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The Fifth Element (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

July 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Fifth Element” is a fascinating, entertaining Luc Besson sci-fi action film that looks and sounds better with this 2017 4K Ultra HD release.  While not the best Besson film ever created, nor the best sci-fi action film ever made, still “The Fifth Element” remains as a popcorn action sci-fi film worth watching and a cult favorite that continues to entertain audiences 25 years later.

Images courtesy of © 1997 Gaumont. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Fifth Element

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1997

DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Scenes of Strong Graphic Violence and for Language)

RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017


Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Screenplay by Robert Mark Kamen

Producer: Patrice Ledoux

Co-Producer: Iain Smith

Associate Producer: Thierry Arbogast

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Lucinda Syson

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Ira Gilford, Ron Gress, Michael Lamont, Jim Morahan, Kevin Phipps

Set Decoration by Maggie Gray, Anna Pinnock

Costume Design by Jean-Paul Gaultier


Starring:

Bruce Willis as Korben Dallas

Gary Oldman as Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg

Ian Holm as Father Vito Cornelius

Mila Jovovich as Leeloo

Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod

Luke Perry as Billy

Brion James as General Munro

Tommy “Tiny” Lister as President Lindberg

Lee Evans as Fog

Charlie Creed-Miles as David

Tricky as Right Arm

John Neville as General Staedert

John Bluthal as Professor Pacoli


New York cab driver Korben Dallas didn’t mean to be a hero, but he just picked up the kind of fare that only comes along every five thousand years: A perfect beauty, a perfect being, a perfect weapon. Together, they must save the world. Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, and Gary Oldman star in acclaimed director Luc Besson’s outrageous sci-fi adventure, an extravagantly styled tale of good against evil set in an unbelievable twenty-third century world. Now presented in full 4K resolution, experience this dynamic action favorite like never before.


From the director Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita”, “Leon: The Professional”, “Taxi”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”) comes his 1997 sci-fi action film “The Fifth Element”.

Starring Bruce Willis (“The Sixth Sense”, “Die Hard”, “Looper”), Gary Oldman (“The Dark Knight Rises”, “Leon: The Professional”, “Batman Begins”), Iain Holm (“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”, “Alien”), Milla Jovovich (“Resident Evil” films, “The Three Musketeers”), Chris Tucker (“Rush Hour” films, “Silver Linings Playbook”) and Luke Perry (“Beverly Hills, 90210”, “Jeremiah”, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”).

A story that was written by Luc Besson when he was 16-years-old, the film would be made 32-years later. While receiving mixed reviews from critics, the film was a box office success with a budget of $90 million, “The Fifth Element” would go on to to make over $90 million.

And now, a new 4K Ultra HD release for “The Fifth Element” will be released in 2017 to celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary. Now presented in full 4K Ultra High Definition and in Dolby Atmos, this is the best version of the film available on physical media!

The film begins in 1914 as scientists discover something huge in an ancient Egyptian temple. Not long after, aliens known as Mondoshawans have arrived to collect (for safekeeping) a weapon capable of defeating a great evil that appears every 5,000 years.

The weapon is a sarcophagus that contains four classical elements which combines each element to create a divine light of defeating evil. The aliens say they will return when the great evil returns.

Fast forward to 2263 and the great evil has now reappeared as a giant ball of black fire. As the priest Vito Cornelius (portrayed by Ian Hom) tries to send a message to the President of the Federated Territories (portrayed by Tom Lister, Jr.) about how they must defeat the great evil with the weapon that can stop it, the Mondoshawans make their return.

But while they return, the Mangalores led by Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (portrayed by Gary Oldman), has been instructed by the great evil to acquire the stones. A hand of the Fifth element after an exchange between the Mondoshawans and Mangalores and scientist use the technology to reconstruct a humanoid woman named Leeloo (portrayed by Milla Jovovich).

Not knowing of where she is and unaware of her surroundings, Leeloo escapes and jumps off a ledge and crashes into a flying taxicab driven by Korben Dallas (portrayed by Bruce Willis), a former major of the special forces.

Will Leeloo become the key to stop the great evil? Or will she be used as a weapon to destroy humanity?


VIDEO:

“The Fifth Element” receives its first 4K Ultra HD release in time for its 20th Anniversary. This 2017 4K Ultra HD release is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).

Featuring wonderful detail and better clarity, the film looks even better in HD. Skin tones look natural and there is a good amount of grain present. I didn’t notice any major banding issues during my viewing of the film, nor does this film looked aged.

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: To watch 4K Ultra HD, you will need a 4K UHD TV with HDR and an Ultra HD Blu-ray Player + a high-speed HDMI 2.0A Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Audio quality is equally impressive. Featured in English 7.1 Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Considering that this sci-fi action film contains a lot of action sequences, the fact that the 2007 and 2015 Blu-ray release had a magnificent lossless soundtrack that utilized the surround channels, now this Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1) lossless soundtrack is quite impressive. From the scenes which Dallas encounters Leloo for the very first time to the ending action sequence, the film features great use of the surround and rear surround channels, as well as utilizing LFE.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Fifth Element” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special features:

  • The Visual Element – (18:25) A featurette about the films visual effects.
  • The Visual Element Extras – (6:13) Featuring seven visual element tests.
  • The Star Element: Bruce Willis – (4:19) Featuring an interview with actor Bruce Willis.
  • The Star Element: Mila Jovovich – (12:47) Featuring an interview with actress Mila Jovovich.
  • The Star element: Mila Jovovich Extras – (12:02) Featuring four screen tests with Mila Jovovich.
  • The Star Element: Chris Tucker – (4:17) Featuring an interview with actor Chris Tucker.
  • The Alien Element: Mondoshawans – (8:13) Featuring how they created the Mondoshawans and their movements.
  • The Alien Element: Mondoshawans Extras – (3:23) Featuring six outtakes and screen tests for the Mondoshawans.
  • The Alien Element: Mangalores – (9:47) A featurette about the evil Mangalores and how to bring these aliens to life.
  • The Alien Element: Mangalores Extras – (2:11) Featuring two Mangalores extras.
  • The Alien Element: Picasso – (4:17) A featurette  about Zorg’s pet, Picasso.
  • The Alien Element: Strikers – (3:04) A featurette about the Strikers that did not make the final cut of the film.
  • The Alien Element: Strikers Extras – (1:32) Featuring four Striker extras.
  • The Fashion Element – (7:46) A featurette about the fashion in “The Fifth Element”.
  • The Fashion Element: Extras – (5:17) Featuring four fashion extras.
  • The Diva – (16:16) The actress who brought Diva Plavalaguna to life.
  • The Divas Extras – (8:03) Four outtakes featuring Diva Plavalaguna.
  • The Digital Element – (9:49) A featurette about Digital Domain bringing “The Fifth Element” to life.
  • Imagining The Fifth Element – (5:14) The concept design, visual effects design and imagining of “The Fifth Element”.
  • The Elements of Style – (5:13) A featurette of an interview with Jean-Paul Gaultier and the film’s costume design.
  • Fact Track – Watch “The Fifth Element” with fact tracks.

EXTRAS:

“The Fifth Element” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


It has been 20-years since the release of “The Fifth Element” and with each watch, my perception of the film changes overtime.

With my older 1999 DVD review of the film, I wrote:

I finally saw this movie and this is what I thought.  I liked it a lot!  This movie is visually stunning and the computer graphics were wonderful.  The storyline is good but it appears that an extra 30 minutes or an hour would have given this movie judgment a much better score because I felt there were some loose ends that were never answered.

Watching this film once again in 4K Ultra HD in 20017, my thoughts that while the film was often considered a reference title for video and audiophiles (back during the DVD days), it’s a popcorn action films with impressive visuals.  With some CG elements that still hold up, while other scenes do look its age.

But what I enjoyed about the film at the time was the fact that it introduced us to Mila Jovovich, who would become a much bigger star with the “Resident Evil” films years later, Chris Tucker who would become a big star with his “Rush Hour” films not long after, and for Bruce Willis fans, the film gave us another chance to watch the man who wowed us in the ’90s with his “Die Hard” films to return in a sci-fi action film which we can see his character kicking butt once again.  And of course, watching Bruce Willis as a protagonist (with the similar bravado as his other action characters in previous films) and Gary Oldman as the antagonist, made the film worthwhile.

