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Smurfs: The Lost Village (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

July 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

For those who enjoy the Smurfs and videophile/audiophile parents looking for an animated film that looks great in 4K Ultra HD, who also want to entertain their children or the entire family, you can’t go wrong with “Smurfs: The Lost Village”. Recommended for the entire family!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Smurfs: Lost Village

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Compatible), English – Audio Description Track, Catalan, Cantonese, Mandarin, Danish, Dutch (Netherlands), finnish, French, German, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Vietnamese 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French, Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Mild Action and Rude Humor)

RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017


Based on the Characters by Peyo

Directed by Kelly Asbury

Written by Stacey Harman, Pamela Ribbon

Producer: Mary Ellen Bauder, Jordan Kerner

Co-Producer: Veronique Culliford, Mandy Tankenson

Executive Producer: Raja Gosnell, Ben Waisbren

Co-Executive Producer: Ben Haber

Music by Christopher Lennertz

Edited by Bret Marnell

Casting by Mary Hidalgo

Production Design by Noelle Triaureau

Art Direction by Dean Gordon, Marcel Vignali


Starring:

Demi Lovato as Smurfette

Rainn Wilson as Gargamel

Joe Manganiello as Hefty Smurf

Jack McBrayer as Clumsy Smurf

Danny Pudi as Brainy Smurf

Mandy Patinkin as Papa Smurf

Dee Bradley Baker as Monty

Frank Welker as Azrael

Michelle Rodriguez as SmurfStorm

Ellie Kemper as SmurfBlossom

Julia Roberts as SmurfWillow

Ariel Winter as SmurfLily

Meghan Trainor as SmurfMelody

Bret Marnell as Snappy Bug

Brandon Jeffords as Cauldron

Kelly Asbury as Nosey Smurf

Jake Johnson as Grouchy Smurf

Gabrielle Iglesias as Jokey Smurf

Tituss Burgess as Vanity Smurf


In this fully animated, all-new take on the Smurfs, a mysterious map sets Smurfette and her best friends Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty on an exciting and thrilling race through the Forbidden Forest filled with magical creatures to find a mysterious lost village before the evil wizard Gargamel does. Embarking on a roller coaster journey full of action and danger, the Smurfs are on a course that leads to the discovery of THE biggest secret in Smurf history!


Back in the late ’50s, Belgian cartoonist Peyo created the comic strips featuring small blue fictional characters known as the Smurfs. A big success in France, the Smurfs would receive various adaptations.

The first were in Belgium via TV animated shorts that were created in 1961-1967, a few of the shorts would be featured in the 1965 in the black-and-white animation “Les Adventures des Schtroumpfs” and then followed by a 1976 animation titled “La Flûte à six schtroumpfs” (The Smurfs and the Magic Flute) which would receive an English version that would inspire more full-length Smurf animated films.

But in America, where the Smurfs gained its popularity is through the 1981 animated TV series which was nominated many times for a Daytime Emmy Award and won the “Outstanding Children’s Entertainment Series” for 1982-1983. The animated series would broadcast on television through 1989.

In 1997, producer Jordan Kerner has been trying to get a “Smurfs” film created but it wasn’t until 2002 when Peyo’s heirs accepted Kerner’s offer and people were able to get their first look at the film via leaked footage on the Internet in 2008.

And in 2011, the first live-action/CG Smurf film of a planned trilogy was released in theaters in 2011. The film which was budgeted for $110 million received lackadaisical reviews from film critics but the film was popular among the younger viewers and earned over $559 million in the box office ensuring the film as a success for Columbia Pictures which would ensure a sequel.

In 2013, “Smurfs 2” would go on to earn over $374 million in the box office, making it another success.

But wanting to create a full 3D CG animated film, the film series was rebooted (now no longer featuring the live action portion), this film (unrelated to the previous two films) is directed by Kelly Asbury (“Shrek 2”, “Gnomeo & Juliet”) and co-written by Stacey Harman (“The Goldbergs”) and Pamela Ribon (“Moana”, “Samantha Who?”, “Bears”) and the film would go on to make $194.7 million in the box office.

And now “Smurfs: The Lost Village” will be released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD in July 2017.  The version I am reviewing is the 4K Ultra HD version which comes with the Blu-ray and an UltraViolet Digital Code.

In this latest film, we are introduced to the story of Smurfette, the only girl in the Smurf Village and how she was created by the wicked wizard Gargamel from a lump of clay.  Despite being created for the purpose of evil (as he in search of the Smurf village to steal all of their essences to become the most powerful wizard in the world), she was given a chance by Papa Smurf and became part of the village.

One day, Brainy Smurf is creating an invention that can determine one’s energy.  As Hefty Smurf was tested, the invention showed that his energy was strength and Brainy was able to extract that into a liquid.  But when tested on Smurfette, because she isn’t a true Smurf, she drew in energy and so the invention didn’t work on her.

As Smurfette, Brainy, Hefty and Clumsy Smurf go out for some playtime, while flying out with a leaf, a gust of wind carries her to the Forbidden Forest where she crashes.  Smurfette sees a smurf watching her and it runs off past the wall leading to the Forbidden Forest.

But when Smurfette tells the three of what she saw, she is grabbed by Gargamel’s vulture, Monty back to his lair.

