Top

Donkey Skin – The Criterion Collection #718 (as part of “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

jacquesdemy

“Donkey Skin” is a fascinating film based on a Charles Perrault fairy tale.  While the film was created for children, there are a lot of symbolism that Jacques Demy had left for viewers which are open to interpretation and makes the film even more fun to watch again and again.  A fun 1970 French musical which was somewhat a sign of the times,  Jacques Demy’s “Donkey Skin” is an enjoyable film that I was thrilled to see included in the Criterion Collection’s “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray and DVD box set.

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

TITLE: Donkey Skin – The Criterion Collection #718 (as part of “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set)

YEAR OF FILM: 1970

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, Color, French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with English Subtitles

COMPANY: THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2014

Written and Directed by Jacques Demy

Based on the Fairy Tale by Charles Perrault

Produced by Mag Bodard

Music by Michel Legrand

Cinematography by Ghislain Cloquet

Edited by Anne-Marie Cotret

Art Direction by Jacques Dugied

Costume Design by Gitt Magrini

Starring:

Catherine Deneuve as a Princesse/Peau d’ane

Jean Marais as Le roi bleu

Jacques Perrin as Le prince charmant

Micheline Presle as La reine rouge, la seconde reine

Delphine Seyrig as La fee des Lilas

Fernand Ledoux as Le roi rouge, le second roi

Henri Cremleux as Le chef des medecins

Sacha Pitoeff as Le premiere Ministre

Pierre Repp as Thibaud

In this lovingly crafted, wildly eccentric adaptation of a classic French fairy tale, Jacques Demy casts Catherine Deneuve as a princess who must go into hiding as a scullery maid in order to fend off an unwanted marriage proposal—from her own father, the king (Jean Marais). A topsy-turvy riches-to-rags fable with songs by Michel Legrand, Donkey Skin creates a tactile fantasy world that’s perched on the border between the earnest and the satiric, and features Delphine Seyrig in a delicious supporting role as a fashionable fairy godmother.

jacquesdemy-3

As Jacques Demy has achieved success with his musicals “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and “The Young Girls of Rochefort”, the filmmaker went on to create his first English-language film in 1969 titled “Model Shop” (which reprised the role of Lola starring Anouk Aimee).

But as the ’70s began, Demy has always wanted to create a children’s film and inspired by the fairy tales of Charles Perrault, Demy wanted to adapt “Peau d’ Ane” (Donkey Skin).  The film would become a major success and now will be included in the Criterion Collection’s “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray and DVD box set which will include “Lola” (1961), “Bay of Angels” (1963), “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964), “The Young Girls of Rochefort” (1967), “Donkey Skin” (1970) and “Une Chambre En Ville” (1982).

The film would feature another collaboration with actress Catherine Deneuve (“Belle de Jour”, “Repulsion”, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, “The Young Girls of Rochefort”) and composer Michel Legrand.  And would star Jean Marais (“Beauty and the Beast”, “Orpheus”, “Fantomas”), Jacques Perrin (“Cinema Paradiso”, “Z”, “The Chorus”), Micheline Presle (“A Chef in Love”, “Devil in the Flesh”) and Delphone Seyrig (“Last Year at Marienbad”, “The Discreet charm of the Bourgeoisie”).

“Donkey Skin” begins with an introduction of the Blue King (portrayed by Jean Marais) who is in love with his wife, the First Queen.  Both are deeply in love with each other and have a teenage daughter, a princess (portrayed by Catherine Deneuve).

As the King is able to gain his wealth through his magical donkey (which excretes jewels, the source of his kingdom’s wealth), as there are good times in the kingdom, there are also bad times and the Queen is sick and dying.  Her final dying wish for her husband is to marry a woman as beautiful and virtuous as she.

But the King doesn’t feel a beautiful woman exists and as his advisers pressure him to have a wife in order to have an heir, the King decides to look at paintings of various women in the kingdom that can be his wife, but none are beautiful and he intends to keep his dying wife’s wish.

So, his advisers recommend one young woman and that is his daughter, the princess.

Scared that she would have to be the wife and in an incestuous relationship with her father, she goes to her godmother, the Lilac Fairy (portrayed by Delphine Seyrig) and she asks her to demand gifts that must be given to her in order to agree to marriage, but gifts that would make the king easily reject plans of marriage.  But the King manages to provide her with dresses of the color of the weather, moon and sun.

In desperation, the Lilac Fairy tells the Princess to ask him for the skin of his magical donkey.  Not happy with her requests, the King knows he wants a wife and so, he has his magical donkey killed and the skin given to the Princess.

And while he is gone, the Princess puts on the skin of the donkey and runs off to live in a pig farm in a neighboring kingdom using the guise of “Donkey Skin”.

Meanwhile, the Prince of that kingdom spies on her and begins to fall in love with her.  But deeply in love, he is ill in bed and wishes for a cake baked by Donkey Skin to help restore him to health.

Will Donkey Skin be able to restore the Prince’s health and win his love and affection or will the Princess have to marry her father?

VIDEO:

“Donkey Skin” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:67:1 aspect ratio).

The film looks absolutely gorgeous in HD.  The Blu-ray features beautiful colors, good amount of grain throughout the film and no signs of any scratches, discoloration or any problems with picture quality.

According to the Criterion Collection, “Approved by Mathieu Demy, this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative at Digimage-Classics in Paris, where the film was then restored in 2K. This 2013 restoration was undertaken by Cine-Tamaris, with the participation of Van Cleef & Arpels and the Domaine Natoinal de Chambord, and the support of the Centre national du cinema et de l’image animee and mySkreen.com.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Donkey Skin”  is presented in French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. The soundtrack for this film is primarily dialogue and musical driven. No sign of hiss, crackle or any problematic issues with the audio.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The 5.1 soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the restored stereo mix.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Donkey Skin – The Criterion Collection #718″ comes with the following special features:

  • Pour Le Cinema – (11:45) Director Jacques Demy, Catherine Deneuve, Jean Marais and Jacques Perrin interviewed on the set of an episode of “Pour le Cinema”.
  • “Donkey Skin” Illustrated – (10:56) Short program from 2008 featuring images from several illustrated editions of Charles Perrault’s fairy tale “Peau d’ane”.
  • “Donkey Skin” and the Thinkers- (16:43) A 2008 discussion between film critic Camille Taboulay and psychoanalysts Luycille Durmeyer and Jean-Claude Polack, and 17th Century literature specialist Liliane Picciola about “Donkey skin”.
  • Jacques Demy at the American Film Institute – (42:05) Featuring four audio recordings from 1971 by filmmaker Jacques Demy at the American Film Institute.

“Donkey Skin” is a fascinating film because it is Demy’s foret in to creating films for families, films that children can enjoy.  But also accomplishing his goal of adapting a Charles Perrault fairy tale for the big screen.

Once again, Catherine Deneuve is absolutely ravishing as the princess, but also interesting to see her don the donkey skin and seen as the outcast of the kingdom.

But what I found really fascinating is the storyline about a princess’ refusal to take part in an incestuous relationship.

While stories of incestuous relationships were common from Greek mythology (Zeus and Hera) and royal intermarriage have been well-documented, it was interesting to watch a film and see the princess doing all she can to get out of it.

Of course, the film has the feel of “Cinderella” but I loved the fairy tale touch when it came to set design and costume design as well.  From the servants of the Blue Kingdom painted in blue, or the Red Kingdom as servants are painted in red, along with their horses.  But also to see interesting symbolism displayed in the film in which a dream sequence of the Prince has a song about partaking in something naughty, while in the background, you see a statue of a devil.  There are moments of fascinating symbolism, so I found that very interesting to see throughout the film.

While the music of Michel Legrand is good, it’s not as strong as the music in “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” or “The Young Girls of Rochefort” but Catherine Deneuve manages to make these songs which could have been forgettable to be much more interesting, playful and fun.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality of “Donkey Skin” looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  Colors are natural, no sign of aging and for the most part, loss audio also features crystal clear dialogue and music.  And you also get a good number of special features including an examination by psychoanalysts of the film and more.

Overall, “Donkey Skin” is a fascinating film based on a Charles Perrault fairy tale.  While the film was created for children, there are a lot of symbolism that Jacques Demy had left for viewers which are open to interpretation and makes the film even more fun to watch again and again.  A fun 1970 French musical which was somewhat a sign of the times,  Jacques Demy’s “Donkey Skin” is an enjoyable film that I was thrilled to see included in the Criterion Collection’s “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray and DVD box set.

 

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

August 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

swelter-a

“Swelter” is an enjoyable popcorn action film about revenge and retribution. Don’t expect so much a Van Damme film or anything too deep but do expect a modern western-style action film about a Sheriff vs. a group of criminals that wander to his town and plenty of gun battles galore! 

Image courtesy of © 2013 Swelter, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Swelter

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 131 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: August 12, 2014

Written and Directed by Keith Parmer

Produced by Eleonore Dailly, Chris Ranta

Co-Produced by Daniele Favilli, Arri Quines

Executive Producer: Nat McCormick, Alan Simpson, Don Simpson

Associate Producer: Maximiliano Czertok, Angelo D’Agostino, Matthew Wolf

Co-Executive Producer: Elias Axume, Marc Bikindou, Jack Campbell

Music by Tree Adams

Cinematography by Michael Mayers

Edited by Martin Bernfeld

Casting by Robin Lippin

Production Design by Michael Fitzgerald

Art Direction by Rodrigo Cabral

Set Decoration by Slobhan O’Brien

Costume Design by Susan Doepner-Senac

Starring:

Jean-Claude Van Damme as Stillman

Freya Tingley as London

Alfred Molina as Doc

Josh Henderson as Boyd

Grant Blowler as Cole

Lennie James as Bishop

Catalina Sandino Moreno as Carmen

Guy Wilson as Johnny

Arie Verveen as Reverend Joshua Stone

Daniele Favilli as Kane

Ten years ago, a bank-robbing team stole $100 million from a Vegas casino. Not all of them got away. Now, Bishop (Lennie James) is a small-town sheriff, making an honest living… with no memory of his criminal past. But when his old crew rolls into town looking for the loot, the perfect getaway threatens to turn into a nightmare of greed, revenge, and retribution.

swelter-b

From Keith Parmer, the writer/director of “Mob Rules” comes his latest film titled “Swelter”.

Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme (“Universal Soldier”, “Kickboxer”, “Double Impact”), Alfred Molina (“Spider-Man 2″, “Chocolat”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”), Josh Henderson (“Step Up”, “Dallas”, “The Girl Next Door”), Grant Bowler (“Defiance”, “Ugly Betty”, “True Blood”), Lennie James (“Snatch”, “Lockout”, “Colombiana”) and Daniele Favilli (“Mob Rules”) as Kane.

The film revolves around a group of criminals who rob a Las Vegas casino of ten million dollars.  While the men were caught and arrested, the vicious group which consists of Cole (portrayed by Grant Bowler), Stillman (portrayed by Jean-Claude Van Damme), Boyd (portrayed by Josh Henderson) and Kane (portrayed by Daniele Favilli), have escaped prison and are now in search of their ten million dollars.

Meanwhile, in the small California town of Baker, the town sheriff Gabriel Bishop (portrayed by Lennie James) is concerned with the troubles in his small town and his girlfriend Carmen (portrayed by Catalina Sandino Moreno) and her troubled daughter London (portrayed by Freya Tingley).

As the townspeople are concerned about their sheriff (who refuses to carry a gun for some reason), we start to learn that the sheriff is a man that is not what he seems.

As Baker is a small desert town where most people want to leave, the four robbers are leaving their path of murder in search of the money and find themselves in the town of Baker.

But what happens when they come across Sheriff Bishop?

swelter-c

VIDEO:

“Swelter” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the detail of the film is fantastic.  Close-ups feature great detail, while colors are vibrant and the overall film features a good layer of grain.

I didn’t notice any problems with picture quality during my viewing.  No artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Swelter” is presented in English and French DTS-HD Master Audio.  Dialogue is crystal clear while action segments with gunshots utilize the surround channels very well.   Especially crowd scenes or motorcycle sounds.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Swelter” comes with the following special features:

  • Interviews - (56:56) Featuring interviews with Jean-Claude Van Damme, director/writer Keith Parmer, Grant Bowler, Josh Henderson, Lennie James and Alfred Molina.
  • Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “Swelter”.

EXTRAS:

“Swelter” comes with a slipcover.

swelter-d

For action film fans, many may wonder if “Swelter” is a Jean-Claude Van Damme action film and while the star may have his moments of action, “Swelter” is more about a group of criminals and Van Damme, we get to see a different side of the actor as he plays the sentimental killer/thief.

“Swelter” seems like a western with its Sheriff sporting the banal sheriff western hat but we start to learn that something is up with Sheriff Bishop as he never carries a gun and for some reason, he is not too afraid of danger.

And as the Sheriff is trying to keep the small town of Baker (yes, the California desert town that you see many cars stuck on the side of road during your trip to Las Vegas) safe.  I found it all quite fascinating that the film does try to make Baker a bit mysterious with its community and how everyone wants to desperate leave the small town but can’t, but to see the stylishly dressed murderer/thief’s come into town, it does resemble a modern western in some ways.

Jean-Claude Van Damme stars in “Swelter” but instead of giving him the usual action role, while a gun-toting murderer, he also plays a character that has an emotional connection.  If anything, the film focuses on the Sheriff Lennie James and the criminal named Cole.  While, the sadistic exchanges of criminality are left to the characters of Boyd and Kane.

“Swelter” works well as a popcorn action film that one shouldn’t expect anything too deep.  We know that the storyline will be formulaic and we know the criminals will raise hell before coming face-to-face with the Sheriff, but there is also a twist when you find out more about the Sheriff and his past.

As for the Blu-ray release, the Blu-ray features fantastic picture quality as close-ups of characters look amazing in HD.  Colors and overall look of the film and its dreary look of the town of Baker fits with the style of  film, while the lossless audio has its moments of immersive moments during gun shot exchanges and the usual crowd ambiance.  The special features include interviews with the cast but I found this to be equally interesting as there are moments where the actors mess up talking and they expect the footage to be edited/cut but those scenes are left in the interview.

Overall, “Swelter” is an enjoyable popcorn action film about revenge and retribution. Don’t expect so much a Van Damme film or anything too deep but do expect a modern western-style action film about a Sheriff vs. a group of criminals that wander to his town and plenty of gun battles galore!

Lola – The Criterion Collection #714 (as part of “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

jacquesdemy

“Lola” is a Jacques Demy film that many people may not be familiar with.  It may not be a well-known Demy musical, nor does it sport the vibrant colors of Demy’s musicals… But by no means is “Lola” a  film that is lesser than other known Demy films.  In fact, it’s perhaps one of the most underappreciated films in his oeuvre, not due to content but because the film was hard to come by until now.  And I can only hope that people will enjoy “Lola” thanks to the painstaking restoration work in constructing this film.  A wonderful film that no doubts deserves to be included in “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set and is highly recommended!

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

TITLE: Lola – The Criterion Collection #714 (as part of “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set)

YEAR OF FILM: 1961

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Monaural French with English Subtitles

COMPANY: THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2014

Written and Directed by Jacques Demy

Produced by Georges de Beauregard, Carlo Ponti

Music by Michel Legrand

Cinematography by Raoul Coutard

Edited by Anne-Marie Cotret

Production Design by Bernard Evein

Costume Design by Bernard Evein

Starring:

Anouk Aimee as Lola/Cecile

Marc Michel as Roland Cassard

Jacques Harden as Michel

Alan Scott as Frankie

Elina Labourdette as Madame Desonyers

Margo Lion as Jeanne, Michel’s Mother

Annie Duperoux as Cecile Desonyers

Catherine Lutz as Clair, the bar owner

Corinne Marchand as Daisy

Yvette Anziani as Madame Frederique

Dorothee Blanck as Dolly

Isabelle Lunghini as Nelly

Annick Noel as Ellen

Jacques Demy’s crystalline debut gave birth to the fictional universe in which so many of his characters would live, play, and love. It’s among his most profoundly felt films, a tale of crisscrossing lives in Nantes (Demy’s hometown) that floats on waves of longing and desire. Heading the film’s ensemble is the enchanting Anouk Aimée as the title character, a cabaret chanteuse who’s awaiting the return of a long-lost lover and unwilling to entertain the adoration of another love-struck soul, the wanderer Roland (Marc Michel). Humane, wistful, and witty, Lola is a testament to the resilience of the heartbroken.

lola

While there are notable names from the French New Wave, may it be Jean-Luc Godard, Alan Resnais, Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, to name a few.  Filmmaker Jacques Demy has established himself differently from the other filmmakers by creating films that are musicals, inspired by fairytales or the golden age of Hollywood.

Married to another filmmaker from the French New Wave, Agnes Varda, both have established their careers in cinema and for Demy, best known for his musicals such as “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)”, “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort), “Peau d Ane (Donkey Skin)”, to name a few.

But for every filmmaker, there is a beginning and for Jacques Demy, his beginning in cinema was his first feature film titled “Lola”.  One of the films to be included in “The Essential Jacques Demy” on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

The set will include “Lola” (1961), “Bay of Angels” (1963), “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964), “The Young Girls of Rochefort” (1967), “Donkey Skin” (1970) and “Une Chambre En Ville” (1982).

“Lola” stars Anouk Aimee (“8 1/2″, “La Dolce Vita”, “A Man and a Woman”), Marc Michel (“Le Trou”, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”), Jacques Harden (“Thierry la Fronde”, “Gervaise”) and many more!

“Lola” is a film which Jacques Demy has described as a “musical without music”.  With the names of the film inspired by Josef von Sternberg’s 1930 film “Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel)”, “Lola” was well-received by critics but yet a film that has been forgotten due to the film being unavailable.

And it has been a mission for Agnes Varda to pursue the restoration and re-release of her husband’s work and sure enough, “Lola” was restored by Technicolor and this restored version will be featured on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“Lola” is a film that revolves on several characters living in the coastal city of Nantes, France.

Roland Cassard (portrayed by Marc Michel) is a young man who tries to make money working odd jobs and has no set goals of what he wants to do with his life.

Meanwhile, Cecile (portrayed by Anouk Aimee) is a single mother who tries to make her living as a woman named “Lola”, singing/dancing at the burlesque and also a life of the prostitute and sleeping with an American sailor named Frankie (portrayed by Alan Scott).

For Cecile, she loves only one man and that is Michel (portrayed by Jacques Harden), who has vanished and has never visited her or her young son.

One day, as Roland is walking, he accidentally bumps into Cecile and we learn that the two were very close when they were teenagers and for Roland, seeing Cecile once again has rekindled his love for her.  But will he ever reach Cecile’s heart and have her feel the same way towards him?

VIDEO:

“Lola” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio) and was filmmaker Agnes Varda’s personal mission to have her husband’s debut film restored and so today and tomorrow’s cinema fans to enjoy the film.

And no doubt the journey was difficult as Technicolor had to work with any surviving elements they were able to find and this case, the fortune of finding out that the BBC had a surviving print.  But still, the print was not perfect and so the journey to reconstruct the film was a painstaking effort (as shown in the restoration special feature).

