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

February 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

saintsstrangers

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

© 2015 Sony Pictures Television Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Saints & Strangers

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 192 Minutes

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

RATED: Not Rated

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Released Dated: February 16, 2016


Directed by Paul A. Edwards

Written by Seth Fisher, Eric Overmeyer

Produced by Jeff Sackman, Kirk Shaw

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

Producer: Peter McAleese

Associate Producer: Ioanna Vassiliadis Willis

Lie Producer: Jayson de Rosner

Music by Lorne Balfe

Cinematographer: Balazs Bolygo

Casting by Rene Haynes, Bonnie Rodini, Amy Hubbard

Production Design by Cristina Casali

Set Decoration by Irma van Heerden

Costume Design by Kate Carin


Starring:

Ray Stevenson as Stephen Hopkins

Michael Jobson as Myles Standish

Vincent Kartheieser as William Bradford

Kalani Queypo as Squanto

Barry Sloane as Edward Winslow

Vere Tindale as John Howland

Ron Livingston as John Carver

Bianca Simon Mannie as Kaya

Natascha McElhone as Elizabeth Hopkins

Raoul Max Trujillo as Massasoit

Meganne Young as Priscilla Mullins

Del Zamora as Aspinet

Maria Vos as Elizabeth Winslow

Tatanka Means as Hobbamock

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

Keenan Arrison as Canacum

Michael Greyeyes as Canonicus

Nahum Hughes as Wematin

Anna Camp as Dorothy Bradford


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO & AUDIO:

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

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

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Home Invasion (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

January 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

homeinvasion

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

© 2015 Origin Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Home Invasion

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 88 Minutes

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

RATED: PG-13 (Violence and Peril)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Released Dated: February 2, 2016


Directed by David Tennant

Written by Peter Sullivan

Produced by Jeff Sackman, Kirk Shaw

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

Music by Robert Smart

Cinematographer: Toby Gorman

Edited by Asim Nuraney

Casting by Dean E. Fronk

Production Design by Daren Luc Sasges

Costume Design by Zohra Shahalimi


Starring:

Natasha Henstridge as Chloe

Jason Patric as Mike

Scott Adkins as Heflin

Liam Dickinson as Jacob

Kyra Zagorsky as Victoria Knox

Michael rogers as Astor

Christian Tessier as Xander

Brenda Crichlow as Bess


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO & AUDIO:

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

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Home Invasion” comes with no special features.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

January 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

abrilliantyoungmind

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

© 2015 Origin Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: A Brilliant Young Mind

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 112 Minutes

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

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

COMPANY: Origin/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Released Dated: January 26, 2016


Directed by Morgan Matthews

Written by James Graham

Produced by Laura Hastings-Smith, David M. Thompson

Co-Producer: Joanie Blaikie, Ed Rubin

Executive Produced: Andrew Boswell, Hugo Heppell

Associate Producer: Elliot Ross, Fenella Ross

Line Producer: Sarah Wheale

Music by Martin Phipps

Cinematographer: Danny Cohen

Edited by Peter Lambert

Casting by Shaheen Baig

Production Design by Richard Bullock

Art Direction by Julie Ann Horan

Set Decoration by Duncan Wheeler


Starring:

Asa Butterfield as Nathan Ellis

Rafe Spall as Martin Humphreys

Sally Hawkins as Julie Ellis

Eddie Marsan as Richard

Jo Yang as Zhang Mei

Martin McCann as Michael Elis

Jake Davies as Luke Shelton

Alex Lawther as Isaac Cooper

Alexa Davies as Rebecca Dunn

Orion Lee as Deng Laoshi

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO & AUDIO:

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

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“A Brilliant Mind” comes with no special features.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Learning to Drive (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

January 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

learningtodrive

“Learning to Drive” is a charming film that I was really entertained by its characters and its story premise. I loved how director Isabel Coxet and writer Sarah Kernochan handled the characters but also the film’s ending and for me, it made the film even more delightful. “Learning to Drive” is recommended!

© 2015 Fabula Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Learning to Drive

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 89 Minutes

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

RATED: R (Language and Sexual Content)

COMPANY: Broadgreen Pictures

Released Dated: January 19, 2016


Directed by Isabel Coixet

Written by Sarah Kernochan

Produced by Dana Friedman, Daniel Hammond

Co-Producer: Susan Leber

Executive Produced: Eleni Asvesta, Dan Halsted, Gabriel Hammond, Harry Patramanis, JEnnifer Todd

Co-Executivbe Producer: Lauren McCarthy

Music by Dhani Harrison, Paul Hicks

Cinematographer: Manuel Ruiz

Edited by Keith Reamer, Thelma Schoonmaker

Casting by Monika Mikkelsen

Production Design by  Dania Saragovia

Set Decoration by Robert Covelman


Starring:

Patricia Clarkson as Wendy

Ben Kingsley as Darwan

Jake Weber as Ted

Sarita Choudhury as Jasleen

Grace Gummer as Tasha

Avi Nash as Preet

Samantha Bee as Debbie

Matt Salinger as Peter


As her marriage dissolves, a Manhattan writer takes driving lessons from a Sikh instructor with marriage troubles of his own. In each other’s company they find the courage to get back on the road and the strength to take the wheel.


From director Isabel Coixet (“Paris, je t’aime”, “Elegy”, “The Scret Life of Words”, “My Life Without Me”) and writer Sarah Kernochan (“9 1/2 Weeks”, “Sommersby”, “All I Wanna Do”, “What Lies Beneath”) comes the film “Learning to Drive”.

Based on the “New Yorker” article by Katha Pollitt, the film was named first-runner up at the People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.

The film stars Patricia Clarkson (“Shutter Island”, “The Green Mile”, “Friends with Benefits”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), Ben Kingsley (“Schindler’s List”, “Shutter Island”, “Gandhi”), Jake Weber (“Dawn of the Dead”, “Meet Joe Black”, “U-571”), Sarita Choudhury (“Lady in the Water”, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1”, “A Perfect Murder”) and Grace Gummer (“Frances Ha”, “The Homesman”, “Margin Call”, “Extant”).

And now the film will be released on DVD courtesy of Broadgreen Pictures.

“Learning to Drive” introduces us to two characters, Wendy Shields (portrayed by Patricia Clarkson) and Darwan Singh Tur (portrayed by Ben Kingsley).

Wendy is a busy author, but unfortunately being busy has led to the breakdown of her marriage with Ted (portrayed by Jake Weber).

While Wendy believes this is temporary and she and her husband will get back together, her daughter Tasha (portrayed by Grace Gummer) told her that her father is ending their marriage.

Broken and distraught about her marriage falling apart, she also finds out that Ted wants to sell the house, the only home that she knows.

While Tasha tries to get hep her mother, she’s too distraught about the divorce.  But in order to take a step forward, she wants to do something that she has never done in her life… learn how to drive.

Darwan Singh Tur is an Indian Sikh driving instructor.  He is an American citizen but because the police are going after people without their papers, he always tries to see the good in people.  Because from the country that he is from, he has seen how his people have been accused guilty and sentence in prison for crimes they have not committed.   In his case, his entire family being imprisoned.

But yet, despite being well-educated and living in America, he is dedicated to his Sikh faith and in someways starting over with his life and is preparing to get into an arranged marriage.

And one day, while working on his taxi job, he picks up a distraught Wendy as she and Ted are in a fight, because Ted has found another woman and is divorcing her.  But Darwan listens to her and feels bad for her predicament.

