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Wild Tales (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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 Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales” is a magnificent anthology film that revolves around revenge.  Well-acted, well-shot but also wonderfully directed!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Wild Tales

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 85 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 Aspect Ratio), Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG (For Thematic Material and Language)

Release Date: June 16, 2015


Directed by Damian Szifron

Written by Damian Sziron

Produced by Agustin Almodovar, Pedro Almodovar, Matias Mosteirin, Hugo Sigman

Executive Producer: Leticia Cristi, Pola Zito

Co-Producer: Axel Kuschevatzky

Music by Gustavo Santaolalla

Cinematography by Javier Julia

Edited by Pablo Barbieri Carrera, Damian Szifron

Casting by Javier Braier

Production Design by Maria Clara Notari

Costume Design by Ruth Fischerman


Starring:

Dario Grandinetti as Salgado

Maria Marull as Isabel

Monica Villa as Profesora Leguizamon

Rita Cortese as Cocinera

Julieta Zylberberg as Moza

Cesar Bordon as Cuenca

Leonardo Sbaraglia as Diego

Walter Donado as Mario

Ricardo Darin as Simon

Nancy Duplaa as Victoria

Oscar Martinez as Mauricio

Maria Onetto as Helena


WILD TALES is a fresco of rage, fury, deception, and revenge. Made up of six stories, it is an entertaining and jaw-dropping film about people crossing the line into madness when faced with perceived injustice. A lover’s betrayal, a return to the repressed past, and the violence woven into everyday encounters drive the characters to lose control and cross the line that divides civilization and barbarism.


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From the wild mind of filmmaker Damian Szifron (“On Probation”, “Bottom of the Sea”) comes the 2014 Argentine-Spanish black comedy film “Wild Tales”.

Produced by Agustin and Pedro Almodovar, “Wild Tales” stars an ensemble cast which includes Dario Grandinetti (“Talk to Her”, “The Dark Side of the Heart”), Maria Marull (“Bottom of the Sea”, “Antes del estreno”), Leonardo Sbaraglia (“Intacto”, “Burnt Money”), Ricardo Darin (“The Secret in their Eyes”, “Son of the Bride”), Rita Cortese (“Brother and Sister”, “Inheritance”), Monica Vila (“The Holy Girl”, “Waiting for the Hearse”), Julieta Zylberberg (“The Invisble Eye”, “Farsantes”), Oscar Martinez (“Don’t Die Without Telling Me Where You Are Going”, “Empty Nest”) and many more.

Most recently, “Wild Tales” received an Academy Award nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 87th Academy Awards.

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in June 2015, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The film is an anthology-type film which is composed of six standalone shorts about revenge.

The first short is titled “Pasternak” which begins with two passengers who meet on a plane and discover they know a man named Pasternak and others on the plane start to listen on the conversation and realize, they all know Pasternak.  But why are they all on the plane”?

The second short is titled “The Rats” and a loan shark stops at a small restaurant in the lonely highway.  His waitress recognizes the man that took her family’s money away, which caused his father to kill himself and he also sexually assaulted her mother, who escaped to the small town to get away from the man.  Scared of the man, the cook who is not afraid of him, offers to put rat poison in his food.  But the waitress doesn’t want to go to prison, but without the waitress’ knowledge, the cook went ahead and put poison in the food.  Will the waitress get her revenge or will her conscious get the best of her?

The third short is titled “The Strongest” and shows a man named Diego in his luxury car trying to overpass a slower, older car that blocks him on the road.  As Diego passes the other driver named Mario, he insults him and then speeds off.  That is until Diego’s car has a flat tire on the road, suddenly Mario, who drove the older car decides to stop his car right in front of him.

The fourth short is titled “Little Bomb” and revolves around a demolitions expert named Simon Fischer.  One day, while picking up a birthday cake for his daughter, his car is towed away.  He tries to argue that there are no yellow lines and that his car is unfairly towed away and tries to argue with them, but not achieving any success.  He is told to come back to discuss his dispute and when he does and doesn’t get the refund that he is seeking, he goes ballistic and tries to attack the man behind the glass partition.  This leads to the story making it on the news and Simon losing his job and now close to losing his family.  How will Simon fight back?

The fifth short is titled “The Proposal” and revolves around a teenager who has killed pregnant woman with his car in a hit-and-run accident.  His father, the wealthy Mauricio Pereyra Hamilton hires his attorney who hatches a plan to put the blame on the groundskeeper.  The groundskeeper will agree to it for a lot of money, the lawyer wants his cut for his fee but also arranging with the prosecutor for monetary compensation as well.  But will Mauricio want to pay up?

The sixth and final short is titled “Until Death Do Us Part” and revolves around the wedding party of Romina and the groom, Ariel.  But when Romina tests a phone by calling someone up, a woman picks up and immediately, Romina finds out that her husband may have slept with another woman.  As she questions him if he did have sex with her, and admits to it.  Angered, depressed and feeling that her wedding has been destroyed, Romina decides to get her revenge at the wedding party.


VIDEO:

“Wild Tales” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). The film looks absolutely gorgeous in HD as colors are vibrant during outdoor scenes, closeups show great detail, black levels are deep but most importantly, the colors and the detail stand out.

I didn’t notice any artifacts or any noise problems, the film is just gorgeous to look at!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Wild Tales” is presented in Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film is primarily dialogue driven offering wonderful clarity of a scene’s environment and the ambiance of various locations.  Music is also crystal clear and showcase low frequency sounds of the bass.  But overall, dialogue and music is crystal clear, background sounds are well-utilized through the rear surround channels and overall, a fantastic lossless soundtrack!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Wild Tales” comes with the following special features:

  • Wild Shooting: Creating the Film – (25:00) A featurette that goes into the making of “Wild Shooting”.
  • An Evening at the Toronto Film International Film Festival with Damian Szifron  – (6:44) Featuring the Q&A with director Damian Szifron at TIFF.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Wild Tales”.

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Quite often with anthology films, they tend to lean more towards the romantic side and show us different interpretations of love.

But with Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales”, it’s quite the opposite as the film delves into the topic of revenge.

And without spoiling the film, I found Szifron’s take on revenge to be quite fascinating, over-the-top and fantastic!

Because of the film’s theme, we know that with every short, nothing is going to bode well for certain characters but the question is how will a character get their revenge?  Will it happen?  Does it happen?  And for the most part, you can’t help but be mesmerized with each story because Szifron manages to take you one direction that is plausible, sometimes expected but then goes off on a tangent to an unexpected territory that you can’t believe a story ended that certain way.  The film is cleverly written!

Each of the stories are wonderfully performed and the cinematography is also gorgeous.

The Blu-ray release features magnificent picture quality with vibrant colors during outdoor scenes to a consistent showcase of clarity.  I also can say positive things in regards to the lossless audio as dialogue and music are crystal clear but the environments sound wonderful through the surround channels.  And you get a few special features including a making-of and a Q&A at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Overall, Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales” is a magnificent anthology film that revolves around revenge.  Well-acted, well-shot but also wonderfully directed!  Highly recommended!

Red Army (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Red Army” is a magnificent documentary by Gabe Polsky examining the amazing Red Army ice hockey team and what went on behind-the-scenes after the loss against USA at the 1980 Olympics but also what happened to the players on their quest to play in the NHL.  Mesmerizing and wonderfully made, “Red Army” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Red Army

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 85 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG (For Thematic Material and Language)

Release Date: June 9, 2015


Directed by Gabe Polsky

Written by Gabe Polsky

Produced by Gabe Polsky

Executive Producer: Werner Herzog, Liam Satre-Meloy, Jerry Weintraub

Co-Executive Producer: Sean Carey

Music by Christophe Beck, Leo Birenberg

Cinematography by Svetlana Cvetko, Peter Zeitlinger

Edited by Eli B. Despres, Kurt Engfehr


Starring:

Scotty Bowman

Viacheslav Fetisov

Anatoli Karpov

Alexei Kasatonov

Ken Kurtis

Felix Nechepore

Vladimir Pozner

Tatiana Tarasova

Vladislav Tretiak


RED ARMY is an inspiring true story about the Cold War played out on the ice rink, and a man who stood up to a powerful system, paving the way for generations of Russians. From Oscar®-nominated and Emmy® award-winning filmmakers, RED ARMY examines the most successful dynasty in sports history: the Red Army hockey team. Told from the perspective of its captain, Slava Fetisov, the story portrays his transformation from national hero to political enemy. With the demise of Communism came the end of the Cold War, as Soviet players began joining the National Hockey League. The film examines how sport mirrors social and cultural movements in Cold War Russia.


For filmmaker Gabe Polsky, as a child of Russian parents and also a hockey player, Gabe originally planned to create a documentary about Russian hockey but also to explore his roots.

What he received is much more than he can ever imagine with his 2014 documentary film “Red Army”.  Exploring the Soviet Union’s dominance of ice hockey by the Red Army and the challenging obstacles the players had to face.

And now “Red Army” will be released on Blu-ray and  DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Red Army” is a film that is told through the eyes of team captain Slava Fetisov and also the players that consisted of the core 5 of the Red Army and a team that was regarded the best in the world.

Joseph Stalin would establish the Red Army Hockey Club to demonstrate Soviet Superiority in order to dominate the West.  And for decades, the Red Army Hockey Club dominated ice hockey and would beat every team including Team Canada.

