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The Diary of a Teenage Girl (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Marie Heller’s “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” is a unique and entertaining film about sexual discovery and features an amazing performance by Bel Powley.  Definitely a film worth checking out!

Image courtesy of (C) 2015 Diary the Movie, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 102 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:42:1 Aspect Ratio), English, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (Strong Sexual Content including dialogue, graphic nudity, drug use, language)

Release Date: January 19, 2016


Based on the Novel by Phoebe Gloeckner

Directed by Marielle Heller

Screenplay by Marielle Heller

Executive Producers: Amanda Marshall, Amy Nauiokas, Michael Sagol, Jorma Taccone

Produced by Miranda Bailey, Anne Carey, Bert Hamelinck, Madeline Samit

Co-Producer: Debbie Brubaker, Corentine De Saedeleer

Associate Producer: Shani Geva

Music by Nate Heller

Cinematography by Brandon Trost

Edited by Marie-Helene Dozo, Koen Timmerman

Casting by Nina Henninger

Production Design by Jonah Markowitz

Art Direction by Emily K. Rolph

Set Decoration by Susan Alegria

Costume Design by Carmen Grande


Starring:

Bel Powley as Minnie

Kristen Wiig as Charlotte

Abby Wait as Gretel

Alexander Skarsgard as Monroe

Miranda Bailey as Andrea

Carson D. Mell as Michael Cocaine

John Parsons as Burt

Madeleine Waters as Kimmie

Austin Lyon as Ricky Wasserman

Quinn Nagle as Chuck

Willie as Domino the Cat


In 1976 San Francisco, Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) is growing up at the crossroads of the fading hippie movement and the dawn of punk rock. Like most teenage girls, Minnie is longing for love, acceptance and a sense of purpose in the world. Minnie begins a complex love affair with her mother’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend, “the handsomest man in the world,” Monroe Rutherford (Alexander Skarsgård). What follows is a sharp, funny and provocative account of one girl’s sexual and artistic awakening, without judgment.


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From actress/filmmaker Marielle Heller (“MacGruber”, “A Walk Among the Tombstones”) comes  her indie directorial debut “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”.

Having won various awards including “Best New Filmmaker” at the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards, “Best Feature Film” and the “Berlin International Film Festival” and more.

The film stars Bel Powley (“A Royal Night Out”, “Side by Side”), Kristen Wiig (“Bridesmaids”, “The Martian”, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”), Alexander Skarsgaard (“True Blood”, “Battleship”, “Generation Kill”, “Melancholia”), Christopher Meloni (“Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”, “Man of Steel”, “42”, “Bound”) and Abby Wait.

And now “The Diary of the Teenage Girl” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The coming-of-age film is set in 1976 and begins with an introduction to Minnie (portrayed by Bel Powley) and is often thinking about wanting to lose her virginity, but at the same time, having esteem issues of feeling that she is unattractive.

Minnie and her young sister Gretal (portrayed by Abigail Wait) live with their Bohemian mother Charlotte (portrayed by Kristen Wiig).  And Charlotte is often partying with her boyfriend Monroe Rutherford (portrayed by Alexander Skarsgard) and often drunk or on drugs.

As Minnie is an inspiring cartoonist, she is inspired by cartoonist Aline Kominsky.  And as she starts to hang out with Monroe, she does all she can to attract him and make him have sex with her.  But after sex, she often wonders if there is more to the sex and is wanting to have more with Monroe, despite him being his mother’s boyfriend.

But as Minnie wants to learn more about her sexuality, will this sexual fling with her mother’s boyfriend continue and for how long?  And through these experiences, what will Minnie discover about herself?


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VIDEO:

“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).

The film features a combination of the film and animated scenes (often when Minnie is thinking and recording herself) but overall picture quality is good.  Because the film tries to energetic a look to the past, where intentional softness is used in the film to make the setting of the ’70s feel realistic.

For the most part, picture quality is good and I didn’t notice any issues with artifacts.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” is presented in English and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Spanish Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The film is primarily dialogue and music score driven with surround channels more geared towards the ambiance.  But overall audio is crystal clear.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary with director Marie Heller, actress Bel Powley and actor Alexander Skarsgard.
  • Deleted Scenes – (5:25) Featuring three deleted scenes.
  • Marielle’s Journey: Bringing the Diary to Life – (23:07) How the novel became a film and interviews with director Marie Heller and the cast.
  • Q&A with Marielle Heller, Alexander Skarsgard and Bel Powley – (25:19) Q&A from the Los Angeles Film Festival.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “The Diary of a Teenage Girl.

EXTRAS:

“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” comes with a slipcover and Ultraviolet code.


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Far often, the majority of the films dealing with coming-of-age revolve around boys discovering love and also their sexuality.

With “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”, the film focuses on a female perspective and it’s perhaps a film that genuinely feels natural, neither unnatural and literally explores the character of Minnie and the self-esteem issues of her body and her thoughts about sex.

With the backdrop of the mid-’70s and the exploration of sexuality of a young woman, Bel Powley’s performance of a young woman wanting to have a sexual connection with her mother’s boyfriend is rather interesting.  Especially knowing that things are not going to go as well when caught.

Actor Alexander Skarsgard does a wonderful job of playing the role of Minnie’s attraction, but also her mother’s boyfriend.  A person that lives a bohemian lifestyle where everything goes and life is pretty much drinking, doing drugs and partying, he’s a person without true boundaries.

Kristen Wiig does a fine job in a non-comedy role and showing us that she can do serious character roles (2015 also featured Kristen Wiig in a serious role for “Nasty Baby”), but for this film, a mother who also lives a bohemian lifestyle, loving to party, drink and do drugs in front of her children.  But starts to notice her boyfriend’s attention towards her oldest daughter.

I do commend director Marielle Heller and crew for creating a film in 24 days in San Francisco on such a small budget.  The film looks great but I also enjoy the fact that she was determined on creating a film after enjoying the original book and remaining persistent in getting the rights for the film adaptation and exploring a young woman’s sexual and artistic discovery.

It’s a story which many of us can relate to.  Feelings of inadequacy, feelings of self-doubt and also those awkward moments which we have experienced in our life.  If anything, the performances sold the film and no doubt made this film much more enjoyable for me.

As for the Blu-ray release, as the film utilizes a bit of softness in order to create a ’70s atmosphere, picture quality is good and lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music.  Also, includes are informative featurettes including an entertaining LA Film Festival Q&A and audio commentary.

