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

May 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

leviathan

“Leviathan” is an interesting character examination of people who feel trapped in their environment, ill decisions that have major consequences. The exploration of the character through brilliant storytelling is evident in “Leviathan” and for those wanting a smart and stunning film, will want to give this film a chance! “Leviathan” is recommended!

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


TITLE: Leviathan

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 141 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Language and Some Sexuality/Graphic Nudity)

Release Date: May 19, 2015


Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev

Written by Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev

Produced by Sergey Melkumov, Alexander Rodnyansky

Co-Producer: Marianna Sardarova

Music by Philip Glass

Cinematography by Mikhail Krichman

Casting by Elina Ternyaeva

Production Design by Andrey Ponkratov


Starring:

Elena Lyadova as Lilya

Vladimir Vdovichenkov as Dmitriy Seleznyov

Aleksey Serebryakov as Kolya

Roman Madyanov as Vadim Shelevyat, mer

Anna Ukolova as Anzhela

Sergey Pokhodaev as Roma

Aleksey Rozin as Pavel


In a small coastal town in Russia lives an ordinary family: Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov) his wife Lilya, and their teenage son Roma. The family is haunted by a local corrupt mayor who is trying to take away Kolya’s business, house and precious land. Kolya calls in an old friend, now an authoritative attorney, for help. Together they fight back and collect dirt on the mayor, but fate does not seem to be on Kolya’s side.


Award-winning filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev (“The Return”, “Elena”, “The Banishment”) returns with his latest film “Leviathan” which was inspired by the story of Marvin Heemeyer (the American domestic terrorist who modified his bulldozer and went on a building demolishing rampage before killing himself) but adapted into a Russian setting.

The film would star Aleksey Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Roman Madyanov and Sergey Pokhodaev.

“Leviathan” won “Best Screenplay” at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, a winner of “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards and was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Foreign Film”.

And the film was released in May 2015 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Leviathan” is set in a coastal town in Russia.  Kolya is a short-tempered alcoholic man who works as a mechanic and lives with his wife Lilia (portrayed by Elena Lyadova) and his son Roma (portrayed by Sergey Pokhodaev), from his first marriage.

His son doesn’t listen much to anyone and does not get along with his stepmother, while Lilia tries to fit in.

Kolya is a pessimist who is having problems dealing with the crooked mayor, Vadim (portrayed by Roman Madyanov) who wants Kolya’s property , Kolya thinks the mayor wants to build a villa for himself.

So, Kolya enlists the help of his old army friend Dmitri (portrayed by Vladimir Vdovichenkov) from Moscow and in the process, finds documents that will allow them to blackmail Mayor Vadim.

But while things look as they are going well, Lilia starts to have a sexual affair with Dmitri and from this point on, life for Kolya would change drastically.


VIDEO:

“Leviathan” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film looks very good in HD, especially with closeups and outdoor shots.  Although there is a softness to the overall film, which I believe to be intentional.  Not a vibrant or very sharp film but for the most part, the film does look good, just don’t expect vibrant film that pops.

It looks as if the film is shot due to the overcast and because the nature of the film is quite bleak, it lent to the setting of the film. So, it is not a film that will stand out for its colors but the cinematography by Mikhail Krichman is magnificent.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Leviathan” is presented in Russian 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film is primarily dialogue driven, so a lot will be coming from the center and front channels, while surround usage showcases ambiance of the environment, so you can hear waves crashing, trains passing by and overall environments around the home, especially the sounds of a bulldozer.  But overall, lossless audio is very good.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Leviathan” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Andrey Zvyaginstev and producer Alexander Rodnyansky.
  • The Making of Leviathan – (29:27) An in-depth look at the making of “Leviathan”.
  • An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival with Andrey Zvagintsev – (15:04) A TIFF Q&A with Andrey Zvaginstev with TIFF Programmer Cameron Bailey.
  • Deleted Scenes – (22:18) Featuring deleted scenes from the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:03) The original theatrical trailer for “Leviathan”.

For those who have never watched an Andrey Zvyagintsev film, the best way that I can describe his films is like reading a novel and with each chapter, the story evolves but not conforming to a story that necessarily makes one feel there is hope or giving one pleasure, his films often relies on the characters and storyline.

“Leviathan” is a film that revolves around a theme about a man who wants to stand up against the corrupt mayor in his town, who has his eyes on his property.  Property that he built his home and has lived together with his family.

And as this storyline is common with other films and the banality often has the landowner doing whatever is necessary to fight back, as what we are typically used to seeing in American films.

For a Russian film, is there any good that can be done by standing up to corrupted, powerful officials?  In this case, a crooked mayor?

As one can surmise with the many people who have cameras in their vehicles to protect themselves from police corruption, in “Leviathan”, one should not watch this film expecting American bravado or Rambo-esque endings.

“Leviathan” is a film that has many layers and as the story evolves, you can see much thought went to its characters but also its characters given a harsh reality that is what it is, but by no means, will one receive any pleasure of a happy ending, because in reality, happy endings do not always exist for everyone.

The story focuses on Kolya, a man who is often drunk, short-tempered and often seeing things negatively.  And with the crooked mayor Vadim eying the property where his home built, he wants to stand up to the mayor and enlists his former military buddy turned lawyer from Moscow, Dmitry to help him out.

But life is what it is for Kolya, ignoring the discontent of his wife Lilya and thinks his son Roma’s resentment to his stepmother is just something he must get over, he has a family upside down but it is preoccupied to do anything about it.

So, when Dmitriy comes to help him, Dmitriy is able to find documents that can embarrass the mayor.

And for the time being, you think Kolya has the one-up on the crooked mayor but things start to unravel quickly.

Dmitriy has a sexual affair with Lilya but to make things worse (and probably the dumbest decision made by the participating people), during a family and friends outing, both Dmitriy and Lilya decide to have sex together again outdoors and they are caught.

And unfortunately from that point on in the film, for each character close to Kolya, everything spirals downward in his life.

The performances by Aleksey Serebryakov and Elena Lyadova are magnificent but its careful attention to the screenplay is what brings out this film.  And its story separates itself from similar stories that focus on bravado and action.  These characters face major dilemmas and they are greatly affected.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good but it’s important to note that the film was shot during overcast, so the picture quality is more dim and adding to the bleakness of the film.  But the chosen scenes to showcase the environment of the area was well-done by cinematographer Mikhail Krichman.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue driven but in moments showcasing the tides hitting the rocks or hearing gun shots to a bulldozer, does add to the ambiance of the film.  Special features including a making of, deleted scenes and Q&A at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Overall, “Leviathan” is an interesting character examination of people who feel trapped in their environment, ill decisions that have major consequences.  The exploration of the character through brilliant storytelling is evident in “Leviathan” and for those wanting a smart and stunning film, will want to give this film a chance!