But as the Red Army hockey team coach Tarasov would be punished and fired from the National Team for holding off a game in front of Leonid Brezhnev, the General Secretary of the Soviet Union, this would lead to a new coach hired by the KGB named Viktor Tikhonov, a man who was more volatile, demanding and pushed his players to the limit, but also would punish players extremely and even hit them.

And as the Soviet Union would beat every team they went against and Tikhonov had the best team in the world, things would change in 1979 as the dominating Soviet Union team would be beaten by the United States in the Olympics and would lead to a new Soviet team after all its senior team members were fired.

The five men unit would feature Slava Fetisov, Vladislav Tetriak, Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov and Alexei Kasatonov.  The most dominating Soviet Union hockey team that would go on to win the 1984 Olympics, beat the NHL championship teams and other NHL teams and were unbeatable.

But for these five players, the would encounter difficult challenges which included with playing for the NHL and also encountering family tragedy.


VIDEO:

“Red Army” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  It’s important to note that as a documentary, you are getting various sources for video.  Modern digital video footage, archived news footage but also home video footage.  For the most part, the film looks very good in HD and the fact that Gabe Polsky was able to obtain this much intimate footage of the players is amazing!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Red Army” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film is primarily dialogue driven, so a lot will be coming from the center and front channels.  There are some scenes with music but for the most part, the film is dialogue driven and the dialogue is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Red Army” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Gabe Polsky and executive producer Werner Herzog.
  • Interview with Hockey Legend Scotty Bowman – (16:17) An interview with Scotty Bowman, former Detroit Red Wings Coach and the winningest coach in NHL history.
  • Q&A with Director Gabe Polsky and Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul – (52:07) An audio Q&A featuring director Gabe Polsky and US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul discussing the film.
  • Toronto International Film Festival Q&A with Director Gabe Polsky – (14:24) A Q&A with Gabe Polksy from TIFF.
  • Deleted Scenes – (11:32) Featuring eight deleted scenes from the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Red Army”.

The “Red Army” documentary by Gabe Polsky answers a lot of questions that many of us had after America’s thrilling win over the Soviet Union at Lake Place for the 1980 Olympic Games.  What exactly happened to the team and were they punished?  Were they forcibly retired?

But also giving us interviews with the talented players who were part of that Core 5 that dominated the world in ice hockey and also beating our NHL teams.

I had no idea of the challenges these men faced, especially Slava Fetisov and how he was handled by the Soviet government and what happened to his teammates, after Fetisov was forced to leave the team.  The documentary really goes into detail of what happened, when it came to him playing for the NHL but also how Russians became the targets by players in the NHL.  But also to see how the Russian players would come to bring much needed energy and finesse to the Detroit Red Wings.

If anything, Gabe Polsky did a wonderful job in his buildup and smooth transition of the various players, their life story and having to see video footage to help corroborate the research.

And because of the unique coverage from archived sources retrieved by Polsky in Russia but also modern footage with interviews with the Core 5, made “Red Army” an amazing documentary.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality varies as one can expect from a documentary.  You have a lot of archived footage but also plenty of home video footage put together with modern digital video footage, so the quality varies but by no means does the film look bad at all.  If anything, anyone who enjoys documentary, should be thrilled of the amount of video footage, Polsky was able to obtain for his film.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue driven and dialogue is crystal clear.

“Red Army” also comes with a good number of special features including commentary, Q&A footage and an interview with hockey legend Scotty Bowman.

Overall, “Red Army” is a magnificent documentary by Gabe Polsky examining the amazing Red Army ice hockey team and what went on behind-the-scenes after the loss against USA at the 1980 Olympics but also what happened to the players on their quest to play in the NHL.  Mesmerizing and wonderfully made, “Red Army” is highly recommended!

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

May 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Leviathan” is an interesting character examination of people who feel trapped in their environment, ill decisions that have major consequences. The exploration of the character through brilliant storytelling is evident in “Leviathan” and for those wanting a smart and stunning film, will want to give this film a chance! “Leviathan” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Leviathan

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 141 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1),Russian 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English, Spanish – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Language and Some Sexuality/Graphic Nudity)

Release Date: May 19, 2015


Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev

Written by Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev

Produced by Sergey Melkumov, Alexander Rodnyansky

Co-Producer: Marianna Sardarova

Music by Philip Glass

Cinematography by Mikhail Krichman

Casting by Elina Ternyaeva

Production Design by Andrey Ponkratov


Starring:

Elena Lyadova as Lilya

Vladimir Vdovichenkov as Dmitriy Seleznyov

Aleksey Serebryakov as Kolya

Roman Madyanov as Vadim Shelevyat, mer

Anna Ukolova as Anzhela

Sergey Pokhodaev as Roma

Aleksey Rozin as Pavel


In a small coastal town in Russia lives an ordinary family: Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov) his wife Lilya, and their teenage son Roma. The family is haunted by a local corrupt mayor who is trying to take away Kolya’s business, house and precious land. Kolya calls in an old friend, now an authoritative attorney, for help. Together they fight back and collect dirt on the mayor, but fate does not seem to be on Kolya’s side.


Award-winning filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev (“The Return”, “Elena”, “The Banishment”) returns with his latest film “Leviathan” which was inspired by the story of Marvin Heemeyer (the American domestic terrorist who modified his bulldozer and went on a building demolishing rampage before killing himself) but adapted into a Russian setting.

The film would star Aleksey Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Roman Madyanov and Sergey Pokhodaev.

“Leviathan” won “Best Screenplay” at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, a winner of “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards and was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Foreign Film”.

And the film was released in May 2015 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Leviathan” is set in a coastal town in Russia.  Kolya is a short-tempered alcoholic man who works as a mechanic and lives with his wife Lilia (portrayed by Elena Lyadova) and his son Roma (portrayed by Sergey Pokhodaev), from his first marriage.

His son doesn’t listen much to anyone and does not get along with his stepmother, while Lilia tries to fit in.

Kolya is a pessimist who is having problems dealing with the crooked mayor, Vadim (portrayed by Roman Madyanov) who wants Kolya’s property , Kolya thinks the mayor wants to build a villa for himself.

So, Kolya enlists the help of his old army friend Dmitri (portrayed by Vladimir Vdovichenkov) from Moscow and in the process, finds documents that will allow them to blackmail Mayor Vadim.

But while things look as they are going well, Lilia starts to have a sexual affair with Dmitri and from this point on, life for Kolya would change drastically.


VIDEO:

“Leviathan” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). The film looks very good in HD, especially with closeups and outdoor shots.  Although there is a softness to the overall film, which I believe to be intentional.  Not a vibrant or very sharp film but for the most part, the film does look good, just don’t expect vibrant film that pops.

It looks as if the film is shot due to the overcast and because the nature of the film is quite bleak, it lent to the setting of the film. So, it is not a film that will stand out for its colors but the cinematography by Mikhail Krichman is magnificent.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Leviathan” is presented in Russian 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film is primarily dialogue driven, so a lot will be coming from the center and front channels, while surround usage showcases ambiance of the environment, so you can hear waves crashing, trains passing by and overall environments around the home, especially the sounds of a bulldozer.  But overall, lossless audio is very good.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Leviathan” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Andrey Zvyaginstev and producer Alexander Rodnyansky.
  • The Making of Leviathan – (29:27) An in-depth look at the making of “Leviathan”.
  • An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival with Andrey Zvagintsev – (15:04) A TIFF Q&A with Andrey Zvaginstev with TIFF Programmer Cameron Bailey.
  • Deleted Scenes – (22:18) Featuring deleted scenes from the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:03) The original theatrical trailer for “Leviathan”.

For those who have never watched an Andrey Zvyagintsev film, the best way that I can describe his films is like reading a novel and with each chapter, the story evolves but not conforming to a story that necessarily makes one feel there is hope or giving one pleasure, his films often relies on the characters and storyline.

“Leviathan” is a film that revolves around a theme about a man who wants to stand up against the corrupt mayor in his town, who has his eyes on his property.  Property that he built his home and has lived together with his family.

And as this storyline is common with other films and the banality often has the landowner doing whatever is necessary to fight back, as what we are typically used to seeing in American films.

For a Russian film, is there any good that can be done by standing up to corrupted, powerful officials?  In this case, a crooked mayor?

As one can surmise with the many people who have cameras in their vehicles to protect themselves from police corruption, in “Leviathan”, one should not watch this film expecting American bravado or Rambo-esque endings.

“Leviathan” is a film that has many layers and as the story evolves, you can see much thought went to its characters but also its characters given a harsh reality that is what it is, but by no means, will one receive any pleasure of a happy ending, because in reality, happy endings do not always exist for everyone.

The story focuses on Kolya, a man who is often drunk, short-tempered and often seeing things negatively.  And with the crooked mayor Vadim eying the property where his home built, he wants to stand up to the mayor and enlists his former military buddy turned lawyer from Moscow, Dmitry to help him out.

But life is what it is for Kolya, ignoring the discontent of his wife Lilya and thinks his son Roma’s resentment to his stepmother is just something he must get over, he has a family upside down but it is preoccupied to do anything about it.

So, when Dmitriy comes to help him, Dmitriy is able to find documents that can embarrass the mayor.

