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Underworld: Blood Wars (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

April 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A worthy continuation of the “Underworld” film series that leans very heavy on the action, if you are looking for an all-out action film with vampires vs. werewolves, “Underworld: Blood Wars” will definitely appeal to you!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lakeshore Entertainment Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Underworld: Blood Wars

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmost (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Strong Bloody Violence and Some Sexuality)

RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2017


Based on the Characters by Kevin Grevioux, Len wiseman, Danny McBride

Directed by Anna Foerster

Screenplay by Cory Goodman

Story by Kyle Ward, Cory Goodman

Producer: David Kern, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Len Wiseman, Richard S. Wright

Co-Producer: David Minkowski, Jackie Shenoo, Matthew Stillman

Executive Producer: James McQuaide, Ben Waisbren, Skip Williamson, Henry Winterstern

Music by Michael Wandmacher

Cinematography by Karl Walter Lindenlaub

Edited by Peter Amundson

Casting by Julie Hutchinson, Maya Kvetny, Suzanne Smith

Production Design by Ondrej Nekvasil

Art Direction by Bryce Tibbey, Martin Vackar

Set Decoration by Beatrice Brentnerova

Costume Design by Bojana Nikitovic


Starring:

Kate Beckinsale as Selene

Theo James as David

Tobias Menzies as Marius

Lara Pulver as Semira

Charles Dance as Thomas

James Faulkner as Cassius

Peter Andersson as Vidar

Clementine Nicholson as Lena

Bradley James as Varga

Daisy Head as Alexia

Oliver Stark as Gregor

Sveta Driga as Amelia


In the next installment of the blockbuster franchise, Vampire death dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) fends off brutal attacks from both the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her. With her only allies, David (Theo James) and his father Thomas (Charles Dance), she must stop the eternal war between Lycans and Vampires, even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.


With the success of the “Underworld” films, the fifth film “Underworld: Blood Wars” continues the storyline about the war between the vampires and the Lycans (werewolves).

Directed by Anna Foerster (“Outlander” TV series) and as screenplay by Cory Goodman (“Priest”, “The Last Witch Hunter”), the film is a sequel to the fourth film, “Underworld: Awakening” and features the return of Kate Beckinsale as the immortal vampire Selene and Theo James as David.

The film also stars Lara Pulver (“Edge of Tomorrow”, “Da Vinci’s Demons”, “The Special Relationship”), Tobias Menzies (“Outlander”, “Casino Royale”, “Atonement”), Daisy Head (“The Last Seven”, “Guilt”), Clementine Nicholson, Charles Dance (“Ghostbusters”, “Alien 3”, “Game of thrones”), James Faulkner  (“Downton Abbey”, “Da Vinci’s Demons”, “Game of Thrones”), Bradley James (“Merlin”, “Damien”, “Dis/Connected”) and Oliver Stark (“Into the Badlands”, “Luther”, “MindGamers”).

What is “Underworld” about?

“Underworld” takes place during a time where the vampires and the Lycans (werewolves) are at war.  In the past, the Lycans were used as slaves for centuries by the vampires but rebelled courtesy of their leader Lucian and have been in war since.

In the first film, Selene who has fought and killed Lycans believing that they were responsible for her family’s massacre learned from Kraven that Viktor was responsible for her family’s death.  With Michael near death due to the silver nitrate in his body that was shot by Kraven, Lucian (who was revealed to have started the war because he was in love with Sonja, a vampire and daughter of Viktor and was killed by her father to stop the relationship between a vampire and Lycan) tells Selene that in order to save him, she must bite him.

Selene has bitten Michael and transforming him to half Lycan/half vampire and both killed Viktor.  Meanwhile, the next elder vampire that is in line to be revived is Marcus and because Singe was killed near Marcus’ tomb and his blood has dripped into his tomb, that Marcus will now be revived early.

The first film would with Selene knowing that she has changed the course of the war by converting Michael by making him half vampire/half Lycan and because she aided a Lycan, she will now be hunted.

“Underworld: Evolution” begins with the three vampire elders: Marcus, Viktor and Amelia in the year 1202 A.D.  Viktor and Amelia capture William Corvinus (brother of Marcus who happens to be a powerful Lycan).  As Marcus tries to defend his brother from being harmed, Viktor has William imprisoned in a secret location for eternity.

Fastforward to the present, Selene hides Michael in a safehouse but returns to the vampire coven to confront Kraven.  She knows that Kraven has plans to eliminate Marcus and wants to stop him before he does.  But because Lycan blood is what has dripped into Marcus’ tomb, Marcus has now reawaken as a Vampire-Dominant hybrid.

