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Avengers Confidential: Black Widow/Punisher (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 22, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

avengersconfidential

“Avengers Confidential: Black Widow/Punisher” was  another exciting, action-packed animated film showcasing Marvel’s well-known anti-hero, the Punisher and spy, the Black Widow.  Highly recommmended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Avengers Confidential: Black Widow/Punisher

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 83 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (For Sequences of Action Violence)

Release Date: March 25, 2014

Directed by Kenichi Shimizu

Chief Director: Makoto Fuchigami

Episode Director: Toru Ishida, Yosuke Hatta

Chief Animation Director: Tetsuro Mornuki

Storyboard: Kenichi Shimizu, Makoto Fuchigami, Hitoshi Haga

Concept Design: Yo Moriyama

Story by Marjorie Lu

Art Director: Kazuyuki Hashimoto

Mechanic Design: Noriyuki Jinguiji, Hitoshi Haga

Produced by Madhouse Studios

Featuring the voices of:

Jennifer Carpenter as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

Brian Bloom as Frank Castle/Punisher

John Eric Bentley as Nick Fury

Grant George as Elihas Starr

Kyle Hebert as Caine

Kari Wahlgren as Maria Hill

Eric Bauza as Amadeus Cho

JB Blanc as Orion

Fred Tatasciore as The Hulk/Ren

Matthew Mercer as Tony Stark/Iron Man

After interfering with a top secret mission, The Punisher is taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and Avenger, Black Widow. At the orders of Director Nick Fury, Punisher and Black Widow are sent on a mission to stop Leviathan, a global terrorist organization, that plans to sell stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. technology to the highest bidder. Now, the vigilante and spy must work together to prevent this technology from falling into the wrong hands. The fate of the world, and of the Avengers, hangs in the balance.

In the latest anime collaboration between Marvel and Japanese animation studio Madhouse comes “Avengers Confidential: Black Widow/Punisher”, an animated film on Blu-ray+DVD.

Featuring Marvel’s anti-hero Frank “The Punisher” Castle continuing on his vigilante ways of killing of low-level thugs, he pursues a crimina named Kanel that catches the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. director, Nick Fury.

With Natasha “Black Widow” Romanov sent to prevent The Punisher from killing off the criminal, as S.H.I.E.L.D. tries needs Kane alive to find out who the weapon supplier is, the Punisher is more interested in killing him.

After a brief battle, it is learned that a terrorist organization known as Leviathan has taken control of S.H.I.E.L.D’s top secret weaponry and can supply them to terrorists.

So, S.H.I.E.L.D. needs Kane to get to the suppliers before they release the weaponry to terrorists and criminal organizations and needs the help of The Punisher.

Fury believes the Punisher was told the location of the weaponry by Kane and will release The Punisher from S.H.I.E.L.D. custody if the Punisher gives him the location of the weapons.

The Punisher agrees if S.H.I.E.L.D. provides him weapns and he will go to the location alone.  Not trusting The Punisher, Fury agrees to send the Punisher to the location with one condition, he must team up with the Black Widow.

But as the two team up on the mission, what is the true reason that these two are being put together on a mission.

VIDEO:

“Avengers Confidential: Black Widow/Punisher” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  With the anime series being produced by Studio Madhouse of Japan, one can expect gorgeous animation.  And personally, I love the character designs, as well as the mechanical designs featured in the series.

Vehicles and surroudings are well-detailed.  Character designs feature awesome shading, colors are vibrant when needed and I did not notice any significant artifacts or any negative issues.  There is slight banding that I noticed in a few scenes but the film looks fantastic on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Avengers Confidential: Black Widow/Punisher” is presented in English and Japanese  5.1 DTS-HD MA. Lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and audio through the center and front channels, while surround channels are well-utilized during the action sequences, air vehicle flyby’s or when a few Avengers make their appearance.  Also, solid use of LFE during exposions or it’s thumping electronic music.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Avengers Confidential: Black Widow/Punisher” comes with the following special features:

  • Conceptual Art Gallery – Featuring the conceptual art for “Avengers Confidential: Black Widow/Punisher”.  Artwork can be selected using your remote (or keyboard).
  • The Vigilante vs. The Spy – (9:11) A featurette about bringing together the Punisher and Black Widow together and how both come from dark paths but operate with different methods.  Also, details about both characters.
  • Espionage and Punishment – (10:16) A featurette about bringing The Punisher and the Black Widow to an anime setting.  And the similarities and difference between the two characters.

EXTRAS:

“Avengers Confidential: Black Widow/Punisher” comes with a slipcover. Along with the Blu-ray release, a DVD and UltraViolet digital copy code is also included.

As a guy who grew up reading Marvel Comic books and had a large collection growing up, “Avengers Confidential: Black Widow/Punisher” is a fascinating collaboration between two of Marvel’s well-known anti-heroes.

While the Black Widow has been popularized thanks to “The Avengers” live-action film, for those who grew up reading the comic books know that these two individuals were among the Marvel anti-heroes.

The Black Widow, often seen in the older issues of “Daredevl” and the character of The Punisher featured in the pages of “Spider-Man” were characters that teetered among their alliances with well-known superheroes or often seen battling them.

The Punisher….Frank Castle is a man who taken an oath to rid of criminals in his area after the death of his wife and child, while  The Black Widow, Natasha Romanov was a Russian spy who was brainwashed and has ended up assisting various superheroes and eventually becoming a member of The Avengers.

These two Marvel characters make an interesting collaboration as both are excellent fighters and also knowledgeable of weapons.  And in “Avengers Confidential: Black Widow/Punisher”, both have their fair share of scenes with the two taking on each other.  But eventually having to team up in order to stop a criminal organization who are using techniques that can possibly lead to the creatin of an army utilizing stolent S.H.I.E.L.D. weaponry.

Without spoiling the storyline, I can say the film is action-packed and even features members of the Avengers, which was great to see.

But part of the enjoyment was seeing a collabortion between Marvel and studio Madhouse, as the world reknown Japanese production studio brought awesome character designs, mechanical design but also detailed backgounds to this film.

I was quite impressed by the overall look of “Avengers Confidential: Black Widown/Punisher” but also its vibrant colors, it’s multitiude of action scenes and solid storyline.  Picture quality on Blu-ray is fantastic, while there is also a good amount of surround sound use as well.  It’s an active lossless soundtrack and I was quite pleased with the visuals and audio.

Overall, “Avengers Confidential: Black Widow/Punisher” was  another exciting, action-packed animated film showcasing Marvel’s well-known anti-hero, the Punisher and spy, the Black Widow.

Highly recommmended!

The Wrath of Vajra (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Wrath of Vajra” is an entertaining film showcasing the first major role for Yu Xing, but will this film propel him to making more entertaining martial arts films and follow other notable names such as Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Jet Li, to name a few.   Time will tell.  But if Yu Xing becomes a martial arts box office success in the near future, “The Wrath of Vajra” will no doubt be seen as his starting point for bigger things to come.

Images courtesy of © 2013 Kylin Network (Beijing) Multimedia and Culture Media Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Wrath of Vajra

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 Widescren, Mandarin & Japanese, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English and French

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: March 18, 2014

Directed by Wing-cheong Law

Written by Zhenjian Yang

Produced by Hong Pang

Co-Producer: Yang Cheng, Houjan Liu, Zhigao Liu, Zhaojen Ma, Jian Qian, Hongdang Shen, Yikang Wa, Zhongchao Wang, Zhiqiang Xie

Executive Producer: Li Bloo, Peter Lam, Rayman Liu, Jin Shang, Liqiao Wang, Yan Xiaoming, Hongtao Yang

Associate Producer: Yang Fan, Lorraine Ho, Zhibao Yen, Feng Yoa, Hai Cheng Zhao

Starring:

Yu Xing as K-29

Heon Jun Nam as Crazy Monkey

Baocheng Jiang as Tetsumaku Rai

Yamei Zhang as Eko

Yasuaki Kurata as Amano Kawao

Matt Mullins as Bill

Before the West entered World War II, a Japanese death cult called the Temple of Hades is ordered to aid in the spiritual destruction of China. Their method: abduct their enemies’ children and train them as killers for the Emperor. Young Vajra was especially gifted, but swears a secret oath of revenge when his brother dies. Now the greatest assassin in the temple, Vajra escapes to China and begins his quest to protect the innocent, and destroy the ones responsible for making him a living weapon. A former Shaolin monk, martial arts action star Xing Yu (aka Shi Yanneng) stars as Vajra in his first leading role.

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For every martial arts film, for the newcoming headliner, it’s being given the opportunity to show one’s skill and truly shine!

For Xing Yu, the martial artist and real life Shaolin monk, his first foray into film was when he appeared in Stephen Chow’s 2003 film “Kung Fu Hustle”.  While he maintains a lifestyle dedicate to the Shaolin Temple and running a Shaolin school in Shenzhen, Guangdong, he still appears in films, despite those roles being small.

But for Xing Yu, he has his chance to shine in the film “The Wrath of Vajra”, now available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“The Wrath of Vajra” revolves takes places before World War II and introduces us to a Japanese death cult known as the Temple of Hades and wants nothing but the spiritual destruction of China.

In order for Hades to continue, the belief is by buying children from poor parents and putting the children through intensive, risky training and train them to become assassins to serve the Japanese Empire.

For 8-year-old Vajrasattva, he was sold at a young age to the Temple of Hades and the children were forced to fight for their food and kill.  And unfortunately, for Vajrasattva, that meant killing his brother accidentally.  And because of that, he has set a goal to get revenge on the Temple of Hades for making him into a weapon.

Having left the Temple of Hades to become an assassin, fortunately Vajra (portrayed by Xing Yu) escaped to China and joined the Southern Shaolin Temple in which he was taught to receive spiritual enlightenment and now, he wants nothing more than to protect people.

This includes a new group of children and Western soldiers who have been taken hostage by the Temple of Hades and what better than now to to exact his revenge.

