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

September 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Brett Haley’s “The Hero” is a touching film that takes on one’s life of dealing with potential death after being diagnosed with cancer.  Despite having a celebrated life as a western actor, who knows that his accolades is the past and now he must deal with the present.  A fractured relationship with his daughter and a new relationship with a woman probably 50-years younger than him but constant dreams of death and not knowing how to deal with it.  Featuring a wonderful performance by Sam Elliott and Laura Prepon, “The Hero” is a film worth checking out!

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


TITLE: The Hero

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 97 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish Subtitles

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: September 19, 2017


Directed by Brett Haley

Written by Brett Haley, Marc Basch

Produced by Sam Bisbee, Erik rommesmo

Executive Producer: Lance Acord, Jackie Kelman Bisbee, Frank Brenner, David Bunce, Franklin Carson, Theodora Dunlap, Danny Rifkin, Jeff Schlossman, Bill Wallwork

 Co-Producer: Amy Jarvela

Music: Keegan DeWitt

Cinematography: Rob Givens

Edited by Brett Haley

Casting by Emily Schweber, Lisa Zambetti

Production Design by Eric J. Archer

Set Decoration: Melissa Licht

Costume Design: Alana Morshead


Starring:

Sam Elliott as Lee Hayden

Laura Prepon as Charlotte Dylan

Nick Offerman as Jeremy Frost

Krysten Ritter as Lucy Hayden

Katharine Ross as Valarie Hayden

Max Gail as Gary Babcock

Jackie Joyner as Betsy

Patrika Darbo as Diane


Starring Sam Elliott as a former Western icon fearlessly reckoning with his life, his image, and most importantly, his heart after a surprise diagnosis.


From Brett Haley (director of “I’ll See You in My Dreams”, “The New Year”) comes his latest film, “The Hero” (co-written with Marc Basch).

Having worked with actor Sam Elliott (“We Were Soldiers”, “Tombstone”, “Up in the Air”, “Hulk”) in “Ill See You in My Dreams”, both Brett Haley and Marc Basch crafted “The Hero” for Sam Eliott, who they were fans but also wanted to work with him again.

Co-starring in the film is Laura Prepon (“That 70’s Show”, “The girl on the Train”, “Orange is the New Black”), Nick Offerman (“Parks and Recreation”, “The Founder”, “Fargo”), Krysten Ritter (“Jessica Jones”, “Big Eyes”, “Breaking Bad”) and also starring Elliott’s real life wife, actress Katharine Ross (“The Graduate”, “Donnie Darko”, “The Stepford Wives”).

The film begins with well-known western actor Lee Hayden (portrayed by Sam Eliott) working on recording a voice over in the studio, he calls his doctor and finds out that his cancer has gotten worse but can get treatment to extend his life but he will need to decide whether to pursue the cancer treatment or not.

Lee often smokes a lot of marijuana which he gets from his friend, fellow actor Jeremy Frost (portrayed by Nick Offerman), a man he worked on a major show long ago.

Also, going to Jeremy for drugs is comedian, Charlotte Dylan (portrayed by Laura Prepon) and Jeremy introduces the two to each other.  If there is one positive thing that is happening in Lee’s life, he is being honored with a lifetime achievement award.

Having to deal that he may die soon, Lee wants to make things right with his estranged daughter Lucy (portrayed by Krysten Ritter).  Lee visits his ex-wife Valarie (portrayed by Katharine Ross) to find a way to get in contact with Lucy and he meets up with her at the tennis courts and finds out that Lucy now works as an ad salesperson at Google.

Lee wants to connect with Lucy and tell him the truth and wants her to accompany him to the lifetime achievement award but she brushes him off and tells him that she’s busy and would rather have dinner with him.

As the thoughts of dying become part of his dreams/nightmares, may it reliving his life on a Western and approaching a man that hung himself (which happens to be him) or walking towards the ocean, he eventually meets with Charlotte and she ends up being his date to the lifetime achievement event and gives him Molly, to get him to relax and have a good attitude throughout the event.

And things work out well that the two start having a sexual relationship.

But Lee feels guilty because he’s an older man and feels he shouldn’t be with a young woman, meanwhile knowing that he may not live that long and it hurts him that he hasn’t told his family or anyone.

Will Lee make piece with his daughter and will his relationship with Charlotte continue?


VIDEO:

“The Hero” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1). Picture quality is magnificent as closeups showcase incredible detail and outdoor scenes are vibrant.

I saw no sign of banding or artifact issues. The film looks great on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Hero” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  Featuring crystal clear dialogue and musical score, the film is primarily front-channel driven.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Hero” comes with an audio commentary with director Brett Haley and actor Sam Elliott and a photo gallery.

EXTRAS:

“The Hero” comes with Blu-ray and UltraViolet code.


A touching film about a legendary western actor dealing with the reality that he has cancer and doesn’t have long to live, what things does he want to accomplish in the life that he has left?

A film directed and written by Brett Haley and co-written with Marc Basch, the two men crafted this story for actor Sam Eliott and what they managed to pull off is a film that deals with thoughts of one’s pending death and making difficult decisions to go through a treatment that will prolong his life but will he?

While he has had a great acting career, Elliott’s character, Lee Hayden is a man that is broken.  Having focused on his career and divorcing his wife Valarie and not spending any time with his daughter Lucy, he wants to repair the fractured relationship but doesn’t know how.

The main person in his life is a co-star, Jeremy Frost (portrayed by Nick Offerman) who supplies him with marijuana to calm his mind.

And as his career is still continuing and he is being honored for a lifetime achievement award, what Lee Hayden is not expecting is to meet with a beautiful comedian named Charlotte (portrayed by Laura Prepon) and have a sexual relationship with her.  Despite being an older man, Lee has jitters and feels weird about it (she doesn’t) and she opens him to a life that he never had.

But perhaps this extra piece of vitality will make him stronger to want to live but also repair things with his daughter Lucy.

For the most part, it’s a fascinating film in which Sam Elliott does a great job with the role but the person who truly shines is actress Laura Prepon who takes on teh role of carefree Charlotte and couldn’t care what people thinks, she walks on the beat of her own drum and has no qualms being with a man in his ’70s.

The Blu-ray features great picture quality and lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music.  Special features are only an audio commentary, as director Brett Haley explains in the commentary that he’s not a person who likes to include deleted scenes as his final cut, is the cut he wants everyone to see.

Overall, Brett Haley’s “The Hero” is a touching film that takes on one’s life of dealing with potential death after being diagnosed with cancer.  Despite having a celebrated life as a western actor, who knows that his accolades is the past and now he must deal with the present.  A fractured relationship with his daughter and a new relationship with a woman probably 50-years younger than him but constant dreams of death and not knowing how to deal with it.

Featuring a wonderful performance by Sam Elliott and Laura Prepon, “The Hero” is a film worth checking out!

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

September 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Alex Kurtzman’s “The Mummy” was all popcorn action and visual eye candy but what the film really needed was more character dynamic and a storyline that would have made these characters much more fascinating.  The film does feature a magnificent performance by actress Sofia Boutella but for all the great she brings to this film, it wasn’t enough to save this film from it’s lack of a captivating storyline.  If you are not wanting anything deep and want straight-up action, then definitely give “The Mummy” a try!

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


TITLE: The Mummy

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 1 Hr. and 50 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English Dolby Atmos, DVS, Dolby Digital 2.0, Francais and Espanol DTS Digital Surround 5.1, Subtitles: English, Francais, Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1, English DVS Dolby Digital 2.o

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: September 12, 2017


Directed by Alex Kurtzman

Screenplay by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman

Produced by Sarah Bradshaw, Genevieve Hofmeyr, Chris Morgan

Executive Producer: Jeb Brody, Robert Orci

Associate Producer: Kevin Elam

Music: Brian Tyler

Cinematography: Ben Seresin

Edited by Gina Hirsch, Paul Hirsch, Andrew Mondshein

Casting by Lucinda Syson

Production Design by Jon Hutman, Dominic Watkins Set Decoration: Jillie Azis


Starring:

Tom Cruise as Nick Morton

Russell Crowe as Henry Jekyll

Annabelle Wallis as Jenny Halsey

Sofia Boutella as Ahmanet

Jake Johnson as Chris Vail

Courtney B. Vance as Colonel Greenway,

Marwan Kenzari as Malik


Tom Cruise stars in this spectacular version of the legend that has fascinated cultures all over the world since the dawn of civilization: The Mummy. Thought safely entombed deep beneath the desert, an ancient princess (Sofia Boutella) whose destiny was unjustly taken from her is awakened in our current day. Her malevolence has grown over millennia and with it come terrors that defy human comprehension. From the sands of the Middle East through modern-day London, The Mummy balances wonder, thrills, and imagination.


In an effort to reboot “The Mummy” franchise and to showcase their classic monsters lineup with today’s cinema technology for today’s movie audience, the company announced back in 2016 the release of “The Mummy” which would feature Tom Cruise and “Invisible Man” to star Johnny Depp.  An an interest to create movies featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, “Phantom of the Opera” and more.

Tapped to direct “The Mummy” is writer Alex Kurtzman (known for writing “Transformers”, “The Amazing Spider-Man” and producing the newer “Star Wars” films) and utilizing several screenwriters such as David Koepp (“Mission: Impossible”, “Jurassic Park”, “Spider-Man”, “War of the Worlds”), Christopher McQuarrie (“Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”, “The Usual Suspects”, “Edge of Tomorrow”, “Jack Reacher”) and actor Dylan Kussman (who starred in “Dead Poets Society” and “Jack Reacher”).

The film stars Tom Cruise (“Top Gun”, “Mission: Impossible” franchise, “Jerry Maguire”, “Eyes Wide Shut”), Russell Crowe (“Gladiator”, “A Beautiful Mind”, “L.A. Confidential”), Annabelle Wallis (“Annabelle”, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”),  Jake Johnson (“New Girl”, “Jurassic World”, “Let’s Be Cops”) and Sofia Boutella (“Kingsman”, “Star Trek Beyond”, “Atomic Blonde”).

The film budgeted at $125 million would go on to earn $407.8 million in the box office.  And now “The Mummy” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD Courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film begins with English crusader knights burying an Egyptian ruby inside a tomb back in 1127 A.D. and in present-day London, a construction crew discovering the tomb and a mysterious person coming to investigate the site.

We are then taken back to the New Kingdom Era (a.k.a. New Kingdome of Egypt) and we are introduced to Princess Ahmanet, a fierce fighter who is next in line to succeed her father Menehptre as the Queen of Egypt.

Until his second wife gives birth to a baby boy and now pushing Princess Ahmanet out of the picture to claim the throne.

Determined to claiming the throne, Ahmanet summons the god of the desert, storms and disorder, Set, who agrees to help her if she uses a dagger to transfer his spirit into a corporeal form.  So, Ahmanet murders her father, his wife and her baby brother and then attempts to sacrifice her lover to Set but is captured by her father’s priests and condemned to be mummified while alive for eternity.  To prevent her from escaping, her sarcophagus is buried in Mesopotamia and submerged in a pool of mercury.

Fast-forward to the present in Iraq, Sergeant Nick Morton (portrayed by Tom Cruise) and Corporal Chris Vail (portrayed by Jake Johnson) are under attack by insurgents.  While running away and being saved by an airstrike, the two discover the tomb of Ahmanet.  Sgt. Nick Morton is visited with an archaeologist named Jenny Halsey (portrayed by Annabelle Wallis), who he had a one-night stand and she arrives to investigate the tomb and believes its a prison.  As the three go underground to look what is inside, Corporal Vail is bitten by a camel spider and they also manage to extract Ahmanet’s sarcophagus from the pool of mercury and plan to transport it on a plane to England.

But during the transport, Corporal Vail is possessed by Ahmanet and begins to go on the attack.  As Sgt. Morton tries to prevent people from killing him, he tries to attack everyone and forces Sgt. Nick Morton to kill him.  Not long after, a huge number of crows start crashing into the plane and the plane crashes and while Jenny is saved by Nick, who helps her escape by parachute, everyone inside the plane is killed.

The following day, Nick awakens from a morgue in Oxford and then he sees Corporal Vail’s ghost and learns he was cursed by Ahmanet and that she is looking for a replacement vessel for Set.  Ahmanet’s mummy escapes from the sarcophagus and begins feeding on people to help her regenerate her decomposed body, while turning those she feeds on to zombies.

