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Kill la Kill Volume 1: Limited Edition (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Kill la Kill” is an exciting series and it’s first four episodes have been captivating and addicting.  I can’t wait until the second volume but I can see why many fans have welcomed this series with open arms and love it.  It’s a series that features fascinating characters, cool animation/backgrounds and I’m sure there will be twists and turns along the way.  “Kill la Kill Volume 1: Limited Edition” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © TRIGGER, Kazuki Nakashima/Kill la Kill Partnership.  2014 ANIPLEX INC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kill la Kill Volume 1: Limited Edition

DURATION: 4 Episodes (100 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0, Subtitles: English and Spanish

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: Suggested 16 and Up

Release Date: July 15, 2014

Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Series Composition: Kazuki Nakashima

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design: Sushio

Art by Saishi Ichiko

Art Director: Shigeto Koyama, Yuji Kaneko

Anime Production: Trigger

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ami Koshimizu/Erica Mendez as Ryuuko Matoi

Ryoka Yuzuki/Carrie Keranen as Satsuki Kiryuuin

Aya Suzaki/Christine Marie Cabanos as Mako Mankanshoku

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Steve Cannon as Hōka Inumuta

Katsuyuki Konishi as Tsumugu Kinagase

Mayumi Shintani/Sarah Williams as Nonon Jakuzure

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Grant George as Uzu Sanageyama

Romi Park as Ragyo Kiryuuin

Shinichiro Miki/Matthew Mercer as Aikurō Mikisugi

Tetsu Inada/Patrick Seitz as Ira Gamagōri

Toshihiko Seki as Senketsu

Yukari Tamura as Nui Harime

Honnouji Academy – where the school is ruled by students clad in special outfits called Goku Uniforms. Deriding the student body as “pigs in human clothing,” Student Council President Satsuki Kiryuin, along with her loyal underlings, the Elite Four, has the academy under their absolute control.

One day, a vagrant schoolgirl named Ryuko Matoi appears and tries to get Satsuki, who recognizes her Scissor Blade, to talk. Was their encounter a mere coincidence or fate? The clash between the two will soon consume the whole academy!

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From the creators of “Gurren Lagann” comes “Kill la Kill”!

With 24-episodes airing in Japan between October through March 2014 plus an OVA episode that is schedule for release in Sept. 2014, “Kill la Kill Volume 1: Limited Edition” will be released in the U.S. on Blu-ray in July 2014.

“Kill la Kill” is set in Honnouji Academy, a school that is ruled by the iron-fisted student council president, Satsuki Kiryuin.

Dominated by the student council, each member wears a Goku uniform that give each member superhuman abilities and depending by the number of their uniform is indicative of how strong that individual is.

Meanwhile, Ryuko Matoi joins Honnouji Academy.  She is brash and wields half of a scissor-shaped longsword in search of the person responsible for killing her father.  And if she finds the person that owns the other scissor blade, she will exact her revenge.

Her first day at school, she meets the energetic Mako Mankanshoku and her younger brother Mataro.  And as Ryuko and Mako go to school, Mako witnesses a student getting beaten by the student council.

When Ryuko goes to find out who is responsible for her father’s death, she is quickly beaten by the boxing club captain, Takaharu Fukuroda, who sports  a two-star Goku uniform.

Having been beaten and feeling that she has disappointed her father, Ryuko falls inside a trap door and discovers a talking sailor uniform that attaches itself to her.  She finds out that her uniform, a “Kamui” named Senketsu, has granted her abilities and now, Ryuko is ready to take on any rivals from Honnouji Academy.

And for student council president, Satsuki Kiryuin, she will give the answers that Ryuko has been wanting only if she can defeat the people that challenge her.

The main characters of “Kill la Kill″ are:

  • Ryuko Matoi – The main protagonist.  A 17-year-old who transferred into Honnouji Academy.  She wields half of a Scissor Blade and is looking for the person responsible for killing her father.  When a Kamui sailor uniform named Senketsu attaches itself to her, she gains special abilities.
  • Senketsu – A kamui and living sailor uniform that gives the user superhuman abilities in exchange for their blood.
  • Satsuki Kiryuin – The ruthless student council president who leads the student council with an iron fist.
  • Mako Mankanshoku  – A bubbly, energetic teen that welcomes Ryuko to her family.
  • Mataro Mankanshoku – The younger brother of Mako.
  • Barazo Mankanshoku – Mako’s father who runs a back-alley clinic and a pervert.
  • Sukuyo Mankanshoku – Barazo’s wife and mother of Mako and Mataro.  She loves cooking delicious dishes.
  • Ira Gamagoori – Satsuki’s loyal enforcer who lead the disciplinary committee at Honnouji Academy and sports a three-star Goku uniform.

VIDEO:

“Kill la Kill” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  What I enjoy about this series is its animation style.  Creative character designs but also picture quality that is reminiscent of classic animation.  Backgrounds are detailed and beautifully painted, while characters are nicely shaded.  Colors are vibrant and I didn’t notice any excessive banding or artifacts during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kill la Kill” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0.  The soundtrack is primarily front-channel driven and while voice acting is well-done for both languages, there is no difference in terms of dynamic range.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kill la Kill Volume 1: Limited Edition″ comes with the following special features:

  • Textless OP (Ep 2 & 3 Ver.)
  • Textless Opening and Endings
  • Web Version Previews

EXTRAS:

“Kill la Kill Volume 1: Limited Edition″ comes with a slipcase, poster and six-postcard set plus the following soundtrack:

キルラキル 一 REARRANGE & REMIX SOUNDTRACK CD

Duration: 43 Minutes / 10 tracks

  1. Before my body is dry: [nZk] ver. – MIKA KOBAYASHI
  2. Bluemenkranz: [nZk] ver. – Cyua
  3. Suck your blood: [nZk] ver. – Caramel Apple Sound Gadget
  4. Light your heart up: [nZk] ver. – Aimee Blackschleger
  5. Till I Die: [nZk] ver. – Caramel Apple Sound Gadget
  6. Before my body is dry: [nZk] ver. <Inst.> – MIKA KOBAYASHI
  7. Bluemenkranz: [nZk] ver. <Inst.> – Cyua
  8. Suck your blood: [nZk] ver. <Inst.> – Caramel Apple Sound Gadget
  9. Light your heart up: [nZk] ver. <Inst.> – Aimee Blackschleger
  10. Till I Die: [nZk] ver. <Inst.> – Caramel Apple Sound Gadget

While I try not to get excited over a series with only four episodes viewed, I will say that from the first four episodes alone, I’m enjoying the series a lot!

From it’s fascinating storyline revolving revenge, a talking sailor school uniform, a high school ruled with an iron fist by its powerful student council president and it’s intriguing antagonists which Ryuko must take on, suffice to say, it’s a captivating storyline with awesome animation and beautifully painted backgrounds.

Voice acting in Japanese and English is well-done and as with most Aniplex limited editions, you also get a box full of swag with a soundtrack, postcard set and poster.

It’s important to note that this is a series that is for teens and up and not a series to have children nearby, as Ryuko has to wear a very skimpy uniform and it has its fair share of violence.

Overall, “Kill la Kill” is an exciting series and it’s first four episodes have been captivating and addicting.  I can’t wait until the second volume but I can see why many fans have welcomed this series with open arms and love it.  It’s a series that features fascinating characters, cool animation/backgrounds and I’m sure there will be twists and turns along the way.

“Kill la Kill Volume 1: Limited Edition” is highly recommended!

Need For Speed (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Need For Speed” is a film that doesn’t break any new ground. It’s a simple plot of revenge and the elements of the video game of coming in first, beating your rival and avoiding police are a big part of the film. But with that being said, the film probably does a disservice by making viewers think that high speed racing is so cool but there are repercussions for those who take part in this dangerous hobby that can actually hurt and kill someone. But while you have one side who will detest this film because of that, there are those who simply love fast cars, love the video games and love racing and this is who this film was made for. So, if you are the latter and want to experience a race film that looks and sounds incredible on Blu-ray, then “Need For Speed” is recommended for you!

Image courtesy of © 2014 Dreamworks Distribution. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Need For Speed

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 131 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:39:1 aspect ratio, English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: DreamWorks Pictures/Touchstone Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2014

Directed by Scott Waugh

Screenplay by George Gatins

Story by George Gatins and John Gatins

Produced by John Gatins, Patrick O’Brien, Mark Sourian

Executive Producer: Stuart M. Besser, Frank Gibeau, Tim Moore, Scott Waugh

Music by Nathan Furst

Cinematography by Shane Hurlbut

Edited by Paul Rubell, Scott Waugh

Casting by Ronna Kress

Production Design by Jon hutman

Art Direction by Christopher R. DeMuri

Costume Design by Ellen Mirojnick

Starring:

Aaron Paul as Tobey Marshall

Dominic Cooper as Dino Brewster

Imogen Poots as Julia Maddon

Scott Mescudi as Benny

Rami Malek as Finn

Ramon Rodriguez as Joe Peck

Harrison Gilbertson as Little Pete

Dakota Johnson as Anita

Stevie Ray Dallimore as Bill Ingram

Michael Keaton as Monarch

Based on the most successful racing video game franchise ever with over 140 million copies sold, DreamWorks Pictures’ Need for Speed captures the thrills of the game in a real-world setting. An exciting return to the great car-culture films of the 1960s and ‘70s, when authenticity brought a new level of intensity to the action, Need for Speed taps into what makes the American myth of the open road so enticing.

The story chronicles a near-impossible cross-country race against time — one that begins as a mission for revenge, but proves to be one of redemption. In a last attempt to save his struggling garage, blue-collar mechanic Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) — who with his team skillfully builds and races muscle cars on the side — reluctantly partners with wealthy, arrogant ex-NASCAR driver Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). Just as a major sale to a car broker Julia Bonet (Imogen Poot) looks like it will save the business, a disastrous, unsanctioned race results in Dino framing Tobey for manslaughter.

