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Song to Song (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

No doubt this film is not for everyone but I have watched my fair share of Terrence Malick films to know that I enjoy his style and non-traditional presentation and that includes his latest film”Song to Song”.

Images courtesy of © 2015 Buckeye Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Song to Song

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 129 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:39:1 aspect ratio, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, Espanol

COMPANY: Broadgreen Pictures

RATED: R (Some Sexuality, Nudity, Drug Use and Language)

RELEASE DATE: July 4, 2017


Directed by Terrence Malick

Written by Terrence Malick

Produced by Jeff Abberley, Diane Miller Levin, Jamie Patricof

Executive Producer: Julia Blackman, Marc Butan, Jessica Chastain, Mickey Liddell, Jennifer Monroe, Joanne Sennitt, Pete Shilaimon, Michael Tollin, Robbie Tollin, Kevan Van Thompson

Co-Producer: Katie McNeill

Music by Harry Gregson-Williams

Cinematography by Andrij Parekh

Edited by David Coulson

Production Design by Suzie Davies

Art Direction: Jan Kalous, Dan Taylor, Magdalena Zemanova

Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

Costume Design: Bina Daigeler


Starring:

Ryan Gosling as BV

Rooney Mara as Faye

Michael Fassbender as Cook

Natalie Portman as Rhonda

Cate Blanchett as Amanda

Holly Hunter as Miranda

Bernice Marlohe as Zoey

Val Kilmer as Duane

Lykke Li as Lykke

Olivia Grace Applegate as Emma


In this modern love story set against the Austin, Texas music scene, two entangled couples — struggling songwriters Faye (Rooney Mara) and BV (Ryan Gosling), and music mogul Cook (Michael Fassbender) and the waitress whom he ensnares (Natalie Portman) — chase success through a rock ‘n’ roll landscape of seduction and betrayal.


Filmmaker Terrence Malick (“The Thin Red Line”, “The Tree of Life”, “The New World”, “Badlands) is known for creating art films that explore humanity, nature and instinct.

Characters that are explored via voice-overs from individual characters, it’s a style that is unique to Malick’s oeuvre which are praised by his fans and jilted by cineastes who feel his films are lacking true character development and comprehensive plot.

People often love or dislike his films but no doubt, they are films that are though-provoking, fascinating and whimsical.

His latest film is directed and written by him but also stars an ensemble cast which include Ryan Gosling (“Drive”, “La La Land”, “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”), Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Social Network”, “Carol”), Michael Fassbender (“Inglorious Basterds”, “Prometheus”, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”), Natalie Portman (“V for Vendetta”, “Black Swan”, “Leon: The Professional”), Cate Blanchett (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Lord of the Ring” films), Holly Hunter (“The Piano”, “O Brother, Where Art Thou”), Berenice Marlohe (“Skyfall”, “Twin Peaks”, “5 to 7”), Val Kilmer (“Heat”, “Batman Forever”, “Top Gun”), Lykke Li (“Tommy”), Olivia Grace Applegate (“Krisha”, “The Honor Farm”, “Aevia”) and more.

The film also features cameo appearances by Florence Welch, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, The Black Lips, Alan Palomo, John Lydon, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Spank Rock, Big Freedia and more.

The film revolves around BV (portrayed by Ryan Gossling), Cook (portrayed by Michael Fassbender), Faye (portrayed by Rooney Mara) and Rhonda (portrayed by Natalie Portman).

Cook is a music mogul often busy at music festivals, while Faye and BV are struggling musician who have a strong friendship with Cook and in the process, they discover each other.

Faye, once a secretary for Cook, has a sexual relationship with him.  But meanwhile, she has a relationship with BV and despite messing up in life, the one true happiness that she has found for herself was being with BV.

But to make it in the music industry is important and what matters most is her music and BV.  But to stay relevant in the music scene, she knows that she needs to be close to Cook and fulfill his sexual needs, while trying to have a relationship with Cook.

But BV is suspicious and feels that Faye is keeping something from him.

Meanwhile, Cook meets Rhonda, a waitress at a restaurant and the two build a relationship and he brings her into his life and circle of wealth.  But the more she stays with him, she realizes that with his power and the women he surrounds himself with, Rhonda feels dirty with being with a man like him and she questions her existence of being with a man like Cook.  Cook wants to have sexual adventures, Rhonda is not that type of person and is reserved and unwilling to join Cook in his erotic adventures.

But with these individuals, can they ever find love?  Can they ever be satisfied?


VIDEO:

“Song to Song” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as many of the scenes were shot outdoors. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Song to Song” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and features a soundtrack that is driven by its crystal clear dialogue, music and ambiance.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Espanol.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Song to Song” comes with the following special feature:

  • The Music Behind the Movie – (2:02) A short featurette about “Song to Song” with interviews with cast and crew.

When it comes to Terrence Malick, there are people who love his films and there are those who can’t stand his style of filmmaking.

Malick doesn’t subscribe to the traditional way of creating films.  His films may seem like an abstract work of art, featuring different characters, fragmented moments, lives intertwined yet lives that are quite different.