As Jenny is shocked to see Nick alive and unhurt, Ahmanet manages to lure Nick and Jenny into a trap and as she is near killing them, they are rescued by soldiers who capture and subdue Ahmanet and learn that their leader Dr. Henry Jekyll (portrayed by Russell Crowe) is responsible for saving them and that Jenny also works for him.

But what is the true background of Dr. Henry Jeckyll and Jenny and how is it that Nick came back alive from the dead?  And is Corporal Vail still alive?


VIDEO:

“The Mummy” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1). Picture quality is magnificent as closeups showcase incredible detail, while visual effects are fantastic.  I saw no sign of banding or artifact issues.  The film looks absolutely magnificent on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Mummy” is presented in English Dolby Atmos, DVS, Dolby Digital 2.0, Francais and Espanol DTS Digital Surround 5.1, Subtitles: English, Francais, Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1, English DVS Dolby Digital 2.o.

Featuring crystal clear dialogue and musical score and action sequences sound magnificent through the surround channels and the lossless soundtrack is quite immersive.  Audiophiles will no doubt love this soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Mummy” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (4:50) Featuring four deleted and extended scenes.
  • Cruise & Kurtzman: A Conversation – (21:14) Tom Cruise and director Alex Kurtzman discuss working together on “The Mummy”.
  • Rooted in Reality – (8:52) A featurette about making a monster film.  Featuring interviews with director Alex Kurtzman and cast.
  • Life in Zero-G: Creating the Plane Crash – (7:32) A featurette on the  making of the plane crash scene in Zero-G.
  • Meet Ahmanet – (7:38) A featurette about Ahmanet and the cast and crew discuss working with Sofia Boutella.
  • Cruise in Action – (6:02) A featurette featuring the stunts performed by Tom Cruise.
  • Becoming Jekyll and Hyde – (07:10) A Featurette about Russell Crowe and Crowe and Cruise working together.
  • Choreographed Chaos – (6:29) A featurette featuring the chaotic London action scene and the making of the scene.
  • Nick Morton: In Search of a Soul – (5:43) A featurette about Tom Cruise’s character Nick Morton
  • Ahmanet Reborn: Animated Graphic Novel – (3:53) An animated graphic novel featuring Ahmanet.
  • Feature Commentary with Director/Producer Alex Kurtzman, Cast members: Sofia Boutella, Anabelle Wallis and Jake Johnson

EXTRAS:

“The Mummy” comes with Blu-ray, DVD and UltraViolet code.


A reboot of “The Mummy”, it would no doubt be a fascinating film with today’s visual effects technology.

And as I finished watching “The Mummy”, the first things that come to my mind is a highly hyped modern video game that has wonderful graphics but a weak storyline.  Alex Kurtzman may have written and produced many entertaining films but his latest directorial effort, while featuring a talented cast and magnificent visual effects, yet undone by a shoddy screenplay.

It’s unfortunate because there are so many things that can go so right with this film especially with the pairing of American cinema giants Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe but too much emphasis was trying to make a popcorn action film with no captivating storyline.  You don’t even get hooked on Tom Cruise’s character of Nick Morton as the film establishes him as a rambunctious, womanizing, impulsive and unlikable person.  Sure, he dies and is resurrected but any time that could be made to flesh out the characters is continually marred by an over-reliance on visual effects.

That is why I make the comparison with a big budget video game that is total eye candy but yet is hurt by a weak story.  I wanted to enjoy seeing Cruise and Crowe together, I wanted to feel that spark between Annabelle Wallis’ Jenny Halsey and Cruise’s Nick Morton, but instead, I found myself more excited about seeing Sofia Boutella’s character Ahmanet and she’s the antagonist!

Boutella absolutely shined as Ahmanet, the jilted princess turned mummy and a combination of beauty, ferocity and horror.  As solid as her performance was, for being the film’s antagonist, while the visual effects were magnificent, the action sequences as being magnificent, I couldn’t help but think in my head of how the Brendan Fraser/Rachel Weisz 1999 film, “The Mummy” was much more entertaining.

There was not enough character development for the 2017 “The Mummy” and there was a lot of potential, writing-wise, it was effete.

As for the Blu-ray release, the film absolutely shines with magnificent picture quality and the lossess soundtrack was immersive and fantastic.  There are also numerous special features included as well.

Overall, Alex Kurtzman’s “The Mummy” was all popcorn action and visual eye candy but what the film really needed was more character dynamic and a storyline that would have made these characters much more fascinating.  The film does feature a magnificent performance by actress Sofia Boutella but for all the great she brings to this film, it wasn’t enough to save this film from it’s lack of a captivating storyline.  If you are not wanting anything deep and want straight-up action, then definitely give “The Mummy” a try!

 

Iron Protector (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Iron Protector” is a martial arts film that shows us that Yue Song is a total package when it comes to starring, directing, producing, writing and editing his own films.  Featuring exciting martial arts choreography, “Iron Protector” is a popcorn martial arts film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Beijing Yue Song Film and Television Culture, Co. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Iron Protector

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: N/A

RELEASE DATE: September 5, 2017


Written and Directed by Yue Song

Produced by Yue Song, Kong Lingcheng, Liu Chengguo, Guo Tingting 

Associate Producer: Liu Yanming, Yang Jun, Li Changhai, Shi Bingjie

Music: Derek Zhao

Cinematography: Jingfang Chen, Xing Gu


Starring:

Yue Song as Wu-Lin

Yu Xing (Shi Yanneng) as Jiang Li

Wai-Man Chan

Colling Chou

Li Yufei as Feifei


After the death of his clan master, Wu-Lin leaves the village for the City of Stone-cold to protect the daughter of the richest family in the city, Fei-Fei. When the city s most dangerous gang attempts to kidnap Fei-Fei, Wu-Lin is forced to fight them alone and discovers an even more sinister power is taking over the city.


In the search for a new martial arts hero, one willing to take on the risky stunts and bone-break risks, China has found a man who not only is willing to step up as a martial arts fighter and take on risky stunts but also a man who knows how to direct, write, produce and edit a film.

Yue Song has not been around all that long and the one film he was known previously for was “The King of the Streets” and now, he’s back with his second film “Iron Protector” (a.k.a. “Super Bodyguard”), which will be released in Sept. 2017 courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film begins with Wu Lin doing splits with a child and the public watching him.  The kid tries to distract Wu Lin with ice cream and even peeing on the street.

But when a group of thugs go after a man, they run into the child, causing him to cry and also upset Wu Lin (since they ran over the ice cream the boy gave to him).  As Wu Lin confronts the punks of who stepped on his ice cream, they try to attack him but he easily beats them.  The older man named Jia-Shan Li offers him money, but Wu Lin is not so interested.

As Wu Lin goes back to the area he was working on his splits, several cars park around him and out comes a man who confronts him.  The man happens to be Jiang Li (portrayed by Xing Yu), who was a fellow apprentice with Wu Lin and both learned martial arts together.

But when Wu Lin was chosen to become the successor of the “Iron Feet”, Jiang Li who tried to steal the iron feet was cast out of the martial arts training area.

But now with the death of his master, Wu Lin decided to visit the City of Stone and visit his old friend.  But when Jiang Li sees Wu Lin still wearing the iron boots, he becomes jealous.

Meanwhile, Wu Lin gets a job in the city from Jia-Shan Li, the older man he saved earlier and that is to become a bodyguard for his daughter Feifei (portrayed by Li YuFei).

Feifei is irritated that her father has sent a bodyguard that is always with her 24/7 and she does all he can to be rude and annoying to get him to leave but Wu Lin intends to stick with his job to protect her.

But one day, Feifei is kidnapped by a group of thugs but what happens when Wu Lin find out that the person responsible for the kidnapping is his friend Jiang Li.


VIDEO:

“Iron Protector” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1). A lot of shots indoors but for the most part, picture quality is good, outdoor scenes are vibrant.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Iron Protector” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear, as with action sequences which utilize the surround channels quite well.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Iron Protector” comes with the following short featurettes: The Chase, the Final Battle, Training, Stunts and Fighting Highlights and a trailer.


Back in the day, Jackie Chan and many other action stars and stuntmen, would partake in action sequences that were risky, dangerous and literally leave people with broken bones or concussions.

While the practice still continues, these risky stunts practiced by the main stars of a film is still commonplace in Asian cinema back then but now more stunt actors and actresses are utilized and minimizing the danger experienced by the main talent and practicing safety is becoming more common place in Asian martial arts films.

But there are people who still feel the original way of having the main talent fight, take part in their own stunts and putting themselves in harms way is still important.

While Jackie Chan still practices this to a lesser degree today, he still does a lot of his stunts.  But in terms of hardcore action and willing to go through many risks, Yue Song has emerged as an action star willing to carry out the practices of martial arts films of yesteryear, and literally putting himself in harms way.

And this is a true Yue Song film which he directs, writes, produces and edits but also stars in.

“Iron Protector” is strictly a martial arts popcorn action film.  The story does have a bit of banality as two men, who grew up together as brothers and trained in martial arts but jealousy broke them apart.

Yue Song’ character of Wu Lin has practiced martial arts with excessively heavy iron boots and doesn’t intent to stop using them until his tenth year.  Meanwhile, his old friend Jiang Li, who was literally kicked out of their martial arts training, ended up being a crime boss, pitting these two men against each other.

Meanwhile, Wu Lin tries to protect his client’s daughter, Feifei, a stubborn, spoiled, stuck-up and rude young woman.  She does all she can to get away from Wu Lin, but he has been good at tracking her.

But when he finds out his friend Jiang Li and his gang of thugs have kidnapped FeiFei, one can expect an explosive battle between the two men.

Martial arts choreography was well-done and Yue Song has no doubt given audiences a chance to see China’s new martial arts hero in action but also from the end credits and the special features, to see how many times he put himself at risk.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good, lossless audio is much better and special features that are quite short but gives an idea of how challenging it was to shoot these stunt scenes and how badly Yue Song was hurt

Overall, “Iron Protector” is a martial arts film that shows us that Yue Song is a total package when it comes to starring, directing, producing, writing and editing his own films.  Featuring exciting martial arts choreography, “Iron Protector” is a popcorn martial arts film worth watching!

Shin Godzilla (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Hideaki anno and Shinji Higuchi’s “Shin Godzilla” is marvelous Godzilla fan and manages to capture everything and more of the original film’s action, chaos and suspense along with political intrigue, humor and more!  I have to say, next to the original 1954 film, this is my favorite Godzilla film yet!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Toho Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Shin Godzilla

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, Dolby TrueHD Japanese and English 3.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2017


Directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi

Written by Hideaki Anno, English adaptation by Sean Whitley

Produced by Yoshihiro Sato, Masaya Shibusawa, Taichi Ueda, Kazutoshi Wadakura

Executive Producer: Akihiro Yamauchi

Chief Producer: Minami Ichikawa

Line Producer: Kensei Mori

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Cinematography by Kosuke Yamada

Edited by Hideaki Anno, Atsuki Sato

Casting by Tsuyoshi Sugino

Art Direction by Yuji Hayashida, Eri Sakushima

Set Decoration by Akira Sakamoto, Toshiaki Takahashi


Starring:

Hiroki Hasegawa as Rando Yaguchi

Yutaka Takenouchi as Hideki Akasaka

Satomi Ishihara as Kayoko Ann Patterson

Ren Osugi as Prime Minister Seiji Okochi

Akira Emoto as Ryuta Azuma

Kengo Kora as Yusuke Shimura (Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary)

Mikako Ichikawa as Hiromi Ogashira (Deputy Director of Nature Conservation Bureau)

Jun Kunimura as Masao Zaizen (Integrated Chief of Staff)

Pierre Taki as Saigo (Combat Leader)

Kyusaku Shimada as Katayama (Minister of Foreign Affairs)

Ken Mitsuishi as Kozuka (Governor of Tokyo)

Shingo Tsurumi as Yajima (Joint Staff Deputy)

Kimiko Yo as Reiko Hanamori (Defense Minister)

Takumi Saito as Ikeda (Tank Captain)


In Shin Godzilla, when a massive, gilled monster emerges from the deep and tears through the city, the government scrambles to save its citizens. A rag-tag team of volunteers cuts through a web of red tape to uncover the monster’s weakness and its mysterious ties to a foreign superpower. But time is not on their side—the greatest catastrophe to ever befall the world is about to evolve right before their very eyes.