“Leviathan” is recommended!

Vice & Virtue (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

vicevirtue

“Vice & Virtue” is an interesting moralistic tale of two sisters and the different paths they have chosen during Nazi occupation. While the film could have been darker and more sadistic, Roger Vadim chose a more artful format that focuses on theatrical style lighting and focuses on the performances of both Annie Girardot and Catherine Deneuve.  Definitely a film worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 1963 Gaumont (France).  2015 Kino Lorber. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Vice & Virtue

FILM RELEASE: 1963

DURATION: 106 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 Aspect Ratio, French Monaural with optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Gaumont/Kino classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: March 17, 2015


Directed by Roger Vadim

Based on the novel “Justine, ou les malheurs de  la vertu” by Marquis de Sade

Original Screenplay and Adaptation by Roger Vadime, Roger Vailland

Adaptation by Claude Choublier

Produced by Alain Poire, Roger Vadim

Music by Michel Magne

Cinematography by Marcel Grignon

Edited by Victoria Mercanton

Set Decoration by Jean Andre

Costume Design by Marc Doelnitz


Starring:

Annie Girardot as Juliette Morand

Catherine Deneuve as Justine Morand

Robert Hossein as SS Colonel Erik Schorndorf

O.E. Hasse as General von Bamberg

Philippe Lemaire as Hans Streicher

Luciana Paluzzi as Helena

Valeria Ciangottini as Manuela

Astrid Heeren as Danielle


Set against the backdrop of the Nazi occupation of France, VICE AND VIRTUE (La vice et le vertu) is a stylized retelling of the Marquis de Sade’s Justine, as envisioned by one of cinema’s most provocative filmmakers: Roger Vadim (Blood and Roses, Barbarella). Two sisters navigate very different courses as they struggle to survive within the morally corrupt fascist regime. Juliette (Annie Girardot, The Piano Teacher) is surrounded by the spoils of war, being the mistress of an SS colonel (Robert Hossein). Meanwhile, Justine (Catherine Deneuve, Repulsion, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), whose husband is seized by fascists on their wedding day, is taken to a chateau in the country, where she is groomed to become a concubine for the Nazi elite.


From Roger Vadim, the director of “Barbarella”, “..And God Created Woman” and “Spirits of the Dead” comes the war-time French film “Vices & Virtue”, a loose adaptation of Marquis De Sade’s “Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue”, which was originally set during the French revolution.

The film would star Annie Girardot (“The Piano Teacher”, “Cache”, The Discord”), Catherine Deneuve (“The Dancer in the Dark, “Repulsion”, “Belle de Jour”), Robert Hossein (“Rififi”, “The Secret Killer”, “Bolero”), O.E. Hasse (“I Confess”, “Canaris: Master Spy”, “State of Siege”), Phillippe Lemaire (“Adventures of Arsene Lupin”, “The Blood Rose”) and Luciana Paluzzi (“Thunderball”, “The Geen Slime”).

And the film was released on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber in March 2015.

“Vice and Virtue” takes place during World War II and begins with the pure Justine (portrayed by Catherine Deneuve) who is about to get married.

Unfortunately, right before they are to enter the church, her husband, who is a resistance fighter is captured by the Nazi’s.

As Justine hopes for her husband’s return, her older sister Juliette (portrayed by Annie Girardot) chooses not to fight the Nazi’s and becomes the mistress for General von Bamberg (portrayed by O.E. Hasse).  Of course, Juliette uses her position to do all she can to protect herself and her sister.

But when SS Colonel Erik Schorndorf (portrayed by Robert Hossein) comes to visit General von Bamberg, he poisons and kills him.  He creates an alibi of how the General had died and immediately has plans for Juliette to be interrogated and no one will know how the General had died.

Unfortunately, Justine is the one who is brought to interrogation and she and other beautiful French women are taken to a remote Austrian chalet.

The women are not sure why they are being taken to, but they are dressed up and are made to look beautiful around the chalet until they learn the horrors of what takes place in the chalet.  The women are forced to have sex with Nazi leaders and if they do not follow the rules, they are tortured.

At first, the naive and pure Justine is defiant and will fight against her Nazi captors.  But seeing how her defiance leads to others being tortured, she has no choice but to submit and become a victim.

Meanwhile, Juliette becomes the mistress of SS Colonel Schorndorff and because she is as cold and direct as he is, they see each other in equal footing, he being the king and she as his queen.

But what happens when sisters Juliette and Justine are to meet each other again?


VIDEO:

“Vice & Virtue” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  The film is sharp but white and grays are well-contrast.  It is important to note that the film does use archived documentary footage, so there are differences between the primary film and the World War II scenes.  Grain is still intact and I didn’t notice any blurriness or problematic issues with overall picture quality.

AUDIO:

“Vice & Virtue” is presented in French LPCM 2.0 with English sbutitles. The lossless soundtrack is clear with no sign of any clicks, crackle or hiss during viewing.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Vice & Virtue” comes with the original four minute theatrical trailer.

EXTRAS:

“Vice & Virtue” comes with a two-sided cover.  One with the regular cover art and the other with the original 1963 poster artwork of the film.


Roger Vadim’s “Vice & Virtue” is looked as the romanticized version when compared to Pier Paolo Passolini’s “SALO”, in terms of the final year of World War II before the Nazi stronghold is squashed.  But of course, there is not much comparison as “SALO” is a film that defies any expectation, while “Vice & Virtue” is a film that is dramatic and is not as tragic as what was featured in Marquis De Sade’s novel “Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue”.

The film touches upon the morality and decisions of two sisters who choose different paths.  Justine, the pure virgin who submits to becoming a victim but as a way to become virtuous and standing up against her tormentors but also protective of the other women who are used as sex slaves.

Juliette who uses her vice as a way to get what she wants as a mistress for the Nazi.  Two different decisions made by sisters that will come to a full head when each other confronts one another for a final moment.

While the film’s moralistic tale is quite interesting as a film, especially the toughness of Juliette, who is the more prominent character in the film, one can see this film as a distilled version of Marquis De Sade’s novel, which I have read summaries for and is much different than this film.

Of course, this is 1963 and to be a commercial film, the horror aspect of the Nazi tormentors are not brought to life but are seen through the faces of those affected.

Actress Annie Girardot does a great job when the cameras get close up, while actress Catherine Denueve was no doubt utilized for her beauty and emotional acting as Justine’s dignity is stripped away from her.

The film could have gone further, became much more darker but instead, it’s a film that chooses to showcase morality between two women versus putting the horrors in the chalet as a top priority.  And perhaps, that is a good thing for those who can’t stomach atrocities or sadistic tragedies or anything dark or twisted as Passolini would definitely showcase in “SALO”.

