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My Girl (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

mygirl

Enjoyable yet heartbreaking, “My Girl” is one of the more memorable films from the early ’90s and it sticks out because of its unexpected tragedy and many may have mistook this film to be a happy family film.  But “My Girl” will be remembered by its fine and natural performance thanks to the performances by Anna Chlumsky and Macaulay Culkin.

Images courtesy of © 1991 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: My Girl

FILM RELEASE: 1991

DURATION: 102 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese Dolby Surround, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Portuguese, Arabic, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish (Castillan), Swedish, Turkish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG

Release Date: March 17, 2015


Directed by Howard Zieff

Written by Laurice Elehwany

Executive Producer: Joseph M. Caracciolo, David T. Friendly

Produced by Brian Grazer

Associate Producer: Hannah Gold

Music by James Newton Howard

Cinematography by Paul Elliott

Edited by Wendy Greene Bricmont

Casting by Mary Colquhoun

Production Design by Joseph T. Garrity

Art Direction by Pat Tagliaferro

Set Decoration by Linda Allen

Costume Design by Karen Patch


Starring:

Dan Akroyd as Harry Sultenfuss

Jamie Lee Curtis as Shelly DeVoto

Macaulay Culkin as Thomas J. Sennett

Anna Chlumsky as Vada Margaret Sultenfuss

Richard Masur as Phil Sultenfuss

Griffin Dunne as Mr. Jake Bixler

Ray Buketnica as Danny DeVoto

Ann Nelson as Gramoo Sultenfuss

Peter Micahel Goetz as Dr. Welty


A coming-of-age comedy starring Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, Macaulay Culkin and Anna Chlumsky. In MY GIRL, Chlumsky makes an extraordinary acting debut as Vada Sultenfuss, a precocious 11-year-old tomboy obsessed with death. Culkin is Thomas J., the boy next door who idolizes Vada. Their summer adventures – from first kiss to last farewell – introduce Vada to the world of adolescence. Now fully remastered in high definition, MY GIRL is a motion picture to cherish and share across generations.


From Howard Zieff, director of “Private Benjamin” and “The Dream Team” comes his 1991 film “My Girl”.

The film would star Dan Akroyd (“Ghostbusters”, “The Blues Brothers”, “Trading Places”), Jamie Lee Curtis (“True Lies”, “A Fish Called Wanda, “Freaky Friday”), Macaulay Culkin (“Home Alone”, Richie Rich”), Richard Masur (“Risky Business”, “The Thing”) and the film debut of Anna Chlumsky (“Veep”, “In the Loop”).

The film which was made for $15 million, would go on to make over $59 million in the box office and nearly 25 years since it was released in theaters, “My Girl” will be released on Blu-ray in March 2015.

“My Girl” is set in 1972 and revolves around a young girl named Vada Sultenfuss (portrayed by Anna Chlumsky), a tomboy who’s best friend is Thomas J. Sennett (portrayed by Macaulay Culkin), a boy who is allergic to “everything”.

Vada’s father is Harry Sultenfuss (portrayed by Dan Akroyd), a widower who runs a funeral home and because of that, Vada has had an obsession with death but also has made her a hypochondriac.  The two also live with their ill grandmother, Gramoo (portrayed by Ann Nelson) who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and Harry’s brother Phil (portrayed by Richard Masur) often visits the family to lend some help, whenever he can.

Harry is needing someone to put makeup on the deceased, so he hires make-up artist Shelly DeVoto (portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis).

As Vada hangs out with Thomas, she also is infatuated with her teacher, Mr. Bixler (portrayed by Griffin Dunne) and wants to become a writer, so she wants to attend his adult writing class.  Needing money, she steals it from Shelly’s trailer and through the class, as Mr. Bixler tells her that she needs to write about what’s in her heart, Vada reveals her fear that she may be responsible for killing her mother (her mother died upon giving birth to Vada).

And as 1972 seems like a happy year for Vada, the year will also bring a lot of changes… but also unexpected tragedy.


VIDEO:

“My Girl” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio) and was mastered in 4K.  The film did have a few instances with white specks and there while the film does have its fair share of grain, the film also has its fair share of noise, so detail is not always as evident, especially during closeups.  The colors are also a bit soft but it lends to the film’s look of taking place in the ’70s.  The film does look much better than its previous DVD release with better contrast and natural colors.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“My Girls” is presented in English and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA and French, Italian, German, Spanish (Castilian), Japanese Dolby Surround. The film is primarily dialogue and music-driven, which are crystal clear through the front and center channels. I didn’t notice too much use of the surround channels during my viewing of the film but the soundtrack is clear and is appropriate for this kind of film.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Portuguese, Arabic, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish (Castillan), Swedish and Turkish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“My Girl” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with writer Laurice Elehwany- Audio commentary by writer Laurice Elehwany.
  • A Day on the Set – (4:43) Featuring two video featurettes of behind-the-scenes on the filming of “My Girl”.
  • Original Behind the Scenes Featurette – (6:02) Featuring the behind-the-scenes promo feature for “My Girl”.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:20) The original theatrical trailer for “My Girl”.

EXTRAS

“My Girl” comes with an UltraViolet code to instantly stream or download the film in Digital HD for TV, computers, tablet or smartphones.


There was no doubt that “My Girl” was a film that reduced many to tears due to its surprising tragedy of a main character and there is no doubt that many people came to watch the film for Macaulay Culkin, a year after his role in the hit Christmas film “Home Alone”.

But “My Girl” was a film that showcased another child actor at the time and it was young Anna Chlumsky, in her first major feature role as Vada Sultenfuss.

The role called for a young actress who wanted to be closer to her father (who was often busy at the funeral parlor he owns), scared of death because her father had to work with the local deceased and the burden she holds within her, because her mother died during childbirth.  And thus, she is a hypochondriac and is often thinking something is wrong with her.

You wouldn’t know that this young girl would have so many fears and anxiety due to her happy childhood along with her good friend Thomas J. Sennett (portrayed by Macaulay Culkin).  Culkin does a great job of portraying a child opposite of Culkin’s “Home Alone” character persona, but more laid back and more distant because of his allergies.

But “My Girl” plays off as a year in the life of Vada, as life changes for her as she find herself in love with her teacher, her father finding new love and also going through body changes.

And as Culkin won hearts with his fun and enjoyable role in “Home Alone”, Anna Chlumsky who is put through various emotions, puts on a performance that rarely happens with child actors for their first film.

And it helps when you have movie veterans such as Dan Akroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis in the film!

But while the film will be known for its two child actors and the soundtrack feature ’60s and ’70s hits, the film will be best remembered for its unexpected tragedy.  So much, that it has been referenced in popular culture.

As the film receives its HD treatment on Blu-ray via a 4K mastering, the film does have its share of grain, but also a few white specks and at times, heavier noise than usual.  The colors are a bit muted and soft, but it does add to the film’s feel that its setting took place in early ’70s.  The Blu-ray does have a few special features including an audio commentary from writer Laurice Elehwany.

Enjoyable yet heartbreaking, “My Girl” is one of the more memorable films from the early ’90s and it sticks out because of its unexpected tragedy and many may have mistook this film to be a happy family film.  But “My Girl” will be remembered by its fine and natural performance thanks to the performances by Anna Chlumsky and Macaulay Culkin.

Troop Beverly Hills (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

troopbeverlyhills

If you loved “Troop Beverly Hills” and its quirky late ’80s comedy, then you’ll definitely enjoy the release of this film on Blu-ray!

Images courtesy of © 1989 WEG Acquisition. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Troop Beverly Hills

FILM RELEASE: 1989

DURATION: 106 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French monaural, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG

Release Date: March 17, 2015


Directed by Jeff Kanew

Story by Ava Ostern Fries

Screenplay by Pamela Norris, Margaret Oberman

Produced by Ava Ostern Fries

Executive Producer: Charles W. Fries

Co-Producer: Peter Macgregor-Scott, Martin Mickelson

Music by Randy Edelman

Cinematography by Donald E. Thorin

Edited by Mark Melnick

Casting by Pamela Basker, Fern Champion

Production Design by Robert F. Boyle

Art Direction by Jack G. Taylor Jr.

Set Decoration by Anne D. McCulley

Costume Design by Theadora Van Runkle


Starring:

Shelley Long as Phyllis Nefler

Craig T. Nelson as Freddy Nefler

Betty Thomas as Velda Plendor

Mary Gross as Annie Herman

Stephanie Beacham as Vicki Sprantz

Audra Lindley as Frances Temple

Ed Byrnes as Ross Coleman

Ami Foster as Claire Sprantz

Carla Gugino as Chica Barnfell

Heather Hopper as Tessa DiBlasio

Kellie Martin as Emily Coleman

Emily Schulman as Tiffany Honigman

Tasha Scott as Jasmine Shakar

Aquilina Soriano as Lily Marcigan

Jenny Lewis as Hannah Nefler

David Gautreaux as Mr. DiBlasio

Karen Kopins as Lisa

Shelley Morrison as Rosa the Maid

Tori Spelling as Jamie, Red Feather

Robin Leach

Cheech Marin

Ted McGinley

Pia Zadora

George Christy

Joyce Brothers

Frankie Avalon

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Annette Funicello


Shelley Long discovers that when the going gets tough, the tough go camping in TROOP BEVERLY HILLS. Flamboyantly wealthy Phyllis Nefler (Long) has everything money can buy – a Beverly Hills mansion, a classic Rolls, furs, jewelry and designer gowns. The one thing she doesn’t have is her husband Freddy (Craig T. Nelson), who’s leaving her for good. Maybe. Determined to prove she’s still the creative, energetic woman Freddy once loved, Phyllis throws luxury to the wind and becomes the leader of her daughter’s Wilderness Girls troop. But how much can this chic cookie take before she crumbles? Now fully remastered in high definition, TROOP BEVERLY HILLS leaves the wilderness wilder than ever.


