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Spider-Man: Homecoming (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Disc Review)

October 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” may not be featuring the Spider-Man that I grew up reading but I will say that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was entertaining to the point that I watched it multiple times already because I really enjoyed watching the film.  The way I see it, if the “Spider-Man” trilogy or the next two films didn’t win you over, this movie may.  Wonderful story, loved the characters and this film was just a lot of fun and I highly recommend it!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Spider-Man: Homecoming

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 133 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition, 2:39:1 aspect ratio, English Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio,  French, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, Arabic, Cantonese,  Chinese, Dutch, French, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Spanish and Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: October 17, 2017


Based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Directed by Jon Watts

Screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

Producer: Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal

Executive Producer: Victoria Alonso, Avi Arad, Louis D’Esposito, Jeremy Latcham, Stan Lee, Matt Tolmach, Patricia Whitcher

Co-Producer:  Mitchell Bell, Eric Hauserman Carroll, Rachel O’Connor

Music by Michael Giacchino

Cinematography by Salvatore Totino

Edited by Debbie Berman, Dan Lebental

Casting by Sarah Finn

Production Design by Oliver Scholl

Set Decoration by Lauri Gaffin

Costume Design by Louise Frogley


Starring:

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man

Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man

Marisa Tomei as May Parker

Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan

Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts

Zendaya as Michelle

Donald Glover as Aaron Davis

Jacob Batalon as Ned

Laura Harrier as Liz

Tony Revolori as Flash

Bokeem Woodbine as Herman Schultz/Shocker

Tyne Daly as Anne Marie Hoag

Garcelle Beauvais as Doris Toomes


A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – but when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.


It is well-known that there is friction between Marvel Studios (which is currently owned by Disney) and their Marvel’s deal with FOX which gave them ownership to the X-Men films (and formerly the “Fantastic Four” films) which prevents the interaction of characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to co-exist.  But one big question that many have wondered is if one of the most iconic characters, Spider-Man, which the films are with Sony Pictures, would ever appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

And when it was announced that Sony Pictures, Marvel Studios and Disney would collaborate and allowed Spider-Man to be featured in a MCU film, not only was it unprecedented, fans applauded the studios of working together.

Spider-Man would be featured in “Captain America: Civil War” and now we have a new Spider-Man film which allows Tony Stark (Iron Man) and even Captain America to be featured in a Sony Pictures film, “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.

The film begins not long after the Battle of New York (as featured in the first “Avengers” film).  Adrian Toomes (portrayed by Michael Keaton) owns a salvage company and is contracted to clean up the city of the destroyed alien Chitauri technology that have littered the streets of New York.

As Adrian sees the financial possibilities of obtaining this technology, the Department of Damage Control (D.O.D.C.) and a partnership with Stark Industries and the U.S. government have come in to take over, upsetting Adrian because he hired a lot of helped and spent his own money for the operation.

Having lost the job, his men reveal that they still have some of the alien technology.

Fastforward eight years later (following the events that took place in “Captain America: Civil War”), Peter Parker went to help Tony Stark/Iron Man and when taken home, is told that if they need him, they will call. Meanwhile, Happy Hogan (portrayed by Jon Favreau) would be watching over him.

And while Peter lives a double life as an intelligent studying at the Midtown School of Science and Technology, he takes on thugs or helps people with issues around the city, growing bored and wanting to do something huge.  He lives with his Aunty May (portrayed by Marisa Tomei) and hangs out with his best friend Ned (portrayed by Jacob Batalon) and has a crush on Liz (portrayed by Laura Harrier).

Meanwhile, we see that Adrian Toomes and his men have utilized the technology to pull of major theft of alien technology and selling it to the highest bidder and becoming wealthy because of it.

One device made is a shocking device and the person utilizing the technology would be known as The Shocker, while Toomes has a vulture like apparatus that allows him to fly and use the machinery as a weapon.

One day, as Spider-Man is out patrolling, he discovers a group of thieves dressed up with Avengers masks trying to rob a bank near his home.  Spider-Man goes to stop them but is shocked that they have alien technology that can literally destroy buildings quickly and another that makes him utilizing magnetic technology.

When he goes back home and sneaks in, Peter is unaware that his friend Ned is in his room and now Ned knows his secret that Peter is Spider-Man.

And as Peter tries to keep his double life in check, he is wanting to know more about the people using the alien technology despite the warning he receives from Tony Stark that he must stay on the ground.  Will Peter’s pursuit of who is using the Chitauri put him in true danger, especially of the people who are close to him?


VIDEO:

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is presented in 4K Ultra High Definition ala 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).

The film looks absolutely magnificent in 4K Ultra HD and Spider-Man’s outfit is vibrant, colors and visual effects look magnificent and with each passing year, I can’t help but be in awe of how these MCU films look better and better.

Videophiles will no doubt be happy with this release.

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: To watch 4K Ultra HD, you will need a 4K UHD TV with HDR and an Ultra HD Blu-ray Player + a high-speed HDMI (Category 2) Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio quality is equally impressive. Presented in English Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description.

The lossless audio is no doubt immersive considering the amount of action featured in this film.   Each shockblast, each web shot by Spider-Man, hearing the Vulture’s steel wings in action to the many numerous situations that involve explosions and weaponry, these sound effects for this film is truly marvelous.  Similar to the picture quality, for audio, lossless audio for this film is magnificent!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese, Dutch, French, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Spanish and Thai

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

  • The Spide Study Guide – Watch the film with informative pop-ups and hidden references.
  • Gag Reel – (2:17) Bloopers from “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (16:17) Featuring ten deleted and extended scenes.
  • A Tangled Web – (6:12) Stan Lee and filmmakers discusses Spider-Man becoming part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Searching for Spider-Man – (8:05) A featurette about Tom Holland and having him as Spider-Man.
  • Spidey Stunts – (5:48) A featurette about the stunts on “Spider-Man” and how when Tom Holland auditioned for the film, he was doing stunts and using his gymnastic/dance background in the film.
  • Aftermath – (4:48) A featurette about the expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe and incorporating storyline elements (featured in the “Avengers” film) to Spider-Man.
  • The Vulture Takes Flight – (6:02) A featurette about creating the antagonist, the Vulture on film.
  • Jon Watts: Head of the Class – (5:30) A featurette about hiring Jon Watts as the director of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and how he takes the character somewhere that has never been done for character on film.
  • Pros and Cons of Spider-Man – (3:28) Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon discussing the pros and cons of Spider-Man.
  • Rappin with Cap – (2:26) Featuring all four Captain America school films.
  • Photo Gallery
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

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


Growing up as a fan of “Spider-Man”, it has been interesting cinematic experiences.  From the Sam Raimi trilogy featuring actor Tobe Maguire in the 2000’s and the Marc Webb films starring Andrew Garfield in 2012 and 2014.  I was entertained by those films.

But with the Marvel Cinematic Universe establishing a well-oiled machine showcasing Marvel’s well-known characters interacting in each other’s films, one of the troubling situations was knowing that various superhero teams or superheroes featured from one studio, may not appear in the Disney/Marvel Studios films.

And when it was announced that Sony agreed to a collaboration for Spider-Man to be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, first with “Captain America: Civil War” and now with “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and I see this as a win-win, for the studios but also the fans who have seen the MCU and how these characters and films tie together as a major plus.

But with numerous Spider-Man films, how would “Spider-Man: Homecoming” do compared to the other films?

For one, there is no rehash of how Spider-Man became a hero, no Uncle Ben, no jocks vs. geeks storyline.  No Mary Jane Watson.  No Gwen Stacy.  In fact, no one knew what to expect from filmmaker Jon Watts (known for indie films, “Cop Car” and “Creative Control”), especially as the film had numerous writers such as Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Watts along with Christopher Ford and Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers.

And probably the unknown is what made this film so enjoyable for me.  We saw how Spider-Man was recruited by Tony Stark in “Captain America: Civil War”, but what happened after that film is what many wondered how “Spider-Man: Homecoming” would end up.

