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

July 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Images courtesy of © 1997 Gaumont. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Fifth Element

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1997

DURATION: 126 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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

RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017


Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Screenplay by Robert Mark Kamen

Producer: Patrice Ledoux

Co-Producer: Iain Smith

Associate Producer: Thierry Arbogast

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Lucinda Syson

Production Design by Dan Weil

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

Set Decoration by Maggie Gray, Anna Pinnock

Costume Design by Jean-Paul Gaultier


Starring:

Bruce Willis as Korben Dallas

Gary Oldman as Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg

Ian Holm as Father Vito Cornelius

Mila Jovovich as Leeloo

Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod

Luke Perry as Billy

Brion James as General Munro

Tommy “Tiny” Lister as President Lindberg

Lee Evans as Fog

Charlie Creed-Miles as David

Tricky as Right Arm

John Neville as General Staedert

John Bluthal as Professor Pacoli


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: Leon the Professional

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1994

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

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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

RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017


Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Executive Producer: Claude Besson

Line Producer: John Garland and Bernard Grenet

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Todd M. Thaler

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Gerard Drolon

Set Decoration by Francoise Benoit-Fresco

Costume Design by Magali Guidasci


Starring:

Jean Reno as Leon

Gary Oldman as Stanfield

Natalie Portman as Mathilda

Danny Aiello as Tony

Peter Appel as Malky

Michael Badalucco as Mathilda’s father


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Fifth Element (2015 Blu-ray release) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

fifthelement

“The Fifth Element” is a fascinating, entertaining Luc Besson sci-fi action film that looks and sounds better with this 2015 Blu-ray release.  While not the best Besson film ever created, nor the best sci-fi action film ever made, but still “The Fifth Element” remains as a popcorn action sci-fi film worth watching.

Images courtesy of © 1997 Gaumont. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Fifth Element (2015 Blu-ray Release)

DURATION: 126 Minutes

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

RATED: PG-13 (Intense Sci-Fi Violence, Some Sexuality and Brief Nudity)

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: October 27, 2015


Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Screenplay by Robert Mark Kamen

Producer: Patrice Ledoux

Co-Producer: Iain Smith

Associate Producer: Thierry Arbogast

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Lucinda Syson

Production Design by Dan Weil

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

Set Decoration by Maggie Gray, Anna Pinnock

Costume Design by Jean-Paul Gaultier


Starring:

Bruce Willis as Korben Dallas

Gary Oldman as Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg

Ian Holm as Father Vito Cornelius

Mila Jovovich as Leeloo

Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod

Luke Perry as Billy

Brion James as General Munro

Tommy “Tiny” Lister as President Lindberg

Lee Evans as Fog

Charlie Creed-Miles as David

Tricky as Right Arm

John Neville as General Staedert

John Bluthal as Professor Pacoli


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


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

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

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

And now, a new Blu-ray release for “The Fifth Element” will be released in October 2015.  Remastered in 4K and in Dolby Atmos, plus the inclusion of an Ultraviolet HD code.

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

VIDEO:

“The Fifth Element” receives its third Blu-ray release in the last ten years.  With a 2006 Blu-ray release which had plenty of issues, the second Blu-ray released in 2007 was a major improvement.  And now with the 2015 Blu-ray release, presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), “The Fifth Element” receives a remastering in 4K.

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

AUDIO:

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

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Fifth Element” on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:

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

EXTRAS:

“The Fifth Element” comes with a slipcover and an Ultraviolet Digital HD code.


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

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

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

Watching this film in 2015, my thoughts that while the film was often considered a reference title for video and audiophiles (back during the DVD days), it’s a popcorn action films with impressive visuals.  With some CG elements that still hold up, while others look its age.

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

The film benefits from its visual imagery and imaginative settings, but the CG is well-done and its far-out Jean-Paul Gaultier costume design was also interesting to see.  But how I felt about the film back in 1999, again in 2006-2007 and in 2015 has not changed.  “The Fifth Element” does not have the greatest story but it was no doubt an entertaining film.  But I feel each time I watch it, my appreciation of the film tends to lessen.  The fact is, back in the DVD years, we considered “The Fifth Element” as a reference quality film to showcase our surround sound system.  And while the film sounds impressive on Blu-ray, a lot of sci-fi action films during the later life of Blu-ray releases sound just as great.  And the remastering in 4K and the 7.1 lossless soundtrack makes the film even more enticing.

And with this 2015 Blu-ray release, fans of the film will also get a good number of special features and an Ultraviolet HD code.

Overall, “The Fifth Element” is a fascinating, entertaining Luc Besson sci-fi action film that looks and sounds better with this 2015 Blu-ray release.  While not the best Besson film ever created, nor the best sci-fi action film ever made, but still “The Fifth Element” remains as a popcorn action sci-fi film worth watching.

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

November 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

leontheprofessional

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

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


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

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

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

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

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: October 27, 2015


Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Executive Producer: Claude Besson

Line Producer: John Garland and Bernard Grenet

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Todd M. Thaler

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Gerard Drolon

Set Decoration by Francoise Benoit-Fresco

Costume Design by Magali Guidasci


Starring:

Jean Reno as Leon

Gary Oldman as Stanfield

Natalie Portman as Mathilda

Danny Aiello as Tony

Peter Appel as Malky

Michael Badalucco as Mathilda’s father


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

VIDEO:

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

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

AUDIO:

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

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

bramstoker-a

Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” would showcase Dracula as a tragic hero turned monster but a romantic yet horror/love story that captivates you because this is unlike the plethora of Dracula films out there.  While I wouldn’t call this film a Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece, it is one of the highlights in his film oeuvre worth watching.

Image courtesy of © 1992 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

YEAR OF FILM: 1992

DURATION: 127 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, English Dolby Atmos (Dolby True HD 7.1 Compatible, English, French, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: October 6, 2015


Based on the Novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Screenplay by James V. Hart

Executive Producer: Michael Apted, Robert O’Connor

Producer: Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Fuchs, Charles Mulvehill

Co-Producer: James V. Hart, John Veitch

Associate Producer: Susan Landau Finch

Music by Wojciec Kilar

Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus

Edited by Anne Goursaud, Glen Scantlebury, Nicholas C. Smith

Casting by Victoria Thomas

Production Design by Thomas E. Sanders

Art Direction by Andrew Precht

Set Decoration by Garrett Lewis

Costume Design by Eiko Ishioka


Starring:

Gary Oldman as Dracula

Winona Ryder as Mina Murray/Elisabeta

Anthony Hopkins as Professor Abraham Van Helsing

Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker

Richard E. Grant as Dr. jack Seward

Cary Elwes as Lord Arthur Holmwood

Billy Campbell as Quincey P. Morris

Sadie Frost as Lucy Westenra

Tom Waits as R.M. Renfield

Monica Bellucci as Dracula’s Bride


Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, and Anthony Hopkins star in director Francis Ford Coppola’s visually stunning, passionately seductive version of the classic Dracula legend. In BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, Coppola returns to the original source of the Dracula myth, and from that gothic romance, he creates a modern masterpiece. Gary Oldman’s metamorphosis as Dracula who grows from old to young, from man to beast is nothing short of amazing. Winona Ryder brings equal intensity to the role of a young beauty who becomes the object of Dracula’s devastating desire. Anthony Hopkins co-stars as the famed doctor who dares to believe in Dracula, and then dares to confront him. Opulent, dazzling and utterly irresistible, this is Dracula as you’ve never seen him. And once you’ve seen BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, you’ll never forget it.


