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

March 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Peter Berg’s “Patriots Day” is well-made, well-researched, well-acted and felt that the film was a wonderful tribute to the heroes of the Boston Marathon Bombing and not being exploitative.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 CBS Films Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Patriots Day

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 133 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English DTS:X Audio, DTS Headphone:X Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio Optimized for Late- Night Listening SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, Spanish, French

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (Violence, Realistically Graphic Injury Images, Language Throughout and Some Drug Use)

RELEASE DATE: March 28, 2017


Directed by Peter Berg

Screenplay by Peter Berg, Matt Cook, Joshua Zetumer

Story by Peter Berg, Matt Cook, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson

Producer: Dorothy Aufiero, Dylan Clark, Stephen Levinson, Hutch PArker, Michael Radutzky, Scott Stuber, Mark Wahlberg

Associate Producer: Lauren Downey, Daphne Lambrinou, Joseph J. Micucci, Bo Shen, stephen Stapinski, Shixing Zhou

Executive Producer: Louis G. Friedman, Eric Johnson, Nicholas David Nesbitt, John Logan Pierson, Paul Tamasy, Dan Wilson

Music by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

Cinematography by Tobias A. Schliessler

Edited by Gabriel Fleming, Colby Parker Jr.

Casting by Sheila Jaffe, Angela Peri

Production Design by Tom Duffield

Art Direction by Steve Cooper

Set Decoration by Ronald R. Reiss

Costume Design by Virginia Johnson


Starring:

Mark Wahlberg as Tommy Saunders

John Goodman as Commissioner Ed Davis

Kevin Bacon as Special Agent Richard DesLauriers

J.K. Simmons as Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese

Christopher O’Shea as Patrick Downes

Rachel Brosnahan as Jessica Kensky

Michelle Monaghan as Carol Saunders

Jimmy O. Yang as Dun Meng

Melissa Benoist as Katherine Russell

Alex Wolff as Dzohkhar Tsarnaev

Themo Melikidze as Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Martine Assaf as Connie Pugliese

James Colby as Superintendent Billy Evans

Michael Beach as Governor Deval Patrick

Rhett Kidd as Harrold


Mark Wahlberg shines in this all-star action-thriller that chronicles the courage and power of the people of Boston during the real-life manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers.


From filmmaker Peter Berg (“Hancock”, “Friday Night Lights”, “The Kingdom”) comes the American drama-thriller film “Patriots Day” about the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing and the terrorist manhunt that took place.

Featuring a screenplay co-written by Berg, Matt Cook (“The Duel”, “Triple 9”) and Joshua Zetumer (“RoboCop”), the film would receive positive film reviews from critics.

The film stars Mark Wahlberg (“Boogie Nights”, “The Fighter”, “Prisoners”), John Goodman (“The Artist”, “Roseane”, “The Big Lebowski”, “10 Cloverfield Lane”), Kevin Bacon (“Apollo 13”, “Footloose”, “X-Men: First Class”), J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”, “Spider-Man” films, “The Closer”), Michelle Monaghan (“Gone Baby Gone”, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, “Due Date”), Themo Melikidze (“Beautiful Something”, “Transit 17”), Alex Wolff (“The Naked Brothers Band”, “Come Through the Rye”, “The Sitter”), Jimmy O. Yang (“Silicon Valley”, “The Internship”), Melissa Benoist (“Supergirl”, “Whiplash”, “Glee”), Jake Picking (“Dirty Grandpa”, “Goat”), Christopher O’Shea (“Baby Daddy”, “Madam Secretary”), Rachel Brosnahan (“Beautiful Creatures”, “Manhattan”, “The Finest Hours”) and many more.


VIDEO:

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

Picture quality is fantastic as closeups show amazing clarity and day scenes are vibrant.  Many of the scenes are shot at night, but light is well done and for the most part, the film looks great in 4K Ultra HD!

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Patriots Day” is presented in English DTX-X Audio, DTS Headphones: X Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio.

While the film features crystal clear audio (dialogue) and music, surround channels are well-utilized for action sequences during explosions, gun exchanges and crowd ambiance.  Great use of the surround channels and LFE!

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Patriots Day” comes with the following special features:

  • Boston Strong – (21:34) Featuring interviews with Dr. Jeffrey Kalish, Dun Meng and Sgt. Jeff Pugliese.
  • The Boston Bond: Recounting the Tale – (21:43) The cast and crew talk about filming in Boston and working with the community.
  • The Real Patriots: The Local Heroes’ Stories – (19:41) Filmmaker Peter Berg discusses the various heroes that he met and the real people that inspired the characters for the film.
  • The Cast Remembers – (5:52) The cast discuss how they found about the Boston Marathon bombings.
  • Actors Meet Real-Life Counterparts: A 2-Part Series – (10:08) Featuring John Goodman and Ed Davis and Jimmy O. Yang and Dun Meng.
  • Researching the Day – (11:22) Director Peter Berg and crew discuss the research of recreating the 2013 Boston Marathon and the bombing.

EXTRAS:

“Patriots Day” will come with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray and UltraViolet Digital HD code.


I remember the Boston Marathon bombings quite clearly.

Watching things unfurl on CNN, immediately I was glued to the TV set, angered that our country was once again being targeted by terrorist attacks and to find out that were many people, including children who were dead or injured.  Then to find out about the two accused of the bombings, finding out a university police officer was killed, followed by a kidnapping of a Chinese man who revealed the brothers are planning to bomb New York and just following the news for the hunt of the Tsarnaev brothers.

It was a story that captivated America where in 9/11, the terrorists killed themselves.  While in this case, these two terrorists were out in public and we wanted them caught and to answer for their crimes.

With Peter Berg’s “Patriots Day”, we get to see how things went for those harrowing days, the people involved in the manhunt for the two terrorists, those who were injured and those who lost their lives.

Peter Berg and fellow writers Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer no doubt made sure to pay their respects to those involved in the capture of one of the terrorists but to also pay respects to law enforcement and those who’s life was changed forever, but keeping the theme of “Boston Strong” central to the film and showing how the support for law enforcement and the victims will remain in the hearts of people who remember that fateful day and have managed to continue, to move on and show true determination but also providing inspiration for those watching the film.

Mark Wahlberg’s character of Tommy Saunders is a fictional character but his role captures the heart of Boston PD who were doing all they can to catch the terrorists.  Police officers who were on duty, with hardly any sleep, determined to keep Boston safe and to catch those who are responsible.

John Goodman also did a great job of portraying Commissioner Ed Davis and Kevin Bacon as Special Agent Richard DesLauriers of the FBI who worked tirelessly to control information in regards of who was responsible for the bombings but also coordinating their men for the manhunt.

J.K. Simmons as Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese of the Watertown PD who was there to take on one of the terrorists during a shootout.  Jimmy O. Yang as Dun Meng, the man who was carjacked and held by gunpoint by the two terrorists for a long period of time until he made a major risk by bolting from his vehicle when one of the terrorists were preoccupied and managed to run and call police.

Peter Berg tries to show the loving side of both characters, Sgt. Pugliese with his wife and Dun Meng with a woman he met.

But “Patriots Day” also effectively pays tribute to those who lost their lives or those who were caught in the blast.

“Patriots Day” pays respect to MIT Officer Sean Collier (portrayed by Jake Picking) who was ambushed by the two terrorists and was killed.  While he never had a chance to fight back, they tried to steal his weapon unsuccessfully.  The film also tries to show the loving and friendly side of Collier, from going on a date with a student to him hanging out with his friends, singing a song and playing video games.

We also get to see victims such as couple, Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, father Steve Woolfenden taking his young boy on a stroller to watch the Boston Marathon, both were near the first bomb that exploded.  Berg shows the love between Patrick and Jessica and the father and son relationship with the Woolfenden’s.

Possibly a tough role were to play the terrorists and actors Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze no doubt had to pull off these individuals and show the audience of their mindset but also their cowardly, evil actions.  The same with Melissa Benoist who plays the bomber’s wife and showing viewers on what happened when she was interrogated by law enforcement.

The film’s efficacy also helps with the real archived video of the terrorists and video caught from banks and at stores they were at.  It helped remind audience that what people were watching, was the real deal.

I felt that filmmaker Peter Berg and his fellow writers did amazing job in crafting this drama-thriller by sticking to facts, despite the film focusing on a fictional character.

The 4K Ultra HD is wonderfully detailed during closeups and also features an impressive lossless soundtrack especially during the bombings, the gun battle exchanges, the explosions sounds quite amazing through the surround channels and the use of LFE.  And the numerous special features included are also fascinating to watch and thankfully they are of good duration and not too short.

Overall, Peter Berg’s “Patriots Day” is well-made, well-researched, well-acted and felt that the film was a wonderful tribute to the heroes of the Boston Marathon Bombing and not being exploitative.  Highly recommended!

The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 28, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition” is a wonderful collection of Classic Christmas animated TV specials that generations have grown up with and love.  Is it a perfect set?  While that question is subjective, I do feel that there are numerous Rankin/Bass Christmas specials that could be included with this set to make it a definitive collection.  But on its own, with seven timeless classics, it’s hard to say anything bad about it at all.  If you are looking for these classic holiday TV specials on Blu-ray, then “The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Classic Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition

YEAR OF FILM: Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970), The Little Drummer Boy (1968), Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962), Cricket on the Hearth (1967), Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964), Frosty the Snowman (1969), Frosty Returns (1992)

DURATION: Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (50:47), The Little Drumer Boy (25:14), Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (52:28), Cricket on the Hearth (49:21), Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (51:44), Frosty the Snowman (25:23), Frosty Returns (23:08)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:34:1), English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD MA

COMPANY: ClassicMedia

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: September 8, 2015


Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

Directed by Abe Levitow

Based on the story by Charles Dickens

Adaptation by Barbara Chain

Produced by Lee Orgel

Executive Producer: Henry G. Saperstein

Music by Jule Styne

Edited by Earl Bennett, Sam Horta, Wayne Hughes, George Probert

Production Design by Corny Cole, Lee Mishkin, Marty Murphy, Tony Rivera, Shirley Silvey, Bob Singer, Dick Ung, Sam Weiss

Cricket on the Hearth

Directed by Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.

Based on a story by Charles Dickens

Written by Romeo Muller, Arthur Rankin Jr.

Produced by Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.

Executive Producer: Aaron Spelling, Danny Thomas

Associate Producer: Shelley Hull

Music by Maury Laws

Production Design by Paul Coker Jr.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Directed by Larry roemer

Written by Romeo Muller

Story by Robert May

Song by Johnny Marks

Produced by Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.

Music by Jules Bass, Maury Laws

Production Design by Paul Coker Jr.

Frosty the Snowman

Directed by Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.

Written by Romeo Muller

Produced by Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.

Edited by Irwin Goldress

The Little Drummer Boy

Directed by Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.

Written by Romeo Muller

Produced by Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.

Music by Jules Bass, Maury Laws

Production Design by Paul Coker Jr.

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

Directed by Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.

Teleplay by Romeo Muller

Produced by Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.

Music by Jules Bass, Maury Laws

Production Design by Paul Coker Jr.

