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

February 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

For anyone who are open to learning about new cultures and seeing the life of those living in rural regions, Otto Bell’s “The Eagle Huntress” is truly inspirational and also visually beautiful to watch.  I enjoyed it and also recommend it!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Eagle Huntress, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Eagle Huntress

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, Kazakh 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: G (General Audiences)

RELEASE DATE: February 7, 2017


Directed by Otto Bell

Produced by Otto Bell, Sharon Chang, Stacy Reiss

Executive Producer: Jeremy Chilnick, Dan Cogan, Barbara Dobkin, Susan MacLaury, Daisy Ridley, Regina Kulik Scully, Marc H. Simon, Morgan Spurlock

Music by Jeff Peters

Cinematography by Simon Niblett

Edited by Pierre Takal


Starring:

Narrated by Daisy Ridley

Aisholpan Nurgaiv

Rys Nurgaiv


THE EAGLE HUNTRESS follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl, as she trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter, and rises to the pinnacle of a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for centuries. Set against the breathtaking expanse of the Mongolian steppe, THE EAGLE HUNTRESS features some of the most awe-inspiring cinematography every captured in a documentary, giving this intimate tale of a young girl’s quest the dramatic force of an epic narrative film.


In 2016, filmmaker Otto Bell would film a Kazakh-language British-Mongolian-American documentary titled “The Eagle Huntress”.

Executive-produced by documentarian Morgan Spurlock (“Super Zie Me”, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”, “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?”) and Daisy Ridley (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, “Scrawl”, “Lifesaver”), who also narrates the film.

And now the documentary will be released by Sony Pictures Classics in February 2017.

“The Eagle Huntress” revolves around Aisholpan Nurgaiv, a 13-year-old Kazakh girl from Mongolia and is from a family of nomads that spend their summers in a yurt in the Altai mountains and during the winter, they live in town.

For seven generations, her family have been eagle hunters and she wants to become one.

While Aisholpan studies hard as she dreams of becoming a doctor but also has learned from her father Nurgaiv, an eagle hunter/trainer, who has won a few Golden Eagle competitions.  She was taught by her father to care for an eagle and train them and dreams of competing in the major competition, but the competition is dominated by male eagle hunters who believe in a males-only tradition.

But Nurgaiv has always believed that males and females are equal and that Aisholpan can compete.

So, one day, Aisholpan with her father climb up a mountain and she is able to capture and train her own eaglet.

But what happens when Aisholpan enters the annual Golden Eagle Festival?


VIDEO:

“The Eagle Huntress” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). Overall picture quality shows amazing detail during closeups. Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep. Many outdoor shots and for the most part vibrant and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. The documentary looks very good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Eagle Huntress” is presented in Kazakh 5.1 DTS-HD MA and an English audio description track 5.1 Dolby Digital.

The lossless audio is primarily dialogue and musically driven, with surround channels for natural ambiance (especially with the eagle or birds squawking or chirping in the background).

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Eagle Huntress” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Otto Bell.
  • Capturing the Eagle Huntress – (10:26) Behind-the-scenes on the making of “The Eagle Huntress”.
  • Theatrical Trailer

What started with a photograph from a photographer, would lead filmmaker Otto Bell to go to western Mongolia to create a film in the least populated rural region of the country.

Observing families and how eagles were living with the humans and sure enough, when Otto Bell and his crew proposed to make a film about 13-year-old Aisholpan Nurgaiv, the daughter of an eagle hunter/trainer, from her catching an eagle to her competing in the annual Golden Eagle Festival.

But also to learn about the challenges that Aisholpan experienced because she was female competing in a competition that was primarily male-dominated.  And no doubt, a gender-breaking opportunity and showing that a female can compete along with the males.

With no money, no budget and shooting on a shoestring budget, with only a few crew (which included using GoPro cameras), the crew were able to get aerial shots with a drone and utilize a RED EPIC camera and lightweight crane to accomplish the film.

The film no doubt was able to be boosted by narration by actress Daisy Ridley but the storyline of “The Eagle Huntress” is made enjoyable with the true-to-life filming of the daily life of young Aisholpan but also the cinematography of Simon Niblett was able to capture the beauty but also showing us the risk that Aisholpan had to accomplish in hunting her first eagle but eventually training it for competition.

“The Eagle Huntress” documentary that is no doubt amazing for the accomplishment of a 13-year-old girl, who many considered not suitable to participate in the annual Golden Eagle Festival competition but what happens after and to hear the male competitors discuss her win, was no surprise.

While the documentary is inspirational, I was also impressed by what the film crew with hardly any budget was able to accomplish in getting this film made.  And with modern technology, director Otto Bell and cinematographer Simon Niblett were able to document a day in the life of a teenager and a region that many people are not familiar with.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music.  Special features includes an insightful audio commentary but also a featurette showing the challenges of filming this documentary on a shoestring budget.

For anyone who are open to learning about new cultures and seeing the life of those living in rural regions, Otto Bell’s “The Eagle Huntress” is truly inspirational and also visually beautiful to watch.  I enjoyed it and also recommend it!

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American Pastoral (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The directorial debut of actor Ewan McGregor was no doubt a wonderful first film. With “American Pastoral”, taking on such a challenging job as a director and the film’s main protagonist, McGregor takes Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize novel and is able to make it his own, with a few changes compared to the original source. I couldn’t help but being captivated by the film and seeing how certain actions mirrors today’s society and I found the film to be fascinating, though-provoking and heartbreaking. “American Pastoral” is a film worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lionsgate. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: American Pastoral

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 108 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (Some Strong Sexual Material, Language and Deep Violent Images)

RELEASE DATE: February 7, 2017


Based on the Novel by Philip roth

Directed by Ewan McGregor

Screenplay by John Romano

Produced by Andre Lamal, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg

Co-Producer: Zane Weiner

Executive Producer: Terry McKay, Eric Reid

Music by Alexandre Desplat

Cinematography by Martin Ruhe

Edited by Melissa Kent

Casting by Deborah Aquila, Tricia Wood

Production Design by Daniel B. Clancy

Art Direction by Gregory A. Weimerskirch

Set Decoration by Julie Smith

Costume Design by Lindsay McKay


Starring:

Ewan McGregor as Swede Levov

Jennifer Connelly as Dawn Levov

Dakota Fanning as Merry Levov

Peter Riegert as Lou Levov

Rupert Evans as Jerry Levov

Uzo Aduba as Vicky

Molly Parker as Sheila Smith

Valorie Curry as Rita Cohen

Hannah Nordberg as Merry Levov (12-years-old)

Julia Silverman as Sylvia Levov

Mark Hildreth as Agent Dolan

Samantha Mathis as Penny Hamlin

David Strathairn as Nathan Zuckerman


Ewan McGregor directs and stars alongside Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning in this acclaimed film adapted from Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Seymour “Swede” Levov (Ewan McGregor), a once-legendary high school athlete, is a successful businessman married to a former beauty queen, Dawn (Jennifer Connelly). When Swede and Dawn’s daughter (Dakota Fanning) disappears after being accused of a violent crime, Swede’s perfect life is broken forever and he is left to make sense out of the chaos.


Back in 1997, Philip Roth’s novel “American Pastoral” would take the world by storm.

Roth’s novel would win the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 and was included in Time Magazine’s “All-TIME 100 Greatest Novels” and the crime-drama film would receive a loose film adaptation.

Actor Ewan McGregor (“Trainspotting”, “Star Wars: Episodes 1-3” films) would make his directorial debut with “American Pastoral” and would feature a screenplay by John Romano (“The Lincoln Lawyer”, “Intolerable Cruelty”, “Nights in Rodanthe”).

The film stars Jennifer Connelly (“Requiem for a Dream”, “A Beautiful Mind”, “Blood Diamond”), Dakota Fanning (“War of the Worlds”, “Man on Fire”, “I am Sam”), Peter Riegert (“The Mask”, “Oscar”, “Animal House”), Rupert Evans (“Hellboy”, “Agora”, “The Canal”), Uzo Aduba (“Orange is the New Black”, “Tallulah”), Molly Parker (“The Road”, “Dead Wood”, “The Wicker Man”), Valorie Curry (“The Following”, “Blair Witch”, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”).

The film’s premiere was held at the 2016 Toronto International Film FEstival wand will be released on Blu-ray in February 2017.

The film begins with author Nathan Zuckerman (portrayed by David Strathairn) going to his 40-year reunion for Weequahic High School in Newark, Jersey.

Nathan is looking forward to seeing his old friend Seymour “Swede” Levov (portrayed by Ewan McGregor), the high school hero, star athlete who married beauty queen Dawn Dwyer Levov (portrayed by Jennifer Connelly) and is now in charge of the family glove-making business.  And the last he heard before the ’60s was that Swede and Dawn had a daughter named Merry.

When he sees Swede’s younger brother, Jerry (portrayed by Rupert Evans) at the high school reunion and starts reminiscing about Swede, he is unaware of what happened to Swede throughout the decades.  In fact, the reason why Jerry is in town is for Swede’s funeral.

Jerry then tells Nathan the story of what happened to Swede.

We learn that Swede, who is Jewish, married Dawn a devout Roman Catholic and how his father, Lou (portrayed by Peter Riegert) was against the marriage but gave in.

The couple would have a daughter named Meredith “Merry” and would settle in the town of Old Rimrock at a big farm, in which Dawn takes care of the cows, while Swede would take over his father’s business.

Merry has a stuttering problem and when Swede and Dawn talk to Dr. Sheila Smith about why she has a stuttering problem, they start to learn that its possible competition between mother and daughter for Swede’s attention.

One day, while watching television, a young “Merry” sees the Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist Monk Thich Quang Duc taking part in self-immolation and can’t understand why the man would burn himself to death.

Fastforward to when Merry is now a teenager and as the Vietnam War continues to rage on during the turbulent 1960’s, she is becoming more radicalized and often leaves to New York to take part in anti-war protests.

Swede who is concerned for his daughter tells her that he will not allow her to go to New York and that she could practice her anti-war protests at home.

A few days later, the local posts office and gas station are blown up by a bomb and the gas station’s owner is killed.  With Merry gone, she has now become the prime suspect in the bombing.

And as years have passed by without hearing from their daughter, the couple who were seen as “perfect” are destroyed by not knowing what happened to Merry but radicalized her to the point of killing someone.  The parents question themselves and don’t understand what they did wrong as parents.  And the guilt and the feeling of loss is taking its toll on both Swede and Dawn.

