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

February 19, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

I personally don’t like manga to film adaptations because far often, the films tend to stray from the original storyline too much and for popular film adaptations from well-known manga/anime series, too often the film adaptations aren’t any good.  Fortunately, “Gintama” is an exception because not only does the film do a great job of bringing out the crazy characters and also pop culture gags, but it’s a hilarious, fun, action-packed film that makes you want to watch “Gintama” again and again.

Images courtesy of © Hideaki Sorachi/Shueisha. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Gintama

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 131 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9, Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Japanes Stereo 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: March 16, 2018


Directed by Fukuda Yuichi

Original Manga by Hideaki Sorachi

Screenplay by Yuichi Fukuda

Music by Eishi Segawa


Starring:

Shun Oguri as Gintoki Sakata

Kanna Hashimoto as Kagura

Masaki Okada as Kotaro Katsura

Yuya Yagira as Toshiro Hijikata

Masaki Suda as Shinpachi Shimura

Masami Nagasawa as Tae Shimura

Takayuki Yamada as the voice of Elizabeth

Koichi Yamadera as the voice of Yoshida Shoyo

Ryo Yoshizawa as Sougo Okita

Akari Hayami as Tetsuko Murata

Hirofumi Arai as Nizo Okada

Kankuro Nakamura as Isao Kondo

Ken Yasuda as Tetsuya Murata

Seiji Rokkaku as Char Aznable

Tsuyoshi Muro as Gengai Hiraga

Mikako Takahashi as the voice of Sadaharu

Youta Tanaka as Young Gintoki Sakata

Tsuyoshi Domoto as Shinsuke Takasugi


Set in the alternate Edo-period Japan, an alien race from outer space have invaded the country and taken control, forcing the once powerful Samurai to lay down their swords. Once feared as the White Demon , former samurai Gintoki Sakata, works as an everyday handyman until a master swordsman tasks Gintoki and his friends with finding a cursed sword to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. Packed with the sword-swinging sci-fi action and offbeat humor, Gintama is a journey through a visually-stunning universe where fantastical action lurks around every corner.


Since 2003, “Gin Tama”, which means “Silver Soul” has been a manga series that has entertained many “Shonen Jump” fans. Written and illustrated by mangaka Hideaki Sorachi, the popular manga received an anime adaptation which has aired in Japan since 2006 and a live action film was made and a second planned for release in 2018.

“Gin Tama” is a series that takes place during the Edo Period (Tokyo – 1860’s) but in this alternate reality of the Edo Period, aliens known as Amanto have conquered Japan and because of the war against the samurai’s, the Amanto have banned swords in public and are now co-existing with the humans (more like humans are forced to co-exist with the Amanto).   Also, technology has been shared with the people of Japan allowing space travel, giving them access to cars, mopeds, television and more.

The series focuses on the silver haired Gintoki Sakata and his two freelancers who will perform odd jobs for a fee, but sometimes these odd jobs turn out to be more destructive than realized.

A little summary of the primary three characters:

Gintoki Sakata is the owner of “Odd Jobs Gin”.  Often lazy, likes reading manga, picking his nose or his ear and is late on his rent payments.  Willing to take on odd jobs for a living but is also an excellent swordsman who despises the Amanto and those who co-exist with them.  Despite the sword ban, Gintoki carries a wooden sword.

And assisting him with these odd jobs is Kagura, an alien girl of the Yato Clan who looks human but has tremendous strength.  Kagura fled to Earth to earn money but also to get away from her violent Yato heritage.  In Earth, she has to hold an umbrella (which functions also as a weapon) to prevent sunlight from damaging her translucent skin.  She loves pickled seaweed, eating, money and often has a temper.  She also is blunt about things that women don’t say in public.  Shinpachi “Four Eyes” Shimura is a teenager who wants to learn the ways of the samurai and thus becomes a freelancer at Odd Jobs Gin.  Often the voice of reason but is hardly listened to and is often a person who receives some sort of punishment.  Lives with his sister Tae.

Meanwhile, the three try to keep getting in trouble with the Shinsengumi, a special police for under the control of the Shogunate.

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Gintama” is directed and features a screenplay by Yuichi Fukuda (“HK: Forbidden Hero”, “Jossy’s”, “Blue Fame”).  The film stars Shun Oguri (“Crows Zero”, “Harlock: Space Pirate”, “Lupin the 3rd”), Kanna Hashimoto (“Sailor Suit and Machine Gun: Graduation”, “Assassination Classroom”), Masaki Suda (“Kamen Rider W”), Masami Nagasawa (“Godzilla: Final Wars”, “Our Little Sister”, “Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.”), Masaki Okada (“Confessions”, “A Pierrot”), Yuya Yagira (“Nobody Knows”, “Destruction Babies”), Ryo Yoshizawa (“Kamen Rider Fourze”), Akari Hayami (“Forget Me Not”, “My Pretend Girlfriend”), Hirofumi Arai (“Confessions”, “100 Yen Love”, “Parasyte”), Kankuro Nakamura (“Shinsengumi”, Sanada Jyuyushi”), Ken Yasuda (“Shomuni”, “Black Butler”) and the voices of Takayuki Yamada (“Crows Zero”, “Gantz”, “13 Assassins”) and legendary anime voice actor Koichi Yamadera.

There are murders happening in the city and one day, Gintoki’s friend Kotaro Katsura, who is a great swordsman, is murdered by a man carrying a crimson sword.

Gintoki is hired by two swordsmiths, Tesuya Murata  and his sister Tetsuko to find the crimson sword known as Benizakura.  Not telling him that the sword is special.  As Gintoki investigates, he is unaware of what has happened to his friend and how dangerous this sword really is.

Also, looking for this crimson sword is the police force, the Shinsengumi.  Isao Kondo is the Commander who can’t seem to keep his clothes on, while his Vice-Commander Toshiro Hijikata can’t help but keep eating.  Meanwhile, Sogo Okita is an excellent swordsman but prefers to carry a huge bazooka.

Meanwhile, Kotaro’s alien friend, Elizabeth (looks like a man wearing a bird outfit) comes to get help from Gintoki, but because he is busy, Kagura and Shinpachi go to try and help.  Shinpachi goes with Elizabeth, while Kagura goes with her large dog inugami, Sadaharu.

And also arriving to the scene is the extremist group Kiheitai led by Gintoki and Kotaro’s childhood friend, Shinsuke Takasugi.  What is his purpose of showing up all of a sudden?

And who is responsible for these murders?


VIDEO:

“Gintama” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is a film that looks great in HD. Visual effects were great and black levels were nice and deep, lighting was good and closeups show very good detail.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Gintama” is presented in Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Japanese Stereo 2.0. Dialogue is crystal clear, action sequences utilize the surround channels quite well. Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Gintama” comes with no special features.


“Gintama” is a hilarious film based on the very popular manga and anime series from Japan.   An action-driven storyline that takes place in an alternate world, full of action and gags, but also references to other popular manga and anime series, “Gintama” was a film that I would have never expected to receive a live film adaptation.

The fact that “Gintama” takes place during the Edo Period and humanity was beaten by aliens and now co-existing with them and sharing technology is quite unique. But it’s the characters that bring something different to the series.

The characters of “Gintama” are just odd. The main protagonist, Gintoki is a booger picking, manga reading, lazy hero that is driven by money but when he is in battle, he’s quick during his sword fights and shows amazing skill as a swordsman and fighter.

Kagura seems like a sweet alien girl but she’s perverted (although her bluntness is more of naivety) in the manner she speaks and has this intense strength that makes her quite scary.  She has a huge appetite and her fighting skills are also fantastic.

