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Holiday Inn: 75th Anniversary Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Holiday Inn: 75th Anniversary Edition” is a Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Irving Berlin classic.  Presented in its original B&W and also a colorized version, this is no doubt the best presentation of the film.  But even better is the inclusion of the wonderful “Holiday Inn: The Broadway Musical” on Blu-ray making this “Holiday Inn: 75th Anniversary Edition” worth owning!

Images courtesy of © 1942 Paramount Pictures Inc.  Renewed 1969 by EMKA. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Holiday Inn

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1942

DURATION: 1 Hr. and 41 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, English SDH, French and Spanish Subtitles

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: November 28, 2017


Directed by Mark Sandrich

Screenplay by Claude Binyon

Adaptation by Elmer Rice

Idea by Irving Berlin

Produced by Mark Sandrich

Music by Robert Emmett Dolan

Cinematographer: David Abel

Edited by Ellsworth Hoagland

Art Direction by Roland Anderson, Hans Dreier

Costume Design by Edith Head

Holiday Inn: The Broadway Musical

Directed by David Horn

Produced by Mitch Owgang

Executive Producer: David Horn

Post Production Producer: Bill Kabel

Associate Producer: Julie Leonard

Lighting Designer: Alan Adelman

Audio Producer: Daryl Bornstein

Line Producer: Eileen Bernstein

Edited by Gary Bradley

Online Editor: Michiel Pilgram

Associate Editor: Annette Jolles

Production Manager: Lisa Richardson


Starring:

Bing Crosby as Jim Hardy

Fred Astaire as Ted Hanover

Marjorie Reynolds as Linda Mason

Virginia Dale as Lila Dixon

Walter Abel as Danny Reed Louise Beavers as Mamie

Irving Bacon as Gus

Marek Windheim as Francois

James Bell as Dunbar

John Gallaudet as Parker

Holiday Inn: The Broadway Musical

Bryce Pinkham as Jim Hardy

Corbin Bleu as Ted Hanover

Megan Sikora as Lila Dixon

Danny Rutigliano as Charlie Winslow

Morgan Gao as Charlie Winslow

Lora Lee Gayer as Linda Mason

Megan Lawrence as Louise


Screen legends Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire sing and dance their way into your heart in one of the most timeless holiday classics ever, Holiday Inn. Featuring the Academy Award-winning song, “White Christmas,” Crosby plays a song-and dance man who leaves showbiz to run an inn that is open only on holidays. Astaire plays his former partner and rival in love. Follow the two talented pals as they find themselves competing for the affections of the same lovely lady (Marjorie Reynolds). ‘Tis the season for one of the most sensational musical comedies of all time!


Filmmaker Mark Sandrich may be known for his films with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but he’s also known for his 1942 holiday film “Holiday Inn” which he collaborated with Irving Berlin, who wrote the story and also wrote 12 songs for the film, one which would become a holiday classic…”White Christmas”.

Featuring choreography by Danny Dare, the film would bring together Bing Crosby (“Going My Way”, “Road to…” films, “White Christmas”) and Fred Astaire (“Top Hat”, “Swing Time”, “Funny Face”) with actress/dancer Virginia Dale (“Docks of New Orleans”, “The Singing Hill”).

The film would receive a 1943 Academy Award for Best Original Song for “White Christmas” and would receive numerous nominations for “Best Score” and “Best Original Story”.

And to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of “Holiday Inn”, Universal Studios Home Entertainment will be releasing the film on Blu-ray and will feature the original but also a color-version of the film.  Also, included is Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn: The Broadway Musical and a digital copy of the film.

“Holiday Inn” revolves around three individuals: Jim Hardy (portrayed by Bing Crosby), Ted Hanover (portrayed by Fred Astaire) and Lila Dixon (portrayed by Virginia Dale) and these three have a popular musical act.

Jim and Lila are getting married and are planning to retire and live in a farm in Connecticut, but Lila shocks Jim by telling him that she’s not done performing and that she has fallen for Ted and will continue on as his partner.

Jim is heartbroken by Lila’s decision but goes ahead and moves to Connecticut and says his goodbye to everyone.

A year later, he returns back to New York City on Christmas Eve and he has found farm life to be difficult but he comes up with an idea to turn his farm to an entertainment venue and call it the “Holiday Inn” and it will only be open on public holidays.  Ted and his agent Danny (portrayed by Walter Abel) think it’s a bad idea but they wish the best for Jim.

While Ted and Danny are at a flower shop in the airport, the employee Linda Mason (portrayed by Marjorie Reynolds) who recognizes Danny as a talent agent, begs him for a chance to work in show business.  He refers her to Jim’s Holiday Inn and next thing you know, Jim finds a new partner.

But when Ted finds out that Lila has left him for a Texas millionaire, Ted drives to the Holiday Inn to talk with Jim.  While drunk, he sees Linda and the two start dancing and everyone is ecstatic, especially Danny who thinks that Ted has found a new partner. But because Ted was drunk, both Ted and Danny do not know the woman that Ted was dancing with and the two now search for the woman who can be their next starlet.

Jim overhears the two and doesn’t want his friend to steal Linda away, like he did with Lila.

Will Jim become successful with the Holiday Inn with Linda?  Or will Ted entice Linda to join him as his partner and become big in show business?


VIDEO:

“Holiday Inn” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio).  The picture quality of “Holiday Inn” is very good.  Remastered, the film features wonderful clarity and black and white levels are sharp and looks much better than its older DVD counterpart.

As for the colorized version, this is based on the 2008 Legend Films colorization and no doubt one of the better colorization projects that Legend Films have done.  In fact, Legend Films worked with Edith Head’s sketch artist, Jan Muckelstone, as a color design consultant for costume authenticity.

As for “Holiday Inn: The Broadway Musical”, the musical is presented in 1:78:1 aspect ratio and the stage presentation is colorful but the best part of this musical is that there are many camera angles, from the center, from the left and right of the stage and also a camera above center and above left and right.  A fantastic presentation overall!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Holiday Inn: 75th Anniversary Edition” is presented with English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio.  The film features crystal clear dialogue and music through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Francais and Espanol.

“Holiday Inn: The Broadway Musical” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and not only is the musical crystal clear but also the live audience as well.  The musical sounds fantastic in HD!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Holiday Inn: 75th Anniversary Edition” comes with following special features:

  • A Couple of Song and Dance Men – (44:36) A documentary about Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire with film historian Ken Barnes and actress Julie Andrews.
  • All-Singing All-Dancing – (7:15) A featurette about how the singing and dancing was created for film before and for post-production.
  • Coloring a Classic – (8:51) A featurette about the coloring of “Holiday Inn” by Legend Film and the process and planning involved.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by film historian Ken Barnes including archive audio comments from Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby and John Scott Trotter
  • Theatrical Trailer

EXTRAS:

“Holiday Inn: 75th Anniversary Edition” comes with an UltraViolet Digital HD code and a Blu-ray disc of “Holiday Inn: The Broadway Musical”.


While Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire only made two films together, the pairing of these two actors was no doubt a major collaboration between the two men known for their music and dancing. But also showcasing the dancing and the vocals of Virginia Dale and Marjorie Reynolds.

But also a collaboration between director Mark Sandrich, know for directing many of the famous Astaire/Rogers films and with songwriter Irving Berlin.

And “Holiday Inn” has remained a a class holiday film known for popularizing the holiday song “White Christmas”, which was interesting because Berlin and Crosby didn’t think much about the song and would never expect the song to be an iconic Christmas song that would endure in popularity.

Receiving rave reviews from film critics, “Holiday Inn” would be one of the top grossing films of 1942 in the United States.

The films captures the wonderful music of Irving Berlin but also the wonderful vocal and dancing talent of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.  Both Virginia Dale and Marjorie Reynolds also gave a wonderful song/dance performance throughout the film.

As positive as I am with this film, I will have to mention that for those who are sensitive to films that showcase Caucasian talents in blackface, you may be offended by the “Abraham” minstrel musical number.

While Bing Crosby is seen in blackface, in the audio commentary, film historian Ken Barnes explains how Crosby was one of the few white performers who worked with African American artists despite the criticism he received and flack he got from studio heads.

There is no option to choose an edited version of the film, which many may have seen on television via AMC.  For cinema purists against any removal of scenes, it is important to note that the complete “Abraham” musical number is included on this Blu-ray release.

A big surprise with this 75th Anniversary release of “Holiday Inn” is the inclusion of the “Holiday Inn: The Broadway Musical”, a two hour fun-filled stage performance.  The musical opened on Broadway in 2016 and the storyline is a much different story than the original film and the “Abraham” minstrel performance and several songs omitted.

The storyline about Jim moving to Connecticut and Lila staying with Ted remains the same but focuses more on Jim’s time at the farm.  Also, the character of Linda Mason is an aspiring performer-turned-schoolteacher who had lived on the farm.  Both are attracted to each other but their relationship is awkward and Linda introduces Louise Badger (a farmhand who worked at the Mason Farm) to help Jim tend the farm.

But as Jim misses performing, he decides to turn his farm to an inn (only open on holidays) and he brings Linda and his friends to perform on New Year’s Eve.  But when Jim sees Ted dancing with Linda, he gets jealous and punches Ted in the face.  Which leads to a second act which I won’t spoil.

But seeing the energy from the play and the focus on character development of the musical, surprisingly, I found myself more entertained by the musical stage version than the original film.

Granted, I enjoyed both of them but the uplifting energy from the musical, plus the inclusion of other popular Irving Berlin films made me enjoy “Holiday Inn: The Broadway Musical” even more!

As for the Blu-ray release, the film is presented in 1080p High Definition black and white (1:331) and also features a new colorized version from Legend Films (known for colorizing many classic B&W films).  Picture quality is no doubt better in terms of clarity and sharpness compared to the older DVD.  And as for the colorization, I used to be a bit critical of the older colorization films from Legend Films but I have to say that with newer technology, the colorization of “Holiday Inn” is well-done.

The lossless audio is in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and dialogue and music is crystal clear through the front channels.

The picture quality of “Holiday Inn: The Broadway Musical” is also wonderful and the camera work in capturing the stage version is well done!  And the lossless soundtrack in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is crystal clear!

And as for special features, you get a lengthy featurette about the Crosby/Astaire collaboration, an insightful featurette about the making of the dancing scenes and also a featurette about the making of the colorization for the film.  Also, an audio commentary is included.

Overall, “Holiday Inn: 75th Anniversary Edition” is a Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Irving Berlin classic.  Presented in its original B&W and also a colorized version, this is no doubt the best presentation of the film.  But even better is the inclusion of the wonderful “Holiday Inn: The Broadway Musical” on Blu-ray making this “Holiday Inn: 75th Anniversary Edition” worth owning!

Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

This set is amazing and is the definitive Alfred Hitchcock set to own (featuring many of his films from 1942-1976) and any cineaste wanting to own these magnificent Alfred Hitchcock films on Blu-ray will want the Ultimate Collection. And this 2017 release is even better with 10 additional TV episodes included. This set is no doubt a 5 STAR release! “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: Saboteur (1942), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rope (1948), Rear Window (1954), The Trouble with Harry (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964), Torn Curtain (1966), Topaz (1969), Frenzy (1972), Family Plot (1976)

DURATION: Saboteur (1 hr., 49 min.), Shadow of a Doubt (1 hr, 48 min.), Rope (1 hr, 21 min.), Rear Window (1 hr., 52 min.), The Trouble with Harry (1 hr., 39 min.), The Man Who Knew Too Much (2 hrs.), Vertigo (2 hrs., 8 min.), North by Northwest (2 hrs., 16 min.), Psycho (1 hr., 49 min.), The Birds (1 hr., 59 min.), Marnie (2 hrs., 10 min.), Torn Curtain (2 hrs., 8 min.), Topaz (2 hrs., 23 min.), Frenzy (1 hr., 56 min.), Family Plot (2 hrs.) + 7 TV Episodes from “Afred Hitchcock Presents” and 3 TV Episodes from “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour”

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: October 17, 2017


Universally recognized as the Master of Suspense, the legendary Alfred Hitchcock directed some of cinema’s most thrilling and unforgettable classics. Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection features 15 iconic films from the acclaimed director’s illustrious career including Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest and many more. Starring Hollywood favorites such as James Stewart, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Paul Newman, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery and Kim Novak, this definitive collection showcases a true cinematic master at his best. Featuring over 15 hours of insightful bonus features plus an exclusive collectible book, each film has been digitally restored from high resolution film elements for the ultimate Hitchcock experience.