Watching “Lola” for the very first time, I was quite impressed by the restoration as the film was well-contrast with grays and whites.  Black levels were nice and deep but the clarity was also evident in the HD version (compared with the included DVD release).   The cinematography was also impressive thanks to legendary cinematographer Raoul Coutard’s work on the film and capturing the city of Nantes, the characters and their environment.

According to the Criterion Collection, “Approved by Mathieu Demy, this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from two 35mm internegatives at Technicolor Los Angeles, where the film was also restored; the original negative was lost in a fire, and these internegatives are the only remaining preprint elements in existence. This 2012 restoration was undertaken by Cine-Tamaris, the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage, and the Groupama Gen Foundation for Cinema.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Lola” is presented in French Monaural LPCM 1.0 with English subtitles. Dialogue is clear and understandable. While the orchestral baroque music sounds great and didn’t notice any crackling or hiss during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the optical track of a low-contrast print.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Lola – The Criterion Collection #714″ comes with the following special features:

  • Anouk Aimee - (3:27) Anouk Aimee talks to Agnes Varda about playing the character of Lola.
  • Lola’s Song – (3:24) A featurette about Anouk Aimee singing Lola’s song.
  • Restoration Demonstration - (10:20) Agnes Varda’s determination to restore “Lola” and Technicolor’s mission to restore the film.
  • Les Horizon Morts - (8:22) A 1951 short starring Jacques Demy featuring a man suffering a broken heart.
  • Le Sabotier du val du loire – (23:32) A 1956 short about the week in the life of a clog maker in the Loire Valley.
  • Ars – (16:43) A 1959 short about Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney, a pastor from the village of Ars.
  • La Luxure – (14:51) A 1962 short created for the feature “The Seven Deadly Sins” about Demy’s memories of growing up in Nantes.
  • Trailer – (1:49) The theatrical trailer for “Lola”.

For anyone who has followed Jacques Demy’s oeuvre, let alone the films included in the Criterion Collection’s “The Essential Jacques Demy”, will see how “Lola” is possibly one of his greatest works that people had forgotten about.

Because Jacques Demy has been identified for his work in the French New Wave and how his musical work would be known for its music and vibrant colors, “Lola” was the film that wasn’t a film that people would identify with Demy.

A film about several individuals with a storyline tied together, “Lola” is a film that represents Demy’s childhood in Nantes, France.  The bustling city that would eventually become France’s sixth largest city, was a much different city back then.

At the time the film was shot, Nantes was shown as a city yet in the rebuilding phase after World War II.

But unlike a film of Italian Neorealism, “Lola” is not about the seedy areas of France.  What we see are normal working people or people doing all they can to survive and raise a family.

With our main characters, Roland Cassard (portrayed by Jacques Demy) is a young man trying to find himself.  Wanting to find work, wanting to be a better man and wanting one woman in his life…Cecile/Lola (portrayed by Anouk Aimee).

While the character of Roland Cassard is your “everyman” or at least a man that wants to make something of himself, what is most interesting is where we would find the character of Roland Cassard years later, as the character once again appears in a Jacques Demy film, the 1964 French musical, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”.   Having watched the musical first and somewhat despising the character of Cassard for interfering with young love, after watching “Lola”, I felt that those feelings I had towards Cassard has since dissipated.

I learned of how Cassard is literally a representation of the many guys who dream of dating a beautiful girlfriend at a younger age and wonder if that same man fared much better many years later.

And while Cassard represents the “everyman”, the character of Cecile/Lola, is a representation of the woman you really like but has no interest in being with you.  The ultimate beauty that you peel away many layers and realize that she was unattainable.

In the film, Cecile or Lola, as the prostitute that an American sailor named Frankie (portrayed by Alan Scott) has had sex with but knows he will get nothing from their relationship.  As Cecile, she is the teenage girl that Roland has always loved, but as adults, she doesn’t feel the same way because her heart belongs to one man, Michel.  A man who has disappeared and has not seen his wife or son, but yet Cecile holds out hope that she will be reunited with him someday.

The film tries to have a little breather and fun with the addition of the Desonyers, a family who looks wealthy and consists of a mother (portrayed by Elina Labourdette) and her young teen daughter Cecile (portrayed by Annie Duperoux).  For both Frankie and even Roland, there is something about this young teen that reminds them of Cecile/Lola.  Perhaps her young act of defiance to her mother despite her wise but yet spunky behavior or the fact that this well-mannered girl may not be what she seems.

The film also features actress Corinne Marchand, best known for her role on Agnes Vardas “Cleo from 5 to 7″ as Daisy, one of Lola’s co-workers.

But “Lola” is a film is more than just its characters, story and location shots.  The film features the gorgeous cinematography by Raoul Coutard (“Jules et Jim”, “Breathless”, “Band of Outsiders”, “Pierrot le Fou”, “Z”) and last, the restoration and remastering of “Lola” is fantastic.  Agnes Varda and crew should be commended for seeking out surviving elements of this film and restoring it for a new generation of cineastes who have discovered Jacques Demy’s work.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is the best this film has ever looked.  Grays and whites are well-contrast, black levels are nice and deep and the clarity of this film is fantastic.  Lossless audio is clear without any crackling or hiss and there are a good number of special features included.

Overall, “Lola” is a Jacques Demy film that many people may not be familiar with.  It may not be a well-known Demy musical, nor does it sport the vibrant colors of Demy’s musicals… But by no means is “Lola” a  film that is lesser than other known Demy films.  In fact, it’s perhaps one of the most underappreciated films in his oeuvre, not due to content but because the film was hard to come by until now.  And I can only hope that people will enjoy “Lola” thanks to the painstaking restoration work in constructing this film.  A wonderful film that no doubts deserves to be included in “The Essential Jacques Demy” Blu-ray + DVD Box Set and is highly recommended!

 

Pickpocket – The Criterion Collection #314 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 31, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

pickpocket-a

Robert Bresson’s wonderful film “Pickpocket” has entertained cineaste for generations and now that it is released on HD, will no doubt entertain another generation of cineaste who will discover his work but also the fantastic cinema he had created throughout his career.  After 50-years later, “Pickpocket” is still a wonderful film, and for today’s cineaste, a film worth owning.

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

TITLE: Pickpocket – The Criterion Collection #314

YEAR OF FILM: 1959

DURATION: 76 Minutes

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

COMPANY: THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: July 15, 2014

Written and Directed by Robert Bresson

Produced by Agnes Delahaie

Cinematography by Leonce-Henrie Burel

Edited by Raymond Lamy

Production Design by Pierre Charbonnier

Starring:

Martin LaSalle as Michel

Marika Green as Jeanne

Jean Pelegri as L’inspecteur Principal

Dolly Scal as La mere

Pierre Leymarie as Jacques

This incomparable story of crime and redemption from the French master Robert Bresson follows Michel, a young pickpocket who spends his days working the streets, subway cars, and train stations of Paris. As his compulsive pursuit of the thrill of stealing grows, however, so does his fear that his luck is about to run out. A cornerstone of the career of this most economical and profoundly spiritual of filmmakers, Pickpocket is an elegantly crafted, tautly choreographed study of humanity in all its mischief and grace, the work of a director at the height of his powers.

pickpocket-b

Robert Bresson.

One of the French filmmakers before the French New Wave that has been placed on the list with distinguished auteurs such as Jean Renoir for creating fantastic films but yet choosing a different path among his colleagues by pursuing what filmmaker Francois Truffaut has wrote “the ultimately real character”.

While best known as one of the founders of the French New Wave alongside Andre Bazin and Alexandre Astruc, his films such as “Journal d’un cure de campagne (Diary of a Country Priest), “Un condamne a mort s’est echappe ou Le vent souffle ou il veut (A Man Escaped)”, “Proces de Jeanne d’Arc (The Trial of Joan of Arc)”, “Mouchette” and considered as one of his greatest achievements, “Au hasard Balthazar”.

A man which Jean-Luc Godard has written “Robert Bresson is French cinema, as Dostoevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is German Music”, one of his well-known films and many consider a masterpiece in his oeuvre is his 1959 film “Pickpocket”.

Inspiring filmmakers such as Paul Shrader, who has said his writing for “Taxi Driver” was inspired by “Pickpocket” and for well-known writer, filmmaker and film critic Susan Sontag who had “Pickpocket” listed at #1 in her top 50 films, many cineaste will remember “Pickpocket” for its camerawork and showcasing the life of the pickpocket thief in glorious detail.

Released by The Criterion Collection on DVD back in 2003, “Pickpocket” has now been released on Blu-ray + DVD combo in 2014.

The film revolves around a man named Michel (portrayed by Martin LaSalle), stealing from an unsuspecting individual at the horse races and thinking he has gotten away with the crime, is arrested and questioned by Chief Inspector (portrayed by Jean Pelegri).

While Michel is released for insufficient evidence, his interested in pickpocketing leads him to join an organized group of thieves who teach him the art of thievery in crowded areas and Michel becomes a professional.

Michel goes back home to visit his mother and he meets the beautiful Jeanne (portrayed by Marika Greene).  While Jeanne is dating Michel’s good friend Jacques (portrayed by Pierre Leymarie), Michel continues his thieving ways but yet, the Chief Inspector suspects him for stealing a lot of money but will Mcihel continue to outwit the police or will he end up being caught?

VIDEO:

“Pickpocket” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). Featuring a 2K digital restoration, having owned the previous Criterion Collection DVD, the detail of the Blu-ray release is quite evident as white and grays are well-contrast and images look sharper with more detail.

I didn’t notice any blurring or problematic issues with the picture quality as the film looks better than it has ever looked on video and fans of the film will be pleased with the amazing look of the film on Blu-ray and the upgrade to HD is well worth it!

