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Spider-Man: Homecoming (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Disc Review)

October 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” may not be featuring the Spider-Man that I grew up reading but I will say that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was entertaining to the point that I watched it multiple times already because I really enjoyed watching the film.  The way I see it, if the “Spider-Man” trilogy or the next two films didn’t win you over, this movie may.  Wonderful story, loved the characters and this film was just a lot of fun and I highly recommend it!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Spider-Man: Homecoming

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 133 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition, 2:39:1 aspect ratio, English Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio,  French, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, Arabic, Cantonese,  Chinese, Dutch, French, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Spanish and Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: October 17, 2017


Based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Directed by Jon Watts

Screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

Producer: Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal

Executive Producer: Victoria Alonso, Avi Arad, Louis D’Esposito, Jeremy Latcham, Stan Lee, Matt Tolmach, Patricia Whitcher

Co-Producer:  Mitchell Bell, Eric Hauserman Carroll, Rachel O’Connor

Music by Michael Giacchino

Cinematography by Salvatore Totino

Edited by Debbie Berman, Dan Lebental

Casting by Sarah Finn

Production Design by Oliver Scholl

Set Decoration by Lauri Gaffin

Costume Design by Louise Frogley


Starring:

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man

Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man

Marisa Tomei as May Parker

Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan

Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts

Zendaya as Michelle

Donald Glover as Aaron Davis

Jacob Batalon as Ned

Laura Harrier as Liz

Tony Revolori as Flash

Bokeem Woodbine as Herman Schultz/Shocker

Tyne Daly as Anne Marie Hoag

Garcelle Beauvais as Doris Toomes


A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – but when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.


It is well-known that there is friction between Marvel Studios (which is currently owned by Disney) and their Marvel’s deal with FOX which gave them ownership to the X-Men films (and formerly the “Fantastic Four” films) which prevents the interaction of characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to co-exist.  But one big question that many have wondered is if one of the most iconic characters, Spider-Man, which the films are with Sony Pictures, would ever appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

And when it was announced that Sony Pictures, Marvel Studios and Disney would collaborate and allowed Spider-Man to be featured in a MCU film, not only was it unprecedented, fans applauded the studios of working together.

Spider-Man would be featured in “Captain America: Civil War” and now we have a new Spider-Man film which allows Tony Stark (Iron Man) and even Captain America to be featured in a Sony Pictures film, “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.

The film begins not long after the Battle of New York (as featured in the first “Avengers” film).  Adrian Toomes (portrayed by Michael Keaton) owns a salvage company and is contracted to clean up the city of the destroyed alien Chitauri technology that have littered the streets of New York.

As Adrian sees the financial possibilities of obtaining this technology, the Department of Damage Control (D.O.D.C.) and a partnership with Stark Industries and the U.S. government have come in to take over, upsetting Adrian because he hired a lot of helped and spent his own money for the operation.

Having lost the job, his men reveal that they still have some of the alien technology.

Fastforward eight years later (following the events that took place in “Captain America: Civil War”), Peter Parker went to help Tony Stark/Iron Man and when taken home, is told that if they need him, they will call. Meanwhile, Happy Hogan (portrayed by Jon Favreau) would be watching over him.

And while Peter lives a double life as an intelligent studying at the Midtown School of Science and Technology, he takes on thugs or helps people with issues around the city, growing bored and wanting to do something huge.  He lives with his Aunty May (portrayed by Marisa Tomei) and hangs out with his best friend Ned (portrayed by Jacob Batalon) and has a crush on Liz (portrayed by Laura Harrier).

Meanwhile, we see that Adrian Toomes and his men have utilized the technology to pull of major theft of alien technology and selling it to the highest bidder and becoming wealthy because of it.

One device made is a shocking device and the person utilizing the technology would be known as The Shocker, while Toomes has a vulture like apparatus that allows him to fly and use the machinery as a weapon.

One day, as Spider-Man is out patrolling, he discovers a group of thieves dressed up with Avengers masks trying to rob a bank near his home.  Spider-Man goes to stop them but is shocked that they have alien technology that can literally destroy buildings quickly and another that makes him utilizing magnetic technology.

When he goes back home and sneaks in, Peter is unaware that his friend Ned is in his room and now Ned knows his secret that Peter is Spider-Man.

And as Peter tries to keep his double life in check, he is wanting to know more about the people using the alien technology despite the warning he receives from Tony Stark that he must stay on the ground.  Will Peter’s pursuit of who is using the Chitauri put him in true danger, especially of the people who are close to him?


VIDEO:

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is presented in 4K Ultra High Definition ala 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).

The film looks absolutely magnificent in 4K Ultra HD and Spider-Man’s outfit is vibrant, colors and visual effects look magnificent and with each passing year, I can’t help but be in awe of how these MCU films look better and better.

Videophiles will no doubt be happy with this release.

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 (Category 2) Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio quality is equally impressive. Presented in English Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description.

The lossless audio is no doubt immersive considering the amount of action featured in this film.   Each shockblast, each web shot by Spider-Man, hearing the Vulture’s steel wings in action to the many numerous situations that involve explosions and weaponry, these sound effects for this film is truly marvelous.  Similar to the picture quality, for audio, lossless audio for this film is magnificent!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese, Dutch, French, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Spanish and Thai

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” comes with the following special features (on the Blu-ray Disc):

  • The Spide Study Guide – Watch the film with informative pop-ups and hidden references.
  • Gag Reel – (2:17) Bloopers from “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (16:17) Featuring ten deleted and extended scenes.
  • A Tangled Web – (6:12) Stan Lee and filmmakers discusses Spider-Man becoming part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Searching for Spider-Man – (8:05) A featurette about Tom Holland and having him as Spider-Man.
  • Spidey Stunts – (5:48) A featurette about the stunts on “Spider-Man” and how when Tom Holland auditioned for the film, he was doing stunts and using his gymnastic/dance background in the film.
  • Aftermath – (4:48) A featurette about the expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe and incorporating storyline elements (featured in the “Avengers” film) to Spider-Man.
  • The Vulture Takes Flight – (6:02) A featurette about creating the antagonist, the Vulture on film.
  • Jon Watts: Head of the Class – (5:30) A featurette about hiring Jon Watts as the director of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and how he takes the character somewhere that has never been done for character on film.
  • Pros and Cons of Spider-Man – (3:28) Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon discussing the pros and cons of Spider-Man.
  • Rappin with Cap – (2:26) Featuring all four Captain America school films.
  • Photo Gallery
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

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


Growing up as a fan of “Spider-Man”, it has been interesting cinematic experiences.  From the Sam Raimi trilogy featuring actor Tobe Maguire in the 2000’s and the Marc Webb films starring Andrew Garfield in 2012 and 2014.  I was entertained by those films.

