Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” is a fantastic and exciting action film. While it does not have the same epic-feel of the original, fans of the first film will no doubt enjoy the film’s intensity of the many action scenes that this film has to offer. Looking for an action film and enjoyed the first “The Avengers” film? Then it’s a no brainer…”Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” is recommended!
Image courtesy of © 2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition
YEAR OF FILM: 2015
DURATION: 141 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Color, 2:40:1 Aspect Ratio
RELEASE DATE: October 2, 2015
Directed by Joss Whedon
Written by Joss Whedon
Based on the Marvel Comics Comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Executive Producer: Victoria Alonso, Louis D’Esposito, Jon Favreau, Alan Fine, Jeremy Latcham, Stan Lee, Patricia Whitcher
Producer: Kevin Feige
Co-Producer: Mitchell Bell
Associate Producer: Jamie Christopher
Music by Danny Elfman, Brian Tyler
Cinematography by Ben Davis
Edited by Jeffrey Ford, Lisa Lassek
Casting by Sarah Finn, Reg Poerscout-Edgerto
Production Design by Charles Wood
Art Direction by Thomas Brown
Set Decoration by Sheona Mitchley, Richard Roberts
Costume Design by Alexandra Byrne
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye
James Spader as Ultron
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch
Paul Bettany as Jarvis/Vision
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon
Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter
Idris Elba as Heimdall
Linda Cardellini as Laura Barton
Stellan Skarsgard as Erik Selvig
Claudia Kim as Dr. Helen Cho
Thomas Kretschmann as Strucker
Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue
Julie Delpy as Madame B
Stan Lee as himself
Marvel Studios unleashes the next global phenomenon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — MARVEL’S AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. Good intentions wreak havoc when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) unwittingly creates Ultron (James Spader), a terrifying A.I. monster who vows to achieve “world peace” via mass extinction. Now Iron Man, Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) — alongside Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) — must reassemble to defeat Ultron and save mankind…if they can! This action-packed adventure is a mind-blowing blast!
With the first film of “The Avengers” (2012) earning $1.52 billion in the box office, becoming at the time, the #3 film to have the highest gross of all time and the first billion dollar film for Marvel Studios.
And with the sequel “Avengers: Age of Ultron” gaining plenty of hype and the good news that director/writer Joss Whedon (“The Avengers”, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and the original cast will be returning, Disney/Marvel hoped to achieve similar success.
And sure enough, “Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron” accomplished just that. Earning $1.4 billion in the box office, the film would become the sixth highest grossing film of all time and the second highest grossing film of 2016.
The all-star cast for the film includes Robert Downey Jr. (“Iron Man” films, “Chaplin”, “Sherlock Holmes”), Chris Hemsworth (“Thor” films, “Rush”), Mark Ruffalo (“Shutter Island”, “Now You See Me”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), Chris Evans (“Captain America” and “Fantastic Four” films), Scarlett Johansson (“Lost in Translation”, “Lucy”), Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”, “American Hustle”, “The Bourne Legacy”), James Spader (“Boston Legal”, “Lincoln”, “Stargate”) as the voice of Ultron, Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction”, “Django”, “Star Wars I-III” films), Don Cheadle (“Iron Man 2 & 3”, “Hotel Rwanda”, “Crash”), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Kick-Ass” films, “Godzilla”), Elizabeth Olsen (“Godzilla”, “Old Boy”, “Very Good Girls”), Paul Bettany (“A Beautiful Mind”, “Iron Man” films”), Cobie Smulders (“How I Met Your Mother”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) and Anthony Mackie (“The Hurt Locker”, “Million Dollar Baby”, “Real Steel”).
While the film received mixed, but yet positive reviews, it set into motion the third and fourth films to be released in 2018 and 2019.
Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” will be released on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD in October 2013. The film is also available on Disney Movies Anywhere and when you buy the film through Disney Movies Anywhere (DMA) you get an exclusive bonus feature, “Connecting the Universe.” Disney Movies Anywhere is a cloud-based digital movie service that is available on Roku, Android TV, iTunes, Google Play, Walmart’s VUDU, Amazon Video, and Microsoft Movies & TV! Disney Movies Anywhere provides more ways to buy and watch your favorite Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars movies at home or on the go.
Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” begins with the Avengers raiding a Hydra outpost led by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker in Eastern Europe country of Sokovia. The team is trying to retrieve a scepter that was previously wielded by Loki and is being used for experimentation of humans. Two of the humans that are part of von Strucker’s experiments are twins, Pietro (who has superhuman speed) and Wanda Maximoff (who has the ability to manipulate minds and project energy).
As the Avenger’s retrieve the scepter and Thor is to return it to Asgard, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner discover that the scepter has artificial intelligence within the gem embedded in the scepter. While Stark has AI via Jarvis, Stark with Banner’s help (and not letting any of the other Avengers know) that they will use the scepter’s power to complete Stark’s “Ultron” global defense program.
But once the group are having a party, the Ultron AI becomes sentient and immediately wants to eradicate humanity to save Earth and tries to destroy the Jarvis AI. Ultron immediately takes control of other robotics and tries to create other robots based on Ultron to destroy the Avengers and their friends, by attacking them at their HQ after the party.
Ultron immediately escapes with the scepter and heads to Sokovia using the resource in Strucker’s base to build an army but also teaming up with Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, who want revenge against Tony Stark for creating missiles that killed their parents. As they head to Wakanda, Africa to obtain the tough metal known as Vibranium, in order to build his army, the Avengers lead an attack, but are quickly beaten thanks to Wanda’s power of mind manipulation, but also manipulating the Hulk’s mind, who ends up causing major damage and becomes a threat to human life.
Because of the wide-scale destruction blamed entirely on the Avengers, they must come up with a plan on how to defeat Ultron, the twins and his army, considering the worldwide backlash the Avengers are receiving.
“Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film is presented in 3D and 2D.
First, let’s discuss the 2D. The film looks magnificent in HD. CG elements are well-balanced with live action scenes and there is amazing detail when it comes to closeups. Outdoor scenes are vibrant, the colors are well saturated and black levels are nice and dark. But it’s important to note that there are many scenes that were purposely made to look gloomy and soft, but for the most part, the film looks fantastic in HD!
As for the 3D version of the film (included on a separate disc), the film does feature good use of displaying depth. From the introduction action sequence, to the first battle with Ultron, the Hulk Buster Iron Man vs. Hulk and seeing Tony Stark and his floating visuals around his helmet or the final action scenes, depth was well-utilized for the 3D. But in terms of any 3D elements that look like they are coming straight out you, you’ll find that it’s the smaller things that look more effective. Sparks, glass shattering, rocks and debris flying out to you, those are the most effective, but for the most part, this is a depth-driven 3D film. One shouldn’t be bowled over by the 3D but if you do love your films showcasing solid depth, then you’ll enjoy the 3D version of the film.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby digital Language Tracks.
The lossless soundtrack is quite immersive with great use of the surround channels and LFE via the subwoofer. Due to the large amount of action sequences, many times I felt the room tremble to my delight. Dialogue and music were crystal clear but I felt the surround channels were well done! Audiophiles for the most part, should be quite satisfied with the overall mix.
Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.
“Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” comes with the following special features:
- From the Inside Out – Making of Avengers: Age of Ultron – (20:54) Featuring interviews with director Joss Whedon and the cast of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. Featuring footage from pre-production, production and on the red carpet.
- The Infinite Six – (7:28) A featurette about the Infinity Stones (gems) and featuring the storyline of the Infinity Gauntlet and how they were featured in other Marvel films.
- Global Adventure – (3:01) A short featurette of where the film was shot around the world.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes – (12:04) Featuring four deleted and extended scenes with optional audio commentary from Joss Whedon.
- Gag Reel – (3:38) A hilarious gag reel from “Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron”.
- Audio Commentary with Director Joss Whedon
“Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” comes with a slipcover and a Disney Movie Rewards code. Plus the 2D and 3D Blu-ray discs for the film.
Watching the first “The Avengers” film, I was actually in awe of how the film was well-done in terms of execution of bringing all major characters from various films together.
While I wasn’t expecting a faithful adaptation to the comic books (fans of the comic books should know that faithful adaptations to the comic book series will not happen in superhero films or TV series), what was important to me is how faithful the films were for the individual character’s behaviors. And for the most part, the film delivered and felt it was an amazing action film when it was released.
Here we are in 2015 with the second film and I’ve read many Ultron-related comic books with his appearance in “The Avengers” and “Fantastic Four” comic series, but I was really interested in seeing how they would be able to pull things off for the sequel. Especially as the film introduces us to Wanda (Scarlett Witch) and Pietro Maximoff (Quicksilver), especially one Avenger that I couldn’t wait to see… Vision.
With that being said, this was going to be a difficult film for even Joss Whedon. When you have too many superheroes, it’s really hard to craft a storyline when you have to include everyone.
Captain America as the leader, Tony Stark becoming the mad scientist, Bruce Banner wanting to get away from everyone because he’s afraid of the damage that the Hulk will do, the Black Widow and her past, Thor’s nightmares after being mind controlled by Wanda Maximoff.
And then you have to throw in Nick Fury and Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D., add a few other characters from the other films such as James Rhodes a.k.a. War Machine from the “Iron Man” films, Peggy Carter from the first “Captain America: The First Avenger” film and “Agent Carter” TV series, Samuel Wilson a.ka. Falcon from “Captain America: The Winter Soldiers”, Heimdall and Erik Selvig from the “Thor” films and then you have Dr. Helen Cho, Hawkeye’s family and there are way too many characters to fit in the film. In fact, Tom Hiddleston film scenes of Loki that were cut out of the final version of the film, which would complicate things even more.
And while I love seeing many characters make guest appearances in a comic book series, for a film, it took away too much from the plot. Yes, I like how characters connected to the various Marvel Superheroes films but the execution and balance of the film didn’t feel right.
But despite the “too many characters” problems in the film, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is still a fantastic, exciting popcorn action film that delivers in battles (Hulk Buster Iron Man vs. the Hulk) to major destruction in various countries.
This is Joss Whedon’s final film for “The Avengers”, as the next two films will be directed by the Russo brothers and will be a two-parter titled “Avengers: Infinity War”, which shows us the next Avengers antagonist, Thanos. And for those who have read the “Infinity Gauntlet” comic books, that’s a major storyline in the Marvel Universe, but it’s also a theme that has been mentioned in other Marvel films including “Guardians of the Galaxy”. So, there has been a build up for these next films, but with so many characters, it will be interesting to see the Russo brothers take the helm.
