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

October 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Gavin O’Connor’s “Warrior” is a riveting action film that captures the thrill of MMA fighting, the thrill of competition and the heart of a fighter.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Lions Gate Films LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Warrior

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 140 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition. 2:40:1 Aspect Ratio, English Dolby Atmos, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio Optimized for Late Night Listening, English 7.1 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (on Blu-ray), SUBTITLES: English, English SDH,  Spanish

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: October 24, 2017


Directed by Gavin O’Connor

Screenplay by Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman

Story by Gavin O’Connor, Cliff Dorfman

Producer: Gavin O’Connor, Greg O’Connor

Executive Producer: Lisa Ellzey, John J. Kelly, David Mimran, Michael Paseornek, Jordan Schur

Co-Producer:  Josh Fagin, Jamie Marshall, Anthony Tambakis

Music by Mark Isham

Cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi

Edited by Sean Albertson, Matt Chesse, John Gilroy, Aaron Marshall

Casting by Randi Hiller

Production Design by Dan Leigh

Art Direction: James Donahue

Set Decoration by Ron von Blomberg

Costume Design by Abigail Murray


Starring:

Joel Edgerton as Brendan Conlon

Tom Hardy as Tommy Conlon

Nick Nolte as Paddy Conlon

Jennifer Morrison as Tess Conlon

Frank Grillo as Frank Campana

Kevin Dunn as Principal Zito

Maximiliano Hernandez as Colt Boyd

Bryan Callen as Bryan Callen


An ex-Marine haunted by a tragic past, Tommy Riordan returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh and enlists his father, a recovering alcoholic and his former coach, to train him for an MMA tournament awarding the biggest purse in the history of the sport. As Tommy blazes a violent path toward the title prize, his brother Brendan, a former MMA fighter unable to make ends meet as a public school teacher, returns to the amateur ring to provide for his family. Even though years have passed, recriminations and past betrayals keep Brendan bitterly estranged from both Tommy and his father. But when Brendan’s unlikely rise as an underdog sets him on a collision course with Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront the forces that tore them apart, all the while waging the most intense winner-take-all battle of their lives.


From filmmaker Gavin O’Connor (“Tumbleweeds”, “Pride and Glory”, “The Accountant”) came his 2011 film “Warrior”.  And was written by O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis and Cliff Dorfman.

The film earned Nick Nolte (“Thin Red Line”, “48 Hrs.”, “Cape Fear”) an Academy Award nomination for “Best Supporting Actor” and would jettison the acting career of Tom Hardy (“Mad Max: Fury Road”, “The Revenant”) as a major presence in the movie industry.

“Warrior” stars Nolte and Hardy but also stars Joel Edgerton (“Black Mass”, “The Gift”, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”), Jennifer Morrison (“Once Upon a Time”, “House”, “Star Trek”), Frank Grillo (“The Grey”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, “The Purge: Anarchy”), Kevin Dunn (“Transformers”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) and many more.

The film begins with U.S. Marine Tommy Riordan (portrayed by Tom Hardy) visiting his father, Paddy Conlon (portrayed by Nick Nolte).  When Tommy sees his father, he offers him a bottle of alcohol and talks rudely to his father.  We learn that Paddy is a recovering alcoholic and as an alcoholic, he was quite abusive.  But now, he has returned to his Catholic faith and has been sober for quite awhile now.

But for Tommy, he has only contempt towards his father because he had to runaway with his mother, who was dying and was there through the hard and difficult times of having to clean and watch his mother die.  And he has not forgiven his father for the way he treated them.

Paddy tries to tell him that he’s a changed man, but Tommy has a hard time accepting it.

The day after, Tommy goes to a local gym where a professional MMA fighter named Pete “Mad Dog” Grimes (portrayed by Erik Apple) is giving a spar to a few of the gym trainees.  But Tommy signs a release that he wants a real fight against “Mad Dog” and if he gets hurt, letting the gym and Mad Dog that they are not liable for any damage he receives.  And when the match starts, in less than a minute, Tommy knocks out Mad Dog and those filming the fight have posted on YouTube, making Tommy a superstar on social media as the video has gone viral.

When he finds out that there is a MMA tournament called Sparta in which the winner will receive $500,000, he feels that he wants to do it, to help support the family of his friend who was killed in battle.  As the video goes viral, a soldier sees it and recognizes that Tommy was a person who saved his life and not only does Tommy become a social media sensation but he is branded a hero, despite there is nothing about him that can be found online.

While Tommy does not want a relationship with his father, he asks Paddy to be his trainer (as his father trained him to become a champion wrestler when he was younger).  Paddy looks at this as an opportunity to get close to his son, but Tommy wants nothing from him.  Just to keep the relationship as trainer/pupil.

The film then shifts to another person, Brendan Conlon (portrayed by Joel Edgerton).  Brendan is a high school physics teacher and a former UFC fighter.  He is married to Tess (portrayed by Jennifer Morrison) and have two daughters.  But because one of his daughter had open heart surgery, the medical bills have hurt the family that Brendan is having difficulties paying the mortgage.  And now he is months away from foreclosure, so he needs the money badly.

When he goes to make money in a MMA parking lot match, he wins but because his face is bruised and rumors are running through the school about his fight, the supervisor of the school district punishes Brendan by suspending him.

With no money to pay the bills, Brendan makes the decision, to get back into MMA full time and he goes to his buddy Frank Campana, who owns a gym and trains up-and-coming MMA fighters.  While Frank feels that Brendan is a bit older and its time for the younger fighters to shine, when Frank’s top prospect is injured during a run, Brendan asks Frank if he can take his place and fight in the Sparta tournament.  This would also be a way to make the money needed to pay for their mortgage.