But with the Marvel Cinematic Universe establishing a well-oiled machine showcasing Marvel’s well-known characters interacting in each other’s films, one of the troubling situations was knowing that various superhero teams or superheroes featured from one studio, may not appear in the Disney/Marvel Studios films.

And when it was announced that Sony agreed to a collaboration for Spider-Man to be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, first with “Captain America: Civil War” and now with “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and I see this as a win-win, for the studios but also the fans who have seen the MCU and how these characters and films tie together as a major plus.

But with numerous Spider-Man films, how would “Spider-Man: Homecoming” do compared to the other films?

For one, there is no rehash of how Spider-Man became a hero, no Uncle Ben, no jocks vs. geeks storyline.  No Mary Jane Watson.  No Gwen Stacy.  In fact, no one knew what to expect from filmmaker Jon Watts (known for indie films, “Cop Car” and “Creative Control”), especially as the film had numerous writers such as Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Watts along with Christopher Ford and Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers.

And probably the unknown is what made this film so enjoyable for me.  We saw how Spider-Man was recruited by Tony Stark in “Captain America: Civil War”, but what happened after that film is what many wondered how “Spider-Man: Homecoming” would end up.

The film would kick off by creating a tie-in to the first “Avengers” film with showing how Adrian Toomes owning a salvage company, taking alien high-technology from the ravaged streets of New York and then being kicked to the curb by the government and Stark Industries.  But Toomes and company managed to keep some of that alien technology and eight years later, he and his crew would be able to create superpowered weaponry with the salvaged Chitauri technology and become an arms trafficker.

Meanwhile, Peter Parker who served with Iron Man and other Avengers would now be returned back home and would need to report to Happy Hogan, the former head of security of Stark Industries.  While wanting to be in major skirmishes like the Avengers, Peter Parker for now will be the neighborhood crime-fighting hero, even if it means walking elderly across the street or vandalism.

But meanwhile Peter is trying to balance school and uses his superhero front working with Stark Industries as a “student internship” and trying to enjoy his teenage life with his buddy Ned while enjoying the presence of his high school crush, Liz from afar.

But life changes for Peter when he discovers Toome and their crew trying to use Chitauri technology for crime and because of their deadly weapons, he was nearly killed until Tony Stark utilized one of his costumes to save Peter.  But Peter wanting to prove himself to Tony Stark pursues the criminals not realizing the full extent of the danger that awaits him but also how with great power comes great responsibility.

The major difference between this Peter Parker than other incarnations of Peter Parker is that this is a modern film.  The costume that Peter Parker wears utilizes technology from Stark Industries giving him a wide range of selections for combat and even has an assistant built in to the costume.  And part of the entertainment factor is seeing Parker learn what his costume is capable of.

Meanwhile, as for Peter, another key difference is that while he is often bullied by Flash, unlike the first trilogy and the comic books, Flash is not an athlete but a part of Peter’s decathlon team.  Modernized for today’s generation, I liked how the film portrayed Peter, Ned, Liz, Flash as smart, intelligent teens and showcasing geeks as “cool” unlike the past where the geeks were always tormented by the jocks.

The film mirrors today’s world society and one of the things that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done was to show diversity.  The film showcases a white teen who has a crush on an African American teen, her mother is married to a Caucasian man, the film features Peter Parker’s best friend Ned who happens to be a Filipino.

It may not mean a lot to some people but for those who have been wanting to see diversity, wanting to see situations that mirror real life and have wanted Hollywood to showcase diversity will definitely get that with “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.

The film looks absolutely fantastic on 4K Ultra HD and the lossless soundtrack is immersive and quite active thanks to the plethora of action sequences.  And you also get a numerous special features included as well.

Overall, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” may not be featuring the Spider-Man that I grew up reading but I will say that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was entertaining to the point that I watched it multiple times already because I really enjoyed watching the film.  The way I see it, if the “Spider-Man” trilogy or the next two films didn’t win you over, this movie may.  Wonderful story, loved the characters and this film was just a lot of fun and I highly recommend it!

Iron Man 3 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

foolishwives

This is the best “Iron Man” film created thus far!  The change of having Shane Black as a director and co-writer along with Drew Pearce would bring an attention to a character driven film, in this case, Tony Stark.  This is the most vulnerable that we see of the character but how it integrates and balances with the action, makes “Iron Man 3” much better than its predecessors.  As an “Iron Man” fan, if you love superhero films especially with a lot of heavy hitting action, “Iron Man 3” on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

TITLE: Iron Man 3

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 130 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

COMPANY: Marvel Entertainment/Disney

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: September 24, 2013

Directed by Shane Black

Screenplay by Drew Pearce, Shane Black

Based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby

Based on the “Extremis” mini-series by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov

Executive Producer: Victoria Alonso, Stephen Broussard, Louis D’Esposito, Jon Favreau, Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Dan Mintz, Charles Newirth, Lars P. Winter, Bing Wu, Wen-ga Xiao

Produced by Kevin Feige

Associate Producer: Mitchell Bell, Lars P. Winther

Music by Brian Tyler

Cinematography by John Toll

Edited by Peter S. Elliot, Jeffrey Ford

Casting by Sarah Finn

Production Design by Bill Brzeski

Art Direction by Alan hook, Desma Murphy, Jay Pelissier, Brian Stultz, John Eaves

Set Decoration by Danielle Berman

Costume Design by Louise Frogley

Starring:

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark

Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts

Don Cheadle as Colonel James Rhodes

Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian

Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen

Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan

Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery

James Badge Dale as Savin

Stephani Szostak as Brandt

Paul Bettany as the voice of Jarvis

William Sadler as President Ellis

Dale Dickey as Mrs. Davis

Ty Simpkins ans Harley Keener

Miguel Ferrer as Vice President Rodriguez

The studio that brought you Marvel’s The Avengers unleashes the best Iron Man adventure yet with this must-own, global phenomenon starring Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow.

When Tony Stark/Iron Man finds his entire world reduced to rubble, he must use all his ingenuity to survive, destroy his enemy and somehow protect those he loves. But a soul-searching question haunts him: Does the man make the suit… or does the suit make the man? Featuring spectacular special effects, Marvel’s Iron Man 3 explodes with exclusive Blu-ray content.

It’s currently the fifth highest grossing film worldwide and the highest grossing film of 2013, “Iron Man 3” has earned over $1.2 billion worldwide (second highest grossing film of the Marvel cinematic universe after “The Avengers”) and the highest grossing “Iron Man” film yet!

And I have to say, it’s the best “Iron Man” film created so far!

From the writer of “The Monster Squad” and the “Lethal Weapon” films, Shane Black may only have had one film in his directorial belt with the 2005 film “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” but the he has demonstrated that he can write and he can direct and together with co-writer Drew Pearce (Executive Producer of “Damage Control”), the duo have proven that they can deliver!

