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Operation Mekong (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Operation Mekong” is popcorn action film that probably cement Dante Lam as the Chinese counterpart for America’s Michael Bay when it comes to heavy hitting action, chase scenes and vehicle destruction.  Inspired by real events, “Operation Mekong” will satisfy viewers who want full on hardcore action and not a deep storyline.  A film worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Bona Entertainment Companies. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Operation Mekong

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 124 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 aspect ratio, Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: October 4, 2016


Directed by Dante Lam

Screenplay by Kang Ki Chu, Dante Lam, Siu Kwan Lau, Eric Lin, Wai Ching Tam

Produced by Jianxin Huang, Candy Leung

Co-Executive Producer: Alvin Chow

Associate Producer: Dong Yu

Music by Julian Chan, Henry Lai, Kwan Fai Lam

Cinematography by Yuen Man Fung

Edited byDavid M. Richardson

Art Direction: Kin-Wai Lee


Starring:

Zhang Hanyu as Gao Gang

Eddie Peng as Fang Xinwu

Feng Wenjuan as Guo Bign “Aphrodite”

Sun Chun as Yu Ping

Chen Baoguo as Minister of Public Security Jiang Haifen

Liu Xianda as Xie Wenfeng “Icarus”

Jonathan Wu Linkai as Kuai Yitong “Hermes”

Zhao Jin as Guo Xu “Poseidon”

Zhan Liguo as Fu Baowei as “Panoptes”

Shi Zhanjie as Jiang Xing “Ares”

Wu Xudong as Wild Bull Team Leader

Carl Ng as Pieere

Pawalit Mongkolpisit as Naw Khar

Vittaya Pansingram as Pshom

Ken Lo as Xing Deng

Ron Weaver as Puja


A band of elite narcotics officers are sent by the Chinese government to uncover the truth behind the ambush of two Chinese commercial vessels traveling down the Mekong River. When it s discovered the drugs seized from the ships had been planted by a notorious drug cartel, a multi-country joint task force is assembled to stop the criminals. The road to justice is, however, paved with dangerous and deadly obstacles.


In October 2011, Chinese were outraged by the news that two Chinese cargo ships were attacked by pirates on a stretch of the Mekong River in the dangers “Golden Triangle” region which borders Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand.  The region has been plagued with crime and is known for an area run by drug smugglers.

All of the 13 crew members on the two ships were killed and dumped onto the river and was the deadliest attack on Chinese nationals abroad in modern times.

While Thai river police in the Chiang Rai province recovered the ships after a gunfight, inside they found 900,000 amphetamine pills worth $3 million.  Planted by drug dealers and police believed the mastermind was Naw Kham, an alleged drug lord and pirate in the Golden Triangle.  In addition, Thailand authorities also implicated nine Thai soldiers of their elite anti-narcotics army unit.

In 2016, a film inspired by the real events called “Operation Mekong” was released in theaters.  The film was directed by Dante Lam (“The Viral Factor”, “The Stool Pigeon”, “That Demon Within”, “Unbeatable”) and the screenplay was written by Lam, Siu Kwan Lau, Eric Lin and Wai Ching Tam.

The film would star Zhang Hanyu (“Sorry Baby”, “A World Without Thieves”, “Big Shot’s Funeral”), Eddie Peng (“Close to You”, “Hear Me”, “Love You You”, “Taichi 0”, “Taichi Hero”) and more.

In the film, a Chinese fishing boat is raided and the Thai government claims that they seized 900,000 amphetamine pills off the Chinese boat that left 13 Chinese fishermen dead.

Chinese narcotics officer Captain Gao Gang (portrayed by Zhang Hanyu) finds evidence from the ship and the dead/bound Chinese fishermen that disputes the Thai government’s findings.

Meanwhile as the news breaks out after the bound bodies of the dead Chinese fishermen started to surface, it’s become a blow for the druglord. And when one of the people involved tries to escape, a gang starts pursuing including one man (who happens to be undercover operative Fang Xinwu, portrayed by Eddie Peng).

After getting the man to talk, it is revealed that the person who hired him was Yan Taung Pha (who works for Naw Khar, portrayed by Pawarith Monkolpisit) and he was sent to plant the amphetamine pills onboard the ship.

As China tried to work out a deal with Myanmar, Thailand and Laos to jointly patrol the river, there was no resolution.

This leads to China to send an elite task force from Captain Gao Gang to go to Burma and capture Naw Khar and protect Chinese citiizens in the Mekong river.  Forcing the other countries governments to take action.


VIDEO:

“Operation Mekong” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35 1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and vibrant.  I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Operation Mekong” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  Because the heavy amount of action in this film, the film utilizes the surround channels and LFE very well.  Frenetic action throughout the film, “Operation Mekong” has an action-driven lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Operation Mekong” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making Of – Featuring six three-minute making-of featurettes.
  • Trailer – Featuring the theatrical trailer version.

EXTRAS:

“Operation Mekong” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD.


The “Mekong River Massacre” was no doubt one of the tragic moments in Chinese history that awakened the country to the piracy problems in the Mekong River.  Important for trade but dangerous and overran by drug dealers, it would be an eye opener for countries to join forces in anti-drug cooperation efforts and jointly patrol the river.

With “Operation Mekong”, the film is loosely based on the true story in which there was no cooperation and so the Chinese government had to take matters under their own hands by sending a Chinese task force to bring down drug cartels and do whatever is necessary to capture the drug kingpin who was responsible for the deaths of 13 Chinese fisherman.

The film manages to show users the problem of drugs in these countries and how it’s permeating into China.  But also shots of maimed peasants who had an arm or both arms hacked off for refusing to work the drug harvest and also seeing real footage of the child soldier armies as children are seen holding guns and smoking cigarettes.

What begins as an intriguing story suddenly becomes a popcorn action film with intense chase scenes, terrorism and torture.

As the Chinese taskforce are busy trying to capture the drug kingpin who killed the Chinese fisherman, the team have their own troubles trying to protect informants that the drug cartels have sent their own to kill.

To Dante Lam’s credit along with cinematographer Yuen Man Fung and editor David M. Richardson, the action sequences are well-done.  It’s non-stop action that many hardcore action fans will appreciate, especially those who would rather see a task force go into these countries and kick arse and less of a deep story about the victims or the politics.  If anything, the Chinese government made a decision and they go into these countries to halt drug deals in order to force the hand of other countries leaders to take action (as most of these small countries will not dare to cross China).

The film does try to have some dramatic elements, especially when it comes to Fang Xinwu’s background and why he wants revenge against the drug dealers.  But if anything, the action is what dominates the overall storyline and the only two characters that viewers may find themselves sympathizing the most is Captain Gao Gang and his K-9, Bingo.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is fantastic as close-ups show great detail.  Outdoor scenes are vibrant and for the film’s lossless soundtrack, with the large amount of action sequences, the lossless soundtrack utilizes the surround channels very well and dialogue and music are crystal clear.  And you do get a few short “making of” special-features.

Overall, “Operation Mekong” is popcorn action film that probably cement Dante Lam as the Chinese counterpart for America’s Michael Bay when it comes to heavy hitting action, chase scenes and vehicle destruction.  Inspired by real events, “Operation Mekong” will satisfy viewers who want full on hardcore action and not a deep storyline.  A film worth checking out!

Bambi: Anniversary Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you love and adore this 1942 Disney masterpiece, definitely get this definitive version of the Walt Disney animated classic, “Bambi” on Blu-ray. “Bambi: Anniversary Edition” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Bambi: Anniversary Edition

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1942

DURATION: 70 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition Full Screen (1:33:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: G (All Ages Admitted)

Release Date: June 6, 2017


Directed by James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, David Hand, Graham Heid, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield and Norman Wright

Story by Felix Salten

Story Direction by Perce Pearce

Story Adaptation by Larry Morey

Story Development by Vernon Stallings, Melvin Shaw, Carl Fallberg, Chuck Couch, Ralph Wright

Produced by Walt Disney

Music by Frank Churchill, Edward H. Plumb

Art Direction by Tom Codrick, Robert Cormack, Lloyd Harting, David Hilberman, John Hubley, Dick Kelsey, McLaren Stewart, Al Zinnen


Featuring the voices of:

Hardie Albright as Adolescent Bambi

Donnie Dunagan as Young Bambi

Stan Alexander as Young Flower

Peter Behn as Young Thumper

Thelma Boardman as Mrs. Quail

Tim Davis as Adult Thumper

Sam Edwards as Adult Thumper

Ann Gillis as Adult Faline

Otis Harlan as Mr. Mole

Eddie Holden as Chipmunk

Sterling Holloway as Adult Flower

Cammie King Conlon as Young Faline

Mary Lansing as Aunt Ena/Mrs. Possum

Margaret Lee as Thumper’s Mother

Clarence Nash as Bullfrog

Bobby Stewart as Baby Bambi

John Sutherland as Adult Bambi

Paula Winslowe as Bambi’s Mother

Fred Shields as Great Prince of the Forest


A timeless classic that has been loved for generations, BAMBI now joins the Walt Disney Signature Collection. In this life-changing adventure, Bambi sets off with his best friends Thumper and Flower to explore the wonders and challenges of the woods — and fulfill his destiny as prince of the forest. Full of humor and heart, and featuring awe-inspiring animation, BAMBI remains a family favorite, ready to delight a whole new generation.|In striving for realism, the artists heard lectures from animal experts, made field trips to the Los Angeles Zoo, watched specially filmed nature footage shot in the forests of Maine, and even studied the movements of two fawns that were donated to the Studio.|”Fellas, this stuff is pure gold,” Walt Disney told the animators. The story of the little deer coming of age has endured, and today, BAMBI is universally regarded as one of Walt Disney’s most charming films.


Back in 1923, Felix Salten wrote a novel titled “Bambi, a Life in the Woods” in Austria. Five years later, the novel would receive its English translation and became an instant hit and a classic.

This led to MGM producer and director Sidney Franklin purchasing the rights to a film version of “Bambi, A Life in the Woods” in 1933 but because he felt it would be too difficult to make it into a live action film, he sold the rights to Walt Disney in 1937.

But Walt Disney was not a healthy company at the time. “Pinocchio” and “Fantasia” were box office flops and it didn’t help that the International audience that Disney depended on for revenue was lost due to World War II. And as for Bambi, as the budget started to reach up to over $800,000, it seemed as if the company would not be able to make their next film. Fortunately, Walt Disney, who is a wonderful businessman, managed to woo Bank of America in getting the funding for “Bambi”.

While “Bambi” would become an instant classic for Disney throughout the last 70-years, back in 1942, the film still faced problems due to World War II and would also lose money in the box office, but it would regain its income in 1947 and would also receive the ire from hunters who felt the film was harsh towards them.

But needless to say, “Bambi” has come an instant classic in Walt Disney’s line of animated films (“Bambi” is the fifth film from Walt Disney) and it also paved the way for the animation industry as the film would lead to the hiring of Disney’s first female animator, the film would utilize multiplane camera technology, would feature an impressionist style courtesy of artist Tyrus “Ty” Wong and his artwork of the forests would be groundbreaking for its time and an inspiration for future artists. Also, the film would feature a lot of paint and colors developed during the making of the film and would eventually lead to newer colors which would be used for future Walt Disney animated films.

Also, “Bambi” was created on an extreme budget and it was a learning experience for Walt Disney and the studio.