And then you get the character Shinpachi, the normal guy often referred as “Four Eyes” because he wears eyeglasses, who wants to be a samurai and so he works with Gintoki as an assistant.  He tries to be the voice of reason but ends up being the person who gets the raw end of the deal.

And it’s not these three that are unusual, you have other characters like the members of the Shinsengumi, with a Commander who is always naked, a Vice-Commander who is always with a cigarette in his mouth and is always eating and a captain who is an excellent swordsman but prefers to carry a huge bazooka.

But what can you expect when you have a title “Gintama” which is an interesting name by original creator Hideaki Sorachi which is used as a pun on the word “Kintama” which means testicles. “Gintama” is pretty much an action-comedy film adaptation that may not be 100% like the manga and anime series, but it comes damn close.   There are jokes that parody Japanese pop culture and even several nods to other Shonen Jump and popular manga/anime titles.

The film manages to bring out the humor of the manga/anime series to film.  You can’t help but enjoy these characters because they are so far off and unusual.

While Shun Oguri is known for playing characters for films based on popular manga/anime, what was surprising is to see idol singer Kanna Hashimoto playing the character of Kagura.  For a new actress, she did an amazing job playing Kagura and bringing out that naivety of Kagura but also her amazing hunger and fighting skills.  Kagura is a huge part of the gag factor in the manga/anime and it was great to see that come to play in the film.

“Kamen Rider” fans will no doubt enjoy seeing “Kamen Rider W” actor Masaki Suda playing Shinpachi and also Ryo Yoshizawa who played Kamen Rider Meteor from “Kamen Rider Fourze” as Shinsengumi Captain Sougo Okita.

The film also manages to bring many other characters to the film such as Gintoki’s frienemy Takasugi Shinsuke (portrayed by KinKi Kids singer Tsuyoshi Domoto), Shinpachi’s sister Tae (portrayed by Masami Nagasawa), the gun toting Matako Kijima (portrayed by Nanao) and much more.

As for the Blu-ray, the Blu-ray release looks great.  Visual effects look great, action sequences are well-done and the film shows very good detail especially on close-ups.  As for the lossless soundtrack, Japanese dialogue is crystal clear and sound effects sound great through the surround channels.  It’s important to note that this film is in Japanese with English subtitles, there is no English dub included.  Unfortunately, unlike the Japanese Blu-ray release, the US releases comes with no special features.

Overall, I personally don’t like manga to film adaptations because far often, the films tend to stray from the original storyline too much and for popular film adaptations from well-known manga/anime series, too often the film adaptations aren’t any good.  Fortunately, “Gintama” is an exception because not only does the film do a great job of bringing out the crazy characters and also pop culture gags, but it’s a hilarious, fun, action-packed film that makes you want to watch “Gintama” again and again.

“Gintama” is recommended!

Kickboxer: Retaliation (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 17, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

“Kickboxer: Retaliation” stays consistent with being an exciting popcorn action film and making sure that it doesn’t let it up on the action.  So, no doubt fans of “Kickboxer: Vengeance” will enjoy “Retaliation”.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Kickboxer Retaliation, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Kickboxer Retaliation

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2018

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (16:9), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: March 13, 2018


Directed by Dimitri Logothetis

Written by Dmitri Logothetis, Jim McGrath

Produced by Robert Hickman, Dimitri Logothetis

Co-Producer: Kamel Krifa, Jim McGrath

Line Producer: Scott Putnam

Executive Producer: Jeff Bowler, Nicholas Celozzi, Luke Daniels, Phil Hunt, Bey Logan, Nat McCormick, Larry Nealy, Alan Pao, Compton Ross, Jay Strommen, Steven Swadling

Co-Executive Producer: Tommy Tang, Gary Wood

Music by Adam Dorn

Cinematographer: Gerard Madrazo

Edited by Christopher Robin Bell, Daniel McDonald

Casting by Dean E. Fronk, Thitiya Thongbai, Mike Leeder

Production Design by Toey Jaruvaatekul

Costume Design by Terri Middleton


Starring:

Alain Moussi as Kurt Sloane

Christopher Lambert as Thomas Moore

Jean-Claude Van Damme as Master Durand

Mike Tyson as Biggs

Sara Malakul Lane as Liu

Hafbor Julius Bjornsson as Mongkut

Sam Medina as Crawford

Steven Swadling as Joseph King

Miles Strommen as Rupert

Jessica Jann as Gamon

Maxime Savaria as Somsak

Wanderlei Silva as Chud


One year after finding vengeance for his murdered brother, MMA champion Kurt Sloane finds himself back in Thailand kidnapped and imprisoned there by a powerful gangster (Christopher Lambert). His only shot at freedom is to win an underground death match against a 400lb killer enhanced with state-of the-art drugs (Game of Thrones’ Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) . To make it out alive, he seeks training unlike anything he s ever endured, with the help of the legendary Master Durand (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and fellow prisoner Briggs (Mike Tyson).


Back in 1989, Jean-Claude Van Damme was riding high as an emerging action star thanks to his appearance in the 1988 film “Bloodsport” and spoiling action fans with his martial arts and flexibility years earlier in the 1986 film, “No Retreat, No Surrender”.

In 1989, Van Damme would star as the character Kurt Sloane for “Kickboxer” and four more films starring other actors.

In 2016, the film series would receive a reboot titled “Kickboxer: Vengeance” as actor/stunman Alain Moussi would take on the role of Kurt Sloane, while Jean-Claude Van Damme would becoming his mentor, Master Durand.

In 2018, the sequel “Kickboxer: Retaliation” would reunite the action stars and would also star Mike Tyson, “Game of Thrones” actor Hafbor Julius Bjornsson and the main antagonist portrayed by Christopher Lambert.

And now “Kickboxer: Retaliation” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film takes place 18-months after Kurt Sloane would avenge his brother’s death by killing Tong Po in self defense.  After the fight, he is met by two men claiming to be U.S. Marshals informing him he must return to Thailand for the murder of Tong Po.  When Kurt asks to see their badge, he is tasered.

Sloane awakens in a prison in Thailand and is informed that the mastermind of the underground fighting tournament is Thomas Tang Moore (portrayed by Christopher Lambert) and told that he was to stay in Thailand and remain there as the new champion.

The current champion is a huge, biologically engineered fighter named Mongkut (portrayed by Hafbor Julius Bjornsson) and is offered $1 million to fight.  But Sloane refuses.

Stuck in prison, Sloane is repeatedly tortured and beaten and he eventually meets Briggs (portrayed by Mike Tyson), a boxer that tries to train Sloane on how to live through the pain but also tells him that his Muay Thai teacher, Durand, comes to train some of the prisoners but now he is blind.

When Durand finds out who Mongkut is, Durand and Briggs try to put Sloane through intense training.  But as Thomas Tang Moore tries to get Sloane to fight, he refuses.

So, Moore has Sloane’s wife, Liu (portrayed by Sara Malakul Lane) kidnapped forcing Sloane to accept a fight against the underground’s top fighter, Mongkut.

Can Sloane beat him?


VIDEO:

“Kickboxer: Retaliation” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16×9). The film shows great detail on closeups and low-light situations are presented well. Colors are natural and for the most part, the film looks good in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kickboxer: Retaliation” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  The film features a strong soundtrack utilizing front and center channels for dialogue but surround channels utilized for sound effects and crowd ambiance.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kickboxer: Retaliation” comes with a “Meet the Fighters” featurette.

EXTRAS:

“Kickboxer: Retaliation” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD.


Alain Moussi has no doubt got his opportunity of a lifetime by becoming a featured action-star in the recent “Kickboxer” films.

