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Confession of Murder (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Confession of Murder” is a fantastic action thriller from Korea and a film that is one hell of a wild roller coaster ride with many twist and turns that will keep you captivated from beginning to end.  For a debut feature film for Byeong-gil Jeong, “Confession of Murder” is an awesome film that I recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Dasepo Club and Showbox/Mediaplex. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Confession of Murder

FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 120Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 Widescreen, Korean 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Korean Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: April 15, 2014

Written and Directed by Byeong-gil Jeong

Produced by Won-suk Jang

Executive Producer: Jeong-hun You

Music by Kim Woo-Geun

Cinematography by Gi-tae Kim

Edited by Na-young Nam

Production Design by Hong-sam Yang

Costume Design by Kyung-hwa Chae

Starring:

Jae-yeong Jeong as Detective Choi

Eun-ji Jo as Gang-Sook

Yeong-ae Kim as Han Ji-Soo

Shi-hoo Park as Lee Du-Sok

Ji-a Min as Kang Soo-Yeon

Gwang Jang as Bureau Chief

Wong-Young Choi as Jung Tae-suk

In Korea, murder has a statute of limitations and the time is up on a series of brutal slayings that left Lt. Choi (Jae-yeong Jeong) a broken and obsessed man, with a scarred face from their one encounter. Now, a handsome and beguiling young man has come forward, taking credit for the crimes. As the confessed-killer woos media and wins fans, Choi s rage spins out of control. Is he the killer? Can justice ever be served? And who is the mysterious J, who claims the author may not be the killer after all?

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From Byeong-gil Jeong, the director of the documentary “Action Boys” comes a live-action thriller titled “Confession of Murder”.

Starring Jae-yeong Jeong (“Battle Ground 625″, “Silmido”) and Shi-hoo Park (“Iljimae”, “Family’s Honor”, “Cheongdam-dong Alice”), the film was released in the US on Blu-ray and DVD in April 2014 courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Confession of Murder” begins with Detective Choi (portrayed by Jae-yeong Jeong) going after a serial killer who has murdered women from 1986-1990.  While Choi nearly catches him and shoots the criminal in the shoulder, the criminal escapes by stabbing the detective.  But instead of killing him, he slashes his mouth, leaving a scar.

Fast forward 15 years later and it is 2005.  Detective Choi has become an alcoholic still suffering from failing to capture the killer.  Because it has been 15-years since the murders of 10 individuals and one body that has yet to be found, with the 15-year statute of limitations, the serial killer can not be charged of his crimes.

On the day of the 15-year statute of limitations, Hyun-sik Jung (portrayed by Ryoo Je-seung) commits suicide by jumping off a building while Choi tried to stop him.

Flashforward to 2007 and out of nowhere, a man named Doo-seok Lee (portrayed by Shi-hoo Park) emerges with a brand new book titled “I am the Murderer” confessing to the murders of the ten individuals.  In fact, his book features detailed information of the murders including the bullet on his shoulder that Detective Choi shot him many years ago.

Because of Doo-seok Lee’s charismatic looks, he begins to have many female admirers and despite the murders he has committed, he has become a celebrity that many are willing to forgo his crimes.  And as Doo-seok Lee wants to beg forgiveness from the families of the victims, these families are plotting to kill Doo-seok Lee.

But what happens when Detective Choi must protect the man that he had tried to capture many years ago.  Meanwhile, out of nowhere, Detective Choi receives another call, a man called “J” who claims he is responsible for the murders.

Who is the real killer?  And will Detective Choi and the families get justice despite the 15-year statute of limitations?

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VIDEO:

“Confession of Murder” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  Shot digitally, the film looks fantastic with great clarity and detail.  Colors are typically more towards earthy colors and a switch to cooler colors but I didn’t notice any banding, artifacts or any significant picture quality issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Confession of Murder” is presented in Korean DTS Master Audio 5.1 and stereo.  As one can expect from a film full of action, there is great use of the surround channels.  Dialogue is crystal clear and for the most part, this is a very active lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Confession of Murder” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind-the-Scenes – (4:59) A very short behind-the-scenes featurette with interviews with the cast.
  • Trailer - Theatrical trailer for “Confession of Murder”.

EXTRAS:

“Confessions of Murder” comes with a slipcover.

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An exhilarating thriller from beginning to end, Byeong-gil Jeong’s “Confession of a Murder” has so many twists and turns, it’s one hell of a wild ride and so worth it!

“Confession of a Murder” may start out like a banal storyline of a detective’s missed opportunity of catching a serial killer but then the opportunity arises once again, but due to the 15-year statute of limitation, the serial killer can return.

And sure enough, the killer comes out of the woodwork, writes a multi-million selling novel about his crimes and because he’s charismatic and fashionable, he becomes a celebrity despite the horror of his crimes.

And while the film does have an over-the-top kidnap attempt by the victim’s families who want nothing but revenge against the killer, it’s what happens afterward that turns the film from being over-the-top to a wild thriller with its twists and turns, but what fuels the persistence of Detective Choi and others of wanting to send the killer behind bars.

The storyline was no doubt well-paced to the very end and the performances by Jae-yeong Jeong, Shi-hoo Park and others were wonderful, but it’s what this film consists of, may it be emotional drama, hardcore action, “Confession of Murder” delivers!

And possibly what is most surprising is that this is the first feature film for writer/director Byeong-gil Jeong.  His previous film “Action Boys” was a documentary but given the opportunity, there is no doubt that there is potential with this writer/director for even bigger things and I look forward to seeing more films directed by him.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is very good and the lossless soundtrack is immersive during the more action-intense sequences.  While special features has your usual short behind-the-scenes featurette and trailer.

Overall, “Confession of Murder” is a fantastic action thriller from Korea and a film that is one hell of a wild roller coaster ride with many twist and turns that will keep you captivated from beginning to end.  For a debut feature film for Byeong-gil Jeong, “Confession of Murder” is an awesome film that I recommend!

 

Master of the House – The Criterion Collection #706 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Master of the House” is an entertaining and magnificently performed silent masterpiece from Carl Theodor Dreyer. It may not be a grandiose film, nor it may be his deepest film that he has ever made, but it is a silent classic that balances comedy and drama with a storyline that is relevant today. “Master of the House – The Criterion Collection #706″ is highly recommended!

Image are courtesy of © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Master of the House – The Criterion Collection #706

YEAR OF FILM: 1925

DURATION: 107 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, LPCM 2.0, Black and White, Silent film

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: April 22, 2014

Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer

Written by Carl Theodor Dreyer

Screenplay by Svend Rindom

Based on the play “Tyrannens fald” by Svend Rindom

Co-Producer: Fabio Conversi, Jerome Seydoux

Music by Gillian B. Anderson, performed by pianist Sara Davis Buchner

Cinematography by George Schneevoigt

Edited by Carl Theodor Dreyer

Art Direction by Carl Theodor Dreyer

Set Decoration by Carl Theodor Dreyer

Starring:

Johannes Meyer as Viktor Frandsen

Astrid Holm as Ida Frandsen

Karin Nellemose as Karen Frandsen

Clara Schonfeld as Kryger

Aage Hoffman as Dreng

Byril Harvig as Barnet

Before he turned to the story of Joan of Arc, the Danish cinema genius Carl Theodor Dreyer fashioned this ahead-of-its-time examination of domestic life. A deft comedy of gentle revenge, it is the story of a housewife who, with the help of a wily nanny, turns the tables on her tyrannical husband. In it, Dreyer combines lightness and humor with his customary meticulous craft and sense of integrity. Master of the House, an enormous box-office success in its day, is a jewel of the silent cinema.

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Before filmmaker Carl Th. Dreyer would create cinematic masterpiece such as “The Passion of Joan of Arc”, “Vampyr”,  “Day of Wrath”, “Ordet”, “Gertrude”.  He would create the 1925 Danish silent drama “Du skal ære din hustru” (Master of the House).

A classic in Dutch cinema, “Master of the House” will be released on Blu-ray + DVD combo courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“Master of the House” focuses on the Frandsen family.

Ida Frandsen (portrayed by Astrid Holm) is the family matriarch, trying to take care of her children, her eldest daughter Karen (portrayed by Karin Nellemose), and her two young sons.

But life is not too easy for Ida as her husband Viktor (portrayed by Johannes Meyer) is very demanding.  He wants things done his way, wants his breakfast made a certain way and his demeanor is cold and mean when dealing with Ida and the children.

But when Viktor’s old wetnurse, Mads (portrayed by Mathilde Nielsen) comes by, she sees how badly Victor has become and she is worried about how Viktor treats them.

And as Mads tries to speak out against Viktor, she slaps him and he ends up giving her a bloody nose.

Fearing for Ida’s health, Mads contacts Ida’s mother, Alvilda (portrayed by Clara Schonfeld) and both come up with a plan to take Ida out of the house and for Viktor to realize how much he needs and love his wife, and how fortunate he is to have a loving wife.

Upset that Mads and Alvilda are in the house, he gives his wife an ultimatum, if they are not gone by the time he gets back, their marriage is over.

Seeing how badly Ida’s health is, Alvilda takes her daughter out of the home and takes her to an area where Viktor can not find her.

But what happens when Viktor returns back home to find out that his wife is now gone?  Will he learn a big lesson what life would be without his wife not being there?

VIDEO:

“Master of the House” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) in black and white.  Having owned the 2006 BFI DVD version of the film, “Master of the House” looks great on Blu-ray.  There is much more clarity when it comes to the picture quality, while close-ups feature very good detail considering the film’s age.  Granted, it’s not amazing detail but the fact that this film is 90-years-old, the fact that the film looks this good without major tears, scratches, white specks or dirt, nitrate warping or any destruction to the original negative, picture quality is very good!