The film would kick off by creating a tie-in to the first “Avengers” film with showing how Adrian Toomes owning a salvage company, taking alien high-technology from the ravaged streets of New York and then being kicked to the curb by the government and Stark Industries.  But Toomes and company managed to keep some of that alien technology and eight years later, he and his crew would be able to create superpowered weaponry with the salvaged Chitauri technology and become an arms trafficker.

Meanwhile, Peter Parker who served with Iron Man and other Avengers would now be returned back home and would need to report to Happy Hogan, the former head of security of Stark Industries.  While wanting to be in major skirmishes like the Avengers, Peter Parker for now will be the neighborhood crime-fighting hero, even if it means walking elderly across the street or vandalism.

But meanwhile Peter is trying to balance school and uses his superhero front working with Stark Industries as a “student internship” and trying to enjoy his teenage life with his buddy Ned while enjoying the presence of his high school crush, Liz from afar.

But life changes for Peter when he discovers Toome and their crew trying to use Chitauri technology for crime and because of their deadly weapons, he was nearly killed until Tony Stark utilized one of his costumes to save Peter.  But Peter wanting to prove himself to Tony Stark pursues the criminals not realizing the full extent of the danger that awaits him but also how with great power comes great responsibility.

The major difference between this Peter Parker than other incarnations of Peter Parker is that this is a modern film.  The costume that Peter Parker wears utilizes technology from Stark Industries giving him a wide range of selections for combat and even has an assistant built in to the costume.  And part of the entertainment factor is seeing Parker learn what his costume is capable of.

Meanwhile, as for Peter, another key difference is that while he is often bullied by Flash, unlike the first trilogy and the comic books, Flash is not an athlete but a part of Peter’s decathlon team.  Modernized for today’s generation, I liked how the film portrayed Peter, Ned, Liz, Flash as smart, intelligent teens and showcasing geeks as “cool” unlike the past where the geeks were always tormented by the jocks.

The film mirrors today’s world society and one of the things that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done was to show diversity.  The film showcases a white teen who has a crush on an African American teen, her mother is married to a Caucasian man, the film features Peter Parker’s best friend Ned who happens to be a Filipino.

It may not mean a lot to some people but for those who have been wanting to see diversity, wanting to see situations that mirror real life and have wanted Hollywood to showcase diversity will definitely get that with “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.

The film looks absolutely fantastic on 4K Ultra HD and the lossless soundtrack is immersive and quite active thanks to the plethora of action sequences.  And you also get a numerous special features included as well.

Overall, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” may not be featuring the Spider-Man that I grew up reading but I will say that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was entertaining to the point that I watched it multiple times already because I really enjoyed watching the film.  The way I see it, if the “Spider-Man” trilogy or the next two films didn’t win you over, this movie may.  Wonderful story, loved the characters and this film was just a lot of fun and I highly recommend it!

With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

July 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story” is a fantastic documentary honoring the comic book legend who has created many characters that many generations have grew up and loved. His legacy will continue to live on forever and at 94-years-old, while Stan Lee continues to appear at conventions and appear on film, its amazing how he continues to touch the lives of many today, as he has done many decades earlier. “With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story” is highly recommended. ‘Nuff said.

Images courtesy of © 2015 True Believer Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story

YEAR OF FILM: 2010

DURATION: 80 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:33:1, English 2.0, English Closed Captioning

RATED: N/A

AVAILABLE ON: July 18, 2017


Directed by Terry Dougas, Nikki Frakes, Will Hess

Written by Nikki Frakes, Will Hess

Produced by Terry Dougas, Nikki Frakes, Will Hess, Paris Kasidokostas Latsis

Co-Produced: Max Work

Music by Kostas Christides, Minos Matsas

Cinematography by Keyan Safyari

Edited by Nikki Frakes, Nicholas Stich

Art Direction by Pierre Buffin


Starring:

Stan Lee

Joan Lee

Avi Arad

Sean Astin

Dick Ayers

Tobey Maguire

Frank Miller

Bryan Singer

Joe Quesada

Kevi Smith

Patrick Stewart

John Romita Sr.

Seth Rogen

Kenneth Branagh

Ian Bryce

Nicolas Cage

Gill Champion

Michael Chiklis

Thomas Haden Church

Paris Hilton

Gene Colan

Roger Corman

Grant Curtis

Tom DeSanto

Ramin Djawadi

Kirsten Dunst

Danny Elfman

Harlan Ellison

Mark Evanier

Jon Favrewau

Kevin Feige

Lou Ferrigno

James Franco

Evan Goldberg

Jim Goodkind

Michael A. Helfant

Samuel L. Jackson

Kenneth Johnson

Jason Lee

Jim Lee

Ralph Macchio


WITH GREAT POWER: THE STAN LEE STORY explores the vivid life and imagination of Stan Lee, the 89-year-old comic book legend who co-created over 500 legendary pop culture characters including Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, Thor and The Hulk. Featuring interviews with both fans and colleagues including Kevin Smith, Patrick Stewart, Samuel L. Jackson, and Eva Mendes, the film is the tale of one man’s determination to tell incredible stories that have enchanted the world for over 40 years.


When it comes to comic books, Stan Lee is a true legend.

Known for writing comic books and was an editor and publisher for Marvel Comics, but known for co-creating Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Daredevil, thor, the X-Men and many other characters.

Known for his humor and also challenging the comic industry’s censorship organization, the Comic Code Authority, Stan Lee was inducted to the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1995 and received the National Medal of Arts in 2008.

Back in 2010, the Epix documentary “With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story” was aired.

Directed by Terry Douglas, Nikki Frakes and Will Hess

While released in DVD in 2012, the DVD will be re-released, the documentary honors Stan Lee’s legacy, his working relationship with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, the challenges of making Marvel television series and earlier films, his appearances in the superhero movies but also the personal lasting relationship between him and his wife Joan, raising a daughter and also the pain of losing a child and more.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story” is presented in 1:33:1 and in English 2.0.  As with most documentaries, the footage utilizes footage from a variety of sources from different periods of Stan Lee’s life, so picture quality varies for certain footage.  For the most part, picture quality is good as one can expect on DVD and dialogue is clear.

Closed Caption in English is included.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by filmmakers Terry Dougas, Will Hess, Nikki Frakes, cinematographer Keyan Safyari and co-producer Max Work.
  • Disc 1 Special Features – Featuring the following:  A Star is Born, Stan Lee’s Love Story, The Biggest Fan, Music is the Story, Pow! Zip! Boom! The Sound of cinema, Heroes Helping Heroes!, Stan Lee at UCLA with Kevin Smith & Joe Quesada, A Coffee with Stan Lee: Slamdance 2012, Further Thoughts from Stan, An Unsung Partnership, SDCC 2007 Q&A, Characters Stan Co-Created, Trailer, Stan Lee Biography
  • Disc 2 Special Features – Additional Extended Interviews – Featuring extended interviews with Avi Arad, Sean Astin, Dick Ayers, Kenneth Branagh, Nic Cage, Gill Champion, Michael Chiklis, Gene Colan, Roger Corman, Tom Desanto, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Evanier, Jon Favreau, Kevin Feige, Lou Ferrigno, James Franco, Thomas Haden-Church, Paris Hilton, Sam Jackson, Jim Lee, Paul Levitz, Tobey Maguire, Todd McFarlane, Jim McLauchin, James Marsden, Frank Miller, Jeremy Piven, Joe Quesada, Seth Rogan with Evan Goldberg, John Romita Sr., Joe Simon, Bryan Singer, Joe Sinnott, Kevin Smith, Ringo Starr, Flo Steinberg, Patrick Stewart, Mel Stuart, Roy Thomas, Michael Uslan

I am a huge comic book fan.  I grew up reading comic books with his name gracing the front or interior pages, hearing his voice on “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends” and pretty much, part of my childhood, college years and even my adulthood.

