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The Fifth Element (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

July 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Fifth Element” is a fascinating, entertaining Luc Besson sci-fi action film that looks and sounds better with this 2017 4K Ultra HD release.  While not the best Besson film ever created, nor the best sci-fi action film ever made, still “The Fifth Element” remains as a popcorn action sci-fi film worth watching and a cult favorite that continues to entertain audiences 25 years later.

Images courtesy of © 1997 Gaumont. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Fifth Element

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1997

DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Scenes of Strong Graphic Violence and for Language)

RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017


Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Screenplay by Robert Mark Kamen

Producer: Patrice Ledoux

Co-Producer: Iain Smith

Associate Producer: Thierry Arbogast

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Lucinda Syson

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Ira Gilford, Ron Gress, Michael Lamont, Jim Morahan, Kevin Phipps

Set Decoration by Maggie Gray, Anna Pinnock

Costume Design by Jean-Paul Gaultier


Starring:

Bruce Willis as Korben Dallas

Gary Oldman as Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg

Ian Holm as Father Vito Cornelius

Mila Jovovich as Leeloo

Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod

Luke Perry as Billy

Brion James as General Munro

Tommy “Tiny” Lister as President Lindberg

Lee Evans as Fog

Charlie Creed-Miles as David

Tricky as Right Arm

John Neville as General Staedert

John Bluthal as Professor Pacoli


New York cab driver Korben Dallas didn’t mean to be a hero, but he just picked up the kind of fare that only comes along every five thousand years: A perfect beauty, a perfect being, a perfect weapon. Together, they must save the world. Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, and Gary Oldman star in acclaimed director Luc Besson’s outrageous sci-fi adventure, an extravagantly styled tale of good against evil set in an unbelievable twenty-third century world. Now presented in full 4K resolution, experience this dynamic action favorite like never before.


From the director Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita”, “Leon: The Professional”, “Taxi”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”) comes his 1997 sci-fi action film “The Fifth Element”.

Starring Bruce Willis (“The Sixth Sense”, “Die Hard”, “Looper”), Gary Oldman (“The Dark Knight Rises”, “Leon: The Professional”, “Batman Begins”), Iain Holm (“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”, “Alien”), Milla Jovovich (“Resident Evil” films, “The Three Musketeers”), Chris Tucker (“Rush Hour” films, “Silver Linings Playbook”) and Luke Perry (“Beverly Hills, 90210”, “Jeremiah”, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”).

A story that was written by Luc Besson when he was 16-years-old, the film would be made 32-years later. While receiving mixed reviews from critics, the film was a box office success with a budget of $90 million, “The Fifth Element” would go on to to make over $90 million.

And now, a new 4K Ultra HD release for “The Fifth Element” will be released in 2017 to celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary. Now presented in full 4K Ultra High Definition and in Dolby Atmos, this is the best version of the film available on physical media!

The film begins in 1914 as scientists discover something huge in an ancient Egyptian temple. Not long after, aliens known as Mondoshawans have arrived to collect (for safekeeping) a weapon capable of defeating a great evil that appears every 5,000 years.

The weapon is a sarcophagus that contains four classical elements which combines each element to create a divine light of defeating evil. The aliens say they will return when the great evil returns.

Fast forward to 2263 and the great evil has now reappeared as a giant ball of black fire. As the priest Vito Cornelius (portrayed by Ian Hom) tries to send a message to the President of the Federated Territories (portrayed by Tom Lister, Jr.) about how they must defeat the great evil with the weapon that can stop it, the Mondoshawans make their return.

But while they return, the Mangalores led by Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (portrayed by Gary Oldman), has been instructed by the great evil to acquire the stones. A hand of the Fifth element after an exchange between the Mondoshawans and Mangalores and scientist use the technology to reconstruct a humanoid woman named Leeloo (portrayed by Milla Jovovich).

Not knowing of where she is and unaware of her surroundings, Leeloo escapes and jumps off a ledge and crashes into a flying taxicab driven by Korben Dallas (portrayed by Bruce Willis), a former major of the special forces.

Will Leeloo become the key to stop the great evil? Or will she be used as a weapon to destroy humanity?


VIDEO:

“The Fifth Element” receives its first 4K Ultra HD release in time for its 20th Anniversary. This 2017 4K Ultra HD release is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).

Featuring wonderful detail and better clarity, the film looks even better in HD. Skin tones look natural and there is a good amount of grain present. I didn’t notice any major banding issues during my viewing of the film, nor does this film looked aged.

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Audio quality is equally impressive. Featured in English 7.1 Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Considering that this sci-fi action film contains a lot of action sequences, the fact that the 2007 and 2015 Blu-ray release had a magnificent lossless soundtrack that utilized the surround channels, now this Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1) lossless soundtrack is quite impressive. From the scenes which Dallas encounters Leloo for the very first time to the ending action sequence, the film features great use of the surround and rear surround channels, as well as utilizing LFE.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Fifth Element” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special features:

  • The Visual Element – (18:25) A featurette about the films visual effects.
  • The Visual Element Extras – (6:13) Featuring seven visual element tests.
  • The Star Element: Bruce Willis – (4:19) Featuring an interview with actor Bruce Willis.
  • The Star Element: Mila Jovovich – (12:47) Featuring an interview with actress Mila Jovovich.
  • The Star element: Mila Jovovich Extras – (12:02) Featuring four screen tests with Mila Jovovich.
  • The Star Element: Chris Tucker – (4:17) Featuring an interview with actor Chris Tucker.
  • The Alien Element: Mondoshawans – (8:13) Featuring how they created the Mondoshawans and their movements.
  • The Alien Element: Mondoshawans Extras – (3:23) Featuring six outtakes and screen tests for the Mondoshawans.
  • The Alien Element: Mangalores – (9:47) A featurette about the evil Mangalores and how to bring these aliens to life.
  • The Alien Element: Mangalores Extras – (2:11) Featuring two Mangalores extras.
  • The Alien Element: Picasso – (4:17) A featurette  about Zorg’s pet, Picasso.
  • The Alien Element: Strikers – (3:04) A featurette about the Strikers that did not make the final cut of the film.
  • The Alien Element: Strikers Extras – (1:32) Featuring four Striker extras.
  • The Fashion Element – (7:46) A featurette about the fashion in “The Fifth Element”.
  • The Fashion Element: Extras – (5:17) Featuring four fashion extras.
  • The Diva – (16:16) The actress who brought Diva Plavalaguna to life.
  • The Divas Extras – (8:03) Four outtakes featuring Diva Plavalaguna.
  • The Digital Element – (9:49) A featurette about Digital Domain bringing “The Fifth Element” to life.
  • Imagining The Fifth Element – (5:14) The concept design, visual effects design and imagining of “The Fifth Element”.
  • The Elements of Style – (5:13) A featurette of an interview with Jean-Paul Gaultier and the film’s costume design.
  • Fact Track – Watch “The Fifth Element” with fact tracks.

EXTRAS:

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


It has been 20-years since the release of “The Fifth Element” and with each watch, my perception of the film changes overtime.

With my older 1999 DVD review of the film, I wrote:

I finally saw this movie and this is what I thought.  I liked it a lot!  This movie is visually stunning and the computer graphics were wonderful.  The storyline is good but it appears that an extra 30 minutes or an hour would have given this movie judgment a much better score because I felt there were some loose ends that were never answered.

Watching this film once again in 4K Ultra HD in 20017, my thoughts that while the film was often considered a reference title for video and audiophiles (back during the DVD days), it’s a popcorn action films with impressive visuals.  With some CG elements that still hold up, while other scenes do look its age.

But what I enjoyed about the film at the time was the fact that it introduced us to Mila Jovovich, who would become a much bigger star with the “Resident Evil” films years later, Chris Tucker who would become a big star with his “Rush Hour” films not long after, and for Bruce Willis fans, the film gave us another chance to watch the man who wowed us in the ’90s with his “Die Hard” films to return in a sci-fi action film which we can see his character kicking butt once again.  And of course, watching Bruce Willis as a protagonist (with the similar bravado as his other action characters in previous films) and Gary Oldman as the antagonist, made the film worthwhile.

The film benefits from its visual imagery and imaginative settings, but the CG is well-done and its far-out Jean-Paul Gaultier costume design was also interesting to see.  But how I felt about the film back in 1999, again in 2006-2007, 2015  and in 2017 has not changed.  “The Fifth Element” does not have the greatest story but it was no doubt an entertaining film.

