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The Boy and the Beast (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

boyandthebeast

Mamoru Hosoda has once again created a delightful and entertaining film that is destined to become another classic!  Great storyline, gorgeous art and animation and wonderful performance by both Japanese and English voice talent, “The Boy and the Beast” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 The Boy and the Beast Film Partners.  All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Boy and the Beast

DURATION: 119 Minutes

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: June 7, 2016


Directed by Mamoru Hosoda

Script by Mamoru Hosoda

Original Story by Mamoru Hosoda

Producers: Takashi Watanabe, Yuichiro Saito

Character Designs by Daisuke Iga, Mamoru Hosoda, Takaaki Yamashita

Art Direction by Takashi Omori, Yohei Takamatsu, Youichi Nishikawa

Art Design by Anri Jojo

Music by Masakatsu Takagi

Anime Production: Studio Chizu


Featuring the following voice talent:

Aoi Miyazaki/Luci Christian as Kyuta (Young)

Kōji Yakusho/John Swasey as Kumatetsu

Shōta Sometani/Eric Vale as Kyuta (Teen)

Haru Kuroki/Morgan Berry as Ichirohiko (Young)

Kappei Yamaguchi/Austin Tindle as Jiromaru (Older)

Kazuhiro Yamaji/Sean Hennigan as Iozan

Lily Franky/Alex Organ as Hyakushūbō

Mamoru Miyano/Austin Tindle as Ichirohiko (Older)

Masahiko Tsugawa/Steve Powell as Grand Master

Momoka Ono/Brittney Karbowski as Jiromaru (Young)

Sumire Morohoshi/Monica Rial as Chiko

Suzu Hirose/Bryn Apprill as Kaede

Yo Oizumi/Ian Sinclair as Tatara


The Boy and the Beast is the latest feature film from award-winning Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda (Summer Wars, Wolf Children): When Kyuta, a young orphan living on the streets of Shibuya, stumbles into a fantastic world of beasts, he’s taken in by Kumatetsu, a gruff, rough-around-the-edges warrior beast who’s been searching for the perfect apprentice.

Despite their constant bickering, Kyuta and Kumatetsu begin training together and slowly form a bond as surrogate father and son. But when a deep darkness threatens to throw the human and beast worlds into chaos, the strong bond between this unlikely pair will be put to the ultimate test- a final showdown. Can the two finally work together using all of their combined strength and courage? Don’t miss the critically acclaimed film The Boy and The Beast!


It was the animated film that would take Japan by storm.

In 2015, the animated film “Bakemono no Ko” (The Boy and the Beast) which was written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda (“Summer Wars”, “Wolf Children”, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”) and produced by Studio Chizu, would go on to earn over $48 million in the box office.  And would be released in the the theaters in the US in March 2016.

And now, “The Boy and the Beast” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation.

The film revolves around a homeless nine-year-old named Ren.

Ren’s parents are divorced and he has not seen his father, while his mother has passed away.

Refusing to live with his legal guardians, Ren has been living in the streets of Shibuya.  Stealing food and sleeping the alley ways, he thinks about the moments in his life after his mother died.

Meanwhile, in the Beast Kingdom known as Jutengai, the lord has announced that he will retire in order to reincarnate as a deity and is looking for two successors.  It would be either the popular Iozen, father of two kids or the powerful but lazy Kumatetsu.  But the Grandmaster suggests to Kumatetsu that he needs to find an apprentice/disciple in order to succeed him.

Back in Shiibuya, as Ren is trying to survive and avoid the police (who want to send him back to his legal guardians), one day, two hooded figures approach Ren and it happens to be Kumatetsu and his companion, Tatara.  Tatara jokes around that Kumatetsu should take a human to become his apprentice.

Ren is shocked to see that the individuals are not human and Kumatetsu asks Ren if he is willing to become his apprentice.  While not willing, Ren still follows Kumatetsu and he finds himself in the Beast Kingdom and unable to go back home.

Ren is taken by Hyakushubo, an apprentice monk and finds Ren and worries that he accidentally came into the Beast World.  But Kumatetsu shows up and tells Hyakushubo that Ren is his new assistant, shocking both Hyakushubo and Tatara, because no one brings a human into their world, let alone take him as an apprentice.  And Kumatetsu allows Ren to stay at his place.

One day, a battle begins between Iozen and Kumatetsu and Ren sees how everyone is supporting Iozen and Kumatetsu is alone.  Feeling the same as Kumatetsu, Ren cheers for him, despite Kumatetsu losing in the battle.  But because the actual duel of succession has not been officially announced, the battle does not count.

Ren takes in Ren, but because Ren won’t give out his real name, Kumatetsu names the boy, Kyuta.

Ren and Kumatetsu are like oil and water, they often argue and do not get along.  But in truth, both are very similar.  They grew up without parents, they grew up alone and both can understand each other’s pain.

But when the kids from the Beast Kingdom start teasing Kyuta as being weak, Ren decides to follow Kumatetsu’s lead and train together.

Fastforward eight years later and Kyuta has become a wonderful assistant for Kumatetsu and because Kyuta has become stronger, many people want to be trained by Kumatetsu.

But one day, while walking in the Beast Kingdom, Ren finds a way to go back to the human world.  How will life change for him?

And with the big battle between Kumatetsu and Iozen coming soon, who will be the next successor for Jutengai?


VIDEO:

“The Boy and the Beast” is presented in 1080p High Definiton (16:9 anamorphic widescreen). The animation features designs that are helped by the talented character designers Daisuke Iga, Takaaki Yamashita and of course, Mamoru Hosoda.  The beautiful, lush backgrounds courtesy of the art direction by Takashi Omoro, Yohei Takamatsu and Youichi Nishikawa. And with Studio Chizu responsible for the animation production, I was very impressed with the overall look of the film.  Gorgeous!

I was struck by how detailed the background art was. How beautiful these painted backgrounds looked and how it complimented the characters. Also, how vibrant colors were, from the blue skies, to the sun going down with the reddish purple haze over the horizon.  Even small details such as flies flying around the light and picture quality is amazing!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Boy and the Beast” is presented in English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  As for the lossless audio, both Japanese and English soundtrack produced the same results when I was testing scenes. Action sequences utilized the surround channels very well and the voice acting for both soundtracks are fantastic.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Boy and the Beast” contains the following special features:

  • Original Teaser
  • Japanese Trailer #1 and #2
  • U.S. Trailer

EXTRAS:

“The Boy and the Beast” comes with a slipcover and both the Blu-ray + DVD discs of the film. The Blu-ray also comes with an UltraViolet code for those wanting to watch the film on their PC/Mac, tablet or cell phone via Digital HD.


I think that enough years have passed that I can easily say that whenever there is a film that Mamoru Hosoda is part of, especially in a writing and directing capacity, it’s no doubt something special.

You usually see the high expectations of an animated film when it is Studio Ghibli or Makoto Shinkai related but I can easily say that Mamoru Hosoda has earned it with a string of successful films from “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, “Summer Wars” and “Wolf Children”, the same can be said about “The Boy and the Beast”.

From a wonderful, captivating story and gorgeous animation and background art, Mamoru Hosoda has no doubt achieve the respect of viewers that his films are successful in Japan.

And with “The Boy and the Beast”, it’s an inspirational tale about a runaway 9-year-old, living on the streets and is given a chance to become an apprentice for the strong, lazy and loud Kumatetsu.

Both have a similar upbringing, brought up alone and no one to be there for them.  But now these two lonely souls have each other, and as much as they are different and are often screaming and arguing at each other, both know that they need each other.  And despite not being human, Kumatetsu is more like a father to Ren (Kyuta).

And their friendship or relationship is no doubt put to the test as Kumatetsu is training for a major battle to become the next lord, Ren finds a way to go back into the human world and discover that his real father is alive but also a twist that leads to a chaotic ending that I never saw coming.

It’s no doubt a wonderful and delightful film that I was quite impressed with its characters and touching storyline.  Granted, the conflicts and characters are not as intricate if compared to Miyazaki film, but nevertheless, I do believe that Mamoru Hosoda manages to capture something magical with “The Boy and the Beast”.

And as the Blu-ray release, the animation for “The Boy and the Beast” is fantastic.  The background art is very detailed and looks gorgeous, while animation as well as character design is on par with other Mamoru Hosoda works.  As for the lossless audio, both soundtracks are fantastic.  Action sequences and crowd ambiance utilizes the surround channels effectively and there is also good use of LFE.

As for special features, there aren’t that many aside from the original teaser and Japanese and U.S. trailers.  The Blu-ray does include an UltraViolet code, which you can watch the film on your PC/Mac, Tablet or phone (as long as you can access Vudu).

As for the PG-13 rating, it’s because there is violence. Actually towards the final half hour of the film, the violence escalates and one of the primary protagonists gets injured badly.  So, this film is surely not appropriate for young children.

Overall, Mamoru Hosoda has once again created a delightful and entertaining film that is destined to become another classic!  Great storyline, gorgeous art and animation and wonderful performance by both Japanese and English voice talent, “The Boy and the Beast” is highly recommended!

