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Leon the Professional (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

July 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Leon the Professional” is a Luc Besson masterpiece. It’s one of the most exciting films to come out from Besson with action, emotion and just all-out frenzy that you just can’t stop watching! Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman are fantastic in this film and it’s a film that I highly recommended on 4K Ultra HD!

Image courtesy of © 1994 Gaumont and Les Films du Dauphin. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Leon the Professional

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1994

DURATION: 109 Minutes (Theatrical Version)/133 Minutes (Extended Version)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible), French, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese 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

Executive Producer: Claude Besson

Line Producer: John Garland and Bernard Grenet

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Todd M. Thaler

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Gerard Drolon

Set Decoration by Francoise Benoit-Fresco

Costume Design by Magali Guidasci


Starring:

Jean Reno as Leon

Gary Oldman as Stanfield

Natalie Portman as Mathilda

Danny Aiello as Tony

Peter Appel as Malky

Michael Badalucco as Mathilda’s father


The mysterious Léon (Jean Reno) is New York’s top hitman. When his next-door neighbors are murdered, Léon becomes the unwilling guardian of the family’s sole survivor – 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman). But Mathilda doesn’t just want protection; she wants revenge. From the electrifying opening to the fatal finale, THE PROFESSIONAL is a nonstop crescendo of action and suspense. After winning a competition to spend a week at the mountain estate of his company’s party hardy CEO, programmer Caleb Smith arrives to discover he has been chosen to take part in a study of artificial intelligence. Sworn to secrecy and cut off from the outside world, Caleb meets his subject, a beguiling and seductive cyborg named Ava (Alicia Vikander) – and is plunged into an A.I. experiment beyond his wildest imaginings in this epic thriller charged with heart-stopping suspense.


Hot after his film “La Femme Nikita”, in 1994 Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”, writer of “The Transporter” films) would go on to work on his film “Leon” (Leon the Professional). The film was written and directed by Besson and featured music by Eric Serra (“The Fifth Element”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”, “GoldenEye”) and cinematography by Thierry Arbogast (“Babylon AD”, “Femme Fatale”, “Kiss of the Dragon”, “The Messanger: The Story of Joan of Arc).

The film would reunite Besson with popular French action star Jean Reno (Mission: Impossible”, “Ronin”, “The Da Vinci Code”, “The Pink Panther”) who he worked on in “Nikita” and “Le grand bleu” and would be the first major film for 12-year-old actress at the time, Natalie Portman (“Star Wars: Episodes I-III”, “V for Vendetta”, “Paris, je ‘taime”). For the most part, the film received mostly positive critic reviews but also some controversy as the film would feature an older man raising a young girl and teaching her how the life of a hitman. Let alone, a 12-year-old who is attracted to an older man.

But the film is primarily about two people who find importance with each other. A hitman and a girl who lost her family and both are trying to survive.

“Leon the Professional” is about professional hitman Leon (Reno) who is known as a “Cleaner”. A man who works for mafia boss Tony (played by Danny Aiello, “Do the Right Thing”, “Lucky Number Slevin”, “Hudson Hawk”) and is skilled at making the kill and getting the target. Outside of being a hitman, Leon lives a calm, solitary life of working out, drinking milk and taking care of a plant (who he calls his best friend).

Each time he returns to his apartment, he sees a teenage girl named Mathilda (Portman) who looks as if she has been physically abused and smoking a cigarette. Meanwhile, Mathilda’s father (played by Michael Badalucco, “The Practice”) is shown having some major problems with corrupt DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents led by Stansfield (played by Gary Oldman, “The Fifth Element”, “Air Force One”, “Sid and Nancy”, “Harry Potter” films). The agents have been paying Mathilda’s father to store illegal drugs in his apartment and appears to be stealing the drugs.

They give him a chance to recover the drugs and then we get to see the life of Mathilda, her father and family at the home. Mathilda is quite distant from her father and her older sister. She is close to her four year old brother but her home life is very dysfunctional. But Mathilda goes out to buy some groceries for her family.

While she’s out, Stansfield and the corrupt DEA agents storm the home and kills Mathilda’s father and the family members. While Mathilda returns, she realizes that something bad has happened and instead of going straight into her home, because DEA agent is posted outside the door, she goes straight towards Leon’s home and cries and pleads for him to open the door. Leon being the loner, doesn’t want to but seeing the anguish on her face, he allows her to come in. Stansfield realizes that not all family members are dead and now wants to find Mathilda.

This begins the life of Leon the Professional who takes care of Mathilda and are seen staying in different hotels as he works on his hits. But with Mathilda wanting revenge for her brother’s death, requests Leon to train her on how to become a “cleaner”. But as Leon has trouble with being close to anyone, the young 12-year-old starts to fall in love with the hitman. Meanwhile, Stansfield will do whatever he can to find the missing girl.

“Leon the Professional” had an original theatrical release but there was an extended version (or Director’s Cut) featuring an extra 24-minutes of footage which focuses on Leon training Mathilda but also the emotional connection the two have for each other. Both are included on the 4K Ultra HD release and personally, I prefer the extended version as the screenplay focuses a lot on the friendship between Leon and Mathilda.


