Top

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

April 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: Underworld: Blood Wars

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 91 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Strong Bloody Violence and Some Sexuality)

RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2017


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

Directed by Anna Foerster

Screenplay by Cory Goodman

Story by Kyle Ward, Cory Goodman

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

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

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

Music by Michael Wandmacher

Cinematography by Karl Walter Lindenlaub

Edited by Peter Amundson

Casting by Julie Hutchinson, Maya Kvetny, Suzanne Smith

Production Design by Ondrej Nekvasil

Art Direction by Bryce Tibbey, Martin Vackar

Set Decoration by Beatrice Brentnerova

Costume Design by Bojana Nikitovic


Starring:

Kate Beckinsale as Selene

Theo James as David

Tobias Menzies as Marius

Lara Pulver as Semira

Charles Dance as Thomas

James Faulkner as Cassius

Peter Andersson as Vidar

Clementine Nicholson as Lena

Bradley James as Varga

Daisy Head as Alexia

Oliver Stark as Gregor

Sveta Driga as Amelia


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


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

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

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

What is “Underworld” about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben Hur: The Epic Miniseries Event (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

April 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“Ben Hur: The Epic Miniseries Event” was quite entertaining.  Not to be compared to the previous film adaptations or even the original story, on its own, with the amount of characters and the focus of relationships around Judah Ben Hur, there is enough difference with this mini-series to make it still exciting and enjoyable for viewers.

Image courtesy of © 2010 Drimtim Entertainment S.A., Pontius Pilate Productions (Muse) Inc. and ZAK Productions S.A.R.L. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Ben Hur: The Epic Miniseries Event

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2010

DURATION: 192 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: April 30, 2013

Directed by Steve Shill

Written by Alan Sharp

Producer: Roger Corbi, Simon Vaughan

Executive Producer: Dirk Beinhold, Manuel Corbi, Frank Konigsberg, Michael Prupas, Steve Shill, David Wyler

Co-Producer: Zakari Alaoui

Behind-the-Scenes Producer: Betty Palik

Music by Rob Lane

Cinematography by Ousama Rawi

Edited by Annie Ilkow, Simon Webb

Casting by Amy Hubbard, Daniel Hubbard, Andrea Kenyon, Randi Wells

Production Design by Benjamin Fernandez

Art Direction by Alejandro Fernandez, Marco Trentini

Set Decoration by Deborah Chambers, Nuria Muni

Costume Design by Simonetta Mariano

Starring:

Joseph Morgan as Judah Ben-Hur

Stephen Campbell Moore as Messala

Emily Van Camp as Esther

Kristin Kreuk as Tirzah

Ben Cross as Emperor Tiberius

Simon Adreu as Simonides

Alex Kingston as Ruth

James Faulkner as Marcellus

Art Malik as Ilderim

Marc Warren as David

Lucia Jiminez as Athene

Miguel Angel Munoz as Antegua

Kris Holden-Ried as Gaius

Michael Nardone as Horator

Eugene Simon as Young Ben Hur

Toby Marlow as Young Messala

Daniella Ereny as Young Tirzah

In this new adaptation of the colossal classic, Ben Hur the mini-series delivers more action, passion and revenge than ever before. The timeless story follows two friends who become bitter enemies and the historic events of the time as told through the eyes of Judah Ben-Hur. Born a wealthy Jewish merchant’s son, he is destined to live many lives: a powerful businessman, a dutiful slave, a fierce gladiator, a Roman nobleman, and finally…a conquering hero. This extraordinary adventure-filled saga is the historic epic for a new generation.

In 2010, a Canadian TV miniseries based on Len Wallace’s 1880 novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ” was created.

Originally aired during the week of Easter in Canada followed by an airing in ABC in 2010, the mini-series is directed by Steve Shill (“Dexter”, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”) and written by Alan Sharp (“Rob Roy”, “The Osterman Weekend”, “Night moves”).

The mini-series would star Joseph Morgan (“Immortals”, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”, “Alexander”), Stephen Campbell Moore (“The Bank Job”, “Season of the Witch”, “The History Boys”), Emily Van Camp (“Brothers & Sisters”, “Revenge”, “Everwood”), Kristin Kreuk (“Smallville”, “Eurotrip”, “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li”), Ben Cross (“Star Trek”, “Chariots of Fire”), Simon Andreu (“The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian”, “Die Another Day”), Alex Kingston (“Dr. Who”, “ER”, “Like Crazy”) and James Faulkner (“Bridget Jones’ Diary”, “The Bank Job”, “X-Men: First Class”).

“Ben Hur: The Epic Miniseries Event” revolves around Judah Ben Hur (portrayed by Joseph Morgan), a hardworking son of a wealth merchant.  Also,  a son living with his mother Ruth (portrayed by Alex Kingston) and his younger sister Tirzah (portrayed by Kristin Kreuk) and lived with Octavius Messala (portrayed by Stephen Campbell Moore).  Living with them was Octavius Messala, raised by the Ben Hur family after his mother died.

