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The Sheik (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Sheik” is a film that no doubt made Valentino popular despite the fact that in reality, he didn’t care for the film, nor being a Sheik. But it did cement him as Hollywood’s first sex symbol and those details may overshadow the actual film, “The Sheik” is still quite entertaining after all these years. And one should at least watch this film before watching “The Son of the Sheik”. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1921 BY AMOUS PLAYERS AND LASKY CORP. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Sheik

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1921

DURATION: 75 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p, Color tinted, DTS-Master Audio 2.0

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2017


Based on the Novel by Edith Maude Hull

Directed by George Melford

Adaptation by Monte M. Katterjohn

Music Composed and Performed by Ben Model

Cinematography by William Marshall


Starring:

Rudolph Valentino as The Sheik, Ahmed Ben Hassan

Agnes Ayres as Lady Diana Mayo

Ruth Miller as Zilah

George Waggner as Yousaef, Tribal Chieftain

Frank Butler as Sir Aubrey Mayo

Charles Brinley as Mustapha Ali, Diana’s Guide

Lucien Littlefield as Gaston

Adolphe Menjou as Dr. Raoul de St. Hubert

Walter Long as Omair, the Bandit


Hollywood’s first male sex symbol, Rudolph Valentino, appears in his most iconic roles in The Sheik (1921). Agnes Ayres stars as Lady Diana Mayo, a headstrong Western woman who infiltrates the private party of the handsome Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan (Valentino). When the Sheik later encounters Diana in the desert, he abducts her and takes her to his sumptuous lair. Unable to resist the Sheik’s cruel magnetism, Diana’s defiant nature crumbles and she begins to develop affectionate feelings for her captor. The Sheik plays upon a long tradition of Orientalism in Western art, which romanticized the sands of Northern Africa as a hotbed or seduction and captivity. Theatrical organ score by Ben Model.


“The Sheik”, it was the film that launched Hollywood’s first male sex symbol, Rudolph Valentino.

A man who made women swoon and angered many men due to being different from the typical male actors of his time, as Valentino was seen as a man who was very much into high fashion, slicking back his hair and was considered by the American male populace as being effeminate.

Needless to say, while Valentino was very much a different looking man in Hollywood courtesy of his Italian father and French mother and raised with a European influence.

And with the success of the 1921 film, “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse”, earning $1,000,000 at the box office and Valentino’s looks, it would ear lead to Valentino working with Famous Players-Lasky (which would become Paramount Pictures) and Jessy Lasky wanting to capitalize on Valentino’s looks, cast him for “The Sheik” as the film’s protagonist Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan.

The film is based on the bestselling romance novel by Edith Maude Hull and the adaptation was directed by George Melford and the adaptation written by Monte M. Katterjohn.

“The Sheik” starred Valentino along with Agnes Ayres (“Forbidden Fruit”, “Eve’s Love Letters”), Ruth Miller (“The King of Kings”, “The Affairs of Anatol”), George Waggner (who would later become a director of films such as “The Wolf Man”, “77 Sunset Strip”, “Operation Pacific”), Frank Butler (who would go on to write films such as “Going My Way”, “Road to Morocco”, “Road to Bali”, Babes in Toyland”), Charles Brinley (“Moran of the Lady Letty”, “In the Days of Daniel Boone”), Lucien Littlefield (“Sons of the Desert”, “The Little Foxes”), Adolphe Menjou (“Paths of Glory”, “A Star is Born”, “A Farewell to Arms”) and Walter Long (“The Birth of a Nation”, “Intolerance”).

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray  Kino Lorber in May 2017.

The film begins with an introduction to Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan as the Arabs are having a wife lottery.

Meanwhile, in the North African town of Biskra, we are introduced to the independent Lady Diana Mayo (portrayed by Agnes Ayres).  Many of the women are gossiping about Lady Diana because she plans to go to the desert alone and take on a month-long trip escorted only by natives.

While her brother tries to convince her to not go, Lady Diana is dead set in going.  And her friend proposes to her but she tells him that she doesn’t want to be married because it would make her a captive and she would rather live a life of freedom.

As she goes to a local casino, the people tell her she can not enter because an important Sheik, Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan is there for the evening and because she is not Arab, she is not permitted to go inside.  But when the Sheik arrives, he is captivated by Lady Diana’s beauty.

And Lady Diana decides to sneak into the casino by swapping clothes with a dancer and disguising herself as one of the women.  And what Lady Diana sees is women being given away for her marriage, which she can’t fathom.  And when Lady Diana is selected as one of the women to be put up in the lottery, the Sheik sees the woman’s reluctance and realizes its the woman he saw outside of the casino.  And for her protection, he escorts her out of the casino.  And he is told by Lady Diana’s guide that he will be escorting her for her trip.

As Lady Diana goes to ride with her guide for her month-long trip through the desert, the Sheik and his men arrive with their horses and while Lady Dianna tries to flee, the Sheik captures Lady Diana and takes her to his home.

As Diana is distraught and wants to leave, the Sheik tells her that she will learn to love him.

And as her captive, will she learn to love him or will she escape from him?


VIDEO:

“The Sheik” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is color-tinted.  It’s important to note that the last version I have of this DVD is the 2002 Image Entertainment DVD.  And I can say that the quality of the film on Blu-ray is much better in terms of clarity and sharpness.  The film is color-tinted and while there are scratches and some frames look blurrier, the entire film actually looks very good considering the film is nearly a hundred years old.  The picture quality is definitely an improvement over the 2002 DVD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Sheik” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is music composed and performed by Ben Model.  And once again, another splendid musical composition by Ben but I’m sure there are people who may be wondering if a second musical score is included, there is only one and the Gaylord Carter composition is not included.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Sheik” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by historian Gaylyn Studlar.
  • Archival Footage  – (3:02) Archived footage taken at Rudolph Valentino’s funeral.
  • “Blood and Sand” (1922) Theatrical Trailer – (2:02) The original theatrical trailer.

Considered as one of the biggest box office silent films and also socially influential films of all time, “The Sheik” is also known for propelling the career of Rudolph Valentino, making him Hollywood’s first sex symbol.

In someway, the film was an unknown risk.  As Edith Maude Hull’s best selling novel “The Sheik” was controversial for racial miscegenation and rape, the film left out certain aspects from the film.

The other risk was by Jesse Lasky of Famous Players-Lasky (which would eventually become Paramount Pictures) casting the not too established actor, Rudolph Valentino.  But wanting to capitalize on Valentino’s “Latin Lover” reputation, the risk paid off as many women turned out to the film to watch Valentino on the big screen.

For me, watching the film again over a decade later, I appreciate the film much more today.  For one, the film features Lady Diana Mayo, an independent woman, who speaks against herself getting married, as she sees marriage as being in captivity and the end of independence.  And the character, keeps her strong demeanor throughout the film, despite being distraught of being captured and possibly being forced to do things against her will.

In the original novel, the character of Lady Diana was raped by the Sheik but in the film, while the Sheik wants to take advantage of her, he sees her crying and distraught, that he decides to leave her alone.  Many critics wrote that they wish there was no deviation from the original novel, but perhaps rape would be strong for a major film and it works to the favor of Rudolph Valentino as he is shown as a man with sensitivity and not going primal and making his captive, his sexual plaything.

I also am in awe of how far the director and film crew had gone to ensure a desert setting involving many extras, especially many who are on horseback.  And while there is no clear answer of where the film was shot, set design to costume design is really well-done for this 1921 classic silent film.

My enjoyment of watching this film on HD is seeing the clarity of the film on Blu-ray versus how things looked on DVD 15-years ago.  While not pristine, the film still looks much better than it ever has.  And for the accompany musical score by Ben Model, he did a wonderful job scoring the film from beginning to end.  And you also get a small featurette featuring Valentino’s funeral and the original theatrical trailer for “Blood & Sand”.

While “The Sheik” will be remembered for being a successful film that propelled both Rudolph Valentino and Agnes Ayres, a film so beloved by women that it made women in the audience faint and “The Sheik” would also become part of teenage lingo and even created a fashion trend for Arabian clothing.  And the moniker “Valentino” has been used to describe certain type of guys still goes on today, despite many of those saying it, probably don’t know much about Rudolph Valentino at all.

“The Sheik” is a film that no doubt made Valentino popular despite the fact that in reality, he didn’t care for the film, nor being a Sheik.  But it did cement him as Hollywood’s first sex symbol and those details may overshadow the actual film, “The Sheik” is still quite entertaining after all these years. And one should at least watch this film before watching “The Son of the Sheik”.

Recommended!

KINO Video/KINO International/KINO Lorber (a J!-ENT Listing of All KINO Blu-ray and DVD Reviews)

May 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Kino International was founded in 1977 as a theatrical distribution company specializing in classics and foreign language art films. The company began operation with a license to handle theatrical distribution of the Janus Collection, a library containing over 100 important European and Asian art films of the 40s, 50s and 60s.

Kino now boasts a catalog of over five hundred films — one of the most important libraries of classic and contemporary world cinema titles available to the home video collector — and has been honored by numerous critical accolades, including the prestigious Heritage Award from the National Society of Film Critics for its work in film preservation in 2002 and 2003.


The following is a list of all the KINO VIDEO/KINO INTERNATIONAL/KINO LORBER Blu-ray and DVD’s we have reviewed on J!-ENT thus far.