In 1897, Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror novel “Dracula” was released.

The novel would spawn numerous films and plays but it wasn’t until 1990 when director Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather” films, “Apocalypse now”) and writer James V. Hart (“Hook”, “Epic”, “Contact”) would create a film adaptation that was more respectful to Bram Stoker’s original novel, but yet being a loose film adaptation.

The film would star Gary Oldman (“The Dark Knight” films, “Leon: The Professional”), Winona Ryder (“Edward Scissorhands”, “Black Swan”, “Girl, Interrupted”), Anthony Hopkins (“Hannibal”, “Red Dragon”, “Thor”), Keanu Reeves (“The Matrix” films, “Speed”, “John Wick”), Richard E. Grant (“Withnail & I”, “Penelope”, “Corpse Bride”), Cary Elwes (“The Princess Bride”, “Saw”, “Liar Liar”, “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”), Billy Campbell (“The Rocketeer”, “Once and Again”, “Enough”), Sadie Frost (“Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey”, “Shopping”), Tom Waits (“Fight Club”, “12 Monkeys”, “The Wire”) and Monica Bellucci (“The Matrix Revolutions”, “The Matrix Reloaded”, “Irreversible”).

The film would receive critical acclaim and would become a box office hit earning over $215 million and would win three Academy Awards for “Best Costume Design”, “Best Makeup” and “Best Sound Effects Editing”.

And now Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film begins in 1462 as Vlad Dracula (portrayed by Gary Oldman), who is a member of the Order of the Dragon, goes to war against the Turks.  His beloved wife Elisabeta and Vlad are deeply in love, but when Elisabeta receives a false report that her husband has died, she commits suicide.  Moments later, Vlad arrives back home after the victory against the Turks and is looking forward to be reunited with Elisabeta, to find out that she had killed herself.

Distraught and angry, Vlad renounces God and declares that he will rise from the grave to avenge his dear Elisabeta with the power of darkness and stabs the chapel’s stone cross with his sword, which leads to blood pouring out and he drinks from it and goes through a major transformation.

Fastforward to 1897, we are introduced to a solicitor Jonathan Harker (portrayed by Keanu Reeves), his colleague R.M. Renfield (portrayed by Tom Waits) has gone insane and so his client, Count Dracula from Transylvania becomes his new client and now must leave his fiance Mina (portrayed by Winona Ryder) behind.

Jonathan travels to Transylvania for business to discuss real estate acquisition, but once he enters his mansion, Dracula sees a picture of Jonathan’s fiance, believing that Mina is the reincarnation of Elisabeta.

Now wanting Mina, Count Dracula has his brides to capture and ravage Jonathan and heads to England in order to get close to Mina and takes residence at Carfax Abbey.  He finds out that Mina is staying with Lucy Westenra (portrayed by Sadie Frost).

But needing to feast, he bites Lucy which then leads her to change drastically and leads to poor health.  With Lucy’s fiance Arthur Holmwood (portrayed by Cary Elwes) and Lucy’s former suitors Quincey Morris (portrayed by Billy Cambell) and Dr. Jack Seward (portrayed by Richard E. Grant) thinking that Lucy may have been possessed, they summon Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (portrayed by Anthony Hopkins).

When Dr. Helsing arrives, he recognizes the effects on Lucy and tells them that she is a victim of a vampire.  Meanwhile, Jonathan escapes from Transylvania and manages to contact Mina and Mina wants nothing more but to marry him which enrages Dracula.

Will Dracula make Mina his bride or will she be devoted to Jonathan?


VIDEO:

“Dracula” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). It’s important to note that the first Blu-ray release of this film was released back in 2008.  But since then, Blu-ray remastering has since improved and studios know what Blu-ray purchasers are expecting in HD releases.  Gone are the DNR and color timing issues and now, picture quality is much sharper with much better detail.  My counterparts have told me that while the newer version looks much better, there are framing issues.  But those who would be most affected by this are diehard fans of the film.  Personally, I’m more grateful for the better PQ compared to the original Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Dracula” is presented in English Atmos DolbyTrue HD 7.1 (note: Atmos is a technology that utilizes Dolby Atmos enabled speakers that reflects sound upward and bounces audio from the ceiling in order to recreate overhead sound).  As well as an English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.  This is another improvement from the original Blu-ray release and now, along with crystal clear dialogue and musical score, there is good use of surround channel usage for environments and overall ambiance.  Also, very good use of surround channels for the more action-driven sequences.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dracula” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring a new audio commentary with director Francis Ford Coppola, visual effects director Roman Coppola and makeup supervisor Greg Cannom.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola.
  • Francis Ford Coppola Introduction – (3:55) Director Francis Ford Coppola discuses the previous film adaptations of “Dracula”.
  • Reflections in Blood: Francis Ford Coppola and Bram Stoker’s Dracula – (29:11) Featuring an interview with film critic F.X. Feeney with Francis Ford Coppola.
  • Practical Magicians: A Collaboration Between Father and Son – (20:07) Film critic F.X. Feeney interviews Francis Ford Coppola and his son Roman Coppola.
  • The Blood is the Life: The Making of Bram Stoker’s Dracula – (27:48) A behind the scenes look at the making of the film and interactions with the director and his cast.
  • The Costumes are the Sets: The Design of Eiko Ishioka – (14:02) Interview with director Francis Ford Coppola and costume designer Eiko Ishioka.
  • In Camera: Naive Visual Effects – (18:46) Roman Coppola discusses the film’s in-camera visual effects.
  • Method and Madness: Visualizing Dracula – (12:06) Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Coppola and storyboard artist Peter Gramsey discuss the film’s imagery.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – Featuring 12 deleted and extended scenes.
  • Trailers – Featuring the “Beware” and theatrical trailer of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.

There is no doubt that vampire films have changed in the past decade with films such as “Twilight” and the many vampire-related series on television.

But while many versions of multimedia have showcased Dracula in a variety of ways, the fact is that there hasn’t really been a story that tries to capture the original story written by Bram Stoker.

While film historians have heard of reports of a faithful silent film adaptation of “Dracula” in 1920 released in the Soviet Union, all footage and stills have been lost.

While F.W. Murnau made a horror film called “Nosferatu” about a vampire that was set in Transylvania and Germany, and the name was changed to Count Orlock, Bram Stoker’s estate sued and all prints of “Nosferatu” were thought to be destroyed (various prints were found and the film was recently released on Blu-ray a few years ago).

But since then, the story of Dracula has changed drastically beginning with the Bela Lugosi films up to the present in which Dracula, as well as his nemesis Dr. Hellsing, have appeared in non-related storylines for many decades.

