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The Zero Theorem (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 18, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Zero Theorem” is a fascinating sci-fi film that takes a look at the decay of society. Complex but yet entertaining, “The Zero Theorem” is a wonderful film for Gilliam fans but also cinema fans wanting something unique. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 Asia and Europe Productions S.A. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Zero Theorem

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Closed Captions

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

Rated: R (For Language and Some Sexuality/Nudity)

RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2015


Directed by Terry Gilliam

Screenplay by Pat Rushin

Executive Producer: Ana Aizenberg, Diego Guebel, Mario Pergolini

Produced by Lita Stantic

Co-Producer: Jose Maria Morales

Line Producer: Marta Parga

Cinematography by Hugo Colace

Edited by Santiago Ricci

Casting by Florencia Blanco, Martin Mainoli, Luciana Rico, Natalia Smirnoff

Production & Art Direction by Graciela Oderingo

Set Decoration by Cristina Nigro

Costume Design by Carlo Poggioli


Starring:

Christoph Waltz as Qohen Leth

David Thewlis as Joby

Melanie Thierry as Bainsley

Matt Damon as Management

Lucas Hedges as Bob

Tilda Swinton as Dr. Shrink-Rom


Qohen Leth (2-time Academy Award© winner Christoph Waltz) is a computer genius plagued with existential angst. Eccentric and reclusive, he lives in a burnt-out church, toiling on a top-secret project personally assigned by Management (Matt Damon) to discover the meaning of life. If there is one. Witness a vision of the techno-philosophical future from Terry Gilliam, the visionary director of BRAZIL, 12 MONKEYS, and FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, also starring Tilda Swinton, David Thewlis, and Melanie Thierry.


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From Terry Gilliam (“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, “Time Bandits”, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, “Brazil”, “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”) comes a sci-film titled “The Zero Theorem”.

The film stars Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”, “Carnage”, “Water for Elephants”), Melanie Thierry (“Babylon A.D.”, “The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch”, “The Princess of Montpensier”), Lucas Hedges (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “Labor Day”, “Kill the Messenger”), David Thewlis (“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, “Kingdom of Heaven”, “Seven Years in Tibet”), Matt Damon (“The Bourne Identity” films”, “Good Will Hunting”, “The Departed”) and Tilda Swinton (“Adaptation.”, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “We Need to Talk About Kevin”).

Some have called the film the final part of the “Brazil” trilogy (with the second film being “12 Monkeys”). And now “The Zero Theorem” will be released on Blu-ray in January 2015.

“The Zero Theorem” revolves around a programmer named Qohen Leth (portrayed by Christoph Waltz).  His job is to crunch entities for a company known as Mancom.

But life for Qohen is not simple.  He suffers from existential angst and with so much of his life worrying about the value of life and the existence of life, it has led him staying inside his lab and often waiting for a phone call which he hopes will bring him the answers that he has been seeking.

As Qohen has received psychiatric evaluations, doctors see him as normal and healthy.  But management thinks he is insane.

One day at a corporate party at Mancom, he nearly chokes on an olive and is rescued by a bubbly and beautiful woman named Bainsley (portrayed by Melanie Thierry).

As Qohen tries to work at home, he is introduced to a massive supercomputer known as “The Neural Net Mancive” which contains all entities crunched by workers.  And Qohen’s job is to solve “The Zero Theorem”, a mysterious mathematical formula.

As he sees an AI therapist named Dr. Shrink-ROM (portrayed by Tilda Swinton), she starts to notice that he may suffer from various conditions.  Meanwhile, Qohen starts to have nightmares of a black hole.

Frustrated with his work, Qohen smashes his computer with a hammer but all of a sudden, he is greeted by Bainsley but also the manager’s son, Bob (portrayed by Lucas Hedges).

And Qohen begins to interact with both of them.


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VIDEO:

“The Zero Theorem” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:75:1 aspect ratio).  It’s important to note that the film was shot with a lower budget considering it’s a sci-fi film.  Shot on film, the film features vibrant colors.  The film features amazing detail during closeups.

I did not see any major banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “The Zero Theorem” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  The film is primarily driven by the film’s environments and thus the ambiance can be heard through the surround channels.  Dialogue and George Fenton’s musical score are crystal clear and while not a immersive soundtrack, the soundtrack does sound very good!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Zero Theorem” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind the Scenes – (18:29) Terry Gilliam and the cast talk about working on the film and working with each other.
  • The Visual Effects - (6:39) A featurette about the visual effects of “The Zero Theorem”.
  • The Zero Theorem: Costumes – (28:39) A featurette about the costumes on “The Zero Theorem” and working with Carlo Poggioli.
  • The Zero Theorem: The Sets – (18:10) A featurette about the set and interviews Terry Gilliam, the executive producer and production designer David Warren about shooting in Bucharest.
  • Trailer – (29:19) The Screen Guild Theater radio athnology series broadcasted on March 15, 1943 featuring Claudette Colbert, Randolph Scott and Rudy Vallee.

EXTRAS:

“The Zero Theorem” comes with a slipcover.


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For those familiar with Terry Gilliam’s oeuvre, he has managed to create a new world but also taking on various themes.

In the case of “The Zero Theorem”, the film revolves around a man who becomes unattached to society due to the increasing involvement of technology and how it permeates society, through ads and everywhere else.

For its primary character, Qohen represents a man who wants to know the meaning of life when everyone is literally dehumanized and connected to technology.  He’s lost, frustrated and literally disenchanted with society and he suffers from the ultimately feeling that he is alone.

Of course, because he is “different”, he is seen as a problem.

In many ways, the film is about the decay of society and because of its complexity, some may want to watch the film multiple times and may discover something different each time while they are watching.  It’s how I felt about “Brazil” and many of Terry Gilliam’s films, but it’s part of why I appreciate his films, because nothing is force fed.  Nothing is simple.

The film features a wonderful performance by Christoph Waltz and you also get a few appearances not just by Matt Damon and Tilda Swinton, but also other talents who briefly appear (keep your eyes on the commercials and the doctors).

The Blu-ray features vibrant colors and looks very good in HD, while the lossless soundtrack is appropriate and not too immersive but features crystal clear dialogue and music.  You also get a few special features that go into the making of “The Zero Theorem”.

Overall, Terry Gilliam films are always films that I appreciate.  There are not many directors that force me to rewatch a film several times but in the case of “The Zero Theore” and other Gilliam films, I discover something new each time, but also see his message much more clearly.

“The Zero Theorem” is a fascinating sci-fi film that takes a look at the decay of society.  Complex but yet entertaining, “The Zero Theorem” is a wonderful film for Gilliam fans but also cinema fans wanting something unique.

Recommended!

 

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

January 18, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Fury” is a unique type of war film and there is no doubt that it is the best war film to feature tank battles on the big screen. The Blu-ray itself looks fantastic and sounds magnificent that videophiles and audiophiles will be proud with this release. A captivating and riveting war film, David Ayer’s “Fury” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Norman Licensing. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Fury

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 135 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R

Release Date: January 13, 2015

Directed by David Ayer

Written by David Ayer

Produced by David Ayer, Bill Block, Jon Lesher, Ethan Smith

Co-Producer: Jon Lesher

Executive Producer: Anton Lessine, Alex Ott, Brad Pitt, Sasha Shapiro, Ben Waisbren

Music by Steven Price

Cinematography by Roman Vasyanov

Edited by Jay Cassidy, Dody Dorn

Casting by Lindsay Graham, Mary Vernieu

Production Design by Andrew Menzies

Art Direction by Phil Harvey, Mark Scruton

Set Decoration by Lee Gordon, Malcolm Stone

Costume Design by Maja Meschede, Anna B. Sheppard

Starring:

Brad Pitt as Don “Wardaddy” Collier

Shia LaBeouf as Boyd “Bible” Swan

Logan Lerman as Norman Ellison

Michael Pena as Trini “Gordo” Garcia

Jon Bernthal as Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis

Jim Parrack as Sergeant Binkowski

Brad William Henke as Sergeant Davis

Kevin Vance as Sergeant PEterson

Xavier Samuel as Lt. Parker

Jason Isaacs as Captain Waggoner

Anamaria Marinca as Irma

Alicia von Rittberg as Emma

Scott Eastwood as Sergeant Miles

Laurence Spellman as Sergeant Dillard

April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and his five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Out-numbered, out-gunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.

With the Nazi Germany tank squadron  overpowering America’s tank squadron, an army sergeant and his five-man crew inside a Sherman tank, must try to strike against the Nazi’s despite them being outnumbered and outgunned.  Will this crew survive the fight?

This is the story from filmmaker David Ayer (“Training Day”, “The Fast and the Furious”, “End of Watch”), who felt inclined to write a story about set in World War II after a family members who fought in the war, began talking about their involvement.  Also, inspired by Belton Y. Cooper’s “Death Traps” which was about armored warfare in World War II.

The film stars Brad Pitt (“Inglorious Basterds”, “Fight Club”, “World War Z”), Shia LaBeouf (“Transformers” films, “Disturbia”), Logan Lerman (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, “Percy Jackson” films), Michael Pena (“Shooter”, “End of Watch”, “American Hustle”) and Jon Bernthal (“The Wolf of Wall Street”, “The Ghost”, “Fury”).

The film budgeted at around $68 million, would go on to earn over $201 million in the box office.

And now, “Fury” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“Fury” takes place during the war when the Allies are making their final push into Nazi Germany.

Army Staff Sergeant of the 66th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division, Don “Wardaddy” Collier (portrayed by Brad Pitt) commands a M4A3E8 76mm Sherman tank named Fury.

Having seen comrades decimated by the Nazi Germans, he has become hardened during the war and is upset at the death of his top driver/bow gunner.