A 1989 comedy from director Jeff Kanew (“Revenge of the Nerds”, “Tough Guys”, “V.I. Warshawski”), “Troop Beverly Hills” was a comedy that was the sign of the times.

Released a year before “Pretty Woman” and the Darren Star TV series “Beverly Hills, 90210″, “Troop Beverly Hills” will be remembered for its campy comedy, Shelley Long’s film roles post-“Cheers”. But also will be remembered as being an early film that current stars of today had starred in as children.

Actresses such as Carla Gugino (“Sin City”, “Watchmen”, “Night at the Museum”), Kellie Martin (“Life Goes On”, “ER”), Tasha Scott (“Kiss Shot”, “Camp Cucamonga”), Rilo Kiley vocalist Jenny Lewis, Tori Spelling (“Beverly Hills, 90210″, “Scary Movie 2″), Emily Schulman (“Small Wonder”, “Christy”) and Ami Foster (“Punky Brewster”).

And despite its farfetched storyline, surprisingly “Troop Beverly Hills” was inspired by the true story of producer Ava Ostern Fries, who was the leader of the Girl Scouts for her daughter and friends in Beverly Hills.

And the film has been somewhat of a cult hit since being released on VHS and in syndication.  And now “Troop Beverly Hills” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in March 2015.

“Troop Beverly Hills” begins with an introduction to Phyllis Nefler (portrayed by Shelley Long), who has been separated from her husband Freddy (portrayed by Craig T. Nelson), owner of a successful autoshop chain.

Freddy feels that his wife has become nothing but a golddigger, just spending his money and she is no longer the person he once loved.

Phyllis wants to prove Freddy wrong and that she can be responsible by becoming the den mother for her daughter Hannah (portrayed by Jenny Lewis) and the other girls of the Beverly Hills-based local girl scout troop of Wilderness Girls.

One that wants the Beverly Hills troop shut down for good is Culver City den mother of the Red feathers group, Velda Plendor (portrayed by Betty Thomas).

Velda goes so far to send her assistant Annie Herman (portrayed by Mary Gross) to infiltrate and join the Wilderness Girls to take pictures of all wrongdoings of Phyllis Nefler.

Unlike other den mothers, Phyllis lacks the skills and experience, even going so far of creating her own merit badges for her troop.

And despite capturing the unorthodox ways of Phyllis’ leadership, the council still wants to give Phyllis and her girls a chance by taking part in a series of tests at the upcoming Girls Scouts Jamboree.  But first, they must qualify by selling over 2,000 cookies.

Can Phyllis and her Wilderness Girls outsmart Velda and her Red Feather group?  But most of all, can Phyllis and the girls prove to themselves that they have what it takes to make their troop of Beverly Hills recognized by the councilwomen?


VIDEO:

“Troop Beverly Hills” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).   I have been critical of a lot of ’80s and early ’90s films on Blu-ray for their softness on Blu-ray in the past, but watching “Troop Beverly Hills”, the film looks fantastic in HD thanks to its mastering in 4K.

The film showcases amazing detail when it comes to closeups.  Outdoor scenes features vibrant colors and there is good amount of grain featured throughout he film.  There are some moments where you see a bit more noise, but the film looks very good for a film that is over 25-years-old.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Troop Beverly Hills” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and French monaural.   The film is primarily dialogue and music-driven, which are crystal clear through the front and center channels.  I didn’t notice too much use of the surround channels during my viewing of the film but the soundtrack is clear and is appropriate for this kind of film.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Troop Beverly Hills” comes with the following special features:

  • Shelley Long Remembers Troop Beverly Hills – (14:25) Shelley Long remembers filming “Troop Beverly Hills”.
  • The Real Phyllis Nefler – Ava Ostern Fries – (9:32) Ava Ostern Fries discusses how her personal story became a film and behind-the-scenes info. in regards to the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – (7:23) Featuring ten deleted scenes.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:49) The original theatrical trailer for “Troop Beverly Hills”.

EXTRAS

“Troop Beverly Hills” comes with an UltraViolet code to instantly stream or download the film in Digital HD for TV, computers, tablet or smartphones.


Watching “Troop Beverly Hills” today, one can’t help but think how cheesy the comedy is.  But after some thought, realizing that a lot of ’80s comedies were cheesy, but yet we enjoyed them during that time.

And from 1989 to the early ’90s, there was an allure for wanting to be from Beverly Hills and there was so much of that era that captivated us.  “Lifestyles and the Rich and Famous”, years of excessive spending were still in full force.

While “Troop Beverly Hills” was not the film that would jumpstart the trend, a year later, “Pretty Woman” and “Beverly Hills, 90210″ would reach American viewers and further that admiration of people wanting to know more about the rich and famous or perhaps make one feel that perhaps things are much cooler to be on the other side.

But these were the years before dot-bomb, the years before the Madoff investment scandal, years before the economy became sour in the 2000’s and people lived without a care in the world.

“Troop Beverly Hills” is a film about a ditzy shopaholic trying to prove to her husband that she can be responsible by being the den mother of children who also had parents who were rich and famous and didn’t know anything less than that.

The Beverly Hills Wilderness Girls were seen as the rich girls that didn’t belong in Cub Scouts, the rivalry with Culver City (which is more evident between the high school athletic teams) had carried over to the film between the Beverly Hills Troop -Wilderness Girls vs. Culver City’s troop – Red Feathers.

And watching it today, there are scenes that were ultimately cringeworthy and cheesy, but this was during the ’80s, where we watched “Small Wonder”, “Kids, Inc.”, “Saved by the Bell”, “Facts of Life”, “Mork and Mindy”, “Diff’rent Strokes”, “Silver Spoons”, “Punky Brewster” and we loved it.

And once again, this style of comedy carried on through the ’90s but we saw these types of comedy films and shows as safe, quick entertainment.

“Troop Beverly Hills” is a film that was part of that era.  It may seem cheesy now but people enjoyed it this type of comedy back then.

Shelly Long was no doubt a draw due to her years at “Cheers” and the film had a good number of star cameos.  But for anyone who grew up in the ’80s and watches this film, you will see a younger version of Tori Spelling, Carla Gugino, Jenny Lewis, Kellie Martin, to name a few.

In a way, it was nostalgic for me to watch this film once again.  The film came out when I was still in high school and my memories of watching this was with a few guy friends and our only comments of how “hot” Shelley Long looked in the film but feeling it was a fun film.

Watching it over 25-years-later and yes, I felt it was overly cheesy and in one way, it was surprising that a film like this was even made and realizing that a film like this will never be made today.  The world has changed a lot since then, our economy has suffered so much since then and “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” has somewhat been replaced in today’s society with “The Rich Kids of Instagram”.

But there is no doubt that people who grew up around that time and enjoyed film will feel nostalgic about “Troop Beverly Hills”.  While those who didn’t may watch this film and may be critical of its schlocky storyline and irresponsible lean towards excessive consumerism.  But I suppose this film wasn’t really made for that audience in mind either.

The Blu-ray release no doubt features the best presentation of this film as colors are vibrant and the ’80s music along with dialogue are crystal clear.  It was great to have new featurettes with Shelley Long and producer Ava Ostern Fries, considering the film was loosely based on her life as den mother for her daughter and other children in Beverly Hills.  But also remains a film that the spirit of mother and her daughter Camela (who passed away in 2004) will continue to live on, through this film.  But the contributions that mother/daughter had back then continued on into adulthood as Cami co-founded the First School Scholarship Trust and was involved with fundraising for Westside Children’s Center.

And while the film may not have so much relevance today and Rodeo Drive has changed so much since the ’90s, aside from the rivalry between Beverly Hills and Culver City which still exists today, this film is a product of its era and will appeal primarily to those who grew up during that time and enjoyed the film.

The film has no doubt enjoyed cult status back when it was released on VHS in the early ’90s and syndication.  And there are people who just love the lines that they have it memorized.  The film has no doubt has its appeal.

Overall, if you loved “Troop Beverly Hills” and its quirky late ’80s comedy, then you’ll definitely enjoy the release of this film on Blu-ray!

An Autumn Afternoon – The Criterion Collection #446 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“An Autumn Afternoon” is a fantastic film that shows us another perspective of a modern Japanese family towards marriage.  An enjoyable final film by legendary director Yasujiro Ozu!

Image courtesy of © 1962 Shochiku Co. Ltd. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: An Autumn Afternoon – The Criterion Collection #446

YEAR OF FILM: 1962

DURATION: 113 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, Color, Japanese Monaural LPCM 1.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: February 17, 2015


Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

Screenplay by Kogo Noda, Yasujiro Ozu

Produced by Shizuo Yamanouchi

Music by Takanobu Saito

Cinematography by Yuharu Atsuta

Edited by Yoshiyasu Hamamura

Production Design by Minoru Kanekatsu

 Art Direction by  Tatsuo Hamada, Shigeo Ogiwara

Costume Design by Yuji Nagashima


Starring:

Chishu Ryu as Shuhei Hirayama

Shima Iwashita as Michiko Hirayama

Keiji Sada as Koichi

Mariko Okada as Akiko

Teruo Yoshida as Yutaka Miura

Noriko Maki as Fusako Taguchi

Shin’ichiro Mikami as Kazuo

Nobuo Nakamura as Shuzo Kawai


The final film from Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story) was also his last masterpiece, a gently heartbreaking story about a man’s dignifed resignation to life’s shifting currents and society’s modernization. Though widower Shuhei (frequent Ozu leading man Chishu Ryu) has been living comfortably for years with his grown daughter, a series of events leads him to accept and encourage her marriage and departure from their home. As elegantly composed and achingly tender as any of the Japanese master’s films, An Autumn Afternoon is one of cinema’s fondest farewells.


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In 1962, director Yasujiro Ozu directed his final film “An Autumn Afternoon”.