I credit Stan Lee for creating these wonderful superhero characters that have been part of my life but also millions of people from different generations.

Watching “With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story” (and I probably have watched this documentary a dozen times as it is one of my favorites) is something that I feel that true comic book fans should watch in their lifetime.

The filmmakers not only get to interview the legendary writer/editor/publisher and entertainer and audiences get to see the comedic side but also the personal side.  But most importantly, many people from the comic book industry and entertainment industry who were just as moved by Stan Lee and grew up reading comic books, are part of this documentary.

It’s one thing to read about Stan Lee in the many interviews featured online or comic book magazines from the past, but this DVD gives us a perspective of Stan Lee that I haven’t seen before and that’s Stan Lee, the loving husband and father but also hearing his heartfelt answer when asked about his relationship with Jack Kirby.  Prior to this documentary, many people assumed there was bad blood between Lee and Kirby, but we realize it’s admirable respect that both men had with each other.  Part of the problem was that Stan Lee was famous for being Stan Lee and as a writer, the media covered him more, while Jack Kirby the artist wasn’t.  Which would eventually lead to Kirby leaving Marvel Comics.  (You can read more about the dispute on this article from Vulture.)

The documentary does an amazing job of showing the wonderful career of Stan Lee, which one would expect from a documentary about the legend.  But the filmmakers also knew that they would have to take on the more challenging questions, from the failed TV series of the ’70s and terrible films of the ’80s and early ’90s, which Stan Lee said he tried, but entertainment company execs wouldn’t listen.

And also, the filmmakers showcase the scandal involving Stan Lee Media and the company’s bankruptcy, one of the dark clouds that hovered over Stan Lee in his career.

But for the most part, this documentary is a positive document showcasing the career and respect that people have towards Stan Lee.

As the film is being re-released on DVD, a lot has changed since the release of this documentary.  The loving wife of Stan Lee passed away earlier this month.  Joan, died at the age of 93, and watching this documentary, you realize how in love these two are.  As Stan Lee is featured prominently in the documentary, in order to get to the personal side of Stan Lee, the filmmakers also chose to feature Joan Lee and Joan’s vibrance and love towards Stan is frequently featured.

While the documentary is pretty much safe for the entire family to watch, this DVD release contains two DVD’s with hours of special features including appearances at Stan Lee at various conventions and Q&A’s, to extended interviews with many big names from the comic book industry taking part.  These are not family friendly, especially the interviews with Kevin Smith (hilarious, but expect a lot of profanity and sexual discussions).

Overall, “With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story” is a fantastic documentary honoring the comic book legend who has created many characters that many generations have grew up and loved.  His legacy will continue to live on forever and at 94-years-old, while Stan Lee continues to appear at conventions and appear on film, its amazing how he continues to touch the lives of many today, as he has done many decades earlier.

“With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story” is highly recommended.  ‘Nuff said.


Zathura: A Space Adventure – Anniversary Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

zathura

“Zathura: A Space Adventure – Anniversary Edition” is a fun, fantasy, sci-fi film for the entire family! One can watch this film for nostalgia, others can watch this film to see how their favorite stars looked or how they were on film before they became very popular. And for those not familiar with the film and are looking for a a movie for the entire family, just being entertained by its enjoyable story. If you enjoyed films like “Jumanji”,  then “Zathura: A Space Adventure – Anniversary Edition” is recommended!


TITLE: Zathura: A Space Adventure – Anniversary Edition

FILM RELEASE: 2005

DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), English, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Fantasy Action and Peril, and Some Language)

Release Date: September 22, 2015


Based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg

Directed by Jon Favreau

Screenplay by David Koepp, John Kamps

Produced by Michael De Luca, Scott Kroopf, William Teitler

Co-Producer: Peter Billingsley

Music by John Debney

Cinematography by Guillermo Navarro

Edited by Dan Lebental

Casting by Avy Kaufman

Production Design by J. Michael Riva

Art Direction by David F. Klassen, Richard F. Mays

Costume Design by Laura Gaffin


Starring:

Jonah Bobo as Danny

Josh Hutcherson as Walter

Dax Shepard as Astronaut

Kristen Stewart as Lisa

Tim Robbins as Dad

Frank Oz as the voice of Robot


Celebrate the 10th anniversary of this heart-racing science-fiction adventure with a special, all-new Blu-ray edition! Two squabbling brothers are propelled into deepest, darkest space while playing a mysterious game discovered in the basement of their old house. On their fantastic journey, they are joined by a stranded astronaut and must survive meteor showers, hostile lizard-like aliens, a rocket-propelled robot who runs amok and an intergalactic spaceship battle. Unless they finish the game and reach the planet Zathura, they could be trapped in outer space forever.


Years before Jon Favreau would be known for directing the first two “Iron Man” films, years before Josh Hutcherson would be known for his role as Peeta in the “Hunger Games” films and years before Kristen Stewart would become popular for the role of Bella Swan in the “Twilight” films, each of them would be involved in the family and children’s film “Zathura: A Space Adventure”.

A film adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg’s (author of “Jumanji”) fantasy, illustration book “Zathura”, the film was marketed as a spiritual sequel of “Jumanji”.

While the film didn’t do as well in the box office (considering that it had to go against “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and Disney’s “Chicken Little”), the film still received positive reviews from film critics.

And to celebrate the 10th year anniversary, “Zathura: A Space Adventure – Anniversary Edition” will be released on Blu-ray.

“Zathura: A Space Adventure” begins with two brothers, oldest brother Walter (portrayed by Josh Hutcherson) is an athlete and youngest brother Danny (portrayed by Jonah Bobo) who is not as athletic, playing catch with their father (portrayed by Tim Robbins).

The two brothers often quarrel with each other and also with their older sister, Lisa (portrayed by Kristen Stewart).

The three children live with their divorced father but as Lisa often sleeps and their father is busy with work, one day, Danny is locked in the basement by Walter.  Inside the basement, he discovers a space-themed board game called “Zathura”.

As Walter and Danny begin playing the game, with the object is whoever reaches the end space Zathura, becomes the winner.

With each turn, the game produces a card with instructions and the first card mentions a “meteor shower”.  And next thing you know, meteors begin to fall through the house.  As they look out, they realize that they are in outer space.

As the brothers try to wake their sister up and tell her what’s going on, they try to show the game to her and pull up another card about “cryonic sleep” which immediately freezes Lisa and the entire bathroom.

The brothers must encounter various dangers with each card pulled during the game and realize that the only way they could get back home is to finish the board game and reach the end space of Zathura.

But with all the dangers around them…will these quarrelsome brothers finish the game?


VIDEO:

“Zathura: A Space Adventure – Anniversary Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality is fantastic as detail on close-up of faces show detail.  Skin tones are natural and black levels are nice and deep.  The 2011 Blu-ray release already featured solid, sharp picture quality and the 2015 features the same awesome presentation!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Zathura: A Space Adventure – Anniversary Edition” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital. The lossless soundtrack is also equally fantastic.  With the sheer amount of action scenes, this is an immersive soundtrack as you can expect wonderful use of the surround channels and LFE, as well as crystal clear dialogue and music.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Zathura: A Space Adventure – Anniversary Edition” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Jon Fabreau and Co-Producer Peter Billingsley.
  • Race to the Black Planet – (11:55) The making of the special effects for “Zathura”.
  • The Right Moves – (14:56) How Chris Van Allsburg’s illustration book was adapted into a film.
  • The Cast – (12:51) A featurette about the cast members of “Zathura”.
  • Miniatures – (9:48) A featurette about the use of miniatures in “Zathura”.
  • The World of Chris Van Allsburg – (12:52) A featurette about “Zathura” (and “Jumanji”) author Chris Van Allsburg.
  • Zorgons, Robots and Frozen Lisa – (16:42) The making of these special effects characters.
  • Making the Game – (14:01) A featurette in regards to the process of creating the “Zathura” board game.
  • Zathura Motion Storybook as Read by Author Chris Van Allsburg – A new special feature for the 2015 Blu-ray featuring Chris Van Allsburg reading an excerpts from the book (featuring illustrations from the book)
  • Race Through Space: Virtual Board Game – A digital board game of “Zathura”.
  • Goosebumps Sneak Peak – (3:02) A new special feature for the 2015 Blu-ray release, this is a sneak peak for the 2015 film “Goosebumps”.
  • The Cast of Goosebumps Reflect on Zathura – (5:19) A new special feature this 2015 Blu-ray release, “Goosebumps” actors Dylan Minnette and Ryan Lee discuss their favorite “Zathura” scenes.
  • Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “Zathura: A Space Adventure”.

