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Kid Cannabis (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Kid Cannabis” is pretty much a young stoner film, but one that is fascinating because it’s based on a true story.  But while the film is straightforward as Mark Binelli’s original “Rolling Stone” article that this film was based on, the film never rises to the occasion of being anything more than a stoner film.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kid Cannabis Films, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kid Cannabis

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 110 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: July 8, 2014

Directed by John Stockwell

Screenplay by John Stockwell

Based on an article by Mark Binelli

Produced by Michael Becker, Gordon Bijelonic, Corey Large

Executive Producer: Mia Chang, Alison Lee, Alan Pao, Bic Tran, Datari Turner

Line Producer: Joe Di Maio

Music by Irv Johnson

Cinematography by Peter Holland

Edited by Jon Berry, James Renfroe

Casting by J.C. Cantu

Production Design by Chad Krowchuk, Daren Sasges

Set Decoration by Candise Paul

Costume Design by Ashley Jephcott

Starring:

Jonathan Daniel Brown by Nate Norman

Kenny Worlmald as Topher

Aaron Yoo as Brendan Butler

Ron Perlman as Barry Lerner

John C. McGinley as John Grefard

Corey Large as Giovanni Mendiola

Bryce Hodgson as Scuzz

Alex Arsenault as Dustin Lauer

Jeffrey Ballard as Patrick Groves

Giacomo Baessato as Eddie Mendiola

Merritt Patterson as Nicole Greffard

Amanda Tapping as Nate’s Mom

KID CANNABIS is the true story of an Idaho teen dropout who builds a multimillion-dollar marijuana ring by trafficking drugs through the woods across the Canadian border. But his pursuit of the high life – complete with girls, guns, and vicious rival drug lords – may leave this ex-pizza boy in way over his head.

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Back in 2005, Rolling Stone writer Mark Binelli wrote a story about Nate Norman, an unpopular, overweight young man from Idaho who wanted to make money by traveling to Canada to obtain the expensive marijuana known as “B.C. Bud”.

Suffice to say, Norman became wealthy, became popular with women, partied hard, smoked a lot of weed made a lot of friends and enemies and literally became a drug kingpin.

Despite living a happy life for a short time of parties, women, money and plenty of weed, his downfall was his network being busted but also the death of his rival, Brendan Butler.

Inspired by Binelli’s article, filmmaker and writer John Stockwell (“Blue Crush”, “Into the Blue”) would work on the screen adaptation of Nate Norman’s story.

The film would star Jonathan Daniel Brown (“Project X”, “Bad Milo”), Kenny Wormald (“Footloose”, “Clerks II”, “Center Stage: Turn It Up”), Aaron Yoo (“21″, “Disturbia”, “Friday the 13th”), Ron Perlman (“Hellboy” films, “Drive”, “Sons of Anarchy”) and John C. McGinley (“Scrubs”, “Platoon”, “The Rock”).

“Kid Cannabis” revolves around Nate Norman (portrayed by Jonathan Daniel Brown), a young man who loves weed but tries to make ends meet as his mother is working hard as a waitress and he tries to contribute by working as a pizza deliveryman.

Nate and his buddy Topher (portrayed by Kenny Wormald) try to get into the party hosed by the wealthy and cocky Brendan Butler, who happens to be a big supplier of weed to people in the area.

Seeing the success that Brendan has had and also delivering a pizza to a client who talked about “B.C. Bud”, high grade marijuana grown in Canada, Nate and Topher are wanting to get the weed and possibly selling it in the U.S.

Meeting some of the growers of the weed such as John Grefard (portrayed by John C. McGinley) and learning how much business there is in selling B.C. Bud to the United States, Nate begins working with drug kingpin Barry Lerner (portrayed by Ron Perlman) and eventually starts to make a lot of money.

Hiring his friends to be his close network of smuggling weed from Canada to the United States, Nate eventually becomes a wealthy drug kingpin which angers his rival Brendan Butler, who now wants to rob or even kill Nate.

But the weed business starts becoming riskier and dangerous for Nate Norman and what was supposed to be a simple plan, becomes troublesome and dangerous with lives endangered and someone is murdered.

 

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VIDEO:

“Kid Cannabis” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks great during the outdoor scenes, skin tones look natural and I didn’t notice any artifacts, banding or any problems with the video.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kid Cannabis” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  The majority of the film is dialogue and musically-driven.  The dialogue for the film is crystal clear and as one can expect from the hip hop tracks, the beats feature strong bass and sounds great!  But there are moments of ambiance during crowd scenes and and also a few action sequences that involve gun shots.  But for the most part, the lossless soundtrack for “Kid Cannabis” is good.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kid Cannabis” comes with a theatrical trailer.

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When it comes to stoner films, “Kid Cannabis” is quite effective in not being a moronic film about people smoking weed.

The fact that the film is based on an actual true story about a guy who managed to run his own empire and make a lot of money in short amount of time was rather intriguing but as one would expect, there were some consequences.

While those who participated, have rehabilitated or went on to find work, for the young Idaho drug kingpin, his description of what took place in his life during this time and how he feels about it now, while locked up in prison, it was more like a dream adventure that he would never trade for the world.

And the film helps understand why Nate would feel this way.  His life prior was pizza delivery guy who was trying to make ends meet with his mom who slaved a way from work.  What Nate knew was weed and what he was interested in was weed, naturally weed was the only avenue of making big money.

Yeah, he was able to smoke great weed but I think it’s the lifestyle of having people follow him and him being the leader, the kingpin.  And along with that, he was able to pay for a new house for his mother, he was able to score with other women and he had power.

But knowing the people that he ran with and seeing how these decisions would lead to his undoing along with his money making network, I suppose for him, the experience was his greatest memory of his young adult life.

Actor Jonathan Daniel Brown did a great job of portraying Nate. While I’m not sure if they are alike, the point of the film is seeing the unexpected rise of this guy who really had no outlet to anything else but hearsay from other drug dealers.  And Brown’s acting made you believe in the character.

The film was rather fascinating to see Ron Perlman as the drug financier and also seeing John C. McGinley as an ex-government grower, they added more credibility to this film and also made the film much more enjoyable.

While “Kid Cannabis” fairs well in its depiction of today’s young stoners and you want to see how far Nate Norman would go as a drug mover, the film didn’t do well to make you care about the other characters.  The other characters were rather forgettable and each time they graced the screen and the plot would shift to them, you just felt these scenes were wasted because they were not characters to even care about.  So, I felt that I was wanting to see more focus on the character of Nate.

As for the Blu-ray release, it’s a barebones release.  While picture and audio quality were very good, there are no special features but a theatrical trailer.

Overall, “Kid Cannabis” is pretty much a young stoner film that will appease fans who appreciates these type of films.  “Kid Cannabis” is quite fascinating because it is based on a true story, but while the film is straightforward as Mark Binelli’s original “Rolling Stone” article that this film was based on, the film never rises to the occasion of being anything more than that.

 

The Littlest Angel (a J!-ENT Children’s DVD Review)

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A fun, heartwarming and spiritual tale for the entire family!  For parents or grandparents who grew up reading best-selling children’s classic, “The Littlest Angel”, the animated film adaptation is just as heartwarming as the book and definitely worth sharing with your children or grandchildren.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Portsmouth Pictures LLC. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Littlest Angel

DURATION: 83 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles for Deaf and Hearing Impaired, Anamorphic Widescreen 1:78:1

COMPANY: Anchor Bay Entertainment

RATED: G

RELEASE DATE: November 15, 2011

Directed by Dave Kim

Screenplay and Story by Sean Catherine Derek, Sean Roche

Story by Dave Kim

Based on the Book by Charles Tazewell

Produced by Dave Kim

Co-Producer: Rex Piano

Executive Producer: Lance Thompson, Seth Willenson

Associate Producer: Lucas Thompson

Music by Corey A. Jackson

Edited by Dave Kim

Production Design by Don W. Kim

Featuring the voices of:

Ed Kelly as Halo/Alban/Logan/Mr. Creepedeep/Strongman

Nina Kircher as Mrs. Creepedeep/Ox

Clarity Newhouse as Angel Eve

Ron Perlman as God

Caleb Wolf as Littlest Angel

The Littlest Angel tells the story of a young boy who arrives in heaven before his time.  Home-sick and lonely, he will travel back to earth, with his friendly pup Halo, to retrieve a most selfless and precious gift for The Baby Jesus. First released in book form in 1946, The Littlest Angel became popular for its ornate words and phrases paired with beautifully muted oil paintings. Tazewell’s book was adapted into a TV musical in 1969 starring Johnny Whitaker, and theatrical versions continue to be done by schools and church groups today. The author would follow-up with another childhood favorite, “The Littlest Snowman,” that would be read annually on the “Captain Kangaroo” show.

“This is a story that has made so many people happy over the years,” says Lance Thompson, one of the producers of the film. “We’ve added some new elements to this production, but this is still The Littlest Angel everyone remembers from their childhood, and one that parents will enjoy introducing to their kids. I think Tazewell would enjoy knowing his work lives on.”

It’s a modern twist on the timeless tale of an Angel that discovers the greatest gifts in life are faith, friendship and doing the right thing. This new version of The Littlest Angel features wonderful animation and great vocal talent, including Ron Perlman (“Beauty and The Beast,” Tangled), and is sure to become a holiday favorite, much like the book it’s based on. The Littlest Angel is a motion picture that will put a smile on everyone’s face, and what better gift is there than that.

Visual and digital effects artist Dave Kim is known for his 3D work on films such as “2012″, “The Golden Compass”, “Australia” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and now the artist takes on his latest challenge as director, co-writer and producer of the spiritual children’s animated film “The Littlest Angel”.