So, when Wendy begins her independence, she hires Darwan to teach her how to drive, while she teaches him on how to impress a woman.

And through their driving lessons, they build a friendship and learn about each other’s culture but also about life and importance of friendship.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

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

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Learning to Drive” comes with a photo gallery.


“Learning to Drive” is a charming and entertaining film about two people, from different worlds, who pretty much discover themselves and develop a friendship over driving lessons.

While there are many films about people who come from different cultures or different backgrounds that fall in love, “Learning to Drive” tries not to be similar to those films and become a film stuck in a banality of romantic comedies utilizing that type of storyline.

What the film does well is taking people from two different cultures, different ways of life and showing how these two different individuals can understand each other and become friends.

And during their moment of hurt, they find comfort in each other in preparation to move on.

With two veteran talents, Patricia Clarkson’s Wendy  is a successful author but is often busy with her work that she and her husband rarely have any alone time and overtime, their relationship is destroyed with no more willingness from her husband to work in making the relationship work again.  They tried and tried again to no avail and he leaves her.

She’s not ready to be alone, divorced and start over but its the reality that she faces and what she fears most.  Starting over.

And for Ben Kingsley, as talented as an actor that he is, I wasn’t sure if he would be convincing enough to play a Seik Indian but considering that he is a wonderful actor, he manages to play the character of Darwan rather well.  As he looks to America as being a free man.

But what he sees as free from what he had to grow up in back in his country, Wendy sees how badly he is treated.  From racial profiling, people giving him racist-related crap on a daily basis, she is shocked that he remains calm despite the hostilities that he has received.  Because being called names are one thing, but the persecution that he and his family had to endure in their country is far worse.

And through these cultural exchanges, we get to see how these individuals who are so different, begin to understand each other.

As for the DVD, picture and audio quality is as good as one can expect on DVD.  There are no major special features but a photo gallery, so it’s literally a barebones DVD rleease.

Overall, “Learning to Drive” is a charming film that I was really entertained by its characters and its story premise.  I loved how director Isabel Coxet and writer Sarah Kernochan handled the characters but also the film’s ending and for me, it made the film even more delightful.

“Learning to Drive” is recommended!

 

Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 24 – Original & Uncut (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

January 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

naruto-24

“Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 24 – Original & Uncut” is a volume that is more filler-based but for good reason. It also manages to take bits and pieces from the manga series but build upon the Great Ninja War by showcasing other characters like Gaara, Temari, Shikamaru, Hinata and Neji in action. If you don’t mind filler episodes and are a fan staying with “Naruto Shippuden” for the long haul, then “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 24 – Original & Uncut” will no doubt entertain you!

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


DVD TITLE: Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 24 – Original & Uncut

DURATION: Episodes 297-309 (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: November 10, 2015


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


Naruto: Shippuden uncut set 24 opens as Gaara leads the Fourth Company into battle against the previous Kage, including his own father. Meanwhile Naruto and Killer Bee face the reanimated Itachi Uchiha, who recognizes Naruto’s growth as a shinobi and his potential to rescue his brother, Sasuke, from his path of vengeance. Kabuto assumes control of Itachi to use his Mangekyo Sharingan, but Itachi’s well of power is not yet drained. Battles rage, and all must face enemies – as well as friends – they never expected to see again!


With the 14th season of “Naruto Shippuden”, the Fourth Great Ninja War continues as Kabuto has revived and reanimated great legends and villains from Shinobi past and has control over them.  And with the White Zetsu Army being unleashed on various ninja divisions and no one able to tell who are shinobi or disguised White Zetsu Army members, Naruto and Killer Bee are now heading to the battlefield to lend their assistance.

As Kazekage, Gaara goes into the battlefield to confront his father, the Fourth Kazekage, meanwhile his men must battle against the Second Mizukage and the Third Raikage.  Meanwhile, Naruto must come across Itachi.  Meanwhile, Kabuto summons Hayate Gekko!

All this and more in “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 24 – Original & Uncut”.

What is “Naruto”?

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

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

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

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

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

What is “Naruto Shippuden”?

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

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

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

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

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

In volume 22, Naruto who has trained with Bee, is starting to feel the chakra of the nine-tail fox and now he wants to know why he is being locked up and why his fellow ninja are acting strangely.

Meanwhile, as Sakura and other medics tend to the wounded, someone has infiltrated the medical unit and is slaughtering them. And he’s out to kill Sakura. Will Sakura find out who the culprit truly is?

In volume 24, the series focuses on Gaara and Temari leading their team to take on the reanimated Fourth Kazekage, Second Mizukage and the Third Raikage.  Naruto and Killer Bee rushes to the battle scene to lend their assistance.  But Kabuto has something up his sleeve.  What does he plan on doing?


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 24- 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 24” 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 24 – Original & Uncut” comes with the following special features on disc 2:

  • Storyboards
  • Art Gallery
  • Clean Openings/Endings

With the release of “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 24 – Original & Uncut”, the 14th season of the series manages to borrow bits and pieces from the manga series and elongate the Fourth Great Ninja War for multiple seasons.

As of January 2016 in Japan, the anime series has not yet completed, despite the manga series having ended in 2014, “The Last Naruto the Movie” being released that same year and now the storyline has shifted towards “Boruto”, as of now, it looks as if the series will continue on with its 19th season.

What writers have done is to focus on various aspects of the Great Ninja War by focusing on other characters outside of Naruto and showing them in battle.

And in some ways, I kind of like that, because the manga series focuses on other characters from other clans for a short-time and focused on the core characters much more.  With the anime series, writers want to get viewers acclimated to how huge the war is and how each member contributed in battle.

So, with “Naruto” being a series with a lot of characters, writers have more liberty to explore the characters during the war.  The only caveat by doing this is that for those wanting the story to be more tied to the manga series, may be upset that writers have managed to extend the war for so many episodes.  And others will think they are nothing more than filler episodes.

Yes, they are filler episodes but having read the manga, I feel the writers were respectful of Kishimoto’s manga work but wanted to show how everyone was affected during the Great Ninja War.  And so far, the series has been entertaining.

And with this volume, people get to see Gaara and Temari as leaders.  We get a storyline that explains why Gaara was treated the way he was by his father and others when he was younger and more!  For the antagonists side, we get to see more of Kabuto and how he is using the re-animation technique but also how he is using the White Zetsu Army.

As for the DVD set, you get a total of 12 episodes on two DVD’s and special features which include storyboards, art gallery, clean opening and endings.

Overall, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 24 – Original & Uncut” is a volume that is more filler-based but for good reason.  It also manages to take bits and pieces from the manga series but build upon the Great Ninja War by showcasing other characters like Gaara, Temari, Shikamaru, Hinata and Neji in action.

If you don’t mind filler episodes and are a fan staying with “Naruto Shippuden” for the long haul, then “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 24 – Original & Uncut” will no doubt entertain you!

 

Adventure Time: Stakes! (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

January 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

adventuretime-stakes

If you are a fan of “Adventure Time”, especially of the character Marceline, I can easily say that you’ll enjoy this 8-episode DVD release of the mini-series“Adventure Time: Stakes!”.  Enjoyable, hilarious, addictive and so much fun, “Adventure Time: Stakes!” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Cartoon Network. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Adventure Time: Stakes!

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2015

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: English Dolby Digital 2.0, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Cartoon Network/Warner Bros.

