Top

Aldnoah.Zero Vol. 3 Limited Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

aldnoah-3

The second season of “Aldnoah.Zero” begins with heavy action as the battle between the UFE and Vers heats up and setting up the latest confrontation between Inaho and Slaine! If you love deep, well-written and exciting mecha sci-fi, then definitely give “Aldnoah.Zero” vol. 3 a chance!  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Olympia Knights/Aniplex, Project AZ. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Aldnoah.Zero Vol. 3 Limited Edition

YEAR OF SERIES RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 13-18 (150 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: January 26, 2016


Original Created by Gen Urobuchi

Directed by Ei Aoki

Series Composition by Katsuhiko Takayama

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design by Masaki Matsumoto

Art Director by Akira Ito

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures, TROYCA


Featuring the voices of:

Kensho Ono/Zach Aguilar as Slaine Troyard

Natsuki Hanae/Max Mittelman as Inaho Kaiduka

Sora Amamiya/Erika Harlacher as Asseylum Vers Allusia

Ai Kakuma/Christine Marie Cabanos as Nina Klein

Ai Kayano/Julie Anne Taylor as Darzana Magbaredge

Hiroki Yasumoto/Patrick Seitz as Vlad

Inori Minase/Sandy Fox as Eddelrittuo

Kazuya Nakai/Matthew Mercer as Koichiro Marito

Kengo Kawanishi/Kyle McCarley as Kisaki Matsuribi

Kousuke Toriumi/Ethan Murray as Soma Yagarai

Makoto Furukawa/Alan Lee as Shigou Kakei

Mikako Komatsu/Erica Mendez as Inko Amifumi

Sachika Misawa/Cristina Vee as Rayet Areash

Sayaka Ohara/Erica Lindbeck as Yuki Kaiduka

Shinji Ogawa/Geoffrey Chalmers as Rayregalia Vers Rayvers

Sho Hayami/Lex Lang as Cruhteo

Sōma Saitō/Lucien Dodge as Yuutarou Tsumugi

Taishi Murata/Bryce Papenbrook as Calm Craftman

Takahiro Sakurai /Todd Haberkorn as Trillam

Toru Ohkawa as Saazbaum

Yoshitaka Yamaya/Bobby Thong as Okisuke “Okojo” Mikuni

Yu Shimamura/Trina Loo as Kaoru Mizusaki

Yuki Kaida/Carrie Kernanen as Femieanne


The year is 2016— a year and a half after the assassination of Princess Asseylum. Despite his status as a Terran, Slaine has been granted the title of Mars Knight, is now served by his own personal subordinate, and has been taking part in battles against the United Forces of Earth. Meanwhile on Earth, the Deucalion is finishing up its repairs as, one by one, the ship’s former crew members return in order to proceed to a new battlefront.


The second season of “Aldnoah.Zero” begins with a storyline that is set 19 months after what had happened at Saazbaum’s Landing Castle and what happened to Asseylum and Inaho but also Slaine and Saazbaum.

Meanwhile, the UFE forces at Trident Base prepare for an attack on an asteroid base, Marineros which is owned by the Vers which leads to a confrontation between Inaho and Slaine once again!

But what about Princess Asseylum?  Is she alive?

Find out in “Aldnoah.Zero Vol. 3”!

What is “ALDNOAH.ZERO” all about?

From Gen Urobuchi, the creator of “Fate/Zero”, “Phantom – The Animation” and writer for “Psycho-Pass” and “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, comes the 2014 sci-fi anime series titled “ALDNOAH.ZERO”.

Featuring anime production from A-1 Pictures and TROYCA, the series is directed by Ei Aoki (“Fate/Zero”, “Ga-Rei Zero”, “Girls Bravo”), screenplay by Katsuhiko Takayama (“Cat Planet Cuties”, “Baka and Test – Summon the Beats”, “ef: a tale of melodies”, “Stratos 4”), music by Hiroyuki Sawano (“Blue Exorcist”, “Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings”, “Attack on Titan”), character designs by Masako Matsumoto and art direction by Akira Ito (“AKB0048”, “Baccano!”, “Durara!!”, “Elfen Lied”).

The 24-episode anime series debuted back in July 2014 and ended in March 2015. And now the anime series has been released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex Inc.

“Aldnoah.Zero” begins with how Earth was attacked by the Vers Empire.

Back in 1972, an ancient alien hypergate was discovered on the moon and humans have used this technology to migrate to Mars and begin colonizing the planet. The settlers on Mars discovered new advanced technology and would create the Vers Empire and later claim the planet Mars and the advanced technology as their own. The Vers Empire look at them as elite and evolved versions of humanity and are prejudice against the Terrans (Earth-born humans).

The Vers Empire would declare war on Earth and in 1999, the hypergate on the Moon was destroyed but in the process, shattering the Moon leaving debris floating around the planet Earth.

This would lead to a cease fire for nearly 15 years until the Vers Empire would once again launch a new attack in order to conquer Earth.

We are introduced to Inaho Kaizuki, a pilot in training, who lives in the city of Shinawara with his sister Yuki, a Kataphrakt pilot for the Earth’s military.

One day when Inaho and friends go to see the arrival of Asseylum Vers, the Princess of Vers, terrorists attack and it is assumed that the Princess was killed. In retaliation, the Martian Vers Orbital Knights do a full assault on Earth and destroying a number of major cities.

While holed up in school, Inaho and his friends decide to fight against the Vers.

In vol. 2, the conflict escalates as Sauzbaum makes a direct attack on UFE headquarters in order to kill the princess! Can she be protected during the full onslaught?

As the finale of the first season features both Asseylum and Inaho left for dead, vol. 3 takes place 19 months after the incident with Inaho making his return after being shot by Slaine.

And now, as UFE forces and the Vers are lead into battle, Inaho and Slaine will confront each other once again!


“Aldnoah.Zero” consists of the following main characters:

  • Inaho Kaizuka – A pilot in training living on Earth and the top of his class. He lives with his older sister, Yuki and is often stoic and showing no emotion. He is good with coming up with strategies to fight against the Martian Knights.
  • Slaine Troyard – A Terran (Earth-born human) who is a slave to the Versian County Cruhteno and the nemesis of Inaho. He is close to Princess Asseylum and is responsible for saving her. He is very loyal to the Princess.
  • Asseylum Vers Allusia – The First Princess of the Vers Empire and is close to Slaine. She is curious about Earth and unlike the Vers Empires, she has no ill feelings towards the Terrans.
  • Inko Amifumi – Inaho’s childhood friend and classmate. She is a member of the Student Council Committee and has feelings towards Inaho.
  • Rayet Areash – A Martian girl living on Earth. She and her friends are responsible for the assassination attempt on Princess Asseylum, in exchange for the promise of extraction back to Mars and knighthood under the Vers Empire.
  • Eddelrittuo – A young Martian girl who serves Princess Asseylum as her maid.
  • Cruhteo – A Count of the Vers Empire and one of the Martian Knights who often abuses Slaine.
  • Saazbaum – A County ofthe Vers Empire, one of the Martian Knights and one desperately wanting a war between Mars and Earth.
  • Yuki Kaizuka – Older sister of Inaho and a Warrant Officer in the United Forces of Earth. She can pilot a Kataphract and often worries about her younger brother.
  • Koichiro Marito – A Lieutenant in the United Forces of Earth. He is a training instructor at Inaho’s high school. A veteran of the War of 1999 and suffers PTSD due to the war, he is fearful of the power of Aldnoah, having witnessed it first hand. He also is aware that the governments of Earth has not publicized any information about what happened 15 years ago.

 

VIDEO:

“Aldnoah.Zero Vol. 3” is presented in 1080p High Definition. One of the first things you will notice is how detailed backgrounds are and also mechanical designs. As a sci-fi series, the futuristic settings are gorgeously painted, the mecha are well-designed and as for character designs, while line art is simple, but shaded, it’s the backgrounds and environments that helps boost the overall presentation of the anime series.

But overall anime production from A-1 Pictures is very good and I didn’t notice any banding issues or artifacts.

AUDIO:

“Aldnoah.Zero” is presented only with a Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 soundtrack.Both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-acted and with that being said, dialogue and music is crystal clear through the front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Aldnoah.Zero Vol. 3” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening “&Z”
  • Textless Ending “Genesis”
  • Trailer – Featuring the English version trailer of “Aldnoah.Zero”
  • Commercials – Featuring three commercials
  • ALDINOAH.ZERO EXTRA ARCHIVES – (47:37) Featuring various scenes from the first 12 episodes.

EXTRAS:

“Aldnoah.Zero Vol. 3” comes with a slipcase with an illustration by I-IV (Mecha Design), two collectible postcards, a 48-page manga for “ALDNOAH.ZERO EXTRA EPISODE”.


aldnoah-3b

For sci-fi and mecha fans, every few years, there is an always an anime series that captivates you because of its deep storyline, high attention to mecha, its characters and typically revolving around some sort of war.

While the concept is quite banal in Japanese animation, what’s more important is how the story sticks out, while others await for an anime series that can deliver in serious plots and battles in comparison to anime classic “Mobile Suit Gundam” or “Neon Genesis Evangelion”.

While “Aldnoah.Zero” has elements that people have seen before, in some ways, the anime series feels as if it was inspired by classic “Mobile Suit Gundam” and the sci-fi series “Stargate”.

With the third volume of “Aldnoah.Zero”, the first six episodes of season two (or episodes 13-18) features what had happened to Inaho and Asseylum after they were shot.

Fastforwarding 19 months later, Inaho is back after surviving a near tragic ordeal, but what has happened to Prince Asseylum?  Meanwhile, because of that incident, Inaho may have benefited from what had transpired and with Inaho’s return, this may be the help that the UFE needs to fight back against their enemies.

Meanwhile, the Vers Empire has named another Princess, Lemrina, who has disguised herself as Asseylum.  But what has happened to the real Princess Asseylum?  Did she survive the shooting?

Featuring heavy-action as the UFE and Vers continue their battle with once another, Inaho and Slaine will once confront each other once again in battle!

As for the Blu-ray release, A-1 Pictures has done a great job in providing a series with gorgeous art backgrounds and mechanical design. Picture quality is very good via HD and the lossless audio soundtrack is stereo but dialogue and sound effects are crystal clear, as with its captivating musical score. Both Japanese and English soundtracks sound great and voice talents on both ends are well-done! Also, included on the Blu-ray are several special features a special compilation of the first 12 episodes.  As for extras, you get an awesome “ALDNOAH.ZERO EXTRA EPISODE” manga booklet.

