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

July 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: Leon the Professional

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1994

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

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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

RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017


Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Executive Producer: Claude Besson

Line Producer: John Garland and Bernard Grenet

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Todd M. Thaler

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Gerard Drolon

Set Decoration by Francoise Benoit-Fresco

Costume Design by Magali Guidasci


Starring:

Jean Reno as Leon

Gary Oldman as Stanfield

Natalie Portman as Mathilda

Danny Aiello as Tony

Peter Appel as Malky

Michael Badalucco as Mathilda’s father


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Da Vinci Code: 10th Anniversary (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

October 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Da Vinci Code: 10th Anniversary” is recommended for those wanting the best picture and audio quality version of the film but for those who own “The Da Vinci Code – Extended Edition” on Blu-ray will want to hang on to that release as the 4K Ultra HD version is only the theatrical cut. Still an entertaining and captivating film worth watching on 4K Ultra HD!

Images courtesy of © 2006 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Da Vinci Code: 10th Anniversary Edition

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2006

DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish (castillan), Spanish (Latin American) 5.1 Dolby Digital, English – Audio Description Track, Czech, French, Hungarian, Polish VO, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish Dolby Surround. SUBTITLES: English SDH, Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Swedish and Turkish.

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Disturbing Images, Violence, Some Nudity, Thematic Material, Brief Drug References and Sexual Content)

RELEASE DATE: October 11, 2016


Directed by Ron Howard

Based on the original novel by Dan Brown

Screenplay by Akiva Goldsman

Executive Produced by Dan Brown, Todd Hallowell

Produced by John Calley, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard

Associated Producers: Kathleen McGill and Louisa Velis

Music by Hans Zimmer

Director of Photography: Salvatore Totino

Edited by Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill

Casting by Janet Hirshenson and Jane Jenkins

Production Design by Allan Cameron

Art Direction by Giles Masters and Tony Reading

Set Decoration by Richard Roberts

Costume Design by Daniel Orlandi


Starring:

Tom Hanks as Dr. Robert Langdon

Audrey Tautou as Agent Sophie Neveu

Ian McKellen as Sir Leigh Teabiing

Jean Reno as Captain Bezu Fache

Paul Bettany as Silas

Alfred Molina as Bishop Manuel Aringarosa

Jurgen Prochnow as Andre Vernet

Jean-Yves Berteloot as Remy Jean

Etienne Chicot as Lt. Collet

Jean-Pierre Marielle as Jacques Sauniere


Dan Brown’s international bestseller comes alive in the film THE DA VINCI CODE, directed by Ron Howard with a screenplay by Akiva Goldsman. Join symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) in their heart-racing quest to solve a bizarre murder mystery that will take them from France to England – and behind the veil of a mysterious ancient society, where they discover a secret protected since the time of Christ.


When Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code” was released back in 2003, the novel received plenty of criticism and scrutiny.  As the book would focus on “The Holy Grail” and the theory that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and the Catholic Church has done all it can to cover that up.  Then upon the release of the film version based on the novel in 2006, the Roman Catholic Church and Catholics boycotted the film.

If anything, the hype from the film earned the film $232.1 million worldwide during its opening, making it the seventh biggest opening for a film in history and also the second highest grossing movie in 2006 worldwide with over $758 million in profit making it the most financially successful film for both actor Tom Hanks and Director Ron Howard.

The film starred Tom Hanks (“Forrest Gump”, “The Green Mile”, “Saving Private Ryan”), Audrey Tautou (“Amelie”, “A Very Long engagement”, “Dirty Pretty Things”), Ian McKellen (“Lord of the Rings” films, “Hobbit” films, “X-Men” films), Jean Reno (“Leon: The Professional”, “Mission: Impossible”, “Godzilla”), Paul Bettany (“A Beautiful Mind”, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”, “The Avengers”, “Iron Man”), Alfred Molina (“Spider-Man 2”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Chocolat”), Jurgen Prochnow (“Das Boot”, “The English Patient”, “Beverly Hills Cop II”) and Jean-Yves Berteloot (“Hereafter”, “March of Millions”, “Trench of Hope”).

And here we are a decade later with the 10th Anniversary release of “The Da Vinci Code”, available on 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray.  Which will coincide with the release of the third film to featured the character Robert Langdon titled “Inferno”.

The film starts off with a man named Jacques Sauniere (portrayed by Jean-Pierre Marielle) who is being pursued by a man wearing a hood named Silas (Paul Bettany).  With a gun aimed at Sauniere, Silas demands the location of the Priory’s “clef de voute”, which is a key.   Sauniere who feels he will be spared by confessing is shot in the stomach.  But before he dies, he is able to make a message.