And the film features an all-star cast with Robert Downey, Jr. (“The Avengers”, “Sherlock Holmes”, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”), Gwyneth Paltrow (“Se7en”, “Glee”, “Shakespeare in Love”), Don Cheadle (“Crash”, “Hotel Rwanda”), Guy Pearce (“Memento”, “L.A. Confidential”, “Prometheus”), Rebecca Hall (“The Prestige”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), Jon Favreau (“Swingers”, “Elf”, “Zathura: A Space Adventure”) and Ben Kingsley (“Schindler’s List”, “Shutter Island”, “Gandhi”).

And now “Iron Man 3” is set to be released on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy and Blu-ray + DVD on September 24th.

“Iron Man 3” begins with Tony Stark (portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr.) discussing an event that took place on New Year’s Eve back in 1999 in Switzerland.  Stark along with scientist Maya Hansen are about to have a romantic fling for the night but they are interrupted by a scientist named Aldrich Killian (portrayed by Drew Pearce) who wants to talk with him about his company, Advanced Idea Mechanics.  Tony tells Aldrich to meet him on top of the building in five minutes.

But after talking to Maya Hansen about Extremis (an regenerative treatment to allow recovery from crippling injuries), the two are distracted by Extremis and one another.  And eventually, Tony forgets about Aldrich Killian who continues to wait on top of the hotel building.

Fast forward to 2013 and Tony is still recovering from his bout with anxiety and paranoia after the alien invasion of New York (featured in “The Avengers” film) and has panic attacks, worried that he may not have what it takes to protect humanity.

During his period of isolation, he has created several dozen Iron Man suits and is trying to control them with his thoughts.  But it’s creating a stress on his relationship with Pepper (portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow), his girlfriend and the person overseeing Stark Industries.

Meanwhile, the broadcast networks are hacked and a terrorist known as the Mandarin talks of his disdain of America and becomes the #1 terrorist that the U.S. government are after.  Meanwhile, Aldrich Killian comes to visit Stark Industries to introduce Pepper a new technology he has developed but she tells him that Stark Industries is not interested.  Because Aldrich came with a shady bodyguard, Stark Industries security chief Happy Hogan (portrayed by Jon Favreau) begins investigating them.  One night when following them to Hollywood, he sees the bodyguard making a transfer to a man.  As Happy bumps into the man, he manages to knock over a case full of metal parts and takes one piece but is caught by Aldrich’s bodyguard.  A fight ensues and the man who received the case from the bodyguard explodes, killing those who are nearby and severely injuring Happy Hogan.

With the Mandarin making threats, Stark issues a threat for the Mandarin to attack him at his personal address and gives his personal address out on television.

Back at Tony’s home, he is visited by Maya Hansen who is about to tell him something important.  But as Tony tries to introduce Pepper to Maya, she sees a television report and sees a helicopter shooting missiles towards Tony’s home.

Several helicopters begin attacking the home knocking Maya out and Tony activating his Iron Man prototype suit on Pepper and protecting her.  As Tony gets his prototype suit back, he tells Pepper to get Maya outside to safety, meanwhile the attackers continue to send missiles, destroying Tony’s home and all his Iron Man suits.  Iron Man’s prototype suit has no weapons yet assigned to it, so Tony tries to fight back but ends up going down the sea and sinking with remnants of his home. His suit is able to escape to rural Tennessee but in the process, he loses the AI known as J.A.R.V.I.S. and he is stuck on his own in the freezing middle of nowhere.

He manages to leave Pepper a message that he’s OK, but the world thinks he is dead.  Tony finds a garage and breaks into it and tries to find a way to fix his armor.  Meanwhile, a 10-year-old named Harley comes in and befriends Tony and helps him find the parts he needs to fix his armor.

But as Tony investigates the attack in Hollywood, he finds out that a similar situation happened in Tennessee.  Meanwhile, as he hopes to find a way to fix his prototype suit, unbeknown to Stark is that Mandarin agents have arrived to his location to kill him.

Will Tony find the Mandarin or will he find out another mastermind who is responsible for this deadly plot?

VIDEO:

“Iron Man 3” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is possibly one of the top looking Blu-ray I have seen all year.  Not only are details evident in the Iron Man’s armor but closeups are also well-done on camera closeups, CG elements via green screen look magnificent and integrates with the real surroundings remarkably well.

I found no artifacts, no banding and this is one of the most detailed films on Blu-ray!  Recommended!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Iron Man 3” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and it is one of the most immersive lossless soundtracks I have heard for 2013 and the last two years.  From the helicopters sending missiles to destroy Tony Stark’s home and the sound of explosions and all out destruction is fantastic.  Especially the fight sequence towards the end of the film with explosions galore, great use of LFE and the amount of weaponry featured in this film from Iron Man or the antagonists, they sound magnificent in HD!   A fantastic lossless soundtrack and one of the best I have listened to in 2013!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Iron Man 3” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with director/co-writer Shane Black and co-writer Drew Pearce.
  • Marvel One Shot: Agent Carter – (15:29) Featuring Agent Carter (actress Hayley Atwell) who is left doing a desk job, takes on a mission without alerting her superiors.
  • Iron Man 3 Unmasked – (10:59) Behind-the-scenes of “Iron Man 3”.
  • Deconstructing the Scene: Attack on Air Force One – (8:43) How the following action scene was created and how people actually did sky dive for the scene.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (16:20) Featuring ten deleted and extended scenes.
  • Exclusive Look at Thor: The Dark World  – (1:53) A short interview and clips for the upcoming “Thor: The Dark World”.
  • Gag Reel – (5:09) Outtakes from “Iron Man 3”.

EXTRAS:

NOTE: The review copy we are reviewing is the disc only, but we do know a DVD version of the film is included with the Blu-ray release.

When it comes to superhero films, I have to admit that within the last decade, we have seen action-heavy films based on the characters of the comic books, but while action and special effects are great, the story tended to be more towards the weak side.

Fortunately for the “Iron Man” films, they have been films that are full of action, full of humor thanks to the outstanding performance from Robert Downey, Jr.  But I have to admit that as much as I enjoyed both films, I did not love them.

Here we are with the third film based on the popular iconic Marvel character.  And while it’s a deviation from the comic book storyline as expected, the sheer magnitude of destruction and emotional situations that Tony Stark must go through makes “Iron Man 3” the best film in the series.

Yes, he has been the intelligent, suave playboy.  But with the third “Iron Man”, Marvel has made sure that the film has some connection to last year’s summer blockbuster “The Avengers”.