But his wife Tess is scared of him fighting, especially that one of the top MMA fighters in the world, Russia’s Koba (portrayed by Kurt Angle) will be fighting in Sparta.  She thought Brendan would be fighting parking lot fights, not a major fight that could hurt him tremendously.

As Brendan is heading back home, he is met by Paddy and it is revealed that Paddy is his father and similar to Tommy, Brendan wants nothing to do with his father, because he was an abusive alcoholic.  Also, the fact that Paddy favored Tommy even more (because of his success in wrestling) and as Paddy tries to apologize, tells them he is sober and wants to see the kids, Brendan doesn’t want his father around.

And now both brothers will be entering the Sparta tournament.  Will any of them be victorious despite being the unknown underdogs?


VIDEO:

“Warrior” receives its first 4K Ultra HD release and is presented in 4K Ultra High Definition. The film is presented in 2160p (2:40:1 aspect ratio)

Picture quality is fantastic.  From capturing skin detail on closeups, capturing the scars, cuts and bruises of a competitor and for the most part, skin tones look natural, black levels are nice and deep and the film looks great in 4K Ultra HD.

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: To watch 4K Ultra HD, you will need a 4K UHD TV with HDR and an Ultra HD Blu-ray Player + a high-speed HDMI (Category 2) Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio quality for “Warrior” is equally impressive. Featured in English Dolby Atmos, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio Optimized for Late Night English Listening and an English 7.1 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.   Featuring crystal clear dialogue, great use of surround channels for audience and large crowds in the audience of the Sparta arena and crystal clear music.  For the most part, a wonderful lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Brazilian, Portuguese, Complex Mandarin, French Canadian, Japanese and L.A. Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Warrior” comes with the following special features (on the Blu-ray Disc):

  • Full Contact: Feature Length Enhanced Viewing Mode – While watching the film, you can get access to special features of the filmmakers and the making of the film..
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with filmmakers and actor Joel Edgerton
  • Redemption: Bringing Warrior to Life Documentary – (31:57) A documentary on the cast and crew in making “Warrior”.
  • The Diner: Deleted Scene (with optional commentary) – (3:02) A deleted scene with optional commentary with the filmmakers.
  • Cheap Shots: Gag Reel – (3:58) The gag reel for “Warrior”.
  • Brother vs. Brother: Anatomy of the Fight – (11:49) How Director Gavin O’Connor used traditional storyboards as well as live action pre-visualization shots in preparation in creating the fight segments for the film.
  • Philosophy in Combat: Mixed Martial Arts Strategy – (21:01) World-renowned MMA trainer Greg Jackson reunited with friend and actor Frank Grillo to discuss Mixed Martial Arts and their experiences on the film “Warrior”.
  • Simply Believe: A Tribute to Charles “Mask” Lewis, Jr. – (13:58) A featurette dedicated to Tapout co-founder Charles “Mask” Lewis Jr. who was an asset to director Gavin O’Connor.  Mask passed away before the film was released in theaters.

EXTRAS:

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


When I first watched “Warrior” back in 2011, one can’t help but be inspired by the storyline of underdogs making it into the MMA industry and beating the top challengers to make it into the finals.

The film manages to capture the thrill of MMA but also capture the heart of competition but most of all having a storyline so riveting that you are instantly captivated by the two stories of a fractured family, two estranged brothers who have lived different lives, both with MMA talent and knowing that both are on a collision course of what if these two were to make it into the Sparta final.

Of course, there is nothing to spoil as the poster of “Warrior” already gives that away but what is interesting is to see one brother, Tommy, who has grown up under abuse, trying to raise his terminally ill mother and seeing her die.  Then going into the military to see his fellow brothers all die and he being the only one to live.

He is a man full of pent-up frustration, rage, hate and so much anger that his only solace in life is to help a family of his friend who was killed in battle.  As an MMA fighter, he is a man of pure brutality.  A man who hurts people with his hits.  A former wrestling champion, he is a man that is pure offense.

Meanwhile, his older brother Brendan is the opposite.  While he grew up in a home of abuse, unlike Tommy who ran away with his mother to escape abuse and take care of her, Brendan fell in love with a woman named Tess and stayed with her.  He fell in love, fought in the UFC, while also going to college to become a physics teacher.

But as an MMA fighter he is pure defense.  Using timing, using strategy and doing what he can to expose a fighter by using various locking moves to put them in pain.  He can punch and kick but it’s being smart and looking for any holes in the opponent’s strategy and waiting for the opportunity to strike.

As both actors Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are magnificent, a lot has to be said about Nick Nolte’s performance as Paddy Conlon, the father of both men who was an abusive alcoholic.  Hated by his children but yet reunited, as Paddy has found God and also has become sober.

For Tommy, seeing his father now clean and sober frustrates him for all the pain he put him and his mother through.  For Brendan, the same situation but unlike Tommy, lived with his girlfriend and not aware of the pain that Tommy went through.  Not aware of how his mother died and because he chose his girlfriend, Tommy held an anger towards his older brother for abandoning him and his mother.

The family is no doubt dysfunctional but it’s these relationships that add dimension to Warrior’s wonderful story.  Add in the action and the thrill of MMA and watching these brothers overcome major odds is no doubt thrilling.

Gavin O’Connor has no doubt crafted one of his finest films yet and the cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi was also on point and he managed to capture the thrill of the fight!