 

Kill Zone 2 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

killzone2

Pou-Soi Cheang’s “Kill Zone 2” is gritty and intense!  It is high adrenaline action from beginning to end, “Kill Zone 2” is an action film that truly kicks ass in many levels and martial arts fans will no doubt be captivated by this film.   Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Sun Entertainment Culture Limited. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Kill Zone 2

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 121 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Cantonese, Mandarin and Thai DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dub, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: July 19, 2016


Directed by Pou-Soi Cheang

Screenplay by Lai-yin Leung, Yin Wong

Produced by Yaneley Arty, Alex Avant, Otis Best, Johnson Chan, Shakim Compere, Terrence Jenkins, Paula Patton, Douglas Shaffer

Co-Producer: Kimberly Hardin, Tamanna Shah

Executive-Producer: Queen Latifah, Stephanie Rennie, Lisa Reppert, Vincent Reppert, Jacob York

Cinematography by Tommy Maddox-Upshaw

Music by Kurt Farquhar

Edited by Michael Jablow

Production Design: David Sandefur

Casting by Kimberly Hardin, Natasha Ward

Production Design by Niko Villaivongs

Set Decoration by Azul Hicks

Costume Design by Janelle Nicole Carothers


Starring:

Tony Jaa at Chatchai

Jing Wu as Chan Chi-Kit

Simon Yam as Chan Kwok-Wah

Jin Zhang as Ko Hung

Louis Koo as Hung Mun-Gong

Ken Lo as Wong Kwong

Jun Kung as Hung Mun-Biu

Dominc Lam as Cheung Chun-Tung

Babyjohn Choi as Kwok Chun-Yat

Wai Ai as Dai-Hau

Philip Keung as Fan Ging-Hung

Andrew Ng as Uncle On


When an undercover cop gets too close to revealing the mastermind of a drug syndicate, his cover is blown. Double-crossed and under a false identity, he’s thrown into a Thai prison, where a guard discovers the inmate – claiming he’s a cop – is a bone marrow match for his dying daughter…and his warden may have an even deadlier operation hidden within the prison walls.
In this giddily frenetic follow-up (though not a sequel) to modern martial arts epic KILL ZONE (aka SPL: SHA PO LANG), action icons Tony Jaa (ONG BAK, THE PROTECTOR) Wu Jing (WOLF WARRIOR) and Zhang Jin (IP MAN 3) team up with Hong Kong megastars Simon Yam and Louis Koo for a breakneck story of dirty cops, prison riots, and black market organ transplants, all brought together by a non-stop series of inventive, bone-crunching setpieces.


killzone2-c

In 2005, the action film SPL: Sha Po Lang (a.k.a. “Kill Zone”) starring Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung and Simon Yam was released in theaters and was the top earning film for several weeks in Hong Kong.

Fastforward to 2015 and the sequel “SPL II: A Time for Consequences” (a.k.a. “Kill Zone 2”)  directed by Cheang Pou-soi (“Accident”, “Motorway”) and written by Lai-yin Leung (“Ip Man 3”, “As the Light Goes Out”) and Ying Wong was released in theaters.

Featuring a new story but reprising the roles by Wu Jing (“The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”, “Shaolin”, “Wolf Warrior”) and Simon Yam (“Ip Man”, “Election”, “PTU”), the second film also stars Tony Jaa (“Ong-bak” films, “Furious 7”), Jin Zhang (“Ip Man 3”, “The Grandmaster”, “The Bounty”) and Louis Koo (“Drug War”, “Election”, “Triad Election”, “Flash Point”).

And the film will be released on Blu-ray in July 2016 courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film focuses on several people.  Kit (portrayed by Wu Jing) is an undercover copy who becomes a drug addict in order to infiltrate a crime syndicate that has been kidnapping people and sending them to Thailand, where they are held by corrupt prison warden Ko Hung (portrayed by Jin Zhang) in hidden cells, are killed and their organs are sold on the black market.

The mastermind is Hung Mun-Gong (portrayed by Louis Koo), who has a rare heart condition and needs to undergo a heart transplant but the only person that can give him a matching heart is his younger brother.

So, Hung sends his men to kidnap his brother but the kidnapping goes wrong as Kit is able to relay the details to his uncle, Chan Kwok-Wah (portrayed by Simon Yam) of the police force.

While Hung’s brother is accidentally shot, he is retrieved and kept by the Hong Kong police, meanwhile Kit is kept by Hung’s men and sent to Thailand where he is held in prison for a life sentence by the corrupt prison warden, Ko Hung.

Meanwhile, in the prison is the good-natured prison guard Chatchai (portrayed by Tony Jaa) who is desperately trying to save his daughter Chatchai who has leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant to survive.

But as desperate he is to save his daughter, he learns about Ho Kung’s secret rooms of people victims being kept inside.  One young girl who can save his daughter’s life.

Will Chatchai continue to serve Ho Kung after discovering the illegal activities in the prison?  Will Chan Kwok-Wah be able to rescue his nephew Kit from the Thailand prison?  And will young Chatchai be saved?


killzone2-d

VIDEO:

“Kill Zone 2” is presented in 1080p High Definition. As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good as there is a good amount of grain.  Upclose details are very good and skintones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kill Zone 2” is presented in Cantonese, Mandarin and Thai 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and there is also an English dub soundtrack. While the lossless audio manages to utilize the actions sequences, from gun shots to vehicle crashes to just pure fighting chaos and the ambiance of various locations utilize the surround channels with efficacy.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kill Zone 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – Featuring three segments (about two minutes each): The Story, The Fights and The Vision
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring eight deleted scenes.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Kill Zone 2”.

EXTRAS:

“Kill Zone 2” comes with a slipcover.


killzone2-b

When the original “SPL” film was released, the fact that it starred two martial arts legends, Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung together in a film definitely made it an anticipated film.

But when you have a sequel without its two stars, how will you improve on the original, if possible?

The answer was bring in Thailand’s well-known martial artist, Tony Jaa and create a storyline that would feature the return of Wu Jing and Simon Yam and find a bridge between Hong Kong and Thailand for its next storyline.

And here we are with the second SPL film a.k.a. “Kill Zone 2”.

A storyline that deals with abducted children from Hong Kong, being sent to Thailand and being kept in the secret walls by a corrupt prison warden, who kills them and sells their organs to the black market.

Wu Jing plays the role of the Hong Kong undercover detective who manages to infiltrate the Thailand prison, but the journey to get there is not easy as it would require becoming a drug addict and putting his own life at risk.

Running the operation is his uncle, played by Simon Lam who does all he can to protect his nephew but knows that greater things are at stake.

And then you have Tony Jaa as Chatchai, a prison guard and loving father for his daughter who needs a bone marrow transplant due to her leukemia.

Louis Koo plays the role of a Hung, a man who is responsible for the syndicate that kidnaps the children and this time, he is dying and wants his younger brother’s organs, so he devises a plan for his men to kidnap his younger brother and send him to Thailand but the plan is thwarted by the Hong Kong police and the younger brother is retrieved by Hong Kong police, while Kit is taken and imprisoned in the Thailand prison.

For these men, they come from different paths but those paths start to converge and things quickly become chaotic.

As the film tries to tell the story from different vantage points and timelines, at times, things can get a little confusing.  But once the storyline plots start to converge, the story starts to make sense.

The fight choreography is fantastic and while you expect physicality from Tony Jaa, both Wu Jing and Zhang Jin were equally impressive.  But its the fight choreography that was amazing to watch and in someways, it was reminiscent to the classic Jet Li martial art films.

Louis Koo was also surprising because he is not even recognizable in the film and I didn’t even know he was in the film until I watched the special features.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good as there is a good amount of grain.  Upclose details are very good and skintones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.  While the lossless audio manages to utilize the actions sequences and ambiance of various locations with efficacy.  There are also a few special features such as the making of the film, deleted scenes and more.

Pou-Soi Cheang’s “Kill Zone 2” is gritty and intense!  It is high adrenaline action from beginning to end, “Kill Zone 2” is an action film that truly kicks ass in many levels and martial arts fans will no doubt be captivated by this film.   Recommended!

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

July 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

perfectmatch

“The Perfect Match” is delightful, enjoyable and fun.  While the film may not be deep or wonderful, and is predictable, it’s still a romantic comedy worth watching.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Perfect Match LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Perfect Match

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 96 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (Violence and Some LanguageSexuality, Some Nudity and Language Throughout)

Release Date: July 19, 2016


Directed by Billie Woodruff

Written by Brandon Broussard, Gary Hardwick

Screenplay by Dana Verde

Produced by Yaneley Arty, Alex Avant, Otis Best, Johnson Chan, Shakim Compere, Terrence Jenkins, Paula Patton, Douglas Shaffer

Co-Producer: Kimberly Hardin, Tamanna Shah

Executive-Producer: Queen Latifah, Stephanie Rennie, Lisa Reppert, Vincent Reppert, Jacob York

Cinematography by Tommy Maddox-Upshaw

Music by Kurt Farquhar

Edited by Michael Jablow

Casting by Kimberly Hardin, Natasha Ward

Production Design by Niko Villaivongs

Set Decoration by Azul Hicks

Costume Design by Janelle Nicole Carothers


Starring:

Terrence Jenkins as Charlie

Paula Patton as Sherry

Kali Hawk as Karen

Lauren London as Ginger

Brandy Norwood as Avatia

Cassie Ventura as Eva

Donald Faison as Rick

Robert Christopher Riley as victor

Layla Jama as Dana

Dascha Polanco as Pressie

Beau Casper Smart as Abram

French Montana as French Montana

Joe Pantoliano as Marty

Steven Daniel Brun as Kareem

Timothy DeLaGhetto as Timothy DeLaGhetto


Charlie (Terrence J) is a bachelor who’s convinced that relationships are dead despite attempts by his therapist sister (Paula Patton) and his friends to tell him otherwise. On a bet, he decides to stay with one woman for one month to prove that he is immune to love. Soon, he meets the beautiful and mysterious Eva (Cassie Ventura) and coaxes her into a casual affair. But as Charlie spends more time with Eva, he begins to question whether he may actually want more than just a one-night-stand.


Billie Woodruff (director of “Honey”, “Beauty Shop”, “Bring It On: Fight to the Finish”) returns with a romantic comedy titled “The Perfect Match”.

Written by Brandon Broussard, Gary Hardwick (“Deliver us from Eva”, “The Brothers”) and a screenplay by Dana Verde, “The Perfect Match stars Terrence Jenkins (“Battle of the Year”, “Entourage”, “Think Like a Man Too”), Paula Patton (“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”, “Deja Vu”, “Precious”), Kali Hawk (“Brides Maids”, “Couples Retreat”, “Get Him to the Greek”), Lauren London (“I Love You, Beth Cooper”, “The Game”), Brandy Norwood (“Moesha”, “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer”), Cassie Ventura (“Step Up 2: The Streets”), Donald Faison (“Scrubs”, “Remember the Titans”, “Clueless”), Robert Christopher Riley (“The Bourne Legacy”, “Hit the Floor”), Dascha Polanco (“Joy”, “Orange is the New Black”, “The Cobbler”) and Beau Casper Smart (“Step Up 3D”, “Street”, “Honey 2”).

The film was produced by Queen Latifah’s company, Flavor Unit entertainment and will be released on Blu-ray in July 2016.

The film revolves around music exec, photographer and playboy named Charlie (portrayed by Terrence Jenkins) who is not into relationships or commitment and tends to take part in one night stands.