RATING: TV PG

Release Date: January 19, 2016


Created by Pendleton Ward

Directed by Larry Leichliter

Written by Ako Castuera, Jesse Moynihan, Hanna Nystrom, Adam Muto, Tom Herpich, Steve Wolfhard

Story by Kent Osborner, Pendleton Ward, Jack Pendarvis, Adam Muto

Excutive Producer: Fred Seibert, Curtis Lelash, Brian A. Miller, Jennifer Pelphrey, Rob Sorcher, Rob Swartz, Derek Drymon

Producer: Kelley Crews

Co-Producer/Executive Producer: Pendleton Ward

Supervising Producer: Thurop Van Orman

Music by Timothy Kiefer, Casey James Basichis

Production Design by David O’Reilly

Art Direction by Sandra Calleros


Featuring the following voice talent:

Olivia Olson as Marceline

Jeremy Shada as Finn

John DiMaggio as Jake

Tom Kenny as Ice King/Simon

Hynden Walch as Princess Bubblegum

Steve Little as Peppermint Butler/Sensei Paul

Maria Bamford as Clubhouse Sandy

Billy Brown as The Vampire King

Andrew Daly as King of Ooo

Kyle Kinane as Cloud Dance


Adventure Time – Stakes! Miniseries is an eight-part miniseries that focuses on fan-favorite character Marceline. On this new adventure, Finn, Jake, and Princess Bubblegum help Marceline the Vampire Queen face off against five powerful foes from her mysterious past, which have been unleashed by one of Bubblegum’s science experiments. The miniseries also features a new song written by former Adventure Time storyboard artist and Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar, entitled “Everything Stays.”


We have watched Marceline, the rocker vampire, who has wandered the Land of Ooo and prankster.

While Marceline may be over a thousand years old, she has the appearance of a young adult and has supernatural abilities.

But the fact is that Marceline has been wandering the world and is tired.  Wanting to be normal, she asks Princess Bubblegum to make her normal, even though that means she can no longer have rapid healing and that she can now die.

Unfortunately,  the science project has now unleashed ghosts from Marceline’s past and they happen to be her five most fearsome foes.

And now, Finn, Jake, Princess Bubblegum and their friends join Marceline in the fight against Vampire King and her foes in eight special episodes of “Adventure Time” and is the first miniseries to be made and released on DVD titled “Adventure Time: Stakes!”.


What is “Adventure Time”?

Pendleton Ward is known for writing for animated series such as “Random! Cartoons” and “The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack” and most recently “Bravest Warriors”, but in 2010, Ward would create a series that would become a popular animated series on the Cartoon Network titled “Adventure Time”.

Originally produced by Frederator’s Nicktoons Network animation incubator series “Random! Cartoons”, the short for “Adventure Time” would first become a viral hit on the Internet before being picked up by the Cartoon Network and featured on television in 2010.

Heavily inspired by “Dungeons and Dragons” and video games, “Adventure Time” is hand-drawn animation and is recorded as a group, than with voice talent recorded individually.

“Adventure Time” is an award-winning series that revolves around Finn the Human, a 14-year-old boy and his best friend, a talking yellow dog named Jake, who has magical powers to change shape, stretch and shrink.

The two live in a post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo where they interact with friends such as Princess Bubblegum, the Ice King, Marceline the Vampire Queen, Flame Princess, BMO, Lady Rainicorn and more!


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Adventure Time: Stakes! (” is presented in 16×9. Colors are vibrant, color palette is colorful and while the character designs may lack incredible detail and shading of other animated series (note: background art is shaded), what makes “Adventure Time” work is its abundance of characters, creative backgrounds, locations and more. The series is still colorful on DVD (not as sharp or vibrant as the Blu-ray “Adventure Time” releases) and looks good overall!

The DVD is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. While my picky side would prefer for a 5.1 immersive soundtrack, the fact is that a lot of animated series is presented in stereo. Dialogue is clear! Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Adventure Time: Stakes!” comes with the following special features:

  • Animatics – Featuring sketched animatics of each episode.
  • Song Demos – Featuring song demos for “Everything Stays”, “Marceline’s Song”, “Marceline’s Dream Song 1 & 2”.
  • Art Gallery – (3:45) Featuring a video based art gallery.

If you love “Adventure Time”, the latest DVD volume “Adventure Time: Stakes!” is a mini-series worth watching.

Originally aired on Cartoon Network in November 2015, while we get to see Finn, Jake, Princess Bubblegum and other characters from the Land of Ooo, the primary focus is on rocker vampire queen, Marceline.

Featuring eight connected episodes, Marceline’s desire of not being a vampire becomes problematic as the Princess’ experiment has gone wrong and has unleashed five of her major foes from her past, out onto the land.

With no vampire powers and her foes causing havoc, will she and her friends be able to defeat her foes?

The episodes provide us an origin to Marceline but also to see her background as a lonely vampire as a child onto her adulthood, but also why she has a unique bond with Simon (The Ice King).  We also get to see what supernatural abilities Marceline has but the enjoyable origin of the rockin’ vampire and her battle with her foes makes this one of my favorite storylines of the “Adventure Time” and I can hope that Pendleton Ward and friends continue doing more mini-series and helping explore the origin of various characters.

It also helps that you get a solid performance from Marceline voice actress Olivia Olson (and love her opening theme version of “Adventure Time”) but I felt the writing for this mini-series was quite solid.  I enjoyed it so much that I’ve watched the mini-series four times now!

While I would have loved this series to be released on Blu-ray, the DVD looks and sounds good (as one can expect on DVD) and you get the episode animatics, song demos and an art gallery included.

Overall, if you are a fan of “Adventure Time”, especially of the character Marceline, I can easily say that you’ll enjoy this 8-episode DVD release of the mini-series“Adventure Time: Stakes!”.

Enjoyable, hilarious, addictive and so much fun, “Adventure Time: Stakes!” is highly recommended!

 

Nasty Baby (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

nastybaby

Unfortunately, “Nasty Baby” suffers from a bland storyline.  For the majority of the film, you wonder if the film is primarily all about whether or not a woman will get pregnant with her friend’s sperm or how gay men must deal with people who disapprove of their lifestyle.  The film changes its tone a little late in the film and becomes a different film entirely. I found the films transition from its comedy to a darker film, to actually be much more entertaining and eventually ends up saving the film by taking a risk and giving viewers something they’ll never expect to see coming.

© 2015 Fabula Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Nasty Baby

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 101 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation 1:85:1, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish

RATED: R (Sexual Content, Some Disturbing Violence, Language, Drug Use and Graphic Nude Images)

COMPANY: The Orchard/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Released Dated: December 22, 2015


Directed by Sebastian Silva

Screenplay by Sebastian Silva

Produced by Amy Ziering

Co-Producer: Nicole Ehrlich, Bonnie Greenberg

Executive Produced: Pape Boye, Peter Danner, Violaine Pichlon, Sebastian Silva, Christine Vachon

Associate Producer: Charlie Dibe, David Hinojosa, Juan de Dios Larrain, Pablo Larrain, Julia Oh

Co-Producer: Alia Shawkat

Music by Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans

Cinematographer: Sergio Armstrong

Edited by Sofia Subercaseaux

Casting by Katja Blichfeld, Jessica Daniels

Art Direction by Naomi Munro

Set Decoration by Naomi Munro

Costume Design by Mark Grattan


Starring:

Sebastian Silva as Freddy

Kristen Wiig as Polly

Tunde Adebimpe as Mo

Reg E. Cathey as The Bishop

Mark Margolis as Richard

Agustin Silva as Chino

Alia Shawkat as Wendy


An award-winning favorite by Sebastian Silva (“The Maid”), NASTY BABY centers on Freddy (Silva), a Brooklyn-based artist who, with his boyfriend, Mo (Tunde Adebimpe), and their best friend, Polly (Kristen Wiig), is trying to have a baby. As this trio deals with the complications of conception and creating the “new normal” family, their bliss is clouded by a series of confrontations with an annoying neighbor who just might be a madman.