Meanwhile, Symbiologist Robert Langdon (portrayed by Tom Hanks) is giving a lecture on symbols in Paris.  While signing books, he is approached by Captain Bezu Fache (portrayed by Jean Reno) with the bad news about his friend.  Langdon tells F ache that he was supposed to meet with Sauniere earlier in the day but he never called.  But after seeing the gruesome photo of Sauniere’s death, Langdon is brought to the crime scene at the Louvre.

Before Sauniere had died, he was able to create a message using black light ink and the blood from his body.  Fache asks for Langdon to translate the message but Langdon has no idea.  Meanwhile, Agent Sophie Neveu (portrayed by Audrey Tautou), a cryptologist for the French police comes up to the crime scene and tells Langdon that he has an emergency call.  The call tells him that he’s in trouble and he needs to escape.

Langdon goes to the restroom and sees Agent Neveu who explains to him that he has been setup and that there is a GPS tracker in his coat jacket.  Langdon can’t believe he is being looked as a suspect but most of all, he can’t believe what has happened to Sauniere and to learn that Neveu is Sauniere’s granddaughter.  And that a message next to the body of Sauniere showed a message (before it was erased) that Robert Langdon should be contacted.  Now, Neveu wants to know why her grandfather and Langdon are brought together.

Neveu throws the GPS tracker on a vehicle and as Fache and his men think that Langdon has escaped and leave the Louvre, both Langdon and Neveu revisit Sauniere’s body and learn that he has left secrets to them including a key.  This leads to both Langdon and Neveu becoming fugitives and are wanted by the law.

The two are taken throughout Europe as they look for clues to Sauniere’s death but also to find certain devices that would prove that the “Holy Grail” is real.  Meanwhile, a conspiracy is going on behind-the-scenes at the Roman Catholic Church and Silas is sent to kill both of them.


VIDEO:

“The Da Vinci Code: 10th Anniversary” on 4K Ultra HD is presented ala 2160p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio) features a beautiful location shots in France and England and to shoot a film at the actual Museum de Louvre was surprising and very cool (and to learn how everything was recreated to scale and describe further in the special features).

There are really beautiful shots of the various locations throughout Europe and captured beautifully by Salvatore Totino.  Totino’s insistence of using a Long Cooke S4 lens for diffusion filtering gave certain shots a nice, dark and brooding feel at times.

But during the outdoor scenes, the shots are absolutely beautiful.  Totino who made his major Hollywood debut with “Any Given Sunday” and working on films such as “The Missing” and “Cinderella Man” has been Ron Howard’s go to man for cinematography.  Overall, well-done!

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: To watch 4K Ultra HD, you will need a 4K UHD TV with HDR and an Ultra HD Blu-ray Player.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Da Vinci Code: 10th Anniversary” on 4K Ultra HD is presented in English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish (castillan), Spanish (Latin American) 5.1 Dolby Digital, English – Audio Description Track, Czech, French, Hungarian, Polish VO, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish Dolby Surround.