The film benefits from its visual imagery and imaginative settings, but the CG is well-done and its far-out Jean-Paul Gaultier costume design was also interesting to see.  But how I felt about the film back in 1999, again in 2006-2007, 2015  and in 2017 has not changed.  “The Fifth Element” does not have the greatest story but it was no doubt an entertaining film.

But I feel each time I watch it, my appreciation of the film tends to lessen.  The fact is, back in the DVD years, we considered “The Fifth Element” as a reference quality film to showcase our surround sound system. Especially now as its prsented in Dolby Atmos.  And watching this film in 2160p 4K Ultra HD, along with the 7.1 lossless soundtrack makes the film even more enjoyable and video/audiophiles should be pleased.

And with this 2017 4K Ultra HD release, fans of the film will also get a good number of special features and an Ultraviolet HD code.  For those who purchased the 2015 Blu-ray release, the special features are the same.  The difference of course between 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray is that the 4K Ultra HD is presented in 2160p Ultra High Defition versus 1080p (on Blu-ray).

Overall, “The Fifth Element” is a fascinating, entertaining Luc Besson sci-fi action film that looks and sounds better with this 2017 4K Ultra HD release.  While not the best Besson film ever created, nor the best sci-fi action film ever made, still “The Fifth Element” remains as a popcorn action sci-fi film worth watching and a cult favorite that continues to entertain audiences 20-years later.

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

August 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Marauders” is an entertaining action/heist thriller and fits perfectly for Lionsgate Premiere’s goal of focusing on video on demand and films for streaming services and platforms.  It has its problems with a few inconsistencies and a few areas during the film with not-so-good acting but there is potential to make a sequel and I wouldn’t mind seeing that happen.  If you are looking for an entertaining action/heist film, then “Marauders” is a film worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Marauders

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 107 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English – Audio Description Track, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Lionsgate Premiere

RATED: R (Strong Violence, Language, Brief Drug Use and Nudity)

Release Date: September 13, 2016


Directed by Steven C. Miller

Written by Michael Cody and Chris Sivertson

Story by Michael Cody

Produced by Rosie Charbonneau, Randall Emmett, George Furla, Joshua Harris, Mark Stewart

Co-Producer: Anthony Callie, Timothy C. Sullivan

Executive-Producer: Montgomery Blencowe, Barry Brooker, Ted Fox, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Anthony Jabre, Robert Jones, Corey Large, Vance Owen, Andrew C. Robinson, Steven Saxton, Kirk Shaw, Jason Trawick, Jared Underwood, Slava Vladimirov, Stan Wertlieb

Cinematography by Brandon Cox

Music by Ryan Dodson

Edited by Vincent Tabaillon

Production Design by Niko Vilaivongs

Art Direction by Aaron Bautista

Set Decoration: Brock Komon

Costume Design by Bonnie Stauch


Starring:

Bruce Willis as Hubert

Christopher Meloni as Montgomery

Dave Bautista as Stockwell

Adrian Grenier as WElls

Lydia Hull as Agent Chase

Tyler Jon Olson as Derohan

Christopher Rob Bowen as Teegan

Richie Chance as Dagley

Chris Hill as James Jackson

Danny A. Abeckaser as Antonio Leon

Texas Battle as T.J. Jackson

Tara Holt as Vanessa Adler

Alyshia Ochse as Jill

Torrie Wilson as Miranda

Jonathan Schaech as Mims


In the real-time, high stakes thriller, George Clooney and Julia Roberts star as financial TV host Lee Gates and his producer Patty, who are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor who has lost everything (Jack O’Connell) forcefully takes over their studio. During a tense standoff broadcast to millions on live TV, Lee and Patty must work furiously against the clock to unravel the mystery behind a conspiracy at the heart of today’s fast-paced, high-tech global markets.


From director Steven C. Miller (“The Agression Scale”, “Silent Night”, “Extraction”) comes his action crime thriller “Marauders”.  A film released by Lionsgate Premiere (which is a division that releases films via video on demand and streaming services and platforms).

Featuring an all-star case which includes Bruce Willis (“The Sixth Sense”, “Die Hard”, “The Fifth Element”, “Armageddon”), Christopher Meloni “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”, “Man of Steel”, “42”), David Bautista (“Guardians of the Galaxy”, “Spectre”, “The Man with the Iron Fist”), Adrian Grenier (“Entourage, “The Devil Wears PradA”, “Drive Me Crazy”), Lydia Hull (“Precious Cargo”, “Broken City”, “Fire with Fire”) and more.

The film begins with bank robbers robbing a bank and a bank manager is killed.

Taking on the case is FBI Agent Jonathan Montgomery (portrayed by Christopher Meloni), Agent Wells (portrayed by Adrian Grenier) and their team which includes Stockwell (portrayed by Dave Bautista) and Chase (portrayed by Lydia Hull).

But the team faces challenges with the uncooperative bank owner Jeffrey Hubert (portrayed by Bruce Willis) and crooked homicide detectives.


VIDEO:

“Marauders” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). For the most part, the majority of the film is shot indoors but the film is well-lit and closeup details are good. Closeup details of the skin and clothing, especially with the masks of the bank robbers. Skin tones look natural and black levels are nice and deep. The film looks great in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Marauders” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.

The soundtrack is primarily dialogue with surround channels being used for ambiance and action scenes (such as the fierce gunshot battles, chaotic crowd scenes) and more. Overall, lossless soundtrack is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Marauders” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Marauders – Featuring interviews with director Steven C. Miller , cinematographer Brandon Cox and the cast about making “Marauders”.
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes – (7:18) Featuring five deleted and extended scenes.
  • Cast/Crew Interviews – (32:10) Featuring interviews with director Steven C. Miller, Christopher Meloni, Adrian Grenier, Lydia Hull, Dave Bautista and cinematographer Brandon Cox.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Marauder”.

EXTRAS:

“Marauders” comes with a slipcover an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


“Marauders” has the look and feel of a heist film, but in truth, the film is very much a film about corruption in different levels.  High level politicians, big business owners, law enforcement and even the military.

The film focuses on an FBI Agent Jonathan Montgomery  (portrayed by Christopher Meloni) who is investigating a major robbery/homicide with his crew (Adrien Grenier, Dave Bautista, Lydia Hull).

But with each bank heist pulled of by these masked elite robbers, a bank employee is murdered.  But with each person murdered, there is a connection with each of the men with the US Military.

And each of these banks appeared to be owned by Jeffrey Hubert (portrayed by Bruce Willis) and things become even more complicated when homicide detectives led by Mims (portrayed by Johnathon Schaech) appear to be doing their own thing, for some reason.

But as the FBI goes to investigate each of these heists, the FBI learns that as they dig deeper into the case, things are not as it seems.  And the Feds discover that there is a deeper form of corruption going on and the heists are just a small part of the bigger picture.

As actors Bruce Willis and Christopher Meloni have become the faces in recent Lionsgate action films, “Marauders” features Adrian Grenier in his first action film and also bringing in former WWE superstar Dave Bautista.

But the film does have it’s issues with timing inconsistency.  For example, there is a scene when Wells (Grenier) gets his faced beaten in (and not just by some normal-sized guy either), but when you see him again in the film, his face is perfectly perfect.

But while the film has some story inconsistencies, some scenes featuring so-so acting, for the most part, “Marauders” is an entertaining film and for the most part, the cast had great chemistry in this film and there is a good amount of action in this film.  In fact, the film leaves viewers wondering if there will be a sequel.

The Blu-ray release features very good picture quality and action sequences sound wonderful in lossless audio.  There are also a few special features including a making-of, interviews and deleted/extended scenes.

Overall, “Marauders” is an entertaining action/heist thriller and fits perfectly for Lionsgate Premiere’s goal of focusing on video on demand and films for streaming services and platforms.  It has its problems with a few inconsistencies and a few areas during the film with not-so-good acting but there is potential to make a sequel and I wouldn’t mind seeing that happen.  If you are looking for an entertaining action/heist film, then “Marauders” is a film worth checking out!

