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Warrior (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

October 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Gavin O’Connor’s “Warrior” is a riveting action film that captures the thrill of MMA fighting, the thrill of competition and the heart of a fighter.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Lions Gate Films LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Warrior

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 140 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition. 2:40:1 Aspect Ratio, English Dolby Atmos, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio Optimized for Late Night Listening, English 7.1 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (on Blu-ray), SUBTITLES: English, English SDH,  Spanish

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: October 24, 2017


Directed by Gavin O’Connor

Screenplay by Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman

Story by Gavin O’Connor, Cliff Dorfman

Producer: Gavin O’Connor, Greg O’Connor

Executive Producer: Lisa Ellzey, John J. Kelly, David Mimran, Michael Paseornek, Jordan Schur

Co-Producer:  Josh Fagin, Jamie Marshall, Anthony Tambakis

Music by Mark Isham

Cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi

Edited by Sean Albertson, Matt Chesse, John Gilroy, Aaron Marshall

Casting by Randi Hiller

Production Design by Dan Leigh

Art Direction: James Donahue

Set Decoration by Ron von Blomberg

Costume Design by Abigail Murray


Starring:

Joel Edgerton as Brendan Conlon

Tom Hardy as Tommy Conlon

Nick Nolte as Paddy Conlon

Jennifer Morrison as Tess Conlon

Frank Grillo as Frank Campana

Kevin Dunn as Principal Zito

Maximiliano Hernandez as Colt Boyd

Bryan Callen as Bryan Callen


An ex-Marine haunted by a tragic past, Tommy Riordan returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh and enlists his father, a recovering alcoholic and his former coach, to train him for an MMA tournament awarding the biggest purse in the history of the sport. As Tommy blazes a violent path toward the title prize, his brother Brendan, a former MMA fighter unable to make ends meet as a public school teacher, returns to the amateur ring to provide for his family. Even though years have passed, recriminations and past betrayals keep Brendan bitterly estranged from both Tommy and his father. But when Brendan’s unlikely rise as an underdog sets him on a collision course with Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront the forces that tore them apart, all the while waging the most intense winner-take-all battle of their lives.


From filmmaker Gavin O’Connor (“Tumbleweeds”, “Pride and Glory”, “The Accountant”) came his 2011 film “Warrior”.  And was written by O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis and Cliff Dorfman.

The film earned Nick Nolte (“Thin Red Line”, “48 Hrs.”, “Cape Fear”) an Academy Award nomination for “Best Supporting Actor” and would jettison the acting career of Tom Hardy (“Mad Max: Fury Road”, “The Revenant”) as a major presence in the movie industry.

“Warrior” stars Nolte and Hardy but also stars Joel Edgerton (“Black Mass”, “The Gift”, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”), Jennifer Morrison (“Once Upon a Time”, “House”, “Star Trek”), Frank Grillo (“The Grey”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, “The Purge: Anarchy”), Kevin Dunn (“Transformers”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) and many more.

The film begins with U.S. Marine Tommy Riordan (portrayed by Tom Hardy) visiting his father, Paddy Conlon (portrayed by Nick Nolte).  When Tommy sees his father, he offers him a bottle of alcohol and talks rudely to his father.  We learn that Paddy is a recovering alcoholic and as an alcoholic, he was quite abusive.  But now, he has returned to his Catholic faith and has been sober for quite awhile now.

But for Tommy, he has only contempt towards his father because he had to runaway with his mother, who was dying and was there through the hard and difficult times of having to clean and watch his mother die.  And he has not forgiven his father for the way he treated them.

Paddy tries to tell him that he’s a changed man, but Tommy has a hard time accepting it.

The day after, Tommy goes to a local gym where a professional MMA fighter named Pete “Mad Dog” Grimes (portrayed by Erik Apple) is giving a spar to a few of the gym trainees.  But Tommy signs a release that he wants a real fight against “Mad Dog” and if he gets hurt, letting the gym and Mad Dog that they are not liable for any damage he receives.  And when the match starts, in less than a minute, Tommy knocks out Mad Dog and those filming the fight have posted on YouTube, making Tommy a superstar on social media as the video has gone viral.

