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

March 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Featuring a wonderful performance by Will Smith and a message for athletes that will resonate strongly for years to come, “Concussion” is fascinating, informative and entertaining film inspired by a true story about Dr. Bennet Omalu and how his discovery of CTE made shockwaves worldwide. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and LSC Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Concussion

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 123 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:39:1 Aspect Ratio, English and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English and French – Audio Description Track, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: March 29, 2016


Directed by Peter Landesman

Based on the GQ Article “Game Brain” by Jeanne Marie Laskas

Written by Peter Landesman

Produced by Elizabeth Cantillon, Ridley Scott, Larry Shuman, David Wolthoff

Co-Producer: Amal Baggar

Executive Producer: David Crockett, Michael Schaefer

Music by James Newton Howard

Cinematography by Salvatore Totino

Edited by William Goldenberg

Casting by Lindsay Graham, Mary Vernieu

Production Design by David Crank

Art Direction by Tom Frohling

Set Decoration by James V. Kent

Costume Design by Dayna Pink


Starring:

Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu

Alec Baldwin as Dr. Julian Bales

Albert Brooks as Dr. Cyril Wcht

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Prema Mutiso

David Morse as Mike Webster

Arliss Howard as Dr. Joseph Maroon

Mike O’Malley as Daniel Sullivan

Eddie Marsan as Dr. Steven DeKosky

Hill Harper as Christopher Jones

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Dave Duerson

Stephen Moyer as Dr. Ron Hamilton

Richard T. Jones as Andre Waters

Miley Cyrus as Herself


Will Smith stars in Concussion, a dramatic thriller based on the incredible true David vs. Goliath story of American immigrant Dr. Bennet Omalu, the brilliant forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of CTE, a football-related brain trauma, in a pro player and fought for the truth to be known. Omalu’s emotional quest puts him at dangerous odds with one of the most powerful – and beloved – institutions in the world. With captivating performances by Alec Baldwin and Academy Award® nominee Albert Brooks (1987 Best Supporting Actor, Broadcast News).


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In 2009, journalist Jeanne Marie Laskas wrote her “GQ” article, “Game Brain” about forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu, who tried to publicize his findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in American football players against the wishes of the NFL (National Football League).

When neuropathologist Dr. Bennett Omalu worked on the autopsy of former Pittsburgh Steelers and NFL Hall of Fame center Mike Webster, he was shocked to read of the reports of Webster’s previous medical diagnosis but to also find out that at the age of 50, he shouldn’t severe brain damage.

Using his own funding to pursue his medical research, Omalu determined that Webster died as result of long-term effects of repeated blows to the head.

The pursuit of this research, getting it publicized and the challenges he faced from the NFL and also society who felt the doctor’s research was threatening America’s sports game would be the focus in the film adaptation by filmmaker Peter Landesman (“Kill the Messenger”, “Parkland”, “Trade”).

And now “Concussion” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“Concussion” is introduces us to Nigerian forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (portrayed by Will Smith).

Working for the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania’s coroner’s office for Dr. Cyril Wecht (portrayed by Albert Brooks), Omalu has a strained relationship with co-worker Daniel Sullivan (portrayed by Mike O’Malley) because of how he talks to the deceased individuals he performs an autopsy on.  And because Omalu’s dedication of finding how the individual had died, he takes longer than usual.

Meanwhile, we are also introduced to Pittsburgh Steelers center and NFL Hall of Famer Mike Webster (portrayed by David Morse) and we learn how this popular athlete has hit rock bottom.  He lives in his truck and uses whatever he can to stop the thoughts that goes in his head.

While his friend, former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Justin Stzeiczyk (portrayed by Matthew Willig) tries to help Mike, he also confesses that he is having problems remembering things.

He tries to ask for help from former Pittsburgh Steelers team doctor Dr. Julian Bailes (portrayed by Alec Baldwin) but Bailey’s puts him through drugs to try to help him but is not sure why Mike is getting worse.

But the following morning, Mike Webster died at the age of 50 due to a heart attack.

When Dr. Omalu receives Mike Webster at the Coroner’s office, he is perplexed by how Mike is having all these problems because outside, during his procedure, Webster’s brain is good, but how he can have all these problems?

Dr. Omalu requests to do a lab tests but because it requires money which the coroner’s office will not pay, Omalu receives the go ahead from Dr. Cyril Wecht to perform the tests on the condition he pays for it.  As both men want to know what happened to Mike Webster.

As Dr. Omalu looks at the various tests, he discovers that Webster has severe brain damage as a result of long-term effects of repeated blows to the head.

Omalu shows how unlike certain animals that have barriers or cushions around their brain to protect from repeated blows, humans do not.

But the problem is that his research will cause problems because Pittsburgh is a sports town and NFL is America’s game.  Also, he will need to do more thorough research.

And as more NFL players are dead, he does more research and finds a consistency of the problems.

Meanwhile, through the stress of doing his research, he finds support and also love from Prema Mutiso (portrayed by Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

But in order to publicize his findings, he needs help in which he goes to renown neurologist, Steven T. DeKosky (portrayed by Eddie Marsan) and shows him his findings.

His findings are published and Omalu names the disorder chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

But because his research has now caused problems and is put under considerable pressure to back down and say his research is flawed, meanwhile Dr. Wecht is subjected to politically motivated prosecution on corruption charges.

Will Dr. Omalu backdown from all the pressure?


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VIDEO:

“Concussion” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks absolutely wonderful in HD with closeups showing detail of skin pigments to seeing the detail in clothing.  Outdoor scenes are vibrant and for the most part, I didn’t notice any problematic issues with banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Concussion” is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and also features and English and French Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Also, in Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Dialogue is crystal clear, as well as the musical score by James Newton Howard.  While the surround channels try to take advantage of the sound of collision between football players with efficacy, the film is primarily dialogue and musically driven.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Concussion” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with director Peter Landesman
  • Deleted Scenes– (12:52) Featuring ten deleted scenes.
  • Inside the True Story – (11:10) Interviews with the cast and the real people that inspired the film.
  • Crafting Concussion – (12:49) Behind-the-scenes of the making of “Concussion”.

EXTRAS:

“Concussion” comes with a slipcover and UltraViolet code.


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Like many Americans, I was raised on football, I played football as kid and we were often determined to work and play hard.

If anything, the top of what was on our minds was not head safety as we assumed that our helmets featured the latest technology to protect us from head injuries and if anything, it was injuries to our legs or ankles or fingers that worried us the most.

And typically of sports, when we think of injuries to the head, we often think of sports where the majority of the injuries are in the head region, sports like boxing and occasionally, those who have mishaps or major accidents are in sports such as vehicle-based (motorcycle, dirtbikes, cycling) or skiing, or a pitcher or batter getting beaned by a ball at a high velocity.

But football?  Not so much.

But what made me wonder about brain injuries through sports was reading the articles about Dr. Bennet Omalu’s findings and also reading about the unusual behavior of athletes that became tragic, such as WWE wrestler, Chris Benoit.

When Omalu’s research came out, then Julian Baile’s study of Chris Benoit’s brain and then a few years ago with Junior Seau and recently that of the 91 former NFL players who donated their brains for research after death, 87 of them tested positive for CTE.  And now even more news that minor head trauma, not major concussions can cause CTE.

This leads us to Peter Landesman’s film “Concussion” and while I found the film important to get the information about CTE to a greater public, it’s also a film that shows us possibly how big corporations go to extremes of hiding the truth.  The tobacco industry are not just as fault, other industries are trying to protect their money and interests and as for the NFL, both them and the players who agreed to a billion dollar settlement.

While for those of us who love the game of football and cheered our favorite players, now are learning that more and more names are coming up with players that are suffering from CTE.  For me, I am a longtime fan of the Dallas Cowboys and to read about how Tony Dorsett is battling with CTE is heartbreaking.

So, I watched this film and now knowing how CTE can develop overtime, especially from children playing hard at football at a young age and there is no doubt fear of future head injuries. I love the game but I wouldn’t want my child playing football.

And my feelings after watching “Concussion” has become much stronger because the line in which Will Smith as Dr. Omalu is explaining of how humans were not meant to have constant collisions using their head.  Making the comparison with animals that have protection, humans do not.

The film is no doubt a David vs. Goliath story as a doctor nearly lost everything and his family and colleagues faced significant challenges because of their research.  Will Smith does a wonderful job of playing Dr. Bennet Omalu and the overall story is quite entertaining and informative.

While the news about CTE made headlines in media, one knows what the ending result for Dr. Omalu would be, but what we didn’t know is how much pressure that Omalu and his wife endured, with death threats and people following his wife.  To the political trouble that involved Dr. Cyril Wecht.

It’s a surprising but not so surprising story in some ways because as mentioned, like the Tobacco industry, we knew the trouble that whistleblowers had to endure, as we saw of Jeffrey S. Wigand as depicted in “The Insider”, we saw what the NFL and a few football fans were trying to do to get to Omalu. But he remained resilient and staying the course.

I think that Dr. Omalu and other doctor who have opened up a new attitude towards sports that are open to head injuries will keep people alert, but with the game so popular and no doubt is big business, no one should expect the game to be over.  Football is a sport in which many talented individuals can make a lot of money and to this day and also, a lot of major sports are the way-out for people to get out of their live of poverty.

And because of what we know about CTE, the sport, not just football, but other sports have also strict rules after one suffers a concussion or major head injury.  The sport has changed for the best, although there will be some who miss the days of hardcore hits of yesteryear.  But it’s now about educating parents for the new generation of athletes that will be raised.

“Concussion” is a film that offers clarity of CTE for those not familiar with it and while there are those who criticize the inaccuracies of the film and because we are in the early stages of learning of how many people are suffering from it, the fact is that more and more players, even those who just recently retired, are starting to exhibit some problems and now the league is supportive of them getting checked out, especially if they are dealing with a lot of memory loss and sudden anger issues.  So, there has been improvement.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Concussion” looks and sounds fantastic in HD and there are fascinating special features with interviews with the real people that are featured in the film.

