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

July 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

While I enjoy films that make me think and allow for discussion or debate, I did feel that “The Circle”, which has a talented cast, came up short and felt the storyline could or should have been better. A film that is average for the most part, not great, not terrible, just a film that is just O.K.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lions Gate Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Circle

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 110 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: Spanish, English SDH

COMPANY:  Lions Gate

RATED: PG-13 (A Sexual Situation, Brief, Strong Language and Some Thematic Elements including Drug Use)

RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2017


Based on the Novel by Dave Eggers

Directed by James Ponsoldt

Screenplay by James Ponsoldt, Dave Eggers

Produced by Anthony Bregman, Gary Goetzman, James Ponsoldt

Executive Producer: JStefanie Azpiazu, Peter Cron, Evan Hayes, Russell Levine, Federica Sainte-Rose, Ron Schmidt, Steve Shareshian, Marc Shmuger, Sally Wilcox

Music by Danny Elfman

Cinematography by Matthew Libatique

Edited by Lisa Lassek, Franklin Peterson

Casting by Avy Kaufman

Production Design by Gerald Sullivan

Art Direction by Sarah M. Pott, Sebastian Schroder

Set Decoration by Rosemary Brandenburg, Sarah Sprawls

Costume Design by Emma Potter


Starring:

Emma Watson as Mae

Ellar Coltrane as Mercer

Glenne Headly as Bonnie

Bill Paxton as Vinnie

Karen Gillan as Annie

Tom Hanks as Bailey

Beck as Beck

Nate Corddry as Dan

Mamoudou Athie as Jared

John Boyega as Ty


THE CIRCLE is a gripping modern thriller, set in the not-too-distant future, starring Emma Watson (HARRY POTTER franchise), Tom Hanks (SULLY), and John Boyega (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS).


Writer David Eggers is forever known for his successful book “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”.

Having written numerous non-fiction and fictional books, his 2013 novel “The Circle” received a film adaptation and was released in the U.S. in theaters back in April 2017.

Directed by James Ponsoldt (“The Spectacular now”, “Smashed”) and co-written with Eggers, the film would make over $30 million in the box office.

Starring Emma Watson (“Harry Potter” films, “Beauty and the Beast”), Tom Hanks (“Forrest Gump”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “The Da Vinci Code”), Karen Gillan (“Guardians of the Galaxy”, “Doctor Who”, “Oculus”), Ellar Coltrane (“Fast Food Nation”, “Boyhood”, “Barry”), Glenn Headly (“Don Jon”, “Mr. Holland’s Opus”, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”), Bill Paxton (“Titanic”, “Aliens”, “Apollo 13”) and John Boyega (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, “Attack the Block”, “Imperial Dreams”).

The film revolves around Mae Holland (portrayed by Emma Watson), a young woman who tries to work survival jobs, rides a car that is in bad shape and having to help her mother Bonnie (portrayed by Glenne Headly) care for her father Vinnie (portrayed by Bill Paxton) who is suffering from multiple sclerosis.

One day, Mae gets a call from her friend Annie Allerton (portrayed by Karen Gillan) who works for the powerful tech and social media company, The Circle.  Annie got her an interview in Customer Experience, assisting users of products and services from the Circle.  And with each experience, they are rated by customers and she wants to do her best and keep her score high.

During a company meeting, Eamon Bailey (portrayed by Tom Hanks) introduces a new initiative called “SeeChange” in which small cameras can be placed anywhere and provide real-time, high quality video feeds.

Meanwhile, her fellow employees try to get her active on social media and she meets Ty (portrayed by John Boyega) who is not partying with others and is often alone.

While on break, she learns from her mom of how Mercer is plans to start a business of making chandeliers out of deer antlers.  Not thinking anything bad of it, she posts the photo of Mercer’s chandelier online.

Meanwhile at another meeting, Tom Stenton (portrayed by Patton Oswalt) introduces a political candidate who plans to make all of her communications transparent and visble to those who wish to see them.  And how transparency brings accountability.

When Mae sees Ty, the two talk and he takes her to a restricted area and how an abandoned underground room will be keeping information on everyone.  She also learns that Ty is the creator of The Circle’s popular product, True You.

Back at work, Mercer comes to visit Mae and tells her that by posting her photo of the chandelier, now he is receiving death threats and being accused of killing animals, which he doesn’t do.  When the two are talking, people surround them, streaming video as people accuse Mercer of being an animal killer publicly.  Mae pleads that she didn’t mean to hurt him but Mercer leaves angry at what has happened to his life.

Upset about what has transpird, Mae goes kayaking late at night but because it is so late, she nearly drown but is rescued by the coastguard.  Fortunately, the Seechange cameras caught her breaking int the kayak premises and taking the kayak and the Coast guard were able to rescue her.

As she is to meet with The Circle co-founders Eamon Bailey and Tom Stenton, the two want to give her a chance by making her the first Circler to go completely transparent.  And from that point on, Mae will broadcast her life 24/7 (with the exception for bathroom related situations).  But how will Mae’s life be affected, especially those close to her?


VIDEO:

“The Circle” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). With a lot of scenes shot outdoors, the picture quality for the film is vibrant and looks great in HD. Closeups show good detail but for the most part, the film looks very good with no signs of artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Circle” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and features crystal clear dialogue and music from Danny Elfman.  Surround channels are utilized for ambiance, especially during scenes with audiences.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Circle” comes with the following special features:

  • No More Secrets: Completing the Circle – (30:55) A film about the making of “The Circle” and interviews with the cast and crew.
  • The future Won’t Wait: Design & Technology – (10:55) A featurette about the visual effects and design of the social media world for the film.
  • A True Original: Remembering Bill Paxton – (13:50) A featurette honoring the late Bill Paxton as “The Circle” was his last film and Tom Hanks talks about working with Bill.

EXTRAS:

“The Circle” comes with the Blu-ray, DVD and an UltraViolet HD code.


As I finished watching “The Circle”…I was left of feeling that it was a film that left me unfulfilled.  Granted, it was an OK film and and an interesting take about social media companies pushing the boundaries of privacy and ethics.

A film of where The Circle is the dominant social media company and how everyone who works for the company is engrossed in the new technologies employed by the company.  And with the development of a miniature camera, people can now watch and communicate all over the world/globe through these cameras that watch society in high quality video.

People watch live streaming of the life of Mae (portrayed by Emma Watson), who learns about the importance of privacy and open transparency but when her posts lead to her good friend in trouble, nevertheless one can watch and see how certain things can mirror real life.

One scene that does have relevance is when Mae (Emma Watson) puts a photo up of her friend who created a chandelier of antlers. But what she didn’t expect is that by doing so, opened him up for death threats, as many people felt he slaughtered animals to make the chandelier (which he didn’t) and the repercussions of such actions.

It made me think about how numerous people that I know who used to post photos on Facebook and other social media of them hunting deer or other animals (legally) but with the backlash that people have received from hunting and the threats that others have experienced, they have stopped.

Recently, I noticed even pet owners who post photos of their dogs in outfits are getting vilified on social media and also any video posts from a zoo will incur angry comments for those who feel zoos are inhumane.

That’s how social media is today, people who disagree are going to be highly vocal, while you have others who could care less and are unfazed.

But for the film “The Circle”, the film goes into the topic of what if things change and how open transparency can actually hurt the people you care about.

No doubt the film would be a fascinating film to encourage discussion but I felt certain areas of the film to be farfetched, while other scenes being quite plausible.

Especially when Mae turns the cameras on and not knowing her parents are having sex.  I think for those of us who remember such things during the Justin.tv years have already seen these things years ago but to push for open transparency is an interesting topic that will encourage discussion in the near future as privacy is always a major topic being discussed.

While I felt the story was OK, I felt that the film was bolstered by its talented cast which include Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, Karen Gillan, John Boyega, Patton Oswalt and you also have the final film appearance of actor Bill Paxton, who passed away in February 2017, a few months before the film’s theatrical premiere.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and for the lossless soundtrack, it features crystal clear dialogue and music but also good use of the surround channels for the large crowd-related scenes.  The film comes with nearly an hour’s worth of special features including a tribute to actor Bill Paxton.

Overall, while I enjoy films that make me think and allow for discussion or debate, I did feel that “The Circle”, which has a talented cast, came up short and felt the storyline could or should have been better.  A film that is average for the most part, not great, not terrible, just a film that is just O.K.

S.W.A.T.: Under Siege (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“S.W.A.T.: Under Siege” is a solid direct-to-video film.  Aiming to please the popcorn action fans that love films with guns ablazing, the film is worth checking out.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Sony Pictures Worldwide. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: S.W.A.T.: Under Siege

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 89 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Hungarian, Russian VO 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, French, Greek, hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenne, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Violence and Language Throughout)

RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2017


Directed by Tony Giglio

Written by Jonas Barnes, Keith Domingue

Produced by Greg Malcolm, Neal H. Moritz, Vicki Sotheran

Executive Producer: Jonas Barnes

Music by Patric Caird

Cinematography by Michael Balfry

Edited by Charles Robichaud

Casting by Candice Elzinga

Costume Design by Andrea Des Roches


Starring:

Sam Jaeger as Travis Hall

Adrianne Palicki as Ellen Dwyer

Michael Jai White as Scorpion

Kyra Zagorsky as Sophia Gutierrez

Ty Olsson as Ward

Olivia Cheng as chu

Zahf Paroo

Monique Ganderton as Simone

Pascale Hutton as Carley

Mike Dopud as Franklin

Matthew Marsden as Lars

Aren Buccholz as York

Dakota Guppy as Becky

Marci T. House as Angela Jefferson


When a D.E.A. and S.W.A.T. cartel takedown ends in a shootout, S.W.A.T. Agent Travis Hall seizes a mysterious prisoner and takes him into custody. Before long, the S.W.A.T. compound is under siege by wave after wave of assault teams attempting to recover the prisoner known as “The Scorpion” for the tattoo blazed across his back. When Travis discovers that his prisoner is a black ops specialist with the goods on both U.S. intelligence agencies and international criminals, it’s up to Travis and the expert S.W.A.T. team to keep The Scorpion and his billion-dollar secrets safe.