 

For the cinema fans who are fans of Alfred Hitchcock, Universal has released “Alfred Hitchock: The Ultimate Collection” which comes with 15 movies and 10 TV episodes plus over 15 hours of bonus features and a booklet.

Included in the “Alfred Hitchcok: The Ultimate Collection” are the following films:

  1. Saboteur – A 1942 film noir spy thriller.  The film revolves around Barry Kane (portrayed by Robert Cummings) who works at Stewart Aircraft Works in Glendale, California.  When he and his friend Mason (portrayed by Virgil Summers) bump into a man named Fry (portrayed by Norman Lloyd), not long afterward, a fire is started and when the men go to stop the fire, Mason is burned to death.  When investigators interview Barry, he tells him that the fire took place after they bumped into a man named Fry, but there are no records of Fry ever working for the company.  And now Barry is accused of sabotaging his worksite and killing his friend.  Barry becomes a fugitive and is helped by a blind man (portrayed by Vaughan Glaser), and when his niece, Patricia “Pat” Martin (portrayed by Priscilla Lane) visits, Barry tries to please his innocence to Pat.  But she is more intent of reporting him to the police.  What happens when he kidnaps Pat?  Will Barry find a way to prove his innocence?
  2. Shadow of a Doubt – A 1943 psychological thriller film noir.  The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  The film revolves around Charlie Newton (portrayed by Teresa Wright) who is excited when her Uncle Charlie (portrayed by Joseph Cotten) is coming to visit.  When two men come to do a national survey, they want to feature the family but Charlie gets upset when a photographer takes his picture and demands for them to give the film to him.   The men reveal to Charlie that they are detectives and suspect that Charlie is the “Merry Widow Murderer”.  Will Charlie help her uncle or will she keep tabs on him for the detectives?
  3. Rope -A 1948 psychological crime thriller film noir based on the 1929 play by Patrick Hamilton inspired by the real-life murder of Bobby Franks in 1924.  One of Hitchcock’s first Technicolor films.  The film revolves around two intellects, Brandon Shaw (portrayed by John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (portrayed by Farley Granger) who strangled their former classmate from Harvard University, David Kentley (portrayed by Dick Hogan).  The two committed the crime as an intellectual exercise and wanted to prove themselves by committing the “perfect murder” inspired by their prep-school housemaster, publisher Rupert Cadell (portrayed by James Stewart) who talked with them about the intellectual concepts of Nietzsche’s Ubermermensch and De Quincey’s art of murder as a means to show one’s superiority over others.
  4. Rear Window – A 1954 American Technicolor mystery thriller based on Cornell Woolrich’s 1942 short story “It Had to Be Murder”.  Considered as one of the greatest movies ever made, the film received four academy award nominations and was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  The film revolves around professional photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies (portrayed by James Stewart) being confined in a wheelchair in his Greenwich Village apartment after breaking a leg while trying to photograph a racetrack accident.  While keeping his windows open to stay cool, he observes various people across the street. One night during a thunderstorm, he hears a woman scream and then the sound of glass breaking.  He sees the woman no longer there and a man with a large knife and handsaw.  Jeff is convinced that the man, Lars Thorwald (portrayed by Raymond Burr) may have killed his bedridden wife.
  5. The Trouble with Harry – A 1955 black comedy.  In the small town of Highwater, Vermont, the body of Harry Worp (portrayed by Philip Truex) is found.  The problem is who the person is, who was responsible for the death and what to do with the body.  No one is upset that Harry is dead.  No one really cares.  And each hope that the body will not bring the attention of the authorities to come to Highwater.
  6. The Man Who Knew Too Much – A 1956 suspense thriller film noir and a remake of Hitchcock’s own 1934 film of the same name.  The film won an Academy Award for Best Song for “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” by Doris Day.  The film revolves around an American family, Dr. Benjamin “Ben” McKenna (portrayed by James Stewart), his wife Jo (portrayed by Doris Day) and their son Hank (portrayed by Christopher Olsen) vacationing in Morocco.  One day, they see a man being chased by the police.  The man who was stabbed in the back approaches Ben and before he dies, tells Bernard that a foreign statesman will be assassinated in London soon and gives him the name “Ambrose Chappelle”.  But when Hank is kidnapped and Ben receives a call that his son won’t be harmed if the McKenna’s say nothing about the warning message Bernard received.  Will the McKenna’s get their son back?
  7. Vertigo – A 1958 film noir psychological thriller based on the 1954 novel “D’entre les morts” (From Among the Dead) by Boileau-Narcejac.  The film focuses on former police detective John “Scottie” Ferguson.  Scottie is forced into early retirement because an incident in the line of duty which caused him to develop acrophobia (an extreme fear of heights) and vertigo (a false sense of rotational movement).  His friend and ex-fiance Midge Wood (portrayed by Barbara Bel Geddes) tells him that perhaps a severe emotional shock may cure him.  One day, Scottie is hired by an acquaintance, Gavin Elster (portrayed by Tom Helmore), as a private investigator to follow his wife, Madeleine (portrayed by Kim Novak) who is behaving strangely.
  8. North by Northwest – A 1959 thriller film considered as one of the “Greatest Films of All Time”.  Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  The film revolves around two thugs looking for George Kaplan and a waiter calling out for him, meanwhile at the same time, advertising exec Roger Thornhill (portrayed by Cary Grant) is summoning a waiter.  Immediately, Roger is mistaken as George Kaplan and is kidnapped.  He is brought to the estate of Lester Townsend and interrogated by a spy, Phillip Vandamm (portrayed by James Mason).  Roger tries to explain that he is not George Kaplan but they do not believe him.  And now Roger’s life is at risk.
  9. Psycho – A 1960 psychological horror film based on the 1959 novel by Robert Bloch. Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.  The film revolves around a real estate secretary named Marion Crane (portrayed by Janet Leigh) who talks with her boyfriend Sam Loomis (portrayed by John Gavin) how they can’t afford to get married due to his debts.  After lunch, her boss asks her to deposit a $40,000 cash deposit for her company at the bank.  Instead of depositing the money, she steals the money and gives it to Sam to pay off his debt.  But while leaving town, she sees her boss and she becomes paranoid.  While driving, she decides to stop for the night at the Bates Motel, which Norman Bates (portrayed by Anthony Perkins) and his mother operates.
  10. The Birds – A 1963 horror-thrilller film based on the 1952 story by Daphne du Maurier.  Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.  Melanie Daniels (portrayed by Tippi Hedren) is a young socialite known for her racy behavior and her pranks.  While going to Bodega Bey to visit Mitch Brenner (portrayed by Rod Taylor) and her family, they all noticed that something unusual is happening to the birds and they are attacking people.
  11. Marnie – A 1964 psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based on the 1961 novel by Winston Graham. The film revolves around Margaret “Marnie” Edgar (portrayed by Tippi Hedren) who steals $10,000 from her employer’s safe and flees.  She changes her appearance and identity and heads to Virginia and Baltimore.  Meanwhile, Mark Rutland (portrayed by Sean Connery), hires Marnie for his company.  But what happened when she tries to pull of the same heist on her new boss?
  12. Torn Curtain – A 1966 political thriller about a US physicist and rocket scientist named Michael Armstrong (portrayed by Paul Newman) who is traveling to Copenhagen with his assistant and fiance, Sarah Sherman (portrayed by Julie Andrews).  As he receives a radiogram to pick up a book, he sees a message which prompts him to go to Stockholm.  She follows him but instead of Stockholm, they are flying to East Berlin and he is welcome to the East German government.  Has Armstrong defected?
  13. Topaz – A 1969 spy thriller based on the 1967 Cold War novel by Leon Uris. The film follows a French intelligence agent who becomes entangled in the Cold War politics which lead up to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and eventually the breakup of an international Soviet spy ring in France.
  14. Frenzy – A 1972 British thriller film based on the novel “Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square” by Arthur La Bern.  In London, a serial killer is raping women and strangling them with neck ties.  Who is responsible?
  15. Family Plot – A 1976 Technicolor dark comedy/thriller and the final film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based on the novel “The Rainbird Pattern” by Victor Canning.  The film is about two couples, a fake psychic and her cab driving boyfriend and another that are professional thieves and kidnappers.

“The Best of Alfred Hitchcock Presents” features the following episodes:

  1. Revenge
  2. Mr. Blanchard’s Secret
  3. Lamb to the Slaughter
  4. Poison
  5. Arthur
  6. Mrs. Bixby and the Colonels Coat
  7. Bang! You’re Dead

“The Best of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour” features the following episodes:

  1. I Saw the Whole Thing
  2. Three Wives Too Many
  3. Death Scene

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Saboteur” comes with the following special features:

  • Saboteur: A Closer Look
  • Storyboards: The Statue of Liberty Sequence
  • Alfred Hitchcock’s Sketches
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Shadow of a Doubt” comes with the following special features:

  • Beyond a Doubt: The Making of Hitchcock’s Favorite Film
  • Production Drawings by Art Director Robert Boyle
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Rope” comes with the following special features:

  • Rope Unleashed
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Rear Window” comes with the following special features:

  • Rear Window Ethics: An Original Documentary
  • A Conversation with Screenwriter John Michael Hayes
  • Pure Cinema: Through the Eyes of the Master
  • Breaking Barriers: The Sounds of Hitchcock
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts
  • Masters of Cinema
  • Feature Commentary with John Fawell (Author of “Hitchcock’s Rear Window: The Well-Made Film”)
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Re-Release Trailer Narrated by James Stewart

“The Trouble with Harry” comes with the following special features:

  • The Trouble with Harry Isn’t Over
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“The Man Who Knew Too Much” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of the Man Who Knew Too Much
  • Production Photographs
  • Trailers

“Vertigo” comes with the following special features:

  • Obsessed with Vertigo – New Life for Hitchcock’s Masterpiece
  • Partners in Crime: Hitchcock’s Collaborations
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts
  • Foreign Censorship Ending
  • The Vertigo Archives
  • Feature Commentary with Director William Friedkin
  • 100 Years of Universal: The Lew Wasserman Era
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Restoration Theatrical Trailer

“North by Northwest” comes with the following special features:

  • Destination Hitchcock: The Making of North by Northwest
  • North by Northwest: One for the Ages
  • The Master’s Touch: Hitchcock’s Signature Style
  • Feature Commentary by Screenwriter Ernest Lehman
  • Stills Gallery
  • Trailer Gallery

“Psycho” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Psycho
  • Psycho Sound
  • In the Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerps
  • Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho
  • The Shower Scene With and Without Music
  • The Shower Scene: Storyboards by Saul Bass
  • The Psycho Archives
  • Feature Commentary with Stephen Rebello (Author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho)
  • Lobby Cards
  • Behind-the-Scenes Photographs
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Re-Release Trailer

“The Birds” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scene
  • The Original Ending
  • The Birds: Hitchcock’s Monster Movie
  • All About the Birds
  • Storyboard Sequences
  • Tippi Hedren’s Screen Test
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts
  • Universal International Newsreels
  • Production Photographs
  • 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics
  • 100 Years of Universal: The Lot
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Marnie” comes with the following special features:

  • The Trouble with Marnie
  • The Marnie Archives
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Torn Curtain” comes with the following special features:

  • Torn Curtain Rising
  • Scenes Scored by Bernard Hermann
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Topaz” comes with the following special features:

  • Alternate Endings
  • Topaz: An Appreciation by Film Historian and Critic Leonard Maltin
  • Storyboards: The Mendozas
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Frenzy” comes with the following special features:

  • The Story of Frenzy
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Family Plot” comes with the following special features:

  • Plotting Family Plot
  • Storyboards: The Chase Scene
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“The Best of Alfred Hitchcock” comes with “Alfred Hitchcock: A Look Back”

“The Best of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour” comes with “Fast Your Seatbelt: The Thrilling Art of Alfred Hitchcock”

EXTRAS:

“Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” comes with a 60-page booklet and slipcase.