VIDEO:

When I first saw “Leon the Professional”, I admit that I was happy. Why? Many films created between 1986-1996 and released on Blu-ray, some really look their age, transfer is not all that great or is very soft but for “Leon the Professional” on 4K Ultra HD, the colors are vibrant, black levels are great and deep and detail can be seen. The old buildings that Leon and Mathilda live in, you can see all the cracks and how old they look. It just seems much more clearer. Sharpness is great and the colors just pop. There is a nice amount of grain as well and no softness. This doesn’t look like a film that is 15-years-old. So, needless to say…picture quality is fantastic.

With that being said, this 2017 4K Ultra HD release is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).

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 and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1.

There are really good action sequences and gun fights that really utilize the soundscape from the front, center and surround channels. Especially during the final confrontation, the film sounds great. Music by Eric Serra also helps create the mood. For the most part, this is not an action film that is overly aggressive as most of the film is dialogue-based between Leon and Mathilda but for the most part, when the action scenes do happen, you’ll definitely hear those gun shots, machine gun rattling, explosions really clear.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Leon the Professional” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special features:

  • 10 Year Retrospective: Cast and Crew Look Back – (25:09) A featurette released on the 2004 DVD. A virtual reunion with interviews with the cast talking about a film they made 10 years ago. How the film came to be made and how the talent were cast for the film.
  • Jean Reno: The Road to Leon – (12:25) A featurette about Jean Reno, his personal life of him growing up and his previous works that led to him playing the character of Leon.
  • Natalie Portman: Starting Young – (13:49) Natalie Portman talks about reading the script at 11-years-old and wanting to do the part despite her parents feeling it was inappropriate. Working with Jean Reno and Luc Besson and how she was able to accomplish those emotional crying scenes and more.
  • Fact Track (Extended Version) – Viewers can watch the extended version of the film with a fact track.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Leon the Professional”.

EXTRAS:

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


“Leon the Professional” is a riveting, action-packed film. And for those who are familiar with Luc Besson films, you expect intense gunfighting sequences and plenty of destruction. Granted, he has done a lot more of that now with recent films but back in 1994, “Leon the Professional” was entertaining then and 15-years later, continues to be quite entertaining now.

Jean Reno is really good playing those action, hitman type of scenes. He’s a tough guy but Luc Besson knows how to utilize his character quite well in his films. Gary Oldman is always a fantastic villain and his character Stansfield is just repulsive. Murdering young children definitely made the viewer want either Leon or Mathilda to really get their revenge on him by the end of the film. And the way it played out, was well-done. But as Reno and Oldman were fantastic, Natalie Portman was incredible. The actress demonstrated in this film that she can be an actress that can excel in emotional scenes and for the most part, back in 1994, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that she would grow up to be an actress to watch for. Overall, great acting by the three main characters of the film.

As for the controversy which led the film to be cut for its theatrical version, I can understand where opposition groups were coming from. Mathilda was a child that was raised in a dysfunctional setting and she has been emotionally damaged that the only person that she sees as her savior was Leon. A man who lives in isolation and his best friend is a plant. But of course, there is a sense of sadness that broods with the character of Leon and somehow, these two find comfort within each other. For Leon, it’s more of a friend, while Mathilda, looks at it her emotions as being in love. Nevertheless, for those who get disturbed by those scenes of Mathilda’s emotional anguish (ala Russian Roulette) and the fact that Leon trains Mathilda on how to kill people (using a paint gun), there is a theatrical version included on the Blu-ray that eliminates those scenes and an extended version that contains those extra 24 minutes.

As for the 4K UltraHD, I just felt the picture quality was fantastic for an early 90’s film. With quite a few 90’s films that looks its age, the amount of colors and detail for on this HD release is fantastic.  For those who purchased the 2015 Blu-ray release, the special features are the same. The main difference of course, is that this 4K Ultra HD version is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition, while the Blu-ray is presented in 1080p High Definition.

Overall, “Leon the Professional” is a Luc Besson masterpiece. It’s one of the most exciting films to come out from Besson with action, emotion and just all-out frenzy that you just can’t stop watching! Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman are fantastic in this film and it’s a film that I highly recommended on 4K Ultra HD!

Leon the Professional (2015 Blu-ray release) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

leontheprofessional

“Leon the Professional” is a Luc Besson masterpiece.  It’s one of the most exciting films to come out from Besson with action, emotion and just all-out frenzy that you just can’t stop watching!  Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman are fantastic in this film and it’s a film that I highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1994 Gaumont and Les Films du Dauphin. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Leon the Professional (2015 Blu-ray Release)

DURATION: 109 Minutes (Theatrical Version)/133 Minutes (Extended Version)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 7.1 Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

RATED: R (For scenes of strong graphic violence and for language)

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: October 27, 2015


Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Executive Producer: Claude Besson

Line Producer: John Garland and Bernard Grenet

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Todd M. Thaler

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Gerard Drolon

Set Decoration by Francoise Benoit-Fresco

Costume Design by Magali Guidasci


Starring:

Jean Reno as Leon

Gary Oldman as Stanfield

Natalie Portman as Mathilda

Danny Aiello as Tony

Peter Appel as Malky

Michael Badalucco as Mathilda’s father


The mysterious Léon (Jean Reno) is New York’s top hitman. When his next-door neighbors are murdered, Léon becomes the unwilling guardian of the family’s sole survivor – 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman). But Mathilda doesn’t just want protection; she wants revenge. From the electrifying opening to the fatal finale, THE PROFESSIONAL is a nonstop crescendo of action and suspense.