Having done the stunts for major films such as “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, “X-Men: Apocalypse”, “Suicide Squad” to name a few, Moussi is able to showcase his fighting skills and he no doubt has done a very good job at it.

Actor Jean-Claude Van Damme had to prove his himself before getting consistent work as a major lead and Alain Moussi is no doubt experiencing the same, showcasing his fighting skills and of course, his stunt talent and not quitting his day job, by still working on the major superhero films.

These last two “Kickboxer” films are no doubt a good start.

“Kickboxer: Retaliation” is a popcorn action films, where it’s action upon action and while the acting is kept to a minimum.  Surprisingly, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s role as a blind master, has quite a bit of dialogue and also has a few action scenes as well.

While Christopher Lambert is the primary antagonist in the film for the majority of the film, once “Game of Thrones” star Hafbor Julius Bjornsson’s Mongkut comes into contact with Sloane, Mongkut immediately becomes the top antagonist and if anything, the casting of Bjornsson was perfect and his character role was no doubt a formidable fighting foe for Sloane this time around.  It becomes a “David and Goliath” story and you can’t help but wonder how Sloane would be able to take on someone so huge and dominating.

In the 2016 film, “Kickboxer: Vengeance”, former WWE star Dave Bautista as Tong Po was no doubt a huge, powerful antagonist.  But for “Kickboxer: Retaliation”, Bjornsson is literally a human mountain, tall and powerful and because of his sheer size, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Bjornsson playing more antagonist roles or being utilized in a big budget superhero film in the near future because of his size.

As for Mike Tyson, he did a much better job on this film compared to his role in the martial arts film “Ip Man 3”.   Tyson has a good fight scene, but the director did a good job at keeping Tyson to what he knows best, boxing.  And seeing him train Sloane and letting him stay within his element and his acting skills have improved.

Overall, “Kickboxer: Retaliation” stays consistent with being an exciting popcorn action film and making sure that it doesn’t let it up on the action.  So, no doubt fans of “Kickboxer: Vengeance” will enjoy “Retaliation”.

My-HiME – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 27, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

“My-HiME” was no doubt one of the coolest anime series to come out back in 2004.  And to watch it again over a decade later as a complete series in HD was no doubt nostalgic.  A well-written story, great voice acting and great animation, “My-HiME” is an anime classic worth owning on Blu-ray!

Image courtesy of © Sunrise. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: My-Hime – The Complete Series

DURATION: (26 Episodes) 650 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080i High Definition (4:3), Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: January 9, 2018


Directed by Masakazu Obara

Series Composition: Hiroyuki Yoshino

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design: Hirokazu Hisayuki

Art Director: Shinji Takasuka

Anime Production: Sunrise


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Shimizu/Caitlynne Medrek as Mikoto Minagi

Mai Nakahara/Carol-Anne Day as Mai Tokiha

Saeko Chiba/Cheryl McMaster as Natsuki Kuga

Akiko Kimura/Melanie Rison as Youko Sagisawa

Akira Ishida/Graham Ko as Nagi Homura

Junko Iwao/Morgan Partridge as Akane Higurashi

Kikuko Inoue/Allyson June Smith as Yukariko Sanada

Kiyomi Asai/Maizun Jayoussi as Miyu Greer

Mamiko Noto/Morgan Partridge as Yukino Kikukawa

Mitsuki Saiga/Hazel Forman as Chie Harada

Naomi Shindoh/Melanie Risdon as Shizuru Fujino

Ryoka Yuzuki/Lori Barnes-Smith as Haruka Suzushiro

Ryoko Shintani/Jayna Mitchell as Aoi Senou

Sakura Nogawa/Leda Davies as Shiho Munakata

Sanae Kobayashi/Annika Odegard as Akira Okuzaki

Tomokazu Seki/Jordan Schartner as Yuuichi Tate

Toshihiko Seki/Ethan Cole as Reito Kanzaki

Yugo Takahashi/Cole Howard as Takumi Tokiha

Yukana as Fumi Himeno/Mashiro Kazahana

Yukari Tamura/Mariette Sluyter as Midori Sugiura

Yuko Miyamura as Alyssa Searrs

Yuuka Nanri/Marcy Lannan as Nao Yuuki


Mai Tokiha thought she had enough trouble in life between taking care of her ailing brother and transferring to a new school. But when she saves a mysterious girl wielding a sword, everything changes. A power awakens within her and she becomes a HiME, a battle princess! But she’s not alone with this power—eleven other girls share her fate, and the burden is a heavy one.


Back in 2004, Sunrise created the anime series “My-HiME”.  Directed by Masakazu Obara and written by Hiroyuki Yoshino, the anime series lasted for 26 episodes and would lead to a new series “My-Otome” (26 episodes, 2005-2006), two OVA series: “My-Otome Zwei” (4 episodes, 2006-2007) and “My-Otome 0: S.ifr” (3 episodes, 2008).

The series is Sunrise’s first Moe anime series and an animation series that captivated viewers.

A manga series adaptation  would be created, including a PlayStation 2 and two PSP fighting games plus a PC game and a manga series “My-HiME EXA”.

While the anime series was released on DVD courtesy of Sunrise years ago, the license for all three series was acquired by Funimation and will be released on Blu-ray/DVD in January 2018.

“My-HiME” is a series that revolves around Mai Tokiha, a high school girl who transfers to the prestigious Fuuka Academy with her sick brother, Takumi.

One day, while on a boat trip, she comes across a girl named Mikoto Minagi who was found in the water.  She is pulled aboard but not long after, another girl named Natsuki Kuga has been searching for her and a battle ensues.  Not long after, Mai starts to exhibit strange abilities.

While Mai and Takumi are to attend their first day of school, Mai decides to bond and create a friendship with Mikoto and she makes her a bowl of ramen.    But not long after, Takumi is attacked by a monster and Mai and Natsuki team up and put aside their differences and fight it.  Mai is surprised that she was able to summon Kagutsuchi and defeat the monster, Orphan.

They are visited by the chairwoman of Fuka Academy, Mashiro Kazahana and explains to Mai that she is a HiME.

And as Mai, Natsuki and Mikoto discover more HiME, they learn there are other girls who are marked and they were given the power of the HiME to protect humans from the monsters known as Orphans and they have abilities similar to HiME.

And as they encounter other HiME, they learn that others have different motivations than to protect humans but learn quickly, the Orphans are not their only enemy.  And quickly learn that if a HiME is defeated, they will lose a person most closest to them.

