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Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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 “Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Sins” may not be the greatest martial arts film and far from being a great Japanese martial arts film, but for those who appreciate wild and crazy Japanese martial arts films with mindless action, awesome and creative fight choreography, will find the film to be entertaining and all-out fun! Otherwise, if you are looking for a deep storyline to go along with the martial arts action, then this film may not be for you.

Images courtesy of © 2014 The Klockworx Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1, Japanese and English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: Not Rated (Contains Adult Content)

Release Date: June 10, 2014

Directed by Takanori Tsujimoto

Produced by Yohei Haraguchi, Miku Kikuchi

Co-Producer: Mitsuki Koga, Kensuke Sonomura, Takanori Tsujimoto

Executive Producer: Itaru Fujimoto

Assistant Producer: Ema

Music by Hikaru Yoshida

Cinematography by Tetsuya Kudo

Edited by Kensuke Sonomura, Takanori Tsujimoto

Starring:

Mitsuki Koga as Toramaru

Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi as Gensai

Masanori Mimoto as Eiji Mimoto “Yakuza”

Kentaro Shimazu as Billy Shimabukuro “Gun Master”

Kazuki Tsujimoto as Muso “Blind Samurai”

Ema as Denko

Kensuke Sonomura as Yuan Jian “Kung Fu Master”

Masaki Suzumura as Rinryu “Nunchaku Master”

Naohiro Kawamoto as Mokunen “Bojutsu Master”

Marc Walkow as Boss “Bounty Hunter”

Yasutaka Yuuki as Yu “Bounty Hunter”

Takashi Tanimoto as Tani “Bounty Hunter”

Taiju Nemoto as Nemo “Bounty Hunter”

Takanori Tsujimoto as Yakuza Brother

Eat and Fight.

Upon returning from a pilgrimage across Japan, the warrior Toramaru arrives with tales of seven epic battles against Japan’s most legendary fighters. As Toramaru’s philosophy dictates that he ’know the enemy by eating his food, ’ each masterfully-choreographed fight is preceded by a helping of his prey’s favorite dish.

Designated successor to Master Gensai and leading proponent of the all-round martial-arts discipline, The Cosmic Way, Toramaru tells the tales of The Seven Deadly Battles as Master Gensai eagerly listens to the lavish and violent details of Toramaru’s adventures.

When it comes to martial arts films, the majority of the films are from Asia, typically China/Hong Kong, Korea and Thailand.

For Japan, the years of Japanese martial arts cinema has not been apparent in live action films but primarily in animation.

But for Takanori Tsujimoto, director of “Kill”, “Hard Revenge, Milly: Bloody Battle” and “Monster Killer” comes his latest film “Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles”, a frenetic and stylish martial arts film that behaves as it was like it was made primarily for a video game.

And now Takanori Tsujimoto’s wild and crazy martial arts film, “Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles” will be released on Blu-ray in June 2014.  Courtesy of Shout! Factory!

“Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles” revolves around a samurai warrior named Toramaru (portrayed by Mitsuki Koga) who has went through a pilgrimage across Japan, going up against many of Japan’s legendary fighters.

As Toromaru visits his Master Gensai, the leader of the martial arts known as “The Cosmic Way”, Toramaru explains how he conquered various martial arts rivals including a blind samurai; a yakuza member; an English speaking Japanese gun master; a Kung-Fu master, a Nunchaku master, a Bojutsu master and more.

But in order to prove himself to Master Gensai, he must provide his Master with a scroll which documents him defeating the martial arts rival.

But how will Master Gensai feel about Toromaru’s fighting  adventures?

VIDEO:

“Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  It appears that there was intentional high contrast shots, while close-ups feature amazing detail.  If anything,  the look and style of “Bushido Man” appears to change with each battle but for the most part, picture quality is fantastic.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles” is presented in Japanese LPCM 2.0 and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0.  Personally, it is a preference of mine to watch martial arts films in their original language.  But with that being said, the English dub is good and because of its 5.1 lossless soundtrack, you get better dynamic range.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Bushido Man: From the Fantasia Film Festival – (11:17) Director and a few talent visit the Fantasia Film Festival and take part in a Q&A.

If I had to describe “Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles”, for those who are familiar with fighting video games, I would bring up the what if you choose a character and it was a character discussing each battle and what you are watching are the full on chaotic battles.

Somehow, that is how I feel about “Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles”, it’s a film that will not be remembered for its storyline, because basically there is not much there…if anything, the film relies on its chaotic, fierce battles featuring actor Mitsuki Koga and watch the awesome fight choreography as the character of Bushido Man, takes on a slew of enemies with different fighting styles.

If anything, this is a film for those who are content with all-out fighting and less of a story.  Similar to a fighting video game, there are those who could care less for the story and are more into the overall fighting.

“Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles” is that type of film where the story follows the adventures of Toramaru taking on various rivals in order to get their scroll and present it to his master.

And while this may seem boring, it never gets boring because the fighting is really intense, far-out, stylish and just a lot of fun.

For example, Toramaru takes on Eimi Mimoto of the yakuza and both engage in a dangerous duel of knives.  Another features Toramaru trying to find Denko, a woman who specializes on weapons that activate on punches and kicks.

And while the film looks like a period film, when Toramaru arrives in a city, you realize that this is a melding of modern and traditional-style filming and leaving it to the cast and fight choreographers to come up with something amazingly fierce and all-out awesome.

“Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Sins” also looks wonderful in HD.  Colors feature high contrast, close-ups feature amazing detail and both Japanese and English dub are well-done and feature crystal clear audio.

Overall, “Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Sins” may not be the greatest martial arts film and far from being a great Japanese martial arts film, but for those who appreciate wild and crazy Japanese martial arts films with mindless action, awesome and creative fight choreography, will find the film to be entertaining and all-out fun! Otherwise, if you are looking for a deep storyline to go along with the martial arts action, then this film may not be for you.

 

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

May 31, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“McCanick” may be known as a film which featured Cory Monteith’s final performance and while the film does feature a strong performance from Monteith and lead actor, David Morse, its confusing plot hurts the film and prevents it from being a good film overall.

Image are courtesy of © 2013 McCanick, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Gambit

YEAR OF FILM: 2012

DURATION: 89 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Some Suggestive Control, Partial Nudity and a Rude Gesture)

RELEASE DATE: May 20, 2014

Directed by Josh C. Waller

Written by Daniel Noah

Produced by Ehud Bleiberg, David Morse, Josh C. Waller

Executive Producer: Nicholas Donnermeyer, Donald Kugelman, Daniel Noah

Associate Producer: Bob Lowery, Mathew Hayden

Music by Johann Johannson

Cinematography by Martin Ahlgren

Edited by Brett W. Bachman

Casting by Diane Heery, Jason Loftus

Production Design by Michael Crenshaw

Art Direction by Chester Johnson, Melody trash

Costume Design by Gina Scarnati

Starring:

David Morse as Eugene “Mack” McCanick

Cory Monteith as Simon Weeks

Mike Vogel as Floyd Intrator

Rachel Nicholas Amy Intrator

Tracie Thoms as Sister Alice

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When narcotics detective Eugene Mack McCanick (David Morse, THE GREEN MILE) discovers that Simon Weeks (Cory Monteith, “Glee”) has been released from prison, he instigates a brutal manhunt, without permission from the Chief of Police (Ciaran Hinds, THERE WILL BE BLOOD). The frenzy of paranoia and violence that follows pushes Mack and his partner to the edge of the law. The closer Mack gets to his prey, the closer he gets to a secret from his past – one that only Weeks can expose.

Director Josh C. Waller and writer Daniel Noah’s feature film “McCanick” received a lot of hype, not for the film itself but primarily for the death of actor Cory Monteith (“Glee”), who shot the film before his death from a result of “a mixed drug toxicity” consisting of heroin and alcohol.

While Monteith was no doubt a man who had a promising career, “McCanick” is a film that showcases his talent beyond television but the film lies on the shoulder of the film’s main actor David Morse (“Contact”, “The Rock”, “The Hurt Locker”, “The Green Mile”).

“McCanick” was released on Blu-ray in May 2014 and begins with veteran detective Eugene “Mack” McCanick being told that Simon Weeks (portrayed by Cory Monteith) has been released from prison.  He is warned by his boss to not pursue or be anywhere near Simon.

But for McCanick, there is something about Simon that he can’t keep away from him and thus the film is divided with flashbacks of McCanick and a younger, long-haired male prositute, Simon and the out of prison, clean as a whistle, Simon.

But what is McCanick’s reason for avoiding orders from his supervisor and putting himself in danger without any backup to pursue Simon Weeks?

 

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VIDEO:

“McCanick” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality is fantastic as close-ups are detailed, showcasing skin pores and colors also look good and strong throughout the film.

AUDIO/INTERTITLES:

“McCanick” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  While the film has some action sequences, the film is primarily dialogue-driven.   Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“McCanick” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind-the-Scenes – (10:13) Interviews with filmmaker, cast and crew.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (16:31) Featuring nine deleted/extended scenes.
  • Trailer - (1:45) Theatrical trailer for “McCanick”.

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With the hype that “McCanick” has received as being Cory Monteith’s film, there is no doubt that the actor shown tremendous promise in this feature film and gave more depth to his acting career than what he has done on the hit television show “Glee”.

But as Monteith plays an important role, this confusing and hard-to-follow film lies upon the performance of actor David Morse as the cold, bitter and troublemaking detective, McCanick.

The problem with “McCanick” is that the film tries to tell a story of the relationship of McCanick and Simon in the past and what is happening in the present.

McCanick is in pursuit of Simon, despite his superior telling him not to.  McCanick is no doubt a detective pursuing a man which many people insist is not a bad man and we start to see throughout the film that McCanick is not a great cop, he’s cold, possibly corrupt and holds a major secret that will be unveiled towards the end of the film.  Is it revenge?  Is it a vendetta?  Why is he so insistent of going after Simon?

Monteith does an exceptional job of playing a male prostitute, being taken in by McCanick but why did this young man go to prison?  What did he do wrong?  And why is McCanick so distraught when he finds out that he has been let go from prison?

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t answer many questions and the fact that you have watched this film, confused and wondering what the heck is going on… suffice to say, the confusing plot deters the film from being anything enjoyable and for the most part, being less than average.

The Blu-ray does feature fantastic picture quality and lossless audio is strong during the action sequences.  Plus, you get a few special features included.