And for the time being, you think Kolya has the one-up on the crooked mayor but things start to unravel quickly.

Dmitriy has a sexual affair with Lilya but to make things worse (and probably the dumbest decision made by the participating people), during a family and friends outing, both Dmitriy and Lilya decide to have sex together again outdoors and they are caught.

And unfortunately from that point on in the film, for each character close to Kolya, everything spirals downward in his life.

The performances by Aleksey Serebryakov and Elena Lyadova are magnificent but its careful attention to the screenplay is what brings out this film.  And its story separates itself from similar stories that focus on bravado and action.  These characters face major dilemmas and they are greatly affected.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good but it’s important to note that the film was shot during overcast, so the picture quality is more dim and adding to the bleakness of the film.  But the chosen scenes to showcase the environment of the area was well-done by cinematographer Mikhail Krichman.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue driven but in moments showcasing the tides hitting the rocks or hearing gun shots to a bulldozer, does add to the ambiance of the film.  Special features including a making of, deleted scenes and Q&A at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Overall, “Leviathan” is an interesting character examination of people who feel trapped in their environment, ill decisions that have major consequences.  The exploration of the character through brilliant storytelling is evident in “Leviathan” and for those wanting a smart and stunning film, will want to give this film a chance!

“Leviathan” is recommended!

Still Alice (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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A touching, heartbreaking and wonderful film about a family dealing with familial Alzheimer’s Disease.  Featuring an award-winning performance by Julianne Moore, “Still Alice” is a film that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2014 BSM Studios SAS. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Still Alice

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (For Mature Thematic Material, and Brief Language Including a Sexual Reference)

Release Date: May 12, 2015


Directed by Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

Novel by Lisa Genova

Screenplay by Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

Produced by James Brown, Pamela Koffler, Lex Lutzus

Co-Producer: Declan Baldwin, Elizabeth Gelfgland Stearns

Executive Producer: Emilie Georges, Celine Rattray, Marie Savare, Trudie Styler, Christine Vachon

Music by Ilan Eshkeri

Cinematography by Denis Lenoir

Edited by Nicolas Chaudeurge

Casting by Kerry Barden, Ro Dempsey, Allison Estrin, Hunter Lydon, Paul Schnee

Production Design by Tommaso Ortino

Set Decoration by Susan Perlman

Costume Design by Stacey Battat


Starring:

Julianne Moore as Alice Howland

Kate Bosworth as Anna Howland-Jones

Shane McRae as Charlie Howland-Jones

Hunter Parrish as Tom Howland

Alec Baldwin as John Howland

Kristen Stewart as Lydia Howland


Alice Howland (Julianne Moore), happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a diagnosis of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s disease, Alice and her family find their bonds thoroughly tested. Her struggle to stay connected to who she once was is frightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring. Also starring Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish.


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In 2014, “Still Alice” was released in theaters.

An adaptation of Lisa Genova’s 2007 bestselling novel, the film was written and directed by real-life couple Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (both directed “The Fluffer”, “Pedro”, “The Last of Robin Hood”).

The film was also personal as Glatzer had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” and it was important for him to create this film despite having the disease which would leave him unable to talk but was able to communicate via iPad to Wash and the cast.  Glatzer would die from complications from the disease in March 10, 2015.

“Still Alice” would star Julianne Moore (“The Big Lebowski”, “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”), Alec Baldwin (“The Departed”, “30 Rock”, “Beetlejuice”), Kristen Stewart (“The Twilight” films, “Snow White and the Huntsman”), Kate Bosworth (“Superman Returns”, “21”, “Blue Crush”) and Hunter Parrish (“Weeds”, “17 Again”).

“Still Alice” would receive critical acclaim and actress Julianne Moore would win an Academy Award for “Best Actress”, the Golden Glove for “Best Actress – Drama” and also a SAG and BAFTA Award.

And now “Still Alice” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Still Alice” is a film that revolves around linguistics professor Dr. Alice Howland (portrayed by Julianne Moore).  As she celebrates her 50th birthday with her husband John (portrayed by Alec Baldwin), her daughters Anna (portrayed by Kate Bosworth), Lydia (portrayed by Kristen Stewart) and her son Tom (portrayed by Hunter Parrish), the film shows how close knit the family truly are.

While she looks forward to Anna and her husband’s first child, she often worries about Lydia who doesn’t want to go to college but become an actress.

One day while at a lecture, Dr. Howard forgets a word but she starts to realize something is wrong while jogging on campus and she feels that she is lost.

Worried about her condition and thinking that she may have brain cancer, she goes to visit her doctor and she is diagnosed with early onset of familial Alzheimer’s Disease.

Because the gene can be hereditary, she tells her children about her diagnosis and explains to the children that they may have the gene and will want to get tested.

The film then focuses on Alice as she deals with the disease and how it affects her during a period of time but also how her family copes with her disease and how the disease brings them all together and how each remain supportive.


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VIDEO:

“Still Alice” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). he film looks fantastic in HD, while some scenes look soft, outdoor scenes are vibrant, closeups show amazing detail and skin tones look natural.  I saw no banding, artifacts or any negative issues with this film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Still Alice” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film features crystal clear dialogue and music but for this film, the lossless soundtrack is appropriate as it is primarily front and center-channel driven.  With an occasional scene with crowds for ambiance.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Still Alice” comes with the following special features:

  • Directing Alice – (8:41) A featurette with writer/director duo Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland.
  • Finding Alice – (9:21) A featurette about familial Alzheimer’s Disease and how Julianne Moore worked with Sandy Oltz who has familial Alzheimer’s Disease and was an advisor to Julianne Moore.
  • Interview with Composer Ilan Eshkeri – (6:29) Composer Ilan Eshkeri discusses the motivation of creating the music for “Still Alice”.
  • Deleted Scenes – (6:09) Featuring three deleted scenes.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:18) The original theatrical trailer for “Still Alice”.

EXTRAS

“Still Alice” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code to instantly stream or download the film in Digital HD for TV, computers, tablet or smartphones.


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“Still Alice” was a honest portrayal of one who has Alzheimer’s Disease and seeing the individual slowly lose themselves to the disease, while their family try to do all they can to support their loved one.

The film was also quite personal for me as I lost my grandfather to Alzheimer’s Disease in 2014 and my mother-in-law currently has it.

And the most difficult aspect for me having watched my grandfather who has had the disease is to see how quickly things became.  From a man who was perfectly healthy, to remembering our names during the summer, barely remembering our names during the fall, now forgetting a lot of us by Christmas time and then within weeks, suddenly losing all bodily functions in January and eventually dying from the disease.

And because my grandfather was the first known relative with Alzheimer’s Disease in our family, I often wondered if it will be hereditary.

While, I do all I can to keep my brain fresh and active, in the back of my mind, when words don’t come as quickly or I forget certain conversations, I often think of my grandfather and the possibilities that any of us in the family will experience the same situation…younger, older… it’s something I don’t like to think about, but it’s something that is often in the back of my mind.

Watching “Still Alice”, it was heartbreaking.  I have heard of early onset Alzheimer’s Disease and I was aware that actress Rita Hayworth was diagnosed at age 60.  And I have watched documentaries such as Allan King’s documentary “MEMORY FOR MAX, CLAIRE, IDA AND COMPANY: BEING THERE” which showed one businesswoman who had early onset of Alzheimer’s and the first time I watched it, it was the first time I learned that people younger can also be diagnosed with it.

And the way that directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland was able to convey the story that because there is no cure, there is also no true happy ending.  But as they portrayed the character of Alice doing all she can to survive and live with the disease, we know that Alice’s condition will get worse.

The performance by Julianne Moore is magnificent.  She was able to play a character that made you feel that you weren’t watching a movie but a person you knew and was getting worse from Alzheimer’s Disease.  We watch her as a healthy young woman and eventually see how she and her family have a difficult time ahead of them, until the last final scene in the film and for anyone who has had a loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease, the impact becomes real.

Both Glatzer and Westmoreland were able to portray Alzheimer’s Disease handled the film in a restrained manner, being respectful of capturing the drama as if it was real.  Seeing Julianne Moore perform with such efficacy was wonderful and you feel she is quite deserving of the Academy Award.

Surprisingly, the other actress that was a surprise to see in this film was Kristen Stewart as the rebellious daughter who doesn’t want to follow her mother’s advice to go back to college, and she becomes the only sibling who does not want to get tested.

But yet, despite her rebelliousness, she is the most curious about her mother’s disease.  She is a daughter that wants to be there for her mother and we see this relationship grow between mother and daughter which was great to see in the film, especially for the film’s final moment.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic as closeups show amazing detail, outdoor scenes are vibrant and the film looks great on Blu-ray.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue and musically-driven through the front and center channels and the crystal clear soundtrack was appropriate for this film.  You also get several special features including a featurette with the late Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland.  And knowing how “Still Alice” was important to both men and to see Glatzer’s determination and persistence to work on the film despite having ALS is inspirational, but also to see how happy both men were in knowing they accomplished something special with “Still Alice”.

A touching, heartbreaking and wonderful film about a family dealing with familial Alzheimer’s Disease.  Featuring an award-winning performance by Julianne Moore, “Still Alice” is a film that I highly recommend!