Overall, Marie Heller’s “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” is a unique and entertaining film about sexual discovery and features an amazing performance by Bel Powley.  Definitely a film worth checking out!

Jimmy’s Hall (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Jimmy’s Hall” is a fascinating story of one man’s determination and the perseverance of many to ensure they have a place to meet and dance.  But the conflicts that arise when Gralton’s influence challenges traditional ways of thinking.  A fascinating film based on a true story , Ken Loach’s “Jimmy’s Hall” is recommended!


TITLE: Jimmy’s Hall

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 109 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), English, Gtrnvh 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-13 (Language and a Scene of Violence)

Release Date: November 17, 2015


Directed by Ken Loach

Screenplay by Paul Laverty

Play by Donal O’Kelly

Executive Producers: Pascal Caucheteux, Andrew Lowe, Vincent Maraval, Gregoire Soriat

Produced by Rebecca O’Brien

Music by George Fenton

Cinematography by Robbie Ryan

Edited by Jonathan Morris

Casting by Kahleen Crawford

Production Design by Fergus Clegg

Art Direction by Stephen Daly

Costume Design by Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh


Starring:

Barry Ward as James Gralton

Francis Magee as Mossie

Aileen Henry as Alice

Simone Kirby as Oonagh

Stella McGirl as Stella

Sorcha Fox as Molly

Martin Lucey as Dessie

Mikel Murfi as Tommy

Shane O’Brien as Finn

Denise Gough as Tess

Jim Norton as Father Sheridan

Aisling Franciosi as Marie


In 1921, Jimmy Gralton’s sin was to build a dance hall on a rural crossroads in Ireland on the brink of Civil War. Young people could come to the hall to learn, to argue, to dream . . . but above all to dance and have fun. As the hall grew in popularity, its socialist and free-spirited reputation brought it to the attention of the church and politicians, who forced Jimmy to flee and the hall to close. A decade later, as Jimmy reintegrates into the community and sees the poverty and growing cultural oppression, the leader and activist within him is stirred. He makes the decision to reopen the hall in the face of whatever trouble it may bring.


 

In the 1933, James Gralton became the first Irish to be deported from his own country and sent to the United States for leading public protests of the Revolutionary Workers’ Group of Leitrim (a predecessor of the Communist Party of Ireland).

He was also the owner that ran a dance hall in Effrinagh, which went against the Catholic priests and he and anyone who took part in the dances were branded as anti-Christ.

His story would be the basis of the film “Jimmy’s Hall” directed by Ken Loach (“Sweet Sixteen”, “Kes”, “Angel’s Share”) and a screenplay by Paul Laverty (“Sweet Sixteen”, “Even the Rain”, “Angel’s Share”).

The film stars Barry Ward (“Watchmen”, “The Claim”, “Lip Service”), Simone Kirby (“Season of the Witch”, “Notes on Blindess”, “Hamlet”), Francis Magee (“Layer Cake”, “Sahara”, “House of Anubis”) and many more.

The film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics on November 2015.

The story begins with the return of Jimmy Gralton (played by Barry Ward) returning to Ireland to help his mother run a family farm.

Known for being mischievous when he was younger, having lived in the United States for the last ten years, he wants to be a better person.

But times have changed in Ireland as a new government is in power in Ireland, ten years after the end of the Civil War.

While back in County Leitrim, the youth of the area want Jimmy to run a hall.  The people will build it but they want a place where people can meet to dance, study or talk.

Seeing the passion that people have in building the hall, Jimmy decides to give it a try.  Immediately, the hall becomes popular as dance lessons are held, meetings are held but to the ire of the Church and local landowners.

Seeing Jimmy as the source of the problems and his history and involvement with the republican movement (which many brand him a communist), anyone who partakes in dancing at the hall will be branded as anti-Christ and against Irish culture (as Jimmy brought over American jazz music via records and a record player from the 1920 and 1930’s to the area, the Church and its patrons looked at his free spirit ways of promoting another country’s pop culture instead of promoting the traditional Irish pop culture as communism and promoting music from “darkest Africa” as troublesome).

But because of his rebellious nature against the Church and members of the community, he begins to receive communist support and while continuing to encourage study and dancing at the hall.

But what steps would the Church and its patrons take to make sure that Jimmy’s hall will close permanently?


VIDEO:

“Jimmy’s Hall” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  The film features a good amount of grain throughout the film.  Colors lean more to the cooler side, but for the most part, picture quality and detail are very good on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Jimmy’s Hall” is presented in English, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue and music-driven, which are crystal clear, but you can also hear moments of surround channel usage for environment and ambiance.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Jimmy’s Hall” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Barry Ward and Simone Kirby – Audio commentary with actor Barry Ward and actress Simone Kirby.
  • Deleted Scenes – (7:33) Featuring six deleted scenes.
  • Making of Jimmy’s Hall – (34:45) A featurette about the making of “Jimmy’s Hall” with interviews with screenwriter Paul Laverty, producer Rebecca O’Brien, director Ken Loach and the cast of the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Jimmy’s Hall”.

I have to admit that when I first saw the theatrical trailer for “Jimmy’s Hall”, the first thing that I pictured in my mind was a “Footloose” type of film, in which authority was against a group of youngsters dancing.

But having watched the film and learning more about James Gralton, I realized that the film is something more.

Before I get into my review, I just want to say that I’m not an erudite when it comes to Irish history or the conflicts involving the Irish Republican Army.  I don’t know how many Irish feel about James Gralton today, so I’m going by what I see in this film.

Watching “Jimmy’s Hall”, my feelings that Irish at the time was a closed society.  With James Gralton having lived in the United States, took part in the city life in America and tried to bring that passion of dancing and jazz music to his town, brought conflict with the Church who were strict conservatives and saw any introduction of other cultures as poisoning their traditional way of thinking.

This is nothing new as it has happened in many other countries in which history has shown political tensions due to international trade with other countries and also bringing in people with a background or culture different from their own.  This still plays out in today’s modern society as many people are trying to escape their country and bringing concern from the locals of how it would change the dynamics of their country or city.

The same can be applied to James Gralton’s return to his home in the 1930’s.  His perspective was different, nor did he follow the church, which at the time, made him different.  Because of his activities of living in New York and him playing American jazz music sung by women who were Black, this caused concern with those in the church and anyone who listened to that music would be seen as anti-Christ.

Once again, in some societies and some religious circles, this is still a concern in modern society as some religious groups are against today’s modern pop culture, especially the music.

