on and end the series.

While there were crazy and controversial episodes, part of the problem with this final sendoff of the Freeman’s was that unlike the first three seasons, the majority of the episodes focused on Granddad vs. Uncle Ruckus.  Where the series and comic strip focused on Riley and Huey, it seemed as if the direction was to appease or show respect to series creator Aaron McGruder by not focusing on the children.

So, it’s a different type of series than seasons 1-3.  With that said, all is not lost because the fourth season had its moments of fun and no doubt, a few provocative episodes.

From a T.I. looking, “Pretty Boy Flizzy” which Tom DuBois has to take in as a client to Granddad dating Kardashia Kardashian or having conflicts with his iPhone’s Siri, these are crazy episodes.

While controversial episodes include “Good Times” in which the Freemans beccoming part of a slavery program, “Freedomland” in which they work at a slavery amusement park or Huey using the words “gay” and “Retarded” at school and seeing how Granddad tries to pass Huey off as mentally disabled.

Of course, the series ended with a standard episode.  No resolution to the Freeman’s financial issues nor any closure.

While I don’t want to say this fourth season was disappointing but it was not the same without Aaron McGruder’s involvement and thus, the fourth season was more average than anything.

As for the DVD, animation looks great as one can expect on DVD.  With a lot of dialogue, the majority of the series is primarily front-channel driven.  As for special features, you get two featurettes that focus on the music and writing.

Overall, “The Boondocks: The Complete Fourth Season – Uncut & Uncensored” features the final season of the animated series.  Obviously missing series creator Aaron McGruder and focusing on Granddad primarily for this season, it seemed like a different type of show than what we have been used to, for the last three seasons.  But the season does get provocative and crazy and for that, I can recommend this series for hardcore fans of “The Boondocks”.

 

 

Pleasure or Pain (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

June 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

pleasureorpain

The late Zalman King was know for his use of sex in film and television. He pushed the boundaries of what can be seen on film without it becoming pornographic. Zalman King’s sexually charged “Pleasure or Pain” is his most daring film yet! If you loved “The Red Shoe Diaries”, you will no doubt enjoy “Pleasure or Pain”.

Images courtesy of © 2014 The Zalman King Company. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Pleasure or Pain

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 103 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16×9, 1:78:1, Stereo

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2014

Written and Directed by Zalman King

Executive Producer: Franklin Abbott, Libby Atkins, Alvin Baum, Jok R. Church, Michael Hemes, Ian Hinkle, Stephen Silha, Joel Singer, Max St. Romain, Martha Troiin, Phillip Willkie

Consulting Producer: Laura Hammer

Associate Producer: Aimee Cartier

Music by Evan Schiller, Jami Sieber

Cinematography by Ian Hinkle

Edited by Dawn Logsdon

Starring:

Malena Morgan as Victoria

Christos Vasilopoulos as Jack

Kayla Jane as Isabel

Elle Alexander as Rita

Daniel Sovieray as Antonio

Hayden Hawkins as Eve

This erotic tale, about a beautiful young jewelry designer and her romance with a wealthy and powerful entrepreneur, will make its DVD debut on July 8, with a SRP of $26.95 featuring the trailer and a special tribute to the late writer-director Zalman King, who brought audiences his unique brand of stylish and sexy dramas that set the standard for erotic filmmaking and influenced countless others, right up through the wildly successfulFifty Shades of Grey phenomenon of today.

When it comes to films or TV series based on sex, Zalman King (“Two Moon Junction”, “Wild Orchid” and “Nine 1/2 Weeks”, “Red Shoe Diaries”) is best known for pushing the boundaries of sexual exploration.

And prior to his death due to cancer in 2012, of all the soft core films he had created, Zalman King would write and direct one final film titled “Pleasure and Pain” that is sexually charged and going farther than he has ever had before.

And now, Zalman King’s “Pleasure or Pain” will be released on DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber in July 2014.

“Pleasure or Pain” revolves around two individuals who love sex, Victoria (portrayed by Malena Morgan) and Jack (portrayed by Christos Vasilopoulos).

But right after their first sexual experience, Jack who likes to request and narrate a story of what he wants sexually and expects Victoria to give it to him.

But what starts out as playful to extreme sex between both Victoria and Jack after the two are married, Jack pushes Victoria to engage into hardcore sex to please him, in his own twisted ways.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Pleasure or Pain” was Zalman King’s final film and because of it being recent and shot digitally, this is possibly his best looking film on DVD.  It’s important to note that this is a film on DVD and not on Blu-ray, so don’t expect great picture quality.  But lighting and overall picture quality is very good and as best as one can expect on DVD.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Pleasure or Pain” comes with the following special features:

  • Zalman King Tribute- (5:34) A tribute to Zalman King with a look at his previous films.
  • Photo Gallery – A collection of images from “Pleasure or Pain”.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “Pleasure or Pain”.

Zalman King has been a man who tried to push the boundaries of sexuality through his films and TV series.

“Nine 1/2 Weeks” to his film and TV series “Red Shoe Diaries”, they were talked about because of the sexual fantasy or the acts of sex that were featured.  Granted, there was only so much that Zalman King was able to feature until “Pleasure or Pain”.

After watching his final film, the thoughts I had was that old teenage thought of what if a porno had an actual story, where the stars had to act.

And sure enough, “Pleasure or Pain” is just that.

With porn star Malena Morgan in her first major starring role, as a woman named Victoria hooked by a man for sex but then find out more about her husband’s dark sexual desires.

From being put into the position of having sex with other women and other men, while she having to tolerate her husband having sex with others, suffice to say that “Pleasure or Pain” was a film about dark side of sexual desire.