The main characters in the series are:

  • Mai Tokiha – The main protagonist and the always keeps her problems to herself.  She has never had a chance to live her life, because she put most of her time trying to take care of her ill brother Takumi.  When Mai and Takumi were younger, Mai was supposed to watch over Takumi but went to play with a friend.  Takumi fell into a river and is unable to swim.  His mother rescued him but she would end up being hospitalized and die.  So, she harbors that guilt and puts everything towards taking care of Takumi.  She starts to make friends with other HiME.
  • Mikoto Minagi – She was taken in and befriend by Mai and often wants to be around her.  Always carrying a two-handed sword and is trying to search for her brother. She is naive and trying to understand her emotions. She is a HiME.
  • Natsuki Kuga – Beautiful, wealthy and often rides a Ducati sportsbike.  A power HiME that befriends Mai.
  • Yuuichi Tate – A member of the Fuuka Academy Student Council.  Often hanging out with Shiho Munakata.  He is falling for Mai and was a member of the Fuuka kendo club until he suffered an injury.
  • Miyu Greer – The adopted daughter of Joseph Greer, the priest at Fuuka Academy.  While nice to Mai, she acts odd with people and is very protective towards Alyssa Searrs.
  • Shizuru Fujino – The president of Fuka Academy student council.  She has a Kyoto accent and has a secret obsession towards Natsuki.
  • Reito Kanzaki – The Vice President of Fuuka Academy’s Student council.  He is very popular and likes Mai but there is something mysterious about Reito.
  • Shiho Munakata – A childhood friend of Yuuichi Tate.  Despite not being related, she loves Yuuichi Tate and is jealous that he shows affection towards Mai.
  • Akira Okuzaki – The roommate of Mai’s brother Takumi and attends Fuka Middle School.  Akira is actually a girl and has kept secret that she is a HiME and is falling for Takumi.
  • Nao Yuuki – A HiME who robs perverted men.  Her family were robbed and because her mother was hospitalized, Nao was an orphan at a young age and despises men.
  • Takumi Tokiha – Mai’s younger brother who suffers from a heart condition.  When he and Mai were younger, Mai was supposed to watch over Takumi but went to play with a friend.  Takumi fell into a river and is unable to swim.  His mother rescued him but she would end up being hospitalized and die.
  • Alyssa Sears – She is an android created by Joseph Greer that was to monitor the HiME.  She was part of a genetic engineering program to produce fake HiME and was the only success.  Often hangs around Miyu Greer.
  • Nagi Homura – The instigator of the HiMe’s.  Is he antagonist or is he trying to assist the HiME’s?  Or is he just a casual observer?

VIDEO:

“My-HiME” is presented in 1080i High Definition (4:3). This is an older anime series, so it doesn’t have the vibrancy of today’s anime series as one can expect.  The series is a bit soft (as many TV series are) but background art is done very well, character shading and detail is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“My-HiME” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 2.0.  Crystal clear dialogue and music through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“My-HiME – The Complete Series” comes with the textless opening and closing songs plus a Director’s Cut Ending for episode 26.

EXTRAS:

“My-HiME” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD of the series.


When “My-HiME” was released over a decade ago, it was no doubt considered as an amazing anime series from Sunrise and unlike anything they have done before.

It was the studio’s first moe anime series and one showcasing a strong female cast of characters.

While the series starts off as female with special abilities trying to protect the city from monsters known as Orphans and you see the characters having fun but also Mai trying to discover her emotions and trying to hide the pain from her friends, by the second half of the series, the series kicks into full gear as the anime series goes from fun and lively to dark and emotional.

While I don’t want to spoil the anime series of what prompted the change in storyline direction, I will say that Mai, Mikoto and Natsuki start to learn overtime of who are the HiME are and that their motivations are not all kind.  That they must worry of other HiME, because if they go into battle and one loses, they will lose the person they most care about.

“My-HiME” was no doubt one of the coolest anime series to come out back in 2004.  And to watch it again over a decade later as a complete series in HD was no doubt nostalgic.  A well-written story, great voice acting and great animation, “My-HiME” is an anime classic worth owning on Blu-ray!

Legend of the Naga Pearls (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 22, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

For those who want an entertaining, CG visual effects driven Chinese fantasy adventure film, may want to give “Legend of the Naga Pearls” a try!  It’s not a great film but I was entertained by its characters and crazy plot.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Shanghai Films Media. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Legend of the Naga Pearls

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 108 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9, Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English and Chinese

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: January 30, 2018


Directed by Yang Lei

Written by Tan Cheung, Xu Zhaoqing

Produced by Gordon Chan, Fan Feifei

Music by Ikuro Fujiwara

Cinematography by Arthur Wong

Production Design by Kenneth Mak

Costume Design by Tingting Liang


Starring:

Darren Wang as Ni Kongkong

Tian’Ai Zhang as Hie Yu

Simon Yam as Xuelie

Guansen Sheng as Geli

Xun Wang

Luxia Jiang

Sui He


After being defeated by humans centuries ago, the Winged Tribe has lost their ability to fly. Seeking vengeance, a royal descendant of the tribe has begun searching for the magical Naga Pearls, which he plans to use to destroy the humans. When the legendary pearls fall into – and out of – the hands of Heiyu, a wily human street punk, he must join a team of unlikely heroes as they race to prevent the destruction of their people in this magical fantasy adventure.


Long ago, humans and a wing tribe lived in co existence until the king of the Wing Tribe (that could fly) waged war against the humans and lost.   The humans apart the Wing Tribe’s home to build the city of Uranopolis, while the tribe lost their ability to fly.

We see an introduction to a young Ni Kongkong, being dragged as a child and seeing a blue glow from his right hand and kids beating him and are about to cut the blue area of his hand.  It then forwards to the present Ni Kongkong, who still has a blue glow to his hand which is now scarred.  But he hides it.

One day, Ni Kongkong (portrayed by Darren Wang) who calls himself “The Prince of Thieves” and his Pangolin friend named Oka are caught and instead of getting punished, he agrees to do whatever in hopes to be a free man.  He is given an order to rob a prince for a certain artifact.

As Ni Kongkong goes to steal it, he catches a group of monsters, especially a royal descendant of the Winged Tribe named Xue Lie, who wants to search for the magical Naga Pearls for their leader, Vlad, so they can destroy the humans and avenge his people.  As the Naga Pearls can unlock the Eye in the Sky.

As Vlad arrives, he slays the King and his court looking for the artifact.

But Ni Kongkong who looks for it, manages to find an underground area and tries to steal the artifact, he is confronted by Xue Lie who is intent in getting it back.  But before Xue Lie can kill him, Hei Yu (portrayed by Tian’Ai Zhang), also a wingless descendant and also a constable, in addition Xue Lie’s sister, stops him and protects Ni.

While the two are able to escape, Ni Kongkong, Raven and the King’s son, Geli (portrayed by Guansen Sheng) manage to take the artifact (which no one knows how to open it up in its sealed metal casing) and tries to escape from Xue Lie, who he and his fellow monsters are hunting them down.

Can these three individuals, with their own agenda of why they want the Naga Pearls, prevent Armageddon from happening?


VIDEO:

“Legend of the Naga Pearls” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is a film that looks great in HD. Visual effects were great and black levels were nice and deep, lighting was good and closeups show good detail.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Legend of the Naga Pearls” is presented in Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio.  Dialogue is crystal clear, action sequences utilize the surround channels quite well.  Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Legend of the Naga Pearls” comes with no special features but a trailer.

 


A magical fantasy adventure as we see three very different people, a thief, a winged constable and a king’s son trying to prove himself, teaming up together to prevent Armageddon against Vlad and his followers from exacting revenge on humans.

The film showcases the latest in Chinese fantasy adventure with CGI effects.

Actor Darren Wang who appeared in the Jackie Chan film “Railroad tigers” and the upcoming film “A Better Tomorrow 2018”, plays Ni Konkong, a happy-g0-lucky thief who calls himself “the prince of thieves”.  Spent his life without friends, surviving on what he steals and his only true friend is his pangolin friend named Oka, who can changed into an armored ball and be used as a projectile weapon and has a bad case of flatulence as well.

Ni Kongkong is not at all great at socializing and while he puts on a facade of overconfidence, he tries to impress Hei Yu, a constable but also part of the winged tribe and happens to be the sister of Xuelie, the man that is trying to kill them and serves the evil Vlad.

Actress Tian’Ai Zhang is rather interesting, playing the stoic Hei Yu, with her tsundere attitude and similar to Ni, not very good at socializing, the two may be different but yet they become partners and obviously these two characters have a lot of chemistry.

