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Get a Job (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Get a Job” is simply a bad film with a talented cast.  While I enjoyed it more than the 2008 film “Strange Wilderness” (which is the worst film I have ever watched and reviewed), I only recommend this film if you enjoy stoner comedies or are big fans of the talent that are in the film. 

Images courtesy of © 2016 CBS Films. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Get a Job

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 84 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (Crude and Sexual Content, Nudity, Drug Use and Language)

Release Date: June 14, 2016


Directed by Dylan Kidd

Screenplay by Kyle Pennekamp, Scott Turpel

Produced by Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher

Executive-Producer: Tracy McGrath, Josh Rothstein

Cinematography by David Hennings

Casting by Sarah Finn

Music by Jonathan Sadoff

Production Design by Marcia Hinds

Art Direction by Jason Zev Cohen

Set Decoration by Cindy Coburn

Costume Design by Christine Wada


Starring:

Anna Kendrick as Jillian Stewart

Alison Brie as Tanya

Miles Teller as Will Davis

Bryan Cranston as Roger Davis

Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Ethan

Nicholas Braun as Charlie

Marcia Gay Harden as Katherine Dunn

John C. McGinley as Diller

John Cho as Brian Bender

Greg Germann as Fernando

Jorge Garcia as Fernando

Cameron Richardson as Tara

Brandon T. Jackson as Luke

Bruce Davison as Lawrence Wilheimer


Miles Teller (The Divergent Series Franchise) and Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect 1 & 2) lead an all-star cast in the laugh-out-loud comedy Get a Job, available on June 14 on Blu-ray (plus Digital HD), DVD (plus Digital), and Digital HD from Lionsgate. The fresh and wickedly funny film is currently available On Demand. Following the struggles facing a group of college graduates as they navigate through a tough economy, Get a Job also stars Brandon T. Jackson (Tropic Thunder), Nicholas Braun (How to Be Single), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad), Alison Brie (TV’s “Community”), Marcia Gay Harden (TV’s “Code Black”),and Academy Award® nominee Bryan Cranston (Best Actor, Trumbo, 2015).

How far would you go to get a job? Recent college grads Will (Teller) and Jillian (Kendrick) desperately want to become a power couple — but first they have to get jobs! When work prospects threaten to strand Will and Jillian in entry-level hell, Will starts thinking out of the box — and hatches a hilarious assault on the job market.


From Dylan Kidd (director of “Roger Dodger” and “P.S.”) and writers Kyle Pennekamp and Scott Turpel comes the stoner comedy, “Get a Job”.

Originally made back in 2012, the film had gone through problematic distribution issues and would not be released until March 2016 via a limited release and video on demand.  And now, “Get a Job” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in June 2016.

The film would feature an ensemble cast starring Anna Kendrick (“Pitch Perfect” films, “Up in the Air”, “Into the Woods”), Alison Brie (“Community”, “The Five-Year Engagement”, “Get Hard”), Miles Teller (“Whiplash”, “The Spectactular Now”, “Fantastic Four”, “Divergent”), Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”, “Argo”, “Drive”, “Malcolm in the Middle”), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (“Superbad”, “Kick-Ass”, “Role Models”), Nicholas Braun (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, “Red State”, “The Watch”, “The Stanford Prison Experiment”), Marcia Gay Harden (“Into the Wild”, “Mystic River”, “The Mist”), John C. McGinley (“Scrubs”, “Platoon”, “Se7en”, “The Rock”), John Cho (“American Beauty”, “Star Trek”, “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle”), Greg Germann (“Ally McBeal”, “Here Comes the Boom”, “Sweet November”), Jorge Garcia (“Lost”, “Hawaii Five-0”, “The Ridiculous 6”, “The Wedding Ringer”) and Brandon T. Jackson (“Tropic Thunder”, “Fast & Furious”, “Percy Jackson” films).

The film revolves around Miles Teller (portrayed by Will Davis), a YouTube video editor who just graduated from college along with his girlfriend Jillian Stewart (portrayed by Anna Kendrick).

For Miles, life is kickback as he and his buddies Charlie (portrayed by Nicholas Braun, playing a character who wants to become a teacher), Ethan (portrayed by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, a programmer who is creating an app that enables one to stalk people) and Luke (portrayed by Brandon T. Jackson, a character who is getting his feet wet in working for a corporate environment) enjoy playing video games, drinking alcohol and doing recreational drugs.

Miles expects his entry to a career after college will be easy as he is expecting a job with LA Weekly, a place where he had interned as a video editor.  And for the most part, his parents, especially his father Roger (portrayed by Bryan Cranston) is proud of him.

But Miles learns that life is not that easy.  He finds out that the job at LA Weekly is not going to happen and hoping for financial support from his parents, finds out his father was fired from his job.

And while Miles applies for job, his carefree and creative attitude tends to get in the way as he quickly learns that finding a job is not easy.  And the same can be said for his father Roger, who is older and trying to get a job and compete with younger people.

But Miles also finds it difficult to get a job because of his drug use and he needs to get a drug tests for a major corporate job  for Lawrence Wilheimer (portrayed by Bruce Davidson) and work with the flirty Tanya (portrayed by Alison Brie) and his strict and controlling boss, Katherine Dunn (portrayed by Marcia Gay Harden), who could care less about his style.

But Miles must learn if finding a job that pays well is important or finding a job that doesn’t pay as well but allows him to be creative is more important.


VIDEO:

“Get a Job” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The film looks vibrant in outdoor scenes and is full of detail.  I didn’t notice any problems with overall picture quality and “Get a Job” looks very good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Get a Job” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features a lossless soundtrack that has crystal clear dialogue and music, while surround channels are more for ambiance.

Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Get a Job” comes with the following special features:

  • Video Resume Outtakes – (2:57) Interviews with the cast of the film.
  • Where It All Began: The Cast of GET A JOB – (6:56) The cast and crew talk about the film and the characters.

EXTRAS:

“Get A Job” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


No one wants to see a film fail especially with a talented cast.

But “Get a Job” is one of the worst films I have watched in the last five years.

When I read that “Get a Job” was made in 2012 and then released in 2016, typically a delay of a film is not a good sign.

And it was even more surprising to believe that a film that would star popular talent such as Anna Kendick, Miles Teller, Bryan Cranston, Marcia Gay Harden, Brandon T. Jackson, Nicholas Braun, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and many others, would not be released.

But nevertheless, I tend to find some enjoyment from a film that typically receives negative reviews and “Get a Job” was a film that tries to capture the post-graduation from college angst with stoner film comedy.

For the most part, I think there are many people who can relate to the character of Will.  Graduating from college, thinking you will score a wonderful job and then finding out that all was not all that it seems.

In his case, he is a YouTube creator that has become popular for creating crazy, non-traditional types of video but as we all know, only so many people can succeed and become profitable for many years under that platform.  And as creative as he is, his thoughts like most people who are talented is that companies would welcome that creativity and exploit it.

But Will quickly learns that they like his skillset but they want him to abide to their corporate boilerplate without straying away from that concept.  And that is difficult for him as he has a boss that is strict, wants him to become professional and he quickly needs to grow up as his father has become unemployed and his girlfriend, who also is having similar issues of thinking she has a job that will be there forever, unfortunately doesn’t happen.

And while I enjoyed that aspect of the film, the film tries to hard to incorporate things that make it a stoner film but ends up hurting the film.  For example, the character of Charlie (portrayed by Nicholas Braun) is a hardcore pothead.  He must teach a class chemistry and has them toasting his food for them and he becomes the coach of the boy’s basketball team and often using profanity towards the young children.  Personally, I found this to be poor taste.

The other involves Ethan (portrayed by Christopher Mintz-Plasse) playing a character that creates an app that allows people to stalk someone.  Even in 2012 with privacy issues for cell phones and stalking, the concept is ill-planned and ridiculous.  Granted, there is a purpose for this app in the film and how it would be used, but still, it’s an ill-conceived storyline.  Sure, Mintz-Plasse is known for playing these crazy characters, but the overall concept doesn’t work.

And then you have Luke (portrayed by Brandon T. Jackson) who is a person trying to make it in the business world and his boss tells him to prove himself by drinking jizz from an animal in front of his co-workers.  Obviously going for that gag comedy scene to be hilarious and make people gag, it is ineffective and further enforces the ridiculous nature of this film.

But there are things in the film that are funny and plausible that made me laugh, but for the most part, “Get a Job” doesn’t do anything to enhance the careers of the star talent featured.  If anything, the film was created before many of the younger talent became popular and went on to create big budget or critically acclaimed films and I can see why the film had distribution problems and took four years to be released.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good as outdoor scenes are vibrant and features great detail.  While lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and surround channels utilized more for ambiance.  You also get a few special features included as well.

Overall, “Get a Job” is simply a bad film with a talented cast.  While I enjoyed it more than the 2008 film “Strange Wilderness” (which is the worst film I have ever watched and reviewed), I only recommend this film if you enjoy stoner comedies or are big fans of the talent that are in the film.

Rise of the Legend (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Rise of the Legend” does an exciting job of showcasing legendary Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung. The fight choreography is top-notch and actor Eddie Peng does a solid job taking on the mantle of the legendary hero. For those who love hardcore action and martial arts, you’ll no doubt love Roy Chow’s “Rise of the Legend”. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Edko Films Limited. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Rise of the Legend

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 132 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Mandarin and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English subtitles

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: May 24, 2016


Directed by Roy Hin Yeung Chow

Written by Chi-long To

Produced by Ivy Ho, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung

Executive-Producer: Ryuhei Chiba, William Kong, Hugh Simon

Cinematography by Man-Ching Ng

Music by Shigeru Umebayashi

Edited by Ka-Fai Cheung, Man To Tang

Art Direction by Pater Wong

Costume Design by Stephanie Wong


Starring:

Sammo Kam-Bo Hung as Master Lui

Eddie Peng as Fei

Luodan Wang as Chun

Boran Jing as Fiery

Cho-Lam Wong as Big Tooth

Junji Qin as Food

Byron Mann as Black Crow

Tai-Yu Gao as Wing

Tony Ka Fai Leung as Fei’s father

Angelababy as Orchid


A martial artist with extraordinary power (Eddie Peng) returns to the town where his father was murdered to face off against a ruthless crime boss (Sammo Hung) and bring justice back to the people.


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When it comes to action films, Wong Fei-hung (a real Chinese folk hero) has been immortalized on many films and television.

While in reality, known for being an expert in Hung Ga style of Chinese martial arts and teaching acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine, in movies, he legendary status has taken on different forms.

From Jackie Chan’s 1978 film “Drunken Master” and 1994’s “Drunken Master II”, Gordon Liu’s “Challenge of the Masters” and “Martial Arts Club”, Jet Li’s “Once Upon a Time in China”, Donnie Yen’s 1993 film “Iron Monkey”, Sammo Hung as Wong in the 2004 film “Around the World in 80 Days” and now with Eddie Peng in the 2014 film “Rise of the Legend”.