In this case, with Tony Stark seeing that humanity can be in danger by enemies that humanity has never known, he needs to prepare by improving his technology, which include the ability to have control of various armor parts coming back to him by mental or vocal commands.  But also the experimentation with various prototypes he had created.

The Tony Stark featured in the third “Iron Man” film is one that is not the same after the fight against the aliens in “The Avengers”.  Panic attacks plague the hero billionaire as he has stopped sleeping because of his need to protect the people he loves.

But when America is tempted to respond to terrorism thanks to a man named “The Mandarin”, America is under alert after a man explodes and kills people in Hollywood with shadows that heat into the walls resembling a nuclear attack. One person injured is Tony Stark’s good friend Happy Hogan.

As the Mandarin is responsible, Stark offers the direct challenge to attack him at his home and sure enough they do, several helicopters arrive and many missiles are fired in Stark’s compound and obliterates Stark’s home. The visual scenery of the Iron Man costumes blown up or seeing the ultimate destruction of the home was wonderful.

But there are also death defying stunts including a rescue attempt with people who blew out of an airplane which Iron Man has to rescue them.  Where most companies would take the short route of not having any casualties or injuries, to shoot via blue screen and have it done via CG, but in the case of “Iron Man 3”, they actually planned it via sky diving, so it’s one of the most intriguing stunts for a scene that I have seen in a long time.  I was impressed!

One of the most exciting action sequences on “Iron Man 3” (one of many), it’s when you realize that Marvel tries to keep things simple and showcasing the characters much more.  Bringing these characters to the forefront and giving them more of a role than just standing and sitting around.  Pepper (portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow) has much more involvement in this film, as does Col. James Rhodes (portrayed by Don Cheadle).  It’s what makes this film much better, utilizing characters but also making Tony Stark, the man, now in danger.  Without his “Iron Man” suit which is badly in need of a recharge, he must use his intelligence in trying to protect the people he loves and finding those who are responsible.

While purists will always complain how Marvel superhero films don’t resemble the comic books in anyway, this is probably the best we could see of the utilization of the Mandarin and also AIM as antagonists.  As a longtime Marvel fan and grew up reading the comic books, I wasn’t disappointed but actually thrilled of how they were able to pull things off.

And I felt that Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow had even more chemistry onscreen than in previous films.  And once again, the utilization of the characters was important to the storyline and having a change in directorial direction with Shane Black at the helm along with writer Drew Pearce made a difference to the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, this is a spectacular release with one of the better Blu-ray releases I have seen for 2013.  In terms of picture quality and also an immersive lossless audio soundtrack, this Blu-ray release is a video and audiophile’s dream release in terms of wonderful detail, colors and presentation in HD, while audio is immersive and those with a 7.2 system can be assured that explosions, artillery, you name it is heard from all around you.

As for special features, there are a quite a good number of them. The audio commentary was informative but my favorite was the Agent Carter short that I was not expecting and it was a very wonderful addition to this Blu-ray release.

It’s important to remind everyone that there are three releases, one on 3D Blu-ray, the other is a Blu-ray release which includes the DVD and a digital copy and the regular edition with the Blu-ray and DVD included.  So, special features may differ with these other Blu-ray versions.

Overall, this is the best “Iron Man” film created thus far!  The change of having Shane Black as a director and co-writer along with Drew Pearce would bring an attention to a character driven film, in this case, Tony Stark.  This is the most vulnerable that we see of the character but how it integrates and balances with the action, makes “Iron Man 3” much better than its predecessors.

As an “Iron Man” fan, if you love superhero films especially with a lot of heavy hitting action, “Iron Man 3” on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

 

“STAND UP TO CANCER” RETURNS TO PRIMETIME FOR ITS THIRD STAR-STUDDED BROADCAST ON SEPT. 7

July 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

OSCAR®-WINNING ACTRESS GWYNETH PALTROW

TO EXECUTIVE PRODUCE

WITH EMMY® AWARD WINNER JOEL GALLEN

LIVE, ONE-HOUR FUNDRAISING EVENT TO AIR

COMMERCIAL-FREE SIMULTANEOUSLY ON ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC AND CABLE

8:00 PM ET AND PT / 7:00 PM CT

 

http://www.standup2cancer.org | facebook.com/su2c | Twitter: @SU2C |

Tune-in: http://youtu.be/7O_P_Fr4S1E

 

JULY 11, 2012 (Los Angeles / New York) – Building on two historic fundraising telecasts in 2008 and 2010, groundbreaking grassroots movement Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), will return to primetime television on Friday, Sept. 7 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT).  Executive producers Gwyneth Paltrow and Joel Gallen of Tenth Planet Productions will join Stand Up To Cancer’s production team to deliver a one-of-a-kind show featuring performances from top recording artists, and celebrities from film, television and sports engaging viewers with powerful stories and a moving call-to-action.

This star-studded appeal will continue to build public support for groundbreaking translational research accelerating the delivery of new therapies to patients, getting them from the “bench to the bedside” as quickly as possible. SU2C brings together scientists from different disciplines across various institutions to collaborate.

ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC are donating one hour of simultaneous commercial-free primetime for the nationally televised fundraising special on September 7, to be broadcast live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. HBO, HBO Latino, Bio, LMN (Lifetime Movie Network), Logo, MLB Network, mun2, Palladia and VH1 have also committed to carry the Stand Up To Cancer telecast, with other cablers expected to, as well. The program will include a celebrity phone/multi-media bank that will allow viewers to interact with participating talent.

Viewers will also be able to donate via text-to-give and at standup2cancer.org. 100% of all public donations will go directly to cancer research.

One in two men and one in three women in the U.S. are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, and almost eight million people worldwide die from cancer each year.

“This broadcast has become a global call-to-action for all those touched by cancer,” Paltrow said. “Like so many people, I know what it’s like to lose a family member to this disease, and I’m honored to stand up in my father’s memory.”

Gallen previously produced three extremely successful televised fundraising specials: “America: A Tribute to Heroes” (after 9/11), “Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast,” and “Hope For Haiti Now.”  Music was a key element of each. He also produced and directed the “25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert.”

“Music and its ability to heal, unite and motivate will play a central role in this year’s show, as will the stories of people affected by cancer and how SU2C is changing their lives,” Gallen said. “It’s an honor to build on the terrific legacy Laura Ziskin established with the previous two broadcasts.”

The legendary film producer Laura Ziskin, who was a member of the SU2C Executive Leadership Council, executive produced the first two telecasts. Ziskin lived with breast cancer for seven years before it took her life in June of 2011.

“Stand Up To Cancer demonstrates the power of the entertainment community to help unite the public in support of a crucial cause that affects us all,” said SU2C Executive Leadership Council Member Sherry Lansing, who also established the Sherry Lansing Foundation and is Board Chair of the Entertainment Industry Foundation. “We’re very grateful to Gwyneth and Joel for leading the charge this year, and continuing to foster this important movement.”