Overall, featuring a wonderful performance by Will Smith and a message for athletes that will resonate strongly for years to come, “Concussion” is fascinating, informative and entertaining film inspired by a true story about Dr. Bennet Omalu and how his discovery of CTE made shockwaves worldwide.  Recommended!

 

Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is captivating, enjoyable but hidden deep within the film is a serious message. Whether or not certain scenes are staged or not, the fact is that the film is Panahi’s way to challenge the lack of freedom in his country by creating a film illegally. He may be banned from creating films, but his voice continues through cinema, has not been silenced. “Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Jafar Panahi’s Taxi

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 81 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Farsi 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: March 1, 2016


Directed by Jafar Panahi

Written by Jahar Panahi


Starring:

Jafar Panahi


A yellow cab is driving through the vibrant and colourful streets of Teheran.

Very diverse passengers enter the taxi, each candidly expressing their views while being interviewed by the driver who is no one else but the director Jafar Panahi himself.

His camera placed on the dashboard of his mobile film studio captures the spirit of Iranian society through this comedic and dramatic drive…


Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi is best known for his feature film “The White Balloon” (1995), which won the Cannes d’Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.

He has since won awards and received critical acclaim for films such as “The Mirror” (1997) and “Offside” (2006).

But in 2010, he was arrested alongside his wife, daughter and 15 friends and were charged with propaganda against the Iranian government.

Panahi was sentenced to six years in jail (under house arrest) and a 20-year ban from directing any movies, writings screenplays or being interviewed by Iranian or foreign media.  Nor can he leave the country unless it was for receiving medical treatment or making the Hajj pilgrimage.

Despite his ban from filmmaking, Panahi has continued to make films illegally.

His 2011 film, “This is Not a Film” was smuggled on a USB flash drive inside a cake, his 2013 film “Closed Curtain” won a Silver Bear for Best Script and now his 2015 film “Taxi” won Golden Bear, the prize awarded for the best film at the Berlin Film Festival.

While many filmmakers, actors and artists have asked for Jahar Panahi’s release, as of this current time, his sentence continues, but Jafar still remains vigilant and will continue to make films.

And now Jahar Panahi’s award winning film “Taxi” was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

It’s important to note that because the film was shot illegally, there are no credits for the film.

In “Taxi”, Panahi has installed a camera in a taxi to record life in Tehran as a taxi driver and for people to learn more about a true portrait of people in Tehran, as passengers speak their own mind to Panahi.

But what we see from the passengers and learn about life in Tehran, is quite surprising.

From Panahi picking up passengers who debate about punishments for muggers, picking up a passenger selling bootleg copies of American film or television shows, to illegal foreign films.

To shocking moments when Panahi is stopped and takes in a man who just got into a vehicular accident and must transfer the bloodied man and his crying wife to the hospital

The second half showcases Panahi picking up his niece, who is an aspiring young filmmaker, but has been given strict rules that she must follow by her teacher.


VIDEO:

“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). It’s important to note that in order for Jafar Panahi to film this movie, he had to use a digital camera affixed on the dashboard of the taxi but also incorporating video from his niece’s digital camera.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is presented in Farsi 5.1 DTS-HD with optional English subtitles.  The lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue-driven.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” comes with no special features but the theatrical trailer.

EXTRAS:

“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” comes a ten page booklet which includes an essay by Jamsheed Akrami, film professor at William Paterson University.


Jafar Panahi’s “Taxi” is another wonderful film by the filmmaker, made shocking for the fact that it’s real and not staged.  But showcasing true discussions that is reflective of Iranian society.

The film begins with a conversational debate among two passengers of what should happen to muggers, one who believes muggers should be taught a lesson by receiving death, while another tries to argue that it is two extreme for one to die for stealing tires.  It becomes a heated debate about the morality of capital punishment and Sharia law.

Another passenger, who recognizes Panahi, worked at a video store and now pirates foreign films, especially American film and TV shows into Tehran and sales them to people illegally and showing that there is an interest from people to watch entertainment from overseas.

This scene is rather interesting because a lot of film are not available in the country and many would not be familiar with commercial or arthouse film without these people giving them access to the bootlegs.

But a shocking moment is when Panahi picks up a man who has gotten into an vehicular accident and along with his wife, rushes to the hospital, while he tries to give his will while bleeding profusely.  The man wants it written on paper or recorded on a phone, because of the inheritance laws and wanting to make sure his brothers do not do anything against his wife and that they follow his wishes.

Meanwhile the bootlegger asks the question that many people are wondering while watching the movie, was what happened staged or was it for real?

While there are other passengers, one of the most interesting is part of Panahi’s family.  The film’s second half features Panahi and his niece Hana Saeidi who has a school assignment which was to create a short film about true society, but the rules given by the teachers try to force the students to go by rules that are not necessarily true of society.

His niece, young Hana brings a vibrant side to the film as she is often trying to scold her busy uncle but also trying to get that perfect shot of him or others.  And it’s interesting to see this young aspiring filmmaker, trying to shoot a film that would one day become “distributable” and learns about “sordid realism”.  But the rules reads more like, do not create a film like your uncle.

When Jafar and Hana visit his old friend, Jafar asks Hana if his friend looks like a bad man? Because he wears a suit, a tie and doesn’t have a beard (which her teacher recommends for her film, good men must have a beard, not wear a tie or a suit).

The film ends with Jafar picking up human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is going to meet a female athlete who was imprisoned.  Which is reminiscent of Panahi’s 2006 film “Offside” about girls who are forbidden to watch the World Cup qualifying match because of their sex (on the grounds that there will be a high risk of violence or verbal abuse against them).  A film that was inspired by Panahi’s daughter.

Sotoudeh’s words brings hope, as she has seen her friend Jafar Panahi still making films despite what had happened to him.

There is no doubt an underlying message that Jafar Panahi was able to communicate with viewers about how reality is for people in his country, but also the prohibitions that people must follow and what happens to those who don’t.

As for the Kino Lorber Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good, considering the limitations that Jafar Panahi had to work with.  A digital video camera on his car’s dashboard and also utilizing footage from his niece’s digital camera, Panahi who continues to make films illegally due to his punishment, uses whatever he can to get the job done.

Picture quality is good, lossless audio is clear and while I wish there were special features, unfortunately Jafar Panahi is not allowed to speak to any media as part of his sentence.  But I will share this video of Panahi’s niece Hana, receiving the “Golden Bear” award on his behalf at the Berlin Film Festival:

Overall, “Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is captivating, enjoyable but hidden deep within the film is a serious message.  Whether or not certain scenes are staged or not, the fact is that the film is Panahi’s way to challenge the lack of freedom in his country by creating a film illegally.  He may be banned from creating films, but his voice continues through cinema, has not been silenced.

“Jafar Panahi’s Taxi” is highly recommended!

Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Paris Belongs to Us” is a Jacques Rivette film that will no doubt make French cinema fans in the U.S. say, “About time!”. The French filmmaker’s debut film is mysterious take on a woman succumbing to disillusionment and conspiracy theories. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1961 Les Films du Carrosse. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802

YEAR OF FILM: 1961

DURATION: 141 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, black and white, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, French Monaural with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: March 8, 2016


Directed by Jacques Rivette

Written by Jacques Rivette, Jean Grault

Produced by Roland Nonin

Co-Producer: Claude Chabrol

Music by Philiippe Arthuys

Cinematography by Charles L. Bitsch

Edited by Denise de Casablanca


Starring:

Jean-Claude Brialy as Jean-Marc

Betty Schneider as Anne Goupil

Biani Esposito as Gerard Lenz

Francoise Prevost as Terry Yordan

Daniel Crohem as Philip Kaufman

Francois Maistre as Pierre Goupil


One of the original critics turned filmmakers who helped jump-start the French New Wave, Jacques Rivette began shooting his debut feature in 1958, well before that cinema revolution officially kicked off with The 400 Blows and Breathless. Ultimately released in 1961, the rich and mysterious Paris Belongs to Us offers some of the radical flavor that would define the movement, with a particularly Rivettian twist. The film follows a young literature student (Betty Schneider) who befriends the members of a loose-knit group of twentysomethings in Paris, united by the apparent suicide of an acquaintance. Suffused with a lingering post–World War II disillusionment while also evincing the playfulness and fascination with theatrical performance and conspiracy that would become hallmarks for the director, Paris Belongs to Us marked the provocative start to a brilliant directorial career.


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Filmmaker Jacques Rivette has numerous beloved films in his oeuvre.

From “Celine and Julie Go Boating”, “The Gang of Four”,”Va Savoir” and what many consider his masterpiece, “La belle noiseuse”.

But every filmmaker has a first film which many cineaste are curious to compare many of their films too.  And for Rivette, his first film was rather fascinating because like other French New Wave filmmakers that wrote for “Cahiers du Cinema”, many of them went on to create masterpieces earlier in their careers.

With Rivette, of the 29-films he had made, it was his later films that people would strongly resonate with (a similar situation with filmmaker, Eric Rohmer).

The film which was created in 1957 but without a distributor, “Paris Belongs to Us” would not be released theatrically until 1961, and thus not becoming one of the first films of the French New Wave.  Because of this, the film was deemed as old-fashioned because the setting of French cinema had changed within four years after the film was created.

Nevertheless, “Paris Belongs to Us” is a first film that is interesting because it was produced by Claude Chabrol and the film would feature cameos by Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Demy and also Rivette.

And now “Paris Belongs to Us” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

“Paris Belongs to Us” focuses on Paris’ bohemian underground and follows a university student, Anne Goupil (portrayed by Betty Schneider).

As she meets and has communications with people, many are talking as if there is a conspiracy that is happening with people they know and within society.

Everyone appears to be fatigued, paranoid and in some sort of disillusion with life begin to take its toll on Anne.


VIDEO:

“Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802” is presented in 1:37:1 black and white and in 1080p High Definition. The film looks absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray!

