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

November 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Variete” is a magnificent film from Ewald Andre Dupont.  Created at the height of German Expressionism, the recently restored film features wonderful staging, lighting and wonderful perfomances from Emil Jannings, Lya De Putti and Warwick Ward.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Weisbaden. 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Variete

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1925

DURATION: 95 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), Color Tinted, German Intertitles with optional English Subtitles, New Musical Score by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and a 2015 score performed by The Tiger Lillies

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: August 22, 2017


Based on the  Novel by Felix Hollaender

Directed by Ewald Andre Dupont

Scenario by Ewald Andre Dupont

Produced by Erich Pommer

Musical score by Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and also a 2015 musical score performed by the Tiger Lillies

Cinematography by Karl Freund, Carl Hoffman

Art Direction by Alfred Junge, Oscar Friedrich Werndorff


Starring:

Emil Jannings as Boss Huller

Maly Delschaft as Frau Huller

Lya De Putti as Bertha-Marie

Warwick Ward as Artinelli


A rediscovered masterpiece of the German silent cinema, Ewald André Dupont’s Varieté is a visually dazzling tale of love and betrayal, foreshadowing such great works as F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise and Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel. Emil Jannings (The Last Laugh) stars as a carnival spieler who becomes entranced by a waifish dancer (Lya de Putti), and gradually betrays his wife, his honor, and his self-respect in an effort to be the sole possessor of her love. The dynamic camerawork by Karl Freund influenced an entire generation of filmmakers, and can at last be fully appreciated in this exquisite restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung.

Special Features: Mastered from the 2015 restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and Filmarchiv Austria | New musical score performed by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra | 2015 musical score performed by The Tiger Lillies | Visual essay by Bret Wood | “Varieté: The Making of,” a 7-minute documentary on the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra | Othello (1922, Germany 79 min.), Dimitri Buchowetzki’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s drama of love and jealousy, also starring Emil Jannings and Lya de Putti


German filmmaker Ewald Andre Dupont (or better known as E.A. Dupont) is known as one of the pioneers of the German film industry.

Known for films such as “Piccadilly” (1929) with Anna May Wong and his retelling of the Titanic disaster in the 1929 film “Atlantic”.  But with numerous films in his lengthy oeuvre, one film that stands out and is known among silent film fans is his 1925 film “Variete” during the height of German Expressionism during the Weimar era.

And now the film was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

In 2015, the film received a restoration and mastering courtesy of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stifftung and Filmarchiv Austria and the Blu-ray release will also feature two scores.  Which includes the magnificent musical score performed by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, which fans got to experience live at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in 2017.  And the film includes the 2015 musical score performed by the British musical trio, The Tiger Lillies known for their music, in this case, which brings together macabre magic of pre-war Berlin with a piano score.

“Variete” stars Emil Jannings (“The Blue Angel”, “The Last Laugh”, “Faust”), Maly Delschaft (“The Last Laugh”, “Familie Benthin”), Lya De Putti (“The Informer”, “Buck Privates”), Warwick Ward (“The Way of Lost Souls”, “La venenosa”) and more.

The film begins with prisoner #28, Huller (portrayed by Emil Jannings) meeting with the judge for his parole hearing and wants to know if he is remorseful over the murders he committed ten years ago and why he hasn’t said anything about it all this time (as it could have earned him parole) and while Huller is not interested in talking, he receives a letter from his wife vouching for his freedom and that she and her son are waiting for him.

This leads to Huller telling the judge of his story.  Ten years ago, Boss Huller was in charge of fairground trapeze artists for the carnival.  He and his wife, Frau Huller (portrayed by Maly Delschaft) were once trapeze artists but they have gotten older and stopped after he got injured.

For now, he is busy as a boss, being a husband and being a father to his baby son and taking care of him when his tired wife needs to sleep.

Life changes for the Huller family when a dancer named Bertha-Marie (portrayed by Lya De Putti) is taken in and is asked if Huller can spare a room for her in his home, as she can dance for their show.

Many who come to the show are smitten with Bertha-Marie who is seductive and many are attracted to her.  As for Boss Huller, he often looks at his wife’s rear and compares it to Bertha-Marie’s rear and starts to see the beauty in her.

One day while his wife is sleeping and he is to take care of the child, Bertha-Marie starts to seduce Boss Huller and as Huller at first tries to resist, he is captured by her charms and the two engage in a sexual liaison.

And Frau Huller starts to notice how her husband looks at her, defends her and catches the two making out.  She now knows her husband is having an affair and Huller now knows he must leave his wife and son and together, he and Bertha-Marie begin their new life together as trapeze artists.

Meanwhile, a big-show trapeze artist named Artinelli (portrayed by Warwick Ward) is without his brother who had an accident and he is recommended to bring in two people, Boss Huller and his girlfriend Bertha-Marie.

When Artinelli and his manager offer the two the opportunity, he is immediately smitten by Bertha-Marie.  While the three would become known as the 3 Artinelli and would wow audiences, Artinelli has one thing in his mind and that is to seduce Huller’s woman, Bertha-Marie.


VIDEO:

“Variete” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and is color-tinted. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is fantastic compared to any of the previous DVD releases of the film.  Featuring a remastered/restored version of the film done in 2015 courtesy of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and Filmarchiv Austira, the film looks great without any major signs of film damage.  Quite often you will see a lot of film warping, scratches and nitrate damage but this restored version, while not perfectly pristine, shows no signs of major damage, film warping.  While specks and lines can be seen, for a silent film from 1925, this is one of the better films that have been given the restoration treatment.  And all the hardwork put into restoring this film shows.  It looks magnificent on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Variete” is presented with German intertitles with optional English Subtitles.  While the musical score is presented in LPCM 2.0 and there are two soundtracks.  A 2017 musical score performed by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and the 2015 musical score performed by the Tiger Lillies.  The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra is magnificent, while the Tiger Lillies is rather interesting and gave a different vibe while viewing, as the song is sung throughout, while a piano score is played.  It’s very different but I actually enjoyed it, because it was so unexpected.  Both soundtracks are great but I definitely have to say that I was captivated by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, while the Tiger Lillies musical score made me want to bob my head as the vocalist would sing “Variete” in various ways.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Varietee” comes with the following special feature:

  • Visual Essay – (10:35) Featuring a visual essay by Bret Wood.
  • Variete: The Making of”– (7:25) Featuring a documentary on the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra creating the musical score for the film and performing it live in front of a live audience.
  • Othello – A 79-minute film from 1922 featuring Dimitri Buchowetzki’s adaptation of the Shakespear dram of love and jealousy, starring both Emil Jannings and Lya De Putti.

When it comes to films that were released during the Weimar era and at the height of German Expressionism, many would often give a nod to films created by Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau, Erich Pommer, Paul Wegener, Carl Boese, to name a few.

And while E.A. Dupont was one of the other known filmmakers of German Expressionism, fortunately his 1925 film “Variete” was one of the his earlier films that would entertain fans for decades.

In fact, in America, the film was well-received.  Film critic Carl Sandburg wrote back in 1926 of the film:

“Emil Jannings, the male star, does the best all-around work we have seen from his prolific and changeful face, while Lya De Putti, the new female star, is far out of the ordinary and will be discussed freely among 10 or 20 million moviegoers in this country during the coming year.”

Sandburg would further write in his article, “‘Variety’ is one of the few sure master pieces of filmart.”

And while we have seen Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau films receive the expensive restoration and re-release on Blu-ray and DVD, I was quite pleased to hear in 2015 that “Variete” would receive a restoration and as the film has been screened at various film festivals with different scores.

While the film has been available for many decades, it was only available in a heavily edited, censored version.  That changed in 1995, when a video dealer named Peter Kavel found a complete print from Germany and for the first time, people were able to see a complete version which included the intro.  Prior to that, the intro which featured prisoner #28 is being considered for parole and as he tells his story of how he left his wife, the censors in the U.S. felt the film was too much for American audiences at the time and nearly a half hour of the beginning of the film was deleted from the American premiere.

As the subject of vamps and women who are able to take advantage of men was featured often in silent cinema between ’10s and ’20s, what made interesting about “Variete” is the fact that it was at the height of German Expressionism, the storyline is about a woman who knows how to get her way with her beauty and literally as a performer, this personality of Bertha-Marie would not just be for the stage but extended to the men she comes across.

She knows how to use Huller and knows how to use Artinelli as both men provide her with life and material things that make her happy.  In other words, she has men twisted around her finger and she works it in order to get things going her way.

How E.A. Dupont is able to utilize this with the German Expressionism style is through facial expressions, character placement and the use lightening, camera placement and well-timed edits to create this artful masterpiece.

The acting performance by Emil Jannings, Lya De Putti and Warwick Ward was fantastic.

Emil Jannings was one of the well-known actors of his time, creating films in America for Paramount Pictures but would unfortunately lose popularity as he was active in Nazi propaganda, as his films in the ’30s and ’40s would promote Nazism.

Lya De Putti was no doubt an actress who wanted to be part of movie magic in America and the following year, after “Variete” was released, she starred in D.W. Griffith’s “The Sorrow of Satan”.  With her captivating eyes and just a sight that works remarkably on camera, she played primarily vamp roles and starred in , unfortunately, the actress died at a young age in 1931 after developing pleurisy and pneumonia following an operation to remove a chicken bone stuck in her throat.

While Warwick Ward would experience like many other silent film stars, the inability to transition during the beginning of talkies, fortunately for Ward, he was able to transition from actor to film producer in England.

As for director E.W. Dupont, the success of “Variete” insured him a chance to work in Hollywood and he would receive a lucrative contract from Universal and worked on the film “Love Me and the World is Mine” and would go on to make successful films in Britain.  While Dupont emigrated to the US in 1933, unfortunately, he would be assigned to work on B movies and would become a talent agent in 1940 before returning to films in the early ’50s before his death in 1956.

As for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned, the picture quality to this film is fantastic.  Sure, it’s not pristine but for a silent film, “Variete” looks absolutely magnificent.  And for me, part of the enjoyment, aside from watching this film restored and remastered is having the choice of two musical scores.  The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra score is magnificent but to my surprise, the score by the Tiger Lillies was unexpected because its singing throughout with a piano, drums and cello and the score is no doubt a different vibe from the Berklee score.  But I enjoyed both, as they both bring different vibes to this film.

