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Enter the Dangerous Mind (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you do care about mental health, if you do care about storyline pacing and exploration of a character’s descent into darkness, then you’ll find “Enter the Dangerous Mind” to be unsatisfying and banal.  Otherwise if you don’t and want a popcorn psychological horror film, then “Enter the Dangerous Mind” may be for you!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Copyright Snap LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Enter the Dangerous Mind

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:55:1 Aspect Ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: N/A

Release Date: April 14, 2015


Directed by Youseef Delara, Victor Teran

Written by Victor Teran

Produced by Ryland Aldrich, Amir Delara, Youssef Delara, Victor Teran

Co-Producer: Nate Bishop, Puneet Comar, Shilash Patel, Maury Rogow

Executive Producer: Forest B. Hamilton, Elaine King Henderson, Anthony Jabre, Jeremy Platt, Reza Safinia

Music by Reza Safinia

Cinematography by Ben Kufrin

Edited by Youssef Delara, John Wesley Whitton

Casting by Derek J. Marquardt

Production Design by Seth Reed

Art Direction by Jennifer Mollier

Set Decoration by Natalie Pope

Costume Design by Alisha Silverstein


Starring:

Nikki Reed as Wendy

Jake Hoffman as Jim Whitman

Thomas Dekker as Jake

Scott Bakula as Kevin

Jason Priestley as Dr. Dubrow


Music makes the voices stop. That s what Jim (Jake Hoffman) wants most to hide away in his apartment, mixing original dubstep beats as a soundtrack to the insanity of daily life. But it s not working too well lately. His brother (Thomas Dekker) bullies him into pursuing social worker Wendy (Nikki Reed), and their intimate encounter sparks an obsession that turns Jim into a human time bomb. Also starring Scott Bakula, Jason Priestley, and Gina Rodriguez, ENTER THE DANGEROUS MIND is a terrifying study of mental illness, and the destruction unleashed when you finally SNAP.


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Filmmaker Youssef Delara is known for his visual effects work on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: Voyager” and filmmaker Victor Teran is known for his indie film “Bedrooms”.

The two have joined forces to create the psychological thriller “Enter the Dangerous Mind” starring Jake Hoffman (“Click”, “The Wolf of Wall Street”, “Rain Man”), Nikki Reed (“Twilight” films), Thomas Dekker (“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”, “A Nightmare on Elm Street”), Scott Bakula (“Enterprise”, “Quantum Leap”) and Jason Priestley (“Beverly Hills, 90210″, “Tombstone”).

The film will be released on Blu-ray in April 2015 courtesy of Well Go USA.

“Enter the Dangerous Mind” revolves around Jim (portrayed by Jake Hoffman) who creates his own dubstep mixes.  He is constantly bothered by voices in his head…Jake (portrayed by Thomas Dekker) who keeps telling Jim that he is a loser and he can’t get women and everything he does is wrong.

To keep Jake out, Jim uses music as a way to express himself but to keep the voices out.

One day, he visits a women’s shelter and meets Wendy (portrayed by Nikki Reed) and the two go out on a date.  But after a mishap on the date, the voices of Jake begin to escalate and starts to take control of Jim, who then embarks on a deadly, dark path.


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VIDEO:

“Enter the Dangerous Mind” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:34:1 aspect ratio).  There is no doubt that the film utilizes a lot of intentional color grading, almost throughout the film.  So, picture quality tends to shift during certain scenes throughout the film.

For the most part, picture quality is good and I saw no artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO:

“Enter the Dangerous Mind” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is primarily dialogue driven via center and front-channels and its soundtrack is boosted by its use of EDM, so expect the music to be the major player with crystal clear music and use of panning effects being utilized in the surround channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Enter the Dangerous Mind” comes with a theatrical trailer.


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While horror films or psychological thrillers based on metal illness is nothing new to films on the big screen, during these days of political correctness and trying to support the treatment of mental illness, “Enter the Dangerous Mind” is a film is one of those unfortunate films that will entertain others for its music and horror, while leaving those who know of someone with mental illness, in awe of its insensitive, audacious storyline.

The character of Jim (portrayed by Jake Hoffman) who has a mental illness and has a problem of blocking out Jake (portrayed by Thomas Dekker), who we are to believe is his roommate, but is not difficult to figure out within the opening moments of the film that the character is all in Jim’s head.

Wanting to find a woman (thanks to the urging of the voice of Jake), he ends up going after Wendy (portrayed by Nikki Reed), who works in the same office as his social worker Kevin (portrayed by Scott Bakula).

While the film starts to establish Jim as a EDM musical genius, the film starts to morph into Jim’s chaotic descent into darkness after he prematurely ejaculates on himself after making out with Wendy and now the voices brought upon by Jake affects him.

For the sake of music, the film takes away from further exploring the character of Jim.  The pacing of the film is entirely off and characters are hurt or weakened because the character development of Jim is poor.  Too much went into the the EDM and trying to morph Jim from this silent, music genius to a person with mental health issues and next thing you know, the film tries to throw its horror card by showing how Jeff’s descent has now made him to a psycho killer and trying to show how twisted and sadistic he can be?

Overall, I felt the film’s pacing was off!  There was not enough exploration of the character and what drives him to become a psycho-killer.  But with that being said, for those who love mindless horror and psychological thrillers that don’t make you want to think all that much, then “Enter the Dangerous Mind” is for you.  The film tries to captivate you with its music, its disgusting horror moments and its approach to mental illness.

But if you do care about mental health, if you do care about storyline pacing and exploration of a character’s descent into darkness, then you’ll find “Enter the Dangerous Mind” to be unsatisfying and banal. Otherwise if you don’t and want a popcorn psychological horror film, then “Enter the Dangerous Mind” may be for you!

Life of Riley (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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I absolutely found the film to be entertaining and fun, but also enjoyed the changes of the characters through the course of the film and its vibrant set and fantastic acting.  A film of pure exuberance and thoroughly entertaining, Alain Resnais’ final film, “Life of Riley” is recommended!

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


TITLE: Life of Riley

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 108 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:55:1 Aspect Ratio, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: March 10, 2015


Directed by Alain Resnais

Play by Alan Ayckbourn

Dialogue by Jean-Marie Besset

Adaptation by Laurent Herbiet/Alain Resnais

Produced by Jean-Louis Livi

Executive Producer: Christophe Jeauffroy

Music by Mark Snow

Cinematography by Dominique Bouilleret

Edited by Herve de Luze

Production Design by Jacques Saulnier

Costume Design by Jackie Budin


Starring:

Sabine Azema as Kathryn

Hippolyte Girardot as Colin

Caroline Sihol as Tamara

Michel Vuillermoz as Jack

Sandrine Kiberlain as Monica

Andre Dussollier as Simeon

Alba Gaia Kraghede Bellugi as Tilly


Life of Riley (Aimer, boire et chanter) is the joyous, life-affirming final film by French New Wave legend Alain Resnais (Last Year at Marienbad).
Resnais’ third adaptation of an Alan Ayckbourn play (after Smoking/No Smoking and Private Fears in Public Places), Life of Riley circles around the absent George Riley, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Three couples react to the news with various degrees of emotion. The women are each separately invited to a seaside resort by Riley, and hidden resentments and insecurities in each relationship bubble to the surface, causing a re-evaluation of each couple’s love.
Life of Riley features an exuberant cast of Sabine Azéma, Hippolyte Girardot, Caroline Silhol, Michel Vuillermoz, Sandrine Kiberlain and André Dussollier. Resnais shoots the film on artificial-looking sets, setting off actors against cross-hatched backgrounds as if inside of a candy-colored comic strip. The film is a beautifully realized, improbably upbeat confrontation with mortality, and a fitting capstone to a monumental career.


Alain Resnais, the French filmmaker has earned the respect of filmmakers, critics and cineaste with films such as “Hiroshima Mon Amour”, “Last Year at Marienbad”, “Muriel” and “My American Uncle”, including his short film “Night and Fog”.

Working for nearly 60-years in cinema, with the last films in his oeuvre, Resnais would create films that revolved around cinema and theater.

In 2014, Alain Resnais adapted Alan Ayckbourn’s 2010 play (his third adaptation of Ayckbourn’s work), “Life of Riley” which premiered at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival and won a Alfred Bauer Prize.

While preparing another adaptation based on the 2013 play “Arrivals & Departures” and weeks after the film’s premiere, the great filmmaker passed away at the age of 91.

And now “Life of Riley” will be released on Blu-ray in April 2014.

“Life of Riley” is set in Yorkshire and focuses on three couples.  Kathryn (portrayed by Sabine Azema) and Colin (portrayed by Hippolyte Girardot) are thespians, Tamara (portrayed by Caroline Silhol) and Jack (portrayed by Michel Vuillermoz)…a couple trying to raise their teenage daughter Tilly and Monica (portrayed by Sandrine Kiberlain) and Simeon (portrayed by Andre Dussollier)… Monica is the former wife of George Riley who left him to be with a wealthy farmer, Simeon.

The couples receive word that their friend George Riley is fatally ill and has a few months to live.  They grieve about their good friend, try to help him and get him involved in their amateur dramatic group but as they work on their rehearsals, their past history start to affect them.

But when George invites each of the wives to accompany him on a final holiday in Tenerife, each of the women want to accompany him, but their husbands are torn by it and don’t agree.