While this has been featured in previous Zalman King films and the “Red Shoe Diaries” TV series, because of Malena Morgan’s ties to porn, King was able to go further in showcasing sex.  From the act of oral sex, to going farther than King’s usual full frontal nudity, the character of Victoria is often put into various types of sex and seeing her taking part in the excitement, the thrill of doing something naughty but then it going beyond just a man and woman, but dangerous love that would incorporate multiple partners.

While the object of the darkness of sex was possibly best captured in Oshima Nagase’s 1976 “In the Realm of the Senses”, Zalman King’s “Pleasure or Pain” may not be wonderfully acted, nor is it a great film.  But in the manner of how Zalman King wanted to portray sex and push it to the limit of soft core films, “Pleasure or Pain”, his final film, accomplished just that.

While Malena Morgan is known for her porn videos, for a Zalman King film, there is no doubt that the character of Veronica imbued sexiness and it helped that she was not scared to allow herself to be featured in these sexual scenes, so the sex in this film was integral and she sold it well.

While Christos Vasilopoulos’s Jack was the main character, he was more of a voyeur or narrator for Morgan’s character.  If anything, King’s film rode entirely on the shoulder of Malena Morgan and while acting was not the greatest, in someways it was consistent when compared to “The Red Shoe Diaries”.

As for the DVD, picture quality is good, considering this is a recent film and shot digitally.  Picture quality is as good as what one can expect on DVD.  Audio is clear and as for special features, you get a good tribute on Zalman King’s previous films and his work.

Overall, the late Zalman King was know for his use of sex in film and television.  He pushed the boundaries of what can be seen on film without it becoming pornographic.  Zalman King’s sexually charged “Pleasure or Pain” is his most daring film yet!  If you loved “The Red Shoe Diaries”, you will no doubt enjoy “Pleasure or Pain”.

 

 

Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set (A J!-ENT Anime on DVD Review)

June 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

servantservice

“Servant x Service” is a delightful anime series for anime fans that want something that is unlike anything they have seen before. An anime series that is easily accessible, a whole lot of fun and most of all, addictive. “Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © KArino Takatsu/SQUARE ENIX, SERVANT x SERVICE PROJECT. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set

YEAR OF TV SERIES: 2013

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

RATED: 13 and Up

Release Date: May 27, 2014

Originally created by Karino Takatsu

Directed by Yasutaka Yamamoto

Series Composition by Kento Shimoyama

Music by Monaca

Character Design by Terumi Nishii

Art Director: Shinji Honda, Yukihiro Shibutani

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Kayano as Lucy Yamagami

Mai Nakahara as Saya Miyoshi

Tatsuhisa Suzuki as Yutaka Hasebe

Aki Toyosaki as Megumi Chihaya

Mikako Takahashi as Tanaka-san

Rikiya Koyama as Kenzō Momoi

Rina Hidaka as Kanon Momoi

Rumi Ookubo as Tōko Ichimiya

Takahiro Sakurai as Taishi Ichimiya

Tetsuya Kakihara as Jōji Tanaka

Lucy (abbrev.) Yamagami is a newly-hired civil servant who has been assigned to work in a certain government ward office in a certain city in Hokkaido Prefecture. Not only does Lucy have so many things to learn at her new job, she needs to do all of that in the company of her colleagues, who are all more than a little eccentric. If you thought a job as a government employee was dull, you better think again! Lucy and her colleagues, actively and covertly (?!) serve their community every day!

Welcome to the life of civil service at the Health and Welfare Dept. where employees such as the naive Lucy (abbrev.) Yamagami, the shy Saya Miyoshi, the carefree Yutaka Hasebe and the tsundere cosplayer Megumi Chihaya work.

Where the four work for their boss Toko Ichimiya (Megumi’s boyfriend, although he doesn’t know it) and Kenzo Momoi, the Section Chief  that is for some reason, a stuffed rabbit.

The life of these civil servants are the basis of mangaka, Karino Takatsu’s manga series “Servant x Service” which was created in 2009 and is still published in the Square Enix magazine “Big Gangan”.

With three tankobon volumes of the manga series printed, in 2013, the series would receive a 13-episode adaptation courtesy of A-1 Pictures.

“Servant x Service” revolves around the lives of those who work at the Health and Welfare Dept.

We are introduced to new employees such as Lucy Yamagami, a naive worker who always wears a black turtleneck sweater.  While kindhearted, she wants nothing but revenge on the public servant who approved her full name “Lucy Kimiko Akie Airi Shiori Rinne Yoshiho Ayano Tomika Chitose Sanae Mikiko Ichika… Yamagami”, which she feels has led to her being joked on and giving her a low self esteem.

Yutaka Hasebe is your ultimate slacker.  While he is a very smart individual who can and has excel on things, because he wants to live life the way he wants, people accept his unusual style.  He is also a guy who finds himself teasing Lucy but eventually starting to learn that he is falling in love with her.

Meanwhile, the quiet new employee, Saya Miyoshi is terrified at her new job and finds herself talking to the elderly Mrs. Tanaka a lot for her work and often having thoughts on the people around her but tends to keep things inside.

The three new employees work with temp social worker Megumi Chihaya, a cosplay fanatic who loves the series “Magical Flowers” but can exhibit Tsundere tendencies, especially to her boyfriend, that she wishes is more worrisome towards her than his sister all the time.

But throw in a boss with the appearance of a stuffed animal and a stalkerish banker and you have an interesting combination of shenanigans for each episode of “Servant x Service”.