Two years later and fresh out of prison, Tobey is set on revenge with plans to take down Dino in the high-stakes De Leon race — the Super Bowl of underground racing. To get there in time, Tobey must run a high-octane, action-packed gauntlet, dodging cops coast-to-coast and dealing with fallout from a dangerous bounty Dino put on his car. With his loyal crew and the surprisingly resourceful Julia as allies, Tobey defies odds at every turn and proves that even in the flashy world of exotic supercars, the underdog can still finish first.

From the filmmaker responsible for the war film “Acts of Valor” comes “Need for Speed”, a film that is based on the popular EA video game racing series.

For anyone who has played the video games, the games are all about racing and taking first place but also having to deal with the police who are often chasing after you.  And those elements are included in the film which did fantastic in the box office.

The film would star Aaron Paul (“Mission: Impossible III”, “Breaking Bad”, “The Last House on the Left”), Dominic Cooper (“Captain America: The First Avenger”, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”), Imogen Poots (“That Awkward Moment”, “V for Vendetta”, “28 Weeks”), music star Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, Ramon Rodriguez (“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, “The Taking of Pelham 123″, “Battle Los Angeles”), Dakota Johnson (“The Social Network”, “21 Jump Street”), Rami Malek, Harrison Gilbertson and Michael Keaton (“Batman”, “Beetlejuice”, “Night Shift”, “Jackie Brown”).

The $66 million film would go on to make over $203 million worldwide and now “Need For Speed” will be released on Blu-ray.

“Need For Speed” revolves around Tobey Marshall (portrayed by Aaron Paul), a former race car driver who now operates an auto garage and tuning performance cars with his friends.  The group which include Tobey, their pilot Benny “Maverick” (portrayed by Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi), mechanics Joe Peck (portrayed by Ramon Rodriguez) and Finn (portrayed by Rami Malek) and Little Pete Coleman (portrayed by Harrison Gilbertson).

While the group likes to race at night and love testing out their vehicles, right before a race, his ex-girlfriend and Pete’s older sister  Anita (portrayed by Dakota Johnson) is visiting town with her boyfriend, Dino Brewster (portrayed by Dominic Cooper), an entrepreneur and former racer, but also Tobey’s longtime rival.

After Tobey wins the race, Tobey is offered a business deal from Dino that if he can restore a rare Ford Shelby Mustang, he will get 25% of the car’s estimated selling price of $2 million.

Despite his crew warning him to do business with his enemy, knowing that the garage is hurting for money, Tobey agrees.

The car eventually sells for $2.7 million after Tobey shows the car can go over 230 mph.  The car is sold to exotic car dealer Julia Maddon (portrayed by Imogen Poots) and after the sale, after Pete brags to Dino about how Tobey can easily beat him in the race, Dino proposes a bet.  Using one of his uncle’s three Koenigsegg Agera R’s and racing over Interstate 684, if Dino loses, he will win the entire Mustang deal.  If Tobey loses, he will give up his 25%.

Tobey agrees and the three race.  As Tobey is about to win the race, Dino clips Pete’s car and Pete’s car flips over the overpass.  Distraught, Tobey stops the car to check on his friend and runs towards the wreckage, while Dino doesn’t stop and continues the race and wins the bet.

Tobey is arrested by police and Dino claims that his uncle’s two Koenigsegg Agera R’s were stolen.  Tobey tries to tell the authorities that he and Pete were racing Dino but with no witness to a third car and no proof there was a third Koenigsegg Agera R, Tobey goes to prison for two years for involuntary manslaughter and loses his garage.

Fastforward two years later and Tobey assembles his group of friends and wants revenge on Dino Brewster by racing him in the dangerous race known as the De Leon organized by DJ Monarch (portrayed by Michael Keaton).

Desperate for a car, as the group needs to reach San Francisco in two days, he calls up Julia Maddon to borrow the Ford Shelby Mustang, the crew plan their trip to San Francisco.  But unaware that Dino has put a bounty on Tobey and will do anything to prevent him from racing in the De Leon.

Will Tobey get to the race in time?  And will he get his revenge on his rival Dino Brewster?

VIDEO:

“Need for Speed” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality for the film is absolutely fantastic as colors are vibrant, reds pop, black levels are nice and deep, skin tones are natural with closeups featuring excellent detail, the cars look so fantastic in HD and I saw no problems with artifacts, banding or any negative issues.

“Need For Speed” looks absolutely fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Need For Speed” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HDMA and English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks.

The film sounds absolutely awesome thanks to the immersive soundtrack.  If there was one thing that director Scott Waugh wanted is that people feel that they were in the car, so sound engineers utilized the 7.1 lossless soundtrack to make you hear the car engine, tires screeching, cars hitting each other and literally hearing and feeling the cars around you.

Because the amount of car action featured in the film, the lossless soundtrack is active with all channels being utilized and also fantastic LFE.  Definitely one of the best lossless soundracks on Blu-ray that I have listened to in 2014!

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Need for Speed” comes with the following special features:

  • Capturing Speed: Making an Authentic Car Movie - (9:45) A featurette about making an authentic racing film and the cars utilized for the film.
  • Ties That Bind - (11:56) A featurette about the Mickey Gilbert and the Gilbert family who worked as stuntmen in the business1 and working on “Need For Speed”.
  • The Circus is in Town – (10:49) Working with the crew how it’s like a traveling circus and moving around the United States to film “Need For Speed”.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Scott Waugh and actor Aaron Paul.
  • Monarch and Maverick Outtakes – (1:35) Outtakes from the ad libs used by Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi and Michael Keaton.
  • Deleted Scenes – (5:06) Featuring four deleted scenes with intro by director Scott Waugh.
  • The Sound of Need for Speed - (9:22) A featurette on capturing the sounds of the cars and making the audience feel that they are driving in the car, using 7.1 soundscape and also creating the music for the film.
  • Need for Speed Rivals Trailer – (1:25) Trailer for the “Need for Speed Rivals” video game.

EXTRAS:

“Need for Speed” comes with a slipcover and a Digital HD Digital Copy code.

For anyone who has played the “Need For Speed” video games or those who have an interest in street racing, will find Scott Waugh’s live action film to be exciting thanks to the decision to forego CG and use real cars, but also to utilize sound in which the viewer is immersed in the surroundings of the actual vehicle and race and making you feel you are right there.

It was a goal of Scott Waugh and crew to have people feel like you were in the vehicle but also to make sure the racing felt real and natural and watching this film, you can’t help but marvel at the cars featured but how much that went into the actual racing aspect of the film.

Yes, it’s based on the video game which was all about beating your rivals in a race and avoiding the police but the film was able to taking things up a notch by cool characters and the whole racing storyline bent on revenge but also the unexpected situations that are featured in the film.

The plot may not break new ground but what breaks new ground is how vehicles were utilized, the filming of the vehicles in the race and capturing the sounds from the vehicles.  It’s not easy to explain if you are not a car enthusiast but the sounds of the engine and the actual race are part of why I enjoyed the film.  And the fact that Scott Waugh and crew wanted to try something different in terms of how cars are utilized in a film is a major plus

Aaron Paul did a good job of playing the calm and collected protagonist, while Dominic Cooper did a good job of playing the jerk antagonist.  I also enjoyed Imogen Poots as the luxury car specialist who joins Paul’s character in the cross country drive to California.

But the film is far from perfect.  While filmmakers pushed to do something different and new with the vehicles, there are scenes that just don’t work well.  For example, Kid Cudi’s character, Maverick asking his guard to borrow an iPad while he’s locked up?  Like that is ever going to happen.   Maverick using a military helicopter to transport the Mustang also is farfetched.

But as I have enjoyed the video game series that the film is based on, there is no way I will promote or advocate street racing.  If you want to race, you can take your vehicle on the track, no need to endanger other lives by high speed racing.

I know that there are young people who may be inspired to emulate what they see on the big screen and I hope that people realize that there are repercussions for irresponsible driving, especially if someone is killed.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic, the 7.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is immersive and magnificent and you also get a good number of special features included.

Overall, “Need For Speed” is a film that doesn’t break any new ground.  It’s a simple plot of revenge and the elements of the video game of coming in first, beating your rival and avoiding police are a big part of the film.

But with that being said, the film probably does a disservice by making viewers think that high speed racing is so cool but there are repercussions for those who take part in this dangerous hobby that can actually hurt and kill someone.

But while you have one side who will detest this film because of that, there are those who simply love fast cars, love the video games and love racing and this is who this film was made for.  So, if you are the latter and want to experience a race film that looks and sounds incredible on Blu-ray, then “Need For Speed” is recommended for you!

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

July 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Dragonwolf” is an entertaining martial arts film from Thailand, granted, it has its fair share of many poorly acted scenes. But for a low-budget independent martial arts film, I did enjoy watching it as it reminded me of something that came out of a Japanese manga (comic). If you love martial arts films and also want a laugh, then definitely give “Dragonwolf” a try!

Image courtesy of © 2012 Motionpictures. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dragonwolf

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 122 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATINGS: NR

RELEASE DATE: July 29, 2014

Directed by Raimuns Huber

Story by Raimund Huber

Written by Johan Kirsten

Produced by Chariyawan Tavoranon

Executive Producer: Shaked Berenson, Trit Charoenrach, Patrick Ewald, Raimund Huber

Associate Producer: Thomas Goth, Ava Napasasorn Intarakoomarn

Cinematography by Wardhana Vunchuplou

Fight Choreographer: Kazu Patrick Tang

Stunt Coordinator: Surin Kamboonraung

Starring:

Kazu Patrick Tang as Mozart

Johan Kirsten as Julius

Macha Polivka as Mary

David Winters as Brutus

Guk Srisawat as Umiko

The Devil’s Cauldron – a city of depravity and violence, where only the lethal survive. Two hit men rule these streets, feared by all but loyal to one another. When a beautiful woman seduces them both, they turn on each other, igniting an epic battle that may bring the city to the brink of destruction.

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When it comes to Thailand action films, filmmaker Raimund Huber is well-known.

From films such as “Kill ‘em All”, “Bangkok Adventure” and “Freerunner”, Huber is back with a new action film titled “Dragonwolf”, which will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment in July 2014.

