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Gurren Lagann Volume 1 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“’A mecha anime from the folks at GAINAX that is imaginative, sexy and explosive.  The HD release of “Gurren Lagann Vol. 1″ looks absolutely vibrant and there is only one word to describe this series… Fantastic!”

Image courtesy of © GAINAX, KAZUKI NAKASHIMA/GURREN LAGANN-MOVIE COMMITTEE. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Gurren Lagann Vol. 1

DURATION: Episodes 1-5 (125 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: November 11, 2014


Created by GAINAX

Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Assistant Director: Masahiko Ohtsuka

Series Directors: Kazuki Nakashima

Character Designs: Atsushi Nishigori

Mecha Designs: You Yoshinari

Design Works: Shigeto Koyama

Art Director: Yuka Hirama (BIHOU)

Color Design: Harumi Takahoshi

Director of Photography: Toyonori Yamada

Editing: Junichi Uematsu

Sound Director: Tohru Nakano

Music: Taku Iwasaki

Produced by TV Tokyo, DENTSU, Aniplex


Featuring the following voice talent:

Katsuyuki Konishi/Kyle Herbert (as Kamina)

Marina Inoue/Michelle Ruff (as Yoko Littner)

Tetsuya Kakihara/Yuri Lowenthal (as Simon)

Yukari Fukui/Bridget Hoffman, Hynden Walch (as Nia)

Daiki Nakamura/Doug Stone (as Dayakka)

Kana Asumi (as Kiyal)

Kana Ueda/Stephanie Sheh (as Kinon)

Kisho Taniyama (as Kittan)

Masaya Onosaka/Steven Blum (as Leeron)

Mitsuki Saiga/Johnny Yong Bosch (as Rossiu)

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Sam Ergal (as Viral)

Rina Satou/Karen Strassman (as Kiyoh)

Shizuka Itou/Julie Ann Taylor (as Boota and Darry)


This is the story of a man who has yet to realize what destiny holds in store for him…

In the distant future, mankind has lived quietly and restlessly underground for hundreds of years, subject to earthquakes and cave-ins. Living in one such village are two young men: Simon, who is shy and naive; and Kamina, who believes in the existence of a “surface” world above their heads. The destiny of these two starts moving drastically when the ceiling of their village falls in, and a gigantic “Gunmen” and a beautiful girl named Yoko, wielding a superconductive rifle, come from the surface. Together, Kamina, Simon, and Yoko ride the mecha “Lagann” that Simon digs out of the ground, and fly up to the surface!


Fantastic!

It’s the single word that describes how I feel about “GURREN LAGANN SET 01″ released by Bandai Entertainment.

GAINAX brings us a mecha anime series and having created so many and with so many created for so many decades, you often wonder if innovative, imaginative storylines can still be developed.  Well, with “GURREN LAGANN”, the creators of this anime series manages to create something unique, fun, explosive and just enjoyable.

With this first volume set, we get both vol. 1 (Episodes 1-5)  of “GURREN LAGANN” now available on Blu-ray!

The popular anime titled “Tengen Toppai Gurren Lagann” aired on TV Tokyo back in April 2007 and completed it’s 27-episodes by Sept. 2007 and centers around two characters Simon and Kamina.  Both live underground with a bunch of orphans and due to earthquakes, they developed a system of people using manual drilling holes in order to move around.

But one day, the life of a young driller named Simon discovers a small mini drill underground. Simon is a shy young guy.  Not too confident in himself and hates how his parents were killed during an earthquake.  So, he works hard in order for everyone to live but also to collect whichever treasure he can find.   While continuing his digging, he discovers a small drill and not long after, he discovers a huge robotic face.

As for Kamina, he’s the cool leader of a gang.  He once saw the atmosphere with his father a long time ago and dreams of making it up to the surface but no one underground believes him.  He comes up with a plan to get to the surface with the help of Simon’s drill.  T

he plan backfires and Kamina is put into a jail.  Meanwhile, a big monster robot-like figure comes out of the sky and lands in the group’s village underground.  A girl sporting a bikini top and tight short shorts with a large rifle starts fighting with the monster robot.   Her name is Yoko and all of a sudden both Kamina and Simon try to assist her.

As the monster grows vicious, Simon introduces Kamina and Yoko to what he found underground.  It happens to be a small robot that Simon takes control of and eventually the three fight the robotic monster and end up defeating it. Also, end up making it above the surface where they discover sunlight, blue skies, mountains and more…monster robots.  It is learned that these things are called “Gunmen” and are piloted by Beastmen who have a hatred towards humans.

The three must survive and outwit and defeat the Gunmen and with Kamina’s leadership and willing to take anything head on with his machismo ego, he calls Simon’s robot Lagann.  Kamina eventually comandeers a Gunmen robot and calls it Gurren.  As a duo, the group is called Gurren Lagann.

Vol. 1 consists of the following episodes:

  1. Episode 1 – Bust through the Heavens with your Drill! - The main episodes that introduces us to Simon, Kamina and Yoko.   The three join forces to take on the monster gunmen.
  2. Episode 2 – I Said I’m Gonna Pilot That Thing!! - With Simon having his own robot and more Gunmen showing up to fight, Kamina decides to get a gunmen mecha all for himself which he names “Gurren”.  But they get some support from the people of Yoko’s village and the village’s top mechanic, Leeron (a savvy and intelligent mechanic but who happens to be gay and not afraid to flirt with Kamina and Simon).  But with Kamina and Simon now having their own mecha’s, they name their team “Gurren Lagann”.
  3. Episode 3 – Who Do You Think You Are, Having Two Faces? - With the defeat of the Beastmen and their Gunmen, Simon, Kamina and Yoko go to hunt for some food but while Kamina retrieves some food, he runs into a Beastman named Viral.  A savage warrior who becomes the major rival for Kamina.
  4. Episode 4 – Having Lots of Faces Doesn’t Make You Great!  – After the battle with Viral,  Simon, Kamina, Yoko and Leeron decide to destroy the Beastmen’s base.  By eliminating it, the group might have that peace that they wanted.  But while looking for food, the group run into another group known as the Black Siblings…friend or foe?
  5. Episode 5 – I Don’t Get It, Not One Bit! - As the group continues on their travels, they end up in another underground village and brought their by a teen named Rosiu.  But in this village, they have their own strict religion and strict rules in which they can only keep their population  at 50 people or less.    Well, things change when a couple has a set of triplets, thus going over the 50-person mark.  So, each person must draw a stick and whoever has a colored stick must leave the village and create a new life up in the surface.

VIDEO:

“Gurren Lagann” the series finally gets its release on Blu-ray!  The character designs by Atsushi Nishigori are fresh and very different.  I truly dig the character designs and the whole anime is quite colorful and looks stylish and pretty cool.

With the series remastered in HD, the clarity of the series is much more evident, colors are much more vibrant and overall animation is much more sharper.  “Gurren Lagann” looks fantastic in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Gurren Lagann” is presented in both English and Japanese Linear PCM Stereo.

I’ve watched both episodes in Japanese and English and as much as I enjoyed the Japanese voice track, when I watch an action-packed mecha, it’s great to finally listen to the audio in lossless Linear PCM Stereo.   With that being said, I am very pleased with the English vocal dub.  You have quality voice talent with Kyle Herbert as Kamina (does the voice of Son Goku  in “Dragon Ball Z”), Michelle Ruff as Yoko (does the voice of Rukia for “Bleach”) and Yuri Lowenthal (does the voice for many video games and anime such as Sasuke Uchiha for “Naruto”) involved.  So, whether you listen to the soundtrack in Japanese or English, both are well-done!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gurren Lagann Vol. 1″ comes with the textless opening and ending plus an episode 5 preview (OA Ver.).

EXTRAS:

“Gurren LagannVol. 1″ comes with a slipcase, a double-sided poster and a 16-page booklet featuring creator interviews and an illustration gallery!


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I can’t help but think how awesome this series was to watch!  From the stylish presentation, the wacky humor, the adult-like humor and pervertedness and the imaginative mecha Gunmen robots and attack modes, the battles and the fun characters and the music, there is just too much to like about “Gurren Lagann”.  I absolute found the series to be quite fantastic!

The character of Kamina is just so wild and crazy with how he is just so carefree and just doesn’t plan for battle, he just does what he believes in and what he thinks is right and decides at the spur of the moment.  He has a way with his words, no matter how crazy it may sound but it makes his character so cool!

As for Simon, he is simply the underdog.  He is a major component to the team because he pilots Lagann but at the same time, his fear and his emotions get the best of him.

Yoko, her character is sexy and cool.  Sometimes you wonder if GAINAX or the character designer Atsushi Nishigori created such a sexy character for the purpose of being sexy or for the fact that many cosplayers will try to emulate the character and not wear much clothes.  Nevertheless, her character is cool as her body features somehow provide the fan service and also gets Simon distracted.

And of course, you have a group of other characters that are starting to come their own and as we become supportive human characters, you take special notice of their mecha (Gunmen).  They have a sort of character themselves because they are an extension of the people that pilot them but the amount of power demonstrated by them and what is unknown about the gunmen they pilot is just amazing.

And of course, this anime series is action-packed.  In fact, there is a good balance of humor and action and each episode keeps your eyes glued to your television set and when it’s all done, it leaves you craving for more.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is vibrant and sharpness of the overall animation is much more evident in this HD version versus compared to the Bandai Visual releases from several years ago.  Painted backgrounds feature much more detail and teh overall animation looks magnificent in HD!  Also, the lossless soundtrack is in Japanese/English Linear PCM Stereo, thus the soundtrack sounding much more crisp and clear.

This first volume of “Gurren Lagann” comes with a slipcase, a 16-page booklet with interviews and gallery plus a double sided poster.

“Gurren Lagann” can be described in one word and that is “Fantastic!”

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The Bubble (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Bubble” looks and feels like a longer “Twilight Zone” episode with its cheesy moments and acting, but cinematically, the film does have a place in history of being a Space Vision 3-D film that proved its effectiveness back in 1966 and would inspire other films to be shot in Space Vision years later. If you love classic sci-fi films, then “The Bubble” is for you!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Bubble

FILM RELEASE: 1966

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:50:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Color Tinted, German 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: November 18, 2014


Written and Directed by Arch Oboler

Produced by Arch Oboler

Associate Producer: Marvin J. Chomsky

Music by Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter

Cinematography by Charles F. Wheeler

Editing by Igo Kantor

Art Decoration by Marvin J. Chomsky


Starring:

Michael Cole as Mark

Deborah Walley as Catherine

Johnny Desmond as Tony Herric

Kassie McMahon as Doctor

Virginia Gregg as Ticket Cashier

Barbara Eiler as Talent


THE BUBBLE is the “”eerie and enjoyable”” (Los Angeles Times) science-fiction spine-tingler that shocked audiences and revolutionized the cinematic world of 3-D! The eye-popping thrills and chills begin when a plane carrying pregnant Catherine (Deborah Walley) and her husband Mark (Michael Cole) is forced to land in a mysterious remote town. The townspeople are quite strange, indeed: they repeat certain phrases and movements ceaselessly and stagger through the streets like brain-dead automatons. Then there is an even more terrifying discovery – the zombie inhabitants live under an impenetrable dome, trapped like insects in a jar. Can Catherine, Mark and their newborn baby escape The Bubble, or will they become mindless drones trapped in a human zoo?
THE BUBBLE introduced the ground-breaking Space-Vision 3-D system, which pioneered a new way of both shooting and exhibiting 3-D film. These single-strip 35mm stereoscopic techniques were used in almost all major 3-D features for the next thirty years, making THE BUBBLE not only an “”amazing”” (Hollywood Reporter) sci-fi thriller, but also an important milestone in the history of cinema. Now fully restored from the 35mm negatives by the 3-D Film Archive.