From Sebastian Silva, the director of “Magic Magic”, “Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus” and “The Boring Life of Jacqueline” comes his 2015 Chilean-American drama.

A winner of the Teddy Award for best LGBT-themed feature film, “Nasty Baby” stars Sebastian Silva, Kristen Wiig (“Brides Maids”, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, “The Martian”), Tunde Adebimpe (“Rachel Getting Married”, “Jump Tomorrow”, “Never Back Down”), Reg E. Cathey (“Se7en”, “The Machinist”, “American Psycho”), Mark Margolis (“The Werestler”, “Pi”, “Requiem for a Dream”) and Alia Shawkat (“Arrested Development”, “Three Kings”, “Whip It”).

And the film will be released on DVD in December 2015 courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“Nasty Baby” revolves around a couple, Freddy (portrayed by Sebastian Silva) and Mo (portrayed by Tunde Adebimpe) and their friend Polly (portrayed by Kristen Wiig).

Freddy is a performing artist trying to make a short film with his co-producer Wendy (portrayed by Alia Shawkat) featuring him as a screaming infant.

As Polly and Freddy are very close friends, he volunteers to use his sperm in order for her to have a child as she is getting older.  But because his sperm count is too low, she turns to Mo to donate his sperm in hopes that she can get pregnant.

But as these friends are happy with each other, for Freddy and Mo, they must deal with their mentally unstable neighbor, Bishop (portrayed by Reg E. Cathey), who keeps running his leaf blower very early in the morning and has a problem with the gay men.

Meanwhile, Richard (portrayed by Mark Margolis) is a gay neighbor who tends to come to their defense against The Bishop.  But his mental health becomes more violent towards the couple.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Nasty Baby” is presented in Anamorphic widescreen (1:85:1) and in Dolby Digital 5.1. A lot of the film was shot outdoors and those scenes are vibrant and looks good.  While not released on Blu-ray, for the most part, picture and audio quality is as good as one can expect on a DVD release.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Nasty Baby” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Sebastian Silva, Kristen Wiig and Tunde Adebimpe
  • Nasty Baby: Behind the Scenes – (14:21)A look at the making of the film.
  • Photo Gallery

When watching “Nasty Baby”, the film primarily carries itself on a storyline about two gay men and their female friend trying to discuss having a child together.

The difficulties of the gay couple in the perception of those who look down on them, may it be their mentally unstable neighbor, the Bishop or even Mo’s parents, who are not keen about the idea of the men trying to help Polly bring a child to the world.

And as the film also tries to show Freddy trying to develop his film “Nasty Baby” which feature he and friends crying like babies, I thought the film would be predictable as it seemed as if the film was about prejudice or the lack of understanding of a homosexual couple and why would they help their friend Polly in trying to conceive a child.

I imagined that the film was about homophobia and the bond between these friends, but somehow the film manages to pull the rug underneath you and transforms from a comedy/drama to something more darker (which I don’t want to spoil for anyone).

While the film had some interesting moments, I thought the premise of Freddy trying to create a film about him and others as babies and crying and trying to promote the work as art to a gallery owner was trying to make the film lean towards a comedy.

But whether or not audiences will enjoy the transition from comedy to something quite macabre, will be subjective.  While those wanting something different and unexpected, may find the film’s transition to comedy to something more darker, as a fresh pace for its storyline.

The DVD for the most part looks as good as one can expect on DVD.  And you also get a few special features and an entertaining audio commentary with Sebastian Silva, Kristen Wiig and Tunde Adebimpe.  And through the “making of”, you learn how the film pretty much utilizes improvisation by the cast.

But unfortunately, “Nasty Baby” suffers from a bland storyline.  For the majority of the film, you wonder if the film is primarily all about whether or not a woman will get pregnant with her friend’s sperm or how gay men must deal with people who disapprove of their lifestyle.  The film changes its tone a little late in the film and becomes a different film entirely. I found the films transition from its comedy to a darker film, to actually be much more entertaining and eventually ends up saving the film by taking a risk and giving viewers something they’ll never expect to see coming.

 

 

Julien Duvivier in the Thirties – Eclipse Series #44 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

jules-a

The films featured in “Julien Duvivier in the Thirties – Eclipse Series #44” are entertaining classics, showing us a side of Duvivier taking advantage of the latest cinema technology at the time and running wild with creativity. What he was wanting to accomplish at the time with his films in terms of visual effects were well-done for that time and his able to focus on human emotion was also a highlight showcased in each of these four films. Personally, you can’t go wrong with this latest Eclipse Series set. “Julien Duvivier in the Thirties – Eclipse Series #44”. If you love classic French cinema, this DVD set is highly recommended!

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


TITLE: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties – Eclipse Series 44

YEAR OF FILM: David Golder (1930), Poil de Carotte (1932), La Tete D’Un Homme (1933), Un Carnet De Bal (1937)

DURATION: David Golder (95 Minutes), Poil de Carotte (92 Minutes), La Tete D’Un Homme (93 Minutes), Un Carnet De Bal (110 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, French with English subtitles, 1:19:1 and 1:331 aspect ratios

COMPANY: The Criterion Collection

RELEASED DATE: November 3, 2015


David Golder (1930)

Directed by Julien Duvivier

Based on the novel by Irene Nemirowsky

Written by Julien Duvivier

Produced by Charles Delac, Marcel Vandal

Music by Walter Goehr

Cinematography by Georges Perinal, Armand Thirard, Ganzli Walter

Edited by Robert Dalva, Carolyn Hicks

Art Direction by Lazare Meerson

Poil de Carotte (1932)

Directed by Julien Duvivier

Adaptation by Jacques Feyder 

Based on the Novel by Jules Renard

Cinematography by Ganzli Walter

Production Design by Fernand Delattre

La tete d’un homme (1933)

Directed by Julien Duvivier

Written by Pierre Calmann, Louis Delapree, Julien Duvivier 

Based on the Novel by Georges Simenon

Produced by Charles Delac, Marcel Vandal

Cinematography by Nurith Aviv, Affonso Beato, Bob Carr

Music by Jacques Belasco

Cinematography by Armand Thirard

Edited by Marthe Poncin 

Art Direction by Georges Wakhevitch

Un carnet de bal (1937)

Directed by Julien Duvivier

Written by Julien Duvivier, Henri Jeanson, Yves Mirande, Jean Sarment, Pierre Wolff, Bernard Zimmer 

Produced by Jean-Pierre Frogerais

Music by Maurice Jaubert

Cinematography by Philippe Agostini, Michel Kelber, Pierre Levent

Edited by Andre Versein

Production Design b Jean Douarinou

Set Decoration by Paul Colin, Serge Pimenoff


Starring:

David Golder (1930)