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VIDEO:

“The Wrath of Vajra” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality for the film is actually quite beautiful without outdoor settings looking very detailed, as with the close-ups which will have very good detail.  There is some use of CG but they don’t look cheesy or unrealistic.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Wrath of Vajra” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and due to its international cast, features dialogue in Mandarin, Japanese and English.  There are good use of surround during the action-scenes and also great use of LFE as well.  Especially ambiance surrounding outdoor elements and environments.

The soundtrack also sports an English dub presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 plus Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo versions of both soundtracks.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Wrath of Vajra” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – (25:46) A few short featurettes with interviews with the cast and crew and spotlighting on location and choreography.
  • Trailer - (3:00) Theatrical trailer for “The Wrath of Vajra”.

EXTRAS:

“The Wrath of Vajra” comes with a slipcover.

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Whenever you have the opportunity to watch a martial arts film taking an unknown talent with amazing fight skill and showcase that skill and discipline, when they are able to shine, you know you have yourself an up and coming martial arts star.

And Yu Xing is a martial arts star who has been seen in the background or very minor roles of films, but in “The Wrath of Vajra”, this is his film to showcase himself as a bonafide martial arts star.

But is he the type of star that wants to be in the limelight or is he happy to have a film career, no matter what kind of role he takes on?  Especially as he focuses on his life role at the Shaolin Temple and the Shaolin School that he runs and teaches?

But whichever path Yu Xing chooses, he undoubtedly has set his footprint as a martial arts film star but like many well-known martial arts star of today, they all have to start out somewhere, and for some, these first main roles can be mediocre.

“The Wrath of Vajra” is a very good vehicle for Yu Xing, but the film is not the greatest.  The storyline is entertaining, it’s setting is very cool but the whole premise seems as if it would lead towards a sci-fi type of film, while another part of the film has a touch of “Ip Man”, albeit not executed as masterfully nor is it that captivating.

For the most part, the film has a B-film type of feel but better production and its redeeming factor relies on the fight choreography and Yu Xing’s delivery, as everyone else featured in the film seem like fodder that you don’t expect to survive by the end of the film.  It has that type of feel to it!

Still, the film looks and sounds good on Blu-ray.  Picture quality is very good, lossless audio also sounds great during the more action intense moments of the film.  And you get your usual collage of short featurettes as a “making of”.

Overall, “The Wrath of Vajra” is an entertaining film showcasing the first major role for Yu Xing, but will this film propel him to making more entertaining martial arts films and follow other notable names such as Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Jet Li, to name a few.   Time will tell.  But if Yu Xing becomes a martial arts box office success in the near future, “The Wrath of Vajra” will no doubt be seen as his starting point for bigger things to come.

 

Wicked Blood (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Wicked Blood” is not a groundbreaking film by any means but it is entertaining despite being somewhat predictable.  The strength of the film relies on the strengths of its acting talent and for the most part, “Wicked Blood” is a standard popcorn drama/action film.

Images courtesy of © 2013 Wicked Blood Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Wicked Blood

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 94 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Industrial Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: March 4, 2014

Written and Directed by Mark Young

Produced by Eric Bassett, Jason Pinardo, Nick Stagliano

Co-Producer: Brandon Baker, Michael Mandaville

Executive Producer: Brittany Bowen, Jason Hewitt, Benjamin Krause, Guy Quigley, Andre Relis

Line Producer: Jack Sojka

Music by Elia Cmiral

Cinematography by Gregg Easterbrook

Edited by Ryan Folsey

Casting by Shannon Makhanian

Production Design by Ruston Head

Art Direction by Dave Quinlan

Costume Design by Jennifer Kamrath

Starring:

Abigail Breslin as Hannah Lee

Alex PenaVega as Amber

Sean Bean as Uncle Frank Stinson

James Purefoy as Wild Bill

J.D. Evermore as Doctor

Jake Busey as Bobby Stinson

Lew Temple as Donny

Hannah (ABIGAIL BRESLIN) and her older sister Amber (ALEXA VEGA) are trapped in a dark Southern underworld of violence, drugs and biker gangs. Both live in fear of their “Uncle Frank” Stinson (SEAN BEAN), the ruthless leader of a powerful crime organization. But when Amber falls in love with Bill Owens (JAMES PUREFOY), an outlaw biker and Stinson family rival, Hannah devises a plan to pit one against the other in a cunning game of revenge.

Filmmaker Mark Young is known for many of his indie films such “Tooth and Nail”, “Dead Bodies” and “Phreaker”.

And now Young is back with his latest film “Wicked Blood” starring Abigail Breslin (“Zombieland”, “Signs”, “Little Miss Sunshine”), Alexa PenaVega (“Spy Kids” films), Sean Bean (“The Lord of the Rings” films, “GoldenEye”, Game of Thrones”), James Purefoy (“John Carter, “Solomon Kane”, “A Knight’s Tale”), Lew Temple (“The Lone Ranger”, “Unstoppable”, “Lawless”) and Jake Busey (“Starship Troopers”, “Enemy of the State”).

And now, “Wicked Blood” is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD.

“Wicked Blood” revolves around Hannah Lee (portrayed by Abigail Breslin), a bright chess player who has gone through life changes after her and her older sister Amber (portrayed by Alexa PenaVega) are forced to live with their guardian, a meth addicted uncle named Donny (portrayed by Lew Temple).

But with Donny’s drug troubles and his ties to their Uncle Frank Stinson (portrayed by Sean Bean), who runs an illegal family business dealing in narcotics and arms deals, a visit from the authorities has Hanna scared that she will be living in foster homes and separated from the only family that she has left.

Meanwhile, her older sister falls for a meth trafficker named “Wild Bill” (portrayed by James Purefoy) but while happy with her new man, she is often feeling strange vibes from Frank’s younger brother Bobby (portrayed by Jake Busey), who keeps staring at her.

As Hannah and the others trying to survive, Hannah comes up with an idea to work for her Uncle Frank, but when she sees upfront of how her uncle and Bobby run their business with threats and murder, Hannah makes a decision that may impact her and the family.

VIDEO:

“Wicked Blood” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks great on Blu-ray as a lot of the scenes are shot outdoors.  Outdoor scenes are vibrant, skin tones are natural with very good detail on closeups.  I didn’t notice any major artifacts or banding during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Wicked Blood” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and while the film primarily is dialogue driven, by the end of the film there are moments of surround usage during a gun exchange and also good use of LFE for an explosion.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Wicked Blood” comes with interviews with actresses Abigail Breslin and Alexa PenaVega and actors Sean Bean and James Purefoy.

EXTRAS:

“Wicked Blood” comes with a slipcover.

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“Wicked Blood” is an entertaining low budget indie film about a two young ladies who lose their father and live with their poor meth-head uncle.

One teenager who is bright but fears being separated by family and living with a foster family, while an older sister who tends to have a reputation of messing with guys, dating an older man who happens to be a drug trafficker.

While the storyline tackles the rural town and its criminals who operate meth labs and make a lot of money drug and arms trafficking, you feel bad for the characters because in some way, their current upbringing and living environment is not the best.

The film is rather predictable as the character of Uncle Donny is the strung-out meth head that you feel immediately that he will be gun fodder, while the character of Amber is often stared upon older men or creepy guys that you feel that something unfortunate will happen to her.    And as for the protagonist, Hannah… you know she is bright but unfortunately, she is too tied into her setting of being around those who are addicted to drugs.

And with her inexperience and thirst of wanting to make money, she ends up making a foolish decision that has its repercussions.

But the film’s strength is that it does have its stars.  Oscar nominated actress Abigail Breslin does a good job of playing Hannah, cautious, naive but always has her head thinking of a strategy as the film establishes earlier on of how her brain is constantly thinking, considering she is great at chess.

Actor Sean Bean who has been seen on “Game of Thrones” and “Lord of the Rings” films does a great job of playing the leader of the criminal activities in town; James Purefoy who sports a beard in the film, as a biker and drug trafficker; while actor Jake Busey has a knack of playing creepy individuals.

While actress Alexa PenaVega (or Alex Vega) as the beautiful older sister and while she made her sexy statement in “Machete Kills”, it’s sometimes hard to believe that this is the same person who was the young teen in the “Spy Kids” films.

As for the Blu-ray release, the film looks great on Blu-ray with a lot of shots are outdoor scenes.  Colors are vibrant, detail for the most part is good and I detected no artifacts or banding issues.  You get a few interviews with four of the cast members also included in the special features.

Overall, “Wicked Blood” is not a groundbreaking film by any means but it is entertaining despite being somewhat predictable.  The strength of the film relies on the strengths of its acting talent and for the most part, “Wicked Blood” is a standard popcorn drama/action film.

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

March 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Bullet” is another action-packed Danny Trejo film in which his character kicks a lot of ass, but also taking on a criminal organization by himself and getting the job done.  It’s banal, its predictable but it’s a popcorn action film that is entertaining in its own way…Trejo style!  And I expect nothing less!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Showbox/Mediaplex and the Lamp. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Bullet

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 87 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Giant Ape Media

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: March 18, 2014

Directed by Nick Lyon

Written by Nick Lyon, Ron Peer, Byron Lester, Matthew Jones

Produced by Matthew Joynes, Nick Lyon, Robert Rodriguez

Associate Producer: Mike Cuff

Executive Producer: April Bennett, Chris Moujaes

Music by Chris Ridenhour

Cinematography by Carmen Cabana

Edited by Julio Saldarriaga

Casting by Victoria Denk, Cambria Hankin

Production Design by Susie Mancini

Art Direction by Rebecca Micciche

Starring:

Danny Trejo as Frank “Bullet” Marasco

Torsten Voges as Kruger

Jonathan Banks as Carlito Kane

Eve Mauro as Samantha

Seri DeYoung as Jessica

Eric St. John as Estes

Gerald Webb as Ringmaster Mike

Tinsel Korey as Vanessa

Eric Etebari as Manual Kane

John Savage as Governor Johnson

Kyle Villalovos as Mrio

Julia Dietze as Brooke Madison

Frank “Bullet” Marasco is a tough-talking, no-nonsense cop whose fists are every bit as deadly as his gun. When ruthless mob boss Carlito Kane kidnaps the governor’s daughter and Bullet’s grandson, the streets of Los Angeles become a very deadly place to be.