As for the special features, included is a short visual essay, a making of the score featuring the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and the 1922 film “Othello” (an adaptation of the Shakespeare drama) starring both Emil Jannings and Lya De Putti.

Overall, “Variete” is a magnificent film from Ewald Andre Dupont.  Created at the height of German Expressionism, the recently restored film features wonderful staging, lighting and wonderful perfomances from Emil Jannings, Lya De Putti and Warwick Ward.  Highly recommended!

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

November 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Kidnap” is an entertaining abduction action thriller which Halle Berry does a great job as a mother who is desperate by pursuing her child’s kidnappers through many wild and crazy situations.  If you are looking for a upfront, non-complex popcorn action thriller, “Kidnap” is a film worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Kidnap Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Kidnap

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 1 Hr., 22 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Violence and Peril)

RELEASE DATE: October 31, 2017


Directed by Luis Prieto

Written by Knate Lee

Produced by Gregory Chou, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Erik Howsam, Joey Tufaro

Executive Producer: Colin Bates, David Dinerstein, Mike Drake, D.J. Guneheim, Bill Johnson, Ara Keshishian, Knate Lee, Doris Pfardrescher, Jason Resnick, William Sadleir, Jim Seibel, Todd Trosclair

Music by Federico Jusid

Cinematography by Flavio Martinez Labiano

Edited by Avi Youabian

Casting by Nancy Nayor

Production Design by Sarah Webster

Art Direction by Frank Zito

Set Decoration by Deanna Simmons

Costume Design by Ruth E. Carter


Starring:

Halle Berry as Karla Dyson

Sage Correa as Frankie

Chris McGinn as Margo 

Lew Temple as Terry 

Jason George as David


Based on the worldwide best-selling memoir starring Academy Award® winner Brie Larson and Academy Award® nominees Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts, THE GLASS CASTLE chronicles the adventures of an eccentric, resilient, tight-knit family.

An all-star cast shines in this inspiring film based on THE NEW YORK TIMES best-selling memoir. Jeannette (Oscar® winner Brie Larson) had a poor but wildly adventurous childhood, raised by her free-spirited father (Oscar® nominee Woody Harrelson) and her mother (Oscar® nominee Naomi Watts), an eccentric artist. But when her father’s behavior become erratic, Jeannette must find the courage to live on her own terms in this uplifting story of unconditional love.


From filmmaker Luis Prieto (director of “Pusher”) and writer Knate Lee (producer of “Bad Grandpa”, “The New Mutants”) comes their abduction action thriller “Kidnap”.

Starring Halle Berry (“X-Men” films, “Cloud Atlas”, “Die Another Day”, “Swordfish”), Sage Correa (“Grey’s Anatomy”, “Papa”), Chris Mcginn and Lew Temple (“Unstoppable”, “Lawless”, “Halloween”).

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

“Kidnap” begins with baby footage of a baby Frankie (portrayed by Sage Correa) and fast forwarding a few years later as Karla Dyson (portrayed by Halle Berry) is working as a diner waitress, while six-year-old Frankie waits for his mother to get off work.

While Karla is taking her son out to the park, Karla talks to her son about her estranged ex-husband and his girlfriend, she tries to keep the conversation positive.

While Karla has a children’s walkie talkie to keep taps on Frankie by playing “Marco Polo”, she receives an important phone call from her divorce lawyer in regards to their custody battle and her trying to fight for visitation rights as her ex-husband is wanting full custody.  Despite going on the walkie talkie to make sure her son is around, when she hangs up her phone, she goes to where her son was sitting and he is missing.

She starts to frantically look around and other parents start to help her find her son.  She looks around and finds the other walkie talkie that Frankie was holding and then sees a woman forcing Frankie into her car.

Karla desperately tries to run after the car and hold on but she is unable to hold on too long as the car speeds away.  Despite dropping her cell phone, she gets into her mini-van and starts chasing after the car in a high speed chase across the freeway.

As the people in the car starts throwing junk towards Karla and others, it leads to major accidents but as Karla continues the chase after the abductors driving an old green Ford Mustang, she listens to the walkie talkie recording and hears how the abductor was able to lure her son away, by telling him that his mother is looking for her and she’s waiting near the parking lot for him.

But Karla is determined to rescue her son, by any means possible.


VIDEO:

“Kidnap” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality showcases wonderful closeup details, skin tones look natural. I saw no artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kidnap” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film features crystal clear dialogue while surround channels utilize the multiple accidents and car crashes through the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kidnap” comes with short featurette “A Thrilling Behind-the-Scenes Look Inside Kidnap”.

EXTRAS:

“Kidnap” comes with a Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD Code.


“Kidnap” is the second abduction thriller starring actress Halle Berry since the 2013 film “The Call”.

Created by the producers of “SALT” and “Transformers”, “Kidnap” is an action film that doesn’t need many star talent but it’s a film all about adrenaline-rush action-scenes that would take what many would consider an indie action film and make it much better.

The film stars Halle Berry as Karla Dyson, a mother who chases the abductors of her six-year-old son Frankie and is relentless, persistent that even the abductors are shocked of how far this mother would go to get her son.

Sure, it may seem farfetched to some, seeing a mother doing everything to save her child, but I’m sure the same thing can be said with hundreds of action films starring of a male action star with more than nine lives, in farfetched situations and are able to live through the most deadliest action scenes.

So, why not let women have that equal glory of commanding their own action performance, being a solo protagonist of a story, one that can kick ass and support that.

Being the top, noticeable talent in the film, while we have seen Berry in numerous action figures in the past, may it be in the “X-Men” related films, as a Bond girl in “Die Another Day” or the not so well-received action film, “Catwoman”, but the fact that this film relies on a talent that can showcase a multitude of emotions such as despair, anger and be able to bounce back and keep her emotions in check in order to do all that’s necessary to save her son.

While one would think that believable behavior is to not pursue the kidnappers and call police or that there are no police that could have followed and tracked these two cars down during their pursuit.  Once again, “Kidnap” is no different from the many other action films (majority featuring men) in unbelievable and farfetched situations.

Call it a popcorn action thriller, but among many other farfetched popcorn action thrillers, “Kidnap” was not too bad.  In fact, it caught my attention and I was entertained by it.  I didn’t exactly come upon viewing this film with the highest expectations, so watching the film from beginning to end, it’s not a complex, deep or highly satisfying film but I was entertained by “Kidnap”.

Picture quality on Blu-ray is well-done, close-ups show good detail.  Lossless audio manages to capture crystal clear dialogue and utilizing the surround channels for action sequences.  While there is a short featurette included as well.

Overall, Luis Prieto’s “Kidnap” is an entertaining abduction action thriller which Halle Berry does a great job as a mother who is desperate by pursuing her child’s kidnappers through many wild and crazy situations.  If you are looking for a upfront, non-complex popcorn action thriller, “Kidnap” is a film worth checking out!

 

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

November 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Destin Daniel Cretton’s film adapation of “The Glass Castle” is emotional, captivating and a film that is full of hope. Featuring wonderful performances from Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts, “The Glass Castle” is recommended!

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


TITLE: The Glass Castle

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 127 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2017


Based on the book by Jeannette Walls

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton

Screenplay by  Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham

Produced by Ken Kao

Co-Producer: Tami Goldman

Executive Producer: Mike Drake, Qiuyun Long

Associate Producer: Jennie Lee

Associate Co-Producer: Bo Shen, Shixing Zhou

Music by Joel P. West

Cinematography by Brett Pawlak

Edited by Nat Sanders

Casting by Ronna Kress

Production Design by Sharon Seymour

Art Direction by Nicolas Lepage, Charlotte Rouleau

Set Decoration by Suzanne Cloutier, Sebastien Thivierge, Manon Thomas

Costume Design by Joy Cretton, Mirren Gordon-Crozier


Starring:

Brie Larson as Jeannette

Woody Harrelson as Rex

Naomi Watts as Rose Mary

Ella Anderson as Young Jeannette

Chandler Head as Youngest Jeanette

Max Greenfield as Brian

Charlie Shotwell as Young Brian

Iain Armitage as Youngest Brian

Sarah Snook as Lori

Sadie Pink as Young Lori

Olivia Kate Rioce as Youngest Lori

Brigette Lundy-Paine as Maureen

Shree Crookes as Young Maureen

Eden Grace Redfield as Youngest Maureen


Based on the worldwide best-selling memoir starring Academy Award® winner Brie Larson and Academy Award® nominees Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts, THE GLASS CASTLE chronicles the adventures of an eccentric, resilient, tight-knit family.

An all-star cast shines in this inspiring film based on THE NEW YORK TIMES best-selling memoir. Jeannette (Oscar® winner Brie Larson) had a poor but wildly adventurous childhood, raised by her free-spirited father (Oscar® nominee Woody Harrelson) and her mother (Oscar® nominee Naomi Watts), an eccentric artist. But when her father’s behavior become erratic, Jeannette must find the courage to live on her own terms in this uplifting story of unconditional love.


Back in 2005, author and journalist Jeannette Walls released her memoir “The Glass Castle”.

Walls’ award-winning memoir stayed on the New York Time Best Seller List for 261 weeks and has sold over 2.7 million copies and translated into 22 languages.

And in 2017, the film adaptation directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (“Short Term 12”) and co-written by Cretton and Andrew Lanham (“The Shack”) was released in theaters and received positive reviews from film critics.

The film stars Brie Larson (“21 Jump Street”, “Short Term 12”, “Room”, “Kong: Skull Island”), Woody Harrelson (“No Country for Old Men”, “Zombieland”, “Cheers”), Naomi Watts (“King Kong”, “Mulholland Dr.”, “The Ring”), Max Greenfield (“New Girl”, “Hello My Name is Doris”), Sarah Snook (“Steve Jobs”, “Jessabelle”), Brigette Lundy-Paine (“Irrational Man”, “The Wilde Wedding”), Ella Anderson (“Mother’s Day”, “The Boss”), Sadie Sink (“Stranger Things”, “American Odyssey”) and more.

And now the film will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Lions Gate Entertainment.

“The Glass Castle” revolves around Jeannette Walls, the second oldest child of the Walls family.

The film begins with Jeanette (portrayed by Brie Larson) and her fiance David (portrayed by Max Greenfield) having dinner with one of David’s clients and winning them over and David winning the account.