People who search for happiness but are not sure if they deserve it or not sure how to love as they are conflicted with their own purpose in life.  May it to be successful at their career, may it be searching for a moment in life of feeling alive or finding a life which in truth is not what one wanted or expected.

For the most part, the primary players of the film are the struggling music artists, BV and Faye.  Faye is a person who wanted to live life free, may it be her way she approaches jobs or the way she approaches sex.  But being with music mogul Cook, she has been treated as a sexual object.  Where BV treats her as a woman that he has fallen in love with, as she has with him.  But does someone like her deserve something good like him.  Needless to say, she is conflicted by her sense of excitement and pursuit of a music career by having a sexual liason with Cook, while struggling with the love that BV gives to her.

Other characters in the film include Natalie Portman’s Rhonda.  Not happy with the life she is living with Cook and the way he wants her to be a sexual plaything, which she is not ready yet.    Fitting along the spiritual theme of a good girl corrupted by evil, Rhonda signifies the purity in Cook’s life which he desperately wanted to make dirty.

Cate Blanchett’s Amanda is more of the rebound that BV finds himself in after things between he and Faye do not work out.  She feels withdrawn when she is with him and the level of passion that he has given to Faye and the lack of it towards Amanda is evident.

And as the film has many cameos.  While one may question why Patti Smith has a role in the film, she does play the guiding force to Faye, trying to break down the walls that she has has surrounded for herself from finding true happiness.

As for the Blu-ray, as most of the film is shot outdoors, the film looks great in HD.  Closeups show great clarity and detail while music and ambiance are crystal clear.

Overall, Terrence Malick films are not going to win a mass audience.  In fact, his films are frustrating for those who want comprehensive storylines, can’t stand narrations and experimentation.  If anything, I found the film to be entertaining as it reminds me of a fractured mirror with its pieces going backward to re-attach and form itself to something whole as it was meant to be.  Love often finds its share of hurdles and a lot of romantic films often feature a problematic situation that leads its protagonists back together.

Instead of something straightforward, Malick films are told in fragments and as the audience, we watch and see how Malick tries to put the pieces together.

No doubt this film is not for everyone but I have watched my fair share of Terrence Malick films to know that I enjoy his style and non-traditional presentation and that includes his latest film”Song to Song”.

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!

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!

Thor: The Dark World (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

thor-darkworld

 If you were a fan of  the first “Thor”  film and you can’t get enough of Marvel action films, “Thor: The Dark World” is an action-packed Marvel superhero film that looks and sounds wonderful on Blu-ray!  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Thor: Dark World

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 95 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese

COMPANY: Marvel/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: February 25, 2014

Directed by Alan Taylor

Written by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Story by Don Payne, Robert Rodat

Based on the Comic Book by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby

Producer: Kevin Feige

Executive Produer: Victoria Alonso, Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Nigel Gostelow, Craig Kyle, stan Lee

Line Producer: Leifur B. Dagfinnsson

Music by Brian Tyler

Cinematography by Kramer Morgenthau

Edited by Dan Lebental, Wyatt Smith

Casting by Sarah Finn

Production Design by Charles Wood

Set Decoration by Guani Lindal Benediktsson, John Bush

Costume Design by Wendy Partridge

Starring:

Chris Hemsworth as Thor

Natalie Portman as Jane Foster

Tom Hiddleston as Loki

Anthony Hopkins as Odin

Christopher Eccleston as Malekith

Jaimie Alexander as Sif

Zachary Levi as Fandral

Ray Stevenson as Volstagg

Tadanobu Asano as Hogun

Idris Elba as Heimdall

Rene Russo as Frigga

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Algrim/Kurse

Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis

Stellan Skarsgard as Erik Selvig

Alice Krige as Eir

Clive Russell as Tyr

Buried beneath the Arctic ice since the Cold War, genetically modified Soviet soldiers have been rediscovered, reactivated and are ready to unleash devastating destruction. They are cold-blooded killing machines with super-human strength and one man, a scientist who has been searching for them his entire life, will try to stop the carnage before they complete their terrifying, top-secret mission. Dominic Purcell (TV’s “Prison Break”), Michael Ironside (X-Men: First Class) and Adam Beach (Cowboys & Aliens) star in this pulse-pounding, action-packed thriller.

With the success of the 2011 Marvel superhero film “Thor”, which earned over $449 million in the box office worldwide, there was no doubt that a sequel was going to be made.

And in 2013, the sequel titled “Thor: The Dark World” would go on to have even more amazing success, earning over $638 million in the box office.