According to the Criterion Collection, “This high-definition digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative at Digimage in Paris, where the film was also restored.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Pickpocket” is presented in French Monaural LPCM 1.0 with English subtitles. Dialogue is clear and understandable.  While the orchestral baroque music sounds great and didn’t notice any crackling or hiss during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original negative and the 35 mm magnetic tracks. Clicks thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using iZotope RX3.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Pickpocket – The Criterion Collection #314″ comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary - Featuring the original 2005 audio commentary by James Quandt, senior programmer at TIFF Cinematheque and editor Robert Bresson.
  • Paul Schrader Introduction – (14:48) An introduction by writer-director Paul Schrader.
  • The Models of “Pickpocket” - (52:15) Filmmaker Babette Mangolte tracked down three of the actors from Robert Bresson’s “Pickpocket” for this 2003 documentary.
  • Cinemapanorama - (6:28) From a 1960 episode of the French TV program “Cinepanorama”, director Robert Bresson answers questions about “Pickpocket” from interviewers France Roche and Francois Chalais.
  • Q&A On Pickpocket – (12:56) From a 2000 screening of Pickpocket at the Reflet Medicis cinema in Paris with actress Marika Green and filmmakers Paul Vecchiali and Jean-Pierre Ameris.
  • Kassagi – (11:32) Kassagi shows off his skills of pickpocketing on the show “La piste aux etoiles” (1962).
  • Trailer – (2:32) The theatrical trailer for “Pickpocket”.

EXTRAS:

“Pickpocket – The Criterion Collection #314″ comes with a quad fold featuring the essay “Robert Bresson: Hidden in Plain Sight” by Gary Indiana.

The Blu-ray version comes with both Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film and special features.

pickpocket-c

One of the amazing things about Robert Bresson’s work is his pursuit of making a character seem real for the viewer but it’s a realness captured by great cinematography, closeups and not following the standard of traditional filmmaking in the pursuit of realism.

Even Francois Truffaut has had difficult writing about Bresson especially for his earlier works commenting on Bresson’s use of non-actors and those who have no knowledge of the theater and thus capturing the life of a real person.

Truffaut has written about Bresson, “If all Bresson did was kill the life and the actor that’s inside every person in order to bring before his camera individuals who recite deliberately neutral words, his work would be an interesting experiment.”

Truffaut continued, “But he goes further.  With amateur interpreters who know nothing about theater, he creates the ultimately real character, whose every gesture, look, attitude, reaction and word – not one of which is louder than the other – is essential.  The whole takes on a form that makes the film.”

When you watch Bresson’s 1959 film, “Pickpocket” is well-crafted for how the film is not about police capturing a thief, it’s a film about a thief who has reasons for doing what he is doing for what he believes is right.

The camera captures the amazing process of organized pickpocketing and scenes that have remained strong and fascinating to this very day, but it’s the film that doesn’t follow other films about thieves that somehow relinquishes in banality of the thief who goes down for his crimes, but more of a man who steals but yet is able to find redemption because of his thieving ways.

It’s a film unlike any film that had been created and to this day, there is nothing like it.

Martin LaSalle does a fantastic job of playing the charismatic thief, while Marika Green is no doubt an actress that would go on to bigger films, especially in 1974 for the film “Emmanuelle”.

The release of “Pickpocket” on Blu-ray is definitely amazing for the Bresson fan as watching the clarity of the film on Blu-ray compared to the original DVD is noticeable, while watching the film again in HD is fantastic.  As the original DVD, you get the same wonderful featurettes that were included such as the audio commentary by film scholar James Quandt, the 2003 documentary “The Models of ‘Pickpocket’” by Babette Mangolte, the Q&A from 2000 which features actress Marika Green and one of my favorite featurettes, the sleight-of-hand artist and “Pickpockt” consultant, Kassagi as he thrills the crowd by showing the audience of how easy it was for him to steal from audience members.

But while “Pickpocket” is a great film, I do hope that it leads people to check out one of my favorite Bresson films, “Au hasard Balthasar”, which  to me is the greatest Robert Bresson film.

Overall, Robert Bresson’s wonderful film “Pickpocket” has entertained cineaste for generations and now that it is released on HD, will no doubt entertain another generation of cineaste who will discover his work but also the fantastic cinema he had created throughout his career.  After 50-years later, “Pickpocket” is still a wonderful film, and for today’s cineaste, a film worth owning.

Kill la Kill Volume 1: Limited Edition (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

killakill-v1-a

“Kill la Kill” is an exciting series and it’s first four episodes have been captivating and addicting.  I can’t wait until the second volume but I can see why many fans have welcomed this series with open arms and love it.  It’s a series that features fascinating characters, cool animation/backgrounds and I’m sure there will be twists and turns along the way.  “Kill la Kill Volume 1: Limited Edition” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © TRIGGER, Kazuki Nakashima/Kill la Kill Partnership.  2014 ANIPLEX INC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kill la Kill Volume 1: Limited Edition

DURATION: 4 Episodes (100 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0, Subtitles: English and Spanish

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: Suggested 16 and Up

Release Date: July 15, 2014

Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Series Composition: Kazuki Nakashima

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design: Sushio

Art by Saishi Ichiko

Art Director: Shigeto Koyama, Yuji Kaneko

Anime Production: Trigger

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ami Koshimizu/Erica Mendez as Ryuuko Matoi

Ryoka Yuzuki/Carrie Keranen as Satsuki Kiryuuin

Aya Suzaki/Christine Marie Cabanos as Mako Mankanshoku

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Steve Cannon as Hōka Inumuta

Katsuyuki Konishi as Tsumugu Kinagase

Mayumi Shintani/Sarah Williams as Nonon Jakuzure

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Grant George as Uzu Sanageyama

Romi Park as Ragyo Kiryuuin

Shinichiro Miki/Matthew Mercer as Aikurō Mikisugi

Tetsu Inada/Patrick Seitz as Ira Gamagōri

Toshihiko Seki as Senketsu

Yukari Tamura as Nui Harime

Honnouji Academy – where the school is ruled by students clad in special outfits called Goku Uniforms. Deriding the student body as “pigs in human clothing,” Student Council President Satsuki Kiryuin, along with her loyal underlings, the Elite Four, has the academy under their absolute control.

One day, a vagrant schoolgirl named Ryuko Matoi appears and tries to get Satsuki, who recognizes her Scissor Blade, to talk. Was their encounter a mere coincidence or fate? The clash between the two will soon consume the whole academy!

killakill-v1-b

From the creators of “Gurren Lagann” comes “Kill la Kill”!

With 24-episodes airing in Japan between October through March 2014 plus an OVA episode that is schedule for release in Sept. 2014, “Kill la Kill Volume 1: Limited Edition” will be released in the U.S. on Blu-ray in July 2014.

“Kill la Kill” is set in Honnouji Academy, a school that is ruled by the iron-fisted student council president, Satsuki Kiryuin.

Dominated by the student council, each member wears a Goku uniform that give each member superhuman abilities and depending by the number of their uniform is indicative of how strong that individual is.

Meanwhile, Ryuko Matoi joins Honnouji Academy.  She is brash and wields half of a scissor-shaped longsword in search of the person responsible for killing her father.  And if she finds the person that owns the other scissor blade, she will exact her revenge.

Her first day at school, she meets the energetic Mako Mankanshoku and her younger brother Mataro.  And as Ryuko and Mako go to school, Mako witnesses a student getting beaten by the student council.

When Ryuko goes to find out who is responsible for her father’s death, she is quickly beaten by the boxing club captain, Takaharu Fukuroda, who sports  a two-star Goku uniform.

Having been beaten and feeling that she has disappointed her father, Ryuko falls inside a trap door and discovers a talking sailor uniform that attaches itself to her.  She finds out that her uniform, a “Kamui” named Senketsu, has granted her abilities and now, Ryuko is ready to take on any rivals from Honnouji Academy.

And for student council president, Satsuki Kiryuin, she will give the answers that Ryuko has been wanting only if she can defeat the people that challenge her.

The main characters of “Kill la Kill″ are:

  • Ryuko Matoi – The main protagonist.  A 17-year-old who transferred into Honnouji Academy.  She wields half of a Scissor Blade and is looking for the person responsible for killing her father.  When a Kamui sailor uniform named Senketsu attaches itself to her, she gains special abilities.
  • Senketsu – A kamui and living sailor uniform that gives the user superhuman abilities in exchange for their blood.
  • Satsuki Kiryuin – The ruthless student council president who leads the student council with an iron fist.
  • Mako Mankanshoku  – A bubbly, energetic teen that welcomes Ryuko to her family.
  • Mataro Mankanshoku – The younger brother of Mako.
  • Barazo Mankanshoku – Mako’s father who runs a back-alley clinic and a pervert.
  • Sukuyo Mankanshoku – Barazo’s wife and mother of Mako and Mataro.  She loves cooking delicious dishes.
  • Ira Gamagoori – Satsuki’s loyal enforcer who lead the disciplinary committee at Honnouji Academy and sports a three-star Goku uniform.