The lossless audio is also quite immersive and dialogue is crystal clear.   Primarily the film focuses on dialogue but once the action scenes start, as does Hans Zimmer’s beautiful score.  You get good usage of all channels on your home theater through the Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1) soundtrack.  And its important to note that the film is not an action film but there are a good number of gunshots and chase scenes.  But what shines is Zimmer’s Academy Award nominated score which sets the actual mood for each scene.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Swedish and Turkish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Da Vinci Code: 10th Anniversary” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Director Ron Howard – Featuring audio commentary by director Ron Howard.
  • A Look Back with Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, Dan Brown and Brian Grazer – (4:26) Tom Hanks, director Ron Howard, author Dan Brown and producer Brian Glazer talk about the third Robert Langdom film, “Inferno”
  • Extended Scenes – (35:15) Featuring 42 extended scenes.
  • First Day on the Set with Ron Howard – (2:13) Director Ron Howard talks briefly about bringing Dan Brown’s novel to life.
  • A Discussion With Dan Brown – (4:51) Author Dan Brown talks about being a writer, working on the “Da Vinci Code” and working on a new Robert Langdon book.
  • A Portrait of Langdon – (7:18) Dan Brown, Ron Howard and various producers talk about the Robert Langdon character and Tom Hanks playing the character.
  • Who is Sophie Neveu? – (6:57) Ron Howard talks about Audrey Tautou playing the role of Sophie.  Jane Jenkins, Casting Director talks about how Ron Howard didn’t feel that she was right for the role until he saw an interview on the Charlie Rose show and Director Ron Howard talked about how he learned not to judge a person by a film and how Tautou was the best person for the job.  Audrey talks about her casting experience.
  • Unusual Suspects – (17:57) Director Ron Howard, Jane Jenkins (Casting Director) talks about the casting of the various characters such as  Ian McKellen as Sir Leigh Teabing, Jean Reno as Captain Bezu Fache, Paul Bettany as Silas and Alfred Molina as Bishop Manue Aringarosa.  Interview with these cast members.
  • Magical Places – (15:58) Shooting in Paris, London and throughout Europe to produce various magical settings.
  • Close-up on Mona Lisa – (6:33) Tom Hanks, Ian McKellan, Ron Howard, Audrey Tautou, Jean Reno and more talk about their first impressions when they saw the actual Mona Lisa painting.  Also, how the painting was created and her eyes follows you at every angle.
  • The Filmmakers’ Journey Part 1 (24:40) This featurette goes into location scouting, the look of Robert Langdon feat. an interview with Daniel Orlandi (Costume Designer), Behind-the-Scenes filming and creating the body cast of Sauniere.
  • The Filmmakers’ Journey Part 2 (12:20) This featurette goes into the cinematography of Salvatore Totino, Interviews with Totino and finding the environment and the goal to bring Dan Brown’s film to life.  Dan Brown wants the film to provoke intellectual discussions.
  • The Codes of The Da Vinci Code – (5:31) Director Ron Howard and Dan Brown talk about the various codes planted throughout the film.  The featurette showcases some of them.
  • The Music of The Da Vinci Code – (2:53) Featuring Director Ron Howard and Composer Hans Zimmer and bringing the characters and story to life.
  • Book to Screen – (11:06) – Dan Brown originally wanted to wait for his trilogy before a film was done and also how producer Brian Grazer wanted to get the rights to the film but John Calley, a producer at Sony got it first.  But interesting enough, Director Ron Howard and Grazer were brought aboard the film.  Also, how Ron didn’t know much about the book until his wife, a member of a book club, she and her group were reviewing the book and talked to him about how awesome the book was and sure enough, through word-of-mouth, he decided to direct the film.
  • The Da Vinci Props – (9:42) Interviews with Giles Masters (Art Director), author Dan Brown and how many props were created for this film.  Some fabricated and designed for the film and coming up with the look of objects sucha s the key to the Swiss Bank, he crypt text and more.
  • The Da Vinci Sets – (9:10) Interview with Director Ron Howard, Todd Hallowell about how Allan Cameron (Production Designer) had a major task of recreating the Louvre and creating the many sets especially for the complex flashbacks.  A typical film would be around 50 sets, this film had around 243 and thus a major challenge for the production design team.
  • Re-creating Works of Art – (6:01) Interviews with Allan Cameron (Production Designer), Director Ron Howard, James Gemmil (Head Scenic Artist) and how the Louvre had to be recreated and all the paintings used for the museum were repainted.  Around 135 paintings were recreated for the entire film.
  • The Visual Effects World of The Da Vinci Code – (15:01) Interviews with Barrie Hemsley (Visual Effects Sueprvisor) and crew of Moving Pictures Company in creating the CG flashbacks, showing the history and coming up with the various 3D models utiized on the film.
  • Scoring The Da Vinci Code – (9:42) Featuring Director Ron Howard and Composer Hans Zimmer as an actual church turned to a studio was used.  Zimmer talks about how he never thought a book like “The Da Vinci Code” could be brought to film.  How he worked with Ron Howard on “Backdraft” and how Howard wanted the music to come alive, like it was a character in the film.
  • Trailers – Featuring a teaser trailer and theatrical trailer for “The Da Vinci Code”.

EXTRAS:

“The Da Vinci Code: 10th Anniversary” will come with both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray plus an UltraViolet Digital HD code. Also, a slipcover.


Back in 2006, I wrote about how “The Da Vinci Code” was a thrilling, suspenseful film that in my opinion was smart, well-acted and managed to capture my attention for the entire length of the film.

And here we are with a 10th Anniversary release and a 4K Ultra HD showcasing the film in its best presentation yet.  But there are a few things that people must know before watching this film, the 10th anniversary release on 4K Ultra HD is the original 148 minute version of the film and this release does NOT include the extended 174 minute cut that I very much prefer.

Multiple Academy Award winner Tom Hanks plays a likable Robert Langdon, a symbiologist who doesn’t take things as is and has a mind that is constantly working overtime.   If anything, Langdon is an ordinary man who becomes a fugitive for a murder he doesn’t commit.  He is a man that tends to doubt theories of history as stories could have been re-invented due to political and religious times.

Audrey Tautou who charmed us in “Amelie” plays a convincing cryptologist Sophie Neveu is a person not religious but feels Langdon is her key to finding out who killed her grandfather.  Both Hanks and Tautou compliment each others performances but for those who expect more from Tom Hanks, may be disappointed that in this film, he is no action star but a Harvard professor that utilizes his skill and experience and nothing more.

