Gus Van Sant’s “The Sea of Trees” may not be one of his deepest or finest films in his oeuvre but the film does a great job of showcasing a man trying to survive and navigate through the forest, but also needing to do that with his life which is now in disarray. And hopefully finding some meaning to his life. I enjoyed the film no matter how implausible it may be and it’s a good diversion that may want audiences to think of how precious life truly is.
TITLE: The Sea of Trees
FILM RELEASE: 2014
DURATION: 110 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish
COMPANY: Lions Gate
RATED: PG-13 (Mature Thematic Material, Some Disturbing Images and Brief Strong Language)
RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2016
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Written by Chris Sparling
Produced by F. Gary Gray, Kevin halloran, Ken Kao, Gil Netter, Chris Sparling
Co-Producer: Tammy Goldman, Pietro Scalia, Satch Watanabe
Associate Producer: Thomas Patrick Smith
Music by Mason Bates
Cinematography by Kasper Tuxen
Edited by Pietro Scalia
Casting by Sande Alessi, Francine Maisler
Production Design by Alex DiGerlando
Art Direction by Erik Polczwartek
Set Decoration by Jeanette Scott
Costume Design by Danny Glicker
Matthew McConaughey as Arthur Brennan
Naomi Watts as Joan Brennan
Ken Watanabe as Takumi Nakamura
A powerful story of love and redemption starring Matthew McConaughey as an American professor who travels to Japan for a spiritual and life-changing journey.
From award-winning filmmaker Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting”, “Milk”, “Finding Forrester”, “Elephant”) comes his 2015 drama “The Sea of Trees”.
Featuring a screenplay by Chris Sparling (“Buried”, “The Atticus Institute”, “ATM”), the film stars Matthew McConaughey (“The Wolf of Wall Street”, “Dallas Buyers Club”, “Interstellar”), Naomi Watts (“King Kong”, “Mulholland Drive”, “The Ring”) and Ken Watanabe (“Inception”, “The Last Samurai”, “Batman Begins”, “Letters from Iwo Jima”).
The film begins with an introduction to Arthur Brennan (portrayed by Matthew McConaughey) and his wife Joan (portrayed by Naomi Watts).
Their marriage is rocky as Arthur has chosen a job that makes him happy but yet doesn’t pay well, while Joan is the breadwinner, disappointed that Arthur is not taking a job that would pay more. And because she is left having to work in order to take care of both of them, she has become an alcoholic.
The film then shifts to Arthur taking a flight to Japan to go to Aokigahara Forest (know as “Suicide Forest” or “Jukai” which translates to “Sea of Trees”), a dense forest area near Mt. Fuji, to kill himself.
While preparing to kill himself, he sees a distressed man named Takumi Nakamura (portrayed by Ken Watanabe) who is also trying to kill himself.
As Arthur tries to help him find a trail, as Takumi has decided that he did not want to kill himself and wants to return back to his family, the two get lost in the forest and together, must survive while reflecting on their own personal lives and why both have decided to end their lives.
The story then shows us the story of Arthur and Joan as couple who’s marriage seems over but circumstances bring them closer together until something terrible happens.
But what happened between Arthur and Joan, that would lead Arthur of wanting to kill himself?
“The Sea of trees” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). With the film shot outdoors, the film looks very good in HD as closeups show great detail, skin tones look natural, while black levels are nice and deep. Outdoor scenes look lush, as it was shot in Foxborough, Massachusetts (not in Japan). I didn’t notice any banding issues, crush or artifacts during my viewing of the film. Picture quality is fantastic!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Sea of Tres” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features crystal clear dialogue and musical score. Surround channels feature outdoor ambiance.
Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.
“The Sea of Trees” comes with the following special features:
- The Sea of Trees: A Story of Beauty and Tragedy – (8:17) The making of “Sea of Trees” and the director Gus Van Sant, producers, Matthew McConaughey and Naomi Watts thoughts of making the film.
“The Sea of Trees” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.
In 2015, I took a trip to the Mt. Fuji area and one of the things that caught my interest was Aokigahara.
While I traveled in March when it was overcast, still snowing and no doubt, felt creepy if I had to walk the forest alone, the location is known for being dense and shutting out all noise but the natural sounds of the forest.
I’ve read enough books and watched moves about the ghosts in the area but also the number of deaths in the area. As more suicide attempts were taking place and people were hanging themselves or dying of a drug overdose, local officials are doing what they can to decrease the number of suicide attempts in the area.
And because of the recognition the forest has received for being a “suicide forest”, for many, they find the forest to be a convenient area to die.
Which leads us to the Gus Van Sant film, written by Chris Sparling about an American man named Arthur, a professor who goes to Japan to kill himself in the forest.
His plan of killing himself is thwarted when he discovers a Japanese man named Takumi who also wanted to kill himself and is in distress and wanting to get back to his family. Arthur tries to find a trail for the man but instead, they both get lost and now the two are trying to find a way to get home.
Unfortunately, the area is known for its frigid temperatures, its mountainous cliff areas and not exactly safe for these two men who are looking to find a way out.
But while the two men try to find a way out of the forest and get help, their time together of trying to survive, leads them on a path of self-discovery.
The film is split into two stories, the primary story surrounds Arthur and Takumi trying to survive in the forest, while the other story shows us flashbacks of what led Arthur to decide on wanting to kill himself.
We learn that Arthur and Joan have a troubled marriage. For one, Arthur’s decision to take a low paying professor job that only pays $20,000 has made Joan becoming the primary breadwinner, always busy as a realtor and she has become bitter that it has led her to become an alcoholic. But there is more than meets to eye about this dysfunctional relationship.
For one, Arthur cheated on Joan and she has resentment towards him, even though she gives him chances to redeem himself, she feels that all he cares about is himself. He feels that Joan is trying to make him take a job that would make him unhappy. He is happy where he’s at and thus, it leads the two to have marital problems.
But throughout the film, we see how Arthur and Joan are able to grow closer after something bad happens. But what happens within this relationship between Arthur and Joan, that would lead him to wanting to kill himself?
The film is no doubt a life-changing journey for Arthur as he starts to discover many things about his relationship and himself.
I think that there are people who have problems with the film because certain aspects are implausible and for Gus Van Sant, for setting such a high bar of quality for his films, people expect nothing less than magnificent, deep and full of substance.
While the film does have a supernatural situation that is implausible, I was not disturbed by it as I have grown up reading stories of Japanese mythology to ghost stories and situations that have taken place in the mountain. I found the ending to be a nice touch to the questions that Arthur never knew about his wife. But how the forest was able to make him deal with loss, even though the forest is known for death.
The film’s premise may not make “The Sea of Trees” a commercial, box office hit but for those who ponder on the aspect of death, suicide and ghost stories, especially if knowledgeable about Japanese ghost stories, makes “The Sea of Trees” a film about loss and learning how one can take granted of the time spent with a love one until its too late.
As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic, lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music composed by Mason Bates. And you get a single special feature on the making of the film.
Overall, Gus Van Sant’s “The Sea of Trees” may not be one of his deepest or finest films in his oeuvre but the film does a great job of showcasing a man trying to survive and navigate through the forest, but also needing to do that with his life which is now in disarray. And hopefully finding some meaning to his life. I enjoyed the film no matter how implausible it may be and it’s a good diversion that may want audiences to think of how precious life truly is.
For those who are often on social media and have been drawn to it as a participant or viewer, will no doubt enjoy this lively teen techno-thriller! An exciting and fun ride… Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s “Nerve” is recommended!
FILM RELEASE: 2016
DURATION: 96 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS X Audio, DTS Headphone X Audio, English 2.0 DTS Digital Surround Audio Optimized for Late-Night Listening, Spanish 5.1 DTS Digital Surround Audio, English Description Audio, English and Spanish Subtitles, English SDH
COMPANY: Lions Gate
RATED: PG-13 (Thematic Material Including Dangerous and Risky Behavior, Some Sexual Content, Language, Drug Content, Drinking and Nudity, All Involving Teens)
RELEASE DATE: October 25, 2016
Based on the Novel by Jeanne Ryan
Directed by Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Screenplay by Jessica Sharzer
Produced by Anthony Katagas, Allison Shearmur
Co-Producer: Stephen Meinen, Charles Miller, Orlee-Rose Strauss
Executive Producer: Michael Paseornek
Music by Rob Simonsen
Cinematography by Michael Simmonds
Edited by Madeleine Gavin, Jeff McEvoy
Casting by John Papsidera
Production Design by Chris Trujillo
Art Direction by Marc Benacerraf
Set Decoration by Kara Zeigon
Costume Design by Melissa Vargas
Emma Roberts as Vee
Dave Franco as Ian
Juliette Lewis as Nancy
Emily Meade as Sydney
Miles Heizer as Tommy
Kimiko Glenn as Liv
Marc John Jeffries as Wes
Machine Gun Kelly as Ty
Brian “Sene” Marc as J.P.
Rightor Doyle as Bergdorf Salesman
Josh Ostrovsky as Dirt Beard
Eric D’Alessandro as Hype Boi
Samira Wiley as Hacker Kween
Industrious high school senior Vee (Emma Roberts) is tired of living life on the sidelines. Pressured by friends to join the popular online game Nerve, Vee teams up with a sly and charming competitor (Dave Franco) for just one dare in what seems like harmless fun. But as Vee is caught up in the thrill of the adrenaline-fueled competition, the game takes a sinister turn with increasingly dangerous acts, leading Vee into a high-stakes finale that will determine her entire future.
Social media gone dangerous in the teen techno thriller “Nerve” based on the Jeanne Ryan novel and directed by Henry Joost (“Cat Fish”, “Paranormal Activity 3”) and Ariel Schulman (“Catfish”, “Cover Girl”, “The Best Friends Game”) with a screenplay by Jessica Sharzer (“Speak”, “American Horror Story”).
The film stars Emma Roberts (“We’re the Millers”, “Aquamarine”, “Wild Child”), Dave Franco (“21 Jump Street”, “Now You See Me”, “Warm Bodies”), Juliette Lewis (“Natural Born Killers”, “From Dusk Till Dawn”, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”), Emily Meade (“Money Monster”, “Trespass”, “That Awkward Moment”), Miles Heizer (“Parenthood”, “Rudderless”, “The Red Thunder”), Kimiko Glenn (“Orange is the New Black”, Hairbrained”), Marc John Jefferies (“Notorious”) and Machine Gun Kelly (“Viral”).
