Top

Underworld: Blood Wars (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

April 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A worthy continuation of the “Underworld” film series that leans very heavy on the action, if you are looking for an all-out action film with vampires vs. werewolves, “Underworld: Blood Wars” will definitely appeal to you!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lakeshore Entertainment Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Underworld: Blood Wars

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmost (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Strong Bloody Violence and Some Sexuality)

RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2017


Based on the Characters by Kevin Grevioux, Len wiseman, Danny McBride

Directed by Anna Foerster

Screenplay by Cory Goodman

Story by Kyle Ward, Cory Goodman

Producer: David Kern, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Len Wiseman, Richard S. Wright

Co-Producer: David Minkowski, Jackie Shenoo, Matthew Stillman

Executive Producer: James McQuaide, Ben Waisbren, Skip Williamson, Henry Winterstern

Music by Michael Wandmacher

Cinematography by Karl Walter Lindenlaub

Edited by Peter Amundson

Casting by Julie Hutchinson, Maya Kvetny, Suzanne Smith

Production Design by Ondrej Nekvasil

Art Direction by Bryce Tibbey, Martin Vackar

Set Decoration by Beatrice Brentnerova

Costume Design by Bojana Nikitovic


Starring:

Kate Beckinsale as Selene

Theo James as David

Tobias Menzies as Marius

Lara Pulver as Semira

Charles Dance as Thomas

James Faulkner as Cassius

Peter Andersson as Vidar

Clementine Nicholson as Lena

Bradley James as Varga

Daisy Head as Alexia

Oliver Stark as Gregor

Sveta Driga as Amelia


In the next installment of the blockbuster franchise, Vampire death dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) fends off brutal attacks from both the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her. With her only allies, David (Theo James) and his father Thomas (Charles Dance), she must stop the eternal war between Lycans and Vampires, even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.


With the success of the “Underworld” films, the fifth film “Underworld: Blood Wars” continues the storyline about the war between the vampires and the Lycans (werewolves).

Directed by Anna Foerster (“Outlander” TV series) and as screenplay by Cory Goodman (“Priest”, “The Last Witch Hunter”), the film is a sequel to the fourth film, “Underworld: Awakening” and features the return of Kate Beckinsale as the immortal vampire Selene and Theo James as David.

The film also stars Lara Pulver (“Edge of Tomorrow”, “Da Vinci’s Demons”, “The Special Relationship”), Tobias Menzies (“Outlander”, “Casino Royale”, “Atonement”), Daisy Head (“The Last Seven”, “Guilt”), Clementine Nicholson, Charles Dance (“Ghostbusters”, “Alien 3”, “Game of thrones”), James Faulkner  (“Downton Abbey”, “Da Vinci’s Demons”, “Game of Thrones”), Bradley James (“Merlin”, “Damien”, “Dis/Connected”) and Oliver Stark (“Into the Badlands”, “Luther”, “MindGamers”).

What is “Underworld” about?

“Underworld” takes place during a time where the vampires and the Lycans (werewolves) are at war.  In the past, the Lycans were used as slaves for centuries by the vampires but rebelled courtesy of their leader Lucian and have been in war since.

In the first film, Selene who has fought and killed Lycans believing that they were responsible for her family’s massacre learned from Kraven that Viktor was responsible for her family’s death.  With Michael near death due to the silver nitrate in his body that was shot by Kraven, Lucian (who was revealed to have started the war because he was in love with Sonja, a vampire and daughter of Viktor and was killed by her father to stop the relationship between a vampire and Lycan) tells Selene that in order to save him, she must bite him.

Selene has bitten Michael and transforming him to half Lycan/half vampire and both killed Viktor.  Meanwhile, the next elder vampire that is in line to be revived is Marcus and because Singe was killed near Marcus’ tomb and his blood has dripped into his tomb, that Marcus will now be revived early.

The first film would with Selene knowing that she has changed the course of the war by converting Michael by making him half vampire/half Lycan and because she aided a Lycan, she will now be hunted.

“Underworld: Evolution” begins with the three vampire elders: Marcus, Viktor and Amelia in the year 1202 A.D.  Viktor and Amelia capture William Corvinus (brother of Marcus who happens to be a powerful Lycan).  As Marcus tries to defend his brother from being harmed, Viktor has William imprisoned in a secret location for eternity.

Fastforward to the present, Selene hides Michael in a safehouse but returns to the vampire coven to confront Kraven.  She knows that Kraven has plans to eliminate Marcus and wants to stop him before he does.  But because Lycan blood is what has dripped into Marcus’ tomb, Marcus has now reawaken as a Vampire-Dominant hybrid.

Selene also learns the true reason why Viktor spared her from death when her family was massacred and why they were massacred.  And because of that reason, Markus is wanting to get to her as well.

Alexander Corvinus has given Selene his blood and thus given immortality.

Since then, both Selene and Michael have been on the run trying to protect each other from both vampire and Lycan who want them dead.

Because creators of the “Underworld” films wanted to explain how the feud between the Death Dealers and the Lycans started.  “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans”, a prequel to the first two films, was created and released in theaters back in 2009.

With the fourth film, “Underworld: Awakening”, after the events of “Underworld: Evolution”, the world now knows that vampires and Lycans exist.  And there is a massive cleansing (known as “The Purge”) as humans now try to exterminate vampires and Lycans.  Survivors have now moved underground, while both Selene and Michael have become the hunted.

Split off from each other, both try to come together during a standoff with the authorities but as Michael is shot and falls into the ocean, Selene goes after him and tries to save him.  But in the process, both are separated by a detonator.

Fast forward, 12 years later and during this time, “The Purge” has now been concluded as 95% of the vampires have been annihilated and the Lycans are considered as extinct.

Selene is being kept inside a cryogenic suspension by the medical corporation known as Antigen, which are trying to create an antidote for the virus which creates vampires and Lycans

Known as “subject 1”, someone has broken into the lab facility and have released Selene.  As Selene awakens and puts on her leather costume, she looks for Michael but is not sure where he is kept and thus she escapes Antigen facilities.

eanwhile, murders are occurring in the city and while the normal judgment by police is to think that the vampires had committed the crime (since Lycans are thought to be extinct), Detective Sebastian (played by Michael Ealy), looking at how the body was murdered, doesn’t think so.  And he spots Selene, who quickly disappears.

But also spotting Selene is a young vampire named David (played by Theo James).  He goes to track down Selene, who is trying to find answers of where Michael may be.  When David tracks her down, he tells her the truth that the Lycans have been forced to live underground, no food, diseased and something has riled them up in order for them to go back up to the surface.  And he thinks Selene knows the answer to why the Lycans are back.

But Selene starts to see images, images that usually come from the bond that she has with Michael.  Thinking that Michael is in trouble and is being hunted by the Lycans, she and David fight them off but instead of finding Michael, she finds a young girl named Eve (played by India Eisely).

Why does girl have this power and why is Selene reacting to it?  As the three are pursued by the Lycans, Eve tells Selene that she was Subject 2 at Antigen and was responsible for setting her free.  She also revealed that she was in a chamber next to her mother…which would be Selene.  Needless to say, Selene is shocked because 12 years ago, she was with Michael.  Now when she awakens, instead of finding Michael, she finds out that both had a daughter.

This now leads us to the fifth film in the “Underworld” series, things are not looking good for the vampire covens as they are nearly wiped out by the Lycans.  Both groups are seeking out Death Dealer, Selene (portrayed by Kate Beckinsale) for the deaths of Viktor and Marcus and the Lycans, wanting Selene in order to find her daughter Eve (who has the blood of vampire-werewolf) and want to create an army of vampire-werewolf hybrids.

Because of the threat of either side looking for Eve, Selene’s daughter was taken away from her to an undisclosed location in order to protect Eve.  That even Selene has no idea of her daughter’s whereabouts.

Semira (portrayed by Lara Pulver), a council member of the Eastern Coven wants Selene to be granted clemency, so she can train the Eastern Coven’s neophyte Death Dealers.

And as Selene arrives to the Eastern Coven with her protege, David (portrayed by Theo James), while training the Death Dealers, Semira’s lover Varga (portrayed by Bradley James) betrays Selene and kills all the Death Dealers as planned by Semira.

Semira drains Selene’s blood and will drink it in order to gain her power, but when vampire elder Thomas (portrayed by Charles Dance) and David arrive, a battle begins with Semira and Varga.

And in order to save their lives and buy time for David to rescue Selene, he sacrifices his life in battle.

As David and Selene head to the Nordic Coven, pursuing them are Marius (portrayed by Tobias Menzies) and the Lycans who are intent in finding out where Eve is located.  But also pursuing Selene is Alexia (portrayed by Daisy Head), a death dealer from the Eastern Coven and the lover of Marius, the Lycan leader.


VIDEO:

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

Picture quality is fantastic as closeups show amazing detail and the film maintains its cool, dark look with blues, gays and blacks.  Black levels are nice and deep and for the most part, the film looks great in 4K Ultra HD!

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Underworld: Blood Wars” is presented in English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 5.1), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English-Audio Desription Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.

I was so pleased with this soundtrack and just hearing constant immersive audio coming from front channels and also the surround channels for the many action scenes throughout the film.  The music soundtrack also is utilized for the surround channels as well.  Also, great use of LFE.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Underworld: Blood Wars” comes with the following special features on the second Blu-ray disc:

  • The Evolution of Selene – (8:09) A featurette about the main protagonist, Selene and interviews with Kate Beckinsale and producers of the film.
  • Old & New Blood – (6:15) Cast and producers discuss the Nordic Coven featured in the film.
  • The Evil Evolved – (6:07) A featurette about the Eastern Coven and the Lycans.
  • Building a Blood War – (12:01) Director Anna Foerster and producers discussing of bringing back the look of the original but creating something fresh and new.
  • Underworld: Blood Wars – The Official Movie Graphic Novel – Darkstorm Comics graphic novel.  Using your remote, you can cycle through each page of the comic book.

EXTRAS:

“Underworld: Blood Wars” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray discs and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


With the original “Underworld” trilogy, there was a good focus on the storyline between the vampires (Death Dealers) and the Lycans (werewolves) and balancing it out with the action.

While I have always looked at the “Underworld” films as your vampire vs. werewolf popcorn action film series.  With “Underworld: Awakening”, the writers were moving away from the “Twilight” mushy romance (or Romeo & Juliet romance, as I called the first two films).

With “Underworld: Awakening”, the film became more action-heavy and as far as the storyline was concerned, the romantic element was eliminated and became more of a focus on Selene’s daughter having vampire/Lycan blood, making her a target for both sides.

Selene had become the hunted, as both sides want to know where Eve is located and that storyline continues with “Underworld: Blood Wars”.  And once again, you get a popcorn action film with actress Kate Beckinsale once again donning her tight black leather uniform that fans have come to love about the “Underworld” films.

But I’ve felt the film has taken a step into the direction of popcorn action with a forgetful storyline that seems like it would be appropriate more for a video game than a film. But giving the film the benefit of a doubt that writer Cory Goodman is trying to setup a connection for the next film, I can’t help but feel bad for director Anna Foerster.

Having loved what she has done with the “Outlander” series which feature episodes that are character and story-driven, Foerster is left with trying to create a film that revolves around chaotic action.

But despite the forgetful storyline, I did enjoy the film for its connection to the series as I enjoy the “Underworld” storyline.  I just wish there was more of it to enjoy because the characters are important and while it’s new to take adventures to a different coven and focus on the war with the Lycans nearly wiping out the vampires, you just feel that there should be more.  Considering the original trilogy was story-driven, you just want to see a good story go along with that chaotic action and not have the action dominate so much of the film.

So, considering how I enjoyed the original trilogy and knew that the fourth film “Underworld: Awakening” was heading to a different direction than the previous films, “Underworld: Blood Wars” remains consistent with the last film with no engrossing story, just a film with plenty of action and visual effects.  But yet, the final minute gives us a tease of something for fans of the film to look forward to when the sixth film is released in the future.

As for the 4K Ultra HD release, picture quality is magnificent and the darkness of the film with the use of blues, grays and blacks are still continued with this latest film.  Close-ups show great detail and Lycan transformations look great.  And similar to the last film, the lossless soundtrack is magnificent and immersive.  And considering the amount of action in this film, audiophiles should be quite thrilled to see how immersive the action sequences are and the use of the surround channels and LFE.

And as far as special features go, you are given a good number of special features including the official movie graphic novel and a few featurettes on a second Blu-ray disc.

Overall, while “Underworld: Blood Wars” is not a film that focuses on a deep storyline and fans of the previous film can expect to see a lot of fighting, a lot of deaths, non-stop action and Kate Beckinsale continuing to look awesome and also kicking a lot of arse!

A worthy continuation of the “Underworld” film series that leans very heavy on the action, if you are looking for an all-out action film with vampires vs. werewolves, “Underworld: Blood Wars” will definitely appeal to you!

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

January 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you love vampires and werewolves and love popcorn action films, “Underworld: Unrated” is definitely recommended!  Featuring a Blu-ray release with fantastic PQ, amazing AQ and plenty of special features… overall, if you are a fan of the film, “Underworld” is a 4K Ultra HD release worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2003 Subterranean Productions LLC. All Rights Reserved..


TITLE: Underworld

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2003

DURATION: 121 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), Italian and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA. SUBTITLES: English SDH, French and Italian

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Strong Violence, Gore and Some Language)

RELEASE DATE: December 27, 2016


Directed by Len Wiseman

Story by Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, Danny McBride

Screenplay by Danny McBride

Produced by Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Richard S. Wright

Executive Producer: Robert Bernacchi, Terry McKay, James McQuade, Skip Williamson, Henry Winterstern

Associate Producer: Kevin Grevioux, Danny McBride

Music by Paul Haslinger

Cinematography by Tony Pierce-Roberts

Edited by Martin Hunter

Production Design by Bruton Jones

Art Direction by Kevin Phipps, Csaba Stork

Set Decoration by Malcolm Stone

Costume Design by Wendy Partridge


Starring:

Kate Beckinsale as Selene

Scott Speedman as Michael Corvin

Michael Sheen as Lucian

Shane Brolly as Kraven

Bill Nighy as Viktor

Erwin Leder as Singe

Sophia Myles as Erika

Robbie Gee as Kahn

Wentworth Miller as Dr. Adam Lockwood

Kevin Grevioux as Raze

Zita Gorog as Amelia


In the Underworld, Vampires are a secret clan of modern aristocratic sophisticates whose mortal enemies are the Lycans (werewolves), a shrewd gang of street thugs who prowl the city’s underbelly. No one knows the origin of their bitter blood feud, but the balance of power between them turns even bloodier when a beautiful young Vampire warrior and a newly-turned Lycan with a mysterious past fall in love. Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman star in this modern-day, action-packed tale of ruthless intrigue and forbidden passion ­ all set against the dazzling backdrop of a timeless, Gothic metropolis.