With the US release of the 2014 film “Godzilla”, many wondered when Japan would produce another “Godzilla” (Gojira) film.

And sure enough, in December 2014, Toho announced that they would be making new Godzilla film and directing the film would be renown anime director Hideaki Anno (“Neon Genesis Evangelion” TV show and films, “Kare Kano”, “Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water”, “Cutie Honey”) and also renown anime and sci-fi writer/director Shinji Higuchi (“Neon Genesis Evangelion” TV series, “Hidden Fortress: The Last Princess”, “Casshern”, “Attack on Titan” and director of visual effects for the “Gamera” trilogy).

The film was released in Japan in July 2016 and received critical acclaim from Japanese critics and was a box office success and the highest grossing live-action Japanese film of 2016 and the highest-grossing Japanese-produced “Godzilla” film ever made.  The film would win seven awards out of eleven nominations for the 40th Japan Academy Prize including “Picture of the Year” and “Director of the Year”.

The film stars Hiroki Hasegawa (“Attack on Titan” films, “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?”), Yutaka Takenouchi (“Long Vacation”, “With Love”, “Oba: The Last Samurai”), Satomi Ishihara (“Attack on Titan” films, “Sadako 3D”), Ren Osugi (“Fireworks”, “The Twilight Samurai”, “Audition”), Akira Enomoto (“Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman”, “Dr. Akagi”, “The Eel”), Mikako Ichikawa (“Memories of Matsuko, “Rentaneko”, “Cutie Honey”), Kimiko Yo (“Departures”, Cafe Lumiere”) and many more.

And with the original “Godzilla” film being inspired by nuclear devastation and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, “Shin Godzilla” would be inspired by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

And now “Shin Godzilla” is available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation.

“Shin Godzilla” begins with the Japanese Coast Guard investigating an abandoned yacht on Tokyo Bay, not long after the boat is destroyed and the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line is flooded.

As politicians try to ascertain the damage and if it is an underwater volcano causing the damage, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Rando Yaguchi (portrayed by Hiroki Hasegawa) has a theory that it may be a creature.

But his superior Hideki Akasaka (portrayed by Yutaka Takenouchi) and other senior politicians tell him to not talk such nonsense.

Not long after, the Japanese Prime Minister Seiji Okochi (portrayed by Ren Osugi) is told that a tail is showing up in the ocean and then people start to believe Rando’s theory of a creature.

As the creature is moving towards Tokyo, boats start crashing all around causing panic in the Shinagawa area.  As the Japanese Prime Minister tries to get professional explanations if the creature can come to land, Hiromi Gashira (portrayed by Mikaki Ichikawa), the Deputy Director of Nature Conservation Bureau believes the creature can come to land but once again, the higher ups don’t believe her and the Prime Minister goes on television to tell the public that they are handling the problem and to not worry as the creature will not be able to come onto the land.

But after his press conference, he is given news that the creature has made it onto the land and is causing widespread damage and many casualties.

What is spotted is a red-skinned creature crawling on ground and it has gills.  But not long after, the creature goes through its second transformation and is now able to stand on its hind legs.

As the politicians try to strike plans to stop the creature and find ways to evacuate civilians, problems happen within the politicians because there is no such policy on how to deal with a creature and the use of deadly weapons with civilians nearby, leads the Prime Minister to not want to use any force.

Meanwhile, Yaguchi and his team must find a way to research the creature and Hiromi Gashira theorizes that the creature is energized through nuclear fission due to the high ratings of radiation nearby.  But once again, no one believes her until they see readings that confirm her suspicions.  Concerned, the United States send Kayako Ann Patterson (portrayed by Satomi Ishihara) to work with the Japanese government.

And what she presents is research from a zoology professor named Goro Maki, who has studied mutations caused by radioactive contamination and theorized that there would be a creature.  Inside the abandoned yacht (presented earlier in the film) was notes left by Maki but the group are unable to decipher what Maki left behind.

The U.S. has called the creatured “Godzilla”, naming it after Maki’s research and in Japan, the name in kanji is “Gojira”. But in agreement, Japan and U.S. must work together.

And when the creature returns, not only is it much larger but now it’s making its way back to Tokyo.  The Prime Minister sends the Japanese Self-Defense Force to mobilize the creature but each weapon they use, it has no effect on Godzilla.

With a priority of protecting civilians and defeating the creature, will Japan (and the U.S.A.) find a way to defeat Godzilla?  And what happens when the United States believes the only way to defeat Godzilla is to nuke the creature in Tokyo?  Which would be catastrophic for Japan.


VIDEO:

“Shin Godzilla” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). The film utilizes a lot of visual effects and for the most part, the film looks incredible.  From the way Godzilla was created, to the destruction of areas in Tokyo and the visual effects.  Picture quality is fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Shin Gozilla” is presented in Japanese and English 3.1 Dolby TrueHD.   I have to admit that I was surprised that the film was 3.1 instead of the usual 5.1 but dialogue and music is crystal clear through the center and front channels and great use of LFE during the more catastrophic and heavy artillery action scenes.

Japanese soundtrack is well-done but I also watched the film with English subtitles and with FUNimation onboard, one of the major positives is they have excellent voice talent utilized by the company and the English dub is well-done.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Shin Godzilla” comes with the following special features:

  • Godzilla vs. the Nerds – (33:05) A Funimation interview with Funimation Brand Manager Paul Fruge II and Matt Frank (comic book artist for “Godzilla” comics for IDW), Ben Cortez (Funimation Digital Video and massive Godzilla fan) and Eric Tipton (Funimation Marketing Dept and huge Godzilla fan).

EXTRAS:

“Shin Godzilla” comes with a slipcase, the Blu-ray, DVD and an UltraViolet HD code.


I grew up watching “Godzilla” and I have reviewed many “Godzilla” films.  And with each film, there are things I have come to appreciate, other things that I found a bit cheesy but in the most part, my favorite has always been the original 1954 film directed by Ishiro Honda.

Last year, while traveling to Japan, I was able to watch part of “Shin Godzilla” but due to long hours in the plane and not having much sleep the night before, I watched the film in pieces, trying to keep myself awake.  But I was out and I figured, I’ll catch it whenever it is released on Blu-ray.

And sure enough, Funimation has released “Shin Godzilla” on Blu-ray in August 2017 and I have watched it probably five times already, that is how much I enjoyed this film.

When there was discussion of a reboot, at first I was skeptical because each reboot, there were things I liked and things I didn’t and for the most part, many films strayed from the original and became tokusatsu films that I was watching more for the battles and whoever Godzilla would take on.

I missed the deep storyline, the political and scientific strategy employed of the original film but with “Shin Godzilla”, while it has elements of the original, directors Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi were able to craft an amazing “Godzilla” film that goes beyond destruction, but a film that features a lot of layers, from the political obstruction, the decision making of Japan’s Prime Minister and their leaders, the intervention of the United States and other allies.  There is a lot going on this film, complexities that I knew very well that Anno and Higuchi were capable of taking on, considering I am a big fan of “Neon Genesis Evangelion”.

While the film features two renown directors, you have a lot of veteran talent from Ren Osugi, Akira Emoto, Kengo Kora and one of my favorite TV drama actors, Yutaka Takenouchi.  The film also has a lot of talent such as Hiroki Hasegawa, Mikako Ichikawa, Satomi Ishihara and while each of these characters has their own purpose, especially Hasegawa’s character of Rando Yaguchi and Satomi Ishihara’s Kayoko Ann Patterson.  They are considered more of a cog in a well-oiled machine of players that all contribute to a team working to find a solution in trying to stop Godzilla from causing more destruction.

Fail in finding a solution, the United States with the go-ahead of the U.N. is going to drop a nuke on Tokyo in order to stop Godzilla, especially as the monster poses a threat to the West Coast.

What I love about this film is how it uses current events, like the original “Godzilla” did after World War II and seeing the effects of the the nuclear bombs detonated on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “Shin Godzilla” uses data after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Reactor situation after the 2011 Tohoko Earthquake and Tsunami and as many Japanese have a no-confidence feeling towards the company hiding the true results from the public, the film goes one-step to show that others are responsible for hiding the fact that a creature was feeding on nuclear waste dumped in the ocean.

And the result is Godzilla.

And no, this Godzilla is not like anything from the past.  He’s deadlier, more calculating and prepared for attacks from the nuclear laser beams emanating from its mouth and its scales throughout its body to other abilities which one will have to watch the film and see.

I also liked the fact of how the film handled the transformation of Godzilla, from its bug-eyed amphibious form to the monstrous creature it would become.

The amount of destruction and the visual effects utilized no doubt makes this film looking “Godzilla” film yet.  And has become my favorite of the many “Godzilla” films.

Picture quality is fantastic on Blu-ray and its Japanese and English 3.1 DolbyTrue HD soundtrack is crystal clear with its dialogue (in Japanese and a well-done English dub) and wonderful musical score by Shiro Sagisu (known for his work on the recent “Evangelion” and “Berserk” animated films).  And you also get a entertaining featurette as American “Godzilla” fans discuss all things Godzilla.

Overall, Hideaki anno and Shinji Higuchi’s “Shin Godzilla” is marvelous Godzilla fan and manages to capture everything and more of the original film’s action, chaos and suspense along with political intrigue, humor and more!  I have to say, next to the original 1954 film, this is my favorite Godzilla film yet!

Narcos: Season Two (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

This second season of “Narcos” was truly epic and an incredible season that fans will no doubt appreciate!  Amazing performances, especially from Wagner Moura and a riveting storyline that literally captivates you from episode to episode, “Narcos: Season Two” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © Narcos TM & © 2017 Narcos Productions LLC. All Rights Reserved. Artwork & Supplementary Materials © 2017 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Narcos: Season Two

TV SEASON AIR DATE: 2016

DURATION: Episodes 11-20 (525 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: September 5, 2017


Created by Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, Doug Miro and Paul Eckstein

Directed by Andres Baiz, Gerardo Naranjo, Josef Kubota Wladyka

Written by Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Chris Brancato, Zachary Reiter, T.J. Brady, Steve Lightfrost, Rasheed Newson, Julie Siege, Adam Fierro, Curtis Gwinn, Clayton Trussell, Gideon Yago

Produced by Jesse Rose Moore, Lornezo O’Brien

Consulting Producer: Curtis Gwinn, Carolina Paiz

Executive Producer: Eric Newman, Jose Padilha, Elisa Todd Elis, Katie O’Connell

Co-Executive Producer: Jack Loguidice, Paul Marks, Zachary Reiter, Julie Siege

Music by Pedro Bromfman

Cinematography by Carmen Cabana, Adrian Teijido, Luis David Sansans

Edited by Matthew Colonna, Trevor Baker, Nathan Gunn

Casting by Carla Hool, Carmen Cuba

Production Design by Salvador Parra

Art Direction by Camila Arocha, Catalina Olarte, Anibal Silva


Starring:

Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar

Boyd Holbrook as Steve Murphy

Pedro Pascal as Javier Pena

Joanna Christie as Connie Murphy

Paulina Gaitan as Tata Escobar

Diego Catano as La Quica

Julian Diaz as Blackie

Maria Jose Sanchez Real as Manuela 

Maurice Compte as Horacio Carrillo

Alberto Ammann as Pacho Herrera 

Stephanie Sigman as Valeria Velez 

Manolo Cardona as Eduardo Sandoval

Bruno Bichir as Fernando Duque 

Leynar Gomez as Limon 

Juan Pablo Raba as Gustavo Gaviria

Danielle Kennedy as Ambassador Noon


After drug lord Pablo Escobar escapes from prison, the Colombian police, rival cartels, and DEA agents try to take him down in the explosive second season of the hit series.


As Pablo Escobar continues his drug operation and became Colombia’s top drug lord and leader of the Medellin Cartel, President George Bush and his administration has taken a step forward to end drug cartels and the new US ambassador brings the CIA in.

With young lookouts watching the city for him, Escobar hires Limon, a pimp and a taxi driver to help him stay outside of the authorities grasp.  And Limon gets his friend Maritza involved with his business affairs.