“McCanick” may be known as a film which featured Cory Monteith’s final performance and while the film does feature a strong performance from Monteith and lead actor, David Morse, its confusing plot hurts the film and prevents it from being a good film overall.

Motto To Love RU – Complete Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

mottotoloveru

If you enjoyed the first season, “Motto to Love RU” is much more wilder, crazier, perverted than ever.  Now featuring three crazy mini-stories per episode, “Motto to Love RU” ups the ante in perverted anime comedy TV series.  While not for everyone, if you are wanting something a bit more risque and perverted, this anime series is for you!

Image courtesy of © Kentaro Yabuki-Saki Hasemi/SHUEISHA, Toloveru Project. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Motto To Love RU – Complete Collection

DURATION: 300 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen), Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV14D

Release Date: May 27, 2014

Originally created by Kentaro Yabuki, Saki Hasemi

Directed by Atsushi Ootsuki

Series Composition by Yasutomo Yamada

Music by Takeshi Watanabe

Character Design: Yuichi Ouka

Art Director: Yoshimi Umino

Anime Production by Xebec

Featuring the following voice talent:

Akeno Watanabe as Rito Yuki

Haruka tomatsu as Lala Satalin Deviluke

Ayako Kawasumi as Saki Tenjoin

Fuyuka Oura as Ren Elsie Jewelria

Kana Hanazawa as Mikan Yuki

Ryoka Yuzuki as Lisa Momioka

Misato Fukuen as Golden Darkness

Aki Toyosaki as Peke and Momo Belia Deviluke

Sayuri Yahagi as Haruna Sairenji

Takehito Koyasu as Zastin

The insanity that began when a very naked (and very female) alien teleported into Rito Yuki’s bathtub (while he was in it) continues. And even though Princess Lala has finally started to admit her true feelings for the young man she’s inexplicably engaged to marry (as a result of what happened in said bathtub and Develuke customs), her sometimes erratic technology and the snags and snarls of intergalatic politicse and intrigue are still causing major problems.

That transporter? Yeah, it still has the nasty habit of leaving the clothes behind. Alien bounty hunters? Yep, even more of them and they’re even more devious. Add body switches, alien skunks, a bathroom that changes size and shape, the inevitable sleepover that you just know it’s going to go horribly, horribly wrong (spoiler: it does). Worst of all, there’s Valentine’s Day, and even in space you’ll be able to hear Rito scream!

In 2006, the series “To Love Ru” (which in Japanese “Toraburu” can be read as in English “Trouble”) is a manga series by Saki Hasemi (“Moetan”, “Pinky:st”) and Kentaro Yabuki (“Black Cat”, “Yamato Gensouki”) was created and is currently featured in Weekly Shonen Jump. In the spring of 2008, Studio I.G. subsidiary Xebec, Inc. (known for working on “Love Hina” and “Martian Successor Nadesico”) released a 26-episode anime series which was followed by video game releases for the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.  The first season of the anime series was released in the US courtesy of Sentai Filmworks in 2009-2010 in two DVD volumes.

In 2010, a second season titled “Motto To Love-RU”, a twelve episode series aired in Japan.  And now in May 2014, the second season will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

“Motto To Love RU” is produced by Xebec but features a new creative team.   The second season is directed by Atsushi Ootsuki  (“Kanokon: The Girl Who Cried Fox”, “Wagnaria!! Season Two”) and features a screenplay by Yasutomo Yamada (“Bakegyamon”, “Boys Be…”, “Potemayo”, “Venus Versus Virus”).  Character design is by Yuichi Ouka (“Softenni”, “Over Drive”), art direction by Yoshimi Umino (“DNA2″, “Ben-To”, “.hack” series) and music by Takeshi Watanabe (“Moetan”, “Saki”, “Ichigo Mashimaro”).

The second season also is different from the first.  In the original, each episode had a full storyline but now “Motto to Love RU” features episodes with three short stories about seven minutes long.

What is “To Love RU” all about?

“To Love RU” is about a teenager named Rito Yuki. A teenage boy who has always loved his classmate Haruna Sairenji. But somehow due to unusual circumstances, by trying to save a girl named Lala (who happens to be an alien princess) and now Lala believes that Rito is in love with her and because Rito has proposed to her in Deviluke tradition (grabbing the woman’s breast and telling her that he loves her), they are now officially engaged.

Lala has made her residence at Rito’s home and expects Rito to be her husband. But Rito is in love with Sairenji, not Lala…what is a powerless, teenage boy going to do? Rito has been trying to find ways to have the marriage dissolved but finds himself getting deeper and deeper in trouble that even Lala’s father, King Deviluke expects him to marry or else Earth will be destroyed.

Now Rito finds himself caring for both Haruna and Lala but what is this young teenager going to do?

What about “Motto To Love RU”?

The second season is much different than the original series.  More adult humor, more perverted and really doesn’t get into anything serious.  If anything, the harem storyline and love triangle still exists as Sairenji and Lala both want to be closer to Rito but Rito is not so much of a major factor in this season in terms of having to save Lala.  If anything, he is more of the comic character who is typically getting involved in the wrong situation against his will and has his butt kicked by the extra terrestrials.    While the emphasis are more on the female characters as they discuss their emotions and each other’s breasts, grabbing each other’s breasts and having fun, it is more evident that this series is targeted for more the lonely otaku who love tons of fan service.  And you definitely get it with “Motto To Love Ru”.

Because there are 12 half-hour episodes (3 mini-episodes each episode, thus 26 different episodes in all), here are a few storylines that are featured in “Motto to Love RU”.

  • Yui and the discipline committee implement a demerit policy to ensure morality in school.
  • What happens when Mikan’s teacher goes to visit her home to meet her and Rito’s father (a manga creator).  Since their family has been gone for a long time, Rito must pretend to be her father.  But because he is not good at lying, Lala gives him a drink to calm him down, but instead it makes him drunk.
  • Yami wonders how it would be to wear Earth fashion, so the girls take her out on a shopping spree.
  • It’s Valentine’s Day and Yui wants to make chocolate for Rio.
  • What happens when Saki invites Rito and friends to her private beach.
  • Yami is ill and Rito tries to get her some medical help.
  • When Rito does poorly on his exam, Yami tries to help him.
  • Haruna, Sairenji and Oshizu take part in an alien process to make their breasts larger.
  • What happens when Momo accidentally transports Rito into Peke’s body.
  • What happens when Celine drinks Cola.
  • Nana and Momo get angry when she tries to sneak into Rito’s bed.
  • Which girl will Rito pick at the end?

“Motto To Love RU” features the following main characters:

Rito Yuuki - A teenager who is deeply in love with Haruna Sairenji. Not a popular guy at his high school and quite shy until he meets Lala. After saving Lala and squeezing her breasts, now he is officially engaged to her. Now Rito wants nothing but to get out of this engagement but finds himself caring for both Haruna and Lala.

Lala Satalin Deviluke - The Princess of Deviluke who ran away from home (left her planet) because she did not want to marry any of the men that her father has chosen for her to marry but when she sees Rito fighting and defending her, she falls in love with him and after he grabs her breast, by Deviluke customs, she becomes engaged to him and moves in with him. She is complete oblivious to the fact that Rito cares about Haruna. Lala tends to not know about Earth’s customs and gets herself in trouble when she takes off her clothes off. She also is an inventor but her inventions tend to not work the way she wants at times.

Haruna Sairenji – Rito’s classmate who cares about Rito but keeps her emotions to herself due to Rito’s engagement with Lala. She cares for him and knows that he cares for her.  She often wonders if Rito cares for girls like Lala and girls with bigger breasts.  Often entangled in Lala’s inventions and she and Rito and gets caught up in unusual, nude circumstances.

Yami/Golden Darkness – An assassin hired by one of Lala’s suitors to kill Rito but is now more of a person who loves to read books and study Earth culture.  She is not sure why Rito is nice to her, despite her being his enemy and wanting to hurt him.  Often punishing Rito as he thinks he is always trying to look at her panties and see her nude.

Peke – Lala’s robot who can change to a weapon or the clothes that she wears. He tends to be the voice of reason when Lala is confused.

Ryoko Mikado – The school doctor of Sainan High School who also worked for a black market extraterrestrial organization. She uses her medical skills to help the students at the school but also aliens. Likes to wear slinky clothing and sometimes no clothing at all.

Kenichi Saruyama – Rito’s best friend who is a pervert. Never can get a girlfriend but with his friendship to Rito, he’s having a ball with meeting his new female friends.  He likes a girl but doesn’t know it was Rito who was changed into a girl due to Lala’s invention.

Yui Kotegawa – An uptight student who doesn’t like things that are unacceptable behavior and thinks Rito and Lala’s behavior towards each other is unacceptable. Dislikes delinquent behavior at her school and is now in charge of writing demerits for those who are mischievous.  Unfortunately, she gets caught up in getting groped by other girls.  She also wonders if she is falling for Rito.

Risa and Mio – Risa Momioka and Mio Sawada are Haruna’s and Lala’s friends. Risa has a tendency of groping other girls.

Nana Asta Deviuke -Lala’s younger sister and twin sister of Momo (has longer hair and a visible tooth).  She somewhat likes Rito but also has a breast complex because hers is so small.  Always trying to find ways to make her breasts big.

Momo Velia Deviluke – Lala’s younger sister and twin sister of Nana.  Has shorter hair, sweeter and has bigger breasts than her sister and likes to flaunt it around Nana.  Collector of plants.

Mikan Yuuki - The younger sister of Rito. She knows he got himself in deep trouble and that he cares for both Haruna and Lala and thus, tries to help him at times.

Saki Tenjouin – The popular girl at school who dislikes Lala because she is suddenly getting all the attention at school. Her friends Rin and Aya are loyal to her and do her dirty work.  Lately, Rito has been falling on her lately and landing on her breasts.

Ren/Run Elsie Jewelria – A childhood friend of Lala who changes from male to female when he/she sneezes. As Ren, he wants to marry Lala. As Run, she is secretly in love with Rito.  Run is also a extra terrestrial pop star.

Kyouko Kirisaki – A pop star who is also a half-Earthling/Half-Alien and can generate fire.  She is the star of “Magical Kyoko”.

Oshizu Murasame – A ghost at the school building who now has a prosthetic body created by Mikado-san that she can possess and attend school with the other girls.  She also has feelings for Rito.