 

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

March 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Foxcatcher” is a gripping film that felt real and you thank the director for his meticulous research but also the actors who pulled off their characters magnificently. This is no doubt a personal film for filmmaker Bennett Miller but this is no doubt a tragic, sad and dark film that deserves every award nomination and wins that it received. “Foxcatcher” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Fair Hill, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Foxcatcher

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 134 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Some Drug Use and a Scene of Violence)

Release Date: March 3, 2015


Directed by Bennett Miller

Written by E. Max Frue, Dan Futterman

Produced by Anthony Bregman, Megan Ellison, Jon Kilik, Bennet Miller

Co-Producer: Scott Robertson

Associate Producer: Hank Bedford, Kristin Gore, Mark Schultz

Executive Producer: Mark Bakshi, Chelsea Barnard, Michael Coleman, John P. Giura, Tom Heller, Ron Schmidt

Music by Rob Simonsen

Cinematography by Greig Fraser

Edited by Jay Cassidy, Stuart Levy, Conor O’Neill

Casting by Jeanne McCarthy

Production Design by Jess Gonchor

Art Direction by Brad Ricker

Set Decoration by Kathy Lucas

Costume Design by Kasia Walicka-Maimone


Starring:

Steve Carell as John du Pont

Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz

Mark Ruffalo as David Schultz

Sienna Miller as Nancy Schultz

Vanessa Redgrave as Jean du Pont

Anthony Michael Hall as Jack

Guy Boyd as Henry Beck

Brett Rice as Fred Cole

Jackson Frazer as Alexander Schultz

Samare Lee as Danielle Schultz

Francis J. Murphy III as Wayne Kendall


Based on true events, “Foxcatcher” tells the dark and fascinating story of the unlikely and ultimately tragic relationship between an eccentric multi-millionaire (Steve Carell) and two champion wrestlers (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo). Directed by Academy Award nominee Bennett Miller (2005, Best Director, “Capote”) it is a rich and moving story of brotherly love, misguided loyalty, and the corruption and emotional bankruptcy that can accompany great power and wealth.

Nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Makeup


It was the true story that shocked the nation.

John du Pont, heir to the Du Pont family fortune, founder of the wrestling facility at Foxcatcher Farm, founder of the Delaware Museum of Natural History and contributed to Villanova University and other institutions would also become known as a convicted murderer.

Back in 1996, John du Pont would do the unthinkable by shooting Olympic champion freestyle wrestler, Dave Schultz.  Sentenced to prison for 13 to 30 years, du Pont died in 2010 and now the story of what led to that fateful day would be featured in the 2014 film “Foxcatcher” directed by Bennett Miller (“Moneyball”, “Capote”, “The Cruise”) and co-written by E. Max Frye (“Where the Money Is”, “Something Wild”) and Dan Futterman (“The birdcage”, “Judging Amy”, “A Mighty Heart”).

The film would star Steve Carell (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, “The Office”, “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”), Channing Tatum (“21 Jump Street”, “White House Down”, “Magic Mike”), Mark Ruffalo (“The Avengers”, “Shutter Island”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), Sienna Miller (“Stardust”, “G.I. Joe”, “Casanova”) and Vanessa Redgrave  (“Howards End”, “Mission: Impossible”, “Blow-Up”).

“Foxcatcher” would receive critical acclaim worldwide and would receive five Academy Award nominations for “Best Director”, “Best Actor”, “Best Supporting Actor”, Best Original Screenplay” and “Best Makeup and Hairstyling”.

And now “Foxcatcher” will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The film revolves around Olympic wrestling champion Mark Schultz (portrayed by Channing Tatum) speaking to a group of elementary school kids in place of his older brother, Dave (portrayed by Mark Ruffalo).

The film begins with both Olympic gold-medal winning wrestlers and brothers going at it in a match.  Dave ends up beating his brother but for Mark, it gets to him that he can’t leave his brother’s shadow.

But one day, he is contacted by the wealthy John E. du Pont (portrayed by Steve Carell), the heir to the E.I. du Pont family fortune.  John offers Mark a chance to train as his private wrestling training facility, Foxcatcher and invites him to become part of Team Foxcatcher, to train for the World Championships while being paid for it.

For Mark, this is a win-win deal and he accepts the offer.  But du Pont also wants Mark to enlist his brother Dave, but Dave is not really interested because he wants to be with his wife Nancy (portrayed by Sienna Miller) and two children.

But Mark moves to Pennsylvania and becomes part of Team Foxcatcher and wins a gold medal at the World Wrestling Championships.  And from this point, the two develop a close friendship.

While Mark comes to respect John for his wealth, du Pont begins to introduce Mark to cocaine and the two become friends.  But du Pont reveals to Mark that he had one true friend but when he turned 16, his mother Jean (portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave), paid a boy to act as his friend.  And his mother sees wrestling as a “low sport” but for John du Pont, he enjoys wrestling and takes part in it.

But as Mark and his buddies watch mixed martial arts on television and take a morning off from training, this angers du Pont who verbally and physically abuses Mark.  And to Mark’s surprise, John tells him that he will enlist Dave by any means necessary.

Eventually Dave decides to move his family to Pennsylvania to join Foxcatcher.  But Dave realizes that something has happened to Mark and he is training alone.  Mark starts to distance himself from John du Pont and even his brother.

But Dave becomes worried after he sees his brother getting worse by the minute.  What has happened to Mark and will both brothers success at Team Foxcatcher?


VIDEO:

“Foxcatcher” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  While the film looks quite soft, it does aid to the somber mood of the film.  The closeups are quite detailed, especially showing the spots on du Pont’s face.  There is a good amount of grain throughout the film.

For the most part, the picture quality of “Foxcatcher” is very good but it’s not a vibrant looking film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Foxcatcher” is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  The film features crystal clear dialogue and music but where the film dos show its lossless soundtrack are during the wrestling competitions with crowds screaming and ambiance heard throughout the surround channels.  But it’s also a film that utilizes sound and lack of sound with efficacy.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Foxcatcher” comes with the following special features:

  • The Story of Foxcatcher – (16:21) Director Bennett Miller, the cast and crew discuss the making of “Foxcatcher”.
  • Deleted Scenes – (5:09) Featuring two deleted scenes.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:20) The original theatrical trailer for “Foxcatcher”.

EXTRAS

“Foxcatcher” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code to instantly stream or download the film in Digital HD for TV, computers, tablet or smartphones.


The story of John du Pont and the murder of David Schultz was one of the biggest news stories in America back in 1996.

How could a man who literally had it all, murder an innocent man?  David Schultz was one of America’s greatest wrestlers, greatest coaches and no doubt would be destined to coach the American Olympic team.

But even to this day, no one knows why John du Pont did what he did.  But in retrospect, there was no doubt that du Pont was mentally ill and he was getting worse and despite the wrestlers seeing his erratic and odd behavior, including Mark and David Schultz, there are a lot of questions of “what if?” but there is no doubt that the tragedy of David Schultz and the story of “Foxcatcher” was rather moody but a wonderfully performed film by Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo.

Carrel literally transformed himself to be John du Pont and there is no doubt that he pulled it off with efficacy and is worthy of all award nominations that he received.  The character of du Pont was no doubt a creepy character and while I’m not sure how close the real du Pont and Carell’s character was during that last year, I’m surprised many of the wrestler stayed.

To be fair, I know many wrestlers stayed because they were being paid a lot of money but I do know that in reality, when du Pont pointed a gun at Foxcatcher wrestler Dan Chaid, it was a red flag.  But unfortunately it was a time when people didn’t know how to react with one with a mental illness.

But I do have to give director Bennett Miller a high five for creating this film.

From receiving a packet of newspaper clippings from a stranger who suggested to him of making the film, Bennett was interested in making the film but first had to get the blessings of the Schultz family before creating the film.

Miller went as far as working with David Schultz’ wife Nancy and Mark Schultz for the smallest details that would be incorporated into the film, from how Mark held a coffee cup to even supplying Mark Ruffalo, David’s actual glasses.  Nancy also worked with actress Sienna Miller in terms of giving her details of what happened on the moment of the murder.

And despite the pain of the tragic death of her husband, in interviews, Nancy Schultz had said the film proved to be therapeutic for her.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Foxcatcher” is not a vibrant film, in fact it looks quite moody and depressing due to its softness… but the colors were no doubt intentional.  The lossless soundtrack was much better with its ambiance, especially during competitions.  As for special features, you get two deleted scenes and a 16-minute featurette, but would have been great if an audio commentary was included.

With that being said, “Foxcatcher” is a gripping film that felt real and you thank the director for his meticulous research but also the actors who pulled off their characters magnificently.  This is no doubt a personal film for filmmaker Bennett Miller but this is no doubt a tragic, sad and dark film that deserves every award nomination and wins that it received.

“Foxcatcher” is highly recommended!