Overall, the second season of “Aldnoah.Zero” begins with heavy action as the battle between the UFE and Vers heats up and setting up the latest confrontation between Inaho and Slaine! If you love deep, well-written and exciting mecha sci-fi, then definitely give “Aldnoah.Zero” vol. 3 a chance!  Recommended!

99 Homes (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

99homes

“99 Homes” is a film in which filmmaker Ramin Bahrani wants to give viewers the opportunity to make their own mind on what happens to these characters. I see the point of cruelty, the amorality of reality brokers and corruption which took place during the housing crisis and the people that were screwed over and families and lives that are destroyed in the process. But how far one would go for the sake of money vs. pride? A thought-provoking film which I definitely recommend watching!

Image courtesy of © 2014 99 Homes Productions LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: 99 Homes

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 112 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1, English DTS Digital Sound, Subtitles: English, Espanol, Francais

COMPANY: Broadgreen Pictures

RATED: R (Language Including Some Sexual References and a Brief Violent Image)

Release Date: February 9, 2016


Directed by Ramin Barani

Written by Ramin Bahrani and Amir Naderi

Story by Bahareh Azimi

Produced by Ashok Amritraj, Ramin Bahrani, Justin Nappi, Kevin Turen

Executive Producer: Mohammed Al Turki, Ron Curtis, Manu Gargi, Arcadiy Golubovich

Music by Antony Partos, Matteo Zingales

Cinematography by Bobby Bukowski

Edited by Ramin Bahrani

Casting by Douglas Aibel, Tracy Kilpatrick

Production Design by Alex DiGerlando

Art Direction by Christina Eunji Kim

Set Decoration by Monique Champagne

Costume Design by Meghan Kasperlik


Starring:

Michael Shannon as Rick Carver

Andrew Garfield as Dennis Nash

Laura Dern as Lynn Nash

Noah Lomax as Connor Nash

Tim Guinee as Frank Greene


A father struggles to get back the home that his family was evicted from by working for the greedy real estate broker who’s the source of his frustration.


From filmmaker Ramin Bahrani (“Goodbye Solo”, “Man Push Cart”, “Chop Shop”) comes his latest film “99 Homes” in which he co-wrote the screenplay with Amir Naderi and is based on a story by Bahareh Azimi.

The film stars Michael Shannon (“Man of Steel”, “Take Shelter”, “Boardwalk Empire”), Andrew Garfield (“Amazing Spider-Man” films, “The Social Network”) and Laura Dern (“Jurassic Park”, “Blue Velvet”, “Wild”, “The Fault in Our Stars”).

The independent film has received positive reviews from film critics and won the “Best Film” award at the Venice International Film Festival from the Young Jury Members and Michael Shannon has been nominated for “Best Supporting Actor” at the Golden Globe Awards and Independent Spirit Awards and “Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role” at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

The film begins with an introduction to Rick Carver (portrayed by Michael Shannon) who evicts people from their homes.  One of the homes he went to, a father commits suicide after receiving a notice of eviction and for Carver, it’s business as usual.

For recently unemployed single father Dennis Nash (portrayed by Andrew Garfield), he is not paid for the construction work he had done and because he is behind on payments, his home which he and his family have lived in since he was young has been foreclosed and he and his family is about to be evicted by Rick Carver with law enforcement and they must vacate the premises.

And now he, his young son Connor (portrayed by Noah Lomax) and his mother Lynn (portrayed by Laura Dern) are being evicted immediately and are forced to move into a motel room.

With their belongings being taken by Carver’s men, Dennis goes to his office to retrieve his work tools and seeing Dennis’ not afraid to confront his men, Carver offers a job to Dennis to be a repairman at his properties and Dennis takes the job.

Not long after, Dennis becomes an assistant for Carver and takes up a job to carry out evictions and discovers real estate schemes.

But what happens to Dennis’ life thereafter?


VIDEO:

“99 Homes” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski is known to use direct light to his advantage and for the most part, at times the scene looks soft but its typically the light in play.  Close-ups show good detail at times and I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“99 Homes” is presented in English 5.1 DTS Master Audio and Espanol 5.1 DTS Digital Surround.  Aside from a few fight scenes and ambiance due to the homeowners distressed about their property being taken over, the majority of the film is primarily dialogue-driven.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Espanol.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“99 Homes” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by writer and director Ramin Bahrani
  • Deleted Scene – A deleted scene with additional commentary by Ramin Bahrani, also the editor of the film.  The deleted scene is shown after the film is completed.

“99 Homes” is a film in which filmmaker Ramin Bahrani wanted people to think about and discuss afterward.

Doing his research on the housing crash and four states that became the epicenter of the crash, Bahrani started to see the life of real estate brokers who had the task of evicting people from their homes.

Set during the housing crisis (around 2010), the film centers around Rick Carver and his business of evicting people and not having a moral fiber of what happens to that family.  He takes in a recently evicted single father, Dennis Nash and wanting to reclaim the home, he is offered a job by Carver and to also to bring people to sell their homes before they are evicted.

The film exposed the dirty side of the business, from evictions to how Carver would generate a tremendous amount of income by removing various key fittings and appliances from abandoned homes and then charging the government for the replacement.

Michael Shannon gives a wonderful performance as the always business-minded Rick Carver.  An amoral person who cares less about the families he evicts and always thinking of making a profit, he zeroes in on the young Dennis Nash.  Knowing he has construction skills but knowing the young man is in need of money and pretty much because of that, has the young man wrapped around his finger.

But the question is if Dennis Nash would exhibit the same amorality?  Money or pride?  And those are the things that Dennis Nash will need to face.

Andrew Garfield also gives a wonderful performance and is allowed to show the more versatile side of his acting and is able to showcase various emotions of the character.

But there is also an underlying message about how these people who take advantage of people and whether or not they ever face any punishment.  And how far a person would go for the sake of money.

The Blu-ray release features good picture quality, while dialogue and music are dominant and are crystal clear.  The Blu-ray release includes an audio commentary and a deleted scene.

Overall, “99 Homes” is a film in which filmmaker Ramin Bahrani wants to give viewers the opportunity to make their own mind on what happens to these characters.  I see the point of cruelty, the amorality of reality brokers and corruption which took place during the housing crisis and the people that were screwed over and families and lives that are destroyed in the process.  But how far one would go for the sake of money vs. pride?

A thought-provoking film which I definitely recommend watching!

The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

thekid-a

“The Kid” is a Charles Chaplin masterpiece which any cineaste or silent film fan should have in their collection.  Highly recommended!

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


TITLE: The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799

YEAR OF FILM: 1921/1922

DURATION: 53 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, black and white/color-tinted, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Monaural

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: February 16, 2016


Directed by Charles Chaplin

Written by Charles Chaplin

Produced by Charles Chaplin

Music by Charles Chaplin


Starring:

Carl Miller as The Man

Edna Purviance as The Woman

Jackie Coogan as The Child

Charles Chaplin as A Tramp


Charlie Chaplin was already an international star when he decided to break out of the short-film format and make his first full-length feature. The Kid doesn’t merely show Chaplin at a turning point, when he proved that he was a serious film director—it remains an expressive masterwork of silent cinema. In it, he stars as his lovable Tramp character, this time raising an orphan (a remarkable young Jackie Coogan) he has rescued from the streets. Chaplin and Coogan make a miraculous pair in this nimble marriage of sentiment and slapstick, a film that is, as its opening title card states, “a picture with a smile—and perhaps, a tear.”


thekid-b

In 1921, Charles Chaplin released his first full-length film as a director titled “The Kid”.

The film is produced, written, directed and music composed by Charles Chaplin, the film would feature the America’s first child star Jackie Coogan  (who would become popular three decades later as Uncle Fester in the hit TV series “The Addams Family” from 1964).  The film would also star Edna Purviance, an actress who would play the leading lady in many of Charlie Chaplin’s early films.

In 2011, “The Kid” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and is considered one of the greatest films of the silent era.

And now “The Kid” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“The Kid” begins with an unwed woman (portrayed by Edna Purviance) leaving a charity hospital with her newborn son.  Meanwhile, the father is shown looking at her photo and the photo falling into the fireplace and would burn up.

Struggling with a decision to abandon her child, the woman leaves her baby in the back seat of an expensive automobile and she leaves behind a note with him about caring and providing love for the baby.

As the woman leaves, two thieves steal the car, unaware a baby is in the back seat.  Meanwhile, the woman has second thoughts and when she returns back to get her baby, she sees the car no longer there.    When she goes to the wealthy home where the car was parked, she finds out from the chauffeur that the car was stolen and the woman faints.

As the two thieves drive to an area of town, they hear the baby cry and put the baby near a trash can.

The baby is found by the tramp (portrayed by Charles Chaplin).  While the tramp tries to rid of the child onto other people, with police walking nearby, he is unable to and decides to raise the baby after seeing the note that came with him.

Five years later, the child (portrayed by Jackie Coogan) has been raised with street smarts, thanks to the tramp.  The tramp has taught the boy to be his partner in crime, making money by the boy breaking windows and the tramp being paid to fix them.

Meanwhile, the child’s real mother has become a successful and wealthy star.  But despite her financial success, she contributes her time doing charity work with the poor as a way to make amends for abandoning her child.

But one day, she ends up going to the neighborhood where the Tramp and child are living.


VIDEO:

“The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” is presented in 1:33:1 black and white and in 1080p High Definition. The film looks absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray!

White and grays are well-contrast, black levels are nice and deep and the detail and sharpness is fantastic. I did not notice any issues with the picture quality with blurriness or any scratches or dust during my viewing of the film.

The film is a new 4K digital restoration of Charlie Chaplin’s 1972 re-release version of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new high-definition digital transfer was created from a 35 mm first-generation 1921 element preserved by the Cineteca di Bologna.  The element was scanned on an ARRISCAN film scanner and edited to match Charlie Chaplin’s 1972 rerelease; for a severely decayed 370-foot portion for the film, a first-generation 1921 fine-grain from the collection of Roy Export was used instead.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” is presented in LPCM 1.0 and features Charles Chaplin’s original score. The soundtrack is fantastic and Chaplin’s score as conducted by composer Timothy Brock is just great to listen to in HD without any buzzing or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from 35 mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and Izotope RX 4.