In 2003, the action/horror film “Underworld” was released in theaters.

Directed by Len Wiseman (“Live Free and Die Hard”, “Underworld: Evolution”) and written by Danny McBride, the first film would receive mixed reviews from critics but would make over $95 million in the box office.

The film would star actress Kate Beckinsale (“Aviator”, “Pearl Harbor”), Scott Speedman (“Felicity”, “The Strangers”), Shane Brolly (“Spread”, “Devils Highway”), Michael Sheen (“Kingdom of Heaven”, “Alice in Wonderland”, “Frost/Nixon”) and Billy Nighy (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1”, “Love Actually”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”).

And now “Underworld” makes its way to 4K Ultra HD.  It’s important to note that this is the regular version of the film and not the “Unrated” extended version of the film.

“Underworld” takes place during a time where the vampires and the Lycans (werewolves) are at war.  In the past, the Lycans were used as slaves for centuries by the vampires but rebelled courtesy of their leader Lucian and have been in war since.

For vampire/Death Dealer, Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale), her job is to hunt down the Lycans.  When she was young, her family was massacred by the Lycans and thus she was taken in by vampire leader Victor (played by Bill Nighy) and given immortal life by being transformed into a vampire.  So, she despises the Lycans and assassinates them.  It is said that the Lycans were defeated many centuries ago when their leader Lucian (played by Michael Sheen) was killed and the Lycans that are remaining are survivors that must be eliminated.

But one day, as the vampires were hunting down the Lycans at a subway station, the Lycans fight back and the vampire/Death Dealer Rigel is killed.  She tracks them down to their den and another vampire is killed by a Lycan named Raze.  When Selene goes to investigate, she finds out that the Lycans have developed a new type of bullet to kill vampires.

When she arrives back to the vampire coven’s mansion, she goes to tell current vampire regent Kraven (played by Shane Brolly) what she discovered but is told to drop it.  Selene doesn’t understand why they would drop such important developments and when she goes to do more research, she realizes that the Lycans are following a human named Michael Corvin (played by Scott Speedman).

At the Lycan headquarters, we learn that their scientist Singe is testing blood on kidnapped descendants of the ancient Corvinus family to find a pure source of their ancient and powerful bloodline.  Selene wonders why they are pursuing the human and she decides to help him, but in the process, he is bitten by Lucian.

Selene brings the injured Michael back to the vampire’s coven, against Kraven’s wishes.  When one of the vampires goes to check on him, she finds a bite by a Lycan and realizes that the human will turn into a Lycan during a full moon.  Shocked by the encounter, Michael runs away from the Vampire’s coven.

When Selene continues her research about Lucian, she realizes that only one vampire has witnessed his death and it was Kraven.  What if there is a conspiracy and that Lucian is definitely alive, that means Kraven can not be trusted.

Selene manages to help Michael once again but this time, locking him up at a vampire lab area.  She explains to him about why she has hatred towards the Lycans and what they did to her family but also learns more about Michael’s history and tells what will happen to him during a full moon.

So, she decides to break vampire tradition by waking up the powerful elder vampire Viktor (who is not supposed to be awaken for another century).  As Selene tries to tell Viktor of what has happened, Viktor is more upset that Selene has broken a tradition that has been in place for many centuries and that Markus is to be the next elder vampire awakened, not him.    And also, she has no proof that Lucian is alive.

And because she has broken a major rule, Kraven and the guards put Selene under house arrest to await punishment.

But for Selene, she knows there is a conspiracy and she must escape and save Michael before the Lycans and the vampires get to him.


VIDEO:

“Underworld” is presented in 2160p High Definition (2:35:1).   The film looks quite amazing despite the film primarily being shot with a lot of black and blues.  The film was intentionally desaturated but during closeup scenes, you can see the skin pores on the talents face, the blue of the vampires eyes and for the most part, a good amount of detail can be seen from the leather clothing to the textures of objects and exteriors.  Even the creature design of the werewolves were well-detailed.

If anything, “Underworld” looks absolutely 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.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Underworld” is presented in English Dolby Atmost (Dolby TrueHD) 7.1 and Italian and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA.

The lossless soundtrack for this film is fantastic!   The surrounds and rear surrounds were being utilized throughout the film.  From the sounds of lightning, raindrops, glass shattering, bullets ricocheting, you name it… this is one heck of an immersive soundtrack.

Dialogue is crystal clear but it’s the action scenes that come alive with this lossless soundtrack.  There are so many intensive action sequences involving machine gun fire that I was very impressed of seeing how immersive those sequences are!  Audiophiles will love this soundtrack!  I definitely did!

Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH, French and Italian.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Underworld” comes with the following special features (Note: These are the same special features from the original Blu-ray release):

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring a hilarious and insightful commentary by director Len Wiseman, actress Kate Beckinsale and actor Scott Speedman.
  • Outtakes – (3:43) Featuring outtakes from “Underworld”.
  • Fang vs. Fiction – (47:18) A documentary about vampires and werewolves and those who think they are vampire and werewolves living today.
  • The Making of Underworld – (13:00) Featuring interviews with director Len Wiseman and the cast of “Underworld” plus behind-the-scenes making of the film.
  • The Visual Effects of Underworld – (8:58) Featuring the VFX supervisors of the film discussing the making of the visual effects for the film.
  • Creature Effects – (12:30) Creative designer Patrick Tatopulous talks about building the creatures for the film.
  • Designing Underworld – (10:48) Bruton Jones (Production Designer and Conceptual Artist) talks about designing “Underworld”.
  • The Look of Underworld – (19:12) Director Len Wiseman discusses the look he wanted for “Underworld” and how he didn’t want it to seem like a normal city but something much darker.
  • Sights and Sounds – (9:07) A featurette on the various sights (weapons) and sound effects for the film.
  • Music Video – (2:48) Featuring the music video for “Worms of the Earth” by Finch.
  • Storyboard Comparisons (6:42) Actual footage and storyboard comparisons.

EXTRAS:

“Underworld” will come with both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray plus an UltraViolet Digital HD code. Also, a slipcover.


“Underworld” is your vampire vs. werewolf popcorn action film.  Where there is a story that features why the Lycans and vampires are at war, it also plays out somewhat of a Romeo and Juliet story in a monstrous kind of way.  What happens if a vampire and a Lycan were to merge?  The first film of the trilogy goes into answering that question of why these two are at war but also what would result if they were to combine?

To be truthful, before watching this film, based on the trailer alone, I pretty much realized this was more of an action film rather than horror.  Granted, you’re going to see werewolves mauling on vampires and vampires attacking the Lycans but there is more reliance in these films towards weapon usage.  I understand the mythology of silver bullets to kill a vampire but would a bullet really be needed to kill vampires?  I suppose that it goes against the banality of the typical film using garlic, crosses and stakes but I found it rather intriguing to see these vampires utilizing powerful weaponry.

But what “Underworld” does have going for it is its action.  It’s strictly a popcorn action film and with actress Kate Beckinsale wearing a tight leather uniform, kicking major ass and with the film demonstrating a stylish, cool presentation, especially with its use of blues and blacks and saturated colors.

I also felt that the makeup and creature design were fantastic for this film as with the visual effects.

There are a few things about this 4K Ultra HD release that I do need to point out.  For one, this is not the “unrated” extended version.  And when the “unrated” version on Blu-ray was released back in 2007, I absolutely loved it!  But this is the regular version at 121 minutes, the unrated extended version was 134 minutes and I did enjoy the “unrated” version a lot more than the original version.

So, I know it’s subjective, but I wish the “unrated” extended version was released in 4K Ultra HD.

As for the 4K Ultra HD release, the picture quality is fantastic and the lossless soundtrack was absolutely amazing!  And to top things off, there are a good number of special features included especially a wild and crazy audio commentary and the “Fang vs. Fiction” documentary.  All these special features are from the Blu-ray release, so there is really nothing new added with this 4K Ultra HD release in terms of special features.

So, is it worth upgrading to 4K Ultra HD?  If you love the film, then you will definitely want to upgrade to better picture quality and lossless audio.  4K Ultra HD is primarily for the videophiles and audiophiles who want the best quality and have the hardware to support it.

Overall, while “Underworld” is not a film that focuses on a deep storyline, I found it rather intriguing and action-packed, especially the utilization of the film’s characters and how things were setup for the sequel.

If you love vampires and werewolves and love popcorn action films, “Underworld” is definitely recommended!

Love & Friendship (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Love & Friendship” is entertaining and so fun to watch! Everything about the characters, the storyline, the costume and set design and the always entertaining Stillman verbal quips that we get from every film of his, this film is delightful and one of the better Jane Austen adaptations out there. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Blinder Films, Chic Films, Revolver Amsterdam and Arte France Cinema. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Love & Friendship

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 93 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Thematic Elements)

Release Date: September 6, 2016


Based on Jane Austen’s novella, “Lady Susan”

Directed by Whit Stillman

Written by Whit Stillman

Produced by Lauranne Bourrachot, Katie Holly, Whit Stillman

Co-Producer: Remi Burah, Marco Cherqui, Olivier Pere, Raymond van der Kaaij

Executive-Producer: Collin de Rham, Russell Pennoyer, Keith Potter, Kieron J. Walsh, Nigel Williams

Line Producer: Cathleen Dore

Associate Producer: Trevor Brown

Cinematography by Richard Van Oosterhout

Music by Benjamin Esdraffo

Edited by Sophie Corra

Casting by Kerry Barden, Colin Jones, Paul Schnee

Production Design by Anna Rackard

Art Direction by Louise Mathews, Bryan Tormey

Set Decoration by Stuart Crinnion

Costume Design by Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh


Starring:

Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan Vernon

Morfydd Clark as Frederica Vernon

Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin

Jenn Murray as Lady Lucy Manwaring

Lochlann O’Mearain as Lord Manwaring

Sophie Radermacher as Miss Maria Manwaring

Chloe Sevigny as Alicia Johnson

Steven Fry as Mr. Johnson

Jemma Redgrave as Lady DeCourcy

James Fleet as Sir Reginald DeCourcy


LOVE & FRIENDSHIP is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan in which a beautiful young widow Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) visits her in-laws’ estate while waiting for social chatter about her personal indiscretions to pass. While there, the intelligent, flirtatious, and amusingly egotistical Lady Vernon decides to secure a husband for herself and her rather reluctant daughter, Frederica. Enlisting the assistance of her old friend Alicia (Chloe Sevigny), Lady Vernon attracts the simultaneous attention of the young, handsome Reginald DeCourcy, the rich and silly Sir James Martin and the divinely handsome, but married, Lord Manwaring, complicating matters severely.


From the Whit Stillman, director of “Metropolitan”, “Barcelona”, “The Last Days of Disco” and “Damsels in Distress” comes his latest film, “Love & Friendship”.

Featuring an adaptation of Jane Austen’s short novel, “Lady Susan” (and a title that is derived from an early Jane Austen epistolary novel), the film stars Kate Beckinsale (“Underworld” films, “Aviator”, “Pearl Harbor”), Morfydd Clark (“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, “The Falling”), Tom Bennett (“David Brent: Life on the Edge”, “Mascots”, “PhoneShop”), Jen Murray (“Brooklyn”, “Dorothy Mills”, “Testament of Youth”), Lochlann O’Mearain (“King Arthur”, “Poison Pen”), Sophie Radermacher, Chloe Sevigny (“Boys Don’t Cry”, “Big Love”) and Stephen Fry (“QI”, “V For Vendetta”, “Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows”).

The film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The subject of Jane Austen comes up in Whit Stillman’s films but who would ever have thought the filmmaker would create a loose adaptation of a Jane Austen novella into a comedy but also a film to showcase women in stronger roles.

The film revolves around Lady Susan Vernon (portrayed by Kate Beckinsale), who is recently widowed and has the reputation of seducing single and married men.

Because she is a widow, her financial status is now in jeopardy.  So, now Lady Vernon must create a scheme and tries to reach her goals through flirtation and seduction of wealthy men to be her next husband, but to also make sure she can get her daughter Frederica (portrayed by Morfydd Clark) to marry the idiotic, Sir James Martin (portrayed by Tom Bennett), so she can be taken care of financially.

Lady Vernon and Frederica do not have a close relationship and is not affectionate to her at all.

But Federica does not want to marry the man, she chooses to be independent and perhaps become a teacher and make her own money.

But Lady Vernon is not alone as she has collaborated with her American confidante, Mrs. Johnson (portrayed by Chloe Sevigny).

Lady Vernon finds a way to stay in the home of her sister-in-law Catherine DeCourcy Vernon (portrayed by Emma Greenwell) and her husband Charles (portrayed by Justin Edwards).

Immediately, Lady Vernon begins to set her sights on Catherine’s gullible, younger brother Reginald (portrayed by Xavier Samuel), to the dismay of Lady DeCourcy (portrayed by Jemma Redgrave) and Sir Reginald DeCourcy (portrayed by James Fleet).

But will Lady Vernon succeed in her scheme to become a wealthy woman by enticing Reginald on marrying her?


VIDEO:

“Love & Friendship” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is fantastic. Closeups show great detail, skin tones look natural and black levels are nice and deep.  But the true winner is the film’s art direction courtesy of Louise Mathews and Bryan Tormey, costume design by Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh and set design by Stuart Crinnion in capturing the 19th century and making the film look authentic.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Love & Friendship” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

The film is primarily dialogue driven, as dialogue is crystal clear.  The film features occasional music but for the most part, the film is primarily all dialogue with surround channels showcasing ambiance such as steps walking on wooden floors and up the stairs.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Love & Friendship” comes with the following special feature:

  • Behind the Scenes: Love & Friendship – (9:36) A featurette with interviews with the cast and crew of “Love & Friendship”.

For any cineaste who have watched Whitt Stillman films, there are several things you can often expect.

Intellectual conversations, humor and wonderful utilization of its characters.

For Stillman’s latest film, for this romantic comedy, he collaborates once again with actresses Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny (who both starred in his film, “The Last Days of Disco”) for his loose adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1794 novella, “Lady Susan”.