EXTRAS:

“Zathura: A Space Adventure – Anniversary Edition” comes with a slipcover and UltraViolet code.


Watching “Zathura” after nearly a decade since it arrived in theaters, it’s quite fascinating to see how a lot of people involved in the film have had successful careers.

Jon Favreau became a director and producer of major blockbuster films, Dax Shepard, Kristen Stewart and Josh Hutcherson have become popular film stars, while young Jonah Bobo is still an actor but has entertained many young children as the voice of Austin in the popular children’s show, “The Backyardigans”.  While veteran actor Tim Robbins shows no sign of slowing down and continues to be a busy actor for television and film.

But part of what makes this film entertaining back then, was how it had similarities to “Jumanji”.

While a different kind of film and is more sci-fi/adventure, one can wish that these family-driven adventure and fantasy films (with a bigger budget) were made.  As my son grew up with this film and was enchanted by the thought of children in a different world, while their house is floating into space, it’s about the journey and how imaginative the storyline is.

Sure, when I think back to my childhood and have had the pleasure of watching “The Goonies” or “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” and being immersed by the journey and enjoying the entire imaginative journey presented on film, these are films that don’t grow old and can still entertain generations upon generations of children and also the young at heart.

The whole concept for “Zathura: A Space Adventure” about a board game in which certain things become a reality and watching bad space lizard aliens, a whacked out robot and a sister frozen, the story is definitely far-out, but yet I still enjoyed it because it is unique and fun to watch.

And the good thing is that families will get to watch three anniversary editions of adventure films on Blu-ray with the release of “Zathura: A Space Adventure – Anniversary Edition”, “The Indian in the Cupboard: 20th Anniversary Edition” and “Jumanji: 20th Anniversary” edition.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Zathura: A Space Adventure – Anniversary Edition” 2015 Blu-ray release is just as wonderful as the original 2011 Blu-ray release.  Picture quality is fantastic, lossless audio is wonderful.  But the primary difference is that there are new special features included along with the many special features that were included in the older Blu-ray release, especially newer special features to promote the 2015 film release of “Goosebumps”.

Overall, “Zathura: A Space Adventure – Anniversary Edition” is a fun, fantasy, sci-fi film for the entire family! One can watch this film for nostalgia, others can watch this film to see how their favorite stars looked or how they were on film before they became very popular.   And for those not familiar with the film and are looking for a a movie for the entire family, just being entertained by its enjoyable story.

If you enjoyed films like “Jumanji”, then “Zathura: A Space Adventure – Anniversary Edition” is recommended!

 

Iron Man 3 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

foolishwives

This is the best “Iron Man” film created thus far!  The change of having Shane Black as a director and co-writer along with Drew Pearce would bring an attention to a character driven film, in this case, Tony Stark.  This is the most vulnerable that we see of the character but how it integrates and balances with the action, makes “Iron Man 3” much better than its predecessors.  As an “Iron Man” fan, if you love superhero films especially with a lot of heavy hitting action, “Iron Man 3” on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

TITLE: Iron Man 3

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 130 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

COMPANY: Marvel Entertainment/Disney

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: September 24, 2013

Directed by Shane Black

Screenplay by Drew Pearce, Shane Black

Based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby

Based on the “Extremis” mini-series by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov

Executive Producer: Victoria Alonso, Stephen Broussard, Louis D’Esposito, Jon Favreau, Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Dan Mintz, Charles Newirth, Lars P. Winter, Bing Wu, Wen-ga Xiao

Produced by Kevin Feige

Associate Producer: Mitchell Bell, Lars P. Winther

Music by Brian Tyler

Cinematography by John Toll

Edited by Peter S. Elliot, Jeffrey Ford

Casting by Sarah Finn

Production Design by Bill Brzeski

Art Direction by Alan hook, Desma Murphy, Jay Pelissier, Brian Stultz, John Eaves

Set Decoration by Danielle Berman

Costume Design by Louise Frogley

Starring:

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark

Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts

Don Cheadle as Colonel James Rhodes

Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian

Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen

Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan

Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery

James Badge Dale as Savin

Stephani Szostak as Brandt

Paul Bettany as the voice of Jarvis

William Sadler as President Ellis

Dale Dickey as Mrs. Davis

Ty Simpkins ans Harley Keener

Miguel Ferrer as Vice President Rodriguez

The studio that brought you Marvel’s The Avengers unleashes the best Iron Man adventure yet with this must-own, global phenomenon starring Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow.

When Tony Stark/Iron Man finds his entire world reduced to rubble, he must use all his ingenuity to survive, destroy his enemy and somehow protect those he loves. But a soul-searching question haunts him: Does the man make the suit… or does the suit make the man? Featuring spectacular special effects, Marvel’s Iron Man 3 explodes with exclusive Blu-ray content.

It’s currently the fifth highest grossing film worldwide and the highest grossing film of 2013, “Iron Man 3” has earned over $1.2 billion worldwide (second highest grossing film of the Marvel cinematic universe after “The Avengers”) and the highest grossing “Iron Man” film yet!

And I have to say, it’s the best “Iron Man” film created so far!

From the writer of “The Monster Squad” and the “Lethal Weapon” films, Shane Black may only have had one film in his directorial belt with the 2005 film “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” but the he has demonstrated that he can write and he can direct and together with co-writer Drew Pearce (Executive Producer of “Damage Control”), the duo have proven that they can deliver!

And the film features an all-star cast with Robert Downey, Jr. (“The Avengers”, “Sherlock Holmes”, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”), Gwyneth Paltrow (“Se7en”, “Glee”, “Shakespeare in Love”), Don Cheadle (“Crash”, “Hotel Rwanda”), Guy Pearce (“Memento”, “L.A. Confidential”, “Prometheus”), Rebecca Hall (“The Prestige”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), Jon Favreau (“Swingers”, “Elf”, “Zathura: A Space Adventure”) and Ben Kingsley (“Schindler’s List”, “Shutter Island”, “Gandhi”).

And now “Iron Man 3” is set to be released on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy and Blu-ray + DVD on September 24th.

“Iron Man 3” begins with Tony Stark (portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr.) discussing an event that took place on New Year’s Eve back in 1999 in Switzerland.  Stark along with scientist Maya Hansen are about to have a romantic fling for the night but they are interrupted by a scientist named Aldrich Killian (portrayed by Drew Pearce) who wants to talk with him about his company, Advanced Idea Mechanics.  Tony tells Aldrich to meet him on top of the building in five minutes.

But after talking to Maya Hansen about Extremis (an regenerative treatment to allow recovery from crippling injuries), the two are distracted by Extremis and one another.  And eventually, Tony forgets about Aldrich Killian who continues to wait on top of the hotel building.

Fast forward to 2013 and Tony is still recovering from his bout with anxiety and paranoia after the alien invasion of New York (featured in “The Avengers” film) and has panic attacks, worried that he may not have what it takes to protect humanity.

During his period of isolation, he has created several dozen Iron Man suits and is trying to control them with his thoughts.  But it’s creating a stress on his relationship with Pepper (portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow), his girlfriend and the person overseeing Stark Industries.

