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Merchants of Doubt (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

merchantsofdoubt

“Merchants of Doubt” is a documentary that will open many eyes and will be a film that will inform, anger or cajole an individual, or hopefully a next generation of future leaders or scientists and inspire them to do something in the best interest of the people and planet, not just for increased profits. “Merchants of Doubt” is highly recommended!


TITLE: Merchants of Doubt

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 93 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Turkish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Brief Strong Language)

Release Date: July 7, 2015


Directed by Robert Kenner

Written by Erik M. Conway, Robert Kenner, Naomi Oreskes, Kim Roberts

Produced by Robert Kenner, Melissa Robledo

Executive Producer: Pierre Omidyar, Jeff Skoll

Co-Producer: Dylan Nelson, Taki Oldham, Brian Pearle, Youtchi von Lintel

Music by Mark Adler

Edited by Kim Roberts


Starring:

Patricia Callahan

Matthew Crawford

Stanton A. Glantz

James Hansen

Katharine Heyhoe

Bob Inglis

Michael Mann

Marc Morano

Bill O’Keefe

Naomi Oreskes

John Passacantando

Tim Phillips

Sam Roe

Benjamin Santer

Michael Shermer

Frederick Singer

Jamy Ian Swiss


Inspired by the acclaimed book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, MERCHANTS OF DOUBT takes audiences on a satirically comedic yet illuminating ride into the heart of conjuring American spin. Filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the curtain on a secretive group of highly charismatic, silver-tongued pundits-for-hire who present themselves in the media as scientific authorities – yet have the contrary aim of spreading maximum confusion about well-studied public threats ranging from toxic chemicals to pharmaceuticals to climate change.


In 2010, American historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway wrote “Merchants of Doubt”.  A book that would identify the parallels between the global warming controversy and also earlier controversies such as tobacco smoking, acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer.

In 2014, award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner (“Food, Inc.”, “America’s Endangered Species: Don’t Say Goodbye”) would create his latest documentary based on the 2010 book.  And now, “Merchants of Doubt” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Picture Classics.

“Merchants of Doubt” is a documentary that tries to show the debate between science and politically conservative scientists or groups that are funded by corporations supporting a certain product.

The film would first focus on the tobacco industry and how the major players in the industry would testify that there were no proof that tobacco would cause lung cancer.  The documentary would feature an interview with Stanton Glantz and how tobacco companies and the doctors were reporting of how there is no conclusive evidence.  But how a whistleblower would eventually leak documents .

But how other companies would focus on a similar style such as the tobacco companies and other people observing the documents would look into other dangerous topics that companies may be hiding its dangers.

Another topic is in regards to flame retardant chemicals and how they are used on furniture and material used by children.  And how the Chicago Times focused on a story of flame retardants and the doctors downplaying the dangers of the chemicals.

The next topic which is greatly focused on, would be about global climate change and the battle between scientists, special interest groups, individuals, organizations and how certain “experts” are undermining the scientists and delaying any progress of trying to prevent global warming.  And both continuing the ongoing debate who is right and who is wrong.

But the film focuses on how corporate-financed public relation efforts are utilized to create confusion and skepticism and interviewing scientists, activists, whistleblowers and politicians who have tried to expose these activities.


VIDEO:

“Merchants of Doubt” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The documentary uses newer, digital footage and also archived video sources.  For the most part, the picture quality of the film is very sharp and colorful.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Merchants of Doubt” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.  For this documentary, dialogue and musical soundtrack is crystal clear and there are some moments where surround channels are utilized.  But for the most part, this is a dialogue-driven soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Turkish

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Merchants of Doubt” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Robert Kenner.
  • An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival with Robert Kenner – (17:45) A Q&A with director Robert Kenner about “Merchants of Doubt” at TIFF
  • Unlikely Voices – (5:25) Featuring a group of other individuals that were not featured in the final cut of “Merchants of Doubt”.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Merchants of Doubt”.

EXTRAS:

“Merchants of Doubt” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


“Merchants of Doubt” is no doubt an informative and important documentary from award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner.

There are no doubt a lot of things in the world and how human actions have affected this planet and while you have a large group of scientists who are vocal about how the world will need to change its ways or else it’s too late, there are other groups who intend to discredit the scientists and both offering their facts.  Who is right?  Who is wrong?

And these groups who provide evidence and studies showing something detrimental to one’s health or to the planet, there is always a group to discredit the findings and this is something we will see ongoing for the rest of our lives.

We can read many stories in the newspaper, from the threat of cell phones being held to one’s head so long, may lead to cancer.  Eating too much of this food or that food is bad for you.  And I’m sure many of us have seen many similar stories of other subject in the media throughout our lifetime, not knowing who is right and who is wrong.

But “Merchants of Doubt” does a wonderful job of showing how facts can be spun and how a quote from a scientist can be used out of context, how doctors, scientists serving a certain corporation can easily support their superiors and discrediting the facts.

The film first establishes how the tobacco industry was able to hide the facts that cigarettes were harmful to people and delayed the process in order to make money.  A whistleblower was able to leak classified information and the tobacco industry would receive a punishment but also open pandora’s box of other companies who may be doing something similar.

While Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway has done a wonderful job with their book, what’s surprising about Kenner’s documentary is the ability to interview individuals on both sides.  At first, because the film tries to show how corporations and hired clients try to create confusions and skepticism about the research from the scientists, we learn how its affected various scientists (many who receive death threats), how one politician went from highly favorable to losing in an election because of his perspective on global warming.

While the film tries to be optimistic that wrongs will be eventually be fixed in hopefully a shorter time it has taken with the tobacco industry, unfortunately, the days of seeing America take climate change seriously and the government backing it, seems unattainable, especially if politicians keep flipflopping from originally supporting that global warming was man-made and then suddenly changing their tone, of not sure who to blame.

But these topics are not restricted to global warming and there is no point of rehashing other topics since we live with it daily and can see it in the media too often than we would like.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Merchants of Doubt” is a film that is well-put together, considering Kenner was able to get individuals on both sides discussing their thoughts and their perspective of what they are supporting.  Picture and audio quality is well-done and you also get quite a few special features included as well!

I personally would love to share the same optimism that Robert Kenner has set in “Merchants of Doubt” by offering hope that things would someday change.  But for now, “Merchants of Doubt” is a documentary that will open many eyes and will be a film that will inform, anger or cajole an individual, or hopefully a next generation of future leaders or scientists and inspire them to do something in the best interest of the people and planet, not just for increased profits.

“Merchants of Doubt” is highly recommended!

 

Kung Fu Killer (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Kung Fu Killer” may not be remembered as a great Donnie Yen action film, but it no doubt a thrilling action film that martial arts fans will enjoy.  If you love Teddy Chan or Donnie Yen action films, then definitely give “Kung Fu Killer” a try!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Well Go USA. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Kung Fu Killer

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 101 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: July 21, 2015


Directed by Teddy Chan

Original Story by Teddy Chan, Ho Leung Lau

Written by Tin Shu Mak

Executive Producer: Alvin Chow, Nga-Bok Lei, Xiaoming Yan

Producer: Catherine Hun, Ning Song, Alex Tong

Associate Producer: Gin Lau, Paul Au

Music by Peter Kam

Cinematography by Wing-Hang Wong

Edited by Ka-Fai Cheung, Derek Hui

Production Design by Kenneth Mak

Art Direction by Wai Kin Lam

Costume Design by Dora Ng


Starring:

Donnie Yen as Hahou Mo

Charlie Yeung as Detective Luk Yuen-Su

Baoqiang Wang as Fung Yu-Sau

Bing Bai as Sinn Ying

Deep Ng as Tai Yue

Alex Fong as Chief Inspctor Lam

Kang Yu as Wong Chit


A vicious killer stalks the streets of Hong Kong, methodically executing top martial arts competitors. Xia (Donnie Yen), a convicted killer and kung fu expert, offers to help police find the killer and put him behind bars in return for his own freedom. The killer eludes them again and again, taunting the cops – and Xia, his new target – to discover his next moves. Xia refuses to play his lethal game…until the killer threatens the woman he loves most.


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Filmmaker Teddy Chan is known for many of his action films.

From “Downtown Torpedoes” (1997), “Purple Storm” (1999), “The Accidental Spy” (2001)”, “Bodyguards and Assassins” (2009), now comes his latest, martial arts film “Kung Fu Killer”.

The film stars Donnie Yen (“Ip Man”, “Hero”, “Iceman”), Baoqiang Wang (“Lost in Thailand”, “A Touch of Sin”, “Assembly”), Charlie Yeung (“Fallen Angels”, “Seven Swords”, “Bangkoko Dangerous”) and Bing Bai (“The Viral Factor”, “Shaolin”, “As the Light Goes Out”).

And now “Kung Fu Killer” will be released in the U.S. courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Kung Fu Killer” begins with an introduction to Hahou Mo (portrayed by Donnie Yen), a martial artist serving time in prison.

While reading a newspaper, news is broadcasted that a boxer was killed and the case is being investigated by Detective Luk Yuen-Sum (portrayed by Charlie Yeung).  Hahou Mo tries to ask guards for a personal meeting but seeing that he’s not going to get any special privileges, he causes a major prison fight and then tells the guards that he wants to see the detective.