 

MARAUDERS arrives on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD September 13

July 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A Quest for Revenge Keeps a City On Edge

Christopher Meloni and Bruce Willis
Headline the Action-Packed Heist Thriller,
On Blu-ray™, DVD, & Digital HD September 13 from Lionsgate

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SANTA MONICA, CA (July 7, 2016) – Christopher Meloni (TV’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”) and Bruce Willis (Die Hard franchise) star in the action-thriller Marauders, arriving on Blu-ray (plus Digital HD), DVD (plus Digital), and Digital HD September 13 from Lionsgate. Currently available On Demand, Marauders begins with a string of bank robberies leading one man to uncover a conspiracy that could bring an entire city to its knees. The action-packed thrill-ride also stars Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) alongside Adrian Grenier (HBO’s “Entourage”), Johnathan Schaech (Vice), Lydia Hull (Escape Plan), Tyler Jon Olson (Precious Cargo), and Texas Battle (Final Destination 3).

When an untraceable group of elite bank robbers executes the perfect heist, making off with millions in cash and leaving a dead bank manager in their wake, the FBI agents investigating the robbery/homicide (Christopher Meloni, Dave Bautista, and Adrian Grenier) begin to uncover signs of corruption involving the bank’s owner (Bruce Willis) and his high-power clients. As they dig deeper into the case, the Feds realize that things are not what they seem, and in order to untangle a complicated web of deception and corruption they must push themselves to the brink – where the lines between right and wrong are often blurred.

The Marauders home entertainment release special features include audio commentary with the director and cinematographer, deleted/extended scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and interviews with the cast and crew. Marauders will be available on Blu-ray and DVD for the suggested retail price of $24.99 and $19.98, respectively.

BLU-RAY / DVD/ DIGITAL HD SPECIAL FEATURES*
· Audio Commentary with Director Steven C. Miller and Cinematographer Brandon Cox
· Deleted/Extended Scenes
· “The Making of Marauders” Featurette
· Cast/Crew Interviews
*Subject to change

For Artwork: http://www.lionsgatepublicity.com/theatrical/marauders/
Trailer: https://youtu.be/GxFHT6lrPSQ
Website: www.maraudersmovie.com

PROGRAM INFORMATION
Year of Production: 2016
Title Copyright: Marauders © 2016 Georgia Film Fund 44, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Artwork & Supplementary Materials © 2016 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Type: Theatrical Release
Rating: R for Strong Violence, Language,Brief Drug Use and Nudity
Genre: Action
Blu-ray Closed-Captioned: NA
DVD Closed-Captioned: English
Blu-ray Subtitles: English, Spanish, English SDH
DVD Subtitles: English and Spanish
Feature Run Time: 107 Minutes
Blu-ray Format: 1080P High Definition 16×9 Widescreen (2.40:1)
DVD Format: 16×9 Widescreen (2.40:1)
Blu-ray Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master AudioTM
DVD Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital

ABOUT LIONSGATE
Lionsgate is a premier next generation global content leader with a diversified presence in motion picture production and distribution, television programming and syndication, home entertainment, international distribution and sales, branded channel platforms, interactive ventures and games, and location-based entertainment. The Company has nearly 80 television shows on 40 different networks spanning its primetime production, distribution and syndication businesses. These include the critically-acclaimed hit series Orange is the New Black, the beloved drama series Nashville, the syndication successes The Wendy Williams Show and Celebrity Name Game (with FremantleMedia), the breakout series The Royals and the Golden Globe-nominated dramedy Casual.

The Company’s feature film business spans eight labels and includes the blockbuster Hunger Games franchise, the Now You See Me, Divergent and John Wick series, Sicario, The Age of Adaline, Roadside Attractions’ Love & Mercy and Mr. Holmes, Codeblack Films’ Addicted and breakout concert film Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain and Pantelion Films’ Instructions Not Included, the highest-grossing Spanish-language film ever released in the U.S.

Lionsgate’s home entertainment business is an industry leader in box office-to-DVD and box office-to-VOD revenue conversion rates. Lionsgate handles a prestigious and prolific library of approximately 16,000 motion picture and television titles that is an important source of recurring revenue and serves as a foundation for the growth of the Company’s core businesses. The Lionsgate and Summit brands remain synonymous with original, daring, quality entertainment in markets around the world. www.lionsgate.com

Precious Cargo (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

preciouscargo

Filmmaker/writer Mark Adams’ “Precious Cargo” is reminiscent of those ’80s late night action films you watched on cable long ago. One of those, “so bad, it’s good” films because of its unintended humor. So, many things go wrong with this film, but for those who enjoy popcorn action films, especially bad ones, then “Precious Cargo” is for you.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Georgia Film Fund. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Precious Cargo

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 90 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (for Language Throughout, Some violence and Sexual Material)

Release Date: July 8, 2016


Directed by Max Adams

Written by Max Adams and Paul V. Seetachitt

Produced by Ryan Noto

Co-Producer: Elias Axume

Executive-Producer: Jack Campbell, Ron Gell, Tony Piantedosi, Steven Seagal

Cinematography by Anthony J. Rickert-Epstein

Music by Michael John Mollo

Edited by Robert A. Ferretti

Production Design: Dianne Millett


Starring:

Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Jack

Bruce Willis as Eddie

Claire Forlani as Karen

John Brotherton as Nicholas

Lydia Hull as Jenna

Daniel Bernardt as Smon

Ashley Kirk as Zoe

Tyler Jon Olson as Lucas

Jenna B. Kelly as Logan

Christopher Rob Bowen as Glenn

Sammi Barber as Apsara

Jean Clade Leuyer as Gustavo

Nick Loeb as Andrew Herzberg


Adrenaline-pumping chases and deadly double crosses electrify this twist-filled thriller. After a botched heist, thieves and ex-lovers Jack and Karen (Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Claire Forlani) are targeted by Eddie (Bruce Willis), a murderous crime boss. To escape with their lives, Jack and Karen must steal a cargo of precious gems. But when the job goes down, allegiances are betrayed and lines are crossed as Jack, Karen, and Eddie face off in a fateful showdown.


From writer Max Adams (“Heist”, “Extraction”) comes his directorial debut with the Lionsgate Premiere Canadian action film “Precious Cargo”.

Co-written with Paul V. Seetachitt (“Rock Jocks”, “UnderCover”), “Precious Cargo” would star Mark-Paul Gosselaar (“NYPD Blue”, “Saved by the Bell”, “Franklin & Bash”), Bruce Willis (“Die Hard” films, “The Sixth Sense”, “The Fifth Element”, “Armageddon”), Claire Forlani (“The Rock”, “Green Street Hooligans”, “Meet Joe Black”, “Mallrats”), John Brotherton (“The Conjuring”, “Furious 7”, “Guardians of the Galaxy”), Lydia hull (“Marauders”, “Van Wilder: Party Liaison”, “Escape Plan”), Daniel Bernhardt (“The Matrix Reloaded”, “John Wick”, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, “Parker”) and Jenna B. Kelly (“Extraction”).

And the film will be released on Blu-ray in July 2016.

The film begins with an introduction to Jack (portrayed by Mark-Paul Gosselaar), a criminal who has his own crew. But his crew, including the sharpshooter Logan (portrayed by Jenna B. Kelly) are concerned with his past-relationship with another criminal, a thief named Karen (portrayed by Claire Forlani).

Despite having a new girlfriend, a sweet veterinarian named Jenna (portrayed by Lydia Hull), Jack can’t get over Karen. He’s always loved her and she is a woman who never shown the same love towards him.

As for Karen, she and crime boss Eddie (portrayed by Bruce Willis) have been planning a multi-million dollar heist but something happens and she takes the money and now, Eddie wants her dead.

One afternoon, as Jack and his new girlfriend are spending a romantic moment, Karen shows up to his place and tells him that she is pregnant.

As both get into a little argument of Karen’s abrupt appearance, Eddie sends his men to Jack’s home to kill Karen.

But with the help of Jack, he is able to save her life.

Afteward, Karen asks for Jack’s help in trying to make good with Eddie by pulling off a major robbery of an armored car containing $30 million in diamonds, but in truth, the job was another being planned by Eddie and Karen found out about the plan.

Jack with the help of his sharpshooter Logan and their newly assembled team, decide to assist with Karen.  For Jack, he feels that with Karen pregnant, there may be a chance that Karen will love him back, now that she is pregnant.

Will Jack be able to pull off this major heist and win Karen’s heart?


