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

September 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Joshy” may seem like a banal film at first.  One that makes you feel that you have seen this type of film many times before.  But in truth, filmmaker/writer Jeff Baena creates an honest film about a group of friends being there for their buddy after a tragedy and try to have a night to enjoy with one another.  A film about bros, a film about friendship and “Joshy” is a film that I recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Lions Gate Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Joshy

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 93 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Lionsgate Premiere

RATED: R (Drug Use and Language Throughout, Sexual Content/Nudity and a Disturbing Image)

RELEASE DATE: October 4, 2016


Directed by Jeff Baena

Written by Jeff Baena

Produced by Elizabeth Destro, Adam Pally, Michael Zakin

Executive Producer: Kim Leadford, Matthew Perniciaro, Chris Swanson

Associate Producer: Michael Ferraro, Sean Maurer, Sean Monahan, Peter Pietrangeli, Lauren Russell, Kindred Sparks

Co-Producer: Joshua Bachove, Tracey Landon, Daniel McGilvray

Music by Devendra Banhart

Cinematography by Patrice Lucien Cochet

Edited by Ryan Brown

Production Design by Almitra Corey

Costume Design by Mollie Middleditch


Starring:

Thomas Middleditch as Josh

Adam Pally as Ari

Alex Ross Perry as Adam

Nick Kroll as Eric

Brett Gelman as Greg

Jenny Slate as Jodi

Lauren Graham as Katee

Aubrey Plaza as Jen

Joe Swanberg as Aaron

Kris Swanberg as Anita

Alison Brie as Rachel

Brian Patrick Farrell as Tonie

Jake Johnson as Reggie

Frankie Shaw as Crystal

Jess Varley as Kylie

Lauren Weedman as Isadora

Paul Reiser as Steve

Lisa Edelstein as Claudia


After his engagement suddenly ends, Joshy and a few of his friends decide to take advantage of what was supposed to be his bachelor party in Ojai, California. In their attempt to help Joshy deal with the recent turn of events, the guys turn the getaway info a raucous weekend filled with drugs, booze debauchery, and hot tubs.


What to do for a friend in need?

This is a question posed for the film “Joshy” from filmmaker/writer Jeff Baena (“I Heart Huckabees”, “Life After Beth”, “The Little Hours”).

The comedy film premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, with the film production only lasting 15 days and only shooting off a 20-page outline and the rest of the dialogue improvised by the cast.

Starring in the film are Thomas Middleditch (“The Wolf of Wall Street”, “Silicon Valley”, “The Final Girls”), Adam Pally (“Happy Endings”, “Iron Man 3”, “Dirty Grandpa”), Alex Ross Perry (“Listen Up Philip”, “Queen of Earth”, “The Color Wheel”), Nick Kroll (“The League”, “I Love You, Man”, Date Night”), Brett Gelman (“30 Minutes or Less”, “The Other Guys”, “Jobs”), Jenny Slate (“Obvious Child”, “Zootopia”, “The Lorax”), Lauren Graham (“The Gilmore Girls”, “Parenthood”, “Bad Santa”), Aubrey Plaza (“Parks and Recreation”, “Safety Not Guaranteed”, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”), Alison Brie (“Community”, “Get Hard”, “Sleeping with Other People”), Joe Swanberg (“Easy”, “Drinking Buddies”, “Happy Christmas”), Brian Patrick Farrell (“Ted 2”, “New Girl”), Jake Johnson (“New girl”, “Jurassic World”, “Let’s Be Cops”), Paul Reiser (“Mad About You”, “My Two Dads”, “Aliens”), Lisa Edelstein (“House”, “What Women Want”, “As Good As It Gets”) and many more.

And now, “Joshy” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Lions Gate Premiere.

The film begins with Joshy (portrayed by Thomas Middleditch) going home and seeing his fiance, Rachel (portrayed by Alison Brie) cooking dinner to celebrate his birthday.

As Joshy makes his stop to workout at the gym, when he returns, he discovers his fiance dead, as she has hung herself.

Fastforward four months later and his married buddy Ari (portrayed by Adam Pally) discovers that the down payment he made for a house in Ojai for Joshy’s bachelor party is non-refundable, so he tries to hold a party for his Joshy and bring other friends along in hopes to keep his hopes up.

While no one wants to bring up or ask Joshy about the death of his fiance, they just want to make him happy, whichever way they can.

So, Joshy and friends decide to meet up in Ojai.

Ari brings the pot, Adam (portrayed by Alex Ross Perry) brings a “Dungeons & Dragons” style role-playing game that he and Joshy had put down money via crowdfunding, Eric (portrayed by Nick Kroll) is more of the party guy who hopes to make the party lively and he invites his friend Gregg (portrayed by Brett Gelman), who is a person that tries to live life happy and to the fullest and brings life to this party.

While Eric gets everyone to go out to the local bar and have fun, the married Ari tries to be a wingman and hopes to find a woman for Joshy.  But as Joshy is still having difficulty being happy, Ari meets a drunk woman named Jodi (portrayed by Jenny Slate) and both discover they a lot in common and eventually find themselves attracted towards each other.

But through the night, each of the men discover something about each other and their friendship.  But most importantly, how will the mourning Joshy be throughout the evening and will he ever discuss his true feelings about the tragedy of his fiance and let go of his emotions that has been bottled up within?


VIDEO:

“Joshy” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks very good in HD as closeups show very good detail, lighting for the film, especially indoor, is very good.  I didn’t notice any banding, artifacts or any negative issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Joshy” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  While the film is primarily dialogue and music driven, there is use of surround channels during crowd-based scenes but for the most part, dialogue and music are both crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Joshy” comes with the following special feature:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with writer/director Jeff Baena, actor/producer Adam Pally and actor Thomas Middleditch.

EXTRAS:

“Joshy” comes with a slipcover and a UltraViolet digital HD code.


I have to admit that when I was watching “Joshy”, I thought this was going to be another banal stoner film.

Like any other stoner film in which the bummed out protagonist finds himself a beautiful woman and in the end, they all live happy ever after.

Fortunately, “Joshy” is not one of those films.

While a comedy, the film starts out with a tragedy as the protagonist, Joshy’s fiance commits suicide and dies by hanging on the day of his birthday.

What was supposed to be a celebration for Joshy’s bachelor party becomes an unknown party for a friend.  But no one knows what to do for Joshy.  Should they get him high?  Get him drunk?  Find him a new girlfriend?  Should they get him strippers?  No one really knows what they are supposed to do or how to react.

Ari is Joshy’s good friend who is married and he and his wife just had a child and is the person who rented a house in Ojai to celebrate with Joshy.  But for the night, he tries to find ways of getting his friend’s spirit up, hoping to be a wingman and introduce him to other women.

Adam is Joshy’s RPG board game friend.  He is philosophical, intelligent and very much into playing “Dungeons & Dragon” board games.

Meanwhile, Eric is the party guy who came to have fun, came to make sure Joshy and the guys have fun and he also brings his even more happy, fun and crazy friend Greg to the party.

Because no one is bringing up Josh’s fiance’s death or talking to him about it, not wanting to be a downer for his party, Greg comes in thinking that Joshy got dumped by his fiance.

So, what we have is an awkward party but everyone’s goal is to make sure their buddy, Joshy has fun because it’s his night.

While all the guys party, while the group heads to the bar, Ari tries to get a drunken woman named Jodi together with Joshy.  But as Joshy is not yet over the death of his fiance and is still mourning, Ari and Jodi end up talking to each other and realize that they have a lot in common.  And the married Ari (which he doesn’t say a thing to Jodi about him being married), finds himself attracted to Jodi and she to him.

Adam worries about his relationship because for the first time, he went to party with Joshy and friends and never told his girlfriend where he was at.  While some guys see it as no big deal, for Adam and his girlfriend, this could be a dealbreaker.

Meanwhile, the film features a list of guests that have cameos.  From Katee (portrayed by Lauren Graham) as a woman the guys all meet, Aubrey Plaza as Jen, one of Jodi’s friends, who also gets drunk and is left with Joshy’s friend Adam.

Jake Johnson plays the role of Reggie, who listens to Adam’s girl problems, Joe Swanberg as Aaron, one of Joshy’s friends who comes to the party late with his wife and child, very upset that the guys have held a party and haven’t confronted Joshy about the tragedy.

Meanwhile, Paul Reiser and Lisa Edelstein play the role of Joshy’s fiance, Rachel’s parents.  Who come to the home and are demanding answers from Joshy about why their child has died.

For the most part, I found “Joshy” to be an entertaining film when it focuses on the primary cast. I’ve been in similar situations, while not as tragic, but a group of friends hanging out and trying to bring happiness to a friend who may be unhappy.  And similar to the situations that have happened in the film (substituting the D&D board game with video games), watching “Joshy” was like going back in time and being with my friends.  And so I had fun watching the film for that aspect.

What I found wrong about the film is trying to bring other characters that were probably never needed and their scenes felt forced.  Personally, I felt that Jeff Baena had a good film for the majority of the film and keeping the film around it’s core characters, introducing self-discovery about their friendship and having fun but then slowly seeing the emotions of Joshy trying to come out, the film is unfortunately knocked off pace by trying to include other actors to make an appearance, when the film didn’t need it.

In some ways, I felt that Jeff Baena was trying to feature as many friends in the film as possible.  But the film didn’t really need it.

But still, I can’t help but really enjoy “Joshy” because I think a lot of guys can remember or be nostalgic of being around their buddies during their adulthood, before everyone got married and just having fun, enjoying time together and being there for each other like brothers.  This is how I saw the film and so I found it quite entertaining in that aspect.

The Blu-ray release looks very good.  Picture quality shows good detail and lossless audio featured crystal clear dialogue and music.  As for special features, you get a cool audio commentary with filmmaker/writer Jeff Baena, actor/producer Adam Pally and actor Thomas Middleditch.

Overall, “Joshy” may seem like a banal film at first.  One that makes you feel that you have seen this type of film many times before.  But in truth, filmmaker/writer Jeff Baena creates an honest film about a group of friends being there for their buddy after a tragedy and try to have a night to enjoy with one another.  A film about bros, a film about friendship and “Joshy” is a film that I recommend!

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Kingslaive: Final Fantasy XV” is a gorgeous, exciting and well-performed CG animated film that serves as a small introduction to the upcoming “Final Fantasy XV” videogame. Some may find it complex with the many characters introduced and the problems existing within kingdoms, and I do recommend watching this film more than once for a better understanding of its storyline.  But this film made me even more excited about the upcoming video game release and if you are a fan of “Final Fantasy” and are planning to purchase “Final Fantasy XV”, I definitely recommend watching this film!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Square Enix Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV

YEAR: 2016

DURATION: 115 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio), English, Portuguese, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Japanese, Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (Simplified), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Fantasy Violence and Action Throughout)

Release Date: October 4, 2016


Directed by Takeshi Nozue

Written by Takashi Hasegawa

Produced by Hajime Tabata

Associate Producer: Robert A. Dobbins

Production Executive as Juck Somsaman

Music by John R. Graham

Casting by Rui Kawada, Gabriel Moszkowski


Featuring the following voice talent:

Aaron Paul as Nyx Ulric

Sean Bean as Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII

Lena Headey as Lunafreya Nox Fleuret

David Gant as Emperor Iedolas Aldercapt

Darin De Paul as Ardyn Izunia

Trevor Devall as Ravus Nox Fleuret

Adrian Bouchet as Titus Drautos

Liam Mulvey as Libertus Ostium

John DeMita as clarus Amicitia

Andrea Tivadar as Crowe Altius

Todd Haberkorn as Luche Lazarus

Max Mittelman as Tredd Furia

Ray Chase as Noctis Lucis Caelum

Adam Croasdell as Ignis Scientia

Christopher L. Parson as Gladiolus Amicitia

Robbie Daymond as Prompto Argentum

Bo Bragason as Young Luna

David Chun Cheung as Sonitus Belum


The magical kingdom of Lucis is home to the sacred Crystal, and the menacing empire of Niflheim is determined to steal it. King Regis of Lucis (Sean Bean) commands an elite force of soldiers called the Kingsglaive. Wielding their king’s magic, Nyx (Aaron Paul) and his fellow soldiers fight to protect Lucis. As the overwhelming military might of the empire bears down, King Regis is faced with an impossible ultimatum – to marry his son, Prince Noctis to Princess Lunafreya of Tenebrae (Lena Headey), captive of Niflheim, and surrender his lands to the empire’s rule. Although the king concedes, it becomes clear that the empire will stop at nothing to achieve their devious goals, with only the Kingsglaive standing between them and world domination.