With goals to direct more films the following year, unfortunately it was not meant to be as Yasujiro Ozu would die of cancer on his 60th birthday.

And so his final film, “An Autumn Afternoon”, known in Japan as “Sanma no Aji” (The Taste of Mackerel) would be his last film.  His simplest film but a film that fans of Ozu’s work can draw comparisons to “Late Spring”.

Yasujiro Ozu is one of the world’s beloved directors.  Having made many films since the 1920′s up to his final film “An Autumn Afternoon” in 1962, his works have been appreciated by viewers and critics for his family comedies but also his serious family storylines such as “Early Spring”, “Early Summer, “Tokyo Story”, “Floating Weeds”, “The End of Summer” (to name a few).

The Criterion Collection has been one of the major forces in America of bringing Ozu’s films stateside and now “An Autumn Afternoon” has received the HD treatment on Blu-ray.

The film would star Chishu Ryu (who would star in other Ozu films such as “Early Summer”, “Tokyo Story”, “Late Spring” and the popular “Tora-san” films of the ’70s and ’80s), Shima Iwashita  (“Harakiri”,”Ballad of Orin”);, Keiji Sada (“Good Morning”, “The Human Condition I: No Greater Love”, “Late Autumn”), Mariko Okada (“Akitsu Springs”, “Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto”, “Late Autumn”),  Teruo Yoshida, Noriko Maki, Shin’ichiro Mikami, Nobuo Nakamura and more.

“An Autumn Afternoon” revolves around a family, Shuhei Hirayama (portrayed by Chisha Ryu) is a widower with a a 32-year-old married son named Koichi (portrayed by Keiji Sada) and his two unmarried children: 24-year-old Michiko (portrayed by Shima Iwashita) and 21-year-old son Kazuo (portrayed by Shin’ichiro Mikami).

Shuhei’s classmates, Kawai (portrayed by Nobuo Nakamura), Horie (portrayed by Ryuji Kita), Sugai (portrayed by Tsuzai Sugawara), Watanabe (portrayed by Masao Oda) and Nakanishi, often meet at a restaurant known was Wakamatsu which is owned by Sugai and have drinks, get drunk and enjoy each other’s conversations.

As the men are taking back their drunken friend Sakuma, they learn that their friend is trying to survive by running a noodle restaurant but also learning that his middle-aged daughter Tomako (portrayed by Haruko Sugimura) waited too long to get married and is now too old.

Often, Shuhei’s friends talk about how it’s important for Shuhei to consider having his daughter Michiko married off to a good man before it’s too late.  But as Shuhei tries to bring up the topic with his daughter, she has not intention of wanting to get married but most importantly, she tells her father that he and Kazuo depend on her and can’t get married.

Meanwhile, we get to see a glimpse of the marriage between Koichi and his wife Akiko (portrayed by Mariko Okada) and the husband and wife dynamics between the two.

Knowing that it’s important for his daughter to get married and see how other daughters of his friends who didn’t get married have turned out, will Shuhei arrange for his daughter to marry or not?


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VIDEO:

“An Autumn Afternoon – The Criterion Collection #446″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality features better clarity compared to the previous Criterion Collection DVD release.  The picture quality features much better colors and better image stability.  Also, there is a fine layer of grain throughout the entire film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative at IMAGICA Corp. and IMAGICA West Corp. in Tokyo, where the film was restored in 2K resolution.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “An Autumn Afternoon – The Criterion Collection #446″ is presented in Japanese LPCM 1.0 with English subtitles. Dialogue and music is clear with no signs of any hiss or crackling.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monoraul soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic soundtrack. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX4.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“An Autumn Afternoon – The Criterion Collection #446″ comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary - Featuring audio commentary by film scholar David Bordwell.
  • Yasujiro Ozu and the Taste of Sake - (14:40) Interviews with film critics Michel Ciment, George PErec.
  • Trailer – Featuring two 3-4 minute theatrical trailers for “An Autumn Afternoon”.

EXTRAS:

“An Autumn Afternoon – The Criterion Collection #446″ comes with a six-page insert with the essay “A Fond Farewell” by Geoff Andrew and “Ozu’s Diaries” by Donald Richie.


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As a person who loves and enjoys Yasujiro Ozu films, “An Autumn Afternoon” may be one of Ozu’s simplest films but it has always been a favorite film of his because of the humor but also how it deals with a modern Japanese family, and a father knowing that his 24-year-old daughter must get married and leave home, despite knowing in his heart, how much his daughter Michiko has done so much for him.

We have seen how Chishu Ryu’s character was in “Late Spring” as a professor who had lost his wife but doesn’t want to lose his only child but must find a way to push his daughter in considering marriage.

With “Autumn Afternoon”, while Chishu’s character is similar in a way that he has not put great pressure on his daughter Michiko, because she has done so much for him and her younger brother Kazuo, the primary difference between both films is seeing for himself, how women were who missed the boat of getting married and now they are literally older women living at home, continuing to take care of their parents because they missed out on marriage.

This is not what the character Shuhei Yamamura wants for his daughter.  He wants her to be happy, but he must be insistent for her to get married.  Unlike “Late Spring”, Michiko relents and listens to her father.

So, it’s an interesting juxtaposition to see how both Chishu Ryu’s characters does in order to get his daughters married.  “Late Spring” took a bit of acting on the father’s part, but for “An Autumn Afternoon”, it’s a different perspective on a father and his role and responsibilities to make sure his daughter finds a good husband.

Where as previous films had a clash of traditional Japanese culture with modern Japanese culture, “An Autumn Afternoon” focuses on the modern, especially when the film switches to Koichi and his wife Akiko.  Lying and borrowing money from his father, but the intention is to buy McGregor golf clubs.  Akiko also makes sure that she has her voice in the matter, where most wives are seen as silent, Akiko will speak her mind towards her husband which actually makes their scenes quite interesting as she is not afraid to tell her husband how she feels and what she expects him to do.  And there is no doubt a shift on how a woman, especially a married woman is showcased in an Ozu film as the women have a sort of independence to them.

As “An Autumn Afternoon” will be an introduction or continuance and appreciate for Ozu’s work for those viewing Criterion Collection films primarily on Blu-ray, another fascination that I have towards Ozu films is his camera technique, using low angle shots and also using non-traditional cinematic methods by avoiding panning, tracking and crane shots.  It’s what separates Ozu from Kurosawa and other Japanese filmmakers is how he frames his characters and features them during a diaogue-driven scene.

And as mentioned, the efficacy of this film relies on its characters.  From the relationship between family members or the bickering between a husband and wife, it’s one thing to have a talented Chishu Ryu to play the father, but there are a lot of wonderful performances from the cast seen throughout the film.  Characters that bring this enjoyable film to life!

As for the Blu-ray release of “An Autumn Afternoon”, this is a gorgeous 4K restoration of the film.  The film looks wonderful in HD and the lossless audio soundtrack is also crystal clear without the hiss or crackle!  You also get a few special features included on this Blu-ray release, including David Borwell’s insightful audio commentary.

Overall, “An Autumn Afternoon” is a fantastic film that shows us another perspective of a modern Japanese family towards marriage.  An enjoyable final film by legendary director Yasujiro Ozu!

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

February 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

theretrieval

“The Retrieval” is an engrossing film with solid writing/directing by Chris Eska and wonderful performances from its actors. “The Retrieval” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 September Morning, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Retrieval

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 94 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 Original Aspect Ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: February 3, 2015


Written and Directed by Chris Eska

Executive Producer: Denis Chateau, Philippe Diaz

Produced by Alain Dahan

Associate Producer: Marvin J. Chomsky

Cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier

Editing by Nelly Quettier

Casting by Helene Bernardin

Production Design by Jacques Dubus, Thomas Peckre, Michel Vandestien

Set Decoration by Bernard Leonard

Costume Design by Dominique Gregogna, Martine Metert, Robert Nardone


Starring:

Ashton Sanders as Will

Tishuan Scott as Nate

Keston John as Marcus

Bill Oberst Jr. as Burrell

Christine Horn as Rachel

Alfonso Freeman as Isaac

Raven Nicole LeDeatte as Abby

Jonathan Brooks as Royce


1864: as war ravages the nation, on the outskirts of the civil War, it is business as usual for slave-owners and traders. The Retrieval follows Will (Ashton Sanders), a fatherless thirteen-year-old boy who survives by working with a white bounty hunter gang. They send him to earn the trust of runaway slaves in order to lure them back to the south.

On a dangerous mission into the free north to find Nate (Tishuan Scott), a fugitive freedman, things go wrong and Will and Nate find themselves on the run. As the bond between them unexpectedly grows, Will becomes consumed by conflicting emotions as he faces a gut-wrenching final decision. Thrilling, but grounded in historical research, The Retrieval serves as an insight into the grey period between slavery and freedom and the horrific moral dilemma that comes with being forced to betray your fellow man.


From writer and director Chris Eska comes the film “The Retrieval”, which was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

A film that takes place a year before the end of the Civil War, the story begins with a young 13-year-old Black boy named Will (portrayed by Ashton Sanders) coming to a farmhouse alone.

He is escorted to the barn where other slaves are hiding and sleeping.  But as the slaves sleep, Will sneaks out and finds his uncle Marcus (portrayed by Keston John) and slavehunter Burrell (portrayed by Bill Oberst Jr.) and his posse waiting for him.

Will gives the slavehunters the information and immediately, Burrell and his men capture the slaves.

We learn that Will has been working with with Marcus as Black slavehunters in hopes they can get money but also secure their freedom.

Burrell gives Marcus a mission, he must find a man named Nate (portrayed by Tishuan Scott), who works as a gravedigger for the Union and bring him back to Burrell.  In return, he and Will will be released of their obligations of working for him.  If they fail, he will find and kill them.