Jean Reno plays the side of the cop who takes things into his own hands, a role perfect for Reno and Ian McKellen absolutely shines as the obsessive Sir Leigh Teabing.

There is no doubt that “THE DA VINCI CODE” would be a controversial film that would challenge the Catholic church.  Anything that challenges an established religion is sure to cause a ruckus and people are defensive about their religion and belief in God.  Especially when it comes to Mary Magdalene’s status.  It will be forever debated of her role, if she was simply a devout follower of Jesus Christ or a loving wife that was kept secret and both have an extended line of children with the bloodline that exist today but is kept hidden.  Whatever your beliefs are or if your ability to suspend your beliefs and to see how the film (and its message) presents itself is up to the viewer.

But the film seems to be one that one would either love or one would hate.  For me, I was entertained by the film and having watched multiple specials from 20/20 and on The History Channel regarding “The Da Vince Code” and the theories that support and are against the theory is quite interesting.

But what I found so inspiring was watching the film and its special features and getting a feel of how much went into this film.  From recreating the Louvre, the production design coming up with over 125 paintings to recreate the museum to the actual props that had to be created and the many locations that had to be shot and the many sets that had to be created.  I was very impressed.

Now the biggest question many fans of the film may want to ask.  This version or the Blu-ray extended edition?  While the film is subjective to everyone watching it.  While “The Da Vinci Code” was not exactly well received by many critics because critics felt that Director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman didn’t take any risks and that they didn’t show any danger as seen in the original book by Dan Brown.With that being said, the extended cut makes a difference…  A big difference.  I felt the extended cut is the better version and unfortunately, they did not include that version on 4K Ultra HD.  While the extended cut is not featured, a lot of those extended scenes are featured as special features.

But whether or not you are open to film’s premise is up to the viewer.   If anything, as Dan Brown had said in interviews, he wants the film to create intellectual debates.

Watching the film on 4K Ultra HD is fantastic!  It’s one of those films that it all comes down to the viewer if such a film can be watched over and over again, or if the film can be appreciated for its controversial storyline.  But as for the release itself, if you are into the filmmaking process or even a student in film, these are the type of releases that you truly appreciate and enjoy.  While the special features are pretty much the same, you do get a “A Look Back with Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, Dan Brown and Brian Grazer” featurette and a first look at the third film in the trilogy, “Inferno”.

Overall, “The Da Vinci Code: 10th Anniversary” is recommended for those wanting the best picture and audio quality version of the film but for those who own “The Da Vinci Code – Extended Edition” on Blu-ray will want to hang on to that release as the 4K Ultra HD version is only the theatrical cut.  Still an entertaining and captivating film worth watching on 4K Ultra HD!

 

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

November 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

leontheprofessional

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

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


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

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

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

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

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: October 27, 2015


Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Executive Producer: Claude Besson

Line Producer: John Garland and Bernard Grenet

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Todd M. Thaler

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Gerard Drolon

Set Decoration by Francoise Benoit-Fresco

Costume Design by Magali Guidasci


Starring:

Jean Reno as Leon

Gary Oldman as Stanfield

Natalie Portman as Mathilda

Danny Aiello as Tony

Peter Appel as Malky

Michael Badalucco as Mathilda’s father


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

VIDEO:

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

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

AUDIO:

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

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A riveting, pulse-pounding heist film!  If you are looking for a straight-up popcorn action flick on Blu-ray, “Armored” is definitely for you.  But if you are looking for something deeper, especially with the number of talent on this film, you may be disappointed of how the characters are utilized.

© 2009 Screen Gems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Armored

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French (Par) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (For Sequences of Intense Violence, Some Disturbing Images and Brief Strong Language)

RELEASE DATE: March 16, 2010

Directed by Nimrod Antal

Written by James V. Simpson

Executive Producer: Russell Hollander, Debra James

Co-Executive Producer: Luis Guerrero, Chris Lemos

Producer: Joshua Donen, Dan Farah, Sam Raimi

Music by John Murphy

Cinematography by Andrzej Sekula

Edited by Armen Minasian

Casting by Lindsey Hayes Kroeger, David Rapaport

Production Design by Jon Gary Steele

Set Decoration by Dena Roth

Costume Design by Maya Lieberman

Starring:

Matt Dillon as Mike Cochrone

Jean Reno as Quinn

Laurence Fishburne as Baines

Amaury Nolasco as Palmer

Fred Ward as Duncan Ashcroft

Milo Ventimiglia as Eckehart

Skeet Ulrich as Dobbs

Columbus Short as Ty Hackett

A crew of officers at an armored transport security firm risk their lives when they embark on the ultimate heist.against their own company. Armed with a seemingly fool-proof plan, the men plan on making off with a fortune with harm to none. But when an unexpected witness interferes, the plan quickly unravels and all bets are off.

