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Money Monster (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Depending on the individual watching this film, “Money Monster” can be an entertaining film or just a film mirroring the corruption that exist in the world today that makes us sick.  Or like me, feeling both. So, I do have mixed feelings about the film.  But for those wanting an entertaining thriller, “Money Monster” may be worth your time!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Money Monster

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:39:1), English, French and Portuguese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English – Audio Description Track, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (Simplified), Cantonese (Traditional), French, Indonesian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Language Throughout, Some Sexuality and Brief Violence)

Release Date: September 6, 2016


Directed by Jodie Foster

Screenplay by Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf

Story by Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf

Produced by Lara Alameddine, Daniel Dubiecki, Grant Heslov

Co-Producer: Joseph P. Reidy

Executive-Producer: Tim Crane, Kerry Orent

Cinematography by Matthew Libatique

Music by Dominic Lewis

Edited by Matt Chesse

Casting by Avy Kaufman

Production Design by Kevin Thompson

Art Direction by Deborah Jensen

Set Decoration: Lydia Marks

Costume Design by Susan Lyall


Starring:

George Clooney as Lee Gates

Julia Roberts as Patty Fenn

Jack O’Connell as Kyle Budwell

Dominic West as Walt Camby

Caitriona Balfe as Diane Lester

Giancarlo Esposito as Captain Powell

Christopher Denham as Rob Sprecher


In the real-time, high stakes thriller, George Clooney and Julia Roberts star as financial TV host Lee Gates and his producer Patty, who are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor who has lost everything (Jack O’Connell) forcefully takes over their studio. During a tense standoff broadcast to millions on live TV, Lee and Patty must work furiously against the clock to unravel the mystery behind a conspiracy at the heart of today’s fast-paced, high-tech global markets.


Actress Jodie Foster has come along way as a director since her ’90s films “Little Man Tate” and “Home for the Holidays” and here 2011 film “The Beaver”.

Having focused on television directing for shows such as “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards”, Foster returns as director of the film “Money Monster”.

The film stars George Clooney (“Gravity”, “Ocean’s Eleven”, “Up in the Air”), Julia Roberts (“Notting Hill”, “Closer”, “Pretty Woman”, “Erin Brokovich”), Jack O’Connell (“Unbroken”, “300: Rise of the Empire”, “’71”), Dominic West (“300”, “Chicago”, “John Carter”) and Caitriona Balfe (“Now You See Me”, “Escape Plan”, “Outlander”).

And now “Money Monster” arrives on Blu-ray and DVD in September 2016 courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film begins with an introduction to TV financial expert Lee Gates (portrayed by George Clooney) who hosts the show “Money Monster”, which has been successful thanks to his fun television antics and the support of his longtime director, Patty Fenn (portrayed by Julia Roberts).

When Lee is working on the live airing of “Money Monster”, he was to interview IBIS CEO Walt Camby (portrayed by Dominic West) about the crash of the IBIS Clear Capital stock, which crashed due to a glitch in a trading algorithm which cost investors $800 million.

But because Camby left for a business trip to Geneva, Lee is unable to interview him.

But while filming his show, a deliveryman wanders onto the set of “Money Monster” and pulls out a gun and takes Gates hostage.

The delivery man’s name is Kyle Budwell (portrayed by Jack O’Connell) who invested $60,000, his entire life savings which he inherited from his deceased mother to IBIS, after Lee endorsed the company a month earlier and claimed that it was a safe pick.

Now Kyle is upset that he and other investors lost a lot of money and wants Lee to pay for endorsing the stock.  Kyle forces Lee to put on a vest filled with explosives and that if he doesn’t comply by answering his questions, he will detonate the explosives, which will destroy the building and kill everyone inside the building.

Because the show is live, millions of people all over the world are watching the show.  Many unsure if what is happening is real or fake but after Kyle shoots a big screen, many realize that what is transpiring is very much real and Lee Gates is in big trouble.

As Patty tries to assist Lee via communications through his earpiece, the “Money Monster” staff tries to find the whereabouts of Walt Camby.

Meanwhile, IBIS chief communications officer Diane Lester (portrayed by Caitriona Balfe) and Camby’s girlfriend wants to find answers to why the stock crashed and lost $800 million.  When she contacts a programmer in South Korea, Won Joon (portrayed by Aaron Yoo) tells her that there is no way an algorithm could not take such a large amount of money down, unless a human messed with it.

As police try to find ways to get Kyle to give up, they learn that the receiver of the bomb is located over Lee’s kidney and come up with a plan that in order to prevent the detonation of the bomb, they will shoot Lee with the hope that he survives from the gunshot.

When Patty and her staff get wind of this and relay the information to Lee, how will he respond?  And through the course of the day, what will Lee and his staff find out about the truth of why the IBIS stock lost $800 million?


VIDEO:

“Money Monster is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). For the most part, the majority of the film is shot indoors but the film is well-lit and closeup details are good.  Closeup details of the skin and clothing, skin tones look natural and black levels are nice and deep.  The film looks great in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Money Monster” is presented in English, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The soundtrack is also presented in English – Audio Description Track, Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.

The soundtrack is primarily dialogue with surround channels being used for ambiance (such as crowd scenes) and your occasional gun shots during the film. Overall, lossless soundtrack is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Money Monster” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (2:22) Featuring three deleted scenes.
  • George Clooney: The Money Man – (5:27) A featurette about George Clooney playing the character of Lee Gates and making him this character that can sell financial products.
  • Inside the Pressure Cooker – (9:54) The cast and crew discuss the film and about how everyone is under pressure and time is of the essence.
  • Analysis of a Scene: The Showdown – (7:09) A featurette analyzing the final scene.  (Note: Do not watch this featurette before watching the film as there are spoilers.)
  • Dan the Automator (Feat. Del the Funky Homosapien) – “What Makes the World Go ‘Round (Money!)” Music Video – (3:03)

EXTRAS:

“Money Monster” comes with a slipcover an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


The financial institution is rigged.

This is the message that filmmaker Jodie Foster and writers Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf are cajoling to audiences watching the thriller, “Money Monster”.

George Clooney’s Lee Gates is reminiscent of CNBC’s Jim Kramer but with more pizazz and over-the-top antics that viewers have come to watch and believe in the financial information that he gives to his viewers.

And when Lee Gates tells people about purchasing the IBIS stock, no one expected the stock to tank by $800 million not long after.

But when disgruntled Kyle Budwell, disguised as a delivery man, walks into the newsroom and during a live broadcast, takes Lee Gates hostage and threatens to blow the entire building with a bomb (attached to a vest which is placed on Lee), the cable show garners millions of viewers worldwide, watching everything play out.

Meanwhile, “Money Monster” producer Patty Fenn (portrayed by Julia Roberts) tries to keep her friend/host alive by trying to feed information to him via an earpiece and making sure he doesn’t get himself killed, meanwhile trying to find a way to use the broadcast alongside Lee to figure out the truth of why $800 million of IBIS stock tanked and to find out where is IBIS CEO Walter Camby, who was supposed to be on the show to be interviewed about the crash.

As the “Money Monster” staff work behind the scenes, we see IBIS chief communications officer Diane Lester (portrayed by Caitriona Balfe) doing her research in trying to uncover clues of how IBIS stock tanked so heavily.  Trying to find out how an algorithm glitch could lose many millions of dollars for investors.

But who does the audience sympathize, Lee…the host of “Money Monster”?  Or do they sympathize with Kyle Budwell, a person who used his deceased mother’s $65,000 to invest in the IBIS stock and to lose it all.

Granted, while the character of Kyle Budwell goes beyond madman and some can see him trying to seek answers for those who lost money, we start to see things go wrong in multiple directions, especially with law enforcement.

Police want a sniper to shoot Lee in order to destroy the bomb receiver in the vest.  By shooting Lee and destroying the receiver, you save many people.  And of course, when the “Money Monster” staff find out about this, this does not bode well for them.

Also, when the police decide to bring in Kyle’s girlfriend to help diffuse the situation, they don’t realize how unstable she is.

But we see is a mess of a hostage situation tangled in the corruption that can exist in the financial institution.

Ant that is part of the problem that I had with “Money Monster”, Clooney’s Lee is not supposed to be a strong character but a man who discovers the corruption in the system that he was part of.  The police let you down because they are equally making bad choices in the film, the “Money Monster” staff are just as bad, fornicating in the IT server room.

There is so much corruption in the film that you want to see some accountability and instead you get one major FAIL after the other.   The only person that really stands out in this film is Julia Robert’s Patty Fenn who seems to be the only one making the right decisions.

While the film was made popular for George Clooney and Julia Roberts working together in this film directed by actress/filmmaker Jodie Foster, these three talents collaborating together is quite entertaining and literally makes you want to watch this film.

But a romantic comedy this is not.  This is a film about bad choices and the corruption and filth that rears its dirty head in society.

Added with the bad suggestion by the film’s protagonist, because of the irresponsibility of media and law enforcement, the corruption in the financial institution, watching “Money Monster”, I felt like the characters who are watching the hostage scene take place on television in the movie, disbelief and knowing deep inside that the film reflects reality.

We watch cinema for a true escape (often to get away from reality), but “Money Monster” is less about an escape but a reminder of the messed up things we see day after day in news media about the things that can go wrong, is going wrong, but not just in our country but around the world.

Depending on the individual watching this film, “Money Monster” can be an entertaining film or just a film mirroring the corruption that exist in the world today that makes us sick.  Or like me, feeling both. So, I do have mixed feelings about the film.  But for those wanting an entertaining thriller, “Money Monster” may be worth your time!

Mountains May Depart (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Jia Zhangke has no doubt made another masterpiece with a powerful performance by actress Tao Zhao.  “Mountains May Depart” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Xstream Pictures (Beijing) – MK Productions – Arte France Cinema. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Mountains May Depart

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1, 1:85:1 and 2:35:1), Mandarin and English with Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: July 12, 2016


Directed by Zhangke Jia

Screenplay by Zhangke Jia

Produced by Shozo Ichiyama, Zhangke Jia, Nathanael Karmitz, Shiyu Liu, Zhong-lun Ren

Co-Produced by Patrick Andre, Remi Burah, Zhangke Jia, Nathanael Karmitz, Shiyu Liu, Zong-lun Ren

Music by Yoshihiro Hanno

Cinematography by Nelson Lik-wai Yu

Edited by Matthieu Laciau

Casting by Jacqueline Alliss

Art Direction by Qiang Liu


Starring:

Tao Zhao as Shen Tao

Yi Zhang as Zhang Jinsheng

Jing Dong Liang as Liang Jangjung aka Liangzi

Zijian Dong as Zhang Daole (Dollar)

Sylvia Chang as Mia


Mainland master Jia Zhangke (A Touch of Sin) scales new heights with Mountains May Depart. Starring the luminous Zhao Tao, the film is both an intimate drama and a decades-spanning epic about how China’s capitalist experiment has affected the lives of one splintered family, leaping in time from the past to the present to the speculative near-future. Jia’s new film is an intensely moving study of how China’s economic boom and the culture of materialism it has spawned has affected the bonds of family, tradition, and love.