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new restoration, undertaken by Palladium, a digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Spirit 2 DataCine from a duplicate negative and other source materials at Digital Film Lab in Copenhangen.The film was also restored at Digital Film Lab, where 3,2000 hours were spent removing dust, blotches and scratches using the DaVinci Revival and Phoenix restoration systems.  Fifty hours were dedicated to image stabilization, where a Flame workstation was used to remove jumps caused by splices.  The film’s original flicker, the result of varying image exposure from the hand-cranked film camera, has been preserved.

AUDIO/INTERTITLES:

“Master of the House” is presented in LPCM 2.0.  The musical soundtrack is crystal clear and was a magnificent choice for this film.

As for the soundtrack, according to the Criterion Collection, “in 2000, composer Gillian B. Anderson, with the help of Jim Luke, reconstructed the score from the film’s premiere based on those original cues, substituting only one piece.  The score was performed on piano by Sara Davis Buechner and recorded at CBS Vancouver in 2004; it was remastered for this release at 24-bit from the 17.5 mm magnetic track using Pro Tools HD”.

Intertitles are in the original Danish version with a new set of English intertitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Master of the House – The Criterion Collection #706” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Casper Tybjerg – (15:27) Danish film historian Casper Tybjerg discusses how “Master of the House” went from being a popular play to a film and how it became a major stepping stone for Carl Th. Dreyer.
  • Visual Essay by David Bordwell – (22:45) The cinematic innovations of Carl Th. Dreyer utilized in “Master of the House”.

EXTRAS:

“Master of the House – The Criterion Collection #706″ comes with a 24-page booklet featuring the essay “In the Corner” by Mark Le Fanu.

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I know it may be hard for some to consider “Master of the House” was one of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s masterpiece.

The storyline is not as serious, nor is it as deep when compared to his other greater titles such as “The Passion of Joan of Arc” or “Ordet”, but “Master of the House” takes a normal-day situation that people at the time and people of today can sympathize and that is a woman, a wife and mother being a hero for all the work contributed at the home.

This is very fascinating because a lot of early silent film and even talkies would focus on the patriarch and if anything, the man is the master of the house.

But for this 1925 film, Carl Th. Dreyer takes Svend Rindom’s play “Tyrannes fald” and makes the viewer feel that the situation of these characters are realistic and plausible.

Johannes Meyer plays the tyrant patriarch, the cold husband and father Viktor to the saintly Ida portrayed by Astrid Holm.

We watch as the caring wife does all she can for her family, taking care of her children but wanting to keep her husband happy.  She cooks, she cleans, she prepares his food but nothing is ever good for him, he has something to complain about and he acts the least bit grateful.

And as both Meyer and Holm give us a fantastic performance as husband wife, it’s Mathilde Nielsen as Viktor’s wetnurse, Mads, who manages to steal the film with her cold stare and her tough as nails attitude as the person who would have to punish a younger Viktor (whenever he got into trouble), now standing defiant as she watches him behave coldly to his wife and family.  Knowing that she must step in before Viktor pushes his wife to the extreme and he possibly losing her for good.

But can this older woman change Viktor for good?

Watching this film, you have to appreciate what Dreyer was able to accomplish.  For one, no grandiose expensive sets.  Just a living room for the majority of the film where the family interacts and if anything, Dreyer wanted the set to feel like an actual living room of an apartment for a middle-class family who are trying to survive during tough times.

Dreyer utilized four walls for the set, but which one wall could be taken down to accommodate a camera, a cinematic technique now employed today for a lot of TV series.  But what is most interesting is the fact that Dreyer wanted a real gas stove and anything he can to keep this film to seem authentic as it was shot indoors at a normal home.

Each shot is carefully planned, every performance on mark and pacing for the film flows smoothly from beginning to end.

As for the Blu-ray release, when compared to the 2006 BFI DVD release, the first thing you will see is much better clarity.  Details from closeups of a person’s face, details on clothing or the environment of the Frand’s home.  Also, the restoration work done for this film shows the painstaking commitment to remove any blemish that this film may have had as the film looks amazing on Blu-ray considering the film’s age.  This Blu-ray release looks so much better than the BFI DVD release and for those who owned it previously, will definitely want to upgrade.

The music is by pianist Sara Davis Buechner sounds crystal clear via LPCM 2.0 and you get two special features that explores the cinematic innovation utilized for the film.

Overall, “Master of the House” is an entertaining and magnificently performed silent masterpiece from Carl Theodor Dreyer.  It may not be a grandiose film, nor it may be his deepest film that he has ever made, but it is a silent classic that balances comedy and drama with a storyline that is relevant today.

“Master of the House – The Criterion Collection #706″ is highly recommended!

 

Angry Birds Toons – Season One – Volume Two (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you love the “Angry Birds” video games, you will enjoy this latest animated collection featuring over two dozen, short “Angry Birds Toons” animated episodes. 

Images courtesy of © 2014 Rovio Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Angry Birds Toons – Season One, Volume Two

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Closed Captions

COMPANY: Rovio/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: April 11, 2014

Directed by ric Guaglione, Kim Helminen, Christopher Sadler, Kari Juusonen, Thomas Lepeska, Avgousta Zoureidi, Mauro Casalese, Carl Upsdell, Lauri Konttori, Janne Roivainen, Meruan Salim

Written by Pavel Andonov, Marie Beardmore, Ashley Boddy, Ian Carney, Valerie Chappellet, Glenn Dakin, Eric Guaglione, Miikka Haleyi, Richard Hansom, Anastasia Heinzl, Stuart Kenworthy, Lauri Konttori, Niklas Lindgren, Richard PReddy,, Mikko Polla, Janne Roivainen, JP Saari, Christopher Sadler, Les Spink, Samuli Valkama, David Vinicombe

Produced by Soren Fleng

Executive Producer: Nick Dorra, Mikael Hed, Mikko Polla

Music by Ari Pulkkinen, David Schweitzer, Michael A. Reagan, Alexander Roder, Benny Oschmann, Salla Hakkola, Douglas Black HEaton

Edited by Rikke Malene Nielsen, Andrew Ward, Suvi Ryhanen, Uwe Rafael Braun, Paolo Kalalo, Holly Pavlik, Duncan Rochfort

Production Design by Cesar Chevalier, Jean-Michel Rochfort

Starring:

Antti Paakkonen as Corporal Pig/Minion Pigs

Antti Paakkonen as Red

Heilja Heikkinen as Blues

Lynne Guaglione as Bues

Pasi Ruohonen as Bomb

Matti Laitinen as Chef Pig

Rauno Ahonen as Moustache Pig

Douglas Black Heaton as Bomblebee

Welcome back to Piggy Island, where the Angry Birds’ survival is at stake! Join Red, Chuck, Matilda, Bomb, the Blues and Terence as they continue to hatch up schemes to foil the sneaky Bad Piggies who plot to steal their eggs. Based on one of the most popular games in history, ANGRY BIRDS TOONS: SEASON ONE – VOLUME TWO brings back fan-favorite characters for 26 more fun-filled adventures. Will our heroes defeat the mischievous Piggies once and for all? Toon in and find out!

Every decade has had its fair share of video games that would go on to become a merchandising powerhouse.

For Finnish computer game developer, Rovio Entertainment, “Angry Birds” has become a blockbuster franchise since its release back in 2009 on the Apple iOS.

With several video games released on various platforms and due to the success of the video game series, “Angry Birds Toons” would continue the popularity of the game through an animated series that would appear on Comcast’s Xfinity On-Demand and Samsung Smart TV’s and Roku set-top boxes.

With each episode nearly three minutes long, a brand new Blu-ray collection titled “Angry Birds Toons – Season One – Volume Two” continues the fun of the second half of season one with 26-mini episodes plus an Easter Holiday special and 4 behind-the-scenes featurettes.

VIDEO:

“Angry Birds Toons – Season One – Volume Two” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  Because the game has always been colorful, the cool aspect of the animated series is that it remains consistent with the video game in terms of environment design and character design.

While not an animated series that is super-detailed, it still contains the characteristics of each Angry Birds protagonists and antagonists.  And the series is quite vibrant on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Angry Birds Toons – Season One – Volume Two” is presented in stereo.  Because there is no spoken dialogue, just the bird and pig noises, there is a musical score and your occasional sound effects.  But for the most part, it’s not an active soundtrack but it fits the style of the series, which compliments the video game series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Angry Birds Toons – Season One – Volume Two” comes with the following special features:

  • Easter Egg Hunt – A very short,  under a minute “Angry Birds” animation.
  • Meet the Characters – Get to know Bomb Bird, Terence, Chef Pig and Corporal Pig.
  • Behind the Scenes – A four part behind-the-scenes making of “Angry Birds Toons” from character design; producing, directing and coordinating; compositing; tools and color grading and sound design, voice acting and music.

As my 11-year-old watches “Angry Birds Toons” and enjoys each episode because he is part of the generation that played the game like crazy on the iPad, having played the game many times myself, I find myself reminiscing the old Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner animated series that I grew up watching.

From the various ways Wile E. Coyote tried to trump the Road Runner with various schemes to trap or hurt it, he was always unsuccessful.  And the same can be said of “Angry Birds Toons”, where the pigs are always unsuccessful when it comes to the Angry Birds.

While the majority of the series features the pigs trying to outwit the birds and steal their eggs or do something to cause trouble, these birds are always on top of everything.

You will find episodes that deal with Corporal Pig or Chef Pig, but the result is the same and what changes are the antics and schemes of the pigs.  From one episode of the Minion pigs trying to disguise themselves as cabbages, so they don’t get caught, to a pig leader saddened that he lost his blue bird which he considered as a pet, or a group of pigs trying to thwary the bigger red bird.  These are all fun, short videos.

While my son enjoyed the 26-episodes for the second half of season one,  enough to watch it twice.  I realized as we grew up with “Looney Tunes” and the “Tom and Jerry” animated series, for today’s children who have no access to those old series, are now growing up with Angry Birds and whatever is popular on their parents tablet or smart phone. And for my son, aside from “Minecraft” and “Plants vs. Zombies”, “Angry Birds” is a series that both he and my wife are familiar with and together, they enjoyed the series, as did I.

