“Snowden” may be a tame film from filmmaker Oliver Stone but it’s a film that is entertaining, insightful and an eye-opener. But how you feel about Edward Snowden after watching the film, may you feel that he is a traitor or hero? That is subjective to the viewer. But yet, “Snowden” is a film worth watching!
FILM RELEASE: 2016
DURATION: 270 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH and France
COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
RATED: R (Language with Some Sexuality, Nudity)
RELEASE DATE: December 27, 2017
Based on the book by Anatoly Kucherna, Luke Harding
Directed by Oliver Stone
Screenplay by Kieran Fitzgerald, Oliver Stone
Produced by Eric Kopeloff, Philip Schulz-Deyle
Co-Producer: Rene Kock, Robert S. Wilson
Executive Producer: Max Arvelaiz, Michael Bassick, Douglas Hansen, Jose Ibanez, Peter Lawson, Serge Lobo, Bahman Naraghi, Tom Ortenberg, James D. Stern, Christopher Woodrow
Music by Craig Armstrong, Adam Peters
Cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle
Edited by Alex Marquez, Lee Percy
Casting by Lucy Bevan, Mary Vernieu
Production Design by Mark Tildesley
Art Direction by Sarah Horton, Adam O’Neill, Uwe Stanik
Set Decoration by Veronique Melery
Costume Design by Bina Daigeler
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden
Shailene Woodley as Lindsay Mills
Melissa Leo as Laura Poitras
Zachary Quinto as Glenn Greenwald
Rhys Ifans as Corbin O’Brian
Nicolas Cage as Hank Forrester
Tom Wilkinson as Ewen MacAskill
Joely Richardson as Janine Gibson
Scott Eastwood as Trevor James
Keith Stanfield as Patrick Haynes
Ben Chaplin as Robert Tibbo
Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone (JFK, Born on the Fourth of July) tackles the most important true story of the 21st century. Snowden, the politically-charged thriller reveals the incredible untold personal story of Edward Snowden, the controversial figure who exposed shocking illegal surveillance activities by the National Security Agency and became one of the most wanted men in the world. A hero to some and a traitor to others, the provocative story of what led him to that fateful decision makes for one of the most compelling stories in recent history.
In 2013, Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and former contractor of the United States government, copied and leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) revealing numerous global surveillance programs run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with telecommunication companies and European governments.
The leaks would receive international attention after the material appeared in “The Guardian”, “The Washington Post”, “Der Spiegel” and “The New York Times”.
Snowden would become one of the most wanted men as the U.S. Department of Justice leveled charges against Snowden of two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property.
Seen as a criminal, dissident or traitor by many, others saw him as a hero and a whistleblower for bringing attention of the governments practice of surveillance on the public. Bringing up debates in the media of the balance between national security and information privacy.
While America wants to try Snowden, he currently is in Russia, seeking asylum.
As Snowden continues to be featured in the news, author Luke Harding would write an account of Snowden’s leak and aftermath in his 2014 book “The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man” and Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena would write the book “Time of the Octopus”. Both books would become the basis for filmmaker Oliver Stone’s biographical political thriller 2016 film, “Snowden”.
The film would star Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“Inception”, “Looper”, “(500) Days of Summer”), Shailene Woodley (“Divergent” series, “The Descendants”, “The Fault In Our Stars”), Melissa Leo (“The Fighter”, “Prisoners”, “Oblivion”), Zachary Quinto (“Star Trek” films, “Margin Call”, “Heroes”), Nicolas Cage (“Leaving Las Vegas”, “National Treasure”, “Kick Ass”), Rhys Ifans (“The Amazing Spider-Man”, “Notting Hill”, “Mr. Nobody”) and Tom Wilkinson (“Batman Begins”, “Michael Clayton”, “Shakespeare in Love”). The film would also star the real Edward Snowden.
While “Snowden” wasn’t a huge box office hit compared to Oliver Stone’s previous films, there is no doubt that the film is an eye-opener. And now the film will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
“Snowden” begins with Edward Snowden’s (portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in Hong Kong and his first meeting with documentarian Laura Poitras (portrayed by Melissa Leo) and “The Guardian” journalist Glenn Greenwald (portrayed by Zachary Quinto) and they discuss Snowden releasing classified information about the illegal mass surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA).
The film then goes back into past to introduce us to Edward Snowden and how he was originally enlisted in the U.S. Army, with hopes of getting into the Special Forces but fracturing his tibia, he was given an administrative discharge and the chance to pursue jobs in which he could serve his country.
So, Snowden applies for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and goes through the screening with Deputy Director Corbin O’Brien but despite failing the screening, O’Brian decides to give Snowden a chance and Snowden learns about cyberwarfare and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and how it circumvents the Fourth Amendment rights of U.S. citizens.
As the film carefully shows how Edward Snowden was able to get his job and grow from his job, the film also explores his personal life with Lindsay Mills (portrayed by Shailene Woodley), who he has met on a dating website.
And exploring why he resigned from the CIA and how he got his job with the NSA and his role in the NSA by planting malware in different computers that manage government, infrastructure and financial sectors in other countries, just in case, the country turns on the United States.
But as Snowden’s job leads to a troubled relationship with Lindsay, the film starts to show how Snowden became disillusioned with his job and how he would leak classified information to the media.
“Snowden” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are colorful and interior scenes are well-lit.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Snowden” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The series is primarily dialogue drive and for the most part, dialogue and music is crystal clear. Surround channels are primarily for ambiance and music but the overall soundtrack is dialogue and music-driven.
Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and Francais.
“Snowden” comes with the following special features:
- Deleted Scenes – (8:50) Featuring five deleted scenes.
- Finding the Truth – (3:55) Cast members discuss the film and the characters that they play.
- Snowden Q&A – (40:58) Featuring an interview with Edward Snowden, Oliver Stone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley.
“Snowden” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD plus an UltraViolet code.
With every story about a whistleblower, there will be those who will detest the person for ruining an industry or being a traitor to one’s country, while others will look at the individual as being heroic for exposing crimes against the people.
Edward Snowden is no doubt portrayed by filmmaker Oliver Stone as a man who honored his country, great at his job but found out about the illegal things that the NSA was doing, that Snowden became disenchanted with his work and torn about what the United States is doing to its people, its allies and also enemies. But despite being wonderful at his job, he is also imperfect and just a regular person, trying to find love and happiness while having a classified job with the government.
As the film focuses on Edward Snowden’s life from being in the military and then joining to the CIA, finding love with Lindsay Mills (and their troubled relationship, due in part because of the stress of his job) and then joining with the NSA to find out he is working on shady work that is supposed to be classified.
But watching “Snowden”, I felt for an Oliver Stone film, the film felt subdued. Fascinating, eye-opening but yet not the heavy-hitting, deep film that one would expect. But at the same time, it’s hard to fault the plot and its story because Edward Snowden is a mellow guy, he’s intelligent and while he gets angry, it’s not the angry that most people are used to seeing. If anything, Edward Snowden is what many people would say is “chill”. It’s his demeanor and style.
And you have to give Joseph Gordon-Levitt for doing a great job of of playing Edward Snowden and for Shailene Woodley, far from her years on “The Secret Life of an American Teenager”, we see Woodley in an adult role, as the emotional but caring girlfriend, Lyndsay Mills, who is tired of how Snowden puts his job first and her as second.
But for the most part, while the acting is wonderful and the film is entertaining and fascinating, the film humanizes Edward Snowden as a man of honor, a normal human being who wants to have a love life but a job that requires him to do a lot of things that he finds as wrong. He’s a kind man and definitely not egotistical.
But yet, he leaked classified information that no doubt put the United States in a bind. And while the film is no doubt pro-Snowden and shows what Snowden had done is good for the people, we don’t see the counter to this. And the film makes it hard for anyone to hate on Snowden, considering the media has painted him as opposite of what the film presents him.
Did Snowden do the honorable thing? This is no doubt subjective and it’s an unending debate.
While viewers of this film may be inclined to see Snowden as a hero, one will want to read this December 2016 article from Edward Jay Epstein of the Wall Street Journal.
The film looks and sounds wonderful on Blu-ray and you also get three special features, including a Q&A which features filmmaker Oliver Stone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley but you also have Edward Snowden taking part (via live video during the Q&A) in the session as well. And I found this session to be an eye-opener as well.
Overall, “Snowden” may be a tame film from filmmaker Oliver Stone but it’s a film that is entertaining, insightful and an eye-opener. But how you feel about Edward Snowden after watching the film, may you feel that he is a traitor or hero? That is subjective to the viewer. But yet, “Snowden” is a film worth watching!
