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LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – Complete Season One (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures” is a wonderful LEGO animated series for children, the family and Star Wars fans who are young at heart.  Fun, adventurous and action-packed, if you love LEGO and love “Star Wars”, then this Blu-ray release is definitely worth owning!

Images courtesy of © 2015 The Lego Group. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – Complete Season One

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: (Episodes 1-13) 299 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio), English and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 2.0 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: TV Y7 FV

Release Date: December 6, 2016


Created by Bill Motz and Bob Roth

Developed by Carrie Beck, Jack Blais, Leland Chee, Keith Malone, John McCormack

Directed by Michael Hegner, Jens Moller, Martin Skov, Frederik Budolph-Larsen, Per Risager

Written by George Lucas, Danielle Witz, James W. Bates, John Behnke, Russ Carney, Ron Corcillo, David Shayne

Producer:Carrie Beck, Jake Blais, Jason Cosler, Irene Sparre Hjorthoj

Executive Producer: Torsten Jacobsen, Bill Motz, Bob Roth, Jill Wilfert, Erik Willstrup

Co-Producer: Vicky Kjaer Jensen, Jacqueline Lopez

Music by Michael Kramer

Edited by Henrik Bech, Kristian Haskjold, Emma Hjulmand Nielsen, Lars Wissing

Art Direction by Mad Tuxen, Jonas Ussing


Starring:

Vanessa Lengies as Kordi

Grey DeLisle as Naare

Nicolas Cantu as Rowan

Matthew Wood as Roger

Eugene Byrd as Zander

Trevor Devall as Emperor

Matt Sloan as Darth Vader

Dana Snyder as Graballa

James Patrick Stuart as Dengar

John DiMaggio as Baash

Danny Jacobs as Raam

Jeff Bennett as Commander Plumestriker

Thomas Lennon as Wick Cooper

Greg Baldwin as Furlac

Richard Kind as Durbin

Kevin Michael Richardson as Jabba

Michal Daingerfield as Han Solo

Julie Dolan as Leia


 Taking place between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, these new adventures follow a family of scavengers who build and sell starships from battle debris strewn throughout the galaxy. When their youngest discovers a natural connection with the Force through an ancient artifact – the Kyber Saber –he and his family are thrown into an epic struggle against the Empire to restore peace and freedom to the galaxy. The Freemakers explore new worlds, meet new and familiar characters and discover the strength of family. Relive all 13 action-packed episodes in LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures Season One.


In June 2016, Disney XD unveiled the latest LEGO Star Wars animation titled “LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures”.

A 13-episode series that was created by Bill Motz (“Swindle”, “The Penguins of Madagascar”, “Rufus”) and Bob Roth (“The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride”, “Mickey’s Twince Upon a Christmas”, “Aladdin: The Return of Jafar”).

And now the first season will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Disney.

Taking place between “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”, the series revolves around the Freemaker family which include Kordi, Zander and their younger brother Rowan along with their droid Roger.

The four work in the salvage business and try to salvage parts from destroyed or damaged ships.

But when the two get caught in a battle between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance, young Rowan discovers an ancient artifact known as the Kyber Saber.

He is immediately found by Naare, a mysterious force-wielder who recognizes that Rowan has a connection to the Force and has the ability to find the artifacts needed to create the Kyber Saber (which was separated into pieces to keep it away from evil hands).  Which both Darth Vader and Darth Sidious are trying to find.

As the Freemakers team up with Naare, thinking she’s a good jedi, the truth is that she is a sith sent by the Emperor to use Rowan to find the artifacts needed to put the Kyber Saber together.  And giving Rowan an idea that he has the potential to become a jedi.

And as the Freemakers travel throughout the galaxy to find the artifacts, they run into a few familiar faces such as Lando, Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa and more.


VIDEO:

“LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – Complete Season One” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).   The animation is fantastic and the detail for the space craft and characters are well-done.  The animation is colorful and detailed for a LEGO Star Wars series and there is no doubt improvement seen in the animation of the characters, especially when comparing to past LEGO Star Wars animated series.

I did not notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of each episode.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – Complete Season One” is presented in English and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, and also French Dolby Digital 2.0 with subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.

While dialogue is crystal clear, as with its musical score and light saber sound effects and action sequences utilizing the surround channels, it would have been awesome to have a lossless soundtrack for the Blu-ray release.  But for the most part, audio is crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – Complete Season One” comes with the following special features:

  • The Freemaker Adventures: Meet the Freemaker Family – (2:18) Featuring the voice talent of “Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures”.
  • Freemaker Salvage and Repair – (1:00) The Freemaker Salvage and Repair commercial.

EXTRAS:

“LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – Complete Season One” comes with a slipcover, six exclusive magnets and a DisneyMovieRewards code.


With the latest “LEGO Star Wars” animated series, “LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures” is a series that will no doubt appeal to children thanks to its young protagonist but also appeal to Star Wars fans who will be happy to see familiar faces and vehicles from the “Star Wars” films in this series.

The series revolves around the Freemaker family which consists of Kordi Freemaker, the protective sister; Zander Freemaker, the eldest brother and mechanic who specializes in creating new ships and devices from leftover components and their younger brother Rowan, a 12-year-old force-sensitive boy who doesn’t really listen to his siblings and often gets into trouble.

With the Galactic Empire in search of the Kyber Saber, they have a sith named Naare infiltrate the Freemaker family and to make Rowan think he’s a jedi with potential and that she is a jedi that sees that he is force-sensive and wants to train him.  But in truth, she is using his force-sensitive power to find the artifacts to rebuild the Kyber Saber.

And as the Freemakers look for the crystal artifacts, through their adventures they will run into characters such as Jabba the hutt, Boba Fett, Dengar, Baash, Raam, Lando Calrissian, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Admiral Ackbar, Jek-14 (from “LEGO Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles”) and more.

And for comedy relief, the series introduces us to Jabba the Hutt’s jealous cousin, Graballa the Hut and under his employ is the bounty hunter, Dengar.

The CG animation for this series is fantastic and close up shows wonderful detail, plastic sheen and for the most part, the animation looks great!  And because of how the characters are designed, it really does a great job of attracting children to the “LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures” toy sets.  The Blu-ray release comes with a few special features, but you do get six exclusive magnets included.

Overall, “LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures” is a wonderful LEGO animated series for children, the family and Star Wars fans who are young at heart.  Fun, adventurous and action-packed, if you love LEGO and love “Star Wars”, then this Blu-ray release is definitely worth owning!

 

Harley and The Davidsons (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Harley and the Davidsons” is a fascinating and enjoyable miniseries about the founding of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company and showing us the challenges that William Harley and the Davidson brothers had when making the company, trying to make the company successful during rough times and also creating and protecting the company’s legacy.  I absolutely enjoyed the series and definitely recommend it!

Images courtesy of © Lions Gate Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Harley and the Davidsons

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 3 Episodes/236 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (1:78:1), English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: December 13, 2016


Directed by Claran Donnelly, Stephen Kay

Written by Seth Fisher, Nick Schenk, Evan Wright

Produced by Peter McAleese

Executive Producer: Dimitri Doganis, Ciaran Donnelly, John Goldwyn, Evan Wright, Seth Fisher

Co-Executive Producer: Michael Fischler, Tony Mark, Nick Schenk, Piers Vellacott

Post Producer: Dan Bentham

Line Producer: Jayson de Rosner

Music by Mateo Messina

Cinematography by Balazs Bolygo

Edited by Andrew MacRitchie, Oral Norrie Ottey

Casting by Laray Mayfield, Sasha Robertson, Julie Schubert, Sara Trevis

Production Design by Tom Conroy

Art Direction by Adrian Curelea, Serban Porupca, Vlad Roseanu

Set Decoration by Gina Calin, Andreea Hillerin, Anca Rafan

Costume Design by Gersha Phillips


Starring:

Michiel Huisman as Walter Davidson

Bug Hall as Arthur Davidson

Robert Aramayo as Bill Harley

Annie Read as Caroline Jachthuber

Essa O’Shea as Clara Davidson

Daniel Coonan as Big Bill Davidson

Rufus Wright as CH Lang

Ed Birch as Joe Harley

Philip Brodie as George Hendee

Olimpia Melinte as May

Jane Slavin as Mary Harley

Hera Hilmar as Emma

Gabriel Luna as Eddie Hasha

Tommy Bastow as Otto Walker

Alex Shaffer as Shrimp Burns

Wilson Bethel as Ray Weishaar

Stephen Rider as William Johnson

Dougray Scott as Randall James

Sean Scully as Walter C. Davidson


Harley and the Davidsons charts the birth of this iconic bike during a time of great social and technological change beginning at the turn of the 20th century. Walter, Arthur, and Bill risked their entire fortunes and livelihoods to launch the budding enterprise. Each of these men faced very different challenges, but it was the motorcycle that united their dreams and ambitions.


Harley-Davidson Motor Company is no doubt an iconic brand in America.

As one of the two major American motorcycle manufacturers to survive the Great Depression, Harley-Davidson is an American success story, having began in 1903 and continue to be a brand in which people expect quality.

But what makes Harley-Davidson so iconic?  And who are the people who founded Harley-Davidson Motor Company?

This is what directors Cliaran Donnelly and Stephen Kay and writers Nick Schenk, Evan Wright and Seth Fisher wanted to showcase in their three-episode television miniseries “Harley and the Davidsons” which aired on the Discovery Channel.

The series stars Michiel Huisman (“The Age of Adaline”, “Wild”, “World War Z”), Bug Hall (“Little Rascals”, “The Stupids”, “Hone, We Shrunk Ourselves”), Robert Aramayo (“Game of Thrones”, “Nocturnal Animals”), Annie Read (“Fatty”), Essa O’Shea (“Re/Collection”), Daniel Coonan (“Ripper 2: Letter from Within”, “EastEnders”), Rufus Wright (“Quantum of Solace”, “Spy Game”, “45 Years”), Gabriel Luna (“Transpecos”, “Freeheld”, “Bernie”), Stephen Rider (“Daredevil”, “Safe House”, “The Host”) and more.

The series begins in 1903 as we are introduced to the series protagonists.