“Armored” is the latest film to arrive on Blu-ray and DVD from director Nimrod Antal’s (“Vacancy”) and would feature a screenplay by James V. Simpson, cinematography by Andrzej Sekula (“Vacancy”, “American Psycho”, “Hackers”) and music composed by John Murphy (“Miami Vice”, “Sunshine”, “28 Weeks Later”).

The film which came out in theaters in Dec. 2009 had a little controversy as the film was accidentally released by Sony on the Playstation Network for free while the film was in theaters and was estimated to have had thousands of downloads.

But this is one of those heist films that benefits from Blu-ray.  Plenty of action, chase scene, explosions and more!

“Armored” is about a man named Ty Hackett (played by Columbus Short, “Quarantine”, “Whiteout”, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”).  A former marine who is working at an armored truck company but trying to raise his younger brother Jimmy while trying to pay the bills at the house of his deceased parents.

It’s been tough since his parents took a double mortgage and the bills are high.  And his co-worker, Mike Cochrone (played by Matt Dillon, “Crash”, “Wild things”, “Deuces Wild”) knows how bad things are for him and knew how bad things were for his father when he worked for the company.

But Mike offers him the way out of debt, by joining him and a few other veteran co-workers which includes Mike’s brother-in-law Baines (played by Laurence Fishburne, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”, “21”, “The Matrix” films), Quinn (played by Jean Reno, “Leon”, “Ronin”, “The Pink Panther” films), Palmer (played by Amaury Nolasco, “Prison Break”, “Max Payne”, “Transformers”) and Dobbs (played by Skeet Ulrich, “Jericho”, “Miracles”, “Scream”) by stealing the money that they are to deliver to a bank.  A total of $42 million.

Ty doesn’t want to be part of the heist but with bills mounting and the county wanting to see improvement with his troubled young brother, he needs money and thus decides to join the group as long as no one gets hurt.

All things looks like they are going great for the group as they managed to steal the money but as they try to bury it inside a tunnel in a broken down warehouse.  What they don’t know is that a homeless man is watching them.  Immediately, the group catches the homeless man but because he saw their identities, Baines and Mike shoots him down.  Violating their agreement, Ty tries to escape but Mike manages to chase him down and pin him inside one of the armored cars. Ty manages to sound off the siren form the armored car before his co-workers disable it.

Ty uses the security locks to lock himself with the money and hope help comes but his co-workers who fear that the may be caught due to their plan being ruined are now in desperation mode and Mike comes up with an idea, to kill Ty and steal the money but in order to do that, they must get the armored car open.  So, the crew works to remove the hinges from the vehicle in order to get the back door open.

Meanwhile, unknown to the group, an officer named Eckehart (played by Milo Ventimiglia, “Heroes”, “Rocky Balboa”) heard the earlier siren and is now heading to the warehouse area to check out the disturbance.

Will Ty be rescued or will be become a victim?

VIDEO:

“Armored” is featured in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1).  Day scenes feature a good number of colors but its the closeups that show up quite well on Blu-ray.  The detail of the skin pores and the sweat and grime on some of the armored security is captured well on Blu-ray but as most of the earlier scenes are outdoors and are colorful, the bulk of the film takes place in a run down warehouse.  You can see the detail of the dilapidated warehouse with minimal lining.  Blacks are nice and deep and I don’t recall seeing any artifacts or any sign of DNR (digital noise reduction) while watching this film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Armored” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and French 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Although the film is dialogue driven via the center channel, there is a good amount of front and surround and rear surround channel usage of the special effects.

From the sounds of the shoes of the security, crunching steel during the armored car chase, the sound of the clanging as the men try to open the doors on the vehicle, the sound of the gun/rifle shots.  A lot of the action sequences can be heard all around you and for the most part, lossless audio is very good with this film.  Although not a 100% immersive action-based film, “Armored” sports a pretty solid lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Armored” comes with the following special features in High Definition with English Stereo and optional English subtitles:

  • Audio Commentary by Producer Dan Farah, Skeet Ulrich and Milo Ventimiglia – Usually, you would hear from the director and the producer and talents.  But this time you get a producer comment and commentary from Skeet Ulrich and Milo Ventimiglia who weren’t the main characters.  But Farah talks about scenes that were cut and the guys talk about certain parts of the film and their characters and situations dealing with their characters and a lot of personal conversations.
  • Crash Course: Stunts – (11:30) Lance Gilbert (Stunt coordinator) talks about the stunts in the film especially the car chase.
  • Planning the Heist: Making Of – (15:19) Director Nimrod Antal and the cast talk about working with each other and working on “Armored”.
  • Armed and Underground: Production Design – (6:47) Jon Gary Steel (Production Designer) talks about the creation of the warehouse and having to build the set and preparing it for major action scenes.
  • movieIQ – With BD-Live, viewers can access the latest information on the cast, crew, music and more via real-time while watching the film.