Gunshots ring out and tires squeal as Bullet ditches his badge and goes looking to wipe out Kane’s evil army one henchman at a time. With the clock ticking on his grandson’s life, Bullet tracks Kane to a desert hideout. Bodies pile up and blood soaks the ground as Bullet bets his life that he can break even the baddest of bad guys!

From Nick Lyon, the director of TV films such as “Zombie Apocalypse”, “Rise of the Zombies”, “Annihilation Earth” comes the action film “Bullet”.

The low budget action film which was produced for $3 million stars Danny Trejo (“Machete”, “Machete Kills”, “From Dusk Till Dawn”), Jonathan Banks (“Breaking Bad”, “Airplane!”, “Beverly Hills Cop”), Eve Mauro (“Land of the Lost”, “Miss March”) and Julia Dietze (“Iron Sky”, “Love in Thoughts”).

“Bullet” revolves around the no-nonsense undercover police officer Frank “Bullet” Marasco  (portrayed by Danny Trejo) who is after mob boss Carlito Kane (portrayed by Jonathan Banks).

With Carlito Kane’s son about to be executed within 24 hours, Kane kidnaps the daughter of Governor Jonathan and wants to see his son, Manual (portrayed by Eric Etebari) released or else she will be killed.

Threatening to kill his daughter if authorities are contacted, Governor Jonathan who’s pride and joy is his daughter, decides to not alert authorities and tries to free the killer, Manual Kane.

Meanwhile, as Bullet to get more information on the Kane cartel, with the governor using his power to have Manual Kane released, the attorney general sends Special Agentg Samantha Dane (portrayed by Eve  Mauro) to investigate the chance that Manual Kane may be innocent of his crime and that Bullet may have been incorrect in arresting him.

As for Bullet, he tries to spend time with his daughter Vanessa (portrayed by Tinsel Korey), a recovering addict who has completed her steps and doing all she can to raise her son Mario (portrayed by Kyle Villalovos).

But because of Bullet’s pursuit of catching Carlito Kane, while taking his grandson out to the park, Mario is kidnapped and the only way Carlito Kane will release him is if Bullet admits that he lied in arresting Mario Kane (so he can get released from prison and ending his execution) and taking his own life in exchange for his grandson’s life.

As for Bullet, he will do all he can to rescue his grandson and the governor’s daughter.

VIDEO:

“Bullet” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:34:1 aspect ratio).  Skin tone is natural, closeups show fine detail while outdoor scenes are vibrant.  Overall picture quality for “Bullet” is very good!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Bullet” is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and with a film that utilizes so many gunshots, there is a good use of the surround channels during the action scenes.  Dialogue and special effects are crystal clear through the front and center channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Bullet” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making Of “Bullet” – (18:59) Interviews with the cast and crew of “Bullet”.
  • Trailer - U.S. Theatrical trailer for “Bullet”.

For those who have watched a Danny Trejo film, you know there are three things you are going to get: Violence, dead bodies and plenty of action.

There is no need to stray away from the formula as Trejo is known for those types of action roles, may he be the protagonist or antagonist, but for “Bullet”, the film is rather fascinating to see the actor in a role playing a police officer who kicks a lot of ass and one you don’t want to be in a gunfight with.

But Danny Trejo can be see as the next John Van Damme (minus the martial arts) or Jason Statham (albeit in more lower budget films) and from his scarred face to his gruff style, audiences who watch his film know that they are getting a popcorn action film and are in for a wild ride.

And “Bullet” was rather intriguing as you have Jonathan Banks in a usual antagonist role, while European fans familiar with the sci-fi film “Iron Sky” will be surprised to see Julia Dietze also in this low budget film.

Shot for around $3 million, the good news is that the film’s pacing is well-done and unlike other low-budget films, “Bullet” is one of the more entertaining, action-packed films that is done well.  Cinematography and overall setup is good and as for the storyline, you get a mix of humor and action that never grows stale nor does it have the look and feel of a low-budget indie action film.

With that being said, the film is quite over-the-top as Danny Trejo is seen fighting in underground MMA-like fights and almost has the Jack Bauer or John McClane, “I’m invincible” presence and you never feel this man will be close to dying as his quick hands on a gun and fighting skill (despite being an older man) can easily take out an army.

But still, it’s Danny Trejo and you watch a Danny Trejo film to see him kicking ass and seeing a growing body count.  It’s the staple of a Danny Trejo action film!

Overall, “Bullet” is another action-packed Danny Trejo film in which his character kicks a lot of ass, but also taking on a criminal organization by himself and getting the job done.  It’s banal, its predictable but it’s a popcorn action film that is entertaining in its own way…Trejo style!  And I expect nothing less!

Iron Sky: Director’s Cut (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Exciting, crazy and what will probably be destined to become a sci-fi cult film, “Iron Sky: Director’s Cut” is a much better film than the original cut thanks to the extra 20-minutes of new and extended scenes plus better special effects.

Images courtesy of © 2007 Blind Spot Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Iron Sky: Director’s Cut

FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 110 Minutes

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

COMPANY: eOne Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: March 11, 2014

Directed by Tim Vuorensola

Original Story by Johanna Sinisalo

Original Concept by Jarmo Puskala

Screenplay by Michael Kalesniko

Written by Timo Vuorensola

Produced by Oliver Damian, Tero Kaukomaa, Samuli Torssonen

Executive Producer: Michael Cowan, San Fu Maltha, Sean O’Kelly, Jason Piette

Associate Producer: John Buckman, Yuki Iwamoto

Music by Laibach

Cinematography by Mika Orasmaa

Edited by Suresh Ayyar

Casting by Uwe Bunker, Ben Parkinson

Production Design by Jussi Lehtiniemi, Astrid Poeschke

Costume Design by Jake Collier

Starring:

Julia Dietze as Renate Richter

Christopher Kirby as James Washington

Gotz Otto as Klaus Adler

Udo Kier as Wolfgang Kortzfleisch

Peta Sergeant as Vivian Wagner

Stephanie Paul as the President of the United States

Tilo Pruckner as Doktor Richter

20 minutes longer*loaded with new visual effects*new music from Laibach and*of course*tons of new*politically incorrect humor*the DIRECTOR’S CUT of Iron Sky is an all-new take on the film*following the original vision of director Timo Vuorensola.

From the creators of “Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning” comes the comedy/sci-fi action film “Iron Sky”.

A Finnish-German-Australian collaboration, directed by Timo Vuorensola, “Iron Sky” was a film that attracted fans due to its over-the-top storyline.

And with a sequel announced and will go into production in 2015, for director Timo Vuorensola, due to time constraints of releasing the original film and preparing in 48 hours for the Berlinale Festival, his true vision for the film was not the final cut and numerous scenes were omitted.

Until now.

With the new Blu-ray steelbook release of “Iron Sky: Director’s Cut”, 20-more additional minutes that goes into character development, more battle scenes and special effects shots.

The film would star Julie Dietze (“Love in Thoughts”, “1 1/2 Ritter”), Christopher Kirby (“The Matrix” films, “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”), Gotz Otto (“Downfall”, “Tomorrow Never Dies”, “Cloud Atlas”), Udo Kier (“Blade”, “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”, “Shadows of the Vampire”, “Melancholia”), Peta Sargeant (“Patrick”, “Satisfaction”) and Stephanie Paul (“Film School confidential”, “Separation City”).

“Iron Sky: Director’s Cut” begins with two astronauts, African-American model James Washington and the real astronaut Sanders arrive on the moon.  As Washington is sent as part of the President of the United States’ re-election, as Sanders walks around the moon and James Washington trying to learn how to walk without falling, Sanders sees a base on the far side of the moon.

Immediately, a group of Nazi soldiers show up and shoot Sanders point blank, killing him.  Meanwhile, James Washington falls and is taken captive.

When Klaus Adler goes to show the captive to Mondfuhrer Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (portrayed by Udo Kier), they are all taken aback when they see that captured astronaut, James Washington is black (note: Because everyone in the base are blonde, blue-eyed, they have never seen a Black man before), they are taken aback by the man his behavior.

Adler is sent to be conditioned by Nazi scientist Doktor Richter and become a Nazi and Adler has Earthologist Renate Richter (portrayed by Julia Dietze) to oversee the captive.

Renate who teaches the young children on how to become part of a perfect Aryan race who follows Hitler and being prepared for when they go back to Earth, when she goes to see James Washington, she is shocked to see that his color is Black and is unaware that such a person exist.

Meanwhile, as James Washington undergoes conditioning and also an injection to make his skin white and have blonde hair, Doktor Richter is amazed of the computing power of James Washington’s smartphone.

Surprised by the advance in technology that the American astronaut is carrying and because James Washington said he knows the President of the United States, the Nazi’s come up with a plan to get more power by going back to Earth and taking the cell phones and bringing it back to the Nazi base on the moon and also kidnapping the President in order for the Nazi’s to conquer the world.

So as Adler, James Washington (not knowing he has been changed to a Caucasian man) and the stowaway Renate Richter (who has wanted to go to Earth) arrive on the planet.  But while James manages to ditch the two, Klaus Adler and Renate Richter end up helping Vivian Wagner, the cut-throat assistant to the President of the United States to come up with ideas to better her campaign, using Nazi propaganda.

But months after the Nazi propaganda begins to work for the President of the United States, what happens when Renate runs into a homeless James Washington?

VIDEO:

“Iron Sky: Director’s Cut” is presented in 1080p High Definition and in 2:35:1 aspect ratio.  I have to admit that I was pretty surprised by how awesome the visual effects were for this film.  From the Nazi moon base to the space vehicles, the CG looked amazing and the sets were also well-done.