From award winning filmmaker Jia Zhangke (“A Touch of Sin”, “Still Life”, “The World”) comes his 2015 “Mountains May Depart”.

Known for creating films that revolve around alienation with a minimalist/realist style and themes of alienated youth but also featuring contemporary Chinese history and showcasing Jia’s musical influences, his work has been compared to auteur, Michelangelo Antonioni.

His film “Mountains May Depart” is consistent with the style of his previous films and also would reunite Jia and his wife, actress Zhao Tao (“Platform”, “Still Life”, “With Shun Li and the Poet”) together.

The film also stars Yi Zhang (“Dearest”, “The Golden Era”), Jing Dong Liang (“Platform”, “The World”, “Unknown Pleasures”), Zijian Dong (“Young Love Lost”, “At Cafe 6”, “Young Style”) and Sylvia Chang (“20 30 40”, “Eat Drink Man Woman”, “All About Ah-Long”).

And now, “Mountains May Depart” is available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Mountains May Depart” is a film which features three parts that revolve around characters in 1999, 2014 and 2025.

[Note: Please avoid reading further as the brief synopsis of each part, may contain spoilers]:

The first part is set in 1999 and begins with Shen Tao (portrayed by Zhao Tao) dancing to the Pet Shop Boys song “Go West” with other people.

Shen Tao is a vibrant woman who loves to sing, loves to dance and hangs out with her good friend, a miner named Liangzi (portrayed by Jing Dong Liang).  Tao works with her father selling electronics and just enjoys having fun.

One day, her classmate Zhang Jinsheng (portrayed by Jing Dong Liang) returns back to the village.  Zhang is successful and wealthy and came back to the village to marry the girl of his dreams, Tao.

But despite having a nice car and successful career, he can’t stand that everytime he wants to be alone with her, she brings Liangzi around.  He knows Liangzi likes her, but he thinks that because of his success and wealth, her eyes should be on him.

And he feels that three is a crowd and Zhang tries to find a way to get Liangzi out of the picture, because he feels it’s a love triangle.

The second part takes place 15 years later and it’s 2014.  We see what has happened with Tao and Liangzi as Tao has been divorced from Zhang and she has a son named Zhang Daole (a.k.a. “Dollar”) who lives with his father, going to International School and being raised privileged.  But when tragedy hits, what happens when Tao requests for her young son to visit her for a funeral.

Meanwhile, Liangzi starts to suffer symptoms from working in the mines for a long time.  He is now married with a son and decides to return back to his hometown with his new family.  But with no income, how will he pay for medical care?

The third part is set in 2025 and revolves around a grown up Zhang “Dollar” Daole (portrayed by Zijian Dong) who lives in Australia with his father, Zhang Jinsheng.

Because he was raised in Australia and attended an international school, he and his father are unable to communicate as he speaks English and his father in Mandarin.  They often have to use Google Translate in order to communicate with each other.

He is unhappy living with his father, tired of living his life of going to school and what his father wants him to do and he has not seen his mother in over a decade, he is not sure what to do with his life but he knows he wants freedom.  And that is the freedom to make his own choices without his father’s interference.

But when Dollar starts to become interested in his older teacher, Mia (portrayed by Sylvia Chang), being with her, what major decisions will Dollar make in his life?


VIDEO:

“Mountains May Depart” is a gorgeous film and one that is quite interesting as Nelson Lik-wai Yu shoots the film in 1:33:1, 1:85:1 and 2:35:1 aspect ratios.

Featuring gorgeous scenery and the placement of the characters with mountains or temples in the background, well-framed and placement of characters are quite artistic and wonderful in symmetry and I can see aside from the alienation of its characters but its juxtaposition of people to various buildings, mountains and backgrouns, why Jia Zhangke would be compared to Michelangelo Antonioni.

Picture quality features wonderful detail, skintones look natural, black levels are nice and deep.  At times, there are archived sources used but for the majority of the film,  “Mountains May Depart” is a wonderful looking film on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Mountains May Depart” is presented in Mandarin and English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD MA and the lossless soundtrack is fantastic!  While one can expect crystal clear dialogue and also music, with ambiance, may it be a festival parade or fireworks launching in the air, can be heard via the surround channels.  Music by Yoshihiro Hanno is moving and emotional.

Subtitles feature optional English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mountains May Depart” comes with the following special features:

  • New York Film Festival – (1:13:04) A conversation with Jia Zhangke courtesy of Film Society of Lincoln Center conducted by Dennis Lim.
  • Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Mountains May Depart”.

Watching Jia Zhangke films, you can’t help but be captivated by the film’s beauty, the truth in his films but also understand the plight of alienation surrounding his characters.

Often compared to auteur filmmaker, the master of alienation, Michelangelo Antonioni, “Mountains May Depart” is non-traditional Chinese cinema in the sense that Jia Zhangke creates cinema that needs not to be categorized with other Chinese cinema.

From having a powerful storyline, there are time where we have jarring, colorful club images of random people that breakup the storyline, almost similar to what one were used to seeing of Jean-Claude Godard back in the French Nouvelle years of audio going off and on or imagery that may or may not make sense, we see those little pieces of artistic freedom with his films that is fresh and not a care of whether or not its coherent or incoherent, imagery that fits the timeline that co-exists with the storyline of its characters.

“Mountains May Depart” is rather captivating because of how well the story is crafted.  From the primary female character, Tao dancing to Pet Shop Boys’ “Go West” but then seeing her bubbly and vibrant personality that remains strong until she becomes part of a love triangle and must decide on whether or not to divert her attention to the poor but kind Liangzi or the crude, narcissistic and wealthy Zhang.

And we see the tensions start to simmer in this love triangle as Tao looks at Liangzi as a friend, Zhang looks at Liangzi as a man who gets in the way and very much believes in “Three’s a crowd”.

But how beautiful does the film get when it’s storyline weaves into the future.  As Tao has made her choice of a man but we see the result for each of the three individuals.

While I don’t want to spoil the film, this is where Jia Zhangke’s focus of human alienation comes into play.  Choices that we make, are we always happy with them.  But what if you are not happy, life goes on and you deal with with the repercussions of the choices one makes.

The film is visually moving, the story is absolutely captivating and melancholic and “Mountains May Depart” is a film that touches your soul!

Jia Zhangke has no doubt made another masterpiece with a powerful performance by actress Tao Zhao.  “Mountains May Depart” is highly recommended!

Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Star Wars Rebels” Season Two is fantastic! The adventures, the action, the characters and great writing make the entire series, so worth watching! In fact, I enjoyed this season season even more than the first. A lot of action, great use of returning characters from “The Clone Wars” and more! “Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two

TV AIRING: 2015-2016

DURATION: (Episodes 1-22) 485 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio), English and French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: TV Y7 FV

Release Date: August 30, 2016


Directed by Dave Filoni, Bosco Ng, Brad Rau, Saul Ruiz, Melchior Zwyer

Written by Simon Kinberg, Carrie Beck, Dave Filoni, George Lucas, Hank Gilroy, Kevin Hopps, Greg We, Steven Melching, Matt Michnovetz, Bill Wolkoff

Producer: Kiri Hart, Athena Yvette Portillo

Executive Producer: Davi Filoni, Simon Kinberg, Greg Weisman

Co-Executive Producer: Henry Gilroy

Associate Producer: Carrie Beck

Music by Kevin Kiner

Edited by Alex McDonnell, Joe E. Elwood

Casting by Aaron Drown

Art Direction by Kilian Plunkett


Starring:

Vanessa Marshall as Hera Syndulla

Freddie Prinze Jr. as Kanan Jarrus

Steve Blum as Zeb Orrelios

Taylor Gray as Ezra Bridger

Tiya Sircar as Sabine Wren

Dee Bradley Baker as Rex

Ashley Ekstein as Ahsoka Tano

Keone Young as Commander Sato

Jason Isaacs as The Inquisitor

Stephen Stanton as Grand Moff Tarkin

Liam O’Brien as Yogar Lyste

James Earl Jones as Darth Vader

Matt Lanter as Anakin Skylwalker


The epic battle to defeat the evil Empire continues in STAR WARS REBELS: COMPLETE SEASON TWO! As Ezra continues his journey to become a Jedi under Kanan’s guidance, the crew of the Ghost bands together with a secret rebel cell and ex soldiers from the Clone Wars to join a fledgling alliance to restore peace and freedom to the galaxy. But the dark side looms large as Darth Vader dispatches new Inquisitors, setting the stage for a climactic showdown in which terrible truths will be revealed and the lives of our heroes will be changed forever.


Darth Vader has sent an order for the Empire to hunt down the Rebels and the Ghost crew members must decide if they want to join the Rebels or stay out of the fight.

Meanwhile, the Ghost crew meet up with Ahsoka Tano’s rebel cell and Darth Vader pursues them and finds out about Ahsoka’s existence.

What will happen to the Ghost crew as they assist the Rebels and why is Darth Vader so intent of capturing Ahsoka?

Find out in “Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two”!

What is “Star Wars Rebellion”?

With the completion of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” comes a new American 3D CGI animated television series from Lucasfilm and Lucasfilm Animation titled “Star Wars Rebels”.

Set 14 years after “Revenge of the Sith” and five years before “New Hope”, “Star Wars Rebels” takes place during a time when nearly all jedi’s have been hunted and killed and the Galactic Empire rules the galaxy.

With a total of 13-episodes, the series features a visual style that is inspired by the original “Star Wars” trilogy concept art by Ralph McQuarrie.

“Star Wars Rebels” will now be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Disney.

“Star Wars Rebels” begins with an introduction to a young teenage thief named Ezra Bridger (voiced by Taylor Gray) who lives in the Empire-controlled planet, Lothal.

One day, Ezra tries to steal a shipment from the Empire, but also after the shipment is the crew of The Ghost.

The crew consists of Ghost crew leader and Jedi survivor Kanan Jarrus (voiced by Freddie Prinze, Jr.); pilot and owner of the Ghost, the Twi’lek named Hera Syndulla (voiced by Vanessa Marshall); weapons and explosives expert and Mandalorian graffiti artist Sabine Wren (voiced by Tiya Sircar); the tough Lasat honor guard Zeb Orrelios (voiced by Stephen Blum) and Hera’s droid C1-10P a.ka. “Chopper”.

After saving Ezra from doom, because of his skills of survival, the crew of the Ghost invite Ezra to join their crew. And because Ezra is able to sense things with the Force, Kanan accepts Ezra as his padawan and to help him control his newfound power.

As any word of rebels rebelling against the Empire can create the potential of insurgencies, Darth Vader sends his Inquisitors (an agency of the Dark Jedi in the Galactic Empire) to go after the crew of the Ghost and his former Padawan.


VIDEO:

“Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). “Star Wars Rebels” features its own unique visual style and for the most part, it’s pretty cool to see how much detail is put into the space vehicles and the planets.

While closeups do show skin detail and the lips match the dialogue really well, the Stormtroopers and robots have lights of the interior of the vehicles bouncing of their uniforms and for the most part, the series features really good lighting effects.  The vehicles also are well-rendered.