Meanwhile, the broadcast networks are hacked and a terrorist known as the Mandarin talks of his disdain of America and becomes the #1 terrorist that the U.S. government are after.  Meanwhile, Aldrich Killian comes to visit Stark Industries to introduce Pepper a new technology he has developed but she tells him that Stark Industries is not interested.  Because Aldrich came with a shady bodyguard, Stark Industries security chief Happy Hogan (portrayed by Jon Favreau) begins investigating them.  One night when following them to Hollywood, he sees the bodyguard making a transfer to a man.  As Happy bumps into the man, he manages to knock over a case full of metal parts and takes one piece but is caught by Aldrich’s bodyguard.  A fight ensues and the man who received the case from the bodyguard explodes, killing those who are nearby and severely injuring Happy Hogan.

With the Mandarin making threats, Stark issues a threat for the Mandarin to attack him at his personal address and gives his personal address out on television.

Back at Tony’s home, he is visited by Maya Hansen who is about to tell him something important.  But as Tony tries to introduce Pepper to Maya, she sees a television report and sees a helicopter shooting missiles towards Tony’s home.

Several helicopters begin attacking the home knocking Maya out and Tony activating his Iron Man prototype suit on Pepper and protecting her.  As Tony gets his prototype suit back, he tells Pepper to get Maya outside to safety, meanwhile the attackers continue to send missiles, destroying Tony’s home and all his Iron Man suits.  Iron Man’s prototype suit has no weapons yet assigned to it, so Tony tries to fight back but ends up going down the sea and sinking with remnants of his home. His suit is able to escape to rural Tennessee but in the process, he loses the AI known as J.A.R.V.I.S. and he is stuck on his own in the freezing middle of nowhere.

He manages to leave Pepper a message that he’s OK, but the world thinks he is dead.  Tony finds a garage and breaks into it and tries to find a way to fix his armor.  Meanwhile, a 10-year-old named Harley comes in and befriends Tony and helps him find the parts he needs to fix his armor.

But as Tony investigates the attack in Hollywood, he finds out that a similar situation happened in Tennessee.  Meanwhile, as he hopes to find a way to fix his prototype suit, unbeknown to Stark is that Mandarin agents have arrived to his location to kill him.

Will Tony find the Mandarin or will he find out another mastermind who is responsible for this deadly plot?

VIDEO:

“Iron Man 3” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is possibly one of the top looking Blu-ray I have seen all year.  Not only are details evident in the Iron Man’s armor but closeups are also well-done on camera closeups, CG elements via green screen look magnificent and integrates with the real surroundings remarkably well.

I found no artifacts, no banding and this is one of the most detailed films on Blu-ray!  Recommended!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Iron Man 3” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and it is one of the most immersive lossless soundtracks I have heard for 2013 and the last two years.  From the helicopters sending missiles to destroy Tony Stark’s home and the sound of explosions and all out destruction is fantastic.  Especially the fight sequence towards the end of the film with explosions galore, great use of LFE and the amount of weaponry featured in this film from Iron Man or the antagonists, they sound magnificent in HD!   A fantastic lossless soundtrack and one of the best I have listened to in 2013!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Iron Man 3” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with director/co-writer Shane Black and co-writer Drew Pearce.
  • Marvel One Shot: Agent Carter – (15:29) Featuring Agent Carter (actress Hayley Atwell) who is left doing a desk job, takes on a mission without alerting her superiors.
  • Iron Man 3 Unmasked – (10:59) Behind-the-scenes of “Iron Man 3”.
  • Deconstructing the Scene: Attack on Air Force One – (8:43) How the following action scene was created and how people actually did sky dive for the scene.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (16:20) Featuring ten deleted and extended scenes.
  • Exclusive Look at Thor: The Dark World  – (1:53) A short interview and clips for the upcoming “Thor: The Dark World”.
  • Gag Reel – (5:09) Outtakes from “Iron Man 3”.

EXTRAS:

NOTE: The review copy we are reviewing is the disc only, but we do know a DVD version of the film is included with the Blu-ray release.

When it comes to superhero films, I have to admit that within the last decade, we have seen action-heavy films based on the characters of the comic books, but while action and special effects are great, the story tended to be more towards the weak side.

Fortunately for the “Iron Man” films, they have been films that are full of action, full of humor thanks to the outstanding performance from Robert Downey, Jr.  But I have to admit that as much as I enjoyed both films, I did not love them.

Here we are with the third film based on the popular iconic Marvel character.  And while it’s a deviation from the comic book storyline as expected, the sheer magnitude of destruction and emotional situations that Tony Stark must go through makes “Iron Man 3” the best film in the series.

Yes, he has been the intelligent, suave playboy.  But with the third “Iron Man”, Marvel has made sure that the film has some connection to last year’s summer blockbuster “The Avengers”.

In this case, with Tony Stark seeing that humanity can be in danger by enemies that humanity has never known, he needs to prepare by improving his technology, which include the ability to have control of various armor parts coming back to him by mental or vocal commands.  But also the experimentation with various prototypes he had created.

The Tony Stark featured in the third “Iron Man” film is one that is not the same after the fight against the aliens in “The Avengers”.  Panic attacks plague the hero billionaire as he has stopped sleeping because of his need to protect the people he loves.

But when America is tempted to respond to terrorism thanks to a man named “The Mandarin”, America is under alert after a man explodes and kills people in Hollywood with shadows that heat into the walls resembling a nuclear attack. One person injured is Tony Stark’s good friend Happy Hogan.

As the Mandarin is responsible, Stark offers the direct challenge to attack him at his home and sure enough they do, several helicopters arrive and many missiles are fired in Stark’s compound and obliterates Stark’s home. The visual scenery of the Iron Man costumes blown up or seeing the ultimate destruction of the home was wonderful.

But there are also death defying stunts including a rescue attempt with people who blew out of an airplane which Iron Man has to rescue them.  Where most companies would take the short route of not having any casualties or injuries, to shoot via blue screen and have it done via CG, but in the case of “Iron Man 3”, they actually planned it via sky diving, so it’s one of the most intriguing stunts for a scene that I have seen in a long time.  I was impressed!

One of the most exciting action sequences on “Iron Man 3” (one of many), it’s when you realize that Marvel tries to keep things simple and showcasing the characters much more.  Bringing these characters to the forefront and giving them more of a role than just standing and sitting around.  Pepper (portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow) has much more involvement in this film, as does Col. James Rhodes (portrayed by Don Cheadle).  It’s what makes this film much better, utilizing characters but also making Tony Stark, the man, now in danger.  Without his “Iron Man” suit which is badly in need of a recharge, he must use his intelligence in trying to protect the people he loves and finding those who are responsible.

While purists will always complain how Marvel superhero films don’t resemble the comic books in anyway, this is probably the best we could see of the utilization of the Mandarin and also AIM as antagonists.  As a longtime Marvel fan and grew up reading the comic books, I wasn’t disappointed but actually thrilled of how they were able to pull things off.

And I felt that Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow had even more chemistry onscreen than in previous films.  And once again, the utilization of the characters was important to the storyline and having a change in directorial direction with Shane Black at the helm along with writer Drew Pearce made a difference to the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, this is a spectacular release with one of the better Blu-ray releases I have seen for 2013.  In terms of picture quality and also an immersive lossless audio soundtrack, this Blu-ray release is a video and audiophile’s dream release in terms of wonderful detail, colors and presentation in HD, while audio is immersive and those with a 7.2 system can be assured that explosions, artillery, you name it is heard from all around you.

As for special features, there are a quite a good number of them. The audio commentary was informative but my favorite was the Agent Carter short that I was not expecting and it was a very wonderful addition to this Blu-ray release.

It’s important to remind everyone that there are three releases, one on 3D Blu-ray, the other is a Blu-ray release which includes the DVD and a digital copy and the regular edition with the Blu-ray and DVD included.  So, special features may differ with these other Blu-ray versions.

Overall, this is the best “Iron Man” film created thus far!  The change of having Shane Black as a director and co-writer along with Drew Pearce would bring an attention to a character driven film, in this case, Tony Stark.  This is the most vulnerable that we see of the character but how it integrates and balances with the action, makes “Iron Man 3” much better than its predecessors.