Meanwhile, his friends Victor (portrayed by Robert Christopher Riley) and Ginger (portrayed by Lauren London) are getting married, while his buddy Rick (portrayed by Donald Faison) and Pressie (portrayed by Dascha Polanco) are trying to have a child.  And they all wonder when Charlie will grow up and get into a relationship.

Even Charlie’s sister Sherry (portrayed by Paula Patton), a psychologist tries to get her brother to open up of why he has difficulties getting into a relationship.

But one day, Charlie meets his match, a mysterious woman named Eva (portrayed by Cassie Ventura) and Charlie starts to contemplate on having a relationship with her.


VIDEO:

“The Perfect Match” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The film looks vibrant in outdoor scenes and close ups are full of detail. Skintones look natural. I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film. For the most part, picture quality for the film is great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Perfect Match” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The soundtrack is primarily dialogue and music driven with ambiance used for the surround channels.  But the dialogue and music are both are crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Perfect Match” comes with the following special features:

  • Chillin’ Wit the Perfect Crew – Cast & Directors Commentary – Featuring an audio commentary by director Billie Woodruff, actor Terrence Jenkins, Cassie Ventura, Lauren London and Donald Faison.
  • Making the Perfect Match – (10:21) The cast and crew discuss working on the film and wanting a film like “Boomerang”.
  • What’s Love Without comedy? – (5:03) The cast talk about the comedy in the film.
  • Let the Good Times Roll – (1:22) The dance sequences in the film.

EXTRAS:

“The Perfect Match” comes with a slipcover an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


What I enjoy seeing today is seeing smaller production companies creating their own content.

In the case of “The Perfect Match”, it was great to see Queen Latifah’s, Flavor Unit Entertainment company come and produce a romantic comedy with primarily an African American cast and creating a film that I found delightful, entertaining and a lot of fun.

I have really enjoyed comedies such as “Think Like a Man”, “Think Like a Man too”, “Jumping the Broom” that touch upon relationships and also paying respect to classics such as “Boomerang”, “Love Jones”, “The Best Man” to name a few.

The film revolves around a playboy named Charlie who never sees himself getting into a relationship.

While his friends are getting married or trying to have children, for Charlie, he just loves beautiful women.

But when he meets the beautiful Eva, she is also a person that doesn’t want a relationship and Charlie starts to find himself attracted to her.  To the point that he wants more….include a relationship?

Featuring a fun and enjoyable cast with solid chemistry, while I enjoyed the film, I do admit that the film is predictable and compared to other romantic comedies, for those wanting something deep or something wonderful, “The Perfect Match” doesn’t reach that height and coming a bit short.

Partly because the reason is that the protagonist, Charlie, can really be a jerk at times and you just don’t feel like rooting for him or whatever he has going on with Eva.  Especially the way he treats people including his friends.

But I did enjoy the film, its humorous moments and the cast.

As for the Blu-release, picture quality is solid, lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music and you get a few entertaining special features.

Overall, “The Perfect Match” is delightful, enjoyable and fun.  While the film may not be deep or wonderful, and is predictable, it’s still a romantic comedy worth watching.

 

I Am Wrath (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

iamwrath

Chuck Russell’s “I Am Wrath” may not have had a theatrical release, but it’s one of the very good recent direct-to-video action films that I have watched and really enjoyed in awhile.  If you love action/vengeance type of films, you’ll no doubt enjoy “I Am Wrath”.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Saban Films LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: I Am Wrath

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 91 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (Violence and Some Language)

Release Date: July 26, 2016


Directed by Chris Russell

Story by Yvan Gauthier, Paul Sloan

Adaptation by Randy Brown

Produced by DeVon Franklin, T.D. Jakes, Joe Roth

Executive-Producer: Matthew Hirsch, Zack Roth, Derrick Williams

Cinematography by Checco Varese

Music by Carlo Silotto

Edited by Emma E. Hickox

Production Design: David Sandefur

Art Direction by Doug Fick

Set Decoration by Brana Rosenfeld

Costume Design by Mary Jane Fort


Starring:

John Travolta as Stanley

Christopher Meloni as Dennis

Amanda Schull as Abbie

Sam Trammell as Det. Gibson

Patrick St. Esprit as Gov. Meserve

Rebecca De Mornay as Vivian

Asante Jones as Det. Walker

Paul Sloan as Lemi K

Luis Da Silva Jr. as Charley

Jordan Whalen as Mike


John Travolta is Stanley Hill, a former Black Ops agent who witnessed his wife’s death at the hands of a street gang. When corrupt cops let the prime suspect walk, Stanley takes the law into his own hands. Joined by a former comrade-in-arms (Christopher Meloni), Stanley uncovers a conspiracy that leads to the upper ranks of government, as he heads toward a guns-blazing, take-no-prisoners showdown for justice.


From Chris Russell, the director of “The Mask”, “Eraser”, “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”, “The Scorpion Kings” comes his latest action film “I Am Wrath”.

Featuring a story by Yvan Gauthier and written by Paul Sloan, “I Am Wrath” stars John Travolta (“Pulp Fiction”, “Grease”, “Face/Off”), Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”, “Man of Steel”, “42”), Amanda Schull (“Center Stage”, “12 Monkeys”, “J. Edgar”), Sam Trammell (“True Blood”, “Alien vs. Predator: Requiem”, “Autumn in New York”), Patrick St. Esprit (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, “Super 8”, “Independence Day: Resurgence”) and Rebecca De Mornay (“Risky Business”, “Wedding Crashers”, “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”.

The direct-to-video film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in July 2016.

The film begins with an introduction to the violence that has corrupted Ohio.  And Gov. Meserve (portrayed by Patrick St. Esprit) is giving a speech about how he cut crime in the state.  When the people want to know more about getting clean water and stopping the pipeline.

We then see daughter, Abbie (portrayed by Amanda Schull) telling her mom, Vivian (portrayed by Rebecca De Mornay) that she is famous because her project was discussed on television.  But Vivian talks about how she’s just doing the numbers for the secretary of the governor.

The film then cuts to Vivian going to the airport to pickup her husband Stanley (portrayed by John Travolta), an unemployed engineer who wentt to California for a job interview.

Excited about the possibility of getting a new job, as the two are walking back to their vehicle, a man comes asking for money.

Stanley refuses and then we see the man along with two other men knocking Stanley out and then murdering Vivian.

As Stanley awakes to find out his wife is dead, Det. Gibson (portrayed by Sam Trammell) and Det. Walker (portrayed by Asante Jones) works with Stanley to learn about the assailants.

At the funeral of Vivian, a priest gives Stanley a bible and as Stanley is not a religious man, he throws the bible and the pages that the book opens to is quotes from Jeremiah 6:11 (But I am full of the wrath of the LORD, and I cannot hold it in. “Pour it out on the children in the street and on the young men gathered together; both husband and wife will be caught in it, and the old, those weighed down with years).

When Stanley is brought back to a police lineup and sees the man who was asking for money, the police don’t do anything and let the man go.

Upset that the police didn’t do anything to stop the men, Stanley goes to his closet and looks at the wall.  He punches down the wall and inside is a bag, with a phone and weapons.  We learn that Stanley is a former Black Ops agent and he promised Vivian to leave that life before they got married.

Stanley calls up another former Black Ops member, Dennis (portrayed by Christopher Meloni), who has become a barber but behind the walls is a stash of weapons and gadgets. And Stanley goes to him for intel on the men who killed his wife but also to access weaponry.

As Dennis cautions Stanley about vengeance, Stanley tells him he wants justice for Vivian.  And Dennis agrees to help his friend out.

Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes, we learn that Det. Gibson and Det. Walker have been working with crime lord Lemi K (portrayed by Paul Sloan) and the lowering of crime is not because of Gov. Meserve’s stance on crime but that the governor and the police officers have been working with Lemi K, protecting his people and allowing his drug deals in order to give people of Ohio, the sense that he has cut crime in the state.

But what these corrupt officials, police officers and Lemi K are not aware is that Stanley is determined to put friction in their relationship as he intends to go after those responsible for killing his wife.


VIDEO:

“I Am Wrath” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film looks vibrant in outdoor scenes and close ups are full of detail. Skintones look natural, black levels are nice and deep.  I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film. For the most part, picture quality for the film is great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“I Am Wrath” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  As one can expect, the film is action-driven, thus the gun shots, explosions and fights utilize the surround channels and LFE effectively.  While not super immersive, the lossless soundtrack is good.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“I Am Wrath” comes with the following special feature:

  • Filmmaker commentary – Featuring an audio commentary by director Chris Russell and writer/actor Paul Sloan.

EXTRAS:

“I Am Wrath” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


Possibly one of John Travolta’s better action films, “I Am Wrath” is exciting and action-packed.

Don’t let the “direct-to-video” fool you, as “I Am Wrath” is entertaining and has the potential of having more “I Am Wrath” sequels in the future.

The film revolves around Stanley, a former Black Ops agent who ended his career to pursue a life as a family man and engineer before marrying his beloved Vivian.

The two would raise a daughter but being unemployed, he has been looking for work outside of the state.  Considering that the state he lives in, that is experiencing tremendous crime, moving out for the safety of his family is probably a good thing.

Unfortunately, the day he comes back from a job interview, while he and his wife are walking back to their vehicle, they are beaten and mugged and his wife is murdered.

Having witnessed his wife’s murder and the police not doing much to apprehend the criminals, Stanley who had promised his wife before they were married that he would leave his Black Ops life in the past, has decided to get justice for his wife’s death by going after those responsible.

Teaming up with fellow former Black Ops agent, Dennis…Stanley wants payback!

Because the film was direct-to-video, I was skeptical because the first thing that came to mind was low-budget, popcorn B flick and it has been over a decade since Chuck Russell directed his last action film.

But knowing filmmaker Chuck Russel’s work in the ’90s with “The Mask” and “Eraser” and even the 2002 film “The Scorpion King”, you have to give him and Travolta the benefit of the doubt and see what they can do together with “I Am Wrath” and for the most part, the collaboration was exciting, action-packed and was not too deep in darkness or revenge, you have many humorous moments, especially between Stanley and his friend Dennis.

And while “I Am Wrath” does not have the budget of the high caliber of explosions compared to Liam Neeson’s “Taken” films, I really do feel there is potential in having more films with former Black Ops characters, Stanley and Dennis.   And it’s these type of popcorn action films that many gravitate to that whether or not they are released theatrically or straight-to-video, audiences love them.