Detective Luk Yuen-Sum goes to the prison to meet with Haou Mou.  He tries to explain to the detective that the boxer was murdered and that he can help her with the case.  But when she leaves, he starts naming seven names of seven martial-artists and telling her that one of these men will be next.

We are then introduced to Fung Yu-Sau (portrayed by Baoqiang Wang), a martial artist who has learned all major disciplines and has now targeted nine martial arts masters and wants to kill each of them in order to become #1.

With another martial arts expert killed by this martial arts serial killer, Detective Luk Yuen-Sum agrees to let Hahou Mo help her and her investigative team, if it would prevent any more deaths.

But does Hahou Mo have another reason why he wants to help the detective?


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VIDEO:

“Kung Fu Killer” is presented in 1080p High Definition and presented in 16:9 widescreen.  Picture quality is very good with skin tones being natural and great detail on closeups, as face details or clothing textures can be seen very well.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kung Fu Killer” is presented in Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  Dialogue and musical soundtrack is crystal clear and while an action film, you can hear the surround channels come into play with efficacy near the end of the film.  But overall, lossless audio is very good.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Kung Fu Killer” comes with the following special features:

  • Fight to the Top – (2:21) The talent and crew discuss “Kung Fu Killer”.
  • The Final Duel – (2:49) What to expect from a Donnie Yen film and making a realistic Kung Fu film.
  • The Spirit of Kung Fu – (2:30) Donnie Yen and Teddy Chen discuss the characters of the film and their connection to Kung Fu.
  • Legendary Action Directors – (2:34) How many respected figures came to work in this film.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Kung Fu Killer”.

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With Donnie Yen’s latest martial arts action film, you either get a wonderful martial arts film or a popcorn action film that you felt the only good thing about the film was that Donnie YUen starred in it.

And while I was wowed with “Ip Man”, felt OK about “Ip Man 2” and rolled my eyes when watching “Legend of the First: The Return of Chen Zhen” and felt amused with “Dragon” and not feeling any love for “Special ID”, the fact is that Donnie Yen’s presence is a big draw in an action film and that the 51-year-old actor still has a lot in him to continue to create action films that make money.

And with his last film “Iceman”, felt that Donnie Yen still had it in him to create great martial arts films.

My belief still continues that Donnie Yen is a bankable, thrilling action star with his latest film “Kung Fu Killer”.

Pitting together Yen and one of my favorite actors, Baoqiuang Wang as a martial arts serial killer and retaining that cold demeanor that he had in “A Touch of Sin”, it was amazing to see Wang keep up with Yen and other characters in the action scenes.

The actor dedicated himself into learning the martial arts moves, practicing intensely even during rehearsal and it paid off as the fight scenes in the film were absolutely thrilling and to see him play the villain against Donnie Yen’s character, who is the protagonist but also a man serving time in prison, was really interesting.

For those who grew up with martial arts fighting video games such as “Street Fighter” or “King of Fighters” will no doubt gravitate to this film because we see one man, who has learned various martial arts skills to take on the best martial arts master of their discipline in order to become #1.  And in this battle, all losers of each battle will die.

Yes, it may not be as deep as “Ip Man” and for many, will be more on the popcorn action side of Donnie Yen films, but you can’t help but enjoy these fast-paced battles leading to the main one-on-one battle between Donnie Yen and Baoqiuang Wang’s characters.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture and lossless audio is very good.  Slight use of DNR from what I can see but for the most part, picture quality is very good and also the lossless audio.  You do get a few short special features as well.

Overall, “Kung Fu Killer” may not be remembered as a great Donnie Yen action film, but it no doubt a thrilling action film that martial arts fans will enjoy.  If you love Teddy Chan or Donnie Yen action films, then definitely give “Kung Fu Killer” a try!

My Beautiful Laundrette – The Criterion Collection #767 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 18, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Stephen Frear’s “My Beautiful Laundrette” is a rare film to see released in the mid-’80s.  Its display of counterculture and tackling various subjects was well-done.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: My Beautiful Laundrette – The Criterion Collection #767

YEAR OF FILM: 1985

DURATION: 98 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Color, 1:66:1,English Monaural, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: MGM/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: July 21, 2015


Directed by Stephen Frears

Written by Hanif Kureishi

Produced by Tim Bevan, Sarah Radclyffe

Music by Ludus Tonalis

Cinematography by Oliver Stapleton

Edited by Mick Audsley

Casting by Debbie McWilliams

Production Design by Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski

Costume Design by Lindy Hemming


Starring:

Daniel Day-Lewis as Johnny

Richard Graham as Genghis

Derric Branche as Salim

Garry Cooper as Squatter

Gordon Warnecke as Omar

Roshan Seth as Papa

Saeed Jaffrey as Nasser

Shirley Anne Field as Rachel

Charu Bala Chokshi as Bilquis

Souad Farress as Cherry

Rita Wolf as Tania


Stephen Frears was at the forefront of the British cinematic revival of the mid-1980s, and the delightfully transgressive My Beautiful Laundrette is his greatest triumph of the period. Working from a richly layered script by Hanif Kureishi, who was soon to be an internationally renowned writer, Frears tells an uncommon love story that takes place between a young South London Pakistani man (Gordon Warnecke), who decides to open an upscale laundromat to make his family proud, and his childhood friend, a skinhead (Daniel Day-Lewis, in a breakthrough role) who volunteers to help make his dream a reality. This culture-clash comedy is also a subversive work of social realism that dares to address racism, homophobia, and sociopolitical marginalization in Margaret Thatcher’s England.


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Before “Dangerous Liaisons”, “The Queen” and “High Fidelity”, Stephen Frears directed the feature film “My Beautiful Laundrette” (1985).

A British comedy and drama based on a screenplay by Hanif Kureishi, the film takes on issues of the time including “Thatcherism” and the social and economic climate of Britain during the mid-’80s, homosexuality and also racism.

The film is one of the earlier films starring Daniel Day-Lewis (“Gangs of New  York”, “Lincoln”, “The Last of the Mohicans”), Gordon Warnecke (“Boon”, “The Pleasure Principle”), Richard Graham (“Titanic”, “Vera Drake”, “Gangs of New York”), Roshan Seth (“Gandhi”, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, “Street Fighter”), Saeed Jaffrey (“Gandhi”, “A Passage to India”, “The Man Who Would Be King”) and Shirley Anne Field (“Alfie”, “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”).

And now “My Beautiful Laundrette” received critical acclaim and was nominated in 1987 for “Best Original Screenplay”.  And now, “My Beautiful Laundrette” will be available in July 2015 on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“My Beautiful Laundrette” is set during the mid-’80s.  Omar Ali (portrayed by Gordon Warnecke) is a young man living in South London.  His father, a liberal British Pakistani journalist who lives in London but has a distaste toward British society and has become an alcoholic after a family tragedy and Omar is his caretaker.

But his uncle Nasser (portrayed by Saeed Jaffrey) is a successful businessman and is active in the London Pakistani community and when Omar’s father ask to give Omar a job, Nasser gives him a chance.

At first, Nasser wants to give Omar a taste of extravagance and while he gives Omar a job as a car washer at one of his garages, he decides to give Omar a chance to become successful by taking a run-down laundrette and turning it into a thriving, successful business.

And while Omar is excited at the opportunity to become a businessman, he is often asked to get closer with Nasser’s rebellious daughter, Tania (portrayed by Rita Wolf); trying to get through the anger of the rich Salim (portrayed by Derrick Branche), who is a drug trafficker, life changes when he gets reacquainted with his old friend, an anarchist named Johnny (portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis), who has the appearance of being a street thug.

And as Omar hires Johnny to work with him and Johnny wanting to turn a new leaf and make money, this decision angers Johnny’s anarchist friends, who look down on the Pakistani community.

But in truth, Omar and Johnny are gay men who once had a fling when they were younger and now, are together once again but hiding their relationship from their friends and family.

Will the pressures from society and the people around them affect, their relationship?


VIDEO:

“My Beautiful Laundrette – The Criterion Collection #767” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio). The film features a good amount of grain and because it was shot with a 16mm, has a good amount of grain for this film and looks good for its age.  Watching the film in HD as skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep and no signs of DNR or any problematic issues such as scratches, jitter, etc.

According to the Criterion Collection, the film was “supervised by director of photography Oliver Stapleton, this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from a 16 mm interpositive made from the 16 mm original A/B camera negative at Sony Colorworks in Culver City, California.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches and splices were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, flicker and jitter.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “My Beautiful Laundrette – The Criterion Collection #767”.  The monaural soundtrack is clear and dialogue and the ’80s soundtrack can be heard quite well.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm magnetic track.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation and iZotope RX 4.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“My Beautiful Laundrette – The Criterion Collection #767” comes with the following special features:

  • Stephen Frears – (33:06) Stephen Frears and Producer Colin MacCabe discuss “My Beautiful Laundrette” (2015).
  • Hanif Kureishi – (16:27) Hanif Kureishi discusses his first screenplay, “My Beautiful Laundrette” (2015).
  • Tim Bevan and Sarah Radclyffe – (22:20) Tim Bevan and Sarah Radclyffe, founders of Working Title discuss the film that changed their careers (2015).
  • Oliver Stapleton – (20:59) Cinematographer Oliver Stapleton discusses working with director Stephen Frears and on “My Beautiful Laundrette” (2015).
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “My Beautiful Laundrette”.