“The Trust” is a decent heist film but part of the enjoyment of watching a heist film is its characters and the rush of pulling off that ultimate heist. But for this film, the characters were not all that appealing and in essence, made the film average and nothing more
© 2016 Vault Film, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: The Trust
FILM RELEASE: 2016
DURATION: 92 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish
RATED: R (Violence and Some Language, Some Sexuality/Nudity and Drug Use)
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Directed by Alex Brewer, Benjamin Brewer
Written by Benjamin Brewer, Adam Hirsch
Produced by Molly Hassell, Braxton Pope
Co-Producer: Stephanie Pon, Glen Trotiner
Executive-Producer: Charles Auty, Lee Broada, Bill Bromiley, Ted Cawrey, Megan Forde, Arianne Fraser, John Jencks, Julie Kroll, Jason Carter Miller, Delphine Perrier, Jeff Rice, Ness Saban, Simon Williams, Henry Winterstern
Associate Producer: Alexa Seligman, Jay Taylor
Cinematography by Sean Porter
Music by Reza Safinia
Edited by Laura Connelly
Casting by J.C. Cantu
Production Design by Scott Kuzio
Art Direction by Molly Bailey
Set Decoration by Malorie Folino
Costume Design by Mona May
Nicolas Cage as Stone
Elijah Wood as Waters
Sky Ferreira as Woman
Eric Heister as Big Irish Guy
Alexandria Lee as Nina
Ethan Suplee as Detective
Kenna James as Captain Harris
Steven Williams as Cliff
Jerry Lewis as Stone’s Father
Oscar® winner Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood star as Vegas cops who stumble upon the location of a hidden vault belonging to local drug dealers. Immediately, they devise a master plan to make off with the mad stacks of cash they are sure are stored within. But what they find inside puts their lives in grave danger in this action-packed, twist-filled crime-thriller.
From directors, Alex Brewer and brother Benjamin Brewer (“Beneath Contempt”) comes their crime film, “The Trust”.
Written by Benjamin Brewer and Adam Hirsch, “The Trust” stars Nicolas Cage (“National Treasure”, “Leaving Las Vegas”, “Moonstruck”) and Elijah Wood (“Green Street Hooligans”, “The Lord of the Rings” films, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), Sky Ferreira (“The Green Inferno”), Jerry Lewis (“The Nutty Professor”, “The King of Comedy”, “The Bellboy”), Kevin Wisman (“Flipped”) and Steven Williams (“21 Jump Street”, “The Blues Brothers”).
And now the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Entertainment.
“The Trust” begins with Sgt. David Waters (portrayed by Elijah Wood) and Lt. Jim Stone (portrayed by Nicolas Cage), both who worked for the Evidence Management unit of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
But for these two police officers, they both have grown bored with their jobs and are upset that they both are struggling to survive financially.
When Jim starts to do undercover work on a drug dealer, he notices that all their merchandise is being moved to a building and never moved out.
So, the plan by both men to steal the merchandise is hatched, as David acquires blueprints to the building and the two get all the necessary tools to steal the merchandise.
But not all goes as planned when the men break into the building.
“The Trust” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks vibrant in outdoor Las Vegas day scenes and close ups are full of detail. Skintones look natural. I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film. For the most part, picture quality for the film is great!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Trust” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The soundtrack is primarily dialogue and music driven with ambiance used for the surround channels. There are surround usage during the more action-driven sequences (towards the end of the film). But the dialogue and music are both are crystal clear.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.
“The Trust” comes with the following special features:
- Filmmakers Commentary – Featuring an audio commentary by Directors Alex and Benjamin Brewer
- The Dynamics of a Duo: Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood – (5:38) The cast and crew discuss working on the film and putting two mismatched duo to make a more realistic film.
- The Visuals of Vegas – (5:26) The cast and crew talk about filming in Las Vegas.
“The Trust” comes with a slipcover an UltraViolet Digital HD code.
For those who are curious about seeing actors Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood together in a heist drama, will no doubt find the appeal of this film to be rather interesting.
It is no doubt an unusual collaboration that I can’t imagine ever seeing happen, but then again, seeing Elijah Wood as a police sergeant is something I never imagined seeing in a film.
But police films involving total opposites are nothing new. While we often see it happen in comedies, “The Trust” is definitely not a comedy.
The film revolves around two bored police officers who work in the Evidence Management unit of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
And these two decide to spice things up by turning to corrupted officers wanting to infiltrate a location where hardcore drug syndicates are hiding out at and bringing mysterious things into this location.
But as Sgt. David Waters (portrayed by Elijah Wood) and Lt. Jim Stone (portrayed by Nicolas Cage) get further into their crime, Waters becomes more hesitant that they walked into something much worse than he had expected.
It doesn’t help much that Stone is rather gung-ho and not caring about the risks, like his partner and then it causes even more problems when Stone starts to go further by killing people. Thus causing the conundrum between both police officers and you can tell that things are not going to end well between the two.
While not completely predictable, I do give credit to Alex and Benjamin Brewer for taking risks and wanting to try something different by pairing these two actors and in essence, trying to create something real.
The problem with the film is that neither character are interesting to grasp your attention.
One can watch a film such as “Oceans 11” or other similar heist films and gravitate towards the characters because the plot allows for one to be captivated by the character and the heist.
The characters for “The Trust”, I could care less about. The heist is what I cared about more and seeing how these two would pull things off, despite the tension of discord between both police officers.
As for the Blu-ray release, picture and lossless audio is very good, while special features delves into the creators and cast discussing the film. An audio commentary is also included.
Overall, “The Trust” is a decent heist film but part of the enjoyment of watching a heist film is its characters and the rush of pulling off that ultimate heist. But for this film, the characters were not all that appealing and in essence, made the film average and nothing more.
If you enjoy action films and are fans of Hayden Christensen and Nicolas Cage, then definitely give this film a try. Just don’t expect big budget special effects, wire work or theatrics. It’s a straightforward popcorn action film!
FILM RELEASE: 2014
DURATION: 98 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio), English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Directed by Nick Powell
Written by James Dormer
Produced by Jeremy Bolt, Tove Christensen, Leonard Glowinski, Gary Hamilton, Alan Zhang Lun, Karine Martin, Christopher Milburn, George Mizen, Ying Ye, Xun Zhang
Executive Producer: Mark Canton, Marc Charette, Jean-Francois Doray, Mike Gabrawy, Andrew Mann, Li Qiyan, Mark Slone
Associate Producer: Arthur Tarnowski, Federic Guarino
Music by Guillaume Roussel
Cinematography by Joel Ransom
Edited by Olivier Gourlay, Nicolas Trembasiewicz
Casting by PoPing AuYeung
Production Design by Nigel Churcher, Haoyu Yang
Art Direction by Jing Guo, Mingjun Ma
Set Decoration by Ping du, Zhou Guoquan
Costume Design by Yongfeng Zhu, Yongzhong Zhu
Nicolas Cage as Gallain
Hayden Christensen as Jacob
Andy On as Shing
Yifei Liu as Lian
Ron Smoorenburg as Crusader
Fernando Chien as Wu
When the heir of the Imperial throne becomes the target of an assassination by his despised older brother, the young prince must flee the kingdom and seek protection. His only hope for survival is a reluctant war-weary crusader named Jacob, who must overcome his own personal demons and rally the assistance of a mythical outlaw known as The White Ghost. Together they must fight side by side in an epic battle to return the prince to his rightful place on the throne.
Best known for his stunt coordination in films such as “28 Days Later…”, “The Bourne Identity”, “X-Men: The Last Stand”, “Resident Evil: Retribution”, Nick Powell switches position to direct his first feature film, “Outcast” written by James Dormer (“The Holding”, “Lena: The Bride of Ice”).
The film would star Nicolas Cage (“Leaving Las Vageas”, “National Treasure”, “Moonstruck”), Hayden Christensen (“Star Wars” Episodes II and III, “Jumper”, “Awake”), Andy On (“Mad Detective”, “True Legend”) and Yifei Liu (“The Forbidden Kingdom”, “The Four”).
The film is an American-Chinese-Canadian action film which will be released in China in April 2015 and released in North America on Blu-ray and DVD in April 2015 courtesy of Entertainment One.
“Outcast” is set during the Crusades, as Gallain (portrayed by Nicolas Cage) has tired of fighting and killing and wants to quit the Crusades and leave towards the East. Gallain tries to change Jacob (portrayed by Hayden Christensen) and his stance on fighting and killing, but Jacob wants to stick to his vow to fight as a crusader.