Hei Yu’s brother is Xuelie, played by veteran actor Simon Lam.  A royal descendant of the Winged Tribe, he is driven by anger and want’s nothing but to destroy the humans for what they did to his tribe.  And he dislikes his sister for befriending humans and not wanting to join him in destroying them.  But surprisingly, I had no idea that was Simon Yam playing the character.

The third person in the team is Geli, the king’s son who is trying to prove that he can avenge his father but while he talks tough, in reality, he’s quite weak.

So, you have three odd individuals and a CG pet taking on monsters and trying to evade the enemies.  In some way, it reminded me a little of “Guardians of the Galaxy” in terms of mismatch of characters, a cute CG character and antagonists chasing them down for an artifact.

The film looks very good in HD and the Mandarin lossless soundtrack is very good as there is good use of the surround channels during the more action-intensive sequences.  Unfortunately, it’s a barebones Blu-ray release with no special features but a trailer.

Sure, “Legend of the Naga Pearls” may not be the greatest Chinese fantasy adventure film and the over-the-top moments may seem cheesy at times but it’s actually an entertaining popcorn action film with a lot of CG visual effects.

For those who want an entertaining, CG visual effects driven Chinese fantasy adventure film, may want to give “Legend of the Naga Pearls” a try!  It’s not a great film but I was entertained by its characters and crazy plot.

Genocidal Organ (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 16, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

 I wish I could say that I enjoyed “Genocidal Organ” but I felt that it was an animated film that benefits more from its action and violence than its characters and storyline.

Image courtesy of © Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Genocidal Organ

DURATION: 115 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: November 7, 2017


Originally Created by Project Itoh

Director: Shukou Murase

Screenplay by Shukuou Murase

Music by Yoshihiro Ike

Original Character Design: rejudice

Art Director: Seiki Tamura

Anime Production: Geno Studio, Manglobe


Featuring the following voice talent:

Yūichi Nakamura/Josh Grelle as Clavis Shepherd

Akio Ohtsuka/Christopher R. Sabat as Rockwell

Kaito Ishikawa/Clifford Chapin as Leland

Sanae Kobayashi/Jeannie Tirado as Lucia

Satoshi Mikami/Ian Sinclair as Williams

Takahiro Sakurai/Ricco Fajardo as John Paul

Yuuki Kaji/Clifford Chapin as Alex

Kazuhiro Yamaji/Charlie Campbell as President

Takehiro Hasu/Dave Trosko as Staff Officer

Takuya Kirimoto/David Wald as Lucius


In Genocidal Organ, while developed countries rely on advanced surveillance to free them from the threat of terrorism, other nations are plagued by genocide within their own borders. Strangely, these massacres all link back to one American by the name of John Paul. Special agent Clavis Shepherd is sent to capture the target, but nothing can prepare this soldier—or the world—for the truth behind humanity’s darkness.


Before the release of popular novels “Harmony” and “The Empire of Corpses”, back in 2007, science fiction writer Project Itoh wrote his debut novel, “Gyakusatsu Kikan” (Genocidal Organ).

The novel was successful that the sci-fi magazine “SF ga yomitai” ranked Genocidal Organ as the #1 domestic SF novel of the decade.

The novel would lead to an animated film being created and set for release by Manglobe in 2015, but with the company filing bankruptcy, the film was postponed.  This would lead to the staff going by a new studio name, Geno Studio, announced it would complete the film by the end of 2016 and eventually, the film would be released in Feb. 2017.

Funimation would release the film in select US theaters in July 2017 and now “Genocidal Organ” would be released in the US in November 2017.

The animated film is set in 2022 when Sarajevo was destroyed by a homemade nuclear weapon, the developed countries of the world transformed into surveillance states, while struggling countries would endure many genocides.

Intelligence agent Clavis Shepherd of the US govt. is part of a program in which soldiers have their emotional responses deleted and he is assigned to go undercover to find the person who is responsible, an American named John Paul and what type of weapon he is using to cause so much mayhem.


VIDEO:

“Genocidal Organ” is presented in 1080p High Definition. As one can expect from an animated film, production is quite high for “Genocidal Organ”.  While originally created by Manglobe, the same staff who went on to form Geno Studio did a fantastic job in completing the film.  Closeup details are fantastic, character shading is well-done, mechanical/costume design is highly detailed and for the most part, the film looks fantastic in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The lossless soundtrack for “Genocidal Organ” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Genocidal Organ” comes with the following special features:

  • Cast Discussion: Philosophy of the Genocidal Organ – (10:17) ADR Director Clifford Chapin and English dub voice actors discuss “Genocidal Organ”.
  • Original Trailer
  • Promo Video
  • TV Spots
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Genocidal Organ” comes with a slipcase and the film on Blu-ray, DVD and also comes with an UltraViolet digital code.


For anime fans who clamor for war and violence, will find “Genocidal Organ” to be their kind of film.  It’s a film that takes on the question of the price of freedom and how far one soldier is willing to go to uncover the truth of why genocides are taking place in more or less third world countries.

The concept is not new and in fact, if “Genocidal Organ” was a video game, I think the execution would be much more entertaining because as an anime adaptation of a well-known novel, I’m not sure if the adaptation was on point.

Watching an anime series based on the late Project Itoh’s popular novel, I can’t say that the anime adaptations have been completely faithful (as I have not read any of his novels), but I have watched all three animated films and I’ve felt that for novels so popular, I felt the anime adaptations had something missing because may it be “Genocidal Organ”, “Harmony” or “The Empire of Corpses”, none of these three films made me feel excited, nor have they made me feel that I want to watch the film over and over again.

“Genocidal Organ”, I did give it a try twice, because I feel that for an award-winning novel, I must be missing something exciting.

When it comes to the animation, the violence was well-captured, animation was smooth and certain details when it came to mechanical or costume design was great.  Backgrounds were well-done and for the most part, Geno Studio made sure to complete the job, considering that it was done by employees who worked for Manglobe before they company filed bankruptcy.  It took a while to make and release but for the most part, for what they were able to accomplish, the movie was good but at the same time, feeling that it had the potential to be something more.  Granted, you see the differences and while Manglobe did the better part of it, Geno Studio finished it.

In some ways, it reminded me of the unfortunate situation with “Bubblegum Crisis” and “Bubblegum Crash” which led to a different style with the latter and no doubt disappointed fans.  People will see differences and some will not like the changes but I’m giving the company the benefit of the doubt that they rescued the film that they worked so hard on and the staff wanted to complete it with what staff and what budget they had.

While the animated film looks great in HD and the voice acting in Japanese and English are well-done, and you do get Funimation English dub interviews with the ADR director and cast, personally no matter how good the acting was, I just felt that the characters were not interesting.  None of the characters captivated my attention and if anything, the film’s concept and the revelation at the end and the sheer brutality of this chaotic world was much more interesting.  I wanted the characters and it storyline to have some kind of balance but somehow, at times, the film felt incoherent and I kept looking at my watch wondering when the film was going to be over.

Unfortunately, I wish I could say that I enjoyed “Genocidal Organ” but I felt that it was an animated film that benefits more from its action and violence than its characters and storyline.

anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day TV Series Complete Blu-ray Box Set (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 8, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Emotional, uplifting, tragic but also a film of hope,  “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is an animated film that will captivate you and a Blu-ray release that I highly recommend!