Note: Reviews are from 1999-Present

5 Broken Cameras

Abraham Lincoln

Anatahan

Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and ’30s: Ménilmontant by Dimitri Kirsanoff

Barbara

Battleship Potemkin

Big Joy: The Adventures of Jim Broughton

Bird of Paradise

The Birth of a Nation

Blank City

The Blue Angel (2-Disc Ultimate Collection)

The Blue Angel: Special Two-Disc Collection

Boccaccio ’70

The Bubble

Buster Keaton: The Short Films Collection 1920-1923

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Café de Flore

Casanova ’70 (as part of the “Great Italian Directors Collection”)

The Cat and the Canary: The Photoplay Restoration (as part of the “American Silent Horror Collection”)

The Charley Chase Collection Vol. 2: Dog Shy

Charlotte Rampling: The Look

The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom

City of Life and Death

College

Computer Chess

The Constance Talmadge Collection: Her Night of Romance

The Constance Talmadge Collection: Her Sister From Paris

David Holzman’s Diary: Special Edition

Destiny

Deutschland 83

The Devil Bat

The Devil’s Needle & Other Tales of Vice and Redemption

Diary of a Lost Girl

Die Nibelungen: Special Edition

Dormant Beauty

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Deluxe Edition

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler

Drawing Flies: Anniversary Edition

Edge of Dreaming

Elles

The Epic of Everest

A Farewell to Arms

Fastball

Fear and Desire

Film Socialisme

A Fool There Was

Foolish Wives

Fritz Lang: The Earlier Works

Gaumont Treasures Vol. 2 1908-1916

The General

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould – Director’s Cut

The Gianfranco Rosi Collection

The Girl on a Motorcycle

Giorgio Moroder presents Metropolis

Go West and Battling Butler

Gog in 3-D

Going Places

Goodbye to Language 3D

The Good Fairy (as part of the “Glamour Girls” DVD Box Set)

Great Directors

Great Italian Directors Collection

Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation

– Gueros

happily ever after (Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d’enfants)

Harry Langdon…the forgotten clown: Long Pants

Hell’s House

Himalaya

The Hitch-Hiker

if i were you

Ingrid Bergman in Sweden

Intermezzo (as part of the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set)

Intolerance (as part of the Griffith Masterworks DVD Box Set)

It/Clara Bow: Discovering the “It” Girl

It Felt Like Love

Jafar Panahi’s Taxi

June Night (as part of the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set)

King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis

Korczak

La Ronde

The Last of England

Le Quattro Volte

Les Vampires

Life of Riley

Little Fugitive

Little Lord Fauntleroy

Littlerock

Liverpool

Lost Keaton (DVD)

Lost Keaton (Blu-ray)

Mademoiselle Chambon

Manuscripts Don’t Burn

Marriage Italian Style

Mauvais Sang

The Max Linder Collection

The Messenger

Metropolis: The Complete Metropolis

Metropolis: Restored Authorized Edition

More Than Honey

Mountains May Depart

The Navigator

Neon Bull

The Norma Talmadge Collection: Kiki

The Norma Talmadge Collection: Within the Law

Nosferatu

Nostalghia

Nothing Sacred

The Ocean Waif (as part of “The Ocean Waif plus 49-17”)

Of Human Bondage

Our Hospitality

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

The Penalty

Pig

Rabin, the Last Day

Rapt

The Red Chapel

The Retrieval

The Robber

Russian Ark

The Sacrifice: Remastered Edition

Sample This: The Birth of Hip Hop

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

The Saphead

Scarlet Street

The Scent of Green Papaya

Seven Chances

The Sheik

Sherlock Jr. and Three Ages

Shoot the Sun Down: Restored Director’s Cut

Sidewalk Stories

Sister

The Sound of Insects

The Spiders (DVD)

The Spiders (Blu-ray)

A Star is Born

Steamboat Bill, Jr.

Story of a Love Affair (as part of the “Great Italian Directors Collection”)

The Stranger

Strike

A Summer in La Goulette

They Made Me a Fugitive

A Touch of Sin

Two in the Wave

United Red Army

Vice & Virtue

Violette

The Wanderers

Way Down East

We Won’t Grow Old Together

The Well-Digger’s Daughter

Who is Harry Nilsson (and Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?

Winnebago Man

Winter Sleep

A Woman’s Face (as part of the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set)

The Woodmans

A Year in Burgundy

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow


The Gianfranco Rosi Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Each of these four films presented in the “Gianfranco Rosi Collection” are entertaining but also highlight the artful technique of the skillful documentarian, Gianfranco Rosi.  Observational and enlightening, “The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” is an excellent addition to one’s cinema collection featuring the works of one of the most awarded and and respected documentarians of today.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Kino Lorber, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Gianfranco Rosi Collection

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: Fire at Sea (2016), Below Sea Level (1988), Boatman (1993), Sacro GRA (2013)

DURATION: Fire at Sea (113 Minutes), Below Sea Level (117 Minutes), Boatman (57 Minutes), Sacro GRA (91 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: Fire at Sea (1:85:1, 5.1 Surround), Below Sea Level (1:85:1, 2.0 Stereo), Boatman (1:33:1, 2.0 Stereo), Sacro GRA (1:78:1, 2.0 Stereo)

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: PG

RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2017


Fire at Sea

Written by Gianfranco Rosi

Idea by Carla Cattani

Produced by Roberto Cicutto, Paolo Del Brocco, Camille Laemle, Serge Lalou, Donatella Palermo, Gianfranco Rosi, Martine Saada

Co-Producer: Remi Burah, Olivier Pere

Cinematography by Gianfranco Rosi

Edited by Jacopo Quadri

Blow Sea Level

Written by Gianfranco Rosi

Boatman

Written by Gianfranco Rosi


Fire at Sea

Samuele Pucillo, Pietro Bartolo, Samuele Caruana, Maria Costa, Maria Signorello, Mattias Cucina, Francesco Paterna, Giuseppe Fragapane, Francesco Mannino


Gianfranco Rosi has emerged as one of the most awarded and provocative documentarians working today. His observational films artfully and sympathetically depict the lives of subcultures and displaced peoples the world over. The Gianfranco Rosi Collection includes four of his greatest films. Fire at Sea (2016), an Academy Award® Nominee for Best Documentary Feature and winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, is a heartwrenching portrait of African refugees pouring into the Italian island of Lampedusa. Sacro GRA (2013), winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, is an engaging tour of Rome s ring road, populated by a fascinating group of eccentrics. Rosi spent five years shooting Below Sea Level (2008), which documents the hand-to-mouth existence of California flatland squatters. And his first feature, Boatman (1993), captures life and death on the Ganges River in India.


One of the most prominent documentary filmmakers in Italy is Giafranco Rosi.  A man who not only directs, also is a camera operator, producer and screenwriter.

Rosi gained prominence when his 2013 documentary “Sacro GRA” won a Golden Lion at the 70th Venice International Film Festival and was the first documetnar film to win a Golden Lion in the history of the Venice Film Festival and the first Italian film to win at the festival in 15 years.

Rosi followed up with another award-winning documentary in 2016 titled “Fire at Sea”, which won a Golden Bear at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.

Rosi has created a total of six films since 1993 and now his four films: “Fire at Sea”, “Below Sea Level”, “Boatman” and “Sacro GRA” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The first film featured is Rosi’s most recent film “Fire at Sea” (2016) and is shot on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.  Shot during the European migrant crisis but also featuring the reality of many people who are refugees and those who risk their lives to travel through the Mediterranean Sea in hopes to get to Lampedusa and start a new life.

The film gives us perspectives of those living in Lampedusa.  A young boy named Samuele who belongs to generations of fisherman living in Lampedusa and gives us an innocent look at life on the island.  The film also shows us a perspective through the life of Dr. Bartolo, the doctor and director of the hospital at Lampedusa who is sensitive and wanting compassion towards refugees.  To not turn them away and lead them to their deaths but to let them, treat them and then discussion can begin.  But far too often the harsh reality is many who travel far to go to Lampedusa do not survive.

And we learn from the refugees of why many of them risk their lives to travel to Lampedusa.

For the 2008 film “Below Sea Level”, the film gives us a perspective of people who live their lives in Slab City, a desolate area in Imperial County, California where many RV owners and squatters from North America come to live permanently.  Some to stretch their retirement income, others to live off the grid and others to get away from society.

“Below Sea Level” was shot over a five-year period and documented the lives of a small group of homeless residents living in RV’s, buses or tents.

For Rosi’s first film “Boatman” (1993), the film is set in the River Ganges in India which stretches from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal.  The river is considered sacred and millions of Hindus cremate their dead.

It is believed by practicing Hindus that an unwed girl given a water burial will ensure she is born again into the family.  Also, due to poverty, to avoid the cost of cremation, many conduct water burials.

Also, many go into the river to cleanse themselves, believing that the river will cleanse them of sin and free them from the cycle of rebirth.

While the film interviews and showcases many who have come to the river to bury the dead including travelers who are in awe of what they are seeing, as boats run through the river with dead bodies floating up in the water.

The film focuses on a boatman whose job is to ferry people through the rivers and Rosi gives us a personal look at the life of the boatman, his job and the questions that he receives from foreigners so often.

And the final film is “Sacro GRA” (2013), the film features life for those who live along the Grande Raccordo Anulare, the ring-road highway that circles Rome.