Directed by Roy Chow (“Lust, Caution”, “Nightfall”, “Murderer”), the film would star Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (“Ip Man 2”, “My Lucky Stars”, “Martial Law”), Eddie Peng (“Unbeatable”, “Hear Me”, “To the Fore”), Luodan Wang (“The Continent”, “Caught in the Web”), Boran Jing (“Monster Hunt”, “The Bullet Vanishes”, “Lost and Love”), Cho-Lam Wong (“Come On, Cousin”, “La comedie humaine”), Junjie Qin (“Curse of the Goldden Flower”, “Painted Skin: The Resurrection”), Byron Mann (“Catwoman”, “Red Corner”, “Street Fighter”), Tony Ka Fai Leung (“Detective De: Mystery of the Phantom Flame”, “Bodyguards and Assassins”, “Election”) and Angelababy (“Hitman: Agent 47”, “Tai Chi Zero”, “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon”).

And now “Rise of the Legend” will be available in May 2016 courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Rise of the Legend” revolves around Wong Fei Hung (portrayed by Eddie Peng) during the late Qing Dynasty, and during a time when two crime factions are running the Huangpu Port: The Black Tiger and the Northern Sea.

Wong Fei Hung has been wanting to get revenge for the death of his father (portrayed by Tony Ka Fai Leung) and the abduction of his childhood friend/girlfriend (portrayed by Wang Luodan).

So, he finds a way to get into the Black Tiger gang led by Master Lui (portrayed by Sammo Kam-bo Hung) and his three sons who rule different territories in Guangzhou.

Master Lui makes a proclamation that if someone can get the head of the leader of the Northern Sea, they will become Master Lui’s fourth son.

And so, Wong Fei Hung must do what he can to infiltrate the Black Tiger gang and become the fourth son and take out the three crime leaders and Master Lui.

Can he do it?


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VIDEO:

“Rise of the Legend” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks vibrant and full of detail. Closeups show great detail and visual effects look good as well. For the most part, the film does a good job of blending in the special effects into the choreography.

But the film looks fantastic in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rise of the Legend” is presented in Mandarin and English (dub) 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features a lossless soundtrack that has crystal clear dialogue, music and offers a good amount of surround sound during moments of action (which there are many in this film).

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rise of the Legend” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – Featuring a short making-of featurettes that got into the characters, Eddie Peng, injuries suffered on set, cinematography and special effects.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for”Rise of the Legend”.

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Actor Eddie Peng is no doubt in good company when playing the legendary folk hero Wong Fei-hung.

The role has been played by Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Gordon Liu and Vincent Zhao, to name a few.

And if you are going to play Wong Fei-hung, you are going to have to be physically fit and ready for the action (and also injuries that comes along with shooting martial arts action films).

And suffice to say, Eddie Peng did a magnificent job playing the role, considering a lot of his past roles were dramatic and he was a popular pop singer in Taiwan.

In “Rise of the Legend”, Eddie Peng plays a younger Wong Fei-hung, who has seen a lot of corruption by the local gangs, seeing his father killed in a fire (note: The real Wong Kei-ying did not die this way but in each of the films about Wong Fei-hung, his father was instrumental in making Wong Fei-hung a caring man) and seeing his childhood girlfriend being taken to become a courtesan (many girls were taken from their families or kidnapped or sold to become prostitutes or servants).

And now returning back home to the land where his father was murdered, Wong Fei-hung must infiltrate the Black Tiger Gang and take out all of the leaders in order to give the locals their life back but also getting the revenge that he has been waiting for, since he was a child.

While the film can be a bit banal, in terms of one man taking on hundreds of enemies, taking out the bosses in order to fight the grand boss, there is a bit of strategy on Wong Fei-hung’s part in order to make it all happen, despite also trying to sell the fact that he can be ruthless and a worthy fourth son to Black Tiger leader, Master Lui.

The fight choreography is very well-done and there was a lot of attention focused on various fight moves and as one can watch on the special features, a few of the actors got injured while making this film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic with good attention to detail, especially showcasing the gorgeous production and costume design.  The lossless soundtrack showcases the many action scenes throughout the film.  And for those who do not like to read English subtitles, the film also comes with an English dub.  And there are a few short special features included as well.

Overall, “Rise of the Legend” does an exciting job of showcasing legendary Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung.  The fight choreography is top-notch and actor Eddie Peng does a solid job taking on the mantle of the legendary hero.  For those who love hardcore action and martial arts, you’ll no doubt love Roy Chow’s “Rise of the Legend”.

Recommended!

The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Naked Island” is visually mesmerizing and entertaining considering there is no dialogue in the film. While filmmaker Kaneto Shindo has a long oeuvre of fantastic films which he directed and wrote, “The Naked Island” stands out for its visual style and storytelling. Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1960 Kindai Eiga Kyokai.  The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811

YEAR OF FILM: 1960

DURATION: 96 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Janus Films/Toho/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: May 17, 2016


Directed by Kaneto Shindo

Written by Kaneto Shindo

Produced by Eisaku Matssura, Kaneto Shindo

Music by Hikaru Hayashi

Cinematography by Kiyomi Kuroda

Edited by Toshio Enoki


Starring:

Nobuko Otawa as Toyo (mother)

Taiji Tonoyama as Senta (father)

Shinji Tanaka as Taro (eldest son)

Masanori Horimoto as Jiro (youngest son)


Director Kaneto Shindo’s documentary-like, dialogue-free portrayal of daily struggle is a work of stunning visual beauty and invention. The international breakthrough for one of Japan’s most innovative filmmakers—who went on to make other unique masterworks such as Onibaba and KuronekoThe Naked Island follows a family whose home is on a tiny, remote island in the Japanese archipelago. They must row a great distance to another shore, collect water from a well in buckets, and row back to their island—a nearly backbreaking task essential for the survival of these people and their land. Featuring a phenomenal modernist score by Hikaru Hayashi, this is a truly hypnotic experience, with a rhythm unlike that of any other film.


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In Japanese cinema, filmmaker/writer Kaneto Shindo has had many noteworth films in his oeuvre.  In fact, at the end of his career, Shindo had directed 48 films and wrote 238 scripts.

Known for directing films such as “Onibaba”, “Story of a Beloved Wife”, “Kuroneko”, “A Last Note” to name a few.

And as filmmakers have their muse in their careers, Jean-Luc Godard with Anna Karina, Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren, John Ford and John Wayne, Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, to name a few.

For Kaneto Shindo, he had Nobuko Otawa, his mistress and later his wife.  An actress with a long career and one of her most notable films with Shindo was the black-and-white 1960 film, “Hadaka no shima” (The Naked Island).

A film that would star Otawa, Taiji Tonoyama, Shinji Tanaka and Masanori Horimoto.

A film with no spoken dialogue and featuring a modernist score by Hikaru Hayashi, “The Naked Island” is a unique film which would win the Grand Prix at the 2nd Moscow International Film Festival.

And now, “The Naked Island” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

“The Naked Island” follows a family of four that live in a tiny island in the Seto Inland Sea.  They are the only occupants of the island and they survive by farming.

But it’s a harsh life as the husband and wife must continually row a boat from their island to a neighboring island to get water to water their plants and also provide water for themselves to drink and bathe in.

A harsh life in order to survive, we watch the small family to see how they function as a unit in the course of a year.


VIDEO:

“The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811” is presented in 1:35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p High Definition. Picture quality is fantastic, the film features great clarity, wonderful detail and sharpness.  Black levels are nice and deep and the white and grays are well contrast.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new high-definition film transfer was created on a Spirit 4K DataCine from a new 35 mm print struck from the original camera negative.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches and splices were manually removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, flicker and jitter”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811” in Japanese LPCM 1.0 Monaural audio. The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear with no signs of major hissing, crackle or audio pops.

It’s important to note that the film is primarily musically driven and features atmospheric noises, the family laughing but there is no spoken dialogue.  The emphasis is primarily on the musical score by Hikaru Hayashi.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered from a 35 mm optical soundtrack positive.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX 4.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring the audio commentary by director/writer Kaneto Shindo and composer Hikaru Hayashi.
  • Kaneto Shindo – (7:31) Recorded in 2011 featuring Kaneto Shindo as a greeting for “The Urge for Survival”, a retrospective of his work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
  • Benicio Del Toro – (7:41) A 2016 interview with actor Benicio Del Toro, a longtime advocate for Kaneto Shindo’s work.
  • Akira Mizuta Lippit – (17:11) A 2016 interview with film scholar Akira Mizuta Lippit.
  • Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “The Naked Island”.

EXTRAS:

“The Naked Island – The Criterion Collection #811” comes with a five-page foldout which comes with the essay “The Silence of the Sea” by Haden Guest (film historian and curator and director of the Harvard Film Archive).


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Having watched many of Kaneto Shindo’s films, “The Naked Island” stands out for its beauty, its tragic storyline but also the harsh reality for rural farmers.

In the case of “The Naked Island”, the film focuses on a family that live in an island as its only occupants.

The island has been cultivated for farming and the parents often have to go to the nearby island to get water (via rowboat) to plant their crops but also provide water for themselves.  And also to bring their child to school.

The images of a man and wife having to hold heavy buckets on a stick and balanced on their shoulders, making sure they don’t spill a drop is painful, tiring but its a life that these two are able to survive and provide for their family.

Because they do not live in town and are in their own island.  They are isolated from society.

They do not have television, nor are they seen wearing any extravagant clothes.  We watch as the family bathes in an outside bucket, a father making shoes for himself and the children and a life focused on maintaining crops for food and also to sell to people in town.

Kaneto Shindo is able to make the film entertaining as it has a documentary-style of filmmaking.  Watching these two parents planting and watering their crops, enjoying dinner time with each other, bathing outside and functioning as a normal family, but the fact that they live in an island away from the locals and many other people.

As a viewer, a lot of us can’t fathom the harsh lifestyle that this couple must endure daily, but this is their lifestyle living on the land, living within their means and whatever tools they have on-hand.

What’s interesting is when the children catch a fish and the family goes to the city with their kids to sell the fish to a fishmonger to eat it.  And for the two children, seeing shops and also television is rather not interesting for them as the concept of television seems to unphase them.

Of course, as the family are followed for the course of the year and being a Kaneto Shindo film, you can’t expect everything to be all happy-go-lucky.  And tragedy presents itself and provides one of the most memorable visuals and scenes of the film.

I was moved by “The Naked Island” as the film presents stunning visuals and a budget for a film that relied on Kaneto Shindo to fund as the film company was near bankruptcy.

The film features a modern score by Hikaru Hayashi and for the most part, a film without dialogue and its visual presentation of telling a story is rather unique and mesmerizing.  “The Naked Island” is no doubt a cinematic experience.

The Blu-ray release features fantastic picture quality as black levels are nice and deep, white and grays are well contrast and the monaural soundtrack is crisp and clear with no pops or crackles.

Included is a 2000 audio commentary and also special features recorded in 2016, plus a 2011 retrospective video introduction by Kaneto Shindo.

Overall, “The Naked Island” is visually mesmerizing and entertaining considering there is no dialogue in the film.  While filmmaker Kaneto Shindo has a long oeuvre of fantastic films which he directed and wrote, “The Naked Island” stands out for its visual style and storytelling.

Highly recommended!