Written by actor Johan Kirsten, the film stars Kirsten alongside actor/fight choreographer Kazu Patrick Tang (“District B13″, “Raging Phoenix”, “Ong-bak 2″).

The film begins with a young boy named Mozart who was dying until a witch doctor in the village manages to save him.

Mozart would eventually befriend a young Julius and the two become brothers.  With Julius’ family raising Mozart after his mother died.

Fast forward years later and both Mozart (portrayed by Kazu Patrick Tang) and Julius (portrayed by Johan Kirsten) live in the Devil’s Cauldron and the two have managed to survive and climb their way to the crime world with Julius becoming a crime boss.

With Mozart known for being silent and stoic but amazing with the sword and martial arts, something has tore them apart and Julius sends his men to kill Mozart and his girlfriend Mary (portrayed by Macha Polivka).

Believing that Mozart is dead, he returns back to Devil’s Cauldron with pieces of his memory and wanting revenge on the men that have wanted him dead and taking on the deadliest fighters in Devil’s Cauldron.

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VIDEO:

“Dragonwolf” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9 widescreen).  While a low budget film, picture quality of this film looks very good on Blu-ray with great detail on close-ups.  Colors are vibrant outdoors, black levels are nice and deep.  There are moments of experimental filters which were intentional but for the most part, “Dragonwolf” looks very good on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Dragonwolf” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio with closed captions in English.

While not amazingly immersive, “Dragonwolf” does feature a good number of action scenes with punches, steel swords clanging when struck, gun shots galore, etc.  Sound effects are crystalclear as with dialogue but this is a front and center channel driven soundtrack.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragonwolf” only comes with a theatrical trailer.

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While independent Asian martial arts films are aplenty, you have to give Raimund Huber credit for creating some of the most intense low-budget action-films from Thailand.

In first glance, I felt that “Dragonwolf” would be horrid film thanks to its bad acting earlier in the film, bad acting that unintentionally makes a film more comedy, even though that was not the intent.

But since I grew up with the films such as “No Retreat, No Surrender”, I tend to also give independent martial arts films a bit off leeway and the same can be said for “Dragonwolf”.

Fortunately, there is an interesting storyline about two men who grew up like brothers and having chosen a life of crime.

Two brothers who grew up fighting, constantly training with each other and while Julius has always had the upperhand, both have had admirable respect for each other.

But what can come between these brothers?  It’s a woman named Mary.

A woman with a noticeable black dragon tattoo on her back, she is dating Julius but has her eyes set on Mozart.  And when a group of men working for Julius tries to kill both of them while in bed, suffice to say, Mozart is out for revenge.

While a bit predictable, what makes this film interesting is its crazy characters that target Mozart for death.  From a crew of martial arts trash talkers, a group of goth looking swordsman, Russian assassins and more!

While the fight scenes are the film’s strongest point versus the acting, after all was said and done, I actually enjoyed “Dragonwolf” because it was a low-budget film and while expecting worse after its earlier scene featuring a scene of terrible child acting, the film picked up and while the bad acting continued, it lent to a more humorous moment countering the stoic nature of Mozart.

The Blu-ray unfortunately is barebones when it comes to special features but picture quality and lossless audio were very good.

Overall, “Dragonwolf” is an entertaining martial arts film from Thailand, granted, it has its fair share of many poorly acted scenes.  But for a low-budget independent martial arts film, I did enjoy watching it as it reminded me of something that came out of a Japanese manga (comic).

If you love martial arts films and also want a laugh, then definitely give “Dragonwolf” a try!

 

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

July 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Suspect” is no doubt one of my favorite action films of 2014 thus far!  In-your-face action and a storyline full of twists and turns, “The Suspect” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 Showbox/Mediaplex and Green Fish. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Suspect

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 137 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2014

Directed by Shin-yeon Won

Produced by David Shin

Cinematography by Sung-je Lee

Set Decoration by Shing Seung-hoon

On-Set Dresser: Oscar A. Colom Cruz

Starring:

Yoo Gong as Ji Dong-cheol

Jae-yun Jo

Seong-ha Jo as Kim Seok-ho

Seong-gyoon Kim as ri Gwang-jo

Hee-soon Park as Min Se-hoon

Da-in Yoo as Choi Kyeong-hee

Dong-chul (Gong Yoo) is the best field agent in North Korea – until he is abandoned during a mission, his wife and daughter murdered. Hunted and on the run, torn between grief and vengeance, he takes a job as a night driver for the CEO of a powerful corporation. The chairman is brutally assassinated – but gives Dong-chul a pair of glasses before he dies. Now, he’s on the run again. Accused of murder, wanted for treason, and desperate to uncover the volatile national secrets hidden inside the glasses. Dong-Chul wants the truth. And he’ll start a war to get it.

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It has been referred to as Korea’s “Bourne” film, Shin-yun Won’s spy thriller, “The Suspect”, has received rave reviews worldwide and now it will be released on Blu-ray in the U.S.A. in July 2014!

The film revolves around former North Korean special forces agent, Ji Dong-chul (portrayed by Gong Yoo), a man who wants revenge against his ex-colleagues that were involved in the murder of his wife and unborn child.

While trying to find the killer of his wife/child during the day, during the night, he is the chauffeur to Chairman Park, a business executive with ties to Pyongyang.

On the final day that Ji Dong-chul was to work with the Chairman, he notices that something is awry with the security cameras.  When he goes up to check on the chairman, he catches a man injecting poison in the foot of the Chairman.  After a brief fight in which Ji Dong-chul defeats the assailant, the Chairman asks for Dong-chul to take his glasses and bury them.

Meanwhile, those involved for the murder is the South Korean Intelligence Service led by Kim Seok-ho (portrayed by Jo Sung-ha), the director of the NIS.

Seok-ho pins the death of the chairman on Dong-chul and has colonel/drill sergeant Min Se-hoon (portrayed by Park Hee-soon) to find Ji Dong-chul (a man that he has history with) and bring him back alive.

Meanwhile, Dong-chul gets assistance from a documentary filmmaker named Choi Kyung-hee (portrayed by Yoo Da-in), who has been doing a story on North Korean defectors and believes that Dong-chul did not commit the murders but he is more determined in getting revenge for the people responsible for killing his wife/child.

But using the latest in technology and having one of fiercest men and the intelligence service after him, will Dong-chul be able to outwit them and find out who was responsible for murdering his wife/child and will he get revenge?

VIDEO:

“The Suspect” is presented in 1080p High Definition  (2:39:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks amazing in HD!  Featuring amazing detail during closeups and vibrant colors, the film is well-contrast and black levels are nice and deep.  I saw no problems with picture quality, if anything, there is nothing negative to say about the picture quality.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “The Suspect” is presented in Korean DTS-HD MA and as one can expect from a heavy hitting action film, the lossless soundtrack is immersive and action sequences are so often throughout the film, it’s definitely one of the most immersive Korean films I have watched on Blu-ray!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Suspect” only comes with a theatrical trailer.

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There have been a good number of action films from Asia that have won me over.

So many films are rehashed, regurgitated and you can’t help but feeling that you want to see something unique and original.   And I have to say that while there have been many heavy hitting action films to come out of Korea, “The Suspect” is one of the most awesome action thrillers I have watched.  And this film is relentless when it comes to action as it keeps going and going and it’s in your face action that ranges from chase scenes, fight scenes galore and action that no doubt compliments the fast-paced storyline.

Watching “The Suspect”, I was amazed by how many twists and turns were set throughout the film and with its ending, it left me with a big grin in my face and wanting to see more of  the character of Ji Dong-cheol in more films.

Actor Yoo Gong was excellently cast for this film as a man bent on revenge for the death of his wife and unborn child, but because he is one of the top North Korean spies, to see so many police after one man and to see how he is able to outwit them, suffice to say, these moments were among my favorite!

And then you have the cat and mouse chase between the characters of Ji Dong-cheol and the “don’t frack with me” Colonel Min Se-hoon.  Dong-cheol as the main target, these two have a heated past and you wonder how this will pan out when these two men confront each other at the end.

But the enjoyment is the vast journey that the character takes you through Korea.  You will see Dong-cheol all over Korea, from stores to rooftops, driving a car during a chase (forward and backward) and so much more!  Definitely well-cast for the film’s protagonist, this is one character that no doubt can be Korea’s Jason Bourne or Jack Bauer or even better as this is one character no one wants to mess with.

The Blu-ray for “The Suspect” features fantastic picture quality and magnificent lossless audio.  Unfortunately, this is a barebones Blu-ray release with only a theatrical trailer, but I wanted to see how this film was created and was really hoping to see a “making of” featurette.

Overall, “The Suspect” is no doubt one of my favorite action films of 2014 thus far!  In-your-face action and a storyline full of twists and turns, “The Suspect” is highly recommended!

 

Make Your Move (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Featuring entertaining and creative choreography when compared to other popular dance films, “Make Your Move” may be lacking with its simplistic “Romeo & Juliet” plot but is still a fun and entertaining dance film worth watching.

Image courtesy of © 2014 Cobu Company, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Make Your Move

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 110 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2014

Written and Directed by Duane Adler

Produced by Agnes Delahaie

Cinematography by Leonce-Henrie Burel

Edited by Raymond Lamy

Production Design by Pierre Charbonnier

Starring:

Derek Hough as Donny

BoA as Aya

Will Yun Lee as Kaz

Wesley Jonathan as Nick

Izabella Miko as Tatianna

Jefferson Brown as Michael Griffiths

Miki Ishikawa as Natsumi

From the co-writer of STEP UP and SAVE THE LAST DANCE The music is pumping, the dance floor is moving and Donny (Derek Hough, TV’s “Dancing With the Stars”) stops when he sees the beautiful Aya (Korean pop star BoA) performing with her hip-hop Cobu crew at the hottest underground club in New York. They come from two different worlds, but they speak the same language — dance. When the couple finds themselves in the middle of a bitter rivalry, they must choose between family ties or their love for each other. Now, they must make their move.

