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Ghost in the Shell (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

July 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Considering the other not-so-good Hollywood-made anime live-action film adaptations, one can’t deny that “Ghost in the Shell” is one of the better adaptations from an anime or manga series.  The film just misses the mark of being a wonderful, memorable film and feels like a simplified, less complex version of the original storyline and a film with untapped potential.  But there is always room for improvement if a sequel does happen in the future.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ghost in the Shell

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition, English Dolby Atmos, French, Spanish, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese

COMPANY: Paramount

RATED: PG-13 (For Intense Sequences of Sci-fi Violence, Suggestive Content and Some Disturbing Images)

RELEASE DATE: July 25, 2017


Based on the comic “The Ghost in the Shell” by Masamune Shirow

Directed by Rupert Sanders

Screenplay by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger

Producer: Ari Arad, Michael Costigan, Steven PAul

Co-Producer: Holly Bario, Jane Nerlinger Evans, Maki Terashima-Furuta

Executive Producer: Tetsuya Fujimura, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, Yoshinobu Noma, Jeffrey Silver

Music by Lorne Balfe, Clint Mansell

Cinematography by Jess Hall

Edited by Billy Rich, Neil Smith

Casting by Lucy Vevan, Liz Mullane, Miranda Rivers

Production Design by Jan Roelfs

Art Direction by Matt Austin, Simon Bright, Leri Greer, Miro Harre, Ben Hawker, Richard L. Johnson, Agata Maliauka, Andy McLaren, Erik Polczwartek, Brad Ricker, Ken Turner

Set Decoration by Greg Cokerill, Elli Griff, Craig Poll, Calvin Tsoi, Brana Rosenfeld, Kitt Van Der Kidd

Costume Design by Kurt and Bart


Starring:

Scarlett Johansson as Major

Pilou Asbaek as Batou

Takeshi Kitano as Aramaki

Juliette Binoche as Dr. Ouelet

Michael Pitt as Kuze

Chin Han as Togusa

Danusia Samal as Ladriya

Lasarus Ratuere as Ishikawa

Yutaka Izumihara as Saito

Tawanda Manyimo as Borma

Peter Ferdinando as Cutter

Anamaria Marinca as Dr. Dahlin


Set in a world where people are enhanced with technology, GHOST IN THE SHELL follows Major (Scarlett Johansson), who believes she was rescued from near death. The first of her kind, Major is a human mind inside an artificial body designed to fight the war against cyber-crime. While investigating a dangerous criminal, Major makes a shocking discovery – the corporation that created her lied about her past life in order to control her. Unsure what to believe, Major will stop at nothing to unravel the mystery of her true identity and exact revenge against the corporation she was built to serve.


The year 1989 and Masamune Shirow would create his manga “Ghost in the Shell”.

By 1995, an animated film was released and would become a box office hit in Japan, would achieve success via video retail and would also receive critical acclaim worldwide.  So much that even filmmaker James Cameron cited the film as a source of inspiration, saying “The first truly adult animation film to reach a level of literary and visual excellence”.

While considered complex and too some as cerebral, the popularity of the first film would lead to more animated films, animated series, video games and books.

And in 2008, DreamWorks and Steven Spielberg would acquire the rights to produce a live-action film adaptation of the original manga and in 2017, the film would be released in theaters, earning over $169 million in the box office.

The film is directed by Rupert Sanders (“Snow White and the Huntsman”) and would be co-written by Jamie Moss (“Safe House 2”, “Street Kings”), William Wheeler (“Queen of Katwe”, “The Hoax”) and Ehren Kruhger (“Transformers” films, “The Ring”).

The film stars Scarlett Johansson (“Lost in Translation”, “The Avengers”, “Lucy”), Pilou Asbaek (“Lucy”, “Hijacking”, “A War”), Takeshi Kitano (“Brother”, “The Blind Swordsman/Zatoichi”, “Fireworks”), Juliette Binoche (“The English Patient”, “Three Colors: Blue”, “Cache”, “Godzilla”), Michael Pitt (“Seven Psychopaths”, “I Origins”), Chin Han (“The Dark Knight”, “Contagion”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”), Danusia Samal (“Tyrant”, “Boom”) and Peter Ferdinando (“Tony”, “Starred Up”).

And now, the film will be released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Paramount.

The film begins with a woman being wheeled in via a stretcher and her brain being removed and inserted in a mechanical body (shell) at Hanka Robotics, the world’s leading developer of augmentative technology.

And the first experimented is made to integrate a human brain versus an AI, and the results on Mira Killian (portrayed by Scarlett Johansson) is a success.  While Dr. Ouelet (portrayed by Juliette Binoche) is thrilled that the experiment had worked, Hanka CEO Cutter (portrayed by Peter Ferdinando) wants to use her immediately as a soldier/counter-terrorism operative.

Dr. Ouelet tells Mira that she was involved in an accident and that her body was too damaged but they were able to rescue her brain.  She was also told that her parents have passed away.

Fastforward a year later and Mira is now a “Major” in the anti-terrorist bureau, Section 9, and she and her fellow operatives Batou (portrayed by Pilou Asbaek) and Togusa (portrayed by Chin Han) working under their boss, Chief Daisuke Aramaki (portrayed by Takeshi Kitano) are trying to prevent a terrorist attack on a Hanka business conference.

As the terrorists attack, Major acts on her own despite her Chief telling her not to to and in the process, she destroys a rogue geisha robot who ends up murdering her hostage.  After Major destroys the geisha robot, a message is given directly to her.

As Major goes for rehabilitation and medication, she tells Dr. Ouelet that she is experiencing hallucinations and that she doesn’t remember her past.

Wanting to know why the geisha robot gave her a message, she tells her partner Batou that she will be diving into the geisha robot and when she does, she knows she is breaking protocol.  But wanting to find answers, she finds out that the robot was hacked by a mysterious individual known as Kuze and Kuze tries to do a reverse hack.

As Major starts to be affected by the reverse hack, Batou has her disconnected and Major was able to extract information that leads her to a Yakuza nightclub.

As Major and Batou continue to investigate, what will they find out about this mysterious individual known as Kuze and because of her belligerence of not following orders, will she be deprogrammed?


VIDEO:

“Ghost in the Shell” receives its first 4K Ultra HD K Ultra HD release and is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition.

While the setting is in the future, the film reflects that with a lot of CG created buildings and virtual/holographic signs.  For the most part, closeups show great detail and the overall look of the film is cool.  Combining realistic scenes with a lot of CG, the two are able to coexist with great efficacy.

For the most part, the film looks fantastic in 4K Ultra HD.

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio quality is equally impressive. Featured in English Dolby Atmos, French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital and English audio description.

Considering that this sci-fi action film contains a lot of action sequences, this lossless soundtrack is quite impressive. Surround channels and LFE are well-utilized during the high actions sequences.  And may it be weapon shots to glass shattering, “Ghost in the Shell” sounds magnificent.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ghost in the Shell” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special features:

  • Hard-Wired Humanity: Making Ghost in the Shell – (30:05) A featurette on the making of “Ghost in the Shell” and bringing the popular manga to film and how it took nine years to develop.
  • Section 9: Cyber Defenders – (11:28) A featurette about the anti-terrorist unit, Section 9.  Interviews with the cast who are members of Section 9.
  • Man & Machine: The Ghost Philosophy – (10:35) A featurette with cast and crew discussing the quickly changing technology and the integration of human/technology.

EXTRAS:

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


Having loved the animated film “Ghost in the Shell”, I have seen the manga/film evolve as a TV series, animated film, video games and literally captivate people all over the world.

So, when the film was announced that there would be a live-action film starring Scarlett Johansson, as beloved as they are too fans, they are also the harshest critics.

Could a live-action film due the manga/animated film justice?  Will the casting of Scarlett Johansson instead of an Asian actress hurt the film?

There are a lot of things that the film has been criticized and as a fan of “Ghost in the Shell”, you can see this film as being half empty and half full.

For one, I give the creators of the film credit for creating this CG landcape of a futuristic megalopolis.  The film does go into why the character of Major is not Asian.

