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It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“It Happened One Night” is a romantic comedy classic that must be watched by cinema fans interested in learning about the career of Frank Capra or watching a historically significant film starring both Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. But also for any fans of Screwball comedy or romantic comedies in general. This Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection is no doubt the definitive version of the film to own! Highly recommended!

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

TITLE: It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736

YEAR OF FILM: 1934

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, English Monaural, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: November 28, 2014

Directed by Frank Capra

Screenplay by Robert Riskin

Based on the Short Story by Samuel Hopkins Adams

Executive Producer: Harry Cohn

Produced by Frank Capra

Cinematography by Joseph Walker

Edited by Gene Havlick

Art Direction by Stephen Goosson

Costume Design by Robert Kalloch

Starring:

Clark Gable as Peter

Claudette Colbert as Ellie

Walter Connolly as Andrews

Roscoe Karns as Shapeley

Jameson Thomas as Westley

Alan Hale as Danker

Arthur Hoyt as Zeke

Blanche Friderici as Zeke’s Wife

Charles C. Wilson as Gordon

Opposites attract with magnetic force in this romantic road-trip delight from Frank Capra, about a spoiled runaway socialite (Claudette Colbert) and a roguish man-of-the-people reporter (Clark Gable) who is determined to get the scoop on her scandalous disappearance. The first film to accomplish the very rare feat of sweeping all five major Oscar categories (best picture, best actor, best actress, best director, and best screenplay), It Happened One Night is among the most gracefully constructed and edited films of the early sound era, packed with clever situations and gags that have entered the Hollywood comedy pantheon and featuring two actors at the top of their game, sparking with a chemistry that has never been bettered.

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“It Happened One Night”, the 1934 award winning film that would usher in a genre of  romantic comedies known as the “Screwball Comedy”.  It was the film that would set the stage for filmmaker Frank Capra and would lead him on the path of more Academy Awards and hit films, it would earn screenwriter Robert Riskin an Academy Award and it would be a film that would earn Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert an Academy Award. In fact, “It Happened One Night” would win all five major Academy Awards, a feat. that would not be accomplished until 40 years later.

It was a film that generated excitement during its time and would be so popular that the film would stay in theaters for years after it premiered.

But surprisingly, “It Happened One Night” was a film that was almost never made.

For Frank Capra and Robert Riskin, the two were heading out to work on projects until Capra was told by Columbia studio executive Harry Cohn that he had to work on a film and he would have to work on the film “It Happened One Night” (a film based on Samuel Hopkins Adams short story “Night Bus”) with a production schedule that would last around four weeks.

Before Columbia was a major film studio, it was part of the “poverty row” (low-budget film studios) and for the major studios, in the effort to control unruly actors who ask for a pay raise or had contractual issues, these talent would be loaned to “poverty row” as part of the actor’s punishment (often called “banished to Siberia”).

And for Clark Gable, his problems with MGM’s L.B. Mayer led him to be punished and sent to Columbia to be part of Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night”.

As for actress Claudette Colbert, she had no interest in shooting the film, as she was more interested in vacationing in Sun Valley and asked for a lot of money ($50,000 which was a lot at the time) to shoot the film in four weeks.  Thinking that there was no way Columbia would pay for her to star in a film for that much, she figured that there was no chance that she would be hired.  But to her chagrin, Cohn agreed to her demand and “It Happened One Night” would eventually become a film.

After shooting the film, Colbert was quoted as saying “I’ve just finished the worst picture in the world”.

And to everyone’s surprise, Columbia would have a hit on their hands.  So much excitement that even the film critics couldn’t understand how America has warmed up to this film.

But “It Happened One Night” would eventually become a classic romantic comedy, the beginning of Screwball Comedy but most of all, establish in cinema a style that would best be known as a Frank Capra film.

In 1993, “It Happened One Night” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  And in 2013, the film would receive restoration.

And now, the Capra classic, “It Happened One Night” has received the Criterion Collection treatment and will be released in November 2014 on Blu-ray and DVD.

“It Happened One Night” is a film that begins with Ellen “Ellie” Andrews (portrayed by Claudette Colbert) in a heated argument with her wealthy father, Alexander (portrayed by Walter Connolly).  Ellie had eloped with pilot and fortune-hunter “King” Westley (portrayed by Jameson Thomas) and her father wants the marriage annulled.

Upset with her father, Ellie jumps off her father’s boat and runs away by boarding a bus from Florida to New York City, where she can be closer to King.

But while in the boat, she meets a former newspaper reporter named Peter Warne (portrayed by Clark Gable), a brash man who has a problem with the wealthy and is not afraid to tell people how he feels.

Noticing Ellie is trying to evade her father, he tells her that if she gives him an exclusive story about her trying to reunited with King, he won’t tell her father where she is.  If she refuses, he will call him immediately.  And of course, Ellie agrees to his demands.

But as Ellie has no money, she relies on Peter for her trip to New York City.  And the two must endure a road trip with not much money and find a way to get to their destination.  But can these two complete opposites stand in being with each other during this road trip?

VIDEO:

“It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as white and grays are well-contrast while black levels are nice and deep. The film features a good layer of grain and the clarity of the film on Blu-ray showcases the detail of the film in high definition. I did not notice any damage to the film.

Comparing to the original DVD releases that I’ve had, clarity is evident.  Sharpness was evident, along with the black levels which were inky and deep.  There is a good amount of grain throughout the entire film and no doubt, this is the definitive version of “It Happened One Night” in terms of picture quality!

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from a 35mm safety composite fine-grain made from the original nitrate negative and a 35mm nitrate print. The digital restoration was performed by the Prasad Group in Chennai, India.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736″ is presented in English LPCM 1.0. The monaural soundtrack is clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original nitrate optical soundtrack and a 35mm nitrate print. The soundtrack was restored by Sony Pictures, with additional restoration by the Criterion Collection. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX 3.”.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736″ comes with the following special features:

  • Frank Capra Jr. Remembers…”It Happened One Night” - (11:16) A 1999 interview with Frank Capra Jr. discussing his father and the origins of “It Happened One Night”.
  • Screwball Comedy? - (38:36) Film critics Molly Haskell and Phillip Lopate discuss “It Happened One Night” and if it is a screwball comedy.
  • Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House – (12:03) A 1921 silent short (Capra’s first film) based on Rupyard Kipling’s poem “The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House”.  Featuring a new score composed and performed by Donald Sosin.
  • Frank Capra’s American Dream – (1:36:02) A 1997 documentary about Frank Capra directed by Ken Bowser and hosted by Ron Howard.  Featuring many film historians, actors and directors who were influenced by Capra’s work.
  • AFI’s Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Frank Capra – (59:11) The American Film Institute presented its 10th lifetime achievement award to director Frank Capra in 1982.  This version is a slightly edited television version of the AFI program.
  • Trailer – (1:24) The original theatrical trailer for “It Happened One Night”.

EXTRAS:

“It Happened One Night – The Criterion Collection #736″ comes with a poster-sized insert with the essay “All Aboard!” by Farrah Smith Nehme on one side and production credits on the other side.

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A film that was never expected to be a huge hit for Columbia, “It Happened One Night” was a film that would captivate audiences for its romantic comedy storyline but also for audiences seeing a side of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert that they have never seen before.

