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anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Emotional, uplifting, tragic but also a film of hope,  “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is an animated film that will captivate you and a Blu-ray release that I highly recommend!

Image courtesy of © ANOHANA PROJECT. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese Linear PCM 2.0, Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 CH, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: July 15, 2014

Director: Tatsuyuki Nagai

Screenplay: Mari Okada

Storyboard: Tatsuyuki Nagai

United Director: Shinobu Yoshioka

Music by REMEDIOS

Character Design: Masayoshi Tanaka

Art Director: Tsutomu Ishigaki

Art by Takayoshi Fukushima

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Kayano as Meiko “Menma” Honma

Haruka Tomatsu as Naruko “Anaru” Anjō

Miyu Irino as Jinta “Jintan” Yadomi

Saori Hayami as Chiriko “Tsuruko” Tsurumi

Takahiro Sakurai as Atsumu “Yukiatsu” Matsuyuki

Takayuki Kondou as Tetsudō “Poppo” Hisakawa

Aki Toyosaki as Tetsudō (child)

Asami Seto as Atsumu (child)

Mutsumi Tamura as Jinta (child)

Jintan, Menma, Anaru, Yukiatsu, Tsuruko, and Poppo – six grade-school students who were the best of friends. As the “Super Peace Busters,” they always played together at their “secret base” until Menma died in a tragic accident.

Five years later, Menma appeared before Jintan, now a high school freshman. No one could see her but Jintan, and Menma told him that she wanted the Super Peace Busters to grant her a certain wish. But not even Menma herself remembered what that wish was.

Having been traumatized by Menma’s death, the five had drifted apart, but after giving vent to their bottled-up feelings in an emotionally-charged moment, they gradually went back to being the “gang” of years past. And then Menma said goodbye, leaving letters to everyone of the Super Peace Busters.

One year later – once again, they gather at their secret base, each of them with a letter to Menma in hand.

It was one of the saddest anime series to debut back in 2011, the series “Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai” or “Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day” debuted on television.

An 11-episode series produced by A-1 pictures and directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai (“My-HiME”, “A Certain Scientific Railgun”) and written by Mari Okada (“AKB0048″, “Vampire Knight”, “Black Rock Shooter”, “Black Butler”), the series revolves around six childhood friends that drifted apart after one of them dies in an accident.

Jinta “Jintan” Yadomi is the main protagonist and as a kid, he was very close to Meiko “Menma” Honma

Together with their friends (which they are known as the “Super Peace Busters”) included Naruko “Anaru” Anjo (who had a crush on Jinta), Atsumu “Yukiatsu” Matsuyuki (who likes Menma and looked at Jinta as his rival for Menma’s feelings), Chiriko “Tsuruko” Tsurumi (has feelings towards Asumu) and Tetsudo “Poppo” Hisakawa (always looked at Jinta as “cool”).

On the day before “Menma” died, everyone wanted to know if Jinta loved Menma but being a child and embarrassed, he said he would never fall for someone like her.  Embarrassed, he ran away.  But when she tried to find him, by the time he went to look for her an apologize, it was too late.  She slipped and fell into a river and drowned.

Fast forward into the future and Jinta has become depressed and anti-social after the death of his mother and Menma.  But when Menma reappears as a ghost, at first he thinks it’s his stress manifesting, but when he starts to realize that she has returned, Jinta slowly reunites with his old friends to tell him about his visions of Menma.

Of course, not everyone believes him, as he is the only person that can see her.  But some fans give him the benefit of the doubt and Poppo believes that she may be stuck on Earth because she has a goal that she must reach or a wish that she must fulfill.  But as Menma hears this, she is not sure about her thoughts nor does she remember much.

But as these friends slowly reunite, we learn that not only does Jinta feel guilty about Menma’s death, each of them do for some sort of reason.

And a the eleven episodes delves into each character’s life in the present, they also share with each other their thoughts and the pain they have felt all these years and in many ways, allowing each to receive some type of closure in regards to Menma’s death but giving them the chance to say their final goodbye and vice-versa.

With the film adaptation of “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie”, the film does its best to condense all eleven episodes down to a 99 minute film with new footage to showcase how the characters are doing since their experience (seen in episode 11 of the TV series) with helping out Jinta but also showing flashbacks from those episodes to make up one emotional story.

VIDEO:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is a film that looks gorgeous.  While character designs are shaded, the background art is well-detailed and for the most part, you are drawn with the many cut-scenes and flashbacks but the lush green and vibrant colors instantly grab you.  I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues,

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is presented in Japanese Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  This is primarily a dialogue-driven soundtrack, so one should not expect to hear a lot coming from the lossless soundtrack.  If anything, the surround channels are more about environment and ambiance.  There is no English dub included.

Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” comes with the following special features:

  • TV Spot & Trailers
  • Announcement- (2:32) Film announcement
  • TextlessOpening (Special O.A. Version)

EXTRAS:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” comes with the awesome Aniplex Inc. swag that you expect from the company.  Included is a musical soundtrack which include the following tracks:

  1. Aoi Shiroi 5:39 Galileo Galilei
  2. The Next Morning 1:03 REMEDIOS
  3. Beautiful Seasons With You 4:06 REMEDIOS
  4. Thin Moonlight – Thin As Ice 2:04 REMEDIOS
  5. Secret Feelings – Hidden Feelings of Love 2:52 REMEDIOS
  6. Sink – Frozen Memories 1:35 REMEDIOS
  7. All About her Death – It Has To Do With Her Not Being Here 1:29 REMEDIOS
  8. My Star… – Steady As A Star 4:31 REMEDIOS
  9. Guitar Afternoon – Lazy Afternoons 2:31 REMEDIOS
  10. Secret Feelings – Tender 2:02 REMEDIOS
  11. Before It Gets Dark – While the Sun Sets 1:27 REMEDIOS
  12. I Left You – Did I Leave You 1:58 REMEDIOS
  13. Dynamic Sunset – Words I Heard in the Silent Dawn 1:40 REMEDIOS
  14. Lost Childhood – Wondering About 1:44 REMEDIOS
  15. Dear Love – My Sweet and Most Dearest Love 2:12 REMEDIOS
  16. Sounds Inside The House 1:53 REMEDIOS
  17. Still… – Follow you Still… 1:21 REMEDIOS
  18. On A Silent Afternoon – Childhood Marks On the Wall 2:03 REMEDIOS
  19. Going Crazy Over You – Going Crazy Over Her 3:19 REMEDIOS
  20. I Left You – I’m Here To Make You Cry 6:49 REMEDIOS
  21. Leaving The Ceremony 2:11 REMEDIOS
  22. Not As Friends – Can We Make It Not As Friends 5:40 REMEDIOS
  23. Last Train Home – Twinkle Train Take Us Home 2:47 REMEDIOS
  24. secret base – Kimi ga kureta mono (10 years after Ver.) 5:53 Meiko Homa, Naruko Anjo and Chiriko Tsurumi
  25. When It All Comes To An End 1:25 REMEDIOS
  26. Epilogue… From Time to Time 3:34 REMEDIOS
  27. Circle Game 4:43 Galileo Galilei

Also, include is a slipcover artbox illustrated by character designer Masayoshi Tanaka, a 20-page booklet, four memorial postcards and a double-sided Menma poster.   Also, included is a Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.

Emotional, uplifting, tragic but also a film of hope,  “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is an animated film that will captivate you!

Once in awhile, with a lot of action-driven anime films or films that are deep, hilarious and dramatic, once in awhile, you will run into a film that makes you laugh, makes you cry but most of all, makes you feel happy that you watched it because you enjoyed it so much.

“anohana” was an animated series that was one of the saddest anime series to come out in 2013 but one that made you watch because like all childhood friends, everyone drifts apart.  But in the case of these friends, it was because one friend’s tragic death, everyone had went on their separate ways.

Some harboring guilt or feelings about their friend, Menma’s death that they have kept in their heart for so long.

And now as these young children have grown up to be young adults, they are brought together once again, because of their deceased friend.  A friend who has shown up for some reason and only Jinta can see her.

The film is about child innocence but also holding on to emotions that were kept inside but never said.  The film has a message of letting people know how much you care about them before it’s too late.  And while most people don’t get the opportunity to tell that person how they truly feel, what if you were given that final chance.

I often think about films such as “Ghost” (the classic romantic drama with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore), where the film’s protagonist is murdered and comes back as a ghost and needing to fix things in order to go back to heaven.  With “anohana”, Menma is somewhat a ghost but one that can be seen by Jinta and also one that is unaware of why she was brought back and not knowing if she would disappear if she was able to make a wish come true.  She doesn’t know.

Of course, Jinta seeing the deceased Menma is hard to believe for some individuals until Jinta shares details that only they and Menma knows about.  And to see everyone coming together, but also having these unresolved feelings… it makes for a dramatic and emotional film.

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is more or less an extension of the film.  Like any animated film that tries to condense many episodes of story into one animated film, the fact is that you lose a lot of details, a lot of story and some key emotional moments that made the series so wonderful.

But what you do get is extra footage of the characters in the present time but also connecting the dots to the original series with new scenes that will no doubt make fans appreciative of the new scenes, no matter how heartbreaking or sad those scenes are.  If anything, it was great to see how each individual handles Menma’s return but also dealing with these unresolved emotions they have kept inside.

As for the Blu-ray release of “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie”, the picture quality is vibrant, the character design is well done and the background art is fantastic!  While the lossless soundtrack is more dialogue-driven with ambiance played through the surround channels.

While special features are not as many in this release, Aniplex makes up in swag.  You get a 20-page booklet, a musical soundtrack, memorial postcards and a double-sided poster plus an illustrated slipcase.

Overall, “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is a film that manages to carry on the emotional storyline from the 11-episode TV series to an animated film.  While an extension of the series, one who has not seen the film will easily laugh and cry by its storyline and possibly lead them into watching the entire series.

Emotional, uplifting, tragic but also a film of hope,  “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is an animated film that will captivate you and a Blu-ray release that I highly recommend!