Rosi spent two years filming and another eight months to edit and the film was inspired by Italo Calvino’s novel “Invisible Cities”, which is about Marco Polo as imagined describing his travels to the Emperor of China Kublai Khan.

The film showcases those who live near the highway such as EMS worker Roberto and taking care of his elderly mother.  Francesco is a scientist who catalogues palm trees that were ravaged by the red palm weevil.  Paolo and his daughter Amelia from northern Italy transferred to a new housing block.  Cesare is one of the last eel fisherman on the Tiber River who talks about the endangered traditions due to the GRA.  Filippo is a proprietor with a home with statues and an emporium of memorabilia that is rented out for movie sets and theater companies.  Also, to host parties and also is a B&B.  Also, life featuring prostitutes and go-go dancers at some of the neighborhoods.

No interactions with the camera, just the camera capturing the day and the life of the various people living near the GRA.


VIDEO:

For “The Gianfranco Rosi Collection”, the more recent the film, the better the picture quality.  “Fire at Sea” and “Sacro GRA” being the latest films (the former presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio and the latter in 1:78:1 aspect ratio) by Rosi looks great on Blu-ray, “Below Sea Level” (presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio) also looks very good, while “Boatman” being the oldest of the films, is presented in black and white 1:33:1.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Each of the films from “The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” is presented in 2.0 stereo, with the exception of “Fire at Sea” which is is presented in Italian 5.1 surround.  “Below Sea Level” is presented in English, “Boatman” in English, Italian and Hindi” and “Sacro GRA” in Italian.  Each with optional English subtitles.

Dialogue is clear through the front channels and English subtitles are easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Gianfranco Rosi – (5:12) Filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi talks about his filming style and waiting for the right moments to shoot and how the location and the people are important.
  • Interview with Pietro Bartolo – (29:55) Interview with Pietro Bartolo, doctor and director of the hospital of Lampedusa.
  • NYFF: Q&A with Gianfranco Rosi  – (23:41) Q&A with filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi.  Q&A is moderated by Dennis Lim, courtesy of Film Society of Lincoln Center.

EXTRAS:

“The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” comes with a 12-page booklet featuring an essay “Unsentimental Journeys: The Films of Gianfranco Rosi” by Nicolas Rapold.


Filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi is known for his attentiveness to form, waiting for the right moments to capture emotion and reactions and showcase reality in its purest form for his documentaries.

Kino Lorber’s “The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” features four different type of documentaries capturing humanity in various levels.

The first film featured is Rosi’s “Fire at Sea”, a heartbreaking film that shows us the reality of African, Syrian and other refugees from other countries who have risked their lives to leave their country in hopes for a better life in Lampadusa.

Visually, “Fire at Sea” is Gianfranco Rosi’s most impressive film.  Each shot is beautiful one side and the other side is tragic.  As the film tries to show us the more joyful side of Lampadusa of young Samuele on the island, the reality is that the island is the destination for those seeking refuge away from Africa, the Middle East and so many people perish because no other country would allow them in, but the island of Lampadusa.

We watch as a boat of African refugees arrive.  While at first you think everyone on top is safe and has made it, you start to learn the reality that the boat is a triple decker.  Those who paid more are put in the boat like sardines on top, others who have windows through the middle but those on bottom, with barely enough air to breath and to move, these are the ones that paid only a few hundred dollars less and have the most terrible conditions and where most of the dead are found.

Dr. Pietro Bartolo is a man we learn on how tragic things are, as he is the main physician and director at the hospital trying to help these refugees.  And questioning why so many have to die, when others could have let them into their countries, maybe not to live but at least give them treatment because the rid on the Mediterranean Sea is not only treacherous but they are in inhumane conditions to begin with.

And to see death as Italian authorities remove people from the boat one by one is shocking and heartbreaking and gives a new perspective to those wondering why people sacrifice their lives.  And for these people, it’s hope.  Hope that they can start a new life away from a country they once called home but is actually a living hell.  Having lived in that hell, to confront death on sea in hopes that they can survive and live a new life in a new country.

“Below Sea Level” is not as heartbreaking but more of a day in the life of those who chose to live in Scab City, away from society, homeless and all they have is whatever is in their RV or bus and just trying to make it.  Those who have called the region their home, a desolate area where many joint together to play instruments and have fun.  While others get annoyed by their neighbors.

The main highlight of the film is watching two intelligent individuals, a man and woman who are together for intelligent conversation but also for companionship.  But because their nasty living conditions with scabies and unclean areas, the female woman known as “Doctor” (who helps those in the area with medical needs) has enough and complains to her companion that she can’t live in such conditions.  But the man retorts with the fact that they are both homeless and she shouldn’t be complaining.

Others who have families, stays in touch with them via cell phone but know they chose a life of desolation.

This is not a film for one to feel bad about the individuals because for many of them, this is the life they live and are used to living.  Only a few of them want to escape that life but for the most part, it’s the only life they have lived and are comfortable with.  And Rosi just captures their conversations and their day-to-day life without questioning their lifestyle.

The third film “Boatman” is probably one of my favorites in the collection because of the correlation of what is presented on camera back in 1993 but then reading in the newspapers of the problems today.

The documentary shows us a boatman rowing through deep waters, many coming to the River Ganges to cleanse themselves of their sins or the poor to bury their loved ones in the water.  The problem today, 25-years after the film was shot is that the river has receded and the bodies are now all floating, the stench is gastly and dogs and vultures feed upon the deceased.

Eliminating the problems of the present, the film is rather interesting because we see many people who flock to the river for river burials or cleansing, travelers being taken on a tour through the river as the foreigners take pictures of the thousands who have flocked to the river, meanwhile dead bodies are floating all around.  And we learn from the Boatman of why their are bodies floating, why people bury their loved ones and while non-natives may question the Hindu tradition, the Boatman looks at it as part of life.  How it has been and no one questions it…just the foreigners who have so many questions.

Also, featured are interviews with foreigners living in India.  This includes an Italian man who is broke and homeless and stuck in India, an English doctor who cleanses himself in the waters, to foreigners who immersed themselves in Hinduism and more.

But “Boatman” is a compelling and fascinating documentary.

“Sacro GRA” is the final film which shows us the various people living near the highway circling Rome.  The winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, the film is also a day-in-the-life of various people.  Whereas “Below Sea Level” features people who are homeless and living as a community in a desolate area in California, “Sacro GRA” is about the different people, each with different lives, living near Sacro GRA.

Each of these four films presented in the “Gianfranco Rosi Collection” are entertaining but also highlight the artful technique of the skillful documentarian, Gianfranco Rosi. Observational and enlightening, “The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” is an excellent addition to one’s cinema collection featuring the works of one of the most awarded and and respected documentarians of today. Recommended!

 

The Wanderers (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release of “The Wanderers” is not only entertaining and cool, it’s the definitive version of the film to own!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1979 Orion Pictures Company. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Wanderers

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1979

DURATION: 117 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1:85:1, DTS Stereo

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: March 28, 2017


Based on the Novel by Richard Price

Directed by Philip Kaufman

Screenplay by Rose Kaufman, Philip Kaufman

Produced by Martin Ransohoff

Executive Producer: Fred C. Caruso, Richard R. St. Johns 

Associate Producer: Fred C. Caruso

Cinematography by Michael Chapman

Edited by Stuart H. Pappe, Ronald Roose

Casting by Scott Rudin

Production Design by John Jay Moore

Set Decoration by Thomas C. Tonery

Costume Design by Robert De Mora


Starring:

Ken Wahl as Richie

John Friedrich as Joey

Karen Allen as Nina

Toni Kalem as Despie Galasso

Alan Rosenberg as Turkey

Jim Youngs as Buddy

Tony Ganios as Perry

Linda Manz as Peewee

William Andrews as Emilio

Erland van Lidth as Terror

Val Avery as Mr. Sharp

Dolph Sweet as Chubby Galasso

Michael Wright as Clinton

Dion Alabanese as Teddy Wong

Olympia Dukakis as Joey’s Mom


Brand New 2K Restoration! Meet the Wanderers, the Coolest Guys in Town! Tully High School seniors Richie, Joey and Perry run with a gang called The Wanderers in the Bronx. The year is 1963 but their experiences are universal: falling in love, surviving in school and defending their turf against rivals like the Fordham Baldies, the Del Bombers and the Ducky Boys. From the acclaimed first novel by Richard Price (Clockers), The Wanderers is a rich fabric of comedy and tragedy, fantasy and farce. Director Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff) mixes dynamic talents that include Ken Wahl (The Soldier), Karen Allen (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Toni Kalem (The Sopranos) and Linda Manz (Days of Heaven) with a jukebox full of golden oldies to generate a heady atmosphere. Like American Graffiti and Saturday Night Fever, this cult-classic is a nostalgic window to a vanished world. Beautifully shot by the great Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull). This special edition includes both the original theatrical version and the very rarely seen Preview Cut.


Back in 1979, director Philip Kaufman released his American drama film “The Wanderers” which was loosely based on the novel by Philip Price.

