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Land Ho! (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Land Ho!” is an entertaining road trip comedy, showing that no matter how old you are, it’s never too late to have fun!  A beautiful film worth watching!  A beautiful film that looks fantastic on Blu-ray!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Lay of the Land, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Land Ho!

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 95 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio), English, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English-Audio Description Track, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Some Language, Sexual References and Drug Use)

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Written and Directed by Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens

Produced by Christina Jennings, Mynette Louie, Sara Murphy

Co-Producer: Birgitta Bjornsdottir, Hlin Johannesdottir

Executive Producer: Wendy Ettinger, David Gordon Green

Co-Executive Producer: Abigail Disney, Wendy Ettinger, David Gordon Green, Emily Ting

Music by Keegan DeWitt

Cinematography by Andrew Reed

Edited by Aaron Katz

Starring:

Earl Lynn Nelson as Mitch

Paul Eenhoorn as Colin

Karie Crouse as Ellen

Elizabeth McKee as Janet

Alice Olivia Clarke as Nadine

Mitch, a bawdy former surgeon, convinces mild‐mannered Colin, his ex‐brother‐in‐law, to embark on an unplanned trip to Iceland with him. In an effort to get their grooves back, the odd couple set off on a road trip that takes them through trendy Reykjavík to the rugged outback. Mitch and Colin’s picaresque adventures through Iceland evolve into a candid exploration of aging, loneliness and friendship.

Featuring a collaboration with filmmakers Aaron Katz (“Cold Weather”, “Quiet City”) and Martha Stephens (“Pilgrim Song”, “Passenger Pigeons”) comes a comedy titled “Land Ho!” starring Earl Lynn Nelson (“Pilgrim Song”) and Paul Eenhoorn (“This is Martin Bonner”, “Chemistry”).  The film was the first feature to be financed by Gamechanger Films, an equity fund dedicated to financing features and co-directed by women.

A low-budget film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and shot with a $676,000+ budget, the film will be released on Blu-ray + DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Land Ho!” is a film that begins with retired surgeon Mitch (portrayed by Earl Lynn Nelson) visiting his ex-brother in law Colin (portrayed by Paul Eenhoorn), who is trying to get over his divorce.  Seeing how Colin has not been in the best of spirits, Mitch surprises him with tickets to Iceland in order to help get him on with life.

While Colin is more reserved, Mitch seems like a young man who is wanting to discover the good things in life through travel and cuisine.  But when Mitch tries to get Colin out of his shell and visit areas such as Rejkjavik, Skogar, Jokulsarion, Landmannalaugar, Gulfoss, Strokkur and Blue Lagoon, what happens when Mitch and Colin have dinner with college students, go to a dance club and enjoy the beauty of Iceland?

VIDEO:

“Land Ho!” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The film was shot on two Red One cameras and close-ups showcasing amazing detail to the chagrin of actor Earl Lynn Nelson who tells the viewers via the audio commentary that it’s too clear that you can see his wrinkles.  But that is how detailed the picture quality is and the shots of the various locations in Iceland are absolutely gorgeous to look at.

The cinematography by Andrew Reed is absolutely gorgeous!  Definitely a film that looks amazing on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Land Ho!” is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English – Audio Description Track, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. The lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue driven but there are moments where you can hear the ambiance of the ocean, the geyser and of course, the crystal clear music at the dance club.  But overall soundtrack and it’s dialogue-driven soundtrack is crystal clear.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Land Ho!” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Paul Eenhoorn, Earl Lynn Nelson, Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz
  • LA Film Fest Q&A with Paul Eenhoorn, Earl Lynn Nelson, Martha Stephens, Aaron Katz and Elizabeth McKee – (13:21)  A fascinating post-screening Q&A with a few of the cast and crew.
  • Deleted Scenes - (12:18) Featuring three deleted scenes and an alternate opening.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:56) The theatrical trailer for “Land Ho!”.

EXTRAS:

“Land Ho!” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.

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Quite often when you watch films about friends going on a trip, it usually is about a group of young people discovering another world and quite often, your banal story of self-discovery, finding love with the addition of your typical shenanigans.

With “Land Ho!”, the film we see is quite rare because the main characters are older men.  Men who have had their ups and downs with women, have gone through divorce and pretty much want to enjoy life and also discover another world different from the life they currently live.  Of course, in this case, the men journey through the beautiful areas of Iceland.

While the film was scripted, the film allowed for improvisation and what makes it interesting is the men are not far off from their characters.  Actor Earl Lynn Nelson is nearly like his character of Mitch, not afraid to talk about the bodies of younger women and doesn’t care about seeing something and equate it to a penis or ejaculation.

And this goes beyond your general road trip, these men discuss life and Mitch enjoying life at its best and moving past his divorces and just having fun.  He doesn’t care he’s older, he has no qualms of smoking weed or going to a dance club to observe younger women, he’s all good with that.  As for Colin, he’s the opposite.  He is reserved and is often annoyed by Mitch and his constant cajoling and he is a man that seems to wallow in his sadness because his relationships have gone south.

But through this road trip, it does touch upon the banality of road trip films of self discovery, meeting women and having fun, but instead of the teenage shenanigans, it is replaced by two men rediscovering life at an older age.  And of course, the film is set in Iceland and adds to the charm and beauty of the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is gorgeous, while the lossless soundtrack is dialogue-driven as expected but also crystal clear.  You also get a fascinating audio commentary and a LA Film Festival post-screening Q&A that I couldn’t help but laugh because both are entertaining and the comments are often unexpected.

While the friendship between Mich and Colin is rather interesting because they are total opposites, the film doesn’t play out as effectively when compared to the Gene Saks/Neil Simon 1968 comedy “The Odd Couple” but the premise of the film of two older men rediscovering life in another country is fascinating.  And I found myself wanting to visit Iceland because the scenes from various locations showcase the beauty of Iceland.

Overall, “Land Ho!” is an entertaining road trip comedy, showing that no matter how old you are, it’s never too late to have fun!  A beautiful film that looks fantastic on Blu-ray!

Planes: Fire & Rescue (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Planes: Fire & Rescue” is an entertaining Disney animated film.  It’s family friendly, its visually appealing but its storyline is more simplistic when compared to other Disney or Pixar CG films.   But for those who enjoyed the first film, you will enjoy the sequel and will no doubt enjoy its gorgeous presentation and immersive soundtrack on Blu-ray.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Planes: Fire & Rescue

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 84 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen (2:39:1 aspect ratio), 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

COMPANY:Disney

RATED: PG (For Action and Some Peril)

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Directed by Roberts Gannaway

Characters by Jeffrey M. Howard

Producer: Ferrell Barron

Executive Producer: John Lasseter

Music: Mark Mancina

Edited by Dan Molina

Casting by Jason Henkel

Production Design by Toby Wilson

Art Direction by Toby Wilson

Featuring the voices of:

Dane Cook as Dusty Crophopper

Ed Harris as Blade Ranger

Julie Bowen as Lil’ Dipper

Curtis Armstrong as Maru

John Michael Higgins as Cad

Hal Holbrook as Mayday

Wes Studi as Windlifter

Brad Garrett as Chug

Teri Hatcher as Dottie

Stacy Keach as Skipper

Cedric the Entertainer as Leadbottom

Danny Mann as Sparky

Barry Corbin as Ol’ Jammer

Regina King as Dynamite

Anne Meara as Winie

Jerry Stiller as Harvey

Fred Willard as Secretary of the Interior

Dale Dye as Cabbie

Matt Jones as Drip

Bryan Callen as Avalanche

Danny Pardo as Blackout

Corri English as Pinecone

Kari Wahlgren as Patch

Patrick Warburton as Pulaski

Rene Auberjonois as Concierge

Kevin Michael Richardson as Ryker

Erik Estrada as Nick ‘Loop’n’ Lopez

Steve Schirripa as Steve

Brent Musburger as Brent Mustangburger

John Ratzenberger as Brodi

“PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE” is a new comedy-adventure about second chances, featuring a dynamic crew of elite firefighting aircraft devoted to protecting historic Piston Peak National Park from raging wildfire. When world-famous air racer Dusty (voice of Dane Cook) learns that his engine is damaged and he may never race again, he must shift gears and is launched into the world of aerial firefighting. Dusty joins forces with veteran fire-and-rescue helicopter Blade Ranger (voice of Ed Harris) and his courageous team, including spirited air tanker Dipper (voice of Julie Bowen), heavy-lift helicopter Windlifter (voice of Wes Studi), ex-military transport Cabbie (voice of Captain Dale Dye) and a lively bunch of brave all-terrain vehicles known as The Smokejumpers. Together, the fearless team battles a massive wildfire and Dusty learns what it takes to become a true hero.

Back in 2013, Disney’s “Planes”, a 3D computer-animated comedy was promoted as a spin-off of Pixar’s popular “Cars” franchise.  Despite not being a Pixar animated film, the first film in the planned trilogy would go on to earn over $219 million in the box office worldwide.

The story about a crop duster plane named Dusty Crophopper who dreamed of becoming a racer (and often practicing aerobatic maneuvers near the cornfields) but always mocked for being a crop duster and not a plane designed to race.  And eventually, Dusty would go on to make his dream come true by taking part in the Wings Across the Globe race in hopes that he can prove his naysayers wrong and succeed.

While most animated sequels typically take a few years to be released, the second film in the “Planes” trilogy titled “Planes: Fire & Rescue” was created six months after the start of the first film and the sequel was released in theaters on  July 2014.  And while the first film was a race film, director Robert Gannaway wanted to create an action-disaster film and required the staff to research air-attack teams and smoke jumpers but also working with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in order to make the film seem authentic.

The sequel earned $141.7 million worldwide and would feature the return of Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Danny Mann and Cedric the Entertainer reprising their roles.  But also, featuring new characters and bringing in more talent such as Hal Holbrook, Julie Bowen, Ed Harris, Wes Studi, Dale Dye and many more to provide the voices.

And now “Planes: Fire & Rescue” is set for release on Blu-ray and DVD on Nov. 2014.

