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

November 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

While Mark Palansky’s “Rememory” may not be a groundbreaking film, but I enjoyed the concept and also Dinklage’s performance.  And while the film does have its faults, I did enjoy “Rememory”.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lionsgate. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Rememory

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 112 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (2:40:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English SDH/Spanish Subtitles

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: November 28, 2017


Directed by Mark Palansky

Written by Mike Vukadinovich and Mark Palansky

Produced by Daniel Bekerman, Lee Clay

Co-Producer: Ethan Lazar, Tyler Nelson

Executive Producer: Jim Reeve

Music by Gregory Tripi

Cinematography by Gregory Middleton

Edited by Jane MacRae, Tyler Nelson

Casting by Tineka Becker: Tiffany Mak

Production Design by Hank Mann

Costume Design by Patricia Hargraves


Starring:

Peter Dinklage as Sam Bloom

Matt Ellis as Dash Bloom

Jordana Largy as Freddie

Martin Donovan as Gordon Dunn

Evelyne Brochu as Wendy

Henry Ian Cusick as Lawton

Anton Yelchin as Todd

Julia Ormond as Carolyn Dunn

Gracyn Shineyi as Jane Dunn


The film explores the unexplained death of Gordon Dunn (Martin Donovan), a visionary scientific pioneer whose body is found shortly after the unveiling of his newest work: a device able to extract, record and play a person’s memories. Gordon’s wife, Carolyn (Julia Ormond), retreats into her house and cuts off contact with the outside world when a mysterious man (Peter Dinklage) shows up. After stealing the machine, he uses it to try and solve the mystery, beginning an investigation of memories that lead him to unexpected and dangerous places.


From the director of “Penelope” and “A Series of Unfortunaate Events” comes the film “Rememory”.

The film stars Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, “The Station Agent”), Matt Ellis (“Final Destination 3”, “Undead Union: The Making Of”), Jordana Largy (“Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”), Martin Donovan (“Ant-Man”, “Insomnia”, “Weeds”), Evelyne Brochu (“Cafe de Flore”, “Tom at the Farm”, “X Company”), Henry Ian Cusick (“Lost”, “Hitman”, “The 100”), Anton Yelchin (“Star Trek”, “Terminator Salvation”, “Fright Night”), Julia Ormon (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Legends of the Fall”, “My Week with Marilyn”) and more.

And now “Rememory” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate.

The film begins with Sam Bloom (portrayed by Peter Dinklage) at the bar with his brother Dash Bloom (portrayed by Matt Ellis).  As the two drive home, singing out loud, their car is smashed into by another car and when Sam Bloom comes to, Dash is bleeding and dying, while Sam screams for help.

Fastforward to the future and the accident still haunts Sam.  While he is watching Gordon Dunn (portrayed by Martin Donovan), a scientific pioneer who created new technology that allows for one to extract memories and watch them on an external device.

Later, the doctor is approached by a woman named Wendy (portrayed by Evelyne Brochu) who wants something back from the scientist.  We then see Todd (portrayed by Anton Yelchin) who confronts Gordon for ruining his life and bringing up something that should have stayed in the past.  Meanwhile, Cortex CEO, Lawton (portrayed by Henry Ian Cusick) listening in on their conversation.

We then see Wendy coming in and access Gordon Dunn’s Cortex device, Sam parked in the parking lot alone watching Todd, and then later Wendy leave Gordon’s office and then we also see Gordon laying on the ground, dead.

The next morning, Sam learns that Gordon Dunn is dead and when he comes to bring flowers to his widow, he manages to steal keys inside the house and manages to use it to break into his home and steal one of the Cortex prototype devices along with recordings of memories from other test users.

And through these memories, what will Sam discover?


VIDEO:

“Rememory” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio)

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rememory” is presented with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rememory” comes with following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Mark Palansky and actor Peter Dinklage
  • The Memories We Keep – (31:59) A featurette about the concept and making of the film, as well as the evolution of the script and casting for the film.  Also, remembering actor Anton Yelchin.

EXTRAS:

The Blu-ray comes with an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


“Rememory” is a film directed and written by filmmaker Mark Palansky and created around actor Peter Dinklage and a film that looks into the extraction of memories.

The film revolves around a man named Sam Bloom (portrayed by Dinklage) who had a tragic past three years and watching scientific pioneer, Gordon Dunn, introduce his Cortex device that allows people to extract memories and watch them on an external device.

But when Gordon Dunn is found dead, we see numerous people along with Samuel who happen to be near the scene of the crime.

When Sam reads that Dunn had died, it leads him to stealing Gordon’s Cortex device in hoping he can find answers of who or what is responsible for his death but most of all, helping him come to terms with his tragic past.

If there was one issue with the film is that Cortex would go through any means of finding the stolen Cortex device and are quite aware that Sam Bloom is possibly involved.  While there are those in the company that are aware of Sam, there is buildup to painting the Cortex Corporation as a big, bad corporation and its leader, Lawton (portrayed by Henry Ian Cusick) being the film’s main antagonist.  But there was no element of danger as Sam was able to go around and accomplish things quite easily.

There is also not much time to establish the other characters in the film, they are merely subjects of tests conducted by Gordon but we don’t feel much impact with these characters at all.  If anything, the film hinges on the shoulders of Sam and Carolyn Dunn (portrayed by Julia Ormond).

I will also add that for the short moments that Anton Yelchin was in the film, you can’t help but feel sad that this young talented actor is no longer with us.  He had an emotional performance in the film and “Rememory” was among the last three films that Yelchin would make before dying in a fatal accident in the summer of 2016.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good, especially on close-ups.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue-driven and the audio commentary and featurette were entertaining.  I like the fact that Palansky gave people a chance to send in their own HD memories and they included a few of those selected, for their memory footage to be part of the film.

Overall, while Mark Palansky’s “Rememory” may not be a groundbreaking film, but I enjoyed the concept and also Dinklage’s performance.  And while the film does have its faults, I did enjoy “Rememory”.

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

August 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

TITLE: Only Lovers Left Alive

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 123 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (For Language and Brief Nudity)

Release Date: August 19, 2014

Written and Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Produced by Reinhard Brundig, Jeremy Thomas

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

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

Associate Producer: Viola Fugen, Alainee Kent, Richard Mansell

Music by Carter Logan, Jozef van Wissem

Cinematography by Yorick Le Saux

Edited by Affonso Goncalves

Casting by Ellen Lewis

Production designer: Marco Bittner Rosser

Art Direction by Anja Fromm, Anu Schwartz

Set Decoration by Christiane Krumwiede, Selina van den Brink

Costume Design by Bina Daigeler

Starring:

Tilda Swinton as Eve

Tom Hiddleston as Adam

Anton Yelchin as Ian

Mia Wasikowska as Ava

John Hurt as Marlowe

Jeffrey Wright as Dr. Watson

Slimane Dazi as Bilal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO:

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subttles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Smurfs 2 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you are a parent looking for a fun, enjoyable family film for the holidays, “The Smurfs 2” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Smurfs 2

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1, English and French DTS-HA MA 5.1, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English – Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Some Rude Behavior and Action)

Release Date: December 3, 2013

Directed by Raja Gosnell

Screenplay by J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick, David Ronn, Karey Kirkpatrick

Based on the Characters and Works by Peyo

Produced by Veronique Culliford, Jordan Kerner

Executive Producer: Ben Haber, Paul Neesan, Ezra Swerdlow

Co-Produced by Benita Allen

Associate Producer: Maricel Pagulayan

Music by Heitor Pereira

Cinematography by Phil Meheux

Edited by Sabrina Plisco

Casting by David Rubin

Production Design by Bill Boes

Art Direction by Vincent Gingras-Liberali, Michelle Laliberte, Emma Pucci

Set Decoration by Marie-Soliel Denomme, David Laramy

Costume Design by Veronique Marchessault, Rita Ryack

Starring:

Hank Azaria as Gargamel

Neil Patrick Harris as Patrick

Brendan Gleeson as Victor

Jayma Mays as Grace

Katy Perry as the voice of Smurfette

Christina Ricci as the voice of Vexy

Jonathan Winters as the voice of Papa Smurf

J.B. Smoove as the voice of Hackus

George Lopez as the voice of Grouchy Smurf

Anton Yelchin as the voice of Clumsy Smurf

John Oliver as the voice of Vanity Smurf

Fred Armisen as the voice of Brainy Smurf

Jeff Foxworthy as the voice of Handy Smurf

Alan Cumming as the voice of Gutsy Smurf

Gary Basaraba as the voice of Hefty Smurf

Tom Kane as the voice of Narrator Smurf

Frank Welker as the voice of Azrael

Jacob Tremblay as Blue

Nancy O’Dell as herself

Evil wizard Gargamel creates a couple of mischievous Smurf-like creatures called the Naughties hoping they will let him harness the magical Smurf-essence. However, he soon discovers that he needs the help of Smurfette, who knows the secret to turning the Naughties into real Smurfs. When Gargamel and his Naughties kidnap Smurfette from Smurf Village and bring her to Paris, it’s up to Papa, Clumsy, Grouchy and Vanity to reunite with their human friends, Patrick and Grace Winslow, and rescue her!