As “Bambi” has had its DVD release in 1997 (as part of the Masterpiece Collection Version) and in 2007 as a Platinum Edition, the film was released in 2011 on Blu-ray as a Diamond Edition to celebrate it’s 70th year.  And now this 2017 release is an Anniversary Edition featuring new special features.

“Bambi” is a film that features a doe giving birth to Bambi. As Bambi learns to walk, he befriends a young rabbit named Thumper and a skunk named Flower.

We see how Bambi learns from his mother, from learning to walk, learning about the meadow and warning him of the dangers but also introducing him to his father, the Great Prince of the Forest.

As Bambi grows up, he meets a young fawn named Faline at the meadow but during this time, he quickly learns the danger of man, as hunters begin shooting towards the animals. Bambi and his mother managed to escape death and she explains to him about the dangers of man being the forest.

As the animals go through a rough winter, trying to find food, his mother teaches him how to eat the bark from a tree and Bambi learns from Thumper on how to slide on ice.

By the end of the Winter, a hungry Bambi is shown a patch of new grass that has grown, in which he can eat. As the grass is a sign of the arrival of spring, his mother can sense a hunter nearby and warns Bambi to run. Both mother and Bambi run as fast as they can and a the shot of a rifle is heard. As Bambi runs quickly back home, he waits for his mother to arrive, but she has not come back.

What has happened to Bambi’s mother? And how will Bambi survive on his own?


VIDEO:

“Bambi” is one of the most wonderful looking animated films that still looks magnificent over 75-years later. The artwork is highly regarded by artists and although not realistic, you get a feel of a painted style, a brilliant artistic use of paint in animation brought to Disney’s attention courtesy of Tyrus Wong. It was a look that Disney had wanted and amazingly implemented to “Bambi” and the overall look of the film is even more impressive on Blu-ray.

“Bambi” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1). The colors are vibrant, the blacks are nice and deep and the character designs and animation look absolutely cute but also its lines are absolute clean. But it’s how the artistic backgrounds and foregrounds compliments the animation is quite amazing!

“Bambi” has never looked this magnificent and I am impressed by how much of an upgrade this film looks compared to its previously awesome Platinum DVD release only four years ago. There is no compression artifacts, no banding, no scratches or dust, it looks perfect!

If you love this film, you definitely need to upgrade to Blu-ray because “Bambi” looks fantastic in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Bambi: Anniversary Edition” is presented in 7.1 DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. The restored original theatrical soundtrack is included on this edition.

The lossless audio is fantastic as you can hear the thunder and lightning throughout your surround channels, you can hear Frank Churchill and Edward Plumb’s wonderful score and while this film is primarily dialogue and music driven, there ares some scenes where the audio sounds absolutely wonderful (especially the final half hour of the film).

The soundtrack is not too immersive, but “Bambi” is not an action-driven film. So, the audio is well-utilized when it matters most and its during those more intense, action-based scenes. Needless to say, this is a wonderful lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Bambi: Anniversary Edition” features the following special features:

  • Bambi: Inside Walt’s Story Meetings – In addition to watching the original theatrical edition, you can now watch the film with a picture-in-picture “Inside Walt’s Story Meetings: Extended Edition”.  You can listen to Walt Disney and staff’s audio meetings on “Bambi”, you can also see two deleted scenes, the making of the film, two bonus animated Disney shorts, anecdotes and more.  The sequence does show picture-in-picture while the film is playing.
  • Studio Stories: Bambi – (4:39) Walt Disney (audio) discusses creating Bambi from book to animation.  A featurette showcasing classic behind-the-scenes making of “Bambi”.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring two deleted scenes “Bambi’s Ice and Snow” and “The Grasshopper”.  Featuring an optional introduction by animator Floyd Norman (7:22).
  • Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: Africa Before Dark – (5:50) Featuring a classic Oswald the Lucky Rabbit animation.
  • The Bambi Effect – (2:58) What makes Disney films a classic?  And how “Bambi” was made to look like realistic animals and other factoids.
  • Bambi Fawn Facts – (3:34) Getting to know the animals featured in “Bambi” and facts of these animals in real life.
  • Classic Deleted Scenes – Featuring two deleted scenes (featured on the original 2007 DVD) – Winter Grass (:56) and Bambi’s First Snow (2:31).
  • Deleted Song: Twitterpated – (1:53) An explanation of what “Twitterpated” is.
  • The Making of Bambi: A Prince is Born – (53:15) A wonderful making-of featurette.  This featurettete goes into the art and Disney hiring its first female animator, the hiring of Tyrus Wong, who brought the look and feel of Bambi’s artistic backgrounds because he wanted to move up in his job from in-between animation, the music of “Bambi”, the history of “Bambi” and how the book was adapted into an animated film and more.
  • Tricks of the Trade (Excerpt) – (7:18) Walt Disney talks about the multi-plane technology used on “Bambi”.
  • Inside the Disney Archives – (8:39) A visit to the vault to look at unused art and sequences from “Bambi”.
  • The Old Mill – (8:58) A 1937 Silly Symphonies animated short.
  • The Golden Age – (6:23) The art of animation in “Bambi” and why it’s a masterpiece of animation.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer – (2:12) The original 1942 theatrical trailer for “Bambi”.

EXTRAS:

“Bambi: Anniversary Edition” comes with a Blu-ray slipover case and a DVD version of the film. Also, included is a Disney Movie Rewards DigitalHD Code.


“Bambi” is a classic that will continue to entertain generation after generation.

It features a wonderful, touching story about family and how they continue to survive in the wild but faces the challenge of man. Granted, I understand that this film may not satisfy hunters (as many of them were upset by the film during its original release) but for my family, as my wife and I, both have grown up with this film and it was one of the first Disney films that we introduced to our son.

We both felt that it was a family film that featured cute characters, innocent characters but also showed the importance of family, listening to rules and of course but also a first step of explaining to them about what was transpiring between Bambi and his mother and what happens later in the film.

So, as this film has resonated so strongly for my family, I’m sure it’s a film that many other families will love. Afterall, it has entertained generation after generation for 70-years.

And with this film now being released on Blu-ray, I do have to say that this is one of the most beautiful classic animated film from Disney on Blu-ray thus far. Call me biased but not only is the artwork magnificent, everything about it… from the animation, it’s character design, the cast (the voice actors were magnificent and how they used the young voice actor’s accidental pauses during the recording and actually using it in the film was brilliant!), its music and the storyline, everything works in harmony. The nature of the film had a unique style, the use of the multiplane cameras also gave it a distinct look. I really enjoyed this Blu-ray release!

Now, of course, comparing the special features to other animated classics from Disney on Blu-ray, it may seem that “Bambi” has less special features. In the past, the special features were all separated but the way its done on “Bambi”, they were combined as one full special feature. So, for example “Bambi: Inside Walt’s Story Meetings”, this may seem like on feature but really, there are about ten special features in that one feature alone. For “The Making of Bambi”, there are five special features and of course, the other additional special features.  So, a lot was included in the 2011 Blu-ray release “Bambi: Diamond Edition”.

With the 2017 “Bambi: Anniversary Edition”, not only do you get all special features from the Diamond Edition but now you get newer features such as the Studio Stories: Bambi, two additional deleted scenes, a short “The Bambi Effect” and “Bambi Fawn Facts” and an extended edition of “Inside Walt’s Story Meetings” plus an “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” animated short.  What the Anniversary Edition doesn’t have are the games that were featured in the Diamond Edition and also the Interactive Galleries which are no longer included.

But still, I feel “Bambi: Anniversary Edition” because of the new special features, now makes it the definitive version on Blu-ray to own.

Overall, if you love and adore this 1942 Disney masterpiece, definitely get this definitive version of the Walt Disney animated classic, “Bambi” on Blu-ray. “Bambi: Anniversary Edition” is highly recommended!

The Son of the Sheik (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Son of the Sheik” is no doubt an exciting romance/action silent film worth watching.  And will forever be remembered as a Rudolph Valentino classic.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1926 Artcinema Associates. 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Son of the Sheik

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1926

DURATION: 80  Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p, Color tinted, DTS-Master Audio 2.0

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2017


Based on the Novel by Edith Maude Hull

Directed by George Fitzmaurice

Screen Adaptation by Frances Marion, Fred De Gresac

Titles by George Marion Jr.

Produced by George Fitzmaurice

Music Composed and Performed by Alloy Orchestra

Cinematography by George Barnes


Starring:

Rudolph Valentino as Ahmed/The Sheik

Vilma Banky as Yasmin

George Fawcett as Andre

Montagu Love as Ghabah

Karl Dane as Ramadan

Bull Montana as Mountebank

Agnes Ayres as Diana – Wife of the Sheik


In this visually intoxicating sequel to Valentino’s career-defining film The Sheik, the silent screen’s greatest lover portrays a cultured yet untamed young man who is lured into a thieve’s trap by a beautiful dancer, Yasmin (Vilma Banky). After escaping, he kidnaps the damsel and holds her captive in his desert lair, dressing her in Arabian finery and threatening to unleash his violent passion upon her. Exotic romance saturates every frame of this Orientalist epic; its sadomoasochistic fantasies are acted out against the lavish set design of William Cameron Menzies (The Thief of Bagdad) and lushly photographed by George Barnes (Sadie Thompson). The Son of the Sheik proved to be Valentino’s final film. He died suddenly on August 23rd, 1926 at the age of 31, just before the picture’s release. This edition is mastered from the best surviving 35mm elements and features a dazzling score by Alloy Orchestra.


In 1921, “The Sheik” was the film that launched Hollywood’s first male sex symbol, Rudolph Valentino.

Despite the success of “The Sheik” and his 1922 film “Blood and Sand”, due to his divorce with Jean Acker and the negative publicity he had received for being romantically involved with silent film costume and set designer, Natacha Rambova, thus earning a reputation of a bigamist, he was also in a battle against Famous Players which earned him a reputation of having an ego and being a diva for not settling for the proposed salary that they had given him.

And Valentino would then go on a break until his return to make more films and eventually signing with United Artists thanks to his friends and fellow silent actors, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks.  And in 1926, he would go on to film “The Son of the Sheik” despite his known hatred to use the sheik image.  But took on the role in order to pay off his debts.

While “The Son of the Sheik”, which is based on a 1925 romance novel by Edith Maude Hull was a success in the box office (grossing $1,000,000 within the first year of its release) and many decades later would be selected for preservation in the United Stations National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, it was not a film that Valentino would enjoy.

While on a nationwide tour to promote the film, Valentino collapsed in his New York hotel room and doctors discovered that he had a perforated ulcer which required surgery.  But unfortunately, after the surgery, Valentino developed peritonitis and would die on August 23, 1926.  As critics raved Valentino’s performance as his best, the film would be released two weeks after the actor’s death.

“The Son of Sheik” was directed by George Fitzmaurice (“Suzy”, “Raffles”, “The Devil to Pay!”) and features a screen adaptation by Frances Marion (“Camille”, “The Scarlet Letter”, “The Red Mill”) and Fred De Gresac (“Sweet Hearts”, “Vida Bohemia”, “Hell Harbor”).

The film would star Valentino in a dual role as The Sheik (of the original film) and who is the father of the film’s protagonist, Ahmed.  The film would also star Agnes Ayres reprising her role as Dianna, the mother of Ahmed.  And the film would star Vilma Banky (“The Eagle”, “The Winning of Barbara Worth”, “The Awakening”), George Fawcett (“Flesh and the Devil”, “The Wedding March”, “The Merry Widow”), Montagu Love (“The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “Gunga Din”, “The Mark of Zorro”) and Karl Dane (“The Big Parade”, “The Big House”, “The Scarlet Letter”).