The year was 1966 and it was the year that Arch Oboler’s 1966 horror sci-fi film “The Bubble” was released in theaters.

Considered revolutionary for its time, the film was the first stereoscopic motion picture filmed in 4-D Space-Vision, a process which utilized a new lens and projection system that enabled high-quality polarized widescreen projection from a single-strip of 35 mm film.

Critics were amazed how Arch Oboler was able to use the technology to make scenes float in front of the screen but it’s important to note that the original filmed that was screened was 112 minutes long but with critics writing that the film should have been edited-down, Oboler cut the film down to 91 minutes and the original footage is now considered lost.

While the film had been released on video, the picture quality was poor.  That was until the rights to the film were acquired in 2009 by the 3D Film Archive and the new owners were shocked to find out that no one had spent the money to preserve the 35 mm master.

And thus a painstaking process of manually cleaning up the dirt and repairing the original film.  For the HD restoration, viewers will also see more of the image as Space-Vision prints were cropped.  As the single splice lines were removed and movie was cleaned up, “The Bubble” on Blu-ray, courtesy of Kino Lorber, will feature a cleaner, sharper and brighter picture.  In addition, Arch Oboler’s spoken introduction from 1966-1968 plus the original opening title which was removed back in 1976, has been added back to the film.

“The Bubble” begins with Mark (portrayed by Michael Cole) and his wife Catherine (portrayed by Deborah Walley) on a plane piloted by Tony Herric (portrayed by Johnny Desmond).

The couple are frantic because Catherine started showing labor pains and there is no doctor or medical facility anywhere close to the mountain area that they are staying.

As Tony tries to communicate with air traffic control, he is unable to because of a severe storm and he has to land the plane quickly as Catherine is about to give birth.

When Tony lands the plane, they end up in an area with lightposts.  A taxi comes by to pick the three up but all the driver does is repeat the same words over and over again.

Mark and Catherine are able to get a hospital and Catherine gives birth to a baby boy.  But as Mark tries to talk to the doctor, his manner is unusual and he doesn’t say a word.

As Mark goes to find Tony, he finds him in a western style saloon and Tony mentions that the bartender keeps repeating the same thing over and over, so it’s “serve yourself” at the bar.  Eventually, Tony meets a dancer who keeps dancing with no music playing at all.

The following morning, Mark notices the town is busy with people but the same people are doing the same routine, saying the same words and behaving unusual as if something bad has happened to them.

As Mark and Tony go to investigate, they find an entrance leading to a chair.  As Tony sits down on the chair, he is immediately taken over by something and starts to behave unusual.

As Mark and Catherine leave with their baby, along with Tony and the dancer, they try to leave the town by vehicle and as they drive, they see their lights reflecting on the surface.  They then realize that the location they are in, is encased by an impenetrable bubble.

With no way to escape or communicate with the outside world, both Mark and Catherine see a woman and her baby being ingested by something that comes out of top of the bubble.  Are they like insects that some supernatural force are keeping captive?  Why are people behaving strangely?  Can Mark, Catherine and Tony escape at all?

 


VIDEO:

“The Bubble” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:50:1 aspect ratio) via 2D and 3-D.

First, lets discuss the 2D presentation.  If you saw a previous release of this film on video, you probably remember how bad the quality of those releases were of this film.  Fortuntely, thanks to the painstaking restoration process by the 3-D Film Archive, of manually cleaning up the dirt and repairing the original film to looking like it originally did.

For the HD restoration, viewers will also see more of the image as Space-Vision prints were cropped.  As the single splice lines were removed and movie was cleaned up, “The Bubble” on Blu-ray, courtesy of Kino Lorber, will feature a cleaner, sharper and brighter picture.  In addition, Arch Oboler’s spoken introduction from 1966-1968 plus the original opening title which was removed back in 1976, has been added back to the film.

While the film has been restored, there was only so much work the 3-D Film Archive could do, especially when there were other means, those other means cost a fortune to do any major restoration work.

With that being said, this film does have its moment of softness but it looks so much better compared to the original video versions which were terrible.  So, fans of this film will be happy to see the better clarity in the 2D version.

Now as for the 3-D version, this is how the film was meant to be seen.  You can watch images float, a tray float around the bar and other situations that made people in 1966 shriek!  While in today’s standards, it may not seem so significant to us but back in 19666, for audiences to see these creepy monster-like heads, hands or things floating around, I have no doubt in my mind that children and possibly adults were scared of the 3-D of this film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Bubble” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Monaural.  Dialogue is understandable and clear, as with the eerie score courtesy of Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter.  But don’t expect too much from this soundtrack.

I didn’t notice any pops or crackle during my viewing of the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Bubble” comes with the following special features:

  • Alternate Opening - View the alternate opening in 2-D or 3-D.
  • Essay by Bob Furmanek – A PDF that can be read about Space-Vision and the 3-D boom of 1953.

After watching “The Bubble”, and going through the motion of putting myself in the shoes of a person watching this film in Space Vision 3-D back in 1966, I can only imagine how mesmerized I would be about 3D technology and seeing objects float thanks to a pair of 3-D glasses.

I remember when I watched a 3-D film for the very first time and I was blown away by the technology and one would think how will technology improve itself.

As 3-D films are quite banal and movies have become more about depth than floating objects that look as they are going directly to your face, watching Arch Oboler’s “The Bubble”, you can see how he was ahead of his time with the development of the technology and why movie goers and film critics went crazy for the film.

But let’s side-step away from the 3-D technology and focus on the film.

“The Bubble” is a film that reminds me of a “Twilight Zone” episode as the film follows three people trying to make an emergency landing and find themselves in a land where people  are acting unusual, replaying their movements over and over and saying the same things over and over.

As the visitors – Mark, Catherine (along with her newborn baby) and their pilot Tony try to getaway from area, they find out that the area and the people living around the area are caught inside an impenetrable bubble and are desperate to get out.  And to make things worse, something is snatching people within the bubble and killing them.

Can they find a way to escape the bubble?

As one can expect from this mid-’60s sci-fi horror film, it has its cheesy, maddening moments.  For one, the people are acting strange and unusual and it doesn’t hit Mark and Tony late that something unusual is going on.    Some of the dialogue between the characters are quite cheesy and some of the acting is quite bad.  Watching it in HD, you can see how the special effects were done as the string holding the floating tray can be seen much more clearly.  But still, I enjoy these cheesy sci-fi films of the past.  I grew up watching them and there is something charming about these older sci-fi films.

While “The Bubble” is far from being scary, the notion of getting stuck inside a bubble or to hear actress Deborah Wally scream her lungs out after a tragedy, plus add in the eerie music and you can’t help but see why people were scared of the film.

And once again, you put yourself in the shoes of viewers back then.  With the 3-D glasses and seeing a tray float or creepy monster heads coming near you, it’s the right combination of using the 3-D technology, eerie music and circumstances surrounding the characters to really spook the viewer out!  And this film accomplished that.

As for “The Bubble”, the film was no doubt cleaned up as best as it could possibly can, considering the original negatives were not taken care of. And with the resources that the 3-D Film Archive had, the group had to manually clean the film as best as they can.  And considering that previous video editions of “The Bubble” were not in the greatest condition, this Kino Lorber version is the definitive version of the film to own.

Not only do you get the 2-D version, but for those with 3-D enabled Blu-ray players and TV’s (or monitors), you can watch and enjoy this film as it was meant to be seen… in 3-D!

While there is an alternative opening in 2-D and 3-D, if you have a Blu-ray rom, you can read a PDF with an essay by Bob Furmanek about the restoration process and the accomplishments of Arch Oboler in creating the Space Vision 3-D (or 4-D as it was called back then).

Overall, “The Bubble” looks and feels like a longer “Twilight Zone” episode with its cheesy moments and acting, but cinematically, the film does have a place in history of being a Space Vision 3-D film that proved its effectiveness back in 1966 and would inspire other films to be shot in Space Vision years later.

If you love classic sci-fi films, then “The Bubble” is for you!

When the Game Stands Tall (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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 “When the Game Stands Tall” is an inspirational and motivating film about De La Salle High School’s head coach but also how he made his team as successful as they have become, even after the end of their 151-game win streak.  But also how this new team took on another powerhouse football team and overcame adversity.  It may not be the best football film ever made but it was definitely entertaining and uplifting!

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


TITLE: When the Game Stands Tall

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 115 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English and French – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

COMPANY: Affirm Films/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Thematic Material: A Scene of Violence and Brief Smoking)

Release Date: November 18, 2014


Directed by Thomas Carter

Screenplay by Scott Marshall Smith

Story by Scott Marshall Smith, David Zelon

Book by Neil Hayes

Produced by David Zelon

Co-Producer: Adam C. Stone

Executive Producer: Cathy Schulman

Associate Producer: Nathon S. Lewis

Line Producer: Kenneth Burke

Music by John Paesano

Cinematography by Michael Lohmann

Edited by Scott Richter

Casting by Victoria Thomas

Production Design by Jaymes Hinkle

Art Direction by Raymond Pumilia

Set Decoration by Kristin Bicksler

Costume Design by Claire Breaux


Starring:

Jim Caviezel as Bob Ladouceur

Alexandr Ludwig as Chris Ryan

Michael Chiklis as Terry Eidson

Laura Dern as Bev Ladouceur

Clancy Brown as Mickey Ryan

Ser’Darius Blain as Cam colvin

Stephan James as T.K. Kelly

Matthew Daddario as Danny Ladouceur

Joe Massingill as Beaser

Jeessie Usher as Tayshon Lanear

Matthew Frias as Arturo

LaJessie Smith as Jamal

Richard Kohnke as Ricky Salinas


Inspired by the true story, Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) plays high school football coach Bob Ladouceur during the season that changed everything. As coach of the Spartans Football Team, Bob always tells his players that winning doesn’t matter. Yet somehow, with the aid of assistant coach Terry Eidson (Michael Chiklis, TV’s “The Shield”), he’s led the team to a record-breaking 151 straight victories. When his wife Bev (Laura Dern, Jurassic Park) urges him to refocus on his family, Bob is blinded by the pressure to keep the streak alive. Now, in the midst of a season of crisis and tragedy when the Spartans stand to lose everything, a remarkable young player (Alexander Ludwig, The Hunger Games) helps Bob rediscover that teamwork outshines personal glory When The Game Stands Tall.


When it comes to high school athletics, there is one high school that will be remembered for its dominant winning streak of its football team and that is De La Salle High School in Concord, California.

From 1992 to 2004, the high school had the national record of 151-game wins until they were defeated by Bellevue High School outside of Seattle back in 2004.