Selene also learns the true reason why Viktor spared her from death when her family was massacred and why they were massacred.  And because of that reason, Markus is wanting to get to her as well.

Alexander Corvinus has given Selene his blood and thus given immortality.

Since then, both Selene and Michael have been on the run trying to protect each other from both vampire and Lycan who want them dead.

Because creators of the “Underworld” films wanted to explain how the feud between the Death Dealers and the Lycans started.  “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans”, a prequel to the first two films, was created and released in theaters back in 2009.

With the fourth film, “Underworld: Awakening”, after the events of “Underworld: Evolution”, the world now knows that vampires and Lycans exist.  And there is a massive cleansing (known as “The Purge”) as humans now try to exterminate vampires and Lycans.  Survivors have now moved underground, while both Selene and Michael have become the hunted.

Split off from each other, both try to come together during a standoff with the authorities but as Michael is shot and falls into the ocean, Selene goes after him and tries to save him.  But in the process, both are separated by a detonator.

Fast forward, 12 years later and during this time, “The Purge” has now been concluded as 95% of the vampires have been annihilated and the Lycans are considered as extinct.

Selene is being kept inside a cryogenic suspension by the medical corporation known as Antigen, which are trying to create an antidote for the virus which creates vampires and Lycans

Known as “subject 1”, someone has broken into the lab facility and have released Selene.  As Selene awakens and puts on her leather costume, she looks for Michael but is not sure where he is kept and thus she escapes Antigen facilities.

eanwhile, murders are occurring in the city and while the normal judgment by police is to think that the vampires had committed the crime (since Lycans are thought to be extinct), Detective Sebastian (played by Michael Ealy), looking at how the body was murdered, doesn’t think so.  And he spots Selene, who quickly disappears.

But also spotting Selene is a young vampire named David (played by Theo James).  He goes to track down Selene, who is trying to find answers of where Michael may be.  When David tracks her down, he tells her the truth that the Lycans have been forced to live underground, no food, diseased and something has riled them up in order for them to go back up to the surface.  And he thinks Selene knows the answer to why the Lycans are back.

But Selene starts to see images, images that usually come from the bond that she has with Michael.  Thinking that Michael is in trouble and is being hunted by the Lycans, she and David fight them off but instead of finding Michael, she finds a young girl named Eve (played by India Eisely).

Why does girl have this power and why is Selene reacting to it?  As the three are pursued by the Lycans, Eve tells Selene that she was Subject 2 at Antigen and was responsible for setting her free.  She also revealed that she was in a chamber next to her mother…which would be Selene.  Needless to say, Selene is shocked because 12 years ago, she was with Michael.  Now when she awakens, instead of finding Michael, she finds out that both had a daughter.

This now leads us to the fifth film in the “Underworld” series, things are not looking good for the vampire covens as they are nearly wiped out by the Lycans.  Both groups are seeking out Death Dealer, Selene (portrayed by Kate Beckinsale) for the deaths of Viktor and Marcus and the Lycans, wanting Selene in order to find her daughter Eve (who has the blood of vampire-werewolf) and want to create an army of vampire-werewolf hybrids.

Because of the threat of either side looking for Eve, Selene’s daughter was taken away from her to an undisclosed location in order to protect Eve.  That even Selene has no idea of her daughter’s whereabouts.

Semira (portrayed by Lara Pulver), a council member of the Eastern Coven wants Selene to be granted clemency, so she can train the Eastern Coven’s neophyte Death Dealers.

And as Selene arrives to the Eastern Coven with her protege, David (portrayed by Theo James), while training the Death Dealers, Semira’s lover Varga (portrayed by Bradley James) betrays Selene and kills all the Death Dealers as planned by Semira.

Semira drains Selene’s blood and will drink it in order to gain her power, but when vampire elder Thomas (portrayed by Charles Dance) and David arrive, a battle begins with Semira and Varga.

And in order to save their lives and buy time for David to rescue Selene, he sacrifices his life in battle.

As David and Selene head to the Nordic Coven, pursuing them are Marius (portrayed by Tobias Menzies) and the Lycans who are intent in finding out where Eve is located.  But also pursuing Selene is Alexia (portrayed by Daisy Head), a death dealer from the Eastern Coven and the lover of Marius, the Lycan leader.


VIDEO:

“Underworld: Blood Wars” is presented in 2160p High Definition (2:40:1). The film is presented in 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray.

Picture quality is fantastic as closeups show amazing detail and the film maintains its cool, dark look with blues, gays and blacks.  Black levels are nice and deep and for the most part, the film looks great in 4K Ultra HD!