The main characters of “Servant x Service” are:

  • Lucy Kimiko Akie Airi Shiori Rinne Yoshiho Ayano Tomika Chitose Sanae Mikiko Ichika… Yamagami – A new public servant who wants nothing but to take revenge on the man, a public servant who approved the long name given to her parents.  She blames a lot of things in her life due to her long name.  She is well-endowed and has a cowlick that tends to stick up or react in different situations.  She is very naive and often wears a black turtleneck sweater (because she can’t find clothes that fit her).
  • Yutaka Hasebe – A slacker at work who tends to tease Lucy but finds himself falling for her.  Despite his slacker style, he’s actually very intelligent and has talent, but his care free lifestyle is what he tends to lean to.  He desperately wants to go on a date with Lucy.
  • Saya Miyoshi – A 24-year-old college graduate and is soft-spoken.  She often keeps opinions to herself and is always listening to people talk, especially the elderly Mrs. Tanaka who wants Saya to marry her grandson.
  • Megumi Chihaya – A social service employee who is a temporary employee.  She has a tsundere attitude and is a huge fan of the anime series “Magical Flowers” and often thinks of her female co-workers as cosplayers and often wanting to dress them up as a character.  She is dating Taishi Ichimiya, who is very scared of her.
  • Taishi Ichimiya - The supervisor of the health and welfare office and is in charge of Lucy, Yutaka, Saya and Megumi.  He is very kind and is known for putting his sister Toko on top of his priority and raising her.  Although he is dating Megumi, he is often scared of her ever-changing emotions and how she may feel because he puts his sister as priority over her.
  • Toko Ichimiya – Taishi’s tsundere younger sister who has a short temper and often criticizes his employees.  She often visits his workplaces and wants to become a public servant.
  • Kenzo Momoi – The Section Chief of the Health and Welfare Department.  For unexplained reasons, he’s in the body of a stuffed animal.
  • Joji Tanaka – A banker who is the ultimate rival of Hasebe and stalks him because he’s determined to beat him on anything.
  • Kanon Momoi – Daughter of Kenzo and tries to keep it a secret from her friend Toko that the bunny rabbit section chief is her father.
  • Kaoru Hasebe – Yutaka’s older sister.

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and in Japanese linear PCM Stereo.

A-1 Pictures has done a great job with the animation and the backgrounds are nicely done.  I enjoy the fact that backgrounds feature the characters in a variety of locations and are detailed instead of the plain office backgrounds.

As for the acting, the voice acting is well-done, especially for slacker Yutaka Hasebe (voiced by Tatsuhisa Suzuki) and Section Chief Kenzo Momoi (voiced by Rikiya Koyama).  But the series is dialogue and musically driven and for the most part, the soundtrack works well for this type of anime series.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” comes with textless opening and endings.

EXTRAS:

“Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” comes with a 24-page Special Public Documents booklet with episode synopsis + short manga and photos.  Also, included is a 2-sided reversible cover and slipcover.

Every now and then, with each passing year, there is always one anime that takes me by surprise.  And for 2014, “Servant x Service” was an anime series that did just that.

To be truthful, I didn’t know what to expect because a series about public servants is not something you will see in an anime series.  Yes, I have seen it many times for Japanese dramas but never for an anime series.

So, having completed the entire 13-episode series, I have to say that “Servant x Service” was pretty awesome!

No, it’s not a overly dramatic anime series, there is no one with special abilities nor does this take place in the far future, this is a straightup anime series that is built around the comedy of its fascinating characters.

From Lucy, the naive young woman who is unaware that people watch her because she always wears a black sweater (and happens to be well-endowed) but also how she responds to her true first name (which is a long combination of many other first names) and thus, she has held nothing but dislike towards the public servant who allowed her parents to name her with that long name and let her be the butt of jokes growing up.

Then you have the slacker Yutaka Hasebe.  It’s his demeanor that makes you laugh because although he is a slacker, he is also a talented individual and smarter than he behaves.  He has a photographic memory, he excels at sports but all he wants is to go on a date with the girl he has fallen for… Lucy.  Throw in a stalker-ish old childhood friend named Joji, who always tries to best Hasebe in everything and needless to say, shenanigans develop.

The anime series also has interesting characters as the quiet college student Saya, the tsundere cosplayer named Megumi, the overcaring boss who is scared of how his girlfriend Megumi treats him and a stuffed rabbit who happens to be the Section Chief.

The series is no doubt crazy but its witty characters and its constant casualness and playfulness makes this series a whole lot of fun that anyone who loves anime can watch and enjoy.

What happens when Megumi Chihaya wants to dress up Lucy in a skirt?  What happens when Lucy loses the Section Chief at an event?  What happens when Yutaka finds out how Lucy got her real name?

So, many crazy situations but how everything plays out, nothing gets boring and I found myself watching episode after episode, because I enjoyed the series so much.

While “Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” is only available on DVD and there is no English dub, I do hope that Aniplex of America considers this for a Blu-ray release with an English dub because it’s so much fun and a series that casual anime fans will get into!

You also get the anime swag that Aniplex is known for.  Maybe not a whole lot but you get a short booklet and a 2-sided reversible cover.

Overall, “Servant x Service” is a delightful anime series for anime fans that want something that is unlike anything they have seen before.  An anime series that is easily accessible, a whole lot of fun and most of all, addictive.

“Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” is recommended!

 

Masters of Sex: Season One (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

June 22, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

mastersofsex-s1

“Masters of Sex: Season One” is one of my favorite series on television which curious viewers can expect great writing, wonderful acting in each of the 12 sexually-charged episodes that are absolutely captivating! I’m addicted to the series and I can’t wait for season 2! “Masters of Sex: Season One” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 Sony Pictures Television, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Masters of Sex: Season One

RELEASE OF TV SERIES: 2013

DURATION: 12 Episodes (676 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASED: June 24, 2014

Directed by Michael Apted, Michael Dinner, Jennifer Getzinger, Jeremy Webb, Phil Abraham, Adam Davidson, Tim Fywell, Lesli Linka Glatter, John Madden, Lawrence Trilling, Michael Engler

Written by Michelle Ashford, Tyler Bensinger, Michael Cunningham, Bathsheba Doran, Lynnie Greene, Richard Levine, Amy Lippman, Thomas Maeier, Sam Shaw, Noelle Valdivia