On November 26th, many gamers are highly anticipating the release of the Square Enix PS4/XBOX Onevideo game “Final Fantasy XV”.

But before the release of the video game, the animated film “Kingslaive: Final Fantasy XV” was released theatrically in Japan in July 2016 and had a limited theatrical run in North America in August.

The film takes place in parallel to the events that are presented in the “Final Fantasy XV” video game and revolves around Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII, the father of the game’s protagonist, Noctis.  The film focsues on the Kingsglaive, an elite guard sharing Regis’ magical powers that defend the kingdom of Lucis and its crystal from the invading empire of Niflheim.

The film is directed by Takeshi Nozue and written by Takashi Hasegawa.  The talented voice cast includes Sean Bean (“Lord of the Rings” films, “The Martian”), Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”, “Need for Speed”, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”), Lena Headey (“Game of Thrones” “300” films), David Gant (“Braveheart”, “Gandhi”), Darin De Paul (“Julie & Julia”, “Overwatch”, “Doom”), Trevor Devall (“Johnny Test”, “Kid vs. Kat”, “Batman vs. Robin”), Adrian Bouchet (“Clash of the Titans”, “The Monuments Men”, “Predator Dark Ages”), Lian Mulvey (“The Box”, “616”), John DeMita (“Princess Mononoke”, “Castle in the Sky”), Andrea Tivadar (“Inside”), Todd Haberkorn (“Soul Eater”, “D. Grayman”, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”), Max Mittelman (“One Punch Man”, “Fallout 4”), Ray Chase (“Final Fantasy XV”, “Xenoblade Chronicles X”, “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided”), David Chun Cheung (“The Real Target”, “Out of Control”) and Amanda Piery (“The Underwater Realm”, “City of Dreamers”).

And now, the Blu-ray and DVD release of “Kingslaive: Final Fantasy XV” will be available in October 2016.

The setting is in the planet Eos, where each nation once were in possession of magical crystals.  Now only one kingdom, Lucis, it the only nation to possess a crystal and how the ruling Caelum dynasty has used it to create a magical barrier to prevent invaders from destroying their city. Because the magic barrier is huge, it accelerates the age of King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII (voiced by Sean Bean).

And the Royal Citadel has possession of it and only accessible through the  Ring of the Lucci, a ring passed down from the line of Lucis kings.

But the nations that no longer possess a magical crystal were all conquered by the Niflheim, a military and technologically advanced empire that is now wanting to take control of Lucis.

Niflheim is ran by the emperor, Iedolas Aldercapt (voiced by David Gant).  But most of the duties are ran by Niflheim chancellor, Ardyn Izunia (voiced by Darin De Paul), who is responsible for the empires use of Magitek technology.

To also protect Lucis, an elite unit known as Kingslaive that wields the royal family’s magical power in order to fight against the powerful monsters that try to get into the city, including attacks from Niflheim and Tenebrae.

The film focuses on Kingslaive soldier, Nyx Ulric (voiced by Aaron Paul).  When Nyx was younger, he was saved by King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII and indebted for saving him, he is tasked to protect Lunafreya Nox Fleuret (voiced by Lena Headey).

Lunafreya was the former princess of Tenebrae, but when her land was attacked by Niflheim, she was captured by the Niflheim empire.  Her older brother, Ravus Nox Fleuret (voiced by Trevor Devall) is a man full of hatred.

His mother was killed by Niflheim’s imperial general, Glauca and during the invasion, while trying to plea for help, King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII could only rescue so many people.  He tried grabbed his young son Noctis Lucis Caelum (the heir of Lucis) and Lunafreya, but as they tried to escape, Lunafreya decides to stay back for her older brother and was captured.  But in the process, knew he was unable to help Ravus’ mother and Ravus.

Fastforward 12 years later, as the land of Tenebrae becomes a province of Niflheim, Ravus has grown up to become a commanding officer of the Niflheim army and wants nothing more than to destroy Lucis and its king.

As Niflheim chancellor threatens Kings Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII, he offers him a peace treaty, that Regis must cede the territories around Lucis, including the crown city of Insomnia to Niflheim and allow his son Prince Noctics to marry Luna Fraey Nox Fleuret.  King Regis accepts the terms to the peace treaty.

But at the night of the treaty-singing ceremony, the Niflheim delegation begins a surprise attack inside Lucis in order to kill the ruling council and destroy the magical barrier that King Regis had put up.

Can Kingslaive soldier Nyx Ulric protect Lunafreya and the King?


VIDEO:

“Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). An all CG film, the animation is absolutely gorgeous and the technology has come a long way since “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” and the realistic details have come much farther along since “Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children”.

The characters look quite realistic (especially at the beginning of the film with female character Crowe and how close she looks to model Andrea Tivadar, who voiced the character).

The detail on the characters, the monsters, the cities, the vehicles and everything about the film looks magnificent in HD!  If anything, the gorgeous CG made me even more excited for the video game release of “Kingslaive: Final Fantasy VI”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV” is presented in English, Portuguese, French DTS-HD MA 5.1 and Japanese, Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The lossless soundtrack for this film is absolutely immersive.  With the number of action sequences, my surround channels and use of LFE through my subwoofer was used quite frequently.  Great use of ambiance when it comes to the monsters, destruction of cities, the revving of a car and more.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV” comes with the following special features:

  • A Way with Words: Epic and Intimate Vocals – (4:51) Featuring the talent who voiced the characters in “Kingslaive: Final Fantasy XV”.
  • To Capture the Kingslaive: The Process – (6:01) Featuring the crew and mocap actors at audiomotion studios creating the movement and the challenges of 3D scanning and more.
  • Fit for the Kingslaive: Building the World – (5:29) Featuring the concept art and the imaginative and creative world featured in “Kingslaive: Final Fantasy XV” and interviews with the cast and crew.
  • Emotive Music: Scoring the Kingslaive – (6:04) A behind-the-scenes look at the music of “Kingslaive: Final Fantasy XV” with composer John Graham and his musicians.

EXTRAS:

“Kingslaive: Final Fantasy XV” comes with a slipcover and Ultraviolet HD code.


Before I get into my review for “”Kingslaive: Final Fantasy XV”, I must first say how much I love the “Final Fantasy” series.

I have purchased nearly every game that has been available for the consoles, including portable consoles and PC versions and while I’m not a hardcore gamer, I always try to fit in time for me to play a “Final Fantasy” game, most often right before I go to bed.

So, I admit that I am biased to the series, but also have been critical as I have been more of a fan from “Final Fantasy X-2” and games released before.  While newer games, I have been more critical of how there is more dedication to visuals than gameplay and story.

But with the upcoming worldwide release of “Final Fantasy XV” and the sneak peeks that have been released in the past few years of this highly anticipated video game, I was quite pleased that Square Enix has chosen to release a film that runs parallel to the video game.  Call it a taste before delving into the video game but establishing the world and some of its characters.

What the film does focus on is how the kingdom of Lucis is the last nation to possess a magical crystal and currently, it’s king, Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII has protected it using the royal family’s magical power to erect a magical barrier around the city for over a decade.

The big bad military/advanced technology empire of Niflheim has been wanting in and wanting to control this nation and its cities.  And Niflheim is offering a peace/treaty, which is like having Darth Vader’s Empire offering the rebels a peace treaty and you know how well that is going to work.  It’s not going to happen.  If anything, it’s a way to introduce a trojan horse into the city that will leave the king and his kingdom vulnerable to attacks.

But everything hinges on the marriage of the king Regis’s son Prince Noctis to Princess Lunafreya Nox Fleuret of Tenebrae, who had been captured by Niflheim.

But to make sure they are not being deceived, the king has his trustworthy Kingslaive soldier, Nyx UIric to retrieve and protect the princess and making sure that Niflheim does not have possession of her.

While Nix Ulric is the primary protagonist of the film, if anything, the film is primarily a primer to the kingdom of Lucis and how it’s the last kingdom with a magical crystal and how Niflheim are the protagonist country led by an emperor and his ruthless chancellor, Ardyn Izunia.

The film introduces us to the spunky princess who takes far too many risks and can easily end up dead for her rash decisions and while the video game’s protagonist, Noctis is shown as a young child, he does show up at the end of the credits, so remember to keep watching after the ending credits are completed.

The voice acting by Aaron Paul, Sean Bean and Lena Headey are fantastic!  Actually, the entire film features wonderful voice acting but there is no doubt that the gorgeous visual effects are what captivates viewers of the film.  From its characters, the smoothness of the characters in a fighting sequence, the amazing detail of costumes, detail of character closeups and its vast scenery which are visually impressive.

The film looks absolute incredible in HD and there is no doubt that videophiles and fans of the “Final Fantasy” series will by in awe of how wonderful this film looks, but audiophiles will no doubt love the immersiveness of the film’s lossless soundtrack.  If you have a 7.1 setup, you can expect to see your surround channels and subwoofer being well-utilized throughout the film.  And you also get a few special features as well, that go into the motion capture and the voice acting of the film and more!

With that being said, I discussed the many positives of “Kingslaive: Final Fantasy XV” but are there any negatives?  Quite frankly, with the complex story of the cities and the many characters introduced, I can see some viewers being lost. To be truthful, everything started to kick-in for me by the second viewing of the film, learning about character motivations but most importantly, King Regis, his kingdom and of course, the big bad empire, Niflheim.  So, with this release on Blu-ray and DVD, one may need to watch this film several times in order to understand things thoroughly and how it correlates to the upcoming video game, is something I look forward to.

Last, one hoping to get a glimpse of some closure or finality with the characters or storyline are probably going to be disappointed as the film is more of a primer to the world of Eos and the political struggles between nations and a few characters leading up to the video game release.  And will no doubt add fuel to the fire for those who dislike films that are based on a popular video game series.

But I love “Final Fantasy” games and perhaps my bias to the series has led me to enjoy the film than most people.  Because I absolutely enjoyed the visuals of the film and its acting.

Overall, “Kingslaive: Final Fantasy XV” is a gorgeous, exciting and well-performed CG animated film that serves as a small introduction to the upcoming “Final Fantasy XV” videogame. Some may find it complex with the many characters introduced and the problems existing within kingdoms, and I do recommend watching this film more than once for a better understanding of its storyline.  But this film made me even more excited about the upcoming video game release and if you are a fan of “Final Fantasy” and are planning to purchase “Final Fantasy XV”, I definitely recommend watching this film!

Neon Bull (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Gabriel Mascaro’s “Neon Bull” is a unique, sensual film that entertains viewers with its honest portrayal of its characters that work within the vaquejada in northeastern Brazil.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Desvia, Malbicho cine, Viking Film, Canal Brasil. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Neon Bull

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 103 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2:35:1, Portuguese 5.1 Surround, Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber Inc.

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: September 6, 2016


Directed by Gabriel Mascaro

Written by Gabriel Mascaro

Produced by Rachel Ellis

Co-Produced by Rodrigo Pia, Sandino Saravia Vinay, Marleen Slot

Music by Carlos Montenegro, Otavio Santos

Cinematography by Diego Garcia

Edited by Fernando Epstein, Eduardo Serrano

Art Direction by Maira Mesquita


Starring:

Juliano Cazarre as Iremar

Maebe Jinkings as Galega

Josinaldo Alves as Mario

Roberto Berindelli as Fazendeiro

Samya De Lavor as Geise

Vinicius de Oliveira as Junior

Abigail Pereira as Valquiria

Carlos Pessoa as Ze

Alyne Santa as Caca


Neon Bull is a wild, sensual and transporting experience. Brazilian writer-director Gabriel Mascaro s second fiction feature (after August Winds), it takes place within the world of the vaquejada, a demanding traditional style of rodeo in which cowboys attempt to wrest bulls to the ground by their tails. Neon Bull explores this dangerous job through the eyes of Iremar (Juliano Cazarre ), a mysterious and handsome cowboy who cares for the bulls. While riding the roads with the animals and his close-knit circle of outcast friends, he begins to think of a world outside the ring, dreaming of sequins and fabrics and of his desire to become a fashion designer.


Filmmaker Gabriel Macaro known for his documentary “HOUSEMAIDS” and his first feature film “Ventos de Agosto” (August Winds) has received a lot of attention and critically praised reviews.  And his 2015 film “Boi Neon” (Neon Bull) would receive nominations and win awards at various festivals around the world.