EXTRAS:

“My Beautiful Laundrette – The Criterion Collection #767” comes with a five-page fold-out insert with the essay “Postcolonialism in the Wash” by Graham Fuller.


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Having watched many of Stephen Frears films, one film that I haven’t watched is his 1985 comedy/drama.

A film that captures modern British culture and also counter-culture of the mid-80’s, I really enjoyed the film for how it captures two perspectives.

The first, which I can understand, being the son of immigrants and seeing how my parents and other family members have tried to survive and become part of the melting pot in America.  Growing up and seeing families who have succeeded (or built a facade of financial success) and being given opportunities by them to make something of myself.

But similar to the character of Omar, exhibiting a side of rebelliousness.

What I found interesting about Omar is how he would have this different life.  A good son but also a man who wants to prove he can take a craphole of a laundrette and prove like his uncle, he can be successful.  But as he tries to show he can be successful, unlike his older counterparts where money is everything and having luxuries that come with being successful, that’s not what Omar is about.

Unknown by them, he is a man who is gay, during a time when people kept their sexual preference secret.  Add in another unfortunate situation of being born Pakastani and seeing non-Pakistani people frown upon the people who have moved into their country.  Fears that are showcased by the anarchists who are depicted as those who hate society and most of all, foreigners who are moving, let alone owning establishments in their country.

What is interesting is that when this film was released, in America, a similar situation was happening as Japanese who were thriving in the bubble economy were taking over a lot of companies and similar hostilities and racism was on display as certain groups took their fears and converted them to violence.

The film also showcases a younger Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays the character of rebellious Johnny.  Who got caught up in the anti-establishment and hung out with a gang of anarchists.  But unknown to his group is that he and Omar have had a relationship that was cut short when they were younger.  Of course, because of the times, he tells his crew that he wants to change and make money for a change.  But his crew can’t understand why he would work for a Pakistani, people who have moved to their country and are owning a lot of businesses, which of course, these individuals see as wrong.

It’s an interesting look at society for its time and how it is a counter to the glitz of the ’80s.  For those who didn’t grow up during that time, the ’80s showcased financial indulgence.  From your dramas such as “Dynasty” to television shows of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, the ’80s were a time where people wanted to become rich and movies, television and media help propagate the luxurious lifestyle which continued on to the ’90s.

So, it was interesting to watch this film and know that it came out in the mid-’80s and was a counter-culture film tl the norm and I can understand why its beloved by many.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good, but for people expecting HD clarity, one must remember that films shot in 16 mm are not those type of films.  “My Beautiful Laundrette” looks very good as there is no discoloration or blurring and I was quite pleased with overall picture quality.  Meanwhile, the monaural lossless audio is also crystal clear with no hiss.

You get a good number of special features with the director, cinematographer and producers but it’s unfortunate there was no revisiting of the film with the original actors.  But still, the Criterion Collection has released a solid Blu-ray release that fans of the film, of Stephen Frears work or those wanting to see a rare type of film for the ’80s on Blu-ray.

Overall, Stephen Frear’s “My Beautiful Laundrette” is a rare film to see released in the mid-’80s.  Its display of counterculture and tackling various subjects was well-done.  Recommended!

Powers: Season 1 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Powers: Season 1” is an exciting storyline about a former superhero who has lost all his superpowers and together with his partner of the Powers Division, will do all they can to investigate and stop the evil individuals with Powers.  But can they?  For those who love edgy, dark and violent comic book stories, will enjoy “Powers: Season 1” on Blu-ray!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Sony Pictures Television. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Powers: Season 1

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 10 Episodes (437 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1, English and French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: NR

Release Date: July 14, 2015


Created by Brian Bendis and Charlie Huston

Directed by Bill Eagles, David Petrarca, Mikael Salomon, David Slade, Tim Hunter, Aaron Lipstadt

Written by Brian Bendis, Charlie Huston, Michael Avon Oeming, Allison Moore, David Paul Francis, Julie Siege, Remi Aubuchon

Based on the Comic Book by Seong-Dong Kim

Producer: Tae-hun Lee

Music by Dalparan, Peach

Cinematography by Taek Gyun Cha

Edited by Changju Kim, Kyoung-sook Park

Production Design by Je Heyon Park

Costume Design by Na-ry Son


Starring:

Sharlto Copley as Christian Walker

Susan Heyward as Deena Pilgrim

Noah Taylor as Johnny royalle

Olesya Rulin as Calista Secor

Adam Godley as Captain Cross

Max Fowler as Krispin Stockley

Michelle Forbes as Retro Girl

Eddie Izzard as “Big Bad” Wolfe

Logan Browning as Zora

Aaron Farb as Simons

Justice Leak as Kutter

Phillip DeVona as Zabriski

Andrew Sensenig as Triphammer


What if the world was full of superheroes who aren’t actually heroic at all? What if all their “powers” were just one more excuse for mischief, mayhem, murder, and endorsement deals? Enter the men and women of the Powers Division, the brave people in charge of protecting humans like us and keeping the peace over commercialized, god-like men and women who glide through the sky imposing their power over the mortals who both worship and fear them. Based on the graphic novel by Michael Avon Oeming and Brian Michael Bendis, the edgy and dramatic POWERS follows the lives of two homicide detectives, Christian Walker (Sharlto Copley) and Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward), who are assigned to investigate these cases.


Back in 2000, comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Avon Oeming created the comic book series “Powers”.

Known for its superhero fantasy, crime noir and police procedural genres, the online streaming series adaptation would have its premiere on the PlayStation Network in March 2015.

The film would star Sharlto Copley (“District 9”, “Maleficent”, “Chappie”), Susan Heyward (“Poltergeist”, “Mother of George”), Noah Taylor (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “Submarine”, “Almost Famous”), Olesya Rulin (“High School Musical” films, “Family Weekend”), Michelle Forbes (“Battlestar Galactica”, “True Blood”), Eddie Izzard (“Valkyrie”, “Ocean’s Thirteen”, “The Riches”), Logan Browning (“Bratz”, “Meet the Browns”), Adam Godley (“Battleship”, “The Theory of Everything”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), Max Fowler (“Rage”, “The Expelled”) and Aaron Farb (“42”, “Kill the Messenger”).

And now, the first season (ten episodes) will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The series revolves around homicide detective Christian Walker (portrayed by Sharlto Copley) and his new partner Deena Pilgrim (portrayed by Susan Heyward), both who work in a special homicide division called Powers, and investigate crimes caused by superhumans a.k.a. “Powers”.

Christian was formerly a superhero known as Diamond, a brave flying superhero until his powers were taken away by his previous mentor turned sadistic killer, Wolfe (portrayed by Eddie Izzard).

While Christian uses his experience to help the Powers division, the fact is he does miss his powers.

But for now, while his team do their thing, other superheroes such as the invulnerable and powerful Retro Girl (portrayed by Michelle Forbes), non-powered scientific genius Triphammer or the young light manipulator Zora (portrayed by Logan Browning), help in taking down the villains and protect the innocent civilization.

But all is not easy for Powers as his former best friend, a teleporter named Johnny Royalle (portrayed by Noah Taylor) is one of the top people in the underground who is responsible for the distribution of a power-enhancing drug known as “Sway”, which may also kill the person taking it.  His mentor Wolfe (portrayed by Eddie Izzard) has become a sadistic supervillain who eats people and powers in order to “fuel up”.  And there is Calista Secor (portrayed by Olesya Rulin), a wannabe who hangs out with powers (and protected by Johnny Royalle), and convinces herself that she has powers that will awaken someday.

But the city will be rocked when the super villain, the big bad “Wolfe” escapes from prison.  Can anyone stop him?


VIDEO:

“Powers: Season One” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1). Picture quality is very good as closeups showcase great detail on the skin of characters.  Outdoor scenes are vibrant but for the most part, the series looks very good in HD. I didn’t notice any banding issues or artifacts.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Powers: Season One” is presented in English and French DTS-HD MA.  The lossless soundtrack is very good, from its gory sounds of Wolfe feasting on his victims, Retro Girl breaking the sound barrier during flight or the many action sequences throughout the film.  Dialogue is crystal clear and while not entirely immersive, the action sequences utilizes the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Powers: Season 1” comes with the following special features:

  • Policing the All Powerful: Envisioning and Filming Powers – (10:07) The cast and crew discuss being part of “Powers”.
  • From One Visual Medium to Another: The Art and Adaptation of Powers – (11:01) Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming discuss the comic book series they created and the difference from the TV series and the original comic books.
  • Outtakes – (2:16) Outtakes from the first season of “Powers”.

EXTRAS:

“Powers: Season 1” comes with an UltraViolet code.


While I have never read the “Powers” comic book series, I have read comic books in the past that dealt with normal people in the world of superheroes.

Marvel had flirted with this storyline in the past, one of my favorites was an Ultraverse comic book series known as “Firearm” about a normal policeman taking on supervillains.  But there are also series that dealt with the concept of superheroes in a dark, interesting storyline, one of those popular comic book titles became a live action film years ago titled “The Watchmen”.

But I watched “Powers” and I couldn’t help but be captivated in the storyline of a former, popular superhero known as Diamond, whose powers were sucked out by his former mentor turned sadistic supervillain, Wolfe.

