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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 2, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“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.

Images courtesy of © 2012 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved. | Ghost Rider character ™ & © 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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

Starring:

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.

VIDEO:

“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.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“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.

EXTRAS:

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.

Nicolas Cage & Nicole Kidman In TRESPASS – In Theaters & On VOD Oct. 14

August 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Millennium Films
Presents

TRESPASS
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.

Official Site: http://www.trespass-the-movie.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TrespassMovie
Twitter: http://twitter.com/TrespassMovie

Honeymoon in Vegas (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

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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

Starring:

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?

VIDEO:

“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.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“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.

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Drive Angry: Special Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Starring:

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?

VIDEO:

“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.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“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.

EXTRAS:

“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!

Leaving Las Vegas (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Starring:

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?

VIDEO:

“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.

AUDIO:

“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.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“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.

Highly recommended!

 

More details on Nicolas Cage’s arrest

April 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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.”

Actor Nicolas Cage is pictured in this booking photograph released on April 16, 2011. Cage has been arrested in New Orleans after a drunken argument with his wife outside a residence in the French Quarter, police said on Saturday. REUTERS/Orleans Parish County Sheriff’s Office/Handout (UNITED STATES – Tags: ENTERTAINMENT CRIME LAW HEADSHOT IMAGES OF THE DAY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

 

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

February 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

TITLE: Moonstruck

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

RATED: PG

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

Starring:

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?

VIDEO:

“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.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“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!

Interview with Nicolas Cage of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” – J!-ENT Interviews and Articles

November 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

With the upcoming Blu-ray and DVD release of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on Nov. 30th, J!-ENT will be featuring interviews with cast members, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Jon Turteltaub.

In our second featured interview, we feature Nicolas Cage (“Con Air”, “Ghost Rider”, “The Rock”, “Face/Off”) who has worked with producer Jerry Bruckheimer in the past and with director Jon Turteltaub in the two “National Treasure” films.  This time around, Nicolas Cage served as the executive producer of the film as well as starring as the sorcerer Balthazar.

Here is a short Q&A media interview with Nicolas Cage:

How did you get involved with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice?

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice began with my desire to play a magician in a movie. I played a magician of sorts in a movie called Next, which is when I became fascinated with ancient mythologies and philosophies from England. I loved the subject, so I had a conversation with Todd Garner – the producer of Next – and I said to him, “Boy, I’d really like to play a sorcerer from the times of King Arthur.” The very next day he said to me, “Nic, I’ve got it. Why don’t we create a movie around the sorcerer’s apprentice from the Fantasia movie?” It was perfect.

How important was it to transform your look for your role in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice?

Actors often change their looks for roles and I’m certainly part of that school of thought. In fact, I want to transform myself every time I get a new role. I’ll wear wigs, I’ll wear nosepieces, I’ll wear green contact lenses… I’ll do whatever I need to do to create a character. That’s what acting’s all about. That’s the fun of it.

How would you describe the look of your character, Balthazar Blake?

Jerry Bruckheimer says that Balthazar has the look of an ancient rock star, and I have to agree with him. He has a cool style that harkens back to the 500s or the 600s, which is where he came from. Merlin was his teacher, so it was appropriate.

How did it feel to play a sorcerer?

This is the role I’ve been waiting to do my whole life. When I was a kid, I used to love pretending to be a superhero. I was always playing around and shooting energy out of my hands. In that respect, I’ve been rehearsing for this role for years because Balthazar certainly shoots plasma out of his hands in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

How much of the movie is based on the sorcerer’s apprentice scenes of the Disney classic, Fantasia?

There are elements of the animation in the movie, but we fleshed out the idea into a two-hour action adventure. We have expanded the idea to present a thrilling magical world to audiences and I’m especially happy because it’s a family movie. I liked the idea of entertaining a family without having to rely on murder and guns. We’ve kept it very positive.

Why did you want to make it a family movie?

I wanted to create a movie that excited both children and parents because I am a big fan of family movies. When you’re playing supernatural characters in movies like Ghost Rider, Next or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice there is an infinite number of possibilities that you can do with the character, but I wanted this to have comedy and humor – and I wanted it to connect with big audiences. Do you remember the first time you saw The Wizard Of Oz? Did you feel enchanted and magical? We wanted people to have those feelings at the end of our movie. That was our goal.

How did Jerry Bruckheimer and Jon Turteltaub get involved with the project?

I talked the movie over with different writers and then we pitched the idea to Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney – and they loved it. I’d just finished National Treasure II with the director Jon Turteltaub and I thought he’d be perfect for the new movie. He likes to keep things in the fun zone and he keeps things comical, but he’s also edgy, so it was a good mix. He was the perfect man for the job.