VIDEO:

“Precious Cargo” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film looks vibrant in outdoor scenes and close ups are full of detail. I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film.  For the most part, picture quality for the film is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Precious Cargo” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. As this is an action film, there is a lot of surround sound usage during the gun battle exchanges and also good use of LFE during the explosions. But overall, dialogue and sound effects are crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Precious Cargo” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Precious Cargo – (14:37) Filmmaker Mark Adams, the producers and the cast talk about making “Precious Cargo”.
  • Cast/Crew Interviews – (43:54) Interviews with the cast members: Mark Paul Gosselaar, Claire Forlani, Jenna B. Kelly, director Mark Adams, co-writer Paul V. Seetachitt and producer Scott Mann.
  • Precious Cargo Trailer

EXTRAS:

“Precious Cargo” comes with a slipcover and UltraViolet Digital HD code.


A tale of three criminals.  Jack, the goodhearted criminal who loves Karen.  Karen, the criminal and thief who loves stealing money and jewels and Eddie, a crime boss who wants revenge for Karen stealing money and jewels from jobs they collaborated on.

I have to admit that when I saw the trailer and the promotional image for “Precious Cargo”, I would have never expected to see a film collaboration between Bruce Willis and Mark-Paul Gosselaar.

Granted, Gosselaar has shed his “Saved by the Bell” past with starring roles in “NYPD Blue” and “Franklin and Bash”, but as an action role as the main protagonist against Bruce Willis, the main antagonist, needless to say, it’s an unexpected film collaboration.

The film plays out with standard banal popcorn action with unfortunate choices in writing, poor plot transitions, poor pacing, spotty acting and  situations that make you want to say “are you f**#ing kidding me?”, despite the film’s problems, as a popcorn action film, in terms of 1-star films that I have reviewed, I have seen much worse.

If anything, “Precious Cargo” reminds me of 1980 indie films which I watched as young teen on HBO and Cinemax.  Films that were so bad but yet you enjoyed it because they were so bad.  No matter how many times Jack and his people are shot at, they managed to evade hundreds of bullets, survive after being shot and no matter how many times one is punched, blood and bad bruising never happens.  That is until one is shot in the head and then we see blood.

But where I do give “Precious Cargo” credit is that Bruce Willis definitely does a good job of playing a villain (for the few minutes he does star in the film) and the action-scenes, the one chase scene in the water was cool, as well as a few of the more explosive scenes in the film as well.  Enough action that worked within the confines of its budget of $10 million.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant, up-close details were very good.  Lossless audio utilized the surround channels and LFE quite well, and you also get a few special features included as well.

Overall, filmmaker/writer Mark Adams’ “Precious Cargo” is reminiscent of those ’80s late night action films you watched on cable long ago.  One of those, “so bad, it’s good” films because of its unintended humor.  So, many things go wrong with this film, but for those who enjoy popcorn action films, especially bad ones, then “Precious Cargo” is for you.

 

 

Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Moonrise Kingdom” is yet another magnificent Wes Anderson film. Brilliantly written, awkward characters but yet a film so enjoyable, that you don’t mind watching it again and again. “Moonrise Kingdom” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2012 MOONRISE LLC. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776

YEAR OF FILM: 2012

DURATION: 94 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Color, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 Surround, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: September 22, 2015


Directed by Wes Anderson

Written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola

Executive Producer: Sam Hoffman, Mark Roybal

Produced by Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales, Scott Rudin

Co-Producer: Eli Bush, Molly Cooper, Lila Yacoub

Associate Producer: Octavia Peissel

Music by Alexandre Desplat

Cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman

Edited by Andrew Weisblum

Casting by Douglas Aibel

Production Design by Adam Stockhausen

Art Decoration by Gerald Sullivan

Set Decoration by Kris Moran

Costume Design by Kasia Walicka-Maimone


Starring:

Bruce Willis as Captain Sharp

Edward Norton as Scout Master Ward

Bill Murray as Mr. Biship

Frances McDormand as Mrs. Bishop

Tilda Swinton as Social Services

Jared Gilman as Sam

Kara Hayward as Suzy

Jason Schwartzman as Cousin Ben

Bob Balaban as The Narrator

Lucas Hedges as Redford

Charlie Kilgore as Lazy-Eye


An island off the New England coast, summer of 1965. Two twelve-year-olds, Sam and Suzy, fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. As local authorities try to hunt them down, a violent storm is brewing offshore . . . Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as the young couple on the run, Bruce Willis as Island Police Captain Sharp, Edward Norton as Khaki Scout troop leader Scout Master Ward, and Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as Suzy’s attorney parents, Walt and Laura Bishop. The cast also includes Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and Bob Balaban. The magical soundtrack features the music of Benjamin Britten.


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In 2012, Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” was released in theaters.

The film would go on to receive critical acclaim and also an Academy Award nomination for “Best Original Screenplay” and with a budget of $16 million, the film would earn over $68 million in the box office.

Wes Anderson (best known for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “The Royal Tenenbaums”, “Fantastic Mr. Fox”) co-wrote the film along with Roman Coppola (“The Darjeeling Limited”, “CQ”).

While the film would become the film debut for young actors Jared Gilman (“Two-Bit Waltz”, “Elsa and Fred”) and Kara Hayward (“Quitters”, “The Sisterhood of Night”), “Moonrise Kingdom” would also feature an all-star ensemble cast which included Bruce Willis (“The Sixth Sense”, “Die Hard”, “The Fifth Element”), Edward Norton (“Fight Club”, “American History X”, “The Illusionist”), Bill Murray (“Groundhog Day”, “Lost in Translation”, “Ghostbusters” films), Frances McDormand (“Fargo”, “Almost Famous”, “Mississippi Burning”), Tilda Swinton (“Adaptation.”, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”) and Jason Schwartzman (“Rushmore”, “The Darjeeling Limited”, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “Fantastic Mr. Fox”).

While the Blu-ray was originally released back in 2012 by Universal Studios Home Entertainment, the 2015 Blu-ray release is given the Criterion Collection treatment.

“Moonrise Kingdom” is set on a New England island known as New Penzance and takes places in 1965.

12-year-old orphan Sam Shakusky (portrayed by Jared Gilman) who is attending a Khaki Scout summer camp at Camp Ivanhoe decides that he’s not interested in being in the Khaki Scouts any longer and decides to leave the camp without notifying anyone.  With a missing child, this prompts Scoutmaster Randy Ward to contact authorities about the missing boy.

Meanwhile, 12-year-old Suzy Bishop lives in the island with her father Walt (portrayed by Bill Murray) and her mother Laura (portrayed by Frances McDormand) and her three brothers.  Despite coming from a good family, she decides she has had enough of living at home with them and she runs away.

We eventually learn that both Sam and Suzy met each other a year before and both share same qualities of being smart and introverted, but also mature for their age.  And have been pen pals and eventually through occasional correspondence, becoming very close.  The two have made a secret pact to reunite and run away together.  And are determined to make sure no one stands in their way.

Meanwhile, the Khaki Scouts are ordered to capture them, Captain Duffy Sharp (portrayed by Bruce Willis) is trying to look for them and Social Services (led by Tilda Swinton), see Sam as a bad kid and want him to go through “Juvenile Refuge” and receive shock therapy, which Captain Sharp is very much against.

But how long can Sam and Suzy be together without being caught?


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VIDEO:

“Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks very good in HD, as cinematographer Robert Yeoman gave a special look towards this film (to make it look like it takes place in 1965) and was shot with a Super 16mm film using an Aaton Xtera and A-Minima cameras.    The film is well-saturated, features a good amount of grain and no blemishes whatsoever.  Picture quality is fantastic!

According to the Criterion Collection, the film is “Supervised by director Wes Anderson, this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution from the original camera negative”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776”. The film is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue and music are crystal clear.  The film utilizes ambiance from the children’s surroundings for its surround channels, but the film is primarily dialogue and music-driven.  I heard no hiss or any problematic issues with the lossless soundtrack.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original 5.1 soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD”.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary – A 2015 audio commentary with director Wes Anderson, co-writer Roman Coppola and stars Bill Murray, Edward Norton and Jason Schwartzman.
  • The Making of “Moonrise Kingdom” – Featuring “Exploring the Set”, “Storyboard Animatics and Narrator Tests”, “Auditions” and “Miniatures” (1:39).
  • Welcome to New Penzance – (4:02) A short featurette about the setting of “Moonrise Kingdom”.
  • Set Tour with Bill Murray – (2:59) Featuring Bill Murray discussing his character, working with Wes Anderson and having fun on the set of “Moonrise Kingdom”.
  • Benjamin Britten’s “Noye’s Fludde” – (1:53) Benjamin Britten singing “Noye’s Fludde”.
  • Eleven iPhone Videos by Edward Norton – (20:48) Featuring Edward Norton showcasing 11 home movies during the shooting of “Moonrise Kingdom”.
  • Animated Books – (4:15) Narrator Bob Balaban and an animated version read by the cast of the film.
  • Cousin Ben – (2:03) A featurette with Cousin Ben and the troopers introducing “Moonrise Kingdom”.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Moonrise Kingdom.