“It Happened One Night” also benefited from the fact that it was one of the last romantic comedies created in 1934 before the MPAA enforced the 1930 production code later that year.

It was a film with many scenes to remember.  From the dunking donuts scene, the sexual innuendo without the two characters having to engage in anything intimate onscreen, the bus ride as everyone sings “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze”.

And of course, women saw Clark Gable’s bare chest, men saw the sexy leg of Claudette Colbert, but it was the storyline of complete opposites having to be together during a road trip.

As the character Peter Warne is set on his own ways, not caring about money, nor caring for spoiled brats… a reference to Ellie, the daughter of the wealthy Alexander Andrews and it’s a life of luxury that she only knows.  But while on this road trip with Peter, she exposed to another life, a life with no money, a life of seeing people who were hurt by the Great Depression and people struggling to get by.  But most importantly, learning a lot about life through Peter and Peter, in his way, his flippant style of trying to knock down Ellie from her high horse.

This is an important distinction of the film because it was released when families and pretty much the entire nation were trying to heal from the Depression, we have a film that was anti-money or anti-wealth.  About seeing life through those who struggle, in this case Peter Warne, out-of-a-job and willing to spend time with the Heiress in hopes that it will earn him a job.  But who knew that these two complete opposites, would find some love along the way.

So, there is so much to love about the story and enjoy the characters of “It Happened One Night”.  It was the film that introduced me to screwball comedies, the film that would introduce me to “poverty row” films, the film that would introduce me to the work of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert many years ago.  But most importantly, lead me to the path of discovering more wonderful films from Frank Capra.

As for this Criterion Collection release, this Blu-ray release is no doubt a wonderful tribute to not just the film (which looks amazing on Blu-ray!), but it’s the inclusion of two major interviews about the film, one significant documentary in regards to the oeuvre of Frank Capra but also the original 1982 special of the American Film Institute honoring Frank Capra.  And in addition to that, Capra’s first film, a silent short from 1921, “Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House” is included.

Overall, “It Happened One Night” is a romantic comedy classic that must be watched by cinema fans interested in learning about the career of Frank Capra or watching a historically significant film starring both Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.  But also for any fans of Screwball comedy or romantic comedies in general.  This Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection is no doubt the definitive version of the film to own!

Highly recommended!

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” would also be remembered for the magnificent, yet creepy performances by its main talent and their movement and expressions, introducing the “twist ending” to cinema and also for its gorgeous set design that would set the course for the German Expressionist cinema movement for many years to come. For silent film fans, especially those collecting silent film on Blu-ray, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is a fantastic release that is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

FILM RELEASE: 1920

DURATION: 77 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Color Tinted, German 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: November 18, 2014


Directed by Robert Wiene

Story and Screenplay by Carl Mayer, Hans Janowitz

Produced by Rudolf Meinert, Erich Pommer

Music by the University of Music, Freiburg and Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky

Cinematography by Willy Hameister

Production Design by Walter Reimann, Walter Rohrig, Hermann Warm

Set Decoration by Hermann Warm

Costume Design by Walter Reimann


Starring:

Werner Krauss as Dr. Caligari

Conrad Veidt as Cesare

Friedrich Feher as Francis

Lil Dagover as Jane Olsen

Hans Heinrich von Twardowski as Alan

Rudolf Lettinger as Dr. Olsen


In 1920, one brilliant movie jolted the postwar masses and catapulted the movement known as German Expressionism into film history. That movie was The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a plunge into the mind of insanity that severs all ties with the rational world. Director Robert Wiene and a visionary team of designers crafted a nightmare realm in which light, shadow and substance are abstracted, a world in which a demented doctor and a carnival sleepwalker perpetrate a series of ghastly murders in a small community. This authoritative edition of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a 4K restoration scanned from the (mostly) preserved camera negative at the German Federal Film Archive.


With the many adaptations of “The Cabinet of Caligari” in the last 30-years, while many may have familiarity with the 1991 remake by Peter Sellars or the 2005 remake by David Lee Fisher or even perhaps the operatic or stage versions, there is one that still remains as a true classic for cineaste.

And that is the 1920 German silent horror film directed by the legendary director of German expressionist films, Robert Wiene, and an adaptation by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer.

Considered as one of the most important films in the German Expressionist movement, the film was known for its abstract set design, jerky character movements but most importantly, it was the film that introduced the “twist ending” in cinema.

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is an important film of cinema and while the film received restoration in the mid-’90s, it would receive a 4K restoration scanned from the (mostly) preserved camera negative at the German Federal Film Archive and would be receive its digital restoration premiere at the 64th Berlin International Festival in 2014.

And now, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” will be released on Blu-ray in November courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” begins with a flashback told by protagonist, Francis (portrayed by Friedrich Feher) and he begins telling an elderly man a story about him and his fiance, Jane (portrayed by Lil Dagover).

France tells a story about how he and his friend Alan (portrayed by Hans Heinrich von Twardowki) who were competing for the affection of Jane.  One day, while visiting a carnival at the German mountain village of Holstenwall, they see Dr. Caligari (portrayed by Werner Krauss) and his somnambulist, (a term that means “sleepwalking”) named Cesare (portrayed by Conrad Veidt) who emerges from a coffin and is controlled hypnotically by Dr. Caligari.

Dr. Caligari tells the audience that because Cesare is constantly asleep, he can predict the future and knows every secret.

This captivates Alan who goes to as Cesare of how long will he live.  And Cesare responds, “that he will die at dawn”.  This freaks out both Francis and Alan but Francis tries to keep his friend in better spirits and they should focus on competing for Jane’s affections.

But that night, an ominous figure comes into Alan’s bedroom and kills him.

As Francis is bothered by Alan’s fate and now knows that Cesare’s prophecy comes true, he tells Jane of what happened and both do their own investigation.  But as Jane goes to the circus to investigate Doctor Caligari and Cesare, Caligari learns about the investigation and Cesare is sent to kill her.

But will the evil Dr. Caligari and Cesare succeed with their evil plans or will Francis and Jane find a way to stop them?

 

 


VIDEO:

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). This is the best I have seen of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” to date.  From the early ’90s VHS which was not complete and quality was not good at all, to the 1995 restoration that was available on DVD which improved the film greatly.  Looking at this version is simply amazing because there is a tremendous amount of clarity and significant cleanup.  I did not see any of the damage that plagued earlier copies or the flickering that was in the previous two versions.

The 4K restoration was created by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung in Wiesbaden from the original camera negative held at the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv in Berlin.  The first reel of the camera negative is missing and was completed from different prints.  Jump cuts and missing frames in 67 shots were completed by different prints.

A German distribution print is not existing.  Basis for the colors were two nitrate print from Latin America, which represent the earliest surviving prints.  They are today at hte Filmmuseum Dusseldorf and the Cineteca di Bologna.

The color tinting was fixed and I am just amazed by the digital image restoration by L’Immagine Ritrovata – Film Conservation and Restoration in Bologna.  The intertitles used were resumed from the flashtitles in the camera negative and a 16 mm print from 1935 from the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum fur Film und Fernsehen in Berlin.