But I did enjoy the film a lot, but perhaps the simplicity of the first film and focus on the prime characters made me enjoy it even more.
As for the Blu-ray release of “Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition”, while I preferred the 2D of the film, the 3D does provide great depth and sparks, debris, glass coming at you. But the film looks great in HD (although a bit soft than sharp) and features great detail on closeups. Lossless audio is fantastic and great utilization of the surround channels and LFE. Special features were surprisingly more on the short side, but you do get audio commentary. I was just expecting a bit more in terms of special features.
While the Collector’s Edition includes the Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and Digital HD version of the film, the film is also available on Disney Movies Anywhere and when you buy the film through Disney Movies Anywhere (DMA) you get an exclusive bonus feature, “Connecting the Universe.” For those not familiar with Disney Movies Anywhere, it is a cloud-based digital movie service that is available on Roku, Android TV, iTunes, Google Play, Walmart’s VUDU, Amazon Video, and Microsoft Movies & TV! Disney Movies Anywhere provides more ways to buy and watch your favorite Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars movies at home or on the go.
Overall, Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” is a fantastic and exciting action film. While it does not have the same epic-feel of the original, fans of the first film will no doubt enjoy the film’s intensity of the many action scenes that this film has to offer.
Looking for an action film and enjoyed the first “The Avengers” film? Then it’s a no brainer…”Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” is recommended!
“Air” is a sci-fi film to watch and pass the time. While created on a low-budget, fortunately the film doesn’t feel like a low-budget film and the storyline revolving around two-men who must try to save humanity (and themselves) was rather intriguing. An average sci-fi film at best!
Image courtesy of © 2015. All Rights Reserved.
YEAR OF FILM: 2015
DURATION: 94 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:30:1 Aspect Ratio, English, French and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: PG-13 (For some violence, language and sexual references)
RELEASE DATE: October 6, 2015
Directed by Christian Cantamessa
Written by Christian Cantamessa, Chris Pasetto
Executive Producer: Bailey Conway
Producer: David Alpert, Chris Ferguson, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Robert Kirkman
Associate Producer: Rian Cahill, Marlaina Mah
Cinematography by Norm Li
Edited by Greg Ng
Casting by Kara Eide, Kris Woznesensky
Production Design by Brian Kane
Art Direction by Pedro Romero
Costume Design by Mila Frankovic
Norman Reedus as Bauer
Djimon Hounsou as Cartwright
Sandrine Holt as Abby
Michael Hogan as the President
In the near future, breathable air is nonexistent. Virtually all of humanity has disappeared, and those chosen to reestablish society reside in a controlled state of suspended animation. Two engineers tasked with guarding the last hope for mankind struggle to preserve their own sanity and lives while administering to the vital task at hand. Starring Norman Reedus and two-time Oscar® nominee Djimon Hounsou (Best Supporting Actor, Blood Diamond, 2006 and In America, 2003).
From video game writer Christian Cantamessa (“Manhunt” games, “Read Dead Redemption” games”, “The Crew”) comes his feature film titled “Air”.
The film stars Norman Reedus (“The Boondock Saints” films, “The Walking Dead”, “Blade II”), Djimon Hounsou (“Gladiator”, “Blood Diamond”, “Guardians of the Galaxy”), Sandrine Holt (“Underworld: Awakening”, “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”, “Terminator Genisys”) and Michael Hogan (“Battlestar Galactica”, “Red Riding Hood”).
And now “Air” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
“Air” is a post-apocalyptic film in which chemical weapons have wiped out most of mankind and the air in the world has become unbreathable.
The United Sates quickly built underground bunkers in which a few scientists are put into cryogenic sleep and will be revived once the air becomes no longer toxic and the bunkers are maintained by a few maintenance workers (who are woken up every two hours for every six months) who must perform routine tasks in order to make sure the facility continues to run.
For Cartwright (portrayed by Djimon Honsou), he is a man driven by the thoughts of his wife Abby (portrayed by Sandrine Holt), while Bauer (portrayed by Norman Reedus) is a man who just wants to do his job, look at porn and get back on the sleeping chamber. But Bauer is starting to grow weary about how no one cares about them, and that the scientists are more important than they are. And that all they do is maintenance and sleep.
But right before they are to go back into their sleeping chamber, a fire destroys one of chambers, and now…one must decide who will go on living and one who won’t? Or will they kill one of the scientists sleeping chamber, so they can go on living?
But while the two men try to find ways to survive, knowing that time is not on their side, will they trust each other, or will one of them stab the other in the back for the sake of their own survival?
“Air” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). Because the film is shot in an underground facility with little light, the film is slightly darker. So, one should not expect vibrant PQ. While close-ups do show great detail, there are moments when the film looks a little soft. But considering this film is a low-budget film, for what was accomplished in terms of set design and visual effects, the film does not look like a low-budget film.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “Air” is presented in English, French and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and with an English – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. This film is primarily dialogue driven, with sounds of ambiance of the digital beeps and blips from devices or computer hardware. While there are a few action sequences that do utilize the surround channel, this film is primarily a center and front channel-driven soundtrack.
Subtitles are presented in English SDH, English, French and Spanish.
“Air” comes with the following special features:
- An Account of Confinement: Creating Air – (8:02) An interview with the cast and crew of “Air”.
- The Custodians – (7:11) Featuring director Christian Cantamessa discussing the two characters of the film.
Christian Cantamessa’s “Air” was the director’s goal to create a sci-fi film on his own with a very low budget and have scenes contained with two actors and to build upon the claustrophobia of the set.
The film about two workers at a facility, Cartwright (Djimon Hounsou) and Bauer (Norman Reedus) who has the job to perform routine tasks and inspections every six months for two hours and keep the facility going until its time to wakeup the scientists who have been in cryogenic sleep due to the air being unbreathable due to mankind’s chemical weapons.
But when one of the worker’s sleeping chamber is destroyed by a fire caused by seismic activity, only one person can occupy a chamber and thus leading to the problem of who deserves to live and who deserves to die.
Suffice to say, as both men have their reasons, we watch to find out if they can trust one another, or will one of the stab the other in the back.
Cantamessa is able to create mounting tension to keep the storyline as effective as possible and not making the film look as low-budget as possible. These films are hard to pull off but they managed to put enough visual effects to create a post-apocalyptic world and then the rest were on the shoulders of Norman Reedus and Djimon Hounsou.
And the way the story is structured, we are not entirely sure, which of the men are good or bad and what is driving them for survival.
The picture quality is a bit soft and because of the lighting of the underground bunker, it’s not going to be a film with a lot of lighting. But close-up does show very good detail. The lossless audio is primarily dialogue and environment ambiance with radio communication or blips and beeps of devices, but don’t expect a film that utilizes a lot of the surround channels. And as for special features, you do get two short featurettes.
Overall, “Air” is a sci-fi film to watch and pass the time. While created on a low-budget, fortunately the film doesn’t feel like a low-budget film and the storyline revolving around two-men who must try to save humanity (and themselves) was rather intriguing. An average sci-fi film at best!
Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” would showcase Dracula as a tragic hero turned monster but a romantic yet horror/love story that captivates you because this is unlike the plethora of Dracula films out there. While I wouldn’t call this film a Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece, it is one of the highlights in his film oeuvre worth watching.
Image courtesy of © 1992 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Bram Stoker’s Dracula
YEAR OF FILM: 1992
DURATION: 127 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, English Dolby Atmos (Dolby True HD 7.1 Compatible, English, French, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: October 6, 2015
Based on the Novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Screenplay by James V. Hart
Executive Producer: Michael Apted, Robert O’Connor
Producer: Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Fuchs, Charles Mulvehill
Co-Producer: James V. Hart, John Veitch
Associate Producer: Susan Landau Finch
Music by Wojciec Kilar
Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus
Edited by Anne Goursaud, Glen Scantlebury, Nicholas C. Smith
Casting by Victoria Thomas
Production Design by Thomas E. Sanders
Art Direction by Andrew Precht
Set Decoration by Garrett Lewis
Costume Design by Eiko Ishioka
Gary Oldman as Dracula
Winona Ryder as Mina Murray/Elisabeta
Anthony Hopkins as Professor Abraham Van Helsing
Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker
Richard E. Grant as Dr. jack Seward
Cary Elwes as Lord Arthur Holmwood
Billy Campbell as Quincey P. Morris
Sadie Frost as Lucy Westenra
Tom Waits as R.M. Renfield
Monica Bellucci as Dracula’s Bride
Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, and Anthony Hopkins star in director Francis Ford Coppola’s visually stunning, passionately seductive version of the classic Dracula legend. In BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, Coppola returns to the original source of the Dracula myth, and from that gothic romance, he creates a modern masterpiece. Gary Oldman’s metamorphosis as Dracula who grows from old to young, from man to beast is nothing short of amazing. Winona Ryder brings equal intensity to the role of a young beauty who becomes the object of Dracula’s devastating desire. Anthony Hopkins co-stars as the famed doctor who dares to believe in Dracula, and then dares to confront him. Opulent, dazzling and utterly irresistible, this is Dracula as you’ve never seen him. And once you’ve seen BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, you’ll never forget it.
In 1897, Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror novel “Dracula” was released.
The novel would spawn numerous films and plays but it wasn’t until 1990 when director Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather” films, “Apocalypse now”) and writer James V. Hart (“Hook”, “Epic”, “Contact”) would create a film adaptation that was more respectful to Bram Stoker’s original novel, but yet being a loose film adaptation.
The film would star Gary Oldman (“The Dark Knight” films, “Leon: The Professional”), Winona Ryder (“Edward Scissorhands”, “Black Swan”, “Girl, Interrupted”), Anthony Hopkins (“Hannibal”, “Red Dragon”, “Thor”), Keanu Reeves (“The Matrix” films, “Speed”, “John Wick”), Richard E. Grant (“Withnail & I”, “Penelope”, “Corpse Bride”), Cary Elwes (“The Princess Bride”, “Saw”, “Liar Liar”, “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”), Billy Campbell (“The Rocketeer”, “Once and Again”, “Enough”), Sadie Frost (“Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey”, “Shopping”), Tom Waits (“Fight Club”, “12 Monkeys”, “The Wire”) and Monica Bellucci (“The Matrix Revolutions”, “The Matrix Reloaded”, “Irreversible”).
The film would receive critical acclaim and would become a box office hit earning over $215 million and would win three Academy Awards for “Best Costume Design”, “Best Makeup” and “Best Sound Effects Editing”.