VIDEO:

“Kill la Kill” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  What I enjoy about this series is its animation style.  Creative character designs but also picture quality that is reminiscent of classic animation.  Backgrounds are detailed and beautifully painted, while characters are nicely shaded.  Colors are vibrant and I didn’t notice any excessive banding or artifacts during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kill la Kill” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0.  The soundtrack is primarily front-channel driven and while voice acting is well-done for both languages, there is no difference in terms of dynamic range.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kill la Kill Volume 1: Limited Edition″ comes with the following special features:

  • Textless OP (Ep 2 & 3 Ver.)
  • Textless Opening and Endings
  • Web Version Previews

EXTRAS:

“Kill la Kill Volume 1: Limited Edition″ comes with a slipcase, poster and six-postcard set plus the following soundtrack:

キルラキル 一 REARRANGE & REMIX SOUNDTRACK CD

Duration: 43 Minutes / 10 tracks

  1. Before my body is dry: [nZk] ver. – MIKA KOBAYASHI
  2. Bluemenkranz: [nZk] ver. – Cyua
  3. Suck your blood: [nZk] ver. – Caramel Apple Sound Gadget
  4. Light your heart up: [nZk] ver. – Aimee Blackschleger
  5. Till I Die: [nZk] ver. – Caramel Apple Sound Gadget
  6. Before my body is dry: [nZk] ver. <Inst.> – MIKA KOBAYASHI
  7. Bluemenkranz: [nZk] ver. <Inst.> – Cyua
  8. Suck your blood: [nZk] ver. <Inst.> – Caramel Apple Sound Gadget
  9. Light your heart up: [nZk] ver. <Inst.> – Aimee Blackschleger
  10. Till I Die: [nZk] ver. <Inst.> – Caramel Apple Sound Gadget

While I try not to get excited over a series with only four episodes viewed, I will say that from the first four episodes alone, I’m enjoying the series a lot!

From it’s fascinating storyline revolving revenge, a talking sailor school uniform, a high school ruled with an iron fist by its powerful student council president and it’s intriguing antagonists which Ryuko must take on, suffice to say, it’s a captivating storyline with awesome animation and beautifully painted backgrounds.

Voice acting in Japanese and English is well-done and as with most Aniplex limited editions, you also get a box full of swag with a soundtrack, postcard set and poster.

It’s important to note that this is a series that is for teens and up and not a series to have children nearby, as Ryuko has to wear a very skimpy uniform and it has its fair share of violence.

Overall, “Kill la Kill” is an exciting series and it’s first four episodes have been captivating and addicting.  I can’t wait until the second volume but I can see why many fans have welcomed this series with open arms and love it.  It’s a series that features fascinating characters, cool animation/backgrounds and I’m sure there will be twists and turns along the way.

“Kill la Kill Volume 1: Limited Edition” is highly recommended!

Need For Speed (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

needforspeed

“Need For Speed” is a film that doesn’t break any new ground. It’s a simple plot of revenge and the elements of the video game of coming in first, beating your rival and avoiding police are a big part of the film. But with that being said, the film probably does a disservice by making viewers think that high speed racing is so cool but there are repercussions for those who take part in this dangerous hobby that can actually hurt and kill someone. But while you have one side who will detest this film because of that, there are those who simply love fast cars, love the video games and love racing and this is who this film was made for. So, if you are the latter and want to experience a race film that looks and sounds incredible on Blu-ray, then “Need For Speed” is recommended for you!

Image courtesy of © 2014 Dreamworks Distribution. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Need For Speed

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 131 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:39:1 aspect ratio, English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: DreamWorks Pictures/Touchstone Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2014

Directed by Scott Waugh

Screenplay by George Gatins

Story by George Gatins and John Gatins

Produced by John Gatins, Patrick O’Brien, Mark Sourian

Executive Producer: Stuart M. Besser, Frank Gibeau, Tim Moore, Scott Waugh

Music by Nathan Furst

Cinematography by Shane Hurlbut

Edited by Paul Rubell, Scott Waugh

Casting by Ronna Kress

Production Design by Jon hutman

Art Direction by Christopher R. DeMuri

Costume Design by Ellen Mirojnick

Starring:

Aaron Paul as Tobey Marshall

Dominic Cooper as Dino Brewster

Imogen Poots as Julia Maddon

Scott Mescudi as Benny

Rami Malek as Finn

Ramon Rodriguez as Joe Peck

Harrison Gilbertson as Little Pete

Dakota Johnson as Anita

Stevie Ray Dallimore as Bill Ingram

Michael Keaton as Monarch

Based on the most successful racing video game franchise ever with over 140 million copies sold, DreamWorks Pictures’ Need for Speed captures the thrills of the game in a real-world setting. An exciting return to the great car-culture films of the 1960s and ‘70s, when authenticity brought a new level of intensity to the action, Need for Speed taps into what makes the American myth of the open road so enticing.

The story chronicles a near-impossible cross-country race against time — one that begins as a mission for revenge, but proves to be one of redemption. In a last attempt to save his struggling garage, blue-collar mechanic Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) — who with his team skillfully builds and races muscle cars on the side — reluctantly partners with wealthy, arrogant ex-NASCAR driver Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). Just as a major sale to a car broker Julia Bonet (Imogen Poot) looks like it will save the business, a disastrous, unsanctioned race results in Dino framing Tobey for manslaughter.

Two years later and fresh out of prison, Tobey is set on revenge with plans to take down Dino in the high-stakes De Leon race — the Super Bowl of underground racing. To get there in time, Tobey must run a high-octane, action-packed gauntlet, dodging cops coast-to-coast and dealing with fallout from a dangerous bounty Dino put on his car. With his loyal crew and the surprisingly resourceful Julia as allies, Tobey defies odds at every turn and proves that even in the flashy world of exotic supercars, the underdog can still finish first.

From the filmmaker responsible for the war film “Acts of Valor” comes “Need for Speed”, a film that is based on the popular EA video game racing series.

For anyone who has played the video games, the games are all about racing and taking first place but also having to deal with the police who are often chasing after you.  And those elements are included in the film which did fantastic in the box office.

The film would star Aaron Paul (“Mission: Impossible III”, “Breaking Bad”, “The Last House on the Left”), Dominic Cooper (“Captain America: The First Avenger”, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”), Imogen Poots (“That Awkward Moment”, “V for Vendetta”, “28 Weeks”), music star Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, Ramon Rodriguez (“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, “The Taking of Pelham 123″, “Battle Los Angeles”), Dakota Johnson (“The Social Network”, “21 Jump Street”), Rami Malek, Harrison Gilbertson and Michael Keaton (“Batman”, “Beetlejuice”, “Night Shift”, “Jackie Brown”).

The $66 million film would go on to make over $203 million worldwide and now “Need For Speed” will be released on Blu-ray.

“Need For Speed” revolves around Tobey Marshall (portrayed by Aaron Paul), a former race car driver who now operates an auto garage and tuning performance cars with his friends.  The group which include Tobey, their pilot Benny “Maverick” (portrayed by Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi), mechanics Joe Peck (portrayed by Ramon Rodriguez) and Finn (portrayed by Rami Malek) and Little Pete Coleman (portrayed by Harrison Gilbertson).

While the group likes to race at night and love testing out their vehicles, right before a race, his ex-girlfriend and Pete’s older sister  Anita (portrayed by Dakota Johnson) is visiting town with her boyfriend, Dino Brewster (portrayed by Dominic Cooper), an entrepreneur and former racer, but also Tobey’s longtime rival.

After Tobey wins the race, Tobey is offered a business deal from Dino that if he can restore a rare Ford Shelby Mustang, he will get 25% of the car’s estimated selling price of $2 million.

Despite his crew warning him to do business with his enemy, knowing that the garage is hurting for money, Tobey agrees.

The car eventually sells for $2.7 million after Tobey shows the car can go over 230 mph.  The car is sold to exotic car dealer Julia Maddon (portrayed by Imogen Poots) and after the sale, after Pete brags to Dino about how Tobey can easily beat him in the race, Dino proposes a bet.  Using one of his uncle’s three Koenigsegg Agera R’s and racing over Interstate 684, if Dino loses, he will win the entire Mustang deal.  If Tobey loses, he will give up his 25%.

Tobey agrees and the three race.  As Tobey is about to win the race, Dino clips Pete’s car and Pete’s car flips over the overpass.  Distraught, Tobey stops the car to check on his friend and runs towards the wreckage, while Dino doesn’t stop and continues the race and wins the bet.

Tobey is arrested by police and Dino claims that his uncle’s two Koenigsegg Agera R’s were stolen.  Tobey tries to tell the authorities that he and Pete were racing Dino but with no witness to a third car and no proof there was a third Koenigsegg Agera R, Tobey goes to prison for two years for involuntary manslaughter and loses his garage.

Fastforward two years later and Tobey assembles his group of friends and wants revenge on Dino Brewster by racing him in the dangerous race known as the De Leon organized by DJ Monarch (portrayed by Michael Keaton).

Desperate for a car, as the group needs to reach San Francisco in two days, he calls up Julia Maddon to borrow the Ford Shelby Mustang, the crew plan their trip to San Francisco.  But unaware that Dino has put a bounty on Tobey and will do anything to prevent him from racing in the De Leon.

Will Tobey get to the race in time?  And will he get his revenge on his rival Dino Brewster?

VIDEO:

“Need for Speed” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality for the film is absolutely fantastic as colors are vibrant, reds pop, black levels are nice and deep, skin tones are natural with closeups featuring excellent detail, the cars look so fantastic in HD and I saw no problems with artifacts, banding or any negative issues.

“Need For Speed” looks absolutely fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Need For Speed” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HDMA and English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks.

The film sounds absolutely awesome thanks to the immersive soundtrack.  If there was one thing that director Scott Waugh wanted is that people feel that they were in the car, so sound engineers utilized the 7.1 lossless soundtrack to make you hear the car engine, tires screeching, cars hitting each other and literally hearing and feeling the cars around you.

Because the amount of car action featured in the film, the lossless soundtrack is active with all channels being utilized and also fantastic LFE.  Definitely one of the best lossless soundracks on Blu-ray that I have listened to in 2014!