With the success of the first “The Smurfs” film back in 2011, which earned over $563 million in the box office, it was inevitable that a sequel would be made.

With the same cast and same director, Raja Gosnell (“Scooby-Doo”, “Big Momma’s House”, “Never Been Kissed”) each making a return for the sequel (the film would also be the final film for Jonathan Winters, voice of Papa Smurf, who passed away in April) , with the addition of Christina Ricci and J.B. Smoove providing the voices of the “Naughties” and Brendan Gleeson as Patrick Winslow’s father, the new film would also be released in 3D.

And the sequel “The Smurfs 2”, would go on to earn over $342,000 earned in the box office.  And now “The Smurfs 2” will be released on Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray in Dec. 2013!

For those not familiar with “The Smurfs”, back in the late ’50s, Belgian cartoonist Peyo created the comic strips featuring small blue fictional characters known as the Smurfs.  A big success in France, the Smurfs would receive various adaptations.

 

The first were in Belgium via TV animated shorts that were  created in 1961-1967, a few of the shorts would be featured in the 1965 in the black-and-white animation “Les Adventures des Schtroumpfs” and then followed by a 1976 animation titled “La Flûte à six schtroumpfs” (The Smurfs and the Magic Flute) which would receive an English version that would inspire more full-length Smurf animated films.

 

But in America, where the Smurfs gained its popularity is through the 1981 animated TV series which was nominated many times for a Daytime Emmy Award and won the “Outstanding Children’s Entertainment Series” for 1982-1983.  The animated series would broadcast on television through 1989.

 

In 1997, producer Jordan Kerner has been trying to get a “Smurfs” film created but it wasn’t until 2002 when Peyo’s heirs accepted Kerner’s offer and people were able to get their first look at the film via leaked footage on the Internet in 2008.

And in 2011, the first live-action/CG Smurf film of a planned trilogy was released in theaters in 2011.  The film would star Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”), Jayma Mays (“Glee), Hank Azaria (“The Simpsons”) and the following talents lending their voices for the film which include George Lopez, Katy Perry, Alan Cummings, Kenan Thompson, Fred Armisen, to name a few.

And with the sequel featured in 2013 and the third film planned for 2015, with the success of the first two films, the popularity of “The Smurfs” continues to entertain a new generation of young fans.

“The Smurfs 2” begins with a group of Smurf’s being read a story about how Smurfette joined the village.  We learn that Gargamel had created Smurfette to infiltrate and cause problems in the Smurf village.

When she came to the village, she was grey with black hair.  But despite how much troubles she had created, Papa Smurf embraced her and made her blue with blonde hair using a special chemical.  And that is how the Smurf village had their first female Smurf.

Meanwhile, Smurfette begins to have nightmares of her past and that she is reverting back to her gray self.

Meanwhile, everyone in the Smurf village is planning a surprise birthday party for Smurfette.  And as Smurfette tries to see if anyone will remember her birthday, everyone behaves as if they don’t know what had happened.

Feeling dejected, Smurfette begins to wonder if the Smurf Village has come to accept her.

Back in France, Gargamel has become a popular star magician, using his powers to create great illusions and to fund his projects.  As for Patrick, he and Grace who live in New York, are having a birthday party for their older child Blue.  But the birthday party is not as easy, as certain children are allergic to peanuts and some parents are concerned of what kind of plates they buy.  But when Patrick’s estranged step-father Victor (portrayed by Brendan Gleeson) comes to visit Blue for his birthday, he gives the kids a corn dog from his popular restaurant, unfortunately cooked in peanut oil.

Suffice to say, it causes problems at Blue’s party and continues to hurt the relationship between Patrick and his father.

As for Gargamel, he has created two more gray Smurf-like beings known as “Naughties”.  The “Naughties” duo includes Vexy and Hackus, Smurf experiments that Gargamel looks as failed experiments and really has no love for them but uses them in his quest to kidnap Smurfette in order to gain access to the chemical that made her blue.

But he depends on his gray smurf-like experiments, Vexy, who is a punk-style female who adores her father, while Hackus is a not-so-smart goof and loves having fun.  Each day, both need to be fed a drop of blue essence by Gargamel, who is about to attempt another experiment for him to get back home and terrorize the Smurf village.

As he takes Vexy and Hackus along with Azrael with him, his experiment doesn’t go as planned as the portal is too small, so he sends Vexy to the Smurf village to kidnap Smurfette.

And in the process, Vexy goes to the Smurf Village and for the first time, meets Smurfette and tricks her by pushing her into the portal to be captured by Gargamel.

Hearing Smurfette’s scream and encountering Vexy, who escapes back to the portal, Papa Smurf plans a rescue team to go back to the human world and rescue Smurfette.  But as he has Brainy Smurf, Gutsy Smurf and Hefty Smurf as part of the team, one of the Smurfs ends up eating the transportation crystals meant for the three.  As they give a Heimlich procedure on the Smurf, the three crystals fly out of the Smurfs mouth into the mouths of Vanity Smurf, Grouchy Smurf and Clumsy Smurf.  So, the three along with Papa smurf end up traveling back to the human world.

In the process, they end up back at Patrick’s home and encounter Victor who tries to swat them.  But Patrick manages to save the Smurfs and learn about Smurfette’s kidnapping.  Knowing that the Smurfs need their help once again, the entire Winslow family including Victor and the Smurfs fly to France in order to save Smurfette from Gargamel.

But will they save her in time or will Gargamel’s and the “Naughties” convince Smurfette that she belongs with them?

VIDEO:

“The Smurfs 2” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  The film is absolutely vibrant but what will impress you is the clarity but also the much better texture effects for this sequel.  You can see the skin pigments much more clearly, so clear and detailed that you can see the hair coming out of Papa Smurf’s ears.  The clothing textures especially the hat of Papa Smurf and others are so detailed, you can see the threading.  But also the strands and the movement of hair for Smurfette and Vixie is also well-done!   The film was mastered in 4K and overall, picture quality for “The Smurfs 2” is excellent!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Smurfs 2” is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and English and French – Audio Description Tracks. As for audio, the lossless audio features a lot of dialogue, music and also special effects for the action sequences.   From ducks and birds flying, glass shattering, things falling or breaking and also a good amount of crowd ambiance during Gargamel’s shows, there is a good use of the surround channels and also LFE during the more active scenes.   Dialogue and music are crystal clear but the lossless audio for “The Smurfs 2” is very good!

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Smurfs 2” comes with the following special features:

  • The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow – (22:15) A special CG and 2D animated special about “The Legend of Smurfy Hollow”.
  • Deleted Scenes – (3:52) Featuring a total of five deleted scenes.
  • Daddy’s Little Girl: The Journey of Smurfette – (6:21) A featurette about Katy Perry playing Smurfette and the director and producers talking about Katy Perry’s voice acting performance.
  • The Naughties! The Tale of Hackus and Vexy – (5:42)) An introduction to the creation of the two new smurfs, Vexy and Hackus.
  • The Puuuurfect Companion: Azrael’s Tail – (4:40) Hank Azaria and crew talk about the connection between Gargamel and Azrael.
  • Animating Azrael – (3:24) How cats were motion digitized for the film.
  • Evolution of the Naughties – (3:41) How Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Imageworks made the Naughties.

EXTRAS:

“The Smurfs 2” comes with a Blu-ray, DVD and an UltraViolet Digital Copy code plus a slipcover.

As an adult who grew up watching “The Smurfs” animated series, it’s great to have a new sequel continue where the last left off and entertain the new generation of Smurf fans.

I watched the film along with my son who enjoyed the first film and for the most part, as a family film, we both enjoyed it.

The film does answer the big question of how did Smurfette come to be part of the Smurf village and why there is only one female.  And so the writers did a good job of establishing the creation of Smurfette but also the creation of Vexy and Hackus.

The film features the return of the Winslow family, who were a big part of the first film but also the second as the second storyline deals with Patrick’s troubled relationship with his father.

While part of the enjoyment of the first film was the adventure especially of Patrick trying to keep the Smurf’s a secret and yet, somehow they up in his office and in stores, this time around the film focused more on Smurfette spending time with her new sister and brother than visiting many fun places.

And the fact that the film goes from New York to France, while Smurfette, Vexy and Hackus have fun at a bakery, the film tries to break up the story by focusing on two rescue teams.  One featuring Patrick and his family, while Papa Smurf and the other Smurfs try to find a way to save Smurfette.

Because of the shenanigans with the Winslow family in the first film, I felt the Winslow family was subdued because of the family issues that Patrick and his father were having, while for the Smurfs, while Papa Smurf, Clumsy and Grouchy Smurf make their return, instead of Hefty, we get Vanity Smurf, who spends most of his time looking at the mirror and loving himself.

So, as we see these two rescue attempts, we are taken to Smurfette’s family dilemma.   As the two “Naughties” are seeing a kinder, loving side that they never experienced with Gargamel, they start to realize how much fun they have with Smurfette.  But also experiencing  the feeling of having a family and wanting to live with one another.  But the question is whether Smurfette will stay with them or go back with Papa Smurf and her Smurf family.