It’s a simple series that parents should not be too worried about watching with their children.  If you are familiar with the video games, then you know the animated series is not too dangerous and also there is no spoken dialogue, so there is nothing to worry about with that either.  Also, these episodes are quite short at less than three minutes, so it’s easily an accessible series on Blu-ray.

While I wished the episodes were longer, I have no doubt in my mind that families and children will enjoy “Angry Birds Toons – Season One – Volume Two”.  While the Blu-ray is vibrant and the 2.0 soundtrack is good, you also get a few short special features included an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the making of the series.

If you love the “Angry Birds” video games, you will enjoy this latest animated collection featuring over two dozen, short “Angry Birds Toons” animated episodes.

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

April 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Invisible Woman” is a gorgeous and fascinating film which boasts strong performances, gorgeous cinematography and costume design,.  “The Invisible Woman” is a film that I definitely recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Headline Pictures (Invisible Woman) Limited, British Broadcasting Corporation and British Film Institute. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Invisible Woman

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, Portuguese, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (For some sexual content)

Release Date: April 22, 2014

Directed by Ralph Fiennes

Screenplay by Abi Morgan

Based on a Book by Claire Tomalin

Produced by Christian Baute, Carolyn Marks Blackwood, Stewart Mackinnon, Gabrielle Tana

Co-Produced by Kevan Van Thompson

Executive Producer: Maya Amsellem, Sharon Harel, Eve Schoukroun

Music by Ilan Eshkeri

Cinematography by Rob Hardy

Edited by Nicolas Gaster

Casting by Leo Davis

Production Design by Maria Djurkovic

Art Direction by Nick Dent, Sarah Stuart

Set Decoration by Tatiana Macdonald

Costume Design by Michael O’Connor

Starring:

Felicity Jones as Nelly

Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens

John Kavanagh as Rev. William Benham

Kristin Scott Thomas as Mr. Frances Ternan

Perdita Weeks as Maria Ternan

Gabriel Vick as Mr. Berger

Mark Dexter as Mr. August Egg

Joanne Scanlan as Catherine Dickens

Tom Hollander as Wilkie Collins

Amanda Hale as Fanny Ternan

Nelly (Felicity Jones) is haunted by her past. Her memories take us back in time to follow the story of her exciting but fragile relationship with Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes). Dickens – famous, controlling and emotionally isolated within his success – falls for Nelly. As Nelly becomes the focus of Dickens’ passion and his muse, for both of them secrecy is the price, and, for Nelly, a life of “invisibility”.

Charles Dickens will always be known for his literary work.

From “A Christmas Carol”, “Oliver Twist”, “A Tale of Two Cities”, “Great Expectations” to name a few, considered as a genius for his time, Dickens work continues to entertain generations.

But there is also another side of Dickens that has entertained the masses and that is his alleged affairs.  Back in 1991, Claire Tomlin’s novel “The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens” was among the novels about Dickens affairs.

Dickens who was 45 at the time, allegedly had an affair with 18-year-old Ellen Ternan, a very big fan of his work.  (Note: Dickens refuted any affairs with any women)

One thing that has been featured in writings about Dickens’ life is his lack of approval of his wife Catherine and the worries of his financial situation because he had 10 children.  Also, unlike him, Catherine was seen by him as lazy and as not an intellectual like himself.  Whereas Nelly was an intellect, interested in the arts, literature, theatre, politics and more.

But in Tomlin’s book, in order to avoid any public leaks regarding their affair, Dickens would travel with her using different names and thus, their affair was hidden and Ellen Ternan would become an “invisible woman” during a time where the man can do what he wishes, while the woman is seen as unimportant.

Bringing the film adaptation to the big screen, actor Ralph Fiennes (“Schindler’s List”, “Skyfall”, “Harry Potter” films) had directed only one film titled “Coriolanus” in 2011 and the challenge for his second film was that he would not only direct, but he would also star as Charles Dickens, while actress Felicity Jones (“The Tempest”, “Like Crazy”, “Hysteria”)  was tapped to play the role of Ellen “Nelly” Ternan.

And now “The Invisible Woman” will be released on Blu-ray+DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“The Invisible Woman” revolves around how Charles Dickens (portrayed by Ralph Fiennes) was first introduced to Nelly (portrayed by Felicity Jones) and her mother Frances (portrayed by Kristin Scott Thomas).

The film would begin many years after the death of Charles Dickens death with Ellen Ternan watching a play being planned and a small gathering by her husband Mr. George Wharton Robinson (portrayed by Tom Burke).

For Rev. William Benham (portrayed by John Kavanagh), he is very interested in learning more about Nelly but moreso about her past working with Charles Dickens and the memories of her past with Charles Dickens begins to return.  For William, he feels there is more to the meaning of various characters conveyed in Charles Dickens books and wonders if there are more to these characters and in relation to Nelly.

But her husband Wharton is unaware of why Nelly becomes alarmed and saddened when it comes to discussion of Charles Dickens.

As the past is remembered, Dickens would cast Frances, Nelly and one of her sisters in “The Frozen Deep” and eventually, both Dickens and Nelly would enjoy each other’s company.

We see a relationship between Nelly and Charles Dickens eventually bloom (supported by Nelly’s mother Frances as she sees it as a way for her to enhance her career) but what happens when Catherine receives a bracelet meant for Nelly?  And what happens when Charles Dickens starts to see the public become interested in his public affairs?

But what is more important for Charles Dickens?  Would it be Nelly, his wife and family or the public that he entertains?

VIDEO:

“The Invisible Woman” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  The cinematography by Rob Hardy is well-done as Hardy is able to capture the romance, the sadness but all with a cinematic flair that looks gorgeous on Blu-ray.

Outdoor scenes are vibrant and beautiful, skin tones are natural and black levels are good and deep.

I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Invisible Woman” is presented in English, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Dialogue is crystal clear as with the music by composer Ilan Eshkeri (“The Young Victoria”, “Kick-Ass”, “Stardust”).    While the film is center and front-channel driven, there is a moment during the Staplehurst Disaster in which the lossless soundtrack utilizes the surrround channels and LFE.

The lossless soundtrack is quite adequate for this film and the lossless soundtrack is crystal clear in HD.

Subtitles are in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Invisible Woman” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary from director/actor Ralph Fiennes and actress Felicity Jones.
  • SAG Foundation Conversations with Ralph Fiennes & Felicity Jones – (26:33) The Q&A with Felicity Jones and Ralph Fiennes.
  • On the Red Carpet at the Toronto Premiere- (16:33) tiff behind-the-scenes on the red carpet and at the screening of the event.
  • Toronto International Film Festival Press Conference – (21:00) tiff press conference with Felicity Jones and Ralph Fiennes.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “The Invisible Woman”.

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For anyone who grew up reading a Charles Dickens book or even watched a Charles Dickens novel, the story about Dickens is rather interesting.  From his fight against slavery, his fight against piracy of his work and his push for copyright, his criticism of religion (or deviations from Christianity), his fight for the poor and there is no doubt that Dickens was a fascinating man.

Especially because of how his films and how he presented himself as this caring, family man.  The film does show the difference between the public vs. personal Charles Dickens.

And his personal matters surrounding his muse/mistress Ellen “Nelly” Turnan is rather fascinating!

While not surprising, considering that Dickens was a celebrity and one of the well-known celebrities during the early-to-mid 1800′s, it’s hard to believe this burly bearded man, who was 45 at the time, would have a relationship with an 18-year-old young woman.

But this is possibly what Dickens had desired, a woman like himself, an intellect, a person who respects the arts, theatre and a person he can have intellectual discussions and one that would understand what he is saying.

And that one would be Ellen “Nelly” Turnan.

While one can easily read on the Internet about this relationship, especially from the book by Claire Tomalin, the film does bring into context of what kind of relationship the two had especially at that time.

Sure, we are not phased by celebrity affairs in today’s society, in fact, you come to expect it.  But for Charles Dickens, it was a different time because it was more about the needs of the man and a celebrity who had to take action in order to not be found out by any gossip that may harm his name.

And for Ellen Turnan, a young woman, who never really had any major relationship.  Being captivated and then close to the man she idolized, having a mother who was cajoling her towards having a relationship for career purposes and Dickens ways of showing that he was in love by having his wife encounter Ellen, there is part of you that accepts the situation as a sign of the times but another side of you who felt that perhaps, Charles Dickens outside of his literary work was a jerk.

But at the same time, you study other successful men in different industries and you start to learn more about these affairs and relationships that these celebrities or wealthy and well-known individuals had at the time.  As for Dickens, it’s his way of doing or handling things that is left as undesired.

Dickens wife throws Nelly a question about who is more important to Dickens, is it the woman or his public?  The film shows us how this relationship has affected Nelly as the woman in his life that must be invisible to the public, not acknowledged by anyone else but Charles Dickens.

Another memorable scene in the film aside from the numerous gorgeous scenes shot by Rob Hardy is the Staplehurst rail accident, one of the largest train accidents of its time and one that was widely reported because of Charles Dickens, who was riding in the train along with Nelly and her mother, and was able to save them but at the same time, trying to save others who would eventually die of their injuries but also seeing how he was able to cover up his affair with Nelly.

The direction by Ralph Fiennes is well-done, it may be a bit slow for some viewers but the actual building of the relationship in accordance to his career was carefully paced.   But the acting by Fiennes and actress Felicity Jones plus actress Joanna Scanlan was well-done and “The Invisible Woman” is a film that manages to capture the emotional suffering that the women closes to Dickens, must go through.

The film looks absolutely gorgeous in HD and the dialogue and music is crystal clear, along with a few special features including audio commentary and footage from the Toronto International Film Festival.

Overall, “The Invisible Woman” is a gorgeous and fascinating film which boasts strong performances, gorgeous cinematography and costume design,.  “The Invisible Woman” is a film that I definitely recommend!

