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Safe – The Criterion Collection #739 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Safe” is the film that help propel the careers of filmmaker Todd Haynes, producer Christine Vachon and actress Julianne Moore.  But the film’s ambiguous nature, the unexpected and the magnificent performance by Julianne Moore and masterful direction by Todd Haynes makes this film worth watching!  One can only hope for the Criterion Collection to release more films by Todd Haynes on Blu-ray in the near future!

Image courtesy of © 1995 The Chemical Films Limited Partnership.  2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Safe – The Criterion Collection #739

YEAR OF FILM: 1995

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English Monaural, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: December 9, 2014


Directed by Todd Haynes

Written by Todd Haynes

Executive Producer: John Hart, Ted Hope

Produced by Christine Vachon, Lauren Zalaznick

Music by Ed Tomney

Cinematography by Alex Nepomniaschy

Edited by James Lyons

Casting by Jakki Fink

Art Direction by Anthony Stabley

Set Decoration by Mary E. Gullickson

Costume Design by Nancy Steiner


Starring:

Julianne Moore as Carol White

Xander Berkeley as Greg White

Ronnie Farer as Barbara

Jodie Markell as Anita

Susan Norman as Linda

Chauncey Leopardi as Rory

Steve Gilborn as Dr. Hubbard


Julianne Moore gives a breakthrough performance as Carol White, a Los Angeles housewife in the late 1980s who comes down with a debilitating illness. After the doctors she sees can give her no clear diagnosis, she comes to believe that she has frighteningly extreme environmental allergies. A profoundly unsettling work from the great American director Todd Haynes, Safe functions on multiple levels: as a prescient commentary on self-help culture, as a metaphor for the AIDS crisis, as a drama about class and social estrangement, and as a horror film about what you cannot see. This revelatory drama was named the best film of the 1990s in a Village Voice poll of more than fifty critics.


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Filmmaker Todd Haynes is known for his films “Far from Heaven” and the Bob Dylan biographical musical film “I’m Not There”.

While also known for “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story”, “Poison” and “Velvet Goldmine”.

But his second feature film “Safe” would garner critical acclaim upon release back in 1995, but the question is did audiences really understand the film at that time?

Nevertheless, “Safe” can be interpreted as a film of hope, a tragedy, a horror film and its ambiguity may lead to people being confused.

But the film would help propel filmmaker Todd Haynes towards the mainstream, would jumpstart the producing career of Christine Vachon and also giving young actress at the time, Julianne Moore, her first major leading role in a film.

And now “Safe” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

“Safe” is set in 1987 in San Fernando Valley and it begins with Carol White (portrayed by Julianne Moore) and her husband Greg (portrayed by Xander Berkeley) arriving home and then having sex.  While her husband is into it, you can see face of Carol who seems as if she is uninterested.

A normal homemaker that is planning on the interior design of her home, planting in the garden and going to aerobics classes with her friends, one day while going home, Carol begins to cough uncontrollably while behind a truck that has a lot of smoke coming out of its tailpipe.  Coughing to the point that she gets confused and starts coughing in a parking garage.

While going to the doctor for a checkup, the doctor feels there is nothing wrong with her and she is perfectly healthy.  But she starts to develop mild to severe symptoms as she begins to lose her breath, begins to hyperventilate, has a nose bleed and makes it difficult to live life and it begins to affect her family.

As she continues to get more check ups, she is told to visit a psychiatrist and allergist as her body is producing strange reactions, coughing that she can’t stop and even convulsions that puts her into the ground.

She starts to meet groups with people who also have similar issues where doctors, significant others, friends don’t believe there is anything wrong with them but the individual themselves feel there is a significant problem.

What is wrong with Carol?


VIDEO:

“Safe- The Criterion Collection #739″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as the 4K restoration has brought out much better detail.  There is a good amount of grain during the film and while the film is 20-years-old, it doesn’t look like it at all.  Better clarity, no signs of aging colors or problematic artifacts or negative issues.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the original 35mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise management.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Safe – The Criterion Collection #739″ is presented in English LPCM 1.0. The monaural soundtrack is clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX3.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Safe – The Criterion Collection #739″ comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring a 2001 audio commentary by Todd Haynes, actress Julianne Moore and producer Christine Vachon.
  • The Suicide - (20:30) Todd Hayne’s first serious directorial effort was a surreal short from 1978. Haynes thought it was lost until producer, Michael Quinn Martin, discovered a print at his parents’ home.
  • Todd Haynes and Julianne Moore – (36:10) A 2014 conversation with director Todd Yanes and actress Julianne Moore.
  • Christine Vachon – (15:54) Producer Christine Vachon discusses her working relationship with Todd Haynes.
  • Trailer – (1:19) The original theatrical trailer for “Safe”.

EXTRAS:

“Safe – The Criterion Collection #739″ comes with a poster-sized insert with the essay “Nowhere to Hide” by Dennis Lim.


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Todd Haynes is a filmmaker that creates films that people think they understand, creates films that may often alienate viewers and films with no clear cut ending.

Bucking the banal Hollywood ending, “Safe” is a film that may seem simple in describing but the film itself is not simplistic at all.

A normal housewife begins having illnesses that doctors are baffled by.  Each time she is told that she is healthy, her husband starts to be upset because he wants normalcy, when his wife is experiencing situations that should not be affecting her.    No one knows what’s wrong with her, she believes she has some type of environmental illness and seeks some answers for why her body is behaving like it is.

Watching “Safe”, I began thinking of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Red Desert” about a woman who feels that she drowning in her environment, lonely, isolated.  For “Safe”, while Carole is by no means lonely or isolated, her reactions seem as if she feels out of place.

While some may classify Carol’s medical condition as MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity), it may easily be the case.  But this is a film made during the ’80s, before people had any answer to certain illnesses and watching Carol, I felt there was something unsettling about her.  The way she has sex, the way she seems a bit off at times, possibly even depressed.  The fact is that she is a woman that seeks the truth of why she is what she is. She seems rather empty, distant and alienated.

And sometimes in society, people feel comfort in the most unusual or unfortunate settings.  May it be cults or other forms of groups that have an outlandish ideology on life.   Her difficulty of breathing, perhaps its the people around her.  Her husband, the lifestyle…perhaps she feels suffocated by it all.

And possibly when the film was released, it was possibly a statement of America.  The fear of AIDS, the fear of something bad was going to happen.  From the wild and party years of the late ’70s, ushering towards a decade of conservatism and fear of AIDS and the Cold War but then ushering an era of the ’90s that began with war, plenty of attention towards money and social lifestyle and all in all, Carol is a person who has had enough and not sure how to deal with life.  Are people a product of their environment and is there any hope for her at all?

When I first watched the film, it was almost a similar feeling I had during my late teens ala the mid-90’s of listening to Morrissey’s album “Bona Drag” over and over and listening to “Everyday is Like Sunday” and “Suedehead”, just thinking at one point in my life that what I watched on television and the constant negative news and seeing the materialism of the ’90s, which was really a drag.

And so I watched “Safe” at the time as not a film about a woman with an unexplainable disease but a woman who was affected by her environment and had no way out, until she discovered a group of others who are like herself.

Misery likes company.

And my opinion hasn’t changed so much today because the environment has shapeshifted to another type of monster with the unknown of social media, technological advances and whichever crap that exists out there today.  But where people had aspired to be like 90210 back in the mid-90’s, our society has become much broker and are paying for the materialistic nature of companies of the past.

So, this film does have so much relevancy even today.

And actress Julianne Moore does a fantastic job in her first lead role of playing a character that is suffering.  A riveting performance by Julianne Moore with masterful directing by Todd Haynes!

The Blu-ray release of “Safe” is rather fascinating because it’s probably the best looking version of the film to date thanks to its 4K restoration bringing out the clarity of the film and making it look like it was a film that is more recent than older and aged.  The film looks magnificent and it’s monaural soundtrack is clear without any hiss.

You also get the original 2001 commentary with director Todd Haynes, producer Christine Vachon and actress Julianne Moore.  You get a newer conversation from 2014 between Haynes and Moore and also an interview with Christine Vachon.  But possibly one of the coolest featurettes was the discovered surreal short film by Todd Haynes titled “The Suicide” from 1978 which definitely makes even sense today as bullying has made it mainstream as more education of how messed up it is to pick on people who are short, non-athletic and what happens to one child who is picked on constantly and tormented by his bullies.  A very deep short film from Todd Haynes that is probably much more relevant today than when it was created back in the late ’70s!

Overall, “Safe” is the film that help propel the careers of filmmaker Todd Haynes, producer Christine Vachon and actress Julianne Moore.  But the film’s ambiguous nature, the unexpected and the magnificent performance by Julianne Moore and masterful direction by Todd Haynes makes this film worth watching!  One can only hope for the Criterion Collection to release more films by Todd Haynes on Blu-ray in the near future!

Mauvais Sang (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Leos Carax’ “Mauvais Sang” is a masterpiece.  It is unpredictable, unexpected yet breathtaking all at once.  And the film is cinematic poetry at its very best. Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Mauvais Sang

FILM RELEASE: 1986

DURATION: 119 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:68:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Color/Black and White, French 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Carlotta Films/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: November 18, 2014


Written and Directed by Leos Carax

Executive Producer: Denis Chateau, Philippe Diaz

Produced by Alain Dahan

Associate Producer: Marvin J. Chomsky

Cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier

Editing by Nelly Quettier

Casting by Helene Bernardin

Production Design by Jacques Dubus, Thomas Peckre, Michel Vandestien

Set Decoration by Bernard Leonard

Costume Design by Dominique Gregogna, Martine Metert, Robert Nardone


Starring:

Michel Piccoli as Marc

Juliette Binoche as Anna

Denis Lavant as Alex

Hans Meyer as Hans

Julie Delpy as Lise

Carroll Brooks as The American Woman

Hugo Pratt as Boris


Marc and Hans, two old gangsters, plan to steal the vaccine for a mysterious virus, STBO, which affects those who make love without being in love and is wreaking havoc among teenagers. After the death of their associate Jean, the two accomplices call on his son, Alex, known as “Chatterbox”, who is a talented conjuror. Alex, who has just left his girlfriend Lise, falls madly in love with a girl in a white dress he sees on a bus. Her name is Anna and she turns out to be Marc’s mistress…

Leos Carax’s second movie Mauvais Sang is a stunning masterpiece, midway between a thriller and a romantic tale, which multiplies references to master filmmakers (Godard in particular) and seduces with its poetry and lyricism. This emblematic film of 80s French cinema established Leos Carax as one of its most talented directors, twenty-six years before Holy Motors. Starring Denis Lavant, Michel Piccoli and Juliette Binoche, Mauvais Sang is available for the first time in a stunning new HD digital restoration!


Considered as one of the great filmmakers of modern French cinema, back in the early ’80s, Leos Carax (“Holy motors”, “Tokyo!”, “The Lovers on the Bridge”) was seen as a talented director which people would see a little bit of Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut in his film style.