Gargamel and Azrael are the same but we get to see a bit more of the bad side of Gargamel and what he wants to do with the Smurfs.

While the film is quite predictable of what decision Smurfette will make, “The Smurfs 2” does have its moments of fun and caught my 10-year-old laughing at some of the jokes.  But the film does put a lot of focus on Smurfette this time around and those wanting the fun adventures of the Papa Smurf and the rescue team, it’s not as crazy and fun as the first film and the focus of Patrick and his father’s relationship problems took away precious screentime from the Smurfs.

With that being said, this film did give Katy Perry a chance to showcase her voice acting skills and she did a very good job as Smurfette.  And the addition of the two new characters, Vexy and Hackus was also a plus.  But the whole relationship problem between Patrick and his father, took away precious screen time away from the Smurfs.  And I just felt that the pacing and the Smurf adventures was much more exciting in the first film than the second.

While I hope the third film features on an adventure that takes place in the Smurf Village rather than the land of where humans live, I just hope the writers stay away from the banality and feel they must reunite with the Winslow family with each film.  They don’t.  There are a good amount of stories that can take place in that leafy Smurf village and like the animated series from the ’80s which showed these characters having adventures near their home, it would be great to have more adventure featuring more Smurfs for the third film.

Overall, for those who grew up watching “The Smurfs”, the sequel is an enjoyable family film.  I’m not going to be overly critical as this film was created for children and by watching “The Smurfs 2” with my ten-year-old, I can tell he really enjoyed it and as a parent, the fact that he enjoyed this film is all that matters.  As long as the film makes children laugh or put on a big smile on their faces, the film eventually is a success for achieving that goal, despite how a few parents or critics may feel about the film.

If you are a parent looking for a fun, enjoyable family film for the holidays, “The Smurfs 2” is recommended!

From Up on Poppy Hill (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“From Up on Poppy Hill” is a delightful, realistic film focusing on nostalgia, teen love and human emotion.  A beautiful film from beginning to end.  “From Up on Poppy Hill” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2011, 2012 Chizuru Takahashi – Tetsuro Sayama – GNDHODT. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: From Up on Poppy Hill

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2011

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English DolbyTrue HD 5.0, Japanese DolbyTrue HD 5.0, English subtitles

COMPANY: Studio Ghibli/Cinedigm/GKids/New Video

RATING: PG (Wild Thematic Elements and Some Incidental Smoking Images)

Release Date: September 3, 2013

Based on the stories “Seito Shokun ni Yoseru” by Kenji Miyazawa, “Tadashiki Mono ni Shouri Ari” by Takao Saito, “Gendai no Seinen  wa Doko e Iku” by Teikichi Shiba

Based on the original concept “Kon’Iro no Uneri Ga” by Kenji Miyazawa

Directed by Goro Miyazaki

Screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki, Keiko Niwa

Music by Satoshi Takebe

Character Design by Katsuya Kondo

Art Director: Kamon Ooba, Noboru Yoshida, Takashi Omori and Yohei Takamatsu

Animation Director: Akihiko Yamashita, Atsushi Yamagata, Kitaro Kousaka, Shunsuke Hirota, Takeshi Inamura

Anime Production: Studio Ghibli

Featuring the following voice talent:

Junichi Okada/Anton Yelchin as Shun Kazama

Masami Nagasawa/Sarah Bolger as Umi Matsuzaki

Aoi Teshima/Emily Osment as Yuko

Aoi Watanabe as Young Umi

Haruka Shiraishi as Sora Matsuzaki

Jun Fubuki/Jamie Lee Curtis as Ryōko Matsuzaki

Keiko Takeshita/Gillian Anderson as Hana Matsuzaki

Nao Omori/Chris Noth as Akio Kazama

Rumi Hiiragi/Aubrey Plaza as Sachiko Hirokōji

Shunsuke Kazama/Charlie Saxton as Shirō Mizunuma

Takashi Naito/Bruce Dern as Yoshio Onodera

Teruyuki Kagawa/Ron Howard as President Tokumaru

Tsubasa Kobayashi/Alex Wolff as Riku Matsuzaki

Yuriko Ishida/Christina Hendricks as Miki Hokuto

Toshimi Kanno as Nobuko

From the legendary Studio Ghibli, creators of Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and The Secret World of Arrietty, comes another animated triumph. Yokohama, 1963. Japan is picking itself up from the devastation of World War II and preparing to host the Olympics. The mood is one of both optimism and conflict as the young generation struggles to throw off the shackles of a troubled past. Against this backdrop of hope and change, a friendship begins to blossom between high school students Umi (Sarah Bolger) and Shun (Anton Yelchin) – but a buried secret from their past emerges to cast a shadow on the future and pull them apart. From a screenplay by Academy Award-winner Hayao Miyazaki and featuring an all-star English voice cast!

From Studio Ghibli comes a 2011 animated film titled “Kokuriko-zaka Kara” (known as “From Up on Poppy Hill”) directed by Goro Miyazaki (“Tales from Earthsea”) and written by Hayao Miyazaki (“Kiki’s Delivery Service”, “Nadia – The Secret of Blue Water”, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Howl’s Moving Castle”, etc.) and Keiko Niwa (“Tales from Earthsea”, “The Secret World of Arrietty”).

Back in the ’80s, Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki while on a retreat, discovered few shojo manga (targeted for female readers) lying on the table.  One was Kenji Miyazawa’s “Kon’iro no Uneri ga” and a few other titles from Miyazawa, Takao Saito and Teikichi Shiba.

Wondering if it would be possible to make animation based on shojo manga but at the time, the project was passed over for other projects until nearly 30-years later, when Hayao Miyazaki felt it was time to pursue the manga as modern technology has taken over Japan and the film could be made into a period film.

The film had faced its challenges, most notably as the film was being worked on during the time of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami disaster.  Due to the blackouts, the animation process was done during the nights to minimize disruptions but the staff worked diligently to make sure it would be released in theaters by July 16, 2011.

Instead of focusing on the ’80s, to take the time period to 1963 when Miyazaki first entered the animation industry and to take it to a time for when he felt that technology was not as prominent.  To create a story that some may feel nostalgic about but also to show a time of human interaction without the technology that we see today.

Also, a departure from Studio Ghibli films that incorporate fantasy, this is a film about human interaction and while Hayao Miyazaki and writer Keiko Niwa would be responsible for the screenplay, Hayao Miyazaki handed the reigns of direction to his son Goro (who directed “Tales from Earthsea”).

And now “From Up on Poppy Hill” will be released on Blu-ray +DVD courtesy of New Video.  The Blu-ray will included the original Japanese soundtrack but also an English dub soundtrack featuring an all-star cast which includes Sarah Bolger (“In America”, “The Spiderwick Chronicles”, The Moth Diaries”), Anton Yelchin (“Fright Night”, “Star Trek”, “Terminator Salvation”), Gillian Anderson (“The X-Files”, “The Last King of Scotland”), Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”, “Detachment”), Aubrey Plaza (“Parks and Recreation”, “Safety Not Guaranteed”, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”), Jamie Lee Curtis (“True Lies”, “Halloween”, “A Fish Called Wanda”), Bruce Dern (“Django Unchained”, “Monster”), Chris Noth (“Law & Order”, “Sex and the City”), Beau Bridges (“Max Payne”, “The Descendants”, “The Fabulous Baker Boys”), Isabelle Fuhrman (“Orphan”, “The Hunger Games”), Emily Osment (“Hannah Montana”) and Ron Howard (“Happy Days”, “American Graffiti”, “The Andy Griffith Show”).

“From Up on Poppy Hill” is set in 1963, a year before the Tokyo 1964 Olympics and revolves around 16-year-old Umi Matsuzaki, a mature teenager who lives in a boarding house on Poppy Hill which overlooks the Port of Yokohama.

Umi runs the boarding house with her younger sisters Sora and Riku along with her grandmother, Hana.  Her mother is a medical professor currently studying in the United States and her father is in the Japanese military and died in sea during the Korean War.

Also living in the home are college student Sachiko Hirokouji and doctor-in-training Miki Jokuto.  And every day, each praise Umi for her cooking for them but also maintaining the house.

Every morning, Umi rases signal flags with a message to pray for safe voyages for the ships on the harbor.

Umi always works hard for everyone and her grandmother worries that she has done so much since her father’s death and wants her to find a boy that she can love and have a happy life as she gets older.

One day, she reads a poem in her school’s newspaper about flags being raised by a local girl.  The poem is written by Shun Kazama, a member of the journalism club.  Also, one of the head people trying to save the Latin Quarter, an old building used for the high school club’s which is deemed as dirty and unsafe by the school principal.

Wanting to save the Latin Quarter, Shun takes part in a crazy stun to jump off the school building and land in a swimming pool, a stunt that can literally harm him if he makes a mistake.

When Shun jumps, he lands on the tree branches and then into the pool.  As Umi goes to help him out of the pool, the school takes a picture of her helping him and joke around that the two are a couple.

Meanwhile, Umi’s sister Sora buys an photo of the actual jump and convinces her sister to come with her to the Latin Quarter, so she can get an autograph.  When Umi and Sora go inside, they see the students trying to renovate the building led by Shun and Shiro Mizunuma, the school’s student government president.

