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Death Race 2050 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I think it’s great to have a Roger Corman “Death Race” sequel.  A film that maintains elements of the original film.  While the political message resides in each character, “Death Race 2050” is a dark comedy that may not be for everyone.  But for those who enjoyed the original and love Roger Corman B-films, may enjoy G.J. Echternkamp’s “Death Race 2050”.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Death Race 2050

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 1 Hr. and 33 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (1:78:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Espanol and French DTS Digital Surround 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, Espanol and Francais

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: January 17, 2017


Directed by G.J. Echternkamp

Written by G.J. Echternkamp, Matt Yamashita

Produced by Roger Corman

Executive Producer: Julie Corman

Edited by G.J. Echternkamp

Casting by Jan Glaser


Starring:

Manu Bennett as Frankenstein

Malcolm McDowell as Chairman

Marci Miller as Annie Sullivan

Burt Grinstead as Jed Perfectus

Folake Olowofoyeku as Minerva Jefferson

Anessa Ramsey as Tammy

Yancy Butler as Alexis Hamilton

Charlie Farrell as JB

Shanna Olson as Grace Tickle

D.C. Douglas as the voice of Abe

Sebastian Llosa as Steve

Emilio Montero as Pablo Zapata


Legendary filmmaking icon, Roger Corman, is back with his most outrageous film yet in this sensational, action-packed and darkly humorous reboot of the original Death Race 2000! It’s the year 2050 and America is controlled by an all-powerful corporate government ruled by The Chairman (Malcolm McDowell). The masses have been brainwashed with violent virtual-reality entertainment. The event of the year is the Death Race, in which a motley crew of violent drivers compete in a cross-country road race, scoring points for shamelessly running people over and driving each other off the road. The reigning champion and fan favorite, Frankenstein (Manu Bennett), who’s half-man half-machine, wants to take the crown, but his rebel spy co-pilot threatens his legacy.


In 1975, the cult political satire action film “Death Race 2000” directed by Paul Bartel and starring David Carradine, Simone Griffeth and Sylvester Stallone would become a cult film that would entertain generations decade after decade.

A screenplay based on a short story “The Racer” by lb Melchior, the “Death Race” franchise would feature “Death Race”, “Death Race 2″” and “Death Race 3: Inferno”.

While the 2008 remake and sequels were more of an action-packed storylines revolving around the battle of the “Death Race” and the collapse of the economy, the original 1975 was more outlandish but focused on the sport and an agency trying to put an end to the immorality of the death race.

With the release of the 2017 film “Death Race 2050”, the film is considered by producer Roger Corman to be the sequel to the 1975 film.  Wanting to bring back the dark satire and political commentary.

Directed by G.J. Echternkamp (“Hard Candy”, “Frank and Cindy”, “A Necessary Death”) and co-written with Matt Yamashita (“Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda”, “Virtually Heroes”, “Captain Fork”), “Death Race 2050” stars Manu Bennet (“The Hobbit” films, “30 Days of Night”), Malcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”, “Easy A”), Marci Mller (“American Fable”, “Days of Our Lives”), Burt Grinstead (“Eat with Me”, “Written By”), Folake Olowfoyeku (“Modern Family”, “Westworld”), Anessa Ramsey (“The Signal”, “YellowBrickRoad”, “Footloose”).

The film is a direct-to-video film and will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

“Death Race 2050” takes place in a time in which America is still in turmoil and the USA has become a giant corporate conglomerate overseen by the The Chairman (portrayed by Malcolm McDowell).

The people have been brainwashed with virtual reality entertainment and the highly anticipated event that everyone is awaiting for is the Death Race, a cross-country road race in which competitors earn points by running over pedestrians and driving each other off the road.

The legendary racer, Frankenstein (now played by Manu Bennett) is still the man to beat and the half-man, half-machine wants to win again, but he is very suspicious about his co-driver Annie Sullivan (portrayed by Marci Miller).

Meanwhile, the duo face opposition against egotistical and sexually ambiguous Jed Perfectus (portrayed by Burt Grinstead); the angry at White people, Minerva Jefferson (portrayed by Folake Olowofoyeku); a killing self-driving car known as Abe (voiced by D.C. Douglas); the religious fanatic of Saint Elvis Presley named Tammy (portrayed by Anessa Ramsey) and others.

Who will win the Death Race?


VIDEO:

“Death Race 2050” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail,  There is a slight use of cool look for the film but overall picture quality is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Death Race 2050” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Espanol and Francais DTS Digital Surround 5.1.   Featuring crystal clear dialogue and music, the film also has a lot of action, so there is good utilization of the surround channels for the various explosions to car/motorcycle revving heard throughout the film.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Espanol and Francais.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Death Race 2050” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050 – (10:16) Roger Corman and the cast discuss the film.
  • The Look of 2050 – (6:22) A featurette about shooting the film in South America.
  • Cars! Cars! Cars! – (4:33) A featurette about the cars utilized for the film and how each has a unique representation of the characters that drive them.
  • Cast Car Tours – (8:30) The cast member showcases their character’s cars.
  • Deleted Scenes – (5:31) Featuring ten deleted scenes (without the post-production CG).

EXTRAS:

“Death Race 2050” comes with a slipcover, DVD and UltraViolet code.


Roger Corman, the legendary B-movie producer, hit a nerve when he created the 1975 film “Death Parade 2000”.

A film that poked fun on the politics of the era, Corman had felt that the recent “Death Parade” films have strayed far from the original, becoming action-packed films without the political commentary and dark satire.

And so, Corman wanted to create a sequel when an Italian journalist interviewed Corman and talked to him about how “The Hunger Games” was similar to Corman’s original film.  And sure enough, “Death Race 2050” was made.

The film was created before the 2016 Presidential Election and so the film, which is wild, crazy and audacious, Corman put a lot of thought into his characters.  While The Chairman is somewhat of a poke at our new United States President, reading interviews, Corman’s characters for “Death Race 2050” somewhat mirrors situations in today’s world.

Tammy is a character who is a religious fanatic dedicated to Saint Elvis Presley and those who follow the religion will do anything to make sure her vision through violence is carried out.  Tammy is no doubt a character that exhibits terrorist fundamentalism.

Abe, the self-driving car is rather interesting because of the emergence of self-driving cars.  While talking cars have been around as seen in “Knight Rider” and “The Love Bug”, the self-driving car going rogue is no doubt a dig at today’s technological leaning towards self-driving cars.

While the film was made in 2016 and the newer “Death Race” films utilizing technology and violent weaponry, “Death Race 2050” would not be a Corman film without it’s B-film style (with so-so acting) and a combining of old technology with modern technology.

While “Death Race 2000” was no doubt a sci-fi film of its time with fascinating use of violence with political commentary and dark satire, “Death Race 2050” is all over the place.

Being a B-movie, CG explosions look fake, body parts look fake but this is part of what one tends to expect from a Roger Corman film.  Making films with a low budget and making do with what you have.

And whether or not one enjoys the film, it’s all subjective.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good and lossless audio features a good balance of crystal clear dialogue and a rockin’ soundtrack plus a good use of surround use through the film’s action sequences.  And insightful special features on the making of the film and the utilization of the vehicles for the film.

But while the original Roger Corman “Death Race 2000” will be remembered for being audacious and fresh for its time to become a cult favorite.  But there are so many parody films that have come out in the past 40-years and the times have surely changed.  Not just the politics, the economics but also the social aspect but also how political messages are delivered in cinema.

Overall, “Death Race 2050” is audacious, crazy and funny and I enjoyed its poke on today’s modern society.  If anything, the film is an escape from reality.  And one should not watch this film expecting it to be like any of the previous “Death Race” films released in recent years or they may be disappointed.

Overall, I think it’s great to have a Roger Corman “Death Race” sequel.  A film that maintains elements of the original film.  While the political message resides in each character, “Death Race 2050” is a dark comedy that may not be for everyone.  But for those who enjoyed the original and love Roger Corman B-films, may enjoy G.J. Echternkamp’s “Death Race 2050”.

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Pinocchio: The Signature Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Pinocchio: The Signature Collection” is the definitive version of “Pinocchio” on Blu-ray to own!  A timeless classic, “Pinocchio: The Signature Collection” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Pinocchio: The Signature Collection

YEAR OF FILM: 1940

DURATION: 88 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080P High Definition 1:33:1, 1080p High Definition, English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (DTS-HDHR), Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: G

RELEASE DATE: January 31, 2017


Supervising Director: Bill Roberts, Ben Sharpsteen

Sequence director: Norman Ferguson, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney

Produced by Walt Disney

Music by Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith


Featuring the Voices of:

Mel Blank (voice of Cleo, Figaro and Gideon)

Cliff Edwards (voice of Jiminy Cricket)

Dickie Jones (voice of Alexander, Pinocchio)

Christian Rub (voice of Gepetto)

Walter Catlett (voice of Honest John)

Frankie Darro (voice of Lampwick)

Charles Judels (voice of The Coachman/Stromboili)

Evelyn Venable (voice of the Blue Fairy)


Now a part of the celebrated Walt Disney Signature Collection, the timeless story of PINOCCHIO inspires a new generation with its masterful animation, award-winning music, unforgettable characters and exclusive, all-new behind-the-scenes Bonus Extras! With his faithful friend Jiminy Cricket by his side, Pinocchio embarks on fantastic adventures that test his bravery, loyalty and honesty until he triumphs in his quest for his heart’s desire: to become a real boy.


A timeless classic that has been entertaining audiences for over 75 years, Walt Disney’s “Pinocchio” receives the Signature Collection Treatment on Blu-ray.

Released back in 1940 and is a animated musical fantasy film based on the Italian children’s novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi.  The film is also the second animated feature produced by Disney after their successful release of the 1937 animated film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.

The film was a box office success as the two million dollar film would go on to make over $84 million.

“Pinocchio” begins with a wood carving puppet maker named Gepetto (voiced by Christian Rub) creating a wooden puppet of a boy which he names Pinocchio. Living with Gepetto is his pet cat Figaro and his goldfish Cleo but for Gepetto, he dreams that his Pinocchio can come to life.

Meanwhile, a cricket named Jimini Cricket (voiced by Cliff Edwards) stays at Gepetto’s place and watches as the Blue Fairy comes during the night and grants Gepetto’s wish and makes Pinocchio come to life.

Of course, Pinocchio (voiced by Richard Jones) is not to knowledgeable of how people live and what is right and what is wrong but the Blue Fairy chooses Jimini Cricket to become his consciousness and to help steer him to make decisions that are good. And if Pinocchio can prove that he can learn to be good and unselfish, he can become a real boy and Jimini Cricket can get the gold badge that he has desired.