But I feel each time I watch it, my appreciation of the film tends to lessen.  The fact is, back in the DVD years, we considered “The Fifth Element” as a reference quality film to showcase our surround sound system. Especially now as its prsented in Dolby Atmos.  And watching this film in 2160p 4K Ultra HD, along with the 7.1 lossless soundtrack makes the film even more enjoyable and video/audiophiles should be pleased.

And with this 2017 4K Ultra HD release, fans of the film will also get a good number of special features and an Ultraviolet HD code.  For those who purchased the 2015 Blu-ray release, the special features are the same.  The difference of course between 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray is that the 4K Ultra HD is presented in 2160p Ultra High Defition versus 1080p (on Blu-ray).

Overall, “The Fifth Element” is a fascinating, entertaining Luc Besson sci-fi action film that looks and sounds better with this 2017 4K Ultra HD release.  While not the best Besson film ever created, nor the best sci-fi action film ever made, still “The Fifth Element” remains as a popcorn action sci-fi film worth watching and a cult favorite that continues to entertain audiences 20-years later.

Leon the Professional (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

July 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Leon the Professional” is a Luc Besson masterpiece. It’s one of the most exciting films to come out from Besson with action, emotion and just all-out frenzy that you just can’t stop watching! Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman are fantastic in this film and it’s a film that I highly recommended on 4K Ultra HD!

Image courtesy of © 1994 Gaumont and Les Films du Dauphin. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Leon the Professional

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1994

DURATION: 109 Minutes (Theatrical Version)/133 Minutes (Extended Version)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible), French, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Scenes of Strong Graphic Violence and for Language)

RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017


Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Executive Producer: Claude Besson

Line Producer: John Garland and Bernard Grenet

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Todd M. Thaler

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Gerard Drolon

Set Decoration by Francoise Benoit-Fresco

Costume Design by Magali Guidasci


Starring:

Jean Reno as Leon

Gary Oldman as Stanfield

Natalie Portman as Mathilda

Danny Aiello as Tony

Peter Appel as Malky

Michael Badalucco as Mathilda’s father


The mysterious Léon (Jean Reno) is New York’s top hitman. When his next-door neighbors are murdered, Léon becomes the unwilling guardian of the family’s sole survivor – 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman). But Mathilda doesn’t just want protection; she wants revenge. From the electrifying opening to the fatal finale, THE PROFESSIONAL is a nonstop crescendo of action and suspense. After winning a competition to spend a week at the mountain estate of his company’s party hardy CEO, programmer Caleb Smith arrives to discover he has been chosen to take part in a study of artificial intelligence. Sworn to secrecy and cut off from the outside world, Caleb meets his subject, a beguiling and seductive cyborg named Ava (Alicia Vikander) – and is plunged into an A.I. experiment beyond his wildest imaginings in this epic thriller charged with heart-stopping suspense.


Hot after his film “La Femme Nikita”, in 1994 Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”, writer of “The Transporter” films) would go on to work on his film “Leon” (Leon the Professional). The film was written and directed by Besson and featured music by Eric Serra (“The Fifth Element”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”, “GoldenEye”) and cinematography by Thierry Arbogast (“Babylon AD”, “Femme Fatale”, “Kiss of the Dragon”, “The Messanger: The Story of Joan of Arc).

The film would reunite Besson with popular French action star Jean Reno (Mission: Impossible”, “Ronin”, “The Da Vinci Code”, “The Pink Panther”) who he worked on in “Nikita” and “Le grand bleu” and would be the first major film for 12-year-old actress at the time, Natalie Portman (“Star Wars: Episodes I-III”, “V for Vendetta”, “Paris, je ‘taime”). For the most part, the film received mostly positive critic reviews but also some controversy as the film would feature an older man raising a young girl and teaching her how the life of a hitman. Let alone, a 12-year-old who is attracted to an older man.

But the film is primarily about two people who find importance with each other. A hitman and a girl who lost her family and both are trying to survive.

“Leon the Professional” is about professional hitman Leon (Reno) who is known as a “Cleaner”. A man who works for mafia boss Tony (played by Danny Aiello, “Do the Right Thing”, “Lucky Number Slevin”, “Hudson Hawk”) and is skilled at making the kill and getting the target. Outside of being a hitman, Leon lives a calm, solitary life of working out, drinking milk and taking care of a plant (who he calls his best friend).

Each time he returns to his apartment, he sees a teenage girl named Mathilda (Portman) who looks as if she has been physically abused and smoking a cigarette. Meanwhile, Mathilda’s father (played by Michael Badalucco, “The Practice”) is shown having some major problems with corrupt DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents led by Stansfield (played by Gary Oldman, “The Fifth Element”, “Air Force One”, “Sid and Nancy”, “Harry Potter” films). The agents have been paying Mathilda’s father to store illegal drugs in his apartment and appears to be stealing the drugs.

They give him a chance to recover the drugs and then we get to see the life of Mathilda, her father and family at the home. Mathilda is quite distant from her father and her older sister. She is close to her four year old brother but her home life is very dysfunctional. But Mathilda goes out to buy some groceries for her family.

While she’s out, Stansfield and the corrupt DEA agents storm the home and kills Mathilda’s father and the family members. While Mathilda returns, she realizes that something bad has happened and instead of going straight into her home, because DEA agent is posted outside the door, she goes straight towards Leon’s home and cries and pleads for him to open the door. Leon being the loner, doesn’t want to but seeing the anguish on her face, he allows her to come in. Stansfield realizes that not all family members are dead and now wants to find Mathilda.

This begins the life of Leon the Professional who takes care of Mathilda and are seen staying in different hotels as he works on his hits. But with Mathilda wanting revenge for her brother’s death, requests Leon to train her on how to become a “cleaner”. But as Leon has trouble with being close to anyone, the young 12-year-old starts to fall in love with the hitman. Meanwhile, Stansfield will do whatever he can to find the missing girl.

“Leon the Professional” had an original theatrical release but there was an extended version (or Director’s Cut) featuring an extra 24-minutes of footage which focuses on Leon training Mathilda but also the emotional connection the two have for each other. Both are included on the 4K Ultra HD release and personally, I prefer the extended version as the screenplay focuses a lot on the friendship between Leon and Mathilda.


VIDEO:

When I first saw “Leon the Professional”, I admit that I was happy. Why? Many films created between 1986-1996 and released on Blu-ray, some really look their age, transfer is not all that great or is very soft but for “Leon the Professional” on 4K Ultra HD, the colors are vibrant, black levels are great and deep and detail can be seen. The old buildings that Leon and Mathilda live in, you can see all the cracks and how old they look. It just seems much more clearer. Sharpness is great and the colors just pop. There is a nice amount of grain as well and no softness. This doesn’t look like a film that is 15-years-old. So, needless to say…picture quality is fantastic.

With that being said, this 2017 4K Ultra HD release is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Audio quality is equally impressive. Featured in English 7.1 Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1.

There are really good action sequences and gun fights that really utilize the soundscape from the front, center and surround channels. Especially during the final confrontation, the film sounds great. Music by Eric Serra also helps create the mood. For the most part, this is not an action film that is overly aggressive as most of the film is dialogue-based between Leon and Mathilda but for the most part, when the action scenes do happen, you’ll definitely hear those gun shots, machine gun rattling, explosions really clear.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Leon the Professional” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special features:

  • 10 Year Retrospective: Cast and Crew Look Back – (25:09) A featurette released on the 2004 DVD. A virtual reunion with interviews with the cast talking about a film they made 10 years ago. How the film came to be made and how the talent were cast for the film.
  • Jean Reno: The Road to Leon – (12:25) A featurette about Jean Reno, his personal life of him growing up and his previous works that led to him playing the character of Leon.
  • Natalie Portman: Starting Young – (13:49) Natalie Portman talks about reading the script at 11-years-old and wanting to do the part despite her parents feeling it was inappropriate. Working with Jean Reno and Luc Besson and how she was able to accomplish those emotional crying scenes and more.
  • Fact Track (Extended Version) – Viewers can watch the extended version of the film with a fact track.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Leon the Professional”.