Based on the 15th best-selling children’s book of all time by Charles Tazewell and created back in 1946, the book has entertained generations of children and now Dave Kim gives “The Littlest Angel” the CG treatment via an animated film adaptation that will entertain families and children, especially with the holiday season just around the corner.

“The Littlest Angel”  revolves around a boy known as The Littlest Angel who is trying to get used to being an angel.  He is currently enrolled at the angel academy where children train in order to get their wings to become a full-fledged angel.

But for the Littlest Angel, he tends to get in a bit of trouble, mainly because he misses his life on Earth.  Misses his dog and the fun he used to have.  But he also misses his most beloved belongings which he has kept inside a box that is buried near the home he once lived in.  The Littlest Angel believes that he won’t miss Earth so much if he had his treasures.

Not to say that Heaven is not fun, it’s just that angels and animals are separated in the kingdom of Heaven because animals are not kept as pets, they live in freedom.  And the Littlest Angel loves playing with animals.  But because he needs to make his own fun, he ends up causing a bit of destruction and gets in trouble.

But his teacher Alban has had enough of the troubles that the Littlest Angel has created and so he is sent to meet with Angel Eve in where he is told that before he can play with the animals heaven, he must first dedicate himself to his angel training at the angel academy.

But before he returns back to training, Angel Eve teaches the Littlest Angel about how to use a halo but also takes him to a land where the angel animals live.

When the Littlest Angel hears a conversation between Alban and the muscular angel Logan, he comes up with a plan to borrow wings to fly and plans to go back to Earth in order to retrieve the box of treasures.

He manages to get some help by the dog named Halo who wants to help the Littlest Angel get his treasure and both go to Earth quickly to retrieve it.

But unfortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Creepedeep end up taking the Littlest Angel’s treasure and when they find out that Halo can talk and that both Halo and the Littles Angel are real angels, they want to capture them in order to make money.

Meanwhile, back in Heaven, Alban finds out that God is coming to visit and immediately, all angels must give a gift for the upcoming birth of God’s son and everything must be perfect.  But when Alban finds out that the Littlest Angel is missing  and learns that he has been captured on Earth, he and Logan must rescue the Littlest Angel on Earth before God arrives.

But will they be able to save him in time?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Littlest Angel” is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen (1:78:1) and presented in Dolby Digital 5.1.  Animation is done by Portsmouth Pictures and Cinepix Animation and for the most part, the film is a CG animated film.  It may not be as detailed or very expensive compared to a Disney/Pixar animated film or big-budget Hollywood film but because the target demographic for this film is for families and children, overall, the CG animation is good, especially knowing that the creators were working on a quick and tight schedule.  This is not a multi-million dollar project but for what they accomplished, I was quite pleased with the overall look of the film.

Colors are vibrant, shading is well-done, good amount of detail in some areas of the film.  The DVD does showcase some banding but its what is expected from a DVD release.

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, dialogue and music is clear and understandable.  Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Littlest Angel” comes with the following special feature:

  • Pure Michigan Promo -  (7:57) A featurette about Michigan’s film industry and “The Littlest Angel” director and producer Dave Kim and co-producer Rex Piano talks about the film industry and what they enjoyed about working in Michigan.

EXTRAS:

“The Littlest Angel” comes with a slipcover case.

“The Littlest Angel” is a heartwarming tale that is spiritual and fun!

There are not many Christian-based animated films out there (aside from the popular “Veggie Tales” series) but I have to say that I was quite pleased by the “The Littlest Angel” because it was a pure film.

At first, “The Littlest Angel” is shown to be a child that tends to get into trouble, but he means well, it’s just that he misses his old life on Earth.  There is no discussion about how the character died and went to heaven, what we do know is that his favorite treasures which he buried as a child is what he desires the most.  It’s all he needs to remember Earth while he is in Heaven.

And the character is shown as a child who does make some bad decisions but through those decisions, he learns from them.

It’s a straightforward tale that is easily accessible for children and even adults. And while the film does involve angels and God, it’s not a film that tries to preach any type of religion towards the viewer.  If anything, the story is about a young naive angel who gets into trouble when he goes to Earth.  In some way, I guess a film that I can easily compared it to is “Finding Nemo”, in which Nemo finds himself in trouble and his father must go to find him, with “The Littlest Angel”, we have angels Alban and Logan going after the Littlest Angel and trying to bring him back home before God shows up for the celebration.

As for the voice acting, I have to give credit to Ed Kelly who did a lot of the voices for the film.  From Alban, Logan, Halo the dog, Mr. Creepedeep and Strongman, he did a great job in playing the multiple roles.  And of course, Caleb Wolf who provides the voice of the Littlest Angel, he also did a great job!  And of course, you have the talented Ron Perlman (“Hellbody”, “Sons of Anarchy” and voice actor for “Tangled”, “SpongeBob Square Pants”) providing the voice of God.

Also, interesting was the special feature promoting the film industry in Michigan.  Dave Kim and Ron Piano chose to create the film in Michigan and not surprising as we are seeing more films shot in the state such as the Richard Gere film “The Double” and Drew Barrymore’s “Whip It”.

I wish there was special features on the making of “The Littlest Angel” or even the voice talent of the film.  But other than that, for a family film, “The Littlest Angel” was quite fun to watch.  And sure the CG is not going to be hyper-detailed or cost multi-millions to make like a Disney/Pixar, FOX animation or Dreamworks Animation film but still, for the demographic that this film is for and the cute and innocent characters that are featured, I actually enjoyed this heartwarming family film.

Overall, if you grew up reading the book and have a young child in your family that you want to share this classic story with ala an animated film, “The Littlest Angel” is worth watching!

Recommended!

THE SCORPION KING 3 BEGINS PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHY IN THAILAND

December 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Ron Perlman, Victor Webster and Billy Zane Star in the Newest, Action-Filled Fantasy Epic Exclusive to Universal’s DVD Originals Line

Universal City, California, December 2, 2010– A legendary hero returns to fight his most fearsome adversary as an all-new adventure unfolds in The Scorpion King 3, now shooting in Thailand.  Steeped in intrigue, sorcery and romance and featuring more of the spectacular action, mindboggling stunts and astonishing plot twists that have made The Scorpion King franchise an outstanding addition to Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s groundbreaking DVD Originals™ line, The Scorpion King 3 is slated for release on DVD in early 2012.

Picking up where The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior left off, The Scorpion King 3 continues the story of Mathayus, now the deposed leader of an ancient desert empire, as he faces the most terrifying challenge of his life. The film, which began shooting on October 29 in and around Bangkok, introduces an all new cast featuring Victor Webster (“Melrose Place,” Surrogates) as Mathayus; Ron Perlman (“Sons of Anarchy,” Hellboy 1 and 2) as Horus, the powerful King of Egypt; Billy Zane (“Samantha Who?,” Titanic) as the conniving King Talus; UFC star Kimbo Slice as Zulu Kondo; Bostin Christopher as Mathayus’ comrade-in-arms Olaf (Unbreakable); WWE champion Dave Bautista as Agromael; Selina Lo (28 Weeks Later) as Tsukai; Krystal Vee (Streetfighter: The Legend of Chin-Li) as the beautiful princess Silda and Temuera Morrison (Star Wars: Episode III-Revenge of the Sith) as the ill-fated King Ramusan.

The Scorpion King 3 raises the bar for DVD Originals, encompassing the most stunning action, visual effects and production values to date, including a cast of over 400 warriors and elephants,” said Glenn Ross, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Universal Home Entertainment Productions. “The Scorpion King saga, with its compelling characters, engaging storyline and non-stop action, is a perfect complement to Universal’s hugely popular and successful DVD Originals offerings.”



The Scorpion King 3 is directed by Roel Reine (Death Race 2).  Leslie Belzberg (Crazy Heart) is the producer along with executive producers Stephen Sommers, Sean Daniel, Jim Jacks and Kevin Misher. The film’s production team includes director of photography Roel Reine, production designers Kuladee ‘Gai’ Suchatanun and Patrix ‘Pae’ Meesaiyaat and editors Radu Ion and Matthew Friedman.



As The Scorpion King 3 begins, Mathayus has lost his beloved queen and been driven from his former kingdom by a virulent plague. Now, an assassin for hire, Mathayus is dispatched by Horus, the King of Egypt, to protect his ally King Ramusan from imminent attack. In return for his services, he is promised Ramusan’s daughter Silda in marriage, as well as the legendary Eye of the Gods medallion, which imparts supernatural powers to its wearer. But to collect the reward, he will have to first rescue the princess, who is being held captive by Talus, the scheming brother of Horus. Mathayus agrees to the perilous mission, but the evil that lies in wait for him will challenge even his cunning and strength in a staggering test of courage unlike any he has faced before.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment is a unit of Universal Pictures, a division of Universal Studios (www.universalstudios.com). Universal Studios is a part of NBC Universal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. Formed in May 2004 through the combining of NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment, NBC Universal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and Entertainment networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. NBC Universal is 80%-owned by General Electric, with 20% controlled by Vivendi.

Cronos – The Criterion Collection #551 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Director Guillermo del Toro’s audacious film debut… “Cronos” features an unbound del Toro creating a vampire film unlike any other vampire film that anyone had seen at that time.  Featuring a smart screenplay with an emotional component and not overly the top when it comes to violence and gore, “Cronos” remains to be a unique film to this day and is definitely a highlight in Mexican cinema at that time.  So, definitely a wonderful inclusion for The Criterion Collection.