But there are a few concessions that I can understand why the producers had to do it.  For example, the animated film, while awesome as it is, not everyone is able to follow it.  Many found it too smart, too cerebral for their own tastes, so in order to make money and make this film accessible to the public, the film can’t be too complex.

It’s important to note that in Japan, the film did much better than the original 1995 anime film, they also embraced Scarlett Johansson as the main protagonist.  Having watched many anime live-action film adaptations, believe it or not, “Ghost in the Shell” is probably one of the better adaptations from Hollywood.  You have star power in this film with Johannson, Takeshi Kitano, Pilou Asbaek, Juliette Binoche, to name a few and the acting is very good.  The visual effects are phenomenal.

Now compare this to “Dragon Ball: Evolution”, “The Guyver”, “Fist of the North Star”, “Speed Racer”. Aside from “Edge of Tomorrow”, the majority of Hollywood live-action film adaptations of popular anime and manga series have led to crap.  And “Ghost in the Shell” is no doubt much better than those films I have mentioned.

In some ways, I like to think as those years of crappy anime film adaptations similar to where Marvel Comics live-action films used to be in the ’80s and ’90s.  Until Marvel was able to strike gold with “Spider-Man”, “X-Men” and later with “The Avengers”, “Iron Man” and the plethora of superhero films that are doing wonderfully in the box office, anime film adaptations are starting to show an improvement in quality and that’s important.

In Japan, the country is experiencing a boom of anime to live-action film adaptations with “Fullmetal Alchemist”, “Gintama”, “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures” starting to generate hype in 2017, people are fully aware of what happens when the film is in the hands of a director who takes the film with a different approach (ie. the two “Attack on Titan” live-action films).

I tend to see the future being bright for anime to live-action films in the future but while Japanese audiences are more accepting, outside of Japan, it’s a different story.  With social media and voices becoming more loud about Hollywood casting, at least the writing does find a way to make sense of Scarlett Johansson’s character.

If anything, I see “Ghost in the Shell” a live-action film that is on the lighter side of storytelling.  Unfortunately, the lighter side of storytelling is what hurts the film because aside from Major and Batou and of course, Kitano as Aramaki is a major win for the film, the problem is the development of the characters and motivations in the live-action film.

I don’t think the film’s antagonist was written all that well and if anything, I found Michael Carmen Pitt’s character, Kuze, to be forgetful.  When Major and Kuze come across each other, I didn’t care for Kuze’s character one bit even after the reveal is made.

I will give the producers and director Rupert Sanders credit for what they were able to accomplish.  The film looks great, visual effects were fantastic, the film featured solid acting but is hurt by its other characters and lack of a gripping storyline.

But considering the other not-so-good Hollywood-made anime live-action film adaptations, one can’t deny that “Ghost in the Shell” is one of the better adaptations from an anime or manga series.  The film just misses the mark of being a wonderful, memorable film and feels like a simplified, less complex version of the original storyline and a film with untapped potential.  But there is always room for improvement if a sequel does happen in the future.

‘WE DO IT TOGETHER’ featuring Robin Wright, Freida Pinto and Juliette Binoche

May 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Luminaries in Film including Robin Wright, Freida Pinto, Juliette Binoche, Catherine Hardwicke, Patricia Riggen, Haifaa Al Mansour, and Melina Matsoukas amongst those collaborating on first project

CANNES, FR (May 15, 2016) – WE DO IT TOGETHER, the non-profit production company dedicated to finance and produce female driven films, documentaries, TV and other forms of media has announced its first feature film entitled: Together Now – a omnibus of short films created by internationally renowned luminaries. Each segment will pair a female director with a prominent actress in a lead role to tell an inspiring story.

Golden Globe® Winner Robin Wright (House of Cards, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Catherine Hardwicke (Miss You Already, Twilight, Thirteen), Katia Lund (City of God, All The Invisible Children), Patricia Riggen (Miracles From Heaven, The 33), Haifaa Al Mansour (Wadjda), Malgorzata Szumowska (Elles, In the Name Of) and Melina Matsoukas (Rihanna’s We Found Love, Beyoncé’s Formation) are confirmed to each direct a short in Together Now. Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) and Academy Award® Winner Juliette Binoche (The English Patient, Chocolat) will each star in one of the seven shorts. Carol Polakoff, Shelby Stone and Chiara Tilesi will produce the film.

Production of the film is set to begin in July this year with principal photography taking place in various international locations. All profits generated through the film’s release will be reinvested back to the non-profit production company.

The goal of Together Now is to empower women both creatively in front and behind the camera and to implement a clear action plan that will contribute towards closing down the gender gap in a male dominated industry.

“We are so privileged and excited to have some of the most intelligent and creative artists be part of the first WE DO IT TOGETHER feature film project” said founder Chiara Tilesi. “The goal is to take immediate steps to generate fresh new content that is both insightful and entertaining in order to tell our own stories in our own ways. If we dream it together, we do it together.”

“I am honored to join We Do It Together as they build a platform for women to create and share stories.” adds director Robin Wright. “The amount of knowledge and ideas are endless. I am thrilled to witness this movement and watch them bring their goals into fruition. It is with great pleasure to announce I will be collaborating with WDIT on my own short on subject that I am deeply passionate about. I look forward to making a mark for women in film.”

As part of the new announcement, the following industry leaders will join the previously announced WE DO IT TOGETHER advisory board: Golden Globe® Winner Robin Wright, Academy Award® Winner Jodie Foster, Grammy Award Winning songwriter Diane Warren, director-actress Valeria Golino (Rain Main), Marvel’s EVP Victoria Alonso, producer Keri Selig, actress Leonor Varela, producer Lucas Akoskin, CAA talent agent Cameron Mitchell, producer Paula Vaccaro, and entertainment attorney Orly Ravid.

# # #

About WE DO IT TOGETHER:

WE DO IT TOGETHER is a non-profit organization created to finance and produce films, documentaries, TV and other forms of media uniquely dedicated to the empowerment of women. With a mission to create content that provides women in entertainment a slate to be creatively recognized, WE DO IT TOGETHER strives to change perceptions of female stereotypes within a male-dominated industry.

The WE DO IT TOGETHER Board of Directors is comprised of: Academy Award®-nominated producer Albert Berger; DDA Partner Dana Archer; The Gersh Agency’s Sandra Lucchesi; Mosaic manager Paul Nelson; Producer-Director Carol Polakoff; Primetime Emmy-winning producer Shelby Stone; Producer and Founder Chiara Tilesi; and Septembers of Shiraz writer and producer Hanna Weg. Adding their voices to the Advisory Board will be: Hany Abu-Assad, Lucas Akoskin, Haifaa Al Mansour, Victoria Alonso, Len Amato, Amma Asante, Juliette Binoche, Jessica Chastain, Antonio S. Coco, Amira Diab, Jodie Foster, Éric Garandeau, Henry Louis Gates, Mark Gill, Valeria Golino, Mike Goodridge, Catherine Hardwicke, Marielle Heller, Avy Kaufman, Queen Latifah, Philip A. Lord, Katia Lund, Sasha Markova, Cameron Mitchell, Michele Mulroney, Jennifer Naughton, Evelyn O’Neill, Freida Pinto, Hylda Queally, Orly Ravid, Alysia Reiner, Patricia Riggen, Janet C. Salazar, Michelle Satter, Keri Selig, Nina L. Shaw, Stacey Sher, Marianne Slot, Małgorzata Szumowska, Paula Vaccaro, Leonor Varela, Diane Warren, Alesia Weston, Robin Wright, Paul Zaentz, Ziyi Zhang.

For more information please visit: www.wedoittogether.org.