For any true cinema fan, owning Alfred Hitchock films comes with the territory of a being a true cineaste.

Alfred Hitchcock films are must-own films (unless you are the type who have foresaken physical media and have gone the digital route) and should earn a spot in your cinema collection.

For this review, I’ve already reviewed many Hitchcock films, so I’m going to approach this set of why you should own “The Ultimate Collection” and whether or not it’s worth upgrading from “The Masterpiece Collection”.

When it comes to Alfred Hitchcock films, to enjoy Alfred Hitchock films,  one must know that Hitchock has worked for numerous companies in his long career.  And that there are several releases that are no doubt key collections to own.

“Alfred Hitchcock: The Classic Collection” (MGM but on Blu-ray), “Classic Hitchcock” (Hitchcock’s British films + 1 American film from the Criterion Collection on Blu-ray), “Alfred Hitchcock: The Signature Collection” (Warner Bros. on DVD) and “Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection” (MGM on DVD)  are no doubt the best collections featuring his films from 1927-1941. His first two films “The Pleasure Garden (1925) and “The Mountain Eagle (1926) may not be easy to find but the majority of Hitchcock films can be found in various collections.

But for his major cinema works from 1942-1976, the Universal Studios release of “Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection” was no doubt the collection to own back in 2005.  Back then, the set featured a 14-movie collection on DVD. But in 2012, a 15-movie collection was released on Blu-ray and DVD and in 2013, Universal releasing a UK version “Alfred Hitcock: The Ultimate Filmmaker Collection” with film reel type casing for the Blu-ray’s and poster art cards.

One wouldn’t think that Universal would release another Alfred Hitchcock set so soon, and if anything, one would probably think that a 4K version release would be on the horizon in the near future.  But here we are, five years later since the release of “The Masterpiece – Limited Edition Set” and Universal has now upped the ante by releasing the “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” on Blu-ray and DVD featuring the 15 films from the previous set but now including 10 TV episodes from “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” (NOTE: All TV episodes are on DVD, not on Blu-ray).

And simply, “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” is the definitive Hitchcock Blu-ray set to own!

While Alfred Hitchcock has had a wonderful list of films in his oeuvre, his Universal films are no doubt the more memorable films.  Films such as “Psycho”, “The Birds”, “Vertigo”, “Rear Window”, “North by Northwest” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” are films that people tend to hold Hitchcock to the highest regard.  But films such as “Saboteur”, “Shadow of a Doubt”, “Topaz”, “Marnie” are entertaining and showcase that wonderful Hitchcock style of filmmaking.

There are no cinema duds in this set.  Sure, some people may find Hitchcock venturing into black comedy for “The Trouble with Harry” may be too different from his other films for their tastes but that is the beauty of Hitchcock films. He took on different types of films and gave it his own personal style.  From his earliest work to “Family Plot” (his final film), we see Hitchcock evolve as a filmmaker and even with his work for Universal, we see Hitchcock show why he is the Master of Suspense.  His style of filmmaking evolving from “Saboteur” to a film such as “Rear Window”, “North by Northwest” and “Psycho” and to even his final film, “Family Plot”.

Hitchcock was a filmmaker who took on various types of films and to this day, these classic films featured in the “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” are still revered, still talked about many decades later and will continue on as topics of discussion among cineaste generations from now.  That is how long-lasting, how effective and how well-respected his cinema work is.

As for the Blu-ray release, as for picture quality, all films are presented in 1080p High Definition.  The first three films are presented in full frame 1:33:1 aspect ratio, while the majority of the films are in widescreen 1:85:1.  The TV episodes are in full frame 1:33:1 aspect ratio.  The films that received the new restoration look fantastic.  Actually, all films look fantastic on Blu-ray compared to the 2005 Masterpiece DVD set.  So, picture quality-wise, you can’t go wrong!  While some may question Universal for not upscaling the TV series to Blu-ray, the fact that you get 10 additional episodes, over 15 hours of bonus features and the booklet is quite amazing.

As for the lossless audio, one should remember that the majority of all Hitchcock films were recorded in monaural and the films are presented in English DTS-HD Master 2.0.  With the exception of “Saboteur”, the other soundtracks for the films include a French DTS Surround 2.0 Mono soundtrack, the only films that have other language selections are Vertigo (which has an Espanol DTS Surround 2.0 soundtrack) and “North by Northwest” which feature a Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese 1.0 soundtrack.

As for subtitles, all films come with an English SDH  and Spanish subtitles.  Only “Saboteur”, “Rear Window”, “Vertigo”, “North by Northwest”, “Psycho”, “The Birds” and “Topaz” come with an French subtitles.

Now, everything I mentioned is positive.  What about the negatives?  Really, there aren’t any.  But if I had to nitpick, I wish that Hitchock’s 1955 film “To Catch a Thief”, which was included in the 2013 UK Blu-ray set “Hitchcock: The Ultimate Filmmaker Collection” but was never included in both the US release of “The Master Collection” or this 2017 “The Ultimate Collection”.  I would imagine because it’s a Paramount Pictures film and what was allowed in UK, was not possible for the US release. It’s also important to note that “To Catch a Thief” from “The Ultimate Filmmaker Collection” had no special features whatsoever and unlike the other discs on that set, “To Catch a Thief” had no label.  So, quality-wise, on that set, the UK received an inferior Blu-ray version of that film.  So, it wouldn’t have matched with this set, as every film disc in “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” has special features.

A big question that some may ask is if one should upgrade their “Masterpiece Collection” for “The Ultimate Collection”.  My answer is if you own the “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” DVD sets, then no.  But if you don’t, ask yourself if the additional ten hours of non-film entertainment is worth it for you.

The booklet is the same.  The digibook style sleeves are the same with the addition of the additional pages to hold the TV series but other than that, if you own the Masterpiece Collection, there is no additional special features as they are the same Blu-ray discs.  “The Ultimate Collection” just includes the additional 10 TV episodes.

Overall, this set is amazing and is the definitive Alfred Hitchcock set to own (featuring many of his films from 1942-1976) and any cineaste wanting to own these magnificent Alfred Hitchcock films on Blu-ray will want the Ultimate Collection.  And this 2017 release is even better with 10 additional TV episodes included.  This set is no doubt a 5 STAR release!

“Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” is highly recommended!

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

November 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

While Mark Palansky’s “Rememory” may not be a groundbreaking film, but I enjoyed the concept and also Dinklage’s performance.  And while the film does have its faults, I did enjoy “Rememory”.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lionsgate. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Rememory

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 112 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (2:40:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English SDH/Spanish Subtitles

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: November 28, 2017


Directed by Mark Palansky

Written by Mike Vukadinovich and Mark Palansky

Produced by Daniel Bekerman, Lee Clay

Co-Producer: Ethan Lazar, Tyler Nelson

Executive Producer: Jim Reeve

Music by Gregory Tripi

Cinematography by Gregory Middleton

Edited by Jane MacRae, Tyler Nelson

Casting by Tineka Becker: Tiffany Mak

Production Design by Hank Mann

Costume Design by Patricia Hargraves


Starring:

Peter Dinklage as Sam Bloom

Matt Ellis as Dash Bloom

Jordana Largy as Freddie

Martin Donovan as Gordon Dunn

Evelyne Brochu as Wendy

Henry Ian Cusick as Lawton

Anton Yelchin as Todd

Julia Ormond as Carolyn Dunn

Gracyn Shineyi as Jane Dunn


The film explores the unexplained death of Gordon Dunn (Martin Donovan), a visionary scientific pioneer whose body is found shortly after the unveiling of his newest work: a device able to extract, record and play a person’s memories. Gordon’s wife, Carolyn (Julia Ormond), retreats into her house and cuts off contact with the outside world when a mysterious man (Peter Dinklage) shows up. After stealing the machine, he uses it to try and solve the mystery, beginning an investigation of memories that lead him to unexpected and dangerous places.


From the director of “Penelope” and “A Series of Unfortunaate Events” comes the film “Rememory”.

The film stars Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, “The Station Agent”), Matt Ellis (“Final Destination 3”, “Undead Union: The Making Of”), Jordana Largy (“Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”), Martin Donovan (“Ant-Man”, “Insomnia”, “Weeds”), Evelyne Brochu (“Cafe de Flore”, “Tom at the Farm”, “X Company”), Henry Ian Cusick (“Lost”, “Hitman”, “The 100”), Anton Yelchin (“Star Trek”, “Terminator Salvation”, “Fright Night”), Julia Ormon (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Legends of the Fall”, “My Week with Marilyn”) and more.

And now “Rememory” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate.

The film begins with Sam Bloom (portrayed by Peter Dinklage) at the bar with his brother Dash Bloom (portrayed by Matt Ellis).  As the two drive home, singing out loud, their car is smashed into by another car and when Sam Bloom comes to, Dash is bleeding and dying, while Sam screams for help.

Fastforward to the future and the accident still haunts Sam.  While he is watching Gordon Dunn (portrayed by Martin Donovan), a scientific pioneer who created new technology that allows for one to extract memories and watch them on an external device.

Later, the doctor is approached by a woman named Wendy (portrayed by Evelyne Brochu) who wants something back from the scientist.  We then see Todd (portrayed by Anton Yelchin) who confronts Gordon for ruining his life and bringing up something that should have stayed in the past.  Meanwhile, Cortex CEO, Lawton (portrayed by Henry Ian Cusick) listening in on their conversation.

We then see Wendy coming in and access Gordon Dunn’s Cortex device, Sam parked in the parking lot alone watching Todd, and then later Wendy leave Gordon’s office and then we also see Gordon laying on the ground, dead.

The next morning, Sam learns that Gordon Dunn is dead and when he comes to bring flowers to his widow, he manages to steal keys inside the house and manages to use it to break into his home and steal one of the Cortex prototype devices along with recordings of memories from other test users.

And through these memories, what will Sam discover?


VIDEO:

“Rememory” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio)

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rememory” is presented with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rememory” comes with following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Mark Palansky and actor Peter Dinklage
  • The Memories We Keep – (31:59) A featurette about the concept and making of the film, as well as the evolution of the script and casting for the film.  Also, remembering actor Anton Yelchin.

EXTRAS:

The Blu-ray comes with an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


“Rememory” is a film directed and written by filmmaker Mark Palansky and created around actor Peter Dinklage and a film that looks into the extraction of memories.

The film revolves around a man named Sam Bloom (portrayed by Dinklage) who had a tragic past three years and watching scientific pioneer, Gordon Dunn, introduce his Cortex device that allows people to extract memories and watch them on an external device.

But when Gordon Dunn is found dead, we see numerous people along with Samuel who happen to be near the scene of the crime.

When Sam reads that Dunn had died, it leads him to stealing Gordon’s Cortex device in hoping he can find answers of who or what is responsible for his death but most of all, helping him come to terms with his tragic past.

If there was one issue with the film is that Cortex would go through any means of finding the stolen Cortex device and are quite aware that Sam Bloom is possibly involved.  While there are those in the company that are aware of Sam, there is buildup to painting the Cortex Corporation as a big, bad corporation and its leader, Lawton (portrayed by Henry Ian Cusick) being the film’s main antagonist.  But there was no element of danger as Sam was able to go around and accomplish things quite easily.

There is also not much time to establish the other characters in the film, they are merely subjects of tests conducted by Gordon but we don’t feel much impact with these characters at all.  If anything, the film hinges on the shoulders of Sam and Carolyn Dunn (portrayed by Julia Ormond).

I will also add that for the short moments that Anton Yelchin was in the film, you can’t help but feel sad that this young talented actor is no longer with us.  He had an emotional performance in the film and “Rememory” was among the last three films that Yelchin would make before dying in a fatal accident in the summer of 2016.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good, especially on close-ups.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue-driven and the audio commentary and featurette were entertaining.  I like the fact that Palansky gave people a chance to send in their own HD memories and they included a few of those selected, for their memory footage to be part of the film.

Overall, while Mark Palansky’s “Rememory” may not be a groundbreaking film, but I enjoyed the concept and also Dinklage’s performance.  And while the film does have its faults, I did enjoy “Rememory”.