Executive Producer: Michelle Ashford, Amy Lippman, John Madden, Sarah Timberman, Judith Verno

Produced by Thomas Maier, Michael Sheen, Gregory Prange

Co-Producer: Christopher Goode, Valerie Joseph

Associate Producer: Aaron Klemanski, Chris Leanza

Music by Michael Penn

Cinematography by Michael Weaver, Tim Bellen, Ben Davis

Edited by Fabien Bouville, Jordan Goldman, Blake Maniquis, Robert Frrazen

Casting by Bernard Telsey, Risa Bramon Garcia, Tiffany Little Canfield, Libby Goldstein, Junie Lowry-Johnson

Production Design by Michael Wylie, Andrew Jackness

Art Direction by Elizabeth Hershberger Gray, Kevin Rupnik

Set Decoration by Halina Siwolop, Ellen Christiansen

Costume Design by Ane Crabtree, Caroline Duncan

Starring:

Michael Sheen  as Dr. William Masters

Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson

Caitlin FitzGerald as Libby Masters

Teddy Sears as Dr. Austin Langham

Nicholas D’Agosto as Dr. Ethan Haas

Helene Yorke as Jane Martin

Beau Bridges as Barton Scully

Cole Sand as Henry Johnson

Julianne Nicholson as Dr. Lillian DePaul

Rose McIver as Vivian Scully

Allison Janney as Margaret Scully

Kayla Madison as Tessa Johnson

Annaeleigh Ashford as Betty DiMello

Masters of Sex stars Golden Globe® and BAFTA Award nominee Michael Sheen and acclaimed actress Lizzy Caplan, who portray the real-life pioneers of the science of human sexuality, Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson. The series chronicles the unusual lives, romance and pop culture trajectory of Masters and Johnson and the effect their research had on the family and colleagues around them. Their study ignited a sexual revolution and took them from a Midwestern teaching hospital in St. Louis to the cover of Time magazine. Also starring Caitlin FitzGerald, Teddy Sears and Nicholas D’Agosto. Guest Starring two-time Golden Globe® winner Beau Bridges.

Based on Thomas Maier’s biography “Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love”, Showtime’s “Masters of Sex”, an American television drama series based on the real studies of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, has received positive reviews from critics and also viewers.

With a second season about to air, the first season featuring all 12 episodes, will be released on DVD in June 2014 courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

For those not familiar with Masters and Johnson, Masters is an American gynecologist who wrote pioneering research alongside Virginia E. Johnson about the nature of human sexual response and the diagnose and treatment of sexual dysfunction.

Studies back in the 1950′s about orgasms, studies about the differences of penis sizes and how it affects a woman in sex, how the vaginal muscles contract during sex, vaginal lubrication and more.

As one could imagine, Masters and Johnson’s studies were ahead of its time because such studies were seen as pornographic and lewd but since then, these studies were seen as groundbreaking and what the two were able to accomplish would not be approved by any hospital or funded by any hospital today, so these studies were significant in the fact that William Masters was able to view hundreds of sessions of people having sex for the sake of science.

But of course, there is more to the story about Masters and Johnson, considering the two worked closely together, had sex together for scientific research, the two would eventually marry each other until their divorce decades later.

And the lives of William Masters and Virginia E. Johnson became the focus on the Showtime drama series “Masters of Sex” which stars Michael Sheen (“Midnight in Paris”, “Kingdom of Heaven”, “Underworld”), Lizzy Caplan (“Mean Girls”, “Cloverfield”, “127 Hours”), Caitlin Fitzgerald (“It’s Complicated”, “Damsels in Distress”, “Mutual Friends”), Nicholas D’Agosto (“Final Destination 5″, “Election”), Teddy Sears (“A Single Man”, “The Client List”), Beau Bridges (“The Descendants,”, “Max Payne”, “The Fabulous Baker Boys”) and Allison Janney (“The West Wing”, “American Beauty”, “Juno”).

“Masters of Sex” revolves around Dr. William H. Masters (portrayed by Michael Sheen), a successful gynecologist who has been conducting research on sex.  Knowing that his boss, Provost Barton Scully (potrayed by Beau Bridges) may not agree to fund his research if he found out that it had to do with sex, Masters continues his study but because he’s not a sexual person, he needs someone to give him a female perspective but also someone social enough to bring more participants for his study.

Dr. Masters is married to Libby Masters (portrayed by Caitlin Fitzgerald), a woman who is unable to get pregnant.  He often is the mentor to a young Dr. Ethan Haas (portrayed by Nicholas D’Agosto) who has fallen for an employee named Virginia E. Johnson (portrayed by Lizzy Caplan).

Dr. Masters hires Virginia E. Johnson, a single mother of two children who feels that working as the assistant to Dr. Masters will lead to something bigger for her.

And eventually, Dr. Masters feels that Virginia is the woman he needs in order to comprehend his research.  Virginia is able to find more women (prostitutes) to become part of the study, having her best friend also participate in the studies and quickly, the two are able to uncover data and disprove a lot of sexual theories.

But they need to continue their research by taking chances.  One is creating a transparent dildo with a camera built inside, research includes observing homosexuals but also working with Dr. Austin Langham (portrayed by Teddy Sears) to have sex with many women to get more data but also to get funding by the hospital, but will Dr. Masters and Johnson be able to convince Provost Scully to fund Dr. Masters latest study?

And when Dr. Masters needs more data, that are not from prostitutes, what happens when he and Johnson start getting involved in the sexual studies?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Masters of Sex: Season One” is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen and English and French 5.1 Dolby Digital.  It’s important to note that if you want the best picture quality and lossless audio, “Masters of Sex” is available on Blu-ray.