And now Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
The film begins in 1462 as Vlad Dracula (portrayed by Gary Oldman), who is a member of the Order of the Dragon, goes to war against the Turks. His beloved wife Elisabeta and Vlad are deeply in love, but when Elisabeta receives a false report that her husband has died, she commits suicide. Moments later, Vlad arrives back home after the victory against the Turks and is looking forward to be reunited with Elisabeta, to find out that she had killed herself.
Distraught and angry, Vlad renounces God and declares that he will rise from the grave to avenge his dear Elisabeta with the power of darkness and stabs the chapel’s stone cross with his sword, which leads to blood pouring out and he drinks from it and goes through a major transformation.
Fastforward to 1897, we are introduced to a solicitor Jonathan Harker (portrayed by Keanu Reeves), his colleague R.M. Renfield (portrayed by Tom Waits) has gone insane and so his client, Count Dracula from Transylvania becomes his new client and now must leave his fiance Mina (portrayed by Winona Ryder) behind.
Jonathan travels to Transylvania for business to discuss real estate acquisition, but once he enters his mansion, Dracula sees a picture of Jonathan’s fiance, believing that Mina is the reincarnation of Elisabeta.
Now wanting Mina, Count Dracula has his brides to capture and ravage Jonathan and heads to England in order to get close to Mina and takes residence at Carfax Abbey. He finds out that Mina is staying with Lucy Westenra (portrayed by Sadie Frost).
But needing to feast, he bites Lucy which then leads her to change drastically and leads to poor health. With Lucy’s fiance Arthur Holmwood (portrayed by Cary Elwes) and Lucy’s former suitors Quincey Morris (portrayed by Billy Cambell) and Dr. Jack Seward (portrayed by Richard E. Grant) thinking that Lucy may have been possessed, they summon Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (portrayed by Anthony Hopkins).
When Dr. Helsing arrives, he recognizes the effects on Lucy and tells them that she is a victim of a vampire. Meanwhile, Jonathan escapes from Transylvania and manages to contact Mina and Mina wants nothing more but to marry him which enrages Dracula.
Will Dracula make Mina his bride or will she be devoted to Jonathan?
“Dracula” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). It’s important to note that the first Blu-ray release of this film was released back in 2008. But since then, Blu-ray remastering has since improved and studios know what Blu-ray purchasers are expecting in HD releases. Gone are the DNR and color timing issues and now, picture quality is much sharper with much better detail. My counterparts have told me that while the newer version looks much better, there are framing issues. But those who would be most affected by this are diehard fans of the film. Personally, I’m more grateful for the better PQ compared to the original Blu-ray release.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “Dracula” is presented in English Atmos DolbyTrue HD 7.1 (note: Atmos is a technology that utilizes Dolby Atmos enabled speakers that reflects sound upward and bounces audio from the ceiling in order to recreate overhead sound). As well as an English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This is another improvement from the original Blu-ray release and now, along with crystal clear dialogue and musical score, there is good use of surround channel usage for environments and overall ambiance. Also, very good use of surround channels for the more action-driven sequences.
Subtitles are presented in English SDH, English, French and Spanish.
“Dracula” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring a new audio commentary with director Francis Ford Coppola, visual effects director Roman Coppola and makeup supervisor Greg Cannom.
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola.
- Francis Ford Coppola Introduction – (3:55) Director Francis Ford Coppola discuses the previous film adaptations of “Dracula”.
- Reflections in Blood: Francis Ford Coppola and Bram Stoker’s Dracula – (29:11) Featuring an interview with film critic F.X. Feeney with Francis Ford Coppola.
- Practical Magicians: A Collaboration Between Father and Son – (20:07) Film critic F.X. Feeney interviews Francis Ford Coppola and his son Roman Coppola.
- The Blood is the Life: The Making of Bram Stoker’s Dracula – (27:48) A behind the scenes look at the making of the film and interactions with the director and his cast.
- The Costumes are the Sets: The Design of Eiko Ishioka – (14:02) Interview with director Francis Ford Coppola and costume designer Eiko Ishioka.
- In Camera: Naive Visual Effects – (18:46) Roman Coppola discusses the film’s in-camera visual effects.
- Method and Madness: Visualizing Dracula – (12:06) Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Coppola and storyboard artist Peter Gramsey discuss the film’s imagery.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes – Featuring 12 deleted and extended scenes.
- Trailers – Featuring the “Beware” and theatrical trailer of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.
There is no doubt that vampire films have changed in the past decade with films such as “Twilight” and the many vampire-related series on television.
But while many versions of multimedia have showcased Dracula in a variety of ways, the fact is that there hasn’t really been a story that tries to capture the original story written by Bram Stoker.
While film historians have heard of reports of a faithful silent film adaptation of “Dracula” in 1920 released in the Soviet Union, all footage and stills have been lost.
While F.W. Murnau made a horror film called “Nosferatu” about a vampire that was set in Transylvania and Germany, and the name was changed to Count Orlock, Bram Stoker’s estate sued and all prints of “Nosferatu” were thought to be destroyed (various prints were found and the film was recently released on Blu-ray a few years ago).
But since then, the story of Dracula has changed drastically beginning with the Bela Lugosi films up to the present in which Dracula, as well as his nemesis Dr. Hellsing, have appeared in non-related storylines for many decades.
For director Francis Ford Coppola and writer James V. Hart, the two wanted to capture the feel of the original novel but also add a subplot involving Mina Harker. But also to showcase a Dracula that is not villainous but a tragic hero who brought damnation to himself because of the death of his beloved wife and now, finding out hundreds of years later that his wife may have been reincarnated.
Watching this film almost two decades later, I will say that I was entertained by this film but also my opinion of it has changed a little. While I applaud the acting of Gary Oldman, the choice of visual effects by Roman Coppola and of course, the strict choice of perfection from his talent ala Francis Ford Coppola, Keanu Reeves was more of the “Bill & Ted” actor at the time. And while he has grown a lot as an actor since this film, I admit that watching Jonathan Harker, I was expecting him to give the Keanu Reeves “Woh”.
Reeves acting aside, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” was no doubt a fascinating, dark yet tragic film that portrays Dracula in a more compassionate yet vile character, but not the monstrous character that we have seen the character become in other films, TV series or video games. This is a man who has been haunted by his wife’s death and has lived in darkness until seeing a picture of a woman, who looks exactly like his deceased wife and feels she is reincarnated and will do all that is necessary to get close to her.
The costume and set design was fantastic and for the most part, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, at the time, was seen as unique and bringing something new to the genre but also paying respect to the original novel, capturing the feel of the novel but yet having a loose adaptation.
It’s important to note that there are various versions of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” available. The original 2008 version is the one most will want to stay away from, while this vanilla version I am reviewing does come with the new special features and an Ultraviolet code and then there is the “Supreme Cinema” release that features clear packaging and a booklet.
But this 2015 Blu-ray release is much better than its 2008 counterpart. Better picture quality and also features a newer English Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Picture quality is much sharper and features better detail and while I do not have Atmos speakers, the fact that a lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Atmos soundtrack is featured is wonderful! You also get more special features in this 2015 Blu-ray release.
Overall, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” would showcase Dracula as a tragic hero turned monster but a romantic yet horror/love story that captivates you because this is unlike the plethora of Dracula films out there. While I wouldn’t call this film a Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece, it is one of the highlights in his film oeuvre worth watching.
Yi’nan Diao’s “Black Coal, Thin Ice” take on a police investigation is quite fascinating. Experimental scenes and a film with unexpected moments, Diao’s “Black Coal, Thin Ice” is a dark, awkward and enjoyable film that I definitely recommend!
Image courtesy of © 2014 JIANGSU OMNIJOI MOVIE CO, LTD. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Black Coal, Thin Ice
YEAR OF FILM: 2014
DURATION: 110 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Color, 16:9 Widescreen, Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: September 29, 2015
Written and Directed by Yi’nan Diao
Produced by Vivian Qu
Executive Producer: Daniel J. Victor
Co-Producer: Shen Yang
Music by Zi Wen
Cinematography by Jingsong Dong
Edited by Hongyu Yang
Liao Fan as Zhang Zili
Gwei Lun-Mei as Wu Zhizhen
Wang Xuebing as Liang Zhijun
Wang Jingchun as Rong Rong
Yu Ailei as Captain Wang
Ni Jingyang as Su Lijuan
With more than 30 premieres and 20 awards from top film festivals around the world, BLACK COAL, THIN ICE is the story of a disgraced cop and his partner, still seeking the truth behind the high-profile murders that ended their careers – because it seems the killer is at it again…
From director Yi’nan Diao (“Shower”, Night Train”, “Uniform”) comes his critically-praised 2014 film “Black Coal, Thin Ice”.
The film stars Liao Fan (“Chinese Zodiac”, “Assembly”), Lun-Mei Gwei (“Secret”, “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate”) and Wang Xuebing (“The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom”, “The Lost Bladesman”).
“Black Coal, Thin Ice” took Diao eight years to write and for actor Liao Fan, the actor gained 44 pounds to play the alcoholic protagonist.
The film would earn Yi’nan Diao a Golden Bear Prize at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival and now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.
The film is set in two time periods.
Back in 1999, detective Zhang Zili (portrayed by Liao Fan) is on a murder investigation in which the victim’s bodyparts are scattered in various coal shipment areas. The dead man is identified as Liang Zhijun, one of the workers and the husband to laundry worker, Wu Zhizen (portrayed by Gwei Lun Mei).
But when Zhang identifies a suspect, it leads to an arrest gone wrong with colleagues dead and him being shot.
Fast forward to 2004 and Zang has become an alcoholic and now working as a security guard. Having been traumatized by what happened years prior, he hopes to live a more peaceful life, until dismembered body parts found in coal shipment areas begin to happen all over again.
His former police colleague asks for his help and during his investigation it leads him to investigate the previous victim’s wife, Wu Zhizen. But while he is supposed to help do his research on the case, he can’t help himself being obsessed with her.
But the more he looks into her past, what will he discover?
“Black Coal, Thin Ice” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is good but it’s more on the softer side, which may be intentional. The film is primarily shot in low-light but for better lit scenes, the picture quality is much better.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “Black Coal, Thin Ice” is presented in Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 The film is primarily dialogue driven and while there are scenes involving gunshots and fireworks, those are the most you are going to hear surround usage.
Subtitles are in English.
“Black Coal, Thin Ice” comes with a trailer.
“Black Coal, Thin Ice” is a fascinating film that starts off with a grisly murder and a past that ends with one of the more interesting arrests to ever watch in a film, but as the film fast forwards five years later, it becomes an entirely different kind of film.