This leads Brainy, Hefty and Clumsy to go on a rescue mission to save Smurfette and when they get her out to go to the village, they want to tell Papa Smurf about her discovery.  But when Papa Smurf forbids them and punishes them for going out there, the four sneak out to search if there is a “LostVillage”of Smurfs aside from theirs.


VIDEO:

“Smurfs: Lost Village” receives its first 4K Ultra HD release and this latest animation is fantastic.  Presented in 2160p (1:85:1 aspect ratio), it’s a different style compared to the previous two films which tries to add skin texturing but for the most part, the animation is done very well with great hair physics and for the most part, it’s an animation style that is respectful to Peyo’s original work and also for those who remember the animated series.   Meanwhile, environments are well-rendered with amazing detail.  The picture quality of this film is fantastic!

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Audio quality is equally impressive. Presented in English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Compatible), English – Audio Description Track, Catalan, Cantonese, Mandarin, Danish, Dutch (Netherlands), Finnish, French, German, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Vietnamese 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Considering that this animated film has a good number of action sequences, the lossless audio utilizes the surround channels.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear, while action sequences sound magnificent through the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French, Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Smurfs: The Lost village” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special features:

  • Emoji Sneak Peak – (2:04) A sneak peek for the upcoming “Emoji” film.
  • Filmmaker Commentary– Featuring audio commentary by director Kelly Asbury and Allan Hawkins (Animation Supervisor) and Brandon Jeffords (Head of Story).
  • Deleted Scenes – (7:35) Featuring four deleted scenes.
  • Kids at Heart! The Making of Smurfs: The Lost Village – (9:09) The making of “Smurfs: The Lost Village” and behind-the-scenes at Sony Pictures Animation.
  • The Lost Auditions – (4:07) Voice talents auditioning for other Smurf roles.
  • Demi Lovato Meets Smurfette – (:58) Smurfette interviews Demi Lovato.
  • Lost Village Dance Song  – (3:10) Featuring children dancing to the “Lost Village Dance Song”.
  • Smurfify Your Nails – (2:18) A featurette on how to smurfify nails.
  • Baker Smurf’s Mini Kitchen – (4:05)  A featurette featuring Baker Smurf narrating one preparing a baked dish.
  • Meghan Trainor “I’m a Lady Music Video”
  • Making the Song “You Will Always find Me In Your Heart” – (3:00) Christopher Lennertz discuss making the music for a certain scene.
  • The Sound of The Smurfs – (3:42) Kelly Asbury and Christopher Lennertz discuss the music for Smurfs: The Lost Village”.
  • Draw Your Favorite Smurfs – (7:40) How to draw various Smurf characters.
  • See More Smurfs! – (5:48) “Smurf” film trailers

EXTRAS:

“Smurfs: The Lost Village” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


Having grown up with watching “Smurfs” on television and reading the comics, and since 2011, it was cool to watch the films alongside my young son who pretty much grew up not with the animated films but the two previous films.

And he were are now in 2017, we have an animated film which will no doubt entertain families but I feel it’s a film that is much easier for me, as an adult to watch, versus watching Smurf and human collaborations onscreen.

Part of the entertaining factor of the original series is the adventures that the Smurfs are involved in and the various characters to work with.  While “Smurfs: The Lost Village” features primarily Smurfette, Brainy Smurf, Hefty Smurf and Clumsy Smurf, the film does a great job of incorporating other Smurfs but most importantly answers a question of what if there is a village of other Smurfs out there?

What if Smurfette wasn’t the only female Smurf around?

And sure enough, “Smurfs: The Lost Village” is quite fun to watch because we see another village but instead of all male, it’s all female.  And similar to Papa Smurf and his village of male smurfs, we see Mama Smurf and her village of female smurfs.  And needless to say, it makes for a fun, entertaining story.

As always, Gargamel is the primary antagonist.  Still trying to search for Smurfs to capture their essence in order to make him a powerful wizard.  Sure there is quite a bit of peril and rude humor (thanks to Gargamel) that raises the rating to PG but parents watching alongside their children need not worry at all.  It’s a great animated film that the entire family can enjoy!

As for the 4K Ultra HD presentation, animation is fantastic.  While much different compared to the previous two films, this time around, the animated film is much truer to Peyo’s work.  Especially for those who grew up watching the animated series.  Movements and hair physics to the way the characters move were well-animated and the detail of environments are full of detail.  In fact, this film looks absolutely vibrant in HD.

The lossless soundtrack is just as impressive.  Featuring crystal clear dialogue and music but also great use of the surround channels during the action sequences.  And last, there are a good number of special features included as well.

Overall, for those who enjoy the Smurfs and videophile/audiophile parents looking for an animated film that looks great in 4K Ultra HD, who also want to entertain their children or the entire family, you can’t go wrong with “Smurfs: The Lost Village”.  Recommended for the entire family!