Your Name. (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I have to say, Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name.” was a pleasure to watch.  I absolutely love this film and I highly recommend it!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Toho Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Your Name.

DURATION: 107 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9), Dolby TrueHD Japanese and English 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: PG

Release Date: November 7, 2017


Originally Created by Makoto Shinkai

Directed by Makoto Shinkai

Script/Screenplay/Storyboard: Makoto Shinkai

Music by RADWIMPS

Character Design:Masashi Ando, Masayoshi Tanaka

Art Director:Akiko Majima, Takumi Tanji, Tasuku Watanabe

Executive Producer: Yoshihiro Furusawa

Producer: Genki Kawamura, Katsuhiro Takei, Kouichirou Itou

Anime Production: CoMix Wave Films


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mone Kamishiraishi/Stephanie Sheh as Mitsuha Miyamizu

Ryunosuke Kamiki/Michael Sinterniklaas as Taki Tachibana

Aoi Yūki/Cassandra Morris as Sayaka Natori

Etsuko Ichihara/Glynn Ellis as Hitoha Miyamizu

Kaito Ishikawa/Ray Chase as Shinta Takagi

Kanon Tani/Catie Harvey as Yotsuba Miyamizu

Masaki Terasoma/Scott Williams as Toshiki Miyamizu

Masami Nagasawa/Laura Post as Miki Okudera

Nobunaga Shimazaki/Ben Pronsky as Tsukasa Fujii

Ryō Narita/Kyle Hebert as Katsuhiko Teshigawara


From director Makoto Shinkai, the innovative mind behind Voices of a Distant Star and 5 Centimeters Per Second, comes a beautiful masterpiece about time, the thread of fate, and the hearts of two young souls.

The day the stars fell, two lives changed forever. High schoolers Mitsuha and Taki are complete strangers living separate lives. But one night, they suddenly switch places. Mitsuha wakes up in Taki’s body, and he in hers. This bizarre occurrence continues to happen randomly, and the two must adjust their lives around each other. Yet, somehow, it works. They build a connection and communicate by leaving notes, messages, and more importantly, an imprint.

When a dazzling comet lights up the night’s sky, something shifts, and they seek each other out wanting something more; a chance to finally meet. But try as they might, something more daunting than distance prevents them. Is the string of fate between Mitsuha and Taki strong enough to bring them together, or will forces outside their control leave them forever separated?

The Combo comes packaged in a beautiful silver holographic foil slipcover.


Makoto Shinkai, the superstar animation filmmaker who have produced animated film which have been hit after hit and just when you wonder if Shinkai could repeat his success, he hits a grand slam with his 2016 animated film “Your Name.”.

The former Falcom graphic designer, who took the anime industry by storm back in 2001 when he released his anime OVA titled “Voices of a Distant Star”, which he created on his Power Mac G4 and using several software and voice acted by he and his wife Miko and music provided by his friend Tenmon.  The OVA inspired many for the fact it was independent, created on a small budget but looked significantly better than some major anime series by well-known animation studios.

Suffice to say, the person who grew up inspired by Miyazaki films was now given a chance to create more animated films and he would eventually achieve success with “The Place Promised in Our Early Days” (2004), “5 Centimeters Per Second” (2007) and in 2011, he directed, wrote and produced “Children Who Chase Lost Voices (“Hoshi o Ou Kodomo”) and in May 2013, “Kotonoha no Miwa” (The Garden of Words) was released.

But his 2016 animated film “Your Name.” (in Japan, known as “Kimi no Na wa.”), which he wrote and directed and was produced by CoMix Wave Films has now made Shinkai an internationally known filmmaker and the film has also broke many records in Japan.

“Your Name.” became the fourth highest grossing film of all time in Japan, the 7th highest grossing traditionally animated film, is now the highest grossing anime film and the 4th highest grossing non-English film worldwide.

The film has made over $355 million worldwide and has been nominated and has won awards worldwide and now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation.

The film begins with what looks like a meteor splitting off and part of it descending.

We are then introduced to Mitsuha, a high school girl living in the Hida mountainous region of Gifu.  She wakes up and is shocked that she has breasts and her sister Yotsuba thinks she’s acting very strange.

While she goes to school with her good friend Sayaka Natori and Katsuhiko “Tessie” Teshigawara, her friends are a little surprised that she has no recollection of her behavior the previous day.

Performing a dance with her sister and embarrassed that her friends from school are watching her, while descending from the temple, she screams that she was a handsome boy living in Tokyo.

The following morning, we are introduced to a high school boy named Taki living in Tokyo.  But when he wakes up, it’s Mitsuha and she can’t understand why she’s in a boy’s body.  She goes out, trying to hang out with the guys, go to school and the work a job as a restaurant server, Mitsuha thinks she’s in a dream. Because no way she could switch to another body.  She realizes that Taki keeps a diary and starts typing on his phone.

When Taki wakes up, he is shocked to see the diary and shocked when his friends tell him how he behaved the day before.  He and Mitsuha eventually realize that they switch bodies and to prevent any problems, they make rules that neither are able to break and because they switch bodies a few times each week, the two communicate by leaving each other messages.

Mitsuha, her younger sister and her grandmother take their ritual alcohol (kuchikamizake) to an offering at a shrine on the mountaintop where a meteor hit thousands of years ago.  The shrine that the sisters leave their kuchikamizake is believed to represent the body of the village guardian god who rules human experiences and connections

She writes to Taki telling him that a comet is expected to pass Earth on the day of the village festival.  When she and her friends go to check out and see the beautiful comet, they can see a falling star.

As for Taki, the day she wrote the message was the last time he had heard from her.  The two are also unable to switch bodies.

Taki tries calling Mitsuha and all he can think about is her and he begins drawing scenes of the Mitsuha’s village and surroundings. But curious of why Mitsuha has stopped writing him, he decides to visit the Hida Region.

While arriving, he tries to show people of where a village (where a meteor hit long ago) is located.  And a restaurant owner and his wife tell Taki that they know of the village and that her husband is from there.

When Taki asks where it is, they tell him that the place no longer exists since three years ago.

Taki doesn’t understand and they explain that three years ago, a meteor hit her village and everyone very close to the impact area around the village were killed.

Taki decides to learn what happened on that fateful day and what happened to Mitsuha.  But can he find a way to send her a message or switch bodies again in order to save her and everyone in the village?


VIDEO:

“Your Name.” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Colors are vibrant and backgrounds are extremely detailed.  Character designs are fantastic and this is an awesome animated film to marvel on how far Shinaki’s work has gone through to achieve such realism!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Your Name.” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  Featuring crystal clear dialogue and music along with wonderful sound effects during the more action-driven scenes that utilize the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Your Name.” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Makoto Shinkai – (25:35) Featuring a Funimation interview with Makoto Shinkai.
  • Makoto Shinkai Filmography – (10:47) A look at all of Makoto Shinkai’s animated films via excerpts.
  • Special TV Program – (22:26) Hosted by Ryunosuke Kamiki (voice of Taki) and guest starring Makoto Shinkai and Mone Kamshiraishi (voice of Mitsuha), the special visits various locations where Shinkai films were shot, interviews and more!
  • Trailers

I am a huge fan of Makoto Shinkai’s work.  The amount of detail to capture reality through his animated work, the ability to capture human relationships and bonding, capturing human emotion from highs and lows.

One of my favorite films from Shinkai was “5 Centimeters Per Second” (Byoku 5 Centimeter) which was a film about love through different periods of time, breaking up and moving on, his film “Children Who Chase Lost Voices” dealt with fallen relationships and sacrifice, while “The Garden of Words” explored an woman trying to find what is important about life and finding the light and learning why life is worth living, after a dark past.

Relationships are a big part of Makoto Shinkai’s work and that goes as far back as Shinkai’s shorts, “She and Her Cat” (Kanojo to Kanjo no Neko).

And as science fiction has played a big part in Shinkai’s earlier works, he manages to blend sci-fi with a touching story about a teenage boy named Taki and a teenage girl named Mitsuha who switch bodies intermittently throughout the week after they sleep.  They are not sure how it happened and why it’s happening, considering these two have never met prior and they live very far from each other.

And as the two start to communicate with each other, often playful messages of support or what happened while the other person was occupying the other person’s body, these two manage to grow close from their unique correspondence.

But one day, the communication and body switch stops which leaves Taki wanting to get answers of what happened to Mitsuha and why she stopped contacting him.  And to the surprise of Taki, the Mitsuha that Taki was communicating with died three years ago when a meteor destroyed her entire village and everyone was in the blast proximity were killed.

But what if Taki was able to relay a message to her?  What if he could switch bodies with her once more, knowing what he knows?

“Your Name.” was no doubt the best Shinkai film I have watched.  From the detail of Shinjuku, Shibuya and many other locations animated and beautifully drawn, to a script well-executed and captivating, during my viewing of the film, all I kept hoping for was a different outcome unlike “5 Centimeters Per Second”.  Rooting for the two characters and while knowing Shinkai likes to play things close to reality, I just wanted to see something magical.

While the film is no doubt unique in some ways, the storyline concept of trying to prevent one’s death in the past is not new.    In fact, the storyline of two protagonists from two different years in time and yet are able to communicate, can be seen in the 2000 South Korean film “Il Mare” (Siworae) from filmmaker Lee Hyun-seung.

But the way Shinkai writes the film and manages to explore different facets of their relationship and also interjecting some elements of “5 Centimeters Per Second” in to the film in order to make viewers guessing of what direction Shinkai would take the characters to.

As for the film on Blu-ray, picture quality is vibrant and detailed.  The Lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music, while surround channels manages to utilize the various sound effects with clarity.  And the special features include an interview with Makoto Shinkai and a special TV program about “Your Name.” and Shinkai’s oevure.

I have to say, Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name.” was a pleasure to watch.  I absolutely love this film and I highly recommend it!

Dawson City: Frozen Time (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Well-researched, well-presented, “Dawson City: Frozen Time” is a fantastic documentary from Bill Morrison and a true masterpiece!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Hypnotic Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Dawson City: Frozen Time

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 Surround, B&W and Color

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: October 31, 2017


Directed by Bill Morrison

Written by Bill Morrison

Cinematography by Raoul Cotard

Produced by Madeleine Molyneaux, Bill Morrison 

Assistant Producer: Paul Gordon

Music by Alex Somers

Edited by Bill Morrison


Starring:

Bill Morrison

Kathy Jones-Gates

Michael Gates

Sam Kula

Bill O’Farrell

Chris “Mad Dog” Russo


A thrilling adventure through American history, Dawson City: Frozen Time pieces together the bizarre true story of a collection of some 500 silent films. Dating from the 1910s and 20s, they were lost for over 50 years until being discovered buried in a subarctic swimming pool deep in the Yukon Territory in 1978.
Director Bill Morrison (Decasia) uses this extraordinary footage as a conduit to explore the complicated past of Dawson City, a Canadian gold rush town and First Nation hunting camp that was transformed and displaced. Dawson City: Frozen Time is a triumphant work of art that chronicles the life cycle of a singular film collection through its exile, burial, rediscovery, and salvation, discovering another world in the process.


For many silent film fans, before Hollywood, it was known that Fort Lee, New Jersey was once the motion picture capital during the early 1900’s and it is known that 75% of all silent films were destroyed unfortunately by improper storage and the combustible nitrate film.

But how is it that 533 silent film reels were discovered in Dawson City, a town in northern Yukon (Canada) by a construction worker in 1978.

This would be the basis of “Dawson City: Frozen Time” directed by Bill Morrison, who would construct a timeline of Dawson and show its history through photos and also show a timeline of what was going on in America/Canada through various scenes of footage that are from the 533 silent film reels that were discovered.

But also to show how Dawson City brought many people for gold, many people who worked in Dawson and would become tycoons in America. But we see the transformation of Dawson, which was once an entertainment hub to have a population of tends of thousand to technology eventually lessening the role of miners and decreasing the population to a few thousand.

We see the years progress, we see through this footage of the various films that were lost, or films and news reels that only have so much surviving footage due to degradation, film warp/damage due to time and also being thrown in soil for many years and being strewn around.