VIDEO:

“Life of Riley” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:55:1 aspect ratio) and is presented in HD. The film is shot with the actors on studio(as if they are on stage with theatrical style sets including painted curtains and props), while footage of people driving or footage of their home are edited into the film.  The studio is well-lit, colors are vibrant, skin tones look natural and the overall film looks sharp and colorful.

AUDIO:

“Life of Riley” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is primarily dialogue driven with music.  The soundtrack is quite appropriate for this type of film, dialogue and music is crystal clear and front and center-channel driven.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Life of Riley” comes with the following special features:

  • Interviews – (16:24) Interviews with the cast who discuss working with Alain Resnais, his approach to film and theater and more.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:34) The theatrical trailer for “Life of Riley”.

EXTRAS:

“Life of Riley” comes with a 16-page booklet with a word from the filmmaker and the essay “The Sense of an Ending: Alain Resnais’ Unintended Last Film” by Glenn Kenny.


A beautifully, entertaining final film from the great French filmmaker, Alain Resnais.

“Life of Riley” is a fascinating film about its group of characters and a humorous study on their thoughts and perspectives of their fatally ill friend, but how they begin to question the friend and his motives when he asks each of the wives to accompany him on a trip.

Working with talent that have experience working on Ayckbourn’s plays (with the exception of Sandrine Kiberlain), it’s interesting to see how Resnais was able to create the film with a very low budget but working with skilled designer Jacques Saulnier to use painted curtains to create the setting and perspective of facades of buildings and the outdoors.

As filmed theater, this type of film will of course, not attract everyone.  For those who love theater will find the exuberance of “Life of Riley” and its fun and entertaining presentation. The film is well-acted and I felt it was a fitting final film for Resnais.

Those who can’t get over the fact that this is filmed theater will probably find the movie tedious and wish for something different.  Nevertheless, when I said the film is fitting as the final film for Resnais is because even with the surreal “Last Year at Marienbad” (1961), people questioned Resnais films, some who praised the film for its uniqueness, others who panned the film because they were not able to understand it.

While “Life of Riley” is much more accessible, it’s just a style that shows Resnais’ appreciation for theater and filmed theater and working with theater actors is what he enjoyed, much more in his later years.

But I absolutely found the film to be entertaining and fun, but also enjoyed the changes of the characters through the course of the film and its vibrant set and fantastic acting.  A film of pure exuberance and thoroughly entertaining, Alain Resnais’ final film, “Life of Riley” is recommended!

Goodbye to Language 3D (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Goodbye to Language 3D” is an entertaining, complex and yet cerebral film.  One that requires multiple viewings, a film that requires you to be fully in the zone and not distracted as you may miss certain important references or dialogue.  And with over 70-years of dedication of cinema, Jean-Luc Godard has managed to challenge the cineaste and will continue to do so as long as he is creating cinema. “Goodbye to Language 3D” is recommended for the cineaste ready for a challenge! 

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


TITLE: Goodbye to Language 3D

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 69 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2D and 3D, 1:78:1 for 3D, 1:85:1 for 2D, Original Aspect Ratio, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: April 14, 2015


Written and Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Produced by Brahim Chioua, Vincent Maraval, Alain Sarde

Cinematography by Fabrice Aragno


Starring:

Heloise Godet as Josette

Kamel Abdeli as Gedeon

Richard Chevalier as Marcus

Zoe Bruneau as Ivitch

Christian Gregori as Davidson

Jessica Erickson as Mary Sheley

Marie Ruchat

Jeremy Zampatti


Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Goodbye to Language 3D is a triumphant masterpiece from Jean-Luc Godard. Using 3D technology to mind-bending effect, the film follows a couple whose relationship breaks down along with the images, which in its second half takes a dog’s-eye view of the world. It is a meditation on history and illusion that creates 3D effects more spectacular than any Hollywood blockbuster, figures merging and weaving across the screen along with the film’s ideas about romantic love and being-in-the-world. It has the feeling of a final statement, but knowing Godard’s penchant for re-invention, hopefully it is yet another beginning to an extraordinary career.


In 2014, French director Jean-Luc Godard would create his 42nd feature film, a French-Swiss 3D experimental narrative essay which Godard also wrote.

The film would star Heloise Godet (“Girl on a Bicycle”, “Errance”), Kamel Abdeli (“Djihad!”, “Une Journee sur la terre”), Richard Chevallier (“Cafe de Flore”, “Part-Time”), Zoe Bruneau (“Les gazelles”, “Pas tout de suite”), Christian Gregori (“Attention aux chiens”, “Les Petites couleurs”) and Jessica Erickson (“8th Wonderland”, “Graduation Day”).

Wanting to collaborate with cinematographer Fabrice Aragno, Aragno was dissatisfied with modern professional 3D cameras that he created his own custom rig with Canon 5D DSLR camera, Canon 1DC and inexpensive Flip Minos.  And for four years, both he and Godard shot footage, with Godard editing the footage in 2D and Aragno via 3D with color correction and surround sound.  But also experimenting with double exposure 3D image and shots with parallax.

The film would win the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and won Best Picture at the 2014 National Society of Film Critics Awards.  And as such with many Godard films, there were film critics who praised the film and others who dismissed it as incomprehensible.

And now “Goodbye to Language” both in 2D and 3D (2-Blu-ray Discs) will be released in April 2015 courtesy of Kino Lorber.

I will not bother giving a summary of the film, because the film is demanding of the viewer to watch it several times.  Even watching it several times may not make a connection to the viewer and the characters, female actresses Heloise Godet and Zoe Bruneau and male actors, Kamel Abdelia and Richard Chevallier, will no doubt confuse viewers as both look like each other, which the casting was intentional.

“Goodbye to Language” is an experimental narrative about a couple who are having an affair.  The stories are “1 Nature” and the other “2 Metaphor” focus on couples Gedeon and Josette, the other on Marcus and Ivitch.  Davidson is possibly a scholar, and Marie and her boyfriend also make an appearance.

We know there are discussions of Vladimir K. Zworykin, Adolf Hitler, Rodin’s “The thinker”, Mao Zedong’s opinion of the French Revolution and quite possibly, an affair between one of the couples.

Meanwhile, Jean-Luc Godard’s dog, Roxy is seen, swimming, taking a dump, paraphrasing Clifford D. Simak’s “Time and Again”.

During the film, while people are talking, clips of many films show in the background and makes references to art, science, literature, philosophy and political theory.


VIDEO:

“Goodbye to Language 3D” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:84:1 aspect ratio) and is presented in HD. Because of the experimental style of this film, shot with DSLR’s and other types of cameras, the scenes vary to clear, noisy, soft and for the most part, not going for consistent but experimental in nature.

AUDIO:

“Goodbye to Language 3D” is presented in French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Don’t expect Godard to go on easy on the audiophile as the lossless audio can get a bit frenetic.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Goodbye to Language 3D” comes with the following special features:

  • Canon Europe Interview – (46:19) Featuring an interview with Jean-Luc Godard about the making of “Goodbye to Language” and more.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:27) The theatrical trailer for “Goodbye to Language 3D”.

Leave it to Jean-Luc Godard to explain his movie and making it seem so simple.

Godard said about his 2014 film, “It’s about a man and his wife who no longer speak the same language.  The dog they take on walks then intervenes and speaks.”

In many ways, I can understand where Godard is coming from.  A failure of a marriage and relationship is often due to the lack of communication, often the differences between the individuals.

But unlike earlier Godard films in which the relationship is straightforward, “Goodbye to Language” is not.

In fact, I think “Goodbye to Language 3D” as a film for Godard to take on new technology, to take on the growing number of 3D films and break convention and as always the rebel, buck away from traditional Hollywood practices and give us his version of a 3D film.

Working with cinematographer Fabrice Aragno who decided to do away with the 3D technology employed in Hollywood, opting for DSLR’s and mini-digital recorders, “Goodbye to Language 3D” is an interesting experiment with these technologies to create a narrative of two couples, who look very much like each other but the circumstances are similar and also very different.  Like the red and blue of 3D glasses, they work similarly but the colors are very different.

Throw in a professor, a young man and woman and a dog who then occupies most of the film and we are left with a movie that is intellectually unforgiving, a movie that is possibly to some incomprehensible and for others, leaving them with a smile on their faces, because Godard has created a film that few will truly understand (or so they think they do).

What I can best say about “Goodbye to Language 3D” is that it is a film about multiple stories, which reference to many other multiple stories and despite having watched this film several times, even I can’t tell you what I watched, because one time I focused on the couples, then I found myself focusing on the dog and then I found myself zeroing on the references, may they be archival and another time, I tried to see if the experimentation used in the film served any major purpose.

The answer is yes, but how they correlate, I’m not even sure myself if they are supposed to.

While watching this film, there are parts of me that want to give off this maniacal laugh because I feel like other Godard films, there is a subtle “Fuck you” message from the filmmaker who could care less whether or not you understand the film or not.

Once can read a plethora of reviews from those who get the film, yet each give off their own different perception of what the film is about.  I have watched the film several times now and I find myself fighting what I thought what I thought was what the film was, just to find out that I came up with another new perspective.

And while my best memories of the film are naked people and a dog having fun in the country, the narration is complex, thought-provoking and I keep going back to it, because there are many references but I try to zero-in on the message.

Every Godard film that I have watched, I found a message, no matter how complex or political, I got it.  “Goodbye to Language 3D” is problematic for me as a reviewer because it’s a first for me to watch a Godard film and yet, fighting my every thought of the film which I think I understand, but really don’t.  Maybe that was intentional, like the experimental use of video and audio for the film.  You take things as they are, whatever your interpretation is and go with it.