Walter Davidson is a farm owner who is forced to transfer his farm and land to the C.M.P. Railroad and decides to return back home.

At home, Arthur Davidson is a young man trying to make a name for himself.  His family are hardworking people and his mother is strict with him to make sure he does a job that is real and legal.  Meanwhile, his good friend Bill Harley is a smart person who dreams of going to college to become an engineer.

With both young men trying to make a name for themselves, with Bill Harley’s engineering smarts and Arthur Davidson’s ability to market, the two would join forces to create a bike with an engine, using a Flying Merkel bicycle frame and a homemade engine.  But to make it happen, they needed money and so Arthur turned to his brother Walter and Walter who loved the concept, would eventually finance the development of the motorbike and join forces with the two.

But it wasn’t always easy as Indian Motor Company had brand reputation and a wealthy backer to have its bikes in many dealerships, the new established Harley-Davidson Motor Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin needed a huge push?  How would William Harley and the Davidson brothers find a way to get the name of their motorbike known among bike enthusiasts?

In episode two, after a major tragedy, the company finds a new rival with new successor to Indian Motorcycles, engineer Randell James and it would become a major battle between Harley-Davidson Motor Company and Indian Motorcycles.  Especially with World War I looming and also a major lawsuit.

For the final third episode, the series takes a look at the Great Depression and the challenges that lay ahead for William Harley, Arthur and Walter Davidson, now older and having families.  And Walter having to deal with his rebellious son, Walter Jr. but also creating their next ambitious motorcycle known as “The Knucklehead” and also meeting African American motorcycle racer, William B. Johnson and more.


VIDEO:

“Harley and The Davidsons” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The TV series looks absolutely fantastic as closeups show great detail. Outdoor scenes look very good and for the most part, for a TV series, “Harley and The Davidsons” looks good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Harley and The Davidsons” is presented in English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. The series is primarily dialogue drive and for the most part, dialogue is crystal clear through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Harley and the Davidsons” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Harley and the Davidsons – (6:41) A behind-the-scenes look at the making of “Harley and the Davidsons”.
  • Biketacular – (40:37) A special episode of “Biketacular” about the top 20 motorcycles of all time.

EXTRAS:

“Harley and the Davidsons” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.  Also, included are both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the series.


For anyone interested or are curious about the people behind the iconic motorcycle brand, “Harley-Davidson Motor Company”, will no doubt find the Discover Channel miniseries “Harley and the Davidsons” to be fascinating, intriguing and inspirational.

But it’s important for people to know that while many of the situations featured in the series are true, there are also many scenes that were dramatized and for the most part, the series is not 100% accurate but the writers did a great job in researching for the making of the series.

First, let’s discuss what makes this series so awesome!

Everyone loves an underdog, rags-to-riches storyline and in this case, the story about William Harley, Arthur and Walter Davidson is inspiring.

William Harley is intelligent and dreams of getting into college to become an engineer but for he and his good friend Arthur, the two have always been interested in becoming bigger men, becoming successful and doing something positive for their family.  William Harley has always been inspired by the idea of making a motorbike and so, with his designs and Arthur’s drive of wanting to become successful and using his marketing and sales skills, the two join forces and eventually start pitching their idea and designs, but just need the money in order to make it happen.

This is where Walter Davidson comes in.  Walter, a farmer and landowner is forced to sell his farm and land to a railroad company and because he was able to make money through the sale of his property, he funds his brother and friend, William’s idea of creating the engine to make a motor bike.

And as Harley and the Davidson brothers struggle to create a motorbike, it becomes even more of a struggle to go against the rich and to create a bike that would rival the technology of the best selling bike in America, Indian Motorcycles.

The series introduces us to how the group began Harley-Davidson Motor Company and the struggles they faced earlier on.  How Walter became the President of the company, Arthur responsible as the sales manager and William Harley as visionary inventor and engineer.

The series also shows the immense competition between Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycles and facing a major lawsuit that could end the company.

Showing us how Walter met his wife Emma Rosenheim at a bar, how Arthur met his wife Clara Biesel and how William met the love of his life, his wife and his biggest supporter, Anna Jachthuber.

But also the future, as the trio have families to raise but with a new generation of motorcycle enthusiasts, trying to create something for the new generation.

The three episodes featured are enjoyable and also addictive.  Three episodes full of excitement, motorcycle racing and really showing great care and love to the iconic brand and people’s commitment of creating a quality motorcycle, “Harley and the Davidsons” is no doubt a great series for those who enjoy motorcycling and also the history of the iconic brand and the people behind the brand.

There are a few things about the series that I do question.  For one, while there was no doubt a rivalry between Harley-Davidson Motor Company and Indian Motorcycles, the series really goes far to show how much of a rivalry the two had.  And the character of Randell James is fictional, so episode two which is based on the rivalry between Indian Motorcycles Randell James or George Hendee and Harley-Davidson, it’s not known which parts are dramatized and are true.

Also, another Davidson brother is not shown with much importance, despite being a co-founder and that’s William A. Davidson.  While Walter is shown giving money made from his farm and land and William is shown as the stern brother, William quit his high paying job from the Milwaukee Road Railroad and was the man responsible for purchasing the machining tools and presses.

And part of the reason for quality within Harley-Davidson was because the closeness he had with his employees.  So, it’s a bit unfortunate that the series doesn’t include him as much as the other two Davidsons and that his role in the series was limited.

And if there was one thing I wished the series did, was to show what happened to each of the protagonists at the end credits.  The series touches upon a few things in regards to the success of Harley-Davidson Motor company but doesn’t go into what happened to William Harley or Arthur Davidson.

But despite that, there is still a lot of factual things included in the series, from the early struggle of trying of the company and the challenge that Harley and the Davidsons had.  But also the family dynamics, how William Johnson became the first African American to own a Harley-Davidson Motor Company dealership, how Eddie Hasha was a popular racer who had close ties with the Harley-Davidson crew, their racers Otto Walker,  Ray Weishaar, Shrimp Burns and more.

But overall, the series is wonderfully acted, well-written and thoroughly researched.  Sure, it’s dramatized and not 100% accurate but still, a lot went into the making of the series and I was impressed.  I really enjoyed watching all three episodes!

On Blu-ray, “Harley and the Davidsons” looks great on Blu-ray and I didn’t notice any compression artifacts during my viewing of the series.  Soundtrack is English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio and is dialogue-driven and crystal clear through the front channels.  While there are only two special features, you do get a making of and a full episode of “Biketacular”.

Overall, “Harley and the Davidsons” is a fascinating and enjoyable miniseries about the founding of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company and showing us the challenges that William Harley and the Davidson brothers had when making the company, trying to make the company successful during rough times and also creating and protecting the company’s legacy.  I absolutely enjoyed the series and definitely recommend it!

Greenleaf: Season One (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Greenleaf” is fantastic!  Wonderful performances from the whole cast, great character dynamics and complexities that you usually don’t see in a family drama these days.  In addition, to wonderful acting, you also get amazing writing and this is no doubt, one of my favorite drama series on television in 2016.  “Greenleaf: Season One” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Lions Gate Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Greenleaf: Season One

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 13 Episodes/9 Hrs. and 15 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (1:78:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH, and Spanish

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: November 29, 2016


Directed by Clement Virgo, Allan Kroeker, Gregg Araki, Janice Cooke, Donna Deitch, Rob J. greenlea, Regina King, Charles Randolph-Wright, Charles Stone III

Written by Craig Wright, Erica L. Anderson, Mike Flynn, Art Alamo, Mando Alvarado, Ty Burkett, Robert Engels, Elizabeth Hunter, Ivy Mariel Pruss, Casey Vandeventer

Produced by Gerrit van der Meer

Co-Producer: David Lifshin, Albert T. Dickerson III

Supervising Producer: Elizabeth Hunter

Executive Producer: Clement Virgo, Oprah Winfrey, Craig Wright

Cinematography by Francis Kenny

Edited by Lillian Benson, Stephen Mark, Pattye Rogers, Fred Peterson

Casting by Craig Fincannon, Lisa Mae Fincannon, Kime Coleman

Production Design by Bruton Jones

Art Direction by Heather R. Dumas

Set Decoration by Sarah Carter

Costume Design by Johnetta Boone


Starring:

Merle Dandridge as Grace Greenleaf

Keith David as Bishop James Greenleaf

Lynn Whitfield as Lady Mae Greenleaf

Kim Hawthorne as Kerissa Greenleaf

Lamman Rucker as Jacob Greenleaf

Desiree Ross as Sophia Greenleaf

Tye White as Kevin Satterlee

Deborah Joy Winans as Charity Greenleaf-Satterlee

Lovie Simone as Zora Greenleaf

Benjamin Patterson as Noah Kendall

Gregory Alan Williams as Robert “Mac” McCready

Anna Diop as Isabel

Parnell Damone Marcano as Carlton Cruise

Jen Harper as Deacon Sykes

Karan Kendrick as Wanda

Oprah Winfrey as Mavis McCready

Kristin Erickson as Alexa Campbell


Greenleaf centers on the journey of estranged daughter and disillusioned preacher Grace Greenleaf (Merle Dandridge), who has returned home after 20 years on the occasion of the mysterious death of her sister, Faith. As she reenters the world of Calvary Fellowship World Ministries, the Memphis mega-church run by her powerful parents Bishop James Greenleaf (Keith David) and Lady Mae Greenleaf (Lynn Whitfield), it becomes evident that things are not as virtuous as they seem…and that the family’s outward display of faith hides sin and misdeeds.


In 2016, The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) debuted its 13-episode scripted drama series “Greenleaf”.

With Oprah Winfrey serving as Executive Producer and also starring in the series, “Greenleaf” also stars Merle Dandridge (“The Night Shift”, “Star-Crossed”), Keith David (“Platoon”, “Crash”, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”), Lynn Whitfield (“Stepmom”, “The Josephine Baker Story”, “The Rebound”), Kim Hawthorne (“The Chronicles of Riddick”, “Lucky Louie”, “Rake”), Lamman Rucker (“Meet the Browns”, “Why Did I Get Married” films), Desiree Ross (“Falling Skies”, “A Country Christmas Story”), Tye White (“Drumline: A New Beat”, “Bottled”), Deborah Joy winans (“Whitney”, “Fragile World”), Lovie Simone (“Monster”), Benjamin Patterson (“Grey’s Anatomy”, “Dear Secret Santa”, “Noah’s Arc”) and many more.