White and grays are well-contrast, black levels are nice and deep and the detail and sharpness is fantastic. I did not notice any issues with the picture quality with blurriness or any scratches or dust during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution from the original camera negative on an ARRISCAN film scanner equipped with wet-gate processing.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802” is presented in French LPCM 1.0 without any buzzing or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and Izotope RX 4.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802” comes with the following special features:

  • Richard Neupert – (24:48) Featuring a 2015 interview with Richard Neupert, professor of film studies at the University of Georgia and author of “A History of the French New Wave Cinema” discusses the themes and legacy of Jacques Rivette’s debut feature, “Paris Belongs to Us”.
  • Le Coup Du Berger – (29:00) A 1956 short film by Jacques Rivette about an adulterous wife and her lover’s attempt to figure out how she will explain his gift of a mink coat to her husband. Featuring cameos by Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut.

EXTRAS:

“Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802” comes with a six-page foldout with the essay “Nothing Took Place But the Place” by Luc Sante.


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For those watching “Paris Belongs to Us”, Jacques Rivette’s first film is no doubt a complex mystery film.

From the beginning, when we are introduced to the character of Anne, a student who is tired of studying, but no different from any other student going to college, the major difference are the characters she comes in contact with.

Her neighbor talks about the death of individuals and if her brother is Pierre.  Her brother Pierre tells her about a party which Anne attends and everyone is wondering of why a young Spanish composer named Juan has committed suicide.

Everyone around seems depressed and bitter, from the drunken Philip Kaufman (an American journalist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, who has been exiled to France as a victim of blacklisting during the McCarthy era), we see Philip slapping the face of Terry Yordan, Juan’s lover and blaming her for his suicide.

We are then given a break of fresh air when Anne comes across an old classmate, Jean-Marc (portrayed by Jean-Claude Brialy), who has come to Paris for a career in theater and takes Anne to a barn for a production of Shakespeare’s “Pericles”.

Theater director Gerard Lenz has a difficult time because the entire cast never shows up at one time and so he uses Anne to fill in and she immediately becomes a member of a production when an actress doesn’t show up.

But as they need a guitar score, it becomes a search for why Juan really killed himself.

And then suddenly people that Anne knew begin to disappear and Anne gets caught up wondering why these individuals are disappearing.  To the point it becomes an obsession for her.

The film is interesting in the fact that in ways, the film is a style of French New Wave in the fact that Rivette, like his other contemporaries, goes against traditional Hollywood cinema by not making certain situations obvious.  Is this scene taking place in the present, the past, the future.  Are these people sane or insane?  Are these people good or bad?

One can simply chalk this film up to Anne getting involved with shady people and becomes to immersed by these people that she starts questioning life, motivations and eventually, driven to find out why certain people are gone?  Is it by murder?  Did they leave on their own accord?  Why the hell does Anne care so much, when other people don’t?

Thrown in cameos by fellow writers/filmmakers Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard and even Rivette makes an appearance in the film, there is no doubt that these men were in the cusp of making groundbreaking cinema.   But because Godard, Chabrol, Truffaut and other contemporaries were able to explode into the cinema scene and were on fire, because of the lack of distribution, Rivette’s “Paris Belongs to Us” did not receive the same following.

It came out four years late and for Rivette, he may not be known worldwide as Godard or Truffaut but for those who follow French cinema, know very well of how magnificent of a filmmaker he truly is.  And the fact that even in his reviews, unlike other writers who champion a filmmaker’s more popular films, Rivette never followed the pack, choosing to write and watch the more underappreciated films of other directors.

Similar to his taste in films, Rivette slowly caught on with cineaste and while a winner for the Sutherland Trophy for “Paris nous appartient” (1961) and “L’amour fou” (1969) at the British Film Awards and nominated for a Palme d’Or in 1966 for “La religieuse”, it wasn’t until 1989 where he would win the FIPRESCI Prize for “La bande des quatre” at the Berlin International Film Festival and 1991 until his film would win the Grand Prize of the Jury for “La belle noiseuse”.

And while there are cinema fans late to the game of discovering the films of Jacques Rivette, for cineaste, it has been a long time coming, but finally a Jacques Rivette film has been released by the Criterion Collection and one can hope for more releases in the very near future.

The Blu-ray release of “Paris Belongs to Us” looks very good with picture quality showcasing wonderful contrast and sharpness.  Lossless monaural audio with no signs of crackling or hiss and you get two special features, which includes Rivette’s 1959 short film, “Le coup du berger”.

Overall, “Paris Belongs to Us” is a Jacques Rivette film that will no doubt make French cinema fans in the U.S. say, “About time!”.  The French filmmaker’s debut film is mysterious take on a woman succumbing to disillusionment and conspiracy theories.

Recommended!

Lost in Hong Kong (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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While “Lost in Hong Kong” may not be as wonderful as “Lost in Thailand”, the film still manages to have enough wild and crazy adventures to keep you interested. With an abundance of hilarious mayhem, “Lost in Hong Kong” is a film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Beijing Joy Leader Culture Communication Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Lost in Hong Kong

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 114 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English subtitles

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: March 1, 2016


Directed by Zheng Xu

Written by Huan Shu

Produced by Zheng Xu

Cinematography by Xiofei Song

Costume Design by Cho Ting Chung


Starring:

Zheng Xu as Xu Lai

Wei Zhao as Spinach/Cai Bo

Bao Bei’er as Cai Lala

Du Juan as Yang Yi

Sam Lee as Tai Pak Ho

Eric Kot as Senior Hong Kong Cop


Xu Lai had dreams once. To be an artist and marry the girl of his dreams. 15 years later, he s sick of designing bras, humoring his baby-crazy wife, and catering to loopy in-laws. But his upcoming family vacation, now including his DVD-pirating, aspiring-documentarian brother-in-law, has a hidden agenda: a chance meetup with his old flame. But ditching his clan for a clandestine hookup might be the least of his worries. There s been a murder, and his new hot pursuit might be from the cops who want a word with him. Written, directed, produced and starring veteran actor Xu Zheng (LOST IN THAILAND, BREAKUP BUDDIES), LOST IN HONG KONG is the hotly-anticipated sequel to the highest-grossing film in China s history. Also starring Zhao Wei (RED CLIFF, SHAOLIN SOCCER) and Bao Bei er (SNOW GIRL AND THE DARK CRYSTAL, THE FOUR), LOST IN HONG KONG is a raucous comedy of errors that proves truth is stranger than fiction, and while you might not have the life you planned, happy endings might turn up in the places you least expect.


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From the brilliant minds who created the 2010 sleeper hit “Lost on Journey” and the 2012 “Lost in Thailand”, comes their 2015 hit film, “Lost in Hong Kong”.

The film would become the second highest-grossing Chinese film of all time.

The film is directed by actor/producer Zheng Xu (“Crazy Racer”, “Crossed Lines”, “Call For Love”) and written by Huan Shu.

The film stars Zheng Xu, Wang Baoqiang (“Blind Shaft”, “A World Without Thieves”, “A Touch of Sin”), Wao Zhei (“Shaolin Soccer”, “Red Cliff”, “Moment in Peking”), Bei-Er Bao (“So Young”, “My Original Dream”, “Mural”), Du Juan (“American Dreams in China”, “Deja Vu”), Sam Lee (“Made in Hong Kong”, “Ping Pong”, “Gen-X Cops”) and Eric Kot (“Feel 100%”, “Fly Me to Polaris”, “Gen-Y Cops”).

The film features a theme song by Faye Wong and would pay homage with references to 1980’s and 1990’s cinema and also feature Cantopop hits from that time period.

And now “Lost in Hong Kong” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Lost in Hong Kong” begins with an introduction to two university art majors Xu Lai (portrayed by Xu Zheng) and Yang Yi (portrayed by Du Juan), who became very close during the mid-1990’s.

As they painted together, the two would fall in love with each other but each time they tried to kiss, something always prevented them from doing so.

But when Yang Yi transfers to the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the two ended their brief fling and for Xu Lai, had a hard time being without his first love.

But he eventually meets fellow art student Cai Bo a.k.a. “Spinach” (portrayed by Zhao Wei), who’s father owns a famous brassiere business.

And as Xu Lai and Cai Bo eventually get married and Xu Lai works at her father’s business, he stops painting and focuses on building his family.

Nearly 20-years later since his college years, Xu Lai is now bald and he and his wife are still unable to have children.  She desperately wants to have children but for some reason, they have not been successful.

When Cai Bo’s family plans a vacation in Hong Kong, Xu Lai finally feels that perhaps he can visit and see Yang Yi, as he always dreams of fulfilling the kiss that he never received.  And part of him holds on to the past.

While in Hong Kong, Cai Bo’s brother Cai Lala (portrayed by Bao Bei’er) wants to shoot a documentary and begins focusing on his film target, Xu Lai.

And as Xu Lai is trying to plan his reunion with Yang Yi, Cai Lala starts to sense that his brother-in-law may be up to no good.

And as Xu Lai tries every chance to ditch his brother-in-law, it leads both he and Lala to trouble and plenty of adventures during their trip in Hong Kong.


 

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VIDEO:

“Lost in Hong Kong” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the cinematography of Xiaofei Song is absolutely gorgeous. Wide angle shots are breathtaking, capturing various locations of Hong Kong and the crazy adventures that Xu Lai and Lala undertake.  The film focuses on a lot of action scenes but outdoor shots are vibrant in HD. Closeups offer amazing detail of the actors, skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep and the film looks absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Lost in Hong Kong” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features a lossless soundtrack that has crystal clear dialogue, music and offers a good amount of surround sound for crowd ambiance and action scenes. Overall, a lossless soundtrack that is appropriate for this film.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Lost in Hong Kong” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – Interviews with the director/actor Zheng Xu and the cast of “Lost in Hong Kong”.  Broken down into three short featurettes: The Stunts, The Actors and The Characters.
  • Gag Reel – (1:45) Bloopers from the film.
  • Trailer – (2:06) Theatrical trailer for “Lost in Hong Kong”.

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With the success of “Lost in Thailand”, suffice to say that I had great expectations for Zheng Xu’s “Lost in Hong Kong”.

The first film was wild and crazy and its storyline and adventures made the film unpredictable, unique and all out fun.  And because this is a “Lost in” film, I expected the same, minus actor Baoqiang Wang, who has since become one of the highly demanded actors from China since “Lost in Thailand”.