Aldnoah.Zero Vol. 4 Limited Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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The final episodes of second season of “Aldnoah.Zero” is action-driven and for the most part concludes with an ending that fans of the series will be content with! If you love deep, well-written and exciting mecha sci-fi, then definitely give “Aldnoah.Zero” a chance! Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Olympia Knights/Aniplex, Project AZ. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Aldnoah.Zero Vol. 4 Limited Edition

YEAR OF SERIES RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 19-24 (150 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: April 19, 2016


Original Created by Gen Urobuchi

Directed by Ei Aoki

Series Composition by Katsuhiko Takayama

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design by Masaki Matsumoto

Art Director by Akira Ito

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures, TROYCA


Featuring the voices of:

Kensho Ono/Zach Aguilar as Slaine Troyard

Natsuki Hanae/Max Mittelman as Inaho Kaiduka

Sora Amamiya/Erika Harlacher as Asseylum Vers Allusia

Ai Kakuma/Christine Marie Cabanos as Nina Klein

Ai Kayano/Julie Anne Taylor as Darzana Magbaredge

Hiroki Yasumoto/Patrick Seitz as Vlad

Inori Minase/Sandy Fox as Eddelrittuo

Kazuya Nakai/Matthew Mercer as Koichiro Marito

Kengo Kawanishi/Kyle McCarley as Kisaki Matsuribi

Kousuke Toriumi/Ethan Murray as Soma Yagarai

Makoto Furukawa/Alan Lee as Shigou Kakei

Mikako Komatsu/Erica Mendez as Inko Amifumi

Sachika Misawa/Cristina Vee as Rayet Areash

Sayaka Ohara/Erica Lindbeck as Yuki Kaiduka

Shinji Ogawa/Geoffrey Chalmers as Rayregalia Vers Rayvers

Sho Hayami/Lex Lang as Cruhteo

Sōma Saitō/Lucien Dodge as Yuutarou Tsumugi

Taishi Murata/Bryce Papenbrook as Calm Craftman

Takahiro Sakurai /Todd Haberkorn as Trillam

Toru Ohkawa as Saazbaum

Yoshitaka Yamaya/Bobby Thong as Okisuke “Okojo” Mikuni

Yu Shimamura/Trina Loo as Kaoru Mizusaki

Yuki Kaida/Carrie Kernanen as Femieanne


At long last, the war between Earth and VERS is about to come to an end. Many have shed tears at the sight of the battlefield, where numerous lights flare, then die out. Slaine, resigned to his fate, is determined to commit all his forces to prepare for the final showdown. Inaho steels himself to answer the call of his own destiny, along with the crew of the Deucalion. Elsewhere, a solitary girl resolves to confront her fate and watches over the final moments of their battle…


The second season of “Aldnoah.Zero” continues with a storyline that is set two years after what had happened at Saazbaum’s Landing Castle.

As Slaine continues on his goal to create a new world, Lemrina Vers Envers pretends to be Princess Asseylum Vers Allusia as she is healing from her wounds.

But when Princess Asseylum wakes up, what will she think about this new world that Slaine is trying to create?

Find out in the final fourth volume of “Aldnoah.Zero”!

What is “ALDNOAH.ZERO” all about?

From Gen Urobuchi, the creator of “Fate/Zero”, “Phantom – The Animation” and writer for “Psycho-Pass” and “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, comes the 2014 sci-fi anime series titled “ALDNOAH.ZERO”.

Featuring anime production from A-1 Pictures and TROYCA, the series is directed by Ei Aoki (“Fate/Zero”, “Ga-Rei Zero”, “Girls Bravo”), screenplay by Katsuhiko Takayama (“Cat Planet Cuties”, “Baka and Test – Summon the Beats”, “ef: a tale of melodies”, “Stratos 4”), music by Hiroyuki Sawano (“Blue Exorcist”, “Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings”, “Attack on Titan”), character designs by Masako Matsumoto and art direction by Akira Ito (“AKB0048”, “Baccano!”, “Durara!!”, “Elfen Lied”).

The 24-episode anime series debuted back in July 2014 and ended in March 2015. And now the anime series has been released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex Inc.

“Aldnoah.Zero” begins with how Earth was attacked by the Vers Empire.

Back in 1972, an ancient alien hypergate was discovered on the moon and humans have used this technology to migrate to Mars and begin colonizing the planet. The settlers on Mars discovered new advanced technology and would create the Vers Empire and later claim the planet Mars and the advanced technology as their own. The Vers Empire look at them as elite and evolved versions of humanity and are prejudice against the Terrans (Earth-born humans).

The Vers Empire would declare war on Earth and in 1999, the hypergate on the Moon was destroyed but in the process, shattering the Moon leaving debris floating around the planet Earth.

This would lead to a cease fire for nearly 15 years until the Vers Empire would once again launch a new attack in order to conquer Earth.

We are introduced to Inaho Kaizuki, a pilot in training, who lives in the city of Shinawara with his sister Yuki, a Kataphrakt pilot for the Earth’s military.

One day when Inaho and friends go to see the arrival of Asseylum Vers, the Princess of Vers, terrorists attack and it is assumed that the Princess was killed. In retaliation, the Martian Vers Orbital Knights do a full assault on Earth and destroying a number of major cities.

While holed up in school, Inaho and his friends decide to fight against the Vers.

In vol. 2, the conflict escalates as Sauzbaum makes a direct attack on UFE headquarters in order to kill the princess! Can she be protected during the full onslaught?

As the finale of the first season features both Asseylum and Inaho left for dead, vol. 3 takes place 19 months after the incident with Inaho making his return after being shot by Slaine.

As UFE forces and the Vers are lead into battle, Inaho and Slaine will confront each other once again!

In volume 4, Slaine continues on with his goal to create a new world.  As he has Lemrina disguising herself as Princess Asseylum, she announces for the Martian Knights to unite under Slaine’s banner.

Meanwhile, Princess Asseylum recovers from her deep coma but what will happen when she finds out what Slaine has done and how he has changed?


“Aldnoah.Zero” consists of the following main characters:

  • Inaho Kaizuka – A pilot in training living on Earth and the top of his class. He lives with his older sister, Yuki and is often stoic and showing no emotion. He is good with coming up with strategies to fight against the Martian Knights.
  • Slaine Troyard – A Terran (Earth-born human) who is a slave to the Versian County Cruhteno and the nemesis of Inaho. He is close to Princess Asseylum and is responsible for saving her. He is very loyal to the Princess.
  • Asseylum Vers Allusia – The First Princess of the Vers Empire and is close to Slaine. She is curious about Earth and unlike the Vers Empires, she has no ill feelings towards the Terrans.
  • Inko Amifumi – Inaho’s childhood friend and classmate. She is a member of the Student Council Committee and has feelings towards Inaho.
  • Rayet Areash – A Martian girl living on Earth. She and her friends are responsible for the assassination attempt on Princess Asseylum, in exchange for the promise of extraction back to Mars and knighthood under the Vers Empire.
  • Eddelrittuo – A young Martian girl who serves Princess Asseylum as her maid.
  • Cruhteo – A Count of the Vers Empire and one of the Martian Knights who often abuses Slaine.
  • Saazbaum – A County ofthe Vers Empire, one of the Martian Knights and one desperately wanting a war between Mars and Earth.
  • Yuki Kaizuka – Older sister of Inaho and a Warrant Officer in the United Forces of Earth. She can pilot a Kataphract and often worries about her younger brother.
  • Koichiro Marito – A Lieutenant in the United Forces of Earth. He is a training instructor at Inaho’s high school. A veteran of the War of 1999 and suffers PTSD due to the war, he is fearful of the power of Aldnoah, having witnessed it first hand. He also is aware that the governments of Earth has not publicized any information about what happened 15 years ago.
  • Lemrina Vers Envers – A princess of the Vers Empire and Princess Asseylum’s half-sister.  She is often jealous of her sister and Slaine’s fondness towards Asseylum.  She is handicapped and is in a wheelchair.
  • Klancain – The eldest son of Count Cruhteo who is loyal to Princess Asseylum.

 

VIDEO:

“Aldnoah.Zero Vol. 4” is presented in 1080p High Definition. One of the first things you will notice is how detailed backgrounds are and also mechanical designs. As a sci-fi series, the futuristic settings are gorgeously painted, the mecha are well-designed and as for character designs, while line art is simple, but shaded, it’s the backgrounds and environments that helps boost the overall presentation of the anime series.

But overall anime production from A-1 Pictures is very good and I didn’t notice any banding issues or artifacts.

AUDIO:

“Aldnoah.Zero” is presented only with a Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 soundtrack.Both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-acted and with that being said, dialogue and music is crystal clear through the front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Aldnoah.Zero Vol. 4” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening “Harmonious”
  • Textless Ending “Genesis”

EXTRAS:

“Aldnoah.Zero Vol. 4” comes with a slipcase with an two collectible postcards and a special booklet “Mecha Archives 2” by ALDNOAH.ZERO xI-IV (Mecha Design.


For sci-fi and mecha fans, every few years, there is an always an anime series that captivates you because of its deep storyline, with heavy attention to mecha, its characters and typically revolving around some sort of war, “Aldnoah.Zero” is one of those series that does a magnificent job of capturing the politics and challenges of war.

And here we are with the final volume of “Aldnoah.Zero”!

Slaine is determined to create his new world, knowing that Princess Asseylum would not support his selfish goal.

As Princess Asseylum awakes from her deep coma, what happens when she regains all her memories and finds out what Slaine has done.

On Earth, Inaho prepares a strategy to fight the Martian Knights, but what will happen to him if he continues to over use his eye?

The storyline of the Vers Empire vs. Earth concludes!  Who will become the victor?  Or will someone find a way to prevent Slaine from creating his twisted concept of the world?

As for the Blu-ray release, A-1 Pictures has done a great job in providing a series with gorgeous art backgrounds and mechanical design. Picture quality is very good via HD and the lossless audio soundtrack is stereo but dialogue and sound effects are crystal clear, as with its captivating musical score. Both Japanese and English soundtracks sound great and voice talents on both ends are well-done! There are not many special features with this fourth volume but you do get a special booklet and collectable pin-ups.

Overall, the final episodes of second season of “Aldnoah.Zero” is action-driven and for the most part concludes with an ending that fans of the series will be content with!

If you love deep, well-written and exciting mecha sci-fi, then definitely give “Aldnoah.Zero” a chance!

Recommended!

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

May 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Finest Hours” is an entertaining film hampered by unnecessary scenes. Sespite the film’s issues, you can’t help but enjoy the true story of American heroism and for that, “The Finest Hours” is a film on Blu-ray worth watching.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Finest Hours

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 117 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:39:1 Aspect Ratio, English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Audio Description Track, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: PG-13 (For Intense Sequences of Peril)

Release Date: May 24, 2016


Directed by Craig Gillespie

Screenplay by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson

Based on the book by Casey Sherman, Michael J. Tougias

Produced by Dorothy Aufiero, James Whitaker

Executive Producer: Douglas C. Merrifield

Cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe

Music by Carter Burwell

Edited by Tatiana S. Riegel

Casting by Mindy Marin

Production Design by Michael Corenblith

Art Direction by William Ladd Skinner

Set Decoration by Susan Benjamin

Costume Design by Louise Frogley


Starring:

Chris Pine as Bernie Webber

Casey Affleck as Ray Sybert

Ben Foster as Richard Livesey

Eric Bana as Daniel Cliff

Holliday Grainger as Miriam Webber

John Ortiz as Wallace Quirey

Kyle Gallner as Andy Fitzgerald

John Magaro as Ervin Maske

Graham McTavish as Frank Fauteux

Michael Raymond-James as D.A. Brown

Beau Knapp as Mel Gouthro

Josh Stewart as Tchuda Southerland

Abraham Benruby as George “Tiny Myers

Keiynan Lonsdale as Eldon Hanan

Rachel Brosnahan as Bea Hansen

Benjamin Koldyke as Donald Bangs

Matthew Maher as Carl Nickerson


Based on the extraordinary true story of the greatest smallboat rescue in Coast Guard history, THE FINEST HOURS is a tale of courage, loyalty and honor in the face of overwhelming odds. When a massive storm strikes off the coast of Cape Cod, it rips a T-2 oil tanker in half, trapping more than 30 sailors on its rapidly sinking stern. As Captain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and his crew set out in a 12-seat rescue boat to save them, Chief Engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) struggles to buy his men more time. Packed with heroic larger-than-life action and driven by the men’s faith in their mission, themselves and one another, THE FINEST HOURS is a triumph.