And eventually through spending more time at the Latin Quarter, both Umi and Shun start to fall for one another.  But when Umi throws a party at her home, Umi shows a photo to Shun of three military men, one being her father, Yuichiro Sawamura.  But Shun is shocked because he has the same photograph, one that is supposed to be his father.

Shun asks his stepfather about the photo and the truth about his real father and is told that Yuichiro, Umi’s father arrived at their house one evening after World War II and gave him to the family, who had just lost their infant and adopted Shun.

As Umi tries to be around Shun, he avoids her but she has no idea why.  As Shun looks through city records, he notices that his name is under the Sawamura family registry and believes that he is the brother of Umi.

As Umi tries to find out why Shun has been avoiding him, he tells her that they can no longer have the feelings they once had, because they are brother and sister, which leaves Umi devastated.

But despite things changing for Umi and Shun, both must do all they can to save the Latin Quarter but can they work together?

VIDEO:

“From Up on Poppy Hill ” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is a film that incorporates the beauty of Studio Ghibli films.  Recreating Yokohama 1963 with beautiful and detailed, painted backgrounds, vibrant animation and striking character designs.  The film looks absolutely breathtaking in HD.  Just the small details that are incorporated into the film, from the things inside the Latin Quarter, the detail of objects and environments, its absolutely beautiful!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“From Up on Poppy Hill” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0.   Both soundtracks are well-acted, both are well done but the primary difference is how the music sounds.  For the Japanese soundtrack, the music is used on the surround channels and is more dynamic, while the English music portion focuses on the front channels.  But aside from that, both lossless soundtracks are very good.  While the Japanese soundtrack sounds wonderful and very well-acted for the more emotional scenes courtesy of actress Masami Nagasawa, for the English dub, Sarah Bolger does a wonderful job playing Umi and also manages to pull off various emotional scenes.  If anything, I was impressed by both soundtracks!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“From Up on Poppy Hill” features the following special features:

  • Storyboard – (1:30:41) The entire film in storyboard format.
  • Director Goro Miyazaki at Yokohama – (17:37) Director Goro Miyazaki talks about working on the film.
  • Yokohama Stories of the Past and Present – (22:36) A featurette showcasing Yokohama past and present.
  • “Summer of Farewells” Music Video – Featuring “Summer of Farewells” performed by Aoi Teshima.
  • English Voice Cast Featurette – English dub director Gary Grydstrom talks about working with this talented voice acting cast featuring video of the cast during the recording.
  • Press Conference Theme Song Announcement – (39:33) A press conference not long after the March 11th Earthquake and Tsunami disaster.
  • Hayao Miyazaki’s Speech After the Staff Screening – (6:14) A post-staff screening featuring Hayao Miyazaki congratulating his staff.
  • Japanese Trailers and Teasers – (7:11) Japanese theatrical trailers and teasers.
  • US Trailer – English theatrical trailr for “From Up on Poppy Hill”.

EXTRAS:

“From Up on Poppy Hill” Blu-ray also comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film plus a slipcover.  Also, included is a 16-page booklet featuring notes featuring Hayao Miyazaki’s original treatment and an essay titled “Giving Up or Being Overly Prudent Won’t Get You Anywhere” by Goro Miyazaki.

When it comes to “From Up on Poppy Hill”, I know there are people who are more into Studio Ghibli films that tend to lead to the more fantasy side.  And those films tend to be the more successful Studio Ghibli films.

But for those who have followed older Studio Ghibli films, you learn that the studio has taken on films that deal with more realism than fantasy.

In 1988, Studio Ghibli’s Isao Takahata wrote and directed “Hotaru no Haka” (Grave of the Fireflies) about a brother and sister affected by the atomic bombing of Kobe during World War II.  Two years later, Takahata’s latest drama, “Omoide Poro Poro” (Only Yesterday) was released in theaters and  was the highest grossing film in 1991.  The drama leaned towards more realism about a woman in 1982 Tokyo recalling memories as a schoolgirl in 1966.  And in 1999, Takahata went on to work on a family comedy known as “My Neighbors the Yamadas”.

While the realism featured in Takahata’s films are renown for Studio Ghibli fans, it was said by animator Yasuo Otsuka that Hayao Miyazaki has been influenced by Takahata’s work and that Miyazaki gets his  sense of responsibility from Takahata.

Which leads to “From Up on Poppy Hill”, while not a political or fantasy film that Miyazaki is known for, it is a film that he had had on the backburner for 30-years and had wanted to make it into a film.  While co-writing the film along with Keiko Niwa and Junichi Okada taking on the director reigns for the film.

Doing what he can to be faithful to Yokohama’s historical details but also showing a vibrancy for the location, the film is absolutely beautiful from the detail of the environments, the background art is consistent with Studio Ghibli’s determination to achieve excellence through animation, while character designs manage to capture a wide range of emotions.

The film features a Yokohama before the Bay Bridge, before the massive buildings and modern technology permeated through the city that we see today and when people communicated with each other by meeting with one another.

Umi is a strong female character that literally runs the boarding house without her parents there.  She cooks, she cleans, people literally depend on her but at the same time, bottled up within her are emotions of her father’s death and the words of her grandmother to find happiness and to find a person she can love.

She meets a wise boy, a determined teen who writes for the school paper and part of a group insistent on cleaning up their Latin Quarter, an old, dirty house that once housed various clubs on school campus.  But with threats of it being torn down, everyone is working together to ensure it doesn’t happen.

But the main storyline revolves around Umi and Shun, two teens who have grown fond for each other but find out they may be brother and sister.

It’s a straightforward story without any significant plot twists, no dark or fantasy elements, no polemicizing.  Just a straight story of the life of a teenager finding love and trying to protect something that ‘s important to them.

But despite its simplicity, “From Up on Poppy Hill” is a visually mesmerizing film with its beautiful painted backgrounds and animation, its wonderful acting.

In fact, the film not too easy to make, not only because of the March 11th Tohoku earthquake and tsunami but also because director Goro Miyazaki faced major challenges, so stressful that his body couldn’t take it at times.  He cracked a tooth, his hairline started to recede, his eyesight started to deteriorate and his back went out for the first time.  He was tormented by the fact that it was his father’s script and the stress of creating a film that may not match the quality of the screenplay.

I felt that Goro Miyazaki and staff were able to craft a beautiful, more realistic drama but when compared to other Studio Ghibli works, it’s like comparing apples and oranges.  Truthfully, one can compare this film to one Studio Ghibli film and that is the 1991 “Only Yesterday” but both are different from each other.

“From Up on Poppy Hill” is not forced, it’s rather gentle in approach.  It’s realistic but not dark or a film that approaches any major political or social mores.  It’s a film that focus on human interacting, communication and young love. Nothing more, nothing less.

As for the Blu-ray release, GKids/New Video have done a fantastic job with this Blu-ray release by including both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film but also 16-page booklet.  The film looks absolutely beautiful in HD and the lossless soundtrack is good but both Japanese and English are well-performed!

Overall, “From Up on Poppy Hill” is a delightful, realistic film focusing on nostalgia, teen love and human emotion.  A beautiful film from beginning to end.

“From Up on Poppy Hill” is highly recommended!

 

Fright Night (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Entertaining, hilarious and action-packed, this 2011 version of “Fright Night” may not be the scariest vampire film ever created but it’s definitely one of the more exciting, comedy/action vampire films ever made!  I usually don’t use the word “fun” when reviewing a vampire film, but “Fright Night” was a lot of fun, especially coming from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” writer, Marti Noxon.

Images courtesy of ©2011 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Fright Night

FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 106 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD MA (48 kHz/24-bit), English 2.0 DVS, French, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: DreamWorks Pictures/Touchstone Home Entertainment

RATED: R (For Bloody Horror Violence and Language including some Sexual Reference)

Release Date: December 13, 2011

Directed by Craig Gillespie

Screenplay by Marti Noxon

Based on Tom Holland’s story and film “Fright Night”

Produced by Alison R. Rosenzweig, Michael De Luca

Executive Producer: Ray Angelic, Josh Bratman, Michael J. Gaeta, Lloyd Ivan Miller

Music by Ramin Djawadi

Cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe

Edited by Tatiana S. Riegel

Casting by Jo Edna Boldin, Allison Jones

Production Design by Richard Bridgland

Art Direction by Randy Moore

Set Decoration by K.C. Fox

Costume Design by Susan Matheson

Starring:

Anton Yelchin as Charley Brewster

Colin Farrell as Jerry

Toni Collette as Jane Brewster

David Tennant as Peter Vincent

Imogen Poots as Amy

Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Ed

Dave Franco as Mark

Reid Ewing asBen

Will Denton as Adam

Sandra Vergara as Ginger

Emily Montague as Doris

Charley (Anton Yelchin) is a high school senior who’s on top of the world—he’s running with the popular crowd and dating Amy (Imogen Poots), the most coveted girl in school. But trouble arrives when Jerry (Colin Farrell) moves in next door. He seems like a nice guy––at first. But there’s something not quite right, and no one else, including Charley’s mom (Toni Collette) seems to notice. After his classmates start to mysteriously disappear without a trace, Charlie discovers that there is more to his new neighbor than meets the eye. Now he must do all he can to protect his mom and girlfriend Amy from meeting the same fate as his best friend Ed Thompson (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

While there are some who may remember the 1985 horror film “Fright Night” written by Tom Holland, and its sequel in 1988, with many remakes of popular horror films happening more and more, what happens if the task of writing a screenplay is given to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” writer Marti Noxon?