With a successful first season, a second series was announced and now, “Greenleaf” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Lions Gate Entertainment.

Greenleaf follows the Greenleaf family as many have gathered together for the funeral of Faith.  Estranged daughter, Grace Greenleaf (portrayed by Merle Dandridge) and her daughter Sophia (portrayed by Desiree Ross) have returned home after 20 years of escaping the Greenleaf family and because Grace had renounced the family and stayed away for so long, Grace is not really welcomed back.

While her father Bishop James Greenleaf runs a Memphis megachurch which many of the African-American community attend, he is probably the only person that is happy to see his daughter back home.

Grace’s mother, Lady Mae (portrayed by Lynn Whitfield) sees her daughter as a troublemaker and part of the reason why everyone is not thrilled of her return is because Grace accused her Uncle Mac (portrayed by Gregory Alan Williams) of raping Faith.

While Grace’s aunt Mavis McCready (portrayed by Oprah Winfrey), who is Lady Mae’s sister,  know that he did the crime and probably hurt others, no one in the family believed Grace and felt she was trying to start trouble.

Meanwhile, Grace’s brother Jacob (portrayed by Lamman Rucker) is trying to make sure that he’s the next person in line to run the church, if something happens to the Bishop, but because his wife Kerissa (portrayed by Kim Hawthorne) is more into Jacob growing in power within the family, it has pushed Jacob to having an affair with the bishop’s secretary, Alexa Campbell (portrayed by Kristin Erickson).

Grace’s younger sister Charity (portrayed by Deboray Joy Winans) has a problem with Grace treating her like a young girl and is often trying to speak up for herself.  She’s trying to have a baby with her husband Kevin Satterlee (portrayed by Tye White).  But for Kevin, he notices that many gay men are into him and he tends to question his sexuality and curiosity with men and wonders if he is straight or gay.

As for Grace’s daughter Sophia tries to get used to her new surroundings and going to a new school, she becomes close with Jacob’s daughter Zora (portrayed by Lovie Simone) who likes to have fun and also doing things to rebel against the family and gets Sophia to rebel as well.  But for Sophia, she becomes interested in religion but is torn between staying with her mom and wanting to stay with her father.  And also trying to get used to her surroundings as she is half black/half white and also not aware of religion.

And Grace’s father and mother try to have a lavish lifestyle, but an investigation is pending if the Greenleaf’s are illegally using church funds to fund their lifestyle.

And as for Grace…why did she really come back home to Memphis?


VIDEO:

“Greenleaf: Season One” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The TV series looks absolutely fantastic as closeups show great detail. Outdoor scenes look very good and for the most part, for a TV series, “Greenleaf” looks good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Greenleaf: Season One” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  The series is primarily dialogue drive and for the most part, dialogue and music is crystal clear.  Surround channels are primarily for ambiance but the overall soundtrack is dialogue and music-driven.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Greenleaf: Season One” comes with the following special features:

  • The Oprah Winfrey Conversations  – Featuring 5-6 minute interviews with Oprah Winfrey and director Clement Virgo, actress Merle Dandridge, actor Keith David, actress Lynn Whitfield and director Regina King.
  • Music Sessions: Greenleaf – (3:13) A featurette about the making of the music for the series.
  • Creating Greenleaf – (10:21) Interviews with cast and crew about working on “Greenleaf”.
  • Gagreel – (2:30) Outtakes from season one of “Greenleaf”.

EXTRAS:

“Greenleaf: Season One” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


“Greenleaf” is a powerful drama series that features several intertwining stories involving family members that are part of a Memphis megachurch but as the family wants to continue the powerful congregation and continue to become financially successful, one estranged daughter returns back home for the death of her younger sister and now wants justice.

The main story focus on Grace Greenleaf, estranged daughter who had left the Greenleaf family after telling her family that her sister Faith was raped by Uncle Mac, Lady Mae’s brother.

Tired of religion and her family treating her as a liar, she left home.

But with the death of Faith, Grace returns back home.  But while her true reasons are unknown to the Greenleaf family, Grace wants to literally infiltrate the family, find out the truth of her Uncle Mac and learn why Faith killed herself.

And while Grace continues her secret investigation, her family members have a lot of drama going on in the background.

Her brother Jacob sees himself in line to be the next one to run the megachurch but his wife Kerissa, who is very ambitious thinks that Grace has come back to hurt her husband’s chances.  But Jacob is unhappy with his marriage due to Kerissa’s ambition and he is having an affair with the Bishop’s/his father’s secretary.

Charity Greenleaf-Chatterly, Grace’s younger sister dislikes that no one tells her anything and is treated like the baby of the family even though she is an adult.  So, she wants to not only show that she has a presence, not just as a singer at the congregation but as a woman and she wants to have a baby with her husband Kevin.  Problem is that she doesn’t know that Kevin is struggling whether or not he is straight or gay.

Meanwhile, as the Greenleaf’s are running a successful church, they are going to face hardtimes as an investigation is ongoing if the Greenleaf’s are misusing church funds to fund their lavish lifestyle but also their trust/distrust of each other.

If anything, this is a true dysfunctional family and it’s a family that people will enjoy watching on television. Despite the fact that the family is looked as perfect, because of religion and financial success and the facade the family promotes to the public, they are anything but. But no matter how dark things get, they somehow manage to come together as family, even if there is turmoil or resentment within the family members.

And if anything, what makes this series truly work is the outstanding performances across the board.  It’s one thing to expect Oprah Winfrey to be amazing but to see everyone feeding off each other’s performance, “Greenleaf” is mesmerizing and powerful.

And also, the writing is wonderful to show interesting characters but also showcasing empowered women, topics of questioning religion, struggling identities,  infidelity and other complexities with each character that writers can further explore in future seasons.

And I have to say that growing up, this storyline is something you would see with Caucasian characters and I love the fact that we have a storyline that features African American actors and showcasing people of high aspirations, problematic relationships and so much more!

I absolutely enjoyed this series and its season finale, it made me highly anticipating this upcoming second season! I can’t wait!

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is great for the a TV series with closeups showcasing wonderful detail and the lossless soundtrack featuring crystal clear dialogue and music.  And as for special features, you get quite a few short featurettes as well.

Overall, “Greenleaf” is fantastic!  Wonderful performances from the whole cast, great character dynamics and complexities that you usually don’t see in a family drama these days.  In addition, to wonderful acting, you also get amazing writing and this is no doubt, one of my favorite drama series on television in 2016.  “Greenleaf: Season One” is highly recommended!

Pete’s Dragon (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon” is a magical, adventurous, live-action family film that may be different from the 1977 live-action, animated musical, but this new story from director David Lowery and co-writer Toby Halbrook is entertaining and so much fun. I absolutely enjoyed it! “Pete’s Dragon” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Pete’s Dragon

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 103 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:39:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Description Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: PG (For Action, Peril and Brief Language)

RELEASE DATE: November 29, 2016


Directed by David Lowery

Based on the Story by Steon I. Miller and S.S. Field

Screenplay by David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks

Produced by James Whitaker

Co-Producer: Adam Borba

Associate Producer: Carthew Neal

Executive Producer: Barrie M. Osborne

Music by Daniel Hart

Cinematography by Bojan Bazelli

Edited by Lisa Zeno Churgin

Casting by Debra Zane

Production Design by Jade Healy

Art Direction by Ken Turner

Set Decoration by Simon Bright, Adam Willis

Costume Design by Amanda Neale


Starring:

Bryce Dallas Howard as Grace

Robert Redford as Meacham

Oakes Fegley as Pete

Oona Laurence as Natalie

Wes Bentley as Jack

Karl Urban as Gavin

Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Sheriff Gene Dentler

Marcus Henderson as Woodrow

Aaron Jackson as Abner

Phil Grieve as Bobby

Steve Barr as Deputy Smalls


When a mysterious 10-year-old boy, Pete, turns up, claiming to live in the woods with a giant green dragon, it’s up to a forest ranger, Grace, and young Natalie to learn where the boy came from, where he belongs, and the truth about this magical dragon.


Back in 1977, a musical live-action animated film titled “Pete’s Dragon” was released in theaters.

The film would become a classic and as the original storyline was set in the 1900’s and revolved around a young orphan who fled from his abusive hillbilly foster family and had help from a huge dragon named Elliott, the 2016 Disney film is much different.

Directed by David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”, “St. Nick”, “Pioneer”) and co-written with Toby Halbrooks (“Upstream Color”, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”, “Listen Up Philip”).

Disney would announce a remake back in 2013 and wanted to remake the film by title only and reinvent the story to become a Disney family film.  Having the film set in the 1980s featuring a CGI dragon instead of the dragon being hand-drawn.

The film would star Bryce Dallas Howard (“Jurassic World”, “The Help”, “Black Mirror”), Robert Redford (“The Sting”, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “All the President’s Men”), Oakes Fegley (“This is Where I Leave You”, “Children of the Moon”, “Fort Bliss”), Oona Laurence (“Southpaw”, “Bad Moms”, “Penny Dreadful”), Wes Bentley (“The Hunger Games”, “American Beauty”, “Interstellar”) and Karl Urban (“Dredd”, “Star Trek” films, “The Bourne Supremacy”).

Budgeted at $65 million, “Pete’s Dragon” would go on to earn $141.8 million in the box office and now “Pete’s Dragon” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Disney.

The film begins with Pete, a five-year-old boy at the time on a road trip with his parents.  But as the parents swerve to avoid hitting a deer, the family goes over the cliff and Pete’s parents are killed and Pete survives.

As Pete is confronted by a pack of wolves, the wolves are scared when a huge green dragon comes to save him.  Pete names the dragon “Elliot” after his favorite book.

Fastforward six years later, and we learn that Mr. Meacham (portrayed by Robert Redford) had once confronted a green dragon in the wood, but many of the people in town think his story is crazy.

While his story has become popular and children have come over to listen, Meacham’s daughter, Grace (portrayed by Bryce Dallas Howard), who works as a forest ranger, doesn’t believe in her father’s story.

