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

September 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

victim-a

“Victim” is a British crime drama that deals with inner city crime and people who are a victim of poverty, their environment and surrounding. But yet one wants desperately to break the cycle. Featuring a powerful performance by Ashley Chin, “Victim” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Pure Film Productions, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Victim

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 86 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Closed Captions

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: September 9, 2014

Directed by Alex Pillai

Written by Ashley Chin, Michael Kyei, Michael Maris, Adrian Scott

Producer: Jason Maza

Executive Producer: Danny Donnelly

Associate Producer: Justin King, Michael Maris, Mouktar Mohammed

Line Producer: John Adams

Music by Howard Rees

Cinematography by Peter Butler

Edited by Iain Mitchell

Casting by Anna Kennedy

Production Design by Lucy Gahagan

Costume Design by Charlie Jones

Starring:

Ashley Chin as Tyson

Ashley Madekwe as Tia

Jason Maza as Mannie

Anna Nightingale as Davina

Michael Maris as Jason

Letitia Wright as Nyla

Shanika Warren-Markland as Charmaine

Osy Ikhile as Zimma

Tyson (Ashley Chin), an east Londoner in his 20s, looks after his sister by day, and robs luxury flats at night. But his sister s classroom encounters with an inspirational teacher (David Harewood) suggest that even very difficult lives can be turned around. Meanwhile, Tia (Ashley Madekwe), a girl from the other side of the tracks, enters Tyson s life and allows him to glimpse another way of life.

victim-b

From director Alex Pillai (“Midsomer Murders”, “Merlin”) and actor/writer Ashley Chin (“Plastic”, “Starred Up”, “Cherry Tree Lane”) comes the British crime drama “Victim”.

Starring Chin, Ashley Madekwe (“Revenge”, “Cassandra’s Dream”, “Venus”), Jason Maza (“Fish Tank”, “Rise of the Footsoldier”) and Adam Deacon, “Victim” is set in London’s East End.

The film revolves around three friends, Tyson (portrayed by Ashley Chin), Mannie (portrayed by Jason Maza) and Jason (portrayed by Michael Maris), who all live in the inner city and the three try to make their money by robbing from the wealthy.

With the help of their female friend Davina (portrayed by Anna Nightingale) who tries to seduce the men before the guys beat and rob the men.

As Tyson tries to take care of his 15-year-old sister Nyla and raise the family and pay off the gambling debts of his mother and wants to abandon the criminal lifestyle, his life will change when Tia enters his life.

Meanwhile, the pure Tia (portrayed by Ashley Madekwe) who is a country girl from the Home counties comes to stay in London with Davina.  But when Tia’s positivity starts to change Tyson and open his mind of leaving the criminal life, Davina becomes jealous as the Tyson and Tia become closer and now she wants revenge.

VIDEO:

“Victim” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  The film is shot digitally and close-ups show great detail and the overall film boasts clarity.  Overall, “Victim” looks great on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Victim” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  Dialogue is crystal clear as with the musical soundtrack which features wonderful fidelity.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Victim” comes with the following special features “Cast Interviews” (55:08) and the theatrical trailer (1:14) for the film.

victim-d

“Victim” is more or less a crime film that revolves around a man who wants to take care of his family and his only way of making money is a life of crime.

But after meeting Tia, a girl that comes a better upbringing, wealthy family…it opens his eyes of wanting to be a better man.  But is it possible?

“Victim” is more or less not about a film about those on the receiving end of crime but those living in poverty.  Those who try to survive in gangs, those who try to survive by being hard and carrying weapons, those who are so poor that they are close to losing their homes or living with nothing because they have parents who have been destroyed by drugs.  What about these children?  Do they have a chance?

While not a big budget film, writer/actor Ashley Chin does a good job of portraying the role of Tyson, a man caught between a life he wants and a life he was born and raised in.

While there are people who are able to breakaway from poverty and make a live for themselves, can Tyson easily leave that lifestyle?

For the most part, “Victim” is an entertaining film created with good intentions.  While character development was good for Tyson and Ashley Chin’s performance is fantastic, there are some areas of the film dealing with other characters, that are not as effective.  And while the ending was a bit of a surprise and whether or not it is subjective lies within the viewer’s perspective, the film does a good job of giving out a message that is not anywhere near preaching or heavy handed.

But I did enjoy the film and it’s overall story as it does deal with reality without trying to preach to its audience.  There’s no doubt that Ashley Chin went through a lot personal life experiences in order to write this film and helps with the film feeling real.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is good and dialogue and music is crystal clear.  But it’s primarily a dialogue/music driven soundtrack and you also get a few special features which include cast interviews and a theatrical trailer.

Overall, “Victim” is a British crime drama that deals with inner city crime and people who are a victim of poverty, their environment and surrounding.  But yet one wants desperately to break the cycle.

Featuring a powerful performance by Ashley Chin, “Victim” is recommended!

 

 

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season One (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

marvel's agents-s1

“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is an entertaining, thrilling TV series that manages to take on various storyline plots from the big screen and bring it to audiences on television. The characters, the chemistry and the action are all-well done but I’m hoping writers will be able to take some risks and have something new and exciting planned for the second season. An action-packed series that I highly recommend on DVD!

© 2014 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season One

YEAR OF TV SERIES: 2013-2014

DURATION: 22 Episodes (946 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen (1:78:1), English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French

RATED: TV PG

COMPANY:  Marvel

Released Dated: September 9, 2014

Directed by Vincent Misiano, Bobby Roth, Milan Cheylov, Roxann Dawson, Bill Gierhart, David Straiton, Jesse Bochco, Holly Dale, Jonathan Frakes, Josss Whedon, Paul A. Edwards, Kenneth Fink, Kevin Hooks, John Terlesky

Written by Jeffrey Bell, Monica Breen, Daniel J. Doyle, Brent Fletcher, Shalisha Francis, Rafe Judkins, Jack Kirby, Lauren LeFranc, Stan Lee, Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon, Paul Zbyszewski

Produced by Garry A. Brown, Samantha Thomas, Rafe Judkins, Lauren LeFranc

Co-Producer: Chris Cheramie, Shalisha Francis

Executive Producer: Jeffrey Bell, Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Jeph Loeb, Robert Parigi, Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon, Joe Quesada

Co-Executive Producer: Paul Zbyszewski, Monica Breen

Music by Bear McCreary

Cinematography by Feliks Parnell, Jeffrey C. Mygatt, David Boyd

Edited by Paul Trejo, Joshua Charson, Debby Germino, David Crabtree

Casting by Sarah Finn, Tamara Hunter

Series Production by Gregory Melton

Series Art Direction by Roland Rosenkranz, Alex Hajdu

Set Decoration by Melissa M. Levander

Costume Design by Ann Foley, Betsy Heimann

Starring:

Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson

Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May

Brett Dalton as Grant Ward

Chloe Bennet as Skye

Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz

Elizabeth Henstridge as Jemma Simmons

J. August Richards as Mike PEterson

B.J. Britt as Antoine Triplett

David Conrad as Ian Quinn

Bill Paxton as John Garrett

Ruth Negga as Raina

Saffron Burrows as Victoria Hand

Maximiliano Hernandez as Jasper Sitwell

Cullen Douglas as Edison Po

Patton Oswalt as Eric Koenig

The mind-blowing saga that began in Marvel’s The Avengers continues in ABC’s action-packed series, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — The Complete First Season.

In the wake of The Battle of New York, the world has changed forever. An extraordinary landscape of wonders has been revealed! In response, mysteriously resurrected Agent Phil Coulson assembles an elite team of skilled agents and operatives: Melinda May, Grant Ward, Leo Fitz, Jemma Simmons and new recruit/computer hacker Skye. Together, they investigate the new, the strange, and the unknown across the globe, protecting the ordinary from the extraordinary. But every answer unearths even more tantalizing questions that reverberate across the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe: Who is “The Clairvoyant”? What is Hydra’s sinister master plan; what dark secret lies behind Skye’s puzzling origins, and most importantly of all, who can be trusted?

From Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, “Firefly”) comes “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”.

An American TV series airing on ABC, the television series was co-created with Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen and focuses on the organization S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division).

With a second season now in production, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in Sept. 2014.

For fans of the Marvel films “Iron Man”, “The Avengers”, “Thor” and “Captain America”, the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. featuring Director Nick Fury (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson), Maria Hill (portrayed by Cobie Smulders) and Phil Coulson (portrayed by Clark Gregg), there were questions  from fans of Agent Coulson (who died in “The Avengers”) if Marvel would bring him back.

And sure enough, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” features the return of Agent Coulson, who is unaware of his demise during the Battle of New York (when the Avengers fought against the aliens in the film, “The Avengers”) and thinks he went to vacation in Tahiti.

Agent Coulson along with Maria Hill are trying to put together a small team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to handle strange cases, especially those revolving with Project Centipede and its mysterious leader.

Coulson’s group includes Grant Ward (portrayed by Brett Dalton), a S.H.I.E.L.D. black ops specialist; Melinda May (portrayed by Ming-Na Wen) who is known as “The Calvary” and is haunted by her memories of being a field agent; Leo Fitz (portrayed by Iain De Caestecker) who specializes in engineering and weapons technology; Jemma Simmons (portrayed by Elizabeth Henstridge) who specializes in life sciences and works closely with Leo; and civilian computer hacker Skye (portrayed by Chloe Bennet).

And as the group takes on a variety of cases, what happens when they find out that HYDRA has infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D.?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season One” is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen and English 5.1 Dolby Digital. Picture quality on DVD is very good as the series is broken up in five discs. Audio quality is good with clear dialogue. I did not notice any artifacts or any problematic issues during my viewing of the series.  But it’s important to note that if you want the best picture and audio quality available, the Blu-ray release is the way to go!

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season One” comes with the following special features:

DISC 5:

  • Journey Into S.D.C.C.  – (13:13) The cast discuss promoting Marvel’s “The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” at San Diego Comic Con
  • Field Reports – Featuring five field reports (about three minutes long) in regards to the making of various scenes from different episodes.
  • VFX Progressions - Featuring two visual effects progressions and the modeling and compositing that were utiled in the visual effects scenes.
  • Bloopers of S.H.I.E.L.D. - (6:31) Outtakes from the first season of “The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring eight deleted scenes.