“Planes: Fire & Rescue” begins with Dusty Crophopper enjoying the success and the fame of being the winner of the “Wings Around the Globe” race.  But one day, while flying, his engine’s gearbox starts to malfunction due to being repeatedly forced to go beyond its limits.  And to make things worse, the gearbox that Dusty uses, is no longer available and is out of production.

Knowing that he probably will never race ever again, Dusty returns to his job as a crop duster but wanting to see if he could try once again and push his limit and that the gearbox mishap was just a fluke, he realizes quickly that the gearbox is no longer working correctly and he is forced to land at the Propwash Junction airport and ends up creating a fire.

While the fire is put out, the accident brings out a government inspector named Ryker and because there is inadequate firefighting personnel, he has no choice but to close the airport.

Feeling bad for his carelessness and knowing that the closure of the airport is his fault, Dusty decides to make things right by training to become a certified firefighter in order to meet the necessary regulations of having the airport reopened.

So, Dusty travels to Piston Peak National Park to train and work with the fire and rescue crew led by a helicopter named Blade Ranger.  But despite Dusty’s enthusiasm to be part of the search and rescue, Blade is unimpressed by him.

And for Dusty, he knows he needs to prove to others that he can meet the challenge and be utilized as a plane that can put out fires.

VIDEO:

“Planes: Fire & Rescue” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).  Upon watching this film, I was quite pleased with the overall animation as the planes show amazing detail and shine.  environments are well-detailed and look gorgeous in HD and as one can expect from this CG animated film, the colors are vibrant and the detail on closeups showing dust and wear or reflective surfaces is fantastic.  I didn’t notice any major banding issues, especially in scenes where reds and oranges were featured.

But for the most part, “Planes: Fire & Rescue” looks fantastic on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Planes: Fire & Rescue” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  As one can expect for a more action-driven animated film, there is good use of the surround channels, may it be the planes in flight, hearing their engines in flight, hearing flames or rotors spinning, are definitely one of the highlights for this immersive soundtrack.  There is good use of the LFE and surround and rear surround channels are well-utilized.  Fans of Disney animated films will no doubt be happy that the soundtrack for “Planes: Fire & Rescue” is immersive!

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Planes: Fire & Rescue” comes with the following special features:

  • Vitaminamulch: Air Spectacular – (5:55) Dusty and Chug are cajoled into being part of a stunt show.
  • Welcome to Piston Peak! – (2:48) A short film promoting tourism for Piston Peak!
  • “CHoPs” TV Promo – (:41) A very short video of “CHoPs”.
  • Air Attack: Firefighters from the Sky – (4:46) A featurette about the research the crew had to go and learn about the search and rescue helicopter and planes in Hemet, CA.  And how the environment and equipment used at an air attack base, played a big part in influencing the film
  • Deleted Scenes – (4:26) Featuring three deleted scenes with optional filmmaker intros.
  • “Still I Fly” Music Video by Spencer Lee – (1:31)
  • Animated Shorts – (3:30) Featuring two animated shorts “Dipper” and “Smoke Jumpers”.

EXTRAS:

“Planes: Fire & Rescue” comes with both the Blu-ray, DVD plus a Digital HD code in order to watch your film in HD and also watch on iTunes. Plus a slipcover is included.

For parents of children or those who are young at heart, who remembers when they were excited about seeing a fire engine or a police car, those images of these men and women saving lives, protecting the world, does leave an everlasting image that stays with us forever.

For “Planes: Fire & Rescue”, the Disney animated film does a good job in teaching viewers about the Air & Attack crew who put out fires or rescue those in need in the most difficult areas.  Educating children (and possibly adults) but using these entertaining characters that will no doubt entertain children.

In many ways, “Planes: Fire & Rescue” should be a film that would win you over with its gorgeous animation, its fascinating characters that carry over from the first film, but also for the amount of action and humor to entertain children.

And I emphasize children because this film seems to be too simplistic and banal.   You can easily describe the entire film with a few sentences because it’s a simple story that is made better by it’s CG animation.  Unlike “Cars” which tries to grab you with its storyline about loss, love and starting over… “Planes: Fire & Rescue” is about starting over, new career direction and that is it.  Minimal use of the supporting cast, the animated film relies on the rescue training and the rescue operations.

But with that being said, it’s not a bad thing at all.  Children will enjoy the film and find it action-packed but also fun.  As an adult, I enjoyed seeing the various vehicles employed and what vehicles were turned into characters.  There was no doubt that the Disney staff put a lot into researching the air & attack crews and learning from the overall environment in order to create a setting that seems realistic.

But as Pixar is able to created animated films that win you over thanks to its characters, its storyline, its animation and the sheer emotion that the characters go through, “Planes: Fire & Rescue” plays out more like an CG animated pop corn action film.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Planes: Fire & Rescue” excels when it comes to overall picture quality in HD but also its immersive 7.1 lossless soundtrack.  The immersive surroundings and the sound being emitted by the engines or rotors makes the film much more entertaining.  And you also get a good number of short special features included as well!

Overall, “Planes: Fire & Rescue” is an entertaining Disney animated film.  It’s family friendly, its visually appealing but its storyline is more simplistic when compared to other Disney or Pixar CG films.   But for those who enjoyed the first film, you will enjoy the sequel and will no doubt enjoy its gorgeous presentation and immersive soundtrack on Blu-ray.

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

October 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Maleficent” is moving, captivating and was more than just a pleasant surprise, it was a visual experience demonstrating wonderful acting, special effects and costume design. And the “Maleficent” Blu-ray release is no doubt one of the top live-action Blu-ray releases I have seen in 2014! Definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Maleficent

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 97 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 descriptive audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital with subtitles presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children)

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Directed by Robert Stromberg

Written by Linda Woolverton

Based on the motion picture “Sleeping Beauty” by Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Ted Sears, Ralph Wright, Milt Banta

Based on the Story “Little Briar Rose” by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm

Executive Producer: Sarah Bradshaw, Don Hahn, Angelina Jolie, Stephen Jones, Palak Patel, Matt Smith, Michael Vieira

Associate Producer: Lori Korngiebel

Produced by Joe Roth

Music by James Newton Howard

Cinematography by Dean Semler

Edited by Chris Lebenzon, Richard Pearson

Casting by Lucy Bevan

Production Design by Dylan Cole, Gary Freeman

Starring:

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent

Elle Fanning as Aurora

Sharlto Copley as Stefan

Lesley Manville as Flittle

Imelda Staunton as Knotgrass

Juno Temple as Thistlewit

Sam Riley as Diaval

Brenton Thwaites as Prince Phillip

Kenneth Cranham as King Henry

Hannah New as Princess Leila

Isobelle Molloy as Young Maleficent

Michael Higgins as Young Stefan

Ella Purnell as Teen Maleficent

Jackson Bews as Teen Stefan

Explore the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain in this wickedly fun twist on the classic “Sleeping Beauty.” In an unforgiving mood after a neighboring kingdom threatens her forest, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) places an irrevocable curse on the king’s newborn daughter, the Princess Aurora. But as the child grows, Maleficent finds herself becoming fond of the girl. And as the conflict between the two realms intensifies, Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land. Journey beyond the fairy tale in this soaring adventure that is “visually arresting, brilliantly designed” (Andrew Barker, Variety).

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In 1959, the world would fall in love with “Sleeping Beauty”,  the 16th film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series.  Based on “The Sleeping Beauty” by Charles Perrault and “Little Briar Rose” by the Brothers Grimm, “Sleeping Beauty” would become not only a box office hit but also a Disney classic.  And as for the film’s antagonist, Maleficent, she became one of the iconic Disney antagonists.

Fastforward to 2010 and Angelina Jolie (“Salt”, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”, “Changeling”) had been cast to play Maleficent and writer Linda Woolverton (“The Lion King”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Alice in Wonderland”) came up with a story after discovering material that Maleficent was originally a fairy.  This would lead Woolverton to create the past of Maleficent and how someone so good, could lose her wings and become evil.

Set to direct the film was Robert Stromberg, best known for his visual effects work in films such as “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”, “The Hunger Games”, “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “The Golden Compass” and many more box office hits.  Award winning cinematographer Dean Semler (“Dances with Wolves”, “Cocktail”, “Bruce Almighty”) and composer James Newton Howard (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, “Michael Clayton” and “ER”) would also become part of the film.

Joining Jolie as part of the cast are Elle Fanning (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Super 8″, “Deja Vu”), Sharlto Copley (“District 9″, “Elysium”, “The A-Team”), Sam Riley (“Control”, “On the Road”, “13”), Imelda Staunton (“Vera Drake”, “Much Ado About Nothing”), Lesley Manville (“Another Year”, “Vera Drake”, “Secrets & Lies”), Juno Temple (“The Dark Knight Rises”, “Atonement”) and Brenton Thwaites (“The Giver”, “Oculus”, “The Signal”).

“Maleficent” was released in theaters in May 2014 and the film that would be created for $180 million, would become a box office hit, earning over $757 million worldwide.

And now “Maleficent” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD by Walt Disney Studios Entertainment in November 2014.

“Maleficent” begins with a narrator talking about how two kingdoms that were the worst of neighbors and it was said that a great hero or terrible villain would one day bring them together.

The human kingdom were discontent with the wealth and beauty of their neighbors and a kingdom run by a greedy king.

The other kingdom was the Moors, a magical realm and had neither king or queen and lived in peace as they trusted one another.

We are introduced to a young winged fairy named Maleficent who heard from three pixies Flittle (portrayed by Lesley Manville), Knotgrass (portrayed by Imelda Staunton) and Thistletwit (portrayed by Juno Temple) that a human has entered the Moors and has stolen a jewel from the Pool of Jewels and has been caught by the border guards.

When Maleficent comes across the boy named Stefan, Stefan returned the jewel and the two become friends.  Stefan and Maleficent both share something in common, they both no longer have parents.  And when Stefan finds out that Maleficent is weak against iron (iron burns fairies), Stefan throws his iron ring out and tells her that one day, he will live in the castle.

She was moved by Stefan and for many years, the two would eventually meet with each other and become good friends and spend time with one another and eventually fall in love.  On her 16th birthday, Stefan gave her a kiss and told her it was true love’s kiss.