When he finds out that there is a MMA tournament called Sparta in which the winner will receive $500,000, he feels that he wants to do it, to help support the family of his friend who was killed in battle.  As the video goes viral, a soldier sees it and recognizes that Tommy was a person who saved his life and not only does Tommy become a social media sensation but he is branded a hero, despite there is nothing about him that can be found online.

While Tommy does not want a relationship with his father, he asks Paddy to be his trainer (as his father trained him to become a champion wrestler when he was younger).  Paddy looks at this as an opportunity to get close to his son, but Tommy wants nothing from him.  Just to keep the relationship as trainer/pupil.

The film then shifts to another person, Brendan Conlon (portrayed by Joel Edgerton).  Brendan is a high school physics teacher and a former UFC fighter.  He is married to Tess (portrayed by Jennifer Morrison) and have two daughters.  But because one of his daughter had open heart surgery, the medical bills have hurt the family that Brendan is having difficulties paying the mortgage.  And now he is months away from foreclosure, so he needs the money badly.

When he goes to make money in a MMA parking lot match, he wins but because his face is bruised and rumors are running through the school about his fight, the supervisor of the school district punishes Brendan by suspending him.

With no money to pay the bills, Brendan makes the decision, to get back into MMA full time and he goes to his buddy Frank Campana, who owns a gym and trains up-and-coming MMA fighters.  While Frank feels that Brendan is a bit older and its time for the younger fighters to shine, when Frank’s top prospect is injured during a run, Brendan asks Frank if he can take his place and fight in the Sparta tournament.  This would also be a way to make the money needed to pay for their mortgage.

But his wife Tess is scared of him fighting, especially that one of the top MMA fighters in the world, Russia’s Koba (portrayed by Kurt Angle) will be fighting in Sparta.  She thought Brendan would be fighting parking lot fights, not a major fight that could hurt him tremendously.

As Brendan is heading back home, he is met by Paddy and it is revealed that Paddy is his father and similar to Tommy, Brendan wants nothing to do with his father, because he was an abusive alcoholic.  Also, the fact that Paddy favored Tommy even more (because of his success in wrestling) and as Paddy tries to apologize, tells them he is sober and wants to see the kids, Brendan doesn’t want his father around.

And now both brothers will be entering the Sparta tournament.  Will any of them be victorious despite being the unknown underdogs?


VIDEO:

“Warrior” receives its first 4K Ultra HD release and is presented in 4K Ultra High Definition. The film is presented in 2160p (2:40:1 aspect ratio)

Picture quality is fantastic.  From capturing skin detail on closeups, capturing the scars, cuts and bruises of a competitor and for the most part, skin tones look natural, black levels are nice and deep and 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 (Category 2) Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio quality for “Warrior” is equally impressive. Featured in English Dolby Atmos, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio Optimized for Late Night English Listening and an English 7.1 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.   Featuring crystal clear dialogue, great use of surround channels for audience and large crowds in the audience of the Sparta arena and crystal clear music.  For the most part, a wonderful lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Brazilian, Portuguese, Complex Mandarin, French Canadian, Japanese and L.A. Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

  • Full Contact: Feature Length Enhanced Viewing Mode – While watching the film, you can get access to special features of the filmmakers and the making of the film..
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with filmmakers and actor Joel Edgerton
  • Redemption: Bringing Warrior to Life Documentary – (31:57) A documentary on the cast and crew in making “Warrior”.
  • The Diner: Deleted Scene (with optional commentary) – (3:02) A deleted scene with optional commentary with the filmmakers.
  • Cheap Shots: Gag Reel – (3:58) The gag reel for “Warrior”.
  • Brother vs. Brother: Anatomy of the Fight – (11:49) How Director Gavin O’Connor used traditional storyboards as well as live action pre-visualization shots in preparation in creating the fight segments for the film.
  • Philosophy in Combat: Mixed Martial Arts Strategy – (21:01) World-renowned MMA trainer Greg Jackson reunited with friend and actor Frank Grillo to discuss Mixed Martial Arts and their experiences on the film “Warrior”.
  • Simply Believe: A Tribute to Charles “Mask” Lewis, Jr. – (13:58) A featurette dedicated to Tapout co-founder Charles “Mask” Lewis Jr. who was an asset to director Gavin O’Connor.  Mask passed away before the film was released in theaters.