EXTRAS:

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


“Leon the Professional” is a riveting, action-packed film. And for those who are familiar with Luc Besson films, you expect intense gunfighting sequences and plenty of destruction. Granted, he has done a lot more of that now with recent films but back in 1994, “Leon the Professional” was entertaining then and 15-years later, continues to be quite entertaining now.

Jean Reno is really good playing those action, hitman type of scenes. He’s a tough guy but Luc Besson knows how to utilize his character quite well in his films. Gary Oldman is always a fantastic villain and his character Stansfield is just repulsive. Murdering young children definitely made the viewer want either Leon or Mathilda to really get their revenge on him by the end of the film. And the way it played out, was well-done. But as Reno and Oldman were fantastic, Natalie Portman was incredible. The actress demonstrated in this film that she can be an actress that can excel in emotional scenes and for the most part, back in 1994, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that she would grow up to be an actress to watch for. Overall, great acting by the three main characters of the film.

As for the controversy which led the film to be cut for its theatrical version, I can understand where opposition groups were coming from. Mathilda was a child that was raised in a dysfunctional setting and she has been emotionally damaged that the only person that she sees as her savior was Leon. A man who lives in isolation and his best friend is a plant. But of course, there is a sense of sadness that broods with the character of Leon and somehow, these two find comfort within each other. For Leon, it’s more of a friend, while Mathilda, looks at it her emotions as being in love. Nevertheless, for those who get disturbed by those scenes of Mathilda’s emotional anguish (ala Russian Roulette) and the fact that Leon trains Mathilda on how to kill people (using a paint gun), there is a theatrical version included on the Blu-ray that eliminates those scenes and an extended version that contains those extra 24 minutes.

As for the 4K UltraHD, I just felt the picture quality was fantastic for an early 90’s film. With quite a few 90’s films that looks its age, the amount of colors and detail for on this HD release is fantastic.  For those who purchased the 2015 Blu-ray release, the special features are the same. The main difference of course, is that this 4K Ultra HD version is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition, while the Blu-ray is presented in 1080p High Definition.

Overall, “Leon the Professional” is a Luc Besson masterpiece. It’s one of the most exciting films to come out from Besson with action, emotion and just all-out frenzy that you just can’t stop watching! Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman are fantastic in this film and it’s a film that I highly recommended on 4K Ultra HD!

The Fifth Element (2015 Blu-ray release) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

fifthelement

“The Fifth Element” is a fascinating, entertaining Luc Besson sci-fi action film that looks and sounds better with this 2015 Blu-ray release.  While not the best Besson film ever created, nor the best sci-fi action film ever made, but still “The Fifth Element” remains as a popcorn action sci-fi film worth watching.

Images courtesy of © 1997 Gaumont. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Fifth Element (2015 Blu-ray Release)

DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 7.1 Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

RATED: PG-13 (Intense Sci-Fi Violence, Some Sexuality and Brief Nudity)

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: October 27, 2015


Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Screenplay by Robert Mark Kamen

Producer: Patrice Ledoux

Co-Producer: Iain Smith

Associate Producer: Thierry Arbogast

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Lucinda Syson

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Ira Gilford, Ron Gress, Michael Lamont, Jim Morahan, Kevin Phipps

Set Decoration by Maggie Gray, Anna Pinnock

Costume Design by Jean-Paul Gaultier


Starring:

Bruce Willis as Korben Dallas

Gary Oldman as Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg

Ian Holm as Father Vito Cornelius

Mila Jovovich as Leeloo

Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod

Luke Perry as Billy

Brion James as General Munro

Tommy “Tiny” Lister as President Lindberg

Lee Evans as Fog

Charlie Creed-Miles as David

Tricky as Right Arm

John Neville as General Staedert

John Bluthal as Professor Pacoli


New York cab driver Korben Dallas didn’t mean to be a hero, but he just picked up the kind of fare that only comes along every five thousand years: A perfect beauty, a perfect being, a perfect weapon. Together, they must save the world. Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, and Gary Oldman star in acclaimed director Luc Besson’s outrageous sci-fi adventure, an extravagantly styled tale of good against evil set in an unbelievable twenty-third century world. Now fully remastered in 4K, experience this dynamic action favorite like never before.


From the director Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita”, “Leon: The Professional”, “Taxi”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”) comes his 1997 sci-fi action film “The Fifth Element”.

Starring Bruce Willis (“The Sixth Sense”, “Die Hard”, “Looper”), Gary Oldman (“The Dark Knight Rises”, “Leon: The Professional”, “Batman Begins”), Iain Holm (“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”, “Alien”), Milla Jovovich (“Resident Evil” films, “The Three Musketeers”), Chris Tucker (“Rush Hour” films, “Silver Linings Playbook”) and Luke Perry (“Beverly Hills, 90210”, “Jeremiah”, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”).

A story that was written by Luc Besson when he was 16-years-old, the film would be made 32-years later.  While receiving mixed reviews from critics, the film was a box office success with a budget of $90 million, “The Fifth Element” would go on to to make over $90 million.

And now, a new Blu-ray release for “The Fifth Element” will be released in October 2015.  Remastered in 4K and in Dolby Atmos, plus the inclusion of an Ultraviolet HD code.

The film begins in 1914 as scientists discover something huge in an ancient Egyptian temple.  Not long after, aliens known as Mondoshawans have arrived to collect (for safekeeping) a weapon capable of defeating a great evil that appears every 5,000 years.

The weapon is a sarcophagus that contains four classical elements which combines each element to create a divine light of defeating evil.  The aliens say they will return when the great evil returns.

Fast forward to 2263 and the great evil has now reappeared as a giant ball of black fire.  As the priest Vito Cornelius (portrayed by Ian Hom) tries to send a message to the President of the Federated Territories (portrayed by Tom Lister, Jr.) about how they must defeat the great evil with the weapon that can stop it, the Mondoshawans make their return.

But while they return, the Mangalores led by Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (portrayed by Gary Oldman), has been instructed by the great evil to acquire the stones.  A hand of the Fifth element after an exchange between the Mondoshawans and Mangalores and scientist use the technology to reconstruct a humanoid woman named Leeloo (portrayed by Milla Jovovich).

Not knowing of where she is and unaware of her surroundings, Leeloo escapes and jumps off a ledge and crashes into a flying taxicab driven by Korben Dallas (portrayed by Bruce Willis), a former major of the special forces.

Will Leeloo become the key to stop the great evil?  Or will she be used as a weapon to destroy humanity?


 

VIDEO:

“The Fifth Element” receives its third Blu-ray release in the last ten years.  With a 2006 Blu-ray release which had plenty of issues, the second Blu-ray released in 2007 was a major improvement.  And now with the 2015 Blu-ray release, presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), “The Fifth Element” receives a remastering in 4K.

Featuring wonderful detail and better clarity, the film looks even better in HD.  Skin tones look natural and there is a good amount of grain present.  I didn’t notice any major banding issues during my viewing of the film, nor does this film looked aged.

AUDIO:

Audio quality is equally impressive. Featured in English 7.1 Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1.

Considering that this sci-fi action film contains a lot of action sequences, the fact that the 2007 Blu-ray release had a magnificent lossless soundtrack that utilized the surround channels, now this Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1) lossless soundtrack is even more impressive.  From the scenes which Dallas encounters Leloo for the very first time to the ending action sequence, the film features great use of the surround and rear surround channels, as well as utilizing LFE.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Fifth Element” on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:

  • The Visual Element – (18:25) A featurette about the films visual effects.
  • The Visual Element Extras – (6:13) Featuring seven visual element tests.
  • The Star Element: Bruce Willis – (4:19) Featuring an interview with actor Bruce Willis.
  • The Star Element: Mila Jovovich – (12:47) Featuring an interview with actress Mila Jovovich.
  • The Star element: Mila Jovovich Extras – (12:02) Featuring four screen tests with Mila Jovovich.
  • The Star Element: Chris Tucker – (4:17) Featuring an interview with actor Chris Tucker.
  • The Alien Element: Mondoshawans – (8:13) Featuring how they created the Mondoshawans and their movements.
  • The Alien Element: Mondoshawans Extras – (3:23) Featuring six outtakes and screen tests for the Mondoshawans.
  • The Alien Element: Mangalores – (9:47) A featurette about the evil Mangalores and how to bring these aliens to life.
  • The Alien Element: Mangalores Extras – (2:11) Featuring two Mangalores extras.
  • The Alien Element: Picasso – (4:17) A featurette  about Zorg’s pet, Picasso.
  • The Alien Element: Strikers – (3:04) A featurette about the Strikers that did not make the final cut of the film.
  • The Alien Element: Strikers Extras – (1:32) Featuring four Striker extras.
  • The Fashion Element – (7:46) A featurette about the fashion in “The Fifth Element”.
  • The Fashion Element: Extras – (5:17) Featuring four fashion extras.
  • The Diva – (16:16) The actress who brought Diva Plavalaguna to life.
  • The Divas Extras – (8:03) Four outtakes featuring Diva Plavalaguna.
  • The Digital Element – (9:49) A featurette about Digital Domain bringing “The Fifth Element” to life.
  • Imagining The Fifth Element – (5:14) The concept design, visual effects design and imagining of “The Fifth Element”.
  • The Elements of Style – (5:13) A featurette of an interview with Jean-Paul Gaultier and the film’s costume design.
  • Fact Track – Watch “The Fifth Element” with fact tracks.