Celine – A carnivorous plant given to Rito by Lala for his 16th birthday.  She has the appearance of a little girl (with a big flower on her head) and Rito takes her in as part of the family.

 

VIDEO:

“Motto To Love RU” is presented in 1080p High Definition. For a television series, the series features a lot of colors and artistic backgrounds feature a good amount of backgrounds from school settings, shopping/city settings, Rito’s home, etc. Typically for a TV series from a smaller studio, I don’t expect to see so many backgrounds or an over utilization of artwork but XEBEC did a wonderful job in the animation and Yuichi Oka with the character designs. I don’t know how close his designs are actually to Kentaro Yabuki and Saki Hasemi’s original manga but overall, character design and art backgrounds are well done.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio is featured in Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 with English subtitles. Voice acting by the seiyuu are well done as Akeno Watanabe (Taruru of “Sgt. Frog”, Jo of “Burst Angel”, Chachamaru Kamakuri of “Negima”) does the voice of Rito. Haruka Tomatsu (Mileina of “Gundam 00″, Misao of “Asura Cryin’ 2″) does the voice of Lala and Sayuri Yahagi (Chisato of “Sola”, Hanaka of “Buso Renkin”) as Haruna. Anime is front channel driven but if you have a receiver that allows for stereo on all channels, that was my listening preference.

There is no English dub track in this Blu-ray release of “To Love RU”.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Motto To Love RU – Complete Collection” features the Clean Opening and Closing Animation themes and Sentai Filmworks trailers.

Wilder, more perverted and more fan service than the previous season, “Motto to Love RU” will definitely appeal to those wanting more risque anime with tons of fan service and adult humor!

While watching “Motto to Love RU”, I have to admit that I was in one sense happy that the series was back, since I enjoyed the first season but also a tad bit disappointed that the full stories that were featured in each episode have now been replaced by three mini-episodes.   And the episodes were definitely made to be more wilder and perverted.

In the last season, it was basically dealing with the love triangle between Rito, Lala and Sairenji and of course, Rito having to defend his honor and the people he cares about.  There was a bit more action in the first season but this time around, Rito is more of the comic-centric character that is always in the wrong place at the wrong time (mainly caught for peeking up a girls skirt or in some situation that happened beyond his control) and getting punished for it.  If anything, this season focuses more on perverted comedy and a lot of fan service.

In some ways, it is reminiscent of mangaka Rumiko Takahashi’s “Urusei Yatsura” as a character ends up engaged to an alien. But in this case, Rito is nothing like Ataru (nor is he perverted). But “To Love RU” has its fair share of crazy antics, fan service and yes… nudity. Unlike Lum, Lala doesn’t know how Rito feels inside, even though family and friends know that he’s gotten himself into a mess. Also, similar to another Rumiko Takahashi anime series (Ranma 1/2), the character of Ren/Run able to change genders is quite interesting and makes me wonder if series creator Kentaro Yabuki was paying homage to Takahashi’s works.

But this second season definitely amps up the hijinks, the craziness, fan service and the perverted humor of the series.  And for those who enjoy this type of anime, “Motto to Love RU” is for you!  Do you need to watch the original anime series to understand this second.  Yes and no.  The first does explain why the aliens are living with Rito and of course, you get their introductions.  But the second series is created as mini-episodes with hijinks and fan-service that one can understand what is going on.

It’s only the final episode where you actually get something somewhat deep as the question of which girl Rito will pick comes to play.  But needless to say, I’m sure that the hijinks of these characters will continue, in the manga series or with more seasons of anime episodes.

As for the Blu-ray release, I wished there were more special features than the clean opening and closing themes and I’m sure there are fans who wish there was an English dub included. The Japanese voice acting is still enjoyable and well-performed.

While the Blu-ray is rated TV 14 D, it’s important to note that there is nudity and a lot of sexual humor and images, so this is not an anime series you want younger people to be watching.

Overall, “Motto To Love RU” is a hilarious anime series that was fun for me as I enjoyed the first season, but also a step back as it was not full-story episodes but an episode of three short, wild and crazy stories..

If you are looking for a series with adult, perverted humor and a lot of fan service, “Motto To Love RU” is the anime series you definitely want to watch! Recommended!

Like Someone in Love – The Criterion Collection #708 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Abbas Kiarostami was able to create a film that was artistic, natural but also a storyline that resonates strongly within you because of its captivating story and wonderful performance by Tadashi Okuno, Rin Takanashi and Ryo Kase.  “Like Someone in Love” may not be a Kiarostami masterpiece but it’s a film that is wonderfully filmed, skillfully directed and is highly recommended!

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

TITLE: Like Someone in Love – The Criterion Collection #708

YEAR OF FILM: 2012

DURATION: 110 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:66:1 aspect ratio, 3.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio , Japanese with English Subtitles

COMPANY: THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: May 20, 2014

Directed by Abbas Kiarostami

Screenplay by Abbas Kiarostami

Produced by Charles Gilbert, Nathanael Karmitz, Abbas Kiarostami

Executive Producer: Kenzo Horikoshi

Assistant Producer: Mai Ushikubo

Cinematography by Katsumi Yanagijima

Starring:

Tadashi Okuno as Takashi Watanabe

Rin Takanashi as Akiko

Ryo Kase as Noriaki

Denden as Hiroshi

Reiko Mori as Nagisa

Kaneko Kubota as Akiko’s Grandmother

Abbas Kiarostami has spent his incomparable career exploring the spaces that separate illusion from reality and the simulated from the authentic. At first, his extraordinary and sly Like Someone in Love, which finds the Iranian director in Tokyo, may appear to be among his most straightforward films. Yet with this simple story of the growing bond between a young student and part-time call girl and a grandfatherly client, Kiarostami has constructed an enigmatic but crystalline investigation of affection and desire as complex as his masterful Close-up and Certified Copy in its engagement with the workings of the mercurial human heart.

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From award winning filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami (“Certified Copy”, “Close-Up”, “Taste of Cherry”) comes his 2012 film “Like Someone in Love” which was produced by France’s MK2 Group and Japan’s Eurospace.

The film would star Tadashi Okuno (“A Taxing Woman”, “Zero Woman: Dangerous Game”), Rin Takanishi (“Samurai Squadron Shinkenger”, “Goth”, “Neo Ultra Q”), Ryo Kase (“Letters from Iwo Jima”, “Tokyo!”, “Hachimitsu to Clover”, “Funky Forest: The First Contact”) and Denden (“Coldfish”, “Uzumaki”).

Created for a budget at $4.8 million, “Like Someone in Love” has received positive reviews from film critics worldwide and was nominated for a 65th Cannes Film Festival.

And now, “Like Someone in Love” will be the third Abbas Kiarostami film to be featured in the Criterion Collection as it will be released via Blu-ray + DVD in May 2014.

“Like Someone in Love” begins with Akiko (portrayed by Rin Takanashi) at a restaurant and lying to her suspicious boyfriend Noriaki (portrayed by Ryo Kase) on the phone that she is hanging out with her friend Nagisa.

The truth is that Akiko is a high-end prostitute and has been told by her pimp to dump her boyfriend but is not wanting to.

One night, she is assigned to a high profile client,  an elderly writer/translator and former professor named Takashi (portrayed by Tadashi Okuno).

But when she arrives, she is shocked that he is more interested in having her as company, going so far to cook her soup from her home town.  And while Akiko wants to speed things up and get to bed with him, while going to the bedroom and laying down, she ends up falling asleep in his bed.

Takashi ends up taking care of Akiko for the night, letting her sleep over and in the morning, taking her to college for her sociology exam.  But when he drops her off, her jealous boyfriend is waiting for her and the two get into a major argument.

Watching the young man with curiosity and also a little disgust, Noriaki ends up going to Takashi and wondering what his relationship with Akiko is and a conversation between the two develops and he immediately thinks that Takashi is her grandfather.  Noriaki goes as far as discussing his jealousy but that is because he loves her and wants to marry her immediately.  He asks Takashi for permission to marry Akiko, but Takashi tells him that he isn’t ready to marry.

When Akiko returns, she is shocked to find Noriaki in Takashi’s car.  And from this moment in time, what happens afterward will change the lives of these three individuals forever.

VIDEO:

“Like Someone in Love” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio).  Shot digitally, the film is well-saturated and you can tell that Abbas Kiarostami and cinematographer Katsumi Yanagijima were particular with natural light and make sure the film is as natural and retaining a realness to the overall film.  I detected no compression or banding issues.  The film looks fantastic in HD!

According to the Criterion Collection, “this  film was shot with a RED One MX digital camera, and the entire production was completed in digital workflow.  The final color-corrected DPX files were output to Rec. 709 high-definition color space for Blu-ray and DVD release.  The master was approved by director Abbas Kiarostami.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Like Someone in Love” is presented in Japanese 3.0 DTS-HD MA with English subtitles.  Dialogue is crystal clear along with the Ella Fitzgerald music that Takashi plays in his home.

As for the soundtrack, according to the Criterion Collection, “the 3.0 surround audio for this release was mastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD.  Though only three channels of audio are present, the soundtrack was encoded as 5.1 on the disc to maintain compatibility with legacy receivers”.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Like Someone in Love – The Criterion Collection #708” comes with the following special feature:

  • Making of Like Someone in Love – (46:58) Featuring a 45 minute making of documentary.  From the making of the film, the building of actual sets to Abbas Kiarostami working with the actors, despite the language barrier and more.
  • Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “Like Someone in Love”.

EXTRAS:

“Like Someone in Love – The Criterion Collection #708″ comes with a 20 -page booklet featuring the essay “On Likeness” by Nico Baumbach (assistant professor of film studies at Columbia University).

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There is always something magical that I find in an Abbas Kiraostami film.

The films are often about communication and try to retain a natural and real atmosphere courtesy of the film’s characters.  Relationships are not always happy and often there is a conflict of emotions when it comes to a Kiarostami film and “Like Someone in Love” is a fascinating film because of its characters.

The conversations between the individuals seems quite natural, I was mesmerized.  Almost similar to a Eric Rohmer film without the complex topics of conversation (which I love about Rohmer films), with “Like Someone in Love”, you are captivated because the protagonist Akiko is not a pure woman.  She is a high-end prostitute at night, while during the day, she is a girlfriend to a jealous Noriaki and a sociology student.