For director Francis Ford Coppola and writer James V. Hart, the two wanted to capture the feel of the original novel but also add a subplot involving Mina Harker.  But also to showcase a Dracula that is not villainous but a tragic hero who brought damnation to himself because of the death of his beloved wife and now, finding out hundreds of years later that his wife may have been reincarnated.

Watching this film almost two decades later, I will say that I was entertained by this film but also my opinion of it has changed a little.  While I applaud the acting of Gary Oldman, the choice of visual effects by Roman Coppola and of course, the strict choice of perfection from his talent ala Francis Ford Coppola, Keanu Reeves was more of the “Bill & Ted” actor at the time.  And while he has grown a lot as an actor since this film, I admit that watching Jonathan Harker, I was expecting him to give the Keanu Reeves “Woh”.

Reeves acting aside, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” was no doubt a fascinating, dark yet tragic film that portrays Dracula in a more compassionate yet vile character, but not the monstrous character that we have seen the character become in other films, TV series or video games.  This is a man who has been haunted by his wife’s death and has lived in darkness until seeing a picture of a woman, who looks exactly like his deceased wife and feels she is reincarnated and will do all that is necessary to get close to her.

The costume and set design was fantastic and for the most part, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, at the time, was seen as unique and bringing something new to the genre but also paying respect to the original novel, capturing the feel of the novel but yet having a loose adaptation.

It’s important to note that there are various versions of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” available.  The original 2008 version is the one most will want to stay away from, while this vanilla version I am reviewing does come with the new special features and an Ultraviolet code and then there is the “Supreme Cinema” release that features clear packaging and a booklet.

But this 2015 Blu-ray release is much better than its 2008 counterpart.  Better picture quality and also features a newer English Dolby Atmos soundtrack.  Picture quality is much sharper and features better detail and while I do not have Atmos speakers, the fact that a lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Atmos soundtrack is featured is wonderful!  You also get more special features in this 2015 Blu-ray release.

Overall, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” would showcase Dracula as a tragic hero turned monster but a romantic yet horror/love story that captivates you because this is unlike the plethora of Dracula films out there.  While I wouldn’t call this film a Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece, it is one of the highlights in his film oeuvre worth watching.

Sid & Nancy: Collector’s Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

With wonderful acting, writing and cinematography, Alex Cox’s “Sid & Nancy” is a film that captures a unique kind of romance in cinema, one that is consumed by a couple’s own self-destruction through heavy drug use.  At the end of the day, “Sid & Nancy” is a love story like no other…  and for this film alone, I highly recommend watching it!

Images courtesy of © 1986 Zenith Productions, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Sid & Nancy: Collector’s Edition

FILM RELEASE: 1986

DURATION: 113 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: United Artists/MGM/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

RATED: R

Release Date: December 27, 2011

Directed by Alex Cox

Screenplay by Alex Cox, Abbe Wool

Produced by Eric Fellner

Co-Producer: Peter McCarthy

Associate Producer: Abbe Wool

Music by Pray for Rain

Cinematography by Roger Deakins

Edited by David Martin

Production Design by J. Rae Fox, Andrew McAlpine

Art Direction by J. Rae Fox

Set Decoration by Marcie Dale

Costume Design by Catherine Cook

Starring:

Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious

Chloe Webb as Nancy Spungen

David Hayman as Malcolm

Debby Bishop as Phoebe

Andrew Schofield as John

Xander Berkeley as Bowery Snax

Perry Benson as Paul

Tony London as Steve

Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb execute performances that are nothing short of phenomenal (Los AngelesTimes) as Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his unforgettable junkie girlfriend- two socialmisfits who literally love each other to death.

Featuring a fantastic performance by Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, “Sid & Nancy” is an amazing film that captures the punk scene but also a couple’s self-destruction.

In the late ’70s, Sid Vicious (the monicker used by John Simon Ritchie) was the bassist of the punk band, the Sex Pistols.  Known more for his charisma in the punk scene (insulting the crowd, getting in fights with the crowd, slashing or carving words on himself) more than his actual bass playing, together with band leader/vocalist Johnny Rotten, guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook and managed by Malcolm Mclaren, the band would be known for initiating the punk movement in the UK and also inspiring any punk bands and musicians.

But despite the band only lasting for 2 1/2 years and producing four singles and one studio album, the band continues to be influential to many.

But for many who followed the band, people were shocked by the band’s breakup in 1978 and even moreso by Vicious’ heroin overdose in 1979.  But there was more to the story about Sid Vicious the man but also his unique relationship with girlfriend Nancy Spungen, a stripper and groupie but known around the scene as “Nauseating Nancy” for her temperamental attitude and verbal abuse.  And for both individuals, what they had each other was love but also both were heavy abusers of multiple drugs.   And as the two have had a pact with each other, “to go out in a blaze of glory”, both died at a young age via their own self-destruction.

Nancy murdered by Sid Vicious while both were drugged out and Sid Vicious, overdosing on heroin (which his mother alleges was suicide as a note was found that Sid Vicious carried out the pact the two have made for each other).

While media was fascinated by the story of this couple, in 1986, filmmaker Alex Cox (“Repo Man”, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”) along with producer/screenwriter Abbe Wool (“The Big Lebowski”, “Planet of the Apes”) would go on to create the British biopic “Sid and Nancy”.

“Sid and Nancy” was well-received by film critics especially for the outstanding performance of talents Gary Oldman (“The Dark Knight”, “Batman Begins”, “The Fifth Element”) who plays Sid Vicious and Chloe Webb who plays Nancy Spungen (“Practical Magic”, “Twins”) but the film was also denounced by Johnny Rotten as inaccurate but did praise the acting of Gary Oldman.  The film was also critical of Vicious portrayal by those who knew Sid.

The film was released on DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection long since out-of-print and now “Sid & Nancy: Collector’s Edition” is available on Blu-ray courtesy of MGM/Twentieth Century Fox.

“Sid & Nancy” begins with police arresting Sid Vicious (played by Gary Oldman) at the Hotel Chelsea in New York for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen (played by Chloe Webb).  And during the interrogation, Vicious is asked to describe what had happened.

The story then flashes back to when Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten (played by Andrew Schofield) met an American junkie (Nancy), who claimed that she had come to London because she was a big fan of the Sex Pistols.  Both men disregard her at first but then through occasional run-ins, Sid notices her being treated badly by another man.  When he goes to talk with her, he finds out that when she had arrived to London, she gave all her money to the man for drugs and literally used her.

But when Sid lends her money to buy drugs, she does and immediately the two manage to become friends and eventually start having sex with each other and doing drugs together.    Both fall madly in love and are nearly inseparable, and as the film focuses on their destructive relationship, the film also showcases Sid Vicious as he performs with the Sex Pistols and take part in a disastrous tour in America.

But the over indulgence of drugs was starting to take its toll on Sid Vicious relationship with his bandmates of the Sex Pistols and eventually they breakup and Nancy takes on the roll of becoming Sid’s manager and from that moment on…this couple would spiral downward as both become heavily addicted to heroin and both make a pact that they would end their lives together, to go out in a “blaze of glory”.