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

April 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Cavemen” is a fun and enjoyable romantic comedy starring Skylar Astin and Camilla Belle.  It’s a simple rom-com with cool cinematography and music but don’t expect a storyline that is too deep or involving.

Images courtesy of © 2013 Cavemen, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Cavemen

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 87 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 Widescreen, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Closed Captions

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: R (Sexual Content, Nudity and Language)

Release Date: April 11, 2014

Directed by Herschel Faber

Written by Hershel Faber

Produced by Herschel Faber, Joe Fogel, Cole Payne

Executive Producer: Kurt David Anderson, John Michaels, Reza Mirroknian, Mary Weldon, John Wynn

Co-Producers: Jeremy Loethen, Jamieson Stern

Music by Ronen Landa

Cinematography by Nic Sadler

Edited by Robert Schafer

Casting by Melanie Burgess, John Frank Levey

Art Direction by Ashley Cole, John Myatt

Costume Design by Denia Skinner

Starring:

Camilla Belle as Tess

Chad Michael Murray as Jay

Alexis Knapp as Kat

Skylar Astin as Dean

Kenny Wormald as Pete

Dayo Okeniyi as Andre

Chasty Ballesteros as Monique

Jason Patric as Jack Bartlett

Megan Stevenson as Sara

Zuleyka Silver as Alicia

Fernanda Romero as Rosa

Kaden Gibson as Rosa

LA playboy Dean (Skylar Astin) is fed up with one-night-stands and empty relationships – he wants more out of life than just a party. With a little inspiration from his nine-year-old nephew and his best friend Tess (Camilla Belle), Dean decides to try his hand at finding true love for the first time – which proves to be much more difficult than he thought in modern-day Los Angeles.

About the Actor Skylar Astin was born Skylar Astin Lipstein, and grew up in Rockland County, part of the New York Metropolitan Area. He is the son of Meryl and Barry Lipstein, and has two brothers, Jace and Milan, and a sister, Brielle. He was raised Jewish, and attended Clarkstown High School North for high school. After graduation, he attended New York University, as a student in the Tisch School of the Arts. He took a leave of absence to join the Original Cast of Spring Awakening as Georg on Broadway. He was on the show for close to a year, before moving to LA, and starting his acting career in movies and TV shows.

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Can your best friend be love interest?

That is the theme of the film “Cavemen” by first-time director/writer Herschel Faber.  The romantic comedy would star SkylerCamilla Belle (“10,000 BC”, “Push”), Chad Michael Murray (“One Tree Hill”, “A Cinderella Story”, “Freaky Friday”), Skylar Astin (“Pitch Perfect”, “Hamlet 2″, “21 & Over”), Kenny Worlmald (“Footloose”, “Clerks II”, “Center Stage: Turn It Up”), Dayo Okeniyi (“The Hunger Games”, “Endless Love”, “The Spectacular Now”) and Jason Patric (“The Lost Boys”, “Speed 2″, “In the Valley of Elah”).

“Cavemen” revolves around four unemployed bachelors who live in a warehouse where they party and bring a lot of women and have a lot of fun!

Three of them love to have their fun, while Dean (portrayed by Skylar Astin) is typically busy working on a screenplay which is somewhat based on his life.

Wanting to focus on his writing and getting away from the fun and sex that his buddies Jay (portrayed by Chad Michael Murray), Pete (portrayed by Kenny Wormald) and Andre (portrayed by Dayo Okeniyi) are often having at home, for Dean, he finds solace hanging out with his best friend Tess (portrayed by Camilla Belle).

While his friends know that Tess likes Dean, Dean has it in his mind that best friends should not have romantic relationships.  So, he often has a sexual fling with Sara (portrayed by Megan Stevenson) who wants to do all the talking in bed or Kat (portrayed by Alexis Knapp).

But when his playboy buddy Jay decides to pursue Tess, Dean starts to realize that he is becoming jealous.  Why is he feeling this way?  Does he actually have feelings for Tess?

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VIDEO:

“Cavemen” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9 widescreen). With a lot of the shots done outdoors, lighting is very well-done, scene selections in Los Angeles are quite beautiful, the film is colorful with skintones being natural and for the most part, I really enjoyed the cinematography of this film.  Nic Sadler really did a great job of capturing the upbeat vibe and cool environments of Los Angeles.

I didn’t notice any banding issues or artifacts during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Cavemen” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. While the film is primarily a dialogue-driven film, there is a lot of cool music and whether it’s the beats or crowded environments, for this film, the lossless soundtrack was good.

“Cavemen” features closed captions.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Cavemen” comes with a trailer.

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“Caveman” may seem like your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy in Los Angeles.  Best friends who have an attraction but not sure how they will be able to come together.

While there is a banality of romantic comedies in America, Herschel Faber’s film is rather enjoyable thanks to its appealing characters played by Skylar Astin and Camilla Belle.  It helps that Skylar Astin plays the character of Dean, a protagonist that is not your typical well-to-do businessman, drug addict or party machine, he’s your average joe and that awkward character that many guys can relate to.

Granted, Camilla Belle is a little bit more than your typical girl next door, the fact is her portrayal of Tess is appealing and she shines on camera.

The problem with the film is how it incorporates the three other guys.  For one, there are quite a few films that try to incorporate the three or four men who are engaged in guy talk, about the women they have sex with and so forth but while Chad Michael Murray’s Jay gets a good amount of screen time, Kenny Wormald’s Pete or Dayo Okeniyi’s Andre, are characters that seemed forced and that they are put into certain scenes just to enforce four roommate bromance or wingman.  And then you have Dean’s other friends who are more towards the geek side.

But the film has its enjoyable moments, for me it was the adventure of Dean trying to discover his feelings towards the women in his life and it’s a situation I know myself and other friends have been in, so you can relate to his character.

The cinematography was another plus as it showcases a cool and stylish side of Los Angeles and for the most part, the way the characters were framed and the emotions captured, made the film must more enjoyable for me.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality was fantastic, while the lossless soundtrack featured a more dialogue and musically driven soundtrack, which worked for this film.  Special features, as much as I was hoping for one, unfortunately, “Cavemen” has squat.  Nothing but the trailer and that’s about it.

Overall, “Cavemen” is a fun and enjoyable romantic comedy starring Skylar Astin and Camilla Belle.  It’s a simple rom-com with cool cinematography and music but don’t expect a storyline that is too deep or involving.

Upotte!! – Complete Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Upotte!” may not be groundbreaking but for a mature anime series, for the anime fans who desire action, fan service and want to see a lot of boobs, “Upotte! Complete Collection” delivers!

Image courtesy of © Sentai Holdings. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Upotte!! – Complete Collection

YEAR OF RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: Episodes 1-10 (250 Minutes)

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

RATED: TV MA DS

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RELEASE DATE: March 18, 2014

Originally created by Kitsune Tennouji

Directed by Takao Kato

Series Composition by Naruhisa Arakawa

Character Design by Akio Takami

Art Director: Ryouka Kinoshita

Anime Production: Xebec

Featuring the voices of:

Iori Nomizu/Genevieve Simmons as Funko (FNC)

Misuzu Togashi/Brittney Karbowski as Ichiroku (M16A4)

Akemi Kanda/Tiffany Grant as Saiga (SAIGA12k)

Aya Gōda/Juliet Simmonsas Ichihachi (AR18)

Ayahi Takagaki/Margaret McDonald as Nanayon (AK74)

Kaori Sadohara/Emily Neves as Shigu (SG550)

Madoka Yamanaka/Maggie Flecknoe as Sako (SAKO Rk95)

Mami Kosuge as Jiisuri (G3A3)

Mariko Honda as Gariru (Galil AR)

Mina/Shondra Marie as Faru (FAL L1A1)

Misato/Nancy Novotny as Eru (L85A1)

Saeko Zōgō/Kara Greenberg as Ichiyon (M14)

Shizuka Furuya/Molly Searcy as Agu (AUGA1)

Takayuki Kondou/David Matranga as Genkoku/Sensei

Yuka Iguchi/Tiffany Grant as Tei (T91)

Kiss kiss, bang bang! The arms race takes on a startling new development when the arms come with heads, legs, and very feminine bodies attached! Yes, at Seishou Academy every girl is literally a lethal weapon, and they’re all gunning for the top shot at getting their own personal serviceman! Needless to say, it’s going to be difficult for newly recruited human instructor Genkoku to adjust to working with a living arsenal of high caliber cuties with tricky names like FNC (Funko), M 16A4 (Ichiroku), L85A1 (Eru), and SG 550 (Shigu). Especially since many have hair triggers and there’s no bulletproof vest that can stop a really determined co-ed!

 

Genkoku will have to rewrite the operator’s manual on student/teacher relationships, and pray that his job description won’t include having to field strip and reassemble one of his cadets in the dark. But unfortunately (for him) FNC’s already thinking about becoming his personal weapon, and she usually gets what she aims for! Get ready for explosive situations, amour-piercing rounds, cheap shots galore and one very shell-shocked homeroom instructor!

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“Upotte!!” was an original net animation (ONA) from Xebec that was streamed on Nico Nico Douga and Crunchyroll back in April through June 2012 and now the anime series, which is based on Kitsune Tennouji’s manga, will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in the U.S. courtesy of Sentai Filmworks including the OVA.

A play on the words “Teppou” which translates to the word “Guns”, the mature action/comedy series takes place at Seishou Academy and unlike any other anime series that people are used to watching, the heroines at the school are actually anthropomorphized versions of guns.

These girls are to be trained in becoming a full-fledged weapon and at the Academy, classes are elementary (sub-machine guns), middle-school (assault rifles) and high school (battle/sniper rifles).  These female students can automatically draw the weapons they represent.  They also represent the positive and negative aspects of each weapon.

The anime series revolves around Funco (based on the Belgian FN FNC) and is the younger sister of Fal.  Because the actual gun uses a skeleton stock, she wears a thong instead of panties and she is attracted to her human teacher, Genkoku (Sensei).