Meanwhile, the Cali Cartel sees their power decreasing because of Escobar and they form an alliance with the Castano Brothers, Don Berna and Judy Moncada, who wants revenge against Escobar for murdering her husband Kiko and her brother Jaime.

As many police officers are slaughtered by Escobar’s men, Colonel Horacio Carillo wants to take back the power by derailing Escobar’s operations with force and killing him.   And as Carillo tries to get Escobar’s men to give him information and killing them if they don’t, this puts Carillo in opposition with DEA agents Steve Murphy and Javier Pena.

All this and more in “Season 2” of “Narcos”!

What is “Narcos” about?

In 2015, Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard and Doug Miro’s “Narcos”, an American crime web television series began streaming.

Shot and filmed in Colombia, the first season focuses on the beginnings of notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and how he would rise and become a billionare through the production and distribution of cocaine. Meanwhile two DEA agents, Steve Murphy and Javier Pena have the task of taking him down.

A Netflix exclusive that is 10 episodes long and began streaming on August 2015 and now, the series will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate.

The series would also earn two Golden Globe nominations for “Best Drama Series” and “Best Actor”.

The series stars Wagner Moura (“Paradiso Tropical”, “Elite Squad”, “Elite Squad: The Enemy Within”, “Elysium”), Boyd Holbrook (“Gone Girl”, “Milk”, “The Skeleton Twins”), Pedro Pascal (“The Adjustment Bureau”, “Bloodsucking Bastards”, “Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe”), Joanna Christie (“Star”, “Small Dark Places”, “The Girl and the Fish”), Paulina Gaitan (“Trade”, “Sin Nombre”, “Senorita Polvora”), Diego Catano (“Savage”, “Duck Season”, “Lake Tahoe”), Jason Chad Roth (“Bloque de Busqueda”, “El Capo”, “Pura sangre”) and Maurice Compte (“A Walk Among the Tombstones”, “End of Watch”, “The Dream Catcher”).

“Narcos” is a series narrated by DEA agent Steve Murphy and the first season is his account of taking down Colombian drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar.

The series would begin in the ’70s as how Pablo Escobar (portrayed by Wagner Moura) had big dreams of becoming rich and with his deep network, how he would establish himself as a black marketeer in Medellin. How his network would provide him the power to move trucks worth of illegal goods and would have personal information that would prevent patrols from stopping him, in generating fear so no one would stop him.

When Mateo “Cockroach” Moreno, an underground chemist who is also exiled from Chile and would create the perfect cocaine, would collaborate with Escobar and together, they would distribute and profit from cocaine.

And how they would grow from a small operation to having large elaborate operations and laboratories and many in Columbia would become addicts and as many demanded cocaine, the crime would also exponentially increase.

And eventually the demand for cocaine would rise, especially in the United States and thus escalating drug-related violence in America. So, a taskforce from the DEA are sent to Colombia.

Steve Murphy (portrayed by Boyd Holbrook) and Javier Pena (portrayed by Pedro Pascal) are sent to Colombia to work with authorities and put a stop the flow of cocaine into the United States.

But despite the power of Pablo Escobar, he would eventually find himself not just in trouble with local authorities, the DEA (which he puts a bounty on their heads) but also with guerilla communists known as M-19. Which would lead to the beginning of the Medelin Cartel.

But if being a wealthy drug kingpin is not enough for Escobar to aspire to, he also has political aspirations to become the president of Colombia. But what happens when Escobar plans to run for politics?

In season two, it is a battle of the drug cartel as the Cali Cartel forms an alliance with the Castano Brothers in hopes to take down Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel.

But as the authorities are going after Escobar, Escobar must deal with a cruel Colonel Horacio Carillo who tries to go after Escobar by any means necessary.


VIDEO:

“Narcos” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The picture quality for this series is very good. Shot in Colombia and a good balance of outdoor scenes and indoor scenes. Featuring beautiful imagery of Colombia scenery

I didn’t notice any major banding issues or artifacts.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Narcos” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The series is crystal clear and the lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue and music-driven. There are some scenes with gun exchanges and scenes that utilize crowd ambiance but it’s a series that focuses on narration, dialogue and its musical soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Narcos: Season Two” comes with the following special features:

  • Unredacted: Declassifying Narcos Season Two – (19:36) A featurette about season two.
  • Deleted Scenes – (8:32) Featuring deleted scenes from “Narcos: Season Two”.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary for episode “Al Fin Cayo!” with director Andres Baiz, producer Eric Newman and actor Wagner Moura.

EXTRAS:

“Narcos: Season Two” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


If you thought “Narcos” had an explosive first season, season two ups the ante with Escobar now the Colombian drug lord that other cartel have in their targets, along with authorities who want to capture him dead or alive.

This season, we see the ferocity of the Medellin Cartel towards Colombian authorities, his wife Tata fearing for his death from Search Bloc and authorities, especially America’s stance on the war on drugs.

And the story is coming to a head now that the Cali Cartel has formed an alliance with the Castano Brothers and with the violence heightened, seeing how Steve Murphy and Javier Pena, the DEA Agents are having to handle all the violence which they both get caught up in.

So, this sophomore season of “Narcos” is much better than the first and seeing how the storyline has the characters have progressed.

I’m a believer that if you want to create a film or a series with characters from another country, it has to be done right and best to show the characters in their environment, speaking the original language.

Of course, that is not always the case as having a series with the native language with English subtitles is not always ideal, but fortunately, “Narcos” is a series that Netflix believed in and in its support, the series would be filmed in Colombian and would feature a bilingual cast with English subtitles.

And because of that authenticity, it lends to a believable and captivating series which “Narcos” has become and is appreciated for.

Wagner Moura continues to excel in his craft portraying Pablo Escobar. He plays the part to perfection, even so far of gaining 40 pounds for the first season in order to play the role of Escobar in his later years.  Escobar has since slimmed down a bit but it goes to show how far Moura went to become Escobar. But to play a character that go from a cheerful man smiling when authorities try to take his photo, to a man who is cold and calculating and would murder someone quite easily.  Moura does a great job!

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic in HD, lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music. And as for the Blu-ray release, there is a good balance of audio commentary, deleted scenes and a featurette.

Overall, this second season of “Narcos” was truly epic and an incredible season that fans will no doubt appreciate!  Amazing performances, especially from Wagner Moura and a riveting storyline that literally captivates you from episode to episode, “Narcos: Season Two” is recommended!

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

August 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

You don’t come across documentaries like this too often, nor do you come across a documentary that specifically deals with “obituaries”.  But Vanessa Gould’s documentary is fascinating, entertaining and a documentary worth watching

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


TITLE: Obit.

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 96 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:78:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 Surround, English with optional English SDH subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2017


Directed by Vanessa Gould

Produced by Caitlin Mae Burke, Vanessa Gould 

Co-Producer: Josh Wick

Executive Producer: Geralyn White Dreyfous

Co-Executive Producer: Diana Barrett, Ann Blinkhorn, Barbara Dobkin, Nion McEvoy, Anne Milliken, Katrina vanden Heuvel

Music by Joel Goodman

Cinematography by Ben Wolf

Edited by Kristin Bye


Starring:

Bruce Weber

William McDonald

Margalit Fox

William Grimes

Jack Kadden

Douglas Martin

Jeff Roth

Daniel Slotnik

Paul Vitello


It’s a shame no one wants to talk to them at parties, because obituary writers are a surprisingly funny bunch. Ten hours before newspapers hit neighborhood doorsteps – and these days, ten minutes before news hits the web – an obit writer is racing against deadline to sum up a long and newsworthy life in under 1000 words. Obit. is the first documentary to explore the world of these writers and their subjects, focusing on the legendary team at The New York Times, who approach their daily work with journalistic rigor and narrative flair. Going beyond the byline and into the minds of those chronicling life after death on the freshly inked front lines of history, the film invites some of the most essential questions we ask ourselves about life, memory, and the inevitable passage of time. What do we choose to remember? What never dies?


From filmmaker Vanessa Gould comes a documentary that explores the worklife of an obituary writer and what best than to focus on the obituary writers of “The New York times”.

The first documentary to look into the world of those who write obituaries and because “The New York Times” is a paper read nationwide (and all over the world), the obituaries that cover prominent people is a job that involves a lot of research for the facts, figuring out which obituaries would be newsworthy, learning to keep oneself in check to not overindulge and also seeing how these journalists manage to do the job.

The inspiration to create this documentary was when Vanessa’s friend Eric Joisel, a French sculptor who was the focal point of her film “Between the Folds” died.  And when he died, she was called by New York Times Obituaries Senior Writer Margalit Fox.  And with the thorough questions that were asked by Fox, this made Gould think about the obituary writers of the New York Times.

And not long after, Gould approached the New York Times about creating a film about those behind-the-scenes writing the obituaries.

The film focuses on Obituaries Desk Editor William McDonald (former editor on NYT Metro, National and Cultural News desks and editor of three books of Times obits); Obituaries Senior Writer Margalit Fox (former staff editor, Book Reviews);  Obituaries writer William Grimes (former  book critic, restaurant critic and culture correspondent); former Deputy Obituaries Editor Jack Kadden (previously editor on the NYT Metro, National and Education desks); Assistant Obituaries Editor Peter Keepnews (former editor on Cultural News desk and Book Review); former Obituaries Writer Douglas Martin (worked at for 34-years as an energy correspondent and writer); Obituaries Photo Editor Dolores Morrison (Photo editor at the Obituaries and Metropolitan desks); Chief Pop Music Critic Jon Pareles (has worked for the Times since 1988); Jeff Roth (working the Times news morgue since 1993); Dan Slotnik (working the NYT Obituaries and Metropolitan desks since 2005); former obituaries writer Paul Vitello (previously a Metropolitan and Religion reporter for the Times and a columnist for “Newsday”);  former obituaries writer Bruce Weber (previously NYT theater critic and culture reporter)and Earl Wilson (Senior News Assistant).

We get to see how these writers prepare obituaries but also how they prepare obituaries in advance for prominent celebrities but also how they feel about their career as an obituary writer and if they think about their own mortality, since they write obituaries.


VIDEO:

“Obit.” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:781 aspect ratio) and was shot in digital.  And like many documentaries, there are a lot of archived sources from various types of footage, especially during the discussion of celebrities or high-profile figures and more.  For the most part, the film looks very good and is well-edited.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Obit.” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and is primarily a dialogue-driven soundtrack which incorporates a musical score.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Obit.” comes with a theatrical trailer.


I think that anyone who has read an obituary, especially from a nationwide newspaper such as “The New York Times” has had questions of how a writer was able to obtain so much information on a deceased individual.

The Times was known for covering newsworthy subjects and there is a lot of detail on the deceased, especially their accomplishments in their career or life.

And part of the success of the New York Times is that their writers are people who have had years of experience writing for the newspaper, many who were previous editors for other departments, critics or was a reporter in some sort of fashion for the Times or other high profile newspaper publications.

Watching “Obit.”, it’s a very fascinating documentary because you get to see the perspectives of the writers, as public perception may think the job is morbid and depressing but Margalit Fox puts it into perspective that obits writeups are mostly about life and very little about death.

We learn of the great care that goes into writing obituaries but the work that goes into developing a story.

Having worked for a major newspaper corporation, I had the opportunity to see how one of our obituary writers went about her job but also to see the differences between larger to smaller newspapers.  But what these individuals have to do for the New York Times is much more intensive and they really take obituary writing to new level.  Just trying to establish contact with a family member or loved one and getting the information of prominent people in their respective industries on a daily basis, sounds quite daunting.

But these writers are up to the challenge and while there is a lot of work involved and there is something new each time they come to work each day about a deceased individual and needing to filter out what is real and what is over-exaggerated.  But also seeing their enthusiasm for the work that they do is pretty cool!

The documentary also goes into the deaths of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Michael Jackson, Meadowlark Lemon but also hearing from the obituary writers of their most memorable obits that they have worked on.

If anything, I just enjoyed of how Vanessa Gould was able to film the staff, get their personal thoughts and see them on the job, at a meeting and even sometimes having small debates with each other.  The camera is there recording but yet, the subjects of the film went on with their business as if the camera wasn’t there and it adds to the film’s efficacy.  Capturing these writers in their natural state but also allowing them to share whatever is on their mind.

May it come to death, the over-exaggeration of accomplishments by family’s or even questions of the lack of diversity of obits featured on “The New York Times”.