Overall, “Goodbye to Language 3D” is an entertaining, complex and yet cerebral film.  One that requires multiple viewings, a film that requires you to be fully in the zone and not distracted as you may miss certain important references or dialogue.

And while this may be a first for me watching a Godard film in which I continually contradict each perspective I originally had for the film, perhaps that is a good thing.  But yet, I can’t help but give out a maniacal laugh to Jean-Luc Godard for creating films that people will love, hate, a film they will understand or not understand but yet, creating a film that he wants to do, the way he wants it to be, under his own terms and could care less whether or not you get it.

And with over 70-years of dedication of cinema, Godard has managed to challenge the cineaste and will continue to do so as long as he is creating cinema.

“Goodbye to Language 3D” is recommended for the cineaste ready for a challenge!

The River – The Criterion Collection #276 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The River” is wonderful! Whether or not you consider this as Jean Renoir’s final masterpiece is of course subjective to the viewer, but I found the film to be unique. And for first time viewers of the film who have experienced Renoir’s other masterpieces, will see a different kind of Renoir film, but I have no doubt that like how I felt after watching, many will find this film to be enjoyable. Jean Renoir’s “The River” is highly recommended!

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


TITLE: The River – The Criterion Collection #276

YEAR OF FILM: 1951

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Color, English Monaural LPCM 1.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Janus Films/The Film Foundation/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: April 21, 2015


Directed by Jean Renoir

Based on the Novel by Rumer Godden

Screenplay by Rumer Godden and Jean Renoir

Music by M.A. Partha Sarathy

Cinematography by Claude Renoir

Edited by George Gale

Production Design by Eugene Lourie

Art Direction by Bansi Chandragupta


Starring:

Nora Swinburne as the Mother

Esmond Knight as The Father

Arthur Shields as Mr. John

Suprova Mukerjee as Nan

Thomas E. Breen as Capt. John

Patricia Walters as Harriet

Radha as Melanie

Adrienne Corri as Valerie

June Hillman as the Narration (voice)


Director Jean Renoir’s entrancing first color feature—shot entirely on location in India—is a visual tour de force. Based on the novel by Rumer Godden, the film eloquently contrasts the growing pains of three young women with the immutability of the Bengal river around which their daily lives unfold. Enriched by Renoir’s subtle understanding and appreciation for India and its people, The River gracefully explores the fragile connections between transitory emotions and everlasting creation.


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While Jean Renoir had established himself as a legendary filmmaker with films such as “Grand Illusion”, “The Rules of the Game”, “The Lower Depths”, “La Bete Humaine” as his masterpiece within his established oeuvre, like many filmmakers who have their peaks, many go through their lows.

And for Jean Renoir during the 1950’s, he was not directing many films but inspired by Rumer Godden’s story that was featured in “The New Yorker”, Renoir wanted to create a film in India, to shoot it in Technicolor and to keep costs low, use nonprofessional actors.

The result is a faithful adaptation of Rumer Godden’s work and deals with an English family living near the Bengal river in India and a young teenager falling in love with a man, who has his eyes set on another young woman.

The film was a beloved film which director Martin Scorsese loved as a child and his non-profit organization dedicated to film preservation, the Film Foundation, would be instrumental in the restoration of the film.

And now, the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“The River” revolves around Harriet (portrayed by Patricia Walters), who lives with her upper class family near the banks of the Ganges River in India and focuses on her experiences, which is narrated by Harriet as an older woman discussing her life near the river.

Her father (portrayed by Esmond Knight) runs a jute mill and she has five sisters and one brother named Bogie (portrayed by Richard R. Foster).

While her mother is expecting a child, they are taken care of by their live-in nanny and are influenced both by their Western and Eastern influences.

While Bogie is often seen enamored by a man playing a flute to play with a cobra, Bogie and his Indian friend start to do the same.

Meanwhile, their neighbor invites his cousin, Captain John (portrayed by Thomas E. Breen) to live with him on his plantation.  A man who is self conscious that he has one leg (the other he lost in the war), both Harriet and her friend Valerie (portrayed by Adrienne Cori), fall for him.

While, Captain John’s attention is more towards the older Valerie, he also has an interest in Melanie (portrayed by Radha Burnier), amix-blood daughter from his cousin’s marriage to an Indian national who had died.  But unlike the English girls that he has similarities with, his perspective and culture clashes with Melanie.

As Harriet writes her deepest thoughts in her diary, she tries to impress him with her knowledge of Hindu religion and a tale about Lord Krishna.  But will Harriet be able to divert the Captain’s attention towards her, rather than her friend Valerie?


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VIDEO:

“The River – The Criterion Collection #276″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). Shot in Technicolor and having watched the previous Criterion Collection DVD release, there is a difference in terms of detail but also better color as skin tones are natural, saturation is very good and I saw no issues of flicker, heavy DNR, artifacts or banding.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the restoration of ‘The River’ was undertaken in the summer of 2004 by the Academy Film Archive, in association with the British Film Institute and Janus Films.  Restoration funding was provided by the Film Foundation and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.  The picture was restored from the original three-strip 35 mm nitrate Technicolor camera negatives at Cinetech in Valencia, California, where the color timing was done by Kevin Warr.”

In addition, “This high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine film scanner, with the participation of editor George Gale, from the new 35 mm restoration interpositive.  Thousands of instances of dirt, chemical stains, scratches, splices, warps, flicker and chroma breathing were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “The River – The Criterion Collection #276″ is presented in English LPCM 1.0 monaural.  Dialogue is clear with no sign of hiss or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The sound was transferred from a 35 mm optical track print at DJ Audio in Studio City, California, and restored at Audio Mechanics in Burbank California”.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The River – The Criterion Collection #276″ comes with the following special features:

  • Introduction by Jean Renoir – (7:51) An introduction by Jean Renoir about “The River”.
  • Martin Scorsese – (12:54) An interview with Martin Scorsese about how he became a fan of “The River” and Jean Renoir’s work.
  • Around the River – (59:42) French filmmaker Arnaud Mandagaran traveled to India to make the 2008 documentary about the production of “The River”.  Interviews with actor Radha Burnier, director Jean Renoir’s son Alain and director Satyajit Ray.
  • Kenneth Mceldowney – (52:19) Audio excerpts taken from an interview with producer Kenneth McEldowney conducted by the Criterion Collection in 2000.
  • Jean Renoir: A Passage Through India – (15:01) A video essay by film writer Paul Ryan on Jean Renoir’s approach to filming “The River”.
  • Trailer – (2:37) The original theatrical trailer for “The River”.

EXTRAS:

“The River – The Criterion Collection #276″ comes with a six-page insert with “Notes on the River” by Jean Renoir and the essay “A New Authenticity” by Ian Christie.


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The first time I watched Jean Renoir’s “The River”, I was surprised because of how different it was compared to the past films he had made, but also how I imagined how many people in America would get their first glimpse of India possibly through this film.

While we know how Martin Scorsese was enamored with the film and helped restore “The River” and how he would introduce the film to Wes Anderson, who was influenced by the film and went on to create “The Darjeeling Limited”, the film also was instrumental for bringing together Jean Renoir and legendary Indian filmmaker Satayjit Ray.

But possibly the most amazing story to come out of the making of “The River” was the fact that Jean Renoir, known for a plethora of masterpieces in his oeuvre, was a filmmaker that was no longer on the top of the hill, but still determined to create films.  And after reading an article by author Rumer Godden in “The New Yorker”, he wanted to take on a challenge of filming a movie in India but also with nonprofessionals.

And it helped the filmmaker that Godden would assist him in the screenplay but also creating a new scenario that was not featured in the original story, despite wanting to keep the film as faithful to the original story as possible.

As for the film, there is no question that the film is exotic but yet also unique for its time.  An English family living in India, Indian servants and friends, a stoic captain with two young woman who are in love with him, a young boy and his Indian friend trying to tease a cobra combined with a beautiful setting of India, shot in Technicolor and utilizing nonprofessional actors.

Shot in documentary style, as Renoir’s goal was to shoot a film about childhood, love and death, the way that the film was shot, the fact that despite the family living in safety, are well-guarded and taken care of, despite the beauty of the area, there are dangers, their is heartbreak and there can be darkness.

While you can have a banal film about love, life and death in America or Europe, choosing India as the setting, incorporating a dream sequence about a village wedding, the scene about loss and a sad funeral, this film has a good sense of balance of captivating viewers by its cinematography but its pure charm (the acting may not be the best, but it works for this film) and to show that not all things in life can be happy, unless there is communication and willingness to understand one another, despite conflicts in culture, conflicts in age (and this also experienced during the filming of “The River” as Jean Renoir had to learn to work with an Indian setting, an Indian crew but also working with nonprofessionals).

But the film also works on another level as a coming-of-age film for Harriet, how she lived through a life of having her first love, having her first bite of emotional pain and jealousy that involves a man but also experiencing tragedy.

As for the Criterion Collection release, this 2015 Blu-ray release includes all the original special features from the DVD release and these are lengthy features including an insightful documentary, an introduction by Jean Renoir, an interview with Martin Scorsese and more!

Overall, “The River” is wonderful! Whether or not you consider this as Jean Renoir’s final masterpiece is of course subjective to the viewer, but I found the film to be unique.  And for first time viewers of the film who have experienced Renoir’s other masterpieces, will see a different kind of Renoir film, but I have no doubt that like how I felt after watching, many will find this film to be enjoyable.