What does it mean to you to be associated with Disney?

It’s an honor and I feel greatly privileged to work with Disney. I grew up watching Walt Disney’s movies and I love what he stands for. I love the entertainment that comes out of the studio and this movie is a dream come true for me, which is in the spirit of Disney. It has been a magical experience.

What was it like to work with Jay Baruchel, the actor who plays the sorcerer’s apprentice in the film?

Jay is great. He’s hilarious and he’s a really physical comedian when he wants to be, but he’s also got a little bit of a demon in him. He’s a little mischievous and there’s a playful dark side in him. He was a joy to work with on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Are you a fan of magic and wizards?

I definitely went through my magic phase when I was younger. I think all little boys do at some point. Everyone gets fascinated with magic tricks. I certainly did. I used to go to the Hollywood House Of Magic, which is where I bought a magic trick called ‘Gloripy’. It was a little handkerchief that had a ghost in it. The ghost would move the handkerchief around on its own – and it was really good. I could stun my friends with it. You feel very powerful when you have a magic trick up your sleeve. I used to love it.

When was the last time you performed a magic trick?

Balthazar is a wonderful sorcerer in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but it’s been a while since I used the Gloripy trick. I also had another trick called The Rising Deck Of Cards, too. I could point towards a deck of cards and pick a card – and the card of my choice would rise up. That was also a lot of fun to play with.

Do you know any magical secrets?

Let me tell you something: Never give away your magical secrets. I worked on a movie in New Orleans where I used The Rising Deck Of Cards trick on a friend of mine. He kept asking me, “How are you doing that?” And I could tell he was getting a little nervous because he thought something weird was going on. That’s when I made the world’s worst mistake: I gave away the secret of my trick. He just threw the cards away after that and I lost all the power. Never give away your secrets.

When was the last time you were an apprentice?

The last time I was an apprentice was on a movie called Season Of The Witch. I had to learn how to ride horses for that movie and a young woman named Camilla was my instructor. She did a wonderful job. I’d not been on a horse before, so I was a little nervous – but I learned to love it, which was exciting. I definitely felt like an apprentice there.

What do you think is magical in our world today?

Any painting is a work of magic. Any book is a work of magic. Any science experiment is a work of magic. Any speech that moves people is a work of magic. When you think about magic, it’s not all hocus-pocus. It’s all about imagination and will power and positivity.

Do you remember the first time you realized you wanted to act?

I knew I wanted to be an actor when I was about six years old. I was trying to figure out how to get inside the television set because I was fascinated by it. My father built a little castle out of plywood in our back yard and I would go in there for hours making up stories and characters.

What characters did you make up?

I would pretend to be anything from a knight to a superhero to an astronaut. In fact, that castle was where I learned to act.

Do you have any advice for youngsters who want to follow in your footsteps and act?

Keep the child in you alive because it’s your imagination that will connect you to audiences. Your imagination is your best tool to be an actor. Don’t let people try to diminish it or make you feel bad for having an imagination. Use it whenever you can. I would urge children to play as much as they can and use their imagination as much as possible. It will really help you as an actor. Follow your instincts, work hard and you’ll go far.

**WALT DISNEY STUDIO HOME ENTERTAINMENT’S THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE ON DVD AND BLU-RAY NOVEMBER 30TH**

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Everything you come to expect from a Jerry Bruckheimer produced film and Blu-ray release…  Magnificent PQ, AQ and numerous special features.  But with that being said, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” film is not meant to be taken seriously.  It is purely an visual effects and action-driven popcorn flick that doesn’t aspire to be anything deep.  Just sit back, watch and enjoy!

Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

DURATION: 109 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz/240bit), English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested – For Fantasy, Action, Violence, Some Mild Rude Humor and Brief Language)

Release Date: November 30, 2010

Directed by Jon Turteltaub

Screen Story by Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Matt Lopez

Screenplay by Matt Lopez, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard

Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer

Executive Producer: Nicolas Cage, Todd Garner, Norman Golightly, Chad Oman, Mike Stenson, Barry H. Waldman

Production Executive: Ben Haber

Development Executive: Brigham Taylor

Music by Trevor Rabin

Cinematography by Bojan Bazzeli

Edited by William Goldenberg

Casting by Ronna Kress

Production Design by Naomi Shohan

Art Direction by David Lazan, David Swayze

Set Decoration by George DeTitta, Jr.