Entertaining, smart and hilarious, one can easily see how filmmaker Whitt Stillman feels comfortable in working within the 19th Century and bringing life to Austen’s characters.

The film is an interesting take of a golddigger who will scheme her way into finding a man who will be able to keep her financial status after becoming a widow.

Susan is a woman who can care less about her own daughter and the men she marries, she is more driven to having the lifestyle and the recognition of being wealthy. And what best than to target a young, naive young man.

While women such as Lady Lucy Manwaring and Catherine DeCourcy Vernon are suspicious of Susan, they care deeply for Lady Susan’s daughter, Frederica.  A woman who desires her own freedom and is not thrilled of her mother trying to cajole her into marrying a man, who keeps bumbling words and suggests there were 12 commandments.

For the most part, I loved how Whitt Stilman utilized each of the actors.  Kate Beckinsale was fantastic as Lady Vernon, as she was calm and collected as she performed her scheme, even when she is called out, she kept to her demeanor.  Although, I was expecting a more cold “Mommy Dearest” type of character between Lady Vernon and her daughter Frederica, that was not the case.

I also, enjoyed how supporting characters lent to the delightfulness of the film.  Stephen Fry as Mr. Johnson was entertaining to watch and of course, the performance by Tom Bennet as the bumbling idiot, Sir James Martin was fun to watch.  And also, the frantic and emotional performance of Jenn Murray as Lady Lucy Manwaring.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and the occasional music.  Although there is only one special feature included, it’s better than none.

Overall, “Love & Friendship” is entertaining and so fun to watch! Everything about the characters, the storyline, the costume and set design and the always entertaining Stillman verbal quips that we get from every film of his, this film is delightful and one of the better Jane Austen adaptations out there.

Recommended!

Total Recall: Extended Director’s Cut (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“Total Recall: Extended Director’s Cut” is one of the most beautiful looking sci-fi films on Blu-ray in 2012, looks great, sounds magnificent and a good number of special features are included.  But for anyone looking for something deep or thought-provoking, this is not the film.  This is a film for those who love popcorn action films and beautiful sci-fi visual effects.  And if you are that type of viewer, then “Total Recall: Extended Director’s Cut” is a Blu-ray release that I can easily recommend to you!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Total Recall: Extended Director’s Cut

FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 118 Minutes/Extended Director’s Cut: 130 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English – Audio Description Track, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital,  Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: UNRATED for Extended Director’s Cut / PG-13 (Intense Sequences of Sci-Fi Violence and Action, Some Sexual Content, Brief Nudity and Language)

Release Date: December 18, 2012

Directed by Len Wiseman

Screenplay by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback

Screen Story by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Jon Povill, Kirt Wimmer

Based on the Short Story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick

Produced by Toby Jaffe, Neal H. Moritz

Executive Producer: Ric Kidney, Len Wiseman

Associate Producer: Paula Kucharski

Music by Harry Gregson-Williams

Cinematography by Paul Cameron

Edited by Christian Wagner

Casting by Debra Zane

Production Design by Patrick Tatopoulos

Art Direction by Patrick Banister, Oana Bogdan, Brandt Gordon

Set Decoration by Carolyn “Cal” Loucks

Costume Design by Sanja Milkovic Hays

Starring:

Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid/Carl Hauser

Kate Beckinsale as Lori Quaid

Jessica Biel as Melina

Bryan Cranston as Cohaagen

Bokeem Woodbine as Harry

Bill Nighy as Matthias

John Cho as McClane

Wil Yun Lee as Marek

Dylan Smith as Hammond

Welcome to Rekall, the company that can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), even though he’s got a beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale) who he loves, the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his frustrating life – real memories of life as a super-spy might be just what he needs. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man. Finding himself on the run from the police – controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), the leader of the free world – Quaid teams up with a rebel fighter (Jessica Biel) to find the head of the underground resistance (Bill Nighy) and stop Cohaagen. The line between fantasy and reality gets blurred and the fate of his world hangs in the balance as Quaid discovers his true identity, his true love, and his true fate.

From Len Wiseman (director of the “Underworld” films, “Live Free or Die Hard”) comes a remake of the the 1990 film of the same name and based on the 1966 short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K.Dick.

With the original 1990 film directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin becoming a box office success and receiving praise from film critics for its complexity as a sci-fi film, for its remake, the film was to be more of an adaptation of the original short story but instead became more of action film with beautiful, modern visual effects.

The film made over $198 million in the box office during the summer of 2012 and now, will be released on Blu-ray which will include both the theatrical version and the extended director’s cut.

“Total Recall: Extended Director’s Cut” takes place after World War 3 had devastated the Earth to the point that the only habitable territories is the United Federation of Britain (UFB) and the Colony (Australia).  Many people from the Colony work in UFB in factories traveling on a gravity elevator (known as “The Fall”).  But because the UFB is ran through oppression courtesy of its UFB Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen (portrayed by Bryan Cranstone), a resistance group n the Colony that operates in the UFB are engaged in acts of terrorism against the UFB in order to improve life for the Colony.

The film begins with special agent Carl Hauser (portrayed by Colin Farrell) and his girlfriend Melina (portrayed by Jessica Biel) running away from UFB soldiers.  While the two are trying to escape, a shot goes through both of their hands and while Melina has a chance to escape, Hauser is captured by the UFB and tells Melina that he will find a way to come back to her.

Fastforward and we see Hauser now known as Douglas Quaid working in the factories.  He’s married to a police officer named Lori (portrayed by Kate Beckinsale) and Douglas works hard for the factory and hopes to get a promotion.  Meanwhile, each night, he has these dreams of a woman who he doesn’t know and it bothers him.  Meanwhile, bombings in the city of UFB are happening more and more and people are starting to fear of the resistance from the Colony.

Meanwhile, Quaid who is getting tired of his ho-hum life wants to visit a Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories.  An employee recommends he visit McClaine (portrayed by John Cho) and sure enough, Quaid goes by and when discussing the kind of memories he can have, McClaine talks about how Quaid can be a secret-agent.  Like how that sounds, Quaid is ready to be implanted with the new memories.  But as he is being checked, McClaine realizes that Quaid is a spy.  Not knowing what McClaine is talking about, the next thing you know, UFB officers raid the Rekall lab and kills everyone in sight, except Quaid.

Quaid who is scared of his life grabs one of the guns and surprisingly, kills nearly a dozen soldiers with ease.  Quaid is shocked about how he has this ability and manages to escape from more soldiers who come to capture him.

As the news of the death of the UFB soldiers are being blamed by the resistance, Quaid tells his wife Lori that he killed the soldiers.  But Lori tells him that he probably was implanted with fake memories from Rekall and quickly goes to give him a hug.  But while the two are embracing, Lori tries to kill him and a fight between the two ensues.

Lori explains to Quaid that she is a UFB operative who was sent to be his wife six weeks ago.  But Quaid tells her how can that be when they have been married for 15 years, but Lori explains it was an artificial memory implanted in him.  And she was hired to be his wife and watch over him.  And now, to kill him.

As Quaid and Lori fight, he manages to escape.   Lori dispatches UFB soldiers to kill Quaid, despite her boss, UFB Chancelor Cohaagen telling her to keep him alive.  But while on the run, he receives a call from a man named Hammond (portrayed by Dylan Smith), a Colony supporter working inside the UFB, who tells him that he is on the grid and that he received a message from him before his mind was wiped out and that it was coordinates to safe deposit box.

When Quaid goes to the box, it is equipped with passports and a neck-based device that allows him to change his facial features.  And also a message that he must go to his old apartment.

Not really sure what to do next, he follows the instruction knowing the UFB are after him.  While going to station in hopes to go back home, his device that changes his facial features goes on the fritz and once again, another chase between the UFB and him ensues.

He manages to escape in a freeway for air vehicles and is picked up by Melina, the woman that is in his dreams.  Immediately the two are chased by Lori and the UFB and once again, Quaid barely manages to escape.

But memories are starting to come back and his dreams of playing a piano, leads him to a piano in his apartment which he begins playing with no problems.  But it also activates a message left behind by Carl Hauser, explaining to Quaid that he is a special agent working with the Colony and they uncovered Cohaagen’s plot to create a robotic army to infiltrate the Colony, since the UFB is running out of space.  And Hauser saw a code that would deactivate the robotic army.  But he must get the code to the Resistance leader named Matthias (portrayed by Bill Nighy).

Melina then tells Quaid that she and him were lovers and explains how they were separated and both have a scar where they were both shot through the hand.  For Quaid, it’s hard to believe he was a special agent and all this news is a shock to him and learning that his memories that he has are all fake.

Unfortunately, the reunion between Hauser and Melina is short as Lori and the UFB once again, have their plans to eliminate the two.

Will Hauser and Melina find a way to get the message and code to resistance leader, Matthias?  Or will Lori and the UFB get to them first?

VIDEO:

“Total Recall” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio) and while the film is primarily all visual effects and great use of green screen, on Blu-ray this film looks magnificent.  If anything, I guess the best word to describe the picture quality is “perfect”.  Detail is amazing, the film looks natural, close-up shots are impressive and I’m just impressed of how awesome the environments look.  Black levels are nice and deep, no sign of banding, artifacts, aliasing or anything negative.  “Total Recall” looks magnificent in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

And as one expects from a big budget film when it comes to picture quality, lossless audio doesn’t disappoint at all.  Presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital and an English Audio Description Track, the lossless soundtrack to “Total Recall” is immersive and an audiophile’s dream.  With so much action featured in the film, directional audio of shootouts come from all over the soundscape and is truly immersive.  Ambiance of the city and crowds are also clear and the booms, crashes and bullets striking objects and the overall chaos that happens within the city, great LFE and great use of the surround channels!  Dialogue and music is crystal clear from the front and center channels and the film sounds absolutely dynamic.  “Total Recall” features a fantastic lossless soundtrack!  There is nothing negative about it!  Like the picture quality, the lossless soundtrack is perfect!

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Total Recall: Extended Director’s Cut” comes with the following special features on two Blu-ray discs:

  • Total Recall with Insight – While watching the film you will get a split screen that shows how the film was made, behind-the-scenes featurettes, art concept sketches, trivia and more!  Only featured when watching the theatrical cut.
  • Director’s Commentary – Featuring  a very informative audio commentary by director Len Wiseman.  For those who want to learn more about Wiseman’s mindset and challenges on making this film, will want to listen to this audio commentary.
  • Gag Reel– (8:00) Outtakes from “Total Recall”.
  • Science Fiction vs. Science Fact – (9:28) Michio Kaku, a professor of Theoretical Physics and Author of “Physics of the future” talk about the future of robots, holograms, flying vehicles and the science of “The Fall”.
  • Designing the Fall – (2:55) A featurette on the film’s set and visual scenes for “The Fall”.
  • Colin Farrell- (3:33) A featurette on the film’s lead actor.
  • The Tripping Den– (3:18) A short featurette on the making of one of the main action sequences in the film.
  • Destroying Rekall – (2:24) The making of the scene of the destruction of the Rekall Lab.
  • Kate Beckinsale – (9:42) A featurette about Kate Beckinsale and her character Lori.
  • Lobby Escape – (1:22) A very short featurette on the making of the key action sequence.
  • Jessica Biel – (3:38) A short featurette on actress Jessica Biel and her character Melina.
  • Quaid vs. Cohaagen – (3:05) A featurette about the final fighting sequence featuring Colin Farrell and Bryan Cranston’s characters.
  • Stepping Into Recall: Pre-Visualization Sequences – Featuring five motion storyboards: Apartment Waterfront Chase (157), The Fall Fight (11:13), Flight and Tripping Den (4:46), Elevator chase (4:34) and Car Chase (3:27)

EXTRAS:

“Total Recall: Extended Director’s Cut” comes with an UltraViolet code which allows you to download the movie to your computer and select Apple and Android devices and stream to computers, tables or smartphones.  Also, included is a slipcover case and both extended and director’s cut versions of the film with an extra Blu-ray disc containing the special features.  Also, a video game demo for “God of War: Ascension” for the Sony PS3 is included.

I’m quite aware of the criticism “Total Recall” had received, especially when compared to the 1990 film version.  But in someway, I give credit to Len Wiseman for taking on a sci-fi film which the original has its own cult following.  The question was how was he going to make things different.

Giving credit to the 1990 Paul Verhoeven film, it was during a time when people were craving something new and unique.  Top films of the year were “Ghost”, “Home Alone”, “Pretty Woman”, “Dances with Wolves” and for sci-fi films, it was pretty much “Total Recall” and “Back to the Future III”.  With “Total Recall”, the film relied on plot, creativity and for its time, it was unique, humorous and imaginative.  People loved the originality with the film and for the 2012 film, aside from using modern visual effects, it’s not going to be easy to create a better film, when the original film was so well-liked!

My approach to this 2012 version was a film created for today’s generation, using the latest in CG visual effects and creating a sci-fi world that would look even more fantastic and amazing than the original film.  And for the most part, I feel that Len Wiseman and crew did accomplish that.

But one of the strong points of the original film was its plot and humor, this time around, “Total Recall” is more of a popcorn action film and it seems that for today’s cinema, it’s something that audiences continue to come out for and enjoy and move-on.  When I think about this film, the original 1990 film made you want to watch it again and over 20-years-later, I have watched the 1990 version of “Total Recall” on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray a good number of times.

And with the original 1990 film, it maintained some semblance to the original short story that it takes place on Mars.  This new film, there is nothing about Mars at all, nor are their aliens.  The original was darker, bloodier but that’s what makes the 1990 version a sci-fi classic.  The 2012 version doesn’t try to be anything like the original, it doesn’t want to be an exact remake and I like that.  I tend to dislike remakes of older films but if they can maintain some semblance to the original but yet be something different, I’m all for it.

We have seen remakes or reboots with films such as “Hulk”, “Spider-Man”,  “Superman”, “Karate Kid” and the list goes on and on.

But with “Total Recall”, the original was a sci-fi film was dark comedy elements, this 2012 version is a visual effects-driven, popcorn action sci-fi film.   In my opinion, two different types of films.

And for those who feel that the 2012 version was dumbed down to be too action-driven, well, if you followed Len Wiseman’s films, as a director or producer, the “Underworld” films have been like that and even his earlier film “Live Free or Die Hard” has been like that.  The fact is that Wiseman is a director who was hired to take on this film because of his experience in action-films.  And for today’s audiences who are exposed to video games that tend to be more eye candy and short on plot, a lot of action films seem to be that way and today’s audiences are digging it.