 

Money Monster (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Depending on the individual watching this film, “Money Monster” can be an entertaining film or just a film mirroring the corruption that exist in the world today that makes us sick.  Or like me, feeling both. So, I do have mixed feelings about the film.  But for those wanting an entertaining thriller, “Money Monster” may be worth your time!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Money Monster

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:39:1), English, French and Portuguese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English – Audio Description Track, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (Simplified), Cantonese (Traditional), French, Indonesian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Language Throughout, Some Sexuality and Brief Violence)

Release Date: September 6, 2016


Directed by Jodie Foster

Screenplay by Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf

Story by Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf

Produced by Lara Alameddine, Daniel Dubiecki, Grant Heslov

Co-Producer: Joseph P. Reidy

Executive-Producer: Tim Crane, Kerry Orent

Cinematography by Matthew Libatique

Music by Dominic Lewis

Edited by Matt Chesse

Casting by Avy Kaufman

Production Design by Kevin Thompson

Art Direction by Deborah Jensen

Set Decoration: Lydia Marks

Costume Design by Susan Lyall


Starring:

George Clooney as Lee Gates

Julia Roberts as Patty Fenn

Jack O’Connell as Kyle Budwell

Dominic West as Walt Camby

Caitriona Balfe as Diane Lester

Giancarlo Esposito as Captain Powell

Christopher Denham as Rob Sprecher


In the real-time, high stakes thriller, George Clooney and Julia Roberts star as financial TV host Lee Gates and his producer Patty, who are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor who has lost everything (Jack O’Connell) forcefully takes over their studio. During a tense standoff broadcast to millions on live TV, Lee and Patty must work furiously against the clock to unravel the mystery behind a conspiracy at the heart of today’s fast-paced, high-tech global markets.


Actress Jodie Foster has come along way as a director since her ’90s films “Little Man Tate” and “Home for the Holidays” and here 2011 film “The Beaver”.

Having focused on television directing for shows such as “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards”, Foster returns as director of the film “Money Monster”.

The film stars George Clooney (“Gravity”, “Ocean’s Eleven”, “Up in the Air”), Julia Roberts (“Notting Hill”, “Closer”, “Pretty Woman”, “Erin Brokovich”), Jack O’Connell (“Unbroken”, “300: Rise of the Empire”, “’71”), Dominic West (“300”, “Chicago”, “John Carter”) and Caitriona Balfe (“Now You See Me”, “Escape Plan”, “Outlander”).

And now “Money Monster” arrives on Blu-ray and DVD in September 2016 courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film begins with an introduction to TV financial expert Lee Gates (portrayed by George Clooney) who hosts the show “Money Monster”, which has been successful thanks to his fun television antics and the support of his longtime director, Patty Fenn (portrayed by Julia Roberts).

When Lee is working on the live airing of “Money Monster”, he was to interview IBIS CEO Walt Camby (portrayed by Dominic West) about the crash of the IBIS Clear Capital stock, which crashed due to a glitch in a trading algorithm which cost investors $800 million.

But because Camby left for a business trip to Geneva, Lee is unable to interview him.

But while filming his show, a deliveryman wanders onto the set of “Money Monster” and pulls out a gun and takes Gates hostage.

The delivery man’s name is Kyle Budwell (portrayed by Jack O’Connell) who invested $60,000, his entire life savings which he inherited from his deceased mother to IBIS, after Lee endorsed the company a month earlier and claimed that it was a safe pick.

Now Kyle is upset that he and other investors lost a lot of money and wants Lee to pay for endorsing the stock.  Kyle forces Lee to put on a vest filled with explosives and that if he doesn’t comply by answering his questions, he will detonate the explosives, which will destroy the building and kill everyone inside the building.

Because the show is live, millions of people all over the world are watching the show.  Many unsure if what is happening is real or fake but after Kyle shoots a big screen, many realize that what is transpiring is very much real and Lee Gates is in big trouble.

As Patty tries to assist Lee via communications through his earpiece, the “Money Monster” staff tries to find the whereabouts of Walt Camby.

Meanwhile, IBIS chief communications officer Diane Lester (portrayed by Caitriona Balfe) and Camby’s girlfriend wants to find answers to why the stock crashed and lost $800 million.  When she contacts a programmer in South Korea, Won Joon (portrayed by Aaron Yoo) tells her that there is no way an algorithm could not take such a large amount of money down, unless a human messed with it.

As police try to find ways to get Kyle to give up, they learn that the receiver of the bomb is located over Lee’s kidney and come up with a plan that in order to prevent the detonation of the bomb, they will shoot Lee with the hope that he survives from the gunshot.

When Patty and her staff get wind of this and relay the information to Lee, how will he respond?  And through the course of the day, what will Lee and his staff find out about the truth of why the IBIS stock lost $800 million?


VIDEO:

“Money Monster” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). For the most part, the majority of the film is shot indoors but the film is well-lit and closeup details are good.  Closeup details of the skin and clothing, skin tones look natural and black levels are nice and deep.  The film looks great in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Money Monster” is presented in English, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The soundtrack is also presented in English – Audio Description Track, Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.

The soundtrack is primarily dialogue with surround channels being used for ambiance (such as crowd scenes) and your occasional gun shots during the film. Overall, lossless soundtrack is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Money Monster” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (2:22) Featuring three deleted scenes.
  • George Clooney: The Money Man – (5:27) A featurette about George Clooney playing the character of Lee Gates and making him this character that can sell financial products.
  • Inside the Pressure Cooker – (9:54) The cast and crew discuss the film and about how everyone is under pressure and time is of the essence.
  • Analysis of a Scene: The Showdown – (7:09) A featurette analyzing the final scene.  (Note: Do not watch this featurette before watching the film as there are spoilers.)
  • Dan the Automator (Feat. Del the Funky Homosapien) – “What Makes the World Go ‘Round (Money!)” Music Video – (3:03)

EXTRAS:

“Money Monster” comes with a slipcover an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


The financial institution is rigged.