The film makes its debut in 4K Ultra HD and the film looks wonderful with closeups showing much more detail.  You can see the split in Brendan’s cut’s underneath his eyes or bruises around his face with clarity, that’s how much detail you get in watching a film in 4K.  The lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music but the surround channels also do a great job of capturing the thrill of a fight with the audience screaming.  The soundtrack is quite immersive and alive during those moments.

The special features are located on the Blu-ray disc and features numerous featurettes that showcase the making of the film, those who contributed to the film and more!

Overall, Gavin O’Connor’s “Warrior” is a riveting action film that captures the thrill of MMA fighting, the thrill of competition and the heart of a fighter.  Recommended!

The Company You Keep (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

tcyk-a

“The Company You Keep” is a riveting political action thriller featuring an all-star cast!  It’s an exciting, smart film that will no doubt entertain you from beginning to end.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 TCYK, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Company You Keep

FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 122 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (For Language)

Release Date: August 13, 2013

Directed by Robert Redford

Screenplay by Lem Dobbs

Based on the novel by Neil Gordon

Produced by Nicolas Carter, Bill Holderman, Robert Redford

Executive Producer: Craig J. Flores, Shawn Williamson

Associate Producer: Jonathan Shore

Music by Cliff Martinez

Cinematography by Adriano Goldman

Edited by Mark Day

Casting by Avy Kaufman, Maureen Webb

Production Design by Laurence Bennett

Art Direction by Jeremy Stanbridge

Set Decoration by Carol Lavallee

Costume Design by Karen L. Matthews

Starring:

Robert Redford as Jim Grant/Nick Sloan

Shia LaBeouf as Ben Shepard

Julie Christie as Mimi Lurie

Susan Sarandon as Sharon Solarz

Nick Nolte as Donal Fitzgerald

Chris Cooper as Daniel Sloan

Terrence Howard as FBI Agent Cornelius

Stanley Tucci as Ray Fuller

Richard Jenkins as Jed Lewis

Anna Kendrick as Diana

Brendan Gleeson as Henry Osborne

Brit Marling as Rebecca Osborne

Sam Elliott as Mac Mcleod

Stephen Root as Billy Cusimano

Jackie Evancho as Isabel Grant

One of Hollywood’s most acclaimed filmmakers and actors, Robert Redford directs and stars as Jim Grant, a lawyer and single father revealed to be the fugitive leader of a 1970s radical antiwar protest group by intrepid reporter Ben Shepard (Shia LaBoeuf). Grant is forced to run and confront those he left behind decades ago to protect himself from the FBI. But as Shepard delves deeper into the story, he realizes that there is more to Grant than meets the eye. Featuring Julie Christie, Sam Elliot, Richard Jenkins, Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon, THE COMPANY YOU KEEP is packed with powerful suspense and brilliant performances.

In 2003, author Neil Gordon’s novel “The Company You Keep” was released.  And for actor/director/producer Robert Redford (“The Horse Whisperer”, “The Sting”, “Spy Game”), he happened to enjoy the book so much, that he wanted to make a film adaptation of the novel.

Featuring a screenplay by Lem Dobbs (“Dark City”, “The Score”, “The Hard Way”), the film would win the “Giovani Giurati del Vittorio Veneto Film Festival Award” and “Open Prize” and the Venice Film Festival and the film would go on to receive positive reviews from film critics.

The film would feature an all-star cast which includes Redford in the lead role, Shia LaBeouf (“Transformers” films, “Lawless”), Julie Christie (“Doctor Zhivago”, “Fahrenheit 451”, “Finding Neverland”), Susan Sarandon (“Thelma & Louise”, “The Client”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”), Nick Nolte (“48 Hours”, “The Thin Red Line”, “Cape Fear”), Chris Cooper (“American Beauty”, “The Bourne Identity”, “Adaptation”), Terrence Howard (“Iron Man”, “Hustle & Flow”, “Crash”), Stanley Tucci (“The Hunger Game”, “The Terminal”, “The Devil Wears Prada”), Richard Jenkins (“Jack Reacher”, “The Cabin in the Woods”, “Step Brothers”), Anna Kendrick (“Pitch Perfect”, “Up in the Air”, “50/50”), Brendan Gleeson (“Troy”, “Gangs of New York”, “Braveheart”), Brit Marling (“Another Earth”, “Arbitrage”, “The East”), Sam Elliott (“Hulk”, “Up in the Air”, “Tombstone”) and singer Jackie Evancho.

“The Company You Keep” begins with an introduction of extremism that grew in America in a fight against the Vietnam War.  One of the extremist groups was the Weather Underground.

The film would then feature Sharon Solarz (portrayed by Susan Sarandon) saying goodbye to her family.  She goes to the nearest gas station and immediately is arrested by federal authorities.

It is revealed that Sharon Solarz is a former member of the Weather Underground, a group that has been wanted by federal authorities for a 1980 Michigan bank robbery which left a bank security guard dead.    Wanting to write about the arrest is an ambitious reporter named Ben Shepard (portrayed by Shia LaBeouf) of the Albany Sun Times.  His editor Ray Fuller (portrayed by Stanley Tucci) assigns him to follow up on the story.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Jim Grant (portrayed by Robert Redford), a single father who is raising his young 11-year-old daughter Isabel (portrayed by Jackie Evancho).  Jim’s wife and Isabel’s mother was killed in a car accident and the two have been trying to get back into live their lives but Jim knows that his daughter is still hurting and he has to be there for her.

A successful lawyer, he is asked by former client, Billy Cusimano (portrayed by Stephen Root) who is friends with Sharon Solarz if he can represent her in court.  But Jim doesn’t want to take any major cases because of his wife’s death and he wants to focus on raising his daughter, so he declines to represent Solarz but gives Billy a phone number of another lawyer.