Features English intertitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Chaplin historian Charles Maland.
  • Interviews – Featuring interviews with Jackie Coogan (11:04), Lita Grey Chaplin (10:00), cinematographer Rollie Totheroh (7:48 – audio only) and distributor Mo Rothman (9:42 – audio only).
  • Jackie Coogan: The First Child Star – (19:09) A video essay by Charles Chaplin scholar Lisa Haven about the first child star Jackie Coogan and the legacy he left behind to other child actors.
  • A Study in Undercranking – (25:09) Featuring silent film specialist Ben Model discussing how films were made and how cameras were cranked by hand.
  • Charlie Chaplin Conducts the Kid – (2:04) Brief footage shows Charlie Chaplin conducting his newly composed score for “The Kid” in 1971.
  • From the 1921 Version – (7:22) The deleted scenes Chaplin made when revisiting the film in 1971, removing three scenes featuring “The Woman” Edna Purviance.  Also, including the original First Nationa opening titles, various intertitles and closing card.
  • “Charlie” On the Ocean – (4:00) A newsreel which documents Charlie Chaplin’s first trip back to Europe after relocating to the US from England in 1914 to become a movie actor.
  • Nice and Friendly – (10:53) Filmed at Pickfair, the home of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in 1922, as a wedding present for Lord and Lady Mountbattten, this short features Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan and the newlyweds.  Featuring a new score by composer Timothy Brock.
  • Trailers – Theatrical trailers for “The Kid”.

EXTRAS:

“The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” comes with a six-page foldout with the essay “The Grail of Laughter and the Fallen Angel” by Tom Gunning.


thekid-c

“The Kid” is a silent film that I have adored for many years but watching it on Blu-ray and seeing the detail and the beauty of the film in HD, I have fallen in love with this film once again.

It’s no doubt a masterpiece from Charles Chaplin, who wrote, starred, directed, produced and even composed the music for the film.  Going through strains of a marital breakdown and literally so much personal drama, he was able to craft a film showing how much of a cinema genius at the time.  And even now, not far from a century since this film was released in theaters we can only marvel of how well-crafted “The Kid” really is.

In fact, there were high expectations for this film, so much that Ralph Kettering, representative of Jones, Linick & Schaefer Co. stated, “The First National exhibitions’ circuit paid over to Mr. Chaplin $800,000 in gold for the purchase of this picture and we have paid an enormous sum to secure the first screening anywhere on earth here in Chicago”.

But the high expectations for Chaplin was because gossip of his divorce and his life had captivated America who hasn’t seen much of the actor.  But when his six-reeler was released, film critics were positive of his film.

The legendary silent film critic Carl Sandburg of the Chicago Daily News wrote, “‘The Kid’ is a masterpiece and should satisfy either those who want knock down and dragout or something the whole family will enjoy.”

But one must have to admit that what made this film work was finding the right child actor.  Watching many silent film with child actors, not many have that skillset as the young Jackie Coogan.  I’ve read of how mature this child was at such a young age, so much that Chaplin and other well-known silent film talents included the child in a personal film together made for a friend, but it’s the fact that this film features a wide-range of emotion and Chaplin was able to bring that out with the young Jackie Coogan.

Also, what makes this film so relevant today is the fact that the situations featured in “The Kid” still resonate strongly today.  Single parent unable to afford their child, struggles to give their baby up.  Edna Purviance as the mother who lives with her decision and is able to change her life and give back to charity in order to make amends, is something that viewers can sympathize with.

Similar to Coogan, Purviance has had a long career with Chaplin and like the short films, he is able to showcase her talent and emotions with efficacy.

But it’s that fatherly role which Chaplin provides to the kid that makes us feel laughter, sadness and just knowing that for the tramp, despite being poor and not living in the best conditions, he does what he can to parent the child and raise him.

As for the Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection, this is a fantastic release with a good number of special features and in depth look into the film thanks to audio commentary by Chaplin historian Charles Maland, a wonderful featurette about Jackie Coogan courtesy of Chaplin historian Lisa Haven and more.

The Blu-ray is the best I have seen of “The Kid” by far.  The details and sharpness are magnificent in HD, the new score by composer Timothy Brock is fantastic!

But I have to mention that this Blu-ray release features the 1972 re-release version of the film.  An older Chaplin wanted to make some revisions for the re-release, so if you want the full version of the film, a complete version was released on LaserDisc long ago.  But the good news is that “The Kid” features the deleted scenes in the special features.

For those who owned the 2004 Warner Bros. DVD, you still want to hang on to that DVD for the Chaplin and Coogan shorts.  But it’s definitely worth upgrading to the Criterion Collection Blu-ray as this release is magnificent.

Overall, “The Kid” is a Charles Chaplin masterpiece which any cineaste or silent film fan should have in their collection.  Highly recommended!

Crimson Peak (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

 crimsonpeak-a

I know those who loved earlier del Toro films for its bloody violence and darker atmosphere will find “Crimson Peak” to be an awesome gothic romance film!  It’s not for the faint of heart due to the gory violence featured but for those who can stomach it, they will find “Crimson Peak” to be a product of Guillermo del Toro’s dark and creative vision that is fascinating and worth watching!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Crimson Peak

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 1 Hr. and 59 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), English DTS-X 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 DVS, 2.0 Espanol, Francais DTS Surround 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0, Subtitles: English, Espanol, Francais

COMPANY: Legendary/Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Bloody Violence, Some Sexual Content and Brief Strong Language)

Release Date: February 9, 2016


Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Written by Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robins

Executive Producers: Jillian Share

Produced by Guillermo del Toro, Callum Greene, Jon Jashni, Thomas Tull

Co-Producer: Brenda Vogel

Music by Fernando Velazquez

Cinematography by Dan Laustsen

Edited by Bernat Vilaplana

Casting by Robin D. Cook

Production Design by Thomas E. Sanders

Art Direction by Brandt Gordon

Set Decoration by Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau

Costume Design by Kate Hawley


Starring:

Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing

Jessica Chastain as Lucille Sharpe

Tom Hiddleston as Thomas Sharpe

Charlie Hunnam as Dr. Alan McMichael

Jim Beaver as Carter Cushing

Burn Gorman as Holly

Leslie Hope as Mrs. McMichael

Doug Jones as Edith’s Mother/Lady Sharpe

Jonathan Hyde as Ogilvie

Bruce Gray as Ferguson

Emily Coutts as Eunice


When her heart is stolen by a seductive stranger, a young woman is swept away to a house atop a mountain of blood-red clay— a place filled with secrets that will haunt her forever. Between desire and darkness, between mystery and madness, lies the truth behind Crimson Peak. From the imagination of director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) comes a gothic romance masterpiece starring Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska and Charlie Hunnam.


Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has made big hits in his film career such as “Pacific Rim”, “Blade II” and “Hellboy” films, but for those who desire his more darker and violent films and wished for a return to his “Cronos” and “Mimic” style of films will surely be thrilled to see that he has accomplished that with “Crimson Peak”.

“Crimon Peak” is an American gothic romance film co-written with Matthew Robbins (“Mimic”, “The Sugarland Express”) and stars Mia Waskowska (“Alice in Wonderland”, “Stoker”, “Jane Eyre”), Jessica Chastain (“The Martian”, “Zero Dark Thirty”, “The Help”), Tom Hiddleston (“The Avengers”, “Thor”, “Thor: The Dark World”) and Charlie Hunnam (“Pacific Rim”, “Green Street Hooligans”, “Children of Men”).

The original spec for the film was written by del Toro and Robbins after the release of the film “Pan’s Labyrinth” in 2006 and the project was postponed due to focusing on his other films and not finding anyone suitable to directing the film.

As Del Toro wanted to pay tribute to the “grand dames” of the haunted house genre and the film would receive generally positive reviews, that even horror writer Stephen King praised the film.

“Crimson Peak” is set in 1887, Edith Cushing is the daughter of wealthy American businessman, Carter Cushing (portrayed by Jim Beaver) and one day, she was visited by her mother’s ghost warning her to “beware of Crimson Peak”.

Fastforward 14 years later and Edith (portrayed by Mia Wasikowska) is a budding author who prefers to write about ghost novels than romance novels (which her editor is wanting to see from her). But she has support from her dear friend, Dr. Alan McMichael (portrayed by Charlie Hunnam).

Her father is visited by Sir Thomas Sharpe (portrayed by Tom Hiddleston), an English baronet who comes to the United States looking for wealthy investors to fund his clay-mining invention.

Carter Cushing rejects Thomas because of his failures to raise capital, meanwhile Edith notices that Sir Thomas Sharpe and his sister Lady Lucille Sharpe wear outdated and frayed clothing.  And once again, Edith receives a warning from the ghost of her mother’s spirit.  Also, she notices that Lucille acts coldly towards her.

As both Sir Thomas Sharpe and Edith become closer, Carter feels disdain of the two becoming closer.  So, he writes a check to bribe Carter Cushing in order for him and his sister to return to England but he must break his daughter’s heart and leave.

But one day, her father is brutally murdered and finding out that Sir Thomas Sharpe cares about her, she marries him and returns to England.

They arrive at Allerdale Hall, a broken down mansion which sits on top of a red clay mine.  But the longer she stays at the mansion, she starts to see gruesome ghosts.

And it is revealed that the estate is also known as “Crimson Peak”.


VIDEO:

“Crimson Peak” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks absolutely wonderful in HD as skin tones are natural, close-ups show very good detail (including the more gore-driven scenes). But there is no doubt an emphasis on bringing out the bloody red and also the macabre mansion in the film.

I didn’t notice any banding issues or artifacts while watching this film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Crimson Peak” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-X, DTS Headphone X2.0, DVS 2.0, Espanol, Francais DTS Surround 5.1. Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1. The film is primarily dialogue and music driven (which are both crystal clear) with surround channels more geared towards the ambiance of Crimson Peak. The surround channels utilize the sounds of the ghosts and the more violent action scenes in the film.