EXTRAS:

“Armored” comes with a digital copy of the film.

Right off the bat, you can tell that “Armored” is a heist film but where a heist-that-goes-bad.The good news is that the film is quite riveting in terms of a group turning on their co-worker and just watching how things started to snowball.

“Armored” features quite a good number of talents but if there is one problem with the film, we don’t know why they are even involved with the heist.  Obviously, Ty has a reason to be part of it.  The others, we don’t know why they want to do it and during the commentary, producer Dan Farah talks about scenes that were cut from the film film.  Personally, it would have been good to know of each character’s situation.

So, character execution of the co-workers and their development took a backseat and it surprises me since this film has pretty major talent such as Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburn and several others.  There were some plot issues and questionable dialogue but if anything, I just wished the talent were used much better than they were and at least get to know their motive of wanting to do something this risky, especially if they are married or have a family.

As for the Blu-ray release, you do get a digital copy of the film and the PQ and AQ are pretty good.  It’s just that I wish there were more special features or outtakes.  I was surprised to find out that the commentary featured the producer and Skeet Ulrich with Milo Ventimiglia but I suppose the director and the main talent were unavailable for the audio commentary.

Overall, I did enjoy the film for its action sequences and wondering how the character of Ty is going to survive the entire ordeal.  A riveting, action-packed, pulse-pounding heist film! But for the most part, it’s more of a B-level action film that has some plot problems, lack of character development (aside from the main character Ty) but in the end, “Armored” was a film that I enjoyed more than I was expecting it to be.

Looking for a good popcorn, action flick, definitely give “Armored” a try!

ARMORED Revving Up On Blu-ray Disc, DVD and Digital Download March 16th

January 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Culver City, CA (1/25/10) – Get ready for no-holds-barred action and suspense as the explosively entertaining heist thriller ARMORED revs up on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital Download this March 16, 2010, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. An all-star cast including Academy Award® Nominee Matt Dillon (Best Supporting Actor, Crash, 2004), Academy Award® Nominee Laurence Fishburne (Best Actor, What’s Love Got To Do With It, 1993; The Matrix), Columbus Short (Stomp the Yard), Amaury Nolasco (TV’s “Prison Break”), Jean Reno (The Da VinciCode) and Skeet Ulrich (Scream) portray a team of down-on-their-luck armored vehicle guards whose seemingly foolproof plan to rob one of their own trucks goes terribly awry in this taut, action-packed thriller from rising director Nimród Antal (upcoming Predators, Vacancy). After keeping audiences on the edge of their seats in theaters, ARMORED is now equipped to thrill like never before on Blu-ray™ and DVD, featuring stunningly clear picture and sound that puts viewers smack in the middle of the action. Plus, both the DVD and Blu-ray™ versions contain great bonus features fans won’t want to miss!

Bonus features on the ARMORED Blu-ray™ and DVD include producer and cast commentary, along with the making-of featurettes “Planning the Heist: Making Of,” featuring cast and crew interviews; “Crash Course: Stunts,” spotlighting the choreography behind the film’s breakthrough action sequences; and “Armed and Underground: Production Design,” revealing how the filmmakers achieved the film’s uniquely gritty look. Bonus features exclusive to the Blu-ray™ edition include a Digital Copy of the film and the BD-Live™ enabled movieIQ+sync™, which lets viewers access live information about the cast, crew, music and production trivia of ARMORED – all while watching the movie! Viewers can also get the full movieIQ™ experience on their computer or iPhone by linking to their Blu-ray™ player.   

 

Fans of heist films like Inside Man and The Italian Job won’t want to miss ARMORED when it becomes available to own on Blu-ray™ and DVD this March 16, 2010, at an SRP of $38.96 (BD) and $28.96 (DVD).
 
Synopsis
Matt Dillon, Jean Reno and Laurence Fishburne star in the explosive action thrill-ride ARMORED. A crew of officers at an armored transport security firm risk their lives when they embark on the ultimate heist… against their own company.  Armed with a seemingly fool-proof plan, the men plan on making off with a fortune with harm to none. But when an unexpected witness interferes, the plan quickly unravels and all bets are off.
 
ARMORED marks the screenwriting debut of James V. Simpson. It was produced by Joshua Donen (upcoming Priest, Drag Me to Hell) and Dan Farah (The Legend of Awesomest Maximus, Visioneers) and executive produced by Debra James (The House Bunny, Next) and Russell Hollander (Good Luck Chuck, Malibu’s Most Wanted). It co-stars Fred Ward (Sweet Home Alabama) and Milo Ventimiglia (TV’s “Heroes”). It was released by Screen Gems and has a run time of approximately eighty-eight minutes. It has been rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence, some disturbing images and brief strong language.
 
