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A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” is a film that is non-banal, imaginative, creative, unusual.  From its abstract use of reality and dreams, the storyline can get confusing, enjoyable, back to confusing quite easily.  While not a perfect film, for a small budget and what Roman Coppolla and crew were able to accomplish, “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” may not be for everyone.  But for those who are used to arthouse films that try to avoid becoming part of traditional cinema, may find the film to be refreshing and fun.

Images courtesy of © 2013 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III

FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 87 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: R (Language and Some Nudity)

Release Date: May 14, 2013

Written and Directed by Roman Coppola

Produced by Roman Coppola, Youree Henley

Co-Producer: Darren M. Demetre

Executive Producer: Robert Maron, Michael Zakin

Associate Producer: Sue Yeon Ahn

Music by Liam Hayes, Roger Neill

Cinematography by Nick Beal

Edited by Robert Schafer

Casting by Nicole Daniels, Courtney Sheinin

Production Design by Elliott Hostetter

Art Direction by Almitra Covey

Set Decoration by Elizabeth Keenan

Costume Design by April Napier

Starring:

Charlie Sheen as Charles Swan III

Jason Schwartzman as Kirby Star

Bill Murray as Saul

Katheryn Winnick as Ivana

Patricia Arquette as Izzy

Aubrey Plaza as Marnie

Set in a stylized Los Angeles, A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III is a playful comedy of lost love, relationships, revenge fantasies, and Brandy Alexanders. Charles (Charlie Sheen) is a successful graphic designer whose fame, money and charm have provided him with a seemingly perfect life. But when Ivana – the woman of his dreams – leaves him, Charles falls apart. He swirls into comedic, fantasy-inspired reflections upon his colorful past, and all the women that have played a part in it. With the support of his intimates including Kirby (Jason Schwartzman), Saul (Bill Murray) and sister Izzy (Patricia Arquette), Charles begins to come to terms with a life without Ivana.

For producer and filmmaker Roman Coppola (“Moonrise Kingdom”, “The Darjeeling Limited”, “CQ”), Coppola has created an independent abstract art film titled “Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” which is based on his influences and passion for the 70′s airbrush art work by Charles White III and others at the time.

Where as his 2001 film “CQ” was set in the 1960′s, Coppola takes the story which is set in the 1970′s and features well-known American talents such as Charlie Sheen (“Wall Street”, “Major League”, “Hot Shots!”), Jason Schwartz (“Rushmore”, “I Heart Huckabees”, “Moonrise Kingdom”), Bill Murray (“Ghostbusters”, “Groundhog Day”, “Lost in Translation”, “Moonrise Kingdom”), Katheryn Winnick (“Love & Other Drugs”, “Killers”, “Failure to Launch”), Patricia Arquette (“Medium”, “True Romance”, “Ed Wood”) and Aubrey Plaza (“Safety Not guaranteed”, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”, “Parks and Recreation”).

The film revolves around a graphic designer named Charles Swan III (portrayed by Charlie Sheen) living in the ’70s, enjoying sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.  He has lived this playboy life while still having a girlfriend named Ivana (portrayed by Katheryn Winnick).

Ivana has had the last straw when she find her photos mixed with other photos (nude sexual photos) which Charles have kept.  So, she ends the relationship!

But for Charles, he has a hard time dealing with the breakup.  Why is that?  Did he love her?  Did he not love her?  Does he want to get back with her or does she want to get back with him?

Despite seeing a shrink, Charles becomes a bit unstable and starts to suffer from dreams, nightmares about himself, Ivana, his best friend Kirby (portrayed by Jason Schwartzman) and his manager Saul (portrayed by Bill Murray).  But also dreaming of his past breakups and relationship with Ivana and through these dreams or nightmare, try to come to grips with what and why he is feeling this way.

What is real?  Is it all a dream?  Is there any reality to what we see on screen? What do these dreams mean?

VIDEO:

“Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1).  Picture quality for the film is very good!  Shot outdoors and trying to use natural sunlight in order to save money on the film, outdoor scenes are vibrant and colorful, while indoor scenes were well-planned and well-lit.  Closeups of the characters show plenty of detail in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  The film is primarily dialogue and music driven.  There is not so much use of the surround channels, so the film is center and front-channel driven. There are moments with an explosion and other scenes that provide good dynamic range but for the most part, dialogue is crisp and clear and original music by Liam Hayes and Roger Neill is also very clear.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary - Featuring audio commentary with writer/director Roman Coppola with interesting details of how the film was shot with a very low budget.
  • A Glimpse Behind the Glimpse – The Making of Charles Swan – (24:54) A featurette about how the pop art film was inspired by the artwork of Charles White III, Dave Willard, Peter Palombi.  How the artwork was sexy, imaginative and playful and to create a film with that in mind.  Director Roman Coppola and producer Youree Henley discuss the casting of the film, working on a short budget, crew members talk about production design and more.
  • A Glimpse Into the Mind of Charles White III – (12:10) An interview with graphic artist Charles White III.

EXTRAS:

“Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” comes with a slipcover case.

I watched a lot of cinema that may seem odd, abstract and while we expect to see these type of films coming from Europe and praise Fellini to even Jean-Luc Godard films for creating films that may not be comprehensive for the masses but yet intellectual and entertaining for those who are purveyors of unique, creative cinema…how are these films viewed if done today?