And now Macaro’s “Neon Bull” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

Shot in northeastern Brazil, the film captures life for those who work at the Vaquejadas (a rodeo in which two cowboys ride on horseback to bring down a bull by grabbing its tail).

One of the cowboys, Iremar (portrayed by Juliano Cazarre) shares his quarters with others from the rodeo and lives in a truck that transports livestock to various events.  While most of the day, he is grooming the animals and doing his fill of shoveling manure, his passion is creating costumes, especially for his sexy female friend, Galega.

One of the truck drivers, Galega (portrayed by Maeve Jinkings) is an exotic dancer who is a truck driver by day, but participates in sexy dances for patrons wearing a horse head and tail, while neon lights shine upon her.

Galega’s husband is hardly in the picture but she has to raise her daughter Caca (portrayed by Aline Santana) who is a bit curious for her own good and being one of the youngsters touring with the Vaquejadas crew, she tends to find things that others are not wanting her to know.  Such as Ze’s (portrayed by Carlos Pessoa) stash of pornography.

But Galega is more interested in trying to live her life and is not so thrilled that Caca lives with her and not going to school and feels she should live with her grandmother, so she can live a better life at school.

Meanwhile, Galega becomes attracted to the new guy named Junior (portrayed by Vinicius de Oliveira).  While, Iremar starts to take interest in a pregnant woman who tends to show up selling cologne and perfume which she works during the day and working as a security guard at night.

Gabriel Mascaro’s “Neon Bull” is a honest portrayal of life within a group of people within a Vaquejadas crew.


VIDEO:

“Neon Bull” is presented in 1080p (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality for the most part is very good.  Closeups show great detail, lighting is very well done when focused on the characters (lighting plays a big part in the film).  Skintones look natural, black levels are nice and deep and there is a good amount of grain throughout the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Neon Bull” is presented in Portuguese 5.1 Surround.  The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear, rodeo announcer and crowd ambiance or animal ambiance can be heard through the surround channels.  Dialogue is crystal-clear as the club music and subtitles are easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Neon Bull” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette – (14:30) Behind-the-scenes of the rehearsing and filming of “Neon Bull”.
  • Interview with Director Gabriel Mascaro – (21:09) Interview with filmmaker Gabriel Mascaro about “Neon Bull”
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Neon Bull”

When it comes to showcasing characters in a natural light, filmmaker Gabriel Mascaro is able to accomplish that very well in his previous films including his latest, “Neon Bull”.

A film that focuses on people that work within the vaquejada in northeast Brazil, “Neon Bull” is a film that is not a film one follows for its story, because there really isn’t one.  If anything, it’s an honest portrayal of workers that live their life, making sure they take care of the animals and try to co-exist with each other.

Iremar works in the upkeep of the animals, creating sultry costumes for the female driver, Galega (who behave like brother and sister) and often helping out her daughter Caca, who is at that age of sexual curiosity but still wanting her mother’s attention but never receiving much of it.

While the film can be described as sensual or sultry, considering how much dedication is put into the sex scenes in the film, one can find enjoyment in the film for its actions and dialogue.  To even the animals as Iremar and Ze use the scent of a mar to arouse a stallion, to steal his sperm to a group of guys showering together nude, filmmaker Gabriel Mascaro wants to show viewers how sex, to maintaining animals is just as everyday part of life for the characters.

But humor can be found in the film as Iremar’s pot-bellied co-worker Ze is often looking at porno and while his sticky nude pages are often drawn over by Iremar trying to envision fashion and drawing it on the nude women, he and Ze are often involved in verbal spars as Ze can’t understand why Iremar focuses to much on fashion and not the women.

But when Ze is transferred and a long-haired young man named Junior arrives and immediately, he starts to get the attention of all the women including young Caca, which leaves Iremar quite jealous.

Meanwhile for female character, Galega, she is stuck trying to work as a truck driver for the animals, wanting to have fun with the men but her life is made difficult as she feels her young daughter Caca is in her way.  So, as Galega tries to focus on her work and her life, most often, Caca is with Iremar.

So, if anything, it’s those small interactions which makes up for the film.  Emotions of characters, character interaction and how everything culminates into an honest, entertaining film.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is very good as cinematography showcases the characters, character interactions with animal or their daily worklife, to the lighting that shines on them when indoors, to their events with the neon bull.  The cinematography brings the characters to life.  And as for audio, the loss audio features crystal clear dialogue, music and also surround sound usage geared for crowd, animals or announcer ambiance.  And the film has a good number of special features included such as a behind-the-scenes featurette and an interview with director Gabriel Mascaro.

Overall, Gabriel Mascaro’s “Neon Bull” is a unique, sensual film that entertains viewers with its honest portrayal of its characters that work within the vaquejada in northeastern Brazil.  Recommended!

Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

May you be a hardcore fan of “Beauty and the Beast”, the young at heart that may want to share this Disney animated classic to a new generation of Disney fans, you can’t go wrong with “Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition”. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition

FILM YEAR OF RELEASE: 1991

DURATION: Special Extended Version (1:31:44), Original Theatrical Release (1:24:54), Sing Along Version (1:24:54)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz/24-bit), 5.1 DEHT French and Spanish Language Tracks, Subtitles: English SDH and English ESL Subtitles, French and Spanish Subtitles

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: G (for General Audiences)

Release Date: September 20, 2016


Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise

Story by Brenda Chapman, Burny Mattinson, Brian Pumental, Joe Ranft, Kelly Asbury, Chris Sanders, Kevin Harkey, Bruce Woodside, Tom Ellery and Robert Lence

Animation Screenplay by Linda Woolverton

Story Supervisor: Roger Allers

Executive Producer: Howard Ashman

Produced by Don Hahn

Associate Producer: Sarah McArthur

Music by Alan Menken

Edited by John Carnochan

Casting By Albert Tavares

Art Direction by Brian McEntee


Featuring the following voice talent:

Paige O’Hara as Belle

Robby Benson as Beast

Richard White as Gaston

Jerry Orbach as Lumiere

David Ogden Stiers as Cogsworth

Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts

Bradley Pierce as Chip

Rex Everhart as Maurice

Jesse Corti as Lefou

Hal Smith as Philippe

Tony Jay as Monsieur D’Arque


Be our guest at the enchanted 25th Anniversary celebration of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, universally acclaimed as one of Disney’s finest animated features and now honored in the Walt Disney Signature Collection. Join brave, independent Belle on the adventure of a lifetime as she sets out to rescue her father and finds herself in the enchanted castle of a mysterious beast. Enjoy this timeless tale overflowing with unforgettable characters and Academy Award(R)-winning music (Best Song, Best Score, 1991)!|It took more than 600 animators, artists, and technicians three and a half years to complete the project.|BEAUTY is the first animated Disney feature scripted by a woman, Linda Woolverton.|The film marked the first time each animator was credited on screen specifically for the character he or she brought to life.|Disney’s animation department won a Scientific and Technical Academy Award for the design and development of the Computer Animated Production System used to make the film.|The style of illustration was inspired by French painters Fragonard and Boucher.


The story of “Beauty and the Beast” was born as a fairy tale back in the 1740′s by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and then revised in 1757 by French novelist Jeanne Marie Le Prince de Beaumont received its animated adaptation courtesy of Walt Disney in 1991.

The film is directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise (both worked on “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”) and the screenplay adaptation by Linda Woolverton (“The Lion King”, “Mulan” , “Arctic Tale” and “Alice in Wonderland”).

“Beauty and the Beast” is the 30th film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics line and is considered one of the greatest Disney animated films of all time. The film was an amazing success as the film which cost $25 million to make had made over $377 million dollars worldwide and the film was also the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture (note: The second was 2009’s “Up”) and was successful in blending traditional animation with CG.

And now the popular animated film receives its second release on Disney Blu-ray and receives a “25th Anniversary Edition” release. In this release, we get more special features than its previous 2002 DVD release and also three different versions of the film which includes a special extended edition, the original theatrical release and singalong version (NOTE: The previous Diamond Edition featured a third version which was the original theatrical release with storyreel picture in picture, which is watching the film with the original storyboards in picture in picture format).

“Beauty and the Beast” begins with an enchantress who is disguised as a beggar gives a young prince a rose in exchange for a night’s shelter. Unfortunately, the prince turns her away and so she transforms him into a beast and also transforms his servants into furniture and silverware.

The enchantress gives him a rose and a magic mirror. The rose will bloom until his 21st birthday and he must find a woman who loves him for what he is inside, not for what he is in the outside. If he does not find someone who will love him, he will remain a beast forever. As for the magic mirror, it grants him to view what is going on around him from faraway.

We are then introduced to the characters of Belle and her father, an inventor named Maurice. In her village, Gaston is the local hero, an arrogant man she has been courting but has no interest in.

One day, Maurice has invented a wood-chopping machine and plans to take it to a fair. Unfortunately, he gets lost and while his horse knows where to go, Maurice takes the other direction where the woods look dark and creepy. He ends up at the beast’s castle and when he goes to check inside he meets the beast’s servants such as Lumiere the candle holder, Mrs. Potts (a pot) and her son Chip (a chipped tea cup) and Cogsworth. Because Maurice has stepped into private property, the beast has imprisoned him.

Meanwhile, Belle is worried that her father has not returned but the horse has. So, she goes with the horse to the Beast’s castle and in order for the Beast to release her father, Belle tells the beast that she will be his prisoner and to let her father go. The beast accepts.

Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts know that this is the probably there best chance in order for the beast and the to change back to human-form and they to show the kind and gentler side of the Beast (and trying to curb his anger).

As for Maurice, when he arrives to the village, he tries to tell people that Belle has imprisoned by a Beast but no one believes him.

Will the beast manage to convince Belle to stay and somehow have her confess her love to him? Or will she leave him and he will stay a beast forever?


VIDEO:

Everything about “Beauty and Beast” screams gorgeous, vibrant and magnificent with the release of “Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition”. In my 2002 DVD review, I talked about how beautiful the animation was and how well-painted the backgrounds were but after watching this on Blu-ray, I’m going to focus on how vibrant the colors are, how well-defined the lines are, how detailed the backgrounds to the simplest of objects such as wood, leaves and objects are. How every character and object and its shadowing are well-done.

“Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1). From the daylight scenes that showcase the amber oranges to the winter scenes that show the whites and blues, to the night-time and more ominous and darker scenes, blacks are nice and deep but yet you can still see detail where shadows are present on objects. You can see the stains on the roof of the background and can easily make out the different color bricks on the chimneys, the pattern of wood on the home and well. And of course, the animation and how free flowing the characters are, especially in the dance scene. For a film that was created in 1991, you can’t tell this animated film is nearly 20-years-old. This film still looks incredible and it looks wonderful in HD. I detected no banding, edge enhancement, haloing, combing or compression artifacting.

This is the definitive version to own of this title yet and if you have a Blu-ray player and love Disney animated classics, picture quality-wise, this is a title that simply is a must-own.

As for the included DVD, the DVD is presented in 1:78:1 aspect ration-enhanced for 16×9 televisions.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition” is not only fantastic in picture quality, the film is absolutely fantastic via lossless as well. Presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, “Beauty and the Beast” does not disappoint.

If anything, I wished that everything Disney releases were in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and fortunately, the animated classics have received this attention. Audio literally envelops the soundscape with immersive audio coming from the front and center channels, the surround channels, the rear surround channels. Dialogue and music is crisp and clear, the slight sounds of leaves, horse galloping, the leaves rustling, the Beast growling, the sound of flame flickering, pots and tea cups clinkering, these are all well-done. And it doesn’t stop there, there is also LFE present as well.

But if anything, one thing that “Beauty and the Beast” is known for is its music. Alan Menkin’s music for the film is wonderful. You will find yourself singing to songs such as “Beauty and the Beast”, “Be Our Guest” and “Belle” and the truth is, the music captivated many people in 1991, so much that it won an Academy Award for “Best Music, Original Score” and “Best Music, Original Song” and also won two Golden Globe Awards as well for its score and for “Best Original Song – Beauty and the Beast”.

As for subtitles, “Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition” is presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.