Let’s just say that while not a horror/slasher type of film, you do get the humor that was quite prevalent in those popular TV series that Noxon was involved with and also the feeling of a homage to the Scooby Gang than redoing the same kind of film that was released in ’85.  And director Craig Gillespie doing something different than his previous films “Lars and the Real Girl”, “Mr. Woodcock” and the TV series “United States of Tara”.

Also, unlike the earlier film’s, this latest adaptation would benefit from better visual effects but also a change in storyline compared to the original film.  Where the original focused on a horror fan of the TV series “Fright Night” and an actor who played a vampire killer, there are differences that keep the original 1985 film original and this 2011 version is a different type of film that uses the character’s names, modernizes the storyline and is essentially a different film.

While the film wasn’t a major hit in the box office, it did receive many positive reviews from film critics.  And for fans of “Buffy the Vampire” and “Angel”, because of Noxon’s involvement, there was a little homage to those series in the film, as well as to the original film that made fans interested and entertained.  And also to “Doctor Who” fans who love David Tennant’s work as the doctor and want to see him play the vampire hunter, Peter Vincent.

The film is set in Las Vegas and a commercial is played for Peter Vincent, a vampire hunter who has his own show in Vegas with special effects and scantily clad women pretending to be vampires.  But we are then taken to the bedroom where we see a dead woman laying on the bed and a man dead next to the bed. A young boy takes his father’s gun and tries to put the bullets in but is immediately found by a vampire and is killed.

We are then introduced to teenager Charley Brewster (played by Anton Yelchin, “Terminator Salvation”, “Star Trek”, “Charlie Bartlett”), a normal teenager who lives with his mother Jane (played by Toni Collette, “Little Miss Sunshine”, “United States of Tara”, “Little Miss Sunshine”) and is dating one of the popular girls at school, Amy Peterson (played by Imogen Poots, “V for Vendetta”, “28 Weeks Later”, “Solitary Man”).

While life is going well for Charley and he is seen hanging around bullies like Mark (played by Dave Franco, “Superbad”, “Milk”, “Charlie St. Cloud”), at school, he notices a few kids missing from class.  And he is asked by a student named Ed (played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, “Superbad”, “Kick-Ass”, “Role Models”) to meet him after class.

We then learn that Charley and Ed used to be best friends at school and would one of their other friends are missing.  Ed tells him that even though Charley is popular now, they should check their friend’s house  to see what happened.  Because Charley has this new life with his girlfriend and his new friends, he is uninterested.  That is until Ed tells him that he has compromising pictures of Charley masturbating with a Stretch Armstrong toy and immediately Charley changes his tone and tells Ed they will look into their friend’s disappearance.

When Charley arrives home, he sees his mother talking to their new neighbor, a man named Jerry Dandridge (played by Colin Farrell, “Phone Booth”, “Miami Vice”, “Alexander”).  Jerry knows how to talk to women and is flirting with Charley’s mother.  But immediately he receives a message from Ed to meet him at their friend’s home, so Charley leaves immediately.  Jerry looks at Charley with suspicion.

Charley and Ed meet and break into their friend’s home.  Ed tells him that Charley’s new neighbor is a vampire.  They have been investigating him and it has made Ed and their other friend a target.  Charley doesn’t believe any of it and thinks that his friend has the same imagination that he had when they were younger and both end up separating as Ed warns him, Charley doesn’t listen.

As Ed is walking home, he runs into the bully Mark who is about to chase him down.  As Ed runs away, he ends up jumping backyards and lands in a home where Jerry is waiting for him.  Unfortunately, Ed left his vampire weapons while running away from Mark and all he has is a small cross.  Jerry bites down on Ed and he is gone.

The following day at school, Charley notices that Ed didn’t show up and now he is concerned.  He goes to visit Ed’s home and tells his parents he needs to pick up a book in his room, and they let him in.  Inside, Charley finds detailed writings left by Ed on how to defeat vampires and sees a website for Las Vegas vampire hunter Peter Vincent (played by David Tennant, “Doctor Who”, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”).

When Charley arrives back home, it is dusk and immediately Jerry knocks on the door to get some beer.  One of the things Ed told Charley is that vampires can’t enter a home unless they are invited and sure enough, Jerry is unable to go inside the home.  So, Charley tests things out and sure enough, Jerry can’t walk in.  As Charley tries to give the beer to Jerry and sees if Jerry would extend his arm inside the house, he notices he can’t.  Charley gives Jerry the beer and Jerry starts to tell Charley of how his mom is weak without a father and needs a man.  And then goes on to talk about his girlfriend and Charley begins to suspect even more that Jerry is indeed a vampire.

When Charley goes upstairs, he finds his girlfriend Amy waiting for him and wanting to have sex.  But Charley is not in the mood.  He sees his blonde neighbor Doris in a date with Jerry and Jerry spots both of them looking at him with anger.  Charley tries to explain to Amy that Jerry is a bad man but doesn’t go into details.  But Amy thinks it’s Charley trying to get out of having sex with her and leaves, upset at Charley.

As Charley goes to sleep, he is awakened in the morning by a scream and believes that perhaps Jerry has done something to Doris.  Charley sneaks into Jerry’s home and notices that he has these secret rooms where he keeps his victims.  He finds Doris and manages to free her.  He escapes with her but immediately she blows up into dust due to sunlight.  Which leaves Charley to believe that Jerry is turning his victims into vampires.

With all that has happened, Charley decides to visit Peter Vincent and poses as a journalist.  Charley immediately tells him that he needs Peter’s help to take on a vampire.  Peter tells him that what he sees is a facade of Las Vegas entertainment and that he is not a real vampire hunter.  Peter leaves photos of what he took inside of Jerry’s home and leaves it with Peter Vincent as he is ushered out of Peter’s apartment.

When Charley gets home, he immediately goes into full alert by putting crosses all over the windows. While he is doing this, his friends including Mark watch and wonder if Charley has become religious.  But immediately, the two are attacked by Jerry.

When Charley’s mother and even Amy arrive, they don’t know what is happening with Charley.  Charley tries to explain how Jerry is a bad man and that they should not let Jerry into the home.  He tries to explain that Jerry is a vampire and of course, both women don’t believe him.  That is until Jerry arrives and tells Jane that her son broke into his house.  But believing in her son, she tells Jerry to call the authorities instead of letting him in.

Upset with the answer, they watch Jerry take a shovel and go to their backyard and watch him dig and pull out a gas line and literally blows up Charley’s house.  Now they know that Jerry is a bad guy, but when they try to escape by vehicle, they are under attack by Jerry and realize…he is not human, he really is a vampire.

Will any of them survive the night as Jerry is on the hunt after them?

VIDEO:

“Fright Night” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1).  The Picture quality is fantastic!  There are a lot of detail’s that can be seen, from the detail on the clothing, the weapons, the blood on the characters.  Plenty of detail can be seen in this film from Amy’s blue eyes, the detail on the CG of Jerry’s vampire face, the edges and contour of Peter Vincent’s collection and more! Also, it helps to have a talented cinematographer, Javier Aguirresarobe (“The Others”, “Twilight: New Moon”, “The Twilight Saga: Elclipse”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) working on the film.  Javier does a wonderful job in capturing the action sequences with complete efficacy!

Skin tones are natural, black levels are deep and no artifacts, banding (especially during the more fire and red intensive scenes) or traces of DNR.  This is an awesome looking film on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Fright Night” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz/24-bit), English 2.0 DVS, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  What an immersive soundtrack!  I was so happy to hear the rear surrounds being used in this film, I was very impressed!  While the film starts out with a lot of dialogue and is crystal clear through the center channel and also ambient effects and music through the front channel, the movie builds with noises from glass being broken, to the scream of Doris but once you get into the action sequences featuring Charley, Amy and his mother being pursued by Jerry, the film becomes immersive!

From the sounds of a motorcycle hitting the back window, Jane running straight into Jerry and the vampire trying to come from below in order to kill his victims or the scrape of metal as it hits the pavement.  From this point on to the film, the film is so immersive because of the continual action sequences that I really enjoyed this lossless soundtrack.  Action kept going and going, ambiance via the club or crowds is heard clearly.  If anything, audio quality like the video is fantastic!