SU2C was founded on the belief that this is a pivotal juncture with the potential for transformative progress in cancer research because of two trends: breakthroughs made in our understanding of the basic science of cancer, and technological advances that enable us to translate them into new treatments. Today’s cancer researchers need additional funding to fulfill the promise of life-saving discoveries, and Stand Up To Cancer engages the public to support their work.

“We set out to convince the public that this is a moment of great promise in cancer research, and that each and every person can play a role in helping the scientists who are working so hard to end this terrible disease,” said Stand Up To Cancer Executive Leadership Council Member Katie Couric. “Only four years into our work, we are delighted with the results. Our SU2C Dream Teams of scientists have made important strides, all for the benefit of patients, and we are excited to share that progress through the show.”

Talent participation in the 2012 SU2C broadcast will be announced throughout the summer. Past participants in the SU2C broadcasts include: Jennifer Aniston, Christina Applegate, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Lance Armstrong,  Halle Berry, Beyoncé, Jack Black, Mary J. Blige, Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Katie Couric, Sheryl Crow,  Ellen DeGeneres, Michael Douglas, Kirsten Dunst, Melissa Etheridge, Jimmy Fallon, Fergie, Jennifer Garner, Charlie Gibson, Salma Hayek, Ken Jeong, Scarlett Johansson, Jaime King, Lady Antebellum, Jay Leno, Laura Linney, Tobey Maguire, Martina McBride, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jim Parsons, Keanu Reeves, Rihanna, Robin Roberts, Seth Rogen, Adam Sandler, Diane Sawyer, Ryan Seacrest, Will Smith, Eric Stonestreet, Meryl Streep, James Taylor, Carrie Underwood, Sofia Vergara, Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Brian Williams, Reese Witherspoon, Stevie Wonder, Renée Zellweger, the late Patrick Swayze and others.

The first two SU2C telecasts took place on Sept. 5, 2008 and Sept. 10, 2010, and have been viewed in more than 190 countries. To date, more than $180 million has been pledged for SU2C’s innovative cancer research. Since 2008, SU2C has made grants to seven multi-disciplinary “Dream Teams” of researchers as well as to 26 young innovative scientists who are undertaking high-risk, potentially high-reward projects to end the reign of cancer as a leading cause of death in the world today.  Sixty-eight institutions are currently involved.

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the world’s largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer, is the scientific partner of Stand Up To Cancer. The AACR is responsible for the scientific review, grants administration, and scientific oversight of SU2C research projects in conjunction with the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee, led by Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., institute professor at the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The SU2C funding model has fostered collaboration and innovation, and the unprecedented sharing of ideas and pooling of resources across institutions. Dr. Sharp calls SU2C’s revolutionary approach “the best dollar spent on cancer research in the country.”

Collectively, the research underway through the SU2C Dream Team projects has the potential to impact the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of cancers in adults and children across ethnicities including pancreatic, breast, ovarian, skin, cervical, uterine, brain, lung, prostate, rectal and colon, leukemia and lymphoma, all of which collectively represent approximately two-thirds of all U.S. cancer deaths.

Below are short descriptions of the seven Dream Teams:

  •  The SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team: The epigenome refers to, in a sense, the “software” packaging that allows the “hard drive” of DNA to provide information for all cells in the body, and their genes, to carry out their specific functions. When this software behaves abnormally, it sends inaccurate signals and actually causes cancer.  Manipulating this epigenetic material or reversing how it’s behaving can attack the cancer itself.  This SU2C Dream Team tested a combination of epigenetic drugs in clinical trials and saw tumors shrink in a group of patients with non-small cell lung cancer, who had previously been treated, unsuccessfully, with three different chemotherapy regimens. This was the first-ever trial to show a bona-fide clinical response to epigenetic therapy in a solid tumor. The use of this treatment has been expanded into breast and colon cancer trials, and early lab results are extremely promising. In addition, the Dream Team observed responses to subsequent therapies in their patients, leading them to hypothesize that the epigenetic therapy may sensitize patients to other agents. If these early findings are borne out, they have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives.
  •  The SU2C Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team: This SU2C Dream Team has gained important insight into how the pancreatic tumor fuels itself, and is testing new ways of cutting off the fuel supply.  One trial therapy uses one drug to decrease the dense cellular layer surrounding the cancer so that a second drug can kill the cancer cells, and this drug combination has shown a high rate of substantial tumor shrinkage. Additionally, the Dream Team is studying a glutamine imaging agent that can be used during the PET scans of pancreatic patients to monitor the cancer growth and to validate whether a treatment is working. The Dream Team is also aggressively developing molecular profiles of patients’ tumors in order to identify potential druggable targets in patients for whom standard therapies have not helped.
  •  The SU2C PI3K Pathway Dream Team: This SU2C Dream Team is studying a group of genes involved in cell growth. These genes make up an information pathway that, when broken, can allow cells to grow uncontrollably. The team is enrolling patients with these phosphoinositide PI3- kinase (PI3K) mutations into clinical trials to test combinations of drugs to attack breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers. The goal of this Dream Team is to discover approaches that will predict which women’s cancers will respond positively to a drug that inhibits the PI3K pathway. The Dream Team has nine clinical trials underway to determine which patients will respond to PI3K inhibitors, to identify the drug combinations that will be most effective and to determine the best combination therapies for preventing drug resistance.
  •  The SU2C Breast Cancer Dream Team:  Breast cancer currently claims the lives of 40,000 women in the United States each year. In addition to developing more effective, less toxic medications for the three major breast cancer subtypes, the team is addressing cancer cells’ ability to become resistant to therapies that are initially effective, which is one of the primary obstacles to successful treatment.  Understanding resistance opens the door to developing new therapeutic agents to overcome this critical problem.
  •  The SU2C Circulating Tumor Cell (CTC) Chip Dream Team: This SU2C Dream Team developed a microfluidic chip – smaller than a business card – that detects and captures cancer cells circulating in our blood. The chip is sensitive enough to find one single cancer cell among the one billion normal cells contained in a small amount of a patient’s blood.  Four institutions within the Dream Team have utilized the chip to help guide treatment decisions in clinical trials, as it provides valuable insight into a therapy’s effectiveness through real-time tracking of the cancer. The team is now using the CTC technology to investigate the role of circulating tumor cells in the development of prostate cancer metastasis.
  •  The SU2C-MRA Melanoma Dream Team: Funded jointly with the Melanoma Research Alliance, this Dream Team is investigating the utility of personalized/targeted therapy in patients with BRAF Wild-Type (BRAFwt) metastatic melanoma – a subtype of melanoma for which there are currently few treatment options. The team hopes that an individualized medicine approach to the treatment of BRAFwt metastatic melanoma will not only lead to therapeutic benefit for this patient population, but may also be beneficial to many other tumor and disease types.
  •  The SU2C-PCF Prostate Dream Team:  Like other types of cancer, Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer (CRPC) is not a homogeneous disease. The diversity in the genetic makeup of each individual’s cancer may explain why therapies that work for some patients seem inefficient for others. This Dream Team – funded jointly with the Prostate Cancer Foundation – will utilize the power of so-called next-generation sequencing technology to decode the cancer genomes of 500 patients with CRPC, enrolled in four clinical trials. Armed with information about the genetic makeup of these patients’ individual cancers, the Dream Team will search for biomarker predictors of sensitivity to specific therapies, as well as predictors of resistance to them. The hope is that this approach, often referred to as “personalized medicine,” will lead to more effective and lasting treatments, and potentially spare the patients from unnecessary treatments that provide little or no benefit.