And now “Nerve” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in October 2016 courtesy of Lions Gate.
The film begins with high school senior Venus “Vee” Delmonico (portrayed by Emma Roberts) debating on whether or not to accept the California Institute of the Arts admission. Her mother (portrayed by Juliette) wants Vee to attend a local and affordable college, as she has a difficult time dealing with the death of her son, Vee’s brother.
For Vee, she’s often helping out her popular friend Sydney (portrayed by Emily Meade), a school cheerleader who has gained many followers as a player in the social media online reality game “Nerve”.
The game revolves around watchers who play to watch and players who must accept dares from their watchers and those who complete the dares will receive huge money rewards. And the the more dangerous the dare, the more money they receive.
Sydney feels that Vee is lacking adventure and doesn’t really do anything, so when Sydney dares Vee to say hi to her crush, a jock named J.P., Vee doesn’t want to do it. Prompting Sydney to go to J.P. and telling him that Vee likes him, in which the jock is not interested.
The only person that feels bad for Vee is her friend Tommy (portrayed by Miles Heizer), but when Vee is tired of living in Sydney’s shadow and being told that she is unadventurous, she immediately participates in “Nerve” and chooses to be a player.
The game collects all her personal data, bank information and gives her three major rules that must not be broken:
- All dares must be recorded on the player’s phone
- Earned money will be revoked if a player fails or bails on a dare.
- They must never talk to law enforcement about the game.
The top two most-watched players will take part in the final round.
As Vee and Tommy head to a restaurant, she receives her first dare and that is to kiss a stranger at the diner for five seconds. Wanting to change, she goes up and kisses a stranger, a guy named Ian (portrayed by Dave Franco). Ian tells Vee that he is a Nerve player and the watchers dare Ian to take Vee to the city and together they must take on dares that increasingly become risky and dangerous.
Meanwhile, when Vee and Ian’s points start to increase, Sydney becomes jealous of Vee’s sudden rise to popularity on “Nerve”.
But as the risks of “Nerve” leads to deadly dares, will Vee and Ian continue to participate?
“Nerve” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film looks very good in HD as closeups show great detail, skin tones look natural, while black levels are nice and deep.
I didn’t notice any banding issues, crush or artifacts during my viewing of the film. Picture quality is fantastic!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Nerve” is presented in English DTS-X Audio, DTS Headphone X Audio, English 2.0 DTS Digital Surround Audio Optimized for Late Night Listening and Spanish 5.1 DTS Digital Surround.
The lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue but the majority of the soundtrack primarily through its awesome musical soundtrack.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.
“Nerve” comes with the following special features:
NOTE: You must choose Player or Watcher Mode
- Creating Nerve – Featuring 15 character pods with short features revolving around the promotion, outtakes, the music, the cast, the dares and filming of “Nerve”.
- The Players – A text and music featurette of the characters in the film and their profiles.
- “Do You Have the Nerve?” Game (An Interactive Game of Dare) – A game featuring dares that you must complete.
- “Are you a Watcher or a Player?” Quiz – A quiz
“Nerve” comes with a slipcover, a Blu-ray and DVD version of the film and an UltraViolet code.
For those who are into social media, especially live vlogs or streaming video, the concept of daring individuals and seeing the most intriguing to the most tragic situations.
With the film “Nerve” based on the novel by Jeanne Ryan and the film directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, we get a film that explores the “what if?” a online reality game called “Nerve” was created. Where one can become players and win a lot of money by taking part in dares or a watcher, which enables one to dare the player in order to win money.
The higher one gets in the game and takes on dangerous risks, the bigger amount of money gets deposited in their account, as long as they don’t break the rules.
The film revolves around high school senior Vee Delmonico who has been living under the shadow of her popular cheerleader friend Sydney and has never really done anything adventurous. And with her dreams of going to an expensive art school, hopes are dashed as her grieving mother wants her to stay local and attend an affordable college.
When her friend Sydney embarrasses Vee, it’s enough for her to try something different and prove that she is not unadventurous. And so, she takes part in the game “Nerve” as a player. And when her first dare is to kiss an anonymous guy, it happens to be another player named Ian.
And when the two are egged on to take on dares, such as trying on an expensive outfit, then trying to escape from the building with barely any clothes on, to riding on a motorcycle with Ian blindfolded and having to ride for 60 seconds as Vee tries to direct him in traffic, needless to say, things become riskier and more dangerous as the level of dares start to escalate and become more dangerous for both of them.
While I don’t see this film as farfetched, considering I saw some wild things during the years I was watching or participating as a live vlogger on justin.tv to live video on social media, I can see how requests or dares can influence one’s direction. But when money or likes is involved, considering the crazy things we see on YouTube, needless to say, people tend to go far.
And “Nerve” is a film that explores the idea of what happens when watchers try to go too far in their dares. Suffice to say, I like how the film ended and while a film that his hip in style thanks to its musical soundtrack, there is a moral message in the story and no doubt a glimpse of how far things can get.
Both Emma Roberts and Dave Franco did a fantastic job play the characters of Vee and Ian, but it helps boosten the coolness of the film when you have cameo appearances by YouTube star, Casey Neistat.
As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is fantastic and it’s bumping and slick musical sountrack no doubts adds excitement and enjoyment to the overall film. And there are a good number of special features included.
Overall, for those who are often on social media and have been drawn to it as a participant or viewer, will no doubt enjoy this lively teen techno-thriller! An exciting and fun ride… Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s “Nerve” is recommended!
“Mr. Church” is a film that revolved around friendship, family and love. Recommended!
TITLE: Mr. Church
FILM RELEASE: 2016
DURATION: 105 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish
COMPANY: Lions Gate
RATED: PG-13 (Thematic Elements)
RELEASE DATE: October 25, 2016
Directed by Bruce Beresford
Written by Susan McMartin
Produced by Lee Nelson, Courtney Solomon
Co-Producer: Stephanie Caleb, Nicolas Chartier, Elizabeth Costa de Beauregard Rose, Wayne Marc Godfrey, David Hopwood, Robert ones, Scott Karol, Lucy Mukerjee-Brown
Executive Producer: David Anspaugh, Fredy Bush, Yu Wei Cheng, Brad Kaplan, Lawrence M. Kopeikin, Dennis L. Pelino, David Tish
Associate Producer: Ian Brereton, Babak Eftekhari, Mark Frazier, Franchesca Lantz
Music by Mark Isham
Cinematography by Sharon Meir
Edited by David Beatty
Casting byMarisol Roncali, Mary Vernieu
Production Design by Joseph T. Garrity
Art Direction by Eric Jihwan Jeon
Set Decoration by Lisa Son
Costume Design by Karyn Wagner
Eddie Murphy as Henry Church
Britt Robertson as Charlie
Natascha McElhone as Marie
Xavier Samuel as Owen
Lucy Fry as Poppy
Christian MAdsen as Eddie Larson
Mckenna Grace as Izzy
Natalie Coughlin as Young Charlie
Madison Wolfe as Young Poppy
Lincoln Melcher as Young Owen
When a little girl and her dying mother retain the services of a talented cook, what begins as a six-month arrangement spans fifteen years, and creates a family bond that lasts forever.
From filmmaker Bruce Beresford (“Driving Miss Daisy”, “Double Jeopardy”, “Breaker Morant”) and writer Susan McMartin (“Son in Law” and producer of “Two and a Half Men” and “Mom”) comes the film “Mr. Church”, which was inspired by a true friendship.
The film stars Eddie Murphy (“Beverly Hills Cop”, “Trading Places”, “Coming to America”), Britt Robertson (“Tomorrowland”, “The Longest Ride”, “The First Time”), Natascha McElhone (“Designated Survivor”, “The Truman Show”, Solaris”), Xavier Samuel (“Love & Friendship”, “Fury”, “Twilight Eclipse”), Lucy Fry (“Vampire Academy”, “The Preppie connection”, “11.22.63”) and Christian Madsen (“Divergent”, “King Jack”, “Palo Alto”).
And now “Mr. Church” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Lions Gate.
“Mr. Church” begins with an introduction to a young Charlotte “Charlie” Brody (portrayed by Natalie Coughlin) and her single mother Marie Brody (portrayed by Natascha McElhone).
Charlotte is shocked to find a Black man preparing food for the entire family.
Marie explains that the man is Mr. Church (portrayed by Eddie Murphy), a cook that was hired by her deceased ex-lover to take care of her for the remainder of her life, which was expected to last six months as she was dying from breast cancer.
While Charlie was kept in the dark about her mother’s cancer, at first Charlotte wanted Mr. Church out of the house but Mr. Church has more than just become the family cook but also was there for her and her mother.
What was supposed to be a paid job for six months, turned to six years, as Mr. Church would financially take care of the family. And Charlotte (portrayed by Britt Robertson) is now a high school senior who would eventually come to know about her mother’s cancer as she is quite sick, but instead of growing closer to her during her tough years, she becomes more curious and closer to Mr. Church, because she is unable to deal with her mother’s impending death.
As Charlotte wanted to know more about Mr. Church, she starts to realize that he has his own secrets that he doesn’t want anyone to know.
But what started out as curiosity becomes a true friendship between Charlotte and Mr. Church.
“Mr. Church” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks very good in HD as closeups show great detail. Outdoor scenes look fantastic in HD!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Mr. Church” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film features crystal clear dialogue and music with surround channels dedicated to crowd ambiance.
Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.
“Mr. Church” comes with the following special features:
- Britt Robertson – (3:51) Interview with actress Brit Robertson about her role and with the producers of how she was cast.
- Eddie Murphy Doing a Drama – (3:56) Interview with the producers in regards to casting Eddie Murphy as Mr. Church and Eddie Murphy about his role.
- Food on Film – (1:13) A featurette about the food preparation for the film and Eddie Murphy and crew discussing prop food.
- Based on a True Friendship – (3:31) The director and producers discuss writer Susan McMartin’s true life experience.
“Mr. Church” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet HD code.
Watching “Mr. Church”, the film’s story revolves around friendship and for some, how that friendship can also mean much more and be seen as family.
A film about a young girl who developed a friendship with the family cook who became much more. And a true friendship that would develop through adulthood, “Mr. Church” is a film that doesn’t strive to be anything deep or complicated.
Some may find “Mr. Church” to be simplistic as it focuses on the perspective of Charlotte, while others may prefer the film would revolve around Mr. Church much more.