Whereas, her client is Takashi, an elderly man who has done well for himself in his career as a writer, translator and former professor.  But at the same time, despite his likability, you are drawn to the fact that he is captivated by the younger Akiko.  He is not wanting sex but companionship, while Akiko is so used to men wanting her for sex, she is drawn to him in a fatherly way.

And between these two character is the fiery Noriaki, a suspicious boyfriend who punched out his co-worker for telling him that Akiko was a prostitute and featured in a flyer.  Noriaki loves Akiko and he is naive to what she does at night and automatically assumes that Takashi is her grandfather.

But what happens to these three individuals after they meet is rather interesting, especially as it leads up to its vague ending.  I felt the ending was appropriate and while the pacing was slow, it’s the performances that Kiarostami was able to get from his actors, the variety of emotions that are on display but most of all, it’s the communication, the dialogue that felt so natural, that you feel like a third party and witnessing something so natural, yet so wrong that there is a sense that nothing can come right from these three individuals.

As for a Criterion Collection Blu-ray release, you get the Blu-ray+DVD combo and while picture quality was gorgeous and lossless audio was crystal clear, while not special feature heavy, you do get a fantastic 45-minute documentary on the making of the film.

Overall, Abbas Kiarostami was able to create a film that was artistic, natural but also a storyline that resonates strongly within you because of its captivating story and wonderful performance by Tadashi Okuno, Rin Takanashi and Ryo Kase. “Like Someone in Love” may not be a Kiarostami masterpiece but it’s a film that is wonderfully filmed, skillfully directed and is highly recommended!

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

May 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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While a modern remake of “Gambit” may have made a fascinating film, if the plot was unchanged… unfortunately this heist comedy remake was not funny and mildly entertaining.

Image are courtesy of © Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Gambit

YEAR OF FILM: 2012

DURATION: 89 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Some Suggestive Control, Partial Nudity and a Rude Gesture)

RELEASE DATE: May 27, 2014

Directed by Michael Hoffman

Screenplay by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Short Story by Sidney Carroll

Produced by Mike Lobell, Rob Paris, Adam Ripp

Executive Producer: Philip Elway, Rizal Risjad

Associate Producer: Brett Hedblom

Music by Rolfe Kent

Cinematography by Florian Ballhaus

Edited by Paul Tothill

Casting by Elaine Grainger, Lucinda Syson

Production Design by Stuart Craig

Art Direction by Neil Lamont, Hattie Storey

Set Decoration by Edward McLoughlin, Stephenie McMillan

Costume Design by Jenny Beavan

Starring:

Colin Firth as Harry Deane

Cameron Diaz as PJ Puznowski

Tom Courtenay as The Major

Alan Rickman as Lionel Shahbandar

Cloris Leachman as Grandma Merle

Stanley Tucci as Martin Zaidenweber

Harry Deane (Colin Firth) is a man with a plan. Art curator for media tycoon Lord Lionel Shabandar (Alan Rickman), Harry devises an elaborate plot to con his abusive boss, Shabandar, into purchasing a take Monet painting. With the help of beautiful rodeo queen PJ Puznowski (Cameron Diaz), Harry hatches a scheme to fool Shabandar into believing that Harry’s expert forgery is the real deal, pocketing a hefty sum in the process. But with the con proving harder to pull off than they had first intended, Harry and PJ find themselves in increasingly hilarious situations in order to see the job through to the end.

As there has been talk about remaking the 1966 heist film “Gambit” starring Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine, for over a decade, the possibilities were there with Joel and Ethan Coen writing the screenplay,  the question was whether or not the film would be made into a feature film.

As far back in 2008, there was talk of Colin Firth of starring in the film but nothing would materialize until 2011 when filmmaker Michael Hoffman (“A Midsummer night’s Dream”, “One Fine Day”)agreed to direct the film and eventually Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”, “A Single Man”), Tom Courtenay (“The Golden Compass”, “Billy Liar”, “Doctor Zhivago”), Alan Rickman (“Harry Potter” films, “Die Hard,”, “Galaxy Quest”), Cameron Diaz (“There’s Something About Mary”, “Being John Malkovich”, “Gangs of New York”), Stanley Tucci (“The Hunger Games”, “The Devil Wears Prada”, “Captain America”) and Cloris Leachman (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “Young Frankenstein”) would be cast for the film.

And now “Gambit” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in May 2014.

“Gambit” revolves around British art curator Harry Deane (portrayed by Colin Firth) who wants revenge on his abusive boss, Lord Shabandar (portrayed by Alan Rickman).

Lord Shabandar has ridiculed, physically assaulted and has had his way with Harry that Harry has had enough.  So, his plan is to steal his money.

Harry brings in his friend The Major (portrayed by Tom Courtenay), a man who can easily duplicate paintings and to find a lost Monet, which he can sell for millions but first selling the fake version to Lord Shabandar.  But in order to get him to purchase the painting, he needs the help of woman who is a heavy drinker and what best than to find someone in Texas.  That person happens to be PJ Puznowski (portrayed by Cameron Diaz), a rodeo queen who’s goal is to pretend she is the owner of the Claude Monet painting and get Lord Shabandar to purchase it.

And if they succeed, Harry, the Major and PJ will be wealthy.

But will they succeed?  And will any of them have second thoughts of going on with this scheme?

 

VIDEO:

“Gambit” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1).  Picture quality is fantastic as the film features a lot of outdoor scenes and showcases plenty of colors.  Skin tones are natural, closeups feature plenty of detail and overall, the film is well-saturated. I did not notice any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO/INTERTITLES:

“Gambit” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  The film is primarily dialogue driven, with the surround channels used for ambiance.  For the most part, dialogue is crystal clear and understandable.

Subtitles are in English and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gambit” comes with no special features.

Sometimes when you see remakes from Hollywood, you think to yourself and wonder if people have lost the creativity to create original films because remaking the 1966 version of “Gambit” really made no sense.

While the Coen brothers are known for their hit films that have received critical praise worldwide, the brothers have had a few writing duds, and “Gambit” is one of them.

Not only does the film receive a new story instead of a modern remake, the changes to the original film unfortunately dumbs down what made the original film entertaining.

Changed in the story is the characters of Harry Deane and the female protagonist.  In the original, Harry was a cat burglar, in this 2012 film, he is a disgruntled employee wanting revenge.

For the female character, exotic showgirl Nicole Chang is replaced with Texas rodeo champ PJ Puznowski.  Because of this change, the whole London meets Texas girl storyline is rather uninteresting.  To have actress Cameron Diaz talk in Texas twang and have her sing “Deep in the Heart of Texas” to Japanese businessmen was a bit too much.

The original film was fascinating and entertaining as it focused on the relationship between Harry and Nicole and his life of crime.  You felt the thrill of the heist, the melodramatic twist to the plot but an ending that left you with a smile on your face.

But the story for the modern version of “Gambit” felt out-of-place.  The talent that were cast for the film outside of Firth, Diaz and Rickman, were underused, the jokes were not funny and the film’s only redeeming value is the performance by Colin Firth.

While the picture quality on Blu-ray looks gorgeous and the dialogue is crystal clear, there are no special features on this Blu-ray, so it’s a barebones release.

While a modern remake of “Gambit” may have made a fascinating film, if the plot was unchanged… unfortunately this heist comedy remake was not funny and mildly entertaining.

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

May 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

stalingrad-a

“Stalingrad” comes up short in becoming a great war film but it does have high marks on Blu-ray for its magnificent 3D, fantastic picture quality and immersive soundtrack.  Definitely recommended!

Image are courtesy of © 2013 VTB Bank, VGTRK, Telecompanya, Non-Stop Production and Art Pictures Studio. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Stalingrad

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 131 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (for Sequences of Violence)

RELEASE DATE: May 13, 2014

Directed by Fedor Bondarchuk

Written by Sergey Snezhkin

Produced by Sergey Melkumov, Alexander Rodnyansky, Dmitriy Rudovskiy

3D Producer: Steve Shklair

Music by Angelo Badalamenti

Cinematography by Maksi Osadchiy-Korytkovskiy

Edited by Igor Litoninskiy

Art Directionb y Sergei Ivanov

Starring:

Mariya Smolnikova as Katya

Yanina Studilina as Masha

Pyotr Fyodorov as Kapitan Gromov

Thomas Kretschmann as Kapitan Kan

Sergey Bondarchuk as Sergey Astakhov

Dmitriy Lysenkov as Chvanov

Andrey Smolyakov as Polyakov

A band of determined Russian soldiers fight to hold a strategic building in their devastated city against a ruthless German army, and in the process become deeply connected to a Russian woman who has been living there. In Stalingrad, directed by Fedor Bondarchuk, the scale of the battle contrasts dramatically with the human drama of the Russian soldiers, the few remaining civilians and their invaders into Stalingrad.

During World War II, what historians would call the turning of the tide was the “Battle of Stalingrad”.  One of the bloodiest battles in the history of warfare.

For seven months, Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city and in the end, despite heavy military and civilian casualties, Nazi Germany would be the losers and would show the world that Hitler and the Nazi’s were close to defeat.

While many books, documentaries and films were made about the Battle of Stalingrad, the 2013 film “Stalingrad” directed by Fedor Bondarchuk was the first Russian film to be produced with IMAX 3D and shot using 3ality Technica’s TS-5 and Stereoscopic Image Processor.

And now, “Stalingrad” will be released on Blu-ray 3D and 2D in May 2014.

“Stalingrad”begins with the tsunami/earthquake that devastated Japan.  Russian rescue crews arrive and find a group of Russians trapped under a building.  One of the rescuers tries to tell a girl, who is trapped with surviving members of her family to not use up the oxygen and keeps her thoughts busy by telling a story of how he was a man who had five fathers.  Possible or impossible?

The story then shifts back to World War II, a group of Soviet reconnaissance troops led by Gromov (portrayed by Pyotr Fyodorov) sent to the city of Stalingrad to prepare Soviet troops crossing the Volga River.  As the group which includes sniper Dmitriy Lysenkov (portrayed by Chavanov) and the rarely speaking Nikiforov (portrayed by Alexey Barabash) find a building, they come into fire with Nazi soldiers, including officer Haptmann Kahn (portrayed by Thomas Kretschmann) who escapes.