As an “Iron Man” fan, if you love superhero films especially with a lot of heavy hitting action, “Iron Man 3” on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

 

People Like Us (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Touching and entertaining, “People Like Us” features the directorial debut of writer Alex Kurtzman and features a wonderful cast with Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde and Michelle Pfeiffer.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: People Like Us

FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 113 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks.  Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: DreamWorks Pictures

RATED: PG-13 (For Language, Some Drug Use and Brief Sexuality)

Release Date: October 2, 2012

Directed by Alex Kurtzman

Written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jody Lambert

Produced by Bobby Cohen, Roberto Orci, Clayton Townsend

Executive Producer: Alex Kurtzman

Co-Producer: Jody Lambert

Music by A.R. Rahman

Cinematography by Salvatore Totino

Edited by Robert Leighton

Casting by Denise Chamian

Production Design by Ida Random

Art Direction by James E. Tocci

Set Decoration by Douglas A. Mowat

Costume Design by Mary Zophres

Starring:

Chris Pine as Sam

Elizabeth Banks a Frankie

Michael Hall D’Addario as Josh

Michelle Pfeiffer as Lillian

Olivia Wilde as Hannah

Mark Duplass as Ted

Sara Mornell as Dr. Amanda

Philip Baker Hall as Ike Rafferty

“People Like Us” is directed/produced by Alex Kurtzman (Cowboys & Aliens, The Proposal, Star Trek, TV’s “Hawaii Five-O”), written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci (Transformers, Star Trek, Cowboys & Aliens) and Jody Lambert (her first writing debut) and composed by award-winning composer A.R. Rahman (127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire). Chris Pine, who plays Sam, is a twenty-something, fast-talking salesman whose latest deal collapses the day he learns his father has suddenly died. Against his wishes, Sam is called home to put his father’s estate in order and reconnect with his estranged family. While there, he uncovers a startling secret that turns his entire world upside down — he has a 30-year-old sister (Banks) he never knew existed.

Alex Kurtzman is best known for writing for TV series such as “Alias”, “Fringe”, “Hawaii Five-O” and writing the screenplay for films such as “Transformers”, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, “Star Trek”, “Mission: Impossible III”, “The Island” and “The Legend of Zorro”.

But while known for writing,  aside from directing an episode for TV series such as “Alias” and “New Day”, Kurtzman has not directed a film.  But in 2012, Kurtzman made his directorial debut with “People Like Us”, which he co-wrote with Robert Orci (“Star Trek”, “The Legend of Zorro”, “Transformers”, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”) and actor Jody Lambert.

The film would star Chris Pine (“Star Trek”, “This Means War”, “Unstoppable”), Elizabeth Banks (“Zack and Miri Make a Porno”, “The Hunger Games”, “The 40-Year-Old-Virgin”), Michelle Pfeiffer (“Scarface”, “Batman Returns”, “What Lies Beneath”), Olivia Wilde (“TRON: Legacy”, “In Time”, “House M.D.”) and Jon Favreau (portrayed by “Iron Man”, “Iron Man 2”, “Swingers”).

“People Like Us” revolves around a New York corporate barterer named Sam (portrayed by Chris Pine) who got into trouble with an expensive shipment that violates federal law and the Federal Trade Commission threatens the company owned by his friend Richards (portrayed by Jon Favreau) for fraudulent business actions.  So,  now his job is threatened and faces federal inquiry unless he bribes a Federal Official by building a room for his wife at his expense.

Now, desperate in need of money, Sam is in trouble and needs to find the materials to build this room.  But when he gets home, he receives news from his girlfriend Hannah (portrayed by Olivia Wilde) that his father had died.

Sam struggles of going back home for the funeral due to his predicament, but Hannah books them on a flight and the two head to Los Angeles.

He arrives late and misses the funeral but as he arrives home, he is met by an upset mother, Lillian (portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer), because Sam hardly came back to visit.

One day, Sam receives a call from his father’s lawyer (portrayed by Philip Baker Hall) and hoping that he has been left with money, instead he is left with his father’s vinyl collection and left with a shaving kit bag.  When Sam opens up the shaving kit bag, inside is $150,000 in cash and instructions for him to give it to a person at the following address.

Who is this person?  A mistress?

As Sam goes to the address, he finds out that it belongs to a single mother with a son.  When he follows the woman, he finds out her name is Frankie (portrayed by Elizabeth Banks), a recovering alcoholic who works as a bartender and has a troubled 11-year-old son named Josh (portrayed by Michael Hall D’Addario).  When he follows her to an AA meeting, he sees her give a speech about her father who died and that the newspaper mentioned how he left behind a wife and son, but no mention of a daughter and how it hurts her deeply.

Now knowing that his father had a daughter that he never knew about, Sam must make a decision.  Will he keep the money to himself to help offset his debt or make good with his father’s wishes by giving the money to the sister he never knew he had?

VIDEO:

“People Like Us” is presented at 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  I like the fact that Kurtzman wanted to show a different side of Los Angeles and not utilize the banal stock footage scenes to show the glitzier side of the city.  With plenty of outdoor scenes, the picture quality of this film is vibrant, really good detail when it comes to the closeups. Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep and I didn’t see any problems during my viewing of this film.  No artifacts or excessive DNR, picture quality for “People Like Us” on Blu-ray was great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“People Like Us” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 Dolby Digital, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Language.  While the film is primarily a dialogue-driven film, there are scenes that do utilize the surround channels such as an explosion in the pool, speeding through traffic or crowd ambiance.  But “People Like Us” is primarily a front and center-channel driven film.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“People Like Us” comes with the following special features:

  • Number One with a Bullet: The Story Behind “People Like Us” – (14:28) Inspired by true events, filmmakers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci talk about working on big budget films and going back to their roots to create a small film.
  • Audio Commentary 1 – Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Alex Kurtzman and Actors Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks
  • Audio Commentary 2 – Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Alex Kurtzman and Writers Roberto Orci and Jody Lambert
  • Selected Scene Audio Commentary – Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Alex Kurtzman and Actress Michelle Pfeiffer for eight selected scenes.
  • Taco Talk – (4:51) Improv takes featuring Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks and Pine talking about filming at his favorite local taco stand, Henry’s Tacos.
  • Deleted Scenes/Extended Scenes – (18:25) Featuring introductions by Alex Kurtzman for each of the five deleted scenes.
  • Bloopers – (3:24) Outtakes from “People Like Us”.

EXTRAS:

“People Like Us” comes with a DVD version of the film presented in 2:35:1 aspect ratio – enhanced for 16×9 televisions, English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital and Subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.

How far would you go in order to get to know more about a sibling that you never knew existed?  “People Like Us” a film inspired by real-life events of writer/director Alex Kurtzman discovering at the age of 30, that he had two half-siblings.

A personal film for Kurtzman, but also for he and writer/partner Bob Orci, it was a way to step back and return to their roots of film writing and taking that experience to create their own film and for Alex, directing it.

Taking eight years for Kurtzman to write, in many interviews, Kurtzman has said that this film was something he and Bob Orci wanted to create for themselves and allowing part of their lives to be incorporated into this story.  But most importantly, to create an independent film, which would eventually become a studio movie.  While a third writer and good friend of Kurtzman, Jody Lamber was brought into bring a voice outside of the ideas that he and Orci brought to the table.

“People Like Us” is a touching film with a pretty solid cast with Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde and Michelle Pfeiffer.  Amazing to have this cast, considering the film was shot with a low-budget in Los Angeles.

But with family dramas such as “People Like Us” not really being made anymore for today’s cinema, “People Like Us” is an interesting film about two broken individuals who happen to have a connection thanks to their father.  While Chris Pine held his own with wonderful performances by Michelle Pfeiffer, Elizabeth Banks and Olivia Wilde, part of the enjoyment of this film relies on the concept of relationships.