And now “The Son of the Sheik” will be released on Blu-ray in May 2017 (as well as the 1921 film, “The Sheik”) by Kino Lorber.

The film begins with an introduction to a gang of criminals who disguise themselves as a troupe.  The daughter of the gang’s leader is Yasmin (portrayed by Vilma Banky) who is a dancing girl that performs in front of men and keeps their eyes fixed on her, while her father and his men do their crimes.

One day while dancing in the ruins of Touggourt, she and Ahmed (portrayed by Rudolpha Valentino), the son of the Sheik (an older version of the character from the the first film, also played by Valentino), fall for each other and have a secret romance.  When one of the men catches the two together, her father is disappointed as she is promised to Ghabah (portrayed by Montagu Love).

Meanwhile, Ahmed is captured by the gang, as they feel they could collect a large ransom because he is the son of the Sheik.  When Ahmed asks for Yasmin, he is told by Ghabah that it was all a ruse and that Yasmin was faking everything to lure him in.  Ahmed is beaten and tortured.

While Ahmed’s men would come and rescue him, Ahmed can’t believe the woman he loved was using him.

Will his love turn to anger?  And when his father finds out that Ahmed was having a romantic relationship with a dancing girl, how will his parents react?


VIDEO:

“The Son of the Sheik” is presented in 1080p High Definition(1:331 aspect ratio) and is color-tinted. It’s important to note that the last version I have of this DVD is the 2000 Kino Lorber DVD. And I can say that the quality of the film on Blu-ray is much better in terms of clarity and sharpness. The film is color-tinted (not black and white) and while there are scratches and some frames look blurrier, the entire film actually looks very good considering the film is over 90-years old. The picture quality is definitely an improvement over the 2000 DVD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Son of the Sheik” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is music composed and performed by Alloy Orchestra.  The orchestra version really gives an exciting adventure-action film type of feel to it. but I’m sure there are people who may be wondering if a second musical score is included and the theatre organ score by Jack Ward featured on the 2000 Kino Lorber DVD is not included on this Blu-ray release.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Son of the Sheik” comes with the following special features:

  • Introductions by Orson Welles –  (17:34) Orson Welles discusses Valentino and “The Son of the Sheik”.
  • Newspaper Headlines Announcing Valentino’s Illness and Death – (1:29) Newspaper clips featuring the headlines regarding Valentino’s illness and death.
  • Valentino: His Life and Times – (8:32) A short documentary about Rudolph Valentino.
  • Valentino at the Beach – A Short Subject – (2:25) A small short shot during a time Rudolph Valentino was not with a film company.
  • The Young Rajah Theatrical Trailer – (2:30) A trailer for Valentino’s 1922 film “The Young Rajah”.

As Rudolph would continue to make women swoon and men would question his masculinity because of the actor’s European upbringing and style.  While it has been a few years since Valentino had a major box office hit, “The Son of the Sheik” would become the actor’s finest film that would earn a significant amount of money in the box office for its time.

But the film would also showcase the final work of Valentino, as the actor passed away during the promotion of the film at the young age of 31.

Reuniting both Valentino and his “The Eagle” co-star, Vilma Banky to star in a film showcasing the love and passion between the two individuals, their love is put to the test as Valentino, playing the young Ahmed (son of “The Sheik” character of Ahmed) is captured, tortured by a gang and offered for ransom.  To make things worse, the gang puts in Ahmed’s head that his girlfriend Yasmin was using him and was in on the plan of luring him.

While Ahmed is eventually freed by his men, he has developed a hatred towards the woman he once loved.  But what happens when he captures Yasmin and keeps him at his home, his father, The Sheik is disappointed in his son’s actions.

Meanwhile, the gang wants Yasmin back and it would lead to an action-packed battle between Ahmed, his father and their soldiers versus this gang of ruffians.  What will happen to Ahmed and Yasmin?  Can their love be tested in such fashion and can these two overcome this test?  Or will Ahmed’s hatred towards Yasmin for thinking he wronged him, start to consume him?

A worthy sequel to “The Sheik”, which showcases Valentino in dual roles and also featuring the return of Agnes Ayres as the Sheik’s wife, Dianna, the sequel was a major success because of its stars but also because it had a sultry storyline which showcase Valentino and Banky showing amazing chemistry (on the big screen) with one another.  But also delivers in action, which many people will love because there is so much of it.

So, there is a good balance of drama and action in “The Son of the Sheik” and it’s a silent film that showcases Valentino’s strength as an actor.

As the film looks fantastic on Blu-ray and the Alloy Orchestra musical score is quite awesome.  But I can understand if there are those who are not thrilled that Jack Ward’s theatre organ score from the 2000 Kino Lorber DVD is not included on this Blu-ray release.

You also get a few special features which also includes another different way of seeing the funeral of Valentino, news headlines of his sickness and his death but also an introduction by Orson Welles showing his respect towards Valentino.

Overall, “The Son of the Sheik” is no doubt an exciting romance/action silent film worth watching.  And will forever be remembered as a Rudolph Valentino classic.  Recommended!

Boruto – Naruto the Movie (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a big fan of the “Naruto” manga/anime series, I highly recommend “Boruto – Naruto the Movie”. Action-packed, full of drama and excitement. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2002 Masashi Kishimoto/2007 Shippuden, BMP 2015. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Boruto – Naruto the Movie

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL DATE: 2015

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, DTS-HD Master Audio: English and Japanese 5.1,  2.0 Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: March 28, 2017


Originally Created by Masashi Kishimoto

Director: Hiroyuki Yamashita

Screenplay: Masashi Kishimoto

Character Design by Hirofumi Suzuki, Masashi Kishimoto, Tetsuya Nishio

Music by -yaiba-, Yasuharu Takanashi

Art by Akemi Konno, Kazuyuki Hashimoto, Kentaro Akiyama, Masanobu Nomura, Mutsuo Koseki, Naruyo Kiriyama, Satoshi Matsuoka

Art Design by Hiroto Tanaka, Masaaki Endou

Chief Animation Director: Tetsuya Nishio

Anime Production: Pierrot


Featuring the following voice talent:

Junko Takeuchi/Maile Flanagan as Naruto Uzumaki

Yuko Sanpei/Amana C. Miller as Boruto Uzumaki

Akira Ishida/Liam O’Brien as Gaara

Chie Nakamura/Kate Higgins as Sakura Uchiha

Daisuke Namikawa/Xander Mobus as Momoshiki

Hana Takeda/Laura Bailey as Kurotsuchi

Hidenori Takahashi/Max Mittelman as Konohamaru Sarutobi

Hiroki Yasumoto/Wally Wingert as Kinshiki Otsusuki

Kokoro Kikuchi/Cherami Leigh as Sarada Uchiha

Kouki Miyata/Brian Beacock as Chōjūrō

Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Sheh as Hinata Uzumaki

Noriaki Sugiyama/Yuri Lowenthal as Sasuke Uchiha

Ryota Takeuchi/Catero Colbert as Darui

Ryūichi Kijima/Robbie Daymond as Mitsuki

Satoshi Hino/Ben Diskin as Sai

Showtaro Morikubo/Tom Gibis as Shikamaru Nara

Yoichi Masukawa/Brian Donovan as Rock Lee

Atsushi Abe/Spike Spencer as Inojin Yamanaka

Hisao Egawa/Catero Colbert as Killer Bee

Kengo Kawanishi/Bryce Papenbrook as Yurui

Kensho Ono/Todd Haberkorn as Shikadai Nara

Saori Hayami/Melissa Fahn as Himawari Uzumaki

Yukari Tamura/Danielle Judovits as Tenten


Boruto: Naruto the Movie takes place in the Hidden Leaf Village with Naruto as the Seventh Hokage. The Hidden Leaf Village is planning to host the Chunin Exams to train new shinobi from the village and from their allied villages. Among the entrants are Sasuke’s daughter, Sarada, Mitsuki, an exceptionally talented yet mysterious shinobi… And Boruto, Naruto’s talented but impetuous son.

Meanwhile, Sasuke who’s been on a mission in another dimension appears before Naruto to warn of a strange impending danger. Shrouded with an evil aura, Momoshiki and Kinshiki appear and attempt to assassinate Naruto. Petrified, Boruto is shielded by Naruto, only to disappear in front of Boruto’s own eyes.


The popular manga series “Naruto” has been going strong since its debut in Shueisha back in 1999 via “Weekly Shonen Jump” magazine.   With 72 volumes published, the manga series ended in November 2014.  Meanwhile, the anime series, the first titled “Naruto” began in 2002-2007 and lasted for 220 episodes.  And would continue with “Naruto: Shippuden” which lasted from 2007-2017 with a total of 500 episodes created.

The original manga by Masashi Kishimoto is about a young ninja named Naruto Uzamaki, a ninja of the Konoha leaf village who grew up facing prejudiced within his fellow ninjas because the evil nine-tailed fox was sealed inside him. But throughout the series, we have seen how Naruto is a kind-hearted boy who has worked hard in protecting his friends and staying true to his word with the goal of someday becoming the next Hokage of the village.

In 2014, Kishimoto wrapped up the “Naruto” manga and in the final chapter (featured in volume 72), Naruto would eventually become the Hokage of the Leaf Village and he and his wife Hinata would have two children, Boruto and Himawari.

Meanwhile, Sasuke and Sakura would have a daughter named Sarada, Shikamaru Nara and Temari would have a son named Shikadai, Sai and Ino would have a son named Inojin and Choji Akimichi and Karui would have a daughter named Chocho.

Everyone has grown up and Naruto is busy as the new Hokage at the village, this causes resentment from Naruto’s son Boruto who feels that his father was never there for him or the family.

This leads us to the film “Boruto – Naruto the Movie” which featured anime production from Studio Pierrot, direction by Hiroyuki Yamashita, a screenplay by Masashi Kishimoto, music by -yaiba- and Yasuharu Takanashi and character design by Hirofumi Suzuki, Masashi Kishimoto and Tetsuya Nishio and art design by Hiroto Tanaka and Masaaki Endou.

The film begins with Boruto telling his story and him and his team partners, Sarada and Mitsuki being trained by Master Konohamaru and trying to capture a bear (or panda).   After their mission, the four go to see Naruto, the Seventh Hokage.

And as Boruto gets into a little argument with his father (for not being part of his life due to his duties as Hokage), he reminds his father about his sister and Naruto’s daughter, Himawari’s birthday and how he needs to be there.

Meanwhile a scientist comes in and introduces the group to a new invention.  Now, a jutsu can be contained in a mini-seal and put into a bracelet which gives anyone, ninja or not, the power to use a jutsu.  No chakra is even needed to use the new technology and the scientists want it used for the upcoming Chunin exam but Naruto is against it and believes a ninja should use their own skills.

Meanwhile, Boruto meets with the scientist and takes the special bracelet.

With the next Chunin exams coming up, Sarada and Mitsuki want to take the exam but Boruto, he has no desire.  He doesn’t want to be like his father and that means not wanting to be Hokage.  But for Sarada, she wants to be Hokage and tries to get Boruto to take part in the Chunin exam to let his father know he could do it.

Meanwhile, Sasuke Uchiha returns to the village and Boruto, not wanting to be anything like his father, goes to Sasuke to take him in as a pupil.  But Sasuke will only agree if Boruto can learn the Sharingan jutsu.