Back in 2003, the first “S.W.A.T.” film was released in theaters.

Another “S.W.A.T.” film titled “S.W.A.T.: Firefight” was released on video in 2011 and now the latest direct-to-video film will be released in 2017.

Titled “S.W.A.T.: Under Siege”, the film is directed by filmmaker Tony Giglio (who wrote “Death Race: Inferno” and “Chaos”) and was written by Jonas Barnes and Keith Domingue.

The film stars Sam Jaeger (“Parenthood”, “Lucky Number Slevin”, “American Sniper”), Adrienne Palicki (“John Wick”, “G.I. Joe : Retaliation”, “Red Dawn”), Michael Jai White (“The Dark Knight”, “Spawn”, “Blood and Bone”), Kyra Zagorsky (“Helix”, “Continuum”, “Travelers”), Ty Olsson (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, “The Twilight Saga”, “X-Men 2”), Olivia Chang (“Marco Polo”, “Travelers”, “Supernatural”) and Zahf Paroo (“Defying Gravity”, “The Magician”).

The film begins with the D.E.A. and the S.W.A.T. led by Agent Travis Hall (portrayed by Sam Jaeger) taking on a drug cartel.  While many of the cartel were killed in battle, the team discovers a mysterious prisoner known as “The Scorpion” that is chained.

While head of the S.W.A.T., Ellen Dwyer (portrayed by Adrianne Palicki) is handing over the prisoner to authorities as it is out of their jurisdiction, because the death of his crew, Agent Hall decides to interrogate The Scorpion while his teammember, Sophia Gutierrez interviews one of the captured people in the Cartel.

The Scorpion warns Agent Hall that he will give him more info., but he must protect him from false agent coming to retrieve him.  Meanwhile, the cartel member being interviewed by Sophia bangs his head on the desk repeatedly, killing himself.

As Agent Hall goes to meet the two FBI agents who are coming for the Scorpion, he notices that the men are not carrying FBI weaponry and realizes that The Scorpion is telling the truth.

Agent Hall is attacked but his teammates come in time to save him and capture one of the fake FBI agents.

Seeing how dire the situation in regards to this mysterious prisoner, The Scorpion tells Hall that an evil group is after him for the information he has in his head.   But worse, now that they know where his located, they will do what they can, by all means necessary to get him.  But to make things worse, he warns that one of the people in the S.W.A.T. team is assisting the evil cartel.

Not wanting to see anymore deaths in the day, Agent Hall tries to escort The Scorpion out of the building but they are attacked by a large group of men with machine guns.

As the S.W.A.T. comes to Halls assistance, the S.W.A.T. team prepare for their building to be attacked as the cartel with heavy armory is planning to attack and do whatever is necessary to retrieve The Scorpion.


VIDEO:

“S.W.A.T.: Under Siege” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). With a lot of scenes shot outdoors, the picture quality for the film is vibrant and looks great in HD.  Closeups show good detail but for the most part, the film looks very good with no signs of artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“”S.W.A.T.: Under Siege” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Hungarian and Russian VO 5.1 Dolby Digial. Dialogue is crystal clear and with the many gun, rifle and machine gun shots throughout the film, audio is crystal clear and quite immersive during those action sequences!

Subtitles are in English SDH, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, French, Greek, hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenne, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“S.W.A.T.: Under Siege” comes with no special features.


A new “S.W.A.T.” film has arrived on video and “S.W.A.T.: Under Siege” is full of action that popcorn action fans will no doubt enjoy the constant barrage of gun/rifle shots throughout the film.

So far, I haven’t been disappointed with the direct-to-video S.W.A.T. films and you often have to watch these films with an open mind. The story is that the S.W.A.T. has found a Secret Ops double agent who goes by the name of “The Scorpion” (portrayed by Michael Jai White) and he is taken into custody by the S.W.A.T team.

Something doesn’t add up and Agent Hall goes to interrogate the mysterious man who they found chained up.  But all he tells them is that fake FBI agents are coming after him and that bad things are going to happen if he’s kept in the building.

And sure enough, chaos erupts as a cartel begins attacking the S.W.A.T. facility with rapid fire machine guns.  Leading to the S.W.A.T. team to barricade themselves in the building but Hall learns from the mysterious Scorpion that one of their own is on the Cartel side.

The Cartel shuts down all power for the facility and also has their hacker trying to open up all shutters barricading the doors and windows of the facility.

And now, the S.W.A.T. team must prepare for an army of armed Cartel about to rampage into their facility.  Will they survive?

If anything, it’s a bit of a stretch that we have a cartel in a major face-off with no one nearby contacting law enforcement.  Granted, with the firepower that the cartel has, it would be too much for police officers but still,  you would think someone would report and come to the aid of the S.W.A.T team.  But that’s my brain working overdrive and one should remember, one shouldn’t think too logically about operations and such.  Just enjoy the action and the plethora of machine gun/rifle shots going off.

Sam Jaeger does a great job of playing agent Hall, while it was interesting to see “Friday Night Lights” star Adrianne Palicki as a role of the leader of the S.W.A.T. department and seeing her in a major action role. Michael Jai White is always a solid action actor and writer turned director Tony Giglio did a great job andfor the most part, I did enjoy this film.

The Blu-ray looks and sounds great but there are no special features unfortunately.  It’s a barebones Blu-ray release.

Overall, “S.W.A.T.: Under Siege” is a solid direct-to-video film.  Aiming to please the popcorn action fans that love films with guns ablazing, the film is worth checking out.

 

The Fate and the Furious (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

 “The Fate and the Furious” no doubt went bigger in terms of action and destruction but is it the best film in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise?  That’s all subjective.  But if you love the films and have grown up watching the crew all this time, you are definitely going to go on one hell of a ride with this film.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Fate and the Furious

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 2 Hrs. and 16 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English DTS-X Immersive Audio, DTS Headphone 2.0, English DVS, Espanol DTS Digital Surround 5.1,  Subtitles: English SDH, Espanol, Francais

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017


Based on Characters by Gary Scott Thompson

Directed by F. Gary Gray

Written by Chris Morgan

Produced by Vin Diesel, Michael Fottrell, Chris Morgan, Neal H. Moritz

Executive Producer: Amanda Lewis, Samantha Vincent

Co-Producer: Cliff Lanning

Associate Producer: Sharon Lopez

Music by Brian Tyler

Cinematography by Stephen F. Windon

Edited by Paul Rubell, Christian Wagner

Production Design by Bill Brzeski

Art Direction: Andrew Max Cahn, Jonathan Carlos, Desma Murphy, Jay Pelissier, Aramis Balebona Reco, Brian Stultz

Set Decoration: Danielle Berman

Costume Design: Sanja Milkovic Hays, Marlene Stewart


Starring:

Vin Diesel as Dom

Jason Statham as Deckard

Dwayne Johnson as Hobbs

Michelle Rodriguez as Letty

Tyrese Gibson as Roman

Ludacris as Tej Parker

Charlize Theron as Cipher

Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody

Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey

Luke Evans as Owen

Elsa Pataky as Elena

Kristofer Hivju as Rhodes

Scott Eastwood as Little Nobody


Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez lead an all-star cast as the global blockbuster franchise delivers its most action-packed, high octane adrenaline rush yet in The Fate of the Furious. Now that Dom (Diesel) and Letty (Rodriguez) are married and Brian and Mia have retired from the game—and the rest of the crew has been exonerated—the globetrotting team has found a semblance of a normal life. But when a mysterious woman (Oscar winner, Charlize Theron) seduces Dom into the world of crime he can’t seem to escape and a betrayal of those closest to him, they will face trials that will test them as never before. From the shores of Cuba and the streets of New York City to the icy plains off the arctic Barents Sea, our elite force will crisscross the globe to stop an anarchist from unleashing chaos on the world’s stage… and to bring home the man who made them a family.


If there is one thing that is constant about the “Fast and the Furious” film franchise, they are huge moneymakers.

And for the eighth film titled “The Fate and the Furious”, the film which cost $250 million to make, would go on to earn over $1.2 billion in the box office.  Making it the second highest-grossing film of 2017 and the eleventh highest-grossing film of all time.  The film would be the 30th film to gross over a billion and the second in the franchise after “Furious 7”.

The film was directed by F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”, “The Italian Job”, “Law Abiding Citizen”) and was written by Chris Morgan (“Fast & Furious 6”, “Furious 7”, “47 Ronin”, “Wanted”).

Returning for the eighth film are Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, Luke Evans, Elsa Pataky, Kurt Russell and making their debut to the franchise are Charlize Theron (“Mad Max”, “Monster”, “Prometheus”) and Scott Eastwood (“Gran Torino”, “Fury”, “The Longest Ride”).

And now the film will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

The film begins with Dominic “Dom” Toretto (portrayed by Vin Diesel) and his wife Letty Ortiz (portrayed by Michelle Rodriguez) are celebrating their honeymoon in Havana.

But before they could really enjoy things, his cousin Fernando gets into a little trouble and Dom ends up racing local racer, Raldo.  As Dom wins the thrilling race, the following day while seeing a woman having problem with her car, Dom approaches her.

To his surprise, the woman knows all about him and literally planned on meeting with Dom in Cuba and reveals herself as cyberterrorist Cipher.  And she is recruiting Dom to work for her.  Dom tells her he doesn’t work for anyone but when she shows him something on her cellphone, he is coerced into working for her.