 

Whiplash (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Whiplash” will be remembered for its wonderful performance by J.K. Simmons and the intensity of the drum playing scenes by Miles Teller, but no doubt, jumpstart the career for writer/director Damien Chazelle for creating this spectacular, captivating film.  “Whiplash” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Whiplash, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Whiplash

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 107 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:409:1, Anamorphic Widescreen, English, English – Audio Description Track, French, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Picture Classics

RATED: R (Strong Language Including Some Sexual References)

RELEASE DATE: February 24, 2014


Directed by Damien Chazelle

Written by Damien Chazelle

Produced by Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak

Co-Produced by Nicholas Britell, Garrick Dion, Sarah Potts, Stephanie Wilcox

Executive Producer: Jeanette Brill, Jason Reitman, Couper Samuelson, Gary Michael Walters

Associate Producer: Phillip Dawe

Music by Justin Hurwitz

Cinematography by Sharone Meir

Edited by Tom Cross

Casting by Terri Taylor

Production Design by Melanie Jones

Art Direction by Hunter Brown

Set Decoration by Karuna Karmarkar

Costume Design by Lisa Norcia


Starring:

Miles Teller as Andrew

J.K. Simmons as Fletcher

Paul Reiser as Jim Neimann

Melissa Benoist as Nicole

Austin Stowell as Ryan

Nate Lang as Carl Tanner

Chris Mulkey as Uncle Frank


Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite east coast music conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father, Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), an instructor equally known for his teaching talents as for his terrifying methods, leads the top jazz ensemble in the school. Fletcher discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into his band, forever changing the young man’s life. Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher continues to push him to the brink of both his ability—and his sanity.


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From director Damien Chazelle (“Grand Piano”, The Last Exorcism Part II”) comes “Whiplash”, a film which he wrote and had a 3 million dollar budget, the film would receive critical acclaim and would receive top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

“Whiplash” has been nominated for five awards at the 87th Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.  And now one of the best films of 2014 will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Whiplash” stars Miles Teller (“The Spectacular Now”, “Divergent”, “21 & Over”), J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man” films, “The Closer”, “Juno”), Paul Reiser (“Mad About You”, “My Two Dads”, “Aliens”) and Melissa Benoist (“Glee”, “Tennessee”).

Andrew Neiman (portrayed by Miles Teller) is a first-year jazz student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York. He aspires to be one of the greats like Buddy Rich.  He has a relationship with Nicole (portrayed by Melissa Benoist) and has a supportive father, Jim (portrayed by Paul Reiser) in his music endeavor.

When conductor Terence Fletcher (portrayed by J.K. Simmons) visits the school, he accepts Andrew into his studio band as an alternate drummer.

But it is evident immediately that Terence is emotionally abusive towards his students, which is way to bring out their best in them but also instill fear that if they mess up or don’t meet his standards, they will be removed from the band.

When Andrew gets a chance to play the drums and rehearse Hank Levy’s piece “Whiplash”, Flecher is upset and hurls a chair at him for not keeping up his tempo and to prove a point, he mocks and insults him and slaps him repeatedly in front of the class, humiliating him.

The emotional abuse that Andrew starts to endure and his drive of wanting to be the best drummer, leads him to make difficult choices in his life.  But how far will Andrew go in order to achieve greatness?


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VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Whiplash” is presented in 2:40:1 aspect ratio (Anamorphic Widescreen) in English, French, Spanish and English – Audio Description track in 5.1 Dolby Digital.

It’s important to note that if you want the best quality of “Whiplash”, you will want to check out the film on Blu-ray as it will offer the best picture and audio quality.

As for the DVD, picture quality is very good as one can expect on DVD and there is a hint of the film grain during your viewing of the film. The film is well-lit and there are so many closeups in this film that, I can imagine the clarity on Blu-ray, but on DVD, there is still good detail.  The film is well-lit and looks good on DVD.

As for audio, the soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music.  Once again, if you are an audiophile, you definitely will want to watch this film on Blu-ray but on DVD, soundtrack is crystal clear and well-utilized from the center, fronts and surround channels.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Whiplash” features the following special features:

  • Commentary with J.K. Simmons and Damien Chazelle – A fascinating audio commentary with actor J.K. Simmons and director Damien Chazelle.
  • An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival – (7:51) A short featurette with actors Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons with director Damien Chazelle.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Whiplash”.

EXTRAS:

“Whiplash” comes with an Ultraviolet code and watch the film on various devices.

 


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Once in a while you come upon a film that is made with a low budget that knocks your pants off.

Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” is one of those films!

While not an action film, the drumming for the film is heavy hitting, captivating and you are literally glued to the film.

Created by Damien Chazelle who was a drummer and wanted to share a few of his experiences but to create a story about music competitiveness and one’s drive to achieve greatness, “Whiplash” will no doubt be remembered.

A story about a drummer who wants to be the greatest and an abusive music teacher who wants to find a musical genius, both actors, Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons do an amazing job with their performances and making you believe these characters.

While Miles Teller knew how to play the drums, the intense training he learned for the character role was amazing as you see this young man play the drums with such intensity with sweat and including blood flying around everywhere.

J.K. Simmons is arrogant, pompous and your uber-a-hole of a music teacher but he drives people either to depression or to get them to achieve greatness through his emotionally abusive style of teaching.  Simmons plays the character with such efficacy.

But it’s the writing of Damien Chazelle and the cinematography by Sharone Meir that are gripping.  Chazelle’s writing building up the character of Andrew and how far this young man would go to achieve greatness and Sharone Meir capturing the various emotions, close-up.  But also capturing the wonderful drumming as everything culminates into this powerful scene towards the end of the film.

I enjoyed it so much that I have watched the film several times because I found it so captivating and the ending scene is just incredible.  I absolutely enjoyed the film and it was no doubt one of the best films of 2014 and is deserving of its wins and nominations.

As for the DVD release of “Whiplash”, while I strongly would cajole anyone to purchasing the Blu-ray release for its better picture quality and its lossless soundtrack, but also that the Blu-ray also contains more special features including the original “Whiplash” short film, for those who just want the DVD, should be pleased with it.  The film looks and sounds good on DVD, it’s just not in HD (which is my preference).

Overall, “Whiplash” will be remembered for its wonderful performance by J.K. Simmons and the intensity of the drum playing scenes by Miles Teller, but no doubt, jumpstart the career for writer/director Damien Chazelle for creating this spectacular, captivating film.

“Whiplash” is highly recommended!

Safe – The Criterion Collection #739 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Safe” is the film that help propel the careers of filmmaker Todd Haynes, producer Christine Vachon and actress Julianne Moore.  But the film’s ambiguous nature, the unexpected and the magnificent performance by Julianne Moore and masterful direction by Todd Haynes makes this film worth watching!  One can only hope for the Criterion Collection to release more films by Todd Haynes on Blu-ray in the near future!

Image courtesy of © 1995 The Chemical Films Limited Partnership.  2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Safe – The Criterion Collection #739

YEAR OF FILM: 1995

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English Monaural, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: December 9, 2014


Directed by Todd Haynes

Written by Todd Haynes

Executive Producer: John Hart, Ted Hope

Produced by Christine Vachon, Lauren Zalaznick

Music by Ed Tomney

Cinematography by Alex Nepomniaschy

Edited by James Lyons

Casting by Jakki Fink

Art Direction by Anthony Stabley

Set Decoration by Mary E. Gullickson

Costume Design by Nancy Steiner


Starring:

Julianne Moore as Carol White

Xander Berkeley as Greg White

Ronnie Farer as Barbara

Jodie Markell as Anita

Susan Norman as Linda

Chauncey Leopardi as Rory

Steve Gilborn as Dr. Hubbard


Julianne Moore gives a breakthrough performance as Carol White, a Los Angeles housewife in the late 1980s who comes down with a debilitating illness. After the doctors she sees can give her no clear diagnosis, she comes to believe that she has frighteningly extreme environmental allergies. A profoundly unsettling work from the great American director Todd Haynes, Safe functions on multiple levels: as a prescient commentary on self-help culture, as a metaphor for the AIDS crisis, as a drama about class and social estrangement, and as a horror film about what you cannot see. This revelatory drama was named the best film of the 1990s in a Village Voice poll of more than fifty critics.


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Filmmaker Todd Haynes is known for his films “Far from Heaven” and the Bob Dylan biographical musical film “I’m Not There”.

While also known for “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story”, “Poison” and “Velvet Goldmine”.

But his second feature film “Safe” would garner critical acclaim upon release back in 1995, but the question is did audiences really understand the film at that time?

Nevertheless, “Safe” can be interpreted as a film of hope, a tragedy, a horror film and its ambiguity may lead to people being confused.

But the film would help propel filmmaker Todd Haynes towards the mainstream, would jumpstart the producing career of Christine Vachon and also giving young actress at the time, Julianne Moore, her first major leading role in a film.

And now “Safe” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

“Safe” is set in 1987 in San Fernando Valley and it begins with Carol White (portrayed by Julianne Moore) and her husband Greg (portrayed by Xander Berkeley) arriving home and then having sex.  While her husband is into it, you can see face of Carol who seems as if she is uninterested.

A normal homemaker that is planning on the interior design of her home, planting in the garden and going to aerobics classes with her friends, one day while going home, Carol begins to cough uncontrollably while behind a truck that has a lot of smoke coming out of its tailpipe.  Coughing to the point that she gets confused and starts coughing in a parking garage.

While going to the doctor for a checkup, the doctor feels there is nothing wrong with her and she is perfectly healthy.  But she starts to develop mild to severe symptoms as she begins to lose her breath, begins to hyperventilate, has a nose bleed and makes it difficult to live life and it begins to affect her family.

As she continues to get more check ups, she is told to visit a psychiatrist and allergist as her body is producing strange reactions, coughing that she can’t stop and even convulsions that puts her into the ground.