So, it’s great to see John Travolta in this type of protagonist action role and also great to see Rebecca De Mornay on film again as well!  And as for Christopher Meloni, while we have seen him in agent roles before, it’s great to see him in a major action role, kicking butt in “I Am Wrath”.

As for the Blu-ray release, “I Am Wrath” looks great on Blu-ray with close-ups showing great detail, skin tones look natural and I didn’t notice any problematic issues during my viewing of the film.  Lossless audio was also good considering this is an action film and good use of the surround channels and LFE.  And you get a single commentary included on the Blu-ray release.

Overall, Chuck Russell’s “I Am Wrath” may not have had a theatrical release, but it’s one of the very good recent direct-to-video action films that I have watched and really enjoyed in awhile.  If you love action/vengeance type of films, you’ll no doubt enjoy “I Am Wrath”.

 

Miracles from Heaven (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

miraclefromheaven

“Miracles from Heaven” is heartwarming, entertaining and enjoyable if you grew up with a Christian upbringing. Annabel’s experience is not easy to explain for those who believe in God, you can take this experience as you see fit. But through the kindness of others, as demonstrated throughout the film, it’s God’s way of showing a person a way of trying to reach out to others and show the true power of faith and love but also that miracles do exist. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Georgia Film Fund. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Miracles from Heaven

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 109 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English, Portuguese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Audio Description Track, French, Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital Subtitles: English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (for Thematic Material, Including Accident and Medical Images)

Release Date: July 12, 2016


Directed by Patricia Riggin

Based on the Book by Christy Beam

Adaptation by Randy Brown

Produced by DeVon Franklin, T.D. Jakes, Joe Roth

Executive-Producer: Matthew Hirsch, Zack Roth, Derrick Williams

Cinematography by Checco Varese

Music by Carlo Silotto

Edited by Emma E. Hickox

Production Design: David Sandefur

Art Direction by Doug Fick

Set Decoration by Brana Rosenfeld

Costume Design by Mary Jane Fort


Starring:

Jennifer Garner as Christy Beam

Kylie Rogers as Anna Beam

Martin Henderson as Kevin Beam

Brighton Sharbino as Abbie Beam

Courtney Fansler as Adelynn Beam

Queen Latifah as Angela

Eugenio Derbez as Dr. Nurko

Kelly Collins Lintz as Emmy

John Carroll Lynch as Pastor Scott

Brandon Spink as Billy Snyder


“Miracles From Heaven” is based on the incredible true story of the Beam family.  When Christy (Jennifer Garner) discovers her 10-year-old daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers) has a rare, incurable disease, she becomes a ferocious advocate for her daughter’s healing as she searches for a solution. After Anna has a freak accident, an extraordinary miracle unfolds in the wake of her dramatic rescue that leaves medical specialists mystified, her family restored, and their community inspired.


For those who knew Annabel Beam, many were in awe of how a young girl suffering from life-threatening digestive disorders and then to later fall 30 feet headfirst into a rotted trunk of a cottonwood tree would not only survive her injuries, but to be fully cured of her disorders.

During the time when Annabel was in the tree trunk, she talked about how God told her that she would be healed.

And the story of the Beam family and Annabel became the subject of a memoir titled “Miracles from Heaven” written by Cathy Beam.

The inspirational story would lead to a Christian drama film adaptation directed by Patricia Riggin (“The 33”, “Under the Same Moon”) and an adaptation by Randy Brown (“Trouble with the Curve”).

The film stars Jennifer Garner (“Alias”, “Dallas Buyers Club”, “Juno”), Kylie Rogers (“Fathers and Daughters”, “Space Station 786”),  Martin Henderson (“The Ring”, “Everest”, “Windtalkers”), Queen Latifah (“”Living Single”, “Chicago”, “Bringing Down the House”), Eugenio Derbez (“Instructions Not Included”, “Jack & Jill”), John Carroll Lynch (“Shutter Island”, “Grand Tornio”, “Zodiac”), Brighton Sarbino (“The Walking Dead”, “Growing Up Smith”) and Courtney Fansler.

And now, “Miracles from Heaven” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in Sept. 2015.

The film is set in Texas, Christy (portrayed by Jennifer Garner) and her husband Kevin (portrayed by Martin Henderson) are parents to three daughters, Abbie (portrayed by Brighton Sharbino), Annabel (portrayed by Kylie Rogers) and Adelynn (portrayed by Courtney Fansler).

The family are dedicated Christians but the family has been dealing with recent pains that their daughter Annabel has been going through.  When they take her to the hospital, they are told that she has a problem with lactose intolerance.

But after bringing her home, her stomach has become distended and when they take her to ER after Annabel is experiencing a lot of pain, they tell her it’s acid reflux.  Believing it is more than that, Christy demands that another doctor check on her.

It is revealed by the head pediatrics surgeon that Annabel suffers from a rare debilitating digestive disorder.  Her body is unable to no longer take in food and that she will be in increasing pain.  While the surgeon gives her names of doctors in the country who have helped children with the disorder, Annabel continues to get worse and the family tries their best to make sure they keep her comfortable and try to swear off food that Annabel is unable to eat.

But when Annabel’s condition worsens and Christy has contacted doctors with no response, she decides to make the decision to go to Boston with Annabel in hopes of talking to Dr. Nurko (portrayed by Eugenio Derbez).

As she tries, unfortunately she is unable to see him without an appointment.

While in Boston, she receives support from a waitress named Angela (portrayed by Queen Latifah) who helps both Christy and Annabel and as Dr. Nurko is able to get Annabel in, because of the severity of her disorder, the family must take on difficult emotional and financial challenges.

Meanwhile, Christy starts to doubt her faith when fellow parishioners at the church start to ask if she’s praying enough or something bad must have happened for bad things to happen to Annabel.  Meanwhile, as the emotional toll starts to come upon the family, even greater challenges lie ahead for Annabel.

But what happens to her is no doubt a miracle from Heaven.


VIDEO:

“Miracles from Heaven” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks vibrant in outdoor scenes and close ups are full of detail. I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film. For the most part, picture quality for the film is great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Miracles from Heaven” is presented in English, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English – Audio Description Track, French, Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.

The film’s lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue-driven but there are moments with music, which are also crystal clear.  Surround channels are primarily utilized for crowd ambiance.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Miracles from Heaven” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Patricia Riggen and Randy Brown – Featuring an audio commentary by director Patricia Riggen and writer Randy Brown.
  • Bearing Witness – (9:06) A visit with the Beam family at their home, what has happened to the tree on the property and more.
  • Miracles Abound: The Making of Miracles from Heaven – (9:14) The cast discuss about working on the film and the cast meeting the real people in the film.
  • Accounts from Annabel – (6:17) Annabel discusses the differences from the film and reality and how close she is with her mother.
  • Deleted Scenes – (13:32) Featuring five deleted scenes.
  • Your Words Montage – (3:47) A music video for “Your Words”
  • Creating Heaven – Concept Art Exploration – (3:46) Director Patricia Reagan worked with Juan Pablo Garcia Tames who created the storyboards for the film.

EXTRAS:

“Miracles from Heaven” comes with a slipcover and UltraViolet Digital HD code.


There have been Christian films that have dealt with those who saw God and were brought back to life after what would appear to be a certain death.

And when it comes to these films, even with Christians, they are debated and also films that are subjective to the viewer.

I said that with the 2014 film “Heaven is for Real” which a little boy survives a near death experience and has vivid memories of meeting God and other loved ones who are in Heaven and took on the questions of what heaven should be.  And what he saw in heaven.

For the 2016 film, “Miracles from Heaven”….  While a Christian film, unlike other Affirm Films that are deep in the Christian message, I am starting to notice films that feature well-known talent but also a storyline that is more accessible to the masses, whether or not they are Christian or not, but having them decide whether or not they believe or don’t.

“Miracles from Heaven” for the most part is a family dealing with a major crisis.  A daughter who is suffering from a deadly digestive disorder and is in constant pain, a family who struggles to get the bills paid due to the mounting medical bills and the majority of the film focuses on a loving mother who wants to do all she can to be there for her daughter.

And also showing different Christian perspectives, as one woman criticizes the mother, Kathy Beam, of not being a good Christian because God has not healed their daughter.  Someone must have sinned.

And with the few occasions of the family going to church or talking to their pastor, the film does not try to forcefeed Christianity on the viewer for the majority of the film.  Probably within the last half hour of the film do we get to see the family change after a miracle happens with their daughter and the we see the Christian values being remembered by Kathy, who had lost her way but recognizes the kindness of others who were important to the family during their time of need.

While the story is based on the true story of the Beam family, there were a few things that were added to the film, but the premise of the story remains the same.  How a girl who had a deadly disorder and suffered a near tragedy was not just able to survive, she was also able to rid of her disorder and during her time that she was out unconscious, she was talking to God.

Again, this is a film that is subjective to the viewer but as a Christian, I found “Miracles from Heaven” to be heartwarming.  And while there are some who may question this film of why would this child survived and another didn’t, It’s not an easy topic of discussion.  But If you are a Christian, one must believe that there was a reason and you pray for those who made and for those who didn’t.  And there is indeed a spiritual message from the film.

As for the acting, Jennifer Garnder and young Kylie Rogers did a wonderful job with a mother and daughter who must go through emotional high and lows but through thick and thin, family must stick together and support each other, no matter how big the challenge or obstacles that are in front of them.  You can’t help but be inspired.

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, especially with the actual Beam family and the real Annabel Beam.

“Miracles from Heaven” is a film that may not appeal to 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 Beam family and be touched by the film’s spiritual message.

Overall, “Miracles from Heaven” is heartwarming, entertaining and enjoyable if you grew up with a Christian upbringing.  Annabel’s experience is not easy to explain for those who believe in God, you can take this experience as you see fit.   But through the kindness of others, as demonstrated throughout the film, it’s God’s way of showing a person a way of trying to reach out to others and show the true power of faith and love but also that miracles do exist.

Recommended!