Frosty Returns

Directed by Evert Brown, Bill Melendez

Based on the Story by Jim Lewis

Written by Oliver Goldstick

Produced by Eryk Casemiro, Bill Melendez

Executive Producer: Lorne Michaels

Co-Producer: Dinah Minot

Music by Mark Mothersbaugh

Cinematography by Nick Vasu

Edited by Chuck McCann, Warren Taylor


Featuring the Voices of:

Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

Jim Backus as Ebenezer Scrooge/Mr. Magoo

Morey Amsterdam as Brady/James

Jack Cassidy as Bob Cratchit

Royal Dano as Marley’s Ghost

Joan Gardner as Tiny Tim/Ghost of Christmas

Cricket on the Hearth

Danny Thomas as Himself/Caleb

Marlo Thomas as Bertha

Hans Conried as Tackleton

Roddy McDowall as Cricket Crocket

Ed Ames as Edward

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Burl Ives as Sam the Snowman

Billie Mae Richards as Rudolph

Paul Soles as Hermey

Larry D. Mann as Yukon Cornelius

Stan Francis as Santa Claus/King Moonracer

Paul Kligman as Donner/Clarice’s Father/Comet

Janis Orenstein as Clarice 

Alfie Scopp as Charlie-in-the Box

Carl Banas as Head Elf

Corinne Conley as Doll

Peg Dixon as Mrs. Donner/Mrs. Claus

Frosty the Snowman

Jimmy Durante as Narrator

Billy De Wolfe as Professor Hinkle

Jackie Vernon as Frosty the Snowman

Paul Frees as Santa Claus

June Foray as Teacher/Karen

The Little Drummer Boy

Jose Ferrer as Ben Haramed

Paul Frees as Aaron’s Father, The Magi

June Foray as Aaron’s Mother

Ted Eccles as Aaron

Greer Garson as Our Story Teller

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

Fred Astaire as S.D. Kluger (narrator)

Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle/Santa Claus

Keenan Wynn as the Winter Warlock

Robie Lester as Jessica/Mrs. Claus

Frosty Returns

Jonathan Winter  (narrator)

Jan Hooks as Lili

Andrea Martin as Miss Carbuncle

Brian Doyle-Murray as Mr. Twitchell

Elisabeth Moss as Holly

Michael Patrick Carter as Charles

John Goodman as Frosty the Snowman


Includes 7 Holiday Favorites: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Whos got a nose for Christmas? Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer! Just in time for the holidays, here comes Rudolph in the most beloved special of all time! Packed with a sleigh full of memorable songs and unforgettable characters, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer lights up the hearts of young and old alike. Santa Claus is Comin to Town Where does Santas suit come from? Why does he slide down the chimney? Why does he live at the North Pole? The answers to all these questions and the origins of our favorite holiday traditions are revealed in this delightful classic about Kris Kringle, the world s most famous gift giver. Frosty the Snowman Look at Frosty Go! Whats become a bigger holiday tradition than building a snowman? Watching the original Christmas classic, Frosty the Snowman! Grab your scarf, bundle up, and get ready for the incredible adventure of a magical snowman whos got enough personality to win over the whole family. You can t go wrong with Frosty! Frosty Returns Mr. Magoos Christmas Carol Bah Humbug, Mr. Magoo! In this first-ever animated holiday TV special, the bumbling and loveable Mr. Magoo is Ebeneezer Scrooge in a hilarious and heartwarming musical retelling of Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. The Little Drummer Boy This story has touched the hearts of families everywhere. In this holiday classic, the true spirit of Christmas is revealed when a lonely orphan stumbles upon the birth of the baby Jesus and affirms what the holidays are really about giving and love. Featuring a beautiful soundtrack by the Vienna Boys Choir, this timeless tale of generosity makes the perfect addition to your holiday collection. Cricket on the Hearth A delightful, animated musical version of Charles Dickens classic tale, Cricket on the Hearth, tells the story of a poor toymaker and his daughter whom a helpful Cricket named Crocket befriends on Christmas morning. When tragedy strikes the family, it s Crocket who comes to the rescue and restores peace and happiness.


For generations, many Americans have been entertained by the yearly Christmas animation now deemed as classics.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”, “The Little Drummer Boy”, “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol”, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Frosty Returns” and “Cricket on the Hearth” have been part of America’s pop culture.  From stop-motion animation to classic animation, many of these classics are long and dear to many.

And what best to celebrate the holidays with all seven series collected into one Blu-ray volume (featuring two Blu-ray discs), “The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition” is now available.

Back in 1962, “Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol” aired on television and helped lead to creation of “The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo”.  The story is a loose adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.  Mr. Magoo is cast as Scrooge who is cold and uncaring for his employee and people who do business with him. But when the Ghost of Christmas Past visits him, Scrooge decides to change his ways.

In 1964, a stop-motion animation titled “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was produced.  Based on Johnny Marks song of the same title (which was based on the 1939 poem by Robert L. May), the animation has aired every year on television and is a Christmas classic.

The story begins with an introduction by Sam the Snowman (voiced by Burl Ives) who tells the story of a young reindeer with a glowing red nose.

Donner’s wife has given birth to a male fawn named Rudolph (voiced by Billie Mae Richards), and to their surprise, he was born with a glowing red nose.  But when Santa (voiced by Stan Francis) comes to visit and says that Rudolph would not be able to pull his sleigh if his red-nose continues through adulthood, Donner (voiced by Paul Kligman) tries to his Rudolph’s red shining nose by placing dirt over it.

A year later, Rudolph’s parents take him to meet all the other young bucks who will be trained to fly and pull Santa’s sleigh once they get older.  He meets Clarice (who is attracted to him) and becomes friends with Fireball.  But when they all start playing, the dirt comes off Rudolph’s nose and everyone makes fun of him.  Also, he is no longer allowed to join in on any reindeer games.  To make matters worse, Clarice’s father forbids her from hanging around Rudolph.

Rudolph runs away and meets an elf named Hermey who also wants to run away because his parents want him to make toys, while he prefers to become a dentist.  Both consider themselves misfits and team up and run away together.

Another Dickens story was adapted into an animation.  “Cricket on the Hearth” (1967) is a loose adaptation of Charles Dickens 1845 novella.  The story revolves around Bertha (voiced by Marlo Thomas), who lives with her father Caleb (voiced by Danny Thomas).  Bertha is in love with Edward but one day, as a soldier, he had to go out on sea.  But after news arrives that Edward  (voiced by Ed Ames) has died, Bertha who is devastated, goes blind.

As Caleb raises his blind daughter, they go through rough times as Caleb is unable to work.  So the two are forced to leave their home and worked with the spoiled and cold Tackleton (voiced by Hans Conried) who hires Caleb.  But a bearded man arrives to visit and he is reminiscent to someone…who could it be?

But what happens when the two, along with a prospector named Yukon Cornelius come in contact with the Abominable Snow Monster?

In 1968, a stop-motion television special produced by Rankin/Bass titled “The Little Drummer Boy” aired on television.  While the special is no longer aired on public television, it still airs on cable now on ABC Family.

The special begins with the narrator (voiced by Greer Garson) telling a story of a young boy named Aaron, who is a misanthropic orphan who loves to play the drums.  His friends are Samson the donkey, Babba the sheep and Joshua the camel.  His story of his youth was not the best as at a young age, bandits who tried to steal the family’s sheep killed his parents and burned down his house.  Having looked down on humanity since then, he is hired to join Ben Haramad’s circus to play the drum.

But disenchanted with working with the circus, what happens when Aaron comes across Three Wise Men who are making their journey to Bethlehem?

In 1969, the animated Christmas TV special “Frosty the Snowman” aired on CBS.    A seasonal Christmas classic, the special is set on Christmas Eve and a schoolteacher hires a not-so-good magician named Professor Hinkle to perform magic for the Christmas party.  But when he fails in his magic tricks, he throws his hat away.

As the kids go outside to build a snowman, a girl named Karen names the snowman, “Frosty”.  She finds a magic hat and places it on Frosty the Snowman and suddenly, Frosty comes to life.

In 1969, the animated TV special “Frosty the Snowman” aired on CBS.  The special marked the first use of cel animation for Rankin/Bass (who often used stop-motion) and

Who can forget “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” (1970) made by Rankin-Bass and featuring voices by Fred Astaire as the narrator, Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle/Santa Claus, Keenan Wynn as Winter Warlock and Paul Frees in various roles.

Originally created in Japan using stop-motion technology called “Animagic” featuring characters made of wood and plastic, the special was telecast back in December 1970.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” revolves around a mailman named S.D. Kluger introducing a newsreel and reminding children to prepare for the arrival of Santa Claus.  His tale begins in the city of Sombertown as Burgmeister Meisterburger has a baby arriving on his doorstep.  The baby’s name is Claus which he orders his lawkeeper Grimsley (both Burgmeister and Grimsley are voiced by Paul Frees) to take the baby to the “Orphan Asylum”.

As the wind blows the sled and baby to the mountain of the Whispering Wind, the animals hide the baby from Grimsley from the Winter Warlock (voiced by Keenan Wynn).  The animals end up taking the baby to the Elfish family, Kringle.

Tanta Kringle (voiced by Joan Garnder), the elf queen, adopts the baby and names him “Kris” and as Kris grows older, he wants to restore the Kringle family as the “First Toymakers to the King”. And when he gets older, he volunteers to deliver the elves toys to Sombertown, in which toys are outlawed by the Burgermeister.

Can Kris Kringle bring love and peace to the town?  And how will he win the heart of Miss Jessica (voiced by Robie Lester).

In 1992, “Frosty Returns” produced by Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video was created with the help of Peanuts director Bill Melendez (thus having a little similarity to the Peanuts animation).

The special begins with a musical being canceled at Beansboro Elementary School due to a seven-inch snowfall.  As parents complain about the snow and ice, the children in school often are seen playing with it.

For young and often alone, Holly DeCarlo, she and her one friend, Charles try do a magic act. But when her hat flies off her head out the window, it lands on the snowman outside and it comes to life.

The snowman reveals himself to Holly as “Frosty”.

But as the complaints of the snow and ice grow, Mr. Twitchell is brought in to bring his “Summer Wheeze” product to eliminate the snow, which Holly wants to do all that necessary to protect Frosty.


VIDEO:

“The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:34:1 aspect ratio).  Considering the age of these animated films, I will preface to say that one should not expect perfection when it comes to picture quality.   There is grain, there are scratches and slight markings but for the most part, the colors look very good.

But considering the film’s age and the fact that you’re not going to get perfect picture quality, I will say it looks better than what one would see on television.  And for those who have treasured these Christmas animated classics, they are definitely worth owning and showing the children and the entire family during the holiday season.


AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition” is presented in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS Master Audio.  Audio for the most part is clear and no sign of significant hiss, while “Frosty Returns” does have a few moments of audio degradation but slight crackling at times.


SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition” includes the following special features (split into two discs):

Disc 1 (you must click on “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” to access the special features):

  • Be An Artist and Create – (25:36)  Featuring Joe Vance (director of Character Art at DreamWorks) on how to draw various characters.
  • Kringle Jingle – (:56) Kids singing the Kringle Jingle.
  • Santa Special Delivery – (17:23) Kids are interviewed about Santa and also historical facts about Santa.

Disc 2 (Special features can be found on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman”):

  • Rudolph Pop Up Book – (2:48)
  • Holly Jolly Sing Along – (1:22)
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Sing Along – (:53)
  • Learn to Draw – Dave Burgess of DreamWorks Animation teaches viewers how to draw Rudolph, Hermey and the Abominable Snow Monster.
  • Be An Artist and Create – (25:53) Joe Vance of DreamWorks Animation teaches viewers on how to draw a variety of characters.
  • Magic Melody – (1:53)
  • Frosty Snowflake Surprises – (19:30) Interviews with children and facts on “Frosty the Snowman”.

EXTRAS:

“The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition” comes with a slipcase.


 

When it comes to Christmas specials on TV, myself and my siblings had the opportunity to grow up and watch classics such as “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”, “The Little Drummer Boy”.

And decades later, our children are now growing up with these animated classics.

Timeless, entertaining and family friendly, these classic stop-motion specials long with other classic animated TV specials have been collected into one Blu-ray collection titled “The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition”.

A perfect gift to keep the children busy throughout the holiday season, it’s really hard to beat a set that contains seven classics in one Blu-ray set.

Is it perfect?  Well, the question is subjective.  For me, it would be wonderful to have the Rankin/Bass 1979 stop-motion special “Rudolph and Frost’s Christmas in July” and the 1976 stop-motion (sequel to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”) “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year” included with the set.  It would also be nice to see other Rankin-Bass Christmas specials such as the 1974 stop-motion TV special “The Year Without a Santa Claus”,  the 1975 stop-motion animation “The First Christmas: The Story of First Christmas Snow” and the 1976 sequel to “The Little Drummer Boy” titled “The Little Drummer Boy, Book II”.

So, there is room for a “The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition” Vol. 2 or releasing a new set in the near future containing these other Christmas classics.

And unfortunately, due to the Rankin/Bass library being split into two parts after the company’s dissolution in 1987, one of the casualties is “Frosty’s Winter Wonderland” being separated from “Frosty the Snowman”.  And so, the sequel (for now) will never be included alongside “Frosty the Snowman”.

But the 1992 Christmas animated TV special “Frost Returns” is included and while more modern and may fit out of place compared to the other animated specials included in this set, but it’s still a rather enjoyable animated series that children will enjoy.

One of the biggest questions that purists will probably want to know is if the original and various edited versions are included.  They are not.  What you see on television today, is what is on the Blu-ray release.