Personally, with director Len Wiseman and the casting of Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale, I pretty much expected an action film and nothing to deep or thought-provoking.  So, I came out watching this film with no negative feelings, whatsoever.  I got what I expected and maybe even more with the stunning beautiful visual effects and the outstanding picture quality and lossless audio on Blu-ray.

What I enjoyed about this 2012 Blu-ray release is that you get both the theatrical and extended director’s cut edition.  And for those who really want to get into the mindset of the challenges that Len Wiseman faced as a director, the audio commentary included with this Blu-ray release is worth listening to!  In fact, there are a good number of special features included on this Blu-ray release, although a good number of them are quite short.

Regardless, there’s nothing to be angry or spiteful to this film because the original 1990 version is out on Blu-ray.  I look at this as a film tailored to today’s audiences who want more action, more visual effects. And that’s what the audience is getting.  So, if you enjoyed the original, there is a Blu-ray release for the Paul Verhoeven film available.

Overall, “Total Recall: Extended Director’s Cut” is one of the most beautiful looking sci-fi films on Blu-ray in 2012, looks great, sounds magnificent and a good number of special features are included.  But for anyone looking for something deep or thought-provoking, this is not that type of film.  This is a film for those who love popcorn action films and beautiful sci-fi visual effects.  And if you are that type of viewer, then “Total Recall: Extended Director’s Cut” is a Blu-ray release that I can easily recommend to you!

 

Underworld: Awakening 3D (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

If you love vampires and werewolves and love popcorn action films, “Underworld: Awakening” will definitely interest you.  But the highlight is the fantastic 3D experience of this Blu-ray and its fantastic, immersive lossless soundtrack.  “Underworld: Awakening” is definitely one of the better live action 3D Blu-ray releases I have watched!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Lakeshore Entertainment Group LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Underworld: Awakening 3D

FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 89 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (For Strong Violence and Gore, and for Some Language)

Release Date: May 8, 2012

Directed by Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein

Screenplay by Len Wiseman, John Hlavin, J. Michael Straczynski, Allison Burnett

Story by Len Wiseman

Characters by Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, Danny McBride

Executive Producer: David Kern, James McQuaide, Skip Williamson, Henry Winterstern

Produced by Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Len Wiseman, Richard S. Wright

Music by Paul Haslinger

Cinematography by Scott Kevan

Edited by Jeff McEvoy

Casting by Deborah Aquila, Tricia Wood

Production Design by Claude Pare

Art Direction by Martina Javorova, Gary Myers

Set Decoration by Shane Vieau

Costume Design by Monique Prudhomme

Starring:

Kate Beckinsale as Selene

Stephen Rea as Dr. Jacob Lane

Michael Ealy as Detective Sebastian

Theo James as David

India Eisley as Eve

Sandrine Holt as Lida

Charles Dance as Thomas

Kris Holden-Ried as Quint

Jacob Blair as Officer Kolb

KATE BECKINSALE returns as the ultimate vampire warrioress Selene in Underworld Awakening, the stunning new installment of the epic saga for the first time in 3D. Having escaped years of imprisonment, she finds herself in a changed world where humans have discovered the existence of both Vampire and Lycan clans and are conducting an all-out war to eradicate both immortal species. Now Selene must battle the humans and a frightening new breed of super Lycans to ensure the death dealers’ survival. Regular – KATE BECKINSALE returns as the ultimate vampire warrioress Selene in Underworld Awakening, the stunning new installment of the epic saga. Having escaped years of imprisonment, she finds herself in a changed world where humans have discovered the existence of both Vampire and Lycan clans and are conducting an all-out war to eradicate both immortal species. Now Selene must battle the humans and a frightening new breed of super Lycans to ensure the death dealers’ survival.

It has been nearly a decade since the release of the “Underworld” film.   The original film, directed by Len Wiseman (“Live Free and Die Hard”, “Underworld: Evolution”) and written by Danny McBride, the first film would receive mixed reviews from critics but would make over $95 million in the box office and would pave the way for two more films, a sequel and a prequel.

And now the fourth film, “Underworld: Awakening” directed by Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein (the duo who worked on the film “Shelter” and “Storm”), join Len Wiseman (who continues to write the films) and reuniting with actress Kate Beckinsale (“Aviator”, “Pearl Harbor”).

“Underworld: Awakening” was presented in theaters in 3D and brought in over $160 million in the box office, becoming the first film of 2012 to break $100 million.

And now the Blu-ray release (featuring both films in 3D and 2D) and DVD will be released in May 2012.

What is “Underworld” all about?

“Underworld” takes place during a time where the vampires and the Lycans (werewolves) are at war. In the past, the Lycans were used as slaves for centuries by the vampires but rebelled courtesy of their leader Lucian and have been in war since.

For vampire/Death Dealer, Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale), her job is to hunt down the Lycans. When she was young, her family was massacred by the Lycans and thus she was taken in by vampire leader Victor (played by Bill Nighy) and given immortal life by being transformed into a vampire.

So, she despises the Lycans and assassinates them. It is said that the Lycans were defeated many centuries ago when their leader Lucian (played by Michael Sheen) was killed and the Lycans that are remaining are survivors that must be eliminated.

But one day, as the vampires were hunting down the Lycans at a subway station, the Lycans fight back and the vampire/Death Dealer Rigel is killed. She tracks them down to their den and another vampire is killed by a Lycan named Raze. When Selene goes to investigate, she finds out that the Lycans have developed a new type of bullet to kill vampires.

When she arrives back to the vampire coven’s mansion, she goes to tell current vampire regent Kraven (played by Shane Brolly) what she discovered but is told to drop it. Selene doesn’t understand why they would drop such important developments and when she goes to do more research, she realizes that the Lycans are following a human named Michael Corvin (played by Scott Speedman).

At the Lycan headquarters, we learn that their scientist Singe is testing blood on kidnapped descendants of the ancient Corvinus family to find a pure source of their ancient and powerful bloodline. Selene wonders why they are pursuing the human and she decides to help him, but in the process, he is bitten by Lucian.

Selene brings the injured Michael back to the vampire’s coven, against Kraven’s wishes. When one of the vampires goes to check on him, she finds a bite by a Lycan and realizes that the human will turn into a Lycan during a full moon. Shocked by the encounter, Michael runs away from the Vampire’s coven.

When Selene continues her research about Lucian, she realizes that only one vampire has witnessed his death and it was Kraven. What if there is a conspiracy and that Lucian is definitely alive, that means Kraven can not be trusted.

Selene manages to help Michael once again but this time, locking him up at a vampire lab area. She explains to him about why she has hatred towards the Lycans and what they did to her family but also learns more about Michael’s history and tells what will happen to him during a full moon.

The relationship between Selene and Michael grows stronger and stronger and sure enough, both vampire and Lycan fall in love.  As the vampires want Michael dead and nearly get their way, Selene eventually saves Michael by biting him and thus, the combination of vampire and Lycan blood has turned Michael into a hybrid of both.  And in the process of protecting the man she loves, she goes against her coven, and kills the Vampire elders.

In “Underworld: Evolution”,  we learn the truth of the blood lines.  It is revealed that Marcus, not Viktor, is the first vampire and one of the three sons of Alexander Corvinus, the first immortal.  Markus was bitten by a bat and became a vampire, his twin brother William was bitten by a wolf and became a Lycan.  The third son, a human is responsible for a line of descendants including Michael, who had the anti-body and eventually become the first vampire-Lycan hybrid.

In the second film, Alexander Corvinus has given Selene his blood and thus given immortality.

Since then, both Selene and Michael have been on the run trying to protect each other from both vampire and Lycan who want them dead.

Which leads us to the fourth film, “Underworld: Awakening”.

After the events of “Underworld: Evolution”, the world now knows that vampires and Lycans exist.  And there is a massive cleansing (known as “The Purge”) as humans now try to exterminate vampires and Lycans.  Survivors have now moved underground, while both Selene and Michael have become the hunted.

Split off from each other, both try to come together during a standoff with the authorities but as Michael is shot and falls into the ocean, Selene goes after him and tries to save him.  But in the process, both are separated by a detonator.

Fast forward, 12 years later and during this time, “The Purge” has now been concluded as 95% of the vampires have been annihilated and the Lycans are considered as extinct.

Selene is being kept inside a cryogenic suspension by the medical corporation known as Antigen, which are trying to create an antidote for the virus which creates vampires and Lycans

Known as “subject 1”, someone has broken into the lab facility and have released Selene.  As Selene awakens and puts on her leather costume, she looks for Michael but is not sure where he is kept and thus she escapes Antigen facilities.

Meanwhile, murders are occurring in the city and while the normal judgment by police is to think that the vampires had committed the crime (since Lycans are thought to be extinct), Detective Sebastian (played by Michael Ealy), looking at how the body was murdered, doesn’t think so.  And he spots Selene, who quickly disappears.

But also spotting Selene is a young vampire named David (played by Theo James).  He goes to track down Selene, who is trying to find answers of where Michael may be.  When David tracks her down, he tells her the truth that the Lycans have been forced to live underground, no food, diseased and something has riled them up in order for them to go back up to the surface.  And he thinks Selene knows the answer to why the Lycans are back.

But Selene starts to see images, images that usually come from the bond that she has with Michael.  Thinking that Michael is in trouble and is being hunted by the Lycans, she and David fight them off but instead of finding Michael, she finds a young girl named Eve (played by India Eisely).

Why does girl have this power and why is Selene reacting to it?  As the three are pursued by the Lycans, Eve tells Selene that she was Subject 2 at Antigen and was responsible for setting her free.  She also revealed that she was in a chamber next to her mother…which would be Selene.  Needless to say, Selene is shocked because 12 years ago, she was with Michael.  Now when she awakens, instead of finding Michael, she finds out that both had a daughter.

We then learn from Dr. Jacob Lane (played by Stephen Rea), director of Antigen, that he is actually a Lycan and the antidote that they are working on is not for humans, but a drug designed to make Lycans immune to the deadly effects of silver on their species and to also heighten their abilities and size.  But since Eve is the child of a hybrid and a vampire, her genetic code is needed and thus, the reason why Antigen and the Lycans are after her.

Selene is determined to protect Eve and hopes to find Michael.  But the only way to find him is by going back to Antigen facilities, where she must fight the Lycans alone.

VIDEO:

“Underworld: Awakening” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1) aspect ratio and you have the option of watching the film in 3D or 2D.

With that being said, make no doubt about it, “Underworld: Awakening” is one of the better Blu-ray on 3D live action release.  Not only do you get the 3D depth but there are a number of moments where shattering of fragments, blood, artillery, debris and weapons are flying all over the place towards you.   And the great news is that the 3D is constant, it’s not like you will see a 3D effect every 20 minutes.  There is a lot of action in this film and there is no doubt that when “Underworld: Awakening” was made, there was an emphasis put on the action and making the 3D benefit from these action sequences.

With that being said, the video quality for this film is fantastic!  Sony hasn’t really disappointed anyone with their Blu-ray releases of late and “Underworld: Awakening” is a film that retains its cool, dark look with blues, grays and blacks.  Black levels are nice and deep, explosions showcasing lighter colors such as oranges and ambers are vibrant.  Detail is very well done, especially showcasing the vampire or Lycan transformations.  Both 3D and 2D versions look amazing and videophiles should be pleased with both versions.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Underworld: Awakening” not only showcases magnificent visuals and 3D, the lossless soundtrack is also immersive and fantastic.  Presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English -Audio Description Track, like the 3D that is constant, as with the action.  There is plenty of action from cars crashing into each other, Selene unleashing a parade of bullets, elevators crashing, bodies being swatted like flies and hearing the groans, the growls, you name it…the audio is coming from all over the place.

I was so pleased with this soundtrack and just hearing constant audio coming from the surround channels was a major plus for me and also, the music soundtrack also is utilized for the surround channels as well.

You get an immersive lossless soundtrack with “Underworld: Awakening” and dialogue is crystal clear, there is nothing bad to say about the soundtrack for this film.  Audiophiles will definitely be pleased!

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Underworld: Awakening” comes with the following special features:

  • Filmmakers Commentary – Featuring directors Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein, producers Richard Wright and Gary Lucchesi, Executive producer and visual effects supervisor James McQuaide, this audio commentary is very active and informative.
  • Selene Rises – (12:14) A featurette about Kate Beckinsale reprising her role as Selene and also going into the costume and character development.
  • Casting the Future of Underworld – (12:33) A featurette about the two new cast members, Theo James and India Eisley.
  • Resuming the Action – (8:52) A featurette about the film’s action sequences, the stunts and the 3D technology used for the film.
  • Building a Better Lycan – (10:20) A featurette on how they wanted to upgrade the visuals for the werewolves (Lycans).
  • Previsualization Sequences – Featuring six pre-visualization sequences, including an alternate opening sequence: Alternate Opening Sequence (5:29), Car Chase in 3D (1:51), Coven Fight in 3D (1:58), Anitgen Attack – Part 1 (2:19), Antigen Attack – Part 2 (3:52), and Antigen Attack – Part 3 (6:05).
  • Awakening a Franchise, Building a Brutal New World – (18:53) A featurette about the technology, special effects, set design for “Underworld: Awakening” and more.
  • Blooper Reel – (3:21) Bloopers for “Underworld: Awakening”.
  • “Heavy Prey” Music Video by Lacey Sturm feat. Geno Lenardo – (3:25) Featuring the music video “Heavy Prey”.

I have always looked at the “Underworld” films as your vampire vs. werewolf popcorn action film series.  With “Underworld: Awakening”, the writers were moving away from the “Twilight” mushy romance (or Romeo & Juliet romance, as I called the first two films).

This time around, Juliet (Selene) is separated from her Romeo (Michael) and the world has turned against them.  They are the hunted and she lost 12-years of her life, to find out that she has a child who may be the most powerful child with vampire and Lycan blood, and most importantly, having the blood of Alexander Corvinus, hence the immortality.

And what is quite interesting is the introduction of the two new characters, we have “Secret Life of the American Teenager” actress India Eisley playing Eve and a vampire named David (played by Theo James) as the next generation who will play an important role in the future of the films.