Knowing this, Marcus and Will head out to find Nate.  While Will doesn’t like ratting on other slaves and doesn’t like how Marcus thinks about himself, he knows that to survive, Marcus is all he has for family.

When they find Nate, they tell him a story that his brother is dying and wants to see Nate one last time before he dies.  And that they risked their lives to give him that information.

Weary of following them, Nate decides to believe them and heads out with them to go back down South.

But what happens when during the journey back home, Will starts to like Nate but also face the dangers of the battle between the North and the South?


VIDEO:

“The Retrieval” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio) and is presented in HD. While the picture quality is clear and full of detail, especially during the closeups, it’s important to note that the film feels to clear as it seems as if it was made for television.  Granted, the process of converting a digital film to look like film is a laborious process and very expensive.

But with that being said, the film looks great but has a different visual feel than what you would come to expect from a Civil War film.  The colors are intentionally muted and are not vibrant, but for the most part, picture quality is very good!

AUDIO:

“The Retrieval” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  There is a lot of whispering in the film, so some scenes are hard to understand at times.  But fortunatelyy, the majority of the film features crystal clear dialogue and ambiance of the outdoor surroundings which you can hear through the surround channels, including the sounds of cannons and guns being shot from afar.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Retrieval” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary - Featuring audio commentary with director Chris Eska
  • Deleted Scene – (4:08) The only deleted scene from the film.
  • Deleted Scene with Commentary – (4:08) Director Chris Eska’s commentary of why the scene was deleted.
  • SAG Foundation Actors Conversation – (49:08) Q&A with director Chris Eska, actors Tishuan Scott, Keston John, Bill Oberst Jr., Christine Horn and Alfonso Freeman.
  • Interviews from the Leeds International Film Festival – (3:50) Featuring interviews with director Chris Eska and the Australian viewers who watched the film.
  • Press Booklet (BD-Rom Only)
  • Stunt Rehearsals(5:57) Featuring the actors practicing their stunts.
  • Trailer – (2:27) The theatrical trailer for “The Retrieval”.

When it comes to “Civil War” films, there is somewhat of an expectancy of storyline, may it be Union vs. Confederate or the adversities of the slaves or from a soldier from either side.  But “The Retrieval” is rather interesting because it’s a storyline that you don’t usually see in film.

The story about two Black slavehunters helping out their boss by infiltrating locations and betraying Black slaves is something that may seem too taboo to even see in a film.

But fortunately, writer and director Chris Eska put a lot of thought into the development of his characters.

Will, the young boy who doesn’t make the decisions, he does whatever his Uncle Marcus tells him.

Marcus is only concerned about the money and nothing else.  But knows Will depends on him because Will has no other family.

And for Will, his reason for doing what he does, is hopes that he can reunite with his father.

And when the two are given the task to find a man named Nate and bring him back to their slavehunter boss, it’s not going to be an easy retrieval because the war is near it’s end, and the war has become violent, bloody and they are in the middle of it.  Walking through fields and gunfire between the warring soldiers.

For Marcus, he just wants Will to do his job but for Will, he starts to grow to like Nate.  To see someone who is a good man and something much different than his Uncle Marcus.

And the more he bonds with Nate, he begins to feel guilty and remains conflicted.  Because while he likes Nate as a person, he knows that if he doesn’t turn him in, their slavemaster boss will kill them.

“The Retrieval” is a heartfelt, thrilling film that does give insight in the gray area of slavery and freedom but the way the film is structured is well-done.

While many may question why the men would bring Nate back when they are already with the Union, it goes to show in that era, not knowing how much power the slavehunter has over them and the threat of being hunted down and also them hunting your loved ones is not an easy decision to make, especially for a young boy like Will who has conflicted emotions about the entire ordeal.

The performance by Ashton Sanders and Tishuan Scott was great but if there was one small caveat for me, it’s more of the visual display of the film.  For a Civil War film, it appears that the HD makes the film too clear, while watching on film, gives the impression that lends to an era’s credibility, “The Retrieval” looks too clean for its own good.

Still, the film looks very good on Blu-ray and the lossless soundtrack does showcase ambiance from the outdoor environments and you also get a few special features such as commentary and director/cast Q&A included as well.

Overall, “The Retrieval” is an engrossing film with solid writing/directing by Chris Eska and wonderful performances from its actors.

“The Retrieval” is recommended!

Big Hero 6 – Collector’s Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

bighero6

“Big Hero 6″ is one of those films that took me by surprise.  The animation was breathtaking, the characters were absolutely enjoyable and as for the story, it was beyond awesome!  While Disney Animated Classic films sequels tend to be direct-to-video, I hope they follow Pixar’s lead with “Toy Story” and “Monsters, Inc.” and give “Big Hero 6″ a sequel as fans will surely want to see these heroes continue in another animated feature!  “Big Hero 6 – Collector’s Edition” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Big Hero 6 – Collector’s Edition

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 102 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Disney

Rated: PG (For Action and Peril, Some Rude Humor and Thematic Elements)

RELEASE DATE: February 24, 2015


Based Upon Characters Created by Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle

Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams

Screenplay by Jordan Roberts, Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird

Produced by Roy Conli

Executive Producer: John Lasseter

Co-Producer: Kristina Reed

Associate Producer: Brad Simonsen

Music by Henry Jackman

Edited by Tim Mertens

Casting by Jamie Sparer Roberts

Production Design by Paul A. Felix

Art Direction by Scott Watanabe


Featuring the Voices of:

Scott Adsit as Baymax

Ryan Potter as Hiro

Daniel Henney as Tadashi

T.J. Miller as Fred

Jamie Chung as Go Go

Damon Wayans Jr. as Wasabi

Genesis Rodriguez as Honey Lemon

Jamie Cromwell as Robert Callaghan

Alan Tudyk as Alistair Krei

Maya Rudolph as Cass


With all the heart and humor audiences expect from Walt Disney Animation Studios, BIG HERO 6 is an action-packed comedy adventure that introduces Baymax, a lovable, personal companion robot, who forms a special bond with robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada. When a devastating turn of events catapults them into the midst of a dangerous plot unfolding in the streets of San Fransokyo, Hiro turns to Baymax and his diverse group of friends — adrenaline junky Go Go Tomago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon and fanboy Fred — who transform into a band of unlikely heroes. Bring home Disney’s BIG HERO 6, featuring comic-book-style action and hilarious, unforgettable characters — it’s fun for the whole family!


With Disney’s acquisition of Marvel Comics, the big question is what Marvel property can be made into a Disney animated film?

The answer was Marvel Comics “Big Hero 6″, a team created by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau. And would later appear in a five issue mini-series released in 2008.

Of course, in order to make it a Walt Disney Animated Classics film, there were going to be changes and in 2014, the 54th animated film in the Disney lineup was released.

Directed by Don Hall (“The Emperor’s New Groove”, “The Princess and the Frog”, “Tarzan”, “Meet the Robinsons”) and Chris Williams (“Bolt”, “Mulan”, “The Emperor’s New Groove”, “Brother Bear”), the film would feature the voices of Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk and Maya Rudolph.

The CG animated film budgeted around $165 million would go on to make over $521 million and will now be released on Blu-ray and DVD by Disney.

“Big Hero 6″ begins with an introduction to Hiro Yamada (voiced by Ryan Potter), a brilliant robotic genius who is 14-years-old participating in an illegal robotic competitions in San Fransokyo.  Hiro lives with his old his older brother Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney) and their guardian, aunt Cass (portrayed by Maya Rudolph).

But Hiro’s robotic competition antics nearly get him into very big trouble and he is rescued by Tadashi.

As Tadashi worries about his younger brother’s activities, he takes Hiro to the robotics lab of his university, San Fransokyo Institute of Technology and introduces him to other brilliant students such as GoGo (voiced by Jamie Chung), Fred (voiced by T.J. Miller), Wasabi (voiced by Damon Wayans Jr.), Honey Lemon (voiced by Genesis Rodriguez) and the head of the school’s robotic program, Professor Robert Callaghan (voiced by James Cromwell).

Tadashi then introduces Hiro to the robot he created, a robot named Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit), a robot that is designed for the healthcare field and can help anyone with injuries on the spot.  As Tadashi hopes his invention will help people, he and his fellow students leave a positive impression for Hiro who now wants to attend the university and their robotic’s program.

So, Tadashi and his friends assist Hiro who is working on a special project that if he can catch the interest of Professor Callaghan, he can become a student at the university.

Hiro designs microbots, a technology that allows a user with special glasses to control the many microbots and program them to do anything.

Eventually, Hiro impresses Professor Callaghan who offers him to attend the university and be part of the robotic department, but Hiro is also approached by wealthy entrepreneur Alistair Krei (voiced by Alan Tudyk) who offers Hiro a lot of money for his technology.

Hiro eventually goes through with his goal of attending San Fransokyo Institute of Technology and as he, Tadashi, his aunt and friends are about to celebrate, a major explosion takes place inside the university building.

Worried about Professor Callaghan, Tadashi wants to run into the burning building to help him and when he does, the building explodes and Tadashi is killed.

This leaves Hiro depressed and also missing his classes as San Fransokyo Institute of Technology.

While in his bedroom, he stubs his toe and yells in pain.  This activates Betamax who goes to fix Hiro’s pain.  As the two talk, Tadashi notices his Microbot acting funny as if it wants to look for something.  When Betamax asks Hiro if looking for this microbot will make him happy and make him feel better, Hiro agrees and thus, Betamax goes to search for what the microbot is looking for.

Hiro who was just joking now realizes that Betamax is looking for what the microbot is looking for and they end up in an abandoned warehouse.

As Hiro and Betamax go inside the abandoned warehouse, they find Hiro’s microbots and believe that the person who stole them, may be responsible for Tadashi and Professor Callaghan’s death.  But as the two continue to look at more evidence, a man in a mask has gained control of the microbots and sends them after Hiro and Betamax.