So, similar to “Lost in Thailand”, we have Zheng Xu’s main character Xu Lai, being paired with crazy young brother-in-law LaLa, played by Bao Bei’er.

The situations are much different this time around as the character Xu Lai is a man who dreams of his college past when he was close to artist Yang Yi (played by super model Du Juan).  Each time both characters wanted to kiss each other, some unfortunate circumstance prevented them from doing so.  And because she transferred to a more prestigious art school in Hong Kong, their college relationship had to end.

Xu Lai ends up with Cai Bo a.k.a. Spinach (portrayed by pop star Zhao Wei), who wants to have a baby so badly, but for some reason, they have not been able to have one.

When Cai Bo’s wealthy family plans for a trip to Hong Kong, Xu Lai realizes that this may be his chance to hook up with Yang Yi, who has now become a popular artist in Hong Kong.  But when his brother-in-law LaLa, influenced by documentary filmmakers, wants to film the vacation but focusing on Xu Lai, Xu Lai does whatever he can to throw LaLa off, and so he can meet with Yang Yi.

But when LaLa sees his brother-in-law grabbing a condom, he starts to sense his Xu Lai is up to no good and starts to film his every move.

Unfortunately, this leads to both men getting in tons of trouble and crazy adventures awaits these two individuals as they get gang members chasing after them, cops going after them and even a metal helmet getting stuck on Xu Lai’s head.

For Hong Kong cinema fans, they will absolutely love the film for its many references to popular ’80s and ’90s HK films but also featuring popular Cantopop from that time period.

As “Lost in Hong Kong” has a consistent, wild & crazy adventure for the characters as its predecessor “Lost in Thailand”, the premise is different.

In “Lost in Thailand”, we have two people that are total opposites literally stuck together and need each other to survive, though they drive each other crazy.  While similar in “Lost in Hong Kong”, LaLa is a persistent thorn in Xu Lai’s side and no matter what Xu Lai does to give him the slip, LaLa always finds a way to bother or get in Xu Lai’s way and even get both of them into major trouble.

I did feel “Lost in Hong Kong” ran a little too long and it’s ending was dragged far too long.  But I did enjoy the film because of it’s wild and crazy nature and that is one thing that actor and filmmaker, Zheng Xu has discovered with the last film and tried his best to followup with the same formula.  But there is also a difference with not having actor Baoqiang Wang in the film and I felt the storyline tried to forcefeed the meddlesome LaLa far too much.

While it was great to see Wei Zhao in another comedy, I was more surprised of how well supermodel Du Juan did for this film.  She did a magnificent job.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality and lossless audio are very good and you do get a few short special features included on Blu-ray.

Overall, while “Lost in Hong Kong” may not be as wonderful as “Lost in Thailand”, the film still manages to have enough wild and crazy adventures to keep you interested.

With an abundance of hilarious mayhem, “Lost in Hong Kong” is a film worth watching!

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

February 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Spotlight” is a well-directed, well-written and wonderfully performed film that is deserving of every nomination and awards it has won. No doubt one of the best films of 2015! “Spotlight” on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of (C) 2015 Spotlight Film LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Spotlight

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 2 Hrs., 9 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Some Language, Including Sexual References)

Release Date: February 2, 2016


Directed by Tom McCarthy

Written by Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy

Executive Producers: Michael Bederman, Bard Dorros, Jonathan King, Peter Lawson, Xavier Marchand, Pierre Omidyar, Tom Ortenberg, Josh Singer, Jeff Skoll

Co-producer: Kate Churchill, Youtchi von Lintel

Produced by Blye Pagon Faust, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, Michael Sugar

Music by Howard Shore

Cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi

Edited by Tom McArdle

Casting by Kerry Barden, John Buchan, Jason Knight, Paul Schnee

Production Design by Stephen H. Carter

Art Direction by Michaela Cheyne

Set Decoration by Vanessa Knoll, Shane Vieau

Costume Design by Wendy Chuck


Starring:

Mark Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes

Michael Keaton as Walter “Robby” Robinson

Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer

Liev Schreiver as Marty Baron

John Slattery as Ben Bradlee, Jr.

Brian d’Arcy James as Matt Carroll

Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian

Elena Wohl as Barbara

Gene Amoroso as Steve Kurkjian

Doug Murray as Peter Canellos

Sharon McFarlane as Helen Donovan

Jamey Sheridan as Jim Sullivan


Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams lead a critically acclaimed cast in this gripping true story about the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation that uncovered a scandal that rocked one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institutions. Delving into allegations of child abuse within the local Catholic Archdiocese, a tenacious team of Boston Globe reporters exposes a decades-long cover-up that reaches the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal, and government establishment. “Brilliantly acted and flawlessly directed” (New York Post ) Spotlight is a powerful and riveting drama the critics are calling “the All the President’s Men of our time” (Los Angeles Times ).


It was the news scandal that rocked the world.

When The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team investigated cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in Boston by numerous Roman Catholic priests, the article which was unveiled in 2002, encouraged other victims to come forward with their allegations of abuse and would show a pattern of sexual abuse and cover-up of large dioceses across the United States.

As a good number Catholic bishops kept their crimes secret and were assigned to other parishes and continued to prey upon youth during unsupervised contact.

And the Boston Globe’s investigation was made into an expose for the film “Spotlight” directed by Tom Mitchell (“The Visitor”, “The Cobbler”, “Win Win”) and co-written by Mitchell and Josh Singer (“The Fifth Estate”, “Fringe”, “The West Wing”).

The film stars Mark Ruffalo (“The Avengers”, “Shutter Island”, “Now You See Me”), Michael Keaton (“Batman”, “Birdman”, “Batman Returns”), Rachel McAdams (“Midnight in Paris”, “Sherlock Holmes”, “Mean Girls”), Liev Schreiber (“Salt”, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), John Slattery (“Mad Men”, “Iron Man”, “Flag of Our Fathers”), Brian d’Arcy James (“Game Change”, “Ghost Town”), Stanley Tucci (“The Hunger Games”, “Transformers: Age of Extinction”, “The Devil Wears Prada”), Elena Wohl (“The Invention of Lying”, “K2”), Gene Amoroso (“The Inventions of Lying”, “Mystic Pizza”) and Doug Murray (“How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”, “Man of the Year”).

The film received positive reviews and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Universal Home Entertainment.

“Spotlight” begins in 2001 with hiring of the new editor for the Boston Globe, Marty Barron (portrayed by Liev Schreiber).  During a meeting with the award winning Spotlight team led by Spotlight editor Walter “Robby” Robinson (portrayed by Michael Keaton), he and his team which includes Michael Rezendes (portrayed by Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (portrayed by Rachel McAdams) and several others.

The Spotlight team is known for writing investigative articles which takes months to research before publishing.  And instantly, Marty wants the team to look into a Globe article about lawyer Mitchell Garabedian (portrayed by Stanley Tucci), who says that Cardinal Law (the Archbishop of Boston) knew about priest John Geoghan sexually abusing children and did nothing to stop him.

At first, many are hesitant to take on the story because of the power the Catholic Church has on the city of Boston.  But as the team starts to investigate John Geoghan, once they interview one of the victims, they start to learn that there was a pattern of sexual abuse of children by multiple Catholic priests in Massachusetts and how the abuse was covered-up by the Boston Archdiocese.

And from the research by the Spotlight team on one priest, leads to 13 and from that number up to 90 priests.  But what secrets will they uncover during their research?


VIDEO:

“Spotlight” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  Featuring wonderful detail close-up, vibrant visuals during outdoor scenes and great saturation, “Spotlight” looks great in HD.  No sign of banding or artifact issues at all.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Spotlight” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with English  SDH, Espanol and Francais subtitles.

Dialogue and musical scores are crystal clear and while a dialogue and musically driven soundtrack, the surround channels utilize the ambiance of Boston and outdoor sequences very well.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Spotlight” comes with the following special features:

  • Uncover the Truth: A Spotlight Team Roundtable – (6:33) The real Boston Globe “Spotlight” staff discuss the film and their story.
  • Spotlight: A Look Inside – (2:30) A short spotlight of the film with brief interviews.
  • The State of Journalism – (3:14) A short featurette about the evolution of journalism.

EXTRAS:

“Spotlight” comes with a DVD version of the film and an UltraViolet code.


The child abuse sex scandal involving a number of Boston priests was no doubt a shocking scandal.  It sickening for one priest to be involved but multiple dozen, up to 90 and possibly even more, the news was deeply sickening.  But the cover-up was so troublesome and unfortunate, that even I started to question Roman Catholicism and the only religion that I knew.

And it was probably one of the most blistering journalistic tasks to take on considering the magnitude of the scandal and I praise the Boston Globe Spotlight team for their diligence and perseverance of making sure they had as much information, interviewed so many people and really doing a thorough job for their research for their articles.  But most importantly, hopefully gaining some closure for the victims who have been silent for so long.

Fast forward to 2015 and here we are with a biopic on the Spotlight news crew from the Boston Globe and how these individuals took on the case, things endure during their investigation and also during the time of 9/11 but leading up to the publishing of the first article.

The storyline was gripping, each scene with meaning and every performance in sync.  Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci and others did a magnificent job.

But the film also unveiled surprises, from how the news crew learned of multiple offenders, discovering that even their own writers knew of the story earlier on but buried it, but also the difficult and challenges that these editors and their writers had to face.  Once again, the magnitude of this story sent shockwaves not just nationwide but globally.

And to have this film out, and even having the support of those in the Catholic Church, and it’s a much different tone compared to nearly 15-years-ago.  But with so many years that have gone by, even Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston commented how the film showed how newspaper reports prompted the church “to deal what was shameful and hidden”.

For the most part, Josh Singer did a magnificent job directing this film and along with Tom McCarthy, writing a screenplay that is captivating especially when viewers know that what people are seeing, are actual true accounts of what happened.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is magnificent.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue and music driven but audio/musical score are crystal clear, while surround channels are used subtly for ambiance.

Overall, “Spotlight” is a well-directed, well-written and wonderfully performed film that is deserving of every nomination and awards it has won. No doubt one of the best films of 2015!