When Gepetto awakes and discovers that his puppet has come alive, Gepetto is overjoyed and surprised that his dream has come true. Very quick to get Pinocchio ready for his new life, Pinocchio’s first goal is to go to school.

But unfortunately, Pinocchio befriends to con men (or animals) J Worthington Foulfellow (voiced by Walter Catlett) and Gideo the cat (voiced by Mel Blanc) who pretend to help Pinocchio and pretend to be his friend and lead him to a different path, despite warnings from Jiminy Cricket.

Pinocchio learns the hard way that not everyone he meets are good people but most of all, he learns a hard lesson about making good and bad choices, lying and eventually, having to make the right choices to save himself from harm.


VIDEO:

So, far the Walt Disney Blu-ray disc animated (as well as theatrical) releases are among the best in picture and audio quality.

“Pinocchio” (1940) is a much older release, this film presented in multiplane Technicolor just looks absolutely fabulous on Blu-ray.

For nearly a year, an expert restoration team digitally scanned 380,334 frames of four and half miles of 71 year-old film negative, cleaning 126,778 frames, realigning each scene, removing dirt, scratches and dust and matching colors to the original cels and backgrounds. The clarity of “Pinocchio” is just amazing and I was just impressed how clean the animation was.

From the details of the backgrounds to the vibrant colors used, picture quality was just spectacular.

AUDIO:

“Pinocchio” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French 7.1 DTS-HDMA and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film features crystal clear dialogue and musical score.

So, for those who have been enchanted with songs such as “When You Wish Upon A Star” to “I’ve Got No Strings”, fans of Disney composer Leigh Harline, Ned Washington and Paul J. Smith are going to enjoy how beautiful the music sounds on their home theater setup. The music from “Pinocchio” earned the film two Oscars in 1941 for “Best Music, Original Score” and “Best Music, Original Song” for “When You Wish Upon a Star” which would become Disney’s anthem.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Pinocchio” comes with the following special features:

  • The Pinnochio Project “When You Wish Upon a Star” – (3:03) Featuring the making of “When You Wish Upon a Star” sung by YouTube music stars JR Aquino, Tanner Patrick and Alex G.  Music by Tanner Patrick and music producer Philippe Saise.
  • When You Wish Upon a Star Music Video – (2:49) Featuring JR Aquino, Tanner Patrick and Alex G.
  • Walt’s Story Meetings: Pleasure Island – (7:14) A voice recreation from the transcript of story meetings preserved by Walt Disney Archives.
  • In Walt’s Words – Pinocchio – (4:48) An audio recording with archived video sources of Walt Disney discussing “Pinocchio”.
  • Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in “Poor Papa” – (5:18) A classic animated short featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary with Leonard Maltin, Eric Goldberg and J.B. Kaufman. A very informative and also enthusiastic commentary in which the three discuss their feelings of the film, what scenes touched them and also some informative facts about the film. The optional video commentary allows people to have a picture-in-picture display in which you can watch the three discuss the film and then also some interviews with the original crew involved with the film.
  • No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio – Witness the behind-the scenes magic that transformed Carlo Collodi’s popular book into a classic animated film. About an hour long and very informative featurette about how the film cost Disney over $2 million to make but the film didn’t do well in the box office until later as the music became a big part of Disney and people started to discover it’s technical, artistic and musical merit and having become a Disney masterpiece.
  • Deleted Scenes – In the Disney vault, storyboards for deleted scenes and an alternate ending were found. Without spoiling any of these, the following scenes are:
    – The story of the Grandfather Tree – Kindly Geppetto tells Pinocchio about the Great Pine Tree from which Pinocchio is descended.
    – In The Belly Of The Whale –
    The most elaborate of Pinocchio’s deleted scenes that remain in the Disney Archives, these recently discovered storyboards reveal a different version of Geppetto inside Monstro.
    – Alternate Ending –
    A recently uncovered set of small storyboard panels reveal plans for a different version of Pinocchio becoming a real boy.
  • The Sweat Box – The Sweatbox was a small projection room at the Disney studio where Walt critiqued story reels, rough animation, and dailies of films in progress with his anxious artists. This piece traces the history of the Sweatbox and brings to life this important part of Walt Disney’s artistic process.
  • Geppettos Then And Now – A look at the art of toymaking as it has evolved into the 21st Century. A fun featurette showcasing those who make toys, those who still carve wooden puppets to those who have created the Wall-E robot toy and I-Sobot.
  • Live Action Reference Footage – Older footage of how live action was used in the film, especially with the movements of Jimini Cricket.
  • “When You Wish Upon a Star” – An music video starring Meaghan Jette Martin (Camp Rock) performing an all-new version of “When You Wish Upon A Star!” 
  • A Wish Come True: The Making of Pinocchio – (5:06) The original making of “Pinocchio” special feature.
  • Storyboard-to-Film Final Comparison – (3:56) Featuring a storyboard segment (shown at the top) and the final animated version shown at the bottom.
  • Song Selection – This section allows the viewer to listen to the music portions from the film.

EXTRAS:

“Pinocchio: The Signature Collection” comes with a slipcover, a DVD version of the film and a Disney Digital HD code.


For those who have never owned “Pinocchio” will surely enjoy this Blu-ray release of “Pinocchio: The Signature Collection”.

A film which many of us grew up with as child and learning about the love between Pinocchio and his creator/father, Geppetto but also learning a major lesson about lying and also promoting Disney’s “Making Your Wish Come True”.

A timeless classic, this film which is over 75-years-old looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray.  And to have a such an important classic animated film released on Blu-ray to look this spectacular is impressive but to go back into the sealed archives of Disney and to find any video or any type of existing artwork or storyboards was quite insightful.

Learning how Walt Disney wanted to immediately change his version of “Pinocchio” from Carlo Collodi’s original 1911 story “avventure de Pinocchio” (which featured an unlikeable, wiseguy Pinocchio and dark stories about abductions and murders) to learning also how strict Walt Disney was in making sure his staff knew what he wanted and did all he can to bring the best out of them.

Now, as a parent, I did watch this film with my child. For those who are not familiar with the classic Disney films, although Disney films are rated G, Disney films from the past versus a Disney film like “Wall-E” or a modern Disney animated film that is generally fine for children will need to know that back then, Walt Disney’s animated films were created for people of all ages and not just children (which was discussed on the commentary).

So, therefore Walt Disney’s first film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” had darker content. Disney’s second film “Pinocchio” has its share of scenes that may make some parents uncomfortable. For example, in one scene, Pinocchio follows a wiseguy who likes to smoke and thus Pinocchio starts smoking a cigar (and of course getting sick by it), scenes with beer drinking and then of course, a scene where the word “jackass” is used a few times. Some may feel the content is inappropriate for their children, so I will leave that up to the parents discretion.

I know the biggest question from Disney fans is whether or not they should splurge on this Blu-ray version if they owned the fantastic 2009 “70th Anniversary Platinum Edition” on Blu-ray.

When it comes to the film and lossless audio, the 70th Anniversary version has the original theatrical soundtrack, the Signature Collection doesn’t, but it offers a French 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack and a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack which the 2009 version didn’t have.

“Pinocchio: The Signature Collection” also comes with four newer special features and the special features are not spread on two Blu-ray discs like the 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition.  The special features are nearly alike with the exception of the lack of inclusion of the video picture-in-picture video commentary and the remote control games that were popular in the late 2000’s.

So, unlike the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Signature Collection” which I did gripe a bit because it had less special features compared to the 2009 Platinum Edition, this time around, there are more special features that come with the “Pinocchio: The Signature Collection”.

So, “Pinocchio: The Signature Collection” is the better version of the two.  So, it is worth upgrading to, if special features are important to you.  Otherwise, I’m sure hardcore Disney animation fans will most likely want to own both Blu-ray versions but for those that are primarily wanting this for the film on HD and don’t care for special features can stick with their 2009 Platinum Edition Blu-ray release.

Overall, “Pinocchio: The Signature Collection” is the definitive version of “Pinocchio” on Blu-ray to own!  A timeless classic, “Pinocchio: The Signature Collection” is highly recommended!

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Queen of Katwe (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe” is an inspirational film but also a commercial Disney film that provides a viewpoint of life outside of the United States and a story so full of hope but also showing the challenges that the poor in Uganda face on a daily basis and how one man has sacrificed a lot in order to help the children in poverty, find meaning in their lives and also bring out the potential they have within. And a young girl who came from a life of poverty, wanting to do better for herself. “Queen of Katwe” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Queen of Katwe

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 124 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:39:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Description Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: PG (For Thematic Elements, An Accident Scene and Some Suggestive Material)

RELEASE DATE: January 31, 2017


Based on the ESPN Magazine Article by Tim Crothers

Directed by Mira Nair

Screenplay by William Wheeler

Produced by John B. Carls, Lydia Dean Pitcher

Executive Producer: Troy Buder, Connor Schell, Dan Silver, Will Weiske

Music by Alex Heffes

Cinematography by Sean Bobbitt

Edited by Barry Alexander Brown

Casting by Dinaz Stafford

Production Design by Stephanie Carroll

Art Direction by Shane Bunce, Jonathan Hely-Hutchinson, Fritz Joubert, Emilia Roux

Set Decoration by Set Buyer, Melinda Launspach, Jeanette Scott

Costume Design by Mobolaji Dawodu


Starring:

Madina Nalwanga as Phiona Mutesi

David Oyelowo as Robert Katende

Lupita Nygong’o as Nakku Harriet

Martin Kabanza as Mugabi Brian

Taryn Kyaze as Night

Ivan Jacobo as Young Richard

Nicolas Levesque as Older Richard

Ronald Ssemaganda as Ivan

Ethan Nazario Lubega as Benjamin

Nikita Waligwa as Gloria

Edgar Kanyike as Joseph

Esther Tebandeke as Sara Katende

Hope Katende as Hope Katende

Philip Luswata as Minister Aloysius

Peter Odeke as Enoch Barumba


“Queen of Katwe” is based on the vibrant true story of a young girl (Madina Nalwanga) from the streets of Uganda whose world changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion. It is a remarkable story of perseverance against all odds that will leave viewers feeling humbled and inspired. According to director Mira Nair, “The triumph of the human spirit is not to weep for what we don’t have but to focus on what we do have and allow that to take us to a place we never imagined possible.”


In 2016, the American biographical sports drama film “Queen of Katwe” from director Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding”, “The Namesake”, “New York, I Love You”) and screenwriter William Wheeler (“The Hoax”, “Ray Donovan”, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”) was released in theaters.