But I found the film to be delightful yet simple as it revolved around a man named Mr. Church who gave his life to raise a woman suffering from cancer and her child. And would continue to do so after the passing of the girl’s mother. The girl would grow to become a woman but eventually instead of pursuing her dreams as a writer, she gets pregnant and moves back home and goes to the only person that she can confide in… Mr. Church and once again, Mr. Church takes care of Charlotte, now a mother, and her young daughter Izzy.
But as they age and Mr. Church gets older, Charlotte will now be one to take care of the friend that has always been there for her.
The film doesn’t go too deep into the racial aspects, especially during the tense times of the ’70s. As the character of Charlotte and her mother accepted Mr. Church into their home and saw him not only as their cook but as a family member.
If the film had any drama, it’s Mr. Church’s private life. While he functions as the family cook earlier on, he makes it clear to Charlotte that what he does at night in his own time is his life and does what he wants. Eventually we learn that Mr. Church has his own skeletons in his closet that he has not come to terms yet.
As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is very good with closeups featuring wonderful detail, outdoor scenes looking quite vibrant. Dialogue and music (may it be it’s jazz or ’80s music) are crystal clear. And there are a good number of special features included.
While “Mr. Church” didn’t receive the greatest reviews, as some found it too simplistic and others felt there should be more emphasis on Mr. Church and possibly the film in his perspective, I watched the film and saw it as the cycle of life.
We all have grandparents, parents, relatives and friends that we all grow up with and many of us have been fortunate to have people who have raised us, inspired us and at times, we pay it forward by helping others or we end up taking care of those who once took care of us.
And for this film, “Mr. Church” is a film that revolved around friendship, family and love. Recommended!
Renny Harlin’s “Skiptrace” may showcase the most unlikeliest Jackie Chan pairing with actor Johnny Knoxville but this action-comedy is a fun diversion and would be enjoyed by anyone who loves popcorn action films.
FILM RELEASE: 2016
DURATION: 98 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish
COMPANY: Lions Gate
RATED: PG-13 (Action/Violence, Some Suggestive Content, Language, Brief Nudity and Drug Material)
RELEASE DATE: October 25, 2016
Directed by Renny Harlin
Screenplay by Jay Longino, BenDavid Grabinski
Produced by Jackie Chan, Charlie Coker, Min Li, Esmond Ren, Damien Saccani, Hongliang Wu
Executive Producer: Frank Botman, Xiolin Liu, Christopher Lytton, Lifeng Wang, Zhenhua Yang
Co-Executive Producer: Qun Gao, Elizabeth Leader, Lifeng Wang
Music by Kwong Wing Chan
Cinematography by Chi-Ying Chan
Edited by Derek Hui, Judd H. Maslansky, David Moritz
Casting by PoPing AuYeung
Production Design by Sai-wan Lau
Costume Design by Crystal Pa
Jackie Chan as Bennie Chan
Johnny Knoxville as Connor Watts
Bingbing Fan as Samantha Bai
Eric Tsang as Yung
Eve Torres as Dasha
Winston Chao as Victor Wong
Youn Junghoon as Willie
Shi Shi as Leslie
Michael Wong as Tang
For years, by-the-book Hong Kong detective Benny Chan (Jackie Chan) has tried to avenge his partner’s murder at the hands of a drug lord. When Benny learns that freewheeling American gambler Connor Watts (Johnny Knoxville) has the evidence he needs, he teams with Connor to get justice. Now all Benny and Connor have to do is survive the fight of their lives — and each other!
Filmmaker Renny Harlin (“Die Hard 2”, “Cliffhanger”, “Deep Blue Sea”) is best known for his action films and working with some of the top action stars in the industry.
Back in 2011, Harlin was to direct the film “Nosebleed” starring Jackie Chan about a window washer trying to stop terrorists from blowing up the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center and on September 11th, filming with Chan on the Twin Towers was to begin in the morning, but the shooting of the scene was delayed. And unfortunately, on that tragic day, 9/11 would claim many lives and Chan, Harlin and the film crew were fortunate that the shooting of the scenes were delayed.
While “Nosebleed” was eventually cancelled, Harlin and Chan would collaborate once again nearly 15 years later for the Hong Kong-Chinese-American action film “Skiptrace”.
The screenplay was written by Jay Longino (“Bachelor Part 2: The Last Temptation”) and BenDavid Grabinski.
The film would star Jackie Chan (“Rush Hour” films, “Police Story”, “Shanghai Noon”, “Rumble in the Bronx”), Johnny Knoxville (“Jackass” films”, “Bad Grandpa”), Bingbing Fan (“X-Men: Days of Future Past”, “Iron Man 3”, “Bodyguard and Assassins”), Eric Tsang (“Infernal Affairs” films, “The Accidental Spy”, “Comrades, Almost a Love Story”), Eve Torres (former WWE Superstar), Winston Chao (“The Wedding Banquet”, “Eat Drink Man Woman”, “1911”) and Michael Wong (“Beast Cops”, “Transformers”, “Thunderbolt”).
The film debuted at #1 in the China box office and has earned over $134 million worldwide. And now “Skiptrace” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Lions Gate.
The film begins with an introduction to Hong Kong detective Bennie Chan (portrayed by Jackie Chan) and his partner Yung (portrayed by Eric Tsang) has a bomb strapped to him and is killed.
Bennie knows that the crime boss Matador is responsible but who is Matador? Bennie suspects its businessman Victor Wong (portrayed by Winston Chao) and has done all he can to investigate.
Meanwhile, con man and habitual liar Connor Watts (portrayed by Johnny Knoxville) is known for his skills with attracting women, gambling and getting what he wants. But unfortunately, because he has gotten a Russian kingpin’s daughter pregnant, the Russian gang wants him brought back to Siberia.
So, Connor goes to China to try his luck at the casinos and also meet with women, one who happens to be Samantha (portrayed by Fan Bingbing), the daughter of Yung. While going to his room, while riding an elevator, he sees a distressed woman running towards him for help. A group of Chinese gang members shoot and kill her and the woman lands on Connor.
Witnessing a crime, Connor doesn’t want any trouble and leaves but he is quickly caught by the Russians.
Bennie is assigned the case to track down Bennie and finds out he has been taken to Siberia. Bennie rescues him and now must bring him back to China.
But Bennie is going to quickly learn that it’s not going to be easy to take the lying and cheating Connor back to China and because they are stranded without any vehicle or money, they must find a way to work together. Especially now that Bennie feels that Connor may be the person that can help him capture the elusive, Matador.
“Skiptrace” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film looks very good in HD as closeups show great detail. Vibrant outdoor scenes and great capturing of fight scenes.. I didn’t notice any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the film.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Skiptrace” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film features crystal clear dialogue and music and also good use of surround channels during the more action-driven scenes.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.
“Skiptrace” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary from Renny Harlin.
- When Jacky Met Johnny – (5:02) Interview with Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville.
“Skiptrace” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet HD code.
Jackie Chan is an actor who has literally done many kinds of films, but also has been paired with actors and actresses that you never saw coming.
While his most successful pairing was with Chris Tucker for the “Rush Hour” films, we have seen Chan paired with Owen Wilson for the two “Shangai Noon” and “Shanghai Knights” films, Jennifer Love Hewitt in “The Tuxedo”, with Billy Ray Cyrus and children for “The Spy Next Door”, Jaden Smith for “The Karate Kid” and now a pairing that no one would ever imagine seeing, with “Jackass” star, Johnny Knoxville.
In this Hong Kong-China-American film collaboration, the action-comedy features Hong Kong/China’s famous talents such as Jackie Chan, Fan Binbing, Eric Tsang, Winston Chao and Michael Wong and while one could think that things could go wrong with a pairing with Johnny Knoxville, the film has a talented action filmmaker directing the film and that’s Renny Harlin.
“Skiptrace” is quite interesting in the fact that the series tries to balance humor and action, and the pairing of Chan’s Bennie and Knoxville’s Connor is rather interesting because they are both very different from each other, but unlike previous pairings with Jackie Chan, the character of Connor is a lying, cheating individual who tries to thwart Bennie every chance he gets. But the more they find themselves in trouble, the more the two realize, they really need to trust each other.
Things happen that you can’t help but laugh (the Chan/Connor scene with a horse just taking a dump during a scene, when the two didn’t expect it) to Jackie Chan and many start singing Adele’s “Deep in the Rolling”.
The fight scenes are well-done as Jackie Chan action films often have his crew making sure all goes well with fight choreography but as you can see at the end of the film (like most Jackie Chan films), the actor still gets banged up a bit.
But while the film is a mediocre Jackie Chan action film compared to his plethora of awesome action films in his oeuvre spanning many decades, surprisingly, it’s a film that works well and it’s funny and entertaining. For the most part, it’s a good popcorn action film.
Picture quality is fantastic, especially outdoor scenes and closeups show great detail. Lossless audio is well-done for the action sequences and dialogue and music are crystal clear. And you get a few special features included as well.
Overall, Renny Harlin’s “Skiptrace” may showcase the most unlikeliest Jackie Chan pairing with actor Johnny Knoxville but this action-comedy is a fun diversion and would be enjoyed by anyone who loves popcorn action films.
Brad Furman’s “The Infiltrator” is an entertaining film about one of the biggest drug busts in American history. While some scenes felt they were thrown in for action-sake (specifically to show how great the danger is for the main protagonist), “The Infiltrator” is an entertaining film from beginning to end and I recommend it!
TITLE: The Infiltrator
FILM RELEASE: 2016
DURATION: 127 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Espanol DTS Digital Surround 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH and Espanol
COMPANY: Broadgreen Pictures
RATED: R (StrongViolence, Language Throughout, Some Sexuality, Nudity and Drug Material)
RELEASE DATE: October 11, 2016
Based on the book by Robert Mazur
Directed by Brad Furman
Screenplay by Ellen Sue Brown
Produced by Paul M. Brennan, Miriam Segal
Co-Producer: Nicole Boccumini, Jess Fuerst, Matt Ruskin, Paula Turnbull
Executive Producer: Bryan Cranston, Kate Fasulo, Cam Galano, Peter Hampden, Scott LaStaiti, Robert Mazur, Norman Merry, Jill Morris, Martin Rushton-Turner
Music by Chris Hajian
Cinematography by Joshua Reis
Edited by Luis Carballar, Jeff McEvoy, David Rosenbloom
Casting by Gail Stevens
Production Design by Crispian Sallis
Art Direction by Karen Wakefield
Set Decoration by Cathy Cosgrove, Scott Jacobson
Costume Design by Dina Collin
Bryan Cranston as Robert Mazur
John Leguizamo as Emir Abreu
Juliette Aubrey as Evelyn Mazur
Diane Kruger as Kathy Ertz
Benjamin Bratt as Roberto Alcaino
Elena Anaya as Gloria Alcaino
Jordan Loughran as Bianca Alcaino
Daniel Mays as Frankie
Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Steve Cook
Amy Ryan as Bonni Tischler
Joseph Gilgun as Dominic
Jason Isaacs as Mark Jackowski
Eric Wellman as Mark Holden
Rubin Ochandiano as Gonzalo Mora Jr.