Action-packed, riveting film from beginning to end, Jean Reno is always utilized well by director Luc Besson. Also, an amazing performance by Natalie Portman (12-years-old at the time) in a satisfying Blu-ray release featuring both the theatrical and the original extended director’s cut version. Definitely recommended!

Hot after his film “La Femme Nikita”, in 1994 Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”, writer of “The Transporter” films) would go on to work on his film “Leon” (Leon the Professional). The film was written and directed by Besson and featured music by Eric Serra (“The Fifth Element”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”, “GoldenEye”) and cinematography by Thierry Arbogast (“Babylon AD”, “Femme Fatale”, “Kiss of the Dragon”, “The Messanger: The Story of Joan of Arc).

The film would reunite Besson with popular French action star Jean Reno (Mission: Impossible”, “Ronin”, “The Da Vinci Code”, “The Pink Panther”) who he worked on in “Nikita” and “Le grand bleu” and would be the first major film for 12-year-old actress at the time, Natalie Portman (“Star Wars: Episodes I-III”, “V for Vendetta”, “Paris, je ‘taime”). For the most part, the film received mostly positive critic reviews but also some controversy as the film would feature an older man raising a young girl and teaching her how the life of a hitman. Let alone, a 12-year-old who is attracted to an older man.

But the film is primarily about two people who find importance with each other. A hitman and a girl who lost her family and both are trying to survive.

“Leon the Professional” is about professional hitman Leon (Reno) who is known as a “Cleaner”. A man who works for mafia boss Tony (played by Danny Aiello, “Do the Right Thing”, “Lucky Number Slevin”, “Hudson Hawk”) and is skilled at making the kill and getting the target. Outside of being a hitman, Leon lives a calm, solitary life of working out, drinking milk and taking care of a plant (who he calls his best friend).

Each time he returns to his apartment, he sees a teenage girl named Mathilda (Portman) who looks as if she has been physically abused and smoking a cigarette. Meanwhile, Mathilda’s father (played by Michael Badalucco, “The Practice”) is shown having some major problems with corrupt DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents led by Stansfield (played by Gary Oldman, “The Fifth Element”, “Air Force One”, “Sid and Nancy”, “Harry Potter” films). The agents have been paying Mathilda’s father to store illegal drugs in his apartment and appears to be stealing the drugs.

They give him a chance to recover the drugs and then we get to see the life of Mathilda, her father and family at the home. Mathilda is quite distant from her father and her older sister. She is close to her four year old brother but her home life is very dysfunctional. But Mathilda goes out to buy some groceries for her family.

While she’s out, Stansfield and the corrupt DEA agents storm the home and kills Mathilda’s father and the family members. While Mathilda returns, she realizes that something bad has happened and instead of going straight into her home, because DEA agent is posted outside the door, she goes straight towards Leon’s home and cries and pleads for him to open the door. Leon being the loner, doesn’t want to but seeing the anguish on her face, he allows her to come in. Stansfield realizes that not all family members are dead and now wants to find Mathilda.

This begins the life of Leon the Professional who takes care of Mathilda and are seen staying in different hotels as he works on his hits. But with Mathilda wanting revenge for her brother’s death, requests Leon to train her on how to become a “cleaner”. But as Leon has trouble with being close to anyone, the young 12-year-old starts to fall in love with the hitman. Meanwhile, Stansfield will do whatever he can to find the missing girl.

“Leon the Professional” had an original theatrical release but there was an extended version (or Director’s Cut) featuring an extra 24-minutes of footage which focuses on Leon training Mathilda but also the emotional connection the two have for each other. Both are included on the Blu-ray release and personally, I prefer the extended version as the screenplay focuses a lot on the friendship between Leon and Mathilda.


 

VIDEO:

When I first saw “Leon the Professional”, I admit that I was happy. Why? Many films created between 1986-1996 and released on Blu-ray, some really look their age, transfer is not all that great or is very soft but for “Leon the Professional”, the colors are vibrant, blacks are nice and deep and detail can be seen. The old buildings that Leon and Mathilda live in, you can see all the cracks and how old they look. It just seems much more clearer. Sharpness is great and the colors just pop. There is a nice amount of grain as well and no softness. This doesn’t look like a film that is 15-years-old. So, needless to say…picture quality is fantastic.

With that being said, this 2015 Blu-ray release is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio) and sports a new fully remastered 4K version.

AUDIO:

Audio quality is equally impressive. Featured in English  7.1 Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1.