Jean Renoir’s “The River” is highly recommended!

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

April 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Supremacy” is a riveting story of white supremacists invading the home of an African-American family and what the family will do to survive.  Based on a true story,”Supremacy” is a solid film for director Deon Taylor and writer Eric J. Adams.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Supremacy the Movie. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Supremacy

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 104 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: April 21, 2015


Directed by Deon Taylor

Written by Eric J. Adams

Produced by Roxanne Avent, Vince Cirrincione

Co-Producer: Damien Douglas, Steak House, Dominic Ottersbach

Executive Producer: Aaron L. Gilbert

Co-Executive Producer: Margot Hand, Patrick Murray, Mary Vernieu

Associate Producer: Ephraim Salaam

Music by Michael Einziger

Cinematography by Rodney Taylor

Edited by Richard B. Molina

Casting by Venus Kanani, Mary Vernieu

Production Design by Michael Fitzgerald

Art Direction by Rodrigo Cabral

Costume Design by Rhona Meyers


Starring:

Danny Glover as Mr. Walker

Joe Anderson as Garrett Tully

Dawn Olivieri as Doreen

Derek Luke as Raymond

Evan Ross as Anthony

Lela Rochon as Mother

Mahershala Ali as Deputy Rivers

Julie Benz as Kristen

Nick Chinlund as Hannity

Robin Bobeau as Cassie

Alex Henderson as Jamar

Jenica Bergere as Gerardi


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Tully (Joe Anderson, A SINGLE SHOT, HERCULES) just got paroled. But his first night out could be his last. He just killed a cop. And no one s gonna listen to an ex-con with the Aryan Nation. His leader (Anson Mount) just cut him loose, and as the police close in, Tully and his girlfriend (Dawn Olivieri) add home invasion and hostages to the body count. But no one counted on Mr. Walker (Danny Glover), an ex-con himself, to fight back using his understanding of the racist mind to turn the tables on a desperate and violent man. Will it be enough to keep his family alive?


From indie film director Deon Taylor (“Nite Tales: The Movie”, “The Hustle”, “Dead Tone”) and writer Eric J. Adams (“Archie’s Final Project”) comes the film “Supremacy”.

Based on actual true events about a recently-paroled white supremacist, who killed a cop and broke into an African-American family’s home and held everyone hostage.

The film stars Danny Glover (“Lethal Weapon”, “The Color Purple”),  Joe Anderson (“Across the Universe”, “The Grey”, “Control”), Dawn Olivieri (“American Hustle”, “House of Lies”), Derek Luke (“Antwone Fisher”, “Glory Road”, “Captain America: The First Avenger”), Evan Ross (“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1″) and Lela Rochon (“Any Given Sunday”, “Waiting to Exhale”).

“Supremacy” begins with white supremacist Tully (portrayed by Joe Anderson) being released after serving 15-years in prison and is picked up by a woman named Doreen (portrayed by Dawn Olivieri).

While driving to Bakersfield, California for hours, they are stopped by a Black sheriff, who Tully kills.

While the two drive off, they abandon their car and look for a place to hide.  They end up hiding in the home of Mr. Walter (portrayed by Danny Glover), who lives with his wife (portrayed by Lela Rochon), her son Anthony (portrayed by Evan Ross), her daughter Cassie (portrayed by Robin Bobeau) and her two children, Jamar (portrayed by Alex Henderson) and a baby.

Immediately, the family  is gathered up and locked into a closet.

As Tully and Doreen wait for orders from their ringleader Sobecki (portrayed by Anson Mount), things start to escalate inside the home when one of the family members is shot.

Will any of the family members survive?


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VIDEO:

“Supremacy” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Picture quality for the film is very good as close-ups show plenty of detail. Outdoor scenes are vibrant, skin tones look natural and there is a good amount of grain throughout the film.

The film looks magnificent in HD, with no signs of major artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Supremacy” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is primarily dialogue driven.  Most of the surround sound use during the film is when you hear screams coming from another room.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Supremacy” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind-the-Scenes – (8:34) Behind-the-scenes footage from “Supremacy” during the sheriff’s murder.
  • Trailer – (2:01) Theatrical trailer for “Supremacy”.

EXTRAS:

“Supremacy” comes with a slipcover.


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I’ll have to give credit to director Deon Taylor and writer Eric J. Adams for taking on racism but also the ongoing, back-and-forth dialogue between the characters of white supremacist Tully (portrayed by Joe Anderson) and veteran actor Danny Glover as the patriarch Mr. Walter.

In today’s era, rage and anger is a trigger for most people to react to racism but for the character of Mr. Walter, having dealt with racism when he was younger, he deals with Tully without anger, but with patience and calmness.  Knowing that those around him are in trouble, he does all he can to help alleviate the high emotions in the house.

And what starts off as a battle of stereotypes transitions to something more powerful, more similar to each of these characters that they are able to communicate.

While the film’s action sequences and the riveting tale of whether the family lives (there is one scene that surprised me when it involved one of the youngest children) and thus setting up an unknown situation of whether this family will come out of this whole entire ordeal unscathed.

What didn’t work in the film is this sidestory between Mr. Walter and his son, Raymond (portrayed by Derek Luke), who is in law enforcement. Both have a troubled relationship and whenever their relationship becomes the focus of the film, it didn’t work all that well.

As for the Blu-ray release, the Blu-ray’s picture quality was very good!  Close-ups show great detail, the scenes were well-lit and there is also a good amount of grain throughout the film.  Lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue-driven and is crystal clear, with special features showcasing a short making-of.

Overall, “Supremacy” is a riveting story of white supremacists invading the home of an African-American family and what the family will do to survive.  Based on a true story, “Supremacy” is a solid film for director Deon Taylor and writer Eric J. Adams and a film worth watching!

Recommended!

 

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

April 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you dig moronic comedy, especially Kevin Hart films, then “The Wedding Ringer” is for you!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Screen Gems. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Wedding Ringer

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 101 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R

Release Date: April 28, 2015


Directed by Jeremy Garelick

Written by Jeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender

Produced by Adam Fields, William Packer

Co-Producer: Valerie Bleth Sharp

Executive Producer: Zanne Devine, Glenn S. Gainor, Jeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender, Ben Waisbren

Associate Producer: Chris Bremner, Nathan Donohoe

Music by Christopher Lennertz

Cinematography by Bradford Lipson

Edited by Jeff Groth, Shelly Westerman, Byron Wong

Casting by Ron Digman, Valorie Massalas

Production Design by Chris Cornwell

Art Direction by Charlie Campbell

Set Decoration by Dena Roth

Costume Design by Genevieve Tyrrell


Starring:

Kevin Hart as Jimmy Callahan/Bic

Josh Gad as Doug Harris

Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting as Gretchen Palmer

Affion Crockett as Reggie/Drysdale

Jorge Garcia as Lurch/Garvey

Dan Gill as Bronstein/Dickerson

Corey Holcomb as Otis/Alzado

Ken Howard as Ed Palmer

Colin Kane as Fitzgibbons/Plunkett

Cloris Leachman as Grandma Palmer

Jenifer Lewis as Doris Jenkins

Alan Ritchson as Kip/Carew

Mimi Rogers as Lois Palmer

Aaron Takahashi as Endo/Rambis

Olivia Thirlby as Alison Palmer

Whitney Cummings as Holly Munk

Ignacio Serricchio as Edmundo/Dirty Eddie Sanchez


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Doug Harris (Josh Gad) is a loveable but socially awkward groom-to-be with a problem: he has no best man. With less than two weeks to go until he marries the girl of his dreams (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), Doug is referred to Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), owner and CEO of Best Man, Inc., a company that provides flattering best men for socially challenged guys in need. What ensues is a hilarious wedding charade as they try to pull off the big con, and an unexpected budding bromance between Doug and his fake best man Jimmy.


From Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender, the writing duo who wrote the 2006 comedy “The Break-Up”, comes “The Wedding Ringer”, which marks Garelick’s directorial debut.

The comedy film stars Kevin Hart (“Ride Along”, “Get Hard”), Josh Gad (“Love & Other Drugs”, “21”, “Frozen”), Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting (“The Big Bang Theory”, “8 Simple Rules”), Jorge Garcia (“Lost”, “Hawaii Five-O”), Affion Crockett (“Never Back Down”, “This Means War”) and many more.

Despite the critical pounding the film received, “The Wedding Ringer” and the popularity of Kevin Hart helped the film earn over $75.5 million in the box office.

“The Wedding Ringer” introduces us to Jimmy Callahan (portrayed by Kevin Hart), who provides best man services for those who don’t have friends.  Despite his clients wanting to be friends with him, he makes sure that he knows that after he provides his service, they will no longer have any contact and they are not “real” friends.

Meanwhile, Doug Harris (portrayed by Josh Gad) is a successful tax attorney, but his social life is weak.  He has no friends and he is marrying the beautiful Gretchen Palmer (portrayed by Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) and are planing their wedding day, but she wants to meet his best man.

Unfortunately, Josh has no friends, so during the heat of the moment, looking at products in the medicine cabinet, he comes up with a name “Bic Mitchum” as his best man.  Seeing that he has no best man, he is referred by the party planner Edmundo (portrayed by Ignacio Serricchio) to check out the company, “The Best Man Inc.”.