Directed by Alan Taylor (“The Emperor’s new Clothes”, “Palookaville”, “Game of Thrones”), “Thor: The Dark World” would feature an all-star cast starring Chris Hemsworth (“The Avengers”, “Thor”, “Rush”, “Star Trek: Into Darkness”), Natalie Portman (“Star Wars” films, “Black Swan”, “Leon the Professional”, “V for Vendetta”), Tom Hiddleston (“The Avengers”, “War Horse”), Anthony Hopkins (“Hannibal”, “Red Dragon”, “The Elephant Man”), Christopher Eccleston (“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”, “Elizabeth”), Jaime Alexander (“Rest Stop”, “The Last Stand”, “Kyle XY”), Zachari Levi (“Chuck”, “Tangled”, “Less Than Perfect”), Ray Stevenson (“Punisher: War Zone”, “The Book of Eli”), Tadanobu Asano (“Battleship”, “Ichi the Killer”), Idris Elba (“Pacific Rim”, “RocknRolla”, “Prometheus”), Rene Russo (“The Thomas Crown Affair”, :Lethal Weapon 3″, “Outbreak”, “Ransom”), Aweale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (“Lost”, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”, “The Bourne Identity”), Kat Dennings (“2 Broke Girls”, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”, “The 40-yeear-old Virgin”) and Stellan Skarsgard (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “Good Will Hunting”).

And now “Thor: The Dark World” will be released as a single Blu-ray and also on Blu-ray 3D and DVD in Feb. 2014.

“Thor: The Dark World” begins with an introduction to a war on Asgard as Odin’s father, Bor, fought against the Dark Elf Malekith, possessor of the weapon known as the Aether, which he can destroy the world with.

The Asgardians won the war, conquering the Dark Elves including their enhanced warriors known as the Kursed. And as for the Aethir, Bor has kept it inside stone, so it can never be used for evil again.

But as Bor and the Asgardians thought they have defeated all Dark Elves, Malektih, Lt. Algrim and a few of their clan have escaped and were in suspended animation.

Fast forward to the present and Loki (portrayed by Tom Hiddleston) is imprisoned for his war crimes on Earth (as featured in “The Avengers”).  And as for Thor (portrayed by Chris Hemsworth), he and his Agardian warriors which include Fandral (portrayed by Zachary Levi), Volstagg (portrayed by Ray Stevenson) and Lady Sif (portrayed by Jaime Alexander) fight their enemies in Vanaheim, as they try to pacify the Nine Realms.

But the group learns that the Convergence, when the alignment of the Nine Realms will link worlds at random.

Back on Earth, astrophysicist Dr. Jane Foster (portrayed by Natalie Portman) and her intern Darcy Lewis (portrayed by Kat Dennings) get a spike on their equipment and making the two wonder if that means Thor is coming back.  And we learn that Jane has not seen Thor for two years and there has not been any communication between the two.

As Jane, Darcy and her intern begin to investigate, they notice a group of kids who found some sort of unusual portal in which objects that are dropped, will return back from the top….sometimes.

As Jane goes to investigate, she ends up traveling to another world and her body becomes infected with Aether.

As Thor is visiting his friend Heimdall (portrayed by Idris Elba), to check if everything is fine with Jane, Heimdall is no longer able to read her and Thor becomes concerned.

Back on Earth, Jane wakes up and is reunited with Darcy. She learns that she has been gone for five hours and they are surrounded by police, meanwhile rain is pouring everywhere, except around her.

As police go to arrest Jane for trespassing, immediately the Aether begins reacting on its own and repels the police officers.   Thor arrives and as both he and Jane reunite, she is upset with him for not communicating with her for the past two years.

But concerned about her well-being, Thor breaks Asgardian law by bringing a human to Asgard for medical help.  As Odin arrives and is upset with his son for bringing Jane to Asgard, the Aether begins to work again and Odin recognizes the Aether and explains to Thor that the Aether will kill Jane and that the fact that it has returned, can only mean that the Dark Elves are back and that a catastrophic prophecy make come true.

As for the Dark Elves in a suspended state, all have awaken due to the Aether’s release and now, he and the Kursed go to Asgard to get back the Aether. Which leads Thor and the Asgardians to fight their enemy.

As chaos takes place in Asgard, Thor’s mother Frigga (portrayed by Rene Russo) uses her holographic technology to protect Jane from being found.  Malekith arrives with the Dark Elves and Frigga tries to fight and defend Jane from being caught by them and in the process, she is killed by Malekith but was able to protect Jane from being found.

Distraught by how powerful the enemy is and the death of his mother, Thor knows that the only way they can beat Malekith is by going to the Dark Elves home of Svartalheim and using Jane to draw Malekith out and getting his revenge on Malekith.  But the only person that has access to enter Svartalheim in Asgard is Loki.

But can Thor trust Loki by freeing him from his imprisonment?

VIDEO:

“Thor: The Dark World” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1). And for those who have owned previous Marvel films from Disney know already that Disney goes all out in picture quality for their Blu-ray releases.

Picture quality is amazing as Asgard is absolutely beautiful!  Skintones are natural, there is no banding, artifact or any crush.  This is a beautiful film that looks absolutely amazing on Blu-ray!  Great colors, visual effects are amazing and overall, picture quality will be loved by videophiles!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Thor: The Dark World” not only looks fantastic, the lossless audio is absolutely magnificent.  Presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, the lossless soundtrack is what audiophiles want to hear from a film with a plethora of action scenes.  The surround channel is utilized heavily and also fantastic use of LFE.