I don’t think we’re going to get any multi-versions of a special in a Blu-ray release and for now, I don’t think we are going to get those cut scenes included as a deleted scene.  So, for those who watched “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and prefer the song “Fame & Fortune” (which was used from 1965-1997), you’re not going to get it with this release as the original 1964 “We’re a Couple of Misfits” replaced that version in 1998 and is retained in this 50th Anniversary version on the Blu-ray disc.

And it’s important to note that in terms of picture quality, for those expecting pristine versions of these specials, unless one is willing to spend a lot of money to make it happen, I think the best that fans are going to get is just an HD remastering for now.  It’s also great that the soundtrack is now in lossless 5.1 DTS-HD MA and there is no major hissing or crackling that I heard (“Frosty Returns” has slight crackle) and as for special features, you get sing-alongs but also cool creative featurettes featuring DreamWorks animators, so one can learn how to draw Rudolph, Santa, Frosty and more.

Overall, “The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition” is a wonderful collection of Classic Christmas animated TV specials that generations have grown up with and love.  Is it a perfect set?  While that question is subjective, I do feel that there are numerous Rankin/Bass Christmas specials that could be included with this set to make it a definitive collection.  But on its own, with seven timeless classics, it’s hard to say anything bad about it at all.

If you are looking for these classic holiday TV specials on Blu-ray, then “The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition” is highly recommended!

The Monuments Men (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

May 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Monuments Men” is a fascinating film that is loosely-based on the true story of those who risked their lives to find artwork stolen by the Nazi’s and return them back to the original owners.  While the film features an all-star cast, the stories of these cast members were under-developed and pacing was off.  A noble film about the preservation of art during World War II but also a film with a number of historical inaccuracies. 

Image courtesy of © 2014 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Monuments Men

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 118 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English, English Audio Descriptive Track, French, French – Audio Descriptive Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Some Images of War Violence and Historical Smoking)

RELEASE DATE: May 6, 2014

Directed by George Clooney

Screenplay by George Clooney, Grant Heslov

Based on the book by Robert M. Edsel, Bret Witter

Produced by George Clooney, Grant Heslove

Co-Producer: Christopher Fisser, Henning Molfenter

Executive Producer: Barbara A. Hall

Music by Alexandre Desplat

Cinematography by Phedon Papamichael

Edited by Stephen Mirrione

Casting by Jina Jay

Production Design by James D. Bissell

Set Decoration by Bernhard Henrich

Costume Design by Louise Frogley

Starring:

George Clooney as Frank Stokes

Matt Damon as James Granger

Bill Murray as Richard Campbell

Cate Blanchett as Claire Simone

John Goodman as Walter Garfield

Jean Dujardin as Jean Claude Clermont

Hugh Bonneville as Donald Jeffries

Bob Balaban as Preston Savitz

Dimitri Leonidas as Sam Epstein

Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, THE MONUMENTS MEN centers around an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. In a seemingly impossible mission, the Monuments Men, as they were called, find themselves risking their lives in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1,000 years of culture.

When actor/filmmaker George Clooney was inspired by Robert M. Edsel’s non-fiction book “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History”, leave it to Clooney to go out and produce and direct his own film.

Having directed “Good Night, and Good Luck.”, “Leatherheads” and “The Ides of March”, Clooney directs and stars in “The Monuments Men”, a film based on a true story and a film that did well in the box office, earning over $154 million worldwide.

Featuring an all-star cast, the film would star George Clooney (“Ocean’s Eleven”, “Gravity”, “Up in the Air”) alongside Matt Damon (“The Bourne Identity”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “Good Will Hunting”), Bil Murray (“Groundhog Day”, “Lost in Translation”, “Ghostbusters”), Cate Blanchett (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “The Lord of the Rings” films), John Goodmen (“The Big Lebowski”, “Argo”, “Roseanne”),  Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”, “The Wolf of Wall Street”, “OSS 117”), Hugh Bonneville (“Downton Abbey”, “Notting Hill”), Bob Balaban (“Ghost World”, “Gosford Park”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”) and Dimitri Leonidas (“Tormented”, “Centurion”).

“The Monuments Men” takes place during World War II (1943) and word gets out that the Nazi’s have stolen art treasures from western civilization and fearful that more art will be destroyed in combat or looted, Frank Stokes (portrayed by George Clooney) persuades the US President that the art treasures must be rescued.

Stokes is given the permission to assemble an Army unit known as the “Monuments Men” which comprises of seven museum directors, curators and art historians who will work with allied units and search for stolen art in order to return it back to their rightful owners.

Meanwhile, in France which is occupied by the Nazis, Parisian curator Claire Simone (portrayed by Cate Blanchett), must allow Nazi officer Viktor Stahl (portrayed by Justus von Dohnanyi) to take the art for Adolf Hitler’s proposed Fuherermuseum in Linz or become the personal property of senior commanders.  But behind the scenes, Claire is helping the French resistance fighters, the Maquis, to recapture the items.

When Viktor Stahl finds out what Claire Simone has been doing, he immediately has all of the gallery’s contents stolen and taken to Germany.

As James Granger (portrayed by James Granger) tries to get an reluctant Claire to tell him where the Nazis are taking the stolen artwork, Stokes and his Monuments Men which include Granger, Richard Campbell (portrayed by Bill Murray), Walter Garfield (portrayed by John Goodman), Jean Claude Clermont (portrayed by Jean Dujardin), Donald Jeffries (portrayed by Hugh Bonneville), Preston Savitz (portrayed by Bob Balaban) and Sam Epstein (portrayed by Dimitri Leonidas) to travel to dangerous areas and putting their lives at risk in order to rescue art stolen by the Nazis.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Monuments Men” is featured in 2:40:1 (Anamorphic Widescreen) and in English and French 5.1 Dolby Digital (plus audio descriptive track).  It’s important to note that if you want to watch the best quality of this film, you will want to opt for the Blu-ray release which will no doubt give you better picture quality and wonderful lossless soundtrack.

As for the DVD release, the film looks very good on DVD.  Definitely not having the same amount of detail or vibrancy as the Blu-ray release, “The Monuments Men” looks very good and I didn’t notice any major artifacts or banding during my viewing.  The soundtrack is dialogue-driven for the majority of the film, but certain scenes featuring war battles utilize the surround channels when needed.  Dialogue and musical soundtrack are both crystal clear!

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Monuments Men” comes with the following special features:

  • George Clooney’s Mission – (5:11) George Clooney having dual roles as director and actor in the film.
  • Marshalling the Troops – (7:55) The talent discuss working on the film and what they enjoyed about working on a World War II film.

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Based on a true story.  The true story of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program (MFAA) and its accomplishments is inspiring and entertaining.

And the fact that George Clooney was willing to create a film about preserving art and culture is noble.

Usually, I appreciate films that take a factual storyline, which many people are not aware about and bring it to the big screen, it’s something to admire the filmmaker, writer and the producers for going forward with the project.

But as much as I wanted to enjoy “The Monuments Men” due to its all-star cast, the film seemed as if it would have done better as a TV mini-series rather than a film. There was clearly not enough time to focus on these characters and the pacing was off. Some of the stories relating to these characters were no doubt better than others, and I found myself being entertained by the Walter Garfield (Goodman) and Jean Claude Clermont (Dujardin) storyline and the James Granger (Damon) and Claire Simone (Blanchett) much more than others.  And that is because there was more time developed for these characters to enjoy their storyline much more.

Also, if Clooney and Grant Heslov retained some of the historical accuracy of the film along with the typical Hollywood changes, perhaps it would have made a better film, for those who watched the film and googled, just to find out that the film is historically inaccurate.

Clooney’s character Frank Stokes is based on George Stout, who was not responsible for creating the MFAA, although he was an advocate in protecting art during the war.

Jean Dujardin’s Jean Claude Clermont was not based on anyone, there were no French officers who worked with the MFAA.

And as for Blanchett’s Claire Simone, based on Rose Valland, a wartime hero in France, in the film, she is a woman who has important information but she is also reduced to a woman who eventually tries to get closer to James Granger.  While in reality, she was a woman who risked her life for intelligence work on the stolen artwork and her relationship to anyone in MFAA was strictly professional.  She understood German, pretending that she didn’t know the language, so she can listen in on their conversations.

But what is true in the film is that she was reluctant to give any information to James Granger (in reality, Lt. James Rorimer) in fear that the art would be stolen yet again.

The film also focuses on Hitler issuing a decree (the Nero Decree) to destroy the artwork, but in reality, Hitler wanted the art for his museums and wanted only military, transportation, communications, industrial and food locations to be destroyed.  They did destroy artwork that was degenerate (surrealism, expressionism, Cubism) but the burning of art did not go into effect, because Albert Speer, Hitler’s Minister of Armaments, ignored the order.

And there is more that people can discover online in regards to the differences of what really happened during World War II and what was depicted in the film.

With that being said, those who want to see historical accuracy will not find it in “The Monuments Men”, you will get a film about a group of men who would put their life at risk for the sake of preserving art.  Once again, while noble of George Clooney for making a film adaptation possible, I do wish that the film did have more accurate representations of what took place in World War II.  I do understand that a lot of films based on any war or any factual subject are not always accurate, but those who strive to find a balance in creating an entertaining film with accuracy, I feel much better and am entertained by those type of films than those who try to stretch out the truth.

Also even if I didn’t know about the historical inaccuracies of the film, the storyline and its handling of the characters didn’t go too smoothly and the film becomes more about American bravado during World War II.

As for the DVD, if you want the best picture and audio quality, the Blu-ray version of the film is the way to go.  The DVD also has two short special features included.

Overall, “The Monuments Men” is a fascinating film that is loosely-based on the true story of those who risked their lives to find artwork stolen by the Nazi’s and return them back to the original owners.  While the film features an all-star cast, the stories of these cast members were under-developed and pacing was off.  A noble film about the preservation of art during World War II but also a film with a number of historical inaccuracies.

 

The Jungle Book 2 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 22, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Jungle Book 2” may not be as magical as the original film, but for children and families, it’s a safe, fun and entertaining Disney animated film worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Jungle Book 2

FILM RELEASE: 2003

DURATION: 72 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English 2.0 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

RATED: G (General Audiences)

Release Date: March 18, 2014

Directed by Steve Trenbirth

Screenplay by Karl Geurs

Written by Carter Crocker, Evan Spiliotopoulos, David Reynolds, Roger S.H. Schulman, Tom Rogers

Based on the novel “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling

Produced by Christopher Chase, Mary Thorne

Music by Joel McNeely

Edited by Christopher K. Gee, Peter Lonsdale

Casting by Jo Gilbert

Art Direction by Michael Peraza Jr.

Featuring the voices of:

John Goodman as “Baloo” the Bear

Bob Joles as “Bagheera” the Panther

Haley Joel Osment as “Mowgli” the Man Cub

Mae Whitman as Shanti

Connor Funk as Ranjan

Tony Jay as Shere Khan the Tiger

Jim Cummings as “Kaa” the Snake/Col. Hathi the Elephant/Buzzie

Phil Collins as Lucky

Experience the wonder of this timeless tale as you reunite with your favorite characters and meet new friends. Disney’s beloved movie classic continues in this new digital master of The Jungle Book 2 – on Blu-ray for the first time, and wilder than ever in breathtaking high definition! Now that Mowgli’s living in the “man-village,” he cherishes his new best friend and little brother, but he still has that jungle rhythm in his heart. He misses hanging out with happy-go-lucky Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther. Yearning for freedom, Mowgli runs off into the jungle – and encounters his enemy Shere Khan! This time, he’ll need both his new human family and his old jungle friends to help save the day. Packed with humor, suspense and fun, this thrilling musical adventure will be on of the “Bare Necessities” of your Disney movie collection!

Back in 1893-1895, English Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling wrote a collection of stories that were published in various magazines and give moral lessons to young readers. The stories would go on to be known as “The Jungle Book”.

A beloved classic, Walt Disney and writer Bill Peet decided that the 19th animated feature would be “The Jungle Book” featuring a storyline inspired by Kipling’s stories (Disney did not want the darker storyline to be in the animated film, since the goal was to create a family film) but also incorporating music.

Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman (“Robin Hood”, “101 Dalmatians”, “The AristoCats”), the film would be known as the last film for Walt Disney, who passed away during the film’s production.

