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Beatriz at Dinner (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Miguel Arteta’s “Beatriz at Dinner” is provocative and unsettling but the mark of a very good film is one that will prompt people to debate, to talk and possibly to learn from.  Is it a great film, no it’s not.  But it’s a film that will no doubt resonate for each person who watches it, may it be positive or negative.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Brown Amy LLC. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Beatriz at Dinner

YEAR OF FILM: 2017

DURATION: 83 Minutes

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

RATED: R (Language and a Scene of Violence)

COMPANY: Lions Gate

AVAILABLE ON: September 12, 2017


Directed by Miguel Arteta

Written by Mike White

Produced by Aaron L. Gilbert, David Hinojosa, Pamela Koffler, Christine Vachon

Co-Produced: Fiona Walsh Heinz, William B. Macomber

Executive Producer: Jason Cloth, Brad Feinstein, Lewis Hendler, Richard McConnell, Andrew Pollack, Alan Simpson, Jose Tamez  Co-Executive

Music by Mark Mothersbaugh

Cinematography by Wyatt Garfield

Edited by Jay Deuby

Casting by Joanna Colbert, Meredith Tucker

Production Design by Ashley Fenton

Set Decoration: Madelaine Frezza

Costume Design: Christina Blackalier


Starring:

Salma Hayek as Beatriz

John Lithgow as Doug

Connie Britton as Kathy

Jay Duplass as Alex

Amy Landecker as Jeana

Chloe Sevigny as Shannon

David Warshofsky as Grant

John Early as Evan


Beatriz (Salma Hayek), an immigrant from a poor town in Mexico, has drawn on her innate kindness to build a career as a spiritual health practitioner in Los Angeles. Doug Strutt (John Lithgow) is a cutthroat, self-satisfied billionaire real estate developer. When these two opposites meet at a dinner party, their worlds collide and neither will ever be the same.


With all the political turmoil that currently exists in the world, especially in America, filmmaker Miguel Arteta (“Youth in Revolt”, “The Good Girl”, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”) and writer Mike White (“School of Rock”, “Nacho Libre”, “The Good Girl”, “Orange County”) reunite for another film that takes on today’s hot topic in regards to the clashing of cultures but also a clash between rich and poor.

The film stars Salma Hayek (“Frida”, “Desperado”, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”), John Lithgow (“Interstellar”, “3rd Rock from the Sun”, “Cliffhanger”), Connie Britton (“Nashville”, “Friday Night Lights”, “Spin City”), Jay Duplass (“Transparent”, “Togetherness”, “Cyrus”), Amy Landecker (“Doctor Strange”, “Project Almanac”, “Transparent”), Chloe Sevigny (“Boys Don’t Cry”, “Big Love”, “Love & Friendship”) and David Warshofsky (“Taken”, “Captain Phillips”, “Now You See Me”).

And now the film will be released on DVD courtesy of Lions Gate.

The film begins with a woman named Beatriz (portrayed by Salma Hayek) having a dream of riding in a boat and paddling in the waters and seeing a white goat.  She awakens when a brown goat in her bedroom starts making a lot of noise.  As Beatriz tries to quite down her two dogs and the goat, she leaves for her job to a massage therapy center.

Beatriz leaves her job to tend to a client, Kathy (portrayed by Connie Britton)who lives in a wealthy, gated home.  As Beatriz massages Kathy, Beatriz tells Kathy of how her neighbor had killed one of her goats and becomes emotional when discussing it.

As she is done with her client and is about to head out home, her car doesn’t start.  She tells Kathy that she is unable to leave the driveway as her car is not working but her friend will be picking her up after he is done with work.

Kathy invites Beatriz to join them for dinner and while her husband, Grant (portrayed by David Warshofsky) is against it, because real estate developer Doug Strutt (portrayed by John Lithgow) would be arriving and it’s an important dinner, he eventually decides to allow Beatriz to join them for dinner.

Immediately, Beatriz tries to fit in by trying to make conversation with lawyer Alex (portrayed by Jay Duplass) and Shannon (portrayed by Chloe Sevigny), Doug and his wife Jeanna (portrayed by Amy Landecker).  And as Beatriz introduces herself and how she knows Kathy and what she does, the two don’t have much of an interest talking to her.

