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Baywatch: Extended Cut (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

August 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Baywatch: Extended Cut” is a hilarious action comedy that pays homage to the hit TV series but also is a laugh-out loud, fun and crazy film.  Sure, it may not be for everyone, but as a guy who watched the original “Baywatch” series many times during my teenage years, I can’t help but enjoy Seth Gordon’s “Baywatch”!  An action comedy worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Baywatch: Extended Cut

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition, English Dolby Atmos, French, Spanish, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese

COMPANY: Paramount

RATED: R (For Language Throughout, Crude Sexual Content and Graphic Nudity)

RELEASE DATE: August 29, 2017


Based on the series “Baywatch” by Michael Berk, Douglas Schwartz, Gregory J. Bonann

Directed by Seth Gordon

Screenplay by Damian Shannon, Mark Swift

Story by Jay Scherick, David Ronn, Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant

Producer: Ari Arad, Michael Costigan, Steven PAul

Co-Producer: Holly Bario, Jane Nerlinger Evans, Maki Terashima-Furuta

Executive Producer: Tetsuya Fujimura, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, Yoshinobu Noma, Jeffrey Silver

Music by Lorne Balfe, Clint Mansell

Cinematography by Jess Hall

Edited by Billy Rich, Neil Smith

Casting by Lucy Vevan, Liz Mullane, Miranda Rivers

Production Design by Jan Roelfs

Art Direction by Matt Austin, Simon Bright, Leri Greer, Miro Harre, Ben Hawker, Richard L. Johnson, Agata Maliauka, Andy McLaren, Erik Polczwartek, Brad Ricker, Ken Turner

Set Decoration by Greg Cokerill, Elli Griff, Craig Poll, Calvin Tsoi, Brana Rosenfeld, Kitt Van Der Kidd

Costume Design by Kurt and Bart


Starring:

Dwayne Johnson as Mitch Buchannon

Zac Efron as Matt Brody

Priyanka Chopra as Victoria Leeds

Alexandra Daddario as Summer Quinn

Kelly Rohrbach as CJ Parker

Ilfenesh Hadera as Stephanie Holden

John Bass as Ronnie Greenbaum

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Sgt. Ellerbee

Hannibal Buress as Dave the Tech

David Hasshelhoff as The Mentor

Pamela Anderson as Casey Jean Parker

Rob Huebel as Captain Thorpe


When a dangerous crime wave hits the beach, legendary Lt. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson, The Fate of the Furious) leads his elite squad of badass lifeguards on a mission to prove you don’t have to wear a badge to save the bay. Joined by a trio of hot-shot recruits including former Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising), they’ll ditch the surf and go deep undercover to take down a ruthless businesswoman (Priyanka Chopra, TV’s “Quantico”), whose devious plans threaten the future of the bay.


Back in 1989, “Baywatch” aired on television.  Unfortunately, the first series didn’t last that long but when it was revived for the first-run syndication market in 1991, the show was successful not just in the United States but internationally and would air for a decade, ending with it’s final series “Baywatch: Hawaii” in 2001.

The series would receive a film adaptation but instead of drama, the film was created as an action comedy.  Directed by Seth Gordon (“Horrible Bosses”, “Identity Thief”) and a screenplay by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift.

The film stars Dwayne Johnson (“Fast & Furious”, “San Andreas”, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”), Zac Efron (“High School Musical”, “17 Again”, “That Awkward Moment”), Priyanka Chopra (“Quantico”, “Barf!!”), Alexandra Daddario (“San Andreas”, “Percy Jackson” films), Kelly Rohrbach (“Broad City”, “Cafe Society”), Ilfenesh Hadera (“Oldboy”, “Billions”), Jon Bass (“Loving”, “Big Time in Hollywood”, “All Nighter”) and “Yahya Abdul-Mateen II” (“The Get Down”, “Aquaman”).

The film which was budgeted at $69 million and would earn $177.4 million in the box office.

And now “Baywatch: Extended Cut” is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD.

The film is set in Emerald Bay, Florida and Lt. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) is doing his rounds at the beach, alongside his second-command Stephanie Holden (portrayed by Ifenesh Hadera) and fellow bodyguard C.J. Parker (portrayed by Kelly Rohrbach).  The three work on the beat for the Baywatch division and as the are planning to hire new bodyguards, Mitch is told by his superior, Captain Thorpe (portrayed by Rob Huebel) that due to a decrease in funding, for publicity, he will need to take in Olympian swimmer Matt Brody (portrayed by Zac Efron).

Unfortunately, Matt thinks he’s entitled, cocky and immediately rubs Mitch and crew the wrong way.

As for those trying out to be part of Baywatch, Ronnie Greenbaum (portrayed by Jon Bass) is a chubby (yet well-endowed) guy who has always liked CJ and each time she is nice to him, he feels that’s not good enough to be around her.  It doesn’t help that Ronnie can’t speak or does weird things when she’s around but will he make the cut for Baywatch?

As for Summer Quinn, she’s determined and blunt and often has words for Matt especially since he can’t stop looking at her boobs.

Meanwhile on the beach, Victoria Leeds (portrayed by Priyanka Chopra) is the new owner of a private bar, while sweet on the outside, she is actually a crime boss selling drugs on the beach.

When the new Baywatch team is selected, immediately they start noticing drugs on the beach and during a rescue attempt for a congressman and a few partying women, Mitch thinks the drugs and cases of homicides are related to Victoria Leeds.

And as much as he wants to bust them, Sgt. Ellerbee often reminds Mitch and team that they are not police and solving these crimes are his jurisdiction.  And Matt agrees with the Sgt., and bickers with the other Baywatch members because he doesn’t feel they should be investigating homicides but helping people who drown or people who get sunburned.

Will this new Baywatch team ever gel?  And will they find out who is responsible for the drugs and homicides that are occuring at Emerald Beach?


VIDEO:

“Baywatch: Extended Cut” receives its first 4K Ultra HD K Ultra HD release and is presented in 4K Ultra High Definition.

With the film shot outdoors, colors are absolutely vibrant and the film looks colorful and wonderful in 4K Ultra HD.  Closeups show amazing detail and for the most part, this film looks great in 4K!

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:

Lossless audio quality is equally impressive. Featured in English Dolby Atmos, French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital and with an English audio description.

The film has a blend of crystal clear dialogue, music and great use of sound effects during action sequences, which there are plenty.  “Baywatch” sounds amazing!

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Baywatch: Extended Cut” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special features:

  • Meet the Lifeguards – (21:36) A featurette with the cast talking about the fun they are having on the set and working with each other on set.
  • Continuing the Legacy – (9:28) A featurette about creating a film re-imagining the “Baywatch” TV series.
  • Stunts & Training – (9:10) A featurette about the training that the cast had to go through for the film and the stunts they took part in.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes – (10:06) Featuring six deleted and extended scenes.

EXTRAS:

“Baywatch: Extended Cut” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


I’m going to be up front about this…growing up, I absolutely enjoyed “Baywatch”.  Sure, that teenager in me loved watching the film for the many women on the show, watching surfer Kelly Slater in his first major acting gig and for the most part, it was syndicated TV that was popular for its time.

I can easily remember that after football on Sundays, there was always “Baywatch” and it was a series that was hard to resists, and also a reminder of how I wished I was at the beach during the hot summer.

So, with the announcement of “Baywatch”, I must admit that hearing about a movie adaptation but instead of being dramatic, the film is more action comedy.  And the trailer was enough to peak my interest as it had done with other ’80s shows such as “21 Jump Street”, why not “Baywatch”?

And what a hilarious and fun film this turned out to be.  Sure, I know many people are going to pan this film as “Baywatch” embodies a series that was often T&A and many guys watching for the ladies, and there were ladies who watched it for the men.  And the film retains the T&A jokes but also some of the immature comedy that one often sees with an Apatow or Sandler film.  And a lot of those films tend to turn film critics off.

The thing about this film is you don’t take it seriously.  This is not a film that tries to capture the true life of bodyguards, it’s more of a comedy of a group of bodyguards who get involved in a major murder mystery (something out of their jurisdiction) but they just want their beaches safe.

Add in sexual tension and a cocky Matt Brody with plenty of improvisation and in the end, you get a film that is crazy, fun and if you are into immature jokes, something to make you laugh.

One scene has potential lifeguard, Ronnie Greenbaum choking on his food and CJ coming to give him the Heimlich maneuver, but with each thrust on him while in her red swimsuit gets Ronnie a stiffy and before CJ could see, he falls on a wooden chair on the beach.  But doesn’t realize that his long penis gets caught in the groove and he’s literally stuck.  Needless to say, everyone on the beach see it, record him on their smartphone and CJ and Mitch are brought into the mix.

It’s stupid jokes like these that you can’t help but laugh.  But it’s no doubt one of those moments in the film that stay with you because it’s so memorable (for some reason, a scene in “Porky’s” comes to mind, but not as sexually explicit).

And of course, this wouldn’t be a “Baywatch” film without the Hoff and Pamela Anderson making an appearance.  And even the cast joking about the slow-motion running and also poking fun of the popular TV show.

It’s important to note that because of the adult humor, this is not a film to watch with children in the room!

As for the 4K Ultra HD release, picture quality is absolutely fantastic.  Lossless audio is equally awesome and there are numerous special features included.

Overall, “Baywatch: Extended Cut” is a hilarious action comedy that pays homage to the hit TV series but also is a laugh-out loud, fun and crazy film.  Sure, it may not be for everyone, but as a guy who watched the original “Baywatch” series many times during my teenage years, I can’t help but enjoy Seth Gordon’s “Baywatch”!  An action comedy worth watching!

The Fate and the Furious (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

 “The Fate and the Furious” no doubt went bigger in terms of action and destruction but is it the best film in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise?  That’s all subjective.  But if you love the films and have grown up watching the crew all this time, you are definitely going to go on one hell of a ride with this film.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Fate and the Furious

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 2 Hrs. and 16 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English DTS-X Immersive Audio, DTS Headphone 2.0, English DVS, Espanol DTS Digital Surround 5.1,  Subtitles: English SDH, Espanol, Francais

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017


Based on Characters by Gary Scott Thompson

Directed by F. Gary Gray

Written by Chris Morgan

Produced by Vin Diesel, Michael Fottrell, Chris Morgan, Neal H. Moritz

Executive Producer: Amanda Lewis, Samantha Vincent

Co-Producer: Cliff Lanning

Associate Producer: Sharon Lopez

Music by Brian Tyler

Cinematography by Stephen F. Windon

Edited by Paul Rubell, Christian Wagner

Production Design by Bill Brzeski

Art Direction: Andrew Max Cahn, Jonathan Carlos, Desma Murphy, Jay Pelissier, Aramis Balebona Reco, Brian Stultz

Set Decoration: Danielle Berman

Costume Design: Sanja Milkovic Hays, Marlene Stewart


Starring:

Vin Diesel as Dom

Jason Statham as Deckard

Dwayne Johnson as Hobbs

Michelle Rodriguez as Letty

Tyrese Gibson as Roman

Ludacris as Tej Parker

Charlize Theron as Cipher

Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody

Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey

Luke Evans as Owen

Elsa Pataky as Elena

Kristofer Hivju as Rhodes

Scott Eastwood as Little Nobody


Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez lead an all-star cast as the global blockbuster franchise delivers its most action-packed, high octane adrenaline rush yet in The Fate of the Furious. Now that Dom (Diesel) and Letty (Rodriguez) are married and Brian and Mia have retired from the game—and the rest of the crew has been exonerated—the globetrotting team has found a semblance of a normal life. But when a mysterious woman (Oscar winner, Charlize Theron) seduces Dom into the world of crime he can’t seem to escape and a betrayal of those closest to him, they will face trials that will test them as never before. From the shores of Cuba and the streets of New York City to the icy plains off the arctic Barents Sea, our elite force will crisscross the globe to stop an anarchist from unleashing chaos on the world’s stage… and to bring home the man who made them a family.


If there is one thing that is constant about the “Fast and the Furious” film franchise, they are huge moneymakers.

And for the eighth film titled “The Fate and the Furious”, the film which cost $250 million to make, would go on to earn over $1.2 billion in the box office.  Making it the second highest-grossing film of 2017 and the eleventh highest-grossing film of all time.  The film would be the 30th film to gross over a billion and the second in the franchise after “Furious 7”.

The film was directed by F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”, “The Italian Job”, “Law Abiding Citizen”) and was written by Chris Morgan (“Fast & Furious 6”, “Furious 7”, “47 Ronin”, “Wanted”).

Returning for the eighth film are Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, Luke Evans, Elsa Pataky, Kurt Russell and making their debut to the franchise are Charlize Theron (“Mad Max”, “Monster”, “Prometheus”) and Scott Eastwood (“Gran Torino”, “Fury”, “The Longest Ride”).

And now the film will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

The film begins with Dominic “Dom” Toretto (portrayed by Vin Diesel) and his wife Letty Ortiz (portrayed by Michelle Rodriguez) are celebrating their honeymoon in Havana.