As for the DVD, the series looks good on DVD and fortunately only three episodes are featured per disc (four DVD’s total).  There are no problems with excessive noise or artifacts.  Audio is primarily dialogue and is crystal clear via the front channels.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Masters of Sex: Season One” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary on the Pilot – Featuring audio commentary by Michael Sheen, Lizzy CAplan, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Teddy Sears, Michelle Ashford and Sarah Timberman.
  • Making of Masters of Sex – (12:29) Discussion of the making of the TV Series, discussion of the original novel to making a show based on real people and more.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring a total of 18 deleted scenes featured throughout all four DVD’s.
  • A Masterful Potrayal: Michael Sheen as Dr. Masters – (6:49) The discussion of Dr. William Masters and Michael Sheen discussing his character.
  • Ahead of Her Time: Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson – (5:13) Lizzy Caplan discusses her character role and having to play a role which requires to take off her clothes and be nude.

Captivating, smart and sexually-charged, “Masters of Sex” is an addictive series that makes you want more and more!

Who would of thought that a series based on the two researchers who observed sexual pattens and recorded every intricate detail would be so entertaining and titillating.

From the very first episode, watching as the stale Dr. William Masters being teamed up with the very sexually and independent Virginia E. Johnson was intriguing thanks to the commanding performances by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan.  While googling an image of the real life researchers shows a much older Dr. Masters compared to his young assistant at the time, “Masters of Sex” is much more stylish and how each character is integrated in the series is rather fun as the chemistry between Masters and Johnson literally emits sexual tension to the nth degree.

But you add in characters such as Provost Barton Scully, the married man and Dr. Masters’ boss who is a closet homosexual and because the setting is in the 1950′s, the interesting perspective that people had towards homosexuality but also eliminating it as if it was so easy.

Then you have Dr. Ethan Haas, a young doctor who is trying to make a name of himself and jealous that the girl he loves, is spending way too much time assisting Dr. Masters.  But also trying to find out in life of what he loves and what he wants in a woman.

You have Dr. Master’s wife who blames herself for not having a child, when it probably is Dr. Masters who is impotent.

Then you have Dr. Austin Langham who loves his sexual exploits with other women but finds himself participating in Dr. Masters’ studies by having sex in the name of science.

You also have intriguing characters such as Dr. Masters’ mother who he has a tense relationship with, Dr. Lillian DePaul as a cold doctor who has a tense relationship with her student…Virginia.

And aside from the character-driven storylines, the actual research is also showcased as viewers can only be amused of how Masters and Johnson are able to record their data and how far both individuals would go.

How far their colleagues and co-workers will allow these two to go but also seeing how this intense work will slowly change both Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson.  Which eventually sets viewers up for a second season, which I am looking forward to.

As for the DVD, as mentioned earlier, if one wanted the best picture/audio quality, the Blu-ray version is the way to go.  Otherwise, the episodes look as best they can on DVD and fortunately there are three episodes featured per disc.  As for special features, you get an intriguing audio commentary, making of, deleted scenes and other featurettes.

Overall, “Masters of Sex: Season One” is one of my favorite series on television which curious viewers can expect great writing, wonderful acting in each of the 12 sexually-charged episodes that are absolutely captivating!  I’m addicted to the series and I can’t wait for season 2!

“Masters of Sex: Season One” is highly recommended!

 

 

Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

June 22, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

bigjoy

for those with an interest in James Broughton and his work and the San Francisco Renaissance will no doubt want to watch “Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton”. Informative, well-made and entertaining, this documentary is recommended!

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

DVD TITLE: Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 82 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:85:1, English, Color and BW

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: June 3, 2014

Directed by Stephen Silha, Eric Slade, Dawn Logsdon

Executive Producer: Franklin Abbott, Libby Atkins, Alvin Baum, Jok R. Church, Michael Hemes, Ian Hinkle, Stephen Silha, Joel Singer, Max St. Romain, Martha Troiin, Phillip Willkie

Consulting Producer: Laura Hammer

Associate Producer: Aimee Cartier

Music by Evan Schiller, Jami Sieber

Cinematography by Ian Hinkle

Edited by Dawn Logsdon

Starring:

James Broughton

Neeli Cherkovski

Jack Foley

Alex Gildzen

Anna Halprin

Suzanna Hart

Davey Havok

George Kuchar

Armistead Maupin

Big Joy premiered at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, and then played over thirty-five festivals worldwide. Co-directed by Eric Slade, Stephen Silha, and Dawn Logsdon, Big Joy is the first documentary about longtime Bay Area poet and filmmaker James Broughton, a defining artistic voice of the 60′s & 70′s sexual and artistic revolution.

This is It
and I am It
and You are It
and so is That

and He is It
and She is It
and It is It
and That is That

by James Broughton

From directors Stephen Silha, Eric Slade and Dawn Logson comes a celebration of the work of American poet and poetic filmmaker James Broughton.

Broughton was one of the key individuals who was part of founding of the San Francisco Renaissance (a predecessor of the Beat movement) and known for his filmmaking which was seen as avant-garde.

But for a man who is well-loved by those who appreciate his work, the life of James Broughton was not as smooth as one would think.

“Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton” explores Broughton’s life as a young man who had a difficult childhood because he knew he was gay but was punished by his overbearing mother whenever he acted effeminate and lost his father at an early age due to the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Talented, creative, whimsical and happy, Broughton would have relationships with both men and women and lived with renown American film critic Pauline Kael, in which both would have a daughter together.

But Broughton brought joy to many of his supporters thanks to his 23 books and 23 films and exploring how Broughton chose to avoid the path of fame after his short film “The Pleasure Garden” won an award at the 1953 Cannes International Film Festival.