As a long time comic book fan and having read many stories that involved Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., and following how the organization has been utilized in animated series and effectively in the Marvel live action films, suffice to say, I was excited about the series.

For one, you have Joss Whedon putting his stamp of approval as he is one of the executive producers of the show.  You have several people from the film making an appearance in the series such as Samuel L. Jackson as Director Nick Fury, Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill and the return of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) who died in “The Avengers” film.

So, there was a lot of excitement built up for the live action series, there was that side of me not knowing what to expect.  While I was familiar with Clark Gregg’s work as Coulson, Ming-Na Wen having appeared in many TV drama series and film, I was not too familiar with the other main characters of the series.

Brett Dalton as Grant Ward, Chloe Bennet (Chinese pop star – Chloe Wang) as Skye, Elizabeth Henstridge as Jemma Simmons and Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz, I was not familiar with these actors but having watched the entire series, one thing you will notice is how the crew gelled.  The chemistry was good, the characters were enjoyable to watch and if anything, they made “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” a series worth paying attention to.

As the series takes place after “The Avengers” film and continues during “Thor: The Dark World” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” ends, we get to see characters from the film and storyline plots make its way to the series.

In episode 6 titled “F.Z.Z.T”, what happens when an alien virus found on a Chitauri helmet savaged from the Battle of New York is found.

In episode 15, the group confronts Lady Sif (portrayed by Jaime Alexander) from the “Thor” films is seeking Lorelei.

And the ongoing storyline left over from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” involving Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. plays a big part in the series.

So, there is consistency with the live action films and if anything, what helps the series is its share of action and the fact that the production quality makes you feel that you are watching a TV series.  Everything about the series meshed well, when it came to the characters, the connections to the films and the various talent who took part in the series.  It made, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” much more enjoyable and exciting.

Was there anything about the series that I had problems with?  Aside from Deathlok being a bit different from its comic book counterpart, the series while entertaining and exciting, does need more to it.  I wouldn’t mind seeing more characters and letting Joss Whedon taking the reigns much more closely to make the series become much better.

There were certainly a good amount of plot twists but I do want to see how perilous life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent really is and that writers are willing to take on a few risks with the characters.

As for the DVD release, it’s important to note that if you want the best picture quality, the Blu-ray version is the way to go.  But as far as the DVD goes, overall DVD quality is very good when it comes to picture quality and sound.  But expect much more vibrant colors, detail and better use of the surround channels on the Blu-ray version.  You also get a few interesting special features, especially the cast visiting San Diego Comic Con, which was great to see!

Overall, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is an entertaining, thrilling TV series that manages to take on various storyline plots from the big screen and bring it to audiences on television. The characters, the chemistry and the action are all-well done but I’m hoping writers will be able to take some risks and have something new and exciting planned for the second season.

An action-packed series that I highly recommend on DVD!

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

capamerica-winter

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is thrilling, action-packed and a damn good superhero film! And for the Blu-ray release, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is one of the better looking and sounding Blu-ray releases in 2014. A reference Blu-ray release that is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Marvel Studios. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 136 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, SUBTITLES: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Marvel/Walt Disney Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: September 9, 2014

Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Screenplay by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Concept and Story by Ed Brubaker

Based on the Comic Book by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Produced by Kevin Feige

Co-Producer: Nate Moore

Executive Producer: Victoria Alonso, Alan Fine, Michael Grillo, Stan Lee

Associate Producer: Mitchell Bell

Music by Henry Jackman

Cinematography by Trent Opaloch

Edited by Jeffrey Ford, Matthew Schmidt

Casting by Sarah Finn

Production designer: Peter Wenham

Art Direction by Steve Christensen, Beat Frutiger, Kevin Ishioka, Gary Kosko, Thomas Valentine

Set Decoration by Leslie A. Pope

Costume Design by Judianna Makovsky

Starring:

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier

Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill

Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow

Maximiliano Hernandez as Jasper Sitwell

Emily VanCamp as Kate/Agent 13

Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter

Toby Jones as Dr. Arnim Zola

Steve Rogers continues his journey as the super-powered American soldier who’s grasping to find his place in a modern world after being frozen in ice since WWII with this Marvel Studios sequel. Chris Evans returns to star, with Community director/producers Joe and Anthony Russo helming.

With the box office success of Marvel films, especially with the 2011 film “Captain America: The First Avenger” (which earned over $370 million in the box office), there was no doubt that another film based on the superhero would be released.

Fastforward to 2014 and the sequel “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was released in spring and the film did magnificent in the box office, making over $714 million.

And now “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” will be released on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD in Sept. 2014.

For those not familiar with “Captain America”, the first film introduced us to Steve Rogers (portrayed by Chris Evans) in 1942.  Steve is a young man who tried to enlist for World War II military recruitment but failed due to health and physical issues.  And his friend Sgt. James “Bucky” Barnes (portrayed by Sebastian Stan) convinces him to keep trying.

As Dr. Abraham Erskine hears their conversation, he gives Steve a chance to enlist by recruiting him into the Scientific Strategic Reserve as part of the “super-soldier” experiment.  As Steve is injected with a top secret serum that only Dr. Erskine knows and dousing him with “Vita-rays”, Steve becomes taller and more muscular.  But an assassin kills the doctor and the secret formula is lost.

During a mission, Steve Rogers crashes into the arctic and he is thought to be dead.  When he reawakens, he finds out that he is not living in the 1940’s but it is present-day New York and that he has been sleeping for nearly 70 years.

He is recruited by Director Nick Fury (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson) of S.H.I.E.L.D. and takes on the persona Captain America.

For the sequel “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, the setting takes place two years after the “Battle of New York” in which the Avengers took on an alien race.

Steve is working with S.H.I.E.L.D. and he is working with Agent Natasha Romanoff (a.k.a. “The Black Widow”, portrayed by Scarlett Johansson) and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s counter-terrorism S.T.R.I.K.E. team to free hostages from a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from Georges Batroc and a group of mercenaries.

Steve learns about Project Insight and how three helicarriers are linked to spy satellites and are designed to eliminate threats.  As Nick becomes suspicious about the project, he goes to S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce (portrayed by Robert Redford) to delay the project.

While Nick goes to meet with Maria Hill, he is attacked while driving and is nearly killed by the assassin called the Winter Soldier.  When Steve returns home, he finds a bloodied Nick Fury who tells him to trust no one and that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised. And he gives him an encrypted flash drive.

While the two are talking, a sniper shoots through Steve Rogers window.  As Steve goes after the fugitive, he comes in contact with the Winter Soldier who manages to escape.

Meanwhile, Nick Fury is taken to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ to undergo surgery and dies and S.H.I.E.L.D. becomes a mess.

Alexander Pierce calls Steve to meet with him and discuss the final conversation he had with Nick Fury but Steve gives Pierce hardly any information.  As Steve is about to leave S.H.I.E.L.D., a group of S.T.R.I.K.E. agents try to kill him, but Steve with the help of Natasha Romanoff, are able to escape  and Pierce has branded Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff as wanted fugitives.

Now Steve, Natasha and with the help of Sam Wilson (a.k.a. The Falcon, portrayed by Anthony Mackie) try to uncover the treachery that has gone on behind the scenes at S.H.I.E.L.D. and who may be responsible.

VIDEO:

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  And once again, another Marvel film that is reference quality with wonderful detail and no picture quality issues at all.

While the colors are not vibrant as the film is intentional but the film looks impressive with its magnificent presentation!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1.  And similar to the magnificent picture quality, the lossless audio are also reference quality.  Crystal clear dialogue, beautiful musical score and with the high amount of action, you get one heck of an immersive soundtrack.  Vehicles, weaponry and with every crashing sound, every gunshot shot, every form of destruction, everything is immersive with surround and rear surround channels being utilized, especially the LFE.  Definitely one of the coolest and most immersive soundtracks I have heard on Blu-ray in 2013, I was very impressed and also didn’t expect anything lower than perfection for this Marvel film.

Subttles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” comes with the following special features:

  • On the Front Line: An Inside Look at Captain America’s Battlegrounds - (10:11) The action and special effects featured in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”.
  • On Set with Anthony Mackie: Cut the Check! – (1:52) A short featurette with Anthony Mackie (who plays the character, Falcon).
  • Steve Rogers’ Notebook - (2:18) What’s in Steve Rogers’ notebook.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes - (3:34) Featuring four deleted/extended scenes with optional audio commentary.
  • Gag Reel – (2:36) Gag reel for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring directors Anthony & Joe Russo and Screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen Mcfeely.

While “Captain America: The First Avenger” was an entertaining action film, you couldn’t help that with the success of “Thor”, “The Avengers” and the “Iron Man” films, that Captain America would receive a wonderful storyline to go along with the awesome visual effects.

For me, all I cared for was an entertaining storyline after the major introductions have been made and hopes that the film would be as successful and entertaining as the other Marvel films post-2012.

And for the most part, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was much better than I expected.

Having read the comic books, the fact is that as long as I have read the Captain America comic books, the way Marvel has used Bucky Barnes in the past, was not the greatest storyline and if anything, the storylines played off like Batman and Robin, in this case, Captain America and Bucky.

But after doing some research about today’s current Marvel Comics, the Winter Soldier has been an integral character, a violent character and one that no one wants to mess with.

And sure enough, seeing Sgt. Barnes transformed into this killing machine was rather interesting but also to see the incorporation of characters such as Natasha Romanoff, Nick Fury, Maria Hill and the newest and coolest character, the Falcon was pretty awesome to see.  But for long time Marvel fans, to see the criminal organization Hydra make its move!

As one can expect from a Marvel action film, the film is eye candy when it comes to visual effects.  Many things blow up, many forms of destruction can be found in this film and the action was non-stop that surprisingly, there is a storyline that is not hidden and easy to follow.

S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised, Nick Fury is dead and Captain America must team up with the Black Widow with the help of the Falcon to get into the bottom of things and find out who this Winter Soldier is.

And if you didn’t leave during the credits at the movie theater, you will want to make sure you watch what happens during the mid-credits and what happens after the credits are done as the film transitions to an appearance of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.

But this is a much better film than the first.  There is so much happening in this film, so many characters and the film definitely sets up for a highly anticipated sequel to “The Avengers” and also for a third Captain America film.