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:

“Underworld: Blood Wars” is presented in English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 5.1), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English-Audio Desription Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.

I was so pleased with this soundtrack and just hearing constant immersive audio coming from front channels and also the surround channels for the many action scenes throughout the film.  The music soundtrack also is utilized for the surround channels as well.  Also, great use of LFE.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Underworld: Blood Wars” comes with the following special features on the second Blu-ray disc:

  • The Evolution of Selene – (8:09) A featurette about the main protagonist, Selene and interviews with Kate Beckinsale and producers of the film.
  • Old & New Blood – (6:15) Cast and producers discuss the Nordic Coven featured in the film.
  • The Evil Evolved – (6:07) A featurette about the Eastern Coven and the Lycans.
  • Building a Blood War – (12:01) Director Anna Foerster and producers discussing of bringing back the look of the original but creating something fresh and new.
  • Underworld: Blood Wars – The Official Movie Graphic Novel – Darkstorm Comics graphic novel.  Using your remote, you can cycle through each page of the comic book.

EXTRAS:

“Underworld: Blood Wars” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray discs and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


With the original “Underworld” trilogy, there was a good focus on the storyline between the vampires (Death Dealers) and the Lycans (werewolves) and balancing it out with the action.

While I have always looked at the “Underworld” films as your vampire vs. werewolf popcorn action film series.  With “Underworld: Awakening”, the writers were moving away from the “Twilight” mushy romance (or Romeo & Juliet romance, as I called the first two films).

With “Underworld: Awakening”, the film became more action-heavy and as far as the storyline was concerned, the romantic element was eliminated and became more of a focus on Selene’s daughter having vampire/Lycan blood, making her a target for both sides.

Selene had become the hunted, as both sides want to know where Eve is located and that storyline continues with “Underworld: Blood Wars”.  And once again, you get a popcorn action film with actress Kate Beckinsale once again donning her tight black leather uniform that fans have come to love about the “Underworld” films.

But I’ve felt the film has taken a step into the direction of popcorn action with a forgetful storyline that seems like it would be appropriate more for a video game than a film. But giving the film the benefit of a doubt that writer Cory Goodman is trying to setup a connection for the next film, I can’t help but feel bad for director Anna Foerster.

Having loved what she has done with the “Outlander” series which feature episodes that are character and story-driven, Foerster is left with trying to create a film that revolves around chaotic action.

But despite the forgetful storyline, I did enjoy the film for its connection to the series as I enjoy the “Underworld” storyline.  I just wish there was more of it to enjoy because the characters are important and while it’s new to take adventures to a different coven and focus on the war with the Lycans nearly wiping out the vampires, you just feel that there should be more.  Considering the original trilogy was story-driven, you just want to see a good story go along with that chaotic action and not have the action dominate so much of the film.

So, considering how I enjoyed the original trilogy and knew that the fourth film “Underworld: Awakening” was heading to a different direction than the previous films, “Underworld: Blood Wars” remains consistent with the last film with no engrossing story, just a film with plenty of action and visual effects.  But yet, the final minute gives us a tease of something for fans of the film to look forward to when the sixth film is released in the future.

As for the 4K Ultra HD release, picture quality is magnificent and the darkness of the film with the use of blues, grays and blacks are still continued with this latest film.  Close-ups show great detail and Lycan transformations look great.  And similar to the last film, the lossless soundtrack is magnificent and immersive.  And considering the amount of action in this film, audiophiles should be quite thrilled to see how immersive the action sequences are and the use of the surround channels and LFE.

And as far as special features go, you are given a good number of special features including the official movie graphic novel and a few featurettes on a second Blu-ray disc.

Overall, while “Underworld: Blood Wars” is not a film that focuses on a deep storyline and fans of the previous film can expect to see a lot of fighting, a lot of deaths, non-stop action and Kate Beckinsale continuing to look awesome and also kicking a lot of arse!

A worthy continuation of the “Underworld” film series that leans very heavy on the action, if you are looking for an all-out action film with vampires vs. werewolves, “Underworld: Blood Wars” will definitely appeal to you!

Priest: Unrated (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Based on the Korean graphic novel, “Priest: Unrated” is a straight-up popcorn action film that relies heavily on the action  and visual effects versus a strong plot.  I will say that if you enjoyed the film, you’ll definitely enjoy “Priest: Unrated” on Blu-ray!