Personally, watching “Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III”, it’s a film that you respect Roman Coppolla for attempting.  You respect the fact that he is able to create something non-traditional and different from American cinema banality.

But for some reason, I felt a bit non-ebullient towards this film.  Feeling that while funny and audacious at times, the fact is that “Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” doesn’t feel like cinema but almost like watching a home video of Charlie Sheen.  But I’ll discuss what I like and didn’t like about the film.

What I did like about the film is the fact that Roman Coppolla wanted to create a ’70s film and did it.  He may not have had a big budget for the film, but he was able to get his friends together and with what budget they had, were able to put together a unique style of film, that is reminiscent of a Fellini film and definitely not something you will see today in modern America cinema.

What I also enjoyed about this film was how he and the crew were able to make do with what they have. May it be to shoot at his home, using wardrobe that he owned, utilizing natural light but staying true to his goal and focus of bringing in his inspirations in recreating the art that inspired him to make the film.

While Coppolla has said this film was not designed for Charlie Sheen but was originally done as a character study, he knew that Charlie Sheen pretty much embodied the role of Charles Swan III.

And the casting of Charlie Sheen felt right.  The fact is that the “Tiger Blood” infused actor is known for his partying ways and using whatever, drinking whatever and living or having fun with women and forever remaining bitter for his ouster on the hit TV show “Two and a Half Men”.

The characters of Charles Swan III seems as if it is a ’70s version of the modern Charlie Sheen, but in this case, a man who tries to examine why his ex-girlfriend left him through various dreams and nightmares.  From one segment in which his former lovers say goodbye to him, but somehow he rises from the dead and partakes in a ballroom dancing moment with each woman who tells him how they feel about him.

Another segment has an organization of women known as “Ball Busters” who try to blow him up and his best friend, Kirby.  Or another as they are cowboys discovering beautiful women as Indians.

There are many more odd scenes that involve Charles, Kirby and his manager Saul or with his sister Izzy (portrayed by Katheryn Winnick).  And of course, many flashbacks featuring the disintegration of the relationship between Charles and Ivana.

The odd flashbacks are not what I have a problem with as I have been more than open to watching many abstract films from all over the globe.  But with these films, there is always a message from the filmmaker that makes it a sign of the times, especially for that era.  Carefully planned shots of artistry.  And for the most part, using talents that have captivated you for their work in prior cinematic works, rather than public rants that were fodder for entertainment shows and jokes for late night television.

The fact is that this film is perfect for Charlie Sheen, but it’s a double-edged sword because the film is almost like watching the real Charlie Sheen and that is not what we want to see.  Set in the ’70s, actor Jason Schwartzman is able to fit the role, even Bill Murray can fit the role that he plays.  But for Charlie Sheen, he and Charles Swan and their persona seem too alike and it makes you wonder…how much more can one take of “crazy” Charles?  But I’m not going to sound like I’m overly criticizing Sheen for this role because his reality embodies the life of Charles Swan III.  And most importantly, Sheen did put effort into this film, from rehearsing the dance number and even singing the Portuguese song.  Was happy to hear from Coppolla that Sheen worked on that!

But part of my feeling a bit down on the film, I think that part of me expected something much more significant considering Coppolla has worked with Wes Anderson on films such as “Moonrise Kingdom” and “The Darjeeling Limited”, but having listened to the audio commentary and special features, it set into perspective for me that this is a low-budget film created by one man’s passion.  He wanted to create a ’70s film and with what budget he had, he did it.  So, I do respect Coppolla for doing that.

The chemistry between Charlie Sheen and Katheryn Winnick was also fun and the two clicked!  What is possibly the silliest part of the film but also my favorite are the two singing a Portuguese song.  The neon lights, the not-so-great singing but it just works.  Even the laughter in the song, I found myself watching this scene over and over!

While we get to see Jason Schwartzman as Kirby Star throughout the film giving his two cents to Charles or somehow winding up in the wildest characters in Charles’ dreams, the same can be said about Bill Murray.  While his character of Saul does not make it into the film that much, he does show up in various weird moments but also adds some star status to the film but plays a character who is also having his own relationship problems.  The same that can be said for Patricia Arquette as Charles’ supportive sister, Izzy.  Who has two children that latch on to Charles.

But the film has its numerous problems.  While a small budget can present numerous problems, I won’t focus on that.  I just found the film to be random at times.  Which I’m very used too thanks to Italian and French cinema but I think the film tries to be imaginative and non-banal, which is a good thing but in terms of comprehensiveness,  for those wanting an easy to understand film may feel confused by how things jump around from dream/nightmare to reality in “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III”.

What is reality? I think it’s obvious as Charles and friends in cowboy outfits going after beautiful women in Indian outfits are surely a fantasy.   His time with his sister is reality.  But what I wanted to see is more of Charles and Ivana, as each time they were together, I felt more drawn to the storyline thanks to their dramatic scenes.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant and colorful outdoors.  Night scenes and indoor scenes are well-lit and considering this is a low-budget film, set design and costume design were good, hair styles could have been made to match the ’70s a bit more especially for Ivana but for the most part, the crew made the film work with the best budget they had.  Lossless audio is dialogue-driven and the special features do provide a good amount of information.  From Coppolla’s audio commentary and the making of, but also the short interview with Charles White III.