The chemistry between Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson is fantastic, the inclusion of Anthony Mackie as the Falcon is awesome and Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders is a must for Marvel films and Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter/Agent 13 is also another fantastic addition (despite her screentime being a bit short).  It was also interesting to see Robert Redford play an antagonist.  Also, to see the Frank Grillo as the character Brock Rumow (a.k.a. in the comics as “Crossbones”) and Sebastian Stan return as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier.

With that being said, because of the many characters, for those who have never followed the comic books and the characters, may feel lost.  But because of the film’s action-heavy storyline, I do feel the film is accessible and I enjoyed the more modern feel of the film and nothing too cheesy.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is one of the highlights of Blu-ray releases in 2014.  This is a reference Blu-ray release in terms of picture quality and lossless audio.  Picture quality is fantastic, lossless audio is amazingly immersive and you feel every boom and because of its chaotic action sequences that keep coming at you, audiophiles will no doubt be in glee over its awesome soundtrack.  There are a good number of special features included as well.

Just remember that if you have a 3D enabled receiver, Blu-ray player and television, there is a Blu-ray 3D version of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” also available.

Overall, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is thrilling, action-packed and a damn good superhero film! And for the Blu-ray release, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is one of the better looking and sounding Blu-ray releases in 2014.

A reference Blu-ray release that is highly recommended!

 

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

September 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

14blades

“14 Blades” is an action film that many Donnie Yen fans have waited for a release in the United States.  A film that is more about the action than a focus on its characters or storyline, if you love Chinese action films with excessive wirework, “14 Blades” is a film that will no doubt entertain you.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Anchor Bay Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: 14 Blades

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2010

DURATION: 113 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Anchor Bay Entertainment

RATED: R (Violence and Bloody Images)

Release Date: September 2, 2014

Directed by Daniel Lee

Original Story by Daniel Lee

Written by Daniel Lee, Abe Kwong, Tin Shu Make, Ho Leung Lau

Produced by Xiang Dong, Zhang He-Yun, Zhang Hong, Si Jian-Jun, Zhao Ping, Xu Ping-An, Wang Qi-Shun, Tianyun Wang, Cui Xiao-Wen

Executive Producer: Wang Fang, Jun Gao, Zhiyuan Liu, Xubqin Long, Wang Mao-Liang, Huang Qun-Fei, Zhong-lun Ren, Susanna Tsang, Zhanliang Wang, Tian Xiao-Ying

Associate Producer: Wen Xia Fu, Abe Kwong, Fan Yan-Mei, Jing Ye

Co-Producer: Grace Tang Yi-Lin

Music by Henry Lai

Cinematography by Tony Cheung

Edited by Ka-Fai Cheung, Man To Tang

Production Designer: Raymond Kwok, Daniel Lee

Art Direction by Cyrus Ho, Raymond Kwok, Daniel Lee

Costume Design by Petra Kwok, Ji-qing Li, Kwan Kit Mok, Ming-ha Wong

Starring:

Donnie Yen as General Qinlong

Wei Zhao as Qiao Hua

Chun Wu as Judge of the Desert

Kate Tsui as Tuo Tuo

Yuwu Qi as Xuan Wu

Ma Wu as Qiao Yun

Kar-Ying Law as Jia Jingzhong

Xiang Dong Xu as Xiahou

Chen Zhi Hui as Bai Hu

Sammo Hung Kam-Bo as Prince Qing

Damin Lau as Zhao Shenyan

Qinglong (Action icon Donnie Yen) is a legendary royal guard trained in a clandestine form of combat from childhood in order to devote his life and lethal prowess to the service of the Emperor. When the Imperial Court is taken over by an evil traitor, Jia (Law Kar-Ying), and betrayal lurks at every corner, Qinglong finds himself hunted by those he once trusted. Now as the most wanted man in the land, he must seek out and rally the loyalists to rise against Jia and restore the Emperor to his rightful place!

For Donnie Yen fans, many have waited for his 2010 martial arts film “14 Blades” to receive distribution in the United States.

Directed by Daniel Lee (“Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon”, “White Vengeance”, “Black Mask” and starring popular actor Donnie Yen (“Ip Man”, “Hero”, “Iceman”) and actress/singer Wei Zhao (“Shaolin Soccer”, “Red Cliff”, “Mulan: A Rise of a Warrior”), Anchor Bay has released “14 Blades” on Blu-ray and DVD.

“14 Blades” begins with introducing viewers of what is taking place during the late Ming Dynasty as the Imperial court is besieged with corruption.  To help become the eyes and punishers of the emperor, the imperial military secret police known as Jinyiwei was created.

Street orphans were trained under a strict totalitarian regime and the Jinyiwei overruled judicial proceedings in prosecutions and can arrest, interrogate and punish anyone, including royalty and the relatives of royalty.  So, they were feared.

Among the Jinyiwei, one person that is deemed the top of the guard receives the name Qinlong and are granted a special weapon known as the “14 blades”.  Eight which are marked for interrogation, six used for execution.

The film begins with the introduction to Prince Qing (portrayed by Sammo Hung) and how he had his legs cutoff for trying to revolt against his uncle (the emperor). And his final order is to have his adoptive daughter and assassin, Tuo Tuo (portrayed by Kate Tsui) steal a seal.

Meanwhile, the current Qinglong (portrayed by Donnie Yen) and several members of the Jinyiwei are summoned to reclaim a box under the supposed secret orders of the Emperor from Imperial Councilor Zhao Shenyan, who is accused of trying to revolt against the kingdom.

As Qinglong and his men try to take the imperial seal from the Imperial Councilor, Zhao Shenyan tells him that he would never let the seal get in the hands of someone corrupt.

Immediately, they are attacked and Qinlong’s men are killed by an unknown assailant.

Qinlong watches as two of his men are taken captive and are to be tortured by one of their own, Commander Xuan Wu (portrayed by Yuwu Qi), who has been working with corrupt officials.

Realizing that he has been used by the corrupt officials, he manages to escape by seeking shelter with Qiao Hua (portrayed by Wei Zhao) and her father, paying them if they can escort him to the border, as he is being accused for the crimes against the Jinyiwei.

Meanwhile, the Jinyiwei led by Commander Xuan Wu are sent to kill Qinlong and the assassin Tuo Tuo is also after him for the seal.

Knowing that there is nothing but peril that lies ahead, Qinlong must ensure the seal gets into the hands of the Emperor. But will he succeed?

VIDEO:

“14 Blades” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  It’s important to note that this film was released back in 2010 and the film is quite sharp.  Closeups show amazing detail, especially the face of Qinlong and other characters but there are moments of halo-ing, but the overall picture quality appears to have been sharpened intentionally to give the film it’s own look and style.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“14 Blades” is presented in Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with subtitles in English SDH and Spanish.

The lossless soundtrack benefits from its action scenes.  While dialogue and music is crystal clear, there are a lot of special effects and sound effects that go hand-in-hand from blades clanging or being shot through a person’s body, boulders crashing, fist fights (or chicken bone hitting its mark) and more.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“14 Blades” does not come with any special features.

 

When it comes to Chinese cinema, there are not many films that touch upon the “jinyiwei” and while “14 Blades” has its moment of fictional fight scenes and weaponry, the film is quite fascinating and also exciting as an action film.

You have two of the top stars from China, Donnie Yen and Wei Zhao are very popular and considering they are the headlining cast, ensured the film had many audiences coming out to see the film.  Both have great chemistry when they are onscreen together but this is a film more about the action and less about a cohesive storyline.

Having done well at the box office in China and Hong Kong, while receiving positive reviews in Asia, the action scenes are furious, the fight scenes are entertaining but the film relies more on its action and thus becomes more of a popcorn action film with an entertaining storyline that never becomes too deep.

While action fans in America clamoring for more Donnie Yen or action films from China/Hong Kong in general, “14 Blades” is a film that will no doubt entertain action fans, but for those looking for anything deeper in storyline may feel the film is overly banal, too long and a film that tries to incorporate too much for its own good.

As for the Blu-ray release, the film does showcase amazing detail on Blu-ray but the film is sharp, while its lossless soundtrack is no doubt active, there are no special features included.

Overall, “14 Blades” is an action film that many Donnie Yen fans have waited for a release in the United States.  A film that is more about the action than a focus on its characters or storyline, if you love Chinese action films with excessive wirework, “14 Blades” is a film that will no doubt entertain you.

Godzilla 2000 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

godzilla2000

“Godzilla 2000″ may not be the best Godzilla  film ever made, but it was an important film because it was literally a reboot of the long running “Godzilla” series.  The film kicked of the Millennium Arc for a new generation of Godzilla fans at the time.   While the film has its fair share of campiness, it’s still a lot of fun and the battle between Godzilla vs. Orga is worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 1999 Toho Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Godzilla 2000

TELEFILM RELEASE: 1999

DURATION: 107 Minutes (Japanese version), 99 Minutes (English Version)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 and 2:40:1 aspect ratio), Japanese and English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Monster Violence and Mild Language)

Release Date: September 9, 2014

Directed by Takao Okawara

Written by Hiroshi Kashiwabara, Wataru Mimura

US Version is written by Michael Schlesinger

Executive Producer: Shogo Tomiyama

Producer (US): Michael Schlesinger

Music by Takayuki Hattori

Cinematography by Katsuhiro Kato

Edited by Yoshiyuki Okuhara

Casting by Tadao Tanaka

Production Design by Takeshi Shimizu

Starring:

Takehiro Murata as Prof. Yuji Shinoda

Hiroshi Abe as Mitsuo Katagiri

Naomi Nishida as Yuki Ichinose

Mayu Suzuki as Io Shinoda

Shiro Sano as Prof. Shiro Miyasaka

Get ready to crumble! The king of all monsters is back and bigger than ever! The action heats up when a UFO reveals itself as a massive alien monster with awesome destructive powers. The alien monster heads straight for the behemoth GODZILLA(r) who’s just crushed the entire city for the battle of theillennium. But GODZILLA(r)’s furious heat beam may not be enough to destroy the death-dealing alien, and the future of humankind is in jeopardy. Now, it’s a bang-up, threeway, no-holds-barred brawl as GODZILLA(r), the alien monster and the courageous citizens of Japan fight an unprecedented battle for survival in this earth-shattering new sci-fi action adventure that will blow you away.