With positive reviews from film critics for his 1984 debut film “Boy Meets Girl”, Carax would work with actor Denis Lavant again for his second film “Mauvais Sang” (which translates to “Bad Blood” but was released with the title “The Night is Young”) but also bringing in well-known actor Michel Piccoli (“Belle de Jour”, “Contempt”, “Atlantic City”), Juliette Binoche (“Thre Colors: Blue”, “Cache”, “The English Patient”), Julie Delpy (“Before Sunrise”, “Before Sunset”, “Before Midnight”) and Hans Meyer (“Barry Lyndon”, “Red Sonja”, “Brotherhood of the Wolf”).

“Mauvais Sang” would become part of Carax’ “Love Trilogy” and the film would receive three Cesar Award nominations and winning the Prix Louis-Delluc.

And now the newly restored film will receive a new Blu-ray release courtesy of Kino Lorber which will also include the Tessa Louise-Salome documentary “Mr X, A Vision of Leos Carax”.

It’s important to note that “Mauvais Sang” is not a film that can be easily described.  It must be experienced visually as the cinematic shots by Jean-Yves Escoffier (“Good Will Hunting”, “Rounders”, “Nurse Betty”) are mesmerizing and magnificent.

The film is set in Paris during a time when a disease known as STBO is killing young people who make love without any emotional involvement.

A serum has been developed but it is kept in a highly secure area and is locked away.

We are then introduced to Marc (portrayed by Michel Piccoli) and his friend Hans (portrayed by Hans Meyer) who encounter an American woman (portrayed by Carroll Brooks), her henchman Boris (portrayed by Hugo Bratt) that Marc has two weeks to pay off debt that he owes her.  We also learn that their partner Jean is no longer alive for some apparent reason.

Marc needs to make money and the way to do that…steal the STBO serum and sell it.

But in order to accomplish such a feat., he will need someone with quick hands and Marc remembers that Jean told him that if there was someone that was as good as him, it would be his son Alex (portrayed by Denis Lavant).

We then catch Alex and his girlfriend Lise (portrayed by Julie Delpy), as they love to spend time together and have sex.  But as quickly as Alex is having fun, he is approached by Hans and is offered a chance to make a ton of money but also fly to another country.

And as Alex packs his bag and leaves home without telling Lise where he is moving to, he leaves her to team up with Marc and Hans.  He eventually finds out there is a third person involved and it’s Marc’s younger lover, Anna (portrayed by Juliette Binoche).

And as the four plan and scheme on how to execute the plan, Alex starts to find himself drawn to Anna.

But would Alex be crazy enough and try to try and get close to Anna?

Meanwhile, the American woman knows that Marc is up to something and tells Alex that if he works for her, he will make even more money.

Which path will Alex choose?


VIDEO:

“Mauvais Sang” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio) and features the 2K restoration which was undertaken by UK’s Artificial Eye.  Compared to the DVD release, there is a huge difference as the Blu-ray release features better colors, much better detail especially on close-ups.

The film doesn’t look its age at all.  Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.  There is no signs of white specks or damage to the film.

This is the definitive version of “Mauvais Sang” to own!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Mauvais Sang” comes with a French DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 soundtrack with optional English subtitles.

Dialogue and music are crisper and clearer compared to the DVD release with no audio problems or any signs of hiss or crackle.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mauvais Sang” comes with the following special features:

  • Outtakes and Rushes - (20:22) Old footage of outtakes and rushes from “Mauvais Sang” (note: There is no audio for this portion)
  • Deleted Scene – (5:26) A deleted scene featuring a conversation between Franc and Alex.
  • Original Trailer – (2:17) The original 1986 trailer for “Mauvais Sang”.
  • 2013 Trailer – (1:45) The trailer for the restored version of “Mauvais Sang”.
  • “Mr. X, A Vision of Leos Carax” – (1:13:16) Tessa Louise-Salome’s documentary of the oeuvre of Leos Carax.

EXTRAS:

“Mauvais Sang” comes with a slipcover.


Watching “Mauvais Sang”, digitally restored, I couldn’t help but grin throughout the film.

While “Holy Motors” is a film that probably many people today are familiar with when it comes with Leos Carax films, for me, Leos Carax’ finest masterpiece was his 1986 film “Mauvais Sang”.

The film was like an ode to Nouvelle Vague, an ode to Jean Luc-Godard, Francois Truffaut and Robert Bresson.

Films that can depict an underworld but yet captivate you with its characters thanks to the amazing performance by Denis Lavant and Juliette Binoche.

But the performance by Lavant is fluid, yet unpredictable.  Almost in a Chaplin-esque kind of way, he is a physical actor that shines on screen.  The cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier and the wonderful editing by Nelly Quettier is equally unexpected with a smorgasbord of imagery that captivates you.

And I bring up Jean-Luc Godard, best known for unexpected moments and disruptions that translate into cinematic poetry.  Also, similar to Godard and his muse/wife Anna Karina, Juliette Binoche was Carax’ girlfriend at the time and for anyone who has watched Binoche in her more recent films, will always fall in love with the vitality of her younger self in “Mauvais Sang”.

The relationship between Alex and Anna is very interesting because both characters do not communicate.  They look at each other but a large part of the film is shot without words and the fact that the scenes are shot effortlessly with efficacy, you just don’t see this in films any longer.

And of course, one of the most famous moments of the film (I will always remember the moment at 47 minutes into the film) which shows Alex walking with pain and stumbling in self-punishment knowing that he is in love. With his stabbing motion to the abs, smoking a cigarette and running and dancing in full speed and doing a somersault to David Bowie’s “Modern Love”.  Such a wonderful scene in cinema that even filmmaker Noah Baumbach paid homage to the scene in his film “Frances Ha”.

The scene after is also mesmerizing as Alex visits Anna and you see a slow motion of her waving her brushing her hair and waving it while featured in slow motion.  Or when he carries her off to the road during a hot summer when the heat on the pavement proves to hot for Anna, such a wonderful scene in the film!

And the film looks magnificent in HD as the 2K restoration of the film features much better colors, much better detail and the film looks and sounds better than ever!  The Blu-ray also features several special features but also the exclusive documentary “Mr. X, a Vision of Leos Carax” by filmmaker Tessa Louise-Salome which features the films by Leos Carax and interviews with those who have worked with him.  In essence, a tribute to the French filmmaker.

Overall, Leos Carax’ “Mauvais Sang” is a masterpiece.  It is unpredictable, unexpected yet breathtaking all at once.  And the film is cinematic poetry at its very best!

Highly recommended!

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

December 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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While it is a shame that “The Legend of Korra” is not airing on television any longer and is being released via online, by no means should anyone think this serious as inferior to “Avatar: The Last Airbender”. It’s a different series that doesn’t want to be a copycat series but yet retaining the gorgeous animation but a strong storyline, especially with “The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change”. An exciting series and captivating third book that I highly recommend on Blu-ray!

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


TITLE: The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change

YEAR: 2014

DURATION: 13 Episodes (Episodes 27-39) Minutes (294 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Nickelodeon/Viacom/Paramount

RATED: NOT RATED

Release Date: December 2, 2014


Directed by Ian Graham, Colin Heck

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

Produced by Tim Yoon

Music by Jeremy Zuckerman

Casting by Shannon Reed

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


Featuring the following voice talent:

Janet Varney as Korra

Dee Bradley Baker as Various Voices

David Faustino as Mako

P.J. Byrne as Bolin

J.K. Simmons as Tenzin

Jeff Bennett as Radio Braodcaster

Seychelle Gabriel as Asami Sato

Steve Blum as Amon

Darcy Rose Byrnes as Ikki

Mindy Sterling as Lin Beifong

Logan Wells as Meelo

Lance Henriksen as Lieutenant

Kiernan Shipka as Jinora

Richard Riehle as Bumi

Adrian LaTourelle as Unalaq

Lisa Edestein as Kya

Aubrey Plaza as Eska

Aaron Himelstein as Desna

Maria Bamford as Pema

John Michael Higgins as Varrick

Steve Blum as Amon

James Remar as Tonraq

Jonathan Adams as Vaatu


From the creators of Avatar: The Last Air Bender comes the continuation of a legendary story.  As the world enters a new age where spirits and mankind coexist, Book 3: Change reveals the exciting discovery of new Airbenders! But while Korra makes it her mission to find them and rebuild the Air Nation, a group of dangerous criminals embarks on a mission of their own.


Two weeks have passed since the Harmonic Convergence and vines continue to cover the Republic City.  This leads to President Raiko expelling Korra from the city.

Meanwhile, people in the city including Bumi, have developed air bending techniques and this leads to Tenzin, Korra and their friends visiting various areas to recruit the new Airbenders to join them as become Air Nomads.

But unbeknown to Korra, Tenzin and others, a dangerous, powerful and evil airbending criminal named Zaheer has escaped prison with others and they want their revenge!

Find out what happens in “The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change” now available on Blu-ray and DVD!

What is “The Legend of Korra” about?

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

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

While the first two seasons aired on Nickelodeon, the third season “The Legend of Korra” featured eight episodes being aired on Nickelodeon, but stopped due to declining ratings and episodes 9-13 were made available online via Amazon, Google Play, Xbox and Hulu.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For “Book Three: Change”, two weeks after the Harmonic Convergence, Korra was expelled from Republic City by President Raiko because spirit vines continued to cover the city and Korra was not able to remove them.  But with various people suddenly developing airbending skills, this leads Tenzin, Korra and friends to search for airbenders in various areas and recruit them to join the Air Nomads.

But the evil and powerful criminal named Zaheer has escaped prison with a few others and with his tremendous airbending skill, does Korra and friends have a chance of stopping him?


The main characters of “The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change” are:

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

VIDEO:

“The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change” is presented in 1080p High Definition and my thoughts in watching the series is how impressive the character designs, the detail and shading of the characters and how breathtaking the background art is for the series, as well as the mechanical design. The series is vibrant and colorful, I didn’t see any artifacts or any problematic issues during my view of the 13-episodes. If anything, fans of the series will be thrilled of how beautiful “The Legend of Korra” looks in HD and Studio Mir and Studio Pierrot has done an amazing job for this second season!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring nine audio commentaries with creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.
  • The Spirit of An Episode- Featuring six “Spirit of An Episode” featurettes with cast discussing episodes they work on. “The Terror Within” (5:34) with Colin Heck (Director) and Olga Ulanova (Assistant Director); “The Stakeout” (5:14) with Steven Ahn (Assistant Director) and Ian Graham (Director); “Long Live the Queen” with Melchior Zwyer (Director) and Owen Sullivan (Assistant Director); “The Ultimatum” with Colin Heck (Director) and Olga Ulanova (Assistant Director); “Enter the Void” with Steven Ahn (Assistant Director) and Ian Graham (Director); Venom of the Red Lotus” with Melchior Zwyer (Director) and Owen Sullivan (Assistant Director).