I admit that while “Underworld” films are typically popcorn action films, there was depth in the storyline as it focused on the war between vampires and Lycans and treachery that went on behind-the-scenes.  There was a sense of brooding darkness that followed the characters but this time around, since most of the vampires and Lycans have been massacred, the film changes from being vampire vs. Lycans film to now the humans vs. the vampires, Lycans and hybrids.

And there was no doubt that these films were now more action heavy, designed for 3D and the storyline, was made to be kept simple for those who have never watched the films in the trilogy.  And thus, the storyline is rather subjective.  Those who love the original storyline for its violent action but also romance, you can’t have a romance in “Underworld: Awakening” when Juliet has been separated from her Romeo. So, without the romantic angle which has been a big part of the film series, you’re left with the action and a storyline about being the hunted.

And once again,  it’s another popcorn action film and with actress Kate Beckinsale wearing a tight leather uniform but this time with upgraded visuals due to technology and a futuristic setting.  I felt that the makeup and creature design were fantastic for this film as with the visual effects, especially the 3D and fantastic lossless audio.

The video and the lossless soundtrack were absolutely amazing and these two have been the strong points of the “Underworld” films but this time, they have raised the bar of how things look and sound.  The 3D really makes a difference and the constant immersive audio was a major plus.   And to top things off, there are a good number of special features to keep “Underworld” fans busy.  Make no doubt about it, this is a Blu-ray release that Blu-ray 3D enthusiasts plus video and audiophiles will surely enjoy!

Overall, while “Underworld: Awakening” is not a film that focuses on a deep storyline, fans of the previous films know what to expect and that is a lot of bullets, a lot of deaths, non-stop action and Kate Beckinsale looking awesome a decade later in tight black leather.

A worthy continuation of the “Underworld” film series that leans very heavy on the action, even those who have never watched an “Underworld” film can watch this film and enjoy it (there is an explanation of the first two films at the beginning of the film).  And for those expecting a lot of blood and gore, you get some of that as well in “Underworld: Awakening”.

If you are looking for an all-out action film with vampires vs. werewolves, “Underworld: Awakening” will definitely appeal to you!  And for those who have been wanting better Blu-ray 3D experiences, “Underworld: Awakening” is one of the better 3D live-action Blu-rays that I have seen in a while.

Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

For those who are interested in all-out action and fighting between vampires vs. werewolves…this “Underworld Trilogy” Blu-ray set is for you!  With “Underworld: Awakening”, the fourth film in the “Underworld” film series, planned for released in theaters in Jan. 2011, what better way to know the storyline about the war between the vampires vs. the Lycans (werewolves) and the dark Romeo & Juliet storylines between a vampire and Lycan in “Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection”.

Images courtesy of © 2011 Layout and Design Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection

FILM RELEASE: Underworld (Unrated) – 2003, Underworld: Evolution – 2006, Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans – 2009, Underworld: Endless War – 2011

DURATION: Underworld (Unrated) – 134 Minutes, Underworld: Evolution – 106 Minutes, Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans – 92 Minutes, Underworld: Endless War – 17:28 Minutes

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: UNRATED

Release Date: December 20, 2011

Starring:

Kate Beckinsale as Selene

Scott Speedman as Michael Corvin

Michael Sheen as Lucian

Shane Brolly as Kraven

Bill Nighy as Viktor

Erwin Leder as Singe

Sophia Myles as Erika

Robbie Gee as Kahn

Wentworth Miller as Dr. Adam Lockwood

Kevin Grevioux as Raze

Zita Gorog as Amelia

Tony Curran as Marcus

Derek Jacobi as Corvinus

Steven Mackintosh as Tanis

Rhona Mitra as Sonja

Underworld: In the Underworld, Vampires are a secret clan of modern aristocratic sophisticates whose mortal enemies are the Lycans (werewolves), a shrewd gang of street thugs who prowl the city’s underbelly. Noone knows the origin of their bitter blood feud, but the balance of power between them turns even bloodier when a beautiful young Vampire warrior and a newly-turned Lycan with a mysterious past fall in love. Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman star in this modern-day, action-packed tale of ruthless intrigue and forbidden passion ­ all set against the dazzling backdrop of a timeless, Gothic metropolis.

Underworld: Evolution – Kate Beckinsale is back as vampire heroine Selene in the highly anticipated sequel to Underworld. Underworld Evolution continues the saga of war between the aristocratic Death Dealers and the barbaric Lycans (werewolves). The film traces the beginnings of the ancient feud between the two tribes as Selene (Kate Beckinsale), the vampire heroine, and her love Michael (Scott Speedman), the lycan hybrid, try to unlock the secrets of their bloodlines. The tale of action, intrigue and forbidden love takes them into the battle to end all wars as the immortals must finally face their retribution.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans – The prequel story traces the origins of the centuries-old blood feud between the aristocratic vampires known as Death Dealers and their onetime slaves, the Lycans. In the Dark Ages, a young Lycan named Lucian (Michael Sheen) emerges as a powerful leader who rallies the werewolves to rise up against Viktor (Bill Nighy), the cruel vampire king who has enslaved them. Lucian is joined by his secret lover, Sonja (Rhona Mitra), in his battle against the Death Dealer army and his struggle for Lycan freedom.

In 2003, the action/horror film “Underworld” was released in theaters.  The film would be well-received by audiences and it would lead to a 2006 sequel titled “Underworld: Evolution”, both did well in the box office and a prequel titled “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” was released in 2009.

The film would star actress Kate Beckinsale (“Aviator”, “Pearl Harbor”), Scott Speedman (“Felicity”, “The Strangers”), Shane Brolly (“Spread”, “Devils Highway”), Michael Sheen (“Kingdom of Heaven”, “Alice in Wonderland”, “Frost/Nixon”) and Billy Nighy (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1”, “Love Actually”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”).

Directed by Len Wiseman (“Live Free and Die Hard”, “Underworld: Evolution”) and written by Danny McBride, the two had planned for a “Underworld” trilogy, but with the third film being a prequel, many wondered if there will be a continuation where “Underworld: Evolution” left off.

It was announced that the fourth “Underworld” film titled “Underworld: Awakening” would be released in theaters on January 20, 2012 and will feature a screenplay by Len Wiseman, John Hlavin and Allison Burnett and will be directed by Swedish filmmaker Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein (both co-directed the 2005 film “Storm”).  A film in which actress Kate Beckinsale reprises her role as Selene and has escaped imprisonment and finds out the world has discovered the existence of both vampires and Lycans and are now in a war to eradicate both immortal species.  The film is the first to be shot using Sony’s RED EPIC digital cameras in 3D.

In preparation for the fourth film’s release on Blu-ray, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will be releasing “Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection” which features the three previous released Blu-rays and also the inclusion of three animated shorts (created by South Korean animation company Dong Woo Animation) titled “Underworld: Endless War”.  It is important to note that there are no changes or revisions when it comes to the 2011 Blu-ray release of the three previously-released films, aside from the fact that the animated short is included and all three Blu-rays come with a slipcase cover.

“Underworld” is a film that begins with a world where vampires and werewolves (known as Lycans) are at war with each other.  The war was supposedly ended centuries ago when the Lycan leader Lucian was killed, but when vampire and Lycan hunter Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale) learns that Lucian is very much alive and that he is working with the current vampire leader, Kraven in some unknown deal, needless to say Selene does her own investigation.

She manages to find a human named Michael Korvis, a man that both sides are looking for.  But for what reasons is Michael important for both vampire and Lycans?  And what happens when Selen, a vampire begins to fall for the human Michael, who has been bitten by a Lycan (and will turn into one).  Naturally, things become a bit more complicated in this Romeo & Juliet, action/horror film.

You can read our previous three reviews by clicking on the three links below:

Underworld (Unrated)

Underworld: Evolution

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

As for “Underworld: Endless War”, the animated shorts explain the duties that Selene did back in 1890, in 1967 and 2012.  The animated short is a bridge from what happened in “Underworld: Evolution” and what has led to the change in the world as featured in the 2012 film “Underworld: Awakening”.  All three animated shorts can be watched all at once or individually (each short lasts around six minutes long).

Part One features Selene, a Death Dealer tracking down three Lycan brothers in Paris ala 1890 who are wealthy aristocrats and she must eliminate them.

Part Two features Kraven now becoming the leader of the vampires in 1961 while Viktor is in slumber.  Selene continues to search and hunt for the three Lycan brothers in Paris.

Part Three features a story taking place in 2012 as the world has become a police state as humans now know about the war between the vampires and Lycans and now both immortal species are being hunted down by police forces with brute force.  Both Selene and Michael continue to look for the Lycan brothers which have alluded her since 1890.

Note: Please read our individual reviews for each film for more information picture quality and audio quality including special features.

EXTRAS:

“Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection” comes in an embossed slipcase and the inclusion of the animated shorts “Underworld: Endless War” Blu-ray inside a paper envelope. Also, owners will be provided a code to watch all three films via UltraViolet.

“Underworld: Unrated” is your vampire vs. werewolf popcorn action film. Where there is a story that features why the Lycans and vampires are at war, it also plays out somewhat of a Romeo and Juliet story in a monstrous kind of way. What happens if a vampire and a Lycan were to merge? The first film of the trilogy goes into answering that question of why these two are at war but also what would result if they were to combine?

To be truthful, before watching this film, based on the trailer alone, I pretty much realized this was more of an action film rather than horror. Granted, you’re going to see werewolves mauling on vampires and vampires attacking the Lycans but there is more reliance in these films towards weapon usage. I understand the mythology of silver bullets to kill a vampire but would a bullet really be needed to kill vampires? I suppose that it goes against the banality of the typical film using garlic, crosses and stakes but I found it rather intriguing to see these vampires utilizing powerful weaponry.

But what “Underworld: Unrated” does have going for it is its action. It’s strictly a popcorn action film and with actress Kate Beckinsale wearing a tight leather uniform, it also has this stylish presentation, especially with its use of blues and blacks and saturated colors.

I also felt that the makeup and creature design were fantastic for this film as with the visual effects.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is fantastic and the lossless soundtrack was absolutely amazing! And to top things off, there are a good number of special features included especially a wild and crazy audio commentary and the “Fang vs. Fiction” documentary.

When I first reviewed “Underworld”, I used “Romeo & Juliet” to describe the storyline.  The character of Seline as the vampire and Michael, a human bitten by a Lycan.  While the film didn’t end with tragedy for these two protagonists (as Michael bit into Michael and making him into a vampire/werewolf hybrid), it was a given that these two will become a major target in the second film, hated by both sides.

In the first film, we know that Kraven was up to no good and Erika (played by Sophia Miles) had plans for her own. Somehow this storyline must have gotten ditched because on the opening sequence, Kraven is literally ripped apart and Erika, I don’t even recall her being in the film.

But the first film did leave us with a tidbit that the elder vampire Marcus would be awakened and thus, because Lycan blood has been dripped into his tomb, he now has become a vampire on the rampage because of how his werewolf twin brother William was treated.

Unfortunately, what I enjoyed about the original film…the focus on the war between the vampire and Lycans was not focused on so much in “Underworld: Evolution”.  If anything, the focus was more on this bond between the two lovers, Selene and Michael.  Two people who have joined together and now must face incredible odds.  And at first, I was a bit unsure about how I felt about this movie until I saw the third film, “Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans” and realized that what these two are facing, a similar situation happened centuries ago to Lycan Lucian and vampire Sonja.

And in a way, years before “Twilight” became so popular and years after Buffy and Angel, there is something about a romance between a vampire and human (or in this case, human turned Lycan) and both trying to survive while in love, is rather romantic, despite this film being a bit violent.

In “Underworld: Evolution”, you do get to see more of Selene kicking ass, but also see her more emotional side and knowing that she does love Michael.  As for the character of Michael, I suppose what many people want to see is if this hybrid of vampire and Lycan can kick butt!  And because of this hybrid union, what other special abilities does he have?

If anything, the “popcorn action” continues with “Underworld: Evolution” and I think that is what fans will most likely tune into… and it’s what the film does quite well, providing the audience with a lot of action.  The first film was never about a deep storyline, nor was this film like “Twilight” and focused about emotions and love.  While we know these two individuals are in love, they are also being hunted down constantly, so no weepy emotional scenes in this film.

And for the Blu-ray release, fans who loved the first film will definitely enjoy the picture and audio quality of this sequel, despite it being released on Blu-ray first and is an earlier Blu-ray release.  Once again, the film looks stylish with its reliance on blues and blacks, audio is immersive and also, you get a good amount of special features.

As for “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans”, the one thing that I enjoy about the “Underworld” films is the sense of its dark, goth style in conjunction with its brooding storyline of the vampires and the werewolves feuding against each other.   “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” is the dark “Romeo & Juliet” storyline of two lovers from two sides that despite and hate each other.

If there is one thing that people are familiar about the “Underworld” films, there is not much time for thorough character development.  These characters may have a brief time of happiness but immediately they are trying to survive or somehow ripped away from any happiness that they seek.  By no means is “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” a happy everlasting storyline.  It’s a tragic story about Lucian and Sonja and what intensified the feud between the vampires (Death Dealers) and the Lycans (werewolves/human hybrids).

Lucian’s story of being used by Viktor against humans and against his own kind is established but much is not said about Sonja, all the writers want you to know is that aside from being Viktor’s daughter, she’s madly in love with Lucian.  And that is all you should know.

But I enjoyed this film because it kept things simple.   No convoluted or ridiculous storyline that would go astray or become incomprehensible.   The storyline features characters that are quite interesting.  The Lycan Lucian and his lover, the vampire Sonja and Viktor, the father who will try to deny his daughter or the Lycan baby he raised to become a man any form of pleasure.

Michael Sheen (“Frost/Nixon”, “Blood Diamond”, “Underworld: Evolution”, etc.) did a great job as a Lycan who will not let any side tell him that being in love with a vampire is wrong.  It will be interesting as the actor will be part of another popular vampire film “The Twilight Saga: New Moon”.   Sheen plays that passionate but tortured person effectively, especially as his character has undergone so much, but is strong because of his love for Sonja.

Rhona Mitra (“The Practice”, “Boston Legal”, “Nip/Tuck”) as Sonja was good, I felt that she could have been used a bit more in the film.  We know that she is a strong vampire but it was more interesting to see her as a compassionate vampire.  It would have been nice to get a little back story of how her relationship with Lucian had started but nevertheless, the focus was not so much on their evolving relationship.  The film quickly establishes her love for Lucian and like Juliet, her father would deny her any happiness.