Based on Tim Crothers’ ESPN Magazine 2012 article, the film was optioned by Walt Disney Pictures and the project was developed by Tendo Nagenda, a Walt Disney Studios senior creative executive who lived in the United States but his father, who was from Uganda, moved the family to Nagenda at the age of 12.

Passionate about the film’s protagonist and true story, Nagenda personally selected filmmaker Mira Nair at her home in Uganda.  And from there, Nair and Wheeler would begin to craft an inspirational story on the true life of Phiona Mutesi.

And now, the Blu-ray release of “Queen of Katwe” will be available in January 2017.

The film stars Lupita Nyong’o (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, “The Jungle Book”, “Non-Stop”, “12 Years a Slave”), Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Martin Kabanza, Taryn Kyaze and more.

The film revolves around 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi (portrayed by Madina Nalwanga) who lives with her single mother Nakku Harriet (portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o) and her siblings, which includes her older sister Night (portrayed by Taryn Kyaze) and her brother Mugabi Brian (portrayed by Martin Kabanza).

Phiona and her family lives in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda.  And the family struggles to survive.  She has never went to school and her mother expects the children to earn money to help them pay for rent and earn money for food.

Meanwhile, Robert Katende (portrayed by David Oyelowo) is trying to find an engineering job but for now, he works at a missionary program helping children, as a soccer coach and teaching the children (which he calls “Pioneers”) on how to play chess.

Brian often watches Robert coaching the kids on how to play soccer and he tries to show him and his friend that playing chess, he used his wits to win money. And immediately, Brian is interested in wanting to play.

Seeing this, Phiona would go to the Pioneers building and watch the children play chess.

Robert sees Phiona watching and he encourages her to come and join the children.  But she is immediately bullied by the kids who tease her of being smelly and dirty.

As Robert and the other kids teach Phiona on how to play chess, he sees a job opening for an engineer position and knows that this job will be a great paying job for he and his family if he gets it.

As Phiona and her brother Brian play the game, she starts to learn from playing against him, even though she loses.  As she continues to practice, she starts to beat the other children.

When an Uganda Chess Federation chess competition is coming up, which allows chess players from various schools to compete.  Robert tries to get his children to participate in the competition by meeting with the school chairman.  As the chairman would not allow the children to compete, because they don’t go to school and can’t afford to pay the entrance fee.  But when Robert tells the chairman that if he allows his children to raise money to participate in the chess competition, they can participate.

So, Robert participates in soccer matches in order to make money for the children’s entrance fees.

But when Phiona and Brian’s mother finds out that they are spending time with Robert, she is worried that Robert may be a gambler.  But Robert, tries to convince Harriet that Phiona is very intelligent and Brian has determination that they have the opportunity to go to the best school if they excel in chess.

And so, the Sports Ministry Outreach program get to participate in their first major chess tournament but immediately the kids are taken back when they see a different side of Uganda.  Children dressed in uniforms, going to fine establishments for school and for the first time, having to learn about eating etiquette and eating with eating utensils and seeing the difference between poor and the rich.

But what happens when the children take part in their first major chess tournament?  And how will things fare for Phiona and Brian?


VIDEO:

“Queen of Katwe” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are vibrant and interior scenes are well-lit.  With a colorful pallet and wonderful detail, “Queen of Katwe” looks wonderful on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Queen of Katwe” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Description Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks. The film features crystal-clear dialogue and music. Surround channels are primarily for ambiance.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Queen of Katwe” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Mira Nair.
  • Queen of Katwe: Their Story – (29:37) Behind-the-Scenes of the making of “Queen of Katwe” and the real people that inspired the characters.
  • A Fork, A Spoon & A Knight – (13:14) A short film by Mira Nair about the life of Robert Katende.
  • In the Studio with Alicia Keys – (6:26) Behind-the-scenes with Alicia Keys on the recording of of “Back to Life”.
  • Alicia Keys “Back to Life” Lyric Video – Sing along to Alicia Keys “Back to Life”.
  • Young Cardamom & Hab “#1 Spice” Music Video – The Ugandan hip hop duo’s music video directed by Mira Nair.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring eight deleted scenes and optional introductions by director Mira Nair.

EXTRAS:

“Queen of Katwe” comes with a slipcover and a Disney Movie Rewards code.


“Queen of Katwe” is a Disney film in giving audiences a story of an underdog who came from the slums of Uganda to become a chess phenom.

While the film seems simple, filmmaker Mira Nair, who has lived in Uganda, gives viewers the opportunity to see Uganda through the characters of coach/mentor Robert Katende and the young and intelligent chess phenom, Phiona Mutesi.

From Robert’s storyline, we get to see how this young man grew up living in the bushes, losing his mother and being poor to become educated, head of his IT class and has the potential of becoming a successful engineer.  But yet, he knows that with his teaching and mentoring, he is helping children who grew up in the slum with the opportunity to be something better.

Not by teaching soccer, but teaching chess and when he discovers Phiona, a 10-year-old who not only picks up quickly on how to play chess, but sees how she strategizes and sees ahead of how she can win the game of chess against her competitors.  She is intelligent and Robert feels he can help her, find her true potential.

The film is inspirational but it’s also a fascinating look at life of these children who live in the slums, the dangers they face, but also what happens when the children are taken out of their environment and see how people in Uganda, who go to school, have money, are living.  And how they have culture shock but also seeing for the first time, the difference between the poor and the rich.

But while Phiomina is able to accomplish a lot in her young age, her story is still continuing as she just graduated and prepares herself for college. And one can only hope that life for Phiomina continues to get better and that she is able to achieve her goals, not just for the game of chess but also in life and providing a good life with her and the family.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic. Lossless audio is primarily dialogue and music-driven.  While special features are numerous with wonderful and insightful featurettes, audio commentary, music videos and more.

Overall, Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe” is an inspirational film but also a commercial Disney film that provides a viewpoint of life outside of the United States and a story so full of hope but also showing the challenges that the poor in Uganda face on a daily basis and how one man has sacrificed a lot in order to help the children in poverty, find meaning in their lives and also bring out the potential they have within.  And a young girl who came from a life of poverty, wanting to do better for herself.

“Queen of Katwe” is recommended!

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Train to Busan (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Snowden” may be a tame film from filmmaker Oliver Stone but it’s a film that is entertaining, insightful and an eye-opener. But how you feel about Edward Snowden after watching the film, may you feel that he is a traitor or hero? That is subjective to the viewer. But yet, “Snowden” is a film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2016 NEXT ENTERTAINMENT WORLD & REDPETER FILM. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Train to Busan

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 118 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: January 17, 2017


Directed by Sang-ho Yeon

Screenplay by Sang-ho Yeon

Produced by Yuji Ishida, Genki Kawamura

Music by Shiro Sagisu, Shiro Washizu

Cinematography by Shoji Ehara

Edited by Yusuke Ishida

Production Design by Takeshi Shimizu

Costume Design by Shin’Ichi Mita


Starring:

Yoo Gong as Seok Woo

Soo-an Kim as Soo-an

Yu-mi Jung as Sung Geyong

Dong-seok Ma as Sang Hwa

Woo-sik Choi as Young Gook

Sohee as Jin-hee

Eui-sung Kim as Yong-Suk

Gwi-hwa Choi as Homeless Man


TRAIN TO BUSAN is a harrowing zombie horror-thriller that follows a group of terrified passengers fighting their way through a countrywide viral outbreak, trapped on a suspicion-filled, blood-drenched bullet train ride to the Safe Zone…which may or may not still be there.


From filmmaker Sang-ho Yeon, known for directing the animated films “The King of Pigs”, “The Fake” and the zombie infestation animated film “Seoul Station”.

In 2016, the live action zombie apocalypse horror film “Train to Busan” was written and directed by Sang-ho Yeon and stars Yoo Gong (“Silenced”, “The Age of Shadows”), Soo-an Kim (“Gyeongju”, “Mad Sad Bad”), Yu-mi Jung (“Our Sunhi”, “In Another Country”, “Silenced”), Dong-seok Ma (“The Good, The Bad the Weird”, “Nameless Gangster”, “One on One”), Sohee (“Hellcats”), Eui-sung Kim (“Hill of Freedom”, “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon”, “Architecture 101”) and Woo-sik Choi (“Set Me Free”, “Big Match”, “Secretly, Greatly”).

Th film was premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and set a record for the film being viewed with over 10 million theatergoers.  Sang-ho Yeon’s animated film “Seoul Station” was released a month after “Train to Busan” and serves as the animated prequel to the film.

And now “Train to Busan” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Well go USA Entertainment.

The film revolves around Seok-woo (portrayed by Yoo Gong), a divorced hedge fund manager who is always working and never there for his young daughter, Soo-an (portrayed by Soo-an Kim).  He buys her a Nintendo Wii, but doesn’t realize he bought that gift for her already.

All she wanted is to go to Busan, so she can see her mother.  And each time her father promises, unfortunately his work gets in the way.

But Seok-woo decides to grant his daughter her wish and takes her on the train to Busan.  But right when they are about to leave, a sickly woman enters the train right before it departs.

Also aboard the train is Sang-hwa (portayed by Ma Dong-seok) and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong (portrayed by Jung Yu-mi), a high school baseball team which includes Young Gook (portrayed by Woo-sik Choi) and the girl that likes him, Sohee (portrayed by Jin-hee), a selfish businessman named Yong-suk and others.

When a train attendant sees the sickly woman and goes to help her, it is revealed that the woman is infected and turns into a zombie.  She bites the attendant and this triggers a zombie train reaction as people that are bitten and infected turn into zombies and now the train becomes a hub of zombie activity and survivors try to survive on the train to Busan.  But will they ever get to Busan?


VIDEO:

“Train to Busan” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and interior scenes inside the train are well-lit.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Train to Busan” is presented in Korean and English dub 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The series features crystal clear dialogue and a lot of intense moments of chaos, from fights with the zombie, screaming and crying as ambiance but there are major action sequences with train derailments and more.  The lossless soundtrack is very good for this film.

I also watched the film with its English dub and I have to say, that although I do not watch Asian cinema with English dub tracks, I wanted to see how the voice acting was and if anything improved with English dubbing for Asian cinema and sure enough, it’s one of the better English dubs I’ve listened to and well-acted.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Train to Busan” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – (13:01) Featuring the Making of “Train to Busan”
  • That’s a Wrap – (4:34) Final scene and interviews with the director and cast.
  • Trailer – “Train to Busan” theatrical trailer

EXTRAS:

“Train to Busan” comes with a slipcover.


I have watched a fair share of zombie apocalypse horror films and you often run into films that feature a protagonist going in hero mode taking on the zombies or pretty much trying to figure out which survivors will make it to the end of the film.

