Top

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

paulblart2-a

For those wanting to escape the seriousness of life and are in the mood for crazy, moronic comedy featuring America’s famous mall cop, Paul Blart, then you’ll be in for a treat with “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2″.

Images courtesy of © 2015 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 94 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG/Some Violence

Release Date: July 14, 2015


Directed by Andy Fickman

Written by Kevin James, Nick Bakay

Produced by Todd Garner, Jack Giarraputo, Kevin James, Adam Sandler

Executive Producer: Marty P. Ewing, Jeff Sussman, Ben Waisbren

Music by Rupert Gregson-Williams

Cinematography by Dean Semler

Edited by Scott Hill

Casting by Marcia Ross

Production Design by Perry Andelin Blake

Art Direction by Alan Au

Set Decoration by Karen O’Hara

Costume Design by Genevieve Tyrrell


Starring:

Kevin James as Paul Blart

Raini Rodriguez as Maya

Eduardo Verastegui as Eduardo Furtillo

Daniella Alonso as Divina

Neal McDonough as Vincent

David Henrie as Lane

D.B. Woodside as Robinson

Nicholas Turturro as Nick Manero

Lonio Love as Donna Ericone

Gary Valentine as Saul Gundermutt

Ana Gasteyer as Mrs. Gundermutt

Shelly Desai as Khan Mubi

Steffiana De La Cruz as Kira

Adhir Kalyan as Pahud

Bob Clendenin as Muhrtelle

Shirley Knight as Blart’s Mother

Vic Dibitetto as Gino Chizetti


After six years of keeping our malls safe, Paul Blart (Kevin James) has earned a well-deserved vacation. He heads to Vegas with his teenage daughter before she heads off to college. But safety never takes a holiday, and when duty calls, Blart answers.


paulblart2-b

While the 2009 action-comedy “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” didn’t garner the best reviews from film critics, the $26 million film would go on to make over $183 million worldwide.

A box office success, the film would ensure itself a sequel and sure enough, in 2015, filmmaker Andy Fickman (“She’s the Man”, “You Again”, “The Game Plan”) and actor/writer Kevin James (“The King of Queens”, “Hitch”, “Here Comes the Boom”) and co-writer Nick Bakay (“The King of Queens”, “Zookeeper”) would return with “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2″.

And like the first film, received negative reviews but yet made over a $100 million worldwide.

And now “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2″ will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in July 2015.

With the sequel, we learn immediately that Paul Blart (portrayed by Kevin James) has suffered a lot of bad luck.

His wife Amy divorced him six days into the marriage, his mother Margaret was struck and killed by a milk truck and now, he must deal with his daughter Maya (portrayed by Raini Rodriguez) getting ready to leave home and focus on college, not knowing that she was accepted to UCLA, on the other side of the country.

But fortunately, for Paul, he is invited to a security officer’s convention in Las Vegas and hopes that this will change his luck.  Bringing his daughter along, the two have fun at the Wynn hotel and Paul thinks he is a keynote speaker at the event.  But as the vacation is expected to be for R&R, Paul can’t stop being overprotective towards his daughter and not wanting her to speak to other guys at the hotel.

But unbeknown to Paul, Vincent Sofel (portrayed by Neal McDonough) and his accomplices disguised as hotel employees, are planning to steal priceless artwork from the hotel and replace them with replicas.  But when Maya walks into their hotel room and sees the men stealing the art, she is kidnapped.

Can Paul save his daughter?


paulblart2-c

VIDEO:

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks absolutely gorgeous in HD as colors are vibrant during outdoor and also indoor scenes, closeups show great detail, black levels are deep but most importantly, the colors and the detail stand out.  But this film, shot digitally, looks amazing on HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2″ is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French, Spanish, Thai, English, French – Audio Description Track 5.1.  Dialogue and music features wonderful lossless audio as dialogue is crystal clear, music often showcases great bass.  As for the surround channels, we get to see those channels utilized during the action sequences.  May it be the action special effects, the sound of a zip line and helicopter to a specialized gun and more.  While not super-immersive, the soundtrack sounds very good!

Subtitle is presented in English, English SDH, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2″ comes with the following special features:

  • Gag Reel – (7:41) A fun blooper reel and Kevin James having fun on set.
  • Security Force: The Cast of Paul Blart 2 – (4:55) The cast discuss working on “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2″.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring six deleted scenes not included in the film.
  • Action Adventure – (5:57) A featurette about the action-sequences in the film.
  • Back in the Saddle – (1:58) A featurette about using segways in the sequel.
  • How to Make a Movie – (4:12) Director Andy Fickman discussing how to make a film and those involved in making the film.
  • Le Reve – (4:49) How the Las Vegas show “Le Reve” was incorporated into the film.
  • No Animals Were Harmed – (2:15) A featurette featuring the bird fight sequence.
  • Sales Tactics – (3:27) A featurette or more of a gag reel featuring Richie Minervini.
  • Real Cops – (1:16) Police officers discuss their feelings about Paul Blart.
  • Photo Gallery – View the various stills shot from the film.

EXTRAS:

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2″ comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.  Also, included is an UltraViolet code.


paulblart2-d

It’s often the norm that film critics most often give not the best reviews for Happy Madison-related films.

And the same can be said about “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2″, a film that continues the adventures of overweight security guard, Paul Blart.  A man with bad-luck on his side, often an over-protective father and throw-in a lot of miscommunication and that is the life of Blart.

This time, we see Paul and his daughter Marni in Las Vegas and as one can expect, hilarity ensues and the story is farfetched, the characters are funny or moronic and you no doubt get a good number of wild and crazy scenes.

But it all comes down to ones view of Happy Madison comedy.  As often is the case, if you are wanting to escape from reality and want something that is far from real, crazy, stupid/hilarious, then you can always depend on these films to be a perfect escape and the misfortune of Paul Blart, the famous mall cop will no doubt bring you many laughs.

From Paul Blart trying to climb the reception area and having difficulty, to showing off on a segway near incoming parking traffic, or rebuffing general manager Divina Martinez and thinking that she’s infatuated with him and the fact that he thinks she has the hots for him, and seeing her getting worked up by it.

Of course, there are a lot more crazy moments and the action scenes are hilarious, yes…stupid, but you expect those kind of things to happen in a Kevin James film.  May it be a “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” or “Zookeeper” related film, you know already, what kind of film you are going to get.  It’s just subjective to the viewer if you can accept moronic humor.

So, it’s interesting to see an art heist taking place at the same hotel of a security guard convention and the crazy things that ensues.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality for the Blu-ray release is fantastic.  Colors are vibrant, detail is fantastic and the lossless soundtrack is good, not very immersive as I would have liked, but is good.  And you also get a good number of special features included in the Blu-ray + DVD release.

Overall, for those wanting to escape the seriousness of life and are in the mood for crazy, moronic comedy featuring America’s famous mall cop, Paul Blart, then you’ll be in for a treat with “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2″.  Otherwise, if you are wanting something intellectually stimulating and a plot so deep, then obviously this film is not for you!

The Salt of the Earth (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

thesaltoftheearth

If you are a fan or a person who respects the work of Sebastião Salgado, “The Salt of the Earth” is highly recommended.  Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado has done a wonderful job in compiling this film but most of all giving us a wonderful look into the life and the mind of one of the world’s most important photographers.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Decla Films and Amazones Images. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Salt of the Earth

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 85 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), English/Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: July 14, 2015


Directed by Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders

Written by Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, David Rosier

Produced by David Rosier

Executive Producer: Wim Wenders

Co-Producer: Andrea Gambetta, Lelia Wanick Salgado

Music by Laurent Petitgand

Cinematography by Hugo Barbier, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado

Edited by Maxine Goedicke, Rob Myers


Starring:

Sebastiao Salgado as Himself/Photographer

Wim Wenders as Himself/Narrator

Juliano Ribeiro Salgado as Himself/Narrator

Hugo Barbier

Jacques Barthelemy

Lelia Wanick Salgado


For the last 40 years, the photographer Sebastiao Salgado has been traveling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity. He had witnessed some of the major events of our recent history: international conflicts, starvation and exodus. He is now embarking on the discovery of pristine territories, of wild fauna and flora, and of grandiose landscapes as part of a huge photographic project which is a tribute to the planet’s beauty.


Sebastião Salgado, the photojournalist and social documentary photographer who is well-known worldwide for his photography.

Featured in exhibits all over the world, gallery director Hal Gould has called Salgado as “the most important photographer of the early 21st century”.

From his most famous pictures taken at the Serra Pelada gold mine in Brazil to various tribes and landscapes and wildlife, filmmaker Wim Wenders (“Wings of Desire”, “Buena Vista Social Club”, “Pina”) and Salgado’s son, Juliano Ribiero Salgado has celebrated the work of Sebastião through their 2014 documentary titled “The Salt of the Earth”.

The documentary would win a special award at the Cannes Film Festival.

And now “The Salt of the Earth” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics in July 2015.

Discover the 40 years of Sebastião Salgado, his thoughts of his famous work capturing humanity and also nature, but his thoughts when he sees the photos and his memories of when he took those shots.

All this and more in Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado’s “The Salt of the Earth”.


VIDEO:

“The Salt of the Earth” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks absolutely gorgeous in HD as colors are vibrant during outdoor scenes, closeups show great detail, black levels are deep but most importantly, the colors and the detail stand out.  It’s important to note that the documentary showcases photography but the photos look great in HD.

I didn’t notice any artifacts or any problems with picture quality, “The Salt of the Earth” looks great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Salt of the Earth” is presented in English/Portuguese (note: The back of the package shows as English but I am assuming the other language mostly spoken throughout the film is in Portuguese) 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is primarily dialogue driven as we have narration by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, interviews with Sebastiao Salgado and more.  Dialogue is crystal clear and some outdoor scenes that showcase the ambiance of the environments  presented.