This is the definitive version of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” to date!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is presented in German DTS-HD MA 2.0 with optional English subtitles.  You get two musical scores, one by the University of Music, Freiburg which I absolutely loved and the other by Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky, for those who want a more modern take to the music of the film.  And it was great to see Kino Lorber bring in DJ Spooky because I’m a fan of his musical work and I would never expect his music to show up as a musical score in a silent film, so it’s a very good alternative for those who want something more modern and digital.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” comes with the following special features:

  • Caligari: How Horror Came to the Cinema - (52:53) A fascinating German documentary about “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”, German Expressionist cinema and its correlation from the Weimar to the Nazi era.
  • Image Gallery – View stills from “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”.
  • Restoration Demonstration I – (1:18) Comparison of before and after the digital restoration.
  • Restoration Demonstration II – (2:42) Comparison of the 1984 and the 2014 digital restoration.
  • Trailer – (1:08) The theatrical trailer for “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”.

EXTRAS:

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” comes with a four-page insert with an essay by Kristin Thompson, film historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 


“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is an important film for any fan of silent film.  A film that captures the style of the German Expressionist genre with amazing efficacy with its wonderful and artistic set design, the character movement and expressions up to wonderful twist, which the film is best known for introducing to cinema.

But the release of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” on Blu-ray is amazing not only for its 4K digital restoration but for longtime cinema fans, it’s the journey of getting to this point of a complete and gorgeous looking version of the film in HD.

Back in the ’90s, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” was available by Kino on VHS and that version was not exactly the best version to watch of the film (it was missing a lot of footage) until David Shepard produced a new restoration of the film in 1995 and it was this version that people saw a more complete vision.

But seeing this 4K Digital Restoration with its magnificent picture quality, not only are the frames that were in bad shape not as evident but the constant flickering that plagued the older version appears to have disappeared in this Blu-ray release.

There was no doubt a labor of love and dedication in bringing this film out with much better clarity, especially with the closeups of the characters and you can actually see the backgrounds much better and just value the set design as they are oddly shaped and was no doubt a design that help bring German Expressionist film to the forefront.

But what makes this film so appealing is its performance by Werner Krauss as the creepy Dr. Caligari (who would go on to be a major actor in the Nazi regime over a decade later) and his somnambulist Cesare (portrayed by Conrad Veidt, unlike his counterpart, fled Nazi Germany with his Jewish wife to become a British citizen and eventually appear in the film “Casablanca”).

I can only imagine that those who watched this movie in the theaters being scared each time these two appeared on the big screen.  Both are creepy characters and both give a great performance of a deranged doctor and a brainwashed individual and both are evil antagonists.

But then watching the film and possibly finding resolve until they get to the final scenes that no doubt is a significant twist that you never see coming.

In the United States, film critic Carl Sandburg was impressed.  In his review (which you can find in the book, “Carl Sandburg’s Film Reviews and Essays: 1920-1928″) written on May 21, 1921, Sandburg writes, “I am glad I went because I have wanted to see a different movie and this is so different it’s a knockout”.

Sandburg also tries to dissect of who this movie is for, bringing up those who loved the film for its twist ending and those who appreciate the film for being artistic and believed this was for art rather than public consumption.

But it was great to know that him and other film critics felt that back in 1921, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” was “the most powerful and original photoplay”.

But you can understand why it was a powerful film at the time, this was the scariest silent film that year.  German Expressionist films were looked upon as art but for any movie-goer, the effect of weird body movements of a character was out of the norm and so different from any film of that era.  But like any scary story told, it wouldn’t be a horror story if you don’t feel that unsettling feeling after watching the film and in this case, it was courtesy of its twist ending which was brilliant!

As for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned, the picture quality and clarity is magnificent.  As much as I loved the David Shepard restoration of the 90’s, the 4K digital restoration of this film brings out the clarity of the film, may it be the closeups of the character’s faces or the wonderful set design.  No more film warping or damage, white specks or anything.  This restoration is amazing!  And as for the audio, two musical scores are offered.  One that you would expect from a silent film and a DJ Spooky modern musical score which is a wonderful alternative.  And as for special features, you get the 52-minute German documentary “Caligari: How Horror Came to the Cinema” and more!

1921 would become a big year for German Expressionist cinema, from Robert Wiene’s “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” to  F.W. Murnau’s “The Haunted Castle” and Fritz Lang’s “Destiny”, the film would go on to inspire Hollywood horror films and also inspire many more adaptations for many more decades to come.

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” would also be remembered for the magnificent, yet creepy performances by its main talent and their movement and expressions, introducing the “twist ending” to cinema and also for its gorgeous set design that would set the course for the German Expressionist cinema movement for many years to come.

For silent film fans, especially those collecting silent film on Blu-ray, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is a fantastic release that is highly recommended!

22 Jump Street (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“22 Jump Street” is more sillier and crazier than the first film.  But also has more action featuring Schmidt and Jenko!  If you loved the first film, “22 Jump Street” will no doubt entertain you!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc., LSC Film Corporation and MRC II Distribution Company L.P. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: 22 Jump Street

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 112 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Language Throughout Sexual Content, Drug Material, Brief Nudity and Some Violence)

Release Date: November 18, 2014


Directed by Phil Lord, Chris Miller

Screenplay by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman

Story by Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill

Based on the TV series by Patrick Hasburgh, Stephen J. Cannell

Produced by Jonah Hill, Neal H. Moritz, Channing Tatum

Executive Producer: Brian Bell, Stephen J. Cannell, Reid Carolin, Tania Landau, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Ben Waisbren

Music by Mark Mothersbaugh

Cinematography by Barry Peterson

Edited by Keith Brachmann, David Rennie

Casting by Nicole Abellera, Jeanne McCarthy

Production Design by Steve Saklad

Art Direction by Scott Plauche

Set Decoration by Tracey A. Doyle

Costume Design by Leesa Evans


Starring:

Jonah Hill as Schmidt

Channing Tatum as Jenko

Peter Stormare as The Ghost

Wyatt Russel as Zook

Amber Stevens as Maya

Jillian Bell as Mercedes

Ice Cube as Captain Dickson

The Lucas Brothers as Keith and Kenny Yang

Nick Offerman as Deputy Chief Hardy

Jimmy Tatro as Rooster

Caroline Aaron as Annie Schmidt

Joe Chrest as David Schmidt

Queen Latifah as Mrs. Dickson

Dave Franco as Eric Molson

Rob Riggle as Mr. Walters


After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) when they go deep undercover at a local college. But when Jenko meets a kindred spirit on the football team, and Schmidt infiltrates the bohemian art major scene, they begin to question their partnership. Now they don’t have to just crack the case – they have to figure out if they can have a mature relationship.


Schmidt and Jenko are back!

With the success of the 2012 action film starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum and Ice Cube and a comedy adaptation based on the 1987 TV series, the film that was budgeted at $42 million, would go on to earn $201.6 million in the box office.

That would ensure the sequel “22 Jump Street” which hit theaters in June 2014 and once again, becoming a box office hit earning over $330.5 million (created with a budget of $65 million).  And in November, “22 Jump Street” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“22 Jump Street” begins with Morton Schmidt (portrayed by Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (portrayed by Channing Tatum) pursuing a group of drug dealers led by a man named Ghost (portrayed by Peter Stormare).  Unfortunately, the duo end up messing up and despite the failure, Deputy Chief Hardy (portrayed by Nick Offerman) knows that Schmidt and Jenko has achieved success as undercover cops, so the two are put back in the program led by Captain Dickson (portrayed by IceCube), which has moved next door to 22 Jump Street.