Featuring a screenplay by Philip Kaufman and his wife Rose, “The Wanderers” would star Ken Wahl (“Wiseguy”, “Fort Apache, The Bronx”, “Purple Hearts”), John Friedrichs (“The Boy in the Plastic Bubble”, “Thank God It’s Friday”, “The Final Terror”), Karen Allen (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, “The Perfect Storm”), Toni Kalem (“Sister Act”, “Silent Rage”), Jim Youngs (“Footloose”, “Youngblood”, “Hotshot”), Tony Ganios (“Die Hard 2”, “Porky’s”, “Porky’s Revenge”), Linda Manz (“Days of Heaven”, “The Game”, “Out of the Blue”), William Andrews (“Saturday Night Fever”, “Plainsong”), Michael Wright (“The Interpreter”, “The Five Heartbeats”, “The Principal”) and Olympia Dukakis (“Look Who’s Talking”, “Moonstruck”).

Since its debut in 1979, “The Wanderers” has a significant cult following and with the new brand new 2K restoration, the Kino Lorber Blu-ray and DVD release of “The Wanderers” features the original 118 minute theatrical version and the very rarely seen 124 minute “Preview Cut”.

The film is set in the Bronx back in 1963 and begins with a gang of Italian-American teenagers known as the Wanderers and members Joey (portrayed by John Friedrich) and Turkey (portrayed by Alan Rosenberg) walking around.  Turkey has shaved his head in hopes he could join the rival gang, the Fordham Baldies.

Joey tries to persuade Turkey from joining and when Joey says something bad about the Baldies, the rival gang’s leader’s girlfriend Peewee (portrayed by Linda Manz) overhears them. She tells her boyfriend, Baldies leader Terror (portrayed by Erland van Lidth) and Joey and Turkey take off running and the Baldies gang chases after them.

Meanwhile, Wanderers leader, Richie (portrayed by Ken wahl) is having sex with his girlfriend Despie (portrayed by Toni Kalem), but when he hears the two in trouble, Richie and Buddy (portrayed by Jim Youngs) try to give them help but find out the entire Baldies gang is after them.

As the four Wanderers are cornered by members of the Baldies, a tall Italian guy named Perry (portrayed by Tony Ganios) comes to their rescue and beats up some of the Baldies and saves them.

As the Wanderers gang are happy that Perry came to rescue them, Joey finds out that Perry has recently moved to the Bronx from New Jersey and they live across the hall from each other.  And Perry becomes the latest member of the Wanderers.

As Joey introduces Perry to the various gangs in the school and how the Blacks and the Asians are separated from each other, during class, their teacher wanted to show them how they shouldn’t hate each other, by having the Italians and the African-American students think of derogatory terms towards each other.

Unfortunately, what the teacher was trying to get them to do and show them how they are alike, instead pits the two together and Richie and Clinton (portrayed by Michael Wright) decide to fight each other with no knives or weapons, just a fight between the two ethnic groups.

But Richie and the Wanderers know they don’t have the numbers, so they start reaching out to other ethnicities, but none of them are interested.  And those who are, want to use weapons, which Richie said he and Clinton made a promise not to.

The group try to get the Wongs involved but their leader Teddy said they will make a decision at a later time to decide who they want to side with.

So, that leaves Richie, Joey and Turkey going to the Baldies for help.  But instead, they get back at the Wanderers for their earlier skirmish and have Richie and Joe take off their pants and have Turkey do the dirty work.  And allowing Turkey to join the Baldies after betraying his friends.

Meanwhile, Richie, Joey, Perry and Buddy later have fun with the women by playing a game of “elbow titting” and Richie meets Nina (portrayed by Karen Allen).  While Richie is interested in Nina and both are flirtatious towards each other, because Richie is dating Despie, he tries to set Joey up with Nina.  And the all decide to meet up at Despie’s party.

But what happens on the night of the party?


VIDEO:

“The Wanderers” is presented in 1080p (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Watching this cult classic once again, the 2K restoration actually looks fantastic and the best I have seen of the film yet.  Details are much more evident, closeups show better detail and I like how the colors look more vibrant instead of muted colors as seen with the older VHS version of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Wanderers” is presented in English Dolby Digital Monaural.  While dialogue and music are crystal clear through the center channel, I didn’t notice any pops or clicks considering the age of the film.  The monaural lossless soundtrack is very good.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Wanderers” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Philip Kaufman.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an insightful audio commentary by Columbia University Film Professor 7 author of “Philip Kaufman”, Annette Insdorf.
  • Back in the Bronx with Richard Price – (35:17) Author Richard Price talks about his book “The Wanderers” and it be adapted to a film.
  • Wanderers Forever – Live Q&A At NYC’s Film Forum – (16:37) Featuring a Q&A with Karen Allen, Toni Kalem, Tony Ganios and Richard Price.
  • The Wanderers Q&A at LA’s Cinefamily – (31:57) A Q&A with director Philip Kaufman, Alan Roseburg and Peter Kaufman
  • Audio Q&A at NYC’s Film Forum (19:46) An audio Q&A with director Philip Kaufman.
  • Audio Q&A at NYC’s Film Forum – (16:41) An audio Q&A with writer Richard Price
  • Re-Release Trailer
  • TV Spot

“The Wanderers” is no doubt a cult classic that entertains audiences for its take on the Bronx life of teenagers during the early ’60s, the gangs that existed back in the day but also the segregation among ethnic groups.

It was no doubt a tough and dangerous time back in the day, and despite the film being made in 1979, director Philip Kaufman who would be known for his work on the “Indiana Jones” films, will also be celebrated for creating this film adaptation of Richard Price’s original novel.

The film featured a cast of young talent who would later go on to make a name for themselves after “The Wanderers”.

Ken Wahl was a fixture on television thanks to the “Wiseguy” but unfortunately after an accident, his acting career was over.  But he and wife Shane Barbi (of the Barbi Twins) focus their energy on animal rights issues.

Karen Allen would become a big film star in the ’80s with “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Starman”, “Scrooged”). Toni Kalem would star in “The Sopranos” and “Sister Act and became a filmmaker (as did Karen Allen), Linda Manz was well-known for starring in Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven” in 1978 but would continue acting for two more decades and star in the David Fincher film “The Game”.

Alan Rosenberg would be seen in TV shows “The Guardian” and “Cybill” and Michael Wright would star in numerous films including “The Interpreter”, “The Five Heartbeats”, “The Principal” to name a few.

And while most of the film, these young talent would be character with their own differences, its the storyline and adaptation by Philip Kaufman that would bring these characters to life.  While not as risque as Richard Price’s original novel, “The Wanderers” manages to incorporate what people loved of films depicting ’60s life but also the film’s undertones and messages.  May it be to a reaction of JFK’s death, the music of Bob Dylan, teen fun and sexual innuendo, it’s an honest depiction of the times, including racial turbulence that was prevalent in the Bronx.

And there are numerous reasons to love the film.  For me, it was the characters, the adventures, the cultural complications, the gang lifestyle of the ’60s and as an adult, I appreciated the film so much more, in terms of character dynamics but also knowing the context of the characters and the meaning of certain scenes that I was not aware of when I saw this film in my early teens.

With the release of “The Wanderers” on Blu-ray, not only do fans get the definitive version to own but also a small reunion of characters for the film’s Q&A decades after the film was released in theaters.  But you learn about the filming and experiences behind-the-scenes as well.

I absolutely enjoyed the various Q&A featurettes but also the two insightful audio commentaries and for the most part, this is one of the most entertaining, pleasant Blu-ray releases one can own if you love “The Wanderers”.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release of “The Wanderers” is not only entertaining and cool, it’s the definitive version of the film to own!  Highly recommended!

Neon Bull (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Gabriel Mascaro’s “Neon Bull” is a unique, sensual film that entertains viewers with its honest portrayal of its characters that work within the vaquejada in northeastern Brazil.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Desvia, Malbicho cine, Viking Film, Canal Brasil. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Neon Bull

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 103 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2:35:1, Portuguese 5.1 Surround, Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber Inc.

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: September 6, 2016


Directed by Gabriel Mascaro

Written by Gabriel Mascaro

Produced by Rachel Ellis

Co-Produced by Rodrigo Pia, Sandino Saravia Vinay, Marleen Slot

Music by Carlos Montenegro, Otavio Santos

Cinematography by Diego Garcia

Edited by Fernando Epstein, Eduardo Serrano

Art Direction by Maira Mesquita


Starring:

Juliano Cazarre as Iremar

Maebe Jinkings as Galega

Josinaldo Alves as Mario

Roberto Berindelli as Fazendeiro

Samya De Lavor as Geise

Vinicius de Oliveira as Junior

Abigail Pereira as Valquiria

Carlos Pessoa as Ze

Alyne Santa as Caca


Neon Bull is a wild, sensual and transporting experience. Brazilian writer-director Gabriel Mascaro s second fiction feature (after August Winds), it takes place within the world of the vaquejada, a demanding traditional style of rodeo in which cowboys attempt to wrest bulls to the ground by their tails. Neon Bull explores this dangerous job through the eyes of Iremar (Juliano Cazarre ), a mysterious and handsome cowboy who cares for the bulls. While riding the roads with the animals and his close-knit circle of outcast friends, he begins to think of a world outside the ring, dreaming of sequins and fabrics and of his desire to become a fashion designer.


Filmmaker Gabriel Macaro known for his documentary “HOUSEMAIDS” and his first feature film “Ventos de Agosto” (August Winds) has received a lot of attention and critically praised reviews.  And his 2015 film “Boi Neon” (Neon Bull) would receive nominations and win awards at various festivals around the world.