Granted, the CG animation is subjective to the viewer if one likes the visuals of the CG animated series, but for me, I felt the series was well-animated and there was great attention in creating the various worlds, vehicle usage and also overall effects were well-done.

I did not notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of each episode.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two” is presented in English and French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital with subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.

I would say that I’m a bit surprised that the series on Blu-ray does not utilize a DTS-HD Master Audio track like the final three seasons of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” but in this case, they decided to go with an English 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.

While dialogue is crystal clear, especially the John Williams musical score and light saber sound effects and utilizing the surround channels for the action sequences, it would have been awesome to have a lossless soundtrack for the Blu-ray release.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two” comes with the following special features:

  • Rebels Recon – 22 featurettes from “Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two” that were featured on StarWars.com.
  • Connecting the Galaxy: Rebels Season 2 – (3:28) Easter eggs featured in season two of “Star Wars Rebels”.
  • From Apprentice to Adversary: Vader vs. Ahsoka – (6:00) Dave Filoni discusses the confrontation between Ahsoka and Vader.

EXTRAS:

“Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two” comes with a slipcover and a DisneyMovieRewards code.


For fans of “Star Wars Rebels”, one will love the second season for showcasing more Darth Vader and for “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” fans, the series featuring more of Jedi, Ahsoko Tano (Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan apprentice) and Clone Captain Rex (a.k.a. CT-7567).

And as the Ghost crew take part in more Rebel missions, one of them includes working under Princess Leia.

And with Darth Vader finding out that his former Padawan is still alive after the slaughter of Jedi’s after Order 66, he sends his Inquisitors (Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister) to hunt down after her and other surviving Jedi’s.  So, Kanan and Ezra are targets as well.

But this season also features a few individual and team building episodes.  From Ezra searching for his parents and finding out what happened to them, to Hera having to come across her father, the famous Twi’lek resistance fighter Cham Syndulla, Zed, Sabine and even Chopper have their own stories.

But for this season, I feel that many fans will enjoy the episodes featuring Ahsoka investigating Darth Vader, Kanan’s worries about Ezra’s temper and everything else that culminates in the surprising, final episode of the second season.

But I’m really enjoying the character dynamics of the Ghost Crew for this second season.

As there are rebel cells in the galaxy who fight the oppression of the Empire, “Star Wars Rebels” is fairly interesting as the Ghost Crew consists of a Jedi and a thief turned jedi-in-training plus a tough Lasat honor guard that young male audiences can enjoy, the show also takes a step in the right direction of including two strong female characters.

You have a Twi-lek owner and pilot of the Ghost and female teen graffiti artist in Mandalorian outfit and helmet and is a weapons expert. So, you have a good balance of characters that will no doubt entertaining both male and female audiences and it’s centered around the whole “Star Wars” universe, so you can definitely expect to see well-known “Star Wars” characters, and for season two, expect to see Darth Vader and Princess Leia.

And for fans of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, many will be happy to see the return of Jedi Ahsoka Tano (who was the Padawan apprentice of Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”), but this time as an adult and Rex, who is now much older.  Also, the pirate Hondo Ohnaka also makes a return in the second season of “Star Wars Rebels”.

I also enjoyed the storyline progression of Kanan and Ezra’s jedi training and the possible fears of Ezra’s behavior.  Which are fears that are most warranted considering what happened to Annakin Skywalker.

But the confrontation between Ahsoka Tano and Darth Vader was something that many fans have been waiting for and so “Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two” delivered in this long awaited confrontation!

I felt that the overall writing and voice acting for the series is fantastic. Each episode is adventurous and also full of peril and each episode features something with a character(s) that has an effect in the next or later episodes. So, unlike animated series which tend to have its own isolated episode with no connection to each other, “Star Wars Rebels” episodes have a connection which I enjoyed.

As for the Blu-ray release, I absolutely enjoy the visual look of “Star Wars: Rebels”. Great character and mechanical designs that feature detailed CG that look vibrant on Blu-ray. I did not notice any artifacts or banding issues. As for the soundtrack, unfortunately it’s not a lossless soundtrack, but it’s still a strong 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack featuring clear dialogue, music and special effects.

As for special features, the series comes with plenty of special features including 19 Rebels Recon featurettes as featured on StarWars.com.

Overall, “Star Wars Rebels” Season Two is fantastic! The adventures, the action, the characters and great writing make the entire series, so worth watching!  In fact, I enjoyed this season season even more than the first.  A lot of action, great use of returning characters from “The Clone Wars” and more!

“Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two” is highly recommended!

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

August 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Spiders” is a Blu-ray release worth watching.   You often don’t come upon a silent film release in which its main protagonist has that James Bond suave look, characters traveling to exotic locations and action sequences in different parts of the world.  If you are a cineaste who is passionate about Fritz Lang’s oeuvre especially his very early works, this Blu-ray release featuring both episodes of Fritz Lang “The Spiders” films is a fine addition to add in your silent cinema collection!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Pitcher’s Mound Productions LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Spiders (Die Spinnen)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: (1919)  The Spiders – Episode 1: The Golden Sea (Die Spinnen, 1. Teil – Der Goldene See), (1920) The Spiders – Episode 2: The Diamond Ship (Die Spinnen, 2. Teil – Das Brillantenschiff)

DURATION: (1919)  The Spiders – Episode 1: The Golden Sea (Die Spinnen, 1. Teil – Der Goldene See – 69 Minutes), (1920) The Spiders – Episode 2: The Diamond Ship (Die Spinnen, 2. Teil – Das Brillantenschiff – 104 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: Color Tinted, 1:33:1, Intertitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber Inc.

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2016


Episode One: The Golden Sea

Directed by Fritz Lang

Written by Fritz Lang

Produced by Erich Pommer

Music by Max Josef Bojakowski

Cinematography by Karl Freund, Emil Schunemann

Production Design by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrich Umlauff, Hermann Warm

Costume Design by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrcih Umlauff, Hermann Warm

Episode Two: The Diamond Ship

Directed by Fritz Lang

Written by Fritz Lang

Produced by Erich Pommer

Cinematography by Karl Freund

Art Direction by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrich Umlauff, Hermann Warm

Costume Design by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrich Umlauff, Hermann Warm

 


Starring:

Carl de Vogt as Kay Hoog

Ressel Orla as Lio Sha

Georg John as Dr. Telphas

Lil Dagover as Sonnenpriesterin Naela

Rudolf Lettinger as Terry Landon

Friedrich Kuhne as All-Hab-Mah

Meinhart Maur as Chinese/Bucherwurm

Paul Morgan as Jude/Diamantenexperte

Edgar Pauly as Vierfinger-John

Reiner Steiner as Kapitan des Diamantenschiffs

Thea Zander as Ellen Terry


With this exotic adventure film, director Fritz Lang established himself as a master of epic storytelling, a talent that would reach its pinnacle in such monumental films as Metropolis and Die Nibelungen. Influenced by the French serials of Louis Feuillade (Fantômas) and infused with Lang s own fascination with Asian culture, THE SPIDERS follows international adventurer Kay Hoog (Carl de Vogt) in his quest for Incan gold and the precious Buddha s head diamond. Along the way, he must contend with an organization of criminal spies known as The Spiders, who will employ any form of treachery, including murder, to snatch the artifacts from his possession.


Many decades before Steven Spielberg and George Lucas would create the “Indiana Jones” films, back in the 1919, Austrian filmmaker Fritz Lang would write and direct his adventure epic “The Spiders (Die Spinnen)”.

It all began not long after Lang was discharged from the Austrian Army, having been wounded in combat, Lang would use his time during his recovery to write ideas he had for films.  As an actor for the Viennese theater circuit, he was hired at Decla, which was a Berlin-based production studio led by producer Erich Pommer.

During the early stages of his career, Fritz Lang would create art films but his popular thriller “The Spiders” was known for combining German Expressionist techniques and popular mainstream cinema and in essence, it was considered as art house cinema.

And for many decades, this film had been considered lost until it was discovered in the 1970’s.  While a restoration was done in 1978 and released on DVD in 1999.  A new restoration was commissioned from a tinted 35mm print and footage that was not included in the 1999 DVD release was added to the 2012 DVD release courtesy of Kino Lorber Inc.  And now in 2016, the film receives a remastered HD version as “The Spiders” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“The Spiders” is considered to be the beginning of the golden age of silent cinema.  Originally, there was a planned trilogy but only two films were created.

The first episode “The Golden Sea” begins with a man escaping from the Inca’s who are planning to use him as a sacrifice. The man, a Harvard professor who has been missing since his travel to Peru,  writes a note, which he puts into a bottle and throws it off to the ocean before being speared.

We are then introduced to Kay Hoog (played by Carl de Vogt), a sportsman who is attending a high society party for those involved in a major yacht race from San Francisco to Japan.  But Kay is not planning to take part in the competition as he found a bottle in sea from the missing Harvard professor that said there is treasure located inside a temple of a lost Incan civilization.  Coordinates were included and now Kay hopes to travel to that area and find some treasure.

But also attending the party is Lio Sha, the head of a secret criminal organization known as the Spiders now wants that information that Hoog possesses.  And immediately, they break into Hoog’s home and steals the treasure map.

It’s a race against time as Hoog begins his expedition to find the treasure at the lost Incan civilization and hopefully get it before the Spider’s can.  But in return for them stealing his map, Hoog ends up stealing an even more important map from the Spiders on the location of The Diamond Ship.

As Kay is wanted by the Spiders and everyone trying to find the lost treasure, Kay encounters the beautiful Priestess of the Sun named Naela.  But with the Incan’s aware that there are outsiders in their area, who will live and who will die?

In episode two, “The Diamond Ship”, after facing a major tragedy caused by the hands of the Spiders, they have now made things personal for Kay.

With the Spiders now seeking a diamond on the “Diamond Ship”, the Spiders hope with the possession of the Buddha head diamond will release Asia from tyranny.  And Lio Sha believes that the diamond may be in the possession of a millionaire named Terry Landon (played by Rudolph Lettinger).  But when the Spiders do not find it, they kidnap his daughter Ellen (played by Thea Zander) and will not release her until they get the diamond.

But since Kay has the information about the Diamond Ship which he stole from the Spiders, perhaps he can find it and help bring Ellen back home.


VIDEO:

“The Spiders” is presented in 1:33:1 and is color-tinted from sepia to red.  It’s important to note that the color-tinting is not the same as the 1999 Image Entertainment DVD release.  With the new restoration that was done by the Blazena Urgosikova and Ingrid Tetkova, the main goal was to introduce some of the missing footage but also to fix the speed of the film.

With the original 1999 DVD release, there were silent film fans who were critical that “The Spiders” was a bit too fast.  I personally have not seen the 1999 DVD release but have read that the new restoration does fix that problem.  Personally, movements seemed natural to me and not overly sped up or too slow.

As for picture quality, as one can expect from a film that is 90-years-old, you are going to see some scratches but in the context of silent films, “The Spiders” looks very good and doesn’t have any major nitrate damage, warping, blurring or blackening on the film print.