And through this footage, we see history play out and “Dawson City: Frozen Time” eventually becoming a tale about the American 20th century.  From thousands of people moving to areas where there was gold, these areas becoming business and entertainment hubs, from how people in Dawson received entertainment showing what was going on in America, from the World Series, strikes, celebrity scandals and more.


VIDEO:

“Dawson City: Frozen Time” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio).  This is a film that showcases American history through photography and videos.  For the most part, picture quality is good but depending on the surviving film footage that was found in Dawson, some reels are in good shape, others not so good.  Some footage may show excessive degradation to film damage, while others may look very good with minimal scratches.  But these scenes are short, if anything, scenes to indicate a point or reference.  As I always mention in silent films and when it comes to picture quality, considering nearly 75% of films are lost, the fact that we get to see these surviving films or even glimpses of American history is fantastic. 

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Dawson City: Frozen Time” features haunting melodies created by Alex Somers.  Lossless audio is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  Scenes with dialogue are crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dawson City: Frozen Time” comes with following special features:

  • Dawson City: Postscript – (9:54) Michael Gates and Kathy Jones Gates (Yukon Historians) discussing how the premiere showing of the films would be in Dawson City.  Bill O’Farrell (Head of Film Section of the National Archives of Canada) discussed the condition of the reels when they received them.  And how a last resort of rewashing to save the film because they were in bad shape.  And also what happened to the reels after they were rescued (and how many newsreels and documentaries kept in storage vaults at National Archives Buildings caught on fire).
  • Interview with filmmaker Bill Morrison – (8:50) Filmmaker Bill Morrison discusses on the utilization of film footage and how he would create the story as he discovered Dawson City’s history and the changes that would take place.
  • Selections from the Dawson Film Find – Featuring a plethora of news reels (all silent) such as the British Canadian Pathe News from 1919, The Montreal Heral Screen Magazine of 1919, International News issue #52 of 1919, Pathe’s Weekly of 1914, scenes from “The Butler and the Maid” of 1912, D.W. Griffith’s “Brutality” of 1912, “The Exquisite Tief” of 1919, “The Girl of the Northern Woods” of 1910 and more.
  • Trailer

EXTRAS:

“Dawson City: Frozen Time” comes with a 24-page booklet with an essay by Lawrence Weschler and Alberto Zambenedetti.


For many silent film fans, before Hollywood, it was known that Fort Lee, New Jersey was once the motion picture capital during the early 1900’s and it is known that 75% of all silent films were destroyed unfortunately by improper storage and the combustible nitrate film.

But how is it that 533 silent film reels were discovered in Dawson City, a town in northern Yukon (Canada) by a construction worker in 1978.

It sounds hard to believe but while excavation was being done, in order to create a new recreation center, Frank Barrett saw reels of film that were literally dumped in the Earth.

Many were fiction films and newsreel footage from the early 1900s.

But what many people may not know is how this once booming goldmining town had a connection to the early entertainment scene and the location would include people who would go on to do great things in America back then.

In order to showcase clips from films and newsreel footage found in Dawson City but also showcasing the history of the town, filmmaker Bill Morrison created “Dawson City: Frozen in Time”.

The film would go into how an American man visiting a village of the indigenous Han people (First Nations people of Canada) who happened to be mining and discovered gold.  This would lead to other prospectors discovering gold, claiming the land, displacing the Han people and because of the mining, also destroying their hunting and fishing.

While those who came to the Yukon first were able to capitalize, would lead to one of the first restaurant and hotel (created by Frederick Trump, grandfather of U.S. President, Donald Trump and miner Ernest Levin) which offered fine dining and lodging but also scales to weigh gold.

How thousands of people would flock to Dawson to mine gold and many business were opened.  And one of the families that went to Dawson City was Sid Grauman and his parents.  And little Sid saw how people paid a lot for entertainment and Sid Grauman would grow up to open theaters in America, including the popular Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.  To Alexander Pantage who would move to Dawson and eventually found love with brothel-keeper “Klondike Kate” Rockwell and both operated the successful vaudeville and burlesque theatre, the Oprheum.  Pantage would become famous for promoting the “movie palace” concept and creating theatres across the United States and Canada.

How Yukon Gold Company employee William Desmond Taylor would become a famous silent film director but possibly best known for his murder and a cold case which was probably intentionally by the film studios.

For sports, Dawson was host to various sporting events and boxing matches.  But with tens of thousands of people coming to Dawson, eventually bigger companies would find ways to mine for gold with devising new technologies such as floating dredges that would be less reliant on workers and the population would eventually dwindle to a few thousand.

And as time went on, we would see history play out through this film reels.  From strikes, the war to baseball such as the World Series including the Black Socks Scandal in which members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to throw the World Series games.

To video footage of multiple film laboratories and theaters that burned (which eventually led to the end of nitrate films and finding safer alternatives to creating film).

But those who stayed would create a community and life in the 1900’s to the teens were captured on nitrate and film reels were distributed around the world but as film companies didn’t feel the need to get the reels back, Dawson City which was so remote, was the last of the distribution line for film companies.

In fact, Dawson City would receive films 2-3 years later but eventually they would have many reels that were stacked up and so, they were either burned, thrown into the river (with other garbage, showing mass pollution being thrown in the river) or buried into the soil.

But it was this discovery in 1978 that would lead to people discovering reels of silent film and news footage that have been long forgotten.  Considering that many nitrate film were lost in fires and 75% of silent film were lost, this discovery was no doubt a significant find.

And I have to applaud filmmaker Bill Morrison who was able to piece together many photos to build a timeline of Dawson City’s transformation with or without the miners, the significance of buildings, especially the pool to various buildings that were destroyed or rebuilt, to those who stayed and worked in Dawson and would become famous and also featuring those who were displaced.  And inter-spread with this historical timeline are footage from various newsreels and film that help capture society during that era (focused between 1900-1919).

Well-researched, well-presented, “Dawson City: Frozen Time” is a fantastic documentary from Bill Morrison and a true masterpiece!

La Chinoise (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“La Chinoise” is Godard’s profound masterpiece in which the filmmaker/writer going through an exploration of ideas through characters, explore actions knowing all too well, the film may not change a thing. “La Chinoise” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: La Chinoise

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1967

DURATION: 96 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:37:1 Aspect Ratio), 2.0 French Monaural

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: October 10, 2017


Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Written by Jean-Luc Godard

Cinematography by Raoul Cotard

Edited by Delphone Desfons, Agnes Guillemot

Costume Design by Gitt Magrini


Starring:

Anne Wizamsky as Veronique

Juliet Berto as Yvonne

Jean-Pierre Leaud as Guillaume

Michael Semeniako as Henri

Lex De Bruijn as Kirilov

Omar Dip as Omar

Francis Jeanson as Francis

Blandine Jeanson as Blandine

Eliane Giovagnoli as Son Ami


La Chinoise is a pop-art masterpiece by Jean-Luc Godard that both channels and parodies the revolutionary energies of Paris in 1967. Disillusioned by their suburban lifestyles, a group of middle-class students, led by Guillaume (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and Véronique (Anne Wiazemsky), form a small Maoist cell and plan to change the world by any means necessary. After studying the growth of communism in China, the students decide they must use terrorism and violence to ignite their own revolution.


For French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, while celebrated for his French New Wave films, his supporters and even his friends started to see a change with the filmmaker who shifting towards films that were becoming more political and going after government and also society.

While Godard would begin to go full force with his radical films in 1968, two years prior, we started to see Godard’s film shift into this direction beginning with “Made in U.S.A.” and then his two films in 1967, “La Chinoise” and “Weekend”.

The film is written and directed by Godard and would star Anne Wiazemsky (“Au Hasard Balthazar”, “Teorema”, “Rendez-vous), who would become Godard’s wife that very year; Juliet Berto (“Weekend”, “Celine and Julie Go Boating”, “Neige”), Jean-Pierre Leaud (“The 400 Blows”, “Stolen Kisses”, “Masculin Feminin”), Michael Semeniako (“Le Cercle de Minuit”) and more.

“La Chinoise” is considered as one of Godard’s best films and it was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

While the film was not supposed to be prescient of what would eventually take place in May 1968 in France, the film no doubt examines New Left activism and the film was didactic in its approach to Maoism.  For those not familiar with Maoism, it is a political theory derived from the teachings of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong and was applied as the political and military ideology of the Communist Party of China and it guided many revolutionary movements around the world.

The film revolves around five university students who represent different ideologies and have different personalities.  They are conspiring to overthrow the Russian Imperial regime through revolutionary violence.

The film is set in Paris and these five students belong to a radical Maoist group known as Aden Arabie Cell and consists of Nanterre University student Veronique (portrayed by Anne Wiazemsky); a young bourgeois actor named Guillaume (portrayed by Jean-Pierre Leaud); the girl from the countryside, Yvonne (portrayed by Juliet Berto); science student from the University of Grenoble, Henri (portrayed by Michel Semeniako) and a Dutch painter named Kirilov (portrayed by Lex de Bruijin).  And a visit from their friend, Omar (portrayed by Omar Dio).

Each of these students are in summer vacation and they spend their time studying political articles, practicing their lectures with one another, inviting guest speakers to their pad and dreaming of a revolution.

And reading text about advocating violence in the name of resolution, these individuals decide to assassinate Soviet novelist, Mikhail Sholokhov, who happens to be in Paris as a cultural ambassador representing the Soviet government.


VIDEO:

“La Chinoise” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). This is probably the best I have seen of this classic film.  Presented in 1080p, detail of closeups are well-done and I saw no signs of film damage or any artifact issues while watching the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“La Chinoise” is presented with French with English subtitles. Lossless audio is 2.0 Mono and for those who have never watched a Jean-Luc Godard film, while you will get crystal clear dialogue, expect to hear Claude Channes “La Chinoise” being played multiple times.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“La Chinoise” comes with following special features:

  • Interview with actor Michael Semeniako – (38:28)
  • Interview with Assistant Director Charles Bitsch – (19:49)
  • Interview with 2nd Assistant Director Jean-Claude Sussfield – (17:39)
  • Interview with writer Denitza Bantcheva – (18:55)
  • Interview with film historian Antoine de Bascque – (30:55)
  • La Chinoise Trailer

EXTRAS:

The Blu-ray comes with a 16-page booklet with essays by Richard Hell and Amy Taubin.


The film before filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard would go onto create his more political, radical films, “La Chinoise” was no doubt created during the frustration building in France at the time and a foretelling of what was to come a year later.

“La Chinoise” is a Godard masterpiece that manages to capture cinema, politics and didactic principles that would pave the way to Godard radicalism and non-docile filmmaking.

The film marks Godard pursuing to look into Maoism, while casting Anne Wiazemsky as his main lead and an actress who won audiences for her performance in the 1966 Robert Bresson film “Au hasard Balthazar”, would marry Godard that very year and would later become a successful novelist.

The film would also star two of France’s well-known young talents who have appeared in previous and later Godard films, Jean-Pierre Leaud and Juliet Berto.

What I enjoyed about “La Chinoise” is that it’s a film where Godard is trying to understand and gain knowledge of political ideology through his characters.  In fact, Godard would refer to Wizaemsky as “Cinematographic education” and unlike his previous films that may incorporate some sort of form of love, “La Chinoise” is about students who stay at a friend’s apartment during a summer break from university terms to learn about each other’s ideology and through discussion of violence as a necessity to achieve revolutionary goals.

Reading text about advocating violence in the name of resolution, these individuals decide to assassinate Soviet novelist, Mikhail Sholokhov, who happens to be in Paris as a cultural ambassador representing the Soviet government.

“La Chinoise” represents the intelligent cinema that demanding cinemaeaste want to see.  Wanting to expand their views on cinema, wanting characters that are non-banal, with substance.

You have Veronique (Wiazemsky) who’s appearance of a beautiful, intelligent college student attending University Nanterre but yet wanting to shut down the university with bombs.  Veronique wants a violent revolution.  Going further, Anne Wiazemsky’s real-life philosophy professor at the Paris X University Nanterre, Francis Jeanson is in the film and Veronique and Jeanson are in a discussion in which he tries to argue against the use of violence to shut down French universities.  Jeanson in support of cultural action, Veronique through violence to inspire a revolution.