Simon Andreu as Gonzalo Mora Sr.
Based on a true story, Federal agent Robert “Bob” Mazur (Bryan Cranston) goes deep undercover to infiltrate Pablo Escobar’s drug trafficking scene plaguing the nation in 1986 by posing as slick, money-laundering businessman Bob Musella. Teamed with impulsive and streetwise fellow agent Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) and rookie agent posing as his fiancé Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger), Mazur befriends Escobar’s top lieutenant Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt). Navigating a vicious criminal network in which the slightest slip-up could cost him his life, Mazur risks it all building a case that leads to indictments of 85 drug lords and the corrupt bankers who cleaned their dirty money, along with the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, one of the largest money-laundering banks in the world.
From filmmaker Brad Furman (“The Lincoln Lawyer”, “Runner Runner”, “The Take”) comes his American crime thriller “The Infiltrator”.
Featuring a screenplay by Ellen Sue Brown and based on a true story by Robert Mazur, a U.S. Customs special agent who risked his life in the 1980’s to take down Colombian drug lord and drug trafficker Pablo Escobar’s money-laundering organization by going undercover.
The film stars Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”, “Argo”, “Godzilla”, “Malcolm in the Middle”), John Leguizamo (“Moulin Rouge!”, “Romeo + Juliet”), Diane Kruger (“Inglorious Basterds”, “National Treasure”, “Troy”), Juliet Aubrey (“The Constant Gardner”, “Iris”), Benjamin Bratt (“Law & Order”, “Miss Congeniality”, “Demolition Man”), Elena Anaya (“The Skin I Live In”, “Van Helsing”, “Talk to Her”), Olympia Dukakis (“Moonstruck”, “Steel Magnolias”, “Look Who’s Talk”), Amy Ryan (“Gone Baby Gone”, “Birdman”, “Escape”) and more.
And now “The Infiltrator” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Broadgreen.
The film is set in 1985 in Tamba Bay, Florida and U.S. Customs Service special agent Robert Mazur (portrayed by Bryan Cranston) is tasked to take on an investigation code-named “Operation C-Chase”. While Robert could retire with full benefits, Robert decides to take this last mission.
“Operation C-Chase” was an operation that would be carried out by U.S. authorities to infiltrate a substantial money-laundering enterprise utilized by drug cartels and ran by Pablo Escobar and Manuel Noriega.
With a team of over 200 people, Mazur would take on the undercover alias “Bob Musella”, while agents Emir Abreau (portrayed by John Leguizamo) and Kathy Ertz (portrayed by Dian Kruger) would also go undercover and each must gain the trust of crooked bankers and deadly Colombian drug traffickers.
Because the severity and the high level of danger surrounding the mission, Robert is quick to find out that the high risk of his job could get him killed but also putting his own family in jeopardy if he’s not careful.
“The Infiltrator” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film looks very good in HD as closeups show great detail and also capturing an ’80s feel to the film. I didn’t notice any problems with overall video.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Infiltrator” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Espanol DTS Digital Surround 5.1. The film features crystal clear dialogue and the film features a decent amount of actions at times.
Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.
“The Infiltrator” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Brad Furman and Bryan Cranston.
- Deleted Scenes – (8:45) Featuring five deleted scenes.
- The Three Bobs – (3:18) A featurette about Bob Mazur and his different identities and three characters Bryan Cranston plays in the film.
- How to Infiltrate – (5:49) Short featurettes on psychology, identity and danger.
“The Infiltrator” comes with an UltraViolet code.
Back in the ’80s, Robert Mazur and a team of over 200 people pulled off the most dangerous yet elaborate sting to bust many drug dealers and to take down significant banks involved in the money laundering of drug dealers in America.
While what many of us who remember this situation back in the ’80s, remember of how significant the bust was. What we didn’t really see or read i in the news at the time was how Robert Mazur and his team were able to pull this off and not get killed.
As the story goes, U.S. Customs Service special agent Robert Mazur was a guy who was supposed to retire and catch his benefits and be with his family. Instead, he chose to take one more case offered to him and it was his most significant and riskiest job yet and that was to infiltrate a substantial money-laundering enterprise utilized by drug cartels and ran by Pablo Escobar and Manuel Noriega for “Operation C-Chase”.
Everything had to be thoroughly planned and improvised as agents Emir Abreau had to gain their trust and Kathy Ertz had to play the perfect wife of Mazur’s undercover alias “Bob Musella”.
He needed to show he was just as bad as them and many times, he and Emir would have to win each of the drug trafficker’s trust and eventually do what it takes to elevate himself to the top, even if it means playing a bad guy in front of them.
But at what cost will Mazur go to bust these individuals, when his family are drawn in by his job?
While actor Bryan Cranston is known for his role in the popular drama series, “Breaking Bad”, this time he plays an undercover agent infiltrating drug traffickers, unlike his “Breaking Bad” character of constructing and selling drugs. He does a magnificent job of playing the dedicated agent but also the kind father who knows this last job is taking its toll on his marriage and his family.
Supported by an entertaining cast, while the film is entertaining and the film is based on a true story, these are action scenes that go a little over the top and made me question if they were even worth it.
But for its gritty storyline and giving us a perspective of how the major sting operation in the mid-80’s transpired, one will no doubt be surprised of how far Mazur and crew went to bust these bad guys. And to this day, he still lives in secrecy because of what he had done (and many of the people he busted are out of prison).
As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is great as it manages to capture an ’80s feel with its costume design and lighting. Losless audio features crystal clear audio and good use of the surround channels for the more action-driven scenes. And there are a few special features included!
Overall, Brad Furman’s “The Infiltrator” is an entertaining film about one of the biggest drug busts in American history. While some scenes felt they were thrown in for action-sake (specifically to show how great the danger is for the main protagonist), “The Infiltrator” is an entertaining film from beginning to end and I recommend it!
With the fifth volume of “Durarara!! x2”, this final chapter is leading to the final conclusion of the season as Mikado’s ideas are revealed and new unions are born, meanwhile the unpredictable Izaya may be up to no good.If you love action, humor and all out mayhem, “Durarara!! x2” is recommended!
Images courtesy of © 2015 ANIPLEX INC. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Durarara!! x 2 Volume 5
YEAR OF SERIES RELEASE: 2015
DURATION: Episodes 25-30 (150 Minutes)
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0, English Subtitles
COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.
RATED: Suggested 13 and Up
Release Date: October 18, 2016
Originally created by Ryohgo Narita
Directed by Takahiro Omori
Series Composition by Noboru Takagi
Music by Makoto Yoshimori
Original Creator: Ryohgo Narita
Character Design by Takahiro Kishida
Art Director: Akira Ito
Chief Animation Director: Akira Takata
Anime Production: Shuka
Featuring the voices of:
Miyuki Sawashiro/Kari Wahlgren as Celty Sturluson
Toshiyuki Toyonaga/Darrel Guilbeau as Mikado Ryūgamine
Akio Ohtsuka/Doug Stone as Shingen Kishitani
Atsumi Tanezaki/Karen Strassman as Emilia
Ayahi Takagaki/Mela Lee as Erika Karisawa
Daisuke Ono/Crispin Freeman as Shizuo Heiwajima
Hiroshi Kamiya/Johnny Yong Bosch as Izaya Orihara
Jun Fukuyama/Yuri Lowenthal as Shinra Kishitani
Kana Hanazawa/Michelle Ruff as Anri Sonohara
Kazuma Horie/David Earnest as Seiji Yagiri
Mamoru Miyano/Bryce Papenbrook as Masaomi Kida
Mariya Ise/Kira Buckland as Mika Harima
Sanae Kobayashi/Bridget Hoffman as Namie Yagiri
Takaya Kuroda/Patrick Seitz as Simon Brezhnev
Takuma Terashima/Spike Spencer as Saburou Togusa
Yuuichi Nakamura/Steven Blum as Kyōhei Kadota
Yuuki Kaji/Brian Beacock as Walker Yumasaki
This is a twisted story… a story of twisted love.
Shizuo is arrested by the police, Celty is in pursuit of Kasane who has kidnapped Shinra, Chikage’s gloves come off as he challenges Masaomi, and Varona is back to being her old self as a hitman… Everyone is getting involved in some dark scheme. However, no one knows Mikado’s real plan yet…
The story is heading towards the epic finale.
Things are getting worse in Ikebukuro as Mikado and the dollars are in a battle with the yellow scarves. Various factions want to have Celty’s head.
Will the sadistic Haruna Niekawa kill Anri? Meanwhile, the mysterious Kasane Kujiragi has appeared and to reveal that she is a wielder of the saika.
And what is Izaya up to and the goal of Mikado and why he has changed is revealed. Find out what happens in “Durarara!! x2 vol. 5” on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex!
What is “Durarara!!” all about?
Back in 2004, light novelist Ryohgo Narita, who won a Gold Prize in the 9th Dengeki Novel Prize for “Baccano!” returned with “Durarara!!” and teaming up with illustrator Suzuhito Yasuda (known for his video game work “Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor”).
With a total of eight volumes published in Japan by ASCII Media Works (ala their Dengeki Bunko imprint), a manga adaptation would be created by Akiyo Satorigi and published in the shonen magazine “Monthly GFantasy” in 2009. The popularity of Narita’s works, especially with “Baccano!” would lead to an 26-episode animate adaptation of “Durarara!!” in January 2010 and an ongoing series in 2015 titled “Durarara!! x2”.
The anime production for “Durarara!! x2” is now by Shuka (first series was by Brains Base) and the series is directed by Takahiro Omori (“Aruna”, “Gakuen Alice”, “Kuragehime”, “Zoku Natsume Yujin-Cho”) with series composition/script by Noboru Takagi (“Baccano!”, “C”, “Koi Kaze”). Character design is by Takahiro Kishida (“Cheburashka Arere”, “Dragon Half”, “Ninja Cadets”) and art direction by Akira Ito (“Elfen Lied”, “Shadow Star Narutaru”, “Street Fighter Alpha”).