But one day, a woman named Rita Cohen (portrayed by Valorie Curry), a student at the Wharton School comes to Swede’s glovemaking business and immediately tells him behind closed doors that she knows about Merry’s whereabouts.

This leads Swede on a mission to find his daughter.


VIDEO:

“American Pastoral” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Close-ups show great detail and for the most part, costume design and make-up design (showing each cast member aging throughout the years/decades) is well-done.  I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts while watching the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“American Pastoral” is presented in English and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is primarily a dialogue-driven soundtrack but there are moments where the surround channels are utilized, such as the bomb explosion and when Swede goes after Rita or gun shots outside of Swede’s business.  But for the most part, this is

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“American Pastoral” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Ewan McGregor.
  • American Pastoral: Adapting an American Classic – (28:01) A featurette about the difficulties of doing an adaptation of “American Pastoral” and how Ewan McGregor came to be the film’s director.  And also interviews with the cast and behind-the-scenes of making the film.
  • Making the American Dream – (17:35) A featurette with interviews with the cast and crew about being part of this film and bringing “American Pastoral” to the big screen.

EXTRAS:

“American Pastoral” comes with a slipcover, DVD and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


I have watched “American Pastoral” twice and despite knowing how there are a number of differences between the Pulitzer Prize winning book and the film adaptation, I can’t help but say that this film started to grow on me.

As many of us grew up watching ’50s television shows about the perfect nuclear family and whenever there is trouble, people learn from their mistakes and it’s always a happy ending.

I found “American Pastoral” to be a film that really captivated me because of perception that the most popular athlete dating a beauty queen and having inherited his father’s glovemaking business and is financially wealthy makes the Levov family “perfect”.

It’s anything but as this couple who grew up during a time when America seemed wonderful and there were advances in technology and despite the politics and tension with Russia, for the most part, the world seemed much friendlier until the turmoil of the 1960’s rolled in.

The death of JFK, the Vietnam War and a time where people disapproved their government and wanted to make their voices heard.

And seeing how things are going on in today’s society, in someways, the film is relevant because radicalism and anger towards the government is on the forefront and it shows how families who felt they raised their children right, have no control of the life their children may leave when they become obsessed with a certain ideology.

The film deals with this perfect couple who must deal with the consequences after their beloved daughter, who they see her growing up to be more opinionated and then radicalized, blowing up the local post office and gas station, killing a man, a husband, a father.  And now their daughter is missing and both Swede and his wife Dawn, not only feel guilt, there are questions of why their daughter is gone, would she be capable of killing anyone, blowing up property and in essence, becoming a domestic terrorist.

I think in certain moments of the film, there were scenes that stood in my head as the wife of the man who was killed tells the Lenov’s that despite she losing her husband and her children losing their father, she feels bad for them because they still maintain their family.  The family will continue as it had before.  But tells the Lenov’s that their family will never be the same.

And we see how the couple grow up through the years, not knowing what happened to their girl.  Swede can’t forget his daughter and his marriage seems incomplete without his family, without his daughter Merry who he has been searching for, awaiting any clue that may lead him to her.

And as years pass, a mysterious woman shows up out of nowhere, offering Swede a chance to find his daughter and that she knows where she is.

I found the film to be smartly written and the film’s message to be powerful.  And I say this as a person who has never read the book.  I think like many adaptations of a famous book, if it deviates too far from the original source, it’s enough to make those who were entertained by the book to easily criticize the film.

In this case, I’m not in the position to discuss the differences between book and film but I do know that I found the film to be real, devastating, tragic and heartbreaking but yet watching how time has transpired for the couple, sympathize with their grief of not knowing what happened to their daughter and if she is capable of being a murderer.

The Blu-ray release features very good picture quality with a lossless soundtrack that is appropriate for the film’s dialogue and music-driven soundtrack.  And you also get a few special features included as well.

Overall, the directorial debut of actor Ewan McGregor was no doubt a wonderful first film. With “American Pastoral”, taking on such a challenging job as a director and the film’s main protagonist, McGregor takes Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize novel and is able to make it his own, with a few changes compared to the original source.  I couldn’t help but being captivated by the film and seeing how certain actions mirrors today’s society and I found the film to be fascinating, though-provoking and heartbreaking.

“American Pastoral” is a film worth checking out!

 

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USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I did enjoy “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” and how the film honors the survivors and the USS Indianapolis’ fallen crew.  But while the film was created with good intentions, it could have been much better.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Saban Films LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 131 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (War-Related Images and Brief Language)

RELEASE DATE: January 24, 2017


Directed by Mario Van Peebles

Written by Cam Cannon, Richard Rionda Del Castro

Produced by Michael Mendelsohn, Richard Rionda Del Castro

Executive Producer: Martin J. Barab, Shanan Becker, Bill Bromiley, Cam Cannon, Charline Cartoux, Timothy Patrick Cavanaugh, Dama Claire, Kristy Eberle, Patricia Eberle, Claiton Fernandes, Vladimir Fernandes, Yan Fisher-Romanovsky, Raymond Hamrick, Sean Leigh Hart, Frederico Lapenda, Mariusz Lukomski, Dylan McGinty, Balan Melarkode, Euzebio Munhoz Jr. Robert Nau, Michael Nilon, Lindsey Roth, Ness Saban, Jamal Sannan, William W. Wilson III

Associate Producer: Natalie Perrotta

Music by Laurent Eyquem

Cinematography by Andrzej Sekula

Edited by Robert A. Ferretti

Casting by Melissa Wulfemeyer-Valenzuela

Production Design by Joe Lemmon

Art Direction by Mark A. Terry

Set Decoration by Jennifer Lemmon

Costume Design by Patrick O’Driscoll


Starring:

Nicolas Cage as Captain McVay

Tom Sizemore as Mcwhorter

Thomas Jane as Lt. Adrian Marks

Matt Lanter as Bama

James Remar as Admiral Parnell

Brian Presley as Waxman

Yutaka Takeuchi as Hashimoto

Johnny Wactor as Connor

Adam Scott Miller as D’Antonio

Cody Walker as West

Callard Harris as Lt. Standish

Craig Tate as Garrison

Joey Capone as Alvin

Emily Tennant a Clara

Shamar Sanders as Quinn

Max Ryan as Lt. Chuck Gwinn

Patrice Cols as Jean-Pierre


Nicolas Cage, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane star in the harrowing tale of real-life American heroes shipwrecked in shark-infested waters in the waning days of World War II.


From filmmaker/actor Mario Van Peebles (“New Jack City”, “Ali”, “Baadasssss!”) and writers Cam Cannon (“Rage”, “A Haunting at Silver Falls”, “The Prince”) and Richard Rionda Del Castro (“Rage”, “Heist”) comes the American war film, “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage”.

Based on the true story of the USS Indianapolis, a Portland-class heavy cruiser who are coming back after a mission to deliver parts for “Little Boy”, the first atomic bomb used in combat.  The USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by the Imperial Japanese Navy I-58 submarine and the heavy cruiser would sink in 12 minutes. And of the 1,196 crewmen aboard, 300 crewmen went down with the ship.  Leaving 900 crewmen floating with very few lifeboats and no food or water for five days and only 317 crewmen would survive the ordeal.

The film would star Nicolas Cage (“Leaving Las Vegas”, “National Treasure”, “Moonstruck”), Tom Sizemore (“Saving Private Ryan”, “Black Hawk Down”, “Heat”), Thomas Jane (“The Mist”, “Deep Blue Sea”, “Dreamcatcher”), Matt Lanter (“90210”, “Disaster Movie”), James Remar, Brian Presley (“General Hospital”, “Port Charles”, “Borderland”), Yutaka Takeuchi (“East Side Sushi”), Johnny Wactor (“Siberia”, “Goldenbox”), Adam Scott, Cody Walker (“In the Rough”), Callard Harris (“Innocent”, “Letter Never Sent”, “The Real St. Nick”), Craig Tate (“12 Years a Slave”, “Buffalo”) and Emily Tennant (“Juno”, “Mr. Young”, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”).

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate.

The film begins with the introduction of a few of the crewman of the USS Indianapolis and their commander Captain Charles McVay (portrayed by Nicolas Cage).  The crew are on their way back to sea after completing a top secret mission to deliver parts of the atomic bomb.

On July 30, 1945, as the crew are patrolling the Philippine Sea, the ship is torpedoed and sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) submarine I-58 which immediately takes 300 crewman to the bottom of the Philippine Sea. Leaving the rest of the crewman who climbed out of the ship to be stranded at sea for five days without food and water in shark-infested waters.

But after the crewmen are rescued, Captain Charles B. McVay III would have to face charges in court.

Also, the story focuses on two childhood friends, Indianapolis diver Brian Smithwick (portrayed by Matt Lanter) and Waxman (portrayed by Brian Presley) and both men fall for Clara (portrayed by Emily Tennant).  Stuck in sea, will these men ever get back home alive?


VIDEO:

“USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). For a 15-year-old film, “xXx” looks great in HD. The film features vibrant outdoor scenes. I didn’t notice any dust or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  Dialogue and musical score is crystal clear as surround channels are reversed to the chaos inside the cruiser and on the ocean.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” comes with the following special feature:

  • The Making of USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage -(33:11) A featurette with interviews with the cast and crew.

EXTRAS:

“USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” comes with an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


Many people who have watched World War II films have been aware of the various real life tragedies of soldiers who died in battle.  And as Pearl Harbor is often discussed of American tragedies in the ocean, the story of the USS Indianapolis is well-known thanks to the reference in the 1975 film, “Jaws”.

While the story of the USS Indianapolis’ sinking and aftermath have received several adaptations, the most recent adaptation “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” directed by Mario Van Peebles goes to show how the top secret mission that the crew undertook, the sinking of the USS Indianapolis but also the political ramifications of the USS Indianapolis sinking and the huge loss of life and despite the S.O.S. messages from the USS Indianapolis being received by three stations, because of fear of Japanese submarines, no one bothered to go out and save the crew.

And how the survivors were “accidentally” discovered and because the military couldn’t not be seen as being reckless or to be blamed, someone had to be blame for the large loss of life and Captain Charles B. McVay III was the man to be blamed and was eventually court-martialed and convicted.