James Gralton as depicted in the film, didn’t see things that way.  He just saw a hall in which people can come and have a fun time by dancing, learning how to dance and also using the hall as a way to have meetings.

The film shows us the conflict between the groups but nothing is more visual than a moment when a father finds out that his daughter was attending dances at the hall, is embarrassed that his daughter’s name was mentioned that he takes her into the family barn in which the teenage girl is whipped multiple times on her back.  It was possibly the most shocking scene of the film that you start to favor what James Gralton and those who are involved with the promotion of the hall were doing.

But there is no doubt a respect that you have for a man who stood up for what he believes in.  In today’s modern society, the use of social media and any sign of oppression, would always be seen as a negative.  But watching this film, one must remember to put themselves in that era in time, and you can see things on both perspectives.  James who wanted people to have the freedom to dance and have fun at the hall, while conservatives look at what he is doing with the hall as a way to taint traditional Irish upbringing.

So, I did enjoy this film but also understanding that what James did was quite rebellious for that era.  While the film does paint James Gralton as an inspirational leader who had so much to lose (his mother and his newfound love), because it tends to lean towards one side of the story, you have to know that the film may not be balanced and wonder really transpired behind-the-scenes for the country to really deport him.  There must be more to the story leading to Gralton’s deportation from Ireland.

As for the Blu-ray review, “Jimmy’s Hall” looks very good on Blu-ray.  There is a good amount of grain and there is great detail for closeups.  For the most part, picture quality is good, while the lossless soundtrack is more dialogue, music-driven with ambiance showcasing outdoor environments and also the activities in the dance hall.  As for special features, there is a solid making of featurette and also audio commentary by the main male and female lead.

Overall, “Jimmy’s Hall” is a fascinating story of one man’s determination and the perseverance of many to ensure they have a place to meet and dance.  But the conflicts that arise when Gralton’s influence challenges traditional ways of thinking.  A fascinating film based on a true story , Ken Loach’s “Jimmy’s Hall” is recommended!

Testament of Youth (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Testament of Youth” is a wonderful yet tragic film with a clear defining message paying great respect to author Vera Brittain.  James Kent’s film adaptation of “Testament of Youth” is well-crafted and worth watching!


TITLE: Testament of Youth

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 150 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 Aspect Ratio), English, German 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Czech, Hungarian, Polish VO, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Bulgarian, Chinese Traditional, Croation, Czech, French, German, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian Buhasa, Korean, Polish, Romanish, Serbian, slovak, Slovena, Spanish, Thai, Turkish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Thematic Material Including Blood and Disturbing War Related Images)

Release Date: October 20, 2015


Based on the Autobiography by Vera Brittain

Directed by James Kent

Screenplay by Juliette Towhidi

Executive Producers: Hugo Heppell, Zygi Kamasa, Christine Langan, Richard Mansell, Joe Oppenheimer, Henrik Zein

Produced by Rosie Alison, David Heyman

Co-Producer: Celia Duval

Music by Max Richter

Cinematography by Rob Hardy

Edited by Lucia Zucchetti

Casting by Lucy Bevan

Production Design by Jon Henson

Art Direction by Philip A. Brown

Set Decoration by Robert Wischhusen-Hayes

Costume Design by Consolata Boyle


Starring:

Colin Morgan as Victor Richardson

Alicia Vikander as Vera Brittain

Taron Egerton as Edward Brittain

Dominic West as Mr. Brittain

Emily Watson as Mrs. Brittain

Kit Harington as Roland Leighton

Joanna Scanalan as Aunt Belle

Miranda Richardson as Miss Lorimer


Testament of Youth is a powerful story of love, war and remembrance, based on the First World War memoir by Vera Brittain, which has become the classic testimony of that war from a woman’s point of view. A searing journey from youthful hopes and dreams to the edge of despair and back again, it’s a film about young love, the futility of war and how to make sense of the darkest times.


 

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In 1933, the memoir of author Vera Brittain was released.  Titled “Testament of Youth” which covered Vera Brittain’s life from 1900-1925 (followed by “Testament of Experience” of her years from 1925-1950 and “Testament of Friendship” about her colleague and friend Winifred Holtby), Vera Brittain’s books are historically important in British literature, as well as feminist literature.

“Testament of Youth” is acclaimed for its depiction of World War I but also the lives of women and the middle-class of Great Britain.  It’s also important as it is considered a classic in feminist literature depicting a woman’s struggle to have an independent career in a society where educated women were not too tolerated by society.

And in 2014, a film adaptation of the life of Vera Brittain was brought to the big screen courtesy of director James Kent (“Margaret”, “The Thirteenth Tale”, “The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister”) and writer Juliette Towhidi (“Calendar Girls”, “Love, Rosie”).

The film stars Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”, “A Royal Affair”, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”), Kit Harrington (“Game of Thrones”, “Pompeii”, “How to Train Your Dragon 2”), Colin Morgan (“Merlin”, “Legend”, “Parked”), Taron Egerton (“Kingsman: The Secret Service”, “Legend”, “The Smoke”), Dominic West (“300”, “The Wire”, “Chicago”), Emily Watson (“War Horse”, “Red Dragon”, “Breaking the Waves”), Joanna Scanlan (“Notes on a Scandal”, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, “Stardust”) and Miranda Richardson (“Sleepy Hollow”, “Empire of the Sun”, “The Phantom of the Opera”).

The film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics in October 2015.

“Testament of Youth” revolves around Vera Brittain (portrayed by Alicia Vikander), a young woman who desires to become a novelist and to attend Somerville College in Oxford.

At first her father is against her attending Oxford as he thinks its a waste of money to pay for a young woman’s education and would rather see her focus on playing the piano and marrying a man.

But after her brother Edward (portrayed by Taron Egerton) has his friend Roland Leighton (portrayed by Kit Harington) come over and vouch for her to attend college, her father allows her to attend Somersville College.

She eventually begins to fall in love with Roland and the two have a romantic relationship.  Both plan to go to Oxford together and enjoy their time in college.

But life changes when Roland, Edward and his friend Victor Richardson (portrayed by Colin Morgan) join the military to serve their country in World War I.

The film features Vera’s life as a student in Somerville College as she is being mentored by feminist Miss Lorimer (portrayed by Miranda Richardson), her experience during World War I to join the Voluntary Aid Detachment as a nurse for both the British and the enemy who were wounded in combat but also her life with her brother Edward, her fiance Roland and their friends Victor and Geoffrey.