But as the year’s past, Stefan’s (portrayed by Sharlto Copley) ambition to be at the castle had prevented him from visiting Maleficent (portrayed by Angelina Jolie), while Maleficent became the new protector of the Moors.

When King Henry sends his soldiers to attack the magical creatures of the Moors, but all are defeated by Maleficent and the border guards.

With King Henry injured and wanting a successor to the throne, he tells his men that whoever can kill Maleficent, will become the successor and become king.

For Stefan, his ambition to live in the castle and to become king is too great, even greater than his feelings towards Maleficent.  When he goes to the Moors to visit her, Stefan pretends to be the man that she had fell in love with.  But instead, while they are together, he gives her a sleeping potion and cuts off her fairy wings.

Maleficent can not believe what Stefan had done to her.  Although she no longer has wings, she takes a black crow and turns him into a man named Diaval (portrayed by Sam Riley). Diaval can turn to a crow and easily spy on the kingdom for Maleficent and gives her news that he has become the new king due to cutting off Maleficent’s wings but to further her anger and push her towards a darker side, she is told that he has married a woman and she has given birth to a baby girl.

One day, as Stefan and the Queen are celebrating the christening of their baby, Maleficent has shown up and curses Stefans’ daughter Aurora, in that on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, which will then make her fall into a death like sleep.  No magic can remove this curse, but only true love’s kiss.

This would eventually drive Stefan into madness as he wants nothing more than to crush Maleficent.  Meanwhile, his daughter Aurora is sent to live with the three Pixies for 16-years in hopes that she does not prick her finger on a spindle and all spinning wheels in the kingdom are kept in a hidden room.

But as Maleficent has nothing but dislike towards the young Princess Aurora, she watches her from afar.

But over the years, watching over Aurora, will the princess eventually win Maleficent’s heart?

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VIDEO:

“Maleficent” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  Everything about this film screams “reference” video as picture quality is absolutely amazing.  Close-ups show amazing detail, especially when it comes to Malificent’s horns, the feathers on her wings, the dresses of the pixies, to the amount of detail for the magical creatures living in the Moors.  Skin tones are natural, despite the heavy use of CG, the film looks amazing in HD and I detected no signs of artifacts, banding or heavy use of DNR.

There is no doubt that “Maleficent” is one of the better looking Blu-ray releases of 2014 and is indeed, reference quality!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Maleficent” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 descriptive audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital with subtitles presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.  Because of the sheer amount of battles between the two kingdoms, you can easily depend on your surround channels to be active, especially your subwoofer via LFE.  From the stomps of the border soldiers, the screaming that comes from the soldiers and the various creatures that go against the human army.  The fluttering of the Pixies wings or even Maleficent’s wings during flight, this is just a few of the examples of the fantastic use of the 7.1 channels during the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Maleficent” comes with the following special features:

  • Aurora: Becoming a Beauty – (4:53) A featurette with Elle Fanning talking about being a princess and working on “Maleficent”.
  • From Fairy Tale to Feature Film – (8:10) A featurette on the cast and crew discussing how the felt about working on “Maleficent”.
  • Building an Epic Battle – (5:48) A featurette on how the battlefield sequence was made.
  • Classic Couture – (1:34) A short featurette on the creation of the headrest and horns for Maleficent.
  • Maleficent Revealed – (4:45) A short featurette of how various scenes were filmed and create and how CG was utilized throughout the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – (6:41) Featuring five deleted scenes.

EXTRAS

“Maleficent” comes with a slipcover.  The Blu-ray release comes with a DVD and a code to watch the film in Digital HD.

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I must admit that prior to watching “Maleficent”, I was rather cautious about Disney trying to capitalize on another title and try once again to provide a backstory of what led to someone becoming evil.

Seeing of what happened with “Oz, the Great and Powerful”, the first thing that came to my mind when it was announced at D23 Expo that a movie based on the “Sleeping Beauty” antagonist, Maleficent was being made.  Needless to say, I was skeptical.

And with the film being left to visual effects designer, Roger Stromberg, as director,  I was even more skeptical.

But I did have faith in the writing of Linda Woolverton and the initial shots of Angelina Jolie as Maleficent would eventually win me over and I decided to see how Stromberg/Woolverton would eventually win us over, especially with this backstory of how Maleficent turned evil and sure enough, they succeeded.

There is no denying that having Roger Stromberg as a director, he knows what he wants to see visually, but also knowing that beyond great special effects, you also have to have a strong story and I was captivated by the story of a young Maleficent falling in love with a young Stefan, but then seeing for myself of how something so beautiful and pure as Maleficent, would feel defiled after the person she truly loved, would eventually hurt her tremendously.  And as each time that Stefan’s actions would hurt her, we would see Maleficent change and become colder, darker until no love existed in her heart.

The magical land of the Moors is absolutely gorgeous with its fairies and pixies and magical creatures, plus the hideously but powerful border guards that protect the Moors, the visual effects was absolutely stunning.  From the visual effects of taking the three Pixies and making them human and back, there is great amount of detail that went into planning for the clothing that went into this film, the production and costume design were top notch and also the makeup design, especially with Maleficent’s dress and her protruding cheekbones, I was captured by not just the story but the film’s visual effects.  And I believe the efficacy of this film is thanks to Roger Stromberg’s experience in big budget, heavy visual effects-driven films.

And of course, going back to the story, I found it interesting to see the Maleficent and Princess Aurora storyline and wondering if the film would be consistent with its first half without being too happy, and we eventually get to see how Maleficent would start to care for her, even though she has watched her from afar and originally loathed her.

If anything, there are a lot of messages within “Maleficent”, that makes great sense and many points that I would like to discuss more but can’t, without spoiling the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Maleficent” looks absolutely gorgeous in HD.  The amount of detail is well-done.  From the detail of Maleficent’s horns, the detail on the dress of the three Pixies and seeing each crease or each little flower, I was quite impressed.  The CG magical creatures from the Moors are equally impressive and the combination of CG fantasy and its many human actors are well done.  I saw no artifacts, nor did I see any banding issues or problematic situations with the video.  Skintones are natural, colors are natural and black levels are nice and deep.

As for the lossless soundtrack, the film is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and you can hear everything from Maleficent’s wings, her shriek when she finds out what Stefan had done to her, the roar of the boarder guards, the surround channels are active and there is also very good use of LFE.  And as for special features, you get a good number of special features on how the film was created and more.

I will say that as “Sleeping Beauty” will forever be a Disney animated classic, “Maleficent” is a film that goes beyond Disney storytelling of fairytales and the typical “happily ever after” cliche of a prince coming to save the day.  Truthfully, if we were given an ending tale similar to the animated classic, I would have complained about how much I detested the film.

Instead, I can easily say that I enjoyed “Maleficent” as the skepticism that I felt prior to watching the movie, had easily dissipated with seeing a strong female role, a storyline that was not afraid to step into the darkness to showcase why pure woman such as Maleficent would become evil. In addition to fantastic visual effects and wonderful costume design, the flm left me in awe. Definitely, this film was much better at explaining how one can be good can turn evil, vs. the storyline that was seen for the wicked witch from “Oz, the Great and Powerful”.

Overall, “Maleficent” is moving, captivating and was more than just a pleasant surprise, it was a visual experience demonstrating wonderful acting, special effects and costume design.  And the “Maleficent” Blu-ray release is no doubt one of the top live-action Blu-ray releases I have seen in 2014!

Definitely recommended!

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

October 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Kundo” is an action film from South Korea that is entertaining, action-packed and not afraid to surprise viewers with its use of tragedy. “Kundo” is no doubt, one of the better action films I have seen from South Korea in quite awhile, so if you are into action films, especially with wonderful fight choreography, “Kundo” is a film for you! Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Showbox/Mediaplex and Moonlight Film. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kundo

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 138 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9 widescreen), Korean DTS-HD MA 5.1 and Korean 2.0 stereo with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: October 21, 2014

Directed by Jong-bin Yun

Written by Cheol-Hong Jeon

Produced by Hyun Kang

Music by Yeong-wook Jo

Cinematography by Chan-min Choi

Edited by Jae-beom Kim, Sang-beom Kim

Starring:

Jung-woo Ha as Dolmuchi

Ye-ri Han as Gok-ji

Dong-wong Kang as Jo-yoon

Hae-Suk Kim as Dolmuchi’s mother

Seong-gyoon Kim as Jang

Kyeong-yeong Lee as Ddaeng-choo

Sung-min Lee as Dae-ho

Dong-seok ma as Chun-bo

Ji-hye Yun as Ma-hyang

1859. The last days of the Joseon Dynasty, where the wages of greed bring poverty and death. A pack of bandits calling themselves KUNDO – rise against the tyrants, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. In an era where status is decided by birth, this band of thieves risks their lives for honor, in the name of the poor and oppressed. But for one man, a debt of bloody revenge is owed to the aristocrat that robbed him of his family and his name.

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From Jong-bin Yun (director of “The Unforgiven”, “Beastie Boys”, “Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time”) comes his action film “Kundo”.

Written by Cheol-Hong Jeon (“The Admiral”, “Heaven’s Soldiers”, “Crying Fist”), the film would star Jung-woo Ha (“The Chaser”, “The Yellow Sea”, “Time”), Ye-ri Han (“As One”, “Commitment”), Dong-won Kang (“Woochi”, “Haunters”, “Secret Reunion”) and a large cast of supporting talent.

The film broke records in South Korea set for all-time highest opening day for a box office beating out all domestic and foreign films when released and now, “Kundo” has been released on Blu-ray in the United States courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Kundo” takes place in 1862 (late Joseon dynasty) during an era of social and economic unrest and during a time of tyranny when rulers kept rice for themselves, rather than give them to the starving villagers.  As villagers suffer from natural disasters, poverty and famine, death runs rampant.  But a group of fighters known as Kundo have risen against the authority and have helped the impoverished.

We are the introduced to two people who were brought up differently on two ends of the economic spectrum and their paths will cross.