She starts to meet groups with people who also have similar issues where doctors, significant others, friends don’t believe there is anything wrong with them but the individual themselves feel there is a significant problem.

What is wrong with Carol?


VIDEO:

“Safe- The Criterion Collection #739” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as the 4K restoration has brought out much better detail.  There is a good amount of grain during the film and while the film is 20-years-old, it doesn’t look like it at all.  Better clarity, no signs of aging colors or problematic artifacts or negative issues.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the original 35mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise management.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Safe – The Criterion Collection #739” is presented in English LPCM 1.0. The monaural soundtrack is clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX3.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Safe – The Criterion Collection #739” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring a 2001 audio commentary by Todd Haynes, actress Julianne Moore and producer Christine Vachon.
  • The Suicide – (20:30) Todd Hayne’s first serious directorial effort was a surreal short from 1978. Haynes thought it was lost until producer, Michael Quinn Martin, discovered a print at his parents’ home.
  • Todd Haynes and Julianne Moore – (36:10) A 2014 conversation with director Todd Yanes and actress Julianne Moore.
  • Christine Vachon – (15:54) Producer Christine Vachon discusses her working relationship with Todd Haynes.
  • Trailer – (1:19) The original theatrical trailer for “Safe”.

EXTRAS:

“Safe – The Criterion Collection #739” comes with a poster-sized insert with the essay “Nowhere to Hide” by Dennis Lim.


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Todd Haynes is a filmmaker that creates films that people think they understand, creates films that may often alienate viewers and films with no clear cut ending.

Bucking the banal Hollywood ending, “Safe” is a film that may seem simple in describing but the film itself is not simplistic at all.

A normal housewife begins having illnesses that doctors are baffled by.  Each time she is told that she is healthy, her husband starts to be upset because he wants normalcy, when his wife is experiencing situations that should not be affecting her.    No one knows what’s wrong with her, she believes she has some type of environmental illness and seeks some answers for why her body is behaving like it is.

Watching “Safe”, I began thinking of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Red Desert” about a woman who feels that she drowning in her environment, lonely, isolated.  For “Safe”, while Carole is by no means lonely or isolated, her reactions seem as if she feels out of place.

While some may classify Carol’s medical condition as MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity), it may easily be the case.  But this is a film made during the ’80s, before people had any answer to certain illnesses and watching Carol, I felt there was something unsettling about her.  The way she has sex, the way she seems a bit off at times, possibly even depressed.  The fact is that she is a woman that seeks the truth of why she is what she is. She seems rather empty, distant and alienated.

And sometimes in society, people feel comfort in the most unusual or unfortunate settings.  May it be cults or other forms of groups that have an outlandish ideology on life.   Her difficulty of breathing, perhaps its the people around her.  Her husband, the lifestyle…perhaps she feels suffocated by it all.

And possibly when the film was released, it was possibly a statement of America.  The fear of AIDS, the fear of something bad was going to happen.  From the wild and party years of the late ’70s, ushering towards a decade of conservatism and fear of AIDS and the Cold War but then ushering an era of the ’90s that began with war, plenty of attention towards money and social lifestyle and all in all, Carol is a person who has had enough and not sure how to deal with life.  Are people a product of their environment and is there any hope for her at all?

When I first watched the film, it was almost a similar feeling I had during my late teens ala the mid-90’s of listening to Morrissey’s album “Bona Drag” over and over and listening to “Everyday is Like Sunday” and “Suedehead”, just thinking at one point in my life that what I watched on television and the constant negative news and seeing the materialism of the ’90s, which was really a drag.

And so I watched “Safe” at the time as not a film about a woman with an unexplainable disease but a woman who was affected by her environment and had no way out, until she discovered a group of others who are like herself.

Misery likes company.

And my opinion hasn’t changed so much today because the environment has shapeshifted to another type of monster with the unknown of social media, technological advances and whichever crap that exists out there today.  But where people had aspired to be like 90210 back in the mid-90’s, our society has become much broker and are paying for the materialistic nature of companies of the past.

So, this film does have so much relevancy even today.

And actress Julianne Moore does a fantastic job in her first lead role of playing a character that is suffering.  A riveting performance by Julianne Moore with masterful directing by Todd Haynes!

The Blu-ray release of “Safe” is rather fascinating because it’s probably the best looking version of the film to date thanks to its 4K restoration bringing out the clarity of the film and making it look like it was a film that is more recent than older and aged.  The film looks magnificent and it’s monaural soundtrack is clear without any hiss.

You also get the original 2001 commentary with director Todd Haynes, producer Christine Vachon and actress Julianne Moore.  You get a newer conversation from 2014 between Haynes and Moore and also an interview with Christine Vachon.  But possibly one of the coolest featurettes was the discovered surreal short film by Todd Haynes titled “The Suicide” from 1978 which definitely makes even sense today as bullying has made it mainstream as more education of how messed up it is to pick on people who are short, non-athletic and what happens to one child who is picked on constantly and tormented by his bullies.  A very deep short film from Todd Haynes that is probably much more relevant today than when it was created back in the late ’70s!

Overall, “Safe” is the film that help propel the careers of filmmaker Todd Haynes, producer Christine Vachon and actress Julianne Moore.  But the film’s ambiguous nature, the unexpected and the magnificent performance by Julianne Moore and masterful direction by Todd Haynes makes this film worth watching!  One can only hope for the Criterion Collection to release more films by Todd Haynes on Blu-ray in the near future!

Magic in the Moonlight (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight” is still entertaining and has a lot of charm, but considering the film uses the word “magic” in its title, it is a film that is missing that special magic that we have seen on other captivating Woody Allen films.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Gravier Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Magic in the Moonlight

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 97 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:39:1, Anamorphic Widescreen, English , French and English -Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Picture Classics

RATED: PG-13 (For a Brief Suggestive Comment and Smoking Throughout)

RELEASE DATE: December 16, 2014


Directed by Woody Allen

Written by Woody Allen

Produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson

Co-Produced by Raphael Benoliel, Helen Robin

Executive Producer: Ron Chez

Co-Executive Producer: Jack Rollins

Cinematography by Darius Khondji

Edited by Alisa Lepselter

Production Design by Anne Seibel

Set Decoration by Jille Azis

Costume Design by Sonia Grande


Starring:

Colin Firth as Stanley

Emma Stone as Sophie

Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs. Baker

Jacki Weaver as Grace Catledge

Hamish Linklaster as Brice Catledge

Simon McBurney as Howard Burkan

Eileen Atkins as Aunt Vanessa


Acclaimed magician Stanley Crawford (Academy Award Winner® Colin Firth*) dazzles his audiences with feats of supernatural amazement. But when it comes to the inexplicable, Stanley is a dedicated skeptic. Enter Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), psychic, soothsayer, and stunning seductress. As Stanley and Sophie embark on misadventures up and down the French Riviera, will they discover proof of a world beyond the laws of physics or have they fallen under the sway of a more earthly chemistry? Woody Allen pulls the strings with precision in this enchanting romantic comedy that explores the realm between what’s understood in our minds and what’s known in our hearts. *Colin Firth, Academy Award® Winner, The King’s Speech, Best Actor, 2010


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Since 1977, director Woody Allen has had a film released in the U.S. and with each release, cinema fans are often debating if the director’s later films are still just as sharp and brilliant as his past films or the director’s work has waned considerably late in his career.

But for those who enjoy Woody Allen films, each movie has been fresh, different from any past films that has done and for the most part, have entertained fans for nearly 40-straight years which is remarkable.

Not many filmmakers have had this longevity nor had they had a film released each year of their working life but Allen, continues to show movie fans that he is able to make films that will entertain audiences and the same could be said for his 2014 film “Magic in the Moonlight”.

The film would star Colin Firth (“The Kings Speech”, “A Single Man”, “Love Actually”), Emma Stone (“The Help”, “Easy A”, “The Amazing Spider-Man” films), Marcia Gay Harden (“Into the Wild”, “Mystic river”, “The Mist”), Simon McBurney (“The Duchess”, “Body of Lies”, “The Last King of Scotland”), Hamish Linklater (“Fantastic Four”, “42”, “Battleship”) and Jacki Weaver (“Stoker”, “Animal Kingdom”, “Silver Linings Playbook”).

The film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics in Dec. 2014.

“Magic in the Moonlight” is set in 1928 and introduces us to the famous illusionist, Wei Ling Soo, who happens to be a British man named Stanley (portrayed by Colin Firth).  After his performance, he is visited by a fellow (and not-as-popular) illusionist named Howard Burkan (portrayed by Simon McBurney), who tells him to accompany him to Cote d’Azure where a wealthy American family, the Catledges, have been taken in by a clairvoyant and mystic woman named Sophie (portrayed by Emma Stone).

The son, Brice (portrayed by Hamish Linklater) is smitten by Sophie and wants to marry her, while his sister Caroline (portrayed by Erica Leerhsen) and brother-in-law George (portrayed by Jeremy Shamos) are concerned of Brice proposing a marriage to her and want Stanley to find out if Sophie is a true clairvoyant or a fraud.

Howard believes that Sophie has uncovered secrets that no one else would know and that she may have supernatural powers, but Stanley, who is known to have debunked many charlatan mystics, will do what he can to prove that she is a fraud.  Even going so far as going by another name and a man who is a businessman.