Diamond, who is now a homicide detective going by his real name Christian Walker works in the Powers division for law enforcement trying to capture Powers supervillains but it has not been an easy job.  Walker thinks about being a superhero and his old superpowers far too often, messed up after his partner is killed by a Powers they took into custody and now he has a new partner in Deena Pilgrim, who is excited to be Walker’s partner, but yet Walker doesn’t want to see another partner get killed.

Throw in an interesting cast in characters such as his former friend and now a shady, cold bad guy named Johnny Royalle; a wannabe who desires powers named Calista Secor; his former flame and one of the few superheroes that he grew up and is still going strong, Retro Girl but also the sadistic and savage supervillain, his former mentor Wolfe.

As the first few episodes tries to establish the characters and the world they live in, it doesn’t take long for the story to become a bit gruesome thanks to the Big Bad Wolfe.  A former mentor not just to Christian but also Johnny Royalle, these three had a special friendship until something bad ruined it.

But as Wolfe tries to eat as many people as he can in order to fuel himself and become uber-powerful, with his escape from prison, past and present superheroes try to do all they can to take him on.  But  can they really match up with Wolfe’s sadistic might?

The first season is still in that developmental stage where actors are trying to feel their comfort zone, creators trying to ramp up the excitement and sure enough, ends the first season with a major surprise.  I feel the writing and acting definitely improved throughout the season and I’m looking forward to season two.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and the series featuring great picture quality, while the lossless soundtrack may not be entirely immersive but sounds very good.  You also get a few special features included, especially one that goes into the differences between the comic book and the series.

I have to admit, when it was announced that there would be a series that would be premiering on the Sony PlayStation, I was a bit surprised by that.  I would never expect original series to be featured for a video game console, but I’m glad that “Powers” received an adaptation and like many others, I’m looking forward to season two.

With that being said, its important to note that despite this being a superhero series, this is not for parents to show children. There is a lot of violence, blood, profanity and definitely not a family series.

Overall, “Powers: Season 1” is an exciting storyline about a former superhero who has lost all his superpowers and together with his partner of the Powers Division, will do all they can to investigate and stop the evil individuals with Powers.  But can they?  For those who love edgy, darker comic book stories, will enjoy “Powers: Season 1” on Blu-ray!

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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For those wanting to escape the seriousness of life and are in the mood for crazy, moronic comedy featuring America’s famous mall cop, Paul Blart, then you’ll be in for a treat with “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2”.

Images courtesy of © 2015 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 94 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), English/Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Sanish, Thai, English, French – Audio Description Tracks 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG/Some Violence

Release Date: July 14, 2015


Directed by Andy Fickman

Written by Kevin James, Nick Bakay

Produced by Todd Garner, Jack Giarraputo, Kevin James, Adam Sandler

Executive Producer: Marty P. Ewing, Jeff Sussman, Ben Waisbren

Music by Rupert Gregson-Williams

Cinematography by Dean Semler

Edited by Scott Hill

Casting by Marcia Ross

Production Design by Perry Andelin Blake

Art Direction by Alan Au

Set Decoration by Karen O’Hara

Costume Design by Genevieve Tyrrell


Starring:

Kevin James as Paul Blart

Raini Rodriguez as Maya

Eduardo Verastegui as Eduardo Furtillo

Daniella Alonso as Divina

Neal McDonough as Vincent

David Henrie as Lane

D.B. Woodside as Robinson

Nicholas Turturro as Nick Manero

Lonio Love as Donna Ericone

Gary Valentine as Saul Gundermutt

Ana Gasteyer as Mrs. Gundermutt

Shelly Desai as Khan Mubi

Steffiana De La Cruz as Kira

Adhir Kalyan as Pahud

Bob Clendenin as Muhrtelle

Shirley Knight as Blart’s Mother

Vic Dibitetto as Gino Chizetti


After six years of keeping our malls safe, Paul Blart (Kevin James) has earned a well-deserved vacation. He heads to Vegas with his teenage daughter before she heads off to college. But safety never takes a holiday, and when duty calls, Blart answers.


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While the 2009 action-comedy “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” didn’t garner the best reviews from film critics, the $26 million film would go on to make over $183 million worldwide.

A box office success, the film would ensure itself a sequel and sure enough, in 2015, filmmaker Andy Fickman (“She’s the Man”, “You Again”, “The Game Plan”) and actor/writer Kevin James (“The King of Queens”, “Hitch”, “Here Comes the Boom”) and co-writer Nick Bakay (“The King of Queens”, “Zookeeper”) would return with “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2”.

And like the first film, received negative reviews but yet made over a $100 million worldwide.

And now “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in July 2015.

With the sequel, we learn immediately that Paul Blart (portrayed by Kevin James) has suffered a lot of bad luck.

His wife Amy divorced him six days into the marriage, his mother Margaret was struck and killed by a milk truck and now, he must deal with his daughter Maya (portrayed by Raini Rodriguez) getting ready to leave home and focus on college, not knowing that she was accepted to UCLA, on the other side of the country.

But fortunately, for Paul, he is invited to a security officer’s convention in Las Vegas and hopes that this will change his luck.  Bringing his daughter along, the two have fun at the Wynn hotel and Paul thinks he is a keynote speaker at the event.  But as the vacation is expected to be for R&R, Paul can’t stop being overprotective towards his daughter and not wanting her to speak to other guys at the hotel.

But unbeknown to Paul, Vincent Sofel (portrayed by Neal McDonough) and his accomplices disguised as hotel employees, are planning to steal priceless artwork from the hotel and replace them with replicas.  But when Maya walks into their hotel room and sees the men stealing the art, she is kidnapped.

Can Paul save his daughter?


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VIDEO:

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks absolutely gorgeous in HD as colors are vibrant during outdoor and also indoor scenes, closeups show great detail, black levels are deep but most importantly, the colors and the detail stand out.  But this film, shot digitally, looks amazing on HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French, Spanish, Thai, English, French – Audio Description Track 5.1.  Dialogue and music features wonderful lossless audio as dialogue is crystal clear, music often showcases great bass.  As for the surround channels, we get to see those channels utilized during the action sequences.  May it be the action special effects, the sound of a zip line and helicopter to a specialized gun and more.  While not super-immersive, the soundtrack sounds very good!

Subtitle is presented in English, English SDH, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Gag Reel – (7:41) A fun blooper reel and Kevin James having fun on set.
  • Security Force: The Cast of Paul Blart 2 – (4:55) The cast discuss working on “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2”.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring six deleted scenes not included in the film.
  • Action Adventure – (5:57) A featurette about the action-sequences in the film.
  • Back in the Saddle – (1:58) A featurette about using segways in the sequel.
  • How to Make a Movie – (4:12) Director Andy Fickman discussing how to make a film and those involved in making the film.
  • Le Reve – (4:49) How the Las Vegas show “Le Reve” was incorporated into the film.
  • No Animals Were Harmed – (2:15) A featurette featuring the bird fight sequence.
  • Sales Tactics – (3:27) A featurette or more of a gag reel featuring Richie Minervini.
  • Real Cops – (1:16) Police officers discuss their feelings about Paul Blart.
  • Photo Gallery – View the various stills shot from the film.

EXTRAS:

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.  Also, included is an UltraViolet code.


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It’s often the norm that film critics most often give not the best reviews for Happy Madison-related films.

And the same can be said about “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2”, a film that continues the adventures of overweight security guard, Paul Blart.  A man with bad-luck on his side, often an over-protective father and throw-in a lot of miscommunication and that is the life of Blart.

This time, we see Paul and his daughter Marni in Las Vegas and as one can expect, hilarity ensues and the story is farfetched, the characters are funny or moronic and you no doubt get a good number of wild and crazy scenes.

But it all comes down to ones view of Happy Madison comedy.  As often is the case, if you are wanting to escape from reality and want something that is far from real, crazy, stupid/hilarious, then you can always depend on these films to be a perfect escape and the misfortune of Paul Blart, the famous mall cop will no doubt bring you many laughs.

From Paul Blart trying to climb the reception area and having difficulty, to showing off on a segway near incoming parking traffic, or rebuffing general manager Divina Martinez and thinking that she’s infatuated with him and the fact that he thinks she has the hots for him, and seeing her getting worked up by it.

Of course, there are a lot more crazy moments and the action scenes are hilarious, yes…stupid, but you expect those kind of things to happen in a Kevin James film.  May it be a “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” or “Zookeeper” related film, you know already, what kind of film you are going to get.  It’s just subjective to the viewer if you can accept moronic humor.

So, it’s interesting to see an art heist taking place at the same hotel of a security guard convention and the crazy things that ensues.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality for the Blu-ray release is fantastic.  Colors are vibrant, detail is fantastic and the lossless soundtrack is good, not very immersive as I would have liked, but is good.  And you also get a good number of special features included in the Blu-ray + DVD release.

Overall, for those wanting to escape the seriousness of life and are in the mood for crazy, moronic comedy featuring America’s famous mall cop, Paul Blart, then you’ll be in for a treat with “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2”.  Otherwise, if you are wanting something intellectually stimulating and a plot so deep, then obviously this film is not for you!