Funco’s best friend is Ichiroku (an American M16A4 Assault Rifle) and is quite popular despite always being full of energy and having a loud mouth.

Together, they hang out with the intelligent Sig (based on a Swiss SG 550) and is great at mid-to-long range firing and the clumsy and very shy Elle (based on a British L85A1 assault rifle).

These friends overcome various challenges including facing off with the new transfer students, Sako (based on a Finnish Sako Rk 95 TP assault rifle) and Galil (based on an Israeli Galil AR).

But unbeknown to the friends is that another group who has declared war against western guns are going to cause some trouble!

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VIDEO:

“Upotte!! – Complete Collection” is presented in 1080p High Definition. While the series was created for online not television, the series is still vibrant and features plenty of detail when it comes to mechanical designs and art backgrounds.  Characters are also well-presented, shaded and if anything, the artwork gives each character their own personality and looks great on Blu-ray.  I didn’t notice any significant banding or artifacts during my viewing.

AUDIO:

“Upotte!! – Complete Collection” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  Dialogue is crisp through the front channels and both are well-acted!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Upotte!! – Complete Collection: The Complete Series” comes with the following special features:

  • OVA– What happens when our female guns go on vacation for some R&R?
  • Clean Opening and Closing Animation

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The Blu-ray cover of “Upotte!” is pretty much a dead giveaway of what kind of anime series you are getting.

Yes, this series is your T&A anime series that will no doubt titillate the otaku’s who want fan service and something extra naughty.  But before I get into all that, let’s discuss the storyline.

I have to say that the concept of “Upotte!” is rather interesting.  Female characters who are representative of a weapon and the positives and negatives are reflected in these female characters.  And these characters take part in team competitions and battles.

Throw in the oblivious human teacher who manages to say things that come out as perverted and sure enough, you get a action comedy anime series.

But as the series tries to focus on team competition, “Girls and Panzer” this is not.

This is not a series about strategy and while the action is actually cool when it is featured, the main drive is to get anime fans all revved up with its sexual overtones.

From the sadistic Sako who masturbates, excites herself and gets her hands all wet before going after Funco and OVA full of breast grabbing and nudity, for the most part, it’s no doubt an anime series that is for those who enjoy these type of anime series.

Fortunately, there is a story to “Upotte!” and the characters are fascinating, but the use of gun weaponry and even detailed information for this fan service-driven anime series is a plus.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality for this ONA (Online Net Anime) series looks great on Blu-ray! Colors are vibrant, art backgrounds are well-done and for the most part, the acting on both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done.

While there are no special features, you do get an OVA which features more T&A.

Overall, “Upotte!” may not be groundbreaking but for a mature anime series, for the anime fans who desire action, fan service and want to see a lot of boobs, “Upotte! Complete Collection” delivers!

The Great Beauty – The Criterion Collection #702 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” is a cinematic masterpiece and a Criterion Collection Blu-ray +DVD release that is simply a must-own!  Highly recommended!

Image are courtesy of © 2013 Indigo Film, Babe Films, PAthe Production, France 2 Cinema. 2014  The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Great Beauty – The Criterion Collection #702

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 142 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, Italian 5.1 DTS-HD MA with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: March 25, 2014

Directed by Paolo Sorrentino

Story by Paolo Sorrentino

Screenplay by Paolo Sorrentino and Umberto Contarello

Produced by Francesca Cima, Nicola Giuliano

Associate Producer: Vivien Aslanian, Carlotta Calori, Romain Le Grand, Guendalina Ponti, Muriel Sauzay

Co-Producer: Fabio Conversi, Jerome Seydoux

Music by Lele Marchitelli

Cinematography by Luca Bigazzi

Edited by Cristiano Travaglioli

Casting by Anna Maria Sambucco

Production Design by Stefania Cella

Costume Design by Daniela Ciancio

Starring:

Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella

Carlo Verdone as Romano

Sabrina Ferilli as Ramona

Carlo Buccirosso as Lello Cava

Iaia Forte as Trumeau

Pamela Villoresi as Viola

Franco Graziosi as Conte Colonna

Giorgio Pasotti as Stefano

Massimo Popolizio as Alfio Bracco

Serena Grandi as Lorena

Vernon Dobtcheff as Arturo

For decades, journalist Jep Gambardella has charmed and seduced his way through the glittering nightlife of Rome. Since the legendary success of his only novel, he has been a permanent fixture in the city’s literary and elite social circles. But on his sixty-fifth birthday, Jep unexpectedly finds himself taking stock of his life, turning his cutting wit on himself and his contemporaries, and looking past the lavish nightclubs, parties, and cafés to find Rome itself, in all its monumental glory: a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty. Featuring sensuous cinematography, a lush score, and an award-winning central performance by the great Toni Servillo, this transporting experience by the brilliant Italian director Paolo Sorrentino is a breathtaking Felliniesque tale of decadence and lost love.

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“La grande bellezza” (The Great Beauty) was awarded “Best Foreign Language Film” at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the BAFTA Awards and the British Academy Film Awards.

An Italian/French co-production between Medusa Film, Indigo Film and French Babe Films, in Europe, the film would receive critical acclaim worldwide.

And for filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino (“This Must Be the Place”, “The Consequences of Love”, “Il divo: La spettacolare vita di Giulio Andreotti”), he would receive critical acclaim once again as for his creativity and directorial style, so well-revered that he would be compared to legendary filmmaker Federico Fellini.

And now Paolo Sorrentino’s masterpiece “The Great Beauty” has received the Criterion Collection treatment with a Blu-ray +DVD combo release.

“The Great Beauty” revolves around a man named Jep Gambardella (portrayed by Toni Servillo) and begins with the following:

To this question, when we were young, my friends used to answer always the same way: “Pussy”. I instead used to answer: “The smell of old people’s houses”. The question was: “What do you really like in life?”. I was destined to sensibility. I was destined to become a writer. I was destined to become Jep Gambardella.

Jep is a socialite who is famous for a book he wrote 40-years prior and now as he turns 65-years-old and people he once knew are dying or going through major life changes, Jep takes a look at his own personal life through his interaction with others, reminisces of his past success and failures.

But also to look at the city of Rome, beyond the parties, cafe’s and nightclubs and to discover a beauty and creativity that he never saw before.  The beauty of life and a life of what could have, has now been lost.

VIDEO:

“The Great Beauty” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  The one thing that you will noticed about this film is the artistic cinematography courtesy of Luca Bigazzi but also the wonderful editing by Cristiano Travaglioli.  I’m not sure how many cuts were made for this film or even if the film was storyboarded to include so many cuts but the editing is flawless, the cinematography is breathtaking, exciting, titillating, so many words that I can use for this fantastic film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The film is presented in its original aspect ration of 2:35:1. This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative.”

As for picture quality, the picture quality is fully detailed and looks magnificent.  From the vibrant outdoor scenes, the birthday scene, everything looks magnificent from the closeups to the various cuts that feature gret color and deep blacks.  Or showcasing the colorful wardrobe of Jep Gambardella to the closeups of the Sister or Jep’s hair, everything is fully detailed.

AUDIO/SUBTITLES:

“The Great Beauty” is presented in Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  And as dialogue is crystal clear, the film is also known for its fantastic musical soundtrack.   The dialogue and music is simply crisp and clear and Lele Marchitelli’s score is fantastic.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The fim features a fully digital soundtrack.  The 5.1 surround audio for this release was mastered at 24-bit from teh original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Great Beauty – The Criterion Collection #702” comes with the following special features:

  • Paolo Sorrentino – (37:59) Film scholar Antonio Monda interviews director Paolo Sorrentino.
  • Tony Servillo – (12:35) Actor Tony Servillo discusses working with Paolo Sorrentino in “The Great Beauty” and how they have worked together for previous films.
  • Umberto Contarello - (11:44) Screenwriter Umberto Contarello discuses working with Paolo Sorrentino and working on “The Great Beauty”.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring two deleted scenes – Maestro Cinema and Montage.
  • Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “The Great Beauty”.

EXTRAS:

“The Great Beauty – The Criterion Collection #702″ comes with a 28-page booklet featuring the essay “Dancing in Place” by Phillip Lopate.

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As a person who loves to visit museums and can spend hours looking and observing the paintings from different centuries, with each painting, you can feel various emotions that comes with each works of art.

In cinema, there are filmmakers who are able to captivate you because they create cinema creatively, artistically and for the most part, they work outside of the paradigm of cinema and often you see magic.

And quite often, especially when it comes to cinema, you often hear about the old days, the wonderful films that were created in the past.  From classic avante garde, Italian neo-realism, French Nouvelle Vague, 50′s Japanese films and among your Rossellini, Fellini, Gaudi, Renoir, Truffaut, Godard, Tati, Kurosawa, Ozu to name a few… there is always a sense of wanting to go back to the classics.

Quite often you find people who will say, “I wish films today were as good as the films back then”.

That’s because there is that wanting of creativity, spontaneity and while there are filmmakers today around the world who strive for creativity in cinema, the fact is that as films are more expensive to make, box office returns make or break a producer and budgets are tighter than ever, there is little room for filmmakers to be creative and do something remotely close to what we have seen in yesterday’s classics.

But once in a while, you come across a film that no doubt makes you feel that connection to the past.  And for filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, his masterpiece “La grande bellezza” (The Great Beauty) brings us the artistic, creative visual flair of cinematic exuberance, many cuts and some that play with its catchy music.

While there are moments in the film that are humorous, mildly sexual and vane, there is the other side of life that the character of Jep is trying to see with his own eyes.

It’s a life in Rome that he chose not to live during his younger years, choosing to be in the social scene and living a life of a star. It’s a conundrum of personalities that we find Jep often thinking in his head.   From seeing the nature of those in society but then part of him clinging to a memory or wanting something from the past that he can not find in the present.  Is it a woman?  Is it the changing of Rome?   What is it that he is searching for?