Mauvais Sang (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

mauvaissang

Leos Carax’ “Mauvais Sang” is a masterpiece.  It is unpredictable, unexpected yet breathtaking all at once.  And the film is cinematic poetry at its very best. Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Mauvais Sang

FILM RELEASE: 1986

DURATION: 119 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:68:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Color/Black and White, French 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Carlotta Films/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: November 18, 2014


Written and Directed by Leos Carax

Executive Producer: Denis Chateau, Philippe Diaz

Produced by Alain Dahan

Associate Producer: Marvin J. Chomsky

Cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier

Editing by Nelly Quettier

Casting by Helene Bernardin

Production Design by Jacques Dubus, Thomas Peckre, Michel Vandestien

Set Decoration by Bernard Leonard

Costume Design by Dominique Gregogna, Martine Metert, Robert Nardone


Starring:

Michel Piccoli as Marc

Juliette Binoche as Anna

Denis Lavant as Alex

Hans Meyer as Hans

Julie Delpy as Lise

Carroll Brooks as The American Woman

Hugo Pratt as Boris


Marc and Hans, two old gangsters, plan to steal the vaccine for a mysterious virus, STBO, which affects those who make love without being in love and is wreaking havoc among teenagers. After the death of their associate Jean, the two accomplices call on his son, Alex, known as “Chatterbox”, who is a talented conjuror. Alex, who has just left his girlfriend Lise, falls madly in love with a girl in a white dress he sees on a bus. Her name is Anna and she turns out to be Marc’s mistress…

Leos Carax’s second movie Mauvais Sang is a stunning masterpiece, midway between a thriller and a romantic tale, which multiplies references to master filmmakers (Godard in particular) and seduces with its poetry and lyricism. This emblematic film of 80s French cinema established Leos Carax as one of its most talented directors, twenty-six years before Holy Motors. Starring Denis Lavant, Michel Piccoli and Juliette Binoche, Mauvais Sang is available for the first time in a stunning new HD digital restoration!


Considered as one of the great filmmakers of modern French cinema, back in the early ’80s, Leos Carax (“Holy motors”, “Tokyo!”, “The Lovers on the Bridge”) was seen as a talented director which people would see a little bit of Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut in his film style.

With positive reviews from film critics for his 1984 debut film “Boy Meets Girl”, Carax would work with actor Denis Lavant again for his second film “Mauvais Sang” (which translates to “Bad Blood” but was released with the title “The Night is Young”) but also bringing in well-known actor Michel Piccoli (“Belle de Jour”, “Contempt”, “Atlantic City”), Juliette Binoche (“Thre Colors: Blue”, “Cache”, “The English Patient”), Julie Delpy (“Before Sunrise”, “Before Sunset”, “Before Midnight”) and Hans Meyer (“Barry Lyndon”, “Red Sonja”, “Brotherhood of the Wolf”).

“Mauvais Sang” would become part of Carax’ “Love Trilogy” and the film would receive three Cesar Award nominations and winning the Prix Louis-Delluc.

And now the newly restored film will receive a new Blu-ray release courtesy of Kino Lorber which will also include the Tessa Louise-Salome documentary “Mr X, A Vision of Leos Carax”.

It’s important to note that “Mauvais Sang” is not a film that can be easily described.  It must be experienced visually as the cinematic shots by Jean-Yves Escoffier (“Good Will Hunting”, “Rounders”, “Nurse Betty”) are mesmerizing and magnificent.

The film is set in Paris during a time when a disease known as STBO is killing young people who make love without any emotional involvement.

A serum has been developed but it is kept in a highly secure area and is locked away.

We are then introduced to Marc (portrayed by Michel Piccoli) and his friend Hans (portrayed by Hans Meyer) who encounter an American woman (portrayed by Carroll Brooks), her henchman Boris (portrayed by Hugo Bratt) that Marc has two weeks to pay off debt that he owes her.  We also learn that their partner Jean is no longer alive for some apparent reason.

Marc needs to make money and the way to do that…steal the STBO serum and sell it.

But in order to accomplish such a feat., he will need someone with quick hands and Marc remembers that Jean told him that if there was someone that was as good as him, it would be his son Alex (portrayed by Denis Lavant).

We then catch Alex and his girlfriend Lise (portrayed by Julie Delpy), as they love to spend time together and have sex.  But as quickly as Alex is having fun, he is approached by Hans and is offered a chance to make a ton of money but also fly to another country.

And as Alex packs his bag and leaves home without telling Lise where he is moving to, he leaves her to team up with Marc and Hans.  He eventually finds out there is a third person involved and it’s Marc’s younger lover, Anna (portrayed by Juliette Binoche).

And as the four plan and scheme on how to execute the plan, Alex starts to find himself drawn to Anna.

But would Alex be crazy enough and try to try and get close to Anna?

Meanwhile, the American woman knows that Marc is up to something and tells Alex that if he works for her, he will make even more money.

Which path will Alex choose?


VIDEO:

“Mauvais Sang” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio) and features the 2K restoration which was undertaken by UK’s Artificial Eye.  Compared to the DVD release, there is a huge difference as the Blu-ray release features better colors, much better detail especially on close-ups.

The film doesn’t look its age at all.  Skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep.  There is no signs of white specks or damage to the film.

This is the definitive version of “Mauvais Sang” to own!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Mauvais Sang” comes with a French DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 soundtrack with optional English subtitles.

Dialogue and music are crisper and clearer compared to the DVD release with no audio problems or any signs of hiss or crackle.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mauvais Sang” comes with the following special features:

  • Outtakes and Rushes – (20:22) Old footage of outtakes and rushes from “Mauvais Sang” (note: There is no audio for this portion)
  • Deleted Scene – (5:26) A deleted scene featuring a conversation between Franc and Alex.
  • Original Trailer – (2:17) The original 1986 trailer for “Mauvais Sang”.
  • 2013 Trailer – (1:45) The trailer for the restored version of “Mauvais Sang”.
  • “Mr. X, A Vision of Leos Carax” – (1:13:16) Tessa Louise-Salome’s documentary of the oeuvre of Leos Carax.

EXTRAS:

“Mauvais Sang” comes with a slipcover.


Watching “Mauvais Sang”, digitally restored, I couldn’t help but grin throughout the film.

While “Holy Motors” is a film that probably many people today are familiar with when it comes with Leos Carax films, for me, Leos Carax’ finest masterpiece was his 1986 film “Mauvais Sang”.

The film was like an ode to Nouvelle Vague, an ode to Jean Luc-Godard, Francois Truffaut and Robert Bresson.

Films that can depict an underworld but yet captivate you with its characters thanks to the amazing performance by Denis Lavant and Juliette Binoche.

But the performance by Lavant is fluid, yet unpredictable.  Almost in a Chaplin-esque kind of way, he is a physical actor that shines on screen.  The cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier and the wonderful editing by Nelly Quettier is equally unexpected with a smorgasbord of imagery that captivates you.

And I bring up Jean-Luc Godard, best known for unexpected moments and disruptions that translate into cinematic poetry.  Also, similar to Godard and his muse/wife Anna Karina, Juliette Binoche was Carax’ girlfriend at the time and for anyone who has watched Binoche in her more recent films, will always fall in love with the vitality of her younger self in “Mauvais Sang”.

The relationship between Alex and Anna is very interesting because both characters do not communicate.  They look at each other but a large part of the film is shot without words and the fact that the scenes are shot effortlessly with efficacy, you just don’t see this in films any longer.

And of course, one of the most famous moments of the film (I will always remember the moment at 47 minutes into the film) which shows Alex walking with pain and stumbling in self-punishment knowing that he is in love. With his stabbing motion to the abs, smoking a cigarette and running and dancing in full speed and doing a somersault to David Bowie’s “Modern Love”.  Such a wonderful scene in cinema that even filmmaker Noah Baumbach paid homage to the scene in his film “Frances Ha”.

The scene after is also mesmerizing as Alex visits Anna and you see a slow motion of her waving her brushing her hair and waving it while featured in slow motion.  Or when he carries her off to the road during a hot summer when the heat on the pavement proves to hot for Anna, such a wonderful scene in the film!

And the film looks magnificent in HD as the 2K restoration of the film features much better colors, much better detail and the film looks and sounds better than ever!  The Blu-ray also features several special features but also the exclusive documentary “Mr. X, a Vision of Leos Carax” by filmmaker Tessa Louise-Salome which features the films by Leos Carax and interviews with those who have worked with him.  In essence, a tribute to the French filmmaker.