 

Only Lovers Left Alive (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

onlylovers-a

Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” is a non-mainstream vampire film that is fantastic, wonderfully acted, smart and fresh! For those who have grown tired of the banal mainstream vampire film, “Only Lovers Left Alive” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Wrongway Inc. and Recorded Picture Company Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Only Lovers Left Alive

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 123 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (For Language and Brief Nudity)

Release Date: August 19, 2014

Written and Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Produced by Reinhard Brundig, Jeremy Thomas

Co-Producer: Carter Logan, Marco Mehlitz, Gian-Piero Ringel, Christine Strobl

Executive Producer: Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Stacey E. Smith

Associate Producer: Viola Fugen, Alainee Kent, Richard Mansell

Music by Carter Logan, Jozef van Wissem

Cinematography by Yorick Le Saux

Edited by Affonso Goncalves

Casting by Ellen Lewis

Production designer: Marco Bittner Rosser

Art Direction by Anja Fromm, Anu Schwartz

Set Decoration by Christiane Krumwiede, Selina van den Brink

Costume Design by Bina Daigeler

Starring:

Tilda Swinton as Eve

Tom Hiddleston as Adam

Anton Yelchin as Ian

Mia Wasikowska as Ava

John Hurt as Marlowe

Jeffrey Wright as Dr. Watson

Slimane Dazi as Bilal

The tale of two fragile and sensitive vampires, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), who have been lovers for centuries. Both are cultured intellectuals with an all-embracing passion for music, literature and science, who have evolved to a level where they no longer kill for sustenance, but still retain their innate wildness. Their love story has endured several centuries but their debauched idyll is threatened by the uninvited arrival of Eve’s carefree little sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) who hasn’t yet learned to tame her wilder instincts. Driven by sensual photography, trance-like music, and droll humor, Jim Jarmusch’s ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE is a meditation on art, science, and the mysteries of everlasting love.

Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (“Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai”, “Broken Flowers”, “Down by Law”) returns with a British-German vampire film known as “Only Lovers Left Alive”.

A film that was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and received positive reviews from film critics, “Only Lovers Left Alive” will now be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Only Lovers Left Alive” stars Tom Hiddleston as Adam, a vampire who has lived his long life helping many famous musicians and scientists but since then, has become a reclusive vampire (and a popular, working musician) that feels that humanity is doomed.   And the only person he is in contact with is a rock-obsessed young ma named Ian (portrayed by Anton Yelchin).

Still living in the past and living in a neighborhood in Detroit, he survives on the blood given to him by Dr. Watson.  But now, Adam has grown depressed and is contemplating suicide.  He wants to shoot himself with a wooden bullet but when he gets a call from his wife Eve (portrayed by Tilda Swinton), Eve can tell how depressed Adam has been.

Living in Tangier and living through the blood from a vampire known as Christopher Marlowe (portrayed by John Hurt).  Sensing his pain, Eve goes to Detroit to be with him and enjoy each other’s company.

But as the two share their time together, their peace and love is shattered by the arrival of Eve’s younger sister Ava (portrayed by Mia Wasikowska).

VIDEO:

“Only Lovers Left Alive” is presented in 1080p High Definition.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Only Lovers Left Alive” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Subttles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Only Lovers Left Alive” comes with the following special features:

  • Traveling at Night with Jim Jarmusch- (49:18) A featurette on the making of “Only Lovers Left Alive”, behind-the-scenes making of the film.
  • Yasmine Hamdan “Hal” Music Video – (4:48)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes - (26:18) Several deleted scenes from “Only Lovers Left Alive”.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:19) The theatrical trailer for “Only Lovers Left Alive”.

onlylovers-b

You can leave it to filmmaker Jim Jarmusch to go the other direction of vampire film banality and create something unique and fresh.

The filmmaker is not trying to reinvent the way vampires are seen in film, nor is he trying to create a film that would satisfy teens or their mothers.  “Only Lovers Left Alive” is a vampire film that was made for the cineaste who rather stay away from mainstream vampire films and want something very smart, yet entertaining.

The story of two old vampires that want to live as hip and stylish despite the drudgery of humanity, these vampires also have problems.

Quality blood is becoming hard to come by and when you lose your source of blood and have avoided killing humans for blood, what are you left to do?

But this film goes farther than the problems that vampires are facing but about a married vampire couple named Adam and Eve but living far from each other.

Adam is a musician living in Detroit who has lived many lifetimes but still loves taking part in making music with rare and expensive guitars.  He depends on Ian to find him his musical instruments and complains of how humanity has become zombies and drives him crazy that people have moved towards digital (and watching music performers on YouTube).

Meanwhile, Eve lives in Tangier and depends on her aging handler Christopher Marlowe, a man who wrote Shakespeare’s plays and not thrilled that he never received credit for his work.

And these two vampires love the finer things in life.  They live quite well, appreciate creativity and would not feast on humans because they don’t know where their blood has come from.

But as Adam has lived a long time, humanity has really made him depressed about the world and he wants to take his life.  So, Eve leaves her home of Tangier to travel to Detroit and visit her husband.

In many ways, this is a fascinating drama because they are people who have lived through the best times of the world and see how humanity has changed so much to the point that they question the world and what has happened to humanity.

It’s a film that doesn’t try to be happy, nor does it try to be anything different.  Real world problems affecting a vampire couple who lived a lifetime of creativity, meeting talented individuals and now seeing human decline.  And for Adam, as a man who treasures music, seeing music today is severely bumming him out.  It’s not a horror film, by no means is this a love film like “Twilight”.

If anything, the film is quite elegant and both Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddlestone are fantastic.  The production and costume design is gorgeous, the film is creative and fresh and once again, another magnificent film in the oeuvre of filmmaker Jim Jarmusch.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is great but it doesn’t try to be vibrant, it’s a moody film, shot indoors primarily and the scenes are well-lit and artistic.  The lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue driven with scenes with music incorporated.  And you get a few special features including a fascinating making of the film, so you can see how Jarmusch approached the film with his two talents.

Overall, Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” is a non-mainstream vampire film that is fantastic, wonderfully acted, smart and fresh!

For those who have grown tired of the banal mainstream vampire film, “Only Lovers Left Alive” is highly recommended!

We Won’t Grow Old Together (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

wewontgrowoldtogether

“We Won’t Grow Old Together” is an entertaining drama about two people who are don’t deserve to be a couple.  Two people in a dysfunctional relationship but portrayed on film in a unique fashion by filmmaker Maurice Pialat.  A captivating film full of blow-ups and reconciliation, “We Won’t Grow Old Together” is recommended!

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

TITLE: We Won’t Grow Old Together

FILM RELEASE: 1972

DURATION: 106 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:68:1 Aspect Ratio, French 2.0 DTS-HD MA, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: August 12, 2014

Written and Directed by Maurice Pialat

Based on the novel by Maurice Pialat

Produced by Maurice Pialat, Jean-Pierre Rassam

Associate Producer: Jacques Dorfmann

Cinematography by Luciano Tovoli

Edited by Bernard Dubois, Arlette Langmann

Starring:

Marlene Jobert as Catherine

Jean Yanne as Jean

Christine Fabrega as Mere de Catherine

Patricia Pierangeli as Annie

Jacques Galland as Pere de Catherine

Maurice Risch as Michel

Harry-Max as Pere de Jean

Muse Dalbray as La grand-mere de Catherine

Macha Meril as Francoise

Maurice Pialat’s We Won’t Grow Old Together is the “ultimate bad break-up movie” (J. Hoberman), a combustible portrait of a couple whose love tears them apart. Pialat’s (À nos amours) second feature was a hit in France upon its release in 1972, won actor Jean Yanne Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, and screened at the New York Film Festival, but it never opened in the United States (and is here receiving its U.S. home video premiere). Jean (Jean Yanne, Weekend), a married 40-year-old filmmaker, and his young working class lover Catherine (Marlène Jobert, Masculin Féminin) engage in a circular series of spectacular blow-ups and tentative reunions, their mutual desire a fire that burns them again and again.

Before Maurice Pialat directed “To Our Loves”, “Under the Sun of Satan”  and “Loulou”, there was his 1972 drama film titled “Nous ne Vieillirons pas ensemble” (We Won’t Grow Old Together).

Best known for its fascinating structure of going against traditional forms of filmmaking and not giving the audience any breathing room thanks to the film’s editing and lack of timeline, “We Won’t Grow Old Together” has always been one of Pialat’s fascinating films due to its portrayal of a dysfunctional couple, which was based on Pialat’s former relationship.

Wanting to create a film that showcased Maurice Pialat and his former flame Catherine’s life with one another through their breakup, Pialat would cast actress Marlene Jobert (“Masculin Feminin” “Rider on the Rain”,”Swashbuckler”) and actor Jeanne Yanne (“Week End”, “Le Boucher”, “Brotherhood of the Wolf”).

And now, We Won’t Grow Old Together” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film revolves around a married filmmaker named Jean (portrayed by Jean Yanne) who has had a relationship with another woman named Catherine (portrayed by Marlene Jobert).  While the two love each other and have great sexual chemistry, Jean tends to mistreat Catherine quite often.

Having a hot temper, he often screams at her, slaps her, kicks her out of his home or hotel room.  While Catherine has tried her best to put up with Jean and his temper, but despite loving him, she is slowly losing her love for him and doesn’t think she can be with him any longer due to how he has mistreated her.

But as these two have major blow-ups and reunite, how much longer can these two be with each other?

VIDEO:

“We Won’t Grow Old Together” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio).  While the film is made in 1972 and does show it’s age, the film does look very good as there is no major damage.  There is a good amount of grain, good detail for closeups and for the most part, the film looks fantastic (not pristine) in HD, as there is now white specks or damage for the entire film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“We Won’t Grow Old Together” is presented in French 2.0 DTS-HD MA.  Dialogue is clear and understandable, while English subtitles are easy to read. I didn’t notice any hiss or any problematic audio during my viewing of the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“We Won’t Grow Old Together” comes with the following special features:

  • Video Appreciation – (3:46) Alex Ross Perry’s audio overview of the film.
  • Interview – (19:58) An insightful interview with Marlene Jobert about the film and how it mirrors the actual events in Maurice Pialat’s life.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (3:54)

EXTRAS:

A four-page insert about the film by New York-based writer and film programmer Nick Pinkerton.

“We Won’t Grow Old Together” is a fascinating drama that will captivate you entirely due to its unpredictable, dysfunctional couple.

Based on the life of Maurice Pialat and his former girlfriend named Catherine, the film documents an intense relationship that was rife with arguments, violent blow-ups followed by constant reunions between the couple.

While actor Jeanne Yanne had to play an unlikeable protagonist who is seen beating his girlfriend, yet often visiting his wife that truly loves him but yet Jean never divorces her, you can’t help but think about how problematic the relationship truly is.

Catherine loves Jean, waits to see if their relationship will get any better but slowly starts to realize with each blow-up, with each reunion, that perhaps they were never meant to be.

Marlene Jobert as the beautiful Catherine is no doubt captivating in this film.  Much younger than Jean, her ranging emotions from sadness to happiness, love to whatever emotion she is feeling, you can’t help but wonder why she has stayed with Jean, the ultimate jerk that does not know how to treat her any better.

Part of you is stuck watching because you can’t help but watch this dysfunction relationship get worse and want to see Catherine end it and how she will end it.  And quite often, you are wondering how many chances she can give to Jean as the two often get into big fights and later reunite.