The real-life Jeanson was committed to the National Liberation Front (FLN) during the Algerian War his appearance in the film  was no doubt fascinating.

Godard and his actors would not know that a year later, protesting students and millions of French workers would go on strike, paralyze the country but in effect, would lead France and liberate French society.

Jean-Pierre Leaud’s character of Guillaume is no doubt a character that is a mouthpiece for Godard.  For those who watch a Godard film, there are always moments where Godard likes to use his characters and allow the character to speak for him.  And in Guillaume’s scenes, Godard goes Brechtian style and one of the most powerful scenes is when Guillaume goes to a blackboard with the names of famous playwrights including Sartre, Giraudoux, Racine, Cocteau, Goethe, Sophocles, Chekhov and Shakespeare and as Guillaume erases each name, one name stays and it is Brecht.

The film is crafted in a way that it doesn’t try to pick which side is right or which side is wrong.  While some may feel that a film about characters who are into Maoism, Marxism, Lennism, makes the film too radical, may not know that after the premiere of “La Chinoise”, those who are Marxist-Leninist Maoists complained and were furious about how they were portrayed.  That “La Chinoise” made them look irresponsible.

Film critics praised the film as a Godard masterpiece and that the film captured the revolt of youth.  The film is may seem too hip for students to pull off such a revolution but it happened in France in 1968.  For something more brutal, Kino Lorber also has a film from Koji Wakamatsu called “United Red Army” which shows how normal university students of the ’60s and ’70s dedicated their lives to communism and also wanting a revolution, chose a path of violence and murder.  Where students were allowed to voice their opinion among the students featured in “La Chinoise”, in Japan, members who were weak-minded were killed and these students chose to become terrorists, recruited by a Palestinian group and attacked Lod airport near Tel Aviv, killing 26 people and injuring 80 others.  Both films about students wanting a revolution.  Godard’s film being surreal without despair, Wakamatsu’s film showing the barbaric nature of homegrown terrorism.

I looked at “La Chinoise” as a flip-flop of “Masculin Feminin” (1966), where the 1966 film was more pop with slight political undertones, “La Chinoise” is slight pop with more political undertones.  Both entertaining, both wonderful films, different execution, different Godard in terms of mind-set but yet “La Chinoise” being more poetic, didactic and experimental.

The film looks great on Blu-ray and the best I have ever seen of the film so far.  Presented in 1080p, the film features a monaural 2.0 soundtrack and numerous interviews.

Overall, “La Chinoise” is Godard’s profound masterpiece in which the filmmaker/writer going through an exploration of ideas through characters, explore actions knowing all too well, the film may not change a thing.

“La Chinoise” is recommended!

Le Gai Savoir (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I am in no way an aesthete when it comes to French history or politics but “Le Gai Savoir” is a complex, abstract and fascinating film but there is a message that even the viewer can deconstruct and ponder about. Anyone wanting to watch a radical Godard film will no doubt enjoy “Le Gai Savoir”.

Images courtesy of © 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Le Gai Savoir

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1969

DURATION: 92 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:37:1 Aspect Ratio), 2.0 French Monaural

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: October 10, 2017


Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Written by Jean-Luc Godard

Text by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Cinematography by Georges Leclerc

Edited by Germaine Cohen


Starring:

Juliet Berto as Patricia Lumumba

Jean-Pierre Leaud as Emile Rousseau

Jean-Luc Godard (Narration)


While alone in an abandoned television studio, two militants, Émile Rousseau (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and Patricia Lumumba (Juliet Berto), have a discourse on language. Referring to spoken word as “the enemy” – the weapon used by the establishment to confuse liberation movements – the two deconstruct the meanings of sounds and images in an attempt to “return to zero” and truly experience the joy of learning.


For French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, while celebrated for his French New Wave films, his supporters and even his friends started to see a change with the filmmaker who shifting towards films that were becoming more political and going after government and also society.

While his film “Pierrot le fou” touched upon certain themes for very few scenes, his interest in German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht and the thought of alienating a viewer through a separation of elements in the medium.  Characters would address the audience about their thoughts, feelings and more.

And so the period between 1968-1979 is called his “Militant Years” or “Revolutionary Years” in which Godard abandons mainstream filmmaking to pursue low-budget political films and collaborating with Jean-Pierre Gorin.

And Kino Lorber has release two films from this period on Blu-ray, his 1968 film “La Chinoise” and “Le Gai Savoir” (Joy of Learning).

The film focuses on two primary characters, Patricia Lumumba (portrayed by Juliet Berto) and Emile Rousseau (portrayed by Jean-Pierre Leaud).  Narration was done by Jean-Luc Godard.

To provide a background on this film, the film was shot before civil unrest took place in France and after.  In France, there were massive strikes and many people on strikes would occupy universities and factories throughout France.  Students went on strike against capitalism, consumerism, American imperialism and traditional institutions.  This spread to 11 million workers on strike.

So bad were the strikes that the entire country’s economy was brought down and there was fear of civil war or a revolution.

While looked at as one of the dark times in French history, it is also regarded that the events led to a cultural, social and moral turning point for France.

In the film, Emile Rousseau (portrayed by Jean-Pierre Leaud) is the great-great-grandson of Jean-Jacques (Jean-Jacques Rousseau is a Francophone Genevan philosopher, writer and composer of the 18th century) Patricia Lumumba (portrayed by Juliet Berto), Third World delegate of the Citroen auto plant who got caught for giving people with recording devices, come in contact with each other inside an unused TV studio.

Patricia’s goal is wanting to learn and teach everyone that they must turn back against the enemy that weapon which he attacks everyone through “Language”. Emile tells her that because they are on TV, to go into people’s homes and ask them what they want to know.

The two take part in seven late night TV dialogues and eventually the two analyze the relationship between cinema and politics.

The two would then meet up for seven evenings to analyze sound and images.  To decompose and to recompose.


VIDEO:

“Le Gai Savoir” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio).  The majority of the film features Emile and Pamela surrounded by black backgrounds with lighting on them.  There are then a plethora of classic images shows.  The film received a 2K restoration and you can see details, especially Juliet Berto’s freckles.  With that being said, for the most part, the picture quality is great but it’s not exactly a film that people will be expecting to see a whole lot as it limits visuals to Emile and Patricia.  No backgrounds, just the two performing (like as if they were on a blacked out stage with a spotlight on them).

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Le Gai Savoir” is presented with French with English subtitles.  Lossless audio is 2.0 Mono and for those who have never watched a Jean-Luc Godard film, while you will get crystal clear dialogue, expect to hear a multitude of songs especially annoying sounds but also inclusion of sounds that are being analyzed by the characters.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Le Gai savoir” comes with Godard film trailers (for films released on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber) and a short video by Fabrice Aragno (DP of “Goodbye to Language” and “Film Socialisme”) titled “Promenade Dans Le Gai Savoir”.

EXTRAS:

The Blu-ray comes with a 16-page booklet with essays by Richard Hell and Adam Nayman.


May 1968, France’s economy was shut down. The largest general strike in an advanced industrial country, 11 million workers were on strike for two weeks and student protests ran rampant. It was a blow to President Charles de Gaulle’s government and groups revolted against modern consumer and technical society.

1972. Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard ala the man who was instrumental for Nouvelle Vague was no more. The era from the late ’60s to early ’70s was the filmmaker’s “radical” years. His interest in Maoist Ideology led to his partnership with Jean-Pierre Gorin and together they formed the socialist-idealist Dziga-Vertov Cinema group (named after Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov) and both would go on to create political films and from 1968-1973, the two would create films showcasing their Maoist beliefs.  Also, Godard incorporating his Brecht style to alienate viewers.

“Le Gai Savoir” is a film that you will either love or hate.  As many film critics who championed Godard’s earlier work would distance themselves from reviewing the filmmaker’s films during his revolutionary period, his radical years, because films such as “Le Gai Savoir” are complex and for some, incomprehensible.

Two characters who are literally opposites, wanting to meet each other in a TV studio to analyze film and politics, to analyze sound and images.  To decompose and to recompose.

And knowing that they can get into people’s homes via television, they plan a three-year course to re-educate people through a political program.

Similar to classic Godard films which would often cut away to other scenes, to eliminate sound, bring back sound or throw in other sounds, these two characters want to start from teh beginning and go back to zero.  To start anew and believing a revolution is waiting to happen.

The two read, they listen to radio and discuss the information they come across and eventually developing mutual beliefs.

For all its worth, the film proves to be a didactic style that Godard would be known for.  He was not interested in going back to the days of being popular.  In fact, when “Breathless” became popular, he wasn’t thrilled about it.

So, I am going to tell you right now…If you have never watched a Jean-Luc Godard film, do not start with this film. To appreciate this Godard film, you need to go along with the journey of knowing Godard’s previous films. Seeing how this filmmaker changed from “Breathless” up to “Weekend” and then seeing how the turbulent times had changed Godard.

From what transpired in France in May 1968, the Algerian War to the Vietnam War, those French New Wave years were over and this Maoist Ideological version of Godard is what the late ’60s and ’70s is what had become of the man.  So, if you enjoy “La Chinoise”, enjoy “Le Gai Savoir”, then you will no doubt enjoy “Tout va Bien”, but if you enjoyed “Breathless”, “Band of Outsiders”, “Pierro le fou”, “Masculin Feminin” and want those similar style of films, Godard’s style of filmmaking and creative direction changes completely from “La Chinoise” and “Weekend” and on.

I am able to enjoy Godard films because I was able to go through the journey of Godard films, watching his films over and over and discovering something new each time. While I have no doubt the impact of this film is felt more by the French, especially those who lived during the late ’60s and saw or experienced the political unrest have feelings probably after watching this film.

I am in no way an aesthete when it comes to French history or politics but “Le Gai Savoir” is a complex, abstract and fascinating film but there is a message that even the viewer can deconstruct and ponder about.

Anyone wanting to watch a radical Godard film will no doubt enjoy “Le Gai Savoir”.

Wind River (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Taylor Sheridan’s “Wind River” is another well-written and well-directed film from the actor/filmmaker.  A thrilling murder mystery in a Indian reservation as a solo FBI agent and a U.S. Fish & Wildlife agent must work together to find out who raped/murdered a teenage girl.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lions Gate Entertainment.  All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Wind River

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 107 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: November 14, 2017


Directed by Taylor Sheridan

Written by  Taylor Sheridan

Produced by Gregory Chou, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Erik Howsam, Joey Tufaro

Executive Producer: Colin Bates, David Dinerstein, Mike Drake, D.J. Guneheim, Bill Johnson, Ara Keshishian, Knate Lee, Doris Pfardrescher, Jason Resnick, William Sadleir, Jim Seibel, Todd Trosclair

Music by Federico Jusid

Cinematography by Flavio Martinez Labiano

Edited by Avi Youabian

Casting by Nancy Nayor

Production Design by Sarah Webster

Art Direction by Frank Zito

Set Decoration by Deanna Simmons

Costume Design by Ruth E. Carter


Starring:

Elizabeth Olsen as Jane Banner

Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert

Kelsey Asbille as Natalie

Julia Jones as Wilma

Teo Briones as Casey

Apesanahkwat as Dan Crowheart

Graham Greene as Ben

Tantoo Cardinal as Alice Croweheart

Eric Lange As Dr. Whitehurst

Gil Birmingham as Martin

Althea Sam as Annie

Tokala Black Elk as Sam Littlefeather

Martin Sensmeier as Chip

Tyler Laracca as Frank


WIND RIVER is a chilling thriller that follows a rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) who teams up with a game tracker with deep community ties and a haunted past (Jeremy Renner) to investigate the mysterious killing of a local girl on a remote Native American reservation.


From actor/filmmaker Taylor Sheridan  (“Hell or High Water”, “Sicario”) comes the murder mystery film “Wind River”, which Sheridan also wrote.