As for the included DVD, the DVD is presented in English French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 with English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition” comes with the following special features presented in HD (note: original DVD features that are on the Blu-ray are presented in standard definition):

  • Always Belle – (11:30) Featuring Paige O’Hara and her memories of working on “Beauty & the Beast” as the voice of Belle.
  • Menken & Friends: 25 Years of Musical Inspiration – (19:05) Grammy Award winning Robert Lopez and Grammy Award winning Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Broadway actor Lin-Manuel Miranda visiting Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken.
  • #1074: Walt, Fairy Tales & Beauty and the Beast – (9:33) Featuring audio recordings of Walt Disney creating fairy tales and crew of “Beauty & the Beast” discussing Walt Disney and more.
  • The Recording Sessions – (3:47) Featuring a sneak peak at the original voice actors at the recording booth and recording for the film.
  • 25 Fun Facts About Beauty and the Best – (5:25) Kayla Maisonett (of “Stuck in the Middle”) and Gus Kamp (of “Best Friends Whenever) discuss the 25 fun facts of the film.
  • Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” Live Action Preview – (1:24) Emma Watson and Dan Steven at a table read, the massive sets and more.
  • Sing A Long – Watch the movie with karaoke style Sing A Long.
  • Audio Commentary (Extended Edition Only) – Audio Commentary for the special extended edition is included. Featuring commentary by directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise plus producer Don Hahn. The three go into look and feel of “Beauty and the Beast” and what they wanted to achieve. As well as dissecting the scene and the characters of the film. Alan Menken lends his commentary on the creation of the music for the film.
  • Classic Bonus Preview – (:43) Promotion of Disney Movies Anywhere

EXTRAS:

A DVD version of the feature film is included (all three versions of the film is presented on DVD). Also, a slipcase cover and Disney Movie Rewards code is included for this release.


My opinion of “Beauty and the Beast” has not changed since my DVD review for the title back in 2002. The animation, the painted backgrounds, the music, the characters, the movement… everything about the film is a pleasant reminder of the classic Disney films that I have loved and “Beauty and the Beast” is a film I still love.

Similar to the “Snow White” Blu-ray release, when “Beauty and the Beast” was released on Blu-ray in 2010, it was a magnificent improvement over the original 2002 release? Easy…by adding a ton of special features and three different versions of the film. This is what I love about Disney, they know what their customers want and what they expect and that is simply getting quality releases each time but raising the bar higher and higher of what a release should be. And for Disney, there classic animated films are expected to be fantastic releases and fans expect nothing lower.

I expected something incredible and to tell you the truth, I was pretty much expecting better picture quality in HD and lossless audio quality with the same special features and maybe a new audio commentary and possibly a retrospective featurette, but Disney has surpassed my expectations by giving us way more than what we would have expected for this film and I’m impressed and also very grateful.

The film has everything you want. Great characters, adventure, drama, action, memorable music and more! And 25-years later, “Beauty and the Beast” looks and sounds phenomenal on Blu-ray.

But now, to answer the question that everyone may be wondering.  Which version is better? The 2010 “Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition” or the 2016 “Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition”.  For one, you are going to get all three versions of the film that were featured in the 2010 version on this 2016 Blu-ray release, but you will not get the story reel version.

Picture quality and lossless audio are the same for both releases but the true differences are in the special features featured.

Surprisingly, all special features on this 2016 Blu-ray release are new.  And all the special features from the 2010 two-disc Blu-ray release were not included.  In fact, Disney put a lot of the special features from the previous discs up on there Disney Movies Anywhere website, in order for people to access them digitally.

This was a big surprise, as the “Diamond Edition” had two Blu-ray discs and a DVD and to me, because it was fully loaded with special features along with the brilliant picture and audio quality, the “Diamond Edition” was and I still consider it the definitive edition.

But because Disney releases are only released every 6-7 years, chances of finding the Diamond Edition new, is probably very slim.  But because we are living in a digital age and Disney is really wanting to promote there Disney Movies Anywhere streaming site, by purchasing this 2016 Blu-ray releases, you will have access to the special features, just not on Blu-ray, those special features can be accessed online.  Otherwise, if you want it on Blu-ray, then you are going to have to look for the 2010 “Diamond Edition” Blu-ray release.

So, it’s quite subjective of whether or not the special features matter to you.  Otherwise, if you are in it just for the film, by all means, “Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition” is the way to go.

If you have a fast Internet connection and don’t mind watching the previous special features online and want access to the newer special features, then also, the 25th Anniversary Edition is the way to go.  But if those older and newer special features are important to you and you want it on physical media, then you’re going to have to purchase both.

But I do feel that hardcore fans will want to own both, while casual fans and parents just purchasing for their children will be content with the “Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition” release.

Overall, may you be a hardcore fan of “Beauty and the Beast”, the young at heart that may want to share this Disney animated classic to a new generation of Disney fans, you can’t go wrong with “Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition”.

Recommended!

Napoli Napoli Napoli (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Abel Ferrara’s “Napoli Napoli Napoli” is a hybrid documentary that goes far to show the negative aspects of life in Naples and how several people were affected with the problems of their municipality.  But also featuring fictional storylines of crime and survival.  An audacious film  that strays from having any blaance and gives viewers an unforgiving look at Naples.

Images courtesy of © Rarovideo 2016. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Napoli Napoli Napoli (Naples Naples Naples)

FILM RELEASE: 2009

DURATION: 106 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (1:85:1), Italian 2.0 DTS, Subtitles in English

COMPANY: Raro Video

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: July 12, 2016


Directed by Anbel Ferrara

Written by Peppe Lanzetta, Maurizio Braucci, Gatano di Vaio, Abel Ferrara

Collaboration on Screenplay by Maria Grazia Capaldo

Produced by Pier Francesco Aiello, Massimo Cortesi, Gianluca Curti, Gaetano di Vaio, Luca Liguori

Associate Producer: Fabio Gargano, Pietro Pizzimento

Cinematography by Alessandro Abate

Edited by Fabio Nunziata

Production Design by Frank DeCurtis

Art Direction by Peppe Cerillo


Starring:

Lucy Lionello as Sebastiano

Salvatore Ruocco as Franco

Benedito Sicca as Carmine

Salvatore Striano as Gennaro

Ernesto Mahieux as Celestino

Shanyn Leigh as Lucia

Peppe Lanzetta as Padre di Lucia

Anita Pallenberg as Madre di Lucia

Giovanni Capalbo as Tic Tac, secondino


With his crooked face and rough demeanor Abel Ferrara looks and acts like he could have been born in Naples, Italy, the subject and location of his raw and hyperreality film Naples Naples Naples. Inspired by real events, this docudrama, narrated by the director, depicts a young woman metaphysically lost in the passionate and vibrant streets of Naples. Ferarra takes the viewer through the neighborhoods and parks of Naples while starkly showing the division between the classes. The undercurrent of characters associated with a women s prison penetrate the narrative with a message of injustice and despair. though criticized by some for its harsh representation of the city, the outcome is a portrayal of a city that no one has yet figured out, and that so many love, but also criticize; a city that has much to discover, but can never be known well enough. Ferarra depicts Naples through the words of the excluded and marginalized, portraying the chaotic mosaic of the Neapolitan universe with lucidity and love, characteristics that only he knows how to express with such intensity and immediacy.


Naples, the capital of the Italian region of Campania and the third largest municipality in Italy after Rome and Milan.

While historically, Naples is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and was once a cultural center for the Roman Republic long ago.  Despite having the fourth-largest urban economy in Italy after Milan, Rome and Turin and also is the birthplace of the original Neopolitan pizza, the city suffers from political and economic corruption and high unemployment.

Aside from the city being controlled by the stronghold of the Camorra – the local mafia, the city has been a dumping ground for toxic waste, garbage litters the streets, the main highway in the Mezzogiorno region is in horrible shape, a lot of fights and robberies happen in the city and it’s also one of the poorest cities in Europe.

But how bad is it?

In 2009, filmmaker Abel Ferrara’s (“The Funeral”, “Body Snatchers”, “King of New York”, “Bad Lieutenant”) documentary, “Napoli Napoli Napoli” would examine how bad things are within the cities in Naples.

And the documentary was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Raro Video.

Abel Ferrara’s “Napoli Napoli Napoli” is a documentary that interviews female and youth inmates about how they got in trouble and are serving time and how their city and living conditions led them to a life of crime.

The documentary interviews community leaders, journalists, lawyers and others who discuss the problems in Naples and various areas, the poor living conditions and lack of employment and how life is in the area.

Meanwhile, to add to the documentary are fictional storylines which were co-written by Abel Ferrara, Peppe Lanzetta (“Spectre”, “Take Five”), Maurizio Braucci (“Gomorrah”, “The Interval”, “Reality”) and Gaetano di Vaio (“Take Five”, “Scampia”, “Deep in the Wood”).

The fictional portions star Peppe Lanzetta, Luca Lionello (“The Passion of Christ”, “Sangue”), Salvatore Ruocco (“Gomorrah”, “Take Five”), Benedito Sicca (“Romanzo Criminale”), Salvatore Striano (“Caesar Must Die”, “Gomorrah”, “Take Five”), Ernesto Mahieux (“The Embalmer”, “Golden Door”, “Don’t Waste Your Time, Johnny!”), Shanyn Leigh (“Public Enemies”, “4:44 Last Day on Earth”, “Welcome to New York”), Anita Pallenberg (“Barbarella”, “Dillinger is Dead”, “Performance”) and Giovanni Capalbo (“The Passion of Christ”, “The Seventh Room”, “Colpo d’occhio”).

One story line revolves around the mafia and Sebastiano (portrayed by Luca Lionello) and Franco (portrayed by Salvatore Ruocco) are told by their boss that they must kill one of their own, Carmine (portrayed by Benedito Sicca) and must dispose of the body.

Another storyline revolves around a family, Padre di Lucia (portrayed by Peppe Lanzetta) is a drunkard and gambler and often yelling at his kids.  His daughter Lucia (portrayed by Shanyn Leigh) earns money for the family as a prostitute but when she gets home, her life is even more unfortunate.

And the other fictional storyline are men who are locked up in prison and all trying to co-exist in crowded prison settings.

A scathing hybrid documentary by filmmaker Abel Ferrara about the corruption of Naples.


VIDEO:

“Napoli Napoli Napoli” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1).  The documentary, while made in 2009, features a variety of archived sources, so as one can expect, picture quality is much better than other scenes through the film.  Fictional portions feature much better picture quality, while interviews and other footage, sometimes looks a bit aged or on a cheaper film stock.  But for the most part, picture quality is good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Napoli Napoli Napoli” is presented in Italian linear PCM 2.0 with English subtitles. Dialogue is clear via center channel. I didn’t notice any hiss, crackling or pops during my viewing of the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Napoli Napoli Napoli” comes with the following special features:

  • Backstage – (33:53) Behind-the-scenes of the making of “Napoli Napoli Napoli”.
  • Trailer – Theatrical Trailer for “Napoli Napoli Napoli”

EXTRAS:

“Napoli Napoli Napoli” comes with a 16-page booklet featuring essays such as “Naples, daughter of the Bronx”, “Abel, the Cain of Cinema”, “Naples Naples Naples in Progress”, “Naples, the Capital of Cinema” and “Gaetano, the Neapolitan, Neapolitan, Neapolitan” plus “Little Big Stories of Prodution” and “Galactic Guide for Naples Naples Naples”.


Abel Ferrara’s “Napoli Napoli Napoli” is an unforgiving film on its portrait of the seedy, corrupted areas of Napoli.

No, you won’t find any positive things about the city when it comes to its museums, pizza or anything that would attract tourism to the location, considering the film is financed by the Regional Tourist Bureau, if anything, the documentary is a cautionary story of how government neglect, high unemployment and corruption has turned the once cultural center of Western Europe to a crime-filled city with drugs, murder, dilapidated buildings, people who have ended up in prison because they have no way for survival and some involvement in crime is there only way to survive.

For some viewers, they must be asking why Ferrara would create such a film?

His previous film, “Chelsea on the Rocks” (2008) focused on the famous tennants of the popular Hotel Chesea in New York, while his 2010 drama “Mulberry St.” focused on where Ferrara would start his film career in New York and events leading to the the celebration of Little Italy’s San Gennaro.

But “Napoli Napoli Napoli” is the most scathing of the three documentaries.  There is no doubt that Ferrara was trying to show viewers of how much of the mafia stronghold there is over the city and region but he tries to show a correlation of how many of these young men and women were introduced to a life of crime because of the mafia and the circumstances of why Napoli is the way it is, is because of the corruption in which the mafia is involved.