There is no film like it.  While there are films that are about a breakup, “We Won’t Grow Old Together” holds up quite well in 2014 because these people or types of couple exist.  No matter the hardship brought towards an individual, somehow one in the relationship is unable to let go.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality looks good for a 1972 film.  The film doesn’t look too aged, but due to the clothing of the time, the film does slightly look its age but yet retains its color, the grain of the film and detail is evident in character close-ups.

As for special features, you get an insightful overview by Alex Ross Perry but also a fascinating interview with Marlene Jobert about the film and how it relates to Maurice Pialat’s own personal life.

“We Won’t Grow Old Together” is an entertaining drama about two people who are don’t deserve to be a couple.  Two people in a dysfunctional relationship but portrayed on film in a unique fashion by filmmaker Maurice Pialat.  A captivating film full of blow-ups and reconciliation, “We Won’t Grow Old Together” is recommended!

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

asm-a

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ is an action-packed popcorn film.  Where it stumbles on character development and potentially a much deeper plot, the film does deliver in action and visual effects.   The film does look and sound magnificent in HD and definitely one of the better looking and sounding Blu-ray releases of 2014! If you are a big fan of the “Spider-Man” films, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and LSC Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Marvel, Spider-Man and all related character names and their distinctive likenesses: ™ & © 2014 Marvel Entertainment, LLC and its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 141 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:401 Aspect Ratio, English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish and English – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: August 19, 2014

Directed by Marc Webb

Screenplay by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner

Screenstory by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, James Vanderbilt

Based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Produced by Avi Adrad, Matthew Tolmach

Executive Producer: Alex Kurtzman, Stan Lee, Roberto Orci, E. Bennett Walsh

Associate Producer: Beatriz Sequeira

Music by Johnny Marr, Pharrell Williams, Hans Zimmer

Cinematography by Daniel Mindel

Edited by Pietro Scalia

Casting by Kathleen Chopin

Production Design by Mark Friedberg

Art Direction by Kim Jennings, Richard L. Johnson

Set Decoration by Susan Bode

Costume Design by Deborah Lynn Scott

Starring:

Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man/Peter Parker

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy

Jamie Foxx as Electro/Max Dillon

Dane DeHaan as Green Goblin/Harry Osborn

Colm Feore as Donald Menken

Felicity Jones as Felicia

Paul Giamatti as Aleksei Sytsevich

Sally Field as Aunt May

Embeth Davidtz as Mary Parker

Campbell Scott as Richard Parker

It’s great to be Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield). For Peter Parker, there’s no feeling quite like swinging between skyscrapers, embracing being the hero, and spending time with Gwen (Emma Stone). But being Spider-Man comes at a price: only Spider-Man can protect his fellow New Yorkers from the formidable villains that threaten the city. With the emergence of Electro (Jamie Foxx), Peter must confront a foe far more powerful than himself. And as his old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns, Peter comes to realize that all of his enemies have one thing in common: Oscorp.

With the first film in the Spider-Man reboot, “Amazing Spider-Man” and it’s dominating the box office with over $757 million earned, there was no doubt that a second film would be made.

Featuring the return of filmmaker Marc Webb (“(500) Days of Summer”, “The Amazing Spider-Man”) and the return of Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”, “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”), Emma Stone (“The Help”, “Easy A”, “Zombieland”) and Sally Field (“Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Lincoln”, “Forrest Gump”), the sequel would continue the casting of star talent.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ would star Jamie Foxx (“Django Unchained”, “Ray”, “Collateral”), Dane DeHaan (“Chronicle”, “Lincoln”), Colm Feore (“Thor”, “Face/Off”), Felicity Jones (“Like Crazy”, “The Tempest”, “The Invisible Woman”) and Paul Giamatti (“Sideways”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “The Illusionist”).

And similar to the first film, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ would earn over $708 million in the box office, thus ensuring a third film and also an expected success when released on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD in August 2014.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ continues the storyline of Peter Parker, who is also the masked hero known as Spider-Man.  The second film does incorporate Peter’s search for his parents as seen from the first film:

“The Amazing Spider-Man” begins with a four-year old Peter Parker, looking for his dad in his office.  But suddenly his father and mother are seen gathering their belongs, and his father, a scientist, gathering his work and taking young Peter to stay with his uncle Ben (portrayed by Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (portrayed by Sally Fields).

His parents leave with no explanation of where they are going.

Fast forward over a decade later and Peter Parker is a talented photographer and a smart student who excels in science.  But he’s not an athlete and is constantly bullied by jock, Flash Thompson (portrayed by Chris Zylka) and not popular with the girls at school either.

But one student recognizes his intelligence and compassion, Gwen Stacy (portrayed by Emma Stone), a girl that Peter Parker likes.

While living with his uncle and aunt, Peter accidentally finds a hidden bag in the house containing information left behind by his father, including a photo of his father with another scientist. Dr. Curt Connors.  But unfortunately, not much is known of why Richard and Mary Parker left.  But being the curious teen who wants to know what really happened to his parents, Parker’s investigation leads him to Oscorp Industries. where Dr. Curt Connors works and interesting enough, where Gwen Stacy works as an assistant.

He amazes Dr. Connors on his knowledge but is unable to talk to him and we learn that Dr. Connors is being pressured by Dr. Ratha to complete a serum that will cure a terminally ill Norman Osborn, the head of Oscorp Industries. But for Dr. Connors, he is more interested in regenerating his right arm, which he lost long ago.

As for Peter, Peter goes into a lab, where genetically modified spiders are kept. One of the spiders ends up escaping and crawling on Peter Parker and bites him on the neck.  Not feeling well, Peter Parker starts to learn that he has the ability to stick to things, has superhuman speed, strength and a heightened sense of danger.

With “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″, the film begins with Richard and Mary Parker abandoning Peter at a young age and leaving him with his Aunt May.  Richard Parker explains to his wife that their lives are over and to protect their son, they will need to be on the run.  Richard manages to record one final recording before both leave on flight.  But as Richard is uploading data, a gunman comes and a fight ensues on the plane in which Mary Parker is shot, while the data is uploaded.

Fastforward and we see a confident Peter Parker as Spider-Man tracking down a group of criminals who stole chemicals from OsCorp Industries and late for his graduation. While tracking these criminals, he still sees the face of Gwen’s deceased father, who gives Peter a look (reminding Peter of the promise they made that Peter would not allow Gwen to get into any danger and he would stay away from her).

As both Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy celebrate their graduation, the burden of having seen Gwen’s deceased father everywhere he goes, is starting to take his toll on Peter who wants to keep his father’s promise and both Peter and Gwen break up.

At OsCorp, Peter Parker’s childhood friend Harry Osborn (portrayed by Dane DeHaan) finds out that his father Norman is dying of a disease which he tried experimenting with different chemicals to keep himself alive to no avail.  With Harry having the same type of disease, Harry learns that he is going to die and hopes he can find a way to keep himself alive as the inheritor of OsCorp.

As Peter meets with Harry to discuss the past, Harry tells Peter that he needs his help to find Spider-Man (as Peter is known for getting photos of the web crawler) and needs his blood to experiment and see if it can save him.

Meanwhile, Max Dillon (portrayed by Jamie Foxx) is an electrical engineer who works for OsCorp and gets no respect.  An obsessed fan of Spider-Man, Max is forced to fix a problem in which he falls into a tube of electrical eels which have their way with Max.

Thought as dead, Max manages to escape from OsCorp (who are trying to do studies on him) and learns firsthand that he has inherited great electrical power and can absorb and use that power to be someone important.  But when Max’s paranoia kicks in and thinks Spider-Man is trying to ruin him, and becomes a threat to anyone who goes against him.

As Peter follows Gwen, he starts to learn that he loves her so much, that he can’t stop himself from being away from her.  But will being with her, put her in the path of danger?

VIDEO:

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  The sequel is mastered in 4K and the picture quality for this film is amazing.  Closeups are full of detail, Spider-Man’s costume is fully detailed and colors are vibrant, skin tones look natural and black levels are nice and deep.  If anything, one will notice how detailed this film looks on HD, this is reference quality and Blu-ray videophiles will no doubt feel that this is one of the better looking action films on Blu-ray of the year!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and sounds fantastic.    The soundtrack is immersive as the film is full of action from beginning to end, but also music plays a big part in directional sound as well as the ambiance of New York City.

There is no doubt that “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ is one of the best sounding action films on Blu-ray for 2014 and audiophiles will no doubt be proud of how fantastic the lossless soundtrack is with its use of crystal clear dialogue, music and sound effects.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary - Featuring  an audio commentary with writer Alex Kurtzman and Jeff Pinkner along with producers Matt Tolmach and Avi Arad.
  • Deleted and Alternate Scenes – (23:01) Featuring 13 deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary with Director Marc Webb.
  • The Wages of Heroism: Making the Amazing Spider-Man 2 – (1:43:42) featuring almost two hours of special features that goes into the making of the film, the development, direction, shooting in New York, the villains introduced, costume design, visual effects, music and more.
  • The Music of Amazing Spider-Man 2 with Director Marc Webb – (8:09) Marc Webb discusses how he wanted music to be utilized for the film and Hans Zimmer discusses working on the film and series.
  • Music Video – (3:49) Featuring “It’s On Again” by Alicia Keys.

EXTRAS:

“The Amazing Spider-Man” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD version of the film plus an UltraViolet code to watch your films on your PC, laptop, tablet or cell phone.

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As a long time fan of Spider-Man, let alone a collector of the comic books, there is no doubt a difference between the first trilogy of films and “The Amazing Spider-Man” films.

The good news is that the humor of Peter Parker is kept in-tact, the wisecracks are there, the boy scout Peter Parker that he has towards the children or unfortunate is seen in this film.  But of course, the biggest difference is the better use of action, special effects and integration of the villains for this series.

And as most comic book fans should know by now, what you read in the comics, are always going to change in the movie adaptations.

And this is where “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ tends to stray far from the comic books is that the whole history of Electro and the character itself has changed significantly in the movies.  Aside from the fact that the original character was Caucasian, I feel that the character of Max was more of a man with a mental issue and having been shunned for years, he has became a powerful villain and wanting more energy and power.

I felt the character looked too much like an alien species and devoid of anything cool that the comics had him to be.  Sure, the special effects were fantastic but the character could have been developed more, instead of focusing on how music could be integrated with the character of Electro.

The other caveat with this sequel is too much storyline being forced into the film.  There was no doubt the goal was to make “The Amazing Spider-Man” into an action film, but there is so much action that the plot suffers as the characters suffer from the overall plot.