 

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

July 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

themermaid-a

If you are searching for a film that incorporates comedy and action with that Stephen Chow-style of filmmaking that many of us have come to love, then “The Mermaid” is definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Richname Limited. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Mermaid

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 94 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), Mandarin and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese (Traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Polish, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Some Violence)

Release Date: July 5, 2016


Directed by Stephen Chow

Written by Hing-ka Chan, Stephen Chow, Chi Keung Fung, Miu-Kei Ho, Ivy Kong, Si-Cheun Lee, Zhengyu Lu, Kan-Cheung Tsang

Producer: Stephen Chow

Co-Producer: Wei Yang

Consulting Producer: Bill Borden

Co-Executive Producer: Yuan Cai, Zhong-lun Ren

Executive-Producer: Stephen Chow, La Peikang

Co-Executive Producer: Yuan Cai, Zhong-lun Ren

Cinematography by Sung Fai Choi

Music by Fuhua Huang, Jiajia Zheng

Edited by Ka-Fai Cheung, Man To Tang

Art Direction by Raymond Chan, Bruce Yu


Starring:

Chao Deng as Liu Xuan

Yun Lin as Shan

Show Luo as Octopus

Yuqi Zhang as Ruolan

Pierre Bourdaud as The Auctioneer

Ivan Kotik as George

Hark Tsui as Si Ye

Kris Wu as Wu Yi Fan (Cameo)


From Stephen Chow, director of Kung Fu Hustle, comes The Mermaid: the comedic action-filled phenomenon that has become China’s biggest film of all time! When greedy real estate tycoon, Liu XUAN (Deng Chao), buys up a pristine coastal enclave known as Green Gulf, he plans to turn it into the hottest property on the market. But Green Gulf harbors a secret: it’s home to the last surviving mermaids, and they are done playing nice. Their plan: send the beautiful Shan (Lin Yun) to seduce Liu and stop the destruction of their beloved oceans. But when their plan goes belly-up, neither humans nor mermaids are willing to back down, and a final, fatal frenzy becomes inevitable.


themermaid-b

For over 20-years, Stephen Chow has entertained millions of people with his action comedy films.

From “Love on Delivery”, “From Beijing with Love”, “King of Comedy”, “Shaolin Soccer”, “Kung Fu Hustle”, “CJ7” and “Journey to the West”, to name a few.  Chow’s films are original, full of hope and entertaining because you never know what to expect.

And as Chow’s films tend to be high-grossing in the Chinese box office, his latest film “The Mermaid” which was released back in Feb. 2016, became the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time.

The film would star Chao Deng (“Assembly”, “Detective Dee: Mystery of the Phantom Flame”, “The Four”), Yun Lin (“L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties”), Show Luo (“Journey to the West”, “Hi My Sweetheart”, “Lan qui huo”) and Yuqi Zhang (“CJ7”, “White Deer Plain”, “All About Women”).

And in July 2016, Stephen Chow’s most successful film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“The Mermaid” begins with millionaire Liu Xuan (portrayed by Chao Deng) purchasing the Green Gulf, a wildlife reserve for a sea reclamation project.  He dumps sonar technology in order to rid (and kill) any sea life that goes near it.

While his wealthy friends do not put so much belief in Liu Xuan’s ability, because he came from a poor upbringing and because of his Playboy ways.

While he is able to attract the beautiful and money loving Ruolan (portrayed by Zhang Yuqi), who sees the project as wonderful for her to make even more money. She becomes Liu Xuan’s business partner.  But she also wants all Liu Xuan’s attention to be on her.

Meanwhile, at a party, a strange girl shows up and tries to get Liu Xuan to contact her and leaves her a number for him to contact her.  But his bodyguards send her on her way.

When the weird girl goes home, we see her going through home but then going through a tunnel heading downward and we learn that the weird girl, Shan, is actually a mermaid.

And that she was sent by her fellow mermaids to avenge their fallen and those who are near-death due to Liu Xuan’s sonar technology.  The goal is for Shan to use her beauty to lure Liu Xuan to Mermaid home and so everyone can kill him.

But because Liu Xuan’s playboy ways can’t stop him, he ends up calling Shan to come to his building.

Now Shan will have her chance to assassinate him?  Can she kill the man responsible for hurting her fellow mermaids or will she end up falling in love with him instead?


themermaid-d

VIDEO:

“The Mermaid” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). The film looks vibrant in outdoor scenes and close ups are full of detail. I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film. For the most part, picture quality for the film is great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Mermaid” is presented in Mandarin and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital. As this is an action film, there is a lot of surround sound usage during the more action intense battle exchanges and also good use of LFE during the battles, especially between the mermaids vs. the humans. But overall, dialogue and sound effects are crystal clear.  Great use of the surround channels throughout the film.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese (Traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Polish, Spanish, Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Mermaid” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of the Mermaid – (13:23) Interviews with the cast and crew on the making of the film and their characters.
  • Invincible Music Video – (1:33) The cast members individually lip-synch of “Invincible”.
  • The Mermaid Behind The Scenes – (1:44) A short behind-the-scenes look at the cast having fun behind-the-scenes.

EXTRAS:

“The Mermaid” comes with a slipcover and UltraViolet Digital HD code.


themermaid-c

I have watched and reviewed many Stephen Chow films and with each film, he manages to maintain a consistency of comedy, unique storytelling and just creating something out of the ordinary and non-traditional.

And to my delight, I enjoyed “The Mermaid” for its hilarious and unpredictable moments but for a Stephen Chow film, surprised how things got dark and violent for the second half of the film.

The premise of “The Mermaid” is that a playboy millionaire is wreaking havok in the ocean, killing all sealife due to his sonar devices for his reclamation project.

The character Liu Xuan is a playboy, likes to sport a (fake) thin mustache and looks like as if he could give a care for the world.  But deep down inside, he is a lonely guy that wants to be loved, instead of being loved for his money.

All that changes when he falls for Shan, a weird unusual girl who he tries to through money in order for her to leave, but she’s not interested in money.  She is a mermaid who was sent by her group to allure him and so the mermaids can kill him for putting harm to sea creatures and killing and hurting many mermaids.

And as Shan tries her best to assassinate the millionaire or do whatever is possible to lure him to her place and let her fellow mermaids off him, she falls in love with him, ad Liu falls in love with her.  Two lonely souls that have found a wonderful bond and likes.  May it be singing, eating chicken, you name it, they enjoy each other’s presence.  And for Liu, he found a woman that is interested in him and not his money.

But of course, he doesn’t know that she is a mermaid and her goal is to get him killed?

But the true antagonist of the film is Ruolan, the business partner of Liu who is gorgeous but also vain.  She only wants money and she is targeting Liu for his millions.

And she truly hates Shan for captivating his attention and when she finds out that Shan is a mermaid, suffice to say, all hell breaks loose.

Stephen Chow also brings in one of his fellow film actors, Show Luo as Octopus.  Unlike other merman’s, he is half human and half octopus.  He is attracted to Shan, but she is not attracted to him.  He leads the mermaids but gets into situations with his tentacles that one can’t help but laugh, unfortunately also at his pain.

For a Stephen Chow film, he does not star in this film at all.  But surprisingly, we see legendary director Hark Tsui (“Once Upon a Time in China” and “Seven Sword” films) having a role in the film.  And also the appearance of pop star Wu Yifan in a cameo role is another plus.

In fact, for those who have enjoyed previous Stephen Chow films, will find it delightful to see familiar faces in “The Mermaid”.

While many of Stephen Chow films are fantastic.  Many have asked me, how does this film rank in his oeuvre of directed films.  And I think my answer is the same.  I’ll always love his 1994 film “Love on Delivery”, since it was the first Stephen Chow film that I was introduced to.  But my all-time favorite would be his 2001 film “Shaolin Soccer”.

No doubt “Kung Fu Hustle” was amazing and gained the actor/director international recognition and “CJ7” was touching.  But “The Mermaid”, it was a bit different in the fact that while Stephen Chow films have a lot of action, there was no doubt a political message that he was sending with this film.

May it be a message of the slaughter of whales that happens in other islands or the military use of sonar and killing sealife, there is a deep message of the harm that is being done and the hope that it can be stopped.  And because we have seen images of the slaughter of minke whales, Chow drives home the message through visual scenes of savagery.

What is primarily a film full of comedy becomes serious and dark by the second half that you can’t help but be surprised of the transition as you watch major violence upon the two protagonists.  While not uncommon to see in a Stephen Chow film, this is probably the furthest Chow has gone to show his protagonists suffering extreme violence.

But with that being said, “The Mermaid” is an entertaining films.  For its over-the-top humor and its handling of characters, its visual effects.. Stephen Chow has no doubt upped his game.

The performance by Chao Deng, Yun Lin, Show Luo and Yuqi Zhang is wonderful.  Chao and Yun’s onscreen chemistry was captivating!

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic.  Lossless audio is also immersive considering this is an action film.  And you get also a few special features included.

The hard part is with Stephen Chow having directed so many fantastic films, “The Mermaid” would not be on my top 3 favorite Stephen Chow-directed films.  But it is a wonderful and entertaining film that I recommend!

Overall, if you are searching for a film that incorporates comedy and action with that Stephen Chow-style of filmmaking that many of us have come to love, then “The Mermaid” is definitely recommended!

I Saw the Light (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

isawthlight

While Marc Abraham’s “I Saw the Light” is not a wonderful film, it’s not a bad film either. It’s just that it’s a simple, pedestrian biopic that had the potential to be so much more.

Image courtesy of © 2016 I Saw the Light Movie, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: I Saw the Light

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 124 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 Aspect Ratio, English, French, Thai 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Korean, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Some Language and Brief Sexuality, Nudity)

RELEASE DATE: July 5, 2016


Directed by Marc Abraham

Written by Marc Abraham

Based on the book by Colin Escott, George Merritt, William MacEwen

Produced by Gabor Rajna, Gabor Sipos

Executive Producer: Judit Stalter

Associate Producer: Robert Vamos

Line Producer: Krisztina Pinter

Music by Laszlo Melis

Cinematography by Matyas Erdely

Edited by Matthieu Taponier

Casting by Eva Zabezsinszkij

Production Design by Laszlo Rajk

Art Direction by Hedvig Kiraly

Set Decoration by Dorka Kiss, Judit Varga

Costume Design by Edit Szucs


Starring:

Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams

Elizabeth Olsen as Audrey Williams

Bradley Whitford as Fred Rose

Cherry Rose as Lillie Williams

Maddie Hasson as Billie Jean Jones

Wrenn Schmidt as Bobbie Jett

David Krumholtz as James Dolan

Josh Pais as Dore Schary

Wesley Robert Lanlois as Don Helms – Steel

Joshua Brady as Sammy Pruett- Guitar

Casey Bond as Jerry Rivers as Fiddle

Michael Rinne as Lum York – Bass

Will Beinbrink as Jim Denny


I SAW THE LIGHT is the story of the legendary country western singer Hank Williams (Tom Hiddleston), who in his brief life created one of the greatest bodies of work in American music. The film chronicles his meteoric rise to fame and its ultimately tragic effect on his health and personal life. Also starring Elizabeth Olsen, Cherry Jones, Bradley Whitford, Maddie Hasson and Wrenn Schmidt.