And because of that, McVay took the full brunt from the families of the deceased.  And while McVay’s sentence was remitted and he was restored to active duty and would eventually retire as a rear admiral several years later, the damage was already done.

The guilt that families put on McVay would lead to McVay killing himself two decades later at the age of 70.

It wasn’t until 2000 that that US Congress passed a resolution to Captain McVay exonerated the loss of Indianapolis but it was not until 2001 that the Secretary of the Navy ordered McVay’s record to be cleared of all wrongdoing.

But needless to say, several hundred Naval ships were lost in combat and McVay was the only captain to be court-martialed for the sinking and he was seriously screwed over.

While the film does what it can to restore McVay’s honor and showing how he was screwed over by politicians and the military, the film wanted to show how deadly the seas were due to the sharks that surrounded the area due to the dead bodies.  The shark attacks is noted as the largest shark attack on humans.  While most of it was well-done, there were some scenes that made the movie seem like a cheap shark infestation movie when the film shows closeups of the sharks.  And the film suffers a little when it comes to details of the period and trying to capture the 1940’s.

But I think where the script tends to fail is when it tries to create a storyline among two friends vying for a girl.  As the film tries to incorporate many characters, I felt the film should have focused more on the camaraderie of the crew and to keep any romantic element non-exisited because there is only so much you can integrate in this war film.  The writers tried to add a lot of things involving many characters but it wasn’t really needed at all and it hampered the overall plot a bit.

Nicolas Cage did a good job playing the role of Captain McVay and there is a pivotal scene when McVay confronts Hashimoto (portrayed by Yutaka Takeuchi), the man responsible for the sinking of the USS Indianapolis but also the man who helped McVay, testifying that there was no way that the USS Indianapolis could have avoided the torpedo attack.And decades later, in reality, Hashimoto would be fighting for McVay’s exoneration in 1999 before his death in 2000.

I also felt that the interviews with survivors included at the end of the film was also a good to see but also to see the photos of the actors and their real life counterparts.

If anything, director Mario Van Peebles and the film crew did a fine job of creating film that honored the crew of the USS Indianapolis.  When kept to the factual moments, when kept to the tragedies and unfortunate situations that happened to Captan McVay, the story works very well.  Stray away from that and that’s when the storyline suffers and “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” is a film that tries to incorporate too much for its own good.

Overall, I did enjoy “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” and how the film honors the survivors and the USS Indianapolis’ fallen crew.  But while the film was created with good intentions, it could have been much better.

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xXx – 15th Anniversary Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

For those who want to prepare themselves for the theatrical release of “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” will no doubt want to watch “xXx – 15th Anniversary Edition”. Action-packed from beginning to end, the original “xXx” film would eventually catapult Vin Diesel to action hero status! If you love adrenaline-pumping, action films, “xXx – 15th Anniversary Edition” is recommended.

Images courtesy of © 2002 Revolution Studios. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: xXx – 15th Anniversary Edition

FILM RELEASE: 2002

DURATION: 124 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Arabic, bulgarian, Chinese (Traditional), Croation, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovene, Thai, Turkish

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Revolution Studios

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: January 10, 2017


Directed by Rob Cohen

Written by Rob Cohen

Produced by Neal H. Mortiz

Executive Producer: Vin Diesel, Todd Garner, Arne Schmidt, George Zakk

Co-Producer: Creighton Bellinger, Derek Dauchy

Associate Producer: David Minkowski, Matthew Stillman

Music by Randy Edelman

Cinematography by Dean Semler

Edited by Chris Lebenzon, Joel Negron, Paul Rubell

Casting by Kate Dowd, Ronna Kress

Production Design by Gavin Bocquet

Art Direction by Phil Harvey, Jonathan Lee, Brad Ricker

Set Decoration by Marina Morris, Hilton Rosemarin, Chris L. Spellman

Costume Design by Sanja Milkovic Hays


Starring:

Vin Diesel as Xander Cage

Asia Argento as Yelena

Marton Csokas as Yorgi

Samuel L. Jackson as Agent Augusts Gibbons

Michael Roof as Toby Lee Shavers

Richy Muller as Milan Sova

Werner Daehn as Kirill

Petr Jaki as Kolya

Jan Pavel Filipensky as Viktor

Tom Everett as Senator Dick Hotchkiss

Danny Trejo as El Jeffe

Chris Gann as T.J.


From Revolution Studios and and Sony Pictures, Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is a notorious underground thrill-seeker who, until now, has been deemed untouchable by the law. But when crack NSA Agent Gibbsons convinces Cage to infiltrate a ruthless Russian crime ring, this new breed of secret agent (codename: XXX) takes down the enemies of justice with a vengeance in this high-octane, turbo-charged thrill-ride from the acclaimed director of The Fast and the Furious. Synopsis for 15th Anniversary Edition Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is a notorious underground thrill-seeker who, until now, has been deemed untouchable by the law. But when crack NSA Agent Gibbons convinces Cage to infiltrate a ruthless Russian crime ring, this new breed of secret agent (codename: xXx) takes down the enemies of justice with a vengeance in this high-octane, turbo-charged thrill-ride from the acclaimed director of The Fast and the Furious.


With the success of “The Fast and the Furious” back in 2001, director Rob Cohen and actor Vin Diesel reunited for the action film “xXx” which earned over $277.4 million in the box office.

Unfortunately, for the sequel, both Cohen and Diesel dropped out due to prior commitments and “xXx: State of the Union” would feature Ice Cube as the next Triple X agent.  With Diesel’s character Xander Cage, supposedly been killed.

But with the new film “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” slated for release in theaters in January 2017, Vin Diesel returns.

The original “xXx” was written and directed by Rob Cohen (“The Fast & Furious”, “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story”, “Stealth”, “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”) and would star Vin Diesel (“The Fast & Furious” films, “The Chronicles of Riddick” films), Asia Argento (“Land of the Dead”, “Marie Antoinette”), Marton Csokas (“Lord of the Rings” films, “The Equalizer”), Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction”, “The Hateful Eight”, “The Avengers” and “Captain America” films) and Michael Roof (“The Dukes of Hazard”, “Black Hawk Down”).

And with the 15th anniversary of “xXx”, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will be releasing “xXx – 15th Anniversary Edition” on Blu-ray.

The film begins with Xander Cage (portrayed by Vin Diesel), an extreme sports professional and host of his own TV show, being arrested for stealing and destroying a California senator’s car as an act of protest.

NSA Agent Augustus Eugene Gibbons (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson) puts Cage through two major tests (a diner robbery and to escape a drug cartel’s plantation in Colombia).  As Cage passes the test, Gibbons tells him that if he takes on a mission for the NSA, his criminal record will be wiped out.

The mission, to infiltrate Anarchy 99, a mercenary group of former Russian soldiers.  And also to find out about this biochemical weapon known as “Silent Night” that has gone missing since the fall of the Soviet Union.  And the reason Xander has been chosen is because he has no ties to the U.S. government.

Cage reluctantly agrees and goes to Prague to meet with the NSA support team which includes a Czech agent named Milan Sova (portrayed by Richy Muller).  But Cage blows Sova’s cover in order to be trusted by Anarchy 99 leader, Yorgi (portrayed by Marton Csokas) and it helps that Yorgi’s brother Kolya (potrayed by Petr Jaki) is a big fan of Xander Cage’s TV show.  But for some reason, Yorgi’s girlfriend, Yelena (portrayed by Asia Argento) looks at him with cold eyes.

As Cage tries to get in closer with the group and obtain data to be sent to NSA Agent Gibbons, can he succeed with this difficult and deadly mission?


VIDEO:

“xXx – 15th Anniversary Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). For a 15-year-old film, “xXx” looks great in HD.  The film features a good amount of grain and outdoor scenes are vibrant, while closeups show great amount of detail.  I didn’t notice any dust or banding issues during my viewing of the film.  If anything, “xXx” looks great on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“xXx – 15th Anniversary Edition” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio,  Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.

As the film is full of action, surround channels take advantage of all action sequences, from the avalanche scene, from the various chase scenes, ambiance at a dance club and so much more.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish, French, Arabic, bulgarian, Chinese (Traditional), Croation, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovene, Thai, Turkish

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“xXx – 15th Anniversary Edition” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with director Rob Cohen.
  • Origins of a Renegade – (6:25) The cast of “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” discuss the original film.
  • xXx: A Filmmakers Diary U.S./Pre-Production – (15:24) Rob Cohen’s discussion of documenting the pre-production phase of the film.
  • xXx: A Filmmakers Diary U.S./Post-Production – (25:25) Rob Cohen’s discussion of documenting the pre-production phase of the film.
  • Diesel Powered – (6:49) Director Rob Cohen talks about Vin Diesel being cast for “xXx” and the cast talks about working with Vin.
  • Visual Effects How Two’s – (3:02) The visual effects supervisor discusses the making of action scenes with the utilization of visual effects such as the avalanche scenes.
  • Deleted Scenes – (15:44) Featuring ten deleted scenes with optional commentary.
  • Starz! On the Set – The Making of xXx – (14:31) Starz! featurette on the making of “xXx”.
  • Agent Shavers’ Gadgets Presentation – (3:54) Michael Roof discusses the gadgets featured in the film.
  • Designing the World of xXx – (14:35) Production designers discuss creating the espionage world of “xXx”.
  • Building Speed: The Vehicles of xXx – (6:55) A featurette about the vehicles used in “xXx” and creating some of the vehicles in 3D.
  • Avalanche Scene – (5:37) Storyboard and final film cut comparison for the avalanche scene.
  • Drug Farm – (5:01) Storyboard and final film cut comparison for the drug farm scene.
  • The End Credit Sequence – Raw and Uncut – (3:32) Featuring the uncut ending sequence.
  • “I Will Be Heard” Music Video by Hatebreed
  • “Adrenaline” Music Video by Gavin Rossdale
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer of “xXx”.

EXTRAS:

“xXx – 15th Anniversary Edition” comes with an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


It’s been over a decade since I last watched “xXx”.  The Rob Cohen film that would elevate Vin Diesel to become an action hero and no doubt, help cement his “cool factor” as a no-nonsense character for all the “Fast and Furious” films.

Rob Cohen and Vin Diesel had a great working relationship at the time and while Vin Diesel would benefit from both Cohen films, surprisingly, Vin Diesel hadn’t done an “xXx” sequel until 2017, with the upcoming theatrical release of “xXx: Return of Xander Cage”.