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Images courtesy of © 2011 Screen Gems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Priest: Unrated

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2011

DURATION: 87 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:40:1), English, French , Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Descriptive Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

RATED: UNRATED

COMPANY: Screen Gems/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: August 16, 2011

Directed by Scott Charles Stewart

Written by Cory Goodman

Based on the graphic novel series “Priest” by Min-Woo Hyung

Produced by Michael De Luca, Joshua Donen, Mitchell Peck, Shareena Carlson

Co-Producer: Nicolas Stern

Executive Producer: Josh Bratman, Glenn S. Gainor, Steve Galloway, Stuart J. Levy

Music by Christopher Young

Cinematography by Don Burgess

Edited by Lisa Zeno Churgin, Rebecca Weigold

Casting by Rick Montgomery

Production Design by Richard Bridgland

Art Direction by Andrew Max Cahn, A. Todd Holland, Christa Munro

Set Decoration by Robert Greenfield

Costume Design by Ha Nguyen

Starring:

Paul Bettany as Priest

Karl Urban as Black Hat

Cam Gigandet as Hicks

Maggie Q as Priestess

Lily Collins as Lucy Pace

Brad Dourif as Salesman

Stephen Moyer as Owen Pace

Christopher Plummer as Monsignor Orelas

Alan Dale as Monsignor Chamberlain

Madchen Amick as Shannon Pace

In a post-apocalyptic world, a savage war between man and vampire raged for centuries. A warrior priest (Paul Bettany) receives word of fresh attacks but now it`s personal, his niece has been kidnapped by a new hive of merciless vampires. To save her, he must break his vow of peace and hunt down the hive before it’s too late. Based on the acclaimed graphic novel and packed with bloodthirsty action, this full throttle crusade takes you on the hunt for a deadly new breed of killer.

Back in 1998, a manhwa  (Korean comic book) titled “Priest” was created by Hyung Min-woo and was released in the United States.  The comic book was inspired by the PC video game “Blood” and in 2005,  a loosely-based adaptation by Cory Goodman (“Apollo 18”) was bought by Screen Gems in 2005.

In 2009, the film was directed by Scott Stewart (known for his visual effects work), “Sin City”and would star Paul Bettany (“The Da Vinci Code”, “Iron Man”, “A Beautiful Mind”), both men previously worked on the film “Legion”.

With the film set for release for 2010, because the film was being converted to 3D, “Priest” would receive its theatrical debut in North America in May 2011 and now, “Priest: Unrated” is set for release in August 2011 on Blu-ray and DVD.

“Priest” revolves around a time where humanity and vampires were at constant war with each other.  Because of the war, the world has been devastated and with humanity nearly killed off by the vampires, an elite spiritual warrior organization known as the Priests who had the special ability to slay the vampires, manage to kill most of them.

Those who were alive were kept in reservations and for the humans that were still alive, the Church created heavily guarded cities for humans to live in.  But those who live in the guarded cities, must live and obey the Church’s law.  Going against their rules, is going against the Church.  So, those who are tired of the rules, some have decided to live outside of the cities to live a free life away from the Church.

And as for the Priests, the Church truly believes that the Priests are no longer needed, so they disbanded the organization.

Meanwhile, Priest (played by Paul Bettany) has been having nightmares of his fellow priests being killed by vampires.  He tries to communicate with Monsignor Orelas (played by Christopher Plummer) about his dreams, but is told that its probably evil thoughts and to pay it no mind.

That same day, a sheriff named Hicks (played by Cam Gigandet) tells Priest that his brother Owen (played by Stephen Moyer) and his sister-in-law Shannon (played by Madchen Amick) were killed by vampires and that his niece named Lucy (played by Lily Collins) was killed.

Hicks wants to find Lucy but needs Priest’s help but the problem is that if he does so, it goes against the rules of Monsignor Orelas and the Church.  Stuck in a hard place, he is able to get support from one of the Monsignor, Monsignor Chamberlain (played by Alan Dale) who warns Priest of the ramifications but for Priest, its important for him to save Lucy.

So, as the soldiers of the church try to stop Priest, Priest breaks the rule and leaves the city to find Lucy and Monsignor Orelas sends out four other priests lead by Priestess (played by Maggie Q) to capture him, dead or alive.

Meanwhile, we learn that Lucy is still alive and a mysterious person with a black hat is using Lucy as bait for Priest to come.

And as Priest and Hicks go to find Lucy, they realize that they must not only deal with an infestation of vampires but that they are up to something.  With the vampires and the priests going after both Priest and Hicks, will the two be able to successfully save Lucy?