Overall, Leos Carax’ “Mauvais Sang” is a masterpiece.  It is unpredictable, unexpected yet breathtaking all at once.  And the film is cinematic poetry at its very best!

Highly recommended!

Elles (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Sensual, natural and entertaining!  Overall, “Elles” is a film about life and self-discovery. It’s also a film featuring a magnificent, realistic performance by actress Juliette Binoche.  And while it may not be the best film starring Juliette Binoche, it’s definitely one of her best performances seen in a film!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Kino Lorber, Inc., All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Elles

FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 99 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 2:35:1, 1080p High Definition, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: September 11, 2012

Directed by Malgorzata Szumowska

Written by Tine Byrckel, Malgorzata Szumowska

Produced by Marianne Slot

Co-Producer: Daniel Blum, Bettina Brokemper, Reinhold Elschot, Peter Garde, Peter Aalbaek Jensen, Agnieszka Kurzydio, Beata Ryczkowska, Malgorzata Szumowska

Line Producer: Olivier Guerois, Johannes Rexin

Music by Pawel Mykietyn

Cinematography by Michael Englert

Edited by Jacek Drosio, Francoise Tourmen

Casting by Aurelie Guichard

Production Design by Pauline Bourdon

Costume Design by Katarzyna Lewinska

Starring:

Juliette Binoche as Anne

Anais Demoustier as Charlotte

Joanna Kulig as Alicja

Louis-Do de Lencquesaing as Patrick

Krystyna Janda as LA mere d’Anne

Andrzej Chyra as Le client sadique

Ali Marhyar as Said

Jean-Marie Binoche as Le pere d’Anne

Francoise Civil as Florent

Pablo Beugnet as Stephane

A provocative exploration of female sexuality, Elles stars the fearless Juliette Binoche as Anne, a well-off Parisian journalist investigating the lives of two student prostitutes (Joanna Kulig and Anaïs Demoustier) for a magazine article. What begins as a routine assignment, though, quickly turns personal, as Anne is drawn into the lives of these fiercely independent young women and forced to confront her own sexual fears and desires.

From Polish filmmaker/screenwriter Malgorzata Szumowska (“Stranger”, “Happy Man”) and co-writer Tine Byrckel comes a film about self-reflection in “Elles”.

Starring actress Juliette Binoche (“The English Patient”, “Three Colors: Blue”, “Cache”) and young talents Anais Demoustier (“Therese Desqueyroux”, “Last Winter”) and Joanna Kulig (“The Woman in the Fifth”), “Elles” was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Elles” revolves around a French journalist named Anne (portrayed by Juliette Binoche), a married woman with a husband that is always busy with work, a teenage son that barely listens to her and a son, who is more preoccupied with playing video games.

Working on an article for Elle magazine about female student prostitution, Anne interviews two students, Charlotte (portrayed by Anais Demoustier), a young woman enrolled at the “Classe preparatoire”, who has a boyfriend but secretly has sex with men for money.  The other is Alicja, an economics student who left Poland to go to France and further her education.  Unfortunately, can’t help her out financially, so Alicja also becomes a prostitute.

Both young women only have sex with married men and when Anne tries to pry into their lives a bit more and think they are shameful for what they are doing, she realizes that these women have no problem with what they do.  If anything, they are more scared to live a life of being poor.  And they are envious of Anne because she is able to live a life successfully, with a beautiful home and a life that they feel they can never achieve because of their low class.  So, what they do for a living is not about misery, but a life of a woman making her own decisions, empowered to make their own money and lift them up from a life of nothingness, to a life of earning money, so they wouldn’t have to be poor ever again.

And seeing this life, for Anne, this is a shock.  Because even though these women thinks she has it all, she feels her life is not all that great.  She cooks, she cleans, her husband is not sexual to her at all and her son also can tell that she is not happy with her life.

So, while Anne needs to interview these two women for her article, perhaps she is drawn to these two young ladies, because they help her rediscover herself of being a woman with needs.  And also rediscovering her sexuality which has been repressed.

VIDEO:

“Elles” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen).  While watching this film, there was something beautiful about the Michael Englert’s cinematography.  From scenes showcasing the women outside of their patio and you can see the buildings and scenery around them, for me it was the juxtaposition of beautiful images through Anne’s home.  From her cooking food to wearing her silk pajamas, there was this look of beauty that was captured on camera.  Almost heavenly to describe the living conditions of Anne, vs. the more grimy nature of her going to some location where graffiti is spraypainted on walls and she can’t bare the thought of using the bathroom in that facility.  But as beauty is captured in Anne’s home, there’s also a beautiful capturing of sex scenes that involve Charlotte.  They are subtle sex scenes but the way they were filmed was beautiful.  Composition was fantastic!

I didn’t detect any problems during my viewing of this film on Blu-ray but overall, a solid presentation.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Elles” is presented in French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with English subtitles.  The film is primarily front channel driven, dialogue was crystal clear and the music from the classical music channel also sounds great coming from the front channel.  There is good utilization of music from classical music to Swedish electro-pop.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“elles” comes with the following special feature:

  • Edited and Unedited Trailers – Featuring the original theatrical trailer (1:52) and the red band trailer (1:55)
  • Stills Gallery – Featuring seven stills from the film.

“Elles” is a fascinating film as it tries to show us another approach to why people take part in prostitution.  It is known that there are women putting themselves through college through erotic dancing and sex, but what makes “Elles” so different is that these women are not complaining about the work that they do or the men they have sex with.  They are mostly negative about the living conditions that they once came from.

While Anne tries to probe into why the young women do what they do, there is no remorse for having sex with married men.  It’s through these men that these young women feel they are in control, it is their freedom to do as they wish and if they want to make money through prostitution, then so be it.

Charlotte and Alicja are just happy to have the money to live the way that they want. And while Anne is surprised by this, she finds herself wanting to be with them, interviewing them but also putting herself in their shoes of how life would be to live like them and be independent, sexually free and just enjoying life like the two young women are.  Meanwhile, these two women look at Anne and are envious because she is a person with status and living a life that they want.

Charlotte tries to explain to Anne that she has no problems having sex with men but her past life of living poor is much worse than what she does to make a living.  She will never return to that life of being poor and for Charlotte, her questions for Anne is if she has a window in her bathroom.  Taking Anne by surprise, she starts to realize that these young women dream of having things that she never really took notice of.

So, it’s this journey of watching how Anne transforms herself from being a woman and journalist under deadline, always stressed out but seeing that these young women living a life of independent freedom, she admires that.  While her husband criticizes her to not talk about feminism during a dinner with his clients.

Part of the efficacy of this film lies in the performance of Juliette Binoche.  Not only is she able to portray the role of Anne as natural but she is also an actress that can take small nuances and play with it and make us feel comfortable and that her character is natural.  One scene features the character of Anne eating with Alicja and Binoche just shows us a woman having fun, trying to chew but always laughing because she is drunk.  It’s such a natural way of acting this scene out and goes to show how much of a talented, veteran actress she truly is.

The other part of the film’s efficacy is the cinematography by Michal Englert.  The film looks absolutely beautiful because of his composition and on Blu-ray, the film looks great. The scenes of Anne working at home and trying to tidy up to the sexual scenes of the film, the way it’s presented in film looks great!

I may need to warn people that this film does include many sexual scenes.  I know that there are people who complained about the use of sex in the film.  Personally, I thought it was integral to the film, which was showing how these women have no problem doing requests for these married men.  These men are not able to have their wives enact their fantasies, but these two women will make their fantasies come true.  I will say that I don’t think I have ever seen a golden shower scene in a film before, so suffice to say, the film really goes out to show how far these two young women will go in their sexual exploits.

But as far as the Blu-ray is concerned,  picture quality for the Blu-ray was very good, lossless audio was crystal clear and as for special features, there isn’t really much included with the Blu-ray but trailers and a stills gallery.

Sensual, natural and entertaining!  Overall, “Elles” is a film about life and self-discovery. It’s also a film featuring a magnificent, realistic performance by actress Juliette Binoche.  And while it may not be the best film to star Juliette Binoche, it’s definitely one of her best performances seen in a film!