After Peter Parker is seen with Gwen Stacy at graduation, hours later, he is an emotional wreck.  After tragedy, once again, there is too much story in trying to incorporate into the film and parts of the film’s plot felt rushed.

With that being said, despite its rushed storyline and underdeveloped characters, both Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone do shine as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy.  If anything, Emma Stone does a fantastic job playing the girlfriend who is in love with Peter and would do anything for him.  And if it wasn’t for their storyline, she brought a more humanistic feel to the film as the relationship bond between the two is there, but not so much when it comes to the film’s villains.

As for the Blu-ray release, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ is a reference quality Blu-ray disc as picture quality and lossless audio are both phenomenal.  There is also a good amount of special features included, especially features on the making of the film that are fascinating to watch.

It’s important to note that if you want the 3D version of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″, you will need to purchase that version of the film on Blu-ray.  The normal version on Blu-ray includes a DVD.

Overall, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ is an action-packed popcorn film.  Where it stumbles on character development and potentially a much deeper plot, the film does deliver in action and visual effects.   The film does look and sound magnificent in HD and definitely one of the better looking and sounding Blu-ray releases of 2014!

If you are a big fan of the “Spider-Man” films, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ is recommended!

The Essential Jacques Demy – The Criterion Collection #714-719 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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The films included in this special set is one of the best releases I have seen from the Criterion Collection. For its films and all the bonus content that comes with each Blu-ray release featured in “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray and DVD collection, this box set is essential and it is simply magnificent. “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray and DVD set is a must-own for all cineastes. Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set – The Criterion Collection #714-719

YEAR OF FILM: “Lola” (1961), “Bay of Angels” (1963), “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964), “The Young Girls of Rochefort” (1967), “Donkey Skin” (1970) and “Une Chambre En Ville” (1982)

DURATION: “Lola” (88 Minutes), “Bay of Angels” (84 Minutes), “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (92 Minutes), “The Young Girls of Rochefort” (126 Minutes), “Donkey Skin” (90 Minutes) and “Une Chambre En Ville” (93 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Color, French DTS-HD MA 5.1 or DTS 2.0 DTS-HD MA or LPCM 1.0 Monaural with English Subtitles

COMPANY: THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2014

French director Jacques Demy didn’t just make movies—he created an entire cinematic world. Demy launched his glorious feature filmmaking career in the sixties, a decade of astonishing invention in his national cinema. He stood out from the crowd of his fellow New Wavers, however, by filtering his self-conscious formalism through deeply emotional storytelling. Fate and coincidence, doomed love, and storybook romance surface throughout his films, many of which are further united by the intersecting lives of characters who appear or are referenced across titles. The works collected here—made from the sixties to the eighties and ranging from musical to melodrama to fantasia—are triumphs of visual and sound design, camera work, and music, and they are galvanized by the great stars of French cinema at their centers, including Anouk Aimée, Catherine Deneuve, and Jeanne Moreau.

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When it comes to French cinema, Jacques Demy is looked at as a pioneer.  As many filmmakers through the ’60s were heavy into creating films as part of the Nouvelle Vague, Jacques Demy was forging his career path of not following the same route as his fellow filmmakers but doing what he felt was right for him.  And for Demy, it was bringing some of that classic Hollywood musical bravado to France but creating a film his way, his style but yet showing his nod to Hollywood musicals but also the French New Wave.

While Jacques Demy is known for his musicals, he also created films with fascinating characters and strong storytelling.  And to celebrate the 25th year anniversary since his death, what better than to release the films he is best known for as a collection.

With his wife, filmmaker Agnes Varda and many cinema companies wanting to restore Jacques Demy’s works, included in the Criterion Collection’s “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray and DVD box set which will include the following films (please click on the film’s title to access our review):

“Lola” (1961)

“Bay of Angels” (1963)

“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964)

“The Young Girls of Rochefort” (1967)

“Donkey Skin” (1970)

“Une Chambre En Ville” (1982)

EXTRAS:

“The Essential Jacques Demy” comes with slipcase to hold all six films and includes a 70-page book featuring the following essays: “Demy’s Paradise Found” by Ginette Vincendeau, “Walking on Sand” by Terrence Rafftery, “A Finite Forever” by Jim Ridley, “Not the Same Old Song and Dance” by Jonathan Rosenbaum, “Demy’s Fairy-Tale Worlds” by Anne E. Duggan, “Love and Death” by Geoff Andrew” and “Jacques Demy and Nantes: The Roots of Enchantment” by Jean-Pierre Barthome.

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While there are notable names from the French New Wave, may it be Jean-Luc Godard, Alan Resnais, Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, to name a few.  Filmmaker Jacques Demy has established himself differently from the other filmmakers by creating films that are musicals, inspired by fairytales or the golden age of Hollywood.

Married to another filmmaker from the French New Wave, Agnes Varda, both have established their careers in cinema and for Demy, best known for his musicals such as “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)”, “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort), “Peau d Ane (Donkey Skin)”, to name a few.

But for every filmmaker, there is a beginning and for Jacques Demy, his beginning in cinema was his first feature film titled “Lola”.  One of the films to be included in “The Essential Jacques Demy” on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

For anyone who has followed Jacques Demy’s oeuvre, let alone the films included in the Criterion Collection’s “The Essential Jacques Demy”, will see how “Lola” is possibly one of his greatest works that people had forgotten about.

Because Jacques Demy has been identified for his work in the French New Wave and how his musical work would be known for its music and vibrant colors, “Lola” was the film that wasn’t a film that people would identify with Demy.

A film about several individuals with a storyline tied together, “Lola” is a film that represents Demy’s childhood in Nantes, France.  The bustling city that would eventually become France’s sixth largest city, was a much different city back then.

At the time the film was shot, Nantes was shown as a city yet in the rebuilding phase after World War II.

But unlike a film of Italian Neorealism, “Lola” is not about the seedy areas of France.  What we see are normal working people or people doing all they can to survive and raise a family.

With our main characters, Roland Cassard (portrayed by Jacques Demy) is a young man trying to find himself.  Wanting to find work, wanting to be a better man and wanting one woman in his life…Cecile/Lola (portrayed by Anouk Aimee).

While the character of Roland Cassard is your “everyman” or at least a man that wants to make something of himself, what is most interesting is where we would find the character of Roland Cassard years later, as the character once again appears in a Jacques Demy film, the 1964 French musical, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”.   Having watched the musical first and somewhat despising the character of Cassard for interfering with young love, after watching “Lola”, I felt that those feelings I had towards Cassard has since dissipated.

I learned of how Cassard is literally a representation of the many guys who dream of dating a beautiful girlfriend at a younger age and wonder if that same man fared much better many years later.

And while Cassard represents the “everyman”, the character of Cecile/Lola, is a representation of the woman you really like but has no interest in being with you.  The ultimate beauty that you peel away many layers and realize that she was unattainable.

In the film, Cecile or Lola, as the prostitute that an American sailor named Frankie (portrayed by Alan Scott) has had sex with but knows he will get nothing from their relationship.  As Cecile, she is the teenage girl that Roland has always loved, but as adults, she doesn’t feel the same way because her heart belongs to one man, Michel.  A man who has disappeared and has not seen his wife or son, but yet Cecile holds out hope that she will be reunited with him someday.

The film tries to have a little breather and fun with the addition of the Desonyers, a family who looks wealthy and consists of a mother (portrayed by Elina Labourdette) and her young teen daughter Cecile (portrayed by Annie Duperoux).  For both Frankie and even Roland, there is something about this young teen that reminds them of Cecile/Lola.  Perhaps her young act of defiance to her mother despite her wise but yet spunky behavior or the fact that this well-mannered girl may not be what she seems.

The film also features actress Corinne Marchand, best known for her role on Agnes Vardas “Cleo from 5 to 7″ as Daisy, one of Lola’s co-workers.

But “Lola” is a film is more than just its characters, story and location shots.  The film features the gorgeous cinematography by Raoul Coutard (“Jules et Jim”, “Breathless”, “Band of Outsiders”, “Pierrot le Fou”, “Z”) and last, the restoration and remastering of “Lola” is fantastic.  Agnes Varda and crew should be commended for seeking out surviving elements of this film and restoring it for a new generation of cineastes who have discovered Jacques Demy’s work.

By 1963, actress Jean Moreau had become a popular star in France.

From her role in “Elevator to the Gallows” (1958), “La Notte” (1961) and “Jules et Jim” (1962), Moreau had become an actress in demand but also an actress who chose her films very carefully.  Primarily, choosing films with directors that she wanted to work with.

And after watching Jacques Demy’s “Lola” in 1961, Moreau knew she wanted to work with the filmmaker for his second film, “La Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels)”.

Can their be a love story amongst gambling addicts?

As hokey it may sound, fortunately Jacques Demy’s romantic drama “Bay of Angels” is a non-banal film about two gambling addicts, one who lives for the thrill of risking it all and another who falls for the addict and wants to save her, but can he?

While “Bay of Angels” is remembered as one of Demy’s more sombering works but for me, the film was literally held on the shoulders of actress Jean Moreau.

Hot after the release of “Jules and Jim”, Jeanne Moreau was the French starlet that many filmmakers had wanted for her to be in their film.   But being the creative actress that she was, it was important for her to work with the people of her choosing.  And for her, it’s the director that was more important than the actual story.

In 1963, Jeanne Moreau decided that the filmmaker she wanted to work for was Jacques Demy because of his work on “Lola”.

Foregoing her darker hair for a platinum blonde look, Moreau’s transformation to the sexy Jacqueline “Jackie” Demaistre in a role that is rather fascinating in a Marilyn Monroe-esque type of way but also found enjoyable because of Moreau’s transformation to this gambling addict.

It’s very rare to see Moreau play such a role, but to see her play a divorced mother who has chosen to leave her husband and child in order to gamble, let alone mess with a guy she just met.  This was rather bold for 1963.

But Jacques Demy was able to craft a film that utilized the actress very well and while Claude Mann was a young actor that was right for the role, it was Moreau who embodied the role and made you want to see how far her character will push the character of Jean Fourier to go from his clean cut boyish style to becoming a man that is more demanding.

While the film is primarily shot around a casino and hotel, the interactive banter between the characters was rather interesting.  Almost like a tug-of-war that seemed as if one side is tipped and until we get a conclusion that works.  And a conclusion that was more pleasant, compared to Demy’s first film “Lola”.

Considered as Jacques Demy’s masterpiece, the 1964 musical “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” receives the HD treatment for its 2014 Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection as part of “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray and DVD box set.

The winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival and nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Films” in 1965 and four more Academy Awards at the 1965 Academy Awards, “The Umbrella of Cherbourg” received critical acclaim worldwide.