Dolmuchi (portrayed by Ha Jung-woo) is a butcher (considered as the lowest economic class next to slaves during the Joseon Dynasty and barely surviving. One day, he was offered money to go to the mountain where monks live and kill a young woman.  But in the process, Dolmuchi failed and because of the failure, he and his family were burned.  While Dolmochi was able to escape, he suffered major burns throughout his head and body but his family were killed. As he tried to avenge them, he tried to challenge Jo Yoon in a fight but due to Jo Yoon’s superior fighting skills, Dolmuchi was easily beaten.   Torturned and nearly killed, Dolmuchi survived and was taken in by the Kundo and is reborn as Dolchi.

Now Dolchi wants nothing more than to avenge his family and take down Jo Yoon.  But as Dolchi joins the Kundo and hones his use of fighting with butcher knives, can the Kundo help tame his bad temper?

As for Jo Yoon (portrayed by Kang Dong-won), he is an excellent martial arts fighter who has passed the highest level of military exams and wants nothing but to be the successor of corrupt and aging former governor Lord Jo Won-suk of Jeola province.

Jo Yoon was Lord Jo’s illegitimate child, But when Lady Jo finally gave birth to a baby boy, the boy received love from his family, while Jo Yoon would exhibit of anger and hostility.  Nearly killing his baby brother, his mother mother was blamed and killed and left in darkness.  But many years later, Jo Yoon returned home to find out his half brother and Lady Jo has died and with his older father old and distraught, this is his time to take control of the family.

As the tyranny by the corrupt officials have increased suffering towards the poor villagers (making them slaves to harvest and not giving them any food or money) is at its all time high, can the Kundo help the poor and helpless and save them from the tyrannic Jo Yoon?  And will Dolchi get his revenge?

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VIDEO:

“Kundo” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).  Detail of the film is fantastic as you can see the skin pores and details of an outfit quite clearly.  Colors and skintones look natural and overall picture quality is fantastic.  I saw no signs of banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kundo” is presented in Korean 5.1 DTS-HDMA and Korean 2.0 Stereo. The film features crystal clear dialogue and the English subtitles are easy to read.  There are moments of surround channel use, especially LFE use but this is a film in which the action’s soundtrack is not much of a focal point as there are dialogue or narration during those action scenes at times.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Kundo” comes with a theatrical trailer.

EXTRAS

“Kundo” comes with a slipcover.

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As an action film, “Kundo” is one of the more exciting action films I have seen from South Korea, let alone Asia, in quite some time.  It’s a film in which the director and writer knew that cast members (many that you root for) are expendable and to avoid the banality of everything goes perfect, many times, the film takes off in a direction where bad things happen to the good guys.  And each tragic moment, literally makes your blood boil and you can’t wait for the epic battle between Dolchi and Jo Yoon.

While the film does harken to other storylines such as “Robin Hood” and the Kundo are responsible from stealing for the rich and give to the poor, the film revolves around Dolchi’s quest for revenge and Jo Yoon’s quest of usurping his father and becoming a tyrannical ruler.

If anything, Director Jong-bin Yun and screenwriter Cheol-Hong Jeon does everything possible in order to make you dislike the antagonist and many times, making it seem as if Jo Yoon is indestructible.

You know that Dolchi is a great fighter but not at Jo Yoon’s level and the only way the Kundo has a chance is by strategy and major planning and this is where I applaud the film as it takes you through the planning and shows you how things are executed versus just giving you a simplistic popcorn action film storyline.

If there is one thing that some viewers maybe turned off by is Dolchi’s behavior, which comes off like a smart mouth gangster and trying to interject several scenes for the purpose of comedic flair, you either enjoy it or get turned off by it.  I personally felt the humor, especially in the beginning of the film, made the film different and I appreciated “Kundo” because of that.  But I can see those who may feel the humor and Dolchi’s rude behavior can turn off those who wanted this film to be more realistic in some sense.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic as colors and skin tones are natural and the Blu-ray offers great detail in HD.  As for the lossless soundtrack, the soundtrack is crystal clear but it’s not a film that one can expect great use of the surround channels, especially as many of the action scenes have narration during those scenes.  And also, one of the negative things I can think about this Blu-ray release is its lack of special features.

Overall, “Kundo” is an action film from South Korea that is entertaining, action-packed and not afraid to surprise viewers with its use of tragedy.  “Kundo” is no doubt, one of the better action films I have seen from South Korea in quite awhile, so if you are into action films, especially with wonderful fight choreography, “Kundo” is a film for you!

Recommended!

Mystery Road (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Mystery Road” is an Australian low-budget crime film that doesn’t look low-budget, nor does it feel like a low-budget film.  It’s entertaining and has a realistic feel due to its setting and and involvement of the aboriginal community.  Ivan Sen’s “Mystery Road” may not be a great action film but it was an entertaining crime film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Mystery Road Media PTY. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Mystery Road

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, DTS HD-MA 5.1, Closed Captions

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: October 14, 2014

Directed by Ivan Sen

Written by Ivan Sen

Produced by David Jowsey

Executive Producer: Gary Hamilton

Associate Producer: Aaron Pedersen

Music by Ivan Sen

Cinematography by Ivan Sen

Edited by Ivan Sen

Production Design by Matthew Putland

Costume Design by Vanessa Loh

Starring:

Aaron Pedersen as Detective Jay Swan

Hugo Weaving as Johnno

Ryan Kwanten as Pete Bailey

Jack Thompson as Charlie Murray

Tony Barry as Sergeant

Robert Mammone as Constable Roberts

Tasma Walton as Mary

Damian Walshe-Howling as Wayne

David Field as Mr. Bailey

Bruce Spence as Jim the Coroner

Jack Charles as Old boy

Tricia Whitton as Crystal

Siobhan Binge as Tarni

Indigenous cowboy detective Jay Swan returns to his outback hometown to solve the murder of a teenage girl, whose body is found under the highway trucking route out of town. Alienated from both the white-dominated police force and his own community, including his teenage daughter (now connected to the murdered girl) Jay stands alone in his determination to fight back – for his town, and his people.

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From filmmaker Ivan Sen (director of “Beneath Clouds” and “Toomelah”) comes the Australian crime film “Mystery Road” starring Aaron Pedersen (“Water Rats”, “City Homicide”, “Wildside”), Hugo Weaving (“The Matrix”, “Captain America: The First Avenger”, “V for Vendetta”), Ryan Kwanten (“True Blood”, “Summerland”, “Home and Away”), Jack Thompson (“Star Wars: Episode II – The Attack of the Clones”) and Tasma Walton (“Blue Heelers”, “Little Oberon”).

Released in Australia back in the summer of 2013, “Mystery Road” arrives in the U.S. on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Mystery Road” is set in the rural town of Winton, Queensland and Detective Jay Swan (portrayed by Aaron Pedersen) is contacted to investigate a murder in his old hometown.  When he goes to investigate, he finds a dead teenage girl named Julie Mason, a friend of his daughter.

As for his daughter, Crystal, he hasn’t really spoken to her or his ex-wife Mary (portrayed by Tasma Walton) all that much and when he returns, he finds his daughter not wanting to speak to him and his ex-wife in an abusive relationship.

While his former police colleagues are cautious around Jay and his investigation, as he investigates the crime, he starts to learn that Julie was a drug addict who had sex with truck drivers for money.  But still, he doesn’t believe she died from an attack from a dog but possibly murder.

Jay starts to wonder how the Winton police force is trying to keep him at bay, so Jay starts to follow his police colleagues, Johnno (portrayed by Hugo Weaving) and Robbo (portrayed by Robert Mammone) and wonder what they may be up to.

But when his investigation leads Jay discovering that another teenage girl has gone missing.  Who is responsible for the murders and do the local police officers know anything about who is responsible?

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VIDEO:

“Mystery Road” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality is warm and picture quality is very good, with a good amount of detail during closeups.  A lot of the shots for “Mystery Road” are shot outdoors and picture quality is very good.  I didn’t see any problems with artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Mystery Road”” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Dialogue is crystal clear and the soundtrack is primarily dialogue-driven but there are action moments (i.e. rifle shots and gun shots) which utilize the surround channels but for the most part, the lossless soundtrack is center and front channel driven. Subtitles are presented in Closed Captions.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Mystery Road” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – Featuring two featurettes: “The Story” (3:58) which features a behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the director and cast and “High Profile Cast” (4:46) which is about how filmmaker Ivan Sen casts his own talent and non-actors from the community.
  • Interviews with Cast – (20:22) Featuring individual interviews with Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten, Jack Thompson and Tony Barry.
  • Trailer – (2:14) Theatrical trailer for “Mystery Road”.

EXTRAS:

“Mystery Road” comes with a slipcover.

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Ivan Sen’s “Mystery Road” is an entertaining crime film and because of its setting and overall style, it makes for an original, entertaining film!

An independent, low-budget film which features filmmaker Ivan Sen as the writer, director, musician, cinematographer, editor and casting director.  Suffice to say, it’s a film that requires plenty of responsibility from Sen to do multiple roles in order to keep the budget down but when it comes to creating an Australian film, especially starring Aaron Pedersen, one of Australia’s well-known aboriginal actor in a action/crime film that revolves around his character, it’s a film that takes a big step forward for positive portrayals of aboriginal talent in a film.

“Mystery Road” feels real thanks to its setting in a rural area but also for Ivan Sen and actor Aaron Pedersen bringing in non-actors from the community and taking part in this film.

Taking on films that is set amongst an aboriginal community is not always easy considering that race relations are still problematic in Australia.  But it helps the film when you have talents such as Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten involved in your film.

Pedersen plays a detective returning back home but the homecoming is not at all welcome.   From the police force not being as supportive of Jay Swan and even seeing people of the aboriginal community feeling different towards him because he is with law enforcement.  He also has an alcoholic wife that is angry that Jay has not been visiting his daughter and when things start to hit close to home for Jay, during his investigation of what may be multiple murders… He risks his life in order to find the truth.  May it be against the criminals or even a possibly corrupt police force, he’s determined to find the murderers.

It’s an interesting take on the banal story of cop coming to a community that doesn’t trust law enforcement but in this case, it’s more or less because we see an aboriginal character who was able to leave town and make something of himself but coming back and see that he’s not necessarily seen as their equal.  There is an uneasiness of race without the racial tension we see in American films but it’s more of a different feel of one of aboriginal roots but also a man who left the area to make himself something.