For the most part, closeups on the talent show a lot of detail and overall picture quality is sharp and I saw no artifacts or banding issues.

But I have to say how I was impressed by the mechanical design of the various aircraft featured in the film.  Typically we see a lot of the CG design from North America, especially in the US and also in Asia.  But it’s great to see European design for science fiction come to play in “Iron Sky” and the results are fantastic.  The war sci-fi war scene and the visual effects were well done!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Iron Sky: Director’s Cut” is presented in German/English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English 2.0 Stereo.  As one can expect from a film with sci-fi space action, there is a good amount of surround sound usage throughout the film.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear, while surround channels do a great job showcasing space vehicles zipping by and blasts feature a good use of LFE.  While not a perfectly immersive soundtrack, it’s still a very good lossless soundtrack!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Iron Sky: Director’s Cut” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of Featurette- (1:18:28) An in-depth making of featurette for “Iron Sky”.
  • Photo Gallery – (1:23) Stills from “Iron Sky”.
  • Theatrical Trailer - (1:53) Theatrical trailer for “Iron Sky”.
  • Teasers – (5:38) A total of three teasers for “Iron Sky”.

EXTRAS:

“Iron Sky: Director’s Cut” comes with a steelbook tin-case which comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.  Plus a 30-page booklet of concept art is included.

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Once in awhile, you come across a sci-fi film that is so crazy and over-the-top.

From “Spaceballs” to “Galaxy Quest” which are able to heighten the sci-fi fanboy or fangirl love for a film, “Iron Sky” is a rather different kind of film.

For one, it’s a Finnish-German-Australian collaboration and second, the film is not about tickling the fancy of the sci-fi fan but to take the racial quips that we usually see in a Hollywood film and try to create something absurd with Nazi’s in space and the group coming back to attack Earth.

Of course, there some aspects of the film that work and don’t work and for the ones that don’t work, it’s merely of one not thinking about the technical aspects of the film.

For example, the Nazi’s marvel over James Washington’s smartphone and while they demonstrate archaic computer technology in Doktor Richter’s lab, yet we see amazing space vehicles from the Nazi’s attacking the planet Earth.

But assuming you can get past that, the negatives that were in the final cut of the film seems to have been fixed with this release of the director’s cut of “Iron Sky”.

The extended scenes really go into detail of the various characters and their mindset and it makes for a better film because I felt the original felt there were quite a bit of plot holes.  So, one thing that fans of the film will definitely enjoy about Tim Vuorensola’s directorial cut is the fact that he fixed a lot of those problematic scenes.

Pacing is much better, the battle scenes are much cooler and for the most part, the storyline is much easier to follow, so there is a major improvement compared to the final cut.

The comedy and amount of one-liners from James Washington are hilarious, the added and also the extended scenes with James, Renate Richter and Klaus Adler added more dimension to film as we get to learn more about these characters.

For example, one scene features the three arriving to New York City and Adler sends his soldier to get a ride for them.  That is new to the director’s cut.  Another added and lengthier scene involves the current leader Kortzfleish devising a plan to invade Earth.

There are also additional special effects that are much more vibrant and you also get an additional scene right after the ending credits.

And these scenes look wonderful on Blu-ray.  Picture quality is still wonderful but with these added special effects, the destruction on Earth is much more visual.  Lossless audio retains its nearly immersive soundtrack, while special features are quite different from the director’s cut version and the original Blu-ray release.

Gone from this “Iron Sky: Director’s Cut” Blu-ray release, due to the new duration of the film, is the audio commentary with producer Samuli Torssonen and director Timo Vuorensola.  Meanwhile, the “Making of” featurette is now over 1 hour and 20 minutes, where the original Blu-ray release was only 17 minutes long.

Exciting, crazy and what will probably be destined to become a sci-fi cult film, “Iron Sky: Director’s Cut” is a much better film than the original cut thanks to the extra 20-minutes of new and extended scenes plus better special effects.  Everything comes together this time around to make the film much more comprehensive with much better pacing.

If you loved the original film or a sci-fi fan wanting something fun and different from the usual sci-fi offering, will no doubt want to give “Iron Sky: Director’s Cut” a chance!

Recommended!

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

March 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Commitment” may not break any new ground in Korean cinema but for a film starring a pop star, the action-packed story is actually quite entertaining and exciting .  No doubt, a major vehicle for Big Bang pop star, T.O.P. and allowing him to break out of the K-Pop mold and show that he can make it as an actor. If you are a fan of T.O.P. or Korean action films in general, then “Commitment” is a film worth watching.

Images courtesy of © 2013 Showbox/Mediaplex and the Lamp. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Commitment

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Korean 5.1 DTS-HD MA, 2.0 Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Showbox/Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: February 25, 2014

Directed by Hong-soo Park

Written by Soo-young Kim

Produced by Duk-jae Lee, Eun-kyung Park

Co-Produer: Seung-hun Lee

Executive Producer: Jeong-hun You

Music by Hyung-woo Noh

Cinematography by Gi-tae Kim

Edited by Jae-beom Kim, Sang-beom Kim

Production Design by Bo-kyeong Shin

Costume Design by Jong-won Kim

Starring:

Seung Hyun Choi as Ri Myung-hoon/Kang Dae-ho

Ye-ri Han as Lee Hye-in

Ho-bin Jeong as Big Dipper

Sung Ha Jo as Moon Sang-chul

Yoo-Jeong Kim as Ri Hye-in

After his father s botched espionage mission, North Korean Myung-hoon (CHOI Seung-hyun, aka T.O.P) and his young sister Hye-in (HAN Ye-ri) are sent to a labor prison camp. In order to save his sisters life, Myung-hoon volunteers to become a spy and infiltrates the South as a teenage defector. While attending high school in the South, he meets another girl named Hye-in (KIM Yoo-jeong) and rescues her when she is attacked. South Korean Intelligence soon discovers the plot and begins closing in on Myung-hoon, while his own government sends a vicious assassin to eliminate him.

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From director Hong-soo Park and writer Soo-young Kim comes a South Korean spy thriller starring K-Pop star T.O.P. (real name: Seung Hyun Choi) of the boy band Big Bang, in his latest film titled “Commitment”.

Released in Korea  in 2013, the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment in March 2014.

“Commitment” begins with a North Korean agent who is shot and killed in South Korea.  The agent is killed while trying to reach for a photo of him and children.

We see the children, Ri Myung-hoon (portrayed by T.O.P.) and his younger sister Ri Hye-in (portrayed by Kim Yoo-jung) imprisoned in a labor camp because their father is deemed as a traitor to North Korea.

Ri tries to tell the warden that his father is not a traitor and in order to prove himself and save his sister, he has one way of escaping from labor camp and that is to become a trained killer.

Wanting to save his sister, Ri agrees to the deal and trains to become a killing machine in the next two years.

Fast foward two years later and Ri, now going by the name of Kang Dae-ho arrives in South Korea as a North Korean defector and is adopted by a South Korean family, who are really Korean spies.

As Kang is to live a normal life until he receives orders, he attends high school but notices the girl sitting next to him, Hye-in (portrayed by Ye-ri Han) being bullied as the guys try to get money from her.

When the bullies try to put a hand on Kang, he pushes it off and he is taken to the rooftops where he is beaten up and his wallet is stolen by the bullies.

As he befriends Hye-in, which happens to be the same name as his sister, he sees that she wants to become a professional dancer.  The same dream that his sister also wanted to become.  But unfortunately for Hye-in, she is not bullied just by the boys, but also the girls involved in the dance class.

Meanwhile, a North Korean agent is killing former North Korean agents from Unit 8 and as for Kang, he receives orders to kill the the agent known as “Big Dipper” (portrayed by Ho-bin Kung), who works for an opposing faction of the government.

But Kang apparently becomes a target for Big Dipper, but also the South Korean authorities.  Will he manage to survive and accomplish his mission, so he can ensure that he is reunited with his sister?

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VIDEO:

“Commitment” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:37:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality is very good when it comes to close-ups, while colors are primarily more towards the cool side.  Black levels are nice and deep and while not a vibrant film, overall picture quality is good and did not see any significant banding or artifacts.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Commitment” is presented in Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and in 2.0 Dolby Digital.  The film features good use of the surround channels for the fire fights and action scenes, while dialogue is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Commitment” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – (10:30) A behind-the-scenes of the making of the film.
  • Trailer - Theatrical trailer for “Commitment”.

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There are times where you see pop stars making a transition to the big screen.  We have seen pop stars such as Justin Timberlake accomplish in the U.S., Jay Chou accomplish it in Hong Kong and now, we are starting to see T.O.P of the popular K-Pop group, Big Bang doing more films and television.

And for T.O.P. (Seung-hyun Choi), this is a great chance to show that he can take on an action-role that requires a lot of action, fight scenes but also to show that he can take on a role of a closed-off individual who desperately wants to be reunited with his sister, even though it means he must be a used by North Korea as a killing machine.

For the most part, the film was no doubt a great vehicle for Seung-hyun as the film utilizes the young actor in a major action role. One that doesn’t require him to be flashy or romantic, if anything, the film is about his character trying to stay alive and doing the job in order for him to reunite with his sister Hye-in.

Watching the “making of” (included on the Blu-ray), we see how focused T.O.P. was as an actor but also taking some major hits and getting injured as he tried to pull of major fighting stunt choreography.  No double, he is doing his own scenes.

You have actor Je-Moon Yoon (“Fist of Legend”, “Doomsday Book”) as an agent trying to solve the murder case, while actress  Ye-ri Han as the bullied girl and friend of Ri/Kang, as she is the only girl he can turn to, during his time of need.

Fight choreography for the most part is well-done and while not a film that utilized a lot of location shots, for the most part, pacing was well-done and the story is easy to understand and is straightforward.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good, with great detail for close-ups and lossless audio featuring good use of the surround channels for the action sequences.  And you get a “making of” and “theatrical trailer” included as special features.