EXTRAS:

“The Fifth Element” comes with a slipcover and an Ultraviolet Digital HD code.


It has been nearly 20-years since the release of “The Fifth Element” and with each watch, my perception of the film changes overtime.

With my 1999 DVD review of the film, I wrote:

I finally saw this movie and this is what I thought.  I liked it a lot!  This movie is visually stunning and the computer graphics were wonderful.  The storyline is good but it appears that an extra 30 minutes or an hour would have given this movie judgment a much better score because I felt there were some loose ends that were never answered.

Watching this film in 2015, my thoughts that while the film was often considered a reference title for video and audiophiles (back during the DVD days), it’s a popcorn action films with impressive visuals.  With some CG elements that still hold up, while others look its age.

But what I enjoyed about the film at the time was the fact that it introduced us to Mila Jovovich, who would become a much bigger star with the “Resident Evil” films years later, Chris Tucker who would become a big star with his “Rush Hour” films not long after, and for Bruce Willis fans, the film gave us another chance to watch the man who wowed us in the ’90s with his “Die Hard” films to return in a sci-fi action film which we can see his character kicking butt once again.  And of course, watching Bruce Willis as a protagonist (with the similar bravado as his other action characters in previous films) and Gary Oldman as the antagonist, made the film worthwhile.

The film benefits from its visual imagery and imaginative settings, but the CG is well-done and its far-out Jean-Paul Gaultier costume design was also interesting to see.  But how I felt about the film back in 1999, again in 2006-2007 and in 2015 has not changed.  “The Fifth Element” does not have the greatest story but it was no doubt an entertaining film.  But I feel each time I watch it, my appreciation of the film tends to lessen.  The fact is, back in the DVD years, we considered “The Fifth Element” as a reference quality film to showcase our surround sound system.  And while the film sounds impressive on Blu-ray, a lot of sci-fi action films during the later life of Blu-ray releases sound just as great.  And the remastering in 4K and the 7.1 lossless soundtrack makes the film even more enticing.

And with this 2015 Blu-ray release, fans of the film will also get a good number of special features and an Ultraviolet HD code.

Overall, “The Fifth Element” is a fascinating, entertaining Luc Besson sci-fi action film that looks and sounds better with this 2015 Blu-ray release.  While not the best Besson film ever created, nor the best sci-fi action film ever made, but still “The Fifth Element” remains as a popcorn action sci-fi film worth watching.

Leon the Professional (2015 Blu-ray release) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

leontheprofessional

“Leon the Professional” is a Luc Besson masterpiece.  It’s one of the most exciting films to come out from Besson with action, emotion and just all-out frenzy that you just can’t stop watching!  Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman are fantastic in this film and it’s a film that I highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1994 Gaumont and Les Films du Dauphin. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Leon the Professional (2015 Blu-ray Release)

DURATION: 109 Minutes (Theatrical Version)/133 Minutes (Extended Version)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 7.1 Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

RATED: R (For scenes of strong graphic violence and for language)

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: October 27, 2015


Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Executive Producer: Claude Besson

Line Producer: John Garland and Bernard Grenet

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Todd M. Thaler

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Gerard Drolon

Set Decoration by Francoise Benoit-Fresco

Costume Design by Magali Guidasci


Starring:

Jean Reno as Leon

Gary Oldman as Stanfield

Natalie Portman as Mathilda

Danny Aiello as Tony

Peter Appel as Malky

Michael Badalucco as Mathilda’s father


The mysterious Léon (Jean Reno) is New York’s top hitman. When his next-door neighbors are murdered, Léon becomes the unwilling guardian of the family’s sole survivor – 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman). But Mathilda doesn’t just want protection; she wants revenge. From the electrifying opening to the fatal finale, THE PROFESSIONAL is a nonstop crescendo of action and suspense.


Action-packed, riveting film from beginning to end, Jean Reno is always utilized well by director Luc Besson. Also, an amazing performance by Natalie Portman (12-years-old at the time) in a satisfying Blu-ray release featuring both the theatrical and the original extended director’s cut version. Definitely recommended!

Hot after his film “La Femme Nikita”, in 1994 Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”, writer of “The Transporter” films) would go on to work on his film “Leon” (Leon the Professional). The film was written and directed by Besson and featured music by Eric Serra (“The Fifth Element”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”, “GoldenEye”) and cinematography by Thierry Arbogast (“Babylon AD”, “Femme Fatale”, “Kiss of the Dragon”, “The Messanger: The Story of Joan of Arc).

The film would reunite Besson with popular French action star Jean Reno (Mission: Impossible”, “Ronin”, “The Da Vinci Code”, “The Pink Panther”) who he worked on in “Nikita” and “Le grand bleu” and would be the first major film for 12-year-old actress at the time, Natalie Portman (“Star Wars: Episodes I-III”, “V for Vendetta”, “Paris, je ‘taime”). For the most part, the film received mostly positive critic reviews but also some controversy as the film would feature an older man raising a young girl and teaching her how the life of a hitman. Let alone, a 12-year-old who is attracted to an older man.

But the film is primarily about two people who find importance with each other. A hitman and a girl who lost her family and both are trying to survive.

“Leon the Professional” is about professional hitman Leon (Reno) who is known as a “Cleaner”. A man who works for mafia boss Tony (played by Danny Aiello, “Do the Right Thing”, “Lucky Number Slevin”, “Hudson Hawk”) and is skilled at making the kill and getting the target. Outside of being a hitman, Leon lives a calm, solitary life of working out, drinking milk and taking care of a plant (who he calls his best friend).

Each time he returns to his apartment, he sees a teenage girl named Mathilda (Portman) who looks as if she has been physically abused and smoking a cigarette. Meanwhile, Mathilda’s father (played by Michael Badalucco, “The Practice”) is shown having some major problems with corrupt DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents led by Stansfield (played by Gary Oldman, “The Fifth Element”, “Air Force One”, “Sid and Nancy”, “Harry Potter” films). The agents have been paying Mathilda’s father to store illegal drugs in his apartment and appears to be stealing the drugs.

They give him a chance to recover the drugs and then we get to see the life of Mathilda, her father and family at the home. Mathilda is quite distant from her father and her older sister. She is close to her four year old brother but her home life is very dysfunctional. But Mathilda goes out to buy some groceries for her family.

While she’s out, Stansfield and the corrupt DEA agents storm the home and kills Mathilda’s father and the family members. While Mathilda returns, she realizes that something bad has happened and instead of going straight into her home, because DEA agent is posted outside the door, she goes straight towards Leon’s home and cries and pleads for him to open the door. Leon being the loner, doesn’t want to but seeing the anguish on her face, he allows her to come in. Stansfield realizes that not all family members are dead and now wants to find Mathilda.

This begins the life of Leon the Professional who takes care of Mathilda and are seen staying in different hotels as he works on his hits. But with Mathilda wanting revenge for her brother’s death, requests Leon to train her on how to become a “cleaner”. But as Leon has trouble with being close to anyone, the young 12-year-old starts to fall in love with the hitman. Meanwhile, Stansfield will do whatever he can to find the missing girl.

“Leon the Professional” had an original theatrical release but there was an extended version (or Director’s Cut) featuring an extra 24-minutes of footage which focuses on Leon training Mathilda but also the emotional connection the two have for each other. Both are included on the Blu-ray release and personally, I prefer the extended version as the screenplay focuses a lot on the friendship between Leon and Mathilda.