From Duane Adler, co-writer of “Save the Last Dance” and “Step Up” comes a collaboration of the West and the East as former “Dancing with Stars” dancer Derek Hough and K-Pop/J-Pop star BoA are paired together in a Romeo and Juliet-style independent dance film.

“Make Your Move” was shot in New York City and Toronto back in Spring 2011 and was released in theaters in 2013.

And now “Make Your Move” will make its debut on Blu-ray in July 2014.

“Make Your Move” revolves around Donny (portrayed by Derek Hough), a dancer who was released out of prison and is on parole.

Despite trying to make money dancing on the streets of New Orleans, his parole officer wants him to stop dancing and get a real job and stops Donny from dancing and panhandling.

But after seeing the success of his foster brother Nick (portrayed by Wesley Jonathan), the owner of the underground night club, Static, Donny decides to go to New York and violate his parole rules of staying in the state of Louisiana for six months.

Meanwhile, Aya (portrayed by BoA) is a Korean who was born in Japan and makes her living as a taiko drum/dance instructor.  And as her group loves to play their taiko drums, their choreography session is halted when Nick comes and tells them to leave the premises and takes their Taiko drums.

Aya’s brother, Kaz (portrayed by Will Yun Lee) was a former business partner with Nick and both had their falling out and have become rivals in the club scene.  Their rivalry has become so bad that both sides have threatened each other.

As Donny goes to visit Nick, Nick warns him to not get up on stage and follow the rules.  Donny wants to be a dancer for Static and just wants Nick to give him a chance.

One night, as Aya and her friends go to Static and try to retrieve their taiko drums, they decided to put on a dance for the Static customers.  And as the group impresses the club members with the exception of Nick, as Aya goes to tap dance on the bar table, Nick is so impressed that he goes up to tap dance with her.

But as quickly as the two begin dancing with one another, Aya’s brother comes to take them back and it leaves to an altercation between Kaz and Donny.  Donny ends up running out of the club with Aya, but their cab is halted by Kaz and his men.  But not long after, Nick and his men come to separate the two.

Nick is angered by how much trouble Donny has caused him in the first day of him arriving to New York and Donny ends up on the streets but wanting to get to know more about Aya and get close to her.

Meanwhile, Kaz is working for a nightclub owned by Wall Street businessman Michael (portrayed by Jefferson Brown), who wants nothing more but to marry Aya and wants her as an exclusive to his nightclub.  But Aya is not interested.

As Aya is forbidden to see Donny and Donny is forbidden to see Aya, what happens when these two are driven to be together due to dancing but also being attracted to each other?

VIDEO:

“Make Your Move” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality for the film on Blu-ray is fantastic.  Close-ups show great detail and skin pores on the faces of the characters. Skin tones look natural, outdoor scenes are vibrant.

I personally did not notice any problems with banding, artifacts, crush, etc.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, lossless audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  For a film like “Make Your Move”, you can expect a dialogue and musically driven soundtrack.  There are moments where there is crowd ambiance during the club scenes and also other action scenes.  But for the most part, dialogue and music is crystal clear and the soundtrack is center and front-channel driven.

Subtitles are in English and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Make Your Move” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary - Featuring audio commentary with writer/director Duane Adler and choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo.
  • Deleted Scenes - (6:37) Featuring deleted scenes from “Make Your Move”.
  • Making the Moves – Choreography – (16:55) A featurette about how and why taiko drums and tap dance was incorporated to “Make Your Move” and an in-depth look at the choreography for the film.

“Make Your Move” may not be the film to break new ground in dance films utilizing a “Romeo & Juliet” storyline, nor is it the first film to explore interracial relationships in a dance movie.

But for anyone wanting a dance film with an interesting take with its incorporation of tap dance and taiko drum playing, may find “Make Your Move” an entertaining dance film, albeit more exciting for its choreography than its actual storyline.

A film which incorporates East and West, K-Pop fans will notice the CJ Entertainment and SM Entertainment logos at the beginning of the film.

With the popularity of the Korean wave especially the influence of K-Pop growing worldwide, the film tries to build upon that popularity by bringing SM Entertainment’s successful K-Pop and J-Pop performer, BoA and feature appearances by TVXQ’s U-Know and a song by SNSD (Girl’s Generation).

And of course, to make the film much more accessible to the West, the addition of writer/filmmaker Duane Adler, who had worked on hit dance films such as “Step Up” and “Save the Last Dance” and former dance choreographer for “Dancing with the Stars”, Derek Hough is a plus, when it comes to dancing.

While Adler’s “Step Up” and “Save the Last Dance” was able to build upon the magic of a dramatic storyline and inspirational dancing, “Make Your Move” is a film that relies to much on its dance numbers.  Yes, Derek Hough and BoA are wonderful dancers but the storyline lacks credibility.

It’s hard to picture Derek Hough as a criminal and for a broke individual who is able to move to New York and live on the streets, you often wonder how this guy is able to get up close to the beautiful BoA clean shaven, clean cut and despite being banged up a bit by a rival club, not one bruised or blood on his face.

Part of what made “Step Up” so awesome was that you felt that Channing Tatum’s character came from the other side of the tracks.  He owned the part, he looked the part.  Derek Hough’s Donny looked far from the part that he was supposed to play.

As for BoA, she has come far since making her U.S. album debut, her English is much better, her dancing is still top-notch but does the chemistry work between both her and Hough, that is subjective.

But while I felt the two had amazing dance chemistry and the choreography was top-notch, the storyline of rival clubs, among two former friends and how these two groups have subjected themselves to almost gangsta-like mentality just doesn’t seem right.  Everyone looks way too clean cut to look like a threat and the whole rival gang storyline just fell flat.

Going back to the CJ Entertainment, SM Entertainment and Avex Entertainment collaboration, while the music was good on one side and K-Pop fans will no doubt love the K-Pop integration of music in the film with TVXQ and SNSD involvement, out-of-the-blue, there are some song choices that felt off for the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and the lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music.  Special features include audio commentary, deleted scenes and a making of choreography featurette.

Overall, “Make Your Move” may not be as strong as Duane Adler’s previously written films “Step Up” and “The Last Dance” but this is an independent film featuring a collaboration between Korea and the United States and trying to give K-Pop fans a little of their culture while trying to make the film accessible for viewers in the west.

Featuring entertaining and creative choreography when compared to other popular dance films, “Make Your Move” may be lacking with its simplistic “Romeo & Juliet” plot but is still a fun and entertaining dance film worth watching.

 

Heaven is for Real (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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There is no doubt that “Heaven is for Real” is a film not for everyone. There will be some who will be touched, there will be some who may have problems with the film but for those with an open mind and for those who are Christians will no doubt enjoy or become fascinated by the story of the Burpo family and be touched by its spiritual message. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Heaven is for Real

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1, English, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Descriptive Track, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital,  Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese (Cantonese), Chinese Mandarin, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Thematic Material Including Some Medical Situations)

Release Date: July 22, 2014

Directed by Randall Wallace

Based on the Screenplay by Randall Wallace and Chris Parker

Based on the Book “Heaven is for Real” by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent

Produced by T.D. Jakes, Joe Roth

Co-Producer: Andrw Wallace, Kim H. Winther

Executive Producer: Sue Baden-Powell, Sam Mercer, Derrick Williams

Music by Nick Glennie-Smith

Cinematography by Dean Semler

Edited by John Wright

Casting by Sheila Jaffe

Production Design by Arvinder Grewal

Art Direction by Larry Spittle

Costume Design by Michael T. Boyd

Starring:

Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo

Kelly Reilly as Sonja Burpo

Thomas Haden Church as Jay Wilkins

Connor Corum as Colton Burpo

Lana Styles as Cassie Burpo

Margo Martindale as Nancy Rawling

Based on the #1 New York Times best-selling book, Heaven is for Real recounts the true story of a small-town father who must find the courage and conviction to share his son’s extraordinary, life-changing experience with the world. Starring Academy Award® nominee Greg Kinnear (Best Supporting Actor, As Good As It Gets, 1997) as Todd Burpo, the real-life father whose son Colton claims to have visited Heaven during a near death experience. Colton shares the details of his amazing journey with childlike innocence and speaks matter-of-factly about things that happened before his birth … things he couldn’t possibly know.

In 2010, the Christian book “Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back” would become a New York Times Best Seller.

Based on a true story about the Burpo family and their then-four-year-old son Colton having a near-death experience.  The book would receive a film adaptation and would be directed by Randall Wallace (“Braveheart”, “Pearl Harbor” and “We Were Soldiers”) and would star Greg Kinnear (“As Good As It Gets”, “You’ve Got Mail”), Thomas Haden Church (“Sideways”, “Spider-Man 3″, “Wings”), Margo Martindale (“Million Dollar Baby”, “Orphan”, “The Hours”), Kelly Reilly (“Sherlock Holmes”, “Flight”, “Sherlock Holmes: Games of Shadows”), Lane Styles and Connor Corum.

“Heaven is for Real” is set in Imperial, Nebraska and revolves around the pastor Todd Burpo (portrayed by Greg Kinnear) and his wife Sonja (portrayed by Kelly Reilly).

A loving family with two children, Cassie and Colton.

After Todd suffers a broken leg during a softball match and then suffering kidney stones, to help deal with Todd’s rehabilitation, the family goes to Denver for family time.

But not long after coming back home, both children are sick and while Cassie gets over her illness, Colton suffers a ruptured appendix and is rushed to the emergency room.  And while things are not going well, he eventually survives and begins opening up with his father of his near-death experience of watching doctors work on his body, seeing his father agonize in one room, while his mother is another room calling up friends to pray for them.

But when Colton starts to give details that has happened while he was being operated on and details of going to heaven, hearing angels sing and meeting Jesus and other family members with details that Colton couldn’t possibly know.   How will his family approach Colton?

And what happens when his story is told to the church congregation and is featured in the local news?