The film would become a major animated film for Disney which would eventually lead to a live-action film from Disney but also a 2003 sequel titled “The Jungle Book 2”, which was originally made to be a direct-to-video film but later released as a theatrical feature.

The sequel would star John Goodman (“Roseanne”, “The Big Lebowski”, “Fargo”), Haley Joel Osment (“The Sixth Sense”, “A.I. Artificial Intelligence”, “Pay It Forward”), Mae Whitman (“Independence Day”, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”), Connor Funk, Tony Jay (“Beauty and the Beast”, “Treasure Planet”, “The Hunchbac of Notre Dame”), Bob Joles (“Puss in Boots”, “The Lion King 1 1/2”), John Rhys-Davies (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, “The Lord of the Rings” films), Jim Cummmings (“Aladdin”, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”) and Phil Collins (“Hook”, “Miami Vice”, “Balto”).

The film was a box office success earning over $135 million in the box office and now the second film will be released in a Blu-ray+DVD+Digital Copy combo pack.

“The Jungle Book 2” revolves around Mowgli now living in the same village as Shanti, having been adopted by his family and also having a little brother named Ranjan.

But there is part of Mowgli who wishes he was back at the jungle, as he loves to tell his scary stories about a wild tiger named Shere Khan.

But as Mowgli one day sings and nearly brings the children towards the jungle, he is caught by his adopted father and punished, admonishing Mowgli that the jungle is dangerous.

Meanwhile, Shere Khan has freed himself and has now returned back to the jungle, wanting revenge on Mowgli.

Meanwhile, Baloo misses Mowgli and heads towards his village to bring him back to the jungle, not knowing that Shere Khan has also went to the man village in search of Mowgli.

As Baloo finds Mowgli, not wanting to be punished and stuck at home, he escapes with Baloo into the jungle.  While Shere Khan terrfies the village.

During the chaos, Shanti thinks a bear has taken Mowgli, so she goes after him, while Ranjan follows.

As Mowgli returns to the jungle and Baloo is excited that his friend has come to live in the jungle forever, Mowgli starts to have second thoughts and that life in the man village is not bad at all.

But with Shere Khan on the prowl and Shanti and Ranjan trying to find Mowgli, will they be safe from Shere Khan’s rage?

VIDEO:

“The Jungle Book 2″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio).  Colors are vibrant but when compared to the original which had beautiful backgrounds and sketch-like artwork, for fans of the original, or parents who enjoyed the original film, will no doubt enjoy the colorful look of the film on Blu-ray.

There are no banding issues or artifacts and for the most part, “The Jungle Book 2” looks beautiful on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Jungle Book 2” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French and SpanishDolby Digital 5.1, English 2.0 Dolby Digital and is a dialogue and musically driven film.  There are moments of good surround sound usage such as the opening sequence or the more action-driven scenes.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Jungle Book 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Synopsis of the Original Movie – The Jungle Book – (2:59) A short synopsis of the original film, “The Jungle Book”.
  • The Legacy of the Jungle Book – (14:11) A featurette of how Walt Disney influenced “The Jungle Book” and interviews with the cast and crew of “The Jungle Book 2”.
  • Deleted Scenes  – Featuring two deleted scenes plus an introduction by Sharon Morrill and Matt Walker who discuss why the scenes did not make it into the final cut of the film.
  • Music & More -Featuring an option for those to sing along with the movie or watch music videos for “W-I-L-D” and “Jungle Rhythm”.

EXTRAS:

“The Jungle Book 2” comes with a slipcover.  Along with the Blu-ray release, a DVD and digital HD copy code is also included.

When it comes to Disney animated classics that I grew up with, during my childhood, “The Jungle Book” was one of the few Disney titles that I would often see at the theater with my family.

Of course, now as a parent, animation from Disney and other studios have become more computer generated, but watching “The Jungle Book” after all these years, for those of us who grew up with this film, there was a lot to be captivated about this film as a child.

As I enjoyed the charm of a young boy being raised by animals and raised in the jungle area, the combination of music and action made the animated film quite lively.

With the sequel “The Jungle Book 2”, the series tries its best to not be a sequel disappointment by attaching big name stars to the film but also bringing back the characters from the original film. While the sequel was destined to become a direct-to-video release, “The Jungle Book 2” became a successful Disney animated film earning over $135 million in the box office.

For the most part, the film would no doubt charm children for its accessible and easy to follow storyline and its happy music.  But for adults hoping for Disney magic like the original film, while the film has the similar charm and similar threats, the story is less about Mowgli being threatened by Shere Kahn, but more or less him trying to fit in and knowing that Shanti and Ranjan may be in trouble in the jungle.  But also Mowgli and Baloo realizing where Mowgli’s home truly is.

The film still has a direct-to-video feel as the story was a bit too simplistic despite having big name talent attached to the film. The visuals are vibrant on Blu-ray and there are some moments of good surround sound use at the beginning and end of the film.  And you get the original special features from the 2003 DVD included on the Blu-ray release as well.

Overall, “The Jungle Book 2” may not be as magical as the original film, but for children and families, it’s a safe, fun and entertaining Disney animated film worth checking out!

Inside Llewyn Davis (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

March 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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The Coen Brothers’ latest film, “Inside Llewyn Davis” is enjoyable and fantastic!  It’s a much different style of film that the Coen’s are usually known for but they manage to showcase great music and also capturing an era during the emergence of folk music in Greenwich Village in 1961. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Long Strange Trip, LLC. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Inside Llewyn Davis

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 104 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Language including some sexual references)

RELEASE DATE: March 11, 2014

Written and Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Produced by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin

Executive Producer: Olivier Courson, Robert Graf, Ron Halpern

Associate Producer: Catherine Farrell, Drew P. Houpt

Cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel

Edited by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Casting by Ellen Chenoweth

Production Design by Jess Gonchor

Art Direction by Deborah Jensen

Set Decoration by Susan Bode

Starring:

Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis

Carey Mulligan as Jean

Justin Timberlake as Jim

Ethan Phillips as Mitch Gorfein

Robin Bartlett as Lilian Gorfein

Max Casella as Pappi Corsicato

Jerry Grason as Mel Novikoff

Jeanine Serralles as Joy

Adam Driver as Al Cody

Stark Sands as Troy Nelson

John Goodman as Roland Turner

Garrett Hedlund as Johnny Five

Alex Karpovsky as Marty Green

Helen Hong as Janet Fung

Inside Llewyn Davis follows a week in the life of a young folk singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961. Guitar in tow, huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, he is struggling to make it as a musician against seemingly insurmountable obstacles—some of them of his own making.

From Ethan and Joel Coen (“No Country for Old Men”, “Fargo”, “The Big Lebowski”) comes an American comedy/drama film titled “Inside Llewyn Davis”.

Starring Oscar Isaac (“Drive”, “Sucker Punch”, “Robin Hood”), Carey Mulligan (“Drive”, “Never Let Me Go”, “An Education”), Justin Timberlake (“Bad Teacher”, “Friends with Benefits”, “The Social Network”), Ethan Phillips (“Star Trek: Voyager”, “The Island”), Robin Bartlett (“Shutter Island”, “City of Angels”, “Dangerous Minds”) and Max Casella (“Doogie Howser, M.D.”, “Ed Wood”), “Inside Llewyn Davis” would win the 2013 Grand Prix at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and would receive critical acclaim worldwide.

The film is set in 1961 and struggling folk singer Llewyn Davis (portrayed by Oscar Isaac) is trying to survive in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

After his musical partner Mike Timlin commits suicide, Llewyn Davis is trying to survive by staying with friends and family due to his latest solo album not selling.

After his performance at the Gaslight Cafe, Llewyn goes outside and is beaten up by a man for heckling.  Llewyn stays with the Gorfeins but when he leaves, he loses their cat and goes after it.  Llewyn ends up taking the cat to his other friends, Jim (portrayed by Justin Timberlake) and Jean (portrayed by Carey Mulligan).  But Jean is not so happy to see Llewyn, because she is pregnant and fears that it may be Llewyn’s baby and wants him to pay for the abortion.

But as he stays with another group of friends, he once again loses the Gorfeins cat.

Needing to make money to survive and pay for an abortion, Llewyn must do all he can to make money.  But how will life continue for the next few days for Llewyn Davis?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Inside Llewyn Davis” is a film presented in 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen and a soundtrack presented English 5.1 Dolby Digital with English, English SDH subtitles.

It’s important to note that if you want the best picture and audio quality, you will want to opt for the Blu-ray release of this film.  But on DVD, picture quality for the film is great!  The Coen Brothers and staff managed to create an era of old Greenwich Village 1961 and while you the overall aesthetic feel of the film, you are also treated with magnificent music.

As the picture does look as best as it can on DVD, the dialogue and music sounds great via the center and front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Inside Llewyn Davis” comes with the following special feature:

  • Inside “Inside Llewyn Davis” – (42:42) The behind-the-scenes making of the film.

In the United States, all over the country, there are stories of locations where many artists are derived from.

 

But in the 1960′s, there were musicians who wanted to create music unlike contemporary music, music that was created to make a difference.  These musicians lived in Greenwich Village.

 

For those not familiar with the village, the area is a residential neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan in New York City known for its art and culture, the Village was the first to have a racially integrated night club in the late 30′s, in the 50′s, it was the location for the bohemian scene and attracting writers, poets, artists and Beatniks.  And in the 1960′s, the Village was known for its music scene, especially the development of folk music.

It was an area that brought The Mamas & the Papas together, it was an area that Bob Dylan came from, an area which influenced Peter, Paul and Mary (Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and Mary Travers) but also notable talents such as Pete Seeger, Kris Kristofferson, Don McLean, Peter Yarrow, Arlo Guthrie, Lucy and Carly Simon, Tom Chapin, Judy Collins and more.

But for the Joel and Ethan Coen film “Inside Llewyn Davis”, this film is set in 1961 and before the time of counterculture.

And what the Coen’s masterfully done is recreate an era via Greenwich Village 1961, from its costume design, its music and making those who grew up around that time (especially those in Greenwich Village), feel the authenticity and create a film that integrates folk music and in someways, playing out almost like scenes from a folk song.  But most of all capturing one of America’s greatest musical movements.

Actor Oscar Issac shines as Llewyn Davis.  While some may see the actor as clean cut, in the film, he has the look of one from Greenwich Village from the unkempt hair, trimmed beard and if anything, resembling more of late ’60s Bob Dylan that the man that inspired the Coens to make the film, folk singer Dave Van Ronk (it’s important to note that the Coen’s only utilized parts of Van Ronk’s life featured in his memoir but created a character not really based on anyone).

But what Llewyn Davis represents is the one of many folk singers who had the talent but never reached stardom as his other contemporaries.  A struggling musician that is trying to survive.

There is no true ending, no major climax but a week in the life of Llewyn Davis, a man who probably didn’t reach stardom because he has a temper, he is reckless, bitter and not a person you can trust.  In fact, he’s not the most likable character but there is no denying that he is a man with talent.

And that is what the Coen’s did magnificently well was to make the music shine in this film.  Oscar Issac can sing, as well as the others who joined him in the film such as singer/actor Justin Timberlake and even actress Carey Mulligan and Stark Sands sound wonderful in their performance of “Five Hundred Miles” or Timberlake, Issac and Adam Driver for “Please Mr. Kennedy”.

With an enjoyable music soundtrack, what best than to end the film with a Van Gronk track, “Green, Green Rocky Road”.

As for the DVD, picture quality is very good and if you want to enjoy this film in HD, definitely purchase the film on Blu-ray.  But on DVD, dialogue and music is clear with the English 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.  And you get an enjoyable 42-minute “Inside ‘Inside Llewyn Davis;” behind-the-scenes on the making of the film.

Overall, the Coen Brothers’ latest film, “Inside Llewyn Davis” is enjoyable and fantastic!  It’s a much different style of film that the Coen’s are usually known for but they manage to showcase great music and also capturing an era during the emergence of folk music in Greenwich Village in 1961.

Recommended!