Watching “xXx”, this was a straight-up adrenaline charged, popcorn action movie.  Featuring insane stunts, creative chase sequences and you can’t help but think that Diesel shown way back then that he is a bonafide action film star.

The film was also fun to watch for Xander Cage’s quick return verbal jabs and no doubt, Cohen making sure that Xander Cage is a different man compared to the role that Diesel is best known for today, as Dominic Toretto in the “Fast & Furious” films.

As the original was driven by its action sequences and no doubt an earlier work of Diesel, as he has improved a lot as an actor since this film was made.  But now that the third “xXx” film is coming out, I’m expecting this newer action film to deliver and see Diesel in a much better developed role and that a solid storyline accompany’s all that action.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and losless audio is also wonderful.  For this 15th Anniversary, you get a special feature titled “Origins of a Renegade” featuring Diesel reminiscing of the past and his co-actors of “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” discussing their memories of the first film.  And all the other special features that were included in the older DVD release are featured on this Blu-ray release.

If you owned the older 2007 Blu-ray release, you probably will not have to upgrade unless you really want to see the newer “Origins of a Renegade” special feature.

Overall, for those who want to prepare themselves for the theatrical release of “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” will no doubt want to watch “xXx – 15th Anniversary Edition”.   Action-packed from beginning to end, the original “xXx” film would eventually catapult Vin Diesel to action hero status!

If you love adrenaline-pumping, action films, “xXx – 15th Anniversary Edition” is recommended.

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The Light Between Oceans (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Derek Cianfrance’s “The Light Between Oceans” is a love story that tests the bonds of true love and difficult decisions made based on the strength of that love. Even though those decisions made by the film’s loving couple, for the sake of their love, is illegal.  Touching, heartbreaking but yet a film full of hope, “The Light Between Oceans” is a film worth checking out!”.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Storyteller Distribution, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Light Between Oceans

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 133 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Description Track, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French

COMPANY: DreamWorks Pictures/Touchstone Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (For Thematic Material and Some Sexual Content)

RELEASE DATE: January 24, 2017


Based on the Novel by M.L. Stedman

Directed by Derek Cianfrance

Written by Derek Cianfrance

Produced by Jeffrey Clifford, David Heyman

Executive Producer: Rosie Alison, Tom Karnowski, Jonathan King, Jeff Skoll

Music by Alexandre Desplat

Cinematography by Adam Arkapaw

Edited by Jim Helton, Ron Patane

Casting by Nikki Barrett, Francine Maisler

Production Design by Karen Murphy

Art Direction by Sophie Nash

Costume Design by Erin Benach


Starring:

Michael Fassbender as Tom Sherbourne

Alicia Vikander as Isabel Graysmark

Rachel Weisz as Hannah Roennfeldt

Florence Clery as Lucy-Grace

Jack Thompson as Ralph Addicott

Thomas Unger as Bluey Smart

Jane Menelaus as Violet Graysmark

Garry McDonald as Bill Graysmark


Lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) and radiant, spirited Isabel (Alicia Vikander) live together in married bliss on a remote, rugged island off the coast of Australia. But their windswept world is turned upside down when Isabel learns that she’s unable to bear a child. One day, a drifting lifeboat washes ashore with a crying baby in it. The dilemma the couple now face will echo far beyond the island, engulfing and irrevocably impacting their world — and that of a stranger (Rachel Weisz) — in a passionate story about love, hope, and a fateful choice.


From filmmaker/writer Derek Cianfrance (“The Place Beyon dthe Pines”, “Blue Valentine”, “Brother Tied”) comes his latest film “The Light Between Oceans”.  An adaptation of M.L. Stedman’s 2012 novel.

An international co-production between the United States, Australia, United Kingdom and New Zealand, the film stars Michael Fassbender (“Inglorious Basterds”, “Prometheus”, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, “X-Men: First Class”), Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”, “The Danish Girl”, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”) and Florence Clery.

The film was released in theaters in September 2016 and now the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures and Touchstone Pictures.

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Disney in January 2017.

The film is set not long after World War I, Tom Sherbourne (portrayed by Michael Fassbender) is a man who was traumatized by the war and despite being called a war hero, he is withdrawn from his surroundings.

Having moved to Western Australia, Tom finds comfort in Isabel Graysmark (portrayed by Alicia Vikander) and both fall in love and eventually marry in 1921.  Tom is hired as a lightkeeper at Janus rock and the two embark as a married couple trying to have children.

Unfortunately, within the three years of marriage, Isabel loses two pregnancies and she becomes depressed that she will never have a child.

But as Isabel mourns in front of the burial site of her babies outside their home, Tom spots a boat from the lighthouse and Isabel hears the cries of a baby.

The two run towards the small boat that has washed up on sea and they find a dead man and inside a baby.  As Isabel goes to change the baby and feeds her, Tom tells her that must alert authorities as part of his job regulations.  But Isabel pleads for Tom to wait until the next morning before calling the authorities.

The following morning, Isabel pleads to Tom not to contact the authorities as the baby would be sent to an orphanage and begs for him to pass the baby as their own.

Knowing the pain that Isabel has been through, Tom agrees and he buries the body and they name the baby, Lucy.

A few years have past and Tom and Isabel have raised Lucy and are planning to have her christened on the mainland.  But Tom spots a woman kneeling in front of a grave.

The woman is named Hannah Roennfeldt (portrayed by Rachel Weisz) and when Tom goes to look at the gravestone, he sees the names of Frank Roennfeldt and his baby daughter Grace Ellen, who were lost at sea on April 26, 1923.  This was the day that Tom and Isabel found the ship with the deceased man and baby girl, who they ended up raising.

Tom is overcome with guilt and feels that Lucy may be Grace and he writes an anonymous letter to Hannah telling her that her husband is dead but her baby is safe and well-cared for.

But as guilt overcomes Tom, how long can he and Isabel pretend to be the real parents of Lucy and will the truth ever come out and Hannah find out the truth of what happened to her husband and child?


VIDEO:

“The Light Between Oceans” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality features wonderful detail for closeups, showcasing the film’s warm colors.  Especially when it showcases the beautiful setting of the area of New Zealand the film was shot.   And for the most part, the film looks wonderful in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Light Between Oceans” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English and Spanish 2.0 Description Audio and Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital. Featuring crystal clear dialogue and music, the film is primarily front and center-channel driven with surround channels for ambiance, such as earlier sequences with a storm or crowd ambiance inside the church.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Light Between Oceans” comes with the following special features:

  • Bringing the Light to Life – (16:46) Interviews with writer/director Derek Cianfrance and the cast of the film discussing the storyline and working with each other.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Derek Cianfrance and Film Studies Professor Phil Solomon.
  • Lighthouse Keeper – (5:40) A featurette about finding the location and a lighthouse that would be the main setting in the film.

EXTRAS:

The Light Between Oceans” comes with a slipcover and a Digital HD code.


Love and the bond between two people.  Some can see that bond as being unbreakable but what if that couple did something for the sake of love, even though what they were doing was illegal?

This is the predicament that couple, Tom and Isabel face in the film “The Light Between Oceans” as Michael Fassbender’s Tom is a World War I hero who is withdrawn and no doubt suffering the major effects of PTSD and has come back home with guilt hanging over him.

The only light that has come to his life was a woman named Isabel, portrayed by Alicia Vikander, with her radiant spirit and together they fall in love and get married. And move to an island where Tom has a new job as the lighthouse’s new lightkeeper.

Unfortunately, as the two want to start having a family, Isabel unfortunately two pregnancies for Isabel has led to loss and tremendous pain for her and all Tom can do is provide support.  But he knows his wife is in tremendous emotional pain, depressed and is suffering from the two losses.

But one day, a ship washes up near their home and inside, a dead man and a crying baby.

And Isabel immediately bonds with the baby and she begs her husband to have them pass the baby off as one of their own and she begs Tom to not call the authorities about the deceased man found on the boat.

For the love of his wife, he decides to go through with it and bury the man and the two raise the baby girl as their own. Giving her all the love and affection that she needs.

A few years pass and as they go to the mainland, Tom finds out that a woman he spots at a cemetery is the wife of the man who is deceased and the mother of the baby that they are raising.

Confronted with overwhelming guilt of seeing a woman mourning her loved one’s death, he can’t help but write her a letter anonymously to let her know that her husband is dead but her baby is very much alive and being taken care of.

But seeing the mother, Hannah (portrayed by the talented Rachel Weisz) in so much pain, how much longer can both Tom and Isabela keep up the lie that their daughter Lucy is not their true daughter and that she is the missing daughter that belongs to Hannah.

A love story about the bond between the two and the difficult choices they must make for the sake of each other, for the sake of the girl they raised and love.

The film is no doubt heartbreaking but also a film of hope, even though “hope” is portrayed in different situations for each character.

The performances by Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz are wonderful but it’s a film that is predictable and I don’t want to say anything more, as it would spoil the film for those interested in watching it.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good as the film features great detail.  Lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and musical score with a few special features included.

Overall, Derek Cianfrance’s “The Light Between Oceans” is a love story that tests the bonds of true love and difficult decisions made based on the strength of that love.  Even though those decisions made by the film’s loving couple, for the sake of their love, is illegal.

Touching, heartbreaking but yet a film full of hope, “The Light Between Oceans” is a film worth checking out!

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The Man Who Fell to Earth – Limited Collector’s Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Nicolas Roeg’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth” may be one of the notable films in the filmmaker’s wonderful oeuvre, but the film also features the debut of David Bowie, as an actor.  A sci-fi cult classic that many fans love and appreciate for the film’s surreal tone, cineaste will no doubt love this Lionsgate 2017 40th Anniversary Blu-ray release.  It’s the definitive Blu-ray version of “The Man Who Fell to Earth – Limited Collector’s Edition” that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Studiocanal Limited. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Man Who Fell to Earth – Limited Collector’s Edition

FILM RELEASE: 1976

DURATION: 139 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:35:1), English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Studio Canal/Lionsgate

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: January 24, 2017


From a novel by Walter Tevis

Directed by Nicolas Roeg

Screenplay by Paul Mayersberg

Produced by Michael Deeley, Barry Spikings

Executive Producer: Si Litvinoff

Associate Producer: John Peverall

Music by John Pillips, Stomu Yamashita

Cinematography by Anthony B. Richmond

Edited by Graeme Clifford

Production Design by Brian Eatwell

Set Decoration by Simon Wakefield

Costume Design by May Routh


Starring:

David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton

Rip Torn as Nathan Bryce

Candy Clark as Mary-Lou

Buck Henry as Oliver Farnsworth

Bernie Casey as Peters

Jackson D. Kane as Professor Canutti

Rick Riccardo as Trevor

Tony Mascia as Arthur

Linda hutton as Elaine

Hilary Holland as Jill

Adrienne Larussa as Helen


Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie) is a humanoid alien who comes to Earth from a distant planet on a mission to take water back to his home planet.