Inside the building, Gromov finds dead Russian soldiers but a few are found alive, Sergey Astakhov (portrayed by Sergey Bondarchuk Jr.), the one responsible for radio contact with headquarters.  And Polyakov “Angel” (portrayed by Andrey Smolyakov) along with a female civilian, Katya (portrayed by Maria Smolnikova), who’s family lived in the building.

When Gromov is able to contact headquarters, his mission is for him and his soldiers to occupy the building and make sure it is not occupied by the Nazi soldiers.

As more soldiers arrive at the building, down the street are the Nazi soldiers led by Oberstlieutnant Henze (portrayed by Heiner Lauterbach) who wants Kahn to do all he can to occupy the building.

But unbeknownst to Henze is that Kahn likes to gallivant into an area where Soviet civilians are staying and visit Masha (portrayed by Yanina Studilina), a woman that looks exactly like his dead wife.  Despite not understanding each other, Kahn wants to protect her from the war.  But because of her association with Kahn, Masha is treated as a fascist.

Meanwhile, at the building, all the men’s hopes are lifted thanks to Katya.  Katya laughs and talks to the men, gets them their water and develops a strong bond with them, which concerns Gromov, who fears that his men are not fighting for Russia but fighting for Katya.

But when Oberstleutnant Henze is desperate of capturing the building, he will do anything to weaken the resolve of the Russian soldiers, including killing innocent Russian civilians.

How will the Russian soldiers fare in the onslaught of Nazi Germany’s attacks near the building?

 

VIDEO:

“Stalingrad” is possibly one of the few live action 3D films that I have watched on Blu-ray which I feel confident in saying, it’s worth owning.

Shot entirely in 3D, not only is the film wonderful in terms of showcasing depth but there are a number of situations where you can see objects coming right at you.  From the flight of the bombing squadrons, the explosions and people fighting  right in front of you, it’s just an impressive looking film that gives Blu-ray 3D TV/player owners another film since “Avatar”, that manages to use the technology with efficacy.

As for the 2D version of the film, the cinematography by Maksim Osadchiy-Korytkovskiy is impressive.  But first, the direction by Fedor Bondarchuk should be mentioned.  The pacing of the film and the shots incorporated to the film is impressive.  The production/set design in recreating a decimated Stalingrad is also magnificently done and the fact that the film was created rather than utilizing all CG is very impressive.  And this leads to the wonderful cinematography of Osadchiy-Korytkovskiy, what he manages to capture on camera, from the devastation, the emotions on the people’s faces, the fighting/battles to just the chaotic moments of the film to its most tender moments, looks amazing on Blu-ray.

Picture quality is in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio) and no doubt, a gorgeous film on Blu-ray 3D and 2D.

AUDIO/INTERTITLES:

“Stalingrad” also gets high marks for its 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless soundtrack.  This is an immersive film that utilizes the surround channels, the rear surround channels and LFE.  Panning bullets, explosions galore, ambiance of the area, you name it, there is sound coming from all over the place.  And making you feel you are right there with the action.  While the film does come with an English and French dub, I watched the original soundtrack in Russian lossless and dialogue is crystal clear, along with the fantastic music by Angelo Badalamenti.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Stalingrad” comes with the following special feature:

  • The Making of Stalingrad - (11:34) Featuring the cast and crew discussing the making of “Stalingrad”.

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When it comes to war films, war aficionados and also film critics, tend to be more complimentary with films that focus on the men at war and the story of battles that were won, the lives that were lost and if anything, paying tribute to those who fought in the war.

In Russia, “Stalingrad” had its share of criticism, on one hand, giving the film recognition for its visuals and set design, while others criticizing the fact that the film has a romantic angle.

Like with any war film, you have those that focus solely on the war and those that focus on other areas of the war.  For the “Battle of Stalingrad”, there was the 1993 German film “Stalingrad” about a group of German soldiers and in 2001, a French-British film titled “Enemy at the Gates” focused on the exploits of a Russian sniper.

While a war film shot entirely in 3D, the film focuses on a core group who are protecting a building and wanting to protect a teenage girl that occupies that lives in the building, while the other story focuses on a German officer and a Russian woman that he forcibly becomes closer to, because she looks like his deceased wife.

The film manages to have elements of a war film in terms of brotherhood, men in battle and as Stalingrad was known about close counter battles, a lot of use with knives and if anything, capturing the bloody war but also how many civilians were killed.

As for the romantic element, I’m not sure if anyone should even call it a romantic element.  It’s about a group of men who see something pure, while everything around them is violent and impure.  She is their angel, she is the person that makes them feel life is worth living, no matter what hell hole they are in.  And I feel that because of Katya, her character brings out the characters hidden personalities.

That Gromov is not heartless, that Chavanov is not a jerk, that Nikiforov has a hidden talent, Polyakov has a soft heart and we learn more about these men because of her.

Granted, I can understand that with a title of “Stalingrad”, one might expect a Russian version of “Platoon” or “Saving Private Ryan”, something intense, real and showing us the grittiness of war with detail and ferocity. This may not be the great tribute to the heroes of Stalingrad but it does show the persistence and the never quitting attitude of Russian soldiers against Nazi Germans.

While I do give amazing credit for this films production/set design, its wonderful visuals in 3D and 2D, immersive soundtrack, musical score and its cast for a wonderful performance, the film does come short of being a great war film. With its cast of characters, it would have been best for these characters to discuss the pain they suffered in the war versus a narration.  The development of its characters would have been great than the focus of action and visual effects.

As for the Blu-ray, “Stalingrad” is one of the best Blu-ray 3D films that I have seen.  The amazing depth that the 3D version of the film offers is quite amazing and no doubt, for those who invested in the hardware to feature the technology, this film is a no-brainer to own.  As for the 2D version, picture quality is also fantastic and the lossless soundtrack is magnificent.  I wish there were more special features, but you do get the single “making of” featurette.

Overall, “Stalingrad” comes up short in becoming a great war film but it does have high marks on Blu-ray for its magnificent 3D, fantastic picture quality and immersive soundtrack.  Definitely recommended!

 

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

May 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Pompeii” is a visual effects heavy disaster film.  While the visual effects and production/set design were fantastic, there was too much focus on the actual action and disaster rather than its characters.  So, if you want a disaster film with a deep story, “Pompeii” is not it.  But if you are wanting an easy to follow action film, then “Pompeii” is a film that may be worth your time!

Image are courtesy of © 2014 Constantin Film International GmbH and Impact Pictures (Pompeii) Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Pompeii

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 105 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: May 20, 2014

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

Screenplay by Janet Scott Batchler, Lee Batchler, Michael Robert Johnson

Produced by Paul W.S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Don Carmody, Robert Kulzer, Martin Moszkowicz

Executive Producer: Peter Schlessel

Line Producer: Hartley Gorenstein

Music by Clinton Shorter

Cinematography by Glen MacPherson

Edited by Michele Conroy

Production Design by Paul D. Austerberry

Set Decoration by Jeffrey A. Melvin

Costume Design by Wendy Partridge

Starring:

Kit Harington as Milo

Carrie-Anne Moss as Aurelia

Emily Browning as Cassia

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Atticus

Jessica Lucas as Ariadne

Jared Harris as Severus

Joe Pingue as Graecus

Kiefer Sutherland as Corvus

Currie Graham as Bellator

Dylan Schombing as Young Milo

Set in 79 A.D., POMPEII tells the epic story of Milo (Kit Harrington), a slave turned invincible gladiator who finds himself in a race against time to save his true love Cassia (Emily Browning), the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant who has been unwillingly betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator (Kiefer Sutherland). As Mount Vesuvius erupts in a torrent of blazing lava, Milo must fight his way out of the arena in order to save his beloved as the once magnificent Pompeii crumbles around him.

When it comes to natural disasters, the story of the destruction of the ancient Roman city known as Pompeii is known.

The story of how the city was destroyed and buried by 20 ft. of ash and pumice after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius back in 79 A.D. and the excavation of the site to find well-preserved ash layers have given society a look into the past of how these individuals died but also to reveal many intact buildings and wall paintings.

Inspired by the writings of Pliny the Younger, who’s uncle (Pliny the Elder) was killed due to gas poisoning during the eruption of Vesuvius, the writings have been regarded as important documents for volcanoligists which resulted into the first major detail of the eruption of Vesuvius known as “Plinian eruption”.

And while films, documentaries and books have been written about Pompeii, a disaster film would interest writers Janet Scott and Lee Batchler (“Batman Forever”) and Michael Robert Johnson (“Sherlock Holmes”)  and eventually win over filmmaker Paul W.S. Anderson (“Death Race”, “Resident Evil”, “AVP: Alien vs. Predator”), who wanted to create an action/drama disaster film but paying attention to details of how things looked in Pompeii.

The film would star Kit Harrington (“Silent Hill: Revelation”, “Game of Thrones”), Carrie-Anne Moss (“The Matrix” films, “Memento”, “Chocolat”), Emily Browning (“Sucker Punch”, “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”, “The Uninvited”), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”, “Thor: The Dark World”, “The Bourne Identity”), Jessica Lucas (“Cloverfield”, “That Awkward Moment”), Jared Harris (“Lincoln”, “Natural Born Killers”, “Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows”), Joe Pingue (“Drive”, “The Book of Eli”, “Pacific Rim”) and Kiefer Sutherland (“24″, “The Lost Boys”, “Phone Booth”).

The film was released worldwide on Feb. 2014 and will now be released on Blu-ray in May 2014.

The film begins in Brittania and a young Milo wakes up to the annihilation of his parents and his tribe of Celtic horsemen by the Romans led by Corvus (portrayed by Kiefer Sutherland).

The last surviving member of his tribe, Milo is captured by slave traders.

Fastforward 17 years later and Milo (portrayed by Kit Harrington) has become a great gladiator, so much that slave owner Graecus (portrayed by Joe Pingue) is impressed by “the Celt”.  Seeing this as a way to impress the Romans, Graecus hass Corvus brought to Pompeii with other slaves.

As Milo follows a carriage ridden by Cassia (portrayed by Emily Browning) and her servant Ariadne (portrayed by Jessica Lucas), he is alarmed by the treatment of a horse who falls and is suffering.  As Milo kills the horse to end its suffering, Cassia notices him.

As Cassia and Ariadne head to Pompeii, it is revealed that Cassia is the daughter of Severus (portrayed by Jared Harris), ruler of Pompeii.  She visits him and her mother Aurelia (portrayed by Carrie-Anne Moss) after a year away in Rome.