As Gallain wants the savagery of his comrades, including Jacob towards the enemy…will things change?
Fast forward three years later, A king is slowly dying and decides to make his youngest son, Prince Jiao (portrayed by Ji Ke Jun Yi) as the next king.
Jiao is shocked that he chosen him, since he is more of a student, versus his older brother Shing (portrayed by Andy On), who is a warrior. The King entrusts his daughter, Princess Lian (portrayed by Yifei Liu) to watch over her younger brother and to escape and bring him to another land.
As Shing arrives, he is enraged that Jiao is made the next king and not him, since he is a warrior and fought his father’s wars. But the king wants to ensure peace and so he chose Jiao.
In anger, behind closed doors, Jiao murders his father and assumes command of the kingdom. He pins the murder of his father on Jiao and has his men look for Jiao, kill him and to retrieve the seal.
Meanwhile, Lian and Jiao try to find someone to protect them and escort them but as they are to be captured by Shing’s warriors, they are protected by Jacob (who is in bad shape due to his dependency on opiates).
As Jacob had tries his best to stop killing anyone, but due to the desperation of Jiao and Lian, he makes the decision to protect the both of them. But with soldiers looking for Jiao all over China, can Jacob protect them on his own?
“Outcast” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is very good as close-ups show plenty of detail. Film looks magnificent in HD, with no signs of major artifacts or banding issues.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Outcast” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is primarily dialogue and musically driven, with good use of surrounds for ambiance and the sounds of the horses traveling through ground and water. Dialogue and music is crystal clear with no major issues.
“Outcast” comes with the following special features:
- Trailer – (1:43) Theatrical trailer for “Outcast”.
- Making of Outcast – (9:47) A Behind-the-scenes look at the making of “Outcast”.
- Interview with Nicolas Cage, Nick Powell, Hayden Christensen – (53:24) An interview actor Nic Cage, director Nick Powell and actor Hayden Christensen on shooting a film in China and working with the production crew.
What was originally supposed to be a crusaders meets vikings storyline, changed to a crusaders heads out to China storyline.
And before anyone thinks this is an Asian film, it’s shot in China, used a Chinese crew and featured a few Chinese talent, but for the most part, it’s a western film.
In fact, it’s less of a Nicolas Cage action film as it is more of a Hayden Christensen action film. And I know for some, that will make them hesitate of watching the film and seeing these two men speak with accents and hearing Chinese talk in English.
But once you are able to move past that, I found “Outcast” to be an intriguing film. For one, the costume design for “Outcast” was very cool to see. Also, to see Hayden Christensen playing more of an action role with swordfights and all, was interesting and probably among his best action films showcasing his yearning to learn to fight and it does translate well on the big screen.
But the film does have many faults. As the oldest brother Shing uses cruelty to scare his fellow soldiers, you would think he would use villagers to help capture his younger brother and obtain the royal seal, but instead, the film focuses on relationships as elder sister Lian (portrayed by Yifei Liu) begins to fall for Jacob (Christensen) and as for young Prince Jiao, he learns how to fight and shoot a bow and arrow from Jacob.
By the time we see Nicolas Cage return to the film, the film is nearly over.
And when it does reach the ultimate climactic battle, instead of a promising battle, we hear a thud of ultimate potential just wasted.
But the film does have its positive moments. I did like the cinematography capturing Chinese rugged landscape, I liked the underdogs storyline of us versus them and seeing Jacob and others fighting to survive.
As the Blu-ray does feature wonderful detail, vibrant landscapes and solid lossless audio for the more action-driven sequences, you also get a making off and interviews (which are very interesting to watch as we hear from each individual about their experience shooting the film and working with the Chinese cast and crew) featured in this Blu-ray release.
Overall, if you watched Asian films and the Asian characters are speaking English, you pretty much expect films to be a westernized view of that culture. Yes, the Chinese characters speak English, so there is no communication barrier between Jacob and others. So, it’s a straightforward action film with no surprises.
For what it’s worth, it’s a western action film shot in China that stars Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen. And before anyone discounts this as a film to “pass” over, I will say that I enjoyed “Outcast” much more than the 2004 action/comedy film “Shanghai Knights” starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson.
So, if you enjoy action films and are fans of Hayden Christensen and Nicolas Cage, then definitely give this film a try. Just don’t expect big budget special effects, wire work or theatrics. It’s a straightforward popcorn action film.
“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” was a step forward in terms of visual effects and going for a more darker feel, but its storyline was taking several steps backward. To have a bad ass character such as Ghost Rider featured in a screenplay that revolves around a kid… what a way to dampen the enthusiasm for fans expecting so much from an iconic Marvel Comics antihero! The film will appeal to movie fans who love films (especially Blu-ray releases) with plenty of action. Just don’t watch this film having high expectations, or else you will be disappointed.
TITLE: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 95 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English, French, Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Descriptive Track, Catalan 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: PG-13 (For Intense Sequences of Violence and Action, Some Disturbing Images and Language)
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Directed by Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Screenplay by Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman, David S. Goyer
Story by David S. Goyer
Produced by Ashok Amritaj, Ari Arad, Avi Arad, Michael De Luca, Steven Paul
Co-Producer: Stefan Brunner, Manu Gargi
Executive Producer: Gary Foster, Maya Fukuzawa, David S. Goyer, Mark Steven Johnson, E. Bennett Walsh
Music by David Sardy
Cinematography by Brandon Trost
Edited by Brian Berdan
Casting by Colin Jones, Gail Stevens
Production Design by Kevin Phipps
Art Direction by Adrian Curelea, Serban Porupca, Justin Warburton-Brown
Set Decoration by Dominic Capon
Costume Design by Bojana Nikitovic
Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider
Violante Placido as Nadya
Ciaran Hinds as Roarke
Idris Elba as Moreau
Johnny Whitworth as Ray Carrigan
Fergus Riordan as Danny
Spencer Wilding as Grannik
Christopher Lambert as Methodius
Nicolas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze in GHOST RIDER™ SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE. Still struggling with his curse as the devil’s bounty hunter, Johnny is hiding out in a remote part of Europe when he is recruited by a secret sect of the church to save a young boy from the devil. At first, Johnny is reluctant to embrace the power of the Ghost Rider, but it is the only way to protect the boy and possibly rid himself of his curse forever.
With the box office success of the 2007 film “Ghost Rider”, a character based on the popular Marvel Comics supernatural anti-hero, there was no doubt that Columbia Pictures and Marvel would once again work on a sequel.
But rather than work on a sequel, producers Ari Arad and Avi Arad wanted to go in a different direction, to focus more on a reboot of the character and showcase Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider. So, for “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”, the producers decided to bring in “Crank” and “Jonah Hex” directorial team Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. Brought in to write the screenplay was David S. Goyer (“The Dark Knight”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, “FlashForward”), Scott M. Gimple (“Life”, “The Walking Dead”, “FlashForward”) and Seth Hoffman (“Prison Break”, “House M.D.”).
Actor Nicolas Cage would reprise his role as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider and Ciaran Hinds as Roarke. Starring in the film are Violante Placido (“The American, “Che ne sara di Noi”), Idris Elba (“Thor”, “28 Weeks Later”, “The Wire”), Johnny Whitworth (“Limitless”, “3:10 to Yuma”, “Empire Records”) and Fergus Riordan (“Fragile”, “I Want to be a Soldier”).
And now “Ghost Rider: Spirits of Vengeance” will be released on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD in June 2012.
To understand what “Ghost Rider: Spirits of Vengeance” is about, in the first film, famous stunt rider Johnny Blaze (as portrayed by Nicolas Cage) made a pact with the devil, in the form of a human named Roarke (as portrayed by Ciaran Hinds) to give up his soul to save his dying father from cancer. While the cancer was cured, his father was killed that same day in a motorcycle accident. As for the pact that was made, Johnny Blaze will no longer be the same human as he has been possessed by a demon he can’t control. This demon hungers for the soul of evil-doers and when Johnny turns into the Ghost Rider, Ghost Rider acts on its own.
In “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”, the setting is in Eastern Europe and film begins with a priest named Moreau (as portrayed by Idris Elba) goes to warn an order of monks that the devil has sent out forces to retrieve a special boy named Danny (as portrayed by Fergus Riordan) and his mother Nadya (as portrayed by Violante Placido). But the head monk feels that they are safe and no harm can come their way, until the monks are all slaughtered by another group and their leader Ray Carrigan (as portrayed by Johnny Whitworth).