Filmmaker Nicolas Roeg captured the attention of cineaste with his 1971 film “Walk About” and he would follow up the success with his 1973 film “Don’t Look Now”.

Having established himself in the industry, Nicolas Roeg and screenwriter Paul Mayersberg (“Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence”, “Croupier”, “The Last Samurai”) would work on “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, an adaptation of Walter Tevis’ 1963 novel of the same name.

The film would star musician David Bowie (in his first film as an actor), Rip Torn (“Men in Black” films, “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story”, “Marie Antoinette”), Candy Clark (“American Graffiti”, “Zodiac”, “Blue Thunder”), Buck Henry (“Eating Raoul”, “The Player”) and Bernie Casey (“Under Siege”, “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, “Never Say Never Again”).

To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the film, “The Man Who Fell to Earth” will be released in a Limited Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack courtesy of Lionsgate.

The film begins with a humanoid alien named Thomas Newton (portrayed by David Bowie), sent to Earth in order to bring water to his home planet which is dying due to a significant drought.

But because his planet’s technology, he is able to amass a lot of money through patenting groundbreaking technologies for inventions on Earth and becomes the head of the technology-based conglomerate, World Enterprises Corporation.

He hires the well-known patent attorney, Oliver Farnsworth (portrayed by Buck Henry) and hopes he can make more money and amass enough wealth to construct his own space vehicle to ship water back to his home planet.

When Newton revisits New Mexieco, he collapses in the elevator in front of elevator operator, Mary-Lou (portrayed by Candy Clark).

Despite Newton being married, Mary-Lou would have a relationship with Newton and introduces him to popular customs on Earth such as going to church, drinking alcohol and enjoying the pleasures of sex.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Dr. Nathan Bryce (portrayed by Rip Torn), a college professor who tends to have sex with many of his female students.

A womaniser, Nathan grows bored with his job and decides that he will work for World Enterprises as a fuel technician.  But through working with Newton, he starts to become suspicious of him that he installs a hidden X-Ray camera.

And when he takes a picture of Newton with his specialized X-Ray camera, Nathan finds out that Newton is not human but an alien.  And sure enough, what happens when the U.S. government finds out that Newton is an alien?


VIDEO:

“The Man Who Fell to Earth” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). This film features the new 4K restoration by Deluxe London.  The 4K scan of the original negative and followed by a full 4K workflow with the approval of cinematographer Anthony Richmond.

The picture quality features a good amount of grain and this new restoration, I do not see any problems with dust, debris or scratches throughout the film, which is a major plus and definitely better than the 2008 Criterion Collection Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Man Who Fell to Earth” is presented in English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio.  The film features crystal clear dialogue and music which sounds crisp and clear through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Man Who Fell to Earth” comes with the following special features:

  • Interviews – (2:46:01) Featuring interviews with Candy Clark, writer Paul Mayersberg, Cinematographer Tony Richmond, Director Nicolas Roeg, costume designer May Routh, stills phtoographer David James, writer/director and movie fan Sam Taylor-Johnson and producer Michael Deeley.
  • The Lost Soundtracks of the Man Who Fell to Earth – (16:43) A featurette that goes into why David Bowie didn’t do the soundtrack for the film and how Paul Buckmaster became the composer. And also the lost music for the film.
  • David Bowie Interview – French TV 1977 – (8:20) A TV interview from 1977 on French television with David Bowie.
  • Trailer – (2:18) The theatrical trailer for “The Man Who Fell to Earth”.
  • Deleted Scenes – (5:31) Featuring ten deleted scenes (without the post-production CG).

EXTRAS:

“The Man Who Fell to Earth” comes with a slipcover, DVD and UltraViolet code.  Also, the Limited Collectors edition comes with a 72-page bound book, press booklet, four art cards and a mini poster.


With last year’s passing of David Bowie, the release of the 40th Anniversary of “The Man Who Fell to Earth” on Blu-ray will be welcomed by Bowie fans, as the film would be his first film appearance.

And for fans of the film, the 2017 release of “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, they get a film that has received a 4K restoration and a limited edition wiht plenty of swag and newer special features that blows the once-definitive Criterion Collection 2008 Blu-ray release of the cult sci-fi favorite.

A loose adaptation of the original 1963 novel by Walter Tevis, “The Man Who Fell to Earth” may have not been the easiest film to shoot.  From disagreements to the film’s musical soundtrack and according to Bowie, he was stoned during the making of the film but his feelings of alienation made his role of playing an alien in a new world, work to his advantage.

But this was a time of David Bowie, the androgynous musician, who years earlier, captivated music fans with his 1969 hit, “Space Oddity” paired with “Walkabout” and “Don’t Look Now” director Nicolas Roeg.

There is no doubt the film was ahead of its time and a storyline that probably relevant even in today’s modern world with its story being a satire of corporate greed and the self-destruction of a person through sex and alcohol.

It was no doubt a much different sci-fi film when compared to the big budget, sci-fi hit of that same year, Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”.

When I first watched this film, I remember being amazed by David Bowie’s rookie performance but was also surprised by the sheer amount of sex and to see the comparison of the lives of Newton and Nathan play off each other.

But aside from its take on modern society with the film’s characters, no doubt a satirical look at the corruption of society, but I also liked Bowie’s performance for the sake of showcasing his alienation of living among humans and slowly being corrupted courtesy of the people he surrounds himself with.

As for the 2017 Blu-ray release of this film, this is the definitive version to own.  As magnificent as the Criterion Collection’s 2008 Blu-ray release of “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, the picture quality receiving a 4K restoration is a major plus.  And all the interviews from the 2008 Blu-ray release is included, plus newer interviews.

But the biggest attraction to this 40th Anniversary Limited Edition set is the 72-page booklet, essay/articles are also included plus a poster and four postcards.  There is no doubt that Lionsgate went all out with this Blu-ray release and surpassing the 2008 Criterion Collection Blu-ray release, which you will hardly ever hear that ever happening.  But this Lionsgate release is awesome and is the definitive version to own!

Overall, Nicolas Roeg’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth” may be one of the notable films in the filmmaker’s wonderful oeuvre, but the film also features the debut of David Bowie, as an actor.  A sci-fi cult classic that many fans love and appreciate for the film’s surreal tone, cineaste will no doubt love this Lionsgate 2017 40th Anniversary Blu-ray release.  It’s the definitive Blu-ray version of “The Man Who Fell to Earth – Limited Collector’s Edition” that I highly recommend!

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Death Race 2050 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I think it’s great to have a Roger Corman “Death Race” sequel.  A film that maintains elements of the original film.  While the political message resides in each character, “Death Race 2050” is a dark comedy that may not be for everyone.  But for those who enjoyed the original and love Roger Corman B-films, may enjoy G.J. Echternkamp’s “Death Race 2050”.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Death Race 2050

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 1 Hr. and 33 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (1:78:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Espanol and French DTS Digital Surround 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, Espanol and Francais

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: January 17, 2017


Directed by G.J. Echternkamp

Written by G.J. Echternkamp, Matt Yamashita

Produced by Roger Corman

Executive Producer: Julie Corman

Edited by G.J. Echternkamp

Casting by Jan Glaser


Starring:

Manu Bennett as Frankenstein

Malcolm McDowell as Chairman

Marci Miller as Annie Sullivan

Burt Grinstead as Jed Perfectus

Folake Olowofoyeku as Minerva Jefferson

Anessa Ramsey as Tammy

Yancy Butler as Alexis Hamilton

Charlie Farrell as JB

Shanna Olson as Grace Tickle

D.C. Douglas as the voice of Abe

Sebastian Llosa as Steve

Emilio Montero as Pablo Zapata


Legendary filmmaking icon, Roger Corman, is back with his most outrageous film yet in this sensational, action-packed and darkly humorous reboot of the original Death Race 2000! It’s the year 2050 and America is controlled by an all-powerful corporate government ruled by The Chairman (Malcolm McDowell). The masses have been brainwashed with violent virtual-reality entertainment. The event of the year is the Death Race, in which a motley crew of violent drivers compete in a cross-country road race, scoring points for shamelessly running people over and driving each other off the road. The reigning champion and fan favorite, Frankenstein (Manu Bennett), who’s half-man half-machine, wants to take the crown, but his rebel spy co-pilot threatens his legacy.


In 1975, the cult political satire action film “Death Race 2000” directed by Paul Bartel and starring David Carradine, Simone Griffeth and Sylvester Stallone would become a cult film that would entertain generations decade after decade.

A screenplay based on a short story “The Racer” by lb Melchior, the “Death Race” franchise would feature “Death Race”, “Death Race 2″” and “Death Race 3: Inferno”.

While the 2008 remake and sequels were more of an action-packed storylines revolving around the battle of the “Death Race” and the collapse of the economy, the original 1975 was more outlandish but focused on the sport and an agency trying to put an end to the immorality of the death race.

With the release of the 2017 film “Death Race 2050”, the film is considered by producer Roger Corman to be the sequel to the 1975 film.  Wanting to bring back the dark satire and political commentary.

Directed by G.J. Echternkamp (“Hard Candy”, “Frank and Cindy”, “A Necessary Death”) and co-written with Matt Yamashita (“Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda”, “Virtually Heroes”, “Captain Fork”), “Death Race 2050” stars Manu Bennet (“The Hobbit” films, “30 Days of Night”), Malcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”, “Easy A”), Marci Mller (“American Fable”, “Days of Our Lives”), Burt Grinstead (“Eat with Me”, “Written By”), Folake Olowfoyeku (“Modern Family”, “Westworld”), Anessa Ramsey (“The Signal”, “YellowBrickRoad”, “Footloose”).