Now Hiro and also Tadashi’s friends want to know who the man in the mask is and the person responsible for the deaths of Tadashi and Professor Callaghan.


VIDEO:

“Big Hero 6″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio) and the film looks amazing!  Everything from the environment, the buildings combining San Francisco and Tokyo and the detail of the characters and structures are impressive.

Colors are vibrant and full of detail (the clothing and objects show amazing detail to the strands in Wasabi’s sweater to closeups of the character’s faces), the movement especially the flow of clothing and hair during movement is magnificent!

The White on Betamax is reflective but also how they made his body so fluid in movement, I was amazed.  So, aside from the vibrant colors and black levels are nice and deep, “Big Hero 6″ looks amazing!  I did not see any banding or artifacts, this film looks fantastic in HD and the picture quality is no doubt close to perfection!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Big Hero 6″ is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Rarely do I run across a Disney animated film made in recent years with less than perfect audio.  Disney has done a magnificent job by giving us an animated action film that utilizes the surround and rear surround channels.

As center and front channels are crystal clear, the soundtrack is immersive, the low frequency sounds coming from your subwoofer are utilized very well but it’s the use of sound as objects zip around you, the directional effects are amazing and I found this lossless soundtrack to be a videophile’s dream!  This is definitely a fantastic lossless soundtrack!

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Big Hero 6″ comes with the following special features:

  • Theatrical Short: Feast – (6:14) Featuring a short animation about a dog who loves to eat and his master.
  • The Origin Story of Big Hero 6: Hiro’s Journey - (15:11) A featurette about how “Big Hero 6″ was a comic book and how it was adapted into a Disney animated film.  Hosted by Jamie Chung.
  • Big Animator 6: The Characters Behind the Characters – (6:40) The animating team in a roundtable discussing their work on “Big Hero 6″.
  • Deleted Scenes with Introductions By Directors Don Hall & Chris Williams – (13:11) Featuring an alternate opening and three deleted scenes with introductions.
  • Big Hero 6 Theatrical Teaser – (1:42) The theatrical trailer for “Big Hero 6″.

EXTRAS:

“Big Hero 6″ comes with a slipcover and digital HD code.


I have seen the “Big Hero 6″ ads and the images of Betamax displayed all over the Internet and in various metropolitan cities and I figured that outside of Disney’s promotion for the film, the only thing that stayed in my mind was why this white robot looked obese?

Suffice to say, I have not read one review about the film, nor did I read any article about the film because I wanted to be surprised.

It’s what I have done with a lot of the Walt Disney Animated Classics and newer Pixar films, to not read anything, to not be swayed by anything, to not buy into any hype, but to watch it myself and be entertained.

And how I felt about the animated film?  Let’s just say that “Big Hero 6″ left me wanting a sequel after I watched it!

It’s one thing for me to a be a geek about the technology and also to see San Francisco and Tokyo combined but it was the unexpected.

The tale of a teenager who is a genius having to move on with life after the death of his brother and is given a new lease on life thanks to his brother’s creation, a tall, obese robot that will win you over with its willingness to help others, his kind demeanor and naivety, but throw in the major upgrades that he, Hiro and friends receive and you get a story that feels like Disney’s superhero team with a heart!

Sure, I know now that “Big Hero 6″ is originally based on a Marvel comic book.  I know now that the comic book’s original story was changed for the animated film in order for it to become a Disney animated film.  But the changes were smart, the direction and writing were well-done and the animation was nothing short of amazing.

I have to admit that Disney really took a risk by using its Marvel Comics acquisition to pull a story for its latest film in the lineup of films in the Disney Animated Classics because it usually never happens that way.  We have seen Walt Disney animated films targeted towards children, while the Disney Pixar films are more serious and sometimes tearjerkers that even the adults may share a tear or two, not to say that “Dumbo” or even “Bambi” aren’t serious or tearjerkers, because they are, it’s just been a while since Disney tapped into a storyline that shocks you with tragedy with a death of a character.

But so far, Disney has been a streak with their animated films.  And while “Big Hero 6″ may not have the memorable theme song of last year’s “Frozen”, “Big Hero 6″ will be remembered for its story, characters and animation.

And speaking of characters, don’t forget to watch through the ending credits, as you will see a special appearance right at the end of the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, Disney has always been on the forefront with awesome picture quality and lossless soundtrack and “Big Hero 6″ does not disappoint.  Both picture quality and lossless audio will appease both video and audiophile!  And there are a good number of special features included as well!

Overall, “Big Hero 6″ is one of those films that took me by surprise.  The animation was breathtaking, the characters were absolutely enjoyable and as for the story, it was beyond awesome!  While Disney Animated Classic films sequels tend to be direct-to-video, I hope they follow Pixar’s lead with “Toy Story” and “Monsters, Inc.” and give “Big Hero 6″ a sequel as fans will surely want to see these heroes continue in another animated feature!

“Big Hero 6 – Collector’s Edition” is highly recommended!

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

February 8, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

lookalike-a

“The Lookalike” may not be a top-notch crime thriller and its crazy, over-the-top storyline is improbable but yet unpredictable.  It is interesting and entertaining in some aspects but it’s more of film on Blu-ray that one would want to rent than keep.

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


TITLE: The Lookalike

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9 widescreen), English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR (Not Rated)

Release Date: February 10, 2015


Directed by Richard Gray

Written by Michele Davis-Gray

Produced by Michele Davis-Gray, Mike Gillespie, Richard Gray, Kaine Harling, Virginia Kay, Christian Long, Justin Long, Frank Lotito, Benton Morris, Jason Waggenspack

Executive Producer: Bryce Menzies, Steve Pnce, Mark Sachen, James M. Wahlberg, Darcy Wedd

Associate Producer: Joe Accurso, Derek DuChesne, Raffaele Lopriore, Kylie Sapuppo, Joseph Trichilo

Co-Producer: Kim Barnard, Jamie Houge, Yulia Klass, Vanessa McMahon, Jessica Neuman

Music by Alies Sluiter

Cinematography by Thomas Scott Stanton

Edited by Michael Puri, Heath Ryan

Production Design by Ryan Martin Dwyer

Art Direction by Heady Pardew

Set Decoration by Ryan Martin Dwyer

Costume Design by Kim Martinez


Starring:

Justin Long as Holt Mulligan

Gillian Jacobs as Lacey

John Corbett as Bobby

Jerry O’Connell as Joe Mulligan

Scottie Thompson as Mila

Gina Gershon as Lee Garner

Luis Guzman as Vincent

Steven Bauer as Frank

John Savage as William Spinks

Felisha Terrell as Drew

Bernard Jones as Jules


Drug lord William Spinks has a curious obsession with Sadie Hill, and uses family friends Bobby and Frank (John Corbett and Jerry O Connell) to get to her. But when Sadie s death jeopardizes a major deal, Bobby and Frank set out to find a replacement – a lookalike (Gillian Jacobs) – to fool Spinks. The shady plan propels an ex-basketball champion, a deaf beauty, an addict, and an aspiring actress into an unlikely romance and a desperate quest to start over.


From the director of “Summer Coda” and “Mine Games” comes his latest film “The Lookalike”.

The film stars Justin Long (“Live Free or Die Hard”, “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story”, “Drag Me to Hell”), Gillian Jacobs (“Community”, “Walk of Shame”, “Gardens of the Night”), John Corbett (“Raising Helen”, “United States of Tara”, “The Burning Plan”), Jerry O’Connell (“Stand By Me”, “Jerry Maguire”, “Sliders”), Scottie Thompson (“Skyline”, S”tar Trek”, “NCIS”), Gina Gershon (“Face/Off”, “P.S. I Love You”, “Showgirls”), Luis Guzman (“Boogie Nights”, “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3″, “Carlito’s Way”), Steven Bauer (“Prial Fear”, “Scarface”, “Raising Cane”), John Savage (“The Deer Hunter”, “The Godfather: Part III”, “The Thin Red Line”).

The film begins with Frank (portrayed by Steven Bauer) and Bobby (portrayed by John Corbett) trying to get Sadie (portrayed by Gillian Jacobs) to meet with drug lord William Spinks (portrayed by John Savage).  Spinks is obsessed with having sex with a former business partner’s daughter and is willing to pay an incredible amount of money.

But during a heated exchange of trying to get Sadie to have sex with the man, a chandelier falls and crushes Sadie and instantly kills her.

Now Frank and Bobby are in dire need of finding a blonde that looks like Sadie in hopes they can get a big payday.

Meanwhile, police officer Lee Garner (portrayed by Gina Gershon) has been following drug dealer Holt Mulligan (portrayed by Justin Long).  She has Lacey (portrayed by Gillian Jacobs), who is trying to get the police off her back, to get closer to him and the two hit it off.

Vincent (portrayed by Luis Guzman) meanwhile wants his money from Holt and if he doesn’t get his $100,000, he will kill Holt.

As for Holt’s brother, Joe (portrayed by Jerry O’Connell), a former basketball player, he meets and falls for a disabled girl named Mila (portrayed by Scottie Thompson) and he falls for her immediately.

As Holt fears for his life and needs the help of his brother, he asks Lacey, who looks like Sadie, to pretend to be her.  And if she has sex with Spinks, she will get a ton of money and help her pursue her career as an actress but it would also help Holt pay off Vincent and get him off his back and also to help Joe.

But as the three plan to execute their plan, things get out of hand and their lives may be in danger.