As I was thinking the film would become a gritty crime drama, the film becomes more about a former police officer doing an investigation on a widow which he begins to be obsessed over.
As he tries to unpeel the protective layers of the widow, eventually finding himself more and more wanting to be closer to her.
The film does feature wonderful performances by Liao Fan and Gwei Lun-Mei. Liao went as far as to gain 44 pounds to play the protagonist, while Gwei Lun-Mei features a woman who tries to protect herself, tries to become distant, but the fact that this awkward man has any interest in her, begins to unravel her in different ways.
Cinematography by Jingsong Dong is another positive as the film is well-framed and the shooting scenes were done quite well. But it’s Yi’nan Diao’s ability to experiment with tracking shots and incorporate unexpected situations that makes :Black Coal, Thin Ice” quite appealing.
As for the Blu-ray release, while the colors are more on the dark side and are often not vibrant, the picture quality tends to be more on the softer side. Lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue, while surround usage is more limited towards gun or firework scenes. And as for special features, aside from the trailer, there is nothing included.
Overall, Yi’nan Diao’s “Black Coal, Thin Ice” take on a police investigation is quite fascinating. Experimental scenes and a film with unexpected moments, Diao’s “Black Coal, Thin Ice” is a dark, awkward and enjoyable film that I definitely recommend!
“Moonrise Kingdom” is yet another magnificent Wes Anderson film. Brilliantly written, awkward characters but yet a film so enjoyable, that you don’t mind watching it again and again. “Moonrise Kingdom” is highly recommended!
Image courtesy of © 2012 MOONRISE LLC. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776
YEAR OF FILM: 2012
DURATION: 94 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Color, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 Surround, Subtitles: English SDH
COMPANY: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: September 22, 2015
Directed by Wes Anderson
Written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Executive Producer: Sam Hoffman, Mark Roybal
Produced by Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales, Scott Rudin
Co-Producer: Eli Bush, Molly Cooper, Lila Yacoub
Associate Producer: Octavia Peissel
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman
Edited by Andrew Weisblum
Casting by Douglas Aibel
Production Design by Adam Stockhausen
Art Decoration by Gerald Sullivan
Set Decoration by Kris Moran
Costume Design by Kasia Walicka-Maimone
Bruce Willis as Captain Sharp
Edward Norton as Scout Master Ward
Bill Murray as Mr. Biship
Frances McDormand as Mrs. Bishop
Tilda Swinton as Social Services
Jared Gilman as Sam
Kara Hayward as Suzy
Jason Schwartzman as Cousin Ben
Bob Balaban as The Narrator
Lucas Hedges as Redford
Charlie Kilgore as Lazy-Eye
An island off the New England coast, summer of 1965. Two twelve-year-olds, Sam and Suzy, fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. As local authorities try to hunt them down, a violent storm is brewing offshore . . . Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as the young couple on the run, Bruce Willis as Island Police Captain Sharp, Edward Norton as Khaki Scout troop leader Scout Master Ward, and Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as Suzy’s attorney parents, Walt and Laura Bishop. The cast also includes Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and Bob Balaban. The magical soundtrack features the music of Benjamin Britten.
In 2012, Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” was released in theaters.
The film would go on to receive critical acclaim and also an Academy Award nomination for “Best Original Screenplay” and with a budget of $16 million, the film would earn over $68 million in the box office.
Wes Anderson (best known for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “The Royal Tenenbaums”, “Fantastic Mr. Fox”) co-wrote the film along with Roman Coppola (“The Darjeeling Limited”, “CQ”).
While the film would become the film debut for young actors Jared Gilman (“Two-Bit Waltz”, “Elsa and Fred”) and Kara Hayward (“Quitters”, “The Sisterhood of Night”), “Moonrise Kingdom” would also feature an all-star ensemble cast which included Bruce Willis (“The Sixth Sense”, “Die Hard”, “The Fifth Element”), Edward Norton (“Fight Club”, “American History X”, “The Illusionist”), Bill Murray (“Groundhog Day”, “Lost in Translation”, “Ghostbusters” films), Frances McDormand (“Fargo”, “Almost Famous”, “Mississippi Burning”), Tilda Swinton (“Adaptation.”, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”) and Jason Schwartzman (“Rushmore”, “The Darjeeling Limited”, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “Fantastic Mr. Fox”).
While the Blu-ray was originally released back in 2012 by Universal Studios Home Entertainment, the 2015 Blu-ray release is given the Criterion Collection treatment.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is set on a New England island known as New Penzance and takes places in 1965.
12-year-old orphan Sam Shakusky (portrayed by Jared Gilman) who is attending a Khaki Scout summer camp at Camp Ivanhoe decides that he’s not interested in being in the Khaki Scouts any longer and decides to leave the camp without notifying anyone. With a missing child, this prompts Scoutmaster Randy Ward to contact authorities about the missing boy.
Meanwhile, 12-year-old Suzy Bishop lives in the island with her father Walt (portrayed by Bill Murray) and her mother Laura (portrayed by Frances McDormand) and her three brothers. Despite coming from a good family, she decides she has had enough of living at home with them and she runs away.
We eventually learn that both Sam and Suzy met each other a year before and both share same qualities of being smart and introverted, but also mature for their age. And have been pen pals and eventually through occasional correspondence, becoming very close. The two have made a secret pact to reunite and run away together. And are determined to make sure no one stands in their way.
Meanwhile, the Khaki Scouts are ordered to capture them, Captain Duffy Sharp (portrayed by Bruce Willis) is trying to look for them and Social Services (led by Tilda Swinton), see Sam as a bad kid and want him to go through “Juvenile Refuge” and receive shock therapy, which Captain Sharp is very much against.
But how long can Sam and Suzy be together without being caught?
“Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks very good in HD, as cinematographer Robert Yeoman gave a special look towards this film (to make it look like it takes place in 1965) and was shot with a Super 16mm film using an Aaton Xtera and A-Minima cameras. The film is well-saturated, features a good amount of grain and no blemishes whatsoever. Picture quality is fantastic!
According to the Criterion Collection, the film is “Supervised by director Wes Anderson, this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution from the original camera negative”.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776”. The film is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue and music are crystal clear. The film utilizes ambiance from the children’s surroundings for its surround channels, but the film is primarily dialogue and music-driven. I heard no hiss or any problematic issues with the lossless soundtrack.
According to the Criterion Collection, “The original 5.1 soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD”.
Subtitles are in English SDH.
“Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776” comes with the following special features:
- Commentary – A 2015 audio commentary with director Wes Anderson, co-writer Roman Coppola and stars Bill Murray, Edward Norton and Jason Schwartzman.
- The Making of “Moonrise Kingdom” – Featuring “Exploring the Set”, “Storyboard Animatics and Narrator Tests”, “Auditions” and “Miniatures” (1:39).
- Welcome to New Penzance – (4:02) A short featurette about the setting of “Moonrise Kingdom”.
- Set Tour with Bill Murray – (2:59) Featuring Bill Murray discussing his character, working with Wes Anderson and having fun on the set of “Moonrise Kingdom”.
- Benjamin Britten’s “Noye’s Fludde” – (1:53) Benjamin Britten singing “Noye’s Fludde”.
- Eleven iPhone Videos by Edward Norton – (20:48) Featuring Edward Norton showcasing 11 home movies during the shooting of “Moonrise Kingdom”.
- Animated Books – (4:15) Narrator Bob Balaban and an animated version read by the cast of the film.
- Cousin Ben – (2:03) A featurette with Cousin Ben and the troopers introducing “Moonrise Kingdom”.
- Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Moonrise Kingdom.
“Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776” comes with a 24-page booklet with the essay “Awakenings” by Geoffrey O’Brien, “With The Right People in Your Life, You Won’t Feel Misunderstood” by Isobel Folger, “Life Everything in the World is in Order” by Austin Guest, “A Place from from Earth” by Nicolas Schwed, “There was something about Sam…” by Kika Kovaleski, “It’s not Realistic but it Looks Good” by Costa Demy. Also, included is a double-sided map, a photo card and sheet for Noye’s Fludde.
If there is one recurring thing that a cineaste can depend on Wes Anderson, that is a consistency of enjoyable, well-written, intelligent, yet odd films.
Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” is unique and full of imaginative creativity that one can only marvel of how he and Roman Coppola came up with this storyline about two very smart yet introverted kids, who have run away together and will do whatever they can to thwart those who try to stop them.
The character of Sam is very interesting as he is a knowledgeable Scout, awkward and wears large eyeglasses, while Suzy is a book reader who is bored with home and appreciates Sam as a person, but also how he treats her.
The two have plotted their escape, Sam running away from camp and Suzy escaping her family and Sam provides the camping and survival gear, while Suzy has her books, her kitten and her borrowed portable 45 rpm record player.
And while these two children were fun to watch, because they are both awkward, the film is further boosted by star power as Bill Murray (a Wes Anderson film regular) and Frances McDormand play the parents of Suzy, Edward Norton plays the concerned Scout Master, Bruce Willis plays a cop who has always loved Suzy’s mother, but instead, she has chosen Murray’s character.
We have Tilda Swinton playing Social Services and is determined in wanting to capture Sam and give him shock therapy.
But it’s a lot of fun to see how these two kids are able to stay together, despite everyone wanting to capture them. But the journey of watching all these characters interact is enjoyable and also a big part of Wes Anderson films. But because of the odd way things are portrayed, the film plays out like fantasy than reality and for the most part, the film is quite unique and enjoyable.
As for the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release, while picture and audio quality continues to be magnificent as the Universal Studios 2012 Blu-ray release, the special features have more content including audio commentary and the home videos by Edward Norton and more. Also, a pretty enjoyable read with the included booklet (also included is a map).
Overall, “Moonrise Kingdom” is yet another magnificent Wes Anderson film. Brilliantly written, awkward characters but yet a film so enjoyable, that you don’t mind watching it again and again.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is highly recommended!
The Disney film adaptation is magical, captivating, gorgeous to look at and magnificent! “Cinderella” is highly recommended!