But behind-the-scenes of De La Salle’s win streak is what was documented in the book “When the Game Stands Tall” by Contra Costa Times sportswriter Neil Hayes, which was released back in 2003. Hayes followed the team for practices, games and meetings and followed the team as it was undefeated during their 2002 season.

Within the story of De La Salle’s win streak, there was also a story of tragedy and also loss and it would inspire writer Scott Marshall Smith to create a screenplay and later lead to a film adaptation loosely based on the book.

Directed by Thomas Carter (“Coach Carter”, “Save the Last Dance”), the film would star Jim Caviezel (“The Passion of the Christ”, “The Thin Red Line”), Alexander Ludwig (“The Hunger Games”, “Race to Witch Mountain”), Michael Chiklis (“The Shield”, “The Commish”, “Fantastic Four” films), Laura Dern (“Jurassic Park”, “Blue Velvet”), Clancy Brown (“The Shawshank Redemption”, “Starship Troopers”), Ser’Darius Blain (“Star Trek Into Darkness”, “Footloose”), Stephan James (“Home Again”, “Selma”) and Matthew Daddario (“Delivery Man”, “Breathe In”).

And now “When the Game Stands Tall” will be released on Blu-ray in December 2014.

“When the Game Stands Tall” introduces us to the dominating football team, the De La Salle Spartans based in Concord, California.

Led by their head coach Bob Ladouceur (portrayed by Jim Caviezel), the team holds its final meeting as team before their championship game.  And as the high school seniors step up and wanting to leave De La Salle as champions, both he and assistant coach Terry Eidson (portrayed by Michael Chiklis) notice that their juniors are not really saying anything at the team meetings.

We see how head Coach Ladouceur handles his meetings, motivates his players and places team sports as a priority more than the streak itself.  But yet, most people are more interested in De La Salle High School’s winning streak.

The team easily defeats their opposition and become champions once again and set a record-setting 151-game wins.

As the team celebrates, while it should be an easier time during the off-season proves to become difficult.

Bob continually receives letters to coach college football which would improve their finances but he is unwilling, meanwhile his wife Bev (portrayed by Laura Dern) wonders when he will take it easy and spend more time with the children as they are getting older.

He also faces problems as the conference are disgusted about how star football players are traveling far distances to attend De La Salle High School instead of allowing them to play for high school in the district that they live.  And so other coaches feel its unfair that De La Salle allows it because they feel its cheating.  But to help appease the coaches, assistant coach Terry Eidson helps calm waters by working on a major game pitting De La Salle High School versus the #1 football team in the country, Poly High School in Long Beach, CA.

But as the head coach tries to handle the stress of his job, he worries about his players.  His senior player Cam Colvin (portrayed by Ser’Darius Blain) has a chance to play college ball and become a pro player but after the death of his mother, Cam is not sure what to do as he has to be there for his younger brother.  Meanwhile, star player Terrance G. Kelly is recruited by the Oregon Ducks, but on the day before he is to go to Oregon, he is shot and killed, while trying to pickup a family member from a party.

The stress would eventually get to Coach Ladouceur who has a heart attack and now is unable to coach.

With the new varsity team which includes the head coach’s son, wide receiver Michael (portrayed by Gavin Casalegno), star running back Chris Ryan (portrayed by Alexander Ludwig) and egotistical wide receiver Tayshon Lanear (portrayed by Jessie Usher) not playing good football and not playing as a team, De La Salle High School loses to Bellvue High School and thus ending the streak, will De La Salle High School ever get back on its feet without their head coach?  Especially with their big game against Poly High School coming up?


VIDEO:

“When the Game Stands Tall” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Picture quality is presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio.  The film looks fantastic in HD as outdoor scenes are vibrant and show very good detail.  Skin tones are natural and black levels are nice and deep.  I didn’t notice any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“When the Game Stands Tall” is presented in English and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English, French and Spanish-Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. Dialogue is crisp and clear, as well as the music! The lossless soundtrack is more dialogue and musically driven, so it’s more front and center-channel driven.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“When the Game Stands Tall” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio CommentaryFeaturing audio commentary with director Thomas Carter.
  • Selected Scenes Audio Commentary – Featuring selected scenes commentary with director Thomas Carter and De La Salle High School head coach Bob Ladouceur.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes - (14:31) Featuring six deleted and extended scenes.
  • Undefeated: Making When the Game Stands Tall – (12:50) A featurette about a movie about the game of football and the book that the film was based on.
  • Gridiron Action – (7:44) How Allan Graf (Second Unit Director/Stunt Coordinator) made sure the hits and tackles look right on film.
  • The Heart and Soul of a Program: Bob Ladouceur – (11:50) A featurette about capturing the style of head coach Bob Ladouceur in a film.

EXTRAS:

“When the Game Stands Tall” comes with an UltraViolet code to allow for streaming to computers, tablets or smartphones.  The Blu-ray release also comes with a DVD version of the film.


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As a football fan, you can’t help but be proud of the De La Salle High School football program and what they were able to accomplish for over 30 years.  And when I saw the trailer for the film, the first thing that came to my mind is if we are going to get a football film along the lines of “Friday Night Lights”, “We Are Marshall” or “Remember the Titans”.

I remember reading the news about former De La Salle High School’s star rushing back Terrance Kelly being shot and killed by an unknown assailant the day before he was to leave to Oregon State.  And to later read that he was mistakenly killed by a thug who thought he was someone he disliked. But the fact is that Terrance happened to be in the wrong part of Richmond and like many people in the crime infested area, he was killed for no apparent reason.

This was a player who did everything right with his life and no matter how much he was protected by his family, protected by his coach and played amazing football, this young man full of promise would not live to live his dream and play college football.

I’ve read about De La Salle beating Poly High School in Long Beach and this would interest me as well, as we played high school football against Poly.

So, I’m a big football fan and I love inspirational football films.  So, I looked forward to watching “When the Game Stands Tall” which is loosely based on De La Salle High School’s amazing run.  I say loosely because the events that happens in regards to players, didn’t happen.  The matchup between De La Salle and Poly did not happen the same year that the team lost against Bellvue in Washington.

But what this story is mostly about is how a team was united because of their coach.  Coach Bob Ladouceur was no doubt a coach who cared about his players.  He cared about their success as individuals, he cared about them playing as a team and was no doubt their rock, who helped them get over their challenges, prepare them each week for their big game but to not be tied into how many wins they had, what’s important is how they work as a team.

And for a great team during De La Salle’s amazing 151-game winning streak, life was not easy.  As a high school head coach, he struggles of taking the big job with a college team.  He struggles with other coaches accusing him of cheating for stealing star players from their district, he has to deal with his players personal issues but despite those challenges, he tries to keep a level head and calmness.  But unfortunately, that stress would lead to him having a heart attack and having to stay away from the game for a little while, and watching the team face difficulties and seeing that the team spirit is slowly deteriorating during practice.

So, we watch as Coach Ladouceur comes back to the field to coach and bring these players back up to speed and to have them believe they can win.

While the film is inspirational and entertaining, the difficulties with a film such as “When the Game Stands Tall” is that the first half, the more dramatic moments happens with its senior players who are graduating.  Audiences start to warm up to these seniors, who are shown during the first half and are no longer or just have a small amount of camera time for the second half.

The storyline shows its strength earlier in the film as it deals with relationships, tragedy and difficulty and as the head coach has a prominent role in the first half, by the second half, too much is invested in the new varsity team as it struggles from losing its first two games and must practice to take on the awesome Poly High School football team.

While Coach Ladouceur is instrumental in the second half, he becomes less of the focus as the storyline focuses on Tayshon Lanear’s ego, Chris Ryan’s father wanting him to beat the touchdown record or Danny Ladouceur’s problems of dropping the ball.  The first half was a storyline that was captivating, the second half is all about the football game between De La Salle vs Poly.  Which I don’t really mind too much at all as the game was exciting to watch.

But there are criticism made by some people who watched the film and wondered why there is discussion of the bible and there are two things to remind those interested in watching the film and that is De La Salle High School is a Catholic High School and Affirm Films is a Christian-based film distribution company.  Is this an preachy Christian film?  No.  But there is discussion of the bible, there is Coach Ladouceur’s speech at T.K.’s funeral and other than that, there is nothing overly-preachy about this film.

But if you are expecting profanity-laced discussions, teenage sex or nudity, “When the Game Stands Tall” is not that type of film.  If you are bothered by the mention of the bible or even God, then this film is not for you.

“When the Game Stands Tall” is an entertaining and inspiring sports film with Christian elements that are not overly preachy.  As a Christian and a person who loves football, it’s great to see Affirm Films backing this film but also to see more quality Christian films be made with better production quality with well-known talent.  I have seen the quality of films distributed by Affirm Films improve within these past five years and it’s great to see a film like “When the Game Stands Tall” being made.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic as a lot of shots are filmed outdoors and picture quality is vibrant.  Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.  While the lossless soundtrack is crystal clear and is more dialogue and music-driven, so expect a more front-channel lossless soundtrack.  As for special features, you get audio commentary, deleted and extended scenes and more!

Overall, “When the Game Stands Tall” is an inspirational and motivating film about De La Salle High School’s head coach but also how he made his team as successful as they have become, even after the end of their 151-game win streak.  But also how this new team took on another powerhouse football team and overcame adversity.  It may not be the best football film ever made but it was definitely entertaining and uplifting!

 

It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“It Happened One Night” is a romantic comedy classic that must be watched by cinema fans interested in learning about the career of Frank Capra or watching a historically significant film starring both Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. But also for any fans of Screwball comedy or romantic comedies in general. This Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection is no doubt the definitive version of the film to own! Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736

YEAR OF FILM: 1934

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, English Monaural, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: November 28, 2014

Directed by Frank Capra

Screenplay by Robert Riskin

Based on the Short Story by Samuel Hopkins Adams

Executive Producer: Harry Cohn

Produced by Frank Capra

Cinematography by Joseph Walker

Edited by Gene Havlick

Art Direction by Stephen Goosson

Costume Design by Robert Kalloch

Starring:

Clark Gable as Peter

Claudette Colbert as Ellie

Walter Connolly as Andrews

Roscoe Karns as Shapeley

Jameson Thomas as Westley

Alan Hale as Danker

Arthur Hoyt as Zeke

Blanche Friderici as Zeke’s Wife

Charles C. Wilson as Gordon

Opposites attract with magnetic force in this romantic road-trip delight from Frank Capra, about a spoiled runaway socialite (Claudette Colbert) and a roguish man-of-the-people reporter (Clark Gable) who is determined to get the scoop on her scandalous disappearance. The first film to accomplish the very rare feat of sweeping all five major Oscar categories (best picture, best actor, best actress, best director, and best screenplay), It Happened One Night is among the most gracefully constructed and edited films of the early sound era, packed with clever situations and gags that have entered the Hollywood comedy pantheon and featuring two actors at the top of their game, sparking with a chemistry that has never been bettered.

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“It Happened One Night”, the 1934 award winning film that would usher in a genre of  romantic comedies known as the “Screwball Comedy”.  It was the film that would set the stage for filmmaker Frank Capra and would lead him on the path of more Academy Awards and hit films, it would earn screenwriter Robert Riskin an Academy Award and it would be a film that would earn Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert an Academy Award. In fact, “It Happened One Night” would win all five major Academy Awards, a feat. that would not be accomplished until 40 years later.