EXTRAS:

“Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776” comes with a 24-page booklet with the essay “Awakenings” by Geoffrey O’Brien, “With The Right People in Your Life, You Won’t Feel Misunderstood” by Isobel Folger, “Life Everything in the World is in Order” by Austin Guest, “A Place from from Earth” by Nicolas Schwed, “There was something about Sam…” by Kika Kovaleski, “It’s not Realistic but it Looks Good” by Costa Demy.  Also, included is a double-sided map, a photo card and sheet for Noye’s Fludde.


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If there is one recurring thing that a cineaste can depend on Wes Anderson, that is a consistency of enjoyable, well-written, intelligent, yet odd films.

Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” is unique and full of imaginative creativity that one can only marvel of how he and Roman Coppola came up with this storyline about two very smart yet introverted kids, who have run away together and will do whatever they can to thwart those who try to stop them.

The character of Sam is very interesting as he is a knowledgeable Scout, awkward and wears large eyeglasses, while Suzy is a book reader who is bored with home and appreciates Sam as a person, but also how he treats her.

The two have plotted their escape, Sam running away from camp and Suzy escaping her family and Sam provides the camping and survival gear, while Suzy has her books, her kitten and her borrowed portable 45 rpm record player.

And while these two children were fun to watch, because they are both awkward, the film is further boosted by star power as Bill Murray (a Wes Anderson film regular) and Frances McDormand play the parents of Suzy, Edward Norton plays the concerned Scout Master, Bruce Willis plays a cop who has always loved Suzy’s mother, but instead, she has chosen Murray’s character.

We have Tilda Swinton playing Social Services and is determined in wanting to capture Sam and give him shock therapy.

But it’s a lot of fun to see how these two kids are able to stay together, despite everyone wanting to capture them.  But the journey of watching all these characters interact is enjoyable and also a big part of Wes Anderson films.  But because of the odd way things are portrayed, the film plays out like fantasy than reality and for the most part, the film is quite unique and enjoyable.

As for the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release, while picture and audio quality continues to be magnificent as the Universal Studios 2012 Blu-ray release, the special features have more content including audio commentary and the home videos by Edward Norton and more.  Also, a pretty enjoyable read with the included booklet (also included is a map).

Overall, “Moonrise Kingdom” is yet another magnificent Wes Anderson film.  Brilliantly written, awkward characters but yet a film so enjoyable, that you don’t mind watching it again and again.

“Moonrise Kingdom” is highly recommended!

Lay the Favorite (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“Lay the Favorite” was a film that may have featured a talented director and also featured a cast of big names but unfortunately, with an uninspired screenplay, the characters weren’t fully utilized and the film just lacks anything of interest unlike the original memoir that the film was based on. Probably worth a rental but nothing more.

Images courtesy of © 2012 Take the Dog, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Lay the Favorite

FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 94 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, English – Audio Descriptive Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Anchor Bay Entertainment

RATED: R (Language Throughout Some Sexual Content, Brief Drug Use and Nudity)

Release Date: March 5, 2013

Directed by Stephen Frears

Based on the Memoir by Beth Raymer

Screenplay by D.V. DeVincentis

Produced by Anthon Bregman, D.V. DeVincentis, Randall Emmett, George Furla, Paul Trijbits

Executive Producer: Brandt Andersen, Michael Corso, Peter Gethers, James Gibb, Brandon Grimes, Anthony Gudas, Peter Hampden, Alex G. Scott, James W. Skotchdopole

Music by James Seymour Brett

Cinematography by Michael Mcdonough

Edited by Mick Audsley

Casting by Victoria Thomas

Production Design by Dan Davis

Art Direction by Erik Polczwartek

Set Decoration by Michelle Schluter-Ford

Costume Design by Christopher Peterson

Starring:

Bruce Willis as Dink Heimowitz

Catherine Zeta-Jones as Tulip Heimowitz

Vince Vaughn as Rosie

Rebecca Hall as Beth Raymer

Joshua Jackson as Jeremy

Laura Prepon as Holly

Frank Grillo as Frankie

Wendell Pierce as Dave the Rave

Corbin Bernsen as Jerry

Get ready to get lucky! Professional odds-maker Dink (Bruce Willis) is running a small-time sports gambling enterprise when a former stripper named Beth (Rebecca Hall) promises to help him score big — and turns his world upside down. With his connections and her knack for numbers, the lucrative business of sports betting will never be the same. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Joshua Jackson round out the talented cast of misfits who are willing to risk everything for their dreams. Sly and sexy, heart-warming and hilarious, LAY THE FAVORITE, directed by Stephen Frears, delivers laughs and thrills in this vivid exposé of the world of gambling based on the Beth Raymer’s best-selling memoir, “Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling.”

Director Stephen Frears (“The Queen”, “High Fidelity”, “Dangerous Liaisons”) and screenwriter D.V. DeVincentis (“High Fidelity”, “Grosse Point Blank”) are back together again for a new film based on the memoirs of American writer and journalist Beth Raymer, a memoir about her experiences in the sex industry, amateur boxing and sports betting.

The film would feature an all-star cast starring Bruce Willis (“Die Hard” films, “The Sixth Sense”, “The Fifth Element”), Catherine Zeta-Jones (“Chicago”, “The Terminal”, “Entrapment”), Vince Vaughn (“Wedding Crashers”, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”, “The Break-Up”), Rebecca Hall (“The Prestige”, “Frost/Nixon”, “The Town”), Joshua Jackson (“Fringe”, “Dawson’s Creek”, “The Skulls”), Laura Prepon (“That 70’s Show”, “October Road”, “Are You There, Chelsea?”) and Corbin Bernsen (“L.A. Law”, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, “Psych”).

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray in March 2013 courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

“Lay the Favorite” revolves around a young woman named Beth Raymer (portrayed by Rebecca Hall) who is very smart when it comes to numbers but times have hit hard for her and her father (portrayed by Corbin Bernsen) due to the economy.

Beth has worked in survival jobs including as an in-home stripper, but after a brush with a gun-toting man, she decides that there should be safer ways to make money.  So, she makes the decision to move to Las Vegas and find a job.

Unfortunately, finding a job is not as easy as she thought as most employees work for a union, but Beth manages to meet a few people such as Holly (portrayed by Laura Prepon), who is staying at the same hotel.  And she decides to introduce Rebecca to Dink Heimowitz (portrayed by Bruce Willis), owner of a high-stakes gambling and bookmaking company.

Beth learns the world of high-stakes sports gambling and how to work the phones and for Dink, she is bringing good luck to his company.  As the two spend a lot of time together, Beth starts to fall for Dink and the two become very close with each other.

Unfortunately, Dink is a married man and his wife Tulip (portrayed by Catherine Zeta-Jones) is not to fond that a young woman is trying to take her husband.  So, with the threat of divorce, she tells Dink to get rid of Beth.

Valuing his marriage, he gives Beth a severance package of cash and tells her that she’s fired and it’s because it’s hurting his marriage.  Beth tries to get Dink to leave his wife but he is not willing to.

Upset and without a job once again, while at the casino she meets a journalist from New York named Jeremy (portrayed by Joshua Jackson) and immediately the two have fun with each other and they make plans that Beth will be leaving to New York with him.

The same week, without Beth, Dink’s company begins to suffer major losses.  One of his worst weeks in his company and when he needed help, he has Holly make a bet of $40,000 on a game.  But instead of listening to Dink, Holly bets the money on another team and loses it all.

Dink needs his good luck girl back and begs his wife to allow him to bring Beth back to his company and the two make an agreement that it’s only a business relationship and nothing more, but also, he allows her to have a face lift.

So, Beth cancels her plans with Jeremy and begins working for Dink once again.  But the losses continue and the “good luck” that Dink thought Beth would bring him, doesn’t come.  So, he fires her again, giving her high-earning poker chips for her to cash in and live a good life.

Beth decides to leave to New York and join Jeremy and the two begin their new lives with each other.  But while in New York, she meets people who are heavy sports gamblers and she goes to work for Rosie (portrayed by Vince Vaughn), but will her experience working in high stakes gambling in New York (which is illegal) bring her financial wealth or problems?