Certified Copy – The Criterion Collection #612 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a cineaste who enjoys films that incorporate intelligent conversation, you will be captivated by “Certified Copy”.   A film that showcases Abbas Kiarostami’s beautiful direction and fascinating screenplay, plus a brilliant performance by Juliette Binoche and William Shimell… “Certified Copy” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © MK2-Bibi Films – France 3 Cinema – Artemis Productions. The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Certified Copy – The Criterion Collection #612 (Copie Conforme)

MOVIE RELEASE: 2010

DURATION: 106 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 Surround in English, French and Italian with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Sundance Selects/The Criterion Collection

RELEASE DATE: May 22, 2012

Directed and Written by Abbas Kiarostami

Produced by Angelo Barbagallo, Charles Gillibert, Marin Karmitz, Nathanael Karmitz, Abbas Kiarostami

Executive PRoducer: Clair Dornoy, Marin Karmitz

Line Producer: Gaetano Daniele

Cinematography by Luca Bigazzi

Edited by Bahman Kiarostami

Production Design by Giancarlo Basili, Ludovica Ferrario

Starring:

Juliette Binoche as Elle

William Shimell as James Miller

Adrian Moore as Le Fils

Jean-Claude Carriere as L’homme de la place

Agathe Natanson as La femme de la place

Gianna Giachetti as a patronne du cafe

Angelo Barbagallo as Le traducteur

Andre Laurenzi as Le guide

Filippo Trojano as Le marie

The great Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami travels to Tuscany for a luminous and provocative romance in which nothing is as it appears. What seems at first to be a straightforward tale of two people—played by Oscar-winning actress Juliette Binoche and opera singer William Shimell—getting to know each other over the course of an afternoon gradually reveals itself as something richer, stranger, and trickier: a mind-bending reflection on authenticity, in art as well as in relationships. Both cerebrally and emotionally engaging, Certified Copy reminds us that love itself is an enigma.

The multi-talented filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami is known for his films, documentaries, poetry, paintings and graphic designs.  Considered as one of the most influential filmmakers to come from the Middle East and known for his films such as the “Koker Trilogy”, “Taste of Cherry”, “The Wind Will Carry Us” and “Close Up”, in 2010, Kiarostami would reunite with his “Shirin” actress, Juliette Binoche for the film “Certified Copy” (Copie Conforme).

Written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami and shot in Tuscany, “Certified Copy” would feature Juliette Binoche (“Thee Colors: Blue”, “The English Patient”, “Cache”) and opera singer William Shimell (“Hercules”, “Love”).  The film would be Kiarostami’s first film shot and produced outside of Iran, it would also be the first film of Kiarostami in creating European cinema.  And sure enough, the film would receive rave reviews from critics and audiences worldwide and the film would also earn Juliette Binoche the “Best Actress Award” at the Cannes Film Festival.

And now “Certified Copy” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.  Also, included with this release is Abbas Kiarostami’s first feature film, “The Report” (1977).

“Certified Copy” begins with people who have attended a lecture and are anxiously waiting for British writer and art historian, James Miller (played by William Shimell), to talk about his new book “Certified Copy”.  The book argues that authenticity is irrelevant and that reproduction is original, as the original is a copy of another form.

Among those attending the lecture is a French antique dealer (played by Juliette Binoche), a woman who is awaiting to get her book signed by Miller.  But because her 11-year-old son (played by Adrian Moore) is getting a bit antsy and is very hungry, she has to leave not long after the lecture has begun.   Not wanting to miss the opportunity to get an autograph from James Miller, the antique dealer (without a name) leaves her phone number with Miller’s translator in hopes that he can sign her books.

The following day, James Miller arrives at the French antique dealer’s shop and while he compliments her choices of art, she tells him they are only reproductions and it begins their conversation about original art vs. reproductions and in the process, because the dealer has issues with his book “Certified Copy”, she wants to take him out to the countryside and let him see things with his own eyes.

While James signs the books, the dealer talks about the issues she has with the books and then they end up discussing situations about her rebellious son, more about reproductions and sooner or later, these two get into a conversation that tests both of their patience.

As they go into a cafe, a woman who runs the cafe, thinks that the two are a couple and the next thing you know, the two begin to pretend as if they are a married couple.

But the conversations change as if they are or were a real life couple who have been married for 15-years and both get into an argument as if they were a real couple.   Do these two know each other?  Are they a real couple?  Are they acting out their own relationships towards each other.  Or is this a dream? Or is it reality?

VIDEO:

“Certified Copy” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio) and there is no doubt that Kiarostami’s use of the Red digital camera brought a lot of detail to his latest film.   The colors are vibrant, detail and clarity look magnificent and  I detected no video-related problems, no artifacts, banding, edge enhancement…nothing.  “Certified Copy” looks absolutely magnificent on Blu-ray!

According to the Criterion Collection, the film was shot in 4K RAW using a RED digital camera and the entire production was completed in a fully digital workflow.  The color grading and digital interpositive were approved by director Abbas Kiarostami and director of photography Luca Bigazzi.  The final color corrected DPX files were output to Rec. 709 high-definition color space for BD and DVD release.

As for “The Report”, the Criterion Collection presents the 1977 film in the best quality available to them.  While the film looks good for its age.  While there is some film damage with occasional green lines that can be seen and some other damage.  But most visible towards the beginning of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Certified Copy” is presented in English, French and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (note: one audio track, with all three languages used in the film).  Dialogue is crystal clear and the film features good use of atmospheric ambiance.  From the sounds of Tuscany, the birds and vehicles and more.  The lossless track is primarily dialogue-driven through the front and center channels but the audio quality is great and I detected no audio problems.  Optional Subtitles are included.

According to the Criterion Collection, the original 5.1 lossless soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master using Pro Tools HD.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Certified Copy – The Criterion Collection #612” on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:

  • The Report – (1:49:28) A civil servant is a hard worker but is often not there for his wife and child.  But when he is accused of bribery, his life starts to change and his marriage also begins to suffer.
  • Abbas Kiarostami – (16:02) Featuring an interview with Abbas Kiarostami who talks about the film, what inspired the film and finding the cast members for the film.
  • Let’s See “Copia Conforme” – (52:05) A documentary by Irene Bufo featuring the making of the film and interviews with Kiarostami, the cast and crew.
  • Theatrical trailer – (2:14) Theatrical trailer for “Certified Copy”.

EXTRAS:

“Certified Copy – The Criterion Collection #612” comes with a 24-page booklet featuring the essay “At Home and Abroad” by Godfrey Chesire.

 When it comes to films that are verbose, cerebral and dialogue-driven, more often, they can be too much for a viewer.  But when executed perfectly, you know you have something special.

May it be a film like Eric Rohmer’s “My Night at Maud’s” where characters spend a long time in discussion, but these they talk about aren’t banal, these are intelligent discussions by two individuals about life, art, reproduction.  But then you get this little twist that is reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Antonioni’s “L’Avventura” or Alain Resnais “Last Year At Marienbad” where the characters may appear to have known each other or perhaps have been in a relationship before, because their intelligent discussion leads to an argument that couples experience.

And that is one thing that is rather fascinating about “Certified Copy”, unlike Resnais “Last Year at Marienbad” which surrealism and visual filmmaking come together in a rather complex fashion, Kiarostami’s “Certified Copy” gives us no clues that the two are a couple, a former couple or two people trying to act out an experiment of relationships.  Or perhaps it is a dream… or is it reality?

Nothing is explained but it allows the viewer to give their own interpretation.  And this is important because the film’s original topic was about the concept of art and reproduction.  When we look at art, we have a response toward it. But that response can be different.  The same with this relationship, we have our own interpretation if these two characters.  In my mind, almost like painting that I spend a lot of time watching in a museum… you have these ideas of what is the intention of the artwork, what is the history and was the painting influenced by another.

With the characters of James Miller and the antique dealer, my mind was already dead set that these two individuals knew each other long ago, were in love and this visit was a way for them to escape reality and re-enact a moment of what if they were a couple.