Meanwhile, there are surround channel

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Espanol and Francais.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Crimson Peak” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (4:26) Featuring five deleted scenes.
  • I Remember Crimson Peak – Featuring four short segments with Guillermo del Toro discussing why he created various segments such as “The Gothic Corridor”, “The Scullery”, “The Red Clay Mines” and “The Limbo Fog Set” and also behind-the-scenes on the making of those scenes.
  • A Primer on Gothic Romance – (5:36) Guillermo del Toro and cast discuss “Gothic Romance”.
  • The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak – (7:53) A featurette about filming in different locations and also the set design and emphasis on the color red.
  • Hand Tailored Gothic – (8:58) A featurette about the wardrobe for the film.  Interviews with costume designer Kate Hawley.
  • A Living Thing – (12:11) A featurette of making the house look like family but also having its own true gothic soul and darkness.
  • Beware of Crimson Peak – (7:51) Tom Hiddleston gives a tour of Crimson Peak.
  • Crimson Phantoms – (7:02) The cast discuss Guillermo del Toro’s dark vision.
  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary with co-writer and director Guillermo del Toro

EXTRAS:

“Crimson Peak” comes with a slipcover, DVD version of the film and an Ultraviolet code.


Director Guillermo del Toro is one of the most prepared and quite intellectual filmmakers out there.

His life, even since he was a young child, has appreciated horror films and the macabre but also an appreciation for cinema. And he doesn’t create traditional horror or gothic films, as for del Toro, everything must have a purpose and in this case, and with “Crimson Peak” beginning development in 2006 not long after “Pan’s Labyrinth”, he wanted to make sure that before taking on this film, everything was just right.

This is to be expected from a filmmaker who is passionate for Gothic films and being a cinema fan, especially a horror film fan, he is a man with a vast knowledge of these type of topics.

He knows the creep things that he could bring out visually.  It’s already in his head, so much ideas since he was a boy and found whatever he was terrified with, he would incorporate into “Crimson Peak”.  And in this case, to make a ghost film that is different from other ghost films and not follow the banality of kitschy horror films.

It also helps to have a solid cast with Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Hunnam involved but as with most del Toro films, the setting and in this case, the Crimson Peak home plays a big part in this film.  Guillermo del Toro injects a soul into this dark, dilapidated home and just looking at the exterior and the interior, you already know something is off and eerie.  And when you see the ghosts start to come to the protagonist, Edith, you can’t help but feel how creepy this film truly is.

And it’s not for the faint of heart as the film is quite violent and brutal.  And that is another thing that del Toro was able to do and that is to find ways of showing brutality that has never been done on film and for a gothic romance film, I was surprised by the dark and brutal tone of this film.

“Crimson Peak” is well-written and despite not having a large budget, it’s a film that works because it was created by a Guillermo del Toro with a dark vision in mind.   He was  man who knew what he wanted and got the performances that he wanted but also to get the visuals that he needed for the film.

Personally, I felt that del Toro has done a wonderful job with “Crimson Peak”.  For fans of del Toro’s oeuvre, especially his earlier work, some have wished for him to return to the style he was best known for in the ’90s with films such as “Cronos”.

It’s dark and violent and quite bloody but for the most part, it’s not horror but a gothic romance film that is surely not for the faint of heart.

Fortunately, the film is what it is and whether or not one wants more gore is subjective to the viewer. I could have had less of the gory visuals of it as I prefer not wanting to see that type of brutality featured in the film.  But it was unnerving and I’m sure that was the point of the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Crimson Peak” looks fantastic in HD.  Detail is very good and so good that you can see the gory details.  Lossless audio is also quite fantastic, considering the violent action scenes plus the ambiance of the Crimson Peak home.

“Crimson Peak” also comes with an audio commentary, various featurettes, especially those that go into the behind-the-scenes making of the film.

Overall, I know those who loved earlier del Toro films for its bloody violence and darker atmosphere will find “Crimson Peak” to be an awesome gothic romance film!  It’s not for the faint of heart due to the gory violence featured but for those who can stomach it, they will find “Crimson Peak” to be a product of Guillermo del Toro’s dark and creative vision that is fascinating and worth watching!

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

January 31, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

grandma

“Grandma” is an enjoyable comedy/drama with a solid cast, but what keeps this film entertaining is the wonderful performance by actress Lily Tomlin, in her first leading role since 1988.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Papote, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Grandma

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 102 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), English, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 Audio Description Track, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Language and Some Drug Use)

Release Date: February 9, 2016


Directed by Paul Weitz

Written by Paul Weitz

Executive Producers: Dan Balgoyen, Stephanie Meurer, Danielle Renfrew

Produced by Terry Dougas, Paris Kasidokostas Latsis, Andrew Miano, Paul Weitz

Co-Producer: Brenda Vogel

Associate Producer: Laura Tuck

Music by Joel P. West

Cinematography by Tobias Datum

Edited by Jon Corn

Casting by Douglas Aibel, Henry Russell Bergstein, Deborah Maxwell Dion

Production Design by Cindy Chao, Michele Yu

Set Decoration by Brittany Ruiz

Costume Design by Molly Grundman


Starring:

Lily Tomlin as Elle Reid

Julia Garner as Sage

Marcia Gay Harden as Judy

Judy Greer as Olivia

Laverne Cox as Deathy

Elizabeth Pena as Carla

Nat Wolff as Cam

John Cho as Chau

Sam Elliott as Karl


Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin) has just gotten through breaking up with her girlfriend when her granddaughter, Sage, unexpectedly shows up needing $600 before sundown. Temporarily broke, Grandma Elle and Sage spend the day trying to get their hands on the cash, as their unannounced visits to old friends and flames end up rattling skeletons and digging up secrets.


From filmmaker Paul Weitz (the director of “American Pie”, “About a Boy”) comes his comedy drama “Grandma”.

The closing film for the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, the film marks the first film for Lily Tomlin in a leading role since 1988’s “Big Business” and features a film that was written for Lily Tomlin in mind (both work together in the 2013 film “Admission”).

The film stars Lily Tomlin (“I Heart Huckabees”, “Nine to Five”, “Nashville”), Julia Garner (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”, “Electrick Children”), Marcia Gay Harden (“Into the Wild”, “Mystic River”, “The Mist”), Judy Greer (“Ant-Man”, “Jurassic World”, “13 Going on 30”), John Cho (“American Beauty”, “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle”, “Star Trek”) and Sam Elliott (“Hulk”, “Up in the Air”, “Tombstone”).

“Grandma” is a film that is divided in six chapters and begins with Elle Reid (portrayed by Lily Tomlin), a lesbian poet breaking her relationship with relationship with Olivia (portrayed by Judy Greer), and is still reeling from the recent death of her partner.

Not long after, her 18-year-old granddaughter Sage (portrayed by Julia Garner) has stopped by asking for $630 to pay for her abortion.  Having no money and no credit card, Elle wants to help her grandaughter and take a road trip together in order to get the money for the abortion.

But with grandma’s temper and her need for money, she must visit people from her past…but will her temper prevent her from getting the money?


VIDEO:

“Grandma” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks absolutely wonderful in HD as skin tones are natural, close-ups show very good detail. With a good mix of indoor and outdoor shots, the scenes are well-lit and outdoor scenes are vibrant. I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Grandma” is presented in English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1. The film is primarily dialogue and music driven with surround channels more geared towards the news ambiance. But overall dialogue and music is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Grandma” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary with director Paul Weitz, actress Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner and actor Sam Elliott.
  • A Family Portrait: Making Grandma – (25:14) Featuring interviews with director Paul Weitz and the cast.
  • Q&A with Lily Tomlin, Sam Elliott and Director Paul Weitz – (20:56) Pete Hammond interviews director Paul Weitz, actress Lily Tomlin and actor Sam Elliott.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Grandma”.

EXTRAS:

“Grandma” comes with a slipcover.


Paul Weitz’ “Grandma” is a film about self-discovery and relationships.

Broken down to various chapters, the film focuses on grandmother and famous lesbian poet Elle Reid, who is still trying to get over the death of her partner for over 35-years and having difficulty being in another relationship with another woman (who happens to be younger), Olivia (portrayed by Judy Greer).

Having a temper and also an estranged relationship with her daughter Judy (portrayed by Marcia Gay Harden), she decides to help her granddaughter Sage (portrayed by Julie Garner) who is in need of financial help.

While Elle would like to help Sage, she has no money and as the two try to get the money from her boyfriend, unfortunately he has no money and it leads Grandma and granddaughter on a road trip to get money from friends and people from her past.

But with each person Elle meets, she learns more about herself, the ways she was with people, while Sage learns more about her grandmother’s life aside from her being a famous poet.

A film created for Lily Tomlin, for her first major role since 1988, Lily Tomlin does an amazing job playing the high-temper grandmother, Elle.  The performance by Lily is wonderful and helped make this film much more enjoyable.

The film also features a good number of talents such as John Cho as a coffee shop owner trying to kick Elle out due to her loud demeanor.  The film also stars Sam Elliott as a former jilted lover of Elle who is still hurt after she left him with no notice and Marcia Gay Harden does a fine job of playing Sage’s mother and a woman who never had a close relationship with her mother Elle.  And because of her busy work, her relationship with Sage is not so strong.

The Blu-ray looks fantastic in HD and the lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue-driven.  Special features include an audio commentary, interview with the director and cast featurette and a Sundance Q&A with filmmaker Paul Weitz, Lily Tomlin and Sam Elliott.

Overall, “Grandma” is an enjoyable comedy/drama with a solid cast, but what keeps this film entertaining is the wonderful performance by actress Lily Tomlin, in her first leading role since 1988.  Recommended!

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

January 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

truth

“Truth”, as like most political thrillers, the film is no doubt subject to the individual.  And if you have strong liberal or conservative ideals, one will either love or despise this film.  But the fact is that the crew of “Truth” had a goal in mind with this film and that was to create dialogue and give the viewer a chance to make their own decision about the film.  “Truth” is a film worth checking out!