Subtitles are in English and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Salt of the Earth” comes with the following special features:

  • Filmmaker’s Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado.
  • Looking Back with Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado – (11:33) The directors discuss their experiences of making “The Salt of the Earth”.
  • Deleted Scenes – (10:02) Feature ten deleted scenes of more footage not included in the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “The Salt of the Earth”.

EXTRAS:

“The Salt of the Earth” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


Sebastião Salgado is a photographer that is passionate about photography and capturing humanity and life.

With an eye for what he wants to capture, for many who has traveled throughout the world, looking at his magnificent photography, you realize how he has covered so much of humanity and its landscapes but also has captured the good and bad, the light and dark, the hope and greed of what exists.  Like art, his photos has a story and for those fortunate to visit a gallery featuring his work know some background of his most famous works.

But with “The Salt of the Earth”, Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado gives us a better idea of what went on behind the camera for the elder Salgado and his present thoughts behind them but also his feelings of what photographing humanity and landscapes has taught him.

And this is what Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado has done amazingly well, by showing us how Sebastião takes his photos and his process by accompanying the world renown photographer through various countries, getting to know the man behind the camera but also knowing more about his past work.

The film shows gives us insight to Sebastião Salgado’s work such as how he became a photographer, traveling with his wife to various locations but also giving us insight to his famous photographs such as his photos from Serra Pelada gold mine in Brazil.

We also watch Sebastião photographing tribes, while Wenders and the young Salgado film from afar and seeing how Sebastião works with his subjects.

But you can see at a young age, how he was interested in photographing the poor, photos of those who were stricken by famine, people forced out of their homes, refugees traveling miles to find safety, people killed by unfortunate circumstances and discovering the greed of humanity and the tragedy, violence and brutality he caught on camera.

And while the film focuses a lot on Sebastião’s past, you also get to see his work in the present time and to see how his mission, his work, has not wavered as he is still passionate of capturing humanity and nature behind the lens.

But as the film is very much a tribute to the work of Sebastião Salgado, the film is also of family bonding or more of discovery as Juliano Ribeiro co-directs this film as a way of discovering his father, the photographer and adventurer for the very first time.

As for the Blu-ray, the documentary goes back and forth with showcasing photography from various decades and video footage from the present.   The sharpness and detail of the photography in the film is well-done.  Sebastião Salgado’s photography looks absolutely magnificent.  The lossless soundtrack features clear dialogue with music and also English subtitles that are easy to read.

Special features including a filmmaker’s commentary, deleted scenes with more footage not included in the film and also Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado looking back at working on the film.

It’s important to note that for those wanting to watch the film with children, be aware that because Sebastião Salgado goes deep into the Amazon to feature a tribe, the men, women and children in the tribe are completely nude.

Overall, if you are a fan or a person who respects the work of Sebastião Salgado, “The Salt of the Earth” is highly recommended.  Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado has done a wonderful job in compiling this film but most of all giving us a wonderful look into the life and the mind of one of the world’s most important photographers.

 

My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479 (as part of “André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films”) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 18, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

mydinner-a

“My Dinner with Andre” is unique and intelligent but it’s the type of film that is not meant for the masses, primarily because most people will have a hard time relating to the discussion or it’s too long of a discussion that they may not care for or find hard to follow. If anything, sit and watch and be like the third person as you watch this fascinating discussion between both men. “My Dinner with Andre” is recommended!

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


TITLE: My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479 (as part of “André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films”)

YEAR OF FILM: 1981

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:66:1 aspect ratio, English Monaural LPCM 1.0, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2015


Directed by Louis Malle

Written by Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn

Produced by George W. George, Beverly Karp

 Associate Producer: Dave Franke, Keith W. Rouse

Music by Allen Shawn

Cinematography by Jeri Sopanen

Edited by Suzanne Baron

Production Design by David Mitchell

Art Direction by Stephen McCabe

Set Decoration by Doug Kraner

Costume Design by Jeff Ullman


Starring:

Wallace Shawn as Wally Shawn

Andre Gregory as Andre Gregory

Jean Lenauer as the Waiter

Roy Butler as the Bartender


In this captivating and philosophical film directed by Louis Malle (Au revoir les enfants), actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride) sits down with his friend the theater director André Gregory (Vanya on 42nd Street) at a restaurant on New York’s Upper West Side, and the pair proceed through an alternately whimsical and despairing confessional about love, death, money, and all the superstition in between. Playing variations on their own New York–honed personas, Shawn and Gregory, who also cowrote the screenplay, dive in with introspective intellectual gusto, and Malle captures it all with a delicate, artful detachment. A fascinating freeze-frame of cosmopolitan culture, My Dinner with André remains a unique work in cinema history.

mydinner-b

French filmmaker Louis Malle will be known for directing masterful works such as “Elevator to the Gallows”, “Lacombe, Lucien”, “Au Revoir Les Enfants”, “The Lovers”, “Zazie dans le metro” to name a few.  But there was one film that he directed that would become one of the critical acclaimed films of 1982.

That film is titled “My Dinner with Andre”, a film was originally written by actors Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn who wanted to create a film about two people having a conversation.

And as the two were looking for a director, French filmmaker Louis Malle who had read a copy of the screenplay offered to direct, produce and work on the film.    And sure enough the two writers/actors would eventually work with the legendary Malle and shot in two weeks at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia.

The film was ranked as “Best American Film” of 1982 by the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards and both Gregory and Shawn won a prize for “Best Screenplay”.  But the biggest supporters that helped the film for popularity were film critics, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.  Ebert would name “My Dinner with Andrew” as “best film of the year” and would include it in his “Great Movies” essay series.

While the film was released by the Criterion Collection several years ago, on June 2015, as part of the “André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films” Blu-ray box set release, “My Dinner with Andre” will receive its first HD release on Blu-ray.

“My Dinner with Andre” revolves around a playwright named Wallace Shawn (portrayed by Wallace Shawn) who has not been able to find work, so his girlfriend is currently taking care of the both of them.

He receives an invitation to dinner at Cafe des Artistes from Andre Gregory (portrayed by Andre Gregory) who was an actor, theatre director and heavily involved in the theater until one day, he left it in the mid-70s and Wallace has not seen or heard of him until recently.

As the two discuss the theatre, Wallace wants to get into a discussion of why Andre would leave all that he has worked hard for, while Andre explains the spiritual awakening he received from traveling to different countries as an actor and the change in his life after being buried alive on Halloween night.

But as the discussion delves into Andre discussing with Wallace of how people should live their life a certain way, Wallace tries to counter Andre that not everyone can do what he did.  But both have their own different perspectives about life.

How will Shawn’s experience go as he has dinner with Andre?


mydinner-d

VIDEO:

“My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio).  The film features a good amount of grain and because it was shot with a low budget ala 16mm, the grain is expected.  Colors look good considering it’s an early ’80s film without the over-use of DNR and there are no scratches or any problematic issues with the film.  No discoloration or artifacts at all.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original 16 mm A/B negative.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using DaVinci’s Revival, MTi’s DRS, and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Vision’s DVNR was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479″ is presented in English LPCM 1.0 monaural. Dialogue is clear with no sign of hiss or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original 16 mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX4.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479″ comes with the following special features:

  • Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn – (1:00:35) 2009 interviews with filmmaker Noah Baumbach with writers-actors Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn about their experiences making “My Dinner with Andre”.
  • “My Dinner with Louis” – (52:08) An excerpt from a 1982 episode of the BBC series “Arena”, writer-actor Wallace Shawn meets with director Louis Malle in Atlantic City to talk about the filmmaker’s “artistic quest”, from his  days at sea with Jacques Cousteau to his adventures making American movies.

EXTRAS:

“My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479″ comes with a 28-page booklet which includes the essay “Long, Strange Trips” by Amy Taubin and “On the Origins of My Dinner with Andre” by Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn.


mydinner-c

Back when I was watching Eric Rohmer films heavily and praised his films especially for his film “My Night at Maud’s” for its use of intellectual conversations, a friend recommended to me a film by Louis Malle titled “My Dinner with Andre”.

Louis Malle (“Au Revoir Les Enfants”, “Elevator to the Gallows”, “Atlantic City”, “Lacombe, Lucien”) who wanted to direct this film after reading the script, was interested in taking the screenplay written by writer/actors Andre Gregory (“The Last Temptation of Christ”, “Demolition Man”) and Wallace Shawn (“The Princess Bride”, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, “Crossing Jordan”) and making it into a film.

As Rohmer’s “My Night at Maud’s” has a long stretch of conversation throughout the film, “My Dinner with Andre” is a film primarily about the discussion between two friends.

The fact that a film about a discussion between two men was even made and many people would go to the theaters after the film was championed by film critics such as Siskel & Ebert, would no doubt be a unique moment in American cinema.

I found “My Dinner with Andre” to be a fascinating film but one that required multiple viewings because it’s a long discussion which doesn’t allow you to settle down and get ready for a new scene, because the discussions are continuing, flowing in a smooth path but without many scene transformation to a next day, a new location aside from the first and last minutes of the film .  It’s literally two men sitting down and having an intellectual conversation, but also a debate of two viewpoints.

And in many ways, it’s a common theme between one who has had worldy experiences and one who has not and is still restricted within a paradigm of banality.

Wallace Shawn is a man who works in a career that he loves, but he doesn’t make much money as his scripts are turned down and he chose to work in the theater and has dedicated his life to it, despite no success or any new cashflow, thus his girlfriend is the breadwinner.

And as Wallace  tries to understand why Andre would leave the theater, the answer is not cut and dry, nor simple or farfetched.  Andre is a man who has had a significant lifechanging moment and while those who never had experienced what he has, may not understand him, Wallace at least listens and is able to touch upon areas that can lead to debate.  While viewers who gets the film, will probably have a big smile as I have, because the discussion is quite intriguing.