This is the message that filmmaker Jodie Foster and writers Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore and Jim Kouf are cajoling to audiences watching the thriller, “Money Monster”.

George Clooney’s Lee Gates is reminiscent of CNBC’s Jim Kramer but with more pizazz and over-the-top antics that viewers have come to watch and believe in the financial information that he gives to his viewers.

And when Lee Gates tells people about purchasing the IBIS stock, no one expected the stock to tank by $800 million not long after.

But when disgruntled Kyle Budwell, disguised as a delivery man, walks into the newsroom and during a live broadcast, takes Lee Gates hostage and threatens to blow the entire building with a bomb (attached to a vest which is placed on Lee), the cable show garners millions of viewers worldwide, watching everything play out.

Meanwhile, “Money Monster” producer Patty Fenn (portrayed by Julia Roberts) tries to keep her friend/host alive by trying to feed information to him via an earpiece and making sure he doesn’t get himself killed, meanwhile trying to find a way to use the broadcast alongside Lee to figure out the truth of why $800 million of IBIS stock tanked and to find out where is IBIS CEO Walter Camby, who was supposed to be on the show to be interviewed about the crash.

As the “Money Monster” staff work behind the scenes, we see IBIS chief communications officer Diane Lester (portrayed by Caitriona Balfe) doing her research in trying to uncover clues of how IBIS stock tanked so heavily.  Trying to find out how an algorithm glitch could lose many millions of dollars for investors.

But who does the audience sympathize, Lee…the host of “Money Monster”?  Or do they sympathize with Kyle Budwell, a person who used his deceased mother’s $65,000 to invest in the IBIS stock and to lose it all.

Granted, while the character of Kyle Budwell goes beyond madman and some can see him trying to seek answers for those who lost money, we start to see things go wrong in multiple directions, especially with law enforcement.

Police want a sniper to shoot Lee in order to destroy the bomb receiver in the vest.  By shooting Lee and destroying the receiver, you save many people.  And of course, when the “Money Monster” staff find out about this, this does not bode well for them.

Also, when the police decide to bring in Kyle’s girlfriend to help diffuse the situation, they don’t realize how unstable she is.

But we see is a mess of a hostage situation tangled in the corruption that can exist in the financial institution.

Ant that is part of the problem that I had with “Money Monster”, Clooney’s Lee is not supposed to be a strong character but a man who discovers the corruption in the system that he was part of.  The police let you down because they are equally making bad choices in the film, the “Money Monster” staff are just as bad, fornicating in the IT server room.

There is so much corruption in the film that you want to see some accountability and instead you get one major FAIL after the other.   The only person that really stands out in this film is Julia Robert’s Patty Fenn who seems to be the only one making the right decisions.

While the film was made popular for George Clooney and Julia Roberts working together in this film directed by actress/filmmaker Jodie Foster, these three talents collaborating together is quite entertaining and literally makes you want to watch this film.

But a romantic comedy this is not.  This is a film about bad choices and the corruption and filth that rears its dirty head in society.

Added with the bad suggestion by the film’s protagonist, because of the irresponsibility of media and law enforcement, the corruption in the financial institution, watching “Money Monster”, I felt like the characters who are watching the hostage scene take place on television in the movie, disbelief and knowing deep inside that the film reflects reality.

We watch cinema for a true escape (often to get away from reality), but “Money Monster” is less about an escape but a reminder of the messed up things we see day after day in news media about the things that can go wrong, is going wrong, but not just in our country but around the world.

Depending on the individual watching this film, “Money Monster” can be an entertaining film or just a film mirroring the corruption that exist in the world today that makes us sick.  Or like me, feeling both. So, I do have mixed feelings about the film.  But for those wanting an entertaining thriller, “Money Monster” may be worth your time!

Mystic Pizza (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“Mystic Pizza” is an enjoyable coming-of-age film that retains its humor and youthfulness nearly 25-years-later.  Julia Roberts shines in her feature film debut!  For fans of the film, although a barebones Blu-ray release, it’s worth the upgrade from DVD.

Images courtesy of © 1988 Orion Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Mystic Pizza

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1988

DURATION: 104 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen (1:85:1), English 2.0 Surround DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Surround, French Mono, Subtitles: English SDH, French

COMPANY: MGM/Twentieth Century Fox

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: April 5, 2011

Directed by Donald Petrie

Story by Amy Holden Jones

Screenplay by Amy Holden Jones, Perry Howze, Randy Howze, Alfred Uhry

Producer: Mark Levinson, Scott M. Rosenfelt

Executive Producer: Samuel Goldwyn Jr.

Line Producer: Susan Vogelfang

Music by David McHugh

Cinematography by Tim Suhrstedt

Edited by Don Brochu, Marion Rothman

Casting By Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins

Production Design by David Chapman

Art Direction by Mark Haack

Set Decoration by Clay A. Griffith

Costume Design by Jennifer von Mayrhauser

Starring:

Annabeth Gish as Kat Arujo

Julia Roberts as Daisy Arujo

Lili Taylor as Jojo

Vincent D’Onofrio as Bill

William R. Moses as Tim Travers

Adam Storke as Charles Gordon Windsor, Jr.

