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Ghost in the Shell (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

July 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Considering the other not-so-good Hollywood-made anime live-action film adaptations, one can’t deny that “Ghost in the Shell” is one of the better adaptations from an anime or manga series.  The film just misses the mark of being a wonderful, memorable film and feels like a simplified, less complex version of the original storyline and a film with untapped potential.  But there is always room for improvement if a sequel does happen in the future.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ghost in the Shell

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition, English Dolby Atmos, French, Spanish, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese

COMPANY: Paramount

RATED: PG-13 (For Intense Sequences of Sci-fi Violence, Suggestive Content and Some Disturbing Images)

RELEASE DATE: July 25, 2017


Based on the comic “The Ghost in the Shell” by Masamune Shirow

Directed by Rupert Sanders

Screenplay by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehren Kruger

Producer: Ari Arad, Michael Costigan, Steven PAul

Co-Producer: Holly Bario, Jane Nerlinger Evans, Maki Terashima-Furuta

Executive Producer: Tetsuya Fujimura, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, Yoshinobu Noma, Jeffrey Silver

Music by Lorne Balfe, Clint Mansell

Cinematography by Jess Hall

Edited by Billy Rich, Neil Smith

Casting by Lucy Vevan, Liz Mullane, Miranda Rivers

Production Design by Jan Roelfs

Art Direction by Matt Austin, Simon Bright, Leri Greer, Miro Harre, Ben Hawker, Richard L. Johnson, Agata Maliauka, Andy McLaren, Erik Polczwartek, Brad Ricker, Ken Turner

Set Decoration by Greg Cokerill, Elli Griff, Craig Poll, Calvin Tsoi, Brana Rosenfeld, Kitt Van Der Kidd

Costume Design by Kurt and Bart


Starring:

Scarlett Johansson as Major

Pilou Asbaek as Batou

Takeshi Kitano as Aramaki

Juliette Binoche as Dr. Ouelet

Michael Pitt as Kuze

Chin Han as Togusa

Danusia Samal as Ladriya

Lasarus Ratuere as Ishikawa

Yutaka Izumihara as Saito

Tawanda Manyimo as Borma

Peter Ferdinando as Cutter

Anamaria Marinca as Dr. Dahlin


Set in a world where people are enhanced with technology, GHOST IN THE SHELL follows Major (Scarlett Johansson), who believes she was rescued from near death. The first of her kind, Major is a human mind inside an artificial body designed to fight the war against cyber-crime. While investigating a dangerous criminal, Major makes a shocking discovery – the corporation that created her lied about her past life in order to control her. Unsure what to believe, Major will stop at nothing to unravel the mystery of her true identity and exact revenge against the corporation she was built to serve.


The year 1989 and Masamune Shirow would create his manga “Ghost in the Shell”.

By 1995, an animated film was released and would become a box office hit in Japan, would achieve success via video retail and would also receive critical acclaim worldwide.  So much that even filmmaker James Cameron cited the film as a source of inspiration, saying “The first truly adult animation film to reach a level of literary and visual excellence”.

While considered complex and too some as cerebral, the popularity of the first film would lead to more animated films, animated series, video games and books.

And in 2008, DreamWorks and Steven Spielberg would acquire the rights to produce a live-action film adaptation of the original manga and in 2017, the film would be released in theaters, earning over $169 million in the box office.

The film is directed by Rupert Sanders (“Snow White and the Huntsman”) and would be co-written by Jamie Moss (“Safe House 2”, “Street Kings”), William Wheeler (“Queen of Katwe”, “The Hoax”) and Ehren Kruhger (“Transformers” films, “The Ring”).

The film stars Scarlett Johansson (“Lost in Translation”, “The Avengers”, “Lucy”), Pilou Asbaek (“Lucy”, “Hijacking”, “A War”), Takeshi Kitano (“Brother”, “The Blind Swordsman/Zatoichi”, “Fireworks”), Juliette Binoche (“The English Patient”, “Three Colors: Blue”, “Cache”, “Godzilla”), Michael Pitt (“Seven Psychopaths”, “I Origins”), Chin Han (“The Dark Knight”, “Contagion”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”), Danusia Samal (“Tyrant”, “Boom”) and Peter Ferdinando (“Tony”, “Starred Up”).

And now, the film will be released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Paramount.

The film begins with a woman being wheeled in via a stretcher and her brain being removed and inserted in a mechanical body (shell) at Hanka Robotics, the world’s leading developer of augmentative technology.

And the first experimented is made to integrate a human brain versus an AI, and the results on Mira Killian (portrayed by Scarlett Johansson) is a success.  While Dr. Ouelet (portrayed by Juliette Binoche) is thrilled that the experiment had worked, Hanka CEO Cutter (portrayed by Peter Ferdinando) wants to use her immediately as a soldier/counter-terrorism operative.

Dr. Ouelet tells Mira that she was involved in an accident and that her body was too damaged but they were able to rescue her brain.  She was also told that her parents have passed away.

Fastforward a year later and Mira is now a “Major” in the anti-terrorist bureau, Section 9, and she and her fellow operatives Batou (portrayed by Pilou Asbaek) and Togusa (portrayed by Chin Han) working under their boss, Chief Daisuke Aramaki (portrayed by Takeshi Kitano) are trying to prevent a terrorist attack on a Hanka business conference.

As the terrorists attack, Major acts on her own despite her Chief telling her not to to and in the process, she destroys a rogue geisha robot who ends up murdering her hostage.  After Major destroys the geisha robot, a message is given directly to her.

As Major goes for rehabilitation and medication, she tells Dr. Ouelet that she is experiencing hallucinations and that she doesn’t remember her past.

Wanting to know why the geisha robot gave her a message, she tells her partner Batou that she will be diving into the geisha robot and when she does, she knows she is breaking protocol.  But wanting to find answers, she finds out that the robot was hacked by a mysterious individual known as Kuze and Kuze tries to do a reverse hack.

As Major starts to be affected by the reverse hack, Batou has her disconnected and Major was able to extract information that leads her to a Yakuza nightclub.

As Major and Batou continue to investigate, what will they find out about this mysterious individual known as Kuze and because of her belligerence of not following orders, will she be deprogrammed?


VIDEO:

“Ghost in the Shell” receives its first 4K Ultra HD K Ultra HD release and is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition.

While the setting is in the future, the film reflects that with a lot of CG created buildings and virtual/holographic signs.  For the most part, closeups show great detail and the overall look of the film is cool.  Combining realistic scenes with a lot of CG, the two are able to coexist with great efficacy.

For the most part, the film looks fantastic in 4K Ultra HD.

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: To watch 4K Ultra HD, you will need a 4K UHD TV with HDR and an Ultra HD Blu-ray Player + a high-speed HDMI 2.0A Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio quality is equally impressive. Featured in English Dolby Atmos, French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital and English audio description.

Considering that this sci-fi action film contains a lot of action sequences, this lossless soundtrack is quite impressive. Surround channels and LFE are well-utilized during the high actions sequences.  And may it be weapon shots to glass shattering, “Ghost in the Shell” sounds magnificent.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ghost in the Shell” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special features:

  • Hard-Wired Humanity: Making Ghost in the Shell – (30:05) A featurette on the making of “Ghost in the Shell” and bringing the popular manga to film and how it took nine years to develop.
  • Section 9: Cyber Defenders – (11:28) A featurette about the anti-terrorist unit, Section 9.  Interviews with the cast who are members of Section 9.
  • Man & Machine: The Ghost Philosophy – (10:35) A featurette with cast and crew discussing the quickly changing technology and the integration of human/technology.

EXTRAS:

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


Having loved the animated film “Ghost in the Shell”, I have seen the manga/film evolve as a TV series, animated film, video games and literally captivate people all over the world.

So, when the film was announced that there would be a live-action film starring Scarlett Johansson, as beloved as they are too fans, they are also the harshest critics.

Could a live-action film due the manga/animated film justice?  Will the casting of Scarlett Johansson instead of an Asian actress hurt the film?

There are a lot of things that the film has been criticized and as a fan of “Ghost in the Shell”, you can see this film as being half empty and half full.

For one, I give the creators of the film credit for creating this CG landcape of a futuristic megalopolis.  The film does go into why the character of Major is not Asian.

But there are a few concessions that I can understand why the producers had to do it.  For example, the animated film, while awesome as it is, not everyone is able to follow it.  Many found it too smart, too cerebral for their own tastes, so in order to make money and make this film accessible to the public, the film can’t be too complex.

It’s important to note that in Japan, the film did much better than the original 1995 anime film, they also embraced Scarlett Johansson as the main protagonist.  Having watched many anime live-action film adaptations, believe it or not, “Ghost in the Shell” is probably one of the better adaptations from Hollywood.  You have star power in this film with Johannson, Takeshi Kitano, Pilou Asbaek, Juliette Binoche, to name a few and the acting is very good.  The visual effects are phenomenal.

Now compare this to “Dragon Ball: Evolution”, “The Guyver”, “Fist of the North Star”, “Speed Racer”. Aside from “Edge of Tomorrow”, the majority of Hollywood live-action film adaptations of popular anime and manga series have led to crap.  And “Ghost in the Shell” is no doubt much better than those films I have mentioned.

In some ways, I like to think as those years of crappy anime film adaptations similar to where Marvel Comics live-action films used to be in the ’80s and ’90s.  Until Marvel was able to strike gold with “Spider-Man”, “X-Men” and later with “The Avengers”, “Iron Man” and the plethora of superhero films that are doing wonderfully in the box office, anime film adaptations are starting to show an improvement in quality and that’s important.

In Japan, the country is experiencing a boom of anime to live-action film adaptations with “Fullmetal Alchemist”, “Gintama”, “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures” starting to generate hype in 2017, people are fully aware of what happens when the film is in the hands of a director who takes the film with a different approach (ie. the two “Attack on Titan” live-action films).