Hank Williams is a music legend.

One of America’s influential and significant singer/songwriters of the 20th century, unfortunately Williams did not live a long life, considering he recorded 35 singles (five released after his death) and they reached the top 10 of the Billboard Country and Wester Best Sellers chart, and eleven of those 35 singles ranked number one.

Colin Escott, George Merritt and William MacEwen would detail the struggles that Williams faced as a singer/musician and his battle with drugs and alcohol in their book “Hank Williams: The Biography”.  And a film adaptation by filmmaker Marc Abraham (producer of films such as “Air Force One”, “In Time”, “Children of Men”) titled “I Saw the Light” (the title of his song released back in 1948) was released in 2015.

Starring Tom Hiddleston (“The Avengers”, “Thor”, “Thor: The Dark World”, “Crimson Peak”), Elizabeth Olsen (“Avengers: Age of Ultron”, “Godzilla”, “Captain America: Civil War”), Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing”, “The Cabin in the Woods”, “Scent of a Woman”), Cherry Jones (“Signs”, “The Village”, “The Perfect Storm”),  Maddie Hasson (“God Bless of America”, “Twisted”, “The Finder”) and Wren Schmidt (“Preservation”, “Our Idiot Brother”, “13 Hours”).

“I Saw the Light” revolves around Hank Williams marriage and relationship with his first wife Audrey.  As the couple and their bandmates of the Drifting Cowboys band performed together, as much as Williams tried to put his wife first, the problem is that she is not a good singer and his manager and bandmates feel that he must end his musical relationship with her in order for Williams to succeed.

But it leads to challenges between husband and wife and it doesn’t help matters when Williams struggles with alcohol and also has sexual liaisons with other women.

But as his career starts to skyrocket and he finally is accepted for Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, how will Williams deal with the limelight but will he be able to maintain his marriage?


VIDEO:

“I Saw the Light” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1). Overall picture quality shows amazing detail during closeups. Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep. The film looks great in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “I Saw the Light” is presented in English, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Also, with French and Thai 5.1 and an English- Audio Description Track Dolby Surround.

The lossless audio for “I Saw the Light” features crystal clear dialogue and music.  Surround sound usage is primarily for crowd ambiance during live performances.   But overall, the lossless audio is very good!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“I Saw the Light” comes with the following special features:

  • Feature Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Marc Abraham
  • Deleted Scenes – (22:07) Featuring an introduction to deleted scenes by Marc Abraham, introductions to each of the deleted scenes (optional) by director Marc Abraham and eleven deleted scenes.
  • Talking Hang – (21:39) A Q&A with Peter cooper (of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum), executive music producer Rodney Crowell and actor Tom Hiddleston.
  • A Night in Nashville: Premiere and Musical Performance by Tom Hiddleston – (10:52)  The premiere of the film and Tom Hiddleston and the musicians play three songs in front of a live audience.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “I Saw the Light”.

EXTRAS:

“I Saw the Light” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


I have to admit that I really knew nothing about Hank Williams’ personal life prior to watching Marc Abraham’s “I Saw the Light”.

Despite having grown up with his music playing when I was younger via my father’s old LP’s, I knew he was a country music legend.  I just didn’t know of the challenges that he faced, the life that he lived and that he died at a young age.

Unfortunately, Williams tale is reminiscent of many other musical talents.  Alcoholism and drug use and literally wreckless living.  But to create a film about a musical legend, who was a significant talent, how would you deal with the personal life issues?

Do you go full on and show how he lived a wreckless life?  Or do you show him as a significant and talented musician?

I’m sure that in today’s society, many have come to terms that musicians aren’t perfect.  Despite their musical accomplishments, not everyone has a perfect personal life and that includes superstars.

From Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Prince, Janis Joplin, Whitney Houston, Jimmy Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and the list goes on, many talents who have suffered from drug overdoes and in Hank Williams case, his use of alcohol and drugs may have led to the hemorrhages found in his heart and neck.  But it did help end his marriage and him being dismissed by the Grand Ole Opry. Because he was constantly drunk and missing shows.

But how would you portray the character?  Would you do what Danny Boyle did in his 2015 film “Steve Jobs” and really showcase the person’s talent but also showing the person as the ultimate jerk?  Or do you focus on the musical genius that he was, the music that he creates or do you focus on the protagonist’s dysfunctional relationship?  For “I Saw the Light”, writer/director Marc Abraham chose the latter.

For “I Saw the Light”, the film was no doubt sympathetic to Hank Williams.  Part of the difficulty is finding out why Hank Williams lived such a life?  Did his marriage to Audrey drive him to drink?  Did he have this lifestyle before he was married.  If anything, the film shows the two as truly in love but Williams liked to have his fun, while Audrey was not having any of it.

And as I enjoyed the majority of the film, once Audrey leaves Hank, the film story suddenly goes on a downward trajectory.  As the storyline allows to show the drama between Williams and Audrey, showing the other women in his life is not interesting at all.  There is no drama, there really isn’t much of anything.  And that is what is disappoint, you don’t want to have a film with all the wonderful things happening in the first half, but to not build on anything for the second half.

There was potential for exploration of Williams music and why he wrote so many songs to help illustrate why he is a musical legend but filmmaker Marc Abraham chose the less riskiest path, no doubt a simple one for creating this film.

I admit that I was skeptical about English actor Tom Hiddleston playing the country music singer, but I thought his charisma and his singing voice added to the enjoyablity of this film.  Meanwhile, actress Elizabeth Olson did a wonderful job of playing the emotional wife of Williams.  Both talents had wonderful chemistry and made the film enjoyable for me.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture and lossless audio is very good.  While the special features really go into details of Tom Hiddleston’s training to take up the role of Hank Williams, to play the music and sing these classic Williams songs in front of a live audience.

Overall, while Marc Abraham’s “I Saw the Light” is not a wonderful film, it’s not a bad film either.  It’s just that it’s a simple, pedestrian biopic that had the potential to be so much more.

Rage of Bahamut: Genesis (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

rageofbahamut

“Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” is an exciting, action-packed series with wonderful animation, plenty of humor and fascinating characters that you will find yourself captivated by the series.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © Naoshi Komi/SHUEISHA, SHAFT, MBS. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Rage of Bahamut: Genesis

ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 2014-2015

DURATION: Episode 1-12 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Universal/FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: April 26, 2016


Director: Keiichi Satou

Series Composition by Keiichi Hasegawa

Script by Akira Tanizaki, Keiichi Hasegawa, Masanao Akahoshi

Music by Yoshihiro Ike

Character Design by Naoyuki Onda

Art Director: Goki Nakamura

Chief Animation Director: Naoyuki Onda

Anime Production: MAPPA


Featuring the following voice talent:

Go Inoue/Chris Rager as Kaisar Lidfard

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Ian Sinclair as Favaro Leone

Risa Shimizu/Tia Ballard as Amira

Eri Kitamura/Leah Clark as Kerberos (Cerberus)

Hiroaki Hirata/Tyson Rinehart as Lavalley

Hiroshi Iwasaki/Brian Mathis as Bacchus

Kenjiro Tsuda/Christopher R. Sabat as Martinet

Masakazu Morita/Kent Williams as Azazel

Megumi Han/Jad Saxton as Jeanne D’Arc

Miyuki Sawashiro/Apphia Yu as Rita

Ryûzaburô Ôtomo/Vic Mignogna as Belzebuth (Beezlebub)

Showtaro Morikubo/Kyle Phillips as Hansa

Tesshô Genda/Barry Yandell as Charioce XIII


Meet Favaro Leone, professional bounty hunter and casual scoundrel. When he’s not crossing swords with his arch nemesis and former best friend, Kaisar Lidford, he can be found at the local tavern spinning tall tales to anyone who will listen. After a one-winged demoness overhears his drunken boasts, she wrangles him into an unbreakable contract that will force him to make good on the promise he made.

With nothing but a destination in mind, the pair set out on their grand adventure – completely unaware of the dark forces working to fulfill an ancient prophecy that will bring about the end of the world. That is, unless a charming rogue, a clueless demon, a disgraced knight, and a tiny zombie can band together to change the course of history.

Visually arresting and fun from start to finish, Rage of Bahamut is a can’t-miss title for any action-fantasy fan.


Back in 2012, a card battle game known as “Shingeki no Bahamut” (Rage of Bahamut) developed by Cygames and published by DeNA was released for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.

The video game topped the charts for 16 weeks on Google Play and also was a high grossing game for Apple’s App Store.

Two years later, the first anime adaptation of the game was created titled “Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis” (Rage of Bahamut: Genesis) featuring anime production by MAPPA.

The series was directed by Keiichi Satou (“Asura”, “Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary”, “Tiger & Bunny”), screen composition by Keiichi Hasegawa (“Astro Boy”, “Zoids”, “Devil Lady”, “Gegege no Kitaro”), music by Yoshihiro Ike (“DAYS”, “Blood: The Last Vampire”, “Asura”, “Tiger & Bunny”), character designs by Naoyuki Onda (“Psycho-Pass”, “Resident Evil: Damnation”, “Sol Bianca”, “Detective Story”) and art direction by Goki Nakamura (“Baku Tech! Bakugan”, “Cat Soup”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt”, “Baku Tech! Bakugan”).

Featuring 12 episodes, the anime series will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in North America courtesy of FUNimation.

“Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” takes place during a time where the magical world of Mistarcia has humans, gods and demons trying to co-exist with one another.

Long ago, the winged behemoth known as Bahamut threatened to destroy the land but the humans, gods and demons fought together and sealed its power.

The God Key that was used to seal Bahamut was split into two, one half given to the gods and the other half to the demons in order to ensure that no one can unite the keys and release Bahamut from the seal.

2000 years have passed and the key is stolen by Amira, who is half god and half demon.