EXTRAS:

“The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change” comes with a slipcover.


Having watched “The Legend of Korra” since the very first episode, I have to say that the third book in the series is probably my favorite.

I felt that with each season/book, the stories are well-written but there was something special about this third book that I enjoyed and while Korra is the primary protagonist, the episodes gave other characters a chance to shine.  Mako and Bolin received a lot of attention, especially when it comes to the brotherhood in the family, the two meeting relatives but surprisingly, Bolin really became a much cooler character with this season.

We are introduced to a new character, a young thief but with a good heart named Kai, who develops airbending capabilities and becomes an important character as part of the Air Nomads, especially in relation to Jinora.  Jinora now becomes part of the team and we get to see her shine with her magnificent airbending and spirit abilities.

We also get to see the disconnection betweeen sisters Lin and Suyin Beifong and the two also play a major part in the third book.  Along with Opal, the daughter of Suyin who becomes the romantic interest for Bolin.

And for fans of “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, we also get to see Zuko, who is now eighty-eight years old and also connects some of the dots of what he and Aang accomplished after the Hundred Year War.

While only 13-episodes long, there is more to like about “Book Three” because I felt that the first book dealt with a lot of pent-up frustration for Korra, the second season while a very cool season, did focus a bit too much on the love triangles which some viewers did mind.  But season three brought back the adventure, the hopelessness, the drama, a darker story thanks to its antagonist but then showing hope, especially when there is teamwork. Plent of action and I simply loved every episode that I watched book three from beginning to end in one day.  It was that exciting and captivating!

And the final moments of the final episode of “Book Three: Change” leaves you feeling happy for one character but sad for another, that I can’t wait to watch the episodes of “Book Four: Balance” which is currently being released on the Nickelodeon website and online streaming outlets.

As for the Blu-ray release, the animation is absolutely gorgeous.  Colorful and vibrant with breathtaking background art, this series has always captivated me visually.  And it’s lossless soundtrack is very good as it also utilizes the surround channels, while crystal clear through the center and front channels.  Special features include audio commentary for nine episodes and also six “The Spirit of an Episode” featurettes.

Overall, while it is a shame that “The Legend of Korra” is not airing on television any longer and is being released via online, by no means should anyone think this serious as inferior to “Avatar: The Last Airbender”.  It’s a different series that doesn’t want to be a copycat series but yet retaining the gorgeous animation but a strong storyline, especially with “The Legend of Korra – Book Three: Change”.  An exciting series and captivating third book that I highly recommend on Blu-ray!

 

Guardians of the Galaxy (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

GuardiansOfTheGalaxyBluray

“Guardians of the Galaxy” was a pleasant surprise.  A film that scores highly for its humor, its action ad its unpredictable storyline and a Blu-ray that is a reference title, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a highly recommended title and one of the best Blu-ray releases of 2014!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Marvel Studios. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Guardians of the Galaxy

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 121 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1,  SUBTITLES: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Marvel/Walt Disney Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: September 9, 2014


Directed by James Gunn

Written by James Gunn, Nicole Perlman

Based on the Comic Book by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning

Based on the Comic Book by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Produced by Kevin Feige

Co-Producer: David J. Grant, Jonathan Schwartz

Executive Producer: Victoria Alonso, Alan Fine, Louis D’Esposito, Nikolas Korda, Jeremy Latcham, Stan Lee

Music by Tyler bates

Cinematography by Ben Davis

Edited by Fred Raskin, Hughes Winborne, Craig Wood

Casting by Sarah Finn, Reg Powerscout-Edgerton

Production designer: Charles Wood

Set Decoration by Chris “Flimsy” Howes, Richard Roberts

Costume Design by Alexandra Byrne


Starring:

Chris Pratt as Peter Quill

Zoe Saldana as Gamora

Dave Bautista as Drax

Vin Diesel as Groot

Bradley Cooper as Rocket

Lee Pace as Ronan

Michael Rooker as Yondu Undonta

Karen Gillan as Nebula

Djimon Hounsou as Korath

John C. Reilly as Corpsman Dey

Glenn Close as Nova Prime

Benicio Del Toro as The Collector

Laura Haddock as Meredith Quill


From Marvel, the studio that brought you the global blockbuster franchises of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers, comes a new team—the Guardians of the Galaxy. An action-packed, epic space adventure, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits—Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon, Groot, a tree-like humanoid, the deadly and enigmatic Gamora and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last desperate stand—with the galaxy’s fate in the balance.


GOTG Still_1

The Marvel Comics group known as “Guardians of the Galaxy” first began in 1969 in the pages of “Marvel Super-Heroes”.  Originally created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, the group would be revived in the 1990’s by Jim Valentino and would end in 1995.

In 2008, the series would receive a reboot written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and would feature new characters that were derived from the Marvel Comics 2007-2008 crossover known as “Annihilation” but the comic book series would be canceled after its 25th issue.

Still, Marvel wanted to tap into a big space epic from an obscure title from their comic book lineup and sure enough, “Guardians of the Galaxy” was mentioned as a possible title.  It wasn’t until 2012 San Diego Comic-Con that Marvel announced that a film for “Guardians of the Galaxy” was in development and was set for a summer 2014 release.  And that the film would feature the characters Star-Lord, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, Groot and Rocket Racoon.

James Gunn (“Scooby-Doo”, “Dawn of the Dead”, “Slither”) was hired to rewrite Nicole Perlman’s screenplay and also ended up directing the film.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” would feature an all-star cast which includes Chris Pratt (“her”, “Moneyball”, “Parks and Recreation”), Zoe Saldana (“Avatar”, “Star Trek”,  “Star Trek Into Darkness”, “Colombiana”), WWE wrestler Dave Bautista, Lee Pace (“The Fall”, “The Hobbit” films), Michael Rooker (“Cliffhanger”, “Jumper”, “The Bone Collector”), Karen Gillan (“Dr. Who”, “Not another Happy Ending”), Djimon Hounsou (“Gladiator”, “The Island”, “Blood Diamond”), John C. Reilly (“Chicago”, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”, “Step Brothers”), Glenn Close (“Air Force One”, “Dangerous Liaisons”, “Fatal Attraction”), Benicio Del Toro (“Snatch”, “The Usual Suspects”, “Traffic”, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”) and Laura Haddock (“Captain America: The First Avenger”, “The Inbetweeners Movie”).  The film would also feature the voices of Vin Diesel (“Fast & Furious 6″, “Fast Five”) and Bradley Cooper (“American Hustle”, “The Hangover”).

The film which was budgeted at $170 million would go on to make over $771.5 million in the worldwide box office, making it a success and ensuring a sequel.

And now “Guardians of the Galaxy” will be released on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD in December 2014.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” begins in 1988 with a younger Peter Quill listening to his music on a walkman on the night his mother dies in the hospital.  While running outside to let his emotions out, he is abducted by an unidentified flying object.

Fastforward 26-years later and we see an older Peter Quill (portrayed by Chris Pratt), still listening to music on his walkman trying to steal an orb on the planet Morag.  But while he is about to steal it, he is caught by Korath (portrayed by Djimon Hounsou), who works for the Kree known as Ronan the Accuser (portrayed by Lee Pace).

Peter Quill who goes by the name of Star-Lord, manages to steal the orb and evade capture but a group of space pirates known as the Ravagers, led by Yondu Udonta (portrayed by Michael Rooker) wants Peter to bring the orb to him.  It is learned that Yondu was responsible for abducting Peter when he was younger and teaching him how to be a master thief and now Yondu wants the orb. Unfortunately, Peter doesn’t listen and Yondu is forced to put a bounty on Peter Quill.

Meanwhile, the all-powerful Thanos wants the orb as well and has Ronan to obtain the orb.  Ronan sends out his assassin, who happens to be Thanos’ daughter, Gamora (portrayed by Zoe Saldana) to retrieve the orb.

As Peter tries to sell the orb on the Nova Empire capital, Xandar, the seller is unwilling to buy it when he finds out that Ronan is also after it.  As Peter tries to find another buyer, Gamora tries to steal the orb away from him.  Meanwhile, because a bounty is on Peter’s head, a bounty hunter named Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his strong and powerful tree/plant partner Groot (portrayed by Vin Diesel) try to capture Peter Quill in order to get the reward money.

This leads to a chase as Gamora, Rocket Racoon and Groot are all after Peter. But because of all the disruption they cause, all four are arrested and imprisoned in Kyln.  In prison, many seek to kill Gamora because she is working for Ronan and many of them lost their families because of Ronan and want revenge.  But a strong inmate by the name of Drax wants nothing more than to kill Gamora and get revenge on Ronan.

Peter learns from Gamora that the reason why she wanted the orb was so she can use it to kill Thanos, who was responsible for killing her family and then taking her in and making her an assassin. Meanwhile, Peter learns from Rocket that he just wants money, along with his partner Groot.  And all four make a plan that if they escape the prison, they will sell the orb and split the money in four ways but first they must find a way to escape.

As inmates plot to have Gamora killed, Drax is set to kill her until Pete stands to defend her and tells him that if he wants to kill Ronan, he must keep Gamora alive as she can direct him to Ronan.  So, Drax agrees to help out the four in escaping the prison, so they can all get what they want.

But will these five misfits, find a way to get back the orb?  And why is it that everyone is after it?


GOTG Still_6

VIDEO:

“Guardians of the Galaxy” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). And once again, another Marvel film that is reference quality with wonderful detail and no negative picture quality issues at all.  The visual effects are amazing, from the CG animation of Rocket and Groot, to the Nova starships interlocking, there film looks gorgeous when it comes to its sci-fi environment.  Closeups show amazing detail, especially the facial lines that are on Gamora’s face, Drax’s body when he’s fully amped to the stubble in Quill’s face.  Great detail and clarity.

It’s important to remind everyone though that if you want to watch this film in 3D, there is a 3D Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital Copy release available as well!

“Guardians of the Galaxy” looks absolutely amazing on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Guardians of the Galaxy” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 as well as a French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.  And similar to the magnificent picture quality, the lossless audio also showcases reference quality immersive sound. Crystal clear dialogue, beautiful musical score and old-school music with the high amount of action with explosions and fighting galore.  For a big budget Marvel film, you expect an immersive soundtrack and it’s what you get!

Vehicles, weaponry and with every crashing sound, every blast shot, every form of destruction that can be seen in the film, can be heard.  Literally, everything in the film is immersive with surround and rear surround channels being utilized, especially the LFE. Definitely one of the coolest and most immersive soundtracks I have heard on Blu-ray this year!