Overall, “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” is a film that is non-banal, imaginative, creative, unusual.  From its abstract use of reality and dreams, the storyline can get confusing, enjoyable, back to confusing quite easily.  While not a perfect film, for a small budget and what Roman Coppolla and crew were able to accomplish, “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” may not be for everyone.  But for those who are used to arthouse films that try to avoid becoming part of traditional cinema, may find the film to be refreshing and fun.

Being John Malkovich – The Criterion Collection #611 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

May 14, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A film that is original in every way, written by Charlie Kaufman and featuring the film debut of Spike Jonze, “Being John Malkovich” was not only ahead of its time, it’s a unique film featuring wonderful performances with a storyline that is captivating from beginning to end.  Featuring a wonderful, new 4K digital transfer, “Being John Malkovich” from the Criterion Collection is a film that I definitely recommend on Blu-ray and DVD.

Image courtesy of © Universal Studios Home Entertainment. © 2012 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Being John Malkovich – The Criterion Collection #611

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1999

DURATION: 113 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 5.1 Surround, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Universal/The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: May 15, 2012

Directed by Spike Jonze

Written by Charlie Kaufman

Executive Producer: Charlie Kaufman, Michael Kuhn

Producer: Steve Golin, Vincent Landay, Sandy Stern, Michael Stipe

Music by Carter Burwell

Cinematography: Lance Acord

Edited by Eric Zumbrunnen

Casting by Justine Baddeley, Kim-Davis Wagner

Production Design by K.K. Barrett

Art Direction by Peter Andrus

Set Decoration by Gene Serdena

Costume Design by Casey Storm

Starring:

John Cusack as Craig Schwartz

Cameron Diaz as Lotte Schwartz

Ned Bellamy as Derek Mantini

Mary Kay Place as Floris

Orson Bean as Dr. Lester

Cathrine Keener as Maxine Lund

John Malkovich as John Horatio Malkovich

Charlie Sheen as Charlie

Have you ever wanted to be someone else? Or, more specifically, have you ever wanted to crawl through a portal hidden in an anonymous office building and thereby enter the cerebral cortex of John Malkovich for fifteen minutes, before being spat out on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike? Then director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman have the movie for you. Melancholy marionettes, office drudgery, a frizzy-haired Cameron Diaz—but that’s not all! Surrealism, possession, John Cusack, a domesticated primate, Freud, Catherine Keener, non sequiturs, and absolutely no romance! But wait: get your Being John Malkovich now and we’ll throw in emasculation, slapstick, Abelard and Heloise, and extra Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich!

Spike Jonze was best known in the early ’90s for his music videos.  From Beastie Boys “Sabotage”, R.E.M.’s “Parallel” to Bjork’s “Volumen”, Jonze would get the opportunity to direct his first major film titled “Being John Malkovich”, written by Charlie Kaufman (“Eternal Sunshin of the Spotless Mind”, “Adaptation”, “Syndecdoche, New York”).

The film resonated strongly with younger viewers and also receive rave reviews from film critics, “Being John Malkovich” would win over 45 awards and receive over 45 nominations including Academy Award nominations for “Best Director”, “Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly For the Screen” and “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Catherine Keener).

Championed for its originality, “Being John Malkovich” will now be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection in May 2012.

“Being John Malkovich” revolves around a puppeteer named Craig Schwartz (played by John Cusack).  Craig is married to Lotte (played by Cameron Diaz) who loves to have a lot of pets inside the house but also wonders when they will have a baby.

Because puppeteering isn’t exactly working out for Craig, nor is it bringing home any money, he applies for various jobs and gets a job as a file clerk for Dr. Lester (played by Orson Beat) of LesterCorp.  The 7 1/2 Floor is unusual because it’s ceilings are so low inside the Mertin Flemmer Building in New York City, but through an orientation video, learns that Mertin Flemmer who built the building married a little person and thus, built buildings with low ceilings in love for his wife.

While watching the orientation video, he can’t keep his eye off his sexy co-worker named Maxine (played by Catherine Keener).  And each attempt he takes in trying to get close to her, she pushes him away.  And each day, he finds himself even more attracted to her, but she is not interested in him.

One day, while moving things around in his office, he discovers a small door behind the filing cabinet.  When he opens the door and crawls through the tunnel, he finds himself inside actor John Malkovich (played by John Malkovich) and the ability to be another person, let alone a celebrity has major impact on Craig’s life.  While being inside John Malkovich’s head is temporary (those who go in are dropped into a ditch near the New Jersey Turnpike), he decides to tell Maxine about his find.

At first Maxine doesn’t believe him but she realizes that both she and Craig can make money by charging people a $200 admission and give them the opportunity of being John Malkovich.

Craig tells Lotte that he is busy in the office and thus is unable to come home (because he wants to be around Maxine) but when he tells Lotte about being John Malkovich, she wants to try it and sure enough, once she does, her life changes.  So much to the point that she becomes obsessed by it and wants to become a transgendered person.

When he goes to Craig’s office and meets Maxine, she wants to go inside John Malkovich’s head again and while she’s in there, Maxine uses the moment to know and get closer to John Malkovich.   And as she gets closer and Lotte is occasionally inside John Malkovich, when Maxine is having sex with John Malkovich, she knows that Lotte is watching and Lotte herself is getting turned on (and realize she has a thing for Maxine).

So, now both Craig and Lotte are sexually attracted to Maxine.