Conchata Ferrell as Leona

Joanna Merlin as Mrs. Arujo

Porscha Radcliffe as Phoebe Travers

Arthur Walsh as Manny

John Fiore as Jake

“Filled with heart and humor” (The New York Times), Mystic Pizza charts the lives and loves of three unforgettable waitresses in a little town called Mystic. Starring Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich), Annabeth Gish (Beautiful Girls) and Lili Taylor (The Haunting), Mystic Pizza “has all the right ingredients of a main-course favorite” (Video Movie Guide).

In 1988, Julia Roberts made her feature film debut in the coming-of-age film “Mystic Pizza”.

Directed by Donald Petrie (“Grumpy Old Men”, “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”, “Miss Congeniality) and featured a screenplay by Amy Holden Jones (“Indecent Proposal”, “Beethoven”), Perry and Randy Howze (“Chances Are”, “Maid to Order”) and Alfred Uhry (“Driving Miss Daisy”).

The film received positive reviews from the critics and is best known for launching the careers of Julia Roberts, Annabeth Gish and Lili Taylor and a film where a young Matt Damon makes an appearance.

“Mystic Pizza” takes place in Mystic, Connecticut, a fishing town with a large Portuguese American population and focuses on the lives of three friends, Jojo Barboza (played by Lili Taylor), Daisy Aruo (played by Julia Roberts) and her younger sister Kat Arujo (played by Annabeth Gish).  All three work for the pizza restaurant, Mystic Pizza.

On the day of Jojo’s wedding to Bill (played by Vincent D’Onofrio), the whole thought of marriage starts to hit her while the priest is reading their vows and she faints.  The wedding is canceled but Jojo feels that she is not ready to be married.  She loves Bill but she doesn’t want to get married or have children now, but unfortunately, it’s something that Bill really wants.

Meanwhile, Daisy is the grown up sister who tends to mess around with many guys and goes to nightclubs.  Unlike her sister Kat, who is attending college at Yale and has four jobs, Daisy knows that she doesn’t really do much of anything but be with guys, work and drink beer.

But one night while at the bar with Jojo and Bill, Daisy spots Charles Gordon Windsor, Jr. (played by Adam Storke), a guy who looks rich and he and his friends look out of place by being at the bar that she attends.  But both meet each other’s eyes and when she beats him at a game of pool, she notices that she is smitten by him but knows that she probably will never see him again.

As for Kat, she is trying to make money for the next semester at Yale.  So, she takes up another job as a babysitter for Yale graduate Tim Travers (played by William R. Moses).  While his wife is away in London, he is busy working on reconstruction for a building in town and hires Kat to watch over his daughter.

While Jo tries to avoid Bill’s discussion of marriage, Daisy’s life seems to be getting better as she notices the wealthy guy she met at the bar, Charles at her home.  It appears that he was so smitten by her, he has been looking for her and eventually the two go out.

Kat also seems happier as she loves babysitting Tim’s daughter but she also finds him so intriguing as he is compassionate but also intelligent and they have a lot in common and begins to fall for him.  But with Tim being married, will their attraction lead to an affair?

So, as these three young woman try to deal with their relationships, they also try to figure out the secret recipe used on the pizza that their boss Leona (played by Conchat Ferrell) is using but also hoping that the TV news food critic will come and try their excellent pizza.

What is in store for Jo, Daisy and Kat with the men in their lives…  happiness or pain?

VIDEO:

“Mystic Pizza” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1).  The good news is that the picture quality is better than its DVD counterpart but the not-so-good news is that the film does show its age.  It’s something that I’ve noticed with a lot of ’80s films on Blu-ray and it’s the fact that the film elements used at the time, don’t always look so great.

In the case of “Mystic Pizza”, there are times where you can see a lot of noise, you can see dust and speckles, banding and also some artifacts.  Granted, it’s not throughout the film but it’s there.  But there are times where the picture quality does look absolutely great.  In one scene, during a closeup of Julia Roberts face, you can see the detail of her skin which for me, was not noticeable on the original DVD release but I noticed it much more in the Blu-ray release.

So, for the most part, “Mystic Pizza” definitely looks better than its DVD counterpart.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Mystic Pizza” is presented in English 2.0 Surround DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Surround and French Mono.  The film is primarily a dialogue-driven film but there are times you get schmaltzy ’80s music (unfortunately, the ’80s music doesn’t hold up too well nearly 25-years later).  But English dialogue is clear and for the most part, the soundtrack is appropriate for this film.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mystic Pizza” comes with the following special feature:

  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:50) Featuring the original theatrical trailer to “Mystic Pizza”.

An enjoyable coming-of-age film that retains its humor and youthfulness nearly 25-years-later.

During a time where people grew up with “The Brat Pack” and youthfulness was typically seen in film such as “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “The Breakfast Club” in the mid-80s, it was refreshing to have new faces in the late ’80s and to see these young women, who were not known at the time, really carry this film.