On February 18, 1952, the Coast Guard performed one of the most impressive and dangerous missions.

During a severe “nor’easter” on the New England coast, T2 tankers SS Fort Mercer and the SS Pendleton broke in half.  Because of the severe damage of the ship, the sailors were unable to make a distress call.

With the boat sinking and the sailors trying to find ways to survive, a Lifeboat Station in Chatam, Massachusetts discovered an unusual shore radar and Boatswain’s Mate First Class Bernard C. Webber, coxswain of Coast Guard Motor Lifeboat CG 36500 from Station Chatham and his crew of three braved storm conditions in the ocean to save the sailors from the SS Pendleton.

And now the miraculous rescue has been adapted from the book by Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias into a live action film by Disney titled “The Finest Hours” and will be released on Blu-ray in May 2016.

The film is directed by Craig Gillespie (“Lars and the Real Girl”, “Friday Night”, “Million Dollar Arm”) and features a screenplay by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson.

“The Finest Hours” stars Chris Pine (“Star Trek”, “Star Trek Into Darkness”, “Unstoppable”), Casey Affleck (“Gone Baby Gone”, “Good Will Hunting”,  “Interstellar”, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”), Ben Foster (“3:10 to Yuma”, “Lone Survivor”, “Pandorum”), Eric Bana (“Star Trek”, “Hulk”, “Munich”), Holliday Grainger (“Cinderella”, “The Borgias”, “Jane Eyre”), Kyle Gallner (“American Sniper”, “Nightmare on Elm Street”, “The Haunting in Connecticut”) and many more.

“The Finest Hours” begins with an introduction to Bernard “Bernie” Webber (portrayed by Chris Pine).  Bernie is a man of few words and he is a man who sticks by the rules and never diverts from orders.

That night, he and his friend are on a double date and Bernie would be meeting Miriam Pentinen (portrayed by Holliday Grainger).

The two date and Miriam proposes to Bernie for marriage and the two agree to get married on April 16th.  As Bernie goes to ask for the day off from his station’s commander, Daniel Cluff (portrayed by Eric Bana), an oil tanker, the SS Pendelton is caught in a nor’easter and the tanker is sheared in half.

As the majority of the Coast Guard station’s crew having left to save the crew of the SS Fort Mercer (which also was sheared in half due to the nor’easter), Bernie and Engineman Third Class Andrew Fitzgerald (portrayed by Kyle Gallner), Seaman Richard Livesey (portrayed by Ben Foster) and Seaman Ervin Maske (portrayed by John Magaro) are tasked to find the SS Pendleton on a motor lifeboat CG 36500 which can only hold up to 12 people.

Meanwhile, on the SS Pendleton, many depend on the ship’s engineer, Ray Sybert (portrayed by Casey Affleck) to help them get out of trouble.  But Ray tells them the truth that they are going to sink unless they come up with ideas.

With most of the crew not liking Ray, some want to escape by life boat but Ray tells them that due to the high waves, their boats would get destroyed.

Ray tells the crew that the only way to survive is to steer the sinking stern of the tanker onto a submerged reef, where the ship can temporarily lodge until rescuers arrive.

Back at home, Miriam finds out that station commander, Daniel Huff has sent them out.  Miriam feels they are being sent on a suicide mission and requests that he tells them to come back.  And because Huff is not from the area, many don’t trust his leadership because they feel his is unaware of how dangerous the nor’easter weather can be.

But Huff sticks to his guns and has Miriam kicked out of the station.

Meanwhile, Bernie must go through a series of shoals that are extremely dangerous in the bad weather and must time the bursts of his engine to ride each approaching wave before it breaks.  Will he and his crew stay safe during their rescue attempt and will they find the SS Pendleton?


VIDEO:

“The Finest Hours” is presented in 1080p High Definition and in 2:39:1 aspect ratio. When the film features good lighting, skin tones look natural and picture quality features good detail.  But it’s important to note that the majority of the film is shot in the dark, while Bernie and his crew are out on the ocean in the dark.  While the other crew on the SS Pendleton, the lights are low and often flickering.  So, this is not the most vibrant film.

But the use of visual effects of nor’easter and the strong winds, high waves and making conditions look like a huge wind/snow storm.  The effects make the film look effective, the weather looking nasty, cold and dark and works to the film’s efficacy.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Finest Hours” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English – Audio Description Track 2.0 and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Dialogue and music are crystal clear but the surround and rear surround channels are impressive as you can hear the boat’s engine, winds howling, metal crunching on the Pendleton and there is great use of the LFE during the low booms throughout the film.  The lossless audio sounds fantastic throughout the film!

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Finest Hours” comes with the following special features:

  • Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story – (14:10) The crew talk about their discussions with Bernie Webber and also discussing with locals who were around when the sailors were brought back to Cape Cod after the rescue.
  • Deleted Scenes – (4:28) Featuring two deleted scenes.
  • Brotherhood – (1:50) The cast and crew talk about working together and becoming brothers for the film.
  • Two Crews – (2:02) A short featurette about the two crews featured in “The Finest Hours”.
  • What Is Your Finest Hour? – (1:02) Real life member of the Coast Guard discuss their finest hour.
  • The Finest Inspiration: The U.S. Coast Guard – (1:42) A featurette about the duties of the Coast Guard and how they are featured in the film.

EXTRAS:

“The Finest Hours” comes with a Digital HD Code.


One of the greatest rescues by the U.S. Coast Guard, many may not be familiar with the heroism which took place back in February 1952, but the story of how a crew of four were able to rescue a 32 people from a sinking tanker on a boat that can only hold up to 12-people is amazing!

The true story of how Bernie Webber and crew took a rescue boat in treacherous weather and was able to find the SS Pendleton and then find a way back home without a compass is no doubt a heroic triumph.

And there was no doubt that Disney via director Craig Gillespie would do a solid job in presenting that heroism of that day.  Featuring wonderful visual effects to show the danger of the nor’easter storm and the challenges that both crews had to undertake, the heroic story is no doubt inspiring, but the film does have its problems.

While Chris Pine does a good job of playing the stoic Bernie Webber, I think that many people may find the New England accents a bit difficult to understand.  And it’s not easy to comprehend when there is waves crashing everywhere, so I found that I had to turn on English subtitles to hear what’s going on.  And there is a lot of Coast Guard terminology that I wasn’t familiar with, so that’s another situation that some viewers may feel lost while watching “The Finest Hours”.

But the problem is the use of its characters and while the rescue is straightforward, you can’t help but know that there is something amiss.

Why does Miriam fear the water?  Did something bad happen to her that makes her demand to Williams’ Commander to bring them back home?

We see Miriam being picked up by another wife and there is dialogue about something that may have happened in the past and the woman telling her brother that Bernie shouldn’t be blamed?  And you are asking yourself, “Blamed for what?”.  Did Bernie Williams mess up big time in the past?

As for station commander, Daniel Cuff (portrayed by Eric Bana), reading about him online, he is presented as a distinguished officer and leader.  Watching the film, Cuff comes off as a man that everyone distrusts and doesn’t know what he is doing.  Is this an honest portrayal?  Or was this retired serviceman given an unjust portrayal in the film?

When the film focuses on the Bernie and the rescue crew and the crew of the SS Pendleton, that is when the film works well.  The straightforward story of rescue and survival works perfectly. Chris Pine and Casey Affleck do a solid job of playing men who are not the most verbal people, but they speak through their actions.

Unfortunately, the more dramatic aspects of the film involving Miriam, I felt it was a bit unnecessary.  We know she worries about him but there was no reason to involve all these other characters because it muddles up the actual storyline and makes the pacing go off on unnecessary tangents.

But when the storyline focuses on the important rescue attempt and the dangers presented for both crews, the film works out very well!  I was very impressed with the CG work and how the technology in making these storms look visually realistic has improved since George Clooney’s 2000 film “The Perfect Storm”.

As for the Blu-ray release, while the film takes place mostly in the dark or in stormy weather, one shouldn’t expect anything vibrant.  Lighting was good when the film needs it but the visual effects of the crashing high waves and the perilous journey which the crews had to endure stood on the forefront of overall visuals and the picture quality was quite solid.

The best part of the film on Blu-ray is its lossless soundtrack which was magnificent!  Great use of all channels and also solid LFE, audiophiles should be content with how awesome this film sounds.

And as for special features, you get a few short ones, but you get a solid “Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story” and hearing from Bernie’s daughter, the locals from the area and those who knew Bernie, it was great to watch.

Overall, “The Finest Hours” is a heroic disaster/drama thriller that details the incredible and miraculous rescue of the 30+ surviving crew of the SS Pendleton by four Coast Guard serviceman on a small 12-seater rescue boat in extremely dangerous conditions.

“The Finest Hours” is an entertaining film hampered by unnecessary scenes. Despite the film’s issues, you can’t help but enjoy the true story of American heroism and for that, “The Finest Hours” is a film on Blu-ray worth watching.

 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is an entertaining, fun film with an ensemble cast. It’s just not a good zombie film. Despite zombies being in the title, this is less of a horror film and more of a action/drama that you will enjoy much more. If you want horror and tense and frightening zombie scenes, you’re not going to get that with this film. Otherwise, if you are entertained by the concept of a mashup of a classic novel and a zombie infestation, then “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” may be worth watching.

Images courtesy of © 2016 CCP PP2. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 107 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 Aspect Ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Zombie Violence and Action, and Brief Suggestive Material)

Release Date: May 31, 2016


Directed by Burr Steers

Screenplay by Burr Steers

Loosely Based on the Quirk Books Novel by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame Smith

Produced by Marc Butan, Sean McKittrick, Brian Oliver, natalie Portman, Annette Savitch, Allison Shearmur, Tyler Thompson

Co-Producer: Stephen Meinen

Executive Producer: Sue Baden-Powell, Kimberly Fox, Edward H. Hamm Jr., Phil Hunt, Nick Meyer, Compton Ross, Lauren Selig

Cinematography by Remi Adefarasin

Music by Fernando Velazquez

Edited by Padric McKinley

Casting by Des Hamilton, John Papsidera

Production Design by David Warren

Art Direction by Steve Carter, Will Coubrough, David Doran, Ashley Winter

Set Decoration by Naomi Moore

Costume Design by Julian Day


Starring:

Lily James as Elizabeth Bennet

Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy

Bella Heathcote as Jane Bennet

Ellie Bamber as Lydia Bennet

Millie Brady as Mary Bennet

Suki Waterhouse as Kitty Bennet

Douglas Booth as Mr. Bingley

Sally Phillips as Mrs. Bennet

Charles Dance as Mr. Bennet

Jack Huston as George Wickham

Lena Headey as Lady Catherine de Bourgh

Matt Smith as Parson Collins

Emma Greenwell as Caroline Bingley

Eva Bell as Louisa

Aisling Loftus as Charlotte


A zombie outbreak has fallen upon the land in this reimagining of Jane Austen’s classic tale of the tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England. Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) is a master of martial arts and weaponry and the handsome Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) is a fierce zombie killer, yet the epitome of upper class prejudice. As the zombie outbreak intensifies, they must swallow their pride and join forces on the blood-soaked battlefield in order to conquer the undead once and for all.