The series features an ensemble cast and their experience living in Ikebukuro, Tokyo but how their storylines are somewhat connected to each other.
Mikado Ryugamine is a young man who transfers to school from a small country town to the big city in Tokyo and his childhood friend Masaomi tries to show him the ropes of Ikebukuro, which can be dangerous as color gangs have corrupted the city.
Before the yellow scarves were the dominant gang and now on top of the gangs are a mysterious group known as the Dollars, with a leader that no one knows about, all that is known is that members are chosen and are hooked up through the Internet. But recently, there have been several deaths causes by a murderer dubbed “The Slasher” and also rumors of a headless woman riding a motorcycle.
In “Durarara!! x 2” Volume 5 (episodes 25-30), chaos continues in Ikebukuro. But it is revealed that Mikado Ryugamine has changed completely and with the return of Masaomi (who was responsible for enticing Mikado to move to Ikebukuro), he can’t believe how his friend has changed for the worse and Mikado wants to beat some sense into Mikado’s head.
Izaya is back to his manipulating ways and when news of factions are going after Celty’s head, Shizuo hears of this and wants to get back into the action.
Meanwhile, the power of the saika wielders are revealed, Mikado’s reasoning of what he is doing is revealed and more!
The main characters of “Durarara!! x2” are:
- Mikado Ryugamine – A first year high schooler who moves to Ikebukuro, Tokyo after his childhood friend Masaomi had invited him. A shy guy, Mikado is trying to learn the ropes and restart his life. He becomes a class rep and starts to follow for the female class rep, Anri and because his friend Masaomi also likes her, it becomes a bit of an interesting love triangle. Mikado just wants to change and not be normal.
- Masaomi Kida – Mikado’s childhood friend. He seems very over-confident with girls, when actually he is not good at it. Also, he has a mysterious backgrounds and something happened to a girl he knew… Like Mikado, he also likes Anri.
- Anri Sonohara – A girl who wears glasses and is a class rep. She is shy and timid and hangs out with Mikado and Masaomi.
- Celty Sturluson – A headless rider who is looking for her lost head. Celty is a Dullahan from Ireland (a headless woman) who has black smoke coming out of her body. Despite being depicted as monster and killer during the old days, she has been taken in by doctor Shinra Kishitani and carries out missions. Despite not having true emotions, she feels love towards Shinra but unable to understand the feelings that she has due to not having any living DNA.
- Shinra Kishitani – A underground doctor who lives with Celty. His father was the first to operate on Celty (in exchange of giving her a place to stay) and even was given a chance to learn how to do surgery at the age of 4. He works for corporations underground in trying to help them remove memories from people. He is also in love with Celty and is able to understand her emotions despite her not having a head. He also a childhood friend of Shizuo and Kasuka.
- Izaya Orihara – Known as the information broker. He sells information and likes to start trouble or loves to examine human’s when they are conflicted. He is a master of using a knife and causes problems for Shizuo Heiwajima.
- Shizuo Heiwajima – A blonde guy with a very short temper who wears a bartender suit and has enormous power. He can take a lot of pain and it is not known how he is able to have enormous strength and to heal from major injuries. He is friends with Celty, his brother Kasuka (who goes by Yuuhei Hanejima) is a popular actor in Japan and if there is anything he hates more than anything, it is Izaya Orihara. Izaya’s presence makes his blood boil so much that he ends up destroying property around him.
- Simon Brezhnev – A Black Russian who works outside a Russian sushi restaurant. He is known for his great strength.
- Kyohei Kadota – Also, known as “Dotachin” (a nickname that he hates), he is a member of the Dollars and leader of his group of friends which include Walker, Eri and Saburo.
- Walker Yumasaki – A carefree otaku and manga fan who hangs out with Eri. A member of the Dollars and hangs out with Dotachin.
- Eri Karisawa – An otaku and close friend of Walker, a member of the Dollars and Kadota’s group.
- Saburo Togusa – A member of the Dollars and Kyohei’s driver.
- Seiji Yagiri – A classmate of Mikado’s. He quit school to be with Mika but in truth, he is obsessed with the severed head of Celty’s that was put on Mika.
- Namie Yagiri -The older sister of Seiji. A chief of Yagiri Pharmaceuticals and regrets introducing her younger brother to Celty’s head and for his obsession with it. She appears to also have feelings for her younger brother. She is also responsible for the human experimentation going on in the city.
- Mika Harima – Anri’s good friend who, for some reason, has Celty’s head. She was Seiji’s stalker and now lover. Namie wants to get her revenge on Mika because Seiji just wants to be with her fulltime. Meanwhile, Celty is looking for her (because she has her head).
- Kasuka Heiwajima – Shizuo Heiajima’s younger brother.
- Ruri Hijiribe – An idol singer with a mysterious past.
- Aoba Kuronuma – A mysterious 1st year student at Raira Academy and what is his connection to the Blue Square gang?
- Shingen Kishitani – Shingen is the father of Shinra who wears a gas mask.
- Mairu Orihara – Youngest sister of Izaya and twin sister of Kururi. Wears glasses.
- Kururi Orihara – Youngest sister of Izaya and twin ster of Mairu.
- Akane Awakusu – Daughter of Mikiya and granddaughter of Dougen. Not aware her family is a powerful yakuza group.
- Mizuki Akabayashi – A.k.a. “Red Demon”, a high-ranking member of the Awakusu Family.
“Durarara!! x 2” is presented in 1080p High Definition. I praised the first season’s animation and character design as Brain’s Base really put everything they had into the series. With Shuka now in charge, there is not much divergence because nearly the same crew behind the first series, is back for the second. Vibrant animation can be seen throughout the series thus far.
“Durara!! x 2” continues to feature great character design and wonderful art backgrounds. Art director Akira Ito and crew continues to do a magnificent job in capturing the look and feel of Ikebukuro, Tokyo. There is a slight difference in quality but Shuka did a good job.
“Durarara!! x 2” is presented only with a Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 soundtrack. Both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-acted and with that being said, dialogue and music is crystal clear through the front channels.
“Durarara!! x 2” vol. 5 comes with the textless opening and ending scene.
“Durarara!! x 2” vol. 5 comes with a slipcase with an illustration Takahiro Kishida (Character Design), six collectible postcards, a 16-page deluxe booklet.
With the latest episodes of “Durarara!! x2”, the chaos in Ikebukuro continues. But most importantly, we finally get answers to why Mikado has been behaving the way he has. And to make things worse, Izaya supports him.
As factions battle for the possession of Celty’s head, various groups and acquaintances decide to form a temporary group to prevent more chaos and Celty to lead this guild.
Meanwhile, is Anri in danger?
As for the Blu-ray release, the original crew is back but while produced by Shuka, overall quality for the series is still good. Colors are vibrant in HD and you get an LPCM 2.0 Japanese and English soundtrack. Once again, the English dub for “Durarara!!” is awesome and very well-done. I was enjoying the Japanese soundtrack but after watching the English dub track, everything fits and each voice actor that was cast is perfect for the role they play.
Overall, “Durarara!! x2” is becoming more interesting as the series continues. Some may find the large cast of characters to be a bit much, but similar to other series with large casts (ie. “Bleach”, “Naruto”), these characters do tie-in to the storyline and you really can’t miss an episode because of that.
But it’s a series that you need to stick with it, watch the storyline gradually reveal itself from episode to episode and you’ll start to realize how awesome “Durarara!! x2” really is!
With the fifth volume of “Durarara!! x2”, this final chapter is leading to the final conclusion of the season as Mikado’s ideas are revealed and new unions are born, meanwhile the unpredictable Izaya may be up to no good.
If you love action, humor and all out mayhem, “Durarara!! x2” is recommended!
“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is a timeless Frank Capra classic. Featuring wonderful direction by Frank Capra and an amazing performance by Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur, plus a 4K restoration and a digibook release, the “You Can’t Take It With You” Blu-ray release is highly recommended and the definitive version of the film to own!
Image courtesy of © 1936, renewed 1963 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
YEAR OF FILM: 1936
DURATION: 116 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, black and white, English Mono DTS-HD MA, French, German, Italian, Spanish Monaural, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Czech, Dutch Fininish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish (Castilian), Swedish, Turkish
COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: October 4, 2016
Directed by Frank Capra
Screenplay by Robert Riskin
Story by Clarence Budington Kelland
Produced by Frank Capra
Cinematography by Joseph Walker
Edited by Gene Havlick
Art Direction by Stephen Goosson
Costume Design by Samuel Lange
Gary Cooper as Longfellow Deeds
Jean Arthur as Babe Bennett
George Bancroft as MacWade
Lionel Stander as Cornelius Cobb
Douglass Dumbrille as John Cedar
Raymond Walburn as Walter
H.B. Warner as Judge May
Ruth Donnelly as Mabel Dawson
Walter Catlett as Morrow
Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), a resident of small-town Vermont, leads a simple life until he inherits a vast fortune from a late uncle. Soon, unscrupulous lawyer John Cedar (Douglas Dumbrille) brings Deeds to New York City, where the unassuming heir is the object of much media attention. When wily reporter Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur) gains the trust and affection of Deeds, she uses her position to publish condescending articles about him — but are her feelings for him really that shallow?
As the legendary Frank Capra was known to churn out box office hits and win several Academy Awards with films such as “It Happened One Night”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Arsenic and Old Lace”, “Lost Horizon”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, to name a few.
Back in 1935, a short story titled “Opera Hat” was written by Clarence Budington Kelland for “The American Magazine”. Not long after, Robert Riskin would write a screenplay and once again, Riskin and Capra would collaborate for the fifth time.
While casting the film, Gary Cooper was Capra’s only choice for the film, but for the female lead, he had wanted Carole Lombard, who was the film’s original lead but quit three days before principal photography in order to star in the film, “My Man Godfrey”. And he would choose actress Jean Arthur, which the film would be her first feature film debut as a leading character.
And the film would become another big hit for Frank Capra as he would receive his second Academy Award for Directing and the film was nominated for “Best Picture”, “Best Screenplay” (Robert Riskin) and “Best Sound Recording” (John P. Livadary). The film would be nominated by the New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review as “Best Picture of 1936”.