In 1999, the 23rd Godzilla film “Godzilla 2000″ was released in theaters.

Directed by Takao Okawara and written by Hiroshi Kashiwabara and Wataru Mimura, the film is a reboot of the series and a film regarded as the first of the “Millennium” arc.

With three versions of the film released which included a 107-minute Japanese version of the film, a U.S. English dub and a dub created in Hong Kong, with the release of “Godzilla 2000″ on Blu-ray, included is both the Japanese and the U.S. English dub version of the film.

“Godzilla 2000″ takes place during a time when the Godzilla Prediction Network (GPN) have been trying to study Godzilla and predict when it comes to the land.  Meanwhile, scientists of the Crisis Control Intelligence (CCI) are investigating a meteorite in the middle of the ocean.

As CCI are doing their research, the meteorite immediately moves on its own and flies out of the ocean towards the sky.

As GPN founder, Yuji Shinoda (portrayed by Takehiro Murata) and writer Yuki Ichinose (portrayed by Naomi Nishida) go to investigate the UFO, the dangerous threat brings Godzilla back to Japan.  But the Japanese Self Defense Forces go on the attack against Godzilla, meanwhile the UFO starts observing Godzilla and begins attacking.

This leads to a battle between Godzilla and the UFO and for Yuji, he feels that he knows how Godzilla can regenerate his powers.

While Yuji does his research, Mitsuo Katagiri of CCI leads an assault on both the UFO and Godzilla.  And it is learned that the UFO wants to invade Earth and its purpose is to study and steal Godzilla’s regenerative powers and reform itself to a Millenian but because Earth’s atmosphere is different, it changes to the terrifying monster known as Orga.

Which leads to a major battle between Godzilla vs. Orga.

NOTE: The U.S. English dub version is the same story but shorter by eight minutes and the dialogue utilizes more comedy in its dialogue.

VIDEO:

“Godzilla 2000″ is presented in 1080p High definition.  “Godzilla 2000″ does look better than its DVD counterpart and when it focuses on the actual characters, picture quality is good.  But when it tries to go into the visual effects, you will notice scenes with more artifacts more, especially with the scene shot inside a viewing room.  Of course, the graphics were early CG, so the UFO is not the greatest in quality and is a bit outdated.   But fortunately, the majority of the film does look much better than the original DVD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Godzilla 2000″ is presented in Japanese and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  While the Japanese

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Godzilla 2000″ comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Producer/Writer Michael Schlesinger and Crew - Audio commentary for the English version of the film.
  • Behind the Scenes – (2:12) Behind the Scenes on the making of the UFO scene, Godzilla scenes and more.
  • Original Trailer - (1:15) The original theatrical trailer for “Godzilla 2000″.

EXTRAS:

“Godzilla 2000″ comes with an Ultraviolet code which allows viewing the film in HD on PC’s, tablets and cell phones.

When it comes to Godzilla films, “Godzilla 2000 Millennium” was to be the new beginning of the series and upon release, the film met with mixed results in Japan.

Touted for its special effects and a more serious storyline, the film brought happiness to those who waited for a new Godzilla film, a new suit and a new enemy.

But as farfetched as the enemies of Godzilla has come to be, an enemy created by a UFO that has been stuck in the ocean for millions of years is really a bit much, but as Godzilla has always been about the battles and often a cheesy dialogue, the Japanese version tried to have a serious message and tone.

Meanwhile, for the U.S. English dub, “Godzilla 2000″ was about bringing in more humor to the film while  trimming down non-essential scenes and make the film flow much better.

For me, I always prefer watching films in their original language but personally, I felt that the editing of the U.S. dubbed version and its humorous storyline took things back as far as the ’70s Godzilla titles.  Godzilla kicking butt but its fair share of comedy and drama.  It’s what people remember most of the film series, which has since changed since the release of the big budget Hollywood film in 2014.

There is no doubt that “Godzilla” has improved with age and while I’m always going to be biased towards the original film, the truth is that I found myself enjoying “Godzilla” films for what they are…good or bad.  What I want to see is Godzilla taking on new enemies and in this case, you see Godzilla being defeated but getting prepared for its final battle vs. Orga.

The new Godzilla suit for the film at that time, looked fantastic and Orga looked like a fascinating enemy for Godzilla and while the battles were fun to watch, especially moreso during that time, the hype surrounded the return of Godzilla.  Watching it again many years later and it was more campier than I previously remembered it to be.

The Blu-ray release features very good picture quality most of the time, while there are a few scenes that look very ugly with artifacts but that is a very short scene and this ugliness is not seen that many times at all. You get a fascinating audio commentary on the English dub and a few other special features included on the Blu-ray as well.

But most importantly, you get both Japanese and English dub versions of the film included on one Blu-ray disc!

Overall, “Godzilla 2000″ may not be the best Godzilla film ever made, but it was an important film because it was literally a reboot of the long running “Godzilla” series.  The film kicked of the Millennium Arc for a new generation of Godzilla fans at the time.   While the film has its fair share of campiness, it’s still a lot of fun and the battle between Godzilla vs. Orga is worth watching!

Moms’ Night Out (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

mno-a

“Moms’ Night Out” is a fun Christian comedy with a positive message for mothers.  Featuring a well-known cast, the film is entertaining, fun and worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Night Out, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Moms’ Night Out

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Mild Thematic Elements and Some Action)

Release Date: September 2, 2014

Directed by Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin

Written by Jon Erwin, Andrea Gyertson Nasfell

Produced by Kevin Downes, Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin, Elizabeth Hatcher-Travis, David A.R. White, Russell Wolfe

Executive Producer: Patricia Heaton, David Hunt, Dave Alan Johnson

Associate Producer: Joshua Walsh

Line Producer: Daryl C. Lefever

Music by Marc Fantini, Stefan Fantini

Cinematography by Kristopher Kimlin

Edited by Andrew Erwin, Jonathan Olive

Casting by Beverly Holloway

Production Designer:  Mark Garner

Art Direction by John Tegethoff

Set Decoration by Sallie Sabatini

Costume Design by Anna Redmon

Starring:

Sarah Drew as Allyson

Sean Astin as Sean

Patricia Heaton as Sondra

Trace Adkins as bones

David Hunt by Cabbie

Andrea Logan White as Izzy

Harry Shum Jr. as Joey

Abbie Cobb as Bridget

Robert Amaya as Marco

Kevin Downes as Kevin

Alex Kendrick as Pastor Ray

Sammi Hanratty as Zoe

Michael Leone as Brandon

Shiloh Nelson as Bailey

Brett Rice as Sergeant Murphy

Rhoda Griffis as Glenda

Anjelah Johnson-Reyes as Hostess

All Allyson and her friends want is a peaceful, grown-up evening of dinner and conversation… a long-needed moms’ night out. But in order to enjoy high heels, adult conversation and food not served in a paper bag, they need their husbands to watch the kids for three hours—what could go wrong?

From Affirm Films comes the Christian-based comedy “Moms’ Night Out”, directed by directorial duo Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin (both directed “October Baby” and “The Mysterious Islands”).

The film stars Sarah Drew (“Grey’s Anatomy”, “Everwood”, “Radio”), Sean Astin (“The Goonies”, “The Lord of the Rings” films), Patricia Heaton (“Everybody Loves Raymond”, “The Middle”, “Beethoven”), country singer Trace Adkins, Andrea Logan White (“Sarah’s Choice”, “Brother White”), Harry Shum Jr. (“Glee”, “Step Up 2: The Streets”), Abbie Cobb (“StarStruck”, “Good Luck Charlie”, “90210”), Robert Amaya (“Courageous”, “October Baby”), Kevin Downes (“Courageous”, “The Moment After”) and Alex Kendrick (“Courageous”, “Facing the Giants”).

“Moms’ Night Out” will be released on Blu-ray in Sept. 2014.

The film revolves around busy mother and mommy blogger Allyson (portrayed by Sarah Drew) who wants to have the perfect family life and to be the perfect mother.

But the stress of being a mother is difficult for Allyson as she feels overworked and stressed.

Allyson’s friends include Sondra (portrayed by Patricia Heaton), the wife of the local pastor and Izzy (portrayed by Andrea Logan White).

As Allyson starts to realize that trying to push herself as a mother is becoming exhausting and making her unhappy, her friends are in similar situations.

Sondra and her husband are dedicated to the church but are too busy for their teenage daughter, while Izzy who has two twins with her husband Marco, is not sure how her husband will react to her pregnancy.

In order to have a break from it all, Allyson wants to have one day away from the children, so she decides to have a “Moms’ Night Out” with Sondra and Izzy, and leaving her and Izzy’s children with Sean (portrayed by Sean Astin).  But Allyson is a bit freaked out that Sean’s video game buddy is coming by and she doesn’t trust him being around the children because he’s a hardcore gamer.

Meanwhile, his step-sister Bridget (portrayed by Abbie Cobb) is starting a new job and is hoping for Allyson to take care of her son Phoenix, but instead decides to leave her son with her ex-boyfriend.

As Allyson, Sondra and Izzy plan to have an exciting night, will Allyson’s planning for a “perfect” night work out as she expected?

VIDEO:

“Moms’ Night Out” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality features great detail for closeups, skin tones look natural and fort he most part, picture quality is well-saturated.  I did not notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Moms’ Night Out” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital and a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.  This comedy is primarily dialogue-driven and sounds crystal clear through the center and front channel.

While the film is primarily a all-dialogue soundtrack, there are moments where music is well-utilized from Psy’s “Gangnam Style” to other contemporary music plus there are some action scene moments (such as a chase scene) that utilizes the surround channels, but primarily the soundtrack is dialogue-driven.

Subttles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Moms’ Night Out” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Directors Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin and Producer Kevin Downes 
  • Deleted Scenes – (2:55) Featuring five deleted scenes.
  • The Heart of Moms’ Night Out - (3:55) The cast and crew discuss why they were drawn to make this film.
  • Casting of Moms’ Night Out – (6:20) How the cast was selected for “Moms’ Night Out”.
  • The Art of Improv – (4:46) How improv was utilized in “Moms’ Night Out”.
  • The Art of Action – (5:10) The chase scene for “Moms’ Night Out”.
  • Bloopers – (5:36) Outtaks from “Moms’ Night Out”.