And last, what we see in this documentary is of a New York Times that was.  Not long after the film was release, the publication chose to focus on going digital and many writers and longtime staff were offered a buyout.  And so, a few of these longtime writers featured in the documentary are no longer employed with “The New York Times”.

The Blu-ray features very good picture quality and dialogue/music is crystal clear through the front channels.  There are no special features, so it’s a barebones Blu-ray release.

Overall, you don’t come across documentaries like this too often, nor do you come across a documentary that specifically deals with “obituaries”.  But Vanessa Gould’s documentary is fascinating, entertaining and a documentary worth watching!

Kill Switch (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are in the mood for a popcorn sci-fi action film, then “Kill Switch” may be to your liking.  Just don’t come into the film expecting anything to deep.

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


TITLE: Kill Switch

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 92 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: Spanish, English SDH

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: August 22, 2017


Directed by Tim Smit

Screenplay by Charlie Kindinger, Omid Nooshin

Produced by Tim Smit, Sander Verdonk, Denis Wigman, Patrick Chu

Executive Producer: Shanan Becker, Bill Bromiley, Russell Geyser, Al Munteanu, Thibaut Niels, Clay Pecorin, Milan Popelka, Aaron Ryder, Ness Saban

Co-Producer: Michael Jackman

Music by Dries Bijlsma, Rob Peters

Cinematography by Jacco van Ree

Edited by Wouter van Luijn

Casting by Rose Wicksteed

Production Design by Romke Faber

Art Direction by Nora van der Steeg

Set Decoration by Steven Van Der Zalm


Starring:

Dan Stevens as Will Porter

Berenice Marlohe as Abigail Vos

Charity Wakefield as Mia

Tygo Gernandt as Michael

Gijs Scholten van Aschat as Reynard

Kasper van Groesen as Donny

Mike Libanon as Hugo


In the future world, a physicist’s experiment to harness unlimited energy goes wrong. Chased by drones and soldiers, Will Porter must race through an imploding world and retrieve the Redivider box to save his family – and all of humanity!


Tim Smit has made a name for himself as a visual effects supervisor for the crime drama “Tiger House” and “Last Passenger” and this time, Smit makes his directorial debut for the American-Dutch sci-fi action film “Kill Switch”, which Smit is also the visual effects supervisor.

Co-written by Charlie Kindinger and Omid Nooshin, the film stars Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”, “The Guest”, “Beauty and the Beast”), Berenice Marlohe (“Skyfall”, “Twin Peaks”, “Song to Song”), Charity Wakefield (“Wolf Hall”, “The Player”, “Sense & Sensibility”) and Tygo Gernandt (“Godforsaken”, “Black Death”, “Dokter Tinus”).

The film is set in the future and physicist and former NASA pilot Will Porter (portrayed by Dan Stevens) is awaiting for the project that he’s working on for Alterplex Energy, a power company to take place.  The project is to harness unlimited energy and with his sister Mia (portrayed by Charity Wakefield) and her son Donnie (portrayed by Kasper van Groesen) and all looked as if the project is working wonderfully.

The next scene begins to show Will being recruited by Alterplex and being interviewed by Abigail Vos (portrayed by Berenice Marlohe) for her boss, Reynard (portrayed by Gijs Scholten van Aschat). And how he is offered a lot of money to work for Alterplex Energy and also providing amazing benefits for Will bu also for his sister and nephew.

The film then jumps forward as Will making the jump to Echo, a mirror universe of Earth and seeing if Echo has received any damage.  And what Will finds is a quiet city with dead people all lying on the ground.  Will learns that Altiplex has pretty much taken control of the world and unleashed their security drones upon the city.

Also, an underground group has formed trying to stop Alterplex since the company turned on a tower, which has led to strange anomalies in the city.  Which includes things being sucked out from the other world and vehicles or things being dropped in Echo.

As Will moves towards the anomaly, he carries a device thinking that it will balance the power between the two universes and stop the anomalies.

Next thing you know, he sees humans fighting against the drones and finds the underground rebels going after him.  As one of the men are about to kill him, Will finds out one of the men is former Alterplex Security Michael (portrayed by Tygo Gernandt).

Michael, who is now with the underground rebels asks Will, how he survived?  As the drones come, they go to see Will and Will tells the drones that he is an employee with Alterplex and shows the Alterplex drone a device that Alterplex has given him.  The drones then say he is under arrest and that Alterplex is coming to arrest him.

But then the tower immediately actives and sucks the drones and many birds in and suddenly drops a train on top of the drones, destroying them.

Will finds out that he was killed (and is shocked that people think he was dead) is then joined by Alterplex’s Abby and she finds out that he is carrying a “Redivider”.

We are then taken back to various flashbacks and to see why Will is carrying a Redivider and what the true purpose of the Redivider is all about.


VIDEO:

“Kill Switch” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). While the shots are primarily shot indoors, the film utilizes a lot of visual effects and while the film leans more on a cool side, the visual effects works wonderfully.  And because the film is shot mostly in first person, almost like a video game, you are seeing the film as Will Porter and visual effects are heavily incorporated.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kill Switch” is presented in English5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio  and features crystal clear dialogue and many action sequences enveloping the surround channels.  As one can expect from a sci-fi action film, from drones firing off on Will and friends to the portal turning on and off and seeing objects or vehicles crashing down, the lossless audio is fantastic.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kill Switch” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Tim Smit.
  • The Visual Effect: Inside the Director’s Process – (4:51) Tim Smit talks about directing a film and also being in charge of visual effects.

EXTRAS:

“Kill Switch” comes with the Blu-ray and an UltraViolet HD code.


Once in awhile, you hear about sci-fi action films that are created with the smallest budget but yet looks like a film made with a significant amount of money.

“Kill Switch” is a film that benefits from the experience of talented visual effects director Tim Smit, who makes his directorial debut.

Featuring a small cast and a plethora of visual effects, “Kill Switch” revolves around scientist and former NASA pilot Will Porter, who was recruited by Alterplex Energy, a power company that built a tower that taps into unlimited quantum energy.

Because of his skills, Alteplex sends Will Porter to take a device to a mirror universe of Earth known as Echo.

But something is eerily wrong in Echo as people are found killed, surviving rebels are fighting against Alterplex Security who pretty much rules over the land and people he knew are looking at him weird and telling him how he came back to life, because he died.

All Will knows is that his mission is to take a device to enable a power transfer between both universes in order to set things right because the tower is sending objects flying and dropping major objects from above.  Will believes his mission is to fix this problem with the device, not knowing that the device a redivider a.k.a. “kill switch”, a last resort to destroy a universe.

Showcased in a first-person viewpoint from Will and flashbacks showcasing Will getting his job at Alterplex and how he meets Alterplex’s Abigail Vos and former Alterplex Security, Michael. A big part of the flashbacks focus on Will trying to take care of his sister Mia and her special needs son, Donny.

While the film is fascinating and no doubt showcases Tim Smit’s talent as a visual effects director (in a special feature, you learn how Smit did a lot of the visual effects himself), the film has to credit Smit’s talent for taking a normal world and make it look post-apocalyptic.  Where humans are no longer living normally and Alterplex drones are flying around shooting at people.

If anything, “Kill Switch” is similar to a video game that is more visual eye candy, “Kill Switch” is a sci-fi action film that is also visual candy and a popcorn action film that doesn’t rely too much on its story but on its action/visual effects sequences.

The Blu-ray looks very good and the lossless audio definitely utilizes the surround channels and LFE for the action sequences.  Special features are primarily an audio commentary and short visual effects featurette.

Overall, some people may find the first-person perspective  of “Kill Switch” to be a bit jarring, as it primarily is Will’s focalpoint, going along with his risky mission and helping out Michael and Abigail, but also coming across the drones or human rebels and trying to avoid being killed.  The film does have a video game feel to it and the most ardent cinema fans may not like the film’s visual presentation but in some way, it does work to the film’s advantage, because today’s FPS video game generation may find this type of visual style to be something that they are quite familiar with.  So, you’ll either enjoy or dislike this film.

If you are in the mood for a popcorn sci-fi action film, then “Kill Switch” may be to your liking.  Just don’t come into the film expecting anything to deep.

Gurren Lagann Complete Blu-ray Disc Box (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Gurren Lagann” can be described in one word and that is “Fantastic!” and it’s great that fans can enjoy the complete TV series and both animated films with this 10th Anniversary collection.  The set may not have the Aniplex swag or the special features of its previous Blu-ray or DVD sets but for those wanting to upgrade their sets to HD or those curious about “Gurren Lagann”, then the “Gurren Lagann Complete Blu-ray Disc Box” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © GAINAX, KAZUKI NAKASHIMA/GURREN LAGANN-MOVIE COMMITTEE. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Gurren Lagann Complete Blu-ray Disc Box

DURATION: Episodes 1-27 + 2 Movies

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

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: August 8, 2017


Created by GAINAX

Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Assistant Director: Masahiko Ohtsuka

Series Directors: Kazuki Nakashima

Character Designs: Atsushi Nishigori

Mecha Designs: You Yoshinari

Design Works: Shigeto Koyama

Art Director: Yuka Hirama (BIHOU)

Color Design: Harumi Takahoshi

Director of Photography: Toyonori Yamada

Editing: Junichi Uematsu

Sound Director: Tohru Nakano

Music: Taku Iwasaki

Produced by TV Tokyo, DENTSU, Aniplex


Featuring the following voice talent:

Katsuyuki Konishi/Kyle Herbert (as Kamina)

Marina Inoue/Michelle Ruff (as Yoko Littner)

Tetsuya Kakihara/Yuri Lowenthal (as Simon)

Yukari Fukui/Bridget Hoffman, Hynden Walch (as Nia)

Daiki Nakamura/Doug Stone (as Dayakka)

Kana Asumi (as Kiyal)

Kana Ueda/Stephanie Sheh (as Kinon)

Kisho Taniyama (as Kittan)

Masaya Onosaka/Steven Blum (as Leeron)

Mitsuki Saiga/Johnny Yong Bosch (as Rossiu)

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Sam Ergal (as Viral)

Rina Satou/Karen Strassman (as Kiyoh)

Shizuka Itou/Julie Ann Taylor (as Boota and Darry)


Gurren Lagann returns in a complete TV series and 2 movies in Blu-ray box set. One of the most cherished animation titles lives in your memory forever!

This is the story of a man who has yet to realize what destiny holds in store for him….

In the distant future, mankind has lived restlessly underground for hundreds of years, subject to earthquakes and cave-ins. Living in one such village are two young men: one named Simon who is shy and naïve, and the other named Kamina who believes in the existence of a “surface” world above their heads. The destiny of these two starts moving drastically when the ceiling of their village falls in, and a gigantic “Gunmen” and a beautiful girl named Yoko, wielding a superconductive rifle, come from the surface. Together, Kamina, Simon and Yoko ride the mecha “Lagann” that Simon digs out of the ground, and fly up to the surface!


It’s considered one of the best mecha anime series ever created.  And now “Gurren Lagann” is celebrating it’s tenth anniversary and what best to celebrate the anime series than by re-releasing the series but also the two animated films on one complete Blu-ray set available courtesy of Aniplex USA!

So, what is “Gurren Lagann” all about?

GAINAX brings us a mecha anime series and having created so many and with so many created for so many decades, you often wonder if innovative, imaginative storylines can still be developed. Well, with “GURREN LAGANN”, the creators of this anime series manages to create something unique, fun, explosive and just enjoyable.

The popular anime titled “Tengen Toppai Gurren Lagann” aired on TV Tokyo back in April 2007 and completed it’s 27-episodes by Sept. 2007 and centers around two characters Simon and Kamina. Both live underground with a bunch of orphans and due to earthquakes, they developed a system of people using manual drilling holes in order to move around.

But one day, the life of a young driller named Simon discovers a small mini drill underground. Simon is a shy young guy. Not too confident in himself and hates how his parents were killed during an earthquake. So, he works hard in order for everyone to live but also to collect whichever treasure he can find. While continuing his digging, he discovers a small drill and not long after, he discovers a huge robotic face.