EXTRAS:

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


When I first watched “Warrior” back in 2011, one can’t help but be inspired by the storyline of underdogs making it into the MMA industry and beating the top challengers to make it into the finals.

The film manages to capture the thrill of MMA but also capture the heart of competition but most of all having a storyline so riveting that you are instantly captivated by the two stories of a fractured family, two estranged brothers who have lived different lives, both with MMA talent and knowing that both are on a collision course of what if these two were to make it into the Sparta final.

Of course, there is nothing to spoil as the poster of “Warrior” already gives that away but what is interesting is to see one brother, Tommy, who has grown up under abuse, trying to raise his terminally ill mother and seeing her die.  Then going into the military to see his fellow brothers all die and he being the only one to live.

He is a man full of pent-up frustration, rage, hate and so much anger that his only solace in life is to help a family of his friend who was killed in battle.  As an MMA fighter, he is a man of pure brutality.  A man who hurts people with his hits.  A former wrestling champion, he is a man that is pure offense.

Meanwhile, his older brother Brendan is the opposite.  While he grew up in a home of abuse, unlike Tommy who ran away with his mother to escape abuse and take care of her, Brendan fell in love with a woman named Tess and stayed with her.  He fell in love, fought in the UFC, while also going to college to become a physics teacher.

But as an MMA fighter he is pure defense.  Using timing, using strategy and doing what he can to expose a fighter by using various locking moves to put them in pain.  He can punch and kick but it’s being smart and looking for any holes in the opponent’s strategy and waiting for the opportunity to strike.

As both actors Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are magnificent, a lot has to be said about Nick Nolte’s performance as Paddy Conlon, the father of both men who was an abusive alcoholic.  Hated by his children but yet reunited, as Paddy has found God and also has become sober.

For Tommy, seeing his father now clean and sober frustrates him for all the pain he put him and his mother through.  For Brendan, the same situation but unlike Tommy, lived with his girlfriend and not aware of the pain that Tommy went through.  Not aware of how his mother died and because he chose his girlfriend, Tommy held an anger towards his older brother for abandoning him and his mother.

The family is no doubt dysfunctional but it’s these relationships that add dimension to Warrior’s wonderful story.  Add in the action and the thrill of MMA and watching these brothers overcome major odds is no doubt thrilling.

Gavin O’Connor has no doubt crafted one of his finest films yet and the cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi was also on point and he managed to capture the thrill of the fight!

The film makes its debut in 4K Ultra HD and the film looks wonderful with closeups showing much more detail.  You can see the split in Brendan’s cut’s underneath his eyes or bruises around his face with clarity, that’s how much detail you get in watching a film in 4K.  The lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music but the surround channels also do a great job of capturing the thrill of a fight with the audience screaming.  The soundtrack is quite immersive and alive during those moments.

The special features are located on the Blu-ray disc and features numerous featurettes that showcase the making of the film, those who contributed to the film and more!

Overall, Gavin O’Connor’s “Warrior” is a riveting action film that captures the thrill of MMA fighting, the thrill of competition and the heart of a fighter.  Recommended!

The Odd Life of Timothy Green (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 5, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Odd Life of Timothy Green” is a touching, enjoyable fantasy drama film that is best to watch and enjoy, without over-analyzing.  And for those who are trying to have a child or even planning to adopt, I definitely recommend watching this Blu-ray release as it is a fantasy family film full of heart, as well as full of hope.

Images courtesy of © 2012 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Odd Life of Timothy Green

FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:88:1)

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Mild Thematic Elements and Brief Language)

Release Date: December 4, 2012

Directed by Peter Hedges

Screenplay by Peter Hedges

Story by Ahmet Zappa

Produced by Scott Sanders, James Whitaker, Ahmet Zappa

Executive Producer: John Cameron, Mara Jacobs

Music by Geoff Zanelli

Cinematography by John Toll

Edited by Andrew Mondshein

Casting by Tiffany Little Canfield, Bernard Telsey

Production Design by Wynn Thomas

Art Direction by James Hegedus

Set Decoration by Brana Rosenfeld

Costume Design by Susie DeSanto

Starring:

Jennifer Garner as Cindy Green

Joel Edgerton as Jim Green

CJ Adams as Timothy Green

Odeya Rush as Joni Jerome

Shohreh Aghdashloo as Evette Onat

Rosemarie DeWitt as Brenda Best

David Morse as James Green, Sr.