But before they could really enjoy things, his cousin Fernando gets into a little trouble and Dom ends up racing local racer, Raldo.  As Dom wins the thrilling race, the following day while seeing a woman having problem with her car, Dom approaches her.

To his surprise, the woman knows all about him and literally planned on meeting with Dom in Cuba and reveals herself as cyberterrorist Cipher.  And she is recruiting Dom to work for her.  Dom tells her he doesn’t work for anyone but when she shows him something on her cellphone, he is coerced into working for her.

Meanwhile, Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) agent Luke Hobbs (portrayed by Dwayne Johnson) is recruited to break into a military outpost in Berlin to retrieve an EMP device.  Because he is on his own, he is told to select a team and immediately, Luke gets Dom, Letty, Roman Pearce (portrayed by Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (portrayed by Ludacris) and Ramsey (portrayed by Nathalie Emmanuel) involved.

Thoroughly planned, everything goes to plan and they are able to retrieve the EMP, until Dom crashes his car into Luke and steals the EMP.  He is chased by police but manages to get inside an airplane which belongs to Cipher.  Luke tells everyone what happened and that Dom has gone rogue.

As for Dom, we learn the real reason why he is working with Cipher and that is because she has kidnapped Elena (portrayed by Elsa Pataky) and his son and is threatening to kill them.

Back at home, Luke is sent to prison but is approached by Mr. Nobody (portrayed by Kurt Russell) and his trainee Little Nobody (portrayed by Scott Eastwood) and he is told to confess his crimes and his crimes will be wiped.  But Luke is not willing to confess and he is placed in prison right across from villain Deckard Shaw (portrayed by Jason Statham) and the two immediately start swiping insults towards each other and how they want to beat each other up.

But all of a sudden, Luke’s prison door opens and immediately Deckard uses the distraction to escape from his cell and he tries to make an escape with other convicts as the prison guards try to stop them.  Luke goes after him and once they are about to escape, it is learned that this was the plan of Mr. Nobody.

Mr. Nobody recruits Luke, Deckard, Letty, Roman, Tej and Ramsey to stop Cipher but first, they must stop Dominic.  But can they?


VIDEO:

“The Fate and the Furious ” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks fantastic and vibrant may it be in Havana, New York and even Iceland, as many of the scenes were shot outdoors. The film looks absolutely fantastic in HD!

I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Fate and the Furious ” is presented in English DTS-X Immersive Audio, DTS Headphone 2.0, English DVS, Espanol DTS Digital Surround 5.1.

Definitely one of the most immersive films in the film’s franchise, with the high level of actions with weaponry, cars, explosions, chaos and more, this is a film that will no doubt please audiophiles and definitely a reference film for audio enthusiasts.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Espanol, Francais

 

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Fate and the Furious ” comes with the following special feature:

  • The Cuban Spirit – (8:04) A featurette about the crew exploring Cuba.
  • In the Family – Featuring four featurettes: Betraying the Family: Cipher and Dom (6:35) – A featurette about casting Charlize Theron as a villain; Leaderless: A Family Lost (5:00) – A featurette about the cast discussing Dom going rogue; Shaw Family Values (3:56) – A featurette about Decker Shaw and his family; and Meet the Nobodys (5:44) – A featurette about Mr. Nobody and his protege.  Interview with Kurt Russell and Scott Eastwood.
  • Car Culture – Featuring the following featurettes: The Hero Cars of Fast (10:23) – A featurette of the many vehicles in the film; Zombie Cars (5:33) – A featurette about the computerized cars and how the scene was created; The Ripsaw (5:15) – A featurette about the military tank provided by the US Department of Defense for the film.
  • All About the Stunts – Featuring the following three featurettes: Malecon Street Race (6:13) Behind the scenes of how the race in Havana was pulled off; Iceland Stunt Diaries (6:47) – How the big action scenes were shot in Iceland and The Streets of New York (5:25) How the big action scenes were shot in New York.
  • Extended fight Scenes – (5:03) Featuring the extended prison fight and the plane fight scenes.
  • Audio Commentary – Feature commentary with director F. Gary Gray

EXTRAS:

“The Fate and the Furious” comes with the Blu-ray, DVD and a digital code for the Theatrical and Director’s Cut version of the film.  Plus, you get a free film from Universal’s UPHE Rewards.


“The Fate and the Furious”, the eighth installment of in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise is no doubt bigger, more action-packed and more exciting than the previous films in terms of risk and chaotic moments, but has the franchise at a point of exhaustion for fans?

The answer is “no”, if the box office earnings surpassing $1 billion is used as a litmus test.

There is no doubt that the franchise is a cash cow and for the most part, the films are exciting and fun popcorn action films but there is no doubt the producers wanted to find ways to do better than “Furious 7” which was a big box office hit and financially the succeed, but the problem is now they are going into a direction that feels like a cross between “The Expendables”, James Bond films meet “Fast and the Furious”.

Earlier in the series, you felt the films felt right as they dealt with major heists and with each film, the stakes got higher and higher.

Bringing back the crew to take on a cyberterrorist named Cipher who has an easy time breaking in to a secured top-secret government facility to steal the “Eye of God” and manages to orchestrate chaos in New York City that would make Michael Bay smile and have eyes wide open and evading Russians and a huge submarine in the frozen tundra seems a bit too much.

If producers wanted high stakes, bigger and more explosive than its previous film, I could understand that.

But the question is…where does the franchise go from there?  Back to basics?  Or are we going to see “Avengers”/Marvel Studios type of action where we see Dom and team take on space aliens, become the next A-Team and that’s where I’ll be checking out because I feel the franchise has strayed far from the type of stories that made me interested in the franchise to begin with.

One thing remains constant in the film…”Family” and that is the potential that writers can definitely work with.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if we see tragedy visits the family once again, possibly in a larger scale.

With that being said, I give “Straight Outta Compton” director F. Gary Gray major props in taking on this exciting over-the-top action film.  It’s orchestrated very well, the high level of action scenes and chaos orchestrated in one film pitting Dom and his crew against each other is no doubt and seeing Dom turn rogue was very well-played.

Actress Charlize Theron who plays the mad cyberterrorist Cipher is no doubt one of the most vilest villains to appear in the films.

And of course, to have Decker Shaw (Statham) return but this time, teaming up with the crew, and playing off Dwayne Johnson worked very well.

On Blu-ray, the film looks fantastic.  Outdoor scenes are vibrant, closeups show amazing detail and the lossless audio is quite immersive with the many action sequences throughout the film, explosions, car crashes, destruction galore, both video and audiophiles should be happy with this HD release!  And for special features, at first it didn’t seem like much, but there are multiple special features within each listing, so that should keep fans busy.

And last, you also get an UltraViolet code for the theatrical and Director’s Cut of the film, plus an extra code for a free film via UPHE Rewards.

Overall, “The Fate and the Furious” no doubt went bigger in terms of action and destruction but is it the best film in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise?  That’s all subjective.  But if you love the films and have grown up watching the crew all this time, you are definitely going to go on one hell of a ride with this film.  Recommended!

 

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

March 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Moana” resonated with me, entertained me but also made me respect the work of Ron Clements and John Musker so much more. Especially for Disney for taking on an animation that involves Polynesian culture, hiring those who are of Polynesian descent but also listening to Pacific Islanders for feedback in regards to the how their culture is depicted. “Moana” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Moana

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 107 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080P High Definition 2:39:1, 1080p High Definition, English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: PG (For Peril, Some Scary Images and Brief Thematic Elements)

RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2017


Directed by Ron Clements, John Musker

Co-Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams

Screenplay by Jared Bush

Story by Ron Clements, John Musker, Chris Williams, Don Hall, Pamela Ribon, Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell

Producer: Osnat Shurer

Executive Producer: John Lasseter

Associate Producer: Nicole P. Hearon

Music by Mark Mancina, Opetaia Foa’i, Lin-Manuel Miranda

Edited by Jeff Draheim

Casting by Jamie Sparer Roberts, Rachel Sutton

Production Design by Ian Gooding


Featuring the Voices of:

Auli’l Cravalho as Moana

Dwayne Johnson as Maui

Rachel House as Gramma Tala

Temuera Morrison as Chief Tui

Jemaine Clement as Tamatoa

Nicole Scherzinger as Sina

Alan Tudyk as Heihei

Louise Bush as Toddler Moana

Chris Jackson as Chief Tui


From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes MOANA, an epic adventure about a spirited teen who sets sail on a daring mission to save her people. Along the way, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) meets the once mighty demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), and together they cross the ocean on a fun-filled, action-packed voyage. Bring home the movie full of heart, humor and oceans of bonus extras!


In November 2016, the 56th Walt Disney animated feature film “Moana” was released in theaters.

Earning $587.3 million at the box office, the film reunites directors Ron Clements and John Musker (both were co-directors for “Aladdin”, “The Little Mermaid”, “Treasure Planet” and “The Princess and the Frog”).  The film also features co-direction by Don Hall and Chris Williams (both directed “Big Hero 6”) and features a screenplay by Jared Bush (“Zootopia”).

The film features the voices of Auli’i Cravalho (“Gone Fishing”), Dwayne Johnson (“Baywatch”, “San Andreas”, “Furious 7”), Rachel House (“Whale Rider”, “Eagle vs. Shark”), Temuera Morrison (“Star Wars” – Episodes II and III), Jemaine Clement (“Rio” films), singer Nicole Scherzinger and Alan Tudyk (“Rogue One”, “I, Robot”, “Frozen”, “Serenity”).

The Disney animated film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in March 2017.

The film begins with an introduction to demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), who was planning to give a small pounamu stone (which happens to be the mystical heart of the island goddess Te Fiti) to humanity as a gift.

Instead, Maui runs off with the stone and he is chased and attacked by the lava demon Te Ka.  Maui ends up not just losing his magical fish hook in the ocean but also loses the pounamu stone.

A thousand years later, a young girl named Moana, the daughter and heir of the chief of the Polynesian island Motunui, is chosen by the ocean to receive the pounamu stone/Te Fiti’s heart.  Something he does not feel is necessary as he feels the island provides the villagers everything they need.

But as Moana (voiced by  Auli’i Cravalho) gets older, the villagers are scared as fish is becoming scarce and the vegetation of Motunui is dying.  Moana wants to travel beyond the reef as she feels she can catch fish for the village but her father is against it.  She learns from her mother that her father’s friend died out in sea and fears of Moana going out to the ocean.

Despite her father forbidding Moana to sail past the reef, her grandmother Tala (voiced by Rachel House) tells her that there is a secret cave behind the waterfall and also telling her that the villagers ancestors were once voyagers and traveled and discovered new islands across the world.  But the ancestors stopped voyaging because the demigod MAui stole the heart of Te Fiti and this led to monsters appearing in the ocean.  And now Te Ka’s darkness is spreading from island to island, slowly killing the islands.

Tala gives Moana the heart of Te Fiti.  But not long after, Tala becomes ill and before she dies, she tells Moana to set sail.  So, against her fathers wishes, Moana travels beyond the reef in search of the demigod, Maui.

What will she find beyond the reef?


VIDEO:

So, far the Walt Disney Blu-ray disc animated (as well as theatrical) releases are among the best in picture and audio quality.

“Moana” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio) and Disney has released a lot of animated films that look wonderful in HD, but “Moana” is visually impressive from water effects (which look nearly realistic), lush green and vibrant vegetation, close-up details of Moana and Maui, especially their hair and also Maui’s tattoos and more.

“Moana” will no doubt pleasure the most demanding videophiles (well, unless they are demanding a 4K or 8K release).  Overall picture quality is fantastic!

AUDIO:

“Moana” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with an English 2.0 Descriptive audio track and a Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. The film features crystal clear dialogue and musical score.

From its musical sequences and wonderful action, along with magnificent video, you also get magnificent lossless audio.  From the waves crashing, Maui’s transformations to the wonderful crystal clear vocals.  I absolutely loved this soundtrack and just to make things clear, videophiles are not the only ones who will love this Blu-ray, audiophiles will absolutely enjoy this lossless soundtrack on Blu-ray as well!

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Moana” comes with the following special features:

  • Theatrical Short Film: Inner Workings – (6:26) Featuring an introduction by Leonardo Matsuda and producer Sean Lurie to “Inner Workings” and the animated short.
  • Maui Mini-Movie: Gone Fishing – (2:29) Moana and Maui return in an animated short.
  • Voice of the Islands – (31:13) A featurette about finding the location for “Moana” and the inspiration that came from the island and working with the locals from Tahiti who lent their voice to their characterization in the film.
  • Things You Didn’t Know About – (3:52) The directors, cast and crew are given rapid-fire questions.
  • Island Fashion – (5:13) A costume design featurette.
  • The Elements Of… – (14:14) Creating characters featuring Maui and Mini Maui (tattoos that come to life on Maui’s body depicting his heroism).
  • They Know the Way: Making the Music of Moana – (12:36) The making of the music for “Moana” featuring Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
  • Deleted Song: Warrior Face with Introduction by Songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda – (3:33) A glimpse of “Warrior Face”, a deleted song from the film with sketched animation.
  • Fishing for Easter Eggs – (2:52) The cast talk about their characters and discuss easter eggs shown in the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – (25:54) Seven deleted scenes with optional introductions with co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker.
  • “How Far I’ll Go” – Music video performed by Alessia Cara
  • “How Far I’ll Go Around the World” – (2:40) A featurette showcasing “How Far I’ll Go” performed by music artists for their respective countries.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker.