Image courtesy of © 1992 Producciones Iguana S.A. de CV.   © 2010 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Cronos – The Criterion Collection #551

RELEASE OF FILM: 1993

DURATION: 92 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, Stereo, In Spanish and English with English Subtitles, 1:78:1 Aspect Ratio

COMPANY: The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: December 7, 2010

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro

Producer: Arthur Gorson, Bertha Navarro

Co-Producer: Francisco Murguia, Bernard L. Nussbaumer, Alejandro Springall

ASsociate Producer: Rafael Cruz, Jorge Sanchez, Julio Solorzano Foppa

Music by Javier Alvarez

Cinematography by Guillermo Navarro

Edited by Raul Davalos

Production Design by Tolita Figuero

Art Direction by Brigitte Broch

Costume Design by Genoveva Petitpierre

Starring:

Federico Luppi as Jesus Gris

Ron Perlman as Angel de la Guardia

Claudio Brook as Dieter De la Guardia

Margarita Isabel as Mercedes

Tamara Shanath as Aurora

Daniel Gimenez Cacho as Tito

Mario Ivan Martinez as Alchemist

Farnesio de Bernal as Manuelito

Jorge Martinez de Hoyos as Narrator (Voice)

Guillermo del Toro made an auspicious and audacious feature debut with Cronos, a highly unorthodox tale about the seductiveness of the idea of immortality. Kindly antiques dealer Jesús Gris (Federico Luppi) happens upon an ancient golden device in the shape of a scarab, and soon finds himself the possessor and victim of its sinister, addictive powers, as well as the target of a mysterious American named Angel (a delightfully crude and deranged Ron Perlman). Featuring marvelous special makeup effects and the haunting imagery for which del Toro has become world-renowned, Cronos is a dark, visually rich, and emotionally captivating fantasy.

Before the “Hellboy” films, “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “Blade II” and “The Devil’s Backbone”, Mexican filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist Guillermo del Toro would write and direct his first film in 1993 known as “Cronos”.

“Cronos” would win various Golden and Silver Ariel Awards in Mexico and it would also be the first film which would feature a collaboration between del Toro and actor Ron Perlman who would later go on to work with del Toro in the “Hellboy” films and “Blade II”.

Despite receiving a limited release in the U.S. in two theaters, the film grossed $17,538 during its opening weekend and over $621,000 when it played on 28 screens.  The film received positive reviews from the critics and established director Guillermo del Toro’s career in the U.S.  As for “Cronos”, way before the emotional films of “Twilight” and before “True Blood” and even the popular “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV series, “Cronos” was a vampire film unlike other vampire films that tend to focus on gore and the damsel being sucked dry by a vampire.  Because “Cronos” was so fresh and new, it was and still is considered by some vampire film fans as one of the best vampire films of all time.

But what “Cronos” would be known for is del Toro’s way of departing from previous vampire films by making it intelligent, featuring a unique relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughter and giving the vampire a sense of humanity without being a cold-blooded killer nor the usual, banal vampire storylines that have made it onto film for nearly the last century.

“Cronos” begins with a story of how the Cronos device was created.  An alchemist who would escape from the Spanish Inquisition in 1536 and live in Mexico would go on to create a device that would give him immortality.  400 years later, in 1937, the roof of a building where the alchemist was at had collapsed and among the bodies found was the alchemist who has died due a shard being stuck in its chest.  When he was found, the alchemist had white, marble-like skin.

When authorities searched the alchemist’s home, what they would find was never revealed to the public (found were bowls of blood which was dripping from a deceased man hung upside down).

All objects from the alchemist’s home were sold but there was no mention of what ever happened to the Cronos device.

Fast forward to 1993 and the setting continues in Mexico.  An antique salesman named Jesus Gris (played by Federico Luppi) lives with his wife Mercedes (played by Margarita Isabel) and he takes care of his granddaughter Aurora (played by Tamara Shanath).  Together, Jesus and Aurora would run the antique shop and noticed people looking at an old statue of an archangel still in its original covering.

When Jesus goes to see the archangel statue, he notices a crack inside the left eye of the statue and realizes the statue may be hollow.  While he and Aurora were playing a game, we see the statue and then bugs start to come out of it.

One day, as Jesus was inspecting the archangle, he tries to find out where the bugs are coming from and when he opens the archangel’s base, he finds a golden scarab, the Cronos device hidden inside it.   Needless to say, he is amazed about what he has found.  Could it be worth something?  Is it treasure?  What is it?

Meanwhile, Angel de la Guardia (played by Ron Perlman) receives a report that another Archangel statue has been found and he reports it to Dieter de la Guardia.  Dieter is a man who is dying and to keep him alive and away from other people, he is kept inside a sealed lab.  Around the lab, hanging are many versions of the archangel statue similar to the statue that Jesus has in his antique shop.

For Angel, he doesn’t know why he is continuing this goose chase of finding these statues but De la Guardia explains to Angel that he wants the archangel and that he needs to get it now.  And we see notes of the Cronos device and apparently Dieter has come up with notes that were written by the Alchemist.

So, Angel makes the trip to the antique shop and purchases the archangel statue.  But the Cronos device that was inside it, has already been removed by Jesus.

After Angel leaves, Jesus starts messing around with the golden scarab (Cronos) and while he is working on it, the golden scarab grabs onto his hand with its razor sharp claws and punctures the center of his palm.  Blood immediately starts dripping quickly from his hand.  When he goes to his wife Mercedes to check it out, Mercedes pulls out a razor-like blade and bandages Jesus’ hand.

That same night, Jesus realizes that he can’t sleep and finds himself to be enormously thirsty.  So thirsty, that he downs a whole jug of water but seems to still be thirsty and can’t figure out why.  When he looks inside the fridge, he sees a plate full of bloody meat and immediately he feels drawn to it for some reason.

The next thing you know, his hand starts to react unusually and then we see Jesus starting to crave for the Cronos.  The feeling of satisfaction of having the Cronus on him and possibly getting an emotional high as he finds himself becoming  addicted to the Cronos.  As if the pain of Cronos stuck inside him is like a form of sexual pleasure.

He puts the Cronos device on his arm and immediately the Cronos device detects him and puncturing him with its blade to draw out more blood.   We then get a sneak peak of what is Inside the Cronos.  Metal gears that are powered by a single living insect that feeds upon blood and produces a chemical solution that literally makes Jesus look and feel younger, healthy and also giving him an increase in his sexual drive.  The alchemist’s device of achieving immortality seems to be working on Jesus.

As he goes to visit the antique shop, he notices the whole place has been burglarized and everything inside the store has been nearly thrashed.  He finds a business card left behind by Angel de la Guardia and upset of what they did to his shop, Jesus goes to visit them and meets up with Dieter de la Guardia.

During his visit with Dieter, he is introduced to the notebook which was written by the alchemist and about an invention that would prolong one’s life.  Dieter de la Guardia tells Jesus that he is dying and that half of his body is in jars while the other half is in the box that Jesus brought in.  But inside the box is not the Cronos device and when Dieter finds out that Jesus has used the Cronos device on himself, Dieter is upset and threatens Jesus that he may have the device but he has the instructions.

As days pass, although Jesus knows that he is starting to look healthy and young, he starts to learn than his body no longer can be in the sunlight, that he is now craving for human’s blood and each time he goes without it, his body starts to turn white.  And as he needs blood, so does the insect inside the Cronos.  So, feeding the Cronos device becomes almost like an addiction for Jesus.   But despite the changes he may be going through, the only person that seems to understand him and still love him unconditionally is his young granddaughter Aurora.

As Jesus starts to get used to his new life, Dieter de la Guardia’s want the Cronos device and will try to get it by any means necessary, even if it means killing Jesus to get it.  Will Jesus survive the ordeal?

VIDEO:

“Cronos” is presented in 1:78:1.  According to the Criterion Collection, Director Guillermo del Toro and director of photography Guillermo Navarro supervised this new high-definition transfer, which was created in 2K resolution on a Spirit 4K Datacine from the original 35 mm camera negative.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS system and Pixel Farm’s PFClean system, while Digital Vision’s DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.

It’s important to note that while the DVD does look good, one wanting better picture quality should definitely get the Blu-ray disc release of “Cronos”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Cronos” is presented in stereo.  Dialogue is clear and according to the Criterion Collection, the stereo soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm LT/RT magnetic soundtrack.  Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD.  Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated audio workstation.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Cronos – The Criterion Collection #551″ comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary by Director Guillermo del Toro – A wonderful audio commentary from 2002 by Guillermo del Toro.  Throughout the film, del Toro talks about the scenes and what he liked and what he didn’t like (as he looks back on the film) because they were on a strict schedule, also interesting stories on construction of the Cronos devices and the things they had to go through to film on the morgue set.  Also, we get to learn a few interesting facts, especially about young actress Tamara Shanath which was quite interesting and unusual.  But Guillermo definitely gives us a good insight of why this film was created, a little story on his strict Catholic upbringing and how difficult his mother was and his fascination with horror films like “Videodrome”, working with Ron Perlman and the various talent and more.
  • Audio Commentary by Producers Arthur H. Gorson, Bertha Navarro and Co-Producer Alejandro Springall – The producers talk about the film being shot in Mexico, getting actor Federico Luppi and Ron Perlman, talk about the makeup and effects, memories of screening the film at Cannes and more.
  • Geometria – (6:28) Guillermo del Toro’s 1987 short horror film which was reworked with special effects.  Featuring an introduction (6:54) by Guillermo del Toro talking about the making of this short film and what he wanted to accomplish then but was difficult with only a $2,000 budget.
  • Welcome to the Bleak House – (10:15) Guillermo del Toro takes us on a short tour of his collections in his home and how he is expanding it to include his collection of toys, cinema but mostly a large collection of macabre movie and non-movie related items.  Let’s just say that some of the things that del Toro has in his home (especially preserved in jars), I don’t see many people wanting to have them in their home or collection.
  • Interviews – Featuring several interviews which include:

- Interview with Director Guillermo del Toro (17:35) in regards to working on “Cronos”, the things he has learned since the filming (including some regrets that he has) and working with Ron Perlman and how he was fortunate to have him on his film but most importantly trust him.

- Interview with Guillermo Navarro (12:36) in regards to working as director of photography for “Cronos” and the longtime friendship and bond he and del Toro have in working on a film together.