Image courtesy of © 2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
FILM RELEASE: 2015
DURATION: 105 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:38:1 Aspect Ratio), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Description Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish Subtitles
RATED: PG (For Mild Thematic Elements)
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay by Chris Weitz
Produced by David Barron, Simon Kinberg, Allison Shearmur
Executive Producer: Tim Lewis, Barry H. Waldman
Music by Patrick Doyle
Cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos
Edited by Martin Walsh
Casting by Lucy Bevan
Production Design by Dante Ferretti
Art Direction by Ravi Bansal, Anthony Caron-Delion, Paul Laugier, Stuart Rose
Set Decoration by Casey Banwell, Francesca Lo Schiavo
Costume Design by Sandy Powell
Cate Blanchett as Stepmother
Lily James as Cinderella
Richard Madden as Price
Helena Bonham Carter as Fairy Godmother
Nonso Anozie as Captain
Stellan Skarsgard as Grand Duke
Sophie McShera as Drisella
Holliday Grainger as Anastasia
Derek Jacobi as King
Ben Chaplin as Ella’s Father
Hayley Atwell as Ella’s Mother
Celebrate Disney’s “Cinderella,” a modern classic that shines with beauty, imagination…and magic! Despite being mistreated by her stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and stepsisters, a spirited Ella (Lily James) resolves to take charge of her fate. Add a royal ball, a Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham-Carter) and a glass slipper, and suddenly – magic becomes reality!
The story of “Cinderella” has endured for centuries, with the first fairy tale known as “Cendrillon” by Charles Perrault and has been a tale that has entertained generations upon generations.
While the most well-known story of “Cinderella” in the past 60-years would be the animated fantasy film popularized by Walt Disney and released back in 1950, fast forward 65-years later and Disney would release a film that would become a box office hit, earning over $542.4 million in the box office (the film had a budget of $95 million).
The film is directed by actor Kenneth Branagh (“Thor”, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”, “The Magic Flute”, “Hamlet”, “Henry V”) and written by Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”, “The Golden Compass”, “Antz”).
The film would star Cate Blanchett (“The Lord of the Ring” films, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “The Hobbit” films), Lily James (“Downton Abbey”, “Broken”, “Wrath of Titans”), Richard Madden (“Game of Thrones”, “A Promise”), Helena Bonham Carter (“Fight Club”, “The King’s Speech”, “Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber Street”), Stellen Skarsgard (“Good Will Hunting”, “The Avengers”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “Thor”), Sophie McShera (“Downton Abbey”, “Highway to Dhampus”, “Waterloo Road”), Holliday Grainger (“Jane Eyre”, “The Borgias”, “Anna Karenina”) and Derek Jacobi (“The Gladiator”, “The King’s Speech”, “Underworld: Evolution”).
“Cinderella” revolves around Ella, who grew up in a beautiful estate with her wealthy family but taught to treat people with kindness and grace. Read stories by her mother about magic, has allowed Ella to befriend all living animals including the mice. But as perfect as this family may have seem, unfortunately her mother became ill and has died of her illness.
Many years later, Ella (portrayed by Lily James) has grown into a fine young woman. Her father (portrayed by Ben Chaplin) asks Ella if she is OK if he find another woman to marry and she approves, as she loves her father and wants him to be happy.
Her father marries Lady Tremaine (portrayed by Cate Blanchett) and she and her spoiled daughters, Drisella (portrayed by Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (portrayed by Holliday Grainger) begin to show how unkind they are to Ella, but she continues to treat them with respect.
As her father goes to travel on business for a few months, Lady Tremaine and her stepsisters treats Ella as if she is a servant and never lets them eat with her family. She even goes as far as taking her bedroom away from her and giving it to her daughters. But Ella does not make a fuss, because she is with her friendly mice.
One night, as Ella slept by the fireplace for warmth, her face is covered in cinders and her stepsisters begin to call “Cinderella”.
As Ella rides her horse into the woods, one day, she tries to save a stag from a hunter. The hunter named Kit immediately is enchanted by her but before he gets her name, she leaves.
Meanwhile, we learn that Kit is actually the son of a dying king. The King wants Kit to marry and decides to hold a ball open to every young woman in the village and wants his son to find a bride. But Kit can’t get over the girl he met in the woods, hoping that he can finally know who she is.
As Lady Tremaine prepares her daughters for the ball in hopes one of them will marry the prince, Ella wants to go with them and wears her mother’s dress. But Lady Tremaine tells her that she is a disgrace and her dress is a disgrace and rips it up.
As her stepmother and stepsisters leave, Ella is in tears. As an old beggar woman asks for help, Ella kindly helps the old woman out, who reveals herself to be her fairy godmother (portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter). She uses her magic to reveal her true form and turns a pumpkin into a carriage, her mice into horses, two lizards into footmen and a goose into a coachman. She also gives Ella a beautiful blue gown and two glass slippers. And now Ella can go to the ball, but under one strict rule, that the spell will only last ’till midnight.
What happens when Ella goes to the ball?
“Cinderella” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:38:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is magnificent! Featuring vibrant colors, amazing detail and wonderful saturation. While watching this film, I saw no signs of artifacts or banding. This is truly a wonderful Disney Blu-ray release showcasing amazing picture quality!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Cinderella” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Description Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks. Similar to the picture quality, the lossless soundtrack is amazing. Dialogue and the film’s musical score is crystal clear, surround and rear surround channels are well-utilized for ambiance, especially during the more action-sequences. LFE is also very good and for the most part, audiophiles should be happy with this lossless soundtrack.
Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish Subtitles.
“Cinderella” comes with the following special features:
- A Fairy Tale Comes to Life – (9:23) Director Kenneth Branagh, cast and crew discuss the live film adaptation of “Cinderella”.
- Costume Test Fun – (2:40) Costume designer Sandy Powell showcases the costume tests used for the film.
- Staging the Ball – (11:27) A featurette showcasing the set design, costumes, choreography for the elegant ballroom scene.
- Alternate Opening: Ella’s childhood – (3:03) A motion storybook by “Jumanji” author Chris Vann Allsburg.
- Ella’s Furry Friends – (3:43) Director Kenneth Branagh and animal trainers Julie Tottman and Guillaume Grange discuss the use of animals in “Cinderella”.
- Frozen Fever – (7:58) An animated short from 2015 featuring Elsa & Kristoff, who are trying to create a surprise birthday celebration for Anna, but Elsa’s cold may get in the way.
“Cinderella” comes with a slipcover and Disney Movie Rewards code.
Having seen what Disney was able to accomplish with film adaptations of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Maleficent”, I have had no doubt in my mind that “Cinderella” would be a wonderful and also successful romantic fantasy film.
The film boasts a strong cast with the involvement of Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Lily James and Richard Madden, but you also have the talented actor and filmmaker Kenneth Branagh behind the helm, as well as the involvement of writer/filmmaker Chris Weitz. Having Disney’s pre-existing story, with a talented cast and crew, for me, all I wanted to see was how the end product would be. How elegant the ballscene and also the costume design would be.
Because after all…”Cinderella” is a tale that everyone knows. It’s a tale that has been ongoing for centuries and for those of us today, we have grown up with the story of “Cinderella” courtesy of Walt Disney, an it’s a beloved storyline about love.
And after watching the film, I was captivated. For one, Lily James did an exceptional job playing the character of Cinderella. She managed to capture the grace of the character, while award winning actress Cate Blanchett, did a wonderful job of playing the mean stepmother. And Helena Bonham Carter in her short scene as the fairy godmother, was also well-done!
And it’s one thing to have great acting performances but when you think of Cinderella, you think of the fairytale and if the crew would be able to capture Cindrella’s carriage, the beautiful gown, the glass slippers and the elegant ball scene. And the crew literally hit a grand slam in capturing what we saw in the animated film, for the big screen. I was just in awe of how beautiful this film was overall.
As for the Blu-ray release, Disney once again gives us a film with fantastic picture quality and an immersive lossless soundtrack which both were impressive. There are a few special features included especially for “Frozen” fans who have been wanting the “Frozen Fever” short that was shown before “Cinderella” in theaters.
Overall, “Cinderella” is one of the most well-known romantic tales of all time. The Disney film adaptation is magical, captivating, gorgeous to look at and magnificent! For anyone who has loved the classic Disney animated film, will no doubt be entertained with this film!
“Cinderella” is highly recommended!
“A Room with a View” features wonderful storytelling, magnificent acting and enjoyable characters that makes this James Ivory and Ismail Merchant film worth watching! Highly recommended!
Image courtesy of © 1985 Goldcrest Films International. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: A Room with a View – The Criterion Collection #775
YEAR OF FILM: 1985
DURATION: 117 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Color, 1:66:1 aspect ratio, English 2.0 Surround, Subtitles: English SDH
COMPANY: Janus films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: September 29, 2015
Directed by Jim Ivory
Based on the Novel by E.M. Forster
Screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Produced by Ismail Merchant
Associate Producer: Paul Bradley, Peter Marangoni
Music by Richard Robbins
Cinematography by Tony Pierce-Roberts
Edited by Humphrey Dixon
Casting by Celestia Fox
Production Design by Brian Ackland-Snow, Gianni Quaranta
Art Decoration by Elio Altramura, Brian Savegar
Costume Design by Jenny Beavan, John Bright
Maggie Smith as Charlotte Bartlett, a chaperon
Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy Honeychurch, Miss Bartlett’s cousin
Denholm Elliott as Mr. Emerson, an English tourist
Julian Sands as George Emerson
Simon Callow as The Reverend Mr. Beebe
Patrick Godfrey as the Reverend Mr. Eager, Chaplain of the Anglican Church in Florence
Merchant Ivory Productions, led by director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant (Howards End), became a household name with A Room with a View, the first of their extraordinary adaptations of E. M. Forster novels. A cherubic nineteen-year-old Helena Bonham Carter plays Lucy Honeychurch, a young, independent-minded, upper-class Edwardian woman who is trying to sort out her burgeoning romantic feelings, divided between an enigmatic free spirit (Leaving Las Vegas’s Julian Sands) she meets on vacation in Florence and the priggish bookworm (Lincoln’s Daniel Day-Lewis) to whom she becomes engaged back in the more corseted Surrey. Funny, sexy, and sophisticated, this gargantuan art-house hit features a sublime supporting cast—including Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral), Judi Dench (Philomena), Denholm Elliott (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)—and remains a touchstone of intelligent romantic cinema.
Back in 1908, English writer E.M. Forster would release his novel “A Room with a View”.
Considered as one of the best written English-language novels of the 20th century, the film received a film adaptation in 1985 by director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant (both known for their films “Howards End”, “Maurice” and “The Remains of the Day”).
The film featured the following actors Maggie Smith (“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”, “Gosford Park”, “Harry Potter” films”), Helena Bonham Carter (“Fight Club”, “The King’s Speech”, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”, “Alice in Wonderland”), Denholm Elliott (“Indiana Jones” films, “Trading Spaces”), Julian Sands (“Leaving Las Vegas”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Killing Fields”), Simon Callow (“Amadeus”, “Four Weddings and a Funeral”), Patrick Godfrey (“The Duchess”, “The Remains of the Day”), Judi Dench (“Skyfall”, “Casino Royale”, “Philomena”, “As Time Goes By”) and Daniel-Day Lewis (“There Will Be Blood”, “Lincoln”, “Gangs of New York”).