As Ben goes to the FBI to get some information from FBI agent Diana (portrayed by Anna Kendrick), a woman he once dated back in college.  With Ben prodding for more info., she gives him the name of Billy Cusimano, a man that they have wiretapped and was in contact with Sharon Solarz before she was arrested.

When Ben goes to visit Cusimano, Ben finds out that he went to Jim Grant first, but he declined such a major case.  This leads to Ben trying to contact Jim and wondering why he would bypass such a major case.  He meets with Jim but he gets nothing from there meeting, so Ben begins to investigate Jim Grant and he finds out that before 1979 and finds a copy of Jim Grant’s California death certificate  The more he starts to investigate, he realizes that Jim Grant is actually Nick Sloan, a former member of the Weather Underground.

Jim realizes that he is about to be outted as a member of the Weather Underground and be implicated for murdering a security guard, which will take him away from his daughter. So, instead of taking Isabel to school in the morning, both leave on a father and daughter trip, which is actually a goodbye for Jim as he plans to have his brother Daniel (portrayed by Chris Cooper) watch over his daughter and makes him a temporary guardian.

When Ben’s article outing Jim Grant as Nick Sloan, the news receives media attention.  So much that Sharon Solarz will grant one media interview and that would be with Ben.  And through the interview, Ben learns that in the Weather Underground, they fought for what they believed in, against big corporations and the government.  When Ben tries to ask about Jim Grant/Nick Sloan, she reveals that Nick and another member named Mimi were a couple.

As the FBI led by FBI Agent Cornelius (portrayed by Terrence Howard) try to find Nick Sloan, Jim is meeting up with former Weather Underground members for some reason.  Meanwhile, Ben starts to wonder why Nick/Jim’s actions is not of a guilty man but appears that he’s trying to look for someone.  Could that someone be a person that may have information that Jim/Nick is innocent of his crime?

VIDEO:

“The Company You Keep” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1). There are many scenes that are shot outdoors and so, outdoor scenes are colorful and vibrant. Closeup of characters faces provide quite a bit of detail, colors are warm and black levels during darker scenes are nice and deep, didn’t notice any crush, artifacts or banding. If anything, picture quality for this film on Blu-ray is very good!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Company You Keep” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film is primarily dialogue driven but there are moments where crowd ambiance or police vehicles or helicopters are heard through the surround channels.  For the most part, dialogue and music is crystal clear through the center and front channels and the lossless soundtrack is appropriate for this film.

Subtitles are in English and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Company You Keep” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind the Scenes: The Movement – (12:14) Interviews with the cast and behind-the-scenes footage from the film.
  • Behind the Scenes: The Script, Preparation and the Cast – (17:52) The cast talks about the unfinished script that was being modified, preparation to adapt the novel to a film and casting.
  • On the Red Carpet – (2:20) A look at the cast and crew on the red carpet for “The Company You Keep”.
  • The Company You Keep Press Conference – (13:19) An press conference with Robert Redford, Jackie Evancho, Stanley Tucci and Brit Marling.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:12) Theatrical trailer for “The Company You Keep”.

A riveting political action thriller featuring an all-star cast!

Director, producer and actor Robert Redford does a wonderful job as the main character on the run from the FBI in order to prove his innocence.

“The Company You Keep” does draw comparisons to one of the biggest news stories of the early ’70s, Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army.

A real life story that took place in the early ’70s which captured America, in which the Hearst newspaper heiress was kidnapped in 1974 by the SLA and two months later, was seen as a new member of the SLA and were seen robbing banks.  Hearst was described as a victim of Stockholm Syndrome (when hostages express sympathy or empathy for their captors), she was caught and arrested alongside Wendy Yoshimura, another SLA member who was involved a bank heist gone bad and a customer named Myrna Opsahl was shot and killed.  Various members have remained fugitives for years, one member Kathleen Ann Soliah lived as a housewife under the name Sara Jane Olson but was arrested in 2001 as being part of the crime (and was later released after seven years in prison).

In the case of “The Company You Keep”, the Weather Underground has similarities with the SLA but were created as a voice to retaliate against the Vietnam War and in this case, take action for what they believed in.

But for “The Company You Keep”, there is a twist.  The main character of Jim/Nick was a member of the Weather Underground and is wanted for his role in the murder of a security guard.

The film tries to build sympathy for Jim, the upstanding citizen/lawyer, widowed father raising his young 11-year-old daughter.  Until it was revealed that he is a wanted man for a bank robbery/murder that happened 30-years ago.  While the film plays out like a cat and mouse game as the FBI agents are on the move to capture him, because there are a number of Weather Underground members across America, Jim/Nick tries to meet up with each of them in order to find a woman named Mimi.

Meanwhile, the reporter Ben Shepard who was responsible for outting Jim Grant as Nick starts to wonder why Jim’s actions are not of a person who is guilty and trying to run away.  The pieces left behind appear as he is trying to prove his innocence.  And the more Ben starts to dig and learn about the secrets of the Weather Underground, the more he learns that many people’s live can be destroyed.

The film benefits from its riveting storyline and its all-star cast.

Robert Redford does a good job playing the stoic character but also showing that he has what it takes to quickly climb a gate at 76-years-old, playing the role of a man who is in his late 50’s or 60’s, so I give Redford credit that even now, he still has it within him to play these action roles, he even takes his shirt off onscreen.  I know many critics felt Redford was much too old to play this role, but if we didn’t know he was 76, would anyone ever question him playing the role?  Probably not.