As he visits The Best Man Inc., Doug asks Jimmy if he can pull of a “Golden Tux” (seven groomsmen) to match Gretchen’s bridesmaids, which Jimmy has never done before.  But as Jimmy agrees to take on the job, also hearing about Doug’s choice of name – Big Mitchum, and that he is a pastor who came from the military, Jimmy agrees but begins his search for groomsmen.

He begins to recruit his friends, some who are former criminals, some with strange talents, deformities or impediments and some people he grew up with.

With this odd group of friends, will Jimmy pull off a wonderful wedding for Doug?  And what happens when Doug starts to see Jimmy as a friend?


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VIDEO:

“The Wedding Ringer” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is very good as close-ups show plenty of detail.  Outdoor scenes are vibrant, skin tones look natural.

The film looks magnificent in HD, with no signs of major artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Wedding Ringer” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is primarily dialogue and musically driven, with good use of surrounds for ambiance and music having a strong presence throughout the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Wedding Ringer” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Jeremy Garelick and actor Josh Gad.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring 15 delete scenes.
  • Outtakes – Featuring four outtakes and an outtakes reel (3:38).
  • Line-O-Rama – (14:19) Improvisation scenes from the film.
  • Going to the Chapel of Love – (6:24) The cast and crew discuss wedding memories.
  • Music Video – (3:30) Featuring “Can You Do This” by Aloe Blacc.

EXTRAS:

“The Wedding Ringer” comes with the UltraViolet code and a slipcover.


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As Kevin Hart is “The Guy” that you will often see in comedy films next to Will Ferrell in the past year, for those who have seen a Hart film knows that you get either a good film or a bad one.

“The Wedding Ringer” unfortunately is neither great or good but with the moronic humor in the film, you can’t help but think that with its box office success, a sequel may possibly happen.

The storyline seems banal, a guy with no friends needs a best man and groomsmen, so he hires one and depends on Jimmy (portrayed by Hart) to be the guy to make it happen.

But the groomsmen are the most unlikeliest bunch of people you will see together.  One who escaped Federal Prison, one who works at an airport, one who has three testicles, one who can look sexy but has a stuttering problem, another is a man who can pull his shoulder out of it’s socket.

And the film plays off like a film with many improv scenes that whatever can get the most laughs were selected because the scenes are either unfunny or making someone laugh hysterically.  I found the film unfunny as Cloris Leachman, playing the grandmother, is on fire during dinner.  Another scene features the guys pulling a joke on Doug by making him think he’s getting a BJ, when it’s actually a dog.  Does this make you laugh and are you into this type of comedy?  If so, then “The Wedding Ringer” is for you.

There is no doubt that the partnering of Kevin Hart and Josh Gad works for “The Wedding Ringer”.  You can tell the two are having a lot of fun shooting this film and to have the beautiful Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting in the film is another plus.

As for the Blu-ray release, the film looks fantastic in HD as outdoor scenes are vibrant, closeup scenes show great detail and lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music.  You also get a plethora of outtakes, improve scenes, audio commentary and deleted scenes as well.

Overall, “The Wedding Ringer” are for those who have enjoyed moronic Will Ferrel, Seth Rogen and Adam Sandler of years past.  They are not for everyone, but there is an audience who loves dumb comedy and to see how far the director/writer/actors will take things.  And in this case, Kevin Hart is currently the face of American comedy.

If you dig moronic comedy, especially Kevin Hart films, then “The Wedding Ringer” is for you!

 

Cries and Whispers – The Criterion Collection #101 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Ingmar Bergman’s “Cries and Whispers” features the exploration of selfish, miserable characters which Bergman has managed to capture amazingly well in film.  Disturbing and not an easy film to watch, it still remains one of Bergman’s most powerful films featuring magnificent performances by Harriet Anderson, Liv Ullman and Ingrid Thurin.  Recommended!

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


TITLE: Cries and Whispers – The Criterion Collection #101

YEAR OF FILM: 1972

DURATION: 91 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: March 31, 2015


Written and Directed by Ingmar Bergman

Produced by Ingmar Bergman, Lars-Owe Carlberg

Cinematography by Sven Nykvist

Edited by Siv Lundgren

Production Design by Marik Vos-Lundh

Costume Design by Marik Vos-Lundh


Starring:

Harriet Anderson as Agnes

Kari Sylwan as Anna

Ingrid Thulin as Karin

Liv Ullman as Maria

Anders Ek as Isak, the Priest

Erland Josephson as David, the doctor

Henning Moritzen as Joakim, Maria’s Husband

George Arlin as Fredrik, Karin’s Husband


This existential wail of a drama from Ingmar Bergman concerns two sisters, Karin (Ingrid Thulin) and Maria (Liv Ullmann), keeping vigil for a third, Agnes (Harriet Andersson), who is dying of cancer and can find solace only in the arms of a beatific servant (Kari Sylwan). An intensely felt film that is one of Bergman’s most striking formal experiments, Cries and Whispers (which won an Oscar for the extraordinary color photography of Sven Nykvist) is a powerful depiction of human behavior in the face of death, positioned on the borders between reality and nightmare, tranquillity and terror.


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Written during a difficult time in the life of Ingmar Bergman (“The Seventh Seal”, “Fanny and Alexander”, “Persona”), “Cries and Whispers” became one of Bergman’s box office success.

Receiving critical acclaim and also nominations for five Academy Awards including a nomination for “Best Picture”, the film was seen a a return to traditional Bergman themes and also a collaboration with cinematographer Sven Nykvist, who won an “Academy award for Best Cinematography” award.

Having been released by the Criterion Collection as its 101st release, “Cries and Whispers” will receive a new 2K digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack.

The film is set during the 19th century and Agnes (portrayed by Harriet Anderson) is dying of cancer.  Living in a mansion with red carpets, red decoir and white statuary, her sisters Maria (portrayed by Liv Ullman) and Karin (portrayed by Ingrid Thulin) come to stay with her during her last moments.

But these sisters are not close and the more they stay with Agnes, the more they begin to feel distant but also find self-discovery as they need to deal with the concept of death.  While her sisters are there to stay with her, they don’t do much to help her and depend on her maid Anna (portrayed by Kari Sylwan), who lost a daughter and is deeply committed in taking care of Agnes.

But the longer Maria and Karin stay with Agnes, the more they start to think about the disappointment in their lives, flashbacks and memories that show how much pain and suffering these sisters have also faced in their lives.


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VIDEO:

“Cries and Whispers – The Criterion Collection #101″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio). The one thing that this film will captivate viewers its the cinematography, costume design and eventually the way the pain captures suffering in detail thanks to the cinematography of Sven Nykvist which focuses on the colors of crimson red, white and black.

One of the biggest differences from this Blu-ray release compared to the older Criterion Collection DVD is Criterion’s dedication to get away from the DNR that made the DVD version look a bit blurry.  There is a good amount of grain throughout the film and boasts much better detail.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new high-definition digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative at Chimney in Stockholm.  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 small dirt, grain, noise management, flicker and jitter”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Cries and Whispers – The Criterion Collection #101″ is presented in Swedish LPCM 1.0 monaural and English Dolby Digital 1.0 (via an English Dolby Digital 1.0 dubbed soundtrack). Dialogue is clear with no signs of hiss or popping.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Cries and Whispers – The Criterion Collection #101″ comes with the following special features:

  • Introduction by Ingmar Bergman – (7:09) Reporter Marie Nyrerod interviewed director Ingmar Bergman for SVT Svensk Television in the summer of 2003, on the island of Faro, where he had lived since 1967.
  • Harriet Anderson – (20:00) An interview with Harriet Anderson who talks about working on “Cries and Whispers” and her working relationship with Ingmar Bergman.
  • On-Set Footage – (34:00) Silent color footage shot during the production of “Cries and Whispers”.  Featuring audio commentary by film historian Peter Cowie.
  • Ingmar Bergman: Reflections on Life, Death, And Love with Erland Josephson – (52:19) A rare television interview with the director, Ingmar Bergman appears with his frequent star Erland Josephson for a candid, highly charged discussion.  Interview was conducted by journalist Malou von Sivers for TV4 International Sweden in 1999.
  • On Solace – (12:49) A 2014 video esay, filmmaker ::jogonada explores director Ingmar Bergman’s “Cries and Whispers”.
  • Trailer – (1:54) The original theatrical trailer for “Cries and Whispers”.

EXTRAS:

“Cries and Whispers – The Criterion Collection #101″ comes with a six-page insert with the essay “Love and Death” by Emma Wilson.


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As of the first Ingmar Bergman films that I have watched, I will not forget the performance by Harriet Anderson, who had a commanding performance as the character of Agnes, a woman dying of cancer ad you can hear the gasp in her voice, the pain that she exhibits and everything is detailed with efficacy, thanks to the solid writing and directorial effort by director Ingmar Bergman.

Teaming up with cinematographer Sven Nykvist, wonderful costume and set design, the film is primarily about three sisters in the final moments with their sister.  But the film proves to be a wonderful connection between the present and past.

Maria is a wife who struggles with self-mutilation and doing all she can to keep her husband away from her.  She has failed in building relationships because of her fears and only letting her sister Karin inside.

Karin, on the other hand is more social, outgoing but lives within her facade of being young and attractive.  Trying to use her young, beautiful looks to attract others, disturb others but also is unable to stay in her failed message.  She often remembers the love she shared with a handsome doctor but now the lack of anything, thanks to her ineffectual husband.