The Salt of the Earth (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you are a fan or a person who respects the work of Sebastião Salgado, “The Salt of the Earth” is highly recommended.  Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado has done a wonderful job in compiling this film but most of all giving us a wonderful look into the life and the mind of one of the world’s most important photographers.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Decla Films and Amazones Images. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Salt of the Earth

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 85 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), English/Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: July 14, 2015


Directed by Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders

Written by Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, David Rosier

Produced by David Rosier

Executive Producer: Wim Wenders

Co-Producer: Andrea Gambetta, Lelia Wanick Salgado

Music by Laurent Petitgand

Cinematography by Hugo Barbier, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado

Edited by Maxine Goedicke, Rob Myers


Starring:

Sebastiao Salgado as Himself/Photographer

Wim Wenders as Himself/Narrator

Juliano Ribeiro Salgado as Himself/Narrator

Hugo Barbier

Jacques Barthelemy

Lelia Wanick Salgado


For the last 40 years, the photographer Sebastiao Salgado has been traveling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity. He had witnessed some of the major events of our recent history: international conflicts, starvation and exodus. He is now embarking on the discovery of pristine territories, of wild fauna and flora, and of grandiose landscapes as part of a huge photographic project which is a tribute to the planet’s beauty.


Sebastião Salgado, the photojournalist and social documentary photographer who is well-known worldwide for his photography.

Featured in exhibits all over the world, gallery director Hal Gould has called Salgado as “the most important photographer of the early 21st century”.

From his most famous pictures taken at the Serra Pelada gold mine in Brazil to various tribes and landscapes and wildlife, filmmaker Wim Wenders (“Wings of Desire”, “Buena Vista Social Club”, “Pina”) and Salgado’s son, Juliano Ribiero Salgado has celebrated the work of Sebastião through their 2014 documentary titled “The Salt of the Earth”.

The documentary would win a special award at the Cannes Film Festival.

And now “The Salt of the Earth” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics in July 2015.

Discover the 40 years of Sebastião Salgado, his thoughts of his famous work capturing humanity and also nature, but his thoughts when he sees the photos and his memories of when he took those shots.

All this and more in Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado’s “The Salt of the Earth”.


VIDEO:

“The Salt of the Earth” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks absolutely gorgeous in HD as colors are vibrant during outdoor scenes, closeups show great detail, black levels are deep but most importantly, the colors and the detail stand out.  It’s important to note that the documentary showcases photography but the photos look great in HD.

I didn’t notice any artifacts or any problems with picture quality, “The Salt of the Earth” looks great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Salt of the Earth” is presented in English/Portuguese (note: The back of the package shows as English but I am assuming the other language mostly spoken throughout the film is in Portuguese) 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is primarily dialogue driven as we have narration by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, interviews with Sebastiao Salgado and more.  Dialogue is crystal clear and some outdoor scenes that showcase the ambiance of the environments  presented.

Subtitles are in English and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Salt of the Earth” comes with the following special features:

  • Filmmaker’s Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado.
  • Looking Back with Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado – (11:33) The directors discuss their experiences of making “The Salt of the Earth”.
  • Deleted Scenes – (10:02) Feature ten deleted scenes of more footage not included in the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “The Salt of the Earth”.

EXTRAS:

“The Salt of the Earth” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


Sebastião Salgado is a photographer that is passionate about photography and capturing humanity and life.

With an eye for what he wants to capture, for many who has traveled throughout the world, looking at his magnificent photography, you realize how he has covered so much of humanity and its landscapes but also has captured the good and bad, the light and dark, the hope and greed of what exists.  Like art, his photos has a story and for those fortunate to visit a gallery featuring his work know some background of his most famous works.

But with “The Salt of the Earth”, Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado gives us a better idea of what went on behind the camera for the elder Salgado and his present thoughts behind them but also his feelings of what photographing humanity and landscapes has taught him.

And this is what Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado has done amazingly well, by showing us how Sebastião takes his photos and his process by accompanying the world renown photographer through various countries, getting to know the man behind the camera but also knowing more about his past work.

The film shows gives us insight to Sebastião Salgado’s work such as how he became a photographer, traveling with his wife to various locations but also giving us insight to his famous photographs such as his photos from Serra Pelada gold mine in Brazil.

We also watch Sebastião photographing tribes, while Wenders and the young Salgado film from afar and seeing how Sebastião works with his subjects.

But you can see at a young age, how he was interested in photographing the poor, photos of those who were stricken by famine, people forced out of their homes, refugees traveling miles to find safety, people killed by unfortunate circumstances and discovering the greed of humanity and the tragedy, violence and brutality he caught on camera.

And while the film focuses a lot on Sebastião’s past, you also get to see his work in the present time and to see how his mission, his work, has not wavered as he is still passionate of capturing humanity and nature behind the lens.

But as the film is very much a tribute to the work of Sebastião Salgado, the film is also of family bonding or more of discovery as Juliano Ribeiro co-directs this film as a way of discovering his father, the photographer and adventurer for the very first time.

As for the Blu-ray, the documentary goes back and forth with showcasing photography from various decades and video footage from the present.   The sharpness and detail of the photography in the film is well-done.  Sebastião Salgado’s photography looks absolutely magnificent.  The lossless soundtrack features clear dialogue with music and also English subtitles that are easy to read.

Special features including a filmmaker’s commentary, deleted scenes with more footage not included in the film and also Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado looking back at working on the film.

It’s important to note that for those wanting to watch the film with children, be aware that because Sebastião Salgado goes deep into the Amazon to feature a tribe, the men, women and children in the tribe are completely nude.

Overall, if you are a fan or a person who respects the work of Sebastião Salgado, “The Salt of the Earth” is highly recommended.  Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado has done a wonderful job in compiling this film but most of all giving us a wonderful look into the life and the mind of one of the world’s most important photographers.

 

My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479 (as part of “André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films”) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 18, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“My Dinner with Andre” is unique and intelligent but it’s the type of film that is not meant for the masses, primarily because most people will have a hard time relating to the discussion or it’s too long of a discussion that they may not care for or find hard to follow. If anything, sit and watch and be like the third person as you watch this fascinating discussion between both men. “My Dinner with Andre” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479 (as part of “André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films”)

YEAR OF FILM: 1981

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:66:1 aspect ratio, English Monaural LPCM 1.0, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2015


Directed by Louis Malle

Written by Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn

Produced by George W. George, Beverly Karp

 Associate Producer: Dave Franke, Keith W. Rouse

Music by Allen Shawn

Cinematography by Jeri Sopanen

Edited by Suzanne Baron

Production Design by David Mitchell

Art Direction by Stephen McCabe

Set Decoration by Doug Kraner

Costume Design by Jeff Ullman


Starring:

Wallace Shawn as Wally Shawn

Andre Gregory as Andre Gregory

Jean Lenauer as the Waiter

Roy Butler as the Bartender


In this captivating and philosophical film directed by Louis Malle (Au revoir les enfants), actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride) sits down with his friend the theater director André Gregory (Vanya on 42nd Street) at a restaurant on New York’s Upper West Side, and the pair proceed through an alternately whimsical and despairing confessional about love, death, money, and all the superstition in between. Playing variations on their own New York–honed personas, Shawn and Gregory, who also cowrote the screenplay, dive in with introspective intellectual gusto, and Malle captures it all with a delicate, artful detachment. A fascinating freeze-frame of cosmopolitan culture, My Dinner with André remains a unique work in cinema history.

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French filmmaker Louis Malle will be known for directing masterful works such as “Elevator to the Gallows”, “Lacombe, Lucien”, “Au Revoir Les Enfants”, “The Lovers”, “Zazie dans le metro” to name a few.  But there was one film that he directed that would become one of the critical acclaimed films of 1982.

That film is titled “My Dinner with Andre”, a film was originally written by actors Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn who wanted to create a film about two people having a conversation.

And as the two were looking for a director, French filmmaker Louis Malle who had read a copy of the screenplay offered to direct, produce and work on the film.    And sure enough the two writers/actors would eventually work with the legendary Malle and shot in two weeks at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia.

The film was ranked as “Best American Film” of 1982 by the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards and both Gregory and Shawn won a prize for “Best Screenplay”.  But the biggest supporters that helped the film for popularity were film critics, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.  Ebert would name “My Dinner with Andrew” as “best film of the year” and would include it in his “Great Movies” essay series.

While the film was released by the Criterion Collection several years ago, on June 2015, as part of the “André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films” Blu-ray box set release, “My Dinner with Andre” will receive its first HD release on Blu-ray.

“My Dinner with Andre” revolves around a playwright named Wallace Shawn (portrayed by Wallace Shawn) who has not been able to find work, so his girlfriend is currently taking care of the both of them.

He receives an invitation to dinner at Cafe des Artistes from Andre Gregory (portrayed by Andre Gregory) who was an actor, theatre director and heavily involved in the theater until one day, he left it in the mid-70s and Wallace has not seen or heard of him until recently.

As the two discuss the theatre, Wallace wants to get into a discussion of why Andre would leave all that he has worked hard for, while Andre explains the spiritual awakening he received from traveling to different countries as an actor and the change in his life after being buried alive on Halloween night.

But as the discussion delves into Andre discussing with Wallace of how people should live their life a certain way, Wallace tries to counter Andre that not everyone can do what he did.  But both have their own different perspectives about life.