I tend to see the future being bright for anime to live-action films in the future but while Japanese audiences are more accepting, outside of Japan, it’s a different story.  With social media and voices becoming more loud about Hollywood casting, at least the writing does find a way to make sense of Scarlett Johansson’s character.

If anything, I see “Ghost in the Shell” a live-action film that is on the lighter side of storytelling.  Unfortunately, the lighter side of storytelling is what hurts the film because aside from Major and Batou and of course, Kitano as Aramaki is a major win for the film, the problem is the development of the characters and motivations in the live-action film.

I don’t think the film’s antagonist was written all that well and if anything, I found Michael Carmen Pitt’s character, Kuze, to be forgetful.  When Major and Kuze come across each other, I didn’t care for Kuze’s character one bit even after the reveal is made.

I will give the producers and director Rupert Sanders credit for what they were able to accomplish.  The film looks great, visual effects were fantastic, the film featured solid acting but is hurt by its other characters and lack of a gripping storyline.

But considering the other not-so-good Hollywood-made anime live-action film adaptations, one can’t deny that “Ghost in the Shell” is one of the better adaptations from an anime or manga series.  The film just misses the mark of being a wonderful, memorable film and feels like a simplified, less complex version of the original storyline and a film with untapped potential.  But there is always room for improvement if a sequel does happen in the future.

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

March 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Sing” is very much an uplifting story with wonderful music, great voice acting and fantastic animation. And the film will no doubt entertain people of all ages. Recommended!d!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sing

YEAR OF FILM: 2016

DURATION: 1 hr., 48 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080P High Definition 1:85:1, 1080p High Definition, English ATMOS Dolby True HD/DVS 2.0, Espanol Dolby Digital Plus 7.1, Francais Dolby Digital, Engish Dobly Digital 7.1/2.0, Subtitles: English SDH, Espanol and Francais

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Rude Humor and Mild Peril)

RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2017


Directed by Garth Jennings

Co-Director: Christophe Lourdelet

Written by Garth Jennings

Producer: Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri

Co-Producer: Igor Khait

Associate Producer: Brett Hoffman, Robert Taylor

Music by Joby Talbot

Edited by Gregory Perler

Casting by Allison Jones, Mickie McGowan

Production Design by Eric Guillon

Art Direction: Francois Moret


Featuring the Voices of:

Matthew McConaughey as Buster moon

Reese Witherspoon as Rosita

Seth MacFarlane as Mike

Scarlett Johansson as Ash

John C. Reilly as Eddie

Taron Egerton as Johnny

Tori Kelly as Meena

Jennifer Saunders as Nana

Jennifer Hudson as Young Nana

Garth Jennings as Miss Crawly

Peter Serafinowicz as Big Daddy

Nick Kroll as Gunter

Beck Bennett as Lance

Jay Pharoah as Meena’s Grandfather

Nick Offerman as Norman

Leslie Jones as Meena’s Mother

Rhea Perlman as Judith


From Illumination Entertainment, the studio that brought you The Secret Life of Pets comes an animated comedy about finding the music that lives inside all of us. Sing stars Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey as Buster Moon, an eternally optimistic koala who puts on the world’s greatest singing competition to save his crumbling theater; Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon as Rosita, an overworked and underappreciated mother of 25 piglets desperate to unleash her inner diva; Scarlett Johansson as Ash, a punk rock porcupine with a beautiful voice behind her prickly exterior; and Taron Egerton as Johnny, a young gangster gorilla looking to break free of his family’s felonies. Sing is the musical comedy event of the year!


From writer/director Garth Jennings (director of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “Son of Rambow”) and Christopher Lourdelet (storyboard artist of “Minions”, “The Lorax”, “A Monster in Paris”) comes the Illumination Entertainment animated film, “Sing”.

Featuring the voices from talents such as Matthew McConaugey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson, Garth Jennings, Peter Serafinowicz, Nick Kroll, Beck Bennett, Nick Offerman, Rhea Perlman and many more.

The animated film would feature more than 60 classic songs and originally budgeted at $75 million, would go on to make $578 million worldwide.  Ensuring a single slated for 2020.

And now “Sing” will be available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD in March 2017.

The film begins with a young koala named Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) owning a theater and being congratulated by his father who took him to his first music show as a child.  Fastforward and Buster’s theater has been losing a lot of money due to unsuccessful programs and now many workers are demanding pay.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to various characters:

  • Rosita (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) – A pig who gave up her teenage music dreams to become a wife to Norman and her 25 piglets.  She can sing and is very crafty.
  • Mike (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) – An arrogant small mouse who loves to sing Sinatra classics as a street performer but also known to get into a lot of trouble.
  • Ash (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) – A porcupine who is a punk rocker along with her boyfriend, Lance.
  • Meena (voiced by Tori Kelly) – A teenage elephant with a great voice but is shy and has severe stage fright.
  • Johnny (voiced by Taron Egerton) – A gorilla who wants to sing, but his father, Big Daddy (voiced by Peter Serafinowicz), a thief always wants him to be his lookout and follow his life into crime.
  • Gunter (voiced by Nick Kroll) – A vibrant pig who loves to dance.

As the bank rep Judith is demanding payment or the theater will be closed within a month, Buster comes up with an idea to create a singing competition with a prize of $1,000 which he tells his buddy, Eddie Noodleman (voiced by John C. Reilly), the nephew of Miss Nana Noodleman (voiced by Jennifer Saundres), a popular singer that inspired Buster.

Buster’s assistant, Mrs. Crawley (voiced by Garth Jennings) accidentally puts two zeroes and makes the prize $100,000 and before he could see them, the wind blows the flyers out the window and they fly all over the city.

And everyone interested in singing auditions to be part of the singing competition.

Despite finding about Miss Crawley’s error, Buster, an optimist feels that his singing competition may be able to make the money back.  But can he and his fellow singers pull off a successful production?


VIDEO:

“Sing” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio) and features vibrant animation and wonderful detail.  The hair effects and textures can be seen on the surface of the animals and also the clothing which are animated wonderfully.

Overall picture quality is fantastic and if you want the best version, an 4K Ultra HD version of the film is available.

AUDIO:

“Sing” is presented in English ATMOS Dolby True HD/DVS plus a Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The film features crystal clear dialogue and musical score.

Because the film’s many songs featured, the music plays a big part of the soundtrack.  But also the sound effects and overall ambiance can be heard through the surround channels.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Espanol and Francais.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sing” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Sing – (4:40) Director/writer Garth Jennings discuss how the movie came to be and behind-the-scenes on the making of “Sing”.
  • Finding the Rhythm: Editing Sing – (2:43) Editor Greg Perler discusses the challenge of editing “Sing”.
  • Character Profiles – (12:25) Featuring the various talents/voice actors for each character discussing voice work and being in the studio to record their characters.  And their thoughts about their character.
  • Things You Didn’t Know About – (3:52) The directors, cast and crew are given rapid-fire questions.
  • “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” Music Video – Featuring a music video from Tori Kelly.
  • Making a Music Video with Tori Kelly – (2:52) The making of “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing”.
  • Faith Music Video – (2:43) Featuring a music video from Stevie Wonder.
  • Faith Lyric Video 
  • Set It All Free Lyric Video
  • “Sing & Dance – Faith” – (6:27) Learn the dance moves for “Faith”.
  • The Sing Network – Featuring short featurettes showcasing “Gunter’s Dance Studio”, “The Moon Theater”, “Rosita’s Babysitting Gizmo”, “Miss Crawley’s Matchmaking Service” and “In the News”.
  • The Best of Gunter – (1:03) Scenes featuring Gunter.
  • Mini-Movies: Gunter Babysits – (3:40) Gunter has to babysit Rosita’s 25 piglets.
  • Mini-Movies: Love at First Sight – (4:15) Johnny introduces Miss Crawley to online dating.
  • Mini-Movies: Eddie’s Life Coach – (4:15) A featurette about Eddie watching an informercial.
  • The Making of the Mini-Movies – (5:49) A featurette on the making of the short films.

EXTRAS:

“Gunter” comes with a slipcover, a DVD version of the film and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


Films about an unsuccessful attraction or production have been featured in past films before, but not with anthropomorphic animals.

As Illumination Entertainment animated films such as the “Despicable Me”, “Minions”, “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” films and “The Secret Life of Pets” have done amazingly well in the box office, the company’s latest film focuses on singing animals.

And while singing animals are nothing new to animated films, what “Sing” does differently is incorporate today’s top 40 songs or classics and integrate that to a storyline of singing hopefuls that want a chance to make it in the spotlight.

In today’s world of singing reality TV shows it’s a concept that people know much to well, “Sing” takes those hopefuls, which happen to be animals, trying out for a chance of stardom.  Not knowing that the intention of the singing competition is to save a fledgling theater and also for big money which is an error made by a lizard who’s eye ball pops out and bounces on the zero key on the keyboard twice.

The most important factor of the film is the character development.  “Sing” is a film that makes you care for its characters.

Buster Moon is a koala with good intentions but so far, his business sense has led to failed productions and now he may lose his theater.

Rosita is a pig who can sing but chose to be a mother and wife and wonders if she pursued a career singing.  Mike is an arrogant Sinatra-singing mouse who is a street performer that gets into a lot of trouble.  Ash is a punk rock singer, always in the shadow of her boyfriend and has a troubled relationship.  And Johnny is a gorilla who wants to be a singer but his father, a thief, wants his son to follow his life in crime.

We watch as these individuals go through their own personal struggles, self-doubt but together, they learn to unite and try to put on the greatest show they can.