M. Emmet Walsh as Uncle Bub

Lois Smith as Aunt Mel

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Reggie

Dianne Wiest as Ms. Bernice Crudstaff

Ron Livingston as Franklin Crudstaff

James Rebhorn as Joseph Crudstaff

Common as Coach Cal

From Academy Award-nominated writer/director Peter Hedges (Dan in Real Life, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape), and starring Golden Globe® winner Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, Oscar® winner Dianne Wiest and CJ Adams as Timothy Green, comes this highly imaginative story about a happily married couple who can’t wait to start a family but can only dream about what their child would be like. Then one stormy night young Timothy shows up on their doorstep. Soon they and the small town in which they live learn that sometimes the unexpected can bring some of life’s greatest gifts. The story is written by Ahmet Zappa (“American Gangster,” “Changeling”).

Beautiful, touching and a film that will no doubt, make you shed a few tears… “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” is a family film worth watching!

From writer/director Peter Hedges (“Who’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, “Pieces of April”, “Dan in Real Life”) and writer/actor Ahmet Zappa (“Pump Up the Volume”, “Jack Frost”) comes the fantasy drama film “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” which stars Jennifer Garner (“Alias”, “Daredevil”, “13 Going on 30”), Joel Edgerton (“The Thing”, “King Arthur”, “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”) and CJ Adams (“Dan in Real Life”).

The film was released in theaters in August 2012 and earned over $50 million in the box office.

The film is set in a small struggling industrial town of Stanleyville, North Carolina and revolves around Cindy (portrayed by Jennifer Garner) and her husband Jim Green (portrayed by Joel Edgerton), a couple who are unable to have a child.  The two must persuade the adoption agency of why they are fit to adopt a child.  During the interview process, the couple didn’t write so much about why they had a child and when asked what experience they have with a child, the couple write “Timothy”.

Both Jim and Cindy explain that to understand why they should adopt, they couldn’t write it in words, they need to explain it.

And so, the film begins with a story by Jim and Cindy Green of a boy named Timothy (portrayed by CJ Adams) who came to their life one evening.

On the day, the two find out that they are unable to conceive a child, the distraught parents decide to write about their ideal child and what characteristics and qualities that their child would have on notes of paper.

The two put the notes in a box and bury it in their back yard garden.  But during a thunderstorm, the two hear a noise and when they go to check, they discover a boy at their home.  And to make things more interesting is that the boy’s legs have green leaves growing out of them. As the Green’s go to check where they buried the box, they find out that the box has been smashed to pieces and now lies a big hole where they buried it.  The two then realize that this boy, Timothy, is a culmination of their wishes.

The following morning, the Green family are hosting a family picnic at their home and Timothy gets to meet everyone including Cindy’s sister Brenda (portrayed by Rosemarie DeWitt), Jim’s estranged father James Green, Sr. (portrayed by David Morse), Cindy’s guardians, her aunt Mel (portrayed by Lois Smith) and her uncle Bub (portrayed by M. Emmet Walsh).  And as Timothy gets used to the family, whenever he has a big wish, he sticks his hands out on his side and looks up to the sky.

Of course, others think that Timothy is a bit weird but for Cindy and Jim, they want to protect their son from any embarrassment.

As Cindy goes to her botanist friend Reggie (portrayed by Lin-Manuel Miranda) to clip off the leaves, immediately Reggie’s cutting tool breaks and Timothy explains that the leaves can not be cut.

So, as Cindy and James take in Timothy like a child of their own, they learn about parenting, especially the worries of their child being social, being bullied, getting him involved in sports and extra-curricular activities.  But as Timothy fulfills the qualities that Jim and Cindy wrote on the paper notes (that they originally had buried in the back yard), a leaf from his leg will disappear.

Not wanting to alarm his parents, the truth is that Timothy’s existence in the world is short and each time he fulfills the qualities that his parents wrote, after all leaves have fallen, he will disappear.

But with his short existence, how will Timothy touch the lives of the people most important to him?