As the groups get ready for their Chunin Exam to see who will become a ninja, round three will be in front of a public audience.  During a battle Boruto uses the bracelet to best his opponent, but for Naruto, he is disappointed that his son resorted to such a tactic and disqualifies his son from the Chunin exam and also taking away his ninja bandana as punishment.

This leads to an argument and Boruto complains that his father is never there for him.  Meanwhile, a new evil force attacks everyone at the Chunin Exam.


VIDEO:

“Boruto – Naruto the Movie” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the film looks vibrant.  Colors look fantastic in HD and with this being a film ,there is a good amount of backgrounds and detail in the background artwork.  Picture quality is fantastic!

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Boruto – Naruto the Movie” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0. Both soundtracks are fantastic and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the center, front and surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Boruto – Naruto the Movie” comes with the following special features:

  • Special Naruto OVA – (10:23) It’s Naruto’s big day as his inauguration as Hokage is about to take place.  But time’s getting late because Boruto and Himawari are arguing.  But what happens when Boruto upsets his little sister?
  • Clean End Credits
  • Storyboards – Featuring a gallery of the storyboards for the film
  • Art Gallery – Featuring an art gallery from the film.
  • Trailer – Featuring the Japanese trailers.

Watching “Boruto – Naruto the Movie”, I can’t help but be entertained by the fact that the film focuses on the children of the characters that many of us grew up reading.

“Naruto” having lasted so long as a manga and anime series was a big part of the lives of many people who watched “Naruto” grow from a child, to a teenager and a young adult.  Seeing how his heart and his passion would inspire so many but also seeing him determined to defeat those who threatened the village or his friends.

With Naruto, he is a student that felt he had to prove himself through hardwork and determination.

So, it’s fascinating to see how Boruto is much different than his father.  Naruto, who had always said he would become Hokage is now the new Hokage of the Leaf Village but this new role means being busy with work and unfortunately, that means no time spent with the family.

Hinata is literally taking care of both children and you can see how Boruto is upset at his father for neglecting them, but he harbors a bit of anger for his father not being there for him.

What’s even more interesting is that Boruto is not too aware of his father’s past and how he grew up, so he is not aware of the challenges or difficulties his father grew up with.

And because of his feelings towards his father, he asks his dad’s rival, Sasuke Uchiha to become his master.

But during this peaceful time, a lot has changed as well.  Scientists have developed bracelets with technology that allow anyone to harness jutsu used by ninjas and to make things worse, a new evil has decided to attack the Leaf Village during the Chunin exams (like what happened to Naruto and friends when he was much younger).

And I’ll leave it that.

This is a new beginning, a new chapter as Boruto will continue the storyline of the ninjas at the Leaf Village and while I’m not sure if “Boruto” will last for another 15 years but for this film to jumpstart the new generation and Naruto’s son, Boruto, now the focal point, needless to say, this series will be interesting, considering that he’s not like his father at all.

And if you think Boruto Uzumaki has special skills learned from his father, wait until one gets to see the included OVA which shows us how powerful Himawari Uzumaki can get.

As for the Blu-ray release, the film is vibrant and with it being a film, has more detail when it comes to art backgrounds.  Lossless soundtrack is also well-done and the voice acting for both Japanese and English dub are magnificent.

Overall, if you are a big fan of the “Naruto” manga/anime series, I highly recommend “Boruto – Naruto the Movie”.  Action-packed, full of drama and excitement.

Recommended

 

Anatahan (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Josef von Sternberg’s “Anatahan” is his personal and also his final film that looks amazing with the new 2K remaster.  If you are a fan of Josef von Sternberg’s cinematic works, you will no doubt enjoy “Anatahan”.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1976 Meri von Sternberg. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Anatahan

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1953 & 1958 (uncensored version)

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1:33:1, Monaraul English with optional English SDH Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: PG

RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2017


Based on the Novel by Michiro Maruyama and translated by Younghill Kang

Directed by Josef von Sternberg

Screenplay by Tatsuo Asano, Josef von Sternberg

Produced by Kazuo Takimura

Executive Producer: Nagamasa Kawakita, Yoshio Osawa, Josef von Sternberg

Music by Akira Ifukube

Cinematography by Kozo Okazaki and Josef von Sternberg

Art Direction by Takashi Kono


Starring:

Akemi Negishi as Keiko Kusakabe, the “Queen Bee”

Tadashi Suganuma as Kusakabe, Husband of Keiko

Kisaburo Sawamura as Kuroda

Shoji Nakayama as Nishi

Jun Fujikawa as Yoshisato

Hiroshi Kondo as Yanaginuma

Shozo Miyashita as Sennami

Tsuruemon as Bando

Kikuji Onoe as Kaneda

Rokuriro Kineya as Marui

Daijiro Tamura as Kanzaki

Chizuru Kitagawa

Takeshi Suzuki Takahashi

Shiro Amikura

Narrator: Josef von Sternberg


Inspired by actual events, ANATAHAN explores the conflicting personalities of a dozen Japanese sailors stranded on a remote island in the Pacific during the waning days of World War II. For a time, they maintain their military discipline, but when they discover a young woman (Akemi Negishi) living on the island, the paradisal island becomes a nest of jealousy, violence, and desire. Filmed in Japan on elaborately constructed sets, with non-English-speaking actors, ANATAHAN was a deeply personal project for director Josef von Sternberg (The Blue Angel, Morocco, The Scarlet Empress), and provided a thoroughly unique capstone to his extraordinary career.


Anatahan.  An inhabited island in the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean due to its active and violent volcano and frequent typhoons.  But was used for coconut plantations in the 1800’s for the production of copra.

But the island was also the control of the Empire of Japan during World War I and in June 1944 during World War II, 30 survivors from three Japanese shipwrecks reached Anatahan.  But after the surrender of Japan, many of the castaways refused to believe the war had ended and fled to the interior of the island as Japanese holdouts.

But by 1950, it was realized that the holdouts were led by Kazuko Higa, the only woman left on the island and was discovered to live with a harem of five men, eleven who did of unknown circumstances until each surrendered in 1951.

The story of the holdouts inspired the film “Anatahan” (or “The Saga of Anatahan”) in 1953 by filmmaker Josef von Sternberg (“The Blue Angel”, “Dishonored”, “The Last Command”, “Shanghai Express”).

The film would receive an uncensored version, which is Sternberg’s preferred cut of the film.  Both were remastered in 2K and the 1958 version is mastered from film elements preserved by the Library of Congress and Cinematheque Francais.

The film begins in 1974 when a Japanese ship is sunk by enemy aircraft.  Survivors who swam from the Mariana’s Trench were able to find an island thought deserted.  One of the survivors found a village and when the survivors go to the village, they meet Kusakabe (portrayed by Tadashi Suganuma), a farmer of the coconut plantation.  While Kusakabe is not thrilled by seeing the men on Anatahan, he first tells them that he is alone.  But out of his home comes the beautiful Keiko (portrayed by Akemi Negishi) and immediately all the men become smitten that a beautiful woman is living on the island.

In truth, Kusakabe has a wife and son and Keiko had a husband, but everyone had evacuated on a boat during the war to Saipan four years earlier and the two were the only ones left alone and became a common law couple.

But as men try to get close to Keiko, she eventually gets close to one of the young survivors.  Kusakabe ends up beating on Keiko and warns the men to not go near his wife.

As the survivors are expecting to be rescued on the island, time goes on longer and longer and what becomes days, becomes months and eventually years.

And as time goes on, each of the men start to feel lustful towards Keiko and wanting her to belong to them.  And eventually, men succumb to savagery as they vie for her.

Will any of them be rescued or will they want to be rescued?


VIDEO:

“Anatahan” is presented in 1080p (1:33:1 aspect ratio). Presented in black and white, the film looks magnificent.  Clarity and sharpness are noticeable, blacks are nice and deep, while the contrast between white and gray levels look fantastic.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Anatahan” is presented in English Dolby Digital Monaural. Dialogue and music are crystal clear through the center channel, I didn’t notice any pops or clicks considering the age of the film. The monaural lossless soundtrack is very good.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Anatahan” comes with the following special features:

  • 1953 Theatrical Version – The original censored version of the film without any nudity.
  • Saga: The Making of Anatahan – (15:34) Interview with Nichgolas von Sternberg about his family living in Japan during the filming of “Anatahan”.
  • Visual Essay by Tag Gallagher – (16:16) Tag Gallagher’s visual essay.
  • Outtake Footage– (2:54) Featuring unused (nude) footage shot for the 1958 version of the film.
  • U.S. Navy Footage – (7:52) Actual video footage of the real Japanese holdouts who have surrendered and went home.
  • Comparison of the 1953 and 1958 versions – (8:16) A comparison of scenes and the differences between the 1953 and 1958 version of the film.

When I was younger, I would often hear stories from my family about Japanese soldiers who were still hiding in remote areas and didn’t know World War II had ended.

My parents would talk about the soldier (who turned out to be Hiroo Onda) found 30-years later in the jungles of the Philippines had refused to believe the war was over until his former commanding officer traveled to the Philippines to meet with him.

I have read about Japanese holdouts, those who refused to believe that Japan would surrender.  And that would lead me to read about Kazuko Higa and the group of sailors who were shipwrecked and found their way to the island of Anatahan, which was left uninhabited due to a vicious volcano and terrible typhoons.

The real life story of how these survivors were taken in by the real Kikuichiro Higa (who ran a coconut plantation) and his live-in wife Kazuko.

What is known is that the survivors had lived with Kazuko, a few died and stories came out that the men died as they submitted to savagery for their love for Kazuko.

Needless to say, this story which was big news in the media worldwide and also a novel based on actual events written by one of the survivors, Michiro Maruyana, translated by Younghill Kang, became an inspiration for filmmaker Josef von Sternberg to create a movie based on the true story.

With the Sternberg family living in Japan and having enjoyed their time in the country, Sternberg was able to get funding from Japanese producers and he would create his final film, “Anatahan” in 1953.  While the film did well in Japan, due to anti-Japanese sentiment (as the film was released a few years after World War II), the film didn’t do well in America.

The film was a deeply personal project for Sternberg, as he created the film for his love of Japanese culture but also wanted to create a film that had an anti-war message.  Also, a film that he was involved in ever facet down to directing, writing a screenplay, the set design, camera and more.

And the fact that all actors were Japanese and had no knowledge of English, led Sternberg to find ways to communicate with his actors of what he wanted to achieve through storyboards and creative planning.

While the film was released in 1953, a preferred uncensored cut of the film was released in 1958.  And many decades later, both versions of the film had been remastered in 2K from film elements preserved by the Library of Congress and Cinematheque Francaise.  And this remastered version is what is available in the 2017 Blu-ray release of “Anatahan” from Kino Lorber.

Watching this film, it’s not a surprise to see many lonely men being attracted to the only woman on the island with them.  In the film, Keiko Kusakabe (portrayed by actress Akemi Negishi) is attractive and sexual.  She is a common-law wife of Kusakabe, because their own loved ones had evacuated to Saipan during the outbreak of the war and the two were left behind to watch over the plantation on the island of Anatahan.

Not having heard from their loved ones, they had only each other for the next four years.  And eventually, a dozen of shipwrecked sailors now living with them and how it would become a problematic situation for Kusakabe, as he knows nearly every man wants his wife and if anything, she is the person who keeps them all going.