But what happens when Craig starts to become jealous of Lotte wanting to be inside of John Malkovich, so she can have sex with Maxine?  And what happens when John Malkovich starts to sense that something is not right, as if someone is controlling him?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Being John Malkovich” is presented in widescreen 1:85:1 and is a new digital transfer.  According to Spike Jonze, this Criterion Collection release “matches what our original print looked like and how we were never able to get that when we put out the DVD before”.

With that being said, its important to note that if you want the best video and audio quality of “Being John Malkovich”, it’s recommended that one purchases the Blu-ray release.  Having owned the original DVD release of “Being John Malkovich”, the quality of the film is definitely an upgrade for this Criterion Collection DVD.  There is a bit more clarity and detail but I’m confident that the Blu-ray version will probably feature even better detail and clarity.

As for the picture quality, according to the Criterion Collection, “Being John Malkovich” was supervised by director Spike Jone and cinematographer Lance Acord.  The new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a DFT SCANITY film scanner from the original 35mm camera negative.  The data was then color corrected on a DaVinci Resolve at Company 3, with colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Image Systems’ Phoenix was used for small, dirt, grain, jitter, flicker and noise reduction.

As for the audio, the audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Dialogue is crystal clear and I heard no hiss or any audio problems during my viewing.  While the film is primarily dialogue, there is good use of surround channels during the entry to John Malkovich’s head.  Once again, for better audio quality, I recommend going for the Blu-ray version for even better audio clarity and dynamic range on its lossless audio track.  Otherwise, the DVD sounds very good.

According to the Criterion Collection, the 5.1 surround soundtrack was created from the original 6-track magnetic master.  Clicks, pops, etc. were removed using ProTools HD and then translated into foreign languages and redubbed to our original soundtrack master.  Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.

English subtitles are presented in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Being John Malkovich – The Criterion Collection #611” comes with the following special features:

  • All Noncombatants Please Clear the Set - (33:18) Filmmaker Lance Bangs documented the entire shoot of “Being John Malkovich” back in 1998 and trimmed it down to a half-hour portrait of the atmosphere on the set.
  • John Malkovich and John Hodgman – (27:49) John Hodgman interviews John Malkovich about the film.
  • Spike’s Photos – (15:28) Made by filmmaker Lance Bangs, Spike Jonze showcases photos he took on the set of “Being John Malkovich”.
  • 7 1/2 Floor Orientation – (2:12) The orientation video that Craig Schwartz watched before starting his new job.
  • “American Arts & Culture” Presents John Horatio Malkovich: “Dance of Despair and Disillusionment” – (4:17) The episode of “American Arts & Culture Presents John Malkovich” that was seen in the film.
  • An Intimate Portrait of the Art of Puppeteering – (7:20) A featurette by filmmaker Lance Bangs about puppeteering and how it was used in the film.
  • TV Spots – Featuring four TV spots for “Being John Malkovich: JM Inc., Tunnel, Spithead and Vesselis humanus.
  • Trailer – (1:55) The original theatrical trailer for “Being John Malkovich”.

EXTRAS:

  • 16-Page booklet – “Being John Malkovich” comes with a 16-page booklet with the following essay: “The Original Piece of Wood I Left In Your Head: Spike Jonze in Conversation with Perkus Tooth”.

Original and captivating, Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman’s “Being John Malkovich” was a film that no one would ever expect to be made into a film, but because of its originality, it has become one of the most groundbreaking films to be released in America within the last 15 years.

Back in May  2000, during my original DVD review of “Being John Malkovich”, I often wrote about how original the film was and how Spike Jonze was going to be the next big director in the U.S. because of this film.  There was no doubt that “Being John Malkovich” was a film that would resonate strongly with independent filmmakers, younger audiences and the film critics, but watch the film again in 2012, you also realize how this film was ahead of its time.

In the beginning, “Being John Malkovich” had a banal style of a man who lives a life that is not going all that great, his love for puppeteering is not as welcomed in today’s society nor is it a way for him to make a living and there is a sense of disconnection with his wife, who shows more love to her animals (which he could care less of).  And the main character, Craig Schwartz starts to have a sexual attraction to his co-worker.  Once again, seems banal but that’s where things take a twist.

Who would ever think of a film where people can enter a tunnel and enter the mind of actor John Malkovich.  And those who experience it literally go through a life-changing experience.

On paper, the explanation of “Being John Malkovich” seems as if it is being penned by someone trippin’ on acid, but what he have is a writer striving for originality and a young director at the time who was creative and did thing his way.

Charlie Kaufman is a writer who loves creating original stories and since “Being John Malkovich”, he has continued this audacious style through films such as “Synecdoche, New York”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, “Confessions of a dangerous Mind” and “Adaptation”.  And Spike Jonze is a director that knows how to interpret Kaufman’s originality with his own.  Jonze is not a product of traditional Hollywood.  He has come from a music video background and is known for his fascinating and cool videos for The Beastie Boys, Bjork, R.E.M., The Chemical Brothers, Weezer and many others.

He is a product of a young, talented filmmakers that are known for creativity and he has shown that in his films such as “Adaptation”, “Where the Wild Things Are” but creativity that also goes even farther when he and a group of friends created Dirt Magazine, he owns the Girl skateboard company and the collaboration between Jonez and Kaufman have been successful.