Aside from the character of Sam trying to get to know his sister Frankie, by not telling her who he really is, there are other relationships that come to play in this film.  Sam and his girlfriend Hannah, Sam and his mother Lillian and Frankie and her son Josh.  Each of these relationships are troubled at one point, but somehow and someway they try to find a resolve to the pain that is affecting their relationship.

While the relationship angle worked very well for the film, the whole story of Sam in trouble with the FTC felt unnecessary.  As the film tries to paint him as a man who would do anything for money, the whole trouble of him being in legal trouble felt unnecessary when the film’s primary focus was on relationships and it became more of a distraction.

And one scene that revolves around Frankie trying to threaten the Los Angeles school principal of a lawsuit for her son causing damage to the school pool, for anyone who attends school in Los Angeles know already that causing major damage by explosion at a LAUSD school will automatically lead to expulsion and other problems.  So, I found it a bit interesting for her son to even get a second chance.  And I felt that perhaps there could have been another way of showing that her son is troubled.

But aside from these minor quips, I enjoyed the film and as for the Blu-ray release, how awesome to have three audio commentary tracks included plus other bonus featurettes.  Also, with the film being shot in Los Angeles, many scenes shot outdoors, picture quality looked great.  Colors were vibrant, skin tones were natural and I saw no problems with overall picture quality.  Of course, the film is primarily dialogue-driven but there are some scenes with crowds and the character of Sam in traffic that is carried over into the surround sounds via ambiance.  And last, the Blu-ray release also comes with a DVD version of the film.

Overall, “People Like Us” is a touching and entertaining film with a wonderful cast.  While not too deep or emotional, I found Kurtzman and Orci’s writing to be much better than a few of their big budget films.  And this return for them to get back to their roots worked to the film’s efficacy and the fact they were able to get this cast with the budget they were given is amazing.  And I hope that both Kurtzman and Orci continue in doing more of these type of films or even indie films outside of the big budget sci-fi films which they have done many times throughout their writing oeuvre.

Recommended!

Open Season in 3D (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Hilariously fun and an animated film for the entire family… “Open Season” not only looks very good on Blu-ray, it’s also wonderful of how the film is given new life with this new 3D release.  The film took advantage of 3D then and it takes advantage with this new release now.  If you have a 3D enabled TV and Blu-ray player, this “Open Season in 3D” is definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2006 Sony Pictures Animation Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

TITLE: Open Season in 3D

DURATION: 86 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1) – 2D and 3D, MVC Encoded 3D – Full Resolution L/R Eye, English French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For some Rude Humor, Mild Action and Brief Language)

Release Date: November 16, 2010

Directed by Roger Allers, Jill Culton, Anthony Stacchi

Written by Steve Bencich, Ron J. Friedman, Nat Mauldin

Story by Steve Moore, John B. Carls, Jill Culton, Anthony Stacchi

Executive Producer: John B. Carls, Steve Moore

Producer: Michelle Murdocca

Stereoscopic 3D Producer: Buzz Hays

Co-Producer: Amy Jupter

Animation Executive Producer: Andrea Miloro

Music by Ramin Djawadi

Edited by Ken Solomon, Pam Ziegenhagen

Casting by Mary Hidalgo, Ruth Lambert

Production Design by Michael Humphries

Art Direction by Luc Desmarchelier, Andrew Edward Harkness

Featuring the voices of:

Martin Lawrence as Boog

Ashton Kutcher as Elliot

Gary Sinise as Shaw

Debra Messing as Beth

Bill Connolly as McSquizzy

Georgia Engel as Bobbie

Jon Favreau as Reilly

Jane Krakowski as Giselle

Gordon Tootoosis as Gordy

Patrick Warburton as Ian

Cody Cameron as Mr. Weenie

Nika Futterman as Rosie

Danny Mann as Serge

Jack McGee as Hunter

Michelle Murdocca as Maria

In Sony Pictures Animation’s first feature film, the animated action adventure comedy Open Season, the odd are about to get even. Boog (Martin Lawrence), a domesticated grizzly bear with no survival skills, has his perfect world turned upside down when he meets Elliot (Ashton Kutcher) a scrawny, fast-talking mule deer. When Elliot convinces Boog to leave his cushy home in a park ranger’s garage to try a taste of the great outdoors, things quickly spiral out of control. Relocated to the forest with open season only three days away, Boog and Elliot must acclimate in a hurry. They must join forces to unite the woodland creatures and take the forest back!

Sony Pictures Animation’s first animated film “Open Season” receives its 3D debut on Blu-ray!

The 2006 computer animated film was directed by Roger Allers, Jill Culton and Anthony Stacchi and featured the voices of Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher, Debra Messing, Gary Sinise, Jon Favreau, Matthew W. Taylor, Jane Krakowski ad many more.  The film came out with much fanfare, despite half or the film critics having grown tired of animal-driven animated films, “Open Season”, which was budgeted at around $85 million would earn over $197 million in the box office.

The film which was shown on IMAX 3D receives its second Blu-ray release.  The first version which was one of the earlier Blu-ray titles was released back in January 2007 and becomes the third Sony animated film to receive its 3D release after “Cloudy with the Chance of Meatballs” and “Monster House”.

“Open Season” takes place in the town of Timberline.  Beth (voiced by Debra Messing, “Will & Grace”, “The Starter Wife”) is a park ranger who has raised a grizzly bear named Boog (voiced by Martin Lawrence, “Bad Boys”, “Blue Streak”, “Big Mama’s House”).  Boog has been domesticated and is used to being taken care of by Beth and living in her garage and performing for the townspeople who come to watch the show.

One day while she is driving with Boog to visit the police officer Gordy (voiced by Gordon Tootoosis, “Pocahonatas”, “Legends of the Fall”), she sees a mule deer tied to the trunk of hunter Shaw (voiced by Gary Sinise, “CSI:NY”, “Forrest Gump”, “Apollo 13”).  “Open Season” (when hunters can hunt after animals) had not started yet and thus Beth files a complaint to the police.

Meanwhile, as Boog waits in the back of her jeep, he is shocked to find out that the deer is still alive.  The deer’s name is Elliot (voiced by Ashton Kutcher, “That 70’s Show”, “Killers”, “The Butterfly Effect”) and he can’t believe he now has only one antler left and hopes that Boog can rescue him.  Boog, being the nice bear that he is cuts one of the ropes.  As Beth and Boog leaves, Shaw is now determined in getting revenge on Boog for releasing the deer.

Later that night, as Beth puts Boog to sleep, Elliot comes to rescue Boog.  Boog tells Elliot that he doesn’t live outdoors in the forest and lives at the house.  This shocks Elliot who can’t imagine why an animal would want to be a human’s pet.  So, Elliot tries to entice Boog of going out with him and raiding the town’s convenience store for chocolate bars and food. Boog knows its not right but being the hungry bear that he is, both end up breaking into a small convenience store and eating to their heart’s content.

Unfortunately, Boog is caught by officer Gordy and returned back to Beth’s place.  Gordy tells Beth that she can’t keep him and that if he is going to survive in the outdoors, she needs to let go of him now.  But because Beth has raised him since he was a cub, she wants to wait another year, despite Gordy telling her to do it sooner than later.

The next morning, she takes Boog out for the usual show but Elliot goes back stage and both Boog and Elliot get into an argument.  Because the audience can only see a silhouette of Boog and Elliot, many misinterpret the silhouette of Boog tearing into the deer and killing it and it sends the audience to a panic.  Meanwhile, Shaw feels he has his chance to kill the bear but officer Gordy prevents him.  Beth on the otherhand shoots Boog and Elliot with tranquilizer darts and knows deep inside that Boog has to go back to the outdoors where he really belongs.