As for the Blu-ray release, the 16mm film does showcase a lot of grain which one can expect (as the film was shot with a low budget).  But still, considering the film’s age, picture quality is good with no sign of scratches or any discoloration.  Lossless audio is crystal clear and for the most part, I see certain detail which looks much better than the Criterion Collection DVD I purchased a few years ago.  Watching this film on Blu-ray has much better colors and clarity.

As for special features, you get a fascinating interview with both Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, plus an older interview between Wallace Shawn and filmmaker Louis Malle.

With that being said, “My Dinner with Andre” is unique and intelligent but it’s the type of film that is not meant for the masses, primarily because most people will have a hard time relating to the discussion or it’s too long of a discussion that they may not care for or find hard to follow.  If anything, sit and watch and be like the third person as you watch this fascinating discussion between both men.

“My Dinner with Andre” is recommended!

 

 

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

June 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

wildtales-a

 Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales” is a magnificent anthology film that revolves around revenge.  Well-acted, well-shot but also wonderfully directed!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Wild Tales

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 85 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 Aspect Ratio), Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG (For Thematic Material and Language)

Release Date: June 16, 2015


Directed by Damian Szifron

Written by Damian Sziron

Produced by Agustin Almodovar, Pedro Almodovar, Matias Mosteirin, Hugo Sigman

Executive Producer: Leticia Cristi, Pola Zito

Co-Producer: Axel Kuschevatzky

Music by Gustavo Santaolalla

Cinematography by Javier Julia

Edited by Pablo Barbieri Carrera, Damian Szifron

Casting by Javier Braier

Production Design by Maria Clara Notari

Costume Design by Ruth Fischerman


Starring:

Dario Grandinetti as Salgado

Maria Marull as Isabel

Monica Villa as Profesora Leguizamon

Rita Cortese as Cocinera

Julieta Zylberberg as Moza

Cesar Bordon as Cuenca

Leonardo Sbaraglia as Diego

Walter Donado as Mario

Ricardo Darin as Simon

Nancy Duplaa as Victoria

Oscar Martinez as Mauricio

Maria Onetto as Helena


WILD TALES is a fresco of rage, fury, deception, and revenge. Made up of six stories, it is an entertaining and jaw-dropping film about people crossing the line into madness when faced with perceived injustice. A lover’s betrayal, a return to the repressed past, and the violence woven into everyday encounters drive the characters to lose control and cross the line that divides civilization and barbarism.


wildtales-c

From the wild mind of filmmaker Damian Szifron (“On Probation”, “Bottom of the Sea”) comes the 2014 Argentine-Spanish black comedy film “Wild Tales”.

Produced by Agustin and Pedro Almodovar, “Wild Tales” stars an ensemble cast which includes Dario Grandinetti (“Talk to Her”, “The Dark Side of the Heart”), Maria Marull (“Bottom of the Sea”, “Antes del estreno”), Leonardo Sbaraglia (“Intacto”, “Burnt Money”), Ricardo Darin (“The Secret in their Eyes”, “Son of the Bride”), Rita Cortese (“Brother and Sister”, “Inheritance”), Monica Vila (“The Holy Girl”, “Waiting for the Hearse”), Julieta Zylberberg (“The Invisble Eye”, “Farsantes”), Oscar Martinez (“Don’t Die Without Telling Me Where You Are Going”, “Empty Nest”) and many more.

Most recently, “Wild Tales” received an Academy Award nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 87th Academy Awards.

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in June 2015, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The film is an anthology-type film which is composed of six standalone shorts about revenge.

The first short is titled “Pasternak” which begins with two passengers who meet on a plane and discover they know a man named Pasternak and others on the plane start to listen on the conversation and realize, they all know Pasternak.  But why are they all on the plane”?

The second short is titled “The Rats” and a loan shark stops at a small restaurant in the lonely highway.  His waitress recognizes the man that took her family’s money away, which caused his father to kill himself and he also sexually assaulted her mother, who escaped to the small town to get away from the man.  Scared of the man, the cook who is not afraid of him, offers to put rat poison in his food.  But the waitress doesn’t want to go to prison, but without the waitress’ knowledge, the cook went ahead and put poison in the food.  Will the waitress get her revenge or will her conscious get the best of her?

The third short is titled “The Strongest” and shows a man named Diego in his luxury car trying to overpass a slower, older car that blocks him on the road.  As Diego passes the other driver named Mario, he insults him and then speeds off.  That is until Diego’s car has a flat tire on the road, suddenly Mario, who drove the older car decides to stop his car right in front of him.

The fourth short is titled “Little Bomb” and revolves around a demolitions expert named Simon Fischer.  One day, while picking up a birthday cake for his daughter, his car is towed away.  He tries to argue that there are no yellow lines and that his car is unfairly towed away and tries to argue with them, but not achieving any success.  He is told to come back to discuss his dispute and when he does and doesn’t get the refund that he is seeking, he goes ballistic and tries to attack the man behind the glass partition.  This leads to the story making it on the news and Simon losing his job and now close to losing his family.  How will Simon fight back?

The fifth short is titled “The Proposal” and revolves around a teenager who has killed pregnant woman with his car in a hit-and-run accident.  His father, the wealthy Mauricio Pereyra Hamilton hires his attorney who hatches a plan to put the blame on the groundskeeper.  The groundskeeper will agree to it for a lot of money, the lawyer wants his cut for his fee but also arranging with the prosecutor for monetary compensation as well.  But will Mauricio want to pay up?

The sixth and final short is titled “Until Death Do Us Part” and revolves around the wedding party of Romina and the groom, Ariel.  But when Romina tests a phone by calling someone up, a woman picks up and immediately, Romina finds out that her husband may have slept with another woman.  As she questions him if he did have sex with her, and admits to it.  Angered, depressed and feeling that her wedding has been destroyed, Romina decides to get her revenge at the wedding party.


VIDEO:

“Wild Tales” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). The film looks absolutely gorgeous in HD as colors are vibrant during outdoor scenes, closeups show great detail, black levels are deep but most importantly, the colors and the detail stand out.

I didn’t notice any artifacts or any noise problems, the film is just gorgeous to look at!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Wild Tales” is presented in Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film is primarily dialogue driven offering wonderful clarity of a scene’s environment and the ambiance of various locations.  Music is also crystal clear and showcase low frequency sounds of the bass.  But overall, dialogue and music is crystal clear, background sounds are well-utilized through the rear surround channels and overall, a fantastic lossless soundtrack!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Wild Tales” comes with the following special features:

  • Wild Shooting: Creating the Film – (25:00) A featurette that goes into the making of “Wild Shooting”.
  • An Evening at the Toronto Film International Film Festival with Damian Szifron  – (6:44) Featuring the Q&A with director Damian Szifron at TIFF.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Wild Tales”.

wildtales-b

Quite often with anthology films, they tend to lean more towards the romantic side and show us different interpretations of love.

But with Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales”, it’s quite the opposite as the film delves into the topic of revenge.

And without spoiling the film, I found Szifron’s take on revenge to be quite fascinating, over-the-top and fantastic!

Because of the film’s theme, we know that with every short, nothing is going to bode well for certain characters but the question is how will a character get their revenge?  Will it happen?  Does it happen?  And for the most part, you can’t help but be mesmerized with each story because Szifron manages to take you one direction that is plausible, sometimes expected but then goes off on a tangent to an unexpected territory that you can’t believe a story ended that certain way.  The film is cleverly written!

Each of the stories are wonderfully performed and the cinematography is also gorgeous.

The Blu-ray release features magnificent picture quality with vibrant colors during outdoor scenes to a consistent showcase of clarity.  I also can say positive things in regards to the lossless audio as dialogue and music are crystal clear but the environments sound wonderful through the surround channels.  And you get a few special features including a making-of and a Q&A at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Overall, Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales” is a magnificent anthology film that revolves around revenge.  Well-acted, well-shot but also wonderfully directed!  Highly recommended!

The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

thebridge-a

“The Bridge” is a wonderful post-World War II film by filmmaker Bernhard Wicki with an anti-war message that would win over audiences but also usher a new generation of New German Cinema filmmakers.  Thought provoking and recommended!

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


TITLE: The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763

YEAR OF FILM: 1959

DURATION: 103 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, B&W,  German Monaural LPCM 1.0, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: June 23, 2015


Directed by Bernhard Wicki

Based on the Novel by Manfred Gregor

Written by Michael Mansfeld, Karl-Wilhelm Vivier

Produced by Hermann Schwerin

Co-Producer: Jochnen Schwerin

Executive Producer: Hans Wolff

Cinematography by Gerd von Bonin

Edited by Carl Otto Bartning

Production Design by Heinrich Graf Bruhl, Peter Scharff

Costume Design by Josef Wanke


Starring:

Folker Bohnet as Hans Scholten

Fritz Wepper as Albert Mutz

Michael Hinz as Walter Forst

Fran Glaubrecht as Jurgen Borchert

Karl Michael Balzer as Karl Horber

Volker Lechtenbrink as Klaus Hager

Gunther Hoffman as Sigi Bernhard

Cordula Trantow as Franziska

Wolfgang Stumpf as Stern

Gunter Pfitzmann as Heilmann

Heinz Spitzner as Frohlich

Siegfriend Schurenberg as Lt. Colonel

Ruth Hausmeister as Mrs. Mutz

Eva Vaitl as Mrs. Borchert

Edith Schultze-Westrum as Mother Bernhard

Hans Elwenspoek as Mr. Forst

Trude Brietschopf as Mrs. Forst

Klaus Hellmold as Mr. Horber

Inge Benz as Sigrun


The astonishing The Bridge, by Bernhard Wicki (The Longest Day), was the first major antiwar film to come out of Germany after World War II, as well as the nation’s first postwar film to be widely shown internationally, even securing an Oscar nomination. Set near the end of the war, it follows a group of teenage boys in a small town as they contend with everyday matters like school, girls, and parents, before enlisting as soldiers and being forced to defend their home turf in a confused, terrifying battle. This expressively shot, emotionally bruising drama dared to humanize young German soldiers at a historically tender moment, and proved influential for the coming generation of New German Cinema auteurs.

thebridge-b

From Austrian filmmaker and actor Bernhard Wicki comes the anti-war 1959 West German film “Die Brucke” (The Bridge).