The two end up spending time together and while visiting his aunt Vanessa (portrayed by Eileen Atkins), Sophie goes into various trances and is able to pull up personal details about his life and also Vanessa’s past, including her great love affair.

Shocked by this, Stanley feels that Sophie’s powers now have changed the way he looks at the world and immediately becomes smitten by her, despite being engaged to a woman named Olivia.

But as Stanley spends more time with Sophie, will he find a woman that is true to herself or will he determine that she is actually a fraud?


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VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Magic in the Moonlight” is presented in 2:39:1 aspect ratio (Anamorphic Widescreen) in English, French and English – Audio Description track in 5.1 Dolby Digital.

It’s important to note that if you want the best quality of “Magic in the Moonlight”, you will want to check out the film on Blu-ray as it will offer the best picture and audio quality.

As for the DVD, picture quality is very good as one can expect on DVD and there is a hint of the film grain during your viewing of the film.  Skin tones do look natural but I can imagine detail and clarity would become much more evident on Blu-ray.  I didn’t notice any major artifacts or banding issues while watching this DVD.

As for audio, the soundtrack employs a lot of Woody Allen’s passion for 1920’s jazz music, dialogue is clear and for this film, is strictly a center/front channel-driven soundtrack.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Magic in the Moonlight” features the following special features:

  • Behind the Magic – (11:21) The cast discuss the film, working on a Woody Allen film and more.
  • On the Red Carpet: Los Angeles Film Premiere – (2:46) The cast promote their film at the LA film premiere.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:08) Theatrical trailer for “Magic in the Moonlight”.

EXTRAS:

“Magic in the Moonlight” comes with an UltraViolet code, so one can watch this film via online streaming.


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I’m not the type of reviewer who tends to be critical of Woody Allen films to the point that they would stop watching them because they felt he has lost the magic of filmmaking.

It is surely not the case as we have seen him create wonderful films in the past five years which include “Blue Jasmine” and “Midnight in Paris” but when you look deep into his 40-year oeuvre, there are films that will no doubt captivate you, films that entertain you but you just want to see it just once and films that you feel, it’s best that he shouldn’t have made it.

“Magic in the Moonlight” is a film that interests me because knowing that Woody Allen loves the music of the 1920’s-1930’s, let alone having performed that style of music for his own band, I know he has enjoyed films from the Golden Years of Hollywood.

With his latest cinematic offering for 2014, I feel it’s another romantic comedy placed in the 1920’s that lie on the performance of its main characters played by Colin Firth and Emma Stone.

Colin Firth does a great job playing an arrogant illusionist named Stanley whose beliefs are set and anything to disrupt those beliefs are wrong and he one thing that he is skeptical about is clairvoyant mystics.

And he will do whatever he can to debunk them.

Enter Sophie played by Emma Stone.  Sophie, a younger clairvoyant mystic who is able to go in a trance and provide information that shocks Stanley because of her ability to know detail about his life, let alone his aunt’s life and thus challenging his thought on life and his set of beliefs.

While the character of Stanley is your typical “know-it-all”, Firth does a good job of playing the stick-in-the-mud who goes to the South of France in order to debunk an American young woman named Sophie.  Is she there to marry Brice and become wealthy?  Or is she a genuine clairvoyant mystic?

While the film is more of a life-changing experience for Stanley who can’t explain how Sophie knows these deep, personal moments about his life and his aunt’s life, it gives him a new lease on life.

While entertaining, the film is rather predictable.  And while the performance by Firth is very good, you can’t help but feel that his casting was a miscast as the chemistry with Emma Stone did not feel genuine onscreen.  It doesn’t help that Colin Firth could probably play Emma Stone’s father in a film.

Also, the film misses the intellectual dialogue that we often get from a Woody Allen film.  And its ending and overall scenarios seemed a bit rushed for my tastes.

While it’s hard to dislike this film because it is entertaining, the film seems like a step back when compared to “Blue Jasmine” and “Midnight in Paris”. While location and costume design, especially the music selection works well for the film, the Woody Allen magic we are used to seeing in his films are missing in “Magic in the Moonlight”.

But still, even Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight” is still entertaining and has a lot of charm, but considering the film uses the word “magic” in its title, it is a film that is missing that special magic that we have seen on other captivating Woody Allen films.

Land Ho! (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Land Ho!” is an entertaining road trip comedy, showing that no matter how old you are, it’s never too late to have fun!  A beautiful film worth watching!  A beautiful film that looks fantastic on Blu-ray!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Lay of the Land, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Land Ho!

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 95 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio), English, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English-Audio Description Track, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Some Language, Sexual References and Drug Use)

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Written and Directed by Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens

Produced by Christina Jennings, Mynette Louie, Sara Murphy

Co-Producer: Birgitta Bjornsdottir, Hlin Johannesdottir

Executive Producer: Wendy Ettinger, David Gordon Green

Co-Executive Producer: Abigail Disney, Wendy Ettinger, David Gordon Green, Emily Ting

Music by Keegan DeWitt

Cinematography by Andrew Reed

Edited by Aaron Katz

Starring:

Earl Lynn Nelson as Mitch

Paul Eenhoorn as Colin

Karie Crouse as Ellen

Elizabeth McKee as Janet

Alice Olivia Clarke as Nadine

Mitch, a bawdy former surgeon, convinces mild‐mannered Colin, his ex‐brother‐in‐law, to embark on an unplanned trip to Iceland with him. In an effort to get their grooves back, the odd couple set off on a road trip that takes them through trendy Reykjavík to the rugged outback. Mitch and Colin’s picaresque adventures through Iceland evolve into a candid exploration of aging, loneliness and friendship.

Featuring a collaboration with filmmakers Aaron Katz (“Cold Weather”, “Quiet City”) and Martha Stephens (“Pilgrim Song”, “Passenger Pigeons”) comes a comedy titled “Land Ho!” starring Earl Lynn Nelson (“Pilgrim Song”) and Paul Eenhoorn (“This is Martin Bonner”, “Chemistry”).  The film was the first feature to be financed by Gamechanger Films, an equity fund dedicated to financing features and co-directed by women.

A low-budget film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and shot with a $676,000+ budget, the film will be released on Blu-ray + DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Land Ho!” is a film that begins with retired surgeon Mitch (portrayed by Earl Lynn Nelson) visiting his ex-brother in law Colin (portrayed by Paul Eenhoorn), who is trying to get over his divorce.  Seeing how Colin has not been in the best of spirits, Mitch surprises him with tickets to Iceland in order to help get him on with life.

While Colin is more reserved, Mitch seems like a young man who is wanting to discover the good things in life through travel and cuisine.  But when Mitch tries to get Colin out of his shell and visit areas such as Rejkjavik, Skogar, Jokulsarion, Landmannalaugar, Gulfoss, Strokkur and Blue Lagoon, what happens when Mitch and Colin have dinner with college students, go to a dance club and enjoy the beauty of Iceland?

VIDEO:

“Land Ho!” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The film was shot on two Red One cameras and close-ups showcasing amazing detail to the chagrin of actor Earl Lynn Nelson who tells the viewers via the audio commentary that it’s too clear that you can see his wrinkles.  But that is how detailed the picture quality is and the shots of the various locations in Iceland are absolutely gorgeous to look at.

The cinematography by Andrew Reed is absolutely gorgeous!  Definitely a film that looks amazing on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Land Ho!” is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English – Audio Description Track, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. The lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue driven but there are moments where you can hear the ambiance of the ocean, the geyser and of course, the crystal clear music at the dance club.  But overall soundtrack and it’s dialogue-driven soundtrack is crystal clear.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Land Ho!” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Paul Eenhoorn, Earl Lynn Nelson, Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz
  • LA Film Fest Q&A with Paul Eenhoorn, Earl Lynn Nelson, Martha Stephens, Aaron Katz and Elizabeth McKee – (13:21)  A fascinating post-screening Q&A with a few of the cast and crew.
  • Deleted Scenes – (12:18) Featuring three deleted scenes and an alternate opening.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:56) The theatrical trailer for “Land Ho!”.

EXTRAS:

“Land Ho!” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.

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Quite often when you watch films about friends going on a trip, it usually is about a group of young people discovering another world and quite often, your banal story of self-discovery, finding love with the addition of your typical shenanigans.

With “Land Ho!”, the film we see is quite rare because the main characters are older men.  Men who have had their ups and downs with women, have gone through divorce and pretty much want to enjoy life and also discover another world different from the life they currently live.  Of course, in this case, the men journey through the beautiful areas of Iceland.

While the film was scripted, the film allowed for improvisation and what makes it interesting is the men are not far off from their characters.  Actor Earl Lynn Nelson is nearly like his character of Mitch, not afraid to talk about the bodies of younger women and doesn’t care about seeing something and equate it to a penis or ejaculation.

And this goes beyond your general road trip, these men discuss life and Mitch enjoying life at its best and moving past his divorces and just having fun.  He doesn’t care he’s older, he has no qualms of smoking weed or going to a dance club to observe younger women, he’s all good with that.  As for Colin, he’s the opposite.  He is reserved and is often annoyed by Mitch and his constant cajoling and he is a man that seems to wallow in his sadness because his relationships have gone south.