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VIDEO:

“Heaven is for Real” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Picture quality is fantastic as indoor and outdoor show great detail.  Colors are bold and vibrant.  Skin tones are natural throughout the film and black levels are accurate.  I didn’t notice any artifacts, banding or any problematic issues during my viewing.  “Heaven is for Real” looks fantastic on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Heaven is for Real” is primarily a dialogue driven film but the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack does shows moments of surround channel use.  From church ambiance, wind blowing things over, fire engine sirens and more.  But for a film like this, you expect a front and center channel soundtrack.

Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH, Chinese (Cantones and Mandarin), French, Indoensian/Bahasa, Korean, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Heaven is for Real” features the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (8:23) Featuring six deleted scenes
  • The Making of Heaven is for Real – (13:08) The making of the film from casting and shooting the Heaven scenes.
  • Colton Goes to Heaven – (4:17) A short featurette featuring the real Burpo family.
  • Creating Heaven – (4:24) The challenges of creating the Heaven sequences and the ideas and approach of creating the scene.

“Heaven is for Real” was a book that had its fair share of criticism from Christians but it also was a book that was a bestseller and a Christian book that will no doubt be subjective for its reader.

The same can be said for the film, it’s subjective to the viewer.

And while the film is not a Christian film per se, it does have religious themes that explore heaven through the eyes of a four-year-old.

Colton tells his father he went to heaven, how beautiful heaven is and how Jesus looks and the people he met in Heaven including family members who have passed away.

There are details that Colton couldn’t have known but knows from his visit to Heaven.

The problem is that Christians have their own perception of what heaven should be.  And what he saw in heaven despite not being listed as near-death.

For Pastor Todd Burpo, the whole concept of Heaven and what his child has been experiencing is major concern for him.  Is he telling the truth?  And does Colton’s revelations challenge his father’s belief.

What we do see is that Todd becomes heavily interested in his son’s near-death experience, while his wife Sonja is worried about how they can pay off bills and that perhaps its their son’s imagination or combination of things he saw that has crafted his image of Heaven.

“Heaven is for Real” is able to touch upon the challenges that the family faces, how the church board reacts to Todd and his son being featured in the news but whether one can accept it.

Do babies that die due to a miscarriage or die in a womb, grow in Heaven?  I personally found this to be a fascinating but also controversial for the film.

If anything, in reality, the concept of Heaven is not always clear to people and there are interpretations of what Heaven should be and how it should be like?

From the eyes of an innocent four-year-old, Colton talks about angels singing, seeing Jesus’ horse and the color of rainbows and more.  But for those who have their ideas set of what Heaven should be and what kind of paradise they expect or don’t expect, there will always be opinions that clash with other beliefs.

I do like how the film showcases the Burpo family, especially Todd and Sonja as a loving couple, a normal couple who drop sexual hints and flirt with each other but for those expecting a santized Christian film where things like this should not be featured, are also going to have problems with this film.

But is this a religious film?  It’s not a film about religious preaching, it’s not a film that tries to stuff religion in your face but there is religion as the protagonist is a pastor and how his son’s experience starts to change him and his approach to his work in church and how his fellow congregation start to reach, good or bad.  But there is a spiritual message to this film and what young Colton was able to experience, you can either believe or don’t believe.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality of this film is magnificent and the lossless audio quality is what I expected from this film and it being heavily center and front-channel driven.  There are a few special features included as well.

Overall, “Heaven is for Real” is a fascinating film that is entertaining and enjoyable if you grew up with a Christian upbringing.  Colton’s experience is unexplainable but for those who believe in God, you can take this experience as you see fit, the Burpo family experienced it with their son and there are others who have had experiences that are unexplained but if you believe in God, even in the Bible, things happen but it’s God’s way of showing a person his way or trying to reach out to others and show the power of faith and love.

There is no doubt that “Heaven is for Real” is a film not for everyone.  There will be some who will be touched, there will be some who may have problems with the film but for those with an open mind and for those who are Christians will no doubt enjoy or become fascinated by the story of the Burpo family and be touched by its spiritual message.

Recommended!

 

Kid Cannabis (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Kid Cannabis” is pretty much a young stoner film, but one that is fascinating because it’s based on a true story.  But while the film is straightforward as Mark Binelli’s original “Rolling Stone” article that this film was based on, the film never rises to the occasion of being anything more than a stoner film.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kid Cannabis Films, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kid Cannabis

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 110 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: July 8, 2014

Directed by John Stockwell

Screenplay by John Stockwell

Based on an article by Mark Binelli

Produced by Michael Becker, Gordon Bijelonic, Corey Large

Executive Producer: Mia Chang, Alison Lee, Alan Pao, Bic Tran, Datari Turner

Line Producer: Joe Di Maio

Music by Irv Johnson

Cinematography by Peter Holland

Edited by Jon Berry, James Renfroe

Casting by J.C. Cantu

Production Design by Chad Krowchuk, Daren Sasges

Set Decoration by Candise Paul

Costume Design by Ashley Jephcott

Starring:

Jonathan Daniel Brown by Nate Norman

Kenny Worlmald as Topher

Aaron Yoo as Brendan Butler

Ron Perlman as Barry Lerner

John C. McGinley as John Grefard

Corey Large as Giovanni Mendiola

Bryce Hodgson as Scuzz

Alex Arsenault as Dustin Lauer

Jeffrey Ballard as Patrick Groves

Giacomo Baessato as Eddie Mendiola

Merritt Patterson as Nicole Greffard

Amanda Tapping as Nate’s Mom

KID CANNABIS is the true story of an Idaho teen dropout who builds a multimillion-dollar marijuana ring by trafficking drugs through the woods across the Canadian border. But his pursuit of the high life – complete with girls, guns, and vicious rival drug lords – may leave this ex-pizza boy in way over his head.

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Back in 2005, Rolling Stone writer Mark Binelli wrote a story about Nate Norman, an unpopular, overweight young man from Idaho who wanted to make money by traveling to Canada to obtain the expensive marijuana known as “B.C. Bud”.

Suffice to say, Norman became wealthy, became popular with women, partied hard, smoked a lot of weed made a lot of friends and enemies and literally became a drug kingpin.

Despite living a happy life for a short time of parties, women, money and plenty of weed, his downfall was his network being busted but also the death of his rival, Brendan Butler.

Inspired by Binelli’s article, filmmaker and writer John Stockwell (“Blue Crush”, “Into the Blue”) would work on the screen adaptation of Nate Norman’s story.

The film would star Jonathan Daniel Brown (“Project X”, “Bad Milo”), Kenny Wormald (“Footloose”, “Clerks II”, “Center Stage: Turn It Up”), Aaron Yoo (“21″, “Disturbia”, “Friday the 13th”), Ron Perlman (“Hellboy” films, “Drive”, “Sons of Anarchy”) and John C. McGinley (“Scrubs”, “Platoon”, “The Rock”).

“Kid Cannabis” revolves around Nate Norman (portrayed by Jonathan Daniel Brown), a young man who loves weed but tries to make ends meet as his mother is working hard as a waitress and he tries to contribute by working as a pizza deliveryman.

Nate and his buddy Topher (portrayed by Kenny Wormald) try to get into the party hosed by the wealthy and cocky Brendan Butler, who happens to be a big supplier of weed to people in the area.

Seeing the success that Brendan has had and also delivering a pizza to a client who talked about “B.C. Bud”, high grade marijuana grown in Canada, Nate and Topher are wanting to get the weed and possibly selling it in the U.S.

Meeting some of the growers of the weed such as John Grefard (portrayed by John C. McGinley) and learning how much business there is in selling B.C. Bud to the United States, Nate begins working with drug kingpin Barry Lerner (portrayed by Ron Perlman) and eventually starts to make a lot of money.

Hiring his friends to be his close network of smuggling weed from Canada to the United States, Nate eventually becomes a wealthy drug kingpin which angers his rival Brendan Butler, who now wants to rob or even kill Nate.

But the weed business starts becoming riskier and dangerous for Nate Norman and what was supposed to be a simple plan, becomes troublesome and dangerous with lives endangered and someone is murdered.

 

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VIDEO:

“Kid Cannabis” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks great during the outdoor scenes, skin tones look natural and I didn’t notice any artifacts, banding or any problems with the video.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kid Cannabis” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  The majority of the film is dialogue and musically-driven.  The dialogue for the film is crystal clear and as one can expect from the hip hop tracks, the beats feature strong bass and sounds great!  But there are moments of ambiance during crowd scenes and and also a few action sequences that involve gun shots.  But for the most part, the lossless soundtrack for “Kid Cannabis” is good.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kid Cannabis” comes with a theatrical trailer.

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When it comes to stoner films, “Kid Cannabis” is quite effective in not being a moronic film about people smoking weed.

The fact that the film is based on an actual true story about a guy who managed to run his own empire and make a lot of money in short amount of time was rather intriguing but as one would expect, there were some consequences.

While those who participated, have rehabilitated or went on to find work, for the young Idaho drug kingpin, his description of what took place in his life during this time and how he feels about it now, while locked up in prison, it was more like a dream adventure that he would never trade for the world.

And the film helps understand why Nate would feel this way.  His life prior was pizza delivery guy who was trying to make ends meet with his mom who slaved a way from work.  What Nate knew was weed and what he was interested in was weed, naturally weed was the only avenue of making big money.

Yeah, he was able to smoke great weed but I think it’s the lifestyle of having people follow him and him being the leader, the kingpin.  And along with that, he was able to pay for a new house for his mother, he was able to score with other women and he had power.

But knowing the people that he ran with and seeing how these decisions would lead to his undoing along with his money making network, I suppose for him, the experience was his greatest memory of his young adult life.

Actor Jonathan Daniel Brown did a great job of portraying Nate. While I’m not sure if they are alike, the point of the film is seeing the unexpected rise of this guy who really had no outlet to anything else but hearsay from other drug dealers.  And Brown’s acting made you believe in the character.

The film was rather fascinating to see Ron Perlman as the drug financier and also seeing John C. McGinley as an ex-government grower, they added more credibility to this film and also made the film much more enjoyable.