As the documentary explores Broughton’s work and his few loves, but to know Jim Broughton is to confront his complex lifestyle and learn how this man became a major figure of Avante-Garde film but also the San Francisco revolution and eventually a pioneer of poetry and the independent film movement.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton” is a documentary presented in black and white and color.  Because the documentary incorporates film from various sources, picture quality differs from time to time but for the most part, shots from these sources are visible and not in horrible shape.  Picture quality was good as one can expect on DVD and stereo audio was clear and understandable.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes(27:50) Featuring many deleted scenes.
  • Extra Interviews and Stories – (4:05) Featuring additional interviews and stories.
  • Keith Hennessey Presentation – (2:27) Keith Hennessey discusses how he was inspired by Broughton.
  • Poetry Readings – (11:48) Poetry readings of James Broughton’s work.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:24) The theatrical trailer for “Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton”.
  • The Golden Positions (1971) Directed by James Broughton – (2:21) A James Broughton short film.
  • Poetry from BIG JOY – Poetry that can be accessed via PC/MAC as a DVD-Rom

James Broughton may not be a well-known name to many people but for those who have been inspired by this American poet and filmmaker, James Broughton was a man responsible for groundbreaking work which introduced his artistic expression but also a man ahead of his time, not bowing down to what most people would do during his time.

A gay man trying to keep his lifestyle private during a time when no one dared talk about or let alone share information that they were gay in fear of being followed by police or beaten by anti-gay individuals, James Broughton was a complex individual.

From his early age at dressing like a girl and being admonished by his overbearing mother who had a system in place, so James would not behave and act as effeminate, Broughton lived a life of confusion.  Not knowing if his feeling for both men and women is normal, questioning his life in his diary but also fathering children with women (including renown film critic Pauline Kael) but while with other women, falling in love with other men.

While “Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton” may bring intrigue to his personal and sexual life and the life he faced when he was young, to his older age before he passed away, the documentary is first and foremost a celebration for James Broughton and celebrating his life and work.

His poetry which is beloved by many is featured prominently throughout the film but also his groundbreaking work as a filmmaker. A man who would make experimental shorts without Hollywood meddling but also his exploration of sexual liberation, “Big Joy” is fascinating as it goes far into showcasing Broughton’s creativity and his ability to entertain and enlighten people.

Most importantly, the film is well-researched as it includes video and audio excerpts from Broughton in his younger years to his older years, plus audio from Pauline Kael and interviews with the people he loved.  There is a good amount of footage that was sourced from many different video outlets that it helps paint a picture of Broughton’s life thanks to the carefully planned editing and the film’s straightforward, easy to follow pacing.

The Kino Lorber DVD also features a good number of special features which include deleted scenes, extended interviews, poetry readings and more.

Overall, for those with an interest in James Broughton and his work and the San Francisco Renaissance will no doubt want to watch “Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton”.  Informative, well-made and entertaining, this documentary is recommended!

 

Transformers Animated: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

June 22, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

transformers-animated

The release of “Transformers Animated: The Complete Series” is a fantastic collection on DVD of all episodes from all three seasons. It’s a safe animated series that parents can easily show their children and for those who are young at heart, watch a “Transformers” series that is not banal and took a different creative direction for each character. Exciting, action-packed and a different type of “Transformers” series, “Transformers Animated: The Complete Series”: is recommended!

Image courtesy of: © 2014 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Transformers Animated: The Complete Series

DURATION: 42 Eposodes (15.5 hours)

DVD INFORMATION: Anamorphic, 1:78:1, Dolby Digital – English 2.0

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: TV Y7 FV

RELEASE DATE: June 10, 2014

Trapped on Earth, far from home and living in disguise, the brave Autobots must protect the ancient, all-powerful AllSpark from getting into the hands of the malevolent Decepticons. As if their task weren’t difficult enough, the team (led by the honor-bound Optimus Prime and including Bulkhead, Prowl, Ratchet and Bumblebee) must also protect Earth from its own nefarious super villains! Can this mere maintenance team live up to the highest standard of what it truly means to be Autobots?

Finally, you can own the complete Transformers Animated series, including the never-before-released third season, right here in one exciting collection!

Back in 2007, a new Transformers animated series was unveiled on Cartoon Network.

Thanks to a unique overhaul of the characters courtesy of popular Japanese animation studios MOOK DLE, The Answer Studio and Studio 4°C (who were known for their animated work in the U.S. for series such as “Teen Titans” and “Ben 10″), the series proved to be a hit with children but also the young at heart.

Featuring a storyline that although is quite different compared to past series, the overall theme of the Autobots versus the Decepticons continues but there are some twists and turns that would eventually happen through the two seasons as the series would focus on a small crew of Autobots who find the AllSpark artifact and while on a mission, the crew led by Optimus Prime was being pursued by the Decepticons led by Megatron.

The group would eventually land in future Detroit, once known for creation of automobiles, has now become a leader of creating robots.

And while the Autobots are of higher alien technology, they are assisted by the spunky Sari Sumdac and her scientist father Isaac Sumdac.

And while season 1 was more of a character introducing season, by season two, the series  would feature more twists and turns but also more action, more battles and several surprises with appearances of more Autobot and Decepticon characters but also episodes paying some homage to the past “Transformers” animated film and series.

This second season continued where the last left off. The first season focused on the Autobots working with a young girl named Sari Sumdac and trying to find the Allspark, meanwhile Sari’s father (Professor Isaac Sumdac) thinking that Megatron is a good guy, works hard to revive him (and following his orders to keep his existence private). The season reached it’s climactic point as Megatron is revived and the battle between the Autobots and Decepticons go full force. And Sari’s father is kidnapped by Megatron and forced to be a slave to Megatron.

While the third season began with the Autobot group, Team Athenia, led by Rodimus Prime defending a space bridge against the Decepticons, Team Char led by Strika.  But trouble arises and Rodimus Prime is forced to seek help, meanwhile Megatron manages to infiltrate Omega Supreme, the Autobot that was created to be a weapon of mass destruction against the Decepticons.  But his inactive body was taken by Megatron who tries to find a way to use the Autobot weapon against the Autobots.