His staff includes gunner Boyd “Bible” Swan (portrayed by Shia LaBeouf), loader Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (portrayed by Jon Bernthal) and driver “Trini “Gordo” Garcia (portrayed by Michael Pena).

While arriving at an Ally camp and the only survivor of a Tank division decimated by the Nazis, he is given another driver/bow gunner, an Army typist named Norman Ellison who has never seen war before and is not sure why he is assigned to fight in a tank.

As Wardaddy is dismayed that he is getting someone with no experience and also someone who is full of fear, he gives Norman to get acclimated by cleaning all the blood inside the tank.

As the crew are given a new mission, Norman driving the tank sees an SS soldier but instead of shooting him, he allows the soldier to shoot at an ally tank in front of him, which leads to their death.  Wardaddy is insulted that Norman didn’t do anything and Norman tells him that he didn’t shoot because they were young. Wardaddy and the crew, who have been together since the North African campaign, remind Norman that this is war and he must shoot at them no matter what.

While continuing on their mission, the crew must worry if their new driver/bow gunner will have their backs during this war or will his negligence lead them to their death?

VIDEO:

“Fury” was mastered in 4K and is presented in 1080P High Definition.  The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking as detail is superb, from the closeups of everyone’s face during battle.  Closeups of the tank to even bullet trails flying all around looks fantastic.

Skin tones look natural, black levels are nice and deep, there are no signs of banding or compression artifacts during explosions.

“Fury” looks impressive on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Along with amazing picture quality, “Fury” delivers with a magnificent lossless soundtrack.  Presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, everything about this film, may it be the rumble of the tanks, explosions, bullets whizzing in the air, the sound of infantrymen singing from a distant, this is one immersive soundtrack that sounds fantastic!

Definitely a Blu-ray release showcasing a wonderful lossless soundtrack to kick off 2015, “Fury” sounds magnificent in HD!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Fury” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – Featuring 16 deleted and extended scenes.
  • Blood Brothers – (11:08) The actors discuss working with each other and also working with the veterans and how they became brothers during filming.
  • Director’s Combat Journal – (17:32) A look at David Ayer’s challenge to direct the film and to make the film look and feel authentic down to the technical details and action.
  • Armored Warriors: The Real Men Inside the Shermans – (12:11) A featurette featuring veterans of World War II who were on Shermans discussing the war and their memories from the past in battle.
  • Taming the Beasts: How to Drive, Fire & Shoot Inside a 30 Ton Tank – (12:48) How the tanks were secured for the film and how to have the actors interact with them.
  • Photo Gallery – Featuring images/stills of the cast, crew and veterans.

EXTRAS

“Fury” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.

When it comes to World War II films, there have been many movies about the war but when it comes to featuring armored warfare, there are only a handful of films that focus specifically on tank battles.

There is the 1951 Lewis Seiler film titled “The Tanks are Coming” and you also get a little of it in the Franklin J. Schaffner 1970 film “Patton”, but there is no doubt that director David Ayer did a magnificent job in order to show his respect for the veterans of World War II by trying to make the most authentic war film focusing on tanks.

From the beginning of the film, you feel that the crew of the Fury are walking into an uphill battle against an enemy that has shown itself to be a juggernaut.  Of course, we know the Panzer units of World War II were key to the success of Nazi Germany and the Allies had a hard time facing the Germans as they were outnumbered, outgunned but through key strategy between the Allies and Russia, were able to defeat Nazi Germany and win the war.

But this film is not about winning the war, it’s about a hardened army sergeant and his crew who are sent out on missions knowing that their chances are slim.  But on duty, these men have the honor to fight in belief that the war will be over soon, but until then, many men will have to die.  And they must continue their duty and strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.

David Ayer does a fine job on focusing on the war, the technical issues that the crew must face and showing them at war.

Brad Pitt does a fantastic job of playing a sergeant who is strong and cold in front of his crew, but when alone, he suffers from PTS and doesn’t want his crew to know that behind-the-scenes, while a strong man, he hates the war and the Nazi’s.

The film also gives actor Logan Lerman to take on a role of a young soldier put into the battlefield with no experience and see his transformation of fear, anguish but then seeing the war upfront, the people dying and eventually, becoming a soldier.

Of course, one of the best part about the film is the cinematography and how the war is presented.  David Ayer does his utmost best to showcase these armored battles with efficacy and going through a lot of research in order to bring these tank battles to the big screen.

On Blu-ray, the 4K mastering bring amazing detail and the film looks magnificent on Blu-ray.  And along with the detail, comes a magnificent and immersive, lossless soundtrack.  There are a good number of special features, including interviews with veterans who fought during World War II via Sherman tanks.

Overall, “Fury” is a unique type of war film and there is no doubt that it is the best war film to feature tank battles on the big screen.  The Blu-ray itself looks fantastic and sounds magnificent that videophiles and audiophiles will be proud with this release.

A captivating and riveting war film, David Ayer’s “Fury” is highly recommended!

Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is among the most memorable films from filmmaker Antonio Pietrangeli. Featuring a fine cast of actresses and an entertaining and enjoyable storyline, if you are a fan of ’60s Italian cinema, you owe it yourself to own this wonderful Blu-ray release! “Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © Rarovideo 2014. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)

FILM RELEASE: 1960

DURATION: 129 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (1:65:1 aspect ratio), Original Italian, PCM Linear Dual Mono, Subtitles in English

COMPANY: Raro Video

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2015

Directed by Antonio Pietrangeli

Story by Ruggero Maccari, Antoni Pietrangeli, Ettore Scola

Screenplay by Ruggero Maccari, Antonio Pietrangeli, Tullio Pinelli

Produced by Moris Ergas

Music by Piero Piccioni

Cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo

Edited by Eraldo Da Roma

Production Design by Luigi Scaccianoce

Starring:

Simone Signoret as Adua Giovanetti

Sandra Milo as Lolita

Emmanuelle Riva as Marilina

Gina Rovere as Caterina Zellero, detta Milly

Claudia Gora as Ercoli

Gianrico Tedeschi as Stefano

Antonio Rais as Emilio

Marcello Mastroiani as Piero Salvagni

A rare masterpiece and a wonderful example of Italian Cinema starring two European film icons, Simone Signoret and Marcello Mastroianni, Adua and her Friends tells the story of four prostitutes forced to fend for themselves when a new law closes the bordellos of Rome. They pool their savings to open a trattoria, but find they cannot get a license. A prominent fixer with connections obtains the license for them, on the condition that they conduct their old business upstairs and pay him an exorbitant monthly fee. The works of Pietrangeli, one of the most talented members of the Italian neo-realism movement and capable of delivering gems such as Adua and her Friends and The Visitor definitely deserves to be revisited and to be exposed to a larger international audience.

A filmmaker who was known for his films and working with female talent in the commedia all’italian genre, Antonio Pietrangeli will be known as a director with so much potential, but also as a filmmaker who died while working on a film.

In his 15-years as a filmmaker, among his highlights in his oeuvre is his 1960 film “Adua e le compagne” (also known as “Adua and her Friends”).  A film co-written with filmmaker Ruggero Maccari, Ettore Scola and revered screenwriter and Federico Fellini collaborator, Tullio Pinelli.

The film would star well-known talents such as French actress Simone Signoret (“Casque d’or”, “The Crucible”, “Room at the Top”, “Ship of Fools”), Italian actress Sandra Milo (“8 1/2″, “Juliet of the Spirits”), French actress Emmanuelle Riva (“Hiroshima mon amour”, “Amour”), Italian actress Gina Rovere (“Big Deal on Madonna Street”, “Life is Beautiful”) and actor Marcello Mastroianni (“8 1/2″, “La Dolce Vitta”, “Divorce Italian Style”).

And now Pietrangeli classic “Adua e le compagne” will be released on Blu-ray in North America courtesy of Raro Video.

The film begins with a brothel shutting down and prostitute Adua Giovannetti (portrayed by Simone Signoret) coming up with a business plan to create a brothel but in order to get clients, for her and her business partners to start off by creating a restaurant.

But in order to make this plan work, she needs business partners and she enlists the sexy and bubbly Lolita (portrayed by Sandra Milo), the often stressed out single mother Marilina (portrayed by Emmanuelle Riva) and the quiet, yet fiery Milly (portrayed by Gina Rovere).

The four pool in their money and purchase a run down building but yet rebuild it to become a beautiful restaurant.

But as the four of them want to escape their former lives as prostitutes, the more they miss the life of making money by sleeping with men.

And as the plan is to create the atmosphere of starting their own restaurant and bringing patrons through their door, their goal is to slowly attract the male visitors for their brothel.  But will their plan work?

VIDEO:

“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is presented in 1080p High Definition (black and white, 1:66:1).

The film is well-contrast as black levels are nice and deep, whites and grays are presented also with very good clarity.  I didn’t notice any glaring problems with prominent artifacts, nor did I see any major film damage such as scratches or stains.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is presented in Italian linear PCM 2.0 with English subtitles. Dialogue is clear via center channel. I didn’t notice any hiss, crackling or pops during my viewing of the film.  Piero Piccioni’s score sounds crisp and clear, as well as the dialogue.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” comes with the following special features:

  • Introduction by Maurizio Porro – (6:57) Featuring an introduction by cinema journalist Maurizio Porro.
  • Short film: “Girandola 1910″ – (10:31) A short by director Antonio Pietrangeli.

EXTRAS:

“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” comes with a slipcover and a 12-page booklet featuring essays such as “Prospectus” by Bruno di Marino and also an introduction by Lara Nicoli which was for the original VHS release of “Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” from Minerva Classic.

“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is an Antonio Pietrangeli film that has captivated Italian cinema fans for decades.

Often called a feminist film as four women try to become independent and run a professional business was against the norm of what was released in Italian cinema during the ’50s and ’60s, but to also show a sign of desperation as four of the women are prostitutes who want nothing more but to live a different life but can they?