A beloved musical by man, this 2014 Criterion Collection Blu-ray release features the new restoration that was created in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original release which captures Demy’s vision of a vibrant and colorful Cherbourg but also a high quality restoration of the original 4-track stereo sound masters to digital by original composer Michel Legrand.

I have watched many fantastic musicals in my lifetime.  And when it comes to musicals and when it comes to romantic films in general, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” is one of the greatest romantic films and one of the great musical films created in all time.

“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” is Jacques Demy’s most noticeable work in his oeuvre but it’s also his masterpiece that anyone who has watched it, the majority will agree about how fantastic this film is.

There was no doubt that Jacques Demy was inspired by “West Side Story” and Gene Kelly films but this is the film he wanted to make.  Colorful, vibrant, a musical with wonderful music but a storyline that would make audiences cry.  Originally, he wanted “Lola” to be a vibrant and colorful musical but it all worked out because the chemistry between Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo was magnificent.

The return of the character Roland Cassard from “Lola” was unexpected for audiences at the time but developed that connection to Demy’s first film and in someways, giving closure to the storyline of “Lola” in regards to Cassard’s character and how he evolved in “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”.

But the overall storyline of the strongest of love or no matter how much people are in love, things always change.  Some for the good and some for the bad but until that love is challenged, how long can one stay in love if separated.

What I love about the film is its structure and how it flows from upbeat but suddenly serious and that is what makes this film so original.  Jacques Demy is able to tell a story that flows perfectly and we see these characters evolve and its final scenes are heart-wrenching but yet you know in your heart that it’s right.

Everything about this film is right.  From its use of color, its use of set design and costume design.  It’s a vibrant film with a wonderful and memorable musical score from Michel Legrand that I absolutely love listening to.

With the success of his musical “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, Jacques Demy wanted to go much larger, grander and create a French musical like what Hollywood has produced with music and choreography and most importantly, bringing one of his favorite American musical talents for his latest film, Gene Kelly.

Collaborating with composer Michel Legrand, “The Young Girls of Rochefort” would reunite Jacques Demy with Catherine Deneuve, her sister Francoise Dorleac, Jacques Perrin, Michel Piccoli, Danielle Darrieux, George Chakiris and Grover Dale.

While the story is about everyone wanting to find their ideal love and similar to “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” in which the songs act like conversation with another character, “The Young Girls of Rochefort” is definitely much grander in spectacle, thanks to its many musical numbers and exciting choreography from its cast and extras.

But while an enjoyable film, what made “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” so captivating was its storyline of love lost and the drama that grew as the movie continued.  With “The Young Girls of Rochefort”, there really is no major dramatic element but many characters telling stories.  And when they are not telling stories, they are singing and dancing.

While not as great as “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, “The Young Girls of Rochefort” is a different kind of musical that focuses on the beauty of Rochefort, the use of strong colors, music and choreography.  And this should entertain musical fans, especially with Gene Kelly starring in the film and hearing him sing in French and lending a credibility of having a top American musical star in the musical.

As Jacques Demy has achieved success with his musicals “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and “The Young Girls of Rochefort”, the filmmaker went on to create his first English-language film in 1969 titled “Model Shop” (which reprised the role of Lola starring Anouk Aimee).

But as the ’70s began, Demy has always wanted to create a children’s film and inspired by the fairy tales of Charles Perrault, Demy wanted to adapt “Peau d’ Ane” (Donkey Skin).

“Donkey Skin” is a fascinating film because it is Demy’s foret in to creating films for families, films that children can enjoy.  But also accomplishing his goal of adapting a Charles Perrault fairy tale for the big screen.

Once again, Catherine Deneuve is absolutely ravishing as the princess, but also interesting to see her don the donkey skin and seen as the outcast of the kingdom.

But what I found really fascinating is the storyline about a princess’ refusal to take part in an incestuous relationship.

While stories of incestuous relationships were common from Greek mythology (Zeus and Hera) and royal intermarriage have been well-documented, it was interesting to watch a film and see the princess doing all she can to get out of it.

Of course, the film has the feel of “Cinderella” but I loved the fairy tale touch when it came to set design and costume design as well.  From the servants of the Blue Kingdom painted in blue, or the Red Kingdom as servants are painted in red, along with their horses.  But also to see interesting symbolism displayed in the film in which a dream sequence of the Prince has a song about partaking in something naughty, while in the background, you see a statue of a devil.  There are moments of fascinating symbolism, so I found that very interesting to see throughout the film.

While the music of Michel Legrand is good, it’s not as strong as the music in “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” or “The Young Girls of Rochefort” but Catherine Deneuve manages to make these songs which could have been forgettable to be much more interesting, playful and fun.

With the success that Jacques Demy achieved in his lifetime, by the early ’80s, there was a return to the past for the filmmaker, especially for his 1982 film “Une Chambre en Ville”.

“Une Chambre en Ville” is the final film featured in the Criterion Collection’s “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray and a fitting musical to be featured in the set because of Demy’s return to Nantes, France and the return to a musical style in which conversations are all sung.

But where “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” was a film in which Demy set out to make audiences cry, for “Une Chambre en Ville” was about the tragedy of the workers’ strike of 1955.

In reality, the strike of 1955 in Nantes, Saint-Nazaire was the workers fighting against union bureaucrats, demonstrating in streets, occupying buildings and because the workers were fighting collectively for a pay raise without any true leader, the strike led to violence and a war between workers vs. bureaucrats.  Workers occupied factories, bosses called in the CRS and the workers fought against the CRS.

The film is no doubt dark and tragic.  Capturing a collective strike on the street of Nantes as hundreds of workers taking on the CRS (Compagnies Republicaines de securite), to see such a strike/riot converted to a musical is mesmerizing and unthinkable, but yet Jacques Demy was able to pull it off.

While many fans of Demy films will gravitate to his more vibrant musicals, “Une Chambre en Ville” does feature a different approach by Demy and the final ten minutes of the film are memorable.

And as these six films and its special features make up a perfect release for “The Essential Jacques Demy”, one can only hope there is a volume two.

I would love to see the 1969 film “Model Shop” (which features the return of the character Lola from the film “Lola”), his 1979 film “Lady Oscar” based on the Japanese manga “The Rose of Versailles”, his 1980 film “Break of Day” and his 1985 fantasy and musical film “Parking”.

Overall,  the films included in this special set is one of the best releases I have seen from the Criterion Collection.  For its films and all the bonus content that comes with each Blu-ray release featured in “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray and DVD collection, this box set is essential and it is simply magnificent.

“The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray and DVD set is a must-own for all cineastes.  Highly recommended!

I’ll Follow You Down (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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I found “I’ll Follow You Down” to be more enjoyable in a scientific sense. For me, I enjoyed how smart the film was and filmmaker Richie Mehta’s approach to the science of wormholes and time travel but also the science of altering the present by changing the past. Because it’s approach to time travel is different from other films and TV series that tackled the subject of time travel, I enjoyed “I’ll Follow You Down” because of that. Sure, it may not be comedy or overly dramatic as other films but if you enjoy smart sci-fi films, especially about time travel, “I’ll Follow You Down” is a film worth recommending.

Image courtesy of © 2013 Follow You Down Films, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: I’ll Follow You Down

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 93 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: August 5, 2014

Written and Directed by Richie Mehta

Produced by Lee Kim

Music by Andrew Lockington

Cinematography by Tico Poulakakis

Edited by Stuart A. McIntyre

Casting by Jenny Jue, Johanna Ray

Production Design by Chris Crane

Art Direction by Jennifer Marie Thomas

Set Decration by Zosia Mackenzi

Costume Design by Kelsey Hart

Starring:

Haley Joel Osment as Erol

Gillian Anderson as Marika

Rufus Sewell as Gabe

Victor Garber as Sal

Brandon Firla as Jimmy

John Paul Ruttan as Young Erol

Susanna Fournier as Grace

After the disappearance of an accomplished physicist (Rufus Sewell), his son Erol (Haley Joel Osment) and wife Marika (Gillian Anderson) struggle to cope. Years later, now a young scientist himself, Erol discovers a formula that could kill him, throw him into the unknown…or bring his family back together.

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Canadian filmmaker Richie Mehta (“Amal”, “Siddharth”) returns with a sci-fi movie titled “I’ll Follow You”, which was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film stars Haley Joel Osment (“The Sixth Sense”, “A.I. Artificial Intelligence”, “Pay It Forward”), Gillian Anderson (“The X Files”, “The Last King of Scotland”), Rufus Sewell (“Dark City”, “The Illusionist”, “A Knight’s Tale”), Victor Garber (“Alias”, “Titanic”, “Argo”) and Susanna Fournier (“X-Men: Days of Future Past”, “Being Human”).

“I’ll Follow You Down” begins in 2000 when accomplished physicist Gabe (portrayed by Rufus Sewell) is saying goodbye to his wife Marika (portrayed by Gillian Anderson) and his young son Erol (portrayed by John Paul Ruttan) and is leaving on a business trip.

But on the day he is schedule to arrive, Marika is shocked that Gave has not arrived back.

Marika and her father, physicist professor Sal (portrayed by Victor Garber) try to look into details that may shed a clue on why Gabe has not arrived and Marika finds his wallet and keys.  While Sal, finds something else in Gabe’s laboratory.

Fast forward 12 years later and Erol (portrayed by Haley Joel Osment) is engaged to Grace (portrayed by Susanna Fournier) but we learned that the disappearance of Gabe has rocked his family.

His mother Marika has difficulty living without knowing what happened to Gabe.  Is he dead?  Did he find another woman?  What happened to him?

As for Erol, he is brilliant when it comes to physics but because of his mother’s instability, he is unable to pursue MIT and attends the college that his grandfather is teaching.

But Erol’s life will not be the same ever again when his grandfather tells him about his father’s project and the ability to go back in time.  He shows Erol papers, formulas and a machine that his father was working on and what is the possibility that his father did go back in time.  But why didn’t he return?

But will Erol pursue his father’s research and risk changing the present?

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VIDEO:

“I’ll Follow You Down” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  Featuring crisp detail during close-ups, the film does have a sort of darkness that surrounds it (which works with the actual storyline which deals with depression and dreariness).  But overall picture quality is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“I’ll Follow You Down” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  The film is primarily a dialogue-driven film.  While the more action-related scenes take place towards the end, one should not expect anything too immersive.  Dialogue is crystal clear and fort he most part, works with this film.

The film comes with closed captions.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“I’ll Follow You Down” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind the Scenes - (12:47) The making of the score of “I’ll Follow You down”.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring four deleted scenes.
  • Trailer – (2:07) The theatrical trailer for “I’ll Follow You Down”.