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As mashup storylines have become popular in the last decade, one of the more intriguing parody novels was released in 2009 by Seth Grahame-Smith and combining Jane Austen’s classic 1813 novel “Pride and Prejudice” with a zombie infestation storyline.

And sure enough, the Quirk Books Novel would receive a British-American film adaptation in 2016 directed by Burr Steers (“17 Again”, “Charlie St. Cloud”) and also produced by actress Natalie Portman.

The film would feature an ensemble cast which includes Lily James (“Cinderella”, “Downton Abbey”, “Wrath of the Titans”), Sam Riley (“Control”, “Maleficent”, “On the Road”), Bella Heathcote (“Dark Shadows”, “In Time”), Ellie Bamber (“The Falling”, “The Musketeers”), Millie Brady (“Legend”, “Mr. Selfridge”), Suki Waterhouse (“Insurgent”, “Love, Rosie”), Douglas Booth (“Jupiter Ascending, “Noah”, “LOL”), Sallpy Phillips (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”, “The Decoy Bride”, “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason”), Charles Dance (“Last Action Hero”, “Alien 3”, “The Imitation Game”), Jack Huston (“American Hustle”, “Outlander”, “The Longest Ride”), Lena Headey (“300”, “Game of Thrones”, “300: Rise of an Empire”) and Matt Smith (“Doctor Who”, “Terminator Genisys”, “Womb”).

The film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in May 2016 courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film is set in 19th century England which has been under siege by a zombie infestation.

Colonel Darcy (portrayed by Sam Riley) has traveled to the home of a wealthy family to investigate rumors of a newly-infected zombie and taking out his vial of carrion flies, the flies would detect the undead.  And sure enough, the flies finds its target and Colonel Darcy kills it immediately.

But as the family assures that no one is infected and Colonel Darcy leaves the home, it is realized that one of the niece has been infected and is feeding on the servants and it begins attacking a family member.

The film then introduces us to the Bennet family.  Mr. Bennet (portrayed by Charles Dance) and his wife (portrayed by Sally Phillips) are strict parents of five girls: Elizabeth (portrayed by Lily James), Jane (portrayed by Bella Heathcote), Kitty (portrayed by Suki Waterhouse), Lydia (portrayed by Ellie Bamber) and Mary (portrayed by Millie Brady).

Each of the daughters were sent to China by their father to learn the art of weaponry and martial arts.  But as the wealthy Bingley family will be throwing a ball, Mrs. Bennet wants her daughters to be married off to a wealthy suitor and hopes one of them will attract the young Mr. Bingley (portrayed by Douglas Booth).

But unlike the majority of the daughters swooning over marriage, Elizabeth doesn’t want a husband and happy the way she is.

As the Bennet family attends the Bingley ball, Mr. Bingley immediately falls for Jane.  But as the ball becomes festive, Elizabeth accidentally knocks over a wine bottle which shatters.

Embarrassed, Elizabeth runs out and sees a zombified Mrs. Featherstone (portrayed by Dolly Wells), who has come to her to tell her something.  But her head is blasted off by Col. Darcy and a horde of zombies begin to attack the party.  The Bennet sisters showcase their martial arts and weaponry skills by dispatching all zombies, while Colonel Darcy begins to have an attraction towards Elizabeth.

The following day, the Bingley sisters invite Jane for tea, but as Jane goes alone on horseback, an ongoing storm and a zombie scares off her horse.  As Jane tries to use her gun, it backfires injuring her hand.  As she dispatches the zombie, she then sees a zombie mother and baby, which comes towards her.

We find out that Jane has been confined to a room at the Bingley residence and there is fear by Colonel Darcy that she may have been bitten.  As Elizabeth goes to check on Jane, Darcy releases his flies to see if Jane is an undead, but immediately Elizabeth kills all of Darcy’s flies and returns each of them back to him.

But as Colonel Darcy is attracted to Elizabeth, other men try to win her over such as Parson Collins (portrayed by Matt Smith) and a solider named Wickham (portrayed by Jack Huston), who has bad history with Colonel Darcy for some reason.

As these three men try to win the heart of Elizabeth, can she find true love when England is being attacked by zombies?


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VIDEO:

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is presented in 1080p High Definition and in 2:40:1 aspect ratio.  The film features the talented cinematographer Remi Adefarasin (“About a Boy”, “Elizabeth”, “Johnny English”, “Match Point”, “Band of Brothers”) who manages to capture the beautiful settings, costume design and even the well-done zombie make-up effects.

Adefarasin manages to capture beauty and action with efficacy and picture quality looks fantastic in HD.  Skintones look natural, costumes show amazing detail and for the most part, the film looks fantastic on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English – Audio Description Track and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.   Dialogue and music are crystal clear through the front channels and the surround channels do a great job in picking up the action.  While not an immersive film, the lossless soundtrack is good.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” comes with the following special features:

  • Gag Reel – (1:38) Featuring a short gag reel.
  • Deleted Scenes – (9:55) Featuring eight deleted scenes.
  • The Badass Bennet Sisters – (3:59) A featurette about the actresses who play the Bennet sisters and how the learned to fight and did their own stunts for the film.
  • Courtship Class and Carnage: Meet the Cast – (6:54) The cast talk about their initial impressions about the script and more.
  • From Austen to Zombies: Adapting a Classic – (6:00) A featurette about adapting the Quirk Books Novel “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” to a film.
  • Creating the Unmentionables – (3:30) A featurette about the costume and makeup design in creating the zombies for the film.
  • Mr. Collins Line-O-Rama – (2:35) Improvisation scenes featuring actor Matt Smith as Parson Collins.

EXTRAS:

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” comes with an Ultraviolet code.


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When it comes to mashup films, similar to mashup music, you either be open to it or avoid it.

While music was something I could easily accept, for films, I have to admit that “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter” was somewhat of a surreal experience.  But I felt it worked in an unusual way.

When I heard about “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, the first thing that came to mind was, Jane Austen would probably wake up from the grave and go after those who would desecrate her popular classic novel.

But of course, there is that other side of me that has to chuckle and give the film the benefit of the doubt and see it for myself, as I have a hard time even imagining zombies in the “Pride and Prejudice” setting.

But lo and behold, as unusual of a concept that it is, I found the film to be rather entertaining and it helps when you have a talented ensemble cast with the likes of Lily James, Lena Heady, Matt Smith, Sam Riley to name a few.

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” does a good job of establishing the history of England and how the zombie infestation began.

But it’s the introduction of the Bennet sisters that catch your attention.  Sexy and lethal, Lily James, Bella Heathcote and the other actresses do a wonderful job in their fight scenes.  Having trained for the role and performing their own stunts, it was no doubt great to see this collective ala femme fatale dispatching zombies.

Actor Sam Riley does a wonderful job as the stoic Col. Darcy, Douglas Booth as the handsome gent after Jane’s affections and Jack Huston does a good job playing the man who would create the friction between Elizabeth and Darcy.

And of course, the film benefits from having talented, well-known celebrities such as “Game of Thrones” actress Lena Headey and “Doctor Who” actor Matt Smith.

The film also receives that extra touch with a solid budget, wonderful costume design and make-up, set design in order to recreate 19th century England and also adding to the “Pride and Prejudice” visual allure.

In many ways the film does a good job of balancing the romance and drama of “Pride and Prejudice” and of course, zombies.

But the film’s problems are mostly based on expectations on zombie infestations.  The film plays out too serene and more towards the drama that the antagonists are less about the zombies, but similar to the original storyline, George Wickham.

While I commend the makeup design in making the zombies look terrifying, the actions are not.  There is no true horror in the film, there really is no major gore or ripped limbs or anything that you can find usually terrifying in other zombie films, videogames or a “Walking Dead” episode.  The film doesn’t take enough risks in becoming a true zombie film and those coming in and are expecting one, will surely be disappointed.

And it feels very unusual to say about a zombie film, that I loved the romance, the love triangle, loved the elegant costume design, loved the makeup, location shots, loved the sisters kicking zombie butt but yet not having anything to say about the horror or the frightening aspect of this zombie film because there are none.  Sure there is peril, but it doesn’t feel frightening enough and that is a shame.

And so that is where “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” fails as a zombie film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture and lossless audio quality were good and you get a good number of special features included.

Overall, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is an entertaining, fun film with an ensemble cast.  It’s just not a good zombie film.  Despite zombies being in the title, this is less of a horror film and more of a action/drama that you will enjoy much more.  If you want horror and tense and frightening zombie scenes, you’re not going to get that with this film.

Otherwise, if you are entertained by the concept of a mashup of a classic novel and a zombie infestation, then “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” may be worth watching.

One Week Friends – Complete Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Charming and heartwarming, “One Week Friends” is a high school drama that won’t take too much of your time, not too deep but a short, entertaining anime series worth watching.

Image courtesy of © 2015 Toho Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: One Week Friends – Complete Collection

SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 1-12 (300 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition/16×9, Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14 LD

Release Date: July 7, 2015


Originally Created by Matcha Hazuki

Directed by Tarou Iwasaki

Series Composition by Shotaro Suga

Music by Irone Toda

Art Director: Akira Ito

Anime Character Design by Eri Yamazaki

Production by Brain’s Base


Featuring the following voice talent:

Sora Amamiya as Kaori Fujimiya

Yoshitaka Yamaya as Yūki Hase

Asuka Kakumoto as Maiko Serizawa

Junji Majima as Jun Inoue

Mai Nakahara as Shiho Fujimiya

Rui Tanabe as Ai Nishimura

Rumi Ookubo as Saki Yamagishi

Shintarō Asanuma as Hajime Kujō

Yoshimasa Hosoya as Shōgo Kiryū


Every lifetime is composed of millions of memories… but what happens if those memories don’t all connect? When Yuki Hase notices that Kaori Fujimiya seems to be alone and friendless at his school, he immediately wants to reach out to her. Much to his surprise, though, his overtures are turned down, and he’s completely stunned when he finds out why: it seems that ever since she was in a tragic accident, Kaori has been losing part of her memory every Monday, including all her recollection of everyone who’s become her friend.

It’s not that she doesn’t want friends, but that she can’t remember having any. That’s not enough of an obstacle for Yuki, however, and he becomes determined to make friends with Kaori every week. Because while most memories fade, there are some that, if you believe strongly enough and never give up, might just be able to last forever.


In 2012, manga artist Matcha Hazuki created the manga series “Isshukan Friends” (One Week Friends) which was serialized in Square Enix’s “Gangan Joker” Magazine (January 2012-2015).