“Spotlight” on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

Coming Home (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

cominghome

Zhang Yimou’s “Coming Home” is a powerful drama thanks to the magnificent performance of actress Gong Li.  A love story showcasing commitment and perseverance, “Coming Home” is a film that I highly recommend!

Image courtesy of © 2014 Le Vision Pictures Co. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Coming Home

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 109 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Some Thematic Material)

RELEASE DATE: March 8, 2016


Directed by Zhang Yimou

Based on the Novel by Geling Yan

Screenplay by Jingzhi Zou

Produced by Turi Vasile, Luggi Waldfeitner

Music by Benedetto Ghiglia, Piero Piccioni

Cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi

Edited by Franco Fraticelli

Production Design by Maurizio Chiari

Set Decoration by Bruno Cesari

Costume Design by Maurizio Chiari


Starring:

Li Gong as Feng Wanyu

Daoming Chen as Lu Yanshi

Huiwen Zhang as Dan Dan, the daughter

Tao Guo as Officer Liu

Ni Yan as Officer Li

Chun Li as Cui Meifang

Jia-yi Zhang as Doctor Dai

Peiqi Liu as Officer Liu

Jiali Ding as Mr. Fang’s Wife


Lu (Chen Daoming) and Feng (Gong Li) are a devoted couple forced to separate when Lu is arrested and sent to a labor camp as a political prisoner during the Cultural Revolution. When Lu is released years later, he returns home to find his beloved wife has amnesia and remembers little of her past. Unable to recognize him, she still patiently awaits her husband’s return. A stranger within his own family, Lu is determined to awaken his wife’s memory through gentle displays of unconditional and eternal love.


From filmmaker Zhang Yimou (“Hero”, “House of Flying Daggers”, “The Curse of the Golden Flower”) comes the 2014 drama “Coming Home”.  An adaptation of the novel by Geling Yan and a screenplay by Jingzhi Zou.

Starring Chen Daoming (“Hero”, “Infernal Affairs 3”, “Aftershock”), Gong Li (“2046”, “Hannibal Rising”, “Raise the Red Lantern”, “Miami Vice”) and Huiwen Zhang (“Forever Young”), the film was shot in Tanjin and Beijing and has received positive reviews from film critics worldwide.

And now, “Coming Home” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Coming Home” begins with Lu Yanshi (portrayed by Chen Daoming), a professor persecuted and sent to a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution (a sociopolitical movement in the People’s Republic of China between 1966-1976 by Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party of China, in order to preserve “true” Communist ideology and removing all capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society).

Lu Yanshi has escaped and is headed home.

We are introduced to a young woman named Dan Dan (portrayed by Huiwen Zhang), a ballerina who is working hard to be the lead dancer in a performance.  She and her mother Feng Wanyu (portrayed by Gong Li) are asked if they had any information on the whereabouts of Lu Yanshi and are told if they do, to not confront him but report him to authorities.

But for Feng Wanyu, who hasn’t seen her husband for a decade, she desperately wants to see her husband, but her daughter tells her not to.

Because word has gotten out about Lu Yanshi’s escape, Dan Dan is not given the lead role but meanwhile, she confronts her father who is hiding in their building, planning to see his family.

While authorities are keeping a close eye on the building that Feng Wanyu and Dan Dan are living, she sees that her mom has packed her clothing and is planning to leave.  She forbids her mother to do it but her mom tells her that she has spent her life taking care of Dan Dan, but now she must take care of her mother.  Dan Dan tries to prevent her mother by blocking the door.

The following morning, Dan Dan wakes up to find out her mother has left.

Feng Wanyu and Lu Yanshi try to find each other, but Dan Dan reports to the authorities of her father’s whereabouts, after she is told that she would be receiving the lead role.  As authorities capture Lu Yanshi, they try to stop Feng Wanyu from getting close to him and she is pushed and falls on the pavement and slamming her head.  Lu Yanshi is apprehended and Dan Dan is shocked about what has happened and worries for her mother.

Fast forward to the end of the Cultural Revolution, Lu Yanshi is released and comes home to find out that Dan Dan does not live at home and is no longer a dancer and works as a textile worker.

When he goes to visit Feng Wanyu, he finds out that she does not remember him.  She suffers from amnesia and something has happened to her and when she sees Lu Yanshi, she does not think he is her husband.

So, now Lu Yanshi must do what he can in hopes to reawaken his wife’s memory but also bring together his broken family if possible.


VIDEO:

“Coming Home” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1).  While scenes tend to be focused inside the home of Feng Wanyu and the room that Lu Yanshi is staying in, the scenes are well-lit, closeup details are very good and for the most part, make-up design is well-done in showcasing Gong Li as an older woman.  But the scenes shot by cinematography Xiaoding Zhao captures emotion and the state of Feng Wanyu’s well-being.  Cinematography is well-done, colors are natural and black levels are nice and deep.

I did not notice any artifacts or banding issues while watching the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Coming Home” is presented in Mandarin (PRC), Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.

The film is primarily dialogue driven with a few scenes such as crowds or during Dan Dan’s performance utilizing the surround channels for ambiance.  But this is a dialogue driven film with beautifully composed music by Qigang Chen.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Coming Home” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Zhang Yimou.
  • Toronto Film Festival Q&A with Zhang Yimou – (18:46) Featuring a post-screening Q&A with director Zhang Yimou.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailers for “Coming Home”.

Zhang Yimou has created beautiful masterpiece films in his cinematic oeuvre.  While many showcase action, “Coming Home” features on a family broken apart due to the Cultural Revolution in China.

About how a husband and wife remain committed to each other, even though one of them has amnesia.  A powerful, yet sad film about love between two people that has lasted for decades, the film relies heavily on the shoulders of actress Gong Li.

Known for her beauty and sensual scenes, in “Coming Home”, Gong Li gives a fantastic performance as Feng Wanyu, a woman who was separated by her husband because of the Cultural Revolution and forbidden to see or speak of him.  So, she holds hope that one day she can be reunited with him.

Unfortunately, the day that she is to reunite with him, after her husband had escaped from prison, she hits her head on the pavement and now suffers from amnesia.

At the end of the Cultural Revolution, her husband returns home but he finds out that while she awaits for her husband’s return, despite her husband being back home, she does not recognize him, as they have aged over the years.

She doesn’t retain much memories of the past and present but she retains memories of when her husband will return but also the disappoint she has towards her daughter (who reported her father to the authorities after he had escaped).

With the task of trying to bring his broken family together, Lu Yanshi must do all that is necessary to help bring his wife’s memory but also restore the relationship between mother and daughter.

A film that is beautifully shot and a screenplay by Jingzhi Zou that captures the trials and tribulations of each family member, the film is unique but also a film that you rarely see in Chinese cinema as it is set during the Cultural Revolution.

As Gong Li was fantastic in the film, credit also has to be given to actor Daoming Chen of being a husband that is hurt by his wife’s condition but is committed in hoping to bring her memories back.  And young actress Huiwen Zhang does a good job for her acting debut in a major film, playing a daughter that desperately wants her family’s love, but feels guilty for the pain she has caused.

The Blu-ray release features great cinematography and picture quality, while lossless audio is dialogue and music-driven.  You get a few special features such as a commentary, Toronto Film Festival Q&A and a theatrical trailer.

Overall, Zhang Yimou’s “Coming Home” is a powerful drama thanks to the magnificent performance of actress Gong Li.  A love story showcasing commitment and perseverance, “Coming Home” is a film that I highly recommend!

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

February 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

macbeth

Director Justin Kurzel’s 2015 adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is wonderfully done.  Superb acting, fantastic costume design and cinematography, “Macbeth” (2015) is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Studio Canal. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Macbeth

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 113 Minutes

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

COMPANY: The Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay Entertainment

RATED: R (Strong Violence and Brief Sexuality)

RELEASE DATE: March 8, 2016


Directed by Justin Kurzel

Based on the Play by William Shakespeare

Screenplay by Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, Todd Louiso

Produced by Ian Canning, Laura Hastings-Smith, Emile Sherman

Executive Producer: Jenny Borgars, Olivier Courson, Danny Perkins, Tess Ross, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein

Co-Producer: Andrew Warren

Music by Jed Kurzel

Cinematography by Adam Arkapaw

Edited by Chris Dickens

Casting by Jina Jay

Production Design by Fiona Crombie

Set Decoration by Alice Felton

Costume Design by Jacqueline Durran


Starring:

Michael Fassbender as Macbeth

Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth

Paddy Considine as Banquo

Lynn Kennedy as Middle-Aged Witch

Seylan Baxter as Old Witch

Amber Rissman as Child Witch

David Thewlis as Duncan

David Hayman as Lennox

Jack Reynor as Malcolm

Brian Nickels as Thane of Cawdor

James Harkness as Angus

Ross Anderson as Rosse

Sean Harris as Macduff

Maurice Roeves as Menteith

Jack Madigan as Macbeth Child

Frank Madigan as Macbeth Child


From the producers of The King’s Speech comes the story of a fearless Scottish General, Macbeth (Academy Award© Nominee Michael Fassbender), whose ambitious wife (Academy Award © Winner Marion Cotillard*) urges him to use wicked means to gain power of the throne. A thrilling interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous and compelling characters, Macbeth is a dramatic re-imagining of the realities of war-torn times and a tale of all-consuming passion and ambition.


One of the greatest tragedies written, William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” has received numerous adaptations.

In 2015, “Macbeth” received its latest film adaptation by director Justin Kurzel (“The Snowtown Murders”, “The Turning”) and a screenplay by Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie and Todd Louiso.

The film stars Michael Fassbender (“Inglourious Basterds”, “Prometheus”, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, “X-Men: First Class”), Marion Cotillard (“Inception”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, “La Vie en Rose”), Paddy Considine (“The Bourne Ultimatum”, “Cinderella Man”, “In America”), David Thewlis (“Seven Years of Tibet”, “The Theory of Everything”, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”), DavidHayman(“Sid and Nancy”, “Trial & Retribution”, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”) and Jack Reynor (“Transformers: Age of Extinction”, “What Richard Did”, “Delivery Man”).

The film begins with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth mourning for their child and then Macbeth (loyal to King Duncan) leading soldiers (which include many children) into battle.