Image courtesy of © ANOHANA PROJECT. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day

YEAR OF FILM: 2011

DURATION: 11 Episodes (256 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: July 15, 2014


Director: Tatsuyuki Nagai

Script: Mari Okada

Music by REMEDIOS

Character Design: Masayoshi Tanaka

Art Director: Takayoshi Fukushima

Art by Takayoshi Fukushima

Chief Animation Director: Masayoshi Tanaka

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Kayano/Xanthe Huynh as Meiko “Menma” Honma

Haruka Tomatsu/Erica Lindbeck as Naruko “Anaru” Anjō

Miyu Irino/Griffin Burns as Jinta “Jintan” Yadomi

Saori Hayami/Erica Mendez as Chiriko “Tsuruko” Tsurumi

Takahiro Sakurai/Ray Chase as Atsumu “Yukiatsu” Matsuyuki

Takayuki Kondou/Kaiji Tang as Tetsudō “Poppo” Hisakawa

Aki Toyosaki/Abby Trott as Tetsudō (child)

Asami Seto/Michelle Ruff as Yukiatsu (child)

Kaoru Mizuhara/Cherami Leigh as Haruna (child)

Mitsuru Ogata/Kirk Thornton as Atsushi Yadomi (child)

Asami Seto/Michelle Ruff as Atsumu (child)

Mutsumi Tamura/Tara Sands as Jinta (child)

Yui Makino/Brianna Knickerbocker as Aki (child)


“Jintan? I have a wish I want you to grant for me!”

The critically acclaimed drama series anohana returns with a brand new English dub written and directed by Patrick Seitz, now on Blu-ray for the first time!

Jinta Yadomi and his group of childhood friends had become estranged after a tragic incident split them apart. Now in their high school years, an unexpected surprise forces each of them to confront their guilt over what happened that day. They must overcome the burdens of their past, and come to terms with years of shame, hard feelings, and heartaches.


It was one of the saddest anime series to debut back in 2011, the series “Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai” or “Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day” debuted on television.

An 11-episode series produced by A-1 pictures and directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai (“My-HiME”, “A Certain Scientific Railgun”) and written by Mari Okada (“AKB0048”, “Vampire Knight”, “Black Rock Shooter”, “Black Butler”), the series revolves around six childhood friends that drifted apart after one of them dies in an accident.

A novelization by Mari Okada was released in 2011, a manga series adaptation was released in 2012, then an animated film was released in theaters in 2013, followed by a live action television drama series was released in September 2015.

While the animated film was released in the US back in 2014, the anime series will be released as a complete series on Blu-ray in 2017.

The animated series begins with an introduction to Jinta “Jintan” Yadomi, a teenager who looks as if he was hanging around with a girl named Menma.   When his childhood friend Naruko arrives, Menma tells him that no one can see her.

We then realize that Jinta is a teenager who has not gotten over Menma’s death.  He has not gone to school and he has not had any contact with his childhood friends since.

Jintan sees Menma’s ghost (or it’s his imagination) as he tries to piece together things in his mind about her death and then suddenly, he begins to remember the things he wanted to say to Menma on the day of her death.

As he runs into a forest area, it happens to be the old clubhouse (their secret base) where he and his friends used to hang out.  He then sees his old friend Tetsudo “Poppo” Hisakawa and tells him that she is able to see her ghost.

We then start to see each of these individuals start to see each other but circumstances have changed, friendships lost and not all of them get along.

And with each individual, they have a tie to the past that they regret and we start to see glimpses of the past and how Menma’s death changed everyone.

We learn that together with their friends (which they are known as the “Super Peace Busters”) included Naruko “Anaru” Anjo (who had a crush on Jinta), Atsumu “Yukiatsu” Matsuyuki (who likes Menma and looked at Jinta as his rival for Menma’s feelings), Chiriko “Tsuruko” Tsurumi (has feelings towards Asumu) and Tetsudo “Poppo” Hisakawa (always looked at Jinta as “cool”).

On the day before “Menma” died, everyone wanted to know if Jinta loved Menma but being a child and embarrassed, he said he would never fall for someone like her.  Embarrassed, he ran away.  But when she tried to find him, by the time he went to look for her an apologize, it was too late.  She slipped and fell into a river and drowned.

Fast forward into the future and Jinta has become depressed and anti-social after the death of his mother and Menma.  But when Menma reappears as a ghost, at first he thinks it’s his stress manifesting, but when he starts to realize that she has returned, Jinta slowly reunites with his old friends to tell him about his visions of Menma.

Of course, not everyone believes him, as he is the only person that can see her.  But some fans give him the benefit of the doubt and Poppo believes that she may be stuck on Earth because she has a goal that she must reach or a wish that she must fulfill.  But as Menma hears this, she is not sure about her thoughts nor does she remember much.

But as these friends slowly reunite, we learn that not only does Jinta feel guilty about Menma’s death, each of them do for some sort of reason.

And as the eleven episodes delve into each character’s life in the present, they also share with each other their thoughts and the pain they have felt all these years and in many ways, allowing each to receive some type of closure in regards to Menma’s death but giving them the chance to say their final goodbye and vice-versa.


VIDEO:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day” is a TV series that looks great in HD.  Animation is vibrant, while character designs are shaded, the background art is well-detailed and for the most part, you are drawn with the many cut-scenes and flashbacks but the lush green and vibrant colors instantly grab you.  There is a slight softness as one can expect from a TV series but I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues, while watching the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0.  This is primarily a dialogue and music-driven soundtrack, so one should not expect to hear a lot coming from the lossless soundtrack.  If anything, the surround channels are more about environment and ambiance.

Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary by the English Dub Cast and Director
  • English Dub Teaser
  • English Dub Trailer
  • English Dub Bloopers
  • Web Previews
  • Commercials and Trailers 
  • Textless Opening and Endings

EXTRAS:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day” comes with the awesome a slipcover case, a 60-page deluxe booklet.


Emotional, uplifting, tragic but also a film of hope,  “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day is an animated series that will captivate you but it’s also an emotional series that will no doubt make you cry.

“anohana” was an animated series that was one of the saddest anime series to come out in 2011 but one that made you watch because like all childhood friends, everyone drifts apart.  But in the case of these friends, it was because one friend’s tragic death, everyone had went on their separate ways.

Some harboring guilt or feelings about their friend, Menma’s death that they have kept in their heart for so long.

And now as these young children have grown up to be young adults, they are brought together once again, because of their deceased friend.  Menma has started to show up for some reason and only Jinta can see her.

The film is about child innocence but also holding on to emotions that were kept inside but never said.  The film has a message of letting people know how much you care about them before it’s too late.  And while most people don’t get the opportunity to tell that person how they truly feel, what if you were given that final chance.

I often think about films such as “Ghost” (the classic romantic drama with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore), where the film’s protagonist is murdered and comes back as a ghost and needing to fix things in order to go back to heaven.  With “anohana”, Menma is somewhat a ghost but one that can be seen by Jinta and also one that is unaware of why she was brought back and not knowing if she would disappear if she was able to make a wish come true.  She doesn’t know.

Of course, Jinta seeing the deceased Menma is hard to believe for some individuals until Jinta shares details that only they and Menma knows about.  And to see everyone coming together, but also having these unresolved feelings… it makes for a dramatic and emotional animated series.

 

As for the Blu-ray release of “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day”, the picture quality is vibrant, the character design is well done and the background art is fantastic for a TV series!  While the lossless soundtrack is more dialogue and music-driven with ambiance played through the surround channels.

With the Blu-ray release, you get the an English dub commentary, trailer, teaser, textless opening and endings and of course, the Aniplex swag of a cool case and 60-page deluxe booklet.

Overall, “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day” is an animated series that will make viewers easily laugh and cry thanks to its well-written storyline from Mari Okada.  It no doubt stands out among the many emotional anime series that revolved around tragedy.

Emotional, uplifting, tragic but also a film of hope,  “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day” is an animated series that will captivate you, that will make you shed tears and a Blu-ray Box Set release that I highly recommend!