The film features two well-known actresses from French cinema, Simone Signoret and Emmanuel Riva who give a wonderful performance along with Sandra Milo and Gina Rovere as four women who must take their lives into a new direction as their brothel was closed due to the Merlin Law of 1959.

While the Italian Cineaste may remember Federico Fellini’s “Nights of Cabiria” of 1957 as a film that showed audiences about the challenging life of a prostitute, but yet feels liberated because of the independence the job brings to her.  The emotional discontent of the prostitute is further more captured in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film “Accattone” which showed that Italian society must conform to modern consumerist culture.  Pasolini called it “cultural genocide”.

And the same can be seen with Antonio Pietrangeli’s film “Adua e le compagne” (also known as”Adua and her Friends”) as four prostitutes, forced out of their job due to the Merlin Law band together, pool their money to rent a flat and in order to avoid the law, create a restaurant.

And it’s through the restaurant that these women start to see a sign of their own success but also a place of safety.

Their restaurant allows them to befriend a monk from the nearby Catholic monastery, the restaurant allows the women to meet men who respect them, the restaurant allows a single mother to reunite with her son that she never sees.

But as the restaurant brings them to peace, safety and success, not all is good as the women start to miss their old life and making money through sex.

The goal of having a restaurant to entice men and to have a hidden brothel becomes problematic when their old customers start arriving to the restaurant with their families.  Their guilty conscience starts to get the best of them when they meet well-mannered, loving men but to not know how a man would react to their past life.

“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is a film that is not as deep or dark as a Fellini or Passolini film about prostitution but it ranks high up there because it is a film that presented hope, but similar in the fact that to these women, there is no escape.  And Pietrangeli is able to bring out human emotion, the anguish of a life that one wanted, what one hoped for, but to see it destroyed.

There is no doubt that “Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” will be seen as one of Antonio Pietrangeli’s finest films from his oeuvre, next to his Berlin International Film Festival award winning 1964 film “La Visita” and his 1965 Silver Ribbon award winning film “Io la conoscevo bene”.  While he directed 14 films and wrote screenplays for many, unfortunately, the Pietrangeli would die in a drowning while filming “Come, quando, perche” in 1969.

As mentioned earlier, the film does star quite a bit of talent including Marcello Mastroianni who plays a seedy salesman/playboy.  But the film entices you with its four female talent.  Simone Signoret plays a strong character, Adua Giovannetti, who tries to keep the business together and making sure the women don’t stray far from what they agreed upon.  But her final scene is heartbreaking considering you want to root for Adua because she was able to create a major business but unfortunate situations happen.

Sandra Milo is the film’s bombshell with her flirty, bubbly attitude.  Emmanuelle Riva plays the single mother who has her own personal issues, part of her wants to be a mother to her son, while part of her misses the life of a being a prostitute.  And you have Gina Rovere, the person who has the opportunity to live a normal life with a man, but feels to guilty because of her past.

You want to root for these women to be successful but like other Italian films about prostitution, unlike America’s “Pretty Woman”, there is not always a happy ending or a fairy tale… just reality.

The film looks very good on Blu-ray as I didn’t see any major film damage during my viewing.  The soundtrack was also crisp and clear with no signs of popping or crackling.  And you also get a few special features and a 12-page booklet which are included.

Overall, “Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is among the most memorable films from filmmaker Antonio Pietrangeli.  Featuring a fine cast of actresses and an entertaining and enjoyable storyline, if you are a fan of ’60s Italian cinema, you owe it yourself to own this wonderful Blu-ray release!

“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is recommended!

 

The Palm Beach Story – The Criterion Collection #742 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Palm Beach Story” is a definitive Preston Sturges film.  Maybe not as clear cut in its portrayal of romance but the fillm remains to be a hilarious and enjoyable film over 70-years later.  The film has never looked this much better until now on Blu-ray thanks to the Criterion Collection.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1942 Paramount Pictures Inc. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Palm Beach Story – The Criterion Collection #742

YEAR OF FILM: 1942

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, English Monaural, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Universal/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2015


Directed by Preston Sturges

Written by Preston Sturges

Executive Producer: John Hart, Ted Hope

Produced by Christine Vachon, Lauren Zalaznick

Music by Ed Tomney

Cinematography by Alex Nepomniaschy

Edited by James Lyons

Casting by Jakki Fink

Art Direction by Anthony Stabley

Set Decoration by Mary E. Gullickson

Costume Design by Nancy Steiner


Starring:

Claudette Colbert as Gerry Jeffers

Joel McCrea as Tom Jeffers

Mary Astor as The Princess Centimillia

Rudy Vallee as J.D. Hackensacker III

Sig Arno as Toto

Robert Warwick as Mr. Hinch

Arthur Stuart Hull as Mr. OSmond

Torben Meyer as Dr. Kluck


This wild tale of wacky wedlock from Preston Sturges takes off like a rocket and never lets up. Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert play Tom and Gerry, a married New York couple on the skids, financially and romantically. With Tom hot on her trail, Gerry takes off for Florida on a mission to solve the pair’s money troubles, which she accomplishes in a highly unorthodox manner. A mix of the witty and the utterly absurd, The Palm Beach Story is a high watermark of Sturges’s brand of physical comedy and verbal repartee, featuring sparkling performances from its leads as well as hilarious supporting turns from Rudy Vallee and Mary Astor as a brother and a sister ensnared in Tom and Gerry’s high jinks.


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Preston Sturges will forever be known as one of the great directors of Hollywood’s Screwball comedies.

Known for “The Great McGinty” (1940), “Sullivan’s Travels” (1941), “The Lady Eve” (1941) and “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” (1944), Sturges is also beloved for his 1942 Screwball comedy “The Palm Beach Story”.

The film would star Claudette Colbert (“It Happened One N ight”, “Since You Went Away”, “Drums Along the Mohawk”), Joel McCrea (“Sullivan’s Travels”, “The Most Dangerous Game”, “Foreign Correspondent”), Mary Astor (“The Maltese Falcon”, “Meet Me in St. Louis”) and Rudy Vallee (“Bonnie and Clyde”, “Miller’s Crossing”).

A popular Screwball comedy classic for fans, the film has now received the Criterion Collection treatment and will be released on Blu-ray in January 2015.

“The Palm Beach Story” begins with showing us a newly married couple, Tom and Gerry Jeffers (portrayed by Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert) and the words, “And they lived happily ever after.  Or did they?”.

The film flashforwards five years later and the couple are now having financial difficulties and affecting their marriage.

The Jeffers are about to lose their home as they are behind on rent and owe various people money.  As the business owner known as the “Wienie King” (portrayed by Robert Dudley) takes a look at the apartment for rent, he runs into the apartment inhabitant, Gerry Jeffers.  Seeing that she needs money, the wealthy man gives her the money to pay off her rent and for her to purchase new clothes.

Meanwhile, Tom is trying to pitch his idea to an investor for his airport idea (involving steel mesh wires on airplanes) but has had no luck selling his idea so far.

As Tom comes back home and tries to sneak in, he is surprised to hear that the rent has been paid.  When he goes to see his wife, he finds out that all their debt has been paid and doesn’t understand why an old man would give her $700.  Jealous, he wonders why an old man would give his wife so much money and wondered if something happened behind-the-scenes, the two get into an argument but manage to apologize and have one more night together.

Still upset where their relationship has gone, Gerry wants to leave Tom, but Tom loves her and doesn’t want her to leave.

But Gerry manages to leave her husband and heads off to Palm Beach, Florida and through her adventures riding a train to Florida, she meets one of the wealthiest men in America, John D. Hackensacker III (portrayed by Rudy Vallee) who has taken a liking to her.

Can money buy one’s happiness?  Will Gerry be with this new man she met or will her love for Tom make her want to stay with her husband?


VIDEO:

“The Palm Beach Story – The Criterion Collection #742″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as the 4K restoration brings out the clarity of the film.  I happen to own the original Preston Sturges DVD set and the whites and grays are well-contrast and is much sharper.  Closeups feature so much more detail that you can see clothing fabric much more clearly and looks so much better when compared to the Universal Studios Home Entertainment DVD.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from a 35 mm nitrate fine-grain and safety duplicate negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, were used for small dirt, grain, noise management and jitter.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “The Palm Beach Story – The Criterion Collection #742″ is presented in English LPCM 1.0. The monaural lossless soundtrack is clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic soundtrack. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX4.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Palm Beach Story – The Criterion Collection #742″ comes with the following special features:

  • James Harvey on Sturges – (16:52) James Harvey on the career of Preston Sturges.
  • Bill Hader on Sturges - (9:39) “Saturday Night Live” comedian Bill Hader discusses what he enjoys about Preston Sturges films and comparing the writing to SNL.
  • Radio Adaptation – (29:19) The Screen Guild Theater radio athnology series broadcasted on March 15, 1943 featuring Claudette Colbert, Randolph Scott and Rudy Vallee.
  • Safeguarding Military Information – (11:34) A 1941 short film written by Preston Sturges and distributed by the War Activities Committee of the Motion Picture Industry.

EXTRAS:

“The Palm Beach Story – The Criterion Collection #742″ comes with a five-page insert with the essay “Love in a Warm Climate” by Stephanie Zacharek


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Preston Sturges has created a rollercoaster wave of films.  Some that are brilliant and hilarious, others not as much.

But the fact is that despite a wonderful career that made him one of the richest men in America, he was also one of the most successful directors in Hollywood, problem was, his relationship with Paramount execs were souring.  He would focus his attention to an engineering company and his restaurant and nightclub, The Players but despite having beloved films that many respect and love today, the fact is that Sturges films were not always big moneymakers for the studios.

While 1941 was a notable year for the release of “The Lady Eve” and “Sullivan’s Travels”, his 1942 film “The Palm Beach Story” is another fan favorite within the Screwball comedy genre.