VIDEO:

“Lay the Favorite” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1).  For the most part, picture quality for the film is very good.  Colors are vibrant and really look good outdoors.   Really good detail when it comes to closeups and colors black levels are nice and deep.  I didn’t notice any problems with the overall picture quality, no aliasing or artifacts.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Lay the Favorite” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  The film is primarily all dialogue driven and dialogue is crisp and clear.  Not a film where you would hear a lot of surround usage but you do hear a bit of the ambiance come into play during the film.  But for a film like this, the lossless soundtrack was appropriate.

Subtitles are in Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Lay the Favorite” come with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (7:41) A total of 11 deleted scenes.

“Lay the Favorite” may have been a fascinating memoir to read but as a film, I feel that the film tried to incorporate comedy but also be a bit deep at the same time but it just doesn’t work.

The primary character of Beth Raymer comes off in the film as a girl who loves her job of pleasing men as an in-home stripper, showing her body and getting what she wants but trying to make money and survive.  When compared to the original memoir, there is a much better story as Beth is trying to balance life at Florida State University and to pay her way through college life, she becomes a stripper.  But because of her not being satisfied or she was fired from these jobs, that’s the reason why she moved to Las Vegas.

I really don’t know if the real Beth Raymer was anything like the film version of Beth Raymer but the film’s first half hour tries to feature Beth as a naive sex kitten that who is a stripper, tries to have sexual relations with her boss and fidns a guy at a casino and has sex with him immediately after they met.

While the film tries to focus on high-stakes gambling, you’re left thinking…”really?”.  Not to say that Rebecca Hall’s portrayal of Beth Raymer makes her out like an “airhead” but perhaps instead of focusing on the sexy side of Beth Raymer, at the beginning of the film, there should have been some glimpse of her brilliance with numbers that is later mentioned in the film.  That Beth is actually a smart young woman, not just some kind of vamp.  Also, unless you have an interest in sports-gambling, the film is really lacking in structure and not that entertaining.

Of course, we eventually see Beth grow in the ranks of high-stake gambling when she moves to New York City and starts to make money for herself.  But by then, I’m wondering to myself, is this really a Stephen Frears film?  And what an unlikely film to find Bruce Willis and Catherine Zeta-Jones in.  But do give the film some credit in the fact that Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Joshua Jackson and Vince Vaughn made “Lay the Favorite” much more of an enjoyable film because they appeared in it.

The Blu-ray release does feature very good PQ and for dialogue-driven film, lossless audio was also good.  And for special features, you get eleven deleted scenes.

Overall, “Lay the Favorite” was a film that may have featured a talented director and also featured a cast of big names but unfortunately, with an uninspired screenplay, the characters weren’t fully utilized and the film just lacks anything of interest unlike the original memoir that the film was based on. Probably worth a rental but nothing more.

 

UPCOMING GUESTS ON THE “LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN” ON THE CBS TELEVISION NETWORK (Oct. 21-Nov. 3)

October 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Monday through Friday, 11:35 PM-12:37 AM, ET/PT

(*Denotes changes and/or additions to previous schedule

(n) Denotes new broadcast)

Thursday, Oct. 21                    Actor Bruce Willis; musical guests will.i.am and Nicki Minaj

Friday, Oct. 22                         Actor Joaquin Phoenix; musical guest Tom Jones

Monday, Oct. 25                      NBA commentator Charles Barkley; radio personality Garry Dell’Abate; musical guests Kings of Leon (n)

*Tuesday, Oct. 26                  Musician Taylor Swift; comedian Seth Meyers (n)

Wednesday, Oct. 27                Comedian Dana Carvey (n)

Thursday, Oct. 28                    Actor Will Ferrell; musical guest Kid Cudi; musician Slash (n)

Friday, Oct. 29                         Actor Michael J. Fox; snowboarding star Shaun White (n)

Monday, Nov. 1                       Actor Robert Downey Jr.; musical guest Elvis Costello (n)

*Tuesday, Nov. 2                   Guests TBA

*Wednesday, Nov. 3              Actress Tina Fey; musical guest Brad Paisley (n)

RATING:  TV-PG (Rating may change on day of broadcast due to specific subject matter.)

Official CBS website:  http://www.cbs.com/late_night/late_show/

UPCOMING GUESTS ON THE “LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN” ON THE CBS TELEVISION NETWORK

September 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Monday through Friday, 11:35 PM-12:37 AM, ET/PT

(*Denotes changes and/or additions to previous schedule

(n) Denotes new broadcast)

Monday, Sept. 27                    Actress Katherine Heigl; actor Daniel Dae Kim from the new CBS drama series, “Hawaii Five-0”; musical guest Runner, Runner (n)

Tuesday, Sept. 28                    Comedian/talk show host Jon Stewart; musical guests N.E.R.D. (n)

Wednesday, Sept. 29               New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; actor Jesse Eisenberg (n)

Thursday, Sept. 30                   Actor Tom Selleck from the new CBS drama series, “Blue Bloods”; author Janet Elder; musical guests Tired Pony (n)

Friday, Oct. 1                           Actress Blake Lively; actor Michael C. Hall; musical guest Drake (n)

Monday, Oct. 4                        Actor Bruce Willis (n)

Tuesday, Oct. 5                        Musical guests Mavis Staples with Jeff Tweedy (n)

Wednesday, Oct. 6                  Actor John Malkovich; Julie Chen, co-host of the new CBS daytime talk show, “The Talk”; musical guests Antony & the Johnsons (n)

Thursday, Oct. 7                      Comedian/talk show host Stephen Colbert; actor Johnny Knoxville; musical guests Gorillaz (n)

*Friday, Oct. 8                       Comedian Allen Havey; musical guest Gordon Lightfoot (n)

*Monday, Oct. 11                  Actor Jim Parsons from the CBS comedy series, “The Big Bang Theory”; educator/documentary film subject Geoffrey Canada; musical guests Mark Ronson with Q-Tip and MNDR (n)

RATING:  TV-PG (Rating may change on day of broadcast due to specific subject matter.)

Official CBS website:  http://www.cbs.com/late_night/late_show/

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

April 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Over a decade later and “Armageddon” is a film that just shines on Blu-ray.  Gorgeous visuals, immersive lossless audio… I was definitely impressed!  But if you are a owner of the original Criterion Collection DVD release, you may not want to discard it just yet as this Blu-ray release skimps on the special features.

Image courtesy of © WDSHE. All Rights Reserved. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Armageddon

DURATION: 151 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 Widescreen), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA (48 kHz, 24-bit), Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Touchstone Pictures

RATED: PG-13 (For Sci-Fi Disaster Action, Sensuality and Brief Language)

RELEASE DATE: April 27, 2010

Directed by Michael Bay

Screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh, J.J. Abrams

Adaptation by Tony Gilroy, Shane Salerno

Story by Robert Roy Pool and Jonathan Hensleigh

Music by Trevor Rabin

Cinematography by John Schwartzman

Edited by Mark Goldblatt, Chris Lebenzon, Glen Scantlebury

Casting by Bonnie Timmermann

Production Design by Michael White

Art Direction by Geoff Hubbard, Lawrence A. Hubbs, Bruton Jones

Set Decoration by Rick Simpson

Costume Design by Magali Guidasci, Michael Kaplan

Starring:

Bruce Willis as Harry Stamper

Billy Bob Thornton as Dan Truman

Ben Affleck as A.J. Frost

Liv Tyler as Grace Stamper

Will Patton as Grace Stamper

Will Patton as Chick

Steve Buscemi as Rockhound

William Fichtner as Colonel Willie Sharp

Owen Wilson as Oscar

Michael Clarke Duncan as Bear

Peter Stormare as Lev Andropov

Ken Hudson Campbell as Max

Jessica Steen as Co-Pilot Jennifer Watts

Keith David as General Kimsey

Chris Ellis as Flight Director Clark

Jason Isaacs as Ronald Quincy

Grayson McCouch as Gruber

Clark HEathcliffe Brolly as Noonan

Marshall R. Teague as Colonel Davis

Anthony Guidera as Co-Pilot Tucker

Greg Collins as Halsey

J. Patrick McCormack as General Boffer

Ian Quinn as Astronaut Pete Shelby

From the blockbuster-making team who produced and directed Pearl Harbor and The Rock (Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay) comes Armageddon, available for the first time on Blu-ray™ High- Definition! Starring the explosive talents of Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Owen Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Will Patton, Armageddon is a meteor storm of action adventure moviemaking that has you on the edge of your seat forgetting to breathe! When NASA’s executive director, Dan Truman (Thornton), realizes the Earth has 18 days before it’s obliterated by a
meteor the size of Texas, he has only one option – land a ragtag team of roughneck oil drillers on the asteroid and drop a nuclear warhead into its core. Spectacular special effects, laugh-out-loud humor,
great characters, riveting storytelling, and heartfelt emotion make Armageddon an exhilarating thrill ride you’ll want to experience like there’s no tomorrow!