VIDEO:

There is no denying that many have been wanting “Sid & Nancy” on Blu-ray.  As one of the most desirable and most-wanted out-of-print titles released by the Criterion Collection, fans of the film have clamored for a Blu-ray release.  Although not released by the Criterion Collection, MGM/Twentieth Century Fox does give “Sid & Nancy” the HD treatment.

Presented in widescreen 1:85:1, there is no doubt that the film looks magnificent on Blu-ray.  Comparing this to the old DVD, the picture quality for this 1986 film looks clean, detailed and vibrant.

The cinematography by Roger Deakins (“The Shawshank Redemption”, “No Country for Old Men”, “Fargo”, “The Big Lebowski”) is fantastic as he manages to cover the dingy areas that Sid and Nancy visit and possibly the most memorable scene of the film, both sharing a romantic kiss near a dumpster while garbage flows around them.

This is the best looking version of the film to date!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sid & Nancy: Collector’s Edition” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.   It’s important to note that previous DVD releases of “Sid & Nancy”were in Dolby Stereo but this time around, the soundtrack receives a lossless soundtrack.   The film is still center and front-channel driven but what is more pronounced is the film’s musical soundtrack.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Sid & Nancy: Collector’s Edition” comes with the following special features:

  • For the Love of Punk – (15:46) Music writers and those who knew Sid and Nancy discuss the film and why it resonated so well with viewers.
  • Junk Love – (16:30) Music writers, editors and those who knew Sid and Nancy talk about the real Sid and Nancy.  Including another theory of how Nancy died.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:02) The theatrical trailer for “Sid & Nancy”.

“Sid & Nancy” is a romance story like no other.

Rarely has American cinema tapped into the punk scene nor would you see Hollywood willing to cover the scene or anything that had to do with it.  But in 1986, filmmaker Alex Cox did just that, while the film should not be considered as accurate, Cox’s film does showcase the love between two individuals, both have difficult lives, both are heavy drug users and both died under tragic circumstances.

When I first watched this film nearly 20 years ago, I was struck by performances by actor Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb.  For Oldman, how this one man was able to capture a man’s self-destruction and we see it through his performance, from the over-indulgence of drugs to the after-effect of not having drugs in his system, Oldman’s performance was effective, believable and fantastic!

And Chloe Webb, I felt that her performance was fantastic then…but here we are in 2011, 25-years after the film was screened in theaters and now, many of us can view the actual interviews with Sid & Nancy, especially to hear Nancy vocalize…and to realize, how Chloe Webb’s voice, mannerisms were nearly exact.

I have to admit that back then… I felt that Webb’s performance of Nancy was so good, but made me wonder if the real Nancy spoke this way.  Was she that annoying?  And after seeing a few interviews of the real Nancy, I can see how vocal she was around Sid and even by herself.  She spoke her mind.

“Sid and Nancy” is a love story but also a tragedy.  There is no denying that Sid Vicious was exploited by the industry and media in a sense that people wanted him to fuck up or to stayed fucked up.  He was unlike any other music talent out there.  Sure, many talents have died of drug tragedies before, but for Vicious…this was a man who got into fights, spit or threatened the crowd he performed to and he had no qualms carving himself and bleeding.

He was reviled because of his rejection of society and inspired the punk scene who wanted to be like him.  But at the end of the day, there was Nancy.  A woman who could talk so much shit to anyone, to everyone including Sid, but no matter what…he still loved her.  He was the only person who could understand her, and she was the person who felt that was the only person out there who can understand or even help him, when no one else would.

Since watching this film 20-years ago, watching it in 2011, I actually felt a bit more compassion for Nancy, especially after the release of Deborah Spungen’s book “And I Don’t Want to Live This Life: A Mother’s Story of Her Daughter’s Murder” (a must-read for those wanting to know about Nancy Spungen, who was very intelligent at a young age but even as a baby, after being born and nearly dying due to oxygen deprivation due to the umbilical cord around her neck, she was very temperamental as a baby and violent as a toddler to others and herself and her parents knew she was mentally ill).

As for the Blu-ray release, there is no doubt that this film looks absolutely great in HD compared to its two DVD counterparts.  But while the two special features are good, especially hearing from those who knew both Sid and Nancy, for those who owned the original Criterion Collection release, I would still hang on to that DVD.  Not because it’s still a highly sought-out Criterion Collection DVD but it also contained the documentary on the making of the film, the 1976 interview with the Sex Pistols, interviews with Sid and Nancy and audio commentary by screenwriter Abbe Wool and the talent of the film, including historians.  Unfortunately, none of this awesome content made it to the Blu-ray release and that’s a shame!

With wonderful acting, writing and cinematography, Alex Cox’s “Sid & Nancy” is a film that captures a unique kind of romance in cinema, one that is consumed by a couple’s own self-destruction through heavy drug use.  At the end of the day, “Sid & Nancy” is a love story like no other…  and for this film alone, I highly recommend watching it!

A Christmas Carol (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 7, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

A wonderful CG animated adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic!  Impressive visuals and a fantastic vocal performance by Jim Carrey.   This film has now become my favorite adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” and on Blu-ray,  you can’t help but love the wonderful picture and lossless audio quality plus the special features.   A magnificent Blu-ray release that is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Walt Disney Studios Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: A Christmas Carol

FILM RELEASE: 2008

DURATION: 96 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz/24bit), English 2.0 DVS, French, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Scary Sequences and Images)

Release Date: November 16, 2010

Based on the novel by Charles Dickens

Screenplay and Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Produced by Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey and Robert Zemeckis

Executive Producer: Mark L. Rosen

Co-Producer: Steven J. Boyd

Associate Producer: Katherine C. Concepcion, Heather Kelton

Line Producer: Peter M. Tobyansen

Music by Alan Silvestri

Cinematography by Robert Presley

Edited by Jeremiah O’Driscoll

Casting by Scot Boland, Victoria Burrows, Nina Gold

Production Design by Doug Chiang

Art Direction by Marc Gabbana, Norman Newberry, Mike Stassi

Set Decoration by Karen O’Hara

Featuring the voices of:

Jim Carrey as Scrooge / Ghost of Christmas Past / Scrooge as a Young Boy / Scrooge as a Teenage Boy / Scrooge as a Young Man / Scrooge as a Middle-Aged Man / Ghost of Christmas Present / Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

Gary Oldman as Bob Cratchit/Marley/Tiny Tim

Colin Firth as Fred

Robin Wright as Fan/Belle

Jacquie Barnbrook as  Mrs. Fezziwig / Fred’s Sister-in-Law / Well-Dressed Caroler

Bob Hoskins as Mr. Fezziwig/Old joe

Lesley Manville as Mrs. Cratchit

Molly C. Quinn as Belinda Cratchit

Fay Masterson as Martha Cratchit/Guest #1/Caroline

Leslie Zemeckis as Fred’s Wife

Steve Valentine as Funerary Undertaker/Topper

Daryl Sabara as Undertaker’s Apprentice / Tattered Caroler / Beggar Boy / Peter Cratchit / Well-Dressed Caroler

Sage Ryan as Tattered Caroler

From Walt Disney Pictures comes the magical retelling of Charles Dickens’ beloved tale – Disney’s A Christmas Carol, the high-flying, heartwarming adventure for the whole family. When three ghosts take penny-pinching Scrooge on an eye-opening journey, he discovers the true meaning of Christmas – but he must act on it before it’s too late. Complete with spirited bonus features, this exhilarating and touching Disney classic is destined to be part of a family holiday tradition, adding sparkle and heart to all Christmases yet to come.