VIDEO:

“The Odd Life of Timothy Green” is presented in 1080p High Definition and presented in (1:85:1). The film features warm colors and for the most part, skintones look warm, blacks are deep.  I didn’t notice any banding, artifacts or any problems during my viewing of the film.  For the most part, picture quality is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English 2.0 DVS.  The film is pretty much dialogue-driven, with the exception of a storm scene where you will hear some surround activity and LFE.  But this is a film where dialogue is primary and sounds crystal clear on Blu-ray.  The musical score is also beautiful, composed by Geoff Zanelli (“Antz”, “Pirates of the Caribbean” films”, “Disturbia”), the music comes to life through this lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Odd Life of Timothy Green” comes with the following special features:

  • This is Family – (10:12) Featuring the cast and crew discussing “The Odd Life of Timothy Green”.
  • The Gift of Music – (9:15) A behind-the-scenes look at the musical score of the song “This Gift”.
  • “This Gift” Music Video performed by Glen Hansard – (4:43)
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by writer/director Peter Hedges.
  • Deleted Scenes – (5:57) Featuring five deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by Peter Hedges.

EXTRAS:

“The Odd Life of Timothy Green” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.  A slipcover case is included.

“The Odd Life of Timothy Green” is one of those films where you just want to get lost in the fantasy world and just believe that special things can happen to a family.

A film where you just don’t want to over-analyze and just take things as they are.  No asking questions of how a boy can materialize from a box of notes planted in the back yard or how a child has leaves growing out of his legs, don’t think too deeply about the fantasy elements.  Just enjoy this film for how a young boy is able to help a distraught couple, who are unable to have children but manage to have this one boy, Timothy, come into their lives and not only change their life but also touch the lives of others.

I was touched by this film because as a father, I know how it was for me and my wife to try and have a child.  To think of how people around us had no problems but yet, each time we tried, things were not meant to be.  And just the emotions we had at the time, I can sympathize of the pain that both characters, Cindy and Jim are feeling.

Both Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton did a fantastic job of playing the couple who suddenly have a new boy and experiencing all these new emotions of being parents.  Being a parent is an enjoyable but it can also be a frustrating experience (and many other emotions that one can easily feel), but for those wanting children, especially earlier on, you just have to adjust.  And it’s interesting to see both characters grow in this short time with Timothy.

Child actor CJ Adams also did a fine job of playing Timothy Green.  A character that is also trying to adjust to his new surrounding but also knows that his time is short.  And when you start seeing Timothy lose his leaves, you know that this happiness is going to be shortlived (so be prepared to shed some tears).

But “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” is also about hope. Timothy touches the life of people in different ways and we get to see how he touches those lives throughout the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture and audio quality are very good.  Warm colors and dialogue is crystal clear.  There are several special features included and because this is a family film, it will be released with both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film.

Overall, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” is a touching, enjoyable fantasy drama film that is best to watch and enjoy, without over-analyzing.  And for those who are trying to have a child or even planning to adopt, I definitely recommend watching this Blu-ray release as it is a fantasy family film full of heart, as well as full of hope.

Animal Kingdom (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

January 17, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

“Animal Kingdom” manages to grab your attention, pulling you in and then spitting you out as this is a pretty sharp but twisted thriller.  No, there is no scenes with massive blood or bludgeoning but it’s the creepy mood that is created, how awesome the acting is for this film and the screenplay’s ability to keep the audience engaged.  A magnificent film from the land down under!

Images courtesy of © 2010 Animal Kingdom Holdings Pty Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Animal Kingdom

DURATION: 113 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English, Spanish, Portuguese, 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Portuguese, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (For violence, drug content and pervasive language)

RELEASE DATE: January 18, 2011

Directed by David Michod

Screenplay by David Michod

Produced by Liz Watts

Executive Producer: Vincent Sheehan, Bec Smith

Line Producer: Libby Sharpe

Music by Antony Partos

Cinematography by Adam Arkapaw

Edited by Luke doolan

Casting by Kirsty McGregor

Production Design by Josephine Ford

Art Direction by Janie Parker

Costume Design by Cappi Ireland

Starring:

James Frecheville as Joshua “J” Cody

Ben Mendelsohn as Andrew “Pope” Cody

Joel Edgerton as Barry Brown

Guy Pearce as Leckie

Luke Ford as Darren Cody

Jackie Weaver as Janine Cody

Sullivan Stapleton as Craig Cody

Dan Wylie as Ezra White

Anthony Hayes as Det. Justin Norris

Laura Wheelwright as Nicky Henry

Mirrah Foulkes as Catherine Brown

Justin Rosniak as Det. Randall Roache

Susan Prior as Alicia Henry

Clayton Jacobsen as Gus Emery

Anna Lise Phillips as Justine Hopper

Evil is relative in this chilling tale of betrayal and blood starring Guy Pearce, Ben Mendelsohn and Joel Edgerton. When his mother dies from a overdose, 17-year-old Josh Cody (James Frecheville) is taken in by his grandmother (Jacki Weaver) and uncles, the most notorious criminal gang in the city. So when tensions between the Codys and a squad of renegade cops land him at the center of a cold-blooded murder plot, Josh is forced to choose between his treacherous family and the lawless police in this shattering thriller.


Trailer

Come in for Questioning

The Making of Animal Kingdom – The Shoot

QA with Director David Michod and Actors Jacki Weaver and James Frecheville – Working With First Time Director

In 1988, Melbourne, Australia watched the news as the Pettingill family and police clashed.  The Pettingill family were suspected of drug trafficking, arms dealing and armed robberies and something reminiscent of America’s gangs where one gets killed and the gang gets their revenge by killing one from the opposite side, in this case, two police officers were slain.

It was an infamous case and inspired the Australian film “Animal Kingdom” written and directed by David Michod.

“Animal Kingdom” begins with a shot of a young Joshua “J” Cody (played by James Frecheville) waiting for the paramedics to arrive and pick up his mother who has overdosed on heroine.  J’s mother has died and because he is a young teenager, he has no choice but to move in with his estranged grandmother Janine “Smurf” Cody (played by Jacki Weaver).

Jacki is the matriarch of Melbourne’s notorious crime family who is mother to the deranged Andrew “Pope” Cody (played by Ben Mendelsohn) who is hiding from detectives.  Meanwhile, Craig Cody (played by Sullivan Stapleton) is a paranoid man who is successful with drug deals.  The youngest brother Darren Cody (played by Luke Ford) wants to keep to himself and not get involved but because his older brothers are criminals, he has no choice but to follow.  And together they work with Pope’s best friend Barry “Baz” Brown (played by Joel Edgerton) who is more of the strategist.

But the police are on their tale and some have even camped out in front of Baz’s house.

Meanwhile, J observes his new family and although he likes everyone, he senses something off with his older uncle “Pope” especially how he eyes his girlfriend.  In fact, you sense that the other brothers, especially Darren senses something unusual with “Pope”.

One day as J accompanies his Uncle Craig to meet with a crooked policeman, they learn that there is nothing he can do to help the family as the police are pretty much on to the family.  When Craig meets up with the family, they decide they need to stop their criminal activity.

The next morning, Baz and Pope meet at a supermarket and Baz tells “Pope” no more armed robberies, it’s probably best to play the stock market and get out of trouble as they can’t do anything because they are being followed.

When Baz gets to his car, Baz greets the police but one of them says he has a gun (which he doesn’t) and Baz is shot dead by the renegade police.

Pope sees this all happen and now upset, he tells the family of what happened.  The family now wants revenge for Baz’s death and Pope asks the young J to steal a white car for them.  J doesn’t know what’s going on but when he gets the car for them, Pope, Craig and Darren unleash their plan.  J is told to stay at Darren’s apartment and not leave.

Two young police officers are notified by a woman living in the neighborhood that a car that has been broken into is right in the middle of the street.  As the police go to check on it, they are gun down  by the Cody brothers.

When J wakes up he sees Darren stressing out and trying to wash off his shoes.  When J arrives back home, he sees his uncle Pope but then a swat team comes and arrests both of them.

As the Cody family is suspected of killing the two police officers, J has no idea what the heck is going on until the police tell him that two officers were gunned down and he wants to know where J was that night and if he knew where his uncles were.

While the brothers are questioned and released, J is still being held and this scares the Cody Brothers.  What if J rats them out?

Craig Cody starts to get paranoid and tries to find a place to hide but he knows that wherever he goes, the police are sure to follow.  And the next thing you know, he ends up in a losing gunfight with the police and is killed.