Now I go back to the common argument of the film, art vs. reproduction and how the character of James Miller felt that reproductions were originals, as the original was also inspired or a copy of something else.  And when you start to think of the film and analyze it, what if that was the initial thought.  Using art as a symbol, but featuring cinema.  Cinema like art can be original but yet others  may feel it’s a copy or inspired by another film.

And then you wonder if its life imitating art.  Abbas Kiarostami once told actress Juliette Binoche that the film was based on his life, then changed his story that it was based on his life and then tells media that it s a story that incorporates Juliette’s life.  In other words, the message is that art, cinema and everything created can be original but yet can be inspired by something else.  So, what others will think of “Certified Copy” as original, others may point to Resnais “Last Year at Marienbad”, Antonioni’s “L’Avventura” or Wong Kar-Wai’s “In the Mood for Love”, and think that the film was inspired by those or other similar, dream-like type of films.

But do we need an explanation of why Kiarostami created the film?  I don’t think so, and that’s what makes “Certified Copy” so enjoyable to watch.  It’s a film that YOU interpret on your own.  And if everyone comes up with a different answer, then so be it, I’m sure filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami would be pleased.

Another reason why I enjoyed “Certified Copy” is how Kiarostami handles relationships.  He goes into more detail about this in the special feature but it’s the concept of the conflicts that are experienced between a man and woman in a relationship.  The more we understand each other, the worse things get.   And it’s a concept that many married couples or those who have been in long time relationships can understand.  When things go bad, we look to others who make things look as they are going so great but are they?  We have two characters who are somewhat soul searching and through each other, may it be through this playful interaction or may they be true emotions that are coming out, it’s that sense of the unpredictable that captivates us.  There is more going on with these two that is explained but yet, these conflicts can be understood, because many of us have experienced these uncertainties as well.

As for the performance, Juliette Binoche was absolutely fantastic in this film and for a first time major role for opera singer William Shimell, to have him memorize his line, including the long dialogue (which surprised Binoche who didn’t memorize everything, and utilized improvisation to coincide with Shimell’s performance) and literally be prepared for his role, I was impressed by his performance.  But both talents did a wonderful job.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Certified Copy” looks amazing on Blu-ray and cineaste who are fans of Kiarostami’s work should be pleased as there are no video or audio-related problems that I could find with this release.  And as far as special features go, it’s one thing that you get a documentary on the making-of the film and an interview with Kiarostami but the fact that the Criterion Collection also included his first feature film “The Report” (1977) with this release is fantastic!

Overall, if you are a cinema fan who loves films that incorporate intelligent conversation but also a film that incorporates Abbas Kiarostami’s brilliant direction and fascinating screenplay, which also further compliments the performance by Juliette Binoche and William Shimell, “Certified Copy” is highly recommended!

The Son of No One (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Filmmaker/screenwriter Dito Montiel reunites with actor Channing Tatum in a crime thriller.  Featuring a solid cast and great cinematography, “The Son of No One” will appeal to Channing Tatum fans and those who enjoy popcorn crime thrillers.

Images courtesy of © 2010 Sono Productions. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Son of No One

FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 94 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish Mono, Subtitles: Spanish

COMPANY: Anchor Bay Films

RATED: R (Violence, Pervasive Language and Brief Disturbing Sexual Content)

RELEASE DATE: February 21, 2012

Directed by Dito Montiel

Written by Dito Montiel

Executive Producer: Boaz Davidson, Danny Dimbort, Patricia Eberle, Cassian Elwes, Alex Francis, Joy Gorman, Avi Lerner, Jake Pushinksy, Richard Rionda Del Castro, Trevor Short, Trudie Styler

Producer: Avi Lerner, Dito Montiel, John Thompson, Holly Wiersma

Line Producer: Brian Bell

Music by Jonathan Elias, David Wittman

Cinematography by Benoit Delhomme

Editing by Jake Pushinsky

Casting by Kerry Barden, Karen E. Etcoff, Paul Schnee

Production Design by Beth ickle

Art Diretion by Michael Ahern

Set Decoration by Carrie Stewart

Costume Design by Sandra Hernandez

Starring:

Al Pacino as Detective Charles Stanford

Channing Tatum as Jonathan White

James Ransone as Officer Thomas Prudenti

Ray Liotta as Captain Marion Mathers

Katie Holmes as Kerry White

Ursula Parker as Charolette “Charlie” White

Jake Cherry as Jonathan Milk” White

Brian Gilbert as Young Vinnie

Tracy Morgan as Vincent Carter

In this searing police thriller, Jonathan (Channing Tatum) is a second-generation cop who gets in over his head when he’s assigned to re-open a double homicide cold case in his Queens neighborhood. An anonymous source feeding new information on the long-unsolved murders to a local reporter (Juliette Binoche) leads to evidence suggesting a possible cover-up by the former lead detective (Al Pacino) who was on the investigation. As Jonathan digs deeper into the assignment, a dark secret about the case emerges, which threatens to destroy his life and his family. Written and directed by Dito Montiel, Son Of No One also stars Tracy Morgan, Katie Holmes, Ray Liotta and Jake Cherry. Music by David Wittman and Jonathan Elias.

Former punk punk musician and Versace model Dito Montiel has come a long way in his life and career.   In 1989, Montiel and his band Gutterboy received notoriety when their band signed a $1 million record deal with Geffen Records and after cashing in with a big recording contract, the band was dropped by the label.

The experience would lead Montiel to writing a best-selling book titled “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” and would follow with a film adaptation which he wrote and direct.

In that film, Montiel worked with actor Channing Tatum (“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”, “Dear John”, “Step Up”) for the very first time and worked together in the 2009 film “Fighting”.

In 2011, Montiel would write and direct his third film “The Son of No One” and would reunite with Channing and the independent film would also feature talents Al Pacino (“The Godfather”, “Scarface”), Ray Liotta (“Goodfellas”, “Smokin’ Aces”), Katie Holmes (“Batman Begins”, “Go”, “Dawson’s Creek”) and Juliette Binoche (“The English Patient”, “Blue”, “Dan in Real Life”).

The film was selected to close the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and now, “The Son of No One” would receive a Blu-ray and DVD release courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

“The Son of No One” is a film that focuses on police officer Jonathan White (played by Channing Tatum).  He is a married to Kerry (played by Katie Holmes) and has a young, ailing daughter who has seizures.  So, both parents are often concerned of the well-being of their daughter.  But for Kerry, she is quite concerned that Jonathan has been transferred to an area two hours from Staten Island (a not so great area) and is now constantly working late hours and is never home for the family.

But their sanctity and Jonathan’s piece-of-mind is shattered when a journalist named Lauren Bridges (played by Juliette Binoche) has printed letters of a possible coverup in 1986 and it is hurting the precinct’s image, especially for Captain Marion Mathers (played by Ray Liotta) who is running for re-election.

These letters startle Jonathan as the letters is anonymously targeted towards him.

Through occasional flashbacks, we are taken back to 1986. Jonathan who was known as “Milk”, lived in the projects and he and his best friend Vinnie had tough lives.  There were drug dealers, pedophiles and creepy people living in his building and the two were always the target of these individuals.

That year, a young Milk killed two people and we are told through flashbacks in 1986 of why he killed them and how he and his friends have kept the murders secret.

But one detective knows that Milk was responsible, Detective Stanford (played by Al Pacino) also was Milk’s father and swept the murders under the rug and covered everything up.

But someone from Jonathan’s past is trying to expose the cover-up and also expose Jonathan’s involvement by sending letters to a journalist hoping to air the NYPD’s dirty laundry.

Captain Marion Mathers is concerned about the press that Lauren is getting for publishing the anonymous letters and wants Jonathan to look into it.  Especially since it may destroy his and the precinct’s reputation.

As Jonathan becomes paranoid of who would release the information and try to hurt him, could it be his old friends from the projects?  Or is someone else responsible?