As Severus is looking forward to the new Emperor Titus in rebuilding Pompeii, Cassia warns him that Rome is corrupt.  But we learn quickly how unstable Pompeii is with several earthquakes and one of their servants is swallowed up inside a quake caused by the nearby volcano, Mount Vesuvius.

With Corvus planning to be in attendance in Pompeii, Severus hosts a gladiator game in which Milo must take on Atticus (portrayed by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a man fighting for one more victory which would grant him freedom.

Meanwhile, Corvus tells Severus that the Emperor can not invest in the rebuilding of Pompeii but he would.  We learn not long after that the reason why Cassia has left Rome was because Corvus has been trying to get close to her.

As another earthquake rocks Pompeii, Milo sees Cassia and both take off with the horses as Romans go after them.   As she wants to give Milo his freedom, he knows they can not escape and so, Cassia tries to explain that it was her fault and that Milo had saved her after the horses became excited.  Despite being a hero, seeing how Cassia is trying to protect Milo, Corvus has Milo punished by several whips.

As Cassia tries to get her father to stop the punishment, her father tells her that she was able to prevent Milo’s execution and was able to keep him alive.

With Corvus’ continued jealousy, he wants Milo dead and at the gladiator Amphitheatre, he has Milo, Atticus and other gladiators chained to rocks in order to recreate Corvus “glorious victory” over the Celts.  Both Milo and Atticus form a partnership and as the two men fight back and defeat the Romans, in disgust, Corvus threatens Severus that if Cassia does not marry him, he will have his family killed for treason against the Emperor.

And as everyone begins to cheer for Milo and Atticus in the amphitheatre and Corvus now wanting both men dead, by any means necessary, what everyone in the amphitheatre is unaware, is that Mount Vesuvius is about to blow.

 

VIDEO:

“Pompeii” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  If there was one thing that I could say about “Pompeii”, it’s how wonderful the set design was in recreating Pompeii.  Even historians have given positive criticism of the film for its attention to historical detail and it was one of the focus for director Paul W.S. Anderson and his staff.

As one can expect, the film does utilize a lot of CG.  This is a disaster film and we literally see the destruction of Pompeii and a great look of Mt. Vesuvius exploding and if anything, the whole disaster was positively accomplished, considering the fact that a lot of the explosions was to play with the film’s use of 3D.

But for the most part, the film is vibrant and colorful.  Colors instantly pop, skin tones are natural and overall, the film looks great in HD.  I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO/INTERTITLES:

“Pompeii” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Audio Descriptive Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.  As for the lossless soundtrack, for a disaster film full of action, you expect great use of surround channels and LFE and fortunately, “Pompeii” delivers!  Great use of sound effects as large rocks are flung out of Mt. Vesuvius and crashing into boats, swords clanging and the destruction of the buildings and amphitheater also sounded magnificent in HD.  If anything, lossless audio was a positive for this film.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Pompeii” comes with the following special features:

  • Filmmakers Commentary - Featuring audio commentary from Paul W.S. Anderson.
  • Deleted & Alternate Scenes- (23:32) Featuring 20 deleted and alternate scenes.
  • The Assembly – (7:14) The cast and crew discuss working on the film and cast discuss their character.
  • The Journey – (7:42) A featurette about the crew working in Pompeii and recreating the old world for the film.
  • The Costume Shop – (6:52) Wendy Partridge, costume designer discusses the armor, costumes, jewelry of the time and discusses  how she wanted to make the costume authentic to compliment the frescoes of Pompeii.
  • The Volcanic Eruption – (6:;55) Paul W.S. Anderson discusses working on a disaster film and using Pinny the Younger’s writings as an influence for the film.
  • The Gladiators – (6:21) The fight training in the film and making of action scenes.
  • Pompeii: Buried in Time – (5:30)  Cast and crew discuss working in Pompeii and the historical accuracy of the film.

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Disaster films are one of the difficult films to create.  For one, most films focus on the destruction and special effects rather than storyline, and far too often, film critics are not fans of this genre, especially when a romantic element is introduced in the film.

While films such as “Gravity”, “Titanic”, “Towering Inferno”, “Twister”, “The Impossible” were big hits in the box office and are able to captivate the attention of audiences due to the human element, “Pompeii” is a film about a real life natural disaster that plays out like the film “2012″.  A disaster film laden with amazing special effects but with a storyline that is not too memorable.

Part of the problem with “Pompeii” is that it strives too hard to develop this romantic storyline within a major disaster.  “Titanic” was able to accomplish it due to its long duration,  but at 105 minutes long, the storyline pacing for both Milo and Cassia goes far too quickly and focuses mostly on the gladiator action and the disaster.  If anything, the film becomes more of a popcorn action film that doesn’t make us feel the sadness about the disaster.   As a film like “Titanic” or even “The Impossible” is able to focus on a disaster that affects normal people and makes you feel sympathy, “Pompeii” wants you to focus on the destruction of “Pompeii”.

Another problem is that the antagonist Corvus plays off like an evil Jack Bauer.  Kiefer Sutherland doesn’t look too different from his anti-terrorism persona, he has his nicely shaved head and is looking much to modern for this film that is set in 79 A.D.

But with that being said, the special effects and the destruction of “Pompeii” was quite fascinating.    As mentioned, the production/set design is amazing, the CG effects was well-done and if anything, the film manages to capture the destruction of Pompeii through well-done special effects, but visual effects can only go so far with the film.

Because of its reliance on action, the film becomes more action-driven with dramatic elements and while an average popcorn action film, it’s also an average disaster film overall.  And for an action film, it matches with Paul W.S. Anderson’s style of work.  But I wished the film would strive to become much more deeper and built more of that storyline that would hook audiences for its story rather than how a city and its people were destroyed by a volcano.

But volcano disaster films are not always easy to do.  When I think back of the many volcano-themed films that I did enjoy, there are not many, with the exception of the 1981 film “St. Helens”, which focused on capturing the human element of loss, through its main characters.  Characters that were developed throughout the film.  For “Pompeii”, Milo and Cassia are never given any strong direction in this film other than Milo is good at fighting, Cassia loves her family and falling for Milo.  And next thing you know, both are facing a major disaster and a jealous Roman.

The Blu-ray release of “Pompeii” features wonderful picture quality as the visual effects were outstanding and I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding.  The lossless soundtrack was also impressive thanks to its immersive soundtrack.  And there are a number of special features that go into the research done for the making of this film.

Overall, “Pompeii” is a visual effects heavy disaster film.  While the visual effects and production/set design were fantastic, there was too much focus on the actual action and disaster rather than its characters.  So, if you want a disaster film with a deep story, “Pompeii” is not it.  But if you are wanting an easy to follow action film, then “Pompeii” is a film that may be worth your time!

 

That Awkward Moment (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“That Awkward Moment” is a romantic comedy that often falls flat, but manages to pick itself up towards the second half.  Sure, it is contrived and it has its number of moments of stupidity, but for those looking for a romantic comedy that is not too deep or emotional, especially a romantic comedy geared for guys, may find “That Awkward Moment” a film that will appeal to them. 

Image are courtesy of © 2013 AWOD Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: That Awkward Moment

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 94 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (For Sexual Content and Language Throughout)

RELEASE DATE: May 13, 2014

Written and Directed by Tom Gormican

Produced by Scott Aversano, Justin Nappi, Andrew O’Connor, Kevin Turren

Executive Producer: Jason Barrett, Lia Buman, Zac Efron, John Friedberg, Manu Gargi, Peter Schlessel, Michael Simkin

Associate Produced by Juliet Berman, Ryan Thurbon

Co-Produced by Andrew Fierberg

Music by David Torn

Cinematography by Brandon Trost

Edited by Shawn Paper, Greg Tillman

Edited by Shawn Paper, Greg Tillman

Production Design by Ethan Tobman

Set Decoration by Deirdre Brennan

Starring:

Zac Efron as Jason

Miles Teller as Daniel

Michael B. Jordan as Mikey

Imogen Poots as Ellie

Mackenzie Davis as Chelsea

Jessica Lucas as Vera

Addison Timlin as Alana

Josh Pais as Fred

Evelina Turen as Sophie

Every relationship has that “so” moment. For a guy like Jason (Zac Efron), that’s where things always end. He’s firmly committed to non-commitment. When the marriage of his friend Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) falls apart, Jason takes it as proof that the single life is for the better. To get Mikey back in the game, Jason enlists him and drinking buddy Daniel (Miles Teller) to take a shared vow: together, they’ll stay single as long as humanly possible. Then along comes Ellie (Imogen Poots), the unpredictable, unforgettable one-night hook-up who changes all the rules. Despite all his instincts, Jason just can’t let her go… and his status is about to get very complicated.

Not very often do you get to see a first-time writer/director make his writing/directorial debut for a feature film, but that is the case for Tom Gormican.

As writer/director for the 2014 film “That Awkward Moment”, a film that was originally part of the Black List (a survey which lists the top motion picture screenplays not produced) and would earn Zac Efron an MTV Movie Award for “Best Shirtless Performance”.

The film would star Zac Efron (“High School Musical”, “17 Again”, “The Lucky One”), Miles Teller (“21 & Over”, “The Spectacular Now”), Michael B Jordan (“Chronicle”, “Fruivale Station”), Imogen Poots (“28 Weeks Later”, “Need for Speed”, “V for Vendetta”), Mackenzie Davis (“Smashed”, “Breathe In”) and  Jessica Lucas (“Pompeii”, “Cloverfield”).

And now, “That Awkward Moment” will be released on Blu-ray & DVD in May 2014.

“That Awkward Moment” revolves around three best friends, Jason (portrayed by Zac Efron), Daniel (portrayed by Miles Teller) and Mikey (portrayed by Michael B. Jordan).

Jason is a man who loves having sexual contact with women with no feelings of commitment towards them.  He wants no relationship and loves to have fun.  While Daniel works with Jason at an advertising firm and is not great with women, but thanks to his female best friend Chelsea (portrayed by Mackenzie Davis), he is able to meet many women thanks to her.

As for Mikey, he is a nurse that is trying to move on after his wife Vera (portrayed by Jessica Lucas) files for divorce and admits that she has had sexual relationships with the divorce lawyer.

Wanting to cheer up Mikey, Jason comes up with an idea that all of them must stay single, no commitments and have fun!  And each of them make a promise to stay single.