And as far as its voice acting is concerned, the film features a star-filled talent showcase with Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly and many more.  Also, to hear the music from powerful voices of Tori Kelly and Jennifer Hudson was a major plus as well.

On Blu-ray, the film shows amazing detail, colors are vibrant and the lossless soundtrack whether it be dialogue or the large amount of music featured in the film are all crystal clear.  And there are a good number of special features included as well.

And when you’re done, there are also three entertaining mini movies included featuring the characters from “Sing”!

Overall, “Sing” is very much an uplifting story with wonderful music, great voice acting and fantastic animation.  And the film will no doubt entertain people of all ages.

Recommended!

The Jungle Book (2016) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Jungle Book” is a film that no doubt will surprise you because of its visual beauty, the wonderful acting and seeing the book and animated film brought to life.  This is my favorite Disney live adaptation of a Disney Animated Classic so far and I really enjoyed this film a lot. Definitely one of the best family films of 2016!

Images courtesy of © 2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Jungle Book (2016)

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 106 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish and French

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: PG (For Some Sequences of Scary Action and Peril)

Release Date: September 6, 2016


Based on Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”

Directed by Jon Favreau

Screenplay by Justin Marks

Produced by Jon Favreau, Brigham Taylor

Co-Producer: John Bartnicki, Joyce Cox

Executive-Producer: Molly Allen, Karen Gilchrist

Cinematography by Bill Pope

Music by John Debney

Edited by Adam Gerstel, Mark Livolsi

Casting by Sarah Finn

Production Design by Christopher Glass

Art Direction by Ravi Bansal, John Lord booth III, Ilgi Candar, Andrew L. Jones, Mike Stassi

Set Decoration by Amanda Moss Serino

Costume Design by Laura Jean Shannon


Starring:

Neel Sethi as Mowgli

Featuring the Voices of:

Bill Murray as Baloo

Ben Kingsley as Bagheera

Idris Elba as Shere Khan

Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha

Scarlett Johansson as Kaa

Giancarlo Esposito as Akela

Christopher Walken as King Louie

Garry Shandling as Ikki

Brighton Rose as Gray


In an epic adventure directed by Jon Favreau (IRON MAN), Mowgli, a man-cub raised in the jungle by a family of wolves, embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery when he’s forced to abandon the only home he’s ever known. Featuring an all-star voice cast including Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley and Scarlett Johansson, THE JUNGLE BOOK is “stunning” (Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter).


Back in 1893-1895, English Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling wrote a collection of stories that were published in various magazines and give moral lessons to young readers.  The stories would go on to be known as “The Jungle Book”.

And in 1967, the beloved classic animated film was born. Walt Disney and writer Bill Peet decided that the 19th animated feature would be “The Jungle Book” featuring a storyline inspired by Kipling’s stories (Disney did not want the darker storyline to be in the animated film, since the goal was to create a family film) but also incorporating music.

But fastforward to 2016 and Disney, who have been doing live film adaptions of their popular Disney Animated Classics, decided to give “The Jungle Book” a chance to be a live action film but to also incorporate a story more faithful to Rudyard Kipling’s book (as back in 1967, Disney couldn’t make the children’s animated film too dark).

The live action version would be directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”, “Iron Man 2”, “Zathura: A Space Adenture”) and a screenplay by Justin Marks (“Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li”, “Rewind”).

The film would star new young actor, Neel Sethi and voice acting would be provided by many popular stars such as Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken and Garry Shandling (Garry’s final film that he had worked on before his death).

“The Jungle Book” was a success among critics and in the box office, earning over $963 million (budget was $175 million) and the film would become the third highest grossing film of 2016 (as of September 2016).

And now, “The Jungle Book” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD!

“The Jungle Book” begins with a “Man Club” named Mowgli (portrayed by Neel Sethi) being trained by a panther named Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley).

As Bagheera takes Mowgli to the river to get some water with the other animals, he joins up with his family of wolves that raised him, his wolf father Akela (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito) and his mother Raksha (voiced by Lupita Nyong’o).

When the predator, a tiger that all in the jungle has feared, Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba) comes to the river, he taunts everyone.  But when he sees Mowgli, he tells the wolves that if they don’t bring him the man club, he will end the peace truce among him and the animals in the jungle.

With the wolves fearing that Shere Khan can terrorize all of them, they discuss on what to do with Mowgli and suggest that he should go back to where other people like him live. Raksha is against it as she has raised Mowgli since he was small and considers him as one of her own cubs.

But seeing everyone arguing, Mowgli makes up his mind and tells his family of wolves that in order to fix things, he will leave and go to where the other people like him are living.  And Bagheera agrees to help Mowgli get back to the village of where his people are from.

As they are heading to the village, immediately Shere Khan starts to go for the attack in order to kill Mowgli, but Bagheera manages to fend Shere Khan’s attack temporarily.

As Mowgli barely escapes from Shere Khan, he ends up in another part of the jungle where he comes across a huge snake named Kaa (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) and she explains to him how he was brought to the jungle, how his father used the red flower (fire) which is magical that it brings light but it can also bring destruction.

She explains that Mowgli’s father brought him to the jungle, inside a cave but Shere Khan found them.  When his father tried to protect the young boy, he used the flame to burn Shere Khan’s face, but in the process, sacrificed his life and died to protect his son.

And as Kaa is slowly entrancing the young boy in order to kill him, he is rescued by a sloth bear named Baloo (voiced by Bill Murray) and the two become friends and partners.

But Shere Khan is determined of killing the young boy, while Mowgli and Baloo go on several (dangerous) adventures together.  But will Mowgli return to his home where the humans live?  Or will he stay in the jungle, the only home he knows.


VIDEO:

“The Jungle Book” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is absolute magnificent.  The visual effects of this film is amazing as every animal looks realistic, the CG and overall environments look realistic despite the film being shot via motion capture on a blue screen and for the most part, this is one of the most beautiful films to come from Disney and showcase how far digital technology has come in reproducing animals and environments.  Details are fantastic and the overall picture quality is vibrant with no problematic artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Jungle Book” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks.

Audiophiles will no doubt take note of how wonderful this film sounds as it is quite immersive.  From every sound of Mowgli running and hearing him on branches that crack, hearing the elephants moving in the distances, stones breaking, fires spreading, the surround channels and LFE coming alive with every scream or roar, may it be Baloo or King Louie, everything is crystal clear, dialogue, music and sound effects.

For the most part, not only do you get fantastic picture quality but an equally fantastic lossless soundtrack as well!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Spanish and French

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Jungle Book” comes with the following special feature:

  • The Jungle Book Reimagined – (35:02) Interviews with the cast and crew about the making of “The Jungle Book”.
  • I Am Mowgli – (8:17) The cast of young actor Neel Sethi and an interview with Neel.
  • King Louie’s Temple: Layer by Layer – (3:14) The making of the music for “King Louie’s Temple” with Richard Sherman.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Jon Favreau

EXTRAS:

“The Jungle Book” comes with a slipcover and a Digital HD Code.


I have watched the original Disney Animated Classic “The Jungle Book” numerous times in my life and have reviewed it several times for J!-ENT each time it has been released on DVD and then later on Blu-ray.

But when I heard that “The Jungle Book” was going to receive a live film adaptation, I have to admit that I was skeptical at first.

Partly because the animated film was a musical and an animated film with action and featured a lot of talking animals, I really couldn’t picture a live action version of the film.

Having watched the 2016 version of “The Jungle Book”, I was absolutely floored by how fantastic this film ending up becoming.

From the detail of the creatures in the jungle, how young actor Neel Sethi was utilized in the film using motion capture and blue screen technology and creating breathtaking sequences that look real and authentic.

And while “The Jungle Book” manages to combine the best of both worlds, from being inspired by the original Rudyard Kipling book, because it’s a Disney film, you do get music but the film focuses on the characters, their actions and focusing on story.

But fans of the Disney Animated Classic will no doubt be happy of hearing Mowgli and Baloo singing “The Bare Necessities” or an impressive scene with the giant King Louie primate singing his catchy song as well.  These are two memorable songs in this 2016 Disney film but what you remember the most are how impressive child actor Neel Sethi was in the role of Mowgli.

This film was perfectly cast and the film rides on the shoulders of young Sethi and everything worked magnificently.  He was the right kid to do the job and his awesome performance was quite evident in the film.

And as for the animals, the film also hit multiple homeruns by having Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito and Christopher Walken.  Perfect casting as everyone did their voice role magnificently.

But it’s one thing to have perfect casting, what made this film become so impressive is the visual effects.  With each animal featured, they look so real and authentic and goes to show how far digital technology has come in reproducing the look of animals for this film.  From the hair on the wolves, Baloo to the markings and the mud stains that are on Shere Khan.

And also, I give a thumbs up to costume/make-up artists for the consistency by showing Mowgli having scars and bumps throughout the film and not the typical, banal Hollywood forgetfulness of showing lingering wounds throughout a film.

As for the rating, while the film is rated PG because Mowgli comes across many threats, the film received a PG rating.  And while young children may get a little spooked out by certain characters, I watched the film with my family and my son absolutely loved it.  But similar to the animated film and if you are familiar with the book, then know that due to various challenges and threats to Mowgli, parental guidance is suggested.

As for the Blu-ray release, both picture quality and the lossless soundtrack are magnificent.  This is a film that videophiles and audiophiles dream of experiencing during a viewing of a film and “The Jungle Book” scores high marks for video and audio.  As for special features, a few featurettes and an audio commentary are included.

Overall, “The Jungle Book” is a film that no doubt will surprise you because of its visual beauty, the wonderful acting and seeing the book and animated film brought to life.  This is my favorite Disney live adaptation of a Disney Animated Classic so far and I really enjoyed this film a lot.

Definitely one of the best family films of 2016!

Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

avengers-ultron-a

Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” is a fantastic and exciting action film. While it does not have the same epic-feel of the original, fans of the first film will no doubt enjoy the film’s intensity of the many action scenes that this film has to offer. Looking for an action film and enjoyed the first “The Avengers” film? Then it’s a no brainer…”Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition

YEAR OF FILM: 2015

DURATION: 141 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Color, 2:40:1 Aspect Ratio

COMPANY: Disney

RELEASE DATE: October 2, 2015


Directed by Joss Whedon

Written by Joss Whedon

Based on the Marvel Comics Comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Executive Producer:  Victoria Alonso, Louis D’Esposito, Jon Favreau, Alan Fine, Jeremy Latcham, Stan Lee, Patricia Whitcher

Producer: Kevin Feige

Co-Producer: Mitchell Bell

Associate Producer: Jamie Christopher

Music by Danny Elfman, Brian Tyler

Cinematography by Ben Davis

Edited by Jeffrey Ford, Lisa Lassek

Casting by Sarah Finn, Reg Poerscout-Edgerto

Production Design by Charles Wood

Art Direction by Thomas Brown

Set Decoration by Sheona Mitchley, Richard Roberts

Costume Design by Alexandra Byrne


Starring:

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man

Chris Hemsworth as Thor

Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye

James Spader as Ultron

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine

Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch

Paul Bettany as Jarvis/Vision

Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill

Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon

Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter

Idris Elba as Heimdall

Linda Cardellini as Laura Barton

Stellan Skarsgard as Erik Selvig

Claudia Kim as Dr. Helen Cho

Thomas Kretschmann as Strucker

Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue

Julie Delpy as Madame B

Stan Lee as himself


Marvel Studios unleashes the next global phenomenon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — MARVEL’S AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. Good intentions wreak havoc when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) unwittingly creates Ultron (James Spader), a terrifying A.I. monster who vows to achieve “world peace” via mass extinction. Now Iron Man, Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) — alongside Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) — must reassemble to defeat Ultron and save mankind…if they can! This action-packed adventure is a mind-blowing blast!


avengers2-d

With the first film of “The Avengers” (2012) earning $1.52 billion in the box office, becoming at the time, the #3 film to have the highest gross of all time and the first billion dollar film for Marvel Studios.

And with the sequel “Avengers: Age of Ultron” gaining plenty of hype and the good news that director/writer Joss Whedon (“The Avengers”, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and the original cast will be returning, Disney/Marvel hoped to achieve similar success.

And sure enough, “Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron” accomplished just that.  Earning $1.4 billion in the box office, the film would become the sixth highest grossing film of all time and the second highest grossing film of 2016.

The all-star cast for the film includes Robert Downey Jr. (“Iron Man” films, “Chaplin”, “Sherlock Holmes”), Chris Hemsworth (“Thor” films, “Rush”), Mark Ruffalo (“Shutter Island”, “Now You See Me”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), Chris Evans (“Captain America” and “Fantastic Four” films), Scarlett Johansson (“Lost in Translation”, “Lucy”), Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”, “American Hustle”, “The Bourne Legacy”), James Spader (“Boston Legal”, “Lincoln”, “Stargate”) as the voice of Ultron, Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction”, “Django”, “Star Wars I-III” films), Don Cheadle (“Iron Man 2 & 3”, “Hotel Rwanda”, “Crash”), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Kick-Ass” films, “Godzilla”), Elizabeth Olsen (“Godzilla”, “Old Boy”, “Very Good Girls”), Paul Bettany (“A Beautiful Mind”, “Iron Man” films”), Cobie Smulders (“How I Met Your Mother”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) and Anthony Mackie (“The Hurt Locker”, “Million Dollar Baby”, “Real Steel”).

While the film received mixed, but yet positive reviews, it set into motion the third and fourth films to be released in 2018 and 2019.

Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” will be released on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD in October 2013.  The film is also available on Disney Movies Anywhere and when you buy the film through Disney Movies Anywhere (DMA) you get an exclusive bonus feature, “Connecting the Universe.” Disney Movies Anywhere is a cloud-based digital movie service that is available on Roku, Android TV, iTunes, Google Play, Walmart’s VUDU, Amazon Video, and Microsoft Movies & TV! Disney Movies Anywhere provides more ways to buy and watch your favorite Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars movies at home or on the go.

Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” begins with the Avengers raiding a Hydra outpost led by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker in Eastern Europe country of Sokovia.  The team is trying to retrieve a scepter that was previously wielded by Loki and is being used for experimentation of humans.  Two of the humans that are part of von Strucker’s experiments are twins, Pietro (who has superhuman speed) and Wanda Maximoff (who has the ability to manipulate minds and project energy).

As the Avenger’s retrieve the scepter and Thor is to return it to Asgard, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner discover that the scepter has artificial intelligence within the gem embedded in the scepter.  While Stark has AI via Jarvis, Stark with Banner’s help (and not letting any of the other Avengers know) that they will use the scepter’s power to complete Stark’s “Ultron” global defense program.

But once the group are having a party, the Ultron AI becomes sentient and immediately wants to eradicate humanity to save Earth and tries to destroy the Jarvis AI.  Ultron immediately takes control of other robotics and tries to create other robots based on Ultron to destroy the Avengers and their friends, by attacking them at their HQ after the party.

Ultron immediately escapes with the scepter and heads to Sokovia using the resource in Strucker’s base to build an army but also teaming up with Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, who want revenge against Tony Stark for creating missiles that killed their parents.  As they head to Wakanda, Africa to obtain the tough metal known as Vibranium, in order to build his army, the Avengers lead an attack, but are quickly beaten thanks to Wanda’s power of mind manipulation, but also manipulating the Hulk’s mind, who ends up causing major damage and becomes a threat to human life.

Because of the wide-scale destruction blamed entirely on the Avengers, they must come up with a plan on how to defeat Ultron, the twins and his army, considering the worldwide backlash the Avengers are receiving.


avengers2-c

VIDEO:

“Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film is presented in 3D and 2D.

First, let’s discuss the 2D.  The film looks magnificent in HD.  CG elements are well-balanced with live action scenes and there is amazing detail when it comes to closeups.  Outdoor scenes are vibrant, the colors are well saturated and black levels are nice and dark.  But it’s important to note that there are many scenes that were purposely made to look gloomy and soft, but for the most part, the film looks fantastic in HD!

As for the 3D version of the film (included on a separate disc), the film does feature good use of displaying depth.  From the introduction action sequence, to the first battle with Ultron, the Hulk Buster Iron Man vs. Hulk and seeing Tony Stark and his floating visuals around his helmet or the final action scenes, depth was well-utilized for the 3D.  But in terms of any 3D elements that look like they are coming straight out you, you’ll find that it’s the smaller things that look more effective.  Sparks, glass shattering, rocks and debris flying out to you, those are the most effective, but for the most part, this is a depth-driven 3D film.  One shouldn’t be bowled over by the 3D but if you do love your films showcasing solid depth, then you’ll enjoy the 3D version of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby digital Language Tracks.

The lossless soundtrack is quite immersive with great use of the surround channels and LFE via the subwoofer.  Due to the large amount of action sequences, many times I felt the room tremble to my delight.  Dialogue and music were crystal clear but I felt the surround channels were well done!  Audiophiles for the most part, should be quite satisfied with the overall mix.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” comes with the following special features:

  • From the Inside Out – Making of Avengers: Age of Ultron – (20:54) Featuring interviews with director Joss Whedon and the cast of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”.  Featuring footage from pre-production, production and on the red carpet.
  • The Infinite Six – (7:28) A featurette about the Infinity Stones (gems) and featuring the storyline of the Infinity Gauntlet and how they were featured in other Marvel films.
  • Global Adventure – (3:01) A short featurette of where the film was shot around the world.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (12:04) Featuring four deleted and extended scenes with optional audio commentary from Joss Whedon.
  • Gag Reel – (3:38) A hilarious gag reel from “Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron”.
  • Audio Commentary with Director Joss Whedon

EXTRAS:

“Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” comes with a slipcover and a Disney Movie Rewards code.  Plus the 2D and 3D Blu-ray discs for the film.


avengers2-b

Watching the first “The Avengers” film, I was actually in awe of how the film was well-done in terms of execution of bringing all major characters from various films together.

While I wasn’t expecting a faithful adaptation to the comic books (fans of the comic books should know that faithful adaptations to the comic book series will not happen in superhero films or TV series), what was important to me is how faithful the films were for the individual character’s behaviors. And for the most part, the film delivered and felt it was an amazing action film when it was released.

Here we are in 2015 with the second film and I’ve read many Ultron-related comic books with his appearance in “The Avengers” and “Fantastic Four” comic series, but I was really interested in seeing how they would be able to pull things off for the sequel.  Especially as the film introduces us to Wanda (Scarlett Witch) and Pietro Maximoff (Quicksilver), especially one Avenger that I couldn’t wait to see… Vision.

With that being said, this was going to be a difficult film for even Joss Whedon.  When you have too many superheroes, it’s really hard to craft a storyline when you have to include everyone.

Captain America as the leader, Tony Stark becoming the mad scientist, Bruce Banner wanting to get away from everyone because he’s afraid of the damage that the Hulk will do, the Black Widow and her past, Thor’s nightmares after being mind controlled by Wanda Maximoff.

And then you have to throw in Nick Fury and Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D., add a few other characters from the other films such as James Rhodes a.k.a. War Machine from the “Iron Man” films, Peggy Carter from the first “Captain America: The First Avenger” film and “Agent Carter” TV series, Samuel Wilson a.ka. Falcon from “Captain America: The Winter Soldiers”, Heimdall and Erik Selvig from the “Thor” films and then you have Dr. Helen Cho, Hawkeye’s family and there are way too many characters to fit in the film.  In fact, Tom Hiddleston film scenes of Loki that were cut out of the final version of the film, which would complicate things even more.