And now, the duo will go undercover as college students to find out who is responsible for supplying the drug known as WHYPHY (Work Hard Yes Play Hard Yes) to students, leading to a death of a female student on campus.  All they have on the dealer is that the person has a peculiar tattoo.

As Schmidt and Jenko become college students, both try to fit in.  Jenko who was great in football back in high school, shows off his skills in college and quickly becomes friends with the jocks, especially the quarterback Zook (portrayed by Wyatt Russell) and Rooster (portrayed by Jimmy Tatro).  And as Jenko is accepted to the parties with the jocks, they don’t welcome Schmidt.

Feeling unappreciated, Schmidt feels that Jenko tries to do his own investigation but while visiting a slam poetry event, he meets an art student named Maya (portrayed by Amber Stevens).  As Schmidt is to flirt and impress Maya, he also improvises his slam poetry, impressing her.  The two end up partying together with other poets, while Jenko is partying with his jock friends and as Jenko has a strong bond with Zook as athletes, Schmidt and Maya end up sleeping together (not knowing that Maya is the daughter of Captain Dickson).

While Jenko gets caught up in the life of college football and hanging out with people like him, he and Schmidt eventually begin to grow apart and argue.  And both decide to work on their own to solve the case, when they really need to work together.

Will Schmidt and Jenko find out who is responsible for distributing WHYPHY on campus?

 


VIDEO:

“22 Jump Street” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1). For video quality, the sequel is much better than the first.  As the first film was about cinematographer Barry Peterson (“Jumper”, “Zoolander”, “Starsky & Hutch”) to shoot the film with more subdued colors. With the sequel, you have vibrant colors, as many shots were done outdoors.  Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep and if anything, the picture quality looks fantastic on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“22 Jump Street” is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA English and Spanish-Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. As one would expect from a film with plenty of action, the lossless soundtrack for “22 Jump Street” is fantastic. From gun shots, explosions, crunching metal to you name it…there is wonderful use of the surround channels and LFE. Dialogue is crisp and clear and even the music sounds fantastic! Overall, listeners will enjoy the immersive soundscape of those action sequences during their viewing of the film.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“22 Jump Street” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio CommentaryFeaturing a hilarious audio commentary with directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (39:52) Featuring 22 deleted scenes with optional commentary.
  • The Perfect Couple of Directors – (9:34) Chris Miller and Phil Lord discuss being a directing duo.
  • Everything is Better in College – (7:49) A featurette about shooting the film in college.
  • Janning and Chonah – (7:32) Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum and their comedic chemistry.
  • New Recruits – (9:45) A featurette about the new characters in “22 Jump Street”.
  • The Perfect Line – (7:09) Improvisation and jokes used on “22 Jump Street”.
  • Don’t Cut Yet – (8:25) Shooting the jail scene and the amount of retakes done.
  • Joke-A-Palooza – (5:53) Outtakes from “22 Jump Street”.
  • Line-O-Ramas – (9:37) Five improvised scenes.
  • The Dramatic Interpretation of 22 Jump Street - (9:54) A dramatic interpretation of the entire film.
  • Zook & Mcquaid Scout Reel – (2:16) The full Zook and McQuaid football video clip.
  • Jenko Split – (:43) The Jenko split (parody of the Jean Claude Van Damme commercial).

EXTRAS:

“21 Jump Street” comes with an UltraViolet code to allow for streaming to computers, tablets or smartphones.


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One of the most difficult challenges any hit film will encounter, is creating a sequel that can be better than the first.

With “21 Jump Street” becoming a tremendous hit but also surprising fans with members of the original cast showing up and the shenanigans that ensued in the first film, the comedy and action made the film a bonafide hit!

And of course, as much money “21 Jump Street” made in the box office, it was no surprise to see Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum reunite for the sequel.  And judging by the strong box office earnings in 2014, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a third film.

But is “22 Jump Street” worthy of watching?  The film is no doubt full of comedy, full of action and no doubt appealing to a younger demographic with college and spring break parties.  And there is no doubt that filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have tapped into a recipe for success without going Happy Madison Production style (a reference to Adam Sandler films) or Judd Apatow films that are known for their moronic humor, but at the same time, becoming box office hits.

The first film dealt with two complete opposites becoming friends and despite their differences, working together to solve a case.  Going through a lot together with a variety of situations and it’s what I loved about the first film.  The two had to start as underdogs and succeed.

Where as the sequel, they have succeeded but now must infiltrate a college and are instantly separated.  Jenko becomes a jock and his circle alienating the more geeky Schmidt, like their old days in high school.  Having had this bromance as partners in the police force, these two were in sync..  So, you would of thought.

So, the sequel works differently as the first film was how these two opposites come together, “22 Jump Street” is about how they came apart and then eventually put away their differences.

The situations are even more unbelievable than ever and it all comes down to whether or not you accept this comedy or don’t.  And as a fan of Happy Madison and Judd Apatow films, you take these films as they are…the good, the bad and the same can be said with Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s “22 Jump Street”.

The fact is that Schmidt and Jenko are too old to play young college students and while a scene with Jenko using a dancing woman as a weapon or Schmidt trying to do hardcore stunts seems too farfetched, the two aren’t afraid to poke fun at themselves.

“22 Jump Street” definitely seems much more sillier and farfetched than the first, and nowhere near the quality of the first film.  But it still manages to have its way of charming the audience with its many jokes and crazy situations and thus ensuring a possible third film, despite its ending credits being a joke within itself of where does the film go now after “22 Jumpstreet”?

The Blu-ray release of “22 Jump Street” looks impressive on Blu-ray as the clarity and detail are wonderful.  Outdoor scenes are vibrant and skin tones are natural while black levels are strong with no signs of banding or artifacts.  The lossless soundtrack showcases strong surround usage and more than enough gunfire and explosions to work out the surround channels and LFE.  And for special features, “22 Jump Street” has a good number of them, including audio commentary, outtakes and more!

Overall, “22 Jump Street” is more sillier and crazier than the first film.  But also has more action featuring Schmidt and Jenko!  If you loved the first film, “22 Jump Street” will no doubt entertain you!

Kill la Kill Volume 2: Limited Edition (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Kill la Kill” is an exciting series with a lot of humor and action.  Recommended!

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

TITLE: Kill la Kill Volume 2: Limited Edition

DURATION: Episodes 5-9 (100 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: Suggested 16 and Up

Release Date: October 21, 2014

Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Series Composition: Kazuki Nakashima

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design: Sushio

Art by Saishi Ichiko

Art Director: Shigeto Koyama, Yuji Kaneko

Anime Production: Trigger

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ami Koshimizu/Erica Mendez as Ryuuko Matoi

Ryoka Yuzuki/Carrie Keranen as Satsuki Kiryuuin

Aya Suzaki/Christine Marie Cabanos as Mako Mankanshoku

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Steve Cannon as Hōka Inumuta

Katsuyuki Konishi as Tsumugu Kinagase

Mayumi Shintani/Sarah Williams as Nonon Jakuzure

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Grant George as Uzu Sanageyama

Romi Park as Ragyo Kiryuuin

Shinichiro Miki/Matthew Mercer as Aikurō Mikisugi

Tetsu Inada/Patrick Seitz as Ira Gamagōri

Toshihiko Seki as Senketsu

Yukari Tamura as Nui Harime

Ryuko Matoi spends her days battling student after student as they continue to aggressively confront her in hopes to raise their own status and living conditions as promised to them by Satsuki Kiryuin. In the midst of all the chaos, Uzu Sanageyama, one of the Elite Four, gets permission to face Ryuko in battle. He corners Ryuko with his super-human vision, but Ryuko manages to fight back! This leads Satsuki to resort to drastic measures as she declares to begin the great “Naturals Election,” or “Battle Royale!!”