While it’s not my preference to see a lot of red color tinting in the film (as I’m so used to seeing sepia, orange, blue and green), I am not too sure of the differences of the color tinting from the previous Dave Shepard restoration.

As for those who owned the Kino Lorber 2012 DVD release, you will be pleased to know that the 2016 Blu-ray releases looks even better in HD as details are much more evident.  Black levels are much sharper, gray and white scenes are well-contrast and the film just looks a bit better.  Sure, the film has not been restored, scratches still remain but this is the best I have seen of “The Spiders” yet!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Spiders” is presented in lossless stereo with English intertitles.  The music featured on this Blu-ray releases is the same Ben Model score that was featured in the 2012 Kino Lorber DVD release.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Spiders” does not come with any special features.


The release of “The Spiders” on Blu-ray is fantastic!

Compared to the older 1999 DVD release of “The Spiders”, this 2016 version is superior not only in picture quality because it’s presented in HD  because it includes lost footage and is also presented in a corrected speed.

The original Image Entertainment DVD ran for 137 minutes, this new version is 170 minutes long (which is possibly the newer footage and the slowing down of speed).  According to the credits, this version was licensed by Transit Film on behalf of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and archival sources were from the Cinematheque Royale de Belgique and Filmovych laboratorich Barrandov Praha.

“The Spiders” was an intriguing and surprising adventure epic.

Sure, “The Spiders” was shot many decades before the Indiana Jones films and sure, the technology involved in production has evolved a lot since 1919 and 1920 but considering what was accomplished on this film, there was a decent amount of production in recreating the Incan civilization with its appearance of Incan carved rocks in the first film and a lot of focus on makeup and costume design for both films.

The first film “Episode One: The Golden Sea” was enjoyable as you get the suave adventurer/sportsman Kay Hoog.  With the tuxedo and the slicked back hair and look that seemed more like a prototype to a James Bond film, “The Spiders” had style but it also had an intriguing story with Kay trying to get to the treasure before his adversaries, the criminal organization the Spiders and their leader Lio Sha gets to it.

And for 1919, the overall storyline was adventurous and intriguing but it’s that extra touch at the end which you don’t expect, that made the first film so much more enjoyable and exciting and making you want to see the sequel.

But one you do watch the sequel, “Episode Two: The Diamond Ship”, I felt that the second film was rushed as Fritz Lang tried to incorporate too much and focus more on the adventures and action than the storyline itself.

While it was intriguing to see Kay Hoog going underground in China Town to find Lio Sha and the Spiders, everything afterward seemed as if it was not well-planned.  As much as I enjoyed the fact that Lang wanted to take the viewer from one location to another, unfortunately, it’s not executed all that well.  There were far too many characters and unlike the first film which tried to narrow things down between Kay Hoog and Lio Sha, the storyline was all over the place.

But bare in mind, this was Fritz Lang’s earlier work, done way before “Metropolis”, “Spies”, “M” and his “Dr. Mabuse” films, but there is no doubt that with Lang working on these two films, he would improve significantly a few years later to take on films such as “Destiny” (1921), “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” (1922) and “Siegfried” (1924).

For any Fritz Lang cinema enthusiasts, “The Spiders” is essential viewing if you want to see Lang’s earlier work but how he tries to integrate German expressionism and arthouse with a action/adventure theme.  Whether or not it’s good, it is all subjective but I enjoyed “The Spiders”, the first episode a lot more than the second.  But for any cineaste, one can see how much Fritz Lang evolved in filmmaking during the 1920’s and eventually for hardcore fans, how much his work has changed when he left to work in America.

Overall, “The Spiders” is a Blu-ray release worth watching. You often don’t come upon a silent film release in which its main protagonist has that James Bond suave look, characters traveling to exotic locations and action sequences in different parts of the world. If you are a cineaste who is passionate about Fritz Lang’s oeuvre especially his very early works, this Blu-ray release featuring both episodes of Fritz Lang “The Spiders” films is a fine addition to add in your silent cinema collection!

Maggie’s Plan (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

maggiesplan

“Maggie’s Plan” is a contemporary romantic comedy that goes against the usual Hollywood trend of happily ever after. Because of this, it may not be for everyone, but for those who are open to a contemporary romantic comedy, may find Rebecca Miller’s “Maggie’s Plan” to be smartly written, delightful and entertaining. “Maggie’s Plan” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Lilly Harding Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Maggie’s Plan

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 124 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, English, 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Russian VO, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Russian, Thai, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Some Language and Brief Sexuality)

RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2016


Directed by Rebecca Miller

Written by Rebecca Miller

Story by Karen Rinaldi

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

Produced by Gabor Rajna, Gabor Sipos

Executive Producer: Judit Stalter

Associate Producer: Robert Vamos

Line Producer: Krisztina Pinter

Music by Laszlo Melis

Cinematography by Matyas Erdely

Edited by Matthieu Taponier

Casting by Eva Zabezsinszkij

Production Design by Laszlo Rajk

Art Direction by Hedvig Kiraly

Set Decoration by Dorka Kiss, Judit Varga

Costume Design by Edit Szucs


Starring:

Greta Gerwig as Maggie

Bill Harder as Tony

Ethan Hawke as John Harding

Maya Rudolph as Felicia

Julianne Moore as Georgette

Wallace Shawn as Klieger

Mina Sundwall as Justine

Jackson Frazer as Paul


In Rebecca Miller’s witty romantic comedy, Maggie (Greta Gerwig) is a vibrant New Yorker, who without success in finding love, decides to have a child on her own. But when she meets John Harding (Ethan Hawke), an anthropology professor and struggling novelist, she falls in love for the first time. Complicating matters, John is in an unhappy marriage with Georgette (Julianne Moore), an ambitious academic who is driven by her work. With some help from Maggie’s eccentric best friends, married couple Tony (Bill Hader) and Felicia (Maya Rudolph), Maggie sets in motion a new plan that intertwines their lives and connects them in surprising and humorous ways.


From filmmaker/writer Rebecca Miller (“The Private Lives of Pippa Lee”, “The Ballad of Jack and Rose”, “Personal Velocity”) comes her romantic comedy, “Maggie’s Plan”.

Based on an original story by Karen Rinaldi, the film stars Greta Gerwig (“Frances Ha”, “Mistress America”, “No Strings Attached”, “Greenberg”), Ethan Hawke (“Gattaga”, “Before Sunset”, “Before Sunrise”, “Training Day”), Julianne Moore (“The Big Lewbowski”, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”, “The Kids Are All Right”), Bill Hader (“Superbad”, “Saturday Night Live”), Maya Rudolph (“Bridesmaids”, “Gattaca”, “Idiocracy”), Wallace Shawn (“The Princess Bride”, “My Dinner with Andre”, “Personal Velocity”) and Travis Fimmel (“Warcraft”, “Vikings”, “The Baytown Outlaws”).

And now “Maggie’s Plan” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The film revolves around Maggie (portrayed by Gerta Gerwig), a woman in New York who likes to have everything organized and kept in c0ntrol in her life.  And now Maggie desires to become a single mother despite her best friend Tony (portrayed by Bill Hader) telling her it’s not a good idea.

Wanting her college friend Guy (portrayed by Travis Fimmel) to donate his sperm, so she can inseminate herself, things take an unexpected turn when she has an affair with a ficto-critical anthropologist named John (portrayed by Ethan Hawke).

John is married to a Columbia University Professor named Georgette (portrayed by Julianne Moore) and his marriage is falling apart.  She is consumed by work and feeling that he is not getting anything in the marriage.

And so, as Maggie and John have an affair and Maggie gets the child that she wants, while the child was what she always wanted, is John supposed to be in her life?  Or does she feel that John was supposed to be with Georgette?


VIDEO:

“Maggie’s Plan” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). Overall picture quality shows amazing detail during closeups. Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.  Many solid outdoor shots to bring a New York feel to the film.   The film looks great in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Maggie’s Plan” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Also, an English- Audio Description Track Dolby Surround, Russian VO and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.

The lossless audio for “I Saw the Light” features crystal clear dialogue and music. Surround sound usage is primarily for crowd ambiance but for this soundtrack, the film is primarily dialogue and music driven.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), French, Russia and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Maggie’s Plan” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Rebecca Miller
  • Controlling Fate: The Making of Maggie’s Plan – (15:52) Director Rebecca and the cast discuss the film’s modern romance and how “Maggie’s Plan” is a contemporary story.
  • Outtakes – (7:21) Outtakes from “Maggie’s Plan”.
  • Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival – (11:29) Featuring the Q&A from “Maggie’s Plan” at the Sundance Film Festival.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Maggie’s Plan”.

EXTRAS:

“Maggie’s Plan” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


With many romantic comedies, they are typically about traditional romance and finding love and sometimes a story that is happily ever after.

“Maggie’s Plan” is a contemporary story that takes the traditional romance story and flips it upside down and what if the woman finds out the man was probably best with the woman he was originally in a relationship with.

The film also takes a modern look at the independent woman who wants to have a child but not be in a relationship.

So, “Maggie’s Plan” is very different from your average romantic comedy and for those looking for sparkle and finding true love at the end, may find “Maggie’s Plan” to be disappointing.  But for those who embrace a different and modern storyline of a woman making her own decisions, control of her own destiny and when she finds a guy that she thinks she loves but then feels… maybe not.  Then this film is for you.

The film revolves around the charming Greta Gerwig who has a career but now wants to have a child.  And in wanting to have a child, she’s not going to go through any major scientific process of having it professionally done, she is hoping one of her male friends can donate their sperm and she finds out that her college friend, a math wize named Guy will donate his sperm to her and she will inseminate herself.

Greta feels that she is ready to be a mother and that she knows that she is not a person that can stay with someone for more than six months.  And she wants to do this within four months, after she saves enough money.

In a way I enjoyed the film for its honesty.  These are things that some people (especially people that I know) feel and they make their own choices which goes against traditional society ways of thinking.  So, I appreciate the film for showing a different side of how romance starts, romance ends but in the end, just staying honest with the characters, no matter how educated and flawed they may be, no one is put in a pedestal.  It’s really an honest portrayal.

May it be Maggie with John, Maggie and her friends, Maggie with Georgette or Maggie with her young daughter.

I love the quirkiness of Maggie and I also enjoyed the film’s use of improvisation and while some may find areas of vocal stammering in a film due to the improvisation and not a smooth delivery, again, I enjoy how the film is natural, smartly written and conversations are entertaining while not complex as a Eric Rohmer film, I enjoyed “Maggie’s Plan” for its characters and smart dialogue.

I felt Greta Gerwig did a wonderful job in portraying Maggie.  It’s a quirky but smart performance which I enjoy seeing her do in films such as “Damsels in Distress” and “Frances Ha”.  And she absolutely shines in “Maggie’s Plan”.

Although, it was a little unusual to see Julianne Moore with speaking with a foreign accent but I’ll leave it up to the linguistics erudite on whether or not they felt her accent was up to par.

The Blu-ray looks great in HD.  Closeups are full of detail, outdoor scenes are vibrant, skintones look natural and for the most part, the film looks very good in HD!  The lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music and also is adequate for this type of film.  As for special features, you get an entertaining audio commentary, featurette and also hilarious outtakes.