And while I love seeing many characters make guest appearances in a comic book series, for a film, it took away too much from the plot.    Yes, I like how characters connected to the various Marvel Superheroes films but the execution and balance of the film didn’t feel right.

But despite the “too many characters” problems in the film, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is still a fantastic, exciting popcorn action film that delivers in battles (Hulk Buster Iron Man vs. the Hulk) to major destruction in various countries.

This is Joss Whedon’s final film for “The Avengers”, as the next two films will be directed by the Russo brothers and will be a two-parter titled “Avengers: Infinity War”, which shows us the next Avengers antagonist, Thanos.  And for those who have read the “Infinity Gauntlet” comic books, that’s a major storyline in the Marvel Universe, but it’s also a theme that has been mentioned in other Marvel films including “Guardians of the Galaxy”.  So, there has been a build up for these next films, but with so many characters, it will be interesting to see the Russo brothers take the helm.

But I did enjoy the film a lot, but perhaps the simplicity of the first film and focus on the prime characters made me enjoy it even more.

As for the Blu-ray release of “Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition”, while I preferred the 2D of the film, the 3D does provide great depth and sparks, debris, glass coming at you.  But the film looks great in HD (although a bit soft than sharp) and features great detail on closeups.  Lossless audio is fantastic and great utilization of the surround channels and LFE.  Special features were surprisingly more on the short side, but you do get audio commentary.  I was just expecting a bit more in terms of special features.

While the Collector’s Edition includes the Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and Digital HD version of the film, the film is also available on Disney Movies Anywhere and when you buy the film through Disney Movies Anywhere (DMA) you get an exclusive bonus feature, “Connecting the Universe.”  For those not familiar with Disney Movies Anywhere, it is a cloud-based digital movie service that is available on Roku, Android TV, iTunes, Google Play, Walmart’s VUDU, Amazon Video, and Microsoft Movies & TV! Disney Movies Anywhere provides more ways to buy and watch your favorite Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars movies at home or on the go.

Overall, “Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” is a fantastic and exciting action film. While it does not have the same epic-feel of the original, fans of the first film will no doubt enjoy the film’s intensity of the many action scenes that this film has to offer.

Looking for an action film and enjoyed the first “The Avengers” film? Then it’s a no brainer…”Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collector’s Edition” is recommended!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

capamerica-winter

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is thrilling, action-packed and a damn good superhero film! And for the Blu-ray release, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is one of the better looking and sounding Blu-ray releases in 2014. A reference Blu-ray release that is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Marvel Studios. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 136 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, SUBTITLES: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Marvel/Walt Disney Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: September 9, 2014

Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Screenplay by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Concept and Story by Ed Brubaker

Based on the Comic Book by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Produced by Kevin Feige

Co-Producer: Nate Moore

Executive Producer: Victoria Alonso, Alan Fine, Michael Grillo, Stan Lee

Associate Producer: Mitchell Bell

Music by Henry Jackman

Cinematography by Trent Opaloch

Edited by Jeffrey Ford, Matthew Schmidt

Casting by Sarah Finn

Production designer: Peter Wenham

Art Direction by Steve Christensen, Beat Frutiger, Kevin Ishioka, Gary Kosko, Thomas Valentine

Set Decoration by Leslie A. Pope

Costume Design by Judianna Makovsky

Starring:

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier

Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill

Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow

Maximiliano Hernandez as Jasper Sitwell

Emily VanCamp as Kate/Agent 13

Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter

Toby Jones as Dr. Arnim Zola

Steve Rogers continues his journey as the super-powered American soldier who’s grasping to find his place in a modern world after being frozen in ice since WWII with this Marvel Studios sequel. Chris Evans returns to star, with Community director/producers Joe and Anthony Russo helming.

With the box office success of Marvel films, especially with the 2011 film “Captain America: The First Avenger” (which earned over $370 million in the box office), there was no doubt that another film based on the superhero would be released.

Fastforward to 2014 and the sequel “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was released in spring and the film did magnificent in the box office, making over $714 million.

And now “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” will be released on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD in Sept. 2014.

For those not familiar with “Captain America”, the first film introduced us to Steve Rogers (portrayed by Chris Evans) in 1942.  Steve is a young man who tried to enlist for World War II military recruitment but failed due to health and physical issues.  And his friend Sgt. James “Bucky” Barnes (portrayed by Sebastian Stan) convinces him to keep trying.

As Dr. Abraham Erskine hears their conversation, he gives Steve a chance to enlist by recruiting him into the Scientific Strategic Reserve as part of the “super-soldier” experiment.  As Steve is injected with a top secret serum that only Dr. Erskine knows and dousing him with “Vita-rays”, Steve becomes taller and more muscular.  But an assassin kills the doctor and the secret formula is lost.

During a mission, Steve Rogers crashes into the arctic and he is thought to be dead.  When he reawakens, he finds out that he is not living in the 1940’s but it is present-day New York and that he has been sleeping for nearly 70 years.

He is recruited by Director Nick Fury (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson) of S.H.I.E.L.D. and takes on the persona Captain America.

For the sequel “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, the setting takes place two years after the “Battle of New York” in which the Avengers took on an alien race.

Steve is working with S.H.I.E.L.D. and he is working with Agent Natasha Romanoff (a.k.a. “The Black Widow”, portrayed by Scarlett Johansson) and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s counter-terrorism S.T.R.I.K.E. team to free hostages from a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from Georges Batroc and a group of mercenaries.

Steve learns about Project Insight and how three helicarriers are linked to spy satellites and are designed to eliminate threats.  As Nick becomes suspicious about the project, he goes to S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce (portrayed by Robert Redford) to delay the project.

While Nick goes to meet with Maria Hill, he is attacked while driving and is nearly killed by the assassin called the Winter Soldier.  When Steve returns home, he finds a bloodied Nick Fury who tells him to trust no one and that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised. And he gives him an encrypted flash drive.

While the two are talking, a sniper shoots through Steve Rogers window.  As Steve goes after the fugitive, he comes in contact with the Winter Soldier who manages to escape.

Meanwhile, Nick Fury is taken to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ to undergo surgery and dies and S.H.I.E.L.D. becomes a mess.

Alexander Pierce calls Steve to meet with him and discuss the final conversation he had with Nick Fury but Steve gives Pierce hardly any information.  As Steve is about to leave S.H.I.E.L.D., a group of S.T.R.I.K.E. agents try to kill him, but Steve with the help of Natasha Romanoff, are able to escape  and Pierce has branded Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff as wanted fugitives.

Now Steve, Natasha and with the help of Sam Wilson (a.k.a. The Falcon, portrayed by Anthony Mackie) try to uncover the treachery that has gone on behind the scenes at S.H.I.E.L.D. and who may be responsible.

VIDEO:

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  And once again, another Marvel film that is reference quality with wonderful detail and no picture quality issues at all.

While the colors are not vibrant as the film is intentional but the film looks impressive with its magnificent presentation!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1.  And similar to the magnificent picture quality, the lossless audio are also reference quality.  Crystal clear dialogue, beautiful musical score and with the high amount of action, you get one heck of an immersive soundtrack.  Vehicles, weaponry and with every crashing sound, every gunshot shot, every form of destruction, everything is immersive with surround and rear surround channels being utilized, especially the LFE.  Definitely one of the coolest and most immersive soundtracks I have heard on Blu-ray in 2014, I was very impressed and also didn’t expect anything lower than perfection for this Marvel film.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” comes with the following special features:

  • On the Front Line: An Inside Look at Captain America’s Battlegrounds – (10:11) The action and special effects featured in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”.
  • On Set with Anthony Mackie: Cut the Check! – (1:52) A short featurette with Anthony Mackie (who plays the character, Falcon).
  • Steve Rogers’ Notebook – (2:18) What’s in Steve Rogers’ notebook.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (3:34) Featuring four deleted/extended scenes with optional audio commentary.
  • Gag Reel – (2:36) Gag reel for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring directors Anthony & Joe Russo and Screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen Mcfeely.

While “Captain America: The First Avenger” was an entertaining action film, you couldn’t help that with the success of “Thor”, “The Avengers” and the “Iron Man” films, that Captain America would receive a wonderful storyline to go along with the awesome visual effects.

For me, all I cared for was an entertaining storyline after the major introductions have been made and hopes that the film would be as successful and entertaining as the other Marvel films post-2012.

And for the most part, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was much better than I expected.

Having read the comic books, the fact is that as long as I have read the Captain America comic books, the way Marvel has used Bucky Barnes in the past, was not the greatest storyline and if anything, the storylines played off like Batman and Robin, in this case, Captain America and Bucky.

But after doing some research about today’s current Marvel Comics, the Winter Soldier has been an integral character, a violent character and one that no one wants to mess with.

And sure enough, seeing Sgt. Barnes transformed into this killing machine was rather interesting but also to see the incorporation of characters such as Natasha Romanoff, Nick Fury, Maria Hill and the newest and coolest character, the Falcon was pretty awesome to see.  But for long time Marvel fans, to see the criminal organization Hydra make its move!

As one can expect from a Marvel action film, the film is eye candy when it comes to visual effects.  Many things blow up, many forms of destruction can be found in this film and the action was non-stop that surprisingly, there is a storyline that is not hidden and easy to follow.

S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised, Nick Fury is dead and Captain America must team up with the Black Widow with the help of the Falcon to get into the bottom of things and find out who this Winter Soldier is.

And if you didn’t leave during the credits at the movie theater, you will want to make sure you watch what happens during the mid-credits and what happens after the credits are done as the film transitions to an appearance of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.

But this is a much better film than the first.  There is so much happening in this film, so many characters and the film definitely sets up for a highly anticipated sequel to “The Avengers” and also for a third Captain America film.