Overall, “Commitment” may not break any new ground in Korean cinema but for a film starring a pop star, the action-packed story is actually quite entertaining and exciting .  No doubt, a major vehicle for Big Bang pop star, T.O.P. and allowing him to break out of the K-Pop mold and show that he can make it as an actor.

If you are a fan of T.O.P. or Korean action films in general, then “Commitment” is a film worth watching.

Kill Your Darlings (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Featuring a wonderful performance by Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan, “Kill Your Darlings” is a stylish, dark and entertaining film about the Beat Generation worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2013 KYD Film LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kill Your Darlings

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 103 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Czech, Polish VO 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (For Sexual Content, Language, Drug Use and Brief Violence)

Release Date: March 18, 2014

Directed by John Krokidas

Written by Austin Bunn and John Krokidas

Produced by Michael Benaroya, Rose Ganguzza, John Krokidas, Christine Vachon

Co-Producer as Rose Ganguzza, James Lejsek, Sierra Nielsen, Missy Papageorge

Associate Producer: Matthew Vose Campbell, David Hinojosa

Executive Producer as Jared Goldman, Joe Jenckes, Randy Manis

Music by Nico Muhly

Cinematography by Reed Morano

Edited by Brian A. Kates

Casting by Lauren Rosenthal

Production Design by Stephen H. Carter

Art Direction by Alexios Chrysikos

Set Decoration by Sarah E. McMillan

Costume Design by Christopher Peterson

Starring:

Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg

Dane Dehaan as Lucien Carr

Michael C. Hall as David Kammerer

Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac

Ben Foster as William Burroughs

David Cross as Louis Ginsberg

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Naomi Ginsberg

Elizabeth Olsen as Edie Parker

When Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) is accepted at Columbia, he finds stuffy tradition clashing with daringly modern ideas and attitudes – embodied by Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). Lucien is an object of fascination for shy, unsophisticated Allen, and soon he is drawn into Lucien’s hard-drinking, jazz-clubbing circle of friends, including William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), who clearly resents Allen’s position as Lucien’s new sidekick. A true story of friendship, love and murder, Kill Your Darlings recounts the pivotal year that changed Allen Ginsberg’s life forever and provided the spark for him to start his creative revolution.

For filmmaker John Krokidas and writer Austin Bunn, both men would be inspired by the work of those who are from the Beat Generation which included famous poet, Alan Ginsberg.

As closet gay young men at the time, the work of Allan Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac were inspirational for both men and the true story that revolved around the Beat Generation’s Lucien Carr and the murder of David Kammerer, a former English teacher who was obsessed with Lucian and stalked him wherever he went.

Wanting to focus on the introduction of the Beat Generation and the murder of David Kammerer, years of trying to craft the film, “Kill Your Darlings” was created.

The biographical drama film would star Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter” films), Dane DeHaan (“Lincoln”, “Chronicle”, “Lawless”), Michael C. Hall (“Paycheck”, “Six Feet Under”), “Dexter”), Jack Huston (“American Hustle”, “Outlander”), Ben Foster (“3:10 to Yuma”, “Pandorum”), David Cross (“Eternal Sunshine”, “Arrested Development”), Jennifer Jason Leigh (“Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, “The Machinist”) and Elizabeth Olsen (“Oldboy”, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”).

And “Kill Your Darlings” would go on to receive positive reviews from film critics.  And now the film will be released on Blu-ray+DVD from Sony Pictures Classics.

“Kill Your Darlings” is a film that is set in the early 1940′s and revolves around Allen Ginsberg (portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe), son of writer Louis Ginsberg who is from a troubled home and is trying to get a fresh start in life at his college.

But when he comes across a fellow intellectual named Lucien Carr (portrayed by Dane DeHaan), he is introduced to other writers such as Jack Kerouac (portrayed by Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (portrayed by Ben Foster), and these writers would be known as the Beat Generation, a group of writers that were non-traditional and controversial for their time.  Challenging their professors but also challenging each other, these friends, they inspired each other to push themselves outside of boundaries to experience and experiment.

And as Ginsberg and Carr begin to form a close friendship which would inspire Ginsberg to become a writer, Carr would have to deal with a stalker named David Kammerer, which would one day lead to a murder that would eventually shatter the Beat Generation.

VIDEO:

“Kill Your Darlings” is presented in 2:40:1 aspect ratio and in 1080p High Definition.  The film manages to have this 1950′s look, with the choice of colors that is more cooler and less vibrant.  Closeups of the characters show amazing detail and for the most part, manages to look like a film that was set in the ’40s.  I did not notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kill Your Darlings” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Greek and Polish VD 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The film is primarily dialogue and musically driven, which both are crystal clear through the center and front channels.  Some scenes with crowds or parties utilize the surround channels for ambiance, but for the most part, the film is center and front-channel driven.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kill Your Darlings” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary from director John Krokidas, actors Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan and writer Austin Bunn.
  • Q&A with John Krokidas and Austin Bunn – (1:05:39) An informative Q&A with John Krokidas and Austin Bunn.
  • In Conversation with Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan – (6:05) Jenelle Riley interviews Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan.
  • On the Red Carpet at the Toronto Film Festival – (7:30) Director John Krokidas, writer Austin Bunn and the cast arriving to the red carpet.
  • Deleted Scenes - (7:26) Featuring seven deleted scenes.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:05) Theatrical trailer for “Kill Your Darlings”.

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I know many friends who are influenced by certain groups of the past.  May it be the Cahiers du Cinema writers in France during the French Nouvelle, the early creatives of Weimar-era Berlin, the creatives of Urban Bohemia of early Greenwich Village, to name a few.

But for writers, there are those who are influenced by the Beat Generation, American post-World War II writers of the 1950′s.  The prominent names affiliated with the Beat Generation are Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burrough and Jack Kerouac.

But unlike other groups that were well-respected and loved, the Beat Generation also had their dark years that revolved around a murder involving a an important friend of those in the Beat Generation, Lucien Carr, a man who would be known for his work as an editor at United Press International but in the past, a man known for introducing Ginsberg, Burrough and Kerouac to one another.

I’ve always been fascinated by this story because these young men were wild, free but yet intellectuals, how were these young men involved in something so dark?

And this is where I found myself looking forward to John Krokidas and Austin Bunn’s film “Kill Your Darlings”.  A film that may be highlighted for Daniel Radcliffe’s acting post-Harry Potter, but for me, it was a film that showcased the Beat Generation, in its minimal glory, it’s defiance and sexuality but also the brutality of the murder of stalker, David Krammerer.

What I enjoyed about the film is how it brought out its ensemble cast and not solely focusing on one certain member.  Allen Ginsberg and Louis Carr are the primary talents of the film but the four major players of the Beat Generation are featured.

The portrayal of Radcliffe’s Allen Ginsberg was a young man from a troubled home who found solace with the members of the Beat Generation.  A young man raised by a father who was a writer but was a literary rebel.  But the film was able to take Radcliffe and use his talent as a thespian, which he has honed in theater and also in other films, trying to break out of the Harry Potter stigma and become Allen Ginsberg, a man trying to discover himself, while being closeted in his sexuality during the 1950′s.

For Ben Foster’s portrayal of postmodernist author William S. Burrough, the portrayal was a man who was born of wealth but also a man who would engage in narcotics which would play a big part in Burrough’s successful work, “Naked Lunch”. It’s important to note that Lucien Carr was not the other black mark on the Beat Generation as William S. Burrough was also convicted for the murder of his common-law wife, Joan Vollmer (both Burrough and Volmer were drunk and she was killed accidentally during a game of “William Tell), the most prominent female member of the Beat Generation.

Jack Huston’s portrayal of novelist and poet Jack Kerouac, a close friend of Lucien Carr and his relationship with Edie Parker (portrayed by Elizabeth Olson) was featured in the film.  Kerouac who is known for his literary work, was also imprisoned for his role in assisting Lucien Carr in the murder.

But if there was one person who was quite notable for his role in the film was Dane DeHaan’s portrayl of Lucien Carr.  An exceptional student, an intellectual who is seen befriending Allen Ginsberg and introducing him to the other Beat Generation members.    The writing and portrayal of Lucien Carr by writer Austin Bunn was fantastic. In one scene, we see Lucien Carr and Allen Ginsberg going to a party in which a woman kisses Carr.  When Ginsberg asks Carr if he knew the woman, Carr tells Ginsberg “No, I don’t plan to.  She tasted in imported sophistication of domestic cigarettes”.

But the film would showcase the friendship and the romantic/sexual relationship between Lucien Carr and Allen Ginsberg (note: Which I have never seen any factual information the two did have a sexual relationship but it is known that Ginsberg was attracted to Carr).

As the film shows Carr’s intelligence, it also shows is weakness and that is his relation to David Kammerer.

While the film showcases Kammerer as a man respected amongst his peers, but a man jealous of Carr’s association with Ginsberg.  But in reality, life for Carr was problematic since the age of 14.  Kammerer who was a family friend of William S. Burrough, became infatuated with Lucien Carr.  So badly that each school that Lucien Carr would move to, Kammerer would follow.

It was probably one of the high-profiled cases of stalking leading to murder in American history but also a murder compounded in conservative America of a story of an obsessed homosexual man trying to go after a young heterosexual man, which was used in Carr’s self-defense.

But “Kill Your Darlings” is a film that managed to do a fine job of showcasing these four individuals, the life they lived during that time but also creating a story with factual elements but also a story with fictional elements regarding the friendship and relationship between Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr.

The acting for the film is well-done, the production design and music for the film was well-done.  But what I enjoyed about the film is the writing and how both John Krokidas and Austin Bunn were able to bring out their characters for this smart and enjoyable film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good but it’s not a film that will be seen for being vibrant.  Picture quality is very good, especially during the closeups, lossless audio is primarily dialogue driven but dialogue and music is crystal clear. Special features are also insightful, from the audio commentary but also a Q&A between director John Krokidas and writer Austin Bunn that really goes into the making of the film, but also the challenges they faced.  And how Krokidas was about to quit his filmmaking career because of the challenges he faced until “Kill Your Darlings” became a reality and was made to a feature film.