VIDEO:

“The Son of No One” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1).  The picture quality is fantastic as there is great clarity, detail and good use of cool and warm colors.  Black levels are deep, skin tones are natural and possibly the best part of this Blu-ray release is its visual presentation.

Cinematographer Benoit Delhomme (“1408”, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”, “The Proposition”) did a wonderful job and great choices on the film’s lighting and Benoit’s cinematography looks fantastic on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Son of No One” is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Mono.  The film is primarily a dialogue-driven film but there are moments such as Jonathan’s car being rammed or a scene with multiple gun shots that does utilize the surround channels.  But it’s dialogue and surround environments and its ambiance that plays the biggest role in the lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are in Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Son of No One” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an in-depth audio commentary by writer/director Dito Montiel and executive producer/editor Jake Pushinsky.  Although this is one commentary that I wish was fluid, as there are some momentary gaps.
  • Extended Scenes – (6:27) Featuring extended scenes from “The Son of No One”.
  • Trailer – (2:29) The original theatrical trailer for “The Son of No One”.

If there is one major positive I can say about Dito Montiel films, it’s the fact that he is able to bring together an impressive cast for his films.

From his working relationship with Channing Tatum for three films, while “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” featured impressive casting, “The Son of No One” is quite intriguing that you have Al Pacino and Juliette Binoche starring in this indie crime thriller.

With that being said, it’s great to see Channing Tatum taking on a different type of role that he is cast in.  Usually, he is cast in younger roles or military roles but this time around, he’s a family man with a wife and kid and one mysterious past.  It’s a role that doesn’t require too much emotion and if anything, the character role suits Tatum very well!

As a cop, who along with a few others are keeping a secret that the main protagonist, Jonathan, murdered two junkies when he was young and living in the projects.  While the film had potential, the pacing was interrupted by constant flashbacks and uninspired acting.   And for a solid cast, you would think these talents would be better utilized.  Especially if you have Al Pacino in your film.

I wish I could say that Al Pacino was magnificent but he was barely utilized in the film. Sure, his character plays a pivotal role but I wish his character had much more going on, than these few short scenes.

Casting Tracy Morgan for a crime thriller, may seem a bit odd.  But Tracy Morgan was much easier to take-in as there are no in-your-face jokes or outrageous behavior.  If anything, he does a fine job of playing a restrained character who is emotionally messed up!  No wisecracking at all. This is probably the most serious role I have seen him star in and while he wasn’t utilized all that much, during his scenes…he did a good job playing a serious role.

Ray Liotta in a film is a giveaway.  If you seen his films, you know what kind of character he will be. And that’s all I have to say about Liotta, without giving too much away.

And last, we have Katie Holmes.  She plays the sweet, caring wife but there is unexplored areas that I found a bit frustrating because as a wife who is concerned about your husband, somehow her role was shut down after a major emotional scene.  It’s unfortunate because her role could have been explored much more, but she seems to have disappeared during the last leg of the film’s storyline.

Once again, this is the problem I have with “The Son of No One”.  Character utilization was poor, seemed rushed and while the plot had potential, this back-and-forth between present-time and flashbacks seem to hurt the pacing of the film.  If anything, would rather have less focus on the young actors, more focus on the major talents of this film.

With that being said, “The Son of No One” is not a terribly bad film.  In fact, the film featured awesome cinematography from Benoit Delhomme and an intriguing crime thriller that kept you interested.  It’s an intriguing film but when it comes down to it, the screenplay does feel as if it was rushed.  For a film with a strong cast, I also wish that there was better utilization of the characters during the present-time storyline.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is fantastic and as for special features, the audio commentary was quite interesting, despite the momentary commentary gaps.

Overall, “The Son of No One” may appeal to Channing Tatum fans or anyone that enjoys popcorn crime thriller.

THE SON OF NO ONE on BD/DVD on 2/21/12

February 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

ANCHOR BAY FILMS AND MILLENNIUM FILMS PROUDLY PRESENTS
A NU IMAGE PRODUCTION

THE SON OF NO ONE
Written and Directed by Dito Montiel
STARRING CHANNING TATUM, TRACEY MORGAN, KATIE HOLMES, RAY LIOTTA, JULIETTE BINOCHE,
AL PACINO and JAKE CHERRY

“Exhilarating and Powerful”
-–Avi Offer, NYCMovie Guru

Available on Blu-ray™ and DVD February 21, 2012

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – Anchor Bay Films is proud to announce the release of The Son of No One on Blu-ray™ and DVD, February 21, 2012.  A 2-disc Blu-ray™+DVD combo pack will also be available.  Hailed as   “A riveting piece of filmmaking [featuring] one of the best casts of the year” by Joel Amos, MovieFanatic.com, The Son of No One is agripping thriller about how far one police officer will go to keep his darkpast hidden and protect his family.  The release also contains deletedscenes and audio commentary with Writer/Producer/Director Dito Montiel and Editor/Executive Producer Jake Pushinsky.

Jonathan (Channing Tatum 21 Jump Street, The Vow) is a second-generation cop who gets in over his head when he’s assigned to re-open a double homicide cold case in his Queens neighborhood. An anonymous source feeding new information on the long-unsolved murders to a local reporter (Juliette Binoche Cosmopolis, Dan In Real Life, ) leads to evidence suggesting a possible cover-up by the former lead detective (Al Pacino The Godfather, Scarface) who was on the investigation. As Jonathan digs deeper into the assignment, a dark secret about the case emerges, which threatens to destroy his life and his family.

Channing Tatum delivers a gritty and memorable performance, while New York mainstay writer and director Dito Montiel (Guide to Recognizing Your Saints) is at the top of his game. Also starring Tracy Morgan (NBC’s “30 Rock”), Katie Holmes (Batman Begins), Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) and Jake Cherry (Night at the Museum), The Son of No One is a tense and powerful thriller filled with suspense, secrets and lies.

About Anchor Bay Films
Anchor Bay Films is unique in that it offers the creative community a fully integrated distribution capability on all platforms and an international solution extending beyond the U.S.  Anchor Bay Films is a division of Anchor Bay Entertainment and is on the ground providing quality distribution with operations in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, as well as distribution capabilities in other key territories. The company focuses on a platform release strategy for its films with an eye toward maximizing theirpotential across all ancillary distribution platforms. Upcoming is Corman’s World about Academy Award® winning filmmaker Roger Corman which premiered at Cannes 2011.  Films in its library include the critically-acclaimedcomedy City Island starring Andy Garcia and Solitary Man starring Michael Douglas as well as the 2011 releases of Kill the Irishman starring Ray Stevenson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Val Kilmer and Christopher Walken and Toronto Film Festival award-winner Beautiful Boy with Maria Bello and Michael Sheen.  Anchor Bay Entertainment is a subsidiary of Starz Media, LLC (www.starzmedia.com) which is an operating unit of Starz, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation (NASDAQ: LMCA).

Summer Hours – The Criterion Collection #513 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

April 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Olivier Assayas’s “Summer Hours” is wonderfully scripted, features brilliant acting and showcases absolutely beautiful cinematography. Overall, a fantastic film that I can easily give the highest recommendation.

Image courtesy of © IFC in Theaters, LLC., 2008 MK2 SA-France 3 Cinema. © 2010 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Summer Hours (L’heure d’ete) – The Criterion Collection #513

DURATION: 103 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, Surround in French with English Subtitles

COMPANY: IFC Films/MK2/The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: April 2010

Written and Directed by Olivier Assayas

Executive Producer: Claire Dornoy

Produced by Charles Gillibert, Marin Karmitz, Nathanael Karmitz

Cinematography by Eric Gautier

Edited by Luc Barnier

Casting by Antoinette Boulat

Set Decoration by Sandrine Mauvezin

Production Management: Sylvie Barthet

Starring:

Juliette Binoche as Adrienne

Charles Berling as Frederic

Jeremie Renier as Jeremie

Edith Scob as Helene

Dominique Reymond as Lisa

Valerie Bonneton as Angela

Isabelle Sadoyan as Eloise

Kyle Eastwood as James

Alice de Lencquesaing as Sylvie

Emile Berling as Pierre

Universally acclaimed by critics, the multiple award-winning Summer Hours is the great contemporary French filmmaker Olivier Assayas’s most personal film to date. Three siblings, played by Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, and Jérémie Rénier, must decide what to do with the country estate and objects they’ve inherited from their mother. From this simple story, Assayas creates an exquisitely nuanced drama about the material of globalized modern living. Naturalistic and unsentimental, Summer Hours is that rare film that pays respect to family by treating it with honesty.