 

VIDEO:

When I first saw “Leon the Professional”, I admit that I was happy. Why? Many films created between 1986-1996 and released on Blu-ray, some really look their age, transfer is not all that great or is very soft but for “Leon the Professional”, the colors are vibrant, blacks are nice and deep and detail can be seen. The old buildings that Leon and Mathilda live in, you can see all the cracks and how old they look. It just seems much more clearer. Sharpness is great and the colors just pop. There is a nice amount of grain as well and no softness. This doesn’t look like a film that is 15-years-old. So, needless to say…picture quality is fantastic.

With that being said, this 2015 Blu-ray release is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio) and sports a new fully remastered 4K version.

AUDIO:

Audio quality is equally impressive. Featured in English  7.1 Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1.

There are really good action sequences and gun fights that really utilize the soundscape from the front, center and surround channels. Especially during the final confrontation, the film sounds great. Music by Eric Serra also helps create the mood. For the most part, this is not an action film that is overly aggressive as most of the film is dialogue-based between Leon and Mathilda but for the most part, when the action scenes do happen, you’ll definitely hear those gun shots, machine gun rattling, explosions really clear.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Leon the Professional” on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:

  • 10 Year Retrospective: Cast and Crew Look Back – (25:09) A featurette released on the 2004 DVD. A virtual reunion with interviews with the cast talking about a film they made 10 years ago. How the film came to be made and how the talent were cast for the film.
  • Jean Reno: The Road to Leon – (12:25) A featurette about Jean Reno, his personal life of him growing up and his previous works that led to him playing the character of Leon.
  • Natalie Portman: Starting Young – (13:49) Natalie Portman talks about reading the script at 11-years-old and wanting to do the part despite her parents feeling it was inappropriate. Working with Jean Reno and Luc Besson and how she was able to accomplish those emotional crying scenes and more.
  • Fact Track (Extended Version) – Viewers can watch the extended version of the film with a fact track.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Leon the Professional”.

EXTRAS:

“Leon the Professional” comes with a slipcover and an Ultraviolet Digital HD code.


“Leon the Professional” is a riveting, action-packed film. And for those who are familiar with Luc Besson films, you expect intense gunfighting sequences and plenty of destruction. Granted, he has done a lot more of that now with recent films but back in 1994, “Leon the Professional” was entertaining then and 15-years later, continues to be quite entertaining now.

Jean Reno is really good playing those action, hitman type of scenes. He’s a tough guy but Luc Besson knows how to utilize his character quite well in his films. Gary Oldman is always a fantastic villain and his character Stansfield is just repulsive. Murdering young children definitely made the viewer want either Leon or Mathilda to really get their revenge on him by the end of the film. And the way it played out, was well-done. But as Reno and Oldman were fantastic, Natalie Portman was incredible. The actress demonstrated in this film that she can be an actress that can excel in emotional scenes and for the most part, back in 1994, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that she would grow up to be an actress to watch for. Overall, great acting by the three main characters of the film.

As for the controversy which led the film to be cut for its theatrical version, I can understand where opposition groups were coming from. Mathilda was a child that was raised in a dysfunctional setting and she has been emotionally damaged that the only person that she sees as her savior was Leon. A man who lives in isolation and his best friend is a plant. But of course, there is a sense of sadness that broods with the character of Leon and somehow, these two find comfort within each other. For Leon, it’s more of a friend, while Mathilda, looks at it her emotions as being in love. Nevertheless, for those who get disturbed by those scenes of Mathilda’s emotional anguish (ala Russian Roulette) and the fact that Leon trains Mathilda on how to kill people (using a paint gun), there is a theatrical version included on the Blu-ray that eliminates those scenes and an extended version that contains those extra 24 minutes.

As for the Blu-ray, I just felt the picture quality was fantastic for an early 90’s film. With quite a few 90’s films that looks its age, the amount of colors and detail for on this HD release is fantastic.

And this is where people who purchased the 2009 Blu-ray release are wondering what the difference maybe.  For one, the film has been remastered in 4K and you can see much better clarity with the picture quality.  Second, the soundtrack is now being presented in 7.1 Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1) for even better surround channel usage, especially during the more action-driven sequences.  And last, “Leon the Professional” (2015 Blu-ray release) comes with an Ultraviolet code.

So, if you want the better picture and and audio quality, as well as the ability to watch a digital HD version of the film, this 2015 Blu-ray release is the way to go!

Overall, “Leon the Professional” is a Luc Besson masterpiece.  It’s one of the most exciting films to come out from Besson with action, emotion and just all-out frenzy that you just can’t stop watching!  Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman are fantastic in this film and it’s a film that I highly recommended!

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

August 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

adeleblancsec

“The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec” is a fun and delightful yet crazy comedy film with fantasy and adventure elements.  The family film is imaginative and humorous and I do hope that Luc Besson continues with a sequel.  An amusing film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Les Films Saville Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 2010

DURATION: 107 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: (2:35:1) Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: PG (Some Violence, Language, Brief Sensuality and Rude Humor)

RELEASE DATE: August 13, 2013

Directed by Luc Besson

Screenplay by Luc Besson

Based on the comic books by Jacques Tardi

Produced by Virginie Silla

Associate Producer: Luc Besson

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Julien Rey

Casting by Swan Pham

Production Design by Hugues Tissandier

Costume Design by Olivier Beriot

Starring:

Louise Bourgoin as Adele Blanc-sec

Mathieu Amalric as Dieuleveult

Gilles Lellouche as Inspecteur Albert Caponi

Jean-Paul Rouve as Justin de Saint-Hubert

Jacky Nercessian as Marie-Joseph Esperandieu

Philippe Nahon as Le Professeur Menard

Nicolas Giraud as Andrej Zborowski

Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre as Agathe Blanc-Sec

Gerard Chaillou as President Armand Fallieres

Serge Bagdassarian as Ferdinand Choupard

Claire Perot as Nini les Gambettes

Francois Chattot as Raymond Pointrenaud

Stanislas De la Tousche as Le Chauffeur Pointrenaud

Youssef Hajdi as Aziz

From revered filmmaker Luc Besson (Taken, The Fifth Element, Le Femme Nikita) comes the extravagant and wildly vivid adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, the coolest author and adventurist in all of Paris.

The year is 1912. A 136 million-year old pterodactyl egg, housed on a shelf in the Natural History Museum, has mysteriously hatched, unleashing a prehistoric monster onto the Parisian streets. But nothing fazes Adele, when she finds a connection with the ancient bird and reveals many more extraordinary surprises. Based on the acclaimed historical fantasy books by Jacques Tardi, The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec follows this intrepid adventurer as she uncovers mysterious Egyptian treasures, attempts to tame a wild pterodactyl, eludes dangerous enemies and braves a formidable phenomenon to save her ailing sister.

In 1976, artist Jacques Tardi wrote and created the illustrations for his comic book “Les Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec”.

A comic book that featured the adventures of the mystery-solving heroine Adèle Blanc-Sec,a novelist of popular nonfiction who is also an investigative journalist in 20th Century Paris during post World War 1 through the 1920’s.

To this day, the comic book is still ongoing and back in the early ’90s, the first five stories were released in the U.S. courtesy of Dark Horse Comics and more stories released in the US since 2010 courtesy of Fantagraphics Books.

One of Tardi’s biggest fans was filmmaker Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element”, “Leon: The Professional”, “Taken 2”, “Transporter 2”), who wanted to bring Adèle Blanc-Sec to the big screen and sure enough, in 2010, “The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec” was released in theaters.

The film would star actress Louise Bourgoin (“A Happy Event”, “Love Lasts Three Years”, “Le Petit Nicolas”), Mathieu Amalric (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, “Quantum of Solace”, “Munich”), Gilles Lelouch (“Mesrine: Killer Instinct”, “Tell No One”, “Love Me If You Dare”, “Point Blank”), Jean-Paul Rouve (“La Vie en Rose”, “A Very Long Engagement”) and Nicolas Giraud (“Taken”, “High Lane”).

And now, the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Shout! Factory.

“The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec” begins with Professor Esperandieu is experimenting with his telepathic abilities and next thing you know, a pterosaur egg hatches.  The pterosaur flies out of his home and in the process of flying around Paris, it kills a former prefect (plus the driver and a showgirl in the car with him) which was witnessed by a drunken Choupard.