For more detailed information about the Dream Teams, individual Innovative Research Grants and other Stand Up To Cancer activities, www.standup2cancer.org fosters an online community for everyone affected by cancer, with various ways for people to share opinions and support, view video updates, contribute, and learn of ongoing initiatives and progress in the fight against the disease. Features of the website include The Constellation, which for a dollar donation or more allows users to launch a star in honor of anyone who has received a cancer diagnosis; The SU2C Blog, featuring diverse content describing cutting-edge research and offering unique perspectives of cancer survivors, researchers, and patient advocates; and The Grassroots Toolkit, which provides tools for community members to fundraise through SU2C Teams, Races, Clubs, or Events.

SU2C social media also provides a variety of opportunities to interact with SU2C, support those in the fight, and contribute to SU2C’s efforts.  Social channels include a thriving SU2C Facebook community of 850,000 fans, SU2C’s YouTube channel with 400 videos, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Crowdrise, and many more. Viewers can begin standing up to cancer now by becoming a fan of SU2C on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/su2c, by following SU2C on Twitter at @SU2C or http://twitter.com/su2c, subscribing to SU2C’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/su2c or by following SU2C on Google+ at https://plus.google.com/101641624610817811232.  To view our online tune-in video, please visit http://youtu.be/7O_P_Fr4S1E, which is also available for embed within your blog or site.

 

About the Stand Up To Cancer Initiative

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) – a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a 501(c)3 charitable organization – raises funds to hasten the pace of groundbreaking translational research that can get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives. In the fall of 2007, a group of women whose lives have all been affected by cancer in profound ways began working together to marshal the resources of the media and entertainment industries in the fight against this disease.

Members of the SU2C Executive Leadership Council (ELC) include Cancer Advocate and Television Journalist Katie Couric; Sherry Lansing, Chairperson of the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Board of Directors and founder of the Sherry Lansing Foundation; EIF President and CEO Lisa Paulsen; EIF Senior Vice President Kathleen Lobb; Rusty Robertson and Sue Schwartz of the Robertson Schwartz Agency; Pamela Oas Williams, President of Laura Ziskin Productions and Executive Producer of Stand Up To Cancer’s In-House Production Team, and Nonprofit Executive Ellen Ziffren. All of the ELC members are co-producers of the 2012 televised special.  The late Laura Ziskin, executive producer of both the Sept. 5, 2008 and Sept. 10, 2010 broadcasts, was also a member of the ELC.  SU2C was formally launched on May 27, 2008. Sung Poblete, Ph.D, R.N., has served as SU2C’s president and CEO since 2011.

Founding donor Major League Baseball has provided both financial support and countless opportunities to build the Stand Up To Cancer grassroots movement by encouraging fans all over the country to get involved.

Other major SU2C donors include Sidney Kimmel, the country’s largest individual contributor to cancer research; Bloomberg Philanthropies; Cancer Research Institute; Cancer Treatment Centers of America; Genentech; MasterCard; Melanoma Research Alliance; The Safeway Foundation; Prostate Cancer Foundation; Wallis Annenberg & The Annenberg Foundation; Amgen, GlaxoSmithKline; Pfizer; Oakland A’s Owner/Managing Partner Lew Wolff; Comcast; Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); Philips Electronics; Steve Tisch; The Island Def Jam Music Group and many others.

In addition to ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC and numerous cablers, other significant SU2C supporters include AOL, Bonnier Corporation, Condé Nast Media Group, eBay Inc., Facebook, Hearst Corporation, Hulu, iTunes, Los Angeles Times, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Meredith Corporation, The New York Times Company, Rodale, Time Inc, WebMD, Yahoo! and YouTube. For more information, visit standup2cancer.org.

 

About the Entertainment Industry Foundation

Stand Up To Cancer is a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that serves as the collective philanthropy for the television and film businesses. EIF has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to support programs addressing critical health, education and social issues. For more information, visit www.eifoundation.org.

 

About the AACR

Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR’s membership includes 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of individual and team science grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer.  For more information about the AACR, visit www.AACR.org.

Country Strong (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“Country Strong” is a film with solid music performances from Gwyneth Paltrow, Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester and a storyline that can remain true for a lot of troubled entertainers who don’t receive professional.   Despite some weaknesses in the screenplay, I did enjoy “Country Strong” and it’s a Blu-ray release worth giving a try.

Images courtesy of © 2010 Screen Gems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Country Strong

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2010

DURATION: 117 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Screen Gems/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (For Thematic Elements Involving Alcohol Abuse and Some Sexual Content)

RELEASE DATE: April 12, 2011

Written and Directed by Shana Feste

Produced by Tobey Maguire, Jenno Topping

Executive Producer: Meredith Zamsky

Associate Producer: George Flynn

Line Producer: Valerie Bleth Sharp

Music by Michael Brook

Cinematography by John Bailey

Edited by Carol Littleton, Conor O’Neill

Casting by Liz Dean, Laura Rosenthall

Production Design by David J Bomba

Art Direction by John R. Jensen

Set Decoration by Ruby Guidara

Costume Design by Stacey Battat

Starring:

Gwyneth Paltrow as Kelly Canter

Tim McGraw as James Canter

Garrett Hedlund as Beau Hutton

Leighton Meester as Chiles Stanton

Marshall Chapman as Winnie

Soon after a rising young singer-songwriter (Garrett Hedlund) gets involved with a fallen, emotionally unstable country star (Gwyneth Paltrow), the pair embark on a career resurrection tour helmed by her husband/manager (Tim McGraw) and featuring a beauty queen-turned-singer (Leighton Meester). Between concerts, romantic entanglements and old demons threaten to derail them all.


For many people in the music and entertainment industry, unfortunately there are a few who fall down so hard and are unable to get back up.  One can only hope that these individuals get professional help before it’s too late.