While “Kid Cannabis” fairs well in its depiction of today’s young stoners and you want to see how far Nate Norman would go as a drug mover, the film didn’t do well to make you care about the other characters.  The other characters were rather forgettable and each time they graced the screen and the plot would shift to them, you just felt these scenes were wasted because they were not characters to even care about.  So, I felt that I was wanting to see more focus on the character of Nate.

As for the Blu-ray release, it’s a barebones release.  While picture and audio quality were very good, there are no special features but a theatrical trailer.

Overall, “Kid Cannabis” is pretty much a young stoner film that will appease fans who appreciates these type of films.  “Kid Cannabis” is quite fascinating because it is based on a true story, but while the film is straightforward as Mark Binelli’s original “Rolling Stone” article that this film was based on, the film never rises to the occasion of being anything more than that.

 

The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Legend of Korra” is one of the best animated series on television and the writing and animation has gotten better for “The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits”. The series looks and sounds so much better in HD and the additional featurettes plus audio commentary on each episode featuring the creators and the crew makes this series worth owning on Blu-ray! “The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits” is highly recommended. Five stars!

Image courtesy of © 2013 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits

YEAR: 2013

DURATION: Episodes 1-14 Minutes (330 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 2.0 Stereo

COMPANY: Nickelodeon/Viacom/Paramount

RATED: NOT RATED

Release Date: July 1, 2014

Directed by Ian Graham, Colin Heck

Written by Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, Joshua Hamilton, Tim Hedrick

Produced by Tim Yoon

Music by Jeremy Zuckerman

Casting by Shannon Reed

Art Direction by Joaquim Dos Santos, Bryan Konietzko, Ki Hyun Ryu

Featuring the following voice talent:

Janet Varney as Korra

Dee Bradley Baker as Various Voices

David Faustino as Mako

P.J. Byrne as Bolin

J.K. Simmons as Tenzin

Jeff Bennett as Radio Braodcaster

Seychelle Gabriel as Asami Sato

Steve Blum as Amon

Darcy Rose Byrnes as Ikki

Mindy Sterling as Lin Beifong

Logan Wells as Meelo

Lance Henriksen as Lieutenant

Kiernan Shipka as Jinora

Richard Riehle as Bumi

Adrian LaTourelle as Unalaq

Lisa Edestein as Kya

Aubrey Plaza as Eska

Aaron Himelstein as Desna

Maria Bamford as Pema

John Michael Higgins as Varrick

Steve Blum as Amon

James Remar as Tonraq

Jonathan Adams as Vaatu

Korra and Team Avatar embark on a new journey deep into the mythology of the mystical Spirit World, encountering creatures like nothing they’ve seen before and discovering the truth about the very first Avatar!

With a battle for the fate of the world between the light and dark spirits Raava and Vaatu fast approaching, Korra delves deeper into the Avatar’s past and realizes what she must do in order to restore balance between the physical and spirit worlds.

Six months after the events of “Book One: Air”, Korra believes she is a master of airbending, Mako works as a police officer, Asami is trying to keep the fledgling and cash strapped Future Industries afloat.  But after certain events, Korra leaves her training with Uncle Tenzin and joins her uncle, tribal chief Unalaq, who will now be her main mentor.

But as the two travel to the South Pole for training, she learns more about her father Tonraq and his banishment from the Northern Water Tribe.  But as Korra steps into a new life where tensions between the Southern and Northern Water Tribe is at an all time high and wanting to ask the Fire Nation for support, life takes an unexpected turn as Korra faces personal challenges but also a new nemesis who is intent in destroying the world.

Will Korra rise to the occasion and defeat her most powerful enemy yet?

Find out in “The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits” available now on Blu-ray and DVD!

What is “The Legend of Korra” about?

From Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the creators of the popular Nickelodeon animated series “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, comes the sequel to the series titled “The Legend of Korra”.

Originally planned as a 12-episode mini-series, “The Legend of Korra” was greenlit for a total of 52-episodes (four seasons) for a total of four books with 12-14 episodes each.

The first season known as “Book One: Air” features animation from Korea’s Studio Mir and the series would receive critical acclaim and also drawing an average of 4.3 million viewers, having the highest audience total for an animated series in the U.S. for 2012.

And now “The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in July 2013.

“The Legend of Korra” is set 70-years in the future after the events of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and how the world was brought into peace. The world which features the four nations which include the Water Tribes, the Air Nomads, the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation have people trained to “Bend” the element that they are associated with their nation (so, a person can bend water, earth, fire or air).

But for Korra of the Southern Water Tribe, at 4-years-old, she was able to bend fire and earth and thus was trained to become the Avatar to the Order of the White Lotus. Now at 17-years-old, she can “bend” water, earth and fire but yet is unable to “air-bend”.

She is to be trained to “air-bend” from Tenzin, the youngest child of Aang (the last airbender and the protagonist of “Avatar: The Last Airbender”) and Katara (the water bender from the Southern Water Tribe who was the first to discover Aang and free him from an iceberg – episode 1 of “Avatar: The Last Airbender”) but the problem is that Republic City has become unstable and Tenzin will not be able to stay in the Southern Water Tribe to train her and must leave.

Upset that Tenzin won’t train her , Korra who feels that because she can bend three elements, she’s powerful enough and wants to see the world and perhaps Tenzin may train her in Republic City. Master Katara (who is also Tenzin’s mother) accepts Korra’s reasoning and allows her to go to Republic City alone.

But immediately when Korra arrives in the Republic City, trying to save people from a bending gang, she is arrested by Republic City’s metalbending police force and immediately is not well-liked by the police chief Lin Beifong (daughter of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” character Toph Beifong), but to her aid comes Tenzin who takes her in. To ease tensions, it is revealed to the media that the Avatar, Korra is staying in the city and for Korra, she tells everyone that her goal is to protect the people of Republic City.

Meanwhile, something ominous is happening in the city as a mysterious masked man named Amon who leads the Equalists (non-benders) and their goal is to bring equality between the benders and the non-benders. But Amon has shown that he has some power to eliminate one’s bending abilities.

For “Book Two: Spirits”, the storyline is set six months after the events in the season final of “Book One: Air”.

Korra is now being trained by her uncle, Unalaq and has discovered that restless spirits have been terrorizing the south seas.  And she needs to find the way to calm the dark spirits.

But as she and her father Tonraq goes to the area of the Water Tribes, she discovers something ominous and one who is trying to merge with the dark spirit known as Vaatu in order to become the Dark Avater.

But will Korra have what it takes to calm the Dark Spirits and face the Dark Avatar?

The main characters of “The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits” are:

  • Korra – A 17-year-old girl who has mastered fire, earth and water but not wind-bending. She is the successor of Aang and thus was kept hidden in order to protect her. But because of her temper and rebellious side, she tends to do things on her own pace, even though it may get her into a lot of trouble. In Book Two: Spirits, despite having more control of her airbending abilities, she will be put to the test when she comes across a new enemy intent on destroying the world.
  • Mako – A firebender and member of the Fire Ferrets bending team. He is a firebender that came from the streets, he is seen as a dark individual. He is dating Asami Sato, daughter of the wealthy industrialist Hiroshi Sato but also is attracted to Korra.   In Book Two: Spirits, he is Korra’s boyfriend and is a police officer.
  • Bolin - The younger brother of Mako who is an earth bender and is lighthearted, gullible and humorous. The opposite of his brother.
  • Asami Sato – Mako’s ex-girlfriend and the daughter of Hiroshi Sato, the wealthy industrialist. She loves Mako but is jealous of Korra, because of the attention he tends to give to her.  In Book Two: Spirits, she is now responsible for keeping Future Industries afloat and restore the corporation’s reputation.
  • Master Tenzin – The youngest son of Aang and Katara. He tries to fulfill his father’s wishes and was assigned to train Korra in air bending.
  • Republic City police chief Lin Beilong – A former girlfriend of Tenzin and the daughter of Toph Beiphong. She is very strict when it comes to honoring the laws of the land and it puts her in odds with Korra.  She is brave and loyal.
  • Pema – Tenzin’s caring wife and mother of Jinora, Ikki, Meelo and Rohan, who are young children training to become air benders.
  • Tonraq – The father of Korra and a waterbending master and older brother of Unalaq.  He had kept his past secret from Korra.
  • Unalaq – The uncle of Korra and waterbending master.  He was the chief of the Northern and Southern Water Tribe.  He is now responsible for training Korra.
  • Raava – The spirit of peace and light.
  • Vaatu – The spirit of chaos and darkness in thew orld.

VIDEO:

“The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits” is presented in 1080p High Definition and my thoughts in watching the series is how impressive the character designs, the detail and shading of the characters and how breathtaking the background art is for the series, as well as the mechanical design. The series is vibrant and colorful, I didn’t see any artifacts or any problematic issues during my view of the 14-episodes. If anything, fans of the series will be thrilled of how beautiful “The Legend of Korra” looks in HD and Studio Mir and Studio Pierrot has done an amazing job for this second season!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Spanish 2.0 Stereo. The lossless soundtrack for “The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits” sounds fantastic. Action scenes come alive and utilizes the surround channels very well, especially for environment ambiance.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear!

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – All 14 episodes of “The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits” features audio commentary by the creators and crew.  The majority of the commentary features creator and executive producers Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, co-executive producer Joaquin Dos Santos and the following crew participate in a few episodes of commentary: Writers Tim Hedrick, Josh Hamilton, Track Team Music sound designers Jeremy Zuckerman and Benjamin Wynn, supervising producers Laura Montgomery and Ki Hyun Ryu, Director Ian Graham and Colin Heck.
  • Scene Bending – Each episode has a 5+ minute comparison of storyboards and final cut animation comparisons.
  • Kindred Spirits: Tenzin Journey - (5:16) The pressure on the character of Tenzin and his focus on “Book Two: Spirits” as a father and his relationship with his siblings.
  • Inside the Book of Spirits – (9:09) The planning that went on about the spirits and the spirit world.
  • The re-telling of Korra’s Journey – (33:42) A special episode showcasing Korra’s journey (culmination of scenes from Book One: Air) and a primer for those who want to be kept up to speed before watching “Book Two: Spirits”.
  • Feuding Spirits: Korra’s Family – (5:07) Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko discuss Korra’s parents.  (NOTE: Do not watch before watching the series as this featurette contains many spoilers)

EXTRAS:

“The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits” comes with a slipcover.