As Macbeth’s soldiers are victorious, Macbeth (portrayed by Michael Fassbender) and Banquo (portrayed by Paddy Considine) are approached by three witches who hail Macbeth as the Thane of Cawdor and the future king.

While Macbeth is not believing the witches at first, King Duncan, after hearing of Macbeth’s victory and finding the current Thane of Cawdor as a traitor who allied with Norse invaders, has him executed.  Macbeth is then bequeathed the title of “Thane of Cawdor”.

After becoming the Thane of Cawdor, he tells his wife, Lady Macbeth of the witch’s prophecies. Wanting her husband of becoming the King and knowing that King Duncan would be staying with them for the night, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth hatch a plan to make the witch’s prophecies come true by assassinating King Duncan.

As Macbeth becomes the new King of Scotland, guilt and paranoia strikes Macbeth which will lead him to a downward spiral.


VIDEO:

“Macbeth”is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1).  The picture quality is lit by natural light as closeups maintain wonderful detail, as skintones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.  I didn’t notice any banding, artifacts or crush during my viewing of this film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Macbeth” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  The film is primarily dialogue and musically driven.  Dialogue is crystal clear while music utilizes the surround channels.  Surround channels are utilized during the action sequences of the film.

Features English SDH and Spanish subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Macbeth” comes with the following special features:

  • The Story of Macbeth – (7:55) Director Justin Kurzel and cast discuss the making of “Macbeth”.
  • Q&A with Michael Fassbender – (20:12) A post screening Q&A with actor Michael Fassbender.

EXTRAS:

“Macbeth” comes with an UltraVioletcode to watch this film digitally in HD.


Having read and watched various adaptations of “Macbeth”, I have watched this film with the mindset of a man who was driven by ego and his wife’s drive to become the King of Scotland and doing whatever is necessary to get to the top, even if it means slaughtering his own close friends but then succumbing to his own guilt which drives him mad.

But with this 2015 film adaptation by Justin Kurzel and actor Michael Fassbender told the press at the Cannes Film Festival that Macbeth would be diagnosed with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Syndrome Disorder) after fighting and surviving so many wars and having led many, including boys to their deaths for their King.

As I get older, when you see something off with a character, you tend to assign some sort of clinical reason to their way of being.  Something that those with an open mind can see it in that way and others who despite reading some clinical reason of why someone becomes depressed or are going mad.

But is this the case of “Macbeth”?  If so, then no doubt William Shakespeare has created a story that was way ahead of its time.

In modern times, we have seen soldiers suffer from PTSD after going through hell and it’s one of the tragedies of war and because it was the way of life for Macbeth and his men, moreso for the leader Macbeth, no matter how strong a man may appear, you never know what’s going through a man’s head.  Many soldiers go through hallucinations and so I can see how Fassbender saw his character as suffering from PTSD and literally going mad.

But in the story of Macbeth, while he desires to be the King, he is set to the path of murder courtesy of his wife, Lady Macbeth.

But unlike other adaptations that focus on a more ruthless protagonist, director Justin Kurtzel focuses on a couple who lost their child, fears of what goes on in the battlefield continuously and in many ways, this couple is quite fragile.

The performances by both Fassbender and actress Marion Cotillard are wonderful, considering Cotillard is French and playing a Scottish woman, she did very well in playing a character that is driven to make her husband King but then seeing him consumed by guilt leading the couple to a path towards self-destruction.

But overall, this adaptation of “Macbeth” is really well done and for a film, it’s one of the more simpler, easy to follow Shakespeare-based storylines.    Shot in Scotland and along with great performances comes wonderfully shot scenes and also fantastic costume design.  I was quite impressed by the production value of this modern adaptation of “Macbeth” and how captivating the overall film turned out to be.

As for the Blu-ray, close-ups show magnificent detail, while dialogue is crystal clear, as with the film’s musical score.  You are also treated to a “Making of Macbeth” featurette and Q&A with actor Michael Fassbender.

Overall, director Justin Kurzel’s 2015 adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is wonderfully done.  Superb acting, fantastic costume design and cinematography, “Macbeth” (2015) is recommended!

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

February 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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BAIK’s “The Beauty Inside” is an enjoyable, charming romantic comedy that is fresh and unique.  Definitely worth watching!

Image courtesy of (C) 2015 Next Entertainment World. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Beauty Inside

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 127 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: February 2, 2016


Directed by Jong-Yeol Baek

Written by Seon-jeong Kim and Jeong-ye Park

Executive Producers: Woo-Taek Kim

Co-producer: Tae-joon Park

Produced by Syd Lim

Music by Young-wook Jo

Cinematography by Tae-kyung Kim

Edited by Jim-mo Yang

Production Design by Ha-jun Lee

Costume Design by Ji-hun Ahn


Starring:

Hyo-ju Han as Yong Yi-soo

Seo Joon Park as Woo-jin

Juri Ueno as Woo-jin

Jin-wook Lee as Woo-jin

Ju-hyuk Kim as Woo-jin

Yeon-Seok Yoo as Woo-jin/Narrator

Seong-woo Bae as Woo-jin

Woo-hee Chun as Woo-jin

Ji-han Do as Woo-jin

Karel Hermanek Jr. as Woo-jin

Da-mi Hong as Woo-jin

Hyun-woo Lee as Woo-jin

Dal-hwan Jo as Woo-jin

Dae-Myung Kim as Woo-jin

Hee-won Kim as Woo-jin

Min-jae Kim as Woo-jin

Sang-ho Kim as Woo-jin

Ah-sung Ko as Woo-jin

Beom-su Lee as Woo-jin

Dong-Wook Lee as Woo-jin

Jae-Joon Lee as Woo-jin

Dong-Hwi Lee as Sang-baek

Suk Mun as Woo-jin’s mother

Keyong-yeong Lee as Woo-jin’s father

Mi-do Lee as Hong Eun-soo


All relationships have issues, but Woo-jin’s identity crisis is a new one – in fact, it’s a new one every day. Every morning, Woo-jin wakes up in a different body. His age, gender, and nationality may change, but the one constant in his life is E-soo – the woman he loves. She knows his secret, and loves him anyway. With every transformation, Woo-jin has to figure out how to return to his own body and reunite with Yi-soo. The surprise sleeper hit of Cannes, THE BEAUTY INSIDE is a body-hopping romantic comedy that asks the question – where does love begin?


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From filmmaker Jong-Yeol Baek, comes a romantic comedy and drama that will no doubt poses the question…is there beauty inside?

Starring Hyo-ju Han (“Masquerade”, “Always”, “Iljimae”), Seo Joon Park (“Chronicles of Evil”, “A Witch’s Love”, “I Summon You, Gold!”), Juri Ueno (“Swing Girls”, “Nodame Cantabile: The Movie I”, “Rainbow Song”), Jin Wook Lee (“Miss Granny”, “Nine: Nine Time Travels”, “The Target”), Ju-hyuk Kim (“Love Me Not”, “My Wife Got Married”, “Lovers in Prague”) and many, many more.

The film received “Best Supporting Actress” nominations for Juri Ueno, “Best Actress” nominations for Hyo-ju Han and the film won “Best New Director” for Jong-Yeol Baek.

The film is now available on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The story revolves around a man named Woo-jin.  One day, he woke up to a different face and from then on, each day, he transforms into a different person (man, woman, child of different ethnicities).

At first it was difficult for Woo-jin but he managed to create a successful furniture shop alongside his best friend Sang-baek (portrayed by Dong-Hwi Lee).

Knowing that he may never find love, one day while going to a furniture seller, he meets a salesperson named Yong Yi-soo who is passionate about the furniture he created (he doesn’t tell her that the furniture is from his company).

Smitten by her, he continues to visit her but of course, she doesn’t know it’s the same person, because he changes bodies so often.

But one day, he changes to a stylish young man and in order to date her, he tries not to sleep at all in order to not change.

But what happens when Woo-jin needs to tell Yong Yi-soo the truth?


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VIDEO:

“The Beauty Inside” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  Cinematography looks wonderful as scenes are well-staged.  Lighting is very good and for the most part, close up details are evident.  I didn’t notice any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Beauty Inside” is presented in Korean 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with English subtitles.  The film is primarily dialogue and music driven with surround channels used for ambiance, but dialogue and music are crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Beauty Inside” comes with no special features.


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Is beauty skin deep?  Do people look for what’s in the inside versus outside appearances?

For Woo-jin, he has been afflicted with a very rare condition in which he transforms into another person each time he sleeps.  Man, woman, child of different ethnicities.

Suffice to say, it’s one of the reason why he has focused on his career as a furniture maker, but when he goes to a furniture store and falls in love with the salesperson, he does whatever he can to date her.  And when Woo-jin changes to a stylish young man and is able to date Yong Yi-soo and gets her to feel attracted to him, what happens when he tells her the truth about his condition?

Will she fall in love with him, despite his changing appearance and care for what is in the inside?

Jong-Yeol Baek’s (BAIK) “The Beauty Inside” is an enchanting romantic comedy that slowly transitions into an emotional drama.

At first, you feel that Woo-jin’s personal crisis is unreal but once the thought and seeing it happen over and over starts to settle in, you can’t help but root for him to find love with the beautiful and caring Yong Yi-soo.  But the question is if her love is able to move past the fact that she may never remember the person’s outside appearance because he keeps changing and starts to make her stressed and sick, it begins to affect their relationship.

In essence, the two make a good couple but it comes down to acceptance.  Will she accept him?

Part of what makes the film so charming is actress Hyo-ju Han who does a phenomenal job of playing Hong Yi-soo.  She draws you in and makes you care for her, but you know deep inside, she’s hurting.  Meanwhile, there are multiple charming talents who do a great job of playing Woo-jin and are able to bring out the humorous but also the more emotional side of the character.

Needless to say, what also makes “The Beauty Inside” so entertaining and so charming is its fresh story.  It’s quite unique and because there’s nothing banal about this film, you can’t help but watch and see what happens to the characters and whether or not they will be together (for those who watch Korean films and dramas, happy endings are never certain).