With many people claiming to see the creature, the President of France orders the case to be the priority of the National Police and the case is handed to the bumbling Inspector Leonce Caponi.

Meanwhile, Andrej Zborowski is a man who is in love with investigative journalist and writer Adèle Blanc-Sec.  He goes to get an autographed copy of his book and then the film gives us a flashback of Adèle Blanc-Sec as she goes to Egypt searching for the mummified doctor of Ramesses II.

Adèle manages to find the mummy but is nearly killed by her nemesis, Professor Dieuleveult, but she brings it back home and we learn that her reasons of bringing the mummified doctor is to revive it with the help of Professor Esperandieu in order to save her sister Agathe who lies in her bed comatose.

But her plans are dashed when Professor Esperandieu is held in prison and to be executed for his experiments of bringing a pterosaur to life. Meanwhile, Adèle tries to find ways to get the professor out of prison, so he can help her sister.  Meanwhile, Inspector Leonce Caponi and celebrity game hunter Justin de Saint-Hubert go hunting for the pterosaur.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec” is presented in  anamorphic widescreen (2:35:1) and French and English Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital stereo.  It’s important to note that if you want the best picture and audio quality, you will want to opt for the Blu-ray version of the film.   With that being said, the DVD version of the film looks very good.  Many shots are done outdoors, so colors are vibrant.  For action sequences, there is good use of surround sound activity through the surround channels.

I tested both the French and English soundtracks and both have no significant difference in terms of how sound effects are featured in the film, but for those wanting to watch the English dub, I will say that the dub was well-acted for this film.  Especially for the character of Adèle.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec” includes the following special features:

  • The Making Of: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec – (26:02) Behind-the-scenes of the making of the film, interviews with creator/writer Jacques Tardi, director Luc Besson and the cast.  From how the film came to be, how badly Luc Besson wanted to direct the film and shooting the film and trying to keep things faithful to the original comic book.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring four deleted scenes with the younger and present-time Adèle and Agathe and their competitiveness.
  • Music Featurette – (1:51) Actress Louise Bourgoin talks about singing with Thomas Dutronc and creating a song for the film.  And how she worried because she is not a singer.

I’m sure that “The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec” will draw comparisons to a female version of Indiana Jones but as my first introduction to the popular heroine, I found the film to be a good balance of comedy and crazy action.

For one, you have a pterosaur in the film wreaking havoc in Paris, you have mummies coming alive and possibly one of the wildest ways for a person to become comatose (it actually makes me quite uncomfortable to even think about it), “The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec” was a wild and crazy cinematic ride.

While I’m not too sure how faithful Luc Besson’s film was to the original comic book, I will say that I did enjoy the character.  You have an independent, strong, sarcastic, stylish and beautiful female protagonist who happens to defy evil and get things done, while the men portrayed in the film are somewhat incompetent, unusual or flat out crazy.

While I have read that the comics were somewhat dark and the setting of the time period was during sadder times, for this film, everything looks quite cheerful and it matched the craziness displayed on screen.

There is a great use of CG and the film is rather unpredictable because of its unique fantasy meets realism nature but for a Luc Besson film, it was much milder, more towards the comedy side than a story that is deep or dark but I suppose since the story is based on a comic book, I would imagine that the goal was to create a family film in some way (although, how Agathe became comatose may freak out children).

For me, part of the enjoyment of the film was thanks to the performance of Louise Bourgoin.  I’ve read that the character is actually sarcastic and cold and while the film does exhibit some of that, you get to see a strong, independent woman but also one who is much more beautiful and stylish than her comic book counterpart.  I would imagine that she brought a much lighter and upbeat personality to the character onscreen and I suppose that is possibly the major contention that the comic book purists have towards the film was that she was not stylish, not beautiful, often cold in the comic book version.

But for me, I found her performance and the character to be delightful charming and a strong female heroine that I feel is important for people to see onscreen.  It’s great to have powerful heroines in film as main protagonists such as Adèle Blanc-Sec.

As for the DVD, once again, if you want the best picture and audio quality, there is a Blu-ray version available.  But for this DVD release, picture quality and audio is very good on DVD and you get a few special features and also an English dub track (which is well-acted) for those who are not into reading English subtitles or wanting to listen to the film with its original soundtrack with French dialogue.

“The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec” is a fun and delightful yet crazy comedy film with fantasy and adventure elements.  The family film is imaginative and humorous and I do hope that Luc Besson continues with a sequel.  An amusing film worth watching!

 

A Monster in Paris (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“A Monster in Paris” is another enjoyable animated film for the family by Bibo Bergeron (“Shark Tale”).  A film that showcases beautiful environments but also wonderful music.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 Europacorp. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: A Monster in Paris (Un monstre à Paris)

YEAR: 2011

DURATION: 87 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio), English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: PG (Some Action Violence Involving Gun Play and Mild rude humor)

Release Date:  April 16, 2013

Directed by Bibo Bergeron

Written by Bibo Bergeron

Screenplay by Stephane Kazandjian

Producer: Luc Besson

Executive Producer: Nadia Khamlichi, Adrian Plitowski, Gilles Waterkeyn

Line Producer: Olivier Bizet, Andre Clavel

Associate Producer: Remi Burah

Music by Mathieu Chedid

Edited by Pascal Cheve, Nicolas Stretta

Production Design by Francois Moret

Featuring the Voices of:

Mathieu Chedid as  Francoeur

Vanessa Paradis as  Lucille

Gad Elmaleh as Raoul

Francois Cluzet as Le prefet Maynott

Ludivine Sagnier as Maud

Julie Ferrier as Madame Carlotta

Bruno Salomone as Albert

Sebastien Desjours as Emile

Paris, 1910. Panic sweeps the city as floodwaters rise and a monster is on the loose!

Meanwhile a wacky inventor, his camera-crazy best friend, and a madcap monkey are on a mission to protect the beast, Franc, as he holds a rare and special talent. With the help of the beautiful but feisty singer Lucille, the team harbors the monster to keep him from the ghastly wannabe Mayor, Commissioner Maynott, who has a plan to capture Franc and reveal him to be nothing more than a monstrous danger to the people of Paris.

From Bibo Bergeron, the director of Shark Tale, and starring Adam Goldberg, Jay Harrington, Bob Balaban, Sean Lennon, Vanessa Paradis, Danny Huston and Catherine O’Hara, A Monster In Paris is presented in stunning 3D for a spectacularly fun experience for the whole family.

In European animation, Bibo Bergeron is well-known for his directorial work in “Shark Tale”, his work for films such as “Bee Movie”, “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas”, “Flushed Away” and the TV series “Caillou”, “Babar” and “Woofy”.

In 2011, Bergeron and writer Stephane Kazandjian (“Modern Love”, “Scalp”, “Apres”) began working on the French CGI and 3D animated feature “Un monstre a Paris” (“A Monster in Paris”) which received critical acclaim for its music and performances by its lead talent.

The film would star Mathieu Chedid (“Tell No One”, “Arsene Lupin”), singer and actress Vanessa Paradis (“Girl on the Bridge”, “Cafe de Flore”, “Heartbreaker”), Gad Elmaleh (“The Adventures of Tintin”, “Midnight in Paris”, “The Valet”),  Francois Cluzet (“The Intouchables”, “Tell No One”, “Little White Lies”), Ludivine Sagnier (“Swimming Pool”, “The Devil’s Double”, “Mesrine: Public Enemy #1”) and Julie Ferrier (“Heartbreaker”, “Micmacs”, “Mr. Bean’s Holiday”).

And now the film will be released in the U.S. as a Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy combo-pack in April 2013 courtesy of Shout! Factory.

“A Monser in Paris” is set in Paris 2010 and begins with a shy projectionist named Emile who loves film but also likes his co-worker Maud, but is unable to tell her how he feels.  Emile hangs out with inventor and delivery driver Raoul, who go to pickup a new belt for a projector.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Lucille (portrayed by Vanessa Paradis), a childhood friend of Raoul, who is a cabaret singer at the club L’Oiseau Rare.  A successful singer at the club, her aunt Carlotta wants her to be with the wealthy police commissioner Maynott.