The Charles Dickens classic has been a popular story since it was first published back in 1843.  Created during a time during the Victorian Era when people were forgetting Christmas traditions, Charles Dickens wanted to create a Christmas tale that was inspired by his humiliating experience of his childhood and his sympathy towards the poor.

A tale that actually came from his love/hate relationship for his own father, the character of Ebenezer Scrooge was inspired by him having to work at a young age because his father was imprisoned and because after his father’s release, he was still forced to work and make money.  So, the cold and stingy character was inspired by his own father, while the discovery of the goodwill of men towards the poor inspired the rebirth of Scrooge.

Needless to say, his perspective towards the intolerance towards the poor made him craft this powerful Christmas tale which would inspire many dramatizations of “A Christmas Carol”.  Even for Walt Disney, the company would do their own version in 1983 titled “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” using Donald Duck as Scrooge and Mickey Mouse as the character of Bob Cratchit.  And in 2009, Disney would once again take on an adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic.

This time around, the studio would experiment with their first film in IMAX 3-D and also release it via Disney Digital 3-D.  The technology would utilize performance capture that was used effectively for “The Polar Express” (2004) and “Beowulf” (2007) and would feature director Robert Zemeckis (known for the “Back to the Future” films, “Cast Away” and “Gothika” and known for animated films such as “The Polar Express”, “Monster House” and “Beowulf”).

So, for this film, a few major talent would partake in the performance capture and also take part in several roles.  The main role of Ebenezer Scrooge would be handled by Jim Carrey (“Bruce Almighty”, “Me, Myself & Irene”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, “Yes Man”), the character of Scrooge’s nephew Fred by Colin Firth (“Love Actually”, “The English Patient”, “Easy Virtue”), the character of Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim courtesy of Gary Oldman (“The Dark Knight”, “The Professional”, “The Fifth Element”, “Batman Begins”) and the character of Fan and Belle by Robin Wright (“Beowulf”, “Forrest Gump”, “Unbreakable”).

The film was released in theaters in November 2009 and the film which was budgeted around $200 million would make over $323 million worldwide, a major success in the box office. And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD and also a Disney Blu-ray 3D (the first 3D film on Blu-ray for Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment).

“A Christmas Carol” revolves around the coldhearted, bitter moneylender named Ebenezer Scrooge.  The opening for the film shows him signing a witness form on Christmas day for his deceased former business partner Jacob Marley.   He is not too fond of Christmas activities and would rather focus his life on making and lending money at his counting house business.  While walking to his office, you can see the fear of the neighborhood towards Scrooge, knowing that during the Christmas Holiday, not only is he a cold man, he is very irritable and thus, they try to stay out of his way.

The film then flash forwards to seven years later on Christmas Eve.  Working for Scrooge is Bob Cratchit who doesn’t make much money at his job but he tries to take care of his family with whatever little he makes.  When Scrooge’s nephew Fred comes to invite him to Christmas dinner with the family, Scrooge berates him and tells him that he has no intention in celebrating the holiday.  When a group of people trying to get donations to provide the poor with food on Christmas Day, Scrooge tells them that the poor are better off dying to contribute to the country’s surplus.     And as for Bob Cratchit, Scrooge hates that his employee has to be away from work on Christmas Day but expects him to do some work and come in early.

When Scrooge walks home from work, a strange light shows up at his home.  When Scrooge goes inside his home, a ghost shows up in the middle of his room.  It is his former business partner Jacob Marley who tell shim that he is forced to spend his afterlife chained because of his greedy lifestyle.  Marley gives Scrooge a warning that he will suffer an worse fate if he doesn’t repent but Scrooge has a hard time believing him.  Thus a second spirit of Christmas arrive and the first is The Ghost of Christmas Past.  He takes Scrooge on a journey to visit himself in the past.

We learn that Scrooge was a nice young man growing up but was neglected by his own father and was put in a boarding school and was brought home one Christmas Day thanks to his loving sister Fan. We learn that Fan died when she gave birth to Fred (Scrooge’s nephew).    We also see how Scrooge began to work in the business of money lending and became successful at it.  He would also meet his beloved Belle who he would be engaged to.

But when Scrooge began to become obsessed with making money and growing his wealth, he ended up neglecting Belle and she leaves him. Scrooge is so dismayed that he extinguishes the first spirit.

Scrooge then meets the Ghost of Christmas present and this ghost shows Scrooge how people he knows are having fun on Christmas Day but he sees how people really think of him.  Only his employee Bob Cratchit is grateful for the work that Scrooge has provided him but because he doesn’t make much, Cratchit is poor and to make things worse, his son Tiny Tim is sick and if he doesn’t get help, he will die.  The spirit then warns Scrooge about the evils of Ignorance and Want.

But then Scrooge meets the final spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and Scrooge learns the fate of himself due to greed.  Scrooge sees a dark future of himself and is warned that if he doesn’t change, he will die alone.

But having lived a bitter life for so long… Can Ebenezer Scrooge ever change?

VIDEO:

“A Christmas Carol” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio) and the first thing that came to my mind was…”wow!”.  I didn’t watch this film when it came out in 2009 but looking at the animation and seeing how much progress there has been since “The Polar Express” and “Beowulf” in terms of capturing near realistic CG, I was quite impressed.  From the skin textures as you can see detail from Scrooge’s face to a kid with his face full of zits, suffice to say, this animation was quite impressive, remarkable and just all out fantastic!

The lighting was also amazing in this film. Vibrant colors, the flicker of the flame and the extending heat from that flame was impressive.  Seeing the various spirits and how well they were animated, especially the hair of the Spirit of Christmas Present, that was pretty awesome.   But just the whole detail of the whole environment, the city, the streets, the surroundings, objects, everything you can think of, it looks fantastic in HD.  Everything is literally detailed.  Movement was well-captured.  The technology has definitely improved since “Beowulf’s” release and once again, this is state of the art animation and another step closer to achieving realism via CG.

Visually, this film just stands out in colors, detail, animation.  Blacks were nice and deep and really, there is nothing negative I can say about the picture quality, it’s perfect!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“A Christmas Carol” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz/24-Bit) and English 2.0 DVS along with French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1.  And similar to the picture quality, you also get the immersive soundcape that audiophiles want.    Crisp and clear dialogue through the center channels, sound effects and music through the front channels but also how good the directional sound effects were used for the surround channels.  There is also a good amount of LFE with that slow rumble.