As Nadya and Danny have managed to escape, Moreau tries to help but is side-tracked when Carrigan’s men start to pursue after Nadya. So, needing some help to save Nadya and Danny, Moreau goes to Johnny Blaze, who happens to be hiding out in Romania. Moreau surprises Johnny when he seems to know that he had made a pact with the devil and also knows about Roarke. But Moreau catches his curiosity that his path to removing the demon within him, all comes down to this one child named Danny but also after him is the devil, Roarke.
And now Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider want to find Johnny before Roarke gets his hands on him.
Meanwhile, Nadya and Danny are found by Carrigan and his men kidnap the boy, while Nadya is to be executed by Carrigan but out of nowhere, Ghost Rider shows up in hopes to get the boy. While Ghost Rider manages to destroy a few of Carrigan’s men, Carrigan shoots him with a grenade launcher (injuring Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider) and escapes with the boy.
With Danny now in the hands of Carrigan and planning to transfer boy to Roarke, Johnny teams up with Nadya and Moreau in hopes of finding Danny, so he is able rid of himself of the demon.
Meanwhile, the priest Moreau reveals the true nature of the Ghost Rider demon to Johnny Blaze and Nadya revealing that Danny’s father is Roarke and that his purpose is to find a new human vessel to reside in, because the human body he is in, is quite weak and dying. Now, Johnny Blaze must do all he can to prevent Roarke from getting his hands on Danny.
“Ghost Rider: Spirits of Vengeance” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1). The great news is that the film looks fantastic on Blu-ray. Shot on digital, the film features wonderful detail from the CG work of Ghost Rider, to the clarity of details of Ghost Rider’s jacket, Johnny Blaze’s transformation, the use of fire and flame effects and much more! The colors are vibrant and videophiles should be pleased by the detail of the film. With that being said, the weakness which many people felt about the film is shooting the film via handheld. Many disliked it, I personally was not too bothered by it.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” is presented in English, French and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA and an English-Audio Descriptive track plus Catalan 5.1 Dolby Digital. As one would expect from an action-driven film, this film is immersive. The soundscape in you room is filled with audio from all over, thanks to its use of directional sound coming from the surround channels. From the Ghost Rider taking control of various vehicles (including one behemoth vehicle), a chase scene with many crash scenes and explosions and windows and glass shattering, to the many guns being fired in the film, especially heavy artillery, the lossless soundtrack is fantastic!
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.
“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” comes with the following special features:
- Directors Expanded Video Commentary – A video commentary featuring filmmakers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. While the two are shown frequently during the commentary, we also see a video of the film but also a smaller video section in the corner featuring the actual filming of a certain scene. There is no doubt that Neveldine and Taylor bring a lot of humor to the audio commentary, but depending on one’s taste, some may find it funny and others may find it annoying. But it’s an informative but off-the-cuff type of commentary that you usually don’t hear in a film.
- Deleted Scenes – (11:20) A total of six deleted scenes.
- The Path to Vengeance: Making Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – (1:25:00) A six-documentary which can be watched in full or by each part. Featuring “Blazing New Path” (8:31, Discussion of not wanting to make a sequel but a new film/reboot), “Patience is Not a Virtue: Pre-Production” (25:31, working on the script, hiring the cast and more), “We Will Burn This City to Bitter Ashes (8:50, about filming in Eastern Europe), “To Hell and Back: Production” (23:41, from shooting the film, makeup and more), “Walking in Both Worlds: Post-Production” (15:32, the digital effects of the film) and “The Fires of Hell Will Purify You: Release” (8:41, test screenings, promoting the film at Comic-Con and more).
- Previews – Sony Pictures Home Entertainment trailers.
A code is included with the Blu-ray release to watch and access the full-length movie via the cloud through Ultraviolet.
As a comic collector during my child up to my college years, “Ghost Rider” was a title that I did purchase and collect. And to tell you the truth, when this sequel came out, I was a bit excited because I thought the film would feature Danny Ketch and the character known as Vengeance.
But instead, it was a film to showcase Ghost Rider, his powers (using newer technology than what was used in the first film) and showcase Johnny Blaze and the battle he faces each day with the demon inside him. And while I did like seeing the craziness of Johnny Blaze, thanks to Nicolas Cage’s portrayal of the character, the film was all action with a storyline that seemed to be created around the action.
We have the cool Idris Elba show up as the often inebriated priest Moreau, but unfortunately, his character was never fully developed. We see the beautiful Violante Placido as Nadya, who was featured heavily in the first half of the film but yet she nearly disappears for the second half until the end.
So, I was bit surprised because I expected a lot from David S. Goyer, who did a fantastic job with the screenplay of “The Dark Knight” and “Batman Begins”, but the film seems to embody more action as his previous screenplays that he did for films like “Blade” and “Blade II”. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the screenplay was rewritten and retweaked for budgetary reasons and molded for the directorial style of filmmakers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.
Personally, having read the “Ghost Rider” comic books, the film really needs to take a darker step forward. While the visual effects of this film was good, having a story with Ghost Rider around a young boy, just doesn’t seem right. It reminds me of Marvel comic books of the ’80s when Spider-Man, Captain America and other superheroes would hang out with children (which was understandable as the demographic targeted was children), but in today’s superhero films, I definitely don’t want to see a superhero film that revolves around a child, especially with a dark character such as Ghost Rider.
While the popcorn action will definitely entice those who expect Ghost Rider to kick some ass, the step to a more darker Ghost Rider was cool to see visually, but the action and visual effects can only go so far. Personally, they need to get out of the Roarke storyline and possibly consider focusing on a storyline featuring Ghost Rider vs. another Marvel hero (which usually happens in the comic books), a hero that possibly Marvel may want to look into giving the character its own film. May it be the return of Blade or Iron Fist/Luke Cage, Dr. Strange or even Ghost Rider vs. Vengeance if need be. And both working together in taking on a greater evil.
As for the Blu-ray release, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” does look and sound great on Blu-ray, that is a major plus! And whether or not you enjoy the humorous video commentary by filmmakers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, at least the guys are able to defend the film and even have fun joking around about the film despite how many critics disapproved of the film.
Overall, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” was a step forward in terms of visual effects and going for a more darker feel, but its storyline was taking several steps backward. To have a bad ass character such as Ghost Rider featured in a screenplay that revolves around a kid… what a way to dampen the enthusiasm for fans expecting so much from an iconic Marvel Comics antihero!
Ghost Rider deserves much better, as has the other Marvel superheroes have received in their own films. A better storyline to balance out the incredible action.
“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” will appeal to movie fans who love films (especially Blu-ray releases) with plenty of action. Just don’t watch this film having high expectations, or else you will be disappointed.
A Film by Joel Schumacher
Starring Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman, Ben Mendelsohn, Cam Gigandet, Liana Liberato, Jordana Spiro, Dash Mihok, Emily Meade and Nico Tortorella
TRESPASS will open in theaters and premiere on VOD October 14, 2011.
Synopsis: In a private, wealthy community, priority is placed on security and no exception is made for the Miller family’s estate. Behind their pristine walls and manicured gardens, Kyle (Nicolas Cage), a fast-talking businessman, has entrusted the mansion’s renovation to his stunning wife, Sarah (Nicole Kidman).
But between making those big decisions and keeping tabs on their defiant teenage daughter (Liana Liberato), Sarah often finds herself distracted by a young, handsome worker (Cam Gigandet) at their home. Nothing is what it seems, and it will take a group of cold-blooded criminals led by Elias (Ben Mendelsohn), who have been planning a vicious home invasion for months, to bring the Miller family together. When they storm the manor, everyone is tangled up in betrayal, deception, temptation and scheming. Kyle, Sarah and Avery will take the ultimate risk to make it out with their lives – and their family – intact.
TRESPASS is directed by Joel Schumacher and stars Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman, Ben Mendelsohn, Cam Gigandet, Liana Liberato, Jordana Spiro, Dash Mihok, Emily Meade and Nico Tortorella. The film was written by Karl Gajdusek, produced by Rene Besson, Irwin Winkler and David Winkler and was executive produced by Avi Lerner, Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson and John Thompson.
Millennium Entertainment will release TRESPASS on October 14, 2011 in theaters and at home – rent it with your remote control.
A ’90s romantic comedy starring Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker. While the Blu-ray release is pretty much barebones, if you love this film back in 1992 and owned previous video versions, this Blu-ray release is probably the best looking version of the film at this time. It’s not the greatest romantic comedy, nor is it the worst. If anything, it was OK.