Also, the origin of Sari is revealed.  But most importantly, the final season features the conclusion to the animated series and the battle between Optimus Prime and Megatron.

To give a quick refresher on who the main robots are in the series.

The main Autobot team are:

Optimus Prime (played by David Kaye) has always been the main leader of the Autobots in the past but with this Optimus Prime, he is a rookie leader for the Autobots on planet Earth. Unlike previous Optimus Prime, this leader didn’t do that well in Autobot Academy. Optimus Prime transforms into a futuristic firetruck in vehicle mode and in robot mode, his weapon of choice is an Energon axe.

Ratchet (played by Corey Burton) is an Autobot medic and a veteran. He shares his classic stories about the past Great War with his fellow younger Autobots and can be quite grumpy towards others. Ratchet is equipped with an EMP generator as his main weapon and transforms into an ambulance in vehicle mode.

Bulkhead (played by Bill Fagerbakke) is the bulky Autobot that is a demolition specialist but enjoys art and quite laid back. His main weapon are his cannonballs and he transforms into a green swat truck.

Bumblebee (played by Bumper Robinson) is the young, overconfident member who is friends with young Sari and his best friend is Bulkhead. Bumblebee transforms into futuristic bug but has speed blasters on its rear and his main weapons are his stingers on his hands.

Prowl (played by Jeff Bennet) loves nature and he sometimes acts alone. He transforms into a motorcycle and his weapons are ninja-like stars.

The main Decepticon team are:

Megatron (played by Corey Burton) is the cold and manipulative leader of the Decepticons. Transforms to a Cybertronian Fusion jet fighter and a gunship with two propellers. His main weapons are a fusion cannon and twin swords.

Blitzwing (played by Bumper Robinson) is unstable and has a split personality. Each personality can chance to a cold warrior, another that is aggressive and then a flame face which is psychotic. He transformers into a tank and also a jet.

Lugnut (played by David Kaye) is a giant Decepticon with brute strength and is devoted to Megatron. He can turn into a bomber jet.

Starscream (played by Tom Kenny) is sarcastic and as always, two-faced. Wants to take over of the Decepticons and has many clones of himself. He can turn into a fighter jet.

Blackarachnia (played by Cree Summer) was formerly an Autobot named Elita-1 and friend to Optimus Prime. Was caught in an accident that has transformed her into a techno-organic spider and now has a hatred towards the Autobots.

Lockdown (played by Lance Henriksen) is a mercenary and is a bounty-for-hire. Not a Decepticon or Autobot but has been known to assist Megatron for parts.

The following episodes included on “Transformers Animated: The Complete Series” are as follows:

  1. TRANSFORM AND ROLL OUT (Part One) – Optimus Prime and the Autobots are pursued by the Decepticons for the AllSpark.
  2. TRANSFORM AND ROLL OUT (Part Two) – The Autobots get used to their temporary home on Earth.
  3. TRANSFORM AND ROLL OUT (Part Three) – The Autobots team up with humans.
  4. HOME IS WHERE THE SPARK IS – The Autobots have a new HQ.
  5. TOTAL MELTDOWN – Bumblebee transforms into Meltdown.
  6. BLAST FROM THE PAST – Professor Sumdace upgrades a trio of animatronic dinosaurs.
  7. THRILL OF THE HINT – A robotis creating problems in Detroit.
  8. NANOSEC – Bumblebee has a new rival on the road…. Nanosec.
  9. ALONG CAME A APSIDER – Bumblebee and Bulkhead confront Blackarachnia.
  10. SOUND AND FURY – Sari’s toy robot becomes evil.
  11. LOST AND FOUND – The Autobots confront Decepticons Lugnut and Blitzwing.
  12. SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST – Sari has been kidnapped.
  13. HEADMASTER – A Sumdace employee wants revenge and takes control of an Autobot.
  14. NATURE CALLS – Prowl, Bumblebee and Sari go on a mission.
  15. MEGATRON RISING (PART 1) – The Decepticons plan to invade earth.
  16. MEGATRON RISING (PART 2) -  The Autobots must defend the AllSpark by all cost and keep it away from the Decepticons.
  17. THE ELITE GUARD – The Elite Guard featuring Ultra Magnus, Sentinel Prime and Jazz arrive to Earth and find out if stories by Optimus Prime in regards to the Allspark fragments and Decepticons are true. Meanwhile, with Sari’s father missing and no one heading the company, without proof that Sari is a legitimate child of the Professor, she is kicked out of the Sumdac Building and lives with the Autobots.
  18. THE RETURN OF THE HEADMASTER – The Headmaster returns and this time, he takes the body of Sentinel Prime.
  19. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED – Ultra Magnus receives a distress message from Ironhide that there is a major uprising by the Decepticons and requests backup. With no proof of Decepticons on Earth, the Elite Guard asks Optimus Prime and the main Autobots to leave Earth and assist the other Autobots in different parts of the galaxy. That is, until Starscream shows up to take on the Elite Guard and the Autobots.
  20. GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT – The Allspark fragment brings trashbots to life which includes a naive robot named Wreck-Gar who doesn’t know who to follow…the Autobots or Decepticons. Note: This is a homage to the Transformers animated film (1986) with references to to the film and Weird Al Yankovic song “Dare to be Stupid”. And to make things even sweeter, Wreck-Gar features the voice of Weird Al.
  21. VELOCITY – Bumblebee bends the rules and takes part in street racing but there is another speedster in the race. How is it that an Earth car be faster than Bumblebee? Unless it’s another robot. Note: This episode is the first appearance of the Autobot, Blur.
  22. RISE OF THE CONSTRUCTICONS – Autobot fragments have turned vehicles at the construction site to robots. Bulkhead befriends Scrapper and Mixmaster but what happens when Megatron sways them to join the Decepticons?
  23. A FISTFUL OF ENERGON – Prowl and Bulkhead try to help Grimlock of the Dinobots from an injury. Afterwards, Prowl goes after Starscream alone but it seems another robot is after Starscream… Lockdown returns!
  24. S.U.V. – SOCIETY OF ULTIMATE VILLAINY – The villains are back and it seems they have teamed up with an evil robot intergalactic arms dealer named Swindle. (Note: First appearance of Swindle)
  25. AUTOBOOT CAMP – Wasp escapes from prison and Sentinel Prime starts pursuing him. In this episode, you learn more about Bumblebee and Wasp’s relationship and why Wasp hates Bumblebee so much.
  26. BLACK FRIDAY – The Dinobots become servants of Blackarachnia and she has them kidnap Meltdown of the Autobots.
  27. SARI, NO ONE’S HOME – The return of the Constructicons and Bulkhead and Bumblebee are attacked by Blitzwing.
  28. A BRIDGE TOO CLOSE, PART ONE – The Constructicons join the Decepticons, Starscream and his clones concoct a plan. Meanwhile Megatron kidnaps Bulkhead after Shockwave reveals that Bulkhead is a top space bridge engineer.
  29. A BRIDGE TOO CLOSE, PART TWO – Starscream and his clones attack the Decepticons, the Autobots do what they can to prevent the Decepticons from using the space bridge and the Autobots spaceship transforms to Omega Supreme. Also, something happens to Sari.
  30. TRANSWARPED (PART 1) – A traitor among the Autobots.
  31. TRANSWARPED (PART 2) – Megatron’s plans of invading Earth continues.
  32. TRANSWARPED (PART 3) – Can the Autobots protect the Earth from the Decepticons?
  33. THREE’S A CROWD – Bulkhead wants help from the Constructicons.
  34. WHERE IS THEY STING? – Wasp wants revenge on Bumblebee.
  35. FIVE SERVOS OF DOOM – How is Sentinel Prime achieving all this success?
  36. PREDACONS RISING – Wasp ends up on Dinobot Island.
  37. HUMAN ERROR, PART 1 – It’s Christmas time for the Autobots.
  38. HUMAN ERROR, PART II – The Autobots are held captive but can Sari save them?
  39. DECEPTICON AIR – The Decepticons aboard the Elite Guard try to take down the Autobots.
  40. THIS IS WHY I HATE MACHINES – Ratchet and Captain Fanzone are sent to Cybertron.
  41. ENDGAME, PART 1 – Megatron takes control of Omega Supreme.
  42. ENDGAME, PART 2 – The Autobots defend Detroit from the Omega Supreme clones and Megatron.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Transformers Animated: The Complete Series” is presented in anamorphic (1:78:1) and is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0.  Animation for “Transfomrers Animated” is colorful and vibrant and looked very good on DVD.  Dialogue is dialogue-driven and crystal clear through the front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The special features on this “Transformers Animated: The Complete Series” are:

  • Audio Commentary by Matt Youngberg (Supervising Director), Eric Siebenaler (Lead Product Designer) and Derrick Wyatt (Art Director) for “Mission Accomplished” and “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. The audio commentary was very nice as the guys talk about the various anime studios that produced certain scenes from the animation. Talk about how certain characters were supposed to be featured but didn’t, homages to “Transformers” past and much more. What I found awesome was that you get the perspectives of those who work on the show but also the perspective of someone involved in the toy line. And each are big fans of “Transformers” that listening to the audio commentaries were definitely worthwhile.
  • Audio commentary by Marty Isenberg (Story Editor), Sue Blue (Dialogue Director), David Kaye (voice actor for Optimus Prime, Lugnut and more), Matt Youngberg (Supervising Director) and Derrick Wyatt (Art Director) for “Transwarped, Part 1, 2 and 3″

“TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED” is a big part of my family.

As a fan of the older series, I enjoy watching it with my five-year-old, who is just a big fan of the series. We own nearly every toy in the “TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED” line and for him, he really loves the character designs of the robots. I enjoy the storyline. It’s quite interesting because I know many parents who watch the series with their kids and also, own a lot of the toys because they love transforming them and their kids love playing with them.

This passion for “TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED” is worldwide and sure, I’m always going to be a diehard fan of G1 but even for me, I really enjoy what Hasbro has done in creating a cool, refreshing, action-packed animated series. The thing is, this series was created for today’s generation but created by people who were passionate about the older “TRANSFORMER” series and know that there are fans who will continue to stick with the series no matter what age they are, thus the creators put a bit of that nostalgia into this series and in my opinion, they succeeded in making sure the series attracts the young and older fans.

And for anyone who grew up watching this animated series and enjoyed it, many fans will be pleased with a full collection of all 42 episodes on DVD for a great price!

There were so many characters introduced throughout the three seasons and quite a few surprises as well. There is also quite a bit of humor in the series and even some drama (even though it’s more towards the hilarious side) as we see Sentinel Prime and Optimus Prime’s dislike for each other escalate but also the same can be said with the relationship between Megatron and Starscream. Also, the battles between the Autobots and Decepticons were pretty exciting and the incorporated characters, the inclusion of Omega Supreme and also an alternative look at Autobots, especially an Optimus Prime that was not a high-ranking Autobot was rather fascinating to see.

Overall, the release of “Transformers Animated: The Complete Series” is a fantastic collection on DVD of all episodes from all three seasons.  It’s a safe animated series that parents can easily show their children and for those who are young at heart, watch a “Transformers” series that is not banal and took a different creative direction for each character.

Exciting, action-packed and a different type of “Transformers” series, “Transformers Animated: The Complete Series”: is recommended!

 

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