Costume Design by Michael Kaplan

Starring:

Nicolas Cage as Balthazar Blake

Jay Baruchel as Dave

Alfred Molina as Maxim Horvath

Teresa Palmer as Becky Barnes

Toby Kebbell as Drake Stone

Omar Benson Miller as Bennet

Monica Belluci as Veronica

Alice Krige as Morgana le Fay

Jake Cherry as Young Dave

James A. Stephens as Merlin

Gregory Woo as Sun-Lok

Peyton List as Young Becky

A fun, modern-day adventure follows Dave (JAY BARUCHEL), just an average college student, or so it appears, until the sorcerer Balthazar Blake (NICOLAS CAGE) recruits him as his reluctant protégé and gives him a crash course in the art and science of magic. As he prepares for a battle against the forces of darkness in modern-day Manhattan, Dave finds it is going to take all of the courage he can muster to survive his training, save the city and get the girl as he becomes THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE.


Sharpening the Magic

Car Chase

Becky Finds Out

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” was originally a poem by Goeth known as “Der Zauberlehrling” written back in 1797 and was popularized in 1940 courtesy of Walt Disney via the animated film “Fantasia”.

Flashforward 60-years later and producer Jerry Bruckheimer (“National Treasure” films, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, “The Pirates of the Caribbean” films), executive producer/actor Nicolas Cage (“National Treasure” films, “Con Air”, “The Rock”) and director Jon Turteltaub (“National Treasure” films, “The Kid”, “While You Were Sleeping”) have taken on the project of remaking “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” for the modern age, with incredible visual effects and an action-paced storyline.

The film features a screenplay by Matt Lopez (“Race to Witch Mountain”, “Bedtime Stories”, “The Wild”), Doug Miro (“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”, “The Uninvited”) and Carlo Bernard (“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”, “The Uninvited”), cinematography by Bojan Bazelli (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith”, “The Ring”, “Burlesque”) and music composed by Trevor Rabin *”The Guardian”, “Get Smart”, “G-Force”, “Race to Witch Mountain”).  The film would be budgeted at $150 million and would earn $215 million in the box office and will now be released on Blu-ray (Blu-ray+DVD and Blu-ray+DVD+Digital Copy) and DVD.

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” begins in 740 AD.  The sorcerer Merlin had three apprentices: Maxim Horvath (played by Alfred Molina, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Spider-Man 2″, “Chocolat”), Balthazar Blake (played by Nicolas Cage) and Veronica Gorloisen (played by Monica Belluci, “The Matrix” films, “Shoot ‘em Up”) to take on the evil sorceress Morgana le Fay (played by Alice Krige).   Morgana wants to destroy the world by resurrecting the dead under her power but as Merlin the Apprentices are about to stop her, one of their own, Horvath betrays Merlin by allowing Morgana to mortally wound Merlin.

As Balthazar battles his former friend, Veronica stops Morgan by absorbing her into her own body.  While Morgana tries to destroy Veronica from within, Balthazar quickly imprisons both women into a Grimhold (a nesting doll) which will keep Veronica alive but also prevent Morgana from causing any harm. He also imprisons Horvath as well.

Before Merlin dies, he tells Balthazar that the remaining apprentice (from his bloodline) will need to be found and that a Dragon ring will lead him to the next apprentice, the Prime Merlinian who will become his successor.  Only the Prime Merlinian can defeat Morgana.

So, for the next 1,000 years, Balthazar imprisons Morganians into the Grimhold while trying to search for his successor.

In 2000, a young 10-year-old named Dave Stutler (young version played by Jake Cherry, older version played by Jay Baruchel, “Knocked Up”, “Tropic Thunder”, “Million Dollar Baby”) a boy who has fallen in love for the young Becky (young version played by Peyton List, older version by Teresa Palmer, “Bedtime Stories”, “The Grudge 2″).  He gives her a note for her to mark if she would be his friend or boyfriend.  She marks the note but somehow the note starts flying around and as Dave tries to get the catch the note, it flies into a shop which is owned by Balthazar.

When Balthazar realizes the coincidence of the boy coming to his store, he tests the dragon ring which automatically responds to Dave.  Balthazar tells him that he has been looking for him for over a 1,000 years.  Of course, Dave doesn’t understand what’s going on.  But when Balthazar tells him to wait and not touch anything, Dave realizes that each time he moves his hand (with the ring) he causes damage in the store and accidentally releases Horvath from the nesting doll.  Now Horvath wants the Grimhold to release Morgana.