While she goes to the forest, we see an 11-year-old Pete (portrayed by Oakes Fegley) who has lived in the forest all this time, observing Grace and Pete being surprised to see another human in the area.

One day, as a lumberjack crew has come to chop trees near where Pete and Elliot live, Natalie (portrayed by Oona Laurence), the daughter of Grace’s boyfriend, Jack (portrayed by Wes Bentley), has spotted Pete and goes out to the forest to follow him.

As Pete tries to run away from her and climb a tree, Natalie follows him up the tree and both managed to fall.

While both are OK, Grace, Jack and others managed to find the children and everyone is shocked to see Pete and wonder how long he has been living in the forest.

As Grace takes Pete in to stay with her, Jack and Natalie temporarily, Elliot goes looking for the boy in the forest.  This leads to Jack’s brother, Gavin, a hunter and lumberjack to search the forest.

When Gavin and a few lumberjacks find the hiding place and home of Pete and Elliot, Elliot growls and Gavin and the lumberjacks see the dragon on their own for the very first time and now are determined on catching it.

Meanwhile, Elliot tries to search for Pete and worries about where he may be.

As for Pete, he starts to get used to living with other humans despite being cautious around them.  Meanwhile, Grace finds out from the sheriff that Pete is the child of a family who died in an accident six years earlier and will be sent to children’s services.

But before that can happen, Grace wants to know the truth of how Pete was able to survive.  And Pete tells her that Elliot has taken care of him and gives a drawing of a green dragon.

Shocked by Pete’s story, Grace goes to her father about the news.  And Grace, her father, Pete and Natalie want to go the woods to see where Pete has lived all this time, but they are unaware that Gavin and other lumberjacks are in the area, trying to hunt down Elliot.


VIDEO:

“Pete’s Dragon” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). With the film shot outdoors, the film looks very good in HD as closeups show great detail, skin tones look natural, while black levels are nice and deep. Outdoor scenes look lush and the CG was done very well.  It’s no doubt a challenge to create a dragon, especially one that should be appealing to children and families, but despite the differences between the 2016 film and the 1977 animated musical, I was happy the film retained the green dragon and for the most part, CG looked fantastic. And similar to other Disney films, picture quality is fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Pete’s Dragon” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks.   The lossless soundtrack is fantastic as the film features quite a bit of action, from Elliot flapping his dragon wings, Elliot crashing into things and releasing his flame to other action sequences of lumberjacks trying to shoot tranquilizer darts to many other sound effects, the film utilizes the surround channels and the LFE very well.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear and for the most part, the lossless soundtrack is fantastic.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Pete’s Dragon” comes with the following special features:

  • Notes to Self: A Director’s Diary – (7:31) David Lowery’s notes from the film.  Featuring behind-the-scenes footage and David Lowery reading his notes.
  • Making Magic – (2:11) A featurette about the magic featured in Pete’s Dragon and the challenges of making the film to make it seem real.
  • “Disappearing” Moments – (9:09) Deleted scenes from “Pete’s Dragon”.
  • Bloopers – (1:28) Featuring outtakes from “Pete’s Dragon”.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director and co-writer David Lowery, co-writer Toby Halbrooks and actors Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence.
  • “Nobody Knows” Music Video by the Lumineers
  • “Something Wild” Music Video by Lindsey Stirling Featuring Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
  • Welcome to New Zealand – (1:56) A short featurette about filming in New Zealand.

EXTRAS:

“Pete’s Dragon” comes with a slipcover and a Disney Movie Rewards code.  Also, included is a DVD version of the film.


As a person who grew up with the original “Pete’s Dragon”, I have to say that Disney’s decision to have a new story that is more family friendly and to not recreate the original musical was a good decision.

For one, the musical live-action animated film was a product of its time and what director David Lowery and co-writer Toby Halbrook were able to create was a family live-action film that draws one’s attention to Pete and his relationship with the dragon, Elliot.

Using today’s modern technology to create the CG of the dragon and in essence, probably creating a much more effective, entertaining and enjoyable film compared to the older 1977 film storywise.

While not as mesmerizing and visually pleasing as the most recent Disney live-action adaptation of “The Jungle Book”, which showed a great bond between child and animals, “Pete’s Dragon” shows us a different side of a child/dragon living in a logging community and the threat are loggers who want to catch the dragon.

The child, Pete, is reintroduced to being around humans, seeing family and knowing that is where he belongs, but also knowing that in order to protect the dragon that raised him, he has to make a difficult decision.

Young Oakes Fegley did a great job of playing Pete, but the film earns credit on the acting of Bryce Dallas Howard as a forest ranger who tries to help Pete and it helps having Robert Redford in the film as well.

Great use of CG and for the most part, a good balance of action, I found “Pete’s Dragon” to be an entertaining live-action family film.

It’s important to emphasize to parents that this is a PG rated film because of the peril featured, as lumberjacks are trying to capture Elliot by all means necessary and in the beginning of the film, showing how a young boy lost his family.  While there are no disturbing scenes, because of the featured action sequences, the perilous situations earned the film a PG rating.  But I do feel the film is fine for children and as long as they watch with their parents, I do believe it’s an entertaining, not so scary, family film.

On Blu-ray, close-ups show amazing detail while the CG work for Elliot the dragon was well-done.  The lossless soundtrack was also fantastic thanks to its numerous live-action sequences and the film features a good number of special features as well.

Overall, Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon” is a magical, adventurous, live-action family film that may be different from the 1977 live-action, animated musical, but this new story from director David Lowery and co-writer Toby Halbrook is entertaining and so much fun.  I absolutely enjoyed it!

“Pete’s Dragon” is recommended!

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

November 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Hollars” is a film that will make you laugh and also will make you cry. It’s a film that feels real and manages to balance comedy and emotion wonderfully thanks to the magnificent performances by Margo Martindale and Richard Jenkins. “The Hollars” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Hollars SP, LLC, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Hollars

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, English and Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese (traditional), Japanese

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Brief Language and Some Thematic Material)

RELEASE DATE: December 6, 2016


Directed by  John Krasinski

Written by James C. Strouse

Produced by John Krasinski, Ben Nearn, Tom Rice, Allyson Seeger

Executive Producer: Michael London, Mike Sablone, James C. Strouse, Janice Williams

Associate Producer: Hillary Schoelzel

Line Producer: Kirk Michael Fellows

Music by Josh Ritter

Cinematography by Eric Alan Edwards

Edited by Heathr Persons

Production Design by Daniel B. Clancy

Set Decoration by Gretchen Gattuso

Costume Design by Caroline Eselin


Starring:

Margo Martindale as Sally Hollar

Sharito Copley as Ron Hollar

Richard Jenkins as Don Hollar

John Krasinski as John Hollar

Anna Kendrick as Rebecca

Randall Park as Dr. Fong

Ashley Dyke as Stacey

Isabela Constine as Constance

Didi Costine as Matilda

Josh Groban as Reverand Dan

Charlie Day as Jason

Mary Kay Place as Pam


A struggling NYC artist, John Hollar (John Krasinski), is forced to return to the small, middle-American town he left behind after learning about his mother’s illness. Back in the house he grew up in, John is immediately swept up in the problems of his dysfunctional family, high school rival and an over-eager ex-girlfriend as he faces impending fatherhood with his NYC girlfriend (Academy Award Nominee Anna Kendrick, 2009, Best Supporting Actress, Up in the Air). John Krasinski’s second feature as a director is a poignant look at the bonds of family and friendship.


In 2016, screenwriter James C. Strouse (“Grace is Gone”, “The Winning Season”, “New York, I Love You”) wrote “The Hollars”, a story based on Strouse’s experiences with his family.

The script would be purchased by actor John Krasinski (“The Office”, “13 Hours”, “Leatherheads”) and would direct the film (his second film).

The film would star Krasinski, Margon Martindale (“Million Dollar Baby”, “August: Osage County”, “The Hours”), Richard Jenkins (“Jack Reacher”, “The Cabin in the Woods”, “Burn After Reading”), Sharito Copley (“District 9”, “Chappie”, “Maleficent”), Anna Kendrick (“Up in the Air”, “Pitch Perfect” films, “Into the Woods”), Charlie Day (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, “Horrible Bosses”, “Pacific Rim”), music artist Josh Groban, Randall Park (“Fresh Off the Boat”, “The Interview”, “Veep”), Ashley Dyke (“12 Years a Slave”, “Dependent’s Day”, “Hello Ladies”) and more.

“The Hollars” begins with the introduction to the Hollar family.  Sally Hollar (portrayed by Margo Martindale) is doing her makeup in the bathroom, Ron Hollar (portrayed by Sharito Copley) is the eldest, divorced son who has moved back home and is trying to get into the bathroom which is occupied.  And Don Hollar (portrayed by Richard Jenkins) is the father who catches his son peeing in a jar in the kitchen.

When Don hears a crash, he checks on his wife and finds her laying on the bathroom floor.  Thinking that she may have just fallen or playing a joke, Ron sees his mother down and has his father call for an ambulance.

Meanwhile, in New York, John Hollar (portrayed by John Krasinski) is a graphic novelist who is having a difficult time on the job.  His pregnant girlfriend, Rebecca (portrayed by Anna Kendrick) comes to his work and tells him that his mother is in the hospital with a possible brain tumor.

She purchases plane tickets for John and John heads back home to the small city in Ohio that he grew up in and reunites with his family.

As John comes back, he sees his family as dysfunctional as ever.  We learn that John has stopped contacting his family and is shocked to find out how much things have changed back at home.

He finds out that his father’s business is not doing very well and near bankruptcy and may lose the business.

John also finds out that his brother Ron has been spying on his ex-wife and kids and regrets leaving his family and Ron is very jealous that his ex-wife Stacey (portrayed by Ashley Dyke) is with Reverend Dan (portrayed by Josh Groban).  And his father and Ron are not getting along well.

John also finds out that his ex-fiance Gwen (portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) married his former classmate now nurse, Jason (portrayed by Charlie Day).

As the family learns that Sally Hollar has a huge brain tumor that she may have had for the last 15 years and she and her father had ignored the symptoms and thought it was weight related.