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Guardians of the Galaxy” comes with the following special features:

  • Guide to the Galaxy with James Gunn - (20:56) James Gunn talks about working on the film and creating a document about the look of “Guardians of the Galaxy”.
  • The Intergalactic Visual Effects for Guardians of the Galaxy- (7:11) The cast discuss the visual effects for “Guardians of the Galaxy” and creating the visual effects for Rocket Racoon, Groot and more.
  • Exclusive Look at Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron - (2:17) A short featurette about the making of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and shooting in different countries, using the Iron Man Hulk Buster uniform and more.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes - (3:34) Featuring five deleted/extended scenes with optional audio commentary by director James Gunn.
  • Gag Reel – (3:55) Gag reel for “Guardians of the Galaxy”.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with director James Gunn.

GOTG Still_3

As a Marvel fan, you expect the big name titles to impressive, action-packed, full of awesome visual effects and on Blu-ray, you expect Marvel to deliver when it comes to the picture quality and lossless soundtrack.

Prior to watching “Guardians of the Galaxy”, not sure why but I had my reservations as the series, may it be its current characters or characters of the past, it’s an obscure title that only hardcore Marvel comic book fans would read.  In fact, I have a large collection of the ’90s and previous appearances of the Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as the “Infinity Gauntlet” and Adam Warlock series.

The fact is that despite loving the series, despite it not being an “X-Men”, “Spider-Man”, “Avengers” title, I personally couldn’t fathom a film about the “Guardians of the Galaxy” until I watched the lineup in a trailer and I became even more skeptical afterward.

But having watching “Guardians of the Galaxy”, I have to say that it was one of the coolest, awesome storylines I have seen because it features a story that no one can predict nor are they characters that many people know their background.  Unlike Captain America, the Hulk, Spider-Man, Iron Man, etc., where these characters, fans know what to expect and can easily criticize the writers and director of the film, “Guardians of the Galaxy” was mysterious, unknown and by the end of the film, I was absolutely entertained and wanting a sequel to be created!

Part of what I found captivating is that each member of the Guardians of the Galaxy are somewhat misfits or people that no one expects them to amount to anything significant.   Peter/Starlord is a human that has a fighting side to him, despite the character being humorous and very appreciative of 70’s and ’80s music. Gamora is sexy, can fight but also not one to easily fall in love with any man, including Peter Quill.  Drax and Groot represent the muscle of the team but also characters that are not too smart, but yet we root for them.  And then you have the talking racoon, Rocket…we don’t know what to expect from this talkative, smart and kick-butt character but each time he graces the screen, you can’t help but root for him and every other character.

And this group of misfits keep getting themselves into the craziest situations but when they are together, they become this awesome group not scared to take on anything in their path, including being imprisoned in a high security prison or taking on a Kree that the world fears by the mention of his name.

Lending to the films unpredictability and making the film much more enjoyable is its cast.  Chris Pratt showing us how much he has evolved as an actor away from “Parks and Recreation”, Zoe Saldana dazzling on screen in another sci-fi film, WWE’s David Bautista was a major surprise but a role that fits his persona and you have the wonderful voice acting performance by Bradley Cooper as Rocket and despite the few words spoken, Vin Diesel was perfectly fine as Groot as well.

And the musical soundtrack, Tyler Bates did a wonderful job with the musical score, but the film will probably be remembered for being a sci-fi film with many cool ’70s and ’80s tunes such as the Runaways “Cherry Bomb”, The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”, Five Stairsteps “o-o-h Child”, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and more.  It’s hard to believe how this soundtrack becomes part of the film, but music plays a big part of the film, especially for the character of Peter Quill.

As for the Blu-ray itself, this Blu-ray is Marvel perfection once again.  Picture quality is full of detail and looks amazing in HD, while the lossless soundtrack is immersive.  Looking for a reference title on Blu-ray and “Guardians of the Galaxy” has perfect PQ and AQ that will surely please the video and audiophiles.  As for special features, you get an audio commentary track and a few special features such as deleted and extended scenes, gag reel and more.

Overall, “Guardians of the Galaxy” was a pleasant surprise.  A film that scores highly for its humor, its action ad its unpredictable storyline and a Blu-ray that is a reference title, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a highly recommended title and one of the best Blu-ray releases of 2014!

Gurren Lagann Volume 2 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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A mecha anime from the folks at GAINAX that is imaginative, sexy and explosive. Be prepared for the emotional high and lows of volume 2 as we get comedy, action but also a surprising tragedy that will set the course of the entire series!  “Gurren Lagann” is a fantastic anime series that I highly recommend.

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


TITLE: Gurren Lagann Vol. 2

DURATION: Episodes 6-10 (125 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: November 11, 2014


Created by GAINAX

Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Assistant Director: Masahiko Ohtsuka

Series Directors: Kazuki Nakashima

Character Designs: Atsushi Nishigori

Mecha Designs: You Yoshinari

Design Works: Shigeto Koyama

Art Director: Yuka Hirama (BIHOU)

Color Design: Harumi Takahoshi

Director of Photography: Toyonori Yamada

Editing: Junichi Uematsu

Sound Director: Tohru Nakano

Music: Taku Iwasaki

Produced by TV Tokyo, DENTSU, Aniplex


Featuring the following voice talent:

Katsuyuki Konishi/Kyle Herbert (as Kamina)

Marina Inoue/Michelle Ruff (as Yoko Littner)

Tetsuya Kakihara/Yuri Lowenthal (as Simon)

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

Daiki Nakamura/Doug Stone (as Dayakka)

Kana Asumi (as Kiyal)

Kana Ueda/Stephanie Sheh (as Kinon)

Kisho Taniyama (as Kittan)

Masaya Onosaka/Steven Blum (as Leeron)

Mitsuki Saiga/Johnny Yong Bosch (as Rossiu)

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Sam Ergal (as Viral)

Rina Satou/Karen Strassman (as Kiyoh)

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


Team Gurren’s Journey Continues…

Team Gurren is formed with Kamina as leader! The human rebel army continues their journey to the Gunmen’s headquarters, but they are challenged by Thymilph, one of the Four Generals. At the end of that fierce battle, Team Dai-Gurren held the Dai-Gunzan in their control. However, the price they paid for their prize was all too high. Having lost Kamina, their emotional support, the members of Team Dai-Gurren are beginning to lose sight of their goal.

Then, Simon, who blames himself for his bro’s death, is thrown into self-destructive despair. As Simon wanders through the valley, a new container lands in front of him. When he opens the lid, he finds a young girl sleeping inside…


As “GURREN LAGANN”  moves on to the second volume (episodes 5-10) on Blu-ray, the direction of the series grows darker after a major character is killed and also Gurren Lagann goes head-to-head in a battle with Viral!  And what happens when they take on Adiane, the second of the Spiral Kings Four Divine Generals!

Find out in “Gurren Lagann volume 2″ available now on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex!

For those not familiar with “GURREN LAGANN”, the popular anime titled “Tengen Toppai Gurren Lagann” aired on TV Tokyo back in April 2007 and completed it’s 27-episodes by Sept. 2007 and centers around two characters Simon and Kamina. Both live underground with a bunch of orphans and due to earthquakes, they developed a system of people using manual drilling holes in order to move around.

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

As for Kamina, he’s the cool leader of a gang. He once saw the atmosphere with his father a long time ago and dreams of making it up to the surface but no one underground believes him. He comes up with a plan to get to the surface with the help of Simon’s drill.

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

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

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

Vol. 2 consists of the following episodes:

  1. Episode 6 – There are Some Things I Just Have to See! - There are two versions of episode 6.  The unedited version and the OA version which is part of the special features.  For the unedited version, the group really smell bad and it seems they met some luck as they are invited to the hot springs with food galore!  The group run into their friends, the three women of the Black Siblings and as the group relaxes in the hot springs, both Kamina and Simon can’t stand hearing the women talk about their breasts.  Being the horny guys that they are, both men do what they can do get a peek of the ladies nude.  But awaiting them is some trouble as well courtesy of the Beastmen.
  2. Episode 7  – You’re Gonna Do It! – With the defeat of the Beastmen, Viral makes his return but this time, one of the four leaders who pilots a giant Gunmen fortress.  While Gurren Lagan tries to fight them, they are joined by some old friends who have followed Kamina’s lead and stolen some gunmen for themselves.
  3. Episode 8 – Later, Buddy – With Simon’s quick thinking in the last episode, the group manages to get the Gunmen fortress to be trapped.  But Kamina wants to take control of the fortress in order to protect everyone and this time have a super combination to create Dai Gurren Lagann.  So, one major battle in order to take the Beastmen leader’s mega fortress.   But while Simon starts to think about Yoko and tell her his feelings for her, he sees both Kamina and Yoko kissing.  So, as they go into battle, Kamina depends on Simon to have Lagann penetrate the fortress but because his emotions all out of whack due to seeing the kiss, it’s going to cost someone’s life.
  4. Episode 9 – What, Exactly, Is a Human? – With the events of the last episode, everyone is in mourning.  Meanwhile, a new character named Nia is introduced.  Who is she and why is she so curious about humans?
  5. Episode 10 – Who Is This Bro? - The group comes head to head against Adiane, the second of the Spiral Kings Four Divine Generals.  But retreats when she sees Nia.  It appears Nia is the daughter of the Spiral King.  Nia appears to be very naive about humans, their emotions, etc.  She doesn’t understand why Simon would be depressed over someone who’s dead.

VIDEO:

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gurren Lagann Vol. 2″ comes with the following special features:

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

EXTRAS:

“Gurren LagannVol. 2″ comes with a slipcase, a double-sided poster and a 16-page booklet featuring interviews and an illustration gallery!


I have always gushed about how much I enjoyed “Gurren Lagann” and five years since watching the series, my appreciation for the series has not waned.

In fact, this latest volume is literally an emotional rollercoaster as it will take you to the highest of highs, with its comedy and perverse humor (especially with the OA episode 6), the adrenalin rush as Kamina and Simon take on Viral with Gurren Lagann to the lowest of lows as a major character is killed off.

Suffice to say, when I first watched episode 8, I was in disbelief, in shock and felt it was a bold move for the writers to pull of such a major tragedy but it’s a death that helps build each character and brings everyone forward.  But most of all, taking a different path than what most anime series would do.

But it’s the characters that I enjoy in this awesome series!

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

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

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

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

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

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

This second volume of “Gurren Lagann” comes with a slipcase, a 16-page booklet with interviews and gallery plus a double sided poster.

“Gurren Lagann” can be described in one word and that is “Fantastic!”  And I look forward to volume 3!