And how out of tragedy, a story of a woman became an amazing story of courage, independence but also the struggles for an educated woman in society during the early 1900’s.


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VIDEO:

“Testament of Youth” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). I have to admit that there were interesting cinematic directions coming from cinematographer Rob Hardy (“Ex Machina, “Boy A”, “Blitz”) during the making of this film.

For one, capturing the emotion and vitality of actress Alicia Vikander as Vera Britain was well-done.  Capturing the emotions and the tragedies of war was also well-done.  Although, it’s rather interesting to see the director shoot bokeh-driven scenes when showcasing her and her brothers in the countryside, I think the location shots and the close-ups were well-done.

Picture quality is very good, there is a good amount of grain, with some moments of softness but for the most part, closeups show great detail and if anything, while not necessarily vibrant, the film shows a sort of moody, melancholic atmosphere, which probably matches a lot of the unfortunate experiences which Vera had to go through in her life.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Testament of Youth” is presented in English, German 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Czech, Hungarian, Polish VO, Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The film is primarily dialogue and music score driven with surround channels more for ambiance.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Bulgarian, Chinese Traditional, Croation, Czech, French, German, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian Buhasa, Korean, Polish, Romanish, Serbian, slovak, Slovena, Spanish, Thai and Turkish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Testament of Youth” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Kit Harington and James Kent – Audio commentary with director James Kent and actor Kit Harrington (who plays the character Roland).
  • Testament of Youth Behind the Scenes – (6:30) A behind-the-scenes of “Testament of Youth” and the cast and crew discussing the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – (5:23) Featuring four deleted scenes.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Testament of Youth”.

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“Testament of Youth” is for the most part a wonderful film adaptation of British author Vera Brittain’s memoir written about her experience prior to World War I.

A woman of independence, well-educated and strong-willed, she is also a woman of courage and compassion and director Jeff Kent has done a magnificent job of portraying Brittain and her life and trying to keep a fine balance between what is autobiographical and a little change in order to make for a coherent and enjoyable film.

I have to admit that I was surprised when I watched this film, as I am not familiar with Vera Brittain’s literary classic but to find out how much pain she had to endure, but the strength she had to pursue what she believed in.

I really don’t want to spoil the film, although those familiar with Vera Brittain already know the tragedies that she faced one after another during the war and unfortunately, there is more pain that she had to endure (that is brought up in the informative audio commentary by director James Kent) not included in the film but in the memoir.

It was interesting to see how she was treated because she was a well-educated woman who wanted to further her education in Oxford.  Her father saw it as a waste of his money to use his money for her college education, others treated her unfairly because she went to Oxford.  But she persevered, despite the pain she had to endure quite often in her life.

While the film takes place during World War I, this is not a war film but more about a woman who learned from war, up close & personal.

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander delivered a wonderful performance throughout the film and while featuring a notable cast, it is Vikander who carries this film on her shoulders and delivers her greatest performance thus far.

Picture quality of the Blu-ray is very good, but not vibrant, in fact more on the melancholic side, which fits the film quite well.  The lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue and musically driven.  And there are a few special features including audio commentary, deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

Overall, “Testament of Youth” is a wonderful yet tragic film with a clear defining message paying great respect to author Vera Brittain.  James Kent’s film adaptation of “Testament of Youth” is well-crafted and worth watching!

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

September 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Aloft” is not a deep, nor a compelling film.  While it was interesting to learn through flashbacks of why a mother and son became estranged, if you are expecting anything else deeper than that, this is not that kind of film.


TITLE: Aloft

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 97 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:30:1 Aspect Ratio), English, Portuguse, Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Portuguese, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (for language and some sexuality)

Release Date: September 29, 2015


Directed by Claudia Llosa

Screenplay by Claudia Llosa

Produced by Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, Christophe Lambert

Co-Producer: Remi Burah, Genevieve Lemal, Olivier Pere

Music by Bertrand Bonello

Cinematography by Josee Deshaies

Edited by Fabrice Rouaud

Casting by Richard Rousseau

Production Design by Katia Wyszkop

Costume Design by Anais Romand


Starring:

Jennifer Connelly as Nana Kunning

Cillian Murphy as Ivan

Melanie Laurent as Jannia Ressmore

Oona Chaplin as Alice

Peter McRobbie as Ike

Ian Tracey as Hans

Zen McGrath as Young Ivan

William Shimell as Young Ivan

Winta McGrath as Gully


As we follow a mother (Jennifer Connelly) and her son (Cillian Murphy), we delve into a past marred by an accident that tears them apart. She will become a renowned artist and healer, and he will come into his own as a peculiar falconer who bears the marks of abandonment. In the present, a young journalist (Mélanie Laurent) will bring about an encounter between the two that puts the very meaning of life and art into question, so that we may contemplate the possibility of living life to its fullest, despite the uncertainties littering our paths.


From Peruvian director Claudia Llosa (“The Milk of Sorrow”, “Madeinusa”) comes her latest film titled “Aloft”.

The film stars Jennifer Connelly (“Requiem for a Dream”, “A Beautiful Mind”, “Blood Diamond”, “Hulk”), Cilian Murphy (“Inception”, “The Dark Knight”, “Batman Begins”), Melanie Laurent (“Inglorious Basterds”, “Now You See Me”, “Enemy”) and Oona Chaplin (“Quantum of Solace”, “The Longest Ride”, “What If”).

The film made its debut at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival and now the Blu-ray and DVD will be released by Sony Pictures Classics on Sept. 2015.

“Aloft” begins with an introduction to Nana Kunning (portrayed by Jennifer Connelly), a single mother with two sons, Ivan and Gully.  The two travel to an isolated location to meet with a healer known as “The Architect”, who heals people by constructing small sculptures out of branches and then bringing patients inside them.

But in order for one to be healed, they must be the one chosen by a random lottery.

We learn that Nana’s youngest son Gully has an inoperable brain tumor and when people look into their lottery, they realized that they were not chosen.

As everyone watches the healing, the first up is a young blind boy. Before the Architect is about to work on his magic, Ivan’s falcon has flown away and goes into the structure.  As Nana tries to get the hawk out, the hawk breaks out and destroys the structure, infuriating everyone around.  Leading to someone shooting the falcon down.

The story then flashes forward many years later and a journalist named Jannia Ressmore (portrayed by Melanie Laurent) visits a home and sees hawks everywhere.  The journalist talks to the man, who happens to be Ivan (portrayed by Cillian Murphy).