Meanwhile, Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) agent Luke Hobbs (portrayed by Dwayne Johnson) is recruited to break into a military outpost in Berlin to retrieve an EMP device.  Because he is on his own, he is told to select a team and immediately, Luke gets Dom, Letty, Roman Pearce (portrayed by Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (portrayed by Ludacris) and Ramsey (portrayed by Nathalie Emmanuel) involved.

Thoroughly planned, everything goes to plan and they are able to retrieve the EMP, until Dom crashes his car into Luke and steals the EMP.  He is chased by police but manages to get inside an airplane which belongs to Cipher.  Luke tells everyone what happened and that Dom has gone rogue.

As for Dom, we learn the real reason why he is working with Cipher and that is because she has kidnapped Elena (portrayed by Elsa Pataky) and his son and is threatening to kill them.

Back at home, Luke is sent to prison but is approached by Mr. Nobody (portrayed by Kurt Russell) and his trainee Little Nobody (portrayed by Scott Eastwood) and he is told to confess his crimes and his crimes will be wiped.  But Luke is not willing to confess and he is placed in prison right across from villain Deckard Shaw (portrayed by Jason Statham) and the two immediately start swiping insults towards each other and how they want to beat each other up.

But all of a sudden, Luke’s prison door opens and immediately Deckard uses the distraction to escape from his cell and he tries to make an escape with other convicts as the prison guards try to stop them.  Luke goes after him and once they are about to escape, it is learned that this was the plan of Mr. Nobody.

Mr. Nobody recruits Luke, Deckard, Letty, Roman, Tej and Ramsey to stop Cipher but first, they must stop Dominic.  But can they?


VIDEO:

“The Fate and the Furious ” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks fantastic and vibrant may it be in Havana, New York and even Iceland, as many of the scenes were shot outdoors. The film looks absolutely fantastic in HD!

I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Fate and the Furious ” is presented in English DTS-X Immersive Audio, DTS Headphone 2.0, English DVS, Espanol DTS Digital Surround 5.1.

Definitely one of the most immersive films in the film’s franchise, with the high level of actions with weaponry, cars, explosions, chaos and more, this is a film that will no doubt please audiophiles and definitely a reference film for audio enthusiasts.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Espanol, Francais

 

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Fate and the Furious ” comes with the following special feature:

  • The Cuban Spirit – (8:04) A featurette about the crew exploring Cuba.
  • In the Family – Featuring four featurettes: Betraying the Family: Cipher and Dom (6:35) – A featurette about casting Charlize Theron as a villain; Leaderless: A Family Lost (5:00) – A featurette about the cast discussing Dom going rogue; Shaw Family Values (3:56) – A featurette about Decker Shaw and his family; and Meet the Nobodys (5:44) – A featurette about Mr. Nobody and his protege.  Interview with Kurt Russell and Scott Eastwood.
  • Car Culture – Featuring the following featurettes: The Hero Cars of Fast (10:23) – A featurette of the many vehicles in the film; Zombie Cars (5:33) – A featurette about the computerized cars and how the scene was created; The Ripsaw (5:15) – A featurette about the military tank provided by the US Department of Defense for the film.
  • All About the Stunts – Featuring the following three featurettes: Malecon Street Race (6:13) Behind the scenes of how the race in Havana was pulled off; Iceland Stunt Diaries (6:47) – How the big action scenes were shot in Iceland and The Streets of New York (5:25) How the big action scenes were shot in New York.
  • Extended fight Scenes – (5:03) Featuring the extended prison fight and the plane fight scenes.
  • Audio Commentary – Feature commentary with director F. Gary Gray

EXTRAS:

“The Fate and the Furious” comes with the Blu-ray, DVD and a digital code for the Theatrical and Director’s Cut version of the film.  Plus, you get a free film from Universal’s UPHE Rewards.


“The Fate and the Furious”, the eighth installment of in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise is no doubt bigger, more action-packed and more exciting than the previous films in terms of risk and chaotic moments, but has the franchise at a point of exhaustion for fans?

The answer is “no”, if the box office earnings surpassing $1 billion is used as a litmus test.

There is no doubt that the franchise is a cash cow and for the most part, the films are exciting and fun popcorn action films but there is no doubt the producers wanted to find ways to do better than “Furious 7” which was a big box office hit and financially the succeed, but the problem is now they are going into a direction that feels like a cross between “The Expendables”, James Bond films meet “Fast and the Furious”.

Earlier in the series, you felt the films felt right as they dealt with major heists and with each film, the stakes got higher and higher.

Bringing back the crew to take on a cyberterrorist named Cipher who has an easy time breaking in to a secured top-secret government facility to steal the “Eye of God” and manages to orchestrate chaos in New York City that would make Michael Bay smile and have eyes wide open and evading Russians and a huge submarine in the frozen tundra seems a bit too much.

If producers wanted high stakes, bigger and more explosive than its previous film, I could understand that.

But the question is…where does the franchise go from there?  Back to basics?  Or are we going to see “Avengers”/Marvel Studios type of action where we see Dom and team take on space aliens, become the next A-Team and that’s where I’ll be checking out because I feel the franchise has strayed far from the type of stories that made me interested in the franchise to begin with.

One thing remains constant in the film…”Family” and that is the potential that writers can definitely work with.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if we see tragedy visits the family once again, possibly in a larger scale.

With that being said, I give “Straight Outta Compton” director F. Gary Gray major props in taking on this exciting over-the-top action film.  It’s orchestrated very well, the high level of action scenes and chaos orchestrated in one film pitting Dom and his crew against each other is no doubt and seeing Dom turn rogue was very well-played.

Actress Charlize Theron who plays the mad cyberterrorist Cipher is no doubt one of the most vilest villains to appear in the films.

And of course, to have Decker Shaw (Statham) return but this time, teaming up with the crew, and playing off Dwayne Johnson worked very well.

On Blu-ray, the film looks fantastic.  Outdoor scenes are vibrant, closeups show amazing detail and the lossless audio is quite immersive with the many action sequences throughout the film, explosions, car crashes, destruction galore, both video and audiophiles should be happy with this HD release!  And for special features, at first it didn’t seem like much, but there are multiple special features within each listing, so that should keep fans busy.

And last, you also get an UltraViolet code for the theatrical and Director’s Cut of the film, plus an extra code for a free film via UPHE Rewards.

Overall, “The Fate and the Furious” no doubt went bigger in terms of action and destruction but is it the best film in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise?  That’s all subjective.  But if you love the films and have grown up watching the crew all this time, you are definitely going to go on one hell of a ride with this film.  Recommended!

 

Song to Song (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

No doubt this film is not for everyone but I have watched my fair share of Terrence Malick films to know that I enjoy his style and non-traditional presentation and that includes his latest film”Song to Song”.

Images courtesy of © 2015 Buckeye Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Song to Song

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 129 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:39:1 aspect ratio, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, Espanol

COMPANY: Broadgreen Pictures

RATED: R (Some Sexuality, Nudity, Drug Use and Language)

RELEASE DATE: July 4, 2017


Directed by Terrence Malick

Written by Terrence Malick

Produced by Jeff Abberley, Diane Miller Levin, Jamie Patricof

Executive Producer: Julia Blackman, Marc Butan, Jessica Chastain, Mickey Liddell, Jennifer Monroe, Joanne Sennitt, Pete Shilaimon, Michael Tollin, Robbie Tollin, Kevan Van Thompson

Co-Producer: Katie McNeill

Music by Harry Gregson-Williams

Cinematography by Andrij Parekh

Edited by David Coulson

Production Design by Suzie Davies

Art Direction: Jan Kalous, Dan Taylor, Magdalena Zemanova

Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

Costume Design: Bina Daigeler


Starring:

Ryan Gosling as BV

Rooney Mara as Faye

Michael Fassbender as Cook

Natalie Portman as Rhonda

Cate Blanchett as Amanda

Holly Hunter as Miranda

Bernice Marlohe as Zoey

Val Kilmer as Duane

Lykke Li as Lykke

Olivia Grace Applegate as Emma


In this modern love story set against the Austin, Texas music scene, two entangled couples — struggling songwriters Faye (Rooney Mara) and BV (Ryan Gosling), and music mogul Cook (Michael Fassbender) and the waitress whom he ensnares (Natalie Portman) — chase success through a rock ‘n’ roll landscape of seduction and betrayal.


Filmmaker Terrence Malick (“The Thin Red Line”, “The Tree of Life”, “The New World”, “Badlands) is known for creating art films that explore humanity, nature and instinct.

Characters that are explored via voice-overs from individual characters, it’s a style that is unique to Malick’s oeuvre which are praised by his fans and jilted by cineastes who feel his films are lacking true character development and comprehensive plot.

People often love or dislike his films but no doubt, they are films that are though-provoking, fascinating and whimsical.

His latest film is directed and written by him but also stars an ensemble cast which include Ryan Gosling (“Drive”, “La La Land”, “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”), Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Social Network”, “Carol”), Michael Fassbender (“Inglorious Basterds”, “Prometheus”, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”), Natalie Portman (“V for Vendetta”, “Black Swan”, “Leon: The Professional”), Cate Blanchett (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Lord of the Ring” films), Holly Hunter (“The Piano”, “O Brother, Where Art Thou”), Berenice Marlohe (“Skyfall”, “Twin Peaks”, “5 to 7”), Val Kilmer (“Heat”, “Batman Forever”, “Top Gun”), Lykke Li (“Tommy”), Olivia Grace Applegate (“Krisha”, “The Honor Farm”, “Aevia”) and more.

The film also features cameo appearances by Florence Welch, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, The Black Lips, Alan Palomo, John Lydon, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Spank Rock, Big Freedia and more.

The film revolves around BV (portrayed by Ryan Gossling), Cook (portrayed by Michael Fassbender), Faye (portrayed by Rooney Mara) and Rhonda (portrayed by Natalie Portman).