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Need for Speed” comes with the following special features:

  • Capturing Speed: Making an Authentic Car Movie - (9:45) A featurette about making an authentic racing film and the cars utilized for the film.
  • Ties That Bind - (11:56) A featurette about the Mickey Gilbert and the Gilbert family who worked as stuntmen in the business1 and working on “Need For Speed”.
  • The Circus is in Town – (10:49) Working with the crew how it’s like a traveling circus and moving around the United States to film “Need For Speed”.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Scott Waugh and actor Aaron Paul.
  • Monarch and Maverick Outtakes – (1:35) Outtakes from the ad libs used by Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi and Michael Keaton.
  • Deleted Scenes – (5:06) Featuring four deleted scenes with intro by director Scott Waugh.
  • The Sound of Need for Speed - (9:22) A featurette on capturing the sounds of the cars and making the audience feel that they are driving in the car, using 7.1 soundscape and also creating the music for the film.
  • Need for Speed Rivals Trailer – (1:25) Trailer for the “Need for Speed Rivals” video game.

EXTRAS:

“Need for Speed” comes with a slipcover and a Digital HD Digital Copy code.

For anyone who has played the “Need For Speed” video games or those who have an interest in street racing, will find Scott Waugh’s live action film to be exciting thanks to the decision to forego CG and use real cars, but also to utilize sound in which the viewer is immersed in the surroundings of the actual vehicle and race and making you feel you are right there.

It was a goal of Scott Waugh and crew to have people feel like you were in the vehicle but also to make sure the racing felt real and natural and watching this film, you can’t help but marvel at the cars featured but how much that went into the actual racing aspect of the film.

Yes, it’s based on the video game which was all about beating your rivals in a race and avoiding the police but the film was able to taking things up a notch by cool characters and the whole racing storyline bent on revenge but also the unexpected situations that are featured in the film.

The plot may not break new ground but what breaks new ground is how vehicles were utilized, the filming of the vehicles in the race and capturing the sounds from the vehicles.  It’s not easy to explain if you are not a car enthusiast but the sounds of the engine and the actual race are part of why I enjoyed the film.  And the fact that Scott Waugh and crew wanted to try something different in terms of how cars are utilized in a film is a major plus

Aaron Paul did a good job of playing the calm and collected protagonist, while Dominic Cooper did a good job of playing the jerk antagonist.  I also enjoyed Imogen Poots as the luxury car specialist who joins Paul’s character in the cross country drive to California.

But the film is far from perfect.  While filmmakers pushed to do something different and new with the vehicles, there are scenes that just don’t work well.  For example, Kid Cudi’s character, Maverick asking his guard to borrow an iPad while he’s locked up?  Like that is ever going to happen.   Maverick using a military helicopter to transport the Mustang also is farfetched.

But as I have enjoyed the video game series that the film is based on, there is no way I will promote or advocate street racing.  If you want to race, you can take your vehicle on the track, no need to endanger other lives by high speed racing.

I know that there are young people who may be inspired to emulate what they see on the big screen and I hope that people realize that there are repercussions for irresponsible driving, especially if someone is killed.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic, the 7.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is immersive and magnificent and you also get a good number of special features included.

Overall, “Need For Speed” is a film that doesn’t break any new ground.  It’s a simple plot of revenge and the elements of the video game of coming in first, beating your rival and avoiding police are a big part of the film.

But with that being said, the film probably does a disservice by making viewers think that high speed racing is so cool but there are repercussions for those who take part in this dangerous hobby that can actually hurt and kill someone.

But while you have one side who will detest this film because of that, there are those who simply love fast cars, love the video games and love racing and this is who this film was made for.  So, if you are the latter and want to experience a race film that looks and sounds incredible on Blu-ray, then “Need For Speed” is recommended for you!

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

July 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

dragonwolf-a

“Dragonwolf” is an entertaining martial arts film from Thailand, granted, it has its fair share of many poorly acted scenes. But for a low-budget independent martial arts film, I did enjoy watching it as it reminded me of something that came out of a Japanese manga (comic). If you love martial arts films and also want a laugh, then definitely give “Dragonwolf” a try!

Image courtesy of © 2012 Motionpictures. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dragonwolf

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 122 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 Widescreen, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Closed Captions

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATINGS: NR

RELEASE DATE: July 29, 2014

Directed by Raimuns Huber

Story by Raimund Huber

Written by Johan Kirsten

Produced by Chariyawan Tavoranon

Executive Producer: Shaked Berenson, Trit Charoenrach, Patrick Ewald, Raimund Huber

Associate Producer: Thomas Goth, Ava Napasasorn Intarakoomarn

Cinematography by Wardhana Vunchuplou

Fight Choreographer: Kazu Patrick Tang

Stunt Coordinator: Surin Kamboonraung

Starring:

Kazu Patrick Tang as Mozart

Johan Kirsten as Julius

Macha Polivka as Mary

David Winters as Brutus

Guk Srisawat as Umiko

The Devil’s Cauldron – a city of depravity and violence, where only the lethal survive. Two hit men rule these streets, feared by all but loyal to one another. When a beautiful woman seduces them both, they turn on each other, igniting an epic battle that may bring the city to the brink of destruction.

dragonwolf-b

When it comes to Thailand action films, filmmaker Raimund Huber is well-known.

From films such as “Kill ‘em All”, “Bangkok Adventure” and “Freerunner”, Huber is back with a new action film titled “Dragonwolf”, which will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment in July 2014.

Written by actor Johan Kirsten, the film stars Kirsten alongside actor/fight choreographer Kazu Patrick Tang (“District B13″, “Raging Phoenix”, “Ong-bak 2″).

The film begins with a young boy named Mozart who was dying until a witch doctor in the village manages to save him.

Mozart would eventually befriend a young Julius and the two become brothers.  With Julius’ family raising Mozart after his mother died.

Fast forward years later and both Mozart (portrayed by Kazu Patrick Tang) and Julius (portrayed by Johan Kirsten) live in the Devil’s Cauldron and the two have managed to survive and climb their way to the crime world with Julius becoming a crime boss.

With Mozart known for being silent and stoic but amazing with the sword and martial arts, something has tore them apart and Julius sends his men to kill Mozart and his girlfriend Mary (portrayed by Macha Polivka).

Believing that Mozart is dead, he returns back to Devil’s Cauldron with pieces of his memory and wanting revenge on the men that have wanted him dead and taking on the deadliest fighters in Devil’s Cauldron.

dragonwolf-c

VIDEO:

“Dragonwolf” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9 widescreen).  While a low budget film, picture quality of this film looks very good on Blu-ray with great detail on close-ups.  Colors are vibrant outdoors, black levels are nice and deep.  There are moments of experimental filters which were intentional but for the most part, “Dragonwolf” looks very good on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Dragonwolf” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio with closed captions in English.

While not amazingly immersive, “Dragonwolf” does feature a good number of action scenes with punches, steel swords clanging when struck, gun shots galore, etc.  Sound effects are crystalclear as with dialogue but this is a front and center channel driven soundtrack.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragonwolf” only comes with a theatrical trailer.

dragonwolf-d

While independent Asian martial arts films are aplenty, you have to give Raimund Huber credit for creating some of the most intense low-budget action-films from Thailand.

In first glance, I felt that “Dragonwolf” would be horrid film thanks to its bad acting earlier in the film, bad acting that unintentionally makes a film more comedy, even though that was not the intent.

But since I grew up with the films such as “No Retreat, No Surrender”, I tend to also give independent martial arts films a bit off leeway and the same can be said for “Dragonwolf”.

Fortunately, there is an interesting storyline about two men who grew up like brothers and having chosen a life of crime.

Two brothers who grew up fighting, constantly training with each other and while Julius has always had the upperhand, both have had admirable respect for each other.

But what can come between these brothers?  It’s a woman named Mary.

A woman with a noticeable black dragon tattoo on her back, she is dating Julius but has her eyes set on Mozart.  And when a group of men working for Julius tries to kill both of them while in bed, suffice to say, Mozart is out for revenge.

While a bit predictable, what makes this film interesting is its crazy characters that target Mozart for death.  From a crew of martial arts trash talkers, a group of goth looking swordsman, Russian assassins and more!

While the fight scenes are the film’s strongest point versus the acting, after all was said and done, I actually enjoyed “Dragonwolf” because it was a low-budget film and while expecting worse after its earlier scene featuring a scene of terrible child acting, the film picked up and while the bad acting continued, it lent to a more humorous moment countering the stoic nature of Mozart.

The Blu-ray unfortunately is barebones when it comes to special features but picture quality and lossless audio were very good.

Overall, “Dragonwolf” is an entertaining martial arts film from Thailand, granted, it has its fair share of many poorly acted scenes.  But for a low-budget independent martial arts film, I did enjoy watching it as it reminded me of something that came out of a Japanese manga (comic).

If you love martial arts films and also want a laugh, then definitely give “Dragonwolf” a try!

 

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

July 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

thesuspect-a

“The Suspect” is no doubt one of my favorite action films of 2014 thus far!  In-your-face action and a storyline full of twists and turns, “The Suspect” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 Showbox/Mediaplex and Green Fish. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Suspect

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 137 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2014

Directed by Shin-yeon Won

Produced by David Shin

Cinematography by Sung-je Lee

Set Decoration by Shing Seung-hoon

On-Set Dresser: Oscar A. Colom Cruz

Starring:

Yoo Gong as Ji Dong-cheol

Jae-yun Jo

Seong-ha Jo as Kim Seok-ho

Seong-gyoon Kim as ri Gwang-jo

Hee-soon Park as Min Se-hoon

Da-in Yoo as Choi Kyeong-hee

Dong-chul (Gong Yoo) is the best field agent in North Korea – until he is abandoned during a mission, his wife and daughter murdered. Hunted and on the run, torn between grief and vengeance, he takes a job as a night driver for the CEO of a powerful corporation. The chairman is brutally assassinated – but gives Dong-chul a pair of glasses before he dies. Now, he’s on the run again. Accused of murder, wanted for treason, and desperate to uncover the volatile national secrets hidden inside the glasses. Dong-Chul wants the truth. And he’ll start a war to get it.

thesuspect-c

It has been referred to as Korea’s “Bourne” film, Shin-yun Won’s spy thriller, “The Suspect”, has received rave reviews worldwide and now it will be released on Blu-ray in the U.S.A. in July 2014!