Hugo Weaving does a good job of playing a shifty cop that seems like am an up to no good and Ryan Kwanten puts away his usual cool guy character and plays one of the antagonists of the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is very good and Ivan Sen was able to capture the dry, hot setting in the outback and the lossless audio soundtrack features crystal clear audio.  You also get a few special features on the making of the film, the casting of the film and more.

Overall, “Mystery Road” is an Australian low-budget crime film that doesn’t look low-budget, nor does it feel like a low-budget film.  It’s entertaining and has a realistic feel due to its setting and and involvement of the aboriginal community.

Ivan Sen’s “Mystery Road” may not be a great action film but it was an entertaining crime film worth watching!

Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Review)

October 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” is a mature, yet dark animated romance film that is deep, well-written and just well-conceived. You just don’t get to see these type of animated films being made. But “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 EUROPACORP. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 89 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, French and English DTS HD-MA 5.1 and 2.0, Closed Captions

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: PG (For Scary Images, Suggestive Material, Some Language and Smoking)

Release Date: October 7, 2014

Directed by Stephane Berla, Mathias Malzieu

Novel, Story, Screenplay and Written by Matthias Malzieu

Produced by Adrian Politowski, Ben Stassen, Caroline Van Iseghem, Gilles Waterkeyn

Executive Producer: Olivier courson, Eric Dillens

Line Producer: Vincent Philbert

Music by Ramin Djawadi

Casting by Gina Gallo, Mimi Maynard, Domonic Paris

Art Direction by Jeremy Degruson

Featuring the voices of:

Mathias Malzieu/Orlando Seale as Jack

Olivia Ruiz/Samantha Barks as Miss Acacia

Grand Corps Malade/Harry Sadeghi as Joe

Jean Rochefort/Stephane Cornicard as Melies

Rossy de Palma/Sophia Ellis as Luna

Babet/Jessie Buckley as Anna

Dani/Michaelle Fairley as Brigitte Helm

Janet Dibley as Young Mother

Howard Samuels as Jack the Ripper

Marie Vincent/Emily Loizeau/Barbara Scaff as Madeleine

JACK AND THE CUCKOO-CLOCK HEART is set in the late 19th century Edinburgh, where little Jack is born on a day so cold that his heart remains frozen. Madeleine the midwife saves his life by inserting a cuckoo clock in place of his defective heart. It will work, she warns him, as long as Jack observes three golden rules. First of all, he must never touch the hands of the clock. Secondly, he must control his anger. And last, but certainly not least, he must never, ever fall in love. The moment Jack sets eyes on a young girl singing on a street corner, the hands of his clock-heart begin to race. Desperate to find her again, Jack launches himself into a romantic quest that will lead him from the lochs of Scotland, to the city of Paris and all the way to Andalusia.

Adapted by Mathias Malzieu from his own bestselling novel and the gold-selling album by his band Dionysos, JACK AND THE CUCKOO-CLOCK HEART features a English-language voice cast of Orlando Seale (Pride and Prejudice), Samantha Barks (Les Misérables ), Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow), Stéphane Cornicard (Saving Private Ryan) and Richard Ridings (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Who Framed Roger Rabbit).

From directors Stephane Berla and Mathias Malzeiu (“Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life”, “The Secret of Yvette”) comes “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart”.

Originally based on the concept album by the French rock band Dionysos and lead singer, Mathias Malzieu’s illustrated novel “La Mecanique du coeur”, “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” will be released on Blu-ray +DVD+ Digital Copy courtesy of Shout! Factory.

“Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” is set in Edinburgh, Scotland back in 1874.  The story begins with a young woman who struggles to walk during the coldest day ever before collapsing in front of the home occupied by a witch named Madeleine.

Because of the extreme cold, Jack’s heart stops beating but to save him, she replaces his heart with a cuckoo clock.

But for him to survive and not turn into a ice cube, he must follow three important rules:  Never touch the hands of his heart, he must try to control his temper and the most important rule, he must not fall in love.  If he does not follow the rules, the cuckoo heart will explode and will stop ticking.

While Madeleine manages to save Jack, his mother leaves him.

Fast forward a decade later and Jack is now an older boy and each morning, he must wind his cuckoo-clock heart with a key.  As promised by Madeleine, Jack gets to go to the city.

But as the two go to the city, Jack begins to wander out and meets a girl named Acacia who begins singing.  And the two start singing together and as Jack starts to fall for her, he nearly collapses as his cuckoo-clock heart began to overheat.

As Jack wants to start school (in hopes he can see Acacia again), Madeleine tries her best to prevent him from attending because she is afraid that the children may take advantage of him because of his heart.  But because it is his birthday, she allows him to go to school.

But Jack quickly learns that the school is quite dark and everyone avoids him.  And immediately, he is approached by the school bully Joe who rules the school with his iron fist.  And warns Jack to stay away from Miss Acacia and tells him that he should not ever mention her name in front of him.

But when Joe finds out about Jack’s cuckoo-clock heart, Jack becomes the object of Joe’s repeated bullying each day.  Often getting beaten up or having his cuckoo-clock heart messed around by the other kids.

But one day, as Jack finds a postcard of Acacia’s address, Joe threatens to kill Jack and tries to pull out his cuckoo-clock heart.  But as the cuckoo comes out of the clock, it stabs Joe’s eye.

Immediately the police go to Madeleine’s home, while Madeleine tells him that he must flee Edinburgh and find a qualified clockmaker to repair his heart.

Jack hopes to look for Miss Acacia but will life be kind to him, now that he is out in the free world? And what about the repeated warnings he has had all his life…to never fall in love?

VIDEO:

“Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). I have to say that “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” is one of the stylishly, unique animated films I have ever seen.  The film definitely has a French style and characters that look great.  The environments surroundings are detailed and look absolutely magnificent in HD.  I didn’t notice any banding issues, nor any artifacts during my viewing.

While the film is not vibrant, the film is meant to have a dark atmosphere and colors are slightly subdued, until we get towards the latter part of the film.  But the overall look to the film is quite stylish and “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” looks amazing in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart”is presented in French and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 stereo.  First, I will say that the Dionysos soundtrack is fantastic!  The music compliments the film remarkably well and the film’s dialogue is well-acted, is crystal clear and sounds fantastic.  Music plays a huge part of this film and the musical soundtrack is wonderful!

With that being said, the English soundtrack is equally well-done and I was quite happy to see how things turned out for its voice acting but also maintaining that emotion that the French did so well with its original version.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” comes with the following special features:

  • Characters – A two minute featurette on each character of “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart”: Jack, Acacia, Joe, Melies, Arthur and the Aunts.
  • From Book to Screen – (6:16) A featurette about bringing “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” to the big screen.

EXTRAS:

“Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” comes with both the Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy version of the film.  Plus a slipcover is included.

I must admit that I didn’t know what to expect with “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart”.  Was this supposed to be a children’s film?  Was this supposed to be a “Corpse Bride” style of film from France?

But “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” was nothing what I expected and that is perfectly fine because I absolutely loved the film!

From when I saw the characters during the opening sequence, I was absolutely won over by it’s French style.  I’m always  interested in seeing how other countries are in terms of developing animated films and “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” was a film that featured detailed surroundings, environments and even the smallest things that you would never think about, there was a lot of work done in creating a natural setting that the characters would see or objects they would use and suffice to say, so much went into the creation of this animated film.

But what I loved about “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” is its story.  It’s a mix of dark fantasy but also a romantic film with an ending that is so non-Disney or non-Hollywood and that’s what I appreciated about this film.  Giving us something different and in many ways, surprising the viewer.  And I would not be surprised, if many will shed tears by the end of the film.

It’s definitely not an animated film for children as the film is not cheerful nor is it meant to be happy.

As for the Blu-ray release, the film looks wonderful in HD!  The lossless soundtrack is fantastic in both French and English and the soundtrack is magnificent!  While there are a few special features included, especially getting to know the though process of each character.

Overall, “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” is a mature, yet dark animated romance film that is deep, well-written and just well-conceived.

You just don’t get to see these type of animated films being made.  But “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart” is highly recommended!

Thunder and the House of Magic (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Thunder and the House of Magic” shows great promise of 3D animated films coming out of Europe but also a film that will most definitely entertain the young and the young at heart.   An enjoyable family film, “Thunder and the House of Magic” is a film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2012 nWave Pictures SA. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Thunder and the House of Magic

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, French and English DTS HD-MA 5.1 and 2.0, Closed Captions

COMPANY: Shout! Factory/Student Canal

RATED: For all ages, contains some mild cartoon violence

Release Date: September 30, 2014

Directed by Jeremy Degruson, Ben Stassen

Screenplay by James Flynn, Dominic Paris, Ben Stassen

Story by Ben Stassen

Produced by Adrian Politowski, Ben Stassen, Caroline Van Iseghem, Gilles Waterkeyn

Executive Producer: Olivier courson, Eric Dillens

Line Producer: Vincent Philbert

Music by Ramin Djawadi

Casting by Gina Gallo, Mimi Maynard, Domonic Paris

Art Direction by Jeremy Degruson

Featuring the voices of:

Cinda Adams as Nurse Baxter

Murray Blue as Thunder/Dylan

George Babbit as Jack/Carlo/Zoltar

Grant George as Daniel

Joey Camen as Chihiuahua

Shanelle Gray as Maggie

Nina Grillo as Audrey

Danny Mann as Dimitri

Sage Sommer as Izzy

THUNDER AND THE HOUSE OF MAGIC is a whimsical animated family adventure, bringing to life a unique story with a great sense of humor, positive values and universal appeal. Brimming with spectacular animation and endearing characters, this internationally acclaimed motion picture delivers a fun and captivating movie experience for the entire family.

The film tells the story of Thunder, an abandoned young cat who stumbles into a magical old mansion operated by a dazzling array of automatons and gizmos. Owned by a retired magician, the house is occupied by an assortment of his wacky assistants who don’t all welcome the new houseguest. But when the magician lands in the hospital and his scheming nephew puts the mansion up for sale, our young hero and his new friends join forces to save their magical home.