There are really good action sequences and gun fights that really utilize the soundscape from the front, center and surround channels. Especially during the final confrontation, the film sounds great. Music by Eric Serra also helps create the mood. For the most part, this is not an action film that is overly aggressive as most of the film is dialogue-based between Leon and Mathilda but for the most part, when the action scenes do happen, you’ll definitely hear those gun shots, machine gun rattling, explosions really clear.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Leon the Professional” on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:

  • 10 Year Retrospective: Cast and Crew Look Back – (25:09) A featurette released on the 2004 DVD. A virtual reunion with interviews with the cast talking about a film they made 10 years ago. How the film came to be made and how the talent were cast for the film.
  • Jean Reno: The Road to Leon – (12:25) A featurette about Jean Reno, his personal life of him growing up and his previous works that led to him playing the character of Leon.
  • Natalie Portman: Starting Young – (13:49) Natalie Portman talks about reading the script at 11-years-old and wanting to do the part despite her parents feeling it was inappropriate. Working with Jean Reno and Luc Besson and how she was able to accomplish those emotional crying scenes and more.
  • Fact Track (Extended Version) – Viewers can watch the extended version of the film with a fact track.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Leon the Professional”.

EXTRAS:

“Leon the Professional” comes with a slipcover and an Ultraviolet Digital HD code.


“Leon the Professional” is a riveting, action-packed film. And for those who are familiar with Luc Besson films, you expect intense gunfighting sequences and plenty of destruction. Granted, he has done a lot more of that now with recent films but back in 1994, “Leon the Professional” was entertaining then and 15-years later, continues to be quite entertaining now.

Jean Reno is really good playing those action, hitman type of scenes. He’s a tough guy but Luc Besson knows how to utilize his character quite well in his films. Gary Oldman is always a fantastic villain and his character Stansfield is just repulsive. Murdering young children definitely made the viewer want either Leon or Mathilda to really get their revenge on him by the end of the film. And the way it played out, was well-done. But as Reno and Oldman were fantastic, Natalie Portman was incredible. The actress demonstrated in this film that she can be an actress that can excel in emotional scenes and for the most part, back in 1994, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that she would grow up to be an actress to watch for. Overall, great acting by the three main characters of the film.

As for the controversy which led the film to be cut for its theatrical version, I can understand where opposition groups were coming from. Mathilda was a child that was raised in a dysfunctional setting and she has been emotionally damaged that the only person that she sees as her savior was Leon. A man who lives in isolation and his best friend is a plant. But of course, there is a sense of sadness that broods with the character of Leon and somehow, these two find comfort within each other. For Leon, it’s more of a friend, while Mathilda, looks at it her emotions as being in love. Nevertheless, for those who get disturbed by those scenes of Mathilda’s emotional anguish (ala Russian Roulette) and the fact that Leon trains Mathilda on how to kill people (using a paint gun), there is a theatrical version included on the Blu-ray that eliminates those scenes and an extended version that contains those extra 24 minutes.

As for the Blu-ray, I just felt the picture quality was fantastic for an early 90’s film. With quite a few 90’s films that looks its age, the amount of colors and detail for on this HD release is fantastic.

And this is where people who purchased the 2009 Blu-ray release are wondering what the difference maybe.  For one, the film has been remastered in 4K and you can see much better clarity with the picture quality.  Second, the soundtrack is now being presented in 7.1 Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1) for even better surround channel usage, especially during the more action-driven sequences.  And last, “Leon the Professional” (2015 Blu-ray release) comes with an Ultraviolet code.

So, if you want the better picture and and audio quality, as well as the ability to watch a digital HD version of the film, this 2015 Blu-ray release is the way to go!

Overall, “Leon the Professional” is a Luc Besson masterpiece.  It’s one of the most exciting films to come out from Besson with action, emotion and just all-out frenzy that you just can’t stop watching!  Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman are fantastic in this film and it’s a film that I highly recommended!

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

February 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Magnificent!  One of the greatest romantic comedies to come from the ’80s, “Moonstruck” has everything you want from a romantic comedy…great music, great location, great story and most of all, magnificent performances.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Moonstruck

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1987

DURATION: 98 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish Mono, French Dolby Surround, AVC@40MBPS, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

COMPANY: MGM/20th Century Fox

RATED: PG

RELEASE DATE: February 15, 2011

Directed by Norman Jewison

Written by John Patrick Shanley

Producer by Norman Jewison and Patrick J. Palmer

Associate Producer: Bonnie Palef

Music by Dick Hyman

Cinematography by David Watkin

Edited by Lou Lombardo

Casting by Howard Feuer

Production Design by Philip Rosenberg

Art Direction by Dan Davis, Barbra Matis

Costume Design by Theoni V. Aldredge

Starring:

Cher as Loretta Castorini

Nicolas Cage as Ronny Cammareri

Vincent Gardenia as Cosmo Castorini

Olympia Dukakis as Rose Castorini

Danny Aiello as Mr. Johnny Cammareri

Juli Bovasso as Rita Cappomaggi

John Mahoney as Perry

Louis Guss as Raymond Cappomaggi

Anita Gillette as Mona

Leonardo Cimino as Felix

Paula Trueman as Lucy

Nada Despotovich as Chrissy

Three timeless classics will make their Blu-ray debut on February 15th from MGM Home Entertainment: LAST TANGO IN PARIS: Uncut Version, MOONSTRUCK, and cult favorite RAIN MAN. Collectively nominated for sixteen Academy Awards, these celebrated titles make the perfect additions to any film collection!