It was a film that generated excitement during its time and would be so popular that the film would stay in theaters for years after it premiered.

But surprisingly, “It Happened One Night” was a film that was almost never made.

For Frank Capra and Robert Riskin, the two were heading out to work on projects until Capra was told by Columbia studio executive Harry Cohn that he had to work on a film and he would have to work on the film “It Happened One Night” (a film based on Samuel Hopkins Adams short story “Night Bus”) with a production schedule that would last around four weeks.

Before Columbia was a major film studio, it was part of the “poverty row” (low-budget film studios) and for the major studios, in the effort to control unruly actors who ask for a pay raise or had contractual issues, these talent would be loaned to “poverty row” as part of the actor’s punishment (often called “banished to Siberia”).

And for Clark Gable, his problems with MGM’s L.B. Mayer led him to be punished and sent to Columbia to be part of Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night”.

As for actress Claudette Colbert, she had no interest in shooting the film, as she was more interested in vacationing in Sun Valley and asked for a lot of money ($50,000 which was a lot at the time) to shoot the film in four weeks.  Thinking that there was no way Columbia would pay for her to star in a film for that much, she figured that there was no chance that she would be hired.  But to her chagrin, Cohn agreed to her demand and “It Happened One Night” would eventually become a film.

After shooting the film, Colbert was quoted as saying “I’ve just finished the worst picture in the world”.

And to everyone’s surprise, Columbia would have a hit on their hands.  So much excitement that even the film critics couldn’t understand how America has warmed up to this film.

But “It Happened One Night” would eventually become a classic romantic comedy, the beginning of Screwball Comedy but most of all, establish in cinema a style that would best be known as a Frank Capra film.

In 1993, “It Happened One Night” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  And in 2013, the film would receive restoration.

And now, the Capra classic, “It Happened One Night” has received the Criterion Collection treatment and will be released in November 2014 on Blu-ray and DVD.

“It Happened One Night” is a film that begins with Ellen “Ellie” Andrews (portrayed by Claudette Colbert) in a heated argument with her wealthy father, Alexander (portrayed by Walter Connolly).  Ellie had eloped with pilot and fortune-hunter “King” Westley (portrayed by Jameson Thomas) and her father wants the marriage annulled.

Upset with her father, Ellie jumps off her father’s boat and runs away by boarding a bus from Florida to New York City, where she can be closer to King.

But while in the boat, she meets a former newspaper reporter named Peter Warne (portrayed by Clark Gable), a brash man who has a problem with the wealthy and is not afraid to tell people how he feels.

Noticing Ellie is trying to evade her father, he tells her that if she gives him an exclusive story about her trying to reunited with King, he won’t tell her father where she is.  If she refuses, he will call him immediately.  And of course, Ellie agrees to his demands.

But as Ellie has no money, she relies on Peter for her trip to New York City.  And the two must endure a road trip with not much money and find a way to get to their destination.  But can these two complete opposites stand in being with each other during this road trip?

VIDEO:

“It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as white and grays are well-contrast while black levels are nice and deep. The film features a good layer of grain and the clarity of the film on Blu-ray showcases the detail of the film in high definition. I did not notice any damage to the film.

Comparing to the original DVD releases that I’ve had, clarity is evident.  Sharpness was evident, along with the black levels which were inky and deep.  There is a good amount of grain throughout the entire film and no doubt, this is the definitive version of “It Happened One Night” in terms of picture quality!

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from a 35mm safety composite fine-grain made from the original nitrate negative and a 35mm nitrate print. The digital restoration was performed by the Prasad Group in Chennai, India.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736″ is presented in English LPCM 1.0. The monaural soundtrack is clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original nitrate optical soundtrack and a 35mm nitrate print. The soundtrack was restored by Sony Pictures, with additional restoration by the Criterion Collection. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX 3.”.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736″ comes with the following special features:

  • Frank Capra Jr. Remembers…”It Happened One Night” - (11:16) A 1999 interview with Frank Capra Jr. discussing his father and the origins of “It Happened One Night”.
  • Screwball Comedy? - (38:36) Film critics Molly Haskell and Phillip Lopate discuss “It Happened One Night” and if it is a screwball comedy.
  • Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House – (12:03) A 1921 silent short (Capra’s first film) based on Rupyard Kipling’s poem “The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House”.  Featuring a new score composed and performed by Donald Sosin.
  • Frank Capra’s American Dream – (1:36:02) A 1997 documentary about Frank Capra directed by Ken Bowser and hosted by Ron Howard.  Featuring many film historians, actors and directors who were influenced by Capra’s work.
  • AFI’s Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Frank Capra – (59:11) The American Film Institute presented its 10th lifetime achievement award to director Frank Capra in 1982.  This version is a slightly edited television version of the AFI program.
  • Trailer – (1:24) The original theatrical trailer for “It Happened One Night”.

EXTRAS:

“It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736″ comes with a poster-sized insert with the essay “All Aboard!” by Farrah Smith Nehme on one side and production credits on the other side.

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A film that was never expected to be a huge hit for Columbia, “It Happened One Night” was a film that would captivate audiences for its romantic comedy storyline but also for audiences seeing a side of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert that they have never seen before.

“It Happened One Night” also benefited from the fact that it was one of the last romantic comedies created in 1934 before the MPAA enforced the 1930 production code later that year.

It was a film with many scenes to remember.  From the dunking donuts scene, the sexual innuendo without the two characters having to engage in anything intimate onscreen, the bus ride as everyone sings “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze”.

And of course, women saw Clark Gable’s bare chest, men saw the sexy leg of Claudette Colbert, but it was the storyline of complete opposites having to be together during a road trip.

As the character Peter Warne is set on his own ways, not caring about money, nor caring for spoiled brats… a reference to Ellie, the daughter of the wealthy Alexander Andrews and it’s a life of luxury that she only knows.  But while on this road trip with Peter, she exposed to another life, a life with no money, a life of seeing people who were hurt by the Great Depression and people struggling to get by.  But most importantly, learning a lot about life through Peter and Peter, in his way, his flippant style of trying to knock down Ellie from her high horse.

This is an important distinction of the film because it was released when families and pretty much the entire nation were trying to heal from the Depression, we have a film that was anti-money or anti-wealth.  About seeing life through those who struggle, in this case Peter Warne, out-of-a-job and willing to spend time with the Heiress in hopes that it will earn him a job.  But who knew that these two complete opposites, would find some love along the way.

So, there is so much to love about the story and enjoy the characters of “It Happened One Night”.  It was the film that introduced me to screwball comedies, the film that would introduce me to “poverty row” films, the film that would introduce me to the work of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert many years ago.  But most importantly, lead me to the path of discovering more wonderful films from Frank Capra.

As for this Criterion Collection release, this Blu-ray release is no doubt a wonderful tribute to not just the film (which looks amazing on Blu-ray!), but it’s the inclusion of two major interviews about the film, one significant documentary in regards to the oeuvre of Frank Capra but also the original 1982 special of the American Film Institute honoring Frank Capra.  And in addition to that, Capra’s first film, a silent short from 1921, “Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House” is included.

Overall, “It Happened One Night” is a romantic comedy classic that must be watched by cinema fans interested in learning about the career of Frank Capra or watching a historically significant film starring both Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.  But also for any fans of Screwball comedy or romantic comedies in general.  This Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection is no doubt the definitive version of the film to own!

Highly recommended!

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” would also be remembered for the magnificent, yet creepy performances by its main talent and their movement and expressions, introducing the “twist ending” to cinema and also for its gorgeous set design that would set the course for the German Expressionist cinema movement for many years to come. For silent film fans, especially those collecting silent film on Blu-ray, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is a fantastic release that is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

FILM RELEASE: 1920

DURATION: 77 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Color Tinted, German 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: November 18, 2014


Directed by Robert Wiene

Story and Screenplay by Carl Mayer, Hans Janowitz

Produced by Rudolf Meinert, Erich Pommer

Music by the University of Music, Freiburg and Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky

Cinematography by Willy Hameister

Production Design by Walter Reimann, Walter Rohrig, Hermann Warm

Set Decoration by Hermann Warm

Costume Design by Walter Reimann


Starring:

Werner Krauss as Dr. Caligari

Conrad Veidt as Cesare

Friedrich Feher as Francis

Lil Dagover as Jane Olsen

Hans Heinrich von Twardowski as Alan

Rudolf Lettinger as Dr. Olsen


In 1920, one brilliant movie jolted the postwar masses and catapulted the movement known as German Expressionism into film history. That movie was The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a plunge into the mind of insanity that severs all ties with the rational world. Director Robert Wiene and a visionary team of designers crafted a nightmare realm in which light, shadow and substance are abstracted, a world in which a demented doctor and a carnival sleepwalker perpetrate a series of ghastly murders in a small community. This authoritative edition of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a 4K restoration scanned from the (mostly) preserved camera negative at the German Federal Film Archive.


With the many adaptations of “The Cabinet of Caligari” in the last 30-years, while many may have familiarity with the 1991 remake by Peter Sellars or the 2005 remake by David Lee Fisher or even perhaps the operatic or stage versions, there is one that still remains as a true classic for cineaste.

And that is the 1920 German silent horror film directed by the legendary director of German expressionist films, Robert Wiene, and an adaptation by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer.

Considered as one of the most important films in the German Expressionist movement, the film was known for its abstract set design, jerky character movements but most importantly, it was the film that introduced the “twist ending” in cinema.

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is an important film of cinema and while the film received restoration in the mid-’90s, it would receive a 4K restoration scanned from the (mostly) preserved camera negative at the German Federal Film Archive and would be receive its digital restoration premiere at the 64th Berlin International Festival in 2014.

And now, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” will be released on Blu-ray in November courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” begins with a flashback told by protagonist, Francis (portrayed by Friedrich Feher) and he begins telling an elderly man a story about him and his fiance, Jane (portrayed by Lil Dagover).

France tells a story about how he and his friend Alan (portrayed by Hans Heinrich von Twardowki) who were competing for the affection of Jane.  One day, while visiting a carnival at the German mountain village of Holstenwall, they see Dr. Caligari (portrayed by Werner Krauss) and his somnambulist, (a term that means “sleepwalking”) named Cesare (portrayed by Conrad Veidt) who emerges from a coffin and is controlled hypnotically by Dr. Caligari.

Dr. Caligari tells the audience that because Cesare is constantly asleep, he can predict the future and knows every secret.

This captivates Alan who goes to as Cesare of how long will he live.  And Cesare responds, “that he will die at dawn”.  This freaks out both Francis and Alan but Francis tries to keep his friend in better spirits and they should focus on competing for Jane’s affections.

But that night, an ominous figure comes into Alan’s bedroom and kills him.

As Francis is bothered by Alan’s fate and now knows that Cesare’s prophecy comes true, he tells Jane of what happened and both do their own investigation.  But as Jane goes to the circus to investigate Doctor Caligari and Cesare, Caligari learns about the investigation and Cesare is sent to kill her.

But will the evil Dr. Caligari and Cesare succeed with their evil plans or will Francis and Jane find a way to stop them?