VIDEO:

“The Lookalike” is presented in 1080p High Definition. For the most part, the film features plenty of detail and the film looks very good.  But there was a scene in which the film becomes a bit too saturated as the lamps and lighting during a hotel scene makes the picture quality look a bit off and banding issues are evident.  But for the most part, the majority of the film is well-shot and well-lit with the exception of that single scene.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Lookalike” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and 5.1. The film is primarily dialogue-driven with a scene and some scenes that do utilize the ambiance of the environment from police sirens, explosions and gun shots utilizing the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Lookalike” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring four deleted scenes.
  • Behind-the-Scenes – (14:45) Featuring the behind-the-scenes making of “The Lookalike” with interviews with director Richard Gray, writer Michele Davis-Gray and the cast.
  • Trailer – Featuring the theatrical trailer for “The Lookalike”.

“The Lookalike” is an interesting film because it starts off like an independent film that reeks of a bad plot and bad acting.

The hookups seem unnatural as you see a cokehead hooking up with an aspiring actress who is being watched over by the cops. The cokehead owes a lot of money to another drug dealer and he will die if he doesn’t pay up.

Then you have an ex-basketball player falling in love with a woman who is deaf and has a prosthetic leg, but what seems unnatural is how these two brothers hook up with the women and then what happens to these four individuals afterward, suffice to say, their lives will never be the same.

Still, if you are able to forego the crazy and improbable storyline and take it for what it is, the two subplots of brothers and the women they are with and the trouble they get, the film is no doubt over-the-top and it’s rather entertaining, unpredictable in some aspect.

Perhaps I enjoyed it a little more because of the many talents that appear in this film, a few from television such as Gillian Jacobs (from “Community”), others who many of us grew up watching back in the ’80s and ’90s, such as John Corbett, Jerry O’Connell, Gina Gershon, Steven Bauer to name a few.

The picture quality of “The Lookalike” features good picture quality but it does has a few scenes with banding.    Dialogue is crystal clear and special features features a few deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes making of featurette and the theatrical trailer.

Overall, “The Lookalike” may not be a top-notch crime thriller and its crazy, over-the-top storyline is improbable but yet unpredictable.  It is interesting and entertaining in some aspects but it’s more of film on Blu-ray that one would want to rent than keep.

Brotherhood of Blades (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 8, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

brotherhoodblades-a

For those who love martial arts action films, will want to check out “Brotherhood of Blades”.  It’s an exciting, thrilling and action-packed film that I recommend!

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


TITLE: Brotherhood of Blades

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 130 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR (Not Rated)

Release Date: February 10, 20155


Directed by Yang Lu

Written by Yang Lu, Chen Shu

Cinematography by Han Qiming

Edited by Yiran Tu, Li Yun Zhu

Art Direction by Ji-ah Kim

Music by Nathan Wang, Zongxian Wang


Starring:

Cheng Chang as Shen Lian

Shih-Chieh Chin as Wei Zhongxian

Zhu Dan as Wei Ting

Dong-xue Li as Jin Yichuan

Shishi Liu as Zhou Miaotong

Yuan Nie as Zhao Jingzhong

Qianyuan Wang as Lu Jianxing

Qing Ye as Zhang Yan

Lixin Zhao as Han Kuang

Yiwei Zhou as Ding Xiu

Dan Zhu as Wei Teing


Lu, Shen Lian, and Yichuan. Three sworn brothers, and deadly Jinyiwei Secret Police of the Imperial Guard. The new Emperor s first mission – find and annihilate the corrupt fugitive Eunuch Wei and his followers. But one mistake reveals the truth – the three men are pawns in a deadly game, unleashing a CHAIN of secrets, conspiracies, and lethal consequences.


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During the 1620’s, Wei Zhongxian (portrayed by Shih-Chieh Chin), Head Eunuch and Head of the Imperial Assassins, had ruled the Imperial court for eight years.  And during that time, seven out of ten court officials were Wei’s followers, and together they were known as “The Eunuch Clique”.

But when Emperor Chongzhen came to power, Wei Zhongxian was relieved of all duties and was sent to a far outpost.  The Emperor wanted every member of the Eunuch Clique arrested.

Lu Jianxing (portrayed by Qianyuan Wang), Shen Lian (portrayed by Chen Chang) and Jin Yichuan (portrayed by Dong-xue Li) are sworn brothers and members of the Secret Police of the Imperial Guard who are trying to capture the Eunuch Clique.  The three are very close with each other, but each have their own secrets.

The eldest Lu Jianxing awaits to be promoted, so he could be like his father, but it has not happened.  He tries to bribe the corrupted Sir Xu with silver and even giving him all the credit for the work that he and the others have done, but yet hasn’t receive a promotion, but Sir Xu wants more silver from him.

Shen Lian is usually the main person leading the raids.  He is trying his best to free a woman named Zhou Miaotong (portrayed by Shishi Liu) from the brothel of the Academy but needs to make more money in order to have her freed.  So, Shen tends to raid areas and tells them to give him some sort of payment in order to ensure they are never hassled again.

The youngest, Jin Yichuan is actually a former thief who has assumed another man’s name.  And he is being blackmailed by Xiu (portrayed by Yiwei Zhou) who threatens to reveal the truth unless he pays up. And despite Yichuan being a wonderful fighter, Xiu is much better than he is.

When Zhao Jingzhong (portrayed by Yuan Nie) who works directly with the emperor arrives, he comes to give the three men a chance to catch Wei Zhongxian, but will the men become successful?


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VIDEO:

“Brotherhood of Blades” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Picture quality is fantastic as skin tones look natural and closeups featured great detail.  The film offers a cooler look throughout the film but the detail is amazing.  The costume design is really well-done and this film really showcases the beauty of the costumes. And if anything, while the film looks fantastic in HD.  I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Brotherhood of Blades” is presented in Mandarin and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For a film that utilizes plenty of action, “Brotherhood of Blades” features a strong lossless soundtrack with great use of the surround channels and LFE. The scene where the three are locked inside the courtyard and are ambushed is one of the more impressive moments in the film that really takes advantage of your surround channels and subwoofer. You can hear the arrows flying towards their target, swords clanging and for the most part, one of the better action scenes during the film.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Brotherhood of Blades” comes with a theatrical trailer.

EXTRAS

“Brotherhood of Blades” comes with a slipcover.


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“Brotherhood of Blades” is a martial arts film that may appear to be banal, but thanks to its various plot twists, the film ends up being much better than expected.

The film revolves around three men who want to do the right thing, problem is, even though they are part of the Imperial Secret Army, they only receive 20 taels and don’t make that much.

And money is important as Shen Lian relies on it to save and pay for the freedom of a courtesan, Lu Jianxing should be promoted for his success but because he works for a corrupted official, the only way he will be promoted is if he continues to bribe Sir Xu with more silver.  And for Jin Yichuan, he is assuming a fake identity and bribing his friend/rival Ding Xiu in hopes that his secret stays a secret.

The three are desperate for money but they know they must keep working and now their job is to capture the former head of the Imperial Assassins, Wei Zhongxian.

But what happens when Wei Zhongxian offers Shen Lian an enormous of amount of money if he lets him go free.  Money he knows that he and his brothers need. No matter which decision Shen must make, either he takes the money and can be killed for working with the enemy.  Or be killed by ensuring the death of Wei Zongxian, which will eventually lead to his brothers being hunted down?

As one can expect from a martial arts film, you get excellent fight choreography.  Although, the blood is CG, it doesn’t dampen the excitement of “Brotherhood of Blades”.  The film is full of action sequences that are very cool to watch and it’s a thrilling film from beginning to end.

On Blu-ray, picture quality is fantastic as the film offers great detail.  Lossless audio is also a major plus for this martial arts action film.  If there was one low point about this Blu-ray release, it’s the fact that there is not one special feature other than the included theatrical trailer.

Overall, for those who love martial arts action films, will want to check out “Brotherhood of Blades”.  It’s an exciting, thrilling and action-packed film that I recommend!

Skating to New York (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Skating to New York” is an entertaining yet simple coming-of-age film

Image courtesy of © 2013 Skating to New York Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Skating to New York

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 93 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Chinese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and 5.1.  Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

Rated: PG-13 (For Language Including Some Crude Sexual References)

RELEASE DATE: February 15, 2015


Based on the book by Edmond Stevens

Directed by Charles Minsky

Screenplay by Monte Merrick

Executive Producer: David Hamilton, Sandy Kroopf, Avi Reik

Produced by Wendy Japhet

Co-Producer: Michael Porter

Line Producer: Jessica Daniel

Music by David Grusin

Cinematography by Francois Dagenais

Edited by Ken Blackwell

Casting by John Buchan, Jason Knight

Production Design by Peter Cosco

Art Direction by Pierre Bonhomme

Set Decoration by David Gruer

Costume Design by Alex Kavanaugh


Starring:

Connor Jessup as Casey Demas

Wesley Morgan as Rudy Bouchard

Gage Munroe as Art Bouchard

Matthew Knight as Jimmy Mundell

Dylan Everett as Boney Labue

Michelle Nolden as Jessie Demas

Jason Gedrick as Doug Demas

Niamh Wilson as Page

Brandon McGibbon as Iceman

Craig Eldridge as Mario Bouchard

Duane Murray as Coach Andre Simard


SKATING TO NEW YORK is a contemporary coming-of-age adventure about five boys on a small-town Canadian high school hockey team, who live to skate. After losing a big game, they decide to do something never attempted before – skate across Lake Ontario to New York on the coldest day of the year. From the creators of 8 SECONDS, MR. BASEBALL and PAIN AND GAIN, SKATING TO NEW YORK is a story about home and friendship, about leadership and facing danger, and about growing up – but never giving up.


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Charles Minsky is best known for his cinematography work on “Pretty Woman”, “Valentine’s Day”, “New Year’s Eve” and many other films.

In 2013, Minsky has taken the role of director for the 2013 film “Skating to New York”, a film adaptation of Edmond Stevens novella.

An independent film shot in Canada, the coming-of-age film is based on five boys who play hockey for their high school team.

The film revolves around Casey Demas (portrayed by Connor Jessup), a teenager who has been distracted as the goalie due to the separation of his parents.