Fall under the delightful spell of MOONSTRUCK, with Cher (Burlesque) as an unlucky-in-love Italian widow who finds romance through the intervention of the Manhattan moon. With her wedding to Johnny (Danny Aiello, Once Upon A Time in America), a man she doesn’t love, just weeks away, she meets and falls hopelessly in love with his younger brother (Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas). Her dilemma—and her equally passionate and hilariously eccentric family—make for an unforgettable film. Nominated for six Academy Awards, MOONSTRUCK was honored with accolades for Best Actress (Cher), Best Supporting Actress (Olympia Dukakis, Look Who’s Talking), and Best Original Screenplay.


Moonstruck – Film Clip – “All I’m Sayin'”

Moonstruck – Film Clip – “Snap Out of It”

Moonstruck – Film Clip – “Loretta and Ronnie”

Moonstruck – Film Clip – “The Proposal”

Moonstruck – Film Clip – “Love Bite”

Hilarious and enjoyable, “Moonstruck” is a fantastic romantic comedy featuring spectacular performances by Cher, Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia.  Great screenplay, wonderful direction, just an exciting romantic comedy that is absolutely timeless!

In 1987, “Moonstruck”, directed by Norman Jewison (“Agnes of God”, “Rollerball”, “Fiddler on the Roof”) and a screenplay by John Patrick Shanley (“Joe Versus the Volcano”, “Congo”, “Doubt”) was released theatrically and became the fifth highest grossing film of that year with over $80 million made in the US box office and a film that would be nominated for six Oscars and taking home three for “Best Original Screenplay”, “Best Actress” (Cher) and “Best Supporting Actress” (Olympia Dukakis).  And now this wonderful romantic comedy receives a re-release as part of “Cher: The Film Collection” (note: The version included in this release is the Deluxe Edition).

There was no doubt that 1987 was a busy year for Cher who starred in three films that year alone with “Suspect” and “The Witches of Eastwick”.  Since her return to feature films with “Silkwood” in 1983 (which she was nominated for an Oscar for “Best Supporting Actress”), she followed up with a wonderful performance in “Mask” in 1985 which earned her a Cannes Film Festival Award for “Best Actress”.  But it is her role in “Moonstruck” that literally made Cher one of the most popular and most wanted actresses on the planet.

“Moonstruck” revolves around the character Loretta Castorini (played by Cher), a 37-year-old woman who is an accountant and also a widower.  She is dating Johnny Cammareri (played by Danny Aiello, “Do the Right Thing”, “Leon the Professional”, “Harlem Nights”), a man she doesn’t really love.  But considering she has not found love since the death of her last husband, when Johnny proposes to her, she says, “yes”.

But with Johnny’s mother dying and the fact that he didn’t have an engagement ring (had to use his own pinky ring), he tells her that once he gets back from visiting his mother in Italy, who is living her final days, he will return back and the two will plan for their wedding.  But before he leaves, he has one request for Loretta, to please visit his estranged brother Ronny (played by Nicolas Cage, “Raising Arizona”, “Peggy Sue Got Married”, “National Treasure”) and tell him that his older brother is getting married and would like for him to attend.

Meanwhile, Loretta’s father Cosmo (played by Vincent Gardenia, “Little Shop of Horrors”, “Death Wish”) is not so supportive of his daughters remarriage, especially since she wants him to pay for her wedding.  As for her mother, Rose (played by Olympia Dukakis, “Steel Magnolias”, “Look Who’s Talking”, “Charlie’s War”), she’s just more concerned that she marries a man that she doesn’t love.

When Loretta tries to call Ronny to let him know about her wedding with his older brother, he screams at her and hangs up the phone.  Because she knows his appearance at the wedding is so important for Johnny, she goes to the bakery where Ronny works and tells him the news to his face.  Immediately, we learn from Ronny why he hates his brother so much.

Apparently when he was about to get married, his brother preoccupied him during a conversation and Ronny put his hand through a meat slicer and lost his hand.  He also lost his fiance who ran out on him with another man and blames Johnny for everything.  So, he is disgusted that Johnny has a girl while he not only lost his, he also lost his hand.

Loretta tries to calm Ronny’s anger by inviting him to her home in which she cooks him a steak.  While the two are talking, he gets angry at her again about marrying his brother and next thing you know, he starts kissing Loretta and the next thing you know, the two go to her bed where they make love.

Loretta knows that she has done the wrong thing and tries to push Ronny away but he tells her that he has fallen in love with her.  But she tells him that they can’t because she is marrying his brother.  Ronny can’t resist Loretta but he will do so if she accompanies him to the opera.  So, she agrees.