Based on the novel by journalist and writer Manfred Gregor, which was an autobiographical account of forced youth service in the Volkssturm (people’s army) very late during World War II.

The film would gain worldwide attention and would also lead to the popularity of Wicki and would lead him to take part as co-director in the film, “The Longest Day” (1962).

“The Bridge” would win four German Film Awards, the Golden Globe Award and National Board of Review Award for “Best Foreign Language Film”, “Best Film” award at the FIPRESCI Prize at the Mar del Plata Film Festival and would be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

And now “The Bridge” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection in June 2015.

“The Bridge” revolves around a group of teenagers who are drafted into the military.

But each teenager has their own problem and makes them want to fight in the war even more.  Karl Horber (portrayed by Karl Michael Balzer) is a boy who has a crush on his father’s young assistant, unaware that his father also fancies her; Klaus Hager (portrayed by Volker Lechtenbrink) has a very good female friend, but is oblivious to the fact that she likes him; Walter Forst (portrayed by Michael Hinz) despises his father, who is the local Nazi Party Ortsgruppenleither and sends his mother away and thinks about saving his own skin from the Americans rather than think about his family; Jurgen Borcher (portrayed by Frank Galubrecht) is a boy who wants to live up to his father’s ideals as a German officer who was killed in action and the shortest friend, Sigi Bernhard (portrayed by Gunther Hoffman) lives with his aunt, who barely has any money to take care of him.

But while each are very good friends with their own set of problems, like all young boys, they feel they can be great soldiers and fight for their country and their town.  And so, the boys are asked to defend the local bridge from the approaching Americans.


VIDEO:

“The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio) black and white. The film looks fantastic for its age. There is a good amount of grain, skintones look natural and I saw no sign of softness, discoloration or excessive DNR.  Grays and whites are well-contrast while blacks are inky and deep.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original 35 mm negative and a 35 mm duplicate negative.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for jitter, flicker, small dirt, grain and noise management.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763″ is presented in German LPCM 1.0 monaural. Dialogue is clear with no sign of hiss or crackle.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763″ comes with the following special features:

  • Gregor Dorfmeister – (22:42) A 2015 interview with author Gregor Dorfmeister discussing the real life experiences featured in his book and his thoughts on the film.
  • Bernhard Wicki – (14:36) An excerpt from a 1989 episode of the German TV show “Das Sonntagsgesprach” featuring director Bernhard Wicki discussing his film.
  • Volker Schlondorff – (9:52) Featuring a Feb. 2015 interview with filmmaker Volker Schlondorff on how “The Bridge” impacted younger Germans and his generation of filmmakers known as the New German Cinema.
  • Against the Grain: The Film Legend of Bernhard Wicki – (9:05) An excerpt from the 2007 documentary “Against the Grain: The Film Legend of Bernhard Wicki” with Wicki’s widow, Elisabeth Wicki-Endriss.

EXTRAS:

“The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763″ comes with a 6-page foldout insert with the essay “Cannon Fodder” by Terrence Rafferty, author of “The Thing Happens: Ten Years of Writing About the Movies”.


thebridge-c

Knowing that the story which inspired “The Bridge” inspired by the real life experiences of Gregor Dorfeister’s teenage life is factual, you can’t help about how unfair war was to young children.

Many who grew up with war and believing in a country’s propaganda, “The Bridge” is a fascinating story about how the children want to fight for their country, to fight for their hometown and think they have all it takes to fight the Westerners.  But in truth, children are still children and to have them fight a war in which they are losing and adults know that the chances of them coming back alive is slim.  It is jarring…but that is how war has taken from parents their dear children at a young age.

The children or young teens featured in “The Bridge” are grade school or high school kids that think being a soldier will lead to a good life.  An they quickly learn the realities of war too quickly and the results are nothing short of tragic.

For filmmaker Bernhard Wicki, the Austrian filmmaker will be known for his anti-war themed films.    Utilizing long tracking shots and storybuilding that gradually grows in tension, action and seeing young boys becoming men too quickly and how war is never fair.

While Bernhard Wicki will be known for his efforts in “The Bridge”, his grand hurrah in cinema would be his collaboration with 20th Century Fox years later for “The Longest Day”.  But one should not gloss over “The Bridge”, we have a wonderful film about a group of children, each with their own interesting personal storylines.

We have a film that tries to build sympathy among these teenagers who have their own set of problems at home, which provides them motivation to become a great soldier and together, believing they can conquer the world including the approaching Americans.

Of course, once they start fighting the war and defending the bridge, the sight of those fighting in war and the betrayal and melancholy that lingers right before them, starts to give them the impression that war is not all that it was mean to be.  And if the older German warriors are fleeing from the Americans, will they stand and fight and prove to be good soldiers or will they realize that war is not all that they thought it would be.

The long tracking shots by Bernhard Wicki were well-done, the building up of characters leading to the finale was very interesting although not at all surprising and albeit predictable.  But its the circumstances of what happens to each of these boys during their stance to defend a bridge that may not make a whole lot of difference considering the Germans were losing the war.

The film’s anti-war message was more of trying to force children to become men and the delusions and grandeur of war that was served via propaganda and giving these boys a thought that war would be wonderful, but instead, they quickly realize that war can lead to death and death is permanent.

As for the Blu-ray release of “The Bridge”, the picture quality is amazing as the film was well-contrast and sharp.  Lossless audio was good with no hiss in the soundtrack (which you can see excerpts in the special features that featured video clips of the film with a lot of hiss) and the overall experience of watching this film was fantastic.  Special features feature a good number of interviews including interviews with writer Gegor Dorfmeister of his real life experience, filmmaker Volker Schlondorff about the film’s impact on German cinema and an older interview with director Bernhard Wicki and an excerpt from a 2007 documentary by Wicki’s widow.

Overall, “The Bridge” is a wonderful post-World War II film by filmmaker Bernhard Wicki with an anti-war message that would win over audiences but also usher a new generation of New German Cinema filmmakers.  Thought provoking and recommended!

 

Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

fallingskies-a

“Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” goes into uncharted territory by stripping away the characters and putting them in situations they have never faced before. Many more characters are killed off, the truth of the alien invasion is revealed and all hell breaks loose for this action-packed, riveting fourth season! If you are a fan of the series, then “Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” is definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 TNT Originals, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season

TV SERIES YEAR: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 31-42 (12 episodes total, 528 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9, English, Espanol and French. Subtitles: English, Espanol, French, Dansk, Finnish, Norsk, Suomi, Svenska

COMPANY: TNT

RATED: TV14 LSV

Release Date: June 2, 2015


Directed by Greg Beeman, Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, Adam Kane, Jonathan Frakes, David Solomon, Olatunde Osunsanmi, Bill Eagles, Nathaniel Goodman, Mikael Salomon, Brad turner, Noah Wyle

Written by Robert Rodat, Bradley Thompson, David Weddle, Carol Barbee, David Eick, Raven Metzner, Josh Pate, Melissa Glenn, Ryan Mottesheard, Bruce Marshall Romans, Ayanna Floyd

Producer: Grace Gilroy, John Ryan, Cyrus Yavneh

Co-Producer: Scott Schofield, Bruce Marshall Romans

Executive Producer: Steven Spielberg, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank, Robert Rodat, Graham Yost, Remi Abuchon

Co-Executive Producer: Greg Beeman

Associate Producer: Ashley Shields-Muir

Supervising Producer: Bryan Oh

Music by Noah Sorota

Cinematography by Cort Fey, David Gddes, Christopher Faloona, Lukas Ettlin

Edited by John David Buxton, Michael R. Fox, Marta Evry, Randy Jon Morgan, Edward A. Warschilka, Andrew Cohen, Ken Blackwell

Casting by Dylann Brander, Megan Branman, Sean Cossey

Cinematography by Jan Kiesser

Edited by Donn Aron

Production Design by Rob Gray

Art Direction by Peter Ochotta, Shannon Grover

Costume Design by Farnaz Khaki-Sadigh


Starring:

Noah Wyle as Tom Mason

Maxim Knight as Matt Mason

Drew Roy as Hal Mason

Moon Bloodgood as Anne Glass

Will Patton as Captain Weaver

Sarah Carter as Margaret

Connor Jessup as Ben Mason

Colin Cunningham as John Pope

Seychelle Gabriel as Lourdes

Mpho Koaho as Anthony

Ryan Robbins as Tector

Doug Jones as Cochise

Brad Kelly as Lyle

Jessy Schram as Karen Nadler

Treva Etienne as Dingaan Botha

Laci J. Mailey as Jeanne

Megan Danso as Deni

Scarlett Byrne as Alexis “Lexi” Glass-Mason


The pressure continues to mount for survivors as they try to regain control of earth. Keeping up their fight in the war is becoming increasingly difficult as their hopes of life after the alien destruction become more of a distant reality. With the new capitol in Charleston, the 2nd Mass could end up revisiting old territory.


In 2011, Executive Producer Steven Spielberg and producer Robert Rodat (“Saving Private Ryan”, “The Patriot”) created the American sci-fi post-apocalyptic drama series “Falling Skies”.

The series stars Noah Wyle (“ER”, Donnie Darko”), Moon Bloodgood (“Terminator Salvation”, “The Sessions”), Will Patton (“Remember the Titans”, “Armageddon”), Sarah Carter (“The Vow”, “Final Destination 2″, “Shark”), Drew Roy (“Secretariat”) and Scarlett Byrne (various “Harry Potter” films).

And now “Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” has been released in June 2015 on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of TNT.

“Falling Skies” is a series that revolves around a group of civilians trying to survive in post-apocalyptic Boston after an alien invasion that devastated the planet.