With the second season (book) of “The Legend of Korra”, we get to experience the family perspective of both Korra and Tenzin.

For Korra, the dysfunctional relationship she has with her father but also facing the difficult of making hard decisions because she is the Avatar.  While, Tenzin who has faced the difficulty of being the son of Aang and teaching Korra, now having to go back home and be a father to his young children and to be there for his siblings but always worrying about Korra and the path that she has chosen.

Also, with the second season, we see production at all new heights creatively, artistically and also the writing continuing to be top notch.

As a fan of “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, for anyone who watched the series, you can’t help but to become excited for “The Legend of Korra” and to see how much of the world has changed since Aang and friends have literally changed the world. Also, to see how much the series will change in terms of characters, tone and also in terms of how the series would look compared to the original series.

I realize that for sequels, it’s not always easy for the creators to come up with another hit as many who grew up with the original, tend to be stuck with the original. But sometimes, you get something different and sometimes something even better.

And so far, from the fans perspective, both Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino have proven that they can make smart, captivating animated series that can attract people of all ages.

With “The Legend of Korra”, is it better than “Avatar: The Last Airbender”? Well, for one, these two are two different series and features characters of different age groups.

Part of the allure of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is the naivety of young Aang, Katara, Sokka and friends. Innocent kids who tend to grow up quickly due to their surroundings. And there is always a sense of a cat and mouse storyline as they are in continually pursued by the Fire Nation.

For “The Legend of Korra”, Korra is somewhat the opposite of Aang. She has a hot-temper, she is rebellious and she is not as friendly and humorous as Aang. If anything, she’s a person that tends to do things impulsively, learns from her actions and as much as she wants to do things for the greater good, she tends to do things at her own pace.

Fortunately, she is joined by a supporting cast of people who also tend to get themselves into a bit of trouble but also are doing things for the greater good. With “Book Two: Spirits”, part of the excitement is seeing Korra in a new direction, getting to know her family but also facing the ultimate betrayal.  Making difficult decisions that will not always be popular and also having to watch the original Avatar, Wan in action.

The series had its fair share of exciting episodes but I have to say that the two episodes, “Beginnings, Part 1 & 2″ featuring Wan, the first Avatar was amazing.  Yes, Japan has its share of animated dramas, but the United States, has more animated comedy for mature viewers and these two episodes alone, were creatively/artistically beautiful in illustration but also in story.  It’s like traditional art coming alive in animation, and I loved that.

Of course, every other episode featuring Korra and friends were just as exciting.  The way that “The Legend of Korra” is able to tack spiritualism, secularism, politics and creating a smart series but yet not too cerebral for viewers to understand and enjoy is incredible and not an easy feat.

Animation-wise, the character designs and the art backgrounds for this series is magnificent. I love the character designs for Korra and friends but also the antagonists. The art backgrounds compliment the entire series and the action elements are smooth and well-done.

On Blu-ray, the animation is absolutely vibrant while lossless audio for the series including its music is crystal clear.  And as for special features, every episode has audio commentary, you get scene bending featurettes for each episode (comparison of storyboards and final cut), featurettes and also “The Re-telling of Korra’s Journey”, for those who want to be up to speed of what happened in the series prior to watching “Book Two: Spirits”.  (Note: The Blu-ray has more special features than its DVD counterpart)

As “Avatar: The Last Airbender” did over a decade ago by becoming an animated series that had a storyline and animation as good as anime series are in Japan, “The Legend of Korra” continued the quality a decade later. There is not many series in America that have this level of production and “The Legend of Korra” is one of the better looking animated series currently airing on television.

Every episode featured is captivating, edgy and action-packed! I reviewed this series and watched it along with my ten-year-old son and we were both hooked. It’s a wonderful series and while I always enjoy “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, its characters and storyline, rather than compare the two, I prefer to see this series as something different. The series of course has the connection of bending and a connection between its characters and its descendants but times have changed and the world has changed in the last 70-years and the characters reflect that change.

Overall, “The Legend of Korra” is one of the best animated series on television and the writing and animation has gotten better for “The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits”. The series looks and sounds so much better in HD and the additional featurettes plus audio commentary on each episode featuring the creators and the crew makes this series worth owning on Blu-ray!

“The Legend of Korra – Book Two: Spirits” is highly recommended. Five stars!

The Raid 2 (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

theraid2-a

When it comes to a martial arts film with non-stop action, Gareth Evans managed to create a sequel that is worthy of attaching the “The Raid” name to it. This action film is fantastic! If you love action films and loved “The Raid: Redemption”, then this is a no-brainer… “The Raid 2″ is a must-see!

Images courtesy of © 2014 PT.Merantau Films. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Raid 2

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 150 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish (Latin) 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, Spanish (Latin)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (For Sequences of Strong Bloody Violence Throughout, Sexuality and Language)

Release Date: July 8, 2014

Written and Directed by Gareth Evans

Produced by Nate Bolotin, Ario Sagantoro, Aram Tertzakian

Executive Producer: Rannga Maya Barack-Evans, Todd Brown, Irwan D. Mussry, Nick Spicer

Music by Aria Prayogi, Joseph Trapanese, Fajar Yuskemal

Cinematography by Matt Flannery, Dimas Imam, Subhono

Edited by Gareth Evans

Starring:

Iko Uwais as Rama

Yayan Ruhian as Prakoso

Julie Estelle as Alicia/Hammer Girl

Arifin Putra as Uco

Oka Antara as Eka

Alex Abbad as Bejo

Donny Alamsyah as Andi

Tio Pakusodweo as Bangun

Roy Marten as Reza

Ken’ichi Endo as Goto

Ryuhei Matsuda as Keiichi

Kazuki Kitamura as Ryuichi

Very Tri Yulisman as Baseball Bat Man

Following immediately after the events of THE RAID, Rama (Iko Uwais) is forced to reinvent himself as an undercover cop in order to provide protection for his wife and child. Working for the anti-corruption taskforce led by the one person he can trust, Bunawar, he is given a mission to engage himself as an enforcer for a local mob boss, Bangun. Finding a way in through Bangun’s son Uco, Rama must hunt for information linking Bangun with police force corruption. All the while, he harbors a dangerous and personal vendetta for revenge and justice that threatens to consume him – and bring both this mission and the organized crime syndicates crashing down.

For Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans, he grew up watching Hong Kong action films and loving films featuring Jet Li and Jackie Chan.

Prior to the success he had with the film “The Raid”, Evans had written a screenplay titled “Berandal” (which translates to “thug”) about what if a undercover police officer was put into a prison to find out information about corrupt police officers.

Unfortunately, “Berandal” was passed over and “The Raid” was developed and became a success as one of the greatest action films to come from Asia.

And with the success of the first film, it gave Gareth Evans a chance to work on “Berandal” but to tweak it in order to feature the character of Rama (portrayed by Iko Uwais).  And the result was “The Raid 2″, which was released in theaters in March 2014 and has received positive reviews.

And now “The Raid 2″ will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“The Raid 2″ begins with the death of Rama’s brother, shot point blank by the

VIDEO:

“The Raid 2″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality is magnificent as closeups show great detail, especially the scars.  But it’s the all out attention to detail when it comes to injuries, people being maimed or heads being shot point blank.  The film looked amazing and colors are well-saturated, I saw no problem with artifacts or banding.  “The Raid 2″ looks amazing on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Raid 2″ is presented in Indonesian/Bahasa and English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The lossless soundtrack is amazing.  For example, one scene features The Baseball Bat Man dragging his aluminum bat through the pavement while his enemies await.  You can hear the sounds growing louder through the rear surround channels and I felt that was so fantastic to see how sounds were employed.  Especially from metal upon metal, explosions, gun shots, car crashes, you name it, this action-packed film utilizes its soundtrack with efficacy.

Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Raid 2″ comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by writer and director Gareth Evans.
  • Gang War Deleted Scenes - (4:37) Deleted scenes.
  • The Next Chapter: Shooting a Sequel – (10:47) A featurette with interviews with Gareth Evans, Iko Uwais, staff and crew on working on a sequel and how Gareth’s previous screenplay became “The Raid 2″.
  • Ready for a Fight: On Location - (12:59) Building the sets used on “The Raid 2″.
  • The CineFamily Q&A with Gareth Evans, Iko Uwais and Joe Trapanese - (44:09) A post-screening Q&A with director/writer Gareth Evans, actor Iko Uwais and composer Joe Trapanese.
  • Violent Ballet: Behind the Choreography - (19:03) The fight choreography featured on “The Raid 2″.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:36) The theatrical trailer for “The Raid 2″.

theraid2-b

If you read my review for “The Raid: Redemption”, you would know how much I loved that action film.  It was a constant, consistent, in your-face film with action galore!

A film that focused on the action while maintaining a simple yet riveting storyline from beginning to end.

And here we are now with the sequel, “The Raid 2″.  A much different storyline that puts the character Rama in a much different situation than before.

As the local Indonesian mob led by Bangun is still going strong and the rival Japanese yakuza group led by Goto also maintaining power, both have remained calm for a decade with no gang war.  And there happens to be another mob led by Bejo, who is responsible for executing Rama’s brother who worked for Bangun.

But with corrupt officials, especially in the police force working with the mob, a small and secretive police force led by Bunawar is trying to end the corruption but needs more evidence.  And the only person they feel that can infiltrate Bangun’s operations is noone other than Rama.

Feeling that because they got to his brother and if they find out Rama is a copy, his family could be in danger.  So, he must take on the secret mission given to him by Bunawar.

Leaving his family in protective custody while he embarks on his undercover mission, his goal is to be put in prison and survive.  But most importantly, try to get close to Bangun’s son, Uco.