Cook is a music mogul often busy at music festivals, while Faye and BV are struggling musician who have a strong friendship with Cook and in the process, they discover each other.

Faye, once a secretary for Cook, has a sexual relationship with him.  But meanwhile, she has a relationship with BV and despite messing up in life, the one true happiness that she has found for herself was being with BV.

But to make it in the music industry is important and what matters most is her music and BV.  But to stay relevant in the music scene, she knows that she needs to be close to Cook and fulfill his sexual needs, while trying to have a relationship with Cook.

But BV is suspicious and feels that Faye is keeping something from him.

Meanwhile, Cook meets Rhonda, a waitress at a restaurant and the two build a relationship and he brings her into his life and circle of wealth.  But the more she stays with him, she realizes that with his power and the women he surrounds himself with, Rhonda feels dirty with being with a man like him and she questions her existence of being with a man like Cook.  Cook wants to have sexual adventures, Rhonda is not that type of person and is reserved and unwilling to join Cook in his erotic adventures.

But with these individuals, can they ever find love?  Can they ever be satisfied?


VIDEO:

“Song to Song” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as many of the scenes were shot outdoors. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Song to Song” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and features a soundtrack that is driven by its crystal clear dialogue, music and ambiance.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Espanol.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Song to Song” comes with the following special feature:

  • The Music Behind the Movie – (2:02) A short featurette about “Song to Song” with interviews with cast and crew.

When it comes to Terrence Malick, there are people who love his films and there are those who can’t stand his style of filmmaking.

Malick doesn’t subscribe to the traditional way of creating films.  His films may seem like an abstract work of art, featuring different characters, fragmented moments, lives intertwined yet lives that are quite different.

People who search for happiness but are not sure if they deserve it or not sure how to love as they are conflicted with their own purpose in life.  May it to be successful at their career, may it be searching for a moment in life of feeling alive or finding a life which in truth is not what one wanted or expected.

For the most part, the primary players of the film are the struggling music artists, BV and Faye.  Faye is a person who wanted to live life free, may it be her way she approaches jobs or the way she approaches sex.  But being with music mogul Cook, she has been treated as a sexual object.  Where BV treats her as a woman that he has fallen in love with, as she has with him.  But does someone like her deserve something good like him.  Needless to say, she is conflicted by her sense of excitement and pursuit of a music career by having a sexual liason with Cook, while struggling with the love that BV gives to her.

Other characters in the film include Natalie Portman’s Rhonda.  Not happy with the life she is living with Cook and the way he wants her to be a sexual plaything, which she is not ready yet.    Fitting along the spiritual theme of a good girl corrupted by evil, Rhonda signifies the purity in Cook’s life which he desperately wanted to make dirty.

Cate Blanchett’s Amanda is more of the rebound that BV finds himself in after things between he and Faye do not work out.  She feels withdrawn when she is with him and the level of passion that he has given to Faye and the lack of it towards Amanda is evident.

And as the film has many cameos.  While one may question why Patti Smith has a role in the film, she does play the guiding force to Faye, trying to break down the walls that she has has surrounded for herself from finding true happiness.

As for the Blu-ray, as most of the film is shot outdoors, the film looks great in HD.  Closeups show great clarity and detail while music and ambiance are crystal clear.

Overall, Terrence Malick films are not going to win a mass audience.  In fact, his films are frustrating for those who want comprehensive storylines, can’t stand narrations and experimentation.  If anything, I found the film to be entertaining as it reminds me of a fractured mirror with its pieces going backward to re-attach and form itself to something whole as it was meant to be.  Love often finds its share of hurdles and a lot of romantic films often feature a problematic situation that leads its protagonists back together.

Instead of something straightforward, Malick films are told in fragments and as the audience, we watch and see how Malick tries to put the pieces together.

No doubt this film is not for everyone but I have watched my fair share of Terrence Malick films to know that I enjoy his style and non-traditional presentation and that includes his latest film”Song to Song”.

The Lost City of Z (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Jim Gray’s “The Lost City of Z” is an entertaining film based on a true story of the mysterious disappearance of explorer Percy Fawcett in 1925. Featuring a wonderful performance by Charlie Hunnam., while the film shows one man’s dream, his ambitions as an explorer and his drive, we also see a man consumed by this obsession to find the lost ancient city where the risk is high.  I found it to be a satisfying and entertaining film but it may not be for everyone.  But I still feel it’s a film worth recommending!

Images courtesy of © 2016 LCOZ Holdings LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Lost City of Z

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 141 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS Digital Surround 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, Espanol

COMPANY: Broad Green Pictures

RATED: PG-13 (Violence, Disturbing Images, Brief Strong Language and Some Nudity)

RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017


Based on the book by David Grann

Directed by James Gray

Screenplay by James Gray

Produced by Jeff Abberley, Diane Miller Levin, Jamie Patricof

Executive Producer: Julia Blackman, Marc Butan, Jessica Chastain, Mickey Liddell, Jennifer Monroe, Joanne Sennitt, Pete Shilaimon, Michael Tollin, Robbie Tollin, Kevan Van Thompson

Co-Producer: Katie McNeill

Music by Harry Gregson-Williams

Cinematography by Andrij Parekh

Edited by David Coulson

Production Design by Suzie Davies

Art Direction: Jan Kalous, Dan Taylor, Magdalena Zemanova

Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

Costume Design: Bina Daigeler


Starring:

Charlie Hunnam as Percy Fawcett

Robert Pattinson as Henry Costin

Sienna Miller as Nina Fawcett

Tom Holland as Jack Fawcett

Edward Ashley as Arthur Mansley

Angus Macfadyen as James Murray

Ian McDiarmid as Sir George Goldie

Clive Francis as Sir John Scott Keltie


The Lost City of Z tells the incredible true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett, who journeys into the Amazon at the dawn of the 20th century and discovers evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilization that may have once inhabited the region. Despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment who regard indigenous populations as “savages”, the determined Fawcett- supported by his devoted wife, son and aide de camp returns time and again to his beloved jungle in an attempt to prove his case, culminating his mysterious disappearance in 1925.


In 1925, British geographer, archaeologist and explorer Percy Fawcett and his eldest son disappeared during an expedition to find “Z”, Fawcett’s name for an ancient lost city in the jungles of Brazil.

The mystery of the disappearance of both men have been discussed and debated for decades and to this very day, no one knows the what happened to both men during their expedition.

While there have been numerous films, stories and characters based on Percy Fawcett’s explorations, probably the best known inspirations of Fawcett include Professor Challenger (for Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World”) and may be a possible inspiration for Indiana Jones.

But to explore Percy Fawcett, author David Grann explored the life of Captain Percy Fawcett in his 2009 non-fiction book “The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession the in Amazon” and how he fell in love or was obsessed of trying to find “Z”.

The book received critical praise and also criticism but it is no doubt a fascinating exploration of Fawcett and his accomplishments.  Enough to receive a film adaptation courtesy of filmmaker/screenwriter James Gray (“The Immigrant”, “We Own the Night”, “Two Lovers”).

The film stars Charlie Hunnam (“Pacific Rim”, “Sons of Anarchy”, “Children of Men”), Robert Pattinson (“Twilight” films, “Remember Me”), Sienna Miller (“Foxcatcher”, “Burnt”, “Stardust”), Tom Holland (“The Impossible”, “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, “Captain America: Civil War”), Edward Ashley (“In the Heart of the Sea”, “Last Tango in Halifax”, “Winter”), Agnes Macfadyen (“Braveheart”, “We Bought a Zoo”, “Equilibrium”), Ian McDiarmid (“Star Wars” films) and Clive Francis (“Mr. Turner”, “Sharpe’s Company”).

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Broadgreen Pictures/Amazon Studios.

The film begins in the early 1900’s and introduces us to Percy Fawcett (portrayed by Charlie Hunnam), a skilled horseman, marksman and a man married to Nina (portrayed by Sienna Miller) and has a baby named Jack.

As Percy is sent to London to meet with officials of the Royal Geographical Society, because Bolivia and Brazil are close to war due to their mutual boundary, the British government are asked to survey it.  And Percy is given the job to lead the survey party but also to help restore his family’s good name.

With the assistance of Cpl. Henry Costin (portrayed by Robert Pattinson), who has knowledge of the Amazon rainforest.  And as the two and their party go through the Amazon forest, their Amazonian scout Tadjui tells them stories of a city covered in gold and full of people but hidden deep inside the jungle.  No one believes Tadjui until Fawcett discovers advanced broken pottery and small stone statues and realizes that Tadjui may be telling the truth.

When Fawcett returns, Nina had given birth to their second son but she also discovered a conquistador text which has information about a city deep in the Amazon jungle.  As Fawcett meets renowned biologist James Murray (portrayed by Angus Macfayden), Murray funds the expedition to fin what Fawcett has dubbed the mysterious city as “The Lost City of Z”.

But what happens when Fawcett, Costin, Murray and others revisit the Amazon jungle?  And through the years of trying to look for this lost city, how would his children, growing older, especially his wife and eldest son Jack (portrayed by Tom Holland) feel about Charlie’s obsession with the lost city and not being there for his own family?  Will Fawcett ever find “Z”?


VIDEO:

“The Lost City of Z” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39 1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as a lot of the scenes were shot outdoors.

Cinematography by Darius Khondji (“Amour”, “Midnight in Paris”, “Se7en”) is fantastic!

I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Lost City of Z” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DVS 2.0 and Espanol DTS Digital Surround 5.1. Dialogue is crystal clear and surround channels utilize environment ambiance.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Espanol and Francais.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Lost City of Z” comes with the following special features:

  • Feature Film Commentary –  Featuring audio commentary by director James Gray.
  • Adventure in the Jungle – (2:21) A short featurette with interviews with James Gray and cast.
  • Expedition Journal – A photo gallery from the film.
  • From Novel to Screen – (3:10) A featurette about bringing David Grann’s non-fiction book to the big screen.