We learn that has to lie about her parents and while riding in a taxi, she sees her mother dumpster diving and her father drunk and screaming at the taxi driver.  Jeanette calls her older sister Lori (portrayed by Sarah Snook) that she saw their parents homeless in the alley and she didn’t have the taxi stop.

We then go back to the past when Jeanette was younger and what seems like things are normal, young Jeanette’s life is anything but normal as her mother Rose Mary (portrayed by Naomi Watts) is a painter (who dedicates the majority of the time towards her paintings over her family) and her alcoholic father Rex (portrayed by Woody Harrelson).

Because Rex is unable to hold a job and Rose Mary focuses on painting, the family are constantly on the move in Arizona and California and their debts are enormous.

It doesn’t help that as Rex often gets drunk, her mother is busy with painting that she has very young Jeanette cooking food when she’s hungry.  But when her skirt comes in contact with the gas stove, her dress catches on fire and Jeanette is burned badly.

While in the hospital, the doctor is trying to find out why she was cooking and is concerned over Jeanette’s well-being, but just when they are to report the case to authorities, Rose Mary along with the other children try to find a way to keep the attention to them, while Rex gets Jeanette out of her hospital room.  And the family escapes the hospital and move.

But we see the tender care that father gives daughter (when he is sober).

While it seems their lives would have some normalcy when Rex gets a job in Nevada, unfortunately he loses his job and the children haven’t much to eat but butter and sugar. Rose Mary gets a job as a teacher but Rex uses her money towards gambling and alcohol.

When a mishap forces the family to flee to Phoenix, they move to Rose Mary’s mother’s home, which the Rose Mary inherits (along with money) when her mother passes away.  But they manage the burn the money quickly.

Meanwhile the film fastforwards to different times of when the children are younger, when they were older children, as teenagers and as adults.

How Jeanette and Lori try to take care of the family, how the family is concerned by Rex’s alcoholism and more.

As an adult, we learn that Jeannette (portrayed by Brie Larson) has been estranged from her parents, working for “The New Yorker” and can live a good life with David.  But can she totally forget about her parents and keep them out of her life?

And how challenging was the life of Jeannette Walls as a child before becoming a writer?


VIDEO:

“The Glass Castle” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality showcases wonderful closeup details, skin tones look natural. I saw no artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Glass Castle” is presented in English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD. The film is primarily dialogue and music driven, but dialogue and music are crystal clear.  There are some moments of alcoholic Rex breaking things all over the house and other situations that utilize the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Glass Castle” comes with the following special features:

  • The Glass Castle: Memoir to Movie – (25:49) Author Jeannette Walls, cast and crew discuss the film and how the film hit close to heart for Jeanette.
  • A Conversation with Jeannette Walls – (15:25) Author Jeannette Walls and Josh Rothcoff discuss the memoir becoming a film.
  • Making of “Summer Storm” by Joel P. West – (3:22) How “Summer Storm” was inspired by the journal/writings of Rex Walls.
  • Scoring “The Glass Castle” – (4:06) A featurette about how the music for the film was created.
  • Deleted Scenes – (9:33) Featuring nine deleted scenes.

EXTRAS:

“The Glass Castle” comes with an UltraViolet Digital HD Code.


Jeannette Walls’ memoir “The Glass Castle” was a biographical story that touches many people because many people come from dysfunctional families and when things are bad, and when you think you had it bad, you read “The Glass Castle” and see how bad Jeannette and her siblings had when they were children, but having to escape the life they lived to become adults and move forward.

There are people who were raised from alcoholic or parents who are often under the influence and find it difficult to escape, but one thing that we learn from Wall’s memoir is how she was able to have a career but also find it in her heart to have forgiveness and be there for family.

And its a story that one can’t imagine becoming a film but filmmaker and writer Destin Daniel Cretton along with co-writer Andrew Lanham were able to do just that.  Creating carefully an adaptation that emphasizes character dynamics, emotion but feeling real.  It’s the true efficacy of “The Glass Castle” and it helps to have powerful performances from Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts.  But also solid performance from the various child actors who play Jeannette and siblings through different ages of their lives.

But I found it interesting, to see how Jeannette changed from a journalist doing well in her career, having a fiance with great potential but most importantly, leaving an old life behind.  But all of it changing after seeing her mother and father living homeless and dumpster-diving.

No matter how bad things are, she made the decision that she couldn’t have them live that life.

But nothing is easy, especially when it comes to reconciliation when you have a father who is alcoholic and a mother who is possibly mentally ill.  For all the good times, there were many bad times in the life of Jeannette and family.  Having to starve, miss school and not live a life like other people her age are living.

Always constantly on the run, living from state to state with no signs of things getting any better, when these children got older, they each had to make a difficult choice and that was to leave the life they lived, no matter how painful, they had to escape a toxic relationship with their parents.

But it’s the journey, through Jeannette Walls experience of how she was able to forgive and move forward with her life, while bring the family together was touching.

There are few films that are like “The Glass Castle” and considering it’s based on a true story of Jeannette Walls’ life, everything about this film and seeing the multiple forms of heartbreak, just to see how the person evolves from all of that, was what I found inspiring and what captivated my viewing of the film from beginning to end.

Picture quality for the film is well-done, lossless audio featured crystal clear dialogue and music and the numerous special features are really good, especially the featurette “The Glass Castle: Memoir to Movie” and seeing the emotions felt by author Jeannette Walls watching the scenes come alive and reminding her of the past and how the primary talent nailed their part.

Overall, Destin Daniel Cretton’s film adapation of “The Glass Castle” is emotional, captivating and a film that is full of hope. Featuring wonderful performances from Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts, “The Glass Castle” is recommended!

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

November 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Giancarlo Esposito’s “The Show” is an indie satirical drama film that has a clear message but whether or not people in today’s era of social media and anything goes on live-stream videos shared around the world will ever give a care, I’m hoping tragedy never becomes a form of reality-based entertainment.  No doubt a thought-provoking film worth watching.

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


TITLE: The Show

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 106 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2017


Directed by Giancarlo Esposito

Screenplay by Noah Pink, Kenny Yakkel

Produced by Christopher D’Elia, Giancarlo Espoito, Lawreen E. Kayl, Michael Klein

Executive Producer: Jamie Goehring, Robert A. Halmi, Kevin Leeson, Jim Reeve, Shawn Williamson

Associate Producer: Trevor McWhinney

Music by Rich Walters

Cinematography by Paul Mitchnick

Edited by Jamie Alain

Casting by Angela Demo, Kara Eide, Kris Woz

Production Design by James Robbins

Art Direction by Courtney Stockstad

Set Decoration by Matthew Brunt, Nik Ovstaas

Costume Design by Cynthia Ann Summers


Starring:

James Franco

Famke Janssen as Ilana Katz

Josh Duhamel as Adam Rogers

Sarah Wayne Callies as Karina

Giancarlo Esposito as Mason Washington

Caitlin FitzGerald as Sylvia


Josh Duhamel, Famke Janssen, and Giancarlo Esposito highlight this pulse-pounding thriller about a reality show that exploits the on-camera deaths of its players on live TV. After a dating show ends in violence, its host Adam Rogers (Duhamel) and a ratings-hungry network exec (Janssen) launch a terrifying new program that promises fresh kills every week. The tension mounts as a kindhearted janitor (Esposito) joins the deadly program, hoping to help his struggling family survive at any cost.


From actor/filmmaker Giancarlo Esposito (“The Usual Suspects”, “The Jungle Book”, “The Electric Company”) comes the satirical drama film “The Show” (also known as “This is Your Death”).

Co-written by Kenny Yakkel and Noah Pink, the film stars Esposito along with Josh Duhamel (“Transformers” films, “Las Vegas”), Famke Janssen (“X-Men” films, “GoldenEye”), Sarah Wayne Callies (“The Walking Dead”, “Prison Break”, “Into the Storm”), Caitlin Fitzgerald (“Masters of Sex”, “It’s Complicated”, “Damsels in Distress”) and a cameo by James Franco (127 Hours”, “This is the End”, “Spider-Man” films).

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

The film revolves around a game show host named Adam Rogers (portrayed by Josh Duhamel), who lived through a “Bachelor-type” reality show tragedy when the jilted woman shoots and kills the Bachelor and kills herself on live television.

While the experience was once traumatic, the experience eventually leads Adam and network executive Ilana Katz (portrayed by Famke Janssen) along with producer Sylvia (portrayed by Caitlin FitzGerald) to create a new reality show in which features real deaths every week.

Meanwhile, Mason Washington (portrayed by Giancarlo Esposito) is a janitor who is under pressure from his wife to keep their family afloat and not lose their house.  Mason is behind on bills, he is fired from both jobs and now he needs to know how he can make money.

As for Adam, the new reality show he is hosting begins with a woman who electrocuted herself in order to save her daughter’s life by dying live on television (which earned $300,000 for the dead woman’s daughter) and giving her a better life.  And while people were appalled and angry, many found the show to be exciting and feeling one’s death can lead to better things.

The controversial show leads to high viewership and while Sylvia is upset, Adam and Ilana see the ratings possibilities.  Meanwhile, Adam’s sister Karina (portrayed by Sarah Wayne Callies) is against her brother’s show.

The stakes grows even higher when Adam offers to feature three people on television and whoever has the deepest story voted by audiences will earn an extra $200,000.  Adam defends that when he almost died, someone died a senseless death.  But with their show, people will not die a senseless death, it will lead to deaths that can help others.

And for the sakes of ratings, how far will Adam and crew go with their game show?  And will he have any regrets?


VIDEO:

“The Show” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality showcases wonderful closeup details, skin tones look natural.  I saw no artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Show” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  Dialogue is crystal clear and there are numerous scenes with crowd screams and gasps that are played in the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Show” comes with the following special features:

  • Making the Show – (12:42) The Making of “The Show” with the cast discussing the characters and the concept of the show.
  • Cast/Crew Interviews – Featuring interviews with Josh Duhamel, Giancarlo Esposito, Famke Janssen, Sarah Wayne Callis, Caitlin Fitzgerald and producer Michael Klein.
  • Trailer Gallery

EXTRAS:

“The Show” comes with an UltraViolet Digital HD Code.