Casting popular actress Claudette Colbert and reuniting with actor Joel McCrea, the film “The Palm Beach Story” puts a spin on the wedding fairytale of “Happily Ever After”.  Even in 1942, not all films end with a happy ending.

The film is like one long and hilarious adventure that to this day, having watched the films many times and trying to see if I missed out on a scene, possibly to decode the opening sequence as it doesn’t make any sense, nor do we get a resolution to it, all we know is that the Tom and Gerry Jeffers are experiencing financial struggles in their relationship.

Behind on bills, Gerry decides to leave her husband in hopes that they could start over and possibly, Tom would have more success without her.  But the fact is Tom loves her, while Gerry leaves him.

A woman who appreciates the glitz and glamour, she is a bombshell that men like to watch and fortunately for her, during her travels on the bus while leaving her husband, she comes in contact with one of the richest men in America, John D. Hackensacker III (a parody of John D. Rockefeller) and by luck, the two end up hanging out with each other and while he is attracted to this bold and blunt woman, she sees the potential of getting closer to him and maybe using his money to pay for Tom’s failed airline idea.

Claudette Colbert is one of America’s top comedy actresses and as much as many loved her in Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night” eight years earlier, she still manages to look gorgeous, emits her sex appeal and wins the viewer for her performance as a bold, blunt golddigger.

In fact, the film rides on her shoulders as most of the film takes us on an adventure as we follow Gerry Jeffers escaping her husband and using her sex appeal in front of many men and eventually winning the attention of a very wealthy man.

The dialogue is quick and funny, the unexpected decisions made by the characters are surprising and its ending surprises us.  And while watching the film again and again, we are surprised by the film’s prologue and trying to find out if the ending is in anyway connected to the beginning of the film.

Something that we’ll probably never know.

But we leave watching this film entertained as the experience was so much worth it.

As for the Blu-ray release, I have owned the previous Preston Sturges DVD set release and comparing the two, the Blu-ray looks amazing with great contrast and sharpness but the film looks so much better.  And the lossless soundtrack is clear without any hiss or crackle.

As for special features, we get an interesting featurette about Sturges’ career, comedian Bill Hader’s take on Sturges’ writing, also a radio adaptation of the film plus a war short which Sturges had created.

Overall, “The Palm Beach Story” is a definitive Preston Sturges film.  Maybe not as clear cut in its portrayal of romance but the fillm remains to be a hilarious and enjoyable film over 70-years later.  The film has never looked this much better until now on Blu-ray thanks to the Criterion Collection.  Recommended!

Once Upon a Time in Shanghai (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you love films with magnificent fight choreography, you owe it to yourself to watch “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai”!

Images courtesy of © 2014 See Movie Limited. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Once Upon a Time in Shanghai

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 96 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR (Not Rated)

Release Date: January 13, 2015

Directed by Ching-Po Wong

Screenplay by Jing Wong

Produced by Wai-Keung Lau, Jing Wong

Cinematography by Jimmy Wong

Edited by Wenders Li

Costume Design by Connie Au-Yeung

Starring:

Andy On as Long Qi

Sammo Kam-Bo Hung as Master Tie

Philip Ng as Ma Yongzhen

Kuan Tai Chen as Baldy Bai

Luxia Jiang as Tie Mei

Cheung-yan Yuen as Laughing Buddha

Hark-on Fung as Scruffy Chou

Michelle Hu as Tie Ju

Mei Lin Mo as Brother Tiger

Fengchao Liu as Shinji Tsutsumi

Jiaolong Sun as Hei Mao

Ma (Philip Ng) dreams of making a life in Shanghai without using his fists. But when befriends the Boss of a rival gang (Andy On), he must fight for honor or lose everything – including his neighbor (Sammo Hung) and his love (Michelle Hu).

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From director Wong Ching-po (“Revenge: A Love Story”, “Triad Underworld”) comes his 2014 martial arts action film titled “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai”.

Starring Sammo Hung (“Martial Law”, “Ip Man 2″, “Winners & Sinners”), Philip Ng (“New Police Story”, “House of Fury”, “Invisible Target”), Andy Hu (“Three Kingdoms”, “True Legend”, “Mad Detective”), the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment in January 2015.

“Once Upon a Time in Shanghai” revolves around a young man named Ma Yongzhen (portrayed by Philip Ng).  Ma has exceptional martial arts skills and his right fist is known for its great power.  Because he tends to get into his fights and his right hand is destructive, his deceased mother made him promise to her that whenever he plans to use his right fist, to look at the bracelet which will remind him of her to not use it.

Ma Yongzhen and his friends are en route to Shanghai to begin their new lives as many Chinese have heard that Shanghai brings many people opportunities and he and his friends can’t wait to begin their new lives.

And they are taken in by the residents of one territory led by Master Tie (portrayed by Sammo Hung).

Meanwhile, gang boss Long Qi (portrayed by Andy On) is known for being a ruthless and powerful martial artist and he kills one of the gang leaders to make a statement that he intends to rule Shanghai, putting the four gang leaders of Shanghai’s Axe Fraternity in fear that they will lose control of their territory.

One day, one of the gang bosses from a territory threatens to kill Ma’s young friend and her father but as the gang boss is about to take an axe to the man’s throat, he is stopped by Master Tie.  For Ma Yongzhen, he does not like to see the corruption in Shanghai and takes it upon himself to get rid of it.

So, he immediately defeats a gang and their gang boss and they lose a lot of opium which is taken in by law enforcement.  But as law enforcement want crime out of their area, they know that the Axe fraternity and Long Qi have too much power and Ma is warned to not do anything foolish.

But Ma wants to do something and he confronts Long Qi and challenges him in a duel.

Meanwhile, the Axe fraternity is planning to take back their territory by working with the Japanese and assassinating Long Qi.  Will Ma Youngzhen be dragged into a deadly gang war?

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VIDEO:

“Once Upon a Time in Shanghai” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:38:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is very good as skin tones look natural and closeups featured great detail. A lot of the scenes were shot on set, inside a warehouse or a building, but fortunately the cinematographer did a good job of focusing on the action and for a martial arts popcorn action film, it should catch their attention because the fight scenes were staged very well.

I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Once Upon a Time in Shanghai” is presented in Mandarin and English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and due to the number of scenes with action, surround channels are well-utilized.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Once Upon a Time in Shanghai” comes with a short making of (4:40) and a theatrical trailer.

EXTRAS

“Once Upon a Time in Shanghai” comes with a slipcover.

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Whenever I watch a martial arts film with the title..”One Upon a Time” , you have come to expect a film that would display intense action and awesome fight choreography.

And in many ways, “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai” doesn’t disappoint, especially if you have a legend such as Yuen Woo-ping involved with the fight choreography and much attention is dedicated into making sure the fight scenes are impressive towards viewers.

One thing that fans will want to know is that the protagonist name, Ma Youngzhen, is paying homage to the 1972 Shaw Brothers martial arts film “The Boxer from Shantung”.  In fact, Chen Kuan-Tai who played the original Ma Youngzhen in the Shaw Brothers film, has a cameo in “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai”.

Now watching “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai”, I have since abandoned the idea that anything will come close to the “Once Upon a Time in China” films starring Jet Li and directed by Tsui Hark.  Those films were shot with a bigger budget and remain martial arts classics.

But does “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai” have what it takes to become a classic?   The answer is no.

I will give actor Philip Ng his due as he makes a wonderful martial arts protagonist.  His actions are swift and smooth and good, young action stars that light up the big screen are hard to come by and Philip does have star potential.  But does he have the magical flair of Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen or Bruce Lee…not yet.  But the potential is there.

And while I did enjoy the martial arts choreography, I felt the story to have Ma Youngzhen have this special destructive ability with his right fist, was going too far over the top.  It’s one thing to have a martial arts film with fighters who are great at what they do, but when you start putting a supernatural element in a film like this, it just seems overly forced for my taste.

But with that being said, I enjoyed the film as the first half features Ma Youngzhen taking on the antagonist Long Qi, by the second half, it’s almost an entire different storyline as Ma Youngzhen and Long Qi become brothers and the antagonist become the Japanese.

Films like “Ip Man” show the human struggle under the Japanese and you sense it and the emotional element is there.  For this film, you go from disliking Long Qi but then having to accept him as Ma Youngzhen’s friend and then seeing Ma taking on the Japanese soldiers, the flow of the film is impacted by the storyline that the film becomes more popcorn action and you are in it for the martial arts choreography.

Still, I did enjoy this film and am not sure if the plan is to continue the series but I do see a lot of potential in the character of Ma Youngzhen in future films and also actor Philip Ng becoming the next great action hero.

Overall, if you love films with magnificent fight choreography, you owe it to yourself to watch “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai”!

No Good Deed (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“No Good Deed” is a film that had the potential of being dark, sinister and creepy, but while I enjoyed the beginning and the ending of the film, everything inbetween was not as creepy or violent as one would expect.  Still a film worth checking out.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Screen Gems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: No Good Deed

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 84 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Screen Gems/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (For Sequences of Violence, Menace, Terror and for Language)

Release Date: January 6, 2015


Directed by Sam Miller

Written by Aimee Lagos

Produced by Lee Clay, William Packer

Executive Producer: Idris Elba, Glenn S. Gainor, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Rob Hardy, Taraji P. Henson, Aimee Lagos, Lindsay Williams

Music by Paul Haslinger

Cinematography by Michael Barrett

Edited by Randy Bricker, Jim Page

Casting by George Pierre

Production Design by Chris Cornwell

Art Direction by Michael H. Ward

Set Decoration by Melinda Sanders

Costume Design by Keith G. Lewis


Starring:

Idris Elba as Colin

Taraji P. Henson as Terry

Leslie Bibb as Meg

Kate del Castillo as Alexis

Henry Simmons as Jeffrey

Mirage Moonschein as Ryan

Kenny Alfonso as Javier


McCall (Denzel Washington) has put his mysterious past behind him and is dedicated to living a new, quiet life. But when he meets Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by. Armed with hidden skills that allow him to serve vengeance against anyone who would brutalize the helpless, McCall comes out of his self-imposed retirement and finds his desire for justice reawakened. If someone has a problem, if the odds are stacked against them, if they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help. He is The Equalizer.