An anime adaptation produced by Brain’s Base aired on television in the spring of 2014 and the anime series was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

With a live film adaptation of the film slated for February 2017, for those who enjoy anime dramas will surely enjoy this 12-episode series.

The series revolves around a high school student named Yuki Hase, who sits right next to Kaori Fujimiya, a person who is often seen sitting alone.

As the two become friends, Yuki eventually starts to fall for Kaori but learns the truth that on every Monday, she loses all memory of her friends and experiences due to a tragic accident.

While it becomes a difficult obstacle for Yuki, he is determined in trying to become closer to Yuki, despite her fading memories and be with her every step of the way.

But what caused this condition with Yuki and how will he be able to get Yuki to include him in her life?


VIDEO:

“One Week Friends – Complete Collection” features beautiful animation by Brain’s Base. Character designs are well-done and well-shaded, while backgrounds and structures are well-detailed. It’s important to note that as a TV series, one can expect quite a bit of softness but forthe most part, the look of the anime series looks very good on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“One Week Friends – Complete Collection” is presented in Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Dialogue is crystal clear and subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“One Week Friends – Complete Collection” comes with ten segments from Kaori’s Journal and an entry from Hase’s Journal, Japanese promo spots, clean opening and closing animations.


As I was watching “One Week Friends”, I was worried about the banality of the series as each episode would be about Kaori losing her memories every Monday (which is a real condition known as “anterograde amnesia”, according to Wikipedia, “patients have recollections of events prior to the injury, but cannot recall day-to-day information or new facts presented to them after the injury occurred”.) and Yuki doing all he can to see if he can help improve her memory and then we get the typical happy ending that she begins to remember.

In some ways, I thought that the series would become too predictable.

Fortunately, “One Week Friends” became an endearing and charming anime series about high school love but a boy’s determination to be with the girl he likes, while Kaori tries to live life every week with just knowing details from the journal she has written and with each entry, about her trust and happiness of being around Yuki.

The series also has a few side stories, such as Yuki’s classmate and good friend Shogo Kiryu.  Shogo is quite stoic but a classmate named Saki Yamagishi, who likes Shogo, is a bit clumsy and often becomes emotional because she is unsure how to convey her feelings towards him.

Another storyline involves Hajime Kujo, a former classmate of Yuki’s who transfers to the Yuki and Kaori’s school.  He was the boy which Kaori liked and was supposed to meet before she was involved in an accident that led to her loss of memories.  And of course, Yuki becomes a little jealous of Kujo.

While the anime series was completed before creator Hazuki Matcha finished writing the manga series, the anime series is still charming and anime fans who enjoy romantic comedies or romantic dramas will find “One Week Friends” to be a series worth watching.

As for the Blu-ray release, animation is beautiful, while slightly soft than eye popping vibrant.  Lossless audio is stereo and clear.  It’s important to note that this anime series is in straight Japanese and there are no English subtitles.  Special features include Kaori’s journal entries and also a journal entry from Yuki.  You also get the usual clean opening and closing animations and Japanese promo spots.

Overall, charming and heartwarming, “One Week Friends” is a high school drama that won’t take too much of your time, not too deep but a short, entertaining anime series worth watching.

In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you love film noir, the Criterion Collection’s release of “In a Lonely Place” is worth watching and owning. Showcasing the wonderful performance by both Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame and also fantastic direction by filmmaker Nicholas Ray, you’ll see why “In a Lonely Place” is considered a classic. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1950, renewed in 1977.  Columbia Pictures Industries, LLC. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810

YEAR OF FILM: 1950

DURATION: 93 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Monaural

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2016


Directed by Nicholas Ray

Written by Andrew Solt

Adaptation by Edmund H. North

Story by Dorothy B. Hughes

Produced by Robert Lord

Associate Producer: Henry S. Kesler

Music by George Antheil

Cinematography by Burnett Guffrey

Edited by Viola Lawrence

Art Direction by Robert Peterson

Set Decoration by William Kiernan

Costume Design by Jean Louis


Starring:

Humphrey Bogart as Dixon Steel

Gloria Grahame as Laurel Gray

Frank Lovejoy as Det. Sgt. Brub Nicolai

Carl Benton Reid as Capt. Lochner

Art Smith as Agent Mel Lippman

Jeff Donnell as Sylvia Nicolai

Martha Stewart as Mildred Atkinson

Robert Warwick as Charlie Waterman

Morris Ankrum as Lloyd Barnes

William Ching as Ted Barton

Steven Geray as Paul

Hadda Brooks as Singer


When a gifted but washed-up screenwriter with a hair-trigger temper—Humphrey Bogart, in a revelatory, vulnerable performance—becomes the prime suspect in a brutal Tinseltown murder, the only person who can supply an alibi for him is a seductive neighbor (Gloria Grahame) with her own troubled past. The emotionally charged In a Lonely Place, freely adapted from a Dorothy B. Hughes thriller, is a brilliant, turbulent mix of suspenseful noir and devastating melodrama, fueled by powerhouse performances. An uncompromising tale of two people desperate to love yet struggling with their demons and each other, this is one of the greatest films of the 1950s, and a benchmark in the career of the classic Hollywood auteur Nicholas Ray.


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From Nicholas Ray, the legendary filmmaker of “Rebel Without a Cause”, “Johnny Guitar”, “King of Kings” and “Bigger Than Life” is his 1950 film noir “In a Lonely Place”.

The film is an adaptation by Edmund North which is based on the novel of the same name by Dorothy B. Hughes.

The film would star Humphrey Bogart (“Casablanca”, “The Maltese Falcon”, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”, “The Big Sleep”), Gloria Grahame (“It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Oklahoma!”, “The Big Heat”), Frank Lovejoy (“The Adventures of McGraw”, “House of Wax”, “The Hitch-Hiker”), Carl Benton Reid (“The Little Foxes”, “The Great Caruso”, “Pork Chop Hill”), Art Smith (“Letter from an Unknown Woman”, “Quicksand”), Jeff Donnell (“Sweet Smell of Success”, “Tora! Tora! Tora”), Martha Stewart (“Daisy Kenyon”, “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now”, “Doll Face”) and Robert Warwick (“Sullivan’s Travels”, “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “The Awful Truth”).

Considered as one of Humphrey Bogart’s finest performances in a film, the film has been included in top 100 lists and in 2007, was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

And now “In a Lonely Place” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection May 2016.

The film revolves around Dixon “Dix” Steele (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart), a Hollywood screenwriter who has a violent temper and has not had a hit screenplay since before the war.

While Dix is driving to meet with his agent, Mel Lippman (portrayed by Art Smith), he gets into a confrontation at the stoplight with another driver in which Dix threatens to fight the man.

As Dix and Mel meet, Mel tries to convince Dix to adapt a book for a film.  Dix meets the hat-check girl, Mildred Atkinson (portrayed by Martha Stewart) and she reads his screenplay which she loves.  Meanwhile, Dix has another violent outburst when a young director bad mouths Dix’s friend Charlie (portrayed by Robert Warwick), who has not had any success in a very long time and is considered a washed-up actor.

Too tired to read the novel, he invites Mildred to come home with him and read it.   As the two walk towards his apartment, they pass by one of the new tenants, Laurel Gray (portrayed by Gloria Grahame).  As Dix and Mildred enter his home, Dix tries to let her know that she is there to read and he’s not trying to seduce her.  But as she describes the book, Dix loses interest and thinks the book is trash and tells Mildred to go home, giving her cab fare, as he is tired.

The following morning, his old army friend and currently a police detective, Brub Nicolai (portrayed by Frank Lovejoy) comes to visit and tells Dix that he needs to come downtown for questioning by Captain Lochner (portrayed by Carl Benton Reid).

They explain to Dix that Mildred, the hat-check girl was found murdered and that Dix is the subject.  Meanwhile, Laurel Gray is brought in to confirm that Dix and Mildred came home together, which she confirms.

While Brub doesn’t think Dix is guilty, Captain Lochner is not put off by the fact that Dix is not showing any sadness, sympathy or emotion towards the death of Mildred.  But the Captain is not aware that after the questioning, Dix anonymously sends two dozen white roses to Mildred.

When Dix goes home, he connects with Laurel and finds out that she is an aspiring actress.  They eventually start to fall in love and Dix gets the passion to write the screenplay adaptation.  But Laurel starts to notice Dix’s violent outbursts and starts to question her relationship with him but also wondering if he may be responsible in the murder of Mildred Atkinson.


VIDEO:

“In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810” is presented in 1:33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p High Definition. Picture quality is fantastic, the film features great clarity, wonderful detail and sharpness.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This 2K digital transfer was created on a Spirit datacine from a new 35 mm fine grain master positive made him from the original camera negative.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810” in LPCM 1.0 Monaural audio.  The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear with no signs of major hissing, crackle or audio pops.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24 bit from the original 35 mm soundtrack negative at Chace Audio by Deluxe in Burbank, California, under the direction of Grover Crisp and Bob Simmons.  Additional restoration was undertaken by the Criterion Collection using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX 4.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring the audio commentary by film scholar Dana Polan.
  • I’m a Stranger Here Myself: A Portrait of Nicholas Ray – (40:33) A 1975 documentary about director Nicholas Ray, presented in a slightly condensed form.  Featuring interviews with Ray, filmmakers Francois Truffaut and actors Natalie Wood and John Houseman, among others.
  • Gloria Grahame – (16:39) Author Vincent Curcio (“Suicide Blonde: The Life of Gloria Grahame” discusses her talents, her marriage to Nicholas Ray and her unforgettable life.
  • “In a Lonely Place”: Revisited – (20:23) Filmmaker Curtis Hanson discussing “In a Lonely Place” and why its an enduring cinema classic.
  • Suspense Episode 287 – (59:56) (audio) A radio adaptation of Dorothy B. Hughes novel which differs from Nicholas Ray’s film.  Priginally broadcast on March 6, 1948 as part of the CBS radio series “Suspense”.  Stars Robert Montgomery and Lurene Tuttle.
  • Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “In a Lonely Place”.

EXTRAS:

“In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810” comes with a six-page foldout which comes with the essay “An Epitaph For Live” by Imogen Sara Smith (author of “In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City” and “Buster Keaton: The Persistence of Comedy”).


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Years after “In a Lonely Place” debuted in theaters, the film has become a film noir classic.

Beloved by classic film fans for the performances by legendary actor Humphrey Bogart and actress Gloria Grahame.

But for cineaste, many found it to be as captivating because of the director Nicholas Ray and how the two characters in the film, were inspired by the real life relationship and failed marriage between Ray and his wife, the film’s lead actress, Gloria Grahame.

A film that would make one wonder, is the character Dix innocent or is he actually guilty for murder?  Known for his violent temper, the way Nicholas Ray would manage to find balance in trying to portray the character as possibly innocent and possibly worked to the film’s efficacy.

But for actress Gloria Grahame, this is probably the film that would showcase the actress in a whole new light, allowing her to be the leading lady of a screen legend but showing that she is fully capable to take on a lead role in which the character goes through many emotional highs and lows.

The film benefits from the cinematography of Burnett Guffey, for example, one scene in which Bogart describes how Mildred may have been murdered, he is able to shine a light on Bogart, making the character visually frightening as the character of Dix starts to beam during his discussion of something quite macabre.