This is an active soundtrack and definitely one of the best lossless soundtracks I have heard on a Blu-ray release in 2014.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Thor: The Dark World” comes with the following special features:

  • Marvel One Shot: All Hail the King – (13:51) A fascinating short film which includes Trevor Slattery (who played “The Mandarin” in “Iron Man 3”).  And for any Marvel Comic book fan who criticized “Iron Man 3” for the way “The Mandarin” was used, will no doubt love this Marvel One Shot!  Prepare to be surprised!
  • A Brother’s Journey: Thor & Loki – (31:39) A two part look at the relationship of Thor and Loki from the first film and the sequel.  Plus interviews with the cast.
  • Exclusive Look: Captain America: The Winter Soldier – (3:35) Behind-the-scenes of the “Captain America” sequel.
  • Scoring Thor: The Dark World with Bryan Tyler – (5:21) A featurette with composer Brian Tyler and discussion of the films’ score.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (7:49) Featuring six deleted and alternate scenes with optional audio commentary.
  • Gag Reel – (3:30) A fun bloopers featurette.
  • The Dark World Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Alan Taylor, cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau, producer and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and actor Tom Hiddleston.

I grew up reading the “Thor” comic books from Marvel.   And he was one of my favorite characters because not only did he have the strength to fight powerful enemies but also hold off the Incredible Hulk, but he was also naive and a hit with the women!

But it was also a storyline unlike other Marvel superhero storylines because it included Norse Mythology and featured a different world as a lot of the action was featured in Asgard than on Earth, so while connected to the Marvel Universe (especially with “The Avengers”), it was different because of its many characters that were featured in Asgard.

And it’s what I wanted to see with the latest film, more Asgard, more of the Asgardian warriors and this is what we get with the sequel “Thor: The Dark World”.

The way the world of Asgard is created and the various lands, its creatures, the Dark Elves, everything about the film featured wonderful visual effects, costume and set design, I was very impressed by the visual aspect of the film.

And we also get a little of the naive, charismatic Thor in this film as he goes back between Asgard and Earth.  And we get more of the relationship between Thor and Jane Foster, rekindled after two years later and suffice to say, the chemistry between Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman was done very well and as usual, Kat Denning’s Darcy manages to steal the scene with her blunt humor and actions.

And also, what I enjoyed about the film is how “Thor: The Dark World” was able to feature a continuance of the storyline post-The Avengers and continue to have the connection, as what “Iron Man 3” was able to accomplish.

The film delivers in action, visual effects and humor and there is no doubt that the film sets up viewers for a third film with its surprising ending.  While not a perfect storyline, I still enjoyed it over the first film.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Thor: The Dark World” has emerged as one of my favorite Blu-ray releases for early 2014 due to its fantastic picture quality and lossless audio.  This is a title that videophiles and audiophiles want to see in a Blu-ray release, fantastic PQ and AQ and you’re getting it!

There is also a good number of special features included and for any Marvel fan, the “Marvel One Shot: All Hail the King” will no doubt enjoy the return of Trevor Slattery but also the big surprise that this feature delivers.  Suffice to say, I think this can easily segue to another Iron Man storyline or perhaps another Marvel character that has been long discussed for having a feature live-action film, Dr. Strange.

But for the most part, this Blu-ray release of “Thor: The Dark World” is fantastic and when it comes to visual and lossless audio, it’s definitely a heavyweight contender for best lossless soundtrack for a Blu-ray release for 2014.

Overall,  if you were a fan of  the first “Thor”  film and you can’t get enough of Marvel action films, “Thor: The Dark World” is an action-packed Marvel superhero film that looks and sounds wonderful on Blu-ray!  Recommended!

Day 2 at D23 Expo (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

August 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

In 2011, over 40,000 Disney fans from all over the world attended the second D23 Expo: The Ultimate Disney Fan Event.

Anticipating a much larger attendance for 2013, D23 Expo will now included an overflow theater for the D23 Arena which will accommodate more than 2,000 guests for live streaming of the popular arena presentations and an expanded show floor including a larger Collectors Forum.

On day two, “Monsters, Inc.” and “Monsters University” stars Billy Crystal and John Goodman were honored at the Disney Legends Awards Ceremony during the second day of the D23 EXPO, taking place now through Sunday, August 11, at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Other Saturday highlights include Live Well Network host and former “Dancing with the Stars” celebrity Joey Fatone plus stars of the Disney Channel shows “Jessie” and “Liv and Maddie”; a performance by Raini Rodriguez of “Austin & Ally,” including a shout-out from her brother, Rico Rodriguez of ABC’s “Modern Family”; and stars of Disney XD’s “Kickin’ It.”