As for Kamina, he’s the cool leader of a gang. He once saw the atmosphere with his father a long time ago and dreams of making it up to the surface but no one underground believes him. He comes up with a plan to get to the surface with the help of Simon’s drill. T

he plan backfires and Kamina is put into a jail. Meanwhile, a big monster robot-like figure comes out of the sky and lands in the group’s village underground. A girl sporting a bikini top and tight short shorts with a large rifle starts fighting with the monster robot. Her name is Yoko and all of a sudden both Kamina and Simon try to assist her.

As the monster grows vicious, Simon introduces Kamina and Yoko to what he found underground. It happens to be a small robot that Simon takes control of and eventually the three fight the robotic monster and end up defeating it. Also, end up making it above the surface where they discover sunlight, blue skies, mountains and more…monster robots. It is learned that these things are called “Gunmen” and are piloted by Beastmen who have a hatred towards humans.

The three must survive and outwit and defeat the Gunmen and with Kamina’s leadership and willing to take anything head on with his machismo ego, he calls Simon’s robot Lagann. Kamina eventually comandeers a Gunmen robot and calls it Gurren. As a duo, the group is called Gurren Lagann.

  1. Episode 1 – Bust through the Heavens with your Drill! – The main episodes that introduces us to Simon, Kamina and Yoko. The three join forces to take on the monster gunmen.
  2. Episode 2 – I Said I’m Gonna Pilot That Thing!! – With Simon having his own robot and more Gunmen showing up to fight, Kamina decides to get a gunmen mecha all for himself which he names “Gurren”. But they get some support from the people of Yoko’s village and the village’s top mechanic, Leeron (a savvy and intelligent mechanic but who happens to be gay and not afraid to flirt with Kamina and Simon). But with Kamina and Simon now having their own mecha’s, they name their team “Gurren Lagann”.
  3. Episode 3 – Who Do You Think You Are, Having Two Faces? – With the defeat of the Beastmen and their Gunmen, Simon, Kamina and Yoko go to hunt for some food but while Kamina retrieves some food, he runs into a Beastman named Viral. A savage warrior who becomes the major rival for Kamina.
  4. Episode 4 – Having Lots of Faces Doesn’t Make You Great! – After the battle with Viral, Simon, Kamina, Yoko and Leeron decide to destroy the Beastmen’s base. By eliminating it, the group might have that peace that they wanted. But while looking for food, the group run into another group known as the Black Siblings…friend or foe?
  5. Episode 5 – I Don’t Get It, Not One Bit! – As the group continues on their travels, they end up in another underground village and brought their by a teen named Rosiu. But in this village, they have their own strict religion and strict rules in which they can only keep their population at 50 people or less. Well, things change when a couple has a set of triplets, thus going over the 50-person mark. So, each person must draw a stick and whoever has a colored stick must leave the village and create a new life up in the surface.
  6. Episode 6 – There are Some Things I Just Have to See! – There are two versions of episode 6.  The unedited version and the OA version which is part of the special features.  For the unedited version, the group really smell bad and it seems they met some luck as they are invited to the hot springs with food galore!  The group run into their friends, the three women of the Black Siblings and as the group relaxes in the hot springs, both Kamina and Simon can’t stand hearing the women talk about their breasts.  Being the horny guys that they are, both men do what they can do get a peek of the ladies nude.  But awaiting them is some trouble as well courtesy of the Beastmen.
  7. Episode 7  – You’re Gonna Do It! – With the defeat of the Beastmen, Viral makes his return but this time, one of the four leaders who pilots a giant Gunmen fortress.  While Gurren Lagan tries to fight them, they are joined by some old friends who have followed Kamina’s lead and stolen some gunmen for themselves.
  8. Episode 8 – Later, Buddy – With Simon’s quick thinking in the last episode, the group manages to get the Gunmen fortress to be trapped.  But Kamina wants to take control of the fortress in order to protect everyone and this time have a super combination to create Dai Gurren Lagann.  So, one major battle in order to take the Beastmen leader’s mega fortress.   But while Simon starts to think about Yoko and tell her his feelings for her, he sees both Kamina and Yoko kissing.  So, as they go into battle, Kamina depends on Simon to have Lagann penetrate the fortress but because his emotions all out of whack due to seeing the kiss, it’s going to cost someone’s life.
  9. Episode 9 – What, Exactly, Is a Human? – With the events of the last episode, everyone is in mourning.  Meanwhile, a new character named Nia is introduced.  Who is she and why is she so curious about humans?
  10. Episode 10 – Who Is This Bro? – The group comes head to head against Adiane, the second of the Spiral Kings Four Divine Generals.  But retreats when she sees Nia.  It appears Nia is the daughter of the Spiral King.  Nia appears to be very naive about humans, their emotions, etc.  She doesn’t understand why Simon would be depressed over someone who’s dead.
  11. Episode 11 – Simon, Hands-off – The team meets Guame, the third of Spiral Kings Four Divine Generals.  He uses Beastmen disguised as women to fool the crew and ends up taking over their ship and putting the crew underground in prison.  Only Simon and his drilling can save the day and for Nia, she learns why she was discarded by her father.
  12. Episode 12 – Yoko, Will You Do Me a Favor? – Team Dai-Gurren’s fortress needs to be refitted to travel in the water.  So, the crew goes through a little R&R and becomes too friendly with Nia and favoring her over Kyoko.  Kyoko is not sure he can trust her and sure enough, the crew goes into battle against Adiane.
  13. Episode 13 – Eat Up, Everyone – Nia really wants to fit in, so she found a job for herself, to become a cook.  Meanwhile, Cytomander, the fourth of Spiral King’s Divine Four Generals makes his attack on the crew and with Rossiu sick, Kyoko must fill in and be Simon’s co-pilot for Gurren Lagann.
  14. Episode 14 -Well, Met Everyone – The crew arrives near the Beastman Empire but must take on the last two of Spiral King’s Four Divine Generals – Cytomander and Guame to the death.
  15. Episode 15 – I Will Head Towards Tomorrow – Team Dai-Gurren now has one final battle left and that’s against the Spiral King.  It’s all or nothing!
  16. Episode 16 – Compilation Episode – This episode serves as a bridge for between the first arc and the second arc of the series.  It’s literally a special episode condensing major scenes from the first 15 episodes to one episode.  Mainly focusing on Kamina, Simon, Kyoko and Nia.
  17. Episode 17 – You Don’t Know Anything – With Team Dai-Gurren successful against the Spiral King, the series flash forwards seven years later.  The planet has flourished with cities and vehicles, Simon, Rossiue and everyone else has grown up.  People own homes and have their own jobs.  Simon is in his early 20’s and is the Supreme Commander and is bored doing paper work.  Rossiu is the Chief who does all of the work but unlike Simon, holds an iron fist on how the city should be ran and for some members of Team Dai-Gurren are just head employees who answer phones.   They wonder what Lord Genome meant by his final words before he died of a new emanating threat and sure enough, that threat has materialized on the planet.  Meanwhile, something has happened to Nia.
  18. Episode 18 – Tell Me the Secrets of the World – A new evil has appeared on the planet and says that because Earth has reached 1,000,000 people and has used Spiral technology to further their growth, they will now be exterminated.  Simon goes to battle against one of the enemies and succeeds in defeating it but since the enemy is composed of energy, that energy becomes like bombs and when Simon defeated the enemy and it exploded, in essence many people have died, buildings and structures destroyed and people want blood…Simon’s blood.    Nia’s true purpose is revealed and Rossiu keeps a secret.
  19. Episode 19 – We Will Survive, By Any Means Necessary – The public is very upset against the government because of the destruction and deaths from the Gurren Lagann attack against the Anti-Spiral and Second-in-Command Rossiu knows the only way they will appease the public is with the arrest and the execution of Simon.  But with another attack on the city by an Anti-Spiral, Rossiu has to release Simon temporarily from custody to fight the enemy.
  20. Episode 20 – How Far Will God Test Us? –  Simon is put into the same prison with his cell next to Viral.  Meanwhile Kittan who is incensed that his sister is siding with Rossiu in the execution and imprisonment of Simon.
  21. Episode 21 – You Are Someone Who Ought To Survive – The story shifts to Yoko as a school teacher who is stern but caring for the kids.  When she finds out what is happening with Simon, she decides that she must return back to Kamina City immediately.
  22. Episode 22 – This is My Final Duty  – Rossiu must make the most difficult choice by trying to rescue as many people he can in a secret spaceship and escape the planet but knowing that many will have to perish from the moon crashing down on the planet.  But on planet, Simon and Viral team up with Gurren Lagann and Arc Gurren as both join forces to form Arc-Gurren-Lagann and stop the Human Extermination System that the Anti-Spirals have implemented.
  23. Episode 23 Let’s Go, This is the Final Battle – Team Dai Gurren prepares for the war against the anti-spirals.  Meanwhile, Rossiu who is amazed with how Simon is able to save everyone, decides that his life is not worth living.  Can Simon get to Rossiu in time?
  24. Episode 24 – I Will Never Forget This Minute, This Second – With the help of Lordgenome, while Rossiu takes command on the planet, Simon and Viral lead several members from Team Dai Gurren to transport right into the Anti-Spirals home world.  Simon had made a promise that he would save Nia and is determined to do so.  Meanwhile, the Team suffers a loss of a few team members.
  25. Episode 25 – I Accept Your Last Wish – Team Dai-Gurren is caught in the ocean of despair set by the Anti-Spirals.  Meanwhile, another major team member of Team Dai Gurren sacrifices his life to save his friends.
  26. Episode 26 – Let’s Go Buddy – Simon,Viral and Team Dai Gurren combine into Super Galaxy Gurren-Lagann in order rescue Nia.  Meanwhile, the Anti-Spiral uses their own memories against them.  But a familiar face from the past is there to help Simon, Kyoko and Team Dai Gurren.
  27. Episode 27 – The Lights In the Sky Are Stars – One of the Team Dai Gurren members decides to take a stand against the Anti-Spiral and sacrifices themself in order for Simon to gain the enemies drill.  Simon, Nia, Viral and Team Dai Gurren put everything they have on the line to become the galaxy sized Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann in the final battle against the enemy.

As for the films…

In 2008, GAINAX immediately went to work on two animated films that would capture both storyline arcs in “Gurren Lagann The Movie ~Childhood’s End” and “Gurren Lagann the Movie – The Lights in the Sky are Stars”.

“Gurren Lagann the Movie -Childhood’s End-” is a compilation of series of events that took place in the first 16 episodes of the popular 2007 animated TV series “Gurren Lagann”, while “Gurren Lagann the Movie – The Lights in the Sky Are Stars-” features the final eleven episodes from the TV series.

The series centers around two characters Simon and Kamina. Both live underground with a bunch of orphans and due to earthquakes, they developed a system of people using manual drilling holes in order to move around. But one day, the life of a young driller named Simon discovers a small mini drill underground. Simon is a shy young guy. Not too confident in himself and hates how his parents were killed during an earthquake. So, he works hard in order for everyone to live but also to collect whichever treasure he can find. While continuing his digging, he discovers a small drill and not long after, he discovers a huge robotic face.

As for Kamina, he’s the cool leader of a gang. He once saw the atmosphere with his father a long time ago and dreams of making it up to the surface but no one underground believes him. He comes up with a plan to get to the surface with the help of Simon’s drill. The plan backfires and Kamina is put into a jail. Meanwhile, a big monster robot-like figure comes out of the sky and lands in the group’s village underground. A girl sporting a bikini top and tight short shorts with a large rifle starts fighting with the monster robot. Her name is Yoko and all of a sudden both Kamina and Simon try to assist her.

As the monster grows vicious, Simon introduces Kamina and Yoko to what he found underground. It happens to be a small robot that Simon takes control of and eventually the three fight the robotic monster and end up defeating it. Also, end up making it above the surface where they discover sunlight, blue skies, mountains and more…monster robots. It is learned that these things are called “Gunmen” and are piloted by Beastmen who have a hatred towards humans. The three must survive and outwit and defeat the Gunmen and with Kamina’s leadership and willing to take anything head on with his machismo ego, he calls Simon’s robot Lagann. Kamina eventually commandeers a Gunmen robot and calls it Gurren. As a duo, the group find a way to combine their own two mechs and thus Kamina and Simon form Gurren Lagann, which is also the name of the team that will fight for humanity against the Spiral King and their minions.