And as these three couples are celebrating their latest project and Kathy introduces the ladies to Beatriz as a healer and they start talking mean about a female celebrity, which the women get into but Beatriz is wondering why these women would talk so mean about a person they don’t know.

As she goes to visit Grant, Doug and Alex, Doug mistakes her as a servant but Grant explains that she is a guest.  As she talks about where she came from, Doug makes jokes which leads to Beatriz to say that she has seen him before.

We then see the three women looking at photos and they see Kathy and Doug’s daughter who had cancer and her daughter standing alongside Beatriz.

Kathy then tells the other women about Beatriz’ challenges of being separated by her family as a child, leaving her hometown and being raised by her grandmother in the United States but also losing her husband.

As the group gather to dinner, they all have conversation about their successful project, which Beatriz then interrupts and talks about coming from Mexico and Doug asks if she came legally.

She explains that her hometown in Mexico was destroyed by a failed hotel and she asks if Doug was the developer.  He denies it.

As Beatrix leaves and makes a call, she calls up a friend and asks if Doug Strutt was the developer that they protested against.

As the group goes into the dining room, Doug talks about hunting and the excitement of hunting and killing a wild animal and shares photos of him killing a rhinoceros on his last safari.  This sets off Beatriz who tells everyone it’s disgusting and she throws his phone.

Everyone is shocked at Beatriz’ behavior and it leads to an awkward evening between Beatriz and the home she is temporarily staying at.

And Beatriz contemplating if it’s fate that she’s at the house and perhaps she is destined to get revenge by killing Doug.  Will she do it?  What will happen throughout the evening?


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Beatriz at Dinner” is presented in 1:85:1 and is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital. For the most part, picture quality is good as it gets on DVD. .  Closeups show good detail, outdoor scenes are vibrant and for the most part, I didn’t notice any major artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film. The soundtrack is primarily dialogue driven

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Beatriz at Dinner” comes with a trailer.

EXTRAS:

“Beatriz at Dinner” comes with a slipcover.


“Beatriz at Dinner” is a provocative film that will no doubt get people talking.

Beatriz who represents the poor who came from Mexico and living in the United States and works a healer is  an animal lover, cares about the land and willing to stand up for it.  She is spiritual, caring and a very good person.

But poor Beatriz, her car breaks down at a wealthy client’s home and while she is invited to the party, these wealthy people surely don’t want Beatriz around.

It’s immediately evident as Beatriz tries to fit in.  First the women, as they discuss a female celebrity in a mean-spirited way and talks about the celebrity’s vagina and photos online which leads Beatriz to leave and tries to talk with the men.

Developer Doug thinks Beatriz is a servant and asks her to get him more alcohol, a wealthy land developer which Beatriz believes may be the person that forced her and people from her village out of their area in Mexico to build a hotel.

And to cap things off, when Doug starts talking about his hunt from his last Safari trip, this immediately sends Beatriz off the edge and she starts to think, what if she was destined to be at this party for one reason.   And that reason was to kill a man responsible for hurting the land, hurting living things.

Miguel Arteta and Mike White have no doubted crafted a film that touches on hot topics that we have seen in the news these past few years.

For me, I can see both sides because I grew up in an area of California where the population is mostly Mexican and I have had numerous Mexican friends, especially those with Native American ancestry, who come from families who are very spiritual people and feel strongly about the land, respecting the living animal that they must kill for food.

And also, I also come from an area where there are many hunters (not all Caucasian) and I have many friends who are hunters.  And I also have friends who are wealthy and those who are lawyers and real estate developers.

A number of them are two opposite ends in terms of perspective and livelihood and I knew that if you were to put them in a household together to discuss these hot topics, each would be strong with their beliefs and conviction that either side won’t back down.

This is the fracture of American society that is more evident more than ever thanks to social media.  One posts a photo of killing a deer or wildlife, despite it being legal, there are numerous people who will be passionate to show their distaste over the photo or video posted and as we have seen in news reports, a lot of the time, they receive death threats.