Shia LaBeouf plays the job of an ambitious reporter very well, maybe a bit too well as he is always a step-ahead of the FBI and a guy who appears to have done quite well in sweet talking with the ladies, the role is probably the most mature role I have seen LaBeouf play since his 2005 golfing film “The Great Game Ever Played”.

While each of the star talents featured in the film have short roles, for me, it added to the enjoyment of the film (especially for the fact that he was able to get these talents on a smaller budget). Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins as a former WU members, Stanley Tucci as the editor, Anna Kendrick and Terrence Howard as the FBI agents and the “Britain Got Talent” music star, Brit Marling as an adopted daughter of a former police investigator that was investigating the bank heist case in the past, Jackie Evancho as the daughter of Jim Grant, and more!

But I did enjoy the film on how it takes on ’60s radicalism but also discussing the carelessness of modern journalism.  If the film came out 20-years ago, I would have felt this film would have an amazing impact.  For the American extremist groups that came out of the Vietnam War, there are those who were alive to remember how things were back in the ’70s.  People who remember the Patty Hearst case or even Jane Fonda voicing her opinion on Vietnam War, people who remember a time when people were passionate to fight about what they believed in, despite some engaging in tactics that were wrong.

But now, some groups around the world have gone beyond using words to debate what they believed in.  In today’s world, when we hear extremism, we worry about how far these people will go not to fight or hurt corporations and governments but hurting innocent lives as a revenge against American political behavior.

Sarandon’s role as Sharon Solarz tries to emphasize during an interview between her and the reporter Ben Shepard, that they fought in what they believed in. When she asks Ben the same question, part of me felt there was a message that young people were more vocal then than they are now.  Meanwhile, a juxtaposition of Jim/Nick’s character who seems to have grown up from his former group and realized that being vocal is good but taking part in dangerous, risky and criminal tactics was wrong.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality for the film is very good with wonderful detail upon closeups of the characters, I saw no artifacts or banding.  As for its lossless audio track, dialogue is crystal clear but this is not an action film.  Sure, you get moments of a helicopter flying above or police cars with sirens on, chasing another car.  But one should not expect any major action scenes from Redford, aside from the actor jumping a fence.  There are a few special features included with the Blu-ray release, especially a press conference with Redford and a few of the talents of the film.

Overall, “The Company You Keep” is a riveting political action thriller featuring an all-star cast!  It’s an exciting, smart film that will no doubt entertain you from beginning to end.

Recommended!

 

Hotel Rwanda (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A powerful film that deserves to be seen!   The Blu-ray release of “Hotel Rwanda” features wonderful picture and audio quality and if you haven’t watched this film before or you have owned it previously on DVD, it’s a film that one would definitely want to own on Blu-ray! A wonderful performance by Don Cheadle!   “Hotel Rwanda” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2004 Kigali Releasing Limited.  All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Hotel Rwanda

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2004

DURATION: 122 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby surround, French 5.1 Dolby Digital

RATED: PG-13 (Violence, Disturbing Images and Brief Strong Language)

COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc./Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2011

Directed by Terry George

Written by Keir Pearson, Terry George

Produced by Terry George, A. Kitman Ho

Co-Producer: Luigi Musini, Bridget Pickering

Executive Producer: Sam Bhembe, Roberto Cicutto, Martin Katz, Francesco Melzi D’Eril, Duncan Reid, Hal Sadoff

Co-Executive Producer: Nicolas Meyer, Keir Pearson, Izidore Codron

Music by Afro Celt Sound System, Rupert Gregson-Williams, Andrea Guerra

Cinematography by Robert Fraisse

Edited by Naomi Geraghty

Casting by Moonyeenn Lee, Richard Pagano

Producton Design by Johnny Breedt, Tony Burrough

Art Direction by Emma MacDevitt

Set Decoration by Estelle Ballack

Costume Design by Ruy Filipe

Starring:

Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina

Sophie Okonedo as Tatiana Rusesabagina

Desmond Dube as Dube

Hakeem Kae-Kazim as Geroge Rutaganda

Nick Nolte as Colonel Oliver

Joaquin Phoenix as Jack Daglish

Cara Seymour as Pat Archer

Jean Reno as Mr. Tillens – Sabena Airlines President

Fana Mokoena As General Bimungu

Tony Kgoroge as Gregoire

Rosie Motene as Receptionist

Neil McCarthy as Jean Jacques

Mabutho “Kid” Sithole as Head Chef

As his country descends into madness, five-star-hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina (Cheadle) sets out to save his family. But when he sees that the world will not intervene in the massacre of minority Tutsis, he finds the courage to open his hotel to more than 1,200 refugees. Now, with a rabid militia at the gates, he must use his well-honed grace, flattery and cunning to protect his guests from certain death.

In 1994, one of the worst atrocities in the world took place, known as the Rwandan Genocide, over 1,000,000 people in the small East African nation of Rwanda were slaughtered by Hutu people.

The genocide was a culmination of ethnic competition between the minority Tutsi and the majority Hutu and the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana set off mass killings of Tutsis and pro-peace Hutus (who were seen as “traitors”).

Unfortunately to the world, no one knew of the atrocities that were committed because many of the media and UN were sent back home as part of the evacuation and the Hutu dominated media including various villages hid the massacres that took place in the area.  In fact, the news was reported as a civil war between the Hutu and Tutsis when actually a mass massacre was taking place.

This leads to the film “Hotel Rwanda” and the brave efforts of the assistant manager Paul Rusesabagina, who used his status at the Hotel Rwanda (Sabena Hotel des Mille Colines) as a way to utilize his network of contacts but also was able to bargain his way to save himself, his family but most importantly over 1,200 Tutsi refugees and pro-peace Hutus by using the hotel to shelter the refugees who came to his hotel.