- Interview with Ron Perlman (7:26) in regards to how he got involved in working on “Cronos”, what he liked about the screenplay but also how he and Guillermo del Toro have continued to work in three more films since that first collaboration.

- Interview with Federico Luppi (5:26) in regards to working with del Toro, playing the character of Jesus Gris and working on “Cronos”.

  • Stills Gallery – With your remote, you can view the various stills, rare photos (of his crew working on several versions of the Cronos device) and storyboard illustrations from “Cronos” with captions by director Guillermo del Toro.
  • Trailer – (1:28) The original theatrical trailer.

EXTRAS:

“Cronos – The Criterion Collection #551″ comes with a 44-page booklet.  Inside is an essay titled “Beautiful Dark Things” by film critic, film writer and horror enthusiast Maitland McDonagh.  Also, included are excerpts from director Guillermo del Toro’s notes for “Cronos” back in 1991 and shows us how much research he did in preparing for his screenplay for “Cronos”.

Director Guillermo del Toro is one of the most prepared and quite intellectual filmmakers out there.

His life, even since he was a young child, has appreciated horror films, the macabre but also an appreciation for cinema that when he planned his version of a vampire film, he didn’t want to go through the same path as other filmmakers who have done vampire films.  No need for the brooding blood-sucking vampire in his films, everything must have a purpose and in this case, even before this film was created, he had done incredible research on alchemy, Gothic films and being a cinema fan, especially a horror film fan, he is a man with a vast knowledge of these type of topics.

But what makes “Cronos” succeed and what makes it so unique is that the film doesn’t want to follow the banality of kitschy horror films.  His vampires and for the most part, many of his films tend to make us feel sympathetic to those who have become the monster.  In this case, Federico Luppi’s wonderful performance as a grandfather turned vampire is not your average blood sucking killer.  All he knows is that this Cronos device has given a chance of being younger and feeling more vibrant but at a cost that his body is constantly wanting human blood.  But will he lose his humanity or what is left of his humanity to follow the rules of the alchemist, of what one would do to achieve immortality.

“Cronos” is well-written and despite not having a large budget, it’s a film that works because it was created by a Guillermo del Toro who was not changed or deterred by the Hollywood studio system.  He was  man who knew what he wanted and got the performances that he wanted.  Granted, he does explain on the audio commentary that they were short on time and they faced significant obstacles while filming “Cronos” back in 1993.  And of course, with this release in 2010, Guillermo has said that he would have done things differently.

The fact is that director del Toro was able to tell a story with no studio telling him what to do and in someways, that ego of a first time director kind of helps in showing us his youth as director on this film.  Personally, if del Toro was able to redo this film, having experienced several big budget films under his belt after “Cronos”, I wouldn’t be surprised if he utilized visual effects and other modern day technology to make “Cronos” seem a bit more violent and bloody.

Personally, I felt that del Toro has done a wonderful job and if anything, “Cronos” is an important film that introduced the world to his talent as a new filmmaker during the early ’90s and since then he has reaped the rewards with other films such as “Pan’s Labrynth” and “Blade II”.  And aside from being a well-known screenwriter and director, he has currently gone on to become one of Hollywood’s most popular producers.

The film manages to capture emotion in a vampire film that many dare not try back then (granted, things have change now during these “Twilight”, “True Blood” and “Vampire Diaries” years).  But even today, if you pitched a film about a grandfather turning to a vampire who has a close relationship with his granddaughter, it probably wouldn’t fly with today’s film studios who want more style over substance, “Cronos” had style but it also had substance and most of all it was not a film that was put on del Toro’s lap nor was there a studio and execs telling him what to do.  “Cronos” was created because Guillermo had wanted to make this film and he did it his way and sure enough, it has paved the way for more films for the director to this day.

While some may question why “Cronos” was included on The Criterion Collection, for one, “Cronos” was an important film to come from Mexico.  Although there are a few Mexican films that are included on The Criterion Collection, the fact is that Guillermo del Toro is one of Mexico’s famous directors and that also, “Cronos” did bring in a lot of attention to Mexican cinema back in 1993 and also a Mexican filmmaker that has reaped the benefits of years of hardwork and it is this film that did help pave the way for the success that he has received thus far.  “Cronos” was an audacious film at the time and one can easily watch and see why the film has received auspicious reviews.

For the faint of heart when it comes to horror films, “Cronos” is not a film with a lot of gore or bloody violence.  Granted, it has its share of violence and bloody moments but it’s nothing gory or sickening and quite pedestrian in what is shows considering what we see in today’s horror films.  I admit that there was one part which was gross.  But I have no doubt that if del Toro had his opportunity to redo this film as he wants to do with all his films, I wouldn’t be surprised if he would take advantage of things much more visually and make it possibly a bit more grotesque.

Fortunately, the film is what it is and whether or not one wants more gore is subjective to the viewer.  Personally, I felt that the film didn’t have to be another vampire film and showcase blood or gore, it was fine the way it is and if anything, the film builds on suspense and good old fashion storytelling.  The most you are going to see in this film is skin peeling off and that’s pretty much it.  To tell you the truth, the only disturbing scene for me was mostly about a scene in which Jesus craves blood but where he finds it, I was just thinking of how unsanitary it would be for him to get his taste of human’s blood in that area  (I would explain more but I would end up spoiling that scene).  But “Cronos” is not a film one would get scared or grossed out by.  So, for the Criterion Collection fans that are wondering if there are any disturbing scenes ala “Salo”, “Sweet Movie” or “Antichrist” in this film… the answer is no.

As for the DVD, “Cronos – The Criterion Collection #551″ does have quite a few more special features than its older 2002 Lions Gate DVD counterpart.  For one you get the 44-page booklet with an essay by “Flick Chick” Maitland McDonagh (who definitely knows horror films) and also notes that del Toro made in 1991 and just giving you a wonderful insight of what he had in his head at the time and also showing his intellectual side and approach to planning the film at a young age.

And also, you get two audio commentaries (which were part of the 2002 DVD) but possibly my favorite featurettes that show his collection at his home ala “The Bleak House” and several interviews with del Toro, his cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, Ron Perlman and Federico Luppi.  And for del Toro fans, you also get to see his 1987 horror short “Geometria” for the first time.  Although not as audacious as “Cronos”, it does show you del Toro’s willingness to do whatever he wanted and in this case, with a small budget, to create the most grotesque short that he can with the least amount of money.

Once again, if you want the better HD picture quality and lossless audio, I definitely recommend going for the Blu-ray version over the DVD version.  Otherwise, this Criterion Collection DVD for “Cronos” is a solid release.

Overall, for fans of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, “Cronos” does make for a wonderful release by the Criterion Collection.  Many have demanded more Mexican films to be featured in the collection and “Cronos” was a wise decision.  Definitely recommended!

Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Violent, gory and stylish!  Definitely an original and unique, action-packed short anime series featuring an awesome collaboration with actors Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman and Kelly Hu in to bring out the original manga vision of Takashi “Bob” Okazaki.  Beautiful artistic visuals and animation by GONZO, if you’re  into anime that focuses more on the action, “Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions” is definitely for you.

Image courtesy of © 2009 Takashi Okazaki, Gonzo/Samurai Project.  All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions

DURATION: (Disc 1) 5 Episodes (125 Minutes) / (Disc 2) Afro Samurai: Resurrection 97 Minutes

 

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition 16×9 HD Native, Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Dolby Digital: English 2.0, Subtitles: English (for special features)

 

RATED: TV MA

 

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

 

RELEASE DATE: June 22, 2010

 

Directed by Fuminori Kizaki

Written by Takashi Okazaki

Executive Produced by Leo Chu, Eric Garcia, Shinichiro Ishikawa, Samuel L. Jackson and Arthur Smith

Co-Produced by Eric S. Calderon

Consulting Producer: Tommy Blacha

Character Design and Chief Animation Director:  Hiroya Iijima

Art Director: Shigemi Ikeda

Music by RZA and Michael Baiardi

Casting by Jamie Simone, Kendra Carter

 

 

Featuring the voices of:

Samuel L. Jackson as the voice of Afro Samurai/Ninja Ninja

Ron Perlman as Justice

Kelly Hu as Okiku

Yuri Lowenthal as Juma

S. Scott Bullock as Dharman

Jeff Bennett as Foo

Tara Strong as Otsuru

Jason Marsden as Sasuke

Phil LaMarr as Brother

Afro Samurai: Resurrection:

Samuel L. Jackson as the voice of Afro Samurai/Ninja Ninja

Lucy Liu as the voice of Sio

Mark Hamill as the voice of Bin/ODen Shop Master

Grey DeLisle as the voice of Tomoe/Ogin

Dave Wittenberg as the voice of Adolescent/Fencing Brother

Liam O’Brien as the voice of Shichogoro

Zachary Gordon as the voice of Kotaro

Yuri Lowenthal as the voice of Jinno

Afro Samurai. A relentless brother with an ice-cold soul and a jones for revenge. His path is long and violent, and the entire journey so far is now yours to witness.

First, the legendary series: Afro Samurai. As a kid, he saw his father slaughtered. Now a man, Afro walks to the mountain where destiny waits on high. The perpetrators must atone, and they’re gonna get what they deserve. Nothing personal – it’s just revenge.

The saga continues in Afro Samurai: Resurrection. Afro is forced back into the game by a beautiful and deadly woman from his past. She won’t quit until Afro is schooled in the brutal lessons he dealt those who stood in his way. One brother. One path. One thousand deaths.

 

Violent and visually entertaining!  Definitely an original and unique, action-packed anime series featuring a fantastic collaboration with actor Samuel L. Jackson, Takashi Okazaki and GONZO.