The film has so many action sequences as Scrooge is being whisked away by the Spirits but also when he meets the final spirit, that is when the film starts to really take another leap in terms of action and surround usage.   But it also goes beyond the expected action sequences, from crowd ambiance, creaking wood, clothing and curtains being ruffled, bells, clocks, pounding on tables, “A Christmas Carol” definitely delivers and once again, another category that achieves perfection in this Blu-ray release.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“A Christmas Carol” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind The Carol: The Full Motion Capture Experience – A feature length picture-in-picture viewing mode takes the audience behind the scenes of motion capture filmmaking.  Also, features the audio commentary by director Robert Zemeckis.  While watching the film, you can easily toggle what you want to see.  Very in-depth commentary and the fact that you can have control of what you want to see and the inclusion of the full-motion capture experience is fantastic!  Awesome addition to this Blu-ray release.
  • Countdown to Christmas Interactive Calendar – 25 days of holiday surprises extend the holiday cheer, as viewers come back to discover what each door holds.
  • Deleted Scenes – (8:39) Six deleted scenes on the Blu-ray Disc. (note: CG is not fully rendered)
  • Capturing Dickens: A Novel Retelling – (14:43) Actress Jacquie Barnbrook hosts a journey through the creative process of Disney’s “A Christmas Carol”.  Behind-the-scenes of the making of the film, scanning of the characters and its creative format.
  • On Set With Sammi – (1:52) Follow Sammi Hanratty, one of the film’s young stars, as she shares a kid’s eye view of an “anything but average” day on the set.

EXTRAS:

“A Christmas Carol” comes with a slip-over cover case.  Also, included is a DVD featuring the feature film and bonus features.  The DVD is presented in 2:40:1 – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions.  Audio is in English, French, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and English 2.0 DVS.  Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

Throughout my life, the Charles Dickens classic of “A Christmas Carol” is usually a yearly Christmas ritual.  There are various incarnations of this story that I have enjoyed.  From the Steve Martin early ’80s classic to even the Disney animated feature.  But I have to say that this is probably the best adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” that I have watched.

Not only was Jim Carrey fantastic in his vocal role (for many characters), Disney did a fantastic job in choosing him to provide the voice because he nailed the voice of Scrooge perfectly.

But where other adaptations have done a good job in portraying the spirits of Christmas, “A Christmas Carol” for 2009 definitely managed to capture the emotion of fear that haunted Ebenezer Scrooge.  You watch this film and you can understand why he’s scared.  There are quite a bit of scary sequences and even my son had his eyes closed or running back from the hallway and back to the living room because he was scared at times.

That is one thing I have never gotten from “A Christmas Carol” as a child is an adaptation where you actually feel the fear that Scrooge is going through.  So, it’s great to have that animated film in which you can also feel that fear and the soundtrack helped contribute to that.  The lossless audio on Blu-ray really enhances your experience of watching this film as sound does play a good part in enveloping your soundscape of your room and feeling that fear, those rumbles but also the more happier parts of the film which include the overall feeling of Christmas through song, the sound of snow, the bells, it all sounds remarkable on Blu-ray.

Another thing where this film also succeeds is showing us the past.  The film does a great job of showing us how Scrooge had grown up and the challenges he had faced in his life and why he became bitter.  The scene between Scrooge and Belle was fantastic and it was captured quite well in this film.  Also, the Cratchit family was well-presented, showing us Bob’s good heart but also showing us the despair Bob and and his wife feel towards Tiny Tim.  This was well-done!

And of course, the best part of “A Christmas Carol” is how wonderful the film looks.  This is one of the best animated films I have ever seen thus far.  And I’m talking more towards capturing realism in CG.  The skin textures were amazing and how they gave characters a different look was fantastic as some animation studios tend to reuse models with slight changes, in this film, there was actually differences in the people shown throughout the film.  As mentioned, the skin detail was amazing.  From Scrooge’s face and hair, the Spirits of Christmas Present’s hairy beard to the little kid working at the mortuary with his face full of zits, it’s great to see the animators really going all out in the creation of these characters.

And it goes beyond the characters as we see that same detail applied to the city, the whole landscape, the interior objects, the flames, the snow as we see shoes or a carriage driving by and snow being trampled afterward.  This is a heavily detailed animated film and it justifies the heavy budget that this film cost.  I’m glad they made their money back and more because this is a major step in the world of animation and capturing realism.

The motion capture was fantastic and movements were natural and for the most part, this film will no doubt become a Walt Disney Christmas classic and that because the animation is so realistic, it’s one of those films that will probably hold up for many years to come.

As for the Blu-ray release, you get the additional DVD but for the Blu-ray release, the picture and lossless audio quality is fantastic and the special features are well-done, especially the picture-in-picture mode which was well-done!  There are a good number of special features that really, it’s hard to come up with any negative about this film.  It’s a solid Blu-ray release but if I really had to nitpick, the only thing I can come up with is wishing there was more special features that maybe went into the actual history of the Charles Dickens classic or maybe the inclusion of “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”, so people can watch the other Disney adaptation of “A Christmas Carol”.  But really, this is a pretty solid Blu-ray release and there is nothing negative that I can say about this release.

It’s also important to let people know that there is also a 3D version of this Blu-ray release that is available.  The 3D version marks the first Walt Disney 3D release and for those with a 3D enabled TV and Blu-player can definitely take advantage of this release.

For families, “A Christmas Carol” is a very good family but it’s also one that I recommend that parents watch with their children and for those with young children, this film may not be suitable for them just yet.  Because there are so many scary parts, I recommend at least the film being shown to children that are 7-8 years-old minimum.  My son is seven-years-old and he enjoyed the film but I can tell you, he ran out many times or buried his face under his hands because of the scary scenes and of course, the well-done sound effects did a fantastic job in adding to those more action-driven or scary moments of the film.  But parental guidance is definitely suggested and if you do have older children, fortunately this Blu-ray release does come with a DVD, especially if you are planning a long winter commute.

Overall, this is a magnificent Blu-ray release from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.  This is now my favorite adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic and I wouldn’t be surprised if this film would become a classic for many years to come.  “A Christmas Carol” is highly recommended!

Planet 51 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Delightful!  “Planet 51” is a fun sci-fi animated film for the entire family that looks vibrant and sounds great on Blu-ray!