There  have been a dozen of films about the Beat Generation, and while not completely factual, “Kill Your Darlings” is no doubt one of the better films to depict all four members.  Granted, cineaste will no doubt want to check out David Cronenberg’s 1991 film “Naked Lunch” (based on William S. Burrough’s 1959 novel) and others may enjoy the 2012 adventure film “On the Road” (an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel) directed by Walter Salles. And also the 2012 experimental film “Howl” (which explores Allen Ginsberg’s well-known poem “Howl”) directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.

Featuring a wonderful performance by Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan, “Kill Your Darlings” is a stylish, dark and entertaining film about the Beat Generation worth checking out!

The Venture Bros. – The Fifth Season (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you are a longtime viewer of the crazy misadventures of the Adult Swim animated series “The Venture Bros.”, will no doubt enjoy the continued adventures of Team Venture, especially in HD!

Images courtesy of © Cartoon Network. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Venture Bros. – The Fifth Season

TV SERIES AIR DATE: 2013

DURATION: 10 EPISODES (198 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 Widescreen, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Adult Swim

RATED: TV MA L

Release Date: March 5, 2014

Created by Christopher McCulloch

Directed by Christopher McCulloch, Ethan Marak

Written by Christopher McCulloch, Doc Hammer

Executive Producer: Christpoher McCulloch, Keith Crofford, Michael Lazzo, Steven S.H. Yoon, Doc Hammer

Music by J. G. Thirlwell

Cinematography by Jeff Gardner

Edited by Elizabeth Winter

Starring:

Christopher McCulloch as Hank Venture

James Urbaniak as Dr. Venture

Michael Sinterniklaas as Dean Venture

Doc Hmmaer as Henchman 21

Patrick Warburton as Brock Samson

Steven Rattazzi as Dr. Orpheus

Paul Boocock as Dr. Jonas Venture

Mia Barron as Molotov Cocktease

Brendon Small as Action Johnny

Enjoy the fun adventures of Finn and Jake with this Adventure Time DVD featuring the complete third season. Travel through the Land of Ooo with your favorite characters including Beemo, Marceline the Vampire Queen, and the Ice King.

In 2003, “Venture Bros.” would have its series premiere on the Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim”.

The adult animated series was created by Christopher McCulloch (a.k.a. Jackson Publick) and the series would air on Adult Swim every other year.

Often compared with an adult and twisted version of “Jonny Quest”, “The Venture Bros.” is a series that revolve around Team Venture, especially the Venture twins (Henry and Dean) who take on their nemesis known as The Monarch.  And an ongoing storyline of how these twins constantly are killed but are replaced by clone versions.

The main characters featured on the “Venture Bros.” are:

  • Henry Allen “Hank” Venture – The fraternal twin with blonde hair.  He is outgoing and athletic.
  • Dean Venture – The fraternal twin who is a brunette and is the more intelligent of the twins.
  • Dr. Thaddeus S. “Rusty” Venture – The father of the twins and the lazy scientist who inherited Venture Industries from the famous Dr. Jonas Venture.
  • Sergeant Hatred – The former nemesis of Dr. Venture turned Venture family bodyguard.  His wife has left him for Scorpio and has a obsession of looking at his man boobs.
  • Dermott Fictel – A compulsive liar and was revealed in season four to be the third son of Dr. Venture.
  • Dr. Jonas Venture, Jr. – The deformed twin of Dr. Venture, who is more successful than Rusty.
  • The Monarch – The nemesis of Team Venture.
  • Dr. Mrs. the Monarch (Dr. Girlfriend) – Wife and assistant to The Monarch with a voice of a man.

Season 5 features a total of 10 episodes which are 45 minutes long (all episodes are on one Blu-ray disc). Here is a spoilerless summary of each episode:

  • EPISODE 56 – “What Color is Your Cleansuit?” – Dr. Venture hires Billy Quizboy, Pete White and others. Meanwhile, Dean becomes more emo.
  • EPISODE 57 – “Venture Libre” – General Manhowers sends Dr. Venture, Hank and Sgt. Hatred to Central America to find Venturestein.
  • EPISODE 58 – “SPHINX Rising” – After Gary posts a request on Guildlist for work on SPHINX, those interested are former members of SPHINX.
  • EPISODE 59 – “Spanakopita!” – Dr. Venture, Billy and White head to Spanakopita Festival for the Greek Islands.
  • EPISODE 60 – “O.S.I. Love You” – Molotov and Monstroso are kidnapped by Brock and the OSI.
  • EPISODE 61 – “Momma’s Boys” – Hank and Dermott try to sneak out of the house without their father knowing.
  • EPISODE 62 – “Bot Seeks Bot” – What is happening to Council 13?
  • EPISODE 63 – “The Devil’s Grip” -With Dr. Venture assumed to be dead, the twins are sent to live with their godparents.

VIDEO:

“The Venture Bros. – The Fifth Season” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Colors are absolutely vibrant, there is some banding issues, as well as some artifacts that I saw in different parts of the series, but nothing too hideous.

If anything, the color palette is vibrant, blacks are nice and deep but picture quality is not perfect, nor does it hinder one’s enjoyability of the series.

AUDIO:

“The Venture Bros. – The Fifth Season” is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1.

For a Cartoon Network Blu-ray release, the good news is that the series was given a lossless soundtrack and that there is surround and LFE usage.  Not a whole lot but there is surround usage and also a few moments of LFE-use.  Dialogue is crystal clear and while there is music, it’s more background noise.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Venture Bros. – The Fifth Season” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Each episode features audio commentary by Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer.
  • Deleted Scenes – (5:52) Featuring deleted scenes from the fifth season of “The Venture Bros.”.
  • Fax My Grandson – (3:14) The further adventures of Diamond Backdraft.
  • A Very Venture Halloween – (22:29) A special Halloween episode of “The Venture Bros.”
  • A Very Venture Halloween Audio Commentary – (22:29) Audio commentary with Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick for the special Halloween episode of “The Venture Bros.” and the use of newer production and with an editor.
  • From the Ladle to the Grave: The Shallow Gravy Story – (11:45) A story of failure and triumph and more failure and more triumph about the band “The Shallow Gravy Story”.

EXTRAS:

“The Venture Bros. – The Fifth Season” comes with a slipcase. Also, included is an Ultraviolet code which allows you to watch and share on computers, iPhones, iPads, Android devices, game consoles and connected TV’s.

As season six of “The Venture Bros.” is being planned for release, the fifth season is now available on Blu-ray!

The adventures continue the craziness of Team Venture and the misadventures of the group continues as the fifth season marked a change in the series as we got to see the twins going through major changes. From the twins learning that they are clones, Dermott finally learning his relation to the Venture family and also The Monarch finally enacting his plans to catch Dr. Venture.

For those not familiar with this series, you will definitely want to catch the previous seasons to know the characters and what has transpired in previous seasons as these characters do evolve.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant, while there are some issues of banding and minor artifacts, but nothing that ruins your viewing of the series.  The soundtrack is also lossless and there is use of the surround channels and LFE, not a whole lot, but the fact that we do get a lossless soundtrack is a plus.

Also, you get the Halloween special and each episode including the special Halloween episode comes with an audio commentary track.  How awesome is that?!

Overall, if you are a longtime viewer of the crazy misadventures of the Adult Swim animated series “The Venture Bros.”, will no doubt enjoy the continued adventures of Team Venture, especially in HD!

Adventure Time – The Complete Third Season (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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With “Adventure Time – The Complete Third Season”, you get 26-episodes, 26 audio commentaries…How awesome is that!? If you are looking for an animated series that is crazy, hilarious, addictive and so much fun, “Adventure Time” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Cartoon Network. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Adventure Time – The Complete Third Season

TV SERIES AIR DATE: 2011-2012

DURATION: 26 EPISODES (286 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 Widescreen, Dolby Digital 2.0, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Warner Bros./Cartoon Network

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: February 25, 2014

Created by Pendleton Ward

Directed by Larry Leichliter

Written by Pendleton Ward, Patrick McHale, Kent Osborne, Mark Banker, Adam Muto, Merriwether Williams, Rebecca Sugar, Cole Sanchez, Timothy McKeon, Ako Castuera, Bert Youn, Tom Herpich, Thurop Van Orman, Somvilay Xayaphone, Steve Little, Jesse Moynihan, Sean Jiminez, Elizabeth Ito, Luther McLaurin, Armen Mirzaian, Niki Yang, Benton Connor, Dick Gruner

Excutive Producer: Fred Seibert, Curtis Lelash, Brian A. Miller, Jennifer Pelphrey, Rob Sorcher, Rob Swartz, Derek Drymon

Producer: Kelley Crews

Co-Producer/Executive Producer: Pendleton Ward

Supervising Producer: Thurop Van Orman

Music by Timothy Kiefer, Casey James Basichis

Production Design by David O’Reilly

Art Direction by Nick Jennings

Starring:

Jeremy Shada as Finn

John DiMaggio as Jake

Tom Kenny as Ice King

Hynden Walch as Princess Bubblegum

Pendleton Ward As Lumpy Space Princess

Maria Bamford as Wildberry Princess

Niki Yang as Beemo

Olivia Olson as Marceline

Dee Bradley Baker as Cinnamon Bun

Steve Little as Peppermint Butler

Kent Osborne as Joshua

Jessica Di Cicco as Flame Princess

Enjoy the fun adventures of Finn and Jake with this Adventure Time DVD featuring the complete third season. Travel through the Land of Ooo with your favorite characters including Beemo, Marceline the Vampire Queen, and the Ice King.

The adventures of Finn the Human and Jake the dog continue in the Land of Ooo as Finn and Jake come across the Cute King.  What happens when the Ice King hires a hit man? What happens when Princess Bubblegum creates a zombie formula?  Who stole Tree Trunks’ apples?  And how did Ghost Princess die?  And what message did Finn’s deceased dad leave him?