Loretta doesn’t know too much about the opera but she wants to look nice with her final outing with Ronny.  Getting her hair died and getting a makeover, the two go to the opera and even though she finds herself caring for Ronny and Ronny continuing to tell her how much he loves her.  She tells him that she can’t because she’s marrying Johnny.  But can she marry a man that she doesn’t even love?  Will she end up staying by her promise to marry Johnny or will she follow her heart and marry Ronny?

VIDEO:

“Moonstruck” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 widescreen).  First, its important for me to remind everyone that this is a 1987 film and I’ve always had the opinion that many films from the ’80s tend to have this aged look and sometimes appearances look soft.  While for “Moonstruck”, the film does show its age in terms of film stock used, this is the best looking version of the film to date.

There is a good amount of grain in this film but there is much more detail.  For example, when we are introduced to Ronny (Nicolas Cage) for the first time, you can see the detail of that flame inside the bread cooking stove, the hairs on Cage’s chest are much more evident, especially the white in Cher’s hair at the beginning of the film.

Blacks are nice and deep in the Blu-ray release and for the most part, it’s not the greatest looking film on Blu-ray but for a 1987 classic romantic comedy, it’s definitely an upgrade from the previous DVD releases.  While the film definitely looks better on Blu-ray, where “Moonstruck” definitely excels is its lossless audio.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Moonstruck” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono and French Dolby Surround.  While “Moonstruck” has always been a film about its witty dialogue, it’s also a film that is known for its music.  While the film is not known for having an immersive soundtrack and it’s not an action film to expect any major use of surround, what I enjoyed about the lossless soundtrack to this film is how they utilized the music towards the front and surround channels.

The music sounds fantastic for this film and I was amazed of how much the music brings the film to life via lossless.  From hearing Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore” to the opera and hear how the music was utilized throughout the film and hear it sound crystal clear was pretty awesome.  There are some scenes that do fully utilize the surround that are non-music such as a jet flying over the city and you can hear how the engines start to get louder and go from one speaker and literally envelope the whole soundscape but these are just a few instances.  If anything, the lossless soundtrack for “Moonstruck” is adequate for this film and if you loved the film before, especially for how music was utilized, you’ll love how this film sounds on Blu-ray.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Moonstruck” comes with the following special features in Standard Definition:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Cher, director Norman Jewison and writer John Patrick Shanley.
  • Moonstruck: At the Heart of an Italian Family – (25:29) Director Norman Jewison and writer John Patrick Shanley talks about making “Moonstruck” a film that showcases Italian family.  Also, featuring interviews with Italian families and more.
  • Pastas to Pastries: The Art of Fine Italian Food – (1:41) Mark DeCarlo takes us around Little Italy in NYC.  After DeCarlo’s introduction we get six establishments featured in their own separate featurettes:

Grotta Azzurra – (18:47) Mark visits the restaurant and we learn how to make three easy dishes courtesy of the chef.

Italian Food Center – (2:32) Mark visits the Italian Food Center and takes a look at things we can find inside the store.

Ferrara Pastries – (2:29) Mark visits the famous Ferrara Pastries.

Piemonte Ravioli Co. – (2:29) Mark visits the Piemonte Ravioli Co. and how they supply fresh pasta to many of the restaurants in Little Italy.

Gelato Stand – (1:03) Mark visits a gelato stand in Little Italy.  Gelato is Italian ice cream.

Florio’s Restaurant – (1:25) Mark visits the popular stone oven pizza restaurant.

  • Music of Moonstruck – (6:25)  A special feature with composer Dick Hyman who talks about the music of the film and how the music was tested with an audience and changes were made to the film.  But how Dean Martin’s “Amore” was a perfect for the film.

Back in 1987, there was no doubt that “Moonstruck” was a magical film.  Before films such as “When Harry Met Sally”, “Sleepless in Seattle”, “My Greek Wedding” and “Pretty Woman”, the film had everything that you love in a romantic comedy.  Drama, humor and just solid performances from everyone involved.

When I first watched this film, I was literally laughing for many of the comedic sequences throughout the film.  From Nicolas Cage’s character screaming about how he lost his hand.  It’s such a tragic situation but the way it was done onscreen, it was crazy.  There were just so many scenes that were just way out of left field that I never saw coming and that’s what added to the allure of the film.  You can tell that everyone involved had a blast and everything just came out quite well in the end.  The screenplay and the film’s pacing was well-done, direction was also well-done and as mentioned, the performances were wonderful, especially for Cher and Olympia Dukakis.  These two women did a magnificent job and their Oscars were well-deserved.

Coming back to this film nearly over 20-years later, the film still manages to still maintain its laughs and the film doesn’t look incredibly aged.  If anything, as much as I enjoyed this Blu-ray release, when the original deluxe version came out back in 2006, I felt at the time that the release was well-deserved and that there should have been many special features included.  Because this film was literally re-released several times on DVD and once again last fall for Cher’s “Cher: The Film Collection” from MGM and 20th Century Fox, I was hoping to see newer special features to celebrate this romantic comedy.