EXTRAS:

“Moana” comes with a slipcover, a DVD version of the film and a Disney Digital HD code.


As a fan of works by Ron Clements and John Musker, it’s one thing to be in love with “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin” but you also have to appreciate their approach to animation.  And with the release of the CG animated film, “Monna”, I was very interested in seeing the duo take on this medium but also seeing their style of animation incorporating new animation technologies but also a storyline with humor, action and emotion.

One thing that I was impressed about “Moana” was how the directors and producers wanted to make this film right.  From going to Tahiti and respecting local traditions and costumes, including music but also respecting the island and making sure nature plays a big part in the film.

As an Asian American with 33% Pacific Islander in my blood, one thing that has gotten to me is Hollywood not hiring people of ethnicity for major roles.  With “Moana”, the directors and producers made sure that Polynesian talent were hired for the role.

You have the debut of Hawaiian actress/singer Auli’l Cravalho as Moana and Dwayne Johnson (Black Nova Scotia and Samoan) as Maui.  But you also have Rachel House (Maori, indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand), Temuera Morrison (Maori), Jemaine Clement (Maori) and Nichole Scherzinger (Filipino/Native Hawaiian and Ukrainian).

Hiring talent to play characters who are of Polynesian descent may not seem like a big deal considering it’s a voice acting role, but for those of us who have watched Hollywood pass over people of a ethnicity over a well-known Caucasian talent to play an ethnic role is disheartening. And sure, while “Moana” is an animated film, the casting of these voice talents to play these characters is important and goes a long way.

I was impressed by the voice acting, the singing and the music of the film and the work of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i were fantastic.

Watching the film, I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face because of the attention to detail.  From the hair, the clothing, the tattoos but also the respect of the island.  Directors Ron Clements and John Musker often have said in interviews how visiting the island and meeting with the people changed their lives and influenced them heavily in the making of this film.  And that influence can be seen in “Moana”.  I love seeing that!

As far as watching “Moana”, it’s simply amazing to see how far Walt Disney Animation Studios has come and how much technology when it comes to animation has evolved in the last 10 years.

It’s one thing to expect wonderful skin detail and detailed hair but water has always been a tricky thing to animate and so, seeing Walt Disney Animation Studios taking on a story that deals with a Pacific Islander story and capturing the island vibe, lush greenery and beautiful oceans, I couldn’t wait to see how far animation technology has evolved.

I was impressed and of course, watching it on Blu-ray, seeing the details and the vibrant colors in HD was amazing.  The crystal clear lossless soundtrack was also impressive and there are a good number of special features included as well.

Overall, “Moana” resonated with me, entertained me but also made me respect the work of Ron Clements and John Musker so much more.  Especially for Disney for taking on an animation that involves Polynesian culture, hiring those who are of Polynesian descent but also listening to Pacific Islanders for feedback in regards to the how their culture is depicted.

“Moana” is highly recommended!

Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

July 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet! “Transformers: Prime – One Shall Stand” takes the final four episodes of season 1 and the first three episodes of season 2 and puts them together to make one action-packed, enjoyable story arc featuring Optimus Prime and Megatron in an uneasy alliance to take on Unicron.  Also, what happens when Optimus Prime loses his memory and reverts back to Orion Pax? “Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Hasbro Studios. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand

TV AIR DATE: 2012

DURATION: 154 Minutes

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: TY Y7

RELEASE DATE: Ju;y 31, 2012

Directed by David Hartman, Todd Waterman, Vinton Heuck, Shaunt Nigoghossian

Written by Steven Melching, Nicole Dubuc, Joseph Kuhr, Duane Capizzi, Marty Isenberg, David McDermott, Mairghread Scott

Producer: Mandy Safavi, Rafi Ruthchild, Steven Puri

Executive Producer: Stephen Davis, Jeff Kline, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci

Supervising Producer: Duane Capizzi

Animation Producer: Therese Trujillo

Music by Brian Tyler, Matthew Margeson

Edited by Michael William Miles

Casting by Lorena Gallego

Art Direction by David Hartman

Featuring the voices of:

Sumalee Montano as Arcee

Kevin Michael Richardson as Bulkhead

Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime

Jeffrey Combs as Ratchet

Tania Gunadi as Miko Nakadai

Josh Keaton as Jack Darby

Frank Welker as Megatron

Andy Pessoa as Rafael “Raf” Esquivel

Steve Blum as Starscream

Ernie Hudson as Agent William Fowler

Markie Post as June Darby

Alexandra Krosney as Sierra

John Noble as Unicron

With UNICRON’s awakening, extreme measures needed to be taken. An unlikely alliance formed between AUTOBOTS and DECEPTICONS to defeat UNICRON, a foe who could spell the end of the Earth. The action unfolds as the AUTOBOTS battle alongside MEGATRON against the evil UNICRON. Enemies became allies, allies became confidantes, and with the Matrix of Leadership, the planet Earth was saved.

Though at immeasurable personal cost, when OPTIMUS surrendered the Matrix, he lost more than the collective wisdom of the PRIME. He lost himself. With the power of the Matrix no longer within him, it would stand to reason that OPTIMUS has reverted to his pre-PRIME state as the historical archivist ORION PAX. MEGATRON manipulates the impaired OPTIMUS into joining the DECEPTICONS. But does the OPTIMUS and AUTOBOTS’ true key to salvation lie in the trusted hands of a teenaged boy named Jack?

The award-winning “Transformers Prime”, regarded by many fans as one of the best looking and also best written “Transformers” animated series so far, the series is being planned for a third season release for 2012-2013.

While a Blu-ray and DVD release of the first season of “Transformers Prime” has been released, many were kept in suspense as the first season concluded with Unicron the Chaos-Bringer attacking the autobots and in a surprising move, Optimus Prime and the Autobots form an uneasy alliance with Megatron.

But in the process, something bad happened to Optimus Prime.  Is he alive?

While a season two will likely be released on Blu-ray and DVD in the near future, for fans who want to know how the storyline involving Optimus Prime/Unicron/Megatron ends, will get to see it in the seven episode arc titled “Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand” which will be available on DVD courtesy of Shout! Factory.

So, what is “Transformers”?

“Transformers”, the popular entertainment franchise that many generations have grown up with, may it be playing with the toys or watching the animated series back in 1984, playing the video games or reading the comic books.

Needless to say, since the early ’80s, millions have experienced “Transformers”, especially in recent years with the release of film trilogy or the animated series which continues to air on television and of course, the many toys that continue to be popular with collectors and also children.

But within the last three years, fans have watched the animated series known as “Transformers Animated” becoming the latest “Transformers” animated series to be showcased on television beginning in 2007 and would last for three seasons through 2009.

Fans knew that there will be a newer version of the series coming out, but the question is what kind of series?

In 2010, the video game “Transformers: War of Cybertron” was released and was a well-received by gamers but also video game critics and it was revealed that the upcoming animated series would be set in the same universe as the video game.

And then by November 2010, Hasbro unveiled “Transformers: Prime”, a CG animated television series which would air on The Hub and would first begin with a five-episode mini-series.  And with one season having now been completed in 2011, a second season is set to air in 2012.

And it’s this latest series that has been creating a lot of buzz among fans and viewers.  With the CG animation and slightly darker storyline, the series would go on to win a Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation” for background design and color design.

As many fans have waited for a video release of “Transformers: Prime” and because the series is CG-animated, many have hoped for a Blu-ray release.  And it appears that Shout! Factory has listened to the fans and are releasing “Transformers: Prime – Season One” on Blu-ray in March 2012.   The Blu-ray features  all 26 episodes including the 5-episode “Darkness Rising” mini-series.

A quick summary of “Transformers Prime”

“Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” would take place three years since the Decepticons have lasted attacked Earth and the Autobots have awaited their return.

One day, Arcee and Cliffjumper went to search for Energon near a rock cliff.   But not long after arriving, he is attacked by the Decepticons and in the process, all the Energon is destroyed but Cliffjumper is captured.

Upset about the Energon, Starscream confronts Cliffjumper and kills him.

But by the time Optimus Prime, Arcee, Bumblebee, Ratchet and Bulkhead arrive to help Cliffjumper, they realize they have arrived too late.  But now they know the Decepticons are back and they are the only five Autobots that must defend and protect humankind.

As Arcee goes to town to let off steam after her friend Cliffjumper has died, a human named Jack Darby who works at a burger shop sees a motorcycle (which is Arcee) and hopes to purchase one when he makes enough money.  And as Jack gets on the motorcycle, he is unaware that Decepticons have arrived and are going after Arcee.

So, now Jack is brought into the fray and Starscream wants both Arcee and Jack dead.  But while trying to escape from the Decepticons, two more humans: a young genius named Rafael “Raf” Esquivel and the mouthy foreign exchange student Miko Nakadai see all the action taking place and now their lives are in danger.

Optimus Prime now wants these three to be protected as the Decepticons are after them as they are thought to be assisting the Autobots.

But while Starscream is intent of leading the Decepticons, Megatron, who has been missing for three years, has returned.  And this time, he has Dark Energon and plans t use it to raise an undead army of Cybertronians in order to defeat his nemesis Optimus Prime and the Autobots.

Will five Autobots be enough to defeat Megatron or the Decepticons?

And this leads us to the remaining 20-episodes of the first season of “Transformers Prime”.

The series takes place after the events of “Transformers Prime – Darkness Rising”.  Megatron’s death has now given Starscream a chance to be leader of the Decepticons, but not many of the Decepticons respect him and thus, hope they can revive Megatron by finding Energons on Earth.

Jack, Miko and Raf continue to work with the Autobots, while Agent William Fowler occasionally calls in the Autobots whenever he is in need of help.

But meanwhile, Starscream and his Decepticons is doing all he can to make sure they get the Energons and to find the secret location of where the Autobots are hiding.

As the Autobots take on various new Decepticons who have shown up on Earth, they quickly learn that there are humans, just as dangerous as the Decepticons known as M.E.C.H., a terrorist organization led by Silas who has been in search of “living technology”.

As for Megatron, despite his body being out of commission, he is trying to be revived by his fellow Decepticons, but will the power-hungry Starscream allow it?

And an unforeseen nemesis by the name of Unicron returns.

Which leads us to “Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand”…

Note: If you have watched season one, you may want to skip this summary

At the conclusion of season one, Unicron has been reborn.  But as Megatron is powerless to fight against Unicron and Optimus Prime and the Autobots, surely not being strong to take him on by themselves.  By joining forces, perhaps they will have a chance in fighting back against Unicron.

But with young Raf being injured by Megatron earlier, will Optimus and the Autobots want to help Megatron?

Unfortunately, they have no choice and thus, both Optimus and Megatron must join forces in order to fight against Unicron.  But doing so, comes with a price.

With the Matrix of Leadership being used, Optimus Prime has now lost all memory of being a Prime and his memory has been reset.  Thus making him think he is still the Cybertron data clerk, Orion Pax.  And because Optimus/Orion have been separated away from the Autobots, Megatron is taking advantage of the situation by telling Orion that he is a member of the Decepticons and that the Autobots are the true enemy.

Meanwhile, the Autobots must find a way to rescue Optimus before he is led astray even further by Megatron!

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand” is presented in widescreen format. The CG animation for this film is absolutely wonderful as we can see details on the metal of various robots. You can see scratches on the metal, the reflection of light and also glass windows and the reflection.  From Optimus Prime’s glass windows on his chest showcasing reflections to Megatron’s steel body and also the damage on the overall body of Cliffjumper, I was quite pleased with how this series looks! But also detail is featured in the overall scenery as well.

Bare in mind, having watched “Transformers Prime” on Blu-ray, for videophiles, you will of course see much more detail and clarity when season two is released on Blu-ray (the Unicron season one episodes are now available with “Transformers Prime: Season One”).

But overall, great detail and lighting for this TV series on DVD.

As for audio, dialogue is presented in English and Spanish Dolby Digital stereo and dialogue is clear and understandable. The voice acting is terrific and the fact that voice talent Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (Megatron) of the original “Transformers” animated series are back for this series…Fantastic!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand” comes with the following special feature:

  • A Look at One Shall Stand – (12:12) Jeff Kline, Duane Cappizzi and Steven Melching talked about the challenges but also the preparation that the writing staff had in creating the story of “One Shall Stand”.
  • One Shall Rise, Part 2 – (22:06) Sketch animatics from the episodes featured on “One Shall Stand”..