Having enough of the drama going on at home and losing an important game, Casey and his four friends: Rudy Bouchard (portrayed by Wesley Morgan), Art Bouchard (portrayed by Gage Munroe), Jimmy Mundell (portrayed by Matthew Knight) and Boney Labue (portrayed by Dylan Everett) decide to skate across Lake Ontario to New York (22 miles) on the coldest day of the year.

But as the five friends try to escape their problems at home, their trip of traveling across Lake Ontario leads them to danger due to the harsh weather conditions but also bonding amongst friends and facing their own fears.


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VIDEO:

“Skating to New York” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). While the film shows detail during closeups, the majority of the film is shot in the icy outdoors.  Outdoors, the film uses natural light and because it’s overcast, you’re not going to get vibrant colors, but you do get the actually feeling of the cold weather that these five boys must endure.

But the film looks very good in HD, I didn’t notice any banding issues or major compression.  Skin tones look natural, indoor scenes look very good and for the most part, “Skating to New York” is a film that looks great on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Skating in New York” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack.  The film is primarily dialogue driven and while there are scenes with crowds (during the hockey game) and music, this is not a film that is immersive, but the lossless soundtrack for this film is good.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Skating to New York” comes with the theatrical trailer.


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“Skating to New  York” is an entertaining coming-of-age indie film about five teenage boys crossing Lake Ontario to New York.

I suppose there were two sides of me that enjoyed but yet was very critical of the film.  The supportive side enjoyed the journey as these five boys faced their fears but also had a chance to bond as they traveled 22 miles skating to New York.

We have a protagonist who is trying to escape the drama of his parents fighting and separating from each other, you have two brothers who are abused by their father and if anything, they all love hockey, but as a team, they haven’t been playing all that well.  So, they go on the journey to skate 22 miles through Lake Ontario to New York, not very prepared and also unaware of the dangers that lie ahead.

Suffice to say, these boys face amazing dangers but the film is predictable that there is no tragedy.  If anything, the film almost plays off like a film you would watch on the Disney Channel but features quite a bit of profanity.

As for the critical side of me, this is my father side speaking out of how dumb it is for these five boys to risk their lives in such a manner, with no true form of preparation, nor were they able to prepare themselves for major emergencies and in essence, they end up getting lucky that they weren’t killed.

I can only hope no child who watches this film, are not inspired in making the decision to do what these kids are doing by traveling Lake Ontario during frigid conditions, for the sake of overcoming their own personal challenges.

As for the Blu-ray release, it’s a barebones release with only a theatrical trailer included.  Picture quality is very good as you can see how cold the weather conditions are, as the film is primarily shot outdoors.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue, so it’s a center and front-channel driven soundtrack.

Overall, “Skating to New York” is an entertaining yet simple coming-of-age film.  The only thing that prevents it from being too pedestrian is the few instances of mature language and sexual references.  But for filmmaker Charles Minsky, having worked as a cinematographer for so long, it was good to see his feature film debut as a director.

101 Dalmatians: Diamond Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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A timeless Disney classic that looks and sounds magnificent on Blu-ray!  “101 Dalmatians: Diamond Edition” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: 101 Dalmatians: Diamond Edition

YEAR OF FILM: 1961

DURATION: 79 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 DTS-HDHR, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Original Theatrical Mix.

COMPANY: Disney

Rated: G

RELEASE DATE: February 10, 2015


Based on the book by Dodie Smith

Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman

Story by Bill Peet

Produced by Walt Disney

Music by George Bruns

Edited by Roy M. Brewer Jr., Donald Halliday

Production Direction by Ken Anderson

Art Direction by Ken Anderson


Featuring the Voices of:

Rod Taylor as Pongo

J. Pat O’Malley as Colonel/Jasper

Betty Lou Gerson as Cruella De Vil/Miss Birdwell

Martha Wentworth as Nanny/Queenie/Lucy

Ben Wright as Roger

Cate Bauer as Perdita

David Frankham as Sgt. Tibs

Frederick Worlock as Horace/Inspector Craven

Lisa Davis as Anita

Tom Conway as Quizmaster/Collie

Tudor Owen as Towser

George Pelling as Danny


Pick your favorite spot to watch — anytime and anywhere — and get ready for a fun-filled adventure with 101 DALMATIANS for the first time ever on Blu-ray and Digital HD! Pongo, Perdita and their super-adorable puppies are in for thrills, hilarious spills and an epic action-packed adventure when they face off with Cruella De Vil, Disney’s most fabulously outrageous villainess. Unleash all the excitement and suspense of Disney’s 101 DALMATIANS, a beloved classic you’ll want to share with your family again and again!


Back in 1956, Dodie Smith wrote the children’s novel “The Hundred and One Dalmatians”. By 1957, Walt Disney was captivated by the book and immediately secured the rights for an animated film adaptation of the book.

Featuring a story written by Bill Peet, the release of “101 Dalmatians” was considered a risk by Disney because of the failure of “Sleeping Beauty” in the box office, there was discussion of Disney shutting down for good.

But “101 Dalmatians”, the 17th film in the Walt Disney Animated Classic series, became a box office success as the animated film costing $4 million to create, would earn over $215.8 million worldwide.

Nearly 54-years-later, “101 Dalmatians” will receive its first release in HD on Blu-ray via “101 Dalmatians: Diamond Edition” to be released in Feb. 2015.

The animated film is set in London, England and songwriter Roger Radcliffe lives with his dalmatian named Pongo.

Pongo is a bit bored with his life, wanting a mate for himself, but also a way to find a mate for his master Roger.  And sure enough, Pongo spots a woman named Anita and her female dalmatian, Perdita.  Pongo tries to bark at Roger to take him for a walk and sure enough, Pongo finds a way to have both Roger and Anita crash into each other and eventually fall into the lake.

From that moment, both Roger and Anita fell in love and get married.  And as Roger and Anita discovered a new life, the same can be said with Pongo and Perdita.  And with Perdita pregnant, she was able to give birth to 15 puppies.

Meanwhile, Anita’s wealthy schoolmate Cruella De Vil arrives and immediately, she wants to buy the entire litter of dalmatians, but Roger tells her that the dogs are not for sale.  Wanting the puppies badly, Cruella hires thieves, Jasper and Horace to steal the puppies in hopes of using their skin as fur coats.

Pongo and Perdita try to get help from the other dogs in London in hopes to find their puppies. But what the 15 puppies find out is that there are 84 more puppies being held by Cruella De Vil and her henchaman.

Can Pongo, Perdita and friends find them before Cruella De Vil turns the dogs skin into fur coats?


VIDEO:

“101 Dalmatians” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). Unlike other Disney film, the look of “101 Dalmatians” was different from other Disney animated films in terms of character design and backgrounds.  Partly because of the loss of money suffered by Disney after the failure of “Sleeping Beauty”, the animators had to do something different in order to cut their production costs in half.

The result was experimentation with Xerox photography in conjunction with the animation.  The animation used a modified Xerox camera to transfer drawings by animators directly to animation cels and eliminating the inking process to save money.  So, because of this, the Xerox process did feature black scratchy outline, much different compared to the smooth lines of hand inking.

But that is what makes up the charm of this animated film.  Featuring vibrant colors, the Blu-ray release looks impressive in terms of colors, and despite the films age, there is no discoloration problems.  Nor any banding issues or artifacts. If anything, the animation looks quite clean and the unique look of the film makes “101 Dalmatians” unique for its style, and the film looks magnificent on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “101 Dalmatians: Diamond Edition” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 DTS-HDHR, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Original Theatrical Mix.

The lossless soundtrack featuring dialogue and its music are crystal clear.  From Cruella De Vil’s squealing tires to Roger’s piano and trumpet playing, the film sounds wonderful with a focus on music utilizing the surround channels and the front channel displaying the dialogue without any sign of hiss or crackle.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“101 Dalmatians: Diamond Edition” comes with the following special features:

  • The Further Adventures of Thunderbolt – (1:46) Featuring a short animation on “The Further Adventures of Thunderbolt”.
  • Lucky Dogs - (9:09) A featurette with the original crew who had the opportunity to work on “101 Dalmatians”.
  • Dalmatians 101: Hosted by Cameron Boyce – (5:20) Cameron Boyce from Disney Channel’s “Jesse” who will play Cruella De Vil’s son on “Descendants”.
  • Walt Disney Presents “The Best Doggoned Dog in the World” (1961 version) – (51:05) A classic episode of Walt Disney presents “The Best Doggoned Dog in the World” showcasing various types of dogs.
  • “Redefining the Line: The Making of One Hundred and One Dalmatians” – (33:55) The complete making of “One Hundred and One Dalmatians”.
  • Cruella De Vil: Drawn to Be Bad – (7:08) A featurette about the “101 Dalmatians” Villainess.
  • “Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney” - (12:47) Featuring the communication between “101 Dalmatians” author Dodie Smith and Walt Disney.
  • Trailer & TV Spots – Featuring the teaser trailer adapted for Cinemascope, theatrical trailer, TV spots, Combined TV spot with Swiss Family Robinson, 1979 trailer and TV spots, 1985 reissue theatrical trailer.
  • Promotional Radio Spots – Featuring promotional radio spots from 1961 (60, 30 and 10 second spots).
  • “Cruella De vil” Music Video by Selena Gomez – (3:23)
  • “March of the One Hundred and One” – (2:29) A Deleted Song Sequence
  • Abandoned Songs – Featuring two songs “Cheerio, Goodbye, Toodle-oo, Hip Hip!” and “Don’t Buy a Parrot From a Sailor”
  • Demo Recordings and Alternate Versions – Featuring “Dalmatian Plantation”, “Cruella De Vil” and “Kanine Krunchies”.

EXTRAS:

“101 Dalmatians: Diamond Edition” comes with a slipcover.