As for the destruction of land, this is an ongoing hot topic that has existed globally.  From the chopping of trees, especially the effects of deforestation and saw its effects on Easter Island and we are seeing it going on in the rain forests of other countries.  We have seen people forced to leave their lands and even going to inner city where gentrification is forcing lower income households to move.

There are passionate debates on both ends and there probably will not be any decorum, especially in a world where people feel that the haves do not have any compassion for the have nots.

“Beatriz at Dinner” is provocative and unsettling because for me watching this film, I knew that it would be an awkward situations.  Beatriz is compassionate about people, about animals and about life.  And when she is in the presence of people who celebrate over the killing of life, the development of land for business and forcing people to move, you see a ticking time bomb that is about to detonate.

You just wonder how far Beatriz will go.

The film features a wonderful performance by Salma Hayek and it’s no doubt the most unsettling and provocative film I have seen her star in.  Also, a film where she’s not glamoured up, she is able to portray a character that represents many people who feel they have no voice in today’s society.

As for the DVD, picture and audio quality is as good as one can expect.  But it’s pretty much a barebones DVD with no special features but a theatrical trailer.

Overall, Miguel Arteta’s “Beatriz at Dinner” is provocative and unsettling but the mark of a very good film is one that will prompt people to debate, to talk and possibly to learn from.  Is it a great film, no it’s not.  But it’s a film that will no doubt resonate for each person who watches it, may it be positive or negative.


Cliffhanger (a J!-Ent Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

One of the better non-Rambo/Rocky, Sylvester Stallone action films.  Fans of the 1993 film will enjoy “Cliffhanger” on Blu-ray as the picture quality is quite beautiful and the lossless audio soundtrack is absolute fantastic.  If you enjoyed this film, definitely worth picking up on Blu-ray!

Images courtesy of © 1993 Cliffhanger B.V. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Cliffhanger

DURATION: 113 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen 2:40:1, English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

RATED: R (For Violence and Language)

COMPANY: Tri Star/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: January 12, 2010

Directed by Renny Harlin

Original Premise by John Long

Screenplay by Michael France and Sylvester Stallone

Executive Producer: Mario Kassar

Co-Executive Producer: Lynwood SPinks

Producer: Renny Harlin, Alan Marshall

Co-Producer: Gene Patrick Hines, David Rotman, James R. Zatolokin

Associate Producer: Jim Davidson, Tony Munafo

Music by Trevor Jones

Cinematography by Alex Thomson

Edited by Frank J. Urioste

Casting by Mindy Marin

Production Design by John Vallone

Art Direction by Maria-Teresa Barbasso, Aurelio Crugnola, Christiaan Wagener

Set Decoration by Robert Gould, Cynthia Sleiter

Costume Design by Ellen Mirojnick

Starring:

Sylvester Stallone as Gabe Walker

John Lithgow as Qualen

Michael Rooker as Hal Tucker

Janine Turner as Jessie Deighan

Rex Linn as Travers

Caroline Goodall as Kristel

Leon as Kynette

Craig Fairbrass as Delmar

Gregory SCott Cummins as Ryan

Denis Forest as Heldon

Michelle Joyner as Sarah

Max Perlich as Evan

Paul Winfield as Walter Wright

Ralph Waite as Frank

Sarah was an inexperienced climber. She trusted Gabe to rescue her. But something went wrong high above the valley floor…Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Michael Rooker, Janine Turner and Ralph Waite star in this high-altitude avalanche of action: a non-stop adventure peak with suspense and capped with heart-quaking terror. For Rocky Mountain Rescue, the mission is almost routine: locate five climbers. With the woman he loves (Turner) and his best friend (Rooker), Gabe Walker (Stallone) braves the icy peaks only to discover that the distress call is really a trap set by merciless international terrorist Eric Qualen (Lithgow). Now millions of dollars and their own lives hang in the balance. Against explosive firepower, bitter cold, and dizzying heights, Walker must outwit Qualen in a deadly game of hide-and-seek.