As far as the Blu-ray is concerned, this is a wonderful romantic comedy and definitely one of the best films that she has starred in.  She has done many wonderful films in her acting career but “Moonstruck” is my opinion, her greatest performance thus far.  Personally, there is nothing negative I can say about this film because I absolutely loved it.  But for the Blu-ray release, I was just hoping for a bit more in terms of newer special features but it makes you wonder if there will be a 25th Anniversary release?  Nevertheless, you do get the upgrade in picture quality and a lossless soundtrack that really brings the music out for this wonderful film and it is a pretty solid upgrade.

Overall, a highly recommended romantic comedy worth owning on Blu-ray!

Moonstruck (as part of the “Cher: The Film Collection”) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Magnificent!  One of the greatest romantic comedies that came from the ’80s, “Moonstruck” has everything you want from a romantic comedy…great music, great location, great story and magnificent performances.  Cher and Olympia Dukakis were absolutely wonderful in this film!

Images courtesy of © 2010 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Moonstruck (as part of the “Cher: The Film Collection)

YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 1987

DURATION: 102 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, Widescreen (1:85:1), Audio: English Mono, Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

COMPANY: MGM/20th Century Fox

RATED: PG

RELEASE DATE: November 2, 2010

Directed by Norman Jewison

Written by John Patrick Shanley

Producer by Norman Jewison and Patrick J. Palmer

Associate Producer: Bonnie Palef

Music by Dick Hyman

Cinematography by David Watkin

Edited by Lou Lombardo

Casting by Howard Feuer

Production Design by Philip Rosenberg

Art Direction by Dan Davis, Barbra Matis

Costume Design by Theoni V. Aldredge

Starring:

Cher as Loretta Castorini

Nicolas Cage as Ronny Cammareri

Vincent Gardenia as Cosmo Castorini

Olympia Dukakis as Rose Castorini

Danny Aiello as Mr. Johnny Cammareri

Juli Bovasso as Rita Cappomaggi

John Mahoney as Perry

Louis Guss as Raymond Cappomaggi

Anita Gillette as Mona

Leonardo Cimino as Felix

Paula Trueman as Lucy

Nada Despotovich as Chrissy

With an all-star cast including Cher in her Oscar-Winning role, this hilarious romantic comedy tells the tale of a superstitious widow (Cher) with unexpectedly falls in love with her fiance’s estranged brother (Nicolas Cage).

Hilarious and enjoyable, “Moonstruck” is a fantastic romantic comedy featuring spectacular performances by Cher, Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia.  Great screenplay, wonderful direction, just an exciting romantic comedy that is absolutely timeless!

In 1987, “Moonstruck”, directed by Norman Jewison (“Agnes of God”, “Rollerball”, “Fiddler on the Roof”) and a screenplay by John Patrick Shanley (“Joe Versus the Volcano”, “Congo”, “Doubt”) was released theatrically and became the fifth highest grossing film of that year with over $80 million made in the US box office and a film that would be nominated for six Oscars and taking home three for “Best Original Screenplay”, “Best Actress” (Cher) and “Best Supporting Actress” (Olympia Dukakis).  And now this wonderful romantic comedy receives a re-release as part of “Cher: The Film Collection” (note: The version included in this release is the Deluxe Edition).

There was no doubt that 1987 was a busy year for Cher who starred in three films that year alone with “Suspect” and “The Witches of Eastwick”.  Since her return to feature films with “Silkwood” in 1983 (which she was nominated for an Oscar for “Best Supporting Actress”), she followed up with a wonderful performance in “Mask” in 1985 which earned her a Cannes Film Festival Award for “Best Actress”.  But it is her role in “Moonstruck” that literally made Cher one of the most popular and most wanted actresses on the planet.

“Moonstruck” revolves around the character Loretta Castorini (played by Cher), a 37-year-old woman who is an accountant and also a widower.  She is dating Johnny Cammareri (played by Danny Aiello, “Do the Right Thing”, “Leon the Professional”, “Harlem Nights”), a man she doesn’t really love.  But considering she has not found love since the death of her last husband, when Johnny proposes to her, she says, “yes”.

But with Johnny’s mother dying and the fact that he didn’t have an engagement ring (had to use his own pinky ring), he tells her that once he gets back from visiting his mother in Italy, who is living her final days, he will return back and the two will plan for their wedding.  But before he leaves, he has one request for Loretta, to please visit his estranged brother Ronny (played by Nicolas Cage, “Raising Arizona”, “Peggy Sue Got Married”, “National Treasure”) and tell him that his older brother is getting married and would like for him to attend.

Meanwhile, Loretta’s father Cosmo (played by Vincent Gardenia, “Little Shop of Horrors”, “Death Wish”) is not so supportive of his daughters remarriage, especially since she wants him to pay for her wedding.  As for her mother, Rose (played by Olympia Dukakis, “Steel Magnolias”, “Look Who’s Talking”, “Charlie’s War”), she’s just more concerned that she marries a man that she doesn’t love.