“Train to Busan” is the latter, but instead of being banal like any other zombie film, this film adds an emotional component as the protagonist is a workaholic father who is never there for his daughter, but for her birthday, promises to take her to see her mother in Busan.

And as the father and daughter take the train, all hell breaks loose when an infected woman sneaks aboard and bites the train attendant, who then becomes infect and not long after, the whole train becomes infected with zombies and survivors try to stay alive and outwit the zombies, if at all possible.

You have Yoo Gong in the starring role as Seok Woo, the workaholic father and fund manager who is trying to be there for his daughter but never could make it to any of her classroom festivities or birthday due to his work.  So, for his daughter’s birthday wish of wanting to see her mother, at least he could do that for her and accompany her to Busan by train.

The father and daughter chemistry between Yoo Gong and young actress Soo-an Kim is well-done but most importantly, far too often, you see a young actress who can deliver the most emotional, devastating scenes and Soo-an Kim is a young girl who delivers with pure emotion.

Also, starring in the film is Dong-seok Ma as the big and bulky Sang Hwa.  He may come off abrasive but he is a loving husband to his pregnant wife Sung Geyong (portrayed by Yu-mi Jung).

Sang Hwa is the most athletic of the men in the film and with his hulking presence and sometimes rude and other times humorous, he becomes a character that many want to root for.

But of course, you have your characters who are true jerks and with an apocalyptic horror film, you always have to have the one jerk who cares about no one but themselves and that is Yong-Suk (portrayed by Eui-sung Kim).

Needless to say, there are some decisions made by certain characters that may infuriate the viewer or make them scratch their head of why the character did what they did but every zombie apocalypse storyline always has to have a jerk and bad decision making people in the mix.

But I really enjoyed “Train to Busan” as the film is no doubt one of the best zombie apocalypse films I have watched from Asian cinema. And I have to say that as a zombie film period, it’s full of adrenaline, surprises and you really are captivated by the film and keeping you on the edge of your seat of which person or people survive and make it to the end of the film.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is very good as outdoor scenes are vibrant, close-ups are also well-done with great clarity.  Lossless audio is also very good and comes with both a Korean and English lossless track.  And you get two short special features as well.

Overall, the Korean film “Train to Busan” may be one of the better zombie apocalypse horror films ever made in Asian cinema.  Pulse-pounding action, well-written storyline and interesting characters, Sang-ho Yeon’s “Train to Busan” is highly recommended!

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Jerry Maguire: 20th Anniversary Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Featuring a wonderful performance by Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr.  and Renee Zellweger…If you love the film, “Jerry Maguire: 20th Anniversary Edition” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1996 Tristar Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Jerry Maguire: 20th Anniversary Edition

FILM RELEASE: 1996

DURATION: 138 Minutes

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

COMPANY: TriStar/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Language and Sexuality)

RELEASE DATE: January 3, 2017


Directed by Cameron Crowe

Written by Cameron Crowe

Produced by James L. Brooks, Cameron Crowe, Laurence Mark, Richard Sakai

Co-Producer: Bruce S. Pustin, John D. Schofield

Executive Producer: Bridget Johnson

Associate Producer: J. Michael Mendel

Cinematography by Janusz Kaminski

Edited by Joe Hutshing, David Mortiz

Casting by Gail Levin

Production Design by Stephen J. Lineweaver

Art Direction by Clayton Hartley, Virginia L. Randolph

Set Decoration by Clay A. Griffith

Costume Design by Betsy Heimann


Starring:

Tom Cruise as Jerry Maguire

Cuba Gooding Jr. as Rod Tidwell

Renee Zellweger as Dorothy Boyd

Kelly Preston as Avery Bishop

Jerry O’Connell as Frank Cushman

Jay Mohr as Bob Sugar

Bonnie Hunt as Laurel Boyd

Regina King as Marcee Tidwell

Jonathan Lipnicki as Ray Boyd

Todd Louiso as Chad the Nanny

Mark Pellington as Bill Doller

Jeremy Suarez as Tyson Tidwell

Aries Spears as Tee Pee


“You complete me.” “Help me help you.” “You had me at hello.” “Show me the money.”

Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the iconic modern classic that’s become an integral part of our pop-culture landscape. Tom Cruise stars as Jerry Maguire, a sports agent who’s enduring a crisis of conscience. After he suddenly and unceremoniously loses his job and his girlfriend (Kelly Preston), both his personal and professional careers hit an all-time low. But when a single mother (Renee Zellweger) enters his life and his heart, he finds himself negotiating the biggest deal of his life…for the heart and the hand of the woman that he loves.


In 1996, filmmaker Cameron Crowe, best known at the time for writing the 1982 film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and writing and directing the 1989 film “Say Anything” and the 1992 film “Singles”, would direct the successful “Jerry Maguire”.

Starring Tom Cruise (“Top Gun”, “Mission: Impossible” films, “A Few Good Men”), Cuba Gooding Jr. (“As Good As It Gets”, “Me of Honor”, “What Dreams May Come”), Renee Zellweger (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”, “Chicago”, “Cinderella Man”), Kelly Preston (“Twins”, “For Love of the Game”), Jerry O’Connell (“Stand By Me”, “Sliders”), Jay Mohr (“Small Soldiers”, “Pay It Forward”, “Street Kings”), Bonnie Hunt (“The Bonnie Hunt Show”, “Return to Me”, “The Green Mile”), Regina King (“Ray”, “Enemy of the State”, “The Boondocks”) and Jonathan Lipnicki (“The Little Vampire”, “Stuart Little” films).

“Jerry Maguire” would receive critical acclaim and would gross $273 million, against its $50 million budget and would become the ninth top grossing film of 1996.

The film would earn Cuba Gooding Jr. an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

And now with the 20th anniversary of the film, Jerry Maguire: 20th Anniversary Edition” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film revolves around a sports agent Jerry Maguire (portrayed by Tom Cruise) who works for Sports Management International (SMI).  He is seen as one of the best in the business, he is successful and is dating Avery Bishop (portrayed by Kelly Preston).

Having represented top athletes, he goes through a moment of writing a mission statement about the perceived dishonesty in the sports management business and how he would like to work with fewer clients to produce better quality.

While some praised Maguire for writing the mission statement, such as SMI employee and single mother, Dorothy Boyd (portrayed by Renee Zellweger), his protege Bob Sugar (portrayed by Jay Mohr) is sent by SMI to talk to Jerry of how the company was not pleased with his mission statement and he was sent there to fire him.

As Jerry tries to mobilize and contact his clients, Bob also contacts them to not work with Jerry and manages to convince all but two.

One is Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rod Tidwell (portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr.), who is disgruntled with his contract and with only several years left, he wants Jerry to get him a lucrative deal.

The other is Frank “Cush” Cushman (portrayed by Jerry O’Connell), a top QB for the NFL Draft, who agree to work with Jerry.

As Jerry leaves SMI and upset of what his former company has done to him, he asks if anyone is going to leave with him.  Only one person is willing to work with him, Dorothy Boyd.

But having his own business is doesn’t go to well as Bob manages to sway cush before the draft and have him sign with SMI, Jerry breaks up with Avery and sad, dejected and broke, all he can turn to is Dorothy.

Can Jerry help his client Rod Tidwell get the lucrative contract?  And will he manage to find love with Dorothy?


VIDEO:

“Jerry Maguire: 20th Anniversary Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and interior scenes are well-lit.  For a ’90s film, there is a good amount of grain and for the most part, this is the blu-ray version of “Jerry Maguire” looks very good in HD!  And with this new 4K Digital Transfer, definitely the best looking release of “Jerry Maguire” to date.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Jerry Maguire: 20th Anniversary Edition” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The series is primarily dialogue drive and for the most part, dialogue and music is crystal clear. Surround channels are primarily for ambiance and music but the overall soundtrack is dialogue and music-driven.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and Francais.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Jerry Maguire: 20th Anniversary Edition” comes with the following special features:

  • PiP Commentary with Crowe, Cruise, Zellweger and Gooding – Featuring a picture-in-picture commentary with director/writer Cameron Crowe, actors Tom Cruise, Renee Zellweger and Cuba Gooding Jr.
  • Jerry Maguire: We Meet Again – (38:54) A look behind the making of “Jerry Maguire” including a table reading and more.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (55:38) Featuring 20 deleted and extended scenes with an introduction by Cameron Crowe.
  • Photo Gallery – (3:55) Cast members discuss the film and the characters that they play.
  • Behind the Scenes at Video Commentary – (5:40) Behind the scenes of the video commentary as the director and cast have fun joking around.
  • The Making of Jerry Maguire – (7:14) The original featurette on the making of “Jerry Maguire”
  • “My First Commercial” by Rod Tidwell – (:51) A Rod Tidwell commercial.
  • Drew Rosenhaus: “How to be a Sports Agent” – (3:45) Real life sports agent discusses on how to become a sports agent.
  • Original Deleted and Alternate Scenes – (2:41) Featuring three deleted and alternate scenes with commentary.
  • Rehearsal Footage – (1:56) Original rehearsal footage with audio commentary.
  • “Secret Garden” by Bruce Springsteen – (4:27) “Secret Garden” music video
  • Theatrical Trailer – Original theatrical trailer for “Jerry Maguire”.

EXTRAS:

“Jerry Maguire: 20th Anniversary Edition” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and UltraViolet Code.  Also, coming with a 20-page -20th anniversary booklet with a foreword by director/writer Cameron Crowe and Jerry Maguire’s mission statement.

Also, included is the 55-minute, 13-track “Jerry Maguire Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”


There are no doubt many memorable Tom Cruise films.

Numerous films that he starred in back in the ’80s and ’90s are considered box office success, but when it comes to combining sports entertainment and a love story, “Jerry Maguire” is a film that will be remembered for its four popular quotes: “You complete me.” “Help me help you.” “You had me at hello.” “Show me the money.”

And while Cuba Gooding Jr.’s “Show me the money” will always be remembered, my female friends remember “You complete me.” and “You had me at hello.”.

Looking back at this film 20-years-later, it’s amazing how much has changed.  From an athlete’s salary, as Rod Tidwell’s big money contract looks miniscule when compared to other star athletes of today.  Also, the mention of a sports agent in the news have become so commonplace that reading an article on a sports website, more than often you will see a star athlete and his agent being mentioned.  As Jerry Maguire would say in the beginning about staying behind-the-scenes, today’s sports agent are mentioned in the news as common place.

But still, “Jerry Maguire” is a film that stands the test of time.  A successful sports agent kicked out of his company that he helped put on the map and now trying to strike it out on his own.