In 1993, Renny Harlin (director of “Die Hard 2”) returned with a new action film starring Sylvester Stallone (“Rocky” and “Rambo” films), John Lithgow (“Dexter”, “3rd Rock from the Sun”), Michael Rooker (“The Marine 2”, “Jumper”) and Janine Turner (“Friday Night Lights”, “Strong Women”, “Northern Exposure”).

The film would feature cinematography by Alex Thomason (“The Scarlet Letter”, “Demolition Man”, “Hamlet”) and music by composer Trevor Jones (“The League of Extraordinary Gentleman”, “Around the World in 80 Days”, “Dinotopia”).

The film which cost around $65 million to make did well in the box office as it made over $255 million worldwide and received fairly positive reviews despite many rock climbers felt the depiction of rock climbing was too Hollywood, unrealistic and had quite a bit of inaccuracies.

The film revolves around Gabe Waker (played by Sylvester Stallone), a rock climber and rescue worker who goes to the Rocky Mountains along with helicopter pilot Jessie Deighan (played by Janine Turner) to rescue his friend Hal Tucker (played by Michael Rooker) and Hal’s girlfriend Sarah (played by Michelle Joyner).

While everything seems quite routine and fine, Sarah’s harness breaks off and she is clinging on the line going to the helicopter.  Gabe tries manages to grab Sarah’s arm but he loses her grip and she dies.

Flash forward eight months later and Gabe returns into town for the first time since Sarah’s death.  Feeling guilty for her death, Gabe has stopped climbing the mountains and comes back to be with Jessie but leave the town permanently.

Meanwhile, in the air, a group of thieves led by the ruthless Eric Qualen (played by John Lithgow) try to rob a US Department of Treasury plane carrying $100 million.  We see the US Treasury agent Richard Travers (played by Rex Linn) taking down his own men and trying to grave three suitcases filled with the money and transfer it to the other plane.

But one agent manages to derail their plans by shooting at the thieves plane, killing the pilot and the three suitcases fall down in the mountains.  The thieves have a transmitter on the cases, so they can retrieve them but they need help.

So, the thieves manage to fake an emergency call in which Hal answers the call.  Meanwhile, Jessie asks Gabe to please help Hal and despite not wanting to (Because of his guilt), he decides to help him out.  Even though Gabe knows that Hal is upset at him for the death of his girlfriend.

While the two think they are trying to save people in need, they are held hostage by the thieves who want both men to find the three suitcases and Qualen has every intention of making sure after they are done retrieving the suitcase, both Gabe and Hall will be dead.

After the first suitcase is tracked, Gabe manages to escape and is thought dead due to an avalanche.  While the thieves use Hal to find the next two suitcases, Gabe tries his best to survive and help his friend.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Cliffhanger” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 Widescreen) and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment did a great job in bringing this film to HD.  The Italian alps look absolutely beautiful and there is great detail for the rocks, surrounding scenery. The film is not too vibrant as there is overcast and there are not many vibrant colors seen in the film.  But there is extreme detail captured on the rocks and the ice/snow.

The scenery is just breathtaking and despite the cold and challenging conditions, director Renny Harlin and cinematographer Alex Thomson did a wonderful job in filming the location and various aerial views of people on the mountains.

There is a fine layer of grain on the film, skin tones are natural, blacks are nice and deep and for a 1993 film, no sign of muggy DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) that I can see in this film, nor did I see any major compression artifacts.

But what fans of the film will enjoy is the lossless audio track for “Cliffhanger”.  If you thought “Air Force One” sounded good on Blu-ray, Sony repeats the aggressive audio track for this film as helicopters, explosions and various sound effects are heard all around you.  The surround channel is utilized heavily during the action sequences of the film as well as a good amount of LFE coming from the subwoofer.  The film just sounds incredible!  Dialogue is clear through the center channel and music and effects sounds great coming from the front channels.