Image courtesy of © RatPac Truth, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Truth

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 102 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Language and a Brief Nude Photo)

Release Date: February 2, 2016


Based on the book by Mary Mapes

Directed by James Vanderbilt

Screenplay by James Vanderbilt

Executive Producers: Antonia Barnard, Mikkel Bondesen, James Packer, Steven Silver, Neil Tabatznik

Produced by Brad Fischer, Doug Mankoff, Brett Ratner, William Sherak, Andrw Spaulding, James Vanderbilt

Co-Producer: Martin Cohen, Alaric McAusland

Music by Brian Tyler

Cinematography by Mandy Walker

Edited by Richard Francis-Bruce

Casting by Niki Barrett, John Papsidera

Production Design by Fiona Crombie

Art Direction by Fiona Donovan

Set Decoration by Glen W. Johnson

Costume Design by Amanda Neale


Starring:

Cate Blanchett as Mary Mapes

Robert Redford as Dan Rather

Topher Grace as Mike Smith

Dennis Quaid as Lt. Colonel Roger Charles

Elisabeth Moss as Lucy Scott

Bruce Greenwood as Andrew Heyward

Stacy Keach as Lt. Colonel Bill Burkett

John Benjamin Hickey as Mark Wroistad

David Lyons as Josh Howard

Dermot Mulroney as Lawrence Lanpher

Rachael Blake as Betsy West

Andrew McFarlane as Dick Hibey


Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett star in TRUTH, based on a riveting true story of one of network news’ biggest scandals. As a renowned producer and close associate of Dan Rather (Redford), Mary Mapes (Blanchett) believes she’s broken the biggest story of the 2004 election: revelations of a sitting U.S. President’s military service. But when allegations come pouring in, sources change their stories, document authenticity is questioned, and the casualties begin to mount. This dramatic thriller goes behind the scenes to expose the intricacies of journalistic integrity and what it takes to reveal the TRUTH.


From James Vanderbilt, the writer of the first two “The Amazing Spider-Man” films, “White House Down”, “Zodiac” and “The Losers”, comes his directorial debut with the an American political docudrama titled “Truth”.

Based on American journalist and television news producer Mary Mapes’ memoir “Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power”, the drama focuses on the controversial Killian documents controversy which took place months before the 2004 presidential election and asserted that in the early 1970’s, President George W. Bush received preferential treatment from officials of the Texas Air National Guard.

During the research of the documents, producer Mary Mapes and news anchor Dan Rather reported the news, which immediately received criticism and also allegations which were called into question and would subsequently lead to the firing of Mary Mapes, the resignation of Dan Rather and others for CBS News losing their jobs.

The film would star Cate Blanchett (“Lord of the Rings” films, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), Robert Redford (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “The Sting”, “All the President’s Men”), Topher Grace (“That ’70s Show”, “Spider-Man 3”, “Interstellar”), Dennis Quaid (“The Day After Tomorrow”, “Frequency”, “Vantage Point”), Elisabeth Moss (“Madmen”, “Girl, Interrupted”, “Get Him to the Greek”), Bruce Greenwood (“Stark Trek”, “I, Robot”, “Star Trek Into Darkness”), David Lyons, John Benjamin Hickey (“Transformers: Re”Flags of Our Fathers”, “The Bone Collector”, “Pelham 123”) and Stacy Keach (“Nebraska”, “The Bourne Legacy”, “American History X”).

And now “Truth” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Truth” focuses on the “60 Minutes Wednesday” news crew which includes producer Mary Mapes (portrayed by Cate Blanchett) and CBS national news anchor Dan Rather (portrayed by Robert Redford).

As the crew is known for their award-winning journalism, months before the US 2004 Presidential election, with President George W. Bush seeking re-election, the crew which also includes Kt. Colonel Roger Charles (portrayed by Dennis Quaid), Mike Smith (portrayed by Topher Grace) and Lucy Scott (portrayed by Elisabeth Moss) are researching their next big story.

CBS News producer Mary Mapes obtained copies from Lt. Col. Burkett, a former officer in the Texas Army National Guard, that President George W. Bush had received preferential treatment in the early ’70s by the Texas Air National Guard.  Allegations which include concealing Bush’s failure to meet minimal training and performing requirements, in addition to being absent from the Air Guard for most of 1972 following a transfer to the Alabama Air National Guard.

The papers were made by Bush’s commander, the late Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killiam who criticized Bush’s service.

As Mapes and her crew did their research and felt they did all the work they needed to do on this story, they went public with Dan Rather reporting on the breaking news story.

But immediately, a variety of sources questioned the Killian documents and that they were not real but forgeries.  The memos were scrutinized and that they were not created by a typewriter but on Microsoft Word, thus invalidating the documents.

How would Mary Mapes, Dan Rather and their team react to the scrutiny in regards to their research?

What is the truth?


VIDEO:

“Truth” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks absolutely wonderful in HD as skin tones are natural, close-ups show very good detail.  With a good mix of indoor and outdoor shots, the scenes are well-lit and outdoor scenes are vibrant.  I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Truth” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is primarily dialogue and music score driven with surround channels more geared towards the news room ambiance. But overall audio is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English and English SDH..

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Truth” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary with director James Vanderbilt, Brad Fischer and William Sherak.
  • Deleted Scenes – (12:11) Featuring six deleted scenes.
  • The Reason for Being – (11:32) Dan Rather and Mary Mapes discuss their experience of what transpired and “the definition of truth”.
  • The Team – (8:44) The cast discuss working on “Truth”.
  • Q&A with Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss and Director/Writer James Vanderbilt – (33:00) Jenelle Riley interviews director/writer James Vanderbilt, actress Cate Blanchett and Elisabeth Moss.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Truth”.

EXTRAS:

“Truth” comes with a slipcover and Ultraviolet code.


“Truth” is a fascinating, yet controversial thriller about what transpired in 2004 with the CBS news crew.

One of the well-known media news faux pas in modern times, “Truth” is a gripping film that is based on the memoir of fired CBS news producer Mary Mapes and CBS News anchor Dan Rather and with their sources, going through with a potentially election damaging news report about President George W. Bush going AWOL from the Texas Army National Guard.

The film does not skirt around the subject that Mapes and her crew did not thoroughly have the documents authenticated, but at the same time, with the number of sources they had, it was unfortunate because the crew and the senior news executives have had wonderful success in their careers prior to the uncovering of the Killian documents.

Which brings me to how I felt about “Truth”.  As I tried to put myself on both sides and playing devil’s advocate, my first thought was if you were going after the President of the United States, one should make sure they have all the facts needed before going public.

I felt that the lack of authentication is no doubt the primary issue and for media professionals, it was a grave error and with media and bloggers coming out to disprove the report, because of CBS News’ involvement, it was a problem that was too big to fix and it doesn’t help that this was exposed before the election. Mary Mapes was terminated. Executive Producer Josh Howard and Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy resigned and Dan Rather apologized and stepped down.

But at the same time, I felt that Dan Rather, Mary Mapes and her crew stood for what they believed in and believed that while the documents turned out to be false, the underlying story is true.

With that being said, I understand CBS’ position in the matter and how CBS chief spokeman Gil Schwartz felt that “the film tries to turn gross errors of journalism and judgment into acts of heroism and martyrdom” (“Fortune” Magazine, October 16, 2015).

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality was very good and the lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and musical score.  There are interesting featurettes included such as the real Mary Mapes and Dan Rather discussing the pursuit of “truth”, interviews with the cast members and there is also an informative Q&A session plus audio commentary included as well.

“Truth”, as like most political thrillers, the film is no doubt subject to the individual.  And if you have strong liberal or conservative ideals, one will either love or despise this film.  But the fact is that the crew of “Truth” had a goal in mind with this film and that was to create dialogue and give the viewer a chance to make their own decision about the film.

“Truth” is a film worth checking out!

Terror in Resonance: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

terrorinresonance

“Terror in Resonance” is a riveting anime series that is unique and unpredictable from beginning to end.  If you are looking for a shorter anime series with wonderful animation and a captivating storyline, “Terror in Resonance: The Complete Series” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Terror in Resonance: The Complete Series

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 1-11 (275 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9), Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

Release Date: January 19, 2016


Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe

Script by Hiroshi Seko, Jun Kumagai, Kenta Ihara, Shoten Yano

Music by Yoko Kanno

Original Concept by Shinichiro Watanabe

Character Design by Kazuto Nakazawa

Art Director: Hidetoshi Kaneko

Mecha Design by Shinobu Tsuneki

Anime Production: MAPPA


Featuring the following voice talent:

Atsumi Tanezaki/Jad Saxton as Lisa Mishima

Kaito Ishikawa/Christopher Bevins as Arata ‘Nine’ Kokonoe

Sōma Saitō/Aaron Dismuke as Toji ‘Twelve’ Hisami

Megumi Han/Jamie Marchi as Five

Shunsuke Sakuya/Robert McCollum as Shibazaki


Legendary director Shinichiro Watanabe and famed composer Yoko Kanno are back with the suspense-filled intellectual thriller, Terror in Resonance!

Tokyo has just been decimated by a shocking terrorist attack, and the only hint to the identity of the culprit is a bizarre video uploaded to the internet. The police, baffled by this cryptic clue, are powerless to stop the paranoia spreading across the population.

While the world searches for a criminal mastermind to blame for this tragedy, two mysterious teens who shouldn’t even exist masterfully carry out their heinous plan. A determined detective is hot on the culprit’s heels, but to catch them he must navigate a tangled web of riddles and false leads. Can he stop them before they carry out their plan to wake the world from its slumber – and pull the trigger on this world?


From “Cowboy Bebop” and “Macross Plus” director Shinichiro Watanabe comes “Terror in Resonance” (Zankyou no Teroru).

Featuring an all-star creative cast which includes music by Yoko Kanno ( “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”, “Macross 7”, “Aquarion”, “Cowboy Bebop”), character designs by Kazuto Nakazawa (“Ashita no Nadja”, “Hells”, “The Heroic Legend of Arslan”, “House of Five Leaves”) and art direction by Hidetoshi Kaneko (“Battle Angel”, “Devil Hunter Yohko”, “Black Lagoon”, “Record of Lodoss War”) with anime production courtesy of MAPPA (“Kids on the Slope”, “Garo: The Animation”, “Ushio and Tora”).

The 11-episode anime series aired on Fuji TV’s Noitamina block from July through September 2014 and will be released by FUNimation on Blu-ray and DVD in January 2016.

The series begins with a terrorist attack in Tokyo and video of the two responsible causing fear throughout Japan.

The terrorist group Sphinx consists of the stoic Nine and the childish Twelve want nothing more than to wake people up from their slumber and pull the trigger.  What the two didn’t expect is having a high school girl named Lisa Mishima becoming part of their group.

Meanwhile, Kenjiro Shibazaki of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department is doing all he can to prevent more of the Sphinx terrorists attacks in Tokyo, with help from an American FBI government agent known as Five, who may have a connection to Nine and Twelve.