The Blu-ray features very good picture quality while the lossless soundtrack is also very good.  There are no special features but the theatrical trailer and a reversible cover.

Overall, “Vice & Virtue” is an interesting moralistic tale of two sisters and the different paths they have chosen during Nazi occupation.  While the film could have been darker and more sadistic, Roger Vadim chose a more artful format that focuses on theatrical style lighting and focuses on the performances of both Annie Girardot and Catherine Deneuve.

Definitely a film worth checking out!

 

Kill la Kill Volume 5: Limited Edition (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

killlakill-5

If you have stuck with the series for this long, you definitely do not want to miss these final episodes!   “Kill la Kill Volume 5: Limited Edition” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © TRIGGER, Kazuki Nakashima/Kill la Kill Partnership. 2014 ANIPLEX INC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Kill la Kill Volume 5: Limited Edition

DURATION: Episodes 20-24 + OVA Episode (150 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: Suggested 16 and Up

Release Date: April 28, 2015


Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Series Composition: Kazuki Nakashima

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design: Sushio

Art by Saishi Ichiko

Art Director: Shigeto Koyama, Yuji Kaneko

Anime Production: Trigger


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ami Koshimizu/Erica Mendez as Ryuuko Matoi

Ryoka Yuzuki/Carrie Keranen as Satsuki Kiryuuin

Aya Suzaki/Christine Marie Cabanos as Mako Mankanshoku

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Steve Cannon as Hōka Inumuta

Katsuyuki Konishi as Tsumugu Kinagase

Mayumi Shintani/Sarah Williams as Nonon Jakuzure

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Grant George as Uzu Sanageyama

Romi Park as Ragyo Kiryuuin

Shinichiro Miki/Matthew Mercer as Aikurō Mikisugi

Tetsu Inada/Patrick Seitz as Ira Gamagōri

Toshihiko Seki as Senketsu

Yukari Tamura as Nui Harime


Ryuko is suffering from the pain of learning about her own origins, and the words of those around her fall on deaf ears. While the remaining members of the resistance set out on a rescue mission to save Satsuki, who is being held by Ragyo in the dungeons beneath Honnouji Academy, Ryuko foolishly charges into the academy by herself. There, she faces Nui in battle only to get captured. While in captivity, Ryuko is convinced by Ragyo that humanity is her true enemy and that she must fight against people like Satsuki, who is protected by “people who make no sense” like the Elite Four.

Ryuko finally comes to terms with who she really is and decides to confront Ragyo together with Satsuki. Entrusting the Elite Four, Nudist Beach, and Mako to defend planet Earth, Ryuko and Satsuki go after Ragyo’s ship into space. Far above the ship, Ragyo awaits for the both of them dressed in her Kamui that she has devoted her body and soul to, the Shinra-Koketsu, which is Nui’s final design. Can Ryuko and Satsuki change the fate of humanity and their own mother?


Ryuko has learned the true nature about herself, what happened to her father and what Senketsu truly is and now she is uber-pissed off.

But despite her current troubles, she and Satsuki must work together and battle Ragyo and Nui.

Featuring the final episodes in the “Kill la Kill” TV series,  “Kill la Kill” concludes with volume 5 (available now on Blu-ray and DVD) and also features a special OVA episode!

What is “Kill la Kill”?

“Kill la Kill” is set in Honnouji Academy, a school that is ruled by the iron-fisted student council president, Satsuki Kiryuin.

Dominated by the student council, each member wears a Goku uniform that give each member superhuman abilities and depending by the number of their uniform is indicative of how strong that individual is.

Meanwhile, Ryuko Matoi joins Honnouji Academy. She is brash and wields half of a scissor-shaped longsword in search of the person responsible for killing her father. And if she finds the person that owns the other scissor blade, she will exact her revenge.

Her first day at school, she meets the energetic Mako Mankanshoku and her younger brother Mataro. And as Ryuko and Mako go to school, Mako witnesses a student getting beaten by the student council.

When Ryuko goes to find out who is responsible for her father’s death, she is quickly beaten by the boxing club captain, Takaharu Fukuroda, who sports a two-star Goku uniform.

Having been beaten and feeling that she has disappointed her father, Ryuko falls inside a trap door and discovers a talking sailor uniform that attaches itself to her. She finds out that her uniform, a “Kamui” named Senketsu, has granted her abilities and now, Ryuko is ready to take on any rivals from Honnouji Academy.

And for student council president, Satsuki Kiryuin, she will give the answers that Ryuko has been wanting only if she can defeat the people that challenge her.

In volume 3 of “Kill la Kill”, the Kings of the Hill Battle continues and as the final stages are approaching, Ryuko confronts a fighter who claims to have killed Ryuko’s father. And now, Ryuko wants her revenge!

Which leads us to volume 4 as each episode features a major battle.

In episode 15, Satsuki takes on the boss of Osaka, Kaneo Takarada. In episode 16, we are introduced to Ragyo and her latest mission that she has for Satsuki and her plans to use the Life Fiber.

Senketsu’s origin is revealed in episode 17, while in episode 18, the Elite Four take on Nui and Satsuki’s true agenda is revealed.

By episode 19, the Covers continue to capture citizens, while the Elite Four must do all they can to fight them.

Also, Ragyo drops a major bombshell for Ryuko and Satsuki!

With the fifth volume of “Kill la Kill”, the final five episodes features a pissed off Ryuko who has discovered her true nature and also the truth about her father and Senketsu.  As Satsuki and Senketsu team up to bring Ryuko to her senses, Ragyo unleashes her plan to transit the original Life Fiber’s signal across Earth to absorb all humans into a massive Life Fiber cocoon to cover the entire planet.

And now, Ryuko and Satsuki must join forces to fight Ragyo but together, do they have what it takes to beat her?


The main characters of “Kill la Kill″ are:

  • Ryuko Matoi – The main protagonist. A 17-year-old who transferred into Honnouji Academy. She wields half of a Scissor Blade and is looking for the person responsible for killing her father. When a Kamui sailor uniform named Senketsu attaches itself to her, she gains special abilities.
  • Senketsu – A kamui and living sailor uniform that gives the user superhuman abilities in exchange for their blood.
  • Satsuki Kiryuin – The ruthless student council president who leads the student council with an iron fist.
  • Mako Mankanshoku – A bubbly, energetic teen that welcomes Ryuko to her family.
  • Mataro Mankanshoku – The younger brother of Mako.
  • Barazo Mankanshoku – Mako’s father who runs a back-alley clinic and a pervert.
  • Sukuyo Mankanshoku – Barazo’s wife and mother of Mako and Mataro. She loves cooking delicious dishes.
  • Ira Gamagoori – Satsuki’s loyal enforcer who lead the disciplinary committee at Honnouji Academy and sports a three-star Goku uniform.