He goes to those involved with the church in hope for answers and what we get is a surrealness that draws you in, like a painting demanding an emotion from its viewer.

And yes, I’m sure there will be comparisons with this movie to Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” but the primary difference is the setting of yesterday, versus a man who grew up with a Rome that is much different that Fellini’s film from the past.  Similar in terms of men searching for something within their lives, but different in terms of timeline.  This is not about Italian neorealism or life post-war, this is about people who have saw their lives changing within the times and what makes Italy what it is today.  May you see it in a positive or negative light, what we do know is that Jep Gambardella has suddenly become detached.

And this is the journey of this man who is able to have a foot in high society but also in regular society.  He dresses quite suave but not over-the-top.  He is a man not trying to add another woman to his score of sexual encounters, this is a man who wants more than a beautiful woman.  Now that he has turned 65, the rules of life have changed and this is his next chapter.

Of course, we are shown various surreal scenes, may it be a beautiful nude woman ramming her head towards a wall and bleeding from her act of promoting “art” or a young girl throwing buckets of paint on canvas while she uses her hands to smear the pain as many onlookers watch.  There are so many scenes that are sporadic but yet engrossing, once again, it’s like going to a museum and viewing many paintings.  The film required multiple viewings for myself, to see if I can grasp the purpose of the many cuts in the film and of course, Jep’s scenes as well as countless others who are part of his search for answers in his life.

And as I have to credit Toni Servillo for his wonderful performance as the main protagonist, part of the film’s efficacy relies on Paolo Sorrentino’s crew.  From its montage of shots from various angles and closeups, the cinematography, the lighting, the editing, the locations of where this film was shot, this was no doubt a carefully planned film from beginning to end and the results are magnificent.

The Criterion Collection Blu-ray+DVD release of this film is absolute gorgeous.  Picture quality and audio quality is amazing and as for special features, interviews with filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, screenwriter Umberto Contarello and actor Toni Servillo are included.

Overall, Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” is a cinematic masterpiece and a Criterion Collection Blu-ray +DVD release that is simply a must-own!

Highly recommended!

Knights of Badassdom (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Joe Lynch’s comedy/horror film has its humorous moments but in terms of the storyline as a whole, “Knights of Badassdom” is a campy independent film that is reminiscent of the campy summer film of the ’80s.  Whether or not that is a good or bad thing is up to you.  But for me, it was OK.

Images courtesy of © Knights of Badassdom Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Knights of Badassdom

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 86 Minutes

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

COMPANY: eOne Entertainment

RATED: R (Horror Violence Language Throughout, Some Drug Use and Sexuality)

Release Date: April 1, 2014

Directed by Joe Lynch

Screenplay by Kevin Dreyfuss, Matt Wall

Produced by Mark Burton, Kevin Dreyfuss, Matt Wall

Executive Producer: Rich Cowan, MikeElizalde, Daniel  J. Heffner, Ketura Kestin, Rizwan Virk

Music by Bear McCreary

Cinematography by Sam McCurdy

Edited by Howard E. Smith

Casting by Nancy Nayor

Production Design by Vincent DeFelice

Set Decoration by Dan Beyer

Costume Design by Lisa Caryl-Vukas

Starring:

Peter Dinklage as Hung

Ryan Kwanten as Joe

Steve Zahn as Eric

Summer Glau as Gwen

Margarita Levieva as Beth

Khanh Doan as Andie

Michael Gladis as King Diamond 

Danni Pudi as LAndo

Brian Posehn as Gilberto

Jimmi Simpson as Ronnie Kwok

Douglas Tait as Abominog

Joshua Malina as Travis

Tom Hpper as Gunther

A group of costumed “Live Action Role Players,” dressed as knights, elves and other medieval characters, take to the woods for “The Battle of Evermore.” But when a make-believe wizard casts a spell from an ancient book, purchased on eBay, fantasy becomes reality as a powerful demon manifests itself. Can these pretend warriors muster the courage to save themselves and the rest of humanity?

From first-time director Joe Lynch and screenwriters Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall comes  the horror/comedy/action independent film titled “Knights of Badassdom”.

Filmed back in 2010, the film would star Ryan Kwanten (“True Blood”, “Summerland”, “Home and Away”), Steve Zahn (“Dallas Buyers Club”, “Sahara”, “A Perfect Getaway”), Peter Dinklage (“The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince of Caspian”, “Game of Thrones”, “The Station Agent”), Summer Glau (“Angel”, “Firefly”, “Serenity”, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”), Danny Pudi (“Community”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”), Jimmi Simpson (“Date Night”, “White House Down”, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”), Margarita Levieva (“Revenge”, “Adventureland”), Joshua Malina (“The First Time”, “The West Wing”, “Scandal”) and many more.

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of eOne Entertainment.

“Knights of Badassdom” revolves around three friends, Joe (portrayed by Ryan Kwanten), Eric (portrayed by Steve Zahn) and Hung (portrayed by Peter Dinklage).  While Eric and Hung are hardcore among the Live Action Role Play (LARP) community, they try to help their buddy Joe out.

Joe (an aspiring death metal singer) recently broke up with his girlfriend Beth (portrayed by Margarita Levieva).

Down in the dumps, his friends who all enjoyed “Dungeons and Dragons” with him, try to pull him into a LARP contest.

With other major LARP in attendance including hardcore’s such as Ronnie (portrayed by Jimmi Simpson) and always serious Gunther (portrayed by Brett Gipson), for Joe, it seems like it’s going to be a long weekend.  But fortunately, a beautiful Gwen, sister of Gunther is also taking part in her first LARP.

And while everyone expects to act out a game of mythical Middle Ages, unbeknown to many of the contestants is that real magic from a spell book was being used and Joe’s ex-girlfriend Beth has been turned into a Succubus and she’s out for blood.

As the group tries to enjoy a weekend of LARP’ing, who will survive by the end of the day to stop the succubus?

VIDEO:

“Knights of Badassdom” is presented in 2:40:1 aspect ratio and in 1080p High Definition. With a lot of the shots done outdoors, lighting is very well-done, the film is colorful with skintones being natural, closeups including the bloody organs are also well-detailed, while black tones are nice and dark.  I didn’t notice any banding issues or artifacts during my viewing of the film.

For the most part, picture quality for “Knights of Badassdom” looked very good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Knights of Badassdom” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. While the film is primarily a dialogue-driven film, once you get towards the more horror/action elements towards the end of the film, then there is good use of the surround channels.  But for the most part, the lossless soundtrack is good.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Knights of Badassdom” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring short interviews with Peter Dinklage, Summer Glau, Steve Zahn, Director Joe Lynch.
  • Horr-o-medy – Featuring two very short promos for “Knightsof Badassdom”.
  • San Diego Comic-Con Panel – (48:34) Featuring the SDCC panel with director Joe Lynch, Ryan Kwanten, Jimmi Simpson, Danny Pudi, Michael Gladis, Margarita Laviva and Summer Glau and Peter Dinklage.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Knights of Bassdom”.

Many years ago, I created a convention in California that is still ongoing today.

I remember when I was asked by a group of men to invest in a room for LARP (Live Action Role Play).  At the time, I had no idea and so they wanted to do a visual stage version of LARP in order for me to consider of having a LARP room at the convention.

While I was not necessarily won over, because I enjoy RPG video games and realize that perhaps there are people who enjoy LARP-ing despite the fact that I wasn’t at all into it, I gave it a chance.  And sure enough, people came out to fill the seats during the convention and it was my first foray into seeing the following of LARP.

And so, when I heard that a film was being made on the subject and it would star quite a few notable names, suffice to say, I was amused and fascinated to see how the film would be.

“Knights of Badassdom” is not an easy film for me to review.  To use RPG’s as an example, It’s like a “Final Fantasy” fan playing “Legend of Morrowind”.  You understand the aspect of the game and you are entertained by elements of the game but yet there are things that go over your head.

There is no doubt that the film portrays LARP as a popular geek game of men and women who want to re-enact the Middle Ages and some who may go as far as to believing they are from the Middle Age (I actually knew a person who I went to school with that was too hardcore into LARP’ing that he insisted that he spoke with a British accent all his life).  The whole LARP part of the film which is the first half was something I was not really getting into at all.  It was like watching Steve Zahn’s bad “Strange Wilderness”film and while you chuckle a few times, you either enjoy it or you don’t. I on the other hand, was not enjoying it.

From watching actor Ryan Kwanten trying to be a death metal singer (which is actually quite funny, when you think about it) and a group of adults LARP’ing, the problem was the first half portrays itself like an ’80s summer camp comedy films minus the sex.  By the second half, the film becomes more like the summer camp horror films with the bloody organs and succubus sucking the blood out of LARP’ers.

But as a fan who is into geek things myself, you can’t help but be supportive of the film if you have been a fan of the work of Ryan Kwanten, Steve Zahn, Summer Glau, Peter Dinklage and many others.  Part of the fascination was to see all these talent in this campy film.

The Blu-ray for the most part looks gorgeous.  A lot of shots were done outdoor and closeups feature great detail, skin tones look natural and colors were perfect.  I didn’t notice any problems with picture quality and as for its lossless soundtrack, it’s not super immersive but it worked.  Especially for the more action-intense scenes in the film.  You also get a few interviews plus the very cool 2011 SDCC Q&A panel that made everyone excited about the film, until any news for it became silent, as the film awaited for a distributor for the next few years.

Overall, “Knights of Badassdom” may not be for everyone, but it does reach out to a niche group.  Afterall, if there are films about Trekkers, Star Wars fans to even the game of chess, why not have film about people who LARP?

Joe Lynch’s comedy/horror film has its humorous moments but in terms of the storyline as a whole, “Knights of Badassdom” is a campy independent film that is reminiscent of the campy summer film of the ’80s.  Whether or not that is a good or bad thing is up to you.  But for me, it was OK.