The film revolves around former North Korean special forces agent, Ji Dong-chul (portrayed by Gong Yoo), a man who wants revenge against his ex-colleagues that were involved in the murder of his wife and unborn child.

While trying to find the killer of his wife/child during the day, during the night, he is the chauffeur to Chairman Park, a business executive with ties to Pyongyang.

On the final day that Ji Dong-chul was to work with the Chairman, he notices that something is awry with the security cameras.  When he goes up to check on the chairman, he catches a man injecting poison in the foot of the Chairman.  After a brief fight in which Ji Dong-chul defeats the assailant, the Chairman asks for Dong-chul to take his glasses and bury them.

Meanwhile, those involved for the murder is the South Korean Intelligence Service led by Kim Seok-ho (portrayed by Jo Sung-ha), the director of the NIS.

Seok-ho pins the death of the chairman on Dong-chul and has colonel/drill sergeant Min Se-hoon (portrayed by Park Hee-soon) to find Ji Dong-chul (a man that he has history with) and bring him back alive.

Meanwhile, Dong-chul gets assistance from a documentary filmmaker named Choi Kyung-hee (portrayed by Yoo Da-in), who has been doing a story on North Korean defectors and believes that Dong-chul did not commit the murders but he is more determined in getting revenge for the people responsible for killing his wife/child.

But using the latest in technology and having one of fiercest men and the intelligence service after him, will Dong-chul be able to outwit them and find out who was responsible for murdering his wife/child and will he get revenge?

VIDEO:

“The Suspect” is presented in 1080p High Definition  (2:39:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks amazing in HD!  Featuring amazing detail during closeups and vibrant colors, the film is well-contrast and black levels are nice and deep.  I saw no problems with picture quality, if anything, there is nothing negative to say about the picture quality.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “The Suspect” is presented in Korean DTS-HD MA and as one can expect from a heavy hitting action film, the lossless soundtrack is immersive and action sequences are so often throughout the film, it’s definitely one of the most immersive Korean films I have watched on Blu-ray!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Suspect” only comes with a theatrical trailer.

thesuspect-d

There have been a good number of action films from Asia that have won me over.

So many films are rehashed, regurgitated and you can’t help but feeling that you want to see something unique and original.   And I have to say that while there have been many heavy hitting action films to come out of Korea, “The Suspect” is one of the most awesome action thrillers I have watched.  And this film is relentless when it comes to action as it keeps going and going and it’s in your face action that ranges from chase scenes, fight scenes galore and action that no doubt compliments the fast-paced storyline.

Watching “The Suspect”, I was amazed by how many twists and turns were set throughout the film and with its ending, it left me with a big grin in my face and wanting to see more of  the character of Ji Dong-cheol in more films.

Actor Yoo Gong was excellently cast for this film as a man bent on revenge for the death of his wife and unborn child, but because he is one of the top North Korean spies, to see so many police after one man and to see how he is able to outwit them, suffice to say, these moments were among my favorite!

And then you have the cat and mouse chase between the characters of Ji Dong-cheol and the “don’t frack with me” Colonel Min Se-hoon.  Dong-cheol as the main target, these two have a heated past and you wonder how this will pan out when these two men confront each other at the end.

But the enjoyment is the vast journey that the character takes you through Korea.  You will see Dong-cheol all over Korea, from stores to rooftops, driving a car during a chase (forward and backward) and so much more!  Definitely well-cast for the film’s protagonist, this is one character that no doubt can be Korea’s Jason Bourne or Jack Bauer or even better as this is one character no one wants to mess with.

The Blu-ray for “The Suspect” features fantastic picture quality and magnificent lossless audio.  Unfortunately, this is a barebones Blu-ray release with only a theatrical trailer, but I wanted to see how this film was created and was really hoping to see a “making of” featurette.

Overall, “The Suspect” is no doubt one of my favorite action films of 2014 thus far!  In-your-face action and a storyline full of twists and turns, “The Suspect” is highly recommended!

 

Make Your Move (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

makeyourmove

Featuring entertaining and creative choreography when compared to other popular dance films, “Make Your Move” may be lacking with its simplistic “Romeo & Juliet” plot but is still a fun and entertaining dance film worth watching.

Image courtesy of © 2014 Cobu Company, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Make Your Move

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 110 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2014

Written and Directed by Duane Adler

Produced by Agnes Delahaie

Cinematography by Leonce-Henrie Burel

Edited by Raymond Lamy

Production Design by Pierre Charbonnier

Starring:

Derek Hough as Donny

BoA as Aya

Will Yun Lee as Kaz

Wesley Jonathan as Nick

Izabella Miko as Tatianna

Jefferson Brown as Michael Griffiths

Miki Ishikawa as Natsumi

From the co-writer of STEP UP and SAVE THE LAST DANCE The music is pumping, the dance floor is moving and Donny (Derek Hough, TV’s “Dancing With the Stars”) stops when he sees the beautiful Aya (Korean pop star BoA) performing with her hip-hop Cobu crew at the hottest underground club in New York. They come from two different worlds, but they speak the same language — dance. When the couple finds themselves in the middle of a bitter rivalry, they must choose between family ties or their love for each other. Now, they must make their move.

From Duane Adler, co-writer of “Save the Last Dance” and “Step Up” comes a collaboration of the West and the East as former “Dancing with Stars” dancer Derek Hough and K-Pop/J-Pop star BoA are paired together in a Romeo and Juliet-style independent dance film.

“Make Your Move” was shot in New York City and Toronto back in Spring 2011 and was released in theaters in 2013.

And now “Make Your Move” will make its debut on Blu-ray in July 2014.

“Make Your Move” revolves around Donny (portrayed by Derek Hough), a dancer who was released out of prison and is on parole.

Despite trying to make money dancing on the streets of New Orleans, his parole officer wants him to stop dancing and get a real job and stops Donny from dancing and panhandling.

But after seeing the success of his foster brother Nick (portrayed by Wesley Jonathan), the owner of the underground night club, Static, Donny decides to go to New York and violate his parole rules of staying in the state of Louisiana for six months.

Meanwhile, Aya (portrayed by BoA) is a Korean who was born in Japan and makes her living as a taiko drum/dance instructor.  And as her group loves to play their taiko drums, their choreography session is halted when Nick comes and tells them to leave the premises and takes their Taiko drums.

Aya’s brother, Kaz (portrayed by Will Yun Lee) was a former business partner with Nick and both had their falling out and have become rivals in the club scene.  Their rivalry has become so bad that both sides have threatened each other.

As Donny goes to visit Nick, Nick warns him to not get up on stage and follow the rules.  Donny wants to be a dancer for Static and just wants Nick to give him a chance.

One night, as Aya and her friends go to Static and try to retrieve their taiko drums, they decided to put on a dance for the Static customers.  And as the group impresses the club members with the exception of Nick, as Aya goes to tap dance on the bar table, Nick is so impressed that he goes up to tap dance with her.

But as quickly as the two begin dancing with one another, Aya’s brother comes to take them back and it leaves to an altercation between Kaz and Donny.  Donny ends up running out of the club with Aya, but their cab is halted by Kaz and his men.  But not long after, Nick and his men come to separate the two.

Nick is angered by how much trouble Donny has caused him in the first day of him arriving to New York and Donny ends up on the streets but wanting to get to know more about Aya and get close to her.

Meanwhile, Kaz is working for a nightclub owned by Wall Street businessman Michael (portrayed by Jefferson Brown), who wants nothing more but to marry Aya and wants her as an exclusive to his nightclub.  But Aya is not interested.

As Aya is forbidden to see Donny and Donny is forbidden to see Aya, what happens when these two are driven to be together due to dancing but also being attracted to each other?

VIDEO:

“Make Your Move” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality for the film on Blu-ray is fantastic.  Close-ups show great detail and skin pores on the faces of the characters. Skin tones look natural, outdoor scenes are vibrant.

I personally did not notice any problems with banding, artifacts, crush, etc.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, lossless audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  For a film like “Make Your Move”, you can expect a dialogue and musically driven soundtrack.  There are moments where there is crowd ambiance during the club scenes and also other action scenes.  But for the most part, dialogue and music is crystal clear and the soundtrack is center and front-channel driven.

Subtitles are in English and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Make Your Move” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary - Featuring audio commentary with writer/director Duane Adler and choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo.
  • Deleted Scenes - (6:37) Featuring deleted scenes from “Make Your Move”.
  • Making the Moves – Choreography – (16:55) A featurette about how and why taiko drums and tap dance was incorporated to “Make Your Move” and an in-depth look at the choreography for the film.

“Make Your Move” may not be the film to break new ground in dance films utilizing a “Romeo & Juliet” storyline, nor is it the first film to explore interracial relationships in a dance movie.

But for anyone wanting a dance film with an interesting take with its incorporation of tap dance and taiko drum playing, may find “Make Your Move” an entertaining dance film, albeit more exciting for its choreography than its actual storyline.

A film which incorporates East and West, K-Pop fans will notice the CJ Entertainment and SM Entertainment logos at the beginning of the film.

With the popularity of the Korean wave especially the influence of K-Pop growing worldwide, the film tries to build upon that popularity by bringing SM Entertainment’s successful K-Pop and J-Pop performer, BoA and feature appearances by TVXQ’s U-Know and a song by SNSD (Girl’s Generation).