Having grown up watching “101 Dalmatians”, two things have always stood out in my mind for this classic Walt Disney animated film.  For one, it had one of the darkest Disney antagonists, as Cruella De Vil’s primary ambition was to get the puppies and get all their skin to make her a new fur coat.

The second would have to be the presentation of the film.  Unlike the beautifully painted Disney animated films, with “101 Dalmatians”, the focus was cutting down on costs, so utilizing a Xerox camera would bring out a scratch style to the handdrawn lines, as well as the ability to see the small sketch lines in the final animation.  There was no inking, it was primarily colorized after the process and the result was this unique-looking animated film.

And last, while there is music and singing in “101 Dalmatians”, unlike previous Walt Disney animated classics, this film doesn’t feature a full-on musical soundtrack like other Disney films.

It’s a straight-up yet simple animated story about a couple in love, two adult dalmatians who would do anything to find their 15 pups and an antagonist who would do all it takes to capture these puppies.   Cruella De Vil is no doubt, one of the more sinister villainess in a Disney film, so I can see how younger children would be scared to look at Cruella De Vil as her character design, really makes quite creepy looking.

But it’s part of what makes “101 Dalmatians” so enjoyable today, as the film never gets old.

And this is where the Blu-ray release of “101 Dalmatians: Diamond Edition” shines!  Considering the film was made in 1961, there are no signs that the film has aged tremendously.  The colors are well-reproduced on Blu-ray and the lossless soundtrack is also crystal clear.

The Diamond Edition release features even more special features with the inclusion of various featurettes including “Walt Disney Presents ‘The Best Doggoned Dog in the World'” from 1961, a new animated short of “The Further Adventures of Thunderbolt”, a short featurette hosted by Disney Channel’s Cameron Boyce and more.  Including the original classic special features from the original DVD release.

Overall, “101 Dalmatians: Diamond Edition” is an Walt Disney animated film that will forever be a classic but also will be known for its creativity of using a new Xerox photography process to give the film its own memorable look.  And will also be known for having one of the creepiest villainess in a Disney animated film.

A timeless Disney classic that looks and sounds magnificent on Blu-ray!  “101 Dalmatians: Diamond Edition” is highly recommended!

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

February 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Pirates” is one heck of a wild ride!  It’s one of the more enjoyable pirate films that I have watched and while it is a popcorn action film, it’s so exciting and fun, that I do recommend it!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Lotte Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Pirates

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 130 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR (Not Rated)

Release Date: January 20, 2015


Directed by Seok-hoon Lee

Written by Seong-il cheon

Cinematography by Young-Ho Kim

Edited by Jin Lee

Art Direction by Ji-ah Kim

Costume Design by Yoo-jin Kwon


Starring:

Nam-gil Kim as Jang Sa-jung

Ye-jin Son as Yeo-wol

Hae-jin Yoo as Chul-bong

Kyeong-yeong Lee as So-ma

Tae-woo Kim as Mo Hong-gab

Cheol-min Park as Monk

Won-hae Kim as Choo-seob

Dal-hwan Jo as San-man

Jeong-geun Sin as Yong-kap

Sulli Choi as Heyk-myo

Yi-kyeong Lee as Cham-bok


On the eve of the founding of the Joseon Dynasty, an unprecedented robbery shocks the nation-in-waiting: a whale has swallowed the Emperor’s Royal Seal, and a bounty placed on its retrieval. Now, every infamous gang of thieves, thugs, pirates, and government agents take to the seas, battling the elements, creatures of the deep, and each other to possess the mother of all rewards.


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One of the top grossing films in Korea in 2014, Seok-hoon Lee’s “The Pirates” will be released on Blu-ray in the U.S. courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

A winner of multiple cinema awards, the film would be watched by over 8.6 million people in South Korea and would gross $64.7 million internationally.

The film would star Nam-gil Kim (“No Regret”, “Bad Boys”), Ye-jin Son (“A Moment to Remember”, “April Snow”), Hae-jin Yoo (“The Warrior”, “The Coast Guard”), Kyeong-yeong Lee (“War of the Arrows”, “White Badge”) and Tae-woo Kim (“J.S.A.: Joint Security Area”, “Like You Know It All”).

The film begins with a soldier named Jang Sa-jun (portrayed by Nam-gil Kim) criticizing the King.  He is nearly killed by his fellow soldier Mo Hong-gab (portrayed by Tae-woo Kim) but his friend blocks the hit.  As his friend tries to prevent Jang Sa-jun from getting killed, Mo Hong-gab kills him and a battle takes place between Jang Sa-jun and Mo Hong-gab.

Jang Sa-jun manages to escape the battle and leaves his former job as a soldier.

Meanwhile, we watch as a group of pirates led by So-ma (portrayed by Kyeong-yeong Lee) and his first officer, a woman named Yeo-wol (portrayed by Ye-jin Son) run a tight crew and by stealing the five golden Bhudda statues.  One of the statues falls to the ocean and we see Yeo-wol diving to get it, she is greeted by a huge whale who she pets and notices its old wound.

When Chul-bong (portrayed by Hae-jin yoo), a fearful pirate overhears So-ma discussing with a government official about having to murder seven pirates aboard the ship, Chul-bong tells everyone and Yeo-wol, realizes that if it’s true, she may have to face her captain to the battle of the death.  As for Chul-bong, he escapes on a survival boat in order to head to safety.

A battle between Yeo-wol and So-ma takes place and Yeo-wol manages to beat her captain.  But rather than face punishment, So-ma falls in the ocean to his death.  Yeo-wol becomes the new leader on the pirate ship.

On another ship, we see a group who work for the King transporting the important seal from China but also delivering the new name for the country to be named Joseon.  They spot a whale with its newborn and they choose to attack it.  The whale ends up trying to defend its young from attacks and dives and falls on the ships deck, breaking it in half.  The seal is still in sight, but then the survivors see the whale eat the seal.

Afraid to tell the King the truth that a whale had eaten the seal, they concoct a story that a group of pirates had stolen the seal.  The King enlists Mo Hong-gab, who was thought to be dead, is released from prison, now sporting an eye patch and wanting to help the King find the Pirates responsible for stealing the seal.  Meanwhile, a reward is set out for anyone who can capture the whale and get the seal back, will be rewarded.

As for Chul-bong, he makes it to land and tries to join a group of thieves led by Jang Sa-jung, now going by the name “Crazy Tiger”.  The group wants nothing but to be a group that succeeds in stealing from the rich but to no avail so far.

Jang Sa-jung finds out that he could be rich if he finds this whale, so without experience, they take in Chul-bong and head to see in the hopes of finding the huge whale.

Meanwhile, Mo Hong-gab goes directly to Yeo-wol and the pirates and tells them if they don’t find that whale, the government will use their power to murder their families and destroy their village.  Prompting Yeo-wol to make a difficult choice if she should save the whale that she once saved or do her job and retrieve the seal.

Meanwhile, another So-ma who is thought to be dead has re-emerged and creates an alliance with the soldiers.  But he wants nothing much to get the whale but also to get his revenge on Yeo-wol.

 

 


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VIDEO:

“The Pirates” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is fantastic as skin tones look natural and closeups featured great detail. The costume design is amazing and this film really showcases the beauty of the costumes.  And if anything, while the film looks fantastic in HD, it does have a few banding issues during an underwater scene but other than that, the film looks great on Blu-ray!

I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Pirates” is presented in Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  For a film that utilizes plenty of action, “The Pirates” features a strong lossless soundtrack with great use of the surround channels and LFE.  The chase scene is one of the more impressive moments in the film that really takes advantage of your surround channels and subwoofer.  While not perfect, most audiophiles may feel content with this action-driven soundtrack!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Pirates” comes with a theatrical trailer.

EXTRAS

“The Pirates” comes with a slipcover.


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When I first started watching “The Pirates”, I have to admit that I couldn’t picture a story about the founding of Korea with the backstory around pirates.   While I did basic research and learned about the Wokou and how there were Japanese pirates that threatened the coastal areas of Japan, China and Korea, I read that Joseon govt. were focused more on the capture and elimination of these pirates.

And my first impression was that this film going to be the banal martial arts/swordfighting popcorn action film, but it turned out to be much better than I expected.  In fact, I enjoyed it much better than the latest movies in the “Pirates of the Last Caribbean” film series.

What “The Pirates” does feature is a lot of action with awesome special effects, riveting action sequences but a lot of humor.  But what breaks it apart from other pirate films is that the storyline is broken up into focusing on various factions.  From Crazy Tiger and his rag-tag bunch of thieves who want to make a name for themselves, a group of pirates led by a female captain who not only kicks ass but she also shows compassion towards her crew and even the whales out in the sea.

But you also get another faction featuring a ruthless pirate that is more interested in revenge and showing his power and last, a dirty and corrupt soldier who will do anything to get the seal, but also to get the revenge for the person responsible for slashing out his eye.

And once the stories of each faction start to emerge as one or combine, that’s when a lot of the fun starts taking place, especially between “Crazy Tiger” Jang Sa-jung, leader of the thieves and “the Dragon”, pirate captain Yeo-wol.  Both actor Nam-gil Kim and actress Ye-jin Son have wonderful chemistry on the big screen and you can’t help but want to see them together in their scenes because their characters are very different from one another, but yet they match well together.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality for “The Pirates” is fantastic.  Featuring vibrant colors, amazing detail in close-ups, especially showcasing the costume design for the film.  There was one scene I saw banding (underwater scene) but other than that, the picture quality is wonderful.  And the lossless soundtrack features great use of the surround channels and good use of LFE.  Unfortunately, for special features, all that is included is the trailer for the film.

Overall, “The Pirates” is one heck of a wild ride!  It’s one of the more enjoyable pirate films that I have watched and while it is a popcorn action film, it’s so exciting and fun, that I do recommend it!

Great combination of action and humor, “The Pirates” is highly recommended!

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