Meanwhile, a thief and womanizer named Favaro Leone is on an adventure to find a land known as Elhiem.  Upon hearing this, Amira shows up and asks Favaro to take her there.

At first he refuses, but seeing her beauty, he tells her he will take her if she gives him a kiss.  But soon after, one of the criminals that Favaro is fighting turns into a demon.  But immediately, Amira reveals her powers of a demon and easily defeats the demon fighting Favaro.

As Amira wants to make sure that Favaro keeps her promise, she leans to give him a kiss but instead, she gives Favaro a demon’s tail and tells him that she will only take it off, if he takes her to Elhiem.

Meanwhile, a knight named Kaisar Lidfald is on a mission to kill Favaro as revenge for the death of his father.  Discovering a young girl zombie named Rita, the two search for Favaro.

Also, Jeanne D’Arc leads her knights to find Amira for her role in stealing one half of the keys that could unseal Bahamut.  Also, unrest is happening due to the theft of the God Key and the boundaries that were in place for godkind and demonkind is starting to crumble and a war is about to begin between the two.  And the seal that kept Bahamut sealed, is now starting to disintegrate.

As Favaro tries to make good on his promise to escort Amira to Elheim, they are unaware that everyone is looking for Amira.

Can Favaro protect Amira?  And why did Amira steal the God Key?


VIDEO:

“Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The anime series features great animation and wonderful background art.  Bahamut is well-rendered, human characters, gods and demons are well-drawn and well-shaded.

Because this is a TV series, there is a subtle softness to the overall animation, so it’s not too vibrant. Character designs, animation and background art are fantastic.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  Typically, the English dubbed soundtrack tends to have a 5.1 lossless soundtrack, but how awesome is it that both Japanese and English soundtracks are in 5.1.  So, everyone can enjoy the lossless soundtrack depending on their preference.  Voice acting is well done for both Japanese and English.  Great use of surround channels and LFE.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Episode 1 – Featuring audio commentary by ADR Director Sonny Strait, Ian Sinclair (voice of Favaro), Tia Ballard (voice of Amira), Chris Rager (voice of Kaisar).
  • Audio Commentary – Episode 12 – Featuring audio commentary by ADR Director Sonny Strait, Ian Sinclair (voice of Favaro), Tia Ballard (voice of Amira), Chris Rager (voice of Kaisar).
  • Episode 6.5 – “Roundup” – A recap of the first half of the series.
  • Episode 6.5 – “Roundup” Preview
  • Textless Opening and Closing
  • Textless Closing for Episode 12 (Full Screen)

EXTRAS:

“Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” comes with both a Blu-ray and DVD version of the anime series.


Prior to watching “Rage of Bahagmut: Genesis”, I was not aware of the video game.

I watched this anime series and thinking how fascinating it was to have a protagonist who was a redhead and had an afro.  Then seeing humans co-existing with gods (angels) and demons, meanwhile the dead are sprouting up and zombies are everywhere.  And seeing a zombie girl become a major character.

Suffice to say, the concept is nothing I have ever seen in an anime series.  And immediately, the characters you followed throughout the first half of the series are immediately put into a chaotic situation and all heck breaks loose.  Not surprising considering the series is only 12 episodes long and the writers had to make the storyline work within those few episodes.

The adventures of four individuals who are quite opposite from each other.  Favaro, the man with the ‘fro who loves to steal and spending time with the ladies.  Kaisar the knight who wants Favaro dead because he blames Favaro for the death of his father.

But I found myself being captivated by the action-driven storyline and its mysterious protagonist, Amira.  She not only kicks ass when in demon mode but she happens to have a spunky side that leads her to act out against Favaro.  And for some reason, she has stolen the God Key which keeps the behemoth known as Bahamut sealed.

And as mentioned, you have a zombie girl who hangs out with Kaisar the knight and has a pessimistic attitude.  And dare I say, there is also a talking duck that the group befriends.

And if that wasn’t crazy enough, You also have Joan of Arc who is a saint/knight who becomes the savior for the people and then ends up being put on the stake to be executed.

Behind-the-scenes, you see tensions building up between the gods and the demons and for the most part, chaos befalls on the magical world of Mistarcia.

So, much goes on throughout this series and there are a number of characters introduced quickly, but not too much that you get confused.  If anything, with 12-episodes, “Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” is an action-packed anime series that is not difficult to follow and because it’s a short series, you may find yourself captivated enough to watch it straight through.

As for the Blu-ray release, animation by MAPPA was really well done.  The series looks very good in HD and both the Japanese soundtrack and the English dub are well-done and you get two audio commentaries, a 6.5 recap episode and more.

Overall, “Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” is an exciting, action-packed series with wonderful animation, plenty of humor and fascinating characters that you will find yourself captivated by the series.  Recommended!

 

La chienne – The Criterion Collection #818 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

lacienne-a

I absolutely enjoyed “La chienne” for its wit, Renoir’s writing and direction, the performance of Simon and Mareze. Without a doubt, “La chienne” is a film that gives us a fantastic glimpse of the auteur that Jean Renoir would one day become. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1931 Establissements Braunberger-Richebe/1974 Les Films du Jeudi. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: La chienne – The Criterion Collection #818

YEAR OF FILM: 1931

DURATION: 96 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:19:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, French Monaural with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Film/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: June 14, 2016


Based on the Novel by Georges de La Fouchardiere

Directed by Jean Renoir

Adaptation by Jean Renoir

Produced by Pierre Braunberger, Roger Richebe

Cinematography by Theodor Sparkuhl

Edited by Denise Batcheff, Pal Fejos

Art Direction by Marcel Courmes

Set Decoration by Gabriel Scognamillo


Starring:

Michel Simon as Maurice Legrand

Janie Marese as Lucienne Pelletier

Georges Flamant as Dede

Roger Gaillard as L’adjudant

Romain Bouquet as Henriot

Pierre Desty as Gustave

Mlle Doryans as Yvonne

Alexandre Rignault as LAngelard

Lucien Mancini as Wallstein

Henri Guisol as Amedee

Max Dalban as Bernard


Jean Renoir’s ruthless love triangle tale, his second sound film, is a true precursor to his brilliantly bitter The Rules of the Game, displaying all of the filmmaker’s visual genius and fully imbued with his profound humanity. Michel Simon cuts a tragic figure as an unhappily married cashier and amateur painter who becomes so smitten with a prostitute that he refuses to see the obvious: that she and her pimp boyfriend are taking advantage of him. Renoir’s elegant compositions and camera movements carry this twisting narrative—a stinging commentary on class and sexual divisions—to an unforgettably ironic conclusion.p.


lacienne-c

Considered an auteur, there is no denying that within the oeuvre of Jean Renoir is several cinematic masterpieces.

From his films “The Lower Depths” (1936), “La Grande Illusion” (1937), “La Bete Humaine” (1938) and “The Rules of the Game” (1939), a decade before, Renoir was known for his silent films.

But with many careers ending from the transition from silent film to the talkies, with the success of Renoir’s “purge bebe” (1931), he would experiment with sound and trying to create a film quickly within a budget.

And so, Renoir would work on his next film, which included music being recorded in the studio during the acting, and once again, taking on a challenge with a longer film with sound.

And the result was “La chienne” (which translates to “The Bitch”), a film that Renoir had dreamed of making because it would feature one of his favorite actors, Michel Simon and it was also a film that utilized darkness via nighttime photography which would later become an influence in cinema.

“La chienne” also was a goal for Renoir to create a film that was adapted from a novel and a play.  An adaptation of Georges de La fouchardiere’s novel, unfortunately “La chienne” wasn’t a box office draw, the film is seen as Jean Renoir’s starting point for cinema with sound and be appreciated by film critics many decades later.  And a darker US adaptation would be made in 1945, directed by Fritz Lang, known as “Scarlet Street“.

“Le chienne” is a film starring Michel Simon (“L’Atalante”, “Port of Shadows”, The Passion of Joan of Arc”, “Boudu Saved From Drowning”), Janie Mareze (“Mam’zelle Nitouche”, “Le collier”, Amours viennoises”) and Georges Flamant (“The 400 Blows”, “Blind Venus”, “Midnight Tradition”).

“La chienne” would also be the final film of actress Janie Mareze, who was killed in a car accident (driven by actor Georges Flamant) shortly after the completion of the film.

Considered as a Renoir film that is not well known, “La chienne” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

“La chienne” begins with a party featuring a cashier named Maurice (portrayed by Michel Simon) and his co-workers.  His co-workers tease Maurice because he doesn’t like to have fun, he always heads home and is often greeted with hostility by his uncaring wife Adele (portrayed by Magdeleine Berubet).

In his spare time, Maurice loves painting and his wife dislikes his paintings that litter the house.

After the party, as Maurice is going home, a couple Andre “Dede” Govain (portrayed by Georges Flamant) and his prostitute girlfriend, Lucienne “Lulu” Pelletier (portrayed by Janie Marese) are arguing as Dede needs money to pay off his gambling debts.  When Lulu tells him that she has no money, he beats her.

But immediately, Maurice comes to her rescue and brings Lulu home.

Fastforward weeks later and we learn that Maurice has purchase an apartment for Lulu with new furniture and gives her spending money.  We learn that Lulu is using Maurice, but she looks at this arrangement of being with Maurice necessary to save money but also to give Dede the money he needs, in order to strengthen their relationship.

As Maurice’s wife pushes him to rid of his paintings, he gives it to Lulu and puts it on the walls of her place.  Needing money to pay off his debts, Dede sees the paintings and creates a story that Lulu is the true painter and needless to say, collectors start to purchase the paintings.

But as Dede tries to get Lulu to squeeze more money out of Maurice, Maurice who is unable to keep up with Lulu’s new lifestyle, begins to steal money from his company.


VIDEO:

“La chienne – The Criterion Collection #818” is presented in 1:19:1 aspect ratio in 1080p High Definition. Picture quality is fantastic, the film features great clarity, wonderful detail and sharpness. Black levels are nice and deep, white and gray levels are well-contrast.  It’s important to note that because of the aspect ratio, the screen size is smaller.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution from a 35 mm safety fine-grain made from the original 35 mm nitrate neagtive.  The film was restored in 2K resolution at Digimage Classics by Les Films du Jeudi and of the Franco-American Cultural Fund DGA – MPA – SACEM – WGAW.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “La chienne – The Criterion Collection #818” in French LPCM 1.0 Monaural audio. The lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue with no signs of major hissing, crackle or audio pops.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered from the 35 mm optical soundtrack negative and restored by L.E. Diapason.”