The family must band together to support her mom who needs emergency surgery (as she doesn’t want to go through with it).

Meanwhile, the family think that John and his girlfriend are not doing well because he hasn’t married her.  But in truth, John is scared because of his uncertainties of his current job and he will soon become a father.

What will John discover as he stays with his family for the week?


VIDEO:

“The Hollars” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). Overall picture quality shows amazing detail during closeups. Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep. Many outdoor shots and for the most part, the film looks very good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Hollars” is presented in English and Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA.

The lossless audio for “I Saw the Light” features crystal clear dialogue and music. Surround sound usage is primarily for ambiance.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese (Traditional) and Japanese.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Maggie’s Plan” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director and actor John Krasinski and actress Margo Martindale.
  • The Family Trust: Inside the Hollars – (17:37) Behind-the-scenes on the making of “The Hollars”.
  • Persistent Vision: Margo Martindale – (6:03) Featuring interviews with actress Margo Martindale and cast discuss working with her.
  • LA Film Festival Q&A – (18:54) Featuring the Q&A for “The Hollars” at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “The Hollars”.

EXTRAS:

“The Hollars” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


Often a few may watch a film and be remind of their own family.  “The Hollars” is one of those films that may not be a financial blockbuster, but its story and its characters are endearing, compassionate, funny and its a story that really hit home for me and I found it to be delightful.

The film revolves around New York-based graphic novelist John Hollar, a man who is uncertain about his job and the stress from that, but also because his girlfriend Rebecca is pregnant and is expected to give birth soon.

And if John is feeling stressed, he receives news that his mother is in the hospital and has a brain tumor.

As John returns home, we learn that not only hasn’t he had much communication with his family, he pretty much has been out of the loop on what is going on with his family members.

He learns that his older brother Ron has moved back home and was fired by his father.  Ron, who ended his marriage with his wife Stacey, has been spying on her and the kids when he finds out that she is dating the youth pastor in town.

Meanwhile, John finds out his father is nearly bankrupt as the family business is now in danger of shutting down.

But as John is primarily there for his mother and being there to support her as she must prepare for an emergency surgery to remove the brain tumor, he spends precious time with his family, seeing former friends including his ex-fiance but also discovering the more important things in life and how he really feels about his current girlfriend, Rebecca.

What touched me about the film is to see the humor among the family members, as humor plays a big part in the relationship of the Hollars, despite being a dysfunctional family (what family isn’t?).  But also the feeling that many men feel when working a job and not sure about their future, especially their financial future and the beginning of family and responsibilities.

These are all natural feelings that many can relate to with John, but also many people can related to the hardships of the Hollars, especially for those who have had a loved one in the hospital and have experienced the emotional high and lows.

The acting by Krasinski, Copley and Kendrick was good but the two that really made this film so fantastic is actress Margo Martindale and actor Richard Jenkins.  Not only do these two have great chemistry onscreen but both nailed the varying emotional states of their characters during a difficult time.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is good as details are great on closeups, while lossless audio is primarily dialogue and musically driven throughout the film.  There are also a few special features including an insightful commentary, a Q&A from the Los Angeles Film Festival and more.

Overall, “The Hollars” is a film that will make you laugh and also will make you cry.  It’s a film that feels real and manages to balance comedy and emotion wonderfully thanks to the magnificent performances by Margo Martindale and Richard Jenkins.

“The Hollars” is recommended!

Morris from America (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Chad Hartigan’s “Morris from America” is an entertaining and edgy coming-of-age film about a child from America having to get used to his new surrounding in Germany.  Featuring a wonderful performance by Craig Robinson and YouTube star Markees Christmas, “Morris from America” is a film that I definitely recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Lichtblick Media GmbH and Beachside Films, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Morris from America

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: R (Teen Drug Use and Partying, sexual Material, Brief Nudity and Language Throughout)

RELEASE DATE: November 8, 2016


Directed by Chad Hartigan

Written by Chad Hartigan

Produced by Sara Murphy, Adele Romanski, Gabriele Simon

Co-Produced: Arek Gielnik

Executive Producer: Michael B. Clark, Alex Turtletaub

Associate Producer: Rachel Moy

Music by Keegan DeWitt

Cinematography by Sean McElwee

Edited by Anne Fabini

Casting by Eyde Belasco, Manolya Mutlu

Production Design by Babett Klimmeck

Costume Design by Nana Kolbinger


Starring:

Markees Christmas as Morris Gentry

Craig Robinson as Curtis Gentry

Carla Juri as Inka

Patrick Guildenberg as Sven

Levin Henning as Bastian

Leon Badenhop as Rainer

Lina Keller as Katrin

Marie Loschhorn as Birgit

Josephine Becker as Nadine


A warm and winsome fish-out-of-water comedy starring Craig Robinson as an All-American dad who relocates to Germany with his reluctant teenage son.


From filmmaker/writer Chad Hartigan (“This is Martin Bonner”, “Luke and Brie Are on a First Date”) comes his American-German coming-of-age film “Morris from America”.

Starring Craig Robinson (“This is the End”, “Pineapple Express”, “The Office”), Markee Christmas (“Parker and the Crew”), Carla Juri (“Wetlands”, “Someone Like Me”, “180 Degrees”), Lina Keller (“Doc Meets Dorf”, “V8 – Die Rache des Nitros”, “SOKO Kismar”) and more.

The film was screened at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival earning Chad Hartigan a Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.

“Morris from America” revolves around a 13-year old teenager named Morris (voiced by Markee Christmas), who lives in Germany with his father Curtis (portrayed by Craig Robinson), a soccer coach.

For Morris, it’s not easy to live in a foreign country that is hard for him to communicate with others and often, he is stereotyped because he’s Black.

The only person outside of his father that he confides in is his German instructor Inka (portrayed by Carla Juri), who is concerned about Morris because he hasn’t made many friends.  And for Morris, it’s been difficult (considering he is the only Black student at his school) but he has fallen for his classmate Katrin (portrayed by Lina Keller), who is a rebel at school who likes to smoke, party and experiment with drugs.

But as Morris tries to fit in, he is often bullied by another German who teases him for being a Black person with no skills.  But Morris tries to be a rapper, acting gangster but in truth, he’s just a teen trying to fit in, in another country that may or may not accept him.  But will his friendship with Katrina lead him to take part in her lifestyle?

Meanwhile, his father Curtis has tried to fit in German for years and has tried to make a living as a soccer coach, while his wife raised Morris in America.  But when she has passed away, now Curtis tries to be a father raising his son.

But will Morris make any friends in Germany and how will his relationship with his father go in another country?


VIDEO:

“Morris from America” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the most part is very good. Closeups feature great detail and there is a good amount of grain that can be seen in the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Morris from America” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features crystal clear dialogue and music.  The primary soundtrack showcases hip hop and dance music, so surround channels tend to showcase the musical beats.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Morris from America” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with filmmaker/writer Chad Hartigan, actors Craig Robinson and Markees Christmas.
  • Making Morris from America – (11:22) Director Chad Hartigan and cast discuss the the film and the making of the film.
  • Bloopers – (2:34) Outtakes from “Morris from America”.
  • Deleted Scenes – (1:18) A deleted scene from the film.
  • Casting Tapes – (4:28) Footage from casting tapes featuring Markees Christmas and Lina Keller.

EXTRAS:

“Morris from America” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


An entertaining coming-of-age film about a young Black teenager, Morris from America, trying to get used to his new surroundings in Germany.

While one can understand the challenges that Morris has to go through, from the language barrier to a whole new lifestyle.  As Morris is a young man, who grew up in New York loving hip hop and now living in Germany, where a lot of people think that because he’s Black, he can play basketball or has awesome athletic skills.

But Morris is not great in sports, he just likes to work on his craft of hip hop music, even though his new surroundings in Germany is about electronic music.

And it’s not easy when you can’t communicate with anyone or make friends easily.

Meanwhile, his father who has lived in Germany as a soccer coach for years, must now take care of Morris after his wife dies and while he still grieves, while he has lived in Germany for years, he’s just as alienated in his new surroundings like Morris and right now, father and son both need each other, no matter how difficult things may get.

A storyline based on the real-life experiences of filmmaker Chad Hartigan, the film stars YouTube star Markees Christmas in his first major film role.  Markees does a wonderful job of playing a teen going through awkward moments that teenagers go through but most of all, he seems like a natural and definitely see big things ahead for this young actor.

I was pleasantly surprised by Craig Robinson in more of a deeper role than the usual comedy roles that he stars in.  But the scenes with father and son are really cool scenes to watch as we see the discussion between father and son about old school hip hop and modern hip hop and the relationship seems natural.

And also, a good performance from German actress Lina Keller who plays the troublemaking, partygirl Katrin but also the only person that accepts Morris for the guy he is.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good.  Outdoor scenes are vibrant, closeups feature great detail and the films looks very good.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue and music-driven and are both crystal clear.  There is also a good amount of special features included on Blu-ray.

Overall, Chad Hartigan’s “Morris from America” is an entertaining and edgy coming-of-age film about a child from America having to get used to his new surrounding in Germany.  Featuring a wonderful performance by Craig Robinson and YouTube star Markees Christmas, “Morris from America” is a film that I definitely recommend!

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

November 12, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are looking for an animated film for the entire family featuring a Robinson Crusoe storyline and many talking animals, you may want to consider this animated film.  It’s not exactly the most child-friendly film but it’s an entertaining animated film worth considering for older children.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Summit Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Wild Life

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 91 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Summit Entertainment

RATED: PG (Mild Action, Peril and some Rude Humor)

RELEASE DATE: November 19, 2016


Directed by Vincent Kesteloot, Ben Stassen

Written by Domonic Paris

Produced by Gina Gallo, Mimi Maynard, Domonic Paris, Ben Stassen, Caroline Van Iseghem

Executive Producer: Olivier Courson, Eric Dillens

Music by Ramin Djawadi

Casting by Gina Gallo, Mimi Maynard, Domonic Paris

Art Direction by Vincent Kesteloot, Anthony Leveque


Starring:

Carlos Alazraqui as Long John Silver

Yuri Lowenthal as Robinson Crusoe

Laila Berzins as Rosie

Joey Camen as Scrubby

Jeff Doucette as Mal/Pango

Sandy Fox as Epi

Kyle Hebert as Tom Cat

Marieve Herington as Kiki

Jay Jones as Friday

Colin Metzger as Carmello

Joe Ochman as Rufus

Michael Sorich as Cecil

Doug Stone as Aynsley

David Howard Thornton as Tuesday

Kirk Thornton as Bosun

Debi Tinsley as May


Things are larger than life on a tropical isle where wild animals rule, until a marooned human arrives in the midst of a furious storm and their lives are forever changed.