Harry Baur as David Golder

Paule Andral as Gloria Golder

Jackie Monnier as Joyce Golder

Jean Bradin as Prinz Alec, Joyce Verlobter

Gaston Jacquet as Graf Hoyos

Jean Coquelin as Fischel

Poil de Carotte (1932)

Henry Krauss as Monsieur Lepic

Charlotte Barbier-Krauss as Madame Lepic

Andre Heuze as Francois Lepic dit Poil de Carotte

Fabien Haziza as Felix

Renee Jean as Ernestine

Lydia Zarena as Annette

Suzanne Talba as Maria

La tete d’un homme (1933)

Harry Baur as Commissaire Jules Maigret

Valery Inkijinoff as Radek

Alexandre Rignault as Joseph Heurtin

Gaston Jacquet as Willy Ferriere

Louis Gauthier as Le Juge

Henri Echourin as Inspecteur Menard

Marcel Bourdel as Inspecteur Janvier

Frederic Munie as L’avocat

Armand Numes as Le Directeur de la police

Charles Camus as L’hotelier

Rene Alexandre as Le Chauffeur

Un Carnet De Bal (1933)

Harry Baur as Alain Regnault

Marie Bell as Christine Surgere

Pierre Blanchar as Thierry Raynal

Fernandel as Fabien Coutissol

Louis Jouvet as Pierre Verdier

Raimu as Francois Patusset


Remembered primarily for directing the classic crime drama Pépé le moko, Julien Duvivier was one of the finest filmmakers working in France in the 1930s. He made the transition from silents to talkies with ease, thanks to a formidable innate understanding of the cinematic medium, and he married his expressive camera work to a strikingly inventive use of sound with a singular dexterity. His deeply shadowed, fatalistic early sound films David Golder and La tête d’un homme anticipate the poetic realist style that would come to define the decade in French cinema, while the small-town family drama Poil de Carotte and the swooning tale of love and illusion Un carnet de bal showcase his stunning versatility.

These four films—all featuring the great stage turned screen actor Harry Baur—are collected here, each evidence of an immense and often overlooked cinematic talent.

FOUR-DVD BOX SET INCLUDES: DAVID GOLDER The first sound film by Julien Duvivier also marked his first collaboration with the marvelous actor Harry Baur. Together, they brought to life the vivid protagonist of Irène Némirovsky’s best-selling first novel, an avaricious, self-interested banker whose family life is as tempestuous as his business dealings. Directed with visual panache, this grim yet arresting tale showcases Duvivier’s preternatural cinematic maturity during a transitional phase for the French film industry. POIL DE CAROTTE Julien Duvivier remade his own silent adaptation of a popular turn-of-the-twentieth-century novella for the sound era, resulting in one of his most beloved films. In a tremendously moving performance, Robert Lynen plays the neglected young François, mockingly called Poil de Carotte (“Carrottop”) by his family for his mop of red hair. Duvivier sensitively charts the rural daily life of a boy desperate to connect with others, especially his distracted father, played by the chameleonic Harry Baur. LA TÊTE D’UN HOMME This meticulously crafted adaptation stars Harry Baur as novelist Georges Simenon’s indelible creation Inspector Maigret, investigating the odd circumstances surrounding the killing of a wealthy American woman in Paris. Every bit Baur’s equal is the Russian émigré actor Valéry Inkijinoff, cast as a nihilistic, reptilian medical student. Julien Duvivier gives the viewer one evocative image after another, constructing a work of sinister beauty. UN CARNET DE BAL A rich widow, nostalgic for the lavish parties of her youth, sets off across Europe to reconnect with the many suitors who once courted her. In doing so, she embarks on a journey of discovery, both of herself and of how greatly the world has changed in two decades. Julien Duvivier’s smash hit is a wry, visually inventive tale of romantic pragmatism that deftly combines comedy and drama.


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Julien Duvivier is a French filmmaker who would be known for films such as “Pepe le Moko”, “La Bandera”, “Voice le temps des assassins”.

A prominent silent film director in the late teens and the 1920’s, by the 1930’s, Duvivier would team up with Marcel Vandal and Charles Delac (founders of “Film d’Art”) and would take part in the era of the talkies.

But while he would be known for his dark films in his oeuvre, it was the subject matter that he was interested in bringing to the big screen and would give him opportunities during World War II to work in the United States.

And up to his death in 1967 (due to a traffic accident), he had worked on nearly 70 films.

And as for his earliest films when he transitioned into the talkie era, they finally will be released in North America courtesy of the Criterion Collection via their Eclipse Series for their 44th volume, “Julie Duvivier in the Thirties”.

The set will included his first talkie, the 1930 film “David Golder”; his 1932 film “Poil de Carotte”, his 1993 film “La Tete D’Un Homme” and his 1937 film “Un Carnet de Bal”.

The first film “David Golder” stars Harry Baur, Paule Andral and Jackie Monnier and is an adaptation of Irene Nemirovsky’s 1929 novel of the same title as the film.

The film revolves around a successful Jewish businessman named David Golder (portrayed by Harry Baur) and is known for being a shrewd, money hungry businessman.  He could care less about others, just as long as he is making money, which his wife and daughter approve of, because they depend on his money to afford their lavish lifestyle.

But when he suffers a heart attack and is told that he can no longer work because it will kill him, he decides that if he is to survive, he needs to stop his business, which means no income coming in and he would have to live with what he has made.  But what happens to David when his wife and daughter must deal with the financial setback?

For “Poil de Carotte”, the 1932 film stars Henry Krauss, Charlotte Barbier-Krauss and Andre Heuze.

The film revolves around pre-adolescent Francois Lepic (called by his mother, “Carrottop” because of his hair color).

While Francois may seem like an energetic and happy kid, in truth, he is lonely and depressed because his father, Monsieur Lepic, the mayor, is more concerned about his work and hunting, so he’s never around.

His mother Madame Lepic despises him and only cares about her two older children.

And as a kid that desperately wants to be loved, he is unhappy at home and that unhappiness may push him towards a darker place in his life.

For the 1933 film “La Tete D’un Homme”, the film features Harry Baur playing Commissaire Jules Maigret who is investigating a case in which a woman is found murdered.

As the case leads them to a man named Willy Ferriere (who is broke) and has a mistress.  One day, while drunk, he says that he would give 100,000 francs to get rid of his wealthy aunt.  And someone ends up doing it.  But who is the person responsible for the murder?

The final film titled “Un Carnet De Bal” (also known as “Dance Program”) which stars Harry Baur, Marie Bell, Pierre Blanchar, Fernandel and many more.

The film revolves around a lonely widow named Christine Surgere (portrayed by Marie Bell) who feels that she wasted her life by marrying a man, who may have given her wealth but she often wonders about the one man she let get away…Gerard.

Having dreams of the men in her past, she decides to visit all her former boyfriends and see what has become of them.

But once she goes to visit them, she realizes that she may have impacted them more than she was aware of.


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VIDEO & AUDIO:

Each of the films presented in “Julien Duvivier in the Thirties” are presented in black and white in French monaural with English subtitles.

Three of the films are presented in 1:33:1 while “David Golder” is presented in 1:19:1 aspect ratio.

It’s important to note that unlike the films that are released on the Criterion Collection which go through significant remastering and cleanup, films released on the Eclipse Series are not.  Possibly due to damage on the original negatives or not in the best shape to meet the standard for a Criterion Collection release.

So, you’ll notice that during the viewing of these films, some look better than others, but there are scratches, dust/dirt, sometimes the film jumps around and it may seem that some scenes are missing.