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

mrsmith

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is a timeless Frank Capra classic that is relevant today and it will continue to remain relevant for many decades to come.  Featuring wonderful direction by Frank Capra and an amazing performance by James Stewart and Jean Arthur, plus a 4K restoration, a digibook release and a great amount of special features about Frank Capra’s oeuvre, this Blu-ray release is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1939, renewed 1967 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

YEAR OF FILM: 1939

DURATION: 129 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, black and white, English 1.0 DTS-HD MA, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish DTS-HD MA,  Subtitles: English SDH, Chinese Traditional, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal), Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: December 2, 2014

Directed by Frank Capra

Screenplay by Sidney Buchman

Story by Lewis R. Foster

Produced by Frank Capra

Music by Dimitri Tiomkin

Cinematography by Joseph Walker

Edited by Al Clark, Gene Havlick

Art Direction by Lionel Banks

Costume Design by Robert Kalloch

Starring:

Jean Arthur as Saunders

James Stewart as Jefferson Smith

Claude Rains as Senator Joseph Paine

Edward Artnold as Jim Taylor

Guy Kibbee as Governor Hopper

Eugene Pallette as Chick McGann

Beaulah Bondi as Ma Smith

Harry Carey as President of the Senate

H.B. Warner as Senate Majority Leader

Grant Mitchell as Senator MacPherson

An idealistic, newly-appointed senator (James Stewart) heads to Washington, where he single-handedly battles ruthless politicians out to destroy him. Winner of the 1939 Academy Award® for Best Writing (Original Story), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a timeless and stirring ode to the power of democracy.

As the legendary Frank Capra was known to churn out box office hits and win several Academy Awards with films such as “It Happened One Night”, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”, “Lost Horizon”, “You Can’t Take It With You”, his optimistic films that were known to be happy and full of hope, would take a turn in the late ’30s for a more darker path.

After working on war films that depicted the genocide brought by the Nazi’s, this brought a change in Capra, as evident in his 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”.

While the film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won “Best Original Story” (and in 1989, the Library of Congress added the film to the United States National Film Registry, for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, it was not a film that would receive a lot of praise from Washington or the press.

Mainly because it was one of the more popular films to portray politicians as corrupt, including the Washington press.  While the politicians and political press would become vocal about the film, the film was also banned in other countries.  But the controversy over the film and the political response would do nothing but to benefit the film and over 70-years since the film was released in theaters, become an American classic as a film about one Senator trying to make a stand against political corruption.

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” would be nominated for 11 Academy Awards and would earn Lewis R. Foster an Oscar for “Best Writing, Original Story”.

Considered as one of Capra’s best, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” will be released on Blu-ray in Dec. 2014 and the film has received a full restoration in 4K and will be released as a Digibook, with rare behind-the-scenes photos and an all-new essay about the making of the film.

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” begins with the death of U.S. Senator Sam Foley.  Governor Hubert “Happy” Hopper (portrayed by Guy Kibee) must choose a replacement and under the pressure of corrupt political leader Jim Taylor (portrayed by Edward Arnold) to hire a reformer named Henry Hill, Happy’s children pressure him to vote for Jefferson Smith (portrayed by James Stewart), the head of the Boy Rangers.

Torn about who he will vote for, Hopper decides to flip a coin and the winner would be Jefferson Smith, in hopes that this politically naive newcomer will be easy to manipulate.

Junior Senator Jefferson Smith is taken in by his father’s late friend, Senator Joseph Paine (portrayed by Claude Rains).  Not knowing that Senator Paine is working with the corrupt Jim Taylor.

But because the Washington media smells inexperience with Senator Smith, they begin publishing news articles that he is nothing but a country bumpkin, which tarnishes his reputation in Washington amongst his colleagues.  As he tries to fight against the media for trying to hurt him, he is told by many media that he is nothing but a man who follows whatever his political leaders tells him to do.

Senator Smith wants to make a difference but Senator Paine tells him to sit back and to not let it affect him.

Wanting to prove that he is ready for the job as Senator, to assist Senator Smith is his secretary Clarrisa Saunders (portrayed by Jean Arthur), who worked for the late-Sam Foley and knows the political system very well.  Clarissa sees the naive politician as being too good for politics but hearing him want to make a difference with society and wanting him to be important, she suggests that he propose a bill.

And wanting to show his importance, he proposes a bill to his fellow Senators and that is to authorize a federal government loan to buy some land in his home estate for a national boys’ camp, which would be paid back by youngsters across America and while it receives attention from children and the proposal begins to receive donations, Jim Taylor does not like it.

Taylor despises the proposal because the proposed campsite is part of a dam-building scheme included in an appropriation bill  by Taylor and Senator Paine.

And just when things are going right, Taylor and Paine concoct a plan that Senator Smith is profiting from his bill because he owns the land in question.  Senator Smith realizes he is being framed and can’t understand why Senator Paine is trying to frame him for a crime he did not do.  And with the U.S. press picking up a story, Senator Smith’s reputation is tarnished.

Will Senator Smith be able to prove that he is a good man and that the things he was accused for is not true?

VIDEO:

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as white and grays are well-contrast while black levels are nice and deep.  The film shows amazing clarity on Blu-ray showcases the detail of the film in high definition. I did not notice any damage to the film.

Comparing to the original DVD releases that I’ve had, clarity is evident. Sharpness was evident, along with the black levels which were inky and deep. There is a good amount of grain throughout the entire film and no doubt, this is the definitive version of “It Happened One Night” in terms of picture quality!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is presented in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0. The monaural lossless soundtrack is crystal clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Chinese Traditional, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal), Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Frank Capra Jr.
  • Frank Capra Jr. Remembers… “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” - (11:52) Frank Capra Jr. talks about his father and his father working on “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”.
  • Conversations with Frank Capra Jr.: The Golden Years - (17:53) Frank Capra Jr. talks about his father’s work during the 1930’s (The Golden Years of Hollywood).
  • Frank Capra Collaboration - (19:20) Film historians discuss Frank Capra’s influence in cinema.
  • Conversations with Frank Capra Jr.: A Family History - (25:57) A featurette about Frank Capra Jr. talking about his father, Frank Capra coming to America and how his father was to the family.
  • The Frank Capra I Knew – (13:06) Jeanine Basinger, curator of the Frank Capra Archives at Wesleyan University, discusses her working relationship and friendship with Frank Capra.
  • Frank Capra’s American Dream – (1:49:03) The full 1997 documentary about Frank Capra and his cinema work.
  • Trailer – (1:24) The original theatrical trailer  and international trailer for “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”.

EXTRAS:

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” comes in a digibook package with 28-pages.  Featuring photos from the film plus “The Making of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” essay by Jeremy Arnold.

My first introduction to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is perhaps how many adults today have known about the film and that is through school.  In my case, it was shown multiple times during political science class in high school and again in college.  While it was used as an educational tool for the term “fillibuster”, it wouldn’t be until my adult years when I discovered the oeuvre of Frank Capra thanks to “It Happened One Night” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”, that I began to learn and also rediscover Capra’s films with better insight.

But while “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is a film that stood up to political corruption back in the 1939, it is a film that has had its relevance decades later.

Sure, we know there are corrupted politicians and that there are corrupted newspaper media but back then, it was a different time in which Frank Capra was seen as evil, his film to be pro-communist, something that the filmmaker would have to deal with years later, considering that he was a man who loved America, created films beloved by Americans but yet, when he creates a film that is seen as a renegade film to Washington politicians, today’s society would praise it, yesterday’s politicians detested it.

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” marked the end between Frank Capra and with Harry Cohn and Columbia Pictures.  He worked for Columbia Pictures which was seen as a Poverty Row studio, earned them Academy Awards for “It Happened One Night” and for years later, he would become the #1 director in America, but also during wartime, having to work on films that deal with what is happening at war, but also the atrocities that were committed against humanity which would change him before working on “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”.

His eyes saw the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany and to see the crimes of humanity and while his films have always ended with hope, his films would be less about the comedy but also to depict the sad, frailty of human nature.  This can be seen in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and even the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life” which dealt with suicide.

The story was about a good man, wanting to make a difference as a Senator but to quickly learn the dark side of politics behind-the-scenes and how his own friend, would turn against him for the sake of politics.

Both James Stewart and Jean Arthur gave a wonderful performance.  For me, I always am amazed to watch Jean Arthur, may it be on a screwball comedy or a drama film, she was a woman full of anxiety and was so shy that she spent most of her time in her dressing room.

Frank Capra wrote in his book “The Name Above the Title” about Arthur, “Jean Arthur is my favorite actress.  Probably because she was unique.  Never have I seen a performer plagued with such a chronic case of stage jitters.  I’m sure she vomited before and after every scene.  When the cameras stopped, she’d run headlong to her dressing room, locked herself in-and cry.”

For James Stewart, I always thought he gave a wonderful performance faking a man with his throat roached from standing hours of talking.  In truth, a doctor swabbed mercury solution that irritated his vocal chords, to the point that it was hard for him to speak, but yet he gave a wonderful performance nonetheless, making us see and believe Senator Smith.

While I have owned various versions of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” throughout the years, this is no doubt the best version to date.  Fully restored in 4K, the picture quality looks absolutely amazing.  The film is sharp, white and grays are well contrast and black levels are nice and deep.  I saw no blemishes while watching this film and I was absolutely pleased with the overall look of the film.  The lossless soundtrack is in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0.  And another plus to this amazing Blu-ray release is the plethora of special features included.

And last, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is released in digibook format with 28-pages and for anyone who is not familiar with digibook, these are released for a short time and are often changed to the usual casing later on.  If you are a digibook collector, you will definitely want to get this film when it’s released.

Overall, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is a timeless Frank Capra classic that is relevant today and it will continue to remain relevant for many decades to come.  Featuring wonderful direction by Frank Capra and an amazing performance by James Stewart and Jean Arthur, plus a 4K restoration, a digibook release and a great amount of special features about Frank Capra’s oeuvre, this Blu-ray release is highly recommended!

 

As the Light Goes Out (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“As the Light Goes Out” may not be the best firefighting film from Hong Kong, it probably is the more action intense firefighting film to be made thus far!  If anything, don’t dwell too much on the story and accept it as what it is…a popcorn action film with a great number of action scenes.  But the film is exciting and action-packed, and if you are wanting non-martial arts action from Hong Kong, then definitely give “As the Light Goes Out” a try!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Emperor Film Production Company Limited. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: As the Light Goes Out

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 116 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9 widescreen), Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR (Not Rated)

Release Date: November 18, 2014

Directed by Chi-kin Kwok

Screenplay by Chi-kin Kwok, Lai-yin Leung Philip Yung

Produced by  Catherine Hun

Executive Producer: Peter Lam, Albert Yeung

Music by Teddy Robin Kwan, Tommy Wai

Cinematography by Jason Kwan

Edited by Matthew Hui, Hoi Wong

Production Design by Che Kiu Lam

Starring:

Nicholas Tse as He Yong Sen (Sam)

Shawn Yue as You Bang Chau

Simon Yam as Lee Pei Dau

Hu Jun as Hai YAng

Michelle Bai as Yang Lin

William Chan as Chang Wen Jian

Andy On as Ye Zhi Hui

Patrick Tam as Mr. Wan

Cameo by Jackie Chan, Andrew Lau and Siu Yam-yam

It’s Christmas Eve in Hong Kong, and while the residents prepare to celebrate, a dedicated band of brothers – the firefighters of Pillar Point Division (Nicholas Tse, Shawn Yue, Andy On) are dispatched to a warehouse fire. What they find there first plunges the city into darkness, then threatens a far worse fate for them all. When every move could mean sudden death, the bonds between the men are tested, and dangerous truths uncovered. Will they be able to trust each other enough to make it through the night, saving themselves and the city they ve sworn to protect?