The film stars Jeremy Renner (“Arrival”, “The Hurt Locker”, “The Avengers”, “The Bourne Legacy”), Elizabeth Olsen (“Captain America: Civil War”, “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, “Godzilla”), Julia Jones (“The Twilight Saga” films, “Jonah Hex”, “The Ridiculous 6”), Graham Greene (“The Green Mile”, “Dances with Wolves”, “Die Hard with a Vengeance”), Kelsey Asbille (“The Amazing Spider-Man”, “Pair of Kings”, “Run”), Teo Briones (“Lethal Weapon”, “Pretty Little Liars”, “Longmire”), Apesanahkwat (“Bagdad Cafe”, “Skinwalkers”), Tantoo Cardinal (“Dances with Wolves”, “Legends of the Fall”), Gil Birmingham (“Twilight” films, “Hell or High Water”), Eric Lange (“Narcos”, “Lost”, “The Bridge”) and Tokala Black Elk (“The Revenant”, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”).

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Lionsgate.

The film begins with a Native American running through the cold snow at the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, no shoes and bleeding in the head.  Running with fear.

We are then introduced to Cory Lambert, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent who hunts after a wolf in the snow and shows his great marksmanship.  We then see Cory go to pick up his son Casey (portrayed by Teo Briones) at his ex-wife Wilma’s (portrayed by Julia Jones) home.  He sees a photo of his deceased daughter in the living room.

As Cory is about to take Casey home with him, Wilma tells him that she will never ever go back to the Indian Reservation.

While Casey stays with Corey at the reservation, he has to work and while at work in the reservation, he notices blood marks and goes to check it out and discovers the frozen body of 18-year-old Natalie Hanson (portrayed by Kelsey Asbilie), daughter of his friend Martin (portrayed by Gil Birmingham) and his wife Annie (portrayed by Althea Sam).

Cory reports to the local authorities and sheriff Ben (portrayed by Graham Greene) phones it in and FBI agent Jane Banner (who happened the nearest agent near Wyoming) is sent to the Wind River Indian Reservation, but immediately, she realizes that she is not aware of how things are or how things work at the reservation.

As Corey, Jane and Ben go to the body, she wants a rape kit ordered and wants her listed as a homicide.  Jane asks if any structures nearby and the nearest is a 3 1/2 miles belonging to a tweaker named Sam and an oil rig with trailers with workers mles away.  So, the question is why was she in the middle of nowhere?

Corey believes that she ran all the way there while it was 20 degrees below at night, cold air froze up her lungs and wherever she came from, she ran all the way to where she is found and her lungs burst.

Jane asks how long can someone run barefoot and Corey tells her that it depends on the person and their willingness to live.

Jane wants Corey to assist in the investigation an he agrees.

Jane and Ben then go to visit Natalie’s parents and when she asks Martin why he doesn’t know where his daughter is, he tells her that because she was an adult, they didn’t feel it was a need to ask those questions to her.  Jane goes to interview Natalie’s mother and sees her slitting her wrist and bleeding.

We then see Corey visiting Martin and Martin begins crying and the two men embrace, showing they are good friends.  Corey then explains to Martin of how he was able to go on after his daughter’s death after he went to a grief seminar and tells Martin the words given to him when his daughter died. Martin tells Corey to kill the person that killed his daughter, also telling him that Natalie was dating a guy and his son Chip may know.   And that Chip (portrayed by Martin Sensemeier) is at Sam Littlefeather’s home.

The group then go to the only house near where Natalie was found dead, belonging to a guy named Sam Littlefeather (portrayed by Tokala Black Elk) and as they go there to speak to Chip, when Sam finds out that the FBI is at his place, he attacks Jane and Ben by spraying something in their eyes.  She kills Sam in a firefight, while Corey talks to Chip, he is unaware of his sister’s rape and death.

And as they get deeper into this case, Jane learns that Corey has tracking skills and knows the reservation well.  Let alone how to do an investigation in an area that experiences blizzards and will need the right equipment to get around the area.

She doesn’t know how people live, how they operate and she will desperately need his help in solving this case and finding out who was responsible for killing Natalie Hanson.


VIDEO:

“Wind River” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality showcases wonderful closeup details, skin tones look natural. A lot of scenes are shot outdoors, so picture quality is very good.  I saw no artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Wind River” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film features crystal clear dialogue while surround channels utilize the various firefights through the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Wind River” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (3:11) Featuring two deleted scenes
  • Behind the Scenes Video Gallery – (9:55) Featuring interviews with Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen and writer/director Taylor Sheridan.

EXTRAS:

“Wind River” comes with an Ultraviolet Digital HD Code.


Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen reunite in the murder mystery “Wind River”.

A film about a murder that takes place in the frozen Wind River Indian Reservation where blizzards happen constantly and life is unkind.  But for U.S. Fish & Wildlife agent Corey Lambert (Renner), it’s his home and where he works.

But when he discovers a dead teen in the middle of nowhere, the daughter of a friend, because of a possible homicide, the FBI sends the agent most close to Wind River and it happens to be Jane Banner (Olsen) who is quite inexperienced, let alone knowing how people get around in the frozen reservation.

Because Lambert is experienced, she asks him to assist in the case and because it’s a family friend that was murdered, Lambert agrees and also promises the murdered teen’s father, a good friend that he will catch who is responsible.

The film manages to showcase how, for many of the people living in the reservation, it’s not a place to escape from.  How the conditions are also unforgiving.

Lambert’s daughter died on the reservation and his ex-wife has no intention of ever going back to the Indian reservation ever again.  And now, his friends daughter is found murdered and now he, along with Jane and the local sheriff Ben (portrayed by Graham Greene) look to find who killed 18-year-old Natalie.

Filmmaker/writer Taylor Sheridan has no doubt done quite well from transitioning from actor to writer, Sheridan received an Academy Award nomination for “Best Original Screenplay” for the 2016 film “Hell or Highwater” and also did well with his film “Sicario” (2016).

Sheridan along with cinematographer Ben Richardson were able to capture the brutal conditions at the reservation.   Sheridan does a great job with pacing and character dynamics as Jane, who is a by-the-books FBI agent, knowing that Wind River is a place that is out of her league and she needs the help of Corey Lambert who knows the area but also how to deal with people and getting the clues necessary.  Because there is no backup and there is no help, it’s pretty much them trying to solve this homicide case.

The film also has a message of how in America, missing persons statistics are kept for every demographic except Native American women, so it’s not known of how many missing Native American women there are.

I had to do my research on this and the information I found was shocking.  That on some reservations, native women are murdered at more than 10 times the national average.  I learned that in Canada, indigenous leaders and advocates pressure the government to confirm the number of missing and murdered indigenous women, but the United States has not addressed this issue.

In a 2005 study authorized by Congress, it was found that between 1979-1992, homicide was the third leading cause of death among Native females at age 15-34 and 75% were killed by family members and acquaintances.  But in that study, the number of missing Native women was not included.

I had no idea of this, nor is it featured in the news or newspapers, so at least with a film, “Wind River” can hopefully lead to exposure of the problem and the issues of violence in Indian country.

As for the film, the Blu-ray features wonderful picture quality and lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and good use of surround sound during action scenes.  And there are a few special features included as well.

Overall, Taylor Sheridan’s “Wind River” is another well-written and well-directed film from the actor/filmmaker.  A thrilling murder mystery in a Indian reservation as a solo FBI agent and a U.S. Fish & Wildlife agent must work together to find out who raped/murdered a teenage girl.  Recommended!

 

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

November 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Variete” is a magnificent film from Ewald Andre Dupont.  Created at the height of German Expressionism, the recently restored film features wonderful staging, lighting and wonderful perfomances from Emil Jannings, Lya De Putti and Warwick Ward.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Weisbaden. 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Variete

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1925

DURATION: 95 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), Color Tinted, German Intertitles with optional English Subtitles, New Musical Score by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and a 2015 score performed by The Tiger Lillies

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: August 22, 2017


Based on the  Novel by Felix Hollaender

Directed by Ewald Andre Dupont

Scenario by Ewald Andre Dupont

Produced by Erich Pommer

Musical score by Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and also a 2015 musical score performed by the Tiger Lillies

Cinematography by Karl Freund, Carl Hoffman

Art Direction by Alfred Junge, Oscar Friedrich Werndorff


Starring:

Emil Jannings as Boss Huller

Maly Delschaft as Frau Huller

Lya De Putti as Bertha-Marie

Warwick Ward as Artinelli


A rediscovered masterpiece of the German silent cinema, Ewald André Dupont’s Varieté is a visually dazzling tale of love and betrayal, foreshadowing such great works as F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise and Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel. Emil Jannings (The Last Laugh) stars as a carnival spieler who becomes entranced by a waifish dancer (Lya de Putti), and gradually betrays his wife, his honor, and his self-respect in an effort to be the sole possessor of her love. The dynamic camerawork by Karl Freund influenced an entire generation of filmmakers, and can at last be fully appreciated in this exquisite restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung.

Special Features: Mastered from the 2015 restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and Filmarchiv Austria | New musical score performed by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra | 2015 musical score performed by The Tiger Lillies | Visual essay by Bret Wood | “Varieté: The Making of,” a 7-minute documentary on the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra | Othello (1922, Germany 79 min.), Dimitri Buchowetzki’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s drama of love and jealousy, also starring Emil Jannings and Lya de Putti


German filmmaker Ewald Andre Dupont (or better known as E.A. Dupont) is known as one of the pioneers of the German film industry.

Known for films such as “Piccadilly” (1929) with Anna May Wong and his retelling of the Titanic disaster in the 1929 film “Atlantic”.  But with numerous films in his lengthy oeuvre, one film that stands out and is known among silent film fans is his 1925 film “Variete” during the height of German Expressionism during the Weimar era.

And now the film was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

In 2015, the film received a restoration and mastering courtesy of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stifftung and Filmarchiv Austria and the Blu-ray release will also feature two scores.  Which includes the magnificent musical score performed by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, which fans got to experience live at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in 2017.  And the film includes the 2015 musical score performed by the British musical trio, The Tiger Lillies known for their music, in this case, which brings together macabre magic of pre-war Berlin with a piano score.

“Variete” stars Emil Jannings (“The Blue Angel”, “The Last Laugh”, “Faust”), Maly Delschaft (“The Last Laugh”, “Familie Benthin”), Lya De Putti (“The Informer”, “Buck Privates”), Warwick Ward (“The Way of Lost Souls”, “La venenosa”) and more.

The film begins with prisoner #28, Huller (portrayed by Emil Jannings) meeting with the judge for his parole hearing and wants to know if he is remorseful over the murders he committed ten years ago and why he hasn’t said anything about it all this time (as it could have earned him parole) and while Huller is not interested in talking, he receives a letter from his wife vouching for his freedom and that she and her son are waiting for him.

This leads to Huller telling the judge of his story.  Ten years ago, Boss Huller was in charge of fairground trapeze artists for the carnival.  He and his wife, Frau Huller (portrayed by Maly Delschaft) were once trapeze artists but they have gotten older and stopped after he got injured.

For now, he is busy as a boss, being a husband and being a father to his baby son and taking care of him when his tired wife needs to sleep.

Life changes for the Huller family when a dancer named Bertha-Marie (portrayed by Lya De Putti) is taken in and is asked if Huller can spare a room for her in his home, as she can dance for their show.

Many who come to the show are smitten with Bertha-Marie who is seductive and many are attracted to her.  As for Boss Huller, he often looks at his wife’s rear and compares it to Bertha-Marie’s rear and starts to see the beauty in her.

One day while his wife is sleeping and he is to take care of the child, Bertha-Marie starts to seduce Boss Huller and as Huller at first tries to resist, he is captured by her charms and the two engage in a sexual liaison.

And Frau Huller starts to notice how her husband looks at her, defends her and catches the two making out.  She now knows her husband is having an affair and Huller now knows he must leave his wife and son and together, he and Bertha-Marie begin their new life together as trapeze artists.

Meanwhile, a big-show trapeze artist named Artinelli (portrayed by Warwick Ward) is without his brother who had an accident and he is recommended to bring in two people, Boss Huller and his girlfriend Bertha-Marie.

When Artinelli and his manager offer the two the opportunity, he is immediately smitten by Bertha-Marie.  While the three would become known as the 3 Artinelli and would wow audiences, Artinelli has one thing in his mind and that is to seduce Huller’s woman, Bertha-Marie.