There was no doubt at the time that Julia Roberts was going to be a star.  She had the looks and she could act and while “Steel Magnolias” which followed after “Mystic Pizza” was not exactly the vehicle that would launch her to stardom, when “Pretty Woman” came in 1990, America knew that she would be the sweetheart of the big screen. But “Mystic Pizza” is the film to see how the actress in her first feature film.

And actresses Lili Taylor and Annabeth Gish would also give a solid performance.  Llil Taylor was perfect as the naughty/conflicted friend Jojo while Gish played the opposite of Roberts, being the more studious and prudish younger sister.

The writing for “Mystic Pizza” was also well-done as you had a realistic storyline to carry the women through an emotional roller coaster as the three friends would experience their highs and lows together, throughout the film and it was tastefully done and believable.  Call it a “chick flick” or a coming-of-age film but I can tell you that back in 1988, “Mystic Pizza” was a refreshing film to watch.

And to watch it again in 2011, the storyline holds up, the music…not so much but it was great to see this film again and to watch it now in HD.

While the Blu-ray may not be the perfect release as it doesn’t contain any special features but the theatrical trailer, nor is the picture quality the greatest, it’s still a major step-up from its DVD counterpart and I can easily recommend this film to fans who owned the original DVD.

Overall, “Mystic Pizza” is a wonderful, fun and touching film that was as entertaining now as it was back in 1988.  Although a barebones Blu-ray release, for fans of the film, I recommend the upgrade!  Definitely a comedy worth checking out 25-years after its initial release.

JULIA ROBERTS TALKS ABOUT HER NEWEST CO-STAR- “LATE SHOW” STAGE MANAGER BIFF HENDERSON – WHEN SHE VISITS CBS’S “LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN,” WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 4

August 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Superstar Julia Roberts talks about her newest co-star – LATE SHOW stage manager Biff Henderson – when she visits the LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN, Wednesday, Aug. 4 on the CBS Television Network.

During the interview, Letterman asked Roberts about the movie she just shot, “Larry Crowne,” with Tom Hanks and said, “Now, you just finished a movie with Tom Hanks and Biff Henderson is in the movie. Is this a typo?” Roberts said, “Listen, my first day, I show up on this Tom Hanks movie, the great Tom Hanks. He has written this movie, he is going to star in this movie, he is going to direct this movie. He has asked me to play a part in this movie. I’m very excited. I show up on my first day, I’m a little bit nervous, and I walk on the set and who do I see but my good friend, Biff Henderson.”

Letterman asks Henderson to come on stage, where Roberts invites the LATE SHOW stage manager to sit in the guest chair next to her. Henderson revealed, “My character is a guy called Cappy…He goes to a diner every morning that Julia likes to eat breakfast at, I believe. Isn’t that right?” Roberts added, “Well, it’s the first time I’ve been there, but that’s okay.” Letterman asked Roberts if she and Hanks fall in love in the movie, and she says no, and Letterman then jokes, “Don’t tell me you and Biff fall in love.” Roberts laughs, “There’s always a sub-plot. You never know what it’s going to be, but there’s always a sub-plot.” Letterman asks Henderson, “Are you in it long, Biff, the movie?” Henderson said, “I just hope I’m in it,” and Roberts added, “You and me both, brother.”

Roberts’ entire interview can be seen on the LATE SHOW tonight (11:35 PM-12:37 AM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. The actress stars in the new film “Eat Pray Love,” which opens in theaters Aug. 13.

Also on tonight’s LATE SHOW is a performance by musical guests The Dead Weather.

The LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN is a presentation of Worldwide Pants Incorporated. Barbara Gaines, Matt Roberts, Jude Brennan, Maria Pope, Eric Stangel, Justin Stangel and Rob Burnett are the executive producers.

Official CBS website: http://www.cbs.com/late_night/late_show

Mona Lisa Smile (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“Mona Lisa Smile” features an all-star cast and a solid performance by Julia Roberts!

© 2003 Revolution Studios Distribution Company, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Mona Lisa Smile

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English, French, Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Thai, Spanish 5.1 (Dolby Digital), Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Korean, Thai, Chinese (Traditional), Chinese (Simplified), Indonesian, Arabic, Dutch

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (For Sexual Content/Thematic Issues)

RELEASE DATE: February 2, 2010

Directed by Mike Newell

Written by Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal

Executive Producer: Joe Roth

Produced by Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Paul Schiff, Deborah Schindler

Co-Producer: Richard Baratta

Music by Rachel Portman

Cinematography by Anastas N. Michos

Edited by Mick Audsley

Casting by Ellen Chenoweth, Susie Farris

Production Design by Jane Musky

Art Direction by Patricia Woodbridge

Set Decoration by Susan bode

Costume Design by Michael Dennison

Starring:

Julia Roberts as Katherine Ann Watson

Kirsten Dunst as Betty Warren

Julia Stiles as Joan Brandwyn

Maggie Gyllenhaal as Giselle Levy

Ginnifer Goodwin as Connie Baker

Dominic West as Bill Dunbar

Juliet Stevenson as Amanda Armstrong

Marcia Gay Harden as Nancy Abbey

Jon Slattery as Paul Moore

Marian Seldes as President Jocelyn Carr

Topher Grace as Tommy Donegal

Academy Award(r)-winner Julia Roberts (Best Actress in a Leading Role, Erin Brockovich, 2000) leads an all-star cast featuring Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhall and Marcia Gay Harden. MONA LISA SMILE is a funny, inspiring and uplifting film about an art history professor with a lot to teach about life and much to learn about romance.