And now Macaro’s “Neon Bull” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

Shot in northeastern Brazil, the film captures life for those who work at the Vaquejadas (a rodeo in which two cowboys ride on horseback to bring down a bull by grabbing its tail).

One of the cowboys, Iremar (portrayed by Juliano Cazarre) shares his quarters with others from the rodeo and lives in a truck that transports livestock to various events.  While most of the day, he is grooming the animals and doing his fill of shoveling manure, his passion is creating costumes, especially for his sexy female friend, Galega.

One of the truck drivers, Galega (portrayed by Maeve Jinkings) is an exotic dancer who is a truck driver by day, but participates in sexy dances for patrons wearing a horse head and tail, while neon lights shine upon her.

Galega’s husband is hardly in the picture but she has to raise her daughter Caca (portrayed by Aline Santana) who is a bit curious for her own good and being one of the youngsters touring with the Vaquejadas crew, she tends to find things that others are not wanting her to know.  Such as Ze’s (portrayed by Carlos Pessoa) stash of pornography.

But Galega is more interested in trying to live her life and is not so thrilled that Caca lives with her and not going to school and feels she should live with her grandmother, so she can live a better life at school.

Meanwhile, Galega becomes attracted to the new guy named Junior (portrayed by Vinicius de Oliveira).  While, Iremar starts to take interest in a pregnant woman who tends to show up selling cologne and perfume which she works during the day and working as a security guard at night.

Gabriel Mascaro’s “Neon Bull” is a honest portrayal of life within a group of people within a Vaquejadas crew.


VIDEO:

“Neon Bull” is presented in 1080p (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality for the most part is very good.  Closeups show great detail, lighting is very well done when focused on the characters (lighting plays a big part in the film).  Skintones look natural, black levels are nice and deep and there is a good amount of grain throughout the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Neon Bull” is presented in Portuguese 5.1 Surround.  The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear, rodeo announcer and crowd ambiance or animal ambiance can be heard through the surround channels.  Dialogue is crystal-clear as the club music and subtitles are easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Neon Bull” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette – (14:30) Behind-the-scenes of the rehearsing and filming of “Neon Bull”.
  • Interview with Director Gabriel Mascaro – (21:09) Interview with filmmaker Gabriel Mascaro about “Neon Bull”
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Neon Bull”

When it comes to showcasing characters in a natural light, filmmaker Gabriel Mascaro is able to accomplish that very well in his previous films including his latest, “Neon Bull”.

A film that focuses on people that work within the vaquejada in northeast Brazil, “Neon Bull” is a film that is not a film one follows for its story, because there really isn’t one.  If anything, it’s an honest portrayal of workers that live their life, making sure they take care of the animals and try to co-exist with each other.

Iremar works in the upkeep of the animals, creating sultry costumes for the female driver, Galega (who behave like brother and sister) and often helping out her daughter Caca, who is at that age of sexual curiosity but still wanting her mother’s attention but never receiving much of it.

While the film can be described as sensual or sultry, considering how much dedication is put into the sex scenes in the film, one can find enjoyment in the film for its actions and dialogue.  To even the animals as Iremar and Ze use the scent of a mar to arouse a stallion, to steal his sperm to a group of guys showering together nude, filmmaker Gabriel Mascaro wants to show viewers how sex, to maintaining animals is just as everyday part of life for the characters.

But humor can be found in the film as Iremar’s pot-bellied co-worker Ze is often looking at porno and while his sticky nude pages are often drawn over by Iremar trying to envision fashion and drawing it on the nude women, he and Ze are often involved in verbal spars as Ze can’t understand why Iremar focuses to much on fashion and not the women.

But when Ze is transferred and a long-haired young man named Junior arrives and immediately, he starts to get the attention of all the women including young Caca, which leaves Iremar quite jealous.

Meanwhile for female character, Galega, she is stuck trying to work as a truck driver for the animals, wanting to have fun with the men but her life is made difficult as she feels her young daughter Caca is in her way.  So, as Galega tries to focus on her work and her life, most often, Caca is with Iremar.

So, if anything, it’s those small interactions which makes up for the film.  Emotions of characters, character interaction and how everything culminates into an honest, entertaining film.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is very good as cinematography showcases the characters, character interactions with animal or their daily worklife, to the lighting that shines on them when indoors, to their events with the neon bull.  The cinematography brings the characters to life.  And as for audio, the loss audio features crystal clear dialogue, music and also surround sound usage geared for crowd, animals or announcer ambiance.  And the film has a good number of special features included such as a behind-the-scenes featurette and an interview with director Gabriel Mascaro.

Overall, Gabriel Mascaro’s “Neon Bull” is a unique, sensual film that entertains viewers with its honest portrayal of its characters that work within the vaquejada in northeastern Brazil.  Recommended!

KINO LORBER ACQUIRES ALL RIGHTS TO AWARD-WINNING, TWO-PART DOCUMENTARY HOMELAND: IRAQ YEAR ZERO, BY IRAQI FILMMAKER ABBAS FAHDEL

September 2, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

US THEATRICAL RELEASE STARTS OCTOBER 6 AT ANTHOLOGY FILM ARCHIVES IN NEW YORK CITY; NATIONAL DATES TO FOLLOW

New York, NY ­– September 1, 2016 – Kino Lorber is proud to announce the acquisition of all US rights to the internationally acclaimed documentary HOMELAND: IRAQ YEAR ZERO by acclaimed Iraqi-French filmmaker, screenwriter and film critic, Abbas Fahdel.

This two-part, five-hour plus chronicle of everyday life in Iraq before and after the U.S. invasion in 2003, had its US premiere at last year’s New York Film Festival and has won dozens of international film festival awards, including the Best International Feature and the People’s Choice awards at the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM), the International Feature Film Grand Prix award at Visions du Réel in Nyon, Switzerland, and the Best Documentary award at the Carthage Film Festival – among many others.

The film is now scheduled to premiere theatrically in New York City at Anthology Film Archives, starting October 6, and will play in select theatrical and non-theatrical venues during the coming months. Mr. Abbas Fahdel is scheduled to attend the film’s New York theatrical run at Anthology and will be available for interviews during that time. A VOD and physical home media release is expected for 2017.

This deal was negotiated between Kino Lorber’s CEO Richard Lorber, the company’s VP of Marketing and PR Rodrigo Brandão, and Mr. Fahdel himself. “HOMELAND: IRAQ YEAR ZERO is a towering cinematic achievement: a film that demanded both courage and an incredibly sophisticated eye,” wrote Brandão. “As Mr. Fahdel films his family and friends before and after the US invasion, he invites us to bear witness to their humanity and strength. This is a moving and transformative viewing experience that should be available to all Americans this year.”

In February 2002, about a year before the U.S. invasion, Iraqi filmmaker Abbas Fahdel traveled home from France to capture everyday life as his country prepared for war. He spent time with family and friends, including his 12-year-old nephew, Haider, as they went about their daily lives, which had come to include planning for shortages of food, water and power. No strangers to war, the Iraqis thought they understood what was coming, and could even manage to be grimly humorous about what they felt would likely be a major and lengthy inconvenience. And then, the war began.
When Fahdel resumed filming in 2003, two weeks after the invasion, daily activities had come to a near standstill, the city was overrun with foreign soldiers, and many areas of Baghdad had been closed off to ordinary citizens.

Fahdel’s epic yet intimate film paints a compelling portrait of people struggling to survive while their civilization, dating back to ancient times, is destroyed around them.

HOMELAND: IRAQ YEAR ZERO
Written and directed by Abbas Fahdel
Part 1: 160 minutes
Part II: 174 minutes

ABOUT KINO LORBER:
With a library of more than 1,500 titles, Kino Lorber Inc. has been a leader in independent art house distribution for over 30 years, releasing 25 films per year theatrically under its Kino Lorber, Kino Classics, and Alive Mind Cinema banners, including five Academy Award® nominated films in the last eight years. In addition, the company brings over 200 narrative and documentary titles each year to the home entertainment, educational and digital markets with in-house DVD and Blu-ray distribution and direct sales to all major platforms digital platforms.

Mountains May Depart (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Jia Zhangke has no doubt made another masterpiece with a powerful performance by actress Tao Zhao.  “Mountains May Depart” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Xstream Pictures (Beijing) – MK Productions – Arte France Cinema. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Mountains May Depart

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1, 1:85:1 and 2:35:1), Mandarin and English with Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: July 12, 2016


Directed by Zhangke Jia

Screenplay by Zhangke Jia

Produced by Shozo Ichiyama, Zhangke Jia, Nathanael Karmitz, Shiyu Liu, Zhong-lun Ren

Co-Produced by Patrick Andre, Remi Burah, Zhangke Jia, Nathanael Karmitz, Shiyu Liu, Zong-lun Ren

Music by Yoshihiro Hanno

Cinematography by Nelson Lik-wai Yu

Edited by Matthieu Laciau

Casting by Jacqueline Alliss

Art Direction by Qiang Liu


Starring:

Tao Zhao as Shen Tao

Yi Zhang as Zhang Jinsheng

Jing Dong Liang as Liang Jangjung aka Liangzi

Zijian Dong as Zhang Daole (Dollar)

Sylvia Chang as Mia


Mainland master Jia Zhangke (A Touch of Sin) scales new heights with Mountains May Depart. Starring the luminous Zhao Tao, the film is both an intimate drama and a decades-spanning epic about how China’s capitalist experiment has affected the lives of one splintered family, leaping in time from the past to the present to the speculative near-future. Jia’s new film is an intensely moving study of how China’s economic boom and the culture of materialism it has spawned has affected the bonds of family, tradition, and love.