Way back in 1719, Daniel Dafoe wrote a novel titled “Robinson Crusoe”about a castaway who spent thirty years on a remote tropical island near Trinidad and trying to survive in hopes of being rescued.

As the tale of Robinson Crusoe has received various adaptations, in 2016, a Belgian-French CG animated film titled “Robinson Crusoe” (and renamed “The Wild Life” in North America) was released in theaters in Europe.

And now “The Wild Life” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Summit Entertainment.

The film begins with a red and green macaw named Mak and his friends living in an island in the South Pacific.  Mak is getting bored and dreams of life over the horizon and wants to explore the world.

Also, a pirate named Long John Silver and his crew of pirates rides the seas…

We are then introduced to Robinson Crusoe and his dog Aynsley who book a passage on a ship to explore the islands but when a tropical storm hits, Crusoe, Aynsley and wild and bad cats named Mel and May are locked in the ship’s hull and survive the storm.

When they awake, everyone is gone and Crusoe and Aynsley try to survive on the island.

As Mak and the animals fear the human and his dog, Mel and May try to attack Mak and kill him but he is rescued by Aynsley and Crusoe takes him in and names the Macaw, Tuesday.

But when Mel and May tell the other animals that Crusoe and Aynsley killed Mak, the animals go on a rampage and try to help the wild cats defeat Crusoe but finding out that they have been lied to by Mel and May.  Unfortunately, Mel and May cause an explosion on the remaining ship and in the process, Aynsley is killed.

Now Tuesday and the animals who now want to help the human Crusoe try to create shelter and help him survive on the island but will the evil cats, Mel and May prevent the animals from succeeding?


VIDEO:

“The Wild Life” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the most part is very good. CG animation is very well-done compared to previous European CG films that I have watched.

There is excellent detail throughout the film. For example, for Mak/Tuesday, you can see the wearing right on its beak and the amount of shading and detail, especially for his feathers.  Another example, is during a rainstorm and seeing the puddles of rain on the ship’s deck.  Fantastic!

Textures are also well detailed along with skin details for human characters.

Granted, many will want to compare with Pixar Animation films which cost many millions of dollars but it’s best not to compare and just enjoy of how good this film looks in CG and the evolving quality of Euro CG animated films.  “The Wild Life” looks great on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Wild Life” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features crystal clear dialogue and great use of the surround channels and LFE for the film’s many actions sequences.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Wild Life” comes with the following special features:

  • A Wild World: Making the Wild Life – (9:16) The casting and the challenges of animating the film.
  • Meet the Characters – (10:09)  The voice actors discuss their characters.
  • Tips for Your Trip – (3:58) Robinson Crusoe gives tips of what to do if you are stranded in an island.
  • The Wild Life Musical Adventure – (3:13) A featurette showcasing various scenes from the film and the musical score.

EXTRAS:

“The Wild Life” comes with a slipcover, an UltraViolet code and a DVD version of the film.


Perhaps one of the best things that were decided when the Belgian-French film “Robinson Crusoe” was released in North America is changing the film’s title.

As Robinson Crusoe is a classic novel title, the animated film is less about Robinson Crusoe but a CG animated film that revolves more about the birds and animals living in an uninhabited island which Robinson Crusoe happens to be stranded on.

The film revolves around a parrot named Mak/Tuesday who dreams of going beyond the island and discovering life elsewhere, as he has grown bored of the island.

Meeting the stranded Robinson Crusoe and his dog Aynsley, Tuesday looks to Crusoe in hopes of taking him away from the island, not knowing that Crusoe is actually stranded.

But as the animals on the island fear Crusoe and his dog, you have two wild and mangy (and yes, evil) cats who serve as the film’s antagonists.  These cats remind me of the Gremlins (from the classic 1984 film) and somehow, these two cats are persistent and truly evil that their actions leads to one of the deaths of the film’s characters.  No doubt, earning the film it’s PG rating.  But similar to the Gremlins, these cats spawn and create more evil, mangy looking cats to join them in causing problems for Crusoe and animals.

But as the animals band together to help Crusoe, the film starts to focus more on the animals starting to enjoy Crusoe’s presence, but not all.

Meanwhile, throw in Long John Silver’s presence into the film and you have an interesting adventure for Robinson Crusoe and his bird, Tuesday.

Overall, “The Wild Life” is an entertaining CG animated film.  While it’s story is a tame version of what appears on the original Robinson Crusoe novel and focuses on Crusoe and the few animals that live with him, while in essence, this is an animated film, there are moments of peril and you have one character death.  So, parental guidance is definitely suggested.

Also, I have to say that for a European animated film, this is probably one of the better animated films I have seen in the last five years, when it comes to animation quality and detail.

But the film’s problem lies within its storytelling especially at the end. Despite the film’s adventures, the film ends far too soon and abruptly and tries to end its storyline with a brief narration, with still CG sequencs of what happens to the characters.

But I enjoyed the film for what it’s worth.  If you are looking for an animated film for the entire family featuring a Robinson Crusoe storyline and many talking animals, you may want to consider this animated film.  It’s not exactly the most child-friendly film but it’s an entertaining animated film worth considering for older children.

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

November 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

James Schamus’ film adaptation of Philip Roth’s “Indignation” is a wonderful directorial debut from the well-known film producer.  Compelling and thought provoking, a wonderful look at the perspective of a young free thinker during a repressive time in America. Definitely a film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Summit Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Indignation

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Summit Entertainment

RATED: R (Sexual Content and Brief Language)

RELEASE DATE: November 8, 2016


Based on the Novel by Philip Roth

Directed by James Schamus

Written by James Schamus

Produced by Anthony Bregman, James Schamus, Rodrigo Texeira

Co-Producer: Stefan Arndt, Peter Cron

Executive Producer: Stefanie Azpiazu, Jonathan Bronfman, Avy Eschenasy, Caroline Jaczko, Logan Lerman, Sophie Mas, Woody Mu, Lourenco Sant’anna, Lisa Wolofsky

Associate Producer: Gustavo Rosa

Music by Jay Wadley

Cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt

Edited by Andrew Marcus

Casting by Avy Kaufman

Production Design by Inbal Weinberg

Art Direction by Derek Wang

Set Decoration by Philippa Culpepper

Costume Design by Amy Roth


Starring:

Sarah Gadon as Olivia Hutton

Logan Lerman as Marcus

Tracy Letts as Dean Caudwell

Linda Emond as Esther Messner

Ben Rosenfield as Bertram Flusser

Noah Robbins as Marty Zigler

Pico Alexander as Sonny Cotler


Passions ignite and cultures clash in this provocative coming-of-age story based on the best-selling novel by Philip Roth. After Marcus (Logan Lerman), a brilliant working-class Jewish student from New Jersey, arrives at a small, conservative college in Ohio, he becomes infatuated with a beautiful classmate, Olivia (Sarah Gadon). Their mutual attraction sparks a torrid encounter with consequences Marcus never imagined, putting his family’s best-laid plans—and his own beliefs—to the ultimate test.


Based on the 2008 novel “Indignation” from multi-award winning novelist Philip Roth, the film features the directorial debut of James Schamus (known for producing films such as “The Ice Storm”, “Brokeback Mountain”, “Hulk”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”).

The film stars Logan Lerman (“Fury”, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, “3:10 to Yuma”, “Percy Jackson” films), Sarah Gadon (“Dragon Utold”, “Enemy”, “The Amazing Spider-Man”) and Tracy Letts (“The Big Short”, “Imperium”, “Killer Joe”), Linda Emond (“Julie & Julia”, “Jenny’s Wedding”, “The Good Wife”) and many more.

“Indignation” begins with an introduction of an elder Olivia, being given her medications at a facility.

The film then transitions to the Korean War as a Korean soldier going after someone.

The film then introduces to Marcus (portrayed by Logan Lerman) and his family attending a funeral for a young man who has died in battle during the Korean War.  Marcus talks to his friends about the death of their friend Greenberg and how they have been drafted by the military, while Marcus is getting prepared for college.

In the meantime, while working for his father, a kosher butcher, his father is starting to become more challenging to live with because his father has been going crazy from seeing many young men killed in battle during the war and he worries so much about his son that it has become too much for Marcus.

Marcus is leaving Newark, New Jersey and from Robert Treat College to avoid his family and start a new college life in a Christian college, Winesburg College in Ohio.  A school which requires students to attend ten chapel sessions.

But the intelligent Marcus who was hoping to focus on his education, is suddenly captivated by the elegant Olivia Hutton (portrayed by Sarah Gadon).  Beautiful, sexually experienced and also a woman who has survived a suicide attempt.

But he begins to become closer to Olivia, meanwhile creating new rifts with his roommates especially with dean of men, Hawes Cauddwell, over his freedoms as a student and that on grounds that he is an atheist, that he does not want to attend any of the chapel sessions.

But how far will it cause problems for Marcus of being around Olivia and will his constant challenging of the dean, lead him to more trouble?


VIDEO:

“Indignation” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the most part is very good.  Especially during outdoor sequences and capturing that 1950’s feel.  I didn’t notice any problems with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Indignation” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features crystal clear dialogue.  While there are moments of action, they are very limited and the entire film is dialogue driven.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Indignation” comes with the following special features:

  • Timeless: Connecting the Past to the Present – (6:00) Interview with director James Schamus and the cast about the film and the film’s characters.
  • Perceptions: Bringing Philip Roth to the Screen – (7:16) A featurette about bringing Philip Roth’s novel “Indignation” to the big screen.