Beth has no choice because of the trouble Boog has caused and by helicopter, drops both Boog and Elliot on top of the mountains.  Upon waking up, Boog knows that he is no longer home and blames Elliot for his predicament.  Elliot promises to return Boog back to Timberline but unknown to both Boog and Elliot, “Open Season” is about to begin and the hunters will be going hunting for animals in the forest. Especially the crazed Shaw who is wanting to get a crack at both Boog and Elliot.

Will Boog and Elliot escape from the forest and make it back home to Timberline?

VIDEO:

“Open Season” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1) and in 2D and 3D.  MVC encoded 3D – Full Resolution L/R Eye.  Similar to the last two Sony 3D releases, you get the choice of both versions of the film.  The 2D version is comparable to the 2007 Blu-ray release.

“Open Season” does hold up in 2010 while the fur of the animated characters really look incredible, especially water effects and also the overall design of the outdoors was well-done.  Everything is well-rendered and despite technological advances in computer animation five years after this film was created, the film does hold up quite well.  Good amount of detail, vibrant colors and overall, I detected no significant problems such as artifacting, edge enhancement, etc.

But the real purpose for people wanting this version of “Open Season” is because it is in 3D.

It’s important to note that to play this 3D, you will need a TV that is 3D enabled and comes with its own 3D glasses (or purchase them separately in pack) and also a Blu-ray player that is 3D-enabled as well.

With that being said, I do have personal opinions on 3D.  Films that were created and made for 3D such as “Avatar” and the animated film “MegaMind” show objects coming towards you and a good 3D depth is provided.  But  even for successful animated hits like “Toy Story 3″ and many other “3D” related films, there is less of the objects coming directly at you and more dedication towards depth.   So, you see more separation of the characters and objects with their surroundings.

When Sony released “Cloudy with the Chance of Meatballs”, immediately you knew that is one series that would be great for conversion to 3D because there literally objects flying and dropping all over the place.  With “Monster House”, it was an older 3D release and for me, it was more depth driven than objects flying towards you.  Those are the 3D I tend to look for and I get bored with depth-driven 3D films.  Granted, this is my personal preference and I can tell you that with an older film like “Open Season”, the good news is that it was released in IMAX 3D and also a film in which objects are going out towards the screen and that is a major plus.

Although this film was released nearly five years ago, and was developed even longer, the fact that this film had 3D in mind helps.  From the animals throwing things at you, Boog looking at the camera to water rushing towards the screen and more, there are various scenes in which utilize the 3D quite well and surprisingly, a worth addition to Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s lineup of animated films in 3D.

AUDIO:

“Open Season in 3D” is presented in English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA and in Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The main dialogue comes quite clear through the center channels, as does the music from the front channels but I was expecting a little more from the surround channels.  Certain scenes such as Beth driving in the helicopter or the action scenes near the end of the film sounds great but I was hoping for more ambiance in the outdoors, crickets, wind or other slight noises.  This was a big criticism of the original 2007 Blu-ray release but for the most part, it is a film on Blu-ray that is center and front channel driven.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Open Season in 3D” comes with the following special features:

  • Monster House Sneak Peak in 3D – If you have a 3D enabled TV and player, you can view a sneak peak of “Monster House” in 3D (available now on Blu-ray).
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Sneak Peak in 3D – If you have a 3D enabled TV and player, you can view a sneak peak of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” in 3D (available now on Blu-ray) .
  • The Smurfs Sneak Peak in 3D – If you have a 3D enabled TV and player, you can view a sneak peak of the upcoming “Smurfs” film in 3D.
  • Boog and Elliot’s Midnight Bun Run – (4:31) A short feature with Boog and Elliot trying to steal bear claws inside the trailer of the scientists and trying to evade Mr. Weenie.
  • Behind the Trees Featurette – (15:14) The making of “Open Season” and a look at the work by Sony Pictures animation and what they wanted to accomplish for their first animated film.
  • The Voice Behind the Stars Featurette – (7:35) Featuring the voice talent working behind-the-scenes on “Open Season” and their personal experience working on an animated film.
  • Deleted Scenes – (2:03) Featuring two deleted scenes: Forest 102 and Facial Tick. Note: These are sketches.
  • Music Video: “I Wanna Lose Control (Uh Oh)” by Deathray – (2:19)
  • Inside the Animals Studios: Mr Weenie – (1:31) Featuring a short commentary by Mr. Weenie talking about his favorite scene.
  • Inside the Animals Studios: Porcupine – (:42) Featuring commentary by Porcupine talking about his first major scene.
  • Inside the Animals Studios: Maria the Skunk – (:48) Featuring commentary by Maria the Skunk.  Maria talks about her being upset with Rosie the Skunk.
  • Audio Commentary – (1:26:15) Featuring audio commentary by Michelle Murdocca (producer), Jill Colton (directors), Roger Allers (director) and Anthony Stacchi (co-director).  An informative, upbeat and in-depth commentary on the making of the animated film.
  • Wheel of Fortunes Forest Edition – (14:26) An interactive game hosted by the squirrels.
  • Voice-A-Rama – Hear the voices in various languages for various characters.
  • Swept Away Scenes Deconstruction – (2:30) You can view the swept away scene via storyboards, pre-rendered CG and final cut.
  • Ring Tales – (:53) Three short animated skits (in an animated comic strip-like format).
  • Galleries – View the environments, characters and beat boards (illustration and conceptual art) for “Open Season” using your remote.

“Open Season” is an entertaining animated family film.

During the time of its release, unfortunately we were bombarded with animal-driven animated films but having watched this film again years later, it’s still a fun and entertaining film and it still manages to hold up quite well nearly five years later since its theatrical debut.

With the upcoming third film being planned for a 2011 release, it will be interesting to see how far animation has come since the release of the first film.  While fur effects and various detail on the trees and of course, the way the characters and animals were designed, are quite good, probably the biggest difference is the amount of shading and realism in today’s animation compared to the software available five years ago.  CG animation had gotten better and better in these past five years but still “Open Season” looks great on Blu-ray.  Colors are vibrant and you can see the detail in the fur and water effects in the film.

But the biggest priority for Sony Animation was the story and for the most part, the story is fun, nothing too deep or emotional.  As mentioned, I feel this is a pretty good family film but it is rated PG due to its humor and mild action.  Granted, I’m sure hunters with guns trying to kill the cute animals may not go so far with children but fortunately, no animals are killed in this film.  So, I don’t think parents will need to worry much about this film.

As for those who have the previous 2007 release, in terms of quality and soundtrack, it’s still the same 3D film but now using an English 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack instead of LPCM 5.1.  But for those who are purchasing “Open Season in 3D”, it’s all about the 3D and with not many 3D films out in the market at this time, I can easily give this film a thumbs up because it’s not the all about depth for its 3D presentation, the creators who planned for the IMAX 3D theatrical release, definitely kept this in mind and thus things are coming at you onscreen.

Overall, “Open Season in 3D” comes down to if you enjoyed the film and have the 3D capability for your TV and Blu-ray player and if you want to take advantage of this technology, “Open Season in 3D” is definitely worth it.  Aside from the 3D, there really isn’t anything new for special features or any major enhancements to the 2D portion of the video and audio is featured in DTS-HD MA, so if you own the previous 2007 Blu-ray release, you don’t really have to upgrade unless you have a 3D enabled TV and Blu-ray player.

“Open Season in 3D” is a pretty solid 3D release from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and for those who do own the technology and have been craving more 3D releases, this Blu-ray release is definitely worth picking up right now.

J!-ENT SPECIAL FEATURE: G-FORCE featuring Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Director Hoyt H. Yeatman, Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell and Jon Favreau

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

J!-ENT SPECIAL FEATURE ARTICLE: HERE COMES...G-FORCE!

J!-ENT SPECIAL FEATURE ARTICLE: HERE COMES...G-FORCE!

With the upcoming July 24th release of the film “G-FORCE”, J!-ENT has a special feature article by Dennis A. Amith featuring interviews with Jerry Bruckheimer, Director Hoyt H. Yeatman, Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell and Jon Favreau.

Click here to download and read the article

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