Now every student at Honnouji Academy must enter an unbelievable ceremony of destruction as they clash to survive for seven whole days to participate in “The King of the Hill Final Battle.” There, Ryuko finally comes face-to-face with the formidable Ira Gamagoori!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In volume 2 of “Kill la Kill” (episodes 5-9), Ryuko continues to face more challengers but also a sniper named Tsumugu Kinagase.  Tsumugu will do what he can to stop Ryuko from wearing her kamui.  Meanwhile, one of the Elite four, Uzu Sanageyama challenges Ryuko with his Three-Star Goku Uniform know as Blade Regalia.

Meanwhile, Ryuko starts up her own fight club and Satsuki announces her new Naturals Election where students must survive a seven-day battle royal to earn their Goku uniforms.  And Ryuko takes on another Elite four named Ira.

The main characters of “Kill la Kill″ are:

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

VIDEO:

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English Screen Text, English Dialog & Screen Text and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kill la Kill Volume 2: Limited Edition″ comes with the following special features:

  • Textless OP
  • #7 Textless Ending (Japanese Only)
  • Web Version Previews
  • BONUS DVD: “Kill la Kill” Making Documentary DVD #1 – (50:30) Featuring the behind-the-scenes making of the popular anime series.

EXTRAS:

“Kill la Kill Volume 2: Limited Edition” comes with a double-sided poster and two postcards, one featuring Mako and the other featuring Tsumugu Kinagase.

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

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

With volume 2 of “Kill la Kill”, the continued storyline of Ryuko taking on the elite of Honnouji Academy and Satsuki issuing a Naturals Election challenge in that if she defeats each of the Elite Four, she will finally get the details that she wanted.

So, you get five awesome episodes with a lot of action and humor.  Voice acting in Japanese and English is well-done and as with most Aniplex limited editions, you also get a box full of swag with a making of DVD, two collectable postcards and a dual-sided poster.

And I have to say that the “Making Of” DVD is worth watching as you can really see what was involved behind-the-scenes prior to “Kill la Kill” airing on television.  It’s a fascinating documentary that “Kill la Kill” fans will enjoy watching!

Overall, “Kill la Kill” is an exciting series and it’s first four episodes have been captivating and addicting. The second volume definitely sets the stage up as Ryuko now must take on the Elite Four, so it will be interesting to see how the storyline evolves in volume 3.

“Kill la Kill Volume 2: Limited Edition” is highly recommended!

Valvrave the Liberator: Complete 1st Season (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you are a mecha fan or fan of action-driven anime, “Valvrave the Liberator” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © SUNRISE/VVV Committee, MBS. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Valvrave the Liberator: Complete 1st Season

DURATION: 300 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Aniplex of America

RATED: 16 and Up

Release Date: September 18, 2014

Director: Kou Matsuo

Series Composition: Ichiro Okouchi

Music by Akira Senju

Original Character Design: Katsura Hoshino

Character Design: Tatsuya Suzuki

Art Director: Masatoshi Kai

Chief Animation Director: Tatsuya Suzuki

Anime Production: Sunrise

Featuring the following voice talent:

Asami Seto as Shōko Sashinami

Haruka Tomatsu as Saki Rukino

Ryohei Kimura as L-elf

Ryota Ohsaka as Haruto Tokishima

Ai Kayano as Aina Sakurai

Aki Toyosaki as Liselotte

Aoi Yūki as Akira Renbōkōji

Daisuke Namikawa as Satomi Renbōkōji

Daisuke Ono as Cain

Hiroyuki Yoshino as Yūsuke Otamaya

Jun Fukuyama as A-drei

Koji Yusa as Figarro

Mamoru Miyano as H-neun

Minako Kotobuki as Takahi Ninomiya

Misato Fukuen as Marie Nobi

Nana Mizuki as Kriemhild

True Calendar, Year 71 – A new age where 70% of the human population lives in space thanks to the development of the “Dyson Sphere,” a city in space.

The world is divided into two main powers: The Dorssia Military Pact Federation, a power which grew out of a military alliance, and the Atlantic Rim United States (ARUS), which grew in power as it expanded its trade agreements. The minor nation of JIOR has declared neutrality between these two forces and maintained its peace through economic prosperity.

Within JIOR’s Sphere, Haruto Tokishima lived an ordinary life as a high school student in the division known as “Module 77″ until the Dorssian military begins their sudden invasion. The whole world will be shaken when Haruto meets the mysterious humanoid weapon, Valvrave!

In the spring of 2013, Sunrise released their latest mecha anime series titled “Kakumeiki Valvrave”.

Directed by Kou Matsuo (“Rozen Maiden”, “Yozakura Quartet”, “Kurenai”) and written by Ichiro Okouchi (“Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion”, “RahXephon”, “Azumanga Daioh” ), the series features music by Akira Senju (“Red Garden”, “Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike”, “Mobile Suit Victory Gundam”), art direction by Masatoshi Kai (“Blue Exorcist”, “Akira”, “Red Garden”) and character designs by Tatsuya Suzuki (“Samurai Champloo”, “Gasaraki”).

And the first season of “Valverave the Liberator” has been released by Aniplex of America.

The series is set during the 71st year of the True Era.  A time where humans have migrated to other planets and live in the Dyson sphere which was constructed around an artificial sun.  The world is divided into the Dorssia Military Pact Federation which is known for its military prowess, while the Atlantic Ring of United States (ARUS) is the other super power known for its military might.

But in between the two superpowers is JIOR (Japan and Islands of the Oceanic Republic) which is a neutral country that is peaceful and chooses no sides.  And because of their economic well being, they were responsible for creating the Dyson sphere.

One day, teenager Haruto Tokishima and his friends from Sakimori High School based in the Dyson sphere’s “Module 77″ were enjoying time together.  For Haruto, what matters to him is spending time with Shoko Shashinami, the daughter of the prime minister of JIOR that Haruto has liked, but has never had the guts to confess his true feelings.

But while enjoying their time together, Dorssia attacks JIOR and sends their team of elite soldiers to capture a powerful mecha known as Valvrave.   While trying to steal Valvrave, one of the JIOR scientists is able to launch the elevator of Valvrave, preventing Dorssia from capturing it.

While Haruto and his friends escape for shelter during the attack, Shoko is caught in a missile attack and she is feared to be dead.  Shocked and angered that Shoko is dead, Haruto wants revenge and he decides to climb inside the cockpit of the Valverave.

Willing to give up his humanity to save Shoko, he is taken over by Valvrave and easily defeats the Dorssia pilots.  But when Valverave lands, Haruto gets out of the cockpit, unaware of what just happened.  The elite soldiers come after him, especially L-eif, a secret agent of the Dorssian military and as L-eif attempts to capture the Valvrave, he shoots Haruto multiple times.