But as days turn to months and months turn to years, these men eventually start to think about whoever has the power (weapons) would be the leader and have the right to be with Keiko.  And this would lead certain men to challenge other men to be with Keiko.

While messages are broadcasted towards the island that Japan has surrendered, none of the soldiers believe it and think that it’s their enemies lying to them.

But while Sternberg made sure to let viewers know that the stories were from one and that actual situations can’t be verified, the story of what happened in Anatahan still remain a mystery.  Fortunately, in 1998, the story was revived by Japanese author, Kaoru Ohno who researched and interviewed a few people who survived or were rescuers and the new information became Ohno’s novel, “Cage on the Sea”.

And the more people read about the story, the real story especially what happened to the “Queen Bee”, Kazuko Hige, was just as tragic.  But many wonder how many people were killed just to be with her?  News reports have it at six.

While there are survivors who know what happened but to respect the dead, will not ever speak about how certain people were murdered.

Kazuko Hige had said that only two died because of her.  One was shot and the other was stabbed to death.  The man who was shot was the man she lived with for three years after her husband died at sea.  She lived with one man, which lasted for 20 days.  And he happened to die while fishing.  She lived with another man for two years but didn’t love him.  So, she was with a fourth man, who was responsible for stabbing man #3.  And she and man #4 lived together until they surrendered to the Americans and had said in an interview, she would go on stage to clear her name and what happened.

But the real life of Kazuko Higa after returning back to Okinawa is that she fell into prostitution and poverty, worked as a garbage collector and died at the age of 51.

Needless to say, this story is quite captivating and it’s no surprise considering the tragedies that transpired and how a lone woman was pinpointed as the person responsible.  May it be unfair, especially for media of portraying the woman they call “Queen Bee” as a tramp.  There is more to this story that we may never know what truly transpired.

But for Josef von Sternberg’s film, he was able to create a film to capture the loss of war, loyalty to one’s country, lust, passion, abuse, anger, happiness, you name it.  With two version of the film presented, I found the 1958 film to be the definitive version and it’s what Sternberg had preferred.  The main difference is that the 1958 had nudity, the 1953 film didn’t.

The 1958 version of the film featured Keiko as a woman who knew that the men are entertained by her.  She enjoyed the attention and these men wanted to see more of her.  May it be her smiling, dancing, happy and sometimes catch her nude.  She was not happy with the men she had been with in the island, he was an abuser, he had control over her and having these other men who made her happy and gave her attention, changed her life on the island.  But her naivety was somewhat of her undoing, not knowing that men would go so low to fight and kill each other for her.  In essence, a few of these men became just as bad as the man she lived with.  They wanted power and with that power, they wanted to control her.

As for the Blu-ray release, this 2K remaster looks magnificent.  The film looks sharp, clarity is much better and amazing contrast within the grays and whites of the film.  While you can hear the Japanese dialogue, the majority of the film is narrated by Josef von Sternberg who narrates over the Japanese dialogue.  But the English narration is crystal clear.  And last, you get a good number of special features included such as the interview with Nicholas von Sternberg (Josef’s son), a visual essay by Tag Gallagher, U.S. Navy footage of the actual survivors from Anatahan and a comparison between both 1953 and 1958 films.

While Josef von Sternberg may be known for his earlier films in his oeuvre such as “The Salvation Hunters” (considered to be the first American independent film), his German film “The Blue Angel” which would lead to six U.S. collaborations with actress Marlene Dietrich.  “Anatahan” should be looked at his final, personal film which he wrote, narrated, photographed and directed.  Sure, it had a limited release and was a financial failure due to anti-Japanese sentiment not long after World War II, but I do feel that many who are discovering the film today thanks to Kino Lorber’s remastered Blu-ray release will be captivated by the story.  Considering it was inspired on a real-life story.

Overall, Josef von Sternberg’s “Anatahan” is his personal and also his final film that looks amazing with the new 2K remaster.  If you are a fan of Josef von Sternberg’s cinematic works, you will no doubt enjoy “Anatahan”.  Recommended!

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

April 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Red Turtle” was an ambitious collaboration, the first for Studio Ghibli with a company and director overseas.  Filmmaker Michael Dudok de With and co-writer Pascale Ferran have truly created a film that is magical and captivating.  I really love this film and I can’t highly recommend it enough.  “The Red Turtle” is magnificent!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Studio Ghibli. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Red Turtle

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 81 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Thematic Elements and Peril)

RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2017


Directed by Michael Dudok de Wit

Story by Michael Dudok de Wit

Screenplay by Pascale Ferran and Michael Dudok de Wit

Producer: Pascal Caucheteux, Vincent Maraval, Gregoire Soriat, Toshio Suzuki

Co-Producer: Remi Burah, Leon Perahia, Olivier Pere

Artistic Producer/Producer: Isao Takahata

Equity Provider: Serge Hayat

Line Producer: Christophe Jankovic

Music by Laurent Perez Del Mar

Edited by Celine Kalepikis


Featuring the Voices of:

Emmanuel Garijo as The Father

Tom Hudson as the Son (young adult)

Baptiste Goy as The Son (child)

Axel Devillers as The Baby (voice)

Barbara Beretta as The Mother (voice)


Marking the much-anticipated return of Studio Ghibli, this masterfully animated fantasy film tells the story of a man shipwrecked at sea who becomes stranded on a beautiful but desolate island. He learns to live in isolation, seemingly tormented in his efforts to escape the island by a giant red turtle. Miraculously, he soon comes upon a young woman also lost at sea and they create a family together.


Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit had worked on numerous animated shorts.  From “The Monk and the Fish”, “Father and Daughter” and “The Aroma of Tea”.

The touching 2000 animated short “Father and Daughter” made an impression on legendary Japanese animation filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki with the intent for Studio Ghibli to co-produce a film with Wild Bunch but with Michael Dudok de Wit to be part of the project.

Wild Bunch met with Dudok de Wit and it didn’t take long for him to say yes, as he is a huge fan of Studio Ghibli animated films.  And together with writer Pascale Ferran, she and Dudok de Wit would create “The Red Turtle”.

Studio Ghibli giving Dudok de Wit input but for the most part, giving him the creative freedom for this animated project.

Making its premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, the film would receive applause and eventually critical acclaim.

The film would be nominated for “Best Animated Feature” for the Academy Awards and now “The Red Turtle” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“The Red Turtle” is a film that has no dialogue but yet manages to captivate one’s attention with wonderful storytelling through actions of the characters and their surrounding environment.

The film begins with a man caught in a storm in the ocean and wakes up on a deserted island.

The man tries to leave the island by making a raft made of bamboo but unfortunately, his raft is destroyed when it hits an animal in the ocean.

The man tries to leave again with another raft that he had built, but once again, something in the ocean has prevented him from leaving.

When the man tries for a third time to leave the island with the raft, once again his attempts are foiled but this time, the man finds out that what is preventing him from leaving and it is a red turtle.

When the man spots the red turtle walking inland, the man gets his revenge by hitting the turtle on the head, turning the turtle on its back and jumping on him.

As the man tries to leave the island again with a raft, he feels guilty about what he had done to the turtle and catches a fish to feed it.  But it’s too late, the red turtle had died and the man is racked with guilt for what he had done.

Overnight, while sleeping with the dead turtle, he wakes up when he hears the turtles shell crack open through the center.  When the man looks out to the ocean and turns his head back to the turtle, to his shock and surprise, the turtle is gone and a woman is inside the shell and she is alive.

And when the man tries to take care of the woman and try to revive her, what will happen on the deserted island?


VIDEO:

“The Red Turtle” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). While the film is not a Studio Ghibli film in terms of animation style, the film features simple but yet well-drawn characters (which includes wonderful animated movements such as people running, swimming, etc.) and beautifully drawn environments, may it be the bamboo forests, water reflections, lighting effects, reflections on water, or even ocean water moving towards the shore, the film looks great.   There is no banding issues or artifacts.  Daylight animated scenes are vibrant and overall picture quality is great.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Red Turtle” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Englsh Audio Description 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.

While there is no dialogue throughout the film, there is great use of ambiance of life living in a deserted island and a wonderful musical score by Laurent Perez Del Mar.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Red Turtle” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director and co-writer Michael Dudok De Wit.
  • The Birth of the Red Turtle – (56:34) A featurette on the birth and making of “The Red Turtle”.
  • The Secrets of the Red Turtle – (17:44) Featuring director/co-writer Michael Dudok de Wit showing the secrets to sketching the film and tracing for setting up a frame and more.
  • The Red Turtle at AFI Fest Q&A – (20:44) Featuring a Q&A with director/co-writer Michael Dudok de Wit.
  • Theatrical Trailer

I have to admit that I was a little standoffish about a collaboration of Studio Ghibli with another company and director outside of Japan.

Having grown up with Studio Ghibli films, especially with Hayao Miyazaki films, there is part of you that will never forget classics such as “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, “Laputa: Castle in the Sky”, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, “Howl’s Moving Castle”, to name a few.

Films that go beyond wonderful animation but stories that touch your soul.  Symbolization through actions that mirror the world, messages in a film that make you think twice and so much included in a film that you discover new things each time you view them.

That is the power of a Studio Ghibli film.  But when I read that Hayao Miyazaki was the person that wanted director Michael Dudok de Wit to be involved in a collaboration project, you can’t just say “why?”.  You have to put your trust that Studio Ghibli wanted Dudok de Wit for a reason.

I personally have not see any of Michael Dudok de Wit’s films, so I didn’t know what to expect with “The Red Turtle”.

When I started to watch the film, I noticed how different it was from the Japanese film productions of Studio Ghibli, but Wild Bunch and Dudok de Wit’s storytelling are strong, the symbolism is strong but most importantly, like Studio Ghibli films before it, this film left me with an emotional impact.  I discovered new things each time I have watched the film (which have been multiple times already).

While character designs may seem simple, the movements and the actions of the characters are what capture your attention.  The environments compliment the characters with reflections to water visual effects but it’s the humanity of the film that you are captivated from beginning to end.

A man who is stuck in a deserted island, feeling isolated, feeling guilty for killing an animal and to see it transform to a beautiful woman.  And where marriage, we know of the words “‘Til Death Do Us Part”, this film is about love between a couple, a love between a family, the joys of growing with your family but also the heartbreak of enduring near tragedy and of course, the process of life of growing old the one you love.

This is a magical love story that needs no words to tell the story.  It’s simple yet complex and it’s a Studio Ghibli, that may be visually different but yet the storyline captures your attention.

I absolutely love this film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant, the lossless soundtrack is primarily outdoor ambiance and ocean sounds but the musical soundtrack by Laurent Perez Del Mar is emotionally moving.  Also, there are numerous, lengthy special features that admirers of the film will enjoy watching or listening to.

Overall, “The Red Turtle” was an ambitious collaboration, the first for Studio Ghibli with a company and director overseas.  Filmmaker Michael Dudok de With and co-writer Pascale Ferran have truly created a film that is magical and captivating.  I really love this film and I can’t highly recommend it enough.  “The Red Turtle” is magnificent!