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When it comes to time travel films, there are those who want to see dramatics and also danger when it comes to its protagonist and the challenges that individual may face.

May it be a comedy such as “Back to the Future” or even “Star Trek IV”, elements of danger such as “Terminator” or even heartwrenching drama as featured in “Somewhere in Time”.

But there are times where I want to see the technical or mathematical process that one comes up with in a film and thus, “I’ll Follow You Down” is a time travel film that is enjoyable but it may be a bit too depressing, too dreary or even to much of an intellectual movie for some.

The concept of time travel, altering the past and accidentally changing the future has been explored before in film, but the way it is presented in “I’ll Follow You Down” is rather fascinating.

A brilliant young man named Erol finds out that his missing father, who he pretty much has lived as if his father has been dead, has been given research papers and information that his father may be alive.

After diligent research and unfortunate tragedy, he pursues his father’s research and learns why his father was unable to come back.  But what if he was able to go back in time to send a message to his father and change the present?

Unfortunately, changing the present is not easy when he finds out that his girlfriend is pregnant.  Would you risk the present and the chance to have a family or would you alter the past in order to make sure the present is changed for the best?

The film focuses on this and ends with this and how Richie Mehta is able to separate his film from other time travel films is rather cool!  Granted, he is going the opposite of other bigger budget films that have done well with its comedy and drama for focusing on the actual science of time travel and changing the present by altering the past (something that is always considered as a no-no in sci-fi films and television shows).

The film stars an older Haley Joel Osment which many of us have not seen since his child film years, the always beautiful Gillian Anderson and is there a film and TV show that Victor Garber has not appeared in?  And fortunately, Rufus Sewell does have more screen time than his short stint at the beginning of the film but the four manage to do a very good job for this film.

The Blu-ray features a colder feel, while picture quality looks very good with no problematic scenes or any artifacts.  The film is primarily dialogue-driven, so don’t expect anything too immersive.  And you have several short special features included as well.

Overall, I found “I’ll Follow You Down” to be more enjoyable in a scientific sense.  For me, I enjoyed how smart the film was and filmmaker Richie Mehta’s approach to the science of wormholes and time travel but also the science of altering the present by changing the past.  Because it’s approach to time travel is different from other films and TV series that tackled the subject of time travel, I enjoyed “I’ll Follow You Down” because of that.

Sure, it may not be comedy or overly dramatic as other films but if you enjoy smart sci-fi films, especially about time travel, “I’ll Follow You Down” is a film worth recommending.

 

Bears (Disneynature) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Bears” continues DisneyNature’s commitment of taking viewers on a journey with beautiful, up close cinematography of the animals and their environments.  This is a gorgeous and enjoyable family film that I definitely recommend!

Image courtesy of © 2014 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Bears (DisneyNature)

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 78 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

RATED: G (General Audiences)

RELEASE DATE: August 12, 2014

Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey

Music by George Fenton

Edited by Andy Netley

Starring:

John C. Reilly (Narrator)

An epic story of breathtaking scale, this heartwarming and visually spectacular film showcases a year in the life of a bear family as two impressionable young cubs are taught life’s most important lessons. Families everywhere can now travel to a majestic Alaskan wilderness teeming with life without leaving home as “Bears” arrives on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, and Digital HD featuring stunning high definition picture, transporting sound, and exciting bonus features both parents and their children will love.

In April 2014, DisneyNature released their latest nature film “Bears” directed by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey and narrated by actor John C. Reilly (“Guardians of the Galaxy”, “Anchorman 2: The Legend continues”, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”).

filmed at Katmai National Park in Alaska, the film focuses on a grizzly bear mother named Sky who gives birth to two cubs: Amber and Scout.

As the bears leave the den, it becomes important for the bears to get to areas for food and salmon in order for Sky to have more milk for the next hibernation for the cubs.

But the bears must deal with many dangers such as avalanches, threats from other huge, mean, dominant bears such as Magnus and Chinook who have no problems eating bear cubs and also the threat from a wolf known as Tikaani.

But the life of the bears are challenging (very few survive the first year) and the decision making and training that Sky must provide her cubs must be precise or else she and her cubs will not survive the winter.

VIDEO:

“Bears” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1) and the detail of the film is amazing.  It’s one thing to marvel of how close the filmmakers were able to get of the bears during hibernation but the fact that they were able to follow these bears, get close to them, made a big difference as you can see their strands of each bear and even the wolves’ fur.  You can see the clarity even underwater of the salmon and also in the air with the beautiful scenery of Alaska.  Picture quality is absolutely breathtaking and I saw no problems with banding, artifacts or any negative issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Bears” features a soundtrack that relies on narration and the sounds of the wild.  Featuring crystal clear narration from John C. Reilly, we can hear the directional sound effects from the sounds of the avalanche, Magnus and Chinkook fighting to the bears splashing in the water and more.  Good use of LFE and also a solid soundtrack by George Fenton.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Bears” comes with the following special features:

  • Welcome to Alaska - (6:07) Director Keith Scholey and crew talks about filming the bears in Alaska
  • The Future for Bears – (6:37) The future of bears and a little about humans interacting with bears on a  basic level and having Dr. Jane Goodall at the filming of “Bears”.
  • A Guide to Living with Bears – (7:05) Filming bears and the challenges involved and working with guides such as Simyra Taback-Hlebechuk who grew up with bears and how they can predict their movements and making sure the crew is not being threatened.
  • How Did They Film That? – (7:22) Shooting two years in the wild, this featurette shows how they were able to film the bears underwater, in sky and more.
  • “Carry On” music video by Olivia Holt – (1:36) A partial music video of “Carry On”.

EXTRAS:

“Bears” comes with a slipcover.

When it comes to DisneyNature films, especially one that follows an animal and its children, while the storylines tend to be banal of a journey rifed in danger, what makes “Bears” so fascinating is how the filmmakers are able to get upclose and personal.  It’s one thing to film in Katmai National Park and later to Lake Clark National Park but the fact that we get to see bears of all animals up and close is very fascinating.

While I knew of a mother bear needing food to store for the next hibernation for her cubs, its the mannerisms and how the mother bear teaches her young over a period of time is what I found most fascinating.

From the playfulness and curious Scout to the more mama’s girl, Amber (who chooses to ride on her mother than walk like her brother) but also capturing the danger right on the spot.   Despite having trained guides and a small film crew, you could tell that there were risks for the filmmakers as well, from avalanches to an animal in the wild.  You just never know.

But the fact was that the footage captured was fascinating, gorgeous but also personal and intimate and I never have watched a documentary about grizzly bears (typically a lot of documentaries have focused on polar bears) and for the most part, the journey from the cubs exiting out of their den for the first time and returning back, was quite entertaining.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is amazing as the crew were able to get upclose and personal and thus close-ups feature great detail.  Meanwhile, the lossless soundtrack features John C. Reilly and his ability to showcase humor but also provide really good narration for the DisneyNature film.  Lossless audio features crystal clear audio and special features do a good job of showcasing how the filmmakers were able to get up close and personal with the grizzly bears.

Overall, “Bears” continues DisneyNature’s commitment of taking viewers on a journey with beautiful, up close cinematography of the animals and their environments.  This is a gorgeous and enjoyable family film that I definitely recommend!

Donkey Skin – The Criterion Collection #718 (as part of “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Donkey Skin” is a fascinating film based on a Charles Perrault fairy tale.  While the film was created for children, there are a lot of symbolism that Jacques Demy had left for viewers which are open to interpretation and makes the film even more fun to watch again and again.  A fun 1970 French musical which was somewhat a sign of the times,  Jacques Demy’s “Donkey Skin” is an enjoyable film that I was thrilled to see included in the Criterion Collection’s “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray and DVD box set.

Image courtesy of © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Donkey Skin – The Criterion Collection #718 (as part of “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set)

YEAR OF FILM: 1970

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, Color, French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with English Subtitles

COMPANY: THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2014

Written and Directed by Jacques Demy

Based on the Fairy Tale by Charles Perrault

Produced by Mag Bodard

Music by Michel Legrand

Cinematography by Ghislain Cloquet

Edited by Anne-Marie Cotret

Art Direction by Jacques Dugied

Costume Design by Gitt Magrini

Starring:

Catherine Deneuve as a Princesse/Peau d’ane

Jean Marais as Le roi bleu

Jacques Perrin as Le prince charmant

Micheline Presle as La reine rouge, la seconde reine

Delphine Seyrig as La fee des Lilas

Fernand Ledoux as Le roi rouge, le second roi

Henri Cremleux as Le chef des medecins

Sacha Pitoeff as Le premiere Ministre

Pierre Repp as Thibaud

In this lovingly crafted, wildly eccentric adaptation of a classic French fairy tale, Jacques Demy casts Catherine Deneuve as a princess who must go into hiding as a scullery maid in order to fend off an unwanted marriage proposal—from her own father, the king (Jean Marais). A topsy-turvy riches-to-rags fable with songs by Michel Legrand, Donkey Skin creates a tactile fantasy world that’s perched on the border between the earnest and the satiric, and features Delphine Seyrig in a delicious supporting role as a fashionable fairy godmother.

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As Jacques Demy has achieved success with his musicals “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and “The Young Girls of Rochefort”, the filmmaker went on to create his first English-language film in 1969 titled “Model Shop” (which reprised the role of Lola starring Anouk Aimee).

But as the ’70s began, Demy has always wanted to create a children’s film and inspired by the fairy tales of Charles Perrault, Demy wanted to adapt “Peau d’ Ane” (Donkey Skin).  The film would become a major success and now will be included in the Criterion Collection’s “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray and DVD box set which will include “Lola” (1961), “Bay of Angels” (1963), “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964), “The Young Girls of Rochefort” (1967), “Donkey Skin” (1970) and “Une Chambre En Ville” (1982).

The film would feature another collaboration with actress Catherine Deneuve (“Belle de Jour”, “Repulsion”, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, “The Young Girls of Rochefort”) and composer Michel Legrand.  And would star Jean Marais (“Beauty and the Beast”, “Orpheus”, “Fantomas”), Jacques Perrin (“Cinema Paradiso”, “Z”, “The Chorus”), Micheline Presle (“A Chef in Love”, “Devil in the Flesh”) and Delphone Seyrig (“Last Year at Marienbad”, “The Discreet charm of the Bourgeoisie”).

“Donkey Skin” begins with an introduction of the Blue King (portrayed by Jean Marais) who is in love with his wife, the First Queen.  Both are deeply in love with each other and have a teenage daughter, a princess (portrayed by Catherine Deneuve).

As the King is able to gain his wealth through his magical donkey (which excretes jewels, the source of his kingdom’s wealth), as there are good times in the kingdom, there are also bad times and the Queen is sick and dying.  Her final dying wish for her husband is to marry a woman as beautiful and virtuous as she.