As for the Blu-ray release, the film looks and sounds great in HD, unfortunately there are no special features included.

But overall, BAIK’s “The Beauty Inside” is an enjoyable, charming romantic comedy that is fresh and unique.  Definitely worth watching!

Labyrinth of Lies (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

labyrinth

“Labyrinth of Lies” is a powerful and thought-provoking film based on real events of how post-war Germany was trying to move forward from World War II and the fall of the Nazi regime, but how a prosecutor was determined to go after as many Nazi soldiers who were involved in atrocities at Auschwitz, despite pressures for him to give up and quit. Giulio Ricciarelli’s “Labyrinth of Lies” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014-2015 Claussen-Putz Filmproduktion GmbH and naked eye filmproduction. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Labyrinth of Lies

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 123 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1, German 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RELEASE DATE: February 16, 2016


Directed by Giulio Ricciarelli

Screenplay by Elisabeth Bartel, Giulio Ricciarelli, Amelie Syberg (collaboration)

Produced by Turi Vasile, Luggi Waldfeitner

Music by Benedetto Ghiglia, Piero Piccioni

Cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi

Edited by Franco Fraticelli

Production Design by Maurizio Chiari

Set Decoration by Bruno Cesari

Costume Design by Maurizio Chiari


Starring:

Alexander Fehling as Johann Radmann

Andre Szymanski as Thomas Gnielka

Friederike Becht as Marlene Wondrak

Johannes Krisch as Simon Kirsch

Johann von Bulow as Staatsanwalt Otto Haller

Robert Hunger-Buhler as Oberstaatsanwalt Walter Friedberg

Hansi Jochmann as sekretarin Schmittchen

Lukas Miko as Hermann Langein

Gert Voss as Generalstaatsanwait Fritz Bauer

Tim Williams as Major Parker


Germany 1958. In those years, “Auschwitz” was a word that some people had never heard of, and others wanted to forget as quickly as possible. Against the will of his immediate superior, young prosecutor Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling) begins to examine the case of recently identified teacher who was a former Auschwitz gard. Radmann soon lands in a web of repression and denial, but also of idealization. He devotes himself with utmost commitment to his new task and is resolved to find out what really happened. He oversteps boundaries, falls out with friends, colleagues and allies, and is sucked deeper and deeper into a labyrinth of lies and guilt in his search for the truth. But what he ultimately brings to light will change the country forever.


Italian Actor and producer Giulio Ricciarelli (“Rosselini”, “Black Money”) is known for his roles on camera but this time around, the actor focused on his experience behind the camera in the 2014 German drama “Im Labyrinth des Schweigens” (Labyrinth of Lies).

Featuring a screenplay co-written by Ricciarelli and Elisabeth Bartel, the film would star Alexander Fehling (“Inglorious Basterds”, “Young Goethe in Love”, “Am Ende Kommen Touristen”), Andre Szymanski (“Wolfsburg”), Friederike Becht (“The Reader”, “Hannah Arendt”), Johannes Krisch (“Revanche”, “360”), Johann von Bulow (“The Stranger in Me”, “13 Minutes”), Robert Hunger-Buhler (“Angst”, “Unter dir die Stadt”), Hansi Jochmann (“Shining Through”, “Pfarrer Braun”) and Gert Voss (“Der Kopf des Mohren”, “Doktor Knock”).

And now the Blu-ray will be released courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Inspired on a true story, “Labyrinth of Lies” takes place in the late 1950’s.  A scene begins near a school and a Jewish artist named Simon Kirsch (portrayed by Johannes Krisch) needs a light and comes across a man named Charles Schulz (a former Auschwitz extermination camp commander) which he remembers and is scared of him.

We are then taken to a law office and are introduced to young public prosecutor Johann Radmann (portrayed by Alexander Fehling).  Not knowing how things work around his office, when he sees Walter Friedberg (portrayed by Robert Hunger-Bhuhler) and the older man ask for the law office to take on the case and how a Nazi is teaching at a school and how it’s not right.

The law office is not interested and talk about Auschwitz of being western propaganda and whatever happened in the past is past.

But when Walter goes to Radmann and gives him a paper, his boss throws the paper away and tells Radmann to focus on his own work.

But always being curious, Radmann decides to retrieve the paper and brings it up during a lawyer’s meeting with the head boss Fritz Bauer (portrayed by Gert Voss) listening and how he would like to pursue this case.  Fritz tells him that it may be a difficult because for a lot of people in the war who were Nazi, many went to go work in a variety of jobs, including the government.  He would need to have proof.

When Radmann goes to meet with Walter and Simon, he begins to research on what happened in Auschwitz and learn about the details of what really happened when the Nazi’s kept Jews imprisoned in the camps.  While Radmann wants Simon to give him more information, for some reason, Simon is not interested in talking about the past.

But Radmann and Walter end up stealing papers from Simon which detail thousands of Nazi’s who worked in Auschwitz and those who are still employed in Germany.

But when Radmann begins discussing with survivors from Auschwitz of what happened, he learns that many were tortured and killed.  Many just for glancing at Nazi soldiers.  But learns that the deaths were not a few, nor a dozen, nor a hundred, but thousands of people of all ages who were murdered.

Needing more witnesses and hoping to get Simon to be a witness, he learns the truth from Simon of why he doesn’t talk about the past.  It’s because he had two beautiful twin daughters and thinking that the doctor that he gave them to, would take good car of them in Auschwitz, he learned that the doctor was Josef Mengele, who tortured and experimented on twins.

This leads Radmann, sickened by all the witness testimonies and what happened to Simon’s children to now want to do all he can and put those who caused crimes in Auschwitz and have the proof of it, and let justice speak in behalf of the victims.

But Radmann is quick to learn, Germany has never prosecuted the Nazi’s and for whatever happened in the past, many feel it necessary to keep it in the past.


VIDEO:

“Labyrinth of Lies” is presented in 2:35:1 black and white and in 1080p High Definition. Closeups of characters and clothing show great detail.  Skin tones look natura and black levels look nice and deep.  I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Labrynth of Lies” is presented in German 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  The film is primarily dialogue and music driven with surround channels showcasing ambiance or noises from the parties which the characters are in.  But for the most part, dialogue and music are crystal clear.

Features English, English SDH and French subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Labyrinth of Lies” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Giulio Ricciarelli and Alexander Fehling.
  • Deleted Scenes – (5:46) Featuring seven deleted scenes.
  • LA Jewish Film Festival Q&A – (43:01) Featuring a Q&A with director Giulio Ricciarelli and actor Alexander Fehling.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailers for “Labyrinth of Lies”.

 

EXTRAS:

“Labyrinth of Lies” comes with an UltraViolet code for digital viewing.


I think for many people who have read their history books or watched archived news of the rise and fall of the Nazi Germany, there is always something in back of your mind that wanted to know of what happened after the war.

While modern news have showcased various war criminals who have been put on trial, there is not much known outside of Germany of what happened to the soldiers who served Hitler and how Germans felt.  Nor what transpired after World War II aside from the dismantling of Germany by the Allied Forces.  Or how regular people felt about the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime.

With “Labyrinth of Lies”, the story is based on a true story of lawyers who wanted to carry out justice for the Auschwitz survivors against those who were involved in the mass killing of European Jews.

Many of those who served at Auschwitz went back home, started new careers and moved on.  Germany and its people moved on and move forward after Germany’s loss in the war.

But not many people knew about the atrocities committed by the Nazi people and what took place at the camps.  What happened was that Nazi soldiers returned back home to civilian life and they were protected by the German government and the country’s statute of limitations forbid any of the soldiers being tried unless they committed a murder.

For Italian actor/producer turned filmmaker Giulio Ricciarelli (who resides in Germany), his goal was to research and create a story based on the prosecutors who worked on the first public prosecution against war criminals in Germany and how they were determined to get all the witness statements that they can in order to persecute these individuals who had involvement in the atrocities.

“Labyrinth of Lies” is a film that doesn’t focus on the Nazi’s, Germany’s loss in the war or World War II, it’s about a young prosecutor named Johann Radmann, due to his youth and hard-headedness, wanted to take on the case against those who committed atrocities on innocents at Auschwitz and hold them accountable and let Justice carry out the punishment for those involved.

The film would show how public sentiment was towards Radmann pursuing such a case.  A superior who is dedicated to this country, feels that Radmann is bring up old wounds and he should stop.  Radmann himself and many others, unaware of what happened in Auschwitz and if they did hear of something, they pushed it aside and treated it as western propaganda.

But seeing Radmann discovering the stories of the many Jews who were imprisoned at Auschwitz and their stories of being tortured or having loved ones murdered by the Nazi’s, no doubt touched his soul to the point that the case was the mission.

But as Radmann would soon find out, going after the Nazi’s is generally going against a huge demographic of Germans who served their country and in essence, during World War II, were Nazi themselves.

So, as the film focuses on justice for the dead and those who survived Auschwitz, the film is also about learning, growing and essentially Germany learning about what really transpired at Auschwitz and why these Germans who worked at Auschwitz, who are now working as government officials, teachers or someone that works at a store one typically frequents, are unaware the devilish , tragic and disgusting things that were committed at Auschwitz.

There is no doubt that “Labyrinth of Lies” is a powerful film that took much research (it took director Ricciarelli three years to work on the script) but to also create a film that shows an apathetic Germany, it was no doubt one of the hot, possibly taboo topics for one to discuss at that time and inspired by real events, brought to the big screen over 50-years later.

Fortunately, for those who want to take a breather from the more deeper scenarios featured the film, there is a romance story between Johann Radmann and Marlene Wondrak (portrayed by Friederike Becht) that does bring a little laughter in the film.  But while I felt there were certain scenes involving the two that could have been cut out of the film.

But even the relationship starts to take a more serious direction when Radmann, who begins to lose it after discovering how Germany would choose to forget the past or what the Nazi regime did and many Germans at the time, served with the Nazi military and starts to question himself and this mega case.  Eventually Radmann’s curiousity leads him to start his own investigation and find out if his own father and Marlene’s father have a connection to the Nazi regime.