Punching Henry (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Punching Henry” is no doubt a smart and hilarious comedy film that gives a glimpse of the life of a musical comedian.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Still Punching LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Punching Henry

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 95 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: April 18, 2017


Directed by Gregori Viens

Written by Henry Phillips, Gregori Viens

Produced by Jim Hart, Arun Kumar, David Permut, Henry Phillips, Matt Ratner, Rick Rosenthal, Gregori Viens

Co-Producer: Ian Coyne, Nalit Patel

Executive Producer: Howard Barish, David P. Beitchman, Adam Brawer, Luca Costa, Luke Daniels, Robert J. Harley, Brandon K. Hogan, Bert Kern, Atif Malik, Chris Mangao, Sean McEwen, Nick Morton, Alan Pao, Deborah Ratner

Cinematography by Bryce Fortner

Edited by Michael R. Miller, Gregori Viens

Casting by Eyde Belasco

Production Design by Jodi Ginnever

Set Decoration by Laurie McDaniel

Costume Design by Sarah Trost


Starring:

Henry Phillips as Henry Phillips

Tig Notaro as Julian

J.K. Simmons as Jay Warren

Mark Cohen as Stupid Joe

Sarah Silverman as Sharon Levine

Ellen Ratner as Ellen Pinksy

Mike Judge as Ed

Jim Jefferies as Charlie

Stephanie Allynne as Zoe

Michaela Watkins as Mara

Ashley Johnson as Danielle


In this hyper-intelligent comedy, a journeyman comedian is lured to L.A. by a TV producer (J.K. Simmons, Whiplash) who wants to make him a reality star. As reality sets in, he must decide whether his legacy will be to tell jokes for a living or become the butt of them. With an all-star cast including Sarah Silverman, Tig Notaro, Jim Jefferies, Doug Stanhope, and more, PUNCHING HENRY is a hilarious and heartwarming glimpse behind the curtain at the weird world of comedy.


From musical comedian Henry Phillips and director/co-writer Gregori Viens comes “Punching Henry”, a comedy which premiered at South by Southwest in March 2016.

The film stars Henry Phillips as himself, actress Tig Notaro (“In a World”, “One Mississippi”) and wife Stephanie Allynne (“All Nighter”, “In a World”, “One Mississippi”), J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man” films, “Whiplash”), Mark Cohen (“The Aristocrats”, “Funny People”), Sarah Silverman (“School of Rock”, “Wreck-it Ralph”, “There’s Something About Mary”), comedian Jim Jefferies, Michaela Watkins (“The Back-Up Plan”, “Enough Said”, “Wanderlust”).

The film is now available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Punching Henry” is a film that is based on the comedy of Henry Phillips standup routine which is playing a classic loser, hapless with women and unsuccessful in show business.

Henry Phillips is a music comedian trying to make a living traveling to various locations and trying to entertain audiences (some who get him, some who don’t).

His agent Ellen Pinsky (portrayed by Ellen Ratner) calls Henry to let him know that producer Jay Warren (produced by J.K. Simmons) wants to meet with him in Los Angeles.

For Henry, returning to Los Angeles is difficult ever since the media crucified him for being a white supremacist, which was a misunderstanding that got blown out of proportion.

And a lot of his adventures are often discussed in his friend Sharon Levine’s (portrayed by Sarah Silverman) radio show.  And his feelings of going to Los Angeles and not wanting people to take advantage of him.

As Henry goes to Los Angeles to stay with his friend Jillian (portrayed by Tig Notaro) and her wife Zoe (portrayed by Stephanie Allynne).  His first day doesn’t go all that well as his car has been stolen and he has to endure a heckler during his comedy performance which producer Jay Warren has come to observe.

As Henry goes to meet with Jay, he finds out that showrunner Mara (portrayed by Michaela Watkins) wants to create a television show based on his life as a loser.  Mara and other showrunners thinks that Henry’s experiences were part of his comedy routine but they are genuine experiences from his life.

But can Henry’s time in Los Angeles get any worse?  And how does Henry feel about a show being based on his life and how people perceive him due to social media?


VIDEO:

“Punching Henry” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film features wonderful detail during closeup scenes and outdoor scenes. I didn’t notice any problems with artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Punching Henry” is presented in English  DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is primarily dialogue and ambiance-driven. The surround channels do a good job of showcasing the crowds at venues but for the most part, the film is dialogue-driven and focused on the front and center channels.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Punching Henry” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring two deleted scenes.
  • Brendon Walsh suffers – (1:31) Behind-the-scenes on Brendon Walsh’s painful scene.
  • Stupid Joe – (1:45) Improvisation of Mark Cohen’s comedy character Stupid Joe.

For those who have watched Henry Phillips’ comedy routine on “Comedy Central” or watched his hilariously awkward “Henry’s Kitchen” cooking shows on YouTube or his various musical comedy routines, you know that Phillip’s tends to play a character who is often a loner or loser and nothing really goes well for him.

And what if Henry the comedian and his routines were wrapped all in one.  That’s the storyline for “Punching Henry”, a story of how comedy musician Henry Phillips is given the opportunity to have a television show based on his life.

And as everyone in the entertainment world thinks this is part of Phillips’ comedy routine, the fact is that bad luck accompanies him wherever he goes and nothing goes right for him.

Starring many fellow comedians and actress Tig Notaro and J.K. Simmons, for those who enjoy Henry Phillips’ comedy will enjoy this film because it’s literally a film extension of his comedy routine.

From Henry going to Los Angeles and his car stolen within minutes of arriving, getting heckled at a venue, to his lesbian friends asking him to impregnate one of them (so they can have children) and he somehow manages to mess that one up.

But for Henry, now having this opportunity of having his life as a TV series and execs thinking how good of an idea to create a series based on a loser’s loser, for Henry those are painful things in his life that occur frequently, how will he deal with the opportunity and newfound fame thanks to a mishap onstage which becomes popular on social media.

Featuring appearances by many comedians and a solid performance from Henry Phillips, “Punching Henry” is no doubt a smart and hilarious comedy film that gives a glimpse of the life of a musical comedian.

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

April 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release of “The Wanderers” is not only entertaining and cool, it’s the definitive version of the film to own!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1979 Orion Pictures Company. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Wanderers

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1979

DURATION: 117 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1:85:1, DTS Stereo

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: March 28, 2017


Based on the Novel by Richard Price

Directed by Philip Kaufman

Screenplay by Rose Kaufman, Philip Kaufman

Produced by Martin Ransohoff

Executive Producer: Fred C. Caruso, Richard R. St. Johns 

Associate Producer: Fred C. Caruso

Cinematography by Michael Chapman

Edited by Stuart H. Pappe, Ronald Roose

Casting by Scott Rudin

Production Design by John Jay Moore

Set Decoration by Thomas C. Tonery

Costume Design by Robert De Mora


Starring:

Ken Wahl as Richie

John Friedrich as Joey

Karen Allen as Nina

Toni Kalem as Despie Galasso

Alan Rosenberg as Turkey

Jim Youngs as Buddy

Tony Ganios as Perry

Linda Manz as Peewee

William Andrews as Emilio

Erland van Lidth as Terror

Val Avery as Mr. Sharp

Dolph Sweet as Chubby Galasso

Michael Wright as Clinton

Dion Alabanese as Teddy Wong

Olympia Dukakis as Joey’s Mom


Brand New 2K Restoration! Meet the Wanderers, the Coolest Guys in Town! Tully High School seniors Richie, Joey and Perry run with a gang called The Wanderers in the Bronx. The year is 1963 but their experiences are universal: falling in love, surviving in school and defending their turf against rivals like the Fordham Baldies, the Del Bombers and the Ducky Boys. From the acclaimed first novel by Richard Price (Clockers), The Wanderers is a rich fabric of comedy and tragedy, fantasy and farce. Director Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff) mixes dynamic talents that include Ken Wahl (The Soldier), Karen Allen (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Toni Kalem (The Sopranos) and Linda Manz (Days of Heaven) with a jukebox full of golden oldies to generate a heady atmosphere. Like American Graffiti and Saturday Night Fever, this cult-classic is a nostalgic window to a vanished world. Beautifully shot by the great Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull). This special edition includes both the original theatrical version and the very rarely seen Preview Cut.


Back in 1979, director Philip Kaufman released his American drama film “The Wanderers” which was loosely based on the novel by Philip Price.

Featuring a screenplay by Philip Kaufman and his wife Rose, “The Wanderers” would star Ken Wahl (“Wiseguy”, “Fort Apache, The Bronx”, “Purple Hearts”), John Friedrichs (“The Boy in the Plastic Bubble”, “Thank God It’s Friday”, “The Final Terror”), Karen Allen (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, “The Perfect Storm”), Toni Kalem (“Sister Act”, “Silent Rage”), Jim Youngs (“Footloose”, “Youngblood”, “Hotshot”), Tony Ganios (“Die Hard 2”, “Porky’s”, “Porky’s Revenge”), Linda Manz (“Days of Heaven”, “The Game”, “Out of the Blue”), William Andrews (“Saturday Night Fever”, “Plainsong”), Michael Wright (“The Interpreter”, “The Five Heartbeats”, “The Principal”) and Olympia Dukakis (“Look Who’s Talking”, “Moonstruck”).

Since its debut in 1979, “The Wanderers” has a significant cult following and with the new brand new 2K restoration, the Kino Lorber Blu-ray and DVD release of “The Wanderers” features the original 118 minute theatrical version and the very rarely seen 124 minute “Preview Cut”.

The film is set in the Bronx back in 1963 and begins with a gang of Italian-American teenagers known as the Wanderers and members Joey (portrayed by John Friedrich) and Turkey (portrayed by Alan Rosenberg) walking around.  Turkey has shaved his head in hopes he could join the rival gang, the Fordham Baldies.

Joey tries to persuade Turkey from joining and when Joey says something bad about the Baldies, the rival gang’s leader’s girlfriend Peewee (portrayed by Linda Manz) overhears them. She tells her boyfriend, Baldies leader Terror (portrayed by Erland van Lidth) and Joey and Turkey take off running and the Baldies gang chases after them.

Meanwhile, Wanderers leader, Richie (portrayed by Ken wahl) is having sex with his girlfriend Despie (portrayed by Toni Kalem), but when he hears the two in trouble, Richie and Buddy (portrayed by Jim Youngs) try to give them help but find out the entire Baldies gang is after them.

As the four Wanderers are cornered by members of the Baldies, a tall Italian guy named Perry (portrayed by Tony Ganios) comes to their rescue and beats up some of the Baldies and saves them.

As the Wanderers gang are happy that Perry came to rescue them, Joey finds out that Perry has recently moved to the Bronx from New Jersey and they live across the hall from each other.  And Perry becomes the latest member of the Wanderers.

As Joey introduces Perry to the various gangs in the school and how the Blacks and the Asians are separated from each other, during class, their teacher wanted to show them how they shouldn’t hate each other, by having the Italians and the African-American students think of derogatory terms towards each other.

Unfortunately, what the teacher was trying to get them to do and show them how they are alike, instead pits the two together and Richie and Clinton (portrayed by Michael Wright) decide to fight each other with no knives or weapons, just a fight between the two ethnic groups.

But Richie and the Wanderers know they don’t have the numbers, so they start reaching out to other ethnicities, but none of them are interested.  And those who are, want to use weapons, which Richie said he and Clinton made a promise not to.

The group try to get the Wongs involved but their leader Teddy said they will make a decision at a later time to decide who they want to side with.

So, that leaves Richie, Joey and Turkey going to the Baldies for help.  But instead, they get back at the Wanderers for their earlier skirmish and have Richie and Joe take off their pants and have Turkey do the dirty work.  And allowing Turkey to join the Baldies after betraying his friends.