At first, she tells him that she wants to do an interview on the hawks that he breeds and raises and when she asks if he is in contact with her mother, he cuts the interview short.  Before she leaves, she leaves him a disc with a DVD of her mother.

The story then shifts to the past.  One day, Nana is visited by the Architect and is told that she healed the blind boy when she touched the structure and that he never even touched the boy’s eyes.  Not long after, the person responsible for shooting young Ivan’s hawk and pleads with him to please save his child as he can no longer wait for the Architect’s next healing.

Nana goes to the Architect to be trained in creating structures in order to heal people.

Flash foward to the past and Ivan decides to go with Ressmore, leaving his wife and child behind but taking one of his hawks in order to find his mother.

And through the various flashbacks, we learn why Ivan and his mother have become estranged, but also the true purpose of why Jannia has visited Ivan and wanted to interview Nana.


VIDEO:

“Aloft” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:30:1 aspect ratio). The film is quite detailed during closeups and for the most part, a lot of scenes are shot in the wintry, cold environments of Northwest Canada.  The film utilizes natural light and I didn’t notice any artifacts or any negative issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Aloftt” is presented in English, Portuguese and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is primarily dialogue and music-driven, so it’s a center and front-channel soundtrack with occasional surround channels used for ambiance and a few times during the film (ie. rifle shot, crackling of ice, etc.).

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

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Aloft” comes with no special features.


As a fan of Jennifer Connelly’s work, I was really excited to see her once again in a more recent film.  And with “Aloft”, while Connelly is possibly the more notable name of the film, the film primarily centers around the characters of Ivan (portrayed by Cillian Murphy) and Jannia Ressmore (portrayed by Melanie Laurent), a journalist who wants to interview Ivan’s mother.

The film is primarily trying to answer the story of how a son and his mother became estranged.  Why have they not talked to each other after many years and also the true purpose of Jannia’s character wanting to interview Ivan’s mother, Nana.

While I thought that the film was about something deeper, something possibly ominous and was focused about a mother and her two sons, I was thinking that this was a film dealing with a single mother and her dying young son.

Instead, the film tries to piece together with flashbacks about how Ivan and his mother have not spoken or seen each other for years.  We are introduced to those who heal people via lottery and many travel long destinations in hopes to heal their child or family member.

We eventually learn that Nana has this gift as well.  But it takes a while to fully understand later in the film, with the revelation of what happened to Ivan’s younger brother Gully and why both never talked to each other again.  We eventually start to learn why Jannia was so intent in looking for Nana.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good as the scenes outdoors is cold to showcase the freezing cold location but indoor scenes are natural and skin tones are well-saturated, while close-ups feature plenty of detail.  Even the makeup work of a much older Nana was done well.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue and musically driven, with a little surround use for ambiance.  Unfortunately, there are no special features.

While “Aloft” gave me an impression that this was more of a Jennifer Connelly film and a young mother’s plight to keep her young son alive, it’s more of a film piecing together of why a mother and son stopped talking to each other and the true journey for a journalist searching for the mother.

“Aloft” is not a deep, nor a compelling film. While it was interesting to learn through flashbacks of why a mother and son became estranged, if you are expecting anything else deeper than that, this is not that kind of film.

“Aloft” is just an average film that you can either rent or catch it later on cable, but not a film worth watching for a second time.

Saint Laurent (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

saintlaurent

“Saint Laurent” is a fascinating biographic film that comes short in its introduction to those close to Yves Saint Laurent, but when covering his life as a fashion icon and showcasing his creative genius but also his own personal faults, director Bertrand Bonello does a wonderful shop in showing audiences that even the man behind the iconic fashion brand.


TITLE: Saint Laurent

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 150 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (for graphic nudity/strong sexual situations, substance abuse throughout and some language)

Release Date: September 22, 2015


Directed by Bertrand Bonello

Screenplay by Thomas Bidegain, Bertrand Bonello

Produced by Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, Christophe Lambert

Co-Producer: Remi Burah, Genevieve Lemal, Olivier Pere

Music by Bertrand Bonello

Cinematography by Josee Deshaies

Edited by Fabrice Rouaud

Casting by Richard Rousseau

Production Design by Katia Wyszkop

Costume Design by Anais Romand


Starring:

Gaspard Ulliel as Yves Saint Laurent

Jeremie Renier as Pierre Berge

Louis Garrel as Jacques de Bascher

Lea Seydoux as Loulou de la Falaise

Amira Casar as Anne-Marie Munoz

Aymeline Valade as Betty Catroux

Helmut Berger as Yves Saint Laurent en 1989

Michae Lescot as Monsieur Jean-Pierre

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi as Mme Duzer


Dive into the color and lush textures of the incredible life of fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent. Explore the mind of a creative genius, the intricacies that turned a haute-couture label into a worldwide phenomenon, and the glamour and decadence that followed Saint Laurent’s footsteps of fame and fortune.


Yves Saint Laurent, the legendary French fashion designer who built a remarkable brand around his name, but best known for igniting the synergy of couture in the sixties and was no doubt a creative man that was ahead of his time.

Known for his ready-to-wear products and creating tuxedo jackets for women and using multicultural models early in his career, while YSL was a prominent luxury fashion house, Yves Saint Laurent and his brand died in 2008.

In 2015, his brand was revived by Hedi Slimane and boutiques with Saint Laurent merchandise continues the Yves Saint Laurent name.

But as for Yves Saint Laurent, many are curious about the man behind the fashion, aside from the more available news of his addiction to alcohol and drugs during the ’60s and ’70s and his love for his French Bulldog, Moujik, outside of his circle, not many people know about the life of Yves Saint Laurent.

And thus, two films were created in 2014.  “Yves Saint Laurent”, the 2014 French biographical drama directed by Jalil Lespert (who was granted access by Pierre Berge to the YSL archives) and the more well-received and critically-praised French biography drama film co-written and directed by Bertrand Bonello (“The Pornographer”, “House of Tolerance”, “Tiresia”).

The latter will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics in September.

The film stars Gaspard Ulliel (“Hannibal Rising”, “Paris, je t’aime”, “A Very Long Engagement”) who plays the younger Yves Saint Laurent, Jeremie Renier (“In Bruges”, “L’enfant”, “The Kid with a Bike”, “La Promesse”), Louis Garrel (“The Dreamers”, “The Beautiful Person”, “Regular Lovers”, “Love Songs”), Lea Seydoux (“Blue is the Warmest Color”, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “Inglorious Basterds”, “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”), Amira Casar (“Sulvia”, “Anatomy of Hell”, “Why Not Me?”), Aymeline Valade and Helmut Berger (“The Godfather Part III”, “Ludwig”, “Conversation Piece”) as the older Yves Saint Laurent.