The film would win an Academy Award for “Best Art Direction”, “Best Costume Design” and “Best Adapted Screenplay” and its popularity in the United States would help promote the films and work of James Ivory, novelist Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and producer Ismail Merchant back in 1985 (and would lead to even greater attention for their later films “Howards End” and “The Remains of the Day”).
And for the 30th anniversary of the film and the importance of the film in the Merchant Ivory oeuvre, the Criterion Collection will be releasing “A Room with a View” on Blu-ray and DVD in Sept. 2015.
“A Room with a View” is a coming-of-age film which begins with Miss Lucy Honeychurch (portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter) from England, going to Italy to visit her overbearing older cousin Charlotte Bartlett (portrayed by Maggie Smith), who is also her chaperone. Because Lucy was brought up in an easy going household, Charlotte often is outspoken of how Charlotte should behave.
At a small pensione, Lucy and Charlotte meet Reverend Beebe (portrayed by Simon Callow), Miss Catharine Alan (portrayed by Fabia Drake), the Miss Alans, author Miss Eleanor Lavish (portrayed by Judi Dench) and the very outspoken nonconformist Mr. Emerson (portrayed by Denholm Elliott) and his son George (portrayed by Julian Sands), while English, wanting to escape the thinking of the norm and think forward to the future.
But while Charlotte is repulsed by Mr. Emerson, Lucy finds him quite interesting but also is intrigued by George because of his perspective and his ways of expressing himself.
One day, as George and Lucy are alone and he kisses her, he confesses his love for her. But because Charlotte has saw this, she tries to convince Lucy that he is using her and she must stay away from him, in order to save her reputation.
As Lucy returns back to England and tries to move on with her life, another man, the wealthy and influential Cecil Vyse (portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis) wants to marry Lucy, but what happens when Cecil invites Mr. Emerson and George to move to the same village and live in his cottage?
“A Room with a View – The Criterion Collection #775” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio). The film looks very good in HD with no signs of aging. Grain is consistent throughout the film and colors look natural, skintones are well-saturated and looks beautiful, considering the work put in by the Criterion Collection to address the chroma hue shifting. I didn’t notice any artifacts or problematic issues with picture quality.
According to the Criterion Collection, the film is “presented in the director’s preferred aspect ratio of 1:66:1. Supervised by director James Ivory and cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts, this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative. It’s believed that when the negative was originally processed, it’s believed that the negative was originally processed, it was removed from the final “fixation” bath too soon, resulting in chroma hue shifting across the entire feature. Frames were slightly different even within the same shot, causing distracting color imbalances. The restoration process involved the manual removal of thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices and warps using MTI’s DRS, wile Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used to address the chroma hue shifting, small dirt, grain, noise management, flicker and jitter.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “A Room with a View – The Criterion Collection #775”. The film is presented in English LPCM 2.0. Dialogue and music are crystal clear via the front channels.
According to the Criterion Collection, “The original 2.0 surround soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation and iZotope RX4”.
Subtitles are in English SDH.
“A Room with a View – The Criterion Collection #775” comes with the following special features:
- Thought and Passion – (21:22) A 2015 interview conducted by the Criterion Collection with director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant and crew.
- The Eternal Yes – (36:22) A 2015 interview conducted by the Criterion Collection with Helena Bonham Carter, Simon Callow and Julian Sands.
- NBC Nightly News – (4:07) A 2015 interview conducted by the Criterion Collection with actor Maynard Eziashi.
- Trailer – (2:23) Theatrical trailer for “A Room with a View”.
“A Room with a View – The Criterion Collection #775” comes with a six-page fold-out insert with the essay “English Hearts and Italian Sunshine” by John Pym.
I absolutely adore Merchant Ivory films.
Both James Ivory, writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and producer Ismail Merchant have a wonderful way of taking on films that are not mainstream, but yet are intelligent, beautiful and often taking on a setting from the past. In the case of “A Room with the View”, the film is set during the Victorian Era (the period of Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837-1901).
Part of the attraction of this story, especially during the Victorian era is that it captures a story during a time when English women from the upper middle class were becoming independent and leading adventurous lives.
For Lucy Honeychurch, that’s leaving her comfortable living for the time being to visit her overbearing cousin and chaperone. While Lucy is proper and enjoying her time in Italy, her cousin Charlotte Bartlett is often trying to tell her how to be a woman and to watch out for certain people in society. But while staying at the pensione, this is where she meets the outspoken and nonconformist Mr. Emerson and his son George, who are more future-thinking and are not men who appreciate the norm of society.
Watching the film, you can’t help but be intrigued by the dialogue, the humor and how these characters are intertwine in society, first in Italy, later in England and from George declaring his love for Lucy, while a more wealthier man (who happens to be a snob), Cecil Vyse also declares his love and his intention to marry Lucy.
Being inexperienced at love, she eventually looks to Cecil as her suitor due to his rank and class, but when it is announced of the new tenants who will be living at Vyse’s cottage, it turns out that the new arrivals are the Emersons.
So, life for Miss Honeychurch becomes a bit complicated but for the most part, the novel, despite the story being written by Forster in 1908, the film adaptation showcases a coming-of-age story but also is a fascinating romantic love story.
For historians, the film also shows the differences of traditional thinking as exhibited by Charlotte and others, while the Emersons are more radical thinkers and Lucy, being more intrigued to that style of thinking. Also, the film would incorporate the independent thinking of women for the era as Lucy would be responsible for choosing the man she loves, not her family.
As for the Blu-ray release, “A Room with a View” looks great for a film that is 30-years-old. Grain is still intact, colors are well-saturated and for the most part, despite the challenges presented in the remastering of the film by the Criterion Collection, they did a wonderful job for the film’s presentation and also the soundtrack featuring crystal clear dialogue and fantastic musical score.
Also, included are interviews with James Ivory and also footage of the late Ismail Merchant, as well as interviews with a few members of the cast discussing their memories of working on the film. Also, an old Today show clip about the popularity of “A Room with a View” back in 1985.
Overall, “A Room with a View” features wonderful storytelling, magnificent acting and enjoyable characters that makes this James Ivory and Ismail Merchant film worth watching!
“Jumanji” is an entertaining fantasy adventure film that was loosely adapted from Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book. But the changes from book to film and the casting of Robin Williams and its captivating storyline makes “Jumanji” a wonderful family film that will continue to endure and entertain many more generations to come. “Jumanji: Anniversary Edition” is recommended!
Image courtesy of © 1995 Tristar Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Jumanji: Anniversary Edition
FILM RELEASE: 1995
DURATION: 104 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Surround, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: PG (Menacing Fantasy Action and Some Mild Language)
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg
Directed by Joe Johnston
Screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh, Greg Taylor, Jim Strain
Produced by Scott Kroopf, William Teitler
Executive Producer: Robert W. Cort, Ted Field, Larry J. Franco
Music by James Horner
Cinematography by Thomas E. Ackerman
Edited by Robert Dalva
Casting by Nancy Foy
Production Design by James D. Bissell
Art Direction by Glen W. Pearson, David Wilson
Set Decoration by Tedd Kuchera, Cynthia T. Lewis
Costume Design by Martha Wynne Snetsinger
Robin Williams as Alan Parrish
Jonathan Hyde as Van Pelt/Sam Parrish
Kirsten Dunst as Judy Shepherd
Bradley Pierce as Peter Shepherd
Bonnie Hunt as Sarah Whittle
Bebe Neuwirth as Nora Shepherd
David Alan Grier as Carl Bentley
Patricia Clarkson as Carol Parrish
Adam Hann-Byrd as Young alan
Laura Bell Bundy as Young Sarah
When young Alan Parrish discovers a mysterious board game, he doesn’t realize its unimaginable powers, until he is magically transported before the eyes of his friend, Sarah, into the untamed jungles of JUMANJI! 26 years later he is freed from the game’s spell by two unsuspecting children. Alan (ROBIN WILLIAMS) reunites with Sarah (BONNIE HUNT) and together with Judy (KIRSTEN DUNST) and Peter (BRADLEY PIERCE) tries to outwit the game’s powerful forces in this imaginative adventure that combines breathtaking special effects with an enchanting mixture of comedy, magic and thrills.
In 1995, a live film adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg’s 1981 children’s book was released in theaters.
Directed by Joe Johnston (“Jurassic Park III”, “Captain America: The First Avenger”, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”), the film would also star Robin Williams (“Good Will Hunting”, “Dead Poets Society”, “Good Morning Vietnam”), Jonathan Hyde (“Titanic”, “The Mummy”), Bonnie Hunt (“The Green Mile”, “Return to Me”, “The Bonnie Hunt Show”), Bebe Neuwirth (“Cheers”, “Frasier”, “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”), Patricia Clarkson (“The Green Mile”, “Friends with Benefits”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), Kirsten Dunst (“Spider-Man” films, “Melancholia”) and Bradley Pierce (“The Borrowers”).
Despite receiving a little backlash for not being faithful to the original book, “Jumanji” did very well in the box office, earning over $262 million (original budget was $65 million). The popularity of the film would lead to an animated TV series and plans for a remake of the film is set for release in 2016.
To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the film, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will be releasing “Jumanji: Anniversary Edition” on Blu-ray and DVD in Sept. 2015.
The film begins in 1969 as we are introduced to a 12-year-old Alan Parrish, a young boy who is bullied because he hangs out with Sarah Whittle. He often escapes to his father’s shoe factory owned by the stern and very busy Samuel Parrish (portrayed by Jonathan Hyde) and often talks to his friend Carl Bentley (portrayed by David Alan Grier). While trying to get protection from his father, his father tells him to stick up for himself and when Alan goes out, he is beaten up by his bullies and has his bike stolen.
While recovering after getting beaten, he hears the sound of tribal drumbeats near a construction site. When he goes to see where the drumbeats are coming from, he finds a chest buried in the dirt. When Alan opens the old chest, inside is a case that says “Jumanji”.
Meanwhile, as Alan gets back home, he finds out that his parents want to ship him out to school away from home, as the Parrish men have attended the school as tradition. Alan is upset and gets in an argument with his father, telling him that he does not want to go to the school and does not want to talk to his father again.
As his parents leave for a reception, Alan packs up and is about to run away from home. But the door rings and Sarah brings back the bike that was stolen.