The chemistry between Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson is fantastic, the inclusion of Anthony Mackie as the Falcon is awesome and Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders is a must for Marvel films and Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter/Agent 13 is also another fantastic addition (despite her screentime being a bit short).  It was also interesting to see Robert Redford play an antagonist.  Also, to see the Frank Grillo as the character Brock Rumow (a.k.a. in the comics as “Crossbones”) and Sebastian Stan return as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier.

With that being said, because of the many characters, for those who have never followed the comic books and the characters, may feel lost.  But because of the film’s action-heavy storyline, I do feel the film is accessible and I enjoyed the more modern feel of the film and nothing too cheesy.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is one of the highlights of Blu-ray releases in 2014.  This is a reference Blu-ray release in terms of picture quality and lossless audio.  Picture quality is fantastic, lossless audio is amazingly immersive and you feel every boom and because of its chaotic action sequences that keep coming at you, audiophiles will no doubt be in glee over its awesome soundtrack.  There are a good number of special features included as well.

Just remember that if you have a 3D enabled receiver, Blu-ray player and television, there is a Blu-ray 3D version of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” also available.

Overall, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is thrilling, action-packed and a damn good superhero film! And for the Blu-ray release, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is one of the better looking and sounding Blu-ray releases in 2014.

A reference Blu-ray release that is highly recommended!

 

Marvel’s The Avengers (A J!-Ent Blu-Ray Disc Review)

October 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“Marvel’s The Avengers” is the biggest movie of 2012 and it doesn’t disappoint.  With an all-star cast and an amazing director, this non-stop thrill-ride lives up to the expectations of a summer blockbuster and provides so much more.  The film is filled with action, comedy, amazing special effects and redefines the term, “comic book movie”.  This film is not only for fans of the comics, but has something for everyone and you can now relive the excitement in the theater at home with this Blu-ray release.  This Blu-ray release is absolutely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Marvel Entertainment, LLC and its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

TITLE: Marvel’s The Avengers

FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 143 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 Widescreen Presentation, English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, SUBTITLES: English SDH, French, and Spanish

COMPANY: Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures

RATED: PG-13 (For Intense Sequences of Sci-Fi Violence and Action Throughout, and a Mild Drug Reference)

Release Date: September 25, 2012

Directed by Joss Whedon

Written by Joss Whedon, Zak Penn

Produced by Kevin Feige

Executive Producers: Victoria Alonso, Louis D’Esposito, Jon Favreau, Alan Fine, Jeremy Latcham, Stan Lee, Patricia Whitcher

Series Producer: Alex Ward

Music by Alan Silvestri

Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey

Edited by Jeffrey Ford, Lisa Lassek

Casting by Sarah Finn, Randi Hiller

Production Design by James Chinlund

Art Direction by Benjamin Edelberg, Jann K. Engel, Gregory S. Hooper, William O’ Hunter, Randy Moore

Supervising Art Director: Richard L. Johnson

Set Decoration by Victor J. Zolfo

Costume Design by Alexandra Byrne

Starring:

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America

Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk

Chris Hemsworth as Thor

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye

Tom Hiddleston as Loki

Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson

Cobie Smoulders as Agent Maria Hill

Stellan Skarsgård as Selvig

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

Marvel Studios presents “Marvel’s The Avengers”—the team up of a lifetime, featuring iconic Marvel Super Heroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, Director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins.

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Tom Hiddleston, with Stellan Skarsgard and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and directed by Joss Whedon, “Marvel’s The Avengers” is based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series The Avengers, first published in 1963 and a comics institution ever since.

“Marvel’s The Avengers” is presented by Marvel Studios in association with Paramount Pictures. The film was produced by Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige and executive produced by Alan Fine, Jon Favreau, Stan Lee, Louis D’Esposito, Patricia Whitcher, Victoria Alonso and Jeremy Latcham. The story was by Zak Penn and Joss Whedon and the screenplay was by Joss Whedon.

Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, the film smashed the industry record for the biggest domestic opening of all time with $207.4M, crossed the $1 billion global box office threshold in 19 days, and currently stands as the #3 global and domestic release of all time.

So, remember in May, 2008 and “Iron Man” came out in theaters?  It totally changed what a “comic book movie” should be.  “Iron Man” was not only the best comic book film to date at the time, but audiences of all ages, who had no idea about the comics, enjoyed the movie.  Soon after, “The Incredible Hulk” followed and it as a big summer hit.  At the very end of “Iron Man”, we see the appearance of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and he brings up “The Avengers Initiative”.  Now, anyone who knows anything about the “Avengers Initiative”, had something to possibly look forward to, and probably never thought would come true.  In “The Incredible Hulk”, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), or Iron Man, makes a cameo and once again mentions the “Avengers Initiative”.  What the “Avengers Initiative” possibly entailed in the terms of future movies, was not just another “Iron Man” sequel, but a series of movies with various Marvel superheroes and eventually, hopefully an epic movie with all of those superheroes in one movie.

Two years later, “Iron Man 2” came out and was another smash hit.  At the end of that movie, there was another tie-in with the next movie, “Thor”, which came out in 2011.  Finally, a few months later, “Captain America: The First Avenger” came out in theaters.  Not only were these all very successful comic book films, but they all became huge summer blockbusters that anyone could enjoy, and the success of these films actually was going to make “The Avengers” come true.  This would mean that they were bringing all of these characters, who all had their own movies, together into one giant movie.  Each movie had headlining characters, which also meant that they all had very big actors.  To bring all of these people into one movie just sounds like too much could go wrong.  However, if they were able to pull it off, it could be one of the most amazing movies of all time.

Thankfully, Marvel Studios, Joss Whedon, and the amazing all-star cast made the impossible happen.  “Marvel’s The Avengers” not only became the biggest movie of 2012, but one of the biggest movies of all time.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s half brother, comes to Earth with plans to take it over and make it his own.  Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of S.H.I.E.L.D, quickly acts and starts taking the necessary steps to stop this from happening.  He has his agents, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) to retrieve Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.).  Nick Fury himself summons Steve Rogers/Captain America (Steve Rogers), who is still trying to deal with the fact that he has been asleep for 70 years and has woken up in a world he doesn’t know anymore.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth), joins the group, uninvited, because he wants put a stop to his brother.  What all this does is not create the most unstoppable superhero team of all time, but instead the most dysfunctional team ever.  Before they can even stop Loki, they need get over conflicting egos, anger, distrust, and other issues with each other.  If they can’t, Loki and his army will take over the Earth.  With Joss Whedon writing and directing this all-star cast, “Marvel’s The Avengers” is a non-stop thrill ride from start to finish.

VIDEO:

“Marvel’s The Avengers” is presented in 1080 p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  This film is beautiful: both due to the cinematography and the special effects.  Seamus McGarvey did a phenomenal job as the cinematographer.  Every shot in the movie, with or without special effects, were beautiful to look at and fit with the current emotions being felt in every part of the movie.  The first half of the movie is dark, but the details are still all there.  The second half of the movie is pretty bright and filled with tons of explosions and once again, no details lost.

The special effects in this movie are flawless.  Even in HD, everything looks ridiculously real.  Some of the most memorable parts are when the helicarrier first appears and then disappears into the sky and of course, the very long battle scene at the end of the movie.  Joss Whedon mentions this as well in his commentary, but it is almost scary what can be done with special effects nowadays.  This movie was absolutely gorgeous in the theaters and the Blu-ray release for home doesn’t disappoint!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Marvel’s The Avengers” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with other options including English 2.0 Descriptive Video Service Dolby Digital, French 7.1 DTS-HD HR, and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  This movie is filled with non-stop action well as non-stop dialogue.  And you can hear all of it perfectly in the Blu-ray.  Lossless audio is absolutely immersive and amazing use of all channels.

Despite all of the fighting and explosions throughout the movie, you could still hear all of the dialogue and the original music by Alan Silvestri brought out the atmosphere throughout the film.  Nothing ever seemed too loud or too soft: it was just right (I appreciate when I don’t have to adjust the volume from my TV because the dialogue was so quiet and then all of the sudden there’s a ridiculously loud explosion and I have to turn the TV down).  This film sounded epic on the big screen and I’m very satisfied with the experience I get watching it at home as well.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Marvel’s The Avengers” comes with the following special features:

  • The Avengers Initiative: A Marvel Second Screen Experience – (2:22:54) Access the S.H.I.E.L.D. data base to immerse yourself in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, dive into the Avengers Comic Book History, and much, much more in this exclusive experience for your iPad, iPhone, or laptop.
  • Commentary by Director Joss Whedon – (2:22:54) Audio commentary with Director Joss Whedon.
  • Marvel One-Shot: Item 47 – (11:20) Original short film about something that happened after the events of “The Avengers”.
  • Gag Reel – (04:05) Marvel’s first ever gag reel.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes – (14:59) See deleted and extended scenes from the movie including an alternate opening and ending to the movie with Maria Hill.
  • A Visual Journey (Featurette) – (6:28) Discover amazing sets, groundbreaking visual effects, and stunning cinematography of this phenomenal film.
  • Assembling the Ultimate Team – (8:08) The all-star cast shares the excitement of teaming up to bring these characters to life, and Director Joss Whedon discusses what each of them brought to their role.
  • “Live to Rise” Soundgarden Music Video – (4:49) Music video for the Soundgarden song, “Live to Rise”.
  • Sneak Peeks – (7:21) Sneak peeks at other Marvel Studios, Disney, and ABC releases.

EXTRAS:

“Marvel’s The Avengers” comes with various extras, depending on which version you purchase.  The 5-Feature Action Pack comes with a 3D slip cover, a 3D Blu-ray and standard Blu-ray of the feature film, the DVD of the feature film, a digital copy of the feature film, and a digital album copy of AVENGERS ASSEMBLE: Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture.