After watching “The Show” and going through the process of rumination about the audacious nature of Giancarlo Esposito’s satirical drama, “The Show”, the more that I think that perhaps society is heading to this worrying state of reality-based entertainment.

It was one thing over a decade ago when people questioned the nature of reality TV and even today, shows that many disregard as trash, are still popular shows and even those who are featured on these shows are becoming the new wave of television stars.

But things have changed with technology and faster Internet that people are now broadcasting their own shows on YouTube, bringing in millions of viewers and what people are watching, are things that people don’t usually watch on television.

Watching normal people do things to themselves for the sake of viewers, seeing people get maimed or hurt and some people dying on their social media livestream and while society discusses what is right or what is wrong in society, whether or not these shows are detrimental and because they are on platform that anyone can access, how is this affecting today’s viewers.  Especially our young viewers who are left with electronic devices that can easily watch this type of programming.

It’s a bit worrisome but when you think of how much has changed for reality-based entertainment, things have changed and not all good.

In Giancarlo Esposito’s “The Show”, what happens when people see a reality show turn tragic on live TV?  This effects its host, Adam Rogers, who thinks about how it affects his employers and viewership but also, how senseless the tragedy really was.

But what if tragedy could make a difference and it be the new topic for a reality-based series?  Where people who want to make money for their love ones by dying on live TV for a purpose.

It seems audacious and too crazy for one to conceive but considering the numerous crap we have seen on social media, people taking on certain challenges that can lead to impairment or even death, people who are depressed and wanting to kill themselves and viewers egging them on to do it, when you start to think how far reality TV has gone, something like “The Show” may seem plausible on some sort of media.

Where we live in a society where anything goes?  Our current state of society and its political landscape which has turned into a media circus in epic proportions that I often ask myself, is this for real?

With that out of the way, many people may wonder if the film is any good?   If anything, the film no doubt has a message and while situations are farfetched and how people are killing themselves are so outlandish and macabre, the film is no doubt crazy.  But it’s the message that is driven towards the end and considering how social media has changed society in how we view reality-based entertainment, hopefully death is not something that will be exploited in the same manner that is featured in this film ever in our lifetime.

But considering how humankind was entertained through gladiator-battles of an era long ago to people taking on whatever challenge they find on the Internet, it’s one part of humanity and society that is most unfortunate and one can only feel, “what’s next?”.

“The Show” looks great and sound great on Blu-ray and there are a few special features included such as a making and also cast interviews.

Overall, Giancarlo Esposito’s “The Show” is an indie satirical drama film that has a clear message but whether or not people in today’s era of social media and anything goes on live-stream videos shared around the world will ever give a care, I’m hoping tragedy never becomes a form of reality-based entertainment.  No doubt a thought-provoking film worth watching.

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

October 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Michael Apted’s “Unlocked” has the potential of becoming a spy thriller series showcasing CIA Agent Alice Racine.  Noomi Rapace shines but the film often gets muddled in its own complexities of character twists and turns.  But still, a character with great potential and would love to see this as a beginning to a female spy thriller film series showcasing Rapace’s Alice Racine.

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


TITLE: Unlocked

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 98 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (Violence and Language)

RELEASE DATE: November 14, 2017


Directed by Michael Apted

Screenplay by Peter O’Brien

Produced by Claudia Bluemhuber, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Georgina Townsley, Erik Howsam

Co-Producer: Cort Kristensen

Executive Producer: Andrew Boswell, Irene Gall, Peter Hampden, Erik Howsam, Norman Merry, Kevan Van Thompson

Music by Stephen Barton

Cinematography by George Richmond

Edited by Andrew MacRitchie

Casting by Leo Davis, Lissy Holm

Production Design by Ondrej Nekvasil

Art Direction by Stefan Kovacik

Set Decoration by Beatric Brentnerova

Costume Design by Bojana Nikitovic


Starring:

Noomi Rapace as Alice Racine

Orlando Bloom as Jack Alcott

Toni Collette as Emily Knowles

John Malkovich as Bob Hunter

Michael Douglas as Eric Lasch

Matthew Marsh as Sutter

Makram Khoury as Yazid Khaleel

Brian Caspe as Ed Romley

Philip Brodie as Wilson

Tosin Cole as Amjad

Michael Epp as David Mercer

Tom Reed as Buzz

Raffaello Degruttola as Payne 


Noomi Rapace leads the all-star cast of this intense, London-set spy-thriller. She plays undercover CIA agent Alice Racine, charged with preventing an upcoming biological terror attack. But when violence erupts, Alice realizes her CIA colleagues (Michael Douglas, John Malkovich, and Toni Collette) may be trying to eliminate her to cover their tracks. On the run, she must rely on the help of a tough cat burglar (Orlando Bloom) to survive – and to save the city from catastrophic devastation.


From filmmaker Michael Apted (“The World is Not Enough”, “The Chronicles of Narnia”, “Enough”, “Gorillas in the Midst”) and writer Peter O’Brien comes the American thriller “Unlocked”.

The film stars Noomi Rapace (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”, “Prometheus”), Orlando Bloom (“The Lord of the Rings” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” films), Toni Collette (“The Sixth Sense”, “Little Miss Sunshine”, “United States of Tara”), John Malkovich (“Dangerous Liaisons”, “Being John Malkovich”, “Empire of the Sun”), Michael Douglas (“The Game”, “Falling Down”, “Basic Instinct”, “Ant-Man”) and many more.

And the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Lions Gate Entertainment in November 2017.

Another terrorist attack is imminent and the CIA is in need of a highly skilled interrogator.

Try to uncover leads about the potential attack in the U.S. is Bob Hunter (John Malkovich) and in London, Emily Knowles (portrayed by Toni Collette) and Bob wants to bring in CIA Interrogator, Alice Racine (portrayed by Noomi Rapace).

Alice hasn’t been involved in years since being unable to unlock an interrogation suspect which lead to the deaths of dozens of innocent people in Paris.  Now, living a quiet life as a casework in London, she’s contacted by the CIA to interrogate a subject.

When she goes to interrogate the subject setup by the London Station, she is able to extract information but before giving it to the authorities, she goes to the bathroom to call her contact in the CIA and finds out that they need her for an interrogation of a subject.  But she tells her contact at the CIA that she’s already on it as London Station has brought her in.  Her contact tells them that they never authorized that and Alice realizes she’s in trouble.

When she goes out to talk to the men posing as the London Station and sees a reflection with a weapon aimed at her, she manages to convince them that she’s still interrogating the subject and she manages to escape alongside with him.  But the men manage to kill the suspect and Alice runs the only person that can help her, retired CIA Eric Lasch (portrayed by Michael Douglas).

But not long after, men attack Lasch’s home and before they kill Eric, he tells her to go to his other home and to leave.

When Alice goes to the house, it’s in the process of being burglarized by a man named Jack Alcott (portrayed by Orlando Bloom).  Alice manages to tie the burglar up but he manages to kick the phone and listens to her conversation and finds out that she’s in deep trouble.

When Alice finds out that Bob has sent authorities to detain her, she tries to escape but is shocked by authorities and then rescued by Jack.

The two escape and Jack tells her that he is a former soldier and he can help her and he is probably the only one he can trust.  So, Alice and Jack seek out the people responsible and tries to prevent a deadly biological attack on the citizens of London.


VIDEO:

“Unlocked” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality showcases wonderful closeup details, skin tones look natural.  I saw no artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Unlocked” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  Dialogue is crystal clear and there are numerous scenes with many gun shots that you can hear bullets whizzing through the surround channels.  But dialogue and music is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Unlocked” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Unlocked – (13:25) A featurette about the making of “Unlocked” and interview with the cast and crew.
  • Trailer Gallery

Quite often we come upon thrillers about pending terrorist attacks and brave individual(s) who risk their lives to stop them.

While the majority of the characters that we see are high-ranking agents, Michael Apted’s “Unlock” revolves around a top CIA interrogator brought back into the fold to interrogate a possible suspect in order to stop a deadly biological attack.

But when Alice Racine interrogates the subject in her current hometown of London, she finds out through the CIA that they were contacting her and never assigned her to interrogate anyone.

This leads to Alice trying to stop the attack on her own, as the CIA has been compromised and not knowing who she can turn to.

If anything, the film is interesting because it has a storyline similar to a season of the past TV series “24”  where the terrorists may not appear to be who they are and the trouble may be brewing within the inside.

As we saw what happened with the success of films such as “Bourne Identity”, “Taken”, “Olympus Has Fallen”/”London Has Fallen” and as mentioned, the TV series “24”, these have produced thriller films with male leads that have became quite successful.

But what about a female agent?  And I think this is where Alice Racine could be the future of more films showcasing a female agent taking down terrorists cells.  It has the potential but it always depends on how much audience are vested in the original.

“Unlocked” is an action thriller about a top CIA interrogator named Alice Racine, who took on a desk job in London after a suspect that she was supposed to unlock (interrogation of a courier who can set a plan to go in motion or stop it)  fails and dozens of people were killed in a terrorist attack in Paris.

But now another major threat is now happening in London and the only person that is close by who can do it is Alice Racine but she hasn’t done it in two years.  As Alice is contacted by the London Station to unlock a suspect, while making a call to the CIA to update them on what is going on, she finds out that they never authorized it yet, as they were unable to get in contact with her.

So, who are the people who authorized her to unlock the suspect?  And when she sees a reflect of a man with a silencer aimed at her head, she knows immediately that she is in trouble and will be killed.  So, she tries to escape with the suspect (who gets shot and killed) and is now a target.  But who is responsible?  And will she be able to stop this biological attack on the citizens of London?

While I loved watching Noomi Rapace as CIA Agent Alice Racine, part of the problem with the film is that it tries to pull the “everyone can not be trusted” card.  And it doesn’t help as it seems the CIA and the London Station have both been compromised.

But it’s a race around the clock and the film features enough twist and turns that it makes the film thrilling to watch but you can’t feel that the film goes off onto too many tangents that it gets muddled within its own complexities of twist and turns and too many people betraying Alice that it becomes a bit tiring.  Yes, we saw this on episodes of “24” before but while banal, I still believe in the potential of Alice Racine’s character.

The Blu-ray features wonderful detail, especially during closeups.  Lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music captures the action sequences for its surround channels.  As for special features, there is a making featurette and a trailer gallery.