EXTRAS:

“Moms’ Night Out” comes with an Ultraviolet code which allows viewing the film in HD on PC’s, tablets and cell phones.

mno-b

As a husband and also a Christian, I found “Moms’ Night Out” to be an entertaining film with a message that doesn’t overly preach but it takes on a topic that isn’t explored in films all that much.

And that is the role of the mother.

Sure, there are films and even television shows that explore the mother’s connection with a child and the parental duties of a mother.  But rarely do you see films that features the wife needing a break from the parenting but needing time off to hang out with friends.

I know in my marriage, the ability to take breaks away from family is important and I know many women who are similar to the protagonist Allyson.  They try very hard to be a perfect mother, dedicating themselves 100% to being a mother, but what happens when the person needs that break and for some, one find ways to accomplish that.  From hanging out with friends, some take jobs, hiring a nanny or babysitter, having that break to achieve clarity is important.

But with Allyson, she represents many mothers who are unhappy because they feel their lives after having children is being cooped up in a house and are unable to have that necessary break.

“Moms’ Night Out” gives us three mothers with different issues.  Allyson trying to be perfect mother, Sondra trying to be a perfect wife and Izzy expecting another child and not sure how her stressed-out husband will react.

So, there is a positive message in this film that deals with motherhood and I know women, mothers and wives can sympathize with the characters, while men/husband/fathers, should understand.

I admit that I was surprised about the cast of this film.  Affirmed Films has really done a great job in bringing in well-known talent for Christian films.  There has been a long standing criticism towards the quality of Christian films, from the casting of unknown talent, to the overly preaching message which some critics felt was overly forced.

But with “Moms’ Night Out”, the message is easy to understand and not shoved in your face.  The talent are well-known from Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, Trace Adkins and others being part of the film. The working chemistry between Sarah Drew and Sean Astin was fantastic.

And for those who are familiar with the Christian film “Courageous”, will be thrilled to see a few members of the cast reunited for this film.

And while there are a number of positives that work with the film, unfortunately the quality of the storyline starts to go south a bit.  Granted, seeing mothers going to a bowling alley with “Gangnam Style” blasting in the background or seeing them in jail, just seems a bit farfetched.  Especially the drastic measures that the husbands must go through during the night.  While sometimes hilarious, sometimes certain plot lines make you want to roll your eyes and leaving you with an impression that writers could have done much better.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good.  Colors are well-saturated and detail is also noticeable.  Lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue and musically driven, but there are some moments with surround usage due to the action scenes.  And you get an audio commentary track with a few special features.

Overall, “Moms’ Night Out” is a fun Christian comedy with a positive message for mothers.  Featuring a well-known cast, the film is entertaining, fun and worth checking out!

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

August 31, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

theworldwars

“The World Wars” is not an in-depth analysis on both World Wars but it is an accessible, simplified and captivating miniseries that does a great job of introducing to people to the key figures of both World Wars and a few things that transpired during the 30-years.  Captivating and entertaining, “The World Wars” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014 A&E Television Networks. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The World Wars

YEAR OF FILM: 2014

DURATION: 270 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 Aspect Ratio, English DTS-HD MA, Spanish and English SDH

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RELEASE DATE: September 9, 2014

Directed by John Ealer

Written by Chelsea Coates, Randy Counsman, Zachary Herrmann, Claire Lawton, Alec Michod, Keith Palmer, Frederick Rendina, Jordan Rosenblum, David Schaye, David C. White

Produced by Randy Counsman, Brian Burstein

Co-Producer: Alec Michod, Jonathan Soule

Executive Producer: Stephen David, Paul Cabana, Russell McCarroll, Christian Murphy

Co-Executive Producer: Tim W. Kelly

Cinematography by Roger Chingirian

Edited by Mike Alfin, Tim W. Kelly, John Kilgour, Brian McAllister, Jonathan Soule

Casting by Erica Arvold, Donny DeSeta, Kevin Kuffa, Brian Burstein

Production Design by Hugh D.G. Moody

Art Direction by Carmen Cardenas

Set Decoration by Kathleen Pullan

Costume Design by Sarah Beers

Starring:

Jeremy Renner – Narrator

Kevin McKillip as Young FDR

David Mitchum Brown as Harry S. Truman

C. Conrady Cady as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Don Hartman as General George Patton

Matt Dearman as Young Patton

Hugh Scully as Adolph Hitler

Maximilian Klas as Young Hitler

Don Meehan as Charles DeGaulle

Michael Perrie Jr. as Young DeGaulle

Jacopo Rampini as Young Stalin

Nabil Vinas as Young Mussolini

Daniel Martin Berkey as The Elder General Douglas MacArthur

Prescott Hathaway as Young MacArthur

Tom Vickers as Young Churchill

Ian Beyts as Winston Churchill

Jonathan Hartman as Benito Mussolini

John Major

John McCain

Mario Monti

Leon Panetta

Colin Powell

Adolf Hitler. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Benito Mussolini. Winston Churchill. Charles de Gaulle. George Patton. Before they were the giants of WWII, they were infantrymen and privates in WWI, the “war to end all wars.” The World Wars from HISTORY® and H2™ brings you the story of the devastating three decades of 20th-century world war through the eyes of the men whose characters were forged in the trenches before they commanded a world on the brink of disaster. See how, from Ypres and the Somme to the Battle of the Bulge and the invasion of Normandy, the iconic figures of WWII became synonymous with either battlefield glory or murderous fascism.

One must regard these 30 years of strife in Europe as part of one story…one story of a 30 yearswar. – Winston Churchill

On July 1914, the First World War began.

During this time, a young Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler were young men, who would one day become leaders for their countries during World War II which ended in September 1945.

What connection do these men and others have between both World Wars?  And how did the First World War shape these men?

These are questions that is answered in “The World Wars”, a three-part six hour event miniseries which aired on the History Channel on Memorial Day and viewed by 13 million viewers and later viewed by audiences in 160 countries.

Produced by Stephen David Entertainment (who produced the Emmy Award winning miniseries, “The Men Who Built America”), the miniseries was narrated by actor Jeremy Renner (“The Avengers”, “The Hurt Locker”, “The Bourne Legacy”) and would feature dramatic reenactments, archived footage and interviews with historians, authors and prominent political figures such as U.S. Senator John McCain, former U.S. General and Secretary of State Colin Powell, former British Prime Minister John Major, former Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and many more.

The series showcases the younger version of Roosevelt, Churchill, Hitler, Stalin, Patton, McArthur and others during World War I and shows us how these men were shaped into the men they became during World War II.

VIDEO:

“The World Wars” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  The mini-series is presented in HD and mixes modern dramatic re-enactments, footage from archived news sources and also older films, plus modern digital footage for interviews.

So, you can expect a mix of quality differences for this mini-series but for the most part, “The World Wars” looks fantastic.  There are moments which I saw some artifacts and banding but for the most part, the entire mini-series looks great.  Skin tones look natural, closeups showcase detail, use of CG to show people dying in war is often used and may not look too realistic but it does work.

Overall, solid picture quality for this miniseries.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “The World Wars” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  I was quite surprised by this mini-series as I expected it to be focused on the center and front channels and would be primarily dialogue driven, but surprisingly, there are moments of surround channel usage and LFE.  So, you can hear bombs going out in a distance, you can hear crowds of soldiers in the background.

Dialogue and its musical soundtrack are crystal clear and overall, a very good lossless soundtrack for this miniseries.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The World Wars” comes with the following special features:

  • Characters InDepth - (25:40) An in-depth look at Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Harry Truman, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Adolf Hitler by Amy Woodson-Boulton (Professor of History at Loyola Marymount University), former NBC news correspondent Tom Brokaw, Joshua Goode (Asst. Prof. of History and Cultural Studies at Claremont Graduate University) and more.
  • WWI: One Word – (2:30) Former military personnel, historians, professors and authors on their thoughts of World War I.
  • Tech Developments of WWI – (3:03) Former military personnel, historians, professors and authors on their thoughts on the technology utilized in World War I and use of open warfare.
  • Life in a Trench - (3:16) Former military personnel, historians, professors and authors on their thoughts of life in a trench.
  • The US in WWI – (3:32) Former military personnel, historians, professors and authors on their thoughts of the United States involvement in World War I.
  • Did WWI Lead to WWII? – (2:20) Former military personnel, historians, professors and authors on their thoughts about if World War I led to World War II.
  • Legacy of WWI – (2:31) Former military personnel, historians, professors and authors on their thoughts on the legacy of World War I.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring three deleted scenes.

EXTRAS:

“The World Wars” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and an UltraViolet code to watch your films on your PC, laptop, tablet or cell phone.

While I missed the original television premiere of “The World Wars” and hearing my wife tell me how wonderful the miniseries was, I was so thrilled to know that Lionsgate would be releasing it on Blu-ray.

And after watching the miniseries and being captivated for the last two days by its wonderful writing and re-enactments, I learned a lot about World War I, which I never knew before, but nor am I one wanting to be an erudite on both World Wars.

So, for those wanting something simplified on the involvement of key figures of both World Wars, then “The World Wars” will surely entertain you.  Otherwise, for those who are knowledgeable and want to learn more about the war, the strategies employed, the people involved, there are many documentaries and books out there that will no doubt satisfy you.

But “The World Wars” is for the most part entertainment and the aim of the miniseries is not just to educate but primarily to entertain.  From the earlier years of Winston Churchill and how his career was nearly destroyed during World War I, Adolph Hitler and how he nearly was killed twice and how one soldier could have killed Adolph Hitler and changed the course of history if he took the shot, Patton’s use of a machine gun to fight Mexico leading him to lead a tank battalion and many more.

I absolutely loved this miniseries because not only did it feature smart writing, wonderful presentation and acting for its reenactment segments but how it incorporates historians, educators, political and military figures to shed their thoughts on various parts of the war.

I never knew about the strategies that were employed during the war and there were a lot of things that I never knew, such as Patton’s slapping of a shell-shocked U.S. soldier which grounded him or even General Douglas MacArthur and how he was originally defeated in the Philippines.