How will Shawn’s experience go as he has dinner with Andre?


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VIDEO:

“My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio).  The film features a good amount of grain and because it was shot with a low budget ala 16mm, the grain is expected.  Colors look good considering it’s an early ’80s film without the over-use of DNR and there are no scratches or any problematic issues with the film.  No discoloration or artifacts at all.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original 16 mm A/B negative.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using DaVinci’s Revival, MTi’s DRS, and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Vision’s DVNR was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479” is presented in English LPCM 1.0 monaural. Dialogue is clear with no sign of hiss or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original 16 mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX4.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479” comes with the following special features:

  • Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn – (1:00:35) 2009 interviews with filmmaker Noah Baumbach with writers-actors Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn about their experiences making “My Dinner with Andre”.
  • “My Dinner with Louis” – (52:08) An excerpt from a 1982 episode of the BBC series “Arena”, writer-actor Wallace Shawn meets with director Louis Malle in Atlantic City to talk about the filmmaker’s “artistic quest”, from his  days at sea with Jacques Cousteau to his adventures making American movies.

EXTRAS:

“My Dinner with Andre – The Criterion Collection #479” comes with a 28-page booklet which includes the essay “Long, Strange Trips” by Amy Taubin and “On the Origins of My Dinner with Andre” by Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn.


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Back when I was watching Eric Rohmer films heavily and praised his films especially for his film “My Night at Maud’s” for its use of intellectual conversations, a friend recommended to me a film by Louis Malle titled “My Dinner with Andre”.

Louis Malle (“Au Revoir Les Enfants”, “Elevator to the Gallows”, “Atlantic City”, “Lacombe, Lucien”) who wanted to direct this film after reading the script, was interested in taking the screenplay written by writer/actors Andre Gregory (“The Last Temptation of Christ”, “Demolition Man”) and Wallace Shawn (“The Princess Bride”, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, “Crossing Jordan”) and making it into a film.

As Rohmer’s “My Night at Maud’s” has a long stretch of conversation throughout the film, “My Dinner with Andre” is a film primarily about the discussion between two friends.

The fact that a film about a discussion between two men was even made and many people would go to the theaters after the film was championed by film critics such as Siskel & Ebert, would no doubt be a unique moment in American cinema.

I found “My Dinner with Andre” to be a fascinating film but one that required multiple viewings because it’s a long discussion which doesn’t allow you to settle down and get ready for a new scene, because the discussions are continuing, flowing in a smooth path but without many scene transformation to a next day, a new location aside from the first and last minutes of the film .  It’s literally two men sitting down and having an intellectual conversation, but also a debate of two viewpoints.

And in many ways, it’s a common theme between one who has had worldy experiences and one who has not and is still restricted within a paradigm of banality.

Wallace Shawn is a man who works in a career that he loves, but he doesn’t make much money as his scripts are turned down and he chose to work in the theater and has dedicated his life to it, despite no success or any new cashflow, thus his girlfriend is the breadwinner.

And as Wallace  tries to understand why Andre would leave the theater, the answer is not cut and dry, nor simple or farfetched.  Andre is a man who has had a significant lifechanging moment and while those who never had experienced what he has, may not understand him, Wallace at least listens and is able to touch upon areas that can lead to debate.  While viewers who gets the film, will probably have a big smile as I have, because the discussion is quite intriguing.

As for the Blu-ray release, the 16mm film does showcase a lot of grain which one can expect (as the film was shot with a low budget).  But still, considering the film’s age, picture quality is good with no sign of scratches or any discoloration.  Lossless audio is crystal clear and for the most part, I see certain detail which looks much better than the Criterion Collection DVD I purchased a few years ago.  Watching this film on Blu-ray has much better colors and clarity.

As for special features, you get a fascinating interview with both Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, plus an older interview between Wallace Shawn and filmmaker Louis Malle.

With that being said, “My Dinner with Andre” is unique and intelligent but it’s the type of film that is not meant for the masses, primarily because most people will have a hard time relating to the discussion or it’s too long of a discussion that they may not care for or find hard to follow.  If anything, sit and watch and be like the third person as you watch this fascinating discussion between both men.

“My Dinner with Andre” is recommended!

 

 

Wild Tales (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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 Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales” is a magnificent anthology film that revolves around revenge.  Well-acted, well-shot but also wonderfully directed!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Wild Tales

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 85 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG (For Thematic Material and Language)

Release Date: June 16, 2015


Directed by Damian Szifron

Written by Damian Sziron

Produced by Agustin Almodovar, Pedro Almodovar, Matias Mosteirin, Hugo Sigman

Executive Producer: Leticia Cristi, Pola Zito

Co-Producer: Axel Kuschevatzky

Music by Gustavo Santaolalla

Cinematography by Javier Julia

Edited by Pablo Barbieri Carrera, Damian Szifron

Casting by Javier Braier

Production Design by Maria Clara Notari

Costume Design by Ruth Fischerman


Starring:

Dario Grandinetti as Salgado

Maria Marull as Isabel

Monica Villa as Profesora Leguizamon

Rita Cortese as Cocinera

Julieta Zylberberg as Moza

Cesar Bordon as Cuenca

Leonardo Sbaraglia as Diego

Walter Donado as Mario

Ricardo Darin as Simon

Nancy Duplaa as Victoria

Oscar Martinez as Mauricio

Maria Onetto as Helena


WILD TALES is a fresco of rage, fury, deception, and revenge. Made up of six stories, it is an entertaining and jaw-dropping film about people crossing the line into madness when faced with perceived injustice. A lover’s betrayal, a return to the repressed past, and the violence woven into everyday encounters drive the characters to lose control and cross the line that divides civilization and barbarism.


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From the wild mind of filmmaker Damian Szifron (“On Probation”, “Bottom of the Sea”) comes the 2014 Argentine-Spanish black comedy film “Wild Tales”.

Produced by Agustin and Pedro Almodovar, “Wild Tales” stars an ensemble cast which includes Dario Grandinetti (“Talk to Her”, “The Dark Side of the Heart”), Maria Marull (“Bottom of the Sea”, “Antes del estreno”), Leonardo Sbaraglia (“Intacto”, “Burnt Money”), Ricardo Darin (“The Secret in their Eyes”, “Son of the Bride”), Rita Cortese (“Brother and Sister”, “Inheritance”), Monica Vila (“The Holy Girl”, “Waiting for the Hearse”), Julieta Zylberberg (“The Invisble Eye”, “Farsantes”), Oscar Martinez (“Don’t Die Without Telling Me Where You Are Going”, “Empty Nest”) and many more.

Most recently, “Wild Tales” received an Academy Award nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 87th Academy Awards.

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in June 2015, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The film is an anthology-type film which is composed of six standalone shorts about revenge.

The first short is titled “Pasternak” which begins with two passengers who meet on a plane and discover they know a man named Pasternak and others on the plane start to listen on the conversation and realize, they all know Pasternak.  But why are they all on the plane”?

The second short is titled “The Rats” and a loan shark stops at a small restaurant in the lonely highway.  His waitress recognizes the man that took her family’s money away, which caused his father to kill himself and he also sexually assaulted her mother, who escaped to the small town to get away from the man.  Scared of the man, the cook who is not afraid of him, offers to put rat poison in his food.  But the waitress doesn’t want to go to prison, but without the waitress’ knowledge, the cook went ahead and put poison in the food.  Will the waitress get her revenge or will her conscious get the best of her?

The third short is titled “The Strongest” and shows a man named Diego in his luxury car trying to overpass a slower, older car that blocks him on the road.  As Diego passes the other driver named Mario, he insults him and then speeds off.  That is until Diego’s car has a flat tire on the road, suddenly Mario, who drove the older car decides to stop his car right in front of him.

The fourth short is titled “Little Bomb” and revolves around a demolitions expert named Simon Fischer.  One day, while picking up a birthday cake for his daughter, his car is towed away.  He tries to argue that there are no yellow lines and that his car is unfairly towed away and tries to argue with them, but not achieving any success.  He is told to come back to discuss his dispute and when he does and doesn’t get the refund that he is seeking, he goes ballistic and tries to attack the man behind the glass partition.  This leads to the story making it on the news and Simon losing his job and now close to losing his family.  How will Simon fight back?

The fifth short is titled “The Proposal” and revolves around a teenager who has killed pregnant woman with his car in a hit-and-run accident.  His father, the wealthy Mauricio Pereyra Hamilton hires his attorney who hatches a plan to put the blame on the groundskeeper.  The groundskeeper will agree to it for a lot of money, the lawyer wants his cut for his fee but also arranging with the prosecutor for monetary compensation as well.  But will Mauricio want to pay up?

The sixth and final short is titled “Until Death Do Us Part” and revolves around the wedding party of Romina and the groom, Ariel.  But when Romina tests a phone by calling someone up, a woman picks up and immediately, Romina finds out that her husband may have slept with another woman.  As she questions him if he did have sex with her, and admits to it.  Angered, depressed and feeling that her wedding has been destroyed, Romina decides to get her revenge at the wedding party.


VIDEO:

“Wild Tales” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). The film looks absolutely gorgeous in HD as colors are vibrant during outdoor scenes, closeups show great detail, black levels are deep but most importantly, the colors and the detail stand out.