Overall, Michael Apted’s “Unlocked” has the potential of becoming a spy thriller series showcasing CIA Agent Alice Racine.  Noomi Rapace shines but the film often gets muddled in its own complexities of character twists and turns.  But still, a character with great potential and would love to see this as a beginning to a female spy thriller film series showcasing Rapace’s Alice Racine.

The Game Changer (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Game Changer” is entertaining and the storyline features a lot of twists and turns along the way.  But the film is geared more towards the gangster/action film fans, thus sacrificing any deep relationship plots that would have been essential for this film.  But nevertheless, a good film that could have been better.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Young Live Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Game Changer

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 133 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio), Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English and Chinese

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: N/A

RELEASE DATE: October 3, 2017


Directed by Xixi Gao

Cinematography by Saba Mazioum


Starring:

Ja-Hyeon Chu as Tang Hexuan (Mr. Tang)

Peter Ho as Lin Zi Hao

Zitao Huang as Fang Jie

Coulee (Guli) Nazha as Tang Quianqian

Xueqi Wang as Mr. To


Two escaped prisoners join one of the most powerful gangs in Shanghai, the Green Gang, as the right-hand men of the head boss Mr. Tang. When Mr. Tang tries to gain total control over business dealings in Shanghai, he discovers his closest allies are not who they seem and turn against his own men to protect his power.


From filmmaker Xixi Gao (“Three Kingdoms”, “Jie Hun shi Nian”, “For Love or Money”) comes his action film “The Game Changer”.

The film stars Peter Ho (“Sword Master”, “The Monkey King”, “Sophie’s Revenge”), Huang Zitao (“Railroad Tigers”, “Edge of Inocence”, “You Are My Sunshine”), Guli Nazha (“Police Story: Lockdown”, “Black & White: The Dawn of Justice”, “The Breakup Guru”), Wang Xueqi (“Iron Man 3”, “Bodyguards and Assasins”, “Reign of Assassins”) and Choo Ja-hyun (“Bloody Ties”, “Portrait of a Beauty”).

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

Fang Jie (portrayed by pop star Huang Zitao) is a gangster and works for the powerful Mr. Tang (portrayed by Wang Xueqi), one of the gang leaders who runs the Green Gang of Shanghai.  Fang Jie, who was an orphan and raised by Mr. Tang, hopes to one day be his successor.  When he gets into trouble and is incarcerated, Fang Jie manages to escape with the help of a prisoner, Lin Zihao (portrayed by Peter Ho).

With the street smarts and fearlessness of Lin Zihao, he becomes one of Mr. Tang’s guards.  But in truth, Lin Zihao is a man who was a member of the Blue Shirts Society, a secret clique of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and wants revenge against Mr. Tang for the murder of his fellow members.

The two become brothers, watching each other’s back and one day, Fang Jie hopes to take control by murdering Mr. Tang when the right time comes.  Not knowing that Lin Zihao also wants Tang dead.

But things become more complicated when Zihao finds out that Mr. Tang’s lover is his girlfriend, Lan Ryoyun.  Lan has thought Zihao died all this time but when she finds out that he is alive, she is not sure what to do.  But Zihao knows that he wants to protect her from harm.

But another person is in love with Zihao, Mr. Tang’s daughter Tang Qianqian (portrayed by Guli Nazha), which causes friction between Zihao and Fang Jie because Fan is also in love with Qianqian and wants to marry her.  But is very upset that she is in love with the man he considers his brother.

But what happens when an opposing gang plans to assassinate Mr. Tang?


VIDEO:

“The Game Changer” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is fantastic, close ups show great detail.  A lot of the shots are outdoors, so the film has has great detail during closeups and more.  The film looks great in HD and I didn’t notice any artifact or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Game Changer” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Dialogue and music is crystal clear, as with action sequences which utilize the surround channels quite well.

Subtitles are in English and Chinese.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Game Changer” comes with no special features.


As former EXO pop star Zitao Huang is quickly becoming China’s well-known actor, filmmaker brings together Zitao Huang and Peter Ho in a story about brotherhood, Shanghai gangs and one of the more turbulent and political times of China during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.

The main protagonist Zi Hao (portrayed by Peter Ho) takes on the role of a fighter with fighting and weaponry experience broken out of prison alongside Fang Jie (portrayed by Zitao Huang), who happens to be the stepson of Green Gang gangster leader, Mr. Tang.

For Zi Hao, this is the perfect opportunity to infiltrate the gang and get revenge on Mr. Tang for the murder of his fellow Blue Shirts Society members.  As Fang Jie wants to rise in prominence as a gangster and one day will kill his stepfather to take control of the gang, Zi Hao works his way as Mr. Tang’s right-hand man, a bodyguard that stands close to the gang leader.

But what Zi Hao didn’t expect to find that while incarcerated, his former love Lan Ruoyun would have a relationship with Mr. Tang.  To make things worse, Mr. Tang’s daughter Tang Qianqian has fallen for him and she is a woman that his brother at arms, Fang Jie wanted to marry.

Many complications are in Zi Hao’s way of getting revenge, so will he be able to?

And just when you think that Zi Hao and Fang Jie have things going well for them, they aren’t prepared for Mr. Tang’s scheme.

Featuring a solid action performance by Peter Ho and also a much better performance from Zitao Huang, who had more of an emotional and action-driven role this time around, the film is no doubt fascinating due to its twists and turns.

The problem is more of pacing, storyline-wise as many important things about the characters are not shown on screen.  While it would be best to have shown Zi Hao and Lan together for more dramatic effect, you are thrown with this storyline of Zi Hao discovering that his love of his life is with Mr. Tang and all this time she thought he was dead.  Also, there was no character development showing Fang Jie being in love with Qianqian.

While not necessarily plot holes, these are important parts of the stories that could have been developed to make the characters a bit more appealing.  Instead, the storyline is created to incorporate more gangster action, scenes of death and destruction and appeal to the more action-driven fan instead of creating a deep story connecting these relationships.  They are thrown onto you as a viewer and just accept it and move forward.

Most films don’t do that and depending on the viewer who do not want to see the establishment of relationships and want to see more action, this film was created no doubt for those fans.   But I found it to be a major weakness for “The Game Changer”.

Also, the Rambo-like finale with Zi Hao taking on a fortress of enemies is farfetched and it’s visual effects with Zi Hao running with a shirtless black leather vest with guns a-blazing was ’80s cliche and cheesy.

And there are some scenes that just aren’t effective pacing-wise.

The Blu-ray looks good and sounds great but in terms of special features, it’s more or less a barebones Blu-ray release with no special features.

Overall, “The Game Changer” is entertaining and the storyline features a lot of twists and turns along the way.  But the film is geared more towards the gangster/action film fans, thus sacrificing any deep relationship plots that would have been essential for this film.  But nevertheless, a good film that could have been better.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Grinchmas Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is a Christmas classic which was a wonderful adaptation of the popular Dr. Seuss book.  Featuring a fantastic performance by Jim Carrey and young Taylor Momsen and wonderful makeup and set design, due to Carrey’s performance, it may spook young children but for adults, teenagers and older children, the film will no doubt entertain the entire family.

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


TITLE: Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

FILM RELEASE: 2000

DURATION: 1 Hr. and 45 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Japanese, Norwegian, Icelandic

COMPANY: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Crude Humor)

RELEASE DATE: October 17, 2017


Based on the Book by Dr. Seuss

Directed by Ron Howard

Screenplay by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman

Produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard

Associate Producer: Linda Fields, Aldric La’auli Porter, Louisa Velis, David Womark

Executive Producer: Todd Hallowell

Music by James Horner

Cinematography by Donald Peterman

Edited by Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill

Casting by Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins

Production Design by Michael Corenblith

Art Direction by Lauren E. Polizzi, Dan Webster

Set Decoration by Meredith Boswell

Costume Design by Rita Ryack


Starring:

Jim Carrey as Grinch

Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who

Kelley as Max

Jeffrey Tambor as Mayor August Maywho

Christine Baranski as Martha May Whovier

Bill Irwin as Lou Lou Who

Molly Shannon as Betty Lou Who

Clint Howard as Whobris

Josh Ryan Evans as 8-year-old Grinch

Mindy Sterling as Clarnella

Rachel Winfree as Rose


Discover the true meaning of the holiday season with the live action adaptation of the beloved classic, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Starring Jim Carrey as the Grinch, director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer reimagine one of the most enduring holiday stories of all time. Why is the Grinch (Carrey) such a grouch? No one seems to know, until little Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen) takes matters into her own hands and turns both Whoville and the Grinch’s world upside down, inside out… and funny side up. Filled with dazzling scenery, special effects, makeup and costumes, this is an adventure “that can make your heart grow three sizes – if you’re not laughing too hard!” (Steve Murray, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Actor and filmmaker Ron Howard has had a successful career directing.

From “Splash”, “Cocoon”, “Willow”, “Backdraft”, “Apollo 13”, “Ransom”, “Far and Away” and “Edtv” in the ’80s and ’90s, Howard would kick of 2000 with a Christmas comedy based on the popular 1957 Dr. Seuss book, “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.

The film featured a screenplay by writing duo Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman (both wrote “Shrek the Third”, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, “Wild Wild West”) and would star Jim Carrey (“The Truman Show”, “Dumb and Dumber”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), Taylor Momsen (“Gossup Girl”, “We Were Soldiers”), Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”, “The Hangover”, “Arrested Development”), Christine Baranski (“Into the Wood”, “The Good Wife”, “The Big Bang Theory”), Bill Irwin (“Interstellar”, “Rachel Getting Married”, “Lady in the Water”), Molly Shannon (“Saturday Night Live”, “Never Been Kissed”), Clint Howard (“Apollo 13”, “Rock ‘n Roll High School”, “The Waterboy”), Josh Ryan Evans (“Passions”, “Ally McBeal”), Mindy Sterling (“Austin Powers” films) and Rachel Winfree (“Donnie Darko”, “Old School”).

And with the holidays around the corner, the film will be released on Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film begins with All the Whos down in Whoville celebrating Christmas and when a group of teenagers try to go near the Grinch’s lair, he scares them and the teenagers come to town to tell them that the reason why they are scared is because of the Grinch, which gets the citizens of Whoville all riled up.