Filled with laughter and adventure, THUNDER AND THE HOUSE OF MAGIC is a wonderful tale that you and your little ones will love.

From directors Ben Stassen and Jeremy Degruson (both directed “A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventure” and “Fly Me to the Moon 3D”) comes the Belgian-French-American, 3D Animated film titled “Thunder and the House of Magic”.

Released around Christmas time in 2013, the film had a limited release in the United States in Sept. 2014.

And now, “Thunder and the House of Magic” was released in the United States on 3D Blu-ray + Blu-ray + DVD and Digital Copy courtesy of Shout! Factory.

The film revolves around an abandoned kitten (voiced by Murray Blue) .  Scared, alone and nearly ran over by cars, Thunder finds a home in an old scary mansion, home of the former magician Lawrence the Magician (portrayed by Doug Stone).

While the kitten tries to look for help because he is lost, he is kicked out by Jack Rabbit (voice by George Babbit) and Maggie Mouse (voiced by Shanelle Gray).

But the resilient kitten goes back into Lawrence’s home and watches the magician talking to his toys that have come alive.

Meanwhile, Lawrence’s nephew Daniel (portrayed by Grant George) warns his uncle that his bills are late and he wants nothing more than his uncle to sell the house.  As Daniel is thinking about himself and wanting to sell his uncle’s house and make a profit.

As the kitten makes the noise and is discovered by Lawrence, he is welcomed into the home and named Thunder.  But Jack and Maggie are not thrilled about Thunder joining the family.

But one day as Lawrence is going to a job, he gets into a biking accident and is taken to the hospital.  With Lawrence injured, Daniel looks to take advantage of Lawrence and sell the house.

Knowing that Lawrence is in deep trouble,  Thunder, Jack, Maggie and friends try to help Lawrence by doing whatever is possible to make sure Daniel doesn’t sell the house.

VIDEO:

“Thunder and the House of Magic” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  It’s important to note that if you have a 3D enabled Blu-ray player and television, you will be able to take advantage of the 3D of this film or watch the film in 2D.

In 3D, the 3D is more about depth and there are times where you see Thunder coming straight at you.  But if anything, the 3D is primarily depth-driven and while for adults, the 3D is pretty much standard, for children, I do know that my 11-year-old though the 3D was very cool!

Now for it’s 2D, the animation is well-rendered as there is great detail on the animal fur, the closeups on the threading of clothing, the surfaces of rock or vases are well-featured.  If anything, the film looks great in HD and colors are vibrant and beautiful.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Thunder and the House of Magic” is presented in French and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or DTS-HD Master Audio.  The 5.1 soundtrack is fantastic as action scenes show really good immersion and because the amount of action, there is good use of the surround channels.  Dialogue, sound effects and Ramin Djawdi’s musical score are crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Thunder and the House of Magic” comes with the following special features:

  • Origins – (4:07) The crew discusses how “Thunder and the House of Magic” became an animated film.
  • Character Animation – (4:40) A featurette about the approach to design for “Thunder and the House of Magic”.
  • Soundtrack – (3:43) A featurette about how Ramin Djawadi would come to create the music for “Thunder and the House of Magic”.
  • Teaser – (1:26) The teaser trailer for “Thunder and the House of Magic”
  • Trailer – (5:59) The theatrical trailer for “Thunder and the House of Magic”.

EXTRAS:

“Thunder and the House of Magic” comes with both the Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy version of the film.  Also, a slipcover is included.

I always feel that any animated film on 3D is great for the family.  The more the better, especially if you invested in the technology.

“Thunder and the House of Magic” is an entertaining and safe family film about an abandoned kitten that wants to find a home.  Of course, when he finds a home, the other animals that live in the house are not too welcoming of another animal of joining the family.

The film manages to capture the “Toy Story” feel with its toys coming alive inside the magical house that the magician Lawrence lives in.  And then you have the antagonist, Daniel, the nephew of Lawrence who wants nothing more but to sell the house and make a quick profit.  Of course, the animals and the toys do whatever is necessary to prevent the house from being sold.

“Thunder and the House of Magic” is not a deep animated film for children but a fun, straightforward film that children can laugh and be entertained by its storyline.

The film is easy for children to follow and whether they watch the film in 2D or 3D, they should have a lot of fun watching it.

While the film doesn’t have the magic of the “Toy Story” films, the Belgian-French-American production features well-rendered character designs and animals and surrounds which are well-detailed.  While the 2D features a colorful palette, the 3D does work quite nicely.  While not the best 3D animated film, the 3D of the film features very good depth and use of 3D works well to entertain the young children.

The lossless soundtrack is crisp and clear and there are moments with good immersion, while there are a few special features included.Thunder and the House of Magic (

Overall, “Thunder and the House of Magic” shows great promise of 3D animated films coming out of Europe but also a film that will most definitely entertain the young and the young at heart.   An enjoyable family film, “Thunder and the House of Magic” is a film worth watching!

Sordid Lives (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

sordidlives

“Sordid Lives” is a film that is entertaining, not heavy-handed or overly deep.  The film provides a hilarious look at the dysfunctional lives of each character but it’s a lot of fun, cheesy but also a storyline that may have its own meaning for different people.  There are those who can laugh while others who may over analyze the film but for what is is.  In fact, the film may be too low-budget for some, but if you can overlook its technical presentation and focus on the story and its entertaining cast,  you’ll find Del Shores “Sordid Lives” to be an entertaining, crazy and campy film worth watching.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Wolfe Video, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Sordid Lives

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2000

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Dolby Digital 5.1, Closed Captions

COMPANY: Wolfe Video

RATED: Unrated

Release Date: September 30, 2014

Directed by Del Shores

Based on the Play by Del Shores

Written by Del Shores

Produced by Victoria Alonso, Max Civon, J. Todd Harris, Sharyn Leavitt

Co-Producer:  George Conda, Matt gohd, Reuben Jacobs, Scott jones, William Phipps, Linda Swartz

Associate Producer: Steve Cubine, Monica Deeter, James Echerd, Jourdan Krauss

Music by George S. Clinton

Cinematography by Max Civon

Edited by Ed Marx

Casting by Ferne Cassel

Production Design by Steve Cubine

Art Direction by Steve Cubine

Costume Design by James Echerd

Starring:

Olivia Newton-John as Bitsy Mae Harling

Kirk Geiger as Ty Williamson

Sarah Hunley as Juanita Bartlett

Newell Alexander as Wardell “Bubba” Owens

Beau Bridges as G.W. Nethercott

Earl Houston Bullock as Odell Owens

Beth Grant as Sissy Hickey

Delta Burke as Noleta Nethercott

Leslie Jordan as Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram

Bonnie Bedelia as Latrlle Williamson

Sharron Alexis as Sara Kaufman

Rosemary Alexander as Dr. Eve Bolinger

Lorna Scott as Vera Lisso

Dale Dickey as Glyndora

Get ready for laughs the size of Texas when Olivia Newton-John, Beau Bridges, Bonnie Bedelia and Delta Burke lead an all-star cast in this twisted, white-trash tale that puts the fun in dysfunctional . The hilariously sordid details about a southern family surface with a vengeance when relatives converge for the funeral of Grandma Peggy, who died after tripping over her lover s wooden legs! Toss in a couple of feuding, big-haired daughters, a jumpy aunt who just quit smoking (Beth Grant), the scorned neighbor from hell, and crazy, cross-dressing Brother Boy (Leslie Jordan) – and you ve got an outrageous train wreck you can t help but watch! The all-new bonus materials include a fresh interview with Director Del Shores (Southern Baptist Sissies) reminiscing about the making of the film, along with cast members Kirk Geiger, Bonnie Bedelia, Leslie Jordan, Sarah Hunley, Ann Walker, Newell Alexander, Rosemary Alexander, Beau Bridges and Beth Grant.

From Del Shores, the producer of hit TV shows such as “Ned and Stacey”, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”, “Dharma & Greg” and “Queer as Folk” comes his 2000 comedy “Sordid Lives”.

Based on a play which premiered back in 1996 and became a cult classic among LBGT fans, the play would lead to a film adaptation and a 2008 TV series.

Featuring a cast which includes Olivia Newton-John (“Grease”, “Xanadu”), Beau Bridges (“The Fabulous Baker Boys”, “Stargate SG-1″), Beth Grant (“The Artist”, “Rain Man”, “Donnie Darko”), Delta Burke (“Designing Women”, “What Women Want”), Bonnie Bedelia (“Die Hard” films, “Parenthood”, “Presumed Innocent”), Newell Alexander (“August: Osage County”, “Astro Boy”), Leslie Jordan (“The Help”, “Desperate Housewives”) and many more.

“Sordid Lives” is set in a small Texas town and everyone coming together for the accidental death of the family matriarch, Peggy Ingram.

The film revolves around many characters.

Sissy Hickey (portrayed by Beth Grant) is the younger sister of Peggy and is often visited by her troubled neighbor Noleta Nethercott (portrayed by Delta Burke) and nieces LaVonda (portrayed by Ann Walker) and Latrelle (portrayed by Bonnie Bedelia) and the cross dresser Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram, who was institutionalized for 23-years by his parents for cross-dressing.

Meanwhile, Brother boy is often taunted by the mental institution security guard, Bumper (portrayed by Mitch Carter) and is trying to go through de-homosexualization by Dr. Eve Bolinger who quickly wants to fix Brother Boy, so she can write a book and appear on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and quit her job at the institution.

Latrelle Williamson (portrayed by Bonnie Bedelia) has a difficult time accepting that her son Ty is homosexual, while Ty has a hard time trying to get his mother to understand he is gay.

Meanwhile her Noleta is having difficulties with her unfaithful husband G.W. Nethercott (portrayed by Beau Bridges) who is responsible for the death of Peggy.  G.W. often hangs out at Bubba’s Bar and is seen hanging around with Wardell “Bubba” Owens (portrayed by Newell Alexander).

As everyone is experiencing some sort of problem, will they all be ready for Peggy’s funeral?