When he became a teenager, Octavius was sent a letter that he would have to follow his father’s footsteps as a Roman officer.

Fast forward many years later, Judah is engaged to marry Esther (portrayed by Emily Van Camp). In the village, a few people included Simonides (portrayed by Simon Andreu) are planning for a rebellion and to assassinate Valerius Gratus, the fourth Roman prefect of Judaea.  For Octavius, because a Roman prefect is in his village, he must make sure that everything goes smooth.

While the two friends are excited to reunite with each other, Judah sees how much Octavius has changed and not for the good.  Octavius wants Judah’s word that if he hears any uprising in the village, to please let him know.  And Judah gives him his word.

While the Romans along with Pontius Pilate were marching into town, a tile that Judah’s hands were on, has broken off, falls and injures Valerius.  Because this is an embarrassment to his post, Octavius declares the accident as an assassination attempt.

Judah and his fiance’s father is sent to be crucified and his mother and sister would be punished and made as an example by strangulation.  But Octavius feels guilty and has Judah sent to be slave working on the oars on a Roman ship.

While working on the ship, Judah catches the attention of Arrius, the captain of the Roman warship, with his intelligence.  Arrius has Judah join him and to tell him is life story of why a man of intelligence is a slave.  During a battle with Greek pirates, nearly everyone is killed except Judah who saves Arrius.  Grateful for Judah saving his life, Arrius takes Judah as his own personal salve, has him trained as a warrior.  But still suffering from his wounds that he endured from the attack against the pirate ship, Arrius decides to adopt Judah and make him a free man but also a Roman citizen who will carry on his name and inherit his wealth.

Now a free man and a Roman, Judah Ben Hur plans his revenge to kill the man that ruined his life and for killing his family, Octavius Messala.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Ben Hur: The Epic Miniseries Event” is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen.  Picture quality is good as one can expect form DVD.   There is softness, outdoor scenes shot in Morocco look the best but  there are scenes that are incredibly dark at times, but it fits, considering there was no electricity during that time.  So, dark scenes are going to be a bit dark. There is also some use of CG in the film (especially in scenes that take place in sea).

For the most part, picture quality is good, I didn’t notice any excessive artifacts or any problematic issues during my viewing.

Audio is presented in English and French 5.1 Dolby Digital. Dialogue is clear and while a dialogue driven film, there are scenes with crowds and surround usage featuring ambiance.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ben Hur: The Epic Miniseries Event” comes with the following special feature:

  • The Making of Ben Hur – (7:10) Featuring the making of “Ben Hur: The Epic miniseries Event” with interviews with director Steve Shill, executive producer David Wyler and the cast of the series.

It would be too difficult to follow up the 1959 Charleston Heston classic “Ben Hur” with a new film, despite many adaptations, the producers wanted to try something different with “Ben Hur” in a mini-series format.

While the message and the scenario of a Jewish man oppressed by the Romans and betrayed by his best friend remain the same, for the mini-series, the biggest change is that the series is taking place in a small village in Jerusalem and with more characters.  But to also further explore the relationship between Judah and Octavius but to also incorporate more scenes with other characters.

And of course being a television mini-series, a focus about a good man who had bad things happen to him, so now his thirst for revenge is strong, despite his meeting up with Jesus Christ.  Eventually, the story is one man’s drive for revenge but later seeking for forgiveness and believing in God.

While the mini-series shares more in common with the film and some parts of the novel that it’s based on, because of the longer duration of the mini-series, it allowed for more exploration of Judah as a man and the things he must go through in order to get back home.  But also the emotions of a man and also a scene which involves his mother Ruth and sister Tirzah.  But also much more emotion when it comes to Judah and Octavius.

For those who have watched the 1959 or even the old silent version of “Ben Hur”, one should not expect a large budget or extravagant production costume and production design, but the film does look good especially keeping things minimal. Granted, the chariot race is nothing like the film versions but in some way, I was expecting for the mini-series to be not as elaborate as the film versions.

As for casting, I know that the series, like previous films are not going to make the characters look like they are from the region.  And in the case of the mini-series, there is no doubt that they wanted to utilize young talent to bring in new (and possibly younger) generation of viewers who may watch the series.  Joseph Morgan looks more European than Jewish but yet, he has the vitality of a young man who has been put through a wide variety of situations.

The series also features well-known US drama series actresses Emily Van Camp and Kristin Kreuk.  But also talent such as Ben cross, Alex Kingston, James Faulkner, Stephen Campbell Moore.

While the series was shown on television, this DVD version is uncut and is not a version you want to have the children watching.  Not only is their violence, there is also a sex scene between Judah and Messala’s whore, and also nudity.

Overall, “Ben Hur: The Epic Miniseries Event” was quite entertaining.  Not to be compared to the previous film adaptations or even the original story, on its own, with the amount of characters and the focus of relationships around Judah Ben Hur, there is enough difference with this mini-series to make it still exciting and enjoyable for viewers.

Bottom