The story of Rusesabagina was an inspiration to co-executive producer Keir Pearson that as he researched and interview survivors from the hotel, he began his work to make a film a reality.  Coming in to co-write and direct the film was Terry George (“Hart’s War”, “In the Name of the Father”).

While the film made over $33 million in the box office, it proved to be a critical success as it was listed as many film critics list of top films of 2004, winning multiple awards but most importantly, telling the story to world of the atrocities that took place back in 1994 and both the producers of the film and the United Nations Foundation would go on to create the International Fund for Rwanda to assist Rwandan survivors.  Actor Don Cheadle (who plays Paul Rusesabagina) would also enjoy great success from the film.

And now the Blu-ray will be officially released on May 2011 (note: The Blu-ray was originally released back in Feb. 2011 as a Best Buy exclusive).

“Hotel Rwanda” focuses on the character of Paul Rusesabagina (played by Don Cheadle), a family man who runs the top luxury hotel in Rwanda and establishing his network of contacts with the U.N., the media and various people of power who have come to stay at the hotel.

While going to pickup supplies from good supplier Georges Rutaganda (pleayed by Hakeem Kae-Kazim) who also happens to be the local leader of the Interahamwe, the anti-Tutsi militia, Paul observes how the UN Peacekeeping forces led by Canadian Colonel Oliver (played by Nick Nolte) are working for a plan for peace.

And as everyone is celebrating for peace, Paul’s brother-in-law warns him that he has heard at work that there will be trouble in Rwanda and that he and the family should leave the country as soon as possible.  But because Paul feels comfortable with the U.N. presence in Rwanda, he tells his brother-in-law not to worry.

But when he goes home, he notices fights have broken out and when he goes to find his family, his wife Tatiana (played by Sophie Okonedo) and many people from the neighborhood are hiding inside his basement.   He and everyone else hears in the radio about the assassination of President Habyarimana and now the Hutu will want revenge against the Tutsi people.

Paul is Hutu, his wife is Tutsi but for Paul, he just wants people to be safe but when he finds his young son beaten, he realizes that terrible things are taking place and to make things worse, the following morning, Hutu soldiers are at his home, asking everyone to leave.  Paul gets everyone inside the hotel van and they head towards the Sabena Hotel des Mille Collines but he is stopped.  The Hutu military want the Tutsi’s dead and those Hutu that were with them.  With quick thinking, Paul is able to come up with an idea to use the hotel’s money from the safe to bargain with the military who are about to kill the people by giving them money and sure enough it works.

But its chaos at the hotel.  Many people who were kicked out of their homes are trying to get to the hotel, orphanages are trying to bring the children to the hotel and to make things worse, because Paul is looked at as a Hutu “traitor” for harboring “cockroaches”, his Hutu staff are unwilling to work for him.

But fortunately for Paul, the only thing that has helped him is his years of establishing his contacts with powerful people and eventually, he is able to get most of his staff behind him (and remind them of their employment).  But as more Hutu militia arrive to kill the Tutsi’s staying in the hotel, Paul continues to use whatever he can to help barter with them and to give the people enough time, so the U.N. can safely evacuate everyone out of the hotel.

But it doesn’t look good for Paul and the people of the hotel as UN Col. Oliver tells them that the only evacuation that will happen is for the foreigners, none for the Rwandan people.

Despite the bad news and seeing how bad the atrocities are first hand, Paul will do all he can to help these people, divert Hutu soldiers and care for the growing number of refugees in his hotel but also maintaining the appearance of a luxury hotel even though violence and chaos is an all-time high.

Can Paul protect the 1,200 Rwandan refugees at the Hotel des Mille Collines, including his family?  Or will they all be massacred?

VIDEO:

“Hotel Rwanda” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1).  I have watched this film several times on DVD and to finally see this on Blu-ray, “Hotel Rwanda” looks fantastic.  The presentation of the film is crisp and colorful at times but also showcasing us the dire circumstances with a lot of detail.  The close-ups also sport a lot of detail and black levels are nice and deep and also sporting wonderful contrast throughout the film.  There is a good amount of grain and I didn’t see any edge enhancement or any major PQ problems during the film.

Fans of “Hotel Rwanda” will definitely see the clarity of this film compared to its DVD counterpart.  Awesome PQ!

AUDIO:

“Hotel Rwanda” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Surround and French 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The music of this film is excellent and also a good use of surround for the gunfire that happens from a distance from the hotel but also the gunshots that happen nearby during the evacuation sequences.  There are some scenes that utilize LFE but for the most part, dialogue is crystal clear through the center channel, music and sound effects from the front and ambient  effects through the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Hotel Rwanda” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Terry George, Paul Rusesabagina and select commentary with Wyclef Jean.  Very good commentary as Paul Rusesabagina talks about the differences of the film and real life.  Very insightful commentary from both Terry George and Paul Rusesabagina, while Wyclef Jean discusses  the music provided for the film.
  • Selected Scenes Commentary by Don Cheadle – (21:48) A shorter commentary for a few scenes by actor Don Cheadle.
  • Message for Peace – (27:56) Presented in standard definition.  The producer and director of “Hotel Rwanda” talks about how this film came to be, the casting of the film and also featuring Paul Rusesabagina talking about the horrors that he saw in Rwanda.
  • Return to Rwanda – (14:32) Presented in standard definition.  Paul and Tatiana Rusesabagina return to Rwanda to visit the Hotel des Milles Collines but also visit the Genocide Memorial.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:09) The original theatrical trailer for “Hotel Rwanda”

An inspiring film of a man who faced insurmountable odds during one of the worst atrocities in history.