VIDEO:

“Sordid Lives” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  It’s important to note that the low-budget indie film was shot in digital back in 2000 and didn’t go through any special treatment, so it maintains a digital appearance.  The film does have a TV episode appearance.  And there are scenes with artifacts (i.e. the scene featuring the Dr. Eve Bollinger and Brother Boy).

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sordid Lives” is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround.  Dialogue is clear and the soundtrack is primarily dialogue-driven.  Subtitles are presented in Closed Captions.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Sordid Lives” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Del Shores – (11:47) Del Shores discusses how the film was made and how he cast the talent for the film.
  • Interviews with the Actors – (24:01) Interviews with the “Sordid Lives” cast.
  • New Sordid Trailer – (2:02) Theatrical trailer for “Sordid Lives”.

EXTRAS:

“Sordid Lives” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.

“Sordid Lives” is a black comedy that has the feeling of watching a play on film but considering the film was low-budget, the film has generated a cult status among LGBT audiences because of its characters.

A film that was quite personal for Del Shores as it features moments of his own personal life and coming out as a gay man, the film has its own charm thanks to its humor and characters.

As we watch Sissy Hickey trying to deal with her nieces and often snapping a rubber band to make her not smoke a cigarette and get involved in stressful situations, it proves to be difficult as everyone is coming over with som problem to tell.

One of the most interesting storyline plots revolves around Bonnie Bedelia’s character Latrelle Williamson who has a hard time believing that her son Ty is gay.  Despite seeing the obvious, Latrelle refuses to acknowledge her son’s gay life and it has become so hard for Ty that he has to see a therapist about wanting to come out of the closet.

You also have a storyline that revolves around Leslie Jordan’s character Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram, a man that has been institutionalized by his parents for being a cross-dresser and is often pressured by his doctor to go through de-homosexualization conditioning but she is finding it hard to make Brother Boy a straight man.

And surrounding these characters are a group of other characters who have their own skeletons in their closet.

If anything, “Sordid Lives” as mentioned, plays out like a play on stage.  The film is helped by its different sets but the characters are quite fascinating and I found the storyline to be humorous and quite entertaining in an odd kind of way, but I had a lot of fun watching it.

I’m not going to knock this film because of its low-budget style (and yes, you can see the deceased Peggy’s chest breathing while in the coffin), but try to move away from the low-budget technical issues.

If anything, “Sordid Lives” is a Del Shores film which helped by its many talent that are on this film.  It’s an odd cast but it works very well!  Bonnie Bedelia and Kirk Geiger have great chemistry as mother and son.  Leslie Jordan nails down the character of “Brother Boy”.  And Beth Grant does a fantastic job of playing the frantic aunt.  Even Olivia Newton-John is rather interesting as the musician.

Granted, this film could have been awful but the casting was well-done but it’s a film that manages to take various issues and puts it together to make a film that is just so crazy and fun!  Especially once the film gets to the actual funeral procession.

As for the Blu-ray release, you get the best presentation of the film in HD.  All special features such as the cast and director interviews are included.

Overall, “Sordid Lives” is a film that is entertaining, not heavy-handed or overly deep.  The film provides a hilarious look at the dysfunctional lives of each character but it’s a lot of fun, cheesy but also a storyline that may have its own meaning for different people.  There are those who can laugh while others who may over analyze the film but for what is is.

In fact, the film may be too low-budget for some, but if you can overlook its technical presentation and focus on the story and its entertaining cast,  you’ll find Del Shores “Sordid Lives” to be an entertaining, crazy and campy film worth watching.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul – The Criterion Collection #198 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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The portrayal of racism feels real and is absolutely heartbreaking and Rainer Werner Fassbinder was able to create a melodrama with tones of an interracial marriage under society’s scrutiny, but also the unhidden problems that can affect both in the marriage if there is no meeting in the middle and accepting each other’s differences and culture. An important film and a Rainer Werner Fassbinder masterpiece, “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Ali: Fear Eats the Soul – The Criterion Collection #198

YEAR OF FILM: 1974

DURATION: 93 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, Monoraul

COMPANY: THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: September 30, 2014

Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Written by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Cinematography by Jurgen Jurges

Edited by Thea Eymesz

Starring:

Brigitte Mira as Emmi

El Hedi ben Salem as Ali

Irm Hermann as Krista

Elma Karlowa as Mrs. Kargus

Anita Bucher as Mrs. Ellis

Gusti Kreissl as Paula

Doris Mattes as Mrs. Angermeyer

Margit Symo as Hedwig

Katharina Herberg as a Girl in Bar

Lilo Pempeit as Mrs. Munchmeyer

Peter Gauhe as Bruno Kurowski

Marquard Bohm as Grober

The wildly prolific German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder paid homage to his cinematic hero Douglas Sirk with this update of that filmmaker’s 1955 All That Heaven Allows. A lonely widow (Brigitte Mira) meets a much younger Arab worker (El Hedi ben Salem) in a bar during a rainstorm. They fall in love, to their own surprise—and to the outright shock of their families, colleagues, and drinking buddies. In Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Fassbinder expertly wields the emotional power of classic Hollywood melodrama to expose the racial tensions underlying contemporary German culture.

In 1974, filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder would create his first major masterpiece titled “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul”.

“Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” was nominated for a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and would go on to win the FIPRESCI Prize, Silver Hugo and would earn actress Brigitte Mira a German Film Award for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role”.

Created as a homage to Douglas Sirk films such as “Imitation of Life” and “All That Heaven Allows”, the film was created in two weeks and was inspired by immigrant prejudice that he and his mother had experience as his mother immigrated back to Germany form Poland after the Soviet Occupation.

The film was released by The Criterion Collection on DVD back in 2003 and over a decade later, “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” will now be released on Blu-ray.

“Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” begins with a 60-year-old widow named Emmi Kurowski (portrayed by Brigitte Mira) visiting a bar and being drawn by the Arabic music playing during her walk home from work.

When she comes to visit the bar, she is stared on by the owner/bartender Barbara (portrayed by Barbara Valentin) and a group of Arabs.  Seeing that she doesn’t belong at her bar, Barbara tries to taunt Emmi to dance with a Moroccan Gastarbeiter (guest worker) named Ali (portrayed by El Hedi ben Salem)

The two dance and immediately a friendship between both Emmi and Ali begins and we start to learn about how Ali feels that Germans look down on Arabs and wonders if she minds being around him.

And Emmi opens Ali to her life and invites him to her apartment for a drink, because it’s late, she lets Ali sleep over.  And immediately, it would lead to both people having sex with each other and eventually, the two begin having more interaction with each other.

But it begins to alarm those who live in her apartment building as they see Arabs as unclean pigs and are more concerned of having sex with women.

Emmi starts to realize that she has fallen for Ali and tries to tell her daughter  Krista (portrayed by Irm Hermann) and her prejudiced husband, her son-in-law Eugen (portrayed by Fassbinder) that she has fallen for an Arab but thinking that it’s a joke, they both dismiss her and that she is old and having fantasies.

As she allows Ali to stay with her at times, this leads to a threat by the landlord’s son that he is not allowed to have lodger’s stay at her home as it goes against her tenant agreement and that Ali must leave.  Upset of what is happening, Emmi tells him that she and Ali are planning to marry and so, she hasn’t broken any tenant rules.

When Emmi explains to him of what she told him, Ali likes the idea of him being married to Emmi and both decide to get married.

But as the two are intent of having a happy marriage, Emmi starts to learn quickly that society does not acknowledge their marriage and see her as a whore for marrying an Arab.  She is shunned by her co-workers who make her clean more because she brought a dirty foreigner into their building, whenever they eat at a restaurant, everyone stares at them with disgust.

When she goes to tell her children the good news of the man she married, they also react with disgust and want to cut any relationship that she has with them.

As any form of optimism of their marriage going downhill, Emmi wonders if she and Ali can be happily married and people accept their relationship without prejudice.

VIDEO:

“All That Jazz – The Criterion Collection #724″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic compared to its previous DVD incarnations. Grain is visible throughout the film, the film has no blemishes and aside from the clothing of its era, there are no problems with the film’s colors.

The 4K digital restoration of the film shows, as the film features wonderful clarity. There are no blemishes, nor are there any problems with aging, this film looks magnificent.

According to the Criterion Collection, “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” was supervised by director of photography Jurgen Jurges.  This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original camera negative at ARRI Film & TV in Munich, where the film was also restored.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “All That Jazz – The Criterion Collection #724″ is presented in German LPCM 1.0 monaural with English subtitles.  Audio was clear and detected no significant hiss, crackle or pops during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from teh 17.5 mm magnetic track.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD,  Audio Cube’s integrated workstation and iZotope RX 3.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ali: Fear Eats the Soul – The Criterion Collection #198″ comes with the following special features:

  • Angst Isst Seele Auf - (12:33) Director Shabaz Noshir’s 2002 short about a Muslim actor’s encounter with prejudice.
  • Todd Haynes - (22:45) Recorded in 2003, filmmaker Todd Haynes discusses the influence of filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder on his work and the influence of director Douglas Sirk.
  • Brigitte Mira – (25:00) A 2003 interview with actress Brigitte Mira in Berlin.
  • Thea Eymesz – (22:36) A 2003 interview with editor Thea Eymesz who had worked with Rainer Werner Fassbinder on 16 of his films.
  • Signs of Vigorous Life: New German Cinema – (32:21) An episode from the British TV program “Omnibus” about the New German Cinema Movement.  The episode aired on Feb. 12, 1976.
  • From the American Soldier – (2:45) The story of “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” was used before the film was made and was seen in his short “The American Soldier” but a story told by a chambermaid (portrayed by Margarethe von Trotta).
  • Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul”.

EXTRAS:

“Ali: Fear Eats the Soul – The Criterion Collection #198″comes with a quad fold out with the essay “One Love Two Oppressions” by Chris Fujiwara.

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When it comes to films about racism, “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” is one of the most polarizing films to have ever been created.

As Stanley Kramer’s 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” explored interracial marriage in with a successful Black man marrying a Caucasian woman, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” tries to encompass the racism in German society (or around the world) towards foreigners but also how the marriage between Emmi and Ali slowly disintegrates due to the mentality that a foreigner must accept the cultural personification of the country they live in.