D23 EXPO – Hollywood Records recording artist Bridgit Mendler performs at Disney’s D23 Expo, the ultimate event for Disney fans at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California (August 10). (D23 EXPO/Matt Petit) DISNEY FANS. © 2013 Disney

D23 EXPO – Hollywood Records recording artist Bridgit Mendler performs at Disney’s D23 Expo, the ultimate event for Disney fans at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California (August 10). (D23 EXPO/Matt Petit) BRIDGIT MENDLER © 2013 Disney

D23 EXPO – Cast of Kickin’ It greet fans and sign autographs at Disney’s D23 Expo, the ultimate event for Disney fans at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California (August 9). (D23 EXPO/Matt Petit) LEO HOWARD, JASON EARLES, OLIVIA HOLT, DYLAN RILEY SNYDER © 2013 Disney

D23 EXPO – DISNEY LEGENDS CEREMONY – Anaheim, California (August 10, 2013) – Those who have contributed to the creative legacy of The Walt Disney Company were honored in a special presentation, hosted by Tom Bergeron. The full list of honorees includes renowned celebrities, technology pioneers and artists. (D23 EXPO/Jordan Murph) JOHN GOODMAN, BILLY CRYSTAL © 2013 Disney

D23 EXPO – LET THE ADVENTURES BEGIN: LIVE ACTION AT THE WALT DISNEY STUDIOS – Anaheim, California (August 10, 2013) – The Walt Disney Studios showcases the Studios’ exciting live-action release slate, including Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks” and “Tomorrowland,” “Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World,” and much more. (D23 EXPO/Jordan Murph) TOM HIDDLESTON, NATALIE PORTMAN © 2013 Disney

D23 EXPO – LET THE ADVENTURES BEGIN: LIVE ACTION AT THE WALT DISNEY STUDIOS – Anaheim, California (August 10, 2013) – The Walt Disney Studios showcases the Studios’ exciting live-action release slate, including Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks” and “Tomorrowland,” “Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World,” and much more. (D23 EXPO/Richard Harbaugh). ANGELINA JOLIE. © 2013 Disney

Here are videos from D23 Expo on Saturday:

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Christian Bale, Colin Firth, Melissa Leo and Natalie Portman to Present at 84th Academy Awards®

February 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Beverly Hills, CA – The four Oscar®-winning actors from the 83rd Academy Awards – Christian Bale, Colin Firth, Melissa Leo and Natalie Portman – will present at the 84th Academy Awards, telecast producers Brian Grazer and Don Mischer announced today.

Both Bale and Leo received Oscars® for their supporting roles in “The Fighter.” It was Bale’s first nomination and Leo’s second. Two-time nominees Firth and Portman took home Academy Awards for their lead performances in “The King’s Speech” and “Black Swan,” respectively.

Bale, Firth, Leo and Portman join a stellar list of previously announced Oscar presenters, including Halle Berry, Rose Byrne, Bradley Cooper, Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Michael Douglas, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Zach Galifianakis, Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie, Milla Jovovich, Ellie Kemper, Jennifer Lopez, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Maya Rudolph, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep and Kristen Wiig.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2011 will be presented on Sunday, February 26, from the Hollywood & Highland Center® and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries worldwide.

# # #

ABOUT THE ACADEMY
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the world’s preeminent movie-related organization, with a membership of more than 6,000 of the most accomplished men and women working in cinema. In addition to the annual Academy Awards—in which the members vote to select the nominees and winners—the Academy presents a diverse year-round slate of public programs, exhibitions and events; provides financial support to a wide range of other movie-related organizations and endeavors; acts as a neutral advocate in the advancement of motion picture technology; and, through its Margaret Herrick Library and Academy Film Archive, collects, preserves, restores and provides access to movies and items related to their history. Through these and other activities the Academy serves students, historians, the entertainment industry and people everywhere who love movies.

FOLLOW THE ACADEMY
www.oscars.org
www.facebook.com/TheAcademy
www.youtube.com/Oscars
www.twitter.com/TheAcademy

Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied welcome a baby boy

June 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

PEOPLE Magazine is reporting that Natalie Portman has given birth to a baby boy!

Portman and boyfriend Benjamin Millepied, a choreographer of “Black Swan” announced in December that they were engaged and she was pregnant.

Congratulations to the new parents!

Black Swan (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“Black Swan” is one of those films that people will have different opinions about.  Some will love it.  Some will hate it.  And there are some who will like various parts of the execution of the film, may it be the acting, the direction, cinematography, set or costume design.  For me, “Black Swan” was a wonderful Blu-ray release and yes, I will say it, definitely worth having in your cinema collection.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of ©2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Black Swan

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2010

DURATION: 108 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, AVC @ 28.5 MBPS

COMPANY: 20th Century Fox Entertainment

RATED: R (Strong Sexual Content, Disturbing Violent Images, Language and Some Drug Use)

RELEASE DATE: March 29, 2011

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Screenplay by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John J. McLaughlin

Story by Andres Heinz

Produced by Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer, Brian Oliver

Co-Producer: Joseph P. Reidy, Jerry Fruchtman

Executive Producer: Jon Avnet, Brad Fischer, Jennifer Roth, Rick Schwartz, Tyler Thompson, David Thwaites, Peter Fruchtman, Ari Handel

Associate Producer: Rose Garnett

Music by Clint Mansell

Cinematography by Matthew Libatique

Edited by Andrew Weisblum

Casting by Mary Vernieu

Production Design by Therese DePrez

Art Direction by David Stein

Set Decoration by Tora Peterson

Costume Design by Amy Westcott

Starring:

Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers

Mila Kunis as Lily

Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy

Barbara Hershey as Erica Sayers

Winona Ryder as Beth Macintyre

Benjamin Millepied as David

Ksenia Solo as Veronica

Kristina Anapau as Galina

Janet Montgomery as Madeline

Sebastian Stan as Andrew

Toby Hemingway as Tom

Sergio Torrado as Sergio

BLACK SWAN follows the story of Nina (Natalie Portman), a ballerina in the New York City Ballet trying to make it to the top. When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But a new dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis), also impresses Leroy and becomes Nina’s competition. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly with her innocence and grace, but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan with her fiery personality. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side with a recklessness that threatens to destroy her.