Blu-ray™ & DVD Bonus Features  
Producer and Cast Commentary
Planning the Heist: Making Of
Crash Course: Stunts
Armed and Underground: Production Design

 
Only available on Blu-ray™
A Digital Copy of the Film
movieIQ+sync and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on Armored’s cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie!

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

November 19, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

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

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

TITLE: Leon the Professional

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

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

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

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: November 17, 2009

Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Executive Producer: Claude Besson

Line Producer: John Garland and Bernard Grenet

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Todd M. Thaler

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Gerard Drolon

Set Decoration by Francoise Benoit-Fresco

Costume Design by Magali Guidasci

Starring:

Jean Reno as Leon

Gary Oldman as Stanfield

Natalie Portman as Mathilda

Danny Aiello as Tony

Peter Appel as Malky

Michael Badalucco as Mathilda’s father

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO & AUDIO:

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

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Godzilla (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

    September 27, 2003 by · Leave a Comment 

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    MOVIE COMPANY: TriStar Pictures, Centropolis Entertainment
    CAST: Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn, Michael Lerner and Harry Shearer.
    DIRECTED BY: Roland Emmerich
    PRODUCED BY: Dean Devlin
    RATING: PG-13
    INTERNET MOVIE DATABASE URL: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0120685
    TYPE OF TV SHOW: Thriller, Action, Sci-Fi


    A giant, radiation-mutated lizard, Godzilla, is pregnant and chooses Manhattan as a nest site. Godzilla causes havoc in New York as a team of scientists and the military desperately try to destroy him and his offspring.

    DVD EXTRAS:

    • Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    • Color, Closed-captioned, Dolby, Widescreen
    • Commentary by the special effects supervisors
    • Production notes
    • Theatrical trailer(s)
    • “Godzilla Takes New York”: before and after shots
    • Music video “Heroes” by The Wallflowers
    • Photo Gallery
    • Widescreen anamorphic format

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

    DVD REVIEW:

    I saw this movie when it first came out.  I liked the movie but what I didn’t like was the title because this was not the Godzilla I grew up watching.  This one was like a Jurassic Park type movie but I liked the movie but I felt it had nothing to do with the popular Godzilla name.

    The movie was ok…but nothing spectacular.  The special effects were very good but again, the movie was average.

    Now what about the DVD?  Ahh…well, now that’s what makes this movie awesome!  The 5.1 digital sound and the base of each step the behemoth makes…ahh!  Good sounds to your ears!!

    The video was well done.  Clean and hardly any artifacts during the dark scenes.

    Now, the extras.  I was pleased to see the two Japanese trailers for Godzilla vs. Mothra and another one vs. King Zhidra.  The music video was pretty cool and they packed this DVD up with trailers, featurette and commentary.  All good!

    Now, if you are so hung up on the movie’s plot, admit it that it wasn’t that bad.  This DVD is exhibits great sound and features!  The majority of those who will buy this DVD is because it’s one of the best DVD’s to show your friends of why 5.1 sounds so good!  The sound is that good!

    THE MOVIE:  B-
    THE DVD EXTRAS:  A
    THE DVD OVERALL:  B

    MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

    October 1, 2002 by · Leave a Comment 

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    MOVIE COMPANY: Paramount Pictures
    CAST: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas and Vanessa Redgrave
    DIRECTED BY:  Bria De Palma
    PRODUCED BY:  Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner
    INTERNET MOVIE DATABASE URL: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0117060
    TYPE OF MOVIE: Action, adventure and thriller.


    Tom Cruise ignites the screen in this runaway smash hit that “holds you on the edge of your seat before blasting you out of it” (Howard Rosenberg, Los Angeles Times).  Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt, a secret agent trained for the deaths of his espionage team.  Fleeing from government assassins, breaking into the CIA’s most impenetrable vault, clinging into the roof of a speeding bullet train, Hunt races like a burning fuse to stay one step ahead of pursuers…and draw one step closer to discovering the shocking truth.

    Your mission should you decide to accept it: hang on for the “wildest ride of the year!” (Stephen Holden, The New York Times).

    DVD EXTRAS:

    • Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    • Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen
    • Theatrical trailer
    • Full-screen and widescreen letterbox formats

    KNOWN DVD SECRET(S): None at this time

    DVD REVIEW:

    It has been four years later since the first movie with the second movie now out in theaters.  The first movie is available via DVD through Paramount and it is still overpriced compared to other DVD’s.