The film would star Gary Cooper (“High Noon”, “Sergeant York”, “Meet John Doe”, “Pride of the Yankees”), Jean Arthur (“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “You Can’t Take It With You”, “Shane”), George Bancroft (“Stagecoach”, “Angels with Dirty Faces”, “The Docks of New York”), Lionel Stander (“Ince Upon a Time in the West”, “New York, New York”), Douglass Dumbrille (“The Ten Commandments”, “Road to Utopia”, “A Day at the Races”), Raymond Walburn (“Hail the Conquering Hero”, “The Sin of Harold Diddlebock”, “Christmas in July”), H.B. Warner (“It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Sunset Boulevard”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”), Ruth Donnelly (“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “Bells of St. Mary’s”, “The Snake Pit”) and Walter Catlett (“Bringing Up Baby”, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, “Friendly Persuasion”).
In 2013, the film received a digital restoration by Sony Colorworks. The digital images were restored frame-by-frame at Prasad Corporation to remove dirt, tears, scratches and this restoration would be fully restored and mastered in 4K for the film’s 80th Anniversary.
And now the film is available on Blu-ray ala Digibook courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is set during the Great Depression and the wealthy, late uncle Martin Semple has left his money ($20 million dollars) to his nephew, Longfellow Deeds (portrayed by Gary Cooper).
Semple’s attorney, John Cedar wants some of that money and so he head to Mandrake Falls, Vermont and finds Deeds, who is a co-owner of a tllow works, a part-time greeting poet and a tuba musician.
Cedar brings Longfellow Deeds to New York in order for Deeds to receive his inheritance and to become the new chairman of the company. But as Cedar tries to get Deeds to use his money for other things, Deed is not the type to follow everyone and prevents any greedy opportunists from taking his money.
Meanwhile, the journalists want to know more about Deeds and star reporter, Louise “Babe” Bennett (portrayed by Jean Arthur) disguises herself as a damsel in distress and pretends to be a poor woman named Mary Dawson. And eventually wins his confidence and starts to hang out with Deeds and each time.
Eventually, Deeds starts to fall in love with her, but he does not know that she is hanging out with him, so she can write articles about his adventures and his country ways, which many people find as odd. Nicknaming him “Cinderella Man”, Deeds becomes a popular person in media, embarrassing his uncle’s business partners.
But when Deeds finds out who Babe really is and that she is responsible for writing the “Cinderella Man” articles, it leads to Deeds spiral ling downward into depression. Leaving himself vulnerable for people to go after his money.
Will Deeds be able to recover from his depression?
“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as white and grays are well-contrast while black levels are sharp. The film shows amazing clarity on Blu-ray showcases the detail of the film in high definition.
The print features the digital restoration that was done by Sony Colorworks in 2013 and the digital pictures were frame by frame digitally restored and dirt, tears, scratches and artifacts were removed. I personally did not notice any damage to the film and was very content with the beautiful picture quality of this classic film.
Comparing to the original DVD releases that I’ve had, clarity is evident. Sharpness is clearly evident, along with the black levels which were inky and deep. There is a good amount of grain throughout the entire film and no doubt, this is the definitive version of “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” in terms of picture quality!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for audio, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary” is presented in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio Monaural. The monaural lossless soundtrack is crystal clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Arabic, Danish, dutch, Finnish, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish (Castilan), Swedish and Turkish.
“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Frank Capra Jr.
- Frank Capra Jr. Remembers… “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town – (11:11) Frank Capra Jr. talks about his father and his father working on “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”.
- Vintage Advertising Gallery -Featuring vintage posters, lobby cards, and more.
- Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”.
“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary” comes in a digibook package with 30-pages. Featuring photos from the film plus “The Making of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” essay by Jeremy Arnold and “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town Restoration in 4K” by Rita Belda.
Also, the Blu-ray release includes an UltraViolet Digital code for the film.
When “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” was released in theaters, it really affected a lot of people. With the effects of the Great Depression still strong within viewers, you had an unlikely man becoming a wealthy multi-millionaire but also a man who didn’t exhibit the ego or attitude with one who has money.
If anything, Longfellow Deeds is a man who never had much and was content with what he had. But now that he has money, everyone is after it and he has been quite defensive. Especially when articles about him, dubbing him the “Cinderella Man” try to paint him as a goofball because of his country ways.
So, putting myself in that era, I can see why people gravitated towards the character of Mr. Deeds, but it helps when you have a talented actor such as Gary Cooper playing the role.
A film full of humor but also occasional drama, I personally enjoyed Frank Capra’s “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” because it’s main character is your everyman. A man who believes in hardwork but a man who doesn’t mind living his life, the way he wants, even though it doesn’t appeal to others. He is not a person who loves money nor is he controlled by it, he has the money and if he wants to give it away, its his own prerogative. Unfortunately, others do not feel the same way.
While many of Frank Capra’s films of the mid-to-late ’30s are known to become more darker overtime, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” starts off lighthearted but slowly transitions to a film in which Deeds changes for the worse, after finding out the woman he loves, is not who he thinks she is. And everyone, the rich and poor, wanting his money. He realizes that money doesn’t always bring happiness and he no doubt must live through tough situations, considering he has become a media spectacle.
As Gary Cooper is well-known and did a magnificent job as the main character, Jean Arthur makes her film debut. Known as the “Queen of Screwball Comedy”, even during the making of “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”, while the actress looked natural onscreen, is surprising that in reality, during the time of the film and even later in her career, she had extreme stage fright during production, which Capra would write about in his autobiography.
But Frank Capra did a magnificent job directing the film, Robert Riskin with the screenplay, Gary Cooper as the main protagonist and as for Jean Arthur, it was the film that helped make her a star.
As for the Blu-ray release, while I have owned “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” on DVD, this is no doubt the best version of the film to date. Fully restored in 4K, the picture quality looks absolutely amazing. The film is sharp, white and grays are well contrast and black levels are nice and deep. I saw no blemishes while watching this film (which I was expecting, considering the restoration that took place in 2013) and I was absolutely pleased with the overall look of the film. The lossless soundtrack is in DTS-HD Master Audio monaural. The special features includes an insightful commentary by Frank Capra Jr., but also good insight of the making of the film in a featurette featuring Frank Capra Jr.
And last, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is released in digibook format with 30-pages and for anyone who is not familiar with digibook, they look like a book. There are pages with an essay and photographs from the film throughout the digibook.
Overall, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is a timeless Frank Capra classic. Featuring wonderful direction by Frank Capra and an amazing performance by Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur, plus a 4K restoration and a digibook release, the “You Can’t Take It With You” Blu-ray release is highly recommended and the definitive version of the film to own!
Na Hong-jin “The Wailing” is no doubt one of the better, chilling and yet smartly written horror series to come out in the last decade. There is a reason why this film is critically acclaimed, it’s a horror thriller that is unpredictable, chilling but yet very satisfying. And I highly recommend it!
© 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: The Wailing
YEAR OF FILM: 2016
DURATION: 157 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English and Chinese
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment/20th Century Fox
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Directed by Hong-jin Na
Written by Hong-jin Na
Produced by John Penotti
Cinematography by Kyung-pyo hong
Do-Won Kwak as Jon-Goo
Jun Kunimura as The Stranger
Woo-hee Chun as Moo-Myeong
Jung-min Hwang as Il-Gwang
Kim Hwan-hee as Hyo-jin
In this unbelievably tense supernatural thriller, a foreigner s mysterious appearance in a quiet, rural village causes suspicion among the locals – suspicion which quickly turns to hysteria as the townspeople begin killing each other in brutal outbursts for seemingly no reason. As the investigating officer watches his daughter fall under the same savage spell, he agrees to consult a shaman for answers – unknowingly escalating the situation into something far more dangerous.
Over six years in the making, director Na Hong-jin s meticulously crafted follow-up to the globally acclaimed THE YELLOW SEA and THE CHASER (his third to premiere at the Festival de Cannes) smashed box office records upon its debut in South Korea, where fans are already making return viewings to catch new clues and debate what s sure to be the most talked-about ending of 2016.
From award-winning filmmaker/writer Hong-jin Na (“The Chaser”, “The Yellow Sea”) comes his latest horror thriller film “Goksung” (“The Wailing”).
The film stars Do-won Kwak (“The Man from Nowhere”, “A Company Man”, “The Berlin File”, “Tazza: The Hidden Card”), Jun Kunimura (“Kill Bill” films, “Audition”), Jung-min Hwang (“New World”, “Ode to My Father”, “Veteran”) and Woo-he Chun (“Mother”, “Vampire Idol”, “Han Gong-ju”).
The film has received critical acclaim internationally and now “The Wailing” is available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.
The film begins with a shot of a little village (in Korean is translated to “Goksung” and the title of the film) bu the lake up in the mountains of South Korea. We see an older Japan man fishing by the river.
We are introduced to police officer Jong-goo (portrayed by Do-won Kwak) who is called early in the morning of a homicide. Every morning, his mother, wife and child, Hyo-jin (portrayed by Kim Hwan-hee) are often trying to make sure Jong-goo eats well and is there for his family.
When Jong-goo arrives, he sees a family that is bludgeoned and a man that is handcuffed looking terrible with his eyes glowing red. When Jong-goo is disgusted by the sight, he sees a Japanese man looking from the distance.
Not long after, the police are called out into area again and this time they discover a husband and wife who look like they are burned and no longer human and their home burned down. And Jong-goo and other police officers are attacked. As Jong-goo tries to balance the time with his family, especially his daughter but he is spooked by what is happening in the area.
Jong-goo is told by his partner about the story he heard from villagers about a man who discovered a naked man hovering over bodies and eating them. They then see a woman standing outside of their police building scaring both officers. When they go out to look, she’s gone.
Another incident happens with the woman (who’s home being burned down) is found hanging from a tree.
As Jong-goo and a few officers check things out, Jong-goo watches over the burned building and discovers a woman in white named Moo-myeong (portrayed by Chun Woo-hee, the name translates to “no name” in Korean). She tells him to follow her to the burned building and tells him that the Japanese stranger is involved with the deaths. She tells him to be careful and when he calls his superiors that he found a witness, the woman is gone and he discovers the Japanese man going after him. Once again, a nightmare that Jong-goo is having.
When Jong-goo talks to another officer about investigating the Japanese man, a Japanese-speaking priest and translator arrives and they all investigate the stranger’s home int he mountain. While, Jong-goo and the priest try to fight off an angry dog on the premises, the police officer discovers photos of everyone in the village, including Jong-goo and his family and finds Jong-goo’s daughters shoe.