Part of the fascination of watching James Gray’s “The Lost City of Z” is knowing there was an explorer who would go far and find the lost city of a legendary city known as “Z”.

And adding more dimension to the film is reading the plethora of articles surrounding Gray’s exploration and the mystery surrounding what may or may not have happened to Percy Fawcett and his eldest son.

Was he obsessed with “Z”?  What was it that allured Percy Watson to leave his family to go to the Amazon jungle?

Part of the difficult of creating a movie about Watson is by going off information, may it be fact or fiction but then adding your own personal human understanding of how one would feel and then put it on film.  Filmmaker James Gray discusses this about how he interpreted various things, from his research and was able to craft the film.

But Gray’s interpretation, while still one of the stories of what may have happened to Percy Watson and his eldest son Jack is still a mystery and may be kept a mystery that will attract attention as much as the disappearance of American pilot, Amelia Earhart.  A lot of theories but no one knows the truth of what happened to them and throughout the years, people who are still fascinated by the mystery will continue to make films, write articles and more stories that make them more legendary.

There are many men and women who are driven by their goals and while others may hurt in the process, what we do know is that Gray was consumed by being the person of finding “Z”, no matter the danger.  It was his path that surpassed his wanting to be there for his family.  According to the film, he felt that as the adventurer, his wife would be the caretaker of the children.

The film does try to show the independent side of Nina, who challenges her husband for not bringing her to the Amazon and also the pain that his eldest son Jack has carried for his father not being there for him.

Part of the problem for this type of film is that it takes a while to generate any significant climax because the film is presented in arcs.  The first expedition of discovery, the second expedition with bringing someone who was not fit to travel in the jungle to ruin the expedition and the third featuring Percy and Jack.   For those who are captivated by the determination of Percy, will no doubt be drawn by the adventure.  But for those seeking some sort of build-up, it’s kind of hard when you know how this film will pretty much end.

For me, I’m of the former who enjoys the determination and persistence of one being driven to being the first man to discover a long lost ancient city, taking on any adversity that comes his way.

I know that for a few of my female friends who have watched the film, they thought Percy was a jerk for leaving his family for years to pursue this adventure.  Either way how you feel, it’s valid.  What Percy did in terms of an explorer was cool in an archaeological way, but in terms of leaving your children with a mother for years, to the point that your children don’t know who you are, that’s not really cool at all.

But once again, this film is based on David Grann’s non-fiction book and also included filmmaker James Gray’s own interpretations as well.  If anything, the subject matter will no doubt make one want to do research after the film is over.

As for the Blu-ray, the film looks wonderful in HD.  With the lush greens of the jungle, close up details are fantastic and for the most part, having a film shot outdoors, especially with the wonderful cinematography by Darius Khondji, added to the wonderful visuals of the film.

Lossless audio is also just as great with wonderful ambiance being captured of the jungle to the surround channels.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear and there are numerous special features included as well.

Overall, Jim Gray’s “The Lost City of Z” is an entertaining film based on a true story of the mysterious disappearance of explorer Percy Fawcett in 1925. Featuring a wonderful performance by Charlie Hunnam., while the film shows one man’s dream, his ambitions as an explorer and his drive, we also see a man consumed by this obsession to find the lost ancient city where the risk is high.  I found it to be a satisfying and entertaining film but it may not be for everyone.  But I still feel it’s a film worth recommending!

Buster’s Mal Heart (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I enjoy films that make me think. From French New Wave to Italian Neo-Realism, I’m often wanting to see more American films, especially modern ones, try to be different from contemporary films and make you think. Sarah Adina Smith’s “Buster’s Mal Heart” does just that. If you want something fresh, different and surreal, definitely give “Buster’s Mal Heart” a try!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Copyright Reversion. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Buster’s Mal Heart

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 98 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: N/A

RELEASE DATE: July 18, 2017


Directed by Sarah Adina Smith

Written by Sarah Adina Smith

Produced by Jonako Donley, Travis Stevens

Executive Producer: Dan Cogan, Wendy Ettinger, Mynette Louie, Julie Parker Benello

Associate Producer: William Adashek, Kevin Cannon, Derek Nguyen

Line Producer: Omar Veytia

Cinematography by Shaheen Seth

Edited by Sarah Adina Smith

Casting by Samy Burch

Production Design by Alexis Rose

Art Direction: Tessla Hastings, Alexis Wade

Costume Design: Emily Batson


Starring:

Rami Malek as Buster

DJ Qualls as The Last Free Man

Kate Lyn Shell as Marty

Sukha Belle Potter as Roxy

Toby Huss as Deputy Winston

Lin Shaye as Pualine

Mark Kelly as Oscar

Bruce Bundy as Ranger Meg

Teresa Yenque as Adelita

Jared Larson as Dale


In this bold thriller peppered with dark humor and interlocking mystery, an eccentric mountain man is on the run from the authorities, surviving the winter by breaking into empty vacation homes in a remote community. Regularly calling into radio talk shows where he has acquired the nickname “Buster” to rant about the impending Inversion at the turn of the millennium, he is haunted by visions of being lost at sea, and memories of his former life as a family man.

Buster (Rami Malek) was once Jonah, a hard-working husband and father whose job as the night-shift concierge at a hotel took its toll on his psyche and, consequently, his marriage to the sensitive Marty (Kate Lyn Sheil) until a chance encounter with a conspiracy-obsessed drifter (DJ Qualls) changed the course of their lives forever. As the solitary present-day Buster drifts from house to house, eluding the local sheriff at every turn, we gradually piece together the events that fractured his life and left him alone on top of a snowy mountain, or perhaps in a small rowboat in the middle of a vast ocean or both, in this visceral mind bender that will provoke discussion long after it turns your world upside-down.


Sarah Adina Smith is known for creating fascinating, original films such as “The Midnight Swim”, “Holidays”, “Goodbye World”.

And her latest film “Buster’s Mal Heart” is one of the most bizarre films, yet fascinating surreal films that I have watched all year.

Starring Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”, “Night at the Museum”, “Need for Speed”), DJ Qualls (“The New Guy”, “Road Trip”, “Hustle & Flow”), Kate Lyn Sheil (“Equals”, “You’re Next”, “Green”) and Sukha Belle Potter, the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film begins with several dozens of authorities going after a man known as “Buster” (portrayed by Rami Malek) and exchanging gunfire. We start to see Buster calling in radio talk shows ranting about the impending inversion at the turn of the millennium and seeing that there are people who support Buster who is squatter, invades homes and defecates in their silverware.

Meanwhile, we see visions of the character with long hair lost out at sea and then we see his life as a family man.

“Buster” was once known as Jonah, a man who was a loving father, went to church, enduring a mother-in-law, co-workers and getting all stressed out.

Jonah works the night-shift as a concierge at the local hotel but working the job would eventually take a toll on him and affect his marriage to his wife Marty (portrayed by Kate Lyn Sheil).  He wants to be a family man and be there for his wife and daughter but he’s frustrated and stressed out and it’s taking a toll on his psyche.

One day, Jonah comes across a drifter (portrayed by DJ Qualls) who is a conspiracy-obsessed drifter known as “The Last Man Alive” and his life changes forever.  The more time Jonah spend with the drifter, he starts to get worse.

Through flashbacks, we realize how life had change for Jonah and what drove him to become “Buster”.  But are any of these versions of the individual real?  Imagination? Hallucinations? Mental illness?


VIDEO:

“Buster’s Mal Heart” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9 Widescreen). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as a lot of the scenes were shot outdoors. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Buster’s Mal Heart” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  Dialogue is crystal clear and aside from the rifle shots heard in the beginning, the surround channels are primarily ambiance, while the entire soundtrack is dialogue-driven.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Buster’s Mal Heart” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes– Featuring seven deleted scenes.
  • Teaser
  • Trailer

EXTRAS:

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD plus an Ultraviolet HD Code.


You have to give Rami Malek credit, may it be his role in “Mr. Robot” or his performance in the Sarah Adina Smith film “Buster’s Mal Heart” or even the video game “Until Dawn”, he knows how to play characters that can be creepy, unusual or off-beat.

And while the character was made for a Spanish speaking character, there is no denying that if there was a person who can play these type of roles, Rami Malek was a good choice.  On the other hand, if one is upset that a Latino character was not chosen for the role, it’s a valid concern when the lack of diversity for main roles for people of color is brought up in Hollywood.

But I’m going to avoid that hot topic and discuss the film.  For those who aren’t into surreal films and need clear cut storylines, you will be disappointed with “Buster’s Mal Heart”.  But let’s assume that you are into surreal films and want something different and a little complex, where certain scenes are more symbolic and how it does with one’s state of mind, this is a film that cineaste who love analyzing films, will no doubt have a blast disecting “Buster’s Mal Heart”.

Rami Malek plays a character (Are they all the same?  I won’t spoil that for you), one being a mountain squatter known as Buster, the other is a man lost out in sea and the primary character is Jonah, an overworked family man who is losing it.

But the film tries to show how a person can go mad.  How one can be pushed to the edge?  Or something more deeper…symbolic… It’s primarily a film that presents itself to you, and its up to you to interpret it.  Watch it once and then watch a few times, and don’t be surprised if you discover something new or you find your observations of the film changing.

The Blu-ray looks great, while the lossless audio is primarily dialogue-driven.  There are a few special features included as well.

Overall, I enjoy films that make me think.  From French New Wave to Italian Neo-Realism, I’m often wanting to see more American films, especially modern ones, try to be different from contemporary films and make you think.  Sarah Adina Smith’s “Buster’s Mal Heart” does just that.

If you want something fresh, different and surreal, definitely give “Buster’s Mal Heart” a try!