The popular anime and manga series is created by mangaka Takashi “Bob” Okazaki and produced by world renown Japanese animation company STUDIO GONZO (”Full Metal Panic”, “Vandread”, “Gantz”, “Samurai 7″ and many other anime) brought us the popular five-episode series (which aired in the US on SPIKE TV back in 2007 ) was released as a special Director’s Cut featuring 15 minutes of never before seen footage.

The short animated TV series featured a collaboration with Samuel L. Jackson, creator Takashi Okazaki and anime production studio GONZO and took three years to develop and the series was followed by a movie titled “Afro Samurai: Resurrection” which takes place a year later after this series.

Because of it’s impressive visuals, violent action scenes, unique characters (especially since the main character is a Black samurai) and its hip hop music courtesy of RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan fame), the anime attracted many fans in the US.  Although both the series and the film “Afro Samurai: Resurrection” were previously released on DVD and Blu-ray, FUNimation Entertainment is re-releasing both in one complete Blu-ray package on June 22, 2010.

The five-episode series revolves around a wandering samurai known as Afro Samurai in his goal of wanting to exact revenge for his father’s death.

In this futuristic, feudal-like Japan,  the country is dominated by the person who is known as the top #1 fighter (which is designated by a “ichiban” headband).  Afro’s father happened to be the #1 man at the time, the person to beat and one day, he was killed by the #2 opponent (note: only the person who has the #2 headband can challenge the #1 fighter) that goes by the name of “Justice”.

Justice decapitated Afro’s fathers head in front of him when he was a child and since that traumatic moment, Afro has trained and has become an excellent swordsman in order to become #1.  So, the series focuses on Afro trying to get his vengeance by challenging the top opponents out there and becoming #2 and finally getting the opportunity to challenge his father’s killer, Justice.

Accompanied by the mouthy Ninja Ninja (also voiced by Samue L. Jackson) during his adventures, the five episodes feature Afro taking on a variety of opponents and also flashbacks of his past when he was a child.

“Afro Samurai-Director’s Cut” features a total of 5 episodes on the first Blu-ray Disc:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – Revenge – The series features Afro when he was young and watched as his father was killed during a battle.  Now Afro, grown up and a feared samurai, is now wanting his revenge on the man who killed his father.
  • EPISODE 2 – The Dream Reader – Afro is taken care of by a woman named Okiku and we see flashbacks of Afro’s past as a child bent on revenge.
  • EPISODE 3 – The Empty Seven Clan – A clan sends out a robot based on Afro to take on the Afro Samurai.
  • EPISODE 4 – Duel – Afro comes face-to-face on someone sporting a bear mask (a face resembling a teddy bear that Afro’s young female friend used to have) and a flashback from Afro’s past.
  • EPISODE 5 – Justice – The final battle between Afro and his childhood friend and the final confrontation between Afro and Justice.

Afro Samurai: Resurrection:

The top samurai with the afro is back for another round of slicing and dicing galore.  Okazaki’s “AFRO SAMURAI” returns with the animated film “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” that is action-packed and poetically violent.

The popular anime and manga series is created by mangaka Takashi “Bob” Okazaki and produced by world renown Japanese animation company STUDIO GONZO (“Full Metal Panic”, “Vandread”, “Gantz”, “Samurai 7″ and many other anime) that brought us the popular five-episode series (aired on SPIKE TV back in 2007) made its return returned with a feature film in 2009.

Because of it’s impressive visuals, violent action scenes, unique characters (especially since the main character is a Black samurai) and its hip hop music courtesy of RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan fame), the anime attracted many fans in the US.

The series revolves around a wandering samurai known as Afro Samurai in his goal of wanting to exact revenge for his father’s death.

In this futuristic, feudal-like Japan,  the country is dominated by the person who is known as the top #1 fighter (which is designated by a “ichiban” headband).  Afro’s father happened to be the #1 man at the time, the person to beat and one day, he was killed by the #2 opponent (note: only the person who has the #2 headband can challenge the #1 fighter) that goes by the name of “Justice”.

Justice decapitated Afro’s fathers head in front of him when he was a child and since that traumatic moment, Afro has trained and has become an excellent swordsman.  So, the series focuses on Afro trying to get his vengeance by challenging the top opponents out there and becoming #2 and finally getting the opportunity to challenge his father’s killer, Justice who is #1.

With “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION”, the action takes place a year later.  The story focuses on Afro who tries to live an ordinary, peaceful life since the last events (from the TV series) have transpired.   Afro is literally hated by people due to the people he had to kill in order to get the #1 spot.  Some people who were really bad but some who are pretty good.

As Afro tries to live this normal life, his peaceful life is suddenly changed when Sio and Kuma make their return and steal his #1 headband and also his father’s remains.  Sio’s goal is to avenge the many people killed by Afro but also what Afro did to her step brother Kuma.  By resurrecting Afro’s father, the former #1, Afro will be made to suffer because he will have to fight and kill his own father.

So, Afro’s peaceful and normal life is dampened and now the samurai must return to his old killing ways in order to find out what happened to his #1 bandanna but also to get back at the people who stole his father’s remains.

VIDEO:

GONZO has done a remarkable job with this series.  Presented in 1080p High Definition, the animation and the painted backgrounds are well-done!  Daytime scenes are colorful and vibrant and night-time scenes are dark and work well with this series.  It’s also important to note that “Afro Samurai – Director’s Cut” has quite a bit of talent involved with the look of the film such as character designer and animation director, Hiroya Iijima (”Gantz”, “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” and “Black Cat”).  Also, art direction from Shigemi Ikeda (”Gantz”, “Gasaraki”, “Inuyasha”, Infinite Ryvius, “Black Cat” and many of the “Mobile Suit Gundam” TV series and films).

The series is featured in 16×9 and for the most part, the picture quality really brings out the detail of the surroundings, including the rocky cliffs to the disembowelment of several characters.  And color from the lush green painted backgrounds, blue skies and huge clouds, villages and buildings to the action sequences which showcases a lot of blood.

“AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” is an anime film that looks absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray. One thing is clear, the film just looks so much better than the TV series and the film showcases its vibrant colors during daylight scenes, its darkness during the night and most of all, impressive detail in the backgrounds courtesy of its 1080p High Definition (16×9) transfer.  The film just looks great!

It’s also important to note that “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” has quite a bit of talent involved with the look of the film such as character designer and animation director, Hiroya Iijima (“Gantz”, “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” and “Black Cat”).  Also, art direction from Shigemi Ikeda (“Gantz”, “Gasaraki”, “Inuyasha”, Infinite Ryvius, “Black Cat” and many of the “Mobile Suit Gundam” TV series and films).

The picture quality really brings out the detail of the surroundings, including the rocky cliffs to the disembowelment of several characters.  And color from the lush green painted backgrounds, blue skies and huge clouds, villages and buildings to the action sequences which showcases a lot of blood.

“AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” is just far superior to the look of the “AFRO SAMURAI” television series in picture quality and animation detail.

AUDIO:

As for the audio, “Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions” is featured in Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Dolby Digital: English stereo.  The series actually sounds quite awesome with the clanging of the swords and the metal healing, sounding quite awesome.  Also, scenes with weapons being launched or fireworks being shot up to the sky, “Afro Samurai” has a solid lossless presentation.

“Afro Samurai – Director’s Cut” is featured only in English, there is no Japanese soundtrack.   Voice acting is well done by actors Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman and Yuri Lowenthal.  Samuel L. Jackson definitely brings out the believability of both Afro and Ninja Ninja and gives the series that cool, funky vibe.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions” comes with the following special features:

Disc 1:

  • In the Booth – Voice Talent of Afro Samurai – (14:48) Interviews with voice talent Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman, Kelly Hu, creator Takahashi Okazaki and co-producer Eric Calderon discussing how the series came about.
  • RZA Music Production Tour – (4:54) RZA showing us how he created the music and crew talking about how RZA’s music was important for the series.  How hip hop is blended with Japanese animation.
  • Character Profiles with Commentary by Co-Producer: Eric Calderon – (23:42)  Gonzo’s Eric Calderon talks about Afro Samurai, Okazaki’s vision, the voice talent involved in the series and what is cool about the character and the series.

Disc 2:

  • Afro Samurai: The Game - (11:41) Interview with the staff who created the “Afro Samurai” video game.  From the cuts, the music, movement, character animation for the video game and more.
  • Enter the RZA - (6:20) RZA talks about how he came up with the music for the film and the various hardware and software used.
  • Afro In-Depth – (6:37) Interview wtih Takashi “Bob” Okazaki and how “Afro Samurai” became a manga, an animated series and an action figure.
  • Afro Samurai: East Meets West, Part 1 – (19:14) Interviews with creator Takashi “Bob” Okazaki and director Fuminori Kizaki about having more freedom now than when they had with the TV series and now, wanting to blend of the cultures and how they had much more freedom to work for “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION”.  Also, interviews with the crew that includes character designs and artistic backgrounds. And also the Eastern staff  working with the Western staff.
  • Afro Samurai: East Meets West, Part 2 – (25:03) Interview with actor and executive producer Samuel L. Jackson, executive producer Arthur Smith, voice actor Yuri Lowenthal, actress Lucy Liu and the crew from the Western staff.
  • Afro Samurai at San Diego Comic-Con 2008 - (8:10) Series creator and mangaka Takashi “Bob” Okazaki,  Samuel L. Jackson and RZA at San Diego Comic-Con discussing the series during their panel and also interviews with the excited audience.
  • Part A Video Commentary – (28:59) A roundtable video/audio commentary by Director Fuminori Kizaki, Creator Takashi “Bob” Okazaki, Character Designer/Chief Animation Director: Hiroya Iijima, Animation Producer: Yuji Hori and Animation Producer: Kenichi Hayashi.   The guys have a fun time watching the animation and discuss what they wanted to accomplish for the film, things that they wanted people to see and taking pleasure in discussing scenes that were well done and more.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers for upcoming or currently released series or films.