EXTRAS:

“Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand” comes with a slipcover case.

Is “Transformers Prime” possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet?   I asked this question to “Transformers” fans and I know it’s subjective for every fan that has grown up with “Transformers”.  I grew up with G1 and I know friends who grew up with “Transformers: Beast Wars” and felt that was their best series ever.

But I know I’m among a small group of fans who have grown up with the series back in the ’80s and still have admiration towards the various incarnations of the “Transformers” series, still buy the toys occasionally and are passionate about the storyline and how various studios treat the characters and to not stray too far of what fans have come to love about the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons

While the storylines of “Transformers” tends to change from series to series, the storyline of a battle between Autobots and the Decepticons still remains.  Especially between Optimus Prime vs. Megatron.  And as a father who has a child who is just as passionate as I was growing up with the series, I have to say that for me, “Transformers: Prime” is wonderful series.

By saying that, of course, G1 will always be true to my heart because I loved the amount of characters (especially the amount of toys produced) and several years ago, I gushed about how much I loved “Transformers: Cybertron” because of how many characters were integrated.

With “Transformers: Prime”, I admit that I was weary at first because of the few characters featured.  Similar to “Transformers: The Animated Series”, we had a core group of Autobots and Decepticons but I’m so used to more characters, the merrier.

There is strong sense of quality with the writing for this series and I feel that these later episodes for season 1 and the earlier episodes of season 2 tend to look even better than when the series first started.    And as a “Transformers” fan, when you have someone as powerful as Unicron involved, you know these episodes are going to be exciting.  Especially when Optimus Prime and Megatron must join forces.  That was fascinating but also a story exploring Optimus Prime when he was known as Orion Pax, a data clerk.

There are far too many things (cool things) that happen throughout this seven episode arc and not only is it action-packed and exciting but you really get good character development, especially showing how much the Autobots and their human companions need each other.  How strong their bond is!

So, I absolutely enjoyed these episodes!  But…and there is a but… this applies to fans who grew up with the original series and the first “Transformers” animated movie, and that involves Unicron.  I expected a major battlest against Unicron, something so amazingly difficult and something that was so huge, that it would take many episodes to tell the story.  Unicron is way too powerful and while the storyline arc involving Unicron does work for this series, as a longtime fan, I felt the stories dedicated to Unicron was too short and should have been a major threat than he was featured in this series.

Yes, they talk about how powerful Unicron is but the overall confrontation went too quickly that I would have liked.  But other than that minor criticism, I enjoyed the episodes featured on this DVD.

As for parents who are wondering, “how old should my child be to watch this series?”.  Personally, I would say that as long as they older children, 7 or older at least.

For example, the first episode of this arc has the youngest human friend, Rafael, getting injured in battle and could have died. Granted, there is no way Hasbro would have a child be so injured, let alone die in a series targeted towards people of all ages and many young viewers.  But there is a scene where Jack’s mother, a doctor, had to save Raf’s life by giving him medical attention.  Other than that, the series is child is pretty much accessible for children.  You get the robots fighting with each other, but that’s about the extent of how things get in these episodes.  Nothing too frightening.

And as mentioned earlier, the CG animation for this series is great!  Typically, there are a lot of shortcuts taken on TV series but the creators of the series definitely made sure there was a lot of detail on both the Autobots and Decepticons but also various objects and environments.   So, animation for “Transformers: Prime” was much more than I expected for an animated series but I admit, it is the most ambitious “Transformers” animated series yet but the crew managed to pull it off with great efficacy.

And as for the voice acting, the voice acting is wonderful!   I was surprised was how many big names they brought in to do voices for the characters.  Legendary Optimus Prime voice actor Peter Cullen and legendary Megatron voice actor Frank Welker (“G.I. Joe”, “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends”) are back.  They are joined by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (of WWE fame and “Fast Five”) as Cliffjumper,  Steve Blum (Logan/Wolverine for “X-Men”) as Starscream and Ernie Hudson (“Oz”, “Ghostbusters”) as Agent Fowler.  But for any longtime “Transformers” fan, the fact that Cullen and Welker are back to do the voices for Optimus and Megatron is fantastic!

It’s important to note that this is a seven-episode arc that features the final four episodes of season 1 and the first three episodes of season 2.  These episodes are tied together seamlessly, so it seems as if you are watching a movie.  But If you want the full collection of “Transformers Prime”, season 1 is available on Blu-ray and DVD and when the third season comes out, expect the second season to be released on Blu-ray and DVD as well.

Overall, as a longtime “Transformers” fan, and as a fan who has appreciated every series, “Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand” is an enjoyable DVD featuring the battle against Unicron but also featuring episodes of Optimus Prime losing his memory and reverting back to Orion Pax.    Featuring awesome visual CG graphics with a well-written storyline, as a fan and a father, I felt that the creators of this series did a fantastic job in creating the “Transformers Prime” series that will appeal to the new generation of “Transformers” fans but also many of us who are older but are still young at heart.

If you can’t wait for the “Transformers Prime” season two box set and want to watch these episodes now (which does make a great commuting DVD for the children during summer vacation), then I definitely recommend “Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand”!

Transformers: Prime – Season One – Limited Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet!  “Transformers: Prime” features awesome CG animation, an exciting, action-packed storyline, great voice acting and a wonderful series for the next generation of “Transformers” fans.  But most importantly, this is a series that can be enjoyed by both young and old.  As for the Blu-ray release, awesome bonus content, plenty of audio commentaries that will surely please “Transformers: Prime” fans.  Definitely recommended!

Image courtesy of © Hasbro Studios. All Rights Reserved.

BLU-RAY TITLE: Transformers Prime: Season One – Limited Edition

TV RELEASE DATE: 2011

DURATION: 10 Hours

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p Anamorphic 1:78:1, English 5.1/2.0,

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: TY Y7

DVD RELEASE DATE: March 6, 2012

Directed by David Hartman, Todd Waterman, Vinton Heuck, Shaunt Nigoghossian

Written by Steven Melchin, Nicole Dubuc, Marsha F. Griffin, Joseph Kuhr, Duane Capizzi

Producer: Mandy Safavi, Rafi Ruthchild, Steven Puri

Executive Producer: Stephen Davis, Jeff Kline, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci

Supervising Producer: Duane Capizzi

Animation Producer: Therese Trujillo

Music by Brian Tyler, Matthew Margeson

Edited by Michael William Miles

Casting by Lorena Gallego

Art Direction by David Hartman

Featuring the Voices of:

Sumalee Montano  as Arcee

Kevin Michael Richardson as Bulkhead

Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime

Frank Welker as Megatron

Jeffrey Combs as Ratchet

Tania Gunadi as Miko Nakadai

Josh Keaton as Jack Darby

Andy Pessoa as Rafael “Raf” Esquivel

Steve Blum as Starscream

Ernie Hudson as Agent William Fowler

Markie Post as June Darby

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Cliffjumper

Transformers Primedeepens the epic mythology of both the Autobots and Decepticons, while starting fresh for a new generation of fans. Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Arcee, Ratchet, Bulkhead, and many others are back to “roll out” against Megatron’s latest attempt to conquer Earth. And Megatron proves to be more powerful than ever, having acquired a rare element that allows him mastery over life itself. ‘Team Prime’ may be few against the Decepticon hordes, but they find increased strength via bonds forged with three human teenagers. Make no mistake, Transformers Prime delivers heavy metal action, and nail-biting suspense – but it also takes the human drama to levels as yet unseen by the franchise

Possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet!  “Transformers: Prime” features awesome CG animation, an exciting, action-packed storyline, great voice acting and a wonderful series for the next generation of fans, but most importantly a series that can be enjoyed by young and old.

“Transformers”, the popular entertainment franchise that many generations have grown up with, may it be playing with the toys or watching the animated series back in 1984, playing the video games or reading the comic books.

Needless to say, since the early ’80s, millions have experienced “Transformers”, especially in recent years with the release of film trilogy or the animated series which continues to air on television and of course, the many toys that continue to be popular with collectors and also children.

But within the last three years, fans have watched the animated series known as “Transformers Animated” becoming the latest “Transformers” animated series to be showcased on television beginning in 2007 and would last for three seasons through 2009.

Fans knew that there will be a newer version of the series coming out, but the question is what kind of series?

In 2010, the video game “Transformers: War of Cybertron” was released and was a well-received by gamers but also video game critics and it was revealed that the upcoming animated series would be set in the same universe as the video game.

And then by November 2010, Hasbro unveiled “Transformers: Prime”, a CG animated television series which would air on The Hub and would first begin with a five-episode mini-series.  And with one season having now been completed in 2011, a second season is set to air in 2012.

And it’s this latest series that has been creating a lot of buzz among fans and viewers.  With the CG animation and slightly darker storyline, the series would go on to win a Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation” for background design and color design.

As many fans have waited for a video release of “Transformers: Prime” and because the series is CG-animated, many have hoped for a Blu-ray release.  And it appears that Shout! Factory has listened to the fans and are releasing “Transformers: Prime – Season One” on Blu-ray in March 2012.   The Blu-ray features  all 26 episodes including the 5-episode “Darkness Rising” mini-series.

A quick summary of “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising”

“Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” would take place three years since the Decepticons have lasted attacked Earth and the Autobots have awaited their return.

One day, Arcee and Cliffjumper went to search for Energon near a rock cliff.   But not long after arriving, he is attacked by the Decepticons and in the process, all the Energon is destroyed but Cliffjumper is captured.

Upset about the Energon, Starscream confronts Cliffjumper and kills him.

But by the time Optimus Prime, Arcee, Bumblebee, Ratchet and Bulkhead arrive to help Cliffjumper, they realize they have arrived too late.  But now they know the Decepticons are back and they are the only five Autobots that must defend and protect humankind.

As Arcee goes to town to let off steam after her friend Cliffjumper has died, a human named Jack Darby who works at a burger shop sees a motorcycle (which is Arcee) and hopes to purchase one when he makes enough money.  And as Jack gets on the motorcycle, he is unaware that Decepticons have arrived and are going after Arcee.

So, now Jack is brought into the fray and Starscream wants both Arcee and Jack dead.  But while trying to escape from the Decepticons, two more humans: a young genius named Rafael “Raf” Esquivel and the mouthy foreign exchange student Miko Nakadai see all the action taking place and now their lives are in danger.

Optimus Prime now wants these three to be protected as the Decepticons are after them as they are thought to be assisting the Autobots.

But while Starscream is intent of leading the Decepticons, Megatron, who has been missing for three years, has returned.  And this time, he has Dark Energon and plans t use it to raise an undead army of Cybertronians in order to defeat his nemesis Optimus Prime and the Autobots.

Will five Autobots be enough to defeat Megatron or the Decepticons?

And this leads us to the remaining 20-episodes of the first season of “Transformers: Prime”.

NOTE: The synopsis of episode 6 and forward, may spoil your viewing of the mini-series, so you may not want to read the summary even further.

The series takes place after the events of “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising”.  Megatron’s death has now given Starscream a chance to be leader of the Decepticons, but not many of the Decepticons respect him and thus, hope they can revive Megatron by finding Energons on Earth.

Jack, Miko and Raf continue to work with the Autobots, while Agent William Fowler occasionally calls in the Autobots whenever he is in need of help.

But meanwhile, Starscream and his Decepticons is doing all he can to make sure they get the Energons and to find the secret location of where the Autobots are hiding.

As the Autobots take on various new Decepticons who have shown up on Earth, they quickly learn that there are humans, just as dangerous as the Decepticons known as M.E.C.H., a terrorist organization led by Silas who has been in search of “living technology”.

As for Megatron, despite his body being out of commission, he is trying to be revived by his fellow Decepticons, but will the power-hungry Starscream allow it?

And an unforeseen nemesis by the name of Unicron returns.

VIDEO

“Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Anamorphic).  The CG animation for this film is absolutely wonderful as we can see details on the metal of various robots.  You can see scratches on the metal, the reflection of light and also glass windows and the reflection.  But one thing I want to add is that watching this Blu-ray release, there are details that I never saw on the DVD.  You can actually see particles, dust, smoke much clearly.  You can see scuff marks and even dirt on the robots much more clearer.

The keyword for this Blu-ray release is detail.  Having reviewed the original DVD version, having watched the series on television and now watching it in HD, the colors are vibrant, they pop!  The CG for mountainous terrain, buildings, sunlight, overall surroundings are just incredible for a television animated series.  For one, Polygon in Japan really did a fantastic job with the CG animation but most importantly, as the series progresses, not only does the series get better but there is also an improvement with the overall CG.

From Optimus Prime’s glass windows on his chest showcasing reflections to Megatron’s steel body and also the damage on the overall body of Cliffjumper (and even Optimus Prime during the virus episode), I was quite pleased with how this series looks!   But also the amount of detail that was put into this series.