In some ways, both these sisters seem snooty and spoiled and have gotten their way and while I don’t care for dark and sad films,  you can’t help but see how these women have emotional baggage and have tried to live through their own personal failures

As I have wrote about Harriet Anderson’s commanding performance, Liv Ullman does a wonderful job of playing a woman who is afraid of emotional connections.  A woman who seems so cold and stoic, until you see her one true weakness in addition to seeing how far she would let herself go for a touch of happiness.  And how far she would go to push her husband away by self-mutilating herself, so she would remain bloody and drive him away.  But how much she revels in the pain she puts herself through but yet enjoys it in a sadist type of way.

Ingrid Thulin has done a wonderful job playing Karin, a woman who has no doubt attracted many men and possibly women with her beauty, but when she starts to think about failed romance, her unhappiness in her marriage, we see how she is able to hurt others through her false affection.

While the film revolves around three sisters, the film also features Anna the maid (portrayed by Kari Sylwan), who seems to be the most sane person in the film, wanting to do all that she can to ensure Agnes has someone taking care of her, something that her own sisters are unable to do.

The film was no doubt a shocking, intense film for its time.  Bergman, who is known for focusing on the female psyche, has created a film about miserable people.  People who have been too caught up with wealth and vanity, and deep inside, they live miserable, selfish lives.

Married but yet not allowed any affection, and as for the dying Agnes, she may not get the love and genuine support from her two sisters, but had one woman, a maid, who is willing to do all that was necessary to make her feel peace and comfort during her final days.

As for the Blu-ray release of “Cries and Whispers”, this 2K restoration features much better detail, much better feature of grain thanks to Criterion’s stepback from DNR.  Detail is much more evident, colors are more pronounced and the film looks much better in HD.  As for the film, it’s a dialogue-driven film with your occasional music but I heard no hiss, pops or anything negative during my viewing of the film.  As for the special features, you get new interviews, especially with Harriet Anderson who discusses her work with Bergman.  Also, a new video essay by filmmaker :: kogonada and also, many more special features just for this Blu-ray release.

Overall, Ingmar Bergman’s “Cries and Whispers” features the exploration of selfish, miserable characters which Bergman has managed to capture amazingly well in film.  Disturbing and not an easy film to watch, it still remains one of Bergman’s most powerful films featuring magnificent performances by Harriet Anderson, Liv Ullman and Ingrid Thurin.  Recommended!

Sullivan’s Travels – The Criterion Collection #118 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Sullivan’s Travels” is an American classic and Preston Sturges at his best.  But the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release of “Sullivan’s Travels” also celebrates the life of this filmmaker but also showing us that even for great successes, when their luck has ran out, things don’t work out as great as you once have hoped.  The definitive release of this Hollywood classic, “Sullivan’s Travels” on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

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


TITLE: Sullivan’s Travels – The Criterion Collection #118

YEAR OF FILM: 1941

DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, Black & White, Monaural LPCM 1.0

COMPANY: Universal/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: April 14, 2015


Written and Directed by Preston Sturges

Executive Producer: Buddy G. DeSylva

Produced by Preston Sturges

Associate Producer: Paul Jones

Music by Charles Bradshaw, Leo Shuken

Cinematography by John F. Seitz

Edited by Stuart Gilmore

Casting by Robert Mayo

Art Direction by Hans Dreier, A. Earl Hedrick

Costume Design by Edith Head

 


Starring:

Joel McCrea as John L. Lloyd Sullivan

Veronica Lake as The Girl

Robert Warwick as Mr. Lebrand

William Demarest as Mr. Jones

Franklin Pangborn as Mr. Casalsis

Porter Hall as Mr. Hadrian

Byron Foulger as Mr. Johnny Valdelle

Margaret Hayes as Secretary

Robert Greig as Burroughs

Eric Blore as Sullivan’s valet

Torben Meyer as the Doctor

Victor Potel as Cameraman

Richard Webb as Radio Man

Charles R. Moore as Colored Chef


Tired of churning out lightweight comedies, Hollywood director John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) decides to make O Brother, Where Art Thou?—a serious, socially responsible film about human suffering. After his producers point out that he knows nothing of hardship, Sullivan hits the road disguised as a hobo. En route to enlightenment, he encounters a lovely but no-nonsense young woman (Veronica Lake)—and more trouble than he ever dreamed of. This comic masterpiece by Preston Sturges is among the finest Hollywood satires and a high-water mark in the career of one of the industry’s most revered funnymen.


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In 1941, producer/writer/director Preston Sturges (“The Lady Eve”, “Unfaithfully Yours”, “The Great McGinty”)  created his masterpiece “Sullivan’s Travels” starring actor Joel McCrea (“Foreign Correspondent”, “Buffalo Bill”, “The Virginian”) and actress Veronica Lake (“I Married a Witch”, “This Gun for Hire”, “Hold That Blonde”).

The film was selected for preservation by the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1990 as being “Culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and in 2007, was ranked #61 in the American Film Institute’s “Greatest Movie of All Time”.

As “Sullivan’s Travels” was the 118th release by the Criterion Collection, the film has received a new high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack in this 2015 Blu-ray release.

“Sullivan’s Travels” revolves around director John L. Sullivan (played by Joel McCrea).  After having his share of profitable films, which were comedies that were not showcasing him as a serious director, Sullivan decided that he wanted to change things up and direct a film titled “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”.  Of course, the studio head Mr. Lebrand (played by Robert Warwick) wants him to focus on comedy but Sullivan will not do it.

Sullivan comes up with an idea.  Why not learn first-hand on how to be a homeless person (know in the 1940’s as the word “tramp”) by actually becoming one in order to gain the research he needs for his serious film that would depict the sorrow of humanity.

Of course, the studio is not so thrilled about their profitable director getting into that kind of trouble, so they have an entourage following Sullivan who is dressed as a tramp hitchhiking.  The problem is that the entourage are just a bit too close and nearby.  So, Sullivan tells them that he needs his space and distance from them to make this research possible and will meet them in Las Vegas.

Sullivan eventually breaks free and starts working as a helping hand for a woman who tries to keep him locked up in the house but Sullivan manages to escape and hitchhikes his way out of the area and is given a ride by a truck driver.  When he wakes up, he finds out that he is taken back to Hollywood.  Upset and hungry, he goes into a diner but with not much money, a failed actress (played by Veronica Lake) buys him breakfast.

Sullivan learns that the girl has only been taking extra work and has not done so well in Hollywood.  So, he wants to help her.  He pretends that he knows a successful director named Sullivan and borrows his car and tells her that he can stay at the director’s home for several weeks and he’ll fly her back home.  But when the two are busted by police, Sullivan is forced to reveal that he is not homeless or a washed up director, he is actually a successful director dressing up as a tramp in order to do research for his upcoming film.

Upset by Sullivan lying to her, she tells him that if he is going to disguise himself as a homeless person to research this role, she is going to join him.  And thus begins, Sullivan’s travels along with the girl to learn how it is to be homeless in America during these harsh times.

 


VIDEO:

“Sullivan’s Travels – The Criterion Collection #118″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). This is the definitive version of “Sullivan’s Travels” to date.  The picture quality surpasses the original DVD release in clarity and detail.  White and grays are well-contrasted, black levels are nice and deep and the film looks absolutely magnificent as I did not see any major damage, scratches or dust.  The mild flickering from the original DVD is not as evident in the Blu-ray release.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine film scanner from a 35 mm nitrate fine-grain at Universal Studios in Universal City, California, where the film was also restored.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Sullivan’s Travels – The Criterion Collection #118″ is presented in English LPCM 1.0 monaural.  Dialogue is clear with no signs of hiss or popping.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sullivan’s Travels – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #118″ comes with the following special features:

  • Audio commentary by filmmakers Noah Baumbach, Kenneth Bowser and actors Christopher Guest and Michael McKean – An enjoyable commentary by the four who discuss the film.  Very good insight on Preston Sturges by Kenneth Bowser.  Note: All four were not in the studio watching the film at the same time for the commentary.
  • Preston Sturges: The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer – (1:15:10) A 76-minute documentary made by Kenneth Bowser for PBS’s “American Masters” series.  A very well-done documentary on Preston Sturges from his earlier family life to being blackballed by the industry and losing the business he started and losing a lot of his money.
  • Sandy Sturges – (13:37) An interview with Preston Sturges’ widow Sandy Sturges in 2001.  Who also reveals of why things may have gone sour between Howard Hughes and Preston Sturges.
  • Ants in Your Plants of 1941 – (17:20) A video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns features director Bill forsyth and was produced by the Criterion Collection in 2014.
  • Sturges Talks to Hedda Hopper – A four minute radio interview from 1951 for Heda Hopper’s Hollywood.  Sturges talks about the importance of television and film.
  • Preston Sturges Recites “If I Were King” – A recital written by Justin Huntly McCarthy used for McCArthy’s play and was the basis for the screenplay “If I Were King” (1938).
  • Sturges Sings “My Love” – A Homemade recording of Sturges singing “My Love” from 1938.

EXTRAS:

“Sullivan’s Travels – The Criterion Collection #118″ comes with a five-page insert with the essay “Self-Portrait in a Fun-House Mirror” by Stuart Klawans.


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I have to admit that when I first watched “Sullivan’s Travels”, I was a bit surprised.  I was expecting a screwball comedy and at first, the film was very comedy-driven until you get to the final half hour and see how serious the film gets and then it transitions back to a comedy film once again.