Overall, “Maggie’s Plan” is a contemporary romantic comedy that goes against the usual Hollywood trend of happily ever after.  Because of this, it may not be for everyone, but for those who are open to a contemporary romantic comedy, may find Rebecca Miller’s “Maggie’s Plan” to be smartly written, delightful and entertaining.

“Maggie’s Plan” is recommended!

The Empire of Corpses (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

empireofcorpses

M”The Empire of Corpses” is an an animated film that is complex, smartly written, featuring wonderful animation and art backgrounds but while entertaining, the film may prove to be too complex for some viewers and thus may require multiple viewings in order to grasp the storyline. But if you are looking for a beautiful and smartly written animated film, “The Empire of Corpses” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2016 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Empire of Corpses

DURATION: 120 Minutes

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: July 5, 2016


Directed by Ryoutarou Makihara

Screenplay by Hiroshi Seko, Koji Yamamoto, Midori Gotou

Original Creator: Project Itoh, Toh Enjoe

Original Character Design: redjuice

Character Designs by Takaaki Chiba

Chief Animation Director: Hirotaka Kato, Takaaki Chiba

Mechanical Design by Gorou Murata, Hitoshi Fukuchi, Junjya IShigaki, Shinobu Tsuneki

Art Direction by Yusuke Takeda

Music by Yoshihiro Ike

Anime Production: Wit Studio


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ayumu Murase/Todd Haberkorn as Friday/Noble_Savage_007

Kana Hanazawa/Morgan Garrett as Hadaly Lilith

Taiten Kusunoki/J. Michael Tatum as Frederick Barnaby

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Jason Liebrecht as John H. Watson

Akio Ohtsuka/Sean Hennigan as M

Daiki Yamashita/Micah Solusod as Nikolai Krasotkin

Shinichiro Miki/Mike McFarland as Alexei Karamazov

Houko Kuwashima/Caitlin Glass as Moneypenny


From the studio that produced Attack on Titan comes The Empire of Corpses, a captivating historical action thriller based on a Phillip K. Dick Award winning novel by Project Itoh. In an alternate version of 19th century London, the world has been revolutionized by “corpse reanimation technology” creating armies of undead who serve the living as laborers across the globe.

In an attempt to revive his dearly departed friend, young medical student John Watson becomes obsessed with replicating the work of Dr. Victor Frankenstein – the legendary corpse engineer whose research produced the only re-animated corpse to possess a soul. But when his illegal experiments put him at odds with the British government, Watson is drafted into a worldwide race to find the lost research notes of Victor Frankenstein before the secrets of the human soul fall into the wrong hands.


From anime production studio Wit Studio and director Ryoutarou Makihara (“Hal”, “Umi Monogatari”) comes “The Empire of Corpses” (Shisha no Teikoku).

An animated film adaptation of Project Itoh (creator of “Harmony and “Genocidal Organ”) and Toh Enjoe’s novel, the film was released in Japan in 2015 and had a limited theatrical release in the US courtesy of FUNimation.

And now, the animated film is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

The film features a screenplay by Hiroshi Seko (“Ajin”, “Mob PSycho 100”, “Seraph of the End”), Koji Yamamoto (“Harmony”) and Midori Gotou (“Attack on Titan: Junior high”, “Hozuki no Reitetsu”, “Loups=Garous – The Motion Picture”, music by Yoshihiro Ike (“Gundam Evolve”, “Rage of Bahamut”, “Cobra the Animation”, “Blood: The Last Vampire”), character designs by Takaaki Chiba (“Sengoku Basara”, “Attack on Titan”) and art direction by Yusuke Takeda (“Armitage III”, “009-1”, “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” and “Eden of the East”).

The film is set in an alternative future of 18th Century England during a time where English scientist Victor Frankenstein has created “The One” (Frankenstein) which revolves reanimating a corpse with a soul in order to think, feel and speak.

But after his creation was destroyed, another method to replace a missing soul was developed and is known as “Necroware”, which can be programmed and upgraded but unlike “The One”, it has no ability to think, feel or speak.  It follows commands.

The world has brought many corpses alive in order to use them as servants which has boosted the economy as they can be used as workers but also by the military, who can use corpse technology for military use.

The film introduces us to John H. Watson, a corpse engineer who has illegally created his own Necroware and has resurrected his deceased friend, who he names it Friday.

Watson is visited by two mysterious individuals and one of them, M, is a member of the British Secret Service and has information that Watson was experimenting with illegal Necroware.  So, he tells John that he can either go to prison or become an agent of the British Empire.  John Watson decides to join the British Empire.

Their first mission is to go to India and follow U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant but they are immediately attacked by corpse assassins who have a grenade embedded inside them and when they pull a pin from their neck, they can explode.

Fortunately for both Watson and Friday, they are rescued by Captain Frederick Burnaby and Watson receives his mission from M that he must find Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov, a Russian corpse engineer who stole “The Memorandum”, the research material belonging to Victor Frankenstein on how to reanimate a corpse with a soul.

But as the three who are joined by Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary Hadaly Lilith and their guide Nikolai Krasotkin, are chased and are targeted by corpse assassins, these assassins have the ability to move differently than a regular corpse.  They are quick and also surprise Watson by showing the ability to possibly talk.

But what happens when they come across Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov and learn more about “The Memorandum” and why is John Watson so interested in it?


VIDEO:

“The Empire of Corpses” is presented in 1080p High Definiton (16:9 anamorphic widescreen). The animation features wonderful character design and gorgeous art backgrounds.

I was struck by how detailed the background art was. How beautiful these painted backgrounds looked and how it complimented the characters.   Overall, picture quality was fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Empire of Corpses” is presented in English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1. As for the lossless audio, both Japanese and English soundtrack feature crystal clear dialogue and music. Action sequences (such as the fights with the zombie corpses, explosions galore, people screaming and the sounds of the live corpses) utilized the surround channels very well and the voice acting for both soundtracks are fantastic.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Empire of Corpses” contains the following special features:

  • Funimation Short Empire of Corpses – (7:38) Featuring director/writer J. Michael Tatum (voice of Alexei Karamazov) and Mike McFarland (voice of Frederick Burnaby), Morgan Garrett (voice of Hadaly Lilith) and Jason Liebrecht (voice of Dr. John Watson) discussing working on “The Empire of Corpses”.
  • Promo Videos – Featuring two Japanese promo videos
  • Original Trailer – The original theatrical trailer

EXTRAS:

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


What happens when you take an alternative version of England, throw in zombie corpses that are revived and used by society to better the economy.  No more having to worry about how long one can work, these corpses can work 24/7 and follow their master’s request.

These corpses have feel no pain, can’t speak nor do they have a soul to share any emotion towards anyone.

But one corpse was given a soul and that was the creation made by Victor Frankenstein but that creation ended up being destroyed.  So, now we have John Watson trying to follow the footsteps of Frankenstein by digging up and turning his best friend into a living corpse and naming him Friday.

Unfortunately for Watson, he is caught and is given a choice…work for the British government or go to prison.  And of course, Watson chooses to become an agent for the government and try to find a Russian scientist who has obtained documents of the work of Victor Frankenstein.

But what Watson, Friday and the others are not aware of, someone has created a new type of corpse. Faster, humanlike movement and they appear to be wanting to speak.

And as Watson and others try to look for these documents known as “The Memorandum”, their research starts to uncover who is the real culprit pulling the strings of these frightening occurrences.

“The Empire of Corpses” is a complex animated film with so many twists and turns that one probably will find themselves watching multiple times, to see if they have missed anything important.

The film manages to capture the essence of zombies, combined with Frankenstein, showcasing an alternate universe of a world dependent on corpses and what happens when these controlled corpses are being utilized as weapons and possibly used for nefarious situations.

The Blu-ray release features wonderful picture quality as character designs are well-done, the art backgrounds are highly detailed and done magnificently well.  As for special features, you do get a short featurette, promotional videos and a trailer.  And you also get a digital HD code.

Overall, “The Empire of Corpses” is an an animated film that is complex, smartly written, featuring wonderful animation and art backgrounds but while entertaining, the film may prove to be too complex for some viewers and thus may require multiple viewings in order to grasp the storyline.

But if you are looking for a beautiful and smartly written animated film, “The Empire of Corpses” is recommended!

 

Narcos: Season One (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

narcos

You have to give series creators Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro and executive producer Eric Newman a lot of respect for what they were able to achieve. And for Netflix for creating an exclusive but allowing for authenticity by allowing the series to be bilingual and shot in Colombia. But also the casting of dedicated actor, Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar was perfect. These things don’t usually happen for TV series but for “Narcos”, we see the results from these well-planned decisions, performances and writing for each episode and not only is “Narcos” addictive and fantastic, it’s no doubt one of the best crime series available right now!  “Narcos: Season One” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Narcos: Season One

TV SEASON AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: Episodes 1-20 (874927 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: August 23, 2016


Created by Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, Doug Miro and Paul Eckstein

Directed by Andres Baiz, Josef Kubota Wladyka, Gerardo Naranjo, Fernando Coimbra, Guillermo Navarro, Jose Phadilha, Batan Silva

Written by Carlo Bernard, Andrew Black, Chris Brancato, Dana Ledoux Miller, Doug Miro, T.J. Brady, Samir Mehta, Dana Calvo, Nick Schenk, Allison Abner, Zach Calig, Curtis Gwinn, Paul Eckstein

Produced by Paul Eckstein, Jose Luis Escolar, Tim King

Supervising Producer: Allison Abner, Rasheed Newson

Consulting Producer: Curtis Gwinn, Carolina Paiz

Executive Producer: Eric Newman, Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, Doug Miro, Adam Fiero

Co-Executive Producer: Andres Calderon, Jack Loguidice, Paul Marks, Zachary Reiter, Julie Siege, Dana Calvo, Andres Baiz

Line Producer: Lorenzo O’Brien

Music by Pedro Bromfman

Cinematography by Mauricio Vidal, Carmen Cabana, Lula Carvalho, Adrian Teijido, Luis David Sansans

Edited by Matthew Colonna, Leo Trombettta, Trevor Baker, Nathan Gunn, Luis Carballar, Victor Du Bois, Alex Marquez

Casting by Carla Hool, Carmen Cuba

Production Design by Salvador Parra, Anthony Medina, Diana Trujillo

Art Direction by Camila Arocha, Maria Fernanda Munoz, Anibal Silva

Set Decoration by Rafa Mtz Withingham, Ana  Yasmin Guttierez, Noyoloti Orrante Mata, Jorge Barba

Costume Design by Bina Daigeler, Maria Estela Fernandez


Starring:

Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar

Boyd Holbrook as Steve Murphy

Pedro Pascal as Javier Pena

Joanna Christie as Connie Murphy

Paulina Gaitan as Tata Escobar

Diego Catano as La Quica

Jason Chad Roth as Technician

Maurice Compte as Horacio Carrillo

Danielle Kennedy as Ambassador Noon


With electrifying performances and action sequences charged with heart-pounding suspense, this Golden Globe®-nominated series follows the true-life story of the rise of international cocaine cartels — and the battle waged by law enforcement to stop them. At the center of the conflict are Pablo Escobar (Moura), the notorious Colombian drug kingpin, and the two DEA agents sent to take him down: Steve Murphy (Holbrook) and Javier Peña (Pascal).