VIDEO:

“Kill la Kill” is presented in 1080p High Definition. What I enjoy about this series is its animation style. Creative character designs but also picture quality that is reminiscent of classic animation. Backgrounds are detailed and beautifully painted, while characters are nicely shaded. Colors are vibrant and I didn’t notice any excessive banding or artifacts during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kill la Kill” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0. The soundtrack is primarily front-channel driven and while voice acting is well-done for both languages, there is no difference in terms of dynamic range.

Subtitles are in English Screen Text, English Dialog & Screen Text and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kill la Kill Volume 5: Limited Edition″ comes with the following special features:

  • KILL Is KILL Digest – Naked Memories by Aikuro Mikisugi – An eight minute digest featuring Aikuro Mikisugi.
  • Textless Opening and Ending
  • Web Version Previews

EXTRAS:

“Kill la Kill Volume 5: Limited Edition” comes with an Interview Documentary DVD -KILL LA KILL VOICES- (duration: 56:40). The documentary features interviews with director Hiroyuki Imaishi, writer Kazuki Nakashima, character designer Sushio and crew.

Also, included is a “Mysterious Girl, Nui” Bushiroad card, two postcards featuring Ryuko and a double-sided poster.


With the fifth volume of “Kill la Kill” on Blu-ray, we have now come to the conclusion of the series.

While many anime fans may have watched the series online, to watch the true conclusion, you will need to check out the OVA which was included only on the Blu-ray and DVD release.  As the OVA episode brings “Kill la Kill” to a close.

As one would expect, the final episodes would feature a final battle as Ryuko and Satsuki must work together to fight against Nui and Ragyo and feature every character that has participated in the series.

For those who like the more hilarious comedy of the series, that doesn’t happen too much as the final episodes are more action-based, more emotional and literally everyone is tested to the limit as Ragyo wants to absorb humans to further the Life Fiber.

And just when you think all is over, you get another action-packed OVA series with a definite conclusion.

Voice acting in Japanese and English is well-done and as with most Aniplex limited editions, you also get a box full of swag with the third DVD which features interviews with the crew about  working on “Kill la Kill” and the challenges that the crew faced.

The set also comes with a Bushiroad Nui card, two collectable postcards and a dual-sided poster.

“Kill la Kill” is an exciting and also hilarious series from beginning to end. Of course, this is a series for older teens as it does feature plenty of profanity and these episodes do feature nudity.  For the most part, fans who have stuck with the series should be content with the way the series has ended.

If you have stuck with the series for this long, you definitely do not want to miss these final episodes!   “Kill la Kill Volume 5: Limited Edition” is recommended!

Limelight – The Criterion Collection #756 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

limelight-a

I know that many people prefer the silent films of Chaplin, and there are those who are not familiar with his later films. But “Limelight” is a later Chaplin film that is recommended for viewing. There is no doubt that Chaplin put his heart and soul into this film and in essence, you can look at it as the great entertainer passing his baton to a new generation of talent. Chaplin’s final American film receives a magnificent Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection and is highly recommended!

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


TITLE: Limelight – The Criterion Collection #756

YEAR OF FILM: 1952

DURATION: 137 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: May 19, 2015


Directed by Charles Chaplin

Original Story and Screenplay by Charles Chaplin

Produced by Charles Chaplin

Music by Charles Chaplin

Cinematography by Karl Struss

Edited by Joe Inge

Art Direction by Eugene Lourie

Costume Design by Riley Thorne


Starring:

Charles Chaplin as Calvero

Claire Bloom as Thereza

Nigel Bruce as Postant

Buster Keaton as Calvero’s Partner

Sydney Chaplin as Neville

Norman Lloyd as bodalink


Charlie Chaplin’s masterful drama about the twilight of a former vaudeville star is among the writer-director’s most touching films. Chaplin plays Calvero, a once beloved musical-comedy performer, now a washed-up alcoholic who lives in a small London flat. A glimmer of hope arrives when he meets a beautiful but melancholy ballerina (Claire Bloom) who lives downstairs. An elegant mix of the comic and the tragic, this poignant movie also features Buster Keaton in an extended cameo, marking the only time the two silent comedy icons appeared in a film together. Made at a time when Chaplin was under attack by the American press and far right, Limelight was scarcely distributed in the United States upon its initial release, but it is now considered one of his essential and most personal works.

limelight-b

The 1950’s were not the kindest to Charles Chaplin.

The film star that was on top of the world in the teens and twenties and a career that continued to stay strong in the ’30s, became more involved in politics much to the dismay of J.Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI and a smear campaign was developed to destroy Chaplin.

With a film career now waning in the late ’40s and ’50s and with the failure of his film “Monsiur Verdoux” (1947), Chaplin would begin working on the story for his next film “Limelight”.

Because many theaters decided to pass on showing “Limelight”, Chaplin would hold the world premiere in London and by the time he left with his family in September 1952, the attorney general revoked Chaplin’s re-entry permit and that if he intended to re-enter the U.S., he must submit to an interview concerning his political views and moral behavior.  And because of this, Chaplin would cut his ties with the United States to never appear until 1972 when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences offered Chaplin an Honorary Award.

That year, “Limelight” would be re-released in the United States, twenty years after its initial release.  And through the year’s the film would grow in reputation, considered as Chaplin’s last great film and would also be the only film to star two of silent film’s kings, Chaplin and Buster Keaton.  It will also become known as his most personal and introspective film.

While many feel it is an autobiographical film about Chaplin’s fall from grace in cinema and Chaplin insisting the film’s primary character was about stage actor Frank Tierney, there is no doubt that the film does mirror Chaplin’s own personal life.

And now, “Limelight” will be released by the Criterion Collection on Blu-ray and DVD in May 2015.

“Limelight” is set in London 1914, the eve of World War II, and a once famous stage clown named Calvero (portrayed by Charles Chaplin) is now a drunk.

As he is entering his apartment complex, he smells gas and finds a young dancer named Thereza (portrayed by Claire Bloom) unconscious.

Calvero eventually saves the young woman but finds out that Thereza a.k.a. “Terry” had tried to kill herself after suffering an injury that will prevent her from dancing again.

Eventually he has Terry live with him and help her regain her self-esteem, help her get back on her feet and walk again.  While he tries to help her, she returns to dancing and is recognized for her dancing and becomes famous.  Unfortunately for Calvero, his comeback is not successful.

A young military man named Neville (portrayed by Sydney Earl Chaplin) tries to get closer to Terry and falls in love with her, but for Terry, she is in love with Calvero and does not care about their age difference.