Former Boston University history professor Tom Mason (portrayed by Noah Wyle) has become the second-in-command of the 2nd Massachusetts Militia Regiment and trying to fight back against the aliens despite 90% of the human population destroyed after the aliens neutralized the world’s power grid and technology.

In Season Three, Tom and Dr. Anne Glass (portrayed by Moon Bloodgood) have a baby named Alexis.  It was revealed that Alexis is half-alien and the season finale has shown that Anne is quickly aging, in two months, she has the body of a six-year-old.

In Season Four, the 2nd Mass arrive back to Charleston but as the group feel they are safe, they are attacked by the Espheni and the group are split apart.  Matt (portrayed by Maxim Wright) is at an Espheni re-education camp; Ben (portrayed by Connor Jessup) is in Chinatown and finds out his sister Lexi is now grown up.  Anne is now in charge of leading the 2nd Mass survivors in hopes she can find her daughter Lexi.

The 2nd Mass fears Lexi because she is not human and has powers and some want her dead.  Meanwhile, as the group stay in an underground shelter, mechs and skitters continue their attack on humanity, who in the 2nd Mass will survive and who will die in the battle?

And in season four, the true two purposes of the alien invasion is revealed!


VIDEO:

“Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for this season shows a lot of cold blues and grays and a lot of darkness.  Black levels are nice and deep but closeups show fantastic detail! No low noise fluctuations, no major artifacts, banding or major use of DNR.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” is presented in English, Spanish and French DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue and musical score is crystal clear through the front and center channels. While action scenes (gunfire and explosions) utilize the surround channels, with some moments of intense gunfire coming through the rear surround channels.

Subtitles are presented in English, Espanol, Francais, Dansk, Finnish, Norsk, Suomi and Svenska.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” comes with the following special features:

  • Inside the Episode – A behind-the-scenes look of eleven episodes (on both discs)
  • Episodic Prequels – (17:48) Episode prequels for seven episodes (shot by a cameraman filming the human survivors until they were attacked by aliens).
  • Character Interviews – (7:40) Brief interviews with the cast members (Colin Cunningham, Connor Jessup, Drew Roy, Maxim Knight, Moon Bloodgood, Noah Wyle, Sarah Carter and Scarlett Byrne) of “Falling Skies” fourth season.
  • Tom Mason: A Man of Tomorrow – (20:42) A featurette about Noah Wyle’s character Tom Mason.
  • 2014 Comic-Con Panel – (52:01) “Falling Skies” Q&A panel at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International with Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Drew Roy, Sarah Carter, Maxim Knight, Scarlett Byrne, Doug Jones and showrunner/executive producer David Eick.  Hosted by TV Guide’s Rich Sands.

EXTRAS:

“Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


fallingskies-b

If one can describe the fourth season of “Falling Skies”, the words would use is “uncharted territory”.

While the fighting and the character tragedies continue to mount in “Falling Skies”, season four lets viewers finally know the true reason(s) of the alien invasion, a focus on an adult Lexi who may not be what she seems but also seeing the characters stripped away from each other, separated and now in roles that we have never seen them before.

Main character Tom Mason continues to be a leader and hero but at the same time, we see him in a concentration camp along with Weaver and with other human survivors, so to lead the 2nd Mass, Anne Glass has stepped up and the doctor now becomes the hunter, as she is desperately looking for her baby (not knowing she has become an adult thanks to manipulation by the Espheni).  Meanwhile Pope is deadset on wanting to kill the adult Lexi, because of her supernatural powers.

We see oldest Mason, Hal now beginning to walk thanks to the use of implants, his brother Ben tries to reach out to his half-sister Lexi but also becomes his older brother’s rival for the affections of Maggie.  While Matt is put in a re-education cam by the Eshpeni.

And we see a lot of character deaths that may come to a shock for viewers.

So, you can say that writers have gone all out with season four and getting things in motion for the final fifth season.

While I did find some acting to be a bit spotty for some characters, I did like the direction this series went go into the fourth season and it feels fresh and new once again, despite the series now coming to an end.  The third season was becoming a bit banal and tiresome but you get some much-needed synergy with season four.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is much better in the fourth season Blu-ray release as close-ups show much better detail, the steely cold colors of grays, blues and blacks are still utilized but there are moments of outdoors with vibrant colors and also Lexi’s blonde hair and red outfit often pop in scenes.  I didn’t notice any artifacts, banding or other major issues with this Blu-ray release.

You also get a good number of special features including the 2014 San Diego Comic Con Q&A panel, interviews and a featurette about Tom Mason.

Overall, “Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” goes into uncharted territory by stripping away the characters and putting them in situations they have never faced before.  Many more characters are killed off, the truth of the alien invasion is revealed and all hell breaks loose for this action-packed, riveting fourth season!

If you are a fan of the series, then “Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” is definitely recommended!

 

The Last Ship: The Complete First Season (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

thelastship-a

A fantastic, riveting action-packed television drama, “The Last Ship: The Complete First Season” is a series that I have no problems recommending.

Images courtesy of © 2015 TNT Originals, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Last Ship: The Complete First Season

TV SERIES YEAR: 2014

DURATION: 22 Episodes (440 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9, English, Espanol and French.  Subtitles: English, Espanol, French, Dansk, Finnish, Norsk, Suomi, Svenska

COMPANY: TNT

RATED: TV14 LSV

Release Date: June 9, 2015


Directed by Jack Bender, Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, Michael Katleman, Paul Holahan, Jonathan Mostow, Brad Turner, Greg Beeman, Mario Van Peebles, Olatunde Osunsanmi

Written by Steven Kane, Hank Steinberg, William Brinkley, Onalee Hunter, Jill Blankenship, Jessica Butler, Richard Arthur, Josh Schaer, Cameron Welsh, Nic Van Zeebroeck, Quinton Peeples, Mark Malone

Producer: Tony Mark, Quinton Peeples, Todd Arnow, Mark Malone

Co-Producer: Christian Clarke, Josh Schaer, Richard eter Schroer, Chip Vucelich, Mark Kolbe, Skip Beaudine

Executive Producer: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, Jack Bender, Steven Kane, Hank Steinberg

Associate Producer: Ellen Stafford, Lindsay Owens

Consulting Producer: Anne Cofell Saunders

Music by Jim Dooley, Nathan Whitehead, James S. Levine, Steve Jablonsky

Cinematography by Cort Fey, David Gddes, Christopher Faloona, Lukas Ettlin

Edited by John David Buxton, Michael R. Fox, Marta Evry, Randy Jon Morgan, Edward A. Warschilka, Andrew Cohen, Ken Blackwell

Casting by Beth Day, Denise Chamian

Production Design by Marek Dobrowolski, Alicia Maccarone, Tomas Voth

Art Direction by Alicia Maccarone, Karl J.  Martin, Lisa Vasconcellos

Set Decoration: Jeffrey Kushon, Alexander Carie

Costume Deisgn by Carlos rosario, Ileane Meltzer, Linda M. Bass, Mari-an Ceo


Starring:

Eric Dane as CO CDR Tom Chandler

Rhona Mitra as Dr. Rachel Scott

Adam Baldwin as XO Mike Slattery

Marissa Neitling as Lt. Kara Foster

Christina Elmore as Lt. Alisha Granderson

Charles Parnell as CMC Jeter

Jocko Sims as Lt. Carlton Burk

Travis Van Winkle as Lt. Danny Green

John Pyper-Ferguson as Tex

Michael Curran-Dorsano as Gator

Kevin Michael Martin as Miller

Chris Sheffield as Comms Officer Wil Mason

Hope Olaide Wilson as Bertrise

Ness Bautista as Cruz

Andy T. Tran as Lt. Andy Chung

Paul James as O’Connor

Ben Cho as Carl Nishioka

Maximiliano Hernandez as Doc Rios

Amen Igbinosun as Bernie “Bacon” Cowley

Bruce Nozick as Dr. Milowsky

Sam Spruell as Quincy

Jamison Haase as TAO Barker

Chris Marrs as Engineer Lynn

Bren Foster as SCPO Wolf Taylor

Aidan Sussman as Sam Chandler

Grace Kaufman as Ashley chandler

Alice Coulthard as Kelly Tophet

Tommy Savas as Cossetti


The Last Ship opens with a global catastrophe that nearly decimates the world’s population. Because of its positioning, the Navy destroyer U.S.S. Nathan James avoids falling victim to the tragedy. Now the crew and captain must confront the reality of their new existence in a world where they may be among the few remaining survivors.


From series creator Hank Steinberg (“The Nine”, “Without a Trace”, “61”) and Steve Kane comes the TNT American post-apocalyptic drama TV series “The Last Ship”.

A loose adaptation of the 1988 novel by William Brinkley, the first ten episodes of the first season aired on TNT in 2014.  And now, “The Last Ship: The Complete First Season” will be available on Blu-ray in June 2015.

The series stars Eric Dane (“Grey’s Anatomy”, “Marley & Me”, “X-Men: The Last Stand”), Rhona Mitra (“Shooter”, “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans”, “The Number 23″), Adam Baldwin (“Full Metal Jacket”, “Serenity”, “Independence Day”), Marissa Neitling (“San Andreas”, “Leverage”), Christina Elmore, Charles Parnell (“Transformers: Age of Extinction”, “Pariah”), Jocko Sims (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, “Dreamgirls”, “Jarhead”), Travis Van Winkle (“Transformers”, “Friday the 13th”, “Accepted”), John Pyper-Ferguson (“Drive”, “Unforgiven”, “X-Men: The Last Stand”) and many more.

The series revolves around the 218-person crew of the fictional U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer, the USS Nathan James (DDG-151).  The crew led by CDR Tom Chandler (portrayed by Eric Dane).