Back to “Being John Malkovich”, part of the allure of the film is how people want to experience the life of a celebrity.  And they can see it up front.  It’s an invasion of privacy but yet people revel in it.  I don’t think Kaufman or Jonze would know how life would change for celebrities with social media, Facebook, Twitter and how information is so readily out there for outlets like TMZ.com and regular people to know what celebrities are thinking and where they are at, almost real time.

There are so many things that made me laugh while watching this film.  From the 7 1/2 floor where Craig works and seeing the ceilings so low, with a crazy orientation video, add in a woman who misunderstands everything that is being said, a crazy boss, a sexy (golddigging) co-worker and a puppeteer who seems normal but yet has some creepy qualities.

And that led to the unexpected nature of how this film was going to play out.  I remember watching this film and thinking of how original this film was but also how exciting it was because it didn’t follow banal traditions or storytelling.  And watching it again over a decade later, “Being John Malkovich” is still a wonderful film!

John Cusack did a wonderful job of playing the creep Craig Schwarz and this is probably one of the few films starring Cameron Diaz (and Charlie Sheen) which I actually do like.  But both Catherine Keener and even John Malkovich himself were great in the film and how cool Malkovich was of the film’s humor and the use of his persona.  For Keener, her appearance on “Being John Malkovich” would eventually lead the actress to appear in more films by Jonze and Kaufman and for Malkovich, if “Dangerous Liasons” or “Con Air” didn’t make audiences know much about the actor, this film surely generated interest in him.

And it was also great to see Octavia Spencer in an earlier, shorter role a decade before she would win awards for her role on “The Help”.

As for this new release from the Criterion Collection, eventually the new digital transfer is enticing since the film is on Blu-ray but for the DVD version which I am reviewing, the DVD looks and sounds good and as Jonz said, with the previous DVD’s, he wasn’t able to get the color to match to the original print, until now.  So, while the Blu-ray release is surely the definitive version to own, those who don’t own a Blu-ray player and are fine with DVD, will still enjoy this release from the Criterion Collection.

For those who owned the older DVD, while the majority of the special features are on this new Criterion Collection release, one thing that is new is the conversation between John Malkovich and actor John Hodgman (better known to many as the PC guy in the older Apple Mac commercials).  This interview was much more informative and enjoyable to watch than the older “An Interview with Spike Jonze”  which was not good at all.

But what it comes down to is the new digital transfer and the Criterion Collection giving it a 4K digital transfer is a big deal because this film looks great on DVD and magnificent on Blu-ray.

Overall, if you are a big fan of “Being John Malkovich” or a person who is curious about this film (or Criterion Collector who will buy the film no matter what), this film is a worthy addition to the Criterion Collection and is definitely recommended!

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

May 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“Platoon” is one of the best war films ever made.  Based on writer/director Oliver Stone’s own Vietnam War experience and wanting to capture the authenticity of what he saw and experienced, “Platoon” will always be Stone’s masterpiece.  If you enjoyed the film, it is highly recommended on Blu-ray!

Images courtesy of © 1986 Orion Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Platoon

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1986

DURATION: 120 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 4.0 Dolby Surround, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 DTS, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

RATED: R

COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc./Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: May 24 2011

Written and Directed by Oliver Stone

Produced by Arnold Kopelson

Executive Producer: John Daly, Derek Gibson

Co-Producer: A. Kitman Ho

Music by Georges Delerue

Cinematography by Robert Richardson

Edited by Claire Simpson

Casting by Pat Golden, Warren McLean, Bob Morones

Production Design by Bruno Rubeo

Art Direction by Rodell Cruz, Sherman Williams

Starring:

Charlie Sheen as Chris

Tom Berenger as Sgt. Barnes

Willem Dafoe as Sgt. Elias

Keith David as King

Forest Whitaker as Big Harold

Francesco Quinn as Rhah

Kevin Dillon as Bunny

John C. McGinley as Sgt. O’Neill

Reggie Johnson as Junior

Mark Moses as Lt. Wolfe

Corey Glover as Francis

Johnny Depp as Lerner

Chris Pedersen as Crawford

Bob Orwig as Gardner

Corkey Ford as Manny

David Neidorf as Tex

Richard Edson as Sal

Tony Todd as Warren

Kevin Eshelman as Morehouse

Terry Mclivain as Ace

J. Adam Glover as Sanderson

Paul Sanchez as Doc

Dale Dye as Captain Harris

Peter Hicks as Parker

Basile Achara as Flash

PLATOON tells the extraordinary journey of Private Chris Taylor (Sheen), a young, naive American who arrives in Vietnam and quickly discovers he must battle the Viet Cong alongside the gnawing fear, physical exhaustion and intense anger growing within him. His two commanding officers (Oscar-nominated Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe) draw a fine line between the war they wage against the enemy and the one they fight with each other. Meanwhile, the conflict, chaos and hatred permeate Taylor, suffocating his realities and numbing his feelings to man’s highest value: life.

For screenwriter and filmmaker, Oliver Stone, there is always a film that sparks intrigue among critics and audiences.

As a writer, Stone has had success with “Midnight Express” (1978), “Conan the Barbarian” (1982) and “Scarface” (1983) but as a filmmaker, Stone had not had a hit.  In fact his film “Salvador” was a failure in 1986 and dejected with the failure of the film, he would have to work on “Platoon”, a Vietnam war film that had challenges, especially because of its low budget of $6.5 million.

But as an infantryman in Vietnam, Stone had wanted to create a film based on his experience but to counter John Wayne’s “The Green Berets” film from 1968 (which was created to counter the anti-war atmosphere and social discontent in the U.S.).