For example, “Un Carnet De Bal” for the most part, looks good, but towards the end, there are times the frames jump up and down and when it gets to the final reveal, the scene just cuts out and goes to the final last scene/minute of the film.

Fortunately, the damage does not prevent one from enjoying the films but it’s important to make a clear distinction between a Criterion Collection product vs. their Eclipse Series products.  For older films that have not received any restoration or remastering work, you’re not going to get perfect picture quality.

Also, the good news for each of these films, audio quality is good with no significant signs of hissing or crackle.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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


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As a person who has enjoyed Julien Duvivier’s “Pepe le Moko”, knowing that he has had a lengthy film career, it’s wonderful that Duvivier’s earlier 1930’s films will be released on DVD.

Each of the four films featured in “Julien Duvivier in the Thirties – Eclipse Series #44” are highly entertaining and are not as dark as Duvivier’s later work, but it goes to show signs of his leaning to darker material through these ’30s films but also to see the auteur utilize his express camera work, his utilization of sound but also to showcase his poetic realist style which he is very much known for.

Watching the four films that were included in the set, I can wholeheartedly say that each of these films are wonderful to watch but how different they are from each other.

“David Golder” is a film that still has relevance in today’s modern world.  As one man who has lived his life as a businessman who made a lot of money, unfortunately his age, stress and lifestyle has led to him having health problems and now he must quit his work or else he will die.

Knowing that no work means no more income, he knows it will take his family to a downward spiral, which they do not want to see happen.

His wife and daughter are incredibly spoiled and the thought of David not working, takes its toll on his spoiled family.  But I found the film amusing because you see how his family is so corrupted by money and how they act as if they can no longer live without excess.

“Poil De Carotte” is a film that seems jovial and fun but it’s one of the first films in the 1930’s that I have seen that takes on children contemplating suicide.

In the case of the young boy known as “Carrottop”, he yearns to have a happy family but in truth, his father, the mayor of the town, has no time for anyone but himself.  His mother doesn’t love him at all and only cares for his older siblings, that he is left alone and trying to hide his loneliness and depression through telling jokes and trying to act on his own, as if it is a cry for attention.

Another film by Duvivier that is still relevant in today’s society as many children continue to live this way, especially in a two-income family and parents are often gone.  But in this case, while Carrottop’s father wants to love his son but is busy trying to appeal to others, his mother is a different story and adds to the darkness towards this film, because of her attitude towards her youngest son.

But it’s very interesting of how Duvivier handle’s the young boy’s conflicting emotions and his tender moments with his future fiance-to-be.

The third film “La Tete D’un Homme” revolves around Georges Simenon’s iconic inspector Maigret, hot on the trail of a murderer.  And through his investigation, it leads him to a possible suspect.

While it was great to see an early French investigative film, while entertaining for the majority of the film, it’s hindered by lack of common sense and poor timing of unbelievable inaction.

But the film was interesting to me seeing the character of Radek, portrayed by Valery Inkijinoff.  In silent film, Valery (who is half Russian and Buryat) often played the role of a Mongolian man in “Storm Over Asia” and made me wonder if he was one of the first Asian actors in cinema.

And my favorite film of the Eclipse Series DVD set is “Un Carnet De Bal” starring Marie Bell, best known for her work on the film “Le grand jeu”, shot a few years earlier.

Bell plays the character Christine Surgere, who is wealthy and a widow.  Having contemplated if she has married the wrong man and should have married the one she truly loved, it leads Christine to a path of trying to find former boyfriends or people she had dated, and to realize how much of an impact her life has had on these men that she was with.

In some aspect, Christine is the equivalent of the “Vamp” of silent films, which were often stories of a woman who were just poison to men that they had a relationship with.  The man losing all their wealth, losing their lives and in some aspects, the men that were with Christine did not all fair well.

Many of them have fallen for Christine, but she made the decision to marry a man for wealth and money, not for love.  And it has haunted her ever since.

As for the DVD’s, the films are in good shape, with some having more scratches, dirt and jitter.  So, while not Criterion Collection quality, one should be grateful that these ’30s films of Julien Duvivier are being released in North America at all.  And if you have been following Eclipse Series releases, you come to expect that the films are not always going to be in the greatest quality but yet, they are still very good and do not suffer from major degradation.

The only scene that made me wonder if there were missing scenes was “Un Carnet De Bal” in which it’s final scene seems to be missing quite a few frames.  So, not too sure how much is lost as the transition for the final scene was rather abrupt.

But overall, the quality of the films are still enough to enjoy these Duvivier classics.  Dialogue is also clear with no major crackle or significant hiss.

Overall, the films featured in “Julien Duvivier in the Thirties – Eclipse Series #44” are entertaining classics, showing us a side of Duvivier taking advantage of the latest cinema technology at the time and running wild with creativity.  What he was wanting to accomplish at the time with his films in terms of visual effects were well-done for that time and his able to focus on human emotion was also a highlight showcased in each of these four films.

Personally, you can’t go wrong with this latest Eclipse Series set.  “Julien Duvivier in the Thirties – Eclipse Series #44”. If you love classic French cinema, this DVD set is highly recommended!

 

The Hunting Ground (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Kirby Dick’s “The Hunting Ground” is an eye-opening documentary with a heartbreaking, infuriating and yet powerful message that you will not forget.  Highly recommended!

© 2015 Star Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Hunting Ground

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 104 Minutes

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

RATED: PG-13

COMPANY: Radius

Released Dated: December 1, 2015


Directed by Kirby Dick

Written by Kirby Dick

Produced by Amy Ziering

Co-Producer: Nicole Ehrlich, Bonnie Greenberg

Executive Produced: Amy Blavin, Paul Blavin, Nicole Boxer, Dan Cogan, Robert A. Compton, Maria Cuomo Cole, Ted Dintersmith, Barbara Dobkin, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Amy Entelis, Barbara Gerson, Mark Gerson, Ruth Ann Harnisch, Elizabeth Hazard, Jason Janego, Sarah E. Johnson, Julie Lepinard, Sebastien Lepinard, Vinnie Malhotra, Sukey Novogratz, Anne O’Shea, Brian Quattrini, Tom Quinn, Wendy Schmidt, Regina Kulik Scully, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Julie Smolyansky, Jacki Zehner

Associate Producer: Audrey Logan, Ian J. Rose, Chao Thao

Music by Miriam Cutler

Cinematographer: Aaron Kopp, Thaddeus Wadleigh

Edited by Douglas Blush, Derek Boonstra, Kim Roberts


Starring:

Kirby Dick – Interviewer

Amy Ziering – Interviewer

Amy Herdy – Interviewer


From the makers of The Invisible War comes a startling expose of sexual assault crimes on U.S. college campuses, their institutional cover-ups and the devastating toll they take on students and their families. Weaving together verite footage and first person testimonies, the film follows the lives of several undergraduate assault survivors as they attempt to pursue – despite incredible push back, harassment and traumatic aftermath – both their education and justice.


Imagine as a parent, your daughter or son are accepted to a university that they have dreamed of attending.

Imagine as a new student, so excited about college life, making new friends, having new experiences.

But an instant, a life is shattered when that student is victimized and raped.  But not only facing the shame of being a victim, but to be victimized the college institution who try to brush away anything that relates to the rape.  And for those who try to speak out, they are treated poorly, unfairly by not just the college but also other students who send death threats or harassing messages.