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Filmmaker Chi-kin Kwok has been on a streak of hit action films.

From his 2010 film “Gallants” and his 2013 film “Journey to the West”, Kwok leaves the martial arts genre for a little while to focus on his 2014 action/drama film about firefighters trying to survive in “As the Light Goes Out”.

And now the film was released in the United States courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

In HK cinema, we rarely see film about firefighters.  While Johnny To’s 1997 film “Lifeline” is probably the best know Hong Kong film about firefighters, Chi-kin Kwok adds his passion for the action genre in his latest film. But instead of fighting, this time it’s all about survival.

The film revolves around three friends who are firefighters: Sam (portrayed by Nicholas Tse), Yip (portrayed by Andy On) and their senior station officer Chill (portrayed by Shawn Yue).  After a mistake made by Sam, all three agree to take the blame but after Sam and Yip decide to back down, Chill takes the blame for the mishap.

Three years later, Yip has moved up as part of firefighting admin, Chill was demoted and because of that, his marriage had failed.  While Sam, feeling bad about what he did, he has a phobia of fires and is to be transferred to another area, thanks to Yip’s new influence as part of the admin.

The day before Sam is to be transferred to a new station, a fire takes place in a residential area and Sam, Chill, Ocean (who transferred from China) and Major Pui (portrayed by Simon Yam) try to investigate what is causing the fire, but are dismayed by Ocean always wanting to do things on his own to rescue people and not consider his fellow fire fighters.

But while the group were able to finish one fire, they fear that something bad may happen with the natural gas pipes being nearby the area.  The natural gas pipes are what fuels the power for Hong Kong but if the pipes were to go, it would become a major disaster.

But as Yip wants his men to investigate, when Yip arrives and finds out that Sam was making decisions that he was uncomfortable with and lets him know about it, Sam decides to call off any investigation and everyone to return back to the station.

While everyone prepares for Christmas Eve and Sam prepares to be transferred, Sam does his research of the area and tries to tell Yip that he wants to go back.  Yip is angered that Sam called off the investigation and now wants to go back.  He tells him to wait the two hours until their superior arrives and then he could leave.

But instead of waiting, Sam and a few of his men go to check out the power plant.  As Sam and Chill investigate the Power Plant, Chill is unaware that his son and his friends who are at the power plant for a field trip, have wandered off away from the other students.

Meanwhile, Ocean and an employee at the power plant find out that the natural gas pipes are unstable and they must turn it off immediately.  But as they are successful in turning it off, the power plant manager decides to turn them back on which causes a severe blast which disables power all over Hong Kong.

Leaving firefighters trapped inside the power plant along with surviving employees.  Can Sam and his fellow firefighters rescue them in time?  And will Chill be able to rescue his son and his schoolmates who are trapped inside the power plant?

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VIDEO:

“As the Light Goes Out” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:38:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is very good as skin tones look natural and closeups featured great detail.  A lot of the scenes were shot inside a dark room or during the night, but in those instances where there is good lighting, the film looked very good.  During scenes with fire, I didn’t notice any banding issues or artifacts.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“As the Light Goes Out” is presented in Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD MA and due to the number of scenes with action, surround channels are well-utilized and there is a good amount of LFE to capture every blast and explosion.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“As the Light Goes Out” comes a theatrical trailer.

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“As the Light Goes Out” is an action-packed film that showcases Hong Kong firefighters, educating the public of how most people die from smoke inhalation than the fire itself but also the danger of firefighting.

For the most part, this is a disaster film as firefighters are trapped inside an underground power plant.    As one can expect, structures have fallen apart, blocking all exits.  The only way to leave the facility is go through areas where all that is left is pieces of metal, metal bridges that are about to go down at anytime and a bottom that you can’t see anything, but know if you fall over, you’re dead.

But as the beginning of the film sets up how smoke inhalation is how most people die in a fire, we see clouds of smoke and thus, the appearance of smoke (may it be plumes of black smoke or sulfuric yellow smoke) becomes the primary antagonist of the film.

And as one can expect from a major city as Hong Kong being hit with power failure and people trapped in the freeways, people trapped in elevators, all during Christmas Eve and to make things worse, people are dealing with hot and humid weather and what else can add to the misery of the fire fighters…. a typhoon is about to hit them.

If anything, “As the Light Goes Out” is a fascinating and exciting action film that is all about survival and getting out of the building, wondering who lives and who dies and which one will survive by the end of the film.

The film adds a lot of improbable moments mainly for tension.  We see Chill going into the burning power plant in search for his son and at a school field trip, when are field trips conducted with young children at night?  And teachers taking young children’s response that everyone is inside a school bus and they could leave?  There are very few teachers who make stupid mistakes, but this one…it’s too ludicrous.

We are also having to deal with a major catastrophic event after a major tragedy as the fire department loses one of their own.  No investigations, no administrative leave, it’s just a plot to setup a storyline of one firefighter’s guilt.

And was it necessary for actor Andy On speak English, while everyone is speaking Cantonese?

Nevertheless, I do like the cast of this film.  It’s great to see Nicholas Tse in an action role alongside Shawn Yue, Andy On and even Simon Yam.  And it was good to see a few cameos, especially with Jackie Chan and Andrew Lau.

But sometimes the pacing was off and everything was too formulaic to the point that everytime something good is about to happen, you will expect something ten times worse to happen to the main characters.  For example, people try to escape by bridge and then the bridge breaks down.  Another example, just when the coast looks clear for the firefighter and rescuees, we learn that a typhoon is coming out of nowhere, which will push the smoke back inside the building.

With that being said, I can’t really be too critical because even in Hollywood, this is part of the formula of the popcorn action genre.  Action, more action and keep it sustained for nearly two hours.  Making sure that each action sequence outdoes the other previous scene and to give one final bang for the film’s finale.  And in this case, director Kwok follows the formula quite well by making sure that bad things happen over and over again, but those bad things translate into chaotic action scenes.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good, showcasing great clarity and detail and the lossless soundtrack is immerse and sounds fantastic.  But for a film of this magnitude, the fact that there are no special features but its two minute trailer was surprising.

Overall, “As the Light Goes Out” may not be the best firefighting film from Hong Kong, it probably is the more action intense firefighting film to be made thus far!  If anything, don’t dwell too much on the story and accept it as what it is…a popcorn action film with a great number of action scenes.  But the film is exciting and action-packed, and if you are wanting non-martial arts action from Hong Kong, then definitely give “As the Light Goes Out” a try!

Gurren Lagann Volume 1 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“’A mecha anime from the folks at GAINAX that is imaginative, sexy and explosive.  The HD release of “Gurren Lagann Vol. 1″ looks absolutely vibrant and there is only one word to describe this series… Fantastic!”

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


TITLE: Gurren Lagann Vol. 1

DURATION: Episodes 1-5 (125 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: November 11, 2014


Created by GAINAX

Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Assistant Director: Masahiko Ohtsuka

Series Directors: Kazuki Nakashima

Character Designs: Atsushi Nishigori

Mecha Designs: You Yoshinari

Design Works: Shigeto Koyama

Art Director: Yuka Hirama (BIHOU)

Color Design: Harumi Takahoshi

Director of Photography: Toyonori Yamada

Editing: Junichi Uematsu

Sound Director: Tohru Nakano

Music: Taku Iwasaki

Produced by TV Tokyo, DENTSU, Aniplex


Featuring the following voice talent:

Katsuyuki Konishi/Kyle Herbert (as Kamina)

Marina Inoue/Michelle Ruff (as Yoko Littner)

Tetsuya Kakihara/Yuri Lowenthal (as Simon)

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

Daiki Nakamura/Doug Stone (as Dayakka)

Kana Asumi (as Kiyal)

Kana Ueda/Stephanie Sheh (as Kinon)

Kisho Taniyama (as Kittan)

Masaya Onosaka/Steven Blum (as Leeron)

Mitsuki Saiga/Johnny Yong Bosch (as Rossiu)

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Sam Ergal (as Viral)

Rina Satou/Karen Strassman (as Kiyoh)

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


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

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


Fantastic!

It’s the single word that describes how I feel about “GURREN LAGANN″ Vol. 1 released by Aniplex.

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

With this first volume set, we get both vol. 1 (Episodes 1-5)  of “GURREN LAGANN” now available on Blu-ray!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vol. 1 consists of the following episodes:

  1. Episode 1 – Bust through the Heavens with your Drill! - The main episodes that introduces us to Simon, Kamina and Yoko.   The three join forces to take on the monster gunmen.
  2. Episode 2 – I Said I’m Gonna Pilot That Thing!! - With Simon having his own robot and more Gunmen showing up to fight, Kamina decides to get a gunmen mecha all for himself which he names “Gurren”.  But they get some support from the people of Yoko’s village and the village’s top mechanic, Leeron (a savvy and intelligent mechanic but who happens to be gay and not afraid to flirt with Kamina and Simon).  But with Kamina and Simon now having their own mecha’s, they name their team “Gurren Lagann”.
  3. Episode 3 – Who Do You Think You Are, Having Two Faces? - With the defeat of the Beastmen and their Gunmen, Simon, Kamina and Yoko go to hunt for some food but while Kamina retrieves some food, he runs into a Beastman named Viral.  A savage warrior who becomes the major rival for Kamina.
  4. Episode 4 – Having Lots of Faces Doesn’t Make You Great!  – After the battle with Viral,  Simon, Kamina, Yoko and Leeron decide to destroy the Beastmen’s base.  By eliminating it, the group might have that peace that they wanted.  But while looking for food, the group run into another group known as the Black Siblings…friend or foe?
  5. Episode 5 – I Don’t Get It, Not One Bit! - As the group continues on their travels, they end up in another underground village and brought their by a teen named Rosiu.  But in this village, they have their own strict religion and strict rules in which they can only keep their population  at 50 people or less.    Well, things change when a couple has a set of triplets, thus going over the 50-person mark.  So, each person must draw a stick and whoever has a colored stick must leave the village and create a new life up in the surface.

VIDEO:

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gurren Lagann Vol. 1″ comes with the textless opening and ending plus an episode 5 preview (OA Ver.).

EXTRAS:

“Gurren LagannVol. 1″ comes with a slipcase, a double-sided poster and a 16-page booklet featuring creator interviews and an illustration gallery!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This first volume of “Gurren Lagann” comes with a slipcase, a 16-page booklet with interviews and gallery plus a double sided poster.