Killing Gunther (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Taran Killam’s directorial debut for “Killing Gunther”, a film he wrote and starred in, is no doubt a film full of laughs and plenty of action.  I was surprised how entertaining and fun this film was and not at all hyper-moronic.  And what best than to see Arnold Schwarzenegger return to a film to display his comedic and action talent.  An entertaining popcorn comedy/action film worth watching…”Killing Gunther” is worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lionsgate. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Killing Gunther

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 95 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: December 26, 2017


Directed by Taran Killam

Screenplay by Taran Killam

Produced by Taran Killam, Kim Leadford, Ash Sarohia, Steven Squillante

Executive Producer: Charles Auty, Maxime Cottray, Liz Destro, Sean Andrew Maurer, Steven Pottash, Arnold Schwarzenegger, D. Todd Shepherd, Joe Simpson, Andrew Xavier Yakub

Associate Producer: Daniel J. Elder, Peter Pietrangeli

Music by Dino Meneghin

Cinematographer: Blake McClure

Edited by Adam Epstein

Casting by Judy Lee

Production Design by Armanno Di Febo-Orsini

Art Direction by Cynthia E. Hill

Set Decoration by Jacqueline Miller

Costume Design by Reiko Kurumada, Ariana Preece


Starring:

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Robert “Gunther” Bendik

Cobie Smulders as Lisa McCalla

Hannah Simone as Sanaa

Allison Tolman as Mia

Taran Killam as Blake

Steve Bacic as Max

Amir Talai as Izzat

Bobby Moynihan as Donnie

Scott McNeil as Cheyenne

Aaron Yoo as Yong

Paul Britain as Gabe

Peter Kelamis as Rahmat

Ryan Gaul as Barold

Alex Duncan as Jewel

Aubrey Sixto as Ashley


KILLING GUNTHER is a comedy set in the world of contract killers. A group of young, raw, and undisciplined assassins hire a docu-crew at gunpoint to have undeniable proof that they’re the ones who will kill the most infamous hit man of all time, Gunther (Arnold Schwarzenegger). But Gunther is on to them before they know it and makes their lives a living hell, turning the hunters into the prey in a kill-or-be-killed race against time.


Saturday Night Live star and actor Taran Killam (“12 Years a Slave”, “Brother Nature”) makes his directorial debut in the action-comedy, “Killing Gunther”.  A film which he also writes and stars as the main protagonist.

The film also stars Arnold Schwarzenegger (“Terminator” films”, “True Lies”, “Predator”), Cobie Smulders (“Avengers” films, “Jack reacher”, “Safe Haven”), Hannah Simone (“New Girl”, “Old Boy”, “Folk Hero & Funny Guy”), Allison Tolman (“The Gift”), Steve Bacic (“The 6th Day”, “X-Men 2”, “Good Luck Chuck”), Bobby Moynihan (“Saturday Night Live”, “Sisters”), Aaron Yoo (“21”, “Disturbia”, “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist”), Ryan Gaul (“Identity Thief”, “Father Figures”), Amir Talat (“The Circle”, “Harold & Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay”, “Legally Blonde 2”) and Paul Britain (“Saturday Night Live”, “Hotel Transylvania” films).

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

The film revolves around a hitman named Blake (portrayed by Taran Killam) who wants to kill the world’s greatest hitman, the mysterious Gunther (portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger) for sleeping and stealing his girlfriend, Lisa McCalla (portrayed by Cobie Smulders).

Now Blake has recruited a group of assassins to kill Gunther.  Including deadly assassin  Sanaa (portrayed by Hannah Simone) and daughter of legendary hitman, Rahmat Fairouza, bomb and explosives professional Donnie (portrayed by Bobby Moynihan), poison expert Yong (portrayed by Aaron Yoo), former extremist Izzat (portrayed by Amir Talai), hacker/computer expert Gabe (portrayed by Paul Britain) and Russian couple Mia (portrayed by Allison Tolman) and Barold (portrayed by Ryan Gaul).  And Blake’s mentor and assassin, Ashley (portrayed by Aubrey Sixto).  And also, Blake has his friend Max (portrayed by Steve Bacic) involved.

And Blake has also hired a documentary crew to document how this group will kill Gunther.  The problem, no one knows Gunther and what he looks like.

But on the first meeting and as Max is going to reveal Gunther’s location, Gunther uses a sniper and kills Max and shoots an RPG towards the group.  Meanwhile, Ashley who is getting out of the hospital, has a heart attack while discussing killing Gunther.

With two people down, the group sets up a fake hit and when Gunther is at a building, the group goes after him and tries to kill him but Gunther ends up evading the group and during a fight with Izzat, manages to choke the extremist with his robotic hand.

While Sanaa was able to pull of a shot and get Gunther in the leg, she is about to get shot but is saved by Donnie who instantly falls for her.

As the group loses Gunther and reviews the security footage, they see Gunther wearing a mask of Blake and realize he is also a master of disguise.

Can Blake and his remaining group members find a way to kill Gunther?  Or will Gunther eliminate all of them?


VIDEO:

“Killing Gunther” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film shows great detail on closeups and low-light situations are presented well. Colors are natural, black levels are nice and deep and for the most part, the film looks very good in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Killing Gunther” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and features crystal clear dialogue, while action scenes utilize the surround channels very well.    The overall lossless soundtrack is very good!

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Killing Gunther” comes with following special feature:

  • Deleted Scenes– A short featurette on the working relationship of Judi Dench and Ali Fazal.
  • Bloopers – Featuring outtakes from “Killing Gunther”.

EXTRAS:

“Killing Gunther” comes with an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


With Taran Killam making his directorial debut in a comedy/action film, having watched the “Saturday Night Live” talent and also his fellow co-stars in “Killing Gunther” made me think this would be a popcorn comedy/action film that would be moronic or juvenile, like other SNL stars who have appeared in films.

Some manage to create or star in films that are surprisingly good and others who have starred in films that are terribly bad.  And with “Killing Gunther”, fortunately this film lands in the “surprisingly good” category as “Killing Gunther” was hilarious and fun!

The film revolves around a ragtag bunch of killers who come together under Killam’s main character, Blake.  An assassin who wants revenge against Gunther for stealing and sleeping with his girlfriend.

Brokenhearted about the breakup, he wants nothing but to take down the world’s greatest hitman.

But Gunther is the greatest hitman for a reason.  Not only is he a master of disguise but he is often one step ahead of Blake and his group.  And despite how murderous Blake’s team is, they are no match against Gunther.

But if Blake can find out who Gunther really is and where he lives, perhaps he has a chance of killing him.

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the character of Gunther and the actor returns to his comedy roots of playing a hitman that just is impossible to kill, and Schwarzenegger brings the laughs as we see the numerous people he had disguised himself as.

And of course, there are many silly moments throughout the film, as one can expect from Killam.  But the most enjoyable part about this film is wondering who will get who and whether or not Blake or Gunther is victorious at the end.  And one will no doubt want to stick around after the credits, as we get the answer of who is the last person standing.

As for the Blu-ray, picture and lossless audio quality is great.  Special features include deleted scenes and bloopers.

Overall, Taran Killam’s directorial debut for “Killing Gunther”, a film he wrote and starred in, is no doubt a film full of laughs and plenty of action.  I was surprised how entertaining and fun this film was and not at all hyper-moronic.  And what best than to see Arnold Schwarzenegger return to a film to display his comedic and action talent.

An entertaining popcorn comedy/action film worth watching…”Killing Gunther” is worth watching!