When Loretta tries to call Ronny to let him know about her wedding with his older brother, he screams at her and hangs up the phone.  Because she knows his appearance at the wedding is so important for Johnny, she goes to the bakery where Ronny works and tells him the news to his face.  Immediately, we learn from Ronny why he hates his brother so much.

Apparently when he was about to get married, his brother preoccupied him during a conversation and Ronny put his hand through a meat slicer and lost his hand.  He also lost his fiance who ran out on him with another man and blames Johnny for everything.  So, he is disgusted that Johnny has a girl while he not only lost his, he also lost his hand.

Loretta tries to calm Ronny’s anger by inviting him to her home in which she cooks him a steak.  While the two are talking, he gets angry at her again about marrying his brother and next thing you know, he starts kissing Loretta and the next thing you know, the two go to her bed where they make love.

Loretta knows that she has done the wrong thing and tries to push Ronny away but he tells her that he has fallen in love with her.  But she tells him that they can’t because she is marrying his brother.  Ronny can’t resist Loretta but he will do so if she accompanies him to the opera.  So, she agrees.

Loretta doesn’t know too much about the opera but she wants to look nice with her final outing with Ronny.  Getting her hair died and getting a makeover, the two go to the opera and even though she finds herself caring for Ronny and Ronny continuing to tell her how much he loves her.  She tells him that she can’t because she’s marrying Johnny.  But can she marry a man that she doesn’t even love?  Will she end up staying by her promise to marry Johnny or will she follow her heart and marry Ronny?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Moonstruck” is presented in Widescreen (1:85:1) and in English mono. PQ was fine for a DVD release. The film does looks good on DVD but has that look of digital noise reduction implemented. But again, it’s fine for DVD.  If anything, this is one film that should receive a Blu-ray release and is deserving of HD treatment.

Subtitles are in English, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Moonstruck” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Cher, director Norman Jewison and writer John Patrick Shanley.
  • Moonstruck: At the Heart of an Italian Family – (25:29) Director Norman Jewison and writer John Patrick Shanley talks about making “Moonstruck” a film that showcases Italian family.  Also, featuring interviews with Italian families and more.
  • Pastas to Pastries: The Art of Fine Italian Food – (1:41) Mark DeCarlo takes us around Little Italy in NYC.  After DeCarlo’s introduction we get six establishments featured in their own separate featurettes:

Grotta Azzurra – (18:47) Mark visits the restaurant and we learn how to make three easy dishes courtesy of the chef.

Italian Food Center – (2:32) Mark visits the Italian Food Center and takes a look at things we can find inside the store.

Ferrara Pastries – (2:29) Mark visits the famous Ferrara Pastries.

Piemonte Ravioli Co. – (2:29) Mark visits the Piemonte Ravioli Co. and how they supply fresh pasta to many of the restaurants in Little Italy.

Gelato Stand – (1:03) Mark visits a gelato stand in Little Italy.  Gelato is Italian ice cream.

Florio’s Restaurant – (1:25) Mark visits the popular stone oven pizza restaurant.

  • Music of Moonstruck – (6:25)  A special feature with composer Dick Hyman who talks about the music of the film and how the music was tested with an audience and changes were made to the film.  But how Dean Martin’s “Amore” was a perfect for the film.

Back in 1987, there was no doubt that “Moonstruck” was a magical film.  Before films such as “When Harry Met Sally”, “Sleepless in Seattle”, “My Greek Wedding” and “Pretty Woman”, the film had everything that you love in a romantic comedy.  Drama, humor and just solid performances from everyone involved.

When I first watched this film, I was literally laughing for many of the comedic sequences throughout the film.  From Nicolas Cage’s character screaming about how he lost his hand.  It’s such a tragic situation but the way it was done onscreen, it was crazy.  There were just so many scenes that were just way out of left field that I never saw coming and that’s what added to the allure of the film.  You can tell that everyone involved had a blast and everything just came out quite well in the end.  The screenplay and the film’s pacing was well-done, direction was also well-done and as mentioned, the performances were wonderful, especially for Cher and Olympia Dukakis.  These two women did a magnificent job and their Oscars were well-deserved.

Coming back to this film nearly over 20-years later, the film still manages to still maintain its laughs and the film doesn’t look incredibly aged.  If anything, as much as I loved this DVD release when the original deluxe version came out back in 2006, I felt at the time that the release was well-deserved and that there should have been many special features included.  Because this film was literally re-released several times on DVD.  From its original release back in 1998, followed by a VHS re-release in 2001 and then once again via deluxe edition in 2006 and then an ’80s re-release in 2007 and here we are now with the inclusion of the DVD (deluxe edition) in Cher’s “Cher: The Film Collection” from MGM and 20th Century Fox.

As far as the DVD is concerned, this is a wonderful romantic comedy and definitely a Cher film that belongs with this DVD collection.  She has done many wonderful films but “Moonstruck” is her greatest performance thus far.  Personally, there is nothing negative I can say about this film because I absolutely loved it.  The only thing that I can hope for now is a Blu-ray release featuring a digital restoration of the film since the 25th anniversary of “Moonstruck” is coming up soon.

Overall, a highly recommended romantic comedy!


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