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Fright Night” comes with the following special features:

  • Peter Vincent: Come Swim in My Mind – (2:09) An interview with Peter Vincent (the character played by David Tennant).
  • The Official “How to Make a Funny Vampire Movie” Guide – (8:04) Craig Gillespie, Marti Noxon and the producers and cast talk about necessary things to have in a vampire film.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes – (4:51) Featuring five deleted scenes: Ride to School, Neighborly, Once a Freak Always a Freak, Midori & Kerosene and Back at the Penthouse.
  • Squidman: Extended and Uncut – (2:58) Featuring the extended, uncut version of the squidman home video that Charley and his friends took when they were younger.
  • Bloopers – (3:23) Outtakes from “Fright Night”.
  • Kid Cudi – “No One Believes Me” Music Video – (5:21)

EXTRAS:

“Fright Night” comes with a slipcover case and DVD with feature film and special features.  The DVD is presented in widescreen (1:78:1) aspect ratio – enhanced for 16×9 televisions.  Audio is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 DVS, French, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

While I’m not so fond of ’70s and ’80s horror films because they still continue to scare the hell out of me… “Fright Night” is one of those horror films that may have some scares but by no means is it a horror, slasher film or anything that is overly grotesque.

In fact, when I found out that Marti Noxon wrote the screenplay and that Craig Gillespie was directing, I wasn’t thinking of horror film.  Knowing Noxon’s style of writing for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the “Angel” TV series, she is a writer that tries to bring together comedy, horror but also gives things a more stylish presentation for today’s viewers.  While Craig Gillespie is also a character driven director and both working together was actually quite effective.

In some ways, minus Joss Whedon and the fact that fans have wished on a real “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” movie since the TV series had ended, this 2011 version of “Fright Night” almost felt like an extension of those series.  A homage to those Whedon TV series that a lot of us grew up watching way before “Twilight” and the other countless vampire related films and TV series that are currently ongoing.

And I can easily say that because Marti Noxon wrote the screenplay, was a major incentive of me wanting to watch this film because I knew I was not going to have a bloody horrorfest but a film that will be action-packed and entertaining!  While it will be quite subjective for those who saw the original 1985 film and this 2011 version of which is better and which is not, I’m more on the latter side, that I enjoyed this 2011 film a lot!

First, Colin Farrell does a fantastic job of playing the antagonist, Jerry the vampire.  You know that he is the bad boy that the women are going to fall for and also the actor does a great job of playing the villain!  Anton Yelchin looks like the underdog.  As Charley, a kid we don’t expect much from in defending his family, yet himself from a vampire attack, so you root for the underdog.  Especially for his girlfriend Amy (played by Imogen Poots) and his mother Jane (Toni Collette).

But also having David Tennant (which alone will have “Dr. Who” fans excited) as the vampire hunter, Peter Vincent was a big plus!  Especially to have Tennant play this bombastic character, so different from Roddy McDowall’s 1985 performance.  If anything, Tennant made this rude and aggressive character his own.

But also to having this film set in Las Vegas to help explain the Peter Vincent, Vampire Hunter show and also why Jerry has blacked-out windows (because people in Las Vegas work at nights and sleep during the day), works well for this film.

But one advantage that the 2011 version film has its technology and it’s talented crew behind it.  Aside from Gillespie and Noxon, for cinematography, you have “Twilight: New Moon” and “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe, art director Randy Moore (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”, “The Mask”), costume designer Susan Matheson (“The Kingdom”, “The Town”, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”), production designer Richard Bridgland (“Resident Evil”, “AVP: Alien vs. Predator”), Set decorator K.C. Fox (“Speed”, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) and many more.  DreamWorks Pictures really tapped into a talented crew for this 2011 version of the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality and lossless audio is fantastic!  I wish there was an audio commentary but you still get a good number of special features included with this Blu-ray release.  And also, with this Blu-ray release, you get a DVD feature of the film, so since this will be released before Christmas, something people can watch during those long travel commutes or during winter vacation.

Overall, “Fright Night” is not so much of a horror film.  If you have watched a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or “Angel” episode, you know it’s about comedy, its characters and of course, these characters trying to survive from vampires.  While the original definitely had hints of a sequel toward the end, this 2011 film did not. But then again, with so much interest in vampire films and vampire television shows, I wouldn’t be surprised if more “Fright Night” films would be made.

If so, I hope it retains the same type of vibe as the 2011 version as I do love what Marti Noxon has brought to the original screenplay.  Especially with so many horror films coming out each year, it’s great to have something not too banal in which you have a vampire film that is not all about the horror but a screenplay that manages to have fun and not having main characters dying off like other films.

Overall, “Fright Night” is an enjoyable, entertaining action-based, vampire film, it may not be scary enough for others…but for those who want to laugh and also enjoy the characters of the film, this one is for you!

The Smurfs (a J!-ENT Children’s DVD Review)

November 20, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A fun family film that children will love!  Featuring an all-star cast and wonderful CG animation, “The Smurfs” definitely pays its respect to the original comic and animated series in bringing these characters to life.  And as an adult who grew up as a child watching the animated series, I found the film to be quite entertaining!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and Hemisphere – Culver Picture Partners I, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Smurfs

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2011

DURATION: 103 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English, French, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Frencha nd Spanish

RATED: PG (For Some Mild Rude Humor and Action)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: December 2, 2011

Based on the stories by Maxwell Grant

Directed by Raja Gosnell

Characters by Peyo

Screenplay by J. David Stern, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick, David Ronn

Story by J. David Stern, David N. Weiss

Produced by Jordan Kerner, Executive Producer: Ben Haber, Paul Neesan, Ezra Swerdlow

Music by Heitor Pereira

Cinematography by Phil Meheux

Edited by Sabrina Plisco

Casting by Richard Hicks, David Rubin

Production Design by Bill Boes

Art Direction by Chris Shriver, Christian Wintter

Set Decoration by Regina Graves

Costume Design by Rita Ryack

Starring:

Hank Azaria as Gargamel

Neil Patrick Harris as Patrick Winslow

Jayma Mays as Grace Winslow

Sofia Vergara as Odile

Tim Gunn as Henri

Mr. Krinkle as Azrael

Jonathan Winters as the voice of Papa Smurf

Alan Cumming as the voice of Gutsy

Katy Perry as the voice of Smurfette

Fred Armisen as the voice of Brainy

George Lopez as the voice of Grouchy

Anton Yelchin as the voice of Clumsy

Jeff Foxworth as the voice of Handy

Kenan Thompson as the voice of Greedy

John Oliver as the voice of Vanity

Wolfgang Puck as the voice of Chef

Paul Reubens as the voice of Jokey

Gary Basaraba as the voice of Hefty

B.J. Novak as the voice of Baker

Tom Kane as the voice of Narrator Smurf

John Kassier as the voice of Crazy Smurf

Joel McCrary as the voice of Farmer

Frank Welker as the voice of Azrael

When the evil wizard Gargamel chases the tiny blue Smurfs out of their village, they tumble from their magical world and into ours — in fact, smack dab in the middle of Central Park. Just three apples high and stuck in the Big Apple, the Smurfs must find a way to get back to their village before Gargamel tracks them down.

Back in the late ’50s, Belgian cartoonist Peyo created the comic strips featuring small blue fictional characters known as the Smurfs.  A big success in France, the Smurfs would receive various adaptations.

The first were in Belgium via TV animated shorts that were  created in 1961-1967, a few of the shorts would be featured in the 1965 in the black-and-white animation “Les Adventures des Schtroumpfs” and then followed by a 1976 animation titled “La Flûte à six schtroumpfs” (The Smurfs and the Magic Flute) which would receive an English version that would inspire more full-length Smurf animated films.

But in America, where the Smurfs gained its popularity is through the 1981 animated TV series which was nominated many times for a Daytime Emmy Award and won the “Outstanding Children’s Entertainment Series” for 1982-1983.  The animated series would broadcast on television through 1989.

In 1997, producer Jordan Kerner has been trying to get a “Smurfs” film created but it wasn’t until 2002 when Peyo’s heirs accepted Kerner’s offer and people were able to get their first look at the film via leaked footage on the Internet in 2008.

And in 2011, the first live-action/CG Smurf film of a planned trilogy was released in theaters in 2011.  The film which was budgeted for $110 million received lackadaisical reviews from film critics but the film was popular among the younger viewers and earned over $559 million in the box office ensuring the film as a success for Columbia Pictures. It also helps that the film features all-star talent for the live-action scenes and the voice acting scenes including Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”), Jayma Mays (“Glee), Hank Azaria (“The Simpsons”), Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”) and Tim Gunn (“Project Runaway”).  For the voices of the Smurfs, a few of the talent featured are George Lopez, Katy Perry, Alan Cummings, Kenan Thompson, Fred Armisen, Paul Reubens to name a few.  And the film is directed by Raja Gosnell (“Big Momma’s Hosue”, “Scooby-Doo”, “Never Been Kissed”) and a screenplay by J. David Stern (“Shrek 2”, “The Rugrats Movie”), David N. Weiss (“Shrek 2”, “All Dogs Go to Heaven”) and writing duo Jay Scherick and David Ronn (both wrote “Zookeeper”, “Guess Who”, “Norbit”).

And now, “The Smurfs” will be released on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD on December 2nd.

“The Smurfs” revolve around life in the Smurf village as the Smurfs are preparing for the Blue Moon festival but Papa Smurf has sees a vision of Clumsy Smurf getting into trouble and making the Smurfs nemesis Gargamel (played by Hank Azaria) quite powerful. Gargamel meanwhile is planning to steal Smurf essence in order to make his power increase.  But he needs to capture them and now knows where they may be located.