Monsters University: Collector’s Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Monsters University” is an enjoyable prequel to “Monsters, Inc.” but this Blu-ray release is  a perfect example of Disney Pixar and their dedication to quality.  Not only do they set the bar high in terms of animation but the Blu-ray is magnificent and is deserving a perfect five star.  No doubt one of the top three Blu-ray releases of 2013!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Monsters University: Collector’s Edition

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 104 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: Blu-ray 3D, 1080p High Definition, 16:9 Widescreen, English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, English 2.0 Dolby Digital, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, French 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: G (General Audiences)

Release Date: October 28, 2013

Directed by Dan Scanlon

Story by Dan Scanlon, Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird

Screenplay by Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, Dan Scanlon

Produced by Kori Rae

Executive Producer: Pete Docter, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich

Music by Randy Newman

Edited by Greg Snyder

Production Design by Ricky Nierva

Starring:

Billy Crystal as Mike

John Goodman as Sullivan

Steve Buscemi as Randy

Helen Mirren as Dean Hardscrabble

Peter Sohn as Squishy

Joel Murray as Don

Sean Hayes as Terri

Dave Foley as Terry

Charlie Day as Art

Alfred Molina as Professor Knight

Tyler Labine as Greek Council VP

Nathan Fillion as Johnny Worthington

Aubrey Plaza as Claire Wheeler

Bobby Moynihan as Chet

Noah Johnston as Young Mike

Julia Sweeney as Ms. Quibbles

Bonnie Hunt as Mrs. Graves

John Krasinski as Frank McCay

Bill Hader as Referee

Disney Pixar proudly presents the hilarious story of how two mismatched monsters met and became lifelong friends in a movie screaming with laughter and oozing with heart. Ever since college-bound Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) was a little monster, he’s dreamed of becoming a Scarer—and he knows better than anyone that the best Scarers come from Monsters University (MU). But during his first semester at MU, Mike’s plans are derailed when he crosses paths with hotshot James P. Sullivan, “Sulley” (John Goodman), a natural-born Scarer. The pair’s out-of-control competitive spirit gets them both kicked out of the University’s elite Scare Program. With their dreams temporarily dashed, they realize they will have to work together, along with an odd bunch of misfit monsters, if they ever hope to make things right. Get ready to party with hours of exclusive bonus extras, including an inside look at the world of monsters and the animated theatrical short film “The Blue Umbrella.”

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For Disney Pixar fans, the crew are often asked about sequels to their popular animated films.

With “Toy Story” and “Cars” receiving sequels, Pixar’s 2001 film, “Monsters, Inc.” is one that has continued to receive sequel requests and in 2013, a new film was made but not a sequel, but a prequel to the popular film, showing us how Mike and Sullivan became friends.

Directed by Dan Scanlon (writer of “Tracy” and “Mater and Ghostlight”) and co-written by Scanlon, Daniel Gerson and Robert L. Baird (both who wrote additional story material for “Chicken Little”, “Meet the Robinsons” and “Cars”), “Monsters University” was a success, grossing $737 million in the box office.

And now, the film will be released on Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D in Oct. 2013 courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.

The version that I will be reviewing is “Monsters University: Collector’s Edition” which comes with the normal Blu-ray release plus a DVD and Digital Copy.

“Monsters University” begins with a young Michael “Mike” Wazowski was on a school field trip to a scaring company.  As they watch the professionals from various universities plug their favorite university, one hero that Mike has watched is from Monsters University.  During the field trip, Mike breaks the rule of standing behind the yellow line and ends up going inside the scare room and being with a professional while he scared a child.

Seeing how Mike was able to get through without getting noticed, the employee gives Mike encouraging advice which leads to Mike deciding at a young age that he wants to be a scarer and he will attend Monsters University.

Eleven years later, Mike begins his first day at Monsters University and finds out that his roommate is Randall “Randy” Boggs (who will become Mike and Sulley’s antagonist in “Monsters, Inc.”).  He also meets James P. “Sulley” Sullivan for the very first time.  And learns that Sulley comes from a family of scarers and thinks he will become a scarer easily because of his natural scaring ability.  But when Sulley is chosen to become part of Roar Omega Roar and Mike is looked as someone with zero scare factor, Mike is hurt but studies hard to do all he can to become a scarer and both declare that they will be the top scarer and become competitive rivals.

But their rivalry leads the two to be dropped from the scaring program by Dean Hardscrabble and both are depressed.  But when Mike sees a flyer about the Scare Games, he finds a way to get back into the program and that is by joining a fraternity, the unpopular Oozma Kappa and making a deal with Dean Hardscrabble that if his fraternity wins the Scare Games, they would all become part of the Scaring Program, which the Dean agrees to.  But the problem is in order for Oozma Kappa to compete, they need one more member.  And sure enough, Sulley joins the fraternity.

And as Mike and Sulley join and move in to the frat alongside members, the older Don Carlton; the two headed (but same body) Terri and Terry Perry, Scott “Squishy” Squibbles and the furry member, Art.  Problem is that Oozma Kappa is far from being scary, so Mike tries to find a way to use everyone’s skills to win the Scare Games.  But will Sulley and Mike’s rivalry hurt their chances of working as a team?

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VIDEO:

“Monsters University” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio) and is a film that Disney Pixar has set the bar high once again in terms of visuals.  The film is absolutely vibrant, every surrounding, from trees, vehicles, buildings, rooms are fully detailed.  The characters design look absolutely fantastic and are also highly detailed.  Mike’s eyes have wonderful reflection, Sulley and Art’s furry hair looks very realistic, I was very impressed of how the hair physics and detail looks today.  Everything is rendered with amazing detail.

And the picture quality is pristine!  No banding, no artifacts, this is the best looking Pixar film on Blu-ray to date!

Videophiles and Disney Pixar fans now have a new reference quality title as this film looks magnificent on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Monsters University” not only scores a perfect grade for video but also scores high for its lossless soundtrack.  Presented in Dolby True HD 7.1, the film is also presented in English 2.0 Dolby Digital, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, French 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.

This is one of the most immersive Disney Pixars I have listened to and because of the amount of action featured in the film, from dance parties to scare games and more, the surround channels are fully utilized as with the LFE.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear, scene with crowds have amazing ambiance from the surround channels, so every cheer, every jeer, every scream and pretty much every sound is crystal clear.  Sounds are literally envelop the soundscape with amazing clarity and it’s a soundtrack that is very active and immersive and an audiophiles dream!

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Monsters University” comes with two Blu-rays with special features:

  • Blue Umbrella – (6:43) Disney Pixar’s animated short that was shown before the film in theaters, about a blue umbrella who has fallen for a red umbrella.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director/co-writer Dan Scanlon, producer Kori Rae and story supervisor Kelsey Mann.
  • Campus Life – (15:14) Director Dan Scanlon’s video journal showing a day in the life of the making of “Monsters University”.
  • Story School – (13:13) A look at the concept artwork, storyboards and more.
  • Scare Games  – (8:38) How competition was integrated to the work of the Disney Pixar crew by actual games/competitions.
  • Monthropology – (5:47) How the crew created the students and faculty of Monsters University and created 500 types of monsters.
  • Welcome to MU – (6:09) Director Dan Scanlon discusses the planning that went into creating the Monster University campus.
  • Music Appreciation – (7:29) Music editor Bruno Coon and composer Randy Newman discuss the making of the music of “Monster University”.
  • Scare Tactics – (5:16) The animators discuss the art of Monsters University.
  • Color and Light – (5:16) A featurette on the before and after look of the film utilizing color and light.
  • Paths to Pixar: MU Edition  (7:40) The crew talk about how they came to work for Pixar.
  • Furry Monsters: A Technical Retrospective – (5:02) A comparison of the 2001 “Monsters, Inc.” and the 2013 “Monsters University”.
  • Deleted Scenes – (22:04) Featuring four undeleted scenes with an intro by Director and co-writer Dan Scanlon.
  • Promo Picks  – Featuring the “Monsters Mashup” (4:01), “College Campaign” (college commercial, March Madness, Admissions), “Theatrical Campaign” (teaser trailer, back then, one night, Japan trailer).
  • Set Flythroughs  – (6:25) A tour through the campus of Monsters University.
  • Art Galleries  – Featuring artwork which include characters, color keys, development art, environments and graphics.

EXTRAS:

“Monsters University: Collector’s Edition” comes with a Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy of the film plus a slipcover of the film.

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“Monsters University” is a wonderful prequel to the 2001 film “Monsters, Inc.”.

With the latest film, I found it to have much more than I was expecting to see in the film in terms of characters, locations, environments and literally how far they could go in creating a new world.

It’s no surprise considering the number of people working on the film was over 250, the technology and the scope of brilliance that Disney Pixar has continued to improve since the original 2001 film is extraordinary and of course, for something so grand, it’s going to be an expensive process and for Disney Pixar, it was $200 million spent to make this film.  And in the end, the film made over $700 million in the box office and no doubt the earnings of the film will continue to go through the roof with this Blu-ray release.

Disney has release magnificent Blu-rays in the past and Disney Pixar films have been but nothing short of magnificent, but I’m confident in saying that “Monsters University” is not only one of the better Blu-ray releases of 2013, it’s one of the best Disney Pixar films created.

This goes beyond how magnificent the animation and hair/fur physics have come but its how huge this film was in terms of its planning and execution.  Give your audience more than you expect?  Surely, this huge team at Disney Pixar gave a lot in trying to build this new world with so many monsters, a campus that is so huge that its featured in a special feature of how expansive this campus truly is and how the smallest things that can happen in reality, they wanted to incorporate to this film.  From books falling and showing individual pages flow, to how Sulley’s fur moves whenever he makes movement of his arms or body.

There is so much planning that went into this film… and Disney Pixar nailed it!

I absolutely enjoyed the storyline and learning how Mike and Sulley became friends but how it was not so easy at first.  But to also explore other characters in the Monsters world.  I was like a child again watching this film, smiling and laughing and just really in awe with what I was watching.

And on Blu-ray, I was amazed by the vibrant colors and the detail of the models.  The environments look fantastic and well detailed, the fur/hair of the characters look fantastic and the physics that went along with it was impressive.  And as the picture quality was fantastic, the lossless audio soundtrack was impressive as directional sound to create immersiveness was used in its 7.1 soundtrack.  My surround and rear surround channels were being utilized, LFE was being utilized and dialogue and music from the center and front channels were crystal clear.

And the special features were also amazing.  I have been in media Q&A’s with Disney Pixar staff for their films and one of the biggest questions is how these talented individuals got into the field.  With this Blu-ray release of “Monsters Universe”, not only do we get to see the crew working on various parts of the job, but we also get to hear from them on how many had to work other jobs to get to where they are at, some who have received 25 or over 50 rejection letters before working at Disney Pixar.  We also get to see how the company has fun with its employees by letting them participate in games (department competitions) to help ease the tension but also see a day in the life of a Disney Pixar employee.  These are features that many have wanted to see for the longest time, but this release shows us how Disney Pixar is not only a great place to work but also because everyone works as a team, it led to the quality of the making of this film.

Also, included is the enjoyable Disney Pixar short “The Blue Umbrella” shown in theaters prior to the film.  The short film features a blue umbrella who becomes smitten by a red umbrella, but due to bad weather conditions, the owner loses his hold on the umbrella which ends up flying through the streets of the city.  A beautiful and entertaining animated short.

Overall, “Monsters University” is an enjoyable prequel to “Monsters, Inc.” but this Blu-ray release is  a perfect example of Disney Pixar and their dedication to quality.  Not only do they set the bar high in terms of animation but the Blu-ray is magnificent and is deserving a perfect five star.  No doubt one of the top three Blu-ray releases of 2013!  Highly recommended!

Day 2 at D23 Expo (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

August 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

In 2011, over 40,000 Disney fans from all over the world attended the second D23 Expo: The Ultimate Disney Fan Event.

Anticipating a much larger attendance for 2013, D23 Expo will now included an overflow theater for the D23 Arena which will accommodate more than 2,000 guests for live streaming of the popular arena presentations and an expanded show floor including a larger Collectors Forum.

On day two, “Monsters, Inc.” and “Monsters University” stars Billy Crystal and John Goodman were honored at the Disney Legends Awards Ceremony during the second day of the D23 EXPO, taking place now through Sunday, August 11, at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Other Saturday highlights include Live Well Network host and former “Dancing with the Stars” celebrity Joey Fatone plus stars of the Disney Channel shows “Jessie” and “Liv and Maddie”; a performance by Raini Rodriguez of “Austin & Ally,” including a shout-out from her brother, Rico Rodriguez of ABC’s “Modern Family”; and stars of Disney XD’s “Kickin’ It.”