Victoria & Abdul (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Stephen Frears’ “Victoria & Abdul” is a delightful film based on the true story of Queen Victoria and her servant, Abdul Karim.  Featuring a wonderful performance by Judi Dench and Ali Fazal, “Victoria & Abdul” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lionsgate. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Victoria & Abdul

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 1 hr. and 51 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: December 19, 2017


Based on the book by Shebani Basu

Directed by Stephen Frears

Screenplay by Lee Hall

Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Beeban Kidron, Tracey Seaward

Executive Producer: Liza Chasin, Amelia Granger, Lee Hall, Christine Langan, Joe Oppenheimer

Associate Producer: Lucas Webb

Music by Thomas Newman

Cinematographer: Danny Cohen

Edited by Melanie Oliver

Production Design by Alan MacDonald

Art Direction by Sarah Finlay, Adam Squires

Costume Design by Consolata Boyle


Starring:

Judi Dench as Queen Victoria

Ali Fazal as Abduk Karim

Tim Pigott-Smith as Sir Henry Ponsonby

Eddie Izzard as Bertie, Prince of Wales

Adeel Akhtar as Mohammed

Michael Gambon as Lord Salisbury

Paul Higgins as Dr. Reid

Olivia Williams as Lady Churchill

Fenella Woolgar as Miss Phipps

Julian Wadham as Alick Yorke

Robin Soans as Arthur Bigge

Ruth McCabe as Mrs. Tuck

Simon Callow as Puccini


The extraordinary true story of an unexpected friendship in the later years of Queen Victoria’s (Academy Award winner Judi Dench) remarkable rule. When Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), a young clerk, travels from India to participate in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, he is surprised to find favor with the Queen herself. As the Queen questions the constrictions of her long-held position, the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance with a loyalty to one another that her household and inner circle all attempt to destroy. As the friendship deepens, the Queen begins to see a changing world through new eyes and joyfully reclaims her humanity.


Filmmaker Stephen Frears is well-known for films such as “Dangerous Liaisons”, “The Queen” and “Dirty Pretty Things” has a film now available on Blu-ray and DVD titled “Victoria & Abdul” which he directed and features a screenplay from Lee Hall (“Billy Elliott”, “War Horse”) and based on the book of the same name by Shrabani Basu.

And the film revolves around one of the biggest surprises that took place over a 115 years ago thanks to the discovery by journalist Shrabani Basu, who was touring Queen Victoria’s Isle of Wight summer home in 2003 and saw paintings and a bust of an Indian servant named Abdul Karim.

When Basu went to Windsor Castle to look at Victoria’s Hindustani journals, journals never opened for a hundred years revealed this like mother and son relationship between Queen Victoria and her Indian servant Abdul Karim.  And it wasn’t until a family member gave Basu a few of Abdul Karim’s journals, did Basu realize how deep of a relationship Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim had for nearly a decade.

But also the racism that he received while the Queen was alive and what happened after she died.  All documented in his book “Victoria & Abdul” which received a film adaptation and positive critic reviews.

And now, “Victoria & Abdul” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

The film begins with Abdul Karim, a young prison clerk from Agra, India, receiving instructions to travel to England for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 to present her with a mohur, a token of appreciation from what was then, British-ruled India.

The Queen is lonely, bored and not really enjoying the people of her surroundings, including her family.  But when Abdul comes to visit her, he surprises her by kissing her feet.

From that moment on, she asks Abdul to visit her, against the recommendations of her family and servants and when she sees his sincerity and his passion for life, she promotes him to become her Munshi (servant) and she becomes his guardian.

Curious about Indian culture, she requests for Abdul to teach her Urdu and the Qur’an.  But to her children and those who work around her, they are not as approving to the Queen’s decisions, nor how much time she is spending with Abdul and they begin to show their dissent towards him.


VIDEO:

“Victoria & Abdul” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film shows great detail on closeups and low-light situations are presented well. Colors are natural and for the most part, the film looks very good in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Victoria & Abdul” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and while the film is primarily dialogue-driven. Surround channels are more for ambiance during scenes with crowds but primarily, it’s a film that focuses more on the dialogue.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Espanol and Francais.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Victoria & Abdul” comes with following special feature:

  • Judi & Ali – A short featurette on the working relationship of Judi Dench and Ali Fazal.
  • The Look of Victoria & Abdul – How far costume designers and make-up artists were in trying to make the characters similar to their real life counterpart.

EXTRAS:

“Victoria & Abdul” comes with an UltraViolet Digital HD code and DVD.


When I first read about Shebani Basu’s “Victoria & Abdul”, I was shocked, surprised but then after a few minutes of thinking and realizing the state of the world, perceptions of other cultures and rampant racism, I realized that I shouldn’t be too surprised.

Watching Stephen Frears’ “Victoria & Abdul”, what we have is a fascinating story of Queen Victoria, at a time where she’s bored with her life as her health was not at its best, the people around her were constricting, including her family who were more interested in vying for power and fame.

It was until she met Abdul Karim, someone who was so very much different from everyone around her.  As an Indian man, different ethnicity, different levels of communication and for the most part, Abdul was sincere in his treatment towards Queen Victoria.  He was her servant, he did his utmost best to be loyal to her.  No matter how badly he was treated by the Queen’s children or those around her, his life at the time was indebted to her.

And “Victoria & Abdul” is a film about how these two very different people became friends, a family-type relationship in which she was like a mother to a son, who listened best to his mother and was able to teach her something new, something different and its what made this relationship special.

Of course, as Queen Victoria did so much for Abdul Karim and his family during the ten years he was a servant to her, her family did so much to destroy anything that would link the Queen to her servant.  Burning journals and photos but because Abdul had taught Queen Victoria about his culture and language, including how to write, those documents (because no one could read them), were what existed including Abdul’s journals handed down to family members.

The film is well-made and the acting performance by Judi Dench and Ali Fazal are wonderful, the costume design and overall cinematography was equally fantastic to watch.   There was nothing that I found to make the film slow or boring, the storyline had a smooth flow, was entertaining and for the most part, “Victoria & Abdul” told the true story of admirable respect of the Queen and her servant, both protective for each other but at the same time, both knowing the fragility of this relationship due to those of the outside who were against it.

While Queen Victoria adopted the title of Empress of India and while racism was rampant towards Indians at that time, it’s important to note that there was war between India and the British.  The Indians had numerous rebellions against the invasive British-style social reforms thrust upon them but with that being said, it was a platform that many had to use to justify their hatred towards the Indian people due to the number of deaths attributed to the hostile rebellion. At the time, those emotions ran heavy through the late 1800s to the 1900s.

And it was because they were different, they were looked at as inferior and treated as such.  And each time, the Queen would elevate Abdul Karim’s status, it would cause problems among the royal family and those around her.  Her assistant private secretary, Fritz Ponsonby, trying to get any information to have Abdul discredited.

It made them uncomfortable to the point that nearly all that worked for her, were going to walk out on her and even forced her son, King Edward and her daughter, Princess Beatrice to issue all palace guards destroy all correspondence and erase any record of their relationship.

Despite the hardship that Abdul endured, from his writings that he left behind, he remained loyal to the Queen/Empress and his words about her were for the utmost respect and the film reflects that perfectly.

The picture quality of the Blu-ray release is fantastic.  Closeups are full of detail, while lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue.  The Blu-ray features two short special features.

Overall, Stephen Frears’ “Victoria & Abdul” is a delightful film based on the true story of Queen Victoria and her servant, Abdul Karim.  Featuring a wonderful performance by Judi Dench and Ali Fazal, “Victoria & Abdul” is recommended!

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