Wanting to give Terry a chance with Neville, Calvero leaves her in hopes she will succeed on her own.


VIDEO:

“Limelight – The Criterion Collection #756″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio).  The film is well-contrast with white and grays featuring fine detail.  Blacks are inky and deep.  There is a good amount of grain and for the most part, there is no discoloration, blurriness and picture quality is magnificent.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new restoration was undertaken by the Criterion Collection in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna. For the restoration, a new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35mm original negative at L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, flicker, and jitter.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Limelight – The Criterion Collection #756″ is presented in English LPCM 1.0 monaural. Dialogue is clear with no sign of hiss or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was digitized at 24-bit, using COSP technology, from the 35mm sound negatives. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX4.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Limelight – The Criterion Collection #756″ comes with the following special features:

  • Chaplin’s “Limelight” – (21:11) Chaplin biographer David Robinson explores the evolution and personal nature of “Limelight”.
  • Claire Bloom and Norman Lloyd – Interview with actress Claire Bloom (15:53) and actor Norman Lloyd (14:53).
  • Chaplin Today: “Limelight” – (26:43) A 2002 program directed by Edgardo Cozarinsky featuring interviews with filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci, Claire Bloom and Sydney Chaplin.
  • Outtake – (4:31) An outtake that was included in the original premiere of “Limelight” in 1952 but was removed before the film was distributed worldwide.
  • Charlie Chaplin Reads from Footlights – (2:16) Chaplin reads two excerpts from his novella “Footlights”, the basis for “Limelight” (audio only).
  • Short Films – Featuring two shorts: “A Night in the Show” (1915, 25:06) – Chaplin’s 12th film from Essanay Film Manufacturing Company.  And “The Professor” (1919, 6:27) – An uncompleted short by Charles Chaplin.
  • Trailers – Featuring the English and Italian trailers for “Limelight”.

EXTRAS:

“Limelight – The Criterion Collection #756″ comes with a 42-page booklet featuring the essays “Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man” by Peter Von Bagh and “Hollywood Chaplin” by Henry Gris.


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Chaplin’s final American film “Limelight” is a film that I felt entertained but also made me feel sad for the great entertainer.

For those of us who are able to live today, to watch a Chaplin film in HD, to read nothing but praise but also to celebrate his career and acknowledging how great he was as a man of all trades is amazing.  Charlie Chaplin was no doubt an amazing man that directed, wrote, produced, starred, composed a lot of his films but to know that the way we look at Chaplin today, was a much different experience for viewers during the ’50s is heartbreaking.

To know that the FBI would do all they can to damage his career but prevent him from coming back to the United States is one of the great entertainment tragedies to play out in media, considering how much he has given to cinema but also entertain millions of people worldwide.

The community hunt for those in the entertainment industry is well-documented but “Limelight”, although Chaplin insists in his books that it was about a real life stage actor not of himself, does seem autobiographical in the sense that a Chaplin in his ’50s, was no longer loved in the entertainment world as he was once decades ago.

He felt at the time that this would be his final movie because all that has gone on in his personal life but yet, with great resolve and being the professional that he is, he created a magnificent film that many Americans and theaters passed on.

While the film was re-released in 1972, 20-years later to coincide with him receiving an honorary Academy Award, for many Americans not familiar with his later films, thanks to the Criterion Collection, many will get to see his last great American film.

The film would become the springboard for stage actress Claire Bloom (who would go on to star in “The King’s Speech”, “Cash of the Titans”, “Crimes and Misdemeanors”, “The Haunting”) who continues to have a strong acting career today.

“Limelight” would be the first pairing of the two silent comedy kings, Chaplin and Buster Keaton but also a film that shows how grateful Chaplin was to his friend by giving him a part in his film, considering the troubles that Keaton had in his personal life.

The movie would also become the debut of Sydney Chaplin, the second son of Charles and his second wife Lita Grey, as the man who falls for Terry.

The film would also feature Chaplin’s children – Charles Chaplin Jr., Geraldine, Josephine, Michael and wife Oona Chaplin would also appear in the film.

But “Limelight” is a fitting final American film for Charles Chaplin (his final film was in 1969 titled “A Countess from Hong Kong”), as if it was created to be the last hurrah for the great entertainer.

The Criterion Collection also made sure that viewers and collectors would have a magnificent product thanks to the wonderful picture and audio quality but also the number of special features which includes two Chaplin short films.

Overall, I know that many people prefer the silent films of Chaplin, and there are those who are not familiar with his later films.  But “Limelight” is a later Chaplin film that is recommended for viewing.  There is no doubt that Chaplin put his heart and soul into this film and in essence, you can look at it as the great entertainer passing his baton to a new generation of talent.

Chaplin’s final American film receives a magnificent Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection and is highly recommended!

Masters of Sex: Season Two (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Masters of Sex” is one of my favorite series currently airing on television which curious viewers can expect great writing, wonderful acting in each of the 12 sexually-charged episodes that are absolutely captivating! I’m really enjoying this series and I can’t wait for season three! “Masters of Sex: Season Two” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Sony Pictures Television Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Masters of Sex: Season Two

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 12 Episodes total (699 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English, French, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio,  Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: May 5, 2015


Directed by Michael Apted, Michael Dinner, Jennifer Getzinger, Jeremy Webb, Phil Abraham, Adam Davidson, Tim Fywell, Lesli Linka Glatter, John Madden, Lawrence Trilling, Michael Engler

Written by Michelle Ashford, Tyler Bensinger, Michael Cunningham, Bathsheba Doran, Lynnie Greene, Richard Levine, Amy Lippman, Thomas Maeier, Sam Shaw, Noelle Valdivia

Executive Producer: Michelle Ashford, Amy Lippman, John Madden, Sarah Timberman, Judith Verno

Produced by Thomas Maier, Michael Sheen, Gregory Prange

Co-Producer: Christopher Goode, Valerie Joseph

Associate Producer: Aaron Klemanski, Chris Leanza

Music by Michael Penn

Cinematography by Michael Weaver, Tim Bellen, Ben Davis

Edited by Fabien Bouville, Jordan Goldman, Blake Maniquis, Robert Frrazen

Casting by Bernard Telsey, Risa Bramon Garcia, Tiffany Little Canfield, Libby Goldstein, Junie Lowry-Johnson

Production Design by Michael Wylie, Andrew Jackness

Art Direction by Elizabeth Hershberger Gray, Kevin Rupnik

Set Decoration by Halina Siwolop, Ellen Christiansen

Costume Design by Ane Crabtree, Caroline Duncan

 


Starring:

Michael Sheen  as Dr. William Masters

Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson

Caitlin FitzGerald as Libby Masters

Teddy Sears as Dr. Austin Langham

Nicholas D’Agosto as Dr. Ethan Haas

Helene Yorke as Jane Martin

Beau Bridges as Barton Scully

Cole Sand as Henry Johnson

Julianne Nicholson as Dr. Lillian DePaul

Rose McIver as Vivian Scully

Allison Janney as Margaret Scully

Kayla Madison as Tessa Johnson

Annaeleigh Ashford as Betty DiMello


Having been dismissed by Maternity Hospital, Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) needs a place where he and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) can resume their work. But thanks to their study’s controversial topic – sex – they are forced out of two more hospitals before deciding to open their own clinic. With the seeds of the sexual revolution being sown and the simmering civil rights movement exploding around them, the intimate relationship they started under the guise of their research unravels as the result of Masters’ sudden impotence. With the prospect of treating sexual dysfunction becoming increasingly important to their patients and themselves, at home Masters confronts his wife’s growing disaffection and the unexpected return of his estranged brother, while Johnson faces a crisis of her own when the publicity surrounding their work places the custody of her two children in doubt.


With the second season of “Masters of Sex”, Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson must find a new location to conduct their work.

But because of the controversial nature of their research and the lack of support, the two decide to open their own clinic.

Meanwhile, the era also features the Civil Rights movement, Masters must deal with his impotence and Johnson faces a crisis as she tries to gain custody of her two children.

Find out how life bodes for Masters and Johnson in the second season of “Masters of Sex” available on Blu-ray and DVD.

What is “Masters of Sex” about?

Based on Thomas Maier’s biography “Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love”, Showtime’s “Masters of Sex”, an American television drama series based on the real studies of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, has received positive reviews from critics and also viewers.

With a third season about to air, the second season featuring episodes 13-24, will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in May 2015 courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

For those not familiar with Masters and Johnson, Masters is an American gynecologist who wrote pioneering research alongside Virginia E. Johnson about the nature of human sexual response and the diagnose and treatment of sexual dysfunction.

Studies back in the 1950’s about orgasms, studies about the differences of penis sizes and how it affects a woman in sex, how the vaginal muscles contract during sex, vaginal lubrication and more.

As one could imagine, Masters and Johnson’s studies were ahead of its time because such studies were seen as pornographic and lewd but since then, these studies were seen as groundbreaking and what the two were able to accomplish would not be approved by any hospital or funded by any hospital today, so these studies were significant in the fact that William Masters was able to view hundreds of sessions of people having sex for the sake of science.

But of course, there is more to the story about Masters and Johnson, considering the two worked closely together, had sex together for scientific research, the two would eventually marry each other until their divorce decades later.

And the lives of William Masters and Virginia E. Johnson became the focus on the Showtime drama series “Masters of Sex” which stars Michael Sheen (“Midnight in Paris”, “Kingdom of Heaven”, “Underworld”), Lizzy Caplan (“Mean Girls”, “Cloverfield”, “127 Hours”), Caitlin Fitzgerald (“It’s Complicated”, “Damsels in Distress”, “Mutual Friends”), Nicholas D’Agosto (“Final Destination 5″, “Election”), Teddy Sears (“A Single Man”, “The Client List”), Beau Bridges (“The Descendants,”, “Max Payne”, “The Fabulous Baker Boys”) and Allison Janney (“The West Wing”, “American Beauty”, “Juno”).

“Masters of Sex” revolves around Dr. William H. Masters (portrayed by Michael Sheen), a successful gynecologist who has been conducting research on sex.  Knowing that his boss, Provost Barton Scully (potrayed by Beau Bridges) may not agree to fund his research if he found out that it had to do with sex, Masters continues his study but because he’s not a sexual person, he needs someone to give him a female perspective but also someone social enough to bring more participants for his study.

Dr. Masters is married to Libby Masters (portrayed by Caitlin Fitzgerald), a woman who is unable to get pregnant.  He often is the mentor to a young Dr. Ethan Haas (portrayed by Nicholas D’Agosto) who has fallen for an employee named Virginia E. Johnson (portrayed by Lizzy Caplan).

Dr. Masters hires Virginia E. Johnson, a single mother of two children who feels that working as the assistant to Dr. Masters will lead to something bigger for her.

And eventually, Dr. Masters feels that Virginia is the woman he needs in order to comprehend his research.  Virginia is able to find more women (prostitutes) to become part of the study, having her best friend also participate in the studies and quickly, the two are able to uncover data and disprove a lot of sexual theories.

But they need to continue their research by taking chances and finding a way to get more data.

And when Dr. Masters needs more data, that are not from prostitutes, what happens when he and Johnson start getting involved in the sexual studies.  And now their work is interfering with their personal lives but also receiving a lot of controversy with those in the medical community.

Which leads us to season two of “Masters of Sex”.  Here is a basic spoilerless summary of each episode in season two:

  • EPISODE 13: Parallax – Masters must deal with the ramifications after being fired from the hospital.  Virginia must deal with the aftermath.
  • EPISODE 14: Kyrie Eleison  – Johnson gets a new job at a hospital and takes in a teenage patient.
  • EPISODE 15: Fight – Virigina learns about Masters’ troubled childhood.
  • EPISODE 16: Dirty Jobs – Masters tries to bring Johnson aboard as his new assistant.
  • EPISODE 17: Giants – Masters continues his study as the only Caucasian physician at the hospital he is working at.
  • EPISODE 18: Blackbird – Hendricks bans Masters from using Black participants in his study.
  • EPISODE 19: Asterion – Why has Masters become impotent?
  • EPISODE 20: Mirror, Mirror – Masters must treat a couple for infertility.  Libby witnesses a hate crime.
  • EPISODE 21: Story of My Life – Barbara receives her diagnosis and all is not good.
  • EPISODE 22: Below the Belt – Johnson tries to find a cure for Masters’ impotency.
  • EPISODE 23: One for the Money, Two for the Show – A television crew arrives to document Masters and Johnson’s work.
  • EPISODE 24: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Masters and Johnson’s results of their studies are made available to the world.

 


VIDEO:

“Masters of Sex: Season Two” is presented in 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 aspect ratio.  The color is well-saturated, detail very good on closeups, and skintones look natural.

I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.  If anything, picture quality look very good on HD!


AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Masters of Sex: Season Two” is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  Lossless Audio is primarily dialogue and is crystal clear via the front and center channels.  Don’t expect a surround channel-driven soundtrack as this series is dialogue-driven.  But overall, dialogue is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish.