The cover-ups are real and it’s a problem in America at a good number of U.S. college campuses.

These victims never had a voice until these victims joined together, worked together in making sure their voices were heard.

“The Hunting Ground” is a documentary written and directed by Kirby Dick and focuses on victims such as Andrea Pino, Annie E. Clark, two former University of North Carolina students who were raped while enrolled in school.  Victims who came across many other victims and led a campaign to file a Title IX complaint against the college but then took their mission to be the voice of many victims.

The documentary features interviews with victims of rape, interviews with the parents who talk about the anguish their children had lived through and unfortunately, the anguish that have led to others committing suicide.  Interviews with law enforce and even those who worked high level in the institution who tried to fight for women’s rights and found themselves out of a job.

“The Hunting Ground” is one of the most infuriating, heartbreaking documentaries of victims and survivors of college campus rape and how these survivors came together for justice.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Hunting Ground” is featured in Anamorphic widescreen (1:78:1) and in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film was shot digitally and picture quality is good, dialogue is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Hunting Ground” comes with Other Stories with Sofie Karasek of UC Berkely and Susan Struble of Dartmouth (7:07) and “Annie & Andrew Answer Questions About Assault” (19:20).

EXTRAS:

Comes with a slipcover.


“The Hunting Ground” is one of the most shocking, infuriating and heartbreaking documentaries I have watched all year.

But it’s a documentary that also shows a glimmer of hope as victims unite to make sure their voices are heard and that the college institutions they attend, or have attended hear them loud and clear instead of covering up their stories in the name of financial/economic means and also to protect their star athletes.

Director and writer Kirby Dick did an amazing job in making sure the film becomes the voice of many women who were raped on campus and had no voice, as a few college institutions questioned these victims as they were responsible for the rape.

And to make things worse, when these women who were victims try to speak out, their own fellow students turn their back on them, some going as far as sending harassing e-mails or text to death threats.

But you see and hear the anguish from these women, a few who are trying to move on with their lives but a few you can see, who were broken and hurt, because their college did nothing to protect them.

What is even more interesting are the facts of how many female students are victimized on campus, also knowing that men are also victimized on campus.  How the rapes are perpetrated by people they know.  And some schools who go as far as expelling a student after they graduated.  Some who also let those who were expelled, bring the perpetrator back into their college to avoid a law suit.

I was deeply angered by the lack of action of various universities.  I am sickened to see how some of these people leading are schools are doing all they can to protect the school and not protecting those who were raped or victimized?  I am disappointed that many women including men, have suffered through the inaction of the system.

Also, interviews with law enforcement shows the problems they have when going up against a university and some schools that have a rule for campus police that they are not allowed to interview athletes, athletic coaches and staff and I’m just in awe of how people reacted.

You can’t help but feel heartbroken and angry by this documentary.  And despite all these unfortunate and devastating situations, there is a silver lining in that these brave individuals, these victims of the rape and institution inaction, have come together and led a campaign to file a Title IX complain against various universities.

Those who were in college administrative staff at the time, standing up for those who were victimized, but were let go from their job (and as the universities would say, “not for retaliation”).

But to play devil’s advocate, you only hear from one person who was convicted of rape.  Those who were accused, do not speak on camera of why they did what they did.  But the documentary does show that as many reports of actual rape, there are also just as many false reports.

I have read Slate writer Emily Yoffe’s article on one of the victims featured in the documentary and showcasing the other side of the man who was accused and then why his expulsion was dropped.  I have also read the Washington Examiner’s article by Byron York, who also picked holes within the documentary and its victims.  And possibly one of the biggest parts of the film revolves around Erica Kinsman’s story of how she was raped by then star Florida Seminoles QB and I have read the article by National Review writer Stuart Taylor, Jr. showing the other side not shown in the documentary.

While there are two sides of every story, I believe there is a problem nationwide of institutional cover ups of campus rapes and director Kirby Dick also shows not just from the victim, but also law enforcement to those who worked for a college institution discussing the problems that exist as well.

But Kirby Dick has made a documentary with a powerful message.  His way of structuring the film and building upon case after case, but most importantly, have these brave women, brave men who were victims and also the parents of these victims giving their words, sharing their anguish and educating the viewer of what is happening in today’s college campuses.

This is an amazing documentary with a powerful message and all parents of students going to college, should really sit down and watch this film with their kids.

Kirby Dick’s “The Hunting Ground” is an eye-opening documentary with a heartbreaking, infuriating and yet powerful message that you will not forget.  Highly recommended!

 

Sailor Moon R: Season 2 – Set One (A J!-ENT Anime on DVD Review)

November 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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For those who are new to the “Sailor Moon R” animated series and never owned the DVD releases before, then I can easily recommend “Sailor Moon R” (moreso for the Blu-ray version than the DVD release for the better picture and audio quality). A classic anime series that continues the sailor soldiers battle against evil and a new person that comes into Usagi’s life, definitely give “Sailor Moon R: Season Two – Set One” a chance!

Image courtesy of © Naoko Takeuchi/PNP, Toei Animation Film. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Sailor Moon R: Season 2 – Set One

ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 1992

DURATION: (Episodes 47-68) 530 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9, English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English subtitles

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: July 14, 2015


Originally created by Naoko Takeuchi

Director: Junichi Sato, Kunihiko Ikuhara

Script by Katsuyuki Sumisawa, Megumi Sugihara, Shigeru Yanagawa, Sukehiro Tomita

Storyboard by Junichi Sato

Music by Kazuo Satou, Takanori Arisawa, Tetsuya Komoro

Character Design by Kazuko Tadano

Art Director: Junichi Tanijuchi

Art Design by Tadao Kubota, Takamura Mukuo

Produced by Iriya Azuma, Kenji Oota, Munehisa Higuchi


Voiced by:

Aya Hisakawa/Kate Higgins as Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury

Emi Shinohara/Amanda C. Miller as Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter

Kotono Mitsuishi/Stephanie Sheh as Princess Serenity/Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon

Michie Tomizawa/Cristina Vee as Rei Hino/Sailor Mars

Rica Fukami/Cherami Leigh as Minako Aino/Sailor Venus

Keiko Han/Michelle Ruff as Luna

Mika Doi as Queen Serenity

Tohru Furuya/Robbie Daymond as Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Kamen/Prince Endymion

Yasuhiro Takato/Johnny Yong Bosch as Artemis


After their epic battle, the Sailor Guardians are called back to action when some new and a powerful enemies appear! Ail and An are alien siblings bound to the mysterious energy-devouring Makai Tree. And the Black Moon Clan, led by Prince Demande, has the power to destroy all of future Crystal Tokyo! Things get complicated when a mysterious pink-haired girl falls from the sky, demands the Legendary Silver Crystal, and claims Mamoru for her own! Could there also be a new Sailor Guardian?


The second season of “Sailor Moon” has arrived on Blu-ray (and DVD) and is titled “Sailor Moon R”.

After the battle with the Dark Kingdom, Usagi and the Sailor Soldiers are back to their normal selves with no recollection of each other and memories forgotten.  But when a new evil appears in the form of Ail and Ann, Usagi and her friends must come together once again to face off against the new evil that has come to fight them.

Meanwhile, what happens when Usagi confront the Moonlight Knight?  And also, who is this small girl with bright pink that has fallen from the sky and has moved into the home of Usagi?

Find out in “Sailor Moon R: Season 2 – Set One” now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

What is “Sailor Moon”?