 

The Zookeeper’s Wife (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” is a holocaust film that is entertaining, full of hope and based on a true story.  It’s not heavy or too deep, nor is there too much danger presented onscreen but mostly capturing human emotion to one another, towards animals and more.  These elements makes the film enjoyable from beginning to end.  And I recommend it!

Images courtesy of © 2016 ZOOKEEPERS WIFE, L.P. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Zookeeper’s Wife

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 2 Hrs., 6 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Espanol DTS Digital Surroudn 5.1, Subtitles: English, Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1, English DVS Dolby Digital 2.0

COMPANY: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: July 4, 2017


Based on the book by Diane Ackerman

Directed by Niki Caro

Screenplay by Angela Worman

Produced by Jeff Abberley, Diane Miller Levin, Jamie Patricof

Executive Producer: Julia Blackman, Marc Butan, Jessica Chastain, Mickey Liddell, Jennifer Monroe, Joanne Sennitt, Pete Shilaimon, Michael Tollin, Robbie Tollin, Kevan Van Thompson

Co-Producer: Katie McNeill

Music by Harry Gregson-Williams

Cinematography by Andrij Parekh

Edited by David Coulson

Production Design by Suzie Davies

Art Direction: Jan Kalous, Dan Taylor, Magdalena Zemanova

Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts 

Costume Design: Bina Daigeler


Starring:

Jessica Chastain as Antonina Zabinska

Johan Heidenbergh as Jan Zabinski

Daniel Bruhl  as Lutz Heck

Timothy Radford as Ryszard Zabinski (younger)

Efrat Dor as Magda Gross

Iddo Goldberg as Maurycy Fraenkel

Shira Haas as Urszula

Michael McElhatton as Jerzyk

Val Maloukou as Ryszard Zabsinki (Older)


In 1939 Poland, Antonina Zabinska (two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain) and her husband successfully run the Warsaw Zoo and raise their family in an idyllic existence. Their world is overturned, however, when the country is invaded by the Nazis and they are forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed zoologist (Daniel Brühl). To fight back on their own terms, the Zabinskis risk everything by covertly working with the Resistance and using the zoo’s hidden tunnels and cages to save families from Nazi brutality.


Based on the book “The Zookeeper’s Wife” by Diane Ackerman, based on the unpublished diary of Antonina Zabinski, the film with the same name, is based on Jan Zabinski, the director of the Warsaw Zoo and his wife Antonina Zabinski.

The two are known for saving the live of 300 Jews who were imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto following the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.  Yad Vashem (Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust) recognized Jan and Antonina Zabinski as “Righteous Among the Nations”.

The film is directed by Niki Caro (“Whale Rider, “North Country”, “McFarland, USA”) with a screenplay by Angela Workman (“Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” and “War Bride:).

The film stars Jessica Chastain (“The Martian”, “Zero Dark Thirty”, “The Help”), Johan Heldenbergh (“The Broken Circle Breakdown”, “Moscow, Belgium”, “The Brand New Testament”), Daniel Bruhl (“Inglorious Basterds”, Good Bye Lenin!”, “The Bourne Ultimatum”), Efrat Dor (“Asfur”, “Cupcakes”, “Dowtown Precinct”), Iddo Goldberg (“Secret Diary of a Call Girl”, “Salem”, “Peaky Blinders”), Shira Haas (“Princess”, “Shtisel”, “The Body Remembers”), Michael McElhatton (“Game of Thrones”, “The Fall”, “Genius”).

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film begins with an introduction to Dr. Jan Zabinska (portrayed by Johan Heldenbergh) and his wife Antonina (portrayed by Jessica Chastain).  Jan is the director of the Warsaw Zoo, while his wife Antonia is one of the keepers and cares deeply about the animals.

The two are parents to Ryszard (portrayed by Timothy Radford and Val Maloku) and one evening they entertain Berlin Zoo zoologist, Dr. Lutz Heck (portrayed by Daniel Bruhl).  Heck observes how Antonina cares for the animals and all would seem good with the zoo.

That is until an aerial bombardment of Warsaw and German forces start to storm Poland.  Many of the animals are killed and Dr. Jan Zabinski and the family are stuck at the zoo.  Dr. heck arrives to the zoo and tells Antonina that he wants to save the “prize” specimens, but she will have to let him have them.  Antonia, wanting to keep the animals alive agrees to do it.

But when Heck arrives, he has his men slaughter the animals, because he said that he had them killed out of mercy as they would have died in the cold.

Meanwhile, many of the Jews are moved to the Ghetto and the Zabinski’s friends, Maurycy Frankel (portrayed by Iddo Goldberg) and his girlfriend Magda Gross (portrayed by Efrat Dor) seek haven.  The Zabinski’s knowing the danger decide to offer shelter to Magda in a zoo cage in the attic, knowing that if they are caught, they would be killed by the Nazi.

The Zabinski’s realize they could use the zoo as a safe haven for the Jews but also use the zoo as a getaway whenever he needs to get supplies for animals, so they work out a deal with Dr. Heck that they can use the zoo as a pig farm to feed the soldiers, and Heck realizes that he can also use the zoo to test his bison specimens in hopes to experiment on them and recreate ancient beasts.

So, Heck makes it happen and immediately, and while Jan Zabinski starts to find ways to slowly bring Jews to hide them in the zoo and also create papers to make them German and also dying their hair blonde in hopes it will get them to safety.

But while Jan is gone, trying to save Jews, Antonina tries to keep the Jews hiding in the attic of their home safe, even if it means letting Dr. Heck getting close to her, which her husband disapproves of.


VIDEO:

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40 1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as a lot of the scenes were shot outdoors. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DVS 2.0 and Espanol DTS Digital Surround 5.1. Dialogue is crystal clear and surround channels utilize environment ambiance, but also moments of aerial bombings.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Espanol and Francais.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Zookeper’s Wife” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes– (4:00) Featuring seven deleted scenes.
  • The Making of the Zookeeper’s Wife – (7:05) Featuring author Diane Ackerman, the producers and film’s stars.
  • The Zabinski Family – (3:56) A featurette about the Zabinski family and the Warsaw Zoo.

EXTRAS:

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD plus an Ultraviolet HD Code.


Niki Caro’s film, “The Zookeeper’s Wife” manages to showcase the true story of the Zabinski family.  Jan and his wife Antonina, who used the Warsaw Zoo to hide hundreds of Jews and help them escape is a true story that showcases the high risk involved by the couple and the great lengths they had of trying to make it happen.

For the most part, the film is equally entertaining and captivating.  Jessica Chastain and Johan Heldenbergh’s performance were wonderful but what I found even more mesmerizing is how far the Zabinski’s went in trying to plan this refuge out but also how the Warsaw Zoo, which is thriving today, played a big part of how the Zabinski’s were able to rescue so many people.

But for those who watch film adaptations of true stories, the stories are often seeded with fictional situations and to make them a movie, there are are situations that never happened.  Through the diaries of Antonina Zabinski, we know about the risks involved and what the family had to endure.  But the film’s antagonist, Daniel Bruhl, who was a real-life German zoologist, animal researcher and director of the Berlin Zoological Garden, was indeed trying to recreate extinct wild animals.

It is true that the he was a high ranking officer and it was true that he came into contact with the Zabinki family.  But unlike the film, the real Heck was no longer needed once the pig farm was established, so there was no sexual advances or any major cowering of Antonina by the real-life Dr. Heck.

If anything, there were characters and situations created primarily for dramatic tension, which is understandable.  One can also read about what is fact and fiction, by clicking here.

Still, the film manages to be entertaining and for some people, also educational.  “The Zookeper’s Wife” was one of the most successful independent films to be released in 2017 but some may feel the film doesn’t play out the horror that was being inflicted on Jews.  Nothing too shocking or violent, if anything, the film plays it safely, to the point that it makes the film free of any major tension but also relieves the film from being overly heavy.  Those wanting nothing too deep will find “The Zookeepers Wife” to be a fine balance of between a film that has hope but less despairity compared to other holocaust films.

The Blu-ray features great detail and for the most part, the film looks great when shown close-up.  Lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and ambiance and also a few special features are included.

Overall, “The Zookeeper’s Wife” is a holocaust film that is entertaining, full of hope and based on a true story.  It’s not heavy or too deep, nor is there too much danger presented onscreen but mostly capturing human emotion to one another, towards animals and more.  These elements makes the film enjoyable from beginning to end.  And I recommend it!

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

July 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a silent film fan, definitely consider Allan Dwan’s “Zaza” and discover one of many films featuring legendary actress, Gloria Swanson.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1923 Paramount Pictures. 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Zaza

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1923

DURATION: 84 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), B&W,

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017


Based on the Play by Pierre Berton and Charles Simon

Directed by Allan Dwan

Written by Albert S. Le Vino

Produced by Allan Dwan

Executive Producer: Adolph Zukor

Music Performed by Jeff Rapsis

Cinematography by  Harold Rosson


Starring:

Gloria Swanson as Zaza

H. B. Warner as Bernard Dufresne

Ferdinand Gottschalk as Duke de Brissac

Lucille La Verne as Aunt Rosa

Mary Thurman as Florianne

Yvonne Hughes as Nathalie, Zaza’s Maid

Riley Hatch as Rigault

L. Rogers Lytton as Stage Manager


Gloria Swanson is all flounce and swagger as Zaza, a street gamine turned music hall star, strutting her stuff, tossing off quips and taunts with her irrepressible backside, which is sometimes adorned with a pert bow for emphasis. Over the course of the film, directed by Allan Dwan (Robin Hood), she engages in two knock-down drag-out cat fights, frisks through playful love scenes, writhes in a hospital bed, nurses a broken heart, and evolves into a soberly dignified woman. Her physicality dominates the film, which does not suffer from being essentially a well-crafted frame for her performance. Swanson s ebullience in Zaza was unfeigned; she called it the fastest, easiest, most enjoyable picture I ever made. Imogen Sara Smith


Back in 1899, the French play “Zaza” had entertained audiences.  So, popular that the play was produced on Broadway and the first film adaptation was released by Paramount in 1915.