With the exception of six-year-old Cindy Lou (portrayed by Taylor Momsen), Cindy Lou curiosity leads here to want to learn more about the Grinch and she begins interviewing people to find out more about him.

She finds out that while the Grinch was raised with love, it was because he’s different that other children treated him differently.  Born green with a lot of fur, he was subject to a bullying and a lot of ridicule.

But something happens as a child that made the Grinch say goodbye to his family, Whoville and dislike Christmas for many years.

But when Cindy Lou wants to show her support to the Grinch and nominates him as a main participant of the Whobilation, to the dismay of Mayor May Who (portrayed by Jeffrey Tambor), one of the Grinch’s bullies from his past, what happens when the Grinch feels humiliated once again as an adult?  And can Cindy Lou find a way to show him the true meaning of Christmas?

VIDEO:

“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1).  The film looks fantastic in HD as you can see wonderful detail of the Grinch, his fur, the wrinkles on his face with clarity.  The film is vibrant and just looks great on Blu-ray.  There is a good amount of grain and no signs of artifacts.  While the film looks great, the special features do not and looks quite aged.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Dialogue and music is crystal clear, as with action sequences which utilize the surround channels quite well.  The musical soundtrack is fantastic for this film and if anything, overall lossless soundtrack is fantastic!

Subtitles are in English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Japanese, Norwegian, Icelandic

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”” comes with the following special features:

  • Spotlight on Location – (7:16) The original featurette for “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” on the making of the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – (9:26) Multiple deleted scenes from the film.
  • Outtakes – (3:15) Outtakes from”Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.
  • Who School – (5:41) A featurette on creating the Who’s in Whoville and how they move and making them different than regular humans.
  • Makeup Application and Design – (6:55) Rick Baker discusses creating the makeup and a new world and characters with the Grinch and the Who’s.
  • Seussian Set Decoration – (5:14) A featurette on the Michael Corenblith on set design for”Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.
  • Visual Effects – (10:15) A featurette featuring Kevin Mack discussing the visual effects created for”Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”/
  • Faith Hill – “Where Are You Christmas?” – (4:12) A music video featuring Faith Hill.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer.
  • Audio Commentary with Director Ron Howard

 

EXTRAS:

“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Grinchmas Edition” comes with the Blu-ray, DVD and a Digital HD Code.  Also, included is a green furry Blu-ray case holder.


I think that when “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” came out, it was something that people just couldn’t picture in their head ever happening.  Dr. Seuss characters are often thought of as characters that would work as animated films but for live, I suppose one would think it as impossible.

But in 2000, Ron Howard and Bryan Grazer were able to achieve success with “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.  May it be people who wanted to see a Christmas film, a Dr. Seuss film or the fact that Jim Carrey was a sure winner in the box office with a string of successful films, the film would earn $345.1 million in the box office (the film was budgeted at $123 million) thus achieving the success despite film critics feeling that the film was dark and creepy.

There is no doubt that Jim Carrey saved his film with his portrayal as the Grinch.  The character is meant to be creepy, crazy and outlandish but you have to give major props to Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman for creating an adaptation that goes much further than the original book and running with it, creating an outlandish way to showcase the Grinch in all his glory.

Ron Howard and crew were able to create a wonderful world with Whoville and a lot of planning in creating the look and movements of the Who’s but the makeup/costume design for the Grinch was effective.  And really, this film was sold on Jim Carrey’s ability to take on many characters which had exhibited for years, not just on film but many of us have watched him throughout the years on television via “In Living Color”.

And of course, bridging this film to make it a family film is through the cuteness of a very young Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who and the film also features good performances from Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin and Molly Shannon.

If anything, I felt the Ron Howard and crew were successful with their adaptation and the film has become a Christmas classic, but with that being said, as a family film, is this film more for the adults or the children?  I think that older children would enjoy the film, while younger children would be scared by the Grinch.  Afterall, the character is a sourpuss for most of the film, doing not so nice things that a few children and the character’s appearance may simply spook young children.

But other than that, you either enjoy”Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” or you don’t.

I enjoyed the film, the makeup and set design and also its musical soundtrack and for what it’s worth, it was a creepy yet fun Christmas film.

As for the release of”Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and the Grinchmas Edition, you get the Blu-ray which comes with a DVD and Digital HD code.  It also comes with this green furry cover (for those who want to feel the Grinch’s fur) meant to house the Blu-ray.

Picture quality for the”Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is great in HD.  Colors are vibrant, close-up details of the Grinch are fantastic and there is a good amount of grain.  The dialogue and music are crystal clear.  And there are also numerous special features included as well.  It’s just that the special features look very aged and almost looks like it was created in the ’80s as opposed to pre-2000.

Overall,”Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is a Christmas classic which was a wonderful adaptation of the popular Dr. Seuss book.  Featuring a fantastic performance by Jim Carrey and young Taylor Momsen and wonderful makeup and set design, due to Carrey’s performance, it may spook young children but for adults, teenagers and older children, the film will no doubt entertain the entire family.

Broken Sword Hero (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

 “Broken Sword Hero” is an entertaining historical/martial arts film based on Thailand’s noble hero, Phraya Phichai.  How a troublemaker teen would become a well-renown fighter but also how he would become the loyal general of King Taksin the Great.  Fast-paced and a lot of fun to watch, “Broken Sword” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Sahamongkolfilm International Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Broken Sword Hero

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 122 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: N/A

RELEASE DATE: October 31, 2017


Directed by Bin Bunluerit

Produced by Somsak Techaratanaprasert, Tanit Jitnukul, Bin Bunluerit


Starring:

Buakaw Banchamek as Thongdee

Phutharit Prombandal as Taksin

Somsin Maneewan as Ramyong

Nantawut Boonrubsub as Cherd

Vannapoom Songsuparp as Boonkerd

Chutirada Junthit as Mauylek

Phutarit Prombandal as Rueang

Jaran Ngamdee as Khru How


Buakaw Banchamek is a Thai welterweight and Muay Thai kickboxer. First film role was in Muay Thai Warrior (2010) directed by Nopporn Watin.


In Thailand, Phraya Phichal Dap Hak is a national hero that served under King Taksin and helped repel the Burmese and reuniting Siam (Thailand).  Known for his boxing style who was unafraid to take anyone on, the heroic character’s life is the main story of “Broken Sword Hero”.

Starring Buakaw Banchamek, the Thai Welterweight Muay Thai kickboxer, the film marks Buakaw’s first major lead role in a film (his fourth film overall).  The film also stars Phutharit Prombandal, Somsin Maneewan, Nantawut Boonrubsub, Vannapoom Songsuparp, Chutirada Junthit, Phutharit Prombandai and Jaran Ngamdee.

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA in October 2017.

The film begins with a young man named Joi (portrayed by Buakaw Banchamek) being pursued and running for his life, meanwhile cracking a smile while being chased.

The film then goes back to when Joi was a boy and being chased by a group of kids.  A boy named Cherd is the son of an important leader and often Joi is bullied by the kids, but he is not afraid to fight back.

One day he goes to his uncle to teach him Muay Thai but the uncle tells him to go to his father, who is a championship fighter but Joi explains his father won’t teach him.  We then see Joi’s father comes to him and is upset at his child and he takes his child and his family to pray for Joi because he gets into a lot of trouble.

We then see Joi finding a training area and starts to train on his own and then he starts throwing rocks towards Cherd and his friends, which prompt him to be chased again.  And as they try to fight and beat up Joi, Joi manages to outfight them.  And when he goes to fight a young Cherd, he punches him and Cherd falls back and hits his head on a rock and starts bleeding.

We then learn of the troubles that Joi gets into and as a teenager, the same situation.  And once again, he causes trouble for Cherd (portrayed by Nantawut Boonrubsub) and we see them chase after Joi, who once again beats up Cherd.  But now Cherd goes to his uncle and his men to go capture and punish Joi.

Not wanting to cause problems for his family, Joi leaves home and finds hopefully a new home where people are trained to fight Muay Thai.  And as Joi learns, everyone in the village has black teeth (from eating Betal Nut) and because Joi has white teeth, he is given the name Thongdee.

Meanwhile, Cherd and his uncle and his men go to the village where Thongdee is training and they ask for Joi.  The village leader tells him there is no Joi and immediately Cherd’s uncle starts threatening the village.  But Thongdee comes out to let himself be captured but on one condition, they leave the people and the village alone.

But when the uncle doesn’t, he has his men burn the village down and this leads to Thongdee and the villagers fighting for their life.

While Thongdee and the villagers are able to turn Cherd and his uncle away, they vow revenge and want Thongdee dead.

Meanwhile, Thongdee plans to visit another village to be come a better fighter.  While walking, he sees a family and their guards being terrorized by Burmese.   Ramyong (portrayed by Sornsin Maneewan) fights for her life to protect her mother and her brother, while many of their guards are being slaughtered by the Burmese.  And as it looked as if Ramyong is about to be killed, she is rescued by Thongdee who takes out many of the Burmese, who then escape.

Greatful to Thongdee for saving her life, this chance meeting with Ramyong would set Thongdee on his mission to become a better fighter but also a path that will set his destiny.

And as Thongdee is trained and takes on even more powerful fighters, he is joined by a young man named Boonkerd (portrayed by Vannapoom Songsuparp) and Mauylek (portrayed by Chutirada Junthit) who follow Thongdee who learns a lesson of determination, courage, loyalty, life and what his true destiny may be.


VIDEO:

“Broken Sword Hero” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Picture quality is fantastic, close ups show great detail.  A lot of the shots are outdoors, so the film has great vibrancy, detail during closeups and more.  The film looks great in HD and I didn’t notice any artifact or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Broken Sword Hero” is presented in Thai 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Dialogue and music is crystal clear, as with action sequences which utilize the surround channels quite well.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Broken Sword Hero” comes with no special features.


When I first saw a trailer for “Broken Sword Hero”, I automatically thought it would be another martial arts film.

Afterall, most Thai films brought to the US are martial arts driven and I was expecting something banal.  After watching “Broken Sword Hero”, I quickly discovered that this film was much more and much better than I expected.

The first half of the film no doubt packs a lot of action but also a lot of humor.  But then I started to learn than this film was so much more and that it revolved around the history of Thong Dee Fun Khao, who would become the loyal soldier of King Taksin the Great and that he would become a noble hero, who remained loyal to his king and would be known as Phraya Phichai Dap Hak.