D23 EXPO – Hollywood Records recording artist Bridgit Mendler performs at Disney’s D23 Expo, the ultimate event for Disney fans at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California (August 10). (D23 EXPO/Matt Petit) DISNEY FANS. © 2013 Disney

D23 EXPO – Hollywood Records recording artist Bridgit Mendler performs at Disney’s D23 Expo, the ultimate event for Disney fans at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California (August 10). (D23 EXPO/Matt Petit) BRIDGIT MENDLER © 2013 Disney

D23 EXPO – Cast of Kickin’ It greet fans and sign autographs at Disney’s D23 Expo, the ultimate event for Disney fans at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California (August 9). (D23 EXPO/Matt Petit) LEO HOWARD, JASON EARLES, OLIVIA HOLT, DYLAN RILEY SNYDER © 2013 Disney

D23 EXPO – DISNEY LEGENDS CEREMONY – Anaheim, California (August 10, 2013) – Those who have contributed to the creative legacy of The Walt Disney Company were honored in a special presentation, hosted by Tom Bergeron. The full list of honorees includes renowned celebrities, technology pioneers and artists. (D23 EXPO/Jordan Murph) JOHN GOODMAN, BILLY CRYSTAL © 2013 Disney

D23 EXPO – LET THE ADVENTURES BEGIN: LIVE ACTION AT THE WALT DISNEY STUDIOS – Anaheim, California (August 10, 2013) – The Walt Disney Studios showcases the Studios’ exciting live-action release slate, including Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks” and “Tomorrowland,” “Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World,” and much more. (D23 EXPO/Jordan Murph) TOM HIDDLESTON, NATALIE PORTMAN © 2013 Disney

D23 EXPO – LET THE ADVENTURES BEGIN: LIVE ACTION AT THE WALT DISNEY STUDIOS – Anaheim, California (August 10, 2013) – The Walt Disney Studios showcases the Studios’ exciting live-action release slate, including Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks” and “Tomorrowland,” “Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World,” and much more. (D23 EXPO/Richard Harbaugh). ANGELINA JOLIE. © 2013 Disney

Here are videos from D23 Expo on Saturday:

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Damages: The Complete Fifth Season (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

June 30, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A dark and captivating end for the legal drama “Damages”, the final fifth season features a Patty Hewes vs. Ellen Parsons storyline. How will it end for these two?  Find out in “Damages: The Complete Fifth Season”.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Sony Pictures Television Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Damages: The Complete Fifth Season

DURATION: 10 Episodes (529 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Color, English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Widescreen (1:78:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Television, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Chinese (Mandarin Traditional), Korean, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: July 16, 2013

Directed by Todd A. Kessler, Timothy Busfield, David S. Tuttman, Glen Kessler, Nick Gomez

Written by Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler, Daniel Zelman, Nancy Fichman, Jennifer Hoppe, Jason Wilborn

Music by James S. Levine

Cinematography by David S. Tuttman

Edited by Daniel A. Valverde, Aaron Kuhn, AnneMcCabe

Casting by Ross Meyerson, Julie Tucker

Production Design by Edward Pisoni

Art Direction by Fred Kolo, Ted LeFevre

Set Decoration by Mila Khalevich

Costume Design by Frank L. Fleming

Starring:

Glenn Close as Patty Hewes

Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons

Zachary Booth as Michael Hewes

Noah Bean as David Connor

Tom Noonan as Detective Victor Huntley

Chris Messina as Chris Sanchez

Derek Webster as Anthony Carter

Chris Messina as Chris Sanchez

Judd Hirsch as Bill Herndon

Ryan Phillipe as Channing McClaren

Gillian Alexy as Gitta Novak

John Hannah as Rutger Simon

Michael Pemberton as Intimidating Man

John Doman as Walter Kendrick

Janet McTeer as Kate Franklin

Jenna Elfman as Naomi Walling

To win at all costs, sometimes you pay the ultimate price. In the final season of the award-winning legal thriller, powerhouse attorney Patty Hewes (three-time Emmy® and two-time Golden Globe® winner Glenn Close) and her ex-protégée Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) face off in a fatal double showdown: the wrongful death case against a charismatic, international cyber-hacker (Ryan Phillippe, Flags of Our Fathers), and a devastating custody battle pitting Patty against her own son – resulting in a series finale as explosive as it is unexpected. Special guest stars also include Golden Globe® winner Jenna Elfman (TV’s “Dharma & Greg”) and Michael Gaston (Inception).

The final season of “Damages” was a shock to viewers with a first episode showcasing of what appeared to be a dead Ellen Parsons laying in the pavement, blood behind her back and looking straight above the buildings.  Meanwhile, lawyer Patty Hewes is being interrogated.

Was this a result of Ellen being the star witness for the custody suit brought by Patty’s son Michael who wants his child back?  Or is this due to a lawsuit that both are working against each other on?

Who lives, who dies and what will happen between ruthless lawyer Patty Hewes and her former protegee Ellen Parsons in “Damages: The Complete Fifth Season”, which will be available on DVD in July 2013.

What is “Damages”?

The award winning legal drama was created back in 2007 by Daniel Zelman and brother Glenn and Todd A. Kessler (the trio are collectively known as KZK). And since airing on television, “Damages” has received critical acclaim and numerous television awards.

The series revolves around the brilliant but ruthless lawyer named Patty Hewes (as portrayed by Glenn Close, “Fatal Attraction”, “Dangerous Liasons”, “Air Force One”) and her protegee, Ellen Parsons (as portrayed by Rose Byrne, “Bridesmaids”, “X-Men: First Class”, “28 Weeks Later”). We get to see this relationship between this powerful lawyer, Patty and her protegee, Ellen, who is slowly becoming as brilliant as her, but there is jealous and resentment that Patty has towards Ellen because she finds someone who is almost as brilliant as her.

The first season involved Patty’s firm taking on a powerful man and Ellen being accused of murdering her fiance; the second season involved Patty’s firm taking on a billion dollar corporation but Ellen thinking that her boss Patty is trying to have her killed; and the third season featured a Bernie Madoff inspired storyline in which Patty goes after the Tobin family, responsible for deceiving and stealing money from millions of people. As Patty and Ellen are much more distant this time around, both must work on the same case. Meanwhile, Ellen must deal with a family crisis.

In the past few seasons, we have seen both work together but to see the jealousy between Patty and Ellen begin to grow.  Especially since Patty had tried to get Ellen killed.  Suffice to say, the two have managed to have a strained relationship but know that because of Patty’s constant way to dominate and defeat her former protegee, their paths would cross more often than they would like.

And now in season 5, both are once again against each other as Patty represents the daughter of a whistleblower named Naomi (portrayed by Jenna Elfman) who supposedly committed suicide after releasing sensitive documents about her employer but somehow hacked details of her affairs were printed all over the media and shown on television.

The suit contends that international cyberhacker Channing McClaren (played by Ryan Philippe) was responsible for her death.  But he maintains his innocence and hires Ellen Parsons to represent him.

But as Patty and Ellen are set to go against each other once more, we are given flashbacks of something tragic with what appears to be a dead Ellen Parsons who looks as if she fell over a building, a bloodied Ellen Parson who was attacked by a man and running with blood all over her.  Meanwhile, Patty being interrogated by authorities.

Is this a dream or is it reality?

Find out in the final fifth season of “Damages”!

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Damages: The Complete Fifth Season” is presented in Widescreen (1:78:1). For the most part, picture quality is good for DVD but as expected for a DVD release, you can see a bit of compression but nothing that would hurt your viewing of the film and for the most part, for most viewers, this is a non-issue for a DVD release.

The drama series is presented in English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound with subtitles in English, English SDH, French, Chinese (Mandarin Traditional), Korea and Thai. As a drama series, audio is primarily a dialogue-driven track with some use of scenery ambiance for surround channels. For the most part, audio is very appropriate and dialogue is clear and understandable.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Damages: The Complete Fifth Season” comes with the following special features:

  • Outtakes – (4:22) Outtakes from the fifth season of “Damages”.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring a total of 31 deleted scenes.

EXTRAS:

“Damages: The Complete Fifth Season” comes with a slipcover case.

The long awaited final season of “Damages” is here!

And for seasons, we have seen Patty’s jealousy towards Ellen increasing and always wanting to dominate her, for Ellen it has always been wanting to defeat her with the skills she had learn from her former boss.

And while these two women who have had significant issues between them always having to cross each other’s path, for those of us who have been captivated season after season, we wondered how it would end.

While the first season was fantastic as we start to see this rivalry and “friendship” between Patty Hewes and Ellen Parsons which culminated in the bitter second season finale, by season three…the writing deviated quite a bit. And with season four, moving to a new cable network and focusing on a corrupt military storyline, the season was good but not as powerful as the first two seasons.

But what I do know is that “Damages” strength as a series relied heavily on Patty Hewes, the alpha female who will bite you and spit you out. She’s that brilliant of an attorney and Ellen Parsons, has always been like the Patty-lite. The protegee who dares not walking that same line as Patty Hewes, but yet she respects her ability as a fearless attorney.

In season four, what I didn’t like is the fact that Ellen had to keep going back to Patty for help.  You would think the protegee can do fine on her own and with season four, having that chance.. once again, she has to go back to Patty Hewes for help. I was hoping to see some of that kick-butt attitude that Ellen had learned in previous seasons to make her more of a go-getter.

So, prior to the fifth season, I wondered how much longer will this storyline between Patty and Ellen continue? Boss and protegee, boss may be trying to kill me… friends, rivals…  but you realize that things will finally come to a head between these two.  Something bad or tragic is bound to happen.

And the writers did a good job by using the flashback images of what appeared to be a dead Ellen.  Did someone kill her?  Did Patty’s contempt for her old protegee lead her to murder her?

One more final showdown between these two women in court and no more of this friend-emies storyline of Ellen constantly having to go back to Patty for help.  This is the final court battle between Patty and Ellen and to see if Ellen can find a way to outsmart her former boss.

And by the final episode, I was surprised.  Surprised how far these women would go but also surprised to see how things would end.  In some way, without spoiling how things ended, I will just say that although I would not want to see Ellen be anything like her former boss, the fact is that to beat her boss, she had to use tactics similar to her boss.  With Ellen knowing how Patty operates, she planned to counter each of Patty’s moves…or did she?

The finale of “Damages” was appropriate.  At first I was a bit bitter by how things ended but after thinking about the possibilities of how things could have been or should have been, I found myself thinking how necessary it was for these characters to end the way it did.  “Damages” is the last series one would search for happy endings but for this ending, it was appropriate and I also feel its a bit unfortunate.  But I’m content with how “Damages” would eventually end.

As always, Glenn Close and Rose Byrne did a wonderful job in this final season.   From the beginning of season one to the end of season five, the acting through a wide range of emotions have been consistent and magnificent.  This season added Ryan Philippe, Jenna Elfman and others.  And the storyline of corporate leaks made online and cyberhacking is quite appropriate considering what is happening in the news of sensitive information regarding the U.S. continuing to be leaked to media.   But I did feel a bit underwhelmed by how the actual court drama would end because the storyline was riveting, shocking and quite captivating but then I feel it just hit a wall with how it concluded and I felt a bit let down by how it ended.  You keep viewers glued with such a powerful storyline then to pull the rug out with a measly finality was unfortunate.  But at least the finality between Patty and Ellen was answered by the final episode of the series.

As for the DVD, you get ten episodes, outtakes and many deleted scenes. Video and audio quality is good on DVD, but its a shame that Sony has not continued to release the series on Blu-ray as the cinematography and overall look of this film is great.

Overall, “Damages: The Complete Fifth Season” was very good with a season finale that was appropriate.  While I will feel the first two seasons were among the best for “Damages”, the fifth season gave viewers some closure into how things would eventually end between Patty Hewes and Ellen Parsons.

A dark, riveting and captivating legal drama series and its wonderful acting performances by Glenn Close and Rose Byrne, if you stuck around for all seasons of “Damages”, then it’s a no-brainer, “Damages: The Complete Fifth Season” is worth watching!