Images courtesy of © 1994 Orion Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Honeymoon in Vegas
FILM RELEASE DATE: 1992
DURATION: 98 minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1), English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish and French mono, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
RATED: PG-13 (Language and Some Sensuality)
COMPANY: Twentieth Century Fox/MGM
RELEASE DATE: July 5, 2011
Written and Directed by Andrew Bergman
Produced by Mike Lobell
Executive Producer: Neil A. Machlis
Associate Producer: Adam Merims
Music by David Newman
Cinematography by William A. Fraker
Edited by Barry Malkin
CAsting by Mike Fenton, Valorie Massalas
Production Design by William A. Elliott
Art Direction by John Warnke
Set Decoration by Linda DeScenna, Tina Albanese
Costume Design by Julie Weiss
James Caan as Tommy Korman
Nicolas Cage as Jack Singer
Sarah Jessica Parker as Bets/Donna
Pat Morita as Mahi Mahi
Johnny Williams as Johnny Sandwich
John Capodice as Sally Molars
Robert Costanzo as Sidney Tomashefsky
Anne Bancroft as Bea Singer
Peter Boyle as Chief Orman
Burton Gilliam as Roy Bacon, Elvis Impersonator
Brent Hinkley as Vern
Dean Hallo as Lyle
Seymour Cassel as Tony Cataracts
Jerry Tarkanian as Sid Feder
Keone Young as Eddie Wong
Danny Kamekona as Niko
John McMahon as Chris
Jack Singer (Cage) is terrified of commitment but even more terrified of losing his beautiful schoolteacher fiancée Betsy (Parker). So as an act of faith, he takes the plunge and agrees to tie the knot in a quickie Vegas ceremony. But when he makes a bad $60,000 bet with mobster Tommy Korman (Caan), the marriage “knot”and all of Jack’s dreamsstarts unraveling fast. The only way that Korman willforgive the debt, he says, is if Jack will loan him Betsy for the rest of the weekend!
From the filmmaker who wrote “Blazing Saddles” and “The Freshman” comes a romantic comedy titled “Honeymoon in Vegas”.
Written and directed by Andrew Bergman, the film would star Nicolas Cage (“Moonstruck”, “Peggy Sue Got Marrie”, “The Cotton Club”), Sarah Jessica Parker (“Sex and the City”, “Square Pegs”, “Ed Wood”) and James Caan (“The Godfather”, “Elf”, “Misery”).
The film revolves around Jack Singer (played by Nicolas Cage), his dying mother wanted him to promise on thing…that is to never get married.
For Jack, he is shocked that his mother request such a thing but because it was his mom’s dying wish, he came to accept it.
That is until he met Betsy (played by Sarah Jessica Parker), his girlfriend and a woman that is everything he wanted. A woman he would love…but as their love was strong, both noticed they were starting to become disconnected.
That is because Betsy does not want to be a girlfriend but wants to become his wife and if he is unwilling to do be her husband, she won’t stay in the relationship.
Knowing that he would be breaking his mom’s promise, Jack knows that Betsy is perfect for him and so, out of nowhere, he tells her that they will be going to Vegas to get married.
The two stay at Bally’s Hotel and enjoy their time together. But watching them is a professional gambler named Tommy Korman (played by James Caan). When he sees Betsy, he sees his late wife and now, wants to marry her.
So, Tommy concocts a plan to get Jack involved in a crooked Poker game in order for him to get close to Betsy and remove Jack from the picture.
The plan works and Jack loses $65,000. With no money to pay for it, Korman tells him that he will erase the debt if Jack allows him to spend one weekend with Betsy.
Disheveled and upset, Jack explains to Betsy what happened and Betsy is shocked that Jack would make her into someone’s whore. He tries to tell her that all he requests is a weekend and not anything sexual. And knowing that she and Jack do not have money to pay back the debt, the two agree and Betsy would spend time with Tommy for the weekend.
For Jack it begins to eat him up of what he has done to Betsy but to his shock, he finds out that Betsy is no longer in Vegas. Tommy has taken Betsy to Hawaii and now, Tommy will do what he can to keep Betsy with him and keep Jack away from her.
Can Jack reunite with Betsy? Or will she end up marrying the wealthy Tommy Korman?
“Honeymoon in Vegas” is presented in 1080p High Definition (Widescreen 1:85:1). Many people who are familiar with my reviews know that I have a sort of disdain towards how films from the mid ’80s to the early ’90s have looked on Blu-ray. I have this feeling that a lot of film made economic decisions to use certain types of film and in HD, unfortunately these films tend to look soft, fuzzy and literally look their age. While some films do look good, so far, many films continue to have this uneven picture quality and unfortunately, “Honeymoon in Vegas” is the same.
Moments where the film looks very good (ie. outdoor scenes, especially with Sarah Jessica Parker in the pool or when everyone is in Hawaii) but at times, soft and not vibrant at all. So, it’s a mix-up of good and not-so-good and where noise tends to show itself at times.
But still, I’ve not owned the VHS and DVD versions of the film but if you are a fan of the film, I would expect that this version is probably the best version on video to date.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Honeymoon in Vegas” is presented in English 2.0 Surround DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish and French monaural. Dialogue and Elvis music is clear as it comes from the front channels. It’s pretty much a basic lossless stereo soundtrack but one thing that the film is known for (especially its original soundtrack) is its music. But overall, dialogue is clear and understandable.
Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.
“Honeymoon in Vegas” comes with its original theatrical trailer.
“Honeymoon in Vegas” is your average romantic comedy that has its fair share of laughs but a year later, a film with similar concept titled “Indecent Proposal” would one-up this comedy and have it fade to movie obscurity.
I vaguely remember this film and its hard to believe that both Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker were in a film together.
While Nicolas Cage was known for romantic comedies in the ’80s and ’90s, Sarah Jessica Parker was known in the ’80s for “Square Pegs” and eventually started to be in several films as a main lead actress but things obviously went uphill for the actress when she was the lead for “Sex and the City”. But her role in “Honeymoon in Vegas” had its hilarious moments when she would scream at Jack for making her a “whore”. But once she leaves Jack to spend time with Korman, I just felt that the comedy that I was enjoying between both she and Jack, was done.
If there was one actor who did probably save this film from being terrible is James Caan as his performance was quite solid. He was the no-nonsense hustler but at the same time, he was able to provide a few laughs during the film. While the late Pat Morita, also did a wonderful job in the film whenever he was able to receive some screen time.
As for the film “Honeymoon in Vegas” was OK. As mentioned earlier, “Indecent Proposal” took a similar premise and did it much, much better. Granted, one is a drama and the “Honeymoon in Vegas” is a comedy but I was not exactly loving it. And I’m also not the type to enjoy Elvis impersonators and there are plenty of it in this film. There are just too many moments where the storyline seemed unbelievably forced and kitschy.
As for the Blu-ray release, it has no special features but the trailer and the PQ is uneven but if you really enjoyed the film, there is no doubt that this will be the better version on video to own for the time being.
Overall, for me this title is a mere rental but if you really enjoyed this film back in 1992, then definitely give this Blu-ray a chance.
A film that is an ode to grindhouse B films… Overall, “Drive Angry” is a Nic Cage popcorn action film that is over-the-top, crazy as hell, but will definitely appeal to those who appreciate these type of films. As for the Blu-ray, awesome PQ and AQ… if you enjoyed this film, then this Blu-ray is for you!
Images courtesy of © 2011 MR Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Drive Angry: Special Edition
FILM RELEASE DATE: 2011
DURATION: 105 minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:78:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Espanol
RATED: R (Strong Brutal Violence Throughout, Grisly Images, Some Graphic Sexual Content, Nudity and Pervasive Language)
COMPANY: Summit Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: May 31, 2011
Directed by Patrick Lussier
Written by Todd Farmer, Patrick Lussier
Produced by Rene Besson, Michael De Luca
Executive Producer: Boaz Davidson, Danny Dimbort, Joe Gatta, Avi Lerner, Diego J. Martinez, Trevor Short
Co-Producer: Ed Cathell III
Music by Michael Wandmacher
Cinematography by Brian Pearson
Edited by Devin C. Lussier, Patrick Lussier
Casting by Nancy Nayor
Production Design by Nathan Amondson
Art Direction by Zach Bangma, William Bude
Set Decoration by Kristin Bicksler
Nicolas Cage as Milton
Amber Heard as Piper
William Fichtner as The Accountant
Billy Burke as Jonah King
David Morse as Webster
Todd Farmer as Frank
Christa Campbell as Mona
Charlotte Ross as Candy
Tom Atkins as Cap
Jack McGee as Fat Lou
Katy Mixon as Norma Jean
In the high-octane, action-adventure DRIVE ANGRY, Nicolas Cage stars as an undead felon who breaks out of hell to avenge his murdered daughter and rescue her kidnapped baby from a band of cult-worshipping savages. Joined by tough-as-nails Piper (Amber Heard), the two set off on a rampage of redemption, all while being pursued by an enigmatic killer (William Fichtner) who has been sent by the Devil to retrieve Milton and deliver him back to hell.