Thinking Haruto is dead, L-eif is shocked that Haruto has awakened but looks like a vampire who then bites into L-eif and takes over his body.  Taking over the body of L-eif, Haruto realizes that as he possess someone with a bite to their neck, he also learns their abilities and Haruto uses L-eif to shoot after his former teammates, making them think L-eif is a traitor.

As Dorssia tries to claim JIOR for their own, the students of Sakimori High School decide they will not allow the Dorssian military control them and they fight back thanks to Haruto and his ability to use the Valvrave.  But as Haruto feels he can help people for the greater good, he starts to find out that he suffers from excessive headaches and his thirst to bite on someone is starting to overcome him

What has happened to Haruto and can the students of JIOR trust anyone during this war?  Especially the other super power, ARUS?

 

VIDEO:

“Valvrave the Liberator: Complete 1st Season” is presented in 1080p High Definition with gorgeous character designs and background art by Sunrise and staff.  Environments are detailed, while character designs are crisp.  Colors are vibrant, line detail is very goo dand I did not notice any banding issues or artifacts during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Valvrave the Liberator: Complete 1st Season” is presented in Japanese Linear PCM Stereo with English subtitles

While I would have enjoyed to hear a more immersive lossless soundtrack, the Japanese dialogue and music is crystal clear.  It’s important to emphasize to those interested in this anime series is that there is no English dub track!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Valverave the Liberator: Complete 1st Season” comes with the textless opening and endings, trailers and commercials.

EXTRAS:

“Valvrave the Liberator: Complete 1st Season” comes with six collectable postcards, a deluxe poster specially illustrated by Katsura Hoshino (the original character designer) and a slipcase.

A mecha anime series with a twist, “Valvrave the Liberator” has a style and feel reminiscent of anime series such as “Mobile Suit Gundam” and also “Lelouch: The Last Rebellion”.

While the adults represent a world of corruption as both Dorssia and ARUS want control of the Valvrave, the students of Sakimori High School are the underdogs.  A group that is trying to be JIOR’s last stand against the superpowers by utilizing the power of Valvrave and also other mecha they discover in secret fortresses underneath their high school.

Throw in a story of a good-natured teenager who behaves almost like a hungry vampire after accepting control of the Valvrave and an antagonist, a skilled secret agent of Dorssia who ends up teaming up with JIOR plus plenty of unanswered questions of loyalty and the underdogs vs. the superpowers type of storyline and you get a chaotic mecha anime series with many teenagers who don’t know if they will survive until the next day.

The first season focuses on the students fighting back as the representatives of JIOR, with no one to trust but themselves, but knowing that they must do all they can to protect themselves against the heavily attacking offensive of Dorssia and the schemes of ARUS.

Suffice to say, the series has caught my attention because of the intrigue of its characters, not knowing who will survive and who will die but also unexpected situations that add more drama but also more mecha action sequences for a variety of characters.

The animation from SUNRISE is beautifully done with backgrounds that are heavily detailed, a colorful palette that is often vibrant and crisp colors that look sharp on Blu-ray!  The lossless soundtrack is presented in Japanese Linear PCM stereo, so while I would love for this to be an immersive soundtrack, the Japanese dialogue and its music are crystal clear.  While special features include the textless openings, trailers and commercials.

You also get the Aniplex swag such as collectable postcards and a poster!

Overall, “Valvrave the Liberator: Complete 1st Season” is an exciting mecha anime series that is different and unique due to how the main protagonist is able to utilize the mecha but also how the hero unfortunately must bare with the burden that in order to save the people he cares about, he must combat his desires to feed on people, even though he knows he is losing the power to control himself.

If you are a mecha fan or fan of action-driven anime, “Valvrave the Liberator” is recommended!

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

November 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you are open to martial arts action, but with cheesy comedy and situations that come out of left field for no apparent reason, then definitely give “Iceman” a shot!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Zhongmeng Century (BEIJING) Investment Co. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Iceman

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 105 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: R (Some violence and Language and Sexual Reference)

Release Date: November 11, 2014

Directed by Wing-cheong Law

Written by Fung Lam, Mark Wu

Produced by Jianxin Huang, Christopher Sun Lap, Donnie Yen

Music by Ying-Wah Wong

Cinematography by Yuen Man Fung, Kenny Tse

Edited by Matthew Hui, David M. Richardson

Starring:

Donnie Yen as He Ying

Wang Baoqiang  as Sao

Huang Shengyi  as May

Yu Kang as San Ko

Simon Yam as Cheung

Lam Suet as Tang

Donnie Yen is a Ming Dynasty palace guard, wrongly accused of murder and hunted by three vengeful brothers. All four are accidentally buried, frozen at the height of battle. 400 years later, they are defrosted and resume their mortal struggle while also adjusting to modern-day life.

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Actor Donnie Yen (“Ip Man”, “Hero”, “Blade II”, “Iron Monkey”) is no doubt one of the most popular actors from China.

Having had a successful career that dates back to 1984, he continues to be one of the box office stars for action films and has able to work on films that range from drama, comedy and action.

And now Donnie Yen collaborates with director Wing-cheong Law (“Election”, “Running on Karma”, “Triad Election”) in an action adventure in 3D that is a loose adaptation of Yuen Biao’s 1999 film (with the same title).

And now “Iceman” is available on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Iceman” is a film that stars Donnie Yen as He Ying, a bodyguard of the Ming Emperor who has traveled long and far to bring back a mysterious disc that would allow a person to time travel.  Unfortunately, upon his return, he is setup and framed for colluding with Japanese pirates and he and his family is sentenced to death.  While trying to escape from Sao (portrayed by Wang Baoqiang) and Niehu (portrayed by Yu Kang), all three men were buried and frozen in time for 400 years.  As a vehicle accident leads to their life pods being opened, He Ying finds himself in modern day Hong Kong.  But while he is able to roam around Hong Kong, so are the others who have awakened and are now finally set free.

While confused to see his homeland changed, he eventually is taken in by a drunken May (portrayed by Huang Shengyi) into her home during Halloween.  Thinking he is costuming as a royal guard, when she wakes up, she and her friends are scared by He Ying and leave her to handle him.

Sao and Niehu end up searching for He Ying and end up being assisted by Indian thieves (who Sao rescues from police) who entice them with curry chicken and curry fishballs.  Because Sao and Niehu shot and killed police officers, they become wanted by police officer, Cheung (portrayed by Simon Yam).  But why does Cheung want to catch these three so badly and how is it that he knows about these individuals?

Meanwhile, May tries to show He Ying around but also trying to get him to trade his gold in for money, money that she is using He Ying for, but only to help her sick mother.  But seeing the good in He Ying, will she try to help him or will she continue to use him?

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VIDEO:

“Iceman” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality shows vibrant colors, clarity and also wonderful lighting, considering many scenes are shot outdoors.    The CG for the most part worked well with the film and there are moments that you can tell, were made for 3D as certain objects come flying out toward the screen.  It’s important to note that the film was only released in the United States as a normal Blu-ray release, not in 3D.

I didn’t see any artifacts nor major banding during my viewing of the film.  If anything, “Iceman” looks great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Iceman” is presented in Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English, Spanish and French Dub.  Dialogue is crystal clear and there are a good number of action scenes that utilized the surround channels and also crowd ambiance.