As Raoul and Emile make a delivery run to the Botanical Gardens, the Professor is not in but his assistant, a monkey named Charles is seen guarding the location.  As the two browse through the laboratory, they begin messing around with the experiments include the “Atomize-a-Tune” and it gives Charles the voice of an opera singer for a temporary time.  Another “Super Fertilizer” is used to grow a sunflower seed into a giant sunflower, but it grows so fast that it begins to knock both Raoul and Emilie down.

With things getting out of hand, the “Atomitize-a -Tune” and “Super Fertilizer” gets mixed together and an explosion takes place.  While both men and Charles escape, Emile who was filming with his new camera, feels he recorded a creature.  Sure enough, the creature begins to be featured in the local newspapers.

Seeing how people fear the creature, the police commissioner tries to use this fear to his advantage in increasing his chances of being elected for the upcoming mayoral elections.

With Lucille needing a new musician for her show, she comes into contact with the monstrous creature outside the alleyway and faints.  When she awakes, she sees the creature but hears him singing a song and has a beautiful voice.  Immediately, Lucille befriends the creature and learns he is not dangerous.  She gives him the name of “Francoeur” and it is revealed that the creature was originally a flea that got caught in the laboratory explosion which Raoul and Emile caused.  But Lucille is determined in trying to Francoeur’s voice heard and tries to find a way to disguise him and have him take part in her next performance.

Meanwhile, both Raoul and Emile are caught by authorities for the laboratory explosion, but instead of going to prison, because these two are responsible for creating the creature, police commissioner Maynott tries to find a way to use the two in order to capture the creature.

VIDEO:

“A Monster in Paris” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  First let’s take a look at the 3D version of “A Monster in Paris”.  The film is pretty much one of those depth-based 3D animated films that proves to be much more effective towards the latter half via the action scenes of the film.  It’s not the best use of 3D for an animated film, but I suppose this goes to show a difference between a heavily invested Disney/Pixar or Dreamworks Animation 3D film would benefit from a larger budget.  For the most part, the 3D is OK.

As for the picture quality of the Blu-ray release, the film has a European style that is evident in British animated films, but for “A Monster in Paris”, its strength is within its environments but also I like the French character design for its character models.  People should not expect the same type of animation as one would see on the more expensive, big budget animated films but by no means will I downgrade a film because of it.  I feel that “A Monster in Paris” is a beautiful looking film that shows that other countries can create beautiful animated films without the huge bankroll.  But also the film is in the capable hands of Bibo Bergeron (“Shark Tale”) which is a plus!

Picture quality does feature a lot of detail, some scenes are vibrant and for the most part, the film looks very good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“A Monster in Paris” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.   While dialogue is crystal clear featuring Adam Goldberg, Jay Harrington, Bob Balaban, Danny Huston and Catherine O’Hara.  Possibly what stands out in this lossless soundtrack are the music performances by Vanessa Paradis and Sean Lennon.

The music is absolutely beautiful in this film and sounds incredible via lossless.  While the movie does utilize surround activity, especially moreso during the latter half of the film, its the environment that comes more to play in surround usage.  But for the most part, dialogue and music is crystal clear!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“A Monster in Paris” comes with trailer.

EXTRAS:

“A Monster in Paris” comes with both the Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy. Also, a slipcover case is included.

“A Monster in Paris” is an entertaining animated family film that I enjoy for its beautiful and well-detailed Paris environment, enjoyable character design but also for its music.

Of course, “A Monster in Paris” didn’t have the luxury of a having a huge budget of a Disney/Pixar or Dreamworks animated film, and one shouldn’t compare animated film from other countries with these big-budget films but still enjoy the animation and overall film.  The film is beautiful and its storyline is full of humor and fun.

For younger children, the sight of a flea-like monster may scare some younger children and as my son had commented, “too many kissing scenes” for kids.  But other than that, its PG rating is mostly for a scene involving a gun being shot by the film’s antagonist and mild rude humor.

The film is in essence about three characters.  Raoul (voiced by Adam Goldberg) is a delivery man who has his own business but wants to make himself look successful (when he’s really not) and wants to look very good in front of Lucille, an old childhood friend.

Lucille (voiced by Vanessa Paradis) loves singing but the Le Prefet Maynott (voiced by Danny Huston) is more interested in wooing her and wanting to marry her.  And her boss, Madame Carlotta (voiced by Catherine O’Hara), encourages it.  But she has no interest in the man.  But now that she has spotted the talented Francoeur (voiced by Mathieu Chedid), a flea monster, she wants to help him and perform alongside with him, as he makes her performances much more vibrant.

And Emile (voiced by Jay Harrington) is a projectionist who goes around with Raoul for his deliveries but he’s a young man wanting to confess his love to Maud (voiced by Madeline Zima).

As for the Blu-ray release, the film is colorful and vibrant in HD.  The Blu-ray 3D is good for its use of depth but not the best in terms of animated films in 3D.  The lossless audio is also very good as the action sequences utilizes the surround channels quite well.  But the film’s music performance is fantastic and Vanessa Paradis and Sean Lennon do a wonderful job.  It’s only lowpoint for this release is you would expect animated films to have a ton of special features, not the case for this Blu-ray release.

One should not expect spectacular Disney/Pixar or Dreamworks Animation or a similar style with a magnificent budget to work with “A Monster in Paris”, but one can expect very good animation and a fun family animated film for the entire family.

Overall, “A Monster in Paris” is a fun family animated film worth recommending!

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

July 14, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

In your face action! “Lockout: Unrated Edition” may be a popcorn action film, but for action film fans, “Lockout” looks absolutely amazing on Blu-ray and its immersive lossless audio soundtrack is impressive!  If you are looking for a straight-up action film on Blu-ray that delivers in video and audio, you won’t be disappointed with “Lockout: Unrated Edition”.

Image courtesy of © 2011 EuropaCorp. All Rights Reserved.

BLU-RAY TITLE: Lockout: Unrated Edition

MOVIE RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: 95 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 Aspect Ratio, English, Italian, Portuguese  5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: UNRATED

DVD RELEASE DATE: July 17, 2012

Directed by James Mather, Stephen St. Leger

Screenplay by Stephen St. Leger, James Mather, Luc Besson

Based on the original idea by Luc Besson

Executive Producer: Luc Besson, Andjelija Vlaisavljevic

Producer: Marc Libert, Leila Smith

Music by Alexandre Azaria

Cinematography by James Mather

Edited by Camille Delamarre, Eamonn Power

Production Design by Romek Delmata

Art Direction by Oliver Hodge, Frank Walsh

Set Decoration by Malcolm Stone

Costume Design by Olivier Beriot

Starring:

Guy Pearce as Snow

Maggie Grace as Emilie Warnock

Vincent Regan as Alex

Joseph Gilgun as Hydell

Lennie James as Harry Shaw

Peter Stormare as Scott Langral

Jacky Ido as Hoc

Tim Plester as John James Mace

Mark Tankersley as Barnes

Anne-Solenne Hatte as Kathryn

Peter Hudson as President Warnock

Luc Besson (Director of The Fifth Element) presents this futuristic thriller about a renegade CIA agent (Guy Pearce, PROMETHEUS) who is betrayed by his government and sentenced to 30 years frozen in a cryonic chamber 50 miles above Earth. The only way to avoid serving time is a suicide mission – overcome a gang of ruthless prisoners and rescue the President’s daughter (Maggie Grace, Taken).

When it comes to action films, Luc Besson definitely knows how to entertain the masses.

From films such as “The Fifth Element”, “Leon: The Professional”, “Taken”, the “Taxi” films to name a few, Besson is well-known for his films. He’s also known as a man who gives people chances to shine in his film, not just as acting talent but also as part of the crew.

For the 2012 film “The Lockout”, Besson produced co-wrote the screenplay for the film with co-directors/co-writers James Mather and Stephen St. Leger (the film would be the duo’s directorial debut).

The film would star Guy Pearce (“Memento”, “L.A. Confidential”, “The Hurt Locker”), Maggie Grace (“Lost”, “Taken”, “Knight and Day”) and Vincent Regan (“300”, “Troy”, “Unleashed”).

While the film is generally known as a popcorn action film that did make more than its budget, Guy Pearce did receive positive reviews as an action star.

And now “Lockout: Unrated Edition” will be released on Blu-ray in July 2012.