Overall, impressive PQ and AQ with subtitles in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Cliffhanger” comes with the following special features in standard definition, English stereo:

  • movieIQ and BD-Live connects you to access real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie! – Note: You need a BD-Live (Profile 2.0) Blu-ray player that can connect to the Internet to access movieIQ.
  • Commentary with Director Renny Harlin and Sylvester Stallone – Director Renny Harlin sets up the scenes and shows us what is real and what he wanted to accomplish with certain shots.  Stallone talks about his scenes and how it was hard for him to film because he was scared of heights.
  • Technical Crew Commentary – Commentary on the technical crew of how they accomplished the rock climbing and various action-based sequences of the film and challenges they experienced.
  • A Personal Introduction from Renny Harlin – (4:53) Director Renny Harlin talks about how he got involved with “Cliffhanger” and working with Sylvester Stallone.  Both men wanted to do something than your usual action film.  Something with more depth and more serious in tone.
  • Deleted Scenes – (8:18) Featuring two deleted scenes (Kings Leap, Ice Climb) plus an optional introduction by Director Renny Harlin (3:01) who discusses why the scenes were cut from the movie.
  • Stallone on the Edge: The Making of Cliffhanger – (20:03) Featuring interviews with director Renny Harlan and the talents of the film.  Featuring a behind-the-scenes making of the film, shooting on location in the Italian alps, the challenges that the filmmaker and talents had to endure and a tour through the set from Sylvester Stallone.
  • Special Effects Featurettes – (7:24) Special effects featurettes for “Sarah’s Fall” and “Helicopter Explosion” and commentary and video on how those two sequences were created.
  • Storyboard Comparisons – (12:01) Storyboard comparisons for “Sarah’s Fall”, “Air-to-Zip Line” and “Helicopter Explosion”. Featuring the storyboard sequences on the top and video on the bottom.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer – (3:26) Includes an optional introduction by Renny Harlin.

“Cliffhanger” was definitely one of the enjoyable films that Sylvester Stallone did in the 1990’s (along with “Judge Dredd”).  After the disastrous “Rocky V” in 1990, Stallone started to do more international films throughout the 1990’s and in this case, both he and director Renny Harlin wanted to do something different in their careers and that was to have an action film that was more serious in nature.

Personally, I enjoyed “Cliffhanger” when it came out in theaters but there were certain situations that bugged me at the time and that was mainly Sylvester Stallone in the very cold weather without a jacket, high up in altitude and climbing the mountain with a t-shirt (it’s further explained by Sylvester Stallone in the commentary) but it was one of the scenes that I had a hard time believing especially in freezing temperatures.

But it was definitely an enjoyable Stallone film.  Michael Rooker did a wonderful job in this film and the same with Janine Turner (and I’m glad that director Renny Harlin did not emphasize or use a major romantic sequence between Gabe and Jessie).

But I’m sure the question for fans of the film is if “Cliffhanger” is worth purchasing again?   Especially if you owned the two previous DVD’s that were released in 2000 and the Superbit version in 2004.

If you enjoyed this film, my answer is yes.  The reason being is that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has improved with the picture quality and audio quality of their films.  Especially this 1993 film because in previous years, there was some DNR that made the film look to cloudy/waxy in appearance due to the DNR but with this film, you really can’t tell it’s 1993 when it comes to picture quality.  Video looks absolutely great compared to the original DVD.

You see the details of the rocks quite well but the location of where the film is shot, looks great!  The Italian Alps absolutely looks beautiful in this film and definitely an improvement from the DVD.

But the biggest improvement is the lossless audio.  For those who have a modern receiver that can take advantage of the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack and have a good speaker setup are going to love how this film sounds.  Since “Sony Pictures Home Entertainmen” released “Air Force Once” on Blu-ray, they have really found a way to take advantage of these older action films and “Cliffhanger” sounds remarkable on Blu-ray.  The soundtrack is quite immersive and you hear the audio all around you.

The Blu-ray features the same special features from the original DVD with the exception of the photo gallery but all-in-all, for those who own the previous DVD’s will just love how this film looks and sounds on Blu-ray.

As for those who have never seen the film, “Cliffhanger” is not the best Sylvester Stallone action film but its one, if not the best action film he released in the 1990’s.  Looking for an action film, definitely give “Cliffhanger” a try!

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