From the writer of “The Greatest” and “Jonah” comes “Country Strong”, a film both written and directed by Shana Feste.  The film stars Gwyneth Paltrow (“Iron Man”, “Seven”, “The Talented Mr. Ripley”), country singer Tim McGraw (“The Blind Side”, “Flicka”), Garrett Hedlund (“Tron”, “Four Brothers”, “Troy”) and Leighton Meester (“Gossip Girl”, “The Roommate”).

The storyline was inspired by Britney Spears but also other music artists who found themselves spiraling downwards due to alcohol or substance abuse and were mentally not able to handle fame.

The film begins with Beau Hutton, a budding country singer who also works at a rehabilitation facility where country singer Kelly Canter (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) is recovering.  We learn that both she and Beau have been having an affair and one day as the two are talking, her husband and manager James Canter (played by Tim McGraw) is checking Kelly out of rehab a month early.

Beau feels its wrong for her to skip out on her treatment but Kelly feels that she is OK and her husband has planned on rebuilding her image by planning a three-city tour.  But Kelly will only do this tour if James has Beau perform as her opening act, even though her husband has found another performing act, a beauty queen named Chiles Stanton (played by Leighton Meester), who has idolized Kelly growing up.

Beau happens to know Chiles quite well and we learn that she has a bad case of stage fright and doesn’t see her as a country artist but more as a “Country Barbie”.  But while she was freaking out during a live performance, Beau was right there to save it and eventually get Chiles warmed up.

But as the three prepare to go on tour, their first show is a disaster as Kelly receives an anonymous package with a dolly with fake blood on it and a letter that says “baby killer”.  We then learn that she was pregnant during her performance in Dallas, she fell off stage after being drunk and lost the baby.  This is what led to Kelly being in rehab.

But the site of the doll was too much for Kelly and she falls apart, gets drunk and refuses to go on.  But she is pushed by her husband to perform and when she does, she performs her song “Country Strong” and loves the support she is getting from the fans but unfortunately, she breaks down.  She tries to sing “A Fighter” but breaks down again and her husband has to end the show and make up a fake story that she had food poisoning.

Meanwhile, Beau knows that being around her and her husband is not good for her and knows she should be in rehab, so he shifts his attention towards Chiles.  Meanwhile, Kelly is learning quickly that producers are becoming more in tuned with Chiles and even giving songs that were intended for Kelly, to her.  She is also noticing the attention both her husband and even Beau is giving to the young music artist.

And when they arrive to the next city, Austin, Texas… As the group prepare for another show, Kelly ends up going to a bar and getting drunk.  And now this may be another concert that goes down the tubes.

Can Kelly rebound and get back to her feet and perform live?  Would she and her husband be willing to get her back into rehab ASAP?  Or will she continue to spiral further down and literally lose her life in the process?

VIDEO:

“Country Strong” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1).  Picture quality for the film is good as skin tones are natural, blacks are nice and deep and I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding.

If anything, the film is showcases a good amount of colors during the concert performances and you can see the detail within the messed up makeup of Kelly Canter or how red her face is after a night of drinking and barfing, there is a good amount of detail of a crying Kelly Canter that you see throughout this film.    You can see the hair stubble of Garrett Hedlund and Tim McGraw and you can also see the beautiful outfits and material worn by Gwyneth Paltrow and Leighton Meester.

Overall, solid PQ for “Country Strong”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Country Strong” is presented in English, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The lossless soundtrack is primarily front-channel driven and it’s the music that stands out the most for this soundtrack.  Sure, you get moments where the talent are performing at small dance halls or concert venues and you can hear the crowd ambiance through the surround channels but for this type of film, the soundtrack was good. Dialogue is clear, music is crystal clear and if you love the music for this film, you’ll love hearing it via lossless on Blu-ray!

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Country Strong” comes with the following special features presented in standard and high definition, in English with subtitles in English, Spanish and Portuguese:

  • Deleted Scenes – (4:30) Featuring a total of four deleted scenes: Beau’s Mother, Kelly & Beau talking, Chile’s Dressing Room and Beau Says Goodbye to Parents
  • “Shake That Thing” – Extended Performance – (4:01) An extended performance of Kelly performing “Shake That Thing”.
  • Original Ending – (2:52) The original ending to “Country Strong” which I’m glad they didn’t use for the final cut of the film.
  • Friends In High Places: The Cast of Country Strong – (14:00) Writer and director Shana Feste and producers talk about the cast and the cast talk about taking part in the film.  A Blu-ray exclusive.
  • Putting the Words in Their Mouths: The Songwriters – (8:31) How each of the performing talent were given three different producers to work with and prepare them for their role on “Country Strong”.  A Blu-ray exclusive.
  • A Little Bit Country: The Costumes– (8:48) A featurette on the costume design for both Kelly and Chiles.  A Blu-ray exclusive.
  • “Country Strong” by Gwyneth Paltrow – Music Video – (3:57)
  • “A Little Bit Stronger” by Sara Evans – Music Video – (4:48)
  • Country Strong Soundtrack – A still screen with who is on the soundtrack.


“Country Strong” is one of those melodramatic storylines of a star’s fall from grace and moving forward in getting back to the limelight.  And for this film, it has its share of positives and negatives.

Possibly the biggest positive of the film is the training that each of the three talents: Gwyneth Paltrow, Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester had to go through in order for them to perform country music.  Garrett Hedlund, who we are familiar with his work on “Tron: Legacy” is the biggest surprise as he comes off the best singer of the film.  Gwyneth can sing, as many of are familiar with her singing chops on “Glee” and Leighton Meester has released several pop singles and an album already.  But it’s trying to make us feel that these people are passionate about country music is what works and for the most part, I credit writer/director Shana Feste for sticking to her guns and making sure these three work with a variety of different producers from Nashville.

What I also enjoyed about this storyline is even if it was inspired by Britney Spears, there are countless other talent and entertainers that the character of Kelly could be based on.  Sure, this is nothing new as entertainers who have over-indulged on alcohol or narcotics has been going on for many decades but while media tends to cover these stars, there is this side of media that expects these entertainers to fail and worse yet, die.

How many times have you read news or articles on will Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Charlie Sheen, Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston or whoever is the name of the day for entertainers who found themselves in a mess, wondering how much longer they have to live?  Many forget that behind the glamor and glitz are people who may seem strong, independent, sexy and captivating on screen but deep down, they are at a fragile point of their lives and unfortunately, they meet the same fates as Janis Joplin, River Phoenix, etc.

But part of the problem of “Country Strong” is that we know Kelly is messed up and that she needs to be in rehab much longer, but yet Beau knows she’s messed up and yet plays with her heart and then pushes her off the side when she’s at her most desperate and he starts going after Chiles.    In fact, there is a point where Kelly is so messed up that she’s even getting it on with her agent, when he threatens to pull the plug on the tour.  And her husband, he’s just living in his own facade and not knowing what to do.