Considered as one of the most successful anime franchise in Japan, “Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon” was a manga and anime series that captivated fans worldwide.

Created by mangaka Naoko Takeuchi, the manga was serialized in Nakayoshi from 1991-1997, received 18 tankobon volumes and ran for 200 episodes on TV Asahi from 1992-1997.  Even receiving an English dubbed adaptation during the mid-90s.

The series would spawn three animated films, musicals, video games, toys, clothing and more!  And to this day, the popularity of “Sailor Moon” continues with a new generation of fans.

With a new series titled “Sailor Moon Crystal” released in Japan and licensed for streaming in the USA by Viz Media on Hulu and Neon Alley in 2014, to make sure voice acting is consistent in the new series, the original series was redubbed in English by the current cast.

And to help promote the new series, Viz Media has released the original first 23 episodes of season one on Blu-ray!

The series revolves around  a Juban Middle School teenager named Usagi Tsukino.  A girl who is not too smart, often seen crying and loves eating.  One day, she encounters a black cat with a crescent-shaped symbol on its forehead.  Meanwhile, there is talk around town of a masked vigilante named Sailor V stopping criminals and becoming popular thanks to the media exposure.

But one day, as she comes into contact with the black cat, the cat begins to talk and introduce herself as Luna.  Luna gives Usagi a brooch which allows her to transform into Sailor Moon, whenever she is in danger.

And as Usagi starts to meet other Sailor Soldiers such as the studious and intelligent Ami Mizuno (Sailor Mercury), the Shinto priestess Rei Hino (Sailor Mars), the strong and tall Makoto Kino (Sailor Jupiter) and the singer Minako Aino (Sailor Venus) along with the mysterious Tuxedo Mask, together they fight any evil that comes their way.

In the second season titled “Sailor Moon R”, a new evil has come to shake things up with the Sailor Soldiers.  Meanwhile, who is the mysterious young girl with pink hair that has fallen from the sky?


The main characters of “Sailor Moon R: Season Two – Set One″ are:

  • Sailor Moon/Usagi Tsukino – The main protagonist. A teenager attending Juban Middle School who is clumsy, not-too-smart, often crying and often hungry.  But she is a person that has a lot of love, compassion and understanding towards people and animals.  She can transform into Sailor Moon, a soldier of love and justice.
  • Tuxedo Mask/Mamoru Chiba – A student at Usagi’s school, he often teases her and drives her mad.  He is a mysterious persona known as Tuxedo Mask and often aids Sailor Moon and the other Sailor senshi.
  • Sailor Mercury/Ami Mizuno –Very intelligent and always studying.  Ami can transform into Sailor Mercury, Soldier of Water and Wisdom.  Appears in episode 8.
  • Sailor Mars/Rei Hino – Rei is a miko (shrine maiden) and works as a Shinto priestess.  She has the power of precognition and uses Shinto scrolls to nullify evil.  Sailor Moon is the Soldier of Fire and Passion.  She is often arguing with Usagi.  Appears in episode 10.
  • Sailor Venus/Minako Aino – A Sailor Soldier known as Sailor V.  She dreams of becoming a famous singer and idol.  Similar to Usagi who has Luna, Minako has a white cat named Artemis.
  • Luna – A black cat in Earth form and companion to Usagi. A former advisor and servant to Queen Serenity, she was sent to Earth to look after the Sailor Soldiers.  She is often giving Usagi advice.
  • Artemis – A white cat in Earth form and companion to Minako.  He cares deeply for Luna.
  • Chibiusa – The future daughter of Neo-Queen Serenity and King Endymion in the 30th century.

 


VIDEO & AUDIO

It’s important to note that if you want better picture quality, you will definitely want to watch this series on Blu-ray for better picture quality.

As for the DVD release, “Sailor Moon” is presented in its original size ratio of 4:3 standard definition.  It’s important to note that “Sailor Moon” did not receive the same expensive remastering and restoration as “Ranma 1/2” or “Dragon Ball Z”. So, the series does show its age, moreso on DVD.

With that being said, I watched this series when it first came out in Japan and was distributed via Japanese rental video stores via the VHS years and watched the series when it was presented in bad quality video back then and now want to watching the series again, while the series does exhibit its age and wear, it’s probably the best that this series will look.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are no special features that came with “Sailor Moon R: Season 2 – Set One”.

EXTRAS:

“Sailor Moon R: Season 2 – Set One” comes with a slipcover.


During my college years, I was a fan of the “Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon” series.  I watched the original series in Japanese at the time and along with “Dragon Ball Z” and “Dragon Ball GT”, it was one of the few anime series I was watching from Japan during a time when Japanese video rental stores were everywhere in California.

Watching these episodes in not the greatest quality, may it be in Japanese or English fan subtitled, it didn’t matter as I was able to watch the popular hit anime series in America (as a release of the series on video seemed as it was never going to happen in the early ’90s).

I purchased the anime soundtrack to “Sailor Moon R” at the time.  Attended the very early anime conventions in America, in which you would see your few Sailor Moon cosplayers during the early ’90s and I can easily remember playing the “Sailor Moon S” fighting game on the 3DO with a few people who have gone on to be big names in the anime industry and then purchasing “Sailor Moon Super S” for nearly a hundred bucks on PlayStation.

And of course, remembering the U.S. English dub release of “Sailor Moon”.  Reading the Sailor Moon manga series from the old Mixx Zine years and purchasing the Japanese soundtracks of “Sailor Moon”.

So, in some ways, I can easily say that watching “Sailor Moon” was part of young life and possibly my first foray into watching an anime series that featured a cast primarily of strong female characters.

While “Sailor Moon S” will always be my favorite series of all “Sailor Moon” series for its more darker tone, I did enjoy the first season for its lighthearted humor and like all character-building seasons and with the release of “Sailor Moon R” from Viz Media on Blu-ray and DVD, I can say that I enjoyed the series primarily as it focuses on the mysterious girl from the future, Chibiusa.

While I don’t want to get too technical with the series until the second set for “Sailor  Moon R” is released, because I don’t wan to spoil anyone who hasn’t watched the series just yet.  But it’s an interesting take on time trial and how Chibiusa handles herself around Usagi and Mamoru.

With that being said, the series retains its consistency with the first season as the Sailor Soldiers take on various forms of evil in each episode.  The humor and style of the series is carried over from the first season, but the series takes an interesting direction as Mamoru now knows who Usagi is and the two become closer, while a small girl from the future definitely changes Usagi’s life for good.

As for the DVD release, as mentioned, if you want the better quality of the series, the Blu-ray release is the way to go.  But as for the DVD, the series looks good on DVD but the age of the series does show.  The series did not receive the same expensive restoration and remastering as “Ranma 1/2” or “Dragon Ball Z”, so if you owned the older DVD’s, there is no reason to upgrade to this DVD (unless you prefer the newer English voice dub), while I do recommend upgrading to Blu-ray, especially as the Viz Media releases contain more episodes (and are much cheaper than the older DVD releases).

Unfortunately, there are no special features included on this set as well.

Overall, for those who are new to the “Sailor Moon R” animated series and never owned the DVD releases before, then I can easily recommend “Sailor Moon R” (moreso for the Blu-ray version than the DVD release for the better picture and audio quality).  A classic anime series that continues the sailor soldiers battle against evil and a new person that comes into Usagi’s life, definitely give “Sailor Moon R: Season Two – Set One” a chance!

 

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