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“La chienne – The Criterion Collection #818” comes with the following special features:

  • Jean Renoir Introduction – (2:43) An introduction to “La chienne” by director Jean Renoir from 1961.
  • On Purge Bebe – (52:01) Jean Renoir’s first sound film from 1931 starring Michel Simon.  This version is the newly restored version.
  • Christopher Faulkner – (25:24) Jean Renoir scholar Christopher Faulkner discusses the filmmakers transition from silenfilm to talkies and the importance of “La chienne”.
  • Jean Renoir le patron: “Michel Simon” – (1:35:13) A 1967 French television program featuring a conversation between Renoir and Simon, directed by Jacques Rivette.

EXTRAS:

“La chienne – The Criterion Collection #818” comes with a poster foldout which comes with the essay “He, She, And the Other Guy” by Ginette Vincendeau.


lacienne-b

Every filmmaker has their beginning, but for Jean Renoir, despite having a successful silent film career, the early 1930’s, was a new beginning for filmmakers as it would lead many to experiment with spoken voices.

While the era of the talkies was not kind to many filmmakers and talent, for Renoir, having success with his first experimental sound film “purge bebe”, his film “La chienne” would be an important film.  Some for good reasons but also for things that are not all that good.

For one, his dream was to work with actor Michel Simon, to create a film that was an adaptation of a novel and play and hope for a film that would jumpstart his career.

Unfortunately, “La chienne” would be devastating for Renoir, as his partnership of having a film starring his wife Catherine Hessling would end.  Thus causing problems within his marriage.

The film was not a box office success, as he would gain the reputation of creating good films, but films that don’t do well in the box office.  While Renoir was later told by a friend that a filmmaker must have failures, and those who have failures receive sympathy from audiences.

“La chienne” would also bring even more heartbreak as lead actress Janie Mareze would be killed in an accident with co-star and boyfriend, Georges Flamant, shortly after the making of the film.

If anything, the film made him humble but also made him serious of creating films with better scripts.  And eventually, several years later, Jean Renoir would create his well-known masterpiece from the mid-to-late ’30s.  And eventually creating films in the United States a decade later.

So, many people could see “La chienne” being important in cinema as a brand new start for Jean Renoir as a filmmaker.

As for the film, while I have been spoiled by Fritz Lang’s 1945 darker remake “Scarlet Street”, Lang’s film is definitely film noir, while “La chienne” can be appreciated for Renoir’s artistic vision, Michel Simon and Janie Mareze’s performance.

As Lang’s “Scarlet Street” felt American, tragic and truly film noir, “La chienne” had the feeling of being French from its romanticism, comedy and irony, especially the Renoir’s use of dialogue to its technical use of shooting in darkness, shooting behind windows, its montage.  But most of all, an ending that fits perfectly with French cinema and feels right.

I enjoyed this Renoir film a lot because it’s a complete film in so many levels.

Overall, I absolutely enjoyed “La chienne” for its wit, Renoir’s writing and direction, the performance of Simon and Mareze.   Without a doubt, “La chienne” is a film that gives us a fantastic glimpse of the auteur that Jean Renoir would one day become.

Recommended!

Precious Cargo (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

preciouscargo

Filmmaker/writer Mark Adams’ “Precious Cargo” is reminiscent of those ’80s late night action films you watched on cable long ago. One of those, “so bad, it’s good” films because of its unintended humor. So, many things go wrong with this film, but for those who enjoy popcorn action films, especially bad ones, then “Precious Cargo” is for you.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Georgia Film Fund. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Precious Cargo

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 90 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (for Language Throughout, Some violence and Sexual Material)

Release Date: July 8, 2016


Directed by Max Adams

Written by Max Adams and Paul V. Seetachitt

Produced by Ryan Noto

Co-Producer: Elias Axume

Executive-Producer: Jack Campbell, Ron Gell, Tony Piantedosi, Steven Seagal

Cinematography by Anthony J. Rickert-Epstein

Music by Michael John Mollo

Edited by Robert A. Ferretti

Production Design: Dianne Millett


Starring:

Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Jack

Bruce Willis as Eddie

Claire Forlani as Karen

John Brotherton as Nicholas

Lydia Hull as Jenna

Daniel Bernardt as Smon

Ashley Kirk as Zoe

Tyler Jon Olson as Lucas

Jenna B. Kelly as Logan

Christopher Rob Bowen as Glenn

Sammi Barber as Apsara

Jean Clade Leuyer as Gustavo

Nick Loeb as Andrew Herzberg


Adrenaline-pumping chases and deadly double crosses electrify this twist-filled thriller. After a botched heist, thieves and ex-lovers Jack and Karen (Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Claire Forlani) are targeted by Eddie (Bruce Willis), a murderous crime boss. To escape with their lives, Jack and Karen must steal a cargo of precious gems. But when the job goes down, allegiances are betrayed and lines are crossed as Jack, Karen, and Eddie face off in a fateful showdown.


From writer Max Adams (“Heist”, “Extraction”) comes his directorial debut with the Lionsgate Premiere Canadian action film “Precious Cargo”.

Co-written with Paul V. Seetachitt (“Rock Jocks”, “UnderCover”), “Precious Cargo” would star Mark-Paul Gosselaar (“NYPD Blue”, “Saved by the Bell”, “Franklin & Bash”), Bruce Willis (“Die Hard” films, “The Sixth Sense”, “The Fifth Element”, “Armageddon”), Claire Forlani (“The Rock”, “Green Street Hooligans”, “Meet Joe Black”, “Mallrats”), John Brotherton (“The Conjuring”, “Furious 7”, “Guardians of the Galaxy”), Lydia hull (“Marauders”, “Van Wilder: Party Liaison”, “Escape Plan”), Daniel Bernhardt (“The Matrix Reloaded”, “John Wick”, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, “Parker”) and Jenna B. Kelly (“Extraction”).

And the film will be released on Blu-ray in July 2016.

The film begins with an introduction to Jack (portrayed by Mark-Paul Gosselaar), a criminal who has his own crew. But his crew, including the sharpshooter Logan (portrayed by Jenna B. Kelly) are concerned with his past-relationship with another criminal, a thief named Karen (portrayed by Claire Forlani).

Despite having a new girlfriend, a sweet veterinarian named Jenna (portrayed by Lydia Hull), Jack can’t get over Karen. He’s always loved her and she is a woman who never shown the same love towards him.

As for Karen, she and crime boss Eddie (portrayed by Bruce Willis) have been planning a multi-million dollar heist but something happens and she takes the money and now, Eddie wants her dead.

One afternoon, as Jack and his new girlfriend are spending a romantic moment, Karen shows up to his place and tells him that she is pregnant.

As both get into a little argument of Karen’s abrupt appearance, Eddie sends his men to Jack’s home to kill Karen.

But with the help of Jack, he is able to save her life.

Afteward, Karen asks for Jack’s help in trying to make good with Eddie by pulling off a major robbery of an armored car containing $30 million in diamonds, but in truth, the job was another being planned by Eddie and Karen found out about the plan.

Jack with the help of his sharpshooter Logan and their newly assembled team, decide to assist with Karen.  For Jack, he feels that with Karen pregnant, there may be a chance that Karen will love him back, now that she is pregnant.

Will Jack be able to pull off this major heist and win Karen’s heart?


VIDEO:

“Precious Cargo” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film looks vibrant in outdoor scenes and close ups are full of detail. I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film.  For the most part, picture quality for the film is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Precious Cargo” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. As this is an action film, there is a lot of surround sound usage during the gun battle exchanges and also good use of LFE during the explosions. But overall, dialogue and sound effects are crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Precious Cargo” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Precious Cargo – (14:37) Filmmaker Mark Adams, the producers and the cast talk about making “Precious Cargo”.
  • Cast/Crew Interviews – (43:54) Interviews with the cast members: Mark Paul Gosselaar, Claire Forlani, Jenna B. Kelly, director Mark Adams, co-writer Paul V. Seetachitt and producer Scott Mann.
  • Precious Cargo Trailer

EXTRAS:

“Precious Cargo” comes with a slipcover and UltraViolet Digital HD code.


A tale of three criminals.  Jack, the goodhearted criminal who loves Karen.  Karen, the criminal and thief who loves stealing money and jewels and Eddie, a crime boss who wants revenge for Karen stealing money and jewels from jobs they collaborated on.

I have to admit that when I saw the trailer and the promotional image for “Precious Cargo”, I would have never expected to see a film collaboration between Bruce Willis and Mark-Paul Gosselaar.

Granted, Gosselaar has shed his “Saved by the Bell” past with starring roles in “NYPD Blue” and “Franklin and Bash”, but as an action role as the main protagonist against Bruce Willis, the main antagonist, needless to say, it’s an unexpected film collaboration.

The film plays out with standard banal popcorn action with unfortunate choices in writing, poor plot transitions, poor pacing, spotty acting and  situations that make you want to say “are you f**#ing kidding me?”, despite the film’s problems, as a popcorn action film, in terms of 1-star films that I have reviewed, I have seen much worse.

If anything, “Precious Cargo” reminds me of 1980 indie films which I watched as young teen on HBO and Cinemax.  Films that were so bad but yet you enjoyed it because they were so bad.  No matter how many times Jack and his people are shot at, they managed to evade hundreds of bullets, survive after being shot and no matter how many times one is punched, blood and bad bruising never happens.  That is until one is shot in the head and then we see blood.

But where I do give “Precious Cargo” credit is that Bruce Willis definitely does a good job of playing a villain (for the few minutes he does star in the film) and the action-scenes, the one chase scene in the water was cool, as well as a few of the more explosive scenes in the film as well.  Enough action that worked within the confines of its budget of $10 million.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant, up-close details were very good.  Lossless audio utilized the surround channels and LFE quite well, and you also get a few special features included as well.

Overall, filmmaker/writer Mark Adams’ “Precious Cargo” is reminiscent of those ’80s late night action films you watched on cable long ago.  One of those, “so bad, it’s good” films because of its unintended humor.  So, many things go wrong with this film, but for those who enjoy popcorn action films, especially bad ones, then “Precious Cargo” is for you.

 

 

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