What happens when one of the most wanted men escapes from prison and goes on a killing rampage?

From filmmaker Sam Miller (“The Bill”), writer Aimee Lagos (“96 Minutes”) and producer Will Packer (“Think Like a Man”, “Takers”, “Ride Along”) comes the American thriller “No Good Deed”.

The film stars Idris Elba (“Pacific Rim”, “Prometheus”, “Thor”), Taraji P. Henson (“The Karate Kid”, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Person of Interest”) and Leslie Bibb (“Iron Man”, “Law Abiding Citizen”, “Iron Man 2″).

“No Good Deed” was #1 in the box office upon release and would become the third #1 film for producer Will Packer after “Ride Along” and “Think Like a Man too”.  The film which was budgeted at $13.2 million would go on to make $53.8 million in the box office.

The film begins with the introduction to one of the most wanted men in America, Colin Evans (portrayed by Idris Elba).  Colin killed a man and is suspected of killing five women and he is now up for parole after serving a prison term for manslaughter.

After five years serving a prison term for manslaughter, he is denied for parole.  But while being transported to prison and winning the trust of the guards transporting him, Colin kills both men and escapes.

We are then introduced to Terri Granger (portrayed by Taraji P. Henson) who is raising her baby Sam and her young daughter Ryan.  She is planning an all girls night with her friend Meg (portrayed by Leslie Bibb).  Meanwhile, her husband Jeffrey (portrayed by Henry Simmons), acts cold towards her and is packing up to see his father.

Colin returns to Atlanta to visit his fiance Alexis (portrayed by Kate del Castillo).  But when he confronts her about being unfaithful and sleeping with another man, when she admits to it, he savagely kills her.

As Colin is angry and drives through the storm, he accidentally crashes his Ford Ranger and walks to Terri’s home.  Being the kind person that she is and Colin pretending that he is calling for someone to pick him up, she allows Colin to come inside.

But when Meg comes to visit Colin, he begins flirting with her and when they go out for a smoke break, he savagely murders Meg.  When Terri goes to find her friend, she can’t find her.  But she sees that the phone lines in the house have been cut and the kitchen knives are all missing.

Terri knows that Colin is not the man she thinks he is and she and her children are in deep trouble.  Will Terri and her children escape from Colin or will he kill her?


VIDEO:

“No Good Deed” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio) and mastered in 4K.  Picture quality is fantastic as details from closeups on the characters face or clothing are evident.  While skin tones look natural, black levels are nice and deep.

During my viewing of the film, I didn’t see any artifacts, banding issues, aliasing whatsoever.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“No Good Deed” is presented in English and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track and French 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear, while certain scenes such as the action sequences can be heard through the surround channels.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“No Good Deed” comes with the following special features:

  • Making a Thriller – (12:21) Producer Will Packer, director Sam Miller and cast talk about working on “No Good Deed”.
  • The Thrill of a Good Fight – (6:10) The cast talk about working on the fight scenes in the film.
  • Good Samaritan – (4:28) Writer Aimee Lagos discusses the script and crew discuss what they wanted to accomplish with the film.

EXTRAS:

“No Good Deed” comes with an Ultraviolet code.


When I first watched the trailer for “No Good Deed”, I was curious about Idris Elba playing an antagonist role.

I suppose it was hard for me to see him as a murderer and escaped convict but having watched “No Good Deed”, Elba manages to play the role rather well.

With that being said, I felt the writing played the characters a bit too safe.

The character of Colin is supposed to be ruthless and we see that darkness very early in the film.

The problem is that it takes awhile for us to see evil Colin until later in the film as too much is spent on trying to establish Colin as this character that Terry can’t trust.  And unfortunately, that is the problem with the film, you don’t get creeped out that much because it’s too tame compared to similar other films that will infuriate or scare the crap out of you.

Of course, no one wants to see a mother and her little daughter especially a baby put into an unfortunate conundrum but the film lingers too much around Colin trying to win Terry’s trust and Terry trying to entertain him after she invites him to his home.

If Colin is to be the most wanted criminal and an evil antagonist, you can’t take any compromise in trying to make him out as nice.  The character is a killer and I just felt there was too much time spent in trying to make him as something different.

Taraji P. Henson does a good job of playing the mother of her two children and it’s great to see her in an action role and doing whatever is necessary to protect her children.

While the Blu-ray of “No Good Deed” will get high marks for its awesome picture quality and also its crystal clear lossless soundtrack, you also get a good number of special features included as well.

Overall, “No Good Deed” is a film that had the potential of being dark, sinister and creepy, but while I enjoyed the beginning and the ending of the film, everything inbetween was not as creepy or violent as one would expect.  Still a film worth checking out.

Kill la Kill Volume 3: Limited Edition (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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The third volume of “Kill la Kill” reveals the killer of Ryuko’s father and thus setting up a major battle between Ryuko and the person responsible.  Overall, an action-packed/humorous volume of “Kill la Kill”!

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


TITLE: Kill la Kill Volume 3: Limited Edition

DURATION: Episodes 10-14 (100 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: Suggested 16 and Up

Release Date: December 23, 2014


Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Series Composition: Kazuki Nakashima

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design: Sushio

Art by Saishi Ichiko

Art Director: Shigeto Koyama, Yuji Kaneko

Anime Production: Trigger


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ami Koshimizu/Erica Mendez as Ryuuko Matoi

Ryoka Yuzuki/Carrie Keranen as Satsuki Kiryuuin

Aya Suzaki/Christine Marie Cabanos as Mako Mankanshoku

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Steve Cannon as Hōka Inumuta

Katsuyuki Konishi as Tsumugu Kinagase

Mayumi Shintani/Sarah Williams as Nonon Jakuzure

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Grant George as Uzu Sanageyama

Romi Park as Ragyo Kiryuuin

Shinichiro Miki/Matthew Mercer as Aikurō Mikisugi

Tetsu Inada/Patrick Seitz as Ira Gamagōri

Toshihiko Seki as Senketsu

Yukari Tamura as Nui Harime


As they enter the final stages of the great King of the Hill battle, Ryuko must face Uzu Sanageyama again after defeating the other three members of the Elite Four. But the combat is brought to a sudden halt when a mysterious girl clad in a gothic Lolita outfit and an eye patch suddenly appears. Her name is Nui Harime, and she claims to have killed Ryuko’s father, Dr. Matoi! Overcome by uncontrollable rage, Ryuko goes berserk and turns into a monster. Only Mako is able to knock some sense back into Ryuko, but not before Senketsu is cut into pieces by Nui.

Meanwhile, Satsuki and the Elite Four commence their Tri-City Schools Raid Trip, a large-scale invasion of the regions yet to be conquered: Kobe, Kyoto, and Osaka. Ryuko learns that Senketsu’s pieces were being used in this campaign to test the new Goku uniforms. Now, Ryuko rides into a new battlefield to make Senketsu whole once again!


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The final stages of the King of the Hill Battle are approaching and Ryuko must now take on the one person who was responsible for her father’s death!

Will Ryuko finally get her revenge on the person responsible?  Find out in volume 3 (episodes 11-15) of “Kill la Kill”!

What is “Kill la Kill”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In volume 3 of “Kill la Kill”, the Kings of the Hill Battle continues and as the final stages are approaching, Ryuko confronts a fighter who claims to have killed Ryuko’s father.  And now, Ryuko wants her revenge!


The main characters of “Kill la Kill″ are:

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

VIDEO:

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kill la Kill Volume 3: Limited Edition″ comes with the following special features:

  • Web Version Previews

EXTRAS:

“Kill la Kill Volume 3: Limited Edition” comes with a double-sided poster, two postcard, a Weiss Schwartz card of Satsuki and the “Kill la Kill Original Soundtrack CD #2″ featuring music by Sawano Hiroyuki.

  • “Kill la Kill” Original Soundtrack #2 Track Listings – Duration: 75 Minutes
  1. 劇伴特化型1☆極★服 3:24
  2. リズム強化型2☆極★服 4:12
  3. 日常劇場型3☆極★服 3:36
  4. 服着豚型4☆極★服 4:14
  5. 名付扇子0型5☆極★服 5:12
  6. 追加発注型6☆極★服 4:16
  7. 背景敬具型7☆極★服 4:22
  8. MT変装型8☆極★服 4:51
  9. 多分裸SBOSS-型9☆極★服 3:32
  10. 前半再収録型10☆極★服 4:46
  11. 追加最終録型11☆極★服 2:55
  12. 重要物発光強調型12☆極★服 4:09
  13. Before my body is dry <空OK> 4:09
  14. Suck your blood <空OK> 3:41
  15. Blumenkranz <空OK> 4:19
  16. Light your heart up <空OK> 3:56
  17. I want to know <空OK> 4:07
  18. Till I Die <空OK> 4:41

Finally, we get one major question answered and that is who killed Ryuko’s father?

As the battle reaches its final phase for the “King of the Hill” Battle and Ryuko taking on the members of Honnouji Academy’s Elite Four, and as Ryuko gets closer to taking on Satsuki, she ends up meeting the one person she wants to exact her revenge on.

An action-packed volume with the usual Mako Mankanshoku humor, these latest challenges will no doubt put Ryuko Matoi and Senketsu in a major test, especially with the Life Fibers.