The crew have been out on a top secret mission out in sea for many months and the mission is about to end and everyone can go home.  But immediately, the mission is canceled and the crew is responsible to bring Dr. Rachel Scott, a paleomicrobiologist and her partner Quincy Tophet (portrayed by Sam Spruell) to the Arctic, who claim they are studying birds.

But as Scott and Tophet are working, they are under attack by the Russians.  The Americans quickly neutralize the enemy and Chandler immediately learns from the new US President that all over the world and back at home and around the world, a pandemic has decimated the population.

Because the crew was out on sea, they were not infected by the virus and Chandler learns about who Dr. Scott really is.  And because Dr. Scott is leading the research on an anti-virus, their mission is to protect her and do whatever is necessary to give her what she needs to develop an anti-virus.

Unfortunately, things are dire on the ship. The crew are low on gas, fresh water and food and the crew must do all they can to survive.

But existing problems include another ship ran by Russians who are after Dr. Scott, a crew that are kept underwraps of what is happening on the ship and who Dr. Hunter really is and a world that has now changed due to a collapse in governments and a virus quickly spreading throughout the world.

The following is a spoiler-less summary of Season One of “The Last Ship”:

  • EPISODE 1 – Two virologists claim they are studying birds and during their research in the Arctic, they are attack by Russians.  Why do the Russians want these scientists?
  • EPISODE 2 – Low on food, medical supplies and fuel replenishments, Chandler and his crew head to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
  • EPISODE 3 – The USS Nathan James face off against a Russian cruiser determined on getting Dr. Scott.
  • EPISODE 4 – The crew are in danger when their propulsion system encounters serious mechanical problems.
  • EPISODE 5 – Chandler leads an expedition team to find monkey samples for Dr. Scott.
  • EPISODE 6 – When Green contracts an illness, the crew is scared that he may have the virus.
  • EPISODE 7 – With no cure, a sole survivor of a 50 people on a Jamaican fishing vessel becomes an interest for both the Americans and the Russians.
  • EPISODE 8 – Crew members are captured by the Russians.
  • EPISODE 9 – With the vaccine in development, Dr. Scott needs human test subjects.
  • EPISODE 10 – What happens when the crew returns to the United States.

VIDEO:

“The Last Ship: The Complete First Season” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is vibrant as outdoor scenes are colorful, closeups showcase great detail on the skin of characters. But the cinematography for this television series is fantastic!  No low noise fluctuations, no major artifacts or major use of DNR.

If anything, “The Last Ship” looks great on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Last Ship” is presented in English, Spanish and French DTS-HD Master Audio.  Dialogue and musical score is crystal clear through the front and center channels.  While action scenes (gunfire and explosions) utilize the surround channels.  The series has many action sequences but primarily it is a dialogue-driven soundtrack.

Subtitles are presented in English, Espanol, Francais, Dansk, Finnish, Norsk, Suomi and Svenska.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Last Ship: The Complete First Season” comes with the following special features:

  • Inside the Episode – (10:34) A behind-the-scenes look of five episodes.
  • The Last Ship Details – (6:21) Show creators discussing the details of the pilot episode.
  • The Navy and the USS Halsey – (5:28) A featurette about bringing the realism of the Navy and shooting on the USS Halsey.
  • 2014 Comic-Con Panel – (52:01) “The Last Ship” Q&A panel at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with series creator Hank Steinberg for episode 6 “Lockdown” and audio commentary with series creators Hank Steinberg and Steven Kane for the final episode “No Place Like Home”.

EXTRAS:

“The Last Ship: The Complete First Season” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


thelastship-b

A fantastic, riveting action-packed television drama, “The Last Ship: The Complete First Season” is a series that I have no problems recommending.

Often, there are many series that delve into the banal apocalyptic storyline and each episode is a rehash of storylines slightly modified and it tends to grow old on the viewer ever week.

Fortunately, that is not the case with “The Last Ship”, as each episode is relevant, what happens to each character and how it affects them in a future episode is relevant and every decision that is made by its main characters are relevant.

Far too often, other dramas get into a banal situation and episodes become filler and that is what I’m enjoying about this series is that although the series has a crew of 218 men and women, the show manages to find a way to take characters and use them, may it be to showcase a weakness and then later a strength but its reminiscent to another favorite series a decade ago, “Lost”, which also had a large audience and complex storyline but writers were effective in making each episode relevant, each character important and viewers were captivated.

Of course, “The Last Ship” focused on the basics.  Doing what they can to let the doctor do her job of coming up with an anti-virus or cure, dealing with realistic problems of lack of fuel, clean water and food. USA vs. Russia in apocalyptic times and with the domination of the open seas and no government infrastructure, the problems that exist in the world.

And of course, writers can’t keep doing the “will she create an anti-virus or cure” and string people along for far too long, so once you start watching the season finale, you realize that big things are in store for season two and “The Last Ship” is going to get exciting but on another level.  I can’t wait!

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic as close ups show excellent detail, a lot of outdoor scenes are shot, so colors are vibrant with natural color and if anything, the series doesn’t suffer from artifacts or low light noise.  The lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music, while its action scenes also use the surround channels effectively.  You also get a good number of special features including the 2014 San Diego Comic Con Q&A panel, audio commentaries and more.

Overall, a fantastic, riveting action-packed television drama, “The Last Ship: The Complete First Season” is a series that I have no problems recommending.

The Taking of Tiger Mountain (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

takingtiger

I absolutely enjoyed “The Taking of Tiger Mountain”!  The action scenes and everything that showcases a war of the military with short on people, ammunition and food going up against a notorious bandit and hundreds of enemies.  Featuring solid action and a captivating storyline, it’s only miscue is its questionable ending with scenes that really were not needed.  Despite its ending, “The Taking of Tiger Mountain” is still a popcorn action film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Well Go USA. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Taking of Tiger Mountain

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 143 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: June 2, 2015


Directed by Tsui Hark

Based on the Novel by Bo Qu

Screnplay by Jianxin Huang, Tsui Hark, Li Yank, Lin Chi-An, Wu Bing

Producer: Jianxin Huang, Dong Yu


Starring:

Zhang Hanyu as  Yang Zirong

Lin Gengxin as Shao Jianbo and Captain 203

Tong Liya as Little Dove

Tony Ka Fai Leung as Hawk

Geng Han as Lei, Jiang

Mo Tse as Mao Baojun

Nan Yu as Qing Lian

Han Geng as Jimmy

Chen Xiao as Gao


Tsui Hark s thrilling adaptation of Qu Bo s beloved adventure novel stars Tony LEUNG Ka-fai as a ruthless bandit, ruling the lands of Northeast China from his fortress on Tiger Mountain. A captain of the Liberation Army (LIN Gengxin) launches a counter-insurgency against the dictator with a skilled investigator (ZHANG Hanyu) sent to destroy the gang from the inside.


takingtiger-b

In December 2014, the Chinese-Hong Kong 3D epic action film by filmmaker Tsui Hark (“Once Upon a Time in China”, “Seven Swords”, “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate”) was released in theaters.

The story is loosely based on Zhang Hanyu, who in real life, led a small group of troops to defeat a bandit army of 400 and his reconnaissance would inspire many military commanders to adopt an armed renaissance detachment which led to more bandits and criminals to be captured.  This took place after the Japanese surrendered in World War II and would lead to bandits to run wild throughout China.

The story is based on the conflict between the People’s Liberation Army of China and a bandit gang led by Hawk and have spread fear through the land.  The bandit gang has pillaged and decimated villages and have stolen ammunition and food.

Low on food and ammunition, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) regiment led by Captain 203 (portrayed by Lin Gengxin) are trying to survive during the cold winter without much food and ammunition, but managed to defeat a small group of bandits.

They eventually meetup with Yang Zirong (portrayed by Zhang Hanyu) who specializes in intelligence/reconnaissance and medical nurse Little Dove (portrayed by Tong Liya).  The duo supply the regiment of food and when they search a nearby village, they find out that bandits working for Hawk (portrayed by Tony Leung Ka-fai) have pillaged the area and people are in fear.


takingtiger-c

VIDEO:

“The Taking of Tiger Mountain” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Picture quality is very good as closeups showcase great detail on the skin of characters.  But the cinematography of the mountainous region during the winter is gorgeous too look at in times, set design and costume design are well done.  But picture quality features skin tones that are natural, I saw no problems with banding issues or artifacts.

If anything, “The Taking of Tiger Mountain” looks great on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Taking of Tiger Mountain” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and stereo with English subtitles.  Because of the amount of action in this film, from gun shots, RPG’s leading to explosions, makeshift cannons, tank blasts, boulders crashing, this is a film that utilizes the surround channels with efficacy.  The film is immersive for its action scenes and there is a good amount of LFE as well.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Taking of Tiger Mountain” comes with an interview with the director and a few of the cast members.

EXTRAS:

“The Taking of Tiger Mountain” comes with a slipcover.


takingtiger-d

“The Taking of Tiger Mountain” is another fascinating Tsui Hark film that is epic but at the same time, surprising for the fact that Tsui Hark decides to conclude the film with an ending that probably wasn’t necessary.

While the film starts off in a modern setting with no clear introduction but a young man moving to America, once the film transitions to the late 1940’s, that’s when the film becomes interesting.

The film which is about a minimized army, low on ammunition and low on food, sent on a mission in frigid conditions to take on one of the largest bandit organizations in China.

Sent to assist them are not an army but a intelligence officer named Yang and a medical nurse known as Young Dove.

The film does a great job at establishing the power of the leader known as Hawk and his vile generals who have no problem stealing food or decimating villages for self gain.  Of course, it’s the job of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to stop them, but it’s going to take amazing strategy for a regiment of only a few men to defeat an army of hundreds.

While the film doesn’t become a Kurosawa-like “Seven Samurai” in which the PLA teach the villagers to fight back, it’s the PLA who want to protect the people and using their skills to outwit and defeat the bandits that are set on attacking the village.