“Marvel’s The Avengers” is a film that lived up to all the hype and all of the expectations this past summer.  If successful, it was not only going to be the biggest comic book movie of all time, bringing together characters from five other movies, but one of the biggest blockbusters of all time.  This film did everything that it was set to accomplish and probably did more than anyone could have imagined.

I’m sure that many people have already seen this movie, and they already know that they should probably buy this Blu-ray or DVD release, but to the ones who actually haven’t seen it yet: this movie is phenomenal.  It’s not just for comic book fans and nerds (or whatever else you may call us).  Just like “Iron Man” had done four years ago, this movie is enjoyable by audiences of all ages and comic book knowledge is not required whatsoever.  If you want to watch a fun movie filled with action, quick comedic dialogue, and absolutely stunning special effects, this movie has it all.

This movie is really an impossible dream come true in a way.  I don’t think most people would have ever thought that they’d be able to see this movie happen successfully because so much could have gone wrong.  This was indeed a first of its kind.  This was the first time that any studio had brought together so many huge characters from separate successful franchises into one epic movie.  With so many main characters in one movie, this movie could have easily gotten messy.  Too many things could have happened at once with so many characters or the characters’ screen times could have been terribly unbalanced.  “The Avengers” in the comics has a huge cast of superheroes on the team.  The movie itself has Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye, along with Nick Fury, Agent Coulson and Maria Hill.  Just seeing that many main characters could make one’s head spin.  But somehow, Joss Whedon made it work.  He balanced out everyone’s roles quite equally and produced a great story that brought out the best in each of the characters.

This movie follows five Marvel Studios films and is a collaboration of the characters from those movies, so it should be watched after seeing those five.  This is like the big, completed puzzle of all the other movies.  However, Whedon managed to make this movie enjoyable even if you haven’t seen the previous films.  You don’t have to, but you’ll get more out of this film if you see the previous films.  This film really does have a bit of everything.  It’s beautiful to look at visually (the cinematography as well as the flawless special effects), fast, witty dialogue, non-stop action, comedy, and a movie that both comic book fans and the general public could fully enjoy.  The movie is almost 2 ½ hours long, but it never seemed too long or dragged out.  So much is going on, but it never seemed too chaotic, unless it was supposed to.  It’s so much fun and so much happens that it can easily be enjoyed for multiple viewings.

The cast is filled with brilliant actors, but two of the most fantastic performances came from Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and Tom Hiddleston as Loki.  Robert Downey Jr. is a major reason this movie even happened.  If he didn’t bring Tony Stark to life in “Iron Man” and help make it such a successful film along with director, Jon Favreau, I honestly don’t think this movie would have ever happened.  Robert Downey Jr. probably has the most number of memorable lines in the movie.  Almost anytime he spoke, a memorable quote from the movie came out.  Of course, this also has to do with Joss Whedon’s writing style, but combined with Robert Downey Jr.’s skills, what came out was pure genius (I am slightly curious to know how much was actually adlibbing as well).  If you’ve seen any of Joss Whedon’s previous works, you know that he goes from being serious to funny very quickly, which was perfect for Tony Stark’s personality in general.  Whedon and Robert Downey Jr. made a wonderful pair and helped make this movie brilliant.  Tom Hiddleston as Loki was also amazing.  Loki in general is a wreck of emotions, and Hiddleston brought all those emotions out.  Just like Robert Downey Jr., Hiddleston brought a little extra to any of the witty lines Whedon had given him.  There is a part in the movie that Tony Stark and Loki share a scene together, and it made for one of the best parts of the whole film.

Of course, everyone else in the movie did an amazing job as well.  There was one notable change in the cast for this film from the previous films.  In “The Incredible Hulk”, Bruce Banner/The Hulk was played by Edward Norton and in “The Avengers” is played by Mark Ruffalo.  The Hulk has been adapted a handful of times, and I think that Mark Ruffalo played the best Hulk to date.  He was the only cast replacement in the movie, but you forget the fact that even happened because he does such a great job as Bruce Banner.  In “Captain America: The First Avenger”, Chris Evans plays the Captain America that was the super soldier and brilliant leader that helped fight against Hydra.  In “The Avengers”, we get to see another aspect of his character: the man who wakes up 70 years into the future and has no idea what’s going on anymore.  Steve Rogers is an endearing person and his personality shines through in this movie.  His scenes of with Tony Stark both provide humor and conflict within the team.  As Joss Whedon says himself, Chris Hemsworth is Thor.  He brings the Asgardian to life and it suits him well.  Despite being such a powerful character, Thor was used for some comic relief as well and Hemsworth handled both aspects of the character very well.

While this film is filled with fantastical characters that have super powers, you also have two main characters that don’t have any (or very little) super powers.  Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) hold their own along with the super-powered heroes just by being very conditioned and having very high skill sets.  Black Widow is one of the world’s greatest spies and Hawkeye is the world’s greatest marksman armed with a bow and arrow.  Also because they don’t have super powers, they did a lot of hand-to-hand combat as well as many of their own stunts.  Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow definitely held her own as the only female on the team.  I appreciate the fact that Whedon was able to figure out how to incorporate Hawkeye into the movie, considering he does not have his own movie, but is a big part of The Avengers and Jeremy Renner did a great job playing the role.

The supporting characters feature Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Cobie Smoulders as Agent Maria Hill, and the fan favorite, Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson.  Nick Fury shows up as a cameo in some of the other films, but he finally gets to shine in this film and Jackson definitely doesn’t disappoint.  Cobie Smoulders does a great job as the very serious Maria Hill.  In the deleted scenes, there is an alternate opening and ending with Maria Hill that I recommend watching because it adds so much to her character that ended up being taken out in the final cut.  Finally, there’s Agent Coulson.  Agent Coulson had become one of the favorite characters that showed up in the previous films.  His cool, calm demeanor and nonchalant lines of witty humor made him a very memorable character and that continues in this movie.

With so many characters and so much happening from beginning to end and not making it feel like one big mess, takes a lot of skill.  Joss Whedon was the perfect person to write and direct this film.  He knows the characters, he writes fantastic dialogue, and he made this all work.  This movie probably doesn’t have the most in-depth plot in the world but that’s okay because it didn’t need it.  Because this film was fun, from start to finish.  The plot that was in this movie was more than enough and it was executed well.  Joss Whedon provides commentary on the film on the Blu-ray and it’s definitely worth listening to.  Whedon is funny and very insightful, which makes for a great and entertaining commentary.

The special features included in this release were fun as well, but if there was one thing I may have been disappointed with in the Blu-ray release itself (and not the movie), was the amount of bonus features.  Not including the commentary, there are about 50 minutes of bonus features.  With a movie this big, I would have liked to see more featurettes than what was included.  There are two making-of featurettes, a handful of deleted and extended scenes, a five minute gag reel (which is pure gold), and a Marvel one-shot film.  I’m slightly disappointed in the amount of features, but the features that are on the disc are fantastic.  The featurettes are short, but insightful and fun, and the gag reel is awesome.  I don’t usually care too much for deleted/extended scenes because you can usually see why they were deleted to begin with, but the ones from this movie I found to be worth watching.  I found some scenes could have stayed in the movie perfectly fine if it weren’t for time constraints.  Like some other Marvel Cinematic Universe releases, this release also came with a “Marvel One-Shot” short film.  This one takes place after the events of the film.

For those looking for more special features, there are a couple of options.  Target is selling exclusive versions of the Blu-ray/DVD combo packs (both the 2 and 4 disc versions) with a bonus Blu-ray that has a 90+ minute documentary on the making of all six of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films so far.  Not all of the footage is new, but it was still fun to watch and very well put together.

Another option for some extra bonus materials, is a free app available for the iPhone/iPad called “Marvel’s The Avengers Second Screen Experience”.  In the months leading up to the Blu-ray release, you could download the app and see a couple of the S.H.I.E.L.D. files on the characters(though sadly most were locked until the release of the Blu-ray).  Once everything on the app worked, you could sync with the Blu-ray as it was playing and trivia, production art, cast bios, videos, and many other things would pop up on your phone while the movie played.  You have the choice of either network syncing, audio syncing, or you can explore all the content on your own with the movie playing or not.  It’s a free and entertaining app so I highly recommend it.

So, to wrap things up, if you enjoyed the movie in theaters, this is a must-buy.  The film on Blu-ray is absolutely gorgeous and the gag reel and Joss Whedon’s commentary add even more to the viewing experience.  To those who haven’t seen it yet, if you enjoy fun movies, you’ll love this movie.  This film has so much to offer for so many different audiences and I don’t think it’ll disappoint.  I absolutely recommend this release for anyone’s movie collection.

The Horse Whisperer (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Horse Whisperer” is a touching film featuring a wonderful performance by Robert Redford, Kristin Scott Thomas and a younger Scarlett Johannson.  Also, featuring beautiful cinematography of the countryside and a beautiful musical score.  It is a long film, slowly paced but in the end, the film was enjoyable.  “The Horse Whisperer” on Blu-ray is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Buena Vista Home Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Horse Whisperer

FILM RELEASE: 1998

DURATION: 169 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital, Subtitles:English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Touchstone Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (For Sexual Content and Language)

Release Date: July 3, 2012

Directed by Robert Redford

Novel by Nick Evans

Screenplay by Eric Roth, Richard LaGravenese

Producer: Patrick Markey, Robert Redford

Co-Producer: Joseph P. Reidy

Executive Producer: Rachel Pfeffer

Associate Producer: Karen Tenkhoff

Music by Thomas Newman, Gwil Owen

Cinematography by Robert Richardson

Edited by Hank Corwin, Freeman A. Davies, Tom Rolf

Casting by Ellen Chenoweth, Gretchen Rennell

Production Design by Jon hutman

Art Direction by W. Steven Graham

Set Decoration by Gretchen Rau, Hilton Rosemarin

Costume Design by Judy L. Ruskin

Starring:

Robert Redford as Tom Booker

Kristin Scott Thomas as Annie MacLean

Sam Neill as Robert MacLean

Dianne Weist as Diane Booker

Scarlett Johansson as Grace Maclean

Chris Cooper as Frank Booker

Cherry Jones as Liz Hammond

Ty Hillman as Joe Booker

Kate Bosworth as Judity

Relive every heartwarming moment of The Horse Whisperer, presented for the first time on Blu-ray, featuring new digital restoration with enhanced picture and sound. Academy Award winner Robert Redford (Best Director, 1980, Ordinary People), Academy Award nominee Kristin Scott Thomas (Best Actress, 1996, The English Patient), Sam Neill, and Scarlett Johansson star in a landmark motion picture for the entire family.