The film focuses on the life of Yves Saint Laurent from 1968-1978 and the final years of his life.

“Saint Laurent” begins with Yves Saint Laurent discussing how he was committed during his service for the French Army during the Algerian War of Independence and how he suffered disorders because of that experience.

A quick shot then shows Yves Saint Laurent lying on the ground bleeding.

The film then switches to different time periods.

In 1968, seamstress are working on designs for Saint Laurent.  We are introduced to a man who likes to play classical music while working on his designs.

We are introduced to the closest people to him, the head of YSL studio, Anne-Marie Munoz (portrayed by Amira Casar) and his partner and co-founder of Yves Saint Laurent Couture House, Pierre Berge (portrayed by Jeremie Renier).

The film then goes to the gay bar, where he would meet Chanel model Betty Saint (portrayed by Aymeline Valade), a woman who would one day be one of Saint Laurent’s closest friends and a woman in which Yves saw himself as and often called her his twin or reincarnation.  But in the scene, Saint Laurent tries to get Betty to represent YSL, but she resists because she is representing Chanel.

But not long after, we see Betty modeling Saint Laurent’s suit and then we see his creation of tuxedoes for women.

The film then switches to 1971 and introduces us to Saint Laurent’s haute couture and introduces us to another woman close to Saint Laurent, his good friend Loulou de La Falaise (portrayed by Lea Seydoux), who would later become the fashion muse and designer of fashion, accessories and jewelry for Yves Saint Laurent.

As Saint Laurent and his friends have alcohol and drug parties, we are introduced to Saint Laurent’s good friend, actress Talitha Getty (portrayed by Jasmine Trinca),  who we often seen shooting up on heroin.

The film would then showcase the press and those at a YSL fashion event in surprise after seeing the models in suits and ready-to-wear clothing (which were haute coteur, but yet showing how people didn’t understand it at the time).  The tepid response would send Saint Laurent in a fit.

By 1972, American investors are upset in seeing the lowest in YSL revenue and Pierre Berge fighting for the brand and reminding investors that they must be patient with Yves Saint Laurent as a creative visionary and to accept the risk in ready-to-wear clothing because haute couture will become internationally.  But the investors also bring up worries about Yves Saint Laurent’s health.

The film then shows us the stress which Saint Laurent endures before and after each collection.  And as he tries to seek out inspiration, he goes to his local gay disco bar and encounters Karl Lagerfeld’s protege and lover, Jacques de Bascher (portrayed by Louis Garrel).  Because Saint Laurent started to be unhappy with his relationship with Pierre Berge, he has an affair with de Bascher, which would eventually lead to the rivalry between the Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld.

The film would continue the life of Saint Laurent during the ’70s but then would switch off to the his final years, wondering if Yves Saint Laurent is looked as a has-been and a name without relevance.


VIDEO:

“Saint Laurent” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film is quite detailed during closeups but manages to capture the luxurious lifestyle of Yves Saint Laurent.  I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding and for the most part, the film looks fantastic on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Saint Laurent” is presented in French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is primarily dialogue and music-driven, so it’s a center and front-channel soundtrack with occasional surround channels used for ambiance.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Saint Laurent” comes with the following special features:

  • Bertrand Bonello – (1:37) A short featurette with director Bertrand Bonello discussing the making of the film.
  • The Characters – (2:24) A few of the cast members discuss Yves Saint Laurent.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Saint Laurent”.

For those with interest and knowledge to the life of Yves Saint Laurent, Bertrand Bonello’s “Saint Laurent” is a fascinating film that tries to incorporate a lot of details of Saint Laurent’s life, his relationships with Pierre Berge and Jacques de Basher and his friendships to important women in his life.

But for those not familiar with Yves Saint Laurent, they will view this film of a man who is depressed, who drunk a lot of alcohol and did a lot of drugs, while creating fashion that was ahead of its time and people didn’t really understand.

Unfortunately, there are no introductions to why these people are important in the life of Yves Saint Laurent, you have to read, watch or do research on his personal life to know who these people are.

We see Anne-Marie Munoz and Loulou de la Falaise, two important people in the Yves Saint Laurent circle shown throughout the film.  We know they are important, we know they are close to Saint Laurent, but without knowledge of these two individuals, their presence as characters are lost to the viewers.

The same can be said of Chanel model Betty Catroux (or known as Betty Saint).  She is often seen hanging out and partying with Saint Laurent but viewers are probably are also lost of who this character is and why Yves Saint Laurent keeps seeing himself when the camera is directed at her.

The same can be said about Talitha Getty.  All viewers not familiar with her, will see and remember her scenes as a woman who keeps shooting up with heroin. Not knowing her as a pivotal figure in “Bohemian” culture and fashion and married to oil heir and philanthropist John Paul Getty Jr.

But the film does go into the affair of Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld protege, Jacques de Basher.  While not showing how it led to a rival between both camps, the film does show Pierre Berge’s disdain towards the affair and toward de Basher.

The film does go into Saint Laurent’s love for his French Bulldog, Moujik and how after each dog would die, he would find one that would look like him, name the dog Moujik and continue to raise it like a son.

But despite the film’s shortcoming of its side characters and possible confusion of the jump in timelines, while others may not be as kind to the film because of this, others will probably find the film as entertaining to its eroticism and it’s portrayal of Yves Saint Laurent during the peak of YSL haute couture.

The costume design for the film is impeccable and stylish, set design as decadent and the performance by Gaspard Ulliel to be wonderful.    While I’m not an erudite of Yves Saint Laurent fashion oeuvre, I was able to do my research of various characters prior to watching the film.

The film is not critical of Yves Saint Laurent as the alcohol and drugs were the life of a fashion jetsetter, especially during the time of the ’60s and ’70s.  The criticism were primarily by the press which is actually shown in the film as rumors of his bad health or his demise was ongoing.

“Saint Laurent” also goes to show how persistence, a great team and of course, Saint Laurent’s vision of ready-to-wear attire would become popular and there is no doubt that many other companies were inspired by his designs and that inspiration and fashion can be seen today’s modern fashion.  He was a man ahead of his time, a creative genius.