While there were a few more adaptations of “Zaza” created, in 1923, a silent romantic drama directed and produced by Allan Dwan (“Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm”, “Sands of Iwo Jima”, “Robin Hood”) and executive produced by Adolph Zukor was released.

Starring Gloria Swanson (“Sunset Boulevard”, “Queen Kelly”, “The Trespasser”, “Indiscreet”), H.B. Warner (“It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Sunset Boulevard”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”), Ferdinand Gottschalk (“Grand Hotel”, “Les Miserables”, “Tonight or Never”), Lucille La Verne, Mary Thurman, Yvonne Hughes, Riley Hatch and L. Rogers Lytton.

And a print of the film is housed at the George Eastman House and the Library of Congress.

During this time, Gloria Swanson was the most sought-after actress in Hollywood and a box office draw for Paramount.  In fact, what she wore on screen influenced fashion  all over the world.

And now the silent classic will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Zaza” is set in France and begins with showing us how Zaza (portrayed by Gloria Swanson) is a popular performer with a temperament.  Often taking things out on her maid Nathalie (portrayed by Mary Thurman) when she loses things and is frustrated, when she is kind, she can be a major giver of fine jewelry to her maid.

Meanwhile, many men desire Zaza including Duke de Brissac (portrayed by Ferdinand Gottschalk) but the only man Zaza is interested in is Bernard Dufresne (portrayed by H.B. Warner) of the diplomatic corps.  Who often comes to visit the stage as he also fancies Zaza.

While Florianne (portrayed by Mary Thurman), Zaza’s stage rival, was once popular in the Odeon, she also fancies Dufresne.

At the show, it was said whoever catches Zaza’s shoe can be with her and when one man comes to claim his “prize”, he manhandles Zaza, in which Bernard Dufresne comes to her rescue.

But as both Zaza and Florianne vie for Dufresne’s attention, which woman will win?

Meanwhile, what secrets is Bernard hiding from Zaza?  And will the fact that Bernard lives far from Zaza affect any chance of a relationship?


VIDEO:

“Zaza” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:331 aspect ratio) and is presented in black and white. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is very good in terms of clarity and sharpness. The film is does have scratches but for the most part, the film looks very good on Blu-ray considering its over 90-years old.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Zaza” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is a wonderful piano score by Jeff Rapsis.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Zaza” comes with the following special feature:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Frederic Lombardi (author of Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios)

A silent romantic drama about love discovered, distance that hinders romance but secrets that can tear people apart.

This is the story of “Zaza”, among one of the well-known silent films starring the legendary actress Gloria Swanson and actor H.B. Warner and also one of the last films to star Mary Thurman (who could come down with pneumonia working on a film a year later and would die from complications from the illness the following year), who was also engaged to the film’s director, Allan Dwan.

In some ways, since the film is based on a play, the film can also get a little bit of exhausting wondering if these two individuals, Swanson’s Zaza and Warner’s Dufresne would be together.

While Zaza comes off as impetuous and bombastic early in the film, we see her character transform.  Transformed by love, by jealousy, by anger and by sadness.  Gloria Swanson had to no doubt show various sides of Zaza and for the most part, it was a very well-done performance.  From emotional to even action as she and Thurman’s Florianne engage in a few tussles onscreen.

H.B. Warner plays a stoic Bernard Dufresne.  A man who is captivated by Zaza but there is something preventing him from going to far in his relationship wtih Zaza, which we find out the truth later in the film.

The film on Blu-ray features wonderful detail for the film over 90-years old and for its lossless audio, you get a piano score composed and performed by Jeff Rapsis, adapted from the original 1923 cue sheet.  And also included is a very informative audio commentary by Frederic Lombardi.

Overall, I really welcome Allan Dwan’s “Zaza” on Blu-ray.  One of the things that I hope to see is more silent actresses films on Blu-ray.  There have been so much focus on Chaplin, Keaton, Harold Lloyd, on Blu-ray, which is understandable but it would be nice to see more Pickford, more Swanson, more Gish, Bow, Brooks, Talmadge, Normand, Davies, Bara, Thomas, to name a few on Blu-ray.  So, Gloria Swanson’s “Zaza” on Blu-ray is a major plus and hopefully this means more silent actress greats and their films will be featured on Blu-ray in the near future.

If you are a silent film fan, definitely consider Allan Dwan’s “Zaza” and discover one of many films featuring legendary actress, Gloria Swanson.  Recommended!

T2 Trainspotting (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

While no one should expect “T2 Trainspotting” to be better than the first film, the sequel was worth the wait as the story and its characters come full circle. This is a film that is less about drug-use but a story of friendship that has suffered from betrayal and anger. Filmmaker Danny Boyle, writer John Hodge and the actors reprising their roles have given us a sequel that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2017 TriStar Pictures LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: T2 Trainspotting

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 117 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English and French – Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: TriStar/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Drug Use, Language throughout, Strong Sexual Content, Graphic Nudity and Some Violence)

RELEASE DATE: June 27, 2017


Based on the Novels by Irvine Walsh

Directed by Danny Boyle

Written by John Hodge

Produced by Bernard Bellew, Danny Boyle, Christian Colson, Andrew MacDonald

Executive Producer: Allon Reich, Irvine Welsh

Cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle

Edited by Jon Harris

Casting by Gail Stevens

Production Design by Patrick Rolfe, Mark Tildesley

Art Direction by Patrick Rolfe, Adam Squires, Christopher Wyatt

Set Decoration by Orlin Grozdanov, Veronique Melery

Costume Design by Rachael Fleming, Steven Noble


Starring:

Ewan McGregor as Renton

Ewen Bremner as Spud

Johnny Lee Miller as Simon

Anjela Nedyalkova as Veronika

Kevin McKidd as Tommy

Robert Carlyle as Begbie

Kelly MacDonald as Diane

Steven Robertson as Stoddard

Shirley Henderson as Gail

Gordon Kennedy as Tulloch

James Cosmo as Renton’s Father


First there was an opportunity……then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to the only place he can ever call home. They are waiting for him: Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance.


First there was an opportunity……then there was a betrayal.

The long awaited “Trainspotting”  sequel from filmmaker Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge (“Trainspotting”, “The Beach”, “Trance”, “Shallow Grave”) has finally come.

Titled “T2 Trainspotting”, the story takes place twenty years later and the original stars from the first film reprise their role.

Starring Ewan McGregor (“Star Wars” films, “Big Fish”), Jonny Lee Miller (“Elementary”, “Hackers”, “Dark Shadows”), Ewen Bremmer (“Snatch”, “Black Hawk Down”, “Pearl Harbor”), Robert Carlyle (“28 Weeks Later”, “The Full Monty”, “Once Upon a Time”), Kelly MacDonald (“No Country for Old Men”, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”) and Anjela Nedyalkova (“Ave”, “The Paradise Suite”, “Eastern Plays”).

NOTE: If you haven’t seen “Trainspotting”, do not read any further as it may contain spoilers:

With Mark “Rent Boy” Renton (portrayed by Ewan McGregor) having stolen money from Begbie (portrayed by Robert Carlyle) and instead of splitting with everyone, after being hospitalized with a heart problem, Renton, who has been sober for 21-years, lives a life unfulfilled, decides to return back home to Edinburgh.  Back to the friends he had abandoned.

Francis “Franco” Begbie is serving a 25-year prison sentence and has been denied parole due to his temper.

Daniel “Spud” Murphy (portrayed by Ewen Bremmer) is not doing well, with a failed marriage, a drug addict and is suicidal.

Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson (portrayed by Johnny Lee Miller) is even more of a cocaine-addict who runs Port Sunshine, which he inherited and along with his Bulgarian girlfriend Veronika (portrayed by Anjela Nedyalkova), run an operation by blackmailing men and luring them into sex (and videotaping the experience).

As no one has heard from Renton for 20-years, including his family, Renton discovers that his mother passed away hoping to see him return one day.

Simon comes to visit Spud, who is attempting suicide by asphyxiating himself, but Renton comes just in time to save his life.  But Spud is angry of how Renton just took off and left.

Seeing how Spud has screwed up his life with drugs, Renton tries to help Spud by getting him to workout and channeling his addiction problems to other areas in his life positively.

As for Simon, when Renton comes to visit him, Renton unleashes all that pent up anger towards Renton and beating him   But when Renton leaves him his share of the money 20-years later, Simon is not too appreciative.  Wanting to open up a brothel with Veronika, Simon wants to get Renton to help him out and get the finances needed, but then to screw him over.

But unknown to any of them, Begbie has orchestrated his escape from prison and he has returned back home.  And he wants nothing but to get his revenge upon Renton.


VIDEO:

“T2 Trainspotting” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks fantastic, may it be the outdoor scenes, wonderful detail during closeups and even the darkest of scenes, the film looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  I didn’t notice any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“T2 Trainspotting” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English and French – Audio Description Track, Spanish. Dialogue and music are crystal clear, while the surround channels are primarily for crowd-driven scenes, ambiance and an action sequence, for the most part, the overall soundtrack is crystal clear.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“T2 Trainspotting” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with Danny Boyle and John Hodge
  • 20 Years in the Making: A Conversation with Danny Boyle & The Cast – (24:48) Danny Boyle sits with Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller and Rob Carlyle about returning to a “Trainspotting” film 20 years later.
  • Calton Athletic Documentary: Choosing Endorphins Over Addiction – (4:23) A featurette about users discussing their addiction issues and how they changed.
  • Deleted Scenes – (30:09) Featuring 29 deleted scenes.