Which leads me to Bill Nighy (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”, “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”, “Valkyrie”, etc.) as Viktor.  Nighy does a magnificent job of playing the cold, elder vampire and as he was great in the first two “Underworld” films, you do see that compassion that he had felt for his daughter and to see how he changes after he discovers the relationship.

The storyline was well-planned and executed, first time Director Patrick Tatopoulos just had to take that screenplay and make the overall setting believable.  And because of his well-documented experience on special effects and creature designs, he was able to accomplish that gritty, gloomy world of vampires and werewolves, to make sure that the castle of the vampires looked effectively real and the final cut worked for me.

“Underworld” are films that have never been appreciated by the majority of the film critics but one thing that is consistent is that the intended audience who have enjoyed these films since the beginning have been passionate about it and continue to support it.   For me, I have always enjoyed films about vampires and werewolves and I actually dig the overall presentation and characters of the three films.

Which now leaves me to the “Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection”.  I know many people who own all three Blu-ray releases and many have asked me if they should ditch their Blu-rays for this “Essential Collection.  My answer is no.

This Blu-ray box set features the same Blu-ray releases that were released previously.  The only difference is that you get a slipcase for all three Blu-ray releases and an extra Blu-ray of “Underworld: Endless War” animated shorts (which is included in a paper envelope – which is a bit disappointing).  Also, the original release of “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” came with a digital copy (note: which will no longer work if you are using Mac OS 10.7), but with the “Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection”, you can enjoy all three movies via UltraViolet.

While the animated shorts tries to be a bridge from Selene’s life tracking down Lycan brothers to what has transpired in 2012 with humanity now hunting down vampires and Lycans, the bridge is nothing significant, nor is the storyline significant in terms of impact to the films.

In fact, the biggest question I am often asked about these animated shorts is which anime director or company made them?  And to be truthful, these shorts should not even be called “anime” (Japanese animation) because it is created by a South Korean company, Dong Woo Animation (who have done some work on Japanese animation productions), it is “manhwa yungah” (Korean animation) and for the most part, animation is decent. The animation is presented in 1080p High Definition and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.  You can tell the animation it’s more of a lower budget fare as there is not a lot of in-between animation used but it is well-narrated and the story is intriguing but it is not a reason for previous owners to get rid of their original Blu-rays.

But for those who do love the films or are interested in an action-packed horror film such as these “Underworld” films, then yes…this “Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection” is definitely worth checking out!  I tend to watch a lot of vampire films and what I enjoy mostly about the “Underworld” films is the visual style, the intense action and perhaps somewhere included in there is my enjoyment of seeing Kate Beckinsale in her slick black outfit, as it is a pretty awesome costume design for a female action character, since Carrie-Ann Moss’ Trinity in the “Matrix” films.  And unlike “Twilight”, although it does have the romance element, the film is more action-driven and many moments of gore.

And as for the three Blu-ray releases, each of them are fantastic when it comes to picture quality and the lossless audio soundtrack for all three films are equally fantastic.  And for special features fans, that’s another reason what made me enjoy these three films are the plenty of special features included as well!

Overall, while the trilogy box set may not be recommended for those who previously own all three Blu-rays, for those who do want these films or are curious about them will definitely want to check these films out!  Again, these are not films with deep plots and they are pretty much popcorn action films, but still, at least there’s a cool story that goes along with that action and for the most part, I enjoyed these three films a lot.

While I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a new “Underworld” set that includes all four films in the future, if you are wanting to watch all three “Underworld” films before “Underworld: Awakening” comes out in theaters, wanting  to watch vampire and werewolves at war or just in it to see Kate Beckinsale in black leather, then I definitely recommend “Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection”.

Underworld: Evolution (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

If you love vampires and werewolves and love popcorn action films, “Underworld: Evolution” is a movie for you!  While more focused on the relationship between Selene and Michael and the two facing insurmountable odds, the film is still a heavy action-driven film and an entertaining sequel.

Images courtesy of © 2006 Lakeshore Entertainment Group LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Underworld: Evolution

FILM RELEASE: 2006

DURATION: 106 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English PCM 5.1 (Uncompressed), English 5.1, French 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (For Pervasive Strong Violence and Gore.  Some Sexuality, Nudity and Language.

Release Date: June 20, 2006

Directed by Len Wiseman

Story by Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, Danny McBride

Screenplay by Danny McBride

Produced by David Coatsworth, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Richard S. Wright

Co-Producer: Kevin Grevioux

Executive Producer: Danny McBride, Terry McKay, James McQuaide, Skip Williamson, Henry Winterstern, Len Wiseman

Associate Producer: Kevin Grevioux, Danny McBride

Music by Marco Beltrami

Cinematography by Simon Duggan

Edited by Nicolas De Toth

Casting by Deborah Aquila, Jennifer L. Smith, Tricia Wood

Production Design by Bruton Jones

Art Direction by Chris August

Set Decoration by Lin MacDonald

Costume Design by Wendy Partridge

Starring:

Kate Beckinsale as Selene

Scott Speedman as Michael Corvin

Tony Curran as Marcus

Derek Jacobi as Corvinus

Michael Sheen as Lucian

Shane Brolly as Kraven

Bill Nighy as Viktor

Zita Gorog as Amelia

Steven Mackintosh as Tanis

Brian Steele as William

Scott McElroy as Soren

John Mann as Samuel

Mike Mukatis as Taylor

Kate Beckinsale is back as vampire heroine Selene in the highly anticipated sequel to Underworld. Underworld Evolution continues the saga of war between the aristocratic Death Dealers and the barbaric Lycans (werewolves). The film traces the beginnings of the ancient feud between the two tribes as Selene (Kate Beckinsale), the vampire heroine, and her love Michael (Scott Speedman), the lycan hybrid, try to unlock the secrets of their bloodlines. The tale of action, intrigue and forbidden love takes them into the battle to end all wars as the immortals must finally face their retribution.

With the success of the first “Underworld” film, the second film “Underworld: Evolution” in the planned trilogy was released in 2006.

Directed by Len Wiseman (“Live Free and Die Hard”, “Underworld: Evolution”) and written by Danny McBride, while the second film was not a favorite among critics, many praised it’s blue-tinged artistic style (while some criticized as well), and the popcorn action/horror film would do well in the box office, earning over $111 million.

The film would feature the return of Kate Beckinsale (“Aviator”, “Pearl Harbor”), Scott Speedman (“Felicity”, “The Strangers”), Shane Brolly (“Spread”, “Devils Highway”), Michael Sheen (“Kingdom of Heaven”, “Alice in Wonderland”, “Frost/Nixon”), Sophia Myles (“Outlander”, “Tristan + Isolde”) and Billy Nighy (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1”, “Love Actually”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”).  The film would also star Tony Curran (“Gladiator”, “The League of Extraordinary Gentleman”) and Derek Jacobi (“Gladiator”, “The King’s Speech”, “Henry V”).

It’s important to note that “Underworld: Evolution” is the first of the “Underworld” films in the trilogy to be released and was among the first films to be released on Blu-ray.

“Underworld” takes place during a time where the vampires and the Lycans (werewolves) are at war. In the past, the Lycans were used as slaves for centuries by the vampires but rebelled courtesy of their leader Lucian and have been in war since.

Please note that if you have not watched “Underworld”, you may not want to read the summary as it does include spoilers for the first film.

In the first film, Selene who has fought and killed Lycans believing that they were responsible for her family’s massacre learned from Kraven that Viktor was responsible for her family’s death.  With Michael near death due to the silver nitrate in his body that was shot by Kraven, Lucian (who was revealed to have started the war because he was in love with Sonja, a vampire and daughter of Viktor and was killed by her father to stop the relationship between a vampire and Lycan) tells Selene that in order to save him, she must bite him.

Selene has bitten Michael and transforming him to half Lycan/half vampire and both killed Viktor.  Meanwhile, the next elder vampire that is in line to be revived is Marcus and because Singe was killed near Marcus’ tomb and his blood has dripped into his tomb, that Marcus will now be revived early.

The first film would with Selene knowing that she has changed the course of the war by converting Michael by making him half vampire/half Lycan and because she aided a Lycan, she will now be hunted.

“Underworld: Evolution” begins with the three vampire elders: Marcus, Viktor and Amelia in the year 1202 A.D.  Viktor and Amelia capture William Corvinus (brother of Marcus who happens to be a powerful Lycan).  As Marcus tries to defend his brother from being harmed, Viktor has William imprisoned in a secret location for eternity.

Fastforward to the present, Selene hides Michael in a safehouse but returns to the vampire coven to confront Kraven.  She knows that Kraven has plans to eliminate Marcus and wants to stop him before he does.  But because Lycan blood is what has dripped into Marcus’ tomb, Marcus has now reawaken as a Vampire-Dominant hybrid.

And when Marcus awakens, Kraven and his men are to kill him but Marcus is too powerful and eliminates everyone.  When he bites into Kraven and tastes his blood, he learns of Kraven’s truce with Lucian in creating a hybrid vampire/Lycan but also how Kraven was trying to eliminate the elders and thus is killed for his treachery.

As Selene and Michael try to find a safe place to hide, Selene knows that Michael is getting hungry and tells him to feed on blood.  As Selene leaves and plans to go to the vampire coven, Michael tries to see if he can eat like a human by eating normal food.  As he goes to a restaurant to eat, he starts eating food but then suddenly feels sick.  Immediately, his face shows up on the news as a wanted man and police begin chasing after him and shooting at him.

Selene can hear the gunshots miles away and knows Michael is in trouble, but most alarming is the ominous black figure that has flown into the area.   As she rescues him from trouble, she gives her own blood to feed him but both are attacked by Marcus.

And Marcus attacks the two with great power but working together, they manage to temporarily escape from him and Michael also manages to steal a pendant from Marcus.

Needing some answers of why Marcus is after them, the two go to visit the exiled vampire historian named Andrea Tanis (played by Steven Mackintosh).  Tanis reveals that Marcus, not Viktor, is the first vampire and one of the three sons of Alexander Corvinus, the first immortal.  Markus was bitten by a bat and became a vampire, his twin brother William was bitten by a wolf and became a Lycan.  The third son, a human is responsible for a line of descendants including Michael, who had the anti-body and eventually become the first vampire-Lycan hybrid.

It is also learned that the first werewolves created by William were animal and unable to become human.  It was also revealed that Viktor was actually a human warlord, turned to a vampire by Marcus and in return, was to create an army of immortal vampires in exchange for tracking down and stopping William and those he had infected.

But Selene also learns the true reason why Viktor spared her from death when her family was massacred and why they were massacred.  And because of that reason, Markus is wanting to get to her as well.

Will Selene and Michael be ready for a fight against the powerful Marcus?

VIDEO:

“Underworld: Evolution” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1). It’s important to note that this film came out before the first film on Blu-ray and is one of the earlier films to be released on Blu-ray.  With that being said, the film maintains the blues and blacks of the first film, closeups once again showcase the skinpores of a character, the stubble and for the most part, detail is incredible.  Black levels are nice and deep, objects are full of detail and texture on clothing is amazing.

“Underworld: Evolution”, while an earlier Blu-ray release is still a remarkable early Blu-ray release!  Picture quality is fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Underworld: Unrated” is presented in English PCM 5.1 (Uncompressed), English and French. The lossless soundtrack for this film is fantastic! As the first film was fantastic when it came to lossless, even this second film, an earlier release is still fantastic and immersive.  Although mentioned as 5.1, I was getting a 7.2 soundtrack as the surrounds and rear surrounds were being featured quite a bit throughout the film. From the sounds of a helicopter, clanging of swords, horses trotting, machine guns firing, explosions galore…., you name it… this is one heck of an immersive soundtrack where the surround channels and LFE are well-utilized.

Dialogue is crystal clear but it’s the action scenes, like the first film that come alive with this lossless soundtrack.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Underworld: Evolution” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an insightful commentary by director Len Wiseman, production designer Patrick Tatopoulos, second unit director Brad Martin and editor Nick De Toth.
  • Bloodlines: From Script to Screen – (13:26) Featuring interviews with cast and crew and discussion about the overall story, screenplay to feature film.
  • The Hybrid Theory – (13:00) A featurette on the visual effects of “Underworld: Evolution”.
  • Making Monsters Roar – (11:56) Featuring  the creation of the prosthetics and costumes and what improvements were made over the first film.
  • The War Rages On – (9:54) The stunts on “Underworld: Evolution”.
  • Building a Saga – (12:57) The production design of “Underworld: Evolution”.
  • Music and Mayhem – (11:50) A look of how music from Marco Beltrami and sound was created for “Underworld: Evolution”.

When I reviewed “Underworld”, I used “Romeo & Juliet” to describe the storyline.  The character of Seline as the vampire and Michael, a human bitten by a Lycan.  While the film didn’t end with tragedy for these two protagonists (as Michael bit into Michael and making him into a vampire/werewolf hybrid), it was a given that these two will become a major target in the second film, hated by both sides.

In the first film, we know that Kraven was up to no good and Erika (played by Sophia Miles) had plans for her own. Somehow this storyline must have gotten ditched because on the opening sequence, Kraven is literally ripped apart and Erika, I don’t even recall her being in the film.

But the first film did leave us with a tidbit that the elder vampire Marcus would be awakened and thus, because Lycan blood has been dripped into his tomb, he now has become a vampire on the rampage because of how his werewolf twin brother William was treated.

Unfortunately, what I enjoyed about the original film…the focus on the war between the vampire and Lycans was not focused on so much in “Underworld: Evolution”.  If anything, the focus was more on this bond between the two lovers, Selene and Michael.  Two people who have joined together and now must face incredible odds.  And at first, I was a bit unsure about how I felt about this movie until I saw the third film, “Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans” and realized that what these two are facing, a similar situation happened centuries ago to Lycan Lucian and vampire Sonja.

And in a way, years before “Twilight” became so popular and years after Buffy and Angel, there is something about a romance between a vampire and human (or in this case, human turned Lycan) and both trying to survive while in love, is rather romantic, despite this film being a bit violent.

In “Underworld: Evolution”, you do get to see more of Selene kicking ass, but also see her more emotional side and knowing that she does love Michael.  As for the character of Michael, I suppose what many people want to see is if this hybrid of vampire and Lycan can kick butt!  And because of this hybrid union, what other special abilities does he have?