    I must admit that DVD buyers will spend a lot of money but this is one time where I just didn’t buy it immediately because I’m hooked on a DVD being a full package.  This DVD is not.  No extras at all.  In fact, I should give this DVD an F for extra’s but it did have the trailer and although I usually don’t count trailers as extra’s, in this case I did because without it, it would be bare bones for a DVD.

    If you watched the movie, you either liked the old series or you liked the new movie with Tom Cruise.  Personally, I don’t mind both and I enjoyed the movie, maybe not tremendously but I’m still disappointed this DVD is lacking.  I’m sure that Paramount could of released an awesome DVD but they didn’t.  No deleted scenes…nothing.

    This DVD was also not 16:9 enhanced but the video colors were very good.  The thing is, I have to be truthful about this, I didn’t hear so much from my 5.1 system in terms of great, outstanding sound.   The sound is good but nothing in terms of hearing great sound ala “The Fifth Element” or “Godzilla”. In fact, the final scene, I was hoping to feel that blast all around me and I didn’t.  I don’t know, perhaps someone else may have experienced something different.  The reviews I read talked about great sound, obviously I’m missing it.

    The movie is good and yes, it’s on DVD, so of course, I’m going to say get the DVD instead of the video but the thing is, it’s overpriced right now at ($24.99-$29.99) and it doesn’t have much on it.  Perhaps when the second movie is released on DVD, they will re-release this as a special edition and DVD fans will get what they want.  Again, I’m not dissing on the movie.  The movie is very interesting and keeps you thinking and that action does keep you glued to the set.  But to score the DVD as a whole, I’m not dissing on the movie, I’m dissing the DVD in general.

    Paramount, this movie deserves a re-release, special or collector’s edition.  In the previews you show scenes that I didn’t see in the movie.  Where are the cut scenes and where is the featurette and more.  A trailer and subtitles don’t count as extra’s anymore.

    Last, as mentioned previously, this DVD is still being sold at an expensive cost.  My advice, go to Wal-Mart or Target and buy the Tom Cruise Collector’s Box Set which comes with “Top Gun”, “Days of Thunder” and “Mission: Impossible” for $65.  If you just want M:I on DVD, I hope they re-release it.

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

    RONIN (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

    October 1, 2002 by · Leave a Comment 

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    MOVIE COMPANY: UNITED ARTISTS PICTURES
    CAST: Starring Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Stellan Skarsgard, Sean Bean, Jonathan Pryce and Katarina Witt
    DIRECTED BY: Directed by John Frankenheimer
    PRODUCED BY: Frank Mancuso, Jr.
    RATING: Rated R
    INTERNET MOVIE DATABASE URL: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0118842
    TYPE OF MOVIE: Action, Crime, Suspense
    DURATION: 2 Hours, 1 Minute


    In a world where loyalties are easily abandoned and allegiances can be bought, a new and deadlier terrorist threat has emerged – free agent killers!  Featuring “high-octane action” (Gene Shalit, “Today”), a “first-rate cast” (L.A. Daily News) and exhilarating car chases that “are nothing short of sensational” (The New York Times), Ronin is the real deal in action fireworks” (Rolling Stone) directed by “a master of intelligent thrillers” (Roger Ebert). The Cold War may be  over, but a new world order keeps a group of covert mercenaries employed by the highest bidder.  These operatives, known as “Ronin”, are assembled in France by a mysterious client for a seemingly routine mission: steal a top-secret briefcase.  But the simple task soon proves explosive as other underworld organizations vie for the same prize…and to get the job done, the members of Ronin must do something they’ve never done before – trust each other!

    DVD EXTRAS:

    • Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    • Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen, Dolby, Digital Sound, AC-3
    • Commentary by director John Frankenheimer
    • Alternative ending
    • 8-page booklet featuring stunning insights into the making of the movie
    • Full-screen and widescreen anamorphic formats

    KNOWN DVD SECRET(S): None that I know of

    DVD REVIEW:

    This movie is known as one of the best car-chase movies ever!  I agree!  This movie is known to be expensive to create and you’ll be at the edge of your seat from beginning to end.  It’s that cool!

    De Niro and the others were great in the movie.  I was just really hypnotized by the action.  The audio was digital 5.1 and some areas sound real good.  Especially the engine rev’s!  The color was pretty good as well.  If there was any problem with the movie, I saw some editing cut-to-scene problems like four or five times.

    In the extra’s department, this is where this DVD is lacking.  It comes with a commentary and also an alternate ending.  An ending that I’m glad was not included in the movie.  But that’s it….no trailer, no deleted scenes (aside the ending) and that’s it.

    Oh well….the movie is definitely worth getting on DVD.  The color and sounds are brilliant.  The store is riveting and I’m really impressed.  If you want to own a movie with the best car chase scene ever (some say “Corruptor” has a great car scene chase), then check out “Ronin”.

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

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