After a devastating riding accident, a young girl and her beloved horse are left with serious physical and emotional scars. When her mother calls on the “Horse Whisperer” to help, she meets a rugged rancher who not only has an extraordinary gift with animals, but also an ability to enrich the lives of people around him. Enjoy this majestic film like never before on Blu-ray.

In 1995, English author Nicholas Evans’ novel, “The Horse Whisperer” was a best selling novel, selling over 15 million copies and becoming one of the best-selling books of all time.

While it was no surprise that a film adaptation would be made, it was more surprising to see actor Robert Redford not only star in the film but also direct it.

The film would receive good reviews and would make over $186 million in the box office.  And now, “The Horse Whisperer” will be released on Blu-ray in July 2012.

“The Horse Whisperer” begins on a winter day with teenager Grace MacLean (as portrayed by Scarlett Johannson) meeting up with her best friend Judith (as portrayed by Kate Bosworth).  Judith has exciting news to tell Grace about a guy she met.  So, Grace takes her horse Pilgrim and Judith takes Gulliver out for a ride to talk about the guy that Judith met.  But while Judith and Gulliver are going up a slope, Gulliver slips and crashes into Grace and Pilgrim.

Judith’s foot gets caught in the saddle and she and her horse are stuck on the road.  Meanwhile, a big rig is coming through but as the driver tries to brake, Grace who tried to help her friend is unable to and both Judith and Gulliver are killed instantly.  As for Grace and Pilgrim, Pilgrim throws Grace off and is hit by the big rig.

Grace is airlifted into the hospital and her parents Robert (as portrayed by Sam Neill) and her mother Annie (as portrayed by Kristin Scott Thomas) find out from the doctor that her right leg will be partially amputated due to the injury that she had received.  Meanwhile, Pilgrim is found alive and is in terrible shape and traumatized.  When the horse tries to get the OK from Annie to put the horse out of its misery, Annie declines and so the horse is tranquilized and receives medical help.

Months later, both Robert and Annie try to help their daughter who is now emotionally withdrawn.  She no longer wants to go to school and when she sees Pilgrim’s injuries, it is too much for her to take in.

Meanwhile, Annie has read a story about a “horse whisperer” named Tom Booker (as portrayed by Robert Redford) who has helped horses in the Montana area. In order to get the help from Tom, Annie makes the decision to bring both Pilgrim and Annie to Montana in hopes that Tom will help her family in the healing process for both Grace and Pilgrim.

So, as Annie and Grace temporarily stay at the Booker Ranch with Tom’s brother Frank (as portrayed by Chris Cooper) and his wife Diane (as portrayed by Dianne Wiest) and the entire family, Tom tries to see if he can help Pilgrim but in hopes that it will also heal Grace.

And as Grace and Pilgrim slowly overcome their trauma, Annie and Tom begin to have romantic feelings for each other, despite the fact that Annie is married.

Will Tom be able to help Grace and Pilgrim?  And what happens when Annie’s husband comes to visit them in Montana?

VIDEO:

“The Horse Whisperer” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1) and features an all new digital restoration.

The overall transfer is definitely an upgrade over the previous DVD release. While slight layer of grain can be seen, there is a slight use of DNR as the film looks very clean and sometimes soft.  Fortunately, Touchstone Home Entertainment was able to find a balance and showcase the wonderful cinematography of Robert Richardson (“Shutter Island”, “Inglourious Basterds”, “Kill Bill: Vol. 1”).  Some of the scenery shots, especially the vignette shots look fantastic in HD.

Overall, picture quality is very good and for those who owned the previous DVD release, will enjoy the HD upgrade.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Horse Whisperer” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital.  While the primary soundtrack is dialogue-driven through the center and front-channels, the musical score by Thomas Newman and Gwil Owen is fantastic and sounds amazing via lossless.  There are moments such as the accident or the horse kicking around that can be heard through the surround channels, but for the most part, the film’s lossless soundtrack is center and front channel driven.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Horse Whisperer”  comes with the following special features:

  • Production Featurette – (1:52) A short production featurette with interviews with Robert Redford.
  • Robert Redford Featurette – (1:32) A short featurette on Robert Redford acting and directing “The Horse Whisperer”.
  • Buck Brannaman Featurette – (1:42) Robert Redford talks about how his character role was inspired by Buck Brannaman, Buck Brannaman talks about his involvement in the film.
  • Allison Moorer’s “A Soft Place to Fall” Music Video  – (4:06) A country music video featuring Allison Moorer.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:07) The original theatrical trailer for “The Horse Whisperer”.
  • Theatrical Teaser – (:57) The theatrical teaser for “The Horse Whisperer”.

“The Horse Whisperer” is a delightful and entertaining film showcasing a teenager and a horse that has faced amazing trauma and come to Montana under the help of a man with the special ability to help horses.

While long at 169 minutes, Robert Redford takes the audience and sets the pace of the challenge that exist between Grace and her mother Annie, a workaholic editor but also the sadness that she tries to keep inside after losing her right leg.

Robert Redford is fantastic as a director and actor in the film and it helps that Redford has amazing talent alongside with him.  Cinematographer Robert Richardson captures the beauty of Montana but also making sure the audience sees the interaction between the characters and the horses.  Along with the beautiful cinematography, the musical by Thomas Newman and Gwil Owen manages to capture the variety of emotions of the characters as Grace tries to get back to her life, while Annie and Tom develop a closer relationship.

And as Kristin Scott Thomas does a great job of playing a mother who is not sure about being a mother (but trying her best now after her daughter’s injury) and discovering life outside of the big city, the film showed great promise at the time with  actress Scarlett Johansson.  Scarlett manages to capture a teenager who has suffered amazing physical and emotional trauma and Redford manages to bring out her acting with efficacy.

But while some people may feel the film is tool long and unnecessary, when I first watched this film many years ago and even now, I still feel the pacing of the film, to build upon character development was necessary and helped establish all three main characters.

The character of Tom is quite content of living in Montana, while Annie is often wondering how anyone can be so far from the city and not having major restaurants, shopping, etc.  As for Grace, she is emotionally withdrawn and her injury and how long it takes for her to put her trust in Tom and getting the courage to get close to Pilgrim takes time.  Even Pilgrim took some time in order to get used to being closed to Tom.  If anything, the horse trainers on set, did a wonderful job in making the horses react to the characters.

There is a romantic angle that involves Annie and Tom.  We know that Annie who was a workaholic had an unfulfilled marriage to Tom.  But as both she and Tom become more attracted towards each other, it’s interesting to see how Tom’s sister-in-law reacts to her.  She knows that Tom also needed some time to heal after the death of his wife and now with this amazing talent, the last thing she wants is her brother-in-law getting involved with a married woman.

As for the Blu-ray release, the same special features on the original DVD is included.  The upgrade featuring an all-new digital restoration is what should make fans of the film decide to upgrade to Blu-ray.  The film looks and sounds beautiful, but I know that videophiles wanting more grain and no DNR maybe disappointed but for those wanting clear picture quality, they should be thrilled by “The Horse Whisperer” being released in HD.

Overall, “The Horse Whisperer” is a touching film featuring a wonderful performance by Robert Redford, Kristin Scott Thomas and a younger Scarlett Johannson.  Also, featuring beautiful cinematography of the countryside and a beautiful musical score.  It is a long film, slowly paced but in the end, the film was enjoyable.

“The Horse Whisperer” on Blu-ray is recommended!

 

Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson are ending their marriage

December 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

41557, NEW YORK, NEW YORK - Tuesday December 14, 2010. FILE PHOTO DATED Sunday June 13 2010. FILE: Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson have separated - The two were married in September 2008. ORIGINAL CAPTION: Ryan Reymolds arrives on the red carpet for the 64th annual Tony Awards, held at New York's famous Radio City Music Hall. Photograph: Darla Khazei, PacificCoastNews.com

41546, NEW YORK, NEW YORK - Tuesday December 14, 2010. FILE PHOTO DATED Sunday June 13 2010. FILE: Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson have separated - The two were married in September 2008. ORIGINAL CAPTION: Scarlett Johansson holding her Tony Award in the media room for the 64th Annual Tony Awards at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Photograph: Darla Khazei, PacificCoastNews.com

Ryan Reynolds (34) and Scarlett Johansson (26) are ending their marriage. The two release a joint statement:

After long and careful consideration on both our parts, we’ve decided to end our marriage. We entered our relationship with love and it’s with love and kindness we leave it. While privacy isn’t expected, it’s certainly appreciated.

Actress Scarlett Johansson arrives at the premiere of Warner Bros. “He’s Just Not That Into You”

February 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 02: Actress Scarlett Johansson arrives at the premiere of Warner Bros. ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ held at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on February 2, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images). Content © 2009 Getty Images . All rights reserved.

Premiere Of Warner Bros.

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