As for the Blu-ray release, Picture quality is is wonderful as closeups show wonderful detail.  I saw no sign of artifacts, banding or any problematic issues.  Lossless audio is primarily dialogue and music-driven, but both are crystal clear.  There are short features included as well.

Overall, “Saint Laurent” is a fascinating biographic film that comes short in its introduction to those close to Yves Saint Laurent, but when covering his life as a fashion icon and showcasing his creative genius but also his own personal faults, director Bertrand Bonello does a wonderful shop in showing audiences that even the man behind the iconic fashion brand.

 

Merchants of Doubt (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

merchantsofdoubt

“Merchants of Doubt” is a documentary that will open many eyes and will be a film that will inform, anger or cajole an individual, or hopefully a next generation of future leaders or scientists and inspire them to do something in the best interest of the people and planet, not just for increased profits. “Merchants of Doubt” is highly recommended!


TITLE: Merchants of Doubt

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 93 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, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Turkish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Brief Strong Language)

Release Date: July 7, 2015


Directed by Robert Kenner

Written by Erik M. Conway, Robert Kenner, Naomi Oreskes, Kim Roberts

Produced by Robert Kenner, Melissa Robledo

Executive Producer: Pierre Omidyar, Jeff Skoll

Co-Producer: Dylan Nelson, Taki Oldham, Brian Pearle, Youtchi von Lintel

Music by Mark Adler

Edited by Kim Roberts


Starring:

Patricia Callahan

Matthew Crawford

Stanton A. Glantz

James Hansen

Katharine Heyhoe

Bob Inglis

Michael Mann

Marc Morano

Bill O’Keefe

Naomi Oreskes

John Passacantando

Tim Phillips

Sam Roe

Benjamin Santer

Michael Shermer

Frederick Singer

Jamy Ian Swiss


Inspired by the acclaimed book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, MERCHANTS OF DOUBT takes audiences on a satirically comedic yet illuminating ride into the heart of conjuring American spin. Filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the curtain on a secretive group of highly charismatic, silver-tongued pundits-for-hire who present themselves in the media as scientific authorities – yet have the contrary aim of spreading maximum confusion about well-studied public threats ranging from toxic chemicals to pharmaceuticals to climate change.


In 2010, American historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway wrote “Merchants of Doubt”.  A book that would identify the parallels between the global warming controversy and also earlier controversies such as tobacco smoking, acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer.

In 2014, award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner (“Food, Inc.”, “America’s Endangered Species: Don’t Say Goodbye”) would create his latest documentary based on the 2010 book.  And now, “Merchants of Doubt” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Picture Classics.

“Merchants of Doubt” is a documentary that tries to show the debate between science and politically conservative scientists or groups that are funded by corporations supporting a certain product.

The film would first focus on the tobacco industry and how the major players in the industry would testify that there were no proof that tobacco would cause lung cancer.  The documentary would feature an interview with Stanton Glantz and how tobacco companies and the doctors were reporting of how there is no conclusive evidence.  But how a whistleblower would eventually leak documents .

But how other companies would focus on a similar style such as the tobacco companies and other people observing the documents would look into other dangerous topics that companies may be hiding its dangers.

Another topic is in regards to flame retardant chemicals and how they are used on furniture and material used by children.  And how the Chicago Times focused on a story of flame retardants and the doctors downplaying the dangers of the chemicals.

The next topic which is greatly focused on, would be about global climate change and the battle between scientists, special interest groups, individuals, organizations and how certain “experts” are undermining the scientists and delaying any progress of trying to prevent global warming.  And both continuing the ongoing debate who is right and who is wrong.

But the film focuses on how corporate-financed public relation efforts are utilized to create confusion and skepticism and interviewing scientists, activists, whistleblowers and politicians who have tried to expose these activities.


VIDEO:

“Merchants of Doubt” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The documentary uses newer, digital footage and also archived video sources.  For the most part, the picture quality of the film is very sharp and colorful.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Merchants of Doubt” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.  For this documentary, dialogue and musical soundtrack is crystal clear and there are some moments where surround channels are utilized.  But for the most part, this is a dialogue-driven soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Turkish

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Merchants of Doubt” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Robert Kenner.
  • An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival with Robert Kenner – (17:45) A Q&A with director Robert Kenner about “Merchants of Doubt” at TIFF
  • Unlikely Voices – (5:25) Featuring a group of other individuals that were not featured in the final cut of “Merchants of Doubt”.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Merchants of Doubt”.

EXTRAS:

“Merchants of Doubt” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


“Merchants of Doubt” is no doubt an informative and important documentary from award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner.

There are no doubt a lot of things in the world and how human actions have affected this planet and while you have a large group of scientists who are vocal about how the world will need to change its ways or else it’s too late, there are other groups who intend to discredit the scientists and both offering their facts.  Who is right?  Who is wrong?

And these groups who provide evidence and studies showing something detrimental to one’s health or to the planet, there is always a group to discredit the findings and this is something we will see ongoing for the rest of our lives.

We can read many stories in the newspaper, from the threat of cell phones being held to one’s head so long, may lead to cancer.  Eating too much of this food or that food is bad for you.  And I’m sure many of us have seen many similar stories of other subject in the media throughout our lifetime, not knowing who is right and who is wrong.

But “Merchants of Doubt” does a wonderful job of showing how facts can be spun and how a quote from a scientist can be used out of context, how doctors, scientists serving a certain corporation can easily support their superiors and discrediting the facts.

The film first establishes how the tobacco industry was able to hide the facts that cigarettes were harmful to people and delayed the process in order to make money.  A whistleblower was able to leak classified information and the tobacco industry would receive a punishment but also open pandora’s box of other companies who may be doing something similar.

While Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway has done a wonderful job with their book, what’s surprising about Kenner’s documentary is the ability to interview individuals on both sides.  At first, because the film tries to show how corporations and hired clients try to create confusions and skepticism about the research from the scientists, we learn how its affected various scientists (many who receive death threats), how one politician went from highly favorable to losing in an election because of his perspective on global warming.

While the film tries to be optimistic that wrongs will be eventually be fixed in hopefully a shorter time it has taken with the tobacco industry, unfortunately, the days of seeing America take climate change seriously and the government backing it, seems unattainable, especially if politicians keep flipflopping from originally supporting that global warming was man-made and then suddenly changing their tone, of not sure who to blame.