So, while the Smurfs are collecting Smurf roots, Papa Smurf tells Clumsy to stay in the village.  Of course, Clumsy doesn’t really listen all that much and goes on his own to collect Smurf roots.   In the process, he is nearly captured and runs away from Gargamel and his cat Azrael.  But what Clumsy ends up doing is leading Gargamel to the secret hidden Smurf village where he tries to capture one of them.

As the Smurfs run into hiding, Clumsy ends up going the wrong way (the dangerous way) and in order to help him, Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Grouchy, Brain and Gutsy go after him.  But Clumsy ends up near a cliff area and falls off, fortunately the Smurfs end up rescuing him but each of them end up being sucked into a huge vortex which leads them to New York City.  Both Gargamel and Azrael jump into the vortex to catch the Smurfs.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Patrick (played by Neil Patrick Harris), an advertising marketing manager for a major fashion corporation owned by Odile (played by Sofia Vergara).  As Patrick is in charge of coming up with new identity for the company and is under a lot of pressure to deliver, he is also worried for his pregnant wife Grace (played by Jayma Mays), mainly because he is not sure if he’s ready to be a father.

While Patrick is packing up boxes to take back home for work, Clumsy Smurf ends up falling in one of the boxes.   While Grace is sleeping and Patrick is working late on a logo, Papa and the other Smurfs sneak inside Patrick’s apartment and try to rescue Clumsy.  But Clumsy ends up going into the bathroom and creating a ruckus.  Meanwhile, as Grace goes to check on the ruckus, she finds Clumsy, while the other Smurfs are defending themselves against Patrick, who they think is an enemy.

But both Patrick and Grace are freaked out that small little blue creatures are in their apartment and talking to them, they learn that the Smurfs are trapped in New York City and must get home.  But in order to get home, they need a stargazer and a blue moon which will re-open the vortex in order for them to return back to their village and re-build.

Meanwhile, Gargamel has taken control of the Belvedere Castle in NYC and begun using his magic to create a device that will replenish his magic but to also extract the essence of a Smurf to make himself powerful. But now he must find the Smurfs and capture them.

The following morning as Patrick leaves for work, he is unaware that the Smurfs have followed him in hopes of gaining access to a stargazer.  But they end up causing him problems at work and Grace ends up having to bring them home.  But while in the taxi to go home, the Smurfs see a star gazer (a telescope) at a nearby toy department store and leaves Grace inside the taxi.  But with so many people around them and Gargamel not far behind, will the Smurfs survive in the streets of New York City? Let alone many kids who want to buy them at the toy store?

Meanwhile, what will happen to Patrick’s marketing campaign when Clumsy Smurf accidentally gets into a bit of trouble once again?  And what about the vision of Papa Smurf about Clumsy Smurf doing something wrong and making Gargamel extremely powerful?

VIDEO AND AUDIO:

“The Smurfs” is presented in 1:78:1 Anamorphic widescreen and English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital (and English-Audio Description Track).  If you want the best presentation of “The Smurfs”, you definitely want to go for the Blu-ray release, especially the Blu-ray 3D release if you have a Blu-ray player and television set capable of 3D playback.  But for the DVD version, you can still see quite a bit of detail from the threaded caps that the Smurfs wear, the strands of hair on Smurfette’s head to the pigmentation on the blue skin of the Smurfs.  Possibly not as detailed as the Blu-ray version but still visible on DVD.  For the most part, on DVD, the picture quality is very good.

As for audio, the audio features a lot of dialogue, music and also special effects for the action sequences.  On Blu-ray, the lossless audio will definitely take advantage of the surround channels but on DVD, the 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is also pretty good as there is good amount of LFE during the bass-driven sequences, the music – may it be the Smurfs singing or even Neil and the Smurfs playing “Guitar Hero Aerosmith”.  The Dolby Digital soundtrack sounds very good but on Blu-ray, you definitely want to go for that version if you want a more immersive soundtrack and to hear the ambiance much more clearly.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Smurfs” come with the following special features:

  • Find the Smurfs Game – Featuring a hide-and-seek remote control game in which you are shown a Smurf and with other Smurfs in the village, you need to find out where a certain smurf is hiding.
  • Audio Commentary 1 – The first audio commentary features director Raja Gosnell who talks about the challenges of bringing the Smurfs to CG, the shooting process, scouting and shooting on location.
  • Audio Commentary 2 – The second audio commentary features producer Jordan Kerner, writer J. David Stern, David N. Weiss , Jay Scherek, David Ronn and VFX Supervisor Richard Hoover.
  • The Smurfs: Comic Book to the Big Screen – (8:16) Featuring the challenges in taking the Smurfs for a CG film, creating different personalities for each Smurf and more.
  • Going Gargamel – (10:01) Hank Azaria talks about playing Gargamel and we see how much time it took to make the actor into Gargamel and behind-the-scenes footage and also the challenges of playing the role.
  • Blu-Pers – (:26) Two very short bloopers.
  • Happy Music Montage – (1:51) Short music montage of clips from the movie.

I was a bit skeptical when I first saw the trailer for “The Smurfs” in the theater.  It’s been a long time since I have watched the cartoon on television but I was a big fan of the animated series and owned several of the toys when I was younger.

And while the animated series is dear to me because I watched it from grade school and even when I was in high school, here we are decades later and now I have a child in grade school, who has become interested in “The Smurfs” not so much because of the animated series (which he has never seen) but primarily because he enjoys the iPad video game.

So, it’s quite interesting how the younger generation have found about the Smurfs, may it be the video game or through the Happy Meal toys but needless to say, despite the big names attached to this live-action/CG film, my main interest is how much they writers strayed from the original storyline or in this case, from the cartoon.

And when it was all done, I can say that as a family film and a film for the children, it was a fun film!  My eight-year-old enjoyed it a lot and for me and the wife, I’m a bit more easy on family films especially “The Smurfs” because they are targeted for a younger demographic.  With that being said, my wife was turned off by the “Guitar Hero” scene and I admit, that was possibly the cheesiest part of the entire film.

But for me, there was a lot to love about the film.  First, I think it worked in the favor of producer Jordan Kerner that this film was made in 2011 versus 1997 or in the early 2000’s because CG has developed a lot in the last decade and for the most part, I found the computer graphics to be very well-done.   Loved the detail on the skin of the Smurfs, loved the detail on the knit caps to the thorough planning on the color of the Smurfs to creating living beings via CG on the film (the special feature goes into details about how much the crew wanted the characters to come alive).

It helps to have popular TV talent such as Neil Patrick Harris, Sofia Vergara and Jayma Mays also involved with the film, especially the talent of Hank Azaria who is spectacular as voice talent for “The Simpsons” (and also the ’90s “Spider-Man” animated series) but even before then, he was fun to watch on “Mad About You” and “Friends”.   He did a fantastic job as Gargamel.  And of course, you have a lot of voice talent involved in this film from singer Katy Perry to a long list of talent which include Jonathan Winters, Alan Cummings, Fred Armisen, George Lopez, Kenan Thompson, Jeff Foxworthy, Wolfgang Puck to name a few.  And heck, you have voice acting legend Frank Welker (who also did the voice dub in the earlier Smurf’s animated films and TV series as “Hefty Smurf”) doing the voice of Azrael.

So, I appreciate the dedication of the crew honoring the original animated series and comic books but also giving new life to the characters for this live action/CG film.

With that being said, I know a major criticism by reviewers was that this film was “too kiddy” especially since it’s a rated PG film, not rated G.    But for me, “The Smurfs” was originally conceived for children back in the late ’50s, was targeted towards kids in the ’80s and I never expected anything dark or low-beat for this film.  I was not expecting the writers to stray far off from the original storyline and expected a family film that would feature a lot of laughs and also cheesy moments (I sort of liken it to the live-action/CG animated “Alvin and the Chipmunks” films).

Sure, Neil Patrick Harris and the Smurfs rockin’ it to Aerosmith via “Guitar Hero” was possibly the lowest point of this film for me, but aside from those scenes…everything else was pretty fun and hilarious and for the most part, my son and I had fun watching it (although my wife wasn’t into the film all that much).

As for the DVD release, the DVD release features a good amount of special features and commentary and the DVD does look good.  But if you want the best presentation in sound and audio, you want to go for the Blu-ray release, especially since it contains more special features than the DVD release.

Overall, for those who grew up watching “The Smurfs”, the good news is that the writers did fans a service by not straying to far from the original concept.  Sure, there are some cheesy scenes but as a family film, I’m not going to be overly critical as this film was created for the kids.  And as a fan of the original animated TV series, I had a fun time watching it as well.

With the holidays coming up, if you are looking for a fun family film to keep the kids busy during winter vacation or even during those long traveling commutes, I recommend give “The Smurfs” a try!

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

August 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Beaver” marks Jodie Foster’s return to the director’s chair and while the film has its weak moments due to its screenplay, the performance by Mel Gibson is possibly what saves this film.  The Blu-ray release features audio commentary and featurettes showcasing Foster as a director and overall, the film is worth checking out!