In 2015, Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard and Doug Miro’s “Narcos”, an American crime web television series began streaming.

Shot and filmed in Colombia, the first season focuses on the beginnings of notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and how he would rise and become a billionare through the production and distribution of cocaine.  Meanwhile two DEA agents, Steve Murphy and Javier Pena have the task of taking him down.

A Netflix exclusive that is 10 episodes long and began streaming on August 2015 and now, the series will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate.

The series would also earn two Golden Globe nominations for “Best Drama Series” and “Best Actor”.

The series stars Wagner Moura (“Paradiso Tropical”, “Elite Squad”, “Elite Squad: The Enemy Within”, “Elysium”), Boyd Holbrook (“Gone Girl”, “Milk”, “The Skeleton Twins”), Pedro Pascal (“The Adjustment Bureau”, “Bloodsucking Bastards”, “Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe”), Joanna Christie (“Star”, “Small Dark Places”, “The Girl and the Fish”), Paulina Gaitan (“Trade”, “Sin Nombre”, “Senorita Polvora”), Diego Catano (“Savage”, “Duck Season”, “Lake Tahoe”), Jason Chad Roth (“Bloque de Busqueda”, “El Capo”, “Pura sangre”) and Maurice Compte (“A Walk Among the Tombstones”, “End of Watch”, “The Dream Catcher”).

“Narcos” is a series narrated by DEA agent Steve Murphy and the first season is his account of taking down Colombian drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar.

The series would begin in the ’70s as how Pablo Escobar (portrayed by Wagner Moura) had big dreams of becoming rich and with his deep network, how he would establish himself as a black marketeer in Medellin.  How his network would provide him the power to move trucks worth of illegal goods and would have personal information that would prevent patrols from stopping him, in generating fear so no one would stop him.

When Mateo “Cockroach” Moreno, an underground chemist who is also exiled from Chile and would create the perfect cocaine, would collaborate with Escobar and together, they would distribute and profit from cocaine.

And how they would grow from a small operation to having large elaborate operations and laboratories and many in Columbia would become addicts and as many demanded cocaine, the crime would also exponentially increase.

And eventually the demand for cocaine would rise, especially in the United States and thus escalating drug-related violence in America.  So, a taskforce from the DEA are sent to Colombia.

Steve Murphy (portrayed by Boyd Holbrook) and Javier Pena (portrayed by Pedro Pascal) are sent to Colombia to work with authorities and put a stop the flow of cocaine into the United States.

But despite the power of Pablo Escobar, he would eventually find himself not just in trouble with local authorities, the DEA (which he puts a bounty on their heads) but also with guerilla communists known as M-19. Which would lead to the beginning of the Medelin Cartel.

But if being a wealthy drug kingpin is not enough for Escobar to aspire to, he also has political aspirations to become the president of Colombia.  But what happens when Escobar plans to run for politics?

And what happens when Escobar wants revenge on the politicians and those critical of him?  How far will he go and can the DEA stop him?


VIDEO:

“Narcos” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The picture quality for this series is very good. Shot in Colombia and a good balance of outdoor scenes and indoor scenes.  Featuring beautiful imagery of Colombia scenery

I didn’t notice any major banding issues or artifacts.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Narcos” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The series is crystal clear and the lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue and music-driven.  There are some scenes with gun exchanges and scenes that utilize crowd ambiance but it’s a series that focuses on narration, dialogue and its musical soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Narcos: Season One” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • Audio Commentary– Featuring an audio commentary for the episode “Descenso” with actor Wagner Moura and Executive Producer/Director Jose Padilha.

DISC 2:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary for the episode “Explosivos” with Executive Producer Chris Brancato
  • Establishing the Route – (24:49) A featurette on how “Narcos” was created and how it was originally planned as a film but eventually became a series.
  • The Colombian Connection – (11:37) A featurette about shooting the series in Colombia to give the series authenticity.

DISC 3:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary for the episode “Despegue” with Executive Producer Eric Newman and Director Andi Baiz.
  • The Language Barrier  – (11:37) A featurette about how Netflix allowed for the creators would create a bilingual show for authenticity.
  • Deleted Scenes – (7:23) Featuring deleted scenes for the first season of “Narcos”.

EXTRAS:

“Narcos: Season One” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


I’m a believer that if you want to create a film or a series with characters from another country, it has to be done right and best to show the characters in their environment, speaking the original language.

Of course, that is not always the case as having a series with the native language with English subtitles is not always ideal, but fortunately, “Narcos” is a series that Netflix believed in and in its support, the series would be filmed in Colombian and would feature a bilingual cast with English subtitles.

And because of that authenticity, it lends to a believable and captivating series which “Narcos” has become and is appreciated for.

The first season of “Narcos” focuses on the beginnings of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, from his rise to power, his tale of crime, mass murder and enormous wealth.  But not covering just the rise but also the fall.

Narrated by DEA agent Steve Murphy, the series focuses on Murphy’s attempted to stop the cocaine flow into the United States but also to take down Pablo Escobar.

While Murphy’s narration and comments are important to show the challenges that the DEA faced, the series focuses on Pablo Escobar’s use of power, him wanting to gain more power by running for congress but also how far he would go to get what he wants.

To make this series work, it would require one who could play Escobar from his earlier years to starting own, to the years where he was older and most vulnerable as he becomes the #1 target.

And this is where Wagner Moura excels.  He plays the part to perfection, even so far of gaining 40 pounds in order to play the role of Escobar in his later years.  Which is impressive that he was able to do so, within the schedule of producing ten episodes.

But to play a character that go from a cheerful man smiling when authorities try to take his photo, to a man who is cold and calculating and would murder someone quite easily.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic in HD, lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music.  And as for the Blu-ray release, there is a good balance of audio commentary and featurettes.  Especially on the making of the series and why the creators chose to make it a TV series as opposed to the original plan of creating a film.

Overall, you have to give series creators Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro and executive producer Eric Newman a lot of respect for what they were able to achieve.  And for Netflix for creating an exclusive but allowing for authenticity by allowing the series to be bilingual and shot in Colombia.  But also the casting of dedicated actor, Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar was perfect.  These things don’t usually happen for TV series but for “Narcos”, we see the results from these well-planned decisions, performances and writing for each episode and not only is “Narcos” addictive and fantastic, it’s no doubt one of the best crime series available right now!

“Narcos: Season One” is recommended!

 

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

August 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

theduel

Kieran Darcy-Smith’s “The Duel” is an entertaining yet standard revenge western film.   The storyline may get over-the-top at times, but it’s probably Liam Hemsworth’s best action role as the main protagonist and Woody Harrelson in another solid performance as the film’s antagonist.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Mississipix Studios, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Duel

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 100 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:39:1), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English and Spanish

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (Strong Violence and Language)

Release Date: August 9, 2016


Directed by Kieran Darcy-Smith

Written by Matt Cook

Produced by David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Maureen Meulen, Adam Rosenfelt

Executive-Producer: Jason Cloth, Matt Cook, Aaron L. Golbert, Nathalie Marciano, Brian Pitt

Co-Executive Producer: Patrick Murray

Cinematography by Jules O’Loughlin

Music by Craig Eastman

Edited by Tracy Adams, Blake Harjes, Douglas Slocum

Casting by Anne McCarthy, Kellie Roy

Production Design by Toby Corbett

Art Direction by Douglas Cumming

Costume Design by Terry Anderson


Starring:

Liam Hemsworth as David Kingston

Alice Braga as Marisol

Woody Harrelson as Abraham

Emory Cohen as Isaac

Chester Rushing as Winston

William Sadler as Governor Ross

Raphael Sbarge as Dr. Morris

Bedict Samuel as George

Felicity Price as Naomi


Academy Award® winner Tom Hanks delivers one of his most engaging performances as Alan Clay, a recently divorced American businessman who is sent overseas to pitch a state-of-the-art holographic teleconferencing system to a king. As Alan vainly tries to navigate new and unusual customs, he finds himself thrust into a series of wonderful misadventures, and a fateful encounter that changes his life forever.


From director Kieran Darcy-Smith (“Animal Kingdom”, “The Cave”, “The Square”, “The Reef”) comes his American western film “The Duel”.

Written by Matt Cook, “The Duel” stars Liam Hemsworth (“The Hunger Games” films, “Independence Day: Resurgence”), Alice Braga (“I Am Legend”, “City of God”, “Elysium”, “Predators”), Woody Harrelson (“Cheers”, “Zombieland”, “No Country for Old Men”), Emory Cohen (“Brooklyn”, “The Place Beyond the Pines”, “Afterschool”), Chester Rushing (“Stranger Things”, “NCIS: New Orleans”) and William Sadler (“The Shawshank Redemption”, “The Green Mile”, “Iron Man 3”).

The film is set in the Great Plains during the 1880’s.

We are taken to the past where David Kingston’s father and preacher Abraham Brant (portrayed by Woody Harrelson) take part in a knifing duel.  And his father is killed.

Fastforward 22-years later and David Kingston (portrayed by Liam Hemsworth) is now an adult who is now a Texas Ranger.

He is summoned by Governor Sullivan Ross (portrayed by William Sadler) to investigate the deaths of Mexicans found in a river next to the town of Helena near Mount Hermon.

One of the Mexicans, Ernesto Calderon and his sister, the relatives of the Mexican General Calderon and he is threatening to bring Mexican soldiers over the border to look for them.  This may cause a war.

And Mount Hermon is run by the preacher Abraham Brant, known for slaughtering Indians, Mexicans and Negros for 2 cents a scalp.

Kingston is to go to Mount Hermon alone with a different name and to find out if he is responsible the deaths of Mexicans and has General Calderon’s family.

Governor Sullivan also talks about how Abraham has been known to have the power of healing and he has seen him heal a person alone.

But as David plans to fulfill this mission, his wife, Marisol (who is a Mexican woman) does not want to be left alone and insists that she will go with him to Mount Hermon.

As the two head to Mount Hermon, while they plan to be there for a short time, Abraham takes a liking towards David for some mysterious reason and hires him as the sheriff of Helena.

Meanwhile, Abraham starts to get close to Marisol.

Abraham starts to learn that the place is like a religious cult who look to Abraham as if he is a god.  While Abraham is a non-believer, there are people who immediately cause him problems such as Abraham’s son Isaac and his group of friends.

He also sees people such as Englishman and Chinese come to the town but not one Mexican, which is surprising considering the region.

But something ominous is happening in Mount Hermon and David is determined to find out what is actually going on.


VIDEO:

“The Duel” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). The film looks vibrant in outdoor Saudi Arabia day scenes and close ups are full of detail. Skintones look natural. I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film. For the most part, picture quality for the film is great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Duel” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The soundtrack is primarily dialogue with surround channels being used for ambiance (such as crowd scenes) and your occasional fight scenes or scenes with gun shots.  Overall, lossless soundtrack is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Duel” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Kieran Darcy-Smith and production design Toby Corbett.