His biggest supporter, his employee who he starts to get closer to and eventually marries.  But the stress of being a sports agent and trying to land that lucrative contract no doubt interferes with the relationship and for Jerry Maguire, the unknown of getting the contract that his only client desires seems far and his relationship with his wife, he grows even more distant.

But it’s through circumstances that Jerry Maguire learns of how important his wife really means to him and it’s that love that people will remember from this classic Cameron Crowe film.

Similar to his previous film before “Jerry Maguire”, people will remember the final moments of “Say Anything” and how the protagonist goes to seek forgiveness from the love of his life with the use of a boombox, Jerry Maguire and Dorothy’s words to each other are movie magic in terms that many people refer to it, remember it.

And it helps that you have talents such as Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Renee Zelweger in the film as each of these three individuals did an amazing job!

With the release of “Jerry Maguire: 20th Anniversary”, not only do you get an UltraViolet HD code, but you get a Blu-ray release that receives a new 4K digital transfer with special features not seen in previous releases, it also comes with the original motion picture soundtrack and also a 20-page booklet.  Picture quality is the best I have seen of the film to date and lossless audio with its crystal clear dialogue, musical soundtrack and crowd ambiance sounds amazing in HD!

And for the most part, “Jerry Maguire: 20th Anniversary Edition” is a Cameron Crowe film that many consider a classic and a must-own Blu-ray release.

Featuring a wonderful performance by Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr.  and Renee Zellweger…If you love the film, “Jerry Maguire: 20th Anniversary Edition” is highly recommended!

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Come and Find Me (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Come and Get Me” has the making of what could have been a fascinating spy thriller or world class killer on the run type of storyline, but the film is more of a complex love story with many flashbacks that unfortunately weakens the overall plot.  An OK film that could have been better.

Images courtesy of © Come and Find Me © 2016 Reliance Entertainment Productions 1 Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Artwork & Supplementary Materials © 2017 Saban Films LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Come and Find Me

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 112 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:39:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: R (Language with Some Sexuality, Nudity)

RELEASE DATE: January 17, 2017


Directed by Zack Whedon

Screenplay by Zack Wedon

Produced by Leon Clarance, Chris Ferguson, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones

Co-Producer: Rian Cahill, Marlaina Mah, Jesse Savath

Executive Producer: Laure Vaysse

Music by Nate Walcott

Cinematography by Sean Stiegemeier

Edited by Greg Ng

Casting by Rich Delia, Kara Eide, Kris Woz

Production Design by Tink

Art Direction by Justin Ludwig

Set Decoration by Janessa Hitsman

Costume Design by Ariana Preece


Starring:

Annabelle Wallis as Claire

Aaron Paul as David

Garret Dillahunt as John Hall

Terry Chen as Det. Chris Sloan

Zachary Knighton as Charlie

Dean Redman as Jackson

Jessica Heafey as Colleen


David and Claire’s idyllic relationship comes to an abrupt and mysterious end after Claire disappears without a trace. Devastated but incapable of letting go, David follows her trail down a frantic and increasingly dangerous path. Shocked at discovering that Claire was living a double life, he’s forced to risk everything if he ever wants to see her again.


From Zach Whedon, writer for the TV series “Halt and Catch Fire”, “Southland”, “Rubicon” and “Fringe”, comes his film “Come and Find Me” which he wrote but also a film in which Whedon made his directorial debut.

Starring Annabelle Wallis (“Annabelle”, “X-Men: First Class”, “Body of Lies”, “The Lost Future”), Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”, “Need for Speed”, “Central Intelligence”), Garrett Dillahunt (“12 Years a Slave”, “Deadwood”, “No Country for Old Men”), Terry Chen (“House of Cards”, “Almost Famous”, “The A-Team”) and Zachary Knighton (“Happy Endings”, “The Hitcher”, “The Prince and Me”).

The film revolves around David (portrayed by Aaron Paul) and his girlfriend Claire (portrayed by Annabelle Wallis).  The two were a loving couple until one day, she went missing and he had not heard from here or why she left.  And David has not done well and she has been gone for a year. But he wonders if she is on the run or if something tragic happened to her?

Through flashbacks, we learn about how David and Claire met and the memories that go through David’s mind of his relationship with her.

When David calls Claire’s college friend Buckner, he is happy to talk to a friend of Claire’s and to let things out and try to piece together of what may have happened to her.

David let’s Buckner stay at his place but when he comes back, he sees Buckner trying to break a hole in his wall.  When he confronts him about it, Buckner hits David and knocking him out.

David awakes but learns from Det. Chris Sloan (portrayed by Terry Chen) that Buckner is not his real name and that he didn’t attend the University of Colorado, Boulder.  David is shocked and tells the detective that is where Claire met him.  Which the Detective breaks the bad news that he checked and Claire didn’t attend the University of Colorado, Boulder as well.

This leads to David looking into Claire’s photographs that she left behind and David finds her USB.  When he looks at the photos, which shows a group of men.  He finds an address and it takes him to an auto repair location.

When he shows the men that he is looking for Claire, but the men lock him up in the garage and start asking him of why he came to their auto shop.  He tells them that he is looking for Claire but he is electrically shocked by the owner of the shop who tells him that it’s best that he stop looking for her, because he may not like what he finds.

Immediately David becomes the target of a crime syndicate and corrupted police who are looking for Claire.

What will David find as he does his own personal investigation and finds out who Claire really is?


VIDEO:

“Come and Find Me” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and interior scenes are well-lit.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Come and Find Me” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The series features crystal-clear dialogue and music. Surround channels are well-utilized during the action sequences of the film.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Come and Find Me” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Zack Whedon and producer Chris Ferguson.
  • Unravelling the Mysteries of Come and Find Me – (6:53) Behind-the-Scenes of the making of “Come and Find Me”.

EXTRAS:

“Come and Find Me” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code.


TV series writer Zack Whedon makes his directorial debut in the American drama, “Come and Find Me”.  A film that had a fascinating premise but its execution is marred by too many flashbacks about a relationship between a graphic designer and a mysterious woman.

As the film shows us how this couple were in so in love, for some apparent reason, Claire (portrayed by Anabelle Wallis) went missing.

And for graphic designer David (portrayed by Aaron Paul), he’s down in the dumps, not knowing what happened to his girlfriend.  Fast forward over a year later and he still is in a bad place, not knowing if she ran away, if she was killed and it’s hurting him.

But when he invites Claire’s college friend  for dinner, life seems normal as David spills his guts of not knowing where Claire is and how he is hurt.  But this same friend ends up whacking David’s skull and a detective looks up Claire and her friend and learning that the two never attended college together and it’s looking more like Claire was involved in something bad.

But of course, David’s curiosity is forcing him to investigate and he when he looks at Claire’s old photos, it takes him to a mobsters garage where he is tortured and warned not to look for her.  He was also warned by the Detective to stop looking for her.

But David wants to know what happened to her and the more he investigates, he realizes that Claire was involved in really messed up situations and that the criminals and the feds want to find her.  Will David ever find her?

There is potential in developing this story, perhaps showcasing Claire as some super spy with a double life or something entirely shady, but instead of focus on the action and adventure, the storyline abruptly goes back and forth through flashbacks and the present-time that the storyline gets muddled with too many flashbacks for the film’s own good.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic, as with its lossless soundtrack.  You get a featurette and audio commentary and an UltraViolet code.

Overall, “Come and Get Me” has the making of what could have been a fascinating spy thriller or world class killer on the run type of storyline, but the film is more of a complex love story with many flashbacks that unfortunately weakens the overall plot.  An OK film that could have been better.

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

December 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Snowden” may be a tame film from filmmaker Oliver Stone but it’s a film that is entertaining, insightful and an eye-opener.  But how you feel about Edward Snowden after watching the film, may you feel that he is a traitor or hero?  That is subjective to the viewer.  But yet, “Snowden” is a film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Sacha. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Snowden

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 270 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH and France

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Language with Some Sexuality, Nudity)

RELEASE DATE: December 27, 2017


Based on the book by Anatoly Kucherna, Luke Harding

Directed by Oliver Stone

Screenplay by Kieran Fitzgerald, Oliver Stone

Produced by Eric Kopeloff, Philip Schulz-Deyle

Co-Producer: Rene Kock, Robert S. Wilson

Executive Producer: Max Arvelaiz, Michael Bassick, Douglas Hansen, Jose Ibanez, Peter Lawson, Serge Lobo, Bahman Naraghi, Tom Ortenberg, James D. Stern, Christopher Woodrow

Music by Craig Armstrong, Adam Peters

Cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle

Edited by Alex Marquez, Lee Percy

Casting by Lucy Bevan, Mary Vernieu

Production Design by Mark Tildesley

Art Direction by Sarah Horton, Adam O’Neill, Uwe Stanik

Set Decoration by Veronique Melery

Costume Design by Bina Daigeler


Starring:

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden

Shailene Woodley as Lindsay Mills

Melissa Leo as Laura Poitras

Zachary Quinto as Glenn Greenwald

Rhys Ifans as Corbin O’Brian

Nicolas Cage as Hank Forrester

Tom Wilkinson as Ewen MacAskill

Joely Richardson as Janine Gibson

Scott Eastwood as Trevor James

Keith Stanfield as Patrick Haynes

Ben Chaplin as Robert Tibbo

Edward Snowden


Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone (JFK, Born on the Fourth of July) tackles the most important true story of the 21st century. Snowden, the politically-charged thriller reveals the incredible untold personal story of Edward Snowden, the controversial figure who exposed shocking illegal surveillance activities by the National Security Agency and became one of the most wanted men in the world. A hero to some and a traitor to others, the provocative story of what led him to that fateful decision makes for one of the most compelling stories in recent history.


In 2013, Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and former contractor of the United States government, copied and leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) revealing numerous global surveillance programs run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with telecommunication companies and European governments.

The leaks would receive international attention after the material appeared in “The Guardian”, “The Washington Post”, “Der Spiegel” and “The New York Times”.

Snowden would become one of the most wanted men as the U.S. Department of Justice leveled charges against Snowden of two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property.

Seen as a criminal, dissident or traitor by many, others saw him as a hero and a whistleblower for bringing attention of the governments practice of surveillance on the public.  Bringing up debates in the media of the balance between national security and information privacy.

While America wants to try Snowden, he currently is in Russia, seeking asylum.

As Snowden continues to be featured in the news, author Luke Harding would write an account of Snowden’s leak and aftermath in his 2014 book “The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man” and Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena would write the book “Time of the Octopus”.  Both books would become the basis for filmmaker Oliver Stone’s biographical political thriller 2016 film, “Snowden”.