 

 


VIDEO:

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). This is the best I have seen of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” to date.  From the early ’90s VHS which was not complete and quality was not good at all, to the 1995 restoration that was available on DVD which improved the film greatly.  Looking at this version is simply amazing because there is a tremendous amount of clarity and significant cleanup.  I did not see any of the damage that plagued earlier copies or the flickering that was in the previous two versions.

The 4K restoration was created by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung in Wiesbaden from the original camera negative held at the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv in Berlin.  The first reel of the camera negative is missing and was completed from different prints.  Jump cuts and missing frames in 67 shots were completed by different prints.

A German distribution print is not existing.  Basis for the colors were two nitrate print from Latin America, which represent the earliest surviving prints.  They are today at hte Filmmuseum Dusseldorf and the Cineteca di Bologna.

The color tinting was fixed and I am just amazed by the digital image restoration by L’Immagine Ritrovata – Film Conservation and Restoration in Bologna.  The intertitles used were resumed from the flashtitles in the camera negative and a 16 mm print from 1935 from the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum fur Film und Fernsehen in Berlin.

This is the definitive version of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” to date!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is presented in German DTS-HD MA 2.0 with optional English subtitles.  You get two musical scores, one by the University of Music, Freiburg which I absolutely loved and the other by Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky, for those who want a more modern take to the music of the film.  And it was great to see Kino Lorber bring in DJ Spooky because I’m a fan of his musical work and I would never expect his music to show up as a musical score in a silent film, so it’s a very good alternative for those who want something more modern and digital.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” comes with the following special features:

  • Caligari: How Horror Came to the Cinema - (52:53) A fascinating German documentary about “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”, German Expressionist cinema and its correlation from the Weimar to the Nazi era.
  • Image Gallery – View stills from “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”.
  • Restoration Demonstration I – (1:18) Comparison of before and after the digital restoration.
  • Restoration Demonstration II – (2:42) Comparison of the 1984 and the 2014 digital restoration.
  • Trailer – (1:08) The theatrical trailer for “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”.

EXTRAS:

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” comes with a four-page insert with an essay by Kristin Thompson, film historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 


“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is an important film for any fan of silent film.  A film that captures the style of the German Expressionist genre with amazing efficacy with its wonderful and artistic set design, the character movement and expressions up to wonderful twist, which the film is best known for introducing to cinema.

But the release of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” on Blu-ray is amazing not only for its 4K digital restoration but for longtime cinema fans, it’s the journey of getting to this point of a complete and gorgeous looking version of the film in HD.

Back in the ’90s, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” was available by Kino on VHS and that version was not exactly the best version to watch of the film (it was missing a lot of footage) until David Shepard produced a new restoration of the film in 1995 and it was this version that people saw a more complete vision.

But seeing this 4K Digital Restoration with its magnificent picture quality, not only are the frames that were in bad shape not as evident but the constant flickering that plagued the older version appears to have disappeared in this Blu-ray release.

There was no doubt a labor of love and dedication in bringing this film out with much better clarity, especially with the closeups of the characters and you can actually see the backgrounds much better and just value the set design as they are oddly shaped and was no doubt a design that help bring German Expressionist film to the forefront.

But what makes this film so appealing is its performance by Werner Krauss as the creepy Dr. Caligari (who would go on to be a major actor in the Nazi regime over a decade later) and his somnambulist Cesare (portrayed by Conrad Veidt, unlike his counterpart, fled Nazi Germany with his Jewish wife to become a British citizen and eventually appear in the film “Casablanca”).

I can only imagine that those who watched this movie in the theaters being scared each time these two appeared on the big screen.  Both are creepy characters and both give a great performance of a deranged doctor and a brainwashed individual and both are evil antagonists.

But then watching the film and possibly finding resolve until they get to the final scenes that no doubt is a significant twist that you never see coming.

In the United States, film critic Carl Sandburg was impressed.  In his review (which you can find in the book, “Carl Sandburg’s Film Reviews and Essays: 1920-1928″) written on May 21, 1921, Sandburg writes, “I am glad I went because I have wanted to see a different movie and this is so different it’s a knockout”.

Sandburg also tries to dissect of who this movie is for, bringing up those who loved the film for its twist ending and those who appreciate the film for being artistic and believed this was for art rather than public consumption.

But it was great to know that him and other film critics felt that back in 1921, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” was “the most powerful and original photoplay”.

But you can understand why it was a powerful film at the time, this was the scariest silent film that year.  German Expressionist films were looked upon as art but for any movie-goer, the effect of weird body movements of a character was out of the norm and so different from any film of that era.  But like any scary story told, it wouldn’t be a horror story if you don’t feel that unsettling feeling after watching the film and in this case, it was courtesy of its twist ending which was brilliant!

As for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned, the picture quality and clarity is magnificent.  As much as I loved the David Shepard restoration of the 90’s, the 4K digital restoration of this film brings out the clarity of the film, may it be the closeups of the character’s faces or the wonderful set design.  No more film warping or damage, white specks or anything.  This restoration is amazing!  And as for the audio, two musical scores are offered.  One that you would expect from a silent film and a DJ Spooky modern musical score which is a wonderful alternative.  And as for special features, you get the 52-minute German documentary “Caligari: How Horror Came to the Cinema” and more!

1921 would become a big year for German Expressionist cinema, from Robert Wiene’s “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” to  F.W. Murnau’s “The Haunted Castle” and Fritz Lang’s “Destiny”, the film would go on to inspire Hollywood horror films and also inspire many more adaptations for many more decades to come.

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” would also be remembered for the magnificent, yet creepy performances by its main talent and their movement and expressions, introducing the “twist ending” to cinema and also for its gorgeous set design that would set the course for the German Expressionist cinema movement for many years to come.

For silent film fans, especially those collecting silent film on Blu-ray, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is a fantastic release that is highly recommended!

22 Jump Street (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“22 Jump Street” is more sillier and crazier than the first film.  But also has more action featuring Schmidt and Jenko!  If you loved the first film, “22 Jump Street” will no doubt entertain you!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc., LSC Film Corporation and MRC II Distribution Company L.P. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: 22 Jump Street

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 112 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English and French – Audio Description Track , Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Language Throughout Sexual Content, Drug Material, Brief Nudity and Some Violence)

Release Date: November 18, 2014


Directed by Phil Lord, Chris Miller

Screenplay by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman

Story by Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill

Based on the TV series by Patrick Hasburgh, Stephen J. Cannell

Produced by Jonah Hill, Neal H. Moritz, Channing Tatum

Executive Producer: Brian Bell, Stephen J. Cannell, Reid Carolin, Tania Landau, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Ben Waisbren

Music by Mark Mothersbaugh

Cinematography by Barry Peterson

Edited by Keith Brachmann, David Rennie

Casting by Nicole Abellera, Jeanne McCarthy

Production Design by Steve Saklad

Art Direction by Scott Plauche

Set Decoration by Tracey A. Doyle

Costume Design by Leesa Evans


Starring:

Jonah Hill as Schmidt

Channing Tatum as Jenko

Peter Stormare as The Ghost

Wyatt Russel as Zook

Amber Stevens as Maya

Jillian Bell as Mercedes

Ice Cube as Captain Dickson

The Lucas Brothers as Keith and Kenny Yang

Nick Offerman as Deputy Chief Hardy

Jimmy Tatro as Rooster

Caroline Aaron as Annie Schmidt

Joe Chrest as David Schmidt

Queen Latifah as Mrs. Dickson

Dave Franco as Eric Molson

Rob Riggle as Mr. Walters


After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) when they go deep undercover at a local college. But when Jenko meets a kindred spirit on the football team, and Schmidt infiltrates the bohemian art major scene, they begin to question their partnership. Now they don’t have to just crack the case – they have to figure out if they can have a mature relationship.


Schmidt and Jenko are back!

With the success of the 2012 action film starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum and Ice Cube and a comedy adaptation based on the 1987 TV series, the film that was budgeted at $42 million, would go on to earn $201.6 million in the box office.

That would ensure the sequel “22 Jump Street” which hit theaters in June 2014 and once again, becoming a box office hit earning over $330.5 million (created with a budget of $65 million).  And in November, “22 Jump Street” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“22 Jump Street” begins with Morton Schmidt (portrayed by Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (portrayed by Channing Tatum) pursuing a group of drug dealers led by a man named Ghost (portrayed by Peter Stormare).  Unfortunately, the duo end up messing up and despite the failure, Deputy Chief Hardy (portrayed by Nick Offerman) knows that Schmidt and Jenko has achieved success as undercover cops, so the two are put back in the program led by Captain Dickson (portrayed by IceCube), which has moved next door to 22 Jump Street.

And now, the duo will go undercover as college students to find out who is responsible for supplying the drug known as WHYPHY (Work Hard Yes Play Hard Yes) to students, leading to a death of a female student on campus.  All they have on the dealer is that the person has a peculiar tattoo.

As Schmidt and Jenko become college students, both try to fit in.  Jenko who was great in football back in high school, shows off his skills in college and quickly becomes friends with the jocks, especially the quarterback Zook (portrayed by Wyatt Russell) and Rooster (portrayed by Jimmy Tatro).  And as Jenko is accepted to the parties with the jocks, they don’t welcome Schmidt.

Feeling unappreciated, Schmidt feels that Jenko tries to do his own investigation but while visiting a slam poetry event, he meets an art student named Maya (portrayed by Amber Stevens).  As Schmidt is to flirt and impress Maya, he also improvises his slam poetry, impressing her.  The two end up partying together with other poets, while Jenko is partying with his jock friends and as Jenko has a strong bond with Zook as athletes, Schmidt and Maya end up sleeping together (not knowing that Maya is the daughter of Captain Dickson).

While Jenko gets caught up in the life of college football and hanging out with people like him, he and Schmidt eventually begin to grow apart and argue.  And both decide to work on their own to solve the case, when they really need to work together.

Will Schmidt and Jenko find out who is responsible for distributing WHYPHY on campus?

 


VIDEO:

“22 Jump Street” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1). For video quality, the sequel is much better than the first.  As the first film was about cinematographer Barry Peterson (“Jumper”, “Zoolander”, “Starsky & Hutch”) to shoot the film with more subdued colors. With the sequel, you have vibrant colors, as many shots were done outdoors.  Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep and if anything, the picture quality looks fantastic on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“22 Jump Street” is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA English and Spanish-Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. As one would expect from a film with plenty of action, the lossless soundtrack for “22 Jump Street” is fantastic. From gun shots, explosions, crunching metal to you name it…there is wonderful use of the surround channels and LFE. Dialogue is crisp and clear and even the music sounds fantastic! Overall, listeners will enjoy the immersive soundscape of those action sequences during their viewing of the film.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“22 Jump Street” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio CommentaryFeaturing a hilarious audio commentary with directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (39:52) Featuring 22 deleted scenes with optional commentary.
  • The Perfect Couple of Directors – (9:34) Chris Miller and Phil Lord discuss being a directing duo.
  • Everything is Better in College – (7:49) A featurette about shooting the film in college.
  • Janning and Chonah – (7:32) Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum and their comedic chemistry.
  • New Recruits – (9:45) A featurette about the new characters in “22 Jump Street”.
  • The Perfect Line – (7:09) Improvisation and jokes used on “22 Jump Street”.
  • Don’t Cut Yet – (8:25) Shooting the jail scene and the amount of retakes done.
  • Joke-A-Palooza – (5:53) Outtakes from “22 Jump Street”.
  • Line-O-Ramas – (9:37) Five improvised scenes.
  • The Dramatic Interpretation of 22 Jump Street - (9:54) A dramatic interpretation of the entire film.
  • Zook & Mcquaid Scout Reel – (2:16) The full Zook and McQuaid football video clip.
  • Jenko Split – (:43) The Jenko split (parody of the Jean Claude Van Damme commercial).