But things change for each of these young men as privately, unbeknownst to each other, they are having their own personal fun.

Jason has a one night stand with Ellie (portrayed by Imogen Poots) and starts to realize that he has more feelings towards her than he ever felt for any other woman.

Daniel starts to find himself attracted to his friend Chelsea and both start having a sexual relationship.

While Daniel and his wife Vera seem to be getting back together and are having the greatest sex they have ever had.

As the guys break their promise towards each other, having found love, will they be ready for it?  And what happens when the guys find out that each of them have broken their promise of staying single?

 

VIDEO:

“That Awkward Moment” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  One of the positive feelings I have towards this Blu-ray release is the film’s cinematography.  I enjoyed how New York was featured and the style that accompanies a NY romantic comedy.  But the overall picture quality features vibrant colors, great detail and clarity.  Skin tones are natural and detail was great that one scene that feature Daniel and Chelsea, you can see the lint flying all over the room.  But for the most part, picture quality for this film is very good!

AUDIO/INTERTITLES:

“That Awkward Moment” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  The film is primarily dialogue and musically driven.  Front and center channels feature crystal clear dialogue and music throughout the film.  While there are some moments of surround sound use with scenes featuring crowds.  But overall, a lossless soundtrack that is adequate for this romantic comedy.

Subtitles are in English and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“That Awkward Moment” comes with the following special features:

  • Moment of Truth: Behind the Scenes - (9:40) The cast discuss how they became good friends during production.  Also, working with the director/writer, Tom Gormican.
  • Threesome: More Awkward Moments- (9:07) Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller discuss the film and their “So” moments.
  • Character Profiles – (3:53) Featuring profiles of the various characters of the film.
  • Extended Gag Reel – (3:40) Bloopers from “That Awkward Moment”.

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When it comes to romantic comedies, there are those that are remembered for its memorable characters, lines, moments and films that you watch often, because they resonate strongly with you.  From the moment you first see it, to decades later.

“That Awkward Moment” is not one of those romantic comedies.  But it is a film that I will remember for its jokes falling flat or jokes that were just not funny at all.

And it was tough because there are things about the film that I enjoyed.  I love the fact that this film was set in New York, I enjoyed the chemistry between Zac Efron and Imogen Poots.  I enjoyed the cinematography, costume design and even the music.  As well as some of the improvised scenes that were hilarious and fun.

But part of the problem with the film is how it tries to be too funny with jokes that are literally not.  For one, this film is a bromance film that guys will no doubt enjoy because it’s about three good friends who talk about sex, their experiences and trying to live the life as a single guy.

And I have no problem with that as many of my guy friends including myself have those crazy discussions.  But when you have jokes of guys taking Viagra and then having difficulties going pee, or jokes of one guy wacking off to suntan lotion and getting an orange penis and another joke, with one wearing a costume with a penis as a tail (cock tail) for a social gathering, it just doesn’t work.

As I watched the film with my wife, she was the first to say, “this film is for guys”.  And as a romantic comedy about three guys, yeah…it’s more about the bro dynamic.  Guys supporting each other as they want to see each other succeed and get laid.

While you get the deep scenes with Zac Efron and Imogen Poots, it’s far too short and you want to see more of them rather than the other guys and their girls.  My wife just found the bromance scenes a little bit too much for her and she was done with the film, halfway.  While for me, despite the unfunny scenes, there are moments that as a guy, you just enjoy for its crazy moments.

But I did come to this film expecting the worse and for first-time filmmaker Tom Gormican, he manages to pull off a film that is OK, for the most part.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality was great.  Vibrant with great clarity and for the most part, loved how New York was showcased throughout the film.  Lossless audio was adequate with crystal clear dialogue and music.  With some scenes with crowd ambiance and using the surround channels.  But it’s not an immersive soundtrack, but adequate as many romantic comedies are.  You also get a few special features included an extended gag reel, character featurettes and more.

Overall, “That Awkward Moment” is a romantic comedy that often falls flat, but manages to pick itself up towards the second half.  Sure, it is contrived and it has its number of moments of stupidity, but for those looking for a romantic comedy that is not too deep or emotional, especially a romantic comedy geared for guys, may find “That Awkward Moment” a film that will appeal to them.

 

Special ID (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Special ID” delivers in action and is an exciting, adrenaline pumping, popcorn action thriller from beginning to end!  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Beijing Starlit Film and TV Culture Ltd. Co. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Special ID

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: Chinese and English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Chinese and English 2.0, Subtitles: English, Spanish and French

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: May 13, 2014

Directed by Clarence Fok Yiu-leng

Written by Kam-Yuen Szeto

Produced by Peter Pau, Zhang Wang, Han Xiao-Li, Donnie Yen

Executive Producer: Qi Daji, Sanping Han, Zheng Lu, Gu Shou-Bao

Music by Peng Dou

Cinematography by Peter Pau

Edited by Ka-Fai Cheung

Starring:

Donnie Yen as Chan Chi-Lung/Dragon

Tian Jing as Fang jing

Andy On as Lo Chi-Wai/Sunny

Ronald Cheng as Captain Cheung King-Kun

Collin Chou as Cheung Mo-Hung

Terence Yin as Terry

Zhigang Yang as Captain Lei Peng

Hanyu Zhang as Daofeng/Blade

In Korea, murder has a statute of limitations and the time is up on a series of brutal slayings that left Lt. Choi (Jae-yeong Jeong) a broken and obsessed man, with a scarred face from their one encounter. Now, a handsome and beguiling young man has come forward, taking credit for the crimes. As the confessed-killer woos media and wins fans, Choi s rage spins out of control. Is he the killer? Can justice ever be served? And who is the mysterious J, who claims the author may not be the killer after all?

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Filmmaker Clarence Fok Yiu-leng is known for his work in Hong Kong cinema in the ’80s and ’90s.  Possibly best known for films such as the 1992 Chingmy Yau and Simon Tam film “Naked Killer”, but in 2013, Fok Yiu-leng has made his return to cinema with two films, “Together” and his martial arts action thriller, “Special ID”.

Written by Kam-Yuen Szeto (“Kill Zone – S.P.L.”, “Flash Point”, “Exiled”) and starring Donnie Yen (“Ip Man”, “Hero”, “Iceman”), Tian Jing (“The Warring States”, “Police Story 2013″) and Andy On (“True Legend”, “Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon”, “Mad Detective”), “Special ID” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment in May 2014.

“Special ID” begins with a gangster named “Dragon” Chan (portrayed by Donnie Yen) who goes to a rival mob HQ to pick up his men who have been captured.  Dragon takes on the mob alone and manages to escape from them.  But it is revealed that “Dragon” is an undercover name for Detective Chan Zilong.

For years, Dragon has hoped to return back to his life as a police officer but for years, he has been used to infiltrate a major crime boss, Xiong (portrayed by Collin Chou).  Because of his undercover work, he hasn’t been able to live a normal life and his mother Amy (portrayed by Hee Ching Paw) knows about his true identity.  But he is literally torn between the two worlds.

Meanwhile, Sunny (portrayed by Andy On) has been stealing from the head of the crime family and using the money to help create his own empire in mainland China and taking out one of the Xiong’s henchman, Blade (portrayed by Hanyu Zhang).

With Xiong concerned about Sunny possibly stealing money from him, he sends Dragon to visit him because Dragon is responsible for mentoring and helping train Sunny when he first entered the mob.

Because the Chinese investigators have been trying to catch Sunny and Xiong, Detective Chan Zilong/Dragon must work with Fang Jin (portrayed by Jing Tian), a by-the-book detective who can shoot a target with incredible accuracy and is not afraid to fight anyone.

But because Detective Chan Zilong feels he has to work his way in order to get information from gangsters, he and Detective Fang Jin do not get along.

But with Dragon in town, Sunny starts to become paranoid that Dragon is trying to kill him and now Sunny wants Dragon dead.  And with criminals start to threaten people close to him, Detective Chan knows he must quickly end this case and work with Detective Fang Jin in order to put these criminals behind bars.

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VIDEO:

“Special ID” is presented in 1080p High Definition, 16×9 widescreen.  The film looks fantastic with great clarity and detail. Colors are vibrant towards the outdoor scenes with great cinematography and capturing the action’s fast pace with no problems.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Special ID” is presented in Chinese and English DTS-HD MA and 2.0 Dolby Digital.  Because the amount of action scenes are quite numerous throughout the film, the lossless soundtrack is strong and active throughout the surround channels.  Dialogue is crystal clear through the center and front channels.  Overall, a solid lossless soundtrack!

Subtitles are in English, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Special ID” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – A short making of featurette for “Special ID”.
  • Trailer - Theatrical trailer for “Special ID”.

EXTRAS:

“Special ID” comes with a slipcover.

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Is there such a thing as a bad Donnie Yen film within the last decade?

So far, each film that I have watched from Donnie Yen, especially post-”Ip Man”, they have featured bigger production, great action choreography and while some Donnie Yen films are better than others, “Special ID” is rather fascinating, exciting and just a lot of fun to watch.

For one, Donnie Yen after all these years, manages to look very young, as he is an undercover cop and a gangster, the first thing the film wants people to see is that this character is humorous, fierce and totally kick ass!

The punches and kicks and the type of fighting showcased throughout the film is rather fascinating, for example, the opening fight scene features Donnie Yen’s character fighting while lying on the ground.  And to see how the character utilizes this strategy to fight his opponent is very cool!

But as Donnie Yen is always awesome when it comes to action films, part of my enjoyment of “Special ID” was seeing actress Tian Jing in action.  It has only been three years since she first debuted on screen but she has made an impact in the fashion world and also shows that she is not scared to take on various roles.

From “The Warring States” and “Police Story 2013″ to “Special ID”, Tian Jing cuts off her long locks for this role and is also not afraid to take part in the action as she seen throughout the film, kicking a lot of butt!  And also being a strong female character with a gun!

While I enjoyed the majority of the film, if there was one scene that irked me a bit, was the fact that this steel cold detective, is seen being emotional after her first kill.  The emotional scene was out of place but no doubt was written in to showcase a turning point between her cold demeanor to a more softer tone as the two detectives would eventually start to work together.

As for the antagonist Sunny (portrayed by Andy On), in some ways, it reminds me of the old martial arts films from the ’90s (especially the films starring Michael Wong), playing the foreign guy who is the antagonist, speaks in English and little Chinese and kicks a lot of butt!  But the fight scenes involving Sunny and Chan’s character were thrilling as the fight choreography and how it was structured, was done rather well.