Alan is excited about what he found earlier in the day and tells Sarah that he found “Jumanji” which turns out to be a board game. But when he rolls the dice, he sees a message show up in the center of the game. When Sarah rolls the dice, she also gets an unusual message. When Alan rolls again, a message comes up that he will be stuck in a desolate place until someone rolls a 5 or 8. Meanwhile, as for Sarah, she is distraught of seeing Alan disappear and bats start to come out of the chimney and try to attack her but she runs out of the Parrish home.
Fast forward to 1995, Nora Shepherd (portrayed by Bebe Neuwirth) and legal guardian for Judy (portrayed by Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (portrayed by Bradley Pierce), two children who lost their parents to an automobile accident.
Nora and the kids have bought the old Parrish home and immediately, the start hearing tribal drum beats. Hearing noise in the attic, Nora calls an exterminator who checks the attic and finds nothing. But he also tells the kids that he would never live in the Parrish house because rumors continue that Alan Parrish, went missing and his father chopped him up in pieces and hid the body in the house.
Scared that the home may be haunted, their aunt Nora dismisses those rumors. And as she leaves to work, the kids go back to the attic and find the game “Jumanji”. And as they play, they notice that each time they roll the dice, the message that appears produces something real, such as giant mosquitoes that attack, troublemaking monkeys that begin to wreck the house. When Peter rolls the dice, he rolls a 5 and it releases a lion, but it also releases a hairy adult.
While the man manages to lock the lion in a bedroom, he is excited to see the house and begins asking for his mother and father. It is then revealed to the children that the man standing before them is none other than Alan Parrish, the boy who went missing.
As the kids ask for Alan to please help them with the game, Alan is unwilling after being stuck inside the game for 26-years, but seeing the destruction caused by the mosquitoes and the troublesome monkeys, Alan said he will help the children.
But when the kids start playing, nothing happens. But when Alan sees the board, he sees two additional players and realizes that the game is continuing where he and Sarah left off when they were younger. And the only way they can complete Jumanji is by finding Sarah Whittle and have her, along with Alan, continue the game with Judy and Peter.
Will the four manage to complete “Jumanji” with all the troubles that come with each rolling of the dice?
“Jumanji: Anniversary Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is fantastic as detail on close-up of faces show detail. Skin tones are natural and black levels are nice and deep and shoes no color fluctuations considering the film’s age. Grain is also quite visible with visible noise that can be seen on lights and windows looking outdoors. While not crisp and sharp, I prefer a non-DNR picture quality as some early-to-mid ’90s films have received that treatment in the past. But overall picture quality is good!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Jumanji: Anniversary Edition” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital. The lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music. But what I loved about this lossless soundtrack is how the soundtrack utilizes the surround channels for the many action sequences throughout the film. Overall, a fantastic lossless soundtrack!
Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Arabic, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai
“Jumanji: Anniversary Edition” comes with the following special features:
- Special Effects Crew Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by the special effects crew for the film.
- Making Jumanji: The Realm of Imagination – (20:05) The making of “Jumanji”.
- Lions and Monkeys and Pods… Oh My! – (14:34) A look at how the lion, monkeys and the plants were created for “Jumanji”.
- Production Design: Bringing Down the House – (3:06) A featurette about the home(s) where “Jumanji” was shot.
- Storyboard Comparisons – (3:42) Storybook comparisons for the “Bats”, “Rhino Stampede” and “Earthquake”.
- Jumanji Motion Storybook as Read by Author Chris Van Allsburg – (8:59) A motion storybook by “Jumanji” author Chris Vann Allsburg.
- Jumanji: The Animated Series – (45:20) Featuring two episodes of “Jumanji: The Animated Series”: The Price & Bargaining Time
- Jumanji Jungle Adventure: Virtual Board Game – A trivia based game up to four players.
- The Cast of Goosebumps Reflects on Jumanji – (5:20) “Goosebumps” actors Dylan Minnette and Ryan Lee discuss their favorite “Jumanji” scenes.
- Goosebumps Sneak Peek – A sneak peek for the 2015 film “Goosebumps”.
- Original Teasers and Trailers
“Jumanji: Anniversary Edition” comes with a slipcover and UltraViolet code.
How awesome it is to watch “Jumanji” once again!
With Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releasing anniversary Blu-ray releases for “Jumanji”, “The Indian in the Cupboard” and “Zathura: A Space Adventure”, these are the films that I grew up watching when I was younger and now films that I now share with family.
“Jumanji” has a storyline that captivates you with its use of visual effects, the wonderful performance by Robin Williams and it’s an exciting, fun and enjoyable film because of adventure featured throughout.
Its a film that holds up quite well 20-years-later, despite the fact that CG-technology has changed dramatically and while those who grew up reading Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book may find things to be very different, Jonathan Hensleigh, Greg Taylor and Jim Strain were able to craft a new story that will attract young and old, and the fact is that the film needed starpower and it gets that with hilarious and respected comedian, Robin Williams.
The book was child-driven with the focus on Judy and Peter and no adults. I don’t think I would have enjoyed the film as much if it followed the storyline of the two children and thus, I felt at the time that “Jumanji: The Animated Series” had a story that was well-suited for children wanting to see the adventures of Judy and Peter (also different from the books, but it does focus on both kids, albeit they get sucked into the jungle and try to help out Alan).
With the film adaptation, the movie has an emotional element as the film introduces us to Alan Parrish, how he gets sucked into the game and how he disappeared for 26-years. His return to the present surprises him as he finds out what has happened to his parents but also what has happened to Sarah after all these years. And now, how his character is determined to be brave and help complete the game.
From the wild animals and deadly things all around, it made sense to have these action sequences that involved both adults and children and for the most part, I enjoyed the film differently. It was more action-packed and it was a lot of fun, but it does have its times of peril but nothing too bad such as showing people getting killed.
So, I wasn’t as bothered about the film not being a faithful adaptation and considering that the film made a tremendous amount of money back in 1995, suffice to say, the choice to craft a different type of storyline would eventually become a success. And I’m not surprised by the fact that a remake of the film is being planned for a 2016 release.
While “Jumanji” was released on Blu-ray back in 2011 and picture and lossless audio quality is comparable, the main difference is that this Blu-ray release (as well as for “The Indian in the Cupboard” and “Zathura: A Space Adventure”) has a tie-in with the 2015 film release for “Goosebumps” in the special features. Also, included are two episodes from “Jumanji: The Animated Series” and a “Jumanji” Motion Picture Storybook as read by author Chris Van Allsburg.
Overall, “Jumanji” is an entertaining fantasy adventure film that was loosely adapted from Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book. But the changes from book to film and the casting of Robin Williams and its captivating storyline makes “Jumanji” a wonderful family film that will continue to endure and entertain many more generations to come.
“Jumanji: Anniversary Edition” is recommended!
“”The Indian in the Cupboard: Anniversary Edition” is a fun, fantasy-adventure film for the entire family and a classic family film that I recommend!
Image courtesy of © 1995 Paramount Pictures Corporation and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: The Indian in the Cupboard: Anniversary Edition
FILM RELEASE: 1995
DURATION: 96 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Surround, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: PG (Mild Language and Brief Video Images of Violence and Sexy Dancing)
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Based on the book by Lynn Reid Banks
Directed by Frank Oz
Screenplay by Melissa Mathison
Produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Jane Startz
Executive Producer: Robert Harris, Marty Keltz, Bernard Williams, Deborah Forte
Music by Randy Edelman
Cinematography by Russell Carpenter
Edited by Ian Crafford
Casting by Kate Kennedy, Margery Simkin
Production Design by Leslie McDonald
Art Direction by Tony Fanning
Costume Design by Deborah Lynn Scott
Hal Scardino as Omri
Litefoot as Little Bear
Lindsay Crouse as Jane
Richard Jenkins as Victor
Rishi Bhat as Patrick
Steve Coogan as Tommy
David Keith as Boone
Sakina Jaffrey as Lucy
Vincent Kartheiser as Gillon
Nestor Serrano as Teacher
Celebrate the 20th anniversary of this enchanted classic, now for the first time on Blu-ray! On his ninth birthday, Omri is presented with many gifts – the most unusual being a cupboard. But this is no ordinary wooden box. It is endowed with magical power that transforms Omri’s plastic toy figurines into living creatures. The first miniature to be animated is a 19th Century Iroquois warrior named Little Bear, who is terrified at first by his alien surroundings but soon bonds with hisgigantic playmate. But when Omri’s friend, Patrick, gets in on the act and brings a six-shooting cowboy (David Keith, U-571) to life, their fantastic secret is in danger of being revealed. The Indian in the Cupboard is terrific family entertainment from director Frank Oz (Bowfinger) and Melissa Mathison, the writer of E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial.
Frank Oz will be known as an actor who did the voice of “Yoda” for the “Star Wars” films and animated series, the voice of “Sesame Street” characters Bert, Grover, Cookie Monster and “Muppets” Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Sam the Eagle to name a few. As a director, Oz will be known for films such as “The Dark Crystal”, “Little Shop of Horrors”, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”, “What About Bob?”, “Death at a Funeral”, to name a few.
But one fantasy film that families and children will remember is his 1995 fantasy-adventure film “The Indian in the Cupboard”, an adaptation of Lynn Reid Banks children’s novel.
The film would star Hal Scardino (“Marvin’s Room”, “Searching for Bobby Fischer”), Litefoot (“Mortal Kombat: Annihilation”, “Adaptation”, “Kull the Conqueror”), Lindsay Crouse (“The Insider”, “House of Games”, “Mr. Brooks”), Richard Jenkins (“Jack Reacher”, “The Cabin in the Woods”, “Step Brothers”), Steve Coogan (“Philomena”, “Alan Partrtidge”), David Keith (“An Officer and a Gentleman”, “Behind Enemy Lines”, “U-571”) and Vincent Kartheiser (“Mad Men”, “Alpha Dog”, “In Time”).
And now, with the 20th anniversary of the film, “The Indian in the Cupboard” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in Sept. 2015.
“The Indian in the Cupboard” revolves around a boy named Omri (portrayed by Hal Scardino). On his ninth birthday, he receives an old cupboard from his brother Gillon (portrayed by Vincent Kartheiser) and he also receives a little plastic Indian figure from his best friend Patrick (portrayed by Rishi Bhat).
Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a key to lock up the cupboard but his mother Jane (portrayed by Lindsay Crouse) has a collection of keys that she has kept overtime.
One day, as Omri goes through his mother’s box of old keys, he finds a gold colored key which has a red ribbon tied on it, trying it, he is able to open the cupboard. He puts his Indian figure inside the cupboard and locks it up overnight.