EXTRAS:

“21 Jump Street” comes with an UltraViolet code to allow for streaming to computers, tablets or smartphones.


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One of the most difficult challenges any hit film will encounter, is creating a sequel that can be better than the first.

With “21 Jump Street” becoming a tremendous hit but also surprising fans with members of the original cast showing up and the shenanigans that ensued in the first film, the comedy and action made the film a bonafide hit!

And of course, as much money “21 Jump Street” made in the box office, it was no surprise to see Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum reunite for the sequel.  And judging by the strong box office earnings in 2014, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a third film.

But is “22 Jump Street” worthy of watching?  The film is no doubt full of comedy, full of action and no doubt appealing to a younger demographic with college and spring break parties.  And there is no doubt that filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have tapped into a recipe for success without going Happy Madison Production style (a reference to Adam Sandler films) or Judd Apatow films that are known for their moronic humor, but at the same time, becoming box office hits.

The first film dealt with two complete opposites becoming friends and despite their differences, working together to solve a case.  Going through a lot together with a variety of situations and it’s what I loved about the first film.  The two had to start as underdogs and succeed.

Where as the sequel, they have succeeded but now must infiltrate a college and are instantly separated.  Jenko becomes a jock and his circle alienating the more geeky Schmidt, like their old days in high school.  Having had this bromance as partners in the police force, these two were in sync..  So, you would of thought.

So, the sequel works differently as the first film was how these two opposites come together, “22 Jump Street” is about how they came apart and then eventually put away their differences.

The situations are even more unbelievable than ever and it all comes down to whether or not you accept this comedy or don’t.  And as a fan of Happy Madison and Judd Apatow films, you take these films as they are…the good, the bad and the same can be said with Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s “22 Jump Street”.

The fact is that Schmidt and Jenko are too old to play young college students and while a scene with Jenko using a dancing woman as a weapon or Schmidt trying to do hardcore stunts seems too farfetched, the two aren’t afraid to poke fun at themselves.

“22 Jump Street” definitely seems much more sillier and farfetched than the first, and nowhere near the quality of the first film.  But it still manages to have its way of charming the audience with its many jokes and crazy situations and thus ensuring a possible third film, despite its ending credits being a joke within itself of where does the film go now after “22 Jumpstreet”?

The Blu-ray release of “22 Jump Street” looks impressive on Blu-ray as the clarity and detail are wonderful.  Outdoor scenes are vibrant and skin tones are natural while black levels are strong with no signs of banding or artifacts.  The lossless soundtrack showcases strong surround usage and more than enough gunfire and explosions to work out the surround channels and LFE.  And for special features, “22 Jump Street” has a good number of them, including audio commentary, outtakes and more!

Overall, “22 Jump Street” is more sillier and crazier than the first film.  But also has more action featuring Schmidt and Jenko!  If you loved the first film, “22 Jump Street” will no doubt entertain you!

Kill la Kill Volume 2: Limited Edition (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Kill la Kill” is an exciting series with a lot of humor and action.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © TRIGGER, Kazuki Nakashima/Kill la Kill Partnership. 2014 ANIPLEX INC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kill la Kill Volume 2: Limited Edition

DURATION: Episodes 5-9 (100 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0, Subtitles: English and Spanish

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: Suggested 16 and Up

Release Date: October 21, 2014

Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Series Composition: Kazuki Nakashima

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design: Sushio

Art by Saishi Ichiko

Art Director: Shigeto Koyama, Yuji Kaneko

Anime Production: Trigger

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ami Koshimizu/Erica Mendez as Ryuuko Matoi

Ryoka Yuzuki/Carrie Keranen as Satsuki Kiryuuin

Aya Suzaki/Christine Marie Cabanos as Mako Mankanshoku

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Steve Cannon as Hōka Inumuta

Katsuyuki Konishi as Tsumugu Kinagase

Mayumi Shintani/Sarah Williams as Nonon Jakuzure

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Grant George as Uzu Sanageyama

Romi Park as Ragyo Kiryuuin

Shinichiro Miki/Matthew Mercer as Aikurō Mikisugi

Tetsu Inada/Patrick Seitz as Ira Gamagōri

Toshihiko Seki as Senketsu

Yukari Tamura as Nui Harime

Ryuko Matoi spends her days battling student after student as they continue to aggressively confront her in hopes to raise their own status and living conditions as promised to them by Satsuki Kiryuin. In the midst of all the chaos, Uzu Sanageyama, one of the Elite Four, gets permission to face Ryuko in battle. He corners Ryuko with his super-human vision, but Ryuko manages to fight back! This leads Satsuki to resort to drastic measures as she declares to begin the great “Naturals Election,” or “Battle Royale!!”

Now every student at Honnouji Academy must enter an unbelievable ceremony of destruction as they clash to survive for seven whole days to participate in “The King of the Hill Final Battle.” There, Ryuko finally comes face-to-face with the formidable Ira Gamagoori!

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From the creators of “Gurren Lagann” comes “Kill la Kill”!

With 24-episodes airing in Japan between October through March 2014 plus an OVA episode that is schedule for release in Sept. 2014, “Kill la Kill Volume 1: Limited Edition” will be released in the U.S. on Blu-ray in July 2014.

“Kill la Kill” is set in Honnouji Academy, a school that is ruled by the iron-fisted student council president, Satsuki Kiryuin.

Dominated by the student council, each member wears a Goku uniform that give each member superhuman abilities and depending by the number of their uniform is indicative of how strong that individual is.

Meanwhile, Ryuko Matoi joins Honnouji Academy. She is brash and wields half of a scissor-shaped longsword in search of the person responsible for killing her father. And if she finds the person that owns the other scissor blade, she will exact her revenge.

Her first day at school, she meets the energetic Mako Mankanshoku and her younger brother Mataro. And as Ryuko and Mako go to school, Mako witnesses a student getting beaten by the student council.

When Ryuko goes to find out who is responsible for her father’s death, she is quickly beaten by the boxing club captain, Takaharu Fukuroda, who sports a two-star Goku uniform.

Having been beaten and feeling that she has disappointed her father, Ryuko falls inside a trap door and discovers a talking sailor uniform that attaches itself to her. She finds out that her uniform, a “Kamui” named Senketsu, has granted her abilities and now, Ryuko is ready to take on any rivals from Honnouji Academy.

And for student council president, Satsuki Kiryuin, she will give the answers that Ryuko has been wanting only if she can defeat the people that challenge her.

In volume 2 of “Kill la Kill” (episodes 5-9), Ryuko continues to face more challengers but also a sniper named Tsumugu Kinagase.  Tsumugu will do what he can to stop Ryuko from wearing her kamui.  Meanwhile, one of the Elite four, Uzu Sanageyama challenges Ryuko with his Three-Star Goku Uniform know as Blade Regalia.

Meanwhile, Ryuko starts up her own fight club and Satsuki announces her new Naturals Election where students must survive a seven-day battle royal to earn their Goku uniforms.  And Ryuko takes on another Elite four named Ira.

The main characters of “Kill la Kill″ are:

  • Ryuko Matoi – The main protagonist. A 17-year-old who transferred into Honnouji Academy. She wields half of a Scissor Blade and is looking for the person responsible for killing her father. When a Kamui sailor uniform named Senketsu attaches itself to her, she gains special abilities.
  • Senketsu – A kamui and living sailor uniform that gives the user superhuman abilities in exchange for their blood.
  • Satsuki Kiryuin – The ruthless student council president who leads the student council with an iron fist.
  • Mako Mankanshoku – A bubbly, energetic teen that welcomes Ryuko to her family.
  • Mataro Mankanshoku – The younger brother of Mako.
  • Barazo Mankanshoku – Mako’s father who runs a back-alley clinic and a pervert.
  • Sukuyo Mankanshoku – Barazo’s wife and mother of Mako and Mataro. She loves cooking delicious dishes.
  • Ira Gamagoori – Satsuki’s loyal enforcer who lead the disciplinary committee at Honnouji Academy and sports a three-star Goku uniform.

VIDEO:

“Kill la Kill” is presented in 1080p High Definition. What I enjoy about this series is its animation style. Creative character designs but also picture quality that is reminiscent of classic animation. Backgrounds are detailed and beautifully painted, while characters are nicely shaded. Colors are vibrant and I didn’t notice any excessive banding or artifacts during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kill la Kill” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0. The soundtrack is primarily front-channel driven and while voice acting is well-done for both languages, there is no difference in terms of dynamic range.

Subtitles are in English Screen Text, English Dialog & Screen Text and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kill la Kill Volume 2: Limited Edition″ comes with the following special features:

  • Textless OP
  • #7 Textless Ending (Japanese Only)
  • Web Version Previews
  • BONUS DVD: “Kill la Kill” Making Documentary DVD #1 – (50:30) Featuring the behind-the-scenes making of the popular anime series.

EXTRAS:

“Kill la Kill Volume 2: Limited Edition” comes with a double-sided poster and two postcards, one featuring Mako and the other featuring Tsumugu Kinagase.

While I try not to get excited over a series with only four episodes viewed, I will say that from the first four episodes alone, I’m enjoying the series a lot!

From it’s fascinating storyline revolving revenge, a talking sailor school uniform, a high school ruled with an iron fist by its powerful student council president and it’s intriguing antagonists which Ryuko must take on, suffice to say, it’s a captivating storyline with awesome animation and beautifully painted backgrounds.

With volume 2 of “Kill la Kill”, the continued storyline of Ryuko taking on the elite of Honnouji Academy and Satsuki issuing a Naturals Election challenge in that if she defeats each of the Elite Four, she will finally get the details that she wanted.

So, you get five awesome episodes with a lot of action and humor.  Voice acting in Japanese and English is well-done and as with most Aniplex limited editions, you also get a box full of swag with a making of DVD, two collectable postcards and a dual-sided poster.

And I have to say that the “Making Of” DVD is worth watching as you can really see what was involved behind-the-scenes prior to “Kill la Kill” airing on television.  It’s a fascinating documentary that “Kill la Kill” fans will enjoy watching!

Overall, “Kill la Kill” is an exciting series and it’s first four episodes have been captivating and addicting. The second volume definitely sets the stage up as Ryuko now must take on the Elite Four, so it will be interesting to see how the storyline evolves in volume 3.

“Kill la Kill Volume 2: Limited Edition” is highly recommended!