But the King doesn’t feel a beautiful woman exists and as his advisers pressure him to have a wife in order to have an heir, the King decides to look at paintings of various women in the kingdom that can be his wife, but none are beautiful and he intends to keep his dying wife’s wish.

So, his advisers recommend one young woman and that is his daughter, the princess.

Scared that she would have to be the wife and in an incestuous relationship with her father, she goes to her godmother, the Lilac Fairy (portrayed by Delphine Seyrig) and she asks her to demand gifts that must be given to her in order to agree to marriage, but gifts that would make the king easily reject plans of marriage.  But the King manages to provide her with dresses of the color of the weather, moon and sun.

In desperation, the Lilac Fairy tells the Princess to ask him for the skin of his magical donkey.  Not happy with her requests, the King knows he wants a wife and so, he has his magical donkey killed and the skin given to the Princess.

And while he is gone, the Princess puts on the skin of the donkey and runs off to live in a pig farm in a neighboring kingdom using the guise of “Donkey Skin”.

Meanwhile, the Prince of that kingdom spies on her and begins to fall in love with her.  But deeply in love, he is ill in bed and wishes for a cake baked by Donkey Skin to help restore him to health.

Will Donkey Skin be able to restore the Prince’s health and win his love and affection or will the Princess have to marry her father?

VIDEO:

“Donkey Skin” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:67:1 aspect ratio).

The film looks absolutely gorgeous in HD.  The Blu-ray features beautiful colors, good amount of grain throughout the film and no signs of any scratches, discoloration or any problems with picture quality.

According to the Criterion Collection, “Approved by Mathieu Demy, this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative at Digimage-Classics in Paris, where the film was then restored in 2K. This 2013 restoration was undertaken by Cine-Tamaris, with the participation of Van Cleef & Arpels and the Domaine Natoinal de Chambord, and the support of the Centre national du cinema et de l’image animee and mySkreen.com.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Donkey Skin”  is presented in French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. The soundtrack for this film is primarily dialogue and musical driven. No sign of hiss, crackle or any problematic issues with the audio.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The 5.1 soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the restored stereo mix.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Donkey Skin – The Criterion Collection #718″ comes with the following special features:

  • Pour Le Cinema – (11:45) Director Jacques Demy, Catherine Deneuve, Jean Marais and Jacques Perrin interviewed on the set of an episode of “Pour le Cinema”.
  • “Donkey Skin” Illustrated – (10:56) Short program from 2008 featuring images from several illustrated editions of Charles Perrault’s fairy tale “Peau d’ane”.
  • “Donkey Skin” and the Thinkers- (16:43) A 2008 discussion between film critic Camille Taboulay and psychoanalysts Luycille Durmeyer and Jean-Claude Polack, and 17th Century literature specialist Liliane Picciola about “Donkey skin”.
  • Jacques Demy at the American Film Institute – (42:05) Featuring four audio recordings from 1971 by filmmaker Jacques Demy at the American Film Institute.

“Donkey Skin” is a fascinating film because it is Demy’s foret in to creating films for families, films that children can enjoy.  But also accomplishing his goal of adapting a Charles Perrault fairy tale for the big screen.

Once again, Catherine Deneuve is absolutely ravishing as the princess, but also interesting to see her don the donkey skin and seen as the outcast of the kingdom.

But what I found really fascinating is the storyline about a princess’ refusal to take part in an incestuous relationship.

While stories of incestuous relationships were common from Greek mythology (Zeus and Hera) and royal intermarriage have been well-documented, it was interesting to watch a film and see the princess doing all she can to get out of it.

Of course, the film has the feel of “Cinderella” but I loved the fairy tale touch when it came to set design and costume design as well.  From the servants of the Blue Kingdom painted in blue, or the Red Kingdom as servants are painted in red, along with their horses.  But also to see interesting symbolism displayed in the film in which a dream sequence of the Prince has a song about partaking in something naughty, while in the background, you see a statue of a devil.  There are moments of fascinating symbolism, so I found that very interesting to see throughout the film.

While the music of Michel Legrand is good, it’s not as strong as the music in “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” or “The Young Girls of Rochefort” but Catherine Deneuve manages to make these songs which could have been forgettable to be much more interesting, playful and fun.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality of “Donkey Skin” looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  Colors are natural, no sign of aging and for the most part, loss audio also features crystal clear dialogue and music.  And you also get a good number of special features including an examination by psychoanalysts of the film and more.

Overall, “Donkey Skin” is a fascinating film based on a Charles Perrault fairy tale.  While the film was created for children, there are a lot of symbolism that Jacques Demy had left for viewers which are open to interpretation and makes the film even more fun to watch again and again.  A fun 1970 French musical which was somewhat a sign of the times,  Jacques Demy’s “Donkey Skin” is an enjoyable film that I was thrilled to see included in the Criterion Collection’s “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray and DVD box set.

 

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

August 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Swelter” is an enjoyable popcorn action film about revenge and retribution. Don’t expect so much a Van Damme film or anything too deep but do expect a modern western-style action film about a Sheriff vs. a group of criminals that wander to his town and plenty of gun battles galore! 

Image courtesy of © 2013 Swelter, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Swelter

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 131 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: August 12, 2014

Written and Directed by Keith Parmer

Produced by Eleonore Dailly, Chris Ranta

Co-Produced by Daniele Favilli, Arri Quines

Executive Producer: Nat McCormick, Alan Simpson, Don Simpson

Associate Producer: Maximiliano Czertok, Angelo D’Agostino, Matthew Wolf

Co-Executive Producer: Elias Axume, Marc Bikindou, Jack Campbell

Music by Tree Adams

Cinematography by Michael Mayers

Edited by Martin Bernfeld

Casting by Robin Lippin

Production Design by Michael Fitzgerald

Art Direction by Rodrigo Cabral

Set Decoration by Slobhan O’Brien

Costume Design by Susan Doepner-Senac

Starring:

Jean-Claude Van Damme as Stillman

Freya Tingley as London

Alfred Molina as Doc

Josh Henderson as Boyd

Grant Blowler as Cole

Lennie James as Bishop

Catalina Sandino Moreno as Carmen

Guy Wilson as Johnny

Arie Verveen as Reverend Joshua Stone

Daniele Favilli as Kane

Ten years ago, a bank-robbing team stole $100 million from a Vegas casino. Not all of them got away. Now, Bishop (Lennie James) is a small-town sheriff, making an honest living… with no memory of his criminal past. But when his old crew rolls into town looking for the loot, the perfect getaway threatens to turn into a nightmare of greed, revenge, and retribution.

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From Keith Parmer, the writer/director of “Mob Rules” comes his latest film titled “Swelter”.

Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme (“Universal Soldier”, “Kickboxer”, “Double Impact”), Alfred Molina (“Spider-Man 2″, “Chocolat”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”), Josh Henderson (“Step Up”, “Dallas”, “The Girl Next Door”), Grant Bowler (“Defiance”, “Ugly Betty”, “True Blood”), Lennie James (“Snatch”, “Lockout”, “Colombiana”) and Daniele Favilli (“Mob Rules”) as Kane.

The film revolves around a group of criminals who rob a Las Vegas casino of ten million dollars.  While the men were caught and arrested, the vicious group which consists of Cole (portrayed by Grant Bowler), Stillman (portrayed by Jean-Claude Van Damme), Boyd (portrayed by Josh Henderson) and Kane (portrayed by Daniele Favilli), have escaped prison and are now in search of their ten million dollars.

Meanwhile, in the small California town of Baker, the town sheriff Gabriel Bishop (portrayed by Lennie James) is concerned with the troubles in his small town and his girlfriend Carmen (portrayed by Catalina Sandino Moreno) and her troubled daughter London (portrayed by Freya Tingley).

As the townspeople are concerned about their sheriff (who refuses to carry a gun for some reason), we start to learn that the sheriff is a man that is not what he seems.

As Baker is a small desert town where most people want to leave, the four robbers are leaving their path of murder in search of the money and find themselves in the town of Baker.

But what happens when they come across Sheriff Bishop?

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VIDEO:

“Swelter” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the detail of the film is fantastic.  Close-ups feature great detail, while colors are vibrant and the overall film features a good layer of grain.

I didn’t notice any problems with picture quality during my viewing.  No artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Swelter” is presented in English and French DTS-HD Master Audio.  Dialogue is crystal clear while action segments with gunshots utilize the surround channels very well.   Especially crowd scenes or motorcycle sounds.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Swelter” comes with the following special features:

  • Interviews - (56:56) Featuring interviews with Jean-Claude Van Damme, director/writer Keith Parmer, Grant Bowler, Josh Henderson, Lennie James and Alfred Molina.
  • Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “Swelter”.

EXTRAS:

“Swelter” comes with a slipcover.

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For action film fans, many may wonder if “Swelter” is a Jean-Claude Van Damme action film and while the star may have his moments of action, “Swelter” is more about a group of criminals and Van Damme, we get to see a different side of the actor as he plays the sentimental killer/thief.

“Swelter” seems like a western with its Sheriff sporting the banal sheriff western hat but we start to learn that something is up with Sheriff Bishop as he never carries a gun and for some reason, he is not too afraid of danger.

And as the Sheriff is trying to keep the small town of Baker (yes, the California desert town that you see many cars stuck on the side of road during your trip to Las Vegas) safe.  I found it all quite fascinating that the film does try to make Baker a bit mysterious with its community and how everyone wants to desperate leave the small town but can’t, but to see the stylishly dressed murderer/thief’s come into town, it does resemble a modern western in some ways.

Jean-Claude Van Damme stars in “Swelter” but instead of giving him the usual action role, while a gun-toting murderer, he also plays a character that has an emotional connection.  If anything, the film focuses on the Sheriff Lennie James and the criminal named Cole.  While, the sadistic exchanges of criminality are left to the characters of Boyd and Kane.

“Swelter” works well as a popcorn action film that one shouldn’t expect anything too deep.  We know that the storyline will be formulaic and we know the criminals will raise hell before coming face-to-face with the Sheriff, but there is also a twist when you find out more about the Sheriff and his past.

As for the Blu-ray release, the Blu-ray features fantastic picture quality as close-ups of characters look amazing in HD.  Colors and overall look of the film and its dreary look of the town of Baker fits with the style of  film, while the lossless audio has its moments of immersive moments during gun shot exchanges and the usual crowd ambiance.  The special features include interviews with the cast but I found this to be equally interesting as there are moments where the actors mess up talking and they expect the footage to be edited/cut but those scenes are left in the interview.