© 2009 Ilion Animation Studios, HandMade Films International, Antenna 3 Films, Lem Films Limited and Chuck & Lem, S.L. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Planet 51

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English, German 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, German, Turkish

COMPANY: Tri Star/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Mild Sci-Fi Action and Some Suggestive Humor)

RELEASE DATE: March 9, 2010

Directed by Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad, Marcos Martinez

Written by Joe Stillman

Executive Producer: Mercedes Gamero, Ricardo Garcia Arrojo, Peter D. Graves, Albie Hecht, Stephen Margolis, Albert Martinez Martin, Patrick Meehan, Javier Perez Dolset, Juan Antonio Perez Ramirez, Mercedes Rey Jose A. Rodriguez, Michael Ryan

Produced by Guy Collins, Ignacio Perez Dolset

Associate Producer: Thomas D. Adelman

Music by James Seymour Brett

Edited by Alex Rodriguez

Casting by Ruth Lambert, Karen Lindsay-Stewart, Robert McGee

Production Design by Julian Munoz Romero

Art Direction by Fernando Juarez

Featuring the voices of:

Dwayne Johnson as Captain Charles T. Baker

Justin Long as Lem

Jessica Biel as Neera

Gary Oldman as General Grawl

Seann William Scott as Skiff

John Cleese as Professor Kipple

Freddie Benedict as Eckle

Alan Mariott as Glar

When Chuck the astronaut (Dwayne Johnson) lands on a distant planet filled with little green people, he is surprised to discover that we are not alone in the galaxy. But he gets the shock of his life when the residents of Planet 51 mistakenly believe that his presence is the start of an alien invasion of the human kind! Luckily, Lem (Justin Long) quickly realizes that Chuck is friendly and makes it his personal mission to help him return safely to his ship.

In Nov. 2009, the most expensive movie produced in Spain titled “Planet 51” created by Ilion Animation Studios and HandMade Films with a screenplay by Joe Stillman (“Shrek” films) was released in the US.  With a budget of $70 million, despite heavy competition from Hollywood blockbusters “New Moon” and “2012”, “Planet 51” earned $94 million worldwide.

“Planet 51” revolves around a world with a society of green aliens similar to the USA in the 1950’s and at the local theater, the popular sci-fi film “Humaniac” is being screened.  Lem (Voiced by Justin Long) is an alien who gets a job at the Planetarium.  Lem has a big crush on Neera (voiced by Jessica Biel) but each time he wants to get close to her, her hippie friend Glar is nearby and it seems that he may be trying to get close to her as well.

Meanwhile, a mysterious spacecraft which was orbiting Planet 51 is detected by “Base 9”, a hidden army base which has artifacts from planet Earth.  One of the artifact, which is a rover wakes up when a signal is picked up and begins its mission to look for an astronaut and collect rocks.

The mysterious aircraft lands in Lem’s back yard and an astronaut from NASA, Charles “Chuck” Baker (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) comes out and plants the US flag on the planet.  But when he looks around the planet, what was supposed to be uninhabited has homes and building where green people live and this freaks out Chuck who immediately goes into hiding.

With many people on the planet fearing aliens (due to the sci-fi films of the time such as “humaniac”, the people of Planet 51 think there is going to be an alien invasion.  Immediately, General Grawl (voiced by Gary Oldman) along with Professor Kipple (voiced by John Cleese) try to gain more research studying the alien spacecraft and quarantines the area to prevent its citizens to become “zombies”.

As for Lem, while cleaning up at the planetarium, he finds Chuck in hiding and immediately the two realize they speak the same language and that Chuck is no threat.  Chuck then lets Lem know that he has 74 hours to get back into his spacecraft or else the spacecraft will leave without him. Meanwhile, the NASA rover continues to look for the astronaut while evading the General’s forces and hostile citizens but yet  finds a friend in Lem’s comic book geek friend Skiff (voiced by Seann William Scott) who looks at Rover as his newfound pet.

So, Chuck depends on Lem (and his friends) in hiding him temporarily and help find a way to get him back into his well-guarded spacecraft.  But is it possible?  Especially with General Grawl and his men ready to kill anyone who may be deemed as helping the alien (Chuck) and those who are helping him?

VIDEO:

“Planet 51” looks very good when it comes to details. Presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1),  I enjoyed the overall atmosphere created by Ilion Animation Studios.  From the creation of the homes, the gates, the plants, the skies…the whole ’50s feel of the town looks quite vibrant and beautiful.   But when it comes to the green citizens, there is much less detail.  Although green, even Shrek is green but you can still see the spots within its skin.  Not so much for the aliens of “Planet 51”, although a lot of detail can be seen in the astronaut uniform of Chuck.   But overall, the animation was well-done from Ilion Animation Studios and the presentation is absolutely vibrant in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Planet 51” features audio in English and German 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  Also, an English audio description track in 5.1 Dolby Digital is included.  Because the film incorporates many action scenes, from the sound of the vehicles zipping through the air, Chuck’s spacecraft with its engine roaring or the hidden base opening up, there is good use of the surround channels and LFE.  Dialogue and music are also clear and understandable through the center and front channels.  But overall, a pretty solid lossless soundtrack!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Spanish, German and Turkish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Planet 51” comes with the following special features in High Definition with English Stereo and English with German subtitles:

  • Target 51 Game – Play as Charles “Chuck” Baker in galaxy mode or survival mode.   The game also comes with an optional iPhone controller App download from iTunes!
  • Extended Scenes – A total of three extended scenes: A Total Disaster, When Aliens Invade, What Do Zombies Say?
  • The World of Planet 51 – (2:52) Featuring the CG clips of the locations and key areas featured in the world of Planet 51.
  • Life on Planet 51 – (12:04) The making of “Planet 51” plus a look at how ILION Animation Studios in Madrid, Spain created the film.
  • Planetarium – The Voice Stars of Planet 51 – (3:18) A featurette with interviews with the voice talent of “Planet 51” including Justin Long, Dwayne Johnson, Jessica Biel, Gary Oldman and Sean William Scott.
  • Planet 51 Music Video Montage – (2:10) A video montage of scenes from “Planet 51” along with a song “Aliens Exist” by Blink 182.
  • Animation Progression Reels – (15:53) Featuring six animated progression reels.  Featuring four split screens with a pre-rendered CG clip, storyboards, and more.
  • Previews – Sony Pictures Home Entertainment trailers

EXTRAS:

“Planet 51” comes with a DVD version of the film and also a Digital Copy included on the DVD.

“Planet 51” is a fun and entertaining sci-fi film.  Although, the cold war reference, especially dealing with the fear of aliens may go over the heads of children, “Planet 51” manages to be a film similar to E.T. but in this case, the human is the alien and for the most part, the green aliens speak perfect English. Also, the film does a good job for paying homage to various sci-fi films such as “Alien”, “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Star Wars”, “Terminator”, etc.  If anything, the humor of the cold war, especially classic and current sci-fi films will easily make fans of the genre quite appreciate of the film.

While, the human “Chuck” is more of a guy that is all talk and makes himself out as a guy who has “the right stuff”, Lem has been the alien guy who really never stood for himself and has had his share of low self-esteem.  Through helping Chuck and overcoming a variety of obstacles, we see how Lem begins to feel more comfortable with himself and eventually, using his new-found self-esteem to get closer to his dream girl Neera.

Despite the film not receiving the greatest reviews, “Planet 51” is a CG-animated film that may not have any deep overtones but there is really cool CG animation when it comes to the actual living areas.  The detail is quite beautiful on Blu-ray and the lossless soundtrack is quite awesome as well.  The Blu-ray has a good number of special features as well.  And if you are a parent looking for a fun and safe film for the kids while going on a trip, the Blu-ray release does include a DVD and also a digital copy as well.