From award winning filmmaker Jia Zhangke (“A Touch of Sin”, “Still Life”, “The World”) comes his 2015 “Mountains May Depart”.

Known for creating films that revolve around alienation with a minimalist/realist style and themes of alienated youth but also featuring contemporary Chinese history and showcasing Jia’s musical influences, his work has been compared to auteur, Michelangelo Antonioni.

His film “Mountains May Depart” is consistent with the style of his previous films and also would reunite Jia and his wife, actress Zhao Tao (“Platform”, “Still Life”, “With Shun Li and the Poet”) together.

The film also stars Yi Zhang (“Dearest”, “The Golden Era”), Jing Dong Liang (“Platform”, “The World”, “Unknown Pleasures”), Zijian Dong (“Young Love Lost”, “At Cafe 6”, “Young Style”) and Sylvia Chang (“20 30 40”, “Eat Drink Man Woman”, “All About Ah-Long”).

And now, “Mountains May Depart” is available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Mountains May Depart” is a film which features three parts that revolve around characters in 1999, 2014 and 2025.

[Note: Please avoid reading further as the brief synopsis of each part, may contain spoilers]:

The first part is set in 1999 and begins with Shen Tao (portrayed by Zhao Tao) dancing to the Pet Shop Boys song “Go West” with other people.

Shen Tao is a vibrant woman who loves to sing, loves to dance and hangs out with her good friend, a miner named Liangzi (portrayed by Jing Dong Liang).  Tao works with her father selling electronics and just enjoys having fun.

One day, her classmate Zhang Jinsheng (portrayed by Jing Dong Liang) returns back to the village.  Zhang is successful and wealthy and came back to the village to marry the girl of his dreams, Tao.

But despite having a nice car and successful career, he can’t stand that everytime he wants to be alone with her, she brings Liangzi around.  He knows Liangzi likes her, but he thinks that because of his success and wealth, her eyes should be on him.

And he feels that three is a crowd and Zhang tries to find a way to get Liangzi out of the picture, because he feels it’s a love triangle.

The second part takes place 15 years later and it’s 2014.  We see what has happened with Tao and Liangzi as Tao has been divorced from Zhang and she has a son named Zhang Daole (a.k.a. “Dollar”) who lives with his father, going to International School and being raised privileged.  But when tragedy hits, what happens when Tao requests for her young son to visit her for a funeral.

Meanwhile, Liangzi starts to suffer symptoms from working in the mines for a long time.  He is now married with a son and decides to return back to his hometown with his new family.  But with no income, how will he pay for medical care?

The third part is set in 2025 and revolves around a grown up Zhang “Dollar” Daole (portrayed by Zijian Dong) who lives in Australia with his father, Zhang Jinsheng.

Because he was raised in Australia and attended an international school, he and his father are unable to communicate as he speaks English and his father in Mandarin.  They often have to use Google Translate in order to communicate with each other.

He is unhappy living with his father, tired of living his life of going to school and what his father wants him to do and he has not seen his mother in over a decade, he is not sure what to do with his life but he knows he wants freedom.  And that is the freedom to make his own choices without his father’s interference.

But when Dollar starts to become interested in his older teacher, Mia (portrayed by Sylvia Chang), being with her, what major decisions will Dollar make in his life?


VIDEO:

“Mountains May Depart” is a gorgeous film and one that is quite interesting as Nelson Lik-wai Yu shoots the film in 1:33:1, 1:85:1 and 2:35:1 aspect ratios.

Featuring gorgeous scenery and the placement of the characters with mountains or temples in the background, well-framed and placement of characters are quite artistic and wonderful in symmetry and I can see aside from the alienation of its characters but its juxtaposition of people to various buildings, mountains and backgrouns, why Jia Zhangke would be compared to Michelangelo Antonioni.

Picture quality features wonderful detail, skintones look natural, black levels are nice and deep.  At times, there are archived sources used but for the majority of the film,  “Mountains May Depart” is a wonderful looking film on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Mountains May Depart” is presented in Mandarin and English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD MA and the lossless soundtrack is fantastic!  While one can expect crystal clear dialogue and also music, with ambiance, may it be a festival parade or fireworks launching in the air, can be heard via the surround channels.  Music by Yoshihiro Hanno is moving and emotional.

Subtitles feature optional English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mountains May Depart” comes with the following special features:

  • New York Film Festival – (1:13:04) A conversation with Jia Zhangke courtesy of Film Society of Lincoln Center conducted by Dennis Lim.
  • Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Mountains May Depart”.

Watching Jia Zhangke films, you can’t help but be captivated by the film’s beauty, the truth in his films but also understand the plight of alienation surrounding his characters.

Often compared to auteur filmmaker, the master of alienation, Michelangelo Antonioni, “Mountains May Depart” is non-traditional Chinese cinema in the sense that Jia Zhangke creates cinema that needs not to be categorized with other Chinese cinema.

From having a powerful storyline, there are time where we have jarring, colorful club images of random people that breakup the storyline, almost similar to what one were used to seeing of Jean-Claude Godard back in the French Nouvelle years of audio going off and on or imagery that may or may not make sense, we see those little pieces of artistic freedom with his films that is fresh and not a care of whether or not its coherent or incoherent, imagery that fits the timeline that co-exists with the storyline of its characters.

“Mountains May Depart” is rather captivating because of how well the story is crafted.  From the primary female character, Tao dancing to Pet Shop Boys’ “Go West” but then seeing her bubbly and vibrant personality that remains strong until she becomes part of a love triangle and must decide on whether or not to divert her attention to the poor but kind Liangzi or the crude, narcissistic and wealthy Zhang.

And we see the tensions start to simmer in this love triangle as Tao looks at Liangzi as a friend, Zhang looks at Liangzi as a man who gets in the way and very much believes in “Three’s a crowd”.

But how beautiful does the film get when it’s storyline weaves into the future.  As Tao has made her choice of a man but we see the result for each of the three individuals.

While I don’t want to spoil the film, this is where Jia Zhangke’s focus of human alienation comes into play.  Choices that we make, are we always happy with them.  But what if you are not happy, life goes on and you deal with with the repercussions of the choices one makes.

The film is visually moving, the story is absolutely captivating and melancholic and “Mountains May Depart” is a film that touches your soul!

Jia Zhangke has no doubt made another masterpiece with a powerful performance by actress Tao Zhao.  “Mountains May Depart” is highly recommended!

The Spiders (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Spiders” is a Blu-ray release worth watching.   You often don’t come upon a silent film release in which its main protagonist has that James Bond suave look, characters traveling to exotic locations and action sequences in different parts of the world.  If you are a cineaste who is passionate about Fritz Lang’s oeuvre especially his very early works, this Blu-ray release featuring both episodes of Fritz Lang “The Spiders” films is a fine addition to add in your silent cinema collection!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Friedrich-Wilheim-Murnau-Stiftung. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Spiders (Die Spinnen)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: (1919)  The Spiders – Episode 1: The Golden Sea (Die Spinnen, 1. Teil – Der Goldene See), (1920) The Spiders – Episode 2: The Diamond Ship (Die Spinnen, 2. Teil – Das Brillantenschiff)

DURATION: (1919)  The Spiders – Episode 1: The Golden Sea (Die Spinnen, 1. Teil – Der Goldene See – 69 Minutes), (1920) The Spiders – Episode 2: The Diamond Ship (Die Spinnen, 2. Teil – Das Brillantenschiff – 104 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: Color Tinted, 1:33:1, Intertitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber Inc.

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2016


Episode One: The Golden Sea

Directed by Fritz Lang

Written by Fritz Lang

Produced by Erich Pommer

Music by Max Josef Bojakowski

Cinematography by Karl Freund, Emil Schunemann

Production Design by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrich Umlauff, Hermann Warm

Costume Design by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrcih Umlauff, Hermann Warm

Episode Two: The Diamond Ship

Directed by Fritz Lang

Written by Fritz Lang

Produced by Erich Pommer

Cinematography by Karl Freund

Art Direction by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrich Umlauff, Hermann Warm

Costume Design by Otto Hunte, Carl Ludwig Kirmse, Heinrich Umlauff, Hermann Warm

 


Starring:

Carl de Vogt as Kay Hoog

Ressel Orla as Lio Sha

Georg John as Dr. Telphas

Lil Dagover as Sonnenpriesterin Naela

Rudolf Lettinger as Terry Landon

Friedrich Kuhne as All-Hab-Mah

Meinhart Maur as Chinese/Bucherwurm

Paul Morgan as Jude/Diamantenexperte

Edgar Pauly as Vierfinger-John

Reiner Steiner as Kapitan des Diamantenschiffs

Thea Zander as Ellen Terry


With this exotic adventure film, director Fritz Lang established himself as a master of epic storytelling, a talent that would reach its pinnacle in such monumental films as Metropolis and Die Nibelungen. Influenced by the French serials of Louis Feuillade (Fantômas) and infused with Lang s own fascination with Asian culture, THE SPIDERS follows international adventurer Kay Hoog (Carl de Vogt) in his quest for Incan gold and the precious Buddha s head diamond. Along the way, he must contend with an organization of criminal spies known as The Spiders, who will employ any form of treachery, including murder, to snatch the artifacts from his possession.