EXTRAS:

“Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions” comes with a cardboard slip cover.

“Afro Samurai – Director’s Cut” is a solid, violent action anime series.

It’s definitely a violent series  (and I emphasize “violent”) that features plenty of blood and dismembered body parts but it’s interesting to see how samurai anime-based series has come since the early 90′s.  The action is fast and fierce but for “Afro Samurai”, the series is highly stylized.  Even the blood flowing and how the colors are feature is quite artistic in presentation.

Of course, some people may have a hard time seeing characters that are non-Japanese who are samurai, especially a Black anti-hero with a huge afro.  But Takashi “Bob” Okazaki, who was a big hip hop fan definitely was inspired by the music and wanting to do something different and sure enough, Afro Samurai was a unique creation.  Okazaki has done a wonderful job with this series and for the most part, doing something unique and different.  “Afro Samurai” may feature five episodes but in the overall plan, Okazaki has mentioned, that the series is just a very small part of what he has planned for Afro Samurai and for the most part, one can only hope that the series receives a larger storyline than just five episodes.

The “Afro Samurai” series has star power with Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman and Kelly Hu contributing their voices to the series.  You have RZA bringing the hip hop to Japanese animation, so for the most part, it’s a unique blend of East meets West in bringing two cultures together.  I felt that was pretty awesome!

GONZO also has done a fantastic job on the animation and artistic backgrounds for this series.  I felt the action and fighting choreography was well done!  Again, everything is stylized.  Even down to the packaging of this release.  I have to say that “Afro Samurai-Director’s Cut” also features a pretty awesome package design.  Featuring a magnetic case and how the folds are, it’s pretty cool.

As for the TV MA rating, despite the series being shown on television, this is not a series to have children around watching.  It’s violent, bloody and features nudity and a sex scene.   In fact, some might find the series a bit disturbing and too gory for their tastes.

Overall, if you are a fan of “Afro Samurai” that was shown on television, the director’s cut features 15 extra minutes will definitely entertain you.   I personally can’t comment on where the extra footage is located but I would assume that the majority of those extra minutes are the extremely violent scenes.

As for my opinion on the series, for one, its short. The series obviously focuses more on the fighting and violence and the goal for people to become #2 in order to fight the #1 fighter.  I felt that the nature of this series was keeping the Western audiences in mind but utilizing Japanese animation by GONZO.   As far as storyline execution goes, “Afro Samurai” is nowhere near the deepness of other samurai anime like “Samurai Champloo”, “Hakkenden”, “Rurouni Kenshin” or “Samurai 7″.  But again, the series is short and Okazaki has not had the opportunity to have a full-length animated series.

But it’s also a different style of anime that although it uses the concept of samurai and has some inclusion of Japanese culture, the series is very Western.  Afro is stoic, while Ninja Ninja could be easily too vocal or mildly annoying but what I did like about the series is its style.  Sure, it’s bloody but somehow the way these fight scenes, no matter how violent they were, the execution was quite artistic in someway.

Also, the series is unique and how it tries to bring together samurai and hip hop music.  And of course, having the main character being a Black protagonist.  But “Afro Samurai” is a series that is literally action and style over substance.  If Okazaki was given a chance to have a full-length anime series of 26 episodes, it would be interesting to see what he would be capable of plot-wise.

“AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” is definitely going to appeal to the fans of the show.  It was pretty unique to see the collaboration between the East and the West for this series and I can only hope that GONZO continues to further production of more episodes (note: Okazaki says that what we have seen so far on the TV series and film is such a small part of what he has already written/planned for the characters).

As far as samurai anime goes, “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” is a violent anime.  Part of Afro’s unique fighting style is his ability to slice and dice people with multiple hits with his sword.  There are a lot of decapitations, loss of limb and blood featured throughout the series, so for the parents wondering if this film is child-safe, the answer is that this film is definitely not child-safe.

There is a lot of Western appeal and as seen at San Diego Comic-Con back in 2008, this series has its large fandom who love this series.  For those who enjoy samurai violence and a samurai anime that is just full of action, there are many positives of “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” from its beautiful animation, magnificent art and of course, the music by RZA just adds another positive reason why people the series but also the film.

Also, another major plus is that this Blu-ray goes beyond what many anime Blu-ray tend to have in terms of special features.  You get several featurettes and the Blu-ray definitely explores the Japan and American side of their working collaboration.  So, there are a good number of special features include on this Blu-ray disc.

Of course, the biggest question is if you own these previously on DVD or Blu-ray, is there a reason to buy “Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions”? The answer is that if you have the DVD, then the upgrade to 1080p HD is worth it, if you enjoyed the series.  For those who own the previous two Blu-ray releases, the answer is no.  This is simply a collection of both releases, re-released in one complete package.    So, if you haven’t purchased “Afro Samurai” before, then most definitely, “Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions” is the way to go!

Overall, “Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions” is an anime film that features a ton of action, humor and violence.  If you dig samurai anime and a lot of fighting and violence, definitely check this film out!

Afro Samurai – Director’s Cut (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

December 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Violent, gory and stylish!  Definitely an original and unique, action-packed short anime series featuring an awesome collaboration with actors Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman and Kelly Hu in to bring out the original manga vision of Takashi “Bob” Okazaki.  Beautiful artistic visuals and animation by GONZO, if you’re  into anime that focuses more on the action, “Afro Samurai- Director’s Cut” is definitely for you.

 

Image courtesy of © 2006 Takashi Okazaki, Gonzo/Samurai Project.  All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Afro Samurai – Director’s Cut

DURATION: 5 Episodes (125 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9, English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English Stereo

COMPANY: Gonzo/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: May 22, 2007

Directed by Fuminori Kizaki

Written by Takashi Okazaki

 

Executive Produced by Leo Chu, Eric Garcia, Shinichiro Ishikawa, Samuel L. Jackson and Arthur Smith

 

Co-Produced by Eric S. Calderon

Consulting Producer: Tommy Blacha

Character Design and Chief Animation Director:  Hiroya Iijima

Art Director: Shigemi Ikeda

 

Music by RZA and Michael Baiardi

 

Casting by Jamie Simone, Kendra Carter

Featuring the following voice talent:

Samuel L. Jackson as the voice of Afro Samurai/Ninja Ninja

Ron Perlman as Justice

Kelly Hu as Okiku

Yuri Lowenthal as Juma

S. Scott Bullock as Dharman

Jeff Bennett as Foo

Tara Strong as Otsuru

Jason Marsden as Sasuke

Phil LaMarr as Brother

Afro Samurai (voiced by Academy Award nominated Samuel L. Jackson) is an epic tale of a black samurai’s hunt for Justice (voiced by Ron Perlman: Hellboy, Alien Resurrection) who murdered his father.  With music store by the RZA (Kill Bill, Wu Tang Clan), Afro Samurai blends traditional Japanese culture, funky technology and hip hop to create a brutally fresh entertainment experience.

Violent and visually entertaining!  Definitely an original and unique, action-packed anime series featuring a fantastic collaboration with actor Samuel L. Jackson, Takashi Okazaki and GONZO.

The popular anime and manga series is created by mangaka Takashi “Bob” Okazaki and produced by world renown Japanese animation company STUDIO GONZO (”Full Metal Panic”, “Vandread”, “Gantz”, “Samurai 7″ and many other anime) brought us the popular five-episode series (which aired in the US on SPIKE TV back in 2007 ) was released as a special Director’s Cut featuring 15 minutes of never before seen footage.

The short animated TV series featured a collaboration with Samuel L. Jackson, creator Takashi Okazaki and anime production studio GONZO and took three years to develop and the series was followed by a movie titled “Afro Samurai: Resurrection” which takes place a year later after this series.

Because of it’s impressive visuals, violent action scenes, unique characters (especially since the main character is a Black samurai) and its hip hop music courtesy of RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan fame), the anime attracted many fans in the US.

The series revolves around a wandering samurai known as Afro Samurai in his goal of wanting to exact revenge for his father’s death.

In this futuristic, feudal-like Japan,  the country is dominated by the person who is known as the top #1 fighter (which is designated by a “ichiban” headband).  Afro’s father happened to be the #1 man at the time, the person to beat and one day, he was killed by the #2 opponent (note: only the person who has the #2 headband can challenge the #1 fighter) that goes by the name of “Justice”.

Justice decapitated Afro’s fathers head in front of him when he was a child and since that traumatic moment, Afro has trained and has become an excellent swordsman in order to become #1.  So, the series focuses on Afro trying to get his vengeance by challenging the top opponents out there and becoming #2 and finally getting the opportunity to challenge his father’s killer, Justice.

Accompanied by the mouthy Ninja Ninja (also voiced by Samue L. Jackson) during his adventures, the five episodes feature Afro taking on a variety of opponents and also flashbacks of his past when he was a child.

“Afro Samurai-Director’s Cut” features a total of 5 episodes on one DVD and comes with another disc with special features.  Here is a spoiler-less summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – Revenge – The series features Afro when he was young and watched as his father was killed during a battle.  Now Afro, grown up and a feared samurai, is now wanting his revenge on the man who killed his father.
  • EPISODE 2 – The Dream Reader – Afro is taken care of by a woman named Okiku and we see flashbacks of Afro’s past as a child bent on revenge.
  • EPISODE 3 – The Empty Seven Clan – A clan sends out a robot based on Afro to take on the Afro Samurai.
  • EPISODE 4 – Duel – Afro comes face-to-face on someone sporting a bear mask (a face resembling a teddy bear that Afro’s young female friend used to have) and a flashback from Afro’s past.
  • EPISODE 5 – Justice – The final battle between Afro and his childhood friend and the final confrontation between Afro and Justice.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

GONZO has done a remarkable job with this series.  The animation and the painted backgrounds are well-done!  Daytime scenes are colorful and vibrant and night-time scenes are dark and work well with this series.  It’s also important to note that “Afro Samurai – Director’s Cut” has quite a bit of talent involved with the look of the film such as character designer and animation director, Hiroya Iijima (”Gantz”, “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” and “Black Cat”).  Also, art direction from Shigemi Ikeda (”Gantz”, “Gasaraki”, “Inuyasha”, Infinite Ryvius, “Black Cat” and many of the “Mobile Suit Gundam” TV series and films).