Find out in the hilarious and crazy third season of Cartoon Network’s hit animated series, “Adventure Time: The Complete Third Season” now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

What is “Adventure Time”?

Pendleton Ward is known for writing for animated series such as “Random! Cartoons” and “The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack” and most recently “Bravest Warriors”, but in 2010, Ward would create a series that would become a popular animated series on the Cartoon Network titled “Adventure Time”.

Originally produced by Frederator’s Nicktoons Network animation incubator series “Random! Cartoons”, the short for “Adventure Time” would first become a viral hit on the Internet before being picked up by the Cartoon Network and featured on television in 2010.

Heavily inspired by “Dungeons and Dragons” and video games, “Adventure Time” is hand-drawn animation and is recorded as a group, than with voice talent recorded individually.

With a sixth season of “Adventure Time” to air in 2013, since 2012, the series has earned around 3 million viewers per week and has led to video games and comic books based on the animated series.

And now “Adventure Time: The Complete Third Season” will be released on Blu-ray in February 2014.

“Adventure Time” is a series that revolves around Finn the Human, a 14-year-old boy and his best friend, a talking yellow dog named Jake, who has magical powers to change shape, stretch and shrink.

The two live in a post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo where they interact with friends such as Princess Bubblegum, the Ice King, Marceline the Vampire Queen, Lady Rainicorn and more!

Season 3 features a total of 26 episodes which are 12 minutes long (all episodes are on one Blu-ray disc). Here is a spoilerless summary of each episode:

  • EPISODE 53 – “Conquest of Cuteness” – What happens when Finn and Jake come across the Cute King and the Cuties.
  • EPISODE 54 – “Morituri Te Salutamus” – Finn and Jake are trapped in an arena of ghost gladiators.
  • EPISODE 55 – “Memory of a Meory” – What happens when Marceline traps herself in a sleep spell.
  • EPISODE 56 – “Hitman” – The Ice King hires a hit man to put out a hit on Finn and Jake.
  • EPISODE 57 – “Too Young” – A continuation to the second season finale, what happens when the Earl of Lemongrab tries to usurp himself as the leader of the kingdom.
  • EPISODE 58 – “The Monster” – Finn and Jake are on a mission to find Lumpy Space Princess.
  • EPISODE 59 – “Still” – Jake and Finn are paralyzed by the Ice King.
  • EPISODE 60 – “Wizard Battle” – What happens when the Ice King tries to enter a wizard contest.
  • EPISODE 61 – “Fionna and Cake” – Fionna and Cake take on the Ice Queen.
  • EPISODE 62 – “What Was Missing” – Finn, Jake, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline for a band.
  • EPISODE 63 – “Apple Thief” -Who  stole Tree Trunks’ apples.
  • EPISODE 64 – “The Creeps” – Jake, Finn and friends are invited to a masquerade ball.
  • EPISODE 65 – “From Bad to Worse” – Princess Bubblegum’s zombie formula infects the kingdom.
  • EPISODE 66 – “Beautopia” – Susan comes back to ask for Finn and Jake’s help.
  • EPISODE 67 – “No One Can Hear You” – Finn is knocked unconscious by a deer ad wakes up to find the kingdom has changed.
  • EPISODE 68 – “Jake vs. Me-Mow” – A small cat and assassin named Me-Mow tries to start some trouble with Jake.
  • EPISODE 69 – “Thank You” – A firepup is lost in the mountains.
  • EPISODE 70 – “The New Frontier” – Jake has a croak dream that he will be killed by a Banana Man.
  • EPISODE 71/72 – “Holly Joly Secrets” – Finn and Jake finds the Ice King’s video diaries and the Ice King wants it back.
  • EPISODE 73 – “Marceline’s Closet” – Finn and Jake play “Cloud Hunt” and hide in Marceline’s closet.
  • EPISODE 74 – “Paper Pete” – Finn, Paper Pete and the Paperlings must defend the library from the Moldos.
  • EPISODE 75 – “Another Way” – Finn is scared of the clown nurses.
  • EPISODE 76 – “Ghost Princess” – Finn and Jake try to become detectives and find out who killed the Ghost Princess.
  • EPISODE 77 – “Dad’s Dungeon” – Finn receives a holographic message from his deceased father.
  • EPISODE 78 – “Incendium Part 1″ – Jake asks the Flame King if Finn can date his daughter.

VIDEO:

“Adventure Time – The Complete Third Season” is presented in 1080p High Definition (presented in 16×9). The animation is absolutely fantastic in HD! Colors are vibrant, color palette is colorful and while the character designs may lack incredible detail and shading of other animated series (note: background art is shaded), what makes “Adventure Time” work is its abundance of characters, creative backgrounds, locations and more.

During my viewing of the series, I did not see any artifacts, banding, even during scenes with a lot of red or orange. Line detail is very strong and for the most part, fans of the series should be happy with the overall presentation.

AUDIO:

“Adventure Time – The Complete Third Season” is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. While my picky side would prefer for a 5.1 immersive soundtrack, the fact is that a lot of animated series is presented in stereo. Dialogue is clear!

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Adventure Time – The Complete Third Season” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – All episodes of season three have audio commentary. So, you get over five hours worth of audio commentary featuring creator Pendleton Ward, Kent Osborne (Head of Story), Cole Sanchez, Rebecca Sugar, Somvilay Xayaphone, Jesse Moynihan and Tom Herpich.
  • Alternate Adventure Time Intro by Screen Novelties – (:36) Screen Novelties Adventure Time version of the intro using Legos.
  • How an Idea Becomes Adventure Time – (7:35) Creator Pen Ward, Adam Muto (storyboard artist and supervising producer) and Kent Osborne (Head of Story) discuss the making of “Adventure Time” and entertaining their fans.

EXTRAS:

“Adventure Time – The Complete First Season: An Amazing Adventure” comes with a slipcover. Also, included is an Ultraviolet code which allows you to watch and share on computers, iPhones, iPads, Android devices, game consoels and connected TV’s.

Finn and Jake’s adventures continue with season 3 of “Adventure Time”.

Featuring even more wilder, crazier and fun episodes, this latest season features special guests Neil Patrick Harris and “Weird Al” Yankovic.

From hilarious episodes such as the Ice King who hires a hit man, not knowing that a hit man tries to kill its target, not actually hit them.  To episodes which include everyone turning into zombies, Jake taking on an evil assassin cat, Susan making a return in hopes for Finn to help her out, a murder mystery episode, the group forming a band and more!

There are plenty of awesome episodes in “Adventure Time – The Complete Third Season”. It’s important to note that anyone can jump in with season three without having previous knowledge of the series (as each episode are standalone). The series is pretty much an episode of adventures featuring Finn and Jake and what happens when the come across a variety of characters. Some crazy, some goofy, some evil and more!

Part of the enjoyment I had while watching this series is the fact that it’s not banal. You can’t predict what will happen with each episode as it is not formulaic, crazy things happen and just to see how each character deals with a certain situation, you can’t help but laugh and be entertained.

As for the Blu-ray release of “Adventure Time – The Complete Third Season”, the series looks incredible on Blu-ray. Colors are absolutely vibrant in HD. While it would have been nice to have a 5.1 lossless soundtrack instead of a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, it does happen with many animated series.

While the first season had featurettes and animatics, “Adventure Time – The Complete Third Season” does have two featurettes that features Screen Novelties alternative Lego intro version to a featurette on how an idea became a reality for Pendleton Ward.  But following the example set with the second season, all episodes includes an audio commentary.

Overall, if you are a fan of “Adventure Time”, I can easily say that you’re getting your money’s worth with both Blu-ray releases of “Adventure Time”. But if you purchased the first two seasons, then the third is a no-brainer! It’s a must own!

If you are looking for an animated series that is crazy, hilarious, addictive and so much fun, “Adventure Time” is highly recommended!

Fantastic Mr. Fox – The Criterion Collection #700 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a wonderful animated film and the Criterion Collection took something that was wonderful and along with its title, released a Blu-ray that is for that most part “fantastic”.   Highly recommended!

© 2009 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Fantastic Mr. Fox – The Criterion Collection #700

DURATION: 87 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen: 1:85: 1, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio,  Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Twentieth Century Fox/The Criterion Collection

RATED: PG (Action, Smoking and Slang Humor)

RELEASE DATE: February 18, 2014

Based on the novel by Roald Dahl

Directed by Wes Anderson

Screenplay by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach

Executive Producer: Armon Milchan, Sten M. Rales

Producer: Allison Abbate, Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Scott Rudin

Co-Producer: Molly Cooper

Line Producer: Simon Quinn

Music by Alexandre Desplat

Cinematography by Tristan Oliver

Edited by Andrew Weisblum

Production Design by Nelson Lowry

Art Direction by Francesca Berlingieri Maxwell

Featuring the voices of:

George Clooney as Mr. Fox

Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox

Jason Schwartzman as Ash

Eric Chase Anderson as Kristofferson Silverfox

Bill Murray as Badger

Wilem Dafoe as Rat

Owen Wilson as Coach Skip

Adrien Brody as Rickity the Field Mouse

Wallace Wolodarksy as Kylie

Fantastic Mr. Fox is the story of a clever, quick, nimble, and exceptionally well-dressed wild animal. A compulsive chicken thief turned newspaper reporter, Mr. Fox settles down with his family in a new foxhole in a beautiful tree—directly adjacent to three enormous poultry farms owned by three ferociously vicious farmers: Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. Mr. Fox simply cannot resist. Wes Anderson’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel is a meticulous work of stop-motion animation featuring vibrant performances by George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, and Bill Murray.

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Roald Dahl, a British novelist who introduced us to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “James and the Giant Peach”, “Matilda”, “The Witches” and “The BFG” and many other books that have entertained generations. And in 1970, Dahl wrote the children’s novel “Fantastic Mr. Fox” which would receive an adaptation into a feature animated film co-written and directed by Wes Anderson (“Rushmore”, “The Royal Tenenbaums”, “The Darjeeling Limited”) and co-writer Noah Baumbach (“The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”, “Margot at the Wedding”, “Kicking and Screaming”).