Balthazar and Horvath battle but in order to protect the young Dave, Balthazar ends up sealing himself and Horvath in a large vase.   Shocked by what has transpired, Dave takes the Grimhold, runs out of the store and throws it out into the street.  Meanwhile, his classmates see him scared and his pants are wet and assume Dave has peed in his pants. Unfortunately, for him…Becky, the girl he likes also sees this and for the next teen years of his life, Dave would be ridiculed, become an outcast, has to transfer to another school because of being picked on and even go through psychiatric evaluations because no one believes him of what he had seen inside the store.

Fastforward to 2010, Dave is now a student at NYU who studies physics and a science geek.  While collecting papers, he manages to run into Becky who he has not seen for many years.  Becky is also a student at NYU who is struggling in her class and is a DJ on campus.  Excited to see her again, Dave volunteers to tutor her in her studies.

Meanwhile, Balthazar and Horvath manage to escape from the vase and immediately Horvath goes to look for the Grimhold, while Balthazar looks for Dave.

To Dave’s shock, when he returns home, he sees Horvath and realizes that what he saw at the age of 10 was real and now this evil sorcerer is trying to kill him, but Balthazar ends up saving him.   Unfortunately, Horvath finds the Grimhold and now he plans to release Morgana and have her destroy the world.

Balthazar knows he can’t defeat Morgana and Horvath on his own and needs the help of Dave but he must be trained first.

Balthazar explains to Dave that he is a sorcerer and that with his ring, he can create magic and fight against the evils and defend himself from the Morganians, but in order to learn, he must be his apprentice and do what he says.  Dave realizes the truth of what Balthazar says, although he is not ready to dedicate all his time to learning sorcery because he has fallen for Becky, but yet, he will do what it takes to become the sorcerer’s apprentice.

VIDEO:

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). As I expect audio to be wonderful from a Jerry Bruckheimer-related film, I also expect incredible visuals and in this case, the picture quality of this film is fantastic!  There is a lot of vibrant colors going around everywhere in this film.  These colors pop and not only are they dazzling and just wonderful to watch and see, I found no problems with the video whatsoever.  No artifactgs, no dust, scratches or anything negative.  Blacks were nice and deep, skin tones were natural, you can see the scraggly hair of Balthazar, the fur on Alfred Molina’s jacket, the detail of the set also come to life.  Just take a look at the scenes in China Town or Dave’s lab.  There is just detail and colors that just come alive on Blu-ray.

In fact, the film sports a lot of red and amber colors and typically, I would see some banding during those scenes, pause and watch it slowly frame-by-frame and saw none of that.  I saw no crush, I saw nothing that I perceive as negative for the entire film.  Visual effects by Method, One of Us, Double Negative and Asylum for this film were wonderful and the production design by Naomi Shohan (I loved what she did in “I Am Legend”) looks fantastic in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”.

But once again, similar to Bruckheimer’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” on Blu-ray, once again, another film on Blu-ray that achieves perfect marks for PQ.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz/24-bit), English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.

And what would a Jerry Bruckheimer film be without upfront, stomach churning, room shaking lossless audio.  “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is fantastic.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear from the center and front channels but with so much action, the surround channels are constantly being used.  But most of all, for those who simply want more LFE in films, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” delivers!

From the battles between Balthzar and Dave versus Horvath and Morganians, fireballs, electricity, explosions, damage to surroundings, you’re going to hear it from all over, you’re going to hear the audio pan from left to right and right to left and you’re going to be moved by it (literally, moved by it courtesy of that LFE).  Audio for “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is magnificent and audiophiles will love this aspect of the film.

As for subtitles, the film is presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” comes with the following special features presented in HD:

  • Magic In The City – (12:53)  Shooting in New York City, shooting in China Town and the challenges shooting around the city and the challenge of building the dragon and coordinating the green screen with the people running from it.  As well as incorporating the visual effects.
  • The Science Of Sorcery – (10:15)  The cast and crew talk about the science discussion used in the film.
  • Making Magic Real – (11:46)  Creating the effects in real time and not via visual effects.  So, the fire effects shown in the lab was real-time and not added in post-production.  As well, as another numerous scenes that were done real-time.
  • Fantasia: Reinventing a Classic – (10:13) Bruckheimer, Turteltaub and Cage talk about the animated classic “Fantastia” and reinventing it.
  • The Fashionable Drake Stone – (2:09) Bruckheimer and costume designer Michael Kaplan talk about creating the magician Drake Stone and the fashion around him.
  • The Grimhold: An Evil Work Of Art – (3:45) The cast talk about the Grimhold, the Russian nesting doll and the artwork painted on it.
  • The Encantus – (2:23) Director Jon Turteltaub and talent talk about “The Encantus” and the creation of making the actual compiled book and art design involved.
  • Wolves & Puppies – (3:07) Jerry Bruckheimer, director Jon Turteltaub and casts talk about working with wolves.
  • The World’s Coolest Car – (1:30) Director Jon Turteltaub talks about using Nicolas Cage’s 1935 Rolls Royce used for the film and the special care it took to make it and a replica made for it.
  • 5 Deleted Scenes – (7:46) Five deleted scenes cut from the film.
  • Outtakes – (3:14) Bloopers from “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”.