In the fall of 2010, director Darren Aronofsky (“Pi”, “Requiem for a Dream”, The Fountain”, “The Wrestler”) would release a psychological thriller that centers around the production of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”.

Continuing Aronofsky’s style of films of a character facing their own-self destruction, “Black Swan” received critical acclaim upon its release and actress Natalie Portman would go on to win an Academy Award for “Best Actress” for the film.

An independent film shot with a low budget ($13 million), “Black Swan” would bring in over $292 million dollars in the box office and now the film has been released on Blu-ray and DVD (note: The Blu-ray version comes with a digital copy of the film and has more special features) courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.

The film revolves around a ballet dancer named Nina Sayers (played by Natalie Portman) who lives with her controlling mother Erica (played by Barbara Hershey), a failed dancer who lives off the success of her daughter and tries to control her life.

For Nina, she starts to see someone that looks like her around the subway system which catches her attention but continues on to the ballet company which is preparing for the production of “Swan Lake”.

The director Thomas Leroy (played by Vincent Cassel) is looking for a new dancer who will be the “Swan Queen” but must be able to portray the innocent and fragile White Swan but also her dark, evil twin, the Black Swan.

Fortunately, for Nina, she gets the opportunity to compete for the role but as Nina embodies the characteristics of the White Swan on stage, Thomas doesn’t feel she can play the Black Swan.

Dejected that she was cut off from her performance and was rudely interrupted by the newcomer Lily (played by Mila Kunis) who came in late, Nina takes it hard but feels that she can talk to Thomas and hoping she can get another chance.  So, she visits him in his office and Thomas tells her straight out that she lacks the passion to dance the Black Swan.  She tries to say that she can do it and when he forces himself by kissing her, she bites him.  And because of that, Thomas sees that she has the potential and gives her the role.

Unfortunately, other dancers at the company have other thoughts that perhaps she has slept with the director to get the role.  Especially Beth Macintyre (played by Winona Ryder), the former lead dancer who worked with Thomas who is upset that she is being cast off and is retiring.  She is very upset that someone as timid as Nina has gotten the part and wonders also if Nina has slept with him.

Meanwhile, the new dancer Lily tries to get closer to Nina but Nina tries to resist.  As Nina observes Lily, she notices that she embodies the characteristics of the black swan.  She doesn’t pretend to be a “bad girl”, she is one.  Always willing to have fun, with no care in the world.

But while practicing and practicing, Nina is unable to capture the essence of the Black Swan and so, the director tries to give her advice.  One is for her to pleasure herself  and explore herself.

And Nina tries to do just that but her mother is always around.  To make things worse, Nina is developing rashes on her back which bleed and rashes on her fingers which also begin bleeding and her mother tries to control her daughter by cutting her fingernails and thinks it is the stress that is making things worse for her.

Meanwhile, all the practicing and paranoia of losing the role is starting to eat at Nina and she starts to have psychotic delusions and visual hallucinations.  She starts to think that Lily is trying to take her position, she starts to have visuals of herself (ala doppelganger) trying to cause trouble and not knowing why she keeps bleeding.

But one evening, as the stress is mounting for Nina, Lily appears at her door and for the first time, Nina is able to experience this darker side of life that Lily lives in and from that moment on, things will never be the same for Nina Sayers.

VIDEO:

“Black Swan” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:40:1) and my overall feeling of the picture quality for the film on Blu-ray was “beautiful”.  First, let give credit to filmmaker Matthew Libatique.

The cinematographer has worked with Aronofsky since his “Pi” (1998) and has continued to work with Aronofsky since.  But we have seen his cinematography flourish over the years and continually get better and better.    From “The Fountain”, to working with Spike Jones for “Miracle at St. anna” and “Kobe Doin’ Work” to then working on both “Iron Man” films, I have seen his work get better and better.

But “Black Swan”  is a much different film in that he had to create a film that would capture the motion of ballet, the darkness and transformation of Nina Sayers and with a strict shooting schedule and shooting on a low budget, he made choices that were bold.  Libatique used a 16mm Arriflex camera, two Canon 1080p DSLR’s: the 5D Mark II and 7D.

So, what you get is a look that although may not carry as much detail as 35mm and you do get a more grainier image because of the 16mm, the film gives a look that is raw and realistic.  Granted, you do get a little bit of low-level noise but in the case of “Black Swan”, Aronofsky knows what he wants, Libatique knows how to work with him and get that viewpoint but also bring an artistic and creative side to the cinematography.  Capturing ballet but using effective far shots, mid shots, close-ups of the characters, the costumes, the feet, the hands and it’s not all beautiful, there is a darker element that pervades and it is fitting for “Black Swan”.