The Artist (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Delightful, heartwarming and magnificent!  “The Artist” began as a fantasy for filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius.  Now, “The Artist” will now be considered his finest masterpiece.  “The Artist” on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 La Petite Reine, Studio 37, La Classe Americaine, JD Prod, France 3 Cinema, Jouror Productions and uFilm. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Artist

FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 100 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: June 26, 2012

Directed and Written by Michel Hazanavicius

Produced by Thomas Langmann, Emmanuel Montamat

Co-Producer: Jeremy Burdek, Nadia Khamlichi, Adrian Politowski, Gilles Waterkeyn

Executive Producer: Antoine de Cazotte, Daniele Delume, Richard Middleton

Music by Ludovic Bource

Cinematography by Guillaume Schiffman

Edited by Anne-Sophie Bion, Michel Hazanavicius

Casting by Heidi Levitt

Production Design by Laurence Bennett

Art Direction by Gregory S. Hopper

Set Decoration by Austin Buchinsky, Robert Gould

Costume Design by Mark Bridges

Starring:

Jean Dujardin as George Valentin

Bérénice Bejo as Peppy Miller

John Goodman as Al Zimmer

James Cromwell as Clifton

Penelope Ann Miller as Doris

Missi Pyle as Constance

Malcom McDowell as The Butler

THE ARTIST is a heartfelt and entertaining valentine to classic American cinema set in Hollywood during the twilight of it’s silent era. Love, friendship and an exquisite story make it the most feel good, most original film of our time.

In France, Michel Hazanavicius is best known for his “OSS 117” spy comedy films featuring actor Jean Dujardin and his wife, Bérénice Bejo.  But for Hazanavicius, as a fan of silent films, especially the filmmakers of that era, it was always a fantasy to make a silent film.

Of course, when he brought up to producers or potential investors that he wanted to create a black and white silent film, he was not taken seriously.  But fortunately, producer Thomas Langmann and other producers for the film, they listened and despite hesitation, followed his gut to finance the film, which would be known as “The Artist”.

With a budget of $15 million and 35 days to shoot in Los Angeles, the film which required a lot of research not just by Hazanavicius but also his cast and trusting casting directors to hire the right people to pull this film off.  Along with Dujardin and Bejo, cast in the film are John Goodman (“Roseanne”, “The Big Lebowski”), James Cromwell (“L.A. Confidential”, “The Green Mile”, “i Robot”), Penelope Ann Miller (“Carlito’s Way”, “Awakenings”), Missi Pyle (“Big Fish”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) and Malcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”, “Halloween”, “Easy A”).

And the black and white silent film that was almost never made, would become a major success and receive universal acclaim.  Dujardi won “Best Actor” at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, winner of three Golden Globes, winner of seven BAFTA awards, winner of five Academy Awards and winning six Cesar Awards (making it the most awarded French film in history).

Made for $15 million, “The Artist” would earn over $133 million in the box office and now “The Artist” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in June 2012.

“The Artist” is set in 1927 and George Valentin (as portrayed by Jean Dujardin) is one of Hollywood’s biggest silent film actors.

With his latest film “A Russian Affair” which he stars alongside his talented dog Jack (as portrayed by Uggie) and actress Constance (as portrayed by Missi Pyle), who he doesn’t get along with.

George loves being in the limelight and the night of the premiere and while posing in front of the cameras, a young woman named Peppy Miller (as portrayed by Bérénice Bejo) drops her near George and when she goes to retrieve it, she accidentally bumps into him.  Instead of getting angry, George uses the moment to pose with Peppy and next thing you know, newspapers print a picture of both George and Peppy, wondering “who is that girl?”.

The morning after, George’s wife Doris (as portrayed by Penelope Ann Miller) is not too happy with what she reads in the newspaper but also with their marriage.  George is focused on his career and knows that his wife is unhappy.

Meanwhile, Peppy is an actress looking for work.  She tries to use the newspapers as a way to generate interest in her and she is eventually hired to be a dancing girl on a film.

When George arrives to work the following morning, Kinograph Studios boss, Al Zimmer (as portrayed by John Goodman), is not so thrilled that George used the newspapers to not promote the film but instead divert attention to him and a mysterious unknown young lady.  While the two are talking, George can see the legs of a woman dancing (her upper body is not seen due to a curtain) and he decides to dances along with her.

When the curtains go up, both George and Peppy are surprised to see each other again.  And while Al is not pleased with Peppy possibly using George to get on the newspaper, George gets her hired on his next film as an extra.

And while the two are dancing with each other during filming, both can sense an attraction towards each other.

When Peppy goes to meet with George inside his dressing room, he is not there but she is amazed to be in his dressing room and starts playing with his suit.  But George enters the room, watching her and the two share a short conversation and he tells her that she needs to stand out  from other actresses.  So, he puts a beauty spot above her lip and both nearly share an intimate kiss but are interrupted.

While the two go on their separate ways, Peppy with beauty mark and all, works her way into Hollywood, from small parts and each parting becoming better and better each time.

Meanwhile, as for George Valentin, Al tries to show him the future of films and that is films with sound and featuring the actors talking.  George balks at such an idea, he doesn’t feel that talking films will ever replace silent films, because for his films, people come to watch the film for him, not to hear his voice.

Fast forward to 1929, Peppy has now become one of Hollywood’s most popular actresses.   As for George, he learns that Kinograph Studios has announced the end of production of silent films.  Angered and feeling betrayed, George leaves Kinograph Studios to direct and financially produce his next film.

Unfortunately, the change in George’s life eventually takes a toll on his marriage and his wife leaves him.  To make things worse, while directing and financially producing his silent film, America is hit with the Stock Market Crash and it takes a toll on his finances.  The only thing that can save him now is if the film becomes a success.

And during the premiere of his silent film, it is hardly attended (unbeknown to George, watching the movie from the balcony is Peppy Miller).  Dejected, George takes a walk and sees Peppy’s new sound film receiving a large promotion at another theater and George then realizes that the silent film era has ended and his acting career is now over.

With no money, George now must focus on bankruptcy and sell all his possessions.  All he has is the clothes on his back, his dog Jack, his car and his loyal valet Clifton (as portrayed by James Cromwell).

Once beloved by fans and once a major star in Hollywood, what will become of the falling star George Valentin and what about the rising star, Peppy Miller?

VIDEO:

In order to capture the feel of a silent film, “The Artist” is presented in black and white (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray!  Full of detail, the HD presentation on Blu-ray features wonderful clarity.  From its closeups of the faces of the characters to the details of makeup, clothing and scenery.

Black levels are nice and deep and white and grays well-contrast, there is a little softness, but I believe that was intentional.   I didn’t detect any anomalies or any problems with the video whatsoever.   “The Artist” looks absolutely magnificent on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Artist” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  The film is a silent film but there are moments of sound effects but is driven by its musical score, composed by Ludovic Bource, who worked with the Michel Hazanvicius on both “OSS 117″ films.

According to Ludovic Bource, the relationship that he and Hazanvicius had during the making of the film was not saying so much.  If anything, Bource watched the rushes to understand the feeling of the film and builds his music from there.  Prior to making the film, both he and Hazanvicius listened to Chaplin, Max Steiner and Franz Waxman to Bernard Hermann.  They analyzed and listened to the music from the past, including romantic composers from the 19th century.

Bource said in an interview, “We worked – a bit like Chaplin – along the lines of a light sophistication… What was great was being able to work in sequence blocks of 7, 8 or 9 minutes; to be able to reflect on the mood that could be connected to the plot or to a resonance which would be like the characters interior echo, even if there were different sequences within these blocks.”

Part of the challenge that Bource had in creating the music for a silent film was having to edit the music during editing.  Bource said, “we had to reduce certain pieces according to the editing, throw lots of them away, and write new ones, adapt them following each step of the film that was being made.  Michel and I didn’t stop fine-tuning, refining.”

For the soundtrack, Ludovic Bource worked with the Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra in Brussels for a week.  Featuring 80 musicians, 50 string players, four French horns, four trombones, five percussionists, a harpist, ten technicians, five orchestrators and three mixers.

My personal favorites from the film’s soundtrack was its touch of elegance through the use of piano and strings.  The music goes through a musically wonderful but sad and emotional transition once we see the decline of silent film and hearing the music starting to go for upbeat, to something much more melodramatic and with a hint of sadness.  Bource had said that he was inspired by Brahms’ “Sapphic Ode” and a song that fits the film’s image of decline and loneliness of character George Valentin.

While Ludovic Bource created the majority of the music on this soundtrack, also featured are Brussels Philharmonic with “Estancia OP.8″, a surprise for me was hearing Red Nichols & His Five Pennies “Imagination”.  Red Nichols was a popular jazz band in the 1920′s and a wonderful inclusion to this soundtrack.  Also, included are Duke Ellington’s “Jubilee Stomp” (from 1928) and Rose Murphy’s “Pennies from Heaven” (a song that earned her the nickname “The Chee Chee Girl”).

The music was a major emotional component to the film and I found it to be delightful and fantastic.  And on Blu-ray, the use of music and sound effects were more than appropriate for this film and sounds amazing in lossless!

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Artist” comes with the following special features:

  • Blooper Reel – (2:14) Outtakes from “The Artist”.
  • The Artist: The Making Of A Hollywood Love Story – (21:56) Interviews with the cast of “The Artist” and their thoughts on the film and their characters.
  • Q&A with the Filmmakers and Cast – (44:57) A fascinating and hilarious post-screening audience Q&A with director Michel Hazanavicius, producer Thomas Langmann and talents Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, Missi Pyle and James Cromwell.
  • Hollywood As A Character: The Locations of The Artist – (5:10) A short featurette about filming in Hollywood and in classic locations.  Interviews with the current owners of workspaces and homes where “The Artist” was shot.
  • The Artisans Behind The Artist – (11:30) A featurette about the production, cinematography, costume design and the music composition for “The Artist”.

EXTRAS:

“The Artist” comes with a slipcover case and a Ultraviolet redemption code.

As a fan of silent film, you eventually begin to read about what happened to the careers or the individuals, the stars of the silent era.

From Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon Jr., Clara Bow, Mary Pickford, the Talmadge sisters and many other silent film stars of the time, not many fared well from the transition from the silent films to the Talkies.

Many were known for their look and their acting style but not for their voices.  During that time, not many people had to remember their lines and people never judged about what came out of an actor’s lips, there were intertitles that would explain what was going on in a scene and many talents had a great career and life because they were the stars of the time.

And while some tried to make the transition and others refused it, aside from a few talents such as Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy or Gloria Swanson, the coming of the talkies was not welcomed by many of the stars, stars who balked that the talkies would never surpass the popularity of silent films.

They were wrong.  The talkies would eventually be the nail on the coffin more the careers of most of the silent film stars and for those such as Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Mary Pickford who tried their best to make their careers continue, unfortunately, silent films and their stars were considered passe.  And the studios tried to distance themselves away from them.

Charles Chaplin tried his best to incorporate sound and even went as far to narrate a re-release of “The Gold Rush” (which shocked people because they never knew their beloved “tramp” would have an accent), Buster Keaton would also be featured in many talkies but by the ’30s and ’40s, physical vaudeville comedies were not popular compared to slapstick comedy, romantic comedies with handsome leading actors nor heroic military or Western stars.

Harold Lloyd, Mary Pickford and Clara Bow tried as well and although Mary Pickford would win an Academy Award for “Best Actress in a Leading Role” for “Coquette” in 1930, she had amazing fear towards the microphone, because she felt that she would never make it into talkies.  And her next talkie would become a flop, it killed career if the “American’s Sweetheart”.  As for Clara Bow, people were more surprised that she had a Bronx accent.

Harold Lloyd on the other hand would make a talkie but knew that with age and what the industry was looking for in Hollywood, he began to focus his career on photography and was one of the few people who had creative control of his films and did what he can to restore it.

But with silent films and the stars being considered as old-fashioned, movies and stars that your parents or grandparents would watch, not many stars made the transition.

And with the release of “The Artist”, filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius was aware of that.   Sure, he is known as a comedy filmmaker for his “OSS 117” films but he is a silent film fan, has watched many films and knew that he wanted to make one, he just needed the financial support.

The timing of “The Artist” is incredible.  As more and more people are now discovering silent films through the wonderful releases on Blu-ray and DVD, many are clamoring for the films featuring these top stars of that era.  Many wanting to know more about the silent era and being entertained by the films of directors such as D.W. Griffith, Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, F.W. Murnau, Frank Borzage, Ernst Lubitsch, Fritz Lang, to name a few.  There is resurgence of interest in silent films today.