With government corruption and also corruption in law enforcement, with the already corrupted city, the film tries to show how a few residents feel that their choices are limited and there is nothing else out there for them but crime.

Apartments created in the ’60s which many residents are living in are now in bad shape and because of the way they were designed, they now resemble prisons and to make things worse, many people who are not financially stable, many who are unemployed are losing their homes.

While the documentary provides testimonies of various people, many who got involved in crime due to family or spouse involvement with the mafia, to others having to support their siblings after their parents have passed, these few who have turned to drugs and prostitution and were incarcerated.

But as journalists, lawmakers and community leaders give their two cents on the problems afflicting their area, there is a lot of talk and not enough being done.

Meanwhile, Ferrara blends fictional drama with one story featuring men from the mafia trying to off one of their own, another featuring a dysfunctional family that no doubt gets darker when you see what happens towards the end of the film and the tensions in prison due to overcrowding.

While documentaries try to keep some sort of balance of showing the bad and the good, “Napoli Napoli Napoli” doesn’t really show any signs of positive movement from the government or any way to solve the issue, because it has been going on for so long with no resolve.

Many who treasure Naples should feel badly for the way the film doesn’t show any shining light or glimmer of hope and had every reason to critique Abel Ferrara for his documentary showing Naples in a negative light.

The fact is that other countries or cities, may it be in Detroit, Rio de Janeiro, Manila, etc., there is crime in major cities, especially where there is high unemployment.  There are bad areas, there are bad people but a city and its people should not be generalized into this percentage of those who have committed a crime or live in poor areas.

But I will give filmmaker Abel Ferrara some respect in taking on a film and wiling to show an honest portrayal of those who were incarcerated and why.

As for the Blu-ray release, while the film is made in 2009, it may not have a digital feel to it, when compared to other recent films but footage does look slightly aged.  Just slightly.  And of course, as a documentary, you have a mix of present to archived historic footage of Naples in the past.

Overall, Abel Ferrara’s “Napoli Napoli Napoli” is a hybrid documentary that goes far to show the negative aspects of life in Naples and how several people were affected with the problems of their municipality.  But also featuring fictional storylines of crime and survival.  An audacious film  that strays from having any blaance and gives viewers an unforgiving look at Naples.

Assassination Classroom, Season 1, Part 2 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Assassination Classroom” is an enjoyable, humorous and exciting action-packed anime series.  And with the second part of season one, the series just gets better and better!  I can’t wait for season two! 

Image courtesy of © 2016 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Assassination Classroom, Season 1, Part 2

YEAR: 2015

DURATION: Episodes 12-22 (275 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: August 16, 2016


Originally Created by Yusei Matsu

Directed by Seiji Kishi

Screenplay by Makoto Uezu

Music by Naoki Sato

Character Design by Kazuaki Morita

Art Direction by Ayumu Miyakoshi, Kazuto Shimoyama

Mechanical Design by Tomohito Hirose

Production by Lerche


Featuring the following voice talent:

Aya Suzaki/Monica Rial as Kaede Kayano

Jun Fukuyama/Sonny Strait as Koro-sensei

Mai Fuchigami/Lindsay Seidel as Nagisa Shiota

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Apphia Yu as Karma Akabane

Ayaka Suwa/Michelle Rojas as Tōka Yada

Chie Matsuura/Morgan Garrett as Megu Kataoka

Eiji Miyashita/Kyle Phillips as Sōsuke Sugaya

Fuko Saito/Terry Doty as Kirara Hazama

Hisako Kanemoto as Hinano Kurahashi

Junji Majima as Ryūnosuke Chiba

Kana Ueda as Yuzuki Fuwa

Kenta Miyake as Akira Takaoka

Kouki Harasawa as Takuya Muramatsu

Mamoru Miyano as Gakushū Asano

Manami Numakura as Rio Nakamura

Megumi Ogata as Itona Horibe

Miho Hino as Sumire Hara

Minami Tanaka as Hinata Okano

Ryo Naitou as Taiga Okajima

Ryota Ohsaka as Yūma Isogai

Saki Fujita as Jiritsu “Ritsu” Shikō Kotei Hōdai

Satomi Satou as Yukiko Kanzaki

Sayuri Yahagi as Manami Okuda

Shiho Kawaragi as Rinka Hayami

Shintarō Asanuma as Hiroto Maehara

Shinya Takahashi as Kōki Mimura

Shizuka Itou as Irina Jelavic

Sho Hayami as Gakuhō Asano

Shunsuke Kawabe as Masayoshi Kimura

Subaru Kimura as Ryōma Terasaka

Takahiro Mizushima as Kōtarō Takebayashi

Takehito Koyasu as Gastro

Tomokazu Sugita as Tadaomi Karasuma

Yoshitaka Yamaya as Tomohito Sugino

Yoshiyuki Shimozuma as Taisei Yoshida


From the studio behind Danganronpa and Monster Musume comes Assassination Classroom! After the battle with Itona, the students of Class 3-E settle back into a normal routine. Well, normal for a class filled with would-be assassins! As the weather turns warm, the class can’t afford to laze about, and up their training under the guidance of Karasuma. But with the semester already half over, the government decides to send a new teacher to take over their training. Are his methods too extreme? Or will it be the push they need to become real killers?

While training is all well and good, they can’t forget about final exams! And if they want to up their chances of taking out Koro Sensei, they’re going to have to do their very best. The stakes are raised even higher when Class A makes a bet that could send Class E on the best summer vacation ever. Could an island retreat help them set up the perfect assassination?


What happens when Class 3-E gets a sadistic instructor as their new P.E. teacher?

Meanwhile, what happens when the students are poisoned by a deadly virus and the remaining students must get the antidote by infiltrating a high-security hotel and taking on their deadliest rivals yet?

All this and more in “Assassination Classroom, Volume 1, Part 2”!

What is “Assassination Classroom” all about?

In 2012, mangaka Yusei Matsui created the manga series “Assassination Classroom” (Ansatsu Kyoshitsu).

Matsui, who was known for the manga series “Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro” and also was a former assistant of mangaka, Yoshio Sawai, would eventually create one of the best selling manga series in the past few years.

Serialized in “Weekly Shonen Jump”, a total of 12 volumes have been collected into Tankobon format and the first volume has had over one million copies printed and was on the list for best-selling manga in 2013. Came second in Media Factory’s “Book of the Year” and won the #1 position for “2014 Kono Manga ga Sugoi!” voted by male readers for Takarajimasha.

With an anime adaptation in Japan that debuted in 2015, the first part of the first season of “Assassination Classroom” was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNIMATION.

The anime series is produced by Lerche (“Danganronpa the Animation”, “Persona 4: The Animation”, “Re: Hamatora”) and was directed by Seiji Kishi (“Angel Beats!”, “Persona 4: The Animation”, “Ragnarok the Animation”, “RE: Hamatora”), a screenplay by Makoto Uezu (“Kamisama Dolls”, “Arslan Senki: Fujin Ranbu”, “Quiz Magic Academy”, “Is This a Zombie?”), music by Naoki Sato (“Blood-C”, “Eureka Seven”, “Heroic Age”), character design by Kazuaki Morita (“Kamisama Dolls”, “Tentai Senshi Sunred”, “Persona 4: The Animation”) and art direction by Ayumu Miyakoshi (“Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio: Ars Noba DC”) and Kazuto Shimuyama (“Daganronpa the Animation”, “Devil Survivor 2: The Animation”).

The series begins by introducing us to a powerful alien creature that destroyed 70% of the moon, making it a crescent moon forever. The alien has said that within a year, he will destroy the Earth but he does give mankind a chance to prevent it.

Having special speed and quick reflexes, with a number of tentacles like an octopus, the alien known as Koro-sensei, becomes a teacher for the lowly class 3-E at the prestigious Kunugigaoka Junior High School.

Government worker Tadaomi Karasuma tells the entire class 3-E what problems they are facing and how Koro-sensei will destroy the Earth. But the deal the alien made with the government and military is that if he is assassinated before the end of the year, he will spare Earth. So, Tadaomi Karasuma announces that the focus of class 3-E is to kill their homeroom teacher.

And Koro-sensei is hoping the students can do it..but can they?

For volume 1, we are introduced to Nagisa Shiota, a weak student but very observant and smart and studies Koro-sensei’s color-changing moods and tries to find any weakness that he can.

Meanwhile, bad boy Karma Akabane joins class 3-E and was suspended from school prior to Korosensei’s arrival and now, Karma wants to do all he can to kill Koro-sensei.

But each time the students try to kill Koro-sensei, his mach 5 ability makes him difficult to see and kill and all fail. But when they try to kill him, Koro-sensei tries to teach each student on becoming a better person and in someways, making him likeable to a point.

With the destruction of Earth many months away, can these students kill Koro-sensei before it’s too late.

Also, a new English teacher is brought to Kunugigaoka Junior High School. Her name is Irina Jelavich who is very fashionable, sexy and no doubt has her own ways to charm the guys. But in truth, this new teacher is a mercenary and one of the best. But will she be skillful enough to assassinate Koro-sensei?

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Kunugigaoka Private Academy’s principal Gakuho Asano and learn how he views Class E!

In the second part of the first season.  Government worker Tadaomi Karasuma’s former teacher in special forces replaces him as teacher for 3E, but his methods are not the most kindest and includes torture.  How will the class of Koro Sensei’s 3-E respond to their new teacher?

Many of the students of Class 3-E were inflicted with a deadly virus and the person responsible for the virus is demanding that Koro-sensei’s head be delivered to him at the Fukuma Denjo Hotel, in exchange for an antidote.

But Class 3-E must use their skills which they have learned to go against high-level assassins waiting for them.

Will they survive the ordeal?


VIDEO:

“Assassination Classroom” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The anime series is colorful and vibrant.

Backgrounds are well-painted and it was interesting to see the darker character lines for how the main characters are drawn. But for the most part, the animation does compliment the manga series very well! And the overall anime series looks fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Assassination Classroom” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD stereo. “Assassination Classroom” is a series that features crystal clear dialogue. Both soundtracks are well-acted but I felt the English dialogue had the advantage of the use of the surround channels when it comes to lossless audio utilization.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Assassination Classroom” Season 1, Part 2 comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 14 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Sonny Strait (voice of Koro-sensei) and Lindsay Seidel (voice of Nagisa)
  • Episode 17 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Martha Harms (voice of Irina Jelavich) and Chris Ryan (voice of Tadaomi Karasuma).
  • Top 10 Moments – (11:17) Featuring the “Assassination Classroom” voice dub cast (Sonny Straight, Apphia Yu, Chris Ryan, Lindsay Seidel, Monica Rial, Micah Solusud) discussing the top 10 moments from the first season.
  • Textless Opening Song – “Jiriki Hongan Revolution” Version 1 and 2
  • Textless Closing Song – “Hello, shooting-star”
  • U.S. Trailer

EXTRAS:

“Assassination Classroom” Season 1, Part 2 comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the series.


We have seen the students within Class 3-E grow. Grow as friends, grow as assassins, even seeing their own respect for their alien teacher. And each time they have tried to assassinate Koro-sensei, they would lose, thanks to Koro-sensei’s super speed.

But part of what makes Koro-sensei so quick and powerful is the use of his tentacles. And through failure, the class have grown adept in their ways of assassination.

In the second half of the season, we get to see the class work as a team in a baseball challenge, but also see them get a new pool.  But the main storyline is the hiring of Akira Takaoka of the Ministry of Defense Special Task Department.

He has been hired to be in charge of the training for the students, while Mr. Karasuma looks for more assassins.

But for Karasuma, leaving the kids with Takaoka freaks him out because he remembers how Takaoka, as a trainer, used torture to get what he wants.  Does he follow the chief’s order to let Takaoka teach the kids, or does he actually care for the kids and wants to protect them?

But now they must put their skills to use as classmates have been inflicted with a deadly virus and now they need to obtain the antidote from the person responsible.

Also, as students of Class 3-E were inflicted with a deadly virus, time is in the essence of getting an antidote to save them.  So, a few of the students along with Koro-sensei, Ministory of Defense teacher Tadaomi Karasuma and Ms. Irina Jelavich must infiltrate Fukuma Denjo Hotel, where the person who was responsible is staying.  But not only is he waiting for them, so are many high level assassins.

Can Class 3-E survive?

With this second part of the first season, the storyline is exciting as class 3-E finally get to use all what they learned and put it to practice, as they take on their greatest challenge yet!  And while this is all happening, of course, class 3-E continues to find ways to assassinate Koro-sensei.