Many TV Series tend to keep things within their budget, especially with the amount of time they have for production.  But I was quite thrilled to see how the quality but also hearing the enthusiasm of the staff (as heard on the audio commentary) in the production of “Transformers: Prime” and how they listen to their fans.

With that being said, I will say that the series does have its fair share of banding, so videophiles who are expecting pristine quality may be disappointed.  Fortunately, not enough to deter people, as majority of fans and children will probably not care.  Also, these scenes with banding are short and not long.  Typically seen during orange/red backgrounds primarily.

But overall, picture quality is very good.  Plenty of detail can be seen on Blu-ray and the clarity is outstanding but most importantly, black levels are nice and deep and colors are absolutely vibrant!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Transformers Prime: Season One” is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1.  For a series with this much action, I admit that I, personally was hoping to hear a more immersive soundtrack.  But while there are some ambience that can be heard through the surround channels, and some booms that can be heard at times, it’s not as powerful or as immersive as I was hoping for it to be.  The lossless soundtrack does provide crystal clear dialogue and the musical score sounds incredible but the soundtrack does sound very good, moreso during the action sequences.

The voice acting is terrific and the fact that voice talent Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (Megatron) of the original “Transformers” animated series are back for this series…Fantastic!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Transformers: Prime – Season One” comes with the following special features:

Disc One:

  • Audio Commentary

Darkness Rising, Part 1″: Executive Producer Jeff Kline, Hasbro Studios Developer Mike Vogel, Animation Producer Therese Trujillo and Art Director David Hartman

“Darkness Rising, Part 2”: Jeff Kline, Mike Vogel, Therese Trujillo and David Hartman

“Darkness Rising: Part 3”: Hasbro Studios Executive Director Brian Lenard, Actors Tania Gunadi and Ernie Hudson and Art Director José Lopez;

“Darkness Rising, Part 4”: Brian Lenard, Tania Gunadi, Ernie Hudson and José Lopez

“Darkness Rising, Part 5”: Composer Brian Tyler; “Masters and Students”: Production Manager Mathias Dougherty, Animatic Artist Meghan Burleson and Production Assistants Nathan Johnson and Jacob Rivera;

“Scrapheap”: Production Manager Sonya Park, Production Coordinator Meredith Rogers, Production Assistant Kathy Cavanaugh and Post Supervisor Austin Block.

Disc 2:

  • Audio Commentary

 – “Convoy”: Actor Peter Cullen, President of Hasbro Studios Steve Davis, and Producer Rafi Ruthchild

– “Predatory”: Director Todd Waterman and Actors Sumalee Montano and Josh Keaton.

Disc 3:

  • Audio Commentary

“Shadowzone”: Supervising Director David Hartman, Actor Andy Pessoa, Editor Mike Miles, and Bumblebee.

Disc 4:

– “Stronger, Faster”: Actor Jeffrey Combs, Writer Mairghread Scott, and Director Shaunt Nigoghossian

-“One Shall Fall”: Writers Joseph Kuhr and Nicole Dubuc, Director Vinton Heuck, and Character Designer/Prop Designer/Colorist Augusto Barranco

– “One Shall Rise, Part 1”: Nicole Dubuc, Jospeh Kuhr, Vinton Heuck, and Augusto Barranco

– “One Shall Rise, Part 2”: Supervising Producer/Head Writer Duane Capizzi, Staff Writer Marsha Griffin, Supervising Color Designer Christophe Vacher, and Background Design Supervisor Vince Toyama

– “One Shall Rise, Part 3”: Duane Capizi, Staff Writer Steven Melching, Christophe Vacher, and Vince Toyama.

  • Making-Of “Transformers: Prime” – (11:02) A history on the making of “Transformers” and creating a series for a new generation.
  • Toy Featurette – (16:31) A featurette on toy design and the crew talk about what characters they would like to see in the show and creating new ones.
  • Season 2 Teaser – (:20) Second season teaser for “Transformers: Prime”.

EXTRAS:

“Transformers: Prime – Season One- Limited Edition” comes with a slipcase which holds the Blu-ray case and a “Transformers Prime” graphic novel.

Is “Transformers: Prime” possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet?   I know it’s subjective for every fan that has grown up with “Transformers”.  I grew up with G1 and I know friends who grew up with “Transformers: Beast Wars” and felt that was their best series ever.

But I know I’m among a small group of fans who have grown up with the series back in the ’80s and still have admiration towards the various incarnations of the “Transformers” series, still buy the toys occasionally and are passionate about the storyline and how various studios treat the characters and to not stray too far of what fans have come to love about the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons

While the storylines of “Transformers” tends to change from series to series, the storyline of a battle between Autobots and the Decepticons still remains.  Especially between Optimus Prime vs. Megatron.  And as a father who has a child who is just as passionate as I was growing up with the series, I have to say that for me, “Transformers: Prime” is wonderful series.

By saying that, of course, G1 will always be true to my heart because I loved the amount of characters (especially the amount of toys produced) and several years ago, I gushed about how much I loved “Transformers: Cybertron” because of how many characters were integrated.

With “Transformers: Prime”, I admit that I was weary at first because of the few characters featured.  Similar to “Transformers: The Animated Series”, we had a core group of Autobots and Decepticons but I’m so used to more characters, the merrier.

Fortunately, as the series progressed, the series not only provided newer characters (even if they appeared in a standalone episode), but what I loved is the modern progression of the series.  There was a lot of thought that went into the series rather than just creating a series around the toyline.  For example, for the episode “Predatory”, this was unlike any “Transformers” episode I have seen.  It was darker, but it fit the character of Airachnid.

For anyone who remembers her character, she has always been deadly and menacing, but this time around, we get to see how dark this Decepticon was in actually torturing the Autobots.  And how she collected the heads of those she killed, in a very “Predator” (for those old enough to remember the movies) way, as a form of trophy.  I admit that I was surprised that the writers were able to pull it off, considering that “Transformers” is watched by many youngsters.

But there are other stories that were crafted as if they were targeted towards the older crowd, but safe enough that children can watch it.

There is strong sense of quality with the writing for this series and by listening to the audio commentary for each episode, I was amazed.  For one, a lot of the people involved in the making of this series, grew up with “Transformers” and they appreciate and respect the series.  They also mention how fans have had some impact as well, so that is great that they do listen to their fans.  But when it comes to the enthusiasm, you tend to expect guys being more excited about a character but when you listen to the audio commentary, not only are the female voice talent excited, but also the female staff.  They were just as passionate and excited about what they saw onscreen and just mesmerized by various actions and so forth.

I loved hearing that enthusiasm and excitement shared by the staff and it extends to their work for this series.  And speaking of audio commentary, rarely do I watch an episode, listen to the commentary, watch an episode and listen to the audio commentary back-to-back, but with “Transformers: Prime”, I was watching, listening and doing it for every episode with a commentary.  The audio commentary was fantastic and it’s one thing to hear the crew and cast, but for “Transformers fans, to listen and have Peter Cullen involved in an audio commentary track for an animated series is fantastic!

As for parents who are wondering, “how old should my child be to watch this series?”.  Personally, I would say that as long as they older children, 7 or older at least.

For example, the first 5-10 minutes of the first episode of “Transformers: Prime” makes things clear that this is not the same type of series that many of us have grown up with.  This time around, robots…do get killed and destroyed in battle.  And while the humans will never be put in any major life threatening danger for a children’s animated series, still, “Transformers: Prime” definitely has some darker elements.

In “Predatory”, Airachnid sees a camper and looks at the person as her first prey.  In “Speed Metal”, people are drag racing and their are some moments where you felt, wow…is someone going to die?  But of course, no humans are going to die in this series, but as for the robots, you will see death coming to a few.  So, parental guidance is suggested if you have a young child with you, otherwise, the series is quite safe.  And granted, parents may remind their kids to not follow the actions of the three human characters (ie. getting aboard freight trains, breaking into museums, etc.).

As for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned for the special featuers, the audio commentary is fantastic.  A lot of information that a viewer can learn about the actual process of making the series.  While there are some banding issues during some scenes with a lot of red and orange, these scenes are very short and if anything, most people would probably not notice, but for those of us who review Blu-rays or videophiles who really look for it, then you will see it.  I do wish the audio was much more immersive in terms of LFE (subwoofer usage) and more use of audio (ie panning audio or surround sound usage) during the action sequences, but once again, that is me being picky.  Otherwise, the lossless soundtrack is still very good for a TV animated series.

And as mentioned earlier, the CG animation for this series is great!  Typically, there are a lot of shortcuts taken on TV series but the creators of the series definitely made sure there was a lot of detail on both the Autobots and Decepticons but also various objects and environments.   So, animation for “Transformers: Prime” was much more than I expected for an animated series but I admit, it is the most ambitious “Transformers” animated series yet but the crew managed to pull it off with great efficacy.

And as for the voice acting, the voice acting is wonderful!   I was surprised was how many big names they brought in to do voices for the characters.  Legendary Optimus Prime voice actor Peter Cullen and legendary Megatron voice actor Frank Welker (“G.I. Joe”, “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends”) are back.  They are joined by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (of WWE fame and “Fast Five”) as Cliffjumper,  Steve Blum (Logan/Wolverine for “X-Men”) as Starscream and Ernie Hudson (“Oz”, “Ghostbusters”) as Agent Fowler.  But for any longtime “Transformers” fan, the fact that Cullen and Welker are back to do the voices for Optimus and Megatron is fantastic!

For those who purchased “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” on DVD, it’s important to note that the five mini-series episodes featured on this Blu-ray are five episodes and not the combined episodes that would make an uninterrupted movie which was featured in the DVD release.  Also, the special features that were on that DVD, are not included on this Blu-ray release.  So, for those who own “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising”, you definitely want to hang on to it!

Overall, as a longtime “Transformers” fan, and as a fan who has appreciated every series, “Transformers Prime: Season One” is an enjoyable, beautiful and well-acted series.  While I know there are fans who have their preference of which season is their best “Transformers” series, as a fan and a father, I felt that the creators of this series did a fantastic job in creating a series that will appeal to the new generation of “Transformers” fans but also many of us who older but are still young at heart.

As for the Blu-ray release, I found “Transformers: Prime – Season One – Limited Edition” to be a fantastic release especially with the amount of content included.  If you are a fan of “Transformers” or a father who wants to experience the series with their children, I highly recommend “Transformers: Prime Season One” on Blu!

Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising (a J!-ENT Children’s DVD Review)

November 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet!  “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” takes the five-episode mini-series and puts them together to make one film.  Featuring awesome CG animation plus an exciting, action-packed storyline, “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Hasbro Studios. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising

TV AIR DATE: 2011

DURATION: 106 Minutes

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: TY Y7

RELEASE DATE: December 6, 2011

Directed by David Hartman, Todd Waterman, Vinton Heuck, Shaunt Nigoghossian

Written by Steven Melchin, Nicole Dubuc, Marsha F. Griffin, Joseph Kuhr, Duane Capizzi

Producer: Mandy Safavi, Rafi Ruthchild, Steven Puri

Executive Producer: Stephen Davis, Jeff Kline, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci

Supervising Producer: Duane Capizzi

Animation Producer: Therese Trujillo

Music by Brian Tyler, Matthew Margeson

Edited by Michael William Miles

Casting by Lorena Gallego

Art Direction by David Hartman

Featuring the voices of:

Sumalee Montano  as Arcee

Kevin Michael Richardson as Bulkhead

Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime

Jeffrey Combs as Ratchet

Tania Gunadi as Miko Nakadai

Josh Keaton as Jack Darby

Frank Welker as Megatron

Andy Pessoa as Rafael “Raf” Esquivel

Steve Blum as Starscream

Ernie Hudson as Agent William Fowler

Markie Post as June Darby

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Cliffjumper

Transformers Prime deepens the epic mythology of both the Autobots and Decepticons, while starting fresh for a new generation of fans. Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Arcee, Ratchet, Bulkhead, and many others are back to “roll out” against Megatron’s latest attempt to conquer Earth. And Megatron proves to be more powerful than ever, having acquired a rare element that allows him mastery over life itself. ‘Team Prime’ may be few against the Decepticon hordes, but they find increased strength via bonds forged with three human teenagers. Make no mistake, Transformers Prime delivers heavy metal action, and nail-biting suspense – but it also takes the human drama to levels as yet unseen by the franchise.

“Transformers”, the popular entertainment franchise that many generations have grown up with, may it be playing with the toys or watching the animated series back in 1984, playing the video games or reading the comic books.

Needless to say, since the early ’80s, millions have experienced “Transformers”, especially in recent years with the release of film trilogy or the animated series which continues to air on television and of course, the many toys that continue to be popular with collectors and also children.

But within the last three years, fans have watched the animated series known as “Transformers Animated” becoming the latest “Transformers” animated series to be showcased on television beginning in 2007 and would last for three seasons through 2009.

Fans knew that there will be a newer version of the series coming out, but the question is what kind of series?

In 2010, the video game “Transformers: War of Cybertron” was released and was a well-received by gamers but also video game critics and it was revealed that the upcoming animated series would be set in the same universe as the video game.