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

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

November 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

thebubble

“The Bubble” looks and feels like a longer “Twilight Zone” episode with its cheesy moments and acting, but cinematically, the film does have a place in history of being a Space Vision 3-D film that proved its effectiveness back in 1966 and would inspire other films to be shot in Space Vision years later. If you love classic sci-fi films, then “The Bubble” is for you!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Bubble

FILM RELEASE: 1966

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:50:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Color Tinted, English DTS-HD Master Audio

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: November 18, 2014


Written and Directed by Arch Oboler

Produced by Arch Oboler

Associate Producer: Marvin J. Chomsky

Music by Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter

Cinematography by Charles F. Wheeler

Editing by Igo Kantor

Art Decoration by Marvin J. Chomsky


Starring:

Michael Cole as Mark

Deborah Walley as Catherine

Johnny Desmond as Tony Herric

Kassie McMahon as Doctor

Virginia Gregg as Ticket Cashier

Barbara Eiler as Talent


THE BUBBLE is the “”eerie and enjoyable”” (Los Angeles Times) science-fiction spine-tingler that shocked audiences and revolutionized the cinematic world of 3-D! The eye-popping thrills and chills begin when a plane carrying pregnant Catherine (Deborah Walley) and her husband Mark (Michael Cole) is forced to land in a mysterious remote town. The townspeople are quite strange, indeed: they repeat certain phrases and movements ceaselessly and stagger through the streets like brain-dead automatons. Then there is an even more terrifying discovery – the zombie inhabitants live under an impenetrable dome, trapped like insects in a jar. Can Catherine, Mark and their newborn baby escape The Bubble, or will they become mindless drones trapped in a human zoo?
THE BUBBLE introduced the ground-breaking Space-Vision 3-D system, which pioneered a new way of both shooting and exhibiting 3-D film. These single-strip 35mm stereoscopic techniques were used in almost all major 3-D features for the next thirty years, making THE BUBBLE not only an “”amazing”” (Hollywood Reporter) sci-fi thriller, but also an important milestone in the history of cinema. Now fully restored from the 35mm negatives by the 3-D Film Archive.


The year was 1966 and it was the year that Arch Oboler’s 1966 horror sci-fi film “The Bubble” was released in theaters.

Considered revolutionary for its time, the film was the first stereoscopic motion picture filmed in 4-D Space-Vision, a process which utilized a new lens and projection system that enabled high-quality polarized widescreen projection from a single-strip of 35 mm film.

Critics were amazed how Arch Oboler was able to use the technology to make scenes float in front of the screen but it’s important to note that the original filmed that was screened was 112 minutes long but with critics writing that the film should have been edited-down, Oboler cut the film down to 91 minutes and the original footage is now considered lost.

While the film had been released on video, the picture quality was poor.  That was until the rights to the film were acquired in 2009 by the 3D Film Archive and the new owners were shocked to find out that no one had spent the money to preserve the 35 mm master.

And thus a painstaking process of manually cleaning up the dirt and repairing the original film.  For the HD restoration, viewers will also see more of the image as Space-Vision prints were cropped.  As the single splice lines were removed and movie was cleaned up, “The Bubble” on Blu-ray, courtesy of Kino Lorber, will feature a cleaner, sharper and brighter picture.  In addition, Arch Oboler’s spoken introduction from 1966-1968 plus the original opening title which was removed back in 1976, has been added back to the film.

“The Bubble” begins with Mark (portrayed by Michael Cole) and his wife Catherine (portrayed by Deborah Walley) on a plane piloted by Tony Herric (portrayed by Johnny Desmond).

The couple are frantic because Catherine started showing labor pains and there is no doctor or medical facility anywhere close to the mountain area that they are staying.

As Tony tries to communicate with air traffic control, he is unable to because of a severe storm and he has to land the plane quickly as Catherine is about to give birth.

When Tony lands the plane, they end up in an area with lightposts.  A taxi comes by to pick the three up but all the driver does is repeat the same words over and over again.

Mark and Catherine are able to get a hospital and Catherine gives birth to a baby boy.  But as Mark tries to talk to the doctor, his manner is unusual and he doesn’t say a word.

As Mark goes to find Tony, he finds him in a western style saloon and Tony mentions that the bartender keeps repeating the same thing over and over, so it’s “serve yourself” at the bar.  Eventually, Tony meets a dancer who keeps dancing with no music playing at all.

The following morning, Mark notices the town is busy with people but the same people are doing the same routine, saying the same words and behaving unusual as if something bad has happened to them.

As Mark and Tony go to investigate, they find an entrance leading to a chair.  As Tony sits down on the chair, he is immediately taken over by something and starts to behave unusual.

As Mark and Catherine leave with their baby, along with Tony and the dancer, they try to leave the town by vehicle and as they drive, they see their lights reflecting on the surface.  They then realize that the location they are in, is encased by an impenetrable bubble.

With no way to escape or communicate with the outside world, both Mark and Catherine see a woman and her baby being ingested by something that comes out of top of the bubble.  Are they like insects that some supernatural force are keeping captive?  Why are people behaving strangely?  Can Mark, Catherine and Tony escape at all?

 


VIDEO:

“The Bubble” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:50:1 aspect ratio) via 2D and 3-D.

First, lets discuss the 2D presentation.  If you saw a previous release of this film on video, you probably remember how bad the quality of those releases were of this film.  Fortuntely, thanks to the painstaking restoration process by the 3-D Film Archive, of manually cleaning up the dirt and repairing the original film to looking like it originally did.

For the HD restoration, viewers will also see more of the image as Space-Vision prints were cropped.  As the single splice lines were removed and movie was cleaned up, “The Bubble” on Blu-ray, courtesy of Kino Lorber, will feature a cleaner, sharper and brighter picture.  In addition, Arch Oboler’s spoken introduction from 1966-1968 plus the original opening title which was removed back in 1976, has been added back to the film.

While the film has been restored, there was only so much work the 3-D Film Archive could do, especially when there were other means, those other means cost a fortune to do any major restoration work.

With that being said, this film does have its moment of softness but it looks so much better compared to the original video versions which were terrible.  So, fans of this film will be happy to see the better clarity in the 2D version.

Now as for the 3-D version, this is how the film was meant to be seen.  You can watch images float, a tray float around the bar and other situations that made people in 1966 shriek!  While in today’s standards, it may not seem so significant to us but back in 19666, for audiences to see these creepy monster-like heads, hands or things floating around, I have no doubt in my mind that children and possibly adults were scared of the 3-D of this film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Bubble” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Monaural.  Dialogue is understandable and clear, as with the eerie score courtesy of Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter.  But don’t expect too much from this soundtrack.

I didn’t notice any pops or crackle during my viewing of the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Bubble” comes with the following special features:

  • Alternate Opening - View the alternate opening in 2-D or 3-D.
  • Essay by Bob Furmanek – A PDF that can be read about Space-Vision and the 3-D boom of 1953.

After watching “The Bubble”, and going through the motion of putting myself in the shoes of a person watching this film in Space Vision 3-D back in 1966, I can only imagine how mesmerized I would be about 3D technology and seeing objects float thanks to a pair of 3-D glasses.

I remember when I watched a 3-D film for the very first time and I was blown away by the technology and one would think how will technology improve itself.

As 3-D films are quite banal and movies have become more about depth than floating objects that look as they are going directly to your face, watching Arch Oboler’s “The Bubble”, you can see how he was ahead of his time with the development of the technology and why movie goers and film critics went crazy for the film.

But let’s side-step away from the 3-D technology and focus on the film.

“The Bubble” is a film that reminds me of a “Twilight Zone” episode as the film follows three people trying to make an emergency landing and find themselves in a land where people  are acting unusual, replaying their movements over and over and saying the same things over and over.

As the visitors – Mark, Catherine (along with her newborn baby) and their pilot Tony try to getaway from area, they find out that the area and the people living around the area are caught inside an impenetrable bubble and are desperate to get out.  And to make things worse, something is snatching people within the bubble and killing them.

Can they find a way to escape the bubble?

As one can expect from this mid-’60s sci-fi horror film, it has its cheesy, maddening moments.  For one, the people are acting strange and unusual and it doesn’t hit Mark and Tony late that something unusual is going on.    Some of the dialogue between the characters are quite cheesy and some of the acting is quite bad.  Watching it in HD, you can see how the special effects were done as the string holding the floating tray can be seen much more clearly.  But still, I enjoy these cheesy sci-fi films of the past.  I grew up watching them and there is something charming about these older sci-fi films.

While “The Bubble” is far from being scary, the notion of getting stuck inside a bubble or to hear actress Deborah Wally scream her lungs out after a tragedy, plus add in the eerie music and you can’t help but see why people were scared of the film.

And once again, you put yourself in the shoes of viewers back then.  With the 3-D glasses and seeing a tray float or creepy monster heads coming near you, it’s the right combination of using the 3-D technology, eerie music and circumstances surrounding the characters to really spook the viewer out!  And this film accomplished that.

As for “The Bubble”, the film was no doubt cleaned up as best as it could possibly can, considering the original negatives were not taken care of. And with the resources that the 3-D Film Archive had, the group had to manually clean the film as best as they can.  And considering that previous video editions of “The Bubble” were not in the greatest condition, this Kino Lorber version is the definitive version of the film to own.

Not only do you get the 2-D version, but for those with 3-D enabled Blu-ray players and TV’s (or monitors), you can watch and enjoy this film as it was meant to be seen… in 3-D!

While there is an alternative opening in 2-D and 3-D, if you have a Blu-ray rom, you can read a PDF with an essay by Bob Furmanek about the restoration process and the accomplishments of Arch Oboler in creating the Space Vision 3-D (or 4-D as it was called back then).

Overall, “The Bubble” looks and feels like a longer “Twilight Zone” episode with its cheesy moments and acting, but cinematically, the film does have a place in history of being a Space Vision 3-D film that proved its effectiveness back in 1966 and would inspire other films to be shot in Space Vision years later.

If you love classic sci-fi films, then “The Bubble” is for you!