If anything, the “popcorn action” continues with “Underworld: Evolution” and I think that is what fans will most likely tune into… and it’s what the film does quite well, providing the audience with a lot of action.  The first film was never about a deep storyline, nor was this film like “Twilight” and focused about emotions and love.  While we know these two individuals are in love, they are also being hunted down constantly, so no weepy emotional scenes in this film.

And for the Blu-ray release, fans who loved the first film will definitely enjoy the picture and audio quality of this sequel, despite it being released on Blu-ray first and is an earlier Blu-ray release.  Once again, the film looks stylish with its reliance on blues and blacks, audio is immersive and also, you get a good amount of special features.

Overall, “Underworld: Evolution” is a good film but with the third film a prequel, I can only hope there is a fourth film to help build some closure to the overall series and to see what happens with Selene and Michael as the film does leave us with another teaser.

If you enjoyed the first film and love popcorn action films, especially a film with a bit of gore, you’ll enjoy “Underworld: Evolution”!

Everybody’s Fine (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Featuring an all-star cast and a top-notch performance by Robert De Niro who is absolutely magnificent in this film.  Definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © BVHE. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Everybody’s Fine

DURATION: 100 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen (2:40:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, French Language Track, French and Spanish Subtitles, English SDH

COMPANY: Miramax Films

RATED: PG-13 (For Thematic Elements and Brief Strong Language)

RELEASE DATE: February 23, 2010

Written and Directed by Kirk Jones

Screenplay by Massimo De Rita, Tonino Guerra, Giuseppe Tornatore

Executive Producer: Craig J. Flores, Callum Greene

Co-Executive Producer: Vitaliy Versace

Producer: Vittorio Cecchi Gori, Ted Field, Glynis Murray, Gianni Nunnari

Co-Producer: Nathalie Peter-Contesse

Music by Dario Marianelli

Cinematography by Henry Braham

Edited by Andrew Mondshein

Casting by Kerry Barden, Paul Schnee

Production Design by Andrew Jackness

Art Direction by Drew Boughton

Set Decoration by Chryss Hionis

Costume Design by Aude Bronson-Howard

Starring:

Robert De Niro as Frank Goode

Drew Barrymore as Rosie

Kate Beckinsale as Amy

Sam Rockwell as Robert

Lucian Maisel as Jack

Damian Young as Jeff

James Frain as Tom

Melissa Leo as Colleen

Katherine Moennig as Jilly

Robert De Niro leads an acclaimed all-star cast- Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, and Sam Rockwell- In Everybody’s Fine, the heartwarming film that will move you to laugter and tears. When Frank Goode’s (De Niro) grown children cancel a family reunion, the recent widower sets off on a cross-country journey to reconnect with each of them. Expecting to share in the joys of their happy, successful lives, his surprise visits reveal a picture that is far from perfect. A family separated by physical and emotional distance finds a way to come together in a story that will touch your heart.

In 2009, British director Kirk Jones (“Everybody’s Fine”, “Nanny McPhee”, “Waking Ned”) wrote and directed a remake of Giuseppe Tornatore’s award-winning 1990 film “Stanno Tutti Bene”. The film features cinematography by Henry Braham (“The Golden Compass”, “Nanny McPhee”, “Crush”) and music composed by Dario Marianelli (“The Soloist”, “Atonement”, “The Brave One”).

Where the original film had an operatic tie-in, Jones’ film “Everybody’s Fine” focuses more on a heartwarming family tale about family secrets and moving on after tragedy.

The film revolves around Frank Goode (played by Robert De Niro, “The Godfather”, “Taxi Driver”, “The Deer Hunter”, “Raging Bull”), the father of four who has kept himself busy taking care of the home after the death of his wife.  His routine is taking care of the garden and taking his heart medication but with the annual family reunion coming up, Frank wants to continue the tradition of what his wife had done for years.

But when he calls his children, the majority of them are unable to come this year and tell him that they are all busy.  So, Frank decides that why not take a road trip and visit each of them and see how they are doing. For Frank, he has been busy all his life working (working on the tubing that are on the telephone wires across America) and thus, his wife took care of the family and he never developed a strong relationship with them.  But hopes he can do it now.

While Frank goes to visit his oldest daughter Amy (played by Kate Beckinsale, “Serendipity”, “Underworld” films”, “Pearl Harbor”), his son Robert (played by Sam Rockwell, “Moon”, “Frost/Nixon”, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”) and his daughter Rosie (played by Drew Barrymore, “E.T.”, “Charlie’s Angels” films”, “Donnie Darko”), all he hopes for his children is happiness.

But somehow during his visit, he realizes that things may not have been going so well and that they have not been truthful with him about their lives.  Also, he is unable to get in touch with his older son David and only the sibling know the reason why.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Everybody’s Fine” is presented in Widescreen (2:40:1).  The cinematography by Henry Braham is beautiful.  From capturing the beautiful scenery to capturing the emotions of the top notch cast.  The film through its cinematography captures family’s at their best and their worst.

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound.  Also, included is a French Language track.  The film is primarily dialogue driven and is front and center channel driven.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and in Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Everbody’s Fine” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Paul McCartney’s “(I Want To) Come Home” – (9:47) The making of “(I Want To) Come Home” and interview with Paul McCartney and how he became part of the film.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes – A total of seven deleted scenes: Book of Directions, An Artist (Extended Scene), Every Day Is a Storm (Extended Scene), Red River Valley, You Like Hot Dogs?, Airport, I’m Sorry (Extended Scene).

A heartwarming and tragic tale about a man who gets to know his family and realizes he didn’t know much about them as he thought.

Robert De Niro absolutely shines in this role, that begs of him to not be a tough man but a father who is realizing his loss but also how his wife kept his family strong but also not sharing with him the difficulties about their children and now he is learning first hand for himself how the little children that he once remembers are now adults and each are not living this perfect life as he had hoped.

“Everybody’s Fine” features an all-star cast with Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell but where the original film focused on the family life and as mentioned operatic in that the Italian film featured children named after opera characters and the children’s lives being close to those characters, “Everybody’s Fine” is focused more on the father.  The siblings project this facade of a happy life but Frank (De Niro) is not dumb, he knows something is wrong and it all culminates up to the point where he finds out the truth of his son David, the son that he put the most pressure on when he was younger.

But most of all, realizing that his dead wife wanted to maintain order and out of love, she made Frank feel that everybody’s fine (thus the title of the film).

“Everybody’s Fine” is probably the most vulnerable we have ever seen of De Niro and just shows you the depth of his talent as an actor.  Although the film had a limited three week run before the Christmas holiday, I enjoyed this film a lot.

Having grown up watching films about parents and their children through director Yasujiro Ozu who showed the pain and happiness of parenthood and the bond between the parents and their children, “Everybody’s Fine” is a sentimental film that touched my heart because I know many parents in which one significant other would tell the other who is the breadwinner that life is good but behind those words lies a facade and sure enough, things are not always that good as it may seem.  Although, we are given a limited time to see Frank’s interaction with his children, it’s that journey and realization and discovery that touches you.  De Niro brings Frank Goode to life.

Overall, “Everbody’s Fine” features a strong, magnificent performance from De Niro unlike anything he has done before.  The film is sentimental, heartwarming and tragic but in the end, is a film that I adored.

Definitely recommended!

Underworld: Unrated (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

If you love vampires and werewolves and love popcorn action films, “Underworld: Unrated” is definitely recommended!  Featuring a Blu-ray release with fantastic PQ, amazing AQ and plenty of special features… overall, “Underworld: Unrated” is an awesome Blu-ray release!

Images courtesy of © 2003 Subterranean Productions LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Underworld

FILM RELEASE: 2003

DURATION: 134 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English PCM 5.1 (Uncompressed), English 5.1, Italian PCM 5.1 (Uncompressed). Italian 5.1, French 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Italian

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: UNRATED

Release Date:  September 25, 2007

Directed by Len Wiseman

Story by Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, Danny McBride

Screenplay by Danny McBride

Produced by Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Richard S. Wright

Executive Producer: Robert Bernacchi, Terry McKay, James McQuade, Skip Williamson, Henry Winterstern

Associate Producer: Kevin Grevioux, Danny McBride

Music by Paul Haslinger

Cinematography by Tony Pierce-Roberts

Edited by Martin Hunter

Production Design by Bruton Jones

Art Direction by Kevin Phipps, Csaba Stork

Set Decoration by Malcolm Stone

Costume Design by Wendy Partridge

Starring:

Kate Beckinsale as Selene

Scott Speedman as Michael Corvin

Michael Sheen as Lucian

Shane Brolly as Kraven

Bill Nighy as Viktor

Erwin Leder as Singe

Sophia Myles as Erika

Robbie Gee as Kahn

Wentworth Miller as Dr. Adam Lockwood

Kevin Grevioux as Raze

Zita Gorog as Amelia

In the Underworld, Vampires are a secret clan of modern aristocratic sophisticates whose mortal enemies are the Lycans (werewolves), a shrewd gang of street thugs who prowl the city’s underbelly. Noone knows the origin of their bitter blood feud, but the balance of power between them turns even bloodier when a beautiful young Vampire warrior and a newly-turned Lycan with a mysterious past fall in love. Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman star in this modern-day, action-packed tale of ruthless intrigue and forbidden passion ­ all set against the dazzling backdrop of a timeless, Gothic metropolis.

In 2003, the action/horror film “Underworld” was released in theaters.

Directed by Len Wiseman (“Live Free and Die Hard”, “Underworld: Evolution”) and written by Danny McBride, the first film would receive mixed reviews from critics but would make over $95 million in the box office.

The film would star actress Kate Beckinsale (“Aviator”, “Pearl Harbor”), Scott Speedman (“Felicity”, “The Strangers”), Shane Brolly (“Spread”, “Devils Highway”), Michael Sheen (“Kingdom of Heaven”, “Alice in Wonderland”, “Frost/Nixon”) and Billy Nighy (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1”, “Love Actually”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”).

And now “Underworld: Unrated” makes its way to Blu-ray.  It’s important to note that “Unrated” is literally an extended version of the film, not a director’s cut and more detail of what was extended is explained during the audio commentary track.

“Underworld” takes place during a time where the vampires and the Lycans (werewolves) are at war.  In the past, the Lycans were used as slaves for centuries by the vampires but rebelled courtesy of their leader Lucian and have been in war since.

For vampire/Death Dealer, Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale), her job is to hunt down the Lycans.  When she was young, her family was massacred by the Lycans and thus she was taken in by vampire leader Victor (played by Bill Nighy) and given immortal life by being transformed into a vampire.  So, she despises the Lycans and assassinates them.  It is said that the Lycans were defeated many centuries ago when their leader Lucian (played by Michael Sheen) was killed and the Lycans that are remaining are survivors that must be eliminated.

But one day, as the vampires were hunting down the Lycans at a subway station, the Lycans fight back and the vampire/Death Dealer Rigel is killed.  She tracks them down to their den and another vampire is killed by a Lycan named Raze.  When Selene goes to investigate, she finds out that the Lycans have developed a new type of bullet to kill vampires.

When she arrives back to the vampire coven’s mansion, she goes to tell current vampire regent Kraven (played by Shane Brolly) what she discovered but is told to drop it.  Selene doesn’t understand why they would drop such important developments and when she goes to do more research, she realizes that the Lycans are following a human named Michael Corvin (played by Scott Speedman).

At the Lycan headquarters, we learn that their scientist Singe is testing blood on kidnapped descendants of the ancient Corvinus family to find a pure source of their ancient and powerful bloodline.  Selene wonders why they are pursuing the human and she decides to help him, but in the process, he is bitten by Lucian.

Selene brings the injured Michael back to the vampire’s coven, against Kraven’s wishes.  When one of the vampires goes to check on him, she finds a bite by a Lycan and realizes that the human will turn into a Lycan during a full moon.  Shocked by the encounter, Michael runs away from the Vampire’s coven.

When Selene continues her research about Lucian, she realizes that only one vampire has witnessed his death and it was Kraven.  What if there is a conspiracy and that Lucian is definitely alive, that means Kraven can not be trusted.

Selene manages to help Michael once again but this time, locking him up at a vampire lab area.  She explains to him about why she has hatred towards the Lycans and what they did to her family but also learns more about Michael’s history and tells what will happen to him during a full moon.

So, she decides to break vampire tradition by waking up the powerful elder vampire Viktor (who is not supposed to be awaken for another century).  As Selene tries to tell Viktor of what has happened, Viktor is more upset that Selene has broken a tradition that has been in place for many centuries and that Markus is to be the next elder vampire awakened, not him.    And also, she has no proof that Lucian is alive.

And because she has broken a major rule, Kraven and the guards put Selene under house arrest to await punishment.

But for Selene, she knows there is a conspiracy and she must escape and save Michael before the Lycans and the vampires get to him.

VIDEO:

“Underworld: Unrated” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1).   The film looks quite amazing despite the film primarily being shot with a lot of black and blues.  The film was intentionally de-saturated but during closeup scenes, you can see the skin pores on the talents face, the blue of the vampires eyes and for the most part, a good amount of detail can be seen from the leather clothing to the textures of objects and exteriors.  Even the creature design of the werewolves were well-detailed.

If anything, “Underworld: Unrated” looks absolutely fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Underworld: Unrated” is presented in English and Italian PCM 5.1 (Uncompressed), English, French and Italian 5.1.   The lossless soundtrack for this film is fantastic!   Although mentioned as 5.1, I was getting a 7.2 soundtrack as the surrounds and rear surrounds were being featured quite a bit throughout the film.  From the sounds of lightning, raindrops, glass shattering, bullets ricocheting, you name it… this is one heck of an immersive soundtrack.

Dialogue is crystal clear but it’s the action scenes that come alive with this lossless soundtrack.  There are so many intensive action sequences involving machine gun fire that I was very impressed of seeing how immersive those sequences are!  Audiophiles will love this soundtrack!  I definitely did!

Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH, French and Italian.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Underworld: Unrated” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring a hilarious and insightful commentary by director Len Wiseman, actress Kate Beckinsale and actor Scott Speedman.
  • Outtakes – (3:43) Featuring outtakes from “Underworld”.
  • Fang vs. Fiction – (47:18) A documentary about vampires and werewolves and those who think they are vampire and werewolves living today.
  • The Making of Underworld – (13:00) Featuring interviews with director Len Wiseman and the cast of “Underworld” plus behind-the-scenes making of the film.
  • The Visual Effects of Underworld – (8:58) Featuring the VFX supervisors of the film discussing the making of the visual effects for the film.
  • Creature Effects – (12:30) Creative designer Patrick Tatopulous talks about building the creatures for the film.
  • Designing Underworld – (10:48) Bruton Jones (Production Designer and Conceptual Artist) talks about designing “Underworld”.
  • The Look of Underworld – (19:12) Director Len Wiseman discusses the look he wanted for “Underworld” and how he didn’t want it to seem like a normal city but something much darker.
  • Sights and Sounds – (9:07) A featurette on the various sights (weapons) and sound effects for the film.
  • Music Video – (2:48) Featuring the music video for “Worms of the Earth” by Finch.
  • Storyboard Comparisons (6:42) Actual footage and storyboard comparisons.