I didn’t notice any artifacts or any noise problems, the film is just gorgeous to look at!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Wild Tales” is presented in Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film is primarily dialogue driven offering wonderful clarity of a scene’s environment and the ambiance of various locations.  Music is also crystal clear and showcase low frequency sounds of the bass.  But overall, dialogue and music is crystal clear, background sounds are well-utilized through the rear surround channels and overall, a fantastic lossless soundtrack!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Wild Tales” comes with the following special features:

  • Wild Shooting: Creating the Film – (25:00) A featurette that goes into the making of “Wild Shooting”.
  • An Evening at the Toronto Film International Film Festival with Damian Szifron  – (6:44) Featuring the Q&A with director Damian Szifron at TIFF.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Wild Tales”.

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Quite often with anthology films, they tend to lean more towards the romantic side and show us different interpretations of love.

But with Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales”, it’s quite the opposite as the film delves into the topic of revenge.

And without spoiling the film, I found Szifron’s take on revenge to be quite fascinating, over-the-top and fantastic!

Because of the film’s theme, we know that with every short, nothing is going to bode well for certain characters but the question is how will a character get their revenge?  Will it happen?  Does it happen?  And for the most part, you can’t help but be mesmerized with each story because Szifron manages to take you one direction that is plausible, sometimes expected but then goes off on a tangent to an unexpected territory that you can’t believe a story ended that certain way.  The film is cleverly written!

Each of the stories are wonderfully performed and the cinematography is also gorgeous.

The Blu-ray release features magnificent picture quality with vibrant colors during outdoor scenes to a consistent showcase of clarity.  I also can say positive things in regards to the lossless audio as dialogue and music are crystal clear but the environments sound wonderful through the surround channels.  And you get a few special features including a making-of and a Q&A at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Overall, Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales” is a magnificent anthology film that revolves around revenge.  Well-acted, well-shot but also wonderfully directed!  Highly recommended!

The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Bridge” is a wonderful post-World War II film by filmmaker Bernhard Wicki with an anti-war message that would win over audiences but also usher a new generation of New German Cinema filmmakers.  Thought provoking and recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763

YEAR OF FILM: 1959

DURATION: 103 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, B&W,  German Monaural LPCM 1.0, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: June 23, 2015


Directed by Bernhard Wicki

Based on the Novel by Manfred Gregor

Written by Michael Mansfeld, Karl-Wilhelm Vivier

Produced by Hermann Schwerin

Co-Producer: Jochnen Schwerin

Executive Producer: Hans Wolff

Cinematography by Gerd von Bonin

Edited by Carl Otto Bartning

Production Design by Heinrich Graf Bruhl, Peter Scharff

Costume Design by Josef Wanke


Starring:

Folker Bohnet as Hans Scholten

Fritz Wepper as Albert Mutz

Michael Hinz as Walter Forst

Fran Glaubrecht as Jurgen Borchert

Karl Michael Balzer as Karl Horber

Volker Lechtenbrink as Klaus Hager

Gunther Hoffman as Sigi Bernhard

Cordula Trantow as Franziska

Wolfgang Stumpf as Stern

Gunter Pfitzmann as Heilmann

Heinz Spitzner as Frohlich

Siegfriend Schurenberg as Lt. Colonel

Ruth Hausmeister as Mrs. Mutz

Eva Vaitl as Mrs. Borchert

Edith Schultze-Westrum as Mother Bernhard

Hans Elwenspoek as Mr. Forst

Trude Brietschopf as Mrs. Forst

Klaus Hellmold as Mr. Horber

Inge Benz as Sigrun


The astonishing The Bridge, by Bernhard Wicki (The Longest Day), was the first major antiwar film to come out of Germany after World War II, as well as the nation’s first postwar film to be widely shown internationally, even securing an Oscar nomination. Set near the end of the war, it follows a group of teenage boys in a small town as they contend with everyday matters like school, girls, and parents, before enlisting as soldiers and being forced to defend their home turf in a confused, terrifying battle. This expressively shot, emotionally bruising drama dared to humanize young German soldiers at a historically tender moment, and proved influential for the coming generation of New German Cinema auteurs.

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From Austrian filmmaker and actor Bernhard Wicki comes the anti-war 1959 West German film “Die Brucke” (The Bridge).

Based on the novel by journalist and writer Manfred Gregor, which was an autobiographical account of forced youth service in the Volkssturm (people’s army) very late during World War II.

The film would gain worldwide attention and would also lead to the popularity of Wicki and would lead him to take part as co-director in the film, “The Longest Day” (1962).

“The Bridge” would win four German Film Awards, the Golden Globe Award and National Board of Review Award for “Best Foreign Language Film”, “Best Film” award at the FIPRESCI Prize at the Mar del Plata Film Festival and would be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

And now “The Bridge” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection in June 2015.

“The Bridge” revolves around a group of teenagers who are drafted into the military.

But each teenager has their own problem and makes them want to fight in the war even more.  Karl Horber (portrayed by Karl Michael Balzer) is a boy who has a crush on his father’s young assistant, unaware that his father also fancies her; Klaus Hager (portrayed by Volker Lechtenbrink) has a very good female friend, but is oblivious to the fact that she likes him; Walter Forst (portrayed by Michael Hinz) despises his father, who is the local Nazi Party Ortsgruppenleither and sends his mother away and thinks about saving his own skin from the Americans rather than think about his family; Jurgen Borcher (portrayed by Frank Galubrecht) is a boy who wants to live up to his father’s ideals as a German officer who was killed in action and the shortest friend, Sigi Bernhard (portrayed by Gunther Hoffman) lives with his aunt, who barely has any money to take care of him.

But while each are very good friends with their own set of problems, like all young boys, they feel they can be great soldiers and fight for their country and their town.  And so, the boys are asked to defend the local bridge from the approaching Americans.


VIDEO:

“The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio) black and white. The film looks fantastic for its age. There is a good amount of grain, skintones look natural and I saw no sign of softness, discoloration or excessive DNR.  Grays and whites are well-contrast while blacks are inky and deep.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original 35 mm negative and a 35 mm duplicate negative.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for jitter, flicker, small dirt, grain and noise management.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763” is presented in German LPCM 1.0 monaural. Dialogue is clear with no sign of hiss or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the optical soundtrack negative. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX4.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763″ comes with the following special features:

  • Gregor Dorfmeister – (22:42) A 2015 interview with author Gregor Dorfmeister discussing the real life experiences featured in his book and his thoughts on the film.
  • Bernhard Wicki – (14:36) An excerpt from a 1989 episode of the German TV show “Das Sonntagsgesprach” featuring director Bernhard Wicki discussing his film.
  • Volker Schlondorff – (9:52) Featuring a Feb. 2015 interview with filmmaker Volker Schlondorff on how “The Bridge” impacted younger Germans and his generation of filmmakers known as the New German Cinema.
  • Against the Grain: The Film Legend of Bernhard Wicki – (9:05) An excerpt from the 2007 documentary “Against the Grain: The Film Legend of Bernhard Wicki” with Wicki’s widow, Elisabeth Wicki-Endriss.

EXTRAS:

“The Bridge – The Criterion Collection #763” comes with a 6-page foldout insert with the essay “Cannon Fodder” by Terrence Rafferty, author of “The Thing Happens: Ten Years of Writing About the Movies”.


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Knowing that the story which inspired “The Bridge” inspired by the real life experiences of Gregor Dorfeister’s teenage life is factual, you can’t help about how unfair war was to young children.

Many who grew up with war and believing in a country’s propaganda, “The Bridge” is a fascinating story about how the children want to fight for their country, to fight for their hometown and think they have all it takes to fight the Westerners.  But in truth, children are still children and to have them fight a war in which they are losing and adults know that the chances of them coming back alive is slim.  It is jarring…but that is how war has taken from parents their dear children at a young age.

The children or young teens featured in “The Bridge” are grade school or high school kids that think being a soldier will lead to a good life.  An they quickly learn the realities of war too quickly and the results are nothing short of tragic.

For filmmaker Bernhard Wicki, the Austrian filmmaker will be known for his anti-war themed films.    Utilizing long tracking shots and storybuilding that gradually grows in tension, action and seeing young boys becoming men too quickly and how war is never fair.

While Bernhard Wicki will be known for his efforts in “The Bridge”, his grand hurrah in cinema would be his collaboration with 20th Century Fox years later for “The Longest Day”.  But one should not gloss over “The Bridge”, we have a wonderful film about a group of children, each with their own interesting personal storylines.

We have a film that tries to build sympathy among these teenagers who have their own set of problems at home, which provides them motivation to become a great soldier and together, believing they can conquer the world including the approaching Americans.

Of course, once they start fighting the war and defending the bridge, the sight of those fighting in war and the betrayal and melancholy that lingers right before them, starts to give them the impression that war is not all that it was mean to be.  And if the older German warriors are fleeing from the Americans, will they stand and fight and prove to be good soldiers or will they realize that war is not all that they thought it would be.

The long tracking shots by Bernhard Wicki were well-done, the building up of characters leading to the finale was very interesting although not at all surprising and albeit predictable.  But its the circumstances of what happens to each of these boys during their stance to defend a bridge that may not make a whole lot of difference considering the Germans were losing the war.