Jong-goo’s family has realized that Hyo-jin is no longer behaving like she usually does, she has become foul-mouthed and talks about killing them.
When Jong-goo confronts his family, his fear is confirmed that she may be possessed. His mother recommends bringing a shaman, meanwhile, Jong-goo feels he must confront the mysterious Japanese man.
Will Hyo-jin be returned to normal? Will Jong-goo stop the murders and deaths happening in the small village?
“The Wailing” 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. Even the mutated humans featured wonderful make-up effects and overall atmosphere to make the film quite chilling.
Picture quality for the most part looks very good with no signs of artifacts or banding issues.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Wailing” is presented in Korean 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film, while primarily dialogue-driven, manages to use sound, environment ambiance to create a chilling, menacing feel throughout the film.
Subtitles are in English.
“The Wailing” comes with the following special features:
- The Beginning of the Wailing – (1:50) A short featurette of why director Na Hong-Jin created “The Wailing”.
- Making Of – (4:55) Featuring the cast and crew discussing the film.
- Theatrical Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “The Wailing”.
Far often, horror films are films that are created to scare the hell out of an audience and then there are those that try to incorporate humor and try to balance a horror film with what one expects from banal slashers.
Once in awhile, you come across a horror film that is actually quite deep and a lot of thought went into the film storyline and the development of its characters.
Award-winning filmmaker Na Hong-jin is one of those filmmakers that continually makes horror films that make you think, one that makes you want to watch it multiple times for better comprehension.
And “The Wailing” is a very deep horror film, enjoyable, terrifying and yet one can be satisfied that they watched a rare and impressive horror film.
The film starts out lighthearted, as police officer Jong-goo, could be seen as a goof ball. Tough at home with his family, kindhearted father always there for his daughter but as a police officer, he’s not brave until he is pushed to the limit when his daughter is possessed and Jong-goo is forced to defend his family.
While horror films in Asia and stories about supernatural or evil forces residing in the mountainous areas, small villages and villagers being possessed are commonplace, what makes “The Wailing” so interesting is how it has Christian overtones, but yet a film’s storyline not really promoting Christianity.
The main character, officer Jong-goo encounters a woman with no-name (Moo-Myeong) who continually warns him.
Dressed in white, seen throwing stones towards Jong-goo which may be inspired by the biblical reference (John 8:7) “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.
If Moo-Myeong is a biblical reference similar to an angel, the Japanese man is reference to being a demon. A man who takes the souls of villagers, but is he a biblical reference to satan? Or is this a subtle reference to how Koreans have felt about Japan because of their bitter history involving Japanese occupation?
And there are other situations especially surrounding other characters which many have posted their theories online. May it be biblical undertones or an even deeper message than filmmaker Na Hong-jin was trying to convey.
Needless to say, the film gives viewers a lot to think about after watching the film.
To see how this film gently builds to a chilling transition is very interesting and in no way, was it even possible to predict this film. Where many horror films are predictable, “The Wailing” bucks the trend of being banal and being a film that wants to scare you,but also wants to be a film that makes you think. It’s a deep horror film and those are words I rarely have used for a horror film review.
As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and while the majority of the film is dialogue-driven, there are moments of using screams, using thunder, using a shaman’s dance routines to really make the atmosphere quite dark and menacing. The Blu-ray release features a few special features such as “The Beginning of Wailing” and a making of featurette.
Overall, Na Hong-jin “The Wailing” is no doubt one of the better, chilling and yet smartly written horror series to come out in the last decade. There is a reason why this film is critically acclaimed, it’s a horror thriller that is unpredictable, chilling but yet very satisfying. And I highly recommend it!
Susanna White’s film adaptation of John le Carre’s “Our Kind of Traitor” is a captivating thriller that includes British intelligence mixed with Russian Mafia and normal civilians trying to do the right thing. A captivating British spy thriller, “Our Kind of Traitor” is recommended!
TITLE: Our Kind of Traitor
FILM RELEASE: 2016
DURATION: 109 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English and Spanish
RATED: R (Violence, Language Throughout, Some Sexuality, Nudity and Brief Drug use)
RELEASE DATE: October 18, 2016
Based on the novel by John le Carre
Directed by Susanna White
Written by Hossein Amini
Produced by Simon Cornwell, Stephen Cornwell
Co-Producer: Raphael Benoliel, Jane Frazer
Executive Producer: Jenny Borgars, Andrea Calderwood, Olivier Courson, Rom Halpern, Sam Lavender, John le Carre, Tessa Ross
Music by Marcelo Zarvo
Cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle
Edited by Tariq Anwar, Lucia Zucchetti
Casting by Rachid Aadassi, Lucy Bevan, Taoufik El Jannani
Production Design by Sarah Greenwood
Art Direction by Dean Clegg, James Foster, Hind Ghazali, Richard Selway
Set Decoration by Katie Spencer
Costume Design by Julian Day
Stellan Skarsgard as Dima
Ewan McGregor as Perry
Naomie Harris as Gail Perkins
Damian Lewis as Hector
Khalid Abdalla as Luke
Alec Utgoff as Niki
Marek Oravec as Andrei
Dolya Gavanski as Olga
Gregoriy Dobrygin as The Prince
Velibor Topic as Emilio Del Oro
Radivojoe Bukvic as Misha
Jana Perez as Maria
Saskia Reeves as Tamara
Alicia von Rittberg as Natasha
While on vacation, a married couple unwittingly befriends a flamboyant and charismatic Russian named Dima, who – unbeknownst to them – is a kingpin money launderer for the mafia. When Dima confides to his new friends that he plans to escape from the mob, they’re quickly swept into the dangerous world of international espionage. The unlikely companions must undertake a perilous journey through Paris, Bern, and London and form an unsettling alliance with a ruthless British MI6 agent in order to save Dima and his family.
Writer John le Carre is known for writing espionage novels such as “A Perfect Spy”, “The Constant Gardner”, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, “The Tailor of Panama”, “A Most Wanted Man” and many of his films receiving TV series and film adaptations.
His 2010 novel “Our Kind of Traitor” became the latest film adaptation directed by Susanna White (“Nanny McPhee Returns”, “Lie With Me”) and a screenplay written by Hossein Amini (“Drive”, “Show White and the Huntsman”, “47 Ronin”).
The film stars Stellan Skarsgard (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Avengers”, “Good Will Hunting”), Ewan McGregor (“Star Wars: Episode 1-3”, “Trainspotting”), Naomie Harris (“Skyfall”, “28 Days Later”, “Spectre”), Damian Lewis (“Homeland”, “Life”, “Dreamcastcher”), Khalid Abdalla (“The Kite Runner”, “United 93”, “Green Zone”), Alicia von Rittberg (“Barbara”, “Fury”) and many more.
The film begins with the head of the Russian Mafia, “The Prince” creating a new bank and having wealthy financial oligarchs sign over their accounts to his new bank.
The first is a family with a talented ballerina, all are killed by an assassin.
The film then switches to a married couple, Poetics lecturer Perry McKendrick (portrayed by Ewan McGregor) and his barrister wife Gail (portrayed by Naomie Harris) on a trip to Morocco in hopes to salvage what is left of their marriage. Gail is having a hard time being with her husband after he had slept with one of his students.
Because of the trouble, the two are not able to enjoy an intimate moment and while having dinner, she has to leave on business. Perry is welcomed by a man named Dima to join him for a drink at his table. At first, Perry is not interested but Dima (portrayed by Stellan Skarsgard) tells him that if he can remember his credit card number after briefly looking at it, Perry must drink with them.
Dima remembers the numbers and so Perry joins him and his friends for a drink. Dima then welcomes Perry to join him for tennis the following morning and invites Perry and Gail to come to his daughter’s birthday.
When Dima and Perry talk on the rooftop, Dima confesses that he is with the Russian mafia and is in fear of his and his family’s life after hearing about his fellow oligarch’s death and asks Perry for a big favor and that is to take a USB stick and hand it over to British MI6 when he returns to the airport in London.
Perry turns in the USB and the investigator in charge, Hector (portrayed by Damian Lewis) doesn’t understand why Perry would help out someone in the Russian mafia and doesn’t understand why he didn’t take the money that Dima offered him for making the delivery.
Hector finds out that the information on the USB shows that there is a meeting between the Prince and Aubrey Longrigg, a senior politician that Hector believes to be corrupt but needs more information to put them away. Hoping that his supervisor Billy Matlock (portrayed by Mark Gatiss) will allow him to pursue the case even further with these new developments, unfortunately he is not allowed to.
So, Hector decides to pursue the operation and personally fund it. And uses the McKendricks to stage a meeting with Dima, so Hector can hope he gets the name of all the names of the corrupt people involved, including bankers and politicians involved. But Dima is only willing to do so, if Hector can grant he and his family asylum in London.
“Our Kind of Traitor” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film looks very good in HD as closeups show great detail. Wonderful cinematography from Anthony Dod mantle (“Slumdog Millionaire”, “127 Hours”, “Rush”) showcasing character closeups, good use of angled shots and capturing emotion. I didn’t notice any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the film.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Our Kind of Traitor” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film features crystal clear dialogue and the film features a decent amount of actions at times.
Subtitles are in English and Spanish.
“Our Kind of Traitor” comes with the following special features:
- The Making of Our Kind of Traitor – (10:58) Director Susanna White, producers and cast discuss the making of “Our Kind of Traitor”.
- Deleted Scenes – (5:25) Featuring five deleted scenes.
- The Cast – (3:27) Interviews with director Susanna White and the cast of “Our Kind of Traitor”.
- The Story – (3:05) Interviews with director Susanna White and the cast of “Our Kind of Traitor” about the story.
“Our Kind of Traitor” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet HD code.
When it comes to espionage stories, John le Carre is a master storyteller.
Having worked for the Security Service and the Secret Intelligence service, his third novel, “The Spy Who Came In from the cold” was an international best seller and considered by Time Magazine as one of the “All-Time 100 Novels”.
The film adaptions are also well-done and as le Carre continues to write and release novels, many studios are excited to create a film adaptation. And here we are with a 2016 film adaptation of le Carre’s 2010 novel about a Russian money launderer seeking to defect from the Russian Mafia after his close friend is killed by his new superiors.
The film revolves a British University poetics lecturer, Perry McKendrick. A man trying to make amends with his wife Gail after having an affair with a student. And a man with a good heart that will help a longtime Russian Mafia member named Dima who pleads for his help in order to protect him and his family from “The Prince”, the leader of the Russian Mafia who has created a new bank using financials from other Russian Mafia heads by murdering them and with the help of corrupted officials.