And then by November 2010, Hasbro unveiled “Transformers: Prime”, a CG animated television series which would air on The Hub and would first begin with a five-episode mini-series.  And with one season having now been completed in 2011, a second season is set to air in 2012.

And it’s this latest series that has been creating a lot of buzz among fans and viewers.  With the CG animation and slightly darker storyline, the series would go on to win a Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation” for background design and color design.

As many fans have waited for a video release of “Transformers: Prime”, fortunately, Shout! Factory has decided to release “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising”, a year after its premiere.    The DVD would featuring all five-episodes combined to make an uninterrupted movie.

“Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” would take place three years since the Decepticons have lasted attacked Earth and the Autobots have awaited their return.

One day, Arcee and Cliffjumper went to search for Energon near a rock cliff.   But not long after arriving, he is attacked by the Decepticons and in the process, all the Energon is destroyed but Cliffjumper is captured.

Upset about the Energon, Starscream confronts Cliffjumper and kills him.

But by the time Optimus Prime, Arcee, Bumblebee, Ratchet and Bulkhead arrive to help Cliffjumper, they realize they have arrived too late.  But now they know the Decepticons are back and they are the only five Autobots that must defend and protect humankind.

As Arcee goes to town to let off steam after her friend Cliffjumper has died, a human named Jack Darby who works at a burger shop sees a motorcycle (which is Arcee) and hopes to purchase one when he makes enough money.  And as Jack gets on the motorcycle, he is unaware that Decepticons have arrived and are going after Arcee.

So, now Jack is brought into the fray and Starscream wants both Arcee and Jack dead.  But while trying to escape from the Decepticons, two more humans: a young genius named Rafael “Raf” Esquivel and the mouthy foreign exchange student Miko Nakadai see all the action taking place and now their lives are in danger.

Optimus Prime now wants these three to be protected as the Decepticons are after them as they are thought to be assisting the Autobots.

But while Starscream is intent of leading the Decepticons, Megatron, who has been missing for three years, has returned.  And this time, he has Dark Energon and plans t use it to raise an undead army of Cybertronians in order to defeat his nemesis Optimus Prime and the Autobots.

Will five Autobots be enough to defeat Megatron or the Decepticons?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” is presented in widescreen format.  The CG animation for this film is absolutely wonderful as we can see details on the metal of various robots.  You can see scratches on the metal, the reflection of light and also glass windows and the reflection.

From Optimus Prime’s glass windows on his chest showcasing reflections to Megatron’s steel body and also the damage on the overall body of Cliffjumper, I was quite pleased with how this series looks!   But also detail is featured in the overall scenery as well.

While I do feel the robots are much better looking than the humans, in terms of detail and overall look, I do like the characters designs on the three human characters, it just that they look a bit rubbery for me.

But overall, great detail and lighting for this TV series for DVD and hopefully Shout! Factory will consider giving “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” the HD treatment in the near future.

As for audio, dialogue is presented in English and Spanish Dolby Digital stereo and dialogue is clear and understandable.  The voice acting is terrific and the fact that voice talent Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (Megatron) of the original “Transformers” animated series are back for this series…Fantastic!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Transformers Prime: Darkness Rising” comes with the following special feature:

  • A Look at Character Design – (5:00) Character design sketches for “Transformers Prime”.
  • A Look at Set Design – (4:31) Featuring the sketches and finalized backgrounds and set design for “Transformers Prime”.
  • Animatic for Episode 1 – (22:07) Sketch animatics for episode 1.

EXTRAS:

“Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” comes with a slipcover case.

Is “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet!  Well, I know that question is quite subjective but in terms of overall look and storyline, this latest series is action-packed and definitely will captivate viewers of all ages.

While the storylines of “Transformers” tends to change from series to series, the storyline of a battle between Autobots and the Decepticons still remains.  Especially Optimus Prime vs. Megatron… And with every new series, you often wonder how the writers will keep the series fresh, especially for every new generation that has just become a Transformers fan.

I’ve literally grown up with the series, collected the toys and then to watch my son become a Transformers fan (his first was “Transformers: Cybertron” followed by Shout! Factory’s awesome release of the original series on DVD) and now watching him enjoy “Transformers: Prime”.

With this latest series, what I enjoy about it is that there are not so many robots thrown into each episode.  Several years ago,  “Transformers: Cybertron”, an animated series that would throw in so many robots and while it was great for the toyline, with so many characters, it could get a bit confusing.

This time around, going by a similar theme of the previous”Transformers Animated” series, the series focuses on five primary Autobots and staying with the recurring theme of humans who go on to help the group in someway or form.

But the first 5-10 minutes of “Transformers: Prime” makes things clear that this is not the same type of series that many of us have grown up with.  This time around, robots…do get killed and destroyed in battle.  And while the humans will never be put in any major life threatening danger for a children’s animated series, still, “Transformers: Prime” definitely has some darker elements.

And as mentioned earlier, the CG animation for this series is great!  Typically, there are a lot of shortcuts taken on TV series but the creators of the series definitely made sure there is a lot of detail on both the Autobots and Decepticons but also various objects and environments.   So, it was more than I expected for an animated series as “Transformers: Prime” is possible the most ambitious animated series yet.

In fact, the acting is also well done for this series and what I was surprised was how many big names they brought in to do voices for the characters.  Legendary Optimus Prime voice actor Peter Cullen and legendary Megatron voice actor Frank Welker (“G.I. Joe”, “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends”) are back.  They are joined by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (of WWE fame and “Fast Five”) as Cliffjumper,  Steve Blum (Logan/Wolverine for “X-Men”) as Starscream and Ernie Hudson (“Oz”, “Ghostbusters”) as Agent Fowler.  But for any longtime “Transformers” fan, the fact that Cullen and Welker are back to do the voices for Optimus and Megatron is fantastic!

But the series definitely sets the storyline for the exciting first season of “Transformers: Prime” (which I hope Shout! Factory releases on DVD as well).

Overall, If you haven’t caught the five episode mini-series before or are not familiar with the latest “Transformers” animated series, I highly recommend “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising”. It’s full of action, excitement and it looks so darn awesome!  And for me, it’s possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet!

And because this DVD is coming out right in time before the children’s winter vacation, if you’re looking for a safe DVD to keep your kids occupied during a long commute or for their vacation, or you are an adult who is young at heart and is still passionate for this long-running “Transformers” franchise, “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” is definitely recommended!

Be Cool (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The sequel to “Get Shorty”, “Be Cool” comes nowhere near the quality of the first film.  But for a popcorn comedy film, “Be Cool” has plenty of stars, plenty of music and for the most part, ends up being a fun film.  If you are looking for a comedy on Blu-ray, don’t hesitate in giving “Be Cool” a try.

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Images courtesy of ©2005 Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Be Cool

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2005

DURATION: 120 minutes

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

RATED: PG-13 (Violence, Sensuality and Language Including Sexual References)

COMPANY: Jersey Films/Twentieth Century Fox/MGM

RELEASE DATE: July 5, 2011

Directed by F. Gary

Based on the novel by Elmore Leonard

Screenplay by Peter Steinfeld

Produced by Danny De Vito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher

Executive Producer: F. Gary Gray, Elmore Leonard, Michael Siegel

Associate Producer: Anson Downes

Music by John Powell

Cinematography by Jeffrey L. Kimball

Edited by Sheldon Kahn

Casting by Sheila Jaffe, Georgianne Walken

Production Design by Michael Corenblith

Art Direction by Lauren E. Polizzi, Dan Webster

Set Decoration by Denise Pizzini

Costume Design by Mark Bridges, Betsy Heimann

Starring:

John Travolta as Chili Palmer

Uma Thurman as Edie Athens

Vince Vaughn as Raji

Cedric the Entertainer as Sin LaSalle

Andre Benjamin as Dabu

Steven Tyler as Himself

Robert Pastorelli as Joe Loop

Christina Milian as Linda Moon

Paul Adelstein as Hy Gordon

Debi Mazar as Maria

Gergory Alan Williams as Darryl

Harvey Keitel as Nick Carr

Dwayne Johnson as Elliot Wilhelm

Danny De vito as Martin Weir

James Woods as Tommy Athens

Wyclef Jean asHimself

Fred Durst as Himself

Sergio Mendes as Himself

Gene Simmons as Hismself

RZA as Himself

Joe Perry as Himself

Anna Nicole Smith as Herself

Be Cool is the wildly hilarious tale about a gangster turned music mogul and what it takes to be number one with a bullet. When Chili Palmer (Travolta) decides to try his hand in the music industry, he romances thesultry widow (Thurman) of a recently whacked music exec, poaches a hot young singer (Christina Milian) from a rival label and discovers that the record industry is packin’ a whole lot more than a tune!

With the success of the 1990 Elmore Leonard novel and the 1995 film “Get Shorty”, there was no doubt that Leonard’s sequel would be made.

With many of Leonard’s stories being made to films from “3:10 to Yuma” and “The Tall T” and the TV series “Justified”, the gangster film “Get Shorty” was a box office success and also received nominations in the American Film Institute’s “AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Laughs” but also “AFI’s  10 Top 10”.

To preface a little about what “Get Shorty” was all about, the film focused on a Miami Loan Shark named Chili Palmer (played by John Travolta) who clashes with another mobster. In the film, Palmer meets with an actor named Martin Weir (played by Danny DeVito) to star in his life story.    In the film, Palmer is supposed to collect a lot of money but because of his movie ambitions, people want their money back and end up pursuing each other.

This now leads to “Be Cool”, a comedy film produced by Danny De Vito and directed by F. Gary Gray (“The Italian Job”, “Law Abiding Citizen”, “The Negotiator”, “Friday”) and a loosely based screenplay adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel by Peter Steinfeld (“21”, “Analyze That”, “Drowning Mona”).

In “Be Cool”, Chili Palmer (Travolta) has become a successful producer in Hollywood while Weir (DeVito) has become a popular actor.  Seeing how Weir has become a star has made Chili a bit disenchanted with Hollywood and talks about how he may want to return to the loanshark lifestyle.

Meanwhile his friend, music producer, Tommy Athens (played by James Woods) asks if Chili can produce a film about his life of resurrecting a record company through a wonderful talented younger singer named Linda Moon (played by Christina Milian).

Chili feels that before he can even consider a film, he needs to know more about the details.  So, when Palmer goes to the bathroom for a brief moment, someone drives by Athens, comes out of the car and guns him down.

When Chili goes to check out who did it, he sees a man with a toupee.  The man tries to kill Chili, because saw the man’s face but he runs out of bullets and escapes.

Tommy Athens murder leads to a few related storylines.

Chili goes to check out this Linda Moon at a club and learns that she can sing!  When he talks to her, he learns that she signed with Nick Carr (played by Harvey Keitel) and  that her naivety of being a star led her signing a contract and now she is forced to sing in dumps by Carr’s employee Roger “Raji” Lowenthall (played by Vince Vaughn), a white man who talks like a Black man and his muscular gay bodyguard Elliot Wilhelm who desperately wants to be an actor (played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson).

Tired of seeing how Raji treats Linda, Chili tells him immediately that she is no longer with Nick Carr and that she is now being managed by him.  When Elliot tries to fight, Chili tells him that he can help him get an audition and in the process, Chili pretends he knocks out Elliot (which Elliot acts as if one punch to the necks puts him out).  But with Elliot, now he is expecting Chili to hook him up and get an audition.

Due to the change of circumstances of his life, Chili has now decided to get into music.  Chili goes to visit his friend’s widow Edie Athens (played by Uma Thurman), part owner of NTL Records and talks to her about working together and making this singer, which Tommy believed in, a star.

While talking about Linda Moon and what is needed to make her a star, Edie talks about her tattoo of Aerosmith and how at one time she knew the band, especially Steven Tyler.  This gives Chili an idea of possibly getting Aerosmith to help them out.

Meanwhile, as Chili and Edie work on making Linda Moon a star, another storyline develops with gangster/producer Sin LaSalle (played by Cedric the Entertainer).  It appears that Athens owed LaSalle $300,000 and with him dead, he is intent in collecting the money from Edie and NTL Records.  LaSalle and his boys go to NTL Records to collect their money (which Edie has found out, there is no more money) but with quick thinking, Chili tells them that he will get them their money by the end of the week.

In another storyline, Nick Carr (Keitel) is upset that Chili has assumed that he can take Linda Moon away from him and so, they hire an assassin to kill Chili.  Unfortunately, the assassin ends up killing is a Russian mafia member who was planning to kill Chili and now the Russian mafia wants revenge.

With all that’s going on with Chili Palmer’s life, will he and Edie make Linda Moon a star?  And will he be able to get the money and save NTL Records, but most importantly, with people wanting to kill him, will he live by the end of the day?