EXTRAS:

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


Watching “Indignation”, my feelings of the film, in someway I can equate to certain people who have done well in high school and pursued academic excellence and the finding out that not long after, a few of them took a hard fall after high school, after discovering reality and discovering things they never expected to look for as a young adult.

“Indignation” follows a story of an intellectual, an atheist and free thinker during a time when America was not very appreciative of those who separated from the norm.

The film follows Marcus, an educated intellectual who feels constricted at home due to his parents.  As a Jewish young man who happens to be an atheist, Marcus often quotes Bertrand Russell (known for his humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought) and is inspired by him.

Unfortunately for Marcus, he has chosen to attend Winesburg College, known for being strict for its following of Christian ideals, which include mandatory attending of chapel sessions.  Something that Marcus does not want to do under grounds of being an atheist.

But as much as the film focuses on Marcus’ philosophy and free thinking, he is also a young man discovering his sexual needs.  Especially when he becomes attracted to the beautiful Olivia Hutton.  A young woman who has sexual experience but also a woman who is a survivor of attempting suicide.

And despite the two being together, Marcus’ mother is very much against the relationship and all she asks for her son is to end the relationship with a woman who had attempted suicide.

The film is rather intriguing because it shows how individual freedom was viewed back in the old days and those not conforming to rules, were seen negatively. Those who attempted suicide or had mental or behavioral issues were also seen negatively.

And the film’s adaptation to Roth’s “Indignation” is also rather interesting as of all Roth novels that have received a film adaptation, the film is a fictionalized depiction of Roth’s ’50s college experience and going deeply into how America’s perspective towards the Korean War, Christian views towards Jews and their treatment in college but also examining and the response to those who have mental breakdowns.

The film is no doubt a smart look at the lost of innocence but not just to romantic love but to the repressing establishment and in someway, perhaps becoming a warning of what America can become, if it goes backwards in time.

The storyline is a running theme of what one may find in other Roth writings.  From his 1963 essay of “Writing About Jews” in which he felt the need to question the values and morals of the middle-class Jewish Americans and their uncertain identities in an era of cultural assimilation.  But he drew much ire for his 1959 novella, “Goodbye, Columbus” which drew controversy among the Jewish community.  And as an atheist, he has received ire for his words criticizing people of religion.

So, watching “Indignation”, I viewed it as the excelling student who discovered freedoms and liberties that they never knew they had and then succumbing to their environment.  While some manage to become excellent leaders, others crash and burn.  The protagonist Marcus is dealt with these challenges of being a man who wanted to have freedom of thought, live in a world free of religion and persecution because of his beliefs during a time when it was not so possible.

Overall, James Schamus’ film adaptation of Philip Roth’s “Indignation” is a wonderful directorial debut from the well-known film producer.  Compelling and thought provoking, a wonderful look at the perspective of a young free thinker during a repressive time in America. Definitely a film worth watching!

Outlander: Season Two (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Outlander” is one of the most awesome shows on television. The second series manages to escape sophomore doldrums by featuring an exciting storyline, wonderful setting and costume design and also finding a fine balance between various timelines.  Sexy, captivating and an exciting adventure series, “Outlander: Season Two” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Sony Pictures Television, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Outlander: Season Two

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: Episodes 17-29 (773 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (1:78:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH and French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2016


Directed by Metin Huseyin, Mike Barker, Philip John, Douglas Mackinnon, Brendan Maher

Written by Diana Gabaldon, Ronald D. Moore, Ira Steven Behr, Toni Graphia, Anne Kenney, Matthew B. Roberts, Richard Kahan

Executive Producer: Ronald D. Moore, Jim Kohlberg

Produced by David Brown, Matthew B. Roberts

Co-Executive Producer: Ira Steven Behr, Maril Davis, Paulo De Oliveira, Toni Graphia, Anne Kenney

Music by Bear Mcreary

Cinematography by Neville Kidd, Martin Fuhrer, Denis Crossan, David Higgs, Stephen McNutt

Edited by Michael O’Halloran, Liza Cardinale, Melissa Lawson Cheung

Casting by Suzanne Smith

Production Design by Jon Gary Steele

Art Direction by Emer O’Sullivan, Zoe Wight

Set Decoration by Gina Cromwell

Costume Design by Terry Dresbach, Glenne Campbell


Starring:

Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall

Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser

Duncan Lacroix as Murtagh Fraser

Graham McTavish as Dougal Mackenzie

Romann Berrux as Fergus

Andrew Gower as Prince Charles Edward Stuart

Tobias Menzies as Frank Randall

Grant O’Rourke as Rupert Mackenzie

Stephen Walters as Angus Mhor

Gary Lewis as Colum Mackenzie

Lotte Verbek as Geillis Duncan

Nell Hudson as Laoghaire Mackenzie

Lotte Verbeek as Geillis Duncan

Stanley Weber as Comte St. Germain

Rosie Day as Mary Hawkins

Scott Kyle as Ross

James Fleet as Reverend Wakefield

Robbie McIntosh as Magnus

Dominique Pinon as Master Raymond

Laura Donnelly as Jenny Fraser

Simon Callow as Duke of  Sandringham

Claire Sermonne as Louise de Rohan

Michele Belgrand as Madame Elise


Claire and Jamie arrive in France, hell-bent on infiltrating the Jacobite rebellion led by Prince Charles Stuart and stopping the battle of Culloden. With the help of Jamie’s cousin, they are thrown into the lavish world of French society, where intrigue and parties are abundant but political gain proves far less fruitful. Altering the course of history presents challenges that begin to weigh on the very fabric of their relationship – but, armed with the knowledge of what lies ahead, Claire and Jamie must race to prevent a doomed Highland uprising and the extinction of Scottish life as they know it.


As Claire tried to prevent the Battle of Culloden and tells Jamie that he is pregnant, unfortunately for Claire, she wakes up at Craigh Na Dun, two years after her original timeline to find out that the Scots were defeated in the Battle of Culloden.

She grieves that she won’t see or be with Jamie and she is reunited with Frank.  While Claire tells Frank the truth of where she had been and that she is pregnant, Frank is deeply hurt but agrees to raise the child as long as Claire puts what happened to her, all behind.

As Claire and Frank restart their marriage in Paris, Claire reminisces when she and Jamie went to France back in 1744 and meets Jamie’s Jacobite cousin, Jared Fraser and becoming an enemy of the Comte St. Germain.  Can she and Jamie help stop the Jacobite Rebellion?

All this and more in second season of “Outlander”!

What is “The Outlander” about?

Based on the best-selling “Outlander” series novels by Diana Gabaldon, a 29-episode series created by Ronald D. Moore (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, “Star Trek: Voyager”, “Battlestar Galactica”) would air on the Starz cable network.

The series stars Caitriona Balfe (“Now You See Me”, “Super 8”, “Escape Plan”), Sam Heughan (“A Princess for Christmas”, “A Very British Sex Scandal”), Duncan Lacroix (“Vikings”, “Game of Thrones”), Graham McTavish (“The Hobbit” films, “Rambo”) and Tobias Menzies (“Casino Royale”, “Atonement”, “Finding Neverland”).

“Outlander” began with Claire Randall (portrayed by Caitriona Balfe), a World War II combat nurse visiting Inverness, Scotland with her loving husband, Jonathan Randall (portrayed by Tobias Menzies).  The two are deeply in love and while observing a modern Druid ritual on the hill of Craigh na Dun, Claire hears a strange noise emanating from the stones.

As Claire goes to reach for it, she instantly finds herself nearly 300 years earlier in time, during the skirmish between the Redcoasts (British) and the Highlander (Scottish) rebels.  While she sees a man that looks exactly like Jonathan, the man is the cruel and sinister, “Black Jack” Randall, Captain of His Majesty’s Dragoons.

As he is about to rape Claire, she is saved by a Scotsman and befriends Jamie Fraser (portrayed by Sam Heughan) and travels with the Highlanders as their nurse.

Of course, because she is not Scottish, the Highlanders treat her as a spy and don’t trust her and think she is an English spy.

As Claire tries to acclimate herself with her new setting and not sure why she has traveled back to the past and must do all she can to make sure the Highlanders think she is from their era, Claire must be careful.  Especially from the British, especially Black Jack Randall.

With the second season, as Claire and Jamie have become close and she is pregnant, she awakens in 1946 to find out that the Scots were defeated and now, Claire must return back to her original life and her husband.

But as she and her husband Frank move to France, Claire reminisces of her adventures with Jamie when they went to France in 1744 to stop the Jacobite rebellion.  Can they do it?


VIDEO:

“Outlander” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The series looks very good in HD as closeups show good detail especially for clothing.  Skintones look natural and the series looks fantastic on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Outlander” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The series features crystal clear dialogue and musical score.   With good use of surround channels for the ambiance and musical score.

Subtitles are in English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Outlander: Season Two” comes with the following special features:

  • Podcasts – Nearly each episode features a podcast with Ronald D. Moore and other cast and crew members. Please note that these podcasts function like audio commentary for each episode. (NOTE: You can access the podcast of each episode by highlighting episode selection)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – Each episode features deleted and extended scenes with introductions by Ronald D. Moore.  (NOTE: You can access the deleted and extended scenes of each episode by highlighting episode selection)
  • The Characters of Season 2 – (13:43) Featuring the new characters for the second season of “The Outlander”.
  • Designing History: The Costumes of Outlander – (10:55) The cast and crew discuss the costumes featured in the second season of “The Outlander”.
  • Recreating 18th Century Paris – (11:53) A featurette about building sets to feature 18th Century Paris for the second season of “The Outlander”.
  • Gag Reel – (5:23) Outtakes from the second season of “The Outlander”.
  • Jamie & Claire: To Hell and Back – (10:25) A featurette about the characters, Jamie and Claire for season two.
  • From Book to Screen: Discovering the Difference – (10:42) A featurette about the differences between the novel and the series.  And the process of debating of what makes it into the series and more.

EXTRAS:

“Outlander: Season Two” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


How to top the first season is always a challenge for writers who create a successful series.

Based on a popular novel and featuring an adaptation that is not always perfect, writers have had to make sure that the storyline features a good balance of sex, romance, betrayal and tragedy but creating a storyline that can compliment Diana Gabaldon’s work.