Overall, “Swelter” is an enjoyable popcorn action film about revenge and retribution. Don’t expect so much a Van Damme film or anything too deep but do expect a modern western-style action film about a Sheriff vs. a group of criminals that wander to his town and plenty of gun battles galore!

Lola – The Criterion Collection #714 (as part of “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Lola” is a Jacques Demy film that many people may not be familiar with.  It may not be a well-known Demy musical, nor does it sport the vibrant colors of Demy’s musicals… But by no means is “Lola” a  film that is lesser than other known Demy films.  In fact, it’s perhaps one of the most underappreciated films in his oeuvre, not due to content but because the film was hard to come by until now.  And I can only hope that people will enjoy “Lola” thanks to the painstaking restoration work in constructing this film.  A wonderful film that no doubts deserves to be included in “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set and is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Lola – The Criterion Collection #714 (as part of “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set)

YEAR OF FILM: 1961

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Monaural French with English Subtitles

COMPANY: THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2014

Written and Directed by Jacques Demy

Produced by Georges de Beauregard, Carlo Ponti

Music by Michel Legrand

Cinematography by Raoul Coutard

Edited by Anne-Marie Cotret

Production Design by Bernard Evein

Costume Design by Bernard Evein

Starring:

Anouk Aimee as Lola/Cecile

Marc Michel as Roland Cassard

Jacques Harden as Michel

Alan Scott as Frankie

Elina Labourdette as Madame Desonyers

Margo Lion as Jeanne, Michel’s Mother

Annie Duperoux as Cecile Desonyers

Catherine Lutz as Clair, the bar owner

Corinne Marchand as Daisy

Yvette Anziani as Madame Frederique

Dorothee Blanck as Dolly

Isabelle Lunghini as Nelly

Annick Noel as Ellen

Jacques Demy’s crystalline debut gave birth to the fictional universe in which so many of his characters would live, play, and love. It’s among his most profoundly felt films, a tale of crisscrossing lives in Nantes (Demy’s hometown) that floats on waves of longing and desire. Heading the film’s ensemble is the enchanting Anouk Aimée as the title character, a cabaret chanteuse who’s awaiting the return of a long-lost lover and unwilling to entertain the adoration of another love-struck soul, the wanderer Roland (Marc Michel). Humane, wistful, and witty, Lola is a testament to the resilience of the heartbroken.

lola

While there are notable names from the French New Wave, may it be Jean-Luc Godard, Alan Resnais, Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, to name a few.  Filmmaker Jacques Demy has established himself differently from the other filmmakers by creating films that are musicals, inspired by fairytales or the golden age of Hollywood.

Married to another filmmaker from the French New Wave, Agnes Varda, both have established their careers in cinema and for Demy, best known for his musicals such as “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)”, “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort), “Peau d Ane (Donkey Skin)”, to name a few.

But for every filmmaker, there is a beginning and for Jacques Demy, his beginning in cinema was his first feature film titled “Lola”.  One of the films to be included in “The Essential Jacques Demy” on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

The set will include “Lola” (1961), “Bay of Angels” (1963), “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964), “The Young Girls of Rochefort” (1967), “Donkey Skin” (1970) and “Une Chambre En Ville” (1982).

“Lola” stars Anouk Aimee (“8 1/2″, “La Dolce Vita”, “A Man and a Woman”), Marc Michel (“Le Trou”, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”), Jacques Harden (“Thierry la Fronde”, “Gervaise”) and many more!

“Lola” is a film which Jacques Demy has described as a “musical without music”.  With the names of the film inspired by Josef von Sternberg’s 1930 film “Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel)”, “Lola” was well-received by critics but yet a film that has been forgotten due to the film being unavailable.

And it has been a mission for Agnes Varda to pursue the restoration and re-release of her husband’s work and sure enough, “Lola” was restored by Technicolor and this restored version will be featured on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“Lola” is a film that revolves on several characters living in the coastal city of Nantes, France.

Roland Cassard (portrayed by Marc Michel) is a young man who tries to make money working odd jobs and has no set goals of what he wants to do with his life.

Meanwhile, Cecile (portrayed by Anouk Aimee) is a single mother who tries to make her living as a woman named “Lola”, singing/dancing at the burlesque and also a life of the prostitute and sleeping with an American sailor named Frankie (portrayed by Alan Scott).

For Cecile, she loves only one man and that is Michel (portrayed by Jacques Harden), who has vanished and has never visited her or her young son.

One day, as Roland is walking, he accidentally bumps into Cecile and we learn that the two were very close when they were teenagers and for Roland, seeing Cecile once again has rekindled his love for her.  But will he ever reach Cecile’s heart and have her feel the same way towards him?

VIDEO:

“Lola” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio) and was filmmaker Agnes Varda’s personal mission to have her husband’s debut film restored and so today and tomorrow’s cinema fans to enjoy the film.

And no doubt the journey was difficult as Technicolor had to work with any surviving elements they were able to find and this case, the fortune of finding out that the BBC had a surviving print.  But still, the print was not perfect and so the journey to reconstruct the film was a painstaking effort (as shown in the restoration special feature).

Watching “Lola” for the very first time, I was quite impressed by the restoration as the film was well-contrast with grays and whites.  Black levels were nice and deep but the clarity was also evident in the HD version (compared with the included DVD release).   The cinematography was also impressive thanks to legendary cinematographer Raoul Coutard’s work on the film and capturing the city of Nantes, the characters and their environment.

According to the Criterion Collection, “Approved by Mathieu Demy, this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from two 35mm internegatives at Technicolor Los Angeles, where the film was also restored; the original negative was lost in a fire, and these internegatives are the only remaining preprint elements in existence. This 2012 restoration was undertaken by Cine-Tamaris, the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage, and the Groupama Gen Foundation for Cinema.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Lola” is presented in French Monaural LPCM 1.0 with English subtitles. Dialogue is clear and understandable. While the orchestral baroque music sounds great and didn’t notice any crackling or hiss during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the optical track of a low-contrast print.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Lola – The Criterion Collection #714″ comes with the following special features:

  • Anouk Aimee - (3:27) Anouk Aimee talks to Agnes Varda about playing the character of Lola.
  • Lola’s Song – (3:24) A featurette about Anouk Aimee singing Lola’s song.
  • Restoration Demonstration - (10:20) Agnes Varda’s determination to restore “Lola” and Technicolor’s mission to restore the film.
  • Les Horizon Morts - (8:22) A 1951 short starring Jacques Demy featuring a man suffering a broken heart.
  • Le Sabotier du val du loire – (23:32) A 1956 short about the week in the life of a clog maker in the Loire Valley.
  • Ars – (16:43) A 1959 short about Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney, a pastor from the village of Ars.
  • La Luxure – (14:51) A 1962 short created for the feature “The Seven Deadly Sins” about Demy’s memories of growing up in Nantes.
  • Trailer – (1:49) The theatrical trailer for “Lola”.

For anyone who has followed Jacques Demy’s oeuvre, let alone the films included in the Criterion Collection’s “The Essential Jacques Demy”, will see how “Lola” is possibly one of his greatest works that people had forgotten about.

Because Jacques Demy has been identified for his work in the French New Wave and how his musical work would be known for its music and vibrant colors, “Lola” was the film that wasn’t a film that people would identify with Demy.

A film about several individuals with a storyline tied together, “Lola” is a film that represents Demy’s childhood in Nantes, France.  The bustling city that would eventually become France’s sixth largest city, was a much different city back then.

At the time the film was shot, Nantes was shown as a city yet in the rebuilding phase after World War II.

But unlike a film of Italian Neorealism, “Lola” is not about the seedy areas of France.  What we see are normal working people or people doing all they can to survive and raise a family.

With our main characters, Roland Cassard (portrayed by Jacques Demy) is a young man trying to find himself.  Wanting to find work, wanting to be a better man and wanting one woman in his life…Cecile/Lola (portrayed by Anouk Aimee).

While the character of Roland Cassard is your “everyman” or at least a man that wants to make something of himself, what is most interesting is where we would find the character of Roland Cassard years later, as the character once again appears in a Jacques Demy film, the 1964 French musical, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”.   Having watched the musical first and somewhat despising the character of Cassard for interfering with young love, after watching “Lola”, I felt that those feelings I had towards Cassard has since dissipated.

I learned of how Cassard is literally a representation of the many guys who dream of dating a beautiful girlfriend at a younger age and wonder if that same man fared much better many years later.

And while Cassard represents the “everyman”, the character of Cecile/Lola, is a representation of the woman you really like but has no interest in being with you.  The ultimate beauty that you peel away many layers and realize that she was unattainable.

In the film, Cecile or Lola, as the prostitute that an American sailor named Frankie (portrayed by Alan Scott) has had sex with but knows he will get nothing from their relationship.  As Cecile, she is the teenage girl that Roland has always loved, but as adults, she doesn’t feel the same way because her heart belongs to one man, Michel.  A man who has disappeared and has not seen his wife or son, but yet Cecile holds out hope that she will be reunited with him someday.

The film tries to have a little breather and fun with the addition of the Desonyers, a family who looks wealthy and consists of a mother (portrayed by Elina Labourdette) and her young teen daughter Cecile (portrayed by Annie Duperoux).  For both Frankie and even Roland, there is something about this young teen that reminds them of Cecile/Lola.  Perhaps her young act of defiance to her mother despite her wise but yet spunky behavior or the fact that this well-mannered girl may not be what she seems.

The film also features actress Corinne Marchand, best known for her role on Agnes Vardas “Cleo from 5 to 7″ as Daisy, one of Lola’s co-workers.

But “Lola” is a film is more than just its characters, story and location shots.  The film features the gorgeous cinematography by Raoul Coutard (“Jules et Jim”, “Breathless”, “Band of Outsiders”, “Pierrot le Fou”, “Z”) and last, the restoration and remastering of “Lola” is fantastic.  Agnes Varda and crew should be commended for seeking out surviving elements of this film and restoring it for a new generation of cineastes who have discovered Jacques Demy’s work.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is the best this film has ever looked.  Grays and whites are well-contrast, black levels are nice and deep and the clarity of this film is fantastic.  Lossless audio is clear without any crackling or hiss and there are a good number of special features included.

Overall, “Lola” is a Jacques Demy film that many people may not be familiar with.  It may not be a well-known Demy musical, nor does it sport the vibrant colors of Demy’s musicals… But by no means is “Lola” a  film that is lesser than other known Demy films.  In fact, it’s perhaps one of the most underappreciated films in his oeuvre, not due to content but because the film was hard to come by until now.  And I can only hope that people will enjoy “Lola” thanks to the painstaking restoration work in constructing this film.  A wonderful film that no doubts deserves to be included in “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set and is highly recommended!

 

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