A surreal, vicious, action-packed, in-your-face type of non-horror film that can only come from horror film team of Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer. A grindhouse film that you’ll either love or hate!
“Drive Angry” is a film that no doubt is violent, bloody but it’s one of those films that popcorn action fans will dig into, but a tad more viciousness than one is used to seeing. Director Patrick Lussier (“My Bloody Valentine”, “Dracula 2000”, “The Prophecy 3: The Ascent”) and Todd Farmer (“Halloween 3”, “Jason X”, “The Messengers”) set out to do a 3D film that was not horror-based, focused on more action and violence.
Starring Nicolas Cage (“Con Air”, “Face/Off”, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”), Amber Heard (“Never Back Down”, “Zombieland”), William Fichtner (“Black Hawk Down”, “Crash”), Billy Burke (“Twilight” films, “Fracture”) and David Morse (“The Green Mile”, “The Hurt Locker”, “Contact”).
“Drive Angry” is about a dead man named John Milton (played by Nicolas Cage) who broke out of Hell after seeing reality through the pain of loved ones (part of the penalty of being in Hell) of his daughter being slaughtered by satanic cult leader Jonah King (played by Billy Burke) and seeing him kidnap her daughter.
Now, Milton wants the baby and he wants King dead.
As Milton goes to look for King, he stops by a diner where he sees a beautiful waitress named Piper (played by Amber Heard) who doesn’t put up with any crap but yet can be compassionate. When Piper’s car is messed up, Milton helps her fix it in return for a ride. While Milton goes on to look for King and Piper goes back home to her fiance, she sees him having sex with a woman and enraged, Amber beats her up and also punches her fiance. But in return, he roughs her up and threatens to kill her and punches her until she is knocked out cold.
Milton sees this and saves her life by beating her fiance up and taking the car and Piper with him, as he goes on his search for Jonah King.
Meanwhile, a man known as the Accountant (played by William Fichtner), who is from hell and is sent to bring Milton back by all means necessary.
As Milton and Piper drive and both agree to help each other get to their destination, they stop by a bar/hotel. Sure enough, Jonah King is there and he has brought a bunch of his henchman to kill Milton, to add to that, the Accountant gets the State Troopers to also go to the same area to kill Milton.
While having sex with a waitress named Candy (played by Charlotte Ross), Milton is able to kill all the henchman and as for Piper, trying to help Milton, she ends up killing the state troopers and now will be wanted by authorities.
Now both, Milton and Piper become the hunted as King’s satanic worshippers, the Accountant and now the state police are after both of them. Will they survive this ordeal and will Milton save his granddaughter from Jonah King?
“Drive Angry” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1) and the picture quality of this film is fantastic! Vibrant colors during the daylight, obviously special effects tailored for 3D, black levels are nice and deep and plenty of detail from Milton’s “God Killer” weapon, clothing detail to the mangled bloody visual effects and makeup from the gun and rifle shots.
If there is one problem, it’s with certain scenes that were tailored for the 3D, watching it non-3D, some of the special effects can come out quite cheesy at times. But for the most part, PQ is very good. I detected no banding, no artifacting, no speckles or edge enhancement nor major DNR, the film looks absolute fantastic on Blu-ray!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Drive Angry” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1. As one would expect from an all-out action film, a lot of explosions, a lot of gun shots, rifle shots, cars getting damaged, windows breaking, it’s a pretty active lossless soundtrack. Even the rock music utilizes the surround channels for good effect and also good use of LFE during the more explosive scenes.
The film has a pretty immersive soundtrack and aside from the canned baby cries and horrible ending theme (which sounds like it should be used for a beer commercial), the lossless soundtrack is very good!
Subtitles are presented in English SDH and Espanol.
“Drive Angry: Special Edition” comes with the following special feature:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by filmmakers Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer. Both give details on each scene, talk about differences of the original screenplay and what you see on screen, the talent and more!
- Deleted Scenes – Featuring two deleted scenes with optional commentary by Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer.
- Access: Drive Angry – While watching the film, you can get factual information (especially on the vehicles) to interviews with the cast and filmmakers. Unfortunately, those who want to watch these interviews without having to watch the film are out of luck, as you need to watch the whole film and you can not forward through chapters or do a scene selection when watching it in this mode.
“Drive Angry: Special Edition” comes with a foil slip cover case.
You know that feeling when you watch a recent Quentin Tarentino or Robert Rodriguez film where there are surreal situations, plenty of bloody violence and plenty of action?
Well, “Drive Angry” is one of those films but in this case, every character featured are not exactly good people (probably with the exception of the baby), it seems as if every character has blood on their hands and its the way the filmmakers intended this film to be.
“Drive Angry” is a straightup popcorn action film around the same style of films such as “Grindhouse”. A lot of profanity, a lot of violence, a lot of action…if you are into that, then this movie is for you.
There was no goal to make this a deep film, the goal was obviously a grindhouse-type of film. I was actually quite intrigued by the film because I think this was the first film where I have seen the protagonist kill his adversaries while having sex. You just don’t see that in a film.
Also, for Amber Heard’s character of Piper, not only does she kick ass, she’s constantly cussing, sh*t talking and definitely an interesting case of anti-heroine and I have to give credit to both Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer for not sugarcoating this character. In a scene where Piper is getting kidnapped, instead of showing the character being kidnapped and screaming, Piper doesn’t go down without a fight, she continually kicks and fights and it was good to see this character continually kicking butt throughout the film.
As for Nicolas Cage, it’s Nic Cage…perfectly suited for this kind of film (and I will say this film is much better than “Ghost Rider”) and also, it was good to see William Fichtner as the Accountant, who brings comedy to this film.
While I am sure that “Drive Angry” probably worked ala 3D in the theaters, watching it non-3D, there were some visuals (meant for 3D) that just didn’t translate well when you watch it normally. But for fans of the film, the solid PQ and AQ for this Blu-ray release, should make them happy. I just wished the “Access: Drive Angry” interviews were isolated rather than having to watch the full movie (and I wish one could skip chapters and even forward or rewind during this special feature but you can’t).
Overall, I can appreciate the filmmakers trying to go over-the-top with “Drive Angry”. It’s a grindhouse popcorn action B film. It’s not striving to be anything more than that and I suppose you can say, the filmmakers accomplished that. While many many find this film to be too grotesque, corrupt, bloody and violent, if you are into these type of films, then “Drive Angry: Special Edition” is for you!
While “Leaving Las Vegas” on Blu-ray is a barebones release and not the best looking film on HD (since it was a low budget film shot on Super 16mm), Mike Figgis’ masterpiece is a film that should be watched. It’s a dark romantic film that may not be for everyone but it’s a non-traditional, unique film that I have to recommend watching and even owning on Blu-ray.
Images courtesy of © 1995 Initial Productions, S.A. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Leaving Las Vegas
FILM RELEASE DATE: 1995
DURATION: 112 minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono, French Dolby Surround, Subtitles: English SDH, French
RATED: UNRATED (Note: This is the unrated uncut version featuring explicit footage not seen in theaters)
COMPANY: UA/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc./Twentieth Century Fox
RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2011
Directed by Mike Figgis
Based on the novel by John O’Brien
Screenplay by Mike Figgis
Producer: Lila Casez, Annie Stewart
Executive Producer: Stuart Regen, Paige Simpson
Line Producer: Marc S. Fischer
Music by Mike Figgis
Cinematography by Declan Quinn
Edited by John Smith
Casting by Carrie Frazier
Production Design by Waldemar Kalinowski
Art Direction by Barry Kingston
Set Decoration by Florence Fellman
Costume Design by Laura Goldsmith
Nicolas Cage as Ben Sanderson
Elisabeth Shue as Sera
Julian Sands as Yuri
Richard Lewis as Peter
Steven Weber as Marc Nussbaum
Kim Adams as Sheila
Emily Procter as Debbie
Valeria Golino as Terri
Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter who lost everything because of his drinking, arrives in Las Vegas to drink himself to death. There, he meets and forms an uneasy friendship and non-interference pact with prostitute Sera.
Nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Director”, “Best Writing, Screenplay” and “Best Actress”, Mike Figgis’ (“One Night Stand”, “Time Code”, “Stormy Monday”) 1996 film “Leaving Las Vegas” was adored by film critics and was successful in the box office.