The Freshman – The Criterion Collection #703 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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As a long time silent film fan, having collected and watch many films over the years, you come across magnificent releases that give silent film fans their money’s worth.  The Criterion Collection’s “The Freshman” is one of those elite titles in the collection that cineaste who appreciate silent cinema, will want to own in their collection. “The Freshman” is highly recommended!  5 stars!

Image are courtesy of © 2013 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Freshman – The Criterion Collection #703

YEAR OF FILM: 1925

DURATION: 76 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Black and White/Tinted, Silent

COMPANY: Harold Lloyd Entertainment, Inc./THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: March 25, 2014

Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor

Story by Sam Taylor, Ted Wilde, John Grey and Tim Whelan

Executive Producer: Suzanne Lloyd Hayes

Producer: Hal Roach

Cinematography by Walter Lundin

Music: Carl Davis

Edited by Allen McNeil

Art Directon by Liell K. Vedder

Starring:

Harold Lloyd as Harold Lamb a.k.a. Speedy

Jobyna Ralston as Peggy

Brooks Benedict as The College Cad

James Anderson as The College Hero

Hazel Keener as The College Belle

Joseph Harrington as The College Tailor

Pat Harmon as The Football Coach

Harold Lloyd’s biggest box-office hit was this silent comedy gem, featuring the befuddled everyman at his eager best as a new college student. Though he dreams of being a big man on campus, the freshman’s careful plans inevitably go hilariously awry, be it on the football field or at the Fall Frolic. But he gets a climactic chance to prove his mettle—and impress the sweet girl he loves—in one of the most famous sports sequences ever filmed. This crowd-pleaser is a gleeful showcase for Lloyd’s slapstick brilliance and incandescent charm, and it is accompanied here by a new orchestral score by Carl Davis.

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The year was 1925…it was a magnificent year for silent cinema.

Sergei Eisenstein had “Battleship Potemkin”, Buster Keaton with “Go West”, Charlie Chaplin with “The Gold Rush”, F.W. Murnau with “The Last Laugh”, Mary Pickford in “Little Annie Rooney”, to name a few.

But there was one man who had constant success in the box office in the United States.  Considered today as one of the silent kings of comedy, Harold Lloyd was one of the most reliable talents during the Roaring 20′s.

And with the sport of American football becoming popular in America, especially on college campuses as thousands would turn out to watch a college football game or listen to a game via a radio broadcast, Harold Lloyd was always up to date on trends and knowing the state of football in America, he knew that his film “The Freshman” would have to incorporate it and sure enough, he would have another hit to add to his oeuvre.

“The Freshman” was one of the final films that Harold Lloyd would have distributed through Pathe and it was also his biggest box office success.  “The Freshman” would jumpstart a number of college films in the late 1920′s and it’s no surprise.  The film was a big hit and life of going to a college or watching a sport on the big screen was inspiring to people all across the nation.

“The Freshman” is believed to be one of Harold Lloyd’s greatest films of all time.  And now the enduring classic, “The Freshman” will be released on Blu-ray+DVD combo courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

In “The Freshman”, Harold Lloyd plays the character role of Harold Lamb, a young man who has dreamed of going to college.

Inspired by a college film he watched, he has learned the moves and lingo and can’t wait to use it with his fellow students. Having worked hard to be a college student and wanting to be popular, Harold can’t wait to start at Tate University.

While en route to Tate University by train, he is seated next to Peggy (portrayed by Jobyna Ralston) and are as mistaken as lovers.

When he arrives to the area, immediately he is spotted by college seniors especially the college cad (portrayed by Brooks Benedict) who see him as a loser and want to have their fun with them by giving him misinformation of how to be popular.

After proclaiming himself with the name “Speedy” and students using him to spend a lot of his money on ice cream, his lack of funds lead him to stay in a low-cost room where Peggy works.

Seeing Peggy makes Harold happy and he becomes smitten with her.

But as Harold wants to become popular like the school hero/jock (portrayed by James Anderson), he is told that if he joins the football team, he will become a popular man on campus.

And now, Harold will do all he can to achieve popularity, not knowing that students are just having fun with him at his expense.

VIDEO:

“The Freshman is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) in black and white and tinted. Because Harold Lloyd believed in protecting his films, he was among the first to have his films preserved. Not only were these films under lock and key in safes, he did whatever he can to make sure they were protected from fires or any damage. It’s important to note that nitrate film does catch fire and he did experience a fire despite trying to protect his films, but fortunately because of that, it led Harold Lloyd to preserve his films.

And so, a lot of his films look fantastic compared to other silent films of that year or era. At nearly 90-years-old, picture quality for “The Freshman”, looks incredible on Blu-ray. The film is color tinted with slight yellow and details for this silent film in HD is very good. To see this film in HD versus the original 2005 DVD release, you notice how clear the film looks. There are no signs of major damage, dark flickering or white specks. Because the film is in HD, closeups and background look so much clearer and well-detailed. I was impressed!

According to the Criterion Collection, “The film is presented in its original aspect ration of 1:33:1.  This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Northlight film scanner from the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s 1998 restoration negative.  The UCLA restoration, supervised by preservation officer Robert Gitt and funded by David and Lucille Packard Foundation, utilized footagefrom both the foreign release version, named “College Days”, and the domestic release version.  Footage from the original camera negative of the foreign version, which was shot by a second camera, from a slightly different angle, makes up about 60 percent of the UCLA restoration; it was used because it was the domestic version version, which survived only through duplicate elements of lesser quality.  Tinting was facilitated by following directions printed on leaders of the original nitrate materials.  Further restoration was performed for this release by the Criterion Collection in collaboration with L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices and warps were manually restored using MTI’s DRS and Diamond, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker.”

AUDIO/INTERTITLES:

“The Freshman” is presented in LPCM 2.0.  The new musical score from Carl Davis is crystal clear, especially the sounds of the bell ringing during Harold’s gala scene.  While I love the clarity of the score, I do wish that Robert Israel’s score was included as one of the audio choices.

There are no subtitles because it is a silent film, but there are intertitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Freshman – The Criterion Collection #703” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio commentary – Featuring the original 2005 audio commentary which features film historian Richard Bann, director and film archivist Richard Correll and director and Harold Lloyd archivist Richard Correll.
  • Harold LLoyd’s Funny Side of Life – (29:37) A theatrical program presented with “The Freshman” for its re-release.
  • Short Films - Featuring three Harold Llyd shorts: “The Marathon” (1919 – Duration: 13:58), “An Eastern Westerner” (1920 – Duration: 27:37) and “High and Dizzy” (1920 – Duration: 27:15).
  • Kevin Brownlow and Richard Correll – (39:48) A 2013 featurette at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and discuss Harold Lloyd’s career.
  • Harold Lloyd: Big Man on Campus – (16:27) A visual essay by John Bengston, revisiting locations featured in “The Freshman”.
  • Delta Kappa Alpha Tribute = (29:21) USC’s Delta Kappa Alpha honoring the pioneers of cinema and honoring Harold Lloyd in Jan. 6, 1963.
  • What’s My Line? – (6:31) Harold Lloyd appearng as a mystery guest on “What’s My Line?” in April 26, 1953 to promote a theatrical re-release of “The Freshman”.

EXTRAS:

“The Freshman – The Criterion Collection #703″ comes with a 22-page booklet featuring the essays “Speed Saves the Day! A Harold Lamb Adventure” by Stephen Winer.

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While my forever favorite Harold Lloyd film will always be “Safety Last”, “The Freshman” is no doubt one of the better Harold Lloyd films that have been released on video and with this Criterion Collection version, silent film fans will no doubt love the clarity of this classic in HD!

I enjoyed “The Freshman” for a multitude of reasons.  For one, as much as I love Harold paired with Mildred Davis (who would later become his wife), I’ve also enjoyed his pairings with Bebe Daniels and Jobyna Ralston.  Jobyna appears as the love interest for Harold in “The Freshman” and she is absolutely captivating and the pairing with Lloyd/Ralston was great to watch again!

The second reason why I enjoy this film is for its historical place of being one of the surviving feature silent films featuring American football but also giving us a glimpse of early Los Angeles and various California stadiums during the popularity of football during the 1920′s.

Which leads to my third reason is its college atmosphere and sports.  Buster Keaton would attempt this a few years later with his film “College” but “The Freshman” is much more appealing, entertaining and a lot of fun!  So, much of “College” focused on Buster Keaton, which was not a bad thing but it focused too much on him.  While “The Freshman” tries to utilize characters such as Peggy, the college hero or even the cad with efficacy.  While the gala in regards to the clothing bit went a little too long for my taste, I did enjoy this film.  And the fact that what we are seeing is the full version, without the cuts that were made decades after the silent film debuted in theaters.

And last, it’s watching this film in HD that really made me see this film in a different light compared to watching the film via the “Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection” DVD box set.  For example, one thing that I noticed in HD watching this film once again but never noticing is how the HD really gives awesome clarity and detail for closeups.  Especially for Jobyna Ralston.  You can see the clarity when it comes to her eyes and her eyelashes, which I never really took notice on DVD.

Another plus for this HD restoration is the fact that a long time ago, “The Freshman” wasn’t even chosen by Photoplay Productions for restoration during the ’90s and back then, obtaining the Time Life video was hard to come by and the only way to watch this film was on VHS and television until 2005 with the DVD release.  So, those watching this film, probably do not know how difficult it was for Harold Lloyd fans to watch this film 20-years-ago.  And how fortunate they are to watch this film in HD in 2014.

As for the Blu-ray release, aside from awesome picture and audio quality, I was quite pleased with the Criterion Collection release because fans are getting their money’s worth.  Not only are there lengthy special features but fans are getting three classic silent film shorts. Included are the restored versions of “The Marathon”, “An Eastern Westerner” and “High and Dizzy”.