As an Asian American man who is married to a woman who is German/Dutch American, there is no doubt that there is a cultural divide that rears its ugly head once the cultural sensitivity has ended.  I have seen it on both sides and truthfully, there has to be some sort of assimilation with a culture of the country you live in.

There is no doubt things are much easier now than they were decades ago but you can’t help but feel that the relationship between Ali and Emmi was doomed.  While the words of “love conquers all” is often true to a point, in there case, their love is what led them to be a strong couple and not care of what people around them are saying or are feeling.

It’s what happens afterward as Emmi tries to get Ali to become more “German” and Ali feeling that he can never assimilate with the German culture that shuns him.

In one scene, Ali is desperately craving couscous and Emmi tells him that she doesn’t make couscous and how she should grow accustomed to eating German food.  And right off the bat, you can feel that this is a signal of doom when people of both cultures do not meet in the middle and take part in each other’s own culture.

Both actress Brigitte Mira and El Hedi ben Salem do a magnificent job portraying their characters.  Emmi who is a much older and naive woman who has managed to fall for a Moroccan named Ali.  Both are able to capture their characters emotions and their ups and downs of their marriage and dealing with a disapproving society.

“Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” looks much better than its 2003 DVD counterpart with much better colors, better detail and sharpness and the lossless soundtrack is appropriate.  All special features from the original Criterion Collection DVD are included on this Blu-ray release.

Overall, the portrayal of racism feels real and is absolutely heartbreaking and Rainer Werner Fassbinder was able to create a melodrama with tones of an interracial marriage under society’s scrutiny, but also the unhidden problems that can affect both in the marriage if there is no meeting in the middle and accepting each other’s differences and culture.

An important film and a Rainer Werner Fassbinder masterpiece, “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” is highly recommended!

Third Person (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

thirdperson

“Third Person” is a film that audiences may regard as his best or worse film which he had written and directed.  For those who are inspired by Haggis’ box office hits may grumble that the film is too convoluted, while others will applaud the filmmaker for creating a film that makes audiences think and a film requires discussion.  I personally enjoyed the film on its take on personal loss but also Haggis’ bold step outside of the types of films he had created and giving viewers something unique and different.  “Third Person” is recommended.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Filmfinance XII BVBA. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Third Person

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio), English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (For Language and Sexuality/Nudity)

Release Date: September 30, 2014

Directed by Paul Haggis

Written by Paul Haggis

Produced by Paul Breuls, Paul Haggis, Michael Nozik

Co-Producer: Moran Atias

Executive Producer: Nils Dunker, Fahar Faizaan, Arcadiy Golubovich, Andrew David Hopkins, Tim O’Hair, Guy Tannahill, Anatole Taubman

Associate Producer: Veronique Huyghebaert, Samuel Nozik, Emelie Vervecken

Music by Dario Marianelli

Cinematography by Gianfilippo Corticelli

Edited by Jo Francis

Casting by Elaine Grainger

Production Design by Laurence Bennett

Art Direction by Dimitri Capuani, Luca Tranchino

Set Decoration by Raffaella Giovannetti

Costume Design by Sonoo Mishra

Starring:

Liam Neeson as Michael

Maria Bello as Theresa

Mila Kunis as Julia

Kim Basinger as Elaine

Michele Melega as Giorgio

Adrien Brody as Scott

Olivia Wilde as Anna

Katy Louise Saunders as Gina

James Franco as Rick

Loan Chabanol as Sam

Riccardo Scamarcio as Marco

Moran Atias as Monika

Third Person tells three stories of love, passion, trust and betrayal. The tales play out in New York, Paris and Rome through three couples who appear to have nothing related, but share deep commonalities: lovers and estranged spouses, children lost and found. Featuring an award-winning ensemble cast including Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List), Adrien Brody (The Pianist), James Franco (127 Hours), Olivia Wilde (Rush), Mila Kunis (Black Swan), Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) and Maria Bello (A History of Violence). Written and directed by Academy Award® winner Paul Haggis (Best Motion Picture, Crash, 2005), Third Person is a mystery, a puzzle in which the truth is revealed in glimpses, clues are caught by the corner of the eye and nothing is truly what it seems.

Award-winning filmmaker/writer Paul Haggis is best known for writing hit films such as “Crash”, “Million Dollar Baby”, “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace”.

Wanting to challenge himself as a filmmaker, after completion, Haggis felt he had created the best film that he had ever made.

“Third Person” is a star-studded film starring Liam Neeson (“Schindler’s List”, “Batman Begins”, “Taken”), Olivia Wilde (“Rush”, “Tron: Legacy”), Kim Basinger (“L.A. Confidential”, “Batman”, “8 Mile”), James Franco (“Spider-Man” films, “127 Hours”, “This is the End”), Mila Kunis (“Black Swan”, “That 70’s Show”, “Ted”), Adrien Brody (“King Kong”, “The Pianist”, “Predators”), Moran Atias (“Crash”, “Land of the Lost”, “The Next Three Days”) and Maria Bello (“History of Violence”, “Prisoners”, “Payback”).

“Third Person” is a film that revolves around three different stories taking place in different cities.

In Paris, Michael (portrayed by Liam Neeson) is a writer who escapes to another country write his latest book.  He has left his wife Elaine (portrayed by Kim Basinger) and is having an affair with Anna (portrayed by Olivia Wilde), who he really loves but is having hard time in committing because he also loves Elaine.  But he is unaware that Elaine has a big secret.

In New York, Julia (portrayed by Mila Kunis) is a former actress who was charged for trying to kill her young son.  She denies the charges and now, her son is living with his father Rick (portrayed by James Franco) and doing all he can to prevent her from getting him back.  As Julia is doing all she can to get her son back, working a hotel job and living without much money, will she ever be reunited with her son?

In Rome, Scott (portrayed by Adrien Brody) is an American businessman who takes an interest in an Albanian gypsy named Monika (portrayed by Moran Atias).  As he tries to pursue Monika, he is unaware that she is trying to do all she can to free her daughter who has been kidnapped by a Russian gangster who is holding her hostage.  But is she really in dire trouble or is this all a setup to get his money?

VIDEO:

“Third Person” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality of the film is magnificent as the cinematography by Gianfilippo Corticelli (“Don’t Move”, “Facing Windows”) is sexy and beautiful.  The digital photography showcases the crisp details during closeups.  Skintones are natural and black levels are inky and deep.  But overall, picture quality for “Third Person” is magnificent with no trace of banding or artifact issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Third Person” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with an English – audio description 5.1 Dolby Digital track.  The lossless audio is dialogue and musically driven.  Both are crystal clear with crowd ambiance heard during one scene in a club.  But for a film like this, the soundtrack is appropriate.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Third Person” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with writer/director Paul Haggis, production designer Laurence Bennet, editor Jo Francis, producer Michael Nozik and actress Moran Atias.
  • Q&A with writer/director Paul Haggis – (33:29) A Q&A with writer/director Paul Haggis and moderator Pete Hammond.
  • The Making of Third Person – (9:49) A short featurette with the Paul Haggis and cast on the film and its characters.
  • Trailer – (1:44) The theatrical trailer for “Third Person”.

I have to admit that when I was watching “Third Person”, the film was often described as a romance film.

But by the second half of the film, I realized that this film was not a romance film but a drama about characters who have gone through terrible experiences or coming off bad situations and then of course, you get eventually start to realize that these characters are interconnected because of a primary focal point that is revealed by the end of the film.

“Third Person” is a film that no many people will understand and for those who do, will realize that this film is much more than that and it’s all I can even say, because saying more would spoil the film.

Suffice to say, the three stories are interesting and very different.  From writer Michael fleeing to Paris to write a book that he has having problems with.  His escape is Anna, a woman that he can’t commit to.

You have Julia who is unable to reunite with her son because she allegedly hurt him and now he is with his father Rick and he wants nothing but keep his son away from her.

And then you have Scott who is smitten with an Albanian gypsy named Monika who is in dire need of money to pay off a Russian gangster in order to get her child back.  But as he gets caught into her trying to retrieve her child and the gangster thinks he is a wealthy man and wants even more money, the relationship between Scott and Monika becomes even more complicated.

But I enjoyed the film is for its take on loss.  There are many films about how a person grieves over a loved one.  But what Paul Haggis is managed to create is a film that utilizes its characters in a fascinating way and culminate to an ending that is somber but an ending that I actually can believe in.

In many ways, this film is different from his Hollywood blockbusters because it’s a thinking person’s film.  Call it arthouse, call it intellectual cinema but the film delves into the psyche of a character through its characters and attempting to achieve something different.

And because it is different, it’s one of those films that audiences either love for Haggis taking a risk on such a film and those who loathe the film for being too somber and  leaving it to viewers to give their own personal interpretation of the film and its ending.

Look online and you’ll realize how people are divided about this film.  But in many ways, even the greatest auteurs, have tested the waters with stories that are cerebral, stories that challenge audiences to think about cinema than forcefeeding it to them, as in traditional Hollywood cinema.  Take it for what it is, if you are not a thinking person, then this film is not for you.

At 136 minutes long, the film is slowly building, details that seem improbably start to make sense as the story progresses.  And there is something about the film and how Haggis able to create a film knowing that it may be uncharacteristic of his style that the audiences love him for.  It’s quite daring and a bit risky and bold, as Jean-Luc Godard was after “Breathless” and then create films that were unlike it, that would baffle audiences and critics.

And as a writer and filmmaker, I applaud Haggis for wanting to escape the paradigm and try something different and new!

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and for a dramatic series that is primarily dialogue and musically driven, the lossless soundtrack is appropriate for center and front channel fare.  The audio commentary is enlightening, while the other featurettes included are also entertaining.

Overall, “Third Person” is a film that audiences may regard as his best or worse film which he had written and directed.  For those who are inspired by Haggis’ box office hits may grumble that the film is too convoluted, while others will applaud the filmmaker for creating a film that makes audiences think and a film requires discussion.  I personally enjoyed the film on its take on personal loss but also Haggis’ bold step outside of the types of films he had created and giving viewers something unique and different.

“Third Person” is recommended.

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