As for the Blu-ray release, animation is vibrant and colorful, voice acting for both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done. You also get a good number of special features included, from two audio commentary, top 10 moments and more.

Overall, “Assassination Classroom” is an enjoyable, humorous and exciting action-packed anime series.  And with the second part of season one, the series just gets better and better!  I can’t wait for season two!

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

September 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Warcraft” is a visually mesmerizing film.  While its plot may require a second viewing for better clarity, it’s a film that holds tremendous potential for its sequel.  A promising first film adaptation of the popular Blizzard Entertainment videogame franchise, “Warcraft” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Warcraft

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 2 Hrs. and 3 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English Dolby Atmos, DVS Dolby Digital 2.0, Espanol, Francais Dolby Digital 5.1

COMPANY: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Extended Sequences of Intense Fantasy Violence)

Release Date: September 27, 2016


Directed by Duncan Jones

Screenplay by Charles Leavitt, Duncan Jones

Produced by Stuart Fenegan, Alex Gartner, Jon Jashni, Charles Roven, Thomas Tull

Co-Producer: Nicholas S. Carpenter, Stuart Fenegan, Alex Gartner, Jon Jashni

Executive-Producer: Michael Morhaime, Brent O’Connor, Paul W. Sams, Jillian Share

Cinematography by Simon Duggan

Music by Ramin Djawadi

Edited by Paul Hirsch

Casting by Sandra-Ken Freeman, Lindsay Graham, Mary Vernieu

Production Design by Gavin Bocquet

Art Direction by Dan Hermansen, Helen Jarvis, Iain McCaig, Margot Ready, William Ladd Skinner, Grant Van Der Slagt

Costume Design by Mayes C. Rubeo


Starring:

Travis Fimmel as Anduin Lothar

Paula Patton as Garona

Ben Foster as Medivh

Dominic Cooper as Llane Wrynn

Toby Kebbell as Durotan/Antonidas

Ben Schnetzer as Khadgar

Robert Kazingsky as Orgrim

Clancy Brown as Blackhand

Daniel Wu as Gul’dan

Ruth Negga as Lady Taria

Anna Galvin as Draka

Callum Rennie as Moroes

Burkely Duffield as Callan

Ryan Robbins as Karos

Dean Redman as Varis/Caged Frostwolf


The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens to connect the two worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, an unlikely set of heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their families, their people and their home. So begins a spectacular saga of power and sacrifice in which war has many faces, and everyone fights for something.


Since 1994, the “Warcraft” franchise of video games, novels and other entertainment by Blizzard Entertainment has entertained millions of people all over the world.

And since the announcement of a “Warcraft” film a decade ago, there was always a question if a film would ever be made.

In 2016, “Warcraft” would be released in theaters.  Directed by Duncan Jones (“Moon”, “Source Code”, “Whistle”), which he co-wrote with Charles Leavitt (“Blood Diamond”, “In the Heart of the Sea”, “K-PAX”).

The film would star Travis Filmmel (“Vikings”, “The Experiment”), Paula Patton (“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”, “Deja Vu”, “Precious”), Ben Foster (“3:10 to Yuma”, “Lone Survivor”, “The Mechanic”), Dominic Cooper (“Captain America” films, “Need for Speed”, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer”), Toby Kebbell (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, “Rock n Rolla”, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”), Ben Schnetzer (“Pride”, “The book Thief”, “Goat”), Robert Kazinsky (“EastEnders”, “Pacific Rim”, “Hot Pursuit”), Clancy Brown (“Highlander”, “Starship Troopers”, “The Shawshank Redemption”), Daniel Wu (“Europa Report”, “One Night in Mongkok”, “Protege”), Ruth Negga (“World War Z”, “The Samaritan”, “Jimi: All is by My Side”), Anna Galvin (“Girl vs. Monster”, “The Boy Who Cried Werewolf”), Callum Rennie (“Born to Be Blue”, “Memento”, “Battlestar Galactica”), Burkely Duffield (“House of Anubis”, “Pathfinder”, “Rags”) and Ryan Robbins (“Sanctuary”, “Walking Tall”, “Apollo 18”).

While critics were not favorable to the film and domestic box office wasn’t great, the worldwide box office would be fantastic as the film budgeted at $160 million, would go on to earn $433.5 million, surpassing the 2010 film, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” as the highest-grossing video game adaptation of all time.

And now “Warcraft” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film begins with Durotan (portrayed by Toby Kebell), the chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, comforting his pregnant mate Draka (portrayed by Anna Galvin) looking forward to having a child.  But for the time being, he and his tribe must find a new world, as Draenor, the homeworld of the Orcs is being torn apart by a green mysterious magical force known as fel magic.

Gul’dan (portrayed by Daniel Wu), the powerful orc warlock has united the orc clans to form the Horde and he would use the spirit energy of non-Orc’s (known as draenei) to create a portal that would lead to the world of Azeroth (human world).

Gul’dan sends out a group to venture into Azeroth to capture prisoners, so they can use them as draenei to power the portal and bring the rest of the Horde to go through the portal into Azeroth.

Meanwhile, a mage named Khadgar (portrayed by Ben Schnetzer) has noticed that deceased bodies have shown traces of fel magic.  He tells the military commander, Andui Lothar (portrayed by Travis Fimmel) about what he has found and together, they inform Stormwind’s king, Llane Wrynn (portrayed by Dominic Cooper).  Concerned, he has Anduin and Khadgar to consult with Medivh, the Guardian of Tirisfal in Karazhan.

When Anduin, Khadgar and Medivh join a scouting team to find traces of fel magic, they are ambushed by orcs.  The human warriors are saved by the magic of Medivh, while Blackhand, Durotan and Orgrim flee and the soldiers capture a half-orc slave named Garona (portrayed by Paula Patton).

King Llane gives Garona her freedom, but to prove her loyalty to Stormwind, she must lead the humans to spy on an orc camp and they learn about Gul’dan’s plan to bring the Horde to Azeroth.

But when Durotan finds out that fel magic is responsible for the destruction of his homeland and with Gul’dan using fel magic in Azeroth, he fears that it would lead to the destruction of Azeroth, so Durotan and his Frostwolf Clan try to negotiate an alliance with the humans, to stop Gul’dan but are they enough to stop Gul’dan?  And can human and orc’s trust each other?


VIDEO:

“Warcraft” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality features great detail.  The orcs simply look wonderful.  The gorgeous created landscapes look awesome!  Even the various animal characters feature great detail, especially when it comes to closeups and skintones look natural. Picture quality for the most part looks very awesome on Blu-ray with no signs of artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Warcraft” is presented in English Dolby ATMOS, Dolby Digital 2.0, Espanol, Francais Dolby Digital 5.1. As one can expect, the film features a lot of action sequences and primarily a lot of fight scenes from the orc’s clanging or the pounding of their weapons, the screeching of the giant bird, the sound of the fel surging within the gate, to the galloping horses from a distance and many more action scenes that utilize the surround channels and LFE.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Espanol and Francais.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Warcraft” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted/Extended Scenes – (13:57) Featuring 11 deleted/extended scenes.
  • Gag Reel – (3:25) Featuring the gag reel for “Warcraft”.
  • The World of Warcraft on Film – Featurettes exploring the origin of “Warcraft”, the talent, the visual effects, costumes, motion capture and stunts for the film.
  • The Fandom of Warcraft – (6:29) A look at the fandom for “Warcraft” and BlizzCon.
  • Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood Motion Comic – (53:43) Featuring the five chapters of the comic book of “Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood”.  A motion comic featuring the comic book and voice acting.
  • Warcraft: The Madame Tussauds Experience – (2:38) A few of the cast members talk about their Madame Tussaud experience of seeing the wax version of their character.
  • ILM: Behind the Magic of Warcraft – (2:59) A short featurette of Industry Lights and Magics involvement for “Warcraft”.
  • Warcraft Teaser – 2013 – (2:23) The 2013 teaser trailer for “Warcraft”.

EXTRAS:

“Warcraft” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the film, an UltraViolet HD code and Blizzard Entertainment game codes.


For anyone who has been involved with PC gaming, Blizzard Entertainment’s “Warcraft” is a video game that has long since been part of gaming culture since the early ’90s.

While my foray into the game was more with the “Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos” PC game (and more so with their “Starcraft” game), I know of many friends (and even relationships ended) thanks to the popular and addicting game, “World of Warcraft”.

Needless to say, “Warcraft” has a large legion of fans and those fans have been awaiting the release of the “Warcraft” film since it was announced back in 2006.

And while it would have been awesome if the film was released in the mid-to-late 2000’s, when the video game was still at its peak, what benefits the film being released nearly a decade after its announcement is the fact it can utilize newer CG technology available and for that, the film looks fantastic in HD!

But there are positives and negatives about the film and for the most part I enjoyed the film.

Let’s first take a look at the positive aspects of the film.  Filmmaker Duncan Jones and writers Jones, Charles Leavitt and Chris Metzen were careful and made sure to give fans what they wanted and incorporate various aspect of the video games into the film.

The film looks absolutely gorgeous with the detail of the orc’s, the overall costume design and production design were top notch and the visual effects, especially the creation of Azeroth really looks amazing.

And the storyline setting up the challenges between humans and orcs in the first film was well-done!

But the problem with “Warcraft” is that the film tries to feature too much within it’s two-hour time frame.  Upon my first time viewing the film, I’ll be truthful, I was lost because there were so many characters that a lot of situations went over my head.

Watching the film again, this time on Blu-ray, to be truthful, a second viewing gave me more clarity and I think for those who watched it once and were a little confused, may find themselves enjoying the film the second time around.

But one will notice that there are number of deleted/extended scenes included on the Blu-ray, and some scenes I wish were not cut from the film. But for timing and pacing, similar to the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” films, “Warcraft” is a film that would benefit from an extended version.  People who are willing to watch the longer version of the film, especially “Warcraft” fans.

I’m not a “Warcraft” fans, but I really enjoyed the film, I just felt too much was being crammed in the first film, that I wouldn’t have minded if it had an extra 15-30 minutes of additional storyline to make things a bit more comprehensive.

I also hope there is a second film and while the domestic box office was unkind, the fact that “Warcraft” has an international following, that international following helped make this film profitable.  And I do feel that this film will receive more attention for those who passed on the film at the theaters and are now more willing to watch the sequel if it’s ever released (hopefully not ten years from now).

As for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned, picture and lossless audio is magnificent and there are a good number of special features included.  I absolutely love the inclusion of the “Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood” motion comic (although the voice acting was not the greatest).

Overall, “Warcraft” is a visually mesmerizing film.  While its plot may require a second viewing for better clarity, it’s a film that holds tremendous potential for its sequel.  A promising first film adaptation of the popular Blizzard Entertainment videogame franchise, “Warcraft” is recommended!

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

September 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

theshallows

Jaume Collet-Serra’s “The Shallows” is no doubt one of the better shark attack films ever made.  No banal stupidity, farfetched idiotic scenes, it’s an American survival horror thriller that will captivate you from beginning to end.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Shallows

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 86 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:39:1), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (For Bloody Images, Intense Sequences of Peril and Brief Strong Language)

Release Date: September 27, 2016


Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Written by Anthony Jaswinski

Produced by Lynn Harris, Matti Leshem

Executive-Producer: Jaume Collet-Serra, Douglas C. Merrifield

Music by Marco Beltrami

Cinematography by Flavio Martinez Labiano

Edited by Joel Negron

Casting by Ben Parkinson

Production Design by Hguh Bateup

Art Direction by Fiona Donovan, Nathan Blanco Fouraux

Costume Design by Kym Barrett


Starring:

Blake Lively as Nancy

Oscar Jaenada as Carlos

Brett Cullen as Dad

Sedona Legge as Chloe

Pablo Calva as Boy

Diego Espejel as Intoxicated Man

Ava Dean as Young Nancy

Chelsea Moody as Young Mom

Sully Seagull as Sully “Steven” Seagull


In the taut thriller, when Nancy (Blake Lively) is surfing on a secluded beach, she finds herself on the feeding ground of a great white shark. Though she is stranded only 200 yards from shore, survival proves to be the ultimate test of wills, requiring all of Nancy’s ingenuity, resourcefulness, and fortitude.


When it comes to action and horror films, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (“Unknown”, “Non-Stop”, “Orphan”, “House of Wax”) is known for taking on those type of film projects.