The series is featured in 16×9 and for the most part, the picture quality really brings out the detail of the surroundings, including the rocky cliffs to the disembowelment of several characters.  And color from the lush green painted backgrounds, blue skies and huge clouds, villages and buildings to the action sequences which showcases a lot of blood.

As for the audio, “Afro Samurai-Director’s Cut” is featured in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound and English stereo.  The series actually sounds quite awesome with the clanging of the swords and the metal healing, sounding quite awesome.  Also, scenes with weapons being launched or fireworks being shot up to the sky, “Afro Samurai” has a solid 5.1 presentation.  I actually prefer to listen to the series with my receiver set at stereo on all channels (especially for those that have a 7.2 or higher setup).

“Afro Samurai – Director’s Cut” is featured only in English, there is no Japanese soundtrack.   Voice acting is well done by actors Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman and Yuri Lowenthal.  Samuel L. Jackson definitely brings out the believability of both Afro and Ninja Ninja and gives the series that cool, funky vibe.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Afro Samurai – Director’s Cut” features the following special features:

  • In the Booth – Voice Talent of Afro Samurai – (14:48) Interviews with voice talent Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman, Kelly Hu, creator Takahashi Okazaki and co-producer Eric Calderon discussing how the series came about.
  • RZA Music Production Tour – (4:54) RZA showing us how he created the music and crew talking about how RZA’s music was important for the series.  How hip hop is blended with Japanese animation.
  • Character Profiles with Commentary by Co-Producer: Eric Calderon – (23:42)  Gonzo’s Eric Calderon talks about Afro Samurai, Okazaki’s vision, the voice talent involved in the series and what is cool about the character and the series.

I know that I’m coming on to this series quite late but for the most part “Afro Samurai – Director’s Cut” is a solid series.  It’s definitely a violent series full of blood and dismembered body parts but it’s interesting to see how samurai anime-based series has come since the early 90′s.  The action is fast and fierce but for “Afro Samurai”, the series is highly stylized.  Even the blood flowing and how the colors are feature is quite artistic in presentation.

Of course, some people may have a hard time seeing characters that are non-Japanese who are samurai, especially a Black anti-hero with a huge afro.  But Takashi “Bob” Okazaki, who was a big hip hop fan definitely was inspired by the music and wanting to do something different and sure enough, Afro Samurai was a unique creation.  Okazaki has done a wonderful job with this series and for the most part, doing something unique and different.  “Afro Samurai” may feature five episodes but in the overall plan, Okazaki has mentioned, that the series is just a very small part of what he has planned for Afro Samurai and for the most part, one can only hope that the series receives a larger storyline than just five episodes.

The “Afro Samurai” series has star power with Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman and Kelly Hu contributing their voices to the series.  You have RZA bringing the hip hop to Japanese animation, so for the most part, it’s a unique blend of East meets West in bringing two cultures together.  I felt that was pretty awesome!

GONZO also has done a fantastic job on the animation and artistic backgrounds for this series.  I felt the action and fighting choreography was well done!  Again, everything is stylized.  Even down to the packaging of this release.  I have to say that “Afro Samurai-Director’s Cut” also features a pretty awesome package design.  Featuring a magnetic case and how the folds are, it’s pretty cool.

As for the TV MA rating, despite the series being shown on television, this is not a series to have children around watching.  It’s violent, bloody and features nudity and a sex scene.   In fact, some might find the series a bit disturbing and too gory for their tastes.

Overall, if you are a fan of “Afro Samurai” that was shown on television, the director’s cut features 15 extra minutes will definitely entertain you.   I personally can’t comment on where the extra footage is located but I would assume that the majority of those extra minutes are the extremely violent scenes.

As for my opinion on the series, for one, its short. The series obviously focuses more on the fighting and violence and the goal for people to become #2 in order to fight the #1 fighter.  I felt that the nature of this series was keeping the Western audiences in mind but utilizing Japanese animation by GONZO.   As far as storyline execution goes, “Afro Samurai” is nowhere near the deepness of other samurai anime like “Samurai Champloo”, “Hakkenden”, “Rurouni Kenshin” or “Samurai 7″.  But again, the series is short and Okazaki has not had the opportunity to have a full-length animated series.

But it’s also a different style of anime that although it uses the concept of samurai and has some inclusion of Japanese culture, the series is very Western.  Afro is stoic, while Ninja Ninja could be easily too vocal or mildly annoying but what I did like about the series is its style.  Sure, it’s bloody but somehow the way these fight scenes, no matter how violent they were, the execution was quite artistic in someway.

Also, the series is unique and how it tries to bring together samurai and hip hop music.  And of course, having the main character being a Black protagonist.  But “Afro Samurai” is a series that is literally action and style over substance.  If Okazaki was given a chance to have a full-length anime series of 26 episodes, it would be interesting to see what he would be capable of plot-wise.

Overall, “Afro Samurai” was entertaining, violent, gruesome but visually stylized.  It was something different and that’s a good thing.  Also, the fact that you can find “Afro Samurai – Director’s Cut” online for a pretty cheap price, definitely makes this DVD release worth checking out.

 

Sons of Anarchy – Season One (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

“A violent, gritty and riveting drama series from Kurt Sutter, writer/producer of “The Shield”.  Well-cast, well-written storylines and a Shakespeare Hamlet-esque type of series that will captivate you from beginning to end!   The Blu-ray version of this series showcases the vibrant picture quality and the lossless audio makes this version the definitive one to own.  Highly recommended!”

Images courtesy of © 2008 Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Sons of Anarchy – Season One

DURATION: 13 Episodes (594 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), AVC @ 23MBPS, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Digital,  Subtitled in English SDH,  Spanish and French

COMPANY:  FX Productions/Twentieth Century Fox

RATED: N/A

Release Date: August 18, 2009

Created by Kurt Sutter

Directed by Stephen T. Kay, Guy Feland, Bill Gierhart, Gwyneth Horder-Payton

Written by Kurt Sutter, Dave Erickson, Jack LoGiudice

Executive Producer – Art Linson, John Linson, Kurt Sutter

Co-Executive Producer – James D. Parriott

Produced by Kevin G. Cremin

Associated Produced by Craig Yahata

Consulting Producer: Jack LoGiudice, Dave Erickson

Music by Bob Thiele Jr.

Cinematography by Paul Maibaum

Edited by Jordan Goldman, Hunter M. Via, Jacques Gravett

Casting by Wendy O’Brien

Production Design by Anthony Medina

Art Direction by Lori Agostino, William Eliscu

Set Decoration by Lance Lombardo, Dena Allen

Costume Design by Kelli Jones

Starring:

Katey Sagal as Gemma Teller Morrow

Charlie Hunnam as Jackson “Jax” Teller

Ron Perlman as Clarence “Clay” Morrow

Theo Rossi as Jean Carlos “Juice” Ortiz

Kim Coates as Alex “Tig” Trager

Johnny Lewis as Kip “Half Sack” Epps

Maggie Siff as Tara Knowles

Mark Boone Junior as Robert “Bobby” Munson

Tomm Flanagan as Filip “Chibs” Telford

Dayton Callie as Chief Wayne Unser

Ryan Hurst as Harry “Opie” Winston

Taylor Sheridan as Deputy Chief David Hale

Dendrie Taylor as Luanne

From an executive producer of The Shield, comes a gripping drama that takes you into the ruthless underworld of outlaw bikers.  The Sons of Anarchy live, ride and die for brotherhood.  But as the club’s leader (Ron Perlman) and his wife (Katey Sagal) steer them in an increasingly lawless direction, her son Jax (Charlie Hunnam) is torn between loyalty and the legacy in this adrenaline charged first season.

“Sons of Anarchy” comes from the mind of Kurt Sutter, a former writer and co-producer of FX’s popular (and now recently concluded) series “The Shield”.    Joining Sutter are fellow writers Dave Erickson (“Canterbury’s Law”) and Jack LoGiudice (“Street Time”, “Resurrection Blvd.” and “7th Heaven”), composer Bob Theile Jr. (“The Office”) and cinematography by Paul Maibaum (“My Boys”, “Samantha WHO?” and “Related”).

The drama series revolves around a motorcycle club known as the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original (SAMCRO).  With SAMCRO chapters across the country, the original Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club was formed in an area called Charming.  Members consist of normal men who have their own responsibilities, life style and jobs but what they have in common is their allegiance towards the club.  And that allegiance includes being part of a life of danger.  For the Sons of Anarchy, the group makes a lot of money by dealing with importing illegal weapons which they sell to other gangs in the Bay Area (primarily the East Bay area), dealing with other organizations or mafia connections but taking a pride in their city and protecting local businesses and the people of the area.

They are well-connected and also have ties to the inside of law enforcement and thus, are able to maintain their operations.  But of course, all is not safe as major gangs are there to cause the club some havoc.  There are those who try to mess with them or steal SAMCRO’s shipments such as the white supremacist group known as the “Nords”, their Latino rivals from Oakland known as the “Mayans” and possibly other dangers including the authorities.

The first season of “Sons of Anarchy” focuses on member Jax (Charlie Hunman, “Undeclared”, “Hooligans”), a member who tends to takes care of operations for the club and is quite respectful of his allegiance to the club that his father John had started and ran until his death many years ago.