The film would be known for elevating the career of Nicolas Cage (“Con Air”, “The Rock”, “Face/Off”) who would take home the Academy Award and “Golden Globe Award” for “Best Actor” and would also earn Elisabeth Shue (“The Karate Kid”, “Cocktail”, “Back to the Future” Part II and III) her first Academy Award nomination.
“Leaving Las Vegas” would also be an inspiration for many Indie filmmakers as the low budget film (created for a budget of $4 million) which was shot on super 16mm would feature Figgis composing the score for the film but also shooting in Las Vegas via guerrilla filmmaking because permits were not issued, he shot certain scenes on the Las Vegas strip in order to avoid police.
“Leaving Las Vegas” is a film dark romantic film about two individuals who live destructive lives.
Ben Sanderson (played by Nicolas Cage) is a Hollywood Screenwriter who is an alcoholic and literally has lost his family, friends and his job. Depressed and suicidal, he decides to go to Las Vegas and drink himself to death. While driving drunk on the strip one night, he nearly hits a high class prostitute named Sera (played by Elisabeth Shue) and she is very ticked off at him.
Meanwhile, Sera has a relationship with an abusive pimp named Yuri. But when Yuri is in trouble with Polish mobsters, he breaks his relationship with Sera.
So, the following day, Ben runs into Sera again and offers her $500 for an hour, but she is shocked that he doesn’t want to have sex with her. He just wants companionship for him to share his misery with her and also someone who will not try to save him or prevent him from killing himself.
Both individuals share a common bond and that is the fact that they are both in misery and both are lonely. And from this point on, both have an urge to see each other for companionship and both really want to love each other but both have destructive lifestyles, Ben and his alcohol and Sera with her prostitution.
Can both find love? Or will their loneliness and misery lead to their demise?
“Leaving Las Vegas” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). It’s important to note that this was a low budget film shot on super 16 mm, so that means that you are not going to get the clearest picture as some are used to on Blu-ray. As expected, the grain of the film is much more evident in HD and the film does have a look of being dark and dreary, which actually fits the film and its characters.
Once again, because this was shot on Super 16mm, do not expect the best picture quality but for the most part, compared to its DVD and previous video counterparts, this is the best looking version of the film to date.
“Leaving Las Vegas” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono and French Dolby Surround. The film is primarily a dialogue driven film while the surround channels are used for the musical score. There are times where scenes with crowds are utilized for ambient noise but for the most part, the lossless soundtrack’s highlight is the crisp and clear dialogue and its jazzy score.
“Leaving Las Vegas” comes with one special feature and that is the theatrical trailer.
Unique, powerful, bleak and devastating… there are many words to describe “Leaving Las Vegas”.
A film that defies traditional romance films from Hollywood by approaching the romance film from the dark underbelly of two destructive characters. Characters that are reminiscent of a classic Marco Ferreri and Nagisa Oshima film where misery finds company and in the case of “Leaving Las Vegas”, we have two people who seek companionship because they are both headed towards the path of destruction.
“Leaving Las Vegas” is a film that shows you that independent film, low budget films can be powerful and magnificent. In the case of director Mike Figgis, this is a man who took John O’Brien’s semi-autobiographical novel and turned it into a masterpiece.
There is no doubt that O’Brien’s novel was his suicide note. The Hollywood screenwriter shot and killed himself two weeks after “Leaving Las Vegas” was made into a movie but it’s not the death that Figgis concentrates on in the film, if anything, it’s the love story between two miserable individuals and both Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue gave memorable and magnificent performances.
A love story that is untraditional as you have two characters that you really don’t root for. You just wonder how each can go farther down as they both have destructive lifestyles. Ben Sanderson is a man who is going to die and no one is going to change his mind about it, but if there is one thing that he does want, it’s to spend those final moments feeling love from a person who share his misery. Cage plays the character excellently as we see symptoms of an alcoholic within Cage’s character, trembling, erratic and if anything, we see how this tormented individual slowly die.
Sera is a complex individual that she sees herself as a classy high-class prostitute but one scene where she sees Ben with another woman, you sense her insecurity. It’s important to note that this Blu-ray release also contains the uncut version not show in theaters and you literally can see how badly her life as a “high class” prostitute is. Shue did a lot of research for her role but it’s not the performance of a hooker that makes you sympathize with her, it’s the fact that of these two screwed up individuals, one at least has a chance to fix their life up but also for the fact that she is a “hopeless romantic”. Her love is hopeless and she knows it.
While it would have been nice to have special features on this Blu-ray, while it is a barebones Blu-ray release, it’s also the uncut version of the film. And because this film ranks high on my list of “fucked up movies, one should see in their lifetime” (and with that being said, this film may not be for everyone), the fact is that this film is a film worth watching and has one of the most clever endings, most satisfy ending that I have seen for a bleak romance film.
A witness has said the reason for Nicolas Cage’s arrest this weekend in New Orleans was because he was drunk and kept trying to get into homes that weren’t his and arguing with his wife of where their home in the French Quarter was located.
According to WBRZ.com in Louisianna, “Police say that the couple were arguing in front of a home that Cage said they were renting while his wife disagreed. Cage grabbed her arm, started hitting vehicles and tried to get into a taxi. An officer noticed Cage was intoxicated and told him to get out the cab, he then yelled at the officer.”
Meanwhile, Dog the Bounty Hunter posted the $11,000 bond for Nicolas Cage. The bounty hunter told media, “I am a truly dedicated fan of Mr. Cage and will not be granting any interviews about my client as I wish to respect his privacy.”
Magnificent! One of the greatest romantic comedies to come from the ’80s, “Moonstruck” has everything you want from a romantic comedy…great music, great location, great story and most of all, magnificent performances. Recommended!
Images courtesy of © 2011 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.
FILM RELEASE DATE: 1987
DURATION: 98 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish Mono, French Dolby Surround, AVC@40MBPS, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
COMPANY: MGM/20th Century Fox
RELEASE DATE: February 15, 2011
Directed by Norman Jewison
Written by John Patrick Shanley
Producer by Norman Jewison and Patrick J. Palmer
Associate Producer: Bonnie Palef
Music by Dick Hyman
Cinematography by David Watkin
Edited by Lou Lombardo
Casting by Howard Feuer
Production Design by Philip Rosenberg
Art Direction by Dan Davis, Barbra Matis
Costume Design by Theoni V. Aldredge
Cher as Loretta Castorini
Nicolas Cage as Ronny Cammareri
Vincent Gardenia as Cosmo Castorini
Olympia Dukakis as Rose Castorini
Danny Aiello as Mr. Johnny Cammareri
Juli Bovasso as Rita Cappomaggi
John Mahoney as Perry
Louis Guss as Raymond Cappomaggi
Anita Gillette as Mona
Leonardo Cimino as Felix
Paula Trueman as Lucy
Nada Despotovich as Chrissy
Three timeless classics will make their Blu-ray debut on February 15th from MGM Home Entertainment: LAST TANGO IN PARIS: Uncut Version, MOONSTRUCK, and cult favorite RAIN MAN. Collectively nominated for sixteen Academy Awards, these celebrated titles make the perfect additions to any film collection!
Fall under the delightful spell of MOONSTRUCK, with Cher (Burlesque) as an unlucky-in-love Italian widow who finds romance through the intervention of the Manhattan moon. With her wedding to Johnny (Danny Aiello, Once Upon A Time in America), a man she doesn’t love, just weeks away, she meets and falls hopelessly in love with his younger brother (Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas). Her dilemma—and her equally passionate and hilariously eccentric family—make for an unforgettable film. Nominated for six Academy Awards, MOONSTRUCK was honored with accolades for Best Actress (Cher), Best Supporting Actress (Olympia Dukakis, Look Who’s Talking), and Best Original Screenplay.
Moonstruck – Film Clip – “All I’m Sayin'”
Moonstruck – Film Clip – “Snap Out of It”
Moonstruck – Film Clip – “Loretta and Ronnie”
Moonstruck – Film Clip – “The Proposal”
Moonstruck – Film Clip – “Love Bite”
Hilarious and enjoyable, “Moonstruck” is a fantastic romantic comedy featuring spectacular performances by Cher, Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia. Great screenplay, wonderful direction, just an exciting romantic comedy that is absolutely timeless!
In 1987, “Moonstruck”, directed by Norman Jewison (“Agnes of God”, “Rollerball”, “Fiddler on the Roof”) and a screenplay by John Patrick Shanley (“Joe Versus the Volcano”, “Congo”, “Doubt”) was released theatrically and became the fifth highest grossing film of that year with over $80 million made in the US box office and a film that would be nominated for six Oscars and taking home three for “Best Original Screenplay”, “Best Actress” (Cher) and “Best Supporting Actress” (Olympia Dukakis). And now this wonderful romantic comedy receives a re-release as part of “Cher: The Film Collection” (note: The version included in this release is the Deluxe Edition).