But the film becomes more interesting when Yang elects himself as the man to penetrate the walls of Hawk’s fort by using his intelligence of being undercover in bandits environments to meld with them and become one of them, while trying to find ways to get the message of plans to the PLA.

And for the most part, the action is wonderful to watch and you can’t help but support the PLA who are the underdogs in the film.

The characters are easy to root for, Yang and the Captain are the primary heroes of the film but there are others in the film who are worth watching for their heroics.

Tony Ka Fai Leung does a wonderful job of transforming himself from his Triad roles to the evil Hawk, while actor Hanyu Zhang does an amazing job as Yang, the mysterious intelligence  recon officer that even the PLA is unsure if they can trust.  But watching everything unfold and seeing the plans of Yang and the PLA come into fruition is exciting.

What doesn’t work is when the film tries to incorporate a modern story of the a young man descended from one of the characters from the past.  The film could have ended in splendid fashion but instead, where most directors would cut a scene, no matter how much they spent on it, because it alters fluidity of the film, Tsui Hark chooses to incorporate an ending which really was not needed and not sure if that was his doing or the producers.

In my opinion, if the film would have removed all modern scenes and the action scene that literally came from nowhere and was thrown at the end for no good reason, “The Taking of Tiger Mountain” would have been a fantastic film.  But with all the unneeded bloatedness of scenes added to the beginning and ending of the film, unfortunately, it mars the efficacy of what could have been a great action film.

As for the Blu-ray itself, the picture quality is fantastic with details upclose showing the skin pigments and the cinematography of the film in the rocky mountains blanketed by snow is also gorgeous to watch.  Special features includes interviews with the director and cast members.

Overall, I absolutely enjoyed “The Taking of Tiger Mountain”!  The action scenes and everything that showcases a war of the military with short on people, ammunition and food going up against a notorious bandit and hundreds of enemies.  Featuring solid action and a captivating storyline, it’s only miscue is its questionable ending with scenes that really were not needed.  Despite its ending, “The Taking of Tiger Mountain” is still a popcorn action film worth watching!

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

May 31, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

chappie-a

“Chappie” is a magnificent sci-fi film from Neill Blomkamp. This is no doubt his best film yet but features amazing writing, direction and bringing the world of visual effects and reality together to create a human story starring a robot. This is definitely a top contender as one of the best live action Blu-ray releases for 2015! Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Chappie

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 Aspect Ratio, English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English and French, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Finnish, Indonesian, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures

RATED: R (Violence, Language and Some Nudity)

Release Date: June 16, 2015


Directed by Neill Blomkamp

Written by Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell

Executive Producer: Ben Waisbren

Producer: Neill Blomkamp, Simon Kinberg

Co-Producer: James Bitonti, Victoria Burkhart

Music by Hans Zimmer

Cinematography by Trent Opaloch

Edited by Julian Clarke, Mark Goldblatt

Production Design by Jules Cook

Art Direction by Bobby Cardoso, Emilia roux

Set Decoration by Daniel Birt

Costume Design by Diana Cilliers


Starring:

Sharlito Copley as the voice of Chappie

Dev Patel as Deon Wilson

Ninja as Ninja

Yo-Landi Visser as Yolandi

Jose Pablo Cantillo as Yankie (Amerika)

Hugh Jackman as Vincent Moore

Sigourney Weaver as Michelle Bradley

Brandon Auret as Hippo

Anderson Cooper as Himself


Being an assassin has its rules always keep your eyes on your target; strict to your mission, execute without any hesitation and there is no room for negotiation! Each killer has his own background, but all of them has trade in their blood and losses. After they escape to a safe house where he had grown up with his brother Than . He is badly injured but is cured by a Chinese Doctor Si Fu , from the girl s family. Than falls in love with Ploy at first sight without knowing that Natee also has some feelings towards the girl. Finally, the family is together again and his uncle, Tanom decides to unveil the big secret he has kept about Natee and Than s parents. But the assassins don t give them time to breath. Being focus and utilizing all of their capabilities is the only way to survive. They have to be faster, stronger and hit harder!


chappie-d

South African Filmmaker Neill Blomkamp has made a name for himself for creating sci-fi films with impressive visual effects but created with a lower budget when compared to Hollywood sci-fi films.

With the success of “District 9″ and “Elysium”, Blomkamp has returned with his best film yet, “Chappie”.

Directed by Neill Blomkamp and co-written with Terri Tatchell was inspired by Blomkamp’s 2004 short film “Tetra Vaal”.

The film would feature the voice of Sharlto Copley (“District 9″, “Maleficent”, “Elysium”), Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire”, “The Last Airbender”, “The Newsroom”), South African rapper Ninja, Die Antwoord vocalist Yolandi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo (“Disturbia”, “Crank”, “Elysium”), Hugh Jackman (“X-Men” films, “Wolverine” films, “The Prestige”) and Sigourney Weaver (“Alien” films, “Avatar”, “Ghostbusters”).

Shot with a larger budget at $49 million, “Chappie” would go on to earn $102.1 million in the box office.  The film would receive rave reviews worldwide and now, “Chappie” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in June 2014.

“Chappie” is set in the future and to respond against the high crime rate in Johannesburg, South Africa, the government orders state-of-the art, armour-plated attack robots from weapons manufacturer Tetravaal, headed by Michelle Bradley (portrayed by Sigourney Weaver).

The robots are developed by Deon Wilson (portrayed by Dev Patel), much to the chagrin of soldier-turned-engineer Vincent Moore (portrayed by Hugh Jackman), who develops the competing project, a remote controlled MOOSE, which controls a huge robot through the use of a helmet that reads brain waves.

To prevent humans from misusing the robots, a special guard key is created and kept under heavy security at Tetravaal.  Because of the success of the robots, the government wants to order more of them and as for Vincent’s project, none of them want anything that bulky, menacing or that expensive.

But for Deon, he has secretly been developing a prototype artificial intelligence that mimics the human mind and allows a robot to feel emotions and communicate with others, like if it were human.

Meanwhile, a group of gangsters which consists of Ninja (portrayed by Ninja), Yolandi (portrayed by Yo-Landi Visser) and Amerika (portrayed by Jose Pablo Cantillo) are trying to sell narcotics to a kingpin named Hippo (portrayed by Brandon Auret).  But because the goods came damaged, Hippo wants the group to pay him $2 million by the end of the week.

While during their business deal, the police send out robots to go raid the drug dealers and in the process, the raid was successful but one of the robots was damaged by an RPG.

As Deon works on his prototype artificial intelligence, he tries to tell his boss Michelle if he can experiment with a robot, which she turns him down because she doesn’t want robots with emotions.

But wanting to test to see if his AI works, Deon takes the damaged police robot and takes the guard key in order to test it.

But what Deon doesn’t know is that Ninja and his group are needing money and the only way they can think of getting money is by kidnapping Deon and gaining control of the guard chip, so they can defeat the police robots and literally sell the guard key to Hippo.

So, Deon is kidnapped by them but because they find out that Deon can’t supply them with anything, he is ordered to give them a robot and use his AI on it.  Immediately, the robot responds to the AI programming.

As Ninja wants the robot to be a fighting machine, Deon explains that he has the AI of a baby and needs to learn.  Yolandi takes a liking to the robot and gives him the name Chappie and treats Chappie like her own child.

But as Deon (who is called the “Maker”) tries to teach Chappie to not listen to the gangsters, he is threatened and he leaves immediately.

Ninja immediately goes to work on Chappie and trying to make him a killing machine but because Chappie’s AI is equivalent to a young boy, he is more curious and opposite of a fighting machine.  So, Deon goes to help him with his learning by giving him a book and wanting him to learn about positive things.  But Deon is unaware that Vincent has followed him to the hideout.

Wanting to learn life on the streets, Ninja and Amerika dump Chappie in the most ruthless area of Johannesburg, where a frightened Chappie is immediately beaten and burned by thugs who want to destroy him because he is a police robot.

But Vincent, now knowing of Deon’s activities, wants to ruin Deon’s career but also steal the guard chip for himself, so he can get the government to use the MOOSE instead of Deon’s robots.  But first, he must capture and destroy Chappie.


chappie-b

VIDEO:

“Chappie” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is fantastic as Blomkamp and team were able to bring together live-action and visual effects and making them feel natural with efficacy.

Because of the success of the overall mechanical body, visual effects, everything looks not only real but picture quality down to the details on Chappie’s damaged body, the tattoos on Ninja and the overall environments is amazing.  Outdoor colors are vibrant, skin tones look natural and black levels are nice and deep.

I am very impressed with the picture quality of this film and this is reference quality!  Videophiles should be pleased with how “Chappie” looks in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Chappie” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. And for an action film, this is one lossless soundtrack that is fantastic and reaches  reference quality with its use of all channels and LFE. With many scenes involve guns and explosions, the lossless soundtrack can be heard all around you and each explosion can be felt. Subtitles are in English.

And I have to say that how the sound effects is heard all around you and manages to take on the soundscape and making you hear it, feel the noise all around you.  It’s an amazing experience that you want to hear on Blu-ray and once again, similar to the video quality, the lossless soundtrack is also reference quality.  Fantastic!

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Chappie” comes with the following special features:

  • Alternate Ending – (5:16) The alternate ending which I’m glad they didn’t use for the final cut.
  • Extended Scene: Very Bad Man – (1:30) An extended scene of the ending fight scene.
  • Featurettes – (1:19:30) Featuring several mini-featurettes which include From Tetra Vaal to Chappie, Jozi: Real City and Sci-Fi Setting, Chappie: The Streetwise Professor, We Are Tetravaal, Keep It Gangster, Rogue Robot: Deconstructing the Stunts and Special Effects, Arms Race: The Weapons and Robots, Bringing Chappie to Life: The Visual Effects, The Reality of Robotics
  • The Art of Chappie Gallery – A CG based gallery in which you can view conceptual art and sketches.