The following morning, when he goes to open the cupboard, the Indian figure has turned into a real being.
At first, the Indian is frightened by Omri’s huge height, but considers him a great spirit in child’s form. And overtime, he finds out that the Indian is an 18th-century Iroquois Indian named Little Bear (portrayed by Litefoot). He also learns that Little Bear was fighting in the French and Indian War for the British and that his wife is dead.
As the two become very good friends, he takes Little Bear outside but he gets hurt by a pigeon. Needing quick thinking to help his little friend, Omri uses his brother’s First World War British Army medic figure, Tommy Atkins (portrayed by Steve Coogan) and puts him in the cupboard to make him real and to help Little Bear’s injuries.
Learning more about Little Bear, Omri tries to surprise him by creating a friend by putting an Indian Chieftain figure in the cupboard. But as Little Bear is surprised by how Omri tried to bring the Chieftain to life, the Chieftain suffers a heart attack due to fear and Omri is frightened to see it die.
At first Little Bear is confused as why Omri would be scared but then learns that Omri is a child. Little Bear explains that before he disappeared, he was helping his nephew through the woods to become a man, before he was taken away. And explaining to Omri that he shouldn’t tamper with magic that he doesn’t understand.
But being a child, what happens when Omri is given a cowboy and horse figure by his friend Patrick and tries to turn them both alive? And what happens when Omri tells Patrick about how he can make toys turn alive?
“The Indian in the Cupboard: Anniversary Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is fantastic as detail on close-up of faces show detail. Skin tones are natural and black levels are nice and deep and shoes no color fluctuations considering the film’s age. Grain is visible and for the most part, this film looks very good on Blu-ray!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Indian in the Cupboard: Anniversary Edition” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French 5.1 Dolby Digital. The lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music. There are moments that have action sequences that utilize the surround channels but for the most part, this is dialogue and music driven soundtrack.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.
“The Indian in the Cupboard: Anniversary Edition” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Frank Oz.
- Little Bear: A Return to the Indian in the Cupboard – (13:10) An interview with actor Litefoot.
- Archival Theatrical Making-Of Featurette – (3:19) The original making-of featurette.
- Goosebumps Sneak Peek (12:51) A sneak peek at the 2015 film “Goosebumps”.
- The Cast of Goosebumps Reflects on the Indian in the Cupboard – (5:19) Dylan Minette and Ryan Lee of the “Goosebumps” 2015 talks about their favorite moments from “Indian in the Cupboard”.
- Original Theatrical Trailer 1
- Original Theatrical Trailer 2
“The Indian in the Cupboard: Anniversary Edition” comes with a slipcover.
It’s been a long time since I last watched “The Indian in the Cupboard” and as Sony Pictures Home Entertainment are currently releasing their popular adventure fantasy films celebrating anniversaries such as “The Indian in the Cupboard”, “Jumanji” and “Zathura: A Space Adventure”, what better time than to share this film that many have grown up with, with their own family.
Sure, we have been spoiled with the animated “Toy Story” films but back then, with the release of “The Indian in the Cupboard”, this was a fantasy film that captivated children of a magical key that works with a cupboard that turns a young boy’s Indian figure to a real (albeit a miniature-sized) being.
But what I enjoyed about the film is how the young boy Omri, grows from the experience but also learns about the Indians and learning from Little Bear and the cowboy Boone, how these two enemies can actually become friends. And perhaps they can learn from each other.
It was also a positive family film featuring a Native American actor who helps Omri grow from his experience and for the most part, the film is enjoyable from beginning to end and just grateful for the release of this film 20-years later, as I can now share it with my family.
As for the Blu-ray release, “The Indian in the Cupboard: Anniversary Edition” features solid picture quality (with grain intact) and colors not subdued by the film’s age. You also get a few new and classic special features included in this 20th Anniversary Blu-ray release, especially an interview with actor Litefoot on playing the character of “Little Bear”. It’s important to note that while “Zathura” and “Jumanji” comes with an UltraViolet code, this film does not.
Overall, “The Indian in the Cupboard: Anniversary Edition” is a fun, fantasy-adventure film for the entire family and a classic family film that I recommend!
“Aloft” is not a deep, nor a compelling film. While it was interesting to learn through flashbacks of why a mother and son became estranged, if you are expecting anything else deeper than that, this is not that kind of film.
FILM RELEASE: 2014
DURATION: 97 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:30:1 Aspect Ratio), English, Portuguse, Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Portuguese, Spanish
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: R (for language and some sexuality)
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Directed by Claudia Llosa
Screenplay by Claudia Llosa
Produced by Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, Christophe Lambert
Co-Producer: Remi Burah, Genevieve Lemal, Olivier Pere
Music by Bertrand Bonello
Cinematography by Josee Deshaies
Edited by Fabrice Rouaud
Casting by Richard Rousseau
Production Design by Katia Wyszkop
Costume Design by Anais Romand
Jennifer Connelly as Nana Kunning
Cillian Murphy as Ivan
Melanie Laurent as Jannia Ressmore
Oona Chaplin as Alice
Peter McRobbie as Ike
Ian Tracey as Hans
Zen McGrath as Young Ivan
William Shimell as Young Ivan
Winta McGrath as Gully
As we follow a mother (Jennifer Connelly) and her son (Cillian Murphy), we delve into a past marred by an accident that tears them apart. She will become a renowned artist and healer, and he will come into his own as a peculiar falconer who bears the marks of abandonment. In the present, a young journalist (Mélanie Laurent) will bring about an encounter between the two that puts the very meaning of life and art into question, so that we may contemplate the possibility of living life to its fullest, despite the uncertainties littering our paths.
From Peruvian director Claudia Llosa (“The Milk of Sorrow”, “Madeinusa”) comes her latest film titled “Aloft”.
The film stars Jennifer Connelly (“Requiem for a Dream”, “A Beautiful Mind”, “Blood Diamond”, “Hulk”), Cilian Murphy (“Inception”, “The Dark Knight”, “Batman Begins”), Melanie Laurent (“Inglorious Basterds”, “Now You See Me”, “Enemy”) and Oona Chaplin (“Quantum of Solace”, “The Longest Ride”, “What If”).
The film made its debut at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival and now the Blu-ray and DVD will be released by Sony Pictures Classics on Sept. 2015.
“Aloft” begins with an introduction to Nana Kunning (portrayed by Jennifer Connelly), a single mother with two sons, Ivan and Gully. The two travel to an isolated location to meet with a healer known as “The Architect”, who heals people by constructing small sculptures out of branches and then bringing patients inside them.
But in order for one to be healed, they must be the one chosen by a random lottery.
We learn that Nana’s youngest son Gully has an inoperable brain tumor and when people look into their lottery, they realized that they were not chosen.
As everyone watches the healing, the first up is a young blind boy. Before the Architect is about to work on his magic, Ivan’s falcon has flown away and goes into the structure. As Nana tries to get the hawk out, the hawk breaks out and destroys the structure, infuriating everyone around. Leading to someone shooting the falcon down.
The story then flashes forward many years later and a journalist named Jannia Ressmore (portrayed by Melanie Laurent) visits a home and sees hawks everywhere. The journalist talks to the man, who happens to be Ivan (portrayed by Cillian Murphy).
At first, she tells him that she wants to do an interview on the hawks that he breeds and raises and when she asks if he is in contact with her mother, he cuts the interview short. Before she leaves, she leaves him a disc with a DVD of her mother.
The story then shifts to the past. One day, Nana is visited by the Architect and is told that she healed the blind boy when she touched the structure and that he never even touched the boy’s eyes. Not long after, the person responsible for shooting young Ivan’s hawk and pleads with him to please save his child as he can no longer wait for the Architect’s next healing.
Nana goes to the Architect to be trained in creating structures in order to heal people.
Flash foward to the past and Ivan decides to go with Ressmore, leaving his wife and child behind but taking one of his hawks in order to find his mother.
And through the various flashbacks, we learn why Ivan and his mother have become estranged, but also the true purpose of why Jannia has visited Ivan and wanted to interview Nana.
“Aloft” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:30:1 aspect ratio). The film is quite detailed during closeups and for the most part, a lot of scenes are shot in the wintry, cold environments of Northwest Canada. The film utilizes natural light and I didn’t notice any artifacts or any negative issues during my viewing of the film.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Aloftt” is presented in English, Portuguese and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is primarily dialogue and music-driven, so it’s a center and front-channel soundtrack with occasional surround channels used for ambiance and a few times during the film (ie. rifle shot, crackling of ice, etc.).
Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Portuguese and Spanish.
“Aloft” comes with no special features.
As a fan of Jennifer Connelly’s work, I was really excited to see her once again in a more recent film. And with “Aloft”, while Connelly is possibly the more notable name of the film, the film primarily centers around the characters of Ivan (portrayed by Cillian Murphy) and Jannia Ressmore (portrayed by Melanie Laurent), a journalist who wants to interview Ivan’s mother.
The film is primarily trying to answer the story of how a son and his mother became estranged. Why have they not talked to each other after many years and also the true purpose of Jannia’s character wanting to interview Ivan’s mother, Nana.
While I thought that the film was about something deeper, something possibly ominous and was focused about a mother and her two sons, I was thinking that this was a film dealing with a single mother and her dying young son.
Instead, the film tries to piece together with flashbacks about how Ivan and his mother have not spoken or seen each other for years. We are introduced to those who heal people via lottery and many travel long destinations in hopes to heal their child or family member.
We eventually learn that Nana has this gift as well. But it takes a while to fully understand later in the film, with the revelation of what happened to Ivan’s younger brother Gully and why both never talked to each other again. We eventually start to learn why Jannia was so intent in looking for Nana.
As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good as the scenes outdoors is cold to showcase the freezing cold location but indoor scenes are natural and skin tones are well-saturated, while close-ups feature plenty of detail. Even the makeup work of a much older Nana was done well. Lossless audio is primarily dialogue and musically driven, with a little surround use for ambiance. Unfortunately, there are no special features.
While “Aloft” gave me an impression that this was more of a Jennifer Connelly film and a young mother’s plight to keep her young son alive, it’s more of a film piecing together of why a mother and son stopped talking to each other and the true journey for a journalist searching for the mother.
“Aloft” is not a deep, nor a compelling film. While it was interesting to learn through flashbacks of why a mother and son became estranged, if you are expecting anything else deeper than that, this is not that kind of film.
“Aloft” is just an average film that you can either rent or catch it later on cable, but not a film worth watching for a second time.