Meanwhile, Richie, Joey, Perry and Buddy later have fun with the women by playing a game of “elbow titting” and Richie meets Nina (portrayed by Karen Allen).  While Richie is interested in Nina and both are flirtatious towards each other, because Richie is dating Despie, he tries to set Joey up with Nina.  And the all decide to meet up at Despie’s party.

But what happens on the night of the party?


VIDEO:

“The Wanderers” is presented in 1080p (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Watching this cult classic once again, the 2K restoration actually looks fantastic and the best I have seen of the film yet.  Details are much more evident, closeups show better detail and I like how the colors look more vibrant instead of muted colors as seen with the older VHS version of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Wanderers” is presented in English Dolby Digital Monaural.  While dialogue and music are crystal clear through the center channel, I didn’t notice any pops or clicks considering the age of the film.  The monaural lossless soundtrack is very good.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Wanderers” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Philip Kaufman.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an insightful audio commentary by Columbia University Film Professor 7 author of “Philip Kaufman”, Annette Insdorf.
  • Back in the Bronx with Richard Price – (35:17) Author Richard Price talks about his book “The Wanderers” and it be adapted to a film.
  • Wanderers Forever – Live Q&A At NYC’s Film Forum – (16:37) Featuring a Q&A with Karen Allen, Toni Kalem, Tony Ganios and Richard Price.
  • The Wanderers Q&A at LA’s Cinefamily – (31:57) A Q&A with director Philip Kaufman, Alan Roseburg and Peter Kaufman
  • Audio Q&A at NYC’s Film Forum (19:46) An audio Q&A with director Philip Kaufman.
  • Audio Q&A at NYC’s Film Forum – (16:41) An audio Q&A with writer Richard Price
  • Re-Release Trailer
  • TV Spot

“The Wanderers” is no doubt a cult classic that entertains audiences for its take on the Bronx life of teenagers during the early ’60s, the gangs that existed back in the day but also the segregation among ethnic groups.

It was no doubt a tough and dangerous time back in the day, and despite the film being made in 1979, director Philip Kaufman who would be known for his work on the “Indiana Jones” films, will also be celebrated for creating this film adaptation of Richard Price’s original novel.

The film featured a cast of young talent who would later go on to make a name for themselves after “The Wanderers”.

Ken Wahl was a fixture on television thanks to the “Wiseguy” but unfortunately after an accident, his acting career was over.  But he and wife Shane Barbi (of the Barbi Twins) focus their energy on animal rights issues.

Karen Allen would become a big film star in the ’80s with “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Starman”, “Scrooged”). Toni Kalem would star in “The Sopranos” and “Sister Act and became a filmmaker (as did Karen Allen), Linda Manz was well-known for starring in Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven” in 1978 but would continue acting for two more decades and star in the David Fincher film “The Game”.

Alan Rosenberg would be seen in TV shows “The Guardian” and “Cybill” and Michael Wright would star in numerous films including “The Interpreter”, “The Five Heartbeats”, “The Principal” to name a few.

And while most of the film, these young talent would be character with their own differences, its the storyline and adaptation by Philip Kaufman that would bring these characters to life.  While not as risque as Richard Price’s original novel, “The Wanderers” manages to incorporate what people loved of films depicting ’60s life but also the film’s undertones and messages.  May it be to a reaction of JFK’s death, the music of Bob Dylan, teen fun and sexual innuendo, it’s an honest depiction of the times, including racial turbulence that was prevalent in the Bronx.

And there are numerous reasons to love the film.  For me, it was the characters, the adventures, the cultural complications, the gang lifestyle of the ’60s and as an adult, I appreciated the film so much more, in terms of character dynamics but also knowing the context of the characters and the meaning of certain scenes that I was not aware of when I saw this film in my early teens.

With the release of “The Wanderers” on Blu-ray, not only do fans get the definitive version to own but also a small reunion of characters for the film’s Q&A decades after the film was released in theaters.  But you learn about the filming and experiences behind-the-scenes as well.

I absolutely enjoyed the various Q&A featurettes but also the two insightful audio commentaries and for the most part, this is one of the most entertaining, pleasant Blu-ray releases one can own if you love “The Wanderers”.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release of “The Wanderers” is not only entertaining and cool, it’s the definitive version of the film to own!  Highly recommended!

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

April 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Lion” is deserving for each of its award nominations, critical praise internationally and it’s a film that many people will no doubt find extraordinary and worth watching on Blu-ray. “Lion” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Lion

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 118 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Anchor Bay Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Thematic Material and Some Sexuality)

RELEASE DATE: April 11, 2017


Based on the book “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierly

Directed by Garth Davis

Screenplay by Luke Davies

Produced by Iain Canning, Angie Fielder, Emile Sherman

Associate Producer: Simone Nicholson, Karen Sproul

Executive Producer: Andrew Fraser, David Glasser, Daniel Levin, Shahen Mekertichian, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein

Associate Producer: Simone Nicholson, Karen Sproul

Music by Volker Bertelmann, Dustin O’Halloran

Cinematography by Greig Fraser

Edited by Alexandre de Franceschi

Casting by Kirsty McGregor

Production Design by Chris Kennedy

Set Decoration by Nicki Gardiner, Seema Kashyap

Costume Design by Cappi Ireland


Starring:

Dev Patel as Saroo Brierly

Rooney Mara as Lucy

Sunny Pawar as Young Saroo

David Wenham as John Brierly

Nicole Kidman as Sue Brierly

Abhishek Bharate as Guddu

Divian Ladwa as Mantosh Brierly

Priyanka Bose as Kamla

Tannishtha Chatterjee as Noor

Pallavi Sharda as Prama

Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Rama


Five-year-old Saroo gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of Kilometers across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.


In 2013, businessman Saroo Brierly wrote a book titled “A Long Way Home” which is based on his autobiographical account of being separated from his biological mother and family at the age of 5 and adopted by an Australian couple and then 25-years later being reunited with his biological mother.

Brierly’s book received international recognition when his book was released worldwide in 2014 and in 2016, his story received a live film adaptation.

The Australian biographical film was directed by Garth Davis (“Mary Magdalene”, “Alice”, “P.I.N.S.”) and features a screenplay by Luke Davies (“Candy”, “Life”).

The film stars Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire”, “Chappie”, “The Last Airbender”, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”), Nicole Kidman (“Moulin Rouge”, “The Others”, “Eyes Wide Shut”, “The Hours”), Rooney Mara (“The Social Network”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “Side Effects”), David Wenham (“300”, “The Lord of the Rings” films, “Van Helsing”), Divian Ladwa (“Dectorists”, “8 Minutes Idle”, “Saxon”), Priyanka Bose (“Johnny Gaddaar”, “Gulaab Gang”, “Guzaarish”), Abhishek Bharate and Sunny Pawar.

The $12 million film would go on to earn $130.2 million worldwide and receiving positive reviews from critics worldwide.  The film would receive six Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards and received five nominations at the 70th British Academy Film Awards.

The film begins in 1986 and is set in Khandwa, India.   The film introduces us to a young Saroo (portrayed by Sunny Pawar), a five-year-old boy who wants to prove to his older brother Guddu (portrayed by Abhishek Bharate) that he can work and provide for their poor family.  His mother Kamla is busy raising the two boys and their young sister and works at a job hauling rocks.

One day, Guddu is planning to do some salvaging at a nearby train station and Saroo begs for his older brother to take him along.  Guddu allows him and when they arrive to the station late at night, Saroo is too sleepy.  So, Guddu tells his little brother to sleep on the bench, while he goes out to salvage.

When Saroo wakes up, he realizes that Guddu is not around and starts looking for him.  He ends up going inside a train to look for his brother but is unable to find him.  He goes back to sleep but this time inside the train.  Too his surprise, when he wakes up, he finds out that he is locked in the train and the train is in motion.

Unfortunately, Saroo is unable to leave and for several days, the train takes him thousands of miles to Calcutta.  When the doors open, unfortunately Saroo is unable to communicate because he speaks Hindu, while the locals speak Bengali.  When he tries to tell the ticket counter that he needs to go back home to “Ginestlay”, no one understands.

Saroo is forced to sleep overnight in the streets but starts to learn of the dangers as many of the homeless children sleeping in the streets are kidnapped by child predators late at night.  Saroo manages to escape and live in the streets, homeless and one day he finds a spoon buried in the dirt.  As he goes into the city, he watches a young man eating soup with a spoon and starts to emulate him.

The young man takes Saroo to the police and they try to help him and hope by publishing his photo in a major newspaper that reaches all over India, his family may come to claim him.  But not knowing where Saroo comes from, they put him up in an orphanage.

Eventually an Australian couple, Sue (portrayed by Nicole Kidman) and John Brierly (portrayed by David Wenham) are interested in adopting an Indian boy and moves Saroo from India to Hobart, Tasmania in 1987.  And they raise Saroo with a lot of love and he eventually comes to love his new parents.

A year later, they adopt another boy named Mantosh, a boy who has a mental problem and tends to harm himself which puts a little strain on the Brierly’s.

Fastforward 20-years later and Saroo (portrayed by Dev Patel) is moving to Melbourne to study hotel management.  He has a relationship with fellow student, Lucy (portrayed by Rooney Mara) and when they go to a party with other fellow Indian students, many are interested in how Saroo came to Australia and learn of how he was lost and was later adopted.

This triggers memories of Saroo’s mom and brother and the thought of them looking for their son haunts Saroo.  He starts to use Google Earth and using information on the Internet to find where he may come from.  All he knows is the two towers that he saw at a station, a field where his mother collected rocks and he becomes obsessed of finding where he came from and reuniting with his family.

But will Saroo ever find his biological family?


VIDEO:

“Lion” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  The film features wonderful detail during closeup scenes and outdoor scenes.  I didn’t notice any problems with artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Lion” is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is primarily dialogue, music and ambiance-driven.  The surround channels do a good job of showcasing the train sounds through the surround channels, but for the most part, the film is dialogue and music-driven and focused on the front and center channels.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Lion” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (4:36) Featuring three deleted scenes.
  • Behind the Scenes Gallery – (22:16) Features “A Conversation with Saroo Brierly”, “A Conversation with Dev Patel”, “A Conversation with Nicole Kidman”, “A Conversation with Director Garth Davis” and “Making the Music”.
  • “Never Give Up” Music Video – Performed by Sia – (3:44)

EXTRAS:

“Lion” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


As a father, I can’t fathom the heartbreak of living life wondering if your child is alive or dead.  As a child, separated from his biological family, one can only wonder the pain they experience and wondering if their family is looking for them.

Based on a true story about Saroo Brierly’s quest to find where he lived using modern technology and in hopes being reunited with his family.  And hopefully accomplish this as the sight of his family searching for him or in pain of not knowing what had become of him, haunts him to the point that he is unable to stay in school or have any personal relationships.

He is clearly devastated, depressed but also determined.  But he just needs a break because his search for his family is difficult because all he remembers are just a few things, such as a two towers near a station, helping his mother collect rocks in a big dirt field and how many days he was stuck on a train.

While his adoptive parents are supportive and love him wholeheartedly, he doesn’t get along with his brother Mantosh all that much (because of his mental issues and self-harming affects his parents, especially his mother) and his relationship with Lucy is troubled because of his obsession of finding his biological family.

The film is driven in two parts.  The first part with a younger Saroo (portrayed by Sunny Pawar) and seeing this young-child survive in India, without speaking the native language of Bengali in Calcutta but also seeing the dangers of child predators.  And seeing how this young boy was able to go from homeless in the streets to being adopted by a very good family in Australia.