Subtiltes are in English, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Iceman” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – (20:13) Featuring the making of the Rooftop Building scene, Disco Scene, Lok on Pai, Tuen Mai, Hong Kong, the production and interviews with Donnie Yen, Wang Baoqiang and Eva Huang.
  • Trailer – (1:42) Featuring the theatrical trailer for “Iceman”.

EXTRAS

“Iceman” comes with a slipcover.

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Lately, Donnie Yen has been taking on films that showcase martial arts action but also comedy.

Which is not bad as he is currently the most marketable action star in East Asia and he is able to take on a variety roles and no doubt, making a lot of money at it!  It’s a plan that has worked for Jackie Chan and if you have that marketability, take advantage of it.

But it can also be a catch-22 for some talent, especially for a role such as “Iceman” as Donnie Yen sports a wig with longer locks, taking one of the most powerful piss in an action film and it can often be a stretch, when you pair the much older Donnie Yen with younger actress Eva Huang.

And as this film is is an action comedy, while others may dislike the crazy humor of the film, I have watched enough films from Hong Kong and East Asia to tolerate the most craziest of films and “Iceman” is a crazy film.

Like a page out of “Captain America” with a twist, Donnie Yen plays a royal guard named He Ying.  A protector who is trying to give the Ming Emperor the opportunity to time travel but somehow gets caught up in an act of betrayal by his childhood friend.

He and his former friends/soldiers have all awakened from a very long slumber.  But as He Ying tries to learn more about modern day Hong Kong, he is under pursuit by his former friends, Sao (played by Wang Baoqiang) and Niehu (portrayed by Yu Kang).

He eventually is taken in by a beautiful, drunk hostess named May (portrayed by Huang Shengyi) who feels that she can manipulate and use him for money.

While there are those who will enjoy the action, which can get wild at times, part of the problem is you are taken out by the comedy.  While, Wang Baoqiang is an actor that I expect to see in a comedy (after seeing his hilarious performance in “Lost in Thailand”) and his emphasis on the pronunciation of “Curry Chicken” or “Curry Fish Balls” for comedy sake is quite funny.  The scene where he tries to help May’s mother just seems out of place and you also get a few potty/fart humor as well, so, this was not something I expected to see in a Donnie Yen film.  So, I found myself being surprised to see Donnie Yen, in this type of film.

And while the CG special effects are very fascinating to watch and no doubt reminiscent in terms of the chaotic nature of films such as modern “Planet of the Apes” or “Godzilla” in their “bridge” scene sequences, “Iceman” tries to entertain with over-the-top Michael Bay-like action sequence on a bridge.  While the fight choreography was cool to watch, there is certain editing choices that were questionable.

But I enjoyed the film because it was a Donnie Yen film that was out of left field.  This is a film that you would not expect to see him doing but because of his dedication to trying different things and in this case, a 3D action comedy, it worked out.

His chemistry with actress Huang Shengyi worked very well and it made you wonder if we were going to see Donnie Yen cross that line and have a kissing scene with his leading lady.  But of course, it’s a Donnie Yen film, so that is not going to happen.

Picture quality for the film is really good.  There was no doubt a lot of CG work done but you can also tell why this film went over-budget.  So many chaotic scenes that you would typically see in a big budget film, add in wonderful costume design, while the lossless soundtrack was crystal clear with a lot of emphasis in the action sequences.  You also get a few special features such as the making of, interviews with the cast and a theatrical trailer.

While “Iceman 3D” was definitely a film I was not expecting, it shows that Donnie Yen is still wanting to show that he’s more than just an action star and can do comedy.  But also an actor who wants to be in the forefront of film technology by taking part in a popcorn action film shown in theaters in 3D (unfortunately, the Blu-ray is not!).

While the film does tease a sequel, because of the cost to make this film and the major delays to get this film completed, it’s hard to say if there will be a sequel at all.  But if it happens, I’m definitely interested in seeing it!

If you are open to martial arts action, but with cheesy comedy and situations that come out of left field for no apparent reason, then definitely give “Iceman” a shot!

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” ends its run on a positive note. Sure, “The Lost Missions” did not air on television but for loyal followers of the series, the final season featured 13 captivating and highly entertaining episodes that actually gives us more insight going into “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”. You get a mix of comedy, drama and plenty of action with this final sixth season and “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” fans should be content with “The Lost Missions”. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions

TV AIRDATE: 2014

DURATION: 287 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio), English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: LucasFilm Ltd.

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: November 11, 2014

Directed by  Steward Lee, Kyle Dunlevy, Brian O’Connell, Danny Keller, Bosco Ng, Dave Filoni

Written by Daniel Arkin, George Lucas, Katie Lucas, Christian Taylor

Produced by Cary Silver

 Line Producer: Athena Yvette Portillo

Executive Producer: George Lucas

Music by Kevin Kiner

Edited by Jason Tucker

Casting by Jenn Berry

Featuring the voices of:

Tom Kane as the Narrator

Dee Bradley Baker as Clone Troopers

Matt Lanter as Anakin Skywalker

James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan Kenobi

Corey Burton as Count Dooku

Matthew Wood as Battle Droids

Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka Tano

Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson as Mace Windu

Catherine Taber as Padme Amidala

Ian Abercrombie as Chancellor Palpatine

Stephen Stanton as Mas Amedda

Phil LaMarr as Bail Organa

Brian George as Ki-Adi-Mundi

Robin Atkin Downes as Rush Clovis

Jaime King as Aurra Sing

Against a backdrop of ever-shifting loyalties, uneasy alliances and ancient hostilities, the conflict between the Republic and the Separatists ramps up, setting the stage for Darth Sidious’ ultimate act of treachery against the Jedi. In these uncertain times, some of the deepest mysteries of the light and dark sides of the Force are revealed as an intrepid clone trooper uncovers a shocking conspiracy, Anakin Skywalker’s closest relationship is tested to its limits, and Master Yoda makes a discovery that could forever change the balance of power in the galaxy. Complete your collection and experience all the wonder, intrigue, action and suspense of THE LOST MISSIONS in 13 must-own episodes — plus a Behind-The-Scenes Documentary

After the 2D 2003 animated TV series “Star Wars: Clone Wars”, the series would usher in a new 3D CGI animated television series with the same title and produced by Lucasfilm Animation and created by Lucasfilm Animation Singapore.

Originally planned for five seasons, from its first air date back in 2008 with season one and by 2013, the series would be canceled and any produced episodes would be “bonus content”.

But as “Star Wars: Clone Wars” still had a good number of episodes that have yet to be aired, the unaired final episodes as part of season six, which would be the final season, and would be streamed on Netflix in 2014.

And now, the unaired episodes of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions” will be released on Blu-ray in November 2014 courtesy of LucasFilm Ltd.

For those not familiar with “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, the episodes take place during the three-year interim between “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”.

In “Lost Missions”, the season is broken down into four arcs.

The first arc is written by Katie Lucas and revolves around Clone Trooper Tup suffering a neurological disorder and killing a Jedi Master.

Not knowing if Tup was reprogrammed by the Separatists, his condition begins to worsen and ARC Trooper Fives can’t figure out what has happened to Clone Trooper Tup and so, he along with his droid begin their investigation and finding out why Tup would try to kill a Jedi Master.