Throughout the film, we see how both Kamina, Simon along with Yoko leave the underground city and take on various gunmen and together with savvy, intelligent and flamboyant mechanic Leeron, along with other humans they meet along the way, one by one, Team Gurren Lagann take on the Spiral King’s Four Divine Generals: Viral, Adiane, Guame and Cytomander. And along the way, they meet with a mysterious girl named Nia and leading up to the final battle against the Spiral King.


VIDEO:

“Gurren Lagann” the series finally gets its release on Blu-ray! The character designs by Atsushi Nishigori are fresh and very different. I truly dig the character designs and the whole anime is quite colorful and looks stylish and pretty cool.

With the series remastered in HD, the clarity of the series is much more evident, colors are much more vibrant and overall animation is much more sharper. “Gurren Lagann” looks fantastic in HD!

“Gurren Lagann the Movie -Childhood’s End-” and “Gurren Lagann the Movie -The Lights in the Sky Are Stars-” are presented in 1080p High Definition (1920 x 1080p).

The character designs by Atsushi Nishigori are fresh and very different when comparing it to other anime series/films. I truly dig the character designs and the whole anime is quite colorful and looks stylish and pretty cool. The artist backgrounds to the animation, explosions, character designs, mecha designs and the planning that went in to this series was quite amazing and it looks great in the film. You will noticed even more detailed artistic backgrounds and animation with the additional new footage added to the film.

Vibrant, colorful and awesome looking! Of course, with that being said, it would definitely be a plus if this film was released on Blu-ray, but since it’s on DVD, you will see edge enhancement at times. But for the most part, “Gurren Lagann” was one of the rare anime series that was unique in presentation and Gainax definitely put a lot of time and effort into the creation of this TV series and it’s so awesome to finally watch this series in HD on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Gurren Lagann” is presented in both English and Japanese Linear PCM Stereo.

I’ve watched both episodes in Japanese and English and as much as I enjoyed the Japanese voice track, when I watch an action-packed mecha, it’s great to finally listen to the audio in lossless Linear PCM Stereo. With that being said, I am very pleased with the English vocal dub. You have quality voice talent with Kyle Herbert as Kamina (does the voice of Son Goku in “Dragon Ball Z”), Michelle Ruff as Yoko (does the voice of Rukia for “Bleach”) and Yuri Lowenthal (does the voice for many video games and anime such as Sasuke Uchiha for “Naruto”) involved. So, whether you listen to the soundtrack in Japanese or English, both are well-done!

As for audio for “Gurren Lagann the Movie -Childhood’s End-” and “Gurren Lagann the Movie -The Lights in the Sky Are Stars- ”, both are presented Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Japanese Linear PCM Stereo.

Audio is well done as we can hear the dialogue and special effects and music quite clearly through the center and front channels but also hear the various sound effects coming from the surround channels as well.  Overall, a pretty awesome mix and audio is crystal clear in lossless HD.

While the English dub is featured in the TV series DVD release by Bandai Entertainment, there is no English dub featured for both films from Aniplex.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gurren Lagann Complete Blu-ray Disc Box” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless opening and ending – For those who love the cool music of opening theme “Sorairo Days” by Shoko Nakagawa and ending theme “Underground” by High Voltage.
  • OA Version of episode 6 –  With this episode being quite a bit sexual as Kamina and Simon try to get a peek at the women without their clothes on in the hot tubs, this version that aired on the Sci Fi Channel features more of a flashback episode and edited with less focus on the horniness of Kamina and Simon and more about them working together as a team.

EXTRAS:

“Gurren Lagann Complete Blu-ray Disc Box” comes with a slipcase featuring illustration by You Yoshinari (Mechanical Design).


I can’t help but think how awesome this series was to watch! From the stylish presentation, the wacky humor, the adult-like humor and perverseness and the imaginative mecha Gunmen robots and attack modes, the battles and the fun characters and the music, there is just too much to like about “Gurren Lagann”. I absolute found the series to be quite fantastic!

The character of Kamina is just so wild and crazy with how he is just so carefree and just doesn’t plan for battle, he just does what he believes in and what he thinks is right and decides at the spur of the moment. He has a way with his words, no matter how crazy it may sound but it makes his character so cool!

As for Simon, he is simply the underdog. He is a major component to the team because he pilots Lagann but at the same time, his fear and his emotions get the best of him.

Yoko, her character is sexy and cool. Sometimes you wonder if GAINAX or the character designer Atsushi Nishigori created such a sexy character for the purpose of being sexy or for the fact that many cosplayers will try to emulate the character and not wear much clothes. Nevertheless, her character is cool as her body features somehow provide the fan service and also gets Simon distracted.

And of course, you have a group of other characters that are starting to come their own and as we become supportive human characters, you take special notice of their mecha (Gunmen). They have a sort of character themselves because they are an extension of the people that pilot them but the amount of power demonstrated by them and what is unknown about the gunmen they pilot is just amazing.

And of course, this anime series is action-packed. In fact, there is a good balance of humor and action and each episode keeps your eyes glued to your television set and when it’s all done, it leaves you craving for more.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is vibrant and sharpness of the overall animation is much more evident in this HD version versus compared to the Bandai Visual releases from several years ago. Painted backgrounds feature much more detail and the overall animation looks magnificent in HD! Also, the lossless soundtrack is in Japanese/English Linear PCM Stereo, thus the soundtrack sounding much more crisp and clear.

“Gurren Lagann” can be described in one word and that is “Fantastic!”

As for the films, you’re essentially getting parts of the the series including new animation included on each of the two films to form an abridged storyline.

This is quite common in Japan to see a popular TV series and OVA series created into an animated film and the fans look at it as an extra and additional extension to the TV series, others look at it as a less time consuming way to learn about the story of a popular series in two hours versus watching 8 hours of a series.

When it comes to films like this, I’m not a big fan of them because you are losing out important details of the storyline. This first “Gurren Lagann” film is only 112 minutes and the first 16-episodes is 320 minutes of content while the second film features the final eleven episodes and trying to condense around 230 minutes or so of footage into 126 minutes. Naturally, you are missing out on other plots, especially character development driven storylines but the creators did do a good job in focusing on the essentials for the film. Personally, I recommend watching the entire TV series because this is one series that is too good to just watch the film and not knowing the true storyline of how things developed in the series.

But by no means are the films bad. They are well-done, well-edited and for the most part, a lot of thought went into how to present the complete series into two films. And while this is common in Japan for popular series, at least GAINAX went through the effort of adding new animation to the two films.

What I do like about these films and these two releases are how they are geared to the hardcore fans of the TV series. And one thing that I have wanted to see is a Blu-ray release because this series is so gorgeous, it deserved to be featured in HD on Blu-ray with a lossless soundtrack.

But if there is one major caveat if you compare the 2014 Blu-ray set vs. the Aniplex DVD set released in 2010, all of the special features and extras that came with the DVD set are not included. So, for collector’s purposes, it’s unfortunate that only the older 2010 DVD release came with the postcards and “Parallel Works” special features.

So, I approach this release in two different ways. As a fan of the series, I recommend watching and owning the original series because that is how this series was meant to be seen. I will say that on its own, it’s still a pretty good film but because they skip over many scenes, it’s quite noticeable to the fan of the series. Otherwise, if you have never seen the series, I’m sure this film would definitely be entertaining but at the same time, hopefully it inspires the viewer to go out and watch the complete series.

But the big question many people may want to ask if the set is worth owning.  And for those who own the previous Blu-ray releases, is there anything new with this set?

Well, if you own the previous Aniplex Blu-ray releases, then the answer is no.  This set is mainly for those who want to upgrade their DVD sets to HD or for hardcore fans who want to own everything “Gurrenn Lagann”.

But for those who owned the “Gurren Lagann TV Series Limited Edition” set from 2013, the special features such as the Yoko goes to GAINAX, the GAINAX Interview, Sangizen 3D Test Footage, Shokotan Interview are NOT included on this Blu-ray set.  Nor are the deluxe illustration booklets or the postcards, poster or stickers included with this set as well.

And if you own the older 2009 Limited Edition DVD releases that came with a manga and the TV series CD soundtrack, this Blu-ray set does not come with either.

But to be fair, you get better picture and audio quality, you get both films included on this set.  So, for those who want the better picture and audio quality will surely want to own the Blu-ray releases.  But for hardcore fans, if you own the previously released limited edition DVD sets, I would hold on to them for the special features and extra swag.

Overall, “Gurren Lagann” can be described in one word and that is “Fantastic!” and it’s great that fans can enjoy the complete TV series and both animated films with this 10th Anniversary collection.  The set may not have the Aniplex swag or the special features of its previous Blu-ray or DVD sets but for those wanting to upgrade their sets to HD or those curious about “Gurren Lagann”, then the “Gurren Lagann Complete Blu-ray Disc Box” is recommended!

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The Blacklist: The Complete Fourth Season (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

For those who thought that “The Blacklist” was losing steam for season three, I felt the fourth season, writers really needed to bring back fans who were thinking the story was not as exciting anymore. And I feel the fourth season taking the characters to their lowest of lows and having to deal with major life-changing situations. The build-up to the final episode was not what I was expecting and that’s great. Now I can’t wait until the fifth season and I’m hooked on watching the series again. “The Blacklist: The Complete Fourth Season” is recommended!

© 2016, 2017 Sony Pictures Television Inc. and Open 4 Business Productions LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Blacklist: The Complete Fourth Season

FILM RELEASE: 2016-2017

DURATION: 22 Episodes (946 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: August 15, 2017


Directed by Michael W. Watkins, Andrew McCarthy, Donald E. Thorin Jr., Bill Roe, Terrence O’Hara

Written by Jon Bokenkamp, Jim Capolongo, Brandon Margolis, Brandon Sonnier, Lukas Reiter, Brian Studler, J.R. Orci, john Eisendrath, Daniel Knauf, Daniel Cerone

Produced by Timothy Silver, Douglas Rowell, Tony Salama, Trever Stewart

Co-Producer: Alex Cuthbertson, Matt Fusfeld, Timothy Silver

Executive Producer: Tristram Shapeero, Jaes Fino, Joe Russo

Co-Executive Producer: Erik Sommers

Associate Producer: Andres Anglade

Consulting Producer: Adam Countee

Music by Ludwig Goransson

Cinematography by Gary Hatfield

Edited by Christian Kinnard, Luke Guidici

Casting by Josh Einsohn

Production Design by Denise Pizzini

Set Decoration by Denise Pizzini

Art Diretion by John B. Vertrees

Costume Design by Sabrina Rosen


Starring:

James Spader as Raymond “Red” Reddington

Megan Boone as Elizabeth Keen

Diego Klattenhoff as Donald Ressler

Ryan Eggold as Tom Keen

Harry Lennix as Harold Cooper

Hisham Tawfiq as Dembe

Amir Arison as Aram Mjtabai

Ryan Eggold as Tom Keen

Rachel Brosnahan as Jolene

Mozhan Marno as Samar Navabi

Susan Blommaert as Mr. Kaplan

Baz as Baz

Adriane Lenox as Reven Wright


Liz works to resolve the mystery of her lost childhood, but every day without the truth holds more danger for her and her family. Meanwhile, the Task Force reels from Liz’s resurrection and friendships are fractured. Betrayed by those closest to him, Reddington’s specific moral code demands justice, all the while battling an army of new and unexpected blacklisters.


Liz, Tom and their children have been captured by Alexander Kirk.  Kirk tries to get Liz to believe that he is her father and wants revenge against Reddington. Reddington and Mr. Kaplan try to rescue Liz and her child.  Meanwhile, Liz’ co-workers are shocked to find out that Liz is alive and the reason why she pretended to be dead was to get away from Red.

Meanwhile, someone is trying to take down Red and the origin of Mr. Kaplan is revealed.

All this and more for season four of “The Blacklist”!

What is “The Blacklist” about?

In 2013, the series “The Blacklist” starring James Spader (“Boston Legal”, “Stargate”, “Lincoln”), Megan Boone (“My Bloody Valentine”, “Step Up Revolution”), Ryan Eggold (“90210”, “Queen”, “Trophy Kids”), Parminder Nagra (“Bend It Like Beckham”, “ER”) and Harry Lennix (“Man of Steel”, “Ray”, “The Matrix Revolutions”) became a breakout hit for NBC.