The film is a direct-to-video film and will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

“Death Race 2050” takes place in a time in which America is still in turmoil and the USA has become a giant corporate conglomerate overseen by the The Chairman (portrayed by Malcolm McDowell).

The people have been brainwashed with virtual reality entertainment and the highly anticipated event that everyone is awaiting for is the Death Race, a cross-country road race in which competitors earn points by running over pedestrians and driving each other off the road.

The legendary racer, Frankenstein (now played by Manu Bennett) is still the man to beat and the half-man, half-machine wants to win again, but he is very suspicious about his co-driver Annie Sullivan (portrayed by Marci Miller).

Meanwhile, the duo face opposition against egotistical and sexually ambiguous Jed Perfectus (portrayed by Burt Grinstead); the angry at White people, Minerva Jefferson (portrayed by Folake Olowofoyeku); a killing self-driving car known as Abe (voiced by D.C. Douglas); the religious fanatic of Saint Elvis Presley named Tammy (portrayed by Anessa Ramsey) and others.

Who will win the Death Race?


VIDEO:

“Death Race 2050” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail,  There is a slight use of cool look for the film but overall picture quality is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Death Race 2050” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Espanol and Francais DTS Digital Surround 5.1.   Featuring crystal clear dialogue and music, the film also has a lot of action, so there is good utilization of the surround channels for the various explosions to car/motorcycle revving heard throughout the film.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Espanol and Francais.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Death Race 2050” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050 – (10:16) Roger Corman and the cast discuss the film.
  • The Look of 2050 – (6:22) A featurette about shooting the film in South America.
  • Cars! Cars! Cars! – (4:33) A featurette about the cars utilized for the film and how each has a unique representation of the characters that drive them.
  • Cast Car Tours – (8:30) The cast member showcases their character’s cars.
  • Deleted Scenes – (5:31) Featuring ten deleted scenes (without the post-production CG).

EXTRAS:

“Death Race 2050” comes with a slipcover, DVD and UltraViolet code.


Roger Corman, the legendary B-movie producer, hit a nerve when he created the 1975 film “Death Parade 2000”.

A film that poked fun on the politics of the era, Corman had felt that the recent “Death Parade” films have strayed far from the original, becoming action-packed films without the political commentary and dark satire.

And so, Corman wanted to create a sequel when an Italian journalist interviewed Corman and talked to him about how “The Hunger Games” was similar to Corman’s original film.  And sure enough, “Death Race 2050” was made.

The film was created before the 2016 Presidential Election and so the film, which is wild, crazy and audacious, Corman put a lot of thought into his characters.  While The Chairman is somewhat of a poke at our new United States President, reading interviews, Corman’s characters for “Death Race 2050” somewhat mirrors situations in today’s world.

Tammy is a character who is a religious fanatic dedicated to Saint Elvis Presley and those who follow the religion will do anything to make sure her vision through violence is carried out.  Tammy is no doubt a character that exhibits terrorist fundamentalism.

Abe, the self-driving car is rather interesting because of the emergence of self-driving cars.  While talking cars have been around as seen in “Knight Rider” and “The Love Bug”, the self-driving car going rogue is no doubt a dig at today’s technological leaning towards self-driving cars.

While the film was made in 2016 and the newer “Death Race” films utilizing technology and violent weaponry, “Death Race 2050” would not be a Corman film without it’s B-film style (with so-so acting) and a combining of old technology with modern technology.

While “Death Race 2000” was no doubt a sci-fi film of its time with fascinating use of violence with political commentary and dark satire, “Death Race 2050” is all over the place.

Being a B-movie, CG explosions look fake, body parts look fake but this is part of what one tends to expect from a Roger Corman film.  Making films with a low budget and making do with what you have.

And whether or not one enjoys the film, it’s all subjective.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good and lossless audio features a good balance of crystal clear dialogue and a rockin’ soundtrack plus a good use of surround use through the film’s action sequences.  And insightful special features on the making of the film and the utilization of the vehicles for the film.

But while the original Roger Corman “Death Race 2000” will be remembered for being audacious and fresh for its time to become a cult favorite.  But there are so many parody films that have come out in the past 40-years and the times have surely changed.  Not just the politics, the economics but also the social aspect but also how political messages are delivered in cinema.

Overall, “Death Race 2050” is audacious, crazy and funny and I enjoyed its poke on today’s modern society.  If anything, the film is an escape from reality.  And one should not watch this film expecting it to be like any of the previous “Death Race” films released in recent years or they may be disappointed.

Overall, I think it’s great to have a Roger Corman “Death Race” sequel.  A film that maintains elements of the original film.  While the political message resides in each character, “Death Race 2050” is a dark comedy that may not be for everyone.  But for those who enjoyed the original and love Roger Corman B-films, may enjoy G.J. Echternkamp’s “Death Race 2050”.

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Pinocchio: The Signature Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Pinocchio: The Signature Collection” is the definitive version of “Pinocchio” on Blu-ray to own!  A timeless classic, “Pinocchio: The Signature Collection” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Pinocchio: The Signature Collection

YEAR OF FILM: 1940

DURATION: 88 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080P High Definition 1:33:1, 1080p High Definition, English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (DTS-HDHR), Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: G

RELEASE DATE: January 31, 2017


Supervising Director: Bill Roberts, Ben Sharpsteen

Sequence director: Norman Ferguson, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney

Produced by Walt Disney

Music by Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith


Featuring the Voices of:

Mel Blank (voice of Cleo, Figaro and Gideon)

Cliff Edwards (voice of Jiminy Cricket)

Dickie Jones (voice of Alexander, Pinocchio)

Christian Rub (voice of Gepetto)

Walter Catlett (voice of Honest John)

Frankie Darro (voice of Lampwick)

Charles Judels (voice of The Coachman/Stromboili)

Evelyn Venable (voice of the Blue Fairy)


Now a part of the celebrated Walt Disney Signature Collection, the timeless story of PINOCCHIO inspires a new generation with its masterful animation, award-winning music, unforgettable characters and exclusive, all-new behind-the-scenes Bonus Extras! With his faithful friend Jiminy Cricket by his side, Pinocchio embarks on fantastic adventures that test his bravery, loyalty and honesty until he triumphs in his quest for his heart’s desire: to become a real boy.


A timeless classic that has been entertaining audiences for over 75 years, Walt Disney’s “Pinocchio” receives the Signature Collection Treatment on Blu-ray.

Released back in 1940 and is a animated musical fantasy film based on the Italian children’s novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi.  The film is also the second animated feature produced by Disney after their successful release of the 1937 animated film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.

The film was a box office success as the two million dollar film would go on to make over $84 million.

“Pinocchio” begins with a wood carving puppet maker named Gepetto (voiced by Christian Rub) creating a wooden puppet of a boy which he names Pinocchio. Living with Gepetto is his pet cat Figaro and his goldfish Cleo but for Gepetto, he dreams that his Pinocchio can come to life.

Meanwhile, a cricket named Jimini Cricket (voiced by Cliff Edwards) stays at Gepetto’s place and watches as the Blue Fairy comes during the night and grants Gepetto’s wish and makes Pinocchio come to life.

Of course, Pinocchio (voiced by Richard Jones) is not to knowledgeable of how people live and what is right and what is wrong but the Blue Fairy chooses Jimini Cricket to become his consciousness and to help steer him to make decisions that are good. And if Pinocchio can prove that he can learn to be good and unselfish, he can become a real boy and Jimini Cricket can get the gold badge that he has desired.

When Gepetto awakes and discovers that his puppet has come alive, Gepetto is overjoyed and surprised that his dream has come true. Very quick to get Pinocchio ready for his new life, Pinocchio’s first goal is to go to school.

But unfortunately, Pinocchio befriends to con men (or animals) J Worthington Foulfellow (voiced by Walter Catlett) and Gideo the cat (voiced by Mel Blanc) who pretend to help Pinocchio and pretend to be his friend and lead him to a different path, despite warnings from Jiminy Cricket.

Pinocchio learns the hard way that not everyone he meets are good people but most of all, he learns a hard lesson about making good and bad choices, lying and eventually, having to make the right choices to save himself from harm.


VIDEO:

So, far the Walt Disney Blu-ray disc animated (as well as theatrical) releases are among the best in picture and audio quality.

“Pinocchio” (1940) is a much older release, this film presented in multiplane Technicolor just looks absolutely fabulous on Blu-ray.

For nearly a year, an expert restoration team digitally scanned 380,334 frames of four and half miles of 71 year-old film negative, cleaning 126,778 frames, realigning each scene, removing dirt, scratches and dust and matching colors to the original cels and backgrounds. The clarity of “Pinocchio” is just amazing and I was just impressed how clean the animation was.

From the details of the backgrounds to the vibrant colors used, picture quality was just spectacular.

AUDIO:

“Pinocchio” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French 7.1 DTS-HDMA and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film features crystal clear dialogue and musical score.