The film details the story of how a troublesome boy named Joi would become Thongdee and later Phraya Phichai but it’s the journey that will captivate people.

With the main protagonist being portrayed by popular Muay Thai fighter Buakaw Banchamek, we see amazing fight choreography and magnificent fight scenes full of punches, high kicks and more!

But watching how this film evolves and how Thongdee evolves around the people around him.

As a person not so familiar with Thai culture, I thought it was interesting to see how many villagers had black teen and led me to spend the night researching Thai culture, Phraya Phichai and King Taksin.  But also discovering what the title “Broken Sword Hero” meant.  The title which revolves around Phraya Phichai who fought with a sword (dap) in each hand until one was broken.

While one can’t expect fighter Buakaw Banchamek to become a talented actor overnight, fortunately the film doesn’t have to rely on Buakaw’s spoken dialogue but mainly Buakaw the fighter.  Using his skills to take on various challengers.  And because Buakaw is a true fighter, no need for a stunt actor, ever kick and punch looks convincingly natural and it helps to have a talented fighter in this action film.

Picture quality and lossless audio are great but there are no special features, so this is a barebones Blu-ray release.

Overall, “Broken Sword Hero” is an entertaining historical/martial arts film based on Thailand’s noble hero, Phraya Phichai.  How a troublemaker teen would become a well-renown fighter but also how he would become the loyal general of King Taksin the Great.  Fast-paced and a lot of fun to watch, “Broken Sword” is recommended!

God of War (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“God of War” is a fascinating, action-packed film with wonderful costume design, well-planned war scenes and showcasing a part of history during the Ming Dynasty but also to showcase a few of China’s well-known heroes who fought valiantly against these pirates.  But it’s more for the fans of action films and not for those who are looking for a deep storyline.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Bona Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: God of War

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 129 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: N/A

RELEASE DATE: October 17, 2017


Directed by Gordon Chan

Written by Frankie Tam, Maria Wong, MengZhang Wu

Produced by Gordon Chan, Paul Cheng

Associate Producer: Hing-Ka Chan, Shirley Lau

Music: Shigeru Umebayashi

Cinematography: Takuro Ishizaka

Edited by Ki-Hop chan

Art Direction by Alfred Yau

Costume Deisgn by Emi Wada


Starring:

Wenzhuo Zhao as General Qi Jiguang

Sammo Kam-Bo Hung as General Yu Dayou

Yasuaki Kurata as Commander Kumasawa

Regina Wan as Lady Qi

Keisuke Koide as Lord Yamagawa

Timmy Hung as Chen Dacheng

Michael Tong as Lou Nan

Yue Wu as Yang Chao


During the 16th century, pirates rule the Chinese coastline, pillaging the small villages and terrorizing the citizens. When maverick leader Commander Yu (martial arts legend Sammo Hung) enlists the help of a sharp young general (Vincent Zhao), they devise a plan to defeat the pirates. A violent clash of wit and weapons will decide who will rule the land in this sweeping historical epic from veteran action director Gordon Chan.


In China, Gordon Chan has a long career of films which he has written, directed and produced.

Known for popular films such as “Fist of Legend” starring Jet Li, “Thunderbolt” starring Jackie Chan and “Painted Skin” starring Donnie Yen, Chan has also directed numerous films such as “Beast Cops”, “2000 AD”, “Painted Skin”, “The King of Fighters” and many more.

Chan’s latest film is the 2017 Chinese historic war action film titled “God of War”, a film inspired by the history, especially around Qi Jiguang, a military general during the Ming Dynasty wo hled the defense of coastal regions against wokou pirate activities in the 16th century.  Regarded as a hero in Chinese culture, Qi is also known for writing military manuals Jixiao Xinshi and the Record of Military Training based on his experience as an educator and defensive planner in the Ming military forces.

But during the Ming Dynasty, there was a lot of corruption and many Chinese officials actually had relations with the pirates and benefited from piracy.

The film begins with the Chinese trying to rid of the Japanese samurai warriors turned pirates who teamed up with Ronin to fight against approaching Chinese armies.  And because the Japanese had artillery, the Chinese forces were vulnerable.

While Chinese General Yu Daiyou (portrayed by Sammo Hung) was a prominent figure, he was unable to defeat the Japanese pirates, so their leader wants to infuse new blood.  So, he must team up with General Qi Jiguang (portrayed by Vincent Zhao), who will now be the new leader and together they would come up with strategies to face and defeat the pirates.

But General Qi Jiguang knows that he does have the weaponry nor the military to defeat the Japanese pirates, so he asks his leader to allow him to recruit and train a new army.

Meanwhile, Commander Kumasawa (portrayed by Yasuaki Kurata) has allied with ronin who just want women and gold.  Unruly and disrespectful these ronin are, samurai Lord Yamagawa has a problem with how these Ronin behave and treat women and behave like savages.

But Commander Kumasawa reminds them that as pirates, their mission is to help the Daimyo become more powerful and acquire weapons to make Japan even more powerful.  But Yamagawa is reminded that they need the Ronin to fight the battle and as part of the Matsura Clan they must defeat the Ming Court.

With the odds against them and not having the defenses to withstand the weapons of the Japanese, General Qi Jiguang requests to train and grow his army and to make his soldier’s prepared against the attack from the Japanese pirates.  But can he improve defenses and most of all, he can draft miners and farmers to fight against the pirates?


VIDEO:

“God of War” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Picture quality is fantastic, close ups show great detail, especially of the many soldiers in armor.  There are no major artifacts during my viewing of the film, nor banding issues.  If anything, colors are cool and the film looks great in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“God of War” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Dialogue and music is crystal clear, as with action sequences which utilize the surround channels quite well.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“God of War ” comes with a “making of” featurette and a theatrical trailer.


I have watched many films about China vs. Japan, especially during the period of World War I and World War II, but one part of history that I’m not quite aware of in history is of Japanese samurai and ronin that were involved in wokou piracy in order to destabilize the Ming Court and also to purchase more weaponry to make their Daimyo and Japan more powerful.

Because this was a collaboration between Chinese and Japanese actors including music composition by Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi (“House of Flying Daggers”, “2046”, “In the Mood for Love”), it had a different vibe, as many anti-Japanese films tend to have an anti-Japanese sentiment, but this film goes to show a perspective of both sides.

On the Chinese side, General Qi Jiguang had challenges of trying to get the necessary forces to grow and also train to fight against the pirates as moral was low and they were literally outpowered.  He pleaded but Commander Hu wouldn’t allow it until someone reported his commanders misdeeds, allowing him to grow his force but losing a promotion.

The film does go into how both Yu Dayou (portrayed by Sammo Hung) and Qi Jiguang portrayed by Wenzhuo Zhao) were put in terrible situations due to the high level of corruption in the Ming government.  Despite the sacrifices both men made, Yu Dayou in reality was framed on false charges and imprisoned for not providing any bribes.  While Qi Jiguang was slandered that he colluded with the pirates.

In the film, Qi Jiguang was reinstated but unfortunately, Yu Dayou was not given the merit and in the reality, died of frustration.  But in the film, Yu Dayou was more pleased that Qi Jiguang would lead and continue the battle against the pirates.

The film also featured Qi Jiguang and his relationship with his wife Lady Qi (portrayed by Regina Wan), wanting to be there for her husband and be there in battle alongside with him.  Not strong enough to tell his wife “no” and even his own soldiers admonishing him about it.

I wasn’t sure if this was accurate, so I had to do some research on the subject and there are numerous stories but not sure what is fact or fiction.

The film also shows the perspective of the Japanese pirates, samurai and ronin working together to destabilize the Ming Court and terrorize villages and steal weapons.  These pirates looked at it as a mission to make Japanese strong and wealthy.  But thinking that firearms would be their saving grace, they were unaware that Qi Jiguang would grow his forces but most importantly, figure out forms of defense to protect them from rifle fire.

If anything, the film shows us the battle between forces led by Qi Jiguang against the forces of primary antagonist, Commander Kumasawa.   And very cool fighting scenes between both forces leading to its conclusion.

The only problem is that the film just ends with a scene that doesn’t make any sense.  I could have ended a minute earlier but I can’t sidestep this final scene and will need to spoil it, but to be perfectly honest, it’s really not a spoiler.  Most people who watch it will think it’s an unnecessary addition of a scene to lead into the final credits.

The final scene is something I interpret of how things don’t end well with Qi Jiguang and his wife.  If you do research on the history of Qi Jiguang (and I need to add that what I’m going to write about is not on the film but perhaps may help you understand that final scene), you find out that Qi Jiguang was not happy with his wife and had affairs with other concubines.  One source that I read is that his friend and colleague wrote that Qi Jiguang was a henpecked husband and his wife was strong-willed and overbearing.   Another problem for the couple is that despite giving birth to sons, none of them survived.  So, he turned to concubines in order to have one.

He had one, his wife found out and was going to kill him with a sword but when he cried and she felt bad for him, she allowed him to keep one son.  But the boy ended up dying and she had enough and she left him, took all her savings and he died soon after.

People may look at Lady Qi to be cruel but considering the circumstance, I saw her as an independent woman that was strong-willed and not so subservient compared to how women were portrayed during that era.

So, that final scene is possibly a reaction of a wife fed up.  It wasn’t necessary for the film and most people not familiar with Qi Jiguang and Lady Qi and are watching those final seconds may not understand why it was even added.  But it’s part of Chinese history, and a nod to Qi Jiguang and his wife that things didn’t exactly end with a happy ending.