“Summer Hours” is the latest film written and directed by award-winning director Olivier Assayas (“Clean”, “Demonlover”, “Les destinees sentimentales”).   “Summer Hours” known as “L’heure d’ete” is a personal film for Assayas who wanted to create a film dealing with diverse characters and conflict visions of the world.

Assayas, who was inspired by legendary director Jean Renoir from his artwork and his films connecting humanity and nature, “Summer Hours” is a beautiful French drama that is based around a family, inspired by its characters but also showing the beauty through art and the lush, beautiful surroundings of the family home.

“Summer Hours” revolves around the children of the family matriarch, Helene (played by Edith Scob) who is celebrating her 75th birthday with her three children and their families.  Her children include the oldest son Frederic (played by Charles Berling), who happens to be the only son living in France; her daughter Adrienne (played by Juliette Binoche) who lives in New York and is a designer for a Japanese department store and her youngest son Jeremie (played by Jeremie Renier) are there to celebrate her birthday.

But for Helene, life is loneliness and knowing that this 75th birthday may be the last she sees of her children and grandchildren as they are living their own lives without her.  All that is there for her is her longtime maid Eloise and memories of the past, and countless, priceless art and sculpture collections collected over the years by her uncle and the family.  Relics that have been part of the family for ages.

While everyone is celebrating her birthday, she talks to her oldest son Frederic and gives him directions of how she wants the paintings, the expensive artifacts in the home to be taken care of and preparing him just in case she is no longer around.  Of course, Frederic doesn’t want to hear any of this and feels his mom will be around for many, many years to come.  But being at the old house and talking with his mother brings back memories of  when Frederic and his siblings were young and how the place has so many memories.

When everyone leaves to go back home, Helene is saddened.  She knows that she won’t see her family for a long time.  They say they will visit but each have their own family, their own careers and are all busy.  Lonely, saddened, she finds peace while sitting alone in the dark.

And not long after the day of celebrating their mother’s 75th birthday, the children are reunited once more but this time to mourn their mother’s death but now figure out what will happen to the paintings, sketches and expensive artifacts around the home but also what will happen to the house that they grew up in.

Adrienne is busy with her career, her own personal life and living in New York, Jeremie and his family are planning to move to China and have no chance to visit France to check on the house and for Frederic, he is torn because of his memories of the house and the art that they grew up with and hoped the children would inherit it.  But the children are too young too appreciate the art and his siblings may need the money to help them start with their own lives.  It’s letting go of the things that he once grew up with and appreciated that is the most difficult.

For Frederic, knowing that the things in the home are full of memories of his mother, his childhood and a potential memory for this own children but due to circumstances, he knows that he must let go.

VIDEO:

“Summer Hours – The Criterion Collection #513” is presented in 1:85:1.  This is a film that is just gorgeous.  The cinematography by Eric Gautier captures the tranquility of the home and its surrounding areas.  The attention to detail when it comes to the art pieces is fantastic and I can easily imagine how awesome this film would look on Blu-ray.  What I loved about the look of this film is that it does remind me a bit of Jean Renoir, Eric Rohmer and Agnes Varda.  The attention to the nature and the living space with so much detail.  Absolutely beautiful!

According to the Criterion Collection, “Summer Hours” is presented in its original aspect ration of 1:85:1 and was supervised by director Olivier Assayas and approved by Assayas and cinematographer Eric Gautier.  The new high-definition transfer was created from an interpositive.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Summer Hours” is presented in Surround in French and English subtitles.  According to Criterion, the audio features a fully digital soundtrack and mastered in 24-bit from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD.  Dialogue is understandable and there are sequences where you can hear the birds from the front and surround channels.  But primarily, the film is dialogue driven until the final arc of the film goes through a shift as the film, begins to focus on troubled grandchild Sylvie (Frederic’s daughter) as she plans to have a big party at her deceased grandmother’s home.  And from this moment on, we hear French hip hop and pop music and watching all the kids at the party, being rowdy or  sitting back and singing to the music.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Summer Hours – The Criterion Collection #513” comes with the following special features:

DISC 2:

  • Olivier Asayas – (28:48) In this 2010 interview shot in Paris, director Olivier Asayas talks about what he wanted to explore and what he wanted to capture in his film “Summer Hours”.
  • Making-Of – (26:01) A documentary featuring interviews with director Olivier Assayas, actors Charles Berling and Juliette Binoche and showing behind-the-scenes footage of the filming of “Summer Hours”.
  • Inventory  – (50:37) A documentary shot by Olivier Goinard at Paris’s Musee d’Orsay and focusing on the use of art in “Summer Hours”.
  • 26-Page Booklet – Featuring the essay “A Time to Live and a Time to Die” by Kent Jones.

“Summer Hours” is a simply story about siblings who have lost a loved one, a parent and having to make decisions of what happens to possessions and property. Something that a lot of people can relate to.

Describing this film by words is not so easy.  The premise of those mourning the death of a love one may seem a bit banal and not so interesting but director Olivier Assayas does a a few things right in order to make the film feel just right.  From the beautiful cinematography by Eric Gautier and capturing the beauty of the home and its outward scenery.  The place looks small but its surrounding so lush with green plants, flowers and overall just this sense of peace and tranquility to the outside world.  With Assayas’s appreciation of Jean Renoir, he also incorporates along with nature, the beauty of art.  In fact, that is what intrigues me about the characters is their appreciation and knowledge of art but also to see how art is used throughout the film.

Also, there is a sense of choreography of how the characters interact with each other.  Depending on one’s experience of having to dispose of possessions after one’s death can easily be seen as a scene of conflict, a scene that can become troublesome but you realized with these characters, this is a loving family but each have their own lives.  Older brother Frederic who is more emotional towards the house and the paintings while his two siblings are not as attached.  Adrienne is getting married and continuing her life in America to begin her own family, while Jeremie and his family are focused on their move to Beijing.  As an older brother, he is conflicted because his mother and uncle loved the house, the art but knowing his siblings are not in the same situation and the money made by selling each piece can benefit them.

And Assayas also manages to inject the significant others of Frederic and Jeremie into the film as they stay strong in support of their husbands and their decisions.    Watching these characters, you have a sense of what is important, what is sentimental and what is the finality of their decisions.   We can easily understand each of the siblings point of view and then we can also see why one would be tied to the home and the art.  These scenes are just beautiful to watch onscreen and one can think, “why would anyone want to leave this haven”?  And I believe the children of Frederic sum it up very well when they see the paintings and when told that they can inherit it one day, the look of their faces are not happy but more of a “Why?” and the comment of the son of the painting is of another era?  Too young to appreciate the beauty in art and for the character of Frederic, knowing that art should be appreciated, not given to those who inherit it and don’t have the same passion.

And that is what I find so beautiful with this story.   It was well-written, well-directed and cinematography is absolutely beautiful.  “Summer Hours” is a gorgeous film, a touching film but is not perfect.  As we get comfortable with the older siblings, the film suddenly switches to Frederic’s young daughter Sylvie who brings her friends to party in the house.  We see the children blasting hip hop, smoking weed and by the end of the film, you feel satisfied but the generation shift was a bit abrupt but at the same time, you can understand why it was done.

The Criterion Collection has presented us again with another DVD (and also Blu-ray) release of a beautiful film that is worth having in your film collection.  As I am viewing the DVD version, I can easily say that I’m quite sure the Blu-ray version will be absolutely beautiful due to the outdoor scenes and the amount of detail presented inside the home and the art and sculptures featured.  The special features are quite enjoyable, especially if you are passionate about art.

Overall, “Summer Hours” is a fantastic film that I can easily give the highest recommendation.

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