The film’s anti-war message was more of trying to force children to become men and the delusions and grandeur of war that was served via propaganda and giving these boys a thought that war would be wonderful, but instead, they quickly realize that war can lead to death and death is permanent.

As for the Blu-ray release of “The Bridge”, the picture quality is amazing as the film was well-contrast and sharp.  Lossless audio was good with no hiss in the soundtrack (which you can see excerpts in the special features that featured video clips of the film with a lot of hiss) and the overall experience of watching this film was fantastic.  Special features feature a good number of interviews including interviews with writer Gegor Dorfmeister of his real life experience, filmmaker Volker Schlondorff about the film’s impact on German cinema and an older interview with director Bernhard Wicki and an excerpt from a 2007 documentary by Wicki’s widow.

Overall, “The Bridge” is a wonderful post-World War II film by filmmaker Bernhard Wicki with an anti-war message that would win over audiences but also usher a new generation of New German Cinema filmmakers.  Thought provoking and recommended!

 

Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” goes into uncharted territory by stripping away the characters and putting them in situations they have never faced before. Many more characters are killed off, the truth of the alien invasion is revealed and all hell breaks loose for this action-packed, riveting fourth season! If you are a fan of the series, then “Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” is definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 TNT Originals, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season

TV SERIES YEAR: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 31-42 (12 episodes total, 528 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9, English, Espanol and French. Subtitles: English, Espanol, French, Dansk, Finnish, Norsk, Suomi, Svenska

COMPANY: TNT

RATED: TV14 LSV

Release Date: June 2, 2015


Directed by Greg Beeman, Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, Adam Kane, Jonathan Frakes, David Solomon, Olatunde Osunsanmi, Bill Eagles, Nathaniel Goodman, Mikael Salomon, Brad turner, Noah Wyle

Written by Robert Rodat, Bradley Thompson, David Weddle, Carol Barbee, David Eick, Raven Metzner, Josh Pate, Melissa Glenn, Ryan Mottesheard, Bruce Marshall Romans, Ayanna Floyd

Producer: Grace Gilroy, John Ryan, Cyrus Yavneh

Co-Producer: Scott Schofield, Bruce Marshall Romans

Executive Producer: Steven Spielberg, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank, Robert Rodat, Graham Yost, Remi Abuchon

Co-Executive Producer: Greg Beeman

Associate Producer: Ashley Shields-Muir

Supervising Producer: Bryan Oh

Music by Noah Sorota

Cinematography by Cort Fey, David Gddes, Christopher Faloona, Lukas Ettlin

Edited by John David Buxton, Michael R. Fox, Marta Evry, Randy Jon Morgan, Edward A. Warschilka, Andrew Cohen, Ken Blackwell

Casting by Dylann Brander, Megan Branman, Sean Cossey

Cinematography by Jan Kiesser

Edited by Donn Aron

Production Design by Rob Gray

Art Direction by Peter Ochotta, Shannon Grover

Costume Design by Farnaz Khaki-Sadigh


Starring:

Noah Wyle as Tom Mason

Maxim Knight as Matt Mason

Drew Roy as Hal Mason

Moon Bloodgood as Anne Glass

Will Patton as Captain Weaver

Sarah Carter as Margaret

Connor Jessup as Ben Mason

Colin Cunningham as John Pope

Seychelle Gabriel as Lourdes

Mpho Koaho as Anthony

Ryan Robbins as Tector

Doug Jones as Cochise

Brad Kelly as Lyle

Jessy Schram as Karen Nadler

Treva Etienne as Dingaan Botha

Laci J. Mailey as Jeanne

Megan Danso as Deni

Scarlett Byrne as Alexis “Lexi” Glass-Mason


The pressure continues to mount for survivors as they try to regain control of earth. Keeping up their fight in the war is becoming increasingly difficult as their hopes of life after the alien destruction become more of a distant reality. With the new capitol in Charleston, the 2nd Mass could end up revisiting old territory.


In 2011, Executive Producer Steven Spielberg and producer Robert Rodat (“Saving Private Ryan”, “The Patriot”) created the American sci-fi post-apocalyptic drama series “Falling Skies”.

The series stars Noah Wyle (“ER”, Donnie Darko”), Moon Bloodgood (“Terminator Salvation”, “The Sessions”), Will Patton (“Remember the Titans”, “Armageddon”), Sarah Carter (“The Vow”, “Final Destination 2”, “Shark”), Drew Roy (“Secretariat”) and Scarlett Byrne (various “Harry Potter” films).

And now “Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” has been released in June 2015 on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of TNT.

“Falling Skies” is a series that revolves around a group of civilians trying to survive in post-apocalyptic Boston after an alien invasion that devastated the planet.

Former Boston University history professor Tom Mason (portrayed by Noah Wyle) has become the second-in-command of the 2nd Massachusetts Militia Regiment and trying to fight back against the aliens despite 90% of the human population destroyed after the aliens neutralized the world’s power grid and technology.

In Season Three, Tom and Dr. Anne Glass (portrayed by Moon Bloodgood) have a baby named Alexis.  It was revealed that Alexis is half-alien and the season finale has shown that Anne is quickly aging, in two months, she has the body of a six-year-old.

In Season Four, the 2nd Mass arrive back to Charleston but as the group feel they are safe, they are attacked by the Espheni and the group are split apart.  Matt (portrayed by Maxim Wright) is at an Espheni re-education camp; Ben (portrayed by Connor Jessup) is in Chinatown and finds out his sister Lexi is now grown up.  Anne is now in charge of leading the 2nd Mass survivors in hopes she can find her daughter Lexi.

The 2nd Mass fears Lexi because she is not human and has powers and some want her dead.  Meanwhile, as the group stay in an underground shelter, mechs and skitters continue their attack on humanity, who in the 2nd Mass will survive and who will die in the battle?

And in season four, the true two purposes of the alien invasion is revealed!


VIDEO:

“Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for this season shows a lot of cold blues and grays and a lot of darkness.  Black levels are nice and deep but closeups show fantastic detail! No low noise fluctuations, no major artifacts, banding or major use of DNR.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” is presented in English, Spanish and French DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue and musical score is crystal clear through the front and center channels. While action scenes (gunfire and explosions) utilize the surround channels, with some moments of intense gunfire coming through the rear surround channels.

Subtitles are presented in English, Espanol, Francais, Dansk, Finnish, Norsk, Suomi and Svenska.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” comes with the following special features:

  • Inside the Episode – A behind-the-scenes look of eleven episodes (on both discs)
  • Episodic Prequels – (17:48) Episode prequels for seven episodes (shot by a cameraman filming the human survivors until they were attacked by aliens).
  • Character Interviews – (7:40) Brief interviews with the cast members (Colin Cunningham, Connor Jessup, Drew Roy, Maxim Knight, Moon Bloodgood, Noah Wyle, Sarah Carter and Scarlett Byrne) of “Falling Skies” fourth season.
  • Tom Mason: A Man of Tomorrow – (20:42) A featurette about Noah Wyle’s character Tom Mason.
  • 2014 Comic-Con Panel – (52:01) “Falling Skies” Q&A panel at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International with Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Drew Roy, Sarah Carter, Maxim Knight, Scarlett Byrne, Doug Jones and showrunner/executive producer David Eick.  Hosted by TV Guide’s Rich Sands.

EXTRAS:

“Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


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If one can describe the fourth season of “Falling Skies”, the words would use is “uncharted territory”.

While the fighting and the character tragedies continue to mount in “Falling Skies”, season four lets viewers finally know the true reason(s) of the alien invasion, a focus on an adult Lexi who may not be what she seems but also seeing the characters stripped away from each other, separated and now in roles that we have never seen them before.

Main character Tom Mason continues to be a leader and hero but at the same time, we see him in a concentration camp along with Weaver and with other human survivors, so to lead the 2nd Mass, Anne Glass has stepped up and the doctor now becomes the hunter, as she is desperately looking for her baby (not knowing she has become an adult thanks to manipulation by the Espheni).  Meanwhile Pope is deadset on wanting to kill the adult Lexi, because of her supernatural powers.

We see oldest Mason, Hal now beginning to walk thanks to the use of implants, his brother Ben tries to reach out to his half-sister Lexi but also becomes his older brother’s rival for the affections of Maggie.  While Matt is put in a re-education cam by the Eshpeni.

And we see a lot of character deaths that may come to a shock for viewers.

So, you can say that writers have gone all out with season four and getting things in motion for the final fifth season.

While I did find some acting to be a bit spotty for some characters, I did like the direction this series went go into the fourth season and it feels fresh and new once again, despite the series now coming to an end.  The third season was becoming a bit banal and tiresome but you get some much-needed synergy with season four.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is much better in the fourth season Blu-ray release as close-ups show much better detail, the steely cold colors of grays, blues and blacks are still utilized but there are moments of outdoors with vibrant colors and also Lexi’s blonde hair and red outfit often pop in scenes.  I didn’t notice any artifacts, banding or other major issues with this Blu-ray release.

You also get a good number of special features including the 2014 San Diego Comic Con Q&A panel, interviews and a featurette about Tom Mason.

Overall, “Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” goes into uncharted territory by stripping away the characters and putting them in situations they have never faced before.  Many more characters are killed off, the truth of the alien invasion is revealed and all hell breaks loose for this action-packed, riveting fourth season!

If you are a fan of the series, then “Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season” is definitely recommended!

 

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