And speaking of the ’90s, it’s great to have filmmaker Clarence Fok Yiu-leng back behind the camera.  He has made some of those fascinating films back in the ’80s and ’90s and it’s great to see him back again as a director, especially for a big budget action film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic.  Outdoor scenes are vibrant, skin tones are natural and the cinematography is also well done!  Because of it’s all-action soundtrack, the lossless soundtrack is also well-done and the utilization of surround channels worked very well!  As for special features, you get your usual short “making of” featurette and theatrical trailer.

Overall, “Special ID” delivers in action and is an exciting, adrenaline pumping, popcorn action thriller from beginning to end!  Recommended!

Il Sorpasso – The Criterion Collection #707 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Dino Risi’s “Il Sorpasso” is a classic Commedia all’italiana film that captures society during the Italian economic miracle of the 1960′s and features a wonderful performance by Vittorio Gassman and Jean-Luis Trintignant. A wonderful Blu-ray release with fantastic picture quality and numerous, lengthy special features makes the Criterion Collection’s “Il Sorpasso”, a Blu-ray worth owning! Highly recommended!

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

TITLE: Il Sorpasso – The Criterion Collection #707

YEAR OF FILM: 1962

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, LPCM 1.0, Black and White,  Italian with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: April 29, 2014

Directed by Dino Risi

Story & Screenplay by Dino Risi, Ettore Scola, Ruggero Maccari

Dialogue by Ettore Scola, Ruggero Maccari

Produced by Riz Ortolani

Cinematography by Alfio Contini

Edited by Maurizio Lucidi

Production Design by Ugo Pericoli

Starring:

Vittorio Gassman as Bruno Cortona

Catherine Spaak as Lilly Cortona

Jean-Louis Trintignant as Roberto Mariani

Claudio Gora as Bibi

Luciana Angiolillo as Bruno’s Wife

Linda Sini as Zia Lidia

The ultimate Italian road comedy, Il sorpasso stars the unlikely pair of Vittorio Gassman and Jean-Louis Trintignant as, respectively, a waggish, freewheeling bachelor and the straitlaced law student he takes on a madcap trip from Rome to Tuscany. An unpredictable journey that careers from slapstick to tragedy, this film, directed by Dino Risi, is a wildly entertaining commentary on the pleasures and consequences of the good life. A holy grail of commedia all’italiana, Il sorpasso is so fresh and exciting that one can easily see why it has long been adored in Italy.

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When it comes to Commedia all’italiana (Italian comedy), Dino Risi is one of the well known Italian directors who specialized in the genre.

From films such as “A Difficult Life”, “15 from Rome”, “Scent of a Women” and “Treasure of San Gennaro”, to name a few.

But of his numerous films in his oeuvre, one film stands out and is considered his masterpiece.  The film is “Il Sorpasso” (The Easy Life).

The film would star Vittorio Gassman (“Big Deal on Madonna Street”, “Sleepers”, “Scent of a Woman”), Jean-Louis Trintignant (“Amour”, “Three Colors: Red”, “My Night at Maud’s”) and Catherine Spaak (“The Cat O’ Nine Tails”, “For Love and Gold”).

And now, Dino Risi’s masterpiece will be released on Blu-ray + DVD combo courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“Il Sorpasso” begins with Bruno Cortona (portrayed by Vittorio Gassman) stopping by an area during his travels through Italy in his convertible Lancia Aurellia.

Hardworking law student, Roberto Mariani (portrayed by Jean-Louis Trintignant) sees Bruno parked across from his apartment and Bruno asks Roberto if he can call a female friend up.

While Roberto wants to avoid the man and study, he wants to help him and ends up letting Bruno come up to his apartment.

Immediately, Bruno’s carefree mannerism begins to show as he starts using Roberto’s apartment and wanting to thank him for his hospitality, inviting him to go out to drink, eat and enjoy life for a short while, not always studying.

Reluctant to go, Bruno gets Roberto to go out of his apartment and the two go out on a road trip on the Via Aurelia and as Roberto just wants to go home and study, Bruno starts taking him to many locations.

And in two days, Bruno takes Roberto to see life in the coast cities of Lazio and Tuscany.  Driving fast, carefree and living a life of excitement.

But how will the timid Roberto react throughout this road trip that he never planned for and the life of his new carefree friend?

VIDEO:

“Il Sorpasso – The Criterion Collection #707 ” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio) in black and white.  The film looks amazing in HD as the film has been cleaned up, the contrast is sharp.  For those who have watched this film before, will notice much more detail and clarity with the Criterion Collection release.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative at Technicolor Rome; additional footage was taken from a 35 mm composite fine-grain, which was scanned in 2K at Deluxe Rome.   Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker.”

AUDIO/SUBTITLES:

“Il Sorpasso – The Criterion Collection #707 ” is presented in Italian LPCM 1.0.  Dialogue is clear, as with the music.  I didn’t notice any crackling or hiss during my viewing of the film.

As for the soundtrack, according to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm soundtrack negative.  Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation”.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Il Sorpasso – The Criterion Collection #707” comes with the following special features:

  • Introduction by Alexander Payne – Alexander Payne discusses watching Il Sorpasso before working on “Sideways” and what he loved about the film (5:08)
  • Dino Risi – (20:02) A 2004 interview between film critic Jean A. Gili and Dino Risi, who talks about the making of the film.
  • Jean-Louis Trintignant – (8:32) A 1983 interview between Marie-Christine Barrault and Jean-Louis Trintignant for Cine passion.
  • Ettore Scola – (14:15) A 2013 Criterion Collection interview with director Ettore Scola about Italian comedy filmmakng in the 60′s and working with Dino Risi for “Il Sorpaso”.
  • Remi Fournier Lanzoni – (15:43) A 2014 Criterion Collection interview with film scholar Remi Fournier Lanzoni of what made “Il Sorpaso” resonated strongly with Italian audiences.
  • Back to Castiglioncello – (11:02) The cast and crew of the 2012 film “L’Estate di Bruno Cortona: Casttiglioncello mell’anno del Sorpasso” returns to the beach town of Castiglioncello, where the second half of “Il Sorpasso” was shot.
  • A Beautiful Vacation – (55:21) A 2006 documentary by Fabrizio Corallo and Francesca Molteni on the 90th birthday of Dino Risi. Interviews with collaborators, friends, family of Dino Risi including an interview with the director about his life and career.
  • Speaking with Gassman – (30:46) Excerpts from Marco Risi’s documentary about actor Vittorio Gassman. Interviwes with Dino Risi and his working relationship with Vittorio Gassman.
  • Trailer – (2:26) The original theatrical trailer for “Il Sorpasso”.

 

EXTRAS:

“Il Sorpasso – The Criterion Collection #707″ comes with a 38-page booklet featuring the essay “The Joys of Disillusionment” by Phillip Lopate, “Italy, Dark and Light” by Antonio Monda and an excerpt “Risi in His Own Words” from Dino Risi’s 2004 memoir, “I miel mostri”.

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When it comes to road trip films, “Il Sorpaso” is no doubt one of the classic films in cinema.

The film has been inspirational, so much that it inspired filmmaker Alexander Payne in creating his award-winning 2004 comedy-drama film, “Sideways”.

But as a fan of Commedia all’italiana fan and in general, a fan of cinema, you have a film with award winning actor Vittorio Gassman (“Scent of a Woman”, “Big Deal on Madonna Street”) and French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant (“My Night at Maud’s, “The Conformist”, “Three Colors: Red”, “Amour”) and Catherine Spaak (“The Cat o’ Nine Tails”, “The Girl from Parma”) to name a few who have taken part in this enjoyable, yet tragic comedy.

A portrait of the economic boom of the 1960′s and focusing on the cool, stylish and fun life of Italians during the Italian economic miracle, the film captures the change of Italian society and culture.

The pairing of the sociable, wild and carefree Bruno Cortona (Gassman) and the timid, serious bookworm Roberto Mariani (Trintignant), both men play each role with efficacy. Feeding off each other’s presence, Bruno is no doubt the man you want to hang out with for a good time.  The man who lives life to its very fullest, that is until we see how life of not choosing to be a family man, a husband, a father, does affect him.

Seeing his younger daughter Lilly (Spaak) dating an older man, possibly 30-40 years older than her, there is no doubt she has found a man that is more of a father figure, than he was.  And seeing this, close and personal, he realizes to late that he had chosen a life for fun and adventure and he missed out on the people that were once or should be much closer to him.

Meanwhile, as Robert starts to learn more about this stranger that he just met, we see this young man who has lived a life of focusing on his studies, being given a glimpse of Bruno’s life and starting to appreciate the life that he is missing out on.

Two very different people on opposite side of the spectrum, longing for that feeling of being in the other man’s shoes.  Even for a short while, by hanging out with each other, we learn about this other side to Bruno’s life and personality and feelings, while Roberto is able to be part of Bruno’s world and he’s starting to love it.

Of course, the film is a comedy and for the 98% of the duration of the entire film, it’s humorous, crazy, wild and a lot of fun.  But you get to see a little bit of drama when it comes to Bruno, his ex-wife (portrayed by Luciana Angiolillo) and his daughter Lilly.  And of course, the final minutes of the film that is quite appropriate of its audacious ending.

As for Blu-ray, this is the best I have seen of “Il Sorpasso”.  Even filmmaker Alexander Payne talked about watching a bad version on VHS, I feel that many who have watched this film in the past, saw a horrid, blurry VHS copy.  And so, I was quite amazed by how gorgeous the film looks in HD.  The contrast of the black and grays of the film is great, the clarity especially during the closeups was well-done and overall, this is the best version of the film I have seen to date.

The Blu-ray+DVD combo also comes with many special features including the 2006 documentary “A Beautiful Vacation” by Fabrizio Corallo and Francesca Molteni on the 90th birthday of Dino Risi.

Overall, Dino Risi’s “Il Sorpasso” is a classic Commedia all’italiana film that captures society during the Italian economic miracle of the 1960′s and features a wonderful performance by Vittorio Gassman and Jean-Luis Trintignant.  A wonderful Blu-ray release with fantastic picture quality and numerous, lengthy special features makes the Criterion Collection’s “Il Sorpasso”, a Blu-ray worth owning!

Highly recommended!

 

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