The film would star Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“Inception”, “Looper”, “(500) Days of Summer”), Shailene Woodley (“Divergent” series, “The Descendants”, “The Fault In Our Stars”), Melissa Leo (“The Fighter”, “Prisoners”, “Oblivion”), Zachary Quinto (“Star Trek” films, “Margin Call”, “Heroes”), Nicolas Cage (“Leaving Las Vegas”, “National Treasure”, “Kick Ass”), Rhys Ifans (“The Amazing Spider-Man”, “Notting Hill”, “Mr. Nobody”) and Tom Wilkinson (“Batman Begins”, “Michael Clayton”, “Shakespeare in Love”).  The film would also star the real Edward Snowden.

While “Snowden” wasn’t a huge box office hit compared to Oliver Stone’s previous films, there is no doubt that the film is an eye-opener.  And now the film will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

“Snowden” begins with Edward Snowden’s (portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in Hong Kong and his first meeting with documentarian Laura Poitras (portrayed by Melissa Leo) and “The Guardian” journalist Glenn Greenwald (portrayed by Zachary Quinto) and they discuss Snowden releasing classified information about the illegal mass surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA).

The film then goes back into past to introduce us to Edward Snowden and how he was originally enlisted in the U.S. Army, with hopes of getting into the Special Forces but fracturing his tibia, he was given an administrative discharge and the chance to pursue jobs in which he could serve his country.

So, Snowden applies for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and goes through the screening with Deputy Director Corbin O’Brien but despite failing the screening, O’Brian decides to give Snowden a chance and Snowden learns about cyberwarfare and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and how it circumvents the Fourth Amendment rights of U.S. citizens.

As the film carefully shows how Edward Snowden was able to get his job and grow from his job, the film also explores his personal life with Lindsay Mills (portrayed by Shailene Woodley), who he has met on a dating website.

And exploring why he resigned from the CIA and how he got his job with the NSA and his role in the NSA by planting malware in different computers that manage government, infrastructure and financial sectors in other countries, just in case, the country turns on the United States.

But as Snowden’s job leads to a troubled relationship with Lindsay, the film starts to show how Snowden became disillusioned with his job and how he would leak classified information to the media.


VIDEO:

“Snowden” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and interior scenes are well-lit.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Snowden” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  The series is primarily dialogue drive and for the most part, dialogue and music is crystal clear. Surround channels are primarily for ambiance and music but the overall soundtrack is dialogue and music-driven.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and Francais.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Snowden” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (8:50) Featuring five deleted scenes.
  • Finding the Truth – (3:55) Cast members discuss the film and the characters that they play.
  • Snowden Q&A – (40:58) Featuring an interview with Edward Snowden, Oliver Stone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley.

EXTRAS:

“Snowden” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD plus an UltraViolet code.


With every story about a whistleblower, there will be those who will detest the person for ruining an industry or being a traitor to one’s country, while others will look at the individual as being heroic for exposing crimes against the people.

Edward Snowden is no doubt portrayed by filmmaker Oliver Stone as a man who honored his country, great at his job but found out about the illegal things that the NSA was doing, that Snowden became disenchanted with his work and torn about what the United States is doing to its people, its allies and also enemies.  But despite being wonderful at his job, he is also imperfect and just a regular person, trying to find love and happiness while having a classified job with the government.

As the film focuses on Edward Snowden’s life from being in the military and then joining to the CIA, finding love with Lindsay Mills (and their troubled relationship, due in part because of the stress of his job) and then joining with the NSA to find out he is working on shady work that is supposed to be classified.

But watching “Snowden”, I felt for an Oliver Stone film, the film felt subdued.  Fascinating, eye-opening but yet not the heavy-hitting, deep film that one would expect.  But at the same time, it’s hard to fault the plot and its story because Edward Snowden is a mellow guy, he’s intelligent and while he gets angry, it’s not the angry that most people are used to seeing.  If anything, Edward Snowden is what many people would say is “chill”.  It’s his demeanor and style.

And you have to give Joseph Gordon-Levitt for doing a great job of of playing Edward Snowden and for Shailene Woodley, far from her years on “The Secret Life of an American Teenager”, we see Woodley in an adult role, as the emotional but caring girlfriend, Lyndsay Mills, who is tired of how Snowden puts his job first and her as second.

But for the most part, while the acting is wonderful and the film is entertaining and fascinating, the film humanizes Edward Snowden as a man of honor, a normal human being who wants to have a love life but a job that requires him to do a lot of things that he finds as wrong.  He’s a kind man and definitely not egotistical.

But yet, he leaked classified information that no doubt put the United States in a bind.  And while the film is no doubt pro-Snowden and shows what Snowden had done is good for the people, we don’t see the counter to this.  And the film makes it hard for anyone to hate on Snowden, considering the media has painted him as opposite of what the film presents him.

Did Snowden do the honorable thing?  This is no doubt subjective and it’s an unending debate.

While viewers of this film may be inclined to see Snowden as a hero, one will want to read this December 2016 article from Edward Jay Epstein of the Wall Street Journal.

The film looks and sounds wonderful on Blu-ray and you also get three special features, including a Q&A which features filmmaker Oliver Stone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley but you also have Edward Snowden taking part (via live video during the Q&A) in the session as well.  And I found this session to be an eye-opener as well.

Overall, “Snowden” may be a tame film from filmmaker Oliver Stone but it’s a film that is entertaining, insightful and an eye-opener.  But how you feel about Edward Snowden after watching the film, may you feel that he is a traitor or hero?  That is subjective to the viewer.  But yet, “Snowden” is a film worth watching!

 

 

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DuRaRaRa!! x2 Vol. 6 (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

With the sixth volume of “Durarara!! x2”, we finally get the climactic episodes involving Mikado, Masuomi, Celty, Shinra, Shizuo and more. But a lot of questions finally getting the answers that many have waited all season for. If you love action, humor and all out mayhem and have stuck with “Durarara!! x2” for this long, this sixth volume is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 ANIPLEX INC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Durarara!! x 2 Volume 6

YEAR OF SERIES RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: Episodes 31-36 (175 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: December 13, 2016


Originally created by Ryohgo Narita

Directed by Takahiro Omori

Series Composition by Noboru Takagi

Music by Makoto Yoshimori

Original Creator: Ryohgo Narita

Character Design by Takahiro Kishida

Art Director: Akira Ito

Chief Animation Director: Akira Takata

Anime Production: Shuka


Featuring the voices of:

Miyuki Sawashiro/Kari Wahlgren as Celty Sturluson

Toshiyuki Toyonaga/Darrel Guilbeau as Mikado Ryūgamine

Akio Ohtsuka/Doug Stone as Shingen Kishitani

Atsumi Tanezaki/Karen Strassman as Emilia

Ayahi Takagaki/Mela Lee as Erika Karisawa

Daisuke Ono/Crispin Freeman as Shizuo Heiwajima

Hiroshi Kamiya/Johnny Yong Bosch as Izaya Orihara

Jun Fukuyama/Yuri Lowenthal as Shinra Kishitani

Kana Hanazawa/Michelle Ruff as Anri Sonohara

Kazuma Horie/David Earnest as Seiji Yagiri

Mamoru Miyano/Bryce Papenbrook as Masaomi Kida

Mariya Ise/Kira Buckland as Mika Harima

Sanae Kobayashi/Bridget Hoffman as Namie Yagiri

Takaya Kuroda/Patrick Seitz as Simon Brezhnev

Takuma Terashima/Spike Spencer as Saburou Togusa

Yuuichi Nakamura/Steven Blum as Kyōhei Kadota

Yuuki Kaji/Brian Beacock as Walker Yumasaki


“So tonight, the Dollars are done.”

Although the childhood friends finally reunite, is it too late for Masaomi to change Mikado’s mind? As Mikado plans to end everything including the Dollars that he founded as well as his own life, Mikado’s true intentions are finally revealed…

Don’t miss the grand finale of the Durarara!! x2 series!


It was revealed that Mikado masterminded the chaos in Ikebukuro and now his best friend Masaomi Kida knows he must get to his friend before things get worse.

Meanwhile, will Celty Sturluson leave the one man who cares about her…Shinra Kishitani?

And what happens when Shizuo Heiwajima and Varona confront each other.

Will the chaos and gang wars happening in Ikebukuro ever end?  Find out in the final sixth volume of “DuRaRaRa!! x2”!

What is “Durarara!!” all about?

Back in 2004, light novelist Ryohgo Narita, who won a Gold Prize in the 9th Dengeki Novel Prize for “Baccano!” returned with “Durarara!!” and teaming up with illustrator Suzuhito Yasuda (known for his video game work “Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor”).

With a total of eight volumes published in Japan by ASCII Media Works (ala their Dengeki Bunko imprint), a manga adaptation would be created by Akiyo Satorigi and published in the shonen magazine “Monthly GFantasy” in 2009. The popularity of Narita’s works, especially with “Baccano!” would lead to an 26-episode animate adaptation of “Durarara!!” in January 2010 and an ongoing series in 2015 titled “Durarara!! x2”.

The anime production for “Durarara!! x2” is now by Shuka (first series was by Brains Base) and the series is directed by Takahiro Omori (“Aruna”, “Gakuen Alice”, “Kuragehime”, “Zoku Natsume Yujin-Cho”) with series composition/script by Noboru Takagi (“Baccano!”, “C”, “Koi Kaze”). Character design is by Takahiro Kishida (“Cheburashka Arere”, “Dragon Half”, “Ninja Cadets”) and art direction by Akira Ito (“Elfen Lied”, “Shadow Star Narutaru”, “Street Fighter Alpha”).

The series features an ensemble cast and their experience living in Ikebukuro, Tokyo but how their storylines are somewhat connected to each other.

Mikado Ryugamine is a young man who transfers to school from a small country town to the big city in Tokyo and his childhood friend Masaomi tries to show him the ropes of Ikebukuro, which can be dangerous as color gangs have corrupted the city.

Before the yellow scarves were the dominant gang and now on top of the gangs are a mysterious group known as the Dollars, with a leader that no one knows about, all that is known is that members are chosen and are hooked up through the Internet. But recently, there have been several deaths causes by a murderer dubbed “The Slasher” and also rumors of a headless woman riding a motorcycle.

In “Durarara!! x 2” Volume 6 (episodes 31-36), chaos continues in Ikebukuro. But it is revealed that Mikado Ryugamine has changed completely and with the return of Masaomi (who was responsible for enticing Mikado to move to Ikebukuro), he can’t believe how his friend has changed for the worse and Mikado wants to beat some sense into Mikado’s head.

What happens when Masaomi and Mikado finally confront each other?