“The Blacklist” revolves around former government agent and one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives, Raymond “Red” Reddington (portrayed by James Spader) surrendering at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Because of the terrorist threats against America, Reddington offers to help the FBI under one condition, he will only work with one person in the FBI, rookie FBI profiler, Elizabeth Keen (portrayed by Megan Boone).

For Megan, she looks at her new job as a great paying job that she and her husband Tom (portrayed by Ryan Eggold) can finally start having a family.  But in the first case to capture the terrorist, her husband was captured, tortured and nearly was killed.

And as she continues to work with Reddington, it is unclear why he chose her and why he knows so much about her.  But he appears to also know something about Tom and that he may not be the man that she thinks he is…or is this part of Reddington’s way of getting closer to her?

And after the first case of capturing the first terrorist, Reddington reveals that there are more criminals with the intent to do great harm and he can help the FBI neutralize them, as he has created a “blacklist” of criminals/terrorists worldwide.  Especially those that the FBI are not aware of.

Thus forcing FBI Special Agent Elizabeth Keen to work closely with Reddington.  But what is he hiding?

Since that first season, Reddington is now a confidential informant for the FBI, Liz’ husband Tom is revealed to be a covert operative and it was revealed that Reddington may be Liz’s father.

But now a man named Alexander Kirk has come and captured Liz, her husband and her baby, Agnes.  Alexander wants revenge against Red for taking his wife (Liz’ mom) and his child (Liz) away from him.

The main characters of “Blacklist” are:

  • Raymond “Red” Reddington – A former government agent and FBI fugitive who aids the FBI in capturing criminals/terrorists worldwide.  While a master criminal, he is now a confidential informant for the FBI and may be  FBI Special Agent Elizabeth Keen’s father.
  • FBI Special Agent Elizabeth Keen – An FBI special agent who had a tragic childhood.  Married to Tom Keen and recently gave birth to a baby girl named Agnes.
  • FBI Agent Donald Ressler – An FBI special agent and Acting Director of the FBI Counterterrorism Division.
  • Tom Keen – A covert operative married to Elizabeth Keen.
  • Aram Jobtabai – An FBI computer specialist.
  • Agent Samar Navabi – A Mossad agent working with Cooper’s FBI team.
  • Assistant Director of the FBI Counterterrorism Division, Harold Cooper – Always watching over his agents’ backs but trying to figure out why Reddington is so interested in Elizabeth Keen.
  • Dembe Zuma – Reddington’s bodyguard.
  • Mr. Kaplan – A former associate of Red with a mysterious past.

VIDEO:

“The Blacklist” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). For the most part, television shows on Blu-ray can often exhibit noise and artifacts but this latest Blu-ray release for “The Blacklist” looks very good.  Close-up details are good, black levels are nice and deep and picture quality is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Blacklist” is presented in English and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and features crystal clear dialogue and music.. While surround channels capture environment ambiance and action sequence.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Blacklist” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring three episode audio commentaries such as “The Thrushes” commentary with Zee Hatley and Emily E. Greene and “Requiem” commentary with Jon Bokenkamp and Daniel Cerone.
  • Deleted Scenes – With most episodes, under episode selection, you can access deleted scene(s) for each episode.
  • A Darker Shade of Red – (7:50) A featurette about Red seeing his empire coming apart.  Interviews with cast and crew.
  • Mr. Kaplan: End of an Era – (10:24) A featurette of why the mysterious Mr. Kaplan is popular among viewers.
  • Gag Reel – (3:42) “The Blacklist” Season 4 gag reel.


EXTRAS:

“The Blacklist: The Complete Fourth Season” comes with the Blu-ray and an UltraViolet HD code.


In the last three seasons, there are a few things that have remained constant.  Liz has been looking for answers of why she was separated from her family when she was younger.  And who is her true father?  While, Red is the cunning criminal turned confidential informant of the FBI still doing things his own way.

Also, Liz’s husband’s past has always been mysterious and Aram, always looking for a woman.

But this fourth season, writers toyed with a storyline with the first half focusing on Liz and her husband Tom, along with their baby Agness being captured by Alexander Kirk who claims to be Liz’ real father and a man bent on revenge against Red, for taking his wife and daughter.

Liz’ co-workers are shocked because they buried her, thinking that she’s dead and now, she has become a fugitive and the FBI are now pursuing her and her family.

Meanwhile, Red receives help from Mr. Kaplan, a person he could care less for, as she screwed him over.

The second arc revolves around Liz and Tom trying to get their baby back, as Alexander Kirk still has the baby.  Meanwhile, her co-workers in the FBI work on various cases and are concerned that someone is leaking information to Kirk from the inside.

And as for Red, to show his appreciation to Mr. Kaplan, he shoots her and leaves her out for dead.  But she is discovered by a mountain man who nurses her back to health but he is overly creepy and chains her to his cabin.

And the third arc revolves around someone inside Red’s empire trying to take the empire down.  Also, going as far to poison him.

But the most significant character in this fourth season happens to be Mr. Kaplan and we learn of her connection to Red and Liz’ mother but also setting things motion for the shocking last episode and also for season five.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good, lossless audio also very good.  You get three audio commentaries, several deleted scenes and featurettes for season four.

Overall, for those who thought that “The Blacklist” was losing steam for season three, I felt the fourth season, writers really needed to bring back fans who were thinking the story was not as exciting anymore.  And I feel the fourth season taking the characters to their lowest of lows and having to deal with major life-changing situations.  The build-up to the final episode was not what I was expecting and that’s great.  Now I can’t wait until the fifth season and I’m hooked on watching the series again.

“The Blacklist: The Complete Fourth Season” is recommended!

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

August 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Exception” may not be historically factual, there are elements in the film that help keep you captivated.  With a wonderful performance by Christopher Plummer and a fascinating blend of espionage and romance, Vaid Leveaux’s “The Exception” is a film worth watching.

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


TITLE: The Exception

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 107 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:39:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: Spanish, English SDH

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: August 8, 2017


Based on the Novel “The Kaiser’s Last Kiss” by Alan Judd

Directed by David Leveaux

Screenplay by Simon Burke

Produced by Eugenio Derbez, Ben Odell

Executive Producer: Mike Upton

Associate Producer: Erica Oyama

Cinematography by John Bailey

Edited by John Daigle

Casting by Deborah Aquila, Tricia Wood, Lisa Zagoria

Production Design by Marcia Hinds

Art Direction by Alex Gaines, Thomas P. Wilkins

Set Decoration by Cindy Coburn

Costume Design by Molly Grundman


Starring:

Jai Courtney as Capt. Stefan Brandt

Lily James as Mieke de Jong

Christopher Plummer as Kaiser Wilhelm II

Anton Lesser as General Falkenberg

Janet McTeer as Princess Hermine

Ben Daniels as Col. Sigurd von Ilsemann

Martin Swabey as Mueller

Mark Dexter as Dietrich

Eddie Marsan as Heinrich Himmler


Starring Oscar®-winner Christopher Plummer, THE EXCEPTION is a suspenseful World War II thriller filled with espionage and romance in equal measure.


In 2003, Alan Judd wrote the novel “The Kaiser’s Last Kiss”, a fictional account of the last few days in the life of exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II (the last German Emperor and King of Prussia who ruled the German Empire and the Kingdom of Pruss from 1888-1918).

The film adaptation of the book was released in 2016  and is directed by David Leveaux and a screenplay by Simon Burke (“Persuasion”, “NY-LON”, “The Guilty”).

The film stars Jai Courtney (“Divergent”, “Insurgent”, “Terminator Genisys”), Lily James (“Cinderella”, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, “Wrath of the Titans”), Christopher Plummer (“A Beautiful Mind”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Sound of Music”), Anton Lesser (“Pirates of the Caribbean”, “The Girl in the Cafe”, “Game of Thrones”), Janet McTeer (“Tideland”, “Me Before You”, “Tumbleweeds”) and Eddie Marsan (“Sherlock Holmes”, “V For Vendetta”, “The Illusionist”).

The film is set during World War II and German soldier Stefan Brandt (portrayed by Jai Courtney) is sent to the Netherlands to become the head personal bodyguard of exiled German Emperor Wilhelm II (portrayed by Christopher Plummer).

The Kaiser lives in a castle and following the German invasion of Netherlands, German authorities are concerned that there are Dutch spies who are watching over the Kaiser.

As Brandt infiltrates the life of the Kaiser in order to find out if the claims of Dutch spies are true, he finds himself allured to the Kaiser’s maid, Mieke (portrayed by Lily James), who is secretly Jewish.  Mieke is also an information who reports to the pastor in town and gives details of what is happening inside the Kaiser’s home.  But Brandt and Mieke carry on a passionate rendezvous secretly.

Meanwhile Heinrich Himmler (portrayed by Eddie Marsand), who is head of the SS, pays a visit with many soldiers and Brandt must decide which is his priority, his allegiance to the Nazi party or his love for Mieke.  Will he protect her?


VIDEO:

“The Exception” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). While the shots are primarily shot indoors, picture quality is good, scenes are well-lit and close-up details are very good.  There are no signs of artifact or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Exception” is presented in English and Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and features crystal clear dialogue. While surround channels capture environment ambiance, this film’s soundtrack is primarily dialogue and music-driven.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Exception” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director David Leveaux.
  • “Behind the Scenes of The Exception” – (19:20)  A look at the making of “The Exception” featuring interviews with cast and crew.


EXTRAS:

“The Exception” comes with the Blu-ray and an UltraViolet HD code.


One of the problems when watching films based on historical figures is whether or not the information is factual.

Many people are not familiar with German Monarch Kaiser Wilhelm II and there are some that may come to watch “The Exception” and think this is factual history, but in truth, this is a film adaptation based on a fictional novel by Alan Judd.

But while timelines are different from fact and there are changes to certain figures, “The Exception” is still an entertaining film blending espionage and romance and a look at division of German allegiance.

For the most part, the film revolves around a German soldier sent to be head personal guard for German Monarch Kaiser Wilhelm II.  And with his time there, he falls for the servant named Mieke.  Mieke is secretly a Jew and also an informant providing information to the local priest of what is going on inside the Kaiser’s home but also a woman wanting revenge against the Nazi’s due to the Gestapo killing her husband and father.

So, we have a tale of romance but seeing Mieke trying to do her job but also providing information, she wants to assassinate Nazi leadership if given the chance.

And while the story primarily focuses on German Officer Stefan Brandt and the servant Mieke, the film also focuses a lot on the character of German Monarch Kaiser Wilhelm II.

With Germany under the rule of the German Empire led by German Monarch Kaiser Wilhelm II for many years and many of the people who grew up reading about their former leader’s accomplishment, especially with the Navy, it would be no surprise if there were people still loyal to him.  Despite being called by King George V, “the greatest criminal in history”.

But with mutiny within German ranks and chaos that would lead him to cross the border by train into Netherlands and going into Exile, Wilhelm hoped that the success of the Nazi Party would stimulate interest in the restoration of the monarchy.  But in truth, Adolf Hitler and other leading Nazis never looked at German Monarch Kaiser Wilhelm II in a positive light, especially since he was responsible for Germany’s greatest defeat, so no matter how many times his second wife, Hermine, tried to petition the Nazi government on her husband’s behalf, he grew to distrust Hitler.

In “The Exception”, the film tries to show us a Kaiser that is excited that his return back home to Germany may lead him to be monarch once again.  While he hosted Hermann Goriing (a leading member of the Nazi Party) at Doorn, the film showed Wilhelm hosting Heinrich Himmler (the leading member of the Nazi Party directly responsible for the Holocaust), more for the purpose to show how Himmler was a man of no remorse and to show how evil the man was, when he casually discusses the murders of Jews.

But as the Kaiser and his wife think they are returning home, Himmler informs Brandt that it’s all a ruse and a trap for the Kaiser in order to eliminate any up-rise of other German leadership.

Brandt must face up to his own convictions and his allegiance as a German soldier.  Which is more important…his personal convictions and how he feels about people (especially knowing the woman he has fallen for is a Jew) or his duty as a soldier for the Nazi Party?

And how long can this servant to continue without people picking up that she is an agent?

Overall, “The Exception” may not be historically factual, there are elements in the film that help keep you captivated.  With a wonderful performance by Christopher Plummer and a fascinating blend of espionage and romance, Vaid Leveaux’s “The Exception” is a film worth watching.

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