Many decades before Steven Spielberg and George Lucas would create the “Indiana Jones” films, back in the 1919, Austrian filmmaker Fritz Lang would write and direct his adventure epic “The Spiders (Die Spinnen)”.

It all began not long after Lang was discharged from the Austrian Army, having been wounded in combat, Lang would use his time during his recovery to write ideas he had for films.  As an actor for the Viennese theater circuit, he was hired at Decla, which was a Berlin-based production studio led by producer Erich Pommer.

During the early stages of his career, Fritz Lang would create art films but his popular thriller “The Spiders” was known for combining German Expressionist techniques and popular mainstream cinema and in essence, it was considered as art house cinema.

And for many decades, this film had been considered lost until it was discovered in the 1970’s.  While a restoration was done in 1978 and released on DVD in 1999.  A new restoration was commissioned from a tinted 35mm print and footage that was not included in the 1999 DVD release was added to the 2012 DVD release courtesy of Kino Lorber Inc.  And now in 2016, the film receives a remastered HD version as “The Spiders” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“The Spiders” is considered to be the beginning of the golden age of silent cinema.  Originally, there was a planned trilogy but only two films were created.

The first episode “The Golden Sea” begins with a man escaping from the Inca’s who are planning to use him as a sacrifice. The man, a Harvard professor who has been missing since his travel to Peru,  writes a note, which he puts into a bottle and throws it off to the ocean before being speared.

We are then introduced to Kay Hoog (played by Carl de Vogt), a sportsman who is attending a high society party for those involved in a major yacht race from San Francisco to Japan.  But Kay is not planning to take part in the competition as he found a bottle in sea from the missing Harvard professor that said there is treasure located inside a temple of a lost Incan civilization.  Coordinates were included and now Kay hopes to travel to that area and find some treasure.

But also attending the party is Lio Sha, the head of a secret criminal organization known as the Spiders now wants that information that Hoog possesses.  And immediately, they break into Hoog’s home and steals the treasure map.

It’s a race against time as Hoog begins his expedition to find the treasure at the lost Incan civilization and hopefully get it before the Spider’s can.  But in return for them stealing his map, Hoog ends up stealing an even more important map from the Spiders on the location of The Diamond Ship.

As Kay is wanted by the Spiders and everyone trying to find the lost treasure, Kay encounters the beautiful Priestess of the Sun named Naela.  But with the Incan’s aware that there are outsiders in their area, who will live and who will die?

In episode two, “The Diamond Ship”, after facing a major tragedy caused by the hands of the Spiders, they have now made things personal for Kay.

With the Spiders now seeking a diamond on the “Diamond Ship”, the Spiders hope with the possession of the Buddha head diamond will release Asia from tyranny.  And Lio Sha believes that the diamond may be in the possession of a millionaire named Terry Landon (played by Rudolph Lettinger).  But when the Spiders do not find it, they kidnap his daughter Ellen (played by Thea Zander) and will not release her until they get the diamond.

But since Kay has the information about the Diamond Ship which he stole from the Spiders, perhaps he can find it and help bring Ellen back home.


VIDEO:

“The Spiders” is presented in 1:33:1 and is color-tinted from sepia to red.  It’s important to note that the color-tinting is not the same as the 1999 Image Entertainment DVD release.  With the new restoration that was done by the Blazena Urgosikova and Ingrid Tetkova, the main goal was to introduce some of the missing footage but also to fix the speed of the film.

With the original 1999 DVD release, there were silent film fans who were critical that “The Spiders” was a bit too fast.  I personally have not seen the 1999 DVD release but have read that the new restoration does fix that problem.  Personally, movements seemed natural to me and not overly sped up or too slow.

As for picture quality, as one can expect from a film that is 90-years-old, you are going to see some scratches but in the context of silent films, “The Spiders” looks very good and doesn’t have any major nitrate damage, warping, blurring or blackening on the film print.

While it’s not my preference to see a lot of red color tinting in the film (as I’m so used to seeing sepia, orange, blue and green), I am not too sure of the differences of the color tinting from the previous Dave Shepard restoration.

As for those who owned the Kino Lorber 2012 DVD release, you will be pleased to know that the 2016 Blu-ray releases looks even better in HD as details are much more evident.  Black levels are much sharper, gray and white scenes are well-contrast and the film just looks a bit better.  Sure, the film has not been restored, scratches still remain but this is the best I have seen of “The Spiders” yet!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Spiders” is presented in lossless stereo with English intertitles.  The music featured on this Blu-ray releases is the same Ben Model score that was featured in the 2012 Kino Lorber DVD release.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Spiders” does not come with any special features.


The release of “The Spiders” on Blu-ray is fantastic!

Compared to the older 1999 DVD release of “The Spiders”, this 2016 version is superior not only in picture quality because it’s presented in HD  because it includes lost footage and is also presented in a corrected speed.

The original Image Entertainment DVD ran for 137 minutes, this new version is 170 minutes long (which is possibly the newer footage and the slowing down of speed).  According to the credits, this version was licensed by Transit Film on behalf of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and archival sources were from the Cinematheque Royale de Belgique and Filmovych laboratorich Barrandov Praha.

“The Spiders” was an intriguing and surprising adventure epic.

Sure, “The Spiders” was shot many decades before the Indiana Jones films and sure, the technology involved in production has evolved a lot since 1919 and 1920 but considering what was accomplished on this film, there was a decent amount of production in recreating the Incan civilization with its appearance of Incan carved rocks in the first film and a lot of focus on makeup and costume design for both films.

The first film “Episode One: The Golden Sea” was enjoyable as you get the suave adventurer/sportsman Kay Hoog.  With the tuxedo and the slicked back hair and look that seemed more like a prototype to a James Bond film, “The Spiders” had style but it also had an intriguing story with Kay trying to get to the treasure before his adversaries, the criminal organization the Spiders and their leader Lio Sha gets to it.

And for 1919, the overall storyline was adventurous and intriguing but it’s that extra touch at the end which you don’t expect, that made the first film so much more enjoyable and exciting and making you want to see the sequel.

But one you do watch the sequel, “Episode Two: The Diamond Ship”, I felt that the second film was rushed as Fritz Lang tried to incorporate too much and focus more on the adventures and action than the storyline itself.

While it was intriguing to see Kay Hoog going underground in China Town to find Lio Sha and the Spiders, everything afterward seemed as if it was not well-planned.  As much as I enjoyed the fact that Lang wanted to take the viewer from one location to another, unfortunately, it’s not executed all that well.  There were far too many characters and unlike the first film which tried to narrow things down between Kay Hoog and Lio Sha, the storyline was all over the place.

But bare in mind, this was Fritz Lang’s earlier work, done way before “Metropolis”, “Spies”, “M” and his “Dr. Mabuse” films, but there is no doubt that with Lang working on these two films, he would improve significantly a few years later to take on films such as “Destiny” (1921), “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” (1922) and “Siegfried” (1924).

For any Fritz Lang cinema enthusiasts, “The Spiders” is essential viewing if you want to see Lang’s earlier work but how he tries to integrate German expressionism and arthouse with a action/adventure theme.  Whether or not it’s good, it is all subjective but I enjoyed “The Spiders”, the first episode a lot more than the second.  But for any cineaste, one can see how much Fritz Lang evolved in filmmaking during the 1920’s and eventually for hardcore fans, how much his work has changed when he left to work in America.

Overall, “The Spiders” is a Blu-ray release worth watching. You often don’t come upon a silent film release in which its main protagonist has that James Bond suave look, characters traveling to exotic locations and action sequences in different parts of the world. If you are a cineaste who is passionate about Fritz Lang’s oeuvre especially his very early works, this Blu-ray release featuring both episodes of Fritz Lang “The Spiders” films is a fine addition to add in your silent cinema collection!

Kino Lorber Releases Fritz Lang’s Destiny on Blu-ray & DVD August 30th

August 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 10, 2016 – Kino Lorber is proud to announce the Blu-ray and DVD of Fritz Lang’s 1921 silent masterwork, DESTINY, in a stunning new 2K restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung. Weaving together stories of tragic love, set in three distinct historical places and periods, DESTINY established director Fritz Lang as one of the leading filmmakers of the German silent era, and laid the groundwork for his highly-stylized classics such as Die Nibelungen and Metropolis.

This new restoration of DESTINY was released theatrically by Kino Lorber, opening at New York’s Film Forum in May 2016 before moving on to engagements in national markets. DESTINY will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on August 30, 2016, presented with a newly-composed score by Cornelius Schwehr, performed by the Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra. This edition contains the original German intertitles, with optional English subtitles. Special features include audio commentary by film historian Tim Lucas, restoration demonstration footage, and the 2016 re-release trailer. The SRP for the Blu-ray is $29.95, and the SRP for the DVD is $24.95.
A dizzying blend of German Romanticism, Orientalism, and Expressionism, Fritz Lang’s DESTINY (Der müde Tod) marked a bold step for Lang, away from the conventional melodrama and into the kind of high-concept filmmaking that would culminate in such über-stylized works as Die Nibelungen and Metropolis.