So, for those who have been enchanted with songs such as “When You Wish Upon A Star” to “I’ve Got No Strings”, fans of Disney composer Leigh Harline, Ned Washington and Paul J. Smith are going to enjoy how beautiful the music sounds on their home theater setup. The music from “Pinocchio” earned the film two Oscars in 1941 for “Best Music, Original Score” and “Best Music, Original Song” for “When You Wish Upon a Star” which would become Disney’s anthem.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Pinocchio” comes with the following special features:

  • The Pinnochio Project “When You Wish Upon a Star” – (3:03) Featuring the making of “When You Wish Upon a Star” sung by YouTube music stars JR Aquino, Tanner Patrick and Alex G.  Music by Tanner Patrick and music producer Philippe Saise.
  • When You Wish Upon a Star Music Video – (2:49) Featuring JR Aquino, Tanner Patrick and Alex G.
  • Walt’s Story Meetings: Pleasure Island – (7:14) A voice recreation from the transcript of story meetings preserved by Walt Disney Archives.
  • In Walt’s Words – Pinocchio – (4:48) An audio recording with archived video sources of Walt Disney discussing “Pinocchio”.
  • Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in “Poor Papa” – (5:18) A classic animated short featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary with Leonard Maltin, Eric Goldberg and J.B. Kaufman. A very informative and also enthusiastic commentary in which the three discuss their feelings of the film, what scenes touched them and also some informative facts about the film. The optional video commentary allows people to have a picture-in-picture display in which you can watch the three discuss the film and then also some interviews with the original crew involved with the film.
  • No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio – Witness the behind-the scenes magic that transformed Carlo Collodi’s popular book into a classic animated film. About an hour long and very informative featurette about how the film cost Disney over $2 million to make but the film didn’t do well in the box office until later as the music became a big part of Disney and people started to discover it’s technical, artistic and musical merit and having become a Disney masterpiece.
  • Deleted Scenes – In the Disney vault, storyboards for deleted scenes and an alternate ending were found. Without spoiling any of these, the following scenes are:
    – The story of the Grandfather Tree – Kindly Geppetto tells Pinocchio about the Great Pine Tree from which Pinocchio is descended.
    – In The Belly Of The Whale –
    The most elaborate of Pinocchio’s deleted scenes that remain in the Disney Archives, these recently discovered storyboards reveal a different version of Geppetto inside Monstro.
    – Alternate Ending –
    A recently uncovered set of small storyboard panels reveal plans for a different version of Pinocchio becoming a real boy.
  • The Sweat Box – The Sweatbox was a small projection room at the Disney studio where Walt critiqued story reels, rough animation, and dailies of films in progress with his anxious artists. This piece traces the history of the Sweatbox and brings to life this important part of Walt Disney’s artistic process.
  • Geppettos Then And Now – A look at the art of toymaking as it has evolved into the 21st Century. A fun featurette showcasing those who make toys, those who still carve wooden puppets to those who have created the Wall-E robot toy and I-Sobot.
  • Live Action Reference Footage – Older footage of how live action was used in the film, especially with the movements of Jimini Cricket.
  • “When You Wish Upon a Star” – An music video starring Meaghan Jette Martin (Camp Rock) performing an all-new version of “When You Wish Upon A Star!” 
  • A Wish Come True: The Making of Pinocchio – (5:06) The original making of “Pinocchio” special feature.
  • Storyboard-to-Film Final Comparison – (3:56) Featuring a storyboard segment (shown at the top) and the final animated version shown at the bottom.
  • Song Selection – This section allows the viewer to listen to the music portions from the film.

EXTRAS:

“Pinocchio: The Signature Collection” comes with a slipcover, a DVD version of the film and a Disney Digital HD code.


For those who have never owned “Pinocchio” will surely enjoy this Blu-ray release of “Pinocchio: The Signature Collection”.

A film which many of us grew up with as child and learning about the love between Pinocchio and his creator/father, Geppetto but also learning a major lesson about lying and also promoting Disney’s “Making Your Wish Come True”.

A timeless classic, this film which is over 75-years-old looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray.  And to have a such an important classic animated film released on Blu-ray to look this spectacular is impressive but to go back into the sealed archives of Disney and to find any video or any type of existing artwork or storyboards was quite insightful.

Learning how Walt Disney wanted to immediately change his version of “Pinocchio” from Carlo Collodi’s original 1911 story “avventure de Pinocchio” (which featured an unlikeable, wiseguy Pinocchio and dark stories about abductions and murders) to learning also how strict Walt Disney was in making sure his staff knew what he wanted and did all he can to bring the best out of them.

Now, as a parent, I did watch this film with my child. For those who are not familiar with the classic Disney films, although Disney films are rated G, Disney films from the past versus a Disney film like “Wall-E” or a modern Disney animated film that is generally fine for children will need to know that back then, Walt Disney’s animated films were created for people of all ages and not just children (which was discussed on the commentary).

So, therefore Walt Disney’s first film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” had darker content. Disney’s second film “Pinocchio” has its share of scenes that may make some parents uncomfortable. For example, in one scene, Pinocchio follows a wiseguy who likes to smoke and thus Pinocchio starts smoking a cigar (and of course getting sick by it), scenes with beer drinking and then of course, a scene where the word “jackass” is used a few times. Some may feel the content is inappropriate for their children, so I will leave that up to the parents discretion.

I know the biggest question from Disney fans is whether or not they should splurge on this Blu-ray version if they owned the fantastic 2009 “70th Anniversary Platinum Edition” on Blu-ray.

When it comes to the film and lossless audio, the 70th Anniversary version has the original theatrical soundtrack, the Signature Collection doesn’t, but it offers a French 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack and a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack which the 2009 version didn’t have.

“Pinocchio: The Signature Collection” also comes with four newer special features and the special features are not spread on two Blu-ray discs like the 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition.  The special features are nearly alike with the exception of the lack of inclusion of the video picture-in-picture video commentary and the remote control games that were popular in the late 2000’s.

So, unlike the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Signature Collection” which I did gripe a bit because it had less special features compared to the 2009 Platinum Edition, this time around, there are more special features that come with the “Pinocchio: The Signature Collection”.

So, “Pinocchio: The Signature Collection” is the better version of the two.  So, it is worth upgrading to, if special features are important to you.  Otherwise, I’m sure hardcore Disney animation fans will most likely want to own both Blu-ray versions but for those that are primarily wanting this for the film on HD and don’t care for special features can stick with their 2009 Platinum Edition Blu-ray release.

Overall, “Pinocchio: The Signature Collection” is the definitive version of “Pinocchio” on Blu-ray to own!  A timeless classic, “Pinocchio: The Signature Collection” is highly recommended!

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Queen of Katwe (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe” is an inspirational film but also a commercial Disney film that provides a viewpoint of life outside of the United States and a story so full of hope but also showing the challenges that the poor in Uganda face on a daily basis and how one man has sacrificed a lot in order to help the children in poverty, find meaning in their lives and also bring out the potential they have within. And a young girl who came from a life of poverty, wanting to do better for herself. “Queen of Katwe” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Queen of Katwe

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 124 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:39:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Description Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: PG (For Thematic Elements, An Accident Scene and Some Suggestive Material)

RELEASE DATE: January 31, 2017


Based on the ESPN Magazine Article by Tim Crothers

Directed by Mira Nair

Screenplay by William Wheeler

Produced by John B. Carls, Lydia Dean Pitcher

Executive Producer: Troy Buder, Connor Schell, Dan Silver, Will Weiske

Music by Alex Heffes

Cinematography by Sean Bobbitt

Edited by Barry Alexander Brown

Casting by Dinaz Stafford

Production Design by Stephanie Carroll

Art Direction by Shane Bunce, Jonathan Hely-Hutchinson, Fritz Joubert, Emilia Roux

Set Decoration by Set Buyer, Melinda Launspach, Jeanette Scott

Costume Design by Mobolaji Dawodu


Starring:

Madina Nalwanga as Phiona Mutesi

David Oyelowo as Robert Katende

Lupita Nygong’o as Nakku Harriet

Martin Kabanza as Mugabi Brian

Taryn Kyaze as Night

Ivan Jacobo as Young Richard

Nicolas Levesque as Older Richard

Ronald Ssemaganda as Ivan

Ethan Nazario Lubega as Benjamin

Nikita Waligwa as Gloria

Edgar Kanyike as Joseph

Esther Tebandeke as Sara Katende

Hope Katende as Hope Katende

Philip Luswata as Minister Aloysius

Peter Odeke as Enoch Barumba


“Queen of Katwe” is based on the vibrant true story of a young girl (Madina Nalwanga) from the streets of Uganda whose world changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion. It is a remarkable story of perseverance against all odds that will leave viewers feeling humbled and inspired. According to director Mira Nair, “The triumph of the human spirit is not to weep for what we don’t have but to focus on what we do have and allow that to take us to a place we never imagined possible.”


In 2016, the American biographical sports drama film “Queen of Katwe” from director Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding”, “The Namesake”, “New York, I Love You”) and screenwriter William Wheeler (“The Hoax”, “Ray Donovan”, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”) was released in theaters.

Based on Tim Crothers’ ESPN Magazine 2012 article, the film was optioned by Walt Disney Pictures and the project was developed by Tendo Nagenda, a Walt Disney Studios senior creative executive who lived in the United States but his father, who was from Uganda, moved the family to Nagenda at the age of 12.

Passionate about the film’s protagonist and true story, Nagenda personally selected filmmaker Mira Nair at her home in Uganda.  And from there, Nair and Wheeler would begin to craft an inspirational story on the true life of Phiona Mutesi.

And now, the Blu-ray release of “Queen of Katwe” will be available in January 2017.

The film stars Lupita Nyong’o (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, “The Jungle Book”, “Non-Stop”, “12 Years a Slave”), Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Martin Kabanza, Taryn Kyaze and more.

The film revolves around 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi (portrayed by Madina Nalwanga) who lives with her single mother Nakku Harriet (portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o) and her siblings, which includes her older sister Night (portrayed by Taryn Kyaze) and her brother Mugabi Brian (portrayed by Martin Kabanza).

Phiona and her family lives in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda.  And the family struggles to survive.  She has never went to school and her mother expects the children to earn money to help them pay for rent and earn money for food.

Meanwhile, Robert Katende (portrayed by David Oyelowo) is trying to find an engineering job but for now, he works at a missionary program helping children, as a soccer coach and teaching the children (which he calls “Pioneers”) on how to play chess.

Brian often watches Robert coaching the kids on how to play soccer and he tries to show him and his friend that playing chess, he used his wits to win money. And immediately, Brian is interested in wanting to play.

Seeing this, Phiona would go to the Pioneers building and watch the children play chess.

Robert sees Phiona watching and he encourages her to come and join the children.  But she is immediately bullied by the kids who tease her of being smelly and dirty.

As Robert and the other kids teach Phiona on how to play chess, he sees a job opening for an engineer position and knows that this job will be a great paying job for he and his family if he gets it.

As Phiona and her brother Brian play the game, she starts to learn from playing against him, even though she loses.  As she continues to practice, she starts to beat the other children.

When an Uganda Chess Federation chess competition is coming up, which allows chess players from various schools to compete.  Robert tries to get his children to participate in the competition by meeting with the school chairman.  As the chairman would not allow the children to compete, because they don’t go to school and can’t afford to pay the entrance fee.  But when Robert tells the chairman that if he allows his children to raise money to participate in the chess competition, they can participate.

So, Robert participates in soccer matches in order to make money for the children’s entrance fees.

But when Phiona and Brian’s mother finds out that they are spending time with Robert, she is worried that Robert may be a gambler.  But Robert, tries to convince Harriet that Phiona is very intelligent and Brian has determination that they have the opportunity to go to the best school if they excel in chess.