“Hotel Rwanda” was a film that came as perfect timing in the 10th Year Anniversary after the Rwandan Genocide and part of its importance as a film is because it opened the eyes of many people who were not aware of what took place in Africa.  One of the problems for many of us outside of the Africa is we tend to learn everything about the country’s instability through the media.  And I can remember that time as media reporting civil war in Rwanda.  In fact, “civil war” is often brought up whenever there is strife in various areas in Africa.

But prior to me watching this film, I had no idea of the genocide.  “Hotel Rwanda” was crafted on intensive research and also through contacting survivors who were staying at the hotel but most importantly, through research and information provided by Paul Rusesabagina.

As Spielberg will be known for “Schindler’s List”, Terry George will be remembered for this powerful, inspiring film of the Rwandan Genocide but to show how the possibilities of an atrocity of wiping a country clean of a certain type of people can happen and nearly happened back in 1994.  While nearly a million people were being massacred, not much was being done internationally and as the U.N. Peacekeeping force did all the can in keeping the peace (and not making the peace) and anyone watching this film will be shocked of what happened.

Possibly one of the most powerful and saddest scenes in cinema history is when Paul Rusesabagina was returning back to the hotel with supplies.  As they are driving in the roadway, fog prevents them from going through and for some reason, the van seems as if it is on a rocky mountainside.  But the image of hundreds of dead bodies all over the roadway is shocking and to know that it was not a rocky mountainside they were driving, it was countless numbers of dead men, women and children all over the place.

Don Cheadle gives an Oscar-worthy performance.  It’s a memorable performance that has stuck with me for many years since the film has been released and it’s a film I have re-watched several times because it’s so powerful, inspiring but also because it’s a wonderful film.

The Blu-ray release may not have anything new added to the release but the better picture and audio quality in HD is worth recommending already!  The special features were solid when the DVD was released and also powerful, inspiring and shocking to watch as well.  The special feature with Paul and Tatiana Rusesabagina returning to Rwanda and the images we see from the Genocide Memorial is devastating.  Devastating to know that these major atrocities towards men, women and children (including fetuses) took place.

If there was any problem that I had with the film, it would be when Paul and his driver were going to get supplies and you can tell that what we see through the windows is ala green screen and it didn’t look natural.  Also, I often wondered if the U.N. were really that insensitive.  While it is known that the character of Col. Oliver was a fictitious character, we do know the character is inspired by UN force commander for UNAMIR, Romeo Dallaire.   Dallaire has made the comment that he did not agree with Nolte’s portrayal.

But there is not much for me to nitpick about this film.  It was a film done right and while the original screenplay was to feature an ensemble group of characters, I’m glad that Terry George vocalized his feeling that the film should stay focused on Paul and his wife Tatiana.  Paul in the fact that he puts everything on the line to save every refugee in the hotel but also the love he has for his wife and family.

I’m still impressed by this film each time I have watched it and if you have not seen “Hotel Rwanda” before or if you have owned the previous DVD version, I can easily recommend “Hotel Rwanda on Blu-ray.  It’s a powerful film that deserves to be seen!

Highly recommended!

THE DEEP (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

“Before films like ‘Into the Blue’, ‘The Beach’ and ‘The Island’ were made, ‘THE DEEP’ captured audiences through its magnificent aquatic cinematography back in 1977  and its suspenseful storyline.  Nearly 32 years later, the film gets its High Definition Blu-ray transfer enhancing the picture quality and the overall detail.”

Images courtesy of © Original 1977 Theatrical Version: © 1977, renewed 2005 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved. | Extended 1980 Version: © 1977, renewed 2005, © 1980 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: THE DEEP

DURATION: 124 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English, French, Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish 5.1.  Subtitles in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish

COMPANY:  Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG

Release Date: July 7, 2009

Directed by Peter Yates

Based on a novel by Peter Benchley

Screenplay by Peter Benchley and Tracy Keenan Wynn

Produced by Peter Guber

Associated Produced by George Justin

Music by John Barry

Director of Photography: Christopher Challis

Edited by David Berlatsky

Casting by Jane Feinberg, Mike Fenton

Production Design by Anthony Masters

Art Direction by Jack Maxsted

Set Decoration by Vernon Dixon

Costume Design by Ron Talsky

Starring:

Robert Shaw as Romer Treece

Jacqueline Bisset as Gail Berke

Nick Nolte as David Sanders

Louis Gossett Jr. as Henri Cloche

Eli Wallach as Adam Coffin

This lavish, suspense-filled film was made from Peter (Jaws) Benchley’s best-selling novel. Gail Berke (Jacqueline Bisset) and David Sanders (Nick Nolte) are on a romantic holiday in Bermuda when they come upon the sunken wreck of a WWII freighter. Near it, they find an ampule of morphine, one of tens of thousands still aboard the wrecked ship. Their discovery leads them to a Haitian drug dealer,Cloche (Louis Gossett), and an old treasure hunter, Romer Treece (Robert Shaw). With Cloche in pursuit, Gail, David and Treece try to recover the sunken treasure.

Before “The Island”, “Into the Blue” and “The Beach”, there was the 1977 underwater suspenseful thriller known as “The Deep”.

Based on the very popular novel by Peter Benchley (who wrote the popular novel “Jaws” and “The Island” which both would receive film adaptions), the suspenseful aquatic film adaption would be directed by Peter Yates (“Krull”, “Roommates” and “Bullit”) and a screenplay by Benchley and Tracy Keenan Wynn (“The Net”, “The Longest Yard” and “The Glass House”).   The film would feature the music by John Barry (“Indecent Proposal”, “Madagascar”, “The Scarlet Letter” and “Dances with Wolves”) and cinematography by Christopher Challis (“Force 10 from Navarone”, “Two for the Road” and “Top Secret!”).