I also have to say the film also incorporates great writing and the quotes are memorable, especially:

“I was born when you kissed me. I died when you left me. I lived a few weeks while you loved me.”

As for the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release, the film does a great job of honoring both Nicholas Ray and his return to filmmaking after leaving the industry while he was one of the most wanted directors in Hollywood but also the good times and also the troubled life of actress Gloria Grahame (and how her fourth marriage would be to her ex-husband, Nicholas Ray’s son).  You also get a the radio episode from 1948 of “In a Lonely Place” included as well!

As expected from the Criterion Collection, the picture quality of the film features wonderful clarity and sharpness and a clear soundtrack.  No damage and the film looks and sounds great in HD.

Overall, if you love film noir, the Criterion Collection’s release of “In a Lonely Place” is worth watching and owning.  Showcasing the wonderful performance by both Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame and also fantastic direction by filmmaker Nicholas Ray, you’ll see why “In a Lonely Place” is considered a classic.  Recommended!

Mojin – The Lost Legend – (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Mojin – The Lost Legend-” was a film that I was highly anticipating but felt a little let down due to poor character development and disjointed pacing, but as a popcorn action film, the film works best at that level and nothing more.

Images courtesy of © 2015 All Rights Reserved by Wanda Media Co., Ltd. Huayi Brothers Media Corporation Enlight Media. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Mojin – The Lost Legend –

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 125 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Cantonese, Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English subtitles

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: May 3, 2016


Directed by Wuershan

Screenplay by Zhang Jialu

Produced by Kuo-fu Chen, Kun Tao, Xuejun Wu, Jerry Ye

Co-Producer: Jennifer Dong, Chang-tian Wang, Tongyuan Wang, Zhongjun Wang

Associate Producer: Xiaobei Cao, Helen Li, Felix Liu, Baozhou Ma, Huang Weihai, Kelly Wu, Bernard Yang

Cinematography by Jake Pollock

Music by Koji Endo

Casting by Wayne Chang, Yong Lu

Production Design by Yi Hao, Roxy Martinez

Art Direction by Lingtong Bai, Sonal Naroth

Set Decoration by Lauren Brown, Carlene Wang De Chen, Rocio Gimenez

Costume Design by Aminah Haddad, Kui Zhao


Starring:

Shu  Qi as Shirley Yang

Angelababy as Ding Sitian

Kun Chen as Hu Bayi

Bo Huang as Wang Kaixuan

Cherry Ngan as Yoko

Xia Yu as Da Jin Ya

Liu Xiaoqing as Ying Caihong


Some people have a special gift. They’re able to travel between the realms of the Living and the Dead…and Tomb Raiding can mean Big Business. Welcome to the world of the Mojin. Based on the #1 Bestselling series of novels and starring Shu Qi, Chen Kun, Angelababy, and Huang Bo, MOJIN: THE LOST LEGEND pits a trio of legendary grave robbers against scholars, rivals, and the law until an offer from a mysterious stranger tempts them into one last heist…an adventure that will test their skills, their friendship, and ultimately their mortal souls.


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From Mongolian filmmaker Wuershan  (“The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman” and “Painted Skin: The Resurrection”) comes his big budget film, “Mojin – The Lost Legend -“.

Starring Shu Qi (“The Transporter”, “Journey to the West”, “The Assassin”, “Three Times”), Kun Chen (“Flying Swords of Dragon Gate”, “Painted Skin”, “Painted Skin: The Resurrection”), Bo Huang (“Journey to the West”, “Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen”, “Dearest”) and Angelababy (“Hitman: Agent 47”, “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon”, “Tai Chi Hero”, “Tai Chi Zero”).

The film, based on the popular adventure novel series “Ghost Blows Out the Light” by Zhang Muye about grave robbers.

The first film “Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe” was based on the series first four volumes but after Wanda Meda acquired the rights to the last four volumes, “Mojin – The Lost Legend” which is based on the series’ last four volumes features a different cast, as other production companies added to the financial product and thus a bigger production, filmed in different parts of the world.

The film was released in 2D, 3D, IMAX and IMAX 3D formats in China and was released in the US and Canada ala 2D.  

The film was a success in the box office as “Mojin – The Lost Legend” was budgeted at $37 million, would go on to earn $278.3 million worldwide.  And would become the highest-grossing IMAX film of all time in China.

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA.

The film is set in the 1990’s and begins with tomb explorers Hu Bayi (portrayed by Chen Kun), Wang Kaixuan (portrayed by Huang Bo) and Shu Qi (portrayed by Shirley Yang) on a tomb raiding expedition.

As Hu Bayi opens a tomb, he lifts the veil and sees a girl that is familiar to him.  It happens to be his first love Ding Sitian (portrayed by Angelababy).  A hole appears and she reaches out to him, he tries to reach out to Ding but is unable to grab her hand.  Ding is sucked into the hole.

Fast forward as the group is now living in New York and Hu Bayi is supposed to marry Shirley, but before his wedding, he is unable to as his thoughts about Ding has haunted him.

Shirley is upset but Hu Bayi explains what happened in the past.

Long ago, Hu Bayi and Wang Kaixuan were part of a group that would raid tombs, along with Ding Sitian.  But when they went to Mongolia, their group was wiped out by deadly insects that were kept underground by structures which the group had knocked down.

When many of them found a secret location, they come in contact with dead Japanese soldiers who look as if their life was sucked out of them.  But when the group continues to touch things inside an ancient tomb, the Japanese soldiers awaken as zombies.

Many of the group were killed, but Hu, Wang and Ding, tried to escape.  But for some reason, only Hu and Wang were able to escape.  And it has haunted both men for the last 20-years.

But a mysterious businesswoman/cult leader named Ying Caihong (portrayed by Liu Xiaoqing) has hired the two men to find the ancient tomb of a Mongolian princess.

Hu Bayi is hesitant but Wang Kaixuan wants to return to complete his mission in memory of Ding Siian in finding a relic.  Shirley who is upset that Hu Baiyi’s memories still are with Ding Sitian, can’t forgive him but joins the two on the adventure, whether they like it or not.


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VIDEO:

“Mojin – The Lost Legend -” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  It’s important to note that the film was originally shown in theaters in 3D, so when watching the visual effects, you can literally tell that the way the effects were geared to have things breaking up in front of the screen, it was meant to be seen in 3D.  Unfortunately, the film was not released in 3D on Blu-ray.

But during outdoor scenes, may it be in New York or in Asia, the film looks vibrant and full of detail.  Closeups show great detail and visual effects look good as well.  I did feel that the underground tombs looked a bit CG at times but for the most part, picture quality is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Mojin – The Lost Legend -” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features a lossless soundtrack that has crystal clear dialogue, music and offers a good amount of surround sound during moments of action or even hearing rocks crumbling, water building up or splashing.

Subtitles are in English and Chinese.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mojin – The Lost Legend -” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – (4:00) Featuring a short making-of featurette for”Mojin – The Lost Legend -“.
  • Behind-the-Scenes – (Around 3 minutes each) Short behind-the-scenes with Chen Kun and Huang Bo.
  • Trailer –  Theatrical trailer for”Mojin – The Lost Legend -“.

Prior to watching “Mojin – The Lost Legend”, I admit that I was excited to watching this film and seeing actress Shu Qui in another action film but also being paired by two very talented actors Chen Kun and Huang Bo.  But also seeing newcomer Angelababy in another action film since the “Tai Chi Hero” and “Tai Chi Zero” films.

After watching the film, I felt that not only was this film more of a popcorn action film, it’s a film that tried to be too many things and overall film suffered because of it.

The storyline revolves around three tomb hunters or grave robbers looking for treasure and we get scenes of the group in the present (which Shu Qi is part of) and then the past (which Angelababy is part of).

Part of the problem is that the first film was created with a different cast and released in theaters in September 2015. The film (based on the first four novels) would establish all three characters effectively but instead, a new film with more financial backing and thus hiring better known talent to create “Mojin – The Lost Legend -” based on the last four novels.

The character development, especially with the relationship between Hu Bayi and Shirley Yang is not well-executed and Hu Bayi is stoic and distant, while Wang Kaixuan is more in the film for comedic effect.  I felt the film doesn’t utilize the talents effectively, and while I found Shu Qi to be absolutely charming in the film, after her performance in “The Assassin”, it seemed that her appearance in the film was far too subdued.

Watching the film in 2D didn’t help matters as the film looked as if it was really geared for 3D and the effectiveness of feeling the danger of the tombs and things shattering, it doesn’t work all that well in 2D, so in some ways, I felt “Mojin – The Lost Legend-” would have been a great 3D/2D Blu-ray release.

What I did enjoy is the overall adventure and at some moments the costume design and visual effects were well-done. But in truth, the moments I did enjoy are the breathtaking outdoor scenes in New York or Mongolia, which were gorgeous to look at in HD.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Mojin – The Lost Legend-” looks great in HD.  Great close-up details, vibrant outdoor scenes, picture quality is top notch.  But as mentioned, many scenes that were meant for 3D, look a bit too CGI at times.

Lossless audio was effective during the more rockier and water-heavy scenes, especially action scenes.  So, good to hear the surround channels being well-utilized.

Special features were short but won’t complain as a lot of Asian cinema on Blu-ray released in the US typically come without special features.  Better getting a little something rather than nothing.

Overall, “Mojin – The Lost Legend-” was a film that I was highly anticipating but felt a little let down due to poor character development and disjointed pacing, but as a popcorn action film, the film works best at that level and nothing more.

DuRaRaRa!! x2 Vol. 3 (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Durarara!! x2” is becoming more interesting as the series continues. Some may find the large cast of characters to be a bit much, but similar to other series with large casts (ie. “Bleach”, “Naruto”), these characters do tie-in to the storyline and you really can’t miss an episode because of that. But it’s a series that you need to stick with it, watch the storyline gradually reveal itself from episode to episode and you’ll start to realize how awesome “Durarara!! x2” really is! Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 ANIPLEX INC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Durarara!! x 2 Volume 3

YEAR OF SERIES RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 13-18 (150 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: March 22, 2016


Originally created by Ryohgo Narita

Directed by Takahiro Omori

Series Composition by Noboru Takagi

Music by Makoto Yoshimori

Original Creator: Ryohgo Narita

Character Design by Takahiro Kishida

Art Director: Akira Ito

Chief Animation Director: Akira Takata

Anime Production: Shuka


Featuring the voices of:

Miyuki Sawashiro/Kari Wahlgren as Celty Sturluson

Toshiyuki Toyonaga/Darrel Guilbeau as Mikado Ryūgamine

Akio Ohtsuka/Doug Stone as Shingen Kishitani

Atsumi Tanezaki/Karen Strassman as Emilia

Ayahi Takagaki/Mela Lee as Erika Karisawa

Daisuke Ono/Crispin Freeman as Shizuo Heiwajima

Hiroshi Kamiya/Johnny Yong Bosch as Izaya Orihara

Jun Fukuyama/Yuri Lowenthal as Shinra Kishitani

Kana Hanazawa/Michelle Ruff as Anri Sonohara

Kazuma Horie/David Earnest as Seiji Yagiri

Mamoru Miyano/Bryce Papenbrook as Masaomi Kida

Mariya Ise/Kira Buckland as Mika Harima

Sanae Kobayashi/Bridget Hoffman as Namie Yagiri

Takaya Kuroda/Patrick Seitz as Simon Brezhnev

Takuma Terashima/Spike Spencer as Saburou Togusa

Yuuichi Nakamura/Steven Blum as Kyōhei Kadota

Yuuki Kaji/Brian Beacock as Walker Yumasaki


The story continues as more chaos ensues—

In the aftermath of the assault against Izaya Orihara, the information broker, signs of new disorder begin to develop like ripples across the water. Holding his own ideals, Mikado gains the powers of both the “Dollars” and the “Blue Squares” and started “cleaning” the bad seeds inside the Dollars. Meanwhile, Shizuo Heiwajima and Tom Watanabe end up hiring Varona for their debt collecting business. Paths cross and trouble brews as the plot thickens in this complicated web of conspiracies.