There was no doubt that 1987 was a busy year for Cher who starred in three films that year alone with “Suspect” and “The Witches of Eastwick”. Since her return to feature films with “Silkwood” in 1983 (which she was nominated for an Oscar for “Best Supporting Actress”), she followed up with a wonderful performance in “Mask” in 1985 which earned her a Cannes Film Festival Award for “Best Actress”. But it is her role in “Moonstruck” that literally made Cher one of the most popular and most wanted actresses on the planet.
“Moonstruck” revolves around the character Loretta Castorini (played by Cher), a 37-year-old woman who is an accountant and also a widower. She is dating Johnny Cammareri (played by Danny Aiello, “Do the Right Thing”, “Leon the Professional”, “Harlem Nights”), a man she doesn’t really love. But considering she has not found love since the death of her last husband, when Johnny proposes to her, she says, “yes”.
But with Johnny’s mother dying and the fact that he didn’t have an engagement ring (had to use his own pinky ring), he tells her that once he gets back from visiting his mother in Italy, who is living her final days, he will return back and the two will plan for their wedding. But before he leaves, he has one request for Loretta, to please visit his estranged brother Ronny (played by Nicolas Cage, “Raising Arizona”, “Peggy Sue Got Married”, “National Treasure”) and tell him that his older brother is getting married and would like for him to attend.
Meanwhile, Loretta’s father Cosmo (played by Vincent Gardenia, “Little Shop of Horrors”, “Death Wish”) is not so supportive of his daughters remarriage, especially since she wants him to pay for her wedding. As for her mother, Rose (played by Olympia Dukakis, “Steel Magnolias”, “Look Who’s Talking”, “Charlie’s War”), she’s just more concerned that she marries a man that she doesn’t love.
When Loretta tries to call Ronny to let him know about her wedding with his older brother, he screams at her and hangs up the phone. Because she knows his appearance at the wedding is so important for Johnny, she goes to the bakery where Ronny works and tells him the news to his face. Immediately, we learn from Ronny why he hates his brother so much.
Apparently when he was about to get married, his brother preoccupied him during a conversation and Ronny put his hand through a meat slicer and lost his hand. He also lost his fiance who ran out on him with another man and blames Johnny for everything. So, he is disgusted that Johnny has a girl while he not only lost his, he also lost his hand.
Loretta tries to calm Ronny’s anger by inviting him to her home in which she cooks him a steak. While the two are talking, he gets angry at her again about marrying his brother and next thing you know, he starts kissing Loretta and the next thing you know, the two go to her bed where they make love.
Loretta knows that she has done the wrong thing and tries to push Ronny away but he tells her that he has fallen in love with her. But she tells him that they can’t because she is marrying his brother. Ronny can’t resist Loretta but he will do so if she accompanies him to the opera. So, she agrees.
Loretta doesn’t know too much about the opera but she wants to look nice with her final outing with Ronny. Getting her hair died and getting a makeover, the two go to the opera and even though she finds herself caring for Ronny and Ronny continuing to tell her how much he loves her. She tells him that she can’t because she’s marrying Johnny. But can she marry a man that she doesn’t even love? Will she end up staying by her promise to marry Johnny or will she follow her heart and marry Ronny?
“Moonstruck” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 widescreen). First, its important for me to remind everyone that this is a 1987 film and I’ve always had the opinion that many films from the ’80s tend to have this aged look and sometimes appearances look soft. While for “Moonstruck”, the film does show its age in terms of film stock used, this is the best looking version of the film to date.
There is a good amount of grain in this film but there is much more detail. For example, when we are introduced to Ronny (Nicolas Cage) for the first time, you can see the detail of that flame inside the bread cooking stove, the hairs on Cage’s chest are much more evident, especially the white in Cher’s hair at the beginning of the film.
Blacks are nice and deep in the Blu-ray release and for the most part, it’s not the greatest looking film on Blu-ray but for a 1987 classic romantic comedy, it’s definitely an upgrade from the previous DVD releases. While the film definitely looks better on Blu-ray, where “Moonstruck” definitely excels is its lossless audio.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Moonstruck” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono and French Dolby Surround. While “Moonstruck” has always been a film about its witty dialogue, it’s also a film that is known for its music. While the film is not known for having an immersive soundtrack and it’s not an action film to expect any major use of surround, what I enjoyed about the lossless soundtrack to this film is how they utilized the music towards the front and surround channels.
The music sounds fantastic for this film and I was amazed of how much the music brings the film to life via lossless. From hearing Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore” to the opera and hear how the music was utilized throughout the film and hear it sound crystal clear was pretty awesome. There are some scenes that do fully utilize the surround that are non-music such as a jet flying over the city and you can hear how the engines start to get louder and go from one speaker and literally envelope the whole soundscape but these are just a few instances. If anything, the lossless soundtrack for “Moonstruck” is adequate for this film and if you loved the film before, especially for how music was utilized, you’ll love how this film sounds on Blu-ray.
Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French.
“Moonstruck” comes with the following special features in Standard Definition:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Cher, director Norman Jewison and writer John Patrick Shanley.
- Moonstruck: At the Heart of an Italian Family – (25:29) Director Norman Jewison and writer John Patrick Shanley talks about making “Moonstruck” a film that showcases Italian family. Also, featuring interviews with Italian families and more.
- Pastas to Pastries: The Art of Fine Italian Food – (1:41) Mark DeCarlo takes us around Little Italy in NYC. After DeCarlo’s introduction we get six establishments featured in their own separate featurettes:
– Grotta Azzurra – (18:47) Mark visits the restaurant and we learn how to make three easy dishes courtesy of the chef.
– Italian Food Center – (2:32) Mark visits the Italian Food Center and takes a look at things we can find inside the store.
– Ferrara Pastries – (2:29) Mark visits the famous Ferrara Pastries.
– Piemonte Ravioli Co. – (2:29) Mark visits the Piemonte Ravioli Co. and how they supply fresh pasta to many of the restaurants in Little Italy.
– Gelato Stand – (1:03) Mark visits a gelato stand in Little Italy. Gelato is Italian ice cream.
– Florio’s Restaurant – (1:25) Mark visits the popular stone oven pizza restaurant.
- Music of Moonstruck – (6:25) A special feature with composer Dick Hyman who talks about the music of the film and how the music was tested with an audience and changes were made to the film. But how Dean Martin’s “Amore” was a perfect for the film.
Back in 1987, there was no doubt that “Moonstruck” was a magical film. Before films such as “When Harry Met Sally”, “Sleepless in Seattle”, “My Greek Wedding” and “Pretty Woman”, the film had everything that you love in a romantic comedy. Drama, humor and just solid performances from everyone involved.
When I first watched this film, I was literally laughing for many of the comedic sequences throughout the film. From Nicolas Cage’s character screaming about how he lost his hand. It’s such a tragic situation but the way it was done onscreen, it was crazy. There were just so many scenes that were just way out of left field that I never saw coming and that’s what added to the allure of the film. You can tell that everyone involved had a blast and everything just came out quite well in the end. The screenplay and the film’s pacing was well-done, direction was also well-done and as mentioned, the performances were wonderful, especially for Cher and Olympia Dukakis. These two women did a magnificent job and their Oscars were well-deserved.
Coming back to this film nearly over 20-years later, the film still manages to still maintain its laughs and the film doesn’t look incredibly aged. If anything, as much as I enjoyed this Blu-ray release, when the original deluxe version came out back in 2006, I felt at the time that the release was well-deserved and that there should have been many special features included. Because this film was literally re-released several times on DVD and once again last fall for Cher’s “Cher: The Film Collection” from MGM and 20th Century Fox, I was hoping to see newer special features to celebrate this romantic comedy.
As far as the Blu-ray is concerned, this is a wonderful romantic comedy and definitely one of the best films that she has starred in. She has done many wonderful films in her acting career but “Moonstruck” is my opinion, her greatest performance thus far. Personally, there is nothing negative I can say about this film because I absolutely loved it. But for the Blu-ray release, I was just hoping for a bit more in terms of newer special features but it makes you wonder if there will be a 25th Anniversary release? Nevertheless, you do get the upgrade in picture quality and a lossless soundtrack that really brings the music out for this wonderful film and it is a pretty solid upgrade.
Overall, a highly recommended romantic comedy worth owning on Blu-ray!