As Perry and his wife, Gail put their lives on the line to help Dima’s family. But things are not easy as Dima must keep his own men, he doesn’t trust, close to not arouse any suspicion, but knowing that they are probably going to kill him if he doesn’t get any help.
Meanwhile, we have an investigator named Hector who has been trying to nail “the Prince” and other corrupt officials and gang members who are involved in setting up this bank. But without the support of his superior, Hector continues the operation using his own personal funds and is depending on Perry and his wife to help him get close to Dima, and in hopes of Dima giving him the info. he needs to lock these criminals up.
But the only way Dima will help is if authorities grant him and his family asylum.
Meanwhile, for Dima who has the mafia after him, the last person he would expect to help him, is the kind lecturer and his wife.
Ewan McGregor shows us a different side of his acting of late, breaking away from the shadows of his “Star Wars” past, meanwhile Stellan Skarsgard does a magnificent job playing Dima, a member of the Russian mafia needing of major help.
And I have to give filmmaker Susanna White major credit. As a fan of John le Carre’s film, she definitely did a wonderful job of directing this film, as with writer Hossein Amini.
As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and action sequences utilize the surround channels when needed. Also, a few special features with interviews with the cast and crew are included.
Overall, Susanna White’s film adaptation of John le Carre’s “Our Kind of Traitor” is a captivating thriller that includes British intelligence mixed with Russian Mafia and normal civilians trying to do the right thing.
A captivating British spy thriller, “Our Kind of Traitor” is recommended!
Fritz Lang’s “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is no doubt a wonderful, impressive, bold and also an artistic film that showcases German expressionism with efficacy. This new restoration is definitely a definitive presentation of “”Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” and another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang Blu-ray release that I highly recommend!
© 2013 Friedrich-Wilheim-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1922
DURATION: 270 Minutes
BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio), Stereo 2.0
COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber Inc.
RATED: NOT RATED
RELEASE DATE: September 13, 2016
Based on the novel by Norbert Jacques
Directed by Fritz Lang
Screenplay by Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou
Produced by Erich Pommer
Music by Konrad Elfers, Robert Israel, Aljoscha Zimmermann
Cinematography by Carl Hoffman
Art Direction by Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, Karl Stahl-Urach, Karl Vollbrecht
Costume Design by Vally Reinecke
Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Dr. Mabuse
Aud Egede-Nissen as Cara Carozza, the dancer
Gertrude Welcker as Countess Dusy Told
Afred Abel as Count Told/Richard Fleury
Bernhard Goetzke as Prosecutor von Wenk
Paul Richter as Edgar Hull
Robert Forster-Larrinaga as Spoerri
Hans Adalbert Schlettow as Georg, the Chauffeur
Georg John as Pesch
Karoly Huszar as Hawasch
A truly legendary silent film, Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler had a major impact on the development of the crime thriller, building upon the work of the pioneering French film serialist Louis Feuillade (Les Vampires) and firmly establishing it as a significant film genre. This epic two-part tale was originally released as two separate films, respectively subtitled The Great Gambler and Inferno, and that format is reproduced here. The plot revolves around the pursuit of arch fiend Dr. Mabuse, a gambler, hypnotist, master of disguises and all-around criminal mastermind. Mabuse was the prototype for the sort of evil genius super-villains that would later become common in movies, whether it be in the James Bond pictures or in comic book adaptations like Superman and Batman. The film is dominated by the presence of Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Mabuse. A top German actor of the silent era, he is best known today for his performance as the mad scientist Rotwang in Lang’s Metropolis. Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler contains many of the elements that were expected from the crime genre at the time, including characters who slip in and out of disguise, mind control, gambling clubs, exotic women, brutal henchmen and unexpected plot twists. Lang’s directorial ability to handle such pulp material in a masterful fashion, while also using it as a way to examine the decadence of Germany in the 1920s, reaffirms his status as one of the true greats of the silent era.
Back in 1921, Luxembourgeois novelist Norbert Jacques created the character of Dr. Mabuse, a master of disguise and telepathic hypnosis and a notorious gambler.
Jacques 1921 novel “Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler” featured the debut of Dr. Mabuse and the novel became a best-seller. And not long after its release, filmmaker Fritz Lang and his wife, writer Thea von Harbou would work on a screenplay adaptation.
The original version of the film was four and a half hours long and would be broken down into two sections: “Part 1 – The Great Gambler: A Picture of the Time” and “Part II – Inferno: A Game for the People of Our Age”. And with the success of the film, two sound sequels would be created: “The Testament of Dr. Mabuse” (1933) and “The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse” (1960).
While there were various versions of “Dr Mabuse: The Gambler”, the Murnau Foundation restored the 270 minute version of the film. There is a final, restored version which lasts 297 minutes, a shortened USA video version and a shorter Russian re-cut version.
The version featured in the Kino Classics 2016 “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” Blu-ray release is the 270 minute version. And the Blu-ray release version is now currently available.
The first part of “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” introduces viewers to the criminal mastermind and master of disguise, Dr. Mabuse. Using his powers of hypnosis and mind control, he is able to control people and oversee counterfeiting and gambling rackets all over Berlin.
With each visits to the gambling dens, he is often seen with different disguises. And using his power, he often wins in gambling and uses the money to finance his plans.
Joining Dr. Mabuse are his henchmen: Spoerri (servant), Georg (chauffer), Pesch, Hawasch (employer of blind men involved in the counterfeiting operation), Fine (lookout) and dancer Cara Carozza, who is madly in love with Dr. Mabuse.
The film shows how much of a great criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse is. From stealing a commercial contract to something much more diabolical when he sets his eyes on millionaire industrialist, Edgar Hull. Whom Mabuse hypnotizes and makes Hull look reckless.
Meanwhile, a state prosecutor named Norbert von Wenk sees Hull and believing his is a victim being tricked by someone. So, this leads Von Wenk to pursue this mysterious person responsible.
When Cara is captured by authorities for a tragedy that Mabuse and his henchmen are responsible for, von Wenk enlists a willing Countess Told (who is bored of her life and husband) to get information from Cara in jail.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mabuse becomes interested in the countess and wanting her to himself, he begins to hypnotize Count Told and finds a way to disgrace him.
In the second part of “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler”, having succeeded in discrediting Count Told, the Count is now suffering from depression and for help, he goes to Dr. Mabuse to help treat it.
As von Wenk tries to get answers from Cara, Dr. Mabuse’s henchmen begin targeting von Wenk and wanting him silenced. Meanwhile, Mabuse tries to threaten the Countess to be with him, when she refuses, Dr. Mabuse vows to kill Count Told.
Will state prosecutor Norbert von Wenk be able to catch Dr. Mabuse and rescue the Countess or will the great criminal find a way to outwit his von Wenk?
“Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is presented in 1:33:1 and black and white. It’s important to note that the 2K digital restoration is from the 35mm restoration performed by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, in cooperation with the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv of Berlin, the Filmmuseum Munich and L’Immagine Ritrovata of Bologna.
As for picture quality, as one can expect from a film that is nearly 95-years-old, you are going to see some scratches but in the context of silent films, “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” looks quite magnificent as there was great love (and a lot of hardwork) that was put into this restoration. The film on blu-ray does not exhibit any major nitrate damage, warping, blurring or blackening on the film print.
This is another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang film that looks absolutely magnificent on Blu-ray!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is presented in lossless stereo with German intertitles with optional English subtitles. The music featured on this Blu-ray releases is by by Aljoscha Zimmerman. The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear and I absolutely loved the score.
“Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” comes with the following special features:
- The Story Behind Dr. Mabuse – (52:34) Featuring the Music of Mabuse with Composer Aljoscha Zimmermann discusses the music of Mabuse, Dr. Mabuse creator/writer Norbert Jacques who plays Dr. Mabuse and a look at Mabuse’s motives.
“The film is a document of our time, an excellent portrait of high society with its gambling passion and dancing madness, its hysteria and decadence, its expressionism and occultisms” – Fritz Lang, Die Welt am Montag, May 1, 1922
When one watches Fritz Lang’s “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler”, one can’t help but notice how much of society is showcased in one film.
From gambling, drug use, kidnapping, murder, corruption in the stock exchange, hypnotism, a homosexual mask maker, counterfeiting, violence and more. Each encapsulated in a film full of German expressionism and Lang’s artistic perspective to showcase true evil by one man who not only entices people through gambling but also gambles with people’s lives including his own.
Each character representing a drudge of society, while set design and costume design showcase decadence of the era and surprising to many, this is earlier in Fritz Lang’s career as a filmmaker. The way each segment is shot, the use of characters, their movements, their actions, each effective for the making of this film.
No doubt the experience would lend to Fritz Lang continuing to set the bar higher with each film, as “Die Nibelungen” would be crated two years later, “Metropolis”, “Spies”, “Woman in the Moon” to follow not long after.
And then for the sound era, with “M” and two more Dr. Mabuse films, “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is an amazing film for its time and it’s truly an artistic, yet action thriller that captivated audiences as the evil Dr. Mabuse appears unstoppable and his control over people is incredible, but yet we wonder throughout the film if the inspector, Norbert von Wenk, will be able to stop him.
I can see how reviewers of the time saw this film as epic but also a statement of society at the time. And Fritz Lang said it well, “the film is a document of our time”. What he created in 1922 is incredible but while I enjoy “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler”, in the many films of Fritz Lang’s oeuvre, many will have their silent film favorites of Fritz Lang and for me, I feel that I’m much too biased to his 1927 film “Metropolis”. But make no doubt about it, “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is an enjoyable, yet long silent thriller.
As for the restoration of this wonderful Fritz Lang film, the 2K digital restoration supervised is fantastic. The film looks very good considering it’s nearly a century old and while scratches and few frames of damage do appear, there is no significant major nitrate damage or major film warping that interrupts your viewing of the film.
The lossless soundtrack features a wonderful music performance by Aljoscha Zimmerman and the music is presented in crystal clear lossless stereo. In addition, there is also a three-part documentary included titled “The Story Behind Dr. Mabuse”.
Overall, Fritz Lang’s “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is no doubt a wonderful, impressive, bold and also an artistic film that showcases German expressionism with efficacy. This new restoration is definitely a definitive presentation of “”Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” and another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang Blu-ray release that I highly recommend!