And once in the prison, we are greeted with another “Raid” featuring constant, consistent action as Rama takes on dozens of prisoners in order to protect Uco but also earn his trust.

“The Raid: Redemption 2″ is an exciting non-stop action film that just keeps coming at you. Action scene after action scene, you’re just captivated by this roller coaster of a ride as you go through crazy situations, but there is more of a plot as we see Uco not being content with his father and not being in control, he wants to quickly ascend to being the main crime boss.

Returning to the film is Yayan Ruhian as Prakoso, a different character from the first RAID but nonetheless, a character that truly kicks a lot of ass!

The fight scenes showcasing pencak silat is amazing! What I enjoyed about the approach of fighting choreography for this film is to not having these fight scenes perfectly choreographed. Mistakes happen, there is no clear edge of who will win and as Iko Uwais who plays the main protagonist Rama was pretty cool in execution, actor Yayan Ruhian is amazing.

But what Gareth did much better than the first film is include even more characters that can kick ass.  One of the coolest characters in the film is Julia Estelle’s Hammer Girl.  Stylish, donning glasses and her expensive purse, but a deadly killer that only uses a hammer and its claws to stab an opponent.

You also have Baseball Bat Man (portrayed by Very Tri Yulisman) who fights his enemies with a baseball bat and basebal and like Yayan Ruhian, you get the Pencak Silat fighter Cecep Arif Rahman as the assassin.  Each of these three who work for the suave and manipulating, Bejo.

And of course, actor Iko Uwais was magnificent in the role of Rama.  No longer the rookie, this character is a human weapon that never stops, never surrenders and keeps fighting.  Uwais was fantastic in the first film and for this second, he managed to take the character to another level.  Impressive!

But the violent action scenes are intriguing at times, you don’t get your one or two stabs…people are stabbed repeatedly, many times.  People are viciously beaten but not shown to the camera in the most grotesque of ways.  There are many violent scenes but fortunately Gareth didn’t make the film overly gory.

While I enjoyed the sequel tremendously, the first film is much better in execution, while the sequel had much better action sequences and characters, ran a bit too long. There were scenes that I felt could have been eliminated and wouldn’t hurt the film one bit.

Also, one shouldn’t delve into thinking about the characters and their health status as this film is not for the heavy thinking analytical.  Yes, Rama has amazing healing factors that kept him fighting but it’s best not to delve and think about it too much.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality was fantastic and the lossless audio was immersive and equally magnificent.  The special features include a documentary, Q&A post-screening and more!

But when it comes to a martial arts film with non-stop action, Gareth Evans managed to create a sequel that is worthy of attaching the “The Raid” name to it.  This action film is fantastic!

Overall, if you love action films and loved “The Raid: Redemption”, then this is a no-brainer… “The Raid 2″ is a must-see!

Jodorowsky’s Dune (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Frank Pavich’s “Jodorowsky’s Dune” is a magnificent documentary on possibly the greatest sci-fi film never made.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 The City Film, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Jodorowsky’s Dune

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 90Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (For some violent and sexual images)

Release Date: July 1, 2014

Directed by Frank Pavich

Produced by Frank Pabich, Stephen Scarlata, Travis Stevens

Executive Producer: Donald Rosenfeld

Co-Producer: Michel Seydoux

Associate Producer: Alex Ricciardi

Music by Kurt Stenzel

Cinematography by David Cavallo

Edited by Paul Docherty, Alex Ricciardi

Starring:

Alejandro Jodorowsky

Michel Seydoux

H.R. Giger

Chris Foss

Brontis Jodorowsky

Richard Stanley

Devin Faraci

Drew McWeeny

Gary Kurtz

Nicolas Winding Refn

Diane O’Bannon

Christian Vander

Jean-Pierre Vignau

Amanda Lear

Dan O’Bannon

In 1975, director Alejandro Jodorowsky began work on his most ambitious project yet. Starring his own 12-year-old son alongside Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, David Carradine and Salvador Dalí, featuring music by Pink Floyd and art by some of the most provocative talents of the era, including H.R. Giger and Jean “Moebius” Giraud, Jodorowsky’s adaptation of the classic sci-fi novel DUNE was poised to change cinema forever. Through interviews with legends and luminaries including H.R. Giger (artist, ALIEN), Gary Kurtz (producer, STAR WARS EPISODES IV ‘ V) and Nicolas Winding Refn (director, DRIVE), and an intimate and honest conversation with Jodorowsky, director Frank Pavich’s film finally unearths the full saga of ‘The Greatest Movie Never Made’.

Alejandro Jodorowsky is one of the welcomed named among cineaste, especially those who have appreciated his works of arts in his oeuvre such as “Fandy y Lis”, “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain”.

Provocative, scandalous, creative and magnificent, there is no doubt that you will see many who are appreciative of Jodorowsky’s work and those who simply don’t get it.

But Jodorowsky was a man that people knew about because his acid western “El Topo” was the first midnight cult film and his surrealist creations would eventually become classics.

But for Alejandro Jodorowsky and many sci-fi films, there was one film of his that was important in helping pave the ways for many of the sci-fi films of today, from “Star Wars”, “Indiana Jones” films,  “Aliens”, “Flash Gordon”, “Prometheus” to name a few, and to one’s surprise, Jodorowsky’s film was never made.

Yes, there was the 1984 box office bomb titled as “Dune” which was directed by David Lynch (who literally wanted nothing to do with the film due to producers and execs not giving him any creative control) but if there was one adaptation of Frank Herbert’s popular sci-fi book series, it was Jodorowsky’s vision that would help pave the way for today’s science fiction films.

And now a documentary titled “Jodorowsky’s Dune” featuring interviews with Alejandro Jodorowsky, producer Michel Seydoux and many of those who were cast for the film or knew about greatest sci-fi film never made, chime in on how “Jodorowsky’s Dune”, despite not being made, still leaves its footprints behind in today’s sci-fi cinema.

From how Alejandro Jodorowsky was able to tap into talent such as Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, David Carradine, Salvador Dali and also music groups such as Pink Floyd and Magma but also artistic talents of H.R. Giger and Jean “Moebius” Giraud.

And also learning why this film was never made and Alejandro’s feelings when he watched the David Lynch version of “Dune” and more!

For anyone wanting to know more about Jodorowsky’s interpretation of “Dune” will definitely not want to miss out on this insightful, fun and entertaining documentary!

VIDEO:

“Jodorowsky’s Dune” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  As one can expect from a documentary, there is footage from various sources, so not all is pristine. But for the most part, the main footage was shot digitally in HD.  And the documentary as a whole, looks very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Jodorowsky’s Dune” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear coming from the center and front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Jodorowsky’s Dune” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – 46:24 – There are nine deleted scenes including the reunion of Jodorowsky and producer Michel Seydoux who have not talked to each other since the cancellation of Jodorowsky’s “Dune”.

EXTRAS:

“Jodorowsky’s Dune” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.

When I was younger, I grew up reading Frank Herbert’s “Dune” and when I was in my very early teens, David Lynch’s “Dune” was the version that would play constantly on HBO.

But it was a maddening film for me because unlike “Star Wars” or other sci-fi films that have come out during that time, I couldn’t understand it.  I watched the film so many times and felt the plot was just a mess and perhaps it was reaching out to sci-fi intellectuals that would comprehend and enjoy the film more than me.

Fast forward over a decade later and having become a cineaste and having a keen appreciation of film from the auteurs of the past and today, I started to learn more about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Dune” after I was researching his work for “El Topo” and again for “The Holy Mountain”.

Jodorowsky’s work are considered as surreal masterpiece among cineaste and his films are audacious, mesmerizing and so unique, that there is no comparison to his work.

So, if you have done any research into the work of Jodorowsky, you would learn that he was slated to direct the sci-fi film “Dune” but while you could read online about his involvement, no one delves deeper into the making of the film than filmmaker Frank Pavich for his documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune”.

With an extensive interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky, producer Michel Seydoux and many others who are aware of the work or who were connected to the film that never came to be, the documentary sheds a lot of light of how Jodorowsky was able to get Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, to name a few.  But also how he was able to tap into the talents of Chriss Foss, Jean Giraud (Moebius) and H.R. Giger.

And because Jodorowsky was an artist and his canvas was film, he wanted a film that was unlike anything that has ever been made before.  Unfortunately, Hollywood execs were not too keen with Jodorowsky’s “Dune” especially the duration of the film that the film never came to be.

But those who worked on the film, carried on to bring their designs on other sci-fi films, one memorable would be on the sci-fi films “Aliens” which involved a few of those who were part of Jodorowsky’s “Dune” crew.

But watching “Jodorowsky’s Dune”, you get the sense of emotion, passion and the longing that Jodorowsky had for the making of “Dune” but we get to see how devastating it was for him, to not make it.  How difficult it was for him to watch David Lynch’s version of “Dune” but to see his feeling after he watched the film.  But also how his plans for “Dune” has left a footprint in other sci-fi films such as “Star Wars”, “Aliens”, “Terminator”, “Indiana Jones” to name a few.

The documentary was wonderfully researched and the amount of interviews done for this documentary was well-done.  H.R. Giger, Gary Kurtz, Nicolas Winding Refn really gave great insight of the greatness of the film and why it was never made, Michel Seydoux gave us a perspective on the production side, film critic Devin Faraci gave us a perspective of a sci-fan and the importance of the making of this film to Amanda Lear discussing the moments when Jodorowsky casted her and Salvador Dali.

Many tidbits that I never knew about what went on in the planning stages of what could have become an epic sci-fi masterpiece.

The Blu-ray features great picture quality and as one can expect from a documentary featuring videos and images from various sources to a clear dialogue-driven lossless soundtrack.  You also get over 45-minutes worth of deleted scenes but one that caught my attention was the reunion between Alejandro Jodrowsky and producer Michel Seydoux, who stopped talking after the film was never greenlit for production.

Overall, Frank Pavich’s “Jodorowsky’s Dune” is a magnificent documentary on possibly the greatest sci-fi film never made.  Highly recommended!

 

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