The second part features an older Saroo who has no clue about his past life and unlike other Indians who can identify with their culture, Saroo never knew of his Indian culture but as he is asked about it frequently and going to a party with other Indian classmates, his memories of his past start to come back and he finds himself more determined to finding where he came from and driven to be reunited with his mom and family.

While the first part is no doubt powerful, as we see a child of innocence becoming a boy surviving in the streets, the second part is about the search and that is where the film focuses on Saroo’s well-being and the thoughts of his mom and brother searching for him, starting to take over his life.  And because of this, affecting his relationships to the people most close to him.

The film is no doubt powerful, inspirational and moving.  Because you know it’s a true story, you can’t help but root for young and adult Saroo.  But be marveled by the journey that Saroo had to endure as a young child but also as an adult, using today’s modern technology to help him find his biological family and wondering if they are alive or if they still live in the same area or have moved away.

The Blu-ray features wonderful picture and lossless audio.  There are also a few special features included with the real-life Saroo, the talent, the director and how the music was conceived for the film.

Needless to say, “Lion” is deserving for each of its award nominations, critical praise internationally and it’s a film that many people will no doubt find extraordinary and worth watching on Blu-ray.

“Lion” is recommended!

 

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I do recognize the pure awesomeness of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and its ending still makes an impact each time I watch it. And as mentioned earlier, for a sci-fi action-film, when you come across a film that makes you want to watch it multiple times, you know it’s a winner. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 133 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: PG-13 (For Extended Sequences of Sci-Violence and Action)

RELEASE DATE: April 4, 2017


Based on Characters Created by George Lucas

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy

Story by John Kroll & Gary Whitta

Produced by Simon Emanuel, Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur

Co-Producer: Kiri Hart, John Swartz, Susan Towner

Executive Producer: John Knoll, Jason D. McGatlin

Associate Producer: Toby Hefferman

Music by Michael Giacchino

Cinematography by Greig Fraser

Edited by John Gilroy, Colin Goudie, Jabez Olssen

Casting by Jina Jay

Production Design by Doug Chiang, Neil Lamont

Art Direction by Alex Baily, Alastair Bullock, Robert Cowper, Jordana Finkel, Lydia Fry, Ashley Lamont, Steven Lawrence, Oliver Roberts, Stuart Rose, Stephen Swain, Gary Tomkins, Helen Xenopoulos

Set Decoration by Lee Sandales

Costume Design by David Crossman, Glyn Dillon


Starring:

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso

Diego Luna as Cassian Andor

Alan Tudyk as K-2SO

Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe

Wen Jiang as Baze Malbus

Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic

Guy Henry as Governor Tarkin

Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera

Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook

Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso

Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa

Alistair Petrie as General Draven

Genevieve O’Reilly as Mon Mothma

Ben Daniels as General Merrick

Paul Kasey as Admiral Raddus

Stephen Stanton as Admiral Raddus (Voice)

Ian McElhinney as General Dodonna

Fares Fares as Senator Vaspar

Jonathan Aris as Senator Jebel

Sharaon Duncan-Brewster as Senator Pamlo

Spencer Wilding and Daniel Naprous  as Darth Vader

James Earl Jones as Darth Vader (voice)

Ingvild as Princess Leia

Anthony Daniels as C-3P0

Valene Kane as Lyra Erso


From Lucasfilm comes the first of the STAR WARS stand-alone films — ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, an epic adventure. In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the STAR WARS timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.


Ten years before the development of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, visual effects supervisor John Knoll who worked on the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy pitched the idea of standalone “Star Wars” stories.

And in 2014, it was announced that the first standalone story “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” would be directed by Gareth Edwards (“Monsters”, “Godzilla”) and a story would be written by Knoll (visual effects supervisor for “Avatar”, “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”, “Tomorrowland”) and Gary Whitta (“The Book of Eli”, “After Earth”) and a screenplay by Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”, “The Golden Compass”, “Cinderella”) and Tony Gilroy (writer of the “The Bourne” films).

The film starred Felicity Jones (“The Amazing Spider-Man”, “Inferno”, “The Theory of Everything”), Diego Luna (“Milk”, “The Terminal”, “The Book of Life”), the voice of Alan Tudyk (“I, Robot”, “Frozen”), Donnie Yen (“Ip Man” films, “Blade II”, “Hero”), Wen Jiang (“Devils on the Doorstep”, “Let the Bullets Fly”, “The Sun Also Rises”), Ben Mendelsohn (“Animal Kingdom”, “The Dark Knight Rises”), Guy Henry (“Holby City”, “V for Vendetta”, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”), Forrest Whitaker (“The Last Kingdom of Scotland”, “Platoon”, “Arrival”), Riz Ahmed (“Four Lions”, “Jason Bourne”, “Nightcrawler”) and Mads Mikkelsen (“Casino Royale”, “The Hunt”, “Doctor Strange”, “Hannibal”).

The film that was budgeted at $200 million, would become an enormous success as it would go on to earn $1.055 billion worldwide.

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in April 2017.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” begins with research scientist Galen Erso (portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen) and his wife Lyra (portrayed by Valene Kane) hiding their young daughter Jyn on the planet Lah’mu.  Not long after, Imperial weapons developer Orson Krennic (portrayed by Orson Krennic) arrives and approaches Erso to complete his work for the Death Star (a space station that has a superweapon to destroy planets).

Sensing that their daughter did not hide underground as told, Lyra fights against the stormtrooper and is killed.  As Erso gives himself up, Jyn manages to escape and is taken in by Rebel extremist Saw Gerrera (portrayed by Forest Whitaker).

Fastfoward 15-years later and cargo pilot Bodhi Rook (portrayed by Riz Ahmed) defects from the empire and smuggles a holographic message from Galen Erso for Saw Gerrera on the desert moon Jedha about the Imperial Army creating a planet killer, the Death Star.

Meanwhile, rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor enters an Imperial labor camp at Wobani and along with his reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO frees Jyn (portrayed by Felicity Jones).  Cassian takes Jyn to Rebel leader Mon Mothma, and in exchange for her freedom, she must rescue Galen so the Alliance can learn about the Death Star.

But in order to find her father, he must find Rebel extremist, Saw Gerrera, who she hasn’t seen for years to help her.

But Jyn is unaware that Cassian has been ordered by General Draven to kill her father father, not rescue him.

What happens when Jyn, Cassian and K-2SO go out to find Saw but also for Jyn to find her father, Galen?  And who else will join Jyn in her journey to find her father?


VIDEO:

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).

The film looks absolutely wonderful in HD with closeups showing detail of skin pigments to seeing the detail in clothing. Outdoor scenes are vibrant and the CG utilized for the film is incredible. This is reference quality video and the film on Blu-ray looks fantastic!

For the most part, I didn’t notice any problematic issues with banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  Also, included is an English 2.0 Description Audio and a French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Dialogue is crystal clear and there is good use of surround channels as chase scenes and shots and explosions can be heard all around.    Action sequences are just fantastic to listen to, dialogue and music are crystal clear and yes, like the video, the film on Blu-ray features reference lossless audio.  Fantastic!

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” comes with the following special features on a separate Blu-ray disc.

  • The Stories – (1:08:57) Featuring  the following featurettes: A Rogue Idea, Jyn: The Rebel, Cassian: The Spy, K-250: The Droid, Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills, Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & The Revolutionary, The Empire, Visions of Hope: The Look of Rogue One, The Princess & the Governor, Epilogue: The Story Continues
  • Rogue Connections – (4:30) A connection between “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and the previous “Star Wars” films.

EXTRAS:

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” comes with a slipcover, two Blu-rays (for the film and special features), a DVD and a Digital HD code.


If you love “Star Wars”, especially the original trilogy, you will most definitely want to watch “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” which serves as a self-contained storyline that eventually leads to the beginning of “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”.

As a “Star Wars” fan, a person who has watched every film when it first came out in the theater and also a fan who has a large “Star Wars” merchandise collection.  Suffice to say, I wasn’t sure what to expect of this film.

Fortunately, watching “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” and having enjoyed it immensely, gave me enough encouragement to know that LucasFilms now owned by Disney is taking every precaution to make sure that these newer films tie-in to the original and that there is true meaning and reasoning for these films to be created, other than for the fact that “Star Wars” films generate huge revenue.

With “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, the connection is quite upfront.  We know about the Death Star from “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” and how the Empire created a planet killer that happens to have a significant flaw.  How did this flaw come to existence and how was the information passed on to the Rebel Alliance?

The film introduces us to Galen Erso, the scientist responsible for creating the Death Star.  Forced to work for the Empire in order to keep his daughter Jyn safe, a cargo pilot named Bhodi Rook defects from the Empire and smuggles a holographic message from Galen to Rebel extremist Saw Gerrera.

Meanwhile, Jyn has lived a life of crime but has been given a second chance by the Rebel Alliance for her freedom, she must find Saw Gerrera (portrayed by Forest Whitaker) in order to get more information about this flaw in the Death Star that the Rebel Alliance can take advantage of the opportunity and destroy it.

Actress Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, the headstrong, rebellious daughter of Galen Erso, while Mexican actor Diego Luna plays the role of Cassian Andor, who must accompany Jyn in finding Saw Gerrera but also hoping she can lead him to Galen Erso.

The two are joined by K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial robot who serves as the film’s comedy droid thanks to his blunt observations.

Joining Jyn are Chirrut Imwe portrayed by Chinese martial arts superstar Donnie Yen and also another popular Chinese actor Wen Jiang as the heavy weapon toting Baze Malbus.

And of course, there are connections to both Star Wars trilogies.  While Peter Cushing who played General Tarkin in the original “Star Wars” trilogy passed away in 1994, with new technology, General Tarkin’s likeness has been created, while British actor Guy Henry supplies Tarkin’s voice.  And Anthony Daniels reprises his role as the voice of C-3PO.

For the newer trilogy, Genevieve O’Reilly who played Mon Mothma in “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”, reprises her role for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and Jimmy Smits (who started in “Star Wars: Episode II” and “Star Wars: Episode III”) reprises his role as Senator Bail Organa.

And of course, if you watched “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”, you know which major characters from that film’s beginning, will show up in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” to provide a connection between the two films.

What makes this film so entertaining is that this newfound team that Jyn is a part of, are opposites but know that the threat from the Empire is real and must do all they can to find the information on how to destroy the Death Star and get it to the Rebel Alliance.

I found the story to be captivating, the acting quite solid, the visual effects, set production and costume design to be magnificent and for a self-contained story, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” was wonderful.  In fact, when I watched in the theater, there was a part of me that wanted to watch it again.  And now that I’m reviewing the film on Blu-ray, I think I’ve watched it five times already.  That’s how much I really enjoyed this film.

The picture quality and lossless audio soundtrack are both reference quality and you get numerous special features that will surely entertain fans of the film.

But I’m not going to give it a perfect five stars because clearly, they held out on making this Blu-ray release quite definitive.  There are no special features, audio commentary or the long special features that we have come to enjoy from a “Star Wars” film.  While there will be a Blu-ray 3D release (that will be released the same time as the normal Blu-ray and DVD release), you can’t help but feel that there will be another release that will feature more and longer special features in the future.

And for audiophiles and videophiles, many await news of a 4K Ultra HD release of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”.

But still, I do recognize the pure awesomeness of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and its ending still makes an impact each time I watch it.  And as mentioned earlier, for a sci-fi action-film, when you come across a film that makes you want to watch it multiple times, you know it’s a winner.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is highly recommended!

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