On a technical level, “Black Swan” looked absolutely magnificent and on Blu-ray, the film looks beautiful!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Black Swan” may get a lot of attention for its visual presentation but when I watched this film for a second time, I was tuned into the audio and just realized how much audio played a part in this film.

Presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital, the lossless soundtrack not only captures the beautiful music of the film but you also notice the ambiance that is presented throughout the film.  But it’s where you sense the turmoil through Portman’s breathing, the cracking of the bones and an eeriness that is created through the surround channels.  Also, because of how the film is shot, you get a sense of movement.  When Nina dances close and away from the piano, you sense that movement and you hear the distance.

And as Libatique has done for Aronofsky for many years, Clint Mansell has also done a fantastic job since working with Aronofsky back in 1998 for “Pi” and many of his films since then.   When it comes to the music especially the presentation of Tchaikovsky and how much music plays a part of this film is well-done.

And as the front and center channels presents crisp dialogue and music on the front and center-channels, ambiance on the surround, you also get a bit of LFE during the club scene.

The lossless soundtrack for this film is absolutely wonderful and fans of the film would no doubt enjoy how the soundtrack plays a big part in this film.

As for subtitles, they are in English, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Black Swan” comes with the following special features:

  • Metamorphosis – (48:56) A three part series featuring a behind-the-scenes look at the filmmaking process from Darren Aronofsky’s visionary directing to the physical-demanding acting to the stunning special effects.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:00) The original theatrical trailer for “Black Swan”.
  • Ballet – (2:33) A short featurette behind-the-scenes of the dancing sequences.
  • Production Design – (4:00) Aronofsky and Therese Deprez talk about the abstract, modern stage and its minimalistic look for the set design.
  • Costume Design – (3:56) Aronofsky and Amy Westcott and Rodarte on the costume design for the film.
  • Profile: Natalie Portman – (3:18) Natalie Portman talks about how she was approached of making the film by Aronofsky eight years ago and working on the film.
  • Profile: Darren Aronofsky – (2:48) Aronofsky talks about what inspired the film, using handheld cameras and the concept of the film.
  • Conversation: Preparing for the Role – (3:52) Natalie Portman and Darren Aronofsky discuss their creative journey and Portman’s dancing background and if it helped her in the film.
  • Conversation: Dancing with the Camera – (1:35) Natalie Portman and Darren Aronofsky discuss the importance of the camera operators who were filming the dancing sequences.
  • Cast Profiles – Roles of a Lifetime – Presented by Fox Movie Channel (in standard definition), the stars reflect on their characters.  Natalie Portman (5:56), Winona Ryder (2:17), Barbara Hershey (3:37), Vincent Cassell (4:43) and director Darren Aronofsky (6:23).

EXTRAS:

“Black Swan” comes with a slip over cover case and also comes with a digital copy that works on iTunes.  It also comes with a Wi-Fi Digital Copy transfer utilizing pocket BLU.


A colleague once told me in regards to the “Black Swan” that “Darren Aronofsky has created a masterpiece”.   He proceeded to tell me that “Many people may not realize it just yet but many years from now, I have no doubt as people look back on this film, what it achieves in performance, cinematography and presentation.”

And I thought that many films that are considered masterpiece and cinema excellence may not have been regarded as excellent but over the years, they would go on to become classic hits or a filmmaker’s masterpiece.  And after I watched this film, I pondered over this film and wondered to myself, did this film make an impact on me?

Technically, I felt that Aronofsky’s picture was very stylized, its presentation was absolutely wonderful and his collaboration with cinematographer Matthew Libatique and the fact that the film had to incorporate some guerrilla filmaking with its tight schedule and low budget, both managed to do remarkably well for the time that they had to work on the film and what they had at their disposal.  For Libatique to go 16mm was bold but the choice in my opinion, was rather magnificent.  So, technically, “Black Swan” was wonderful.

As for performance?  There is no doubt in my mind that Natalie Portman was deserving of the Oscar (for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role).  Her performance as Nina Sayers was believable and her transformation to that character achieved an efficacy not seen in any of her prior films.

And whether or not they were truly creepy or how Nina perceived them to be that way, Barbara Hershey as the mother Erica Sayers definitely brought some creepiness to the film as did Winona Ryder as the former “Little Princess” Beth Macintyre and Mila Kunis (who can definitely play the “bad girl”) as Lily.

But we go back to the question of the film and is it a masterpiece?  Director Darren Aronofsky has said that his inspiration for the film came from watching the same character playing the white swan and the black swan as well as the film’s Polanski’s “Repulsion” and “The Tenant”.  But there is no doubt that cineaste will notice subtle similarities from Powell and Pressburger’s 1948 film “The Red Shoes”, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 1991 film “The Double Life of Veronique” and Satoshi Kon’s anime film “Perfect Blue”.