The main characters of “Durarara!! x2” are:

  • Mikado Ryugamine – A first year high schooler who moves to Ikebukuro, Tokyo after his childhood friend Masaomi had invited him. A shy guy, Mikado is trying to learn the ropes and restart his life. He becomes a class rep and starts to follow for the female class rep, Anri and because his friend Masaomi also likes her, it becomes a bit of an interesting love triangle. Mikado just wants to change and not be normal.
  • Masaomi Kida – Mikado’s childhood friend. He seems very over-confident with girls, when actually he is not good at it. Also, he has a mysterious backgrounds and something happened to a girl he knew… Like Mikado, he also likes Anri.
  • Anri Sonohara – A girl who wears glasses and is a class rep. She is shy and timid and hangs out with Mikado and Masaomi.
  • Celty Sturluson – A headless rider who is looking for her lost head. Celty is a Dullahan from Ireland (a headless woman) who has black smoke coming out of her body. Despite being depicted as monster and killer during the old days, she has been taken in by doctor Shinra Kishitani and carries out missions. Despite not having true emotions, she feels love towards Shinra but unable to understand the feelings that she has due to not having any living DNA.
  • Shinra Kishitani – A underground doctor who lives with Celty. His father was the first to operate on Celty (in exchange of giving her a place to stay) and even was given a chance to learn how to do surgery at the age of 4. He works for corporations underground in trying to help them remove memories from people. He is also in love with Celty and is able to understand her emotions despite her not having a head. He also a childhood friend of Shizuo and Kasuka.
  • Izaya Orihara – Known as the information broker. He sells information and likes to start trouble or loves to examine human’s when they are conflicted. He is a master of using a knife and causes problems for Shizuo Heiwajima.
  • Shizuo Heiwajima – A blonde guy with a very short temper who wears a bartender suit and has enormous power. He can take a lot of pain and it is not known how he is able to have enormous strength and to heal from major injuries. He is friends with Celty, his brother Kasuka (who goes by Yuuhei Hanejima) is a popular actor in Japan and if there is anything he hates more than anything, it is Izaya Orihara. Izaya’s presence makes his blood boil so much that he ends up destroying property around him.
  • Simon Brezhnev – A Black Russian who works outside a Russian sushi restaurant. He is known for his great strength.
  • Kyohei Kadota – Also, known as “Dotachin” (a nickname that he hates), he is a member of the Dollars and leader of his group of friends which include Walker, Eri and Saburo.
  • Walker Yumasaki – A carefree otaku and manga fan who hangs out with Eri. A member of the Dollars and hangs out with Dotachin.
  • Eri Karisawa – An otaku and close friend of Walker, a member of the Dollars and Kadota’s group.
  • Saburo Togusa – A member of the Dollars and Kyohei’s driver.
  • Seiji Yagiri – A classmate of Mikado’s. He quit school to be with Mika but in truth, he is obsessed with the severed head of Celty’s that was put on Mika.
  • Namie Yagiri -The older sister of Seiji. A chief of Yagiri Pharmaceuticals and regrets introducing her younger brother to Celty’s head and for his obsession with it. She appears to also have feelings for her younger brother. She is also responsible for the human experimentation going on in the city.
  • Mika Harima – Anri’s good friend who, for some reason, has Celty’s head. She was Seiji’s stalker and now lover. Namie wants to get her revenge on Mika because Seiji just wants to be with her fulltime. Meanwhile, Celty is looking for her (because she has her head).
  • Kasuka Heiwajima – Shizuo Heiajima’s younger brother.
  • Ruri Hijiribe – An idol singer with a mysterious past.
  • Aoba Kuronuma – A mysterious 1st year student at Raira Academy and what is his connection to the Blue Square gang?
  • Shingen Kishitani – Shingen is the father of Shinra who wears a gas mask.
  • Mairu Orihara – Youngest sister of Izaya and twin sister of Kururi. Wears glasses.
  • Kururi Orihara – Youngest sister of Izaya and twin ster of Mairu.
  • Akane Awakusu – Daughter of Mikiya and granddaughter of Dougen. Not aware her family is a powerful yakuza group.
  • Mizuki Akabayashi – A.k.a. “Red Demon”, a high-ranking member of the Awakusu Family.

VIDEO:

“Durarara!! x 2” is presented in 1080p High Definition. I praised the first season’s animation and character design as Brain’s Base really put everything they had into the series. With Shuka now in charge, there is not much divergence because nearly the same crew behind the first series, is back for the second. Vibrant animation can be seen throughout the series thus far.

“Durara!! x 2” continues to feature great character design and wonderful art backgrounds. Art director Akira Ito and crew continues to do a magnificent job in capturing the look and feel of Ikebukuro, Tokyo. There is a slight difference in quality but Shuka did a good job.

AUDIO:

“Durarara!! x 2” is presented only with a Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 soundtrack. Both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-acted and with that being said, dialogue and music is crystal clear through the front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Durarara!! x 2” vol. 6 comes with episode 19.5, a hilarious episode featuring an overweight wannabe who tries to tell people he is Shizuo and other characters and the trouble that ensues for him pretending.

EXTRAS:

“Durarara!! x 2” vol. 6 comes with a slipcase with an illustration Takahiro Kishida (Character Design), six collectible postcards, a 16-page deluxe booklet.


With the latest episodes of “Durarara!! x2”, the chaos in Ikebukuro finally comes to an end.

We have seen how Mikado has confused everyone with his actions but slowly see how his strategy of trying to turn the Dollars into an urban legend has come to fruition.

But in the process of trying to pull of something so dangerous, Mikado is lost in the darkness and his friend Masaomi Kida has finally arrived to knock some sense into him.  That is until Mikado takes out his guns and possibly trying to kill his best friend or possibly himself?

Meanwhile, the truth of Celty is revealed and why she has been trying to say she has amnesia.  Will Shinra stand behind her?

And of course, so much more story involving other characters and the trouble that was unleashed on Ikebukuro and its aftermath.

Suffice to say, this was a considerable build-up to get to this final episodes of “DuRaRaRa!! x 2”.  To show how meticulous Mikado was and how his involvement with the Dollars has slowly twisted his logic, it was no doubt a shock to see this meek individual transform into something so dark and twisted.

But of course, with so much chaos taking place in the series, there were too many individuals who acted and are antagonists that Mikado was someone that we pity, versus seeing him as cold and calculated.

Too many things happening and too many things going wrong with other characters that until you reach these final episodes, you realized that there was a world of hurt going on not just in Ikebukuro but inside the hearts of some of these characters.

It was a long build-up to get to these final episodes and while worth the wait, there is part of me that felt it went on too long. But nevertheless, I did enjoy these final episodes of “DuRaRaRa!! x2” and it will be interesting to see where the story goes on for its next story arc, as the manga series is still ongoing.

Overall, “Durarara!! x2” is becoming more interesting as the series continues. Some may find the large cast of characters to be a bit much, but similar to other series with large casts (ie. “Bleach”, “Naruto”), these characters do tie-in to the storyline and you really can’t miss an episode because of that.

But it’s a series that you need to stick with it, watch the storyline gradually reveal itself from episode to episode and you’ll start to realize how awesome “Durarara!! x2” really is!

With the sixth volume of “Durarara!! x2”, we finally get the climactic episodes involving Mikado, Masuomi, Celty, Shinra, Shizuo and more.  But a lot of questions finally getting the answers that many have waited all season for.

If you love action, humor and all out mayhem and have stuck with “Durarara!! x2” for this long, this sixth volume is recommended!

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Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” is a fun, rebellious teen film that promotes appreciation of the arts and creativity but also a safe film that the family can watch together and enjoy.

Images courtesy of © Lions Gate Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 92 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:39:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 DTS Digital Surround Audio Optimized for Late-Night Listening, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Descriptive Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: Rated PG

RELEASE DATE: January 3, 2017


Base don the book by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts

Directed by Steve Carr

Screenplay by Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, Kara Holden

Produced by Lepold Gout

Co-Producer: Heidi Santelli, Marty Eli Schwartz

Executive Producer: Steve Bowen, Susan Cartsonis, Michael Flynn, Robert Kessel, James Patterson, Jeff Skoll

Music by Jeff Cardoni

Cinematography by Julio Macat

Edited by Wendy Greene Bricmont, Craig Herring

Casting by Nicole Abellera, Jeanne McCarthy

Production Design by Perry Andelin Blake

Art Direction by Alan Au

Set Decoration by Melinda Sanders

Costume Design by Olivia Miles


Starring:

Griffin Gluck as Rafe

Lauren Graham as Jules

Alexa Nisenson as Georgia

Andrew Daly as Principal Dwight

Thomas Barbusca as Leo

Retta as Ida Stricker

Adam Pally as Mr. Teller

Luke Hardeman as Shon

Jessi Goei as Bella

Jacob Hopkins as Miller

Isabela Moner as Jeanne

Isabella Amara as Heidi

Efren Ramirez as Gus

Rob Riggle as Bear

Gemma Forbes as Dana


Rafe has an epic imagination, and a slight problem with authority. Both collide when he transfers to a rule-crazy middle school. Drowning in do s and don ts, Rafe and his best friend Leo hatch a plan to expose the principal by breaking every rule in the school s Code of Conduct. As the principal strikes back, Rafe s world, at home and at school, explodes into hilarious chaos in this laugh-filled family comedy based on James Patterson s bestselling book series.


From Steve Carr (director of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop”, “Dr. Dolittle 2” and “Daddy Day Care”) comes “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life”.  An adaptation from the popular 2011 novel by James Patterson (creator of the Alex Cross and “Women’s Murder club” series) and Chris Tebbetts.

Featuring a screenplay by Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer and Kara Holden, “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” stars Griffin Gluck (“Just Go With It”, “Private Practice”), Lauren Graham (“Gilmore Girls”, “Parenthood”, “Bad Santa”), Alexa Nisenson (“Constantine”, “Fist Fight”),  Andrew Daly (“What Happens in Vegas”, “She’s Out of My League”), Retta (“Parks and Recreation”, “Slackers”, “Fracture”), Adam Pally (“Happy Endings”, “Iron Man 3”, “Dirty Grandpa”), Efren Ramirez (“Napoleon Dynamite”, “Crank”, “Eastbound & Down”), Rob Riggle (“The Hangover”, “21 Jump Street”, “The Daily Show”) and more.

The film would make over $20 million the box office and now “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Lions Gate.

The film introduces us to Rafe Khatchadorian (portrayed by Griffin Gluck), a teenage boy who is transferring mid-year to another school after being expelled from two other schools.