Combine the two and have Collet-Serra at the helm and result is his 2016 American survival horror thriller, “The Shallows”.

Written by Anthony Jaswinski (“Vanishing on 7th Street”, “Kristy”), “The Shallows” stars Blake Lively (“Gossip Girl”, “Green Lanthern”, “The Age of Adaline”), Oscar Jaenada (“The Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”, “The Losers”), Brett Cullen (“The Dark Knight Rises”, “Ghost Rider”, “Apollo 13”) and Sedona Legge.

The film received great reviews and did a fantastic job at the box office, as the $17 million film would earn $110.1 million worldwide.

And now “The Shallows” will be available on 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“The Shallows” begins with a boy on the beach discovering a helmet and a GoPro attached to it.  When he goes to check the footage, he sees a man getting dragged underwater and killed by a great white shark.

The film then shifts to medical student Nancy Adams (portrayed by Blake Lively) and driver Carlos (portrayed by Oscar Jaenada) taking Nancy to a secret beach area in Mexico to surf.  The beach is where Nancy’s mother surfed before Nancy was born.

When Nancy looks at the beach area, it looks like paradise, with blue water and seeing two other surfers enjoying the waves.

Meanwhile, before she surfs, she video chats with her younger sister Chloe (portrayed by Sedona Legge), to surprise her that she is surfing in Mexico.  Meanwhile, her father (portrayed by Brett Cullen) tries to talk to Nancy about completing medical school.  And we learn that Nancy is considering dropping out after her mother’s death.  And feeling worthless that she couldn’t do anything to stop it.

After surfing numerous waves and taking a break to eat, she wants to catch one more wave.  While the other two surfers leave the area.

While surfing one last wave, she spots seagulls on top of a dead humpback whale.  Perhaps a warning sign, Nancy goes to paddle back to shore but a large great white shark bumps her surfboard sending her hitting a rock.  As she surfaces, she is bitten by a shark.

In severe pain and bleeding profusely, she manages to go on top of the shark.  But the shark continues to ram the whale carcass sending Nancy to swim on an isolated rock.

Using her remnants of her surfboard strap, part of her wetsuit and her earrings to create a tourniquet, she is trapped in the middle of the sea (along with a seagull with a broken wing), while the great shark continues to circle around the rock that she’s on.

With no one around and her wounds getting worse, will Nancy survive her ordeal?


VIDEO:

“The Shallows” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is fantastic. The scenery from Lord Howe Island is absolutely gorgeous, blue water, blue skies and vibrant daytime scenes.  Even evening shots and areas near the rock area where Nancy is on, is full of detail.  Great closeups and skin detail showcasing Nancy’s wounds and for the most part, cinematography and capturing all the action was fantastic for the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Shallows” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  Also, an English Audio Description Track plus a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.

As one can expect from this film shot in the ocean with waves crashing, great use of the surround channels as you can hear the crash of waves, the ramming of the shark and a crystal clear musical score that makes the film thrilling and exciting to watch. Great use of LFE and dialogue is also crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Shallows” comes with the following special feature:

  • Deleted Scenes – (4:51) Featuring three deleted scenes.
  • Shooting in the Shallows – (5:57) A featurette about the making of “The Shallows” and the challenge of shooting in water.
  • When Sharks Attack – (7:34) Interviews with the cast and crew, interview with a shark attack survivor and a shark expert on why sharks attack humans. Also, what to do if a shark is near you (Note: Actual shark bite/wounds are shown).
  • How to Build a Shark – (6:56) A featurette on the making of the shark via visual effects and how it was designed.  The models built and more.
  • Finding the APerfect Beach:Lord Howe Island – (6:01) A featurette about how Lorde Howe Island between Australia and New Zealand was the perfect choice for the film’s setting.

In the last few years, viewers have been inundated with cheesy shark attack films, meanwhile in reality, we have been seeing a gradual increase of shark attacks at many beaches.

And in 2015, there was more shark attacks reported worldwide last year than any previous year and according to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) that keeps a database of shark attacks at the Florida Museum of National History, 49% of the attacks involved surfers.

And in 2015, I think a lot of people will remember when pro surfer Mick Fanning barely escaped a shark attack in South Africa during a competition and since then, there have been tragic shark attacks in Australia and other parts of the world.

But experts remind people that it’s not that shark attacks are on the rise, it’s that more people are swimming, surfing and diving in the ocean and sharks typically visit the same nearshore areas where people tend to be at.

And as for shark films, while a lot of them have gone through the extreme boundaries of farfetched storylines, filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra has created a film in which he wanted to achieve realness and was careful from everything from having the right location, the right sharkmodels and visual effects and also having viewers captivated as surfer, Nancy is stranded 200 yards from shore, in a secluded area.

We have watched actress Blake Lively in shows such as “Gossip Girl” and also appearing on several films, but “The Shallows” was a film that focused primarily on her character, the weight of the film was on her shoulders and she would have to give the best emotional performance showcasing a woman enjoying the gorgeous scenery, catching awesome waves, but also facing the terrifying aspect that she is close to death, after being bitten by a shark and is now left stranded on a rock with high tide coming.

Having watched many shark attack films, aside from “Jaws”, which is possibly the most well-known shark attack film, but I think when it comes to feeling the dread of being stranded, the 2003 psychological horror film “Open Water”, inspired by a true story, definitely is a film that stays within you because of the circumstances of film’s two characters.

And so, seeing so many banal and terrible shark films in the last decade, it’s great to see a film like “The Shallows” come along and really show us the terrifying factor of being in the middle of the ocean, with no help in sight and trying to survive against a great white, while already injured.

Along with the wonderful performance by Blake Lively and the directorial effort of Jaume Collet-Sera, I also have to give a high five to cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano, but also editor Joel Negron for keeping the transitions tight and film’s pacing was right on the mark.

As for the Blu-ray release, the film is absolutely vibrant, thanks to the beautiful location at Lord Howe Island, where the film was shot and shooting in the water, there is great detail of close-ups, especially on the wounds that the character Nancy received, to the rocks, reef, the seagull, the whale carcass and more.

Lossless audio was also fantastic as the surround channels and LFE were in good use thanks to the rumbling of the waves and the constant shark attacks.  Dialogue and musical score were also crystal clear.

And there is also a good amount of special features included on this Blu-ray release.

Overall, Jaume Collet-Serra’s “The Shallows” is no doubt one of the better shark attack films ever made.  No banal stupidity, farfetched idiotic scenes, it’s an American survival horror thriller that will captivate you from beginning to end.  Recommended!

Barbarians Rising (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Barbarians Rising” is entertaining, action-packed but also quite informative and educational.  One of my favorite History Channel docudrama series that I have watched and I definitely recommend it!

Images courtesy of © 2016 A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Barbarians Rising

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 93 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Thematic Elements)

Release Date: September 6, 2016


Directed by Declan O’Dwyer, Simon George

Written by Elizabeth, Chris Fallon, Simon George, Colin Heber-Percy, Olivier Nilsson-Julien, Declan O’Dwyer, Lindsay Shapero, Lyall Watson

Produced by Lauranne Bourrachot, Katie Holly, Whit Stillman

Co-Producer: Remi Burah, Marco Cherqui, Olivier Pere, Raymond van der Kaaij

Executive-Producer: Collin de Rham, Russell Pennoyer, Keith Potter, Kieron J. Walsh, Nigel Williams

Line Producer: Cathleen Dore

Associate Producer: Trevor Brown

Cinematography by Richard Van Oosterhout

Music by Benjamin Esdraffo

Edited by Sophie Corra

Casting by Kerry Barden, Colin Jones, Paul Schnee

Production Design by Anna Rackard

Art Direction by Louise Mathews, Bryan Tormey

Set Decoration by Stuart Crinnion

Costume Design by Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh


Starring:

Narrated by Michael Ealy

Kirsty Mitchell as Queen Boudica

Ian Beattie as Varus

Steven Berkoff as Augustus

Tom Hopper as Arminius

Fintan McKeown as Igulomerus

Steven Waddington as Fritigern

Julian Kostov as Marcus

Dimo Alexiev as Emsger

Aleksandra Atanasova as Epona

Dimitar Banenkin as Knimund

Ben Batt as Spartacus

Victor Bitiusca as Ilefons

Diana Dimitrova as Aquilina

Nikola Dodov as Sigismer

Leart Dokle as Stilcho

Nicholas Pinnock as Hannibal

Emil Hostina as Attila

Jefferson Hall as Viriathus

Kerry Ingram as Hilde


Action-packed visuals and reenactments bring to life the epic stories of how the brave barbarians waged a 700-year fight for freedom, bringing the mighty Roman Empire to its knees and shaping the world to come.


For those who long for the days when the History Channel showcased docudramas were no doubt entertained when “Barbarians Rising” was aired on television back on June 2016.

Executive produced by Adam Bullmore and produced by Michael Waterhouse, the series is told from the point of view of various rebel leaders, which the Romans have dubbed these rebels as “Barbarians” who would challenge the Roman Empire who would dominate and exact their supremacy across the region.  Exacting genocide to various regions through treachery.

The Romans would rule and take over cities without mercy for 700 years.  And to fight for their people and their land, people led by their great leaders would fight in hopes to reclaim their land.

The four episode series would focus on the following key rebel leaders:

  • Hannibal Barca (portrayed by Nicholas Pinnock) – A Punic military commander from Carthage (which is now known as Tunisia), the once wealthy and powerful country in the Mediterranean and the other power that proved to rival the Romans.  When Rome beat Carthage for the control of Sicily, Rome demilitarized Carthage.  Hannibal’s father raised his son for one purpose, the destruction of Rome.  Hannibal had to unite rivals and create an army which included his country’s signature war elephants from Iberia through the Alps to Italy.  Hannibal’s rival would be the Roman general, Scipio Africanus.
  • Viriathus (portrayed by Jefferson Hall) – A shepherd of Lusitania (which is now known as modern Portugual, Extremadura and a province of Salamanca) who was able to escape when Rome promised peace to the Lusitanians, but instead, thousands were all massacred.  Viriathus would rescue various groups which include the Lusitanian and Vetton tribes, Celtiberian allies and rebel against Rome.  Viriathus rival would be Caius Vetilius, the appointed governor of Hispania Ulterior.
  • Spartacus (portrayed by Benn Batt) – An escaped slave from Thrace (which is now present-day Bulgaria, northeastern Greece and European part of Turkey) and would be trained at a gladiator school and would be used as entertainment for the Romans.  Spartacus and other slaves would try to escape the school and would try to lead the slaves and revolt against the Romans.  His main rival would be General Marcus Crassus, the wealthiest man of Rome, the senator of the Republic and craving power that he aims to crush Spartacus.
  • Arminius – The son of the Cheruscan chief Segimerus of Germania (a region west of the Rhine river and south of the Danube river) who was held hostage as a child and raised in Rome.  He would become an officer in the Roman military alongside his brother Flavus.  He would betray the Rome army and would lead a coalition of Germanic tribes together in opposition to the Romans.  His main rival would be his brother Flavus who was loyal and dedicate to the Roman army as an officer.
  • Boudica (portrayed by Kirsty Mitchell) – The Queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe.  Her husband Prasutagus ruled the region and was an independent ally of Rome and upon his death, his kingdom would be left to his daughters and Roman emperor.  But when his will was ignored, his kingdom was annexed, Boudica was hanged and flogged and her two daughters were raped by the Romans.  After how the Romans treated her family and people, she would lead the Iceni tribe, the Trinovantes and other tribes in revolt against Rome.
  • Fritigern (portrayed by Steven Waddington) – As Rome would face threat from the Huns, the Goths were in the middle, also in fear of the Huns who threatened Thervingi.  A Thervingian Gothic chieftain, Fritigern and the tribe felt that for their survival, they would make a deal with the Romans.  The Romans allowed the Thervingi to cross the Danube River but instead of giving them protection and peace, the Roman governors of the area, Lupicinus and Maximus showed them no hospitality.  The Romans treated the Thervingi as filth, denied them food and starved them.  And would only help if they gave the Romans money or sold their children as slaves.
  • Alaric (portrayed by Gavin Drea) – The first King of the Visigoths, who led a group of Goths and allied people to help build the credibility of Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius and winning battles.  Rome gave no recognition to Alaric or his army and would become the leader of the Visigoths. Alaric would lead the “Sack of Rome”, the first time Rome would fall to a foreign army.
  • Attila (portrayed by Emil Hostina) – Unlike other leaders who would rampage to take over land and people, Attila was the leader of the Hunnic people (Eurasian nomads which consisted of the Huns, Ostrogoths, Alans and others) who’s main goal to anyone not just the Romans is that they should fear him and the Huns.  The Huns would be responsible for murdering not just Romans but other tribes and people.  And would lead an attack on Italy.  He was one of the most feared enemies of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires.
  • Geiseric (portrayed by Richard Brake) – The King of the Vandals and Andals (also known as Genseric), who established the Vandal Kingdom.  He would be known for the capture and plunder of Rome in 455 by the Vandals (and hence the word, “vandalism” was created).