EXTRAS:

“The Duel comes with a slipcover an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


For “The Hunting Game” movie fans, seeing actors Liam Hemsworth and Woody Harrelson together in another film outside the popular franchise film series is a plus!

In past films for Hemsworth, we have seen him in action roles for “The Hunger Games”, “The Expendables 2” and “Paranoia”.  And while brother Chris Hemsworth is known for his role as Thor in the various Marvel superhero films and action films such as “Rush”, “Snow White and the Huntsman” films and “Star Trek” films, younger brother Liam Hemsworth stars in “The Duel” that doesn’t depend on any other actor and it’s a role in a film that he carries well on his own.  Fortunately, it works for him to have Woody Harrelson as the film’s antagonist.

“The Duel” revolves around a Texas Ranger named David Kingston, who is on a mission to find out if a preacher, who runs a large cult, is responsible for the murders of Mexicans near the village area that he is responsible for.

Because his wife Marisol is intent of going with him, and not wanting to be away for so long from her husband, both go to the Mount Hermon.

And for David, going there to meet with this preacher is quite huge, as the preacher, Abraham, is the man responsible for murdering his father.

While David’s main intent is to discover any information that the preacher and his people are responsible for these murders of Mexicans but also trying to prevent the Mexican army from crossing over and generating a full-scale war, there is a dark secret lingering around the town, and David, who is selected by Abraham to become the town’s sheriff, will slowly uncover this dark secret.

While the film is a standard revenge film, you don’t watch too many westerns where its antagonist is a preacher and his followers are religious zealots who carry snakes and women get possessed by the touch of Abraham.

I do feel the film is entertaining for its revenge aspect but I think I have been spoiled with too many westerns about teams of people fighting against antagonists, versus one man who must prepare himself in taking on many people in the village.

Perhaps that is where the film is a farfetched but I did enjoy the film for its revenge storyline, its necessary use of violence to depict the dangers in the town but by no means, does the film get into anything gory or too over-the-top violent.

Liam Hemsworth does a great job as the primary protagonist and Woody Harrelson, always a good antagonist in any film he stars in.  But he does a solid job playing the creepy preacher.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good considering the majority of the film is shot outdoors.  Lossless audio is primarily used well during crowd scenes for ambiance and of course, multiple scenes with gunshots and fighting, etc.  As for special features, there is an audio commentary with the director and production designer.

Overall, Kieran Darcy-Smith’s “The Duel” is an entertaining yet standard revenge western film.   The storyline may get over-the-top at times, but it’s probably Liam Hemsworth’s best action role as the main protagonist and Woody Harrelson in another solid performance as the film’s antagonist.

 

Supergirl: The Complete First Season (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

supergirl-a

“Supergirl: The Complete First Season” is a delightfully, entertaining superhero action drama series that definitely does a great job of paying homage to the comic book series, but also showcasing episodes that are entertaining, well-written and features a good balance between humor, action and drama. Whether or not you enjoyed the comic books, this is a superhero series definitely worth watching!  “Supergirl: The Complete First Season” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Supergirl: The Complete First Season

TV SEASON AIR DATE: 2015-2016

DURATION: Episodes 1-20 (877 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Warner Bros.

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: August 9, 2016


Directed by Glen Winter, Dermott Downs, Larry Teng, thor Freudenthal, Karen Gaviola, Kevin Tancharoen, Kesse Warn, Lexi Alexander, Jamie Babbit, Chris Fisher, Nick Gomez, Adam Kane, Steve Shill, John F. Showalter

Written by Ali Adler, Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Joe Shuster, Jerry Siegel, Caitlin Parrish, Derek Simon, Yahlin Chang, Michael Grassi, Rachel Shukert, Ted Sullivan, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, James DeWille, Anna Musky-Goldwyn, Jessica Queller, Robert L. Rovner

Produced by Michael Grassi, Ted Sullivan

Co-Producer: Sheridan Thayer, Jennifer Lence, Carl Ogawa, Joanie L. Woehler

Executive Producer: Ali Adler, Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Sarah Schechter

Consulting Producer: Robert L. Rovner, Roberto Aguirre-Sarcasa

Music by Blake Neely

Cinematography by Jeffrey C. Mygatt, Michael Barrett, David Stockton

Edited by Andi Armaganian, Barbara Gerard, Harry Jierjian

Casting by David Rapaport, Lyndsey Baldasare

Production Design by Seth Reed, Cabot McMullen, Tyler Bishop Harron

Art Direction by John B. Josselyn, Giao-Chau Ly, Jim Wallis, David Meyer

Set Decoration by Andrea Mae Fenton

Costume Design by Kiersten Ronning


Starring:

Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers

Mehcad Brooks as James Olsen

Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers

Jeremy Jordan as Winn Schott

David Harewood as Hank Henshaw

Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant

Peter Facinelli as Maxwell Lord

Jenna Dewan Tatum as Lucy Lane

Briana Venskus as Agent Vasquez

Laura Benanti as Alura Zor-El

Chris Vance as Non

Italia Ricci as Siobhan Smythe

Helen Slater as Eliza Danvers

Glenn Morshower as General Sam Lane

Dean Cain as Jeremiah Danvers


Born on the doomed planet Krypton, Kara Zor-El escaped at the same time as her cousin, Superman, but didn’t arrive on Earth until years later after being lost. Raised by her adopted family, the Danvers, Kara grew up in the shadow of her foster sister, Alex, and learned to hide the phenomenal powers she shares with her famous cousin. Years later, at age 24, living in National City and working as an assistant for Catco Worldwide Media mogul Cat Grant, Kara has spent so many years trying to fit in that she forgot to ever stand out. All that changes when she decides to embrace her superhuman abilities and become the hero she was always destined to be. With the help of Daily Planet photographer James Olsen, her bioengineer sister Alex, and the research of the super-secret, off-the-grid Department of Extra-Normal Operations (DEO), who are tasked with keeping the Earth safe from aliens, Kara takes to the skies to protect her world.


From Ali Adler, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg (the creators of the “Arrow” and “The Flash” TV series) comes the action-adventure drama TV series “Supergirl”.

The series stars Melissa Benoist (“Whiplash”, “The Longest Ride”, “Glee”), Mehcad Brooks (“The Valley of Elah”, “Glory Road”, “Necessary Roughness”), Chyler Leigh (“Grey’s Anatomy”, “Not Another Teen Movie”, “Brake”), Jeremy Jordan (“The Last Five Years”, “Joyful Noise”, “Smash”), David Harewood (“Blood Diamond”, “Homeland”, “The Brothers Grimsby”), Calista Flockhart (“Ally McBeal”, “Brothers & Sisters”, “The Birdcage”), Peter Facinelli (“Twilight” films, “The Scorpion King”), Jenna Dewan Tatum (“Step Up”, “Tamara”, “10 Years”), Briana Venskus (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, “Nashville”, “Grace and Frankie”) and Laura Benanti (“Nashville”, “The Good Wife”, “Nurse Jackie”).

With the first season airing on CBS (and the second season moving to the CW and set to premiere in October 2016), “Supergirl” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in August 2016.

“Supergirl” revolves around Kara Zor-El, the young daughter of Zor-El (portrayed by Robert Grant) and Alura (portrayed by Laura Benanti).

When she was 12-years-old, she was placed in an escape vehicle before the Planet Krypton exploded.  Her mother gave her instructions to protect her infant cousin, Kal-El (who would be known as Clark Kent/Superman) and similar to her cousin, she would have special powers once she arrives in Earth, due to the sun.

But as Kal-El made it to Earth, Kara’s spacecraft was caught in the shockwave of Krypton’s explosion and was stuck in the Phantom Zone where time has stopped and 24-years has passed but yet Kara has not aged.

Kal-El, who was Superman found Kara’s spacecraft and saved her.  And he places her in the company of her new adoptive parents, the Danvers family and her sister Alex Danvers.  And was taught to hide her powers and not use them.

The series takes place a decade later and Kara Danvers (portrayed by Melissa Benoist) is employed as an assistant at the CatCo Worldwide Media.

She works for the arrogant and snobbish boss, Cat Grant (portrayed by Calista Flockhart) who is jealous by her former mentor, Perry White of the Daily Planet thanks to their coverage of Superman and trying to find ways to boost attention to her company.

Kara is closed to her IT friend Winn Scott (portrayed by Jeremy Jordan) and former Daily Planet photographer, James Olsen (portrayed by Mehcad Brooks).

One day, Kara’s stepsister Alex Danvers (portrayed by Chyler Leigh) was riding in a plane that was sabotage to explode.

Fearing for her sister’s life, Kara uses her superpowers and eventually, saving her and many people from death.  But as others took photos of her, Cat Grant immediately has her paper reporting on the mysterious woman, dubbing her “Supergirl”.

But Kara learns that her sister Alex is a doctor and scientist that works for Hank Henshaw (portrayed by David Harewood) at the DEO. The DEO’s role is to study extraterrestrial activity and are very familiar with Kara’s powers but also are aware that when Kara’s ship was caught of the shock wave explosion, it pulled a Krypton prison known as Fort Rozz along with her to Earth.

And now, Krypton’s top criminals are running around Earth and are gathering together, many who want she and also Superman dead.

As Kara now wants to use her powers for good but also to learn more about herself and her true powers, with the help of her friends and the DEO, she has taken the identity of Supergirl and has become the latest sensation in National City.


VIDEO:

“Supergirl” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The picture quality for this series is very good. With its high production value and many outdoor scenes, overall picture quality shows very good detail, especially with closeups.

I didn’t notice any major banding issues or artifacts.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Supergirl” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The series is crystal clear when it comes to dialogue and action sequences.  From the various battles that Supergirl takes part in, to the sounds of her flying through air, there is good use of the surround channels.  Overall, lossless audio is very good for this action/drama TV series.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Supergirl: The Complete First Season” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring deleted scenes from the episode “Red Faced”.

DISC 2:

  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring deleted scenes from the episodes: “Hostile Takeover”, “Blood Bonds”, “Strange Visitor from Another Planet” and “For the Girl Who Has Everything”.

DISC 3:

  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring deleted scenes for “Solitude”, “Falling”, “Manhunter” and “Worlds Finest”.
  • Supergirl: 2015 Comic-Con Panel – (14:50) A featurette from San Diego Comic Con for the “Supergirl” panel (excerpt).
  • The Man From Mars – (9:36) A featurette about J’onn J’onzz (Martian Manhunter) and his alias, Hank Henshaw.
  • A World Left Behind: Krypton – (10:41) A short documentary about the history of Krypton and its role and depiction in “Supergirl”.
  • Gag Reel – (4:05) Outtakes from the first season of “Supergirl”.

EXTRAS:

“Supergirl: The Complete First Season” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


supergirl-b

As a person who grew up purchasing and reading a lot of DC Comics titles, I have always been a big fan of the Superman-related titles.  May it be “Superman”, “Superman: The Man of Steel”, “Action Comics”, “Justice League of America”, “Superboy”, “World’s Finest” and also “Supergirl”.