 

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Masters of Sex: Season Two” comes with the following special features:

  • The Women of Sex – (20:04) A discussion featurette with Alana Adye, showrunner Michelle Ashford, Betsy Brandt, Ane Crabtree and Sarah Timberman discuss working on the series.
  • The History of Sex – (17:48) A featurette with writer showrunner Michelle Ashford and the cast talk about the delicate balance of utilizing sex in the series, the characters and showcasing that era in time.
  • The Men of Sex – (26:20) A discussion featurette with Michael Sheen, Beau Bridges, Jocko Sims, Kevin Christy, Teddy Sears talk about filming at various locations and working on the series.
  • Deleted Scenes – To play deleted scenes, you must select an episode and then click on Deleted Scenes.

EXTRAS:

“Masters of Sex: Season Two” comes with a slipcover plus an UltraViolet code.


Captivating, smart and sexually-charged, “Masters of Sex” is an addictive series that makes you want more and more!

Who would of thought that a series based on the two researchers who observed sexual pattens and recorded every intricate detail would be so entertaining and titillating.

From the very first episode, watching as the stale Dr. William Masters being teamed up with the very sexually and independent Virginia E. Johnson was intriguing thanks to the commanding performances by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan.  While googling an image of the real life researchers shows a much older Dr. Masters compared to his young assistant at the time, “Masters of Sex” is much more stylish and how each character is integrated in the series is rather fun as the chemistry between Masters and Johnson literally emits sexual tension to the nth degree.

With the second season, while the stories were not subdued, there are different situations that come to play now that Masters works at an all Black hospital and is essentially given another chance.  But he also must deal with the fact that he may be impotent. The series also incorporates more of Libby but also the Civil Rights period as hate crimes are taking place.

So, it’s a different type of situations for both Masters and Johnson.  The sex is still there but there is a lot of focus on the actual work Masters and Johnson are involved in but a lot of focus this season was working at a new hospital, Masters and Johnson trying to develop whatever they have despite Masters being married and Johnson having other liaisons.

And aside from the character-driven storylines, the actual research is also showcased as viewers can only be amused of how Masters and Johnson are able to record their data and how far both individuals would go.

The last season was a bit more of shocking and bold but the writers played more to the era, the civil rights era and brought in more characters and multiple situations involving Masters, Johnson, Libby and others.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Masters of Sex: Season Two” looks fantastic in HD.  Having only watched the first season on DVD, the detail of the series is evident, especially on close-ups.  Picture quality for the most part is good.

Overall, “Masters of Sex” is one of my favorite series currently airing on television which curious viewers can expect great writing, wonderful acting in each of the 12 sexually-charged episodes that are absolutely captivating!  I’m really enjoying this series and I can’t wait for season three!

“Masters of Sex: Season Two” is highly recommended!

 

Still Alice (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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A touching, heartbreaking and wonderful film about a family dealing with familial Alzheimer’s Disease.  Featuring an award-winning performance by Julianne Moore, “Still Alice” is a film that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2014 BSM Studios SAS. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Still Alice

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 101 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (For Mature Thematic Material, and Brief Language Including a Sexual Reference)

Release Date: May 12, 2015


Directed by Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

Novel by Lisa Genova

Screenplay by Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

Produced by James Brown, Pamela Koffler, Lex Lutzus

Co-Producer: Declan Baldwin, Elizabeth Gelfgland Stearns

Executive Producer: Emilie Georges, Celine Rattray, Marie Savare, Trudie Styler, Christine Vachon

Music by Ilan Eshkeri

Cinematography by Denis Lenoir

Edited by Nicolas Chaudeurge

Casting by Kerry Barden, Ro Dempsey, Allison Estrin, Hunter Lydon, Paul Schnee

Production Design by Tommaso Ortino

Set Decoration by Susan Perlman

Costume Design by Stacey Battat


Starring:

Julianne Moore as Alice Howland

Kate Bosworth as Anna Howland-Jones

Shane McRae as Charlie Howland-Jones

Hunter Parrish as Tom Howland

Alec Baldwin as John Howland

Kristen Stewart as Lydia Howland


Alice Howland (Julianne Moore), happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a diagnosis of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s disease, Alice and her family find their bonds thoroughly tested. Her struggle to stay connected to who she once was is frightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring. Also starring Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish.


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In 2014, “Still Alice” was released in theaters.

An adaptation of Lisa Genova’s 2007 bestselling novel, the film was written and directed by real-life couple Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (both directed “The Fluffer”, “Pedro”, “The Last of Robin Hood”).

The film was also personal as Glatzer had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” and it was important for him to create this film despite having the disease which would leave him unable to talk but was able to communicate via iPad to Wash and the cast.  Glatzer would die from complications from the disease in March 10, 2015.

“Still Alice” would star Julianne Moore (“The Big Lebowski”, “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”), Alec Baldwin (“The Departed”, “30 Rock”, “Beetlejuice”), Kristen Stewart (“The Twilight” films, “Snow White and the Huntsman”), Kate Bosworth (“Superman Returns”, “21”, “Blue Crush”) and Hunter Parrish (“Weeds”, “17 Again”).

“Still Alice” would receive critical acclaim and actress Julianne Moore would win an Academy Award for “Best Actress”, the Golden Glove for “Best Actress – Drama” and also a SAG and BAFTA Award.

And now “Still Alice” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Still Alice” is a film that revolves around linguistics professor Dr. Alice Howland (portrayed by Julianne Moore).  As she celebrates her 50th birthday with her husband John (portrayed by Alec Baldwin), her daughters Anna (portrayed by Kate Bosworth), Lydia (portrayed by Kristen Stewart) and her son Tom (portrayed by Hunter Parrish), the film shows how close knit the family truly are.

While she looks forward to Anna and her husband’s first child, she often worries about Lydia who doesn’t want to go to college but become an actress.

One day while at a lecture, Dr. Howard forgets a word but she starts to realize something is wrong while jogging on campus and she feels that she is lost.

Worried about her condition and thinking that she may have brain cancer, she goes to visit her doctor and she is diagnosed with early onset of familial Alzheimer’s Disease.

Because the gene can be hereditary, she tells her children about her diagnosis and explains to the children that they may have the gene and will want to get tested.

The film then focuses on Alice as she deals with the disease and how it affects her during a period of time but also how her family copes with her disease and how the disease brings them all together and how each remain supportive.


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VIDEO:

“Still Alice” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). he film looks fantastic in HD, while some scenes look soft, outdoor scenes are vibrant, closeups show amazing detail and skin tones look natural.  I saw no banding, artifacts or any negative issues with this film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Still Alice” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film features crystal clear dialogue and music but for this film, the lossless soundtrack is appropriate as it is primarily front and center-channel driven.  With an occasional scene with crowds for ambiance.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Still Alice” comes with the following special features:

  • Directing Alice – (8:41) A featurette with writer/director duo Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland.
  • Finding Alice – (9:21) A featurette about familial Alzheimer’s Disease and how Julianne Moore worked with Sandy Oltz who has familial Alzheimer’s Disease and was an advisor to Julianne Moore.
  • Interview with Composer Ilan Eshkeri – (6:29) Composer Ilan Eshkeri discusses the motivation of creating the music for “Still Alice”.
  • Deleted Scenes – (6:09) Featuring three deleted scenes.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:18) The original theatrical trailer for “Still Alice”.