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

Overall, “Kill la Kill” is an exciting series and these latest episodes have been captivating and addicting.  “Kill la Kill Volume 3: Limited Edition” is highly recommended!

Safe – The Criterion Collection #739 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Safe” is the film that help propel the careers of filmmaker Todd Haynes, producer Christine Vachon and actress Julianne Moore.  But the film’s ambiguous nature, the unexpected and the magnificent performance by Julianne Moore and masterful direction by Todd Haynes makes this film worth watching!  One can only hope for the Criterion Collection to release more films by Todd Haynes on Blu-ray in the near future!

Image courtesy of © 1995 The Chemical Films Limited Partnership.  2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Safe – The Criterion Collection #739

YEAR OF FILM: 1995

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English Monaural, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: December 9, 2014


Directed by Todd Haynes

Written by Todd Haynes

Executive Producer: John Hart, Ted Hope

Produced by Christine Vachon, Lauren Zalaznick

Music by Ed Tomney

Cinematography by Alex Nepomniaschy

Edited by James Lyons

Casting by Jakki Fink

Art Direction by Anthony Stabley

Set Decoration by Mary E. Gullickson

Costume Design by Nancy Steiner


Starring:

Julianne Moore as Carol White

Xander Berkeley as Greg White

Ronnie Farer as Barbara

Jodie Markell as Anita

Susan Norman as Linda

Chauncey Leopardi as Rory

Steve Gilborn as Dr. Hubbard


Julianne Moore gives a breakthrough performance as Carol White, a Los Angeles housewife in the late 1980s who comes down with a debilitating illness. After the doctors she sees can give her no clear diagnosis, she comes to believe that she has frighteningly extreme environmental allergies. A profoundly unsettling work from the great American director Todd Haynes, Safe functions on multiple levels: as a prescient commentary on self-help culture, as a metaphor for the AIDS crisis, as a drama about class and social estrangement, and as a horror film about what you cannot see. This revelatory drama was named the best film of the 1990s in a Village Voice poll of more than fifty critics.


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Filmmaker Todd Haynes is known for his films “Far from Heaven” and the Bob Dylan biographical musical film “I’m Not There”.

While also known for “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story”, “Poison” and “Velvet Goldmine”.

But his second feature film “Safe” would garner critical acclaim upon release back in 1995, but the question is did audiences really understand the film at that time?

Nevertheless, “Safe” can be interpreted as a film of hope, a tragedy, a horror film and its ambiguity may lead to people being confused.

But the film would help propel filmmaker Todd Haynes towards the mainstream, would jumpstart the producing career of Christine Vachon and also giving young actress at the time, Julianne Moore, her first major leading role in a film.

And now “Safe” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

“Safe” is set in 1987 in San Fernando Valley and it begins with Carol White (portrayed by Julianne Moore) and her husband Greg (portrayed by Xander Berkeley) arriving home and then having sex.  While her husband is into it, you can see face of Carol who seems as if she is uninterested.

A normal homemaker that is planning on the interior design of her home, planting in the garden and going to aerobics classes with her friends, one day while going home, Carol begins to cough uncontrollably while behind a truck that has a lot of smoke coming out of its tailpipe.  Coughing to the point that she gets confused and starts coughing in a parking garage.

While going to the doctor for a checkup, the doctor feels there is nothing wrong with her and she is perfectly healthy.  But she starts to develop mild to severe symptoms as she begins to lose her breath, begins to hyperventilate, has a nose bleed and makes it difficult to live life and it begins to affect her family.

As she continues to get more check ups, she is told to visit a psychiatrist and allergist as her body is producing strange reactions, coughing that she can’t stop and even convulsions that puts her into the ground.

She starts to meet groups with people who also have similar issues where doctors, significant others, friends don’t believe there is anything wrong with them but the individual themselves feel there is a significant problem.

What is wrong with Carol?


VIDEO:

“Safe- The Criterion Collection #739″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as the 4K restoration has brought out much better detail.  There is a good amount of grain during the film and while the film is 20-years-old, it doesn’t look like it at all.  Better clarity, no signs of aging colors or problematic artifacts or negative issues.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the original 35mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise management.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Safe – The Criterion Collection #739″ is presented in English LPCM 1.0. The monaural soundtrack is clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX3.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Safe – The Criterion Collection #739″ comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring a 2001 audio commentary by Todd Haynes, actress Julianne Moore and producer Christine Vachon.
  • The Suicide - (20:30) Todd Hayne’s first serious directorial effort was a surreal short from 1978. Haynes thought it was lost until producer, Michael Quinn Martin, discovered a print at his parents’ home.
  • Todd Haynes and Julianne Moore – (36:10) A 2014 conversation with director Todd Yanes and actress Julianne Moore.
  • Christine Vachon – (15:54) Producer Christine Vachon discusses her working relationship with Todd Haynes.
  • Trailer – (1:19) The original theatrical trailer for “Safe”.

EXTRAS:

“Safe – The Criterion Collection #739″ comes with a poster-sized insert with the essay “Nowhere to Hide” by Dennis Lim.


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Todd Haynes is a filmmaker that creates films that people think they understand, creates films that may often alienate viewers and films with no clear cut ending.

Bucking the banal Hollywood ending, “Safe” is a film that may seem simple in describing but the film itself is not simplistic at all.

A normal housewife begins having illnesses that doctors are baffled by.  Each time she is told that she is healthy, her husband starts to be upset because he wants normalcy, when his wife is experiencing situations that should not be affecting her.    No one knows what’s wrong with her, she believes she has some type of environmental illness and seeks some answers for why her body is behaving like it is.

Watching “Safe”, I began thinking of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Red Desert” about a woman who feels that she drowning in her environment, lonely, isolated.  For “Safe”, while Carole is by no means lonely or isolated, her reactions seem as if she feels out of place.

While some may classify Carol’s medical condition as MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity), it may easily be the case.  But this is a film made during the ’80s, before people had any answer to certain illnesses and watching Carol, I felt there was something unsettling about her.  The way she has sex, the way she seems a bit off at times, possibly even depressed.  The fact is that she is a woman that seeks the truth of why she is what she is. She seems rather empty, distant and alienated.

And sometimes in society, people feel comfort in the most unusual or unfortunate settings.  May it be cults or other forms of groups that have an outlandish ideology on life.   Her difficulty of breathing, perhaps its the people around her.  Her husband, the lifestyle…perhaps she feels suffocated by it all.

And possibly when the film was released, it was possibly a statement of America.  The fear of AIDS, the fear of something bad was going to happen.  From the wild and party years of the late ’70s, ushering towards a decade of conservatism and fear of AIDS and the Cold War but then ushering an era of the ’90s that began with war, plenty of attention towards money and social lifestyle and all in all, Carol is a person who has had enough and not sure how to deal with life.  Are people a product of their environment and is there any hope for her at all?

When I first watched the film, it was almost a similar feeling I had during my late teens ala the mid-90’s of listening to Morrissey’s album “Bona Drag” over and over and listening to “Everyday is Like Sunday” and “Suedehead”, just thinking at one point in my life that what I watched on television and the constant negative news and seeing the materialism of the ’90s, which was really a drag.

And so I watched “Safe” at the time as not a film about a woman with an unexplainable disease but a woman who was affected by her environment and had no way out, until she discovered a group of others who are like herself.

Misery likes company.

And my opinion hasn’t changed so much today because the environment has shapeshifted to another type of monster with the unknown of social media, technological advances and whichever crap that exists out there today.  But where people had aspired to be like 90210 back in the mid-90’s, our society has become much broker and are paying for the materialistic nature of companies of the past.

So, this film does have so much relevancy even today.

And actress Julianne Moore does a fantastic job in her first lead role of playing a character that is suffering.  A riveting performance by Julianne Moore with masterful directing by Todd Haynes!

The Blu-ray release of “Safe” is rather fascinating because it’s probably the best looking version of the film to date thanks to its 4K restoration bringing out the clarity of the film and making it look like it was a film that is more recent than older and aged.  The film looks magnificent and it’s monaural soundtrack is clear without any hiss.

You also get the original 2001 commentary with director Todd Haynes, producer Christine Vachon and actress Julianne Moore.  You get a newer conversation from 2014 between Haynes and Moore and also an interview with Christine Vachon.  But possibly one of the coolest featurettes was the discovered surreal short film by Todd Haynes titled “The Suicide” from 1978 which definitely makes even sense today as bullying has made it mainstream as more education of how messed up it is to pick on people who are short, non-athletic and what happens to one child who is picked on constantly and tormented by his bullies.  A very deep short film from Todd Haynes that is probably much more relevant today than when it was created back in the late ’70s!

Overall, “Safe” is the film that help propel the careers of filmmaker Todd Haynes, producer Christine Vachon and actress Julianne Moore.  But the film’s ambiguous nature, the unexpected and the magnificent performance by Julianne Moore and masterful direction by Todd Haynes makes this film worth watching!  One can only hope for the Criterion Collection to release more films by Todd Haynes on Blu-ray in the near future!

Mauvais Sang (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Leos Carax’ “Mauvais Sang” is a masterpiece.  It is unpredictable, unexpected yet breathtaking all at once.  And the film is cinematic poetry at its very best. Highly recommended!