But in addition to these features and shorts is giving fans what they want and there are three names that made me smile prior to watching this Blu-ray release and that there are two featurettes, one with renown film historian Kevin Brownlow and Harold Lloyd’s longtime archivist, Richard Correll in a conversation with each other.  The other is John Bengston, best known for his books and visual essays showcasing silent film locations and how the locations are today.

Overall, as a long time silent film fan, having collected and watch many films over the years, you come across magnificent releases that give silent film fans their money’s worth.  The Criterion Collection’s “The Freshman” is one of those elite titles in the collection that cineaste who appreciate silent cinema, will want to own in their collection.

“The Freshman” is highly recommended!  5 stars!

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

March 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Asghar Farhadi has written and directed another excellent film, but one that is short of a masterpiece as earned by his previous film “A Separation”.  But make no doubt about it, this is a wonderful film in the oeuvre of this fine filmmaker.  “The Past” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Memento Films Production, France 3 Cinéma, BIM Distribuzione, Alvy Distribution and CN3 Productions. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Past (Le passé)

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 130 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Mature Thematic Material and Brief Strong Language)

Release Date: March 25, 2014

Directed by Asghar Farhadi

Written by Asghar Farhadi

Produced by Alexandre Mallet-Guy

Music by Evgueni Galperine, Youli Galperine

Cinematography by Mahmod Kalari

Edited by Juliette Weifling

Production Design by Claude Lenoir

Costume Design by Jean-Daniel Vuillermoz

Starring:

Berenice Bejo as Marie Brisson

Tahar Rahim as Samir

Ali Mosaffa as Ahmad

Pauline Burlet as Lucie

Elyes Aguis as Fouad

Jeanne Jestin as LEa

Sabrina Ouazani as Naima

Babak Karimi as Shahryar

Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns to Paris to finalize his divorce so his wife Marie (Academy Award(r) Nominee Bérénice Bejo, 2011 Best Supporting Actress, The Artist) can marry her new boyfriend, Samir (Tahar Rahim). During his tense stay, Ahmad discovers the conflicting nature of Marie’s relationship with her daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet). Ahmad’s efforts to improve this relationship soon unveil a secret from their past.

From award winning filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”, “About Elly”, “Fireworks Wednesday”) comes his film “Le passé” (“The Past”) which was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

The film would star Berenice Bejo (“The Artist”, “A Knight’s Tale”, “Populaire”), who won “Best Actress” at the Cannes Film Festival for the film, starring alongside Tahar Rahim (“A Prophet”, “The Eagle”, “Day of the Falcon”), Ali Mosaffa (“Leila”, “The Last Step”), Pauline Burlet (“La Vie en Rose”, “Resistances”) and young talents Jeanne Jestin and Elyes Aguis.

“The Past” begins with Marie Brisson (portrayed by Berenice Bejo) picking up her soon-to-be ex-husband Ahmad (portrayed by Ali Mosaffa) from the airport.

Ahmad has left Marie for for years and never returned home but because she needs him to sign divorce papers, he returns back to France.

Upon arriving, he finds his Lea (portrayed by Jeanne Jestin), Marie’s daughter from her first marriage and a boy named Fouad (portrayed by Elyes Aguis) who gives him an evil eye.

Marie then reveals that her boyfriend Samir (portrayed by Tahar Rahim) has moved in with her months ago and that she is pregnant with his child and so, she would like to have the divorce papers signed the next day.

And while their relationship is civil and for the most part, Ahmad is kind to the children and not outspoken, Marie still holds resentment towards Ahmad for leaving her four years ago.  And that each time he said he would return, he never did.

Ahmad learns that while Marie and Samir are planning to get married, he is married to a woman named Celine (portrayed by Aleksandra Klebanska) who committed suicide and has been in a coma for the past eight months.

But still, Ahmad respects her decision but notices that she has a troubled relationship with Samir’s son Fouad, who struggles to understand what is his true home and the status of his mother, is she dead or is she being kept alive by machines?

As Ahmad’s presence in the house causes a bit of friction with Samir (who is upset that Marie didn’t put Ahmad in a hotel), the true friction in the household is with Marie’s oldest daughter Lucie (portrayed by Pauline Burlet).

Lucie, Marie’s daughter from her first marriage, has a close relationship with Ahmad and she tells him that she doesn’t want to live at home because she doesn’t like Samir.

Wanting Ahmad not to sign the divorce papers, Ahmad tries to tell her that the relationship is over and has been over and the divorce will be finalized.

But what each of the adults don’t know is that Lucie holds a secret from the past that will affect everyone.

VIDEO:

“The Past” is presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio and in 1080p High Definition. One of the things that I took notice of while watching this film in HD is how impressive the detail was.  The picture quality is amazing, closeups allow you to see the skin pores, wrinkles on a person’s face with so much clarity.  You can see fabrics on clothing so clearly, stains on a house or paint chips with clarity and if anything, I was impressed by the overall detail of the film in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Past” is presented in French 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  “The Past” is primarily a dialogue-driven film as the majority of the film is shot inside a house, but there are moments where the film is shot outdoors, on a train. But for the most part, the dialogue and the film’s beautiful soundtrack are crystal clear through the front and center channels.

Subtitles are in English and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Past” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary from director Asghar Farhadi.
  • Making the Past – (26:56) A behind-the-scenes look at the making of “The Past”, from set design to casting.
  • Director’s Guild of America Q&A with Asghar Farhadi – (38:30) The Q&A at the “Director’s Guild of America” with Asghar Farhadi.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:03) Theatrical trailer for “The Past”.

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If you are a cineaste and were fortunate to watch Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation”, you pretty much realize that he is a special filmmaker that knows how to bring out his actors but also develops stories that are captivating, slowly building but ultimately making you feel by the end of the film that you watched something great!

A filmmaker who believes in thorough rehearsing, Farhadi is a filmmaker who has a sense earlier on of what he wants to see his actors to do, but also has everything visualized of how he wants environments to look and bringing everything together for his films.

“The Past” is a film that captivates an audience and you become emotionally invested in it because not only is it a family drama, it’s also an emotional drama in which you sympathize with all characters, who are no doubt going through a difficult time.

Marie is a woman who is getting married for the third time.  There is no doubt that you can sense that she loved Ahmad but somehow the relationship left him depressed and leading him to leave the family for four years.  In some ways, both are like oil and water.  Marie is bold and verbal, Ahmad is silent and wants to have discussions in order to reason and converse and not the disciplining type of person.

But when Ahmad returns to sign his divorce papers, he realizes that Marie is a different person.  A woman who has changed when it comes to demeanor and habits and understandably upset at him for leaving her.

He is the opposite of Samir, who is very vocal and if his son is doing wrong, he has no hesitation of telling his son to be respectful or disciplining him.  But Ahmad’s presence has brought out a lot of emotions between he and Marie.

For Marie, she wants Ahmad to see that she has moved on without him, while Samir tries to understand Marie’s motivation of having her soon-to-be ex-husband, stay with them during the divorce paper signings.

But the children are who are important pieces to this captivating film.  Marie’s youngest daughter Lea is the loving, playful type.  While Samir’s Fouad is no doubt a boy who carries a lot of anger.  This is a boy who wants to have a home, wants to have a loving mother but seeing Ahmad at the house and seeing how his arrival has changed things, causes him to vent out with anger.  He is a boy who craves for a home and family, after losing a mother who tried to commit suicide in front of his father and is in a coma, being kept alive on machines.

The child who plays an important part of the film is Lucie, a teenager who prefers Ahmad over Samir but it’s through her that provides the film’s emotional complexities through various bombshells.  And we eventually see how these bombshells play a big part in possibly having each of these adults realizing more about their relationship and for the most part, their lives will no longer be the same.

While “The Past” is no doubt a fantastic film, from a person who has made a wonderful masterpiece such as “A Separation” will face critics who will compare the films for its way of tackling relationships, the film’s pacing and fluidity but more often, it’s emotion delivered by the characters of the film.

To compare the two would be difficult as the stories are different and I enjoy each Farhadi film in their own way.  With “A Separation”, the film is culturally captivating because of how it covers tradition vs. modernism, a character-driven storyline that makes you feel for each character and wanting you to learn their motivation.

For “The Past”, culturally this is where people will be challenged to sympathize with a character, as each character have their own personal faults.  Ahmad is good-natured and kind and there is no doubt that part of you feels comfortable with him because of his kind nature.  But at the same time, because of depression, he chose to leave his family and escape.

Marie and Samir will be looked at as two people who fell in love, but should it be right when Samir had a wife.  Should they even plan a family when Samir’s wife is still in a coma?  What if she comes out of her coma?  What now?

Within each character, there is somewhat of a longing for something of the past that they know may be unattainable in the present, for the time being.  You can tell that Ahmad (before he learns that Marie has found a new man) has some emotions for Marie and the house is a connection to his past, with the children but now knowing he is losing all of it and he must move on.

Marie on the other hand is a person who longed for the past as she loved Ahmad but had to move on with Samir.  And as for Samir, what about his relationship with Celine? Was there love?  What drove Celine to try and kill herself?  And how such actions by the adult, has affected the children.

And as the film develops, each layer is peeled away until we realize that the past will now come back and affect the present.

Performances play a big factor and Berenice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa and Tahar Rahim are wonderful.  I typically tend to be wary of how children are utilized in emotional films but each of the young talent featured in the film also did a good job and once again, filmmaker Asghar Farhadi knows how to bring out the best of his talents!

“The Past” is a Blu-ray release that looks great via HD.  While the lossless audio is primarily dialogue and is front channel driven, there are careful shots that are employed in the film.  Facial reactions, well-planned editing that compliments the film’s pacing.  An in-depth audio commentary, making of and Q&A is also included on the Blu-ray release.

Overall, Asghar Farhadi has written and directed another excellent film, but one that is short of a masterpiece as earned by his previous film “A Separation”.  But make no doubt about it, this is a wonderful film in the oeuvre of this fine filmmaker.

“The Past” is highly recommended!

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