DESTINY is a visually ambitious, cinematic allegory in which a young woman (Lil Dagover) confronts the personification of Death (Bernhard Goetzke), in an effort to save the life of her fiancé (Walter Janssen). She is transported to a Gothic cathedral, where lives are represented as burning candles of varying length. Death weaves three romantic tragedies, and offers to unite the girl with her lover, if she can prevent the death of the lovers in at least one of the episodes. Thus begin three exotic scenarios of ill-fated love, in which the woman must somehow reverse the course of destiny: Persia, Quattrocento Venice, and a fancifully-rendered ancient China.

Restored by Anke Wilkening on behalf of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, this definitive presentation of DESTINY preserves the original German intertitles and simulates the historic color tinting and toning of its initial release. Accompanying the film is a newly-composed score by Cornelius Schwehr as a commissioned composition by ZDF / ARTE performed by the 70-member Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Frank Strobel.

Kino Lorber will also be releasing Fritz Lang’s THE SPIDERS on Blu-ray August 23, 2016, with a SRP of $29.95. With this exotic adventure film, director Fritz Lang established himself as a master of epic storytelling, a talent that would reach its pinnacle in such monumental films as Metropolis and Die Nibelungen. Influenced by the French serials of Louis Feuillade (Fantômas) and infused with Lang’s own fascination with Asian culture, THE SPIDERS follows international adventurer Kay Hoog (Carl de Vogt) in his quest for Incan gold and the precious “Buddha’s head” diamond. Along the way, he must contend with an organization of criminal spies known as The Spiders, who will employ any form of treachery, including murder, to snatch the artifacts from his possession.
DESTINY (Der müde Tod, 1921)
Blu-ray and DVD Street Date: August 30, 2016
Blu-ray SRP: $29.95
DVD SRP: $24.95
Blu-ray UPC: 738329207199
DVD UPC: 738329207182
Director: Fritz Lang
Producer: Erich Pommer
Screenplay by Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou
With Bernhard Goetzke, Lil Dagover, Walter Janssen, Hans Sternberg, Wilhelm Diegelmann, Rudolf Klein-Rogge

Special Features:
Audio Commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas
Restoration Demonstration Footage
2016 Re-release Trailer

Technical Specs:
Germany | 1921 | Color Tinted | 98 min. | 1920x1080p (1.33:1) | 2.0 Stereo
German intertitles with optional English subtitles

THE SPIDERS (1919-1920)
Blu-ray Street Date: August 23, 2016
Blu-ray SRP: $29.95
Blu-ray UPC: 738329089023
Written and Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced by Erich Pommer
Music Composed and Performed by Ben Model

Technical Specs:
Germany | 1919 | 173 min. | Color Tinted | Stereo 2.0 | 1920x1080p (1.33:1) |
Silent with English intertitles
Part One: “The Golden Sea”, 69 min.
Part Two: “The Diamond Ship”, 104 min.

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

July 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

fastball

“Fastball” is one of the best baseball documentaries ever created! Well-researched, well-edited and featuring well-selected archived sources and also going as far to interview former legends to current elite pitchers in the MLB. “Fastball” is a documentary that well-crafted, amazing and highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Pitcher’s Mound Productions LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Fastball

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 86 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English 5.1 Suround

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: June 28, 2016


Directed by Jonathan Hock

Produced by Philip A. Aromando, Michael Tollin, Thomas Tull

Executive Producer: Jack Selby

Co-Executive Producer: David Check, Nicholas Trotta

Associate Producer: David Kaufmann

Music by Tony Morales

Edited by Peter Panagoulias, Steven Pilgrim


Starring:

Kevin Costner (Narrator)

Derek Jeter

Denard Span

Craig Kimbrel

Nolan Ryan

Justin Verlander

Bryce Harper

Miguel Cabrera

Todd Frazier

Matt Harvey

Giancarlo Stanton

Yasiel Puig

Andrew McCutchen

David Price


The essence of baseball is the primal battle between the pitcher and the batter, a magical moment only 396 milliseconds in the making. The mysteries and memories of baseball s greatest heroes are revealed in Fastball, as it features interviews with dozens of former players, from legendary Hall-of-Famers to up-and-coming All-Stars, including Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, and Derek Jeter, with narration by Kevin Costner (Field of Dreams). Fastball is peppered with archival footage of baseball s greatest moments, plus original high-speed 4K footage and motion graphics that unlock the secrets hidden within a ball traveling over 100 mph. While players, historians, and scientists might disagree on who was actually the fastest pitcher in history – and yes, the film does the physics and concludes with a clear verdict – Fastball tells the story of the game itself.


To throw a fastball, it’s a duty of a pitcher to throw this type of pitch.

But in the history of baseball, there are a few “power pitchers” who are able to consistently throw over 100 mph with great control.

Jonathan Hock, director of ESPN’s “30 for 30”, “Through the Fire”, “Off the Rez”, “The Lost Son of Havana” and producer Thomas Tull (“Dark Knight”, “Inception”, “42”, “Jurassic World”) explores the mysteries and memories of baseball’s greatest heroes.

Narrated by Kevin Costner (“Dances with Wolves”, “Waterworld”, “The Untouchables”, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”), the film features interviews with current and former baseball players about the fastball, their approach to it but also their memories of the best pitchers.  But also examining data of who has thrown the fastest fastball in baseball history.

The film explores the pitching of Walter “The Big Train” Johnson, the person who is known for popularizing the fastball and became a hero for throwing the fastest fastball of all time (122 feet per second).  And many people who traveled long and far to watch Walter Johnson pitch. And also showcasing one of the fastest pitchers today, Aroldis Chapman.

But also exploring various fastball pitchers such as Richard Michael “Goose” Gossage, Bob “Hoot” Gibson, Craig Kimbrel and more.

But also showcasing Steve Dalkowski, considered as one of the best fastball pitcher’s (rumored to throw 125 mph) that unfortunately never played an official game due to a freak accident before he was to pitch his first game in the majors.  An a player that inspired the character of “Nuke” LaLoosh in the 1988 film “Bull Durham”.

And also featuring legendary pitcher, Sanford “Sandy” Koufax, who had  six outstanding years (including becoming the first pitcher to achieve four no-hitters, the eighth pitcher to pitch a perfect game and winner of the NL Triple Crown) but unfortunately, had a career that ended at the age of 30 due to arthritis.

And featuring one of the best pitchers of all time, Nolan Ryan who is the all-time leader in no-hitters, leader in strikeouts, fewest hits allowed per nine innings and a player who has played in 27 seasons.

Also, the documentary showcases the the original and modern technology to estimate the speed of a fastball.  The human brain’s perception of a fastball pitch, which player that baseball legends think is the hardest pitcher of all time and ending with the evaluation by scientists of who is the fast pitcher of all time.


VIDEO:

“Fastball” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio) and is a documentary that features modern footage via digital video and also incorporates footage from archived sources throughout baseball history.  For the most part, for a documentary with so much classic footage, different sources vary in quality but for the most part, “Fastball” looks very good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Fastball” is presented in English 5.1 Surround and narration and spoken dialogue is clear and understandable.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Fastball” comes with the following special features:

  • Extended Interviews – (31:15) Featuring extended versions of the interviews featured in the film.
  • Hall of Fame Outtakes – (2:21) Featuring outtakes with five Hall of Famers discussing various pitchers.
  • Steve Dalkowski Extended Scene – (11:37) Featuring more extended scenes of the Steve Dalkowski segment.
  • Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “Fastball”.

For any baseball fan, “Fastball” is a magnificent documentary researching the fastest and hardest throwing pitchers in baseball history.

Well-researched, edited and featuring archived footage of the best pitchers who can throw a fastball to interviews with baseball legends and current MLB players, “Fastball” will no doubt entertain you but it also tackles one of the most hotly debated topics of baseball with an unofficial test of who has thrown the fastest fastball in MLB history.

“Fastball” definitely takes a lot of players into consideration but also paying respect by showcasing magical moments of baseball history, including what was once lost footage of Sandy Koufax’s pitching during the night of his famous no-hitter, a fascinating interview with Bob “Hoot” Gibson, especially going into his ability to take on batters (including throwing a ball at them) but also the racial tensions that existed at the time.

Possibly two of the most fascinating scenes involve the legend Nolan Ryan and his historical moments throughout his career, but also interviewing the pitcher about his final pitch.

But as the documentary showcases those who have achieve success, the documentary also shows one of the heartbreaking stories of baseball, the legend that never was, Steve Dalkowski.  “Fastball” creators were able to track down Dalkowski, who went through hard times after the freak accident that claimed his baseball career and to show what had happened to the player after the accident and what is he up to today.

And of course, showcasing the technology that was used from past to present in measuring the speed of a pitch and scientist trying to determine who threw the fastest pitch of all time.  And trying to ascertain how fast the pitchers from the past were, and compared to pitchers today.

The Blu-ray release features great picture quality but one should know that because the documentary features different archived sources from different eras of baseball history, picture quality of those archived sources differ from each other.  But modern footage looks great!  As for lossless audio, the documentary is primarily dialogue-driven and dialogue is crystal clear.  “Fastball” also comes with a few special features including extended interviews, Hall of Fame outtakes and an extended scene of Steve Dalkowski’s segment.

Overall, “Fastball” is one of the best baseball documentaries ever created!  Well-researched, well-edited and featuring well-selected archived sources and also going as far to interview former legends to current elite pitchers in the MLB.

“Fastball” is a documentary that well-crafted, amazing and highly recommended!

 

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