I have no doubt in my mind that “The Artist” will convert some people to silent films.  It may not make one an ardent fan but at least giving people exposure to a silent film.

And one thing that Michel Hazanavicius wanted to do is capture normalcy.  No vaudeville comedy type of direction but to capture the normalcy as seen in Murnau and Borzage films.  The feeling of natural acting.

And this is where “The Artist” achieves efficacy because both Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are wonderful in this film. They make you believe in their characters, they make you feel the emotional high and lows of the character of George Constantin.  But not only is the acting wonderful by its main talent and also its supporting talent (including the extras), “The Artist” captivates you with its wonderful acting, its costume design, the authentic look of capturing an era but also a film that has emotion, humor, sadness and Ludoic Bource’s music…everything comes together in this film.

I absolutely love this film and I probably watched this film about seven times now and I still have not grown tired of it.  The music, the camera, the editing, the overall rhythm of the film carries us along.  George Constantin is the silent actor that captivates a generation that grew up with the advances of cinema and embraced the silent film.  Peppy Miller is the upcoming starlet that epitomizes the “out with the old” sentiment, and Bejo plays her character with so much enthusiasm.  She knows how to flirt with the camera, captivate the viewer.

As for the Blu-ray release, the video and audio quality is magnificent.  While a silent film, the musical soundtrack by Ludovic Bource is fantastic!  As for the special features, it was great to see how the film was shot in various, historical locations in Los Angles and the addition of the post-screening live audience Q&A was also fun to watch!

“The Artist” is a great film and while I doubt Hollywood is going to invest in any more modern day silent films, “The Artist” was a film that many never seen before or for those who are familiar with silent films, caused excitement and came out in a time that was just right.  It’s delightful, heartwarming and magnificent!

In some way, “The Artist” is quite relevant because we are also in a modern, technological flux in entertainment.  Television and film are changing thanks to the Internet and ways to catch entertainment.  May it be music or cinema, with technology, social media and an audience who has access to many forms of entertainment, what is in today could be gone or drastically changed a decade from now. Change is inevitable and “The Artist” is a good reminder of how change affected a genre and all the talent involved.

“The Artist” began as a fantasy for filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius.  Now, “The Artist” will now be considered his finest masterpiece.  “The Artist” on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

Damages: The Complete Fourth Season (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

June 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Patty Hewes and Ellen Parsons put their differences aside and work as a team in “Damages” season four.  The legal drama series with its dark and suspenseful storyline and its wonderful acting performances by Glenn Close, Rose Byrne and Dylan Baker, made “Damages: The Complete Fourth Season” exciting and definitely worth watching.

Images courtesy of © 2011 Sony Pictures Television Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Damages: The Complete Fourth Season

DURATION: 10 Episodes (502 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Color, English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Widescreen (1:78:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Television, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Chinese (Mandarin Traditional), Korean, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: June 26, 2012

Directed by Todd A. Kessler, Timothy Busfield, David S. Tuttman, Glen Kessler, Nick Gomez

Written by Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler, Daniel Zelman, Nancy Fichman, Jennifer Hoppe, Jason Wilborn

Music by James S. Levine

Cinematography by David S. Tuttman

Edited by Daniel A. Valverde, Aaron Kuhn, AnneMcCabe

Casting by Ross Meyerson, Julie Tucker

Production Design by Edward Pisoni

Art Direction by Fred Kolo, Ted LeFevre

Set Decoration by Mila Khalevich

Costume Design by Frank L. Fleming

Starring:

Glenn Close as Patty Hewes

Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons

Zachary Booth as Michael Hewes

Noah Bean as David Connor

Tom Noonan as Detective Victor Huntley

Chris Messina as Chris Sanchez

Derek Webster as Anthony Carter

Debra Monk as Deniece Parsons

Li Jun Li as Maggie Huang

John Goodman as Howard T. Erickson

Dylan Baker as Jerry Boorman

For brilliant attorney Patty Hewes (two-time Emmy® winner Glenn Close), the stakes have never been higher, professionally or personally, in the riveting Fourth Season of the hit legal thriller. When Patty joins Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) to expose a corrupt security firm in Afghanistan, they unravel a cover-up at the highest levels involving an inscrutable mercenary agent (Dylan Baker), a key witness taken hostage (Chris Messina) and the powerful CEO (double Emmy® winner John Goodman) with his own explosive secrets. It all comes down to one final, fatal double-cross.

With the final fifth season of “Damages” set to air on the Audience Network in July 2012, the exciting fourth season (featuring ten episodes) on DVD  will be released on DVD in June 2012.

The award winning legal drama was created back in 2007 by Daniel Zelman and brother Glenn and Todd A. Kessler (the trio are collectively known as KZK).  And since airing on television, “Damages” has received critical acclaim and numerous television awards.

The series revolves around the brilliant but ruthless lawyer named Patty Hewes (as portrayed by Glenn Close, “Fatal Attraction”, “Dangerous Liasons”, “Air Force One”) and her protegee, Ellen Parsons (as portrayed by Rose Byrne, “Bridesmaids”, “X-Men: First Class”, “28 Weeks Later”).  We get to see this relationship between this powerful lawyer, Patty and her protegee, Ellen, who is slowly becoming as brilliant as her, but there is jealous and resentment that Patty has towards Ellen because she finds someone who is almost as brilliant as her.

The first season involved Patty’s firm taking on a powerful man and Ellen being accused of murdering her fiance; the second season involved Patty’s firm taking on a billion dollar corporation but Ellen thinking that her boss Patty is trying to have her killed;  and the third season featured a Bernie Madoff inspired storyline in which Patty goes after the Tobin family, responsible for deceiving and stealing money from millions of people.  As Patty and Ellen are much more distant this time around, both must work on the same case.  Meanwhile, Ellen must deal with a family crisis.

But with the fourth season of “Damages”, it’s a new start for the series as “Damages” has moved from FX to DirecTV’s Audience Network in a collaboration with Sony.

The series takes place two years later.  Ellen has since moved on with her new life and works as an attorney for Patty’s old firm and trying to find a powerful case that she can take on.  Meanwhile, Patty has started her own firm but her life has not been the same since her son left his daughter with her and left town.

Meanwhile, Ellen has found a very powerful case and this one relates to her high school friend Chris Sanchez (as portrayed by Chris Messina).  Chris works for a private military company known as High Star, which is owned by Howard T. Erickson (as portrayed by John Goodman).

High Star is trying to get the funding from the U.S. Government to renew their contracts and continue their operations in the Middle East against the Taliban but it looks like they do not have the votes or support from members of Congress who feel their operations are  expensive.

Meanwhile, as Ellen looks into the company, she learns that three American employees of High Star were killed and High Star may be responsible for their deaths.  But the only way she can try this case is if the decease employees captain, her friend Chris, works with her on this case and provides testimony in behalf of his fellow soldiers who died under his command.

But Chris is having experiencing some personal issues as he is haunted by his group’s death.   High Star had sent them on an illegal mission which led to their deaths but as much as Chris wants to help Ellen, a ruthless mercenary named Jerry Boorman (who works for Howard Erickson) will do all he can to make sure that Chris does not work with the lawyer and keeping the illegal operation under wraps.

Ellen knows that she needs additional firepower to take on this case and that is through the help of her friend/rival Patty.  But can these two women, who have a professional admiration towards each other, but equally loathes each other, work together on this troubling case?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Damages: The Complete Fourth Season” is presented in Widescreen (1:78:1). For the most part, picture quality is good for DVD but as expected for a DVD release, you can see a bit of compression but nothing that would hurt your viewing of the film and for the most part, for most viewers, this is a non-issue for a DVD release.

The drama series is presented in English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound with subtitles in English, English SDH, French, Chinese (Mandarin Traditional), Korea and Thai.  As a drama series, audio is primarily a dialogue-driven track with some use of scenery ambiance for surround channels.   For the most part, audio is very appropriate and dialogue is clear and understandable.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Damages: The Complete Fourth Season” comes with the following special features:

  • What Am I Doing Here? A Case for War: The Cast and Crew Discuss the Fourth Season – (13:46) The writers and cast discuss the fourth season of “Damages”.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring a total of nine deleted scenes.
  • The Evolution of Patty Hewes – (7:00) The writers talk about the changes that Patty has gone through in the last few seasons.
  • Outtakes – (4:18) Outtakes from season 4 of “Damages”.

EXTRAS:

“Damages: The Complete Fourth Season” comes with a slipcover case.

As the fifth and final season of “Damages” is set to air on a cable, it’s unfortunate that a fine series such as “Damages” is not getting the ratings that it once had.

“Damages” which came out strong in its first season, but has been taking a hit in the ratings since season two.   Best known for its writing and its use of a nonlinear narrative with many flashforwards and with episode after episode, red herrings and a continuing storyline that captivated viewers up to the final episode.

While the first season was fantastic as we start to see this rivalry and “friendship” between Patty Hewes and Ellen Parsons which culminated in the bitter second season finale, by season three…the writing deviated quite a bit.   Even season four, “Damages” although retaining its characters and fine writing, would utilize recent events for its storyline.  While the story is quite relevant, especially of what continues to go on in the Middle East, I did enjoy the fourth season’s episodes which dealt with a private military company, a darker storyline and taking the two main characters into different situations.

But perhaps the direction of the characters may not be as satisfying to viewers as the ratings have shown.  May it be competition with other cable networks that are now creating their own drama series, with “Damages”, the writers definitely had to make the fourth season stick out or keep to the same formula.  Personally, I’m not sure if they war storylines, especially that revolve around the middle east are situations that will turn off quite of viewers.  But what I do know is that “Damages” strength as a series relied heavily on Patty Hewes, the alpha female who will bite you and spit you out. She’s that brilliant of an attorney and Ellen Parsons, has always been like the Patty-lite.  The protegee who dares not walking that same line as Patty Hewes, but yet she respects her ability as a fearless attorney.

But just when you think that Ellen can handle things on her own (after three intense seasons), once again, she has to go back to Patty Hewes for help.  I was hoping to see some of that kick-butt attitude that Ellen had learned in previous seasons to make her more of a go-getter, to become a stronger and headsmart and less likely to turn to Patty but not this season.

How much longer will this storyline between Patty and Ellen continue?  Boss and protegee, boss may be trying to kill me… friends, rivals…  by season four, I wanted to be surprised.  But instead we see Patty Hewes’ character much more human, having to deal with personal issues but perhaps people are so used to that cold demeanor that they forget she does have a heart.  But I personally saw the direction of Patty in Season 4, worried about her son and her granddaughter’s well-being to be a interesting change of pace for her character.

And as for Ellen, it’s the same Ellen that we have seen in the past few seasons but this time, we may see what appears to be an Ellen who has let bygones be bygones and is not afraid of working with Patty once again.  But interesting enough, we are left with one final scene that eventually sets things up between Patty and Ellen for the final fifth season… I hope. The frienemies storyline is starting to get stale and I hope they manage to give viewers some closure for the final season.

While Glenn Close and Rose Byrne continue to do a fantastic job on the series.  For the fourth season, while it was good to see John Goodman once again on television, the actor that did a fantastic job playing the crazed antagonist was actor Dylan Baker as Jerry Boorman (“Spider-Man” films, “The Cell”). A creepy mercenary without a conscience, Baker did a fantastic job playing the bad guy this time around.

As for the DVD, you get ten episodes and a few special features.  Video and audio quality is good on DVD, but its a shame that Sony has not continued to release the series on Blu-ray as the cinematography and overall look of this film is great.

Overall, “Damages: The Complete Fourth Season” was good, but compared to previous seasons, it seemed as if the writing focused too much on the corruption and changes for the characters, when possibly the reason why people are driven to the series is because Patty is the ultimate Queen B, who will not let her protegee Ellen Parsons, get the best of her.  And as these two were typically on opposite ends with each other, this time around, they are like a team.  A dysfunctional team but surprised that Ellen had to resort to going back to Patty for help, again.

While the season finale of season four, definitely sets the stage for the final fifth and possibly the final collision between both Patty Hewes and Ellen Parsons  (Will they remain friends?  Or become enemies?) , “Damages” season four brings together Patty Hewes and Ellen Parsons, who put their differences aside and work as a team.

The legal drama series with its dark and suspenseful storyline and its wonderful acting performances by Glenn Close, Rose Byrne and Dylan Baker, made “Damages: The Complete Fourth Season” exciting and worth watching.

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