The time travel storyline about a woman trapped hundreds of years in the past, not knowing how to get back home and trying to adjust to her new life is quite fascinating and I absolutely enjoyed “Outlander”!

When it comes to the work of Ronald D. Moore, so far, each of his sci-fi series have been entertaining and I’ve been big fans of the series (despite my feelings towards the latter season of “Battlestar Galactica”).  But when he creates a series, he knows how to get the viewers emotionally involved and making you want to watch episode after episode.

“Outlander” was quite interesting because I was expecting something along the lines of what we have seen in previous Moore series, a lot of visual effects, awesome costume design and cool and also sexy characters.  But with “Outlanders”, you get the awesome costume design, sexy characters but you also get a number of sex scenes and nudity and also, quite a bit of violence… so I’m kind of glad I didn’t watch the series with my child.

But it’s because of how mature, how well-written and how well-acted the series is, is what kept me captivated.  From not knowing what will happen to Claire Randall, as she travels with a group of men, many who look at her as a spy or like some piece of meat.  But despite being a sexual character earlier on, she’s also smart and strong and I love how she sticks up for herself, especially to other men who mistreat her.

In the first season, Claire is in a conundrum of being stuck in the past and not knowing if she can get back home.  To make things worse, her husband in present-time, his ancestor hundreds of years ago that looks exactly like him, is the ultimate jerk.

Caitriona Balfe absolutely shines as the protagonist Claire Randall and her performance is heightened with the casting of Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser and Tobias Menzies as “Black Jack” Randall.  But the addition of Stanley Weber as the new antagonist for season three as Comte St. Germain and the introductions of characters such as Claire Sermonne as Louise de Rohan but also a step into the future with Sophie Skelton as Brianna and Richard Rankin as Roger Wakefield adds to the growing but excellent cast of the series.

Season two no doubt tops the previous season with its setting in 18th Century, Paris, France. The costume design by Terry Dresbach and Glenne Campbell is fantastic!

The storyline of Claire and Jamie working together in late 1700 Paris, France to stop the Jacobite Rebellion was rather intriguing.  But also the continuing of what took place at the Battle of Culloden and how Claire woke up back in the 1940’s.

But without spoiling the final episode of season two, the storyline will no doubt peak the interest of loyal fans of the series and set things up for the third and fourth season on Starz.

The Blu-ray release of “Outlander” features fantastic picture quality with great details of closeups and skintones and colors are also fantastic.  While dialogue, musical composition and ambiance are crystal clear.  And another fantastic inclusion are the many special features, podcasts (audio commentaries for nearly each episode) and more.

Overall, “Outlander” is one of the most awesome shows on television.  The second series manages to escape sophomore doldrums by featuring an exciting storyline, wonderful setting and costume design and also finding a fine balance between various timelines.

Sexy, captivating and an exciting adventure series, “Outlander: Season Two” is highly recommended!

The Sea of Trees (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Gus Van Sant’s “The Sea of Trees” may not be one of his deepest or finest films in his oeuvre but the film does a great job of showcasing a man trying to survive and navigate through the forest, but also needing to do that with his life which is now in disarray.  And hopefully finding some meaning to his life.  I enjoyed the film no matter how implausible it may be and it’s a good diversion that may want audiences to think of how precious life truly is.

Images courtesy of © 2015 Grand Experiment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Sea of Trees

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 110 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: PG-13 (Mature Thematic Material, Some Disturbing Images and Brief Strong Language)

RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2016


Directed by Gus Van Sant

Written by Chris Sparling

Produced by F. Gary Gray, Kevin halloran, Ken Kao, Gil Netter, Chris Sparling

Co-Producer: Tammy Goldman, Pietro Scalia, Satch Watanabe

Associate Producer: Thomas Patrick Smith

Music by Mason Bates

Cinematography by Kasper Tuxen

Edited by Pietro Scalia

Casting by Sande Alessi, Francine Maisler

Production Design by Alex DiGerlando

Art Direction by Erik Polczwartek

Set Decoration by Jeanette Scott

Costume Design by Danny Glicker


Starring:

Matthew McConaughey as Arthur Brennan

Naomi Watts as Joan Brennan

Ken Watanabe as Takumi Nakamura


A powerful story of love and redemption starring Matthew McConaughey as an American professor who travels to Japan for a spiritual and life-changing journey.


From award-winning filmmaker Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting”, “Milk”, “Finding Forrester”, “Elephant”) comes his 2015 drama “The Sea of Trees”.

Featuring a screenplay by Chris Sparling (“Buried”, “The Atticus Institute”, “ATM”), the film stars Matthew McConaughey (“The Wolf of Wall Street”, “Dallas Buyers Club”, “Interstellar”), Naomi Watts (“King Kong”, “Mulholland Drive”, “The Ring”) and Ken Watanabe (“Inception”, “The Last Samurai”, “Batman Begins”, “Letters from Iwo Jima”).

The film begins with an introduction to Arthur Brennan (portrayed by Matthew McConaughey) and his wife Joan (portrayed by Naomi Watts).

Their marriage is rocky as Arthur has chosen a job that makes him happy but yet doesn’t pay well, while Joan is the breadwinner, disappointed that Arthur is not taking a job that would pay more.  And because she is left having to work in order to take care of both of them, she has become an alcoholic.

The film then shifts to Arthur taking a flight to Japan to go to Aokigahara Forest (know as “Suicide Forest” or “Jukai” which translates to “Sea of Trees”), a dense forest area near Mt. Fuji, to kill himself.

While preparing to kill himself, he sees a distressed man named Takumi Nakamura (portrayed by Ken Watanabe) who is also trying to kill himself.

As Arthur tries to help him find a trail, as Takumi has decided that he did not want to kill himself and wants to return back to his family, the two get lost in the forest and together, must survive while reflecting on their own personal lives and why both have decided to end their lives.

The story then shows us the story of Arthur and Joan as couple who’s marriage seems over but circumstances bring them closer together until something terrible happens.

But what happened between Arthur and Joan, that would lead Arthur of wanting to kill himself?


VIDEO:

“The Sea of trees” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  With the film shot outdoors, the film looks very good in HD as closeups show great detail, skin tones look natural, while black levels are nice and deep.  Outdoor scenes look lush, as it was shot in Foxborough, Massachusetts (not in Japan).  I didn’t notice any banding issues, crush or artifacts during my viewing of the film. Picture quality is fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Sea of Trees” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features crystal clear dialogue and musical score.  Surround channels feature outdoor ambiance.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Sea of Trees” comes with the following special features:

  • The Sea of Trees: A Story of Beauty and Tragedy – (8:17) The making of “Sea of Trees” and the director Gus Van Sant, producers, Matthew McConaughey and Naomi Watts thoughts of making the film.

EXTRAS:

“The Sea of Trees” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


In 2015, I took a trip to the Mt. Fuji area and one of the things that caught my interest was Aokigahara.

While I traveled in March when it was overcast, still snowing and no doubt, felt creepy if I had to walk the forest alone, the location is known for being dense and shutting out all noise but the natural sounds of the forest.

I’ve read enough books and watched moves about the ghosts in the area but also the number of deaths in the area.  As more suicide attempts were taking place and people were hanging themselves or dying of a drug overdose, local officials are doing what they can to decrease the number of suicide attempts in the area.

And because of the recognition the forest has received for being a “suicide forest”, for many, they find the forest to be a convenient area to die.

Which leads us to the Gus Van Sant film, written by Chris Sparling about an American man named Arthur, a professor who goes to Japan to kill himself in the forest.

His plan of killing himself is thwarted when he discovers a Japanese man named Takumi who also wanted to kill himself and is in distress and wanting to get back to his family.  Arthur tries to find a trail for the man but instead, they both get lost and now the two are trying to find a way to get home.

Unfortunately, the area is known for its frigid temperatures, its mountainous cliff areas and not exactly safe for these two men who are looking to find a way out.

But while the two men try to find a way out of the forest and get help, their time together of trying to survive, leads them on a path of self-discovery.

The film is split into two stories, the primary story surrounds Arthur and Takumi trying to survive in the forest, while the other story shows us flashbacks of what led Arthur to decide on wanting to kill himself.

We learn that Arthur and Joan have a troubled marriage.  For one, Arthur’s decision to take a low paying professor job that only pays $20,000 has made Joan becoming the primary breadwinner, always busy as a realtor and she has become bitter that it has led her to become an alcoholic.  But there is more than meets to eye about this dysfunctional relationship.

For one, Arthur cheated on Joan and she has resentment towards him, even though she gives him chances to redeem himself, she feels that all he cares about is himself.  He feels that Joan is trying to make him take a job that would make him unhappy.  He is happy where he’s at and thus, it leads the two to have marital problems.

But throughout the film, we see how Arthur and Joan are able to grow closer after something bad happens.  But what happens within this relationship between Arthur and Joan, that would lead him to wanting to kill himself?

The film is no doubt a life-changing journey for Arthur as he starts to discover many things about his relationship and himself.

I think that there are people who have problems with the film because certain aspects are implausible and for Gus Van Sant, for setting such a high bar of quality for his films, people expect nothing less than magnificent, deep and full of substance.

While the film does have a supernatural situation that is implausible, I was not disturbed by it as I have grown up reading stories of Japanese mythology to ghost stories and situations that have taken place in the mountain.  I found the ending to be a nice touch to the questions that Arthur never knew about his wife. But how the forest was able to make him deal with loss, even though the forest is known for death.

The film’s premise may not make “The Sea of Trees” a commercial, box office hit but for those who ponder on the aspect of death, suicide and ghost stories, especially if knowledgeable about Japanese ghost stories, makes “The Sea of Trees” a film about loss and learning how one can take granted of the time spent with a love one until its too late.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic, lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music composed by Mason Bates.  And you get a single special feature on the making of the film.

Overall, Gus Van Sant’s “The Sea of Trees” may not be one of his deepest or finest films in his oeuvre but the film does a great job of showcasing a man trying to survive and navigate through the forest, but also needing to do that with his life which is now in disarray.  And hopefully finding some meaning to his life.  I enjoyed the film no matter how implausible it may be and it’s a good diversion that may want audiences to think of how precious life truly is.

 

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