“Underworld: Unrated” is your vampire vs. werewolf popcorn action film.  Where there is a story that features why the Lycans and vampires are at war, it also plays out somewhat of a Romeo and Juliet story in a monstrous kind of way.  What happens if a vampire and a Lycan were to merge?  The first film of the trilogy goes into answering that question of why these two are at war but also what would result if they were to combine?

To be truthful, before watching this film, based on the trailer alone, I pretty much realized this was more of an action film rather than horror.  Granted, you’re going to see werewolves mauling on vampires and vampires attacking the Lycans but there is more reliance in these films towards weapon usage.  I understand the mythology of silver bullets to kill a vampire but would a bullet really be needed to kill vampires?  I suppose that it goes against the banality of the typical film using garlic, crosses and stakes but I found it rather intriguing to see these vampires utilizing powerful weaponry.

But what “Underworld: Unrated” does have going for it is its action.  It’s strictly a popcorn action film and with actress Kate Beckinsale wearing a tight leather uniform, it also has this stylish presentation, especially with its use of blues and blacks and saturated colors.

I also felt that the makeup and creature design were fantastic for this film as with the visual effects.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is fantastic and the lossless soundtrack was absolutely amazing!  And to top things off, there are a good number of special features included especially a wild and crazy audio commentary and the “Fang vs. Fiction” documentary.

Overall, while “Underworld” is not a film that focuses on a deep storyline, I found it rather intriguing, especially it’s characters and how things were setup for the sequel.  I actually enjoyed this film quite a bit, thanks to this awesome Blu-ray release that I look forward to watching the sequel.

If you love vampires and werewolves and love popcorn action films, “Underworld: Unrated” is definitely recommended!

 

FRAGMENTS (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

July 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

“An all-star cast in an ensemble film.  With separate stories of five different individuals, a live film adaptation of the novel is challenging and difficult.  Director Rowan Woods was able to come up with a dark, provocative film but its not a film that is mean to tug at your heart but a film to show how people react to a tragic event quite differently.”

Images courtesy of © 2008 Winged Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: FRAGMENTS

DURATION: 96 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: English, French 5.1 (Dolby Digital), Subtitles: English and French

COMPANY: Peace Arch Entertainment, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (For Violent Content, Sexuality and Language)

RELEASE DATE:  August 4, 2009

Directed by Rowan Woods

Based on a story by Roy Freirich

Executive Producer: Gilbert Alloul, Naomi Despres, John Flock, Lewin Webb

Produced by Robert Salerno

Co-Produced by John J. Kelly

Music by Marcelo Zarvos

Director of Photography: Eric Alan Edwards

Editing by Meg Reticker

Casting by Nicole Abellera, Jeanne McCarthy

Production Design by Max Biscoe

Set Decoration by Maria Nay

Costume Design by Mary Claire Hannan

Starring:

Kate Beckinsale as Carla Davenport

Forest Whitaker as Charlie Archenault

Dakota Fanning as Anne Hagen

Guy Pearce as Dr. Bruce Laraby

Jeanne Tripplehorn as Doris Hagen

Josh Hutcherson as Jimmy Jaspersen

Jennifer Hudson as Kathy Archenault

Jackie Earle Haley – Bob Jaspersen

Robin Weigert as Lydia Jasperson

Embeth Davidtz as Joan Laraby

Hayley McFarland as Lori Carline

Tim Guinee as Aaron Hagen

Jacquie Barnbrook as Lori’s mom

One moment can change a lifetime. Shots ring out and the early morning tranquility of a diner shatters. As survivors pick up the pieces, they find themselves transforming in the most unexpected ways as they cope with the aftermath. One brief moment and their lives are changed forever.

Featuring an all-star cast including Kate Beckinsale, Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce, and Academy Award® winners Forest Whitaker (Best Actor, The Last King of Scotland, 2006) and Jennifer Hudson (Best Supporting Actress, Dreamgirls, 2006).

In 2008, the novel “Winged Creatures” writted by Roy Freirich was released.  Not long after, the film was greenlighted for a live film adaptation and Director Rowan Woods (“Farscape” and “Little Fish”) would be the man to bring some life to the original story for the big screen.  Joining Woods is composer Marcelo Zarvos (“The Air I Breathe” and “The Good Shepherd”) and cinematographer Eric Alan Edwards (“Love Happens”, “The King of Texas” and “Knocked Up”).

Starring an all-star cast which includes Kate Beckinsale (“Van Helsing”, “Underworld” and “Vacancy”), Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland”, “Vantage Point” and “Street Kings”), Dakota Fanning (“War of the Worlds”, “Push” and “Man on Fire”), Guy Pearce (“Bedtime Stories”, “Traitor”, “Rules of Engagement” and “The Count of Monte Cristo”),  Josh Hutcherson (“Journey to the Center of the Earth”, “Bridge to Terabithia” and “Little Manhattan”),  Jennifer Hudson (“Sex and the City”and “Dreamgirls”), Jean Tripplehorn (“The Firm”, “Water World” and “The Trap”) and Jackie Earle Haley (“Watchmen”, “Breaking Away” and “The Bad News Bears”).

“FRAGMENTS” (known as “Winged Creatures” in other countries) is a film that has had its challenges.  Because of its not-so-happy storyline, the film had challenges with financing and only when all-star talent such as Kate Beckinsale, Forest Whitaker, Guy Pearce, Dakota Fanning and a few others were part of the film, then the film was able to obtain financing.  But unfortunately, after a test screening at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the film didn’t get massive distribution at theaters and very few people saw it.  In fact, there were posters that the film would be in theaters in July 2009 but for some reason, the film is being released in the US on DVD in August 2009.

With that being said, I have to emphasize that I doubt that its treatment was due to a bad film but because it’s a film that is more or less straight-forward and makes no attempt to captivate the hearts of the viewer.  This is not that type of film.  I’ll explain further during my “Judgment Call” at the end of this review.

The film revolves around a tragic incident.  During a normal day at a restaurant in Los Angeles, a man walks in and starts shooting.  A few people are dead, some injured and the gunman kills himself.  But its what happens afterward is what “FRAGMENTS” is about.  Post-Traumatic stress that the characters are suffering.  And each suffer in their own way.

Kate Beckinsale as Carla Davenport – The waitress at the diner.  Before the tragedy, she was a loving mother always trying to find out how her baby is doing.  After the tragedy, despite thinking she is fine, she is suffering post-traumatic situations in which she starts to neglect her toddler by not feeding him.  And uses the opportunity to bring her child to the doctor and see if she can get close to Dr. Bruce Laraby.

The Hagen Family:

Dakota Fanning as Anne Hagen – Anne is a teenager who hid under the table with her friend Jimmy while the gunman was shooting.  While her father was gunned down, she froze and the only thing that she watched was birds flying out the window.  She deals with her father’s death by treating him as a hero but in a way, uses religion and God to justify her emotions.  She seems strong-willed and like nothing has phased her.  She sees herself as a witness and that people should forgive the killer.  She is instrumental in helping another friend and grieving family through their ordeal.

Jean Tripplehorn as Doris Hagen – The mother of Anne who is concerned with her daughter.  Her daughter has become religious but is that to conceal her pain or has the murder of her husband brought Anne closer to God?

The Jasperson Family

Josh Hutcherson as Jimmy Jasperson – A close friend to Anne but has been affected deeply after the tragedy.  Jimmy was hiding under the table with Anne when her father was killed.  Since the incident,  Jimmy has stopped talking and his parents constantly fight of how to get Jimmy out of his shell. The hospital has been offering counseling but he refuses.  He harbords this deep pain that he doesn’t know how to let go.

Jackie Earle Haley as Bob Jasperson and Robert Weigurt as Lydia Jasperson – The parents of Jimmy who are constantly arguing and have their own way of dealing with Jimmy’s situation.  Jimmy’s father is against him receiving counseling because Jimmy’s brother, who is in the military, was wounded in battle in the Middle East.  When his brother came back, he was not the same and was in a state of depression.  The family reached out and got him counseling but in the end, their older son is now in the coma and Bob believes that counseling may hurt their youngest son.

The Archenault Family

Forest Whitaker as Charlie Archenault – Charlie is a man who believes in luck.  While eating at the diner, he is seen holding a pamphlet on cancer.  He was wounded during the diner tragedy and a doctor has told him he was lucky.  Charlie tries to deal with the tragedy in his own way and that is by gambling.

Jennifer Hudson as Kathy Archenault – The authorities are continuously questioning Kathy in regards to her father’s involvement in the shooting and want to speak to him.  She has no idea what’s going on and her father will not answer any of her calls.

The Laraby Family

Guy Pearce as Dr. Bruce Laraby – Dr. Laraby was actually in the diner the day of the shooting and opened the door for the gunman when he exited the diner.  He was the doctor who tried to save Anne Hagen’s father during surgery but was unable to.  Since that day, he has had bad luck with his patients and he has been affected by the tragedy, despite not being at the diner of the time of the tragedy.

Embeth Davidtz as Jan Laraby – The loving wife of Dr. Bruce Laraby – For some reason, she has been suffering from some type of illness and not knowing why she is feeling this way.

The film divides itself into these five different ensemble stories of how each character have lived their life not long after the tragic incident.   There is no straying away from that plot, we literally see how these individuals are brought to their lowest of lows and how, if they can, recover from it.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“FRAGMENTS” is featured in Anamorphic Widescreen (1:85:1).  For the most part, the picture quality on DVD is good, as many parts of the film are shot outdoors and you are able to get some vibrancy with the colors.

Audi is featured in English and French 5.1 (Dolby Digital).  The film is primarily a dialogue-driven film in which the majority of the audio comes from the front and center channels.  Although, the gunshots from the tragic incident is probably where you will hear most of the punch throughout the soundtrack.  Because the tragedy is replayed many times in different situations, the gunshots are heard throughout the film and you can hear it clearly through the front channels and some usage from the surrounds.  But for the most part, it is a dialogue-driven film and you can hear the talent quite clearly.

Subtitles are featured in English and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There is one special feature included on the DVD and that is an audio commentary by Director Rowan Woods.  Woods is upfront about the challenges of funding of the film, why it was shot in Los Angeles, working with the various talents in the film, challenges of making an ensemble film but most importantly is his feelings of why audiences may have not gravitated towards the film.

Many people have many questions of why the film didn’t receive that much attention, especially since it has an all-star cast and the DVD commentary by Rowan Woods will help answer that.

“FRAGMENTS” is a film that will be compared to other ensemble films such as “CRASH” and “BABEL”.  It can also be compared to the television series “The Nine” which has a similarity to this film but the main difference is that “The Nine” revovles around a bank heist and the victims end up becoming close friends and become their own support group, as they also deal with their own post-traumatic stress.  There is also a mystery element that grabs the attention of the viewer.

With “FRAGMENTS”, there is no mystery, there is no support group.  It’s straightforward in showing us that these people who do not want to get professional help have been mentally scarred by these events.  The film doesn’t make one appreciative of the characters either.

Maybe with the exception of Dakota Fanning and Josh Hutcherson’s characters (which the two are more or less the primary characters and have a big reveal at the end), the other characters are just not likable. It’s one thing for the viewer to understand that these characters are suffering from post-traumatic stress but how they deal with it is quite shocking.

The actions that Carla Davenport (Beckinsale) goes through by neglecting her son while trying to get attention is just going to upset people who will no doubt be upset of how bad of a mother she becomes and the neglect she has towards her own baby.

Dr. Bruce Laraby (Pearce) and what he does to his wife in order to makeup his inner ego of losing patients is also going to upset people.

And Forest Whitaker’s role as Charlie Archenault is not going to have viewers feel happy as he tries to gamble his life away and in the process, hurting himself even further.

With an ensemble film, there is some sort of mystery, some sort of storyline that can either captivate your attention, “FRAGMENTS” keeps you watching throughout the end to find out, what really transpired on that fateful day and after seeing the characters being put through hell, you find yourself asking the question, “is that it?”.

And that leads to the question of, how much of “Winged Creatures” made it into the final cut of “FRAGMENTS”.  Perhaps it was too ambitious to take the novel and give it a proper film adaptation because perhaps, there was a lot of storyline that needed to be cut out.  Granted, this film could have been even more tragic than it was, and I’m glad it wasn’t.

For the most parts, we do get a solid performance from Beckinsale who shows that she can portray a variety of characters quite well.  Dakota Fanning is a talented actress and is able to deliver emotion in a variety of levels (like she has done while she was younger). Josh Hutcherson is definitely put into a more emotional role than his previous films but overall, the kid definitely has talent and provides a balance with Fanning’s character.

Forest Whitaker is more or less a loss soul and you wonder if this character was going to snap but in the end, his fix for dealing with his problems is through intense gambling.  Guy Pearce started off strong but its his character that is indirectly such a sleazeball, that you just can’t believe how far he would go in order to boost his inner machismo.  Academy Award winning actress and singer Jennifer Hudson has a short role that it didn’t make much of a difference to the overall story.

Supporting characters such as Jeanne Tripplehorn as Anne’s mother and Jackie Earle Haley was great to see both on the big screen.  Especially, Haley for those of us who grew up seeing this actor when he was a child star through the late 70’s and 80’s.

If anything, the positive of the film is that it was an interesting film that focuses not on any conspiracy or mystery, it’s a look of how people deal with tragedy differently.

“FRAGMENTS” is  a deep and somewhat depressing, provocative film and in the end, I enjoyed it for its take on characters dealing with post-traumatic stress.  Again, no conspiracy, no mystery.  It’s a straightforward story of characters near their breaking point.

I wish there were more special features included on the DVD but the commentary was definitely interesting in hearing Director Rowan Woods discuss his overall feeling about the film.

For the most part, “FRAGMENTS” may grab your attention but it’s simply not a film that I can find myself watching it repetitively.

Bottom