And because the film showcased the atrocities, the discontent with the soldiers and the confusion of what took place in the battlefield, it was well-received by film critics and audiences.

The low budget film would be a box office success earning over $138 million and would be nominated for eight Academy Awards and take home four Oscars for “Best Director”, “Best Film Editing”, “Best Picture” and “Best Sound”.  In 2007, the film would be placed at #83 by the American Film Institute for “AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies” poll.

And now “Platoon” will reach its 25th year and to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the film, Twentieth Century Fox will be releasing a special 2-Disc Set on Blu-ray.

“Platoon” is a film that focuses on Chris Taylor (played by Charlie Sheen), a young college student who quit school to volunteer and fight in the war in 1967.  But once he arrives to Vietnam, he starts to realize that it was a big mistake.

Upon arriving, dead bodies of Americans in body bags are lying on the ground and now being loaded into the plane he just arrived in.  As a member of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment near the Cambodian border, the conditions are harsher than he had imagined.

The veteran soldiers look at him as weak, he is constantly being bitten by red ants and not exactly handling being in the jungle all that well. While making friends with various soldiers, he begins to respect Sergeant Elias (played by Willem Dafoe), a man who cares about his soldiers unlike Sergeant Barnes (played by Tom Berenger), who is more like a bully and is often at odds against Elias.

But with each day, he notices soldiers counting the days when they can go back home.  For Chris, with regrets of being in Vietnam, each day he is constantly writing to his family of how much he hates being there and also begins the countdown to when he will go back because each day in the jungle, chances of being killed continue to rise.

In fact, friends he would make are killed and he begins to realize that for many of these soldiers who don’t want to be in Vietnam, the atrocities he sees from war, the killing and rape of innocent Vietnamese in villages start to weight down on him and he starts to find himself losing it.

And to make things worse, he starts to suspect a superior of killing the one true friend he had on the battlefield.

As the platoon continues to go back to the ambush areas, what will happen to the soldiers that are left and will Chris survive at all?

VIDEO:

“Platoon” is presented in 1080p High Definition (Widescreen 1:85:1).  At first, because of the older titles, I was thinking that this film was going to look aged, especially since this was a low budget film that was shot in the ’80s and I tend to be critical on the PQ of many ’80s films released on Blu.

As for “Platoon”, I was quite impressed by the look of the film and how clean the print was.  Granted, it’s not going to come close to anything released in the last five years but for a 25-year-old film, “Platoon” looks very good on Blu-ray.  The amount of detail and clarity especially the vibrant colors featured in the film were quite noticeable this time around watching it in HD versus on DVD.   You can see the grime, sweat, blood and just overall detail of the jungle.   Also, the blacks are nice and deep and there is a good amount of grain.

Robert Richardson (“Shutter Island”, “Inglorious Basterds”, “Kill Bill” films)  did a fantastic job with the cinematography, from vignettes during sundown to capturing the fears of the soldiers eyes.   Overall, PQ for “Platoon” is very good!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Platoon” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 4.0 Dolby Surround, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and French 5.1 DTS.  There is no doubt that Georges Delerue’s (“The Man for All Seasons”, “Twins”, “The Day of the Jackal”) music is one of the most memorable themes in a movie.   The music for “Platoon” captures ’60s music but also a score that I have always look forward to listening to each time I watch the film.

But with this lossless soundtrack, it is known that Oliver Stone really pushed the buttons for sound and would easily frustrate the sound crew because he wanted authenticity down to the insects and lizards (especially a gecko).  But while ambiance for the film is rather strong, whenever you get to scenes of an ambush, where there is firing both ways especially during the final half hour of the film, there is really good panning of the audio but unfortunately, it’s not as much as I would have liked.

For the most part, dialogue is clear as with the sounds of ammunition being discharged and sounds of people running into the plants and so forth.  Don’t expect too much though as it’s not the most immersive soundtrack that utilizes the surround channels or LFE but still, it’s a major upgrade compared to the original DVD release.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Platoon” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary by Director Oliver Stone – Director Oliver Stone talks about his own Vietnam War experiences, how Chris Taylor was loosely based on his experiences and more.
  • Audio Commentary by Military Advisor Dale Dye – For this commentary, retired US Marine Capt. Dale Dye gives is in-depth information of the conflict in Vietnam and really impressive details of the war.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary by Olive Stone – (11:31) A total of eleven scenes with Oliver Stone explaining why he cut them, why he regrets cutting some of them and some he just found really lame.
  • Flashback to Platoon: Snapshot in Time: 1967-1968 – (19:15) Interviews with Oliver Stone and other veterans and historians about the Vietnam War and how America lost the war.
  • Creating the Nam – (12:04) A featurette on how Oliver Stone wanted authenticity and the pains that it took to create that authenticity in the Philippines, especially with a low budget and how much stress it put on the cast and crew.
  • Raw Wounds: The Legacy of Platoon – (17:19) A featurette on how successful the film was and how veterans reacted to the film.
  • One War, Many Stories Documentary – (25:32) Oliver Stone and Vietnam War veterans talk about their experiences and how it was similar or different from what was shown in “Platoon”.
  • Preparing for ‘Nam – (6:36) A featurette about those who signed up for the military and went to boot camp before the Vietnam War.
  • Caputo & The 7th Fleet Vignette – (1:38) Phillip Caputo talks about leaving Saigon in a helicopter and many anti-aircraft were being shot at them.
  • Dye Training Method Vignette - (3:23) Captain Dale dye talks about training the actors to be a soldier in the film.
  • Gordon Gekko Vignette - (1:06) A story from the editor of how the name Gordon Gekko came up.
  • TV Spots – Three TV spots (Action, Critical Acclaim and The Director).
  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:44) The original theatrical trailer for “Platoon”

EXTRAS:

“Platoon” comes with 2-Discs, one is the Blu-ray and the other is a DVD version of the film presented in widescreen (1:85:1).  The DVD is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish Dolby Surround and subtitles are in Spanish and French.   Also, the Blu-ray release comes with a slip cover.