And so, the Sports Ministry Outreach program get to participate in their first major chess tournament but immediately the kids are taken back when they see a different side of Uganda.  Children dressed in uniforms, going to fine establishments for school and for the first time, having to learn about eating etiquette and eating with eating utensils and seeing the difference between poor and the rich.

But what happens when the children take part in their first major chess tournament?  And how will things fare for Phiona and Brian?


VIDEO:

“Queen of Katwe” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are vibrant and interior scenes are well-lit.  With a colorful pallet and wonderful detail, “Queen of Katwe” looks wonderful on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Queen of Katwe” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Description Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks. The film features crystal-clear dialogue and music. Surround channels are primarily for ambiance.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Queen of Katwe” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Mira Nair.
  • Queen of Katwe: Their Story – (29:37) Behind-the-Scenes of the making of “Queen of Katwe” and the real people that inspired the characters.
  • A Fork, A Spoon & A Knight – (13:14) A short film by Mira Nair about the life of Robert Katende.
  • In the Studio with Alicia Keys – (6:26) Behind-the-scenes with Alicia Keys on the recording of of “Back to Life”.
  • Alicia Keys “Back to Life” Lyric Video – Sing along to Alicia Keys “Back to Life”.
  • Young Cardamom & Hab “#1 Spice” Music Video – The Ugandan hip hop duo’s music video directed by Mira Nair.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring eight deleted scenes and optional introductions by director Mira Nair.

EXTRAS:

“Queen of Katwe” comes with a slipcover and a Disney Movie Rewards code.


“Queen of Katwe” is a Disney film in giving audiences a story of an underdog who came from the slums of Uganda to become a chess phenom.

While the film seems simple, filmmaker Mira Nair, who has lived in Uganda, gives viewers the opportunity to see Uganda through the characters of coach/mentor Robert Katende and the young and intelligent chess phenom, Phiona Mutesi.

From Robert’s storyline, we get to see how this young man grew up living in the bushes, losing his mother and being poor to become educated, head of his IT class and has the potential of becoming a successful engineer.  But yet, he knows that with his teaching and mentoring, he is helping children who grew up in the slum with the opportunity to be something better.

Not by teaching soccer, but teaching chess and when he discovers Phiona, a 10-year-old who not only picks up quickly on how to play chess, but sees how she strategizes and sees ahead of how she can win the game of chess against her competitors.  She is intelligent and Robert feels he can help her, find her true potential.

The film is inspirational but it’s also a fascinating look at life of these children who live in the slums, the dangers they face, but also what happens when the children are taken out of their environment and see how people in Uganda, who go to school, have money, are living.  And how they have culture shock but also seeing for the first time, the difference between the poor and the rich.

But while Phiomina is able to accomplish a lot in her young age, her story is still continuing as she just graduated and prepares herself for college. And one can only hope that life for Phiomina continues to get better and that she is able to achieve her goals, not just for the game of chess but also in life and providing a good life with her and the family.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic. Lossless audio is primarily dialogue and music-driven.  While special features are numerous with wonderful and insightful featurettes, audio commentary, music videos and more.

Overall, Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe” is an inspirational film but also a commercial Disney film that provides a viewpoint of life outside of the United States and a story so full of hope but also showing the challenges that the poor in Uganda face on a daily basis and how one man has sacrificed a lot in order to help the children in poverty, find meaning in their lives and also bring out the potential they have within.  And a young girl who came from a life of poverty, wanting to do better for herself.

“Queen of Katwe” is recommended!

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

January 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Snowden” may be a tame film from filmmaker Oliver Stone but it’s a film that is entertaining, insightful and an eye-opener. But how you feel about Edward Snowden after watching the film, may you feel that he is a traitor or hero? That is subjective to the viewer. But yet, “Snowden” is a film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2016 NEXT ENTERTAINMENT WORLD & REDPETER FILM. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Train to Busan

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 118 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: January 17, 2017


Directed by Sang-ho Yeon

Screenplay by Sang-ho Yeon

Produced by Yuji Ishida, Genki Kawamura

Music by Shiro Sagisu, Shiro Washizu

Cinematography by Shoji Ehara

Edited by Yusuke Ishida

Production Design by Takeshi Shimizu

Costume Design by Shin’Ichi Mita


Starring:

Yoo Gong as Seok Woo

Soo-an Kim as Soo-an

Yu-mi Jung as Sung Geyong

Dong-seok Ma as Sang Hwa

Woo-sik Choi as Young Gook

Sohee as Jin-hee

Eui-sung Kim as Yong-Suk

Gwi-hwa Choi as Homeless Man


TRAIN TO BUSAN is a harrowing zombie horror-thriller that follows a group of terrified passengers fighting their way through a countrywide viral outbreak, trapped on a suspicion-filled, blood-drenched bullet train ride to the Safe Zone…which may or may not still be there.


From filmmaker Sang-ho Yeon, known for directing the animated films “The King of Pigs”, “The Fake” and the zombie infestation animated film “Seoul Station”.

In 2016, the live action zombie apocalypse horror film “Train to Busan” was written and directed by Sang-ho Yeon and stars Yoo Gong (“Silenced”, “The Age of Shadows”), Soo-an Kim (“Gyeongju”, “Mad Sad Bad”), Yu-mi Jung (“Our Sunhi”, “In Another Country”, “Silenced”), Dong-seok Ma (“The Good, The Bad the Weird”, “Nameless Gangster”, “One on One”), Sohee (“Hellcats”), Eui-sung Kim (“Hill of Freedom”, “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon”, “Architecture 101”) and Woo-sik Choi (“Set Me Free”, “Big Match”, “Secretly, Greatly”).

Th film was premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and set a record for the film being viewed with over 10 million theatergoers.  Sang-ho Yeon’s animated film “Seoul Station” was released a month after “Train to Busan” and serves as the animated prequel to the film.

And now “Train to Busan” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well go USA Entertainment.

The film revolves around Seok-woo (portrayed by Yoo Gong), a divorced hedge fund manager who is always working and never there for his young daughter, Soo-an (portrayed by Soo-an Kim).  He buys her a Nintendo Wii, but doesn’t realize he bought that gift for her already.

All she wanted is to go to Busan, so she can see her mother.  And each time her father promises, unfortunately his work gets in the way.

But Seok-woo decides to grant his daughter her wish and takes her on the train to Busan.  But right when they are about to leave, a sickly woman enters the train right before it departs.

Also aboard the train is Sang-hwa (portayed by Ma Dong-seok) and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong (portrayed by Jung Yu-mi), a high school baseball team which includes Young Gook (portrayed by Woo-sik Choi) and the girl that likes him, Sohee (portrayed by Jin-hee), a selfish businessman named Yong-suk and others.

When a train attendant sees the sickly woman and goes to help her, it is revealed that the woman is infected and turns into a zombie.  She bites the attendant and this triggers a zombie train reaction as people that are bitten and infected turn into zombies and now the train becomes a hub of zombie activity and survivors try to survive on the train to Busan.  But will they ever get to Busan?


VIDEO:

“Train to Busan” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and interior scenes inside the train are well-lit.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Train to Busan” is presented in Korean and English dub 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The series features crystal clear dialogue and a lot of intense moments of chaos, from fights with the zombie, screaming and crying as ambiance but there are major action sequences with train derailments and more.  The lossless soundtrack is very good for this film.

I also watched the film with its English dub and I have to say, that although I do not watch Asian cinema with English dub tracks, I wanted to see how the voice acting was and if anything improved with English dubbing for Asian cinema and sure enough, it’s one of the better English dubs I’ve listened to and well-acted.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Train to Busan” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – (13:01) Featuring the Making of “Train to Busan”
  • That’s a Wrap – (4:34) Final scene and interviews with the director and cast.
  • Trailer – “Train to Busan” theatrical trailer

EXTRAS:

“Train to Busan” comes with a slipcover.


I have watched a fair share of zombie apocalypse horror films and you often run into films that feature a protagonist going in hero mode taking on the zombies or pretty much trying to figure out which survivors will make it to the end of the film.

“Train to Busan” is the latter, but instead of being banal like any other zombie film, this film adds an emotional component as the protagonist is a workaholic father who is never there for his daughter, but for her birthday, promises to take her to see her mother in Busan.

And as the father and daughter take the train, all hell breaks loose when an infected woman sneaks aboard and bites the train attendant, who then becomes infect and not long after, the whole train becomes infected with zombies and survivors try to stay alive and outwit the zombies, if at all possible.

You have Yoo Gong in the starring role as Seok Woo, the workaholic father and fund manager who is trying to be there for his daughter but never could make it to any of her classroom festivities or birthday due to his work.  So, for his daughter’s birthday wish of wanting to see her mother, at least he could do that for her and accompany her to Busan by train.

The father and daughter chemistry between Yoo Gong and young actress Soo-an Kim is well-done but most importantly, far too often, you see a young actress who can deliver the most emotional, devastating scenes and Soo-an Kim is a young girl who delivers with pure emotion.

Also, starring in the film is Dong-seok Ma as the big and bulky Sang Hwa.  He may come off abrasive but he is a loving husband to his pregnant wife Sung Geyong (portrayed by Yu-mi Jung).

Sang Hwa is the most athletic of the men in the film and with his hulking presence and sometimes rude and other times humorous, he becomes a character that many want to root for.

But of course, you have your characters who are true jerks and with an apocalyptic horror film, you always have to have the one jerk who cares about no one but themselves and that is Yong-Suk (portrayed by Eui-sung Kim).

Needless to say, there are some decisions made by certain characters that may infuriate the viewer or make them scratch their head of why the character did what they did but every zombie apocalypse storyline always has to have a jerk and bad decision making people in the mix.

But I really enjoyed “Train to Busan” as the film is no doubt one of the best zombie apocalypse films I have watched from Asian cinema. And I have to say that as a zombie film period, it’s full of adrenaline, surprises and you really are captivated by the film and keeping you on the edge of your seat of which person or people survive and make it to the end of the film.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is very good as outdoor scenes are vibrant, close-ups are also well-done with great clarity.  Lossless audio is also very good and comes with both a Korean and English lossless track.  And you get two short special features as well.

Overall, the Korean film “Train to Busan” may be one of the better zombie apocalypse horror films ever made in Asian cinema.  Pulse-pounding action, well-written storyline and interesting characters, Sang-ho Yeon’s “Train to Busan” is highly recommended!

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