EXTRAS

“Still Alice” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code to instantly stream or download the film in Digital HD for TV, computers, tablet or smartphones.


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“Still Alice” was a honest portrayal of one who has Alzheimer’s Disease and seeing the individual slowly lose themselves to the disease, while their family try to do all they can to support their loved one.

The film was also quite personal for me as I lost my grandfather to Alzheimer’s Disease in 2014 and my mother-in-law currently has it.

And the most difficult aspect for me having watched my grandfather who has had the disease is to see how quickly things became.  From a man who was perfectly healthy, to remembering our names during the summer, barely remembering our names during the fall, now forgetting a lot of us by Christmas time and then within weeks, suddenly losing all bodily functions in January and eventually dying from the disease.

And because my grandfather was the first known relative with Alzheimer’s Disease in our family, I often wondered if it will be hereditary.

While, I do all I can to keep my brain fresh and active, in the back of my mind, when words don’t come as quickly or I forget certain conversations, I often think of my grandfather and the possibilities that any of us in the family will experience the same situation…younger, older… it’s something I don’t like to think about, but it’s something that is often in the back of my mind.

Watching “Still Alice”, it was heartbreaking.  I have heard of early onset Alzheimer’s Disease and I was aware that actress Rita Hayworth was diagnosed at age 60.  And I have watched documentaries such as Allan King’s documentary “MEMORY FOR MAX, CLAIRE, IDA AND COMPANY: BEING THERE” which showed one businesswoman who had early onset of Alzheimer’s and the first time I watched it, it was the first time I learned that people younger can also be diagnosed with it.

And the way that directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland was able to convey the story that because there is no cure, there is also no true happy ending.  But as they portrayed the character of Alice doing all she can to survive and live with the disease, we know that Alice’s condition will get worse.

The performance by Julianne Moore is magnificent.  She was able to play a character that made you feel that you weren’t watching a movie but a person you knew and was getting worse from Alzheimer’s Disease.  We watch her as a healthy young woman and eventually see how she and her family have a difficult time ahead of them, until the last final scene in the film and for anyone who has had a loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease, the impact becomes real.

Both Glatzer and Westmoreland were able to portray Alzheimer’s Disease handled the film in a restrained manner, being respectful of capturing the drama as if it was real.  Seeing Julianne Moore perform with such efficacy was wonderful and you feel she is quite deserving of the Academy Award.

Surprisingly, the other actress that was a surprise to see in this film was Kristen Stewart as the rebellious daughter who doesn’t want to follow her mother’s advice to go back to college, and she becomes the only sibling who does not want to get tested.

But yet, despite her rebelliousness, she is the most curious about her mother’s disease.  She is a daughter that wants to be there for her mother and we see this relationship grow between mother and daughter which was great to see in the film, especially for the film’s final moment.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic as closeups show amazing detail, outdoor scenes are vibrant and the film looks great on Blu-ray.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue and musically-driven through the front and center channels and the crystal clear soundtrack was appropriate for this film.  You also get several special features including a featurette with the late Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland.  And knowing how “Still Alice” was important to both men and to see Glatzer’s determination and persistence to work on the film despite having ALS is inspirational, but also to see how happy both men were in knowing they accomplished something special with “Still Alice”.

A touching, heartbreaking and wonderful film about a family dealing with familial Alzheimer’s Disease.  Featuring an award-winning performance by Julianne Moore, “Still Alice” is a film that I highly recommend!

 

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

April 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: Enter the Dangerous Mind

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 90 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: N/A

Release Date: April 14, 2015


Directed by Youseef Delara, Victor Teran

Written by Victor Teran

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

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

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

Music by Reza Safinia

Cinematography by Ben Kufrin

Edited by Youssef Delara, John Wesley Whitton

Casting by Derek J. Marquardt

Production Design by Seth Reed

Art Direction by Jennifer Mollier

Set Decoration by Natalie Pope

Costume Design by Alisha Silverstein


Starring:

Nikki Reed as Wendy

Jake Hoffman as Jim Whitman

Thomas Dekker as Jake

Scott Bakula as Kevin

Jason Priestley as Dr. Dubrow


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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VIDEO:

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

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

AUDIO:

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: Life of Riley

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 108 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: March 10, 2015


Directed by Alain Resnais

Play by Alan Ayckbourn

Dialogue by Jean-Marie Besset

Adaptation by Laurent Herbiet/Alain Resnais

Produced by Jean-Louis Livi

Executive Producer: Christophe Jeauffroy

Music by Mark Snow

Cinematography by Dominique Bouilleret

Edited by Herve de Luze

Production Design by Jacques Saulnier

Costume Design by Jackie Budin


Starring:

Sabine Azema as Kathryn

Hippolyte Girardot as Colin

Caroline Sihol as Tamara

Michel Vuillermoz as Jack

Sandrine Kiberlain as Monica

Andre Dussollier as Simeon

Alba Gaia Kraghede Bellugi as Tilly


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

AUDIO:

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: Goodbye to Language 3D

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 69 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: April 14, 2015


Written and Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Produced by Brahim Chioua, Vincent Maraval, Alain Sarde

Cinematography by Fabrice Aragno


Starring:

Heloise Godet as Josette

Kamel Abdeli as Gedeon

Richard Chevalier as Marcus

Zoe Bruneau as Ivitch

Christian Gregori as Davidson

Jessica Erickson as Mary Sheley

Marie Ruchat

Jeremy Zampatti


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

AUDIO:

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: The River – The Criterion Collection #276

YEAR OF FILM: 1951

DURATION: 99 Minutes

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

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

RELEASE DATE: April 21, 2015


Directed by Jean Renoir

Based on the Novel by Rumer Godden

Screenplay by Rumer Godden and Jean Renoir

Music by M.A. Partha Sarathy

Cinematography by Claude Renoir

Edited by George Gale

Production Design by Eugene Lourie

Art Direction by Bansi Chandragupta


Starring:

Nora Swinburne as the Mother

Esmond Knight as The Father

Arthur Shields as Mr. John

Suprova Mukerjee as Nan

Thomas E. Breen as Capt. John

Patricia Walters as Harriet

Radha as Melanie

Adrienne Corri as Valerie

June Hillman as the Narration (voice)


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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VIDEO:

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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