VIDEO:

“Be Cool” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:40:1).  Picture quality for the film is absolutely vibrant.  There are plenty of colors seen through the film but also detail galore.  Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.  I didn’t notice any blemishes, artifacting or any problems with the film whatsoever.  The film looks great on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Be Cool” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Surround and French 5.1 DTS HD.  While the film is dialogue-driven, it’s also musically driven and from scenes with Linda Moon singing, to ambiance of hip-hop playing in Dabu and friend’s Humvee’s, Aerosmith playing live in concert to the Black Eyed Peas playing at club, music is what envelops the soundscape and utilizes the surround channels.

There are action sequences with gun shots or an aluminum bat coming into play and other ambiance as Chili and Edie going to a Lakers games but the film will be recognized for its music soundtrack and there is plenty of music being played throughout the film.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Be Cool” comes with the following special features:

  • Be Cool, Very Cool Making-Of Documentary – (21:36) Making of the film and cast talking about the various characters in the film and how cool Chili Palmer is throughout the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – (17:31) A total of 14 deleted and extended scenes.
  • Gag Reel – (7:20) Outtakes from “Be Cool”.
  • Music Video” The Rock as Elliot Wilhelm, “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man” – (4:07) As Director F. Gary Gray would say, things that one would not want to do in music video.
  • John and Uma’s Dance Sequence – (3:35) The making of the dance sequence of Chili and Edie.
  • Close Up: The Rock – (6:01) Director F. Gary Gray talks about casting The Rock as the gay Elliot Wilhelm.
  • Close Up: Andre 3000 – (4:24) Director F. Gary Gray talks about casting Andre 3000 Benjamin (from the hip hop duo Outkast) and giving him a role in the film.
  • Close Up: Cedric the Entertainer – (5:26) Director F. Gary Gray talks about how he wanted Cedric to play a bad, comedy man.
  • Close Up: Christina Milian – (5:26) Director F. Gary Gray talks about how the role of Linda Moon was the most difficult to cast and how Christina Milian got the part.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:03) The theatrical trailer for “Be Cool”.

When “Be Cool” came out in theaters back  in 2005, I figured that it would be the 10th anniversary of “Get Shorty” and it would be a pretty dark, comedy about Chili Palmer and the world he lives in.

“Be Cool” turned out to be a comedy which features plenty of stars, many cameos and a storyline that is fun but nowhere near the quality of its predecessor.

If there is one thing that the film does right, it’s the fact that Chili Palmer retains his cool from beginning to end, he is unfazed.  But then the film tries to incorporate so many stars that it tries to capture the Hollywood and Los Angeles lifestyle and like many other films which tries to incorporate a plethora of stars, it becomes the film’s focus and sure, it may work for some people but for those who are familiar with “Get Shorty”, especially those who are familiar with Elmore Leonard’s novel of “Be Cool”, the film becomes less about Chili Palmer and more about everyone else.

We have Vince Vaughn playing a white guy who talks Black, the Rock playing a gay bodyguard who is sensitive of people calling him a queer and yet singing in a silk cowboy outfit “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man”, you have the Black Eyed Peas in the film to provide Chili and Edie’s dance theme (which does not achieve the same or similar efficacy as their dance scene in “Pulp Fiction”) and characters after characters that are thrown in to the mix to make the film more appealing and cool to different audiences but in the long run, it just doesn’t work.

And now the good news…what I mentioned above, could also be the positive for many viewers.  Forget “Get Shorty” and look at this film as a popcorn comedy film with a lot of talent and stars.  Heck, there is so much music being played in the film, the filmmakers even manage to pull of filming scenes during an actual Los Angeles Lakers game.

And for me, compared to other films that try to throw in a lot of stars like “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” or “Valentine’s Day” that were not that great, “Be Cool” is a much more entertaining film.

When you think about it, you Travolta playing a cool character, Uma Thurman looking fantastic, Cedric the Entertainer as bad boy, The Rock as a gay man and Vince Vaughn trying to be Black, that makes for a fun comedy.  Not a great film but a good popcorn comedy film.

And its important to note that anyone who hasn’t seen “Get Shorty” can easily get into this film.  Watching the original film is not essential but if you do, you’ll see how the original is much better than this sequel.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture and audio quality were pretty solid for this catalog release and the film has a good number of special features as well.

Overall, “Be Cool” comes nowhere close to the efficacy of “Get Shorty” but it does manage to feature plenty of stars, plenty of music and in the end, makes for a fun popcorn comedy film on Blu-ray.

"Buy From BN.com" button 90x28 " #3


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FAST FIVE on DVD, On Demand & Blu-ray with Second Screen on 10/4/11

July 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

BUCKLE UP FOR AN ADRENALINE-PUMPING HEIST
FROM THE EXPLOSIVE FRANCHISE BUILT ON SPEED
STARRING VIN DIESEL, PAUL WALKER, DWAYNE JOHNSON
AND A REUNION OF RETURNING ALL-STARS IN

FAST FIVE

Including Never-Before-Seen Extended Edition and
Universal’s All-New Second Screen Feature Available Exclusively on Blu-ray™
On Blu-ray™ and DVD Combo Packs, DVD and Digital Download

From Universal Studios Home Entertainment
October 4, 2011

“The Best of the Series!” – Richard Corliss, TIME

Universal City, California (July 26 2011)—Spectacular street chases and pulse-pounding physical action are set against the mesmerizing beauty of Rio de Janeiro’s exotic thoroughfares in Fast Five, the most successful installment of the Fast & Furious franchise. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker lead a reunion of returning all-stars from every chapter of the phenomenally successful franchise built on speed plus action superstar Dwayne Johnson (Faster) in the all-new action caper available October 4, 2011 on Blu-ray™ and DVD Combo Packs, DVD, Digital Download and On Demand.

Available for a limited time only, the Blu-ray™ and DVD Combo Packs bring the full-throttle excitement of the ultimate Fast Five experience to the screen with perfect picture and the purest digital sound available on Blu-ray™, as well as an extended edition of the film with even more explosive action, exclusive bonus features, a DVD to enjoy in the car or on the go, and a Digital Copy of the film that can be downloaded and viewed on an array of electronic and portable devices anytime, anywhere including laptops, tablets, and smartphones as well as Internet-connected TVs and Blu-ray™ set top boxes. Debuting on the Fast Five Blu-ray™ is Universal’s Second Screen, an all-new app for tablets and computers that provides an innovative and interactive viewing experience. To preview Universal’s all-new Second Screen for Fast Five visit http://preview.tinyurl.com/UniSecondScreenF5preview.

Packed with mind-blowing stunts, high-octane thrills and unprecedented automotive wizardry, Fast Five reunites cast members from all four previous chapters of the blockbuster franchise, reprising their roles as the most daring gang of outlaw drivers to ever get behind the wheel, while a relentless FBI agent (Dwayne Johnson) does whatever it takes to them bring down. Director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) takes the wheel of this all-star reunion as Diesel and Walker reprise their iconic roles as Dom Toretto, the king of the street racers, and former cop Brian O’Conner, now Dom’s partner-in-crime, while Johnson rides shotgun for the first time ever as Federal agent Luke Hobbs. Fast Five also brings back several popular franchise stars including Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Sung Kang, Tego Calderon, Don Omar, Elsa Pataky, Gal Gadot and Matt Schulze in a story fueled by gear-grinding action, hairpin plot twists and vehicular mayhem set to a driving hip-hop and Latin soundtrack.

BLU-RAY™ EXCLUSIVE BONUS FEATURES:

· DOM VS. HOBBS: Watch how the action-packed showdown was shot

· ON SET WITH DIRECTOR JUSTIN LIN: Go behind the scenes of Fast Five with director Justin Lin

· INSIDE THE VAULT CHASE: Learn how they filmed the movie’s most dangerous sequence

· TYRESE TV: Go behind the scenes of Fast Five with Tyrese Gibson

· NEW! pocket BLU™ VERSIONS FOR TABLETS AND COMPUTERS, FEATURING UNIVERSAL’S SECOND SCREEN

o The popular free pocket BLU™ app for smartphones is now even better with newly updated versions for iPad®, Android™ tablets, PC, and Macintosh computers, with features made especially to take advantage of the devices’ larger screens and high resolution displays. And with UNIVERSAL’S SECOND SCREEN, enjoy an innovative and interactive viewing experience, that lets you control, interact and explore Fast Five with groundbreaking new features right on your tablet or computer, in synchronization with the movie on your television screen! While the movie plays, you’ll experience features such as:

§ Take Control 2.0: Step inside the movie with Director Justin Lin, as he takes control of your Blu-ray player and gives you an all-access, in-depth look at how the movie was made.

§ Virtual Car Garage: Get an up-close inspection of the hot cars, moving models of the cars in a 360 degree view, check out tech specs and more with a touch of your finger

§ Scene Explorer: Ever wish you could see how your favorite special effects sequences were created? Select various progressions of the same scene from storyboards to daily cuts right from your couch and see how they pulled off the incredible action of the film.

§ Picture in Picture: The cast and crew share stories about the movie right from your tablet or computer, in synchronization to the scene being played.

§ The Music of Fast Five: Tap your fingers to find out what song is playing, create your own playlist, and even purchase the songs right from your device!

· pocket BLU™: The groundbreaking pocket BLU™ app uses iPad®, iPhone®, iPod® touch, Android™ smartphones and tablets, PC and Mac® to work seamlessly with a network-connected Blu-ray™ player. Consumers will be able to browse through a library of Blu-ray™ content and watch entertaining extras on-the-go in a way that’s bigger and better than ever before. pocket BLU™ offers advanced features such as:

o DIGITAL COPY: Now, Users have a whole new way to redeem their Digital Copy of the movie right from within the pocket BLU app! With a simple three step process, the movie begins downloading instantly to their portable device to take with them anywhere!

o ADVANCED REMOTE CONTROL: A sleek, elegant new way to operate your Blu-ray™player. Users can navigate through menus, playback and BD-Live™ functions with ease

o VIDEO TIMELINE: Users can easily bring up the video timeline, allowing them to instantly access any point in the film

o MOBILE-TO-GO: Users can unlock a selection of bonus content with their Blu-ray™ discs to save to their device or to stream from anywhere there is a Wi-Fi network, enabling them to enjoy content on the go, anytime, anywhere

o BROWSE TITLES: Users will have access to a complete list of pocket BLU™-enabled titles available and coming to Blu-ray™ Hi-Def. They can view free previews and see what additional content is available to unlock on their device

o KEYBOARD: Entering data is fast and easy with your device’s intuitive keyboard

· BD-LIVE™ – Access the BD-Live™ Center through your Internet-connected player to access the latest trailers, exclusive content, and more!

· uHEAR™: Never miss another line of dialogue with this innovative feature that instantly skips back a few seconds on your Blu-ray™ disc and turns on the subtitles to highlight what you missed

Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and dvd combo pack exclusive:

· DIGITAL COPY: In addition to redeeming a Digital Copy of the movie through the pocket BLU™ app, Viewers can also download a digital version of the full-length movie from participating digital retailers to enjoy on a choice of popular electronic and portable devices.

Blu-ray™ and dvd BONUS FEATURES:

· DELETED SCENES

· GAG REEL

· DOM’S JOURNEY: Track Vin Diesel’s legendary character from the beginning

· BRIAN O’CONNER: FROM FED TO CON: Follow Paul Walker’s character as he goes from lawman to outlaw

· ENTER FEDERAL AGENT HOBBS: Meet Dom & Brian’s toughest nemesis yet

· FEATURE COMMENTARY WITH DIRECTOR JUSTIN LIN

SYNOPSIS
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker head up an all-star reunion of the explosive Fast franchise set in sultry Rio de Janeiro. Former cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker, Fast & Furious, Takers) and his girlfriend Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster, Fast & Furious, “Dallas”) bust Mia’s brother Dom (Vin Diesel, Fast & Furious, The Chronicles of Riddick) out of prison, blasting across South America to elude the authorities. Finding themselves backed into a corner in Brazil, they assemble an elite team of top racers to help pull off the one last job that could mean freedom for them all. But hard-nosed federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, Faster, The Other Guys) is hot on their trail, and so is a corrupt and powerful businessman who wants them dead. When Hobbs and his strike force launch an all-out assault to capture the Torettos and their team, he can’t separate the good guys from the bad. Instead, he must rely on his instincts to corner his prey…before someone else runs them down first.