In 2003, the film “Mona Lisa Smile” which was a loose adaptation of the novel “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” by Muriel Spark was released in theaters.

The film which was released a week before Christmas did quite well at the box office (considering “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” was dominating the box office) and made over $141 million worldwide.

“Mona Lisa Smile” was directed by Mike Newell (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”, “Donnie Brasco”, “Four Weddings and a Funeral”) and a screenplay by Lawrence Konner (“The Sopranos”, “Might Joe Young”, “The Beverly Hillbillies”) and Mark Rosenthal (“Planet of the Apes”, “Mighty Joe Young”, “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”).  The film featured cinematography by Anastas N. Michos (“What Dreams May Come”, “Stepmom”, “Dead Presidents”) and music by Rachel Portman (“Grey Gardens” TV, “The Lake House”, “Oliver Twist”, “The Manchurian Candidate”).

“Mona Lisa Smile” takes place in 1953 when teacher Katherine Ann Watson (played by Julia Roberts, “Steel Magnolias”, “Pretty Woman”, “Notting Hill”) from Los Angeles moves to Massachusetts to teach at Wellesley College, a conservative women’s private liberal arts college.

Katherine is a teacher who was quite independent at the time and wanted her students, who were very intelligent and had potential to do what they want career-wise and would suggest them to not follow the ’50s ideal that a woman must get married, raise a family and not follow a career path.  To not conform to the female stereotype.

But in 1953, Wellesley College supported the notion that women married and not follow any career goals despite the students doing exceptionally well in school.  And thus, the conservative women including the board and faculty feel that Watson should not use her class to express her liberal points of views to her students and focus on teaching art.

“Mona Lisa Smile” features an all-star case with Kirsten Dunst (“Spider-Man” films, “Bring it On”) as Betty, the woman who doesn’t get along with Mrs. Watson and is also pursuing her life as a married student; Julia Styles  (“The Bourne Identity” films, “10 Things I Hate About You”, “Save the Last Dance”) as Joan who is highly intelligent and has a chance to go to Yale University to pursue law to be a career woman but also torn by the ’50s notion that she must be a housewife and raise a family; Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Dark Knight”, “Adaptation”, “World Trade Center”) as Giselle, a woman who has had a difficult childhood and has had flings with the male teaching faculty; Ginnifer Goodwin (“Big Love”, “Walk the Line”) as Connie, the student trying to find love; and Marcia Gay Harden (“The Maiden Heist”, “Damages”, “Mystic River”) as Nancy, the roommate of Katherine who has become a somewhat of a recluse.

VIDEO:

“Mona Lisa Smile” is feature in 1080p High Definition (aspect ratio of 1:85:1).  The film looks much better over its DVD counterpart as skin tones are natural but the film is not vibrant as I would of hoped.  There is a fine layer of grain but the film looks like it has been washed out.  The detail that I was hoping to see in the Blu-ray release may be better than the original DVD release but it wasn’t as brilliant, sharp or clear as I was hoping.  The film has strong production quality and some scenes manage to capture the feel and look of the early ’50s but the details and colors were average, not amazing on HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

For audio, “Mona Lisa Smile” is featured in English, French and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and also Thai and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1.  The film is primarily a dialogue driven film.  The lossless soundtrack is satisfactory for this type of film.  During times where there is music, that is when you feel the soundtrack does come alive but for the most part, the film is front and center channel driven.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Korean, Thai, Chinese (Traditional), Chinese (Simplified), Indonesian, Arabic and Dutch.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mona Lisa Smile” comes with the following special features in standard definition, English stereo and subtitles in Spanish, French, Dutch, Chinese (Traditional), Korean, Portuguese and Thai.

  • Art Forum – (6:40) The talent of “Mona Lisa Smile” discuss the art featured in the film and their thoughts on art.
  • College Then and Now – (14:39) Featuring footage from the film and interviews with the cast about how things have changed then and now in college for women.
  • What Women Wanted 1953 – (10:42) A making of “Mona Lisa Smile” and how things were back in 1953.
  • Music Video – Elton John “The Heart of Every Girl” – For those who love “The Heart of Every Girl”, a music video by Elton John.
  • BD-Live Enabled

“Mona Lisa Smile” was for the most part an average film that was nothing spectacular but did take the early ’50s and show how there were women who tried to give their students choices and showing that they didn’t have a choice to follow the stereotype of women during that time.  But somehow, when men write the screenplay about the women’s movement, it just doesn’t feel right.

If anything, its success in the box office was due to Julia Roberts and the number of talents featured in the film, but its important to note that “Mona Lisa Smile” was helped with the controversy that surrounded it.

It’s important to note that this is a fictional story based adapted from a novel and the screenwriters are using Wellesley College as the setting.  There is no historical accuracy and with that being said, sometimes its best to not use a real name of a college when these events simply didn’t happen at the college.  If anything, all the college did was give the filmmakers the opportunity to shoot at the school because they were going to use the name of the college no matter what.

For one, the film being shot at Wellesley College and students upset that they were being disrupted from attending school and for the most part, the lack of minority students featured in the film (the filmmakers said they wanted to make it authentic to how things were in 1953) and of course, even the current and past alumni who were upset with the “distorted and demeaning portrayal” of their alma mater, prompting the President of Wellesley College to write a letter to the alumnae in regards to the film.