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


TITLE: Mauvais Sang

FILM RELEASE: 1986

DURATION: 119 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:68:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Color/Black and White, French 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Carlotta Films/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: November 18, 2014


Written and Directed by Leos Carax

Executive Producer: Denis Chateau, Philippe Diaz

Produced by Alain Dahan

Associate Producer: Marvin J. Chomsky

Cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier

Editing by Nelly Quettier

Casting by Helene Bernardin

Production Design by Jacques Dubus, Thomas Peckre, Michel Vandestien

Set Decoration by Bernard Leonard

Costume Design by Dominique Gregogna, Martine Metert, Robert Nardone


Starring:

Michel Piccoli as Marc

Juliette Binoche as Anna

Denis Lavant as Alex

Hans Meyer as Hans

Julie Delpy as Lise

Carroll Brooks as The American Woman

Hugo Pratt as Boris


Marc and Hans, two old gangsters, plan to steal the vaccine for a mysterious virus, STBO, which affects those who make love without being in love and is wreaking havoc among teenagers. After the death of their associate Jean, the two accomplices call on his son, Alex, known as “Chatterbox”, who is a talented conjuror. Alex, who has just left his girlfriend Lise, falls madly in love with a girl in a white dress he sees on a bus. Her name is Anna and she turns out to be Marc’s mistress…

Leos Carax’s second movie Mauvais Sang is a stunning masterpiece, midway between a thriller and a romantic tale, which multiplies references to master filmmakers (Godard in particular) and seduces with its poetry and lyricism. This emblematic film of 80s French cinema established Leos Carax as one of its most talented directors, twenty-six years before Holy Motors. Starring Denis Lavant, Michel Piccoli and Juliette Binoche, Mauvais Sang is available for the first time in a stunning new HD digital restoration!


Considered as one of the great filmmakers of modern French cinema, back in the early ’80s, Leos Carax (“Holy motors”, “Tokyo!”, “The Lovers on the Bridge”) was seen as a talented director which people would see a little bit of Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut in his film style.

With positive reviews from film critics for his 1984 debut film “Boy Meets Girl”, Carax would work with actor Denis Lavant again for his second film “Mauvais Sang” (which translates to “Bad Blood” but was released with the title “The Night is Young”) but also bringing in well-known actor Michel Piccoli (“Belle de Jour”, “Contempt”, “Atlantic City”), Juliette Binoche (“Thre Colors: Blue”, “Cache”, “The English Patient”), Julie Delpy (“Before Sunrise”, “Before Sunset”, “Before Midnight”) and Hans Meyer (“Barry Lyndon”, “Red Sonja”, “Brotherhood of the Wolf”).

“Mauvais Sang” would become part of Carax’ “Love Trilogy” and the film would receive three Cesar Award nominations and winning the Prix Louis-Delluc.

And now the newly restored film will receive a new Blu-ray release courtesy of Kino Lorber which will also include the Tessa Louise-Salome documentary “Mr X, A Vision of Leos Carax”.

It’s important to note that “Mauvais Sang” is not a film that can be easily described.  It must be experienced visually as the cinematic shots by Jean-Yves Escoffier (“Good Will Hunting”, “Rounders”, “Nurse Betty”) are mesmerizing and magnificent.

The film is set in Paris during a time when a disease known as STBO is killing young people who make love without any emotional involvement.

A serum has been developed but it is kept in a highly secure area and is locked away.

We are then introduced to Marc (portrayed by Michel Piccoli) and his friend Hans (portrayed by Hans Meyer) who encounter an American woman (portrayed by Carroll Brooks), her henchman Boris (portrayed by Hugo Bratt) that Marc has two weeks to pay off debt that he owes her.  We also learn that their partner Jean is no longer alive for some apparent reason.

Marc needs to make money and the way to do that…steal the STBO serum and sell it.

But in order to accomplish such a feat., he will need someone with quick hands and Marc remembers that Jean told him that if there was someone that was as good as him, it would be his son Alex (portrayed by Denis Lavant).

We then catch Alex and his girlfriend Lise (portrayed by Julie Delpy), as they love to spend time together and have sex.  But as quickly as Alex is having fun, he is approached by Hans and is offered a chance to make a ton of money but also fly to another country.

And as Alex packs his bag and leaves home without telling Lise where he is moving to, he leaves her to team up with Marc and Hans.  He eventually finds out there is a third person involved and it’s Marc’s younger lover, Anna (portrayed by Juliette Binoche).

And as the four plan and scheme on how to execute the plan, Alex starts to find himself drawn to Anna.

But would Alex be crazy enough and try to try and get close to Anna?

Meanwhile, the American woman knows that Marc is up to something and tells Alex that if he works for her, he will make even more money.

Which path will Alex choose?


VIDEO:

“Mauvais Sang” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio) and features the 2K restoration which was undertaken by UK’s Artificial Eye.  Compared to the DVD release, there is a huge difference as the Blu-ray release features better colors, much better detail especially on close-ups.

The film doesn’t look its age at all.  Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.  There is no signs of white specks or damage to the film.

This is the definitive version of “Mauvais Sang” to own!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Mauvais Sang” comes with a French DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 soundtrack with optional English subtitles.

Dialogue and music are crisper and clearer compared to the DVD release with no audio problems or any signs of hiss or crackle.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mauvais Sang” comes with the following special features:

  • Outtakes and Rushes - (20:22) Old footage of outtakes and rushes from “Mauvais Sang” (note: There is no audio for this portion)
  • Deleted Scene – (5:26) A deleted scene featuring a conversation between Franc and Alex.
  • Original Trailer – (2:17) The original 1986 trailer for “Mauvais Sang”.
  • 2013 Trailer – (1:45) The trailer for the restored version of “Mauvais Sang”.
  • “Mr. X, A Vision of Leos Carax” – (1:13:16) Tessa Louise-Salome’s documentary of the oeuvre of Leos Carax.

EXTRAS:

“Mauvais Sang” comes with a slipcover.


Watching “Mauvais Sang”, digitally restored, I couldn’t help but grin throughout the film.

While “Holy Motors” is a film that probably many people today are familiar with when it comes with Leos Carax films, for me, Leos Carax’ finest masterpiece was his 1986 film “Mauvais Sang”.

The film was like an ode to Nouvelle Vague, an ode to Jean Luc-Godard, Francois Truffaut and Robert Bresson.

Films that can depict an underworld but yet captivate you with its characters thanks to the amazing performance by Denis Lavant and Juliette Binoche.

But the performance by Lavant is fluid, yet unpredictable.  Almost in a Chaplin-esque kind of way, he is a physical actor that shines on screen.  The cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier and the wonderful editing by Nelly Quettier is equally unexpected with a smorgasbord of imagery that captivates you.

And I bring up Jean-Luc Godard, best known for unexpected moments and disruptions that translate into cinematic poetry.  Also, similar to Godard and his muse/wife Anna Karina, Juliette Binoche was Carax’ girlfriend at the time and for anyone who has watched Binoche in her more recent films, will always fall in love with the vitality of her younger self in “Mauvais Sang”.

The relationship between Alex and Anna is very interesting because both characters do not communicate.  They look at each other but a large part of the film is shot without words and the fact that the scenes are shot effortlessly with efficacy, you just don’t see this in films any longer.

And of course, one of the most famous moments of the film (I will always remember the moment at 47 minutes into the film) which shows Alex walking with pain and stumbling in self-punishment knowing that he is in love. With his stabbing motion to the abs, smoking a cigarette and running and dancing in full speed and doing a somersault to David Bowie’s “Modern Love”.  Such a wonderful scene in cinema that even filmmaker Noah Baumbach paid homage to the scene in his film “Frances Ha”.

The scene after is also mesmerizing as Alex visits Anna and you see a slow motion of her waving her brushing her hair and waving it while featured in slow motion.  Or when he carries her off to the road during a hot summer when the heat on the pavement proves to hot for Anna, such a wonderful scene in the film!

And the film looks magnificent in HD as the 2K restoration of the film features much better colors, much better detail and the film looks and sounds better than ever!  The Blu-ray also features several special features but also the exclusive documentary “Mr. X, a Vision of Leos Carax” by filmmaker Tessa Louise-Salome which features the films by Leos Carax and interviews with those who have worked with him.  In essence, a tribute to the French filmmaker.

Overall, Leos Carax’ “Mauvais Sang” is a masterpiece.  It is unpredictable, unexpected yet breathtaking all at once.  And the film is cinematic poetry at its very best!

Highly recommended!

The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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While it is a shame that “The Legend of Korra” is not airing on television any longer and is being released via online, by no means should anyone think this serious as inferior to “Avatar: The Last Airbender”. It’s a different series that doesn’t want to be a copycat series but yet retaining the gorgeous animation but a strong storyline, especially with “The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change”. An exciting series and captivating third book that I highly recommend on Blu-ray!

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


TITLE: The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change

YEAR: 2014

DURATION: 13 Episodes (Episodes 27-39) Minutes (294 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080i High Definition, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 2.0 Stereo

COMPANY: Nickelodeon/Viacom/Paramount

RATED: NOT RATED

Release Date: December 2, 2014


Directed by Ian Graham, Colin Heck

Written by Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, Joshua Hamilton, Tim Hedrick

Produced by Tim Yoon

Music by Jeremy Zuckerman

Casting by Shannon Reed

Art Direction by Joaquim Dos Santos, Bryan Konietzko, Ki Hyun Ryu


Featuring the following voice talent:

Janet Varney as Korra

Dee Bradley Baker as Various Voices

David Faustino as Mako

P.J. Byrne as Bolin

J.K. Simmons as Tenzin

Jeff Bennett as Radio Braodcaster

Seychelle Gabriel as Asami Sato

Steve Blum as Amon

Darcy Rose Byrnes as Ikki

Mindy Sterling as Lin Beifong

Logan Wells as Meelo

Lance Henriksen as Lieutenant

Kiernan Shipka as Jinora

Richard Riehle as Bumi

Adrian LaTourelle as Unalaq

Lisa Edestein as Kya

Aubrey Plaza as Eska

Aaron Himelstein as Desna

Maria Bamford as Pema

John Michael Higgins as Varrick

Steve Blum as Amon

James Remar as Tonraq

Jonathan Adams as Vaatu


From the creators of Avatar: The Last Air Bender comes the continuation of a legendary story.  As the world enters a new age where spirits and mankind coexist, Book 3: Change reveals the exciting discovery of new Airbenders! But while Korra makes it her mission to find them and rebuild the Air Nation, a group of dangerous criminals embarks on a mission of their own.