SAMCRO is now run by Clarence “Clay” Morrow (Ron Perlman, “Hellboy” films and “Beauty and the Beast”) who married Jax’s mother Gemma (Katey Sagal, “Married with Children”, “Futurama”, “8 Simple Rules…For Dating My Teenage Daughter”) and have lived a life of making money but now are starting to feel the financial constraints.

Both have made the Sons of Anarchy to a club that is profitable (due to the club’s illegal dealings) but things start to change when Jax discovers his father’s belongings especially with the discovery of his dead father’s unpublished manuscript.  It appears that his father has envisioned change for the Sons of Anarchy and because of this, Jax notices that with all the trouble and danger the club faces now, perhaps its time to change things for the positive for the club.

Jax eventually starts to show doubts towards the club’s activities and starts to become more compassionate to the personal lives of some of the members and thus puts himself into a position that can lead to conflict with the his step-father/leader of the Sons of Anarchy.  Of course, this change of thought starts to rub certain members the wrong way, some who question Jax’s ability to lead in the future.

Needless to say, Jax’s mother, Gemma starts to be concerned of her son’s interest in her dead husband’s belongings and looks at things as if her deceased husband is trying to talk to her son from the grave.  Thus, she wants her husband Clay to make sure that Jax doesn’t hurt the operations of the Sons of Anarchy and make sure he doesn’t stray.

Throughout the series, we get to see how the club operates but most of all how tight or how troubled the internal brotherhood is between the members of the motorcycle club and the dangers they face.

Members of the Son of Anarchy also include:

  • Bobby “Elvis” Munson (Mark Boone Junior) - The treasurer of the club and an Elvis impersonator
  • Tig Trager (Kim Coates) – The sergeant-at-arms.  Clay’s right hand man and incredibly violent.  Doesn’t believe in Jax as the successor to the club.
  • Filip “Chibs” Telford (Tommy Flanagan) - The medic of the club that served for the British Army.
  • Piermont “Piney” Winston (William Lucking) – Opie’s father and co-founder of SAMCRO.
  • Harry “Opie” Winston (Ryan Hurst) – A member of SAMCRO who has been off-an-on with the group because of his obligations to his wife and kids.  Thus he stays away from their illegal activities.
  • Juan Carlos “Juice” Ortiz (Theo Rossi) - The club’s intelligence officer, ahe hacker and the guy with the inside connections.
  • Kip “Half-Sack” Epps (Johnny Lewis) -  A member of the club and former Iraq vet.

“Sons of Anarchy – Season One” is featured on three Blu-ray discs.  Here is a spoiler-less summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – Pilot – Introduction to the characters and Jax’s pregnant ex-girlfriend goes into a drug overdose and harms his baby.  Meanwhile, the Sons of Anarchy’s weapons have been stolen by The Mayans and now they must recover the weapons.
  • EPISODE 2 – Seeds – There’s a new deputy chief in Charming and is on to the Sons of Anarchy.  Meanwhile, SOA member Opie and his family are having financial problems.
  • EPISODE 3 – Fun Town – The daughter of a prominent Charming family is assaulted and the Sons of Anarchy (who protect their town) needs to take care of business.
  • EPISODE 4 – Patch Over – The Sons of Anarchy try to help out their Nevada brothers known as the Devil’s Tribe.  Especially now that they have been threatened by the Mayans.
  • EPISODE 5 – Giving Back – Clay must protect a parolee, meanwhile SAMCRO  is being investigated.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 6 – AK-51 – Clay has Jax work on a project for him and a way to see where Jax’s mind is for the club.
  • EPISODE 7 – Old Bones – Old bones are discovered outside of Charming and secrets of Clay may be revealed.
  • EPISODE 8 – The Pull – SAMCRO gets into more financial problems, meanwhile the Nords and Mayans continue to grow their partnership.
  • EPISODE 9 – Hell Followed – SAMCRO gets their revenge against a rival biker club.
  • EPISODE 10 – Better Half - Agent Stahl starts to investigate the women of SAMCRO.

DISC 3:

  • EPISODE 11 – Capybara – Jax is put into a situation in which he must choose to be there as a friend for the members of the club vs. his allegiance to the club.
  • EPISODE 12 – The Sleep of Babies - Clay has to make a difficult decision on how to pay for Bobby’s defense.  Meanwhile, Abel’s return home causes severe problems for the club and a tragedy for the club.
  • EPISODE 13 – The Revelator – Jax goes on a search for who murdered a person close to them and Jax discovers the awful truth that the murderer may be someone he knows really well.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Sons of Anarchy – Season One” is presented in 1080p High Definition (AVC @ 23MBPS), widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1:78:1.  The series is a series that has a large number of scenes shot outdoors and for the most part, the picture quality features excellent detail.

From the scenery of the mountains, the motorcycles, the weapons, the explosions,  the violent maiming of gangsters and the blood, burnt flesh and details of the wounds are quite clear and detailed on this Blu-ray release.

Also, during the darker scenes, I didn’t catch any major high compression or high noise during those low-light situations.  Skin tones are natural and you can catch some scenes with the skin pores and for the most part, the picture quality is brilliant although you do see occasional grain but definitely not distracting.

Audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (Spanish in Dolby Digital).  “Sons of Anarchy” is a series that takes advantage of the lossless audio track.  From the revving of the engines of the Harley-Davidson motorcycles to the booms of explosions and the gunshots, the series definitely utilizes the surrounds during those action-scenes.

For the most part, the explosions and weapons are minimal and most of the audio is dialogue-driven and is primarily front and center channel driven.  As with the rock music that plays throughout the series.  But for the most part, fans of the series will enjoy the lossless track and its use of the various channels throughout the series.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sons of Anarchy – Season One” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

On disc 1, select audio and you will be able to find the following audio commentary:

  • Commentary for Pilot - Featuring audio commentary with Kurt Sutter, Guy Feeland, Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman and Katey Sagal.

DISC 2:

On disc 2, select audio and you will be able to find the following audio commentary:

  • Commentary for the Pull - Featuring audio commentary with Kurt Sutter, Guy Feeland, Maggie Siff and Charlie Hunnam.

DISC 3:

  • Commentary for the Revelator- Featuring audio commentary with Kurt Sutter, Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, Kim Coates, Mark Boone Junior, Theo Rossi, Ryan Hurst, William Lucking, Johnny Lewis and Tommy Flanagan.
  • The Making of Sons of Anarchy, Season 1 - (8:59) Interviews with the producers, creator and cast about the series.  Kurt Sutter talks about spending time with the outlaw community and trying to make the series authentic.
  • The Ink – (4:50) Biker clubs have their own logo and patches and how the “Sons of Anarchy” insignia was created.  Interviews with cast and crew including tattoo artists and insignia creators Freddy Corbin and Derrick Snodgrass.
  • The Bikes – (7:08) The cast and crew talk about riding motorcycles and their appreciation of riding them. Crew talk about the different bikes that each character rides.
  • Casting Sons of Anarchy – (14:47) Kurt Sutter (series creator/writer) and Wendy O’Brien (casting) discuss the casting of “Sons of Anarchy”.  The two discuss the importance of finding people who really look like they fit the part.
  • Deleted Scenes – (35:05) Around 30 deleted scenes which can be watched individually or via “play all”.
  • Anarchy on the Set (Gag Reel) – (6:53) A hilarious gag reel.

“Sons of Anarchy” is one of those rare series that you will catch on television.  The interesting thing is that back in the late 1970′s, the outlaw life was typically portrayed on television as this hell-bent biker gang but films really never fully explored it well, actually, if anything, they were just used as an episode of “C.H.I.P.S” and were people wreaking havoc on innocents.

There is a culture among the biker clubs and it was great to see a series that featured characters in a variety of depth and it is quite evident that creator/writer Kurt Sutter did his research well in capturing that culture, the look and feel of the individuals (and of course, great casting) but bringing together this gritty storyline of opposing gangs and rival biker clubs and creating this world where life is not always peaceful and allegiance for the club, you need to sacrifice for the club.  Personally, I was captivated by the storytelling and from beginning to end, realize that hell is going to break loose in Season 2.  Granted, I say this not knowing anything about motorcycle gangs up-close and personal but I would assume with all the time that Sutter spent with the various motorcycle clubs, there are some aspects of that culture that he brought into this fictional drama series.  And of course, that correlation to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” makes the series quite intriguing.

I have to admit that before watching the series, I wasn’t sure how Charlie Hunnam (who typically plays popular guy that the girls dig type of roles), Katey Sagal who has been in more sitcom-based shows and more dramatic series and of course, Ron Perlman, an actor that viewers are used to seeing him in “Hellboy” or the old classic “Beauty and the Beast” series.  But for the most part, each of the talent did wonderful job and the series is literally well-cast.  Hunnam as Jax sans the English accent almost has this Heath Ledger type of feel to his character that works.  Katey Sagal does an excellent job playing a mother, but a mother who has the potential of going bad.  And of course, Ron Perlman definitely has that look of a person you don’t want to cross.  Add in the other talent and  overall, the way they play their characters are is convincing.  Again, the talent are definitely well-cast!

The Blu-ray further enhances the enjoyment of the series with picture quality really capturing the violence and grittiness of the series.  In the first episode, the first time you lay your eyes on the charred remains of two people, you know that this series is not going to be “pedestrian” and by the end of the first episode, you realize that the series is quite violent but fits the situation quite well.  As mentioned before, the lossless audio track definitely compliments the series, especially for those who can’t get enough of that engine revving of the Harley’s in high definition.  Also, picture quality is well-done and again, as beautiful as the scenery is of the mountain regions and the camera panning through the various Harley’s, the picture quality also captures the detail of the violence of the series.

“Sons of Anarchy – Season One” was definitely a big surprise for me and it’s good to know that FX has continued the trend of having well-written, well-cast and overall, another riveting drama series.  Overall, this series is highly recommended!

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