The film would star Robert Shaw (“Force 10 from Navarone”, “Jaws” and “The Sting”), Jacqueline Biset (“Nip/Tuck”, “Joan of Arc”, “Bullit” and “When Time Ran Out”), Nick Nolte (“The Prince of Tides”, “Hulk” and “48 Hrs.”) and Louis Gossett Jr. (“Iron Eagle”, “Diggstown” and “Roots”).

The film revolves around a scuba diving couple, David Sanders (Nick Nolte) and Gail Berke (Jacqueline Bisset) who found the wreckage of the Goliath (a ship that sunk during World War II in Bermuda).  The two start to look at the  artifacts found and discover a medallion from 1714.  During the search at the wreckage, something has grabbed Gail and tried to pull her in but she manages to escape.

When the two return from their search, because of the belongings they found, they start to make certain locals suspicious of their actions.  With their research into the medallion going nowhere, the group enlist the help of lighthouse-keeper and treasure hunter Romer Treece (Robert Shaw).  As Sanders and Treece start to show several people an ampule brought from the wreckage, the local drug kingpin Henri Cloche (Louis Gossett, Jr.) is interested in the Goliath primarily for its morphine cargo.

Cloche kidnaps both Sanders and Treece and looks for the artifacts but fortunately for the couple, they left the belongings with Treece and are eventually let go.

While the couple and Treece have their sites set on the wreckage that the Goliath may have unearthed and finding long lost treasure, Cloche is only interested in getting the morphine from the Goliath and will do whatever it takes to get it.

The film was released in two versions with a 3-hour version featured on television.  The film on this Blu-ray is the 124 minute version.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“THE DEEP” makes its way to Blu-ray ala High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio) and like many recent Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases on Blu-ray, Sony has elected to keep the film process and feature the grain than using DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) which many people have complained in the past, giving it a soft, lack of detail look.

With the release of “THE DEEP”, the transfer definitely showcases the detail of the film and vibrancy of Bermuda island with its greens and brown sand and light blue waters.    For a film that was made in 1977, the HD transfer definitely captures the era with its warm color and blacks are nice and deep.  And for a film created during its time, how it looks on Blu-ray is well done.

When “THE DEEP” opened in theaters, what caught the attention of many people was the beautiful aquatic cinematography  and of course, a certain swimming scene at the beginning featuring Jacqueline Bisset.  And this 32-year-old film looks very good on Blu!

As for the audio, audio is presented in English, French, Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (and Spanish 5.1).  For the most part, the film is front channel driven.  There are times that you hear occasional  effects and a musical score that come alive at times.  But for the most part, I felt the audio was good for a film for its time but for the most part, the lossless track was average.  In fact, at times during the film I felt I had to increase the audio to hear the dialog.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“THE DEEP” comes with two special features and is BD Live Enabled.

  • The Making of the Deep – (48:41) The original 1977 featurette hosted by Robert Shaw.  Interviews with the cast and crew, we get a behind-the-scenes look at the experiences of the talent working on the film, how they had to undergo scuba training and become certified divers, how certain aquatic scenes were shot and how the Goliath and the wreckage was created.
  • Selected Scenes from the 3-Hour Special Edition – The 3-hour film may not be included on the blu-ray but at least certain segments from the 3-hour version are featured on the Blu-ray wich include:
    • Prologue – The Goliath Sinks (3:06) – How the Goliath sunk during World War II
    • Romer Treece’s Disposition – (1:06) both Dan and Gail learn a little about Romer.
    • Treece and David Harassed by Cloche’s Goons – (2:12) While scuba diving, Cloche sends a few of his men to scare both Treece and David.
    • Pillow Talk – (6:22) A longer, romantic scene between David and Gail.
    • Extended Conversation between Cloche and Treece – (3:22)  The two make an uneasy business proposition to work together.
    • Treece’s Past Revealed –  (5:19) Gail tries to learn about what happened to Treece’s wife.

    There is also a selection to watch trailers and latest releases from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

    The 1977 film “THE DEEP” was an interesting film at the time.  Considering that the film would showcase the Bermuda islands and the beautiful blue oceans, there was a lot of expectation from fans who were mesmerized by “JAWS” and have had hopes that they would get another equally, terrifying underwater film with “THE DEEP”.

    For the most part, there were scenes in the film that could be seen as terrifying but for the most part, the film was an adventure film that had equal portions of romantic drama, suspense and even a killer aquatic eel (which unlike “JAWS” is not the main antagonist of the film).  But many critics enjoyed the film for its showcasing underwater cinematography and for Jacqueline Bisset fans, the film was almost in a similar context of how male viewers today felt about Jessica Alba for “Into the Blue”.

    But the overall storyline for “THE DEEP” is not exactly strong and although it does manage to keep enough action and suspense to keep the viewer interested,  there are scenes that really go in depth into the characters are featured on the 3-hour version that aired on cable, it’s a bit of a disappointment that this version is not on the Blu-ray (selected scenes from the 3-hour version are featured in the special features).

    Overall, “THE DEEP” is a film that inspired many similar films thereafter and its box office success did help in the funding for Producer Peter Guber’s Academy Award winning film “MIDNIGHT EXPRESS”.  But the Blu-ray does bring out the beauty of Bermuda and features detail that overshadows the picture quality of the original DVD release.  If you are a big fan of this classic film, then definitely give “THE DEEP” a try.

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