In some ways, I suppose you can see bits and pieces of these films incorporated into “Black Swan” but the execution of Black Swan to become a unique film on its own is to focus on a young woman who is driven and consumed by her role, a perfectionist who has found a challenge in her life that she feels she is unable to adapt.  She is a white swan, who doesn’t know the darkness of the black swan.

Her demanding director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassell) keeps telling her to not be herself, to show some of that bite and you realized that perhaps there is this paranoia, this darkness that resides within Nina.  Raised by a mother who lives through her daughter vicariously, constantly practicing ballet in order to achieve perfection and now she has the most coveted role as the swan queen but she doesn’t know how to bring that darkness out.   And director Aronofsky slowly brings out the darkness of this woman that will eventually lead to a path of destruction.

And many will point out, isn’t that Aronofsky’s style?  Psychological thrillers with characters that are on the path of destruction.  From his 1998 film “Pi”, his 2000 film “Requiem for a Dream” and the 2008 film “The Wrestler”.  Aronofsky to me, has always been a filmmaker that enjoys working on films about the human struggle and their self-destruction.  And it’s not a bad thing as his films including “Black Swan” are not a basis of self-alienation ala a Michelangelo Antonioni-esque.  These characters want to be better, achieve something better but yet they go through destructive means to achieve it.

In “Black Swan”, the protagonist wants to know what it takes to be bad.  She wants to be the “bad girl” like Lily, she wants to leave that “good girl” identity which her director wants her to leave and discover this dangerous side and we see the that transformation.  For me, the film was about a lonely woman’s life of descent, while “The Red Shoes”, which is a very different film that has to do with ballet and utilizes its ensemble cast, while “Black Swan” utilizes characters which we do not know if their actions are real or what is in Nina’s mind.

We are in Nina’s head, we are on that downward ride and as a viewer, we witness that descent to self-destruction.

And in the end, this is one film that some may feel is a bag of contrite cliches from other films rolled up into a ball as one.  I, on the other hand felt it was an Aronofsky film that captured self-destruction in a different way than he has done before but using the context of “swan lake” and it’s character slowly losing it.  In some way, it has an element of Antonioni’s “Red Desert”, an element of “The Red Shoes” and “Repulsion” but it’s connection is quite small.

As a psychological thriller, what I enjoyed about the film is its execution.  An independent film that didn’t have a strong budget and in the hands of an incapable director, this film could have flopped.  You have wonderful execution in cinematography, created by bold selections of camera employed in the film, the use of handheld cameras to capture the dance movements, the reliance of close-ups and medium shots were well-done, a wonderful color pallet that brings out the vibrancy of the film, a wonderful performance by Natalie Portman and in the end, I enjoyed this film a  lot.  Is it one of the greatest films ever made?  Probably not.  But it was a very good film.

Which leads to the question of what didn’t I like about the film?  There were a few things that I felt were probably unnecessary.   One was the old man in the subway having fun with himself.  In the context of the film, it was probably unnecessary and could have been cut out as it served no real purpose.  And I’m not a ballet erudite but would a young woman like Lily, known for being late a lot and also having this big tattoo on her back be welcomed by a ballet company or hired for a major ballet even if they have talent?  And I often wondered if Lily, being brought to the ballet company and is constantly trying to get close to Nina was a ploy by the director Thomas Leroy in order for Nina to explore a dangerous side?

As for the Blu-ray release, you do get wonderful insight on the making of this film and for future filmmakers, these are special features that really give you an idea of how things can be accomplished with a short budget and a tight schedule.  I found the “Metamorphosis of the Black Swan” to be a wonderful three-part featurette.

Overall, this is one of those films that people will have different opinions about.  Some will love it.  Some will hate it.  And there are some who will like various parts of the execution of the film, may it be the acting, the direction, cinematography, set or costume design.  For me, “Black Swan” was a wonderful Blu-ray release and yes, I will say it, definitely worth having in your cinema collection.  Recommended!

John Galliano fired from Dior, Natalie Portman disgusted by Galliano

March 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

After The Sun posted the drunken video of British designer John Galliano telling people at a restaurant seated next to him, “”People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f****** gassed.”

Galliano has now been fired from his job at Dior.

Sidney Toledano, Dior’s president and CEO, said, “I condemn most firmly the statements made by John Galliano which are a total contradiction with the essential values that have always been defended by the House of Christian Dior.”

Christian Dior Parfum’s face Natalie Portman also came down on Galliano. Portman said, “I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano’s comments that surfaced today… In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way. I hope at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful.”

Couturier John Galliano arrives at the traditional charity gala in the course of the Cannes Film Festival in Mougins, France, Thursday 25 May 2006. The gala benefits the amfAR Aids foundation. Photo: Hubert Boesl

Natalie Portman is engaged and pregnant

December 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Actress Natalie Portman attends the Dior celebration of the reopening of its 57th Street Boutique at the LVMH Tower Magic Room on December 8, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

People Magazine has received confirmation from Natalie Portman’s rep that the actress is engaged and is also pregnant. Portman is engaged to choreographer Benjamin Millepied who Natalie met during the filming of “Black Swan”.

Congratulations Natalie and Benjamin!

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