Overall, “Planet 51” is a good movie and I think those who are able to pick up on the jokes of the film will enjoy some of its slapstick humor.  The film has enough gags to please the children (as my seven year old who watched it in the theater and once again with me on Blu-ray was giggling throughout) but anyone expecting anything more or anything deep may be disappointed. But in the end, I was quite satisfied with the film overall.

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

November 19, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Action-packed, riveting film from beginning to end.  Actors Jean Reno and Gary Oldman are both fantastic and are always well-utilized by director Luc Besson.  Also, an amazing performance by a young Natalie Portman in a satisfying Blu-ray release featuring solid picture and audio quality and includes both the theatrical and the original extended director’s cut version.  Definitely recommended!

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

TITLE: Leon the Professional

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

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

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

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: November 17, 2009

Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Executive Producer: Claude Besson

Line Producer: John Garland and Bernard Grenet

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Todd M. Thaler

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Gerard Drolon

Set Decoration by Francoise Benoit-Fresco

Costume Design by Magali Guidasci

Starring:

Jean Reno as Leon

Gary Oldman as Stanfield

Natalie Portman as Mathilda

Danny Aiello as Tony

Peter Appel as Malky

Michael Badalucco as Mathilda’s father

Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman and Danny Aiello star in LÉON THE PROFESSIONAL, a go-for-broke thriller about a professional assassin whose work becomes dangerously personal. Calling himself a “cleaner,” the mysterious Léon is New York’s top hit man. When his next-door neighbors are murdered, Léon becomes the unwilling guardian of the family’s sole sur vivor – 12-year-old Mathilda. But Mathilda doesn’t just want protection; she wants revenge. Training her in the deadly tricks of his trade, Léon helps her track the psychotic agent who murdered her family. From the electrifying opening to the fatal finale, LÉON THE PROFESSIONAL is a nonstop crescendo of action, suspense and surprises. Experience the uncut version, with 24 minutes of footage not included in the original U.S. theatrical version.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO & AUDIO:

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

Audio quality is equally impressive.  Featured in 5.1 DTS-HD MA (in English, French and Portuguese), there are really good action sequences and gun fights that really utilize the soundscape from the front, center and surround channels.  Especially during the final confrontation, the film sounds great.  Music by Eric Serra also helps create the mood.  For the most part, this is not an action film that is overly aggressive as most of the film is dialogue-based between Leon and Mathilda but for the most part, when the action scenes do happen, you’ll definitely hear those gun shots, machine gun rattling, explosions really clear.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

  • 10 Year Retrospective: Cast and Crew Look Back – (25:09) A featurette released on the 2004 DVD.  A virtual reunion with interviews with the cast talking about a film they made 10 years ago.  How the film came to be made and how the talent were cast for the film.
  • Jean Reno: The Road to Leon – (12:25) A featurette about Jean Reno, his personal life of him growing up and his previous works that led to him playing the character of Leon.
  • Natalie Portman: Starting Young – (13:49) Natalie Portman talks about reading the script at 11-years-old and wanting to do the part despite her parents feeling it was inappropriate.  Working with Jean Reno and Luc Besson and how she was able to accomplish those emotional crying scenes and more.
  • Fact Track – Viewers can watch the extended version of the film with a fact track.
  • “Leon the Professional” is a riveting, action-packed film.  And for those who are familiar with Luc Besson films, you expect intense gunfighting sequences and plenty of destruction.  Granted, he has done a lot more of that now with recent films but back in 1994, “Leon the Professional” was entertaining then and 15-years later, continues to be quite entertaining now.

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

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

    As for the Blu-ray, I just felt the picture quality was fantastic for an early 90’s film.  With quite a few 90’s films that looks its age, the amount of colors and detail for on this HD release was great and the audio quality was also great.  Fans of the film will definitely enjoy this Blu-ray release, especially since it has both theatrical and extended versions of the film.

    Overall, a solid Blu-ray release for “Leon the Professional”.  Highly recommended!

    The Fifth Element (A J!-ENT DVD Review)

    September 27, 2003 by · Leave a Comment 

    Netflix, Inc.

    BUY THIS DVD

    MOVIE COMPANY: Columbia Pictures
    CAST: Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker, Luke Perry and more.
    DIRECTED BY: Luc Besson
    PRODUCED BY: Patrice Ledoux
    RATING: PG-13
    INTERNET MOVIE DATABASE URL: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0119116
    TYPE OF TV SHOW: Action, Sci-Fi

    Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich and Gary Oldman star in acclaimed director Luc Besson’s outrageous sci-fi adventure, an extravagantly styled tale of good against evil set in an unbelievable twenty-third century world.  All aboard for “A Futuristic , Eye Popping Adventure!” – Bill Diehl, ABC Radio Network.

    DVD EXTRAS:

    • Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    • Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen, Dolby, HiFi Sound, Surround Sound, Digital Sound, DTS Stereo
    • Full-screen and widescreen anamorphic formats

    KNOWN DVD SECRET:  None that I know of at this time.

    DVD REVIEW:

    When I heard that this DVD is known as one of the best reference DVD’s out there.  I must admit that it was a decision that was hard for me to decided if I wanted to buy this or not because #1) It’s known that there is no extra’s on this DVD and I heard this movie is so-so.  Also, the label on the DVD is on the wrong sides, so you need to put it on the side that says full screen to access the wide screen segment.  Then again, this problem maybe my DVD.

    I finally saw this movie and this is what I thought.  I liked it a lot!  This movie is visually stunning and the computer graphics were wonderful.  The storyline is good but it appeared an extra 30 minutes or an hour would have given this movie judgment because I felt there were some loose ends.

    But people are not buying this DVD much for the extra’s and looking for a good story, they are buying this DVD because it’s the definitive reference DVD.

    Now, what makes this DVD so much of a reference DVD?  It’s the sound.  I watched this movie twice now.  The first just to listen to it in regular dolby surround.   Then I watched it again in digital 5.1 and all I can say….oh my!

    For those who are contemplating if they should upgrade their old home theater receivers for a digital 5.1 system, I have two words for you…”Heck yeah!”  You don’t understand that they utilize the sound to the utmost best.  I thought “Godzilla” was one hell of a reference DVD but “The Fifth Element” is definitely a reference DVD.  The sounds are coming from everywhere…I  mean everywhere.  Very awesome!

    Ah…but although the audio is the main superb highlight, the video is also pretty awesome.  Check this out… the colors on the DVD are truly awesome!  The colors really do come out on this DVD.

    So, all in all this DVD sucks in terms for extras because there are hardly any.  The movie is slightly above average because they did one hell of a job on the graphics and colors.  The story for me had loose ends and was rushed.  I wish they could of added deleted scenes but knowing how much DVD fanatics consider this DVD among the best, I hope a special edition DVD comes out.

    I can’t give this DVD a great grade for overall because of the extra’s but as for a reference DVD, this DVD earns the highest of highest of marks.

    THE MOVIE:  B
    THE DVD EXTRAS:  D-
    THE DVD OVERALL:  C

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