“Supergirl” was always an interesting title because she has been depicted in so many different ways through the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and the present-time.

As Kara Danvers was a girl growing up and discovering her powers and showing a different lifestyle compared to her cousin, her storyline has been given more substance in recent stories to make her more relevant in the DC Universe and with today’s TV series giving new life to DC characters such as “The Flash”, Green Arrow in the series “Arrow” and now with “Supergirl”.

While the series manages to capture the “Supergirl” style of the comic books of Kara’s self-discovery, trying to fit in today’s society and businessworld, the series also goes further in exploring Supergirl’s relationships, with her stepsister Alex, her co-worker James Olsen and Winn Scott and more.

For DC Comics fans, they will no doubt love the series for its fascinating storylines but also the inclusion of J’onn J’onz (Martian Manhunter), Red Tornado and also a series collaboration with “The Flash” (and yes, the multiverse is discussed).  Also, for those who loved Helen Slater in the older “Supergirl” films, they will love the fact that she plays the role of Kara’s stepmother Eliza.  And also, the fact that her stepfather Jeremiah is portrayed by Dean Cain, who played Clark Kent/Superman in the TV series “Lois & Clark”.

Let’s first talk about what I loved about the series.  I loved how the series established it’s connection with Kal-El/Superman and creating this new story of how Kara’s spacecraft brought down the Kryptonian prison to Earth.  So, it really lends to storylines in regards to Supergirl taking on other Kryptonians and alien superbeings.

I loved the fact that not every episode relates to Kryptonian villains and there are other interactions with DC superheroes and characters.  But most importantly, humanizing Kara Danvers by featuring her relationship with her sister Alex.  And the two working together but also having their own differences at times.

I also enjoyed the use of comedy in this drama series.  Similar to “The Flash”, I really dig the balance of humor and drama.

What I didn’t like?  It’s not more of not liking, it’s more of how similar the DEO is to Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D., I’m not sure if I want to see the DEO on every episode but it is what is and Kara is doing work for the organization to trust her as Supergirl and it gives her access and opportunities.  But the problem I find with this, is how James Olsen and her friend Winn Scott are involved with Supergirl’s life, including her actions with the DEO.

This is something that Superman/Clark Kent would ever allow a civilian that he is close and have a friendly relationship with and letting them be so close.  Superman/Clark Kent never gave James Olsen much access to his superhero life because he was always in fear of putting his friends and family in jeopardy.

But for “Supergirl”, with her two friends now going with her to the DEO location, this leaves her friends open to being targeted and I can see these them as liabilities.  So, this is something that I can only hope to see writers explore as part of Kara’s learning experience of being a hero.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good as close-ups show very good detail.  Picture quality is primarily outdoors and is vibrant, while I saw no signs of banding or artifacts.  Lossless audio is very good with crystal clear dialogue and good use of the surround channels for action sequences.

As for special features, you get several deleted scenes and also a few featurettes.  Unfortunately, no audio commentary are included.

Overall, “Supergirl: The Complete First Season” is a delightfully, entertaining superhero action drama series that definitely does a great job of paying homage to the comic book series, but also showcasing episodes that are entertaining, well-written and features a good balance between humor, action and drama.  Whether or not you enjoyed the comic books, this is a superhero series definitely worth watching!

“Supergirl: The Complete First Season” is recommended!

 

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

August 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Hoon-jung Park’s “The Tiger” is an amazing, yet violent film that features a wonderful performance by actor Choi Min-shik. And the collaboration of both men have no doubt led to creation of a unique and wonderful film. Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 NEXT ENTERTAINMENT WORLD & SANAI PICTURES. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Tiger

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 140 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dub, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: August 9, 2016


Directed by Hoon-jung Park

Written by Hoon-jung Park

Produced by Min-jung Park

Executive-Producer: Jae-Duk Han

Line Producer: Minkyung Shin

Cinematography by Moo-gae Lee

Music by Yeong-wook Jo

Art Direction: Hwa-sung Cho

Costume Design by  Sang-gyeong Jo


Starring:

Min-sik Choi as Chun Man-duk

Man-sik Jeong as Goo-gyeong

Sang-ho Kim as Chil-goo

Eun-woo Lee as Mai-nyeon

Mi-ran Ra as Chil-goo’s wife

Hyun Seung-min as Sun-yi

Yoo-bin Sung as Suk-yi

Jung Suk Won as Military Officer Ryu

Ren Osugi as Govt. Official Maezono

Hong-pa Kim as Herbal shop owner


An ex-sharpshooter for the Kingdom of Korea (CHOI Min-sik, OLDBOY) is hunting the country’s last tiger. But Japanese forces and vicious local poachers also seek “The Four-Legged Mountain Lord,” and will stop at nothing to claim their prey.


From filmmaker Hoon-jung Park (“The Showdown”, “New World”) comes his latest film “The Tiger”.

Starring veteran Min-sik Choi (“Oldboy”, “I Saw the Devil”, “Lucy”, “Lady Vengeance”), Man-sik Jeong (“Miracle in Cell No. 7”, “Veteran”, “Breathless”), Sang-ho Kim (“Sea Fog”, “The Happy Life”, “The Big Swindler”), Eun-woo Lee (“Moebius”, “Gyeongju”, “Romantic Heaven”), Ren Osugi (“Fireworks”, “The Twilight Samurai”, “Audition”, “Sonatine”) and Yoo-Bin Sung.

And now, “The Tiger” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film begins in 1925.  Living in the mountains in Mt. Jirisan is Chun Man-duk (portrayed by Min-shik Choi), a man who hunts for food for his wife and son and has a reputation for being one of Korea’s top shooters.

One day, while hunting, Chun Man-duk went hunting and comes across a tiger and shoots it.

Fastforward, more than a decade later, during a time when Korea is now occupied by Japan.

The Japanese High Government Official Maezono are after the illusive great tiger of Mt. Jirisan and pressures Japanese Military Officer Ryu (portrayed by Jung Suk-won) to capture the tiger.

Meanwhile, hunters led by Goo-Gyeong (portrayed by Jung Man-sik) have been trying to capture the “one-eyed tiger” but only have been able to kill its mate and two cubs.

And as Maezono is to go back to Japan, he orders his Japanese Military Officer Ryu to get the one-eyed tiger immediately before he leaves.

The Japanese military wants Chun Man-duk to capture it for its skin but for some reason, he no longer hunts and prefers to live in a hut raising his 16-year-old son Syeok (portrayed by Sung Yoo-bin).

Each time Syeok asks his father about the Japanese going after tigers, his father tells him about the mountain gods and refuses to discuss it.

The real reason is because one day, while hunters were trying to capture the one-eyed tiger, they led the tiger into town.  As Chun-man Duk was trying to hunt for it, he accidentally shot and killed his wife instead.  Thus the guilt has prevented him from hunting since that day and he has tried to keep the truth away from his son.

But for Syeok, when he finds out his girlfriend is being forced by her parents to marry another boy, because Syeok and his father are broke.

Determined to prove to his father that he is grown-up and can make his own money and hunt for the tiger, Syeko goes to Japanese Military Officer Ryu to join the hunting team led by Goo-Gyeong.

While they know the boy is to young and inexperienced, they feel that with Syeok joining, chances are that Chun Man-duk will be forced to help the hunters capture the tiger.

But what happens when Syeok joins the hunters in their major hunt for the one-eyed tiger?


VIDEO:

“The Tiger” is presented in 1080p High Definition. As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good as there is a good amount of grain. Upclose details are very good and skintones are natural (especially the scars on the hunters face or the snow-burned skin of certain individuals), black levels are nice and deep.  Even the CG of the tigers are well-done and look realistic.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Tiger” is presented in Korean 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  Dialogue is crystal clear, as with the musical score.  There is great use of surround sound during the more action-driven scenes involving artillery blasts, gun shots, the sound of the pack of wolves or tigers growling.  Lossless audio for this film is great!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Tiger” comes with a theatrical trailer.


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When it comes to Korean cinema, I have grown accustomed to watching Min-sik Choi films and knowing that with each film, you are going to get something well-written, violent and sometimes, a film that can be quite dark.

While many will be familiar with Min-sik Choi films such as “Old Boy”, I think that I will remember the first time I watched Choi’s work through the film “Swiri” and with each film, I learned throughout the years, we are going to get something unique and different.

And with his latest film “The Tiger” directed by Hoon-jung Park (who is known for writing film such as “I Saw the Devil” and “The Unjust” and directing “New World”), the collaboration of both men is wonderful.

Without spoiling anything major about the film, the film revolves around the Japanese military expecting  Korean hunters to kill and bring back the great one-eyed tiger.

Anyone who has tried, have been savagely killed by the tiger.

But for Japanese High Government Official Maezono, who is fascinated by tigers, before he leaves to Japan, he wants possession of the great tiger’s skin.

With Japanese Military Officer Ryu’s career on the line, he wants the hunters to do all that is necessary to catch the tiger.

But also knowing that one man, who is known for his shooting and hunting skills is important to be involved in the hunt group.

Unfortunately, that man, Chun Man-duk, has stopped hunting and is a family man raising his teenage son.  For Chun Man-duk, he looks at hunting as the will of the mountain and appeasing the mountain gods, as many of the locals living in the mountains believe in as well.

But because Chun Man-duk has lived a life of poverty and is quite content with his lifestyle, his son Ryeok is not.  Especially now that his girlfriend’s mother is wanting her daughter to marry a boy who comes from a family with money.

Wanting to prove that he is a man and that his father had taught him enough about hunting, Ryeok enlists himself with the Japanese military to join the hunters in their next major hunt for the great one-eyed tiger.

Again, I am not going to spoil the storyline at all, but I will say that director/writer Hoon-jung Park has taken great care in the storyline and not reduce it to any fluff or happy moments, but to show the savagery of hunting, the work of karma and for those who have researched or read traditional Asian stories about respecting the land or its gods, these details are interwoven with the storyline.

Protagonist Chun Man-duk is a man of the land and believes in the tales, while his son does not and just wants to live a normal life like everyone else and wants his father to not live this poor life, picking herbs.

It’s no doubt a struggle, not just with nature but any parent can see how either way is justified.

But what is interesting is how the film shows the mutual respect between Chun Man-duk and the great one-eyed tiger.  And slowly giving viewers tidbits of information of this respect between man and beast but also knowing that karma works in unique ways.

The performance by actor Choi Min-shik is fantastic but credit should also be given to the direction by Hoon-jung Park, the cinematography by Mo-gae Lee but also the visual effects, especially its realistic looking tigers and wolves.

The Blu-ray release features fantastic picture quality and because the number of action sequences, including sequences involving artillery, these sound great for its lossless soundtrack.  Unfortunately, there are no special features included but a theatrical trailer.

Overall, Hoon-jung Park’s “The Tiger” is an amazing, yet violent film that features a wonderful performance by actor Choi Min-shik.  And the collaboration of both men have no doubt led to creation of a unique and wonderful film.

Highly recommended!

 

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