But there are scenes that made me happy to see.  First, the chemistry between Joeal McCrea and Veronica Lake was just magnificent.  To see how Sturges avoided any problems by the censors but yet still making sure he was compliant with the Hays code was quite interesting.  Where depiction of a couple sleeping together was typically not possible (thus the two beds were separated during the Golden Era) but then sidestepping the code by having the two sleep together in other scenes without the use of a bedroom. But to watch these two together on screen and have so much fun made this film quite enjoyable.  Veronica Lake looks absolutely stunning in this film.

Another scene that I absolute enjoyed was how it depicted the Southern church and its Black parishioners.  With Blacks typically shown stereotypically in roles that made fun of their characters, we see both black and white people watching a film together and both races are enjoying the film together.  In fact, the NAACP secretary Walter White even wrote a letter to Sturges congratulating him in creating a film and showcasing Blacks decent treatment.  I was definitely a moving scene.

Although the film received rave reviews, within the 70+ years after the film’s release in theaters, many critics are discovering how important and significant this film is and also how this film ranks up there among Sturges’s other popular films

As mentioned earlier, this is the definitive version of “Sullivan’s Travels” to date.  I have various DVD versions but to see the clarity with this Blu-ray release, I was quite happy to watch this film digitally restored in HD!  Definitely an improvement from the original Criterion Collection DVD.

It’s one thing to give the film credit but I also give credit to the Criterion Collection for including the documentary “The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer”.  I had no idea how much turmoil Sturges had to face after the 1940’s.  For a man who’s films are so highly regarded, it’s a shame that the early Hollywood system really turned their backs on him and literally blackballed him from ever writing, directing or producing another film during the 1950’s.  Kenneth Bowser does a remarkable job in featuring the career of Preston Sturges and interviews with those close to him.

Also included on the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release is the addition of the “Ants in Your Plants of 1941″ video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns and featuring director Bill Forsyth.  While the audio portions remain, the only thing from the original DVD not included on the Blu-ray release are storyboards, blueprints and stills.  Plus you get an essay featured on the 5-page insert.

Overall, “Sullivan’s Travels” is an American classic and Preston Sturges at his best.  But the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release of “Sullivan’s Travels” also celebrates the life of this filmmaker but also showing us that even for great successes, when their luck has ran out, things don’t work out as great as you once have hoped.

The definitive release of this Hollywood classic, “Sullivan’s Travels” on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

 

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

April 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Killers” is quite possibly the most disturbing, most f’d up film I have watched in a long time.  If you are looking for a glimmer of hope and the happiest of endings, then this film is not for you.  Otherwise, if you enjoy psychological thrillers that are provocative and immoral, then “Killers” is a film that may interest you.

Images courtesy of © 2013 Nikkatsu and Guerilla Merah Films. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Killers

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 138 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese, Indonesian and English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: April 7, 2015


Directed by Kimo Stamboel, Timo Thahjanto

Original Story by Takuji Ushiyama

Written by Tauji Ushiyama and Timo Tjahnto

Story and Screenplay by Timo Tjahjanto

Produced by Yoshinori Chiba, Shinjiro Nishimura, Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto, Takuji Ushiyama

Executive Producer Rangga Maya Barack-Evans, Gareth Evans, Damien Lim, Aoura Lovenson Chandra, Daniel Mananta, Stephen Odang, Bernhard Subiakto, Akifumi Sugihara, Andrew Sulaiman

Music by Aria Prayogi

Cinematography by Gunnar Nimpuno


Starring:

Kazuki Kitamura as Nomura

Oka Antara as Bayu

Rin Takanashi as Hisae

Luna Maya as Dina Aditya

Ray Sahetapy as Dharma

Ersya Aurelia as Elly

Tensui Sakai as Souichi

Epy Kusnandar as Robert

Mei Kurokawa as Midori

Tara Basro as Dewi


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A series of horrific murders have just gone viral, posted anonymously by the handsome and seductive Nomura (Kazuki Kitamura) with a taste for torture. Thousands of miles away, disgraced journalist Bayu (Oka Antarra) can’t stop watching and in a reckless moment discovers he, too, can kill. One man in Tokyo. One in Jakarta. A serial killer and a vigilante. As the posts multiply and the body count rises, a bizarre and psychotic rivalry begins and the face-to-face showdown that s coming will paint the city in blood.


From the Mo Brothers (Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto) comes their 2014 Japanese-Indonesian psychological thriller titled “Killers”.

The first film collaboration for a thriller film between Japan and Indonesia, the film was co-written by Takuji Ushiyama and the Timo Tjahjanto.

The film was shown as Sundance Film Festival 2014 and will be released in April 2015 on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Killers” begins with a man and woman having sex, the next thing you see is the woman running into the woods being chased by someone.

She is caught, her head put into a plastic bag and she is handcuffed in a room with a man wearing a mask over his head.  He turns on cameras and immediately pulls out weapons and bludgeons the woman.

The man is Nomura Shohei (portrayed by Kazuki Kitamura), a young, successful Japanese executive in Tokyo who has a dark side.  He likes to wear a mask and torture his female victims on video and uploads them on the Internet for anyone to see.

One man who loves to watch them is an Indonesian journalist named Bayu Aditya (portrayed by Oka Antara), who is working on a story about a politician named Dharma.  Unfortunately, pursuing Dharma has led to an end to his marriage and his career.  The only thing that he treasures most is his remaining bond with his daughter.

As Bayu researches why this man posts videos of his killings and why he becomes infatuated with the killings, one day, he is robbed in a taxi and nearly murdered by the perpetrators, but by luck, he manages to survive after killing them.  But instead of running away, Bayu video tapes the dead mean and posts it on the Internet.

This leads to Nomura Shohei contacting Bayu and trying to bring out the serial killer within him.  But the difference is that instead of murdering women, Bayu wants revenge on Dharma and his family.

But what happens when Bayu’s life becomes more complicated as their psychological bond begins to grow?


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VIDEO:

“Killers” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Picture quality for the film is very good as close-ups show plenty of detail.   Film looks magnificent in HD, with no signs of major artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Killers” is presented in Indonesian, Japanese and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  All languages are presented throughout the film and subtitles are in English.  The film is primarily dialogue-driven, with some parts of the film utilizing the surround channels for ambiance.  But for the most part, the film is front and center-channel driven.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Killers” comes with no special features.

EXTRAS:

“Killers” comes with a slipcover.


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After I finished watching Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto’s “Killers”, I think back to all the dark, fucked up Japanese dramas and films I have watched over the years.

The truth is “Killers” is no doubt one of the most fucked up films that I have seen in a very long time.  Definitely not a vibrant film…possibly the most immoral, disturbing, dark film depraved of any human compassion but with an ending so satisfying that you can’t help but ask yourself, how interesting this film was.

But first, let me say that if you are a person who wants to see hope, happiness and justice in a film about serial killers, “Killers” is not a film to expect any of that.

This is a film about a Japanese serial killer named Shohei who loves killing his female victims, possibly loves eating them and is the most sick individual you would see in a film.

In a twist, it brings out the killing ways of Bayu, an Indonesian journalist who loses everything.  He becomes infatuated with Shohei’s videos, but not in a sadistic way but more of a journalistic way of how can this man do such things and be OK with it.

Bu when Shohei is able to track Bayu’s IP address and both start to communicate with each other online, suffice to say, Shohei brings out the darkness within Bayu.

But unlike Shohei who targets helpless female individuals, Bayu wants revenge on the corrupted politician and those around him that led to him losing his family and career.

While this film sounds like there is an ounce of humanity that can be seen in this film, the truth is that this film is truly dark and any signs of compassion towards humanity is not evident.  In fact, maybe you will see it a few times from Bayu but any hope for potential victims is dashed.  You are literally depraved of any hope and are gifted by savage and disturbing scenes instead.

The Blu-ray release of “Killers” is a barebones release with no special features but the film itself.  The picture quality is great and lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue.

Overall, “Killers” is quite possibly the most disturbing, most f’d up film I have watched in a long time.  If you are looking for a glimmer of hope and the happiest of endings, then this film is not for you.  Otherwise, if you enjoy psychological thrillers that are provocative and immoral, then “Killers” is a film that may interest you.

 

Into the Woods (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Into the Woods” is a film that has a lot going for it.  A strong ensemble cast, the original creators of the musical and a skilled director behind the film and wonderful music galore.  Fantastic costume design and makeup.  You would think the movie would be magnificent but unfortunately its short coming is its character development and story which feels rushed.   “Into the Woods” is a film with so much potential to be something great unfortunately is weakened by its rushed plot.