Valvrave the Liberator: Complete 1st Season (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you are a mecha fan or fan of action-driven anime, “Valvrave the Liberator” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © SUNRISE/VVV Committee, MBS. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Valvrave the Liberator: Complete 1st Season

DURATION: 300 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex of America

RATED: 16 and Up

Release Date: September 18, 2014

Director: Kou Matsuo

Series Composition: Ichiro Okouchi

Music by Akira Senju

Original Character Design: Katsura Hoshino

Character Design: Tatsuya Suzuki

Art Director: Masatoshi Kai

Chief Animation Director: Tatsuya Suzuki

Anime Production: Sunrise

Featuring the following voice talent:

Asami Seto as Shōko Sashinami

Haruka Tomatsu as Saki Rukino

Ryohei Kimura as L-elf

Ryota Ohsaka as Haruto Tokishima

Ai Kayano as Aina Sakurai

Aki Toyosaki as Liselotte

Aoi Yūki as Akira Renbōkōji

Daisuke Namikawa as Satomi Renbōkōji

Daisuke Ono as Cain

Hiroyuki Yoshino as Yūsuke Otamaya

Jun Fukuyama as A-drei

Koji Yusa as Figarro

Mamoru Miyano as H-neun

Minako Kotobuki as Takahi Ninomiya

Misato Fukuen as Marie Nobi

Nana Mizuki as Kriemhild

True Calendar, Year 71 – A new age where 70% of the human population lives in space thanks to the development of the “Dyson Sphere,” a city in space.

The world is divided into two main powers: The Dorssia Military Pact Federation, a power which grew out of a military alliance, and the Atlantic Rim United States (ARUS), which grew in power as it expanded its trade agreements. The minor nation of JIOR has declared neutrality between these two forces and maintained its peace through economic prosperity.

Within JIOR’s Sphere, Haruto Tokishima lived an ordinary life as a high school student in the division known as “Module 77″ until the Dorssian military begins their sudden invasion. The whole world will be shaken when Haruto meets the mysterious humanoid weapon, Valvrave!

In the spring of 2013, Sunrise released their latest mecha anime series titled “Kakumeiki Valvrave”.

Directed by Kou Matsuo (“Rozen Maiden”, “Yozakura Quartet”, “Kurenai”) and written by Ichiro Okouchi (“Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion”, “RahXephon”, “Azumanga Daioh” ), the series features music by Akira Senju (“Red Garden”, “Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike”, “Mobile Suit Victory Gundam”), art direction by Masatoshi Kai (“Blue Exorcist”, “Akira”, “Red Garden”) and character designs by Tatsuya Suzuki (“Samurai Champloo”, “Gasaraki”).

And the first season of “Valverave the Liberator” has been released by Aniplex of America.

The series is set during the 71st year of the True Era.  A time where humans have migrated to other planets and live in the Dyson sphere which was constructed around an artificial sun.  The world is divided into the Dorssia Military Pact Federation which is known for its military prowess, while the Atlantic Ring of United States (ARUS) is the other super power known for its military might.

But in between the two superpowers is JIOR (Japan and Islands of the Oceanic Republic) which is a neutral country that is peaceful and chooses no sides.  And because of their economic well being, they were responsible for creating the Dyson sphere.

One day, teenager Haruto Tokishima and his friends from Sakimori High School based in the Dyson sphere’s “Module 77″ were enjoying time together.  For Haruto, what matters to him is spending time with Shoko Shashinami, the daughter of the prime minister of JIOR that Haruto has liked, but has never had the guts to confess his true feelings.

But while enjoying their time together, Dorssia attacks JIOR and sends their team of elite soldiers to capture a powerful mecha known as Valvrave.   While trying to steal Valvrave, one of the JIOR scientists is able to launch the elevator of Valvrave, preventing Dorssia from capturing it.

While Haruto and his friends escape for shelter during the attack, Shoko is caught in a missile attack and she is feared to be dead.  Shocked and angered that Shoko is dead, Haruto wants revenge and he decides to climb inside the cockpit of the Valverave.

Willing to give up his humanity to save Shoko, he is taken over by Valvrave and easily defeats the Dorssia pilots.  But when Valverave lands, Haruto gets out of the cockpit, unaware of what just happened.  The elite soldiers come after him, especially L-eif, a secret agent of the Dorssian military and as L-eif attempts to capture the Valvrave, he shoots Haruto multiple times.

Thinking Haruto is dead, L-eif is shocked that Haruto has awakened but looks like a vampire who then bites into L-eif and takes over his body.  Taking over the body of L-eif, Haruto realizes that as he possess someone with a bite to their neck, he also learns their abilities and Haruto uses L-eif to shoot after his former teammates, making them think L-eif is a traitor.

As Dorssia tries to claim JIOR for their own, the students of Sakimori High School decide they will not allow the Dorssian military control them and they fight back thanks to Haruto and his ability to use the Valvrave.  But as Haruto feels he can help people for the greater good, he starts to find out that he suffers from excessive headaches and his thirst to bite on someone is starting to overcome him

What has happened to Haruto and can the students of JIOR trust anyone during this war?  Especially the other super power, ARUS?

 

VIDEO:

“Valvrave the Liberator: Complete 1st Season” is presented in 1080p High Definition with gorgeous character designs and background art by Sunrise and staff.  Environments are detailed, while character designs are crisp.  Colors are vibrant, line detail is very goo dand I did not notice any banding issues or artifacts during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Valvrave the Liberator: Complete 1st Season” is presented in Japanese Linear PCM Stereo with English subtitles

While I would have enjoyed to hear a more immersive lossless soundtrack, the Japanese dialogue and music is crystal clear.  It’s important to emphasize to those interested in this anime series is that there is no English dub track!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Valverave the Liberator: Complete 1st Season” comes with the textless opening and endings, trailers and commercials.

EXTRAS:

“Valvrave the Liberator: Complete 1st Season” comes with six collectable postcards, a deluxe poster specially illustrated by Katsura Hoshino (the original character designer) and a slipcase.

A mecha anime series with a twist, “Valvrave the Liberator” has a style and feel reminiscent of anime series such as “Mobile Suit Gundam” and also “Lelouch: The Last Rebellion”.

While the adults represent a world of corruption as both Dorssia and ARUS want control of the Valvrave, the students of Sakimori High School are the underdogs.  A group that is trying to be JIOR’s last stand against the superpowers by utilizing the power of Valvrave and also other mecha they discover in secret fortresses underneath their high school.

Throw in a story of a good-natured teenager who behaves almost like a hungry vampire after accepting control of the Valvrave and an antagonist, a skilled secret agent of Dorssia who ends up teaming up with JIOR plus plenty of unanswered questions of loyalty and the underdogs vs. the superpowers type of storyline and you get a chaotic mecha anime series with many teenagers who don’t know if they will survive until the next day.

The first season focuses on the students fighting back as the representatives of JIOR, with no one to trust but themselves, but knowing that they must do all they can to protect themselves against the heavily attacking offensive of Dorssia and the schemes of ARUS.

Suffice to say, the series has caught my attention because of the intrigue of its characters, not knowing who will survive and who will die but also unexpected situations that add more drama but also more mecha action sequences for a variety of characters.

The animation from SUNRISE is beautifully done with backgrounds that are heavily detailed, a colorful palette that is often vibrant and crisp colors that look sharp on Blu-ray!  The lossless soundtrack is presented in Japanese Linear PCM stereo, so while I would love for this to be an immersive soundtrack, the Japanese dialogue and its music are crystal clear.  While special features include the textless openings, trailers and commercials.

You also get the Aniplex swag such as collectable postcards and a poster!

Overall, “Valvrave the Liberator: Complete 1st Season” is an exciting mecha anime series that is different and unique due to how the main protagonist is able to utilize the mecha but also how the hero unfortunately must bare with the burden that in order to save the people he cares about, he must combat his desires to feed on people, even though he knows he is losing the power to control himself.

If you are a mecha fan or fan of action-driven anime, “Valvrave the Liberator” is recommended!

Iceman (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you are open to martial arts action, but with cheesy comedy and situations that come out of left field for no apparent reason, then definitely give “Iceman” a shot!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Zhongmeng Century (BEIJING) Investment Co. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Iceman

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9 widescreen), Cantonese, English, Spanish and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: R (Some violence and Language and Sexual Reference)

Release Date: November 11, 2014

Directed by Wing-cheong Law

Written by Fung Lam, Mark Wu

Produced by Jianxin Huang, Christopher Sun Lap, Donnie Yen

Music by Ying-Wah Wong

Cinematography by Yuen Man Fung, Kenny Tse

Edited by Matthew Hui, David M. Richardson

Starring:

Donnie Yen as He Ying

Wang Baoqiang  as Sao

Huang Shengyi  as May

Yu Kang as San Ko

Simon Yam as Cheung

Lam Suet as Tang

Donnie Yen is a Ming Dynasty palace guard, wrongly accused of murder and hunted by three vengeful brothers. All four are accidentally buried, frozen at the height of battle. 400 years later, they are defrosted and resume their mortal struggle while also adjusting to modern-day life.

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Actor Donnie Yen (“Ip Man”, “Hero”, “Blade II”, “Iron Monkey”) is no doubt one of the most popular actors from China.

Having had a successful career that dates back to 1984, he continues to be one of the box office stars for action films and has able to work on films that range from drama, comedy and action.

And now Donnie Yen collaborates with director Wing-cheong Law (“Election”, “Running on Karma”, “Triad Election”) in an action adventure in 3D that is a loose adaptation of Yuen Biao’s 1999 film (with the same title).

And now “Iceman” is available on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Iceman” is a film that stars Donnie Yen as He Ying, a bodyguard of the Ming Emperor who has traveled long and far to bring back a mysterious disc that would allow a person to time travel.  Unfortunately, upon his return, he is setup and framed for colluding with Japanese pirates and he and his family is sentenced to death.  While trying to escape from Sao (portrayed by Wang Baoqiang) and Niehu (portrayed by Yu Kang), all three men were buried and frozen in time for 400 years.  As a vehicle accident leads to their life pods being opened, He Ying finds himself in modern day Hong Kong.  But while he is able to roam around Hong Kong, so are the others who have awakened and are now finally set free.

While confused to see his homeland changed, he eventually is taken in by a drunken May (portrayed by Huang Shengyi) into her home during Halloween.  Thinking he is costuming as a royal guard, when she wakes up, she and her friends are scared by He Ying and leave her to handle him.

Sao and Niehu end up searching for He Ying and end up being assisted by Indian thieves (who Sao rescues from police) who entice them with curry chicken and curry fishballs.  Because Sao and Niehu shot and killed police officers, they become wanted by police officer, Cheung (portrayed by Simon Yam).  But why does Cheung want to catch these three so badly and how is it that he knows about these individuals?

Meanwhile, May tries to show He Ying around but also trying to get him to trade his gold in for money, money that she is using He Ying for, but only to help her sick mother.  But seeing the good in He Ying, will she try to help him or will she continue to use him?

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VIDEO:

“Iceman” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality shows vibrant colors, clarity and also wonderful lighting, considering many scenes are shot outdoors.    The CG for the most part worked well with the film and there are moments that you can tell, were made for 3D as certain objects come flying out toward the screen.  It’s important to note that the film was only released in the United States as a normal Blu-ray release, not in 3D.

I didn’t see any artifacts nor major banding during my viewing of the film.  If anything, “Iceman” looks great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Iceman” is presented in Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English, Spanish and French Dub.  Dialogue is crystal clear and there are a good number of action scenes that utilized the surround channels and also crowd ambiance.