But these topics are not restricted to global warming and there is no point of rehashing other topics since we live with it daily and can see it in the media too often than we would like.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Merchants of Doubt” is a film that is well-put together, considering Kenner was able to get individuals on both sides discussing their thoughts and their perspective of what they are supporting.  Picture and audio quality is well-done and you also get quite a few special features included as well!

I personally would love to share the same optimism that Robert Kenner has set in “Merchants of Doubt” by offering hope that things would someday change.  But for now, “Merchants of Doubt” is a documentary that will open many eyes and will be a film that will inform, anger or cajole an individual, or hopefully a next generation of future leaders or scientists and inspire them to do something in the best interest of the people and planet, not just for increased profits.

“Merchants of Doubt” is highly recommended!

 

The Salt of the Earth (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

thesaltoftheearth

If you are a fan or a person who respects the work of Sebastião Salgado, “The Salt of the Earth” is highly recommended.  Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado has done a wonderful job in compiling this film but most of all giving us a wonderful look into the life and the mind of one of the world’s most important photographers.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Decla Films and Amazones Images. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Salt of the Earth

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 85 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: July 14, 2015


Directed by Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders

Written by Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, David Rosier

Produced by David Rosier

Executive Producer: Wim Wenders

Co-Producer: Andrea Gambetta, Lelia Wanick Salgado

Music by Laurent Petitgand

Cinematography by Hugo Barbier, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado

Edited by Maxine Goedicke, Rob Myers


Starring:

Sebastiao Salgado as Himself/Photographer

Wim Wenders as Himself/Narrator

Juliano Ribeiro Salgado as Himself/Narrator

Hugo Barbier

Jacques Barthelemy

Lelia Wanick Salgado


For the last 40 years, the photographer Sebastiao Salgado has been traveling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity. He had witnessed some of the major events of our recent history: international conflicts, starvation and exodus. He is now embarking on the discovery of pristine territories, of wild fauna and flora, and of grandiose landscapes as part of a huge photographic project which is a tribute to the planet’s beauty.


Sebastião Salgado, the photojournalist and social documentary photographer who is well-known worldwide for his photography.

Featured in exhibits all over the world, gallery director Hal Gould has called Salgado as “the most important photographer of the early 21st century”.

From his most famous pictures taken at the Serra Pelada gold mine in Brazil to various tribes and landscapes and wildlife, filmmaker Wim Wenders (“Wings of Desire”, “Buena Vista Social Club”, “Pina”) and Salgado’s son, Juliano Ribiero Salgado has celebrated the work of Sebastião through their 2014 documentary titled “The Salt of the Earth”.

The documentary would win a special award at the Cannes Film Festival.

And now “The Salt of the Earth” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics in July 2015.

Discover the 40 years of Sebastião Salgado, his thoughts of his famous work capturing humanity and also nature, but his thoughts when he sees the photos and his memories of when he took those shots.

All this and more in Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado’s “The Salt of the Earth”.


VIDEO:

“The Salt of the Earth” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 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.  It’s important to note that the documentary showcases photography but the photos look great in HD.

I didn’t notice any artifacts or any problems with picture quality, “The Salt of the Earth” looks great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Salt of the Earth” is presented in English/Portuguese (note: The back of the package shows as English but I am assuming the other language mostly spoken throughout the film is in Portuguese) 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is primarily dialogue driven as we have narration by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, interviews with Sebastiao Salgado and more.  Dialogue is crystal clear and some outdoor scenes that showcase the ambiance of the environments  presented.

Subtitles are in English and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Salt of the Earth” comes with the following special features:

  • Filmmaker’s Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado.
  • Looking Back with Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado – (11:33) The directors discuss their experiences of making “The Salt of the Earth”.
  • Deleted Scenes – (10:02) Feature ten deleted scenes of more footage not included in the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “The Salt of the Earth”.

EXTRAS:

“The Salt of the Earth” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


Sebastião Salgado is a photographer that is passionate about photography and capturing humanity and life.

With an eye for what he wants to capture, for many who has traveled throughout the world, looking at his magnificent photography, you realize how he has covered so much of humanity and its landscapes but also has captured the good and bad, the light and dark, the hope and greed of what exists.  Like art, his photos has a story and for those fortunate to visit a gallery featuring his work know some background of his most famous works.

But with “The Salt of the Earth”, Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado gives us a better idea of what went on behind the camera for the elder Salgado and his present thoughts behind them but also his feelings of what photographing humanity and landscapes has taught him.

And this is what Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado has done amazingly well, by showing us how Sebastião takes his photos and his process by accompanying the world renown photographer through various countries, getting to know the man behind the camera but also knowing more about his past work.

The film shows gives us insight to Sebastião Salgado’s work such as how he became a photographer, traveling with his wife to various locations but also giving us insight to his famous photographs such as his photos from Serra Pelada gold mine in Brazil.

We also watch Sebastião photographing tribes, while Wenders and the young Salgado film from afar and seeing how Sebastião works with his subjects.

But you can see at a young age, how he was interested in photographing the poor, photos of those who were stricken by famine, people forced out of their homes, refugees traveling miles to find safety, people killed by unfortunate circumstances and discovering the greed of humanity and the tragedy, violence and brutality he caught on camera.

And while the film focuses a lot on Sebastião’s past, you also get to see his work in the present time and to see how his mission, his work, has not wavered as he is still passionate of capturing humanity and nature behind the lens.

But as the film is very much a tribute to the work of Sebastião Salgado, the film is also of family bonding or more of discovery as Juliano Ribeiro co-directs this film as a way of discovering his father, the photographer and adventurer for the very first time.

As for the Blu-ray, the documentary goes back and forth with showcasing photography from various decades and video footage from the present.   The sharpness and detail of the photography in the film is well-done.  Sebastião Salgado’s photography looks absolutely magnificent.  The lossless soundtrack features clear dialogue with music and also English subtitles that are easy to read.

Special features including a filmmaker’s commentary, deleted scenes with more footage not included in the film and also Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado looking back at working on the film.

It’s important to note that for those wanting to watch the film with children, be aware that because Sebastião Salgado goes deep into the Amazon to feature a tribe, the men, women and children in the tribe are completely nude.

Overall, if you are a fan or a person who respects the work of Sebastião Salgado, “The Salt of the Earth” is highly recommended.  Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado has done a wonderful job in compiling this film but most of all giving us a wonderful look into the life and the mind of one of the world’s most important photographers.

 

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

June 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

wildtales-a

 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 

redarmy

“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 

leviathan

“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!

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