Meanwhile, the matriarch of the family, Janine “Smurf” Cody wants everyone to listen to Ezra White (played by Dan Wylie), the family lawyer.  And while J’s gone and is out with his girlfriend, he doesn’t know the magnitude of what is actually happening with the brothers and their level of paranoia after the death of Baz and Craig.  Ezra tells them that because J is young, he will talk and because he dates a girl and boyfriends and girlfriends talk about everything, she can talk.

And when investigator Nathan Leckie (played by Guy Pearce ) starts coming over to meet with J (trying to get details on the family), “Pope” starts to become paranoid of J and takes Ezra’s advice. Maybe both J and his girlfriend must be silenced.

And to make things worse, Grandma Cody doesn’t want anything bad to happen to her boys, so she wants J dead as well.

For young J, he doesn’t understand the magnitude of this case and what is happening with both sides. Investigator Leckie takes J to a safehouse and tells him that he must be protected from his family (unaware that members of his own police force have been working with the Cody family), but even for J…can he trust the police?  Or should he put his trust in his grandmother?  Which side will he go to for support?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Animal Kingdom” is presented in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen and is presented in English, Spanish, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital.  It’s important to note that if you want the best video and audio presentation of this film, “Animal Kingdom” is also  available on Blu-ray.  But for the DVD release, picture quality was very good and the soundtrack is front and center channel driven but there are some scenes which you get gunshots and a car crash and ambiance through the surround channels.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Animal Kingdom” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by director David Michod.
  • The Making of Animal Kingdom – (15:28) Starz Studios behind-the-scenes of “Animal Kingdom”.  Interviews with director David Michod and the cast.
  • Q&A with Director David Michod and Actors Jacki Weaver and James Frecheville – (33:52) Film Independent interviews teh cast of “Animal Kingdom” plus the Q&A session after the screening.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:04) The original theatrical trailer for “Animal Kingdom”.
  • Animal Kingdom Soundtrack – Text information on the “Animal Kingdom” soundtrack.

“Animal Kingdom” is an entertaining, creepy psychological crime drama.

James Frecheville is fantastic as the teen Joshua “J” Cody and although he may look older, he’s just a kid and he just wants to live a normal life.   Unfortunately, after his mother’s death, he ends up having to live with the most notorious crime family in Melbourne and even worse, he is now expected to play a part in some of their criminal schemes.

What is amazing with Frecheville’s acting is that it’s so emotionless in some ways.  You don’t know which side he will be going to and his emotions doesn’t show any happiness of whether he really enjoys living with the Cody’s or if he should believe the police.

Ben Mendelsohn definitely delivers as the creepy Andrew “Pope” Cody.  We see Janine Cody trying to get her son to take his medication but there is something uneasy about this character.    He’ll just get into the face of people and keep telling them “if you need someone to talk to, you’ll talk to me right?” but the look in his eyes when he says it, and seeing the uneasiness of the people he’s telling it to, it makes you wonder how twisted is this character?  And we eventually get to see that creepiness come out in full force later in the movie.

But then we get to see the loving mother/grandmother Janine “Smurf” Cody played by Jackie Weaver.  She seems sweet and innocent and throughout the film, you get scenes which catch your attention but dismiss it, such as when she asks for a kiss from each of her sons and grandsons.  Especially how she kisses her son Craig, long kisses to lips and at first you think, “that’s a bit wrong” but then you dismiss it because maybe some families are like that.  Who knows?  But then you start to see the diabolical side of the family matriarch as she begins to show how much of a player she is in the crime family and how far she will go.  Needless to say, I was shocked and surprised by the transformation of her character throughout the film.

“Animal Kingdom” manages to grab your attention, pulling you in and then spitting you out as this is a pretty sharp but twisted thriller.  No, there is no scenes with massive blood or bludgeoning but it’s the creepy mood that is created, how awesome the acting is for this film and the screenplay’s ability to keep the audience engaged.

The Sony Pictures Classics DVD release is pretty solid but as mentioned earlier, if you want this film in the best PQ and AQ as possible, definitely go for the Blu-ray release.

Otherwise, “Animal Kingdom” is a fantastic psychological crime drama from the land down under!

Highly recommended!


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