VIDEO:

“Variete” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and is color-tinted. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is fantastic compared to any of the previous DVD releases of the film.  Featuring a remastered/restored version of the film done in 2015 courtesy of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and Filmarchiv Austira, the film looks great without any major signs of film damage.  Quite often you will see a lot of film warping, scratches and nitrate damage but this restored version, while not perfectly pristine, shows no signs of major damage, film warping.  While specks and lines can be seen, for a silent film from 1925, this is one of the better films that have been given the restoration treatment.  And all the hardwork put into restoring this film shows.  It looks magnificent on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Variete” is presented with German intertitles with optional English Subtitles.  While the musical score is presented in LPCM 2.0 and there are two soundtracks.  A 2017 musical score performed by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and the 2015 musical score performed by the Tiger Lillies.  The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra is magnificent, while the Tiger Lillies is rather interesting and gave a different vibe while viewing, as the song is sung throughout, while a piano score is played.  It’s very different but I actually enjoyed it, because it was so unexpected.  Both soundtracks are great but I definitely have to say that I was captivated by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, while the Tiger Lillies musical score made me want to bob my head as the vocalist would sing “Variete” in various ways.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Varietee” comes with the following special feature:

  • Visual Essay – (10:35) Featuring a visual essay by Bret Wood.
  • Variete: The Making of”– (7:25) Featuring a documentary on the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra creating the musical score for the film and performing it live in front of a live audience.
  • Othello – A 79-minute film from 1922 featuring Dimitri Buchowetzki’s adaptation of the Shakespear dram of love and jealousy, starring both Emil Jannings and Lya De Putti.

When it comes to films that were released during the Weimar era and at the height of German Expressionism, many would often give a nod to films created by Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau, Erich Pommer, Paul Wegener, Carl Boese, to name a few.

And while E.A. Dupont was one of the other known filmmakers of German Expressionism, fortunately his 1925 film “Variete” was one of the his earlier films that would entertain fans for decades.

In fact, in America, the film was well-received.  Film critic Carl Sandburg wrote back in 1926 of the film:

“Emil Jannings, the male star, does the best all-around work we have seen from his prolific and changeful face, while Lya De Putti, the new female star, is far out of the ordinary and will be discussed freely among 10 or 20 million moviegoers in this country during the coming year.”

Sandburg would further write in his article, “‘Variety’ is one of the few sure master pieces of filmart.”

And while we have seen Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau films receive the expensive restoration and re-release on Blu-ray and DVD, I was quite pleased to hear in 2015 that “Variete” would receive a restoration and as the film has been screened at various film festivals with different scores.

While the film has been available for many decades, it was only available in a heavily edited, censored version.  That changed in 1995, when a video dealer named Peter Kavel found a complete print from Germany and for the first time, people were able to see a complete version which included the intro.  Prior to that, the intro which featured prisoner #28 is being considered for parole and as he tells his story of how he left his wife, the censors in the U.S. felt the film was too much for American audiences at the time and nearly a half hour of the beginning of the film was deleted from the American premiere.

As the subject of vamps and women who are able to take advantage of men was featured often in silent cinema between ’10s and ’20s, what made interesting about “Variete” is the fact that it was at the height of German Expressionism, the storyline is about a woman who knows how to get her way with her beauty and literally as a performer, this personality of Bertha-Marie would not just be for the stage but extended to the men she comes across.

She knows how to use Huller and knows how to use Artinelli as both men provide her with life and material things that make her happy.  In other words, she has men twisted around her finger and she works it in order to get things going her way.

How E.A. Dupont is able to utilize this with the German Expressionism style is through facial expressions, character placement and the use lightening, camera placement and well-timed edits to create this artful masterpiece.

The acting performance by Emil Jannings, Lya De Putti and Warwick Ward was fantastic.

Emil Jannings was one of the well-known actors of his time, creating films in America for Paramount Pictures but would unfortunately lose popularity as he was active in Nazi propaganda, as his films in the ’30s and ’40s would promote Nazism.

Lya De Putti was no doubt an actress who wanted to be part of movie magic in America and the following year, after “Variete” was released, she starred in D.W. Griffith’s “The Sorrow of Satan”.  With her captivating eyes and just a sight that works remarkably on camera, she played primarily vamp roles and starred in , unfortunately, the actress died at a young age in 1931 after developing pleurisy and pneumonia following an operation to remove a chicken bone stuck in her throat.

While Warwick Ward would experience like many other silent film stars, the inability to transition during the beginning of talkies, fortunately for Ward, he was able to transition from actor to film producer in England.

As for director E.W. Dupont, the success of “Variete” insured him a chance to work in Hollywood and he would receive a lucrative contract from Universal and worked on the film “Love Me and the World is Mine” and would go on to make successful films in Britain.  While Dupont emigrated to the US in 1933, unfortunately, he would be assigned to work on B movies and would become a talent agent in 1940 before returning to films in the early ’50s before his death in 1956.

As for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned, the picture quality to this film is fantastic.  Sure, it’s not pristine but for a silent film, “Variete” looks absolutely magnificent.  And for me, part of the enjoyment, aside from watching this film restored and remastered is having the choice of two musical scores.  The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra score is magnificent but to my surprise, the score by the Tiger Lillies was unexpected because its singing throughout with a piano, drums and cello and the score is no doubt a different vibe from the Berklee score.  But I enjoyed both, as they both bring different vibes to this film.

As for the special features, included is a short visual essay, a making of the score featuring the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and the 1922 film “Othello” (an adaptation of the Shakespeare drama) starring both Emil Jannings and Lya De Putti.

Overall, “Variete” is a magnificent film from Ewald Andre Dupont.  Created at the height of German Expressionism, the recently restored film features wonderful staging, lighting and wonderful perfomances from Emil Jannings, Lya De Putti and Warwick Ward.  Highly recommended!

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

November 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Kidnap” is an entertaining abduction action thriller which Halle Berry does a great job as a mother who is desperate by pursuing her child’s kidnappers through many wild and crazy situations.  If you are looking for a upfront, non-complex popcorn action thriller, “Kidnap” is a film worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Kidnap Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Kidnap

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 1 Hr., 22 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Violence and Peril)

RELEASE DATE: October 31, 2017


Directed by Luis Prieto

Written by Knate Lee

Produced by Gregory Chou, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Erik Howsam, Joey Tufaro

Executive Producer: Colin Bates, David Dinerstein, Mike Drake, D.J. Guneheim, Bill Johnson, Ara Keshishian, Knate Lee, Doris Pfardrescher, Jason Resnick, William Sadleir, Jim Seibel, Todd Trosclair

Music by Federico Jusid

Cinematography by Flavio Martinez Labiano

Edited by Avi Youabian

Casting by Nancy Nayor

Production Design by Sarah Webster

Art Direction by Frank Zito

Set Decoration by Deanna Simmons

Costume Design by Ruth E. Carter


Starring:

Halle Berry as Karla Dyson

Sage Correa as Frankie

Chris McGinn as Margo 

Lew Temple as Terry 

Jason George as David


Based on the worldwide best-selling memoir starring Academy Award® winner Brie Larson and Academy Award® nominees Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts, THE GLASS CASTLE chronicles the adventures of an eccentric, resilient, tight-knit family.

An all-star cast shines in this inspiring film based on THE NEW YORK TIMES best-selling memoir. Jeannette (Oscar® winner Brie Larson) had a poor but wildly adventurous childhood, raised by her free-spirited father (Oscar® nominee Woody Harrelson) and her mother (Oscar® nominee Naomi Watts), an eccentric artist. But when her father’s behavior become erratic, Jeannette must find the courage to live on her own terms in this uplifting story of unconditional love.


From filmmaker Luis Prieto (director of “Pusher”) and writer Knate Lee (producer of “Bad Grandpa”, “The New Mutants”) comes their abduction action thriller “Kidnap”.

Starring Halle Berry (“X-Men” films, “Cloud Atlas”, “Die Another Day”, “Swordfish”), Sage Correa (“Grey’s Anatomy”, “Papa”), Chris Mcginn and Lew Temple (“Unstoppable”, “Lawless”, “Halloween”).

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

“Kidnap” begins with baby footage of a baby Frankie (portrayed by Sage Correa) and fast forwarding a few years later as Karla Dyson (portrayed by Halle Berry) is working as a diner waitress, while six-year-old Frankie waits for his mother to get off work.

While Karla is taking her son out to the park, Karla talks to her son about her estranged ex-husband and his girlfriend, she tries to keep the conversation positive.

While Karla has a children’s walkie talkie to keep taps on Frankie by playing “Marco Polo”, she receives an important phone call from her divorce lawyer in regards to their custody battle and her trying to fight for visitation rights as her ex-husband is wanting full custody.  Despite going on the walkie talkie to make sure her son is around, when she hangs up her phone, she goes to where her son was sitting and he is missing.

She starts to frantically look around and other parents start to help her find her son.  She looks around and finds the other walkie talkie that Frankie was holding and then sees a woman forcing Frankie into her car.

Karla desperately tries to run after the car and hold on but she is unable to hold on too long as the car speeds away.  Despite dropping her cell phone, she gets into her mini-van and starts chasing after the car in a high speed chase across the freeway.

As the people in the car starts throwing junk towards Karla and others, it leads to major accidents but as Karla continues the chase after the abductors driving an old green Ford Mustang, she listens to the walkie talkie recording and hears how the abductor was able to lure her son away, by telling him that his mother is looking for her and she’s waiting near the parking lot for him.

But Karla is determined to rescue her son, by any means possible.


VIDEO:

“Kidnap” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality showcases wonderful closeup details, skin tones look natural. I saw no artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kidnap” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film features crystal clear dialogue while surround channels utilize the multiple accidents and car crashes through the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kidnap” comes with short featurette “A Thrilling Behind-the-Scenes Look Inside Kidnap”.

EXTRAS:

“Kidnap” comes with a Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD Code.


“Kidnap” is the second abduction thriller starring actress Halle Berry since the 2013 film “The Call”.

Created by the producers of “SALT” and “Transformers”, “Kidnap” is an action film that doesn’t need many star talent but it’s a film all about adrenaline-rush action-scenes that would take what many would consider an indie action film and make it much better.

The film stars Halle Berry as Karla Dyson, a mother who chases the abductors of her six-year-old son Frankie and is relentless, persistent that even the abductors are shocked of how far this mother would go to get her son.

Sure, it may seem farfetched to some, seeing a mother doing everything to save her child, but I’m sure the same thing can be said with hundreds of action films starring of a male action star with more than nine lives, in farfetched situations and are able to live through the most deadliest action scenes.

So, why not let women have that equal glory of commanding their own action performance, being a solo protagonist of a story, one that can kick ass and support that.

Being the top, noticeable talent in the film, while we have seen Berry in numerous action figures in the past, may it be in the “X-Men” related films, as a Bond girl in “Die Another Day” or the not so well-received action film, “Catwoman”, but the fact that this film relies on a talent that can showcase a multitude of emotions such as despair, anger and be able to bounce back and keep her emotions in check in order to do all that’s necessary to save her son.

While one would think that believable behavior is to not pursue the kidnappers and call police or that there are no police that could have followed and tracked these two cars down during their pursuit.  Once again, “Kidnap” is no different from the many other action films (majority featuring men) in unbelievable and farfetched situations.

Call it a popcorn action thriller, but among many other farfetched popcorn action thrillers, “Kidnap” was not too bad.  In fact, it caught my attention and I was entertained by it.  I didn’t exactly come upon viewing this film with the highest expectations, so watching the film from beginning to end, it’s not a complex, deep or highly satisfying film but I was entertained by “Kidnap”.

Picture quality on Blu-ray is well-done, close-ups show good detail.  Lossless audio manages to capture crystal clear dialogue and utilizing the surround channels for action sequences.  While there is a short featurette included as well.

Overall, Luis Prieto’s “Kidnap” is an entertaining abduction action thriller which Halle Berry does a great job as a mother who is desperate by pursuing her child’s kidnappers through many wild and crazy situations.  If you are looking for a upfront, non-complex popcorn action thriller, “Kidnap” is a film worth checking out!

 

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