EXTRAS:

“T2 Trainspotting” comes with a slipcover and an Ultraviolet HD Digital code.


Back in 1996, when the original “Trainspotting” film was screened at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, there was a lot of buzz.  And not long after, when it was released in theaters, the low budget independent film would go on to make $71 million internationally and was the fourth highest grossing British film in history at the time.

The film received critical praise for the film’s ability to tape into the youth subculture of the ’80s and shows us the craziness but also the horrors of drug addiction.  But also to see how a group of best friends took a chance to steal a lot of money and one of them, the main character in the film, stealing the money and disappearing.

The film utilized music to come together with its wonderful storyline and as the film became a cult hit, even ranked as high as #10 by the British Film Institute (BFI) in the list of top 100 British films of all time, many have hoped for a sequel.

And as Irvine Welsh had written the novel “Porno” in 2002 as the sequel to “Trainspotting”, filmmaker Danny Boyle said if he was to create a sequel, it would be in 2016.  It’s important to note that the filmmakers did not want to trash the legacy of “Trainspotting” and wanted to create a film that was very fresh and contemporary”.

With the sequel, the film focuses on the four individuals: Mark “Rent Boy” Renton, Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson, Daniel “Spud” Murphy and Francis “Franco” Begbie.

This time around the film is less about the drugs but more on how the lives of these five individuals have changed 20 years later.  Much has changed, but much have remained the same.

For Renton, his return back to Edinburgh, means confronting his best friends he betrayed.  While Renton has remained sober for 20-years, unfortunately his friends have not done so well.

Spud has become a heroin addict, losing his job and his family.  Simon is still addicted to cocaine and trying to find ways for he and his girlfriend Veronika to make money and he has an idea of starting a brothel.

Begbie was sentenced to prison for 25-years and figured out a plan to escape but he wants nothing more but to kill Renton.  Begbie hasn’t seen his family in a very long time and he will discover a lot has changed especially with his son.

We get to see characters from the original film such as Diane, who has done quite well with her life and becoming a lawyer that Renton will need her legal assistance.  And we also get to see other characters such as Renton’s father, Gail and more.

But also questions that people had about the first film, we see certain topics being confronted or at least spoken.

For the most part, I’m somewhat glad that director Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge didn’t go with a true adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s “Porno” and created something fresh and new.  While purists may be upset that the film sequel is quite different than its book counterpart.  But the film allowed viewers to come back to what was missing in Renton’s life and that is his relationship with his childhood friends.  Living with a sense of gilt for what he had done and very much hoping to see these characters turn a new leaf in their lives 20-years later.

And despite how much time has passed, Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewan Bremner and Robert Carlyle were as fantastic now as they were back then.

While the film is much different than “Trainspotting” and has less disgusting situations or even deplorable situations, because the film takes place 20-years later, there is maturation on the side of Renton and he is much a different man than he was when he was younger.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and the lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music.  There are also numerous special features included as well.

Overall, while no one should expect “T2 Trainspotting” to be better than the first film, the sequel was worth the wait as the story and its characters come full circle.  This is a film that is less about drug-use but a story of friendship that has suffered from betrayal and anger.  Filmmaker Danny Boyle, writer John  Hodge and the actors reprising their roles have given us a sequel that I highly recommend!

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

June 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Life” is a sci-fi horror film that is full of suspense from beginning to end.  While simplistic in story and gorgeous visually through its wonderful set design and visual effects, Daniel Espinosa’s “Life” is a film worth watching but you can’t help but feel that the film could have been better.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Skydance Productions LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Life

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 104 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:39:1 aspect ratio, English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Subtitles: English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Language thrughout, Some Sci-Fi Violence and Terror)

RELEASE DATE: June 20, 2017


Directed by Daniel Espinosa

Written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick

Produced by Bonnie Curtis, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Julie Lynn

Executive Producer: Vicki Dee Rock, Don Granger

Co-Producer: Lisa Dennis

Associate Producer: Josh Robertson

Music by Jon Ekstrand

Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey

Edited by Mary Jo Markey, Frances Parker

Casting by Mindy Marin

Production Design by Nigel Phelps

Art Direction by Steven Lawrence

Set Decoration by Celia Bobak

Costume Design by Jenny Beavan


Starring:

Hiroyuki Sanada as Sho Murakami

Ryan Reynolds as Rory Adams

Rebecca Ferguson as Miranda North

Jake Gyllenhaal as David Jordan

Olga Dihovichnaya as Ekaterina Golovkina

Ariyon Bakare as Hugh Derry


Life is a terrifying sci-fi thriller about a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station whose mission of discovery turns to one of primal fear when they find a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.


From filmmaker Daniel Espinosa (“Safe House”, “Child 44”, “Easy Money”) and writing duo, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (“Deadpool”, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”, “Zombieland”) comes their sci-fi action-horror film, “Life”.

The film stars Ryan Reynolds (“Deadpool”, “The Proposal”, “Green Lantern”), Jake Gyllenhaal (“Donnie Darko”, “Nightcrawler”, “Zodiac”), Rebecca Ferguson (“Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation”, “The Girl on the Train”, “Florence Foster Jenkins”), Hiroyuki Sanada (“The Wolverine”, “47 Ronin”, “Sunshine”), Olga Dihovichnaya (“House of Others”, “Twilight Portrait”, “Two Days”) and Ariyon Bakare (“Dancing on the Edge”, “A Respectable Trade”).

The film revolves around a crew of the six-member International Space Station (ISS) crew awaiting a probe returning from Mars which contains a soil sample that may contain evidence of extraterrestrial life.

As experiments are done on the soil sample, exobiologist Hugh Derry (portrayed by Ariyon Bakare) manages to revive a dormant cell sample which grows into a multi-celled organism.  The news excites people on Earth and for a contest among school children, the winning school names the organism, “Calvin”.

But when Hugh revives Calvin via mild electric shocks, the organism becomes hostile and grabs onto Hugh’s hand.  While his crewmates watch outside the lab and watch as Hugh tries to escape from the organism’s pull, Hugh manages to remove his hand but it was crushed by the organism.

As the group debate on what to do, keep the interior contained or save Hugh, Rory Adams (portrayed by Ryan Reynolds) makes the decision to save Hugh.  And while he is able to get Hugh out of the room, Rory is captured by the organism which grabs onto his leg.  As Rory grabs a flame device to kill the organism, the organism shows intelligence and flows into Rory’s mouth and kills him inside.

With communications cut off from Earth, the now five member crew must find a way to get help but also prevent themselves from being the next one killed by the alien organism.  Will anyone survive from this ordeal?


VIDEO:

“Life” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with awesome detail and with fantastic visual effects, the film looks amazing on Blu-ray.  I didn’t notice any artifacts, banding issues or problematic problems with picture quality.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Life” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.   The lossless soundtrack with the various spacecraft collisions to the way music is utilized to create frightening, intense moments, the surround channels are utilized very well.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear and I was very pleased by the overall soundtrack!

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Life” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes– (5:46) Featuring six deleted scenes.
  • Life: In Zero G – (6:52) The making of “Life” and shooting in the dark and shooting in zero gravity.
  • Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin – (7:07)  A featurette on the creation of a creature and how it adapts and how it manipulates to its environment.
  • Clausterphobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space – (7:28) A featurette about the thought of discovering extraterrestrial life.
  • Astronaut Diaries – (2:58) Web-based astronaut diaries featuring the characters of the film.

EXTRAS:

“Life” comes with a slipcover and an Ultraviolet HD Digital code.


As we progress in technology and our discoveries of what lies in the soil of other planets are becoming known, with the pursuit of trying to find out if there is life outside of the planet Earth, the question is still unanswered, “is their life outside of our planet”?

The last decade alone, NASA has manage to discover so much about Planet Mars but also other planets in our solar system.  But in Mars alone, with the discovery of evidence of water in Mars, what would happen if we were able to get a soil sample to find out if there is alien life in Mars?

And sure enough, “Life” is a film that takes a frightening yet thought-provoking look of what if we are opening Pandora’s box by pursuing this search for life?

In the case of the six-member International Space Station (ISS) crew, they quickly discover that the organism discovered from the Mars soil sample is quite violent and can quickly grow through eating the life of a living creature.

The film is no doubt a sci-fi horror film but it’s also a film about survival and trying to prevent this organism from reaching Earth.

We learn from a theory that the reason life was dormant in Mars is because there is no breathable air, but now that there is air, this organism is now alive and threatening the crew.

While one may think of “Aliens” which humans fought back or “Sunshine” (which also starred actor, Hiroyuki Sanada), the goal of the writers was to create a thought-provoking film because of what we are accomplishing with modern technology and discovering new things from other planets.

While there are people who are thinking that the film may be a prequel to the Marvel Comics film “Venom” (which is also written by “Life” writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese), I doubt that would be the case, without a Marvel logo at the beginning and no mention of Marvel anywhere in the credits.   But if there was a connection, it would be very cool!

But the film, while full of suspense, will entertain the popcorn suspense or sci-fi action film fans, the film doesn’t strive too far from the “trying to stay alive to the end of the film” concept which is quite banal in similar style of films.  Character dynamics are not the film’s strongest area and because of that, so much of the film is focused on the survival aspect and character, exobiologist Hugh Derry running tests on the organism.

It’s not a deep film at all but I will say that I do enjoy suspense films, I do love Sci-fi films and while not the best, I was entertained.  Especially since there is potential for a sequel.

The film looks and sounds great on Blu-ray and you also get a few special features as well.

Overall, “Life” is a sci-fi horror film that is full of suspense from beginning to end.  While simplistic in story and gorgeous visually through its wonderful set design and visual effects, Daniel Espinosa’s “Life” is a film worth watching but you can’t help but feel that the film could have

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