VIDEO:

“Terror in Resonance: The Complete Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The animation is vibrant and quite detailed, especially the art backgrounds.  While the character designs featuring a style different from what you see in other anime series, the detailed art backgrounds lend to the wonderful look and feel to the anime series.   I didn’t notice any banding issues or artifacts during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Terror in Resonance: The Complete Series” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese DolbyTrueHD 2.0. As one can expect, the anime series’ lossless soundtrack is much better in English due to the 5.1 soundtrack.  But the Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 soundtrack sounds very good considering it’s just a stereo soundtrack. Both series are well acted and I have to give credit to Jad Saxton who does her best performance to date as the emotional Lisa Mishima.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Terror in Resonance: The Complete Series” features the following special features:

  • Episode 1 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with English dub voice talents: Christopher Bevins, Aaron Dismuke and Jad Saxton.
  • Textless OP & ED

EXTRAS:

“Terror in Resonance: The Complete Series” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the TV series.


With a lot of media turning its attention to the acts of extremists and terrorism, the anime series “Terror in Resonance” focuses on various storylines and perspectives.

The main characters are Five and Twelve, young terrorists known as “Sphinx” who have been blowing up buildings in Tokyo and causing fear and panic in Japan.  Having run into a teenage girl named Lisa (who has been bullied in high school and also having to deal with her unruly mother, because she finds out the identities of the two terrorists, she has a choice to join them or die.  Of course, Lisa chooses the former and becomes part of “Sphinx”.

Meanwhile, on the police end, we are introduced to Kenjiro Shibazaki of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Deparment and used to be one of the top members of the investigations division.  But now, demoted to the records division.

When the terrorist attacks begin, Shibazaki’s associate asks him to return to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, as they need his skills to catch the two terrorists and prevent them from creating more attacks in Tokyo.

Meanwhile, another group, the American FBI sends in their operative Five to go to Japan as part of her duties with NEST and help out the terrorist attack investigations.  But it appears that Five has her own reasons of wanting to catch Five and Twelve.  Why is she causing problem for both of them?

For a short anime series, “Terror in Resonance” is an intriguing storyline, especially when we start to hear about the “Athena Project” and also learn more about why Five and Twelve are determined on doing what they do.

Animation is wonderful and the art backgrounds are highly detailed and are gorgeous to look at.  The Blu-ray release features vibrant illustrations.  Like other FUNimation animation on Blu-ray releases, because the English dub receives a lossless 5.1 soundtrack, there is much better use of the surround channels.  While the Japanese soundtrack, like most Japanese anime TV series are in stereo.  As for special features, “Terror in Resonance: The Complete Series” comes with an episode commentary, U.S. trailer and trailers.

Overall, “Terror in Resonance” is a riveting anime series that is unique and unpredictable from beginning to end.  If you are looking for a shorter anime series with wonderful animation and a captivating storyline, “Terror in Resonance: The Complete Series” is recommended!

Straight Outta Compton: Unrated Director’s Cut (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

straightcompton-a

N.W.A.’s music was significant and they inspired a social revolution.  And as for the film, F. Gary Gray’s “Straight Outta Compton” is no doubt a masterpiece and it’s a film that I highly recommend!

Image courtesy of (C) 2016 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Straight Outta Compton: Unrated Director’s Cut

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 2 hrs. 47 Min. (Director’s Cut), 2 Hrs. 27 Min. (Theatrical Version)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 Aspect Ratio), English, Espanol, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Dolby Digital, English DVS 2.0, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Espanol

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Language Throughout, Strong Sexuality, Nudity, Violence and Drug Use)

Release Date: January 19, 2016


Directed by F. Gary Gray

Screenplay by Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff

Story by S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus, Andrea Berloff

Executive Producers: David Engel, Jon Jashni, Adam Merims, William Packer, Bill Strauss, Thomas Tull

Produced by Matt Alvarez, Scott Bernstein, Dr. Dre, F. Gary Gray, Ice Cube, Tomica Woods-Wright

Co-Executive Producer: S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus

Associate Producer: Darrell Jackson

Music by Joseph Trapanese

Cinematography by Mattew Libatique

Edited by Billy Fox, Michael Tronick

Casting by Victoria Thomas, Cindy Tolan

Production Design by Shane Valentino

Art Direction by Christopher Brown

Set Decoration by Christopher Carlson, Jeffrey Kushon

Costume Design by Kelli Jones


Starring:

O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube

Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre

Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E

Neil Brown Jr. as DJ Yella

Aldis Hodge as MC Ren

Marlon Yates Jr. as D.O.C.

R. Marcos Taylor as Suge Knight

Carra Patterson as Tomica

Alexandra Shipp as Kim

Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller

Elena Goode as Nicole

Keith Powers as Tyree


Straight Outta Compton tells the true story of how 5 young men, using brutally honest rhymes, put their anger about life into the most powerful weapon they had: their music.


straightcompton-c

N.W.A., the controversial West Coast hip hop group which took America by storm (positively and negatively) with gangsta rap, featuring profanity and violent lyrics, especially towards law enforcement.

Featuring members Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, and DJ Yella, the group rapped about their reality living in Compton, California and South Central Los Angeles.  The group would eventually form N.W.A. in 1986 and with the release of their debut album “Straight Outta Compton” in 1988, the album sold over three million copies and made triple platinum.

But things took a turn for the worse and lyricist and rapper Ice Cube would leave the group to go solo and both N.W.A. and Ice Cube would launch songs against each other.

And as other members would find success later on, talks of a reunion would never become a reality due to the death of Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, who died of AIDS in 1995.

In 2015, filmmaker F. Gary Gray (“The Italian Job”, “Law Abiding Citizen”, “The Negotiator”) and writers Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff (“World Trade Center”, “The Legend of Conan”) would create a biopic based on the group about the group before their debut, what happened during the N.W.A. run, problems between the members, Eazy-E’s death and what happened the group since becoming members of N.W.A.

The film would star O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube’s real son), Corey Hawkins (“Non-Stop”, “Iron Man 3”), Jason Mitchell (“Contraband”, “Broken City”, “Texas Killing Fields”), Neil Brown Jr. (“Fast & Furious”, “Battle Los Angeles”, “Never Back Down”), Aldis Hodge (“Leverage”, “Die Hard: With a Vengeance”) and Paul Giamatti (“Sideways”, “The illusionist”, “Cinderella Man”).

The film would receive critical praise and the $28 million film would go on to make over $200 million in the box office.


straightcompton-b

VIDEO:

“Straight Outta Compton” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks absolutely awesome in HD as the film showcases detail from skin to clothing textures.  Picture quality is fantastic and I saw no artifacts or banding during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Straight Outta Compton” is presented in English, Espanol and French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Dolby Digital 2.0 and English DVS 2.0.  The film sounds fantastic HD as dialogue and music is crystal clear.  Music utilizes bass and really does a great job of utilizing the entire soundscape.  Meanwhile, there are action sequences as LAPD breaking down a crack house or Ice Cube wanting to make his point clear at Priority Records.  Needless to say, audiophiles should be quite pleased with the overall soundtrack.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Straight Outta Compton” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary with director F. Gary Gray
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring six deleted scenes.
  • N.W.A. The Origins – (3:49) N.W.A. members and cast members discuss the group, the music and the making of the film.
  • Impact – (1:35) N.W.A. and cast talk about the cultural impact of N.W.A.
  • Director’s Journey – (3:22) Background on re-creating the LA Riots sequence for the film.
  • The Streets: Filming in Compton – (6:03) A featurette about shooting the Compton sequence.
  • N.W.A. Performs in Detroit – (4:54) N.W.A. members discuss “F*** the Police” and the making of the Detroit concert sequence.
  • Becoming N.W.A. – (8:30) A featurette about the casting of the actors.

EXTRAS:

“Straight Outta Compton” comes with a slipcover and Ultraviolet code.


straightcompton-d

When I was a young teen and relocated to Long Beach, I remember KDAY being played by the driver on the bus, every morning, on my way to school.

And I remember hearing two songs that really got everyone hyped up….JJ Fad’s “Supersonic” and Eazy-E’s “Boyz-n-the-Hood”.  It was my first exposure to gangsta rap, considering that I grew up listening to East Coast rap and the only West Coast rap I listened to at the time was LA Dream Team.

But I absolutely was captivated by the music because it was unlike anything I listened to.  Considering that most hip hop I was listening to at the time was Public Enemy, LL Cool J and Run DMC. And the lyrics had substance, true meaning and was controversial because it was their reality.  Controversy back in the late ’80s prior to N.W.A., controversy about rap music was primary lyric-driven and situated around 2 Live Crew.

But N.W.A. took things farther and it was the reflection of society.

And I can remember when I went with new friends to World Famous VIP Records and picked up “N.W.A. and the Posse” on vinyl and cassette and “8 Ball” and “Dope Man” would be listened to all day by me and friends.

The following year, for me it was all about Compton’s Rodney-O & Joe Cooley’s “Me and Joe” and N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton”, but it was N.W.A.’s lyrics that me and friends gravitated to.

We would rap the lyrics at school and back in the day, N.W.A. was all that me and my friends would listen to.

But then Ice Cube left and I remembered being confused as hell, of why Cube would leave the group and then the back-and-forth attacks, it seemed pretty messed and fierce, but at the same time I wasn’t surprised.  But I was surprised years later to find out that Eazy-E was dying and to see him succumb to AIDS.  It was a sad day in music, because no matter how much controversy N.W.A. brought

And as we watched and see how the guys would have their own success outside of N.W.A. and now with Dr. Dre and Ice Cube now reaching success in other endeavors.

Needless to say, I’ve read articles of the troubles the group experienced but after all these years, nothing brought the memories of the past back, none other than F. Gary Gray’s biopic “Straight Outta Compton”.

The biopic (which was inspired by true events) would begin with introducing viewers to Eric “Eazy-E” Wright (portrayed by Jason Mitchell), a drug dealer escaping a police raid on a crack house.

We are then introduced to O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson (portrayed by O’Shea Jackson Jr.) looking outside his school bus and constantly writing rap lyrics.  He witnesses gang members stop their school bus after students were teasing the gangsters and all getting a warning from the gangsters that they could be killed.

As for Andrew “Dr. Dre” Young (portrayed by Corey Hawkins), his dreams are becoming a popular DJ.  But when his mother and him get an argument over him not going to school and looking for a job, Dre leaves home to live with his girlfriend and child.

But when Dr. Dre, DJ Yella (portrayed by Neil Brown Jr.) and Ice Cube perform at a friend’s club in Compton, they get Eazy-E and MC Ren (portrayed by Aldis Hodge) to consider forming a group and releasing a song.  And with goals to make it big, the group are often accosted by the LAPD for no reason.