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Images courtesy of © 2011 Summit Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Beaver

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2011

DURATION: 91 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles:  English SDH, Spanish

RATED: PG-13 (Mature Thematic Material, Some Disturbing Content, Sexuality and Language Including a Drug Reference)

COMPANY: Summit Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2011

Directed by Jodie Foster

Written by Kyle Killen

Producer Steve Golin, Keith Redmon, Ann Ruark

Music by Marcelo Zarvos

Cinematography by Hagen Bogdanski

Edited by Lynzee Klingman

Casting by Allison Hall, Avy Kaufman

Production Design by Mark Friedberg

Art Direction by Alex DiGerlando, Kim Jennings

Set Decoration by Rebecca Meiss DeMarco

Costume Design by Susan Lyall

Starring:

Mel Gibson at Walter Black

Cherry Jones as Vice President

Jodie Foster as Meredith Black

Anton Yelchin as Porter Black

Riley Thomas Stewart as Henry Black

Zachary Booth as Jared

Jennifer Lawrence as Norah

Walter, once a successful and happy family man, has hit rock bottom. But, in his darkest hour, he finds a rather unusual savior: a beaver hand-puppet that takes over Walter’s life in an attempt to change things for the better.

Academy Award® winner Jodie Foster directs and co-stars with Academy Award® winner Mel Gibson in a film critics call bold, complex, and funny.

It has been many years since actress Jodie Foster had directed a film.  Her 1991 directorial debut “Little Man Tate” and her 1995 comedy “Home for the Holidays” were her last two.

But this time around Foster takes on a psychological comedy/drama with “The Beaver”.

The film revolves around the Black family, Walter Black (played by Mel Gibson) is a toy executive who is clinically depressed and is literally has withdrawn himself from life.

May it be trauma or a chemical imbalance, Black feels that going to a psychiatrist, repeating the same pill taking routine and thinking life is absolutely terrible, despite having a successful career and a loving family.

But his depression has taken its toll on his family.

His wife Meredith (played by Jodie Foster) who feels that her husband has been away for the last two years has focused her energy on her engineering career and developing a roller coaster with her Tokyo clients; their eldest son Porter (played by Anton Yelchin) is a college student who is paid to write reports for other students but also has been cataloging the similarities of his dad’s depression with his own and their younger son Henry (played by Riley Thomas Stewart) wants his father healthy again and while at school, is often bullied.

Needless to say, the Black family has become quite dysfunctional to the point that Meredith has no choice but to have Walter move out of the house.

Walter checks into a hotel and throws away nearly everything except a beaver hand puppet.  One day as he tries to kill himself but is unsuccessful.  He ends up injuring himself instead and knocking himself out cold.  When he wakes up, he is awaken by the beaver puppet known as “The Beaver”, an alternate personality which allows Walter to communicate with people.

With the Beaver, Walter lets the people he communicates with know that it is a way for him to clinically help him through severe depression.  Walter tells his wife that it was recommended to him by his psychiatrist.

And immediately, The Beaver helps bring Walter back from the darkness as he is able to reconnect with his son and his wife and also the people of the toy company that he runs.

Walter through the Beaver is able to make a return back to society and also come up with a brilliant toy idea bringing the highest profits for his ailing toy company but also establishing the bond with his family.

Meanwhile, his son Porter doesn’t like the fact that his father is back and to make things worse, he worries that he is becoming more like his father (in terms of having symptoms of his depression).  Porter is also starting to take a liking to Norah (played by Jennifer Lawrence) who has come to him about his side-job of writing reports for students.  And as Porter finds himself wanting to help her, he also finds himself falling for her.  But with his father back at home and his own personal worries about depression, can he fall in love?

But Meredith starts to worry about Walter because it appears the Beaver is starting to take control of Walter’s life, to the point that Walter can’t return back to his normal self.  And to make things worse, she contacts his psychiatrist to find out about the treatment he gave but to find out that Walter lied.

Walter begins to think that the Beaver is a real being and instead of helping him become a better person, it’s starts to drive away the people he loves the most… his family.

VIDEO:

“The Beaver” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality is very good, definitely feels as if there was a cooling filter applied to make things a bit more blue but it does fit the emotional atmosphere of the film.   Colors are vibrant, black levels are very deep and I didn’t notice any speckles or artifacting.

For the most part, the picture quality for “The Beaver” is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Beaver” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1.  The lossless soundtrack is primarily front and center-channel driven.  Dialogue is crystal clear but sometimes there were moments where I needed to have subtitling on as I felt I was missing some dialogue during conversations.  There is a good amount of ambiance featured through the surround channels.  For example, when Porter is at school, you can hear the crowds at school through the surround channels.  Also, during Porter banging his head on the wall can be heard.

For the most part, the lossless soundtrack is adequate for this type of film and for the most part audio quality is very good.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Beaver” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an in-depth commentary by director Jodie Foster.
  • Deleted Scenes – (4:52) Featuring two deleted scenes: Role Play and Puppet Pull with optional commentary by director Jodie Foster.
  • Everything is Going to Be OK – (12:06) Director Jodie Foster talks about the film, the characters and the cast.  The cast talk about their involvement in the film.

“The Beaver” is an intriguing film that tends to blend in comedy with psychological drama and sometimes it works (if more as a comedy ala “The Cable Guy”) but as a serious film, especially about depression, some may feel it’s a bit farfetched as a man would become internationally popular because he holds a puppet to deal with his severe depression.

In this day and age, depression affects a lot of people and many get treatment or take the medicine needed to help them deal with the illness.  “The Beaver” in the other hand, while interesting, tries to show a juxtaposition of the main character Walter, as he deals with his sickness via the alternate personality he has created.  And to see the other side via his son Porter, who worries that he may have the same sickness that his father had.

And there was one scene that was very important was that His father and his father and his father’s father had the illness as well.   So, there is that connection of family history of depression.

But “The Beaver” is a film that I felt was underdeveloped.  Listening to the audio commentary, Jodie Foster mentioned of having to decide if Walter’s depression should be explained.  I felt that for many people, severe depression for those not familiar with it, may be thought as how one feels for a temporary amount of time and not thinking that it is a serious illness that must be treated.  The film needed to show that destination of pain and withdrawal but the opening skims through it too quickly.  Yes, we know he’s depressed but viewers needed to know how badly it has been right off the bat.

The other storyline revolves around Porter and Norah, the girl he likes.  We know that Walter’s family has been affected by his severe depression and for his son, not having his father but also for Porter having to worry about having depression and cataloging the similarities that he has with his father, it’s an understandable storyline.  But what is a bit off is more of him trying to help Norah, which involves her deceased brother.  And I felt that this emotional withdrawal on her end is understandable but once again, a character’s storyline that was underdeveloped.

I felt the screenplay needed a bit more work and it does hurt the movie.  But I will say that it’s saving grace was Mel Gibson.  We know that Jodie Foster is an awesome actress but at the time this film was released, Mel Gibson was no doubt seen as the public enemy in Hollywood because of the situations going on in his personal life.  Does anyone want to see a Mel Gibson movie after all that has happened to him offscreen?  Needless to say, he may not be a fan favorite any longer but he is still one heck of an actor and his performance made this film work.

It’s great to see Jodie Foster back as a director.  She is one of the most highly experienced talents in the world today that has been working in the industry since she was in a child and has starred in many box office hits and critically-acclaimed films. But while the storyline is intriguing, mixing comedy and psychological drama is not an easy thing to do, especially when it becomes more serious.  But I think it’s the challenge that probably led her to direct the film.

And as for the Blu-ray, it’s great to have an audio commentary and featurettes that showcase Foster the director as opposed to the actress.  Picture quality is very good as with the audio quality as well.

While “The Beaver” may not be a box-office hit, overall “The Beaver” is an intriguing film with its solid moments of wonderful acting courtesy of both Gibson and Foster.  While not a great film and has its problems with its underdeveloped screenplay, it’s still a film worth checking out.

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THE BEAVER on Blu-ray & DVD on 8/23

July 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Critically Acclaimed Drama Stars Academy Award® Winners Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson, Anton Yelchin and Academy Award Nominated Jennifer Lawrence

Burbank, Calif. (July 18, 2011) – Two-time Academy Award® winner Jodie Foster (Silence of the Lambs, The Accused) directs and co-stars with two-time Academy Award® winner Mel Gibson (Braveheart – Best Picture and Best Director) in The Beaver, a compelling and original film, slated to arrive on Blu-ray™ and DVD August 23rd from Summit Entertainment.

The Beaver — which Rolling Stone calls “heartfelt and often painfully funny” – tells the emotional story of a once successful man named Walter Black (Gibson) so plagued by his own demons that he resorts to the use of a beaver hand puppet in order turn his life around and reconnect with his family. Academy Award nominee Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) and Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) co-star in the film which is both a darkly comic journey of self-discovery and a solemn ode to the strength of family.

The Blu-ray and DVD contain special features that include audio commentary with Foster; deleted scenes; and “Everything is Going to Be O.K.,” a featurette about the making of the film.

The Beaver will be available for $30.49 SRP (on Blu-ray) and $26.99 SRP (DVD).

Special Features
Audio Commentary with Jodie Foster
Deleted Scenes
“Everything is Going to Be O.K.” (featurette on the making of The Beaver)

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