You wonder if Kelly had even a good support system of family and friends to help her battle her sickness or her own personal demons in order to come back stronger, maybe not as an artist but as a person getting a second chance in life and live life differently.

There are so many things that could have happened…to see Kelly really be ticked that Beau has gone after the younger Chiles or even Kelly’s husband getting upset with Chiles spending too much time with Beau.  No one is truly upset with this film, they just continue on their way , worrying if Kelly can complete the tour and no one really worries about Kelly.  Sure, Beau wants her to get rehab but at the same time, it seems that part of him is more interested in getting together with her and getting laid.

As for the Blu-ray release, it would have been nice to see a commentary by Shana Feste but the Blu-ray release does have exclusives that are actually quite enjoyable to watch and goes into details of what the primary talent had to do in order to prepare for their character role.  A lot of training, voice lessons, guitar lessons, etc.

If anything, I felt that the film should have explored the pain that Kelly was suffering.  I wish there was a scene that would show the fall of Kelly Canter and establish the hell that she has been through and how badly she is within her personal life. But we are left to imagine how much suffering she has been keeping inside her…but the truth is, like the viewer and those around her, no one truly knows the pain that she feels inside and what magnitude that pain truly is.

But the film does some things quite well. Despite how strong Kelly appears to be, you can only sense that her soul is shattering and there are signs that she needs help and no one is doing a thing.  That really bugs me and to see her manager/husband more interested in getting her back to the limelight is also bothersome.  And unfortunately with today’s troubled stars, we see some of that in the news.  So much focus on the career and not trying to get that person some help and its unfortunate.

Overall, “Country Strong” is sad melodrama that shows us the rise and fall and the hope for a rise of an aging, once popular country music star.  And despite all the people around her, this woman who is in need of help doesn’t really have anyone who truly cares to make her and get the help that she needs.  And I think that Shana Feste who wrote and directed the film has a timely message because we can easily see people in today’s entertainment magazines who are like Kelly and are in dire need of help.  But in the end, despite some weaknesses in the screenplay, I did enjoy “Country Strong” and it’s a Blu-ray release worth giving a try.

Country Strong on Blu-ray and DVD April 12

February 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Academy Award® & Golden Globe® Nominee for Best Original Song

COUNTRY STRONG
All Star Cast Includes Oscar® Winner Gwyneth Paltrow,
Country Music Sensation Tim McGraw,
and Rising Stars Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester

Extensive Bonus Materials Include Original Ending, Music Videos, Deleted Scenes, Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes, and an Extended Performance on Blu-ray™ and DVD April 12

CULVER CITY, CALIF. (February 22, 2011) – Academy Award® winner Gwyneth Paltrow (Best Actress, Shakespeare in Love, 1998), three-time Grammy Award® winner Tim McGraw (The Blind Side), Garrett Hedlund (Tron Legacy), and Leighton Meester (The Roommate, TV’s “Gossip Girl”) and bring a quartet of star power to the inspirational movie about second chances – Country Strong, debuting on Blu-ray™ and DVD April 12th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Paltrow plays a country music star seeking to revive her music career after a stint in rehab.

The DVD and Blu-ray are loaded with bonus materials, including the original ending, music videos with Sara Evans and Gwyneth Paltrow, deleted scenes,  and an extended performance of “Shake that Thing” by Gwyneth Paltrow.  Blu-ray exclusive materials include three behind-the-scenes featurettes: “A Little Bit Country: The Costumes,” “Friends in High Places: The Cast of Country Strong,” and “Putting the Words in Their Mouths: The Songwriters.” The toe-tapping hit soundtrack includes the Academy Award and Golden Globe® nominated song “Coming Home,” performed by Paltrow, as well as the new single, “Me and Tennessee” sung by McGraw and Paltrow, and music by country superstars including Ronnie Dunn, Sara Evans, Faith Hill, Hank Williams, Jr. and Lee Ann Womack. Country Strong will be available on Blu-ray™ for $34.95 SRP and on DVD for $28.95 SRP.

SYNOPSIS:
Soon after a rising young singer (Garrett Hedlund) gets involved with a fallen country star (Gwyneth Paltrow), the pair embark on a career resurrection tour helmed by her husband/manager (Tim McGraw) and featuring a beauty queen-turned-singer (Leighton Meester).

Written and directed by Shana Feste.  Jenno Topping and Tobey Maguire produced, with Meredith Zamsky serving as executive producer.

DVD and Blu-ray Bonus Features Include:
§         Original Ending
§         Music Video: “A Little Bit Stronger” by Sara Evans
§         Music Video: “Country Strong” by Gwyneth Paltrow
§         Extended Performance of “Shake That Thing” by Gwyneth Paltrow
§         Deleted Scenes

Blu-ray Exclusive Bonus Features Include:
§         Featurette: “A Little Bit Country: The Costumes”
§         Featurette: “Friends in High Places: The Cast of Country Strong”
§         Featurette: “Putting the Words in Their Mouths: The Songwriters”
§         movieIQ™+sync featuring the Country Strong playlist

Country Strong has a runtime of approximately 117 minutes and is rated PG 13 for thematic elements involving alcohol abuse and some sexual content.

Gwyneth Paltrow attending the Bent on Learning Yoga event in Manhattan

April 29, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Gwyneth Paltrow Hosts Bent on Learning Yoga Benefit

Celebrities attend the Bent on Learning yoga benefit hosted by Gwyneth Paltrow at the Puck Building in Manhattan, NY on April 28, 2010. Pictured: Fame Pictures, Inc. Content © 2010 famepictures.com All rights reserved.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Courteney Cox and Rita Wilson at Saks Fifth Avenue’s Unforgettable Evening Benefiting Entertainment Industry Foundation’s (EIF) Womens’s Cancer Research Fund

February 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Gwyneth Paltrow, Courteney Cox and Rita Wilson at Saks Fifth Avenue’s Unforgettable Evening Benefiting Entertainment Industry Foundation’s (EIF) Womens’s Cancer Research Fund held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Los Angeles. Pictured: Gwyneth Paltrow, Courteney Cox and Rita Wilson Picture by: Entertainment Press / Splash News. Content © 2009 Splash News . All rights reserved.

Saks Fifth Avenue's unforgettable evening

Gwyneth Paltrow visiting Madonna at her London home

December 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

picapp: Actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Stella McCartney visit Madonna at her London home in The United Kingdom. Pictured: Gwyneth Paltrow Picture by: Gotcha Images / Splash News. Content © 2008 Splash News . All rights reserved.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Stella McCartney at Madonna's London Home

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