Narrated by Michael Ealy (“Seven Pounds”, “Think Like a Man”, “Almost Human”, “Underworld: Awakening”), the docudrama features commentary with modern scholars, historians, military leaders and experts on public policy.


VIDEO:

“Barbarians Rising” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is fantastic. Closeups shows good detail, skin tones look natural and black levels are nice and deep. The production for this overall series and the cinematography was well done.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Barbarians Rising” is presented in English 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio.

The film is primarily dialogue driven, as dialogue is crystal clear. While I would have preferred at 5.1 lossless soundtrack, the audio is crystal clear through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Barbarians Rising” comes with the trailers.

EXTRAS:

“Barbarians Rising” comes with a slipcover and UltraViolet Digital HD code.


I absolutely enjoy History Channel docudramas and its take on history through re-enactments but also allowing history scholars and historians, military experts and leaders in public policy to comment on strategies, the effects on society of the time and more.

“Barbarians Rising” is rather exceptional in the fact it gives us a perspective through the various leader of tribes, called Barbarians by the Romans and also showing viewers of how Romans were barbaric, treacherous and would lead to genocide of other tribes in their quest of domination.

Rome and Carthage were two of the superpowers and in order to destroy Carthage, hundreds of thousands of people were massacred by the Romans.  While”Barbarians Rising” would focus on the Carthage battles through the first episode featuring Hannibal, there are other areas showing how Romans would massacre and mistreat people with the promise of giving them peace but instead, when everyone would gather, have them massacred.

Giving people no choice but to fight for their people and country.  This can be seen in the first episode featuring Viriathus.

For the first episode,”Resistance”, one of the surprising but also heavily debated casting decisions was to portray Hannibal with a Black actor.  In some ways, this is a bold but also good decision as there is one side who felt that Hannibal of Africa was Black. Meanwhile, the casting received resistance because there are those who point out that North Africa did not have Black residents.  But then there are debates that Carthanginians were descended from Phoenician colonists who were Semitic people and because there were many Black people around the region, it is possible that Phoenician colonist intermarried with native African people.  And if you look on line, Erudites have much to say on intermarriage and that there are writings including the Bible that believed Phoenicians and Canaanites were related to people of Africa.  Whether or not Hannibal was Black or not, is is a debate that will continue to go on for many years and decades to come.

For those who have watched films about Spartacus, the second episode titled “Rebellion” shows us a different side of Spartacus that people may not be familiar with.  Especially when it comes to Spartacus’ decision to threaten Rome.  The story of Arminius is also very entertaining and showing how two Germanic brothers, Arminius and Flavus who were sold for gold to the Romans, would have two opposite ideals and would become enemies.  Arminius who would lead his tribe versus the Romans and would fight against his brother, Flavus leading the Romans.

The third episode is possibly my favorite episode of the four, titled “Revenge” would focus on Celtic Queen Boudica and Goth leader Fritigern.  With Boudica’s story, having been betrayed by the Romans and then humiliating her by hanging and flogging her, while raping her young daughters would lead her to a path of exacting revenge upon the Roman empire.  Fritigern and the Goths who made a deal with the Romans, just to have Roman governors not abide to the agreement and make their own choices that led to the suffering of Fritigern and his people, would lead to a major uprising.

The fourth episode would feature Alaric, leader of the Visigoths, the savagery of Attila the Hun and the Vandal King, Geiseric, which would lead to the fall of the Roman Empire.

While the majority of the series does portray history, for story reasons, I’m not sure if the story of Fritigern finding Alaric as a child and helping raise him is factual.  I found nothing about this online nor did I find anything about Alaric exacting revenge on Lupicinus for what he and Maximus did against the Goths.

I also felt that there should have been maybe ten minutes dedicated to let viewers know that the attacks were just one of the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire, not the sole reason.  Part of the reason why Rome fell was due to the economic troubles.  There was no doubt that Vandal King Geiseric and his people definitely disrupted the Romans but growing such a large empire, led to labor deficits, military overspending, overexpansion.  Also, Emperor Diocletian, because the of the large empire, divided the Rome empire to West and East and both empires did not communicate and were often at each other due to the economic troubles.  And last, the corruption in the government and its instability were big factors in the fall of the Roman Empire.

The rebels (Barbarians) were a huge threat and one part of the fall of the Roman Empire but the empire’s undoing was due to the Roman corruption in their centuries of leadership, its greed and quest for power, their treachery and the lack of monetary resources.

As for “Barbarians Rising”, acting was well-done, as well as the cinematography.  Michael Ealy did a wonderful job of narrating the four-part series and the commentating by scholars, historians, military experts, public policy leaders, etc. were also well incorporated and gave context to strategies succeed and failing.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good, but while I was hoping for a 5.1 lossless soundtrack, unfortunately, it’s just a 2.0 stereo soundtrack.  And I wish there were special features included (other than trailers).

Overall, “Barbarians Rising” is entertaining, action-packed but also quite informative and educational.  One of my favorite History Channel docudrama series that I have watched and I definitely recommend it!

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

September 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Bodyguard” is an entertaining, martial arts action film that Sammo Hung fans will no doubt enjoy! He directs and stars in the film and shows us that he can still choreograph fights, he is as effective as a martial arts actor now as he was since starring in films in the early ’60s. If you love martial arts films and have watched Sammo Hung kick butt in the last five decades, “The Bodyguard” is a film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Irresistible Alpha Limited, Edko Films Limited, Focus Films Limited. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Bodyguard

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English and Chinese

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: September 6, 2016


Directed by Sammo Kam-Bo Hung

Written by Jun Jiang

Produced by Min-jung Park

Executive-Producer: Jae-Duk Han

Line Producer: Minkyung Shin

Cinematography by Moo-gae Lee

Music by Yeong-wook Jo

Art Direction: Hwa-sung Cho

Costume Design by Sang-gyeong Jo


Starring:

Sammo Kam-Bo Hung as Ding

Jacqueline Chan as Cherry Li

Qinqin Li as Park Seon Nun

Andy Lau as Li Zheng Jiu

James Lee Guy as Sergei

Tomer Oz as Vasily


Retired Special Agent Ding (Sammo Hung) makes a home in a quiet village on the Russia / China border. He befriends a young girl whose father, in debt with the mob, disappears – leaving her in Ding s care. Now he must recall his superior strategic and tactical skills to save both their lives.


Legendary martial arts actor Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (“Ip Man 2”, “Martial Law”, “Winners & Sinners”) directs and stars in the HK action film “The Bodyguard”.  The film would become the first film Sammo has directed since the 1997 film “Once Upon a Time in China and America”.

The film stars Jacqueline Chan, Qinqin Li (“Cala, My Dog!”, “A Great Wall”, “Moment in Peking”), Andy Lau (“Infernal Affairs”, “House of Flying Daggers”, “The Warlords”), James Lee Guy and Tomer Oz (“Skiptrace”, “Dragonblade”, “Mechanic”).

The film is set in a Chinese city in northeast China, near the Russian border.  A group of Russians are slaughtered by a Chinese gang led by Choi and the only person to witness it was Ding (portrayed by Sammo Kam-Bo Hung).  Unfortunately, Ding’s memory is terrible and he is unable to remember who he saw kill the men.

As Ding stays at home, he often takes care of a neighbor’s daughter, Cherry Li (portrayed by Jacqueline Chan), who’s father Li Zheng Jiu (portrayed by Andy Lau) is a gambler who has run up debt with Choi and is in big trouble.

When Choi threatens to hurt him, he gives Li a chance to live by going to the hotel occupied by a Russian gang leader and to steal a shoulder-bag.  But the Russians go after Li, who runs off with the case.  But when Choi tells Li that his debt isn’t cleared, Li runs off with the bag and goes into hiding.

To get back at Li, they go after his prized possession, his daughter Cherry.  But when the gang tries, Ding, who still remembers his martial arts technique, manages to save her life.  But Choi’s gang will do anything to capture her.

Meanwhile, a gang war between the Russians and Choi’s gang is escalating.


VIDEO:

“The Bodyguard” is presented in 1080p High Definition. As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality features great detail when it comes to closeups and skintones look natural.  Picture quality for the most part looks very good with no signs of artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Bodyguard” is presented in Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film features a lot of action sequences and primarily a lot of fight scenes that utilize the surround channels, while dialogue and music are crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English and Chinese.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Bodyguard” comes with the following special features:

  • An All-Star Cast with All-Star Support – (2:46) Featuring behind-the-scenes with the various all-star cast.
  • About the Characters – (2:25) Featuring the cast discussing their characters
  • A View of the Legend, On and Off-Screen – (2:10) Getting to know Sammo Kam-Bo Hung
  • Sammo Hung: Kindness is His Calling Card – (2:35) A featurette showing Sammo Hung’s kindness and his love for children.
  • About the Action – (2:38) A featurette about the action in the film.
  • About the Girl (Jacqueline Chan) – (2:38) A featurette about the young actress Jacqueline Chan.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “The Bodyguard”.

For any martial arts fan, “The Bodyguard” is a film that many Sammo Hung fans have wanted to see.

As Sammo Hung was popular through the ’70s, 80’s and ’90s and would have his own US TV show titled “Martial Law”, a lot of films that he has appeared in the 2000’s would feature Sammo Hung as a supporting character or as the elder teacher.

But Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan emerged on the big screen together in 1962 and as Jackie Chan still takes on roles as the main protagonist, it has been awhile since we saw Sammo Hung in the main protagonist role.

So, “The Bodyguard” is rather interesting because this is no doubt a Sammo Hung film in which his friends have come along and joined him on this action-packed adventure (with the exception of Jackie Chan, who was supposed to have a role but due to his son’s scandal, was unable to take part in the film).

Still, we have Andy Lau as an executive producer, we have cameos by legendary filmmaker Hark Tsui and legendary martial arts actors Bo Yuen, Ng Ming-Choi and Qiu Yuen having cameos in the film.

But for martial arts fans, the chance of watching Sammo Hung in an action-driven martial arts film and seeing Hung showing us that he still has what it takes to be a main protagonist and still showing us he can still choreograph his fights and still be as effective as a martial arts actor.

“The Bodyguard” is an entertaining film as Sammo Hung plays the character of Ding, a retired Central Security Bureau Officer who has lost his memory.  Unfortunately, the only things he can remember are terrible things that have happened in his life which he hasn’t talked about but as his memory is rapidly deteriorating, he has struck a friendship with a young girl named Cherry.

Cherry is a vibrant girl who occasionally sneaks into his home, because her father is often out getting himself into trouble.  And for Ding, the only people that really care for him is Cherry and his neighbor, an elderly woman named Park.

But in the city they live in near the Russian border, a Chinese and Russian gang are at war with each other and when Cherry’s father gets involved, he becomes a target, but also making Cherry a target as well.  And the only person that can protect her is Ding.

And when the Chinese gang start going after Cherry, they’ll learn quickly that the old, senile Ding is not a person to mess around with.

While I did enjoy the film, and while it is quite farfetched, there are some story sequences that don’t play out quite smoothly as one would hope.  And for some reasons, scenes that should have been deleted were included in the beginning of the end credits and were unnecessarily added.  Those scenes could have easily became deleted scenes in the special features menu of the Blu-ray/DVD.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality features great detail when it comes to closeups and skintones look natural.  The film features a lot of action sequences and primarily a lot of fight scenes that utilize the surround channels, while dialogue and music are crystal clear.

Overall, “The Bodyguard” is an entertaining, martial arts action film that Sammo Hung fans will no doubt enjoy!  He directs and stars in the film and shows us that he can still choreograph fights, he is as effective as a martial arts actor now as he was since starring in films in the early ’60s.

If you love martial arts films and have watched Sammo Hung kick butt in the last five decades, “The Bodyguard” is a film worth watching!

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