“Lockout” is a film that is set in the distant future, the year 2079 and begins with CIA Agent Snow (as portrayed by Guy Pearce) who is working on a case regarding a CIA agent selling secrets about the space program.  Unfortunately, Snow is suspected of killing an undercover agent and when Snow tries to take the case featuring state secrets, he is pursued by police and is captured.

Secret Service director Scott Langral (as portrayed by Peter Stormare) threatens to have Snow incarcerated in the maximum security space penitentiary known as MS One.  A place where prisoners are kept in a controversial frozen “stasis” as they await their sentencing.  Meanwhile, as the Secret Service grills now about the whereabouts of the briefcase, Snow’s friend, Agent Harry Shaw (as portrayed by Lennie James), tries to locate Snow’s contact, Mace, who may know where the secret information is hidden.

Meanwhile, the President’s daughter, Emilie Warnock (as portrayed by Maggie Grace), has arrived at MS One to conduct an investigation with prisoners regarding “stasis” and if it has affected their minds and led them to dementia.  As Emilie’s group is warned not to bring firearms while they interview the prisoners, when they approach the sadistic prisoner known as Hydell, he manages to steal a hidden revolver that Emilie’s bodyguard was concealing and escapes.

Now Hydell has released prisoners from MS One, including his brother Alex, who becomes the leader of the prisoners.

With a riot now taking place on MS One and the President’s daughter is possibly a hostage inside the prison, the Secret Service feels they can send one man to rescue her and that is Snow.  At first, Snow is reluctant to help the government, especially since he was beaten during his questioning.  But when his friend Harry tells him that Mace is inside MS One and can help him prove his innocence by finding him and finding the whereabouts of the case.

So, Snow decides to take up the job and is taken to MS One to save the president’s daughter.

VIDEO:

“Lockout: Unrated Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray!  From the opening scene of seeing the stubble on Guy Pearce’s chin to the closeup of Maggie Grace’s eye.  And the fact that a lot of the film’s settings are CG, there resolution is high and detail is fantastic.  It’s important to note that the film is more on the cool side, as the film is shot in a metallic structure of blues and grays.    But overall, “Lockout: Unrated Edition” looks impressive!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Lockout: Unrated Edition” is presented in English, Italian, Portugues 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  And as one can expect from a Besson-related film, that is plenty of action.  There are explosions galore, gunshots galore, metal breaking apart, people being slammed, a chase scene… the lossless soundtrack for “Lockout” is immersive, chaotic and for audiophiles, they will love the immersiveness of this film.  Dialogue is crystal clear, music and special effects are crystal clear, great use of surround channels and LFE.  Impressive!

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Lockout” comes with the following special features:

  • Breaking Into Lockout – Making Of – (11:07) Featuring the directors and cast talking about their characters and working on the film.
  • A Vision of the Future – Production Design & Special Effects – (10:13) Interview with Frank Walsh (Supervising Art Director), Oliver Hooge (Art Director) and richard Bain (Visual Effects Supervisor) talking about the visual effects of the film and the use of green screen.

EXTRAS:

“Lockout: Unrated Edition” comes with a slipcase plus an UltraViolet code for instantly stream or download to PC or Mac.

Guy Pearce has been given new life as the action hero Snow in the film “Lockout”.  While directed by James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, “Lockout” has the look and feel of a frenetic Besson popcorn action film!

“Lockout” takes the banal concept of things go wrong in prison and it’s up to one man to save the day.  Seems very Jack Bauer (for those familiar with “24”) but the prison is set in space and instead of grungy concrete walls, you get metallic, danky prison settings, we are given a green screen CGI futuristic prison setting which actually looks very cool!

In fact, the sci-fi futuristic visuals are well-done.  The visual effects crew were very good in focusing on creating a sci-fi look and feel of the film.  But working entirely in green screen also presents a major problem with the fact that many actors have problems in acting when no one is there and reacting when nothing is around you but green. They have to trust the director and crew and it’s not the easiest thing to do for an actor.

And so, this presents the problem of “Lockout”, the acting.  While I thought the wisecracking, stoic Snow worked well for Guy Pearce, anyone wanting more depth with his character will be sadly disappointed.   If there was anything that really didn’t make sense or work is the one man having to infiltrate the prison to save the President’s daughter.  One man?  President’s daughter?  Farfetched isn’t it? For some people, it was.

But audiences should know by now, Luc Besson films are popcorn action films that are not meant to be taken to seriously.

From “La Femme Nikita”, “Leon: The Professional” and even the “Taxi” films, these films revolved around a single person getting involved in some trouble but yet managing to save the day despite the odds or how crazy things may seem.

It’s like watching a Roland Emmerich film, you know there will be tons of action and a lot of destruction in the world.  No way should one expect anything deep or romantic, you just sit back and enjoy the ride.

I am in awe to read some people who felt disappointed that “Lockout” was not mentally challenging or there was not enough bloody violence.  And once again, I bring up the fact that this is a Luc Besson film.  This is not a David Fincher film, nor is it a banal horror film.  The film is about one man trying to save the President’s daughter and get the hell out of the prison.

The antagonists are angry prison inmates and the callousness of some of these inmates are shown effectively (many innocent people randomly) and yes, even the president’s daughter, Emilie, played by Maggie Grace, the scared and fearful hostage (although, we have seen this before for Maggie Grace in Besson’s other film “Taken” and wouldn’t be surprised if we see the same type of emotions coming from the character in the upcoming “Taken 2”).

But the fact is that these films are never meant to be serious, they are popcorn action films, nothing more and nothing less.

As for the Blu-ray release, I’m not entirely sure what scenes are unrated as the original runtime is 95 minutes and the unrated version is 95 minutes.  But I can say the film looks absolutely fantastic in HD courtesy of its CG environment.  Closeups are full of detail, such as one scene where you can see the stubble of Pearce so clearly, or even the detailed cuts of a character.  The film looks excellent on Blu-ray and it has a lossless soundtrack that is also quite immersive, considering the many action scenes.  The disappointment was mainly of its two only special features.  An audio commentary or more special features other than two, would have been nice to have on this Blu-ray release.

Overall, “Lockout” was a film that I enjoyed.  And for those who enjoy popcorn action films, especially films in futuristic settings will definitely enjoy “Lockout: Unrated Edition”.

“Lockout” Breaking In July 17th on Unrated Blu-ray and DVD with UltraViolet

June 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Breaking In July 17th on Unrated Blu-ray™ and DVD with UltraViolet™
Bonus Features Include Behind-The-Scenes Featurettes

Culver City, CA (6/4/12) – Luc Besson presents the explosive, sci-fi action thriller LOCKOUT, breaking in on Blu-ray™ and DVD with UltraViolet™ July 17th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.  Guy Pearce (Prometheus, Memento) stars as “one of the most memorable action heroes since John McClane” (Joshua Tyler, Giant Freakin Robot) in this tale of an ex-government agent (Pearce) assigned to rescue the President’s daughter from a deadly riot on a newly developed prison in low space orbit around the earth. Co-starring Maggie Grace (Taken, TV’s “Lost”) and co-written by legendary action filmmaker Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Professional), LOCKOUT is guaranteed to thrill action and sci-fi fans across the planet with its exciting mix of hard-hitting fight sequences, smart humor and dazzling special effects.

Bonus features include the Breaking Into Lockout featurette, providing a look at the making of the film with Co-Director Stephen St. Leger, and actors Guy Pierce and Maggie Grace, as well as A Vision of the Future featurette, taking fans behind the scenes of this new action favorite.

Synopsis
LOCKOUT follows a falsely convicted ex-government agent (Pearce), whose one chance at obtaining freedom lies in the dangerous mission of rescuing the President’s daughter (Grace) from rioting convicts at an outer space maximum security prison.

LOCKOUT marks the directorial debut of Stephen Saint Leger and James Mather. It was produced by Luc Besson, Marc Libert and Leila Smith and written by Stephen Saint Leger, James Mather and Luc Besson. The supporting cast includes Vincent Regan (Clash of the Titans, 300), Joseph Gilgun (Harry Brown, “This is England”), Lennie James (Colombiana, “Hung”) and Peter Stormare (Armageddon, Fargo).

Blu-ray™ and DVD Bonus Material
·         Breaking Into Lockout Featurette
·         A Vision of the Future Featurette

The film has a run time of approximately 95 minutes and is Unrated.

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