EXTRAS:

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” comes with a slip-over case.

When it comes to action films, especially from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, there are things that you come to expect, heavy action and a film that utilizes incredible visual effects and very awesome set design.  But when it comes to storyline, you never expect anything too deep, in fact, you just sit back and enjoy.

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is similar to Bruckheimer’s last big-budget produced film “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”, both are visual effects heavy, plenty of action and very good talent behind-the-film but a storyline that could have been further explored and made deeper but instead, a film that tends to showcase the latest in visual effects and action.

Film critics will often not be supportive of these type of films but for audiences looking to be entertained and audiophiles and videophiles looking for reference titles to show off their system, Bruckheimer films typically score quite high for these audiences.

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is definitely a film that looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray and the audio is also magnificent but coming into this film, I didn’t have high expectations.  I knew what to expect from a Bruckheimer film and its consistent with his other films in being audio and visual eye candy.  Would I have liked a more deeper film in which we see Dave learning how to become an apprentice and focus on the actual training and see him developing as a sorcerer-in-training.  Yes, that would be great but a Bruckheimer film is not so much about the character development, it’s about in your face action that keeps coming and coming and with the director Jon Turteltaub and the screenwriter to continue to top these action sequences as much as they can.  Visual eye candy…yes, this is how Bruckheimer action films are.  Anyone expecting more than that, shouldn’t.

Don’t expect the greatest acting, don’t expect deep character development, it’s literally a kitschy film that happens to be fun and visual effects heavy.

I grew up watching these type of films as a child and always been mesmerized by visual effects-driven type of films.  Personally, I don’t mind having eye-candy driven films once in awhile and in some way, I have a soft spot for enjoying films about nerds becoming heroes and I know many audiences share the same sentiment as well.

So, If you are looking for an action-driven film with plenty of awesome visual effects, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” well serve you well.  If you are a videophile or audiophile looking for awesome visuals and with that stomach churning, room shaking LFE, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” will definitely entertain you.

But in the end, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is a fun, family popcorn action flick.  Don’t expect too much from this film.  Just watch and enjoy.

Moonstruck (as part of the “Cher: The Film Collection”) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Magnificent!  One of the greatest romantic comedies that came from the ’80s, “Moonstruck” has everything you want from a romantic comedy…great music, great location, great story and magnificent performances.  Cher and Olympia Dukakis were absolutely wonderful in this film!

Images courtesy of © 2010 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Moonstruck (as part of the “Cher: The Film Collection)

YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 1987

DURATION: 102 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, Widescreen (1:85:1), Audio: English Mono, Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

COMPANY: MGM/20th Century Fox

RATED: PG

RELEASE DATE: November 2, 2010

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

Starring:

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

With an all-star cast including Cher in her Oscar-Winning role, this hilarious romantic comedy tells the tale of a superstitious widow (Cher) with unexpectedly falls in love with her fiance’s estranged brother (Nicolas Cage).

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?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Moonstruck” is presented in Widescreen (1:85:1) and in English mono. PQ was fine for a DVD release. The film does looks good on DVD but has that look of digital noise reduction implemented. But again, it’s fine for DVD.  If anything, this is one film that should receive a Blu-ray release and is deserving of HD treatment.

Subtitles are in English, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Moonstruck” comes with the following special features:

  • 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 loved this DVD 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.  From its original release back in 1998, followed by a VHS re-release in 2001 and then once again via deluxe edition in 2006 and then an ’80s re-release in 2007 and here we are now with the inclusion of the DVD (deluxe edition) in Cher’s “Cher: The Film Collection” from MGM and 20th Century Fox.

As far as the DVD is concerned, this is a wonderful romantic comedy and definitely a Cher film that belongs with this DVD collection.  She has done many wonderful films but “Moonstruck” is her greatest performance thus far.  Personally, there is nothing negative I can say about this film because I absolutely loved it.  The only thing that I can hope for now is a Blu-ray release featuring a digital restoration of the film since the 25th anniversary of “Moonstruck” is coming up soon.

Overall, a highly recommended romantic comedy!


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