We have watched Dollars leader, Mikado Ryugamine wanting to stay true to his ideals, meeting and having new friends along the way.

But since Mikado has become the temporary leader of the Blue Squares, many are starting to see a change in him.  What is going on with Mikado?

Meanwhile, Russian assassin Vorona has tried many times to defeat and kill Shizuo Heiwajima.  Having failed, what happens when Shizuo and Tom Tanaka hire Vorona for their debt collection agency?  And why is little Akane jealous?

And how far will Namie Yagiri, Chief of Yagiri Pharmaceuticals go to stop Mika Harima from being close to her brother Seiji?

And there is a sicko who has been stalking, idol Ruri Hijiribe.  Who is this guy?

Find out what happens in “Durarara!! x2 vol. 3” now available on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex!

What is “Durarara!!” all about?

Back in 2004, light novelist Ryohgo Narita, who won a Gold Prize in the 9th Dengeki Novel Prize for “Baccano!” returned with “Durarara!!” and teaming up with illustrator Suzuhito Yasuda (known for his video game work “Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor”).

With a total of eight volumes published in Japan by ASCII Media Works (ala their Dengeki Bunko imprint), a manga adaptation would be created by Akiyo Satorigi and published in the shonen magazine “Monthly GFantasy” in 2009. The popularity of Narita’s works, especially with “Baccano!” would lead to an 26-episode animate adaptation of “Durarara!!” in January 2010 and an ongoing series in 2015 titled “Durarara!! x2”.

The anime production for “Durarara!! x2” is now by Shuka (first series was by Brains Base) and the series is directed by Takahiro Omori (“Aruna”, “Gakuen Alice”, “Kuragehime”, “Zoku Natsume Yujin-Cho”) with series composition/script by Noboru Takagi (“Baccano!”, “C”, “Koi Kaze”). Character design is by Takahiro Kishida (“Cheburashka Arere”, “Dragon Half”, “Ninja Cadets”) and art direction by Akira Ito (“Elfen Lied”, “Shadow Star Narutaru”, “Street Fighter Alpha”).

The series features an ensemble cast and their experience living in Ikebukuro, Tokyo but how their storylines are somewhat connected to each other.

Mikado Ryugamine is a young man who transfers to school from a small country town to the big city in Tokyo and his childhood friend Masaomi tries to show him the ropes of Ikebukuro, which can be dangerous as color gangs have corrupted the city.

Before the yellow scarves were the dominant gang and now on top of the gangs are a mysterious group known as the Dollars, with a leader that no one knows about, all that is known is that members are chosen and are hooked up through the Internet. But recently, there have been several deaths causes by a murderer dubbed “The Slasher” and also rumors of a headless woman riding a motorcycle.

In “Durara!! x 2” Volume 3 (episodes 13-18), chaos continues in Ikebukuro as people pretending to be Dollars are attacking innocent people.  Meanwhile, Namie wants to take her revenge on Mika.

Meanwhile, Russian assassin Vorona has tried many times to defeat and kill Shizuo Heiwajima.  Having failed, what happens when Shizuo and Tom Tanaka hire Vorona for their debt collection agency?   And why would she want to help out her enemy? And why is little Akane so jealous of Vorona?

And there is a crazed maniac who has been stalking, idol Ruri Hijiribe.  Who is this guy?


The main characters of “Durarara!! x2” are:

  • Mikado Ryugamine – A first year high schooler who moves to Ikebukuro, Tokyo after his childhood friend Masaomi had invited him. A shy guy, Mikado is trying to learn the ropes and restart his life. He becomes a class rep and starts to follow for the female class rep, Anri and because his friend Masaomi also likes her, it becomes a bit of an interesting love triangle. Mikado just wants to change and not be normal.
  • Masaomi Kida – Mikado’s childhood friend. He seems very over-confident with girls, when actually he is not good at it. Also, he has a mysterious backgrounds and something happened to a girl he knew… Like Mikado, he also likes Anri.
  • Anri Sonohara – A girl who wears glasses and is a class rep. She is shy and timid and hangs out with Mikado and Masaomi.
  • Celty Sturluson – A headless rider who is looking for her lost head. Celty is a Dullahan from Ireland (a headless woman) who has black smoke coming out of her body. Despite being depicted as monster and killer during the old days, she has been taken in by doctor Shinra Kishitani and carries out missions. Despite not having true emotions, she feels love towards Shinra but unable to understand the feelings that she has due to not having any living DNA.
  • Shinra Kishitani – A underground doctor who lives with Celty. His father was the first to operate on Celty (in exchange of giving her a place to stay) and even was given a chance to learn how to do surgery at the age of 4. He works for corporations underground in trying to help them remove memories from people. He is also in love with Celty and is able to understand her emotions despite her not having a head. He also a childhood friend of Shizuo and Kasuka.
  • Izaya Orihara – Known as the information broker. He sells information and likes to start trouble or loves to examine human’s when they are conflicted. He is a master of using a knife and causes problems for Shizuo Heiwajima.
  • Shizuo Heiwajima – A blonde guy with a very short temper who wears a bartender suit and has enormous power. He can take a lot of pain and it is not known how he is able to have enormous strength and to heal from major injuries. He is friends with Celty, his brother Kasuka (who goes by Yuuhei Hanejima) is a popular actor in Japan and if there is anything he hates more than anything, it is Izaya Orihara. Izaya’s presence makes his blood boil so much that he ends up destroying property around him.
  • Simon Brezhnev – A Black Russian who works outside a Russian sushi restaurant. He is known for his great strength.
  • Kyohei Kadota – Also, known as “Dotachin” (a nickname that he hates), he is a member of the Dollars and leader of his group of friends which include Walker, Eri and Saburo.
  • Walker Yumasaki – A carefree otaku and manga fan who hangs out with Eri. A member of the Dollars and hangs out with Dotachin.
  • Eri Karisawa – An otaku and close friend of Walker, a member of the Dollars and Kadota’s group.
  • Saburo Togusa – A member of the Dollars and Kyohei’s driver.
  • Seiji Yagiri – A classmate of Mikado’s. He quit school to be with Mika but in truth, he is obsessed with the severed head of Celty’s that was put on Mika.
  • Namie Yagiri -The older sister of Seiji. A chief of Yagiri Pharmaceuticals and regrets introducing her younger brother to Celty’s head and for his obsession with it. She appears to also have feelings for her younger brother. She is also responsible for the human experimentation going on in the city.
  • Mika Harima – Anri’s good friend who, for some reason, has Celty’s head. She was Seiji’s stalker and now lover. Namie wants to get her revenge on Mika because Seiji just wants to be with her fulltime. Meanwhile, Celty is looking for her (because she has her head).
  • Kasuka Heiwajima – Shizuo Heiajima’s younger brother.
  • Ruri Hijiribe – An idol singer with a mysterious past.
  • Aoba Kuronuma – A mysterious 1st year student at Raira Academy and what is his connection to the Blue Square gang?
  • Shingen Kishitani – Shingen is the father of Shinra who wears a gas mask.
  • Mairu Orihara – Youngest sister of Izaya and twin sister of Kururi. Wears glasses.
  • Kururi Orihara – Youngest sister of Izaya and twin ster of Mairu.
  • Akane Awakusu – Daughter of Mikiya and granddaughter of Dougen.  Not aware her family is a powerful yakuza group.
  • Mizuki Akabayashi – A.k.a. “Red Demon”, a high-ranking member of the Awakusu Family.

VIDEO:

“Durarara!! x 2” is presented in 1080p High Definition. I praised the first season’s animation and character design as Brain’s Base really put everything they had into the series. With Shuka now in charge, there is not much divergence because nearly the same crew behind the first series, is back for the second.  Vibrant animation can be seen throughout the series thus far.

“Durara!! x 2” continues to feature great character design and wonderful art backgrounds. Art director Akira Ito and crew continues to do a magnificent job in capturing the look and feel of Ikebukuro, Tokyo. There is a slight difference in quality but Shuka did a good job.

AUDIO:

“Durarara!! x 2” is presented only with a Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 soundtrack. Both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-acted and with that being said, dialogue and music is crystal clear through the front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Durarara!! x 2” vol. 3 comes with no special features.

EXTRAS:

“Durarara!! x 2” comes with a slipcase with an illustration Takahiro Kishida (Character Design), six collectible postcards, a 16-page deluxe booklet.


The craziness in Ikebukuro continues with the release of “Durarara!! x 2”!

And I personally like the story shift that we are starting to see with episodes 13-18.

For one, you get a good combination of action, humor and a dark storyline.

The episodes kick off with the crazy Namie Yagiri learning about Seiji and Mika and going crazy about it and wanting to take revenge against Mika for spending too much time with her brother.

The next episodes are more humor and action-oriented as Vorona ends up joining the debt collection agency that Tom and Shizuo runs.  And having seen Vorona try over and over to kill Shizuo Heiwajima, it’s interesting to see her now join them (of course, she looks at it as gaining intel, but could it be that she’s starting to admire his strength?).  Of course, little Akane is jealous as she wants to be the person to kill Shizuo, even though she adores him.

And the other episodes is in relation to Ruri and her stalker.  Her stalker is strong, sadistic and has a thing about eating and licking Ruri’s photos.  So, it will be interesting to see what kind of a foe he ends up being for Ruri and her friends. But from the look of his overall design, you have no doubt, he is going to be a crazy antagonist.

Meanwhile, there is an interesting storyline as others worry about Mikado and how he has changed as a person.  Mikado played such a big role in the first season, but he is going through this darker transformation that makes you wonder if this good-natured guy is slowly being consumed by something much darker.  I guess we’ll have to wait and see in future episodes.

As for the Blu-ray release, the original crew is back but while produced by Shuka, overall quality for the series is still good. Colors are vibrant in HD and you get an LPCM 2.0 Japanese and English soundtrack. Once again, the English dub for “Durarara!!” is awesome and very well-done. I was enjoying the Japanese soundtrack but after watching the English dub track, everything fits and each voice actor that was cast is perfect for the role they play.

Unfortunately, no special features in this latst volume but you also get the Aniplex swag of six postcards and a deluxe 16-page booklet as well.

Overall, “Durarara!! x2” is becoming more interesting as the series continues.  Some may find the large cast of characters to be a bit much, but similar to other series with large casts (ie. “Bleach”, “Naruto”), these characters do tie-in to the storyline and you really can’t miss an episode because of that.

But it’s a series that you need to stick with it, watch the storyline gradually reveal itself from episode to episode and you’ll start to realize how awesome “Durarara!! x2” really is!

Recommended!

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