As mentioned, the Blu-ray PQ is marginally better than the DVD release and as for special features, there is nothing new introduced into this release aside from being BD-Live Enabled.

Overall, if you enjoyed the film, the upgrade in HD and lossless audio may be good if you don’t own the previous DVD release but overall, “Mona Lisa Smile” is an average film and an average Blu-ray release.

STEPMOM (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 24, 2003 by · Leave a Comment 

Netflix, Inc.

BUY THIS DVD

MOVIE COMPANY: Warner Bros.

MOVIE COMPANY: Columbia Pictures
CAST: Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, Ed Harris, Margaret French Isaac, Ron Bass, Pliny Porter and more.
DIRECTED BY: Chris Columbus
PRODUCED BY: Wendy Finerman, Mark Radcliffe, Michael Barnathan
RATING: PG-13
INTERNET MOVIE DATABASE URL: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0120686
TYPE OF MOVIE: Drama, Comedy
DURATION: 125 minutes


Anna and Ben, the two children of Jackie and Luke, have to cope with the fact that their parents divorced and that there is a new woman in their father’s life: Isabel, a successful photographer. She does her best to treat the kids in a way that makes them still feel at home when being with their dad, but also loves her work and does not plan to give it up. But Jackie, a full-time mother, regards Isabel’s efforts as offensively insufficient. She can’t understand that work can be important to her as well as the kids. The conflict between them is deepened by the sudden diagnose of cancer, which might may be deadly for Jackie. They all have to learn a little in order to grow together. (IMDB)

DVD EXTRAS:

• Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
• Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen, Dolby
• Production notes
• Theatrical trailer(s)
• Making-Of Featurette
• Full-screen and widescreen anamorphic formats

KNOWN DVD SECRET(S):

DVD REVIEW:

My wife and her friends enjoyed this movie.  A chick-flick as she tells me.  For me the movie was an interesting take on “stepmoms”, where the typical movies usual show the children trying to get mom and dad back together, this one focuses on the struggle of a mom and her ex-husbands fiance soon to be mom.  Then the reality that she has cancer and that she has to come to terms that the children may have a new mother. It’s an emotional movie that Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon play their roles very well.

The DVD is good and the audio is typical for a dialogue film.  The only notable extras is the trailers and making-of-featurette.  This DVD is one of the few that you will find for under $10.

If you are a stepmom to be, please check this movie out.  It’s a good way to watch and also put yourself in the shoes of the other mom.

Check it out!

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

RUNAWAY BRIDE (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 1, 2002 by · Leave a Comment 

Netflix, Inc.

BUY THIS DVD

MOVIE COMPANY: Paramount Pictures
CAST: Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, Joan Cusack, Hector Elizondo, Rita Wilson and Paul Dooley
DIRECTED BY: Garry Marshall
PRODUCED BY: Josan Mcgibbon and Sara Parriott
RATING: PG
INTERNET MOVIE DATABASE URL: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0163187
TYPE OF MOVIE: Comedy, Romance
DURATION: 116 minutes


Ike Graham, New York columnist, writes his text always at the last minute. This time, a drunken man in his favourite bar tells Ike about Maggie Carpenter, a woman who always flees from her grooms in the last possible moment. Ike, who does not have the best opinion about females anyway, writes an offensive column without researching the subject thoroughly. The next day, Ike gets fired by his publisher (and former wife), because he went too far and faked the facts, which real journalists don’t do. Ike’s only way back into the business now is to do a fact-based report on Maggie and her upcoming fourth wedding attempt, which Ike predicts to fail again. So, as he circles her like a vulture his pray-to-be, Maggie’s opinion of Ike sinks below zero. Not only is Ike waiting for her to fail again but the whole town is poking fun at Maggie about her mistakes. But that is a point which Ike doesn’t like. (IMDB)

DVD EXTRAS:

• Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
• Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen, Dolby, Digital Sound, DTS Surround Sound
• Commentary by director Garry Marshall
• Production notes
• Theatrical trailer(s)
• Music Video: Ready to Run by the Dixie Chicks
• Widescreen anamorphic format

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

DVD REVIEW:

I wanted to see this movie so badly because I really enjoyed “Pretty Woman”.  There’s no denying that Richard Gere and Julia Roberts have good chemistry in both movies but for some reason I didn’t enjoy this film as I thought I would have.

I guess I wanted another “fairy-tale” movie but in this case it’s more of the fox and the hound.  Will Graham (Gere) catch Maggie (Roberts) in the act of dumping her fiancé in the altar like she has done before?

As for the DVD, you get the cool commentary with Garry Marshall, who is always a blast to listen to about his commentary’s because he tells all.  I’m not a Dixie Chicks fan, so I couldn’t care for the video as much.  And then there is the trailer.  So, all in all you do get something more with this DVD.

The colors are very nice, bright and colorful.  Especially in the Dixie Chicks video.  The sound is typical for a dialogue film.

Otherwise for a love story, it is interesting but my expectations were set too high for this movie.  I wanted to see the same magic from these two, like we seen on “Pretty Woman” but that’s being picky.  All in all a good love story that will entertain.

Definitely a rental!

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

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