But through this road trip, it does touch upon the banality of road trip films of self discovery, meeting women and having fun, but instead of the teenage shenanigans, it is replaced by two men rediscovering life at an older age.  And of course, the film is set in Iceland and adds to the charm and beauty of the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is gorgeous, while the lossless soundtrack is dialogue-driven as expected but also crystal clear.  You also get a fascinating audio commentary and a LA Film Festival post-screening Q&A that I couldn’t help but laugh because both are entertaining and the comments are often unexpected.

While the friendship between Mich and Colin is rather interesting because they are total opposites, the film doesn’t play out as effectively when compared to the Gene Saks/Neil Simon 1968 comedy “The Odd Couple” but the premise of the film of two older men rediscovering life in another country is fascinating.  And I found myself wanting to visit Iceland because the scenes from various locations showcase the beauty of Iceland.

Overall, “Land Ho!” is an entertaining road trip comedy, showing that no matter how old you are, it’s never too late to have fun!  A beautiful film that looks fantastic on Blu-ray!

Third Person (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Third Person” is a film that audiences may regard as his best or worse film which he had written and directed.  For those who are inspired by Haggis’ box office hits may grumble that the film is too convoluted, while others will applaud the filmmaker for creating a film that makes audiences think and a film requires discussion.  I personally enjoyed the film on its take on personal loss but also Haggis’ bold step outside of the types of films he had created and giving viewers something unique and different.  “Third Person” is recommended.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Filmfinance XII BVBA. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Third Person

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio), English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (For Language and Sexuality/Nudity)

Release Date: September 30, 2014

Directed by Paul Haggis

Written by Paul Haggis

Produced by Paul Breuls, Paul Haggis, Michael Nozik

Co-Producer: Moran Atias

Executive Producer: Nils Dunker, Fahar Faizaan, Arcadiy Golubovich, Andrew David Hopkins, Tim O’Hair, Guy Tannahill, Anatole Taubman

Associate Producer: Veronique Huyghebaert, Samuel Nozik, Emelie Vervecken

Music by Dario Marianelli

Cinematography by Gianfilippo Corticelli

Edited by Jo Francis

Casting by Elaine Grainger

Production Design by Laurence Bennett

Art Direction by Dimitri Capuani, Luca Tranchino

Set Decoration by Raffaella Giovannetti

Costume Design by Sonoo Mishra

Starring:

Liam Neeson as Michael

Maria Bello as Theresa

Mila Kunis as Julia

Kim Basinger as Elaine

Michele Melega as Giorgio

Adrien Brody as Scott

Olivia Wilde as Anna

Katy Louise Saunders as Gina

James Franco as Rick

Loan Chabanol as Sam

Riccardo Scamarcio as Marco

Moran Atias as Monika

Third Person tells three stories of love, passion, trust and betrayal. The tales play out in New York, Paris and Rome through three couples who appear to have nothing related, but share deep commonalities: lovers and estranged spouses, children lost and found. Featuring an award-winning ensemble cast including Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List), Adrien Brody (The Pianist), James Franco (127 Hours), Olivia Wilde (Rush), Mila Kunis (Black Swan), Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) and Maria Bello (A History of Violence). Written and directed by Academy Award® winner Paul Haggis (Best Motion Picture, Crash, 2005), Third Person is a mystery, a puzzle in which the truth is revealed in glimpses, clues are caught by the corner of the eye and nothing is truly what it seems.

Award-winning filmmaker/writer Paul Haggis is best known for writing hit films such as “Crash”, “Million Dollar Baby”, “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace”.

Wanting to challenge himself as a filmmaker, after completion, Haggis felt he had created the best film that he had ever made.

“Third Person” is a star-studded film starring Liam Neeson (“Schindler’s List”, “Batman Begins”, “Taken”), Olivia Wilde (“Rush”, “Tron: Legacy”), Kim Basinger (“L.A. Confidential”, “Batman”, “8 Mile”), James Franco (“Spider-Man” films, “127 Hours”, “This is the End”), Mila Kunis (“Black Swan”, “That 70’s Show”, “Ted”), Adrien Brody (“King Kong”, “The Pianist”, “Predators”), Moran Atias (“Crash”, “Land of the Lost”, “The Next Three Days”) and Maria Bello (“History of Violence”, “Prisoners”, “Payback”).

“Third Person” is a film that revolves around three different stories taking place in different cities.

In Paris, Michael (portrayed by Liam Neeson) is a writer who escapes to another country write his latest book.  He has left his wife Elaine (portrayed by Kim Basinger) and is having an affair with Anna (portrayed by Olivia Wilde), who he really loves but is having hard time in committing because he also loves Elaine.  But he is unaware that Elaine has a big secret.

In New York, Julia (portrayed by Mila Kunis) is a former actress who was charged for trying to kill her young son.  She denies the charges and now, her son is living with his father Rick (portrayed by James Franco) and doing all he can to prevent her from getting him back.  As Julia is doing all she can to get her son back, working a hotel job and living without much money, will she ever be reunited with her son?

In Rome, Scott (portrayed by Adrien Brody) is an American businessman who takes an interest in an Albanian gypsy named Monika (portrayed by Moran Atias).  As he tries to pursue Monika, he is unaware that she is trying to do all she can to free her daughter who has been kidnapped by a Russian gangster who is holding her hostage.  But is she really in dire trouble or is this all a setup to get his money?

VIDEO:

“Third Person” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality of the film is magnificent as the cinematography by Gianfilippo Corticelli (“Don’t Move”, “Facing Windows”) is sexy and beautiful.  The digital photography showcases the crisp details during closeups.  Skintones are natural and black levels are inky and deep.  But overall, picture quality for “Third Person” is magnificent with no trace of banding or artifact issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Third Person” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with an English – audio description 5.1 Dolby Digital track.  The lossless audio is dialogue and musically driven.  Both are crystal clear with crowd ambiance heard during one scene in a club.  But for a film like this, the soundtrack is appropriate.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Third Person” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with writer/director Paul Haggis, production designer Laurence Bennet, editor Jo Francis, producer Michael Nozik and actress Moran Atias.
  • Q&A with writer/director Paul Haggis – (33:29) A Q&A with writer/director Paul Haggis and moderator Pete Hammond.
  • The Making of Third Person – (9:49) A short featurette with the Paul Haggis and cast on the film and its characters.
  • Trailer – (1:44) The theatrical trailer for “Third Person”.

I have to admit that when I was watching “Third Person”, the film was often described as a romance film.

But by the second half of the film, I realized that this film was not a romance film but a drama about characters who have gone through terrible experiences or coming off bad situations and then of course, you get eventually start to realize that these characters are interconnected because of a primary focal point that is revealed by the end of the film.

“Third Person” is a film that no many people will understand and for those who do, will realize that this film is much more than that and it’s all I can even say, because saying more would spoil the film.

Suffice to say, the three stories are interesting and very different.  From writer Michael fleeing to Paris to write a book that he has having problems with.  His escape is Anna, a woman that he can’t commit to.

You have Julia who is unable to reunite with her son because she allegedly hurt him and now he is with his father Rick and he wants nothing but keep his son away from her.

And then you have Scott who is smitten with an Albanian gypsy named Monika who is in dire need of money to pay off a Russian gangster in order to get her child back.  But as he gets caught into her trying to retrieve her child and the gangster thinks he is a wealthy man and wants even more money, the relationship between Scott and Monika becomes even more complicated.

But I enjoyed the film is for its take on loss.  There are many films about how a person grieves over a loved one.  But what Paul Haggis is managed to create is a film that utilizes its characters in a fascinating way and culminate to an ending that is somber but an ending that I actually can believe in.

In many ways, this film is different from his Hollywood blockbusters because it’s a thinking person’s film.  Call it arthouse, call it intellectual cinema but the film delves into the psyche of a character through its characters and attempting to achieve something different.

And because it is different, it’s one of those films that audiences either love for Haggis taking a risk on such a film and those who loathe the film for being too somber and  leaving it to viewers to give their own personal interpretation of the film and its ending.

Look online and you’ll realize how people are divided about this film.  But in many ways, even the greatest auteurs, have tested the waters with stories that are cerebral, stories that challenge audiences to think about cinema than forcefeeding it to them, as in traditional Hollywood cinema.  Take it for what it is, if you are not a thinking person, then this film is not for you.

At 136 minutes long, the film is slowly building, details that seem improbably start to make sense as the story progresses.  And there is something about the film and how Haggis able to create a film knowing that it may be uncharacteristic of his style that the audiences love him for.  It’s quite daring and a bit risky and bold, as Jean-Luc Godard was after “Breathless” and then create films that were unlike it, that would baffle audiences and critics.

And as a writer and filmmaker, I applaud Haggis for wanting to escape the paradigm and try something different and new!

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and for a dramatic series that is primarily dialogue and musically driven, the lossless soundtrack is appropriate for center and front channel fare.  The audio commentary is enlightening, while the other featurettes included are also entertaining.

Overall, “Third Person” is a film that audiences may regard as his best or worse film which he had written and directed.  For those who are inspired by Haggis’ box office hits may grumble that the film is too convoluted, while others will applaud the filmmaker for creating a film that makes audiences think and a film requires discussion.  I personally enjoyed the film on its take on personal loss but also Haggis’ bold step outside of the types of films he had created and giving viewers something unique and different.

“Third Person” is recommended.

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