In 1998, the summer blockbuster “Armageddon” from director Michael Bay (“Transformers”, “The Rock”, “Pearl Harbor”) featuring a screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh (“Die Hard: With a Vengeance”, “The Punisher”, “Next”) and J.J. Abrams (“LOST”, “Star Trek”, “Cloverfield”)  became a tremendous success in the box office.   Making over $553 million worldwide, the film was loved by viewers despite being panned by film critics.

Starring Bruce Willis  (“Die Hard” films, “Surrogates”, “Lucky Number Slevin”), Billy Bob Thornton (“Sling Blade”, “Monster’s Ball”, “Friday Night Lights”) and Steve Buscemi (“Pulp Fiction”, “Desperado”, “Fargo”),  “Armageddon” would launch the careers of many talent such as Ben Affleck (“Good Will Hunting”, “Chasing Amy”, “Pearl Harbor”), Liv Tyler (“Lord of the Rings” films, “The Incredible Hulk”), Owen Wilson (“Bottle Rocket”, “Marley & Me”, “Drillbit Taylor”), and Michael Clarke Duncan (“The Green Mile”, “The Whole Nine Yards”, “Daredevil”).  The film would also star a good number of talents such as William Fichtner, Will Patton, Keith David, Peter Stormare, Ken Hudson Campbell and many more.

“Armageddon” was previously released as a standalone DVD which was then followed up by a director’s cut (featuring two minutes extra footage), special features heavy DVD release from the Criterion Collection and over a decade later, we are treated with an HD version of the film on Blu-ray.

“Armageddon” revolves around an asteroid (the size of Texas) which hurling towards Earth in 18 days. Several smaller asteroids have bypassed Earth’s atmosphere and have caused destruction in various cities worldwide.  But this huge asteroid and its collision on Earth can easily destroy humanity.

The only option that NASA can give is by detonating a nuclear bomb inside the asteroid (800 feet deep) and splitting it into two and hoping that the asteroid will miss Earth.  And the only one with the expertise to drill that deep is offshore oil driller Harry Stamper (played by Bruce Willis) and his crew which include A.J. (played by Ben Affleck) who has a secret relationship with Grace (played by Liv Tyler), the daughter of Harry.  A.J. has  a problem of taking orders and the fact that he was secretly dating Grace does not put him in the best position with Harry.

The US government and NASA depend on Harry and his crew which includes Chick (played by Will Patton), Rockhound (played by Steve Buscemi), Oscar (played by Owen Wilson), Bear (played by Michael Clarke Duncan), Max (played by Ken Hudson Campbell), Noonan (played by Clark Heathcliffe Brolly) and a few others including the NASA pilots to prepare for the drilling on the asteroid. NASA head Dan Truman (played by Billy Bob Thornton) is the person responsible in making sure they are trained quickly and also responsible in leading the NASA operation on Earth.

Earth’s survival depends on these individuals.  Can they get to their location, drill 800 feet and detonate the bomb in time?

VIDEO:

Having owned the previous releases of “Armageddon”, I can easily tell you that “Armageddon” looks absolutely awesome on Blu-ray!  “Armageddon” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1) with colors that are vibrant and a film that sports many colors that simply, I was impressed by the picture quality.  Granted, some video stock footage will look slightly dated but those sequences are very short and if anything, your eyes are just in awe of how awesome and colorful this film is.  From the detail of the character’s skin to the lighting inside NASA as we see the lighting on the characters from green, to blue and of course the overall look of the asteroid and special effects are still wonderful to look at.  Over 12-years-later and the film manages to hold up extremely well!  Strong contrast, solid backs and I don’t recall seeing any major compression, edge enhancement or DNR.

So, for those who loved the film and were so upset with the non-Anamorphic release back in 1999, fortunately we have a 1080p (2:35:1) version of the film and also a version that just looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Armageddon” is absolutely immersive.  The film features an English 5.1 DTS-HD MA (48 kHz/24-bit) and Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.  But as you can expect from a Michael Bay film, he manages to utilize audio and in this film, with all the action, you can expect an immersive audio soundscape.  There are just so many times throughout the film where you hear the audio coming from the fronts, especially from the surround channels but then you can also detect LFE throughout.

Needless to say, when the Criterion Collection DVD release of “Armageddon” was released in 1999, a lot of us who reviewed the film were going crazy about how awesome the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was but after listening to this lossless soundtrack, I was absolutely floored.  “Armageddon” is a film that truly belongs on HD and the soundtrack is just impressive!

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

This is probably where “Armageddon” on Blu-ray is not too awesome.  As the first DVD release was barebones, the Criterion Collection had audio commentary tracks, gag reel, production gallery, featurettes and many, many more special features.  Needless to say, the Criterion Collection version was truly a complete package when it was released in 1999 but in 2010, the Blu-ray Touchstone Pictures release, while not barebones, has very few special features.  Included are:

  • Aerosmith’s MTV Award-Winning Music Video “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Teaser Trailer

I know that many critics and reviewers have a problem with Michael Bay films but I love sci-fi action films, I love being entertained by films that feature continuous action and Michael Bay is a master of it.  Granted, when I watch a Michael Bay film, for me “Armageddon” is a popcorn action flick in which I expect nothing deep, nothing too intellectual and when it comes to disaster films, you want to see devastation and see humanity overcome all obstacles.

“Armageddon” was a film that I really enjoyed when it was first released and had the opportunity to review the original DVD, the Criterion Collection release and now this Blu-ray release.

Needless to say, the biggest question that fans of the film are going to ask is if this release is worth it and whether or not they should toss away their DVD versions of the film.  Well, for one, if you have the original barebones release, yeah, you can trade or sell that one online but if you have the Criterion Collection DVD release, you definitely will want to hold on to that release as those special features are probably not going to be seen in any future “Armageddon” release in quite some time.

But when it comes to picture quality and audio quality, this Blu-ray release of “Armageddon” is fantastic.  The Criterion Collection release was not anamorphic and it was a release before the current remastering that Criterion Collection is known for in recent releases.  So, Disney who have been releasing awesome Blu-ray releases have done fans a great service by giving us awesome picture quality and fantastic lossless audio.  Sure, I would have loved a English 7.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack but this 5.1 lossless soundtrack definitely brings this film to a new level.

I was comparing the Blu-ray release with the DVD releases that I had and it was like night and day in terms of PQ and AQ, this is definitely the definitive version of “Armageddon” to own.  But because those Criterion Collection special features are not included on this Blu-ray, it definitely knocks a point off this Blu-ray release.  I was a bit surprised not to see the commentary, gag reel and other featurettes were not included in this release and its a shame that Disney didn’t include it on this release.  So, if you do own the Criterion Collection DVD release and enjoy the film, you may not want to get rid of your copy.

Overall, “Armageddon” is a film that has its share of fans who love it and those who hate it and that can be said about many disaster films that have come out since the early ’70s.  I personally enjoy these type of films and the better the special effects, the better the film holds up overtime and granted, they may be farfetched (“Armageddon” is used as an actual training management program at NASA in which managers must find out how many inaccuracies the film contains) but for viewers, when it comes to these films, these are perfect “get-away” popcorn flicks.  Something that Michael Bay, J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Hensleigh are very good at with their films.

But if you are a fan who really enjoyed this film, “Armageddon” on Blu-ray in terms of film presentation (PQ & AQ) is highly recommended!

STRIKING DISTANCE (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

“At first glance, ‘STRIKING DISTANCE’ appears to be quite predictable but you start to learn that this mystery, thriller is anything but.  Featuring an intriguing, fast-paced storyline… ‘STRIKING DISTANCE’ is an enjoyable popcorn flick!”