Images courtesy of © 2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Into the Woods

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 125 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: PG

Release Date: March 3, 2015


Directed by Rob Marshall

Screenplay by James Lapine

Musical by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim

Produced by John DeLuca, Rob Marshall, Callum McDougall, Marc Platt

Co-Producer: Angus More Gordon, Michael Zimmer

Music by Stephen Sondheim

Cinematography by Dion Beebe

Edited by Wyatt Smith

Casting by Tiffany Little Canfield, Francine Maisler, Bernard Telsey

Production Design by Dennis Gassner

Art Direction by Andrew Bennett, Ben Collins, Chris Lowe, Mary Mackenzie

Set Decoration by Anna Pinnock

Costume Design by Colleen Atwood


Starring:

Anna Kendrick as Cinderella

Daniel Huttlestone as Jack

James Corden as Baker

Emily Blunt as Baker’s Wife

Christine Baranski as Stepmother

Tammy Blanchard as Florinda

Lucy Punch as Lucinda

Tracey Ullman as Jack’s Mother

Lila Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood

Meryl Streep as Witch

Simon Russell Beale as Baker’s Father

Joanna Riding as Cinderella’s Mother

Johnny Depp as Wolf

Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel’s Prince

Mackenzie Mauzy as Rapunzel

Annette Crosbie as Granny

Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince

Richard Glover as Steward

Frances de la Tour as Giant


From the director of CHICAGO and the producer of WICKED comes a modern twist on the beloved fairy tales you thought you knew. Meryl Streep stars in this epic musical saga about daring to venture INTO THE WOODS. Iconic characters, such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel, find their fates intertwined with a humble baker and his wife, whose longing to have a child sends them on a quest to reverse a witch’s (Streep) curse. With an all-star cast, this spellbinding adventure is everything you could ever wish for!


In 1986, the musical “Into the Woods” based on James Lapine’s book and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim made its debut and would premiere on Broadway a year later.

The winner of several Tony Awards and continuing on stage via several revivals, “Into the Woods” would receive an American fantasy musical drama film adaptation courtesy of Disney and would be directed by Rob Marshall (“Chicago”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”, “Memoirs of a Geisha”) and would feature a collaboration with original musical creators James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim.

The film would feature an ensemble cast which includes Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Emily blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, Daniel Huttlestone, Lila Crawford, Christine Baranski, Billy Magnussen, to name a few.

While the creators knew that the musical couldn’t be a perfect adaptation and the music would need to be tweaked for the film version, the film’s story remains the same as it is inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales of “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Cinderella”, “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Rapunzel”.

Created with a budget of $50 million, “Into the Woods”, which was released on Christmas Day 2014, would go on to earn over $204 million in the box office worldwide.

And now “Into the Woods” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Disney on April 2nd.

“Into the Woods” begins with a baker (portrayed by James Corden) and his wife (portrayed by Emily Blunt) wishing for a child, but due to a curse put onto the family by a witch (portrayed by Meryl Streep), because of the baker’s father stealing her prized vegetables, including magic beans which she was to protect or else become ugly if the beans were to leave her possession.

And because she was turned into an ugly witch, she put a curse on the baker’s family but gives the baker and his wife a chance to break the curse by looking for items to create a potion: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure as gold.  But they must do the task as she is not allowed to touch any of the subjects.

Meanwhile, young Jack (portrayed by Daniel Huttlestone) is told by her mother (portrayed by Tracy Ullman) to sell their beloved cow Milky in order to make money to survive as they are running out of food.  Jack ends up running into the baker who offers him magical beans for the cow.  Jack is willing to sell the cow if he can buy her back with gold coins and thus, they make a deal.

When Jack’s mom finds out what Jack ended up doing, she is upset and throws the magic beans outside of their home.  And that night, a giant beanstalk grows towards the skies.

At another location, Red Riding Hood (portrayed by Lilla Crawford) goes to visit her grandmother’s house, but watching her every move is the wolf (portrayed by Johnny Depp).  Meanwhile, the baker and his wife need to get Red Riding Hood’s cape, but can they?

Living in another area is Cinderella (portrayed by Anna Kendrick) who is mistreated by her stepmother (portrayed by Christine Baranski) and her stepsisters.  But when she comes across magical shoes, she becomes as beautiful as a princess and attracts Prince Charming (portrayed by Chris Pine).  But before she reverts back to her original self, she runs back home and the baker’s wife sees her gold slippers which she needs to get.

As for the ugly witch, we learn that she is the mother of her adopted daughter Rapunzel (portrayed by Mackenzie Mauzy), who was the original child belonging to the Baker’s parents, but due to the theft, the witch took their daughter for the misdeed.

And because of Rapunzel’s growing blonde hair, she is locked inside the tower, where she is often visited by another prince (portrayed by Billy Magnussen).  Will Rapunzel ever be released from the tower?

But will the Baker and his wife acquire the ingredients needed in order to have a child?


VIDEO:

“Into the Woods” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).  If there is one thing that I expect from a Disney Blu-ray, I expect wonderful picture quality and “Into the Woods” does not disappoint.  Shot in the woods, there is wonderful picture quality when it comes to costume design, makeup (from the witch’s hair, Rapunzel’s hair, the beanstalk, etc.) but capturing the environment and the importance of the woods, from darkness, subtle light, full light and of course, the overall lighting via special effects.   Skin tones look natural, detail of closeups are fantastic and I saw no signs of artifacts, banding or noise.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Into the Woods” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks. As one can expect from a musical, this lossless soundtrack is fantastic.  Crystal clear dialogue and music, good balance of LFE during the more action-driven sequences and great utilization of the surround and rear surround channels.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Into the Woods” comes with the following special features:

  • Streep Sings Sondheim: “She’ll Be Back” – (4:49) Director Rob Marshall discusses the cut scene featuring Meryl Streep singing “She’ll Be Back” and discussing why the song was cut.
  • There’s Something About the Woods – (13:24) The cast and crew talk about “Into the Woods” and their characters.
  • The Cast as Good as Gold – (10:11) Director Rob Marshall an cast discuss the casting process, rehearsals and cast chemistry.
  • Deeper Into the Woods – A four-part documentary featuring “From Stage to Screen” (8:33), “The Magic of the Woods” (7:24), “Designing the Woods” (7:08) and “The Costumes of the Woods” (6:54).
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director/producer Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca.
  • Music & Lyrics – Featuring the opportunity to watch the film with onscreen lyrics or viewing songs individually.  Songs featured are: “Prologue: Into the Woods,” “Hello, Little Girl,” “I Know Things Now,” “A Very Nice Prince,” “Giants in the Sky,” “Agony,” “It Takes Two,” “Stay with Me,” “On the Steps of the Palace,” “Witch’s Lament,” “Any Moment,” “Moments in the Woods,” “Your Fault,” “Last Midnight,” “No One is Alone,” “You Are Not Alone/Children Will Listen,” and “Finale.”
  • Trailers and Previews

EXTRAS:

“Into the Woods” comes with a slipcover and a Digital HD code for DisneyMovieRewards.com.


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There was no doubt that Rob Marshall, James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim faced incredible odds of adapting “Into the Woods” to a fantasy musical film.

With the success of the musical, the fact that the adaptation for film took a long time goes to show that many people did not know how to approach the film.

Considering you have those involved with the musical involved with the film, you would think that somehow the magic would carryover but the truth is, a lot of adaptations from a musical is always going to receive criticism.

But “Into the Woods” has received plenty of it because of how the characters are portrayed.

I have seen the word “unsympathetic” used to described the characters and the fact is, the story starts out strong.  The performance by Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp are wonderful in terms of performance and even pulling off their musical numbers but the problem lies within the characters.  Things go too quickly and because of time, you are shifting from characters and different storylines that the film doesn’t give a chance to spend anytime with the characters enough for one to care.

There are actions by characters that are quite dumfounding, does the film want you to care about the characters at the end or does the film make you want to feel that humans are entirely vain.  Even the dialogue rubs me the wrong way, certain actions rub me the wrong way.

At first, I thought the baker and his wife wold be the redeeming characters for the film but instead, any sympathy for them is squandered.  What about the importance of Rapunzel, none whatsoever.  So much is spent on other characters that Rapunzel is like watching a quick cameo of a superstar talent that leaves within seconds.  The character of Rapunzel is literally kicked to the curb.  Rapunzel is very important to the story in the musical stage version…not so much in the film.

Which leaves us to the bratty Jack and Red Riding Hood…bickering youngsters which doesn’t surprise me one bit.  But they don’t grow on you, they annoy you.

And while I love Anna Kendrick on film, the dialogue that is given to Cinderella is also as surprising as one dialogue has her saying “I love cleaning”… Great!  Instead of making Cinderella a strong, independent character, we are given a subservient version of her in the film.

I have no problem with tweaks from musical to film, I do have problem with lack of creativity to make things much more interesting and making audiences want to care for the characters through actions that make you sympathetic and make you want to root for them, to support them.  But everything seems so rushed and while the musical soundtrack does stand out, the film rides on the coattail of its Broadway predecessor.  Stuck in its shadow of being inferior despite a wonderful ensemble cast.

I do give Sondheim and Lapine credit for bringing their music, making tweaks to the story and music for the big screen but perhaps an adaptation of this musical was too difficult that what resonates strongly with many viewers who are less musically inclined are characters that turn people off.  There should be a balance of music and storytelling and “Into the Woods” was more of teh former.

The costume and makeup design are well-done, and while one wishes there were better or even more special effects in the film, I’m not sure if special effects could have made the film any better.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality and the lossless audio for “Into the Woods” is magnificent.   Detail is incredible, while lossless audio takes advantage of the surround channels and LFE.  The Blu-ray features a good amount of special features including audio commentary and the challenges of making “Into the Woods” into a film.  There is no doubt that the Blu-ray for “Into the Woods” looks and sounds great, it’s just that the movie is not.

Overall, “Into the Woods” is a film that has a lot going for it.  A strong ensemble cast, the original creators of the musical and a skilled director behind the film and wonderful music galore.  Fantastic costume design and makeup.  You would think the movie would be magnificent but unfortunately its short coming is its character development and story which feels rushed.

“Into the Woods” is a film with so much potential to be something great unfortunately is weakened by its rushed plot.

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