The film is no doubt an eye-opener but watching the Q&A featurette with director Giulio Ricciarelli and actor Alexander Fehling at the LA Jewish Film Festival, it was rather interesting to watch because Fehling’s reactions, having been raised in Germany to answer the questions of German’s feelings towards the genocide is no surprise, because it’s the same similar answer I get when I discuss with my friends in Japan about what Japan did to China and what the Imperial Army committed during World War II.  Many people in Japan look at what happened back then, is something that happened back then and doesn’t affect the present.  Fehling answer and how one person he knew, said something similar of, “what happened was tragic, but what does it have to do with me”.

And I often suspect, that’s how countries dealt with such situations, to distance itself from the past and move forward.  But unfortunately, because of the magnitude of the atrocities, for those living in other countries that pays respect to those who lost their lives and to family members who suffered, these are situations that one can not forget and will never forget.

It’s important to note that while the film features Radmann and team going after various Nazi soldiers, it shows Radmann wanting to go after Joseph Mengele and him working with the Mossad (the National Intelligence Agency of Israel) but also with details of how Adolf Eichmann was captured.  For those who want to know more about the trial of Eichmann, will want to watch “Hannah Arendt”, the 2012 film directed by Margarethe von Trotta.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture and lossless audio quality is very good, while special features include an audio commentary, Q&A from the LA Jewish Festival and deleted scenes.

Overall, “Labyrinth of Lies” is a powerful and thought-provoking film based on real events of how post-war Germany was trying to move forward from World War II and the fall of the Nazi regime, but how a prosecutor was determined to go after as many Nazi soldiers who were involved in atrocities at Auschwitz, despite pressures for him to give up and quit.

Giulio Ricciarelli’s “Labyrinth of Lies” is recommended!

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

February 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

thegooddinosaur

“The Good Dinosaur” is a fantastic family film which some may feel is geared a bit more towards a younger demographic and too simple for their tastes. But if you enjoy Disney Pixar animated films, “The Good Dinosaur” retains the consistency of quality and being an enjoyable film for people of all ages. “The Good Dinosaur” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Good Dinosaur

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 85 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:39:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Color, English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish / DVD Widescreen (2:39:1), English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital and English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish.

COMPANY: Disney Pixar

RATED: PG (For Peril, Action and Thematic Elements)

Release Date: February 23, 2016


Directed by Peter Sohn

Original Concept and Development by Bob Peterson

Screenplay by Meg LeFauve

Story by Peter Sohn, Erik Benson, Meg LeFauve, Kelsey Mann, Bob Peterson

Produced by Denise Ream

Executive Producer: John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich

Associate Producer: Mary Alice Drumm

Music by Jeff Danna, Mychael Danna

Casting by Natalie Lyon, Kevin Reher

Edited by Stephen Schaffer

Production Design by Harley Jessup


Starring:

Jeffrey Wright as Poppa

Frances McDormand as Momma

Maleah Nipay-Padilla as Young Libby

Ryan Teeple as Young Buck

Jack McGraw as Young Arlo

Marcus Scribner as Buck

Raymond Ochoa as Arlo

Jack Bright as Spot

Peter Sohn as Pet Collector

Steve Zahn as Thunderclap

A.J. Buckley as Nash

Anna Paquin as RAmsey

Sam Elliott as Butch

David Boat as Bubbha

Carrie Paff as Lurleane

Calum Grant as Pervis

John Ratzenberger as Earl


The Good Dinosaur” asks the question: What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? Pixar Animation Studios takes you on an epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend. While traveling through a harsh and mysterious landscape, Arlo learns the power of confronting his fears and discovers what he is truly capable of.


Peter Sohn (director of the short, “Partly Cloudy”) makes his animation directorial debut with “The Good Dinosaur”.

The film would be the second Disney Pixar film to be released in 2015 (which is a first) and the film features an original concept by Bob Peterson (who wrote the popular animated films “Finding Nemo” and “Up”) and a screenplay by Meg LeFauve (writer of “Inside Out”).

“The Good Dinosaur” features the voices of Jeffrey Wright (“Casino Royale”, “The Manchurian Candidate”, “Source Code”), Frances McDormand (“Fargo, “Mississippi Burning”, “Almost Famous”), Steve Zahn (“Dallas Buyers Club”, “Joy Ride”, “Sahara”), A.J. Buckley (“CSI: NY”, “Disturbing Behavior”), Anna Paquin (“The Piano Teacher”, “True Blood”, “X-Men” films), Sam Elliott (“Hulk”, “Up in the Air”, “Tombstone”), John Ratzenberger (“Cheers”) and Raymond Ochoa.

“The Good Dinosaur” would earn $305 million in the box office, although the budget for the animated film was around $200 million.  And while receiving positive reviews, “The Good Dinosaur” would be the least amount brought in the box office for a Disney Pixar film.

“The Good Dinosaur” takes place in world where a meteor didn’t hit Earth and didn’t result in dinosaurs becoming extinct.

Two Apatosaurus: Henry and Ida are farmers and they give birth to three baby Apatosaurus: Libby, Buck and Arlo.

While Libby and Buck are able to do their chores on the farm, Arlo is not as good at it as his siblings.  His father decides to give Arlo some responsibility in hopes it would give him a purpose, so Arlo must guard their silo from critters and build traps.

One day, Arlo is on guard and the trap captures a little caveboy.  Instead of killing the boy, Arlo sets him free and this angers his father.

So, Henry and Arlo go out to track the caveboy, but when Arlo injures himself in a ravine, Henry tries to help his boy but a flash flood occurs and while Henry was able to save Arlo, unfortunately Henry is swept away by a flood.

With his father now gone, Arlo must quickly grow up and take care of the farm with his siblings in order to help their mother.  But what happens when Arlo spots the caveboy returning back to the silo?


VIDEO:

“The Good Dinosaur” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). The film looks absolutely gorgeous in HD.  In fact, watching the trees, the river water and overall landscape, part of me was wondering if it was actual video footage of forests or if they were actually created in CG.  Suffice to say, CG has come a long way and just watching this film, the technology and how realistic and detailed outdoor scenery looks is amazing.  As for the characters, there is a bit of cuteness involved in the creation of Arlo the dinosaur and Spot the early human, but both are well-detailed, especially when Arlo has injuries and Spot gets dirty.

Overall, “The Good Dinosaur” looks amazing on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Good Dinosaur” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  As picture quality was fantastic, the lossless audio is also amazing.  From the rumble of the flooding, the thunder and lightning striking the mountain top, the various weather and action sequences, this is another Disney Pixar film in which the surround channels are well-utilized and the soundtrack is an audiophile’s dream.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Good Dinosaur” comes with the following special features:

  • Sanjay’s Super Team – (7:07) A Pixar animated short about Sanjay who is a big fan of the animated series, “Super Team” but his father is often meditating during the time Sanjay wants to watch his series loud.
  • True Lies About Dinosaurs – (1:56) What is true and what isn’t true about dinosaurs featured in “The Good Dinosaurs”.
  • Recyclosaurus – (6:20) Creative Competitions between Pixar employees and using garbage to create a dinosaur.
  • The Filmmakers’ Journey – (7:55) Director Peter Sohn discusses his directorial debut and the staff having technical challenges to get the film done in a short amount of time.
  • Every Part of the Dinosaur – (6:09) The animation crew talks about bringing Arlo and the characters to life.
  • Following the T-Rex Trail – (6:58) Director Peter Sohn and crew discussed about going to a ranching factory in Oregon to learn about herding cattle in order to get the experience and showcase herding in the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – (10:42) Featuring three deleted scenes with an introduction.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary for the film by director Peter Sohn and various members of the crew.
  • Dino Bites – (4:16) Clips featuring Arlo and Spot.
  • Hide and Seek – (:59) Arlo and Spot play hide and seek.
  • Trailers – Theatrical trailers (North America Trailer 2, Russian and German) for “The Good Dinosaur”.

EXTRAS:

“The Good Dinosaur” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film plus a Disney Movie Rewards code for a digital copy of the film.


Disney Pixar films have a solid foundation and consistency of having quality animated series that both parents and children can enjoy.

Part of the problem is that Disney Pixar has set the bar so high that if a film doesn’t become a mega box office hit, then the films are not considered as successful.

“The Good Dinosaur” is rather interesting because it’s the first time Disney Pixar released a second Pixar film for the year and no doubt it was a test of will power for those who worked for the film because after working on “Inside Out”, the crew selected to work on “The Good Dinosaur” had to come up with a film in a short amount of time.

And for the most part, what director Peter Sohn and the staff were able to accomplish is nothing short of fantastic as the film looks gorgeous and its story is touching and for the most part an entertaining and enjoyable family film.

But as mentioned, Disney Pixar has raised the standard for what people tend to expect from an animated film and one can say the film is simple and clear-cut.

There are no complexities, there are no major tangents, this is pretty much a story of a young Apatosaurus and a neanderthal human boy who come together due to circumstances and with both of them far from home, must survive together and try to make it back home.

In some ways, it does have similarities to Disney Pixar’s earlier 2015 film “Inside Out” in which the protagonist and her friends need to find a way back home, but with that film, because of the way it’s crafted and how it observed emotions of individuals, it was a smartly crafted film.  “The Good Dinosaur” is about friendship and survival and it all takes place in an alternative world in which dinosaurs weren’t wiped out by a meteor.

While there was no doubt a good number of competition in the box office for “The Good Dinosaur” during the Thanksgiving 2015 holiday and built-up hype and anticipation for Disney’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” which was set to premiere two weeks later, unfortunately, “The Good Dinosaur” got lost in the shuffle.  But the box office numbers are not yet complete as the film will be premiering in other countries in the Spring of 2016 and for those who missed it in the box office, I wouldn’t be surprised if sales for the film do even better on Blu-ray and DVD.

The Blu-ray release features magnificent picture and audio quality and there are also a good number of special features included.

“The Good Dinosaur” is a fantastic family film which some may feel is geared a bit more towards a younger demographic and too simple for their tastes.  But if you enjoy Disney Pixar animated films, “The Good Dinosaur” retains the consistency of quality and being an enjoyable film for people of all ages.

“The Good Dinosaur” is recommended!

 

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