Two weeks have passed since the Harmonic Convergence and vines continue to cover the Republic City.  This leads to President Raiko expelling Korra from the city.

Meanwhile, people in the city including Bumi, have developed air bending techniques and this leads to Tenzin, Korra and their friends visiting various areas to recruit the new Airbenders to join them as become Air Nomads.

But unbeknown to Korra, Tenzin and others, a dangerous, powerful and evil airbending criminal named Zaheer has escaped prison with others and they want their revenge!

Find out what happens in “The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change” now available on Blu-ray and DVD!

What is “The Legend of Korra” about?

From Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the creators of the popular Nickelodeon animated series “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, comes the sequel to the series titled “The Legend of Korra”.

Originally planned as a 12-episode mini-series, “The Legend of Korra” was greenlit for a total of 52-episodes (four seasons) for a total of four books with 12-14 episodes each.

While the first two seasons aired on Nickelodeon, the third season “The Legend of Korra” featured eight episodes being aired on Nickelodeon, but stopped due to declining ratings and episodes 9-13 were made available online via Amazon, Google Play, Xbox and Hulu.

The first season known as “Book One: Air” features animation from Korea’s Studio Mir and the series would receive critical acclaim and also drawing an average of 4.3 million viewers, having the highest audience total for an animated series in the U.S. for 2012.

And now “The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in July 2013.

“The Legend of Korra” is set 70-years in the future after the events of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and how the world was brought into peace. The world which features the four nations which include the Water Tribes, the Air Nomads, the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation have people trained to “Bend” the element that they are associated with their nation (so, a person can bend water, earth, fire or air).

But for Korra of the Southern Water Tribe, at 4-years-old, she was able to bend fire and earth and thus was trained to become the Avatar to the Order of the White Lotus. Now at 17-years-old, she can “bend” water, earth and fire but yet is unable to “air-bend”.

She is to be trained to “air-bend” from Tenzin, the youngest child of Aang (the last airbender and the protagonist of “Avatar: The Last Airbender”) and Katara (the water bender from the Southern Water Tribe who was the first to discover Aang and free him from an iceberg – episode 1 of “Avatar: The Last Airbender”) but the problem is that Republic City has become unstable and Tenzin will not be able to stay in the Southern Water Tribe to train her and must leave.

Upset that Tenzin won’t train her , Korra who feels that because she can bend three elements, she’s powerful enough and wants to see the world and perhaps Tenzin may train her in Republic City. Master Katara (who is also Tenzin’s mother) accepts Korra’s reasoning and allows her to go to Republic City alone.

But immediately when Korra arrives in the Republic City, trying to save people from a bending gang, she is arrested by Republic City’s metalbending police force and immediately is not well-liked by the police chief Lin Beifong (daughter of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” character Toph Beifong), but to her aid comes Tenzin who takes her in. To ease tensions, it is revealed to the media that the Avatar, Korra is staying in the city and for Korra, she tells everyone that her goal is to protect the people of Republic City.

Meanwhile, something ominous is happening in the city as a mysterious masked man named Amon who leads the Equalists (non-benders) and their goal is to bring equality between the benders and the non-benders. But Amon has shown that he has some power to eliminate one’s bending abilities.

For “Book Two: Spirits”, the storyline is set six months after the events in the season final of “Book One: Air”.

Korra is now being trained by her uncle, Unalaq and has discovered that restless spirits have been terrorizing the south seas. And she needs to find the way to calm the dark spirits.

But as she and her father Tonraq goes to the area of the Water Tribes, she discovers something ominous and one who is trying to merge with the dark spirit known as Vaatu in order to become the Dark Avatar.

But will Korra have what it takes to calm the Dark Spirits and face the Dark Avatar?

For “Book Three: Change”, two weeks after the Harmonic Convergence, Korra was expelled from Republic City by President Raiko because spirit vines continued to cover the city and Korra was not able to remove them.  But with various people suddenly developing airbending skills, this leads Tenzin, Korra and friends to search for airbenders in various areas and recruit them to join the Air Nomads.

But the evil and powerful criminal named Zaheer has escaped prison with a few others and with his tremendous airbending skill, does Korra and friends have a chance of stopping him?


The main characters of “The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change” are:

  • Korra – A teenage girl who has mastered fire, earth and water but not wind-bending. She is the successor of Aang and thus was kept hidden in order to protect her. But because of her temper and rebellious side, she tends to do things on her own pace, even though it may get her into a lot of trouble. In Book Two: Spirits, despite having more control of her airbending abilities, she will be put to the test when she comes across a new enemy intent on destroying the world.  In Book Three: Change, Korra does all she can in trying to recruit the new airbenders to join Air Nomads.
  • Mako – A firebender and member of the Fire Ferrets bending team. He is a firebender that came from the streets, he is seen as a dark individual. He is dating Asami Sato, daughter of the wealthy industrialist Hiroshi Sato but also is attracted to Korra. He was Korra’s boyfriend and is currently a police officer.
  • Bolin - The younger brother of Mako who is an earth bender and is lighthearted, gullible and humorous. The opposite of his brother.
  • Asami Sato – Mako’s ex-girlfriend and the daughter of Hiroshi Sato, the wealthy industrialist. She once loved Mako was once jealous of Korra but she has matured and is now responsible for keeping Future Industries afloat and restore the corporation’s reputation.
  • Master Tenzin – The youngest son of Aang and Katara. He tries to fulfill his father’s wishes and was assigned to train Korra in air bending and assisting her.
  • Republic City police chief Lin Beilong – A former girlfriend of Tenzin and the daughter of Toph Beiphong. She is very strict when it comes to honoring the laws of the land and it puts her in odds with Korra. She is brave and loyal.
  • Pema – Tenzin’s caring wife and mother of Jinora, Ikki, Meelo and Rohan, who are young children training to become air benders.
  • Tonraq – The father of Korra and a waterbending master.

VIDEO:

“The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change” is presented in 1080p High Definition and my thoughts in watching the series is how impressive the character designs, the detail and shading of the characters and how breathtaking the background art is for the series, as well as the mechanical design. The series is vibrant and colorful, I didn’t see any artifacts or any problematic issues during my view of the 13-episodes. If anything, fans of the series will be thrilled of how beautiful “The Legend of Korra” looks in HD and Studio Mir and Studio Pierrot has done an amazing job for this second season!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Spanish 2.0 Stereo. The lossless soundtrack for “The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change” sounds fantastic. Action scenes come alive and utilizes the surround channels very well, especially for environment ambiance. Dialogue and music are crystal clear!

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring nine audio commentaries with creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.
  • The Spirit of An Episode- Featuring six “Spirit of An Episode” featurettes with cast discussing episodes they work on. “The Terror Within” (5:34) with Colin Heck (Director) and Olga Ulanova (Assistant Director); “The Stakeout” (5:14) with Steven Ahn (Assistant Director) and Ian Graham (Director); “Long Live the Queen” with Melchior Zwyer (Director) and Owen Sullivan (Assistant Director); “The Ultimatum” with Colin Heck (Director) and Olga Ulanova (Assistant Director); “Enter the Void” with Steven Ahn (Assistant Director) and Ian Graham (Director); Venom of the Red Lotus” with Melchior Zwyer (Director) and Owen Sullivan (Assistant Director).

EXTRAS:

“The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change” comes with a slipcover.


Having watched “The Legend of Korra” since the very first episode, I have to say that the third book in the series is probably my favorite.

I felt that with each season/book, the stories are well-written but there was something special about this third book that I enjoyed and while Korra is the primary protagonist, the episodes gave other characters a chance to shine.  Mako and Bolin received a lot of attention, especially when it comes to the brotherhood in the family, the two meeting relatives but surprisingly, Bolin really became a much cooler character with this season.

We are introduced to a new character, a young thief but with a good heart named Kai, who develops airbending capabilities and becomes an important character as part of the Air Nomads, especially in relation to Jinora.  Jinora now becomes part of the team and we get to see her shine with her magnificent airbending and spirit abilities.

We also get to see the disconnection betweeen sisters Lin and Suyin Beifong and the two also play a major part in the third book.  Along with Opal, the daughter of Suyin who becomes the romantic interest for Bolin.

And for fans of “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, we also get to see Zuko, who is now eighty-eight years old and also connects some of the dots of what he and Aang accomplished after the Hundred Year War.

While only 13-episodes long, there is more to like about “Book Three” because I felt that the first book dealt with a lot of pent-up frustration for Korra, the second season while a very cool season, did focus a bit too much on the love triangles which some viewers did mind.  But season three brought back the adventure, the hopelessness, the drama, a darker story thanks to its antagonist but then showing hope, especially when there is teamwork. Plent of action and I simply loved every episode that I watched book three from beginning to end in one day.  It was that exciting and captivating!

And the final moments of the final episode of “Book Three: Change” leaves you feeling happy for one character but sad for another, that I can’t wait to watch the episodes of “Book Four: Balance” which is currently being released on the Nickelodeon website and online streaming outlets.

As for the Blu-ray release, the animation is absolutely gorgeous.  Colorful and vibrant with breathtaking background art, this series has always captivated me visually.  And it’s lossless soundtrack is very good as it also utilizes the surround channels, while crystal clear through the center and front channels.  Special features include audio commentary for nine episodes and also six “The Spirit of an Episode” featurettes.

Overall, while it is a shame that “The Legend of Korra” is not airing on television any longer and is being released via online, by no means should anyone think this serious as inferior to “Avatar: The Last Airbender”.  It’s a different series that doesn’t want to be a copycat series but yet retaining the gorgeous animation but a strong storyline, especially with “The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change”.  An exciting series and captivating third book that I highly recommend on Blu-ray!

 

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