Having had a grandfather who fought during World War II as a Philippine soldier and being given the opportunity to work and retire in the U.S. Navy, I have had two grandfathers who discussed World War II and always instilled in our heads of the greatness of General MacArthur and what he did for the Filipino people.

But watching and seeing how these men were during World War I, when they were younger but also knowing that while the war was over in World War I, there was still growing tension as many people from different countries were still suffering economically.  And each country wanted had their own agenda in the war.

And considering the tensions with Russia and forming the uneasy alliance with Joseph Stalin, just knowing the tension of a new world tyrant and how it could have led to a new World War is quite shocking.

As for the reenactments, of course, everyone is speaking in English and some actors are better than others.  What would have been nice to see is a longer miniseries than the three parts.  There is no doubt that “The World Wars” could have been extended for another six or more hours but for all that the writers and editors had to work with and getting so much into the six hours, I felt the series was entertaining and didn’t seem too rushed.

But I do know that those knowledgeable about the war especially with the original uniforms, weapons and tanks will be critical of the re-enactment scenes.

Yes, there are other documentaries on both World Wars that have aired on the History channel (or PBS) alone that are more thorough, but I found “The World Wars” to be much more simplified and accessible for everyone because it didn’t seem too cerebral, nor technical.  The presentation was overall entertaining and captivating, but it’s great for those who are not interested in getting to deep and just wants a shortened version of what happened during both World Wars and the key figures involved or lived during the time of  both wars.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality for the miniseries is great.  Granted, there are many different sources utilized but for the most part, the miniseries looked great on HD and the lossless soundtrack was much better than I was expecting.  And you also get several fascinating special features as well.

While I don’t envy writers who have to compile 30-years of war, tensions between countries and many situations into a 6-hour miniseries, I do feel that the miniseries turned out much better than I expected.  Sure, the miniseries has its flaws and I’m sure historians and war erudites can pick apart the miniseries, but for me, from what I watched, I was entertained and felt that the series may spark interest in the young and old to research, watch and read more about both World Wars.

Overall, “The World Wars” is not an in-depth analysis on both World Wars but it is an accessible, simplified and captivating miniseries that does a great job of introducing to people to the key figures of both World Wars and a few things that transpired during the 30-years.  Captivating and entertaining, “The World Wars” is recommended!

L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

loveinthecity

Fans of Italian cinema or Italian Neo-Realism will enjoy “L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)”.  While only one film from this project was created, “L’Amore in Citta” is a fascinating time stamp of Italian culture in the 1950’s and one of the more enjoyable “love” anthologies to feature multiple filmmakers.  Entertaining and recommended!

Images courtesy of © Rarovideo 2014. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)

FILM RELEASE: 1953

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 4:3 Letterbox, Italian Linear PCM Dual Mono, Subtitles in English

COMPANY: Raro Video

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2014

Directed by

Michelangelo Antonioni (segment “Tentato suicido”)

Federico Fellini (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Alberto Lattuada (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Carlo Lizzani (segment “Amore che si paga, L'”)

Francesco Maselli (segment “Storia di Caterina”)

Dino Risi (segment “Paradiso per 3 ore”)

Cesare Zavattini (segment “Storia di Caterina”)

Written by

Michelangelo Antonioni (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Aldo Buzzi (segments “Tentato suicidio”, “Gli Italiani si voltano”, “Amore che si paga, L'”, “Paradiso per 4 ore”)

Luigi Chiarini (segments “Tentato suicidio”, “Gli Italiani si voltano”, “Amore che si paga, L'”)

Federico Fellini (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Marco Ferreri (segment “Paradiso per 4 ore”)

Alberto Lattuada (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Luigi Malerba (segments “Tentato suicidio”, “Gli Italiani si voltano”, “Amore che si paga, L'”, “Paradiso per 4 ore”)

Tullio Pinelli (segments “Tentato suicidio”, “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”, “Italiani si voltano, Gli”, “Amore che si paga, L'”, “Paradiso per 4 ore”)

Dino Risi (segment “Amore che si paga, L'”), (story) (segment “Paradiso per 4 ore”)

Vittorio Veltroni (segments “Tentato suicidio”, “Gli Italiani si voltano”, “Amore che si paga, L'”, “Paradiso per 4 ore”)

Cesare Zavattini (segments “Tentato suicidio”, “Gli Italiani si voltano”, “Storia di Caterina”, “Amore che si paga, L'”, “Paradiso per 4 ore”)

Produced by Marco Ferreri, Riccardo Ghione

Associate Producer: Cesare Zavattini

Music by Mario Nascimbene

Cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo

Edited by Eraldo Da Roma

Production Design by Gianni Polidori

Starring:

Rita Josa (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Rosanna Carta (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Enrico Pelliccia (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Donatella Marrosu (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Paolo Pacetti (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Nella Bertuccioni (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Lilia Nardi (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Lena Rossi (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Maria Nobili (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Antonio Cifariello – Giornalista (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Livia Venturini (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Maresa Gallo (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Angela Pierro (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Rita Andreana (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Lia Natali (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Cristina Grado (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Ilario Malaschini (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Sue Ellen Blake (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Silvio Lillo (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Caterina Rigoglioso (segment “Storia di Caterina”)

Mara Berni (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Valeria Moriconi (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Giovanna Ralli (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Ugo Tognazzi (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Patrizia Lari (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Raimondo Vianello (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Edda Evangelista (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Liana Poggiali (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Marisa Valenti (segment “Gli Italiani si voltano”)

Maria Pia Trepaoli (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Marco Ferreri (segment “Gli Italiani si voltano”)

Mario Bonotti (segment “Gli Italiani si voltano”)

Seven top Italian filmmakers pooled their talents on the omnibus “reality” feature Amore in Citta Love in the City. The film is divided into six separate episodes; the first of these, “Paid Love,” is a straightforward study of prostitution written and directed by Carlo Lizzani. In the second, Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Attempted Suicide,” several would-be suicides discuss the reasons for their despair. Dino Risi’s “Paradise for Four Hours” is a humorous glance at a provincial dance hall. Federico Fellini’s “Marriage Agency” finds an investigative reporter posing as a husband-to-be. Cesara Zavattini and Umberto Maselli’s “Story of Caterina” dramatizes the true story of a young unwed mother. And “Italians Stare,” written and directed by Alberto Lattuada, illustrates the various “girl-watching” techniques of Italian males. Among the actors participating in the six vignettes are Ugo Tognazzi, Maressa Gallo, and Caterina Riogoglioso. Originally intended as the first installment in a “movie magazine” titled “The Spectator,” Amore in Citta was released at 110 minutes; most American prints are bereft of the opening “Paid Love” segment.

In 1953, filmmaker Cesare Zavattini wanted to create a film project to capture reality.

The original plan was to create a six-monthly film journal titled “Lo Spettatore” (The Spector) and kick off with the first project titled “L’Amore in Citta” (Love in the City).

Produced by Zavattini, Riccardo Ghione and Marco Ferreri, the film did poorly and Zavattini’s project ended.

But decades later, for cinema fans, “L’Amore in Citta” is one of those rare Italian neo-realism films that would bring together various filmmakers for six short vignettes on various aspects of love and sex.  What Zavattini wanted to accomplish was to get different (young) filmmakers at the time, who brought different perspectives for his project.

The film would feature the work of Carlo Lizzani, Michelangelo Antonioni, Dino Risi, Federico Fellini, Francesco Maselli and Cesare Zavattini and Alberto Lattuada.

And now, “L’Amore in Citta” (Love in the City) has been released on Blu-ray courtesy of Raro Video.

“L’Amore in Citta” kicks off with an eleven minute short film by director Carlo Lizzani showcasing different types of love in Italian society.  The following 22-minute short film titled “Attempted Suicide” is directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and revolves around various women who fell in love and had their hearts broken and thus, tried to kill themselves.

The 12-minute short film titled “Paradise for Three Hours” and is directed by Dino Risi about men and women who meet at the dance halls and members of both opposite sex wanting to have fun with each other by dancing and possibly having a relationship and seeing how the various sexes respond during those three hours.

“Marriage Agency” directed by Federico Fellini is a 16-minute film revolves around a journalist trying to find an underground marriage agency and wants to know why people would use such a service.  So, he invents a story in order to meet one of the women who wants to get married with someone anonymous and find out why.

The longest film in “L’Amore in Citta” goes to Francesco Maselli and Cesare Zavattini’s film titled “Story of Caterina” and revolves around a single mother and her child.  The mother is doing all she can to make money by becoming a prostitute or whatever she can to take care of her young son.  But how far will this mother go, when she decides that taking care of her son is too difficult.

The final film titled “Italians Turn Their Heads” is a 14-minute film that requires no dialogue but showcasing beautiful actresses: Valeria Moriconi, Giovanna Ralli, Patrizia Ralli and various women walking through crowds and seeing many men turning their heads to see their legs or derriere.

VIDEO:

“L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)” is presented in 1080p High Definition (black and white, 4:3). While there are traces of some white specks, the film looks great.

According to Raro Video, “the scene negatives and inflammable soundtrack conserved at Studio Cine where they were processed in 2001 were made avaialble for restoration by the owners, Studio Canal Image and Minerva International Group, while the project was funded with a contribution from the Municipality of Rome.  As well as problems deriving from breakage and interpolations which interrupt the narrative, a whole section of the scene negatives – the final part of Antonioni’s episode – was also damaged, probably erased by the censors.  Nevertheless, a check-print and a lavender were printed and thus a dupe negative was created, while a vintage lavender, made available by Minerva International Group, was used to reintegrate the gaps in the original.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)” is presented in Italian linear PCM dual mono with English subtitles. Dialogue is clear via center channel. I didn’t notice any hiss, crackling or pops during my viewing of the film.

According to Raro Video, “the sound was transcribed onto a digital support from a safety dupe soundtrack conserved at the National Film Library and then re-transcribed onto a new photographic negative at Cinecitta Studios.  Two positive copies were thus printed from the new negative soundtrack and the restored dupe”.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by: Gabrielle Lucantonio (introduction), Carlo Lizzani (Love for Money), Guido Chiesa (Attempted Suicide), Mimmo Calopresti (Paradise for Three Hours), Silvano Agosti (Marriage Agency), Francesco Maselli (Story of Caterina) and Mario Brenta (Italian Turns Their Heads).
  • Interview with Paolo Mereghetti – (13:12) Film critic Paolo Mereghetti discusses “L’Amore in Citta”.
  • Interview with Luca Bandirale – (23:39) Film critic Luca Bandirale talks about the music compositions of “L’Amore in Citta”.
  • Interview with Angelo Pasquini – (15:04) Screenwriter Angelo Pasquini discusses “L’Amore in Citta”.
  • Trailer – (3:10) Theatrical trailer for “L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)”.