The development for “Fantastic Mr. Fox” began in 2004 and was released in theaters in 2009. What made the film quite unique is that it’s a Wes Anderson animated film and also a film that utilizes stop-motion animation and a first for 20th Century Fox.

The film was released in October 2009 and made over $41 million in the box office and nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Animated Feature” and “Best Original Score”. Back in 2010, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox but now, the film will be re-released by the Criterion Collection, featuring more special features and will be released as a Blu-ray+DVD combo.

“Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a film that begins with Fox (voiced by George Clooney) and his girlfriend Felicity killing and stealing squab. Due to his girlfriend being pregnant and the fact that the two were caught stealing, Fox made a promise that if they were to survive their ordeal, he would quit and find a safer job.

Fast forward two years later, Mr. Fox and Mrs. Fox (voiced by Meryl Streep) have a son named Ash (voiced by Jason Schwartzman). Mr. Fox is now a newspaper columnist and unhappy about his current lifestyle and living in a hole. He wants a better home but Mrs. Fox has no problem where they are living at. As for Mr. Fox’s son, Ash is a son who is not as gifted as his father and can be seen as a little weird as he likes to sport unusual clothing including a cape.

One day, Mr. Fox decides to purchase a home inside a tree, despite warning from his lawyer, Badger (voiced by Bill Murray). Part of the reason why Fox wanted the home is that he could be close to large corporate facilities owned by farmers Walter Boggis (owns a chicken/squaw farm), Nathan Bunce (owns a duck and geese farm) and Franklin Bean (owns a turkey, apples and cider farm).

The whole family packs up and moves to their new home while Mrs. Fox’s nephew Kristofferson (voiced by Eric Chase Anderson) comes to live with them because of his father’s illness. But immediately, Mr. Fox sees how Kristofferson is gifted with athletic ability like himself (and unlike his son) and also Kristofferson becomes quite popular at the school. This causes Ash to become very jealous of his cousin because he does not have the same athletic skills but most importantly, his father seems to have more interest in Kristofferson than him. Thus Ash treats his cousin quite badly.

Meanwhile, we learn of Mr. Fox’s main motivation of moving to the tree and near the corporations. He is missing his old self and the ability to infiltrate, kill his food and steal. Thus immediately, Mr. Fox and his friend Kylie (voiced by Wallace Wolodarsky) along with an unwilling Kristofferson begin infiltrating and stealing from the farms successfully. But each of the farmers have had enough and will now do anything it takes to capture or kill Mr. Fox.

What became a fun getaway from Mr. Fox can now lead to the demise of his family and friends. How will the fantastic Mr. Fox get out of this predicament?

VIDEO:

“Fantastic Mr. Fox – The Criterion Collection #700″ is presented in 1080p (widescreen 1:85:1). One thing that is important to emphasize that this is a stop-motion animated film. So, for those who are wondering why the animation is not as fluid as a Pixar film, that is because this whole film is based on miniature models and an unthinkable amount of photographic images to create an animated film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the film was shot with Nikon D3 digital cameras with Canon lenses, and the entire production was completed in a fully digital workflow.  The final color-corrected files were output to Rec. 709 high-definition color space for Blu-ray and DVD release.”

With that being said, I have to say that I was blown away by how beautiful this film is. I didn’t realize how much went into this film until I saw the special features because I knew it was stop animation but for something to look this good, I figured there was plenty of CGI-animation incorporated. But learning that every furnishing, every scenery was handmade and painted, each of the characters were about two feet miniatures and highly detailed was absolutely amazing. Great cinematography by Tristan Oliver (who has worked in several “Wallace & Gromit” films).

The Criterion Collection Blu-ray brings out the detail of the work of the staff as the fur of the characters come out in such glorious detail, the eyes of the characters/puppets to the detail of the ground and the tree. Absolutely fantastic work and very much appreciated through HD as detail is clear and reds, oranges and browns and various earthtone colors really showcase the vibrancy of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Fantastic Mr. Fox – The Criterion Collection #700″ is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.   The majority of the film is dialogue and musically driven, there are sequences that begin midway from the film that begins to incorporate more action sequences and sound effects. Dialogue is crystal clear and understandable, music also comes out quite nicely through the front channels and then the moments of destruction from the humans towards Mr. Fox’s home and living areas are well demonstrated throughout the surround channels and even utilizing LFE.

Lossless audio is very well done and although not an aggressive soundtrack, a still a solid lossless audio presentation for the film. And also, what an an interesting but fun music soundtrack with The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Burl Ives and other artists featured in the film and wonderful music by Alexandre Desplat (who did a wonderful job with “Julie & Julia”, “Cheri”, “Coco Avant Chanel”, etc).

According to the Criterion Collection, “the film features a fully digital soundtrack.  The 5.1 surround audio for this release was mastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Fantastic Mr. Fox – The Criterion Collection #700″ comes with the following special features:

  • Introduction by “Petey” – (1:11) A short introduction to “Fantastic Mr. Fox” by a minor character named Petey.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary featuring director Wes Anderson.
  • Animatic – (1:15:04) “Fantastic Mr. Fox” by Ronald Fox animatic featuring the sketched/storybook versions put together as a movie.
  • The Making  of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” – A fantastic documentary on the making of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” which you can play all or watch the following featurettes separately:  Featuring Recording the Voices; Puppet Tests/Early Animation; Refrences for Art Department; A Visit to the Studio; Time-Lapse Photography; Music and Minature Objects.  This “making of” is not the same “making of” that was featured in the 2010 20th Century Fox Blu-ray release.   This is a newer “making of” documentary, while the older version can be found under “publicity featurettes”.
  • Roald Dahl reads “Fantastic Mr. Fox” – (53:20) If you are a fan of audio books that are read, then you will love this audio feature with Roald Dahl reading “Fantastic Mr. Fox”.
  • Award Speeches – Featuring three speeches read by the puppets: The acceptance speech (1:17), the potential victory speech (1:22) and press statement (:27).
  • Set Photography by Ray Lewis – Featuring 50 photos taken by Ray Lewis during the making of the film.
  • Publicity Featurettes - A few segments featured on the original 20th Century Fox Blu-ray, these featurettes include: Roald Dahl (2:48), Adaptation (8:52), The Puppet Makers (8:19), The Cast (6:25), Designing the World (8:03) and Bill and His Badger (7:35). I loved the featurettes included in this segment and how it shows the crew creating wonderful miniatures of Dahl’s work from furnishings to even the silverware and animating the puppets.
  • Sony Robots commercial – (1:01) A commercial for “Sony Robots” (perhaps the crew worked on this commercial).
  • Discussion and Analysis – (11:26) Featuring two young students Jake Ryan and Jeremy Logan discuss the film.
  • “Fantastic Mr. Dahl” – (61:26) An in-depth documentary about Roald Dahl’s life, his work and his relationship with his family and friends and much more!
  • The Witch’s Tree – (1:43) Roald Dahl discussing the influences for “Fantastic Mr. Fox”.
  • Dahl’s Manuscripts – Featuring 18 pages of Dahl’s earlier draft of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and communication he had with his editor.

EXTRAS:

“Fantastic Mr. Fox – The Criterion Collection #700″ includes both the Blu-ray and DVD version of a film which comes with a slipcase.  Included is a 34-page booklet featuring photos and sketches, the following essays: “Vulpine Nature” by Erica Wagner, “Welcome to the Dahl House” by Wes Anderson and “White Cape” comic book which was used as a prop in the film.

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As I revisit “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, how appropriate for the company to obtain the rights to distribute Wes Anderson’s animated film to add to his cinematic oeuvre offered by the Criterion Collection.

One thing that one can expect from a Wes Anderson film is intelligent and creative writing but also a beloved story from author Roald Dahl and see how the research by Wes Anderson and his staff paid off, by learning about the man behind the story and slowly developing this impressive world through stop-animation.

I really enjoyed “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and after watching this Blu-ray release, just in awe of how much hard work, creativity and detail went into creating this film. Originally, my first inclination was to believe that the film utilized  a lot of CGI implemented in this film but to find out everything was literally handcrafted and shot frame-by-frame was simply amazing.

Wes Anderson is a wonderful director and the fact that you have major talent involved in this film from George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and many others along with a talented crew to create this stop-animation film and make it come to life is quite impressive.

And while one can easily become captivated by this film for its story, its characters and its overall design, one must be wondering if they previously owned the 20th Century Fox Blu-ray release of “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, should they invest in this 2014 Criterion Collection version?

If you enjoyed and loved the film and if you are a Wes Anderson cinema fan, then my answer is “yes”.  You definitely will want to upgrade to the Criterion Collection version as Criterion Collection delivered in bringing more special features and also the Criterion Collection booklet.  There is much more included with this Criterion Collection release of the film than the 20th Century Fox Blu-ray release.

Granted, you lose out on a theatrical trailer and a one minute “Beginner’s Guide to Whack Bat” but considering the amount of special features included with the Criterion Collection release of the film, you get so much more with this release!

As for parents who wonder if they can show this film to their children, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is rated PG and with the fox characters being wild animals, they steal, hunt chickens and kill their prey. Granted, there is no blood shown and there is one scene where a rat pulls out a knife and tries to kill Mr. Fox and continues again further in the story where he goes after Ash. So, there are darker moments in the film. So, definitely parental guidance is suggested.

With that being said, my wife and I watched the film with our son who was seven at the time and we are typically strict of the programming he watches, but in this case, we felt “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was appropriate for him to watch because there was no visual violence.  And he enjoyed the film!

In the end, there is nothing that I can really complain about the film. I found it to be delightfully creative, smart and enjoyable!

Overall, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a wonderful animated film and the Criterion Collection took something that was wonderful and along with its title, released a Blu-ray that is for that most part “fantastic”.   Highly recommended!

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