I had the opportunity to watch “Platoon” in the theater several times and since its release back in 1986, I have watched this film many times on video and on cable and what I love about the film is that it doesn’t glorify war or patriotism, it was an honest portrayal of war and the fears that took place among the soldiers.

Many of us grew up reading or hearing that the Vietnam War was an unpopular war which we lost politically but yet during the early ’80s, the films that were shown about the Vietnam War were Chuck Norris “Missing in Action” films or Sylvester Stallone’s “Rambo” and nothing that covered the truths about what happened during the war.

So, two films during the mid-’80s would showcase those fears experienced by soldiers and less about American machismo…”Platoon” (1986) and “Full Metal Jacket” (1987).  Interesting enough, while these two anti-war films would capture the attention of the fears of soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War, “Top Gun” (also from 1986) would inspire many people to join the military.  As films would showcase the fears of World War III as tension between Americans and Russians still existed, suffice to say, films such as “Platoon” and “Full Metal Jacket” were war films that would ask Americans, “What are we fighting for?”.

As mentioned, Stone’s film was a counter to John Wayne’s “The Green Berets” but there was no sugarcoating America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, no focus on heroics but pretty much the feeling that young men were being sent in on a suicide mission. and as constantly mentioned in the film, many wondered why they were sent there and what are they fighting for and all one can answer to those questions… “It’s all politics!”.

Also, it’s important to note that “Platoon” is the first film of Oliver Stone’s Vietnam Trilogy which was followed by “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989) and “Heaven & Earth” (1993).

And this leads me to the 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release of “Platoon”, there are featurettes that really further explain what happened during the Vietnam War and most importantly, why it was unpopular and how we lost.  I’ve read books and tried to understand the war back then and to tell you the truth, I couldn’t grasp it.  Especially having the mindset of the United States being so strong and powerful, how can we lose?

And fortunately, there are featurettes in this film, especially “Flashback to Platoon: Snapshot of Time: 1967-1968″ that really explains to the viewer of what happened.  And there are so many other featurettes included in this Blu-ray release that while many may have seen these in previous DVD releases, it’s great to have these special features once again for the Blu-ray release.

And in 2011, while we hear so much about an older Charlie Sheen and his “Tiger’s Blood”, back in 1986, his performance as Chris Taylor, the soldier who is struggling to understand the war and knowing his mistake of volunteering was done very well.  You can sense Taylor’s fear and watch him slowly as he loses it but at the same time, trying to bring a moralistic attitude towards other soldiers when they start wanting to obliterate and destroy everything they see in Vietnam, even if the villagers are innocent.

“Platoon” also has many visual moments (the shot of Sgt. Elias trying to get back to the helicopters is one of my favorite scenes in cinematic history) and one thing I was surprised to see that back during the Vietnam War, there were certain live video feeds that people had the opportunity to see of Americans wounded in battle, bloodied or losing body parts or dead, it made the war real.  You can tell that Oliver Stone wanted to bring that realism to the viewer but to also show how many people were killed.  Many people that you start to care for or root for, you realize that these individuals have no chance.

And those who survive, knowing what we do now, many of the survivors would have a hard time when they arrived back in the U.S.   No hero’s welcome!  For some, it was deep depression, health problems due to Agent Orange or Post-Traumatic Stress and if anything, show us that war sucks!

“Platoon” for me is a classic war film.  A film that tries not to be anything sugarcoated but to really show how moral was for soldiers back then.  Oliver Stone experienced this and he saw others experience this sense of confusion and not knowing if they are going to live or die each day.  They just hope they can make it long enough to get back home.

For me, that was enjoyable and in 2011, what is even more enjoyable is to see the number of talent who starred in this film and made a great career for themselves afterward.  Aside from Oliver Stone who would go on to make “JFK”, “Any Given Sunday”, “Nixon” and “Natural Born Killers”, the film would feature talent such as Keith David (“Death at a Funeral”, “Crash”), Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland”, “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai”), Kevin Dillon (“Entourage”, “The Doors”), John C. McGinley (“Scrubs”, “Se7en”, “The Rock), Johnny Depp (“Edward Scissorhands”, “Sweney Todd”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”), Tom Berenger (“Inception”, “The Big Chill”, “Training Day”), Willem Dafoe (“Spider-Man”, “The Boondock Saints”, “Antichrist”) and Charlie Sheen (“Two and a Half Men”), “Wall Street”, “Major League”).

So, there are many components to the film that you can’t help but be impressed by.  Well-directed, well-written, well-performed and to think that this film was a low-budget film made for only $6.5 million and would make over $138 million.  It’s a testament to the film’s efficacy and how it struck a chord for many viewers and to this day, many continue to rewatch this film over and over because it’s a wonderful film.