Overall, “God of War” is a fascinating, action-packed film with wonderful costume design, well-planned war scenes and showcasing a part of history during the Ming Dynasty but also to showcase a few of China’s well-known heroes who fought valiantly against these pirates.  But it’s more for the fans of action films and not for those who are looking for a deep storyline.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Disc Review)

October 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” may not be featuring the Spider-Man that I grew up reading but I will say that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was entertaining to the point that I watched it multiple times already because I really enjoyed watching the film.  The way I see it, if the “Spider-Man” trilogy or the next two films didn’t win you over, this movie may.  Wonderful story, loved the characters and this film was just a lot of fun and I highly recommend it!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Spider-Man: Homecoming

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 133 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition, 2:39:1 aspect ratio, English Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio,  French, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, Arabic, Cantonese,  Chinese, Dutch, French, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Spanish and Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: October 17, 2017


Based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Directed by Jon Watts

Screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

Producer: Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal

Executive Producer: Victoria Alonso, Avi Arad, Louis D’Esposito, Jeremy Latcham, Stan Lee, Matt Tolmach, Patricia Whitcher

Co-Producer:  Mitchell Bell, Eric Hauserman Carroll, Rachel O’Connor

Music by Michael Giacchino

Cinematography by Salvatore Totino

Edited by Debbie Berman, Dan Lebental

Casting by Sarah Finn

Production Design by Oliver Scholl

Set Decoration by Lauri Gaffin

Costume Design by Louise Frogley


Starring:

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man

Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man

Marisa Tomei as May Parker

Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan

Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts

Zendaya as Michelle

Donald Glover as Aaron Davis

Jacob Batalon as Ned

Laura Harrier as Liz

Tony Revolori as Flash

Bokeem Woodbine as Herman Schultz/Shocker

Tyne Daly as Anne Marie Hoag

Garcelle Beauvais as Doris Toomes


A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – but when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.


It is well-known that there is friction between Marvel Studios (which is currently owned by Disney) and their Marvel’s deal with FOX which gave them ownership to the X-Men films (and formerly the “Fantastic Four” films) which prevents the interaction of characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to co-exist.  But one big question that many have wondered is if one of the most iconic characters, Spider-Man, which the films are with Sony Pictures, would ever appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

And when it was announced that Sony Pictures, Marvel Studios and Disney would collaborate and allowed Spider-Man to be featured in a MCU film, not only was it unprecedented, fans applauded the studios of working together.

Spider-Man would be featured in “Captain America: Civil War” and now we have a new Spider-Man film which allows Tony Stark (Iron Man) and even Captain America to be featured in a Sony Pictures film, “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.

The film begins not long after the Battle of New York (as featured in the first “Avengers” film).  Adrian Toomes (portrayed by Michael Keaton) owns a salvage company and is contracted to clean up the city of the destroyed alien Chitauri technology that have littered the streets of New York.

As Adrian sees the financial possibilities of obtaining this technology, the Department of Damage Control (D.O.D.C.) and a partnership with Stark Industries and the U.S. government have come in to take over, upsetting Adrian because he hired a lot of helped and spent his own money for the operation.

Having lost the job, his men reveal that they still have some of the alien technology.

Fastforward eight years later (following the events that took place in “Captain America: Civil War”), Peter Parker went to help Tony Stark/Iron Man and when taken home, is told that if they need him, they will call. Meanwhile, Happy Hogan (portrayed by Jon Favreau) would be watching over him.

And while Peter lives a double life as an intelligent studying at the Midtown School of Science and Technology, he takes on thugs or helps people with issues around the city, growing bored and wanting to do something huge.  He lives with his Aunty May (portrayed by Marisa Tomei) and hangs out with his best friend Ned (portrayed by Jacob Batalon) and has a crush on Liz (portrayed by Laura Harrier).

Meanwhile, we see that Adrian Toomes and his men have utilized the technology to pull of major theft of alien technology and selling it to the highest bidder and becoming wealthy because of it.

One device made is a shocking device and the person utilizing the technology would be known as The Shocker, while Toomes has a vulture like apparatus that allows him to fly and use the machinery as a weapon.

One day, as Spider-Man is out patrolling, he discovers a group of thieves dressed up with Avengers masks trying to rob a bank near his home.  Spider-Man goes to stop them but is shocked that they have alien technology that can literally destroy buildings quickly and another that makes him utilizing magnetic technology.

When he goes back home and sneaks in, Peter is unaware that his friend Ned is in his room and now Ned knows his secret that Peter is Spider-Man.

And as Peter tries to keep his double life in check, he is wanting to know more about the people using the alien technology despite the warning he receives from Tony Stark that he must stay on the ground.  Will Peter’s pursuit of who is using the Chitauri put him in true danger, especially of the people who are close to him?


VIDEO:

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is presented in 4K Ultra High Definition ala 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).

The film looks absolutely magnificent in 4K Ultra HD and Spider-Man’s outfit is vibrant, colors and visual effects look magnificent and with each passing year, I can’t help but be in awe of how these MCU films look better and better.

Videophiles will no doubt be happy with this release.

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: To watch 4K Ultra HD, you will need a 4K UHD TV with HDR and an Ultra HD Blu-ray Player + a high-speed HDMI (Category 2) Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio quality is equally impressive. Presented in English Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description.

The lossless audio is no doubt immersive considering the amount of action featured in this film.   Each shockblast, each web shot by Spider-Man, hearing the Vulture’s steel wings in action to the many numerous situations that involve explosions and weaponry, these sound effects for this film is truly marvelous.  Similar to the picture quality, for audio, lossless audio for this film is magnificent!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese, Dutch, French, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Spanish and Thai

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” comes with the following special features (on the Blu-ray Disc):

  • The Spide Study Guide – Watch the film with informative pop-ups and hidden references.
  • Gag Reel – (2:17) Bloopers from “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (16:17) Featuring ten deleted and extended scenes.
  • A Tangled Web – (6:12) Stan Lee and filmmakers discusses Spider-Man becoming part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Searching for Spider-Man – (8:05) A featurette about Tom Holland and having him as Spider-Man.
  • Spidey Stunts – (5:48) A featurette about the stunts on “Spider-Man” and how when Tom Holland auditioned for the film, he was doing stunts and using his gymnastic/dance background in the film.
  • Aftermath – (4:48) A featurette about the expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe and incorporating storyline elements (featured in the “Avengers” film) to Spider-Man.
  • The Vulture Takes Flight – (6:02) A featurette about creating the antagonist, the Vulture on film.
  • Jon Watts: Head of the Class – (5:30) A featurette about hiring Jon Watts as the director of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and how he takes the character somewhere that has never been done for character on film.
  • Pros and Cons of Spider-Man – (3:28) Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon discussing the pros and cons of Spider-Man.
  • Rappin with Cap – (2:26) Featuring all four Captain America school films.
  • Photo Gallery
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


Growing up as a fan of “Spider-Man”, it has been interesting cinematic experiences.  From the Sam Raimi trilogy featuring actor Tobe Maguire in the 2000’s and the Marc Webb films starring Andrew Garfield in 2012 and 2014.  I was entertained by those films.

But with the Marvel Cinematic Universe establishing a well-oiled machine showcasing Marvel’s well-known characters interacting in each other’s films, one of the troubling situations was knowing that various superhero teams or superheroes featured from one studio, may not appear in the Disney/Marvel Studios films.

And when it was announced that Sony agreed to a collaboration for Spider-Man to be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, first with “Captain America: Civil War” and now with “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and I see this as a win-win, for the studios but also the fans who have seen the MCU and how these characters and films tie together as a major plus.

But with numerous Spider-Man films, how would “Spider-Man: Homecoming” do compared to the other films?

For one, there is no rehash of how Spider-Man became a hero, no Uncle Ben, no jocks vs. geeks storyline.  No Mary Jane Watson.  No Gwen Stacy.  In fact, no one knew what to expect from filmmaker Jon Watts (known for indie films, “Cop Car” and “Creative Control”), especially as the film had numerous writers such as Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Watts along with Christopher Ford and Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers.

And probably the unknown is what made this film so enjoyable for me.  We saw how Spider-Man was recruited by Tony Stark in “Captain America: Civil War”, but what happened after that film is what many wondered how “Spider-Man: Homecoming” would end up.

The film would kick off by creating a tie-in to the first “Avengers” film with showing how Adrian Toomes owning a salvage company, taking alien high-technology from the ravaged streets of New York and then being kicked to the curb by the government and Stark Industries.  But Toomes and company managed to keep some of that alien technology and eight years later, he and his crew would be able to create superpowered weaponry with the salvaged Chitauri technology and become an arms trafficker.

Meanwhile, Peter Parker who served with Iron Man and other Avengers would now be returned back home and would need to report to Happy Hogan, the former head of security of Stark Industries.  While wanting to be in major skirmishes like the Avengers, Peter Parker for now will be the neighborhood crime-fighting hero, even if it means walking elderly across the street or vandalism.

But meanwhile Peter is trying to balance school and uses his superhero front working with Stark Industries as a “student internship” and trying to enjoy his teenage life with his buddy Ned while enjoying the presence of his high school crush, Liz from afar.

But life changes for Peter when he discovers Toome and their crew trying to use Chitauri technology for crime and because of their deadly weapons, he was nearly killed until Tony Stark utilized one of his costumes to save Peter.  But Peter wanting to prove himself to Tony Stark pursues the criminals not realizing the full extent of the danger that awaits him but also how with great power comes great responsibility.

The major difference between this Peter Parker than other incarnations of Peter Parker is that this is a modern film.  The costume that Peter Parker wears utilizes technology from Stark Industries giving him a wide range of selections for combat and even has an assistant built in to the costume.  And part of the entertainment factor is seeing Parker learn what his costume is capable of.

Meanwhile, as for Peter, another key difference is that while he is often bullied by Flash, unlike the first trilogy and the comic books, Flash is not an athlete but a part of Peter’s decathlon team.  Modernized for today’s generation, I liked how the film portrayed Peter, Ned, Liz, Flash as smart, intelligent teens and showcasing geeks as “cool” unlike the past where the geeks were always tormented by the jocks.

The film mirrors today’s world society and one of the things that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done was to show diversity.  The film showcases a white teen who has a crush on an African American teen, her mother is married to a Caucasian man, the film features Peter Parker’s best friend Ned who happens to be a Filipino.

It may not mean a lot to some people but for those who have been wanting to see diversity, wanting to see situations that mirror real life and have wanted Hollywood to showcase diversity will definitely get that with “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.

The film looks absolutely fantastic on 4K Ultra HD and the lossless soundtrack is immersive and quite active thanks to the plethora of action sequences.  And you also get a numerous special features included as well.

Overall, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” may not be featuring the Spider-Man that I grew up reading but I will say that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was entertaining to the point that I watched it multiple times already because I really enjoyed watching the film.  The way I see it, if the “Spider-Man” trilogy or the next two films didn’t win you over, this movie may.  Wonderful story, loved the characters and this film was just a lot of fun and I highly recommend it!

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