Images courtesy of © 1993 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: STRIKING DISTANCE

DURATION: 102 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1),  English, French, Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish

RATED: R (For Violence, Strong Language and a Sex Scene)

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2009

Directed by Rowdy Herrington

Screenplay by Rowdy Herrington and Marty Kaplan

Executive Producer: Steven Reuther

Produced by Hunt Lowry, Arnon Milchan, Tony Thomopoulos

Co-Producer: Carmine Zozzora

Associate Producer: Martin Kaplan

Music by Brad Fiedel

Director of Photography: Mac Ahlberg

Editing by Pasquale Buba, Mark Helfrich

Casting by Pam Dixon

Production Design by Gregg Fonseca

Art Direction by Bruce Alan Miller

Set Decoration by Jay Hart

Costume Design by Betsy Cox

Starring:

Bruce Willis as Det. Tom Hardy

Sarah Jessica Parker as Jo Christman

Dennis Farina as Capt. Nick Detillo

Tom Sizemore as Det. Danny Detillo

Brion James as Det. Eddie Eiler

Robert Pastorelli as Det. Jim Detillo

John Mahoney as Lt. Vince Hardy

Timothy Busfield as Tony Sacco

Andre Braugher as Dist. Atty. Frank Morris

Bruce Willis and Sarah Jessica Parker star in this mind-bending action mystery. Tom Hardy (Willis) is a maverick cop who’s not afraid to rock the boat in pursuit of a sadistic serial killer. Demoted to river patrol after suggesting the killer may be a fellow police officer, he initiates an unauthorized investigation which kicks the high-powered plot into overdrive. His new partner (Parker) climbsaboard with a surprise of her own as the conspiracy closes around them for a wake-trailing drama about honor, loyalty and family.

In Sept. 1993, a suspenseful thriller starring action star Bruce Willis (“Die Hard”, “The Fifth Element”, “The Sixth Sense) and actress Sarah Jessica Parker (“Sex and the City”, “Ed Wood”, “L.A. Story”) was released in theaters.

The film was directed by Rowdy Herrington (“Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius” and “The Stickup”) and a screenplay co-written by Herrington and Marty Kaplan (“Max Q” and “The Distinguished Gentleman”).  The film would feature music by Brad Fiedel (“Johnny Mnemonic”, “Timecop” and “True Lies”) and cinematographer Mac Ahlberg (“Good Burger”, “Ragdoll”, “The Brady Bunch Movie” and “Beverly Hills Cop III”).

“STRIKING DISTANCE” revolves around a Pittsburgh police officer named Tom Hardy who worked on homicide.  He comes from a family of five generations of police officers and rats out his partner Det. Jimmy Detillo (Robert Pastorelli).  This has caused friction amongst Hardy and all the police officers with the exception of his family and his father, Lt. Vince Hardy (John Mahoney).

His father tells him that he did the right thing and tries to support his son.  Tom has had some difficulties, aside from him ratting out his partner and difficulties within the force, there is a serial killer that has killed a woman that was close to him.

Immediately, the two receive a call that police are chasing the suspect and a big chase scene takes place.  But somehow this person manages to thwart their every move of capture.  Immediately, Tom says that the way the person drives, he must be a cop.

While on the pursuit and the suspect escaping the police at every opportunity of capture, both Hardy’s are the only ones left on pursuit and manage to shoot the suspect’s tires.  Both end up going over a hill and crashing.  Next thing you know, Tom wakes up to find out that the suspect has escaped and his father was killed by the suspect.

Not long after, while Tom goes on the trial for his partner, his uncle Capt. Nick Detillo tells him that they captured a suspect.  The suspect appears to be a short man who says he didn’t do it but a witness places him in the scene with a body.  Tom does not believe it one bit that this man is the serial killer and is even capable of lifting the bodies and throwing them in a river.

And Tom insists that the killer must be a police officer.  Those words will be the final words he would say as a police officer.  After the court case, he finds out that his former partner and friend Det. Jimmy Detillo is threatening to kill himself and about to jump the bridge.  Both Jimmy’s father Nick and Det. Danny Detillo (Tom Sizemore) try to stop him from jumping and even Tom tries his best to grab his hand but Jimmy who is distraught over his partner ratting on him and ruining his career, jumps off the bridge and kills himself.    Danny blames his former friend Tom for the death of his brother.

Two years later, he is now working as an officer for the River Rescue.   Because of his belligerence at his new job and not getting along with his partner, he is assigned a new partner named Jo Christman (Sarah Jessica Parker).  Two years later, Danny comes back to Pittsburgh and apologizes to Tom about what happened on the bridge and for blaming him for his brother’s death.

All seems to be going OK with Tom until a body is found in the river.  We then see a nurse walking into the parking lot and a stun gun was used on her.  Tom receives a call with a woman crying and we see an image of a remote control police car riding on the floor.  The woman is killed and the phone call is cut off.

Tom knows that the serial killer is back and he is taunting him and to make things worse, the woman is the second person that was very close to Tom and Tom knows that the killer is trying to get close to him.

Tom wants some answers and wants to catch the serial killer but with his new by-the-rules partner, will she rat him out for his un-policeman like conduct?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

For a film released in 1993, I’m going to be truthful, I was expecting a film that was going to be heavily DNR’d (Digital Noise Reduction) and look soft with less detail.  This was not the case, “STRIKING DISTANCE” which received its first 1080p High Definition transfer (1:85:1 aspect ratio) looks absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray.  Outdoor scenes with sunlight and multiple colors look vibrant, you can see skin tones quite well, blacks are nice and deep and blues are nice and beautiful. Also, grain is present and captures that film-like quality.

Equally impressive was the audio soundtrack for the film.  The film is presented in English, French and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (and Spanish 5.1) and from the opening scenes, there is good use of the rear surrounds during the car chase scene and also gun shots.  In fact, some scenes I detected usage of LFE which was nice.

Is it as immersive as today’s modern action films?  The answer is no.  But considering the age of the film, I was happy to hear a nice clean dialogue but also special effects coming nice and clear through the front channels and my surrounds.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are no special features but trailers for upcoming Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases.  The Blu-ray disc is BD-Live Enabled.

“STRIKING DISTANCE” was an enjoyable, suspenseful thriller.  Back in 1993, Bruce Willis who had such a wonderful rise to fame with both “Die Hard” films returned with several action films that people either loved or hated.  From “Hudson Hawk”, “The Last Boyscout” and even his lighthearted roles as the voice for films such as “Look Who’s Talking” and his role as David Addison on the popular TV show “Moonlighting” was still fresh on the minds of many people who enjoyed his work.

Personally, I felt that Bruce Willis is an “everyman”, an actor who can play a variety of roles in his career (which he has demonstrated quite well in the last 25 years) but around that time, many people were basing everything that he did and comparing it with “Die Hard”.

“STRIKING DISTANCE” is no die hard.  Bruce Willis may be playing a cop and he may go a bit gung ho at times but his character as Tom Hardy is scarred.  From the death of his father and women he was romantically with, having to wear a brace on his leg and so he is not exactly mobile.  The character is flawed but for me, that’s what made his character so appealing.

Sarah Jessica Parker (many years before “Sex and the City” made her a huge star) was an actress that caught our attention in the 1991 romantic comedy “L.A. Story” but previous to that, most of us connected through Parker from her role in the 80’s show “Square Pegs”, so to see her in an action film and being the main love interest opposite to Bruce Willis was quite interesting.  And she provides that necessary balance between her character and Willis’s character of Tom Hardy.

The film is a fun popcorn flick and it does have its farfetched moments.  But I watched the film having low expectations (considering many critics did n0t enjoy it) and by the end of the film, actually enjoying it. In fact, there were times that I felt the film was becoming too predictable.  Actually, in the first half hour, I felt I figured out the film but it was nice to see how the writers played with the storyline and gave us a pretty interesting and surprising reveal of the killer’s identity at the end.

“STRIKING DISTANCE” also has the benefit of receiving a pretty good transfer from Sony but again, another classic release that is barebones with no commentary or special features whatsoever.  Not even the film’s trailer is included.

In the end, for those who enjoyed the film and own it on DVD, the double dip is worth it if you are wanting it for the improved picture and audio quality.   For those not familiar with the film and are wondering if it’s an action film they can enjoy, it’s worth checking out.

Overall, “STRIKING DISTANCE” is not the best suspenseful, thriller and by no means does it match the action of a “Die Hard” film but it does have an intriguing, suspenseful storyline with a surprising reveal at the end.

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