Subtiltes are in English, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Iceman” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – (20:13) Featuring the making of the Rooftop Building scene, Disco Scene, Lok on Pai, Tuen Mai, Hong Kong, the production and interviews with Donnie Yen, Wang Baoqiang and Eva Huang.
  • Trailer – (1:42) Featuring the theatrical trailer for “Iceman”.

EXTRAS

“Iceman” comes with a slipcover.

iceman-d

Lately, Donnie Yen has been taking on films that showcase martial arts action but also comedy.

Which is not bad as he is currently the most marketable action star in East Asia and he is able to take on a variety roles and no doubt, making a lot of money at it!  It’s a plan that has worked for Jackie Chan and if you have that marketability, take advantage of it.

But it can also be a catch-22 for some talent, especially for a role such as “Iceman” as Donnie Yen sports a wig with longer locks, taking one of the most powerful piss in an action film and it can often be a stretch, when you pair the much older Donnie Yen with younger actress Eva Huang.

And as this film is is an action comedy, while others may dislike the crazy humor of the film, I have watched enough films from Hong Kong and East Asia to tolerate the most craziest of films and “Iceman” is a crazy film.

Like a page out of “Captain America” with a twist, Donnie Yen plays a royal guard named He Ying.  A protector who is trying to give the Ming Emperor the opportunity to time travel but somehow gets caught up in an act of betrayal by his childhood friend.

He and his former friends/soldiers have all awakened from a very long slumber.  But as He Ying tries to learn more about modern day Hong Kong, he is under pursuit by his former friends, Sao (played by Wang Baoqiang) and Niehu (portrayed by Yu Kang).

He eventually is taken in by a beautiful, drunk hostess named May (portrayed by Huang Shengyi) who feels that she can manipulate and use him for money.

While there are those who will enjoy the action, which can get wild at times, part of the problem is you are taken out by the comedy.  While, Wang Baoqiang is an actor that I expect to see in a comedy (after seeing his hilarious performance in “Lost in Thailand”) and his emphasis on the pronunciation of “Curry Chicken” or “Curry Fish Balls” for comedy sake is quite funny.  The scene where he tries to help May’s mother just seems out of place and you also get a few potty/fart humor as well, so, this was not something I expected to see in a Donnie Yen film.  So, I found myself being surprised to see Donnie Yen, in this type of film.

And while the CG special effects are very fascinating to watch and no doubt reminiscent in terms of the chaotic nature of films such as modern “Planet of the Apes” or “Godzilla” in their “bridge” scene sequences, “Iceman” tries to entertain with over-the-top Michael Bay-like action sequence on a bridge.  While the fight choreography was cool to watch, there is certain editing choices that were questionable.

But I enjoyed the film because it was a Donnie Yen film that was out of left field.  This is a film that you would not expect to see him doing but because of his dedication to trying different things and in this case, a 3D action comedy, it worked out.

His chemistry with actress Huang Shengyi worked very well and it made you wonder if we were going to see Donnie Yen cross that line and have a kissing scene with his leading lady.  But of course, it’s a Donnie Yen film, so that is not going to happen.

Picture quality for the film is really good.  There was no doubt a lot of CG work done but you can also tell why this film went over-budget.  So many chaotic scenes that you would typically see in a big budget film, add in wonderful costume design, while the lossless soundtrack was crystal clear with a lot of emphasis in the action sequences.  You also get a few special features such as the making of, interviews with the cast and a theatrical trailer.

While “Iceman 3D” was definitely a film I was not expecting, it shows that Donnie Yen is still wanting to show that he’s more than just an action star and can do comedy.  But also an actor who wants to be in the forefront of film technology by taking part in a popcorn action film shown in theaters in 3D (unfortunately, the Blu-ray is not!).

While the film does tease a sequel, because of the cost to make this film and the major delays to get this film completed, it’s hard to say if there will be a sequel at all.  But if it happens, I’m definitely interested in seeing it!

If you are open to martial arts action, but with cheesy comedy and situations that come out of left field for no apparent reason, then definitely give “Iceman” a shot!

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

clonewars-lostmission

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” ends its run on a positive note. Sure, “The Lost Missions” did not air on television but for loyal followers of the series, the final season featured 13 captivating and highly entertaining episodes that actually gives us more insight going into “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”. You get a mix of comedy, drama and plenty of action with this final sixth season and “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” fans should be content with “The Lost Missions”. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions

TV AIRDATE: 2014

DURATION: 287 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio), English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: LucasFilm Ltd.

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: November 11, 2014

Directed by  Steward Lee, Kyle Dunlevy, Brian O’Connell, Danny Keller, Bosco Ng, Dave Filoni

Written by Daniel Arkin, George Lucas, Katie Lucas, Christian Taylor

Produced by Cary Silver

 Line Producer: Athena Yvette Portillo

Executive Producer: George Lucas

Music by Kevin Kiner

Edited by Jason Tucker

Casting by Jenn Berry

Featuring the voices of:

Tom Kane as the Narrator

Dee Bradley Baker as Clone Troopers

Matt Lanter as Anakin Skywalker

James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan Kenobi

Corey Burton as Count Dooku

Matthew Wood as Battle Droids

Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka Tano

Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson as Mace Windu

Catherine Taber as Padme Amidala

Ian Abercrombie as Chancellor Palpatine

Stephen Stanton as Mas Amedda

Phil LaMarr as Bail Organa

Brian George as Ki-Adi-Mundi

Robin Atkin Downes as Rush Clovis

Jaime King as Aurra Sing

Against a backdrop of ever-shifting loyalties, uneasy alliances and ancient hostilities, the conflict between the Republic and the Separatists ramps up, setting the stage for Darth Sidious’ ultimate act of treachery against the Jedi. In these uncertain times, some of the deepest mysteries of the light and dark sides of the Force are revealed as an intrepid clone trooper uncovers a shocking conspiracy, Anakin Skywalker’s closest relationship is tested to its limits, and Master Yoda makes a discovery that could forever change the balance of power in the galaxy. Complete your collection and experience all the wonder, intrigue, action and suspense of THE LOST MISSIONS in 13 must-own episodes — plus a Behind-The-Scenes Documentary

After the 2D 2003 animated TV series “Star Wars: Clone Wars”, the series would usher in a new 3D CGI animated television series with the same title and produced by Lucasfilm Animation and created by Lucasfilm Animation Singapore.

Originally planned for five seasons, from its first air date back in 2008 with season one and by 2013, the series would be canceled and any produced episodes would be “bonus content”.

But as “Star Wars: Clone Wars” still had a good number of episodes that have yet to be aired, the unaired final episodes as part of season six, which would be the final season, and would be streamed on Netflix in 2014.

And now, the unaired episodes of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions” will be released on Blu-ray in November 2014 courtesy of LucasFilm Ltd.

For those not familiar with “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, the episodes take place during the three-year interim between “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”.

In “Lost Missions”, the season is broken down into four arcs.

The first arc is written by Katie Lucas and revolves around Clone Trooper Tup suffering a neurological disorder and killing a Jedi Master.

Not knowing if Tup was reprogrammed by the Separatists, his condition begins to worsen and ARC Trooper Fives can’t figure out what has happened to Clone Trooper Tup and so, he along with his droid begin their investigation and finding out why Tup would try to kill a Jedi Master.

The second arc is written by Christian Taylor and revolves around Padme Amidala’s ex-boyfriend Rush Clovis asking for his help but also, him wanting to rekindle any romance with Padme.  But because Padme and Anakin’s marriage is still being kept as a secret, Anakin is having a difficult time trying to hide his jealous feelings, prompting Obi-Wan to wonder why his padiwan is reacting with anger.  And the more the jealousy builds, it begins to put more tension on he and Padme’s secret marriage.

The third arc is written by Jonathan W. Rinzler and revolves around Senate Representative Jar Jar Binks and Jedi Master Mace Windu investigating on the disappearance of spiritual leaders in the peaceful world of Bardotta.

The fourth and final arc centers around Yoda.  Yoda begins to hear the voice of his deceased friend, Qui-Gon Jinn and worries because it is not possible for a Jedi to speak to the living from beyond the grave.  He becomes forgetful and it starts to worry members of the Jedi Council.  But when Yoda is guided by the Force, what will he discover?

VIDEO:

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions” is presented in 1080p (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  One thing that is evident with each season of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is how the series begins to gradually look better and better as better CGI technology is implemented and with the final sixth season, picture quality is crisp, detailed and vibrant.

There is a hint of banding and macroblocking but for the most part, picture quality is very good, lighting effects are also fantastic but it’s the overall detail of the characters that look very good!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions” is presented in English, Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1.  While the series is not in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, the dialogue is crystal clear and the sound effects and the battle sound effects are also crisp and clear and utilize the surround channels effectively, especially the rear surround channels.   The series also employs LFE during the more action-based sequences.  And like previous volumes, the series continues to be immersive.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions” comes with the following special features:

  • The Clone Wars Declassified - (16:02) A featurette about the creation of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” back in 2005 and the conclusion of the series in 2014.
  • Story Reel: Utapau Arc – (1:31:13) Featuring four story reels created for the production crew that had to be reviewed by George Lucas and Dave Filoni.  Note: The CG is not fully rendered but is animated.

EXTRAS:

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions” comes with a slipcover and a Disney Movie Rewards code.

With a new Star Wars animated series (“Star Wars Rebels”) airing on television, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” may not have had the proper send-off on air but the crew no doubt saved the best story for last with “Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions”.

Questions of how the Storm Troopers could easily become evil after fighting with the Jedi Masters begins with the sixth season of “The Lost Missions” and  we also get an interesting storyline in regards to Padme and Luke Skywalker’s secret marriage and slow building anger that begins grow within Anakin Skywalker.  And of course, the continuing story from season five in relation to Rush Clovis but to see Anakin and Padme’s marriage tested, was rather entertaining.

While I’m not a Jar Jar Binks fans, for those wondering when the character would return, have gotten their wish as we get a humorous but also action-packed arc with Jar Jar and Jedi Master Mace Windhu.

But possibly the most fascinating arc revolves around Yoda and the questions answered is something that would become part of Yoda for many more years to come.

But this sixth season is well-written, well-animated and is a wonderful goodbye to the series.  Granted, if given a longer season, it would have been interesting to see what else writers would have come up with.  But for these 13 episodes alone, I was quite content with the four arcs presented.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good and with each season of the series, the animators tend to up the notch of overall character and environment design.  The animation was beautiful for “The Lost Missions” and its Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was crystal clear and immersive.

As for special features, you get a featurette featuring the crew on saying goodbye to the animated series which was a big part of their lives for nearly a decade.  Also, included is a four-part never before broadcast story reel of the Utapau Arc.

For parents wondering if they should purchase this for their children, it’s important to note that the series is TV PG due to its violence.  There are a few creepy characters but for the most part, if your children has already watched the films or previous seasons, I doubt they would be scared of what they see in season six.  Otherwise, the series is TV PG because of the violence featured in each episode.

Overall, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” ends its run on a positive note.  Sure, “The Lost Missions” did not air on television but for loyal followers of the series, the final season featured 13 captivating and highly entertaining episodes that actually gives us more insight going into “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”.  You get a mix of comedy, drama and plenty of action with this final sixth season and “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” fans should be content with “The Lost Missions”.

Recommended!

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