CAST AND FILMMAKERS:
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Sung Kang, Tego Calderon, Don Omar, Elsa Pataky, Gal Gadot, Matt Schulze
Directed By: Justin Lin
Screenplay By: Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson
Executive Producers: Amanda Lewis, Samantha Vincent
Producers: Vin Diesel, Michael Fottrell, Neal H. Moritz
Director of Photography: Stephen F. Windon
Production Designer: Peter Wenham
Edited By: Kelly Matsumoto, Fred Raskin, Christian Wagner
Casting By: Deborah Zane
Costume Designer: Sanja Milkovic Hays
Original Music By: Brian Tyler

TECHNICAL INFORMATION

BLU-RAY™
Street Date: October 4, 2011
Copyright: 2011 Universal Studios
Selection Number: Blu-ray Combo Pack: 61119120
Running Time: 2 hours, 12 minutes
Layers: BD-50
Picture Format: Widescreen
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content and language
Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Sound: English DOLBY DIGITAL 5.1 / DD DVS 2.0, French-Canadian and Spanish DTS Surround 5.1

DVD
Street Date: October 4, 2011
Copyright: 2011 Universal Studios
Selection Number: DVD: 61115623; DVD Combo Pack: 61119536
Running Time: 2 hours, 12 minutes
Layers: Dual Layer
Picture Format: Anamorphic Widescreen
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content and language
Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Sound: English DOLBY DIGITAL 5.1 / DD DVS 2.0, Spanish and French-Canadian DOLBY DIGITAL 5.1

www.fastfivemovie.com

Universal Studios Home Entertainment is a unit of Universal Pictures, a division of Universal Studios (www.universalstudios.com). Universal Studios is a part of NBCUniversal , one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production and marketing of entertainment, news and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group and world-renowned theme parks. Comcast Corporation owns a controlling 51% interest in NBCUniversal, with GE holding a 49% stake.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson joins the cast of “G.I. Joe”

June 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Do you smell what the Rock is cookin’?

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson tweeted the following photo from his blog with a tweet that says “It’s Official: Call the Pentagon, get me my big ass gun – Rocks a JOE!”.

We’re guessing Roadblock but nevertheless, The Rock is the third WWE superstar to be part of G.I. Joe.  Previously, Sgt. Slaughter and even Roddy Rowdy Piper were part of the toy-line up and now, we’re sure that The Rock is going to be immortalized in plastic 3 3/4 style!

Yo Joe!

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

February 16, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Dwayne Johnson makes his return to action films with “Faster”.  Violent, gritty and high on adrenaline, if you are looking for a Dwayne Johnson, kick-ass popcorn action flick, “Faster” is definitely for you!

Images courtesy of © 2010 CBS Films Inc. and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Faster

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2010

DURATION: 98 Minutes

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

COMPANY: CBS Films/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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

RELEASE DATE: March 1, 2011

Directed by George Tillman Jr.

Written by Tony Gayton, Joe Gayton

Produced by Tony Gayton, Liz Glotzer, Martin Shafer, Robert Teitel

Executive Produced by Joe Gayton, Dara Weintraub

Music by Clint Mansell

Cinematography by Michael Grady

Edited by Dirk Westervelt

Casting by Sarah Finn

Production Design by David Lazan

Art Direction by Andrew Murdock

Set Decoration by Jan Pascale

Costume Design by Salvador Perez Jr.

Starring:

Dwayne Johnson as Driver

Mauricio Lopez as Prison Guard

Jim Gaines as Inmate

Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Killer

Tom Berenger as Warden

Jan Hoag as Receptionist

Courtney Gains as Telemarketer

Adewale Akinnuoye–Agbaje as the Evangelist

Billy Bob Thornton as Cop

Moon Bloodgood as Marina

Aedin Mincks as Tommy

Michael Irb as Vaquero

Josh Clark as Uniform

Carla Gugino as Cicero

Mike Epps as Roy Grone

Maggie Grace as Lily

Sidney S. Liufau as Kenny

After 10 years in prison, Driver (Dwayne Johnson) has focused on one thing – hunting down the people responsible for brutally murdering his brother. Now a free man with a terrifying purpose, he sets out to find and kill all those on his list. But on his heals are two men who will do anything to stop him – a veteran cop (Billy Bob Thornton) and a hitman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who finds his match in this worthy opponent. Now, the hunter is also the hunted.


Trailer


In 2011, Dwayne Johnson (“The Scorpion King”, “The Other Guys”, “Race to Witch Mountain”) made his action film comeback with “Faster” directed by George Tillman Jr. (“Barbershop” films) and written by Tony and Joe Gayton (“Bulletproof”, “Uncommon Valor”, “Sweet Jane”).

Starring alongside Johnson are Billy Bob Thornton (“Sling Blade”, “Armageddon”, “Monster’s Ball”), Carla Gugino (“Watchmen”, “Sin City”, “Night at the Museum”), Moon Bloodgood (“Terminator Salvation”, “Eight Below”, “Pathfinder”), Oliver Jackson-Cohen (“Going the Distance”), Maggie Grace (“Lost”, “Taken”, “Knight and Day”), Tom Berenger (“Platoon”, “Inception”, “Training Day”), Jennifer Carpenter (“Dexter”, “Quarantine”) and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (“Lost”, “G.I. Joe”, “The Bourne Identity”).

“Faster” is an action film that focuses on the storyline of four characters.  The primary character and storyline revolves around driver (played by Dwayne Johnson) and other multiple storylines featuring the cop (played by Billy Bob Thornton), the detective (played by Carla Gugino) and the killer played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen).

The film begins with Driver (played by Dwayne Johnson) in prison.  Having spent ten years in prison, he is released by the warden (played by Tom Berenger) in hopes that when released, he will be a better person.

The first thing that Driver does, when he gets out of prison is to go to a junkyard where a car, a gun and a sheet with a list of names and addresses.  Driver then heads to an office full of workers, spots a guy and shoots him in the head with a camera right on him.

Investigating the case are Detective Cicero (played by Carla Gugino) and Cop (played by Billy Bob Thornton).  Cop has ten more days until retirement but he’s also addicted to drugs, meanwhile Cicero is not so happy that she has to share this case with Cop but both must work together.  Cop also has to deal with his wife Marina (played by Moon Bloodgood), who he is having marriage problems with and has a difficult time of not being there for his son Tommy (played by Aedin Mincks).

We are introduced to the Killer (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who is a man who thrives on competition and when he’s beaten it, he moves on to different things.  He is a man who has accumulated wealth but since he was successful in that endeavor, he moved on to become a killer.    He is deeply in love with Lily (who is as great in shooting firearms as Killer).   Killer has received a new job, to eliminate Driver and also the same men that is on Driver’s list.

Meanwhile, we learn through a video of why Driver was sent to prison and why he has a scar on his face.  Driver was the driver of the getaway car for his brother and his friends that stole some money.  When they retreated to a safehouse, another group had come in and shot them, while tying both Driver and his brother in a chair in hopes that they will reveal where the stolen money was hidden.  Driver had a chance to see the five people from the other group and watch as one of them slit his brother’s neck after he had revealed the location of the money.  Driver was then shot in the head (the bullet exited from his cheek) by someone and was dead for a little while until he was revived and his shattered skull was repaired with a metal plate.  Someone from the group recorded the whole murder and the video is now being viewed by the Detective and Cop.

Meanwhile, Driver goes for the second person on his list… An older man who looks harmless.  While the older man has a teenager helping him out by carrying his groceries, he puts a drug in her drink which knocks her out.  The older man is revealed to be the man who videotaped the whole incident of what took place that day when Driver was shot and his brother was killed.  As Driver goes to the apartment complex where the old man is staying, right outside the complex is Killer.  Killer has decided that after he eliminates Driver, he wants to marry Lily and have a family with her and end his business of killing people.

This leads to a cat and mouse game as Driver is determined to kill everyone on that list, people who were involved in killing his brother and his friends and shooting him.  While, Killer goes after the same people, working for a mysterious client and determined in killing Driver, so he can get on with his life and get married.  Meanwhile, hoping to stop both men are Detective Cicero and Cop.

VIDEO:

“Faster” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1).  The film looks absolutely gorgeous in HD!  Plenty of details can be seen throughout this film, from the detail and textures of the skin pores of every character during closeups, facial hair on the guys, detail on the guns, detail on surroundings, what you would expect from a recent film, “Faster” looks awesome!  There is detail from the sweat and blood all over Driver, the detail of the firearms, the vehicles, you name it, the detail is what comes through in this Blu-ray release.

Outdoor scenes are colorful and vibrant, blacks are nice and deep, I saw no signs of any dust particles, artifacting, banding, DNR, edge enhancement or aliasing whatsoever.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Faster” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and the lossless soundtrack is also awesome!  Driver’s luger packs a punch and when he and Killer are exchanging fire, audio was well utilized through the surround channels and definitely bringing an immersive soundtrack to the viewer.  And this happens quite a bit throughout the film as there is quite a bit of gunfire, cars speeding up and burning rubber and hearing the tires shriek, automobile crashes and hearing the metal crunching, bullets ricocheting off metal.

Overall, a pretty good use of surround and LFE.  Granted, it’s not as active as “Quantum of Solace” but it’s still features a solid lossless soundtrack and fans of this film should enjoy hearing it in lossless.

Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Faster” comes with the following special features (presented in high definition, English stereo and optional English subtitles):

  • PS3 Theme – If you have a PS3 theme, you can get a grayish theme with Dwayne Johnson holding his gun.
  • movieIQ®+sync – If you’re Blu-ray is connected to the Internet, you can pull up info. on the film realtime.
  • Alternate Ending with Director’s Introduction – (12:42) The original ending to “Faster” that didn’t do well during the test screening.  Some may like this ending more than the final cut, I did like it…but I enjoyed the final cut ending more.  There is a different outcome to the ending of the film.  Featuring an optional introduction by director George Tillman Jr.
  • Deleted Scenes with Director’s Introductions – (7:54) Featuring five deleted scenes with optional introductions by director George Tillman Jr.
  • Criminals & Cops: The Cast of Faster – (12:12) Featuring an interview with director George Tillman Jr. and the cast of “Faster”.
  • Weapons and Wheels: The Guns, Cars and Stunts of Faster – (11:54) A featurette featuring the weapons, cars and stunts used on “Faster”.
  • Animatics – (12:22) Featuring the storyboard and pre-rendered CG storyboards for the bank heist, old man, hospital and joust scenes.


The Rock has come back to action films!

And after trying different genres, there is no doubt that Dwayne Johnson doing action films fits perfectly for him.  You want to see Johnson in films where he is kicking butt and “Walking Tall” was a perfect example of where Johnson shines as an action film star.  It’s what many people have seen him do as “The Rock” on WWE and so, his return to action films in “Faster” was expected and if there is one thing that can be positively said about this film is that the Brahma Bull brings it!

But unlike his previous films, Johnson’s character “Driver” is not a good guy.  He’s a criminal, he’s a murderer and while you are sympathetic for his cause, I feel that the character is one that will easily turn people off and those who will want to see Dwayne Johnson do what he does best, playing a character who wants to kick some ass!

For the most part, this action film is an entertaining popcorn action flick that is quite watchable, adrenal and enjoyable but if you try to extract what is deep about satisfying about the movie, that is where “Faster” comes up short.

One major positive about the film is its cast.  You have an all-star cast and while most of them don’t show up for all that long, the storyline’s focus on four different characters is quite interesting. Outside of Johnson’s “Driver”, Billy Bob Thornton can always pull off the Cop-like character.  Granted, he’s not a likable cop, as his first initial shot shows him to be a drug addict, but Billy Bob knows how to play these type of character roles.  Carla Gugino as Detective Cicero was not well utilized in my opinion and possibly the characters that you do find pretty cool and feel they should have their own movie is Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s “Killer” and Maggie Grace’s “Lily”.

And that for me lies the problem.  We enjoy the characters too much.

In some ways, I felt we shouldn’t.  Sympathetic, I understand but the Driver was fine, playing the man carrying out his revenge.  The Killer should have been some deranged, psycho lunatic.  The Cop could stay the way he was and for Cicero, a more definitive position of a woman in power, rather one who feels she is getting shortchanged by the Cop.

Sure, the concept would fit into the banality of revenge action films but it works.  Instead, we are left with plot holes that make no sense.  Why was the ordeal videotaped?  Why do the police have that videotape?

Also, I do believe that there is one crucial deleted scene that should have been included in the film and it deals with the Cop and the character of Marina.  I know that George Tillman Jr. didn’t want to cut it but he did and I felt it was a mistake.  I also feel the “Kill Bill”-esque type of storyline and killing one’s parent and then warning their child about if they want to come at him for revenge was just too contrived.

But in the end, it all comes down to is the film’s writing and execution.  The writers made these characters too likable and while the film is focused on the driver, they made the audience supporting the suave Killer and his girlfriend Lily even more (which prompted the change of the original ending of the storyline).

I will say that George Tillman Jr. does take a big step forward from his “Barbershop” film years by directing this action film.  “Faster” is a visually cool looking film and on Blu-ray, the picture quality and audio quality is great!  The special features were also good but it would have helped to have a director’s commentary and giving Tillman a chance to reflect on certain scenes and if he would have done anything different.

With that being said, I still enjoyed “Faster” as a popcorn action flick that features a good number of stars in the film.   On Blu-ray, I felt that the picture quality and lossless audio soundtrack definitely enhanced my enjoyment of the film.

But if you enjoy Dwayne Johnson action films  and you want to see him in a more violent film and see him ultimately kick some ass, I have no doubt that “Faster” is a film that you will definitely enjoy.

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