EXTRAS:

“L’Amore in Citta” comes with an 20-page booklet featuring “Young Directors Mature” by Gabrielle Lucantonio, “Notes on the Restoration of the Film” and “According to Cesare Zavattini”. A slip cover is also included.

As a cinema fan of Italian Neo-Realism, “L’Amore in Citta” was a fascinating and bold project for Cesare Zavattini and his fellow filmmakers.

To create a cinematic “issue” and giving free reign to the filmmakers to create whatever they want, but in the grounds that there is no pay but they would be responsible for their own expenses.  In some ways, some may cringe at the idea of doing pro bono type work and incurring expenses but the fact is these men were friends, they were filmmakers and they banded together to create such a film.

“L’Amore in Citta” unfortunately was not a success but what we have is a collaborative film project, a staple of time from older Italy and a film that cineaste can observe the various cinematic styles, the different perspectives of Italian society in the early 1950’s and enjoy or be nostalgic of the past.

As the film focuses on various types of “love”, as we have seen in recent films such as “Paris, Je T’aime” or “Heroes in Love” which also featured various filmmakers create short films about love, “L’Amore in Citta” is a film that captures early ’50s Italian society with efficacy.

A look at prostitution post-war in “Love for Money” by Carlo Lizzani, people who claim they tried to kill themselves due to love or failed love in Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Attempted Suicide” or where everyone goes to hook up – the dance hall as featured in “Paradise for Three Hours” by Dino Risi.

According to Risi, at the time of the filming, he focused on young housemaids who only had a few hours on Sunday off and for fun and entertainment, all they had were the dance houses.

But it’s the next three films that captivated me.

Federico Fellini’s “Marriage Agency” about a journalist trying to uncover why men and women are getting hitched through an underground marriage agency, which has been since superseded in cinema about people marrying under the table for citizenship, the next film “Story of Caterine” by Francesco Maselli and Cesare Zavattini is the heaviest of the three films in terms of plot as it deals with a poor woman, a single mother with a young boy who is unable to raise him like she wants to and is torn by keeping him or leaving him to ensure a better life for him.  And of course, the storyline of a love between a mother and her child is a fitting storyline for the film.

But what’s interesting is the final story of the film, which is the most lighthearted of them all, is “Italians Turn Their Heads” by filmmaker Alberto Lattuada.  While Lattuada filmed behind a minibus with black curtains, he captured the real reactions of people walking by beautiful women as they checked out the women’s rear and their legs.  While it’s a combination of real footage mixed with footage that was planned, both are able to co-exist in a natural and amusing manner.

But these are all stories that I found quite effective, while others worked much better than others, all were rather fascinating pieces of Italian life.  I have to admit that the one that I was most disappointed in was Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Attempted Suicides”.  Even Antonioni felt that two cases were real, while others seemed contrived and fake.  I have to agree.  Some of the individuals do not seem genuine and in turn, made his portion of the film seemed unnatural.

The most surprising is the “Story of Caterine”.  Granted, Francesco Maselli and Cesare Zavattini used a real actress in Caterina Rigoglioso but still, the point was capturing a mother’s connection to her child and the desperation of the character, it’s an emotional scene that anyone watching the film can understand and sympathize with.    It does go against the Neo-Realism of utilizing professional actors vs. non professional actors but he needed emotion, he needed desperation and Caterina Rigoglioso delivered.

As for the Blu-ray release, “L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)” is a magnificent release.  The restored film looks fantastic on Blu-ray and the soundtrack is clear with no significant hissing or crackling.  You also get audio commentary along with interviews.

Overall, fans of Italian cinema or Italian Neo-Realism will enjoy “L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)”.  While only one film from this project was created, “L’Amore in Citta” is a fascinating time stamp of Italian culture in the 1950’s and one of the more enjoyable “love” anthologies to feature multiple filmmakers.  Entertaining and recommended!

anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

anohana-eiga-1

Emotional, uplifting, tragic but also a film of hope,  “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is an animated film that will captivate you and a Blu-ray release that I highly recommend!

Image courtesy of © ANOHANA PROJECT. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese Linear PCM 2.0, Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 CH, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: July 15, 2014

Director: Tatsuyuki Nagai

Screenplay: Mari Okada

Storyboard: Tatsuyuki Nagai

United Director: Shinobu Yoshioka

Music by REMEDIOS

Character Design: Masayoshi Tanaka

Art Director: Tsutomu Ishigaki

Art by Takayoshi Fukushima

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Kayano as Meiko “Menma” Honma

Haruka Tomatsu as Naruko “Anaru” Anjō

Miyu Irino as Jinta “Jintan” Yadomi

Saori Hayami as Chiriko “Tsuruko” Tsurumi

Takahiro Sakurai as Atsumu “Yukiatsu” Matsuyuki

Takayuki Kondou as Tetsudō “Poppo” Hisakawa

Aki Toyosaki as Tetsudō (child)

Asami Seto as Atsumu (child)

Mutsumi Tamura as Jinta (child)

Jintan, Menma, Anaru, Yukiatsu, Tsuruko, and Poppo – six grade-school students who were the best of friends. As the “Super Peace Busters,” they always played together at their “secret base” until Menma died in a tragic accident.

Five years later, Menma appeared before Jintan, now a high school freshman. No one could see her but Jintan, and Menma told him that she wanted the Super Peace Busters to grant her a certain wish. But not even Menma herself remembered what that wish was.

Having been traumatized by Menma’s death, the five had drifted apart, but after giving vent to their bottled-up feelings in an emotionally-charged moment, they gradually went back to being the “gang” of years past. And then Menma said goodbye, leaving letters to everyone of the Super Peace Busters.

One year later – once again, they gather at their secret base, each of them with a letter to Menma in hand.

It was one of the saddest anime series to debut back in 2011, the series “Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai” or “Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day” debuted on television.

An 11-episode series produced by A-1 pictures and directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai (“My-HiME”, “A Certain Scientific Railgun”) and written by Mari Okada (“AKB0048″, “Vampire Knight”, “Black Rock Shooter”, “Black Butler”), the series revolves around six childhood friends that drifted apart after one of them dies in an accident.

Jinta “Jintan” Yadomi is the main protagonist and as a kid, he was very close to Meiko “Menma” Honma

Together with their friends (which they are known as the “Super Peace Busters”) included Naruko “Anaru” Anjo (who had a crush on Jinta), Atsumu “Yukiatsu” Matsuyuki (who likes Menma and looked at Jinta as his rival for Menma’s feelings), Chiriko “Tsuruko” Tsurumi (has feelings towards Asumu) and Tetsudo “Poppo” Hisakawa (always looked at Jinta as “cool”).

On the day before “Menma” died, everyone wanted to know if Jinta loved Menma but being a child and embarrassed, he said he would never fall for someone like her.  Embarrassed, he ran away.  But when she tried to find him, by the time he went to look for her an apologize, it was too late.  She slipped and fell into a river and drowned.

Fast forward into the future and Jinta has become depressed and anti-social after the death of his mother and Menma.  But when Menma reappears as a ghost, at first he thinks it’s his stress manifesting, but when he starts to realize that she has returned, Jinta slowly reunites with his old friends to tell him about his visions of Menma.

Of course, not everyone believes him, as he is the only person that can see her.  But some fans give him the benefit of the doubt and Poppo believes that she may be stuck on Earth because she has a goal that she must reach or a wish that she must fulfill.  But as Menma hears this, she is not sure about her thoughts nor does she remember much.

But as these friends slowly reunite, we learn that not only does Jinta feel guilty about Menma’s death, each of them do for some sort of reason.

And a the eleven episodes delves into each character’s life in the present, they also share with each other their thoughts and the pain they have felt all these years and in many ways, allowing each to receive some type of closure in regards to Menma’s death but giving them the chance to say their final goodbye and vice-versa.

With the film adaptation of “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie”, the film does its best to condense all eleven episodes down to a 99 minute film with new footage to showcase how the characters are doing since their experience (seen in episode 11 of the TV series) with helping out Jinta but also showing flashbacks from those episodes to make up one emotional story.

VIDEO:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is a film that looks gorgeous.  While character designs are shaded, the background art is well-detailed and for the most part, you are drawn with the many cut-scenes and flashbacks but the lush green and vibrant colors instantly grab you.  I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues,

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is presented in Japanese Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  This is primarily a dialogue-driven soundtrack, so one should not expect to hear a lot coming from the lossless soundtrack.  If anything, the surround channels are more about environment and ambiance.  There is no English dub included.

Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” comes with the following special features:

  • TV Spot & Trailers
  • Announcement- (2:32) Film announcement
  • TextlessOpening (Special O.A. Version)

EXTRAS:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” comes with the awesome Aniplex Inc. swag that you expect from the company.  Included is a musical soundtrack which include the following tracks:

  1. Aoi Shiroi 5:39 Galileo Galilei
  2. The Next Morning 1:03 REMEDIOS
  3. Beautiful Seasons With You 4:06 REMEDIOS
  4. Thin Moonlight – Thin As Ice 2:04 REMEDIOS
  5. Secret Feelings – Hidden Feelings of Love 2:52 REMEDIOS
  6. Sink – Frozen Memories 1:35 REMEDIOS
  7. All About her Death – It Has To Do With Her Not Being Here 1:29 REMEDIOS
  8. My Star… – Steady As A Star 4:31 REMEDIOS
  9. Guitar Afternoon – Lazy Afternoons 2:31 REMEDIOS
  10. Secret Feelings – Tender 2:02 REMEDIOS
  11. Before It Gets Dark – While the Sun Sets 1:27 REMEDIOS
  12. I Left You – Did I Leave You 1:58 REMEDIOS
  13. Dynamic Sunset – Words I Heard in the Silent Dawn 1:40 REMEDIOS
  14. Lost Childhood – Wondering About 1:44 REMEDIOS
  15. Dear Love – My Sweet and Most Dearest Love 2:12 REMEDIOS
  16. Sounds Inside The House 1:53 REMEDIOS
  17. Still… – Follow you Still… 1:21 REMEDIOS
  18. On A Silent Afternoon – Childhood Marks On the Wall 2:03 REMEDIOS
  19. Going Crazy Over You – Going Crazy Over Her 3:19 REMEDIOS
  20. I Left You – I’m Here To Make You Cry 6:49 REMEDIOS
  21. Leaving The Ceremony 2:11 REMEDIOS
  22. Not As Friends – Can We Make It Not As Friends 5:40 REMEDIOS
  23. Last Train Home – Twinkle Train Take Us Home 2:47 REMEDIOS
  24. secret base – Kimi ga kureta mono (10 years after Ver.) 5:53 Meiko Homa, Naruko Anjo and Chiriko Tsurumi
  25. When It All Comes To An End 1:25 REMEDIOS
  26. Epilogue… From Time to Time 3:34 REMEDIOS
  27. Circle Game 4:43 Galileo Galilei

Also, include is a slipcover artbox illustrated by character designer Masayoshi Tanaka, a 20-page booklet, four memorial postcards and a double-sided Menma poster.   Also, included is a Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.

Emotional, uplifting, tragic but also a film of hope,  “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is an animated film that will captivate you!

Once in awhile, with a lot of action-driven anime films or films that are deep, hilarious and dramatic, once in awhile, you will run into a film that makes you laugh, makes you cry but most of all, makes you feel happy that you watched it because you enjoyed it so much.

“anohana” was an animated series that was one of the saddest anime series to come out in 2013 but one that made you watch because like all childhood friends, everyone drifts apart.  But in the case of these friends, it was because one friend’s tragic death, everyone had went on their separate ways.

Some harboring guilt or feelings about their friend, Menma’s death that they have kept in their heart for so long.

And now as these young children have grown up to be young adults, they are brought together once again, because of their deceased friend.  A friend who has shown up for some reason and only Jinta can see her.

The film is about child innocence but also holding on to emotions that were kept inside but never said.  The film has a message of letting people know how much you care about them before it’s too late.  And while most people don’t get the opportunity to tell that person how they truly feel, what if you were given that final chance.

I often think about films such as “Ghost” (the classic romantic drama with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore), where the film’s protagonist is murdered and comes back as a ghost and needing to fix things in order to go back to heaven.  With “anohana”, Menma is somewhat a ghost but one that can be seen by Jinta and also one that is unaware of why she was brought back and not knowing if she would disappear if she was able to make a wish come true.  She doesn’t know.

Of course, Jinta seeing the deceased Menma is hard to believe for some individuals until Jinta shares details that only they and Menma knows about.  And to see everyone coming together, but also having these unresolved feelings… it makes for a dramatic and emotional film.

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is more or less an extension of the film.  Like any animated film that tries to condense many episodes of story into one animated film, the fact is that you lose a lot of details, a lot of story and some key emotional moments that made the series so wonderful.

But what you do get is extra footage of the characters in the present time but also connecting the dots to the original series with new scenes that will no doubt make fans appreciative of the new scenes, no matter how heartbreaking or sad those scenes are.  If anything, it was great to see how each individual handles Menma’s return but also dealing with these unresolved emotions they have kept inside.

As for the Blu-ray release of “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie”, the picture quality is vibrant, the character design is well done and the background art is fantastic!  While the lossless soundtrack is more dialogue-driven with ambiance played through the surround channels.

While special features are not as many in this release, Aniplex makes up in swag.  You get a 20-page booklet, a musical soundtrack, memorial postcards and a double-sided poster plus an illustrated slipcase.

Overall, “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is a film that manages to carry on the emotional storyline from the 11-episode TV series to an animated film.  While an extension of the series, one who has not seen the film will easily laugh and cry by its storyline and possibly lead them into watching the entire series.

Emotional, uplifting, tragic but also a film of hope,  “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is an animated film that will captivate you and a Blu-ray release that I highly recommend!

 

Only Lovers Left Alive (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” is a non-mainstream vampire film that is fantastic, wonderfully acted, smart and fresh! For those who have grown tired of the banal mainstream vampire film, “Only Lovers Left Alive” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Wrongway Inc. and Recorded Picture Company Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Only Lovers Left Alive

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 123 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (For Language and Brief Nudity)

Release Date: August 19, 2014

Written and Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Produced by Reinhard Brundig, Jeremy Thomas

Co-Producer: Carter Logan, Marco Mehlitz, Gian-Piero Ringel, Christine Strobl

Executive Producer: Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Stacey E. Smith

Associate Producer: Viola Fugen, Alainee Kent, Richard Mansell

Music by Carter Logan, Jozef van Wissem

Cinematography by Yorick Le Saux

Edited by Affonso Goncalves

Casting by Ellen Lewis

Production designer: Marco Bittner Rosser

Art Direction by Anja Fromm, Anu Schwartz

Set Decoration by Christiane Krumwiede, Selina van den Brink

Costume Design by Bina Daigeler

Starring:

Tilda Swinton as Eve

Tom Hiddleston as Adam

Anton Yelchin as Ian

Mia Wasikowska as Ava

John Hurt as Marlowe

Jeffrey Wright as Dr. Watson

Slimane Dazi as Bilal

The tale of two fragile and sensitive vampires, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), who have been lovers for centuries. Both are cultured intellectuals with an all-embracing passion for music, literature and science, who have evolved to a level where they no longer kill for sustenance, but still retain their innate wildness. Their love story has endured several centuries but their debauched idyll is threatened by the uninvited arrival of Eve’s carefree little sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) who hasn’t yet learned to tame her wilder instincts. Driven by sensual photography, trance-like music, and droll humor, Jim Jarmusch’s ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE is a meditation on art, science, and the mysteries of everlasting love.

Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (“Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai”, “Broken Flowers”, “Down by Law”) returns with a British-German vampire film known as “Only Lovers Left Alive”.

A film that was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and received positive reviews from film critics, “Only Lovers Left Alive” will now be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Only Lovers Left Alive” stars Tom Hiddleston as Adam, a vampire who has lived his long life helping many famous musicians and scientists but since then, has become a reclusive vampire (and a popular, working musician) that feels that humanity is doomed.   And the only person he is in contact with is a rock-obsessed young ma named Ian (portrayed by Anton Yelchin).

Still living in the past and living in a neighborhood in Detroit, he survives on the blood given to him by Dr. Watson.  But now, Adam has grown depressed and is contemplating suicide.  He wants to shoot himself with a wooden bullet but when he gets a call from his wife Eve (portrayed by Tilda Swinton), Eve can tell how depressed Adam has been.

Living in Tangier and living through the blood from a vampire known as Christopher Marlowe (portrayed by John Hurt).  Sensing his pain, Eve goes to Detroit to be with him and enjoy each other’s company.

But as the two share their time together, their peace and love is shattered by the arrival of Eve’s younger sister Ava (portrayed by Mia Wasikowska).

VIDEO:

“Only Lovers Left Alive” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality for the film is fantastic, despite being shot primarily outdoors.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Only Lovers Left Alive” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue driven.

Subttles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Only Lovers Left Alive” comes with the following special features:

  • Traveling at Night with Jim Jarmusch- (49:18) A featurette on the making of “Only Lovers Left Alive”, behind-the-scenes making of the film.
  • Yasmine Hamdan “Hal” Music Video – (4:48)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes - (26:18) Several deleted scenes from “Only Lovers Left Alive”.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:19) The theatrical trailer for “Only Lovers Left Alive”.

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You can leave it to filmmaker Jim Jarmusch to go the other direction of vampire film banality and create something unique and fresh.

The filmmaker is not trying to reinvent the way vampires are seen in film, nor is he trying to create a film that would satisfy teens or their mothers.  “Only Lovers Left Alive” is a vampire film that was made for the cineaste who rather stay away from mainstream vampire films and want something very smart, yet entertaining.

The story of two old vampires that want to live as hip and stylish despite the drudgery of humanity, these vampires also have problems.

Quality blood is becoming hard to come by and when you lose your source of blood and have avoided killing humans for blood, what are you left to do?

But this film goes farther than the problems that vampires are facing but about a married vampire couple named Adam and Eve but living far from each other.

Adam is a musician living in Detroit who has lived many lifetimes but still loves taking part in making music with rare and expensive guitars.  He depends on Ian to find him his musical instruments and complains of how humanity has become zombies and drives him crazy that people have moved towards digital (and watching music performers on YouTube).

Meanwhile, Eve lives in Tangier and depends on her aging handler Christopher Marlowe, a man who wrote Shakespeare’s plays and not thrilled that he never received credit for his work.

And these two vampires love the finer things in life.  They live quite well, appreciate creativity and would not feast on humans because they don’t know where their blood has come from.

But as Adam has lived a long time, humanity has really made him depressed about the world and he wants to take his life.  So, Eve leaves her home of Tangier to travel to Detroit and visit her husband.

In many ways, this is a fascinating drama because they are people who have lived through the best times of the world and see how humanity has changed so much to the point that they question the world and what has happened to humanity.

It’s a film that doesn’t try to be happy, nor does it try to be anything different.  Real world problems affecting a vampire couple who lived a lifetime of creativity, meeting talented individuals and now seeing human decline.  And for Adam, as a man who treasures music, seeing music today is severely bumming him out.  It’s not a horror film, by no means is this a love film like “Twilight”.

If anything, the film is quite elegant and both Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddlestone are fantastic.  The production and costume design is gorgeous, the film is creative and fresh and once again, another magnificent film in the oeuvre of filmmaker Jim Jarmusch.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is great but it doesn’t try to be vibrant, it’s a moody film, shot indoors primarily and the scenes are well-lit and artistic.  The lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue driven with scenes with music incorporated.  And you get a few special features including a fascinating making of the film, so you can see how Jarmusch approached the film with his two talents.

Overall, Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” is a non-mainstream vampire film that is fantastic, wonderfully acted, smart and fresh!

For those who have grown tired of the banal mainstream vampire film, “Only Lovers Left Alive” is highly recommended!

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