And of course, to make the film much more accessible to the West, the addition of writer/filmmaker Duane Adler, who had worked on hit dance films such as “Step Up” and “Save the Last Dance” and former dance choreographer for “Dancing with the Stars”, Derek Hough is a plus, when it comes to dancing.

While Adler’s “Step Up” and “Save the Last Dance” was able to build upon the magic of a dramatic storyline and inspirational dancing, “Make Your Move” is a film that relies to much on its dance numbers.  Yes, Derek Hough and BoA are wonderful dancers but the storyline lacks credibility.

It’s hard to picture Derek Hough as a criminal and for a broke individual who is able to move to New York and live on the streets, you often wonder how this guy is able to get up close to the beautiful BoA clean shaven, clean cut and despite being banged up a bit by a rival club, not one bruised or blood on his face.

Part of what made “Step Up” so awesome was that you felt that Channing Tatum’s character came from the other side of the tracks.  He owned the part, he looked the part.  Derek Hough’s Donny looked far from the part that he was supposed to play.

As for BoA, she has come far since making her U.S. album debut, her English is much better, her dancing is still top-notch but does the chemistry work between both her and Hough, that is subjective.

But while I felt the two had amazing dance chemistry and the choreography was top-notch, the storyline of rival clubs, among two former friends and how these two groups have subjected themselves to almost gangsta-like mentality just doesn’t seem right.  Everyone looks way too clean cut to look like a threat and the whole rival gang storyline just fell flat.

Going back to the CJ Entertainment, SM Entertainment and Avex Entertainment collaboration, while the music was good on one side and K-Pop fans will no doubt love the K-Pop integration of music in the film with TVXQ and SNSD involvement, out-of-the-blue, there are some song choices that felt off for the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and the lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music.  Special features include audio commentary, deleted scenes and a making of choreography featurette.

Overall, “Make Your Move” may not be as strong as Duane Adler’s previously written films “Step Up” and “The Last Dance” but this is an independent film featuring a collaboration between Korea and the United States and trying to give K-Pop fans a little of their culture while trying to make the film accessible for viewers in the west.

Featuring entertaining and creative choreography when compared to other popular dance films, “Make Your Move” may be lacking with its simplistic “Romeo & Juliet” plot but is still a fun and entertaining dance film worth watching.

 

Heaven is for Real (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

heavenisforreal

There is no doubt that “Heaven is for Real” is a film not for everyone. There will be some who will be touched, there will be some who may have problems with the film but for those with an open mind and for those who are Christians will no doubt enjoy or become fascinated by the story of the Burpo family and be touched by its spiritual message. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Heaven is for Real

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1, English, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Descriptive Track, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital,  Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese (Cantonese), Chinese Mandarin, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Thematic Material Including Some Medical Situations)

Release Date: July 22, 2014

Directed by Randall Wallace

Based on the Screenplay by Randall Wallace and Chris Parker

Based on the Book “Heaven is for Real” by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent

Produced by T.D. Jakes, Joe Roth

Co-Producer: Andrw Wallace, Kim H. Winther

Executive Producer: Sue Baden-Powell, Sam Mercer, Derrick Williams

Music by Nick Glennie-Smith

Cinematography by Dean Semler

Edited by John Wright

Casting by Sheila Jaffe

Production Design by Arvinder Grewal

Art Direction by Larry Spittle

Costume Design by Michael T. Boyd

Starring:

Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo

Kelly Reilly as Sonja Burpo

Thomas Haden Church as Jay Wilkins

Connor Corum as Colton Burpo

Lana Styles as Cassie Burpo

Margo Martindale as Nancy Rawling

Based on the #1 New York Times best-selling book, Heaven is for Real recounts the true story of a small-town father who must find the courage and conviction to share his son’s extraordinary, life-changing experience with the world. Starring Academy Award® nominee Greg Kinnear (Best Supporting Actor, As Good As It Gets, 1997) as Todd Burpo, the real-life father whose son Colton claims to have visited Heaven during a near death experience. Colton shares the details of his amazing journey with childlike innocence and speaks matter-of-factly about things that happened before his birth … things he couldn’t possibly know.

In 2010, the Christian book “Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back” would become a New York Times Best Seller.

Based on a true story about the Burpo family and their then-four-year-old son Colton having a near-death experience.  The book would receive a film adaptation and would be directed by Randall Wallace (“Braveheart”, “Pearl Harbor” and “We Were Soldiers”) and would star Greg Kinnear (“As Good As It Gets”, “You’ve Got Mail”), Thomas Haden Church (“Sideways”, “Spider-Man 3″, “Wings”), Margo Martindale (“Million Dollar Baby”, “Orphan”, “The Hours”), Kelly Reilly (“Sherlock Holmes”, “Flight”, “Sherlock Holmes: Games of Shadows”), Lane Styles and Connor Corum.

“Heaven is for Real” is set in Imperial, Nebraska and revolves around the pastor Todd Burpo (portrayed by Greg Kinnear) and his wife Sonja (portrayed by Kelly Reilly).

A loving family with two children, Cassie and Colton.

After Todd suffers a broken leg during a softball match and then suffering kidney stones, to help deal with Todd’s rehabilitation, the family goes to Denver for family time.

But not long after coming back home, both children are sick and while Cassie gets over her illness, Colton suffers a ruptured appendix and is rushed to the emergency room.  And while things are not going well, he eventually survives and begins opening up with his father of his near-death experience of watching doctors work on his body, seeing his father agonize in one room, while his mother is another room calling up friends to pray for them.

But when Colton starts to give details that has happened while he was being operated on and details of going to heaven, hearing angels sing and meeting Jesus and other family members with details that Colton couldn’t possibly know.   How will his family approach Colton?

And what happens when his story is told to the church congregation and is featured in the local news?

easternbandits-c

VIDEO:

“Heaven is for Real” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Picture quality is fantastic as indoor and outdoor show great detail.  Colors are bold and vibrant.  Skin tones are natural throughout the film and black levels are accurate.  I didn’t notice any artifacts, banding or any problematic issues during my viewing.  “Heaven is for Real” looks fantastic on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Heaven is for Real” is primarily a dialogue driven film but the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack does shows moments of surround channel use.  From church ambiance, wind blowing things over, fire engine sirens and more.  But for a film like this, you expect a front and center channel soundtrack.

Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH, Chinese (Cantones and Mandarin), French, Indoensian/Bahasa, Korean, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Heaven is for Real” features the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (8:23) Featuring six deleted scenes
  • The Making of Heaven is for Real – (13:08) The making of the film from casting and shooting the Heaven scenes.
  • Colton Goes to Heaven – (4:17) A short featurette featuring the real Burpo family.
  • Creating Heaven – (4:24) The challenges of creating the Heaven sequences and the ideas and approach of creating the scene.

“Heaven is for Real” was a book that had its fair share of criticism from Christians but it also was a book that was a bestseller and a Christian book that will no doubt be subjective for its reader.

The same can be said for the film, it’s subjective to the viewer.

And while the film is not a Christian film per se, it does have religious themes that explore heaven through the eyes of a four-year-old.

Colton tells his father he went to heaven, how beautiful heaven is and how Jesus looks and the people he met in Heaven including family members who have passed away.

There are details that Colton couldn’t have known but knows from his visit to Heaven.

The problem is that Christians have their own perception of what heaven should be.  And what he saw in heaven despite not being listed as near-death.

For Pastor Todd Burpo, the whole concept of Heaven and what his child has been experiencing is major concern for him.  Is he telling the truth?  And does Colton’s revelations challenge his father’s belief.

What we do see is that Todd becomes heavily interested in his son’s near-death experience, while his wife Sonja is worried about how they can pay off bills and that perhaps its their son’s imagination or combination of things he saw that has crafted his image of Heaven.

“Heaven is for Real” is able to touch upon the challenges that the family faces, how the church board reacts to Todd and his son being featured in the news but whether one can accept it.

Do babies that die due to a miscarriage or die in a womb, grow in Heaven?  I personally found this to be a fascinating but also controversial for the film.

If anything, in reality, the concept of Heaven is not always clear to people and there are interpretations of what Heaven should be and how it should be like?

From the eyes of an innocent four-year-old, Colton talks about angels singing, seeing Jesus’ horse and the color of rainbows and more.  But for those who have their ideas set of what Heaven should be and what kind of paradise they expect or don’t expect, there will always be opinions that clash with other beliefs.

I do like how the film showcases the Burpo family, especially Todd and Sonja as a loving couple, a normal couple who drop sexual hints and flirt with each other but for those expecting a santized Christian film where things like this should not be featured, are also going to have problems with this film.

But is this a religious film?  It’s not a film about religious preaching, it’s not a film that tries to stuff religion in your face but there is religion as the protagonist is a pastor and how his son’s experience starts to change him and his approach to his work in church and how his fellow congregation start to reach, good or bad.  But there is a spiritual message to this film and what young Colton was able to experience, you can either believe or don’t believe.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality of this film is magnificent and the lossless audio quality is what I expected from this film and it being heavily center and front-channel driven.  There are a few special features included as well.

Overall, “Heaven is for Real” is a fascinating film that is entertaining and enjoyable if you grew up with a Christian upbringing.  Colton’s experience is unexplainable but for those who believe in God, you can take this experience as you see fit, the Burpo family experienced it with their son and there are others who have had experiences that are unexplained but if you believe in God, even in the Bible, things happen but it’s God’s way of showing a person his way or trying to reach out to others and show the power of faith and love.

There is no doubt that “Heaven is for Real” is a film not for everyone.  There will be some who will be touched, there will be some who may have problems with the film but for those with an open mind and for those who are Christians will no doubt enjoy or become fascinated by the story of the Burpo family and be touched by its spiritual message.

Recommended!

 

« Previous PageNext Page »

Bottom