And needing another rapper, they get Eazy-E to produce a track titled “Boyz-n-the Hood” which becomes a major hit and putting Eazy-E’s company, Ruthless Records on top.

The song attracts music manager/producer Jerry Heller (portrayed by Paul Giamatti) to approach Eazy-E to sign with him and he’ll make them big.  Eazy-E would be in charge of the business and Jerry would be an employee and make them huge.  And eventually, the group is signed to a deal with Priority Records.

And with the release of “Straight Outta Compton”, N.W.A. receives negative publicity from news outlets of the group glorifying gangs and violence against police.

And the publicity works to their favor as many albums are purchased and many people turning out to their concerts nationwide.

But as Eazy-E and Jerry begin to make money, other members of the group are not receiving any money which concerns “Ice Cube” as he was responsible for writing half of the lyrics for “Straight Outta Compton”.

This causes division in N.W.A. as Ice Cube pursues a solo career.  And this would lead to a spiraling downfall for N.W.A., but would take the careers of the members to different heights.

“Straight Out Compton: Unrated Director’s Cut” features both the Director’s Cut and Theatrical Version of the film.  With the Director’s Cut, you get 20 extra minutes and personally, I enjoyed both versions.  Although I give a much bigger nod to the Unrated Director’s Cut which I enjoyed a lot.

The Blu-ray releases features wonderful picture and audio quality.  And there are also a good number of special features included, especially an in-depth audio commentary by F. Gary Gray.

Watching “Straight Outta Compton”, I absolutely enjoyed this film.  Not only does it do a great job of showing us how these group of guys came together and would pioneer gangsta rap but would eventually would go on to bigger projects in their career, we also see the dangerous side.  From the dispute on contracts which would lead Ice Cube of leaving N.W.A. but also destroying Priority Records, Dr. Dre joining Suge Knight and creating Deathrow Records but also leading up to Eazy-E’s death and the N.W.A. reunion that never came to be.

It’s a shame that “Straight Outta Compton” did not receive any Oscar nominations. The performances by nearly every major cast member is fantastic.  O’Shea Jackson Jr. did a magnificent job of playing Ice Cube, but Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell and Paul Giamatti were also phenomenal in this film.

In a way, the film remains relevant today as police corruption is becoming prevalent in today’s news, race relations and insensitivity has become a significant discussion.

N.W.A.’s music was significant and they inspired a social revolution.  And as for the film, F. Gary Gray’s “Straight Outta Compton” is no doubt a masterpiece and it’s a film that I highly recommend!

Bitter Rice – The Criterion Collection #792 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

bitterrice-a

Giuseppe De Santis’ “Bitter Rice” takes a different path compared to other Italian neorealism films and its focus on two female leads and balancing sex, romance, socioeconomic status with a crime thriller.  It’s a memorable, classic Italian film which I highly recommend!

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


TITLE: Bitter Rice – The Criterion Collection #792

YEAR OF FILM: 1946

DURATION: 109 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, black and white/color-tinted, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: January 12, 2016


Directed by Giuseppe De Santis

Story by Giuseppe De Santis, Carlo Lizzani, Gianni Puccini 

Written by Corrado Alvaro, Carlo Musso, Ivo Perilli

Produced by Dino De Laurentiis

Cinematography by Otello Martelli

Edited by Gabriele Varriale

Production Design by Carlo Egidi

Costume Design by Anna Gobbi


Starring:

Vittorio Gassman as Walter

Doris Dowling as Francesca

Silvana Mangano as Silvana

Raf Vallone as Marco

Checco Rissone as Aristide

Nico Pepe as Beppe

Adriana Sivieri as Celeste

Lia Corelli as Amelia

Marie Grazia Francia as Gabriella


During planting season in Northern Italy’s Po Valley, an earthy rice-field worker (Silvana Mangano) falls in with a small-time criminal (Vittorio Gassman) who is planning a daring heist of the crop, as well as his femme-fatale-ish girlfriend, played by the Hollywood star Doris Dowling. Both a socially conscious look at the hardships endured by underpaid field workers and a melodrama tinged with sex and violence, this early smash for producer extraordinaire Dino De Laurentiis and director Giuseppe De Santis is neorealism with a heaping dose of pulp.


bitterrice-b

From Italian filmmaker Giuseppe De Santis (“Tragic Hunt”, “Obsessione”, “Men and Wolves”) is his 1949 classic Italian neorealism style film, “Bitter Rice” (Riso Amaro).

Co-written with De Santis and Carlo Lizzani, the film stars Vittorio Gassman (“Sleepers”, “Big Deal on Madonna Street”, “Il Sorpasso”, “Scent of a Woman”), Doris Dowling (“The Lost Weekend”, “The Blue Dahlia”, “Othello”), Silvana Mangano (“Dune”, “Teorema”, “Oedipus Rex”, “Death in Venice”) and Raf Vallone (“The Italian Job”, “El Cid”, “The Godfather: Part III”).

The film was nominated for an “Academy Award for Best Story” in 1950 and was selected as one of the “100 Italian Films to be Saved” (established by Venice Days at the 65th Venice International Film Festival in collaboration with Cinecitta Holding and the support of Ministry of Cultural Heritage).

And now, Giuseppe De Santis’ film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection in January 2016.

“Bitter Rice” begins with an introduction of how hundreds of women head to northern Italy during the rice-planting season for work.

Meanwhile, Walter (portrayed by Vittorio Gassman) and Francesca (portrayed by Doris Dowling) are on the run after stealing a diamond necklace.

As the two head to the crowded trains, in order to hide from the authorities, Francesca keeps the necklace, while Walter tries to evade police by dancing with peasant rice worker, Silvana (portrayed by Silvana Mangano).

But Walter is discovered by authorities and both he and Francesca go on their separate ways in separate trains.

As Francesca tries her best to hide the diamond necklace, she befriends Silvana who knows that she and Walter are being trailed by police.  As Silvana tries to get information about Walter from Francesca, Francesca tells her that he nearly got her killed.

As Francesca needs a job, Silvana eventually tries to introduce Francesca to work in the rice field.  But Francesca doesn’t have a work permit and she and others (deemed as “illegals”) who don’t have a permit, are looked down upon because documented workers feel the illegals are stealing money away from them.

While arriving to the field, they run into the servicemen who occupied the rooms and are leaving.  Marco (portrayed by Raf Vallone) flirts with Silvana but while the two are talking, Silvana starts to suspect that Francesca is hiding something.

As Francesca goes to get the pillows and blankets for her bed, Silvana discovers what Francesca was hiding and that they were the diamond jewels that was reported stolen.

This leads to a division between both women, as Silvana despises thieves and works to make things difficult for Francesca (who is an undocumented worker) at the rice field.

Meanwhile, Walter and a few other thieves arrive to the fields, so he can connect with Francesca but he immediately turns his attention towards Silvana.


VIDEO:

“Bitter Rice – The Criterion Collection #792” is presented in 1:33:1 black and white and in 1080p High Definition. The film looks absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray!

White and grays are well-contrast, black levels are nice and deep and the detail and sharpness is fantastic.  I did not notice any issues with the picture quality with blurriness or any scratches or dust during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain and jitter.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Bitter Rice – The Criterion Collection #792”. The film is presented in Italian LPCM 1.0 and according to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the optical track print.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and Izotope RX 4.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Bitter Rice – The Criterion Collection #792” comes with the following special features:

  • Giuseppe De Santis – (52:33) Featuring a 2008 documentary by Carlo Lizzani, the primary screenwriter of “Bitter Rice” and frequent collaborator of Giuseppe De Santis, covers the career of the director.
  • Carlos Lizzani – (6:36) A 2002 interview with “Bitter Rice” screenwriter Carlos Lizzani.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Bitter Rice”.

EXTRAS:

“Bitter Rice – The Criterion Collection #792” comes with a eight-page foldout with the essay “A Field in Italy” by Pasquale Iannone.


bitterrice-c

When it comes to Italian neorealism style films, Giuseppe De Santis “Bitter Rice” is perhaps one of the most memorable films because of its female leads.

Away from the city and focused on a rice field, the film focuses on two women, among hundreds who come to northern France to make money for a little over a month planting or gathering rice.

Everyone wants a fair share of making money to bring home to their families and are willing to undergo the hardships of working on the field.

But we clearly see the division between documented and non-documented workers, which pits the film’s two female leads, Francesa and Silvana.

It just happens to be that the actress playing the roles are no doubt cinematic bombshells.  Francesca Dowling captivates you with her emotions of being unemployed and wanting to be accepted and her transformation of the girlfriend and accomplice of a thief to a person who wants to try to do the right thing.

Meanwhile Silvana Mangano is the curvy bombshell with sex appeal.  Quickly captivating viewers with her sexy dances moves and attracting the men of the film.

The film’s Italian neorealism touches upon poverty and how far thieves would go to make money to whichever length necessary.

I enjoyed this film because it’s unlike the dreary storylines that take place during post-war era.  Poverty, unemployment and women leaving home to make money for their family, is a realistic portrayal of a damaged economy.  And we see the troubles these women endure from beginning to the end of their 40-day work period.

Personally, I felt the film was well-cast as Doris Dowling and Silvana Mangano were wonderful, sexy and brought added dimension for their character and making us believe in their situation and transformation.  The film incorporates crime elements, a little of the darkness one would typically see in noir but for the most part, poverty and worries about one’s livelihood is quite prominent in this Italian neorealistic film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality for the film was wonderful as the grays and whites were well-contrast, black levels were nice and deep but the sharpness and detail of watching the film in HD is quite noticeable.  Lossless audio is in monaural LPCM 1.0.  And you get a few special features included on this Blu-ray release.

Overall, Giuseppe De Santis’ “Bitter Rice” takes a different path compared to other Italian neorealism films and its focus on two female leads and balancing sex, romance, socioeconomic status with a crime thriller.  It’s a memorable, classic Italian film which I highly recommend!

Gilda – The Criterion Collection #795 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

gilda-a

“Gilda” should be watched, not only because of Rita Hayworth but watched as a well-done noir film that manages to have a great balance of acting and cinematography. And is no doubt a shining gem of Hollywood film noir. Recommended!