When the Game Stands Tall (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

wtgst-a

 “When the Game Stands Tall” is an inspirational and motivating film about De La Salle High School’s head coach but also how he made his team as successful as they have become, even after the end of their 151-game win streak.  But also how this new team took on another powerhouse football team and overcame adversity.  It may not be the best football film ever made but it was definitely entertaining and uplifting!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: When the Game Stands Tall

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 115 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English and French – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

COMPANY: Affirm Films/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Thematic Material: A Scene of Violence and Brief Smoking)

Release Date: November 18, 2014


Directed by Thomas Carter

Screenplay by Scott Marshall Smith

Story by Scott Marshall Smith, David Zelon

Book by Neil Hayes

Produced by David Zelon

Co-Producer: Adam C. Stone

Executive Producer: Cathy Schulman

Associate Producer: Nathon S. Lewis

Line Producer: Kenneth Burke

Music by John Paesano

Cinematography by Michael Lohmann

Edited by Scott Richter

Casting by Victoria Thomas

Production Design by Jaymes Hinkle

Art Direction by Raymond Pumilia

Set Decoration by Kristin Bicksler

Costume Design by Claire Breaux


Starring:

Jim Caviezel as Bob Ladouceur

Alexandr Ludwig as Chris Ryan

Michael Chiklis as Terry Eidson

Laura Dern as Bev Ladouceur

Clancy Brown as Mickey Ryan

Ser’Darius Blain as Cam colvin

Stephan James as T.K. Kelly

Matthew Daddario as Danny Ladouceur

Joe Massingill as Beaser

Jeessie Usher as Tayshon Lanear

Matthew Frias as Arturo

LaJessie Smith as Jamal

Richard Kohnke as Ricky Salinas


Inspired by the true story, Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) plays high school football coach Bob Ladouceur during the season that changed everything. As coach of the Spartans Football Team, Bob always tells his players that winning doesn’t matter. Yet somehow, with the aid of assistant coach Terry Eidson (Michael Chiklis, TV’s “The Shield”), he’s led the team to a record-breaking 151 straight victories. When his wife Bev (Laura Dern, Jurassic Park) urges him to refocus on his family, Bob is blinded by the pressure to keep the streak alive. Now, in the midst of a season of crisis and tragedy when the Spartans stand to lose everything, a remarkable young player (Alexander Ludwig, The Hunger Games) helps Bob rediscover that teamwork outshines personal glory When The Game Stands Tall.


When it comes to high school athletics, there is one high school that will be remembered for its dominant winning streak of its football team and that is De La Salle High School in Concord, California.

From 1992 to 2004, the high school had the national record of 151-game wins until they were defeated by Bellevue High School outside of Seattle back in 2004.

But behind-the-scenes of De La Salle’s win streak is what was documented in the book “When the Game Stands Tall” by Contra Costa Times sportswriter Neil Hayes, which was released back in 2003. Hayes followed the team for practices, games and meetings and followed the team as it was undefeated during their 2002 season.

Within the story of De La Salle’s win streak, there was also a story of tragedy and also loss and it would inspire writer Scott Marshall Smith to create a screenplay and later lead to a film adaptation loosely based on the book.

Directed by Thomas Carter (“Coach Carter”, “Save the Last Dance”), the film would star Jim Caviezel (“The Passion of the Christ”, “The Thin Red Line”), Alexander Ludwig (“The Hunger Games”, “Race to Witch Mountain”), Michael Chiklis (“The Shield”, “The Commish”, “Fantastic Four” films), Laura Dern (“Jurassic Park”, “Blue Velvet”), Clancy Brown (“The Shawshank Redemption”, “Starship Troopers”), Ser’Darius Blain (“Star Trek Into Darkness”, “Footloose”), Stephan James (“Home Again”, “Selma”) and Matthew Daddario (“Delivery Man”, “Breathe In”).

And now “When the Game Stands Tall” will be released on Blu-ray in December 2014.

“When the Game Stands Tall” introduces us to the dominating football team, the De La Salle Spartans based in Concord, California.

Led by their head coach Bob Ladouceur (portrayed by Jim Caviezel), the team holds its final meeting as team before their championship game.  And as the high school seniors step up and wanting to leave De La Salle as champions, both he and assistant coach Terry Eidson (portrayed by Michael Chiklis) notice that their juniors are not really saying anything at the team meetings.

We see how head Coach Ladouceur handles his meetings, motivates his players and places team sports as a priority more than the streak itself.  But yet, most people are more interested in De La Salle High School’s winning streak.

The team easily defeats their opposition and become champions once again and set a record-setting 151-game wins.

As the team celebrates, while it should be an easier time during the off-season proves to become difficult.

Bob continually receives letters to coach college football which would improve their finances but he is unwilling, meanwhile his wife Bev (portrayed by Laura Dern) wonders when he will take it easy and spend more time with the children as they are getting older.

He also faces problems as the conference are disgusted about how star football players are traveling far distances to attend De La Salle High School instead of allowing them to play for high school in the district that they live.  And so other coaches feel its unfair that De La Salle allows it because they feel its cheating.  But to help appease the coaches, assistant coach Terry Eidson helps calm waters by working on a major game pitting De La Salle High School versus the #1 football team in the country, Poly High School in Long Beach, CA.

But as the head coach tries to handle the stress of his job, he worries about his players.  His senior player Cam Colvin (portrayed by Ser’Darius Blain) has a chance to play college ball and become a pro player but after the death of his mother, Cam is not sure what to do as he has to be there for his younger brother.  Meanwhile, star player Terrance G. Kelly is recruited by the Oregon Ducks, but on the day before he is to go to Oregon, he is shot and killed, while trying to pickup a family member from a party.

The stress would eventually get to Coach Ladouceur who has a heart attack and now is unable to coach.

With the new varsity team which includes the head coach’s son, wide receiver Michael (portrayed by Gavin Casalegno), star running back Chris Ryan (portrayed by Alexander Ludwig) and egotistical wide receiver Tayshon Lanear (portrayed by Jessie Usher) not playing good football and not playing as a team, De La Salle High School loses to Bellvue High School and thus ending the streak, will De La Salle High School ever get back on its feet without their head coach?  Especially with their big game against Poly High School coming up?


VIDEO:

“When the Game Stands Tall” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Picture quality is presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio.  The film looks fantastic in HD as outdoor scenes are vibrant and show very good detail.  Skin tones are natural and black levels are nice and deep.  I didn’t notice any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“When the Game Stands Tall” is presented in English and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English, French and Spanish-Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. Dialogue is crisp and clear, as well as the music! The lossless soundtrack is more dialogue and musically driven, so it’s more front and center-channel driven.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“When the Game Stands Tall” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio CommentaryFeaturing audio commentary with director Thomas Carter.
  • Selected Scenes Audio Commentary – Featuring selected scenes commentary with director Thomas Carter and De La Salle High School head coach Bob Ladouceur.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes - (14:31) Featuring six deleted and extended scenes.
  • Undefeated: Making When the Game Stands Tall – (12:50) A featurette about a movie about the game of football and the book that the film was based on.
  • Gridiron Action – (7:44) How Allan Graf (Second Unit Director/Stunt Coordinator) made sure the hits and tackles look right on film.
  • The Heart and Soul of a Program: Bob Ladouceur – (11:50) A featurette about capturing the style of head coach Bob Ladouceur in a film.

EXTRAS:

“When the Game Stands Tall” comes with an UltraViolet code to allow for streaming to computers, tablets or smartphones.  The Blu-ray release also comes with a DVD version of the film.


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As a football fan, you can’t help but be proud of the De La Salle High School football program and what they were able to accomplish for over 30 years.  And when I saw the trailer for the film, the first thing that came to my mind is if we are going to get a football film along the lines of “Friday Night Lights”, “We Are Marshall” or “Remember the Titans”.

I remember reading the news about former De La Salle High School’s star rushing back Terrance Kelly being shot and killed by an unknown assailant the day before he was to leave to Oregon State.  And to later read that he was mistakenly killed by a thug who thought he was someone he disliked. But the fact is that Terrance happened to be in the wrong part of Richmond and like many people in the crime infested area, he was killed for no apparent reason.

This was a player who did everything right with his life and no matter how much he was protected by his family, protected by his coach and played amazing football, this young man full of promise would not live to live his dream and play college football.

I’ve read about De La Salle beating Poly High School in Long Beach and this would interest me as well, as we played high school football against Poly.

So, I’m a big football fan and I love inspirational football films.  So, I looked forward to watching “When the Game Stands Tall” which is loosely based on De La Salle High School’s amazing run.  I say loosely because the events that happens in regards to players, didn’t happen.  The matchup between De La Salle and Poly did not happen the same year that the team lost against Bellvue in Washington.

But what this story is mostly about is how a team was united because of their coach.  Coach Bob Ladouceur was no doubt a coach who cared about his players.  He cared about their success as individuals, he cared about them playing as a team and was no doubt their rock, who helped them get over their challenges, prepare them each week for their big game but to not be tied into how many wins they had, what’s important is how they work as a team.

And for a great team during De La Salle’s amazing 151-game winning streak, life was not easy.  As a high school head coach, he struggles of taking the big job with a college team.  He struggles with other coaches accusing him of cheating for stealing star players from their district, he has to deal with his players personal issues but despite those challenges, he tries to keep a level head and calmness.  But unfortunately, that stress would lead to him having a heart attack and having to stay away from the game for a little while, and watching the team face difficulties and seeing that the team spirit is slowly deteriorating during practice.

So, we watch as Coach Ladouceur comes back to the field to coach and bring these players back up to speed and to have them believe they can win.

While the film is inspirational and entertaining, the difficulties with a film such as “When the Game Stands Tall” is that the first half, the more dramatic moments happens with its senior players who are graduating.  Audiences start to warm up to these seniors, who are shown during the first half and are no longer or just have a small amount of camera time for the second half.

The storyline shows its strength earlier in the film as it deals with relationships, tragedy and difficulty and as the head coach has a prominent role in the first half, by the second half, too much is invested in the new varsity team as it struggles from losing its first two games and must practice to take on the awesome Poly High School football team.

While Coach Ladouceur is instrumental in the second half, he becomes less of the focus as the storyline focuses on Tayshon Lanear’s ego, Chris Ryan’s father wanting him to beat the touchdown record or Danny Ladouceur’s problems of dropping the ball.  The first half was a storyline that was captivating, the second half is all about the football game between De La Salle vs Poly.  Which I don’t really mind too much at all as the game was exciting to watch.

But there are criticism made by some people who watched the film and wondered why there is discussion of the bible and there are two things to remind those interested in watching the film and that is De La Salle High School is a Catholic High School and Affirm Films is a Christian-based film distribution company.  Is this an preachy Christian film?  No.  But there is discussion of the bible, there is Coach Ladouceur’s speech at T.K.’s funeral and other than that, there is nothing overly-preachy about this film.

But if you are expecting profanity-laced discussions, teenage sex or nudity, “When the Game Stands Tall” is not that type of film.  If you are bothered by the mention of the bible or even God, then this film is not for you.

“When the Game Stands Tall” is an entertaining and inspiring sports film with Christian elements that are not overly preachy.  As a Christian and a person who loves football, it’s great to see Affirm Films backing this film but also to see more quality Christian films be made with better production quality with well-known talent.  I have seen the quality of films distributed by Affirm Films improve within these past five years and it’s great to see a film like “When the Game Stands Tall” being made.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic as a lot of shots are filmed outdoors and picture quality is vibrant.  Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.  While the lossless soundtrack is crystal clear and is more dialogue and music-driven, so expect a more front-channel lossless soundtrack.  As for special features, you get audio commentary, deleted and extended scenes and more!

Overall, “When the Game Stands Tall” is an inspirational and motivating film about De La Salle High School’s head coach but also how he made his team as successful as they have become, even after the end of their 151-game win streak.  But also how this new team took on another powerhouse football team and overcame adversity.  It may not be the best football film ever made but it was definitely entertaining and uplifting!

 

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