Rafe is more interested in putting his creativity towards creating art but his mother Jules (portrayed by Lauren Graham), a single mother (who is still grieving after the death of her younger son), tries to get her son prepared for school and his younger sister Georgia (portrayed by Alexa Nisenson) is often the mature one that reminds her brother that he can’t get into any more trouble as Hills Village Middle School is all that he has left.

On the first day of school, he discovers how strict the school is thanks to Principal Ken Dwight (portrayed by Andy Daly) and his Assistant Principal Ida Stricker (portrayed by Retta).

And immediately, he is bullied and to make things worse, when Rafe attends the BaseLine Assessment of Academic Readiness (BLAAR) standardized test assembly, he starts drawing the Principal, but when other students take his art journal and start laughing at Rafe’s portrayal of the principal, Principal Dwight cancels the assembly and Rafe is taken into the principal’s office.

Rafe receives a warning and to punish him, Principal Dwight destroys Rafe’s beloved art journal.

And that’s not the only thing that is causing problems for Rafe, as his mom is now dating Bear (portrayed by Rob Riggle), the ultimate jerk.  And he and his sister can’t stand him.

But bummed out about his book being destroyed, his best friend Leo (who also attends the same school) gives him an idea to take revenge on the Principal.  And the best revenge is to destroy Principal Dwight’s book…his rule book.

So, Rafe comes up with a plan to strike back at the Principal with a number of pranks.  But also impress the girl he likes, Jeanne Galletta (portrayed by Isabela Moner).


VIDEO:

“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and interior scenes are well-lit. The film also features quite a bit of animation segments that represent the characters that Rafe has created, which are vibrant and also colorful.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 DTS Digital Surround Audio Optimized for Late-Night Listening, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Descriptive Audio.

The series is primarily dialogue drive and for the most part, dialogue and music is crystal clear. Surround channels are primarily for crowd ambiance but the overall soundtrack is dialogue and music-driven.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” comes with the following special features:

  • That Middle School Life – (10:56) A making of featurette with interviews with cast and crew.
  • Middle School = The Worst/Making Movies = The Best – (5:28) Cast and crew discuss the best and worst part of making the movie.
  • The Wedgie Wheel – (2:30) Interviews with cast and crew about wedgies.
  • Yolo: Behind Operation Rafe – (6:55) Creating Rafe’s pranks for the film.
  • Gagreel – (5:20) Outtakes from “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life”.
  • Deleted Scenes – (3:21) Featuring four deleted scenes.

EXTRAS:

“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” comes with a slipcover, DVD and an UltraViolet code.


With a lot of middle-school/high school storyline plots revolving around a protagonist that gets into trouble, “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” is a film that revolves around a teen who has been expelled from two middle-schools and is onto his third and final middle school in the area.

A creative person who loves drawing, going to school is a bit of a challenge for Rafe and now he is going to a middle-school in which his life is turned upside-down due to the strict rules of Principal Dwight.

And when the Principal destroys Rafe’s beloved art journal, Rafe and his best friend Leo begin a new project to get revenge by destroying Principal Dwight’s favorite book, his rule book.

The film is no doubt a film about rebelliousness and also celebrating the creativity of Rafe and a message to not stifle one’s creative talent, I found “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” to be much more tolerable than the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” films in which the protagonist is one viewers can start disliking and only until the redeeming final arc is when the protagonist changes enough to know what he did wrong, that everything is all cool again.

For “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life”, Rafe is a creative artist that has no friends, is not into school, doesn’t like his mother’s verbally abusive boyfriend, seeing the struggles of his mother for raising the family but also the fact that his brother died.

While the book goes on to mention that Rafe’s brother died of meningitis when they were toddlers and “Bear” is actually his step-father, I think the storyline works out as Bear is more of a family friend that has been supportive of his mother but also a very huge jerk.  And also the ambiguous nature of the death of Leo’s brother which leads to a big reveal towards the end of the film.

Sure, “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” does showcase teen rebelliousness but it’s nothing violent but at the same time, rules or no rules, it does showcase a style of rebelliousness that parents may not like.  While others may watch the film and feel it’s not as rebellious as older middle-sch0ol or high school films (especially from the ’80s).

As for the Blu-ray release, detail is very good and colors are vibrant especially for the animation sequences.  Lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music, while there are a few special features.

Overall, “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” is a fun, rebellious teen film that promotes appreciation of the arts and creativity but also a safe film that the family can watch together and enjoy.

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LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – Complete Season One (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures” is a wonderful LEGO animated series for children, the family and Star Wars fans who are young at heart.  Fun, adventurous and action-packed, if you love LEGO and love “Star Wars”, then this Blu-ray release is definitely worth owning!

Images courtesy of © 2015 The Lego Group. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – Complete Season One

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: (Episodes 1-13) 299 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio), English and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 2.0 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: TV Y7 FV

Release Date: December 6, 2016


Created by Bill Motz and Bob Roth

Developed by Carrie Beck, Jack Blais, Leland Chee, Keith Malone, John McCormack

Directed by Michael Hegner, Jens Moller, Martin Skov, Frederik Budolph-Larsen, Per Risager

Written by George Lucas, Danielle Witz, James W. Bates, John Behnke, Russ Carney, Ron Corcillo, David Shayne

Producer:Carrie Beck, Jake Blais, Jason Cosler, Irene Sparre Hjorthoj

Executive Producer: Torsten Jacobsen, Bill Motz, Bob Roth, Jill Wilfert, Erik Willstrup

Co-Producer: Vicky Kjaer Jensen, Jacqueline Lopez

Music by Michael Kramer

Edited by Henrik Bech, Kristian Haskjold, Emma Hjulmand Nielsen, Lars Wissing

Art Direction by Mad Tuxen, Jonas Ussing


Starring:

Vanessa Lengies as Kordi

Grey DeLisle as Naare

Nicolas Cantu as Rowan

Matthew Wood as Roger

Eugene Byrd as Zander

Trevor Devall as Emperor

Matt Sloan as Darth Vader

Dana Snyder as Graballa

James Patrick Stuart as Dengar

John DiMaggio as Baash

Danny Jacobs as Raam

Jeff Bennett as Commander Plumestriker

Thomas Lennon as Wick Cooper

Greg Baldwin as Furlac

Richard Kind as Durbin

Kevin Michael Richardson as Jabba

Michal Daingerfield as Han Solo

Julie Dolan as Leia


 Taking place between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, these new adventures follow a family of scavengers who build and sell starships from battle debris strewn throughout the galaxy. When their youngest discovers a natural connection with the Force through an ancient artifact – the Kyber Saber –he and his family are thrown into an epic struggle against the Empire to restore peace and freedom to the galaxy. The Freemakers explore new worlds, meet new and familiar characters and discover the strength of family. Relive all 13 action-packed episodes in LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures Season One.


In June 2016, Disney XD unveiled the latest LEGO Star Wars animation titled “LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures”.

A 13-episode series that was created by Bill Motz (“Swindle”, “The Penguins of Madagascar”, “Rufus”) and Bob Roth (“The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride”, “Mickey’s Twince Upon a Christmas”, “Aladdin: The Return of Jafar”).

And now the first season will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Disney.

Taking place between “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”, the series revolves around the Freemaker family which include Kordi, Zander and their younger brother Rowan along with their droid Roger.

The four work in the salvage business and try to salvage parts from destroyed or damaged ships.

But when the two get caught in a battle between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance, young Rowan discovers an ancient artifact known as the Kyber Saber.

He is immediately found by Naare, a mysterious force-wielder who recognizes that Rowan has a connection to the Force and has the ability to find the artifacts needed to create the Kyber Saber (which was separated into pieces to keep it away from evil hands).  Which both Darth Vader and Darth Sidious are trying to find.

As the Freemakers team up with Naare, thinking she’s a good jedi, the truth is that she is a sith sent by the Emperor to use Rowan to find the artifacts needed to put the Kyber Saber together.  And giving Rowan an idea that he has the potential to become a jedi.

And as the Freemakers travel throughout the galaxy to find the artifacts, they run into a few familiar faces such as Lando, Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa and more.


VIDEO:

“LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – Complete Season One” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).   The animation is fantastic and the detail for the space craft and characters are well-done.  The animation is colorful and detailed for a LEGO Star Wars series and there is no doubt improvement seen in the animation of the characters, especially when comparing to past LEGO Star Wars animated series.

I did not notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of each episode.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – Complete Season One” is presented in English and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, and also French Dolby Digital 2.0 with subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.

While dialogue is crystal clear, as with its musical score and light saber sound effects and action sequences utilizing the surround channels, it would have been awesome to have a lossless soundtrack for the Blu-ray release.  But for the most part, audio is crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – Complete Season One” comes with the following special features:

  • The Freemaker Adventures: Meet the Freemaker Family – (2:18) Featuring the voice talent of “Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures”.
  • Freemaker Salvage and Repair – (1:00) The Freemaker Salvage and Repair commercial.

EXTRAS:

“LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – Complete Season One” comes with a slipcover, six exclusive magnets and a DisneyMovieRewards code.


With the latest “LEGO Star Wars” animated series, “LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures” is a series that will no doubt appeal to children thanks to its young protagonist but also appeal to Star Wars fans who will be happy to see familiar faces and vehicles from the “Star Wars” films in this series.

The series revolves around the Freemaker family which consists of Kordi Freemaker, the protective sister; Zander Freemaker, the eldest brother and mechanic who specializes in creating new ships and devices from leftover components and their younger brother Rowan, a 12-year-old force-sensitive boy who doesn’t really listen to his siblings and often gets into trouble.

With the Galactic Empire in search of the Kyber Saber, they have a sith named Naare infiltrate the Freemaker family and to make Rowan think he’s a jedi with potential and that she is a jedi that sees that he is force-sensive and wants to train him.  But in truth, she is using his force-sensitive power to find the artifacts to rebuild the Kyber Saber.

And as the Freemakers look for the crystal artifacts, through their adventures they will run into characters such as Jabba the hutt, Boba Fett, Dengar, Baash, Raam, Lando Calrissian, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Admiral Ackbar, Jek-14 (from “LEGO Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles”) and more.

And for comedy relief, the series introduces us to Jabba the Hutt’s jealous cousin, Graballa the Hut and under his employ is the bounty hunter, Dengar.

The CG animation for this series is fantastic and close up shows wonderful detail, plastic sheen and for the most part, the animation looks great!  And because of how the characters are designed, it really does a great job of attracting children to the “LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures” toy sets.  The Blu-ray release comes with a few special features, but you do get six exclusive magnets included.

Overall, “LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures” is a wonderful LEGO animated series for children, the family and Star Wars fans who are young at heart.  Fun, adventurous and action-packed, if you love LEGO and love “Star Wars”, then this Blu-ray release is definitely worth owning!

 

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