If you are a fan of “Platoon”, owned various video versions of this film or even if you haven’t watched it before, this 25th anniversary Blu-ray release is worth buying, worth owning and worth having in your Blu-ray collection.  Highly recommended!

 

Jon Cryer comments on Ashton Kutcher’s hiring and Charlie Sheen

May 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Jon Cryer released the following statement after the hiring of Ashton Kutcher as a replacement for Charlie Sheen on the hit CBS show “Two and a Half Men”:

I want to express my enormous gratitude to Charlie Sheen for eight great seasons.  I’m extremely proud of the work we’ve done together, and I will miss him. But I’m looking forward to this new beginning. Ashton is an extraordinarily talented guy, and his presence will be an asset to our show. We are old friends from our male modeling days, and we’re both looking forward to being judged for our comedic artistry, as opposed to our exceptional physical beauty. I’m jazzed.”

Charlie Sheen’s new letter to Chuck Lorre

April 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Charlie Sheen still seems pissed off about being canned from the TV show that made him very rich! The actor wrote a new letter to “Two and a Half Men” creator and executive producer Chuck Lorre which was shared with TMZ.

Here is an excerpt of the letter:

MY fans may tune in for a minute, but at the end of the day, no one cares about your feeble show without me. Shame on you. Not even a phone call to the man that put you on the map. The man that put 500 million dollars in your pockets … A-hole pussy loser. Put on the gloves you low-rent, nut-less sociopath; I’ll beat your chicken shit soul in a court room into a state of gratitude. A state of surrender … Newsflash; they are planning on voting you off the AA island. Even those clowns have no room for you anymore. Wow, I’m sure your children are SO PROUD of you. You can teach ‘em how to be a stupid bitch.

I’m out here with my fans every night. The message is crystal clear.

Alec Baldwin gives Charlie Sheen some advice

March 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Leave it to Alec Baldwin to give Charlie Sheen some advice on his career.

In an op/ed article he wrote for Huffington Post, Baldwin gives Sheen the following advice:

But you know what you should do? Take a nap. Get a shower. Call Chuck. Go on Letterman and make an apology. Write a huge check to the B’Nai Brith. And then beg for your job back. Your fans demand it. You will never win because when you are as big a douchebag as some of these guys are, they have no choice but to snuff you. (Do you secretly want to get snuffed? So you can go back and make movies?)

Sober up, Charlie. And get back on TV, if it’s not too late. This is America. You want to really piss off Chuck and Warner Brothers and CBS? Beg for America’s forgiveness. They will give it to you. And then go back. You are a great television star. And you’ve got the gig. As I learned from closely observing Tony Bennett so I could impersonate him on SNL, this is supposed to be fun.

and Alec Baldwin continued with, “P.S…. buy Cryer a really nice car.”


Charlie Sheen calls former “Two and a Half Men” co-star Jon Cryer “a turncoat, a traitor, a troll”

March 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Rihanna Attends Los Angeles Clippers Game

Charlie Sheen has now taken his anger towards his former “Two and a Half Men” co-star Jon Cryer during an interview with E! News.

Angered by not hearing from his co-star during the whole ordeal, Sheen said of Cryer, “Jon has not called me. He’s a turncoat, a traitor, a troll. Clearly he’s a troll,” said Sheen. “He issued a statement. Is it gonna take me calling him a ‘traitor, juvenile and scared’ for him to get it?”

Sheen continued when asked what if Cryer was to call him now.  Sheen said,”What’s there to say? I’ll tell him ‘You’re a little late. Goodbye, troll,’ ” said Sheen. “When I’m starring in multimillion-dollar films and he’s begging me for a supporting role I’ll say, ‘You left me out in the cold with all of your guilt and stupidity.’ ”

Charlie Sheen fired from “Two and a Half Men”

March 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The producers of the CBS hit show “Two and a Half Men” and Warner Bros. Entertainment have issued the following statement:

After careful consideration, Warner Bros. Television has terminated Charlie Sheen’s services on Two and a Half Men effective immediately.

Charlie Sheen debuts Sheen’s Korner on USTREAM

March 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

If you missed last night’s online episode of Sheen’s Korner starring Charlie Sheen and friends, you can watch the show below:

Charlie Sheen sets new Guinness World Record for “Fastest Time to Reach 1 Million Followers”

March 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Photo by: Jackson Lee/starmaxinc.com 2010  10/24/10 Charlie Sheen out and about. (NYC) Photo via Newscom

In 24 hours, Charlie Sheen has set a new Guinness World Record on “Fastest Time to Reach 1 Million Followers”.

Sheen tweeted, “In all sincerity… Thank you Twitter community for the warm reception & the followers that helped get me to 1M in 24 hours!!! #teamsheen”.

How his account was verified was because it was brokered through ad.ly who handles other celebrities on Twitter.

Gullove-Sing, CEO of ad.ly explaiend how this happened in an interview with Advertising Age.  Gullov-Singh said, “ We know a bunch of people at Twitter, and we reached out to them and told them that probably the biggest name in media right now wants to be on your platform and, of course, they were all right with it. But you’re right that Twitter doesn’t verify, but they make exceptions. The thing about verification in general is that Twitter was getting overwhelmed with requests to be verified — they don’t have a team for this. Same thing at Facebook.”

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