EXTRAS:

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


chappie-c

While I have enjoyed Neill Blomkamp’s previous sci-fi films, I have to say that “Chappie” will no doubt be one of the shining moments in his film career.

Sure, “Chappie” could have been another similar film to “Robocop” or even incorporate “Terminator” like possibilities but what we have is a film that takes on humanity albeit using a robot character.

It’s not an easy feat. to use a non-human character in a live-action film and for people to feel any emotion towards it but the writing by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell makes us sympathize, empathize with Chappie.

The other interesting plot was to see Chappie being run by an evil corporation or being the instrument of good (or evil) which you tend to see in Japanese animation but a robot who was created for the sake of testing by its creator, but its creator and the robot end up being kidnapped by a notorious gang.

It’s hard to see these things coming, especially with an American perspective, but Blomkamp gives us a perspective of the danger of Johannesburg in the future and even goes as far to shoot in areas of Johannesburg that are dangerous (and even put the crew in danger) as the film crew actually shot at the Ponte Building and the nearby area.

And not only does the crew bring in the environment and atmosphere of Johannesburg, you also have characters based on real life South African talent with rapper Ninja and musician Yo-Landi Visser starring in the film but also hearing their music integrated into the film but also allowing them to be as they are and bring their style to the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, you are literally getting a reference quality release as picture quality and lossless audio are fantastic!  The detail of the film, may it be of Chappie or even the characters, everything about the look of the film comes to life and is impressive.  But equally impressive is its fantastic lossless audio as the full-on action sequences envelop the soundscape with its 7.1 soundtrack.  Every speaker is utilized, LFE’s give out great booms during explosions, the sounds of bullets coming all around you is evident and I was very impressed with both the picture and audio quality of the film.

Special features were OK, as I expected much more than the short featurettes and alternate ending, extended scenes.  But for the most part, you do get nearly an hour and half worth of special features.

Overall, “Chappie” is a magnificent sci-fi film from Neill Blomkamp.  This is no doubt his best film yet but features amazing writing, direction and bringing the world of visual effects and reality together to create a human story starring a robot.  This is definitely a top contender as one of the best live action Blu-ray releases for 2015!

Highly recommended!

The Merchant of Four Seasons – The Criterion Collection #758 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

merchant-a

“The Merchant of Four Seasons” is a fascinating Werner Fassbinder film about a man who feels he has lost everything, including himself.  A wonderful Fassbinder film that I recommend!

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


TITLE: The Merchant of Four Seasons – The Criterion Collection #758

YEAR OF FILM: 1971

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, German Monaural LPCM 1.0, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: May 26, 2015


Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Written by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Cinematography by Dietrich Lohmann

Edited by Thea Eymesz

Production Design by Kurt Raab

Costume Design by Kurt Raab, Uta Wilhelm


Starring:

Hans Hirschmuller as Hans Epp

Irm Hermann as Irmgard Epp

Hanna Schygulla as Anna Epp, Hans’ Sister

Andrea Schober as Renate Eppl Hans’ Daughter

Gusti Kreissi as Mother Epp

Klaus Lowitsch as Harry Radek

Karl Scheydt as Anzell

Ingrid Caven as The Merchan’s Great Love

Kurt Raab as Kurt, Heide’s Husband

Heide Simon as Heide, Hans’ Second Sister


 New German Cinema icon Rainer Werner Fassbinder (World on a Wire) kicked off a new phase of his young career when he made the startling The Merchant of Four Seasons. In this despairing yet mordantly funny film, Fassbinder charts the decline of a self-destructive former policeman and war veteran struggling to make ends meet for his family by working as a fruit vendor. Fassbinder had skyrocketed to renown on the acclaim of a series of trenchant, quickly made early films, but for this one he took more time and forged a new style—featuring a more complexly woven script and narrative structure and more sophisticated use of the camera, and influenced by the work of his recently discovered idol, Douglas Sirk. The result is a meticulously made, unforgiving social satire.

merchant-b

In 1972, filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder (“The Marriage of Maria Braun”, “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant”, “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul”) debuted his film “The Merchant of Four Seasons”.

The film stars Hans Hirschmuller (“Alice in the Cities”, “Katzelmacher”, “Love is Colder Than Death”), Irm Hermann (“Ali: Fear Eats the Soul”, “The Downfall of Berlin: Anonyma”, “Pappa ante Portas”), Hanna Schygulla (“The Marriage of Maria Braun”, “Dead Again”, “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant”), Andrea Schober (“Chinese Roulette”, “Effi Briest”), Gusti Kreissl (“Ali: Fear Eats the Soul”, “Daniel”) and Klaus Lowitsch (“The Marriage of Maria Braun”, “World on a Wire”).

“The Merchant of Four Seasons” is considered Fassbinder’s turning point of creating commercial films and his entry into the creating international cinema.  The film is also considered one of Fassbinder’s masterpiece among his film oeuvre.

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

“The Merchant of Four Seasons” begins with Hans Epp returning home to his mother after serving a few years in the French Foreign Legion.  But to his surprise, his mother is not happy to see him and is upset that he brought his friend to fight in the war.  While Hans survived, his friend had died and she makes the comment, “The good die young, and people like you come back”.

The film now features Hans in the near future as a fruit stand salesmen, which he works alongside his wife Irmgard (portrayed by Irm Hermann).

Irmgard is often jealous of Hans, as he is often selling fruit in an area where a woman (portrayed by Ingrid Caven) lives.  She often accuses him of sleeping with the woman and he is so upset that he is driven to go to the bars and drink himself drunk.

While drunk, he talks about how he lived a life as a police officer, until one day, while interviewing a prostitute, she tries to get off by giving him oral sex.  Unfortunately, for Hans, he was caught by his superior officer and is fired from the force.  When Irmgard tries to come get him, he is upset that he throws a chair at her.

When he comes home in a drunken stupor, Irmgard calls him a pig and in front of their young daughter, Renate (portrayed by Andrea Schober), he beats her and falls asleep.

While asleep, Irmgard and her daughter leave him and finds support with Hans family.  We then see how much the family despises him.

His mother prefers the more obedient daughter Heidi (portrayed by Heide Simone) and tolerates her blunt and outspoken daughter Anna (portrayed by Hanna Schygulla). Heidi and her husband hear from Irmgard of what Hans did to her and tell her that he has been good for nothing.

We learn from the past that Hans wanted to become a mechanic, but his mother forbid him and wanted him to keep studying.  But despite all family members talking bad about Hans, Anna tells the family that they always despised him and never gave him a chance.

When Hans arrives and tries to bring Irmgard home, Irmgard fears for her life and the family tries to protect him from her.  But when she files for divorce in front of him, he has a heart attack.

The doctor tells Irmgard that Hans can neither work or drink ever again.

How will life be for Hans and Irmgard after his heart attack?


VIDEO:

“The Merchant of Four Seasons – The Criterion Collection #758″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). The film looks fantastic for its age.  There is a good amount of grain, skintones look natural and I saw no sign of softness, discoloration or excessive DNR.

According to the Criterion Collection, “Produced by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation, this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original camera negative at ARRI Film & TV Services in Munich, where the film was restored.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “The Merchant of Four Seasons – The Criterion Collection #758″ is presented in German LPCM 1.0 monaural. Dialogue is clear with no sign of hiss or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 17.5mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX4.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Merchant of Four Seasons – The Criterion Collection #758″ comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Wim Wenders, recorded in 2002.
  • Irm Hermann – (9:10) Interview with actress Irm Hermann, recorded in Feb. 2015.
  • Hans Hirschmuller – (13:25) Interview with actor Irm Hermann, recorded in Feb. 2015.
  • Eric Rentschler – (11:47) Interview with Eric Rentschler, film historian and the Arthur Kingsley Porter, professor of Germanic Languages and Literature at Harvard University, recorded in Feb. 2015.

EXTRAS:

“The Merchant of Four Seasons – The Criterion Collection #758″ comes with a 6-page foldout insert with the essay “Downward Mobility in Munich” by Thomas Elsaesser, professor emeritus in the Department of Media and Culture at the University of Amsterdam.


merchant-c

On the outside, the premise of “The Merchant of Four Seasons” can be seen as a film about a man who finds no reason to live.

He loved a woman that he can’t be with because he works selling fruit, he’s married to a woman that he doesn’t really love, he tries to have a family life which he doesn’t feel part of, his own personal family except one of his sisters look down on him and so, all he has is alcohol.  Until a heart attack prevents him from ever working or drinking again.

Which essentially leaves this depressed man with nothing.

Of course, the summary of this film would seem too simple but when you watch the film, its how the actions occur and the flashbacks of what takes place in the life of Hans and his wife Irmgard, that you see the dysfunctional but also the challenging life that Hans Epp has lived.

And when it comes to films, these are characters that Fassbinder are attracted to.  People who don’t have the happiest of lives and also his use of delayed reactions in order to show emotion.  It’s his way, his style that goes against traditional Hollywood norm, and appalling that people despise Hans because he sells fruit, may seem quite a bit farfetched, but that is the point of a Fassbinder films, going against the norm and yet showcasing alienating environments about a man feeling he is nothing but a failure.

But the acting for the film is wonderful as Hans Hirschmuller does a great job at playing the dejected, depressed, drunk Hans Hirschmuller and Irm Hermann showcases another wonderful performance as Han’s wife.  Also, a solid performance from Hanna Schygulla as the outspoken member of the Epp family.

As for the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release, “The Merchant of Four Seasons” looks fantastic for its age.  Colors are well-represented, grain is intact and no discoloration, softness or any excessive DNR.  Picture quality is very good and its monaural soundtrack is clear, with no hiss or crackle.  You also get a few special features including interviews with actor Hans Hirschmuller and actress Irm Hermann.

Overall, “The Merchant of Four Seasons” is a fascinating Werner Fassbinder film about a man who feels he has lost everything, including himself.  A wonderful Fassbinder film that I recommend!

Next Page »

Bottom