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


TITLE: Gilda – The Criterion Collection #795

YEAR OF FILM: 1946

DURATION: 110 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, black and white/color-tinted, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: January 19, 2016


Directed by Charles Vidor

Story by E.A. Ellington

Adaptation by Jo Eisinger

Screenplay by Marion Parsonnet

Produced by Virginia Van Upp

Cinematography by Rudolph Mate

Edited by Charles Nelson

Art Direction by Stephen Gooson, Van Nest Polglase

Set Decoration by Robert Priestley


Starring:

Rita Hayworth as Gilda Mundson Farrell

Glenn Ford as Johnny Farrell/Narrator

George Macready as Ballin Mundson

Joseph Calleia as Dt. Maurice Obregon

Steven Geray as Uncle Pio

Jow Sawyer as Casey

Gerald Mohr as Capt. Delgado

Mark Roberts as Gabe Evans

 


“Gilda, are you decent?” Rita Hayworth tosses her hair back and slyly responds, “Me?” in one of the great star entrances in movie history. Gilda, directed by Charles Vidor, features a sultry Hayworth in her most iconic role, as the much-lusted-after wife of a criminal kingpin (George Macready), as well as the former flame of his bitter henchman (Glenn Ford), and she drives them both mad with desire and jealousy. An ever-shifting battle of the sexes set on a Buenos Aires casino’s glittering floor and in its shadowy back rooms, Gilda is among the most sensual of all Hollywood noirs.


gilda-b

Rita Hayworth, one of the most popular actress in America, a sex symbol who would win audiences with her performance in the 1946 film “Gilda” and would have a career that featured 61 films shot in 37 years.

Known in her earlier years as Rita Cansino, the half Spanish and half actress was born in a family full of entertainers.  Her father was a flamenco dancer, her mother was an original Zeigfeld girl, her parents were a source for her to pursue acting and dancing.  Father and daughter would become the “The Dancing Cansinos” and she would eventually catch the eye of the head of the Fox Film Corporation, Winfield Sheehan and Rita was signed to a short-term contract.

Because of her Spanish look, studios were not reluctant to hire her, so Rita would go through several procedures to change herself and when she returned to screen test for Columbia Pictures, the actress who now had red hair and would change her name to Rita Hayworth (her mother’s maiden name) would make her brand new return in 1939 and eventually would get a small but yet important part in the Cary Grant film “Only Angels Have Wings”.  And eventually, her career would blossom from then on.

In fact, during World War II, Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable would become the popular pin-up girls for military serviceman.  She also had a “no nudity” policy which boosted her popularity during the 1940′s and by 1944, Hayworth was the big box office star in Hollywood.

And her 1946 film “Gilda” is considered as Rita Hayworth’s best film that she has starred in and regarded by cinema fans as one of the sexiest noir films ever created.

As the film was remastered and restored in 2013, the film will now debut in HD via Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection in January 2016.

“Gilda” would feature director Charles Vidor (who worked with Hayworth in “Cover Girl” and would feature a story by E.A. Ellington, a screenplay by Marion Parsonnet and adaptation by Jo Eisenger.  The cinematography was done by the highly respected Rudolph Maté who worked with Carl Th. Dreyer films “The Passions of Joan of Arc” (1928) and “Vampyr” (1932), costume designer Jean Louis and choreographer “Jack Cole” and feature the vocals of Anita Ellis (note: Rita Hayworth’s singing vocals were always dubbed).

“Gilda” is a film narrated by gambler named Johnny Farrell (played by Glenn Ford).  Johnny recounts the time he moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina and how he won a lot of money by cheating in craps.  After collecting his winnings, Johnny is nearly robbed by a gunman until Ballin Mundson (played by George Macready) saves him.  Ballin tells him that there is an illegal high-class casino in the area but he should never use his cheating skills there.

Johnny doesn’t listen and ignores his advice and cheats while playing Blackjack and wins again.  But as quickly as he wins, he is caught by men working at the casino and is taken to meet their boss, who happens to be Ballin.  Ballin tells Johnny that he warned him.    Before anything can happen to him, Johnny tries to show his worth to Ballin by beating up one of his men and telling him that with his skills, he can protect the casino and eventually leads to Ballin hiring Johnny to be his right-hand man at the casino.  And everyone appears to be impressed by Johnny, with the exception of Uncle Pio (played by Steven Geray), the washroom attendant who is not afraid to call Johnny a “peasant”.

As business is going well and Johnny is well-liked by his boss, when Ballin returns from a business trip, he surprises Johnny by telling him that he has married a woman named Gilda (played by Rita Hayworth).  A woman who was Johnny’s girlfriend from the past and is surprised that she is back in his life, albeit being the wife of his boss.  And to make things even more difficult is that Johnny must watch over her and complicating matters even further, Gilda knows how to press Johnny’s buttons by flirting with men.

For Ballin, he can sense that Gilda despises Johnny but also that Johnny despises her.  Unaware the two knew each other long ago, he is puzzled why the two have hostilities towards each other.

Meanwhile, two German men have paid a visit to Ballin and want their money.  The men and Ballin have worked together on a project financing a tungsten cartel and to avoid being detected by authorities, everything is under Ballin’s name.  and now both men want ownership of the project which Ballin is unwilling to concede.

As Argentinian government agent Obregon (played by Joseph Calleia) is investigating the matter and thinks that Johnny may know if there is a connection between Ballin and the German men, during a party, one of the German’s end up dead (actually killed by Ballin).

As Johnny goes to find Ballin and tell him about the death of the man, he encounters Gilda and the two get into a heated argument of why they hate each other so much.  But while doing so, the two end up kissing each other and hear a knock.  Both realize that Ballin must have seen them kiss.

From that day forward, the lives of Johnny and Gilda will never be the same.


gilda-d

VIDEO:

“Gilda” is presented in 1:33:1 black and white and in 1080p High Definition.   Although over 65-years-old, the film is a sexy noir film that looks absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray!

The film was restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive in cooperation with Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Library of Contress and The National Film and Television Archive (U.K.).

According to the Criterion Collection, “The new high-definition transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine film scanner from a 35 mm fine-grain master made from the original camera negative”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Gilda” is presented in LPCM 1.0 monaural.

 

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm soundtrack negative.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX 4.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gilda – The Criterion Collection #795” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Richard Schickel.  Richard Schickel is a film critic for Time Magazine, writer and documentary filmmaker.  His commentary is very informative.
  • Martin Scorcese and Baz Luhrmann on “Gilda” – (16:05) Director Martin Scorsese talks about the allure of Rita Hayworth and growing up watching “Gilda” while filmmaker Baz Luhrmann talks about how wonderful the scenes are and how he tried to capture parts of “Gilda” in his film “Moulin Rouge”.
  • “Hollywood and the Stars: The Odyssey of Rita Hayworth'” – (25:11) A 1964 episode of “Hollywood and the Stars” about Rita Hayworth and her career.
  • Eddie Muller – (22:14) Featuring an interview with film noir historian Eddie Muller.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer – (2:11) The original theatrical trailer for “Gilda”.

EXTRAS:

“Gilda – The Criterion Collection #795” comes with a poster of Rita Hayworth on one side and the essay “The Long Shadow of Gilda” by Sheila O’Malley.


gilda-c

I don’t anyone who has disliked “Gilda”, for the most part, everyone I have talked to, have all discussed how Rita Hayworth literally captured our attention from her first appearance in the film when she lifts her head and you see the popular hair toss scene.  Hayworth radiates onscreen.

And while she gives a strong performance throughout the film, it’s those certain scenes, for example, when she performs her famous nightclub song with her dark blue gown that literally grabs your attention, demands your attention and literally, you are seduced by her beauty and sexuality. “Gilda” was a film that further builds upon Hayworth’s WWII pinup status and shows us that she’s more than just a woman who can dance, but she’s also an actress that can give one hell of an emotional performance.

Hayworth not only succeeds in playing the female fatale, there is just this confidence that you see onscreen and Hayworth ultimately shines.  Confidence, vulnerability, sexiness, depressed..

Glenn Ford is the anti-hero Johnny Farrel and similar to when James Cagney shoves a grapefruit on his wife’s face, when Johnny slaps Gilda, you know this is a man that is knows nothing but harsh realities.  He is a man that is not to be trusted but nor is Gilda.  Brash, confident, consumed by his love for Gilda to the point that he despises her.

These two characters have much more in common with each other, flawed individuals who despise each other but at the same time, have this intense chemistry that yearns for each other.

In most cases, the screenplay could have fared worse if another actress or actor was cast.  “Gilda” was a film in which I am unable to picture anyone else (if the film was shot a decade later, then possibly Marilyn Monroe) but it’s a film that succeeds because of Hayworth but also the wonderful direction of Charles Vidor, the beautiful cinematography by Rudolph Mate, along with costume and set design.  There is no doubt even 64-years later that “Gilda” is one of the sexiest noir films out there that easily stands out amongst the many noir films ever created not just in the U.S. but one of the finest films created during that time around the world.  And in 2010, this film still is captivating now as it was then.

As for this new Blu-ray release, not only do you get a newly restored version of the film and yes, Hayworth’s musical performance of “Put the Blame on Mame” looks and sounds wonderful in HD.  It’s one of the more recognized scenes in the film and it’s great to finally watch it in HD!

“Gilda” doesn’t suffer the DNR that the original first DVD release had received.  In fact, the Blu-ray release features sharper and more detailed picture quality as grays and whites are well-contrast and black levels are nice and deep.  The monaural soundtrack doesn’t have any issues as dialogue is clear and no sound of warping, hiss or crackle.

As for special features,  included is an audio commentary by Richard Schickel and a featurette by Martin Scorsese and Baz Luhrmann.  Compared to the 2013 Sony Pictures DVD release, the Criterion Collection Blu-ray features two more special features such as the 1964 episode of the TV show “Hollywood and the Stars” and an interview with film noir historian Eddie Muller.

Overall, “Gilda” is the film that turned me on to Rita Hayworth and like many other viewers throughout the decades, have just fallen in love with Rita Hayworth and her magnificent performance in the film.  “Gilda” doesn’t have a magnificent storyline but what it does feature are complexities between two individuals who probably came from the wrong side of town and someway they found each other before.  And of course, it’s that buil-up of sexual tension is what captures us from beginning to end.

“Gilda” should be watched, not only because of Rita Hayworth but watched as a well-done noir film that manages to have a great balance of acting and cinematography.   And is no doubt a shining gem of Hollywood film noir.

Recommended!

Next Page »

Bottom