 

VIDEO:

“Priest is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1) and this dark and gritty vampire-killing film that looks fanastic on Blu-ray.  Blacks are nice and deep, detail for the film is fantastic as we can see various objects, landscapes with clarity.  Closeups of the detail on the skin of the character’s faces is quite clear and there is also a layer of grain included as well.

I didn’t notice any problems with artifacts, edge enhancement and for the most part, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has constantly given Blu-ray fans awesome picture quality and it is no different for “Priest: Unrated”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Priest: Unrated” is presented in English, French, Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English – Audio Description Track.   I have to give high marks to “Priest” for its lossless audio.  Audiophiles will love how effectively the sounds were mixed for various directions.    There is good amount of LFE, dialogue is crystal clear and also good use for ambiance through the front and surround channels.  Especially weather elements of wind and rain but also just that eerie vibe that you get from the look and feel of the film and just hearing the music and the various sounds, the sound editor did a great job on the soundtrack.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Priest: Unrated” comes with the following special features:

  • PS3 Theme – If you have a PS3, you can install a “Priest” Ps3 theme.
  • movieIQ – View information online for the film while watching “Priest”.
  • Bullets and Crucifixes: Picture-in-Picture Experience – While watching the film, hear from the director and cast on the making of “Priest” and other details related to the film.
  • Commentary with Director Scott Stewart, Writer Cory Goodman, Paul Bettany and Maggie Q – While details can be found on the picture-in-picture experience, hear the director, writer and actor Paul Bettany and actress Maggie Q giving viewers insight on the making of the film.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (12:31) Seven deleted and extended scenes.
  • The Bloody Frontier: Creating the World of Priest – (12:49) The challenge of creating the alternate world of “Priest”.
  • Tools of the Trade: The Weapons and Vehicles of Priest – (11:25) Featuring the weapons and vehicles of “Priest” and bringing it to the world on film.
  • Twisted Metal® Uncut Trailer – (2:31) Trailer for the upcoming Sony PlayStation 3 video game “Twisted Metal”.
EXTRAS:
Comes with an insert with a code to download a “Priest” skin for “Twisted Metal” on October 4, 2011.

I’m probably much more accepting to “Priest” than the film critics were because I read a lot of graphic novels, especially from Asia and I’m also into alternate universe in a steampunkish way and the fact that introduces vampires that are not pretty boys and are just downright fugly and ferocious, I was digging it!

I have to say that I was quite skeptical at first because the last time I watched a film with Scott Stewart and Paul Bettany together, it was “Legend” and it was all visual effects with a bad story.

Not to say that “Priest” is great when it comes to storytelling but I enjoyed this film much more than “Legion” and the concept of the priests and vampires at war and the fact that the overall look of the film managed to look gritty and dark but the use of blues and warm colors to separate the church cities and what was taking place outside with the vampires and humans, for me it was quite intriguing.

It’s a short film at 87-minutes and I’m going to be truthful, outside of the main storyline between Priest and him breaking the rules of the church, I felt the whole movie was a bit of a blur and I was focusing more on the visual effects and action.  Suffice to say, seeing Maggie Q with Paul Bettany was a pretty cool collaboration and because I watched “Legion” and was expecting something along the lines of visual eye-candy with no substance ala “Legion”, I came in expecting somewhat the worst and so, I was pretty surprised that I enjoyed this film much better than what I was expecting.

As for the film, I can’t tell you what difference there is between the unrated and normal version of the film.  I think that for me, the lack of including both films on the Blu-ray release was a bummer!

For the Blu-ray release, I was impressed by the picture and audio quality and that there were a good number of special features and that they got the talent involved for the audio commentary.  But what about the film?  The film was good in a popcorn action kind of way.  When it comes to vampire films, in this day and age, it’s been overdone and you just want to see something different.  So,  I did like the fact that “Priest: Unrated” made the vampires really ugly and ferocious.

I will say that for an “unrated” release, I was expecting more violence or even blood or more dismemberment.  I thought this was going to showcase something disgusting along the lines of horror and it never happened in this film.    If anything, we see families getting thrashed by the vampires but instead of showcasing any of those scenes, we hear it instead of see it.

Overall, “Priest: Unrated” was an enjoyable film that was not necessarily great but comparing it to Stewart and Bettany’s last work together on “Legion”, “Priest: Unrated” was much more enjoyable and if it was visual eye-candy, I preferred “Priest” over “Legion”.

If you are the type who likes action films with a lot of fighting and a lot of visual effects and doesn’t have a strong plot, you can’t go wrong with “Priest: Unrated”.  Otherwise, if you are looking for a deeper film and plot is much more important than visual effects and action, then “Priest: Unrated” is definitely not for you.

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