The second arc is written by Christian Taylor and revolves around Padme Amidala’s ex-boyfriend Rush Clovis asking for his help but also, him wanting to rekindle any romance with Padme.  But because Padme and Anakin’s marriage is still being kept as a secret, Anakin is having a difficult time trying to hide his jealous feelings, prompting Obi-Wan to wonder why his padiwan is reacting with anger.  And the more the jealousy builds, it begins to put more tension on he and Padme’s secret marriage.

The third arc is written by Jonathan W. Rinzler and revolves around Senate Representative Jar Jar Binks and Jedi Master Mace Windu investigating on the disappearance of spiritual leaders in the peaceful world of Bardotta.

The fourth and final arc centers around Yoda.  Yoda begins to hear the voice of his deceased friend, Qui-Gon Jinn and worries because it is not possible for a Jedi to speak to the living from beyond the grave.  He becomes forgetful and it starts to worry members of the Jedi Council.  But when Yoda is guided by the Force, what will he discover?

VIDEO:

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions” is presented in 1080p (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  One thing that is evident with each season of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is how the series begins to gradually look better and better as better CGI technology is implemented and with the final sixth season, picture quality is crisp, detailed and vibrant.

There is a hint of banding and macroblocking but for the most part, picture quality is very good, lighting effects are also fantastic but it’s the overall detail of the characters that look very good!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions” is presented in English, Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1.  While the series is not in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, the dialogue is crystal clear and the sound effects and the battle sound effects are also crisp and clear and utilize the surround channels effectively, especially the rear surround channels.   The series also employs LFE during the more action-based sequences.  And like previous volumes, the series continues to be immersive.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions” comes with the following special features:

  • The Clone Wars Declassified - (16:02) A featurette about the creation of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” back in 2005 and the conclusion of the series in 2014.
  • Story Reel: Utapau Arc – (1:31:13) Featuring four story reels created for the production crew that had to be reviewed by George Lucas and Dave Filoni.  Note: The CG is not fully rendered but is animated.

EXTRAS:

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions” comes with a slipcover and a Disney Movie Rewards code.

With a new Star Wars animated series (“Star Wars Rebels”) airing on television, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” may not have had the proper send-off on air but the crew no doubt saved the best story for last with “Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions”.

Questions of how the Storm Troopers could easily become evil after fighting with the Jedi Masters begins with the sixth season of “The Lost Missions” and  we also get an interesting storyline in regards to Padme and Luke Skywalker’s secret marriage and slow building anger that begins grow within Anakin Skywalker.  And of course, the continuing story from season five in relation to Rush Clovis but to see Anakin and Padme’s marriage tested, was rather entertaining.

While I’m not a Jar Jar Binks fans, for those wondering when the character would return, have gotten their wish as we get a humorous but also action-packed arc with Jar Jar and Jedi Master Mace Windhu.

But possibly the most fascinating arc revolves around Yoda and the questions answered is something that would become part of Yoda for many more years to come.

But this sixth season is well-written, well-animated and is a wonderful goodbye to the series.  Granted, if given a longer season, it would have been interesting to see what else writers would have come up with.  But for these 13 episodes alone, I was quite content with the four arcs presented.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good and with each season of the series, the animators tend to up the notch of overall character and environment design.  The animation was beautiful for “The Lost Missions” and its Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was crystal clear and immersive.

As for special features, you get a featurette featuring the crew on saying goodbye to the animated series which was a big part of their lives for nearly a decade.  Also, included is a four-part never before broadcast story reel of the Utapau Arc.

For parents wondering if they should purchase this for their children, it’s important to note that the series is TV PG due to its violence.  There are a few creepy characters but for the most part, if your children has already watched the films or previous seasons, I doubt they would be scared of what they see in season six.  Otherwise, the series is TV PG because of the violence featured in each episode.

Overall, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” ends its run on a positive note.  Sure, “The Lost Missions” did not air on television but for loyal followers of the series, the final season featured 13 captivating and highly entertaining episodes that actually gives us more insight going into “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”.  You get a mix of comedy, drama and plenty of action with this final sixth season and “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” fans should be content with “The Lost Missions”.

Recommended!

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

November 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Land Ho_BD_FrontLeft

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

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

TITLE: Land Ho!

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 95 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

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

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Written and Directed by Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens

Produced by Christina Jennings, Mynette Louie, Sara Murphy

Co-Producer: Birgitta Bjornsdottir, Hlin Johannesdottir

Executive Producer: Wendy Ettinger, David Gordon Green

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

Music by Keegan DeWitt

Cinematography by Andrew Reed

Edited by Aaron Katz

Starring:

Earl Lynn Nelson as Mitch

Paul Eenhoorn as Colin

Karie Crouse as Ellen

Elizabeth McKee as Janet

Alice Olivia Clarke as Nadine

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO:

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

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

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

EXTRAS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

planesfireandrescue

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

Images courtesy of © 2014 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Planes: Fire & Rescue

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 84 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen (2:39:1 aspect ratio), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY:Disney

RATED: PG (For Action and Some Peril)

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Directed by Roberts Gannaway

Characters by Jeffrey M. Howard

Producer: Ferrell Barron

Executive Producer: John Lasseter

Music: Mark Mancina

Edited by Dan Molina

Casting by Jason Henkel

Production Design by Toby Wilson

Art Direction by Toby Wilson

Featuring the voices of:

Dane Cook as Dusty Crophopper

Ed Harris as Blade Ranger

Julie Bowen as Lil’ Dipper

Curtis Armstrong as Maru

John Michael Higgins as Cad

Hal Holbrook as Mayday

Wes Studi as Windlifter

Brad Garrett as Chug

Teri Hatcher as Dottie

Stacy Keach as Skipper

Cedric the Entertainer as Leadbottom

Danny Mann as Sparky

Barry Corbin as Ol’ Jammer

Regina King as Dynamite

Anne Meara as Winie

Jerry Stiller as Harvey

Fred Willard as Secretary of the Interior

Dale Dye as Cabbie

Matt Jones as Drip

Bryan Callen as Avalanche

Danny Pardo as Blackout

Corri English as Pinecone

Kari Wahlgren as Patch

Patrick Warburton as Pulaski

Rene Auberjonois as Concierge

Kevin Michael Richardson as Ryker

Erik Estrada as Nick ‘Loop’n’ Lopez

Steve Schirripa as Steve

Brent Musburger as Brent Mustangburger

John Ratzenberger as Brodi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO:

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

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

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

EXTRAS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

maleficent

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

Images courtesy of © 2014 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Maleficent

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 97 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

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

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Directed by Robert Stromberg

Written by Linda Woolverton

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

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

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

Associate Producer: Lori Korngiebel

Produced by Joe Roth

Music by James Newton Howard

Cinematography by Dean Semler

Edited by Chris Lebenzon, Richard Pearson

Casting by Lucy Bevan

Production Design by Dylan Cole, Gary Freeman

Starring:

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent

Elle Fanning as Aurora

Sharlto Copley as Stefan

Lesley Manville as Flittle

Imelda Staunton as Knotgrass

Juno Temple as Thistlewit

Sam Riley as Diaval

Brenton Thwaites as Prince Phillip

Kenneth Cranham as King Henry

Hannah New as Princess Leila

Isobelle Molloy as Young Maleficent

Michael Higgins as Young Stefan

Ella Purnell as Teen Maleficent

Jackson Bews as Teen Stefan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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VIDEO:

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Maleficent” comes with the following special features:

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

EXTRAS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Definitely recommended!

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